The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 3: A Parable
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Some shall become conditioned-enlightened ones,
And others irreversible Bodhisattvas.
Continuing the last passage on using the carts, the Buddha says that, having gained the three clarities and the six spiritual penetrations some shall become conditioned-enlightened ones, and others irreversible Bodhisattvas. The term “Conditioned-enlightened Ones” here includes Hearers. Hearers are those who awaken to the Way upon hearing the Buddha’s voice. Conditioned-enlightened Ones attain the Way through cultivation of the Twelve Causes and Conditions. Those of the Hearer Vehicle cultivate the Dharma of the Four Holy Truths; suffering, origination, extinction and the Path. The Conditioned-enlightened Ones cultivate the Dharmas of the Twelve Causes and Conditions, the first of which is ignorance. They observe ignorance. Because of ignorance, there is an improper activity. This false activity gives rise to a false consciousness. With this false consciousness, false name and form arise. The false name and form turn into the false six entrances. With the false six entrances there comes contact. With contact comes feeling. With feeling there is love. Why do you have love? Because you wish to experience certain feelings.
Love conditions grasping. With love, there is selfishness. One selfishly wishes to obtain one’s love-object. You want to appropriate it for your very own. This is all selfish activity. When you get what you were grasping after, then that is the cause of becoming. With becoming there is future birth. Future birth means old age and death as well. Conditioned-enlightened Ones cultivate these twelve. They observe them all the way from ignorance up to old age and death, step by step. “Oh! So all along I was just being turned upside-down by ignorance.” If one breaks through ignorance, the Dharma nature manifests. Suddenly, they break through ignorance. “Why should I run along after ignorance?” they think, and they refuse to follow it. Not following along with ignorance means not following along with living beings. Instead, living beings follow you. You manifest the Dharma nature, your true, inherent Buddha nature. If you do not break through ignorance, although you have not lost your Dharma nature, still, you cannot use it. Conditioned-enlightened Ones work on these twelve from #1 right up to #12. Then they take them back down the line like this:
When ignorance is extinguished then activity is extinguished.
When activity is extinguished, then consciousness is extinguished.
When consciousness is extinguished, then name and form are extinguished.
When name and form are extinguished, then the six senses are extinguished.
When the six senses are extinguished, then contract is extinguished.
When contact is extinguished, then feeling is extinguished.
When feeling is extinguished, then love is extinguished.
When love is extinguished, then grasping is extinguished.
When grasping is extinguished, then becoming extinguished.
When becoming is extinguished, then birth is extinguished.
When birth is extinguished, then old age and death are extinguished.
They look into these coming and going and get enlightened all by themselves. They are called those of the Conditioned-enlightened Vehicle.
The text also mentions irreversible Bodhisattvas. Some Bodhisattvas retreat, you know. For example, Shariputra: He brought for the Bodhisattva heart, made Bodhisattvas vows and practiced the Bodhisattva conduct. But he met someone who wanted an eye and he gave him the wrong eye. When the man refused to take the eye, he retreated from the Bodhisattva Path. “Ah! It is difficult indeed to practice the Bodhisattva Path. I quit!” he said, and turned back. The Bodhisattvas mentioned in the text here do not retreat.
Technically, there are three types of irreversibility: Irreversible practice, irreversible position and irreversible thought.
If you want to practice as a Bodhisattva, you have better think it over first. Why? The Buddhadharma is extremely difficult to practice. When you do not understand the Buddhadharma, you may think it is very simple to study. Who would have guessed that it is just the hardest thing there is to do! To study the Buddhadharma, you have to be patient. Firmness, sincerity and perseverance are three qualities necessary in your study.
Firmness: You must think, “My wish to study the Dharma is more solid than a diamond. Diamonds may be the hardest things there are, but I am even firmer in my resolve than a diamond.” It should not be the case that today you wish to study the Dharma, but tomorrow you give it up and by the third day you have forgotten it entirely. That is not being firm at all. Sincerity: You must also be sincere. If you are sincere you would not be afraid of any kind of difficulty, suffering or hardship. Perseverence: You cannot give up as soon as the going gets a bit rough. You cannot ever quit. That is being irreversible. In your cultivation you should only go forward vigorously and never turn back and retreat.
The second kind of irreversibility is that of position. The Bodhisattvas give rise to the Great Vehicle Bodhisattva heart and would never retreat to the Two Vehicles. Even if they have to chop up their bodies and grind their bones and give their head, eyes, brains and marrow, they will do so and never regret it. They would never retreat to the Two Vehicles. The third kind or irreversibility is that of thought. Their Great Vehicle Bodhisattva heart never changes. They are constantly giving rise to the Bodhisattva heart. Bodhisattvas benefit all living beings. You must be good to all living beings.
There are several people here who have already left home; there are some who would like to leave home, but have not yet done so. Others are still thinking it over; they have not decided for sure yet. They want to leave home but are afraid to commit themselves. They want to stay at home but are afraid they will fall. They cannot make up their minds and so they have not reached the state of a Bodhisattva. Bodhisattva only care about others. They do not care about themselves. They only care to help others. They do not care about helping themselves. Bodhisattvas help others, but they do not hold on to the thought of having helped them. They do it and forget it. They feel that helping others is just helping themselves. They do not go around bragging about it. It is enough that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas know what they did. It does not matter if other people know.
Further, if you practice the Bodhisattva Path, take special care not to disturb other living beings. If you want to cultivate, do not cause other living beings to have affliction. If you cause one person to have affliction, then towards that person you have not perfectly walked the Bodhisattva Path. If cause two living beings to have affliction, then towards both of them you have not walked the Bodhisattva Path. You must not cause others to become afflicted. Do not hurt other people with your words or deeds. In general, in every move and word, do not cause others to be unhappy with you. In this way your cultivation will be successful. If you think, “I can ignore other people and do whatever I like, say whatever I please…If you get angry--well, the more the better!” If you think like that you would not be able to cultivate the Way and if you try you will run into a lot of demon-obstacles. If you cause others to have affliction, they will certainly cause you to have affliction so that in the future a lot of demonic obstructions will arise for you. People who wish to leave the home-life and cultivate must take care not to obstruct others. You must always keep a close watch over your body and mind to see if you are doing things wrong, saying improper things, or hurting others and causing them affliction. You should always look within yourself like this. Do not hurt other people. That is the Bodhisattva heart. Bodhisattvas are irreversible in position, thought and practice. They never retreat from the Bodhi mind.
I, for living beings,
Speak this parable
Of the One Buddha Vehicle.
If all of you are able
To believe and accept these words,
You shall, in the future,
Realize the Buddha Way.
This vehicle is subtle and wonderful,
Pure and foremost.
In all the worlds
It is the most supreme.
The Buddhas rejoice in it,
And all living beings
Should praise it as well.
Make offerings and bow before it.
Limitless Thousands of Millions
Of powers and liberations,
Dhyana samadis and wisdom,
And the Buddhas’ other Dharmas
Are obtained in a vehicle such as this.
L3. Correlating giving all a great cart.
M1. Correlating giving to all.
Shariputra, I, for living beings. Shakyamuni Buddha says, “Shariputra, for the sake of all living beings, I now speak this parable of the One Buddha Vehicle. If all of you are able to believe and accept these words, you shall, in the future, realize the Buddha Way. Previously, you were taught the Three Vehicles, but that was only provisional Dharma, provisional wisdom. This, now, is real. Do not think that what you heard before was correct and have doubts about the real wisdom you heard just now. You should listen to what I say, believe and accept it. Then, you can all become Buddhas.
This vehicle is subtle and wonderful. The Buddha Vehicle is especially fine and miraculous. All you have to do is have faith, and you can become a Buddha. You do not necessarily have to do a certain amount of merit and virtue or cultivate like I did in the past for three great asankheya aeons in order to become a Buddha. Now I have taught you the Dharma-door of the One Buddha Vehicle and all you have to do is believe and you have a chance to become a Buddha. Pure and foremost. This is the foremost of pure Dharmas. In all the worlds it is the most supreme. There is nothing higher than the Buddha Vehicle. It is the unsurpassed Dharma-door. The Buddhas rejoice in it, and all living beings should praise it as well. Make offerings and bow before it. The Great Vehicle’s Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra is the pure and perfect teaching. You should all revere and worship this Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. Limitless Thousands of Millions of powers and liberations, Dhyana samadis and wisdom, and the Buddhas’ other Dharmas are obtained in a vehicle such as this. You have no idea how many offerings you must have made in the past in order to meet up with this Dharma-door now and obtain the Buddha Vehicle. This is a very rare affinity. Do not think it is easy to meet up with.
I cause all my children,
Night and day for many aeons,
Ever to amuse themselves
In the company of the Bodhisattvas
And the host of Hearers,
Riding this precious vehicle
Straight to the field of the Way.
For these reasons,
Though they seek in the ten directions,
There is no other vehicle,
Except for the Buddhas’ expedients.
M2. Correlating their rejoicing.
All living beings have been given the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma; it has been spoken equally for all living beings. Now, in this passage, the Buddha tells all living beings they should be happy. I cause all my children, night and day for many aeons. What is meant by “day”? When all living beings obtain the Buddha’s real wisdom, that is like the day. When all living beings have not exhausted their ignorance, that is like the night. Ignorance is the night and wisdom is the day. “Many aeons” refers to a long stretch of time. Ever to amuse themselves in the company of the Bodhisattvas. Many aeons is a long stretch of time, and it points to the time of the Buddha Sun-Moon-Lamp and the living beings who were transformed by that Buddha. Since then, they have amused themselves by cultivating the Great Vehicle Dharma. And the host of Hearers, riding this precious vehicle straight to the field of the Way, to the stage of the Buddha’s enlightened fruition, to the realization of Buddhahood. For these reasons, though they seek in the ten directions, there is no other vehicle, except for the Buddhas’ expedients. If you found some other vehicle, it would simply be one of the Buddhas’ expedient dharmas set up to teach and transform living beings.
I tell you, Shariputra,
That all of you
Are my children,
And I am your father.
For many aeons, you
Have been burned by many miseries,
And I have saved you all,
Leading you out of the triple realm.
Although earlier I said
That you had passed into Quiescence,
It was only an end to birth and death
And not real Quiescence.
What you should accomplish now,
Is nothing but the Buddhas’ wisdom.
If there are Bodhisattvas
Within this assembly,
They can singlemindedly listen to
The Buddha’s real Dharma.
Although the Buddhas, World Honored Ones,
Employ expedient devices,
The living beings they transform
All are Bodhisattvas.
L4. Correlating the absence of falsehood.
I tell you, Shariputra, that all of you are my children. Shakyamuni Buddha continues speaking to Shariputra saying, “All of you living beings, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, Conditioned-enlightened Ones, Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, you study the Buddhadharma and have brought forth the Bodhi heart. You are all my children. And I am your father. Since you are the Buddha’s children, then I am your father. For many aeons, you have been burned by many miseries. The three, eight and limitless sufferings have scorched you. And I have saved you all, leading you out of the triple realm; the desire, form and formless realms. Although earlier I said that you had passed into Quiescence, it was only an end to birth and death and not real Quiescence. You have only ended share-section birth and death. You have by no means ended change birth and death. Speaking in terms of real wisdom, real Dharma, you have not gained extinction.
What you should accomplish now, is nothing but the Buddhas’ wisdom. Your job now is to study the Buddha’s wisdom and practice the genuine Dharma.
If there are Bodhisattvas within this assembly, they can singlemindedly listen to the Buddha’s real Dharma, the genuine Dharma-door which I am speaking. This is the real wisdom; it is not provisional dharma.
Although the Buddhas, World Honored Ones, employ expedient devices, the living beings they transform all are Bodhisattvas. They bestow the provisional for the sake of the real and set forth the dharma of Three Vehicles. The expedient dharma-doors are taught for the sake of the real Dharma. So all the beings they teach are in reality Bodhisattvas. They should turn away from the small and go towards the great, cultivating the Bodhisattva conduct.
If there are those of little wisdom,
Deeply attached to love and desire,
For their sakes
I teach the truth of suffering.
Living beings then rejoice
Gaining what they never had,
For the Buddha’s Teaching of suffering’s truth
is true, real and not false.
If there are living beings,
Who do not know the origin of suffering,
Who are deeply attached to the cause of suffering,
Unable to leave if for even a moment,
For their sakes
I expediently speak of the Way,
The cause of all suffering
Is rooted in desire.
If one extinguishes greed and desire,
Suffering has nothing to rest upon.
The extinction of all suffering
Is called the third truth.
For the sake of the truth of Quiescence,
One cultivates the Way;
Leaving all suffering’s bonds
Is called the attainment of liberation.
From what is it
That these people have been liberated?
The mere separation from the false
Is called liberation.
In reality they have not yet
Attained total liberation.
The Buddha says that these people
Have not yet truly reached Quiescence,
Because they have not yet attained
The Unsurpassed Way.
It is not my wish
To lead them to Quiescence.
I am the Dharma King,
At ease within all the Dharmas.
I manifest within this world
To bring peace and tranquility to living beings.
This passage is a continuation of the previous one, bearing the outline title “L4. Correlating the absence of falseness.” If there are those of little wisdom. If there are those living beings who do not have any great wisdom, in fact, who do not have any “small” wisdom, either. Deeply attached to love and desire, they are profoundly addicted to love and lust. Here we are referring to the delusions of views and the delusions of thought. View delusions means that when something happens you do not understand it and get confused by it. Thought delusions means that you cannot figure out clearly in your mind what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong. Although you cannot tell the difference, you still keep trying to; you keep thinking it over, but you lack the wisdom to decide properly.
For their sakes I teach the truth of suffering. I teach the First of the Four Holy Truths, the Truth of Suffering. Living beings then rejoice. Before, living beings thought that suffering was bliss. Although they were in a state of suffering, they did not realize that they were suffering. Now that I have taught them about the Truth of Suffering, they are extremely happy, gaining what they never had, for the Buddha’s Teaching of suffering’s truth is true, real and not false. They had never heard such a wonderful Dharma. It is real! It is not false. It is really, really true Dharma.
If there are living beings, who do not know the origin of suffering. What is the origin of suffering? It is the Second of the Four Holy Truths, the Truth of Origination. Who are deeply attached to the cause of suffering. Origination is the cause of suffering. Suffering is the fruit. Origination is just affliction. There are six kinds of basic afflictions, ten minor following afflictions, two middle following afflictions, and eight great following afflictions. These twenty-six kinds of afflictions cause suffering.
Unable to leave if for even a moment. They do not want to separate from these afflictions for any length of time. For their sakes I expediently speak of the Way. For living beings like this I speak of the Path which is to be cultivated.
The cause of all suffering is rooted in desire. Suffering comes from origination. The most important factors in origination are greed and desire.
What is greed? It means never being satisfied. No matter how much one gets, one always wants more. Say, to begin with you did not even have a hundred dollars. In your greed you think of a way to get a hundred dollars. But once you get that hundred dollars you feel it is still not enough. “I need a thousand,” you think. When you have got a thousand you still are not satisfied. “I want some clothes. I really need a house and a piece of land. So this is not enough. If I had ten thousand dollars I would be really satisfied. In fact, I would retire. I would never want anything again or be greedy for anything else. That would do it, really.” But then when you get ten thousand dollars, what with inflation and all…“Everything is going up, you know,” you say “I would like to retire, but I have got to have a hundred thousand first.” so you greedily go after a hundred thousand and it is still not enough! Suddenly your greed gets entirely out of hand and you go after a million. But, before you get it, it comes time to die. As you die, you think, “I wanted a million dollars, but I never did reach my aim. I will try again next life for sure.” However, in your next life, you turn into a horse or a cow.
So what advantages does greed have anyway? Greed always brings misery, for greed is the root of suffering.
If one extinguishes greed and desire, suffering has nothing to rest upon. If you have no greed or desire, then there will be no suffering. If you wish to get rid of suffering, first of all you must get rid of greed and desire. If you have no greed or desire, then suffering has no root, nothing to rest on, no place to stay.
The extinction of all suffering is called the third truth. The Third of the Four Holy Truths. For the sake of the truth of Quiescence, one cultivates the Way; if you want to attain the Truth of Extinction, you must first cultivate the Way.
Leaving all suffering’s bonds is called the attainment of liberation. Leaving all those things which bind us in suffering is called liberation from the world. Why is one not liberated? Because one cannot see through the affairs of the world, cannot put them down. Until one can see through everything and put it all down, one cannot be liberated. When you can see through it all and put it all down, that is freedom, that is release.
People are greedy for this and greedy for that. Why? Because they cannot put it down. If, while alive, you can look upon yourself as already dead, then, you would not bother to be a slave for your body. If you can be a “living dead person” you would not be attached to anything. You will see through everything. That is just the attainment of liberation.
From what is it that these people have been liberated? The mere separation from the false is called liberation. Those who have cultivated and put an end to the delusions of views and thought thus ending share-section birth and death may call this liberation. In reality they have not yet attained total liberation. They have not attained ultimate liberation. In order to do this you must see through everything and put it down. I often say to you, “With me, everything is okay.” This may seem very shallow, but its meaning is quite profound. As long as something is a problem for you, then you have not been liberated. When there are no more problems, then you have been freed. You are just like empty space. Who can bind up empty space? Who can tie it down? When you are no longer greedy for fame, you are liberated from fame. When you no longer seek profit, you are liberated from profit. Freed from fame and profit, what else is there to keep you down? Nothing.
Although the Buddha taught that the Four Holy Truths led to liberation, this is not, in reality, liberation. Why not? Because one only ends share-section birth and death. Change birth and death still persists. As long as you have change birth and death you are still not free because you still have not put it all down.
The Buddha says that these people have not yet truly reached Quiescence. They are not yet truly extinct; they have not been completely liberated.
Because they have not yet attained the Unsurpassed Way. It is not my wish to lead them to Quiescence. It is not my intention, before they have any real attainment, to lead them to extinction.
I am the Dharma King, at ease within all the Dharmas. Among all the dharmas, I am the king. Speaking coming and going, it is the Dharma, broadly and minutely, it is the Dharma. Coming and going, I am at ease within all the dharmas. However I explain it, it is correct. I manifest within this world to bring peace and tranquility to living beings. Why do I appear in the world? I want living beings to be at peace, to attain ultimate happiness and ultimate liberation. That is why the Buddha appears in the world.
Shariputra! This Dharma Seal of mine
Is spoken because I wish to benefit the world.
Wherever you roam, do not propagate it wrongly.
H3. The exhortation to faith.
I1. Advice to Shariputra.
Shariputra! Shakyamuni Buddha here is speaking to Shariputra. He is also speaking to you and me and all the living beings of the present. He was then speaking to Shariputra, but he is also speaking to all of us Buddhist disciples right now, all those who propagate this Dharma, Dharma Masters who lecture on the Sutras and speak the Dharma.
This Dharma Seal of mine is spoken because I wish to benefit the world. The Dharma seal of the reality mark, that is, the Dharma seal of the real mark which is unmarked, is what I use to certify all living beings as potentially able to realize the Buddha Path. It is, therefore, most honorable and noble. It is not something to be used casually. I am speaking it now because I want to benefit all living beings.
What is meant by “benefit”? It refers to self-benefit and benefiting others. This Dharma seal is used to help all living beings.
There are three types of worlds, the world of living beings, the world of material objects and the world of proper enlightenment. The benefit here is to the world of living beings. The Buddha says, “I speak The Dharma Flower Sutra in order to benefit living beings in the world.”
Wherever you roam, do not propagate it wrongly. However, this Dharma is the most venerable and noble. Do not propagate it casually. Wherever you go, take care not to speak The Dharma Flower Sutra casually. If you speak the Dharma to those who are not ready to hear it, they will slander it. Then, not only will you have failed to save them, you will have caused them to fall into the hells. Why should you take care not to speak the Sutra recklessly? It is because if you do so people might fall. Hearing the Sutra, most people would slander it saying, “How can this be? How can it be that, without doing any merit and virtue, we can still become Buddha? That is just too good to be true. People are just people. How can they become Buddhas? The Sutras just cheat people.” By uttering that single sentence, “The Sutras just cheat people,” that person falls into the avichi hells. This principle will be discussed in more detail later. So it was out of fear that people might slander the Sutra and fall into the hells that the Buddha warned Shariputra not to speak the Sutra casually, not to propagate it wrongly. Those with the disposition of the Great Vehicle who hear it once and give rise to unlimited belief--you can speak it for people like that.
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