THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Chapters: 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10 * 11 * 12 * 13 * 14 * 15 * 16 * 17 * 18 * 19 * 20

The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra

Chapter 3: A Parable
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Perhaps there is a bank robbery and someone is kidnapped. Their ransom is five hundred thousand dollars. Then, even though they do not have the money, they come up with it. But if you try to get them to do something good, saying, “Let us go listen to a Sutra lecture,” what do you think they will say?

“Ah, I’d really like to, but I am just too busy.” They do not have the time.

When his life is over and he is buried in the Yellow Springs,
As busy as he is, he has to go.

When the time comes to die and one is called before King Yama, no matter how busy one is, one has to go. Hah!

So it is not that easy to listen to the Sutra lectures. You must have planted good roots throughout limitless aeons. That you are able to come and listen now to The Dharma Flower Sutra means that you have conditions with the Dharma Flower Assembly. Didn’t the Great Master Huai-tzu say that he was with Great Master Chih-che on Vulture Peak listening together to The Dharma Flower Sutra? So they met together in China. Now, we, too, were all together in the Vulture Peak Assembly listening to The Dharma Flower Sutra. Since you have all now forgotten I am lecturing it over again for you.

They will be born deaf and dumb, with all their faculties incomplete.
If they get born as people they will be born dumb, unable to speak, or deaf. They may be missing an eye or an ear, or they may be missing their nose, or their lips would not look anything like lips.

They will always dwell in the hells, roaming there as if in pleasure gardens.
They are as happy in hell as one would be in a park. We like to go to the park and play. These people feel comfortable in the hells. They like being there.

Or born in the other evil paths, which they will take as their house and home. Among camels, asses, pigs and dogs--these are the places they will walk.
They will behave like camels, asses, pigs, and dogs, liking to be around them. In India there are those who keep to the morality of cows and dogs. In the past they slandered The Dharma Flower Sutra and so now as people they still like to act like animals. They undergo such retribution, because of slandering this Sutra. If they become humans, they will be deaf, blind and dumb, poor and decrepit, yet adorning themselves therewith. If they get out of the hells or the animal realms they will be crippled and poor. Why are people poor? It is because in former lives they slandered this Sutra and slandered the Triple Jewel. They did not believe in the Triple Jewel or make offerings to it. Even though they had money, they offered none of it to the Triple Jewel. If one does not seek blessings and plant blessings by making offerings to the Triple Jewel, one will always be poor. Decrepit means that nothing goes right for them.

There is a story about a person named Chang T’ai-kung. People said he was jinxed because his fate was no good. It was not because he slandered the Triple Jewel or anything like that. He was the Prime Minister for King Wen of Chou. During the Chou Dynasty he was an official. Later, he quit and took up selling salt instead. Then his salt got infested with bugs. Basically, salt cannot get infested with bugs. However, his did. No one would buy it. Then he sold flour, taking it out all day on the streets to sell. No one bought any. One evening, a person came to buy a penny’s worth. There was no inflation in those days and so one could probably buy a lot of flour for a penny. Just as he was measuring out the flour, the general and his cavalry galloped by their horses. The general’s horse kicked over his flour container, spreading flour all over the street. They do not have concrete in those days and the flour got all mixed in with the dirt. He picked up what he could of the flour, but people were even less interested in buying it then.

About eight or nine o’clock that night he went home. He called to his wife, but she did not hear him. Just as he was going to knock on the door, a bee flew in between his hand and the door stinging him. He drew his hand back suddenly and slammed the back of it into a nail. Gosh! How unlucky can you get? Why did this happen? It was because in a former life he had been a bear. This bear saw an old cultivator called Yu Hsu-Kung and recognized that he was a high cultivator who had attained the Way. The bear knelt outside the cultivator’s door, seeking the Way. He knelt there for five hundred years. During that five hundred years, he dropped his bear body; the flesh rotted away; the bones turned to dust. He was reborn as a person with a lot of merit. However, in the more remote past, he had slandered the triple Jewel. Therefore, he had a lot of bad luck. He had bad luck because his wife was not a good person. He received her influence. So he could not sell his flour or anything. Nothing went right. He was very unlucky. That is what is meant by the line of text: “Poor and decrepit.” Such people have a lot of bad luck.

They decorate themselves, as it were, with poverty and misfortune.

Swollen with water, or else dehydrated, with scabs and boils, and other such illnesses, they will clothe themselves.
Their bodies are always swollen up or else they are all dried out like a piece of kindling. Their scabs itch all the time. Although the itching is on the skin, their minds find it unbearable. Boils are big sores. Some may be as big as a teacup or a wineglass, or a rice bowl. They hurt unbearably. Do not be afraid of boils which are large, red and swollen or “raised.” Just be afraid of black or purple boils which sink into the skin. They cannot be cured.

They will have these sicknesses on their bodies and their bodies will always stink of filth and impurity. The scabs and sores will stink.

Deeply attached to the view of self, their hatred shall only increase.
They have terrible tempers that grow worse everyday. Everyday they have more afflictions.

Ablaze with sexual desire, they are no different than birds or beasts.
Thought of sexual desire are constantly on their minds. This is like the great general of the Ch’ing Dynasty, Nien Kung-yao who had to have twelve women to sleep with every night and even sent out for cows, horses and donkeys…

They will suffer such retribution for having slandered this Sutra.
Because they slandered The Dharma Flower Sutra, they bring this retribution upon themselves.

Sutra:

I tell you, Shariputra,
Were I to speak of the offenses
Of those who slander this Sutra,
I wouldn’t finish to the end of an aeon.
For these reasons,
I expressly tell you,
Do not speak this Sutra
Among those who have no wisdom.

Commentary:

This concludes the outline section mentioned above: “do not speak for evil people.” I tell you, Shariputra, Shakyamuni Buddha is speaking of the retribution incurred by those who slander this Sutra, were I to speak of the offenses I wouldn’t finish to the end of an aeon. I could speak for several great aeons but would not finish.

For these reasons, I expressly tell you, do not speak this Sutra among those who have no wisdom.
Speak this Sutra only to those who have wisdom. You should not speak a Sutra like this to those who have no wisdom because it will only cause them to slander it, creating offenses for which they must suffer retribution. So now the people here in the Buddhist Lecture Hall are listening to the Sutra being spoken because they all have a bit of wisdom. If you were stupid, I would not even speak it. If I did, you would run far away. This is like a person who said that listening to the Sutras was boring. She went off to find a Good Knowing Advisor. Now, I believe that in this world, if you do not listen to the Sutras or study the Buddhadharma, you can travel the entire world around, but you would not find a Good Knowing Advisor. Why not? Because a Good Knowing Advisor will start out by teaching you the doctrines in the Sutras. Then he will teach you to cultivate and investigate Dhyana and sit in meditation. There are various preparatory steps to learning to sit in meditation. You cannot just sit in meditation and not have the slightest idea what you are doing. If you do, you may enter a demonic state. You may claim to have certified to that which you have not yet certified; you may claim to have attained that which you have not yet attained. To say that you have certified to the fruit of Arhatship when you have not is telling a monstrous lie. One who does this will fall into the hells. Such a person might claim, “I am enlightened. I am a Patriarch. I am an Arhat. I am a Bodhisattva. I am a Buddha,” claiming to have attained the genuine Buddhadharma when they have not. What kind of a “Buddha” are they?

Someone says, “The Buddha really knows how to hurt people. If he had not spoken The Lotus Sutra, then how could people have fallen into hell? He spoke the Sutra and as a consequence a lot of people have fallen into hell. Why? Because they slandered it! Now, if the Buddha had never spoken it, for sure no one would have slandered it. If no one had slandered it, then no one would have fallen into hell. So it more or less amounts to Shakyamuni Buddha sending people to hell!”

Do you think this person is speaking reasonably? Let us figure it out. This person is arguing his case in favor of living beings and against Shakyamuni Buddha, or so it seems. But the Buddha’s side must be presented as well, so I will dare to do it.

You may say that if Shakyamuni Buddha had not spoken this Sutra no one would have fallen into the hells. On the other hand, if Shakyamuni Buddha had not spoken the Sutra, no one would have become a Buddha. If people have fallen into the hells, you cannot blame it on the Buddha because he very clearly warned us that to slander the Sutra is to commit a serious offense. Since you know already that it is an offense, you should not slander the Sutra. If you do not slander the Sutra, you will not fall into the hells.

The Buddha said a slanderer would fall into the hells, so if you insist on going ahead and slandering it even more, just to spite him, you will then fall even deeper. There is not the slightest doubt about it. He warned us that one who slanders the Sutra would fall into the hells or turn into a hungry ghost or an animal for boundless aeons. So why do you still want to slander the Sutra? If you do, you are just deliberately pitting yourself against the Buddha. If nobody slanders it, nobody is going to fall into the hells. Ah..so you cannot say that people fall into the hells because the Buddha spoke the Sutra. By speaking the Sutra, just think of how many people were caused to bring forth the Bodhi heart and who will in the future become Buddhas.

More will become Buddhas than will fall into the hells. Those who fall into the hells are the stupidest ones; they do not believe in anything at all. They know very well that the Buddha said it was an offense to slander the Sutra. They insist on doing it. Now, who can save a person like this? Well, there is someone. It is Earth Store Bodhisattva. When they have fallen into the hells and suffered enough to learn their lesson, Earth Store Bodhisattva will go there to speak the Dharma for them and wipe away their offense karma so they can be born in the heavens or among human beings. Do not worry about the people who slander the Sutra and fall into the hells. Just pick out a good future for yourself and go forward and make progress. Do not fret about the offenders and get upset about those in hell.

Sutra:

If there are those with keen faculties,
And wisdom which clearly comprehends,
With much learning and a strong memory,
Who seek the Buddha’s Path,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.
If there are those who have seen in the past
Hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhas,
Who have planted wholesome roots,
Who have deep and firm minds,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.
If there are those who are vigorous,
Ever cultivating minds of compassion,
Not sparing body or life,
For them you may speak it.
If there are those who are reverent,
Without any other thoughts,
Who have left the common stupid folk,
Who dwell alone in mountains and marshes,
For people such as these
You may speak it.
Further, Shariputra,
If you see people
Who have cast aside bad knowing advisors,
And draw near to good friends,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.
If you see disciples of the Buddha,
Holding precepts as purely,
As pure, bright jewels,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.
If there are those who have no hatred,
Who are straightforward and gentle,
Always merciful to all beings,
And reverent of all Buddhas,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.
Further, if there are Buddha’s disciples,
Who in the great assembly,
With minds clear and pure,
Use various causal conditions,
Parables and phrases,
To speak the Dharma without obstruction,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.
If there are Bhikshus,
Who, for the sake of all-wisdom,
Seek the Dharma in the four directions,
With palms together, receiving it atop the crown,
Who delight only in receiving and upholding
The canon of Great Vehicle Sutras,
Refusing to accept so much
As a single line from another scripture,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.
If there be those who, with mind intent,
Seek the Buddha’s sharira,
Or who likewise seek the Sutras,
And attaining them hold them atop their crowns,
Such people will never again
Resolve to seek other Sutras,
Nor ever have the thought
To seek the writings of outside ways,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.

Outline:

K2. The need for the great kindness heart: speak the Sutra to good people.
L1. Five pairs of good people to whom the Sutra may be spoken.


Commentary:

The previous verses warned people not to slander the Sutra. This was a case of the Buddha opening the door of his great compassion. Fearing that people might slander the Sutra, the Buddha warned them that if they did so they would fall into the hells. This is not a case of the Buddha trying to scare people, either, because it is true. This is the Sutra spoken for the sake of becoming a Buddha. To say nothing of slandering it outright, you should not even have doubts about it in your mind. The Buddha is being extremely compassionate in warning living beings of this fact. If you clearly know that you will fall into the hells, but insist on slandering it anyway, it must just be that you want to fall into the hells. If you are having trouble getting into the hells, just slander this Sutra and you will go there on an express. But do not think it is a lot of fun and games. When you get to hell you will be crying. It is no daycare center, that is for sure. You will be crying your eyes out.

The verses just read were the Buddha opening the great kindness door telling people to cultivate in accord with the Dharma. For example, those people who come to listen to the Sutra being lectured all have good roots. People without good roots might come to listen, but they will immediately want to run away. They would not come back. They will fly away like birds. They would not even wait for the translation!

In the above passage of text, ten kinds of good people for whom the Sutra may be spoken are listed. They divide into five pairs:

  1. The pair of the present and the past: If there are those with keen faculties. People with keen faculties are intelligent. They are not stupid. When you speak principle to them, they deeply believe it and have no doubts. And wisdom which clearly comprehends. They are wise and smart. They believe as soon as they hear it. With much learning and a strong memory. They have read a lot of books and they understand and remember a great many things. Who seek the Buddha’s Path. They singlemindedly seek the Buddha’s Path, looking upon everything in human life as being involved with suffering. Even if a person lives to be a hundred, eventually he is going to die. There is no great meaning to all of it. Thus, they diligently seek the Buddha Path. For people such as these, you may speak it. These lines refer to people in the present who have cultivated.

    The following lines refer to people in past who have cultivated: If there are those who have seen in the past hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhas, who have planted wholesome roots. I will tell you, if you want to make offerings to the Triple Jewel, do not make discriminations about it. You should just go ahead and make your offerings singlemindedly. The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are one substance. You should not think, “I will give money. What will it be used for?” You should not worry about what it will be used for and you should not pay attention to what the recipients do with it. That is being insincere. You should not try to control the Triple Jewel with your money. That is not helping them out at all. They cannot be controlled by you. If you try to control them then not only do you make no merit for yourself, but you create offenses.

    As you plant good roots, just plant them. Do not worry about what the harvest is going to be like.

    Who have deep and firm minds, for people such as these, you may speak it.
    You should have deep wisdom, profound Prajna, and your mind should be firm and solid, not making a lot of discriminations. This concludes the pair of the present and past.
  2. The pair of the cultivation of blessings and wisdom: If there are those who are vigorous, ever cultivating minds of compassion, not sparing body or life, for them you may speak it. These lines represent the cultivation of blessings. Compassion means that you do not see the faults of others. Even if they make mistakes, you still do not reject them. You think, “Oh, they are just children and they do not understand what they are doing. That is why they are creating offenses. I should teach them untiringly and distract them from their games. “Here, kids, do not play with that. I have a nice carriage for you. You can go anywhere you like in it.” This is like Shakyamuni Buddha who did a lot of baby-sitting himself. That is being compassionate.

    “Not sparing body or life” means that they never rest. Some people do a little something and then feel that it was too bitter. They want to rest. When Bodhisattvas decide to do something, they do not care about their bodies or their lives. They do not spare their bodies or lives to work for living beings.

    The following lines represent the cultivation of wisdom: If there are those who are reverent, without any other thoughts. They do not have “two hearts.” Do you see how detailed the Buddha got in this line? There are some people who seem to be reverent on the outside, but inside they are thinking, “Is this right or not? The Dharma Master says one thing, but are things really this way? Probably not. He speaks the Dharma, but he is just like all of us. Nothing special about him. I better take a good look into it myself. I am not going to let the Dharma Master cheat me.” I will tell you, now, people with wisdom cannot be cheated, even if people try to cheat them. People without wisdom always end up getting cheated whether they are afraid of getting cheated or not. Whether or not you get cheated depends on whether you have genuine wisdom or not.

    Who have left the common stupid folk, who dwell alone in mountains and marshes, for people such as these you may speak it.
    This concludes the pair of blessings and wisdom.
  3. The pair of reform and repentance. The following lines represent the quality of reforming one’s behaviour, and external operation: Further, Shariputra, if you see people who have cast aside bad knowing advisors. What is bad knowing advisor? One who teaches his disciples contrary to the moral precepts. And draw near to good friends, for people such as these, you may speak it.

    The following lines refer to the quality of repentance, protecting one’s internal cultivation through morality. If you see disciples of the Buddha, holding precepts as purely, as pure, bright jewels, for people such as these, you may speak it, you may speak The Dharma Flower Sutra. This concludes the pair of reform and repentance.
  4. The pair of self and others. The following lines refer to cultivation of oneself: If there are those who have no hatred, who are straightforward and gentle. If you meet up with a person who has no hateful thoughts…Hate is one of the three poisons. The three poisons are greed, hatred and stupidity. One without hatred is also without greed or stupidity. Their disposition is very straightforward; such people are incapable of being devious. Their minds are straight. Gentle means they are compliant towards living beings. They are not hard to get along with. Always merciful to all beings, and reverent of all Buddhas. Most people do not know how to be reverent of the Buddhas. When one sees the Buddhas, one should bow respectfully to them. Not to bow is to be irreverent. Why should we bow to the Buddhas? The Buddha is the father of all living beings in the world and we must be respectful to our father. When we see the Buddha, we should bow; when we see Buddha images, we should bow. When we see members of the Sangha who uphold the Buddhadharma, we should bow. We must revere the Triple Jewel. The phrase “to be reverent towards the Buddha” includes being reverent towards the Dharma and the Sangha as well. For people such as these, you may speak it.

The following lines refer to helping others in their cultivation: Further, if there are Buddha’s disciples, who in the great assembly, with minds clear and pure, use various causal conditions, parables and phrases, to speak the Dharma without obstruction, for people such as these, you may speak it. They might say, “No killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no false speech and no taking intoxicants. If you keep the five precepts you can be born in the heavens. If you plant good causes you will reap good fruit; if you plant bad causes, you will reap an evil fruit. Whatever kind of cause you plant, you reap that fruit. So be very careful with respect to cause and effect.

This concludes the pair of self and others.

  1. The following lines represent the pair of beginning and end, that is, beginning by seeking the benefits and ending by receiving the teaching respectfully atop the crown.

The following lines represent the beginning of the search: If there are Bhikshus, who, for the sake of all-wisdom, seek the Dharma in the four directions, with palms together, receiving it atop the crown. Bhikshu is a Sanskrit word. It has three meaning: 1) a medicant, 2) frightener of mara. Because they cultivate according to Dharma, they cause the demon kings to be afraid of them. 3) Destroyer of evil. They destroy all the evils of affliction. Because it has so many meanings, it is not translated.

The Bhikshus visit good knowing advisors in the four directions, seeking the Dharma. Who delight only in receiving and upholding the canon of Great Vehicle Sutras. The Dharma Flower Sutra, The Avatamsaka Sutra, The Shurangama Sutra--in general they seek the Great Vehicle Sutras everywhere. Refusing to accept so much as a single line from another scripture. Having found a Great Vehicle Sutra, they keep it exclusively. The do not study other Sutras. For people such as these, you may speak it. For people who are intent of their study, you can speak the Sutra.

The following lines refer to the end of the search: If there be those who, with mind intent, seek the Buddha’s sharira, or who likewise seek the Sutras, and attaining them hold them atop their crowns. To receive them atop the crown means to hold them in the highest respect. Such people will never again resolve to seek other Sutras, nor ever have the thought to seek the writings of outside ways, for people such as these, you may speak it. They would not run off to the east or west looking for other texts.

This concludes the pair of beginning and end.

Sutra:

I tell you, Shariputra,
Were I to speak of the Characteristics
Of those who seek the Buddha’s Path,
Exhausting aeons, I would not finish.
People such as these
Can believe and understand,
And for their Sake’s you should speak
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.

Outline:

L2. General conclusion.


Commentary:

I tell you, Shariputra, were I to speak of the Characteristics of the ten kinds of good people for whom the Dharma may be spoken, of those who seek the Buddha’s Path, exhausting aeons, I would not finish. So in general, I have just mentioned the ten above. People such as these can believe and understand the Sutra, and for their sake’s you should speak The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.

Some people who study the Buddhadharma have come up with doubts about this passage. They recollect that The Avatamsaka Sutra says that if one claims that only one Sutra is correct and the others are wrong, that is the activity of a demon. Here, the Sutra seems to be telling us to cultivate one particular Sutra and not study the other Sutras. Isn’t this a contradiction? In reality, to maintain one Sutra is to maintain them all. The one gives rise to the many and the other Sutras are all included in the one Sutra. The Lotus Sutra does not tell you explicitly to cultivate only one Sutra. It is just that if you really exhaust all your efforts, you can only maintain one. If you are capable of maintaining more, that is fine. The more the better. So do not get attached and say that The Lotus Sutra tells you to maintain just one Sutra. Do not listen to the Sutras and get attached to them. You have to be flexible.

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