The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 3: A Parable
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,
Shariputra, in a future age,
Shall become a Buddha, honored and all-wise,
By the name of Flower Light,
Who will save limitless multitudes.
H1. Verse introduced.
I1. Transcendence to attain the fruition.
At that time, when Shakyamuni Buddha had conferred the prediction upon Shariputra, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning. The Buddha wanted to use verses to speak the meaning once more, in greater detail, and so he spoke verses, saying, Shariputra, in a future age, in the future, shall become a Buddha, honored and all-wise, a Buddha who saves all living beings and is honored for his wisdom by the name of Flower Light. His Buddha-name will be Flower Light Thus Come One. Who will save limitless multitudes. He will rescue limitless, boundless living beings.
Having made offerings to countless Buddhas,
And having perfected the Bodhisattva conduct,
The Ten Powers and other meritorious qualities,
He shall certify to the Unsurpassed Way.
I2. Verse of causal practices.
Having made offerings to countless Buddhas. Why will he become a Buddha? Because he will have made offerings to countless numbers of Buddhas and having perfected the Bodhisattva conduct. He will have practiced the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices, the path that Bodhisattvas are supposed to practice, that of benefiting oneself and benefiting others, enlightening oneself and enlightening others--the Bodhisattva Way. The Ten Powers and other meritorious qualities refer to the Ten Powers, the Eight Liberations, and the dhyana samadhis. The Ten Powers have been discussed. As to the seventh of the ten, that of knowing where all paths lead, this means that the Buddha knows that living beings who cultivate the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds can be born into the heavens. If one cultivates the Four Holy Truths, one can certify to the fruit of Arhatship. If one cultivates the Twelve Conditioned Causes, one can certify to the fruit of Pratyekabuddhahood. If one practices the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices, one can certify to the fruit of Bodhisattvahood.
Because he has perfected the meritorious qualities of the Ten Powers, as well as other meritorious qualities, including the Eighteen Unshared Dharmas, the Four Truths, the Twelve Conditioned Causes, the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices--all the Dharma-doors. He shall certify to the position of the Unsurpassed Way.
When limitless eons have passed,
There shall be an eon named “Adorned with Great Jewels,”
I3. Verse of time and name of eon.
When limitless eons have passed there shall be an eon named "Adorned with Great Jewels. After unlimited eons have gone by, and Shariputra has become a Buddha, there will an eon named Adorned with Great Jewels.
And a world by name of “Apart from Filth,”
Being pure and without flaw,
With lapis lazuli as its ground,
And its roads bordered with golden cords,
With multicolored trees made of seven treasures,
Which constantly bloom and bear fruit.
I4. Verse about the country.
And a world by the name of "Apart from Filth" will be the world in which he realizes Buddhahood. Why will it be called "Apart From Filth?" Because there will be no unclean things there. It will be extremely clean. Being pure and without flaw. It will not have the slightest flaw, no "blemishes on the jade," so to speak.
With lapis lazuli as its ground. This blue gem shall be its ground. And its roads bordered with golden cords, with multicolored trees made of seven treasures. The combination of colors--blue and white, or red and yellow, or green and red--will cause those who see the trees to bring forth the Bodhi-heart. Why are they so beautiful? So that when people see them, their hearts want to seek the Way. "This place is so fine," they will think, "I had better hurry up and cultivate so that I can go there." Which constantly bloom and bear fruit. The trees will always be in bloom and will constantly be bearing fruit.
The Bodhisattvas in that land,
Will be always firm in mindfulness,
With spiritual penetrations and paramitas ,
All thoroughly perfected.
In the presence of countless Buddhas,
They will have well-learned the Bodhisattva Way.
I5. Verse concerning the assembly.
The Bodhisattvas in that land, in the world Apart from Filth, during the eon called Adorned with Great Jewels, will be always firm in mindfulness. Their resolve and their thoughts will be extremely firm. They will have all attained to the Three-fold Irreversibility: 1) Irreversible in position, 2) Irreversible in thought, and 3) Irreversible in conduct. With spiritual penetrations and paramitas all thoroughly perfected. They will have attained great spiritual powers and the paramitas, having gone to the other shore. They will have perfected them all.
In the presence of countless Buddhas, they will have well-learned the Bodhisattva Way. They will have studied and practiced the Bodhisattva Way, cultivating the Dharma-door of the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices.
Great Knights such as these
Shall have been transformed by the Buddha Flower Light.
I6. Verse about the teaching of the Dharma.
Great Knights such as these, all these limitless and boundlessly many great Bodhisattvas, shall have been taught and transformed by the Buddha Flower Light.
That Buddha, when still a prince,
Shall renounce his land and worldly glory,
And in his final body,
Leave home to realized the Buddha Way.
The Buddha Flower Light shall dwell in the world
For a life span of twelve small eons.
The people of his land
Shall live for eight small eons.
I7. Verse about the life spans.
That Buddha, when still a prince, shall renounce his land and worldly glory. He basically should have become the king, but he would not. He would not want his kingdom. He will renounce it and let go of all the wealth and honor he was due to receive. And in his final body, in his very last life, he shall leave home to realize the Buddha Way. He shall go forth from the home-life, become a Bhikshu, and cultivate to accomplish the Buddha Way.
The Buddha Flower Light shall dwell in the world for a life span of twelve small eons. The people of his land shall live for eight small eons.
When that Buddha has passed into quiescence,
The Proper Dharma shall remain in the world
For thirty-two small eons,
Widely saving living beings.
When the Proper Dharma has vanished,
The Dharma Image shall remain for thirty-two.
The sharira shall be distributed widely,
For the offerings of gods and humans.
I8. The Dharma's dwelling.
When that Buddha has passed into quiescence, when the Thus Come One Flower Light has entered Nirvana, the Proper Dharma shall remain in the world for thirty-two small eons, widely saving living beings. During the thirty-two eons of the Proper Dharma Age, vast numbers of living beings will be taken across the sea of suffering.
When the Proper Dharma has vanished, when it has passed out of existence, the Dharma Image Age shall remain for thirty-two small eons as well. The sharira shall be distributed widely. The sharira of the Buddha Flower Light shall be distributed widely throughout the world and many stupas shall be erected. For the offerings of gods and humans. The gods in the heavens and the humans below shall make offerings to the sharira, to the jeweled stupas containing them.
The deeds of the Buddha Flower Light,
Shall be such as these.
That Sagely Honored One, Twice Complete,
Shall be supreme and beyond compare.
And he is just you, yourself!
It is fitting that you do rejoice.
H2. Concluding praise.
The deeds of the Buddha Flower Light shall be such as these. In general, his actions shall be as just enumerated. That Sagely Honored One, Twice Complete. The one complete in blessings and wisdom, shall be supreme and beyond compare. He will be the most excellent; no one will be able to compare with him.
And he is just you, yourself! And just who is this Flower Light Buddha? He is just you, Shariputra. In the future, you shall become the Buddha Flower Light. It is fitting that you do rejoice. You should be happy and rejoice, for in the future, you shall become a Buddha.
Part Three : The Parable
At that time, the Four-fold Assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas, as well as the great multitude of yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and so forth, seeing Shariputra, in the presence of the Buddha, receive a prediction for anuttarasamyaksambodhi, greatly rejoiced in their hearts and leapt for unbounded joy.
F5. Rejoicing of the Great Assembly.
H1. Editor of Sutra tells of the assembly's rejoicing.
At that time, after Shakyamuni Buddha had bestowed the prediction upon Shariputra, the Four-fold Assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas: Bhikshus are men who have left home; Bhikshuni are women who have left home. Upasakas are men who are at home and Upasikas are women who are at home. Not only was the Four-fold Assembly of disciples present, but the gods, dragons, and the Eight-fold Division was there, too. As well as the great multitude of yakshas, "speedy ghosts" who run very fast.
Gandharvas are musical spirits in the court of Shakra. Asuras are those who have heavenly blessings, but not heavenly authority. They do not have the virtue conduct of the gods. Asuras are sometimes found in the Three Good Paths, and other times they are counted in the Four Evil Paths. The Three Good Paths are those of the gods, humans, and asuras. The Four Evil Paths are the asuras, hell beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. Why are asuras put into the Four Evil Paths? It is because their temperament is very feisty. They are always trying to pick fights with people. It is because of their strength in fighting that they are counted among the Four Evil Paths. There are asuras, too, among humans, in the hells, in the heavens, among the animals, and the hungry ghosts. Asuras are just those who like to fight. No matter what kind of living being it is, if it likes to fight, it is an asura.
Garudas are the great Golden-winged Peng Birds. These birds have a wingspan of three hundred yojanas. With a single flap of their wings, they can dry up the entire ocean, exposing all the dragons to view. They gobble up the dragons just like we eat noodles! They open their mouths and pop in a dragon, open their mouths and pop in a dragon. Their bodies are huge, so their lips are big, too, and they can swallow dragons just like we eat noodles. Kinnaras are also musical spirits in Shakra's court. Mahoragas are the big snakes. When the Buddha spoke the Dharma, the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eight-fold division all went to listen. This is just a general list. There were also a lot of other kinds of beings there.
Seeing Shariputra, in the presence of the Buddha, receive a prediction for Anuttarasamyaksambodhi: The great assembly saw Shariputra receive a prediction of his future Buddhahood as the Thus Come One Flower Light. Greatly rejoiced in their hearts. See? Greatly wise Shariputra, in the future, can become a Buddha! They were ecstatic! And leap for unbounded joy. They jumped around just like when people are happy to the extreme they may jump for joy, not dancing, but just expressing their happiness.
Each removed his upper garment and presented it as an offering to the Buddha. Shakro Devanam Indrah and the Brahma Heaven King, together with countless gods, also made offerings to the Buddha of heavenly wonderful garments, heavenly mandarava flowers and mahamandarava flowers, and so forth.
H2. Explaining the offerings.
Each removed his upper garment: Each of them removed his most expensive upper garment. And presented it as an offering to the Buddha. Now, as to making offerings to the Buddha, in the Indian custom, Bhikshus had a precept that they could have only three robes in their possession. One was the Samghati robe, also called the host robe, which is twenty-five strips and one hundred and eight patches. There is also the seven-piece robe and the five-piece robe. These are the only three robes they were allowed. Now, if they removed their robes and offered them to the Buddha, wouldn't they be left without a robe and thereby breaking a precept? Wherever left-home people go, their three robes have to go with them. But if they removed their most upper garments. their most expensive garments of course being the host robe, wouldn't they be missing a robe?
You should not have an attachment at this point and look at it as so stuffy. At that time, the Bhikshus might have had the offerings of some other people, extras of which they gave the newest ones to the Buddha. Or perhaps some Bhikshus had already died and had entrusted their clothing to others who took this happy occasion to offer them to the Buddha. There are a lot of ways you could explain this. Lay people of course can give away their valuable clothing as they like. "Upper" garments can refer to the clothes they wore on the upper part of their bodies or it can refer to the finest, most expensive garments.
Shakro Devanam Indrah, (same as above) the Lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-three, also known as Shakra, and The Brahma Heaven King, the King of the Great Brahma Heaven, together with countless gods, also made offerings to the Buddha of heavenly wonderful garments, the wonderful clothing of the gods, Heavenly Mandarava Flowers, white flowers, and Mahamandarava Flowers, big white flowers, and so forth includes the Manjushaka Flowers and the Mahamanjushaka Flowers, that is, the red flowers and the big red flowers.
The heavenly garments they tossed aloft remained in empty space and whirled around. Then, all at once, in empty space hundreds of thousands of myriads of kinds of heavenly music began to play, and there fell a rain of heavenly flowers.
The heavenly garments they tossed aloft remained in empty space and whirled around. They revolved in empty space as if they were flying, and twirled around and around. Then, all at once in empty space hundreds of thousands of myriads of kinds of heavenly music began to play, all at the same time. And there fell a rain of heavenly flowers.
As they uttered these words, “Long ago in Varanashi, the Buddha first turned the Wheel of Dharma. Now, he turns again that unsurpassed, magnificent Dharma-wheel.”
H3. Leading to understanding proper.
As they uttered these words, "Long ago, in Varanashi, in the Deer Park, the Buddha first turned the Wheel of Dharma. He turned the Dharma-wheel of Four Truths, called The Three Turnings of the Dharma-wheel of the Four Holy Truths. Now, he turns again that unsurpassed magnificent Dharma-wheel. He is speaking The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
At that time, all the gods, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke the following verse:
Long ago in Varanashi,
You turned the Dharma-wheel of Four Truths,
Discriminatingly speaking of the Dharmas,
The production and extinction of Five Heaps.
Now, again, you turn that wondrous,
Unsurpassed, great Wheel of Dharma.
This Dharma is deep and recondite,
And few are those who can believe it.
H1. Verse of opening the provisional to reveal the one reality.
At that time, after the gods, dragons, and the eight-fold division heard that the Buddha was about to turn the Dharma-wheel again, all the gods, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke the following verse:
Long ago in Varanashi, the World Honored One, previously, in the Deer Park, you turned the Dharma-wheel of Four Truths. You expounded the Three Turnings of the Dharma-wheel of Four Truths. Discriminatingly speaking of the Dharmas; suffering, origination, extinction, the Way, the Twelve Conditioned Causes, the production and extinction of Five Heaps; form, feeling, perception, impulse, and consciousness. The Truth of Suffering is produced from the Truth of Origination. Where there is production, there is extinction and because of the Truth of Origination, the Truth of Suffering arises. Not long after it is produced, it is extinguished. The extinction of both production and extinction is the Truth of Extinction.
What is extinguished? Suffering and origination. The extinction of suffering and origination is the Truth of the Way. Therefore, suffering, origination, extinction and the Way have their roots in the Five Skandhas.
Now, again, you turn that wondrous unsurpassed great Wheel of Dharma. Long ago you spoke the Dharmas of the Four Truths and the Twelve Conditioned Causes and now you speak the most wonderful Dharma. What is it? It is The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. This Sutra is the King of Dharmas. It is supreme. There is nothing more lofty than this. It is the genuine wisdom. In this Sutra, the provisional wisdom is done away with and the true, real wisdom is taught.
This Dharma is deep and recondite and few are those who can believe it. This Sutra is extremely deep and most wonderful. Most people's wisdom cannot fathom it, because it is so wonderful. Unable to fathom it, they disbelieve it. For example, over a thousand years ago in China, there were "flying cars." When the Yellow Emperor was battling with Chiyu, the leader of a barbarian tribe, there were already flying cars. the Yellow emperor invented the compass, because during the battle, Chiyu was able to set off a poisonous fog which screened their vision. So the Yellow Emperor invented the compass so he could know the four directions. But, a thousand years ago, if you had told someone, "In the future there will be planes which will fly in space," to say nothing of rockets, no one would have believed you. "Impossible," they would have said. Why wouldn't they have believed you? Because it is too wonderful. "How could people possibly fly around in space? Absurd."
Before Columbus discovered America, if you had gone around saying, "I know where there is another continent. It is rich with gold and silver," most people would not have believed you. Ultimately, did it exist or not? It did, but for the most part, people did not believe it. It was there all the time, but no one believed in it. After it was "discovered," it was not the case that it suddenly sprang into existence. It was there all the time.
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra says that everyone can become a Buddha--all living beings can become Buddhas. Nobody believes it. "How can I become a Buddha? It is ridiculous to think that all living beings can become Buddhas, and I do not believe it." Ultimately, can people become Buddha? If not, then how did the Buddha realize the fruit of Buddhahood? Shakyamuni Buddha was just a person. We, too, are people, but we have not cultivated. We have not practiced as bitterly as Shakyamuni Buddha, in our cultivation, and so we have not yet become Buddhas. If we imitate Shakyamuni Buddha in his bitter cultivation, we would very quickly become Buddhas. Why haven't we become Buddhas? Because we are lazy! Because we do not diligently cultivate the good Way.
Why has Shakyamuni Buddha become a Buddha? Because he diligently cultivated the good Way. There is no other esoteric secret involved. It is like traveling. If you want to go somewhere, you have to start walking, or else get into your car, take a bus, a train, or a plane. In any case, you have got to start moving. If you just say, "I am going to New York," and do not go, you will never get there. You have got to set yourself in motion. Shakyamuni Buddha knew that becoming a Buddha was a possibility, and so he began cultivating the Path to Buddhahood. Finally, he realized it. We are now still living beings and we do not think it is bad at all. "I am a human being. I am quite intelligent." Who knows how large our mark of self looms--higher than Mount Sumeru! The mark may loom high, but the things we do are not high at all. They are base and lowly. How are we base and lowly? We have not rid ourselves of greed, for one thing, and that is base and lowly. Our hatred and stupidity we find impossible to put down, too. We take ourselves too lightly. That is why the text says, "Few are those who can believe it.”
return to top