The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 4: Belief and Understanding
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The World Honored One in his great kindness,
Uses this rare thing,
To pity, teach.
And benefit us,
Throughout limitless millions of eons.
Who could repay him?
Giving one’s hands and feet,
Bowing reverently in obeisance,
Whatever offering one makes,
Never repays him.
If one bore him on one’s head,
Or carried him upon one’s shoulders,
For aeons as numerous as the Ganges’ sands,
Exhausting one’s mind in reverence-
Or further, if one used delicacies,
And limitless valuable clothing,
And all types of bedding,
And various medicines,
And various precious gems,
Or stupas and temples
Covering the ground with valuable cloth,
And if with such things as these,
One made offerings
Throughout aeons as numerous as the Ganges’ sands,
One still never repays him.
The Buddhas are rare indeed.
Limitless and boundless,
Yes, inconceivable is the power,
Of their great spiritual penetrations.
Without outflows, unconditioned,
They are kings of all the Dharmas.
For the sake of lesser beings,
They bear up under this work.
To common folks who grasp at mark,
They teach what is appropriate.
The Buddhas have, within the Dharmas,
Attained to the highest comfort.
They understand all living beings’
Various desires and delights,
As well as the strength of their resolve,
According to what they can bear,
Using limitless analogies,
They teach them the Dharma,
In accord with living beings’
Wholesome roots from former lives.
And knowing those who have matured,
And those who have not yet matured,
Through such calculations,
They discriminate and understand,
And in the pathway of One Vehicle,
They appropriately speak of three.
H2. Verses in praise of the Buddha’s kindness.
The World Honored One, in his great kindness uses this rare thing, employs the unsurpassed Dharma, which is extremely rare in the world, to pity, teach and benefit us. In the Ten Dharma Realms he causes all living beings to make the Four Vast Vows and to accomplish the unsurpassed, wonderful fruition of Bodhi. He causes us to bring forth the Bodhi mind and eventually realize the wonderful fruit of enlightenment. This is the greatest form of kindness there is. He leads living beings to separate from suffering and attain bliss.
Throughout limitless, millions of aeons, living beings have forgotten the Great Vehicle Dharma. They take suffering as bliss. Although they have forgotten, the “seeds” of the power of their vows--these Great Vehicle seeds--do not get lost. So now the Buddha uses the power of his great compassion to bring happiness to all living beings. He leads all living beings to attain peace and comfort. Living beings undergoing suffering are like children being bullied who go running to their father. They can find no way out of it themselves, and so the Buddha teaches them the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Conducts. He teaches them the Bodhisattva Path of benefiting oneself and benefiting others, so that in the future they can realize Buddhahood.
After the Buddha became a Buddha himself, he was basically entitled to enjoy the happiness of still extinction. He did not have to do anything else. But, the Buddha was unable to let go of living beings, and so he taught the Buddhadharma to all living beings. He taught them to keep the five precepts, to practice the ten good deeds, and to cultivate in accord with Dharma. First, he spoke The Great Avatamsaka Sutra. But, because the potentials of living beings had not yet matured sufficiently to understand the doctrines of The Avatamsaka Sutra, the Buddha “hid away the great and manifested the small.” He manifested as an old Bhikshu to draw near to all living beings. This was a manifestation of the Buddha’s great compassion. He drew near to living beings, and as they gradually got to know him better, they grew to have faith in him.
The Buddha bequeathed all of his valuables to the Two Vehicles; he turned over his entire inheritance to them. He had a meeting, and amidst all the great kings and ministers and householders, he decided that his entire wealth would be turned over to those of the Two Vehicles--they in the future can become Buddhas. They will eventually sit on the Buddha’s throne, purify the Buddhalands, and teach and transform living beings. This just shows us the Buddha’s great kindness.
He uses this rare thing, this most rare Dharma, to pity, teach and benefit us not just for a short while, but throughout limitless millions of aeons. Who could repay him? The World Honored One has been so good to us. How can we ever repay him?
Giving one’s hands and feet, bowing reverently in obeisance, whatever offering one makes, never repays him. There is no way to repay the great kindness of the Buddha. To offer one’s hands and feet means to do work for the Buddha.
If one bore him on one’s head or carried him upon one’s shoulders for aeons as numerous as the Gange’s sands, exhausting one’s mind in reverence. Doing absolutely everything in one’s power to show reverence and respect, or further, if one used delicacies and limitless valuable clothing and all types of bedding and various medicines. These are the four types of offerings: food and drink, bedding, clothing, and medicines. Ox-head sandalwood and various precious Gems or built stupas and temples, covering the ground with valuable cloth, and if with such things as these, one made offerings throughout aeons as numerous as the Ganges’ sands, one still never repays him.
The Buddhas are rare, indeed. Limitless and boundless. Yes, inconceivable is the power of their great spiritual penetrations. There is no one else in the world like the Buddha. The Buddha’s state is limitless and boundless and inconceivable.
Without outflows, unconditioned, they are kings of all Dharmas. The Buddha has attained to the state of no-outflows and certified to the wonderful doctrine of the unconditioned. Therefore, within all the Dharmas he is the King, he is the highest position, and yet for the sake of lesser beings, the Buddha will refrain from speaking the highest, Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, and for the sake of the Real, manifest the Provisional. He will teach the expedient devices for those inferior. They bear up under this work with patience, they undertake to educate those who are inferior by teaching them the provisional doctrine.
To common folks and who grasp at marks, they teach what is appropriate. They give the common folks what they like. If they like what is sweet, they give them something sweet. If they like what is salty, they give them something salty. If they like hot, bitter, or sour things, they give them what they like, according to their tastes. If they need to be crossed over by means of bitter dharmas, they teach them bitter dharmas. If they need to be crossed over by means of joyful dharmas, they give them joyful dharmas. If they need to be crossed over by means of kindness, they teach them the dharmas of kindness. If they need to be crossed over by means of compassionate dharmas, they teach them compassionate dharmas. The Buddha cherishes and protects all living beings as one would love and protect one’s own children. He looks upon all living beings as if they were his own children. He looks upon them as if they were his own parents. So the Buddha said,
All men are like my father.
All women are like my mother.
Since all men are like one’s father, one should be filial. Seeing all women as like one’s mother, one should also be filial. If one has this attitude, one will not fall into deviant knowledge and views regarding living beings. One would not be prone to desire. The practice of filiality precludes lustful thoughts towards others. That is why the Buddha treats all living beings as equals. There is a saying,
If you wish to lead them into the Buddha’s wisdom,
You must first bait the hook with something that they like.
Fishermen have to put some bait on their hooks, something that the fish like to eat, and then the fish will bite, and you can reel them in. If your relatives and friends do not believe in the Buddhadharma, you can bring them here to have a good lunch. If the food is good, they will remember it and think about coming back at the next opportunity. You can say, “That lunch was not so good. I know something that is even better. Try the Dharma! That is even better.” And then they hear the Dharma and get crossed over.
They teach them what is appropriate. They teach the right dharma at the right time. They teach them what they need to learn.
The Buddhas have, within the Dharmas, attained to the highest comfort. They are the freest and most at ease. They are “right-on” all the time.
They understand all living beings’ various desires and delights. Some like to hear the Buddhadharma; others like to go to movies. Some like to dance; other like tennis. Some like to sleep! Some like to eat! Some like to go jogging. Everybody is different. But, the Buddha knows what they like best, and knows as well the strength of their resolve. According to what they can bear, according to what they will accept, using limitless analogies, they teach them the Dharma in accord with living beings’ wholesome roots from former lives. We living beings come into this world with different predilections. This life we are friends with one person, and in the next life we are friends with another. In this life, one person is our father, and in the next life, someone else takes that role. This life one is married to one person, and in the next life to another. Father/son this life, father/son with another next life.
One undergoes retribution according to karma created in former lives. We have come into this world to undergo retribution. So people should not be so stupid. Basically, once one has studied the Buddhadharma and listened to the Sutra, one should not run down filthy roads again. In one’s thoughts and actions one should be pure. And knowing those who have matured and those who have not yet matured. For those who have not planted good roots, they help them to plant them. For those who have already planted good roots, they help them to grow. For those good roots have already grown, they help them to mature. Through such calculations they discriminate and understand. He knows the dispositions of living beings and in the pathway of One Vehicle, they appropriately speak of three. He speaks of the Three Vehicles. According to living beings’ affinities, he speaks the Small Vehicle, the Middle Vehicle, and the Great Vehicle–for Hearers, Condition-Enlightened Ones, and Bodhisattvas.
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