The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 4: Belief and Understanding
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Just as the poor son.
Drew near his father, and
Although he knew of all his possessions,
In his heart he held no hope of getting them,
In just the same way,
Even though we have spoken
Of the Buddhadharma’s precious store,
We personally never aspired to it.
N2. Correlating lack of aspiration.
O1. Correlating general lack of hope.
Just as the poor son drew near his father, and although he knew of all his possessions, in his heart he held no hope of getting them. He knew of all his father’s valuables, but it never occurred to him to call these things his own. In just the same way, even though we have spoken. We of the Small Vehicle have spoken of the Buddhadharma’s precious store, we personally never aspired to it. We felt there was no point in seeking the Great Vehicle Dharma of the Bodhisattvas. The poor son knew of all the treasures, yet he did not know that they belong to him. He still held on to his small viewpoint and did not expand his thinking. Now, he finally understands that we all have a share in the Buddha’s wealth.
Having attained inner-extinction,
We thought this sufficient,
For having completed this,
There was nothing else to be done.
And even if we had heard
Of purifying Buddhalands,
And teaching and transforming living beings,
We’d have taken no delight therein.
And for what reason?
All dharmas are
Completely empty and still,
Neither produced nor destroyed,
Neither great nor small,
Without outflows and unconditioned.
Reflecting in this way,
We did not give rise to joy.
During the long night,
We had no craving or attachment
For the Buddha’s wisdom,
Nor did we aspire to it,
Yet, as to Dharma, we
Claimed we had the ultimate.
All through the long night,
We practiced and cultivated the Dharma of emptiness.
Having won release from the triple world
With its suffering, distress and calamities,
We dwell within our final bodies,
In nirvana with residue.
According to the Buddha’s teaching,
We attained the Way which is not false,
And we assumed that we had
Thereby repaid the Buddha’s kindness.
O2. Correlating explaining no hope.
Mahakashyapa says that, having attained inner extinction. We who cultivate the Two Vehicles have already gotten rid of the false thinking within ourselves. This absence of false thinking is what is called “inner-extinction.” And we thought this sufficient. Because we had no false thinking, we thought that we were always in samadhi. We felt that with “one thought not produced, the entire substance manifests.” The state in which not a single thought arises is called “inner-extinction.” We thought this sufficient and we felt that this was enough. We had cultivated to the point that we had no more false thinking. For having completed this, there was nothing else to be done or so we thought. We have already cut off our afflictions and broken through our ignorance, so that we are always giving rise to inner-wisdom. So what else is there to be done?
And even if we had heard of purifying Buddhalands, of purifying and adorning the Buddhalands, of turning from the Small Vehicle towards the Great Vehicle, and of practicing the Bodhisattva path and teaching and transforming living beings, of enlightening oneself and others, of benefiting oneself and others, and leading all living beings to understand the Buddhadharma, we’d have taken no delight therein. We would have thought, “That is asking too much. Can’t we just cultivate, gain our own attainment and then forget it? What is with going around teaching everybody else? That is really just making up things to keep yourself busy!” Those of the Two Vehicles are independent. They work for their own accomplishment and do not care to worry about other people. “Who cares if they fall into the hells or turn into animals? Let them do what they like! I am enlightened already, and they are simply none of my business! I have broken through ignorance and seen the Dharma nature, and I do not care about saving living beings.” They are not the least bit interested in purifying the Buddhalands and teaching living beings.
And for what reason? All dharmas are completely empty and still. They are empty! What is the big deal about teaching living beings?
Although all Dharmas are empty and still, one still must practice the Bodhisattva path and benefit others. But those of the Two Vehicles are lazy, they do not want to do this. They hold to the saying,
Mahasattvas do not watch over others.
And Amitabha Buddha takes care of himself.
Your suffering is your business. I have some skill, and so I do not suffer. That is good enough for me. Your suffering is none of my business. Basically, all the Buddhas and all living beings are one. The Buddha is living beings, and living beings are the Buddha. Those of the Two Vehicles have arrived at “Transformation City,” and they like it there just fine. They were once vigorous in pursuit of the Way, but having arrived halfway, they grow lazy. “I have gotten quite enough.” This is like people who are quite vigorous in their cultivation before they leave the home-life. But, once they have left home, they think, “I have already received the precepts. It does not matter any more whether or not I cultivate. I can keep my old bad habits, and if I get a little lazy, it is no problem.” That is just the way those of the Two Vehicles are. They have cultivated and attained some benefits, and having rid themselves of ignorance and affliction, they think, “This is really wonderful.” They end up enjoying how “wonderful” everything is for them, and they do not think to teach and transform living beings, to purify the Buddhalands. They take no delight in such ideas. Why not? Everything is empty and still. If they felt delighted they would just be getting attached again! What they do not realize is that their passivity is also a form of attachment! Hah! Delight and non-delight are both attachments!
All Dharmas are completely empty and still. Neither produced nor destroyed, neither great nor small. They think, “Since all dharmas are not produced or destroyed, why should I bring about production and extinction?” Without outflows and unconditioned. Reflecting in this way, we did not give rise to joy. They are not interested in practicing the Bodhisattva’s path, in purifying the Buddhalands, in teaching and transforming living beings. They find the whole idea to be a pain in the neck!
We, during the long night, during the long night of time, we had no craving or attachment for the Buddha’s wisdom. We did not covet even the wisdom of the Buddha, that bright light which illumines the dark night of time. We had no attachments. Above, we felt there was no Buddhahood for us to realize, and below there were no living beings to save. We had no hope of becoming Buddhas, and we had no wisdom to save living beings. I do not know quite what we thought we were doing! We were not doing anything, in fact!” And you wonder why the Buddha scolded those of the Two Vehicles calling them withered sprouts and sterile seeds? They were not reaching for Buddhahood; they were not teaching living beings. They were exactly nowhere; they were drying up and blowing away. They did not even care about attaining the Buddha’s wisdom or becoming a Buddha, nor did we aspire to it. It did not figure in their plans at all.
And yet, as to Dharma, we claimed we had the ultimate. We thought we had achieved inner-extinction, broken through ignorance and severed afflictions, and we thought that was about all there was to cultivation. We have no afflictions or ignorance. You can scold us or hit us, and it does not matter. This is the ultimate in all Dharmas. All through the long night, we practiced and cultivated the Dharma of emptiness. We have cut off affliction in the Three Realms. Having won release from the triple world with its suffering, distress, and calamities, we dwell within our final bodies and we do not again have to undergo birth and death, in nirvana with residue. According to the Buddha’s teaching, we attained the Way which is not false. We have attained the fruits of the Path. And we assumed that we had thereby repaid the Buddha’s kindness. We thought that our attainment of the nirvana with residue and our certification to the Fourth Fruit of Arhatship was, in fact, repaying the Buddha’s kindness.” But it was not, really, because those of the Two Vehicles did not cultivate the Bodhisattva Path, did not adorn the Buddhalands and did not teach and transform living beings. All they cared about was #1, and that does not count as repaying the Buddha’s kindness.
Although we, for the sake
Of the Buddha’s disciples spoke
Of the Bodhisattvas Dharma,
With which they should seek Buddhahood,
Still in this Dharma,
We never took delight at all.
Our master saw this and let things be,
Because he saw into our hearts,
And so, at first, he did not encourage us
By telling of the real advantage.
Although we, for the sake of the Buddha’s disciples, spoke of the Bodhisattva’s Dharma with which they should seek Buddhahood. Still, in this Dharma, we never took delight at all. We never hoped for it ourselves; we were not the slightest bit interested in it. We did not want to practice the Bodhisattva Path. We were satisfied with the little we had; we felt happy enough at having arrived in Transformation City. We were not greedy for Buddhahood. Above, we felt there is no need to realize Buddhahood, and below we had no interest in teaching living beings.
Our Master saw this and let things be. The Buddha knew that we did not want to cultivate the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, and so he did not speak the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma to us, because he saw into our hearts. He knew that we liked the Small Vehicle. And so, at first, he did not encourage us by telling us of the real advantage. In the beginning he just taught us about the Four Holy Truths and Twelve Causal Conditions. He did not encourage us to practice the Six Perfections and Ten Thousand Conducts of the Bodhisattva. He did not tell us to practice the Bodhisattva Path and become Buddhas. He merely encouraged us to attain the Four Fruits of Arhatship.
Just as the wealthy elder
Used the power of expedients
To bring his mind under control,
And afterwards gave to him
All of his valuables,
The Buddha in the same way
Manifests rare things,
But for those who delight in the small,
He uses the power of expedients
To brings their minds under control,
Only then teaching the greater wisdom
M2. Correlating bequeathing the inheritance.
N1. Correlating the bequeathing.
Just as the wealthy elder knows his son’s lowly ambitions, knowing he had no lofty resolve, used the power of expedients,used various expedient methods, to bring his mind under control. Bit by bit he tamed him, he drew near him, chatted with him, he put on a worn and dirty robe. This means that the Buddha manifested as an ordinary Bhikshu so that he could draw near to those of the Two Vehicles. Gradually, he subdued their minds. And afterwards gave to him all of his valuables. The Buddha, in the same way, manifests rare things. Things never seen before, Dharmas never known before. But for those who delight in the small, those of the Two Vehicles, he speaks the Small Vehicle Dharma. He uses the power of expedients to bring their minds under control. And once their minds have been subdued, only then teaching the greater wisdom, only then are they receptive to the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma.
On this day, we
Have gained what we never had!
That for which we lacked hope,
We now have attained.
Just as the poor son
Gained limitless treasure,
O World Honored One, now
We’ve obtained the Path and its fruits.
Within the non-outflow Dharma
We’ve gained the eye, pure and clear.
During the long night, we
Maintained the Buddha’s pure morality
But only on this day,
Have we gained this reward.
In the Dharma Kings’s Dharma,
Long have we cultivated Brahman conduct.
Now we’ve obtained that non-outflow,
The unsurpassed, great fruition.
Now we are all
And taking the sound of the Buddha’s Way,
We cause all to hear it.
Now we are all
And in all the world,
With its gods, people, maras and Brahmas,
Everywhere among them
We are worthy of receiving offerings.
N2. Correlating the rejoicing.
On this day, we have gained what we never had! That for which we lacked hope, we now have attained. Just as the poor son gained limitless treasurers. Basically, he had no idea he would be bequeathed all of his father’s wealth.
O World Honored One, now we’ve obtained the path and its fruits, the fruition of the unsurpassed Buddha Path. Within the non-outflow dharma, we’ve gained the eye, pure and clear. We’ve gained the clear, pure Buddha-eye and opened the wisdom of the Buddha.
During the long night, we maintained the Buddha’s pure morality. During the long night of time, we have upheld the pure, precious precepts of the Buddha. But only on this day have we gained this reward in the Dharma King’s Dharma. In the Buddhadharma long have we cultivated Brahman conduct. We have been practicing pure conduct for a long, long time, for over forty years, now. Now we’ve obtained that non-outflow, the unsurpassed great fruition, and there is nothing higher than this position. Now we are all truly Hearers and taking the sound of the Buddha’s way, we cause all to hear it, so that all living beings get to hear the Buddhadharma. Now we are all truly Arhats. We are “Slayers of Thieves,” “Ones Worthy of Offerings.” “Ones Not Born.” And in all the world with its Gods, people, maras, and Brahmans, everywhere among them, we are worthy of receiving offerings. We are truly worthy of receiving their offerings within the Triple Realm.
For those who have left home, it is not easy to accept the offerings of those who have not left home. It is said, “If you have not ended the three phases of thought, you will find plain water hard to digest.” The three phases of thought refer to past thought, present thought, and future thought. The Diamond Sutra says, “Past thought cannot be got at; present thought cannot be got at; future thought cannot be got at.” But have you got at it? As to the past, it has already gone by and cannot be obtained. The present is just now becoming the past, and it does not stand still. The future simply has not come yet. One may make verbal reference to the three phases of thought as unobtainable, but on a more practical level. Have you ended the three phases of thought? Do you think about the past? Have you forgotten what happened in the past? No? Then you have “obtained” past thought. Is your thought at present empty? Are you running thoughts through your head concerning your next shopping trip? Or your next project? There! You have “obtained” present thought. Are you planning for your future? You have just “obtained” future thought! See? If you have no thought of the past, no thoughts in the present, and no concern for the future, then you can say, “The three phases of thought cannot be obtained.” It should be the case that you,
Sweep away the three phases of thought,
And separate from all marks.
But, if as a left-home person you have not ended the three phases of thought, you are going to have trouble trying to digest a cup of water, to say nothing of digesting your lunch! Back to the saying,
If you have not ended the three phases of thought,
You will find plain water hard to digest.
But, if you have understood the Five Contemplations,
You will be able to digest metal!
I have noticed lately that there is a lot of chatter going on at the lunch table. Probably you have all forgotten the Five Contemplations. You should forget the Three Phases of Thought, but you cannot forget them! You should remember the Five Contemplations, but you cannot remember them!
What are the Five Contemplations, then?
1. Consider the amount of work it took to get the food to you.
2. Consider whether you have enough merit to accept the offering.
3. Guard your mind against offenses such as greed. In other words, do not get greedy when you see good things to eat, and do not get disgusted when the food is not good. You should be even-minded regardless of what is on the table.
4. Remember the food is only medicine, to prevent the body from going bad. Eating food is just like taking medicine. You should not get caught up in the taste of food. It is taken merely to keep you going.
5. I only take this food in order to realize the karma of the Way. I eat so that I may live, and I live so that I may cultivate and realize the Way.
So, the text says, we are worthy of receiving offerings.
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