The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 5: Medicinal Herbs
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Those living beings who, hearing the Thus Come One’s Dharma, uphold, read, recite and cultivate it as taught will not themselves be aware of the merit and virtue they obtain.
M2. Correlating the different grasses and trees.
N1. Correlating living beings as like grass and trees, therefore, “unaware”.
Those living beings who, hearing the Thus Come One’s Dharma, uphold, read, recite and cultivate it as taught, cultivating as the Buddha told them to and practicing what they have been told to practice in accord with Dharma. They will not themselves be aware of the merit and virtue they obtain. Things are pretty much the same here. You come to listen to the Buddhadharma. You have all changed a great deal for the better, although you yourselves may not be aware of the fact that you have lost your bad habits now, and even if you wanted them back, you would not know where to start looking for them!
What is the reason? Only the Thus Come One knows the kinds, the marks, the substances, and the natures of these living beings, what they are recollecting, what they are thinking, and what they are cultivating; how they are recollecting, how they are thinking, and how they are cultivating; by means of what dharma they recollect, by means of what dharma they think, and by means of what dharma they cultivate; and by means of what dharma they obtain what dharma. Living beings dwell on a variety of levels. Only the Thus Come One sees them as they really are, clearly and without obstruction.
N2. Showing that only the Thus Come One knows the beings. He is, therefore, like the great cloud.
What is the reason? Only the Thus Come One knows the kinds. There are various kinds of living beings. There are Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, Conditioned-Enlightened Ones, gods, people, asuras, ghosts, hell-beings, and animals--all those in the ten Dharma Realms. Depending on one’s karma, one becomes one of them. The marks: This refers to their external appearance. The substances, that is, their basic make-up and the natures, their inward disposition of these living beings.
So, those are the Four Dharmas: kind, mark, substance, and nature.
What they are recollecting, what they are thinking, and what they are cultivating. There are also Three Dharmas: Hearing, thinking, and cultivating. Hearing refers to hearing the Dharma by listening to lectures on the Sutra. Through our hearing we gain the wisdom of hearing. After you have listened to the Dharma for a while, without realizing it yourself you will grow wiser. For example, some of my disciples can explain the Ten Dwellings and the Ten Grounds. If they had not listened to the Buddhadharma, they would not be able to do this. When you study the Buddhadharma, you gain wisdom. This is called the wisdom of hearing.
Thinking refers to meditation, that is, practicing the Four Dhyanas and stilling one’s thought processes. This is wisdom of thinking. One thinks about the principles one has heard and chooses the right path to follow.
Once you have thought it through carefully, then you start cultivating. You must work hard and never, ever be lazy. You must be courageously and vigorously cultivate in the morning, courageously and vigorously cultivating in the evening, and courageously and vigorously cultivate all day long. Then you will gain the wisdom of cultivation. You much approach your cultivation with wisdom. If you lack wisdom and cultivate blindly, you may get off the track and end up cultivating yourself right into the hells. You would be cultivating blindly. These are three methods to cultivating wisdom. There are two additional dharmas. What are these two dharmas? All of you know, but unless I mention them by name, you do not know what the two dharmas are. Once I tell you, you will blurt out, “Oh, so that is it!” They are cause and effect. You are all very familiar with these, right? The two dharmas are cause and effect. In addition, there is the single dharma. You have also heard this one dharma many times, but no one can seem to make a correct guess right now. This single dharma is the dharma of all grounds, which is the single ground. The one ground is the Real Mark. You all know about the Real Mark? This is the single dharma. Four dharmas, three dharmas, two dharmas, and one dharma; one dharma, two dharmas, three dharmas, and four dharmas. If you understand these, it will be easier to cultivate.
How they are recollecting, how they are thinking, and how they are cultivating. They recollect the Buddha, then they think about the Dharma, they cultivate the deeds of the Sangha. They are constantly mindful, forgetting not even for a moment. What should they not forget? They should never forget the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. They constantly in every thought recollect, think about, and cultivate the principle of the Buddhadharma. Clearly, calmly, and without false thinking, they think about the doctrines, and then cultivate them. By means of what dharma they recollect, by means of what dharma they think, and by means of what dharma they cultivate. They recollect, think, and cultivate in accord with Proper Dharma. They cultivate according to the laws of cause and effect. They know that whatever cause they plant, it will bear a corresponding fruit.
And by means of what dharma they obtain what dharma. You use Buddhadharma, you get Buddhahood. You use demonic dharma, you get demonic dharma. There are also Two Dharmas: Cause and effect. “By means of what dharma” is the cause and “they obtain what dharma” is the effect. According to the causes planted by the Five Vehicles, they obtain corresponding effects.
Living beings dwell on a variety of levels. Only the Thus Come One sees them as they really are. Living beings themselves are not aware of their various states. Only the Thus Come One really sees them. Clearly and without obstruction. He knows them from beginning to depths. Ordinary people might understand the beginning but not understand the end, or else they would not understand the beginning but will understand the end. They cannot understand both at once. You might know how beings are born and not know about how they die, or vice-versa.
He understands the inside and the outside, clearly without any obstruction. As long as one clearly understands, then there is no obstacle. If one does not clearly understand, then there are obstacles. Therefore, only the Buddha can really understand and be without obstacles.
There is a verse about obstacles, which runs:
I vow to eradicate the three obstructions and all afflictions.
I vow to attain wisdom and true understanding.
I vow that all disasters quickly melt away.
And in every life, I vow to practice the Bodhisattva Path.
There are three obstructions: The obstruction of karma, the obstruction of retribution, and the obstruction of afflictions. One should vow to attain wisdom. With wisdom you can have clear understanding; otherwise, you cannot. One should vow to get rid of all disasters and calamities. All disasters such as tornados and earthquakes disappear.
Just as those grasses, trees, and forests and all the medicinal herbs do not know themselves whether their natures are superior, middle, or inferior.
N3. Living beings unaware of their own natures.
The Buddha knows clearly and without obstruction, but the living beings who are moistened by the Dharma are not aware themselves of their own capacities, Just as those grasses, trees, and forests and all the medicinal herbs do not know themselves whether their natures are superior, middle, or inferior.
The Thus Come One knows the Dharma of one mark, of one flavor, that is to say: the mark of liberation, the mark of separation, the mark of extinction, the mark of ultimate Nirvana which is constantly still and extinct and which in the end returns to emptiness.
M1. Conclusion “different is just not different”.
The Thus Come One knows the Dharma of one mark, the mark of True Suchness of the mind and nature of living beings. Of one flavor refers to the cultivation of the One Vehicle and certification to the wonderful principle. That is to say: the mark of liberation, the mark of separation, the mark of extinction. Now, originally there is no mark of liberation, no mark of separation, no mark of extinction. These marks are spoken of to counteract the attachments of living beings. Think it over: If it is really liberation, how could it retain a mark? If it is really separation, how could there still be a mark. If it is really separation, then it should be separate from even the concept of separation. So why do we bring up the “mark of separation”? If we did not, living beings would not have anything to relate to, and it would be difficult for them to believe. The mark of extinction is also without a mark. In general, all dharmas have been swept away, and all marks have been left behind. Not a single dharma is postulated. The mark of ultimate Nirvana which is constantly still and extinct The Dharma of one mark and one flavor ultimately returns to Nirvana with its four virtues of permanence, bliss, true self, and purity. The mark of ultimate Nirvana, that is constantly still and extinct is also not a mark. If it had a mark, it would not be still and extinct. And which in the end returns to emptiness wherein there is not even the mark of emptiness.
Already understanding this the Buddha contemplates the desires in the minds of living beings and protects them. For this reason he does not immediately speak of the Wisdom of All Modes.
M2. Explaining why he does not immediately speak the Wisdom of All Modes.
Already understanding this the Buddha, having, while in the midst of marks, transcended marks, then contemplates the desires in the minds of living beings. Basically, there is no dharma to be spoken, and there are no marks to be obtained. However, living beings all have their fondness and desires. If you started right out teaching them that there was nothing at all--not a single dharma--and that all dharmas are empty, living beings would not believe it. Not only would they not believe it, they slander it as well. “If dharmas are basically empty, why are you speaking about them, anyway?” they would ask. So the Buddha took a long look at living beings’ minds. He knew that they were not ready to accept the true dharma. Living beings have many faults which they must gradually be encouraged to stop. If you try to do it all at once by telling them it is all empty, they would not be able to do it.
And protects them. By refraining from speaking the Real Dharma and speaking the Provisional instead, he protects living beings from slandering the Dharma.
For this reason he does not immediately speak of the Wisdom of All Modes. That is the reason why the Buddha does not immediately speak the Dharma of the Real Mark. He waits a bit. The Wisdom of All Modes is the Real Mark Prajna. The Buddha takes a look at the causes, conditions, and dispositions of living beings. Upon seeing that they have not yet ripened, he refrains from speaking to them of the Wisdom of All Modes, the Real Mark Prajna.
Kashyapa, you are all very rare in your ability to know that the Thus Come One speaks the Dharma as it is appropriate, and in your ability to believe and accept it. Why it this? All the Buddhas, the World Honored Ones speak an appropriate Dharma which is difficult to understand, difficult to know.
I2. Concluding praise and narration.
Kashyapa, you are all, all of you Hearers, very rare indeed, in your ability to know that the Thus Come One speaks the Dharma as it is appropriate, you are rare because you understand that the Buddha speaks the Dharma in accord with the inclinations of the beings he teaches, in accord with their dispositions, and in accord with their causes and conditions. And in your ability to believe and accept it. Why it this? All the Buddhas, the World Honored Ones speak an appropriate Dharma which is difficult to understand, difficult to know. The Dharma spoken by the Buddhas is supreme, profound, and wonderful. So it is not easy to understand.
At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning spoke verses, saying:
“Destroyer of existence, the Dharma King
Manifests within the world;
According to living beings’ desires,
He teaches the Dharma in various ways.
The Thus Come One, out of veneration
For this wisdom, deep and far-reaching,
Has long remained silent on this important matter,
Being in no hurry to set it forth.
Those with wisdom, if they heard it,
Would be able to believe and understand it,
But those lacking wisdom would doubt it
And thereby lose it for a long time
For this reason, Kashyapa,
It is spoken in accord with their powers
Employing various conditions
To lead them to the right view.
I1. Verses of Dharma.
At that time the World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, compassionately wishing to teach living beings, and wishing to restate this meaning spoke verses, saying:
Destroyer of existence, the Dharma King. “Existence” refers to the presence of cause and effect. How does the Buddha break through cause and effect? On the part of living beings, the laws of cause and effect always apply. If you plant a good cause, you reap a good fruit; if you plant an evil cause, you reap an evil fruit. But, the Buddha, having reached enlightenment through his cultivation, is no longer bound by cause and effect. He has broken through existence, through the “unstoppable” process of cause and effect. The Dharma King is the Buddha, the King who speaks the Dharma. Those who leave home should learn to speak the Dharma like the Buddha, with his Four Kinds of Unobstructed Eloquence and his Eight Sounds. In speaking the Dharma, we represent the Buddha, the Dharma King.
Manifests within the world; the Buddha manifests within the world to smash through all of existence. He cannot do it all at once, however. According to living beings’ desires, he teaches the Dharma in various ways. He figures out what living beings like and, going along with them, teaches them bit by bit. He does not speak the Dharma in just one way. There are many ways to speak it. There are the Five Periods and the Eight Teachings. The Five Periods are: the Avatamsaka Period, the Agama Period, the Vaipulya Period, the Prajna Period, and the Dharma Flower-Nirvana Period. The Eight Teachings are: the Sudden Teaching, the Gradual Teaching, the Esoteric Teaching, the Unfixed Teaching, the Teaching of the Tripitaka, the Intermediate Teaching, the Differentiated Teaching, and the Perfect Teaching. He speaks all kinds of dharmas according to the Five Periods of time and the Eight Teachings.
The Thus Come One, out of veneration for this wisdom, deep and far-reaching. Because the Real Mark Prajna wisdom is to be revered greatly, being profound and far-reaching. That is why it is said, “When the Bodhisattva who Contemplates at Ease practices the profound prajna…” The prajna is deep rather than shallow. Has long remained silent on this important matter. Because it is so deep and so lofty, those of ordinary, shallow understanding cannot penetrate it. Because it is so vast in scope, it is not appropriate for those of the Small Vehicle.
Therefore, the Buddha has sized them up as Small Vehicle types, and he cannot speak the Great Vehicle Dharma to them. He has kept silent on the matter for a long time. “Long” refers to the time from the end of the Avatamsaka Period up to the beginning of the Lotus Flower-Nirvana Period--over thirty years. During those thirty years, he did not set forth the real teaching; he spoke the provisional teaching instead. He did not speak the Real Mark Prajna, that is, the doctrine of the One Buddha Vehicle. It has been a long, long time since he spoke the important matter. He kept it to himself. Why? If he had spoken of the real wisdom, the real teaching, living beings would not only not believe, they would even slander it. Being in no hurry to set it forth. The Buddha certainly has a lot patience.
Those with wisdom, if they heard it, would be able to believe and understand it. They would believe and accept the doctrine of the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. But those lacking wisdom would doubt it and thereby lose it for a long time. If you spoke to them in terms of the Great Vehicle saying--“originally, there was no bondage, and now there is no need to seek liberation. Originally, there was no uniting with marks, and so now there is no need to separate from marks. Originally there was no mark of production and now there is no need to speak of a mark of extinction”--if you tried to teach them something that truthful and out-in-front, then they would not believe it. They would have many doubts. That is why you have to apply clever expedient devices and use all kinds of analogies to bring them to understanding.
Stupid people would not believe. They would think, “Hmmm...this all sounds too nihilistic to me. What does he mean, ‘There is nothing at all’? If there is nothing all, we are finished! We have had it! If it all reverts to emptiness, what are we doing studying this? There is nothing to study!” Having given rise to doubt, they cut off the seeds of the Great Vehicle, which is equivalent to cutting off the seed of Buddhahood, and cutting off the seeds of being living beings, and they thereby lose it for a long time.
For this reason, Kashyapa, it is spoken in accord with their powers, employing various conditions, expedient, clever provisional dharmas and analogies to lead them to the right view. To bring them to right knowledge and right views so that deviant knowledge and deviant views vanish.
Kashyapa, you should know
It is like a great cloud
Rising above the world
And covering all
A wisdom cloud filled with moisture
Illuminated with lightening flashes
And vibrating with thunderous roars
It brings delight to all,
Obscuring the light of the sun,
Refreshing the earth
The cloud lowers and expands
As if one could reach out and touch it,
It rains equally everywhere
Falling alike in the four directions
Pouring without measure
Saturating all the land.
I2. Verses of setting up parable.
J1. Verses of not different and yet different.
K1. Verses of that which moistens as not different.
Kashyapa, you should know the Thus Come One speaks the Dharma. It is like a great cloud rising above the world and covering the three thousand, great thousand worlds, and covering all. A wisdom cloud filled with moisture. The cloud represents the Buddha’s real wisdom, whose rain moistens the hearts of all living beings. Illuminated with lightening flashes. The Buddha emits limitless lights, like the flashes of lightening. And vibrating with thunderous roars. The thunder represents the sound of the Buddha’s voice speaking the Dharma. It brings delight to all causing all living beings to feel happiness in their hearts.
Obscuring the light of the sun. The light of the Buddha’s wisdom outshines the light of all outsides ways; it outshines the light of the ninety-five deviant lights. Without the light of the Buddha’s wisdom, non-Buddhists would appear to have principle. But, once their teachings are compared to the Buddhadharma, their deviant wisdom is revealed for what it is and is outshone by the Buddha’s wisdom.
Refreshing the earth. This is also an analogy. It represents the Buddha using the clear, pure refreshing wisdom to cool off the earth’s ninety-eight kinds of afflictions. The cloud lowers and expands. Dense and profuse clouds colored the sky. Draped across are billows of clouds so thick that you could touch it with the reach of your hand. As if one could reach out and touch it, it rains equally everywhere. The wisdom of the Buddha’s words of Dharma universally moistens all living beings. Falling alike in the four directions. This represents the Eight Sounds and Four Types of Eloquence of the Buddha. Pouring without measure, saturating all the lands. In the Four Books, there is the saying:
Everything under heaven is the land of the king.
Every body of water is a minister to the king.
Everywhere all the land receives moisture, just as all living beings receive the moisture of the Buddhadharma.
In these verses Shakyamuni Buddha praises Mahakashyapa and all the Hearer disciples as being extremely rare, because they like to hear the Dharma the Buddha speaks. Because they like study the Buddhadharma, the Buddha says that there are few such people. In this world, there are many people, but very few of them get to listen to the Dharma; this makes them rare. If you put on a play or show a film, a lot of people will come to watch. If you have a gambling house, a lot of people will come. But here we lecture on the Sutras all the time and still only these few people come to listen. Sometimes they come and sometimes they do not! Such people are rare indeed. So, take a look at yourselves, and you will know that you are rare people. There are few like you. Some of you go to school, and some of you have jobs and go to work--you do various things. Some of you take care of your homes, and some of you work outside, and yet in the evenings you all find time to come and listen to lectures on the Sutras. Very rare!
In the mountains, streams and steep valleys,
In deep recesses, there grow
Grasses, trees, and herbs,
And trees, both great and small,
The grains, shoots, and plants,
The sugar cane and the grape vine;
All are nourished by the rain,
And none fail to be enriched.
The parched ground is soaked,
The herbs and trees together flourish,
Issuing from that cloud
Water of a single flavor
Moistens grasses, trees and forests
Each according to its measure
All of the trees,
Great, medium and small,
According to their size
Can grow and develop.
When reached by that single rain
The roots, stalks, branches, and leaves,
Flowers and fruits will luster and color,
All are fresh and shining.
K2. Verses about receiving different levels of moisture.
In the mountains, streams and steep valleys, the streams represent the Great Bodhisattvas. The streams represent all the great disciples. In deep recesses, there grow grasses, trees, and herbs. The analogy gives the three kinds of grass and two kinds of trees. The three kinds of grass are: the Vehicle of People, the Vehicle of Gods, and the Vehicles of the Hearers and Condition-enlightened Ones. The two kinds of trees are the Bodhisattvas of Intermediate Teachings and Differentiated Teachings. Bodhisattvas of the Differentiated Teachings are great trees while Bodhisattvas of the Intermediate Teachings are small trees. And trees, both great and small, the grains, shoots, and plants.
The text says literally, “The hundred grains”. The word “hundred” represents the ten good deeds, each of which is multiplied by ten, making a hundred good deeds. The shoots and plants are all the living beings. The sugar cane and the grape vine. Sugar cane grows in stalks which represent both dhyana samadhi and the spiritual powers derived from it. Grapes grow in clusters, representing the use of a single wisdom door of prajna to cut off many, many doubts. All are nourished by the rain, and none fail to be enriched. They all grow. They each receive the share of rain that they should receive. The parched ground is soaked. “Parched ground” refers to living beings who have not planted good roots, who have not heard the Buddhadharma. These living beings are also nourished by the Dharma-rain and gain advantage.
The herbs and trees together flourish. They grow and flourish. Issuing from that cloud water of a single flavor. The One Vehicle Buddhadharma Moistens grasses, trees and forests. All living beings each according to its measure. They receive the benefit they deserve. All of the trees, great, medium and small, according to their size can grow and develop. When reached by that single rain the roots, stalks, branches, and leaves, flowers and fruits will luster and color, all are fresh and shining. They are fresh, sparkling, and beautiful.
According to their substance and marks,
And natures, either great or small
They alike receive moisture
And each one flourishes.
J2. Verses of “different and yet not different”.
According to their substance and marks, the large ones get much moisture, the middle-sized ones get less, and the smaller ones get even less. Each gets what it deserves. According to their substance and marks, and natures, either great or small they alike receive moisture and each one flourishes. For example, we are now giving lectures on the Sutra. The lecturing could be considered one, big rain-cloud. Of those who come to listen, some will understand one thing and some will understand many, many principles. Some will, as the saying goes, hear one thing and understand one thing, while others will hear one thing and understand ten, or even a hundred!
Some people will change some of their small, bad habits and gain small benefit. Some will change their major, bad habits and thereby obtain great benefit. Some will get rid of all their bad habits completely, gaining the greatest benefit. When you have heard and understood the Dharma, it is like having been moistened by the rain. When you get rid of your bad habits, your wisdom-life and Dharma-body flourish and grow, your wisdom develops and sheds its light. Before, when you had all those bad habits, you did not realize that your body gave off no light at all. Now, for every bit of habit energy that you get rid of, you omit that much more light.
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