The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 5: Medicinal Herbs
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
The Buddha, in the same way
Manifests within the world
Just like a great cloud
Covering over everything.
Having come into the world
For the sake of living beings,
He discriminates and expounds
The reality of all dharmas.
The Great Sage, the World Honored One,
In the midst of the multitudes
Of gods and humans
Proclaims these words saying:
“I am the Thus Come One
The doubly complete honored one.
I appear within the world
Like a great cloud
The dried-out living beings,
So they all leave suffering
And gain peace and bliss
And the joy of Nirvana.
All gods and humans assembled here
Listen singlemindedly and well.
You should all come here
To behold the Unsurpassed Honored One,
I am the World Honored One,
The one beyond compare.
To bring peace and ease to living beings
I manifest within the world
And for the sake of the assembly speak
The sweet dew of pure Dharma
The Dharma of a single flavor,
That of liberation and Nirvana.
Using a single wondrous sound
I proclaim this principle
Constantly creating the causes and conditions
For the Great Vehicle.
I3. Verses correlating with Dharma.
J1. Verses correlating “not different and yet different.”
K1. Correlation “that which moistens”.
The Buddha, in the same way manifests within the world just like a great cloud covering over everything. The Buddha covers all living beings with the rain of Dharma. Having come into the world for the sake of living beings, he discriminates and expounds the reality of all dharmas. When he sees people, he speaks human dharma; when he meets gods, he speaks heavenly dharma; when he meets those of the Two Vehicles, he speaks the dharma of the Two Vehicles. When he encounters those of the Great Vehicle, he expounds that teaching. “Discriminates” does not mean that he uses his discriminating mind to speak the Dharma. It means that he speaks Dharma in accord with living beings’ potentials. For the sake of the real, he expounds the provisional. All expedient Dharmas are spoken for the sake of the real teaching.
The Great Sage, the World Honored One, the Buddha is the great Sage. In the midst of the multitudes of gods and humans proclaims these words saying: “I am the Thus Come One the doubly complete honored one. “Doubly complete” means that he is complete with both blessing and wisdom. In the causal ground, he did many good deeds, so his blessings are complete. It is not enough just to have blessings and not to have wisdom. The Buddha is also complete in wisdom. As the saying goes:
One who cultivates blessings and not wisdom,
Is like an elephant wearing a necklace;
One who cultivates wisdom and no blessings,
is like an Arhat with an empty bowl.
Those who cultivate blessings without cultivating wisdom do not listen to the Sutras; they merely practice good deeds. They may pile up many blessings, but they have no wisdom. This makes them like a big, dumb elephant. Elephants are not really as stupid as they are awkward. They are so big with such big legs! They are too big to fly. In fact, they cannot get off the ground. Now, picture an elephant wearing a necklace. The person who adorns himself with blessing is like that--useless. If you only listen to the Sutras and Dharma and fail to do good deeds to help others, you are like an Arhat with an empty bowl. In the future when you become an Arhat, you will travel all over with an empty bowl; no one will make offerings to you. Why not? Because you never practiced good deeds. What do you think of that? Here you are, a certified Arhat and happy all day long! You go from day to day with an empty stomach. Why? Because you only listened to Dharma and did not do good deeds.
The Buddha is doubly complete in wisdom and blessings. I appear within the world like a great cloud moistening all the dried-out living beings; living beings who have not heard the Buddhadharma. Once living beings have heard the Buddhadharma, they are no longer dried-out, they are “moist”. So they all leave suffering and attain bliss-- And gain peace and bliss, worldly joy and the joy of Nirvana; both transcendental and worldly happiness. All gods and humans assembled here, listen singlemindedly and well to the Buddhadharma. You should all come here to behold the Unsurpassed Honored One, draw near to and reverently worship the Buddha.
I am the World Honored One, honored both in and beyond the world. The one beyond compare. No one is as high as the Buddha.
In the heavens and below, there is no one like the Buddha.
In the ten direction worlds, he is beyond compare.
I have seen everything in the world there is to see.
And in it nothing can compare to the Buddha.
To bring peace and ease to living beings, I manifest within the world and for the sake of the assembly, speak the sweet dew of pure Dharma--the wonderful Dharma, which is like sweet dew.
The Dharma of a single flavor, that of liberation and Nirvana. Using a single wondrous sound, I proclaim this principle. This is the Dharma of the One Buddha Vehicle. The Buddha proclaims it in The Wonderful Dharma Flower Sutra. Constantly creating the causes and conditions for the Great Vehicle. The Buddha employs all manner of causes and conditions to teach the Great Vehicle Dharma.
I contemplate all
Everywhere as equal,
Without “this” or “that”
And without thoughts of love or hate.
I have no greed or attachment,
And no limitations or obstacles.
Constantly for everyone,
I speak the Dharma, equally.
Speaking for a single person,
As I would for the multitudes.
I constantly expound and proclaim the Dharma
And have no other work.
Coming, going, sitting and standing
I never grow weary,
Filling the entire world,
Like the moisture of the universal rain.
K2 . Verses correlating that which produces with that which is produced.
I contemplate all, everywhere as equal. This line shows us the great compassion of the Buddha. The Buddha never says, “I am the highest. I created all things, and they are all mine”. The Buddha says that he “teaches” the ten thousand things. He instructs them to leave the deviant and return to the proper, to cast aside confusion and return to enlightenment. He does not say, “I alone am enlightened. You are all confused.”
He is not like the Lord who created all things who says, “I created all of you”. If you created all this, why did you make such a mess of it? Why didn’t you do a better job? Why did you create evil? Why did you create evil people who harm the good people? That is being even worse than a common thief!
The Buddha does not claim to have created all things. He rescues all things. Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma, he leads them to understand it. Those who have not yet awakened, he leads them to awakening. He does not say, “I made all of you”. The Buddha saves all living beings, and having done so, there are no living beings whom he has saved. He saves all living beings but does not claim to have done so. That means that he is truly egalitarian.
I contemplate all, everywhere as equal, without “this” or “that” and without thoughts of love or hate. Without discriminations between this and that, there is no love or hate. When one discriminates between this and that, then love and hate exist. “I love this person, and I hate that person. I love what pleases me and what does not pleases me, I hate.” If you can not love the things that please you and not hate the things you dislike and not discriminate between this and that, then you are equal in your views without the concepts of this and that. You have knocked down that Mount Sumeru.
The text says, I have no greed or attachment. How can the Buddha say this? How can the Buddha be without greed or attachment? It is simply because he has no thought of love or hate. Don’t you agree that if you have love and hate, you will also have greed and attachment? You will be greedy for things you desire and try to avoid things you dislike.
And no limitations or obstacles. If you love or hate something, those emotions form your limitations concerning them. That makes for an obstruction.
Constantly for everyone, I speak the Dharma, equally. Speaking for a single person, as I would for the multitudes. When you practice lecturing, do not think, “Not as many people come to hear my lectures as they do to hear his! Gees! They do not want to listen to me. This is too humiliating. Really! They just do not want to hear me!!” Here, you give rise to all kinds of love and hate and so on. The Buddha always speaks the Dharma for everyone. One person is many: many people are one person. One is many; many are one. Speaking the Dharma equally means that you do not notice whether there are many or just a few in the audience. Neither many nor few; neither large nor small; nothing far and nothing near. I am speaking the Dharma here right now, and they may even be listening to me in Hong Kong! “Oh! Our teacher is in America lecturing The Dharma Flower Sutra. Let us get some tapes and listen.” So, I lecture for Hong Kong as I would for America, and I lecture for America as I would for Hong Kong. That is called “not discriminating between near and far,” speaking Dharma equally for those both near and far.
What are you laughing at? I am speaking true, real principle. There is nothing in it to laugh at! And there is nothing in it not to laugh at, either.
I constantly expound and proclaim the Dharma. Haven’t I told you before that as long as I have breath left, I will speak the Dharma. If I quit speaking the Dharma, my breath will also cease. So none of you can retire or retreat from speaking the Dharma. If you do, it is very inauspicious. And have no other work. We who study the Buddhadharma, must speak the Buddhadharma. There are several of you now who are heading to Taiwan to take the precepts, so I am speaking the precept-taking Dharma to you. When you have received the precepts, there may be as many as fifty, or five hundred, or five thousand people in America who will follow you to take precepts as well. People will see that you are not even afraid of starving to death. “They do not ask for offering either. They are really practicing the Buddhadharma.” Those who come after you will want to imitate you in not fearing starving to death. They will want to imitate your temperaments, because you are happy all day long and never get angry. They will want to keep the precepts pure as the two Bhikshunis who do not eat after noon. That is really wonderful!
On the other hand, if you come back from taking precepts and sleep all day, eat fine food and wear fine clothes, no one will believe in you, and the Buddhadharma will become extinct. To say nothing of five, there would not be even one cultivator in America! The responsibility for the flowering of American Buddhism rests with the five of you. I am not trying to frighten you, but, in fact, you are the pioneers of Western Buddhism. There have never been so many people from the West to go to take the precepts of the Great Vehicle. This is a new page in history.
If they ask you who your teacher is, however, just say, “Shakyamuni Buddha”. Do not say it is anyone else. Shakyamuni Buddha is your original teacher. If they ask who you study under, say you study with the Pratimoksha, the moral code. Say that you take the precepts as your teacher. The Buddha, in truth, instructed his disciples after his Nirvana to take precepts as their teacher. I do not want you to mention my name, because I have no cultivation and no Way virtue. I am not fit to be anyone’s teacher. Also, I do not want to be anyone’s teacher. There are a lot of fine gods in the heavens, but I do not want to go there. How much the less do I want to hang out in the human realm!
And have no other work, I just speak the Dharma. Coming, going, sitting and standing. This means walking, standing, sitting, reclining. I never grow weary, filling the entire world, like the moisture of the universal rain. Standing, walking, sitting, and reclining, I am at all times speaking the Dharma. I am never lazy. I speak the Dharma while I am standing. I speak the Dharma while I am sitting. I even speak the Dharma while I am sleeping! How do I do that? In my dreams I teach and transform all the dreaming living beings.
Why does the Buddha speak the Dharma? Because living beings are too dried out. If they did not receive the moisture of the Buddhadharma, they would wither up and die. Once they are dead, if you speak Dharma to them it would not bring them back to life. So, he gives them the Dharma rain to refresh them and help them grow. The rain moistens all the three grasses and two kinds of trees--all the vegetation.
For the noble, the lowly, the superior and inferior,
Those who keep precepts
And those who break them,
Those with perfect awesome manner
And those not perfect,
Those with right views and those with deviant views
The sharp rooted, the dull rooted
I send down equally the Dharma rain
And never grow weary.
K3. Verses further correlating that which moistens with that which is moistened.
L1. Correlating that which moistens.
For the noble, the lowly, the superior and inferior. For those of noble birth, for the lower classes, for the officials, and the common folk, those who keep precepts and those who break them. Perhaps there are left-home people who sternly maintain the moral code, or perhaps they break those precepts. Those with perfect awesome manner and those not perfect. Keeping precepts is maintaining the Vinaya. Breaking the precepts means violating that code. There are three thousand aspects to the awesome manner, which ought to be:
So awesome it is to be feared;
So proper it is to be emulated.
There is a proper way to walk, to sit, to stand, and to recline. In all four comportments, there is a proper, awesome comportment. Some have not perfected it. They do not stand, sit, walk or recline properly. Those with right views and those with deviant views. Right views means that, when improper matters are being discussed, you do not listen.
If it is not proper, do not look at it.
If it is not proper, do not listen to it.
If it is not proper, do not speak about it.
If it is not proper, do not do it.
That is right views. If you look and listen, speak and do things which are not in accord with principle, that means you have deviant views.
The sharp rooted, the dull rooted. Sharp means intelligent. They hear the Dharma and gain enlightenment. Dull means stupid. Stupid people may listen to Sutras for a long time and still have no idea what the Buddhadharma is. They would not cultivate giving, morality, patience, vigor, samadhi, or wisdom. Dull-rooted people cannot accept the Buddhadharma.
However, all these different types of living beings are not discriminated by the Buddha, who says, I send down equally the Dharma rain. Equally, he rains the Dharma rain on all living beings. The Buddha is like a great rain cloud filled with Dharma rain which all living beings receive. And never grow weary. The Buddha is never lazy in speaking the Dharma to living beings. He never gets tired. To propagate the Buddhadharma, he forgets his body, mind, nature, and life. The Buddha never gets tired of teaching the Dharma.
All living beings
Who hear my Dharma
Receive it according to their power
And dwell on various levels.
They may dwell among humans or gods,
Or Wheel-turning sage kings,
Shakra or Brahma Kings.
These are the small herbs.
Those who know the non outflow Dharma,
Those who can attain Nirvana,
Giving rise to Six Spiritual Penetrations
And attaining the Three Clarities,
Dwelling alone in mountain groves
Ever practicing Chan samadhi
Attaining certification to condition-enlightenment :
These are the middle-sized herbs.
Those who seek the place of the World Honored One
Saying, “We will become Buddhas.”
Vigorously practicing concentration,
These are the superior herbs.
Further, those disciples of the Buddha
Who turn their minds to the Buddha Way
Always practising compassion
Knowing they will become Buddhas,
For sure, without doubt:
These are called the small trees.
Those who dwell in spiritual penetrations,
Turning the irreversible wheel,
Saving limitless hundreds of thousands
Of millions of living beings-
Such Bodhisattvas as these
Are called great trees.
The Buddha speaks equally,
Like the rain of a single flavor.
According to living beings’ natures
They receives it differently,
Just as those herbs and trees
Each receives a different measure.
The Buddha uses this analogy
To instruct expediently.
With various phrases, he
Expounds and proclaims a single Dharma which
In the Buddha’s wisdom is
Like a drop within the sea.
L2. Verses correlating that which is moistened.
M1. Verses correlating praise of good benefit and present tranquility with universal saturation.
All living beings includes all the flying, swimming, and crawling creatures such as humans and animals, and also the vegetation. It is also includes those born from wombs, those born from eggs, those born from moisture, and those born from transformation. All kinds of living beings who hear my Dharma r eceive it according to their power and dwell on various levels. They are each in a different place.
They may dwell among humans or gods, or Wheel-turning sage kings. There are four kinds of Wheel-turning sage kings: gold, silver, bronze, and iron. The Gold Wheel-turning sage king oversees the four continents: Uttarakuru in the north, Purvavideha in the east, Jambudvipa in the south, Aparagodaniya in the west. The Gold Wheel-turning sage kings have seven as-you-will treasures which undergo infinite changes. The inhabitants of the countries that they rule all keep the five precepts and practice the ten continents. The Silver Wheel-turning sage kings watch over the three: Purvavideha in the east, Jambudvipa in the south, Aparagodaniya in the west. They do not watch over the northern continent of Uttarakuru. The Bronze Wheel-turning sage kings watch over two continents, Jambudvipa and Purvavideha. The Iron Wheel-turning king watches over only Jambudvipa. We are in Jambudvipa of the south. The leader selected among all the countries of this continent is an Iron Wheel-turning sage king. If the Wheel-turning kings sage cultivate, their next step is Buddhahood. Shakyamuni Buddha, if he had not cultivated, would have been a Gold Wheel-turning king.
Shakra or Brahma Kings. These are the small herbs. Such humans, gods, or other kings are called small herbs.
Those who know the non outflow Dharma, those who can attain Nirvana, giving rise to Six Spiritual Penetrations, that of the Heavenly Eye, the Heavenly Ear, the Penetration of Other’s Thoughts, the Knowledge of Past Lives, the Penetration of the Complete Spirit, and the Extinction of Outflows, and attaining the Three Clarities, -the Clarity of the Heavenly Eye, the Clarity of the Extinction of Outflows, the Clarity of Knowledge of Past Lives. Dwelling alone in mountain groves They live alone in the mountains and have practically no communication with people in the world. They always cultivate Chan samadhi. Ever practicing Chan samadhi The heavenly beings are always in Chan samadhi. People who always cultivate Chan samadhi are, for all practical purposes, in the heavens, as well.
Attaining certification to condition-enlightenment: These are the middle-sized herbs. Those of the Condition-Enlightenment Vehicle, one of the Two Vehicles.
Those who seek the place of the World Honored One--seek the Buddhadharma in the presence of the Buddha, saying, “We will become Buddhas.” Vigorously practicing concentration, these are the superior herbs.
Further, those disciples of the Buddha Who turn their minds to the Buddha Way. They singlemindedly cultivate the path of the Buddha. Always practising compassion. They are compassionate to all beings. Knowing they will become Buddhas, for sure, without doubt: They know that they will become Buddhas. They have not the slightest doubt about it. These are called the small trees, the Bodhisattvas of Intermediate Teachings.
Those who dwell in spiritual penetrations, turning the irreversible wheel of Dharma, teaching the Dharma, lecturing on the Sutras, never retiring, never resting, saving limitless hundreds of thousands of millions of living beings-such Bodhisattvas as these are called great trees. They always turn the non-retreating Dharma-wheel, thinking to teach and transform living beings. They are not afraid of fatigue or hardship.
The Buddha speaks equally, like the rain of a single flavor. According to living beings’ natures, they receive it differently. The Buddha speaks the Dharma equally to all living beings, like that great cloud which rains down a single rain. He teaches living beings by means of the Buddhadharma of the One Vehicle, so that they all realize the Buddha Path. Each living being, according to its own particular nature, receives it differently. The small, middle-sized, and large herbs, and the small and large trees each receives what they should. The giant trees are the great Bodhisattvas of the Differentiated Teaching. Just as those herbs and trees each receives a different measure.
The Buddha uses this analogy t o instruct expediently. With various phrases, he expounds and proclaims a single Dharma which in the Buddha’s wisdom is like a drop within the sea. The Buddha uses all kinds of methods to proclaim the wonderful Dharma of One Vehicle. However, when you compare all of these expedient phrases and so forth to the Buddha’s wisdom, they are like a drop in the ocean. The Buddha’s wisdom is limitless and boundless. The Dharma he speaks is like a drop of water in the sea.
I send down the rain of Dharma
Filling all the world
The Dharma of one taste is
Cultivated according to their power
Just like those forest groves
All the herbs and trees
According to their size
Grow and flourish well.
The Dharma of all the Buddhas
Is always of a single taste
It causes all the world
To attain perfection.
Through its gradual cultivation
All attain the fruits of the Way.
The Hearers, those enlightened to conditions
Dwelling in mountain groves
Living in their final bodies
Hearing the Dharma, gain the fruit;
They are called the herbs,
And each one does grow.
If there are Bodhisattvas,
Whose wisdom is firm and solid,
Who thoroughly comprehend the triple world
And seek the supreme vehicle;
They are called small trees,
And each one does grow.
Further, those who dwell in Chan
Attaining spiritual powers,
Who hear the dharma of emptiness
And rejoice within their minds,
Emitting countless lights
Crossing over all beings;
They are called the large trees,
And each one does grow.
M2. Verses correlating future rebirth in good places and gradually entering the Way.
I send down the rain of Dharma. The Buddha sends down the Dharma rain. Filling all the world. It completely fills the world, moistening all living beings. The Dharma of one taste is c ultivated according to their power. They cultivate the One Vehicle Dharma according to their strength. Just like those forest groves, all the herbs and trees according to their size, grow and flourish well. The big trees get a lot of moisture; the small trees get less.
The Dharma of all the Buddhas is always of a single taste. It causes all the world to attain perfection. The wonderful Dharma of a Single Vehicle causes all beings in the world to perfect themselves. Through its gradual cultivation, a ll attain the fruits of the Way. In the future all will realize the Way and certify to the fruit.
The Hearers, those enlightened to conditions, dwelling in mountain groves living in their final bodies hearing the Dharma, gain the fruit; they are called the herbs. “Final bodies” refers to certification to the Fourth Fruit of Arhatship. At this level, share-section birth and death has ended; they do not need to undergo birth and death another time. They are in their last bodies. When they hear the Buddhadharma, they gain the fruit. And each one does grow. They each receive the share of rain they should receive; they each grow accordingly.
If there are Bodhisattvas, whose wisdom is firm and solid, who have great wisdom, who thoroughly comprehend the triple world a nd seek the supreme vehicle. They understand the entire triple world: The world of desire, the form world, and the formless world. These Bodhisattvas who belong to the category of Intermediate Teachings, they are called small trees, and each one does grow.
Further, those who dwell in Chan, in Chan samadhi, attaining spiritual powers, the Six Spiritual Powers, who hear the dharma of emptiness and rejoice within their minds. They are very happy to hear that all dharmas are but empty appearances. Emitting countless lights, c rossing over all beings; they are called the large trees, and each one does grow. They are the Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas.
In this way, Kashyapa,
The Dharma spoken by the Buddha
Is like that great cloud.
With rain of a single flavor,
It moistens all the people and flowers,
So each one bears fruit.
Kashyapa, you should know
That by using causes and conditions
And various analogies
I demonstrate and reveal the Buddha Path.
These are my expedients
And other Buddhas are also thus.
Now, for your sakes,
I speak of this true matter;
All of you Hearers,
None of you have reached extinction.
What you now are walking
That is the Bodhisattva Path.
Gradually, gradually, cultivate and study,
And you’ll all accomplish Buddhahood.”
J2. Verse correlating “different and yet not different”.
In this way, Kashyapa, the things I have just told you about the three grasses and the two trees; The Dharma spoken by the Buddha is like that great cloud. The wonderful Dharma of One Vehicle is used to teach and transform living beings with rain of a single flavor, it moistens all the people and flowers, so each one bears fruit, and in the future realizes Buddhahood.
Kashyapa, you should know that by using causes and conditions and various analogies I demonstrate and reveal the Buddha Path. The Buddha uses all kinds of causes, conditions, and analogies to instruct living beings in the pathway to Buddhahood.
These are my expedients and other Buddhas are also thus. They also employ expedients devices to teach and transform living beings. Now, for your sakes, for you, Kashyapa, I speak of this true matter. A true, real matter, the doctrine of the real teaching, and that is all of you Hearers, those of you of the Two Vehicles, that is. I said before that you have attained Nirvana, but you have not really. You have not attained Nirvana Without Residue. You have attained the Nirvana With Residue. None of you have reached extinction. What you now are walking, that is the Bodhisattva Path. The road you Hearers are now on is the Bodhisattva Path. Gradually, gradually, cultivate and study. Bit by bit, go forward, day by day, go forward and cultivate, and in the future you’ll all accomplish Buddhahood.
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