The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 7: The Analogy of the Transformed City
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
At that time, the sixteen princes,
Left home and became Shramaneras.
Together they requested that the Buddha
Extensively proclaim the Dharma of the Great Vehicle:
“May we and our followers
All perfect the Buddha Way.
We wish to become like the World Honored One,
With the Wisdom Eye and foremost purity.”
The Buddha, knowing the intentions of the youths,
Their practices in former lives,
Used limitless causes and conditions
And various analogies,
To teach them the Six Paramitas,
As well as matters of spiritual penetrations.
He discriminated the real Dharma,
And the pathway walked by the Bodhisattvas.
He spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra
Its verses in numbers like Ganges’ sands.
After the Buddha had spoken the sutra
In a quiet room he entered Dhyana Samadhi
Singlemindedly sitting in one place,
For eighty-four thousand eons.
K2 . Verses concerning the turning of the Dharma-wheel which dispenses with the half-word teaching and clarifies the full-word teaching.
At that time, the sixteen princes, the sixteen sons of the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, left home and became Shramaneras. A shramanera is a novice monk. Shramanera is Sanskrit word that means one who diligently cultivates precept, samadhi, and wisdom, and quells greed, hatred, and ignorance. Novices take ten precepts. Together they requested that Buddha, the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, to extensively proclaim the Dharma of the Great Vehicle, to speak The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. They said “May we and our followers, all perfect the Buddha Way. May we all become Buddhas. We wish to become like the World Honored One. We want to be exactly like the Buddha. With the Wisdom Eye and foremost purity.” The Buddha possesses the Eye of wisdom and is ultimately pure.
The Buddha, knowing the intentions of the youths, knowing the thoughts of his sixteen sons. A “youth” is a child who is still a virgin. Their practices in former lives. He knew what kind of practices they had previously engaged in. Used limitless causes and conditions and various analogies to teach them the Six Paramitas; giving, morality, patience, vigor, concentration, and wisdom. Paramita is a Sanskrit word which means “arrived at the other shore.”
As well as matters of spiritual penetrations. He discriminated the real Dharma and the pathway walked by the Bodhisattvas. He defined the real, genuine Buddhadharma and the Bodhisattva path.
He spoke The Dharma Flower Sutra. The Sutra of the Great Vehicle, The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.Its verses in number like Ganges’ sands. After the Buddha had spoken the Sutra. After the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory had spoken the Sutra, in a quiet room, he entered Dhyana Samadhi. He went to his room and entered samadhi. Singlemindedly sitting in one place. He meditated there for eighty-four thousand eons.
All the Shramaneras,
Knowing the Buddha had not yet left Dhyana,
For the sake of the limitless millions assembled,
Spoke of the Buddha’s unsurpassed wisdom.
Each seated on his Dharma throne,
Spoke this Great Vehicle Sutra.
After the Buddha had become peacefully still,
They propagated and taught the Dharma.
Each one of the Shramaneras
Took across living beings
To the number of grains of sand
In six hundred myriads of Ganges rivers.
I2. Tying up conditions.
J1. Speaking of Dharma.
K1. Verses about their former affinities in common.
All the Shramaneras, the sixteen Shramaneras and the Arhats, knowing the Buddha had not yet left Dhyana, for the sake of the limitless millions assembled, for all the living beings, spoke of the Buddha’s unsurpassed wisdom, taught the supreme wisdom of the Buddha. Each seated on his Dharma throne. Each of the sixteen princes took their Dharma-seat and spoke this Great Vehicle Sutra, The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. After the Buddha had become peacefully still, they propagated and taught the Dharma. They spread the teachings of the Buddha. Each one of the Shramaneras, the sixteen, took across living beings to the number of grains of sand in six hundred myriads of millions of Ganges rivers.
Someone has heard the word Arhat and wondered what it means. Those who listen to Sutra lectures often will know, but those who are new would not. Arhat is a Sanskrit word which is interpreted in three ways, “Worthy of Offerings,” “Destroyer of Evil,” and “Killer of Thieves.” Arhats are worthy of receiving offerings from gods and humans. If no one makes offerings to them, they would not force people. They just return the light and say, “Probably in former lives I did not cultivate blessings. As a result, now my bowl is empty.” As “destroyers of evil” they have wiped out the evils of affliction. As “killers of thieves” they have killed the thief of ignorance. Ignorance is a thief who ruins one’s Way karma.
Why do people do confused things? They do them out of ignorance. Why do people do things that are upside-down? It is out of ignorance. Why is it that, when one has no attachments, one deliberately looks for attachments? It is all out of ignorance. In spite of the fact that it is in our power to end birth and death, why do we fail to do so? Because of ignorance. So, ignorance is just terrible! Arhats kill ignorance. While we say they “kill” ignorance, they have not killed it entirely. They have killed coarse ignorance, but a subtle ignorance remains. Ignorance could be likened to a virus. Perhaps you break out in a sore. When you put some medicine on it, it clears up. But, as soon as you quit applying the medicine, it breaks out again, and your skin itches like crazy.
The Arhats have the medicine and put it on the sore, but they have not gotten rid of the disease at its source. The only way to get rid of it entirely is to become a Buddha. I have told you many times before that even Bodhisattvas at the level of Equal Enlightenment still have one share of the mark of production, ignorance, which they have not severed. Arhats have ignorance, and so do the Bodhisattvas. They do not use their ignorance, that is all. Ignorance is stupidity. If the Equal Enlightenment Bodhisattvas break through that last remaining part of stupidity, they become Buddhas. Because the word Arhat encompasses all these meanings, we retain the Sanskrit word and do not translate it.
After that Buddha had crossed over into extinction,
All those who heard the Dharma,
In whatever Buddhalands they might be,
Were reborn there together with their teachers.
K2. Meeting with one another during the time in between.
After that Buddha had crossed over into extinction, all those who had heard the Dharma. After the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory had gone to final Nirvana, all those who had heard the Dharma, in whatever Buddhalands they might be were reborn there together with their teachers. Those who had heard the Dharma from one of the sixteen Shramaneras were reborn together with their teacher in other Buddhalands.
The sixteen Shramaneras
Perfectly practiced the Buddha Path.
Presently in the ten directions
Each has realized proper enlightenment.
Those who heard the Dharma then,
Are each in the presence of a Buddha;
Those who are Hearers,
Are gradually taught the Buddha Path.
I was one of the sixteen;
In the past, I taught all of you.
I therefore use expedients
To draw you into the Buddha’s wisdom.
K3. Dharma Flower is still being spoken.
L1. The Assembly past and present.
The sixteen Shramaneras, the sixteen sons of the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, perfectly practiced the Buddha Path. All those Shramaneras perfect the cultivation of the Buddha Path. Presently in the ten directions. Now, in the worlds of the ten directions, each has realized proper enlightenment. Through their cultivation of the Buddha Path they have realized the fruits of Buddhahood.
Those who heard the Dharma then. Those who heard the Dharma proclaimed at that time, are each in the presence of a Buddha. They have reappeared each in the place where his former teacher became a Buddha. They went along with their teachers, each one of them. Those who are Hearers are gradually taught the Buddha Path. Those lacking strength, who have settled for a position of Hearer, are gradually, bit-by-bit, instructed by means of the Buddha Path. They are led by degrees to the Supreme Buddha Vehicle.
I was one of the sixteen. I, myself, Shakyamuni Buddha, was one of the sixteen Shramaneras. In the past, I taught all of you. You assembled here now listening to me speak The Dharma Flower Sutra--you all listened to me speak it then, way back in the distant past.
I therefore use expedients to draw you into the Buddha’s wisdom. Because you delight in lesser dharmas, I employ expedient devices to lead you to the Buddha’s supreme wisdom.
Through these former causal conditions,
I presently speak The Dharma Flower Sutra,
Leading you to enter the Buddha Path.
Take care not to become frightened.
L2. Certifying that he is now speaking the Dharma Flower.
Through these former causal conditions. It is by means of the former connection I just told you about that I presently speak The Dharma Flower Sutra.Leading you to enter the Buddha Path. Take care not to become frightened. You are about to hear the Great Vehicle, genuine Dharma. Do not become alarmed. Here, I will set forth an analogy to make it even clearer:
Suppose there is a steep and bad road,
Remote and teeming with venomous beasts,
Lacking, as well, water or grass
--A place feared by all.
Countless thousands of myriads
Wish to traverse this dangerous road
With its pathways so distant,
Extending five hundred yojanas.
There is among them a guide,
Intelligent and wise,
Clear and resolute in mind,
Who can rescue them from their difficulty.
J1. Verses about parable.
K1. Setting up parable.
L1. Verses about the guide.
Suppose there is a steep and bad road, a very dangerous and evil road, What is this steep and bad road? It is the turning wheel of the six paths of rebirth. Remote and teeming with venomous beasts. It is remote. No one traverses it. There are many deadly beasts there, too. Evil beasts and venomous snakes. There are tigers, lions, wolves, and panthers, too. These snakes could poison people to death. Lacking, as well, water or grass. Not only was it dangerous, there was not even any water or any grass. Obviously, there was nothing to eat. A place feared by all. Everyone was scared of this road.
Countless thousands of myriads wish to traverse this dangerous road, people want to travel on this road, to cross the six paths of rebirth. With its pathways so distant. Living beings want to transcend the three realms, to get off the six paths of rebirth, to cultivate and become Buddhas. However, the road to Buddhahood is far indeed, very distant. Extending five hundred yojanas, approximately 13,500 miles. Such a long way one has to go to the Buddhaland! Transcending the realm of desire equals traveling one hundred yojanas. Transcending the world of form equals traveling two hundred yojanas. Transcending the formless world equals traveling three hundred yojanas. Then, breaking through the delusions like dust and sand equals traveling four hundred yojanas. Breaking through delusions of ignorance, the most subtle of delusions, equals traveling five hundred yojanas. With no one to guide you, it is hard indeed to travel this road.
There is among them a guide. Someone to lead them. Intelligent and wise. “Intelligent” here means that he had a good memory. He was not absent-minded. He is knowledgeable and remembers it always. He was wise as a result of his learning. Clear and resolute in mind. He knew what was going on. He had excellent, unfailing judgment. He would be able to lead them down the right road. He knows the proper and evil paths. He recognizes the right and wrong paths, the right and wrong dharmas. Hence, he is a Good Knowing Advisor. Who can rescue them from their difficulty, he can save all living beings from their sufferings on the hard road of birth and death.
The group grows weary
And says to the guide,
“We are all exhausted, now
And want to turn back.”
L2. Verses about followers.
M1. Followers want to retreat halfway.
N1. The multitude retreats from the great.
The group grows weary. It is very difficult to cultivate on such a dangerous path. The aiding conditions are scarce and the opposing conditions are many. What are “aiding conditions?” For example, if you cultivate and do not have the strength to keep going, then your Good Knowing Advisor helps you. He tells you not to go down the wrong road. He advises you not to indulge in impure thinking. Then, you cultivate according to his advice and that is an aiding condition. Also, if you do not have the strength to complete a task in cultivation, the Dharma protectors may come to your aid.
What are opposing conditions? Say you want to cultivate, and you bring forth a very true Bodhi mind, but then someone comes along and uses all kinds of devious tricks to ruin your cultivation and cripple your Bodhi mind. Originally you had no lust, but this person inflames your lust. Originally, your Way-mind was very solid, but this person stunts its growth. These are opposing conditions. The Way is very difficult to cultivate. Sometimes one grows weary--sick and tired, you might say. You cultivate for one year--no success. You cultivate for two years, and still nothing is obtained. By the end of the third year, “God,” you say, “I have been wasting my time. Cultivation is impossible!” and you retreat, exhausted.
And says to the guide, to the Good Knowing Advisor, “We are all exhausted now, worn out. I have been cultivating and enduring all this pain, and I have not gotten a single thing out of it. I have gotten exactly nowhere, as a matter of fact and want to turn back. That does it; we quit!”
previous * next * Introduction * Contents
return to top