THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Chapters: 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10 * 11 * 12 * 13 * 14 * 15 * 16 * 17 * 18 * 19 * 20

The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra

Chapter 7: The Analogy of the Transformed City
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua

Sutra:

Using the power of the Thus Come One’s knowledge and vision, I behold that time in the distant past as if it were today.

Outline:

I3. Conclusion: Seeing into the past as if it were the present.


Commentary:


Using the power of the Thus Come One, the Buddha’s, knowledge and vision, I, Shakyamuni Buddha, see into that time in the distant past as if it were today. It does not seem too long ago.

Sutra:

At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate his meaning, spoke verses, saying,

“I recall that in a past age,
Limitless, boundless eons ago,
There was a Buddha, doubly honored,
By the name of Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory.”

Outline:

H2. Verse.
I1. Verses about phenomena seen.


Commentary:

At that time, the World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, wishing to restate his meaning, spoke verses, saying, I recall that in a past age, I remember that in the past, limitless, boundless eons ago. How long ago? A very long time. There was a Buddha, doubly honored. He had both blessings and wisdom, thus he was doubly honored. By the name of Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory. He had great spiritual penetrations and great wisdom, which were supreme over all.

Sutra:

Suppose a person ground
All of the earth that there was
In three thousand great thousand lands
Entirely into ink powder;
And then suppose he passed through a thousand lands,
And then let fall one particle of it,
Continuing to drop particles in this way
Until all the ink particles were gone.
Suppose all of the countries he passed through,
Whether he dropped particles in them or not,
Again were completely grounded into dust motes,
And each dust mote was an eon;
These grains of dust would in number
Be exceeded by the number of eons
Since that Buddha has passed into extinction;
It has been limitless eons such as this.

Outline:

I2. Analogy to clarify the distant past.


Commentary:

Suppose a person ground all of the earth that there was in three thousand great thousand lands entirely into ink powder; and then suppose he passed through a thousand lands, and then let fall one particle of it, continuing to drop particles in this way until all the ink particles were gone. The person passes through a thousand lands and then drops one particle; then he passes through another thousand lands and drops yet another particle, and so on until all the ink is gone. Suppose all of the countries he passed through, whether he dropped particles in them or not, again were completely grounded into dust motes, and each dust mote was an eon; these grains of dust would in number be exceeded by the number of eons since that Buddha has passed into extinction. The number of eons since the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory entered extinction exceeds the number of dust motes. It has been limitless eons such as this.

Sutra:

The Thus Come One, with unobstructed wisdom,
Knows of that Buddha’s extinction,
And of his Hearers and Bodhisattvas,
As if seeing his extinction now.
Bhikshus, you should know
The Buddha’s wisdom is pure, subtle, and wondrous;
Without outflows and without obstructions
It penetrates limitless eons.

Outline:

I3. Seeing the past as if the present.


Commentary:


The Thus Come One, with unobstructed wisdom, knows of that Buddha’s extinction, of the extinction of the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, and of his Hearers and Bodhisattvas, as if seeing his extinction now. Although it was so long ago, he can see it as if it were happening right now. Bhikshus, you should know the Buddha’s wisdom is pure, subtle, and wondrous; without outflows and without obstructions, it penetrates limitless eons. It penetrates through those limitless, boundless eons.

Sutra:

The Buddha told the Bhikshus, “The Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory had a life span of five hundred forty myriads of millions of nayutas of eons.

Outline:

G2. Past causes and conditions.
H1. Expanded narration.
I1. Source of conditions.
J1. Distant conditions.
K1. Great Penetrating Wisdom
L1. Vast length of Bodhisattva’s life span.


Sutra:

When this Buddha was seated on the Bodhimanda, having destroyed the troops of Mara, although he was on the point of attaining anuttarasamyaksambodhi, still the Buddhadharma did not appear before him. So it was for one minor eon and then onwards to ten minor eons that he sat in the lotus posture, body and mind unmoving, and yet the Buddhadharma still did not appear before him.

Thereupon, the gods of the Triyastrimsha Heaven, spread out for the Buddha, under a Bodhi tree, a lion throne one yojana in height; on that throne the Buddha was to attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Just as he sat down upon that throne, the Kings of the Brahma Heavens rained down heavenly flowers over a distance of one hundred yojanas.

A fragrant wind from time to time swept away the withered flowers as fresh ones rained down. This continued without interruption for a full ten minor eons as an offering to the Buddha, the rain of these flowers continuing right up until his extinction. In the same way the gods of the four heavenly Kings constantly played heavenly drums as an offering to that Buddha and the other gods made heavenly instrumental music for a full ten minor eons, right up until his extinction.

Outline:

L2. What happened before he realized the Way.


Commentary:

When this Buddha was seated on the Bodhimanda, having destroyed the troops of Mara, when he went to cultivate and destroy the hordes of demons. When people cultivate, right before they attain the Way, demons come to test them. Do you know how the Buddha became a Buddha? By passing his tests with demons. A demon manifested a bevy of beautiful women to test the Buddha. Ordinarily in cultivation one may not have much desire, but right before one accomplishes the Way the big test comes. The heavenly demons came to destroy the Buddha’s Way karma. If the Buddha had even a tiny bit of greed for sex, he would not have become a Buddha. Since he did not, he did. Basically, the women that the demon sent were very beautiful, but the Buddha said, “You may be beautiful now but in thirty, forty, or fifty years, you will be old, wrinkled, and ugly. You are just stinking skin bags filled with oozing filth! So much for all your beauty! Hah!” When the demon women heard this, they knew that they could not disturb his cultivation. They saw their faces change into the faces of old ladies with wrinkled skin bags under their eyes. It was horrible! How could such ugly creatures disturb the Buddha? So they ran off.

All Buddhas go through pretty much the same testing. So this Buddha, having destroyed the troops of Mara, although he was on the point of attaining anuttarasamyaksambodhi, enlightenment, still the Buddhadharma did not appear before him and he was not able to certify to the Buddha fruit. So it was for one minor eon. An eon is 396,000 years. A thousand of these is a minor eon. One of my disciples was complaining that she had been studying the Buddhadharma now for two years and still had not attained anything! In the larger scheme of things, two years is like one minute! It is not a long time. This Buddha sat for one minor aeon and then onwards to ten minor eons that he sat in the lotus posture, body and mind unmoving. He did not wriggle around. What is even more difficult, his mind did not even give rise to false thinking. And yet the Buddhadharma still did not appear before him. After ten minor eons, he still had not become enlightened and he still had not attained the fruit.

Thereupon, the gods of the Triyastrimsha Heaven, spread out for the Buddha, under a Bodhi tree, a lion throne one yojana in height. Let us say it was a small yojana, that is, forty miles high. On that throne the Buddha was to attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the Buddha-fruit. Just as he sat down upon that throne, the Kings of the Brahma Heavens rained down heavenly flowers over a distance of one hundred yojanas, four thousand miles. A fragrant wind from time to time swept away the withered flowers as fresh ones rained down. As soon as the petals withered, the breeze blew them away and then new ones rained down. This continued without interruption for a full ten minor eons as an offering to the Buddha, the rain of these flowers continuing right up until his extinction. In the same way the gods of the four heavenly Kings constantly played heavenly drums as an offering to that Buddha and the other gods made heavenly instrumental music for a full ten minor eons, right up until his extinction.

Sutra:

Bhikshus, the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory passed through ten minor eons before the Buddhadharma finally manifested before him and he attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi.

Outline:

L3. Realizing the Way.


Commentary:

Shakyamuni Buddha told all the great Bhikshus, the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory passed through ten minor eons before the Buddhadharma finally manifested before him and he attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi. The Buddhadharma here refers to enlightenment to the Way, to the attainment of Bodhi, and certifying to the fruit. This is the eleventh minor eon because there was one eon before he underwent the ten minor eons as the text stated.

Sutra:

Before that Buddha left home he had sixteen sons, the first of whom was named Accumulation of Knowledge. Each of them had a variety of precious, unusual fine toys. When they heard that their father had realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi they all cast aside these things they valued and went before the Buddha, escorted by their weeping mothers. Their grandfather, a Wheel-Turning Sage King, together with a hundred great ministers and with hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of citizens all surrounded them and accompanied them to the Bodhimanda, all wishing to draw near to the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, to make offerings to him, to honor, revere and praise him. When they arrived, they bowed with their head at his feet, and having circumambulated him, they singlemindedly joined their palms, respectfully gazed upward at the World Honored One, and uttered these verses:

“World Honored One of great and awesome virtue,
For the sake of crossing over living beings
After limitless millions of eons,
You accomplished Buddhahood,
And perfected all your vows;
Unsurpassed is our good fortune.
Very rare you are, World Honored One,
In one sitting, passing through ten minor eons,
With body, hands, and feet,
Still, secure, and unmoving.
Your mind, ever tranquil,
Never knows distraction.
Ultimate, your eternal extinction,
As you dwell firmly in the non-outflow Dharma.
Now we see the World Honored One
Serenely realize the Buddha Path;
We all gain good benefit
And proclaim our delight and great joy.
Living beings, ever tormented by suffering,
Blind, and without a guide,
Fail to recognize the Path which ends that pain,
And do not know to seek their liberation.
During the long night the evil destinies increase,
While the hosts of gods are reduced in number;
From darkness they proceed into darkness,
Never hearing the Buddha’s name.
Now, the Buddha’s gained the utmost
Peace, rest, the non-outflow way;
And we, and all the gods,
To attain the greatest benefit
Therefore bow our heads
And return our lives to the Unsurpassed Honored One.”

Outline:

L4. Offerings made to him by his retinue after he realized the Way.


Commentary:

Before that Buddha left home he had sixteen sons, the first of whom was named Accumulation of Knowledge. They had accumulated all kinds of merit and virtue through their wisdom, and so they got to be children of the Buddha. Each of them had a variety of precious, unusual fine toys. Their grandfather had been a wheel-turning sage king and had blessings as vast as all under heaven. So, the children had some very precious, unusual, expensive toys. When they heard that their father had realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi, had become a Buddha, they all cast aside these things they valued --they put their toys aside--and went before the Buddha, to the Bodhi tree, where the Buddha had attained enlightenment. Escorted by their weeping mothers. Their mothers, crying and sniffling, took them there.

They had been the Buddha’s wives before he left home; now, their only recourse was to cry. They cried over every little thing. The children wanted to go with their father; they did not want to stay with their mothers.

Their grandfather, their father’s father--a Wheel-Turning Sage King, together with a hundred great ministers, who were very close to the Sage King, and with hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of citizens all surrounded them and accompanied them to the Bodhimanda, where the Buddha cultivated the Way, all wishing to draw near to the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, to make offerings to him, to honor, revere and praise him. When they arrived, they bowed with their head at his feet. This means that they made a full “five-point” prostration, that is, they bowed with their head, their two arms, and their two legs touching the ground. When they bowed down they turned their palms upward as if the Buddha might stand on the palms of their hands. This is called “vowing to receive the Buddha and having circumambulated him, three times to the right, they singlemindedly joined their palms, respectfully gazed upward at the World Honored One, unblinkingly.

They gazed upward because he was sitting up very high; you remember his lion throne was one yojana tall.

Then the entire multitude uttered these verses:

World Honored One of great and awesome virtue,
the Buddha is honored both in and beyond the world. For the sake of crossing over living beings. Why did you decide to become a Buddha? Because you wanted to save living beings. After limitless millions of eons, you accomplished Buddhahood, and perfected all your vows. So those who study the Buddhadharma must make vows. The best day to make vows is on the anniversary of Shakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment, that is, on the eighth day of the twelfth month (lunar calendar). The Buddhas realized Buddhahood through their vows. We want to cultivate; why is it we are unable to endure suffering and unable to be vigorous? We cultivate for two and a half days, but by the time the third day rolls around, we get lazy. The reason for this is because we have not made vows. We insist on being selfish and seeking our own benefit. We tend towards the Small Vehicle and we think like Arhats. “I am going to take care of myself, and that is it. If I make it, that is great, but I am not going to worry about anybody else. I do not care if anybody else cultivates or not. Every move I make is for my own benefit, not for living beings.” Very independent. Hah! This is because one has not made vows. So, I hope you do make vows.

Vows are very important. But, you cannot make someone else’s vows. You cannot say, “I will make Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s ten vows, or Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s Ten Vows, Amitabha’s Forty-eight vows, or Medicine Master’s twelve vows.” Those are their vows. You cannot just copy them. You must make your own vows. You could make vows even greater than Amitabha Buddha or Kuan Yin Bodhisattva, but they must be your own. You are not them!

“Well,” you might argue, “suppose I am a transformation of Amitabha Buddha? What is wrong with making his vows then?”

Even if you are, you are still just a transformation; you are not the original. You have to make new vows. It is something else. Perhaps you were railroad tracks, and now you have turned into a train. You cannot be railroad tracks again, not even if you want to. I would not argue with you about whether or not you are Amitabha Buddha’s transformation body, but you still need to make brand new vows, not old ones. There are some old vows which everyone can make; they are standard vows that every Bodhisattva makes, and that is all right:

I vow to save the boundless numbers of beings.
I vow to cut off the inexhaustible afflictions.
I vow to study the endless Dharma doors.
I vow to realize the supreme Buddha Way.

When Amitabha Buddha was on the causal ground, he was a Bhikshu by the name of Fa Zang (Dharmakara). He made forty-eight vows which he used to cultivate with in every lifetime. He made these vows in every life for who knows how many great eons before he became a Buddha and created the Land of Ultimate bliss. One should make vows right at the beginning when you start cultivating. Even if you are an old-timer and have been cultivating for quite a while, you should make solid vows. Perhaps some of you have been planting Buddha-seeds throughout many lifetimes, many eons, even, and now as a result you have encountered this opportunity. You are able to put all of your energy into practicing the Buddhadharma.

So, write out your vows. You can write them just how you want them. Perhaps; #1: I vow to save all ants. #2. I vow to save all mosquitoes. #3. I vow to save all hopeless cases. Of course, I am joking. But, one of my disciples did make a vow to become a Buddha in the northern continent of Uttarakuru. Why did he do this? Because there are no Buddhas there right now, he will be worshipped exclusively for sure! Not much competition! I was quite pleased with this vow; it is very special, so I made a vow that I would guarantee that he fulfills that vow. Everything in the world can change. There is nothing fixed. If someone makes a vow to go somewhere and become a Buddha, a Buddha will, in the future, appear in that place. No one ever made a vow to become a Buddha in Uttarakuru before, so there is no Buddhadharma there right now.

Once you have made the vow, then even if you would like to slack off on your cultivation, you would not dare, because you made a vow to cultivate! Vows are extremely important.

Unsurpassed is our good fortune. This is fortunate for us. How? Our good fortune is unsurpassed in that there is nothing more noble than the Buddha. The Buddha is unsurpassed and most lofty. Very rare you are. It is difficult to encounter the Buddha, World Honored One, in one sitting, passing through ten minor eons, with body, hands, and feet, still, secure, and unmoving. This praises the Buddha’s samadhi in its physical aspect. Your mind, ever tranquil, never knows distraction. This praises the Buddha’s samadhi in its mental aspect. His mind is free of defilement, and so he is always content and tranquil. Ultimate, your eternal extinction, as you dwell firmly in the non-outflow Dharma.

The Buddha has severed forever the very roots of delusion and ignorance and certified to the great extinction. Now we see the World Honored One serenely realize the Buddha Path; we all gain good benefit and proclaim our delight and great joy. Living beings, ever tormented by suffering, blind, and without a guide, fail to recognize the Path which ends that pain, and do not know to seek their liberation. In their confusion, living beings become bound by suffering. They are as if blind and without a guide. They do not recognize the path which leads to the ultimate end of suffering. They do not know enough to seek to escape.

During the long night the evil destinies increase, while the hosts of gods are reduced in number. Beings fall and are reborn in lower destinies. From darkness they proceed into darkness, never hearing the Buddha’s name. With their darkened minds, they create dark karma and receive retribution.

Now, the Buddha’s gained the utmost peace, rest, the non-outflow way. Now the Buddha has attained the supreme, peaceful, quiescent, non-outflow Path of the Sages. And we, and all the gods, to attain the greatest benefit therefore bow our heads and return our lives to the Unsurpassed Honored One.

After you Take refuge and start to cultivate the Way, you should get rid of your attachment to the mark of a self. If you do not, you will have not just one kind of trouble, but many, many kinds. If you can get rid of the mark of a self, you will have no trouble at all. It is easy to say, “no self.” It’s very hard to do. So, you must give up your body, mind, and life itself to the Buddha in refuge. Life itself; that is the most important thing we each possess. If you give your life up to the Buddha, your own personal happiness or sorrow, or whatever, will cease to be important. We suffer because we are supposed to suffer, and we enjoy happiness as it is due. But do not hold on to the idea of a “self.” This is very important in your cultivation.

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