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:

When the sixteen sons had finished praising the Buddha, they then entreated him to turn the Dharma-wheel, saying, “World Honored One, speak the Dharma and bring us peace, show us pity, and benefit both gods and humans.” Then they spoke more verses saying:

“O Hero of the world, incomparable
Adorned with a hundred blessings,
And having attained unsurpassed wisdom,
Pray speak for the sake of this world
To cross over and liberate us and
All classes of living beings as well.
And lead us to attain that wisdom,
Demonstrate it: speak it in detail
For, if we can attain Buddhahood,
Other living beings can do the same.
The World Honored One knows the profound thoughts
Within the minds of living beings;
He knows the ways on which they walk
And the strength of their wisdom,
The pleasures and the blessings they have cultivated,
And all the deeds done in former lives.
The World Honored One, knowing all of this,
Should turn the unsurpassed wheel!”

Outline:

L5. The request to turn the Dharma-wheel.


Commentary:

When the sixteen sons had finished praising the Buddha, they then entreated him to turn the Dharma-wheel, saying. After they had praised the Great Penetration Victory Buddha, they asked him to speak the Dharma. The Buddha will not speak the Dharma unless requested to do so.

The Dharma does not arise of itself;
It appears in response to the situation.
The Way is not practiced in a vacuum;
It responds in accord with conditions.

Now, before the Dharma lecture, someone always requests the Dharma. To request the Dharma is to save living beings. If you cannot speak the Dharma yourself, then you ask someone else to do so. In China, when a patron knows a certain Dharma Master is skilled at lecturing on the Dharma, he will request him to lecture on a Sutra and give him a lot of money. In this way, the patron participates in the merit and virtue generated from the lecturing of the Sutra.

You may wonder, if the Dharma Master is lecturing on the Sutra, how can the merit and virtue go to the patron? It is because of the patron’s sincerity in requesting the Dharma. He requests it not just for himself, but for living beings, and so he gains much merit. Not only does he gain merit but he receives the reward of intelligence. If you want to be intelligent then read more Sutras, recite more Sutras, and request that people lecture on the Sutras more often. People who are intelligent now did these things in the past. Those who request the Dharma each day will, in the future certainly be intelligent and give rise to Prajna wisdom. The sixteen sons asked the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory to turn the Dharma-wheel.

What is meant by “turning the great Dharma-wheel”? Lecturing on the Sutras and speaking the Dharma is turning the Dharma-wheel. Any kind of work that you do within Buddhism can be considered turning the great Dharma-wheel. There are many different ways to turn the Dharma-wheel. Protecting the Triple Jewel is one; praising the Triple Jewel is another; propagating the Dharma is another. Telling people of the benefits of believing in the Buddha is another.

Let us say a situation arose where some people were trying to ruin a Dharma Master’s reputation. They are jealous of that Dharma Master and want to break up his Bodhimanda. In this case you should speak up and say, “That is wrong. These people are just creating rumors. They are the ones who are destroying the Triple Jewel.”

Those people may make up stories and start rumors circulating, saying things like, “That Dharma Master eats meat,” when they have never seen him eat meat at all. If they had seen him eating meat, that is one thing, but to fabricate stories is just being malicious. They may say, “He says he eats one meal a day, but he sneaks food all the time. He is no vegetarian. When no one is around, he steals anything he can get, whether it is pork, beef, or lamb chops.” You should speak up and protect the Triple Jewel and expose these people as gossip-mongers. That, too, is protecting the Triple Jewel. In general, translating Sutras, lecturing on the Sutras, printing Sutras, running the tape recorder, all turn the Dharma-wheel.

They said, “World Honored One, speak the Dharma and bring us peace, show us pity, and benefit both gods and humans.” Then they spoke more verses saying:

O Hero of the world, incomparable, adorned with a hundred blessings. The Buddha is a great hero in the world, an unsurpassed lord. There is no one who can compare to the Buddha. He is peerless. The Buddha cultivated blessings and wisdom for three great asankheya eons, and for a hundred eons he perfected the fine marks. And having attained unsurpassed wisdom. The Buddha is the greatly enlightened one. The greatly enlightened one is someone with great intelligence, which is supreme wisdom. Pray speak for the sake of this world to cross over and liberate us and so that we may leave suffering and attain bliss--all classes of living beings as well. All the twelve categories of living beings--demonstrate it: speak it in detail and lead us to attain that wisdom, so all living beings can attain the Buddha’s wisdom. For, if we can attain Buddhahood, other living beings can do the same. If we, now, can become Buddhas, then all living beings can become Buddhas.

The World Honored One knows the profound thoughts within the minds of living beings; he knows the ways on which they walk. He knows what their hopes and wishes are. He knows the practices of living beings and Buddhas. And the strength of their wisdom, the scope of their intelligence and the power of the Buddha’s wisdom. The pleasures and the blessings they have cultivated, and all the deeds done in former lives, the workings of cause and effect. The World Honored One, knowing all of this, should turn the unsurpassed wheel! It is our fervent prayer that the World Honored One will turn the Dharma-wheel and save living beings, so they may all realize the Buddha Way.

We are all gathered here to investigate the Buddhadharma, and we should put into practice the knowledge that we gained. If you understand a principle, do not fail to apply it. If you know and do not practice, that is worse than not knowing in the first place. If you do not know about cultivating, and so you do not cultivate, that is one thing. Once you know about the Buddhadharma, you must cultivate it, you must practice very reliably and solidly.

The most important job of a cultivator is to benefit others, to help others. Do not worry about helping yourself. Forget yourself. That is cultivation. It is extremely important not to be jealous or obstructive. You must also sever affliction. If you do not cut off your afflictions, you would not be able to end birth and death. “Cutting off” afflictions really just means to transform them. Transform your afflictions into Bodhi. Turning them into Bodhi, you will always give rise to wisdom, and you would not be stupid. If you have affliction, then you are always stupid and without wisdom. Do not get afflicted over every little thing. Do not be jealous or obstructive. This is crucial. So, everyday we investigate the Buddhadharma, and everyday we must practice it.

You may speak wonderfully, speak just fine;
But if you do not practice it, it is not the Way.

No matter how well you can talk, if you do not actually cultivate you would not be able to realize the Path. There are several people here who are just on the verge of getting enlightened. However, they must cultivate their hearts to benefit others and forget about themselves. Someone is thinking, “Who are they?” Well, if you are wondering who they are, you can be sure they are not you. Besides, you should not ask. You should ask yourself, “When am I going to get enlightened? When am I going to have great wisdom?” You should not ask about other people. I do not know who they are myself. I just said that to be saying it! I am not enlightened myself, so how could I know something like that?

The only thing to do is go ahead and cultivate. First of all, be patient. Be patient in all circumstances. Bear up under poverty. Think: “The poorer I am, the better. It is cleaner that way. Cultivators should be poor. Once you get some money, then the problems arrive.” Once you have got money, then you would not be able to cultivate. Bear with hunger, too. If there is nothing to eat today, do not worry about it. Something will turn up tomorrow. Be patient. If you have no clothing, if you are freezing, bear it. Bear the wind and bear the rain. Bear the hunger, bear the cold. That is your responsibility as a cultivator. You should fear nothing. No matter how hard it is, you must do it. No matter how bitter it is, I must bear it. I will cultivate and fight against the bitterness and the hardships. I will break through all obstacles. Then, once you have gotten through that barrier, you can have success. Otherwise, you would not.

So, every one of you should understand: it is useless just to talk about it. You have to do it. Talking ten feet is not as good as practicing a foot. I hope that all of you will really practice and that you would not indulge in intellectual Chan.

Sutra:

The Buddha, Shakyamuni, told the Bhikshus, “When the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi, in each of the ten directions, five hundred myriads of millions of Buddha worlds quaked in six ways. The dark recesses between those lands, that the awesome light of the sun and moon could not illumine then, were brightly lit, and the living beings therein were able to see one another. They all said, “where have all these living beings come from?” Further, in those lands, all the heavenly palaces, up to the Brahma palaces, quaked in six ways. A great light shone everywhere, illumining the entire universe and surpassing the light of the heavens.

Outline:

K2. Brahma Kings from ten directions request the Dharma.
L1. Awesome light shines and shakes the earth.


Commentary:

The Buddha, Shakyamuni, told the Bhikshus, “When the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the utmost right and perfect enlightenment, in each of the ten directions, five hundred myriads of millions of Buddha worlds quaked in six ways. The six types of quakings are quaking, roaring, clashing, moving, surging, and rising. We have already talked about the six quakings earlier. The dark recesses between those lands, that the awesome light of the sun and moon could not illumine then, were brightly lit, and the living beings therein were able to see one another.They all said, “where have all these living beings come from?” Basically, there were not any living beings in these dark places. Why are there suddenly living beings there now? Actually, they thought there were not any living beings because it was dark, and they could not see them. Now it was light and so they were visible. Further, in those lands, all the heavenly palaces, up to the Brahma palaces, quaked in six ways. A great light shone everywhere, illumining the entire universe and surpassing the light of the heavens.

Sutra:

At that time, in five hundred myriads of millions of lands to the east, the Brahma Heaven palaces shone with a light twice that of their usual brightness. Each of the Brahma Heaven Kings had this thought, “now the palaces are brighter than ever before. What is the reason for this manifestation?”

Outline:

L2. Brahma Kings come to make their request.
M1. East.
N1. Startled by the portents.


Commentary:

At that time, in five hundred myriads of millions of lands to the east, the Brahma Heaven palaces shone with a light twice that of their usual brightness. All darkness was dispersed. Never had they seen such a dazzling display of light. Each of the Brahma Heaven Kings had this thought, “now the palaces are brighter than ever before. What is the reason for this manifestation?”

Sutra:

Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings visited one another and discussed this matter. In the assembly there was one great Brahma Heaven King by the name of Rescuing All, who on behalf of the Brahma hosts spoke verses, saying,

“All of our palaces
Are bright as never before;
What is the reason for this?
Let us seek it together.
Is it because a great and virtuous god has been born?
Or because a Buddha has appeared in the world,
That this great light
Shines throughout the ten directions?”

Outline:

N2. Talking it over among themselves.


Commentary:

Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings visited one another and discussed this matter. They had a meeting to investigate this question. In the assembly there was one great Brahma Heaven King by the name of Rescuing All, who on behalf of the Brahma hosts spoke verses, saying, “All of our palaces are bright as never before; what is the reason for this? Let us seek it together. Let us find out why. Is it because a great and virtuous god has been born? Or because a Buddha has appeared in the world, that this great light shines throughout the ten directions?” Such bright light must surely be an auspicious sign. What does it portend?

Sutra:

At that time, the Brahma Heaven Kings from five hundred myriads of millions of lands, together with their palaces, each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers, went to the west to seek out this manifestation. They saw the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory seated on the lion throne beneath the Bodhi tree in the Bodhimanda, revered and circumambulated by gods, dragon kings, gandharvas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and beings both human and non-human. They saw as well the sixteen sons of the king requesting the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel.

Outline:

N3. Following the light, they see the Buddha.


Commentary:

At that time, the Brahma Heaven Kings from five hundred myriads of millions of lands, together with their palaces. The gods do not ride, like we do, in buses or airplanes. They ride in their palaces. They can fly through the air, or travel on the ground. They are sort of like celestial Winnebagos, complete with every convenience. Riding in them, they can go everywhere they please. They are even more wonderful than our airplanes. So the great Brahma heaven kings came with their palaces that they lived in. Each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers, went to the west to seek out this manifestation. They saw the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory seated on the lion throne beneath the Bodhi tree in the Bodhimanda, revered and circumambulated by gods, dragon kings, gandharvas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and beings both human and non-human. The gods, dragons, and eightfold division--they were reverently walking around him. They saw as well the sixteen sons of the king, the Wheel-turning king, requesting the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory to turn the Dharma-wheel.

Sutra:

Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings bowed with their heads at the Buddha’s feet, circumambulated him a hundred thousand times, and scattered heavenly flowers upon him. The flowers were piled as high as Mount Sumeru, and they offered them as well to the Buddha’s Bodhi tree, which was ten yojanas in height. Having made offerings of flowers, each presented his palace to the Buddha, saying, “pray show us pity, and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces that we offer you!”

Then the Brahma Heaven Kings, in front of the Buddha, with a single mind and the same voice, spoke verses in praise, saying:

“World Honored One, you are very rare,
And difficult to encounter;
Complete with limitless meritorious virtues,
You are able to rescue and protect all creatures.
Great teacher of gods and humans,
You who pity all the world
All beings in the ten directions
Receive your beneficence.
We have come from
Five hundred myriads of millions of lands,
Setting aside the bliss of deep dhyana samadhi,
For the sake of making offerings to the Buddha.
Blessings we’ve gained in former lives
Well ornament our palaces,
Now we offer them to the World Honored One,
Only praying you will show mercy and accept them.”

Outline:

N4. Offerings of the three karmas.


Commentary:

Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings bowed with their heads at the Buddha’s feet, in obeisance, circumambulated him a hundred thousand times, and scattered heavenly flowers upon him; the flowers they had brought were in cloth bags. The flowers were piled as high as Mount Sumeru. “Well,” you might wonder, “if the flowers were that many, how could they all fit in their bags?”

They could even fit Mount Sumeru into their bags. You know why? Because their bags are treasures. They might look like ordinary heavenly-flower carry-alls, but you could even fit the three thousand great thousand worlds into them if you needed to. They are “miraculous.” Our bags can only be stuffed just so full, but their bags always have room for more. That is because they are treasures. Probably, in former existence the bags were cultivators who were greedy for treasures and were always carting flowers and other treasures around, until finally, through the force of their greed, they turned into bags which could carry Mount Sumeru! You should not try to figure these things out with your ordinary, common understanding either, because this is an inconceivable type of state.

“If the Buddha was seated on a lion throne that was one yojana tall, and the flowers were as high as Mount Sumeru, which is many, many yojanas high, then did the flowers smother the Buddha so that he could not even move?” you wonder. “They are not heavy, but in such quantities, I would imagine they would weight quite a bit.”

You are too compassionate, really, worrying about the Buddha. The Buddha does not want you to worry. Mount Sumeru is Mount Sumeru, and the Buddha’s throne is the Buddha’s throne. They do not obstruct each other. All those flowers do not get in the way of the Buddha’s throne, and the Buddha’s throne does not obstruct Mount Sumeru. They have the capacity to accept one another without hindering one another. That is why we say it is wonderful. Do not try to figure it out with your ordinary mind.

And they offered them as well to the Buddha’s Bodhi tree, which was ten yojanas in height. Not only did they make offerings to the Buddha, but they offered their flowers to the Buddha’s Bodhi tree, as well. Having made offerings of flowers, each presented his palace to the Buddha, saying, “pray show us pity, and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces that we offer you!” Since they felt that their palaces were the most precious things in the world, and they loved them more than anything else, they gave them to the Buddha.

Sometimes people get very fond of their cars. They may even dream about them at night, dreaming that they give them gas or take care of them. The gods are extremely fond of their palaces. Their palaces can fly, and they can travel by land in them, they can sail through space and ride on the clouds. They are their most prized possessions. Now, having met the Buddha, they give up their most cherished palace-cars, and they say, “Buddha, please have mercy on us. Be compassionate and benefit us by accepting the palaces. Accept the palaces and occupy them.”

Then the Brahma Heaven Kings, in front of the Buddha, with a single mind and the same voice, spoke verses in praise, saying: as if singing in unison, they said,

World Honored One, you are very rare, and difficult to encounter. It is extremely hard to meet with a Buddha. It is extremely difficult to encounter the Dharma. It is extremely difficult to meet with the Sangha. Now we have met with the Triple Jewel, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, complete with limitless meritorious virtues. The Buddha is endowed with limitless virtues--that is how he became a Buddha. Living beings, also, must have limitless virtues to be able to meet the Buddha.

You are able to rescue and protect all creatures. Great teacher of gods and humans, a great guiding master among the gods and among people. You who pity all the world. You are most compassionate and merciful towards all living beings. All beings in the ten directions receive your beneficence, are all benefited by the Buddha.

We have come from five hundred myriads of millions of lands, setting aside the bliss of deep dhyana Samadhi. We saw the Buddha’s light, and so we left our attachment to our daily meditation--and it was very blissful, indeed.

Before you have attained the bliss of dhyana samadhi, your cultivation will have its “ups and downs.” And may be a bit haphazard. But once you have attained that bliss, nobody could keep you from cultivating! You are like a child eating candy. He eats a piece and then wants another--and another--and another. When he sees candy, he forgets everything and grabs for it. Cultivators who attain the bliss of dhyana samadhi will want to meditate everyday for sure. They will insist on it. It would not be okay to skip meditation anymore, because they like its flavor. They would rather go without eating than to go without meditating. Although this is not a good analogy, you might even say that it is like being addicted to drugs. If an addict does not get his fix, he starts going through withdrawal. If the cultivator does not get his fix, he does not like it one bit. Before you have gained this bliss, you would not care that much about meditating, but once you have gained it, you will think it is more blissful than absolutely anything else in the world. The gods sit there meditating all day long in dhyana samadhi without getting up. But now, seeing the light and not understanding where it came from, they all set aside the bliss of samadhi. Using their spiritual powers, they went sailing across millions of lands to find its source. For the sake of making offerings to the Buddha.

Blessings we’ve gained in former lives, well ornament our palaces.
Because of blessings we cultivated in former lives, we now have such fine, beautiful, all-purpose palaces, exquisitely adorned and beautiful. Now we offer them to the World Honored One, our most prized possessions, Only praying you will show mercy and accept them.”

previous * next * Introduction * Contents

return to top