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:

At that time, the Brahma Heaven Kings, having praised the Buddha, said “We only pray that the World Honored One will turn the Dharma-wheel, crossing over living beings, opening up the way to Nirvana.” Then; all the Brahma Heaven Kings, with one mind and the same voice, proclaimed these verses:

“Hero of the world, doubly perfect honored one,
We only pray that
You will expound and proclaim the Dharma,
And through the power of your great compassion and pity
Cross over suffering and tormented living beings.”

Outline:

N5. Requesting the turning of the Dharma-wheel.


Commentary:

At that time, the Brahma Heaven Kings, having praised the Buddha, said “We only pray that the World Honored One will turn the Dharma-wheel.” The Buddha was thinking about taking a rest but living beings would not hear of it! They kept asking him to turn the Dharma-wheel, to go to work. Turning the Dharma-wheel is the Buddha’s work. Crossing over living beings, opening up the way to Nirvana, the path of non-production and non-extinction. Then; all the Brahma Heaven Kings, with one mind and the same voice, proclaimed these verses:

Hero of the world, doubly perfect honored one.
Great hero, both in and beyond the world, you who are complete in both blessings and wisdom, we only pray that you will expound and proclaim the Dharma, and through the power of your great compassion and pity cross over suffering and tormented living beings. Through the power of your great kindness bestow happiness upon living beings, and through the power of your great compassion relieve them of their sufferings.

Sutra:

Thereupon, the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, assented by his silence.

Outline:

N6. Thus Come One assents by silence.

Commentary:

Thereupon, the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, assented by his silence. When the Brahma Heaven Kings came from the east and requested him to speak the Dharma, he assented by keeping silent. By not speaking, he indicated that he would speak Dharma.

Sutra:

Furthermore, O Bhikshus, to the southeast the great Brahma Kings in five hundred myriads of millions of lands, seeing their palaces in dazzling brilliance as never before, jumped for joy, thinking it rare indeed.

Outline:

M2. Southeast.
N1. Seeing the portents in surprise.


Commentary:

Furthermore, O Bhikshus, to the southeast the great Brahma Kings in five hundred myriads of millions of lands, seeing their palaces in dazzling brilliance as never before, jumped for joy, thinking it rare indeed. They saw their palaces lit up as never before. They were exceedingly happy. It was something they had never seen before.

Sutra:

They visited one another and discussed this matter. Then, in the assembly, a Brahma Heaven King by the name of Great Compassion, on behalf of the Brahma hosts spoke these verses:

“What is the reason for this event?
Why has this sign appeared?
All of our palaces
Are aglow as never before.
Has a greatly virtuous god been born?
Or has a Buddha appeared in the world?
We have never seen such signs before.
With one mind we should investigate it,
Passing through a thousand myriads of millions of lands,
Searching for the light, investigating it together.
It must be that a Buddha has appeared
To take across the suffering living beings.”

Outline:

N2. Talking it over among themselves.


Commentary:

They visited one another and discussed this matter. They got together and talked it over. Then, in the assembly, a Brahma Heaven King by the name of Great Compassion, on behalf of the Brahma hosts spoke these verses:

What is the reason for this event? Why has this sign appeared? All of our palaces are aglow as never before. We have never seen such light! Has a greatly virtuous god been born? Or has a Buddha appeared in the world? We have never seen such signs before. With one mind we should investigate it. We should concentrate our efforts to figure out where this light is coming from.

Passing through a thousand myriads of millions of lands, searching for the light, investigating it together. It must be that a Buddha has appeared to take across the suffering living beings, all suffering, miserable living beings.

Sutra:

At that time, five hundred myriads of millions of Brahma Heaven Kings, together with their palaces, each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers, went to the northwest 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, five hundred myriads of millions of Brahma Heaven Kings from the southeast came to bow to the Buddha. It was the same for those from the southeast and the east. Together with their palaces, each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers. The gods are fond of flowers, and so they use them to make offerings to the Buddhas throughout the ten directions, putting them in their cloth flower bags. They went to the northwest 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, way up in the northwest. Revered and circumambulated by gods, dragon kings, gandharvas, kinnaras,mahoragas, and beings both human and non-human. Non-humans include the rest of the sentient beings. They saw, as well, the sixteen sons of the king requesting the Buddha 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, then 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. Having made offerings of flowers, each presented his palace to the Buddha saying, “Show us pity and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces that we offer you!” Then the Brahma Heaven Kings, before the Buddha, with a single mind and the same voice, spoke verses in praise, saying,

“Sagely Lord, king among gods,
With the kalavinka sound,
To you who pity living beings,
We now reverently bow.
The World Honored One is most rare,
Appearing but once in long ages.
One hundred and eighty eons have passed
Empty, without a Buddha.
The three evil paths are full.
The hosts of gods decrease.
Now the Buddha has appeared in the world,
To act as eyes for living beings,
As a refuge for the world,
Rescuing and protecting all creatures,
A father for all beings,
Pitying and benefiting them.
Now, through blessings gained in former lives,
We are enabled to meet the World Honored One.”

Outline:

N4. Three karmas as an offering.


Commentary:

Then all the Brahma Heaven Kings bowed in full prostration, with their heads at the Buddha’s feet, circumambulated clockwise around him a hundred thousand times. After they stopped circumambulating, they then scattered heavenly flowers that they brought upon him as an offering. The flowers were piled as high as Mount Sumeru, and they offered them as well to the Buddha’s Bodhi tree. They not only made offerings to the Buddha, but also made offerings of flowers to the Bodhi tree. Having made offerings of flowers, each presented his palace which he brought along to the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory saying, “Show us pity. We can only ask that the Buddha kindly take pity on us, and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces that we offer you! The palaces that we offer are our most precious palaces, will the Buddha please accept this offering and live in the palace.

Then all the Brahma Heaven Kings, before the Buddha, with a single mind and the same voice, spoke verses in praise of the Buddha, saying Sagely Lord, king among gods, with the kalavinka sound. The Buddha is called the Sagely Lord, the Sage among Sages, the god among gods. He has the kalavinka sound. In the Amitabha Sutra we read about the kalavinka birds in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Kalavinka is a Sanskrit word that means “fine sounding bird.” Ultimately, how fine they sound you will know when you hear one. You still do not know how fine they sing. Once you get to the Land of Ultimate Bliss, then you will know. The Buddha speaks the Dharma with a sound even finer than that of the kalavinka bird, so the sound of his voice is described as the “kalavinka sound.” To you who pity living beings. The Buddha is most compassionate. We now reverently bow.

The World Honored One is most rare, appearing but once in long ages. One hundred and eighty eons have passed empty, without a Buddha. The three evil paths are full.
The hells, the animal realm, and the realm of the ghosts get increasingly fuller, and the hosts of gods decrease. The three evil paths are doing great business! Everyone wants to live in them! On the other hand, the three good paths are going bankrupt.

Now the Buddha has appeared in the world, to act as eyes for living beings. Why did everyone end up in the three evil paths? Because they could not tell right from wrong, black from white, good from evil. They had no one to be their guide, “to act as eyes” for them. They were in darkness, running in confusion, running into the three evil paths. Now that the Buddha has appeared in the world, it is as if living beings had eyes. Now, the three evil paths can decrease and the three good paths increase. As a refuge for the world. All beings in the world return in refuge to the Buddha and head toward the good Bodhi path.

Rescuing and protecting all creatures, a father for all beings. The Buddha cherishes all beings. He is a compassionate father to them. Living beings are like the Buddha’s unfilial children. The more unfilial they are, the harder he works to save them. Pitying and benefiting them. He shows them mercy and benefits them through his great, enlightened compassion. Now, through blessings gained in former lives, we are enabled to meet the World Honored One. We gods, no doubt, in former lives created merit and virtue by doing good deeds, and so now we are lucky enough to meet with the Buddha. We are lucky enough to meet with the Buddha and listen to him speak the Dharma. This is because of good roots planted in former lives.

Sutra:

At that time, the Brahma Heaven Gods, having praised the Buddha, said, “We only pray that the World Honored One will take pity on all beings and turn the Dharma-wheel to liberate living beings.”

Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings, with one mind and a single voice, spoke verses saying,

“Great Sage, turn the Dharma-wheel,
To reveal the marks of all Dharmas,
To cross over tormented living beings,
So they may gain great joy.
When living beings hear the Dharma,
They may gain the way, or be reborn in the heavens;
The evil paths will decrease
And those of patience and goodness will increase.”

Outline:

N5. Requesting the turning of the Dharma-wheel.


Commentary:

At that time, five hundred myriads of millions of the Brahma Heaven Gods in the entire Southeast, having praised the Buddha in verses said, “We only pray that the World Honored One will take pity on all beings and rescue them. In order to rescue them, he must speak the Dharma and turn the Dharma-wheel to liberate living beings, teaching and transforming them. In this way they can leave suffering, attain bliss, and put an end to birth and death.

Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings, with one mind and a single voice, spoke verses saying,--they had different mouths, but they spoke in unison. Great Sage, turn the Dharma-wheel, to reveal the marks of all Dharmas, to instruct us in the real marks of all Dharmas, in the doctrine of the Dharma. To cross over tormented living beings, all the miserable living beings. So they may gain great joy.

When living beings hear the Dharma,
that the Buddha speaks, they can leave suffering and attain bliss and end birth and death. They may gain the way, or be reborn in the heavens. Perhaps they certify to the fruition of sagehood, or perhaps they are born in the heavens. The evil paths will decrease. If they are born in the good paths, then the good paths increase in number and the evil paths decrease, and those of patience and goodness will increase. People who practice forbearance and who do the ten good deeds will increase in number.

Sutra:

At that time, the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory assented by his silence.

Outline:

N6. Thus Come One assents through silence.


Commentary:

At that time, the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory assented by his silence. He did not say anything, and that means he agreed to speak.

Sutra:

Furthermore, O Bhikshus, to the south, the great Brahma Kings in five hundred myriads of millions of Buddhalands, seeing their palaces in dazzling brilliance as never seen before, jumped for joy, thinking it rare indeed.

Outline:

M3. South.
N1. Startled by the portents.


Commentary:

Furthermore, O Bhikshus, to the south, the great Brahma Kings in five hundred myriads of millions of Buddhalands, seeing their palaces in dazzling brilliance as never seen before, jumped for joy, seeing such light, they were very happy, thinking it rare indeed, very, very rare.

Sutra:

Thereupon, they visited one another and discussed this matter, wondering, “Why do our palaces glow with the light?” Then, in the assembly a Brahma Heaven King called Wonderful Dharma, on behalf of the Brahma hosts, spoke these verses,

“All of our palaces
Shine with awesome brilliance;
This cannot be for no reason;
We should seek out this sign.
In a hundred thousand eons,
Such a sign has never been seen.
Has a great and virtuous god been born?
Or has a Buddha appeared in the world?”

Outline:

N2. Talking it over among themselves.


Commentary:

Thereupon, they visited one another and discussed this matter, they had a meeting wondering, “Why do our palaces glow with the light?” Then, right in the middle of the assembly a Brahma Heaven King called Wonderful Dharma, who on behalf of the Brahma hosts, spoke these verses.

All of our palaces where we live, shine with awesome brilliance; such as we have never seen before. This cannot be for no reason; There must certainly be a special reason for this light. We should seek out this sign. We should not just let it go by; we should find out where it is coming from. In a hundred thousand eons, such a sign has never been seen. During the past hundred thousand eons, we have not seen such a sign. Has a great and virtuous god been born? Or has a Buddha appeared in the world? So they all set out to find the source of the light.

Sutra:

At that time, five hundred myriads of millions of Brahma Heaven Kings, together with their palaces, each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers, went to the north 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, five hundred myriads of millions of Brahma Heaven Kings, having praised the Buddha. Brahma Kings have come from five hundred myriads of millions of lands to the east, from five hundred myriads of millions of lands to the southeast, and from five hundred myriads of millions of lands to the south. Together with their palaces. Wherever they went, they rode in their palaces. Although in the human realm we do not have houses that fly such as those celestial palaces, but we have buses that can take us everywhere. Of course, the buses are very small and inconvenient compared to these large palaces. We also have mobile homes that are cramped and inconvenient. They are not large and cannot fly the way those palaces can.

Each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers. The gods love the fragrance of the flowers and never travel without them. They adorn their palaces with them; the fragrance of the flowers appear as their rightful enjoyments, the rewards from their former good deeds. Wherever they go, they carry sacks full of flowers. They accept each other rather than block one another. They are inclusive rather than obstructive. They went to the north to seek out this manifestation. They hopped into their palaces and headed north to find the source of the light. They saw the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory seated on the lion throne beneath the Bodhi tree in the Bodhimanda. They saw that the light was coming from the Buddha. Revered and circumambulated by gods, dragon kings from the four seas, gandharvas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and beings both human and non-human.

Gandharvas and kinnaras are music spirits in the court of the Jade Emperor. Gandharva means “incense inhalers” because they love the smell of incense. When the Jade Emperor wants some music, he just lights some incense, and the gandharvas come flying in. Once they get there, the Jade Emperor says, “You make great music. Why don’t you play a few tunes for me?” Since they love the incense, they obey the Jade Emperor and make music for him, sniffing the incense all the while.

Kinnara means “doubtful spirit”, because they resemble human beings, except that they have a horn on their heads. When they play music and dance for the Jade Emperor, they shake their heads back and forth and around and around, to show off their beautiful horns. At least, they think they are beautiful. They sing, play music, dance, and shake their heads. This all just means that they have no samadhi power! Hah!

There are also asuras. Although the text only mentions mahoragas, kinnaras, etc., and not asuras, it really includes the eightfold division of gods and dragons. Asura is also a Sanskrit word that means ugly. In short, the eightfold division consists of all sorts of strange creatures, some with one leg.

The entire eightfold division is represented in this line of text. They are all very strange. Some have one leg, and some have three legs, and some, like the mahoragas, just crawl on their bellies. Some fly in the sky like the garudas and the musical spirits. The gandharvas and the kinnaras work out of the same union, and, if the Jade Emperor calls in the kinnaras, they will usually demand that the gandharvas be hired, as well, so they can jam together—bang, crash, bang--rocking out on the drums, the conch shells, and the gongs and bells. Why do we have these music groups and these kinds of musical instruments? It is because some people who had their (five) eyes opened took a look into the heavens and saw, “Oh, wow, look at those instruments! Let us make some like that!” and so the great treasury of musical science was opened, thanks to the kinnaras and the gandharvas. This is not too hard to figure out. People have pretty much imitated the way things are in heaven.

All the living beings were revering the Buddha, walking around him slowly, keeping him to the right. They saw, as well, the sixteen sons of the king requesting the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel. The sixteen sons of the Buddha were asking him to turn the Dharma-wheel. They were the sons of the Buddha not just in one lifetime. You might say that in every life they had received the Buddha’s teaching and been his Dharma protectors. This life, when the Buddha became a Buddha, they vowed to be his sons and ask him to turn the Dharma-wheel. They did this because of their vows. People’s relationships to each other work the same way. Each family has its own set of cause and effect. Each country has its own set of cause and effect. People’s relationships are based on their mutual cause and effect. In the distant past, the Buddha taught living beings; he taught them for a long time, life after life, being so good to them that they realized, “He is our great compassionate father.” They vowed in every life to follow that Buddha, saying, “When you become a Buddha, we will follow you and be your disciples. We will do this in every life. In every life, we will be the Buddha’s disciples.” They did this before he even became a Buddha. Now that Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory has become a Buddha, the sixteen sons, because of their former vows, naturally come and ask him to turn the great wheel of the Dharma.

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. Having made offerings of flowers, each presented his palace to the Buddha, saying, “Show us pity and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces that we offer you.” Then the Brahma Heaven Kings, before the Buddha, with a single mind and the same voice, spoke verses in praise, saying.

Outline:

N4. Three karmas as an offering.

Commentary:

Then all the Brahma Heaven Kings in the south, as many as five hundred myriads of millions, bowed in full prostration with their heads at the Buddha’s feet. They circumambulated him a hundred thousand times. When we circumambulate, it might take one or two minutes to walk around the Buddha just a few times. The gods, however, can walk around the Buddha a hundred thousand times in less than a minute. They use their spiritual powers. Do not worry about them, thinking, “If they go around the Buddha a hundred thousand times, how will they have time to listen to the lecture? The lecture takes two hours!” It takes them but a moment. This just shows you, you should not try to figure these things out with your ordinary intelligence.

And scattered heavenly flowers upon him like snow falling upon the Buddha. The flowers were piled as high as Mount Sumeru, the heap of flowers was that high. And they offered them, as well to the Buddha’s Bodhi tree. Not only did they make offerings to the Buddha, but also to his Bodhi Tree.

You are thinking, “These Brahma gods are too much. Why are they making offerings to a tree? I can see making offerings to the Buddha, but what is the use of making offerings to a tree?”

You should know that the Buddha realized Buddhahood under the Bodhi tree. It provided him with the space for becoming a Buddha and thereby gained great merit and virtue. The Great Brahma Kings are not doing this because they are stupid, you know, but because they want to thank the Bodhi tree for helping the Buddha realize Buddhahood. When the Buddha sat beneath that tree he was sheltered from the rain, he was cool in the shade, and, best of all, he became a Buddha. So they make offerings to the Bodhi tree.

Having made offerings of flowers, each presented his palace to the Buddha. They gave that thing they most cherished, that thing they could not put down. When they get born in the heavens they got to live in it. They were entitled to it as a reward for their past good deeds. It was inconceivably wonderful. Now they give away what they could not give away.

The gods do not have anything else to speak of. They are not like people who may accumulate a lot of land and other holdings. They simply possess their palaces and that’s it. There is no “land” in the heavens; there is no real estate. The heavens are up in empty space! Their palaces sit in space. And they do not have to use money. The gods are not like us, buying, selling, and huckstering. They do not have land or any possessions other than their palaces and their flowers. First, they offered their flowers, but then they thought that probably was not showing enough sincerity. “Now that we have met the Buddha, why not do it right and give him our palaces?” And so they did! Now they had no place to live. I do not know what they planned to do about that, where they were planning to immigrate to.

Saying, “Show us pity and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces that we offer you.” We are singleminded in our desire that the Buddha be compassionate towards us and accept these palaces we offer you. Do not stay there under the Bodhi tree. It is not nearly as luxurious as our palaces.”

Then the Brahma Heaven Kings, before the Buddha, with a single mind and the same voice. Now, that is not easy! Just look at translating Sutras, you want to translate it that way, he wants to translate it another way, and someone else has yet another idea about how it should be done. Even if you come to an agreement, there is still a lot of give and take involved, and you are not all of the “same mind.” The Great Brahma Heaven Kings all had the same mind, and, not only that, they said the same thing at exactly the same time and spoke verses in praise of the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, saying.

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