The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 8: Five Hundred Disciples Receive Predictions
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
At that time, the twelve hundred Arhats whose minds had attained self-mastery had this thought, “We all rejoice, having attained what we never had before. If the World Honored One would see to conferring upon us a prediction as he has the other great disciples, would this not be a cause for rejoicing?”
H2. Verses for the twelve hundred fifty Arhats.
I1. The request.
At that time, the twelve hundred Arhats, great disciples, were nervous. Why? They heard Shakyamuni Buddha give a prediction to Purna, and they could not wait any longer. They all wanted predictions too. "Will the Buddha give us predictions?" they wondered. So you see, these Arhats whose minds had attained self-control were suddenly false thinking, and no doubt were a bit uncomfortable. It is not surprising that living beings today are so greedy. Even in the time of the Buddha, the Arhats were clamoring to get their predictions. Now we should not get rid of our greed. In fact, we should escalate it as much as we can. What should we be greedy for? We should be greedy for the Buddhadharma. We should be greedy for the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha! Ha! If the Arhats can be greedy for their predictions, then we can get away with being greedy to study the Buddhadharma.
Originally, the Arhats' minds were very much at ease. They were not greedy at all. They just sat there and did not think of anything at all. They were not greedy for the Buddha, the Dharma, or the Sangha. They just sat there thinking, "I am the Buddha. I am the Dharma, and I am the Sangha!" They were not greedy. But when the Buddha gave a prediction to Purna, they could not wait any longer. They could not stand it. Even though they had attained the patience with the non-production of Dharma, they lost their patience! They could not help but get greedy, thinking, "Will we get predictions?" There were twelve hundred fifty Arhats and twelve hundred fifty greedy minds, boy! Pathetic, isn't it?
Someone is thinking, "What is an Arhat?"
An Arhat is an old Bhikshu. How old is he? It is not fixed. He could be in his thirties, twenties, and forties. Why do we say "old"? Because he has a bit of samadhi power, so we say he is old. If he did not have samadhi power, he would not be old.
On the causal ground, he is called a Bhikshu. On the result ground, he is called an Arhat. The word Arhat has three meanings: 1) one worthy of offerings, 2) slayer of thieves, 3) not born. Worthy of offerings means that the Arhat is worthy of accepting the offerings from people and gods. Not only should people in the human realm make offerings to the Arhat, the gods in the heavens should make offerings to him, as well as all the spirits. Unless, of course, that you do not want to certify to Arahatship. If you are an Arhat, you just have to sit there, and pretty soon the gods will give you offerings. This is because you are worth it. It is right for you. You do not have to go to work. If you want to be lazy and not work now, you might have a hard time. Wait until you are an Arhat. Then you will not have to do anything at all. Great, isn't it?
"Killer of thieves" means that he has killed the thieves of affliction. He has also killed the “non-thieves.” What the Arhat sees as thieves, the Bodhisattvas do not see as thieves. The Arhat has slain them both. The precepts of the Arhat and the Bodhisattva differ. Arhats are supposed to kill the thieves where the Bodhisattvas should kill the non-thieves. Even those who are not thieves should be killed. Isn’t that pretty serious? They are being unreasonable.
"Not-born" means that the Arhat is not born again. It also means that affliction is not produced. There is no production and no extinction. What is not produced cannot be extinguished, and what is not extinguished cannot be produced. If you want it extinguished, it will be born. If you want it to be born, it will be extinguished. One is dependent on the other. Having certified to the patience with the non-production of dharmas, the Arhat is beyond production and extinction. Would you not agree that the state of the Arhat is really terrific? The Arhat is not busy in the least. He is just totally free and at ease, taking it easy, kick back, not doing much, collecting unemployment. Do you recognize the Arhats? Their heads are bald and shiny, and so are their feet! That is, they do not wear shoes. Nobody supervises them, and they do not pay attention to anyone else. No ties, no cares, no hang-ups, no self, no others, no living beings, no life, no nothing. Ahh...
Their minds are at ease. They have no false thinking. Once they enter samadhi, they can sit there for several thousand years. The first Patriarch, Kashyapa, went to Chicken Foot Mountain and entered samadhi. He has not come out of it yet. That is because his mind is at ease.
Had this thought: They had a thought! That means they had a false thought! What was it? We all rejoice having attained what we never had before. We are really happy. Why? The Buddha gave Purna a prediction of Buddhahood. That is great. We are happy. We never saw such a wonderful thing. Wonderful thing, wonderful thing. Wonderful thing it might have been, but they all got greedy too. If the World Honored One would see to conferring upon us a prediction as he has the other great disciples, Shariputra, Purnamaitreyaniputra, Mahamaudgalyayana, and Subhuti, those guys, they all got one. What about us? So they were jumping up and down, pestering the Buddha. Would this not be a cause for rejoicing? Wouldn't it be great? When will we become Buddhas?
The Buddha, knowing the thoughts in their minds, told Mahakashyapa: “I now confer upon these twelve hundred Arhats in succession a prediction of anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
I2. Bestowing predictions.
K1. Prediction for twelve hundred Arhats.
The Buddha, knowing the thoughts in their minds, the Buddha did not even have to look. With his Five Eyes and Six Spiritual Penetrations, he knew right what these kids were up to. "What little dickens they are! They really have a lot of ideas!" Told Mahakashyapa: I now confer upon these twelve hundred Arhats--Mahakashyapa was the oldest, so he told him--in succession a prediction of anuttarasamyaksambodhi. A prediction of the utmost right and perfect enlightenment. Tell them not to have false thinking and not to be so nervous. I will give them a prediction right away!
“In this assembly, my great disciple, the Bhikshu Kaundinya, will make offerings to sixty-two thousands of millions of Buddhas. Having done so, he will then become a Buddha by the name of Universal Brightness Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Universal Knowledge, One of Perfect Clarity and Conduct, Well-Gone One Who Understands the World, Unsurpassed Lord, A Taming and Regulating Hero, Teacher of People and Gods, a Buddha, the World Honored One.”
K2. Prediction for Ajnatakaundinya.
Shakyamuni Buddha says, “In this assembly, my great disciple, my very good disciple, my most obedient disciple, my best cultivating disciple, my most non-lazy disciple, my most Dharma-upholding disciple--Who is it? The Bhikshu Kaundinya.”
In former lives, Kaundinya had killed the Buddha, slandered the Buddha, beaten the Buddha, cut off his arms, cut off his legs, and cut off his ears and nose. But, when Kaundinya cut the Buddha's limbs off, the Buddha made a vow, "When I become a Buddha, I will save you first." So, in this life, when he became a Buddha, he went straight to the Deer Park to save five Bhikshus, the first of whom, was Kaundinya. Ajnatakaundinya means "understanding the original limit," or "the first to understand." He understood his original face and was the first to become enlightened. He, too, was an elder among the twelve hundred fifty Bhikshus, one of the first to leave home under the Buddha.
He will make offerings to sixty-two thousands of millions of Buddhas. Having done so, he will then become a Buddha by the name of Universal Brightness Thus Come One. In the future, these 1,250 disciples will all be Buddhas by the name of Universal Brightness Thus Come One since they all received predictions from Shakyamuni Buddha. They will all be complete with the ten titles of a Buddha.
They are: One Worthy of Offerings, they deserve offerings from gods and humans. One of Proper and Universal Knowledge. Proper Knowledge is the understanding that the mind gives rise to myriad dharmas. Universal Knowledge is the understanding that myriad dharmas are but in the mind. One of Perfect Clarity and Conduct. He has perfected his cultivation of both wisdom and virtuous conduct. Well-Gone One Who Understands the World. He goes to good places and understands the most about the world. Unsurpassed Lord, A Taming and Regulating Hero, Teacher of People and Gods,a Buddha, the Buddha enlightens himself and others. One who has perfected both enlightenment and conduct is called Buddha. The World Honored One who transcends the world. Every Buddha has these ten titles. When Bhikshu Ajinatakaundinya became a Buddha, he also became replete with these ten titles.
I do not believe that any of you are as anxious to get a prediction from Shakyamuni Buddha as those Arhats were.
“The five hundred Arhats, Uruvilvakashyapa, Gayakashyapa, Nadikashyapa, Kalodayin, Udayin, Aniruddha, Revata, Kapphina, Vakkula, Cunda, Svagata, and others all will attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, all of them with the same name Universal Brightness.”
K3. Prediction for the five hundred Arhats.
Among the twelve hundred fifty, there will be Arhats. Five Hundred of the Arhats, will become Buddhas. Uruvilvakashyapa, Gayakashyapa, and Nadikashyapa were brothers. Uruvilvakashyapa's name means "papaya grove". Gayakashyapa is the name of a city. Nadikashyapa's name means "river".
Kalodayin means "black light". He was one of the "gang of six" Bhikshus. He did not follow the rules and always ran out into the street to play. Not only that, he went out at night. One time he was out in the street, and there were no streetlights. His complexion was very black and shiny. Although there were no lights on the street, his face glowed in the dark! He was walking along and a lady opened the door of her house as he walked by. She thought he was a ghost! Seeing a ghost is very inauspicious. It scared her so badly that she had a miscarriage. Then she realized it was not a ghost. It was a person. Not only was it a person, it was a disciple of the Buddha! She went to the Buddha to complain, "You should not allow your disciples to run around at night and scare people into having miscarriages." So the Buddha set up a rule that Bhikshus cannot go out into the street at night. He said, "Do you all agree with that rule?" The assembly, for the most part, agreed. It is because cultivators should not do things that scare lay people. Kalodayin means "black light". He had a lot of affinities with people, and everyone believed what he said, so he was able to teach a lot of people. Although he was one of the six unruly Bhikshus, still, strangely enough, when others saw him, they followed the rules. He taught over a thousand married couples and a lot of people took refuge with him. He was a teacher who did not follow the rules, yet many students that he taught followed the rules. It was strange.
Udayin means “manifesting”. He was Ananda's disciple. What does “manifesting” mean? It means that he was born at sunrise. He manifested then. He studied the precepts and the vinaya in particular. He follows the rules and precepts most strictly.
Aniruddha. Do you remember this honored one? This honored individual did not sleep for seven days and cried so that his eyes went blind. Why did he not sleep for seven days? He was scolded by the Buddha for sleeping during lectures. "Do you mean that the Buddha got mad and scolded him?" Sure, the Buddha got mad. If he did not get angry once in a while, his disciples would not be afraid of him. Besides, it was very aggravating. Just as the Buddha was speaking the Sutras in the most wonderful way, he would look over and see Aniruddha sleeping--in the most wonderful way! So the Buddha slammed his fist on the table and shouted,
Hey! Hey, how can you sleep
Like an oyster or a clam?
Sleep! Sleep for a thousand years,
And you'll never hear the Buddha's name!
"You are so lazy, all you do is sleep!" Aniruddha was the Buddha's cousin. He felt very embarrassed to be scolded in front of all the Arhats. He did not sleep for a week and went blind. The Buddha then taught him the Vajra Illuminating Samadhi, and he opened his Heavenly Eye. He could, using his Heavenly Eye, regard the entire three thousand great thousand worlds like an apple in the palm of his hand. His name means "never poor". This is because in the distant past he made offering to an old cultivator who was a Sage who had certified to the fruit. The old cultivator had cultivated wisdom and not blessings, and so he did not get many offerings of food. What is more, at that time there was a famine.
I said earlier that Arhats just sat and waited for the offerings to come in. This cultivator was a Pratyekabuddha, a bit higher than an Arhat was, but he had not cultivated blessings, so no one made offerings to him. Even though he was a sage, he still had to eat. He made a vow that he would go begging for food once every seven days. He would beg from seven houses in a row, and if he did not receive an offering by then, he would forget it and go back up the mountain. One day, he was returning to his mountain with an empty bowl, when he passed by a farmer who was planting his fields. The farmer was very poor, and all he had was a lunch bag since he was so far from his house. The farmer did not know the cultivator was a Pratyekabuddha. He asked him, "Oh, you have just come back from begging?"
Although he was a sage, he was still a bit disgruntled. "Today I did not get anything. I will just go hungry for another week."
The farmer thought, "That is too much suffering. I would not eat today. I will give my lunch to this cultivator.” “Old cultivator, I have some coarse rice, would you eat it? I would like to make an offering of it to you." The Pratyekabuddha was uncomfortable with hunger pangs. "What will you eat then?" he asked.
"If I do not eat for one day, it is not important. I can get something when I get home."
We do not know if it was some vestige of greed or if the Pratyekabuddha wanted to give the farmer a chance to plant blessings. Only the Pratyekabuddha knows for sure. Anyway, he accepted the offering. Then he transferred the merit to the farmer:
Those who practice giving,
Will attain benefit.
If they give seeking happiness,
They will attain the happiness they seek.
Having done this, he left the farmer, hungry or not. The Pratyekabuddhas look after themselves, you know.
Now the farmer continued working when all of a sudden a very naughty rabbit started to play tricks on him, jumping on his hoe and things like that. Finally, the rabbit jumped onto his back. He tried to get it off with his hoe but it would not budge. That frightened him. He ran home and asked his wife to help him get the rabbit off his back. His wife tried, but the rabbit had turned to gold! She plucked off one leg and took it to town to exchange it for money. When she got back, the leg had grown back. They were rich! Not only was he rich for one life, but for ninety-one kalpas in every life he was wealthy. So his name means "not poor." He was not poor because he gave his lunch to the Pratyekabuddha. As a result, he was wealthy for ninety-one kalpas.
Revata means "constellation."
Kapphina means "house constellation", the fourth constellation out of the 28 constellations. Kapphina was named after the constellation his parents prayed at in order to have him. They were over forty and childless when they decided to pray to the constellation for a son. The couple knelt before the altar to the House Constellation and made a vow. They vowed that if they were to receive a son, they would do lots of good deeds. “We will make offerings to the Triple Jewel and do all kinds of good deeds.” Once they prayed, despite being in their 40’s, the wife became pregnant. “Ah! The House Constellation gave us this son.” So they named their son House Constellation.
Vakkula in the past kept the precept against killing, and so in his present life, he received five kinds of non-dying retribution. When he was born, he was laughing, as if to say, "Hi!" This scared his mother. “He must be a goblin! Why is he laughing instead of crying?” So she tried to fry him in the frying pan. He could not be fried, however. Then she tried to boil him in water, but he could not be boiled! Then she threw him in the ocean hoping he would drown, but he could not be drowned, either. Then a hungry fish tried to gobble him up. A fisherman caught the fish and cut it open. There was Vakkula! The knife did not kill him. He could not be fried, boiled, drowned, eaten, or stabbed to death. He had these five kinds of non-dying retribution gained through his practice of non-killing in former lives. “How come he has five kind of non-dying retribution whereas we have none?” It is because you have not kept to this precept of refraining from killing. Life after life he kept this precept very purely, and so he gained this retribution.
Cunda is another name for Suddhipanthaka, and Svagata is another name for Mahapanthaka. Svagata is Cunda’s younger brother. These two brothers were disciples of the Buddha. One was very stupid; the other was very intelligent. The name of the intelligent one means “major pathway.” The name of the dumb one means “minor pathway.” They have these names because the custom in India is different from other places. When married women are about to go into labor, they need to be back at their mother’s house. By the time that Major Pathway’s mother was on her way to grandma’s, it was too late. The kid was eager to be born and was born on the road. That is why he was named Major Pathway.
It was the same with the younger brother. His mother probably enjoyed giving birth on the road. When she was about to give birth to a second child, she should have gone back to her mother’s house long ago, but she must have the power of samadhi, thinking, “The first one was born on the road. It cannot be so coincidental that the same happens with the second-born.” When the second child was about to be born, the mother was on her way home to the grandmother’s house. The little brother must have thought, “My big brother was born on the way, I cannot let you go back to grandmother either.” So he was born on the road too. Consequently, he was named Minor Pathway.
Major Pathway was very smart and memorizes the Buddhadharma by heart as soon as he hears it. However, Minor Pathway is just the opposite. He listens to it once, ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times, ten thousand times, and he cannot remember it. It took a long time for the five hundred Arhats to teach him a verse, yet he still could not remember. Other Arhats and Bhikshus began to gossip about why the older brother is so intelligent and the younger brother is so stupid. That is really very strange. When the older brother heard this, he was quite unhappy. He told his little brother, “You cannot even memorize one verse that five hundred Arhats took such a long time to teach you! Hurry up and go home! Do not join the monastic life!” Little Pathway insisted on becoming a monk. The older brother said, “I refuse to let you become a monk. If you are going to stay, I am going to boss you around.” The younger brother thought, “My brother would not let me join the monastic life and I cannot remember any Buddhadharma. I might as well die!” Hence he was ready to hang himself right there in the garden. Why did he want to hang himself? It is because he is too stupid. He wants to end it all by death.
Then Shakyamuni Buddha came to him by means of spiritual penetration and said, “Why do you want to hang yourself?” He said, “I am so dumb that I am not able to learn any Buddhadharma. My older brother told me to go home instead of joining the monastic life. But I want to be a monk. I do not want to go home. I would rather die.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Your older brother will not allow you to be a monk, but as long as you are sincere, you could be a monk. Do not die.”
“Do not die? But I am unable to learn any Buddhadharma, what would be the use?”
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “There is something that you could read every day. By doing so, you will become enlightened.”
“Oh, what wonderful method do you have for me. I am afraid that I will not be able to memorize it though.”
“You will be able to memorize this. Just recite ‘sweep clean.’ Sweep clean the ground of your mind and purify your thoughts. Once the ground of your mind is clean, you would have become enlightened.”
“Uh, what is that first word?” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Sweep.”
“The other word?”
“Uh, clean, clean, clean… clean what?”
Shakyamuni Buddha answered, “Sweep.”
“Sweep, sweep, sweep… sweep what?”
Shakyamuni Buddha told him again, “Clean.”
Every time he is told the word “sweep”, he forgets the word “clean”, and vice versa. He said, “World Honored One, please tell me a few more times.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Sweep clean. Sweep the ground of your mind.”
“Clean. Sweep the ground of my mind.” After reciting a few more times, he suddenly became enlightened. He memorized it! This time he was enlightened. Everyone here in this audience is smarter than this honored one. All of you could remember not only these two words, even four words or eight words. If you do not remember after being taught once, you would remember by about the second or third time. You could all recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Amitabha Buddha” frequently, for instance. Although we are all smarter than this honored one, we become enlightened much more slowly.
That stupid honorable one became enlightened very quickly. We do not become enlightened after reciting those words for so many times. Therefore, do not look down on this stupid one. Although unintelligent, he had planted lots of roots of goodness and made offerings to all Buddhas throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time. In this life, he purposely appeared as a dumb person so that sentient beings will see that Suddhipanthaka, Little Pathway, could become enlightened despite his stupidity. “I am much smarter than he is, so of course I can become enlightened.” This way, we will not forego the opportunity for enlightenment so easily.
This honored one purposely manifested as a stupid individual because as a Dharma Master in another life he thought that he alone understood the Buddhadharma while no one else did. The stupid one, however, managed to get enlightened right away. This is because in past lives the stupid one thought that he alone understood the Buddhadharma and others did not. Not only that, he would not explain it to other people. "It is so wonderful, I want it all to myself." Consequently, he was a high Dharma Master for five hundred lives, but he never taught the Dharma. If someone asked him to, he would not. He was stingy with the Dharma. For this reason, as retribution, he was very stupid. He did not want other people to be smart, so he became very stupid. Luckily, in the past he made offerings to the Buddhas and created a lot of merit and virtue. This life he got enlightened very fast, even though he was stupid.
The reason we are more intelligent but slower to get enlightened, study and study but feel that we have not attained anything, is because we have not created merit and virtue and have not made offerings to the Triple Jewel. Good roots are like the roots of trees, if they are nourished and taken care of, the tree will grow well. If the roots dry up, it will not grow.
So, now we must both cultivate and do good deeds, then we can get enlightened. Take care not to fail to speak the Buddhadharma. If you know one sentence, then speak that one sentence. Do not just look after yourself. Do not be critical of other people and fail to correct your own faults. Do not just do other people’s dirty laundry and forget that your clothes are just a dirty. Do not be stingy with the Dharma either, or you will end up stupid. Or, what is worse, you will be unable to speak at all. You will not be able to say anything, not even the words “sweep clean”. You will not have much chance of getting enlightened then.
And others all will attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, all of them with the same name Universal Brightness. "And others" means the rest of the five hundred Arhats. They will all attain the utmost right and perfect enlightenment, the position of Buddhahood. They will all have the same name, "Universal Brightness."
At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate his meaning, spoke verses, saying:
“The Bhikshu Kaundinya,
Will see limitless Buddhas,
And after asamkhyeya eons,
Will realize Equal Proper Enlightenment.
Ever putting forth great light,
Perfecting all spiritual powers,
His name will be heard in the ten directions,
And he shall be revered by all.
He will always speak the Unsurpassed Path,
And will therefore be called Universal Brightness.
His land will be pure,
With courageous and heroic Bodhisattvas.
All will mount wonderful towers,
And roam through the ten direction lands,
With supreme offerings
They will present to all the Buddhas.
Having made these offerings,
With minds full of rejoicing,
They will instantly return to their own lands,
Such are the spiritual powers they will have.
The life span of that Buddha will be sixty thousand eons,
His Proper Dharma will dwell twice that long.
The Dharma Image Age will be twice the length of that.
When the Dharma is extinguished,
the gods and people will mourn.
These five hundred Bhikshus
Shall in turn become Buddhas
All by the name of Universal Brightness.
Each shall bestow predictions on his successors
Saying, “After my extinction
Such and such shall become a Buddha.”
The world in which he will teach
Will be like mine today.
The adornments of his land
And his spiritual powers,
The host of Bodhisattvas and Hearers,
The Proper Dharma and Dharma Image Ages,
The numbers of eons in his life span,
Will be as just stated.
K1. Prediction for Ajnatakaundinya and five hundred Arhats.
At that time after he had finished the prose section, the World Honored One, wishing to restate his meaning, spoke verses, saying:
The Bhikshu Kaundinya, the first to understand, will see limitless Buddhas, countless, numberless Buddhas. And after asamkhyeya eons will realize Equal, Proper Enlightenment, will become a Buddha. Ever putting forth great light, perfecting all spiritual powers, his name shall be heard in the ten directions. And he shall be revered by all. All living beings will pay him homage.
He will always speak the Unsurpassed Path, the supreme, wondrous Path. And will therefore be called Universal Brightness.
His land will be pure with courageous and heroic Bodhisattvas. All will mount wonderful towers, many stories high, with countless windows and doors, and roam through the ten directions lands, to frolic in the "roaming and playing samadhi." With supreme offerings, they will present to all the Buddhas. Having made these offerings, with minds full of rejoicing, they will instantly return to their own lands. They will make offerings of jewels, and palaces, and various things adorned with the seven jewels. Such are the spiritual powers they will have.
The life span of that Buddha will be sixty thousand eons. His Proper Dharma will dwell twice that long, one hundred twenty thousand eons. The Dharma Image Age will be twice the length of that, two hundred forty thousand eons.
When the Dharma is extinguished, the gods and people will mourn. These five hundred Bhikshus shall in turn become Buddhas. They will succeed one another in turn, all by the name of Universal Brightness.Each shall bestow predictions on his successors, saying, “After my extinction, such and such shall become a Buddha. The world in which he will teach will be like mine today. The adornments of his land and his spiritual powers, the host of Bodhisattvas and Hearers, the Proper Dharma and Dharma Images Ages and the number of eons in his life span will be as just stated.” The same as those given for Universal Brightness.
Kashyapa, you should know
About these five hundred who have attained self-mastery.
As for the remaining Hearers,
They shall be likewise.
To those not present in this assembly,
You should expound these matters.”
K2 . General prediction for all the Hearers.
Kashyapa, you should know, you have just been told the particulars concerning these five hundred who have attained self mastery. You have heard about the five hundred Arhats whose minds have attained comfort. You should know that the rest of the Arhats will also become Buddhas called Universal Brightness, etc. As for the remaining Hearers, they shall be likewise. It means the rest of the twelve hundred fifty Arhats. To those not present in this assembly, you should expound these matters. Those not in the Dharma assembly, you should on my behalf, tell them that they will become Buddhas, that I have given them predictions. Do not forget now!
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