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 five hundred Arhats, having received predictions from the Buddha, jumped for joy.
I3. The explanation.
K1. Sutra compiler records their rejoicing.
At that time, after the Buddha had spoken the verses to Kashyapa, the five hundred Arhats, having received predictions from the Buddha, jumped for joy. They received predictions of anuttarasamyaksambodhi, which was exactly what they wanted. They were so happy, they jumped for joy.
They rose from their seats and went before the Buddha, bowing with their heads at his feet. Repenting of their errors, they reproached themselves, saying, “World Honored One, we had always thought that we had already gained ultimate extinction. Now we know that we were like unknowing ones. Why is this? We should have obtained the Thus Come One's wisdom, but were content instead with lesser knowledge.”
K2. The Arhats explain themselves.
L1. Their speech concerning Dharma.
They rose from their seats and went before the Buddha, bowing with their heads at his feet. Repenting of their errors, they reproached themselves. People who know enough to repent of their errors are Sagely material. People who do not are really stupid. The Arhats are repentant. They are sorry for what they did. They reproached themselves because they had been satisfied with just a little. They had not attained ultimate Nirvana, but they thought that they had. They now know they were wrong and were sorry.
Saying: World Honored One, we had always thought that we had already gained ultimate extinction, had certified to the fruition of Arhatship. They did not seek the Buddha Path above, and they did not teach living beings below. They felt they did not need to become Buddhas or save living beings. All they needed to do was sit there all day and be at ease and happy and not pay attention to anything at all—self-ending Arhats. Now we know that we were like unknowing ones. Why is this? We should have obtained the Thus Come One's wisdom, but we did not seek the Buddha's wisdom. What a terrible mistake! But we were content instead with lesser knowledge. We took our small Arhat-fruit wisdom and were satisfied with it, thinking we had attained ultimate extinction.
“World Honored One, it is like a person who goes to a close friend's house, gets drunk on wine, and lies down. His friend who is about to go away on official business, sews a priceless pearl inside his clothing as a gift, and then leaves.”
L2. The parable.
M1. Setting up the parable.
N1. Their drunkenness as likened to the Arhats saying they had attained extinction and contenting themselves with petty knowledge.
O1. Parable of sewing the pearl.
World Honored One, it is like a person who goes to a close friend's house, the person refers to the five hundred Arhats. The close friend is the Buddha. That person gets drunk on wine. Gets drunk means to be stupid. The wine represents the five desires. And lies down means that they were satisfied with little, and did not do anything, just sat around. His friend, the Buddha, who is about to go away on official business, he has to go off to some other worlds to save living beings there. His conditions with beings have come to an end in that place, so he will go somewhere else to save living beings. He sews a priceless pearl inside his clothing as a gift, and then leaves. The priceless pearl is the basic substance of the real mark, the inherent Buddha nature. "Inside his clothing" means that they were taught the wonderful principles of the real-mark, the Great Vehicle, and this planted in them the seed for their future attainment.
“That person, in a drunken stupor, is not aware of anything.”
O2. Parable of lying down in a drunken stupor.
But, that person has no great wisdom, he sunk in dreams of stupidity and the five desires. In a drunken stupor,he is not aware of anything. He does not know enough to accept the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma.
“On arising, he sets out on his travels and reaches another country, where, for the sake of clothing and food, he expends much effort, endures great hardships, and is content with whatever little he may get.”
O3. He gets up and goes traveling.
On arising, he sets out on his travels, and reaches another country, means that because he is still covered with ignorance, he does not know enough to turn back towards the Great Vehicle, his own "country." Instead, he seeks the lesser vehicle.
Where, for the sake of clothing and food, for the sake of the "clothing" of the proper path and the "food" of the aids to the path, he expends much effort, endures great hardships. He is satisfied with the small state he has attained in the Small Vehicle, and is content with whatever little he may get. He thought he has gained the Nirvana of the Two Vehicles, the fruit of Arhatship, and is satisfied with that.
Later, his close friend happens to meet him again and says, “Hey man! How can you, for the sake of food and clothing, have come to this?”
N2. Friend wakes him up.
O1. The scolding.
Later, his close friend, the Buddha, happens to meet him again. The Hearers are quite satisfied with their attainment. When the Buddha says, "Hey, man!" He calls out in this way to startle him. "For crying out loud, how can you, for the sake of food and clothing, for the sake of cultivating the Way, for the sake of seeking the clothing of the Proper Path and the food of the Aids to the Path, have come to this?" How could you be so poor? How could you have been satisfied with so little? As Fourth Stage Arhats, they think that above there is not Buddha Way for them to seek, and below there are no living beings to save. There is nothing at all. There is nobody in the whole world but them!
Long ago, wishing you to gain peace, happiness, and enjoyment of the five desires, on such and such a day, month, and year, I sewed a priceless pearl into your clothing. From of old until now, it has been present, but you did not know of it. Thus you have toiled and suffered to gain your livelihood. How stupid of you!
O2. Showing him the pearl.
Long ago, wishing you to gain peace, happiness, the Buddha wanted to lead those of the Two Vehicles to perfect the fruition of Bodhi of the Great Vehicle. And enjoyment of the five desires, ordinarily, the five desires are forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas. Here, they refer to the Five Roots, and the Five Powers, and so on.
On such and such a day, month, and year refers to the time when the Buddha, Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, spoke The Dharma Flower Sutra, some eighty thousand eons or more ago, teaching the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma.
I sewed a priceless pearl into your clothing. In you were planted the seeds of the Great Vehicle. From of old until now, it has been present, but you did not know of it. Thus you have toiled and suffered to gain your livelihood. The pearl is still there. You have not lost it. But you Arhats did not know of it before. You forgot the Great Vehicle Dharma and chose instead to study the Small Vehicle Dharma. It has been a lot of hard work for you cultivating just to keep yourselves spiritually alive. How stupid of you! Too, too stupid!
You may now take this jewel, exchange it for what you need, and you will always have whatever you wish and be free from want.
O3. Encouraging him to exchange the jewel.
You may now take this priceless jewel, exchange it for what you need, you will acquire the fruition you deserve if you cultivate the Mahayana Dharma. And you will always have whatever you wish. If you cultivate the Great Vehicle, you will never lack for anything. And be free from want. You will never be poor again.
The Buddha is also like this. When he was a Bodhisattva, he taught and transformed us, causing us to bring forth the thought of All-Wisdom.
M2. Correlating the parable with the Dharma.
N1. Correlating the drunkenness.
O1. Correlating sewing the pearl.
The Buddha is also like this, like the good friend mentioned in the above analogy. When he was a Bodhisattva, he taught and transformed us, causing us to bring forth the thought of All-Wisdom. During the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, the Buddha was also teaching us. He has appeared in various Bodhisattva bodies to teach and transform us in the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma.
But, we later completely forgot, and were unknowing and unaware.
O2. Correlating the lying down in a drunken stupor with the Dharma.
But, we later completely forgot. We had been away from the Buddha for too long. We had gotten involved in the five desires--the objects of the five senses--and forgotten the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma altogether. And were unknowing and unaware. We will not even realize that we will not become enlightened.
Having attained the way of Arhatship, we said of ourselves that we had gained extinction. In the difficulty of maintaining our livelihood, we were content with what little we had gained.
O3. Correlating the arising, traveling, and being contented with little.
Having attained the way of Arhatship, we said of ourselves that we had gained extinction, that we had gained ultimate Nirvana. In the difficulty of maintaining our livelihood--the lifestyle of the Small Vehicle is like that of a very poor person--we were content with what little we had gained.
Still, our vows for All Wisdom remain; they have not been lost. Now, the World Honored One has caused us to wake up, saying, “Bhikshus! What you have obtained is not ultimate extinction!”
N2. Correlating the close friend waking him up.
O1. Correlating the scolding.
Still, our vows for All Wisdom remain. The seeds of the Great Vehicle teaching we received before and the vows we made for the Great Vehicle are still here within us. They have not been lost.
All of you here in the Buddhist Lecture Hall made vows recently, and this is because you did so in the past. If you have not made vows in the past, you would not know how to go about making vows now. People who have made vows before know it is important to make vows. Probably you who recently made vows have made Great Vehicle vows before, and that is why you caught on so quickly and made them right away. The Arhats did not know enough at first to make Great Vehicle vows, even though they had made them before. It had been too long, and they forgot all about it. Those of you here who have not made vows have made them before too, but it has been too long, and you are confused. You want to go forward, but cannot figure out how. You think about retreating, but that would be worse. Quite a troublesome predicament! Now, the World Honored One has caused us to wake up to our past vows, saying, “Bhikshus! What you have obtained is not ultimate extinction!” You have not attained the utmost right and perfect enlightenment.
‘For a long time, I have been leading you to plant good roots with the Buddha. As an expedient device, I manifested the marks of Nirvana. You said of yourself however, that you had actually attained extinction.’
O2. Correlating the showing of the pearl.
For a long time, for many eons, I have been leading you to plant good roots with the Buddha. As an expedient device, I manifested the marks of Nirvana. Because you were afraid of the Great Vehicle, through the power of my expedient devices, I showed to you the marks of the Small Vehicle Extinction, the principle of one-sided emptiness, the Small Vehicle Nirvana. You said of yourself, however, that you had actually attained extinction. You thought you had gained the ultimate extinction. No way!
“World Honored One, now at last we know that we are actually Bodhisattvas; having obtained a prediction for anuttarasamyaksambodhi. For this reason we rejoice greatly, having gained what we never had before.”
O3. Encouraging him to exchange the pearl.
World Honored One, now at last we know that we are actually Bodhisattvas, that really we are Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas. We are not Arhats. Having obtained a prediction for anuttarasamyaksambodhi, we have received a prediction for the utmost right and perfect enlightenment of the Buddha. For this reason we rejoice greatly. We are really happy, having gained what we never had before. We have never been this happy.
At that time, Ajnatakaundinya and the others, wishing to restate this meaning spoke verses saying,
“Hearing the supreme sound
Of the prediction of peace and tranquility,
We rejoice, gaining what we never had,
And bow before the Buddha of limitless wisdom.
Now, in the presence of the World Honored One,
We repent of our faults and mistakes.
J2. The verse.
K1. Verses about the understanding gained in their own hearts.
At that time, Ajnatakaundinya, the "first to understand," and the others, the other five hundred Arhats, wishing to restate this meaning spoke verses saying.
All of us Arhats, hearing the supreme sound of the prediction of peace and tranquillity, hearing the Supremely Honored One give us the prediction for Buddhahood, we rejoice gaining what we never had. And bow before the Buddha of limitless wisdom. We are happy as never before, and so we make obeisance to the Buddha, the one of limitless wisdom. Now, in the presence of the World Honored One, we repent of our faults and mistakes. We are greatly ashamed. We express our regret to the Buddha. We have made mistakes, and committed offenses.
Of the limitless jewels of the Buddha,
We'd gained but a small portion of Nirvana,
And, like unknowing, senseless people,
Contented ourselves with that.
K2 . Explaining how they were led to understanding.
L1. Verses of speaking the Dharma.
Of the limitless jewels of the Buddha, the unlimited treasury of the Buddhadharma, we'd gained but a small portion of Nirvana--Nirvana with residue. And, like unknowing, senseless people, real dummies, we contented ourselves with that. We thought that was quite sufficient, that we had attained the ultimate Nirvana. Actually, we had not.
It's like a poor person,
Who goes to a close friend's home,
A very wealthy household,
Stocked with delicacies.
Taking a priceless pearl
The friend sews it in the poor man's clothing
And silently departs,
While the poor man sleeps unaware.
When the man arises,
He travels to another land,
Where, seeking food and clothes to stay alive,
He suffers many difficulties, and
Satisfied with what little he may get,
Wishes for nothing better.
He's unaware that within his clothing
There is a priceless pearl.
L2. Verses about speaking the parable.
M1. Verse setting up the parable.
N1. Parable of drunkenness.
It's like a poor person. Ajnatakaundinya continues saying, “We are like poor people who goes to a close friend's home,” to the Buddha's house. The poor folks are living beings. The close friend is the Buddha. The living beings meet up with the Buddha's teaching, a very wealthy household. The Buddha's teaching is the richest of teachings. The house is stocked with delicacies, with the food of Dhyana happiness and Dharma joy.
Taking a priceless pearl, the friend is about to go away to another country. The friend sews it in the poor man's clothing. The pearl is the perfect, sudden teaching of the One Vehicle. And the friend silently departs. The Buddha goes to another world to teach and transform living beings, while the poor man sleeps unaware. The poor man obtains the seed of the Great Vehicle. Even though he has been taught the Great Vehicle, he does not realize it as such and does not know its great value. He is as if drunk, drunk on the wine of the five desires. Besides that, he is ignorant and so he sleeps "unaware."
When the man arises, when he gets a bit of wisdom, he travels to another land. He does not cultivate the Great Vehicle Dharma. He goes looking for some Small Vehicle Dharma. Where, seeking food and clothes to stay alive, cultivating the Small Vehicle Path, seeking the fruit of Arhatship, he suffers many difficulties. Cultivating the fruit of Arhatship is like living the life of a very poor person. It is extremely difficult. And satisfied with what little he may get, having gained Fourth Stage Arhatship, he is satisfied with that. He wishes for nothing better. He does not want to go forward and seek the Buddha Way. He's unaware that within his clothing, there is a priceless pearl. Within his self-nature, his Buddha nature, there is the disposition of the Great Vehicle.
The friend who gave him the pearl
Later sees the poor man again,
And having bitterly rebuked him,
Shows him the pearl he sewed in his clothing.
Seeing the pearl, the poor man's heart
Gave rise to great rejoicing.
Rich with much wealth
He enjoys the five desirable objects.
N2. Parable of the close friend waking him up.
The Buddha spoke the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma to all living beings, but they paid no attention to it and forgot it. This is like, for example, someone came here to study the Buddhadharma and was taught the Dharma-door of developing great wisdom and realizing Buddhahood. They listened, all right, but they did not really understand it. Later, they forgot it and went off looking for the Small Vehicle Teaching. Perhaps they ran off to India, Thailand, Ceylon, Burma, Nepal, or Pakistan, looking everywhere for the Buddhadharma. Everywhere they looked, they found only the Small Vehicle Buddhadharma, so they were poor. As poor people, they still had the Great Vehicle seed, because they had studied it before. But they thought the Great Vehicle was very ordinary, and so they did not study it, preferring instead to look for the Small Vehicle. They underwent a lot of hardships and later met the real, genuine Buddhadharma and studied it. The pearl represents the Great Vehicle Dharma.
The friend who gave him the pearl later sees the poor man again. Later, the Buddha runs into the person he taught. And having bitterly rebuked him. "Bitterly" means he said things that were difficult to hear. Underneath his sharp scolding was a very compassionate heart. He appeared to be blowing up at him, but he was really being good to him. You should not think that when someone gets mad at you, it is not good. If someone did not get mad at you under certain circumstances, you would not be motivated to turn away from the small and go towards the great.
The Buddha "bitterly rebukes" or roundly scolds his former student. Before the Buddha can "re-teach" the Great Vehicle Dharma, he “bitterly rebukes” his former students. This means that he goes to all the trouble of teaching the Storehouse Teaching. Then, during the Vaipulya Teaching, he criticizes the one-sided doctrines of the Small Vehicle, rebuking them for their ignorance. He praises the Great Vehicle and lauds the Perfect Teaching.
You may wonder, "Why did he have to go to all that trouble? Why couldn't he just have spoken The Dharma Flower Sutra?"
If he had spoken it then, no one would have accepted it. Only later on, after they had been prepared, could he speak it. He also prepared them with the Prajna Teachings, which open the door of the Great Vehicle. The Buddha's exposition of the Storehouse, Vaipulya, and Prajna Teachings are what is meant by the phrase in the text "bitterly rebuked." These several decades worth of teaching were preparatory to the Buddha's opening of the provisional and revealing the real in speaking The Dharma Flower Sutra.
Shows him the pearl he sewed in his clothing. He makes it clear to you that your friend or relative had hidden a priceless gem inside your clothes. The person who did so is the Buddha. The Buddha observes the world and practices. When affinities in this area end, he goes to other worlds to propagate the Dharma. Although he goes to other worlds to propound the Dharma, he had first explained the Mahayana Dharma for you. You had simply forgotten and failed to cultivate. Just as I had said earlier, this is the same as you traveling to Theravadan nations in search of the Buddhadharma.
The friend points out, "Basically, you should study the Great Vehicle. How come you are studying the Small Vehicle Dharma?" Probably, by this time the person has realized that studying the Small Vehicle is very difficult. So seeing the pearl, the poor man's heart gave rise to great rejoicing. When he sees the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, he is extremely happy.
Rich with much wealth, all the treasures of the Great Vehicle, he enjoys the five desirable objects. Understanding the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma is to be truly wealthy. I just saw Guo Jing studying The Shurangama Sutra. I said to her, "If you can study and master The Shurangama Sutra, then you will be one of great wealth and riches. Truly! If you learn the Buddhadharma by heart, then you are the richest of people." So someone said she had not "gotten" anything. You have obtained a priceless pearl. It is in your robe, but you do not know it! Ha! Really, so you still think you are poor!
Originally, the five desires refer to form, sound, smell, taste, and sensation, but, here they refer to attaining the wonderful doctrine of the Great Vehicle. At that time, you will have gained all possible good advantage. You will be complete with all the wonderful, inconceivable spiritual powers. You will be able to do whatever you want. It is like enjoying an abundance of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, or dharmas, wealth, form, fame, food, or sleep. You will have everything you need. If you want to sleep, you will be able to sleep for several tens of thousands of years. Isn't that wonderful? Mahakashyapa, the First Patriarch, went to Chicken Foot Mountain, in Yunnan, and entered samadhi. That is just about like sleeping, isn't it? He has "slept" for several thousand years. Several tens of thousands of years is not that long, either. It is just the blink of an eye.
If you like to eat, all the best delicacies in the world are yours. If you like fame, you will be the most famous person in the world. If you like wealth, it is everywhere for you. All you have to do is stick out your hand, and gold and jewels are yours. How wonderful would you say that is? How about form? It is everywhere for you. You do not have to try. It is just there for you, whatever you like.
We, too, are like this
In the long night, the World Honored One
Has constantly pitied, seen, taught and transformed us.
Causing us to plant the supreme vows.
But, because we lacked wisdom
We were unaware and did not know,
And, gaining a small portion of Nirvana
We were satisfied and sought nothing more.
M2. Correlation with Dharma.
N1. Correlation with the drunkenness.
We, too, are like this. In the long night, the World Honored One has constantly pitied, seen, taught, and transformed us with his great compassion, causing us to make the supreme resolve for Bodhi, to plant the supreme vows, and to bring forth the supreme Bodhi conduct. These four lines correspond to the analogy of sewing the pearl inside the cloak.
But because we lacked wisdom, we were unaware and did not know. We were terribly ignorant. We did a lot of wrong things. Now we know we are wrong. Having attained the precious pearl, the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma, we know that we were just too stupid, too dumb! Although we were stupid, we did not know we were stupid. We were unaware of the fact. These two lines correspond with the analogy of lying down in a drunken stupor.
And, gaining a small portion of Nirvana, we were satisfied and sought nothing more. We had attained the state of no production and no extinction, Nirvana with residue. We were quite satisfied with this. "That is fine. That is enough." We did not seek the Great Vehicle. We were content with Arhatship, thinking we had put an ultimate end to birth and death.
Now the Buddha has awakened us,
Saying this is not really extinction.
Gaining the Buddha's supreme wisdom,
That is true extinction.
Now, having heard from the Buddha
Of the matters of predictions and adornments,
And these predictions having been bestowed in succession,
We rejoice in body and in mind.
N2. Correlation of the waking up.
Now the Buddha has awakened us saying this is not really extinction. He says, "This is not ultimate extinction. It is a transformed city at the halfway point. It is not real. Gaining the Buddha's supreme wisdom, that is true extinction. That is ultimate Nirvana.
Now, having heard from the Buddha, the Great Vehicle Dharma, of the matters of predictions and adornments; predictions of Buddhahood and the adornments of the Buddhalands, these unusual things. And these predictions having been bestowed in succession. First Subhuti, Shariputra, and so on, and then Ajnatakaundinya and Mahakashyapa, and now us. We rejoice in body and in mind. Because our minds are happy, our bodies are happy, entirely filled with happiness. They were so happy that they forgot their headaches and other minor ailments. They had a great deal of endurance, because they were intent on seeking the Dharma. If you want to get enlightened, you must not fear suffering, difficulty, or any problems. You have to have endurance, and then you will have success.
Someone has just brought forth the Great Vehicle Bodhi mind. He thinks, "The Great Vehicle is really great! From now on, I am certainly going to bring forth the Great Bodhi mind. Think of it: Wonderful use of spiritual powers and the enjoyment of the objects of the five desires! I am going to attain this state, boy! Then I can have whatever I want. Inconceivable! I am going to get it no matter what!"
You are wrong! If you bring forth the mind for the sake of getting such a state, you will soon fall into the hells. Why? It is because you brought forth your mind for the wrong reason, for the five desires. That is a big mistake. What should you do then? Do not bring forth the Bodhi mind seeking the five desires. You should bring forth the mind seeking to get rid of desire. How can you cultivate the Great Vehicle Dharma and still is attached to the five desires? My earlier explanation of the five desires was merely an analogy. You should not take it seriously and start cultivating so that you can sleep for ten thousand years or eat the world's finest food. That is a mistake. Even though the Great Vehicle Bodhisattvas could have such things, they do not want them.
The Sutra speaks of their happiness and comfort in a descriptive phrase as "enjoying the five desires." They would never take pleasure in the five desires. Why not? If you enjoy such states, then you have an attachment. Bodhisattvas have no attachments. If you bring forth the Bodhi mind for the sake of the five desires, then you have not really brought forth the Bodhi mind at all. The Vajra Sutra says, "You should produce an unsupported thought." That means no attachments. It is the demons who cannot put down the five desires. They like wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. Because I noticed that "one and a half" of you were thinking of bringing forth the Bodhi mind for the sake of the five desires, I have clarified this matter for you.
Do not wait until you have fallen into the hells before you wake up. It will then be too late. You should bring forth the "desireless and unattached" Bodhi mind. That is the kind of thought you should have. That is truly bringing forth the Bodhi mind. If you can do this, then in the future you will certainly become a Buddha. You will not fall into the hells. So you must understand the Sutras. Do not just hear the "five desires" and bring forth the Bodhi mind for that. That is being upside down!
Someone hears this and starts crying to themselves, "I had brought forth a very vigorous and courageous resolve. Now it is shot!"
Too bad! Do not cry. You should be happy. You have already got what you were hoping for.
previous * next * Introduction * Contents
return to top