The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 9: Bestowing Predictions Upon Those Studying and Those Beyond Study
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Bestowing predictions means they get predictions of Buddhahood. Previously, the great disciples, the five hundred Arhats received predictions, and the 1,250 disciples received predictions. Now those studying, that is those who have attained first, second and third stage Arhatship, receive predictions. "Studying" refers to those who are investigating the true principle and practicing it as well. It is not enough to simply study and understand. Unless you practice, you cannot cut off the coarse and fine delusions like dust and sand. As students, they yearn for the supreme understanding, something ordinary people do not have. Those at the stage of study are Srotrapanna of the first fruition, Sakridagamin of the second fruition, and Anagamin of the third fruition, the first three fruits of Arhatship. Those of the first fruit are said to be at the position of seeing the Way. Those of the second and third fruits are said to be at the position of cultivating the Way. Fourth fruit is said to be the stage beyond study.
Those beyond study have exhaustively studied the truth and have cut off all delusions. In this chapter there are two thousand both studying and beyond study; they are not included as part of the twelve hundred fifty who received predictions in the last chapter. This is the ninth of the twenty-eight chapters in The Dharma Flower Sutra.
At that time Ananda and Rahula had this thought, “We have often thought how happy we would be if we received predictions!”
G2. Predictions for the two thousand.
H1. Requesting the prediction.
I1. Two people make requests.
J1. The silent request.
At that time, after Chapter Eight had been spoken, the Venerable Ananda and the Venerable Rahula got nervous. Seeing the other disciples get predictions, they could not wait anymore. You all know Ananda was foremost in learning. Why was this? Originally, he was a fellow-cultivator with Shakyamuni Buddha. They both made vows to cultivate at the same time under the Buddha, Emptiness-King. Shakyamuni Buddha cultivated the Six Perfections and Ten Thousand Conducts. He was vigorous and did not retreat. Ananda was fond of learning, and as a result, Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha and Ananda became his attendant, protecting his Dharma. Ananda's name means "rejoicing." It is because he was born on the day that the Buddha realized Buddhahood. The birth of Ananda and the Buddha's enlightenment were both causes for rejoicing.
Rahula was the Buddha's son. Not only was he Shakyamuni Buddha's son, but he will be the son of all the thousand Buddhas to appear in this, the Worthy Kalpa. He made this vow to be the son of every Buddha. This is a result of his vow power. His name is also Sanskrit and means "covering obstacle". Rahula was in his mother's womb for six years before he was finally born. This is because in a past life, a long, long time ago, he tried to catch a mouse. This mouse ran very fast. He chased it until it finally ran into a mouse hole. He had a club and intended to club it to death.
Anyway, the mouse ran for about half an hour before it ran into a mouse hole. The hole was crooked, so he could not stick the club in to get the mouse. Then he had a dumb idea. He plugged up the hole with a brick. "If I cannot club you to death, I will just keep you prisoner in here." He kept the mouse in the hole for six days, before he finally had a compassionate thought. "That poor little mouse has suffered a lot in there for six days. Probably, he does not have anything to eat in there. I had better let him out." And he removed the brick and let the mouse out. Because the mouse was in the hole for six days, Rahula received the karmic retribution of being in his mother's womb for six years.
You ask, "Will he have to be in the womb for six years every time he gets born as the son of the Buddha?" You should not worry about it. It was his retribution. He was not that put out about it. He still was pretty happy. Besides, karmic obstacles sometimes last for many lifetimes. One may receive a single retribution for many lives, receive many retributions for many lives, or many retributions in one life. It is sometimes possible to exhaust a particular retribution in a single lifetime. Sometimes people have to undergo many kinds of retribution throughout many lifetimes. Rahula may or may not have other karmic obstacles to undergo. It is not fixed. Such questions are not really any of our business, and we do not need to have false thinking about it anyway.
So, Ananda and Rahula had this thought, struck up some false thinking, “We have often thought how happy we would be if we received predictions! Wouldn't that be great? We would be so happy!”
I just said that they had a false thought, but you should not assume, "Oh, even the Arhats have false thinking. No wonder I do." The false thoughts of Arhats are a lot different from our false thoughts. You should not be so shameless and think it is okay for you to have false thinking. Arhats do not think at all. They might occasionally give rise to a thought, but it is based on the primary principle. They are not like us who just have one false thought after another all day long. Who knows how many millions of false thought we have? For them, you could say that even by giving rise to one thought they are false thinking, because they are always in samadhi and never give rise to thought. Their false thoughts are nothing like ours, let me tell you.
"You mean there are different kinds of false thinking?"
If there were not, we could not call the Arhats, Arhats.
Then out of their seats, they went before the Buddha, bowed with their heads at his feet, and said, “World Honored One, we, too, should have a share in this, for it is only to the Thus Come One that we go for refuge.”
J2. The spoken request.
K1. Leading up to the request.
Then out of their seats, they went before the Buddha, bowed with their heads at his feet, and said, they spoke in unison, "World Honored One, we, too, should have a share in this. We should share in these predictions, don't you suppose? We are here in this Dharma Assembly too, so we should get a prediction. For it is only to the Thus Come One that we go for refuge. We only trust in and rely upon the Buddha."
“Further, we are seen, known and recognized by the gods, people and asuras in all the worlds. Ananda is always your attendant, protecting and upholding the treasury of Dharma. Rahula is the Buddha's son. If the Buddha would see fit to bestow upon us a prediction for anuttarasamyaksambodhi, our wishes would be fulfilled and the hopes of the assembly would be satisfied.”
K2. Expressing their wish.
Further, we are seen, known, and recognized by the gods, people, and asuras in all the worlds. They all recognize us, Ananda and Rahula, and the two thousand studying and beyond study, as good knowing advisors. Ananda is always your attendant, protecting and upholding the treasury of Dharma. Ananda is always helping the Buddha and taking care of all the treasury of the Buddha's Dharma. Rahula is the Buddha's son. If the Buddha would see fit to bestow upon us a prediction for anuttarasamyaksambodhi; if the Buddha would be compassionate and predict our attainment of the utmost right and perfect enlightenment, the Buddha position, our wishes would be fulfilled. We would have obtained what we wanted, a prediction. And the hopes of the assembly, two thousand of us, would be satisfied as well.
Then, the two thousand Hearer disciples, those who were studying and those beyond study, all rose from their seats, bared their right shoulders, and went before the Buddha. Singlemindedly, they put their palms together and gazed at the World Honored One, expressing the same wish as Ananda and Rahula. Then they withdrew to one side.
I2. The two thousand make a request.
Then, after Ananda and Rahula had spoken to the Buddha, the two thousand Hearer disciples, those who were studying and those beyond study, those of the Two Vehicles, all rose from their seats, bared their right shoulders, and went before the Buddha. Singlemindedly, they put their palms together. They all had the same mind. Their minds had turned to one. They had no false thinking. They had one thought. That one thought was the same as Ananda and Rahula's thought. Putting their palms together represents their singlemindedness. It is also called "uniting the ten" (fingers).
And gazed at the World Honored One. They had the same wish as Ananda and Rahula, expressing the same wish as Ananda and Rahula. Then they withdrew to one side. They were silent, but their intent was the same as Ananda's and Rahula's. Their message got through even though they did not speak. If they had each spoken, it would have taken way too long for two thousand of them to make their requests, so they used Ananda and Rahula as their representatives. "We two thousand agree with them. We want what they want."
At that time the Buddha told Ananda, “You in a future age shall become a Buddha by the name of “King of Self Mastery and Penetrations With Wisdom Like the Mountains and Seas Thus Come One,” One Worthy of Offerings, One of Right and Universal Knowledge, One Whose Clarity and Conduct are Complete, Well-Gone One Who Understands the World, Unsurpassed Lord, a Subduing and Taming Hero, Teacher of Gods and People, Buddha, The World Honored One. You shall make offerings to sixty-two million Buddhas, protecting and upholding their storehouses of Dharma.
After that, you shall obtain anuttarasamyaksambodhi. You shall teach and transform twenty thousand myriads of millions of Ganges’ sands of Bodhisattvas, causing them to accomplish anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Your country shall be called ‘Banner of Victory Always Raised.’
This land will be pure with lapis lazuli for soil. The kalpa shall be called ‘All Pervasive Wonderful Sound.’ This Buddha’s life span shall be limitless thousands of myriads of millions of asamkhyeyaeons. Were someone to attempt to reckon it through thousands of myriads of millions of limitless asamkhyeyaeons, they could not do so. The Proper Dharma shall dwell in the world for twice that length of time. The Dharma Image Age shall dwell twice the length of the Proper Dharma.”
“Ananda, the merit and virtue of the “Buddha King of Self Mastery and Penetrations With Wisdom Like the Mountains and Seas” shall be praised by all the Buddhas of the ten directions equal in number to the sands of limitless thousands of myriads of millions of Ganges Rivers.”
H2. Bestowing the prediction.
I1. Predictions for the two people.
J1. Prediction for Ananda.
At that time the Buddha told Ananda: You in a future age shall become a Buddha by the name of “King of Self Mastery and Penetrations with Wisdom Like the Mountains and Seas Thus Come One.” Because Ananda's wisdom is as high as a mountain and as vast as the sea, he will have this name. One Worthy of Offerings, One of Right and Universal Knowledge--he knows, as well, that the mind gives birth to all Dharma. That is right knowledge. He also knows that the ten thousand dharmas are but the mind, that is, universal knowledge.
One Whose Clarity and Conduct are Complete--his wisdom and cultivation are both perfect. Well-Gone One Who Understands the World--he has obtained liberation from the mundane. Unsurpassed Lord--the Buddha is the Unsurpassed Lord. There is no one higher than the Buddha is. The Bodhisattvas are called “surpassed lords”, because the Buddha is above them. A Subduing and Taming Hero--He subdues living beings throughout the three realms. He is a teacher of Gods in the heavens and people below, a Buddha. The Buddha has completed the three kinds of enlightenment: self-enlightenment, the enlightenment of others, and the perfection of enlightenment and practice. Of the Buddha it is said:
Having perfected three kinds of enlightenment,
And complete with the myriad virtues,
He is, therefore, called “The Buddha.”
The World Honored One, the Buddha, is honored both in and beyond the world.
You shall make offerings to sixty-two million Buddhas, protecting and upholding their storehouses of Dharma. That is a big job. How will he do it? He will have many methods, not just one. The Dharma Storehouse means the Tripitika, the precious store of Buddhadharma. After that, you shall obtain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the utmost right and perfect enlightenment. You shall teach and transform twenty thousand myriads of millions of Ganges’ sands of Bodhisattvas, causing them to accomplish anuttarasamyaksambodhi. They will all bring forth the Bodhi mind, cultivate the Bodhisattva Path, and certify to the sagely position. All the Bodhisattvas will gain the Buddha-position.
Your country shall be called “Banner of Victory Always Raised.” In India, those who debated would carry a flag to show that they were always victorious. Seeing the flag, everyone was supposed to figure that they could not beat its carrier. Ananda was foremost in learning and skilled in debate. In The Shurangama Sutra we see evidence of Ananda's debating skills. Just when it would seem that the Buddha had straightened him out, he would think of another angle and ask another question. This happened again and again.
This land will be pure, without any impurities. It will not be like our world, the world of the five turbidities, which is filled with filth. The five turbidities will not exist in this pure, clean land, with lapis lazuli for soil. We think that a plate glass window is very fine, but in Ananda's land the soil will be made of precious lapis lazuli. There will not be any dirt there at all. The kalpa shall be called “All Pervasive Wonderful Sound.” Ananda was foremost in erudition and had a beautiful voice too. When he talked everyone liked to listen. He is not like me. When I speak, some like to listen, others do not. Some people run away as soon as they hear my voice! Other people can stand it. But Ananda's voice sounds even better than music!
We all know that music hath charms. Good musicians can put their listeners in a trance. People are so happy to hear them play or sing that they do not want to leave. It is as if they were drunk or on drugs--they just sit there, numb. You cannot get them to move if you try.
Everybody liked to hear the sound of Ananda's voice. Men, women, bad, and good people, children and adults--all liked to listen to him talk. His "sound" was especially beautiful. That is why his eon will be called “All Pervasive Wonderful Sound” when he becomes a Buddha.
This Buddha's life span shall be limitless thousands of myriads of millions of asamkhyeya eons. One asamkhyeya eon is a limitless duration of time, that is, thousands of myriads of millions of infinity. How long is that? I do not know. It is a long time.
Were someone to attempt to reckon it through thousands of myriads of millions of limitless asamkhyeya eons, they could not do so. The Proper Dharma shall dwell in the world for twice that length of time. That Buddha's life will be an uncountable number of eons long, and the Proper Dharma will dwell twice that long. The Dharma Image Age shall dwell twice the length of the Proper Dharma. Ultimately, how long is that? Since I never studied higher math, I really cannot say. But, even a mathematician with the use of the most advanced computers could not figure it out.
Ananda, the merit and virtue of the “Buddha King of Self Mastery and Penetrations With Wisdom Like the Mountains and Seas” shall be praised by all the Buddhas of the ten directions equal in number to the sands of limitless thousands of myriads of millions of Ganges Rivers. Ananda really liked to praise the Buddhas. He spoke highly of them all. Take a look at his verse in The Shurangama Sutra:
O wonderful deep Dharani, unmoving Honored One.
The Foremost Shurangama King is seldom found in the world.
May it melt away all my upside down thinking,
So I don't have to pass through asamkhyeya eons to attain the Dharma body.
In these three sentences Ananda praises the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Since he praised all the Buddhas, when he becomes a Buddha, all the Buddhas will praise him.
No wonder when people hear one sentence of praise it is sweeter than honey. If you say, "He is really bad," they feel as if they have been poisoned. If even the Buddhas like praise--and Ananda will be praised by many Buddhas--it is not surprising that people like praise. The Buddhas will say of Ananda, "This Buddha in the past protected the Buddha's Dharma storehouses. He made offerings to the Triple Jewel under countless Buddhas. When Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, he was his attendant, and when all the Buddhas appeared after that, he was their attendant too. Now he has become a Buddha. You living beings should revere, make offering to, and praise him." That is what all the Buddhas throughout the ten directions will say to living beings to exhort them to believe in him. He will receive the Buddhas' praise, because in the past he praised them.
At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this principle, spoke verses saying:
“Now in the midst of the Sangha, I say,
That Ananda, who upholds the Dharma,
Shall make offerings to all the Buddhas
And afterwards realize Right Enlightenment.
His name will be The Buddha, King of Self Mastery and Penetrations
With Wisdom Like the Mountains and Seas.
His country shall be pure;
Called “Banner of Victory Always Raised.”
He shall teach and transform the Bodhisattvas,
Uncountable in number.
This Buddha shall have great awesome virtue,
And his name shall be known throughout the ten directions.
His life span shall be limitless in length,
Because of his pity for living beings.
The Proper Dharma shall dwell twice as long as his life span,
And the Dharma Image Age will last twice that again.
Countless living beings,
Their number like the Ganges' sands,
Shall plant the causal condition of the Buddha Path,
Within this Buddha's Dharma.”
K2 . The verse.
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this principle, spoke verses, saying:
Now, in the midst of the Sangha, I say. I announce to all of you Bhikshus the causes and conditions of Ananda's prediction. That Ananda, who upholds the Dharma, the Dharma-storehouse of all the Buddhas, (The Venerable Ananda is a powerful Protector of the Dharma. He has amassed considerable merit and virtue) shall make offerings to all the Buddhas. He will serve them throughout his lifetime. This means that from birth he was trained in the Dharma, and he pursued the study of it all his life up until his death without ever changing his principles.
He was not like people of the present day who study the Dharma for two and a half days, find it boring, and run off. Running away is not exactly what you would call "serving the Buddhas throughout one's lifetime" or "protecting and upholding the Dharma treasury." The more you run, the further away you get from the Buddha Path, and eventually you will fall. Ananda served the Triple Jewel all his life. According to his vows, he served the Triple Jewel wherever he encountered it. He was able to put down all of his "other interests" to study the Dharma. Therefore, Ananda's features were very handsome. The Buddha had the thirty-two marks of a great man, and Ananda had thirty of them. He also had a wonderful voice. When he spoke he sounded more beautiful than the Kalavinka birds in the Land of Ultimate Bliss!
And afterwards realize Right Enlightenment, become a Buddha. His name will be the Buddha, King of Self Mastery and Penetrations With Wisdom Like the Mountains and Seas. His wisdom will be even deeper than the seas and higher than the mountains.
His country shall be pure without any filth. His country will be called "Banner of Victory Always Raised." He shall teach and transform the Bodhisattvas, uncountable in number. This Buddha shall have great awesome virtue. He will have mighty spiritual power, comfort, and penetrations. And his name shall be known throughout the ten directions. His Buddha name will fill the ten directions. The ten-direction Buddhas will be delighted with this Buddha. Now, you should understand why people in the world are so crazy about fame! People go nut seeking after name, seeking to imitate the Buddhas’ renown.
His life span shall be limitless in length because of his pity for living beings. Why will he have such a long life? Does this mean that he has the mark of a life span? Does the Buddha want long life spans? No. This Buddha will live a long time because of his compassionate concern for living beings. The Proper Dharma shall dwell twice as long as his life span. And the Dharma Image Age will last twice that again.
Countless living beings, their number like the Ganges' sands, shall plant the causal condition of the Buddha Path within this Buddha’s Dharma. You and I may have a chance to be with Ananda when he is a Buddha. You should believe that you have great causal affinities with the Venerable Ananda. If you did not, you would not be able to hear The Dharma Flower Sutra and learn about how beautiful his voice is and how handsome he is. So, you certainly have great affinities with Ananda. Probably, in the future, we will get to meet him.
Hearing this passage of Sutra text, someone has been thinking, "What is with all these incalculable, uncountable numbers? Great eons like Ganges' sands. I have never heard such things before." I am not going to address my words to the problem of your disbelief. I am just going to tell a story by way of illustration:
Long ago there was a very rich man who had a son. The son did not understand anything at all. None of his tutors had any success with him. They could not even teach him one single word, let alone teach him how to read. The rich man said, "I will hire a tutor to teach him to read one single word. If he can do that, I will pay him well." So he hired a teacher for the boy and told him, "You have one year's time to teach him to read one single word. Do not bother trying to teach him more than that; one word will be enough. If he can read a single word, I will give you double your salary."
"Great!" the teacher thought.
"Perhaps, but he has to be able to read that one word, otherwise you do not get paid."
"Okay," said the teacher, and he signed the contract and set about trying to teach him the number "1". He taught it to him every single day. Everyday the boy read the number "1", wrote it out, read it again, and wrote it out again. The teacher kept teaching it to him for a whole year. "1,1,1,1,1." At the end of a year the boy knew the number very well. He was very clear about it.
At the end of the year, the father invited the teacher to lunch. Then the three of them went for a walk in the garden. At what he felt an appropriate moment, the father, in a whisper, asked the teacher, "Say, can he read a word yet? Did you succeed?"
"Sure!" he said.
"Then let us test him out," said the father.
The teacher then drew the number "1" with his foot in the dirt real big, about six feet tall. "What does that say?" he asked the boy.
"That is not a word," the boy said, “that is a pole!"
"BUT I HAVE TAUGHT YOU THIS WORD EVERY DAY FOR A WHOLE YEAR!" the teacher said.
"That is not the word you taught me. The one you taught me was not that big!"
The teacher ran off in great agitation, minus his salary. Would you say that the big number one and the one the teacher taught him were the same? It is the same with the astronomical figures in the Sutras. They are the same. You just do not understand them, because they are so big!
At that time, the eight thousand newly resolved Bodhisattvas within the Assembly all had this thought: “We have never heard even great Bodhisattvas receive predictions such as this. For what reasons have the Hearers received such directions?”
K3. Those newly resolved have a doubt.
I mentioned above that someone had a doubt. It is no wonder. Look here in the text: The eight thousand Bodhisattvas all had doubts too. They all wondered why Shakyamuni Buddha was being so partial to his younger cousin, giving him a prediction, when they did not get one. So they had a doubt. At that time, the eight thousand newly resolved Bodhisattvas had a thought. "Newly resolved" means that they were young. How old were they? Oh, probably seven or eight thousand years old. These Bodhisattvas had already passed through several great eons, but they had just obtained the roaming and playing samadhi of the Bodhisattvas.
Within the Assembly all had this thought, a false thought. What was that? We have never heard even great Bodhisattvas receive predictions such as this. In saying "all the great Bodhisattvas" they are including themselves, of course. We never heard the Buddha give us predictions. For what reason, why? Why have the Hearers received such directions? Why have these little Hearers received predictions? They are called "little Hearers," but they are anywhere from seventy to one hundred sixty years old. They are called "little" because the state of a Hearer is very small compared with the state of a Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattvas can think of them as "little" Hearers. In speaking, they would still call them "great Bhikshus,” because the Buddha even calls them "great Bhikshus" after all. But they think of them as still being "wet behind the ears."
Then the World Honored One, knowing the thoughts in the minds of the Bodhisattvas, spoke to them, saying, “Good sons, Ananda and I, in the presence of the Buddha Emptiness King, simultaneously brought forth the thought of anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Ananda always took delight in learning, while I was always diligent and vigorous. Therefore, I have already realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi, and Ananda protects and upholds my Dharma. He will also protect the Dharma storehouses of all the Buddhas of the future, teaching, transforming and bringing to accomplishment the multitudes of Bodhisattvas. Since his past vow was such as this, he has therefore obtained this prediction.”
K4. The Thus Come One resolves the doubt.
Then the World Honored One, knowing the thoughts in the minds of the Bodhisattvas; he knew what false thinking they were having. "They all have doubts, so I will explain it to them." The Buddha had the knowledge of others' thoughts, and so he knew the Bodhisattvas were having false thoughts.
"No wonder, Dharma Master, you said that I was having doubts about those big numbers. Probably you have the penetration of others' thoughts."
I have the penetration of my own thoughts, but I do not have the penetration of others' thoughts. Ha!
Spoke to them, saying: Good Sons, you good kids, Ananda and I, me Shakyamuni Buddha and Ananda who represents all the great Hearer Bhikshus, in the presence of the Buddha Emptiness King, that is limitless millions of millions of eons ago, simultaneously brought forth the thought of anuttarasamyaksambodhi.They made vows together. To bring forth the thought is to make vows, to make vows is to bring forth the thought. Thoughts are vows, as vows are thoughts. To make the resolve for anuttarasamyaksambodhi is to bring forth the thought for Bodhi, which is to bring forth the thought for the most supreme, right, and proper enlightenment.
Ananda always took delight in learning. Ananda liked to read and study the Buddhadharma. While I was always diligent and vigorous. I was never lazy. I was constantly cultivating the Dharma-door of vigor. Therefore, I have already realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi. I became a Buddha before Ananda. And Ananda protects and upholds my Dharma. He will also protect the Dharma storehouses of all the limitless Buddhas of the future, teaching, transforming, and bringing to accomplishment the multitudes of Bodhisattvas. Since his past vow made during the time of the Buddha Emptiness King was such as this, he therefore obtained this prediction and had not yet become a Buddha. I have given him this prediction of Buddhahood.
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