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The Earth Spirit Protects the Dharma
The earth spirit that is referred to in this chapter is called “Firm and Stable”. What is firm? The earth is firm. What is solid? The earth is solid. Now we are standing on earth like ants on a great boat. The numerous ants would not make the boat rock back and forth, because they do not have enough strength to do so. Earth is hanging in space; the atmosphere and air are holding it in place, so it will not break. It is like a great boat in the ocean.
There are a great number of earth spirits. When Shakyamuni Buddha was speaking the Agama Sutra, the earth spirit, Firm and Stable, appeared to listen to the Dharma. But this earth spirit was very arrogant and haughty. He said, “In the whole universe, I’m the only earth spirit, and there are no other spirits.” But Shakyamuni Buddha replied, “You are not the only earth spirit. There are also water spirits, fire spirits, and wind spirits.” This earth spirit was not pleased to hear the Buddha’s answer, and said in an arrogant tone, “How come there are other spirits? Everything is supported by earth; they have no right to be called spirits.”
Shakyamuni Buddha then talked about water spirits, fire spirits, and wind spirits. Using various means, the Buddha finally persuaded the earth spirit. He took refuge with the Triple Jewels, and lost h is haughtiness. In space, there are four elemental spirits: the earth spirits, the water spirits, the fire spirits, and the wind spirits. Humans are composed of the four elements; each of these four spirits gives every individual a little bit of water, fire, wind, and earth, forming a body.
The word “earth” has two meanings. First, in terms of “phenomenon”: earth is the start of everything; it gives birth to all things, and supports them. In terms of “noumenon”: earth has four virtues--permanence, happiness, purity, and true self. What is permanence? Systems are the door of earth, which never changes. Permanence, therefore, is a virtuous quality of earth. Earth supports all things; everything exists by the power of earth. Happiness, therefore, is a virtuous quality to earth. Earth can give life to all things. Things growing out of the earth are pure and untainted--the virtue of purity. The earth is at ease; which is a virtuous quality of the true self. The earth spirits enjoy these four virtues.
The second meaning is in terms of “noumenon”. When the Buddha was speaking the eleventh chapter of the Earth Store Sutra, the earth spirit vowed to protect everyone who recites Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name, who recites the Earth Store Sutra and who enjoys good roots. This is why this chapter is called “the Dharma Protection of the Earth Spirits”.
Today is a very special day, graduation day for the summer session. Time flies by so quickly, in a blink of an eye, six weeks have gone. It is impossible to turn back time and repeat these six weeks. We will have to wait until next year for another summer. Although the time remains the same, it will be a different year. We will be one year older, and yet one year closer to death. The numbers exist, but there seems to be minimal difference between time experienced versus time to come.
As our age increases by one year, our remaining years of life decreases by one year. For instance, a 40 year-old is meant to live until 80, so at the age of 39, he has 41 years left to live. One year passes, at the age of 40, he only has 40 years left to live. This is half and half. Is time not meaningless when pondered in this manner? Although some of your time spent this year was very meaningful and worthwhile. Why? You have deposited Buddhist teachings into your brain, planting them into your field of Eighth Consciousness. Once bodhi seeds are planted and bodhi sprouts develop, we bear bodhi fruits in the future, realizing Buddhahood.
At the same time, I need to tell you: something peculiar will happen. Let us take your parents, for example. They do not bother you at all when you learn to be degenerate. They figure they will let you go free. They treat you fine. However, when you want to be good and to study Buddhism, their temper seeps out, criticizing everything about you. They ignored your taking drugs, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes, figuring that you will get over it. Now that you are over it, they are upset. They say, “You want to be good, then you must be filial to your parents. Let me scold you, hit you, or treat you poorly now!” Are troubles headed your way?
Actually this is a test to see whether you really want to be good. If so, the more they criticize you or hit you, the more pleased you would be. Just remember not to cry. Seeing how happy you are, their temper will disappear; otherwise you will be in big trouble. Treat everything as a test on whether you know how to apply the Buddhadharma you learned: whether you are patient, keep the precepts, give, are diligent, meditate and are wise? If you pass these tests, you will earn boundless benefits; if you fail, you will have start over.
These six weeks are gold. Keep it now that you have it; do not lose it. You will be different from others. How? I don’t mean for you to be arrogant, thinking, “I’m a Buddha, I want others to bow to me.” Don’t put on airs. Be compassionate and patient toward everyone. Be better to someone who is not nice to you. Regardless whether someone is nice to you, watch your own faults and not the faults of others. “Mahasattvas do not care about others; Amitabha takes care of himself.” You take care of yourself, OK!
Today concludes the six week summer session, but not the sutra lectures. I do not know when I will finish the lecture series. It will be done when I stop breathing. Everyday that I breathe is every day that I propagate the Dharma. Dharma propagation resumes every evening.
We resume to lecturing on the Earth Store Sutra at 12:30 on Saturdays at Jyushiling, the Great Compassion Dharani Sutra from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and the Earth Store Sutra in the evenings. I will be explaining the Earth Store Sutra tonight. I used to lecture on the Dharma Flower Sutra Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings; however, since I have three chapters, including this chapter, on the Earth Store Sutra left, I would like to finish it before the shramanera and the shramanerika go to Taiwan to request the precepts. Since I would not be able to finish the Dharma Flower Sutra before then, I will rush through the Earth Store Sutra before I get to the Dharma Flower Sutra next.
It’s not time for the Avatamsaka Sutra yet; we will need to wait on that. Thursday evenings so and so and others may lecture. In general, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings are times for you to practice lecturing on the sutras and share part of my load. Don’t make me do so much work, wearing me out and turning my hair grey. My hair became black not too long ago. I don’t want it grey again. So let’s resume our former evening lecture schedule.
At that time, the Earth Spirit Firm and Stable addressed the Buddha thus, “World Honored One, since long ago I have personally beheld and bowed to limitless numbers of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas. All of them have inconceivably great spiritual penetrations and wisdom that they use in taking across vast numbers of beings. Among all the Bodhisattvas, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva has made the deepest and weightiest vows. World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has great affinities with beings in Jambudvipa. Manjushri, Universal Worthy [Samantabhadra], Contemplator of the World’s Sounds [Avalokiteshvara, Guanyin], and Maitreya also manifest hundreds of thousands of transformation bodies to rescue those in the Six Paths, but their vows will ultimately be fulfilled. Earth Store Bodhisattva keeps renewing his vows to teach and transform beings in the Six Paths throughout eons as numerous as the number of sand grains in thousands of billions of Ganges Rivers.
At that time, the Earth Spirit Firm and Stable, the Dharma guardian of this chapter, vowed to protect the Dharma. He addressed the Buddha thus, “World Honored One, since long ago...From limitless eons ago until now, I have personally beheld, without removing my gaze, andbowed to limitless numbers of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas…I saw a great number of Bodhisattvas before, and I bowed to a large number of Bodhisattvas. Mahasattvas are all great Bodhisattvas.
All of them have inconceivably great spiritual penetrations and wisdom…these great Bodhisattvas all have great wisdom. One must have great wisdom to cultivate the Great Vehicle. What is the Great Vehicle? It is an inconceivable state. Their spiritual penetrations and wisdom are limitless. The unfathomablepowers that they use in taking across vast numbers of beings… they deliver all beings to perfection.
Among all the Bodhisattvas, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva… all these great Bodhisattvas deliver all beings to the shore of perfection, one among all Bodhisattvas…is Earth Store Bodhisattva. Among all the great Bodhisattvas, he has made the deepest and weightiest vows. He said, “Unless the hells are emptied, I will not become a Buddha. Until all beings are saved, I will not realize Bodhi.” The power of this vow is particularly profound and substantial.
World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has great affinities with beings in Jambudvipa. Manjushri, Universal Worthy [Samantabhadra] Bodhisattva, Contemplator of the World’s Sounds [Avalokiteshvara, Guanyin] Bodhisattva, and Maitreya Bodhisattva also manifest hundreds of thousands of transformation bodies to rescue those in the Six Paths…They vowed to deliver every being of the Six Path to Buddhahood. But their vows will ultimately be fulfilled…
Although the power of their vows is tremendous, it will be depleted one day, the day when their vows are realized. Earth Store Bodhisattva keeps renewing his vows to teach and transform beings in the Six Paths…he vowed to teach the beings in the Six Paths: heavenly beings, human, asuras, beings in the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals throughout eons as numerous as the number of sand grains in thousands of billions of Ganges Rivers…the vows he made and the eons he lived are as numerous as the number of sand grains in trillions of Ganges rivers.
“World Honored One, as I regard beings of the present and future, I see those who make shrines of clay, stone, bamboo, or wood and set them on pure ground in the southern part of their dwellings. They place within the shrines images of Earth Store Bodhisattva, either sculpted or painted, or made of gold, silver, copper, or iron. Then they burn incense, make offerings, behold, worship, and praise him. By doing those things, such people will receive ten kinds of benefits for their dwellings.
“What are those ten? First, their lands will be fertile. Second, their families and homes will always be peaceful. Third, their ancestors will be born in the heavens. Fourth, those of the current generation will enjoy benefits and long lives. Fifth, they will easily obtain what they want. Sixth, they will not encounter disasters of water and fire. Seventh, they will avoid unforeseen calamities. Eighth, they will never have nightmares. Ninth, they will be protected by spirits in their daily comings and goings. Tenth, they will create many causes that lead to sagehood.
The earth spirit, Firm and Stable, said: World Honored One, as I regard beings of the present and future…I see all beings in the present and in the future. I see those who make shrines of clay, stone, bamboo, or wood and set them on pure ground in the southern part of their dwellings. They place within the shrines images of Earth Store Bodhisattva, either sculpted or painted, or made of gold, silver, copper, or iron. Then they burn incense, make offerings, behold, worship, and praise him…Come and gaze in adoration.
For instance, Bodhisattva when a man likes a woman, he will look and look, look and look again. Or when a woman likes a man, she will look and look, look and look again. This kind of looking is impure, consisting of lust. Transform thoughts of lust into wisdom. Gaze admiringly at Earth Store Bodhisattva with the purity of wisdom. This is the way to look; do not look the way men and women in love look. Gazing in admiration is a pure and natural force. We say, “Oh! The power of Earth Store Bodhisattva’s vows are huge! We should all believe in Earth Store Bodhisattva. Okay! Let’s all recite the Earth Store Sutra and bow to him!” So, let me send an Earth Store Bodhisattva home with you so that you may look and look, look until you become Buddhas, become Earth Store Bodhisattva. By doing those things, such people will receive ten kinds of benefits for their dwellings.
What are those ten? First, their lands will be fertile…One, the excellent soil is rich and fertile. Anything planted in this piece of land will grow and be big. Land in Alaska is like this, growing extremely long cucumbers. That is fertile.
Second, their families and homes will always be peaceful…Besides owning bountiful lands, they enjoy peace in their residence. What good is fertile land if the dwelling place is not peaceful? For these people, homes built on these lands never have to worry about earthquakes. So-and-so said if I were going to Minnesota, she will come with me. How come she does not bother to ask her husband for his preference? She said if I leave San Francisco, earthquakes might occur, so she wants to follow me to Minnesota. This benefit refers to everlasting peace in these individuals’ families and homes.
Third, their ancestors will be born in the heavens…This means our deceased parents, perhaps as far back as those in seven of our lifetimes, will become reborn in the heavens. How come they will reborn in the heavens? It is due to your worshipping, gazing at, bowing and believing in Earth Store Bodhisattva. Consequently our families and homes are forever peaceful, our lands are fertile, and our ancestors become reborn in the heavens.
Fourth, those of the current generation will enjoy benefits and long lives… Some may doubt this: I will not necessarily see the deceased become reborn in the heavens. This may just be your claim. Do you want to see it? Cultivate! When you acquire the Heavenly Eye, you will be able to see. Now let us not talk about what you cannot see; now let us talk about what you can see. Your parents were meant to live until fifty, but are now eighty years old; or if they were meant to live until eighty, but are now 100. Their lifes are extended.
I will tell you a true story. Fortune tellers told a laywoman’s father that he will definitely die by the age of 79. He was afraid and came to take refuge. He took refuge with certain conditions; he wanted me to make him live another ten years. I said, “Fine, ten years! No problem.” I made him that promise so that he lived until the age of 91, another twelve years. I told him then, “I guarantee that you will live twelve more years if you listen to me and conduct yourself according to the teachings.” Who knows whether what I said was true or not, but he did not die at the age of 79. He lived for another twelve years and died at the age of 91. His wife and two daughters also became Buddhists. Everybody knows this story, but there is just a bit of uncertainty: is this real?
Fifth, they will easily obtain what they want…Those in the present may enjoy benefits and longer lives, but that is other people. I do not gain anything by it. Now here is something that is good for you. Your wishes come true. For example, one thing that most people think is most critical may be a man or a woman’s hope for a good spouse. He or she will get their wish. This is an issue for laypeople. What about monastics? They will be good monks and nuns, getting their wish. If you say, “I’m not interested in any of these.” Find something that interests you and the related wishes will come true.