THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Sutra:

“Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One told the worthy woman, ‘After you make your offerings, return home quickly. Sit upright and concentrate on my name. You will soon know where your mother has been reborn.’ The Brahman woman bowed to the Buddha and returned home. The memory of her mother sustained her as she sat upright recollecting Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One.

“After doing so for a day and a night, she suddenly saw herself beside a sea whose waters seethed and bubbled. Many evil beasts with iron bodies flew swiftly back and forth above this sea. She saw billions of men and women bobbing up and down in the sea, being fought over, seized, and eaten by the evil beasts. She saw yakshas with different shapes. Some had many hands, some many eyes, some many legs, some many heads. With their sharp fangs, they drove the offenders on toward the evil beasts.

Commentary:

“Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One told the worthy Brahman woman, ‘After you make your offerings, return home quickly because you have hurt yourself badly due to the fall. What should you do once you get home? Sit upright even though you broke your arms and legs, and concentrate on my name, Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. You will soon know where your mother has been reborn.’ The Brahman woman bowed to the Buddha and returned home. The memory of her mother sustained her, since she was so sincere in thinking about her mother, as she sat upright recollecting Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. She sat up so straight, she forgot her pain and her broken arms and legs. “After doing so for a day and a night. She was not kneeling, she sat for 24 hours, simply reciting the Buddha’s name and nothing else.

At that time, she suddenly saw herself beside a sea. This was not a dream. This was a result of her utmost sincerity, her spiritual nature, her consciousness or her soul. In general, all these terms are one. The spiritual nature is the Eighth Consciousness in the individual. Since the Brahman woman sat for a long time, she forgot her pain and stopped everything except that one thought of the Buddha. Sincere in this thought, the Eighth Consciousness left her body. She suddenly saw herself by a sea. A meditator may see certain states because the Eighth Consciousness leaves the body. If your Five Eyes are open, you will see ghosts, spirits, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas; you will not, otherwise. Cultivators’ spiritual nature (Eighth Consciousness) contains the Five Eyes within. If the spiritual nature leaves the physical body, the Five Eyes open so that they can see different states. This holy Brahman woman must have cultivated for a long time because even though the Five Eyes on her physical body did not open, her Eighth Consciousness left the body so that she can all of a sudden see herself by the sea whose waters seethed and bubbled. This sea water is not cool but boiling hot, surging upwards. How many evil beasts are in this ocean? Never mind with that, just know that there are many and not few. With solid iron bodies these evil beasts flew swiftly back and forth above this sea, chasing one another. She saw billions of men and women bobbing up and down in the sea, being fought over, seized, and eaten by the evil beasts. What do these evil beasts do? They eat these men and women, such as swallowing one man or one woman in one mouthful. These most ferocious evil beasts have big mouths and big stomachs.

She saw yakshas , or speedy ghosts that fly and run swiftly, with different shapes. What do they look like? Some had many hands, some many eyes, some many legs, some many heads. One yaksha ghost may have several dozen arms, one extremely ugly and vicious yaksha ghost may have two arms but many eyes, one may have relatively few arms and eyes, but many legs and feet. One yaksha ghost may have many heads, whose mouths open up like a tub that can swallow several people with one gulp. Its teeth are like swords and knives. With their sharp fangs that slice as quickly as swords, they drove the offenders on toward the evil beasts. What do yaksha ghosts do? The evil beasts look for things to eat. Since people are smarter, they sometimes run far away from evil beasts. Escaping though, they run straight into a yaksha ghost who blocks you so that you have nowhere to run and you are chased by enemies from behind. You have no route of escape and nowhere to go. You cannot even go and spend a night at a friend’s house!

Sutra:

Or the yakshas themselves seized the offenders and twisted their heads and feet together into shapes so horrible that no one would dare even look at them for long.

“During that time the Brahman woman was naturally without fear, due to the power of recollecting the Buddha.

“A ghost king named Poisonless bowed his head in greeting and said to the worthy woman, ‘Welcome, O Bodhisattva. What conditions bring you here?’

“The Brahman woman asked the ghost king, ‘What is this place?’

“Poisonless replied, ‘We are on the western side of the Great Iron Ring Mountain and this is the first of the seas that encircle it.’

“The worthy woman said, ‘I have heard that the hells are within the Iron Ring. Is that actually so?’

“Poisonless answered, ‘Yes, the hells are here.’

“The worthy woman asked, ‘How have I now come to the hells?’

“Poisonless answered, ‘If it wasn’t awesome spiritual strength that brought you here, then it was the power of karma. Those are the only two ways that anyone gets here.’

“The worthy woman asked, ‘Why is this water seething and bubbling, and why are there so many offenders and evil beasts?’

“Poisonless replied, ‘These are beings of Jambudvipa who did evil deeds. They have just died and passed through forty-nine days without any surviving relatives doing any meritorious deeds on their behalf to rescue them from their distress. Besides that, during their lives they themselves didn’t plant any good causes. Now their own karma calls forth these hells. Their first task is to cross this sea.

Commentary:

Or all the yakshasand evil beasts themselves seized the offenders. They beat and seize as if eagles catching chickens with their claws. These evil beasts and yakshas cooperate and capture the offenders. And twisted their heads and feet together. yakshas may do this to evil beasts, evil beasts may do this to yakshas and evil beasts and yakshas may do this to people. In general, all of them can be twisted so they look really awful. They are twisted into millions of different kinds of shapes so horrible that typically no one would dare even look at them for long.

“During that time the Brahman woman was naturally without fear, due to the power of recollecting the Buddha Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. “A ghost king, one of the leaders among the ghosts, named Poisonless bowed his head in greeting to the Brahman woman and said to the worthy woman, ‘Welcome, O kindhearted Bodhisattva. What conditions bring you here?’

“The Brahman woman asked the ghost king, ‘What is this place?’ I don’t know how I got here either.

“Poisonless replied, ‘We are on the western side of the Great Iron Ring Mountain and this is the first of the seas on the west side that encircle it.’

“The worthy woman said to the ghost king, ‘I have heard that the hells are within the Iron Ring. Is that actually so? Is there really the hells? How come people do not believe there are the hells?

“Poisonless answered, ‘Yes, the hells are here. The hells really do exist, it is not imagined.

“The worthy woman asked, ‘How have I now come to the hells?’

“Poisonless the ghost king answered, ‘If it wasn’t awesome spiritual strength that brought you here, then it was the power of karma. You can come here due to two factors. One, you have the awesomeness, the spiritual power, or the virtue. Two, you fall into the hells because of the power of your offense karmas. Those are the only two ways that anyone gets here. If it was not for one of two things, one’s awesomeness or karma, one will not come to the hells.

“The worthy Brahman woman asked, ‘Why is this water seething and bubbling, and why are there so many offenders cooking in this boiling water and so many evil beasts?’

“Poisonless replied Brahman woman, ‘These are beings of Jambudvipa, which means victorious gold for the reason that leaves on the Jambunadasuvarna trees fall into the hells and turn into gold. This kind of gold is most supreme and special, so it is called victorious gold. Our world is in southern Jambudvipa. Beings in southern Jambudvipa who, by merely stirring a thought, did evil deeds. They have just died and passed through forty-nine days, seven weeks. To help a deceased individual, we must do some merit for him within 49 days after his death so that he may benefit. During that period of time, the offense karma of the deceased has not been confirmed yet, but after 49 days, their karma is determined the way the court decisions have been made, they cannot change anymore. If we were to recite sutras or mantras for the deceased, we can save them so that they reap the benefits. After 49 days, the offense of the deceased is judged, so there is still merit from recitation of sutras, but they get very little merit, the impact of which is tiny though not completely nil. Without any surviving relatives doing any meritorious deeds on their behalf to rescue them from their distress, to save evil-doing living beings from their suffering. Besides that, during their lives they themselves didn’t plant any good causes, didn’t do good deeds. Now their own karma calls forth these hells. Their first task is to cross this sea. Naturally, they must first go to this great sea of suffering to endure the karmic retribution they deserve.

Sutra:

Ten thousand yojanas east of this sea is another sea in which they will undergo twice as much suffering. East of that sea is yet another sea where the sufferings are doubled yet again. What the combined evil causes of the three karmic vehicles evoke is called the sea of karma. This is that place.’

Commentary:

Ten thousand yojanas east of this sea is another sea in which they will undergo twice as much suffering. The suffering in the other sea is more much severe than this one. See how people are suffering as they evil beasts and yakshas chase them about in this ocean, were you to see the other sea, you would know that the suffering there is manifold compared to this one. East of that sea is yet another sea where the sufferings are doubled yet again. The suffering there is much more than the previous sea. What is the reason for the existence of these oceans? What the combined evil causes of the three karmic vehicles evoke. . . The three karmas are the karma of body, the karma of mouth and the karma of mind. There are three evils to body, which are killing, stealing, sexual misconduct. There are three evils to the mind, they are greed, hatred and delusion. There are four evils to the mouth, they are frivolous speech, false speech, harsh speech and divisive speech. Frivolous speech consists of improper words between men and women. False speech refers to exaggerations and lies. Harsh speech means scolding people. Divisive speech means telling A about B’s faults and telling B about A’s faults. One says two different things. There are four evils to the mouth, plus three evils of the body, and three evils of the mind, making a total of ten evils. These ten evils are also called the evil causes of the three karmas, the seeds to creating evil.

How come there is this type of ocean with evil waters with so many evil beasts and yakshas? They come forth because of people’s evil causes. Plant good causes and reap good fruits; plant evil causes and reap evil fruits. People deserve what they get since they create their own offense karma. . . is called the sea of karma. The three oceans together make up the sea of karma, which are all created by the power of people’s karma. This is that place, the sea of karma.’

Sutra:

“The worthy woman asked the Ghost King Poisonless, ‘Where are the hells?’

“Poisonless answered, ‘Within the three seas are hundreds of thousands of hells, each one different. Eighteen of those are known as the great hells. Five hundred subsequent ones inflict limitless cruel sufferings. Following those are hundreds of thousands that inflict limitless further sufferings.’

“The worthy woman again questioned the great ghost king, ‘My mother died recently and I do not know where she has gone.’

Commentary:

“The worthy Brahman woman asked the Ghost King Poisonless, ‘Where are the hells?’

Ghost King Poisonless answered the Brahman woman, ‘Within the three seas are hundreds of thousands of hells. What is the sea of suffering? The sea of suffering is a conglomeration of living beings’ karma. Ocean is symbolic of a large number; there is not an ocean necessarily. It represents the accumulation of karma that is as limitless as the great sea. These three seas are created by people’s three karmas of body, mouth and mind. So Poisonless told the Brahman woman that within the three seas are the great hells.

Each one of the hells is different, replete with its unique setup. In other words, each person experiences a unique hell based on his karma. Hells are not existent and prepared before people passed way. The hells manifest based on each individual’s karma; each experiences retribution based on his or her offense karma. For instance, there is a hell of molten copper. Pillars of molten copper are hollow except for a blazing fire inside. What kind of individual falls into the hells? Licentious individuals. Their power of karma makes these individuals see molten copper in the shape of people. Lusty men see molten copper and think it is a beautiful woman. As he runs forward to embrace the beautiful woman, he is scorched through to the skin and flesh that he is stuck. Lusty women see molten copper as an extremely handsome man or an old friend. She wants to get close without regard for anything, but when she does get close, she gets burned to death by the fire of desire. After being burned to death, a clever wind in the hells that was mysteriously created revives the being in the hells so that he or she experiences the same retribution repeatedly, though he or she has forgotten the results and only remembers the benefits. He or she makes the same mistake and suffers the retribution there. This is how the molten copper hell works. There are many different kinds of hells, each with each unique features.

Eighteen of those are known as the great hells. Each hell has eighteen separate spots. Five hundred subsequent ones inflict limitless cruel sufferings. Following those are hundreds of thousands that inflict limitless further sufferings.’

“The worthy woman again questioned the great ghost king, ‘ O big brother ghost king, please instruct me out of compassion. My mother died recently and I do not know where she has gone. I do not know where my mother’s soul went, big brother ghost king, please be kind and tell me.

Sutra:

“The ghost king asked the worthy woman, ‘When the Bodhisattva’s mother was alive, what habits did she have?’

“The worthy woman replied, ‘My mother held deviant views and ridiculed and slandered the Triple Jewel. Even if she occasionally believed, she would soon become disrespectful again. She died recently and I still do not know where she was reborn.’

“Poisonless asked, ‘What was the Bodhisattva’s mother’s name and clan?’

“The worthy woman replied, ‘My parents were both Brahmans; my father’s name was Shila Sudarshana, my mother’s name was Yue Di Li.’

“Poisonless placed his palms together and implored the worthy woman, ‘Please, Worthy One, quickly return home. There is no need for you to grieve further. The offender Yue Di Li was born in the heavens three days ago. It is said that she received the benefit of offerings made and blessings cultivated by her filial child who practiced giving to Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One at stupas and monasteries. Not only was the Bodhisattva’s mother released from the hells, but all the other offenders who were destined for the Relentless Hell also received bliss and were reborn with her.’ Having finished speaking, the ghost king put his palms together and withdrew.

Commentary:

Ghost king Poisonless heard the Brahman woman’s question about where her mother has become reborn, which of the six destinies on the wheel of rebirth. “The ghost king asked the worthy woman, ‘When the Bodhisattva’s mother was alive, what habits did she have?’ The ghost king saw that the Brahman woman must be able to go to the hells because of the power of her awesome virtue and vows, so referred to her as a Bodhisattva. “What did your mother do when she was alive? What occupation was she in? How did she act?”

“The worthy woman replied, ‘My mother held deviant views. Although she was my mother, I cannot cover her mistakes. She held deviant knowledge and deviant views, which are the Five Sharp Servants in the areas of body, extremes, precepts, views and deviances. Deviant view of the body: She never accepted the shorter end of the bargain. She always thought about what was best for her body. For example, she wanted nutritious foods because she was afraid of poor health. She fed herself so well so that she was nice and round. She thought it was healthy to be chubbier. She was always planning things for her body: a good place to live, good food, and nice clothes. She spent all of her time on doing this type of calculations. How can this be good for the body? This is the view of the body that refuses to let the body get hurt.

View of extremes: All of her views were prejudiced. She disagreed with other people’s opinions about smoking being unhealthy. She thought smoking was the best and criticized you for not knowing the beauty of it. If you did, you would not quit. Her explanation seemed to make sense. Extreme views maybe ingenious explanations with faultless reasoning, but they are actually prejudiced.

View of precepts: She held deviant precepts such as finding non-vegetarian Buddhists fine. She found people who do not even touch salt as people with real skill. She teased Sangha members about how if they do not believe her, they should just try these deviant precepts. In general, she always found faults with something fine. There are no problems, but she will look with a microscope for some fault.

Deviant view. For example, everyone says it is right to be filial to our parents, but she would say, “Why? Parents procreate because they sought momentary pleasures, and you think they are good to you! Do not bother with your parents. They deserve to get old and die. The sooner they die, the better; otherwise there is just one more consumer alive.” She gave these big long explanations, arguing with you about filiality. She said it is wrong to be filial. Why be filial to elders? That is really stupid. This is a deviant views.

And ridiculed and slandered the Triple Jewel. She teased and criticized. When she saw people bowing to the Buddhas, she would say, “Ah, is that a Buddhist? Buddhists do everything! They are no better than anybody else; they still eat, drink, gamble and prostitute like everyone else. What good is it to believe in the Buddhas?” She piles a list of faults on Buddhists so that Buddhists seem like criminals who committ worse things than the Ten Evils and the Five Rebellious Acts. This is a form of ridicule. She slandered by saying Buddhism cheats people. She said the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha are all fake. The Buddha is made of clay, the Dharma is words on paper, and Sangha members are human too! How are they different from regular people? Why should you believe them? Why should you bow to them? You are so stupid. She scolded you hard so that Buddhists are embarrassed to the point that some are afraid to let others know that they are Buddhists.

One elderly man who comes to listen to the sutras on Sundays asked to take refuge with me a few years ago, but I never agreed. Why? It is because he said that he wanted to take refuge secretly so that no one knows. Taking refuge is not stealing, why should it be secret? I do not have any secrete refuges here, so I told him to think things over before taking refuge. It is so strange but he says that since he is a Catholic with long time Catholic friends who will call him a rebel if they knew that he believed in Buddhism. If you do not say so, you are deceiving them, that makes you even more of a criminal. He says that he is still getting some charity there. How can someone like this be a Buddhist? How pathetic!

Even if she occasionally believed . Perhaps and supposedly she believed, it was temporary and not forever. We must make vows to believe in Buddhism forever and not just temporarily like the Brahman woman’s mother. Temporary faith may last one hour then vanish. Some people’s faith does not last for more than two hours, at the most an hour or five minutes. They cool off after five minutes of faith. We must make vows to have faith forever. She would soon become disrespectful again. Perhaps for five minutes’ time, she will go along and bow to the Buddhas, take refuge with the Triple Jewel, and find a teacher. But as soon as she turns around, for no particular reason at all, she no longer wishes to pay respects to the Buddhas and believe in the Buddhas.

She died recently and I still do not know where she was reborn.’

“Poisonless asked the Brahman woman for more detail because she did not say her mother’s name. ‘What was the Bodhisattva’s mother’s name and clan? What was your mother’s surname? First name? Address? Say all this clearly.

“The worthy Brahman woman replied, ‘My parents were both Brahmans. There are four castes in India. The Brahmans are the clan of purity; the Kastriyas are royalty; the Vaisyas are the merchants. The Caalas are the lowest caste including butchers, slaughterers etc. In India, butchers could not walk alongside other people but have to walk on the roadside alone. If they met members of the royalty, they cannot even walk on the same road. They are marked so that everyone can tell at a glance that they are Caalas, the lowliest of castes. The Brahman woman is a member of the Brahman clan, a member of the elite. Both Indian and Great Britain were hierarchical, and that continues today. United States is democratic, people do not think hierarchically but equally. India was different; high class individuals could not converse with low class individuals. If you spoke with members of the lower class, nobilities look down on you, treating you as if you were worthless. Hierarchical thought harshly divides up people.

My father’s name was Shila Sudarshana. Shila usually refer to the vinaya, but here it just means cool and refreshing. My mother’s name was Yue Di Li, a Sanskrit word that is not formally explained in the Buddhist sutras, but let me add some commentaries now. Yue means favor and Di means emperor. Someone that emperors favor; in other words, this person was so pretty that even the emperor liked her. You may say that, there is nothing fixed about a person’s name. Since people’s names are not fixed, you may explain it however you want as long as it is reasonable, and especially if it is Sanskrit. Do not simply claim ignorance when you see things in the sutras you do not understand, research it with your wisdom. Once you uncover your wisdom, you will know. You may explain it in whatever way is reasonable; as long as you do not yell at people or say the negatives. Do not be so rigid.

“Poisonless placed his palms together out of respect and implored the worthy Brahman woman, ‘Please, Worthy One, quickly return home. There is no need for you to grieve further. Worry no more. Do not think about your mother with such sadness or miss her so that you cannot let her go. The offender Yue Di Li, a woman who committed offenses, was born in the heavens three days ago. How? It is said that she received the benefit of offerings made and blessings cultivated by her filial child, a daughter specifically, who practiced giving to Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One at stupas and monasteries. The giving includes offering alms to the Sangha and the assembly. Not only was the Bodhisattva’s mother released from the suffering of the hells, but all the other offenders like your mother who were destined for the Relentless Hell also received bliss and were reborn with her.’ Having finished speaking, the ghost king put his palms together respectfully and withdrew.

Sutra:

“The Brahman woman returned swiftly as if from a dream, understood what had happened, and then made a profound and far-reaching vow before the stupas and images of Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One, saying, ‘I vow that until the end of future eons I will respond to beings suffering for their offenses by using many expedient devices to bring about their liberation.’”

The Buddha told Manjushri, “The Ghost King Poisonless is the present Bodhisattva Foremost Wealth. The Brahman woman is now Earth Store Bodhisattva.”

Commentary:

“The Brahman woman returned swiftly as if from a dream understood what had happened . She went back and thought to herself, “Oh, I was by an ocean where I saw Poisonless the great ghost king, the evil beasts and offenders in the hells. I asked him where my mother was reborn and the ghost king says she became reborn in the heavens.” She knew that none of this was illusory but occurred because Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One’s awesome might helped to make it happen. And then she made a profound and far-reaching vow before the stupas and images of Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One, saying, ‘I vow that until the end of future eons. When will the end of future eons occur? There will never be an end; hence the vows of Earth Store King Bodhisattva will never end either. I will respond to beings suffering for their offenses throughout all six destinies by using many expedient devices to bring about their liberation, allowing them to leave suffering and attain bliss.’”

The Buddha told Manjushri, “The Ghost King Poisonless who conversed with the Brahman woman, is the present Bodhisattva Foremost Wealth. The Bodhisattva Foremost Wealth cultivated the seven sacred gems: 1. faith, a gem in cultivation. 2. precepts. The transmission and receiving of precepts are rare in the Age of the Decline of Dharma; but monastics must receive the precepts to be actual monastics. 3. erudition. 4. renunciation. Giving is also a gem in cultivation. 5. wisdom, a gem in cultivation. 6. a sense of shame. 7. remorse. Usually remorse and a sense of shame go together; although they are separate here; they are necessary gems in cultivation. He is called the Bodhisattva Foremost Wealth because he has these seven gems of faith, precepts, erudition, renunciation, wisdom, a sense of shame and remorse. The Brahman woman is now Earth Store Bodhisattva.” This is why we must emulate the former Earth Store Bodhisattva and practice filial respect on a wide scale, including the virtue of being filial to our parents and saving our parents.

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