THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
At that time, all the division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva that came from all those worlds merged into a single form. Then he wept and said to the Buddha, “Throughout long eons I have been receiving the Buddha’s guidance and from that have developed inconceivable spiritual power and great wisdom. My division bodies fill worlds as many as grains of sand in millions of billions of Ganges River. In each of those worlds, I transform myself into millions of billions of bodies. Each body rescues millions of billions of people, helping them to return respectfully to the Triple Jewel, escape birth and death forever, and reach the bliss of Nirvana. Even if their good deeds within the Buddhadharma amount to as little as a strand of hair, a drop of water, a grain of sand, a mote of dust, or the tip of a hair, I will gradually take them across, liberate them, and help them gain great benefit. I only hope that the World Honored One will not be worried about beings of the future who have bad karma.”
In that way he addressed the Buddha three times: “I only hope that the World Honored One will not be worried about beings of the future who have bad karma.”
At that time, the Buddha praised Earth Store Bodhisattva and said, “Excellent! Excellent! I will help you in this work you so willingly undertake. When the vast vows that you keep making throughout so many eons are fulfilled and all those beings have been saved, then you will be certified as having attained Bodhi.”
At that time, all the division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva that came from all those worlds , merged into a single form. Earth Store Bodhisattva’s numerous division bodies originate from a single body. These multiple bodies merged back into one body, hence the phrase, “merged into a single form.” Multiple bodies are one body, and one body is multiple bodies. One body can become multiple bodies; therefore one body is multiple bodies. Multiple bodies can merge into one body; therefore multiple bodies are one body. In more depth, there are neither multiple bodies nor one body. Earth Store Bodhisattva fundamentally has no body. How can you say there is not a body? He has no mark of self; if he has a body, then there is mark of self. Because he has no mark of self, many is not many. Although there are many bodies, many are not many. Although he has one body, one is not one. Therefore one is many and many are one. Earth Store Bodhisattva divides into immeasurable bodies, and the immeasurable combine into one. Thus from one body comes immeasurable bodies, and immeasurable bodies can become one body. As such, would you say he has a body? If he has a body, which of his many bodies would you say is Earth Store Bodhisattva? Which body is not Earth Store Bodhisattva? Therefore, we could say every body is that of Earth Store Bodhisattva and is not Earth Store Bodhisattva. How can you say that they all are Earth Store Bodhisattva? The bodies he manifest are that of Earth Store Bodhisattva. His markless body has no outer traits at all, so they can be said to be not Earth Store Bodhisattva.
Furthermore, no matter who it is that wishes to emulate Earth Store Bodhisattva, that person is a division body of Earth Store Bodhisattva, and is no different than Earth Store Bodhisattva. Why would you wish to emulate Earth Store Bodhisattva? You admire Earth Store Bodhisattva’ actions, his wisdom, and the power of his vows. Why do you admire him? What is the reason? Actually, you know the reasons without my explanation. Although you know the reasons, you do not dare to admit it. Let me tell you now, let me verify that you are a division body of Earth Store Bodhisattva. That’s why you admire Earth Store Bodhisattva. Emulate his aspirations and vows, then you are a division body of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Although only a division body, if you can further cultivate according to Buddhadharma, completely restore you self-nature to perfection, understand you mind and see your nature, you will enjoy spiritual powers and can return to become one with Earth Store Bodhisattva. Merged into a single body, merged into a single form, that is what is meant by “returning to the source and origin.”
After the division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva merged into a single form, he sadly wept and said to the Buddha… Why would Earth Store Bodhisattva be sad? There are four meanings:
1) He is sad for beings in the six destinies for creating karma and not reforming. All devas, humans, asuras, beings in the hells, hungry ghosts and animals reincarnate in the six destinies, creating karma without remorse or repentance. This is the first meaning.
2) He is sad that all beings are obstinate and difficult to teach. Living beings are the most obstinate. Tell them about Buddhadharma and they refuse to listen. Talk to them about subjects other than the Buddhadharma, they are very happy. Suppose, you mention to someone, “So and so is the best. He has an excellent education and character. Everything about him is good.” This person will not pay much attention listening. If you speak to this person about how bad the other person is, how clever is his ways of trickery and how no one knows his bad deeds though he committed them. Say things like this and people will pay attention to how to be mean. They pay no heed to ways to be good, such as, “Study the Buddhadharma well,” they would not want to learn. If you say, “Take this drug and you will experience some amazing discoveries,” they would take the hallucinogen and become dazed and confused as if they were drifting to the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Recreational drugs are most awful, but they will take it once, then once more, until they take it numerous times. Everything changes for him when he takes drugs. He feels bigger than the universe. Afterwards though, he experiences fatigue and problems such as headaches and aches in his body. Some do not want to work at all, lying there like a dead person. He still does not wake up though, and wonders, “Why am I like this?” He thinks if he will just take a bit more drugs, he will become enlightened. “This round was too weak,” he thinks, “the drug is not powerful enough; if I take more, I will probably become enlightened immediately next time, succeed instantaneously.” Is this not the utmost stupidity! You tell them to study the Buddhadharma, they refuse and secretly break the law and take this kind of stuff. Obstinate beings willingly and happily commit this kind of act. Difficult to teach. You teach him to study Buddhism, he is not happy; you make up some fraudulent tricks, he digs right in despite the harm he brings himself. You see! This is the human mind. Thus the second kind of sadness that grows out of compassion for obstinate beings who are difficult to teach, being too obstinate.
3) What is Earth Store Bodhisattva’s third kind of sadness? It is due to the setting sun of the Tathagata’s wisdom. The Buddha is equivalent to a sun; he will enter nirvana soon. Therefore, Earth Store Bodhisattva is sad that the sun of wisdom is setting.
4) What is the fourth kind of sadness? It is due to major issues that Shakyamuni Buddha entrusted Earth Store Bodhisattva with in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heavens. Earth Store Bodhisattva will teach and transform all beings until Maitreya comes to the world, delivering them to the shore of Buddhahood and receive predictions of Buddhahood for the future. This is a very important responsibility. Shakyamuni Buddha gave such an important duty to Earth Store Bodhisattva; so this is the fourth kind of sadness.
The division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva merged into a single form; he sadly wept and said to the Buddha, “Throughout long eons till now, I have been receiving the Buddha’s guidance and from that have developed inconceivable spiritual power, impossible to fathom and impossible to discuss, and great completed perfected wisdom. “Spiritual” means magnificent beyond gauge. You have no way to know this kind of power which is magnificent beyond gauge. To rescue beings requires spiritual power, but if you only have spiritual powers and no wisdom, it does not work either. You must be replete with great wisdom to command such spiritual powers; at the same time, such spiritual powers enhance your wisdom. You may rescue beings only if your wisdom and spiritual powers cooperate.
My division bodies fill, appearing everywhere in, worlds as many as grains of sand in millions of billions of Ganges River. In each of those worlds, I, Earth Store Bodhisattva, transform myself into millions of billions of bodies, incalculable and immeasurable. Each body rescues millions of billions of people, helping them to return respectfully to the Triple Jewel. Why pay respects to the Triple Jewel? Because all beings, before taking refuge with the Triple Jewel, are on the outside. Outside of what? Outside of the Buddhadharma. After taking refuge with the Triple Jewel, they “desert the deviant and return to the proper” and “abandon darkness and enter into light.” Therefore, you must return respectfully to the Triple Jewel and take refuge with the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. . . escape birth and death forever, and reach the bliss of Nirvana, which is a happiness with four qualities: permanence, joy, true self, and purity.
Even if their good deeds within the Buddhadharma amount to as little as a strand of hair, a drop of water, a grain of sand, a mote of dust, which are the lightest, tiniest, smallest and the most minute unit of good. During the Shurangama Sutra lectures, I spoke of the “mote of dust bordering upon emptiness.” It is a mote of dust we can see divided into seven, which becomes the mote of dust bordering upon emptiness. It is the smallest unit, and let us say this, or the tip of a hair, is as much good living beings do. This hair is not like a hair from you head. It is the tiny hair on your body, the thinnest, though the hair on your head is already very light and tiny.
All living beings, although committing only so little good, plant good roots by doing so. I will gradually take them across, from suffering to happiness, liberate them, and help them gain great benefit. What is great benefit? Is it making a big fortune, earning a large profit? Making a big fortune is not great benefit. Then is it holding a high office? That is no benefit either. It is getting you to become a Buddha! You see, is this a great benefit? Who will make sure you become a Buddha? Earth Store Bodhisattva. Earth Store Bodhisattva will use his great spiritual powers, great wisdom, and various inconceivable wonderful dharma to make it impossible for you to refuse. Like the saying, “One wants to stop but cannot”, you want to stop and say, “I will not study Buddhism anymore,” but you have no way to stop. This is the marvelous part. Who can make you this way? It is our great advisor, great vows Earth Store Bodhisattva. He has this wonderful utility, so this is called great benefit.
I, Earth Store Bodhisattva, only hope that the World Honored One will not be worried about beings of the future who have bad karma.” Why does he say “do not worry”? He means: I will take the responsibility, entrust me with this responsibility. Buddha, do not be concerned because I will not become a Buddha until all beings become Buddhas. “Unless the hells are emptied, I will not become a Buddha; only when all beings are saved, will I attain Bodhi.” Therefore I asked the World Honored One not to worry, let me, Earth Store, shoulder this responsibility.
In that way he addressed the Buddha three times… He said it once, twice, and three times. This shows the gravity of the matter, taking this seriously. This is similar to reading the Constitution three times to pass it. Read it once, any objections? Read it twice, do you agree? If no one says anything, then read it thrice and it passes. So did what Earth Store Bodhisattva say pass? It is not the same. Repeating his hope three times is Earth Store Bodhisattva’s way of communicating his earnestness. Saying it only once may make him appear irresponsible. Saying it twice may mean he is not sincere enough. Therefore, three times, he said to the Buddha, “I only hope that the World Honored One will not be worried about beings of the future who have bad karma.” I, Earth Store, take full responsibility for them. I will definitely deliver beings who have bad karma to the other shore so they become Buddhas.
At this point of the lecture, should we not be happy? Although we have created so much karma, we still have an opportunity to become Buddhas. Why? A few days ago, I told you I wanted to buy insurance for someone. Now someone is buying insurance for us. Who bought insurance for us? Earth Store Bodhisattva. He guaranteed in advance that we, living beings who created bad karma, will all become Buddhas. This is equivalent to buying insurance for us. Those of us who hear the Earth Store Sutra now need not be worried or unhappy because we all have the opportunity to become Buddhas. Why? Earth Store Bodhisattva is our underwriter who long ago guaranteed that we, living beings with bad karma, can become Buddhas. He takes full responsibility for this to happen because until we become Buddhas, Earth Store Bodhisattva will not attain Bodhi. We ought to be elated.
I am so happy about this sutra passage that we have lectured on today, I wrote an English song for you to sing. The song is called “I am Very Lucky to Meet a Good Knowing One”. Who is the Good Knowing One? It is Earth Store Bodhisattva. Meeting Earth Store Bodhisattva means we have a guarantor who guarantees in advance that we will become Buddhas. How do we know? Just read what he repeated three times to the Buddha, “I only hope that the World Honored One will not be worried about beings of the future who have bad karma.” We know Earth Store Bodhisattva’s grace and virtue are as high as the heaven and as thick as the earth. His kindness is as profound and lofty as the saying, “Looking up and yet it is higher; drilling in and yet it is evermore firm.” Earth Store Bodhisattva’s state is inconceivable.
At that time, the Buddha was very happy to hear Earth Store Bodhisattva guaranteeing that all beings will quickly become Buddhas, so he praised and said, “Excellent! Excellent!…Earth Store Bodhisattva addressed the Buddha three times. The Buddha praised him with “excellent” twice. The Buddha values him and regards him highly. Earth Store Bodhisattva is truly a Great Bodhisattva. I will help you in this work you so willingly undertake, that you so enjoy. I will help you fulfill the vast vows that you keep making throughout so many eons… This vast vow is represented by the four vast vows: “Living beings are numberless, I vow to deliver them; afflictions are endless, I vow to cut them off; Dharma doors are countless, I vow to study them all; the Buddha’s Way is unsurpassed, I vow to realize it.”
Now everyday, every one of us, should ask ourselves, “Living beings are numberless, I vow to deliver them.”Did I convert people or did people convert me? Reflect like this. Did I deliver living beings to the shore of perfection? Did I believe in Buddhism, then convert to Catholicism? After I started believing in Buddhism, someone said Jesus was the greatest for being nailed on the cross, so I started believing in Jesus again. Do situations like this occur? If so, you are being converted by others instead of converting others. “Living beings are numberless, I vow to deliver them.” Did you do it? How about “Afflictions are endless, I vow to cut them off; Dharma doors are countless, I vow to study them all; the Buddha’s Way is unsurpassed, I vow to realize it.”
We should inquire within every day. “Afflictions are endless, I vow to cut them off.” Are my afflictions eliminated? Do I get mad when someone is slightly rude to me? Do I become extremely ignorant? Do situations like this occur? If so, I have not ended them; therefore I am not completely in control. I must test myself when opportunities arise. “Afflictions are endless, I vow to cut them off.” Your understanding of the Buddhadharma is only superficial if you have not ended your afflictions. When you have, you have found the acquired the Buddhadharma and entered the sea of the Buddhadharma.
“Dharma doors are countless, I vow to study them all.” The number of paths to the Buddhadharma is infinite; 84,000 is still a general number for how can the paths to the Buddhadharma be limited to only 84,000? There are immeasurable and limitless Dharma Doors, that’s why we say “Dharma doors are countless, I vow to study them all.” It is not enough that I know the Shurangama Mantra by heart. The Buddhist Canon is like a great ocean. We do not understand the Buddhdharma from studying a bit, a drop, a hair, a mote of dust, a grain of sand and some such small amounts. Really dig into the Buddhadharma; drink the water from the ocean of the Buddhadharma. If you can drink this great ocean dry in one gulp, you understand the Buddhadharma. If you cannot dry the ocean waters in one gulp, you need to study some more.
“The Buddha’s Way is unsurpassed, I vow to realize it.” You don’t need any proof to know that we are not Buddhas yet. If we were Buddhas, we would not experience any of our current problems or they would all be resolved. We should not pretend to be Buddhas when we are not. Some claim, for example, “Oh! Not only am I a Buddha, you are also a Buddha. Everybody is a Buddha” What Buddha are you? An afflicted Buddha? A greedy Buddha? A hateful Buddha? A deluded Buddha? Which Buddha? People who make such claims are shameless. Do not follow these seeming individuals who proclaim they are Buddhas when they are not, who proclaim that they are enlightened when they are not. Do not imitate these arrogant people who think they have some superior dharma.
So Earth Store Bodhisattva, you made these four vast vows and all those beings have been saved, then you will be certified as having attained Bodhi. When will this happen? Never, or until the end of future. Earth Store Bodhisattva would never certify to Bodhi? You do not need to worry. Earth Store Bodhisattva attained Bodhi many eons ago. If he did not attain Bodhi, he would not have such great spiritual powers and such enormous wisdom. This is an inconceivable state. Therefore do not worry that Earth Store Bodhisattva did not certify to Bodhi; he did so long ago. Now he is waiting for you to attain Bodhi, for me to attain Bodhi, and for him to attain Bodhi. He is waiting for you, for me and for him. What is Bodhi? Why do we want to attain it? What good is it to attain it? Bodhi is Sanskrit for awakening. What is awakening? Awakening means not muddled. That’s right; just now this person said no more ignorance. Correct! Quickly cut off your ignorance, shatter your ignorance, so that you reach Bodhi.