THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Chapter IX

The Names of Buddhas

Commentary:

Reciting the names of Buddhas. I mentioned before that originally, every Buddha has ten thousand titles. Then due to the fact that people could not remember so much, the number gradually reduced to a thousand. However, people still had difficulty recalling one thousand names. They have bad memories like I do— by the time they recite the first to the thousandth, they forget the first. As a result, the number of titles was cut down to a hundred. In the end, though, it was still troublesome to remember a hundred names; therefore, they were decreased to ten. Every Buddha has ten titles: Thus Come One, Worthy of Offerings, of Right and Universal Knowledge, Perfect Clarity and Conduct, Well Gone One, Knower of Worlds, Unsurpassed Knight, Teacher of People and Gods, Buddha, and World Honored One. This is the ninth chapter called “The Names of Buddhas.” Earth Store Bodhisattva is about to explain what kind of merit and virtue one is going to receive by reciting the various Buddhas’ names.

Sutra:

At that time, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I want to discuss some practices that will be helpful to beings of the future and will enable them to gain great benefit throughout their lives and deaths. World Honored One, please hear my words.”

The Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Now with your expansive compassion you wish to discuss the inconceivable events involved in rescuing all those in the Six Paths who are suffering for their offenses. This is the right time. Speak now, since my Nirvana is near, so that I may soon help you complete your vows. Then neither of us will need to be concerned about beings of the present or future.”

Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, countless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Boundless Body Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and have a momentary thought of respect, those people will overstep the heavy offenses involved in birth and death for forty eons. How much more will that be the case for those who sculpt or paint this Buddha’s image or praise and make offerings to him. The merit they obtain will be limitless and boundless.

Commentary:

At that time after the eighth chapter was spoken, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I want to discuss some practices that will be helpful to living beings of the future , including you and I who are present now. Do not say that you are not counted. Both of us are included in this figure. These practices will enable them , the living beings, to gain great benefit throughout their lives and deaths. World Honored One, please , I sincerely request that you hear me explain my vow with words.”

The Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Now , with your expansive compassion atemindthat you are bringing forth, you wish to discuss the inconceivable events involved in rescuing all those in the Six Paths including beings from the heavens, humans, Asuras, hell beings, hungry ghosts and animals who are suffering for their offenses. This is the right time. Hurry up and s peak now, since my Nirvana is near .” From this statement, we can conclude that Earth Store Sutra was spoken after the Dharma Flower Sutra and before the Nirvana Sutra. The Buddha continued, “Speak up so that I may soon help you complete your vows. Then neither of us will need to be concerned about beings of the present or future. I will not have to worry about them any longer.

Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, countless asamkhyeya eons ago, asamkhyeya is a Sanskrit word that refers to limitless and countless eons. There was a Buddha named Boundless Body Thus Come One who appeared in the world. His body is without bound— it pervades the whole empty space and the Dharma realm. If men or women of Southern Jambudvipa hear this Buddha’s name and have a momentary thought of respect, those people will overstep the heavy offenses involved in birth and death for forty great eons. How much more will that be the case for those who sculpt or paint this Buddha’s image or praise and make offerings to him ? The merit they obtain will be limitless and boundless. You will never finish counting because there is so much.

I am going to share a public record with you now. What is it? When the Buddha dwelt in the world, there was an old man who wanted to leave home and cultivate the Way. The Buddha was not at Jeta Grove then. His disciples were annoyed at seeing the old man. They wondered, “He is so old, poor and sloppy, why does he want to leave home?” These Arhats who have certified to the fruition observed, “This old man has no good roots within 80,000 great eons whatsoever! He cannot leave the home life because one must have good roots to do so.” “Do not claim it is easy to leave the home life, for it takes Bodhi seeds sowed in past lives.” One can only leave home after planting numerous good roots throughout past lives. Even though you want to leave home, you will not be able to if you lack good roots. You might want to, but then you think, “No! No! Leaving the home life is too difficult. It is not good! Do not leave home!” You might back down and say, “Do not go! Do not go!” Those Arhats saw that the old man had no good roots and rejected him. Being poor to the point that he had no food or clothes, the ninety or one-hundred-year-old man who had difficulty walking thought, “Now that I have lived to this age, I suppose I could obtain some peace by leaving the home life. But it turned out that the Buddha’s disciples declined to take me in.” Hence he started to cry. Sobbing and walking at the same time, a new idea emerged. What was it? He was mulling over a scheme to commit suicide by jumping down the Ganges River! He was not far from there and when he was about to jump into the Ganges, Shyakyamuni Buddha came and said, “Hey! Sir! What are you doing? You want to swim? At your age, your arms and legs are not so flexible, you cannot swim.” The old man said, “No! I am going to die. I am going to put an end to my life instead of living. There is no meaning to living.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Oh, why is it meaningless for you to go on living? Can you tell me?” The old man said, “I felt that nothing is meaningful, so I wanted to leave the home life, follow Shakyamuni Buddha and cultivate. But when I went there today requesting to leave the home life, the Buddha’s disciples rejected me, telling that I have no good roots. Since I cannot leave home when I want to, what is the use of being alive? I feel that being alive is worse off than being dead, so I wanted to jump into the Ganges River and drink its waters until I am full so that I may become a young man who leaves the home life in another incarnation. Since the Buddha’s disciples do not like old people, also probably because of how ugly I am, no one likes me.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “You want to leave the home life? Do not jump into the river. I will accept you as a disciple. You can come back.” The old man asked, “Who are you?” Shakyamuni Buddha answered, “I am Shakyamuni Buddha!” “You are Shakyamuni Buddha? You will accept me?” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “It is so sad the way you cry, I will accept you as an old disciple.” The Buddha brought the old man back and spoke Dharma for him. As soon as the Buddha spoke Dharma, the old man certified to the fruition of arhatship.

When the Buddha was alive, many people certified to the fruition of arhatship. The Buddha looked at his causes and conditions and spoke the Buddhadharma for him so that the man certified to the fruition. Some disciples think, “This old monster is old and without good roots, how can he certified to the fruition?” They became doubtful of the Buddhadharma and asked the World Honored One: “Really this old man should not leave home, but how come you accepted him and he certified to the fruition? It is awfully strange. We are skeptical about the Buddhadharma.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “You arhats only know about the cause and effect and the good and bad throughout 80,000 great eons; whereas you do not see anything beyond this period of time. For instance, you can see things that occur in this house but nothing outside it. This old man was a logger in the mountains more than 80,000 great eons ago. When he encountered a tiger that was going to bite him to death, he recited, ‘Namo Buddha’ once. For that, the conditions now ripened for him to leave the home life and certify to the fruition.” It is not happenstance for people who wish to leave the home life. They may have recited Namo Buddha many times to leave home in this lifetime; otherwise I would not accept them as disciples either.

Sutra:

“Furthermore, in the past, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, a Buddha named Jewel Nature Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and instantly decide to take refuge, those people will never retreat from the Unsurpassed Path.

“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Lotus Supreme Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name or if the sound of his name merely passes by their ears, those people will be reborn one thousand times in the Six Desire Heavens. How much more will that be the case if those people sincerely recite the name of that Thus Come One.

Commentary:

“Furthermore, in the past, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, a Buddha named Jewel Nature Thus Come One, referring to how our nature is very precious, appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and instantly decide to take refuge, those people will never retreat from the Unsurpassed Path to Bodhi.

“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Lotus Supreme Thus Come One appeared in the world. Padma means red lotus, which is supreme because it surpasses other lotuses such as yellow, white, or green lotuses. Red is the most supreme among all the colors. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name or if the sound of his name, Lotus Supreme Thus Come One, merely passes by their ears, those people will be reborn one thousand times in the Six Desire Heavens. What are the Six Desire Heavens? The Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings, Tryastrimsha Heaven, Suyama Heaven, Tushita Heaven, Heaven of Transformational Happiness, and the Heaven of Ease of Others’ Transformations. Celestial demons live in the Heaven of Ease of Others’ Transformations. How much more will that be the case if those people sincerely recite the name of that Thus Come One. Since one enjoys so much merit just from hearing the Buddha’s name once, then not to mention how much greater is the merit of sincerely reciting the Buddha’s name oneself.

Long ago someone went to Pratimoksa Monastery and saw an amala tree with golden flowers. He picked a blossom and walk to the Shakyamuni Buddha image before him. Seeing how wondrous the image of Shakyamuni Buddha is, he offered the flower before the Buddha image. Then he went and asked an old man, “How much merit do I get from making an offering of this flower to Shakyamuni Buddha?” The old man said, “I do not know, you have to go and ask a monastic.” He went to ask a monk who responded, “I do not know. You would have to ask the arhat who has practiced chan and certified to the fruition. Only he can tell you.” Then he went look for the arhat who certified to the fruition, “Can you tell me how much merit I get for having offered this flower to the Buddha?” The arhat said, “Wait and let me contemplate a bit.” He contemplated and said, “This merit is impossible to reckon; the blessings that result from it is inexhaustible for 80,000 great eons. As for beyond 80,000 great eons, I would not know. You would have to ask the Buddha.” He went to ask the Buddha and the Buddha said, “This merit is inexhaustibly many, pervading all of space and the Dharma Realm.” One individual receives this much blessings just for making a flower offering to the Buddha; hence we can enjoy a thousand births in the Six Desire Heavens if we just hear the Buddha’s name once. This kind of merit is inconceivable.

Sutra:

“Furthermore, in the past, inexpressibly ineffable asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Lion’s Roar Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and in a single thought take refuge, those people will encounter numberless Buddhas who will rub the crowns of their heads and bestow predictions of enlightenment upon them.

“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Krakucchanda appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and sincerely gaze at, worship, or praise him, those people will become Great Brahma Heaven kings in the assemblies of the Thousand Buddhas of the Worthy Eon and will there receive superior predictions.

“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Vipashin appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Paths, will always be born among people or gods, and will abide in supremely wonderful bliss.

“Furthermore, in the past, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in limitless and countless Ganges Rivers, a Buddha named Jeweled Victory Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will never fall into the Evil Paths and will always abide in the heavens, experiencing supremely wonderful bliss.

“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Jeweled Appearance Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and give rise to a thought of respect, those people will soon attain the fruitions of Arhatship.

“Furthermore, limitless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Kashaya Banner Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will overcome the offenses created throughout one hundred great eons of births and deaths.

Commentary:

“Furthermore, in the past, inexpressibly ineffable asamkhyeya eons ago, an infinite number of eons ago, a Buddha named Lion’s Roar Thus Come One appeared in the world. His name represents how the Buddha speaks the Dharma the way lions roar. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and in a single thought take refuge, those people will encounter numberless Buddhas who will rub the crowns of their heads and bestow predictions of enlightenment upon them.

“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Krakucchanda appeared in the world. Krakucchanda is a Sanskrit word that means “Deserve to End” or “Adorned Treasury”. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and sincerely gaze at, worship, or praise him with verses, those people will become Great Brahma Heaven kings in the assemblies of the Thousand Buddhas of the Worthy Eon and will there receive superior predictions of becoming Great Brahma Heaven kings.

“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Vipashin appeared in the world. I know no one knows what Vipashin means, so let me tell you now. You should remember, because it is difficult to find it if you do not remember. Buddhist dictionaries do not always have this recorded. Vipashin means supreme contemplation or various contemplations. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Paths of the hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. As we listen to the Earth Store Sutra now, we also hear the name of Vipashin Buddha, so we will never fall into the Evil Paths. But only if you never do any evil deeds; if you continue to do evil deeds after hearing this Buddha’s name, you will still fall into the Evil Paths. Why? You have not changed for the better and reformed. Just because one has heard the name of the Buddha, it does not mean one will not fall into the Three Evil Paths, so one may go and kill, set fire, steal, and everything else, figuring one will not fall into the Three Evil Paths. Do not think in such a stupid fashion. Although you have heard the Buddha’s name, you will only avoid the Three Evil Paths if you never do evil deeds. They will always be born among people or gods, and will abide in supremely wonderful bliss.

“Furthermore, in the past, as many great eons ago as there are grains of sand in limitless and countless Ganges Rivers, a Buddha named Jeweled Victory ThusCome One appeared in the world. In Sanskrit, jeweled is ladna and victory is vipa. Ifmen or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will never fall into the Evil Paths and will always abide in the heavens, experiencing supremely wonderful bliss.

“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Jeweled Appearance Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and give rise to a thought of respect, those people will soon attain the fruitions of Arhatship.

“Furthermore, limitless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Kashaya Banner Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will overcome the offenses created throughout one hundred great eons of births and deaths.

Sutra:

“Furthermore, in the past a Buddha named Great Penetration Mountain King Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will encounter as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. Those Buddhas will speak Dharma extensively for them, making certain that they realize Bodhi.

“Furthermore, in the past there were Buddhas named Pure Moon Buddha, Mountain King Buddha, Wise Victory Buddha, Pure Name King Buddha, Accomplished Wisdom Buddha, Unsurpassed Buddha, Wonderful Sound Buddha, Full Moon Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha, and indescribably many other Buddhas. World Honored One, beings of the present and future, both gods and humans, both male and female, can amass such limitless merit and virtue by reciting only one Buddha’s name. How much more merit will they amass by reciting many names. Those beings will personally obtain benefits in their lives and deaths significant enough to keep them from ever falling into the Evil Paths.

“When people are on the brink of death, a group of their relatives, or even just one of them, should recite a Buddha’s name aloud for the people who are ailing. If they do, the karmic retributions of those people who are about to die will be dissolved, even offenses deserving Fivefold Relentless Retribution. Offenses warranting Fivefold Relentless Retribution are so extremely heavy that those who commit them should not escape retribution for millions of eons. If, however, at the time of such offenders’ deaths, someone recites the names of Buddhas on their behalf, then their offenses can gradually be dissolved. How much more will that be the case for beings who recite those names themselves. The merit they create will be limitless and will eradicate measureless offenses.”

Commentary:

“Furthermore, in the past a Buddha named Great Penetration Mountain King Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will encounter as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. Those Buddhas will speak the various terms in the Dharma extensively for them, making certain that they realize the enlightened fruit of unsurpassed Bodhi.

“Furthermore, in the past there were Buddhas named Pure Moon Buddha, Mountain King Buddha, Wise Victory Buddha, Pure Name King Buddha, Accomplished Wisdom Buddha, Unsurpassed Buddha, Wonderful Sound Buddha, Full Moon Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha, and indescribably many other Buddhas. World Honored One, beings of the present and future, both gods and humans, both male and female, can amass such limitless merit and virtue by reciting only one Buddha’s name. How much more merit will they amass by reciting many names of Buddhas? Those beings will personally obtain the greatest benefits in their lives and deaths significant enough to keep them from ever falling into the Three Evil Paths: hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals.

“When people are on the brink of death, a group of their relatives, or even just one of them, should recite a Buddha’s name aloud or loudly for the people who are ailing. If they do, the karmic retributions of those people who are about to die will be dissolved, even offenses deserving Fivefold Relentless Retribution. Offenses warranting Fivefold Relentless Retribution are so extremely heavy that those who commit them should not escape retribution for millions of eons. If, however, at the time of such offenders’ deaths, someone recites the names of Buddhas on their behalf, then their offenses can gradually be dissolved. How much more will that be the case for beings who recite those names themselves. The merit they create will be limitless so they acquire limitless blessings and will eradicate measureless offenses.”

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