THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Chapters: 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10 * 11 * 12 * 13 * 14 * 15 * 16 * 17 * 18 * 19 * 20 * 21 * 22 * 23
24 * 25 * 26 * 27 * 28 * 29 * 30 * 31 * 32 * 33 * 34 * 35 * 36 * 37 * 38 * 39 * 40 * contents * previous * next

The Wondrous Adornments of the Rulers of the Worlds

Chapter One, Part One
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua_

VI. The Oceanic Multitudes Gather Like Clouds

A. The Bodhisattvas

1. Their Names and Numbers

Sutra:

The Buddha was surrounded by Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas as many as dust motes in ten Buddhaworlds. Their names were: Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Worthy; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Supremely Luminous Lantern of Universal Virtue; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Lion Banner of Universal Light; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Splendid Light of Universal Jeweled Flames; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Voice with Meritorious Virtue Like a Banner or Ocean; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Wisdom-Light Illuminating the Thus Come One’s Realm; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Jeweled Cowl and Flower Banner.

Commentary:

The Buddha was surrounded by Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas as many as dust motes in ten Buddhaworlds. Bodhisattvas to the number of dust motes in ten Buddhalands all came and surrounded Sãkyamuni Buddha.

“His body filled the ten directions, neither coming nor going.” Since the Buddha’s body completely fills the ten directions, how can it come or go? In order for it to come or go somewhere, there has to be some place in the ten directions that is not already filled with the Buddha’s body. This is just like a bowl of water that is already filled to the brim—where else could you put more water in? Before it is filled, you can pour in water. That is “coming.” When you drink the water, that is “going.” If the water has reached the maximum level and nobody is drinking it or adding more water, then there is no coming and no going. It’s as simple as that. You don’t need to talk about Bodhisattvas and specifics and principles. It’s just that when the Buddha’s body is already present everywhere, there is nowhere for it to come or go. This is a function of the Buddha’s spiritual powers. If you realize that state of being, you will also have no coming or going.

To mention just some of the leaders among the innumerable, great Bodhisattvas surrounding Sãkyamuni Buddha on his lion throne, their names were as follows: The first one, the leader of the influential assembly, was Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Worthy. “Universal” refers to his virtues being all-pervasive. “Worthy” refers to his position neighboring that of utmost sagehood. His position is almost the same as that of the Buddha. The Buddha is one of Wonderful Enlightenment, whereas Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is one of Equal Enlightenment. He is a Mahasattva, a great Bodhisattva. The power of this Bodhisattva’s vows surpasses that of other Bodhisattvas, and so does the power of his practices. His kindness, compassion, and wisdom surpass theirs as well, and so he is called a great Bodhisattva.

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Supremely Luminous Lantern of Universal Virtue has meritorious virtues that are universally pervasive, like the surpassing illumination of a bright lamp.

Basically Bodhisattvas don’t have names; however, without names there is no way to communicate their virtuous conduct. Therefore, they are given names according to their vows and methods of practice.

The light of Bodhisattva Mahasattva Lion Banner of Universal Light shines everywhere and on everyone. His speaking of Dharma is like the roar of a lion and like a banner. That indicates how the sound of this Bodhisattva’s voice surpasses that of other Bodhisattvas.

There was also a great Bodhisattva among Bodhisattvas named Bodhisattva Mahasattva Splendid Light of Universal Jeweled Flames. His cultivation of the Bodhisattva Way is very vigorous and so his wisdom is like the wonderful light of jeweled flames.

There was another great Bodhisattva among the Bodhisattvas named Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Voice with Meritorious Virtue Like a Banner or Ocean. His subtle, wondrous sound fills the Dharma Realm and so his merit and virtue is like a vast sea and also like a jeweled banner. The next, another great Bodhisattva, is Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Wisdom-Light Illuminating the Thus Come One’s Realm. The light of his wisdom can illumine the Tathagata’s realm of being. The Thus Come One’s realm is not something that most Bodhisattvas can fathom, yet this Bodhisattva is able to clearly understand it. Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Jeweled Cowl and Flower Banner was another great Bodhisattva among Bodhisattvas.

Sutra:

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Delightful Sounds that Bring Universal Enlightenment; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Purity and Light of Infinite Blessings; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Radiance of Characteristics.

Commentary:

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Delightful Sounds that Bring Universal Enlightenment pervasively enlightens beings everywhere. All beings like this Bodhisattva and are delighted by the sound of his voice. He can emit sounds within sounds that proclaim and spread the doctrines of the Great Vehicle.

To review, Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit word meaning “one who enlightens beings” and “enlightened being.” He uses the truth of enlightenment to teach all beings to attain enlightenment as well. Moreover, he is a being who happens to be enlightened. A Mahasattva is a great Bodhisattva.

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Purity and Light of Infinite Blessings, also a great being, is universally pure and is able to purify the Dharma Realm. He also has boundless blessings and virtue that emit bright light, hence his name.

From his marks and characteristics Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Radiance of Characteristics sends forth a radiance that pervades the Dharma Realm. He too is a leader among Bodhisattvas and so is called a Mahasattva. At the start of the proclamation of the Flower Adornment Sutra, these ten great Bodhisattvas just discussed led their limitless retinues to the bodhimanda to aid the Buddha in propagating the Buddhadharma.

Sutra:

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Ocean Moonlight’s Great Radiance; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Immaculate Treasury of Rumbling Clouds and Shining Ocean; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Jeweled Cowl of Meritorious Virtues Born of Wisdom; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Bright Light of Meritorious Virtue and Majestic Freedom.

Commentary:

There was another Bodhisattva called Bodhisattva Mahasattva  Ocean Moonlight’s Great Radiance. His light is vast like the ocean and bright like the moon. He too is a great Bodhisattva among Bodhisattvas.

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Immaculate Treasury of Rumbling Clouds and Shining Ocean sends forth a mighty clap from a thundercloud that resounds in space, rousing the deaf and startling the blind. Deaf people, upon hearing this sound, are no longer deaf. Sleeping people are startled into awakening. Who are the deaf? They are those who don’t want to listen to the Buddhadharma. Who are the blind? They are those who don’t want to look at the Buddhadharma. But once the mighty clap from this thundercloud hits, those who don’t want to listen have to listen, and those who don’t want to look have no choice but to look. “Shining Ocean” in this Bodhisattva’s name also refers to the emitting of light in the ocean-imprint samadhi to reveal all the myriad phenomena of the universe as when their images are imprinted on the ocean. “Immaculate Treasury” refers to his purity. He too was a great Bodhisattva among Bodhisattvas.

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Jeweled Cowl of Meritorious Virtues Born of Wisdom has immense meritorious virtues, like the jeweled cowl atop his head, which pours forth infinite treasuries of jewels. There was also a Bodhisattva called Bodhisattva Mahasattva Bright Light of Meritorious Virtue and Majestic Freedom. He had attained great meritorious virtue, great freedom, and great brilliance. He was also a great Bodhisattva among Bodhisattvas and a member of the influential assembly at the Dharma assembly.

When the Buddha speaks Dharma, there are ten types of assemblies within the Dharma assembly:

1. the influential assembly
2. the constantly following assembly
3. the Dharma-protecting assembly
4. the adorning assembly
5. the assembly that makes offerings
6. the assembly that brings forth the resolve
7. the assembly of those with current potentials
8. the assembly that represents the Dharma
9. the assembly that attains realization of the Dharma
10. the assembly that reveals the Dharma

1. The influential assembly refers to the great Bodhisattvas of the ten directions, who not only have already heard all the Dharma spoken by one Buddha, they have heard all the Dharma spoken by all Buddhas. Moreover, they completely understand and remember it, and so there’s basically no need for them to hear it again. Yet they still come to hear the Dharma when a Buddha appears in the world. Some Bodhisattvas well up from the ground, some descend from the skies, some come from the far reaches of space, while others arrive from lands as many as dust motes throughout the ten directions. They all come to hear the Buddha speak the Dharma, and they are called the influential assembly.

2. The constantly following assembly refers to the 1,250 disciples of the Buddha who followed the Buddha everywhere to hear him teach the Dharma. Wherever the Buddha went, they always followed along. When the Buddha first attained Buddhahood, the 1,250 had not all come together yet, but the Bodhisattvas of the ten directions came and acted as the constantly following assembly, never leaving the Flower Adornment Dharma assembly.

3. The Dharma-protecting assembly refers to those who come to protect the Buddha when he speaks the Dharma. Since the Buddha has all kinds of spiritual powers and miraculous abilities, why would he need any protection? Although the Buddha has spiritual powers, his Bodhisattva-disciples still want to fulfill their duties as Dharma protectors.

4. The adorning assembly refers to those who come to adorn the Dharma assembly.

5. The assembly that makes offerings refers to those who present gifts of offerings to the Dharma assembly, which are also necessary.

6. The assembly that brings forth the resolve refers to people who resolve to protect and support the Dharma assembly.

7. The assembly of those with current potentials refers to those who are ready for the teaching that the Buddha is delivering at that particular time, that is, those to whom he is especially speaking Dharma.

8. The assembly that represents the Dharma refers to those who exemplify the Dharma that is spoken.

9. The assembly that attains realization of the Dharma refers to those who, upon hearing the Buddha speak the Dharma, attain such fruitions as the first, second, third, or fourth fruitions of Arhatship and so forth.

10. The assembly that reveals the Dharma refers to those who display the Buddha’s Dharma so it is clearly manifest.

Those are the ten types of assemblies that come to lend support to the Buddha’s Dharma assembly. In general, the responsibility of left-home people is to propagate, practice, and uphold the Dharma. The duty of laypeople is to protect the Dharma. Every layperson should fulfill his or her duty. You shouldn’t come to the monastery to find fault with everything. If you do your best to protect the Dharma, you will earn merit and virtue. However, if you come to the monastery specifically to find fault, then you will create offenses instead of merit and virtue.

Sutra:

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Lotus Headdress of Proficient Courage; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Wisdom Resembling Banners of Clouds and Sun.

Commentary:

[explanation by a disciple] Bodhisattva Mahasattva Lotus Headdress of Proficient Courage is extremely vigorous. He is never lazy in practicing the Bodhisattva conduct. Being vigorous, he has joined the Flower Adornment Assembly. And because of his great vigor, he has attained the great jewel of all Bodhisattvas, and so in his headdress there’s a great jewel resembling a lotus flower. The lotus flower is round and represents perfection, and the jewel atop the Bodhisattva’s head represents the manifestation of the Buddha jewel as it teaches in the world. This Bodhisattva, because of his great vigor, has attained the ability to display the Dharma in the world to teach sentient beings. And so he is not only a Bodhisattva but a great Bodhisattva, because he has reached a stage of being able to represent the Buddha in speaking the Dharma.

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Universal Wisdom Resembling Banners of Clouds and Sun. This Bodhisattva’s wisdom is not a small wisdom. It’s not the kind of wisdom acquired from reading books or from merely sitting in dhyana. This Bodhisattva’s wisdom is vast like a cloud and covers the Dharma Realm. His universal wisdom resembles a cloud because it covers sentient beings. And through the use of his wisdom, he covers and protects sentient beings, so that they may be taught. His universal wisdom is also like a great sun banner. A sun banner is like these banners in the Buddha Hall, but like the sun in that it radiates light throughout the Dharma Realm, so that his wisdom covers all sentient beings and also illumines them. It is likened to a banner because it hangs down from the position of a Bodhisattva, covering all realms of existence. And he is a Bodhisattva who wants to teach sentient beings; he is a great Bodhisattva of the Flower Adornment Assembly.

Sutra:

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Adamantine Navel of Great Vigor; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Banner of Fragrant Blazing Light; Bodhisattva Mahasattva Resplendent Virtue and Beautiful Sound; and Bodhisattva Mahasattva Light of Great Blessings Born of Wisdom.
 

Commentary:

[explanation by a disciple] Bodhisattva Mahasattva Adamantine Navel of Great Vigor. This kind of vigor does not refer to great heroism, but to energy, to working very hard. This Bodhisattva worked very hard in his cultivation, and so he attained an adamantine navel. Adamantine means vajra or “indestructible.” Why is he called “indestructible navel”? The navel is the source of life. Every womb-born being has a navel, which connected that being with its mother. In the same way this Bodhisattva is connected with the Buddha and the Dharma from which he was born. He is called Adamantine Navel because he is a non-retreating Bodhisattva, a great Bodhisattva of the assembly.

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Banner of Fragrant Blazing Light. Fragrance refers to the cultivation of precepts. Having cultivated the precepts a long time, he fills the Dharma Realm with fragrance that blazes with light because it’s so intense. And so he is called “Banner of Fragrant Blazing Light.” Banner represents his great heroism and also the fact that he is a Bodhisattva Mahasattva who teaches all sentient beings.

Bodhisattva Mahasattva Resplendent Virtue and Beautiful Sound has cultivated for an uncountable number of eons, and his virtue from all his practice and his benefiting of sentient beings radiates throughout the assembly with resplendence. What did this Bodhisattva practice? He practiced great compassion, and so he is known as Beautiful Sound Bodhisattva. Sound represents the teaching of sentient beings. The manifestation of teaching in the Saha World is by means of sound. Since he practiced for so long and his virtue is so great, his speaking of Dharma is profound and beautiful and makes all sentient beings really happy and joyous.

And there was Bodhisattva Mahasattva Light of Great Blessings Born of Wisdom. This great Bodhisattva, in his cultivation, has always protected the Dharma and sentient beings, and so as a result he has attained great blessings. His great blessings are like a brilliant light which sentient beings may look at as their model, and by seeing his blessings, know to cultivate blessings. If you don’t cultivate blessings, your cultivation will be very bitter. There would be no way to completely fulfill your work in the Way. He is called Born of Wisdom because he knew to cultivate great blessings. He practiced wisdom, and because of his wisdom, he was able to cultivate and attain to a brilliant light of great blessings. He was born of the wisdom which knew to cultivate great blessings. This was another great Bodhisattva of the assembly of the Flower Adornment Sutra.

This concludes the list of the leaders of the Bodhisattva assembly at the bodhimanda of Sãkyamuni Buddha when he first attained to the Utmost, Right, and Perfect Enlightenment. [End of disciple’s explanation.]

Venerable Master: The names of the Bodhisattvas can be explained however you wish to explain them. They do not have a fixed interpretation. Your explanation is generally satisfactory.

Sutra:

These were some of the leaders, and they were as many as dust motes in ten Buddhaworlds.

Commentary:

These were some of the leaders. The twenty Bodhisattvas whose names have been mentioned were all great leaders among the assembly, and they were as many as dust motes in ten Buddhaworlds. Those twenty were representatives of all the rest of the Bodhisattvas, which were as numerous as the dust motes in ten Buddhaworlds. Suppose each dust mote in one Buddhaworld became a world. How many worlds would there be? No one could reckon the amount. Even Bodhisattvas with the Buddha eye are not able to calculate how many that would be. Only the Buddhas know how many worlds that would be.

2. The Perfection of Their Virtues

Sutra:

All these Bodhisattvas had amassed good roots and cultivated Bodhisattva practices in the past, together with the Thus Come One, Vairochana, and all of them were born from the ocean of the Thus Come One’s good roots.

Commentary:

All these Bodhisattvas as numerous as the dust motes in ten Buddhaworlds had amassed good roots and cultivated Bodhisattva practices for measureless eons in the past, together with the Thus Come One, Vairochana, “Brightness Pervading Everywhere.” This does not mean that the Bodhisattvas put their good roots together with Vairochana Buddha’s. Everyone amassed his own good roots, but it was all done in the same Dharma assembly. They each cultivated the Six Perfections and Ten Thousand Practices on their own, thereby accumulating good roots. They diligently created merit and did good deeds, and put a stop to offenses and transgressions. That’s how they amassed good roots together.

All of us attending this sutra lecture could also be said to be amassing good roots together. You vigorously advance in your Dharma practice, and I also make progress in my cultivation. Each person cultivates the Dharma of his choice.

They accumulated those good roots by “cultivating Bodhisattva practices.” Bodhisattva practices consist of benefiting oneself and benefiting others, enlightening oneself and enlightening others, saving oneself and saving others. And all of them were born from the ocean of the Thus Come One’s good roots. Vairochana Thus Come One’s good roots are as vast as the sea. The Bodhisattvas’ good roots are like the streams, rivers, and lakes. Each Bodhisattva had amassed his or her own good roots, and all their good roots flowed into the great sea of the Buddhas’ teachings.

Sutra:

They had completely perfected all paramitas.

Commentary:

They had completely perfected all paramitas. “All paramitas” refers to many, many paramita. They had perfected them all, so that there was no deficiency. They had “taken them all to the other shore,” so to speak. Paramita is a Sanskrit word that translates as “arrived at the other shore”; it can also be interpreted as “having done what had to be done and not undergoing any further existence.” That’s paramita.

All paramita can refer to this very paramita. Which paramita? Whichever one you’re cultivating. If you cultivate giving, then it refers to the paramita of giving. If you cultivate the paramita of holding precepts, then it refers to having arrived at the other shore in holding precepts. If you cultivate the paramita of patience, then this line of text means that you have arrived at the other shore in patience. You’ve achieved perfection in that aspect. If you practice vigor, then this sentence means you have perfected your vigor. You’ve graduated; you’ve passed. If it’s not paramita, then it means you’ve flunked the test. If you cultivate chan samadhi, then this sentence means you’ve perfected your skill in chan samadhi and don’t have any problems; it’s all okay. If you cultivate prajña-paramita, then the sentence means you’ve realized the perfection of prajña.

In Chinese the word for “all” can also be treated as a particle, in which case only one paramita is being referred to. If it is taken to mean “all”, then it refers to a large number of paramita. In general there are six paramitas, but if discussed in detail, there are infinitely many of them.

Originally I was just going to give an overview, but some children happened to come to the lecture today. These children started to have internal struggles in their minds. One of them wondered, “What is meant by giving?” Another one said, “And what is holding precepts all about?” Someone else was thinking, “Hey, why should we be patient? Only wimps and cowards practice patience.” Yet another said, “Vigor is not such a good thing. I feel perfectly natural being lazy in my studies. It’s tedious to be vigorous.” “You talk about chan samadhi, but most people aren’t able to enter samadhi when they meditate.” Someone else said, “Paramita [sounds like “pineapple honey” in Chinese]? I want to have a taste.” Finally, someone thinks, “What is meant by prajña?”

With all these thoughts going on in people’s heads, although I hadn’t planned to explain the Six Paramitas, because you mentally asked me I have no choice but to explain them briefly. If I were to go into detail, then not to mention in two hours, I wouldn’t be able to finish speaking to the ends of time. “I don’t believe that,” you say. You don’t have to believe me. I’m just telling you, that’s all. Why would I want you to believe me? If you believed me, you’d be useless. I prefer that you not believe. That’s how wonderful it is. If you don’t believe me, then there’s something I can do. If you believed me, then I’d be out of work. Since you don’t believe, I can explain a little more. Once you believed, there wouldn’t be any need for me to explain things. This is very easy to figure out, even if you’ve never studied mathematics.

1. The paramita of giving: Giving means renouncing. In general, there are three kinds of giving. If spoken of in detail, there are hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of kinds of giving. Actually, and I don’t mean to shock you, but there are 84,000 kinds of giving. In fact, every method of practice can be divided into 84,000 subcategories, if you want to analyze it. If you don’t, then there are just one, two, three. Since people wouldn’t remember if I explained too many kinds, I’ll just talk about three kinds.

The first is the giving of wealth. This is not easy to do. There’s a Chinese saying, “Giving wealth is like slicing off your own flesh.” It’s that painful. But just because it’s not easy to do, you must do it. If you give what’s easy to give, it doesn’t mean very much. But to be able to give what is not easy to give is true giving.

“Humaneness is hard at first, but is eventually acquired.” “Humaneness” here means giving, and it’s difficult. But if you can go through a hard training and survive, then it won’t be hard anymore. What is “eventually acquired” is merit and virtue.

The second kind is the giving of Dharma. This means to bestow the Buddhadharma upon sentient beings and tie up Dharma-affinities with them. Today all of you young friends—or maybe old fellow cultivators—have come here and I am explaining the paramita of giving to you. This is the giving of Dharma. “The two types of giving—that of wealth and Dharma—are equal and without distinction.” Giving away Dharma is like giving away wealth, but even harder. The saying goes:

Giving wealth is like slicing off your own flesh.
Giving Dharma is like losing your own life.

When you give Dharma, you have given something as important as your life. Dharma can rescue people’s wisdom-life, but when you have given it, you yourself have less in that you have given breath and energy, which is just the same as giving life. Speaking the Dharma requires a lot of energy. You need to bring across the meaning of every single word and phrase of Dharma so that it registers deeply in the listeners’ minds and does not escape. In this act of giving you are also giving your life. I could take some money out of my pocket and give it to you, and that would be simple. To prepare and deliver a sutra lecture is much more strenuous and exhausting. You young people don’t understand this. Once you grow older, you’ll know what I mean. I’m not bragging about my own hard work. In fact, if you would like to lecture in my stead, you would be most welcome.

The third kind is the giving of fearlessness. When sentient beings encounter any sort of accident or sudden calamity, such as a flood, fire, or robbery—any situation where they are frightened—you should comfort them by saying, “Don’t be afraid. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will come to protect you.” Actually it is not that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas come to lend aid. If the frightened person can quiet his own mind, then naturally his own Buddha nature will be peaceful and secure. Just that is receiving the protection of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas don’t have to come flying through the air from limitless lands to where you are and recite some mantra to make you feel secure. If someone helps you, when you encounter a terrifying situation, not to be afraid, that is in itself protection provided by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Don’t seek for the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas outside and wonder, “How come I don’t see them?” What do you want to see? A ghost? Don’t be so foolish. Don’t be attached to what you see, because there are things that are beyond seeing. If you are attached, then you are simply a “a big, dumb egg,” as we say in Chinese—a  fool. I’m not scolding you. I’m just explaining the principle. That’s the giving of fearlessness, the third kind of giving.

“What does he mean by a ‘big, dumb egg’?” someone wonders. It’s an egg that can’t roll or move, like a dead thing.

How did you know what I was thinking about?” another person wonders. If you can think about it, why shouldn’t I know about it? I’m the same as you. When you have a thought, my radar picks up the signal. All of our minds are linked by radar. If you know how to read the radar, then you can see what everyone is thinking. I won’t talk about such illogical, unscientific things. Let’s talk about holding precepts.

2. The pramita of holding precepts: There are the Five Precepts and the Eight Precepts.
    
The Five Precepts:
a.   Do not kill.
b.   Do not steal.
c.   Do not engage in sexual misconduct.
d.   Do not speak falsely.
e.   Do not take intoxicants.

Further, there are the Eight Lay Precepts, the Ten Major and Forty-eight Minor Bodhisattva Precepts, the Ten Sramanera (Novice) Precepts, the 250 Bhikshu Precepts, and the 348 Bhikshuni Precepts.
Precepts are moral and ethical rules that guide the path of cultivation. It’s essential for people who cultivate to uphold the precepts. And even if you don’t want to cultivate, it’s better for you if you hold the precepts. Holding precepts is the second paramita.

3. The paramita of patience: Men may say, “People who practice patience are cowards. Patience is for women. A man has to be a great hero, a courageous leader—aggressive and commanding, not patient and yielding. What use are patience and forbearance?”

I ask you, of what use are you if you lack patience? As to your description of a hero, Mencius leveled this criticism a long time ago:

To grasp one’s sword and wield it aloft, to take one’s stance and meet one’s challenger face to face, is a petty man’s courage: it only works for one-to-one combat.

But if you can be patient under insult, you are “a match for ten thousand men.” No one will be able to conquer you. That’s because:

The soft can overpower the hard;
The weak can overcome the strong.

That’s genuine, great courage. If you want to be a genuine, unrivalled hero, you must be patient. You must bear what others cannot bear. For example, as a young man the general Han Xin in China underwent the humiliation of crawling between the legs of some vagrants and of begging for food from an old washer woman. Then he became a great commander-in-chief and, because of his ability to endure disgrace, managed to defeat the mighty Prince of Chu.

There are three kinds of patience:
a. Patience with arising
b. Patience with dharmas
c. Patience with the nonarising of dharmas

Patience with arising means being patient with all beings. Patience with dharmas means being patient with all dharmas. You should also be patient with the nonarising of dharmas. If you can further realize that not the slightest dharma comes into being and not the slightest dharma ceases to be, and you can bear that patiently in mind, then at that point, you attain the Middle Way. After you realize the emptiness of people and dharmas, you attain the ultimate meaning of the Middle Way.

4. The paramita of vigor. Vigor means not being lazy; it counteracts laziness. One can be physically vigorous and mentally vigorous. Physical vigor means being diligent day and night in cultivating the Way. Mental vigor means that in thought after thought one aspires toward the Unsurpassed Way. In thought after thought one cultivates, enlightens to, and realizes the Unsurpassed Way.

5. The paramita of dhyana samadhi: If you develop skill in dhyana samadhi, so that you are always absorbed in concentration no matter where you are, you can reach the other shore.

6.   The paramita of prajña: Prajña, a Sanskrit word, refers to wisdom. There are three kinds of prajña

The Three Kinds of Prajna
a.   Literary prajña
b.   Contemplative prajña
c.   Prajña of reality

Since prajña has many meanings and is an honored term, it is not translated.

This has been a discussion of the Six Paramitas that all the great Bodhisattvas had cultivated to perfection. They had perfected not just one, but all of them. They had reached the other shore.

Sutra:

Their wisdom eye was clear and penetrating, and they contemplated the three periods of time as equal. They had reached total purity in all samadhi. Their ocean-like eloquence was infinite and vast. Replete with the meritorious virtues of a Buddha, they were venerable and dignified.

Commentary:

Their wisdom eye was clear and penetrating. The wisdom eye is one of the Five Eyes. The others are the Buddha eye, the Dharma eye, the flesh eye, and the heavenly eye. “Clear” means that there is nothing the wisdom eye does not perceive. “Penetrating” means being able to see through, just as one can see clear through to the bottom of a pool of clear water, and thoroughly understand things. And since they had the wisdom eye, the Dharma eye, the heavenly eye, the Buddha eye, and the flesh eye, they contemplated the three periods of time as equal. When they contemplated time, they found that it is actually unreal. There is no past, present, or future. The three periods of time are equal. Although we speak of there being a past, a present, and a future, those are just false names. Contemplating the three periods of time as equal is like contemplating that yesterday and today are the same, and that today and tomorrow are the same. What is the advantage of contemplating them as all the same? It gets rid of mental discrimination. When there is no discrimination, not a single thought arises, and not a single thought arising is contemplating the three periods of time as being the same.

They had reached total purity in all samadhi. This means realizing to perfection whatever samadhi one is cultivating. If you are cultivating Chan, you will attain dhyana-samadhi. If you are cultivating patience, you will attain the samadhi of patience. If you cultivate mindfulness of the Buddha, you will attain the samadhi of mindfulness of the Buddha. Cultivating the contemplation of being single-minded, you will attain the samadhi of being single-minded. No matter which samadhi you cultivate, you will reach perfection and purity.

Their ocean-like eloquence was infinite and vast. Eloquence refers to skillful mastery of words and expressions. There are Four Kinds of Eloquence:

1.   The eloquence of nonobstruction of dharmas
2.   The eloquence of nonobstruction of meaning
3.   The eloquence of nonobstruction of phrasing
4.   The eloquence of nonobstruction of delight in speech

With eloquence, one is always victorious in any debate. Such eloquence is like the great sea, vast and boundless.

Replete with the meritorious virtues of a Buddha, they were venerable and dignified, inspiring reverence in all sentient beings. Sentient beings should be reverent towards the great sages, great Arhats, great Bodhisattvas, and the Buddhas of the ten directions.

Sutra:

They knew the faculties of sentient beings, taming and transforming them accordingly. They had entered the treasury of the Dharma Realm by means of the wisdom of discrimination. They had realized the Buddha’s liberation, which was profound, extensive, and great. They could, through expedient means, enter a single ground.

Commentary:

These great Bodhisattvas were replete with the Buddhas’ meritorious virtues and inspired reverence in all beings. Moreover, they knew the faculties of sentient beings, taming and transforming them accordingly. They knew which beings have sharp faculties and which have dull ones. For those with sharp faculties, they spoke of Dharma of Reality. For those with dull faculties they spoke expedient dharmas and analogies to enable them to understand and become enlightened. Since they understood the different propensities of beings, these Bodhisattvas knew how to transform and subdue these beings with the appropriate methods and also how to inspire awe and veneration in them.

They had entered the treasury of the Dharma Realm by means of the wisdom of nondiscrimination. That is, these Bodhisattvas were one and the same as the Dharma Realm. Having attained the wisdom of nondiscrimination, they had realized the Buddhas’ liberation, which means they had no attachments at all. Since they were without attachment to people, to self, or to dharmas, they could see people as empty, dharmas as empty, and emptiness as empty, too. Having let go of everything, they had entered that passage into liberation. By letting go, one becomes master of oneself, and that self-mastery is liberation.

The state of these Bodhisattvas was profound, extensive, and great. It was deep and profound like the ocean, vast and great like the Dharma Realm. The state of these Bodhisattvas was inconceivable. In the past, some of them had been teachers of Sakyamuni Buddha, but in this life they had come back to be the Buddha’s disciples and to help the Buddha propagate the teachings. That state of mind is expansive, unlike the attached minds of ordinary people. They had no attachments.

They could, through expedient means, enter a single ground. “A single ground” means the First Ground. Having entered the First Ground, they were then able to enter each and every ground. Expedient means are not easy to practice. They may look easy, but in fact, they aren’t that easy to practice. While Bodhisattvas practice them with ease, ordinary people find them quite unnatural and uncomfortable to use.

Sutra:

Yet, supported by the ocean of all vows, they were constantly endowed with wisdom and would continue to be, to the end of time. They had completely fathomed the rare, vast, esoteric state of the Buddhas. They well knew the equality of all Buddhadharmas. They had already walked upon the Thus Come Ones’ ground of universal light. They had entered the door to the ocean of measureless samadhis.

Commentary:

The preceding section said the Bodhisattvas could, through expedient means, enter one ground, yet they were supported by the ocean of all vows. When Bodhisattvas cultivate, they must make vows. If their vows are great, their practice will be true. If their vows are not great, sometimes they will think of retreating. Therefore, the three requisites of cultivation are faith, vows, and practice. You can’t do without any one of them.

First you must have faith. Then you make vows, and having made vows, you put them into practice. You cannot make just one or two vows, or three, four, or five vows, and be satisfied with that. You must make vows as vast as the ocean. Supported by the power of their vows, they were constantly endowed with wisdom. They were always wise and never deluded. With wisdom, one has right knowledge and right views. With delusion, one has wrong knowledge and views. Right knowledge and views guide one along the path to Buddhahood. Wrong knowledge and views take one toward the hells. If you don’t wish to fall into the hells, make sure you have right knowledge and views. If you don’t mind going to the hells, you can keep your wrong knowledge and views.

The Bodhisattvas are this way and would continue to be, to the end of time. They had completely fathomed the rare, vast, esoteric state of the Buddhas. They totally understood the state of the Buddhas, which is uncommonly rare, vast and great, and mysterious to the point of being inconceivable. They well knew the equality of all Buddhadharmas. They were able to understand that the Dharma which all Buddhas practice, and which all Buddhas attain and then teach, is one of equality. They had already walked upon the Thus Come Ones’ ground of universal light. They had already reached the place of universal brilliance where the Buddhas were. That is to say, they were truly practicing the wisdom of all Buddhas. The ground of universal light is the ground of wisdom. These great Bodhisattvas had attained that position.

Having obtained wisdom, they had entered the door to the ocean of measureless samadhis, and their concentration power was as vast as the ocean.

Sutra:

In all places they manifested appropriate bodies. Complying with the ways of the world, they cooperated with and adapted themselves to those around them.

Commentary:

In all places and at all times, they complied with the needs of sentient beings and manifested appropriate bodies. Complying with the ways of the world, they cooperated with and adapted themselves to those around them. These Bodhisattvas appeared before beings and did whatever kind of work those beings were doing. They used the Four Methods of Gathering Beings In—giving, kind words, beneficial deeds, and similar work.

1. Giving: When among sentient beings, they help them out and let them have the advantages.
2. Kind words: They use pleasant words that beings like to hear.
3. Beneficial deeds: They share their benefits with beings.
4. Similar work: They do the same things that beings do.

Sutra:

They were able to unite and uphold limitless dharmas on a vast scale, amassing an ocean of dharmas. They turned the irreversible wheel with eloquence and skill-in-means.

Commentary:

They were able to unite and uphold limitless dharmas on a vast scale. These Bodhisattvas were able to “unite all dharmas and hold limitless meanings” on an immense scale, amassing an ocean of dharmas. They gathered all the 84,000 dharma doors into a single body, and that single body could pervasively practice all 84,000 dharmas. They turned the irreversible Dharma wheel with eloquence and skill-in-means. They went forward in cultivation without ever turning back.

Sutra:

They physically embodied the great ocean of meritorious virtues of all the Thus Come Ones. In accordance with their vows, they went to all lands where Buddhas were present. Throughout limitlessly many preceding eons they had made offerings to all Buddhas with tireless delight.

Commentary:

They physically embodied the great ocean of meritorious virtues of all the Thus Come Ones. The ocean of all the Buddhas’ meritorious virtues were embodied by each of those Bodhisattvas. In accordance with their vows, they went to all lands in the ten directions where Buddhas were present. By the power of their vows, these Bodhisattvas were able to be reborn in whichever Buddhaland they wished. Throughout limitlessly many preceding eons they had made offerings to all Buddhas with tireless delight. Infinitely many eons ago, so many that they cannot be verbally expressed, these Bodhisattvas had joyfully made offerings to and praised the Buddhas without fatigue. They never said, “I’m tired of studying the Buddhadharma,” or became bored with it.

Sutra:

They always dwelled in the bodhimandas of the Thus Come Ones, drawing near to them and never renouncing them. By means of the attainment of Universal Worthy’s ocean of vows, they constantly enabled all sentient beings to perfect the wisdom body. The Bodhisattvas had accomplished such measureless, meritorious virtues as these.

Commentary:

They always dwelled in the bodhimandas of the Thus Come Ones, that is, the places where the Buddhas had become enlightened and had realized Buddhahood. These Bodhisattvas came to each and every Buddha’s place of enlightenment,  drawing near them and never renouncing them. They never left the Buddhas, but stayed to act as the influential assembly, as the assembly for whom the Buddha spoke the Dharma, as the Dharma protecting assembly, as the assembly that made offerings, as the assembly that requested Dharma, as the assembly that always followed the Buddha, as the assembly that represented the Dharma, as the assembly that realized the Dharma, and as the assembly that revealed the Dharma. By means of the attainment of Universal Worthy’s ocean of great practices and vows, they constantly enabled all sentient beings to perfect the wisdom body. The Bodhisattvas had accomplished such measureless, meritorious virtues as these.

previous * next * contents

return to top