The Wondrous Adornments
of the Rulers of the Worlds
Chapter One, Part Two
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua_
Beings are constantly occluded by darkness and delusion.
The Thus Come One tells them about the method for gaining tranquility,
Describing it as a lamp of wisdom that shines on the world.
Wondrous Eyes understands this skillful means.
How do we define beings? They are “those born from a confluence of many conditions.” Well, what does that mean? Let’s use plants as an example. The first condition necessary is land. There has to be a good piece of soil where crops can grow. Another condition is seasonal weather. The weather needs to be hot when it’s time to be hot, and cold when it’s time to be cold. An additional condition is clear division of the four seasons. In spring, one sows the seeds. In summer, one plants and weeds. In fall, one harvests, and in winter, one stores the crops. The seasons correspond to the cycle of coming into being, dwelling, declining, and disappearing. Sowing the seeds is the stage of coming into being. Growth of the crops corresponds to the stage of dwelling. Harvesting is the stage of declining, and the storing of the crops in winter is the stage of disappearing. If land is available, but there is no rain, the crops will not grow. If there is rain, but no manpower, the crops will not survive, either. There has to be confluence of many different conditions for there to be beings, literally “those born of many (conditions).”
Consider the case of birds. When a mother bird wishes to have little birds, first she has to build a nest, then lay her eggs and sit on them until the baby birds hatch. That’s a case of several conditions having to be satisfied before birth can take place. People are also born as a result of the converging of several conditions. “Beings” in the text here refers not only to people, but to beings from all four kinds of birth: those born from wombs, eggs, moisture, and transformation. An in-depth discussion would reveal that there are actually many categories and species of beings. However, by and large beings are deluded. That’s why the text says: Beings are constantly occluded by darkness and delusion. They are constantly deluded and shrouded in darkness. Darkness and delusion refer to affliction and ignorance. On a coarse level, there is affliction; on a subtler level, there is ignorance.
The Thus Come One tells them about the method for gaining tranquility.Since sentient beings are constantly confused and unreceptive to the Buddha’s teaching, the Buddha bases himself in the Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind, which are kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity, in speaking Dharma for sentient beings. The Buddha teaches them the method for gaining tranquility, which is the investigation of chan meditation. A few days ago we held a chan session, and that was the method for gaining tranquility. The Buddha teaches beings to cultivate tranquility, describing it as a lamp of wisdom that shines on the world. The method of gaining tranquility is a lamp of great wisdom that illumines the world. Wondrous Eyes understands this skillful means. Celestial King Wondrous Eyes understands this method.
The Thus Come One’s pure, wonderful physical body
Universally manifests in the ten directions, defying comparison.
This body has no nature or place of reliance.
The god Wholesome Reflection observes thus.
The Thus Come One’s pure, wonderful physical body is one aspect of the Buddha. The Buddha’s Dharma body is pure, as is his reward body. The Buddha also has a pure, bright, inconceivably wonderful physical body that universally manifests in all Buddha worlds throughout the ten directions, defying comparison. Nothing in the worlds of the ten directions can compare with the pure and bright body of the Buddha. This body has no nature or place of reliance.
The Buddha’s pure, wonderful physical body has no nature of its own and nothing that it relies on. It is extremely free and at ease. The god Wholesome Reflection observes thus. Celestial King Wholesome Reflection sees this aspect of the Buddha’s state of being.
The Thus Come One’s voice transcends bounds
No one who is ready to be taught will fail to hear it.
And yet the Buddha remains still, forever unmoving.
The god Delightful Knowledge is liberated thus.
The Thus Come One’s voice transcends bounds and impediments. Once, the Venerable Maudgalyayana, using his spiritual powers, traveled a great distance to the east. He traversed countless hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhalands until he was very far away, and yet the Buddha’s voice was still as clear as if Maudgalyayana were in the presence of the Buddha, hearing his voice directly. He could hear the Buddha’s voice very clearly. Therefore, the Buddha’s voice transcends bounds and impediments.
No one who is ready to be taught will fail to hear it. If beings are ready to be taught and they have affinities with the Buddha, then they will, without exception, be able to hear the Buddha’s sound. And yet the Buddha remains still, forever unmoving. Beings in lands throughout the ten directions can hear the Buddha speak Dharma, and yet those beings have not come to where the Buddha is, nor has the Buddha gone to where they are. The Buddha stays seated in quiet meditation, cultivating the virtues of eternity, bliss, true self, and purity. But the Buddha’s voice extends everywhere. The god Delightful Knowledge is liberated thus. This verse expresses the principles of liberation that Celestial King Delightful Knowledge attained.
The lord of humans and gods, one of still and quiet liberation,
Appears everywhere throughout the ten directions.
His dazzling light fills the world.
Glorious Banner of Unimpeded Dharma thus perceives.
The lord of humans and gods, one of still and quiet liberation...“Still and quiet” describes a place without din and bustle, a serene and placid place where one can attain liberation. Upon attaining liberation, one is truly still and quiet. Only the Buddha deserves this name. He is the teacher of both gods and humans, who appears everywhere throughout the ten directions. Throughout the ten directions, there is no place where the Buddha’s Dharma body is not found.
The Buddha’s Dharma body is nowhere and yet everywhere. His dazzling light fills the world. The Buddha’s brilliance illumines the trichiliocosm with universal light. Glorious Banner of Unimpeded Dharma thus perceives. Celestial King Glorious Banner of Unimpeded Dharma sees and understands this dharma door.
Throughout boundless seas of great eons, the Buddha
Sought bodhi in order to help sentient beings.
With many different spiritual powers he transforms all.
The god Brilliant Renown awakens to this dharma.
Throughout boundless seas of great eons, the Buddha / sought bodhi in order to help sentient beings. The Buddha “cultivated blessings and wisdom for three asamkhyeyas, and perfected the hallmarks and characteristics for a hundred eons.” An asamkhyeya means “an uncountable number.” Three asamkhyeyas means three of those “uncountable numbers” of eons. Because so many eons are involved, they are likened to a sea, vast and deep beyond fathoming. Throughout those seas of great eons, the Buddha cultivated the Buddha Way so as to teach and transform beings so that they can all realize Buddhahood. He did not cultivate only for himself. He made the resolve to seek bodhi so that he could save beings and cause them to all attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
With myriad spiritual powers he transforms all. The Buddha uses all kinds of spiritual powers and meritorious virtues to teach and transform beings. The god Brilliant Renown awakens to this dharma. Celestial King Brilliant Renown understands this dharma door.
Time passes very quickly. The sun and moon move back and forth like a shuttle, never stopping for an instant. People progress from youth to their prime, and from their prime onwards to old age. And those who are old are fast approaching death. They go through their lives muddled and confused. When they’re born, they don’t understand; when they die, they still don’t understand. This lack of understanding is ignorance. They are fettered by their ignorance, so they cannot attain liberation. If they understood, they would be liberated. In the past there was an old cultivator who went to request the Dharma from a wise teacher. He asked, “Please tell me: how can I attain liberation?”
The good teacher didn’t tell him how he could attain liberation. Instead, he came back with a question: “Who tied you up?”
Instantaneously, that old cultivator became enlightened: “Oh! I’ve been tying myself up. Nobody else tied me up. If I don’t tie myself up, I can be liberated.”
The old cultivator became enlightened upon asking his teacher that question. Right now we can also ask ourselves the same question. No one knows who will become enlightened and who will remain unenlightened.
2) Heavens of the Fourth Dhyāna
Moreover, Celestial King Bright Banner of Delight in the Dharma gained a passage into liberation of comprehensively observing the faculties of all sentient beings so as to speak Dharma for them and dissolve their doubts.
Moreover indicates that the principle in the previous section has not been discussed completely. The Celestial King named Bright Banner of Delight in the Dharma is extremely fond of the Dharma, and his wisdom is vast like a bright jeweled banner. He gained a passage into liberation of comprehensively observing the faculties of all sentient beings so as to speak Dharma for them and dissolve their doubts. He has attained a kind of samadhi called “observing all sentient beings’ faculties.” Sentient beings have their individual faculties. Take people, for instance. Everyone’s disposition is different. Although we say that all beings share an identical Buddha nature, within that sameness there are many differences. Every person has his or her individual nature. The same applies to other beings as well.
Among people, there are those with dull and sharp faculties. Those with dull faculties are deluded. They will not understand the Dharma after you explain it to them once. Even if you explain it twice, they still don’t understand. In fact, the more they ask about it, they more muddled they become. The more muddled they are, the more they want to ask questions. As for those with sharp faculties, upon hearing one principle they will understand ten; they can infer many principles from one principle. Then there are those of average faculties; that is, they are neither dull nor sharp, but mediocre. In general, people are endowed with different dispositions. Some are very compassionate by nature, while others have very little compassion. But bit by bit they can change their own thinking and increase their compassion. Although our faculties differ, we are all studying the same thing—the Buddhadharma.
This Celestial King understands beings’ faculties as well as their desires. He knows what every type of being likes. There are many people in this country, yet not that many of them like to cultivate Buddhism, especially in a place where cultivation of the Buddhadharma is taken very seriously. Even fewer people are interested in a place like that. We can see from this that sentient beings are not easy to save. In this country, people didn’t truly understand the Buddhadharma before, so it’s not easy to teach them to cultivate. You are studying Buddhism now, so that in the future you can go throughout the world to propagate the Buddhadharma. If you want to propagate the Buddhadharma worldwide, first you have to understand beings’ faculties and desires—the things they like. My lecturing of this sutra for you now is like clearing an overgrown piece of land and planting seeds. In the future it’s up to you to cultivate the vast fields of Buddhism and sow bodhi seeds. From now on, every one of you should be independent. Don’t rely on others. Don’t be like Ànanda who, when Sãkyamuni Buddha was about to enter nirvana, broke out in tears because he was too dependent on the Buddha.
Don’t be dependent. When I am here, you should act as if I weren’t. When I’m not here, you should act as if I were. If you don’t learn to be self-sufficient, what will you do if an accident occurs one day, if an earthquake sends me into the ocean? If you do not rely too much on your teacher from the start, then no matter what happens, there will be no problems. Someone is wondering, “What is the meaning behind the Master’s words today? Is he going to enter the stillness?” Don’t be over-sensitive, like the man of Qi who worried that the sky would cave in. He thought, “The sky is going to fall, and that will be the end of us!” Don’t think like that.
Each sentient being has a different disposition. Some like to eat sour food, some like to eat sweet food, others like to eat hot, or bitter food. I like bitter food, but I am not fond of sweet stuff, because it’s too sweet. One of my disciples likes to eat sweets, but doesn’t like bitter things. See, I know your dispositions. Another disciple likes cottage cheese. Such are the faculties of sentient beings. Another disciple does not like others to watch over him, but he’s clumsy and foolish.
This Celestial King has “gained the passage into liberation of comprehensively observing the faculties of all sentient beings so as to speak Dharma for them and dissolve their doubts.” He speaks Dharma appropriate to each being’s disposition. For example, there are beings who are stingy and greedy. Such a person would squeeze a penny in his hand until it melts, rather than let go of it. He won’t spend that penny. That’s how stingy he is. He would rather squeeze that penny until it turns to fluid than to release his grasp and buy something with it. To a person who is greedy and stingy, you should speak the dharma of giving and tell him about the merits of giving. Giving cures stinginess and greed.
When you meet people who violate the precepts, you should teach them about the merits and benefits associated with holding the precepts. To people who have big tempers, you talk about patience and urge them to emulate Maitreya Bodhisattva, who has a big belly that can hold everything. Patience is the antidote for hatred and anger. When you encounter lazy people, you urge them to be vigorous. Vigor cures one of laziness. When you meet people whose minds are scattered, who are flighty and hyperactive, speak the dharma of dhyana-samadhi for them. Dhyana-samadhi is the antidote for scatteredness. When you run into deluded people, speak to them about prajña, so their wisdom will unfold. Prajña cures delusion. This is a general explanation of the Six Paramitas. If we were to go into detail, sentient beings have 84,000 kinds of dispositions, and 84,000 dharma doors are used to counteract their problems. That’s why I often say: Of the 84,000 dharma doors, there isn’t a number one or number two. Any dharma door, as long as it works for you, is number one. There are 84,000 number ones. As for the 83,999 that are not appropriate for you, they are all number two. The dharma door that meets your needs is number one.
If you know how to speak the Dharma, you will inspire people to resolve to follow the Way. If you don’t know how to speak the Dharma, you will cause people to retreat from their resolve for the Way. When speaking the Dharma, you have to observe the potentials and dispense the teaching. Observe people’s faculties and aspirations. Try to figure out the kinds of roots they have. For example, if a being’s good roots have ripened, you can encourage him to leave the home life. If he doesn’t have good roots, you can encourage him to plant them. Think of ways to exhort him to plant good roots. You should help those who have already planted good roots to increase their good roots. You should help those whose roots have increased to bring those good roots to maturity. You should help those whose good roots have already matured to attain liberation. That’s the unobstructed passage into liberation of “observing all sentient beings’ faculties and speaking Dharma to sever their doubts” and inspire faith.
Once you have learned something, you can decide whether or not to use it. However, you cannot use it if you never learned it in the first place. When it comes time to use a skill and you don’t have it, you have trouble on your hands. In Chinese, we have two lines:
When it’s time to use your book learning,
you lament you know too little.
Unless you’ve actually gone through the experience,
you won’t realize the difficulties involved.
When it comes time to utilize your book learning, you regret that you studied so little in the past. You don’t know many characters, you cannot produce essays, and you don’t know how to write anything. When it’s time for you to put that knowledge to practical use, you realize you know too little. No matter what it is, if you have not actually been through it and experienced it, you won’t understand the difficulties involved. I’ve had lots of experience. In the past I traveled from one place to another, and so I am well aware of those hardships. Many of you Westerners have abundant blessings. You casually waste resources and material things. As soon as you squander them, more come your way. Why does this happen? It is because many of you have blessings. Many Westerners are gods who have come to the human realm after having lived in the heavens, and therefore they have abundant blessings.
But there are also many people who have emerged from the hells. Don’t think that all the people in this country have come from the heavens. There are also many hell-beings here. Rich ghosts come here to enjoy themselves, too. Each one of you should work hard for the sake of Buddhism, and not for yourself. You should accumulate your capital for the future when you propagate the Buddhadharma, just as when a person goes into business, he needs some capital to start with. If he doesn’t have capital, his business will not succeed. This is a very simple, but important, principle.
Celestial King Ocean of Pure Adornments gained a passage into liberation of enabling all sentient beings to see the Buddha upon recollecting him.
Celestial King Ocean of Pure Adornments. This Celestial King has attained pure adornments. “Ocean” is a descriptive word, meaning vast and broad. He pervasively adorns all Buddhalands. He has gained a state of samadhi, a passage into liberation of enabling all sentient beings to see the Buddha upon recollecting him. As soon as you think of the Buddha, you will be able to see him. This Celestial King has himself attained this samadhi, this liberation of seeing the Buddhas as soon as he recollects them, and he also enables all beings to attain this dharma door of liberation. If you don’t recollect, then of course you will forget; but if you recollect the Buddha, you will see him.
Great Strength Bodhisattva, in the Surangama Sutra, likened the dharma door of reciting the Buddha’s name to the relationship between mother and son. A person recollecting the Buddha is like the son; the Buddha is like the mother. The mother and son used to live together, but the son likes to go out and play. He is naughty and mischievous. He refuses to live together with his mother any more. He runs away. Now, if he had left the home life and become a monk, that wouldn’t be bad. However, the son hasn’t run off to become a monk. Instead he roams around aimlessly, without a proper job. The mother thinks about her son every day. She thinks about him day after day without stopping. But the son doesn’t think about his mother. In his wanderings he has forgotten about going home. Although there are times when he has no food to eat, still, he prefers to be loafing around outside.
After a few years, the son starts to think about his mother at home. And his mother thinks about him. There is a telepathic connection between their minds, like an electric impulse, and the son returns home. This is, as the Surangama Sutra says, “When beings recollect and are mindful of the Buddha, now and in the future, they will be sure to see the Buddha.” Once the son starts to recollect his mother, right at that moment he can go home. Likewise, once we recite Amitabha Buddha’s name, Amitabha Buddha welcomes us back. We have been drifting about outside, not knowing to go home.
Celestial King Ocean of Pure Adornments has attained the samadhi of seeing the Buddhas. “Upon recollecting them” means that at any time and in any place, as soon as you recall and are mindful of the Buddhas, now or in the future, you will see them. Some people recite the Buddha’s name, but don’t see the Buddha. They wonder, “It doesn’t work like the sutra says. Was the Buddha lying?” No, the Dharma that the Buddha speaks is perfect and unobstructed. You may see the Buddha now, or you may see him in the future. It might be in your next life or the life after that. The Dharma is spoken in a most perfect and unobstructed way. You may see the Buddha now, but just in case you don’t get to see him now, the Buddha added this line, “In the future you will be sure to see the Buddha.”
By reciting the Buddha’s name, you will also realize Buddhahood. “I recite the Buddha’s name. Why haven’t I become a Buddha?” you ask. In the future you will. Since you haven’t perfected your skill, you cannot immediately become a Buddha. If your skill is already perfected, you can see the Buddha right now and in the future you will surely become a Buddha. This Celestial King has attained this dharma, this benefit, of “seeing the Buddhas upon recollecting them.”
Celestial King Supreme Wisdom-Light gained a passage into liberation of the body being adorned with the Dharma nature of equality and independence.
The Dharma nature is equal to begin with, so why does the text say he “gained” such a state? It means that when someone becomes a Buddha, the Dharma nature is equal. But as sentient beings, we cannot yet speak of the Dharma nature as being equal. Celestial King Supreme Wisdom Light has the most sublime wisdom, which is why he has infinite light and has gained a passage into liberation of the body being adorned with the Dharma nature of equality and independence. With the unfolding of great wisdom, he realized the equality of the Dharma nature. “Equality” means neither excessive nor deficient. There is neither too much nor too little, but just the right amount.
Although we say that among sentient beings the Dharma nature is not equal, nonetheless, from a deeper viewpoint, the Dharma nature is equal, even among sentient beings. Why? There is no less Dharma nature among sentient beings, nor more among Buddhas. It is fundamentally equal. And being equal, it is not dependent upon anything. Why not? There is no attachment, no sense of self, no concept of right and wrong, and no place of reliance. It is completely equal and independent. If there were still something it depended upon, it wouldn’t be equal. But since it relies upon nothing, there is true equality. All attachments are gone. You don’t think, “I believe in this dharma, but I don’t believe in that dharma.” Whether you believe or not, in either case there is attachment.
People are strange creatures; no need to go anywhere else looking for strange creatures. That would be adding a head on top of your head. People themselves are strange creatures. In what ways are they strange? Let’s not talk about past lives and future lives, but just about today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Yesterday some people said, “Today we’ll eat dumplings,” but today they change their minds and say, “Dumplings don’t taste good. Let’s have noodles instead.” Take a look: The strange creature of yesterday is not the same as the strange creature of today. And tomorrow, they will say, “Let’s have rice.”
I bring up food to illustrate the point, since everybody relates to eating. The point is: yesterday, today, and tomorrow—those three days—are different in terms of the food you want to eat. Belief in Buddhism works the same way. In a former lifetime, a person might have said, “The practice of reciting the Buddha’s name is not bad. I must cultivate it and seek rebirth in the Pure Land. I must attain the samadhi of reciting the Buddha’s name.” But just when he was about to attain the Buddha-recitation samadhi, he had a doubt: “Is this really true? I don’t know whether this practice really works or not,” and then the person died. Since that doubt undermined his faith, he couldn’t get reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Now, in this life, that person is completely skeptical. He says, “Reciting the Buddha’s name is useless. How could such a doctrine be true? It’s just cheating people. Only old ladies recite the Buddha’s name. I’m not an old lady; I’m a great hero. I’m not going to recite the Buddha’s name.”
Take a look. In his past life he recited the Buddha’s name, but at the last moment he had a doubt, and as a result in this life he doesn’t believe in reciting the Buddha’s name at all.
Someone else might have practiced chan meditation in a past life. He meditated intensively and was on the verge of enlightenment. But right at that moment, he decided to give up. He thought, “I’ve been meditating my whole life and I’m about to die, and I still haven’t gotten enlightened. I’ve been cheated by this Dharma spoken by Sãkyamuni Buddha. Well, reciting the Buddha’s name looks promising. I think I’ll give that a try.” As a result, he didn’t succeed in chan, nor did he attain samadhi through reciting the Buddha’s name. And in this life, such a person believes in reciting the Buddha’s name and cultivates the Pure Land practice.
That’s another case of how someone changed his mind in the middle of doing something in his past life. In this life, he will change even more. The same applies to studying the teachings, holding the precepts, cultivating the secret practices, and so forth. Since people aren’t able to persist to the end, but change their minds halfway through, their situation becomes very mixed up and confused. And in this life they have to start all over again. That’s why we say:
Everything’s a test
To see what you will do.
If you don’t recognize what’s before you,
You’ll have to start anew.
You have to start all over again in this life. That being the case in this life, how do you know it won’t be the same way in your future lives?
So, wouldn’t you say people are strange creatures? We brought this up because people have forgotten their original face. They have forgotten what they are supposed to be doing. In previous lifetimes, they made vows saying, “Master, in the future when you go to America to propagate the Buddhadharma, we will protect your Dharma. We will do such and such things.” Everyone made vows. Some people vowed that they would come and help lecture on the sutras; others vowed they would come and help recite sutras; others vowed they would come and help eat; others vowed they would come and cultivate ascetic practices, which just means eating. Still others vowed they would cultivate and become Patriarchs. Others vowed they would come here to take a look.
Even Bodhisattvas become confused when they are in between bodies.
And Arhats become muddled when they dwell in the womb.
Now that you have come to America, you have forgotten the vows you made. You don’t remember all the promises you made in the past. Your teacher said, “When we get there, it won’t work because I won’t know English.”
And you said, “Don’t worry. We’ll go there first and we’ll all know English. It won’t be a problem if our teacher doesn’t know English. We will already have been born there with English as our native tongue.” Take a look: to a greater or lesser degree, many of you who have come to study Buddhism have the looks of Asian people. Maybe your ears resemble those of Asians, or your nose, or your eyes. Maybe you have Asian-looking eyes, but not Asian irises, because your irises are a different color than those of Asian people. Maybe some of you look thoroughly Asian. Isn’t this strange? All of you are strange creatures.
I’ve brought this up because San Francisco is an international place where Buddhists from all over the world come and go. Buddhists come here from various countries, and you must recognize them for who they are. You should understand the situation in their countries, as well as their behavior outside of their own countries. If you don’t understand these things, you may go astray. Therefore, I hope you will emulate their good points, but avoid learning their shortcomings. Base yourselves on our Three Great Principles:
Freezing, we do not scheme.
Starving, we do not beg.
Dying of poverty, we ask for nothing.
According with conditions, we do not change.
Not changing, we accord with conditions.
We adhere to our Three Great Principles.
Don’t look lightly on those principles. Right now, Buddhism is guilty of just these very faults. The Buddhists of all countries have these shortcomings. Basically, it’s okay for left-home people to ask for alms, but they’ve gone overboard, and so we have to counteract that problem. The Buddha did allow left-home people to seek alms and vegetarian food. However, if people leave the home life exclusively for the purpose of asking for money, and do not cultivate, then they’re making a mistake!
Therefore, we want to leave the home life exclusively for the purpose of cultivating, and not for the purpose of scheming, begging, or asking for offerings. Pay special attention to this point. Since this is a critical issue, we have investigated it together.
Celestial King Banner of Carefree Wisdom gained a passage into liberation of comprehending all mundane dharmas and creating inconceivable oceans of adornments within a single thought.
There are countlessly many heavens. Every heaven has a king presiding over it, and each king has his own name. Each name has its own meaning, which indicates or implies the dharma door cultivated by that king. This is Celestial King Banner of Carefree Wisdom. “Carefree” means being without the attachments to self and to dharmas. Without attachment to a self, the identity of self is empty. Without attachment to dharmas, the identity of dharmas is empty. Attachments to both self and dharmas are empty, so one is free and at ease. If you still have attachment to a self and cling to an ego, you won’t be carefree. If you haven’t emptied your attachment to dharmas and you still cling to dharmas, you won’t be carefree either. People who are attached to their egos feel at all times that they are number one, that they are the greatest and the best, the highest and most honored. They feel that everyone else should respect, bow to, and believe them. They put their ego out in front of everything. Their ego is millions of times larger than Mount Sumeru. Mount Sumeru is huge, but their ego is even bigger. Such people won’t be able to attain ease and comfort.
People who are attached to dharmas are the same way. They insist, “This dharma is the most wonderful. That dharma is most rare. Another dharma is even more unique. Yet another dharma is inconceivable and extremely wonderful, truly difficult to encounter.” They engage in false thinking about dharmas from morning to night, twenty-four hours non-stop, never resting. They continue false thinking even in their sleep. They think, “Today I went dancing with someone. It wasn’t bad.” Another person thinks, “Today I spoke some inconceivable Dharma. It was wonderful. It was an unprecedented event.” Or, they say, “Ah, I’ve never seen anything as good as this,” praising some movie or play.
People with attachment to either self or dharmas cannot obtain ease and comfort. “Banner of Carefree Wisdom.” Wisdom does away with delusion. Deluded people think along these lines: “This flower is so lovely. What scientific method can I find to make it remain ever-fresh, so it never wilts?” They rack their brains, but never manage to come up with such a technique. There’s a verse that goes:
If only those lovely flowers would bloom every day!
And why can’t the bright moon be full every night?
If only the bubbling springs could turn to wine,
And the trees in the forest all grow money!
They want the moon to be full every night. They wonder, “Why does the moon wax and wane? Heaven and earth have it all wrong. The sun doesn’t know how to be a sun, and the moon doesn’t know how to be a moon. If the moon could remain full and round every night, wouldn’t that be fine? And although the sun remains round every day, it gets too hot sometimes, and it doesn’t help me out during cold weather. They really don’t function very well.” And so such a person foolishly wonders why the moon can’t stay full.
People who like to drink think, “If only the springs on earth could turn to wine, then when I feel like having a drink, I won’t have to buy wine. All I have to do is go to the springs and take a drink. That would be fine!”
People who crave riches have this false thought, “May the trees in the forest all grow money!” They want money to grow on trees, so that all they have to do is shake the trees and the money will fall down. Would you say this kind of thinking was smart or dumb?
“If only those lovely flowers would bloom every day!” This line refers to lust. “And why can’t the bright moon be full every night?” This line refers to temper.
“If only the springs on earth could turn to wine” refers to wine. “And the trees in the forest all grow money!” This line talks about wealth.
Those four things—wine, sex, wealth, and temper—are like four walls that enclose foolish people within them, so they cannot get out. Such people are deluded and lack wisdom. There’s another kind of fool who doesn’t cultivate, yet wants to get enlightened and become a Buddha. Some people don’t study and yet want to get Ph.D.s or become professors. They don’t plant the fields, but they want a harvest in the fall. They haven’t planted anything, so how can they expect to get a harvest? That’s impossible. And, even more ridiculous is someone who, without placing any bets, expects to win in the lottery. The prizes in lotteries are high: a million, $50,000, or $20,000. Such a person has not bought a lottery ticket, but he expects to win first prize. Wouldn’t you say he was deluded?
What’s wisdom, then? Say you want to become a Buddha. In that case, you must cultivate. If you want a harvest in the fall, then you must plant the fields in the spring. If you want to obtain a Ph.D. or become a professor, you must go through the required schooling and do things according to the rules. You cannot expect a reward without having put in the work. People with wisdom think along these lines. They don’t act like foolish people. Fools, on the other hand, don’t behave like wise people. Truly deluded people don’t believe in cause and effect, whereas truly wise people do.
The Celestial King named Banner of Carefree Wisdom has lofty wisdom that resembles a jeweled banner which adorns the Buddhas’ pure lands. This Celestial King watches over the gods in the Heaven of Self-Mastery. The gods there live a very happy existence, but because they are so exuberant, they don’t follow the rules. They are like many Americans who jump up and down all the time, dancing from morning to night. However, this Celestial King is very wise, and he teaches and transforms these foolish gods, who are only into dancing. He tells them, “Don’t think that dancing every day is the Dharma. That won’t do. Don’t jump around all day.” This Celestial King has gained a passage into liberation of comprehending all mundane dharmas—worldly, not transcendental, dharmas. However, once you really understand mundane dharmas, they are just transcendental dharmas. As the Sixth Patriarch put it,
The Buddhadharma is here in the world.
Enlightenment is not apart from the world.
To search for bodhi apart from the world
Is like looking for a hare with horns.
And having understood that mundane dharmas are just transcendental dharmas, he is capable of creating inconceivable oceans of adornments within a single thought. He adorns the dharma realms of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, Sages Enlightened by Conditions, and all sentient beings. He has attained a passage into liberation that is an inconceivable samadhi.
Celestial King Delight in Still Quiescence gained a passage into liberation of inclusively and compatibly manifesting inconceivably many Buddhalands in a single pore.
Celestial King Delight in Still Quiescence is so named because he likes to be quiet. He has gained a passage into liberation of inclusively and compatibly manifesting inconceivably many Buddhalands in a single pore. Basically, a single pore is extremely minute, whereas inconceivably many Buddhalands take up an immense amount of space. This is “manifesting the great within the small.” Within a single pore, he is able to make an inconceivable number of lands appear. The number of lands cannot be conceived of with the mind or expressed in words. There’s no way to know how many Buddhalands are made to appear. And within those lands, the Buddhas teach and transform sentient beings, and sentient beings cultivate and realize Buddhahood and go on to teach other beings. The great can manifest within the small, and yet the small doesn’t become great, nor does the great become small.
You wonder, “Since all those Buddhalands are within a single pore, they must have shrunk in order to fit in there. It must be as when you photograph someone. The photo is a mini-version of the actual person.” That’s not how it works here. The pore hasn’t expanded, and the Buddhalands haven’t shrunk. They are mutually compatible. The small manifesting the great within it shows that the small doesn’t obstruct the great. The great manifesting within the small means that the great doesn’t obstruct the small. They are mutually inclusive and compatible.
Neither one has become greater or smaller. And yet, right within a tiny pore, inconceivable Buddhalands can appear. And within those lands are sentient beings, and these sentient beings in turn have pores within which Buddhalands appear. There is reciprocal manifestation and mutual inclusion. This is not like how things are among ordinary people. When many people crowd into a room, the room appears to become smaller. But in the state of the Buddhas, the small can contain the great without its smallness having to expand, and the great can enter the small without its greatness being reduced. That’s why this is called an inconceivable passage into liberation of inclusion and compatibility.
Previously we lectured on the Sutra passage that begins, “breaking open a mote of dust and taking the Sutra from it.” How many of you are still able to recite that passage from memory? It’s been three to five months. That passage occurs later on in the Sutra. We’ll get to it eventually.
Celestial King Universal Wisdom Eye gained a passage into liberation whereby he entered an aspect of universality that allowed him to contemplate the Dharma Realm.
Celestial King Universal Wisdom Eye. There is a sutra called the Universal Eye Sutra, which is even longer than the Flower Adornment Sutra. With his wisdom eye, this Celestial King can contemplate everywhere. He gained a passage into liberation whereby he entered an aspect of universality that allowed him to contemplate the Dharma Realm. This “aspect of universality” leads everywhere. He can contemplate all locations with his universal wisdom eye. Ordinary people have a pair of flesh eyes that can see material things but not the immaterial realm.
The previous passage mentioned “inclusively and compatibly manifesting inconceivably many Buddhalands in a single pore.” One must attain the true wisdom-eye in order to see this kind of state. Where does the eye of wisdom come from? It comes from studying the sutras. If you study the sutras, especially the Surangama Sutra, you will develop great wisdom. That sutra is for unfolding great wisdom. The Dharma Flower Sutra is for realizing Buddhahood. The Flower Adornment Sutra is for developing wisdom and realizing Buddhahood; it has both functions. Having developed wisdom, you become replete with wisdom. If you realize Buddhahood, you become replete with blessings. Thus, wisdom and blessings are both perfected.
Describing the eye of universal wisdom more clearly, this passage also means that the entire body of this Celestial King is covered with eyes. There is one eye after another, all over his body. He has eyes in his every pore. Right within each pore are many eyes. “A pore is so small, how could it have eyes in it, and since those eyes are so small, what can they see?” you wonder.
Didn’t you hear me explain this principle in the previous section? Although a pore is tiny, it can encompass inconceivably many Buddhalands, how much more eyes. In every pore are countless eyes. The eyes are mutually inclusive and compatible. This eye looks to the south; that eye looks to the north. Right on that person’s body are eyes that can look ahead, back, left, right, in the four intermediary directions, above and below. He has eyes that can look everywhere. Don’t think that because he has his eyes closed he can’t see anything. Although his eyes may be closed, he can see everything. Why? This Celestial King has the eye of universal wisdom.
He has “gained a passage into liberation whereby he entered an aspect of universality that allowed him to contemplate the Dharma Realm.” He pervasively enters sentient beings’ minds and contemplates the nature of the Dharma Realm. How big is the Dharma Realm? It is boundlessly large, and yet it is not apart from each being’s present thought. Although the Dharma Realm is immense, it is adorned and brought into being by our present thoughts. This Celestial King has attained this kind of samadhi, a right concentration, of contemplating the Dharma Realm.
Celestial King Delight in Revolving Wisdom gained a passage into liberation of constantly appearing before sentient beings in various manifestations throughout boundless eons.
Celestial King Delight in Revolving Wisdom is so-named because he likes to gather back in his wisdom. “Revolving” means turning it around, reversing the light to illumine within, and seeking everything within himself. He doesn’t seek outside. This is the dharma door he cultivated at the level of planting causes. He has gained a passage into liberation of constantly appearing before sentient beings, which includes those born from the womb, from an egg, from moisture, or by transformation, in various manifestations. He manifests before sentient beings in different bodies and shapes in order to teach and transform those beings. He has been doing this throughout boundless eons. He never renounces a single being, but always appears before sentient beings with whom he has affinities, leading them to bring forth the bodhi resolve. He has attained that passage into liberation.
Celestial King Adept at Nurturing Wisdom Light gained a passage into liberation of contemplating all mundane states and entering the inconceivable Dharma.
Celestial King Adept at Nurturing Wisdom Light is skilled at developing his own wisdom. At all times he investigates the Great Prajña Sutra and plants seeds of prajña wisdom. From this wisdom comes light. He gained a passage into liberation of contemplating all mundane states and entering the inconceivable Dharma. He observes how worldly states are just inconceivable dharmas; mundane dharmas are just transcendental dharmas. World-transcending dharmas are not found apart from worldly dharmas. Take the analogy of a hand. The back of the hand cannot do much, but the palm can hold on to things. Worldly and transcendental dharmas work the same way. Turn it over one way, and it’s a transcendental dharma; turn it over the other way, and it’s a mundane dharma. It’s as easy as turning over one’s hand. Therefore, don’t “add a head on top of a head” and go looking for some other kinds of transcendental dharmas. If you are able to let go, then those mundane dharmas will become transcendental dharmas. If you have no attachments, then you will perceive transcendental dharmas. This Celestial King observes all worldly states, and right within those states, he enters the inconceivable Dharma. He attained this passage into liberation.
Celestial King Immaculately Still and Serene Light gained a passage into liberation of revealing to all sentient beings the essential dharma of transcendence.
Celestial King Immaculately Still and Serene Light. “Immaculate” means being without defiled dharmas. Defiled dharmas refer to the love and emotions of worldly life. If you have defiled dharmas, you won’t be able to attain still and serene light. If you are free of defiled dharmas, you will attain still and serene light.
Defiled thoughts arise easily.
Pure virtue is difficult to achieve.
This Celestial King is free of defilement, and so he has attained true serenity and the undefiled light of wisdom. As a result, he has gained a passage into liberation of revealing to all sentient beings the essential dharma of transcendence. What is transcended, and what is entered? “Transcendence” refers to transcending the world. One enters the world and at the same time transcends it. The essential method of transcendence is to have wisdom. Use the sword of wisdom to sever the demons of love and emotion, to hack through the demons of afflictions, and to slice through the demons of greed, anger, delusion, arrogance, conceit, and ignorance. All of this is part of the essential dharma of transcendence. Only by attaining this essential dharma can you transcend the world and gain liberation.
Celestial King Vast, Pure Brightness gained a passage into liberation of observing all sentient beings who are ready to be transformed and leading them to enter the Buddhadharma.
Celestial King Vast, Pure Brightness. “Vast” implies that there are no boundaries and no fixed locations. With boundaries, there couldn’t be vastness; and with limitation to a specific location, there couldn’t be vastness, either. “Pure” means undefiled, devoid of ignorance. With no ignorance, there is no fire. This Celestial King has gained a samadhi, a
passage into liberation, of observing all sentient beings who are ready to be transformed and leading them to enter the Buddhadharma. He identifies those beings whose affinities are mature and teaches them. He waits to teach those beings whose affinities have yet to mature.
Whether sentient beings believe in Buddhism depends upon their causes and results. When their causes are mature, when they reap the results of the causes they planted, when their potentials are realized, they will believe in Buddhism. If their affinities have not matured, then even if they were right next to the Buddha, they wouldn’t have faith. This Celestial King looks to see which beings are ready to be taught, and then he teaches them, causing them to enter Buddhism. He gained this passage into liberation.
Some advocates of a certain religion maintain that Buddhism is the devil’s teaching. Reflecting on their accusation that the Buddha is the devil, we can see that those people have strong feelings of hatred. Why don’t they say that they themselves follow the devil, instead of alleging that Buddhism is the devil’s teaching? It’s because they want to cover up their own ugliness. But the more they try to cover it up, the more apparent their ugliness becomes. Other non-Buddhists say that Buddhism isn’t ultimate and that their own religion is the ultimate truth. But those statements are empty slogans; their claims are not backed up by any evidence.
Buddhism does not work like that. Buddhism is not pinned down to any specific religion. It is the religion of sentient beings. Why do we say that? The Buddha is the same as sentient beings. Sentient beings are not smaller than the Buddha, and the Buddha is not greater than sentient beings. There is no great or small, and no inside or outside. Nor is there any high or low. As the Vajra Sutra says, “This Dharma is equal, without high or low.” It is also said, “All beings have the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas.” Buddhism says that all beings can become Buddhas. Other religions don’t say that. Buddhism is an egalitarian religion. Teacher and disciple are on an equal basis, but the disciple studies under the teacher. People who don’t understand think that the teacher is the teacher, and the disciple is the disciple. That’s right. Sometimes it’s like that. But at other times, the teacher becomes the disciple, and the disciple becomes the teacher.
Take, for instance, Dharma Master Kumarajiva. His previous Lesser Vehicle teacher later bowed to Kumarajiva, his disciple, and considered him to be his Great Vehicle teacher. The Bodhisattvas Vasubandhu and Asanga, who were brothers, used to believe in different Vehicles. The younger brother was a Lesser Vehicle Dharma Master, and the elder brother was a Great Vehicle Dharma Master. The younger brother did his best to undermine the Great Vehicle Dharma that his elder brother believed in. He constantly found fault with that teaching, insisting there was no such thing as the Great Vehicle, that it was false. In the end, his elder brother employed an expedient method. He told his younger brother that he was sick and on the verge of death, and that he wanted to see his brother one last time. The younger brother thought, “My elder brother has been muddled all his life. Now, since he is on his deathbed, I should go and see him.”
When Vasubandhu got there, his elder brother Asanga said to him, “I’ve never asked you to do anything special for me. Now that I am dying, could you recite the Flower Adornment Sutra, a Great Vehicle sutra, for me?”
The younger brother thought, “That’s no big deal. Okay, I will recite it for you.” Thereupon he started reciting. But the more he recited, the more scared he got. The more scared he became, the more he wanted to keep on reciting. Why was he scared? He thought to himself, “Ah, the principles of the Great Vehicle are so wonderful and inconceivable. In the past I didn’t understand any of it, and yet I slandered the Great Vehicle. What a fool I’ve been!”
As he continued reciting, he felt his offenses were immense. Previously he had written five hundred treatises, all of which slandered the Great Vehicle. He thought, “I have spoken such treatises with my tongue. My
tongue deserves to be cut off.” He asked his brother for a sword. His elder brother asked him, “What do you want it for?”
He said, “In the past I slandered the Great Vehicle. Now I realize that my offenses are boundless. I want to cut off my tongue.” He did not want to cut off his arm, because that would still leave him free to speak. The Second Patriarch [Great Master Huike] chopped off his own arm for the sake of the Dharma. Now Vasubandhu wanted to cut off his own tongue.
His elder brother told him, “Previously you used your tongue to slander the Great Vehicle. Now you can use the same tongue to praise the Great Vehicle. Why do you want to cut it off? If you have fallen on the ground, you should use the ground to support you as you pick yourself up. What’s the use of cutting off your tongue?”
Vasubandhu thought it over and agreed. Thereupon he renounced the Lesser Vehicle and started to compose Great Vehicle treatises. He wrote a treatise of five hundred volumes in praise of the Flower Adornment Sutra. You see? Right within Buddhism, between the Great and Lesser Vehicles, between blood brothers, there was unending strife. How much the more is that likely to happen between other people? There are enough problems within Buddhism itself right now. How much more compounded those problems become when other religions are involved! Basically, Buddhism is the same as other religions. Not only is it the same, it encompasses all other religions. Why? Buddhism talks about how there are no limits or edges to the nature of the Dharma Realm. Buddhism concerns itself with the great functioning of the entire substance. Therefore, Buddhism does not reject a single being. Every being has the Buddha nature and can become a Buddha. Even celestial demons and followers of other religions can become Buddhas. Therefore we say that Buddhism is the most egalitarian teaching. Everyone can become a Buddha. That is like saying everybody has a chance of being the President. Buddhism is true democracy and equality.
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