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The Wondrous Adornments of the Rulers of the Worlds
Chapter One, Part Two
3) Heavens of the Third Dhyāna
Moreover, the Celestial King Pure Wisdom’s Renown gained a passage into liberation of comprehending the skillful means of the path that leads to the emancipation of all sentient beings.
Moreover, since the previous section hasn’t completely covered the sutra’s meaning, the text continues to explain it further. Celestial King Pure Wisdom’s Renown has pure wisdom and also enjoys a fine reputation among Celestial Kings. He gained a samadhi that was a passage into liberation of comprehending the skillful means of the path that leads to the emancipation of all sentient beings. He understands all beings of the nine dharma realms. For example, Bodhisattvas are beings who are resolved upon the Way. Bodhisattvas are also counted as beings. There are ten dharma realms in all:
The Four Dharma Realms of Sages
1. The Dharma Realm of Buddhas
2. The Dharma Realm of Bodhisattvas
3. The Dharma Realm of Sages Enlightened by Conditions
4. The Dharma Realm of Hearers
The Six Common Dharma Realms
1. The Dharma Realm of gods
2. The Dharma Realm of humans
3. The Dharma Realm of asuras
4. The Dharma Realm of hell-beings
5. The Dharma Realm of hungry ghosts
6. The Dharma Realm of animals
Bodhisattvas are beings whose minds are strongly intent upon the Way. Sages Enlightened by Conditions are beings whose minds are less intent upon the Way. Hearers are beings whose minds are least intent upon the Way. The Six Common Dharma Realms are divided into three good paths and three evil paths. Gods, humans, and asuras are the three good paths, and the hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals are the three evil paths. Each of them has its own causes and effects.
If you plant good causes, you’ll reap good results.
If you plant evil causes, you’ll reap evil results.
If you plant melons, you get melons.
If you plant beans, you get beans.
Therefore we say,
If people wish to understand
The Buddhas of the three periods of time,
They should contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm:
Everything is made from the mind.
A verse describes the Chinese character for “mind” (xin):
Three dots spread out like stars,
A hook resembles the crescent moon:
Fur-clad creatures come from this;
Buddhas also begin from here.
The character for “mind” has three dots like stars in the sky. Below is a hook that resembles a crescent moon on the third of the lunar month. It also looks like an ivory tusk. Fur-clad creatures such as horses and cows all come from the mind. Buddhas are also created from the mind. When you cultivate and realize Buddhahood, you do so by means of the mind. That’s why we say, “The Ten Dharma Realms are not beyond a single thought.” You wind up wherever you want to go. Our minds are suddenly up in the heavens, suddenly on earth, suddenly in a Buddha’s land, suddenly back in the human realm. The mind is like a tiny dustmote bobbing up and down in the air.
Mencius remarked, “When people’s chickens or dogs stray off, they realize that they should look for them. But when their mind strays off, they do not even realize that they should look for it. How sad!” Aren’t people pathetic? If they lose their chickens or dogs, they go everywhere looking for them. But when their mind wanders off, they don’t know to retrieve their lost mind. Wouldn’t you say they are pitiable? Confucius also said of the mind:
“If you keep it under control, it stays with you.
But once you let it go, then it’s lost.
It comes and goes at random.
Who knows where it wanders?”
If you have a firm grasp over your mind, and you watch over and guard it, then it’s there. If you constantly look into, “Who’s mindful of the Buddha?” then your mind won’t run away. It will stay put. But once you let it go, once you forget to ask, “Who’s mindful of the Buddha?” it runs away. It will think, “Hmm…I wonder what movie is showing at the movie theater.” Or, “Today there were riots in the streets.” Or, “Today there were many accidents on the highway.” The mind gets involved in all kinds of trivial, idle thoughts; it has run off. Once you relax your hold over it, the mind runs off like a horse on loose reins. On the other hand, if you pull in the reins, then the horse won’t run off.
“It comes and goes at random.” You never know when the mind will run off or come back. It doesn’t say goodbye when it runs off, and it doesn’t report when it returns. It doesn’t keep a record of its wanderings. Someone says, “Hey, that’s just the way I am!” In that case, you are the mind. “Who knows where it wanders?” No one knows where it’s headed.
Celestial King Pure Wisdom’s Renown understands all beings’ minds and the path that leads to liberation. He knows how to bring them to liberation and understanding. He uses various skill-in-means to help them attain the liberation of transcending the world.
Celestial King Supreme Views gained a passage into liberation of universally manifesting like light and shadows in a way that delights all the celestial multitudes.
The Celestial King named Supreme Views has sharp and keen insight and is extremely intelligent. He gained a passage into liberation of universally manifesting like light and shadows in a way that delights all the celestial multitudes. All the gods delight in bliss and happiness. He complies with what they like and appears everywhere like light and shadows. Where there is light, there are shadows; where there are shadows, there is light. If there are no shadows, then there can be no light. Light is bright; shadows are dark. Light is considered yang; shadows are considered yin.
Light is insubstantial and immaterial. Shadows and reflections may appear to be solid, but in fact they too are insubstantial. They seem to have substance and form, but in fact they do not. For instance, take the reflection of the moon in water. The moon is light; the moon in the water is a reflected image. Although the actual moon has not gone into the water and the water has not gone to the moon, the two are able to produce a reflection. This is also like an image reflected in a mirror. When objects are put before a mirror, their image is reflected in it. The presence of light causes the reflected image to appear. “Universally manifesting like light and shadows” is like the moon being reflected in a thousand streams.
In a thousand pools of water appear a thousand moons. There is basically only one moon, but if there are a thousand pools, whether large or small, the moon’s reflection will appear in all of them. The moon has not gone into the water, and the water has not gone to the moon, yet instantaneously the moon’s reflection appears in the water. The relationship between the Buddha and sentient beings works the same way. The Buddha is like the moonlight, and sentient beings are like the water.
The Buddha, like a clear, cool moon,
Forever courses in the space.
When the water in sentient beings’ minds is clear,
Bodhi appears within it.
The Buddha resembles a clear, cool moon, forever roaming in the void. When the water in beings’ minds clears up, then bodhi—enlightenment—appears in their minds. The Buddha’s light—the Buddha’s reflection—illumines your mind.
“Well, that’s just a reflected image,” you say. Yes, but if you cultivate, that reflection becomes the Buddha’s light.
This Celestial King has attained the passage into liberation of “universally manifesting like light and shadows.”
One of the Bhikshunis heard someone say that there will be an earthquake tomorrow. I told her that it wouldn’t happen, and so she wasn’t afraid anymore. I don’t think there will be an earthquake in San Francisco, because there are many people who are seriously studying Buddhism here. Although everyone still has ignorance to a certain degree, all of you want to smash through it. Ignorance is the underlying cause for earthquakes. Without ignorance, there are no problems whatsoever. The most important thing is to smash through ignorance.
Once ignorance is destroyed, the Dharma nature manifests. The most essential thing is that you don’t get tired of studying Buddhism. Don’t think, “I’ve studied for four years. Why haven’t I become a Buddha? Studying Buddhism is quite meaningless. I’d be better off studying some other religion.” Once you entertain those thoughts, even if you study for forty years, not to mention four, you still won’t achieve anything because you are not sincere.
When the mind is sincere, things can happen.
When vows are vast, the fruition can be attained.
When your thoughts are genuine, the things you do will become true and actual. If you make vast vows, you will quickly achieve the fruition. This is very important.
Celestial King Serene Virtue gained a passage into liberation of employing the great expedient that universally adorns and purifies the states of all Buddhas.
Celestial King Serene Virtue has the virtue of calm serenity. That is, he has skill in dhyana-samadhi. By means of his dhyana-samadhi, he enables sentient beings who see him to attain samÁdhi. He influences beings to develop their skill in the stillness of dhyana-samadhi, so that they eventually acquire the virtue of calm serenity. Therefore, his name is Serene Virtue. He gained a samadhi called a passage into liberation of employing the great expedient that universally adorns and purifies the states of all Buddhas. What’s meant by “universally adorning and purifying”? In a single thought he can adorn the Buddhalands of the ten directions, embellishing all those lands with supreme, wonderfully fine adornments. He can make appear the wonderful states produced by the Buddhas’ spiritual powers. This is the greatest expedient. What is a “great expedient”? It is the kind of expedient used when things aren’t really expedient. Basically, such expedients cannot be used yet he is able to use them. He has attained this samadhi, this passage into liberation, of inconceivable skill-in-means.
Celestial King Sumeru Sound gained a passage into liberation of helping out sentient beings who keep drifting forever upon the ocean of birth and death.
The next Celestial King is named Sumeru Sound. Sumeru, which means “wonderfully high,” implies that his voice is extremely subtle and wonderful and can be heard all the way up to the Heaven of the Thirty-three. He has gained a passage into liberation of helping out sentient beings who keep drifting forever upon the ocean of birth and death. Whatever sentient beings like, he fulfills their wishes. Each sentient being has different wishes and desires. Some desire to become Buddhas. Some desire to be Bodhisattvas. Others wish to be Sages Enlightened by Conditions or Solitarily Enlightened Ones. Some beings are satisfied with being Arhats. Their attitude is:
Mahasattvas don’t pay attention to others.
Amitabha—each one for himself!
“I only want to end my own birth and death. I don’t care whether other beings are suffering or not. Their suffering is their own business.” Hearers have no interest in saving other sentient beings. That’s the scope of their wishes.
Gods think like this, “It’s enough if I get to enjoy my blessings in the heavens.” When they think of clothes, clothes appear. When they think of food, food materializes. Once they wish for clothes, they are immediately clothed in the most beautiful garb. Once they wish for good food, good food appears before them. Sometimes there is a little too much or not quite enough, unlike in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, where the amount is always just perfect. There, you also get to eat whatever you happen to think of. Food will appear right before you, but it won’t be too much or too little; it will be just the right amount. In the heavens, the portions may be a fraction too much or too little. If there’s too much food, the gods may decide to eat it anyway, but they may not feel so good after stuffing themselves. Sometimes there isn’t enough food and they don’t get their fill, even though the food may be delicious. This is a matter of karmic rewards. Even though the gods enjoy such bliss, their blessings are not a hundred percent perfect, unlike in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, where things are not only splendid, but perfect and complete. There, things appear in just the right amounts, and are neither too big nor too small.
Asuras also have desires. They think, “Since the gods enjoy so much bliss in the heavens, I am determined to drive them down to earth so I can be in charge up there.” Asuras desire to be leaders. They want to rule over the gods. Even in the human world, people who have the desire for leadership are asuras. What’s meant by the desire for leadership? They want to be number one and won’t settle for being number two. They must come out on top.
Many people desire wealth, honor, high position, and fame. They want to get rich and be appointed to a high government post. They crave fame and profit. The desires for wealth, honor, fame, and profit are almost universal among people. You can travel the world over, but you will find that most people fall into two categories. One type pursues fame, and the other pursues fortune.
Although the gods enjoy great bliss in the heavens, when they use up their heavenly blessings they experience the Five Signs of Decay:
1. Their floral crowns wilt. The floral crowns that the gods wear on their heads never wilt; the flowers remain ever-fresh. Day after day, the blossoms become more fresh and beautiful. But when the Five Signs of Decay set in, the flowers wither and fall, and the crown is gone. That’s the first sign of decay, an indication that the life span of a god is about to end.
2. Their clothes become soiled. The clothes of the gods are immaculate, because there is no filth in the heavens. It is not like in the human world, where we have to do a massive clean-up once a week. The gods are not bothered with such troublesome matters. They have no filth to begin with. Their homes and their clothes never get dirty. However, when the Five Signs of Decay set in, their clothes start to get soiled. Where does the dirt come from? It appears as a sign of the god’s karmic obstructions. Since his karmic reward is exhausted, his clothes get soiled. Whereas people have to wash their clothes, the gods do not. They do not need detergents or other chemical agents. Their clothes naturally remain free from filth.
3. Their armpits sweat. Gods naturally smell good. “Oh, I know why. The gods always put on perfume, such as Evening in Paris, so they won’t perspire,” someone says. No, that’s not the case. The gods normally do not perspire, but when the Five Signs of Decay set in, their armpits start to sweat, and this is a sign that they are about to die. The gods do not dust themselves with scented powders. Rather, their fragrance comes as a response to their cultivation of the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds. If you hold the precepts, your body will have a fragrance about it; it will not smell bad. If you don’t hold the precepts, your body will stink. This is the case not only in the heavens but in the human realm.
4. Their bodies start to stink. Originally, the gods don’t have body odor, but when the Five Signs of Decay occur, a stench manifests. None of the other gods want to be near the god who stinks. They hold their noses when they pass a god who is experiencing the Five Signs of Decay. That’s the way people react when they see a corpse. As a corpse decays, blood and fluids pour out of it, and it festers with maggots. People hold their noses and walk away as quickly as possible to escape the stench. In the same way, when a god starts to stink, all the other gods run away as soon as they see him.
5. They cannot sit still. The god being discussed, seeing that everyone is avoiding him, starts to panic. “I’m about finished. I’ll die soon. My life is coming to an end.” Basically gods are always seated, but now this god cannot bear to sit down any longer. He jumps up and then thinks, “Well, this isn’t right. I should be sitting.” He tries to sit down, but he cannot stay put and leaps up in an instant. After sitting down and jumping up a few times, he’s really finished. He dies. This is a description of the Five Signs of Decay. Don’t think that the gods are always calm and collected. When they are on the verge of death, they look quite funny, jumping up and down. When they get reborn in the human realm, they continue jumping up and down, because that’s what they were doing in their last moments as gods.
Celestial King Eye of Pure Mindfulness gained a passage into liberation of recollecting the Thus Come One and thereby being able to regulate and subdue the activities of sentient beings.
The Celestial King Eye of Pure Mindfulness is mindful of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. He has obtained the pure eye of Dharma. He gained a samadhi that is a passage into liberation of recollecting the Thus Come One. “Recollecting” means not forgetting. Not forgetting whom? Not forgetting the Thus Come One. One has to cast out false thoughts and keep the true mind—that’s recollecting the Thus Come One. If, out of yearning for the Buddhas’ lands you resolve to be reborn in those lands, you are also “recollecting.” One is mindful of the Buddha’s Dharma body and the states brought about by the Buddha’s transformation. From being mindful of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, one can thereby regulate and subdue sentient beings’ activities.
The sentient beings of this Saha world are the very hardest to regulate and subdue. For that reason, the Earth Store Sutra says, “The beings of Jambudvipa have stubborn and obstinate natures, difficult to tame, difficult to subdue.” Beings of every category are attached to their view of self, their mark of self, and their self-conceit. Since they are arrogant, they are difficult to tame and subdue. They refuse to humbly accept the teachings. Even if good teachers and wholesome friends exhort them with skillful means to benefit themselves and benefit others, they refuse to listen to those well-intentioned exhortations. For this reason, sentient beings forever remain sentient beings. They don’t wish to end birth and death and transcend the cycle of transmigration. They have no desire to leave suffering and attain bliss.
But now this Celestial King is able to regulate and subdue sentient beings’ activities. To “regulate” is similar to pouring water and milk together and stirring the mixture with a spoon until the two become so perfectly blended that you cannot tell them apart. It’s also like seasoning the food that you cook. You have to understand how to combine different vegetables and season them. Take today’s dish of turnips and carrots. That would have been a good combination, except that it had no seasoning, and so the dish was bland and tasteless. If a little oil, salt, soy sauce, and vinegar had been added, then everyone would have liked it. It’s the same dish: if it is seasoned, then everyone likes it; if it’s unseasoned, then even if people don’t say so up front, internally they will have second thoughts about it. That’s “regulating.”
The second infinitive is to “subdue.” Consider a tiger, for instance, that wants to bite every person and devour every creature it sees. It sees all sentient beings as potential food. If you have the spiritual powers to influence the tiger to give up meat and become vegetarian, you will have subdued it. If the tiger no longer bites people, it has been subdued. And thereby being able to regulate and subdue the activities of sentient beings includes taming tigers as well.
A few days ago we were holding a chan session in which many people worked hard investigating chan and cultivating the Way together. At that time, dragons had to coil up and tigers had to lie down. That was a case of “regulating and subduing.” When sentient beings are unruly and you can influence them to follow the rules, and if you are able to make them obey instructions when before they had refused to do so, then you are regulating and subduing sentient beings’ activities. You have obtained that kind of passage into liberation.
Celestial King Delightful Universal Illumination gained a passage into liberation of flowing forth from the Universal Door’s ocean of dharanis.
The next Celestial King is named Delightful Universal Illumination. When gods and humans see this Celestial King, they cherish and adore him. Since his light shines everywhere, all beings have affinities with him. He gained a samadhi, a dharma, a passage into liberation of flowing forth from the Universal Door’s ocean of dharanis. “Universal Door” means one door giving rise to countless doors, and those countless doors returning to one door. One is infinitely many, and infinitely many are one. The one and the many are mutually inclusive, perfectly interpenetrating without obstruction. That’s what’s meant by the Universal Door. This dharma door which pervades the Dharma Realm is called an “ocean of dharanis.”
The Sanskrit word dharani means “uniting and upholding” because it unites all dharmas and upholds countless meanings. In other words, it unites the three pure karmas of body, mouth, and mind, and upholds the three perfect and bright studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. From one dharani door there flow forth countless, infinitely many, layer upon layer, inexpressibly inexpressible dharani doors. For that reason it is called an “ocean of dharanis.” The ocean is used as an analogy to describe the multiplicity and voluminousness of dharanis. There is no way to reckon the amount by resorting to numbers or analogies, and therefore it is called an “ocean of dharanis.”
From this ocean of dharanis there flow forth immeasurable, ineffable, inexpressible oceans of dharanis. Therefore the text says, “flowing forth.” Although there are so many oceans of dharanis, the person immersed in them is not attached. It is a state of perfect, unobstructed unity. This is unlike us ordinary people who, if there is one thing, become attached to that one thing. If there are two things, we become attached to the two. If there are three things, we become attached to the three, and so on until if there are infinitely many, we become attached to the infinitely many. Now, since there is liberation, the many are gone, and the few have vanished. One is detached from all appearances, and even the ocean of dharanis is gone. One must even be detached from this very liberation itself. Otherwise, one will become attached to marks: “Oh, there are so many…What should I do?” That would be like gazing out at the ocean and heaving a sigh, “Ah…there is so much water in the ocean. When will I ever drink it all up?” By getting so worried over it, you may just end up outsmarting yourself.
Celestial King Sovereign World Ruler gained a passage into liberation of enabling sentient beings to meet the Buddha and bring forth a treasury of faith.
Celestial King Sovereign World Ruler is the God whom most people believe in. Not satisfied with being just a Celestial King, he comes to the world and acts as Sovereign World Ruler, attracting greedy, angry, and deluded worldly beings to worship and believe in him. He sets up a religion that claims: “The faithful will gain salvation, but the faithless will not.” Greedy beings hear that and think, “It’s important that I get saved!” Thereupon they believe in this religion. Angry beings hear this and think, “I’ve committed so many offenses with my bad temper. I’d better have faith in God. Then he will pardon all my past offenses, and I’ll be saved.” Of course, deluded beings also believe in him. They say, “That’s the best. The faithful gain salvation. I’ll believe whatever they say, even if they claim that eggs grow on trees!” Why do they believe? Because they are deluded, that’s why.
Thereupon the Sovereign World Ruler has a field day, exhorting all the people on earth to believe in God. But then he realized his mistake. He gained a passage into liberation of enabling sentient beings to meet the Buddha. He repents, saying, “I don’t make the grade. You’d better go look for my boss.” He exhorts sentient beings to meet the Buddha, saying, “Formerly I told you that you would be saved if you believed in me. Now I’m telling you that I cannot be relied on. If you meet the Buddha, you’ll find a way.” He leads sentient beings to meet the Buddha and bring forth a treasury of faith. This “treasury” is the same as in the name Earth Treasury [Earth Store]; it refers to an underground cache for storing things. God says, “If you have believed in me, now I’ll introduce you to the Buddha. Believe in the Buddha. In the heavens and below, there is no one like the Buddha. No spirit, sage, or person in the heavens or below is as lofty as the Buddha.”
In the heavens and below, there is no one like the Buddha.
Throughout the worlds of the ten directions,
no one can compare with him.
I’ve seen everything in the world:
There’s nothing like the Buddha.
No one in the entire world has wisdom as great as the Buddha’s. This Celestial King enables sentient beings to meet the Buddha and bring forth faith. Since he gained this passage into liberation, he guides them to true salvation!
Previously we talked about the Five Signs of Decay, which apply to gods in the Six Desire Realm Heavens. The following disasters occur in the Dhyana Heavens in the Form Realm:
Fire burns up the First Dhyana.
Water floods the Second Dhyana.
Wind sweeps through the Third Dhyana.
There’s a verse that says:
Gods in the Six Desire Heavens experience the Five Signs of Decay.
The Third Dhyana Heavens suffer the disaster of wind.
Even if you cultivate and reach the Heaven of Neither Thought nor Non-Thought,
It’s not as good as going to the Western Land and then coming back.
The three disasters that occur in the Heavens of the First Dhyana are not like mere earthquakes that affect a local area. The disaster of fire is so devastating that it will burn up everyone in the world and dry up all the oceans. Seven suns will appear in the sky—perhaps six of them will be manmade. All the people and creatures on earth, up to the gods in the First Dhyana Heavens, will be burned to death. Therefore, even if you reach the First Dhyana Heavens in your cultivation, you have not ended birth and death.
The disaster of water reaches the Second Dhyana Heavens. After the disaster of fire abates, a huge flood comes in its wake. The water will rise up to the sky. Everything in the world will be gone; everything, having been burnt to a crisp by fire, will turn into water. Water, coming after the fire, will put out the flames. However, this great deluge will reach all the way up to the Second Dhyana Heavens, drowning all the gods in those heavens. They have cultivated millions of years in order to be born in the Second Dhyana Heavens, but at this time they will all be finished.
This is a very general explanation. If we discussed it in depth, we would find many causes and conditions behind such disasters.
The disaster of water is followed by the disaster of wind. Water had extinguished the fire, but then turned into a disaster itself. Now the wind blows the water dry, but in the process everything in the world is ripped to shreds and blown to utter destruction. Even the Third Dhyana Heavens are destroyed and all the gods living there are killed and blown about like balloons.
“Even if you cultivate till you reach the Heaven of Neither Thought nor Non-Thought…” That’s the highest of the Four Stations of Emptiness in the Formless Realm.
The Four Stations of Emptiness are:
1. The Heaven of the Station of Boundless Emptiness
2. The Heaven of the Station of Boundless Consciousness
3. The Heaven of the Station of Nothing Whatsoever
4. The Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought nor Non-Thought
In the Heaven of the Station of Boundless Consciousness, only consciousness remains. In the Heaven of the Station of Nothing Whatsoever, consciousness disappears, but one still engages in some form of thinking. But in the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought nor Non-Thought, even thought is gone. Among all the heavens, that is the highest place. The gods there enjoy a life span of blessings that lasts for 80,000 great eons. However, when their lives come to an end after those 80,000 great eons, they will fall all the same, perhaps down to the realms of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, or animals. It’s not for sure. Therefore, the verse says, “Even if you cultivate till you reach the Heaven of Neither Thought nor Non-Thought, / It’s not as good as going to the Western Land and then coming back.” It would be better to be reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss and then return. You will have better control over things that way.
Celestial King Comfortable Blazing Light gained a passage into liberation of enabling all sentient beings to become joyously faithful upon hearing the Dharma, hence gaining transcendence.
The next Celestial King is named Comfortable Blazing Light. Blazing Light refers to the brightness of flames and means that this Celestial King has great wisdom. He gained a passage into liberation of enabling all sentient beings of the nine dharma realms to become joyously faithful upon hearing the Dharma, hence gaining transcendence. Although it may be easy to obtain a body, it is not easy to obtain a human body. Among all living creatures, people are the most intelligent. It’s not easy to be born a human.
It’s hard to obtain a human body.
It’s hard to get to hear the Buddhadharma.
It’s hard to get to be born in America.
America is rich in resources, and its citizens are intelligent. People who are born here have abundant blessings, without which they wouldn’t have been able to be born here. Now that Buddhism has come to America, everyone in this country will be graced by the Buddha’s light and get to hear the Buddhadharma. A human body is hard to obtain, but now we have attained a human body. The Buddhadharma is hard to get to hear, but we have heard it. It is hard to get born in America, but now we have been born in America. We have resolved these three difficulties.
Having heard the Dharma, you must believe in it. If you don’t have faith, the Dharma won’t be of any use to you. If you don’t believe what you hear, you are pathetic. If, on the other hand, you can bring forth faith and delight, you can transcend the Three Realms.
From morning to night you know no shame. You think, “Oh, I was born beautiful.” Actually, no matter how good-looking you are, there are only putrid and filthy things beneath your skin. For this reason, the Venerable Elder Master Hsu Yun wrote the “Song of the Skin Bag.” We are just skin bags. What is stored inside the skin bag? Excrement and urine. And yet you take these things as treasures. But now you must transcend the Three Realms, leap off the turning wheel, and get out of the Evil World of the Five Turbidities. The Celestial King has attained this passage into liberation.
Celestial King Joyful Contemplation of the Transformations of Dharmas gained a passage into liberation of entry into all Bodhisattvas’ taming practices, which are as boundless and infinite as space.
Celestial King Joyful Contemplation of the Transformations of Dharmas likes to engage in the cultivation of thought, that is, dhyana-samadhi. He understands the nonobstruction of dharmas and their various transformations. He has understood and gained a passage into liberation of entry into all Bodhisattvas’ states, being able to enter deeply into them. He also understands the state of taming practices for taming sentient beings. He knows how to subdue and regulate each kind of sentient being. Moreover, he knows their inherent natures, which are as boundless and infinite as space. Being without boundaries, they are the greatest. Being infinite and without end, they are everlasting. He attained this passage into liberation.
Celestial King Transformation Banner gained a passage into liberation of using universal compassion and wisdom to contemplate the countless afflictions of sentient beings.
The next Celestial King is named Transformation Banner. How many transformations is this banner capable of? Infinitely many. It can become big or small, many or few, and it can become ornamented with the seven precious things. He gained a passage into liberation of using universal compassion and wisdom to contemplate the countless afflictions of sentient beings. Afflictions arise from ignorance. Ignorance creates greed, anger, and delusion, which in turn generate countless afflictions. Sentient beings have the obstacle of afflictions and the obstacle of what is known. The obstacle of afflictions stems from excessive attachment to self.
The obstacle of what is known comes from excessive attachment to dharmas. Those two obstacles cause us to transmigrate in the six paths so we cannot become free. Every sentient being has his own kind of affliction. Members of the noble class are prone to arrogance. Poor people suffer from inferiority complexes. Everyone has his own brand of affliction, which comes from not being content with one’s lot. If you are content, you won’t have afflictions.
“Universal compassion and wisdom” is pervasive. Kindness can relieve beings’ suffering, and compassion can bestow happiness upon them. With a heart of great compassion, one regards beings equally. With the wisdom of universal compassion, one vows to save beings. Celestial King Transformation Banner attained this passage into liberation.
Every day we lecture on Celestial Kings, of which there are many, not just one. Most of us are aware of the Four Great Celestial Kings, but there are infinitely many Celestial Kings among the heavens of the Three Realms. The Dharma Flower Sutra does not discuss the Celestial Kings so extensively, but the Flower Adornment Sutra brings up many of them. If you don’t read or listen to the Flower Adornment Sutra, you won’t be aware of the Buddha’s true wealth and nobility.
In this country, how many people are studying and investigating the Buddhadharma? If you ask them to lecture on a certain sutra, they stare at you blankly and wonder, “How does one lecture on a sutra?” They don’t know. All they know is zen, zen [which sounds like “salty” in Chinese]. Actually, they cannot tell the salty from the bland, either. Muddled, they die, and become a zen [salty] master the next time around. But if they don’t encounter the Buddhadharma in their next life, they still remain muddled.
Arriving in a muddle, leaving in confusion,
You’ve come to the world in vain.
It’s better to neither come nor go.
Then you won’t be muddled or confused.
Another version goes like this:
Arriving in happiness, leaving in sorrow,
You’ve come to the world in vain.
It’s better to neither come nor go.
Then you won’t be happy or sad.
“Arriving in happiness; leaving in sorrow.” When a baby is born, everyone rejoices for the parents. They offer their best wishes, saying, “Congratulations! You’ve got a newborn son or daughter.” This custom is particularly prevalent among the Chinese. When the infant is one month old, the parents give a banquet in which meat and liquor are served. One friend gives a hundred dollars, another gives a thousand, and yet another gives ten thousand. The parents of the baby make a lot of money. So, there is happiness when one comes into the world. But when it’s time to die, to go, there is sadness. People cry. “You’ve come to the world in vain.” What meritorious deeds have you done? Have you been of any help to the world? No, none at all. In that case, you’ve come to the world in vain—it’s been a lost cause. “It’s better to neither come nor go.” If there is no coming into being and no ceasing to be, “then you won’t be happy or sad.”