The Wondrous Adornments
of the Rulers of the Worlds
Chapter One, Part Three
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua_
Translated in the Tang Dynasty by the Tripitaka Master Srãmana Siksananda of Khotan
Moreover, Gandharva King Governing Nations gained a passage into liberation of gathering in all sentient beings with sovereign expedients.
Moreover indicates that a further explanation follows the previous section. Gandharva King Governing Nations, who is the Celestial King of the East, governs all the gandharvas. He has gained a passage into liberation of gathering in all sentient beings with sovereign expedients. “Sovereign” here means not forced, but very much at ease. “Expedients” means speaking Dharma in accord with sentient beings’ potentials—contemplating their potentials and enticing them with a teaching, speaking Dharma according to the person. One proclaims principles of the teaching according to the circumstances—that is how one would use expedients.
“Gathering in” means drawing in all sentient beings. How does one do that? One resembles a magnet that attracts iron filings, wherever they may be. There are two kinds of gathering in: (1) Gathering in by subduing means using a forceful method to subdue obstinate and stubborn individuals. Beings who are stubborn and refractory could only be subdued by methods even more insistent than they are. As a result those beings become tame. (2) Gathering in by compassion means gathering in beings with kindness and compassion. “Gathering in” often includes the idea of subduing as well. Not only this Gandharva King, but all sentient beings, gain this passage into liberation.
Gandharva King Light Resembling Trees gained a passage into liberation of everywhere seeing the adornment of all merit and virtue.
The Gandharva King named Light Resembling Trees gained a passage into liberation of everywhere seeing the adornment of all merit and virtue. He attained a passage into liberation of seeing the merit and virtue cultivated by all Buddhas, which adorn their Dharma bodies.
Gandharva King Pure Eyes gained a passage into liberation of ending the distress and suffering of all beings forever, and inspiring a treasury of happiness in them.
The Gandharva King named Pure Eyes gained a passage into liberation of ending the distress and suffering of all beings forever. Without much to do, sentient beings look for something to do. Without afflictions, they look for afflictions. Without too much trouble to begin with, they find ways to create trouble for themselves.
Now, Gandharva King Pure Eyes ends sentient beings’ worry and suffering forever, thus inspiring a treasury of happiness in them. When worry and suffering end, sentient beings become happy. That is this Gandharva King’s passage into liberation.
Gandharva King Floral Crown gained a passage into liberation of severing all sentient beings’ wrong views and delusions forever. Gandharva King Happy Stride and Universal Sound gained a passage into liberation of spreading everywhere like clouds, shielding and nourishing all sentient beings. Gandharva King Happily Dancing and Splendid Eyes gained a passage into liberation of manifesting an immense, wondrously splendid body, spreading peace and joy to all.
Gandharva King Floral Crown has an especially beautiful flower headdress. He has gained a passage into liberation of severing all sentient beings’ wrong views and delusions forever. Sentient beings are fraught with wrong knowledge and wrong views, which work more quickly and effectively than right knowledge and right views. You have to be taught and inculcated with right knowledge and views, but you don’t need to be taught wrong knowledge and views. You acquire them quite easily on your own. This Gandharva King destroys sentient beings’ wrong views and delusions forever.
One example of wrong knowledge and views is that many people insist that we do not have to hold precepts, cultivate samadhi, or practice wisdom. All of those are examples of wrong knowledge and views. They want to do away with the Three Non-Outflow Studies of precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. They insist on not holding precepts, not cultivating samadhi, and not acting with wisdom. They say that to do those things is unnatural and forced. Such wrong knowledge and views influence many people. Those who have a little bit of worldly knowledge are especially prone to these wrong knowledge and views.
This Gandharva King, however, severs sentient beings’ wrong views and delusions. He has obtained this kind of liberation. He enables sentient beings to obtain right knowledge and right views.
Gandharva King Happy Stride has that name because he enjoys walking, such as taking a stroll in the garden. He also has the name Universal Sound because he enjoys playing music, such as playing the guitar. We have someone here who had a special fondness for guitars. He bought a very expensive, antique guitar. Then he couldn’t let go of it. “Well, what should I do? Could I have my guitar with me when I am a monk? No, that would be impossible. But if I don’t bring it along, where should I put it?” He pondered it over and over, back and forth, and could not sleep a wink for several days. Suddenly, he had an “awakening.” The man with the guitar gave it to his girlfriend; the woman with the guitar gave it to her boyfriend. They were able to give up their guitars and join the monastic life. Now, you’re supposed to truly let go. When you do, it counts. After they had left the home-life though, they were still thinking about their guitars. Why was that? These people are probably the relatives of the Gandharva King Happy Stride and Universal Sound, which explains the influence they have come under. However, this gandharva king has gained a passage into liberation. You should not gain a “passage into bondage” and be bound by your guitar.
Gandharva King Happy Stride and Universal Sound has gained a passage into liberation of spreading everywhere throughout the trichiliocosm like clouds, shielding and nourishing all sentient beings. Whereas before he had a universal sound, now he can universally protect and nourish sentient beings, benefiting all of them. Everyone is shielded as if they had an umbrella over them, protecting them from the sun, and so they feel cool and clear. And so this celestial king has gained this passage into liberation. You should not gain a passage into bondage. Whereas others gain a passage into liberation, you gain a passage that binds you up!
Gandharva King Happily Dancing and Splendid Eyes likes to move around, and he has beautiful eyes. He rolls his eyes, unlike you Americans…when you see someone, you enter a trance. Your gaze is riveted on that person, either on his face or eyes, and you enter samadhi. This Gandharva King’s eyes roll back and forth. He shows off his beautiful eyes on purpose. Those who have beautiful eyes may tend to want to roll their eyes in order to show others. He has gained a passage into liberation of manifesting an immense, wondrously splendid body. Not only does he have splendid eyes, he also has a tall, majestic build. When people see him, they are delighted and respectful. They so revere him that they cannot bear to be apart from him. Thus, he is spreading peace and joy to all. Whoever sees him feels calm and tranquil. One experiences a joy greater than any joy imaginable and peace greater than any peace imaginable. While looking at this Gandharva King, even if they do not eat, they won’t feel hungry. Even if they do not put on clothes, they won’t feel cold. That is how much charisma he has! He commands such great powers of attraction. All sentient beings are absolutely delighted over him. He is of great benefit to sentient beings. As soon as they see him, they become peaceful and joyous!
Gandharva King Lion Banner of Wonderful Sound gained a passage into liberation of dispersing all jewels of illustrious repute everywhere throughout the ten directions. Gandharva King Universally Releasing Jeweled Brilliance gained a passage into liberation of manifesting a brilliant, pristine body and making everyone immensely happy. Gandharva King Banner of Vajra Trees’ Blossoms gained a passage into liberation of everywhere moistening all trees, inspiring happiness in the beholder.
The next Gandharva King has the name Lion Banner of Wonderful Sound. He has gained a passage into liberation of dispersing all jewels of illustrious repute everywhere throughout the ten directions. With his wonderful sound, he scatters jewels throughout the ten directions. Sentient beings in the ten directions all admire this Gandharva King. He has great renown. When sentient beings hear of his great reputation, they will be saved and become enlightened. For this reason, he has the jewels of great renown. He has attained this passage into liberation.
The next Gandharva King is named Universally Releasing Jeweled Brilliance. He radiates the light of every variety of gem. He has gained a passage into liberation of manifesting a brilliant, pristine body and making everyone immensely happy. His passage into liberation consists of manifesting all kinds of happiness and having a pure Dharma body.
The next Gandharva King named Banner of Vajra Trees’ Blossoms gained a passage into liberation of everywhere moistening all trees. All trees are moistened by water, so their branches and foliage become luxuriant, inspiring happiness in the beholder. People are delighted by the sight of these trees. He attained that passage into liberation.
Gandharva King Everywhere Manifesting Adornments gained a passage into liberation of skillfully entering all Buddhas’ states and bestowing peace and joy upon sentient beings.
At that time, Gandharva King Governing Nations received the Buddha’s awesome power, universally contemplated the gandharva multitudes, and spoke the following verse.
Gandharva King Everywhere Manifesting Adornments is skilled at adorning Buddhalands and bodhimandas. Since he is skilled at adorning Buddhalands, he gained a passage into liberation of skillfully entering all Buddhas’ states. He can manifest and adorn the states of all Buddhas, thus bestowing peace and joy upon sentient beings. That is how he dispels the worry, sorrow, and distress of all sentient beings. His heart is filled with great kindness and compassion. His kindness causes him to make beings happy, and his compassion moves him to alleviate their suffering.
Although we have not attained this passage into liberation we who cultivate the Way should always try to make others happy and allay their suffering. If we trouble others, increasing their distress and vexation, then instead of developing affinities, we make them resent us. We ought to use virtue to influence people and earn their respect. We cannot hope to gain their respect or admiration if we oppress them. If we are virtuous, everyone will respect us and will not get upset even if we scold them. However, if we do not behave virtuously, we will not be able to influence others. People will detest us or fear us. When they see us, they will act as if they had seen a wolf, a tiger, a robber, or a poisonous snake. They want to run away and not be around us. Conversely, if we are virtuous, everyone will want to be near us. Even if we are mad at people, they wouldn’t consider our attitude excessive or wrong. Why? Our awesome virtue elicits in sentient beings a reaction of peace and happiness. That Gandharva King gained this passage into liberation.
At that time, when Gandharva King Everywhere Manifesting Adornments attained his passage into liberation, Gandharva King Governing Nations, the leader of the gandharvas, received the Buddha’s awesome power. Relying upon the awesome virtue of the Buddhas of the ten directions and our original teacher, Sãkymuni Buddha, he universally contemplated the gandharva multitudes. He observed all these multitudes to see what kind of Dharma he should speak so as to accord with their potentials. There are different ways to contemplate and observe. One could contemplate from within a state of samadhi, as well as when one comes out of samadhi. From within a state of dhyana concentration, he saw the causes and conditions of the gandharvas and knew what dharmas he should speak to benefit them. He can also observe them after he has come out of samadhi to know what expedients should he use to teach and transform these gandharva multitudes.
And then he spoke the following verse. If he says too much, people will become impatient. They don’t want to listen and take in any more—it is as if they have some problem with their ears. Some people talk as if they were grinding beans for bean curd (tofu), pushing the stone mill back and forth, in which case their audience would become restless. Well, what should one do? One can say less by speaking in verses, for example. That’s why the Gandharva King spoke verses for the gandharva multitudes. Upon observing their causes and conditions, he spoke succinctly and briefly, reiterating the meaning previously explained so that people remember it easily. When they recite this four-line verse, they will remember it quickly. If people have to go over the prose, they might not be able to remember it as easily. For that reason, the meaning is repeated in the following four-line verse.
The innumerable doors to the realm of all Buddhas
Are ones that sentient beings have not yet been able to enter.
Pure in nature, the Well-gone One resembles space.
Everywhere he reveals a proper path for those in the world.
Isn’t this four-line verse easy to remember? You can commit it to memory right away. Whether you have your eyes open or closed, you can still recall this verse. It’s easy to remember.
From within a state of samadhi, Gandharva King Governing Nations observes the past causes of sentient beings; and when he comes out of samadhi, he observes their present situation. Upon seeing the result, one can deduce the causes; observing the causes, one can figure out the result. He is able to understand the cause and effect of all sentient beings.
Why was this sentient being murdered? Ah, it’s because in the past he killed others. Why did that sentient being lose his possessions today? It’s because in the past he stole from others. Why does the husband of this woman always go out and fool around with other women? Because in one of her past lives, the wife was a man who fooled around with many women, and as a result he has to undergo the corresponding retribution in this life. Then there’s the opposite case where a woman goes out and fools around with men. What are the circumstances behind this? “Ah, so it is, so it is!” In the past she did not follow the rules. In general, the men were not faithful to their wives, and the wives were not frank and open with their husbands. They cheated one another. Such being the cause, such is the result. It is just that way. Thereupon you understand everything and you will not be afflicted. If you do not understand, you will be influenced by situations. If you understand, you can influence the situation.
Now the Sutra mentions the innumerable doors to the realm of the Buddhas. There are limitless, boundless doors but they are ones that sentient beings have not able been able to enter. The state of sentient beings and the state of Buddhas are different. Whereas sentient beings are always afflicted, bickering and fighting, and being upside-down, the state of all Buddhas is one of purity and effortlessness. The Buddhas do not act, but there is nothing that is not done. You argue that there is nothing going on, but the Buddha’s state contains everything. This is not something that sentient beings can understand. Therefore, they are not able to enter or reach the Buddha’s state.
Pure in nature, the Well-gone One resembles space. “The Well-gone One” is one of the Buddha’s ten titles. The Buddha’s nature is basically pure. Everywhere he reveals a proper path for those in the world. He opens a proper path for all sentient beings, so they may walk on this road and arrive at Buddhahood.
Some people are saying, “The Dharma Master spoke this Dharma especially for me.” Another person says, “I don’t understand this Dharma. It probably was not spoken on my behalf.” Actually it is not spoken for me or for you. It was spoken for someone else.
Each and every pore of the Thus Come One
Is filled with an ocean of merit and virtue,
Bringing benefit and bliss to all those in the world.
King Light Resembling Trees perceives thus.
“Thus Come One” is one of the Buddha’s ten titles. Each and every pore of the Thus Come One / Is filled with an ocean of merit and virtue. Since the merit and virtue in a single pore surpasses an ocean, the merit and virtue in all those pores cannot possibly be fathomed or known. Bringing benefit and bliss to all those in the world. The merit and virtue is not for the Buddha’s own benefit and bliss, but rather, for the sake of sentient beings of the world.
The world includes the material world. The benefit and bliss do not affect the material world in any significant way, but they do affect the world of sentient beings. All sentient beings are nurtured by the Thus Come One’s merit and virtue. King Light Resembling Trees perceives thus. Gandharva King Light Resembling Trees has understood the state of this passage into liberation.
The colossal ocean of the world’s distress and suffering
Is dried up by the Buddha—not a drop remains.
The Thus Come One’s sympathy commands numerous expedients.
Pure Eyes understands this profoundly.
Beings of the world of sentience live in the colossal ocean of the world’s distress and suffering. Their worry and woe resemble an ocean. Therefore we say, “The sea of suffering is without bounds.” Well, what are we to do? “A turn of the head is the other shore.” Turning around means waking up. We wake up to the fact that this ocean of distress and suffering is measureless and boundless. And we have to let go of it. If we can let go, we attain ease and comfort. Why do we experience distress and suffering? Because we cannot let go. Why can’t we let go? Because we haven’t seen things as they really are. Why can’t we see things truly? Because we lack wisdom. And why do we lack wisdom? Because we do not cultivate the Way. If we cultivate the Way, we will have wisdom. With wisdom we can see things as they are. Having seen things truly, we will let go of them. Who enables us to acquire this wisdom? The next line of the Sutra text tells us.
That ocean is dried up by the Buddha—not a drop remains. The Buddha teaches and transforms us, urges us to cultivate and increase our wisdom. The Buddha is able to rid sentient beings of distress and suffering until none remains, not even a hair’s worth. The ocean of distress and suffering is dried up and vanishes. The Thus Come One’s sympathy commands numerous expedients.
The Buddha kindly and compassionately teaches beings, liberating them all. He pities and sympathizes with all beings. Cultivators should regard everyone with kindness, compassion, and sympathy. We can use kindness to make beings happy all the time, and compassion to relieve their suffering. We should take pity on sentient beings: “How deeply they suffer! We must do everything we can to alleviate their pain.” Then we employ assorted skill-in-means to help sentient beings. Gandharva King Pure Eyes understands this profoundly. He has a deep understanding of this dharma.
The ten directions’ oceans of lands are boundless.
The Buddha’s wisdom light shines on them all,
Universally purifying evil and wrong views.
King Trees’ Blossoms enters this passage.
The ten directions’ oceans of lands are boundless. The oceans of lands in even a single direction are boundless, not to mention in ten directions. Even the oceans of lands right within our body are boundless, how much the more so if we were to discuss this on a broader scope!
Do the oceans of lands within each person’s body have boundaries? Our bodies are connected with the oceans of lands throughout the ten directions. Your own body is your ocean of lands. The bodies of others are oceans of lands of the ten directions. And other worlds are also oceans of lands of the ten directions. This principle can be expanded ad infinitum. There are infinite levels of meanings impossible to fully describe. If you can’t even locate the boundaries of the ocean of lands of your own body, how much the less can you hope to locate the boundaries of other oceans of lands of the ten directions?
Put simply: In your own ocean of lands, how many fine hairs make up your eyebrows? Could you count those fine hairs? They are a small number. Now, consider a larger quantity. Could you count the number of hairs on your head? You may say, “Yes, I can count the number of hairs in my eyebrows. It might take me ten years, but I can certainly count them all. I can even count the number of hairs on my head.”
Okay, you know how to compute. You have learned trigonometry, geometry, and algebra. Can you figure out how many pores and how many hairs there are on your body?
“Yes, I know. There are 84,000 of them.”
That’s just a general number. Maybe there are 85,000 or 86,000 or 83,000. That’s just a rough estimate. You don’t know the exact number for sure. And since we don’t even know clearly the ocean of lands within our own bodies, how much the less are we equipped to know the oceans of lands throughout the ten directions? Therefore, they are said to be boundless.
The Buddha’s wisdom light shines on them all. We do not have this knowledge because we lack the illumination of wisdom. If we had our wisdom eye open, then thoughts as numerous as dust motes in lands could be counted and known. If we could count that many thoughts, wouldn’t it be much easier to count an ocean of lands? The reason ordinary people do not know is that they aren’t enlightened. The Buddha has attained great, perfect enlightenment. The light of his wisdom completely and simultaneously illumines the oceans of lands of the ten directions. Unlike a spotlight or searchlight that shines in one direction but leaves the other directions dark, the Buddha’s light universally shines on all places at once.
What’s so great about this pervasive universal illumination? There must be advantages to it. Otherwise, what would the Buddha’s light shine for? For one, the light functions by universally purifying evil and wrong views. It completely purges and cleanses the evil and wrong views of beings in the ten directions’ oceans of lands. People with evil and wrong views like to bother others. For example, they may enjoy sending a wind over the ocean, stirring up huge waves in water that was originally placid and calm. Such people don’t give themselves any trouble, but create trouble for others. If their views were simply wrong, these people could still be saved. But when their views are evil, then these views become poisonous and sinister. For instance, such people may scheme to kill or eliminate their opponents. At any rate, evil and wrong views are really terrible.
In this liberation, the Buddha purifies those wrong, evil views. Due to his great kindness and compassion, he does not reject beings who have wrong and evil views. The Buddha doesn’t say, “I will not liberate you because you are so bad.” Instead, he universally purifies those wrong and evil views. King Trees’ Blossoms enters this passage. Gandharva King Trees’ Blossoms has understood this dharma.
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