The Wondrous Adornments
of the Rulers of the Worlds
Chapter One, Part Three
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua_
The Buddha body’s splendid light
Illumines the ten directions pervasively.
He appears to dwell in every location.
Universally Roaming observes this Path.
Space-ruling Spirit Universally Roaming Far and Wide discusses the Buddha body’s splendid light. Because she gained the passage into liberation of universally entering the Dharma Realm, she saw how the radiant glow from the Buddha’s body illumines the ten directions pervasively. The Buddha’s brilliant light shines on all beings everywhere in the ten directions. He appears to dwell in every location. Each and every being perceives the Buddha to be speaking Dharma directly to him or her, face to face. It’s similar to how the moon appears in a thousand streams. A single moon is reflected in all places where there is water. The Buddha is that way too. Provided you are a sentient being, the Buddha’s light can shine upon you. When that happens, you feel the Buddha is right before you radiating that light upon you. That’s why the text says, “He appears to dwell in every location.” Sentient beings, no matter where they are, feel that the Buddha is personally speaking the Dharma to them.
Universally Roaming observes this Path. Space-ruling Spirit Universally Roaming Far and Wide contemplates and understands this principle and enters this passage into liberation.
The Buddha’s body is as space.
Uncreated, it cannot be grasped, being
Inapprehensible and empty of its own.
Auspicious Wind perceives thus.
The Buddha’s body is as space. The Buddha is without marks, and yet without the absence of marks. Since he is neither marked nor unmarked, he is said to be characterized by truth. Uncreated, it cannot be grasped. The characteristic of truth is uncreated, and it cannot be grasped. Since it is uncreated, what is there that could be grasped? Nothing. That is being inapprehensible and empty of its own. Nothing about it can be got at. Ah! You tell me, is there anything that can be attained? What could you get? It has no nature of its own. Auspicious Wind perceives thus. Space-ruling Spirit Producing Auspicious Wind understands this principle.
For limitless eons, the Tathagata
Vastly set forth the Way of all sages
To utterly erase the obstacles of all sentient beings.
Universal Light awakens to this door.
At Gold Mountain Monastery and the International Institute for the Translation of Buddhist Texts, we hold daily sutra lectures, the way water in a river flows day after day. In this Dharma-ending Age, we must do the work of the Proper Dharma. That is the vow I made in the past. I resolved to preserve the Proper Dharma during the time of the Dharma’s end, vowing that wherever I go the Proper Dharma must prevail, and not the ending of the Dharma. I made that vow then, I am making that same vow now, and I shall make that vow in the future. I vow to prevent the ending of the Dharma and to retain the Proper Dharma. Why do I make such a vow? We should realize:
The Tathagata, for limitless eons, / Vastly set forth the Way of all sages. “Tathagata” is one of the ten titles of a Buddha. “Limitless eons” refers to how, for immeasurably immeasurable eons from the past until now, the Buddha has been universally and continually discussing the Path cultivated by the sages. He has been speaking Proper Dharma on a vast scale, to utterly erase the obstacles of all sentient beings. He everywhere helps to dispel sentient beings’ karmic obstacles. Once sentient beings’ obstacles are eradicated, their wisdom arises. When their wisdom arises, they can enter the Buddha’s passage to liberation. When their karmic obstacles are gone, their blessings increase, along with their wisdom. Universal Light awakens to this door. This particular state is the dharma door to which Space-ruling Spirit Universal Light awakens.
I contemplate how the practices for bodhi
Accumulated by the Buddha in the past
Were entirely to stabilize the world.
Wondrous Cowl practices this state.
Space-ruling Spirit Wondrous Cowl says: I contemplate how the practices for bodhi, accumulated by the Buddha in the past, were entirely to stabilize the world. She observes this having taken place life after life and time after time, which is the temporal reference of “in the past.” She contemplates the practices for bodhi that were amassed by the Buddha over many eons up to now. No one could match the Buddha’s practices. Why did the Buddha accumulate those practices for bodhi? They were entirely to bring peace and happiness to the world, so that the world of sentient creatures could achieve security and joy. Wondrous Cowl practices this state. Space-ruling Spirit Wondrous Cowl understands this state and enters this passage to liberation.
On all the realms of sentient beings
Who toss in the sea of birth and death,
The Buddha sends forth light to end all woe.
The spirit Unobstructed sees thus.
“On all the realms of sentient beings ” includes both sentient and insentient beings. Sentient beings exist by contrast with insentient beings. Together they enable people to understand the principles of the Buddhadharma.
All dharmas from their origin
Are perpetually still and quiescent.
Due to the existence of sentient beings, within the Dharma of which nothing can be said, verbal expression is forced out. Thus it says: On all the realms of sentient beings who toss in the sea of birth and death. We people turn round and round on this wheel. We revolve constantly in the wheel of the six paths, and it never occurs to us to try to get out. Birth and death, samsara, is like a great ocean in its extent. It’s not easy to end birth and death. That being the case, we bob and sink in that revolving cycle, flowing and turning in birth and death. We drift through the path of gods, the path of humans, the path of asuras, the path of hell-beings, the path of hungry ghosts, and the path of animals. That’s what happens as we toss in the sea of birth and death.
The Buddha sends forth light to end all woe. Sentient beings are deluded and unbearably miserable. They can’t distinguish clearly between right and wrong. You may clearly be right, but they say you are wrong. Or you may be obviously mistaken, yet they maintain you are correct. They keep spinning in their deluded, illusory state, which is why they suffer. The Buddha, however, emits light to end their suffering. The Buddha sends forth a kind of radiance which helps people wake up and aspire to leave suffering and attain bliss. The spirit Unobstructed sees thus. Space-ruling Spirit Unobstructed Blaze of Light understands this state and enters this passage to liberation.
The treasury of pure merit and virtue
Acts as a field of blessings for the world,
Using wisdom to enlighten all.
The spirit Power awakens thus.
The treasury of pure merit and virtue…Purity is defined as freedom from defilement. Something free from filth is pure. As to the treasury of merit and virtue, merit needs to be established, and virtue must be enacted. How does one establish merit? It’s by doing things beyond what one is required to do. Virtue is acting in ways that benefit others. Wholesome merit and virtue is contrasted with offenses and transgressions that entail recompense. To be wholesome is to do one’s best to perform good deeds. To have merit is to do things beyond the call of duty. Then if you bring benefit to sentient beings on a vast scale, you will have virtue. That’s wholesome merit and virtue. But what if you create offenses and transgressions entailing recompense? If you do what you shouldn’t do, you have offenses for which you must make restitution. For example, you shouldn’t kill people, but you kill someone. Then you have an offense. You shouldn’t steal or engage in sexual misconduct, but if you do, then you have made a transgression and will have to undergo the retribution. Any act of wrongdoing is a transgression.
Now this treasury of pure merit and virtue is pure and free from defilement. The merit established is limitless and boundless, and so it is termed a treasury of pure merit and virtue. The treasury of pure merit and virtue is the Sangha, which is the pure field of blessings. And it is the Sangha of the pure Buddhadharma, which acts as a field of blessings for the world. That is, the Triple Jewel the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, can act as a good field of blessings for the beings in the world, the world’s finest field of blessings. Any of you who would like to seek blessings should draw near the Triple Jewel, make offerings to the Triple Jewel, and revere the Triple Jewel. In that way you can plant blessings. Using wisdom to enlighten all. As circumstances require, it employs the door of prajña wisdom to guide all beings to enlightenment. The spirit Power awakens thus. The Spirit named Supreme Power understands this passage to liberation.
Sentient beings are veiled in delusion.
They drift and flow in dangerous paths.
The Buddha sends forth light for their sake.
Immaculate Spirit does witness thus.
Sentient beings are veiled in delusion. Sentient beings are obscured by stupidity and denseness. That delusion shrouds the light of their wisdom. They drift and flow in dangerous paths. They revolve in the six paths of rebirth, sometimes becoming animals, at times turning into hungry ghosts, occasionally falling into the hells--all of which is extremely precarious. The Buddha sends forth light for their sake. The Buddha sends forth great light of wisdom to rescue sentient beings, so they can leave those dangerous paths far behind. Immaculate Spirit does witness thus. Space-ruling Spirit Immaculate Radiance is pure and undefiled, and she understands this passage to liberation.
His wisdom is unbounded,
Appearing in all lands.
Its light illuminates the worlds.
Wondrous Sounds sees the Buddha thus.
His wisdom is unbounded. There aren’t any boundaries to the light of the Buddha’s wisdom. It is inexhaustible and unending, appearing in all lands. The radiance of the Buddha’s wisdom universally shines on all Buddhalands throughout the ten directions. Its light illumines the worlds. The light of the Buddha’s wisdom radiates throughout the Great Trichiliocosm.Wondrous Sounds sees the Buddha thus. Space-ruling Spirit Wondrous Sounds understands this passage to liberation; she knows about this state of the Buddha and enters this passage to liberation.
To rescue sentient beings, the Buddha
Cultivates throughout the ten directions.
Such are his magnificent vows.
Universally Manifesting contemplates thus.
To rescue sentient beings, the Buddha / Cultivates throughout the ten directions. The Buddha comes into the world to rescue all sentient beings, enabling every one of them to leave suffering, attain bliss, and put an end to birth and death. For that reason, he “ cultivates throughout the ten directions.” Such are his magnificent vows, such an aspiration to rescue sentient beings, to cultivate in the hopes that one’s cultivation will pervade the ten directions to free sentient beings everywhere in the ten directions. Universally Manifesting contemplates thus. Space-ruling Spirit Universally Manifesting understands this principle.
Moreover, Wind-ruling Spirit Unobstructed Radiance gained a passage into liberation of universally entering the Buddhas’ Dharma and all that is worldly.
People who have not studied the Buddhadharma are unaware that there are so many spirits, such as Day-ruling Spirits, Night-ruling Spirits, Space-ruling Spirits, and Wind-ruling Spirits. We who do study the Buddhadharma find out that there are numerous spirits. There isn't just one spirit ruling the wind; there are infinitely many Wind-ruling Spirits. The sutra text names only ten Wind-ruling Spirits, but there are far more that are not mentioned. The text says: Moreover, indicating that not everything has been entirely said yet. Space-ruling Spirits, Day-ruling Spirits, and Night-ruling Spirits were not the only kinds of spirits who were simultaneously praising the Buddha. Now we hear about the Wind-ruling Spirits who were also delivering their praises of the Buddha at the same time.
The Wind-ruling Spirit listed first is named Unobstructed Radiance, because her light shines everywhere and nothing can block it. She is a Wind-ruling Spirit. Since there are many different kinds of winds, there are many Wind-ruling Spirits with different names. Concerning wind, we human beings have wind, or air, inside our bodies, and there is wind/air outside our bodies too. Our bodies are temporary conglomerations of the four elements: earth, water, fire, and wind/air. That being the case, there is wind/air within our bodies. That wind/air is also governed by spirits. That they are rulers means they watch over wind/air. Winds cannot just blow as they please, for there are spirits overseeing them. We ourselves exist within wind/air, but we don't see it, just as fish are in water but don't see the water. Human beings could not survive without air, just as fish perish if they don’t have water. Fish will die if taken out of the water for a few days. And if we people are deprived of air, we will die from suffocation in a short time. Consequently, wind/air is important to each of us. None of us could survive in this world without it.
What did this particular Wind-ruling Spirit achieve? She gained the passage into liberation of the samadhi of universally entering the Buddhas’ Dharma and all that is worldly. She universally awakened to and entered into all the Dharma of the Buddhas. The Buddhadharma contains world-transcending dharmas. “Worldly” here refers to mundane dharmas. The Sixth Patriarch said:
The Buddhadharma is in the world
Enlightenment is not apart from the world.
To seek enlightenment apart from the world
Is like looking for a hare with horns.
“Buddhadharma” here means that worldly dharmas are themselves world-transcending dharmas. It's not the case that there are some other world-transcending dharmas to be found apart from worldly dharmas. Rather, it is right within worldly dharmas that there are world-transcending dharmas. “Passage into liberation” has been discussed a lot already. This was the passage into liberation that she attained.
Wind-ruling Spirit Universally Manifesting Courageous Karma gained a passage into liberation of making vast offerings to all the Buddhas appearing in limitless lands.
The next Wind-ruling Spirit is named Universally Manifesting Courageous Karma. “Universally Manifesting” refers to displays that appear everywhere. What is courageous karma? It is vigorous karma: vigorous bodhi, vigorous Brahma conduct, vigorous cultivation, vigorous making of offerings, and vigorous reverence for the Triple Jewel. That is called universally manifesting courageous karma. Since this Wind-ruling Spirit is vigorous and never lax with regard to all Buddhadharmas, she is named Universally Manifesting Courageous Karma.
What did this Wind-ruling Spirit achieve? She gained a passage into liberation of making vast offerings to all the Buddhas manifesting in limitless lands. She practices the vigorous giving of offerings on a vast, great, all-encompassing scale. She makes offerings to each and every Buddha who appears in any world. The measure of her mind is as vast as the Dharma Realm as she makes offerings to all Buddhas of the past, present, and future throughout the Dharma Realm. She attained such a passage to liberation.
Wind-ruling Spirit Drifting and Striking Cloud Banner gained a passage into liberation of using fragrant wind to eradicate all sentient beings’ various illnesses.
The next Wind-ruling Spirit is named Drifting and Striking Cloud Banner. Drifting means roaming about aimlessly, drifting here and there. This describes the movement of the wind. Striking refers to hitting together. Cloud banner suggests clouds in the shape of a jeweled banner. What liberation did this Wind-ruling Spirit achieve? She gained a passage into liberation of using fragrant wind to eradicate all sentient beings’ various illnesses. This kind of wind or air can dispel the sicknesses of all sentient beings. The wind she sets in motion is scented. This fragrant wind is an unsurpassed medicine that can cure all sentient beings’ sicknesses of greed, anger, and delusion. It first eradicates their illnesses of greed, anger, and delusion, and then increases their virtuous practices of precepts, samadhi and wisdom. This Wind-ruling Spirit attained this passage into liberation.
Wind-ruling Spirit Adornment with Pure Light gained a passage into liberation of universally producing good roots in all sentient beings and toppling their mountains of weighty obstructions.
Wind-ruling Spirit Adornment with Pure Light is so named because she adorns herself with a pristine radiance. How did she achieve liberation? She gained a passage into liberation of universally producing good roots in all sentient beings. She helps all sentient beings to make the resolve for bodhi, whereby they create tremendous good roots. She influences all sentient beings to reform, to renounce what wrong and take up what is right, so they avoid evil and practice all types of goodness instead. That is what is meant by universally producing good roots in all sentient beings, and toppling their mountains of weighty obstructions. As their good roots increase, their bad karma is eradicated. That’s how she helps all sentient beings to destroy their mountains of weighty obstructions. What are these mountains of weighty obstructions? They consist of our arrogance, greed, anger, and delusion as well as our offenses. Such weighty obstructions resemble Mount Sumeru . The most serious obstructions are the attachments to self and to dharmas. The attachments to self and to dharmas are just like mountains. But this spirit can demolish attachments to self and to dharmas, and level those mountains of weighty obstructions. She attained that passage into liberation.
Wind-ruling Spirit Power to Dry Up Water gained a passage into liberation of breaking through the boundless hordes of evil demons.
The next Wind-ruling Spirit has a very fitting name: Power to Dry Up Water. She has the ability to absorb water, that is, to drink the water dry. When her wind blows through a region, it dries up all the moisture. How was she liberated? She gained a passage into liberation of breaking through the boundless hordes of evil demons. Evil demons are ferocious. Ignorance and afflictions are the worst demons of all. The demons of afflictions are incredibly powerful. We who cultivate the Way must constantly examine our hearts to see if affliction is present. Do we get afflicted when people treat us badly? Are we upset when people criticize us? Are we bothered by people who are rude to us? Are we upset when we get scolded? Do we react with outrage if someone beats us up? If we remain calm and unruffled, then we have shattered the boundless hordes of evil demons. But if we get afflicted, we have not broken free from evil demons.
We should examine ourselves each day and ask, “Why should a cultivator have a temper? How can a cultivator get angry?” Anyone who remains free from afflictions will be noble and lofty. But those who have a huge temper, ignorance and afflictions are worthless and ignoble. Pure and lofty cultivators are free from afflictions. People who can free themselves from afflictions will realize the sagely fruitions and become enlightened sooner. Those who still have afflictions will realize the fruitions and become enlightened later.
Buddhism is just starting to take hold in this country [Note: This was spoken in 1973], and more people absolutely must realize the fruitions and become enlightened. People need to become Sages and Worthies, Bodhisattvas, Arhats--Sages of the First Fruition, Sages of the Second Fruition, Sages of the Third Fruition, and Sages of the Fourth Fruition . None of you in this country should miss the opportunity now open to you. You ought to realize the fruitions and become Sages. But as soon as you get angry, you lose your chance. Take a look at the Sages. Could you imagine any of them throwing big temper tantrums or having fits of ignorance or afflictions? No, because they have realized the emptiness of people and the emptiness of dharmas. For them, both people and dharmas are empty. They have reached the state of both people and dharmas being empty, and so very naturally they have no ignorance or afflictions. All of you should respect yourselves. Don’t look down on yourselves. You should find a way to realize the fruitions quickly. Don’t lag behind. If you want to realize the fruitions, you must start by breaking free from the evil demons of your afflictions.
When I lectured on the Universal Door Chapter, didn't I tell you, "Firewood gathered for a thousand days totally burns up in a single blaze"? A woodpile that took 1,000 days to make can be consumed by fire in less than an hour's time. You may do a thousand days' worth of merit and virtue, cultivating virtuous practices for a thousand days, only to have all that merit and virtue completely burned up when your fire of ignorance and tiger-like spirit appear on the scene.
This particular Wind-ruling Spirit is able to break through evil demons. Malicious ogres can destroy your work in the Way. Seeing that you have a little merit and virtue from cultivation, they wait on the sidelines for an opening, such as when you get angry and give in to ignorance and afflictions. That's when the demons drill their way in. Once they've bored in, they destroy your resolve for the Way. To start with you wanted to cultivate, but now what happens? From morning to night you think of returning to lay life and how to get out of cultivating. The demon king has taken over your mind. Originally you were on your way to the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, but the demon king tells you, “Don't go there! That place is a lot of trouble. Go east, which is a lot better territory.” The demon thinks of all kinds of ways to dissuade you, so in the end you say, “The West is trouble—I'll go try the East.” From that point on, you’re stuck in the Saha World. Demons are that influential. If you really want to cultivate the Way and leave the suffering of the turning wheel, then don’t believe what demons say.
Wind-ruling Spirit Loud and Pervasive Howling gained a passage into liberation of destroying the fears of all sentient beings forever.
The next Wind-ruling Spirit is Loud and Pervasive Howling. This Wind-ruling Spirit must like to stir up great winds that howl at a high pitch, making a din that resounds throughout space. She gained a passage into liberation of destroying the fears of all sentient beings forever. Whenever sentient beings are afraid, this Wind-ruling Spirit gives them courage and dispels their fears. She attained this state of the Buddhas and this passage into liberation.
Wind-ruling Spirit Cowl of Trailing Branches gained a passage into liberation of entering a sea of eloquence concerning the true character of all dharmas.
The next Wind-ruling Spirit is named Cowl of Trailing Branches. She understood a state of the Buddhas and gained a passage into liberation of entering a sea of eloquence concerning the true character of all dharmas. “Entering” means understanding and awakening to. She awakened to the true character of all dharmas--the basic substance of all dharmas. And what is the basic substance of all dharmas? There is a saying: “All dharmas from their origin are perpetually still and quiescent and cannot be expressed in words.” They are inexpressible. The true character of all dharmas is ineffably ineffable.
You may ask, "Well, if this is ineffable, then how can it be eloquently depicted?" The eloquence comes precisely from the ineffability. She entered the sea of eloquence. This kind of eloquence is the wonderful functioning arising from the basic substance, the true character, of all dharmas. The principle, when expressed, is infinite and unending. Any way you discuss it makes sense, and all interpretations are valid, which is why this is called the sea of eloquence. It cannot be summed up in a single principle, and so there are said to be no fixed dharmas. In explaining sutras and speaking Dharma, each person has his or her own point of view and individual insight, and so no lecture on a sutra will be the same. If everyone who lectured gave an identical explanation, then sutra lectures would be dead, and the meaning of the sutra would not be made clear. There would be no entry into the basic substance and the true character of all dharmas. People would lack understanding, and the principles expressed would be rigid and dead.
However, if you do understand the true character of all dharmas, then you enter the sea of eloquence. You will have unobstructed eloquence, and no one would be able to outtalk you. Whatever you say, you will be victorious. You would never be left staring speechless by something someone says, bereft of a sea of eloquence. Wind-ruling Spirit Cowl of Trailing Branches attained that passage to liberation.
Wind-ruling Spirit Unimpeded Travel Everywhere gained a passage into liberation of employing a treasury of expedients to tame and subdue all sentient beings.
Wind-ruling Spirit Unimpeded Travel Everywhere goes throughout the dharma realms of the ten directions. Nothing can stop her wind from going anywhere. How did she achieve liberation? She gained a passage into liberation of employing a treasury of expedients to tame and subdue all sentient beings. She can get stubborn sentient beings not to be stubborn, make evil beings stop being evil, and inspire corrupt beings to reform. She tempers sentient beings and makes them mellow, patient, and vigorous. She influences beings to reform, discard the wrong and regain the right, cast aside darkness and go towards the light--all of which are aspects of taming and subduing. She tames and subdues not just one, but all, sentient beings.
What does she use to do that? She employs a treasury of expedient means. Those expedient dharma doors are limitless and boundless, and so are termed a treasury. Upon encountering stubborn sentient beings, she softens them with harmoniousness and patience. If she meets evil beings, she wins them over using wholesome dharmas. In dealing with corrupt sentient beings, she tames and subdues them with methods of goodness. She employs all types of expedients to moderate sentient beings, and thereby enters this passage into liberation.
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