The Wondrous Adornments
of the Rulers of the Worlds
Chapter One, Part Four & Five
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua_
Moreover, Water-ruling Spirit Creating Banners of Clouds Everywhere gained a passage into liberation of impartially benefiting all sentient beings with kindness.
Moreover indicates that the principles described before have not yet been completely presented and are continued here. The next spirit, the first Water-ruling Spirit is named Creating Banners of Clouds Everywhere . This Water-ruling Spirit can flourish in any place, like banners of clouds forming everywhere. She is one of the guardian spirits of water. We have seen how space has guardian spirits, and so does earth. There are spirits watching over fire, and spirits in control of wind. Both fire and water have spirits who preside over them. Water-ruling Spirits are in charge of water. We human beings think we can use water as we please, unaware that there are spirits in control of it. Actually, everything in the world is watched by spirits. If there were no spirits in control of water, floods would spread out far and wide, inundating the entire world, and every place would be water. However, because there are spirits in control, the areas where water travels are clearly defined. Water flows downwards, although sometimes it flows upwards, which is very rare.
I remember that one time when I was in Manchuria, in the village of Eastern Well, I encountered a king of water-demons who came there with the express intention of drowning the group of five of us who were there. At that time, the water in the wells rose twenty or thirty feet, overflowing the mouths of the wells. There was extremely heavy rainfall from the sky, as if water were being poured down by the barrel. Eight hundred homes were washed away, and more than thirty people died. People were drowned while standing on their brick-beds. [In contrast with the South, Northerners have fire-heated high brick beds.] The water was that deep. The house where I was staying was in the lowest hollow, surrounded by a wattle-fence of wood that left a lot of openings through which water could enter. On that occasion, the water was more than ten feet high outside the fence, but inside the yard it was only one or two feet deep. Hence no water reached the brick-beds where I was staying.
Water can benefit people, but it can also harm them. In excessive amounts it can be harmful, but in small quantities it is beneficial to people. Therefore Lao Zi said: “People of superior goodness,” people who are exceptionally good, “are like water. Water benefits the myriad things but does not contend.” It doesn’t declare, “’You sentient beings are lucky to have me to keep you alive. I am very beneficial to you!” It doesn’t contend. “It dwells in places people do not like.” Water stays in the very places people don’t want to stay in, because they are the lowest spots. No one wants to live in the most inferior locations, but water is willing to take the very lowest positions. That’s the meaning of: “It dwells in places people do not like, hence it accords with the Way.” For that reason, water is in harmony with the Way, and people of superior goodness are that way too.
This particular Water-ruling Spirit gained a passage into liberation of impartially benefiting all sentient beings with kindness, using kindness and compassion to aid all sentient beings. She attained that passage to liberation.
Water-ruling Spirit Sea-Tide Cloud Sound gained a passage into liberation of being boundlessly adorned with Dharma.
The next Water-ruling Spirit is named Sea-Tide Cloud Sound. This Water-ruling Spirit has power like that of the clouds and the sound of the ocean tide. She gained a passage into liberation of being boundlessly adorned with Dharma, of all Dharma-doors whatsoever adorning the Path to Buddhahood. She attained that passage into liberation.
Water-ruling Spirit Wheel-like Cowl of Wondrous Colors gained a passage into liberation of contemplating those to be taught and universally gathering them in with skill-in-means.
The next Water-ruling Spirit is named Wheel-like Cowl of Wondrous Colors. She gained a passage into liberation of contemplating the potentials of all those sentient beings suited to be taught by her first, and universally gathering them in with skill-in-means. She adopts a great variety of expedient Dharma-doors to gather in those sentient beings, enabling them to achieve a sort of enlightenment. That’s the passage to liberation she attained.
Water-ruling Spirit Whirlpools of Skillful Expedients gained a passage into liberation of universally proclaiming the profound states of all Buddhas.
The next Water-ruling Spirit is named Whirlpools of Skillful Expedients. “Skillful” refers to being very intelligent and understanding the Dharmas of skill-in-means. “Whirlpools” indicates that this kind of Dharma is spoken over and over again in the employment of provisional expedient methods to teach and transform sentient beings. She attained a kind of samadhi of skill-in-means.
This Water-ruling Spirit gained a passage into liberation of universally proclaiming the profound states of all Buddhas. She can describe all the deep states of all the Buddhas of the ten directions, using various methods to proclaim them. Sometimes she uses light to express expedient Dharma doors. At other times she makes her proclamations of the Dharma doors of skill-in-means through the medium of the sound of flowing water. Hence this is called universally proclaiming the profound states of all Buddhas, and is the kind of passage to liberation that she attained.
Water-ruling Spirit Immaculate Accumulation of Fragrance gained a passage into liberation of universally displaying a grand, pristine radiance.
Thenext Water-ruling Spirit is named Immaculate Accumulation of Fragrance. She is free of all defilement. “Accumulation of fragrance” is as in the kitchen, which is the area where fragrances accumulate. The kitchen’s accumulation of fragrance refers to how the five flavors are blended exceptionally well, so there are all kinds of aromas and tastes. Water-ruling Spirit Accumulation of Fragrance gained a passage into liberation of universally displaying a grand, pristine radiance. She can purify the Dharma Realm with her universal display of intense, pure radiance. To the ends of space and throughout the Dharma Realm she reveals a great treasury of light. She attained that passage into liberation.
Water-ruling Spirit Bridge to Blessings and Voice of Light gained a passage into liberation of purifying Dharma Realms so that they are devoid of characteristics and a nature.
Water-ruling Spirit Bridge to Blessings and Voice of Light gained a passage into liberation of purifying Dharma Realms, of causing the Dharma Realms of the ten directions to return to purity, so that they are devoid of characteristics and a nature. The purification of the Dharma Realms indicates that they unite with space, so they have no appearances. Nor do they have a nature. In other words: “All dharmas from their origin are perpetually still and quiescent, and cannot be expressed by words.” There is no way you can use words and language to articulate them. She achieved the liberation of purifying Dharma Realms so they have no characteristics and no nature. Even if they have no characteristics, perhaps they have a nature? Not so. They are also without a nature. Having neither marks nor nature, they merge with emptiness. She attained that passage into liberation.
Water-ruling Spirit Comfortable Contentment gained a passage into liberation of sharing an ocean of unending great compassion.
It’s just to be feared that people do not know how to be content. Discontentment is suffering, whereas contentment is bliss, hence the saying: “One who knows how to be content will always be happy. One who can be patient will naturally be at peace.” To be happy all the time, we need to be content with our lot; and to have natural tranquility is itself freedom and ease. The inability to be content brings acute suffering.
What do we mean by not knowing to be content? Someone, to start with, might have no money and no house, and have to live along the roadside, even lacking clothing. At that time he might think, “It would be nice to have a house to live in.” Everyday he would think and think about housing, clothing, and food. The day might come when he actually does have a house and clothes, and food to eat. The house is adequate to keep out wind and rain. The clothes suffice to protect his body. The food available to him can stave off the hunger and thirst. Yet, when that happens, he starts musing, “It would be nice to live in a bigger house. I would prefer to eat very nutritious food - at least get to eat some cottage cheese or butter, or steak and pork chops.” Before, he didn’t have anything to eat, but now that he does, he wants the food to be good. Previously he had no clothes to wear, but now that he has some, he wants to wear fine clothes. In the beginning he didn’t have a house to live in, but now that he has a place to live in, he wishes for a very fine house. He lacks the ability to be content.
When he does get his home and food and clothes, he further aspires to hold public office. Being head of the County Board of Supervisors turns out to be a minor position, too insignificant for him, so he wants to be the State Governor. After being Governor of his State, or perhaps the Mayor of a major city, he wants to be President. Once he is President, he has ambitions to be world-leader. Having achieved the position of world-leader, he muses about going to the heavens to be the Heavenly Lord. So, you see how much suffering it is not to be content, whereas being content brings happiness. “One who can be content will always be happy, and will always be at ease.” She gained a passage into liberation of sharing an ocean of unending great compassion. She constantly cherishes the wish to bestow happiness on sentient beings and to eradicate their suffering. Hence, hers is the passage into liberation of sharing an ocean of unending great compassion.
Water-ruling Spirit Kindly Sound of Pure Joy gained a passage into liberation of acting as a treasury of great delight within the Way-places of assemblies of Bodhisattvas.
The next Water-ruling Spirit is named Kindly Sound of Pure Joy. She is always joyous at heart, and is very good at speaking Dharma. Therefore, she gained a passage into liberation of acting as a treasury of great delight within the Way -p laces of assemblies of Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas benefit themselves and benefit others, enlighten themselves and enlighten others, rescue themselves and rescue others; they make a great resolve for bodhi. In Way-places where multitudes of Bodhisattvas reside, she serves as a treasury of great delight. She enables all the Bodhisattvas in the Bodhimandas, all those great multitudes in the ocean-wide assemblies, to experience tremendous delight. Their great happiness is like a treasury, and so her passage into liberation is a treasury of delight. She attained that state and that passage to liberation.
Water-ruling Spirit Universally Manifesting Majestic Light gained a passage into liberation of appearing everywhere through the unimpeded strength of enormous blessings and virtue.
The next Water-ruling Spirit is named Universally Manifesting Majestic Light. She appears everywhere and has a great resplendence about her. This Water-ruling Spirit gained a passage into liberation of appearing everywhere through the unimpeded strength of enormous blessings and virtue. Her ability to appear in lands as many as motes of dust throughout the ten directions is unhindered. She employs the power of tremendous, boundless blessings and virtue. Blessings are cultivated, whereas virtue comes from one’s actions. Such blessings and virtue are immense, limitless and boundless, and through their power there can be universal manifestation of Buddhas in worlds as numerous as dust motes in the ten directions. Water-ruling Spirit Universally Manifesting Majestic Light understood that state and entered that passage to liberation.
Water-ruling Spirit Roaring Sound Pervading Seas gained a passage into liberation of contemplating all sentient beings and bringing forth expedients like emptiness to tame and subdue them.
The next Water-ruling Spirit is named Roaring Sound Pervading Seas, for the sound her roar pervades the seas of sentient beings in lands numerous as motes of dust. She gained a passage into liberation of contemplating all sentient beings in worlds throughout the ten directions, and bringing forth expedients like emptiness to tame and subdue them. She uses skill-in-means like emptiness to tame and subdue all those sentient beings like emptiness in the ten directions, teaching and transforming them all. Yet even though she teaches and transforms all sentient beings, sentient beings actually teach themselves and transform themselves. Consequently, her actions are as void, for she is not attached to what she does. That’s why the text says “like emptiness.” This principle is also stated in the Vajra Sutra, which describes taking all sentient beings to quiescence, without a single sentient being having been taken to quiescence. Even if the realm of sentient beings were empty, the Buddha’s vows would still not be fulfilled. Therefore, she observes all sentient beings and makes vows as expansive as space, using her vast spiritual penetrations to regulate those sentient beings. She employs all sorts of expedient Dharma doors to tame and subdue sentient beings. That’s her passage to liberation.
At that time, Water-ruling Spirit Creating Banners of Clouds Everywhere received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the multitudes of Water-ruling Spirits, and spoke the following verse.
At that time, when Ananda had finished speaking the previous section of prose, he then used verses to restate what had been said in prose. The first Water-ruling Spirit isnamed Creating Banners of Clouds Everywhere. That particular Water-ruling Spirit received the Buddha’s great awesome spiritual power, just as all the other Water-ruling Spirits did. She universally contemplated the dispositions and conditioning factors of the multitudes of Water-ruling Spirits, and spoke the following verse, restating the prose section in verse.
Countlessly many passages leading to purity and kindness
Are revealed within a single, wondrous hallmark of the Thus Come One;
The same is true of each and every hallmark.
Therefore, those who gaze upon him never tire of their beholding.
Water-ruling Spirit Creating Banners of Clouds Everywhere gained the passage into liberation of impartially benefiting all sentient beings with kindness. Now the meaning of the prose passage is being restated, and discusses countlessly many passages leading to purity and kindness. These gates that open upon kindness are pure, free from defiling dharmas. No defiling dharmas means no thoughts of desire. What is the function of these passages into kindness and compassion? They benefit sentient beings, impartially benefiting all. The kindness and compassion aid all beings equally. How many of these doors are there? Countlessly many. Where did so many passages into purity and kindness come from? They are revealed within a single, wondrous hallmark of the Thus Come One. The tip of a single hair of the Tathagata is replete with all those many entrances into pure kindness and compassion. The tips of hair of the Thus Come One are quite numerous to begin with, and the tip of every hair holds passages as many as dust motes in lands. Every single pore contains infinitely many pure doors of kindness and compassion, and so it says: The same is true of each and every hallmark. Within each of the Tathagata's hallmarks are found boundlessly many of such vast, great, pure doors of kindness to benefit all sentient beings. How many doors of kindness would you say there were in all? Therefore, those who gaze upon him never tire of their beholding. Since each hallmark of the Tathagata is replete with infinitely many doors of kindness and compassion, and all his hallmarks are thus, consequently, sentient beings are delighted to see the Buddha and to hear the Dharma. They gaze at the Buddha, their eyes never leaving him for an instant. It is as if their eyes have entered samadhi; their gaze never wavers from the Buddha. Why is that? It’s because they can never get enough. Sentient beings are attached to appearances, and when they see the radiance of the Buddha’s fine hallmarks and characteristics, they never want to leave him. They would like to gaze at the Buddha forever.
When cultivating in the past, the World Honored One
Made pilgrimages to all Thus Come Ones’ abodes.
He practiced in various ways–never weary, never lax:
Cloud Sound enters such expedients as these.
This verse concerns the aforementioned Water-ruling Spirit named Sea-Tide Cloud Sound, who gained a passage into liberation of boundless adornment with Dharma. That she “gained” it means she achieved that state and understood how diligently the Buddha cultivated when he was at the level of planting causes. That’s why her verse talks about When cultivating in the past, the World Honored One. The World Honored One is honored in the world and beyond it. He is honored by people in the world and by those who have transcended the world. This is one of the Ten Titles of a Buddha. “In the past” refers to when the Buddha was at the level of planting causes. Now that the Buddha has achieved Buddhahood, he is at the level of the fruition. How did he cultivate at the time of planting causes?He made pilgrimages to all Thus Come Ones’ abodes. He went everywhere and was universally present in all places. What places were those? He went to all locations where there were Buddhas. Which Buddhas? He went to see all those who had already become Buddhas before him. Shakyamuni Buddha had not yet become a Buddha. Since he wasn’t a Buddha yet, he drew near to all previous Buddhas, made offerings to them, and revered them. He practiced in various ways—never weary, never lax. “ In various ways” describes how he employed whatever Dharma doors he was capable of in order to make offerings to the Buddhas, to worship and respect all Buddhas, and to draw near all Buddhas. He forgot himself in his quest for the Dharma. In his pursuit of the Dharma he went without sleep and food, and disregarded even illness as he sought the Dharma.
“Does a Buddha still get sick?” you may ask. Well, that was before the Buddha realized Buddhahood. And even after he became a Buddha, he would sometimes have headaches. He underwent the retributions of the metal spear and of horsefeed. What were those retributions? In a certain lifetime the Buddha had been a young lad. At that time, some people had dragged a fish to the shore. The boy saw the fish and hit it several times on the head with a staff just for the fun of it . [Note: Another version of the story is that the boy hit the fish in order to knock it unconscious, so it would not feel the pain of being cut up by the fishermen.] As a result, after he became a Buddha, he still suffered occasional headaches for having hit the fish. The law of cause and effect is never off by a hair.
In general, the Buddha was not lazy, lax, or remiss when he was cultivating at the level of planting causes. According to the precepts, if a Dharma Master is delivering a sutra lecture or speaking Dharma less than 40 (Chinese) miles [between 14 and 15 English miles] away, you ought to go listen to the Dharma. If, instead of going to listen to the Dharma, you sleep or take it easy where you are, you break a precept. In the past when the Buddha was seeking the Dharma and cultivating, he practiced at all times and was never lax or lazy. Cloud Sound enters such expedients as these. All of the various kinds of expedient Dharma doors that were just described constitute the passage to liberation that Water-ruling Spirit Sea-Tide Cloud Sound enters.
The Buddha traverses the ten direction while remaining
Quiescent and unmoving, neither coming nor going.
He responds to sentient beings; they perceive his teaching.
Thus understands Wheel-like Cowl.
The Buddha is described as being in all the ten directions. Our world-system has ten directions, and so do other world-systems; and so there is not just one set of ten directions, but rather a great many world-systems of ten directions. Thus it says: The Buddha traverses the ten directions while remaining / Quiescent and unmoving, neither coming nor going. The Buddha is still and quiet, without movement. Since he is still and does not move, he neither comes nor goes, hence the quotation: “The Thus Come One does not come from anywhere, nor does he go anywhere.” He doesn’t come or go, yet he responds to sentient beings; they perceive his teaching. The Buddha uses great powers of spiritual penetrations to enable all the sentient beings who have affinities with the Buddha to see the Buddha. Thus understands Wheel-like Cowl. This state is the passage to liberation understood by Water-ruling Spirit Wheel-Like Cowl of Wondrous Colors.
[What follows is from Bhikshuni Heng Hsien’s notes. As it is interesting in connection with Water-ruling Spirits, it is included here.]
Venerable Master: Would the people who just arrived from Oregon like to say a few words? How was your trip?
Man: It was a good trip down. No problems.
Venerable Master: No rain?
Man: Wednesday night it rained a lot, and was very bad driving. But Thursday was the best weather in three weeks.
Ven. Master: When you wrote earlier you said you feared flooding.
Man: After we started, there was no rain.
Venerable Master: This is a response from your sincerity, because of your whole attitude about the possibility of a flood and rain the first day, and in spite of that coming anyway. It was a response. It was just a test. How are the two children?
Man: Fine. They were better on this trip than on any other we’ve made.
Venerable Master: Y our coming from such a long distance despite your concerns about water—rain; your being so sincere to come all this way to take refuge makes me very happy. It would be good if everyone could have your attitude, whether traveling by plane or drive by car.
Inestimable are the states of the Thus Come One.
Not a single sentient being can fathom them.
His wondrous voice sounds throughout the ten directions:
Thus is the realm of practice of the spirit Whirlpools of Skills.
Inestimable are the states of the Thus Come One. This describes how the states of the Buddha are inconceivable. Due to their inconceivability, they are boundless and immeasurable. Not a single sentient being can fathom them. From the vantage point of sentient beings who have not yet opened the Buddha's knowledge and vision, not yet entered the Buddha's knowledge and vision, so long as they have not yet opened, disclosed, awakened to and entered the knowledge and vision of a Buddha, they are unable to understand the Buddha's state. As to the Buddha, his wondrous voice sounds throughout the ten directions. The Buddha sends forth a single kind of subtle and wondrous sound, and that single wondrous sound is not just heard in this world-system; rather, it extends throughout the world-systems of the ten directions. Thus is the realm of practice of the spirit Whirlpools of Skills. This state is the principle and the passage to liberation cultivated by Water-ruling Spirit Whirlpools of Skillful Expedients.
Eternal, the World Honored One’s radiance.
Inconceivable, it fills the Dharma Realm.
He speaks Dharma to teach and save sentient beings.
Spirit Immaculate Fragrance contemplates thus.
Eternal, the World Honored One’s radiance. The light emitted by the World Honnored One, the Buddha, is multi-layered and inexhaustible. That being the case, there is no time when it comes to an end. Inconceivable, it fills the Dharma Realm. A single ray of light of the Buddha’s can extend throughout space and pervade the Dharma Realm, filling it all. It cannot be conceptualized by thought or expressed in words. He speaks Dharma to teach and save sentient beings. The Buddha proclaims all kinds of wonderful Dharma to teach, transform, save, and liberate beings, enabling them to leave suffering and attain bliss. Water-ruling Spirit Immaculate Fragrance contemplates thus. Water-ruling Spirit Immaculate Accumulation of Fragrance personally observes this state; she herself understands and realizes this state.
The Tathagata is pure as space.
Formless, without marks, he pervades the ten directions,
Yet all the assemblies see him, excepting none:
Light of Blessings spirit well contemplates thus.
The Tathagata is pure as space. The Tathagata’s Dharma-body is immaculate, the same as emptiness. It is not located anywhere, nor is it absent from anywhere, which is why it is said to resemble space. Formless, without marks, he pervades the ten directions. Even though he extends throughout the Dharma Realms of the ten directions, nonetheless he has no characteristics and no form. Though he is markless and formless, he is able to fill all Dharma Realms in the ten directions. The Buddha’s realm of being is just that wonderful and inconceivable. Yet all the assemblies see him, excepting none: In spite of the fact that the Buddha has no characteristics and no appearance, he still can make himself visible to all sentient beings in the assemblies in the Way-places without exception. No one fails to see the Buddha. Light of Blessings spirit well contemplates thus. Water-ruling Spirit Bridge to Blessings and Voice of Light understands this state.
In ages past, the Buddha cultivated methods of great compassion–-His mind vast, pervasive–-commensurate with sentient beings. Cloud-like, henceforth he appears in the world:
This passage to liberation Contentment understands.
In ages past, the Buddha cultivated methods of great compassion . Previously, the Buddha cultivated the practice of great compassion, both alleviating sentient beings’ suffering and bestowing happiness upon them. Such was the gate to great compassion he learned to enter, his mind vast, pervasive–commensurate with sentient beings. When the Buddha was cultivating the practice of great compassion, his mind was especially vast and extensive, all-pervasive, equal in measure to the number of sentient beings. The Buddha cultivated as many means of great compassion as there are sentient beings, so there was an equal matching with sentient beings. Cloud-like, henceforth he appears in the world: For that reason, the Buddha is comparable to a cloud in the sky, appearing above the earth, bringing refreshing coolness to over-heated sentient beings. We who believe in the Buddha should know about this. The Buddha resembles a cloud over our world, providing cool and refreshing shade to sentient beings. This passage to liberation Water-ruling Spirit Contentment understands.
All in the lands of the ten directions
See the Tathagata seated on his throne,
And open up and awaken to great bodhi.
Sound of Joy enters thus.
All in the lands of the ten directions / See the Tathagata seated on his throne. You all know what the directions are, you have been to all lands, and you have seen all this. Open up and awaken to great bodhi. You have all experienced awakening. Sound of Joy enters thus. You have all been joyous – isn’t that the case? You have been to all the lands of the ten directions, and have come back from them. You have all seen the Tathagata seated on his throne, but then forgotten with the passage of time. You have all been enlightened, but have grown confused over time. Isn’t that the way it is? It is that way. Water-ruling Spirit Sound of Joy understands this state and declares it to all of you now in the great assembly.
Nothing can hinder the actions of the Tathagata.
He pervades all lands in the ten directions.
In place after place he displays great spiritual penetrations.
Universally Manifesting Majestic Light awakens thus.
Nothing can hinder the actions of the Tathagata. None of the things he does is blocked or obstructed. He pervades all lands in the ten directions. He is able to remain seated in stillness where he is, yet respond throughout the ten directions. Still and unmoving, without leaving where he is sitting, his responses accordingly extend through the ten directions. Wherever there is a being who evokes a response, a sentient being who wishes to see the Buddha and hear the Dharma, the Buddha naturally responds to that evocation. He never fails to fulfill a wish. Anyone who wishes to see the Buddha can do so. Therefore the text goes on to say: In place after place he displays great spiritual penetrations. In every location in the seas of lands as many as fine motes of dust in the Dharma Realms of the ten directions, he reveals his enormous spiritual penetrations. Those great spiritual penetrations are such that the great can include the small, and the small can include the great. The great and small can encompass each other. Lands as many as fine motes of dust are not outside a single mote of dust. A single dust mote can contain lands as numerous as motes of dust. Although a particle of dust is small, it can encompass the great. And even though the lands of the ten directions are great, nothing small is lost in them. The small appears within the great, and the great appears within the small. That is why they are called great spiritual penetrations.
Universally Manifesting Majestic Light awakens thus. When you hear this described, it seems very simple. Nonetheless, this principle is not all that easy to understand. How can something small contain something huge? And how can something huge retain the details of the small? It’s possible for the great to contain the small, but it doesn’t make sense for the small to contain the great. However, from the vantage point of the Buddha, there is no great and no small, no inside and no outside. There isn’t anything huge or anything tiny. There isn’t any inside or and any outside. Everything interpenetrates without obstruction. Water-ruling Spirit Universally Manifesting Majestic Light has awakened to this state. It just happened not very long ago. Just now she has understood this, whereas earlier she didn’t understand it very well. Therefore, she has just awakened to and understood this principle.
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