The Wondrous Adornments
of the Rulers of the Worlds
Chapter One, Part Four & Five
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua_
VIII. Multitudes issue forth from the lion throne
J. They speak verses in praise
9. Cloud Sound Bodhisattva praises the Buddha’s past cultivation of the Ten Grounds and its results
At that time, Bodhisattva Mahasattva Cloud Sound and Pure Moon received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the oceanic multitudes in the bodhimanda, and spoke the following verses.
The realm of his spiritual penetrations equals the void.
No sentient being in the ten directions fails to see them.
The grounds he achieved in past cultivation
Are fully explained within the fruit of mani.
At that time refers to the time after the completion of the discussion of the Ten Paramitas and prior to the discussion of the Ten Grounds in the Flower Adornment Sutra. The next set of eleven verses on the Ten Grounds are spoken by one Bodhisattva, just as the previous set of verses on the Ten Paramitas were spoken by a single Bodhisattva, not by ten different Bodhisattvas. This can be inferred since only one Bodhisattva is mentioned by name. In a section of text lectured earlier, there were ten Bodhisattvas listed, so you could not say that one Bodhisattva represented all the others in speaking the verses. Here, one Bodhisattva speaks eleven verses. Who is he? He is the great Bodhisattva Mahasattva named Cloud Sound and Pure Moon. Is he speaking these verses based on his own wisdom and spiritual powers? No, he received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power. As a Bodhisattva, he is a true disciple of the Buddha, and thus he pays deference to the Buddha in everything. The Buddha bestowed this kind of wisdom upon him. He wouldn’t say, “I’m doing this all by myself. I’m going to speak my own verses. See what great wisdom I have! My wisdom is even greater than the Buddha’s!”
This Bodhisattva did not pretend to be more qualified than he was, unlike people who say, “Everyone is a Buddha!” Those who claim to be Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or Arhats are telling major lies. This Bodhisattva was very prudent and cautious. He did not recklessly blurt out verses without thinking, hoping to show off his wisdom. Instead, he first universally contemplated the oceanic multitudes in the bodhimanda to see who was in the assembly and what Dharma they hoped to hear. He first made sure the verses he was about to speak would fit the potentials of the listeners, and then spoke the following verses.
This verse is a good one. It goes: The realm of his spiritual penetrations equals the void. The state of the Buddhas’ spiritual powers is as vast and boundless as empty space. No sentient being in the ten directions fails to see them. Everyone can see the Buddhas’ spiritual powers. The grounds of fruition he achieved in past cultivation / Are fully explained within the fruit of mani. The fruit of mani is just the fruition of a Buddha. Upon becoming a Buddha, the Buddha can completely proclaim the realm of his spiritual powers and their wonderful functions.
Through countless eons of pure and diligent practice,
He enters the First Ground of utmost happiness.
He brings forth wisdom vast as the Dharma Realm
And beholds countless Buddhas in the ten directions.
This verse describes the state of the First Ground Bodhisattva. The First Ground is the Ground of Happiness. Why is the Bodhisattva happy? It’s because the Dharma has benefited and nourished him.
Through countless eons of pure and diligent practice. To be pure is to be free from defiled dharmas. Defiled dharmas may or may not be visible. Visible defiled dharmas are external situations. Invisible defiled dharmas are internal mental states. At the level of what is visible, you engage in impure conduct and create an infinite amount of karma that is impure. At the invisible level, you entertain impure thoughts inside.
When the Buddha was cultivating at the level of planting causes, he always observed the precepts and thus maintained constant purity. Being pure, one must also diligently practice and not be lax or lazy. Laxness entails breaking the rules, and laziness is the opposite of vigor. A diligent cultivator is vigorous not merely for one or two days, one or two months, one or two years, or one or two lives. He or she practices diligently for infinitely many great eons.
Since the Buddha was pure and vigorous for limitless eons, he enters the First Ground of utmost happiness. The first of the Bodhisattva Grounds is the Ground of Happiness. On this ground, one is filled with the joy of Dharma. He brings forth wisdom vast as the Dharma Realm. The First Ground Bodhisattva has tremendous wisdom—wisdom commensurate with the Dharma Realm. And with such wisdom, he beholds countless Buddhas in the ten directions and pays respects, makes offerings, and draws near to them.
On the Ground of Freedom from Defilement, amidst all dharmas,
He upholds pure precepts as numerous as sentient beings.
Having practiced extensively for many eons,
He makes offerings to a boundless sea of Buddhas.
On the Second Ground of Freedom from Defilement, amidst all dharmas. Those on the First Ground do not know the state of those on the Second Ground. Those on the Tenth Ground do not understand those of Equal Enlightenment. In the Buddhadharma, if one is off by a hairsbreadth in the beginning, one will miss the mark by a thousand miles in the end. Only through diligent cultivation can you obtain a response and become free from defilement. To be free from defilement means to attain purity. Defiled dharmas are everywhere to be found.
All of you who come every day to listen to the sutra and investigate the Buddhadharma do not realize the misery of those who cannot come. In the past, I encountered situations where either the husband forbade the wife from listening to the sutra lecture, or the wife forbade the husband from doing so. It was quite rare for both of them to come to the lecture together.
One husband told his wife, “You are not allowed to go to the Buddhist temple. If you go, I will divorce you.” In spite of this threat, the wife still went. The husband couldn’t do anything, either. They were already in their sixties; how could they get divorced? The husband took their wedding photo and cut it in half, symbolizing a divorce. The wife nearly died of rage, and the husband didn’t exactly want to live, either. Since they disagreed about listening to the sutras, such demonic obstacles arose. Theirs was a case of not being free from defilement. There are great number of such people in the world. Bad exists within the good, and some good can also be found within the bad. True liberation and freedom are not easy to achieve. The Ground of Freedom from Defilement involves cultivating every practice that removes one from defiled dharmas. When you let go of defiled dharmas, you achieve pure dharmas.
He upholds pure precepts as numerous as sentient beings. On the Second Ground of Freedom from Defilement, one cultivates the pure dharma of precepts for as many eons as there are sentient beings. One does not transgress the precepts one has received. One is able to recognize one’s wrongs and reform. There is no greater good than being able to correct one’s faults.
Having practiced extensively for many great eons before reaching the Second Ground, being only vigorous and never lax, he makes offerings to a boundless sea of Buddhas. He makes offerings on a vast, universal scale to all Buddhas.
As to offerings, making offerings to a hundred evil people is not as good as making offerings to a single good person. Making offerings to a thousand good people is not as good as making offerings to a single upasaka or upasika who has received the five precepts. Making offerings to ten thousand upasakas and upasikas who have received the five precepts is not as good as making offerings to one Bhikshu. Making offerings to a hundred thousand Bhikshus is not as good as making offerings to a First Stage Arhat (Srotaapanna). Making offerings to a million First Stage Arhats is not as good as making offerings to a Second Stage Arhat (Sakridagamin). Making offerings to ten million Second Stage Arhats is not as good as making offerings to a Third Stage Arhat (Anagamin). Making offerings to a hundred million Third Stage Arhats is not as good as making offerings to a Fourth Stage Arhat. Making offerings to infinitely many Fourth Stage Arhats is not as good as making offerings to one who is beyond cultivation and realization, that is, to a Buddha.
Therefore the Bodhisattva, in cultivating all dharmas, extensively cultivates making offerings to the boundless sea of Buddhas.
Amassing blessings and virtue, he reaches the Ground of Radiance.
Resolute patience achieves the Shamatha treasury.
All hear the vast cloud of Dharma.
Thus it is proclaimed within the fruits of mani.
Amassing blessings and virtue, he reaches the Ground of Radiance. In cultivation, one must collect blessings and virtue little by little, so that one eventually accumulates a great amount. Don’t decide to skip doing a meritorious deed because it seems too small. When you have done many small meritorious deeds, your merit will be great.
The ancients were frugal with food and clothing, and used the money and resources they saved to do good and create merit. A good deed may be small, but you still have to do it to earn merit. If you neglect to do small good deeds, you’ll have no merit.
Why do we live in such difficult circumstances now? It’s because we did not create merit in the past. The reason we suffer hardship at every turn is that we did not know how to accumulate blessings and virtue in the past.
The Third Ground of Radiance can only be reached through the accumulation of abundant blessings and virtue. When your blessings and virtue are abundant, you have a glow about you. That radiant aura comes from your blessings.
Resolute patience achieves the Shamatha treasury. The term “Shamatha” was explained in the Surangama Sutra. “Resolute patience” has the meanings of “stopping,” “level and equal,” and “still.” To be still, one must have resolute patience and have fewer discursive thoughts. One must endure criticism and not be impatient with everything. One must have resolute patience in cultivating samadhi, the dharma of stilling thoughts. Stopping refers to ending discursive thoughts and resting in the highest good.
All sentient beings hear the vast cloud of Dharma. / Thus it is proclaimed within the fruits of mani. The fruits of mani are wondrous, jeweled fruits. This also refers to the fruit of still tranquility, within which the principles just mentioned are expounded.
On the peerless ground of a blazing sea of bright wisdom,
He understands all situations and responds with compassion.
He manifests bodies equally in all countries,
Fully disclosing the Buddha’s cultivation.
This is the Ground of Blazing Wisdom. On the peerless ground of a blazing sea of bright wisdom. The wisdom on this Ground is very high. He understands all situations and responds with compassion. He skillfully understands all circumstances, whether they involve true or false phenomena. He comprehends pure dharmas and recognizes defiled dharmas. Seeing sentient beings lost in the darkness of delusion, he compassionately vows to save them. Encountering sentient beings with good roots, he helps them to increase their good roots. He responds to every situation with great kindness and compassion. With kindness, one can make others happy. With compassion, one can alleviate sentient beings’ suffering.
He manifests bodies equally in all countries throughout the ten directions to teach and transform sentient beings, fully disclosing the Buddha’s cultivation. He proclaims the dharma doors cultivated by the Buddha freely and without reservation. He speaks the Dharma appropriate for each situation, bestowing the teachings according to sentient beings’ potentials. He tailors the Dharma to fit each individual’s needs, the way physicians prescribe medicines according to the patient’s condition. And when he speaks Dharma, he shares it all; he doesn’t hold anything back.
Impartial, universal treasury—Ground of Invincibility—
Movement and stillness harmonize, free from conflict.
The states of the Buddhadharma are equal.
He explains the practices of the Buddhas.
Impartial, universal treasury of the Dharma Realm—Ground of Invincibility. One takes the Dharma Realm as one’s scope. This Fifth Ground is said to be invincible because none of the previous grounds surpass it.
Movement and stillness harmonize, free from conflict. Why is this ground invincible? Movement and stillness follow each other. Movement does not hinder stillness; stillness does not hinder movement. Movement is essentially stillness, and stillness is essentially movement. Movement and stillness are not mutually conflicting. Ordinary people see movement as movement and stillness as stillness. To them, these two are opposites. On the Ground of Invincibility, however, these two qualities become essentially the same. They are nondual. Moving is the same as being still.
The states of the Buddhadharma are equal. All Buddhadharmas and all states of being are equal. He explains the practices of the Buddhas. The Bodhisattva can explain the dharma doors cultivated by the Buddhas. He can represent the Buddha in speaking the Dharma and teaching sentient beings.
With extensive practice, he attains the ground of oceanic wisdom.
He pervasively understands all dharma methods.
Like the void, he manifests everywhere in all lands
And proclaims this Dharma beneath the tree.
With extensive practice in all aspects of cultivation, from the greatest to the minutest, he attains the ground of oceanic wisdom. His wisdom is as great as the ocean. Due to his extensive cultivation, he pervasively understands all the 84,000 dharma methods. He is One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge. Having successfully cultivated all dharma doors, like the void, he manifests everywhere in all Buddhas’ lands throughout the ten directions. And in each land, he proclaims this Dharma beneath the bodhi tree. He expounds upon the Dharma that he himself cultivated, using it to teach and transform all sentient beings so that they attain this Dharma as well.
His body pervades the Dharma Realm and space.
His wisdom lamp illuminates all sentient beings.
His every expedient device conduces to purity.
His far-reaching practices are now told for all.
On the Ground of Traveling Afar, his Dharma body pervades the Dharma Realm and equals space. / His wisdom lamp illuminates the Dharma Realm and all its sentient beings. Since the Bodhisattva on the Ground of Traveling Afar has a Dharma body pervading space, the light of his wisdom shines upon sentient beings everywhere. His every expedient device conduces to purity. Every expedient dharma door helps sentient beings turn away from defilement towards purity, to attain a pure Dharma body. His far-reaching practices are now told for all. The Bodhisattva now proclaims for all sentient beings his past cultivation on the Ground of Traveling Afar.
Adorned by all his vows and practices,
He purifies measureless seas of lands,
No discursive thought can sway him.
This peerless ground is proclaimed in full.
He is adorned by all vows and practices. Cultivators of the Bodhisattva Way cannot fail to make vows. Having made vows, they must not retreat from them; they may only advance. If you retreat from your vows, your spiritual skill will not come to realization. Originally, you would have realized Buddhahood very quickly, but once you retreat, it will take a long time. To retreat from vows is to be lazy. All past Buddhas and Bodhisattvas came to realization by means of vows. Thus, the Bodhisattva is adorned by all vows and practices. The Unmoving Ground is reached through vows. In cultivating, we must make resolute, far-reaching vows, not short-term ones. Then we must cultivate in life after life according to those vows.
He purifies measureless seas of lands. With blessings and merit adorned by vows and practices, he causes measureless seas of lands to be pure. No discursive thought can sway him. Discriminations cannot sway him. He is thus and unmoving, with clear and constant understanding. This peerless ground is proclaimed in full. Nothing is more wonderful than the Unmoving Ground. Therefore, it is now being discussed in its entirety.
Measureless states arise from spiritual powers.
Skillful entry into Dharma teachings brings power of light.
This is the pure Ground of Wholesome Wisdom.
Practices through seas of eons are completely revealed.
Measureless states arise from spiritual powers. There are too many states to count. These spiritual penetrations facilitate skillful entry into Dharma teachings, which brings power of light. All the Dharma and teachings are skillfully expounded, so that sentient beings understand them and attain the power of wisdom light. This is the pure Ground of Wholesome Wisdom, the Ninth Ground, at which one attains the pure original substance. Practices through seas of eons are completely revealed. To attain the state of the Ninth Ground, one must cultivate for an infinite, ocean-like quantity of time. Now, all these practices that the Buddha cultivated in the past are completely explained for sentient beings.
The vast Dharma Cloud of the Tenth Ground
Encompasses everything in space.
The states of all Buddhas are expressed in sound.
Such sound comes from the Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power.
The vast Dharma Cloud of the Tenth Ground. This is the tenth and last ground, the Ground of the Dharma Cloud. The Dharma Cloud symbolizes the vastness of the Dharma. It pervades and encompasses everything in space. The Dharma Cloud pervades all of space, and space contains everything that there is. The inconceivable states of all Buddhas in the ten directions and the three periods of time are expressed in the inconceivable Dharma sound of the Ground of the Dharma Cloud. Such Dharma sound comes from the ten-directions’ Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power.
VIII. Multitudes issue forth from the lion throne
J. They speak verses in praise
10. Wholesome Courage Bodhisattva praises how the Buddha’s body freely responds to potentials
At that time, Bodhisattva Mahasattva Bright Banner of Wholesome Courage received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the oceanic multitudes in the bodhimanda, and spoke the following verses.
Countless sentient beings in the assembly,
With pure faith and understanding, various in kind,
Enlighten to the wisdom of the Tathagata
And fathom all states of adornment.
At that time, the great Bodhisattva Mahasattva named Bright Banner of Wholesome Courage received the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, universally contemplated the oceanic multitudes in the bodhimanda, and spoke the following verses.
Countless sentient beings are in the Dharma assembly where the Buddha speaks the Dharma. With pure faith and understanding, various in kind…The benefits that various kinds of sentient beings receive are different, but they all attain pure faith and understanding. They all enlighten to the wisdom of the Tathagata. They all understand the Buddha’s wisdom and fathom all states of adornment of the Buddha.
Each made pure vows and cultivated all practices.
All made offerings to countless Buddhas.
They now perceive the Tathagata’s true body
And all his spiritual transformations as well.
Each Buddha, while cultivating at the level of planting causes, made pure vows and cultivated all practices. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas became what they are through the power of their vows. Without vows, they could not have become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Vows are an essential requirement of cultivation.
All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas had made offerings to countless Buddhas. As a result, they were able to become Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and then to receive offerings from all sentient beings. They can perceive the Tathagata’s true body—his Dharma body—and the inexhaustible and wonderful functioning of all his spiritual powers and transformations as well.
Some can perceive the Buddha’s Dharma body:
Peerless, unimpeded, and all-pervasive.
The boundless natures of all dharmas
Are completely contained within his body.
Some can perceive the Buddha’s Dharma body. All sentient beings exist within the Buddha’s Dharma body, yet most cannot see the Dharma body. There may be some sentient beings with extremely good roots who can see the Buddha’s Dharma body: peerless, unimpeded, and all-pervasive. The Buddha’s Dharma body is nowhere and yet everywhere. It pervades empty space and the Dharma Realm. It is exceptionally sublime, and nothing can compare with it. Moreover, it is especially pure and free from hindrances. Since it is sublime, pure, and unimpeded, it is universally pervasive. It encompasses everything.
The boundless natures of all dharmas—all Buddhadharmas, dharmas of sentient beings, and mind dharmas—are contained within the Buddha’s Dharma body. That is why they are said to be completely contained within his body. However, sentient beings who are severely obstructed by ignorance do not perceive the Buddha’s Dharma body, although they are right within it. They are comparable to ants crawling on a big ship without knowing what a ship is and where its limits are. The Buddha’s Dharma body is like a big ship, and we sentient beings are like ants. Although we are inside the Buddha’s Dharma body, we don’t know what that is, because we can’t see it. Certain sentient beings, though, are able to see it.
Some can see the Buddha’s wondrous physical body,
With its boundless hallmarks and dazzling light.
According to sentient beings’ different understandings,
Its various manifestations appear in the ten directions.
The previous stanza concerned the Buddha’s Dharma body. Most sentient beings cannot see the Buddha’s physical body either. Some, however, can see the Buddha’s wondrous physical body / With its boundless hallmarks and dazzling light. The Buddha has the Thirty-two Hallmarks and Eighty Subsidiary Characteristics, which glow with infinite resplendence.
According to sentient beings’ different understandings / Its various manifestations appear in the ten directions. Each sentient being has a different understanding based on his or her own disposition. Despite these differences, the Buddha applies various expedients and creates transformations using his spiritual powers to teach and transform sentient beings.
Some see the unobstructed wisdom body,
Equal in the three times, like the void.
Turning the wheel to teach and delight beings,
This body can be seen in various ways.
Some sentient beings see the Buddha’s unobstructed wisdom body, / Equal in the three times, like the void. Buddhas of the past, present, and future all have the wisdom body; thus, it is equal in the three periods of time. But, what is this wisdom body like? It is like space. If you know what space is like, you will know what the Buddha’s wisdom body is like. Turning the wheel to teach and delight beings. The wisdom body turns the Dharma wheel to teach and transform sentient beings according to their preferences and inclinations, causing everyone to understand the Buddhadharma. This body can be seen in various ways. With various expedient methods, sentient beings are led to awaken and perceive the Buddha’s wisdom body.
Some beings perceive the Buddha’s sound
As it pervades all regions in the ten directions.
Based upon sentient beings’ capacities to understand,
He utters words and sounds without any hindrance.
Some beings perceive the Buddha’s sound when he speaks the Dharma.
With a single sound he speaks the Dharma.
Sentient beings understand it according to their kind.
We people hear the Buddha speaking human speech. Each kind of animal hears the Buddha speaking its own language. There’s no need for translators. It’s not like when people of one country cannot understand the language of another. People of all countries can directly understand what the Buddha says, without need for a translator.
Nevertheless, there are those who still don’t understand. Why would some people be able to understand? It’s because they have deep affinities with the Buddha. Those whose affinities are shallower cannot understand what the Buddha is saying.
It pervades all regions in the ten directions. The sound of the Buddha’s voice travels to every land throughout the ten directions. Based upon sentient beings’ capacities to understand, / He utters words and sounds without any hindrance. Sentient beings will absorb only as much as they can understand. This can be compared to the greater and lesser amounts of water absorbed by large and small trees, respectively, when it rains. Grasses absorb the least amount of water. In the same way, each sentient being benefits from the Dharma according to his own capacity. The Buddha speaks Dharma for each one without impediment.
Some see the myriad lights of the Thus Come One.
His various illuminations pervade all worlds.
There are some who, within the Buddha’s radiance,
Further see all Buddhas displaying spiritual powers.
Some sentient beings see the myriad lights of the Thus Come One. They see all the various kinds of light that the Buddha has, not just one kind. His various illuminations pervade all worlds. The Buddha shines various types of light upon various sentient beings, inspiring them to seek bodhi, cultivate the Bodhisattva practice, and become Buddhas. Since his light shines upon all sentient beings, it is said to pervade all worlds.
There are some sentient beings who, within the Buddha’s radiance, see Buddhas and Bodhisattvas emitting more light and speaking the Dharma. These sentient beings may further see all Buddhas displaying inconceivable states of wonderful functionings of spiritual powers. These sights inspire happiness and faith in all sentient beings.
Some see the Buddha’s light—like an ocean or a cloud
Streaming from his pores in dazzling colors.
It reveals his past cultivation of the Path,
Leading beings to enter the Buddha’s wisdom with deep faith.
Some sentient beings may see the Buddha’s light, which is so profuse that it is like an ocean or a cloud— / Streaming from his pores in dazzling colors. Infinitely many pores emit immeasurable amounts of oceanic, cloud-like light in a myriad dazzling hues. It reveals his past cultivation of the Path, displaying the dharma doors and paths that the Buddha cultivated at the level of planting causes. Why are these things displayed? It is for leading beings to enter the Buddha’s wisdom with deep faith. The Buddha wishes to cause all sentient beings in his Dharma assembly to believe and attain the Buddha’s wisdom. The only way to attain the Buddha’s great wisdom is to have deep faith. Without faith, it is impossible to discover our inherent wisdom.
Some see the Buddha adorned with the blessed hallmarks.
Discerning, too, how the blessings came about.
His past cultivation of an ocean of paramitas
Is clearly visible in the Buddha’s appearance.
Some see the Buddha’s form adorned with the blessed hallmarks. When the Buddha was cultivating, he cultivated blessings and wisdom. Consequently, he is doubly adorned with blessings and wisdom. Ordinary people lack blessings and wisdom, so we are not adorned. The Buddha, on the other hand, is adorned with both blessings and wisdom; thus he is called the Doubly Perfect Honored One. Although zu “perfect” also means “foot,” the title liang zu zun does not mean Two-footed Honored One!
Some sentient beings see the Buddha’s magnificent physical body adorned with the Thirty-two Hallmarks and Eighty Subsidiary Characteristics, discerning, too, how the blessings came about. These blessings came from the cultivation of blessings and wisdom. How does one cultivate blessings? By benefiting sentient beings. How does one cultivate wisdom? By diligently reciting the sutras. Through the recitation of sutras, your wisdom unfolds. By helping sentient beings, you increase your blessings.
Where did the Buddha’s blessings come from? From his past cultivation of an ocean of paramitas—the Ten Paramitas, which, to review, are: giving, morality (holding precepts), patience, vigor, dhyana concentration, prajña, expedients, vows, power, and knowledge.
The Buddha’s cultivation of an “ocean of paramitas” refers to the Ten Paramitas and the myriad practices. These are the source of the Buddha’s blessings, and this is clearly visible in the Buddha’s appearance. From looking at the Buddha, one can tell where his blessings came from.
Immeasurable, the Thus Come One’s merit
Fills the Dharma Realm and has no boundaries.
All the states of spiritual penetrations
By the Buddha’s power are proclaimed.
Immeasurable is the Thus Come One’s merit. This line praises the boundless immensity of the Buddha’s merit and virtue. Being both deep and wide, it fills the Dharma Realm and has no boundaries. / All the pervasive states of spiritual penetrations and wonderful functionings by the Buddha’s power are proclaimed. The preceding verses praising the Buddha’s Dharma body were spoken through the power of Sãkyamuni Buddha and the Buddhas of the ten directions. The aid of those Buddhas made possible the expression of such wonderful functionings and states.
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