Universal Worthy's Conduct and Vows
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Good Wealth asked, “Great Sage! What does it mean to worship and respect all Buddhas, up to and including to universally transfer all merit and virtue?”
The Youth Good Wealth already understood the Ten Great Vows listed by Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, but was afraid that all of us living beings had not yet understood them, and so he intentionally asked, “What does to worship and respect all Buddhas mean? What does to praise the Thus Come Ones mean? What does it mean to extensively cultivate making offerings? How does one repent of karmic obstacles and reform? How does one follow along with and rejoice in merit and virtue and request the turning of the Dharma wheel? How does one request the Buddhas to remain in the world? How does one always study with the Buddhas, and how does one constantly accord with living beings? And what does it mean to universally transfer all merit and virtue?”
The Youth Good Wealth asked about these vows, saying to Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, “Great Sage!” A Great Sage is a great Bodhisattva, a cultivator with great compassion. Therefore he asked the Great Sage, “What does it mean to worship and respect all Buddhas, up to and including to universally transfer all merit and virtue?”
The First Vow: To Worship and Respect all Buddhas
Universal Worthy Bodhisattva told Good Wealth, “Good man, to worship and respect all Buddhas is explained like this: All Buddhas, World Honored Ones, are as numerous as fine mots of dust in all Buddha lands in the ten directions and the three periods of time, to the exhaustion of the Dharma Realm and empty space. Because of the power of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s conduct and vows, I have a mind of deep faith and understanding of them as if they were before my eyes.
“With my body, mouth, and mind karma completely pure, I constantly worship and respect them.
Universal Worthy Bodhisattva said to the Youth Good Wealth, “Good man, you are one who cultivates well, and you have asked what it means to worship and respect all Buddhas. Now I will tell you. To worship and respect all Buddhas is explained like this: All Buddhas, World Honored Ones, are as numerous as fine mots of dust in all Buddha lands in the ten directions and the three periods of time, to the exhaustion of the Dharma Realm and empty space.” “Exhaustion” refers to the ultimate end, when there is nothing left. The Dharma Realm and empty space can never cease to exist, and yet he talks about when the Dharma Realm does not exist. “The exhaustion of the Dharma Realm” means “the end of empty space which pervades throughout the Dharma Realm.”
Because of the power of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s conduct and vows. Because I cultivates the practices, practices which exhaust empty space and pervade the Dharma Realm, I have a mind of deep faith and understanding of them. I want to use an honest and sincere mind to believe in and understand all Buddhas as if they were before my eyes.
When one bows to the Buddhas one should think, “I am before the Buddhas, and the Buddhas are before me.” There is a verse which everyone should know and contemplate when bowing the Great Compassion Repentance:
The worshiper and worshiped in nature are empty and still.
The response and the Way are intertwined and difficult to conceive of.
My Bodhimanda is like the Imperial Pearl;
Shakyamuni Thus Come One’s body manifests in it;
My body manifests before Shakyamuni Buddha.
Bowing down I return my life in worship.
“The worshiper and worshiped in nature are empty and still.” The one who is bowing to the Buddha is called the worshiper, and the Buddha receiving the bows is the worshiped The original nature of both the worshiper and worshiped is empty and still, and yet that which is empty and still is nonetheless able to respond, and so the next line reads, “The response and the Way are intertwined and difficult to conceive of.” The intertwining of the Way and the response is inconceivable. When you bow to the Buddhas, although you are empty, although everything is empty, there is an intertwining of the response with the Way. That is why the verse says difficult to conceive of. You cannot conceptualize this state; it is inconceivable. “Inconceivable” refers to the state beyond words-you wish to express it but you cannot-and the place where the mind functions is destroyed. You may want to have a false thought in order to know this state, but you cannot. The mind cannot grasp it. So the verse says, “The response and the Way are intertwined and difficult to conceive of.”
“My Bodhimanda is like the Imperial Pearl.” This line explains that the Bodhimanda in which I bow is like the pearl that Shakra has before him in which all forms appear. “Shakyamuni Thus Come One’s body manifests in it.” Shakyamuni Buddha’s body appears in the light of the pearl, and “my body manifests before Shakyamuni Buddha; bowing down I return my life in worship.” I am before Shakyamuni Buddha with my five extremities touching the ground, bowing to the Buddha with this attitude of mind, which is called the mind of deep faith and understanding.
“As if they were before my eyes.” Did I not say earlier that in bowing to the Buddhas, we should visualize them as being right before our eyes, and we should visualize ourselves as being right before the Buddhas, so that we mutually appear before one another? Confucius said:
Sacrifice as if the object of sacrifice were present,
Sacrifice to spirits as if they were present-
As if they were above,
Or as if they were on both sides.
One should sacrifice to spirits as if they were present. When you worship and sacrifice to spirits, you should do so as if they were above you or on your left and right.
“As if” means that you visualize them above and on both sides of you. You should do this when you bow to the Buddhas, as if they were above and as if they were on both sides. If the Buddhas were right in front of you, you would certainly bow to them very respectfully without being the least bit inattentive.
To make this point clear, if we wish to be courteous to a certain person when we see him, then we may be very respectful while in his presence. But when that person is not around, we allow ourselves to become a little more casual. Here the text puts us face to face with the Buddhas.
With my body, mouth, and mind karma completely pure. “Completely” means “totally.” “With” also means “to use,” and so the text can also mean to use pure body, mouth and mind karma in all that you think, say, and do. You cannot commit the Ten Evil Acts and then bow to the Buddhas thinking that you can balance off the karma in that way; it would not work, and so you must be pure in your karma of body, mouth, and mind.
As I have explained before, the body can commit three kinds of evil deeds: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. You cannot go out and kill something and then think, “This killing was an offense, so I will go to a temple to bow and repent of it.” You do not ordinarily bow to the Buddhas when you have not killed, but as soon as you kill, you wash the blood off your hands and run to the temple to repent. This is an example of impure body karma.
Further, you cannot steal valuables and then think, “I have stolen, and this has broken the second precept against stealing. I had better go quickly before the Buddhas to bow and repent.” This repentance is impure action.
Whether you are a man or a woman, if you are promiscuous and then think, “Oh, I have used my body incorrectly, I should go quickly to bow to the Buddhas,” and there you repent; this too is to be impure in body, speech, and mind while bowing to the Buddhas. You must not kill, steal, or commit sexual misconduct, and then when you bow to the Buddhas, there will be a response.
The mind can commit three kinds of evil offenses greed, hatred, and stupidity. I often talk about a mind and heart which are greedy. Why are we so hurried and flustered? Why is it that we never rest all day long? It is because of our greed. Hankering after this and that, covetous, and lustful, your greed stirs you up so you can never rest.
Following greed there is a mind and heart which are filled with hatred. If you desire something and you do not get it, if things do not go your way and you want them to, then you become afflicted with anger. Why do people become afflicted?
It is stupidity which allows afflictions to arise. It is because you are so stupid that you can become afflicted. Those who are wise do not become afflicted no matter what difficulties they encounter, even if things do not agree with their wishes.
Stupid people are at the same time the funniest and the most pitiful. How stupid can people be? There might be one who has not gone to elementary school or high school, or college, who meets a person with a Ph. D He notices that most people address the Ph. D as Doctor so and so, praising him in this way. Envious of the Ph. D’s special status, he also wants the same degree. But if he does not go to school, who will give him a Ph. D? No one.
Another person who has not studied the Dharma or attended Sutra lectures hears that the Buddha was the foremost and unsurpassed person in the world, and so he wishes to become a Buddha right on the spot. Is this not stupid? Another wants to start a business without capital. How can you start a business without capital? There is yet another person who is extremely funny. He does not buy a horse racing ticket and expects to win the feature race. This is totally unreasonable, impossible, and stupid.
There is a saying that illustrates the depths to which stupidity can go:
Day in and day out, may my beautiful flowers stay fresh,
And night after night, why can’t the shining moon be full?
I wish that all the springs on earth will flow with sparkling wine,
And in the forests, all the trees will sway with gold.
Someone who likes flowers wants them to be always fresh and beautiful, so he says, “May my beautiful flowers stay fresh.” Now is this not a false thought? The person described in this poem things that the full moon is the very finest and wishes that it would never wane, and those who like to drink think, “I wish that all the springs on earth will flow with sparkling wine.” They wish that every body of water would become wine so that whenever they want to take a drink, it would be very convenient. Although they feel this is the best, it too is impossible.
Those who are greedy for wealth wish that all the trees in the forests will sway with money so that when they need money, all they have to do is pick it off a tree. This would be best for them, but it too is impossible and does not exist.
“Day in and day out, may my beautiful flowers stay fresh.” This is the thought of those who wish that objects of beauty will never change. They want money and wine everywhere, and a full moon every night. The full moon represents anger, so in this short poem we find wine, wealth, sex, and anger. How does the full moon refer to anger? Such a person wants the moon to remain full, but it cannot be full every night, and so this person becomes dissatisfied, and dissatisfaction is just anger. So this poem discusses the subjects of wine, wealth, sex, anger, and of course stupidity. If people were not stupid, they would not give rise to desire and all the other different kinds of afflictions which follow it. This has been a brief descriptive explanation of the karma of the mind.
Our mouths crate many karmic obstructions and offenses, which are in general grouped together under four kinds of evil speech. Irresponsible speech refers to discussions about improper things; for example, men like to talk about women and women like to talk about men. Speech like this is useless and unprincipled; it is basically depraved. False speech refers to lying. There are big lies, medium-sized lies, and small lies. If you have killed someone and are interrogated about it, a great lie would be to say, “No, it wasn’t me; I didn’t do it.” The same is true if you are questioned about stealing or sexual misconduct. Covering up your misdeed is lying.
Harsh speech is very cruel, vicious, and cutting, something which people do not like to hear. Duplicity is spoken by one who is two-faced.
These are all descriptions of karmic obstructions, the evil karma done by our actions, words, and thoughts, and if you have these faults, then your three karmas are not pure. When we bow to the Buddhas, our body, speech, and mind karma should be pure.
I constantly worship and respect them. “Constantly” means to always cultivate pure karma of body, mouth, and mind to worship all Buddhas. Although to kill, steal, and commit sexual misconduct and then bow to the Buddhas is not pure, if you truly wish to have a change of heart, bowing is much better than not bowing to the Buddhas at all. Nonetheless, it cannot be considered worshiping the Buddhas with pure body, mouth, and mind. To worship and respect all Buddhas is to be pure in one’s three karmas. When your three karmas are pure, you constantly worship and respect them.
“In each and every place where there are Buddhas, I manifest bodies as numerous as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha lands.
He constantly worships and respects all Buddhas in each and every place where there are Buddhas. Buddhas are incalculable and measureless in number, and when we bow to them, our minds also manifest measureless and incalculable numbers of our own bodies, as numerous as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha lands before all of the Buddhas. The Buddhadharma reveals inconceivable states; if you resolve your mind to pervasively worship all Buddhas throughout the Dharma Realm, your merit will pervade throughout the Dharma Realm too. After the Youth Good Wealth first took Manjushri Bodhisattva as his teacher, the Bodhisattva told him to go to the south and bow to fifty-three wise teachers. Among these was Maitreya Bodhisattva. When he arrived at the abode of Maitreya, he saw towers adorned with the seven precious jewels piled continuously one upon another. In each of the towers were other towers, and in each of these towers there were even more towers. It was impossible to calculate how many there were. In each tower there was Maitreya, speaking Dharma. And what is more, the Youth Good Wealth saw his own body bowing before each transformation body of Maitreya Bodhisattva. He saw layer upon layer of them without end, incalculable in number.
Now, as the Flower Adornment Sutra is being explained, we should cultivate this contemplation, which is called the contemplation of the Dharma Realm. For example, when you bow to the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, you should, even though your body is here in the lecture hall, contemplate your body as appearing before Buddhas as many as the dust motes throughout the ten directions, in such a way that you bow to the Dharma Flower Sutra before each of those Buddhas. You should give rise to a limitless mind, because everything is made from the mind alone. If the limits of your mind totally pervade throughout the Dharma Realm, and you bow before an infinite number of Buddhas, then that number of Buddhas will accept your worship.
“Each and every body everywhere worships and respects Buddhas as many as the fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha lands.
Although you have not become a Buddha, when you contemplate like this you can manifest a body before each and every Buddha. This is to pervasively worship.
“When the realm of empty space is exhausted, my worship and respect will be exhausted. But because the realm of empty space is inexhaustible, my worship and respect will never end. In the same way, when the realms of living beings, the karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, my worship and respect will be exhausted. But the realms of living beings, the karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings are inexhaustible. Therefore, my worship and respect are inexhaustible. They continue in thought after thought without case. My body, mouth, and mind never tire of doing these deeds.
When the realm of empty space is exhausted, my worship and respect will be exhausted. “Empty” means “unreal,” and “space” means “non-existent.” The text talks about the time that the realm of empty space comes to an end, but at what time does empty space exist/ You cannot know this. Is there a time when it comes to an end? No. Empty space has no beginning or end. When did empty space begin? Never. When will empty space end? Never. And so the Bodhisattva said that when the realm of empty space is no more, my worship and respect of all the Buddhas of the ten directions will come to an end.
But because the realm of empty space is inexhaustible, my worship and respect will never end. At all times I worship and respect all Buddhas, and my worship and respect is endless and inexhaustible, continuing until the end of the limits of the future.
In the same way, when the realms of living beings are exhausted, and there are no living beings; when the karma of living beings is exhausted, and there is no more karma of living beings; and when the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, and living beings have no more afflictions, then my worship and respect will be exhausted. But the realms of living beings, the karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings are inexhaustible. Since they never end, my worship will never end. The afflictions of living beings are produced from ignorance, and the karma of living beings is created because of afflictions, and so living beings are born through the power of their karma. But since the realms, the karma, and the afflictions of living beings can never be cut off, ended or exhausted, therefore, my worship and respect of all Buddhas is inexhaustible.
They continue in thought after thought without cease. When I worship and respect all Buddhas, I do this with very sincere and earnest thoughts, in thought after thought without cease. Each thought is connected to the next so that in thought after thought without end, I worship the Buddhas continuously, without interruption.
My body, mouth, and mind never tire of doing these deeds. In my actions, words, and thoughts, I never grow tired of worshiping and respecting all Buddhas purely, without cease.
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