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40 new edition

Practices and Vows of
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva

Chapter Forty, New Edition




All living beings in the ten directions,
Learners and Those Beyond Learning in the Two Vehicles,
And all Tathagatas and Bodhisattvas,
I follow and rejoice in all their merit and virtue. 


This verses discusses the vow to follow and rejoice in merit and virtue. All living beings in the ten directions. Everyone knows what the ten directions are, but you might not understand what living beings are. Living beings are produced from a combination of numerous conditions. For example, becoming a human being is not easy. To become a human being you have to do what people are supposed to do. What are the things that people are supposed to do? You have to learn the path that is walked by people. You have to learn how people speak and to learn to behave the way good people behave. Then you can become a person. If you emulate the way ghosts behave, then you will become a ghost in the future.

Living beings are produced from the combination of numerous conditions. This means that they are created by the present single thought in their minds. If your present single thought is to become a Buddha and cultivate the Buddha’s Path, then in the future you will become a Buddha. This is created by your mind. If your present single thought is to practice the path of the Bodhisattva to benefit other people, to benefit yourself and others, and to enlighten yourself and others, then you can become a Bodhisattva. If you have the thought to cultivate the vehicle of the Shravaka, then you will attain the fruition of an Arhat. This is the vehicle of the Shravaka. If you wish to cultivate the vehicle of Those Enlightened to Conditions and achieve their levels of attainment, then you can become One Enlightened to Conditions. If you wish to ascend to the heavens, then follow the five moral precepts and do the ten types of good. If you wish to be a human being, then you must hold the five moral precepts, which prohibit killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicants. Then you can become a human being.

If you want to become an asura, then you should fight with people every day and harbor a lot of hatred. Then you can become an asura. If you want to become an animal, then do stupid things. Then you can become an animal. If you want to become a hungry ghost, then do dark secretive things, things that you do not want people to see. Then you can become a ghost. If you wish to fall into the hells, create more karmic offenses. Then you can go to the hells.

Everything is made from the mind alone. This Sutra says:

If one wishes to understand
All the Buddhas of the three periods of time,
One should contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm:
Everything is made from the mind alone.

Basically there are no heavenly palaces, no hells, no Buddhas, no Bodhisattvas, and no human beings. There is nothing at all. Why do they exist? They are created by the present single thought of our mind. Thus the Ten Dharma Realms come into existence. And all the different kinds of forms and appearances exist. If we did not give rise to a single thought, this is the same as the mind not existing. Then, as it is said,

With no mind and no thoughts,
Blessings are boundless.
With selfish desires and distracting thoughts,
There are transgressions.

If you have no mind and no thought, then you have boundless blessings. If you have selfish desires, which are greed, then you create offenses. Therefore it is said, “All living beings have the Buddha nature.” All living beings have the Buddha Nature, and yet all living beings do not have the Buddha nature. How can one say that they do not have the Buddha nature? If you do not cultivate, you do not have it, but if you do cultivate, you do have it. You can also say that if you cultivate, you have it, and if you don’t cultivate you have it. When you cultivate your Buddha nature is the way it is, and if you don’t cultivate your Buddha nature is still the way it is. Still another way to explain it is that if you cultivate you don’t have it and if you don’t cultivate you don’t have it. What does this mean? You should not have any attachment. If you have attachment then you say, “I have the Buddha nature.” If you don’t have any attachment, then having it is like not having it. It does not exist, yet it doesn’t not exist. You shouldn’t be attached.

What I just said sounds like a joke, but it is for the purpose of breaking people’s attachments. If we are without attachments, we can become Buddhas. Why is it that we have not become Buddhas? It’s just because we have attachments. Therefore, we should get rid of our attachments, and then we can become Buddhas.

The text says, “I rejoice in and follow all the merit and virtue of all beings in the ten directions,” Learners and Those Beyond Learning in the Two Vehicles. The “Two Vehicles” are Shravakas and Those Enlightened to Conditions. “Learners” comprise the first three stages of an Arhat. These are called the stages of learning. The fourth-stage Arhat is the position “beyond learning.”

And all Tathagatas and Bodhisattvas. This refers to all the Tathagatas as well as all the Bodhisattvas. I follow and rejoice in all of their merit and virtue. I rejoice in and follow all the merit and virtue of the Shravakas, Those Enlightened to Conditions, Learners, and Those Beyond Learning as well as the merit and virtue of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I will follow and rejoice in even as much as a small atomic particle of merit and virtue, and I will also do the same for as much merit and virtue that is as great as Mount Sumeru. It is not the case that if the merit and virtue is small, I will not rejoice in and follow it, but if it is great, I will. Whether the merit and virtue is great or small, I will rejoice in and follow it. There is a saying,

Don’t do an evil deed just because it seems small,
And don’t neglect doing a good deed, because it seems small.

Do not think that just because an evil action seems insignificant it is okay to do. And don’t think that just because a good action is insignificant, it doesn’t need to be done. You should know that every mountain is composed of an accumulation of minute particles. Although a single minute particle is so small, if you gather together a lot of them, they become a mountain. And although a single good deed might be small, if you do many of them, they become measureless and boundless.


All the Lamps of the World throughout the ten directions,
Those who first realized Bodhi,
I now request and beseech them all
To turn the wheel of the unsurpassed, wonderful Dharma.


All the Lamps of the World throughout the ten directions. The ten directions include everything; they are the Dharma Realm, and the Dharma Realm is the ten directions. The “Lamps of the World” are the Buddhas. They are bright lamps for the world.

Before when there was no Buddha in the world, it was dark, and there were heterodox and deviant teachers who proclaimed their teachings. What are deviant teachers? Deviant teachers are those whose knowledge and views are improper. They lead people to enter demonic states. They are unable to teach people proper knowledge and views, and instead teach people improper knowledge and views. Improper knowledge and views are equivalent to darkness, whereas proper knowledge and views are light.

I have said this many times before:

One who is confused transmits his confusion to another,
Through this one transmission, two become confused.
The teacher falls into the hells,
And his disciple tunnels into the hells as well.

When a deviant teacher proclaims his teachings, he’ll tell you that if you take some drugs you can attain the “void.” And he will certify you, saying, “This is the void. The void is just like this. You are certified to a particular stage of enlightenment. You have already reached the Four Dhyanas.” The Fourth Dhyana is nothing special, and neither are the First, Second, or the Third. They are very ordinary. However he even says, “You now have obtained the void. You are the same as the Buddha. Being a Buddha is not much different from this.” He causes people to have improper knowledge and views and guides them down the wrong road. This is called confusion.

What is meant by confusion? He himself does not understand. He’s befuddled and bewildered. That’s called confusion. Confusion is being all mixed up. They don’t understand anything at all, so they are in a muddled state. And there are others who wish to learn this muddled state from them. This is the meaning of “One who is confused transmits his confusion to another. Through this one transmission two become confused.” One person teaches the other and then two people are confused. The teacher doesn’t understand anything, and now both of them don’t understand anything.

Why does he not understand anything? If a confused person transmits his confusion to another person, isn’t it the case that they both become confused? This is the case of the blind person leading the blind. He himself is blind; he doesn’t have the sense of sight. He leads others down the wrong road. And others who can’t see believe that he can see. Who would have known that the person leading cannot see the road either? However, he wishes to cheat people and lead them down the road just the same. This is the meaning of “through this one transmission, two become confused.”

The teacher falls into the hells, because the teacher is confused and does not understand how to cultivate. He is muddled and bewildered, so he runs off into the hells. His disciple believes that his teacher certainly could not take a wrong road, so he follows behind him. However, the door to the hells is already closed. So he acts like a pig who uses his mouth to dig with the hope of getting through the door. This is what is meant by, “And his disciple tunnels into the hells as well.”

After he breaks in, he sees his teacher, who says, “What are you doing here?”

The disciple responds, “You are my teacher, so I of course, as your disciple, followed you here. What is this place?”

The teacher answers, “I’m still not quite sure. I don’t know which Buddha- land this is.”

After a while, the hungry ghosts and yakshas come and say, “As a teacher you didn’t teach your students very well. All you did was lie to your

disciples and cheat people. Okay! Now you can go to the Hell of Pulling Out Tongues.” So he falls into the Hell of Pulling Out Tongues.

As for the disciple, he did not cheat people, but because he also did a lot bad things, he now is put into a pot of oil to be fried for a while. The disciple screams, “Oh! This is really terrible. Since you cheated people, you fall into the Hell of Pulling Out Tongues. You deserve this because of your transgressions and because you misled people. I followed you, learned your confused teaching, and created many offenses. So now I must be fried in this pot of oil. This punishment is very hard to endure!”

His teacher replies, “I don’t have a mantra to recite now. I have no way to get out of this. I can’t save you. And I can’t even save myself.”

This teacher took along his confused disciple with him when he fell into hell to undergo suffering. This is the meaning of “one who is confused transmits his confusion to another.” When an improper teacher speaks, he causes people to go astray and fall into the hells. If we wish to cultivate, we should find a Good Teacher. A Good Teacher is one with wisdom and intelligence. If we wish to learn the Path, we should follow wise teachers and not follow deluded teachers. The principles of wise teachers are always proper, and they will not lead people down improper paths.

Before the Buddha came into the world, there were only confused teachers who transmitted their confusion to others. But when the Buddha came into the world, he was like a sun or a shining lamp. So the Buddha illuminated the world with his light, and so the text says, “Before all the Lamps of the World of the ten directions.”

Those who first realized Bodhi. Who first realized Bodhi? Everyone is the one who first realized Bodhi. What is “Bodhi?” You have heard Dharma Masters who lectured on the Sutras explain it as meaning “enlightened to the Path.” What is enlightened to the Path? You become enlightened to not doing any evil activities and instead do all kinds of good. This is enlightenment or being enlightened to the Path. If you only know how to do evil and not do good, you are also enlightened to a path. However, this is being enlightened to an evil path. To understand how to do good and not do evil is to be enlightened to the Path.

Enlightening to the Path is to progress step by step. What is meant by to progress step by step? It’s like a piece of bamboo, which is made up of sections- one on top of the other to form a single stalk of bamboo. Each section is higher than the previous one. Bodhi is the same way. Each step is higher than the previous step. So you progress step by step from being a common person to becoming a Buddha. This is to progress or ascend step by step. This is Bodhi. However, if you descend step by step, it means that you have enlightened to an evil path. If you ascend step by step you will become enlightened to the good path. So it is said, “The superior person ascends, while the inferior person descends.” The inferior person goes downwards, while the superior person goes upwards.

“Those who first realized Bodhi” are those who first became Buddhas. How did the very first Buddha become a Buddha? We know that reciting Sutras is cultivation. Reciting mantras is cultivation. And practicing the Bodhisattva path of the Six Paramitas and the myriad practices is also cultivating. But before the very first Buddha, no one knew about the Six Paramitas and the myriad practices, or how to cultivate. There were no Sutras to recite or mantras to recite, so how did one become a Buddha?

It is said that if you can recite the Shurangama Mantra from memory, then for seven lives you can be as rich as a great oil baron. When some people hear this, they devote themselves completely to reciting the Shurangama Mantra from memory in order to be as rich as an oil baron for seven lives. For example, yesterday I talked about Nelson Rockefeller’s grandfather, John D. Rockefeller. Some people recite the Shurangama Mantra just to seek blessings and honor, but they are making a mistake. It is true that if you can recite the Shurangama Mantra from memory, then at the very least, for seven lives you can have as much money as the great oil barons. However, the reason we recite is not to acquire wealth but to become Buddhas. If you can recite the Shurangama Mantra from memory, then you can obtain Bodhi. You can ascend higher step by step. Each step is higher than the previous one. If you wish to be like a great oil baron, then you have worldly blessings and honor.

Now we’re talking about world-transcending blessings and honor which are real blessings and honor. Only if you have roots of goodness will you be able to recite and memorize the Shurangama and Great Compassion Mantras. Without roots of goodness, you will not even be able to hear the names of the Great Compassion and Shurangama Mantras. You can see this by counting the following: How many people have ever heard the Shurangama Mantra? How many people have ever recited it? How many people have ever heard of the Great Compassion Mantra, and how many people have ever recited it? Today I see there are some people teaching others how to recite the Shurangama Mantra. This is one of the best classes for cultivating the Path. You should teach all those who wish to study it so that they are able to recite and uphold this mantra. You should explain the benefits of this practice to everyone. If you can recite and uphold by memory the Great Compassion Mantra or the Shurangama Mantra, the result in the future will be inconceivable. Not only can you be a great oil baron, you can also become the king of a country. This is most inconceivable.

We recite mantras and Sutras to accomplish Bodhi. What Sutras and mantras did the one who first attained Bodhi recite? The one who first became a Buddha, an immeasurable number of kalpas ago, at the time when this world first began to develop, was originally a Buddha, so he did not need to recite anything. Why was he originally a Buddha? Well actually, one cannot say that he was the first one to become a Buddha. Haven’t I said that whoever accomplished his karma of the Path is the one who first realizes Bodhi? If one does not accomplish his karma of the Path, then he/she is not one who first realized Bodhi. The very first Buddha was there originally. Take the Heavenly Lord as an example. The idea of a Heavenly Lord is taken from Buddhism. Some people changed the meaning of the Buddha and called him the Heavenly Lord. The first one to realize Bodhi was the very first Buddha.

I now request them all, that is, all the Buddhas of the three periods of time and the very first Buddha. Now we are requesting and beseeching them. What are we beseeching them to do? To turn the wheel of the unsurpassed, wonderful Dharma. I request them all to remain in the world and to turn the wheel of the wonderful Dharma. “To turn” means to set in motion. “Unsurpassed” means that there is nothing higher than it. The wheel of wonderful Dharma is the inconceivable wonderful Wheel of Dharma. Didn’t I tell you before? To lecture the Sutras is to turn the Wheel of Dharma; to teach the Dharma is to turn the Wheel of Dharma; to recite Sutras is to turn the Wheel of Dharma; to uphold mantras is to turn the Wheel of Dharma; to print Sutras is to turn the Wheel of Dharma; and even to operate a mimeograph machine is to turn the Wheel of Dharma. It is true. When you turn a mimeograph machine it prints, but if you do not turn it, it does not print. Is this not wonderful? This is a representation of turning the wheel of wonderful Dharma, a visible example of turning the Wheel of Dharma.

In actuality, however, the wheel of wonderful Dharma basically cannot be seen, nor can you conceive or think of it. You try to see it, but it cannot be seen. The wonderful Wheel of Dharma is such that “the path of words and language is cut off.” It can’t be spoken of. “The location of the mind’s activities is extinguished.” You try to find a pathway for your mind to follow, but it doesn’t exist.

The mouth wishes to speak, but it is inexpressible;
The mind wishes to express it, but thoughts have vanished.

You wish to speak but there are no words to explain it. And your mind wishes to think about it, but pathway of thought has perished. This is to really turn the wondrous, inconceivable Wheel of Dharma.

For example, you now say you have not seen any Buddha in this world. First of all, this is because you have not visited very many places. You might reply that you have been all over the world, but you did not see any Buddha turning the wonderful Wheel of Dharma. You may have traveled all around the world, but have you been into space? There are Buddhas turning the Wheel of Dharma in space. If you want to see the Buddhas turning the Wheel of Dharma, then go into space. We now have rocket ships, which can go to the moon, but it is not for sure that people will be able to see them. If they do not see them, does this mean that they do not exist? No. There are many more than you can see. It is not for sure that you can see the wheel of wonderful Dharma being turned. Second, in the heavens there are Buddhas turning the Wheel of Dharma. You cannot see them either. Therefore, even though you are not able to see them, you cannot say that they do not exist.

There is no place where the wheel of wonderful Dharma is not being turned. If you understand, then absolutely everything is turning the wheel of wonderful Dharma. If you do not understand, then if they are turning the wheel of wonderful Dharma, you cannot recognize that they are turning it. If you are enlightened, you can see that of all the myriad phenomena of the universe—the world of primary retribution, and the world of dependent retribution—are turning the wheel of wonderful Dharma. So it is said,

On the tip of a single hair, appear kshetra-lands of the Jeweled King.
Seated in a minute particle, he turns the Great Wheel of Dharma.

When one person heard my explanation about the Heavenly Lord, he really agreed with me. He said, “What you say is correct. The Heavenly Lord is the Buddha, and the Buddha is the Heavenly Lord. Basically they are one and the same, but they have different names. It is just like one person has many different names. Isn’t this what you mean?”

No. When I spoke of the Heavenly Lord, it was meant as an analogy. It is not that the Heavenly Lord is the Buddha and the Buddha is the Heavenly Lord. Do not think that you are so smart and that you have become enlightened. Why? I will explain the differences between the Heavenly Lord and the Buddha for you.

The Heavenly Lord lives in a heaven and rules over it; he is the Lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-three, also known as the Trayastrimsha Heaven. In the Shurangama Mantra, he is referred to as yin tuo luo ye (Indra), in line twenty-nine, which reads Na mo yin tuo luo ye. This line means “to take refuge with Indra.”

In the past, the Heavenly Lord was a woman who saw a Buddha statue in a temple. The temple was in ruins, and the Buddha statue was exposed to the elements without a roof over its head or walls to protect it. It was much like a vagabond without any place to live, meditating out in the open. When this woman saw the Buddha image exposed to the wind and rain, she made the resolve to rebuild the temple. She could not do this by herself. So she got thirty-two other women together to help her. They finished rebuilding the temple. When their lives came to an end, they were all reborn in a heaven. The woman who led the project became the Lord of this heaven, and that is how the Heavenly Lord came to be. The Buddha on the other hand has no beginning and no end. So when I spoke about the Heavenly Lord previously, I was referring to him metaphorically.

In Christianity it is said that the Heavenly Lord created everything, that he created all myriad things of the world. Who created the Heavenly Lord?

“No one. He created himself,” is the answer given.

If the Heavenly Lord created himself, why is it that we cannot create ourselves? Do you need to wait for the Heavenly Lord to create you? This is simply a very foolish notion that shows a total lack of wisdom. Christians also say that only the Heavenly Lord can be the Heavenly Lord, and that no other living being can become the Heavenly Lord. Didn’t I tell you before, that the Heavenly Lord then is a lonely Heavenly Lord? He is the only one who can be the Heavenly Lord. Let him be this way. He has become one who is isolated and all alone. People in this world need to have good friends, but since no one else can become the Heavenly Lord, he becomes very special and different from everyone else. I feel that it is better not to be this kind of the Heavenly Lord. It is not very meaningful.

In Buddhism, the Heavenly Lord is a Dharma protector. When he is before the Buddha, he is not entitled to have a seat, but can only stand. Why? He has a status similar to that of the Dharma Protector Wei Tuo who is the Venerated Celestial Bodhisattva and Chie Lan Bodhisattva. Why is it that the Heavenly Lord, who only teaches a heterodox teaching, does not admit that the Buddha is superior to him? This is because he is selfish. He is like the head of a countryside village or a district. Village heads are found in rural areas, not the city. Since none of the country people have ever experienced life in an urban area, the village head can tell them, “I’m the greatest person in the world. You should follow what I say, and that is all you need to do.” The country people have no experience with the outside world, having always been in the countryside, and so they believe the village head. They think he is the greatest and highest person. The Heavenly Lord of Christianity is like this.

He also says, “Only I am honored. I am the highest.” In actuality you should explain the reason for such a claim in an open and forthcoming way. What’s explaining this in an open and public way? It is not reasonable to say that this issue can’t be openly discussed. For example, if someone asks, “What does the Trinity mean?” The answer is, “You cannot ask this. If you ask this it is a sin, an offense against the Heavenly Lord.” This is a policy of keeping the people ignorant. This is teaching the people, “If you don’t understand, don’t ask; because if you ask, you have broken the law.” This policy prevents the citizens from being knowledgeable, because if they have knowledge they will rebel.

The Heavenly Lord does not teach others to learn the Buddha-dharma for the same reason. He thinks, “Don’t study the Buddha-dharma, because if you do and you become a Buddha, you’ll be higher than me.” Based on the principle that I just explained, all of you should not think that you have become enlightened. The enlightenment that you have attained is originally false. You’ve had a false enlightenment, not a true enlightenment.

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