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40 new edition

Practices and Vows of
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva

Chapter Forty, New Edition




Good men! If all of the Buddhas of the ten directions continuously spoke of the merit and virtue of the Tathagata for kalpas as numerous as the smallest atomic particles in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha kshetra-lands, they would not be able to finish.


This section of the Sutra says that one could never finish describing the Buddha’s merit and virtue. It says, Good men! That is all of you good people who have taken refuge in the Three Jewels, received the Five Moral Precepts, and cultivate the Ten Good Karmas. Now I will tell you about the merit and virtue of the Tathagata, the Buddha. If all of the Buddhas of the ten directions within all of their Buddha-lands continuously spoke of the merit and virtue of the Tathagata for kalpas as numerous as the smallest atomic particles in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha kshetra-lands. Ineffably ineffable means that one could not use any words or language whatsoever to fully describe them. Smallest atomic particles mean the most infinitesimal particles.

Ultimately what are these smallest particles? They are “particles that border on becoming empty space.” These particles cannot be seen with the human eye. For example, you can see the particles that float in the air when the sun shines through a window. If you were to divide these visible particles into seven parts, you would not be able to see them anymore. These are the smallest atomic particles. They continuously spoke, means to speak without pause for kalpas as numerous as these smallest particles. If they spoke like this unceasingly for such a long time, they would not be able to finish. One could never finish speaking about the merit and virtue of the Tathagata.


If one aspires to perfect the gateway to this merit and virtue, one must cultivate ten kinds of great practices and vows.


The Buddha has measureless and boundless merit and virtue that could never be fully described. Is it the case that only the Buddha can have this kind of merit and virtue and other living beings do not have a share in it? No. Buddhism is most egalitarian. It absolutely does not have any tyrannical or dictatorial principles within it. Buddhism teaches that every person can become a Buddha. Not only can all people become Buddhas, all living beings, including those that fly in the sky, swim in the water, move on the earth, and even plants can become Buddhas. That is, all living creatures and all plants, including flowers, grasses and trees, as well as those creatures born from wombs, from eggs, from moisture or those born by transformation—all of the 12 species of living creatures can become Buddhas.

The Buddha didn’t say, “Only I can become a Buddha, and you cannot.” Nor is it like certain religions that teach, “I’m the only one, true God, and all others are false.” In Buddhism it is only to be feared that you won’t become a Buddha. Once you do, then you are a true Buddha. There are no false Buddhas. All Buddhas are true Buddhas and all living beings can become true Buddhas. The Buddha does not teach, “I alone am allowed to become a Buddha, and you are not. I will not permit you to become a Buddha.” To have that kind of a teaching is too narrow-minded. It’s meaningless to say, “I am the only true God.” One would be a very solitary and lonely God. Because all living beings can become Buddhas, there are many Buddhas. The path of all Buddhas is the same. There is no difference among them. If all of us wish to perfect the gateway to this merit and virtue, that is, achieve this gateway to the Buddha’s merit and virtue, each one must cultivate ten kinds of great practices and vows. If you successfully cultivate to perfection these ten types of great practices and vows, then you can realize the Buddha’s merit and virtue.


What are the ten? The first is to worship all Buddhas. The second is to praise the Tathagatas. The third is to extensively cultivate making offerings. The fourth is to repent of karmic obstacles and reform. The fifth is to follow and rejoice in merit and virtue. The sixth is to request the turning of the wheel of Dharma. The seventh is to beseech the Buddhas to remain in the world. The eighth is to always follow and learn from the Buddhas. The ninth is to constantly conform with living beings. The tenth is to transfer all merit and virtue.

Good Wealth said, “Great Sage, what is the meaning of ‘to worship all Buddhas’ up to and including ‘to transfer all merit and virtue’?”


What are the ten? What are these ten kinds of great practices? This is just asking, “What are the names of these ten kinds of practices and vows?” The first is to worship all Buddhas. What is to worship? It means to have good manners and propriety. It’s a way people show respect for one another. If you have good manners to others, then they will reciprocate. Why should we have good manners towards others? It’s a way of showing respect to them. Propriety is one of the five eternal virtues which are: humaneness, righteousness, propriety, knowledge, and trustworthiness. The reason that humans are different from animals is because they have propriety. Without it they’d be no different from animals. One must have propriety when showing one’s respect towards another person. It is even more necessary to have respect towards the Buddha. We should have propriety and revere him.

In the past the Chinese people did not want to bow to the Buddha. They were just like Americans of today. When I first came to America many people told me, “Bowing to the Buddha is the one thing Americans dislike the most.” And I responded, “That’s the best! They don’t want to bow, but I will absolutely require them to bow. If they don’t bow, I will not teach them any Buddha-dharma.” There’s no courtesy involved here. If you bow, then I will teach you. If you don’t, then even though you want me to teach you Buddhism, I will not teach you. Why is this? If you do not have proper decorum towards the Buddha, what use would it be to teach you? Chinese people were also like this in the past. Although they believed in the Buddha, they didn’t want to bow to him. They were being just like a monkey. Monkeys also don’t have the sense to know to bow to the Buddha. If you try to teach them, they don’t want to bow either. Horses and cows are unable to bow to the Buddha. Although they may revere the Buddha in their hearts, they do not bow to him. Chinese people were the same way. They revered the Buddha, but did not worship him. They believed in the Buddha, but would not bow to him.

At that time there was a Bodhisattva named Ratnamati. He saw this situation, and thought, “This is really pathetic. What use is it to believe in the Buddha, yet not bow to him?” At that time he went to China and established seven types of worship to the Buddha. In this way he taught the Chinese people to bow to the Buddha. Wherever Buddhism has spread, the situation is pretty much the same. Therefore, when Buddhism first came to China, the Chinese people did not want to bow to the Buddha. And now that Buddhism has just come to America, Americans also do not want to bow to the Buddha. Why don’t they want to bow to the Buddha? This is because they have never bowed to the Buddha before. Thus they are rather egotistical and conceited. I often say that their “ego” is bigger than Mount Sumeru. If one is greater than Mount Sumeru, then how could one bow to the Buddha? There are those who, when they see people bowing to the Buddha, just stand there like a block of wood. Others just sit there like a rock. They have all kinds of individual styles like this.

Those of us who have faith in the Buddha should bow to the Buddha. If you do not bow, then how can we talk about having faith? Therefore, you must bow to the images of the Buddha. One may think, “These images are carved out of wood, so what use is there in bowing to them?” It is definitely not the case that the wooden image itself is actually the Buddha. Don’t misunderstand this! The Buddha pervades all places. There is not a single place where the Buddha’s Dharma-body is not located. The wooden image is only a symbol for the Buddha. It is just a representation of him. It’s analogous to the flag that each country possesses. Each citizen pays his or her respect to the country’s flag. The flag is merely a piece of cloth or plastic, so what benefit is there in showing respect towards it? It is also a symbol. The country’s flag represents the life of the country. Therefore, we pay homage to the country’s flag in order to show our respect for our country.

The image of the Buddha is the same way. It’s just a symbol for the Buddha. It’s not to say that the image is the Buddha. Why do we bow to the image of the Buddha? The Buddha pervades all places. Does this mean that we should bow to the four cardinal directions and the four intermediate directions as well? No. We must have a point to focus upon. At this focal point there needs to be an object that symbolizes it. It’s just like a country. If you wish to venerate your country by paying homage in every province and county in the country, how could you ever have enough time to do this? Therefore, it will suffice for you to pay homage to the country’s flag. The meaning behind bowing to the image of the Buddha is the same.

In bowing to the Buddha there are seven types of worship. The first is “worshipping with conceit.” What does this mean? Although one is bowing to the Buddha, one still has not renounced one’s ego. You feel that bowing to the Buddha is unnatural. You think, “Why should I bow to him?” You always feel very unhappy as you make your prostrations to the Buddha. You force yourself to do it, or you see others bow and think, “I should bow, too. If they bow to the Buddha and I do not bow, it will make me stand out and that will be embarrassing. Therefore, I’ll bow to the Buddha.” Although one bows to the Buddha, one hangs onto one’s ego and feels conceited. This is the first type of worship, “worshipping with conceit.”

The second type of worship is “worshipping to seek fame.” What does this mean? You hear people praising someone saying, “So-and-so bows to the Buddha a lot. He really works hard in his cultivation of the spiritual path. He bows to the Buddha, he bows to the Sutras, and he even bows in repentance ceremonies! He truly works hard in his spiritual cultivation!” When he who is ‘worshipping to seek fame’ hears people praise that person, he also wants to attain the same recognition and fame as that cultivator. Then he also bows to the Buddha and bows in repentance ceremonies, thereby following and rejoicing in the merit of others. Although he follows and rejoices in others’ merit, he doesn’t really bow to the Buddha; rather he is bowing to recognition and fame. He seeks fame as a “cultivator.” This is called “worshipping to seek fame.”

In addition to what was stated above, one who worships with conceit, also harbors this thought, “This is really superstitious. What use is it to bow like this? This is too superstitious!” And the person who worships to seek fame may worship without having faith in the Buddha, yet he may also not lack faith. Rather he sees that when a person bows to the Buddha, people make offerings to him. There are people who honor him too, and there are also people who praise him as a genuine cultivator of the spiritual path. Therefore, because he seeks to get offerings, honor, and praise, he also bows to the Buddha.

The third type of worship is “worshipping with body and mind in conformity with others.” What does this mean? Seeing others bow, I also bow. One’s body and mind just follow along with others. “Whatever they do, I will do.” One doesn’t pay attention to whether or not there are any benefits in bowing to the Buddha. One doesn’t care whether one bows with sincerity or whether one feels bowing is superstitious. One does not seek for fame; rather one merely follows what other people are doing. This is called, “worshipping with body and mind in conformity with others.” Worshipping like this has neither merit nor demerit. It’s merely an ordinary, routine practice.

The fourth type of worship is “worshipping with wisdom and purity.” One uses one’s true wisdom and purity of body and mind to bow. This is the way a wise person bows to the Buddha. One has purified the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind. When you bow to the Buddha you do not commit any moral transgressions with your physical body. That is, while bowing you do not take the life of other creatures, you do not steal others’ possessions, nor do you commit any sexual misconduct. Therefore, your karma in body is pure. When you bow to the Buddha, you do not have thoughts of greed, hatred, or delusion. On the contrary, with wisdom you reverently bow to the Buddha. In this way your karma in thought is also pure. When you bow to the Buddha you are mindful of the Buddha. You may recite the Buddha’s name or chant Sutras or mantras. In this way your karma of speech is also pure. In speech you do not indulge in frivolous talk, lying, harsh speech, or divisive speech. When your three karmas of body, speech, and thought are pure like this, then that’s called “worshipping with wisdom and purity.” You are bowing to the Buddha with true wisdom.

The fifth type of worship is “worship that pervades the Dharma-realm.” What does this mean? You contemplate like this: “Although I have not yet become a Buddha, my mind and nature fill up the entire Dharma-realm. While I am here bowing before this one Buddha, I am also bowing to all the Buddhas throughout the Dharma-realm. I am not only bowing to one Buddha, rather I have transformation bodies that bow in worship before each Buddha. All of these bodies simultaneously make offerings to all of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.” Take a look at this state. Everything is a creation of the mind alone. Your mind pervades the Dharma-realm. This kind of worship and practice also pervades everywhere throughout the Dharma-realm. Someone asks, “What is the Dharma-realm? I’ve been listening to the Sutra lectures for several days, but I still don’t know what is meant by the Dharma-realm.” The Dharma-realm contains all the three- thousand great-thousand world systems. None of them are not included within it. There’s nothing outside the Dharma-realm. In this way your body exhausts the reaches of space and pervades the Dharma-realm, and your reverential worship is the same way. The merit and virtue you gain also exhausts the reaches of space and pervades throughout the Dharma-realm. This is the fifth type of worship called, “worship that pervades the Dharma-realm.”

The sixth type of worship is, “worship having proper contemplation and practice with utmost sincerity.” What is meant by “proper contemplation?” It means we focus our minds on a single point and contemplate while bowing to the Buddha. While bowing to this one single Buddha, we are bowing to all the Buddhas in the Dharma-realm. Bowing to all the Buddhas in the Dharma-realm is the same as bowing to one Buddha. Because it is said, “All the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time share the same Dharma-body.” All Buddhas share the same path. Therefore, we bow with concentrated mind while contemplating the Buddhas. When we practice like this, we do not have false thinking.

It should not be the case that when we are bowing to the Buddhas our mind wanders off to the movie theater or goes to the horse-racing track. Or perhaps it runs off to the hunting grounds or to the dancing hall. Maybe while you’re bowing your mind jets off to a bar or to a restaurant. Without having to purchase any tickets, you’re able to travel anywhere, and you’re able to dash off to all locations. Suddenly you’re in the heavens, and suddenly you’re back on earth. Sometimes you scoot off to New York and then unbeknownst to yourself you’ve returned back here in San Francisco. You think, “Wow! Originally I was here bowing to the Buddha, and then I was in New York and now I’ve returned to San Francisco. I’ve really got spiritual powers!” But actually this isn’t even “ghostly powers.” This is just fantasizing, and is improper contemplation, not proper contemplation. When one practices with proper contemplation, one does not have this kind of false thinking.

When you bow to the Buddha single-mindedly, your mind is not doing two different things at the same time. Don’t think about other things while bowing to the Buddha. This is called, “worship having proper contemplation and practice with utmost sincerity.” When you bow like this, it is billions of times better than bowing while having false thinking. Therefore, in cultivation you want to select a method and then become immersed in it. That is, you want to understand the Dharma-method you are practicing. If you don’t understand your Dharma, then even though you are bowing just like everyone else, it is different. When they bow that is all that they are doing, whereas when you are bowing, you’re false thinking. You think to yourself, “Wait a while. After I’m finished bowing, I’ll get some coffee to drink, or perhaps some wine.”

For example, I believe a certain person had this kind of false thought when he was bowing to the Buddha. When he finished bowing, he forgot everything else and just ran outside. Where did he run off? He went drinking. Now it wouldn’t matter if he wanted to go alone. However, he wanted to take all the other people who were bowing with him to go drinking as well. This was extremely pathetic. This is not, “worship having proper contemplation and practice with utmost sincerity.” Rather this is improper contemplation. If you don’t bow properly, but instead have false thoughts while you’re bowing, then your worship is devoid of merit and virtue.

The seventh type of worship is “impartial worship based on reality.” Worship based on reality means worshipping, yet not worshipping; and not worshipping, yet worshipping. Someone might say, “If you say it is worship without worshipping and not worshipping yet worshipping, then I don’t need to bow to the Buddha and that’s just the same as bowing to the Buddha.” No, that is not what is meant here. It means that although you are bowing to the Buddha, you are not attached to the attribute or characteristic of bowing. If you think that when you’re not bowing to the Buddha, that’s the same as bowing to the Buddha, you are wrong. That’s being a megalomaniac. Just like the person that came here the other day, who told me he had already reached the “void.” Isn’t this extremely foolish? People like this are hopeless. There is no way to rescue them. Why is this? This kind of attachment is really ludicrous.

Impartial worship based on reality means that while bowing to the Buddha, “I’m impartially bowing to the Three Jewels.” One reveres the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha—worshipping them without discrimination. “Not a single thought is generated, and not a single thought is extinguished.” This is the unborn, everlasting worship that is impartial worship based on reality. “When not a single thought arises, the entire substance is revealed.” If one can truly bow to the point that not a single thought arises, then “all the worlds of the ten directions reveal the Perfect Body.” Although your body is here, yet it is just as big as the entire Dharma-realm. This is the “attribute of reality,” which has no attributes. You bow and yet you are without the characteristic or attribute of self, others, living beings, or a life span. You merge with the Dharma-realm. Your body is the Dharma-realm and the Dharma-realm is your body. Isn’t that amazing?

In the past your body was just as tiny as Mount Sumeru. In terms of the entire Dharma-realm, Mount Sumeru is just like a speck of dust in the Dharma-realm. You shouldn’t think that it is really huge. Now, in this state, Mount Sumeru is within your Dharma-body. Your body contains Mount Sumeru. Take a look at this. Isn’t this wonderful? All the myriad things in the entire cosmos are contained within your nature. There is nothing that you do not understand. This is impartial worship based on reality. It’s an inconceivable state. If you can reach this state while bowing to the Buddha, could you ever fully describe the wonders of this experience? You could never finish describing them.

This is a very simple explanation of the seven types of worship of the Three Jewels. To discuss this in greater detail, there are “300 kinds of decorum and 3,000 kinds of awe-inspiring deportments.” There are many types of etiquette. Therefore, in China there is an ancient classic entitled the Book of Rites. It is solely a record of all the various forms of etiquette and propriety. In this book it says that wherever a person goes, there is an appropriate place for him to sit. There’s a place for adults to sit and a proper place for children to sit. Also, men and women each have their own appropriate place to sit. Elders have their own seats as well. No one can sit at random. I’ll give you an example of this. Where should children sit? The Book of Rites says, “Children should sit in the corners.” Children should not sit at the front. They are supposed to sit in the corners.

Speaking about propriety, I recall that when I was a young child, I liked to talk a lot about proper etiquette. What kind of etiquette did I teach? I wanted other people to venerate me. How did I want them to do this? In those days in China, people talked about the emperor, so as a child I liked to pretend I was the emperor. All of the children in the village, perhaps thirty, fifty, or even a hundred of them, all had to obey my commands. I told all of these children to build a mound. Then I sat on the mound and ordered them to bow to me. This was before I was even twelve years old. It was really strange that all of these children listened to me. They did not object to bowing to me. This is how I wanted people to bow to me when I was a child.

When I was twelve years old, I saw a child who had died. Only then did I realize that everyone must die. Thereafter, I changed this crude behavior of mine, and no longer told people to bow to me. On the contrary, I wanted to bow to others. How did I begin this practice of bowing? I began by bowing to my father and mother. In the morning I made a full prostration to my father and mother, and then again in the evening I bowed to them. I bowed to each of them three times. Therefore, I bowed six times in the morning and six times in the evening. Then I thought to myself, “My father and mother are not the only ones in the world. There is also heaven and earth, the emperor and my teacher.” Thereafter, I also bowed to heaven and earth, to the emperor and my teacher. At that time, I did not know who my teacher was because I had not yet met him. I thought to myself, “In the future I will definitely have a teacher. Although I have not yet met him, I will bow to him beforehand anyway.” Then I bowed to heaven and earth, to the emperor, my close relations, and my teacher. From the point of view of common people, this practice was really superstitious.

Later, I thought, “There are also sages in the world. I should bow to them. There are also saints. I must also bow to them.” After that I learned that there was a Buddha in the world. So I bowed to the Buddha. I also bowed to the Bodhisattvas, Shravakas, and Those Enlightened to Conditions. Then I thought, “In the world there must be a person who is the best of the best. I should bow to that person as well. There’s also a person who is the most good. I must bow to him. Because he does so much good, I should represent all people in the world and show how grateful we all are by bowing to him. He does good and helps the poor. I should show my gratitude to him on behalf of the poor by bowing to him. I eventually ended up bowing quite a lot.

Then I thought, “Evil people are very pathetic. I should bow to the Buddha on behalf of these evil people. I beseech the Buddha to forgive them and reduce their karmic offenses and enable them to turn away from evil and go towards the good.” In this way, I bowed on behalf of evil people. I bowed to the Buddha on behalf of people in the world who have moral transgressions. I also bowed in repentance before the Buddha on behalf of those individuals who are not reverent and obedient to their fathers and mothers. Because I felt that of all the bad people, I was the worst, I wanted to bow to the Buddha on behalf of them all.

Each time I bowed I made over 830 full prostrations. What time did I bow like this? I’ll tell you. My way of practicing was really weird. In the morning before anybody was awake, I’d get up. After I got dressed and washed my face, I went outside and commenced bowing. After lighting incense, I’d always go outside to bow. Regardless of how windy it was, whether it was raining or even snowing, I would keep my practice of bowing outside. When it snowed, I’d just go ahead and bow in the snow, not paying attention to how freezing cold it was. I’d bow and get up over and over again until I made over 830 prostrations. This took more than one and a half hours each time. In the evening I waited until everyone went to sleep, and then I again went outside and did my bowing. I bowed in this way, every morning and evening, for many years. Later, when I began my three-year vigil of mourning at my mother’s gravesite, 28 I decreased this to just nine bows each time. I was not able to bow so many times then, because it took up too much time. This is the way I practiced bowing in my youth. I believe many of you wanted to know about my practice of bowing when I was young, so that is why I have mentioned this to you now.

The first is to worship all Buddhas. Worship also means “to revere” which is explained as to observe all of the rules. That is, you follow the rules of etiquette. Everything you do should be in harmony with the principle of propriety. If you do not maintain propriety, then you are not being reverent or respectful. For example, when you are respectful towards another person, then you practice propriety when you are in their presence. If you do not respect someone, then you will be very lax and negligent, with impropriety, and just do as you please.

Now we are talking about worship and reverence to all Buddhas. All Buddhas refers to all of the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time. The Buddha is one who is greatly enlightened. He is a person who is greatly awakened. Common worldly people are born as if in a drunken stupor and die as if in a dream. They do not realize that the three realms of existence are suffering. Therefore, they do not wish to get out of the three realms. This is to be unenlightened. Those of the Two Vehicles are enlightened ones among common worldly people. What have they become enlightened to? They have enlightened to the fact that the impermanence of the realm of birth and death, Samsara, is extremely dangerous.

Therefore, they have cultivated and attained the truth of emptiness, but it is a lop-sided emptiness. They’ve enlightened to the Dharma of the 12 Links of Conditioned Origination, and they’ve enlightened to the Dharma of the Four Noble Truths. These individuals are known as Arhats and Those Enlightened to Conditions. When compared to common worldly people, these individuals are considered to be enlightened. Although they enlighten themselves, they are not able to enlighten others. They only benefit themselves and do not benefit others. They are only able to enlighten themselves.

The Bodhisattva is different from the Arhats. Not only does he enlighten himself, he is also able to enlighten others. He benefits others, as well as himself. The Buddha is different from the Bodhisattva. Although the Bodhisattva is able to enlighten himself and enlighten others as well, yet his enlightenment is not perfect. The Buddha is perfect in enlightenment and perfect in practice. He is perfectly awakened and his cultivation is also perfect. His own enlightenment is perfect and his enlightenment of others is also perfect. Therefore, the Buddha is called one who is greatly enlightened because he has perfected the three types of enlightenment: enlightenment of himself, enlightenment of others, and enlightenment and practice. He is replete with myriad merit and virtue; thus he has become a Buddha.

It is not the case that there is only one Buddha. In the teachings of the Theravada they acknowledge the existence of only one Buddha, our Shakyamuni Buddha. They do not realize or acknowledge that there are Buddhas in other regions of the cosmos. The Dharma of the Theravada was first taught to the five Bhikshus at the Deer Park. Those of the Theravada are only aware of our Buddha, Shakyamuni, and are not aware of all of the other measureless number of Buddhas. There are actually measureless numbers of Buddhas in the worlds in the other regions of the cosmos. Because the Theravadins do not know about these other Buddhas, they claim that the Buddhas of the ten directions of space do not exist.

Is it the case that because they say that the Buddhas of the ten directions do not exist, they actually do not exist? Whether or not they acknowledge that there are Buddhas throughout the ten directions of space, they do exist. The Buddhas of the ten directions and our Shakyamuni Buddha are one. Therefore, it is said, “The Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time share the same Dharma-body.”

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva has made these vast vows and practices. Ultimately how great are they? The state of these vows is inconceivable. There is no way one can know their magnitude. Therefore, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is called the “king of vows.”

The first is to worship all Buddhas. This does not mean to worship and bow to only one Buddha, for example Shakyamuni Buddha or Amitabha Buddha. “Worshipping one is worshipping all. One Buddha is all Buddhas.” Worshipping one Buddha is worshipping all Buddhas, and worshipping all Buddhas is worshipping one Buddha. This means that one worships all Buddhas without being attached to them, and one worships a single Buddha without being attached to him. You should practice the “impartial worship based on reality.” When bowing to all Buddhas or one Buddha, you need not attach to attributes or appearances. For example, you don’t say, “This time my merit and virtue is enormous! I’ve bowed to so many Buddhas; no one else has such spiritual cultivation like me!” You shouldn’t be attached to appearances like this. This is the first, to worship all Buddhas.

In speaking of worshipping all Buddhas, is it the case that Buddhas want us to worship them? If you worship the Buddha, he is the Buddha. And if you don’t, he’s still the Buddha. It’s not the case that when we worship the Buddha, he gains some advantage from it or it makes him greater. Nor does it mean that when we do not worship him, the Buddha misses out on getting some benefit or is thereby diminished. When we worship the Buddha, we are fulfilling our obligation as living beings to show our reverence for him. Yet on the part of the Buddha, he is neither enlarged nor diminished by it. Therefore, when we worship the Buddha we should not be attached to the worship.

The second is to praise the Tathagatas. Why do we praise the Tathagata? He doesn’t really need our praise. He’s not like common people who become so overjoyed when you praise them, even their noses and eyes beam with delight. And if you don’t praise them, their noses and eyes get upset and angry. If the Buddha were like that, he’d be no different from an ordinary person, and then we wouldn’t want to bow to him or praise him. Why? If he were a common person, what need would there be to bow to or praise him?

If the Buddha does not really want us to praise him, then why should we? Isn’t that contradictory? No, it is not. When we praise the Buddha, it generates merit and virtue for our own inherent nature. What merit and virtue will we have? Every person’s inherent nature has light. When you praise the Buddha, your light will be revealed, and its illumination will obliterate your darkness. The merit and virtue from praising the Buddha will invisibly prevent you from creating moral transgressions or having false thoughts. The fewer false thoughts you have, the more your wisdom-light will be uncovered. Why are people who cultivate the spiritual path afraid of having false thoughts? It’s just for this reason. Once you have a single false thought, a layer of black grime defiles your inherent nature. If you don’t have false thoughts, then the light of your inherent nature will be revealed. When you laud the Buddha, your heart is joyful, and by taking delight in the Buddha, you unite with the light of the Buddha’s wisdom because the light of your own inherent nature is unveiled.

What’s an example of praising the Tathagatas?

Above and below heaven, there is nothing like the Buddha.
In the worlds of the ten directions, he is beyond compare.
I have seen all that there is throughout the entire world,
And of all things none is like the Buddha.

This verse begins with, above and below heaven, and below heaven means on the earth, where there is nothing like the Buddha. No spirits, Arhats, Pratyeka-Buddhas, or Bodhisattvas can be compared to the Buddha. In the worlds of the ten directions, he is beyond compare. Not only is there nothing that can compare with the Buddha above in heaven and on the earth below, even if you went to the worlds of the ten directions it would still be the same. Take a look at our world. We have five great continents of Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Yet this only makes up one world. However, this verse is referring to all the measureless and boundless worlds of the ten directions of space. Now we are developing a spaceship that will be able to transport people to the moon. We can say that the moon is another world. However, it is a small world. There are many, many humans and other things in all the worlds of the ten directions, yet none can be compared to the Buddha. I have seen all that there is throughout the entire world. In the entire world, I have seen everything. And of all things none is like the Buddha. Again, there is absolutely nothing that can be likened to the Buddha.

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