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40 new edition

Practices and Vows of
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva

Chapter Forty, New Edition




When I cultivate for the sake of Bodhi,
In all destinies I will gain the knowledge of past lives.
I will always renounce the householder’s life and cultivate the pure moral precepts,
Unbroken, undefiled, and without outflows. 


When I cultivate for the sake of Bodhi. If you want wisdom, you must cultivate; if you do not cultivate, you will not have wisdom. Take a look at people who are intelligent. In past lives they have cultivated the spiritual path. Or perhaps in past lives they read many Sutras, or perhaps they cultivated a lot of ascetic practices, and so now in their present life they are intelligent. However, these types of ascetic practices are not the ascetic practices of sleeping, eating, and being lazy. Take someone who is lazy; it is not easy and it involves a lot of suffering. One does nothing at all. You must have some samadhi to be lazy like this. If you do not have any samadhi, and you try to be lazy, you will feel uncomfortable when you are sitting, and uneasy when you are standing.

There are many ways to cultivate Bodhi. Some practice Chan meditation, giving, upholding the moral precepts, patience, vigor, Dhyana-samadhi, or Prajna-wisdom. There are various different practices.

Explaining this brings to mind a historical case that I will tell you about. When did this take place? This story occurred ten thousand years ago and involved an old cultivator. How can we know what took place over ten thousand years ago? Of course we can. Archaeologists know what happened tens of thousands of years ago. How much the less, do Buddhists with the Five Eyes and Six Spiritual Powers know this. They can easily know what took place millions of years ago.

This case involves an old cultivator of the path. How did he cultivate? He practiced meditation. When he first began meditating, he had unbearable pain in his legs. When he sat for a while his legs hurt so much that he could not take the pain and so he fought with it. “You don’t like the pain? Well, I like it.” He negotiated with his legs. Then his legs said, “I can’t take it.” He replied, “You can’t take it? That’s your problem. I’m not going to pay attention to you.”

And he continued to meditate. In the very beginning he sat in meditation for half an hour and was able to withstand the pain. Then he switched his legs and continued to train himself in meditation. Then he began sitting for an hour, then an hour and a half, then two hours, and continued to increase the length of his meditation periods. Finally he could sit for several days at one time, then several months, and then he could even sit for several years. In the end he finally defeated the pain in his legs. After he defeated his pain, he sat for very long time, and he never wanted to get up from meditation. He just wanted to meditate in one place and sat for a few decades. Then after several decades he switched his legs. Then he continued to meditate and decided to wait until Shakyamuni Buddha came into the world. He wanted to help him spread the Buddha-dharma.

When Shakyamuni Buddha came into the world, he saw that this old cultivator really liked to meditate and enter samadhi. He would never get up. It was just as if he were in a long sleep, and he slept for thousands of years. His clothes became all worn out, his face was covered with silt, and birds built nests on his head. It reached the point to where although he was a person, he was more like a statue made of clay. It is not known exactly how many years he sat there.

In the Tang Dynasty, a Dharma Master, Xuan Zang, made a pilgrimage to India to collect Sutras. The Chinese have a saying, “The Tripitaka Master of the Tang Dynasty went to the West to gather the Sutras.” During his travels he happened upon this old cultivator whose clothes were in tatters and who was covered with an inch of dirt. If it wasn’t an inch, it was at least a half an inch of dirt. His head, face, and body were covered with an incredible amount of dirt.

Dharma Master Xuan Zang took out a small hand bell and rang it in front of his face. “Ding!” The old cultivator said, “Mmmmmm!,” and woke up from his sleep. “What are you doing?” he said.

Dharma Master Xuan Zang retorted: “What are you doing?”

The old cultivator said, “I’m waiting for Shakyamuni Buddha, the Red Sun Buddha, to come into the world so I can help him to spread the Buddha-dharma.”

Dharma Master Xuan Zang said, “You’ve slept too long. You’ve slept for several thousand years. In fact, more than a thousand years have passed since Shakyamuni Buddha entered Nirvana. It’s been a long time, and you’re still sitting here not knowing what has happened. You didn’t even know that Shakyamuni Buddha entered the world.”

The old cultivator said, “No problem. I’ll just meditate until the White Sun Buddha appears in the world. I’ll wait for Maitreya Bodhisattva to come, and then I will help him teach and transform living beings.”

Having said as much, he prepared to enter into samadhi again. He was used to being in samadhi and was about to enter samadhi again when Master Xuan Zang called to him, “Oh, elder fellow meditator, don’t enter samadhi again. Although Shakyamuni Buddha has entered Nirvana, his Dharma still exists in the world. You can help me spread the Buddha-dharma.”

The old cultivator said, “Help you? How can I help you spread the Buddha-dharma? Who are you, anyway?”

Dharma Master Xuan Zang said, “I’m from the land of Tang [China], and my name is Xuan Zang. I’m on my way to India to collect the Buddha’s Dharma jewels, and when I return to China, I will need someone to help me spread the Buddha-dharma. You’ve been meditating in one place for so many years and doing nothing; this is just too pitiful. Why don’t you help me spread the Buddha-dharma?”

The old cultivator said, “I can help you.”

Dharma Master Xuan Zang said, “Yes, but now you’ll have to change. You can’t use the body you are in now. I don’t think your body could even stand up. You’ve been sitting for so long that your legs have probably stuck together and won’t want to separate. So you’ll have to change your house. Move to a new house.”

The cultivator said, “Where should I move to?”

Dharma Master Xuan Zang replied, “Move to Chang An, the capital of China, and go to the palace with the yellow tile roof. When I come back from India, I will come and get you.”

The cultivator said, “Okay, I can do that. I believe what you say, and I’ll help you spread the Buddha-dharma.” Then he went off to Chang An to be reborn.

Originally Dharma Master Xuan Zang had told him to be reborn in the house with the yellow tile roof. What do you think happened? The old cultivator mistakenly thought he said the house with the green tile roof. So when he saw the house with green tiles, he went there instead by mistake. Whose house did he go to? He went to the home of General Yu Chi. General Yu Chi had a dark complexion whereas General Shu Bao Qin had a yellow complexion. And so the old cultivator became the son of General Yu Chi’s older brother.

When Dharma Master Xuan Zang left Chang An, the Emperor Tai Zong had asked him, “When will you return? When you return, send me a message ahead of time, so I can make arrangements to welcome you back.”

Dharma Master Xuan Zang replied, “Take a look at this pine tree. The branches of this pine tree are now pointing west. When they point east, I will return.” He was referring to a large pine tree outside the Imperial Palace gate.

During the next fourteen years, Emperor Tai Zong often looked at the pine to see if the branches had turned to face east, and one day it happened. Is it not strange that a tree could do this? As an efficacious response the tree was able to change in such an extreme way. Emperor Tai Zong said, “Dharma Master Xuan Zang is probably coming back today. Let’s quickly go outside the city to welcome him. When he left, he said that the branches on this pine would point to the east when he was about to return, and today they are pointing to the east.” So everyone went to the outskirts of the city to welcome Dharma Master Xuan Zang and escort him home.

When Dharma Master Xuan Zang saw the Emperor Tai Zong, he was extremely happy, and said, “My emperor, I congratulate you.”

The Emperor retorted, “Why are you congratulating me? Nothing special has happened.”

“The year I left, a prince should have been born into your family.”

“No, no prince has been born. You’ve been gone for so many years, but I haven’t had a son during that time.”

When Dharma Master Xuan Zang heard this he thought, “Strange, I told the old cultivator to be born as a prince. How is it that he never came? This is strange.” Then he said, “Wait until tonight and I will meditate on this and see where this person went.”

Emperor Tai Zong did not know what he was talking about. Dharma Master Xuan Zang had spoken words that were incomprehensible to him, so the emperor did not pay much attention. That night, Dharma Master Xuan Zang meditated and contemplated the causes and conditions surrounding the old cultivator’s rebirth. As soon as he began his investigation, he saw that the old cultivator had run off to the household of General Yu Chi, and that he was now a young boy of fourteen. He had grown very big and tall, and from morning till night he misbehaved. Previously the old cultivator had expended an excessive amount of effort in following the moral rules. Now that he was born into the household of General Yu Chi, he did not follow moral behavior at all. How did he misbehave? He ate meat, drank alcohol, and messed around with women. He could do whatever he wanted to do. This was because General Yu Chi’s household had power, money, and status. So no matter what he did, no one dared to supervise and control him.

Dharma Master Xuan Zang saw that he had gone to the wrong destination ending up in the household of General Yu Chi. The next day Dharma Master Xuan Zang told the emperor, “Yesterday I said that you had given birth to a new prince, but this person took the wrong road. I told him to be reborn to become your prince, however, he went to the household of General Yu Chi. Now you should issue an imperial edict commanding him to renounce the householder’s life to become a monastic. This is because previously he made an agreement with me to come here and help me propagate the Buddha-dharma.”

As soon as the Emperor Tai Zong heard this he said, “Okay.” Then he made a proclamation, which was an order or command from the emperor, requiring General Yu Chi’s nephew to become a monastic. When General Yu Chi received this order, he said to his nephew, “The Emperor wants you to become a monk.”

“That’s totally unreasonable!” the boy replied. “How can the Emperor tell me to renounce the householder’s life to become a monastic? I haven’t had enough fun playing around. How can I become a monk?”

General Yu Chi said, “You can’t do that! If you don’t become a monk when the emperor tells you to do so, you will be beheaded. If you do not obey the emperor’s orders the consequences will be unimaginable. You’ll be executed.”

“Well, if that’s the case, I’ll go see the emperor myself and try to reason with him,” replied the nephew.

The next day, General Yu Chi went to see the emperor and said, “My nephew, whom you have ordered to become a monk, would like to have a personal audience with your majesty to discuss this.”

Dharma Master Xuan Zang knew in advance that the boy would not want to become a monk. He had already told the emperor, “Tomorrow, General Yu Chi’s nephew will come to try to reason with you. He will give you his criteria for becoming a monk. Whatever his conditions are, agree to them. Whatever he would like to do is okay.”

The emperor replied, “Okay. We can see what happens tomorrow.”

The next day General Yu Chi’s nephew came to see the emperor. The emperor said, “I now believe in the Buddha-dharma, and I feel that renouncing the householder’s life to become a monk is the best thing one can do. Therefore, I want you to become a monk and propagate the Buddha-dharma.”

The boy said, “If I become a monk, there are three things that I cannot do without. If you agree to these three conditions, then I will become a monk. But if you do not agree to them, then even if you wish to execute me, I still won’t become a monk.”

Now take a look at this! He actually had no regard for his own life! Emperor Tai Zong said, “What are your three conditions?”

He replied, “What I like most is drinking wine. Those who renounce the householder’s life to become monastics are not permitted to drink wine. However, since I am becoming a monk by imperial decree, I’m an exception to his rule. I want to be able to drink wine. After I become a monk, no matter where I go, I must be followed by a cart full of wine.”

The Emperor said, “I permit your first condition. What is the second condition?”

“Concerning my second condition, I really like to eat meat. Those who are monastics are vegetarians, but I cannot be a vegetarian. I have to eat meat. I can’t do without eating meat for even a day. So I must be followed by a cart of meat wherever I go.”

The Emperor Tai Zong said, “Okay. It’s but a small matter and creates no problems. I give you my permission to do this. Do you have any more conditions?”

“Yes, I still have one more condition.” “What is it?” asked the emperor.

“Monks don’t have wives. However, I’m an exception. You’ve commanded me to become a monk. So I’m forced to renounce the householder’s life. Nevertheless, I cannot give up women. Therefore, wherever I go I want a cart full of beautiful women to follow me. I must have these three carts: a cart of wine, a cart of meat, and a cart full of beautiful women. If you agree to my three conditions, then I will reluctantly become monk. However, if you don’t agree to even one of these conditions, then I won’t become a monk.”

Emperor Tai Zung thought, “He’s really depraved!” However, Dharma Master Xuan Zang had told him to agree to any of his conditions. Then he said, “Okay. I permit you to have a cart full of beautiful women. If you agree to become a monk, these will be permitted. Now that I’ve agreed to your conditions, can you become a monk?”

The nephew of General Yu Chi thought, “I’ll have three carts of the things that I like the most. Okay. I can become a monk.”

Although his wishes were granted, he was still quite depressed. And he was unhappy when he became a monk. To become a monk by imperial decree is quite honorable and it’s a rather exciting public event. His monastic ordination was held at Da Xing Shan Monastery, built by Dharma Master Xuan Zang. The distance from the front mountain gate to the abbot’s quarters was about three or four miles. The monastery could house tens of thousands of people. When someone renounces the householder’s life to become a monastic by imperial decree, in the large monasteries they ring the bell and beat the drum. For example, here in our temple we have a bell and drum. Whenever there are special Buddhist events, we beat the drum and ring the bell. After hearing this sound, the Dharma protectors and good spirits will come to guard and protect the event. Therefore, one cannot just casually ring the bell and beat the drum or fail to do these things as one pleases. When there is a Dharma assembly, these things must be sounded. This is not only to notify people, but to also give the order and notification to all the Dharma protectors as well.

At that time the bell and drum were struck at Da Xing Shan Monastery. One person rang the bell, “Clang, clang!” and one person beat the drum, “Boom, boom!” The nephew of General Yu Chi reached the back of the monastery, and when he heard the sounds of the bell and drum, he suddenly was enlightened. “Oh! Before I was the old cultivator!” Then he waved his hand towards the carts that were behind him and said, “All of you go back. I don’t want you. Now, I have enough. I don’t want you.” All three carts retreated. The one with beautiful women returned back, the one with wine ran off, and the one with meat disappeared. He entered Da Xing Shan Monastery to renounce the householder’s life to become a monk. And he was called the Three-Cart Patriarch.

He was also called Dharma Master Kui Ji. Dharma Master Kui Ji taught the Consciousness Only doctrine. He was extremely intelligent. Regardless of

what Sutra it was, he only had to hear it once and he had it memorized. And if he read it once, he could remember it as well. Once a Sutra had passed by his eyes, he never forgot it. This shows how brilliant he was. These are the causes and conditions that led him to cultivate the path. During the Tang Dynasty Dharma Master Kui Ji made a very great contribution to spreading the Buddha-dharma.

When I cultivate for the sake of Bodhi , that is when seeking the enlightened way of Bodhi and cultivating the path. In all destinies, I will gain the knowledge of past lives. Regardless of what destiny it is, even within the four evil destinies, which are the asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and hells, I will know my past lives. I will attain the spiritual power of recollecting one’s past lives.

I will always renounce the householder’s life and cultivate the pure moral precepts. We should not think that it is easy to renounce the householder’s life to become a monastic. Becoming a monastic is not easy.

Don’t say that renouncing the householder’s life is an easy thing to do.
It comes about because of planting seeds of Bodhi in many lives.

Don’t think that anyone can just casually become a monastic. When some people go to take the Bhikshu precepts at Bao Hua Mountain, they must first pass by a certain mountain cave. Some don’t make it past this cave, because a demonic obstacle may arise or they might even die. They die right there. Others have no trouble taking the Shramanera precepts, but when they get ready to take the Bhikshu precepts, they go crazy and cannot be ordained. There are many people like this. Why does this happen? This is because they have insufficient virtuous practice.

We just finished discussing the Three Cart Patriarch. In previous lives he cultivated for who knows how many years. Yet when he was reborn in China in the current life, he became confused. When he was to renounce the householder’s life to become a monastic, he wanted a cart of wine, a cart of meat, and a cart of women. However, when he heard the sounds of the bell and drum, he became awakened and realized that originally in his past life, he had been a cultivator of the path. Then he was able to help Dharma Master Xuan Zhang propagate the Buddha-dharma.

He investigated the Consciousness Only School. At that time there was a Dharma Master who was even more eminent. Who was this Dharma Master? Vinaya Master Dao Xuan, who specialized in upholding the moral precepts. He was never careless in the Four Deportments of walking, standing, sitting, and lying down. When he walked, he did so with a deliberate manner. What was it like?

“He walked like a breeze,” like “the gentle breeze that blows so lightly, no waves form on the water.” This is a very gentle breeze that sweeps across the water and there are no waves. If the wind is strong, waves will arise. If the wind is light, there will be no waves. That is the way one should walk.

“He stood like a pine tree.” When he stood up, he stood as straight as a pine tree.

“He sat like a bell.” Wherever he sat, his posture was erect just like a bell. “He laid down like a bow.” He reclined just like a bow.

In the Four Major Awe-inspiring Deportments of walking, standing, sitting, and lying down he conducted himself especially well. He did not casually talk with his mouth, or casually look at things with his eyes, nor did he casually listen to sounds with his ears. If it was not in accord with proper etiquette, he would not look at it. If it was not proper etiquette, he would not listen to it. If it was not proper etiquette, he would not say it. And if it was not proper etiquette, he would not do it. He did not speak or act in an unprincipled way.

Because he held the moral precepts so sincerely and well, he invoked a response from a god who made offerings of food to him. He ate only one meal a day. He did not have to prepare his own meal, because a god from the heavens above called Lu Xuan-cha made an offering of food to him each day.

The Three-Cart Patriarch, Dharma Master Kui Ji, had eaten every different kind of food to be found in the human realm. He had eaten all the various kinds of meat when he was a layman, and after he had become a monk, he had eaten the most flavorful types of vegetarian food. Having already eaten all of these, he got a bit greedy. What was he greedy for? “I have never tasted the food and drink of the gods. Vinaya Master Dao Xuan receives offerings of food from a god. I think I’ll go to his place to get a meal.” He had a very high position, because he had become a monk on imperial command, and further he was a National Master. He could do whatever he pleased. So he decided to visit Vinaya Master Dao Xuan early one morning to avail himself of a meal.

When he arrived, and Vinaya Master Dao Xuan had received him, he said, “I’ve eaten everything except the food and drink of the gods. When the god brings you your food today, don’t eat the whole thing yourself, but share some with me”

Vinaya Master Dao Xuan said, “All right. I’ll share it with you. Wait here.”

Dharma Master Kui Ji waited until after noon, and still the god had not come. Not only did he not get to eat heavenly food that day, he did not even get any human food to eat. Why? Vinaya Master Dao Xuan was not equipped to prepare food. He did not have a kitchen, rice, flour, oil, salt, or vegetables; he did not have anything at all. The only thing to eat was dirt. There was a lot of dirt there on Zhong Nan Mountain. They might also have been able to eat wild plants or the leaves of trees.

So there wasn’t anything to eat. Then Dharma Master Kui Ji became a little perturbed. “The truth of the matter is, it seems to me that you are just deceiving people. You claim that gods offer food to you, but we didn’t get anything to eat at all. I’ve come here, but I’ve not observed a single god offer you any food.”

Vinaya Master Dao Xuan did not reply. He thought, “If you say I’m a cheat, then I’m a cheat. If you say I’m a liar, then I’m a liar. I don’t need to argue about it.” Because he maintained the moral precepts, he did not like to talk too much.

After a while, it got dark. It was about twenty miles from the top of Zhong Nan Mountain to the bottom, and it was not possible to leave at night. Once one descended the mountain, it was another twenty miles to Chang An. So Dharma Master Kui Ji had to spend the night there.

What do you think happened? As soon as he reclined on the bed, he fell asleep and began snoring like thunder. The sound of the breathing through his nose was as loud as thunder. Vinaya Master Dao Xuan gave rise to some false thinking. Basically, old cultivators who uphold the moral precepts do not think like this. What did he think? “National Master! Although you are a National Master, you have no spiritual cultivation whatsoever. How could you sleep like this? It’s really annoying.” In his mind, he had these thoughts.

After he had these thoughts, he noticed a louse on his body. Sometimes people who have become monastics do not bathe very often, and their bodies become very dirty and attract lice. When a louse bit Vinaya Master Dao Xuan, he took it off his body and dropped it on the ground. After a while, another louse bit him, so he dropped that louse on the ground as well. He only slept a little bit throughout the night, while Dharma Master Kui Ji slept through the entire night snoring like thunder. Vinaya Master Dao Xuan tried to sit in meditation, but was unable to enter samadhi. So he ended up thinking all night long.

In the morning, Vinaya Master Dao Xuan could not take it anymore, and he complained, “Last night, how could you sleep like that? The way you sleep is totally improper. Your snoring sounds just like thunder, and you kept me from entering samadhi all night long. I meditated but couldn’t enter samadhi.”

How do you think Dharma Master Kui Ji replied? He said, “You say I don’t have any cultivation? You’re really the one who can’t cultivate.” The two of them argued back and forth.

Vinaya Master Dao Xuan said, “How do you know I can’t cultivate?”

Dharma Master Kui Ji said, “You are an old cultivator who maintains the moral precepts and doesn’t kill any living beings. However, didn’t you pick two lice off your body last night? The first louse you threw down on the ground in a mean way. You killed it. You dropped the second louse on the ground more gently, but you broke his legs. Both of these lice, the one that was dead and the one that was still alive, went to King Yama to bring a grievance against you. They said that the old cultivator who holds the moral precepts committed the act of killing. I had to go and negotiate on your behalf. I said that you did this unintentionally, and that the lice should not seek revenge. Then King Yama told them to go off to rebirth. So finally the grievance was resolved.”

When Vinaya Master Dao Xuan heard this he said, “Huh? I picked those lice off very slowly last night, and no one knew it. How did you know? This is strange.”

Dharma Master Kui Ji was unhappy and said, “I’m leaving! Gods don’t bring food to you. You’re just deceiving people!” And he left.

After he had gone, the god Lu Xuan-cha came before noon and brought some food. Vinaya Master Dao Xuan in a very unhappy way said, “Why didn’t you bring food yesterday? I went hungry for the whole day. And furthermore, there was a special guest for lunch. Why didn’t you come with food?”

Lu Xuan-cha said, “Dharma Master, please be compassionate and forgive me. Yesterday when I came with the offerings for you, there was a golden light for fifteen miles in every direction. I wanted to go into this light, but I couldn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t tell north from south or east from west. I couldn’t see anything except the golden light. Then I asked the local spirit who watches over the area, and he told me that there was a ‘Bodhisattva in the flesh’ at your place; so there was a golden light everywhere for fifteen miles all around. Therefore I couldn’t come. Please forgive me.”

When Vinaya Master Dao Xuan heard this he said, “No wonder! Dharma Master Kui Ji is a Bodhisattva in the flesh! This is an inconceivable state. I said he couldn’t cultivate, and that he snored like thunder. He was just intentionally being that way. In fact his state is much higher than mine. Gods can’t even get close to him.”

After that, Vinaya Master Dao Xuan cultivated more intensely, and Dharma Master Kui Ji never again wished to eat the food offered by the gods. He didn’t have this false thought anymore. These two experienced cultivators were eminent Sangha members of that period.

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