Chapters: 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23
24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32   33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40   Contents   previous   
40 new edition

Practices and Vows of
Samantabhadra Bodhisattva

Chapter Forty, New Edition



Maudgalyayana. Maudgalyayana, also Sanskrit, means descendent of those who eat “radishes” or who “harvest beans.” When his ancestors cultivated the spiritual path, they ate these foods. This name commemorates his ancestors.

Amongst the disciples of the Buddha, Maudgalyayana was foremost in spiritual powers. Both he and the greatly wise Shariputra were at the head of the assembly of all the great Shravakas. They were their leaders. “Shravakas” are those who become enlightened by hearing the Buddha’s teachings. They hear the Dharma of the Four Noble Truths—suffering, accumulation, cessation, and the path—and become enlightened. They understood that adventitious afflictions cause trouble and thus became enlightened.

Also present were all the people, gods, and all the rulers of the worlds. “Also present” means that there were not only Bodhisattvas, Shravakas, and Those Enlightened to Conditions in the assembly, but that there were others as well, including people, all the gods in the heavens, spirits of the heavens, and all world rulers, who were kings of countries, as well as heavenly dragons.

There are many kinds of dragons. There are dragons in the heavens, dragons in the oceans, dragons that guard valuable treasures, and those dragons that form the clouds and make it rain. How do they become dragons? In the past they were quick and intense with the Vehicle, but loose with the moral precepts. So they became dragons. To be quick and intense with the Vehicle means that they cultivated and were able to uphold all kinds of mantras. They were also able to recite Sutras and sit in Dhyana meditation. They were capable of learning any Dharma very quickly. What was the one exception to this? They did not hold the moral precepts. What moral precepts did they not uphold? They did not uphold the moral precept against killing, against stealing, against sexual misconduct, against lying, and against taking intoxicants. They did not keep the Five Moral Precepts, and so they took a fall and received the body of a dragon. What is more, their thoughts of anger are very severe. Dragons have a lot of anger. Why did they fall and take on the body of dragons? Just because they had too much anger.

Those who study the Buddha-dharma should be sure to keep in mind to not be lazy. In monasteries, in the early morning the wooden boards are hit at four o’clock. A wooden mallet is used to strike a wooden board that produces a sharp sound. When the people hear this, they should all get up. Then the bell is rung. Once the bell is rung, if you stay in bed and sleep, you might become a dragon in the future. People who do not honor the rules of a monastery can become dragons. In fact, the best scenario is that you will become a dragon, and the worst scenario is that you will become a snake. So do not think that being a little lazy is of any good. If you do not get up in the morning when you hear the bell, you can become a snake. But if you do not rest after hearing the evening bell and drum, you may also suffer a fall.

Dragons become dragons because they misbehave and don’t follow the rules. Take a look at how crooked the shape of a dragon is. When he travels down the road or does things, he is always crooked. This is the way one looks when one misbehaves.

There are many kinds of yakshas: flying yakshas, heavenly yakshas, yakshas that travel on the earth, and yakshas that dwell in the water. Yakshas and dragons are among the eightfold pantheon of ghosts and spirits. What is the main food of dragons? Dragons are big worms that eat things like fish and eat just about everything else. However, they are also eaten by others. Who eats them? I’ll tell you about who eats them later on.

Yaksha is Sanskrit; it means “speedy ghost.” Yakshas travel very fast, and they look quite frightening. One yaksha may have ten heads, or ten yakshas might share one head. Is this not strange? One yaksha may have ten legs, or ten yakshas might share one leg. That’s how weird they are. They have an especially bizarre appearance. They may have three or five legs. It’s not fixed. They might also just be a head or just two legs. They can be extraordinarily weird freaks. If you do not know about them, and you see one, it can scare you to death.

Gandharvas are the musical spirits who play where the Jade Emperor lives. These spirits are also known as “incense-sniffing” spirits. As soon as the Jade Emperor lights his aloeswood incense, they smell it and rush to that place. They very joyfully go there to play music. They are very skilled musicians. They are the incense and music spirits for the Jade Emperor.

Asura is a Sanskrit word that means “ugly” or “not upright.” It is also translated as “one without wine.” Not upright means that they are extremely ugly. And being without wine simply means that they do not have any wine to drink. They have the blessings of the gods, but do not have the virtue of the gods. This means that they have the reward of blessings like gods, but they lack the virtuous practice of the gods.

Asuras are of many kinds, and they can be found among the gods, humans, ghosts, and animals. In general there are asuras in all the paths of existence. What are asuras? They specialize in fighting with people. They like to fight with words, with their bodies, and with their minds. They like to fight with the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind.

However, female asuras are most beautiful. In fact, they are incredibly beautiful. Not only can humans fall in love with them, but also when the Jade Emperor saw the daughter of the asura king, he became desirous of her. The Jade Emperor has some samadhi power, but when he saw the asura king’s daughter, whose name was Shezhi, he lost it all. At that time he decided to ask the asura king if he could marry her. The asura king approved of the Jade Emperor’s request and gave his daughter to him in marriage. The Jade Emperor was quite delighted to have such a beautiful heavenly maiden, and so he invited the asura king for a feast. To show the utmost respect, he had his heavenly army welcome the asura king and also escort him back to his home.

The asura king was very mistrustful and liked to fight. He thought, “Oh, you Jade Emperor, you want to show off your strength to me, so you have sent out your army to frighten me. This is ridiculous!” Although in his heart he was very unhappy with the Jade Emperor, he felt there was no reason to express this openly. So for the time being he patiently restrained himself.

The Jade Emperor liked to go to the world to hear an accomplished immortal explain the classics. This immortal lectured the Classic on the Wonder of the Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal including the following section:

There are three kinds of supreme elixir, the spirit, vital energy, and reproductive essence.
Elusive and intangible,
Remote and unclear,

Supporting nothingness and also maintaining existence;
Very soon you will be successful.
Mixing them together like the turning wind.
It will be efficacious after one hundred days of practice.

He lectured this classic and the Jade Emperor went every day to listen to the immortal teach.

One day the daughter of the asura king got jealous. She asked the Jade Emperor, “Where do you go every day? You’re never at home.”

He answered, “I go to the realm of people to listen to the classics. There is a person who lectures the Classic on the Wonder of the Mind Seal, so I go to listen to him.”

The asura woman said, “I’d like to go with you. Let’s go together to hear these lectures.”

The Jade Emperor said, “You are a woman. You can’t go there to listen to the lectures. An immortal lectures the classics in that place, and he doesn’t want any women to come.”

The asura woman had more doubts and said, “You don’t want me to go? You are certainly carrying on with other women.”

The asura woman had spiritual powers, and so when the Jade Emperor went off in his cart to hear the classics lectured, she used a kind of magic technique to make herself invisible. So although she accompanied him, he could not see her. She hid her body and rode off with him to listen to the classics too.

When the Jade Emperor got out of the cart, the asura woman became visible again, and the Jade Emperor said, “What are you doing here?”

She replied, “I’ve come to listen to the classics, of course.”

The Jade Emperor took out his whip and hit her, and she cried out. The immortal heard her, and had never heard a woman cry out like this before. He then opened his eyes to take a look at her. When he saw how beautiful she was, he had thoughts of desire. This experience influenced him so that his sensual desire was aroused. Thus, he was no longer able to lecture the classic and his karmic achievement in the spiritual path was lost. Because of this, the Jade Emperor got even more upset, and so he returned home.

After they returned, the asura woman went to see her father and said, “The Jade Emperor has been cheating on me. He goes out and has affairs with all sorts of women. He told me he was going to listen to the classics, and so I went with him to check it out. He said what I did was wrong and hit me.”

When her father heard this, he got very angry. “This time I’m going to do battle with you!” he said, as if talking to the Jade Emperor. Then he assembled his asura army. He planted his feet on the bottom of the ocean and with one hand toppled the heavenly palace.

The Jade Emperor did not have the spiritual powers to deal with the asura king, and so he went to beseech Shakyamuni Buddha to rescue him.

Shakyamuni Buddha replied, “Don’t worry. Go back and tell your army

to recite ‘Maha-Prajna-Paramita,’ and everything will be fine.”

The Jade Emperor returned to his army, and told them what to do. As a result as soon as they recited “Maha-Prajna-Paramita,” the asura army was defeated and fled. Why? Because Maha-Prajna-Paramita is wisdom, and the asuras are rooted in ignorance. Once they saw the light of wisdom, they were defeated. This is the general meaning of asuras.

Garudas are the great golden-winged p’eng birds. They only eat dragons. Their bodies are huge and with a wing-span that is so big it extends for three hundred and sixty yojanas. Garudas can flap their wings to fan aside the water in the ocean. When the water is gone, the dragons are exposed, and the p’eng birds can eat them just like humans eat noodles. They slurp up the dragons just like they are noodles, a mouthful at a time. In one mouthful, a great golden-winged p’eng bird could swallow up from ten to twenty dragons. Since their wing-span is three hundred and sixty yojanas, the diameter of their beaks must be at least one hundred yojanas wide. It is easy for them to consume a few thousand dragons at a time. This can cause the dragons and their young to be eaten to extinction.

Then the elder dragons went to Shakyamuni Buddha and asked him to save them. “We dragons and our offspring are almost all eaten up by the great golden winged p’eng birds,” they said. “What can we do? We dragons are now on the verge of extinction.”

Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Don’t worry. I’ll give you a Kashaya robe. Give each one of your dragons and offspring a thread from this robe to hide under. Then when the great golden winged p’eng birds come looking for you, they won’t be able to find you.”

The elder dragons took the robe back and tore it up and gave each dragon a thread of the robe, which they tied to themselves. As a result the golden-winged p’eng birds had no way to find the dragons and eat them. They had heard from others that Shakyamuni Buddha had saved the dragons, so they too went to the Buddha and complained, “You’ve saved the dragons, but now we have nothing to eat. We’re going to starve to death. The great golden-winged p’eng birds will all become extinct! The Buddha’s kindness and compassion is not impartial. You saved the dragons, so now you have to save us too.”

Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Fine. If today you take refuge with the Three Jewels, that is the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, and if you uphold the moral precept against killing as well as the other Five Moral Precepts, I will tell my disciples to give you seven grains of rice each time they have a meal. After this, you should not kill.” Then the great golden-winged p’eng birds took refuge with the Three Jewels and became vegetarians and no longer ate dragons. However, although they stopped eating dragons, they had eaten so many dragons prior to that time that there are few dragons today. Therefore, at the present time we do not see dragons. This is the explanation of garudas.

Kinnaras are called “doubtful” spirits, and they also perform music for the Jade Emperor.

Mahoragas are great pythons.

Humans, non-humans, and so forth and all the gods. Upon hearing what the Buddha had said, all in the entire great assembly. All of those in the Dharma assembly, were extremely happy, faithfully accepted it, and put it into practice. All were exceedingly happy and believed in this inconceivable Dharma. They followed this Dharma and carried it out in their practice.

This year I’ve lectured the Chapter on the Practices and Vows of Samantabhadra during this first six-week summer session. The principles have not been explained completely, due to the limitations of time. I have not been able to explain these principles in detail, but have only discussed these ideas in general. If you want to truly understand the meaning of this Sutra, you should earnestly use a lot of effort, and then you can truly understand it. The Buddha-dharma is inconceivable, and so it is called “wonderful Dharma.” This Chapter on the Practices and Vows of Samantabhadra is an inconceivable chapter. If I were to explain the principles completely, it would take a very long time. I have just given a simple explanation. If you want to investigate the Buddha-dharma further, you should work hard on your own and look into it more deeply.

I don’t know whether I have explained the Sutra well or not. I do not have any wish for it to be good or bad. What does this mean? I have explained as if I have not explained, and you should have listened as if you have not listened. To be without listening and without explaining is the true wonderful Dharma. Therefore, you should realize that it is unnecessary to explain and unnecessary to listen. Once you understand this wonderful Dharma, then you will have not wasted your time during these six weeks.

What happens when one has not wasted one’s time? Eating is still eating, wearing clothes is still wearing clothes, and sleeping is still sleeping. That’s the way it is.

previous      Contents

Chapter 40 pages:  1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    11    12    13    14    15    16    17    18    19    20    21    22    23    24    25    26    27    28    29    30

return to top