Seeing and hearing act as seeds:
The eight difficulties leap to the echelons of the Ten Grounds.
Understanding and practicing in one’s person:
One life perfects the fruit of distant kalpas.
If you just have a glimpse of the Flower Adornment Sutra or simply hear its name, that can plant the seed of Bodhi within the field of your eighth consciousness. That is why it says, seeing an hearing act as seeds. Once that kind of vajra seed has been planted, it will, in time, come to maturity. When that seed ripens in the future, that is the ripening of the fruit of Buddhahood. Therefore, it says, the eight difficulties leap to the echelons of the Ten Grounds.
The Eight Difficulties
2. Hungry Ghosts.
4. The Northern Continent. Uttarakuru.
5. Heaven of Long Life.
6. Being Blind, Deaf or Mute.
7. Having Worldly Knowledge and Argumentative Intelligence.
8. Being Before or After a Buddha.
The Eight Difficulties are eight circumstances in which it is very difficult to hear the Buddhadharma or cultivate it, even if you want to. The hells are a difficulty, inasmuch as one does not hear the Buddhadharma in the hells, and it is also not easy for hungry ghosts to hear the Buddhadharma. The same is true of animals. Those Three Evil Paths are fraught with difficulty.
Why is it that they cannot hear the Buddhadharma? Why were the Sound Hearers of superior virtue who stopped seeing and hearing in the fine assembly unable to hear the Buddhadharma although they were present while the Buddha was speaking Dharma? How?, when the Buddha was right in front of them, were they for all intents and purposes as if separated from the Buddha by as many as a hundred and eight thousand miles? You should all pay attention to this. The reason is that in previous lives they had not praised the Buddha, the Dharma or the Sangha. There attitude was very stuffy and conservative. When praises were being chanted before the Buddha, they refused to chant. They would say, “Cultivation is cultivation, isn’t it? What’s the use of chanting that? What’s the point in reciting that? It’s just so much play-acting. What point is there to it?” They would think, “It’s just a lot of ruckus, and it’s really meaningless.” They called doing the Buddhist ceremonies putting on a play. Even when it came to chanting, “Amitabha’s body is the color of gold,” they said, “If I had wanted to hear that, wouldn’t I have been better off going to hear music? It’s just because I didn’t want to go hear music that I came and bowed to the Buddha only to find that even within Buddhism there’s still that kind of stuff,” and they refused.
It wasn’t just that they themselves refused. They went on to tell other people, “Hey, you don’t want to study that. That’s really meaningless and phony!” when it came right down to it, they didn’t know what was true. If you don’t understand the false, then how can you study what is true? And even if it is false, are you able to do it? If you don’t recognize even a single character... Therefore, it is because on the causal ground they didn’t praise the Buddha, the Dharma or the Sangha that when they arrived at the fruit position of Sound Hearers they did not see the Buddha speaking the Flower Adornment Sutra and did not hear it all due to having failed to praise the Triple Jewel. Therefore, all of you should be aware of this:
If the causal ground is not true,
The result obtained will be crooked.
If what you do on the causal ground is not true, there will be a lot of trouble in the consequent fruition, lots of twists and turns. It won’t be straight. So, those of the Two Vehicles did not hear the Flower Adornment Sutra being lectured because they had not praised the Buddha in the past, and had been very stuffy before the Buddha.
In the Eight Difficulties, however, one basically does not hear the Buddhadharma. For example, in the Northern Uttarakuru Continent people have lots of blessings and can live for a thousand years. However, they do not see the Buddha. Not to speak of seeing the Buddha, they do not even hear the Buddhadharma, and they do not see members of the Sangha. They never see people who have left home: monks and nuns, Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Shramanas. That is because they have cultivated blessings without cultivating wisdom. They are reborn in the Northern Continent Uttarakura with a lifespan so long that they can live a thousand years, but they never hear the name of the Triple Jewel. That is why the Northern Continent Uttarakuru is one of the Eight Difficulties in which it is not easy to hear the Buddhadharma. You may say, “That place is not bad. One lives for a thousand years, eats well and wears fine clothes.” However, one cannot plant good roots there. If you do not hear the name of the Triple Jewel, you won’t be able to make offerings to the Triple Jewel; and if you don’t make offerings to the Triple Jewel, your good roots cannot increase and grow. If you good roots do not increase and grow, after you have lived your thousand years there, either you fall to the hells, or you turn into a hungry ghost or an animal it’s not fixed.
The Heaven of Long Life is also called the Heaven of No Thought. Life-spans are even longer in that heaven, much longer than the life-span in the Northern Continent Uttarakuru. However, one still does not see the Buddha, hear the Dharma or encounter the Sangha, and so it is called one of the Difficulties.
Being blind, deaf or mute refers to one kind of person who has no vision, another kind of person who is unable to hear, and yet a third kind of person who is unable to talk a mute. All the blind, deaf and mute in limitless kalpas past slandered the Triple Jewel. They said the Buddha was not right, the Dharma was not right and the Sangha was not right, which is slandering the Triple Jewel. If you slander the Triple Jewel, you fall into the hells. After falling to the hells, once you have paid off your offenses that merited the hells, then you turn into a hungry ghost. After having been a hungry ghost, you turn into an animal; and after having spent one-does-not-know-how-long a time as an animal, you afterwards become a person. But, although you are a person, you are either blind, deaf or mute, or crippled. Someone who cannot walk, who has to stay in bed all the time and can either lie down or sit up, but cannot walk around is a cripple. People like that have all slandered the Triple Jewel, and they are within the Eight Difficulties.
In the past, America had very few people who had left home. There were some who wanted to leave home, but they had not actually received the Shramanera precepts, the Bhikshu precepts and the Bodhisattva precepts. They all looked real but were not. They resembled left-home people, but actually they weren’t. One such American named Sumangala who had “left-home” in Japan by taking the five lay precepts which they call the Shramanera (novice) precepts and consider leaving home eventually realized that he had not received the full precepts in Japan, and wanted me to transmit the Bhikshu precepts to him. On that occasion I said to him, “The Chinese precepts, unlike the Japanese precepts, cannot be received so simply and casually. When the precepts are transmitted in China, you need fifty-three days, or thirty days. The very minimum is eighteen days, and it requires Three Masters and Seven Certifiers to transmit the precepts. They cannot be transmitted by a single individual. It turned out that he did not have time, and was unable to receive the complete precepts; and not long afterwards he died in Singapore.
Now in America there are Bhikshus and there are Bhikshunis, and they have all gone through the detailed study and cultivation of the precepts and the manner of someone who has left the home life Shramanas. This is actually to have the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. But in this country, very few people are aware of this, because to start with this country lacked the Buddhadharma, so now that it has it, few people actually recognize it. Without actually recognizing it, they are unable to cultivate properly and truly.
You should all realize that while I am here transmitting the Buddhadharma, I am not transmitting Chinese Buddhism, or Burmese Buddhism, or Indian Buddhism, or Ceylonese Buddhism. What I am transmitting is the Buddhadharma of the Mind-to-Mind Seal, which from the First Patriarch Mahakashyapa was handed down to the second Patriarch Ananda, until it reached to Twenty-eight Patriarch Bodhi-dharma who transmitted it to China. This Buddhadharma is not the Buddhadharma of just one country. It is the Buddhadharma of the entire world, the Buddhadharma of the universe, the Buddhadharma of the Dharma Realm. Why is that? I’m always telling you that I do not want anyone to believe in me, and I also do not want anyone to disbelieve in me. If you believe, you are still within the Dharma Realm. If you do not believe, you are still within the Dharma Realm, and have not run outside of it. Therefore, I pay no attention to whether you who have come to the Sino-American Buddhist Association’s Gold Mountain Monastery, believe or not. I lecture my Buddhadharma or rather, I have no Buddhadharma. It is the world’s Buddhadharma. The Sixth Patriarch said, “If I had a single dharma to transmit to you, that would be cheating you.” In the final analysis, I have not one dharma which can be got at. I have no dharma. Within this state of not one single dharma, the time of no dharma:
When not a single dharma is established,
The ten thousand dharmas all are empty.
There are some people on the outside who slander us and say, “That place follows such and such a Teaching,” or, “That place follows such and such other Teaching.” For example, someone described us to one of my disciples as transmitting the White Lotus Teaching. That was how they described it, but others might say it was the Red Lotus Teaching, the Yellow Lotus Teaching, the Blue Lotus Teaching or the or the Purple Lotus Teaching that many Teachings when in fact we establish not one dharma, and the ten thousand dharmas all are empty. If you don’t believe it, try it out and see. Right now we are not within the Eight Difficulties, and so we are able to investigate the Buddhadharma. This Buddhadharma of ours should not be described as either false or true. Basically it does not exist. Basically there is nothing whatsoever. Not one dharma is established. There is no knowing, and no attaining. There is no wisdom and nothing is attained.
The Seventh Difficulty is that of having worldly knowledge and argumentative intelligence. Such a person considers his wisdom very great. His philosophy is: both no head and no tail; both no beginning and no end; both no above and no below; both no ancient and no modern. The philosopher talks that way. If you say he’s dead, then he’s alive. If you say he’s alive, then he’s dead. However it’s said, it’s right. That’s philosophy: having worldly knowledge and argumentative intelligence. Wisdom of a worldly sort means the ability to argue and the possession of a certain amount of intelligence. However, worldly wisdom is not wisdom that transcends the world, and it is also one of the Eight Difficulties.
There is also the Difficulty of being born before or after a Buddha. That puts all of us now within one of the Eight Difficulties. Being born before a Buddha is a Difficulty, and being born after a Buddha is also a Difficulty. When the Buddha appeared in the world, we didn’t make it, and so we are in one of the Eight Difficulties. Don’t figure you’re so terrific. What’s so terrific about you? You’re within one of the Eight Difficulties. Within those eight kinds of Difficulties, it is not easy to study the Buddhadharma.
The period when the Buddha was appearing in the world, the Proper Dharma Age, was a time of solidity in liberation. The five hundred years that followed were a period of solidity in dhyana-samadhi. The next five hundred years after that were a period of solidity in erudition, when everyone was able to read and recite Great Vehicle Sutras, and could recite several of them by heart. They read lots of books, but there was no actual liberation. By liberation is meant certification to the fruit, the attainment of the First Fruit, the Second Fruit, the Third Fruit and the Fourth Fruit. Liberation means to have no limitations or ties, no hang-ups or obstructions, no troubles or afflictions. During the period of solidity in dhyana-samadhi, everyone liked to sit in meditation with single-minded concentration. Any of you now who likes to sit in meditation is solid in dhyana-samadhi. Whoever manages certify to the fruit is solid in liberation. Whoever can recite by heart the Shurangama Sutra or the Dharma Flower Sutra is solid in erudition.
After the period of solidity in erudition was the Dharma Semblance Age, a five-hundred period of solidity in building temples: building temples here, building temples there, building a whole lot of temples, all of which were very big. After that period comes our present period of solidity in fighting. At present there is fighting between countries, fighting between families, fighting between people. You usurp what is mine, and I usurp what is yours, and we fight with each other. We have a need to fight. Someone asks how long the fighting lasts: for five hundred years, of course, during all of which time there is fighting. The Dharma Ending Age is like that.
We now are within the Dharma Ending Age, are we not? So you shouldn’t keep on slandering the Triple Jewel, should you? In this world there are very, very few people who truly cultivate the Way. Everyone wants to fight, so now left-home people even fight with left-home people. They all fight. You say I’m not right, and I say you’re not good, and we fight with each other. “I simply must outdo you! Your temple can lodge a thousand people! I must surpass you! If yours can lodge a thousand people, I’ll build a temple that will hold ten thousand, which will certainly be better that yours!” All of that is fighting. Those are the Eight Difficulties. Nonetheless, although in the Eight Difficulties one cannot hear the Buddhadharma, still, if one has causal connections, upon hearing the name of the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra, one can, as a result, from within the hells and the realms of the hungry ghosts and the animals, certify to the Ten Grounds. The Ten Grounds are Bodhisattva positions, the Bodhisattvas’ First Ground, Second Ground, Third Ground, Fourth Ground, Fifth Ground, Sixth Ground, Seventh Ground, Eight Ground, Ninth Ground, and Tenth Ground. The Eight Difficulties leap to the echelons of the Ten Grounds means that they all certify to that fruition echelons meaning positions or stages.
Understanding and practicing in one’s person. To understand is to be clear, in this case to be clear about the principles of this Sutra. To practice is to cultivate. In one’s person means oneself. When you understand, you yourself understand, and cultivation is something that you do yourself as well. If you both understand and practice, then what? One life perfects the fruit of distant kalpas. Then, right within the single lifetime, you can perfect the fruit of distant, that is, limitless, kalpas. For many, many kalpas one may seek the perfect accomplishment of Buddhahood. For example, the Buddha:
For three asamkhyeyas cultivated blessings and wisdom; For three great asamkhyeya kalpas he cultivated blessings and cultivated wisdom, and:
For a hundred kalpas perfected the marks and characteristics. He took one hundred great kalpas to cultivate the marks and characteristics. However, if you now, upon hearing the Flower Adornment Sutra, can cultivate according to the Flower Adornment Sutra, and understand the Flower Adornment Sutra, then right within this lifetime you can certify to the fruit of distant kalpas and become a Buddha. In other words, whereas it took so long a time for Shakyamuni Buddha to become a Buddha, we can attain Buddhahood in this very lifetime.
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