THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

X. GENERAL EXPLANATION OF THE TITLE

Preface:

The title reads: the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra.
That is the general name for inexhaustible Sutras.
The Wondrous Adornments of World Rulers,
Chapter Number One,
is a specific heading for one of many sections.

Commentary:

The Title is the descriptive title, and reads means that it is called: the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra. The is the definite article, particularizing that it is this very Sutra. That is the general name for inexhaustible Sutras. That refers back to the previous words of the title. Inexhaustible means never used up, hence infinite. Here “inexhaustible” modifies “Sutras.” When it says, a general name for inexhaustible Sutras, it means that all Sutras are included within it, and so are described as inexhaustible, never used up. Those seven words: Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra include within them the names and principles of all Sutras whatsoever. Therefore, if those seven words were discussed in detail, since they are multi-layered and inexhaustible, there would be no way to finish discussing them. They form the title, which, because it generalizes, is called a general name.

The previous passage which discussed the Bodhisattva’s search for the secret, was the Grateful Rejoicing at the Encounter. He was very thankful and joyous, and so he said how fortunate it was that he happened upon it. The present passage of text is the tenth, that of the General Explanation of the Title, in which the title Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra is analyzed in a very summary fashion.

This Preface, divided into ten general topics:

1.   Presentation of the Substance of the Doctrine.
2.   Specific Praise of That Which Illustrates. “That which illustrates” means that which makes evident and displays the principles of the Sutra.
3.   The Teaching Host’s Inconceivability. The Buddha is inconceivable.
4.   The Spoken Meaning’s Universal Pervasion. The principles that are spoken are universally pervasive.
5.   The Expression’s Inclusion of the Roots and the Branch-tips.
6.   The Profound Subtlety of the Doctrine’s Intent. This kind of purport is very profound and subtle, deep and subtle, astonishing and wonderful.
7.   The Accomplishment of Benefit of Sudden Transcendence. This kind of benefit it that of sudden transcendence. One accomplishes the benefit of sudden overstepping.
8.   Concluding Praise of its Vast Scope. It praises this Sutra’s vast reach and extensive scope.
9.   Grateful Rejoicing at the Encounter.
10. General Explanation of the Title.

Those are the names of the ten passages by topic. This particular passage is the tenth, the General Explanation of the Title. In a very summary fashion the descriptive title is explained.

“The Wondrous Adornments or World Rulers, chapter number one”: The “World Rulers” are the rulers of the world and of what transcend the world. All the kings in the world are worldly rulers, while the Buddha is the Ruler of what transcends the world. The wonderful adornments are those of Dharma doors. Dependent retribution and proper retribution are both wondrous adornments, being subtle, wonderful, and adorning. This particular chapter is arranged as the first among the thirty-nine chapters which comprise, so it says it Is specific heading for one of many sections. It is the name of a particular section among the numerous chapter divisions of the Flower Adornment Sutra.

It may be that now while we are lecturing the Great means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra a number of earthquakes will occur, inasmuch as when the Great means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra is lectured, the earth trembles and quakes in six ways. So if this sort of event should take place, none of you should be afraid. They can only be minor, not severe earthquakes, because the good Dharma-protecting spirits are protecting the Dharma assembly. Even then there are also demon kings who come to trouble the Dharma Assembly, and so when, as regularly happens, people come and pound on the door, you should not move your minds. The Flower Adornment Sutra should be lectured with one’s mind in samadhi, which is how Shakyamuni Buddha spoke it, and all the Bodhisattvas listened to the Sutra with their minds in samadhi. It was in samadhi that the Dharma was spoken, so if something unusual should happen, none of you should be afraid. There may be nothing it’s not fixed. There is no fixed Dharma.

In the Chin Dynasty, there was a Dharma Master who made the first translation of the Flower Adornment Sutra, working in Bodhimanda Monastery. Every day right at the time when he was translating the Sutra, from the pool of water in front of the hall there would appear two youths, bounding and leaping, each one holding fresh flowers in his hands. They would approach, light incense, and make offerings to that Dharma Master. On those occasions it was not just the Dharma Master who was aware of what was going on. Within the Dharma Assembly there were many who knew of and saw those events, but not everyone saw them. Why not? It was because at that time there were people with deep, thick good roots, all of whom had opened the Dharma Eye which enabled them to see this.

The reason the two youths came to make offerings to the Dharma Assembly was that the Sutra had been stored in the Dragons’ Palace for several hundred years. Dragon Tree Bodhisattva appeared in this world six hundred years after the Buddha’s entry to Nirvana. During that six-hundred year period, no one knew about the Flower Adornment Sutra  which was stored away in the Dragon Palace. Dragon Tree Bodhisattva went to the Dragon Palace, read the Sutra once, and remembered it, because he never forgot what passed before his eyes, the power of his memory being especially good. He remembered it very clearly after one reading, and transmitted it to the world. The Dragon King was also very happy to have the Flower Adornment Sutra circulate in the world. He didn’t selfishly say, “My Sutra in the Dragon Palace is an untransmitted secret, a hidden Dharma which people are not permitted to know.” He was not like that, but instead was delighted and said, “It’s really most wonderful that the Great Vehicle Dharma is being transmitted in the world,” and commissioned the dragon sons and dragon grandsons to appear by transformation as a pair of youths and make offerings to that Dharma Assembly.

The Dharma Assembly at that time was one in which the Sutra was being translated, not one in which it was being lectured. Right when people were translating, the two youths would appear and light incense before the Buddhas and make offerings of flowers. This is know as the Portent of the Appearance of the Pair of Youths, and is an event about which most Buddhists know. Now while we are lecturing the Flower Adornment Sutra, the earth may quake in six different ways, or various other kinds of things could happen. I’m telling you in advance so that if the earth quakes you won’t be afraid. On the other hand, it may not happen, for I have no Way-virtue, and it may be that I am lecturing the principles in a very superficial way, not at all in hormony with the Buddha’s Mind Seal Dharma. In that case the good Dharma-protecting spirits may pay no attention saying, “Let them lecture as they please.” But if it should happen that during the Sutra lecture the earth and lecture hall tremble, be forewarned and don’t be afraid.

Some people are bringing up a further problem, saying, “It is impossible for the place where this Sutra is being lectured to have an earthquake, because for four or five years now, Dharma Master, you have been telling us that San Francisco cannot have an earthquake that as long as you are in San Francisco there will be no earthquakes, or if there are any, they would be very slight. If there is an earthquake this year, won’t that be a case of contradiction between what was said before and afterwards? Not bad, it would be very contradictory. Telling it not to quake when it’s time for it to quake, and telling it to quake when it’s not time for it to quake is a case of there being no fixed Dharma. As it happens, one of my disciples called me on the phone a few days ago and questioned me that evening saying, “Everyone says there’s going to be an earthquake in New York tomorrow. If there’s certain to be an earthquake, then I’ll come back sooner. If there’s not going to be an earthquake, then I’ll wait until the fifth or sixth of next month.” When I first replied to her I said, “I don’t know, because right now I’m not in New York and I don’t know what’s happening in New York.” After we had talked a couple of minutes more, she asked again and said, “What about it?” I said, “It’s not serious. Don’t be afraid. If the earth quakes, it quakes. What are you going paying attention to that?” Now I read in the papers that there was no earthquake in New York, so this matter has passed ... Now if we have an earthquake in San Francisco, it’s not serious, so don’t be afraid. While we are lecturing the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra, perhaps some kind of inconceivable state may manifest.

In the T’ang Dynasty, when Dharma Master Shikshananda had finished translating the Flower Adornment Sutra, National Master Hsien Shou preceded to lecture it. The translation was begun in the first year of the Cheng Sheng reign period, the afternoon of the 14th day of the third month, and took until the second year of the Sheng Li reign period, the eighth day of the tenth month to complete. Right before the translation of the Sutra had begun, the empress Wu Tsai T’ien, who was probably not far removed in time from the Sixth Patriarch, had a dream. In the dream, in heaven and on earth throughout the entire universe there fell sweet dew, no place being without it. This made her very happy, and so she requested Dharma Master Shiksananda to translate this Sutra. He translated the present Sutra in eighty rolls, eighty-one rolls if one counts the “Chapter of the Conduct and Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva,” in thirty-nine chapters. After the translation of the Sutra had begun, as it turned out, rain fell and all the rain was sweet. That was an auspicious portent.

After the Sutra had been translated, National Master Hsien Shou began to lecture it at Buddha’s Bestowal of Predictions Monastery. The lecture series began on the fifteenth day of the tenth month. On the evening of the twelfth day of the twelfth month, the Sutra had been lectured as far as the seas of world-systems of the Flower Treasury to where the earth quakes. Right then there was an earthquake! Right at that time the monastery all of a sudden experienced an earthquake and everything shook. On that occasion there were several thousand people, both left-home and lay-persons, who had assembled there to listen to the lectures, all of whom felt the earth quake. There had never been anything like it before, but it happened, and so they called it obtaining what had never before existed.

Thereupon Dharma Master Shikshananda, along with a Vinaya Master of the time named Ming Ch’uan and another Dharma Master named Te Wei composed an account of the earthquake and sent it to Wu Tsai T’ien. When Wu Tsai T’ien, in her own hand, penned her remarks, she said, “Before you even wrote your account, I had already seen it. For at the time of lecturing the Sutra, when this secret, hidden Dharma was being propagated, in a dream I had already seen the sweet-dew portent, the omen of the heavens universally raining down sweet dew. And now that the lecturing of the Sutra has begun, for the earth to quake in six ways, is truly an inconceivable kind of state! This event should be broadcast throughout the world, and everyone in the world should be informed about this auspicious occurrence.”

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