THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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Prologue:

Two, because of the fulfillment of past causes. Why is the Dharma that way, that they thus turn? It is because the past causes were deep. When the roots are deep, then the fruit is flourishing. When the source is distant, then the flow is long. Because the past causes were deep, the arisal of the teaching is also great.

Commentary:

Two, because of the fulfillment of past causes. The Second Cause is due to the fulfillment of the causes and conditions from previous lives. Why is the Dharma that way, that they thus turn? Why should the Dharma be that way, that they turn the Dharma wheel and speak the Flower Adornment Sutra? It, the reason, is because the past causes from previous lives were very deep. When the roots are deep, then the fruit is flourishing. Whenever roots extend deep, then the branches, the foliage, flowers and fruit will be very abundant, fresh and luxuriant. When the source is distant, then the flow is long. When the source of a stream is very far away, then the territory it flows through will necessarily be extensive. Because the past causes were deep, the arisal of the teaching is also great. Inasmuch as the causes from past lives were that profound, the teaching spoken by the Buddha is certain to be great.

Prologue:

How were they deep and great? The Buddha, the World-Honored One, began and followed the esoteric traces, and settled into wondrous stillness. Compassion and wisdom were both employed, while his conduct and vows were of equal scope.

Commentary:

How were they deep and great? in what way did the depth of the causes from past lives effect the greatness of the teaching? The Buddha, the World-Honored One, began and followed the esoteric traces. Shakyamuni Buddha started out and followed the same inconceivable state of all the Buddhas of the past, and settled into wondrous stillness. He came to dwell in the inconceivable state of quietude. Compassion and wisdom were both employed. He used great compassion to teach and transform living beings, causing them to attain great wisdom, leave suffering and attain to bliss. He also employed great wisdom to teach and transform living beings. He simultaneously used great compassion and great wisdom to save living beings. If you only have compassion but no wisdom, you won’t be able to bestow the teaching according to the potentials, speaking Dharma to people the way one prescribes medicine for illnesses. Why not? If you only have great compassion but are very stupid, you won’t use your compassion appropriately. If you only have great wisdom but lack great compassion, then you won’t be able to teach and transform living beings either. Possessing wisdom, you will be very intelligent and know living beings are suffering, but you won’t go and save them since you lack compassion. If you have great compassion and great wisdom as well, you use your compassion to assist your wisdom, and your wisdom to assist your compassion.

While his conduct and vows were of equal scope. That is, the Buddha on the causal ground made vows to cultivate. His cultivation assisted his vows, and his vows assisted his cultivation. If you don’t make vows but just cultivate, you are like a blind person, for vows are like eyes. If you only have vows but don’t cultivate, then you are like a cripple, unable to walk for cultivation is like legs. Your vows and cultivation complement each other. With vows, you need practice, and with practice you need vows. If your vows are great and your conduct is great too, then they are of equal scope. This means conduct and vows are perfected.

Prologue:

Therefore, with false thought not cut off, he pierced straight through to emptiness. The efficacious mirror had not been polished, yet he suddenly was clear about ten thousand Dharmas. He then used unimpeded liberation to set forth this wondrous Dharma.

Commentary:

Therefore, with false thought not cut off... Why isn’t false thought cut off? It’s because it’s not there to begin with. If you have it, you have to cut if off. But here there is no false thinking and so there is no need to sever it. How did he end up with no false thoughts? It’s because his vows were great, and so was his conduct. The power of his vows and conduct scared his false thoughts away, so he didn’t need to  cut them off; yet he pierced straight through to emptiness. Piercing straight through means understanding, in this case understanding the emptiness of the nature. He understood that:

The self-nature is like empty space:
True and false are within it.
When you pierce straight through to the basic substance,
Within one penetration, everything is penetrated.

One’s nature is just like empty space. Within space are earth, air, fire and water which, however, do not interfere with one another. In the same way, the true and the false are both within the self-nature. When you penetrate through to the basic substance of the self-nature, with the penetration of one mode, you penetrate each and every mode. If you enlighten to one aspect, you’ll enlighten to every single matter. Therefore, with one penetration through to the emptiness of the nature, everything is penetrated.

The efficacious mirror had not been polished. This refers to the efficacious mirror in the verse by Dharma Master Shen Hsiu:

The body is a Bodhi tree,
The mind like a right mirror stand.
Time and again brush it clean,
And let no dust alight.

The mirror is just the mind. It doesn’t have to be polished, because it has already been polished to a fine sheen. Wisdom has already emerged. How did that happen? It was due to having great vows and great conduct, which were of equal scope. The efficacious mirror was then already polished, and the mind needed no further cultivation, for he had already understood the mind and seen the nature. That is why it says yet he suddenly was clear about ten thousand Dharmas. The ten thousand dharmas became clear all of a sudden, which means he understood the myriad dharmas, that his mind was the myriad dharmas and the myriad dharmas were just his mind.

A single rot divides into ten thousand ramifications.
Ten thousand ramifications return to a single root.

This is just:

The one is the many, and the many are just the one.

How do the limitless and the one come about? It’s just because there are numbers. When there is still zero with no “one” in front, you don’t know the amount, no matter how many zeros are added, because nothing is represented.

So, this very efficacious mirror didn’t have to be polished, yet he suddenly was clear about how the myriad dharmas were all complete within him: vast and great and totally complete. He then used unimpeded liberation, used inconceivable, unobstructed dharmas of liberation, free of all attachment, to set forth this wondrous Dharmato proclaim The Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra, the gateway to the multitudes of wonders, the esoteric and wonderful Dharma door for cultivation.

Prologue:

Although the past causes were many, in general they were of two kinds.

Commentary:

Although the past causes, the causes from past lives, were many, extremely numerous, however in general they were of two kinds. Now two categories of past causes may be distinguished. The first was great vows, and the second was great conduct.

Prologue:

One, because of the power of great vows. The manifestation of Marks Chapter says, “The power of vows of Vairochana Buddha extends throughout the Dharma Realm. Within every single land he constantly turns the unsurpassed wheel.” The Tushita verse says, “Thus Come Ones do not appear in the world, nor do they have nirvana. Through the power of their original great vows they manifest dharmas of freedom and ease.” In all assemblies, all assistance from the Buddhas is described as power of vows. There is more than one confirmatory passage in the remaining text.

Commentary:

One, because of the power of great vows. The first is that the power of the vows made by the Buddha in the past was most great. Because the power of the Buddha’s vows was so great, it says the past causes were numerous. Therefore, the manifestation of Marks Chapter says...In the Flower Adornment Sutra there is a passage of Sutra text which expresses this very clearly. It says, “The power of vows of Vairochana Buddha extends through-out the Dharma Realm.” There is no place in the entire Dharma Realm which is not reached by the vows of Vairochana Buddha. “Within every single land” of all the Buddha-lands of the entire Dharma Realm, “He constantly turns the unsurpassed wheel.” He is forever unchanging, greatly turning the unsurpassed wheel of wonderful Dharma.

Also, within the Tushita verse it says, in a few lines of it, “Thus Come Ones do not appear in the World.” Buddhas don’t come into the world, “Nor do they have Nirvana.” They don’t have any Nirvana either. Because they never came, they never go. Aren’t they called “Thus Come Ones” because they neither come nor go? Through the power of their original great vows they manifest Dharmas of freedom and ease. Using the vast power of their basic vows, they come into the world totally at ease, and just as independently enter extinction.

In all assemblies, all assistance from the Buddhas is described as power of vows. In every assembly in which the Buddha spoke the Sutra, whenever it mentions aid on the part of the Buddhas, it all is described as being from the power of the Buddhas’ past vows. There is more than one confirmatory passage in the remaining text. there is more than one passage in the rest of the Sutra which confirms this. In fact, there is considerable confirmatory evidence.

Prologue:

Two, because of the power of past conduct. That is, because for limitless kalpas, based upon vows, he gave rise to conduct. When that conduct was accomplished, he achieved the fruit, and then was able suddenly to proclaim. The mountain-ruling spirit’s verse says, “his past cultivation of supreme conduct had no bounds, so the spiritual penetrations he now acquires are also limitless. Dharma doors burst wide open until they are numerous as dust-motes, completely making living beings deeply enlightened and joyous.”

Commentary:

Two, because of the power of past conduct. The first type of past causes was vows, and the second is conduct. “Past” can mean the conduct of the life before that; this kalpas or the kalpa before this, or during limitless kalpas. That is, because for limitless kalpas, in the past right up to now, based upon vows he gave rise to conduct. If you make vows you will be able to cultivate. For example, you may vow, “I now to leave home, and then propagate the Buddhadharma, so it spreads to every single mote of dust, bringing understanding to the limitless living beings found therein.” All Buddhas in the past made great vows, and then relied upon the power of those vows to cultivate. Based upon vows, they developed their conduct, and entered into the doors of practice.

Other people make the vow, “Life after life I vow to propagate the Buddhadharma, lecture Sutras and speak the Dharma.” That’s a vow all right, but you should vow to leave home first to make it correct. If you don’t leave home, you can still propagate the Buddhadharma as a layperson, but something will be missing. So don’t figure leaving home is something easy. As it is said:

Do not think that leaving home is an easy thing to do.
It is from planting seeds of Bodhi throughout distant kalpas.

Don’t imagine your getting to leave the home life was easy to come by, saying, “It was so easy. I just took the precepts.” Do you have any idea how many troubles and demonic difficulties you had to undergo for that to happen? You had to bring forth the resolve for Bodhi for lifetime after lifetime in order to be able to leave home.

When that conduct was accomplished, he achieved the fruit. When you bring your cultivation to accomplishment, then you will obtain the fruit. When you get the fruit, you’ll wonder, “How did I get the fruit?” You yourself won’t know. You’ll just have it, but won’t know how you got it. “Was it from cultivating yesterday, or the day before that, or was it from cultivating today that it’s this way now?” Before you didn’t know if your nostrils pointed up or down, but now you understand. That’s what’s meant by conduct being accomplished and achieving the fruit, and then he was able suddenly to proclaim. Thereupon he was capable, immediately, of proclaiming The Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra. If he hadn’t made vows in the past and cultivated, he would have had no way to become a Buddha, nor any way to speak this Sutra. Therefore, the Mountain-Ruling spirit’s verse says, in praise of Shakyamuni Buddha, “His past cultivation of supreme conduct had no bounds.” Those supreme practices were limitless and boundless, more than one could ever count or describe.

So we cultivate a day and a half, or maybe study the Buddhadharma for a couple of years, and then say, “Why haven’t I become a Buddha yet?” If becoming a Buddha already, and you would be lagging behind. So actually you’re out in front of everyone else right now just because it’s not easy. You should really understand.

The Mountain-Ruling Spirit praises Shakyamuni Buddha’s cultivation of limitless doors of practice. We should be inspired to study the Sutras in the same way. After studying the Shurangama Sutra, study the Vajra Prajna Paramita Sutra, the Dharma Flower Sutra, and the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra. Study them little by little. Take your time and be as thorough as possible. Don’t be afraid of there being so many Sutras. If you study them day by day, they will become few. But if you take a look and say, “That many! I’m not going to study!” then you’ll never master them.

It’s the same when you bow to a Sutra. You bow to each character, bow after bow and character after character. Don’t let yourself wonder, “When am I ever going to be finished bowing this Sutra?” Why do you want to finish bowing? Shouldn’t you just bow? Do you have something else to do after you finish, some other cultivation? Bowing itself is cultivation. When you’re cultivating you can’t say, “When am I going to be finished cultivating?” You’ll be finished when you’re finished, what are you doing asking? As soon as you ask, you’re striking up false thinking. “When am I going to be finished bowing?” is just a false thought. “This bowing is really hard.” Well, who told you to bow? you say, “I heard the Dharma Master say during a Sutra lecture that it was good to bow to Sutras.” If you know bowing to Sutras is a good thing, then why do you complain about its difficulty? If it’s good, then you shouldn’t be afraid of difficulty. If you fear hardship, then it’s not good.

It’s said that bowing to Sutras decreases offense karma, as does bowing repentances. This year those of you who are attending the summer session are lucky to the extreme, because every day you are able to bow the Great Compassion Repentance. If you are sincere, the Great Compassion Repentance can open great wisdom for you, and eradicate all your various disasters and karmic obstacles. Bowing the Great Compassion Repentance is a very rarely encountered dharma. See how in the past Great Master Chih Che, the Patriarch who carried on the T’ien T’ai Teachings, upon hearing there was a Sutra called the Shurangama, faced west and bowed to that Sutra very day for eighteen years. In the end he never did see a single character of the Shurangama Sutra. Would you say that was hard or not?

When Shakyamuni Buddha’s conduct was accomplished, he achieved the fruit, and then was able suddenly to proclaim. The verse spoken by the Mountain-Ruling Spirit really puts it very well. He was praising Shakyamuni Buddha, and also you and me, the Buddhas of the present. For if you and I bring forth such limitless resolve and cultivate such limitless conduct, then he’s just praising you and me. Don’t figure, “This has nothing to do with me. The Mountain Spirit doesn’t know who I am.” He’s known who you were all along. If he hadn’t, how could he have spoken such a verse? Tell me that. The verse was spoken just for you.

So the spiritual penetrations he now acquires are also limitless. Now he gets spiritual penetrations which, too, are boundless, and so Dharma Doors burst wide open, on what scale? until they are numerous as dust-motes. The Dharma doors are as many in number as particles of fine dust, not just eighty-four thousand. How does this work? It is by completely making living beings deeply enlightened and joyous. Every single Dharma door totally and completely makes all living beings profoundly open enlightenment and become profoundly joyful.

Prologue:

Three, because of according with the stimulus of potentials. That is, although from past causes the Dharma which is that way is constant and pervasive, permitting the flow of transmission, still there must be a stimulus of potentials; for the Dharma spoken apart from potentials is useless. This is as when above there is a full moon which makes distinct a pool of water below. if the water in the pool is clear, then reflections appear. So too, with the stimulus of potentials, the response arises.

Commentary:

Three, the Third Cause, is because of according with the stimulus of potentials. That is, although from past causes the Dharma which is that way, the Dharma is just that way, as was discussed before, and so is constant and pervasive, permitting the flow of transmission, still, if there are to be possibilities of transmission, they must be due to a stimulus of potentials. Beings with potential must enter into the picture. For the Dharma spoken apart from potentials is useless. “Potentials” refers to the living beings who hear the Dharma, and “according” refers to a stimulus and response that mesh with the Way. When that happens, then as soon as you start to speak Dharma the living beings turn up to listen. For example, right now we are lecturing the Flower Adornment Sutra Prologue, and in response, every evening many people come to listen to the Dharma. For that reason, I lecture whether there are lots of people or only a few. If the response is great, then more people come; and if the response is small, then fewer arrive. Now we’re enlarging, so there will be enough room for several hundred to come and listen. That is a stimulus of potentials.

But if it is “apart from potentials,” if when I lectured the Flower Adornment Sutra nobody came to listen, that would be speaking Dharma apart from potentials. If I spoke the Dharma with no assembly listening, then for whom would I be lecturing? You may say, “Dharma Master, I heard you say before that you lectured for the chairs and tables, and isn’t that a case of speaking the Dharma for insentients?” Not bad. Insentients listen to the Dharma, and sentient beings should even more so listen to the Dharma. When insentients listen to the Dharma, it only has some practical application after several great kalpas; it is certain to be applicable right away when sentient beings hear the Dharma. When insentient beings listen to the Dharma, the seeds of Bodhi that they plant sprout extremely slowly, whereas when sentient beings hear the Dharma, they rapidly bring forth the resolve or Bodhi. So there’s a difference, “for if the Dharma is spoken apart from potentials, it is useless.”

What is this like? This is as when above there is a full moon which makes distinct a pool of water below. The moon above helps to make clear a pool below so the water becomes pure and transparent. If the water in the pool is clear, then reflections appear. If it’s a clear pool, then if a person approaches the side of the pool, he or she will be reflected in the water. Should a Buddha come near, a Buddha will be reflected. If a Bodhisattva appears, then a Bodhisattva will be reflected. If a ghost appears, then ghosts are reflected, not just one but layer upon layer of ghostly reflections. Why? It’s because the water in the pool is clear. So too, with the stimulus of potentials, the response arises. There should be response according to potentials.

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