"The Thus Come One's Life Span"
Now we have explained the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra as far as this chapter, the sixteenth, which is "The Thus Come One's Life Span." "Thus Come One" is one of the ten titles of a Buddha. Some people who do not understand the Buddhadharma say, "Oh, that's the Thus Come One, the Buddha-Patriarch."
They think that "Thus Come One, Buddha-Patriarch" is the name for one particular Buddha. Actually, "Thus Come One" is a title given to all Buddhas. All the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time, no matter which ones, are called "Thus Come One." They are all called "One Worthy of Offerings." They are all called "One of Proper and Universal Knowledge," "One Who is Perfect in Understanding and Conduct," "Skillful in Leaving the World through Liberation," "Unsurpassed Knight," "Taming Hero," "Teacher of Gods and People," "Buddha," and "World Honored One." They all have those ten titles.
Now we'll discuss the first title: Thus Come One. What is meant by Thus Come One? The Vajra Sutra says: "The Thus Come One doesn't come from anywhere and doesn't go anywhere. Therefore, he is called the Thus Come One."
Another explanation says: "He rides on the Way that is actually thus and comes to realize Proper Enlightenment." "Thus" refers to the wisdom on which he rides. "Come" refers to the state of thusness. He uses the wisdom of thusness to contemplate the state of thusness. When the state and the wisdom are both thus, then there is no state and there is no wisdom. That state and the wisdom unite into one. The Way is the cause. Enlightenment is the fruition. This is called the perfection of the cause and the fulfillment of the fruition. Because the cause is perfected, the fruition is fulfilled, and so he is called a Thus Come One. Thus Come One is one of the titles of the Buddhas.
There are also two Buddhas and three Buddhas. There are also the fundamental Buddha and the discernible Buddha. What are the two Buddhas? They are the true body Buddhas and the response-body Buddhas.
"True" means unmoving true thusness: not moving and yet according with conditions. This is setting forth the name based on the substance; it's a substance. As to the response bodies, although they accord with conditions, they do not move. Although they do not move, they accord with conditions.
Let's use an example to illustrate more clearly. The true body is like the bright moon in space; the response body is like the moonlight on water. Because there is truly the light of the moon, there is a reflection of moonlight on water. Although there is moonlight on the water, the moon does not come to that place, and the bright moon in space does not indicate that the moon has gone there. This is described as:
In a thousand pools of water are a thousand pools' moons.
If a thousand pools have water in them and the water is pure, there will be a thousand moonlights. The thousand moonlights are certainly not a thousand moons that have come down into the water of those pools. But although the moonlight is not the basic substance of the moon, nonetheless, there is moonlight in the pools. Although the moonlight is in the pools, it's not that the moon itself came down into the pools. And so it's said:
In a thousand pools of water are a thousand pools' moons.
Ten thousand miles devoid of clouds is ten thousand miles of sky.
When there are no clouds for ten thousand miles, there will be ten thousand miles of clear sky. The Thus Come One is also like that.
That is, Shakyamuni Buddha came into this world and manifested being born. Although he manifested being born, he did not go through birth. Although he manifested passing into extinction, he didn't pass into extinction. Why? His basic substance did not move. When Shakyamuni Buddha came into this world it was:
Without undergoing birth, he manifested being born.
Without passing into extinction, he manifested extinction.
His basic substance, his Dharma body, the true body Buddha, did not move. Therefore, you don't want to think that the Buddha is the same as we living beings are. The Buddha's coming into the world is not the same as the way we have come into the world. Shakyamuni Buddha, while still in his mother's womb, was already speaking Dharma for the gods, dragons, and others of the eight divisions of ghosts and spirits. He spoke the Dharma for gods and humans.
Now we shall explain the chapter "The Thus Come One's Life Span." "Life" can be explained with the homonym [in Chinese] "feeling," which is one of the five skandhas. Life refers to feeling. "Span" refers to its accumulation in numbers of years. How long is the span of the Thus Come One's life? It is incalculable-uncountably many years long. This, then, is the chapter "The Thus Come One's Life Span."
The meaning of "Thus Come One" is indeed vast. If we were to explain only the word "Thus" and the word "Come" in detail, it would take several years. The meaning of "Thus" is similar to the meaning of "wonderful." One who is not "Thus" is not "wonderful"; one who is not "wonderful" is not "Thus." The Thus Come One, then, is also the Wonderfully Come One. To be "Wonderfully Come" is to have not come in the way that we people have. We people do not know how we were born; we don't know how we will die. A Thus Come One knows how he was born, and he knows beforehand when he will enter Nirvana.
Now let's discuss the Thus Come One, with his vast virtue. As the Flower Adornment Sutra Preface says:
He is wealthy with ten thousand virtues,
And cleansed, without the finest dust.
National Master Ching Lyang praised the Buddha this way:
Therefore, our World Honored One,
The ten bodies just fulfilled,
Proper Enlightenment first perfected,
Rides vows and conduct all-pervasive.
He unites with empty space in substance and nature,
Is wealthy with ten thousand virtues,
And cleansed, without the finest dust.
The pellucid waves of his deep, sea-like wisdom
Are empty, yet hold a myriad reflections.
The full moon of his glistening, space-like nature
At once scatters into one hundred streams.
This is praising the Thus Come One:
Without rising from beneath the King of Trees,
He extends to seven places in the Dharma Realm.
He sat beneath the Bodhi tree and spoke the Flower Adornment Sutra.
Unhindered by the bounds of afterwards,
He pervades the nine assemblies, as he first succeeds.
Therefore, the state of the Thus Come One can never be completely expressed.
We have already discussed the meaning of the two Buddhas. There are also three Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, which may be called the "Three Bodies of a Thus Come One." The three Buddhas are: the Buddhas of the past, the Buddhas of the present, and the Buddhas of the future. The past refers to those who have already become Buddhas; the present refers to those who are about to become Buddhas now; the future refers to those who have not yet become Buddhas. And so, even those who have not yet become Buddhas are counted here as Buddhas.
The three bodies of a Thus Come One are: the Pure Dharma Body, the Perfect Reward Body, and the millions of transformation bodies. The Pure Dharma Body is Vairochana Buddha. Vairochana Buddha pervades all places. There is no place he is and no place he is not. There is no place where he exists, and yet there is no place that he doesn't exist. Well, ultimately does he exist or doesn't he? He both exists and does not exist.
You say, "The 'Pure Dharma Body Vairochana Buddha' that I know must certainly not exist in unclean places. That's because he's pure. Impure places definitely wouldn't house his Dharma Body."
That's not the way it is. Purity and impurity are discriminations made on the part of people. From the point of view of a Buddha, impurity is also pure. Purity is even more pure. Don't you remember in the Dharma Flower Sutra, when there were three transformations of heaven and earth? That's an example of purifying the impure places. To repeat, the first is the Pure Dharma Body, Vairochana Buddha.
The Perfect Reward Body, Nishyanda Buddha. Translated, Nishyanda means "pure and full." This body is also pure. As Shakyamuni Buddha was speaking the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra, he manifested the ten-thousand-foot-tall Nishyanda Buddha-body. But those of the Two Vehicles could neither see him nor hear him. Those of the Two Vehicles saw the Buddha as a six-foot-tall Bhikshu. But the Great Knights of the Dharma Body, the Great Bodhisattvas, saw Shakyamuni Buddha as the ten-thousand-foot-tall Nishyanda Buddha speaking the Flower Adornment Sutra. That's why it's said,
They had eyes but could not see Nishyanda Buddha.
Those of the Two Vehicles have eyes, all right; some may have even opened the Heavenly Eye. But they still could not see the ten-thousand-foot-tall body of Nishyanda Buddha.
They had ears but could not hear the Perfect, Sudden Teaching.
They had ears, but couldn't hear Shakyamuni Buddha speaking the Flower Adornment Sutra.
Once one of my disciples asked me, "Those of the Two Vehicles cannot see the ten-thousand-foot body of Nishyanda Buddha. We aren't even up to the level of the Two Vehicles; we haven't become enlightened or reached the state of those of the Two Vehicles. How is it that we are able to read the Flower Adornment Sutra?"
That question has much principle. The conditions of those of the Two Vehicles had not yet become mature. That's why they were unable to see and hear the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. They could neither see nor hear how the Flower Adornment Sutra was spoken.
Five hundred years after Shakyamuni Buddha entered Nirvana, Dragon Tree Bodhisattva had learned all the languages of the world; he had mastered them all. And he had already read all the books in the world. Having done so, he went to the Dragon Palace, where he secured the Flower Adornment Sutra and took it back with him. To get to the Dragon Palace, he certainly did not ride in a submarine. He went by way of the state of a sage certified to the fruition. Although he was submerged in the water, the water did not drown him. When a certified sage enters the water, the water will naturally part, opening a path for him, and will not drown him. The state of a certified sage is just that wonderful; it's even more dependable than using a submarine.
When he got to the Dragon Palace, he read the Flower Adornment Sutra and committed it to memory. That was how he brought it back to the world. And so now we are able to see the Flower Adornment Sutra because our conditions have become mature. Thus, the Reward-body Thus Come One spoke the Flower Adornment Sutra.
There are also millions of transformation-body Shakyamuni Buddhas. Transformation bodies are sometimes called response bodies. To review:
The Two Bodies are:
1. the true body, that is, the Dharma Body, and
2. the Reward Body.
The Three Bodies are:
1. the Dharma Body,
2. the Reward Body, and
3. the transformation bodies.
Someone who heard me say that Dragon Tree Bodhisattva went to the Dragon Palace to get the Flower Adornment Sutra had this thought, "I can't believe something like that really happened. How could a person, without the use of a submarine, go to the Dragon Palace?"
A child of three has no way to know the state of a child of thirteen. A thirteen-year-old child can't know the state of a young adult of twenty-three. A young person of twenty-three can't know the state of a mature person of forty-three. A forty-three-year-old mature individual can't know the state of a person of eighty.
Therefore, since you don't have the requisite level of scholarship and you don't have this kind of wisdom, of course you won't be able to believe that such an event could occur. Not only do you not believe, many, many children cannot believe the things that adults do. And while you are still at the stage of disbelief, I have no way to make you believe. You are still too young.
Children don't realize they are children. Once they grow up, they think back, "Oh, during that time of life, I really had a lot of fun. How could I have put mud in my mouth and eaten it?" And yet they know they certainly must have done that when they were children. That's because young children put whatever they find into their mouths first. It doesn't matter to them what it is. They pay no attention to whether it's clean or unclean. Children know only how to eat; aside from that they understand very little principle.
If you want to understand, you should investigate the Buddhadharma. After you understand the Buddhadharma, you will come to understand what you now don't understand. Without my telling you, you will understand. Before you have at least investigated the Buddhadharma, you have no basis for belief or disbelief. If you believe, I gain no advantage from it. If you don't believe, I don't suffer any disadvantage. I am propagating the Buddhadharma, and you want to investigate the Buddhadharma. We set aside some time to investigate it together. When we investigate to the point of understanding, there is no need for belief or disbelief.
When you grow up, you don't have the same kind of thinking you had as a child.
"Who are you talking to?" someone wonders.
If you think I'm talking to you, then I'm talking to you. If it didn't even occur to you to wonder who this is being spoken for, then it's being spoken for someone other than you. That other person has nothing to do with you, so you don't need to protest, "I'm not a child."
You are an adult. Adults shouldn't lack understanding of the things they ought to understand.
At that time the Buddha spoke to the Bodhisattvas and the entire great assembly, saying, "Good men, you should believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One." Once again he told the great assembly, "You should believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One." He again told the great assembly, "You should believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One."
At that time, after speaking the chapter "Welling forth from the Earth," the Buddha was ready to speak the chapter "The Thus Come One's Life Span." This chapter tells about how long the life span of the Thus Come One is. This is the sixteenth chapter.
At that time the Buddha spoke to the Bodhisattvas and the entire great assembly. The Buddha addressed all the Great Bodhisattvas in the Dharma assembly and all the rest of the great assembly, including the Bhikshus and the Bhikshunis, the Upasakas and the Upasikas, the gods, the dragons, those of the eight divisions of ghosts and spirits, and all the good men and good women.
He said, "Good men. There are so many of you good young people. You should believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One. You should now purify your minds, gather in and guard your minds. In other words, I'm telling you not to have false thinking. Don't become weary. When listening to the Sutras, you should give rise to reverence and respect. Don't have false thoughts. During the time you are listening to the Sutras, you must certainly make your minds clear and pure. Most importantly, you must believe. You should understand the Thus Come One's sincere and truthful words. Whatever the Thus Come One says is true and actual, with not a trace of falseness whatsoever."
After the Buddha said this to everyone, he probably saw that some people's minds were still giving rise to false thinking. Their false thoughts might have been chased away temporarily, but now they had come back, and so those people hadn't heard what he said.
What kind of false thinking were they having? Maybe they were wondering when the Buddha would begin to speak. And so now the Buddha was speaking, but they were involved in their false thoughts. So even though the Buddha was now speaking, they weren't hearing him. But they definitely weren't deaf; it was only because they were engaged in false thinking that they weren't hearing.
The Buddha saw they were having false thoughts, and so he repeated himself. Once again he told the great assembly, "You should believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One. All of you should pay especially close attention to the words the Buddha wants to say to you. Every word is true, actual, and not false. The Buddha is one whose words are true, real, appropriate, and not false. What the Buddha tells you is the truth." He told them again, but probably among them were still some who were not listening attentively. They certainly weren't deaf, but they hadn't heard. It was just because they weren't being attentive.
And so the Buddha said it again. He again told the great assembly, "You should believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One. All of you in the great assembly should be particularly attentive. Believe the Dharma the Thus Come One speaks.
"Before I spoke the provisional and expedient Dharmas in order to teach and transform you. Now I am opening the provisional to reveal the actual. I'm not using expedient Dharmas anymore. I'm speaking true and actual, not false, Dharma to you. What I am saying now is the truth."
Then the great assembly of Bodhisattvas, headed by Maitreya, placed their palms together and spoke to the Buddha, saying, "World Honored One we only pray that you will speak it. We shall believe and accept the Buddha's words." They spoke in this way three times.
They again said, "We only pray that you will speak it. We shall believe and accept the Buddha's words." At that time the World Honored One, knowing that the Bodhisattvas would not stop with three requests, spoke to them, saying, "You should listen attentively. The power of the secret spiritual penetrations of the Thus Come One is acknowledged by all gods, humans, and asuras in the world. They say that Shakyamuni Buddha now, having left the palace of the Shakyan clan and gone to a place not far from the city of Gaya to sit in the Bodhimanda, has attained Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
"However, good men, I actually realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of eons ago. Suppose a person were to grind into fine motes of dust five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of three thousand great thousand world systems. Then, suppose he traveled to the east across five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, and there he deposited one mote of dust. Suppose he continued in this way, traveling to the east, until all the motes of dust were gone.
"Good men, what do you think? Could the number of worlds he passed through be reckoned or counted?"
Then the great assembly of Bodhisattvas, headed by Maitreya… At that time, among the Great Bodhisattvas, Maitreya Bodhisattva was the leader. He was the senior-seated one, the first-seated; he was in the first position. They placed their palms together and spoke to the Buddha, saying, "World Honored One, we only pray that you will speak it." Because he was the leader of all the Bodhisattvas, he put his palms together and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, right now, our one and only hope is that you will speak for us soon. We shall believe and accept the Buddha's words. All of us Bodhisattvas in this great assembly should believe and accept what the Buddha has said. We certainly will have no doubts. Whatever Dharma the Buddha speaks, we will believe it; we definitely will not give rise to doubts. We won't be skeptical anymore. Please, Buddha, speak for us a little sooner."
They spoke in this way three times. That's because after they said it once, the Buddha didn't open his mouth. And so they asked again to show that they were increasingly sincere, but the Buddha still did not say anything. He sat silently, and so they requested a third time. That's called a threefold Karmavachana. They made the request three times, which shows how sincere and earnest they were in their request.
They again said, "We only pray that you will speak it." After three requests, they spoke once again. Once again makes the fourth time. "We shall believe and accept the Buddha's words. We in the assembly will certainly believe what the Buddha has spoken."
Maitreya Bodhisattva and the Bodhisattvas in the assembly had four times requested Shakyamuni Buddha to speak the Dharma. At that time Shakyamuni Buddha, the World Honored One, knowing that all the Great Bodhisattvas would not stop with three requests-they had already requested a fourth time-spoke to them, saying, "You should listen attentively." All of you Bodhisattvas, listen well. Be attentive.
"The power of the secret spiritual penetrations of the Thus Come One-the Buddha's secret entrances into practice, his spiritual powers, the strength of his secret state-is acknowledged by all gods, humans, and asuras in the world and by the others of the eight divisions of ghosts and spirits. All say the same thing. They say that Shakyamuni Buddha now, having left the palace of the Shakyan clan, the palace of the Pure Rice King, his father, and gone to a place not far from the city of Gaya, about five miles from that mountain city, to sit in the Bodhimanda beneath the Bodhi tree to cultivate, has attained Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. He became a Buddha after sitting there for forty-nine days.
Actually, that's not what happened at all. What really happened? However, good men, I'll tell you about this. I actually realized Buddhahood a long time ago. If you want to talk about how long it's been since I became a Buddha-the time from then to now-there's no way to calculate how long it's been. How long? Limitless great kalpas, boundless great kalpas, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of eons ago-countless, boundless great kalpas ago. It has been an incredibly long time; I can't tell you exactly how long. All I can do is try to draw an analogy to give you some idea.
What is it analogous to? Suppose a person were to grind into fine motes of dust five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of three thousand great thousand world systems. This is talking about such a large number; there's no way to calculate it. He grinds them into dust just as if he were grinding an ink stone. He pulverizes entire worlds, grinds them into motes of dust. Then, suppose he traveled to the east across five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, and there he deposited one mote of dust. He sets down one minute particle of dust. Suppose he continued in this way, traveling to the east. Every time he passes through five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, he drops one mote of dust. He repeatedly goes on through that great a distance, each time setting down another mote of dust, until all the motes of dust are gone. He sets all the dust motes down.
Good men, Bodhisattvas, what do you think? Could the number of worlds he passed through be reckoned or counted? Would you say that is a great number? Are those worlds many? If you had the best mathematician and the most advanced technology, could you find the total?
Maitreya Bodhisattva and the others all said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, those world systems would be limitless, boundless, beyond calculation, and beyond the power of the mind to know. All the Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, using their nonoutflow wisdom, could not conceive of them or know their limit or number.
"We now dwell on the ground of avaivartika, but we cannot comprehend this matter, World Honored One, and so such world systems would be limitless and boundless."
At that time the Buddha spoke to the great hosts of Bodhisattvas, saying, "Good men, I shall now explain this clearly for you. If all these world systems-whether a dust mote were deposited in them or not-were reduced to dust motes, and if each dust mote were an eon, the time that has passed since I became a Buddha would exceed even that by hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons.
"From that time on, I have always remained in the Saha world, speaking the Dharma to teach and transform beings. Also, in other places, in hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, I have guided and benefited living beings."
Maitreya Bodhisattva and the others, the Great Bodhisattvas, all said to the Buddha-they simultaneously said to the Buddha-"World Honored One, those world systems, that large number of them you just now described, would be limitless and boundless, beyond calculation. There would be no way to use numbers to calculate them. And they would be beyond the power of the mind to know; nor is this something that the ordinary mind can comprehend. All the Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas-the Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions-using their nonoutflow wisdom, by means of their wisdom devoid of afflictions and outflows, still could not conceive of them. Although their wisdom is quite lofty, they have no way to know this number. They cannot know their limit or number. They can't know the reaches of this calculation. There is no certain number that can represent them. There is no way to know exactly how many they are.
"We now dwell on the ground of avaivartika. We abide on the ground of no retreat." Avaivartika is Sanskrit and is translated as "the ground of no retreat." "No retreat" means:
1. Their position was irreversible. They would not retreat to the Two Vehicles.
2. Their conduct was irreversible. They would not retreat to the conduct of those of the Two Vehicles.
3. Their mindfulness was irreversible. They would not retreat to the thoughts of those of the Two Vehicles.
But we cannot comprehend this matter. We can't figure out this number; we can't understand this event. World Honored One, such world systems would be limitless and boundless. The World Honored One spoke of so many worlds. They have no bounds and no limit.
At that time the Buddha spoke to the great hosts of Bodhisattvas, saying… Shakyamuni Buddha spoke to the multitude of Great Bodhisattvas, saying, "Good men, I shall now explain this clearly for you. Isn't it the case that you don't understand? Don't be nervous. Now, at this time, I will clearly tell you. If all these numberless world systems, whether a dust mote were deposited in them or not-this includes all the worlds in which a dust particle was dropped, as well as the five hundred thousand myriads of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands where a mote of dust was not dropped-now, if all those many worlds, both those lands where a mote of dust was dropped and those where one was not, were taken and ground together and reduced to fine dust motes, and if each dust mote were counted as an eon, a great kalpa, the time that has passed since I became a Buddha, from the time I realized the Buddha-Way to now, would exceed even that. That number is even more than the number I have just described, by hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons. The time since I became a Buddha is longer than this calculation of time by hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons. From that time on, until now, I have always remained in the Saha world. I have always been in this Saha world speaking the Dharma to teach and transform beings. I have been speaking Dharma for living beings, teaching and transforming all living beings. Not only have I been teaching and transforming living beings in this Saha world, but also in other places. I go elsewhere to speak the Dharma for living beings. In hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of asamkhyeyas of lands, I have guided and benefited living beings. I use all kinds of methods, not fearing suffering, not fearing difficulty, to teach and transform living beings."
By "guided" the Buddha means that when he sees a living being, he assesses what that being likes, and then he speaks an appropriate Dharma for him. If the being likes Great Vehicle Dharma, the Buddha speaks Great Vehicle Dharma. If he likes Small Vehicle Dharma, the Buddha speaks Small Vehicle Dharma for him. If he has the faculties of a Hearer, the Buddha speaks the Dharma of the Four Truths for him. If he has the faculties of One Enlightened by Conditions, the Buddha will speak the Dharma of the Twelve Causes and Conditions for him. For Bodhisattvas, he speaks the Dharma of the Six Paramitas and the myriad practices. Meeting with living beings that all have different kinds of faculties, he speaks all different kinds of Dharmas for them. In general, "guided" means he directed and led them. "Benefited" means he did things to help them.
Shakyamuni Buddha, uncountable great kalpas ago, had already become a Buddha. Therefore, the Bodhisattva disciples he has taken across are so many. They fill up empty space throughout the three thousand great thousand world systems. In the Dharma Flower Sutra, this is the "opening of the provisional to reveal the actual." He tells when he actually became a Buddha. But the time was so long ago, there is no way to calculate it. This is spoken in the Dharma Flower Sutra.
The most wonderful and the longest Sutra spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha is the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra. That Sutra was requested from the Dragon Palace by Dragon Tree (Nagarjuna) Bodhisattva. That's why we are now able to encounter that Sutra.
The Dharma Flower Sutra has been explained to the sixteenth chapter. There are twelve chapters left. I believe the lecture series will be completed soon. After we are finished, if you are not afraid of its great length and are not afraid you will fail to understand it, we will explain the Flower Adornment Sutra. If you are afraid of its great length, then you don't have to listen. If you are afraid it will be too much for you, then don't listen. If you think "I only need to study a little Buddhadharma, and that's enough," then you don't need to listen.
But if you are not afraid of studying more Buddhadharma, then you can come to listen. I believe that at least one of my disciples will not fear its being too much. She has such a good memory that if she gets a chance to remember more, that will be even better. If you are not afraid of there being too much, you can use your prajna-brains, your computer, to remember it. Don't fear it being too big or too extensive. And don't fear the length of time it will take. Consider how long it took Shakyamuni Buddha to become a Buddha-an incalculable amount of time-and he did not fear its being too long. I believe a big Bodhimanda is being prepared to be the Flower Adornment Way-place. There are very few places in the world where the Flower Adornment Sutra is taught. Those who explain the Flower Adornment Sutra are few, but the wonderful advantages of the Flower Adornment Sutra are many.
Today I spoke just a few sentences in praise of the Flower Adornment, and the translator got so upset, he broke out in a sweat. I'll tell you that I never heard the Flower Adornment Sutra lectured, because there are not many people who can explain it.
"Well, how can you lecture on it if you've never heard it lectured on?" you wonder. I cannot not lecture it just because I haven't heard it. There are many things I haven't heard. If it's the case that such things can't be done by oneself, then one might just as well become a stone person. If you want to study the Buddhadharma, you must eat your fill of the Buddhadharma. In order to eat your fill, you must eat the Buddhadharma of the Flower Adornment. If you don't investigate the Flower Adornment, then you won't know of the Buddha's true blessings and honor. The Buddha's true blessings and honor are the Flower Adornment Sutra. I'm now giving you this little bit of information. After the big Way-place is accomplished and I'm happy, I will transmit the big Dharma, the bountiful Dharma, to you.
I'll tell you a tale now. Although I've never heard the Flower Adornment Sutra lectured before, I myself have lectured it many times. But not in the present; I lectured it in the past. How am I able to know how to lecture on it? Because there are some exceptionally fine writings about it, especially those of National Master Ching Lyang. I really like them; I have tremendous affinities with those writings. I read them once and will never forget them; I can't forget them. That's because I don't want to be like a professor who lectures from his book, holding his book and copying things out. And so I am capable of explaining the Sutra to you.
I'll tell you another tale. If I forget, National Master Ching Lyang will remind me in a dream, saying, "That sentence goes like this…" He will say:
Opening and disclosing the mysterious and subtle;
Understanding and exposing the mind and its states.
Fathoming the principle and exhausting the nature,
Penetrating the result, which includes the cause.
"Good men, in that interval, I spoke of the Buddha Dipankara and others, and I further spoke of them as entering Nirvana. But those were just discriminations made expediently.
"Good men, if a living being comes to where I am, I observe with my Buddha eye his faith and other qualities, as well as the keenness or dullness of his faculties, and take him across in an appropriate manner.
"In place after place, although the names by which I refer to myself differ and my age may be older or younger, I also appear and announce that I am about to enter Nirvana. I also employ various expedient devices, speaking the subtle and wonderful Dharma and enabling living beings to bring forth happiness in their minds."
Good men: The character ju here means many-many good men. Very many good men means there were very few bad men. In fact we can say there weren't any, and so the reference is to many good men. That's one way to explain it. The character ju can also be used as an expletive or auxiliary participle. As such, it can refer to many or to one.
Someone says, "Dharma Master, you have explained this incorrectly. The character ju is always explained as many." No, you are hearing it explained as "fe," and that should make it acceptable. If we explain this word as an expletive, then the text will read, "Good man." You, this good man. In that case, the one good man would refer to Maitreya Bodhisattva. Many good men would refer to all the good men, all the Bodhisattvas in the assembly. Now you should understand, and from now on when you encounter the character ju, you should know it can be explained as "many" or as "one."
In that interval: In what interval? In the interval when the five hundred myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of countries were passed through and the one mote of dust was dropped. The five hundred myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of worlds were ground into fine dust, and then five hundred kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands were passed through and a mote of dust was deposited until all the motes of dust were gone. Then all those lands that were passed through were further ground into fine dust. Each of those fine motes of dust was counted as a great kalpa. "In that interval" is that period of time. How long a time could that interval be? No human being could calculate it.
I spoke of the Buddha Dipankara and others. In the midst of that, I said, "At the time of Dipankara Buddha, I was known as Good Wisdom Bodhisattva." And I further spoke of them as entering Nirvana. "At the time of Dipankara Buddha, my name was Good Wisdom. When I met Dipankara Buddha, he bestowed a prediction upon me. He said, 'In the future, you will become a Buddha called Shakyamuni.'" I also said that at such-and-such a time, Dipankara Buddha would enter Nirvana.
But those Dharmas I spoke of were just discriminations made expediently. I will now tell you the truth. What I said was expedient dharma; these causes and conditions were spoken in accord with living beings' faculties. I spoke based on living beings' basic foundation, what they had "planted" in the cause ground. But these were just discriminations made expediently.
Good men, if a living being comes to where I am-he comes to the place where I, the Buddha, am-I observe with my Buddha eye. First I must look into it. What do I look with? I use the Buddha eye to investigate with. What do I look into? I regard his faith and other qualities. "And other qualities" refers to vigor, mindfulness, samadhi, and wisdom. Faith, vigor, mindfulness, samadhi, and wisdom are called the five roots.
I look into it and see if he has the root of faith. I look to see if he has the root of vigor. Does he have the root and power of being diligent and vigorous? Does he have the root and power of mindfulness? Is he mindful of the Buddhadharma? Does he have the root and power of samadhi? In his study of the Buddhadharma, does he study the Buddhadharma today and then tomorrow go to study demonic dharma? Does he study the Dharma of Bodhisattvas today and the dharma of ghosts tomorrow?
What's meant by "ghost-dharma"? Don't you know? Maybe you haven't learned it before, and so you don't know the meaning of the term. It's whatever dharmas one does that one can't stand for others to know about. What are dharma-doors that one can't stand for others to know about? They are secret dharma-doors. Secret dharma-doors have within them spirits and ghosts. Be careful! If you don't listen to me, I will send a ghost to punish you. If you fear ghosts, then you have to do the bidding of your teacher.
But first I must state clearly to all of you, I don't have this talent. Don't be afraid of me. If you scold me, I won't send a ghost to make your lips swell up. And so if people scold me, they won't have to go through a retribution such as this. Don't be afraid. I don't have any ghost-dharmas!
Samadhi and wisdom. Wisdom also has its root. If you don't have the root of wisdom, you won't be able to bring forth the sprouts of wisdom. If you have the root of prajna, then you can have prajna sprouts. These five are called roots because they derive their meaning from coming forth and growing.
If you have the root of faith, as soon as you hear the Buddhadharma that the Dharma Master explains, you think, "Oh! The Buddhadharma is really good. I should believe it. People should follow the rules; they shouldn't be lax in following the rules." You believe, and then every day you follow the rules. Others eat one meal a day, and so you eat one meal a day. Even if someone told you to steal things to eat, you wouldn't do it. Why should you follow the rules? Although you may say eating things is a small problem, do you really think it's a small problem? I think it's a big problem. If in eating you are unable to follow the rules, how much less will you be able to follow other rules.
And so we start with the events of our daily life. In what you do each day you must have rules and regulations. You should have a standard, a goal in mind. I definitely want to reach my goal. Whatever I have decided I should do, I will do it. I will reach my goal.
It's not that you come to the Buddhist Lecture Hall to listen to the Sutra lecture, but once the lecture is over, it's as if it had been so much wind passing by your ears. It passes by and is not retained, nor is it believed. You happen to have some friends who go there, so you just go along to see what it's like. Such people don't come to study the Dharma; they come to "take a look" at the Dharma. One must have faith.
Once one has faith, one must then be vigorous. If you only have faith, and you don't do anything, it's of no use. If you have only the root of faith and you don't have the fruit of vigor, then you don't have enough of what you need. You must be vigorous. "When I hear one sentence of Buddhadharma, I put that one sentence into practice. I hear ten sentences, and I put ten sentences into practice. I must be vigorous. I must go forward with vigor." If you have the root of vigor but you forget to apply it-you don't keep your mind on the fact that no matter what you are doing, you should be cultivating-then that's also of no use. "Today I will be vigorous. I won't eat. I won't sleep. I'll bow to the Buddha and be mindful of the Buddha."
You do that for one day and one night, and you feel very tired. "I need to rest." As soon as you rest, you sleep for three days straight. You were vigorous for one day and then slept for three. Or maybe you sleep for five, saying, "I'm really tired. I think I'll sleep for a few more days." You must keep your mind on what you are doing. "Today I will be vigorous, tomorrow I will be vigorous, the day after, I will be vigorous." You should always be mindful of what you are doing and never forget. That's how it should be.
The root of mindfulness: When your mindfulness becomes long-abiding and irreversible, then you give rise to the root of samadhi. Once you have the root of samadhi, then you can have wisdom. Why is it that whenever something comes up, you never understand, you are very confused? It's just because you don't have the power of samadhi or the power of wisdom. You have no root of samadhi or root of wisdom, and so you become confused.
When the Buddha sees living beings come, he looks into their five roots. Once there are five roots, they can turn into the five powers. They are called the five powers because they have a certain kind of strength. The Buddha looks into each living being's causes and conditions, and he contemplates, "If I speak the Dharma for you, will you believe it? If you believe it, will you practice it? If you practice, will your practice be long-abiding? If it is long-abiding, will it be eternal? If it is eternal, will there be unmoving samadhi?"
He contemplates this. And so he says, "as well as the keenness or dullness of his faculties"-his faith and other faculties: the five roots of faith, vigor, mindfulness, samadhi, and wisdom. "Keen" means sharp, astute. It refers to intelligence. It refers to having the root of prajna. "Dull" means stupid; it means not sharp. If a knife, when used to cut through something, is sharp, then it's said to be "keen." But if you use the knife to try to cut through something and you can't, if it's as if you were using a paper fan to try to cut through wood, then the knife is "dull." If you use a sharp knife and with one slice you can cut through it, that's called "keen." This represents a person's intelligence. If intelligent, then no matter what kind of state you encounter, you will understand it. You will not be turned by the state; you will be able to turn the state. Bad states will turn into good states. Adverse states will turn into favorable ones. You need to have unobstructed eloquence.
"Dull" means stupid. A stupid person can do things to turn a good situation into a bad one; he can turn good matters into bad matters. Why? Because he's stupid. How does one get stupid? You should know. Stupidity comes from not having enough virtuous conduct. You are lacking in Way-virtue. That's why people are stupid. How can one become intelligent? By having Way-virtue, one becomes intelligent.
I am now going to tell you something I told you before. But I know you have all given it back to me already. That's because you aren't greedy, and so you don't even want to retain the Buddhadharma. But even though you don't want to retain it, I can't fail to give it. You can be devoid of greed, but I can't renounce my resolve to give. Every day I am involved in giving. Every day I speak the Buddhadharma for you, and so I am practicing the giving of Dharma.
Of all the kinds of giving,
The giving of Dharma is the greatest.
I will explain slowly, and you can listen rapidly. Why do I say that? If I lecture too rapidly, you won't hear it clearly, and so I will explain slowly. Why should you listen rapidly? Because once you remember this word, if you don't quickly listen to the next word, you will forget the previous word. And so you need to listen rapidly in order not to forget the first word while trying to hear what follows. That's my advice to you.
As it is said:
Intelligence is aided by hidden virtue.
Hidden virtue leads one along the path of intelligence.
Failing to do good deeds in secret, thinking yourself smart,
You end up outsmarting yourself.
Why are you intelligent? Perhaps it's because in your previous lives you did good deeds. Printing Sutras is a hidden virtue; helping other people is a hidden virtue; making contributions to your country and to society is a hidden virtue; saving a person or rescuing an animal is a hidden virtue. An animal is about to die, and you use some medicine to save his life. A crippled pigeon would have starved to death, but you felt sorry for it, and so every day you gave it something to eat. After a while, it revived. If you tried to send it away now, it probably wouldn't go. Why? There are things here for it to eat. If you didn't offer it food, then even if you wanted to keep it here, it wouldn't stay.
Those are examples of hidden virtue. "Intelligence is aided by hidden virtue." If you are intelligent, hidden virtue is aiding you. "Hidden virtue leads one along the path of intelligence." "Hidden virtue" is another name for virtuous conduct. It's described as "hidden" because you yourself know what merit and virtue you have done, but other people don't know. No one knows. It's said, "Doing good with the hope others will see it is not true good." When you do good, it's not necessary for others to know. If you want others to know, then that's not good; that's doing it in order to become known-"bartering for a name and fishing for a reputation."
"Hidden virtue leads one along the path of intelligence." When one has hidden virtue, virtuous conduct, one is propelled along the path that leads to intelligence.
"Failing to do good deeds in secret, thinking yourself smart…" Now you don't do virtuous deeds, you don't do good deeds, you don't do things to help other people. Instead, you always want other people to help you. You use your intelligence on other people, hoping thereby to gain petty advantages. You always try to get a bargain and can't stand to take a loss.
That's what's meant by "one does not do deeds based in hidden virtue, yet makes a display of intelligence." You use your intelligence to cheat others, even to the point that you cheat your own parents. You say, "Give me a little money, and I'll go to school." Your parents believe you and give you a little money, thinking you'll use it to go to school. They never guessed you would use it to go gambling or perhaps to buy drugs. Or maybe you use the money to go dancing and do other improper things. Those are examples of not doing deeds based in hidden virtue, yet displaying one's intelligence.
What happens then? "You end up outsmarting yourself." One abuses one's intelligence. If one were not intelligent, one wouldn't be able to do things to cheat one's parents, cheat society, cheat one's country, and cheat the people. It's just because one has a little bit of intelligence that one cheats foolish people.
In China there was Lao Dz, whose name means "the old child." He said,
Once the Great Way declines, there will be humaneness and
Once intelligence appears, there will be great deception.
Once the six kinds of immediate relatives are not in harmony, there will be filial and kind children.
Once the country is in turmoil, there will be loyal ministers.
Only when the Great Way is gone do people start talking about humaneness and righteousness. When people with worldly intelligence make their appearance, then the world will also see masters of deceit come forth. Because they have intelligence, they will be able to cheat those who lack intelligence. Once families don't get along, then the filial sons and the kind daughters appear. When the country is in chaos, there will be loyal officials.
And as to the keenness or dullness of faculties, the Buddha will take him across in an appropriate manner. You see, for the sake of those he should take across in place after place, he personally speaks. It doesn't matter where he is, he will personally speak the Buddhadharma.
What's more, he will say his name, "although the names by which I refer to myself differ." In America he's called by one name. In China he's called by another. In Japan he has another name. In Germany, France, in all the places he goes, he does not use the same name. But the person is the same in all cases. And my age may be older or younger. Maybe I am an older person, or a younger person.
I also appear and announce. I appear in a body and speak the Dharma. I say, "I am about to enter Nirvana." He tells his disciples, "I am about to enter Nirvana." Actually the Buddha has no birth or demise. Within Eternal Stillness and Light, he is always speaking the Dharma. I also employ various expedient devices, speaking the subtle and wonderful Dharma. He spoke the subtle, wonderful, inconceivable Dharma. What subtle, wonderful Dharma? That's what's being explained now. This is subtle, wonderful Dharma. You say, "What I hear is not so wonderful." That's because you are not full of wonder. If you are full of wonder, then what you hear will be wonderful.
And enabling living beings to bring forth happiness in their minds. Once they are happy, they feel that the Dharma is wonderful. Once you get angry and afflicted, the Dharma isn't wonderful. You say, "What's all this talk-telling me to follow the rules? What I dislike the most is following the rules. The things I like most intimately are my greed, hatred, and stupidity. How can you be telling me to give them up? This is really not wonderful. Not at all wonderful!" And so they are not happy.
But if you say, "Oh greed, hatred, and stupidity are not good things, and I should not let them be my daily companions. I should renounce them," then you become happy. That's called wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!
"Good men, the Thus Come One, seeing living beings delighting in lesser dharmas, of scanty virtue and heavy with defilement, speaks for these people, saying, 'When young, I left the home-life and attained Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.' In truth, however, I became a Buddha a long time before that. I speak words in this way merely as expedient devices to teach and transform living beings and to cause them to enter the Buddha-Way.
"Good men, the Sutras proclaimed by the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and liberating living beings. He may speak of his own body, or he may speak of someone else's body. He may manifest his own body, or he may manifest a body of someone else. He may manifest his own affairs, or he may manifest the affairs of others. But all that he says is true and not false."
Shakyamuni Buddha addressed them again, saying, "Good men, the Thus Come One, seeing living beings delighting in lesser dharmas." The Buddha observes the dispositions and roots of living beings. Then he speaks the Dharma for them. When he sees living beings who like the Small Vehicle Dharmas, he teaches them the Small Vehicle Dharmas. If they like the Great Vehicle Dharmas, he teaches them the Great Vehicle Dharmas. That defines "delighting in lesser dharmas." Of scanty virtue and heavy with defilement. "Scanty virtue" means no virtue in the Way. "Heavy with defilement" results from serious karmic obstacles. People of scanty virtue will not be able to believe the Buddhadharma if you speak it for them. Those with heavy karmic obstacles won't believe it either. One must have deep and thick good roots to believe the Buddhadharma.
The Buddha speaks for these people, saying, "When young, I left the home-life." Because he is speaking expediently to people whose foundations are shallow and whose good roots are scant, he says to them, "I left home when I was nineteen and attained Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. After I left home, I gained the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal Enlightenment. In truth, however, I became a Buddha a long time before that. If we are to talk of how long I've been a Buddha already, it's been a long, long time. The length of that time is like that analogy I explained before, of five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of world systems of three thousand great thousand worlds. Suppose someone traveled to the east across five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, and there he deposited one mote of dust. Suppose, then, he continued in this way, traveling to the east, until all the dust motes were gone.
Now if all these world systems, whether a dust mote was deposited in them or not, were reduced to dust motes, and if each of those dust motes represented a great eon, the time that has passed since Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha would exceed even that, as stated above. But I speak words in this way merely as expedient devices to teach and transform living beings. I'm using expedient Dharma-doors to teach living beings and to cause them to enter the Buddha-Way. I enable all living beings to change from the deviant and return to the proper, to change evil into good, to turn from the small and go toward the great, bringing forth the Bodhi mind. I speak words in this way. It's for this reason that I speak of having left home when young, having realized the Way, having spoken the Dharma, and having taught and transformed living beings.
Good men, the Sutras proclaimed by the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and liberating living beings. The Buddha spoke the Sutras, setting forth the Dharma-doors, in order to save living beings. Living beings have 84,000 varieties of afflictions. The Buddha taught 84,000 Dharma-doors to counteract those afflictions. The Buddha works like a physician curing illnesses. If someone has a headache, the doctor prescribes a certain kind of medicine. If someone has a sore leg, he prescribes another kind of medicine, and someone with the flu gets yet another prescription. In the same way, the Buddha "prescribes" Dharmas. To living beings plagued with much greed, he prescribes the contemplation of impurity. He encourages them not to be greedy, and he points out the impurity of desire. To living beings with big tempers, he recommends the contemplation of compassion. To stupid living beings, he prescribes the contemplation of causes and conditions. He uses these various methods to cure the illnesses of living beings. So the text says, "He may speak of his own body, or he may speak of someone else's body." He may expound upon the deeds of another Buddha. He may manifest his own body, to personally guide living beings, or he may manifest a body of someone else as a guide. He may manifest his own affairs, talk about his deeds from this and former lives, or he may manifest the affairs of others, relating the causes and conditions of other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, or Arhats, as an inspiration to living beings. But all that he says is true and not false. There is nothing false in it at all.
"What is the reason? The Thus Come One knows and sees the marks of the triple realm as they really are. There is no birth or death, no retreating or advancing, no existence in the world or passage into extinction. There is no reality or unreality, no likenesses or differences. He views the triple realm as not being the triple realm. Matters such as these, the Thus Come One clearly sees, without mistake or error."
What is the reason? The Thus Come One knows and sees the marks of the triple realm as they really are. His knowledge and views accord with truth and principle. The triple realm is the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm. On the Buddha's part, there is no birth or death, no retreating or advancing. There is no retreating into the triple realm and no transcending of the triple realm. There is no existence in the world, no birth or passage into extinction, death. On the part of the Buddha, there is no birth or death. There is no reality or unreality. Common people see the three realms as real. Whatever common people see, they take it as true. Even the false they consider to be true. Those of the Two Vehicles contemplate all dharmas as empty marks. They see the three realms as flowers in space, that is, as unreal, nonexistent, and empty. Common people take the three realms as real; those of the Two Vehicles take the three realms as unreal. To the Buddha there is nothing real or unreal, just as all things are contained within empty space but do not obstruct empty space. Empty space does not obstruct the myriad forms of existence, and the myriad forms of existence do not obstruct empty space. This is the same principle as True Emptiness does not obstruct Wonderful Existence, and Wonderful Existence does not obstruct True Emptiness.
There are no likenesses or differences. The Buddha is one and not different. He views the triple realm as not being the triple realm. He is not like ordinary living beings who view the triple realm as something they must transcend. The Buddha, unlike living beings, does not see the triple realm as the triple realm. To the Buddha, there is no birth, no death, and no triple realm. Matters such as these, the Thus Come One clearly sees. He is one who is truly awakened to all dharmas without mistake or error. The Thus Come One makes no mistakes.
"Living beings have various natures, various desires, various modes of conduct, and various ideas, thoughts, and discriminations. Wishing to lead them to produce the roots of goodness, he employs divers causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions to explain the various dharmas, carrying out the Buddha work without respite."
Living beings have various natures. Each living creature has its own nature. Living beings are born from a complex set of causes and conditions. "Living beings" refers to all living creatures, not just human beings. Each person has a human nature. Each person also has a Buddha nature, a Bodhisattva nature, a Hearer nature, and a Pratyekabuddha nature. And so a human being has the nature of a sage and a common nature-a wisdom nature and a stupid nature. Some people claim, "I am number one." If you ask them what they are number one in, they say, "I am number one at being stupid!"
Someone else may claim to be foremost in intelligence. Another person might say, "I am number one at being neither stupid nor smart." Everyone is number one at something, because nobody wants to be number two. Men say, "Men are number one." Women say, "Ladies first." These are just attachments formed according to the differing natures of living beings.
Dogs have dog natures. Cats have cat natures. Mice have mouse natures; they like to crawl into mouse holes. Today in the newspaper we saw an article in which some people were asked what animal they would like to be. One person wanted to be a deer; one wanted to be an eagle; one wanted to be a cat, another a dog. One of my disciples probably knows physiognomy. He said, "Look at their pictures. They each resemble the animal they would like to be." We can ask if any other people want to be animals, too. This is quite a piece of news for the West-people wanting to be animals. Some people in China do, too. Sometimes people can actually turn into snakes if they are too mean and nasty.
Living beings have various natures, and these natures aren't fixed. If you would like to be a mosquito, it's possible. Just drink people's blood all day. If you want to be a vulture, eat the meat of other animals. Each living being has its own nature.
They harbor their own various desires. Living beings all have hopes and wishes. Some people desire leadership; some want to be officials. Some people desire to be scholars, still others wish to cultivate and study the Buddhadharma. That's a good wish. Others like to eat good food. Some people like to drink wine. Some confused people have the desire to take drugs. Why would anyone want to take drugs? In their confusion they say, "It's not bad. When I'm high, I feel that there is no me, no others, and it's all free and easy contemplation: no emptiness, no form-see the Thus Come One!"
Living beings have various modes of conduct. He likes to do this, and I like to do that. Someone says, "You want to study the Buddhadharma? That's really stupid." Someone who studies the Buddhadharma might criticize another person who likes music, "You're just following the desires of your ears, finding something nice for your ears." To people who like to see movies, he might say, "You are indulging the desires of your eyes." Living beings also have various ideas, thoughts, and discriminations. All these living beings have their differences.
And wishing to lead them to produce the roots of goodness, he employs divers causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions to explain the various dharmas, carrying out the Buddha work without respite. How are good roots produced? Good roots are grown by doing good deeds. If you do evil, you grow evil roots. What is meant by "doing good?" If you were a thief, doing good would mean simply not being a thief anymore. Helping others is doing good, benefiting others and not oneself. For such an incredibly long time, every day, year after year he does the Buddha's work. He never stops for even a moment.
Now we are cultivating according to the Dharma Flower Sutra, and so we are extremely busy. We get up at four in the morning and go straight through until ten o'clock at night. We are all immersed in the Buddha's work every day. But be advised: It's better to chat less and recite the Buddha's name more. There is a saying:
Speak one sentence less of chatter, one sentence more of the Buddha's
Recite until your false thoughts die and your Dharma body comes to life.
"Thus since I realized Buddhahood in the very remote past, my life span has been limitless asamkhyeyas of eons, eternal and never extinguished. Good men, the life span I realized when formerly practicing the Bodhisattva path has not yet been exhausted and is twice that of the above number."
Thus, since I realized Buddhahood in the very remote past, my life span has been limitless asamkhyeyas of eons, eternal and never extinguished. The Buddha's life span knows no birth or death. Thus it is limitless and boundless nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons: eternal in the Pure Land of Eternal Stillness and Light, not produced and not extinguished.
Good men, it has been such a very long time since I became a Buddha, yet the life span I realized when formerly practicing the Bodhisattva path has not yet been exhausted and is twice that of the above number. It is twice the number alluded to in the above-mentioned analogy, longer than the time it has been since I became a Buddha.
"As I now proclaim that I am about to enter the stillness, I am not really passing into the stillness. The Thus Come One uses this only as an expedient to teach and transform living beings."
As I now proclaim that I am about to enter the stillness, I am not really passing into the stillness. The Thus Come One uses this only as an expedient, this manifesting entering the stillness, to teach and transform living beings.
"What is the reason? If the Buddha were to stay in the world a long time, those of scanty virtue who do not plant good roots, who are poor and lowly, who greedily attach to the five desires, and who are caught in the net of schemes and false views, seeing the Thus Come One constantly present and not entering the stillness, would give rise to arrogance, laxness, and indifference. They would not consider how difficult it is to encounter him, nor would their hearts be reverent."
What is the reason? Why does the Buddha, although he does not become extinct, still announce his extinction? Why does he manifest production and extinction when for him there is actually no production or extinction?
If the Buddha were to stay in the world a long time, remaining long in the world and not entering Nirvana, those of scanty virtue who do not plant good roots would grow even more lazy. Those with heavy karmic obstacles would not plant good roots. They would grow dependent on the Buddha, thinking, "The Buddha's here. I don't need to plant good roots right now. I'll get to it later." They would wait around.
That is why the Buddha manifests as entering the stillness. Once he has entered Nirvana and people see that they have nothing to rely on, they will get busy and plant some good roots. This is a very obvious principle.
When I was in Manchuria, I had a lot of disciples. I taught them how to cultivate, yet they didn't cultivate. Some said they wanted to take their time. Others said, "I don't have time right now."
After I left Manchuria, I started to get letters that said, "So-and-so, your disciple in Manchuria, didn't cultivate before, but now he's cultivating because his teacher isn't here. He's working very hard now."
When I was in Hong Kong, my disciples were pretty relaxed about their cultivation. After I left, they realized how hard it is without a teacher, and they all wrote letters to me asking me to come back. I didn't pay any attention to them, however.
People are like that. If you see something every day, you don't think it's important. When it's taken away from you, you realize how important it is. So the Buddha doesn't remain in the world for a long, long time, because if he did, people of scanty virtue would fail to plant good roots. They would just choose to wait instead.
Those who are poor and lowly also would not plant good roots or make offerings to the Triple Jewel; they would continue to be poor and miserable. Those who greedily attach to the five desires-wealth, form, fame, food and sleep-would still not give them up. The affairs of the world are just that strange. The "have-nots" are greedy, and those who have everything can't put it down. Shakyamuni Buddha, as a crown prince, had a surfeit of all the objects of the five desires, but he put them all down. People who haven't had their fill of the five desires are greedy for them. Whether a person "has" or "has not" is a matter of karmic retribution. If you don't have good roots and do no good deeds, you won't have a good reward. How can you get a good reward? Plant good roots and do good deeds, then you will reap a good fruit and gain a good reward.
The poorer people are, the greedier they are. People who have a little money aren't as greedy. People who are wealthy and are still greedy might as well be poor.
It's said, "Good people don't hate others; hateful people are not good. Noble people don't get angry; those who get angry are not noble." Sometimes sages get angry, but not really. It's just something they manifest according to certain circumstances. People who get angry are stupid. Rich people don't grab for bargains. People who like bargains are poor people. Poor people are always looking for a deal, hoping to benefit themselves. Because they don't plant good roots, they are poor, lowly, and greedy for the five desires: wealth, form, fame, food, and sleep; or forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects.
And those who are caught in the net of schemes and false views are greedy for the objects of the five desires. They are always plotting, thinking about how they can appropriate something they want or how they can hold on to something they have. They are opportunistic and take advantage of situations, using deviant knowledge and deviant views. These schemes and false views are like a net that covers up one's genuine wisdom.
Seeing the Thus Come One constantly present and not entering the stillness, they would give rise to arrogance and laxness. They would not follow the rules, and they would show indifference. If they see the Buddha every day, all the time, and the Buddha does not enter Nirvana, they get tired of him.
This is similar to how, before you came to the Buddhist Lecture Hall, you thought, "I must quickly go and study the Buddhadharma." But once you've been here for a year or two or three, you run away. "Studying the Buddhadharma isn't that great," you decide. "It's kind of boring. I'd rather go where I can be free and not have to listen to lectures every day. It's too hard getting up so early and not resting until late." Before you came here, you were really looking forward to it. Once you have been here studying for a while, you become dissatisfied with the lifestyle, and you get lazy. Perhaps when you first arrived here, you were more vigorous than anyone. You got up earlier and went to bed later than anyone else. You listened to the Sutras regardless of what else was going on. In all respects you were vigorous.
They would not consider how difficult it is to encounter him, nor would their hearts be reverent. Because you are constantly confronted with it and are always studying here, you are unable to think, "It's really difficult to encounter the Buddhadharma, especially now in the West. No one here in the West has ever really had a chance to study the Buddhadharma. How could I be so fortunate? Here I am so young, and I have met up with the real, true Buddhadharma. It has come here to the West! This is incredibly rare. I don't care if I eat or sleep, but I am certainly going to study the Buddhadharma. Not for just a day or a week or a month or two, but always, year after year, remembering always how rare it is. If I were dead I couldn't study the Buddhadharma. Now, while I am still alive I am certainly going to study it." Think how rare it is to meet with the Buddhadharma. Think of your grandparents and great-grandparents and ancestors for generations back who never had a chance to study the Buddhadharma. Now, all of a sudden, you have the chance! This is called "transcending your ancestors." For eight generations they never understood the Buddhadharma, but you are now studying the Buddhadharma.
You shouldn't let the Buddhadharma that you are studying pass by like wind blowing in one ear and out the other. You should make an effort to remember it, not like the verse I taught you during the Shurangama Sutra session that none of you remembered:
Intelligence is aided by hidden virtue.
Hidden virtue leads one along the path of intelligence.
Failing to do good deeds in secret, thinking yourself smart,
You end up outsmarting yourself.
If you cannot remember it, you are wasting your time. You should review it every day. Go over your lessons each day. For example, before you go to sleep, you can reflect, "The Shurangama Sutra lessons-the Youth Moonlight, what samadhi did he study? Was it the water-light samadhi?" And also review your new lessons. Granted, all this is false thinking, but this kind of false thinking is helpful in the elevation of your Dharma body and Wisdom life. The superior person takes the high road.
Don't review your bad habits, thinking, "I used to smoke marijuana. Should I try it again?" If you do, you have entered a demonic state; you have retreated. Don't have false thoughts like that. The things that you did wrong before, you should change. Once you have changed, don't slip back and do them again. Consider how difficult it is to meet the Buddhadharma. Young people who have been through accidents should especially bring forth real sincerity and consider how hard it is to encounter the Buddhadharma. Not only have you transcended your ancestors with your good roots, but in hundreds of thousands of ten thousands of great eons, it's not easy to meet the Buddhadharma. Shakyamuni Buddha's realization of Buddhahood actually took place uncountable eons ago. And you should know that we have been ordinary beings for an equally uncountable period of time. Think about how long you have wandered in a human body.
Although the situation in becoming a Buddha is, of course, not the same as continuing an ordinary existence, the time factor is similar. Although it has been such a long time since you met the Buddhadharma, consider this: In this world would you say that there are more people who encounter the Buddhadharma or more who do not? Figure it out for yourself. Even in Buddhist countries, many believe in Christianity, right? Even in Buddhist countries not everyone understands the Buddhadharma. Think about how many people don't understand it. They may appear to understand it, but they haven't penetrated the inner doctrines at all. It's not easy to meet up with the Buddhadharma. You should consider how rare it is to encounter. "Nor would their hearts would be reverent." You should pay reverence to the Triple Jewel.
If the Buddha remained long in the world, people wouldn't think of the Buddhadharma as rare, and they wouldn't be reverent. Seeing that living beings weren't being reverent toward him, the Buddha said, "It's time to go. I'm entering Nirvana!"
Hearing that, someone is thinking, "Being a person and becoming a Buddha take the same length of time." They are happy and say, "That's not bad. I may not get to be a Buddha, but if I can be a person for such a long time, life after life, then I don't need to become a Buddha. I'll just be a person, eat some good food, wear some nice clothes, live in a fine house, buy a good car, a plane…. When I'm rich, I'll go for a vacation on the moon! That won't be bad at all."
That is a fairly intelligent plan, but it doesn't leave you any real control. There is no way to know with certainty if you can do it. I said that we have been people for a long time, but that was just an estimate. Actually, during all this time, not only have you been a person, but you've been everything else as well. You've been up to heaven and met God, and entered the earth to see one in charge of the earth. You also roamed among human beings, meeting the leaders. You've been all around. In fact, you went to the moon a long time ago, too. You just forgot, just as you've forgotten a lot of things you did as a child. There are even times when you forget the things you do from one day to the next. In fact, sometimes by one o'clock in the afternoon you can't remember what you did at noon. If you forget the things you do in this life, how much more likely are you to forget the things you did in your previous lives.
We say that the Buddha does not change but accords with conditions, and accords with conditions but does not change. He is forever unchanging. But as a person, you can turn into something else anytime. You can turn into a cat, a dog, a little bug running around, or a pigeon flying through the air. Take, for example, the article in yesterday's paper in which people wanted to become animals-cats, dogs, tigers, lions, vultures, frogs, mice, and so forth. Everything is made from the mind alone; you become what you want to be.
"Well, I want to become a god. Can I do that?" you ask.
Yes, you can. You can be whatever you want. Because you have a wish and an intention, you can arrive at your aim. Based on this principle, if we want to become Buddhas, we can do so. If you don't want to become a Buddha, you won't. Being a person is very dangerous. Being a Buddha is very peaceful. If you like danger, then do dangerous things. If you prefer peace and quiet and happiness, then do peaceful and happy things.
"For that reason, the Thus Come One expediently says, 'Bhikshus, you should know that it is difficult to meet with a Buddha appearing in the world.' What is the reason? Those of scant virtue may pass through limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons, during which time they may see a Buddha or they may not. Because of that, I tell them, 'Bhikshus, the Thus Come One is difficult to get to see.' These living beings, hearing such words, will necessarily realize how difficult it is to get to encounter the Buddha and will cherish a longing and thirst for him. They will then plant good roots. That is why the Thus Come One, although he does not really become extinct, still speaks of passing into extinction."
For that reason, because of the doctrines just discussed, the Thus Come One expediently says… He uses skill-in-means in speaking the Dharma for living beings. "All of you great Bhikshus and Arhats, you should know that it is difficult to meet with a Buddha appearing in the world." In a hundred million eons, a Buddha may not appear in the world even once. What is the reason? Those of scant virtue, who do not have good roots, may pass through limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons-such a long time, so many great kalpas-during which time they may see a Buddha or they may not. If they have good roots, they may see a Buddha. If they don't, then throughout all that time-hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons-they will not encounter a Buddha. Consider how difficult it is! Because of that, I tell them, "Bhikshus, the Thus Come One is difficult to get to see." Those of few good roots and little virtue cannot see the Buddha.
Not only is it hard to meet up with a Buddha, it's hard to get a human body. When Shakyamuni Buddha was in the world, he reached down and picked up a handful of dirt and asked his disciples, "Would you say there was more dirt in my hand or more dirt on the great earth?"
The disciples all said, "Of course there's more dirt on the earth; there isn't very much in the Buddha's hand."
Shakyamuni Buddha said, "Those who obtain human bodies are as few as the particles of dirt in my hand. Those who lose their human bodies are as many as the particles of dirt on the earth."
One may not know this, but among human beings, some were gods, some came up from the hells, others were animals, and others were ghosts. You shouldn't think that it is easy to become a human being. It's as rare as the dirt in the Buddha's hand.
Why do you lose a human body? Because you don't do a good job of being a person. Originally, you were a person, but you acted like a dog or like a being from the hells or like an animal or a ghost, and so you "moved house." You moved from the path of people to the path of animals. Then you moved back to the path of people. You just keep on moving house. But once you get to your "new house," you forget your old house. Why would a person decide he wants to be an animal? Because he has an animal-like nature. This applies especially to people who eat meat. Whatever kind of meat you eat, you start to smell like that kind of animal. Eventually you join up with those animals. It's not easy to be a person.
All these living beings, hearing such words, listening to the Buddha telling them how hard it is to get to meet with a Buddha, will necessarily realize how difficult it is to get to encounter the Buddha and will cherish a longing. They will long to meet a Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. And so when they encounter the Buddha, they are extremely happy. When they meet the Dharma and the Sangha, they are also exceptionally happy. And thirst for him. They were as if thirsty, and upon gazing at the Buddha, had their thirst quenched.
They will then plant good roots. That is why the Thus Come One, although he does not really become extinct, still speaks of passing into extinction. In reality, the Buddha is presently on Vulture Peak speaking the Dharma.
"Further, Good Men, the Dharma of all the Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, is like this, used to save living beings. It is entirely true and not false."
Further good men, the Dharma of all the Buddhas, Thus Come Ones-not just mine, Shakyamuni's-is like this, used to save living beings. It is entirely true and not false. It's all true and real Dharma used to teach and transform living beings.
"It is as if there were a good physician, wise and well-versed in the medical arts and intelligent, who is skillful at healing the multitude of sicknesses. The man also has many sons-ten, twenty, or even a hundred. Then, called away on business, he travels to a far-off country."
The Buddha now brings up an analogy: It is as if there were a good physician, wise and intelligent. A good doctor can cure all illnesses. He has astute and penetrating wisdom. Muddle-headed people cannot be doctors. One certainly must be very intelligent to become a doctor. A stupid doctor can "cure people to death!" But this doctor is intelligent and wise, well-versed in the medical arts, and someone who is skillful at healing the multitude of sicknesses. The man also has many sons-ten, twenty, or even a hundred. "Ten" represents the Bodhisattvas of the Ten Grounds. "Twenty" represents those of the Two Vehicles-the Hearers and the Pratyekabuddhas. "A hundred" represents the Ten Dharma Realms times the Ten Suchnesses. Then, called away on business, he travels to a far-off country to heal someone, or on tour.
"Meanwhile, the children drink some poisonous medicine, which causes them to roll on the ground in delirium."
Meanwhile, the children are not yet grown. It's a physician's home, and there are many medicines in it. The children get hold of some poisonous concoction and drink it. The children drink some poisonous medicine because it tastes like syrup. Children don't know any better. They can't tell the difference between poison and medicine. They think it's a bottle of some kind of juice, and they drink it up. When it takes effect, the pain, which is unbearable, causes them to roll on the ground in delirium.
"Just then their father returns home. Because they drank the poison, some have lost their senses, and others have not. Seeing their father at a distance, they are all greatly happy. They bow to him, kneel, and inquire after him. 'Welcome back in peace and safety. In our stupidity, we took some poisonous medicine by mistake. We pray that you will rescue and heal us, and will restore our lives to us.'"
Just then their father, the good doctor, finishes his business and returns home. Because they drank the poison, some have lost their senses-they are totally oblivious-and others have not. Some of them still have some sense and recognition left. Seeing their father at a distance, they are all greatly happy. The children are delighted to see their father. They bow to him, kneel, and inquire after him. "Welcome back in peace and safety. We are really fortunate to be able to see our father again." Those who have not completely lost their senses speak up and say, "In our stupidity, we took some poisonous medicine by mistake. We thought it was syrup or apple juice or cola or something, and we swallowed it." Those who like to drink alcohol see the poison as alcohol. Who would have known it was poison? "We pray that you will rescue and heal us, and will restore our lives to us. Father, will you save us, so we can live for a while longer?"
Above the text said this is an analogy. Who is the good doctor? The Buddha, of course. The children are all living beings. Maybe these living beings live at a time when the Buddha is not in the world, or maybe the Buddha was in the world but has already entered Nirvana and gone to some other world. The father's leaving refers to the Buddha's entering Nirvana, so beings have no chance to meet him. When the Buddha goes away, living beings are not careful about "what they eat." It is said, "Living beings take food as heaven." It's also said, "Food and sex come naturally." Children start drinking milk from the moment they are born. They don't know very much, but they know how to eat. They suck their thumbs or suck their fingers; whatever you give them they put in their mouths. And so, acting on this instinct, the children here managed to poison themselves.
What is the poison? The poisons are the deviant sects and cults and externalist ways, the teachings of nonultimate religions. If after the children have taken the poison, they know it is poison, then there is a chance they can still be saved. But if they've taken a lot of it and don't even realize that it's poison, thinking they have taken the nectar of immortality or something, then they are hard to save. Having taken it, they are senseless, but they think they will never die. They think they have been born into some heavenly paradise. They are so deeply immersed in their confusion that they don't even know they have been poisoned. The poison has penetrated all the way to their bones and marrow. So some have lost their senses, that is, they don't recognize true principle. Others have not lost their senses, and they are still receptive to understanding the truth.
The doctor's returning is an analogy for the Buddha's appearing in the world. The Buddha, having finished his work of teaching and transforming living beings in other worlds, comes again to this world to teach and transform living beings. He sees that these living beings have been poisoned by those of deviant cults and sects and outside ways, and they are almost beyond help. Some of them, however, are fairly intelligent. When they see the Buddha, they are very happy. They bow respectfully to the Buddha and say, "We living beings are too stupid. Please be compassionate, Buddha, and give us some medicine to counteract this poison. We want to live a bit longer and don't want to die."
Seeing how pitiful living beings are, the Buddha uses various kinds of "medicines" to counteract their respective poisons. Some of them are happy to take the medicine, and they get well; they get rid of their deviant knowledge and deviant views. Others, however, do not wish to take the medicine. They do not expel the poison, which causes them not to believe in the Buddhadharma.
The Buddha is likened to a good doctor. But there are inept doctors who kill people. Good doctors save people. The quacks represent the leaders of deviant cults and sects and externalist ways. They may say they are Taoists, but they don't act like Taoists. Or they may say they are Buddhists, but they don't act like Buddhists. They may say they are Confucians or Brahmans or adherents to any one of the ninety-six externalist sects.
There's a good story about bad doctors: Once King Yama ate too much and got diarrhea. He sent a young ghost to find him a doctor. The little ghost said, "I don't know which doctors are good. How can I tell? Which one should I get?"
King Yama said, "Stand in the doctors' doorways and take a look. Pick the doctor who has the fewest ghosts hanging around his door. He'll probably be the best."
"Okay," said the little ghost, and he ran off to check out all the doctors' offices. Every single one of them had anywhere from three or four hundred to three or four thousand ghosts jamming their doorways. Finally he came upon one doctor's office where there were only two ghosts lingering by the doorway, crying, "He killed us with those drugs."
"This must be the best doctor," said the ghost. "I'll take him to King Yama."
When King Yama saw the doctor, he asked him to sit down and take a look at him.
"I don't need to look at you," said the doctor. "Just take this medicine here, and you'll be all right."
King Yama said, "But you didn't even look at me! How can you give me medicine?"
The doctor said, "That's my method! Try it out. It never fails."
King Yama said, "Well, how long have you been a doctor?"
"I started my practice today," said the doctor.
King Yama grabbed the little ghost and took him aside. "Were there ghosts by his door?" he asked.
The little ghost said, "Only two!"
King Yama said, "Two ghosts on the first day! Two fatal cases! You probably don't have such a bright future; I think I'll just keep you here with me, doctor." And so the doctor became a ghost. That made three ghosts in all.
From this we can see that it's not easy to be a doctor. In the West, people probably don't realize how many patients are killed by the drugs doctors prescribe. They give you medicine and don't even tell you what it is. The pills all look pretty much alike, and the syrups are also almost the same color. You don't really know whether it will poison you or not. There's no way to tell, and no one advises you.
This is one point where Western people lack wisdom. Doctors should explain to you very clearly what kind of medication they are giving you. Whatever your illness, they just listen to your symptoms and prescribe something, saying, "Let's try it out." This is just using people as guinea pigs! Life is very cheap. Even the president has to obey his doctor. It doesn't matter who you are, when you go into the hospital, you have to do what you are told. "Do as I say! You'd better listen to me!" They are more dictatorial than the emperors of old. They might be responsible for people's deaths, and people won't even know. Would you say that was fierce or not?
"Seeing his children in such agony, the father consults his medical texts and then searches for good medicinal herbs: colorful, fragrant, and good-tasting-perfect in all respects. He then grinds, sifts, and mixes them together, and makes his sons take them."
The good doctor sees that his children have taken poison. Seeing his children delirious and in such agony, the father consults his medical texts-the "Nature of Medicine" and such-and then searches for good medicinal herbs: colorful, fragrant, and good-tasting-not bitter, but actually very sweet, perfect in all respects. He then grinds, sifts, and mixes them together. This is the Buddha using various Dharmas to teach and transform those of the Two Vehicles. "Grinding, sifting, and mixing" takes places during the Prajna period. Having passed through the Agamas and Vaipulya, arriving at Prajna is likened to "grinding, sifting, and mixing." And makes his sons take them. He has the children take the medicine.
"And he says to them, 'This is an excellent medicine: colorful, fragrant, and good-tasting-perfect in every respect. You should take it. Your agony will be relieved, and you will suffer no further torment.'"
And he, the good doctor, says to them, "This is an excellent medicine: colorful and good to look at, fragrant and good-tasting-very sweet, perfect in every respect. It is exceptionally fine medicine. You should take it. Your agony will be relieved. Quickly take it, children, and you will suffer no further torment. Once you take this medicine, your illness will get better and all your pain and suffering will be relieved. They will disappear."
"Among the children are those who have not lost their senses. Seeing the good medicine-colorful, fragrant, good-tasting, and perfect-they immediately take it, and their sickness is completely cured."
Among the children are those who have not lost their senses. Some aren't insane, but are relatively alert. Seeing the good medicine-colorful, fragrant, good-tasting, and perfect-they immediately take it, and their sickness is completely cured. After the grinding and mixing of the Prajna period comes the Dharma-Flower Nirvana period. The Wonderful Dharma of the Dharma Flower Sutra is called "excellent medicine." The children's sickness being "completely cured" means they have broken through the delusions of views, the delusions of thought, and the delusions of ignorance. Having done that, they gain enlightenment and have no more illnesses.
"Although the others who have lost their senses rejoice in their father's arrival, have inquired after his well-being, and have sought to be cured of their illnesses, they refuse to take the medicine. What is the reason? The poisonous vapors have entered them so deeply that they have lost their senses, and so they say that the good, colorful, fragrant medicine is not good."
Although the others who have lost their senses, who were badly poisoned and who have already gone crazy, rejoice in their father's arrival, have inquired after his well-being, and have sought to be cured of their illnesses, they refuse to take the medicine. They don't want the medicine that the good doctor gave them. The Buddha spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra, but they did not believe it. They were unable to believe, accept, revere, and practice it.
What is the reason? The poisonous vapors have entered them so deeply that they have lost their senses. They are muddled and confused, and so they say that the good, colorful, fragrant medicine is not good. They profess that if they take the medicine, they will not gain any advantage. They don't believe the Wonderful Dharma.
The Buddha, like the good doctor, speaks the Wonderful Dharma for living beings. He uses the most magnificent Dharma to try to teach and transform living beings. But if living beings do not believe him, the Buddha has no way to force them to believe.
"The father then thinks, 'How pitiful are these children. The poison has turned their minds upside down. Although they rejoice to see me and ask me to rescue them, still they refuse such good medicine as this. I should now set up an expedient device to induce them to take this medicine.'
"Immediately he says, 'You should know that I am now old and weak, and my time of death has arrived. I will now leave this good medicine here for you to take. Have no worries about not recovering.' Having instructed them in this way, he then returns to the far-off country and sends a messenger back to announce, 'Your father is dead.'"
The father then thinks, "How pitiful are these children. The poison has entered too deeply and has turned their minds upside down, and they are unclear. Although they rejoice to see me and ask me to rescue and cure them, still, once I give them this excellent medicine, they refuse to take such good medicine as this. I should now set up an expedient device to induce them to take this medicine."
Immediately he says, "You should know that I am now old and weak, worn out, and my time of death has arrived. I will now leave this good medicine right here for you to take. You children who have ingested poison can use it. Have no worries about not recovering. Don't worry about not getting well. Just take the medicine, and you shall certainly recover." Having instructed them in this way, he then returns to the far-off country and sends a messenger back to announce to the children, "Your father is dead."
The Buddha's manifesting entry into Nirvana is also like this. The Buddha prepared all these Dharmas to be good medicines because he sees that living beings are so severely poisoned that they are unable to believe in the Buddhadharma. For that reason he sets up the expedient Dharma-door of entering Nirvana. In reality, the Buddha does not undergo production and extinction. The Buddha's state is one of no production and no extinction, no defilement and no purity, no increasing and no decreasing. His entering Nirvana is an expedient device for the sake of saving living beings.
"When the children hear that their father is dead, their hearts are struck with grief, and they think, 'If our father were here, he would be compassionate and pity us, and we would have a savior and protector. Now he has forsaken us to die in another country, leaving us orphaned with no one to rely upon.' Constantly grieving, their minds then become awakened. They understand that the medicine is colorful, fragrant, and good-tasting. They take it immediately, and their poisonous sickness is completely cured."
When the children who have been poisoned hear that their father, off in some other country, is dead, their hearts are struck with grief. Although they have lost their senses, they understand that their father has died, and they are extremely distraught. And they think, "If our father were here, he would be compassionate and pity us, and we would have a savior and protector. He really cherished us. He was so good to us. He would have saved us from our sickness. Now he has forsaken us to die in another country. He left us and went somewhere far, far away. Now he is dead, leaving us orphaned with no one to rely upon. No one will save us now. No one will offer us support and protection." Constantly grieving, their minds then become awakened. They understand that the medicine their father offered them when he was alive is colorful, fragrant, and good tasting. They take it immediately, and their poisonous sickness is completely cured. They believe in the Buddhadharma and no longer believe in the dharmas of externalist ways. As soon as they came to believe in the Buddhadharma, they got rid of all their deviant knowledge and deviant views.
"The father, hearing that his sons have been completely cured, then comes back, and they all see him."
The father, who really hasn't died, hearing that his sons have been completely cured, then comes back, and they all see him. Before long, their father returns. All the children who had previously been poisoned see their father.
"Good men, what do you think, could anyone say that this good physician has committed the offense of false speech?"
"No, World Honored One."
Shakyamuni Buddha called out again, "Good men." He was addressing the Great Bodhisattvas, asking them, "What do you think? Look into this. Could anyone say that this good physician has committed the offense of false speech? Could anyone rightly say the good doctor has lied? Did he not tell the truth?"
The Bodhisattva who had been questioning the Buddha replied, "No, World Honored One."
The Buddha said, "I, too, am like that. I realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons ago. For the sake of living beings, I employ the power of expedients and say that I am about to enter extinction. And there is no one who can, in accord with the Dharma, say that I have committed an offense of false speech."
The Buddha, Shakyamuni, said, "I, too, am like that. The Dharma I have spoken is that way as well. I spoke the Agamas, the Vaipulya teachings, the Prajna teachings, and then the Dharma Flower/Nirvana teachings in the same way, just like the good doctor. I realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons ago. For the sake of living beings, in order to teach and transform them, I employ the power of expedients and say that I am about to enter extinction. I speak expediently, bestowing the provisional for the sake of the real, and say to living beings that I am about to enter Nirvana. This is like the doctor going to another country and then sending back the message that he has died. And there is no one who can, in accord with the Dharma, say that I have committed an offense of false speech." No one can say that the Buddha lied.
At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,
From the time I attained Buddhahood,
The eons that have passed
Are limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads
Of kotis of asamkhyeyas in number.
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying-Shakyamuni Buddha said, "From the time I attained Buddhahood, / The eons that have passed / Are limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads / Of kotis of asamkhyeyas in number." "Asamkhyeya" itself means "uncountable," so there is no way to know how many eons have passed.
I always speak the Dharma to teach and transform
Countless millions of living beings,
So they enter the Buddha-Way.
And throughout these limitless eons,
In order to save living beings,
I expediently manifest Nirvana.
I always speak the Dharma in different lands and countries, to teach and transform / Countless millions of living beings, / So they enter the Buddha-Way. I am teaching and transforming them and causing them to enter the Buddha-Way, and as a consequence, all the countless millions of Bodhisattvas welled forth out of the earth, as described in the previous chapter, "Welling forth from the Earth."
And from time to time throughout these limitless eons, / In order to save living beings, / I expediently manifest Nirvana. This is like the doctor who went to another country and sent back a messenger to tell his children he was dead. When his children heard that, they no longer relied upon their father, but took the medicine instead. Thus, the Buddha expediently said, "The Buddha is going to enter Nirvana. All of you should ask whatever questions you have. Hurry up! If there is something you don't understand, get it cleared up right away."
But in truth I do not pass into extinction.
I remain here always speaking the Dharma.
But in truth I do not pass into extinction. The Buddha does not really enter Nirvana. I remain here always speaking the Dharma in the Saha World on Vulture Peak, teaching and transforming living beings.
I always stay right here,
And using the power of spiritual penetrations,
I cause inverted living beings,
Although near me, not to see me.
I always stay right here on Vulture Peak in the Saha World. And using the power of spiritual penetrations, / I cause inverted living beings, / Although near me, not to see me. That means even before I enter Nirvana, I make it so they don't have an opportunity to see me. Although they are right beside me, because they are upside down, they do not see me.
The multitudes see me as passing into extinction.
They extensively make offerings to my sharira.
All cherish ardent longing for me,
And their hearts look up to me in thirst.
Living beings, then faithful and subdued,
Straightforward, with compliant minds,
Single-mindedly wish to see the Buddha,
Caring not for their very lives.
The multitudes see me as passing into extinction. The upside-down living beings are confused by ignorance. Although they are near me, they cannot see me. Everyone sees me as entering extinction. They extensively make offerings to my sharira. / All cherish ardent longing for me. At this time, they all start thinking about how much they long for and admire me, and their hearts look up to me in thirst. They long to see the Buddha.
Living beings are then faithful and subdued,/ Straightforward, with compliant minds. They are not stubborn any longer. Now they just single-mindedly wish to see the Buddha. "Now the Buddha has gone to Nirvana! Oh, if we could only see the Buddha once again!" They realize how rare he is and how difficult it is to meet up with him. Caring not for their very lives. If they had to give up their very lives, they would do it without regrets. When you seek the Buddha-Way and take the precepts, you burn some incense on your head. This represents that you are willing to give up your life for the sake of the Buddhadharma. If you still care for your own life, that burning will cause unbearable pain, and you won't be able to go through with it. To burn the body as an offering to the Buddha represents that you are willing to give up your life for the sake of the Dharma.
Why does the Buddha say that he passes into extinction, when actually he doesn't? The principle works like this: For those who are enlightened, there is no extinction. Those who are unenlightened think that the Buddha enters extinction. If one is enlightened and has the Three Bodies, the Four Wisdoms, the Five Eyes, and the Six Spiritual Penetrations, then one is with the Buddha at all times; one is always right next to the Buddha. That is called "always seeing the Buddha." If you have not attained that state, then although the Buddha is actually right beside you, you cannot see him. The Buddha says he does not pass into extinction, because he is always present for those who have been certified to the attainment of the Five Eyes. Those without the Five Eyes cannot see the Buddha, and they conclude that he has become extinct. Actually, the Buddha does not become extinct.
At that time I and the Sangha assembly
All appear together on Magic Vulture Mountain,
Where I say to living beings
That I am always here and never extinct.
But using the power of expedient devices,
I manifest "extinction" and "nonextinction."
When people get to the point that they do not even care about their own lives, they are so intent on seeking the Buddhadharma, at that time there is a response of the Way because of the extreme earnestness in the minds of these living beings. I, Shakyamuni Buddha, and the Sangha assembly of Bhikshus and Bhikshunis all appear together on Magic Vulture Mountain. Thus Great Master Jr Je of the Tyan Tai School entered the Dharma Flower samadhi when reciting the Dharma Flower Sutra, and he personally saw the Dharma assembly on Magic Vulture Mountain still taking place; it had not dispersed. He obtained the "Dharani of a Single Revolution." That proves that even now the Buddha is still present on Magic Vulture Mountain, speaking the Dharma, teaching and transforming living beings.
Where I say to living beings / That I am always here and never extinct. / But using the power of clever expedient devices, / I manifest "extinction" and "nonextinction." I only manifest the appearance of extinction; actually I do not become extinct. This is the "extinction of nonextinction," "the production of nonproduction."
For living beings in other lands,
Reverent, faithful, and aspiring,
I speak the supreme Dharma;
But you who do not hear this
Think that I have passed into extinction.
I see living beings
Sunk in misery,
And to cause them to look up in thirst,
I refrain from manifesting for them.
Then, when their minds are filled with longing,
I emerge and speak the Dharma.
For living beings in other lands, those who are reverent, faithful, and aspiring, / I speak the supreme Dharma. / But you who do not hear this / Think that I have passed into extinction. All of you have not heard this doctrine, and you think I entered extinction. For me there is neither extinction nor nonextinction. For me there is no production or extinction, although I speak of it.
I see living beings / Sunk in misery. They are drowning in the five desires: wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. The five desires are "misery." Since they are greedy for the objects of the five desires, I refrain from manifesting for them. I do not manifest and speak the Dharma for them. Why not? Because I want to cause them to look up in thirst. / Then, when living beings all appear very thirsty and their minds are filled with longing, / I emerge and speak the Dharma. I reappear and speak the Buddhadharma for these living beings.
With such powerful spiritual penetrations,
Throughout asamkhyeyas of eons,
I remain always on Magic Vulture Mountain
And also dwell in other places.
When beings see the kalpa ending
And ravaged by the great fire,
My land is peaceful and secure,
Always filled with gods and humans,
Gardens and groves, halls and pavilions,
And various precious adornments.
There are jeweled trees with many flowers and fruits
Where living beings roam in delight.
The gods play celestial drums,
Always making various kinds of music,
And mandarava flowers
Are scattered on the Buddha and the great assembly.
My Pure Land is not destroyed,
But the multitudes see it being burned entirely.
Worried, terrified, and miserable,
Such ones are everywhere.
All these beings with offenses,
Because of their evil karmic causes and conditions,
Pass through asamkhyeyas of eons
Without hearing the name of the Triple Jewel.
All who have cultivated merit and virtue,
Who are compliant, harmonious, and straightforward-
They all see me
Here, speaking the Dharma.
Sometimes for this assembly,
I speak of the Buddha's life span as limitless.
To those who see the Buddha only after long intervals,
I speak of the Buddha as being difficult to meet.
With such powerful spiritual penetrations / Throughout asamkhyeyas of eons / I remain always on Magic Vulture Mountain / And also dwell in other places. Why is it that some living beings see the Buddha and others do not? Why is it that the Buddha says he is entering extinction and then does not? These are all transformations worked by the power of the Buddha's spiritual penetrations. So we say, "There is production and yet no production. There is extinction and yet no extinction. Those who have affinities with the Buddha can see him any time; those lacking affinities never get to see him."
You say, "If I have no affinities with the Buddha and cannot see him, then what should I do?"
Plant good roots, create affinities with the Buddha by making offerings to the Triple Jewel-the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. If you cultivate merit and virtue before the Triple Jewel, after a while you will naturally have affinities with the Buddha. If you do not plant good roots, you will never have affinities with the Buddha.
When beings see the kalpa ending / And ravaged by the great fire-this refers to the calamities of wind, water, and fire that arise at the close of the kalpa. The fiery hate in the minds of living beings brings about huge conflagrations. However, at this time, my land is peaceful and secure. Vulture Peak and all the other places where I am present are peaceful. They cannot be harmed by the three calamities but are always filled with gods and humans. / Gardens and groves, halls and pavilions, / And various precious adornments-the seven treasures-adorn the buildings. There are also jeweled trees with many flowers and fruits / Where living beings roam in delight. "Jeweled trees" means Bodhi trees, the kings of trees. "Many flowers" refers to good causes that are planted. The many good results reaped is what is meant by "many fruits." As to "living beings," there are living beings all around you, and there are also the living beings inside. The ones inside we call the living beings of the self-nature. These are your thoughts. Whether inner or outer, they are all living beings. We say the mind, the Buddha, and living beings are three, but they are not different. In the adorned Bodhimanda of the Buddha, the beings wander happily.
The gods play celestial drums, / Always making various kinds of music. The heavenly beings throughout the Three Realms make the heavenly drum resound throughout space. And mandarava flowers, flowers which "accord with one's intent" and make people extremely happy as soon as they see them drift down upon the multitude, are scattered on the Buddha and the great assembly.
My Pure Land of Eternal Stillness is not destroyed; light will never be destroyed. But the multitudes see it being burned entirely. Living beings with their afflictions see it as if totally burned, and they become worried, terrified, and miserable. / Such ones are everywhere. They are scattered to the extreme and miserable because of all their evil views.
All these beings with offenses, / Because of their evil karmic causes and conditions, / Pass through asamkhyeyas of eons-boundless, uncountable eons-without hearing the name of the Triple Jewel. Such beings never hear of the Buddha, the Dharma, or the Sangha.
Before the Buddha appeared in the world, no one knew about the Buddhadharma; no one had heard the words "Buddha," "Dharma," or "Sangha." When the Elder Sudatta heard the word "Buddha" all the hairs on his body stood straight up on end, although he didn't know why. That was because he had never heard the names of the Triple Jewel before.
All who have cultivated merit and virtue, / Who are compliant, harmonious, and straightforward, are people who have practiced merit and virtue and planted good roots; they are not crooked. They all see me. Beings with offenses cannot see me; people with offenses cannot even see a Buddha image. If you can see a Buddha image, it will lessen your offense-karma. In order to see the Buddha, the Dharma, or the Sangha, you must have merit and virtue. Here, speaking the Dharma, / Sometimes for this assembly, / I speak of the Buddha's life span as limitless. / To those who see the Buddha only after long intervals, / I speak of the Buddha as being difficult to meet. For those who pass through long, long periods of time before they get to see the Buddha, I speak about how the Buddha is difficult to encounter.
The power of my wisdom-
The unlimited illumination of my wisdom-
Is such that my life span is one of countless eons
Attained through long cultivation and work.
Those of you with wisdom,
Should not have doubts about this.
Cut doubts off entirely and forever,
For what the Buddha says is real, not false.
Such is the power of my wisdom. Those with good roots always see the Buddha. To these beings I speak of the length of the Buddha's life span. If it were not this way, how could they see me? The unlimited illumination of my wisdom / Is such that my life span is one of countless eons. The Buddha's wisdom light shines throughout limitless worlds, and limitless living beings bring forth the Bodhi mind.
My life span was attained through long cultivation and work. The Buddha did the good work of liberating life. If you want to have a long life, you should liberate life. The more life you liberate, the longer your own life will be.
Those of you with wisdom / Should not have doubts about this. Do not have doubts about what I have just said. Cut doubts off entirely and forever. Get rid of them, for what the Buddha says is real, not false. Do not have doubts about the Buddhadharma.
It is like the clever expedients of the physician
Who, to cure his insane children,
Is actually alive, yet says he is dead,
And none can say that he speaks falsely.
It is like the clever expedients of the physician who is knowledgeable about the different kinds of medicines-cool, hot, warm, and neutral-and who, to cure his insane children who ingested poison, is actually alive, yet says he is dead. When the children think their father is dead, they finally take the medicine. The Dharma spoken by the Buddha is like good medicine. As long as the Buddha remained in the world, living beings thought they would take their time about studying the Dharma; they were not eager to study it.
When the Buddha entered Nirvana and they no longer had access to him, they decided to study the Buddhadharma and lecture the Sutras. As long as the Buddha was in the world, they could just listen to the Buddha, but they did not care to have Sutra lectures. So the doctor is really alive, but says he is dead. And none can say that he speaks falsely. No one can accuse this doctor, who is trying to save the lives of his children, or say that he has committed an offense.
I, too, am like a father to the world,
Saving all from suffering and woe.
But to living beings, inverted as they are,
I speak of extinction, although I actually remain.
Otherwise, because they often see me,
They would grow arrogant and lax.
Unruly and attached to the five desires,
They would tumble into the evil paths.
I am ever aware of living beings-
Those who practice the Way and those who do not.
I speak various Dharmas for their sakes
To save them in an appropriate manner.
I am always thinking,
"How can I cause living beings
To enter the unsurpassed path
And to quickly perfect the Buddha body?"
I, too, am a father to the world. I am a father saving all in the world from suffering and woe. / But to living beings, inverted as they are, / I speak of extinction, although I actually remain. Living beings are upside down. They insist that right is wrong, and wrong is right; white is black, and black is white. They will say that it's light at night and dark during the day. In the self-nature, the great storehouse of light pervades both day and night. If your self-nature is dark, you will think that light is dark. If your self-nature is light, then the darkness turns light. But living beings are confused about this. For these living beings, the Buddha appears to go to Nirvana. At the same time, the Buddha tells us, "Really, I am right here. To me there is no entering or nonentering of Nirvana. Living beings are upside down; thus I say I am entering Nirvana."
Otherwise, because they often see me, / They would grow arrogant and lax. Why do I say I am going to enter Nirvana? I do so because if living beings see me every day they will grow sloppy and unruly. They won't cultivate according to the Dharma, and they will be attached to the five desires of wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep, or else to forms, sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas. They would tumble into the evil paths, the three "evil paths" of the animals, ghosts, and hell beings.
I am ever aware of living beings. I, Shakyamuni Buddha, keep track of all the thoughts in the minds of living beings. So the Vajra Sutra says, "The Thus Come One completely knows and sees all the thoughts in the minds of living beings."
I keep up with the thoughts of living beings-those who practice the Way and those who do not.
And I speak various Dharmas for their sakes, / To save them in an appropriate manner. If a person can be saved by means of a Buddha body, I, the Buddha, take the body of a Buddha and speak Dharma for that person. If a person can be saved by means of another kind of being, the Buddha will take the appropriate form and save that person.
I am always thinking, / "How can I cause living beings / To enter the unsurpassed path-to be certified to the supreme Way and to quickly perfect the Buddha body, the Dharma body?"