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The Flower Adornment Sutra: A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua: Chapter Forty

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The Flower Adornment Sutra:
A Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Chapter Forty: Universal Worthy's Conduct and Vows
Translated in the Tang Dynasty by the Tripitaka Master Srãmana Siksananda of Khotan



The Chapter on Entering the Inconceivable State of Liberation of the Conduct and Vows of Universal Worthy

Sutra:

Translated on imperial command by the T’ang Dynasty Tripitaka Dharma Master Prajna of Kubha.

Commentary:

In listening to the explanation of a Sutra, one should become familiar with the Sutra: in this Sutra of the Great Vehicle or the Small Vehicle? I will use a matter of public record to point out the differences between the two. In India there were two brothers who were Bodhisattvas, Asanga and Vasubandhu. Vasubandhu Bodhisattva, because of some unfortunate causes and conditions, had followed the Small Vehicle teachings while his older brother, Asanga Bodhisattva, studied the Great Vehicle. Although Vasubandhu was especially intelligent, Asanga nevertheless wished to convert him to understanding and believing the Dharma of the Great Vehicle, but he did not have the power to cause his brother to believe. Vasubandhu was intent on his praise of the Small Vehicle and said that the Great Vehicle Dharma was incorrect.

Filled with dismay at his brother’s refusal to even consider the Great Vehicle Sutras, Asanga Bodhisattva then devised an expedient method. He feigned a severe illness and asked his brother to come to look at him and see him for the last time. He wrote: “I am very old and will soon die. If you don’t come to see me now, we will never see one another again.” His brother came at once to see him.

Asanga said, “I will certainly die. Would you read the Great Vehicle Sutras to me? Then I can die with my eyes closed (that is, to die having taken care of all his affairs in the world).”

Although his younger brother did not feel that his brother’s illness was very serious, nevertheless, he decided to humor him and began reading a Great Vehicle Sutra to him. Which Sutra did he read? He read this Flower Adornment Sutra, and the more he read the more inconceivable it became. Then he knew that the Flower Adornment experience was wonderful and inexplicable, just like the sun in space illumining all things, or like great Indra’s Net wherein the infinity of jewels emit light and each jewel reflects the light from all the other jewels. Then he realized his previous mistakes, and engulfed with uncontrollable remorse, said, “Quickly give me a sword.”

His older brother asked, “Why do you want a sword?”

“Because I want to cut out my tongue,” he said.

“Why do you want to cut out your tongue?” Asanga asked.

“Because in the past,” he said, “I used it to praise the Dharma of the Small Vehicle and slander the Sutras of the Great Vehicle. This is an offense. So now that I realize this, I should cut out my tongue.”

When his older brother heard this he said, “That is not necessary.”

“Why is that?” asked Vasubandhu. “My offenses are too great. Now I wish to cut out my tongue.”

His brother said, “If you were standing on the ground and you fell down, would you not stand up again? You would not continue to lie on the ground, would you? You would put your hands on the ground and push yourself up. Previously you slandered the Great Vehicle and praised the Small Vehicle with your tongue. Now you can use your tongue to praise the Great Vehicle.”

Vasubandhu thought that this was reasonable and refrained from cutting out his tongue, and from that day on, he put his strength into cultivating in accord with what is right, studying the Sutras of the Great Vehicle, including the Flower Adornment Sutra. Later he wrote the Shastra on the Ten Grounds and upon completing his work, the earth quaked and his mouth emitted light.

When this happened, the King came to visit him and asked, “Have you been certified to the fruition of Arhatship?”

Vasubandhu Bodhisattva said, “No.”

The King said, “If you have not been certified to the fruition of Arhatship, then how is it that the earth has quaked and light comes forth from your mouth?”

Vasubandhu Bodhisattva said, “When I was young I studied the Small Vehicle and slandered the Great Vehicle. Now I have changed and study the Flower Adornment Sutra. I have written the Shastra on the Ten Grounds and after I finished it, the earth quaked and my mouth emitted light. It is not that I have been certified.” Then the king decided that the Flower Adornment Sutra was very subtle and wonderful, and he began to study it.

Here is another matter of public record. The translator of the Eighty roll edition of the Flower Adornment Sutra was named Shikshananda, whose name, very appropriately, means “delight in study.” After he translated the Flower Adornment Sutra into Chinese, he delivered lectures on it, and when he came to the sentence, “seas of Buddha lands as numerous as dust motes in world systems,” the ground quaked in the lecture hall in which he was speaking.

His work on this Sutra took place during the T’ang Dynasty, during the time of Empress Wu Tse-T’ien, also known as T’ien Hou (623-705). One night she dreamed that the heavens sent down sweet dew and the next day following her dream it rained, and it rained sweet dew. That was another sign that the translation of the Flower Adornment Sutra was very important.

After he completed his translation of the Flower Adornment Sutra, Shikshananda lectured it, and when he was lecturing, the great earth quaked. At that time the Empress Wu Tse-T’ien wrote a letter to praise Shikshananda’s work. Therefore, the inconceivable states of the Flower Adornment Sutra are extremely many and it is difficult to explain them in a few words.

Translated on imperial command. Imperial command means the Emperor ordered the translation of this Sutra from the Indian language into Chinese, during the T’ang Dynasty.

Tripitaka. There are three pitakas or “stores” in the Buddhist canon: the Sutra store, the Vinaya store, and the Shastra store. In the Sutras the Buddha taught the path of cultivation. The Vinaya contains all the moral precepts, while the Shastras include all the exegeses This is the meaning of Tripitaka or “three stores.”

Dharma Master. Some explain Dharma Master as one who takes the Dharma as his master; that is, one’s master is the Buddhadharma. Some explain it as one who gives the Dharma to others. These are the meanings of Dharma Master.

Who was this Tripitaka Dharma Master? He was called Prajna. Prajna is a Sanskrit word which is translated as “wisdom.” Why is it transliterated instead of translated? Because it is one of the Five Untranslated Terms. It was not translated because it has many meanings which cannot be translated in one word. The other four kinds of untranslated terms are esoteric terms, terms which refer to something not existing in the translator’s country, terms that traditionally have not be translated, and terms of respect.

Kubha, known today as Kashmir, was the name of a country during the T’ang Dynasty where Master Prajna was born.

Sutra:

The Chapter on Entering the Inconceivable State of Liberation on the Conduct and Vows of Universal Worthy.

Commentary:

Entering means “to reach to” the inconceivable state of liberation which cannot be thought of. Basically, liberation has no state; if there was a state it could not be liberation. Why does it say, “state of liberation?” The word “state” is used to express emptiness, because basically, when one is liberated, there is nothing at all.

Conduct and vows. “Conduct” is the great practice which the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy cultivates, and “vows” are the vows that he makes. His cultivation and vows surpass all others’ and so he is called Universal Worthy Bodhisattva of Great Conduct and Vows.

Universal Worthy. What is “Universal?” It means “his Way pervades everywhere.” What does “Worthy” mean? It means “his virtue is a sage’s virtue.” His conduct is identical to the conduct of foremost sages.

There are four great Bodhisattvas. Manjushri Bodhisattva is foremost in wisdom; the Bodhisattva Who Observes the Sounds of the World (Avalokiteshvara) is foremost in great compassion; Earth Store (Kshitigarbha) is foremost in the strength of vows; Universal Worthy (Samantabhadra) is foremost in practice.

In the sea of the Flower Store World, in the Flower Adornment Sutra, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva acts as the Dharma host. Dharma is spoken on request, so to hear the Dharma, a disciple must ask the Buddha to speak. Shariputra was the one who requested the Dharma in the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, and Ananda requested the Dharma of the Shurangama Sutra. It was Universal Worthy Bodhisattva who, on behalf of the Assembly, requested the Dharma of the Flower Adornment Sutra. This concludes the explanation of the title of this chapter.

Sutra:

At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Mahasattva, having praised the Thus Come One’s merit and virtue,

Commentary:

At that time refers to the time following the explanation of the previous chapter. Universal Worthy is the Bodhisattva whose Way pervades everywhere, and who possesses virtue of the sages.

What is Bodhisattva? Those who have studied Sutras already understand this term, but there are those for whom this material is new and who do not understand the word Bodhisattva. Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit word. Bodhi means “enlightenment” and sattva means “sentience.” That is, a Bodhisattva is a person who enlightens sentient beings. What does “sentient beings” mean? Sentient beings include living creatures who have feeling and perception.

Today someone asked me if flowers are not sentient, ow can they make sounds? This is a good question, so now I will explain it clearly. Trees and plants have no feeling. Although they are without feeling they do have a nature, the nature of life. What is the nature of life? It is the life-energy (jen) discussed in Confucianism. This life-energy is a nature, and this nature can be said to be the Way. It can also be called the mother of the ten thousand things. Do humans have life-energy? Of course they do. If they were without it, then they would not be called humans. If they were not called humans, then what would they be called? You can call them anything you wish. For a human to have life-energy means to be human, or to speak it more correctly, “to be of the Way.” The phrase “life-energy” was coined by Confucius, and all plants and trees possess it. How can you say that plants and trees have life-energy? In the spring their limbs, branches, and leaves grow, flowers blossom and fruits come forth. This is because they have the nature of life. Not only do they have the nature of life, all plants, flowers, and trees have a minute amount of knowledge. So someone asked me, “When you cut a flower it emits a sound which we cannot hear, but if you use scientific means, then it can be heard.” This is really common.

Why is it that plants and trees can make sounds? It is because they have a nature. This nature is not full, but only exists in a minute amount. For example, if a person were said to have one hundred pounds of nature, the flowers, plants, and trees by comparison, would not have even an ounce, but would have about as much as a hair. Now this is a comparison, so do not take it literally. Basically, plants, flowers, and trees do experience some kind of sensation. I have said this before.

In China, a camphor and gingko tree received the precepts. You ask, “How is it that they could take the precepts? Since they are not sentient, how is it that they can have the nature of humans and receive the precepts? This is too contradictory.”

This is not the least bit contradictory, because if you understood it, you wold see it is very ordinary. Because the trees were old and they had experienced much, and because they had lived among people in the world, gradually they acquired the nature of humans. They had life-energy. After they had life-energy, then they acquired a little feeling. Because of this feeling, they wished to take the precepts. For a long time they did not realize how many improper things they had done, but after a while, they recognized their mistakes, took the precepts, and even thought about leaving the home-life. We should be aware of this point. Not only does he cross over sentient beings, but he also crosses over those without feelings. So it is said, “both those with and without feelings can accomplish the Way.” All of them can accomplish the Buddha’s Way. It is for this reason that he is called Universal Worthy; not only does he want to save people, but he also wants to cross over all flowers, plants, and trees. How can we not admire the vastness of his practices? At their best, most people are only aware of crossing over other people, crossing over other sentient beings, but Universal Worthy Bodhisattva even crosses over those without life, and so he is called Universal Worthy Bodhisattva.

The word Bodhisattva can also be translated as, “a living being with a great mind for the Way.” Although still among living beings, his mind of the Way is great, because he is open to all, with no thoughts of jealousy, selfishness, self-benefit, or obstruction. A Bodhisattva is also called “one who is open.”

Following the word Bodhisattva, the text says Mahasattva. A Mahasattva is a great Bodhisattva. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is a great Bodhisattva among Bodhisattvas. If he is great, then who is a small Bodhisattva? When you first bring forth the mind to cultivate the Bodhisattva path, you are a small Bodhisattva. After you have brought forth the mind of a Bodhisattva for a long, long time, then you become a great Bodhisattva. Upon first receiving the Bodhisattva precepts, you become a small Bodhisattva; after you have held and practiced according to these precepts for a long time, then you are considered a great Bodhisattva. When you have done this for hundreds of years, then you can be considered an old Bodhisattva.

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva praised and paid homage to the Thus Come One’s merit and virtue. What does “praise” mean? It means “to laud.” To laud whom? It means to laud the Buddha, the World Honored One. “Pay homage” means “to worship,” to pay homage to the supremacy of the Thus Come One’s merit and virtue.

What is “Thus Come One?” It is one of the ten names of the Buddha. A long time ago, all Buddhas were known by many names, but it was difficult for people to remember them all, so the number was reduced to 10,000 names. It became difficult for people to remember all 10,000 names, and so they were further reduced to 1,000 names for each Buddha. But even this was still too many to remember, so the number of names was reduced to one hundred. Because the memory of living beings today is very poor, now we learn only ten names for the Buddha, of which Thus Come One is one.

“Thus” ‘means “unmoving,” or “still.” “Come” means “movement.” This means that in stillness there is movement, and in movement there is stillness. “Thus Come One” includes the “suchness of the Way,” which is stillness, and “comes to accomplish the Right Enlightenment,” which is movement. Although within this name there is movement and stillness, there is no movement or stillness in the Buddha’s original substance. It does not move, and it is not still; movement and stillness are not different; movement is stillness, and stillness is movement. How can I say this? Movement is born from stillness, and stillness manifests out of movement, and therefore stillness and movement are not two. This is the meaning of Thus Come One.

In the previous chapter, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva praised the Thus Come One’s supreme merit and virtue, a merit and virtue which is superior to all other kinds, and to which none other can compare. It is so great that you could never finish describing it. Although no discussion can ever totally describe it, nonetheless Universal Worthy praises the Thus Come One’s especially supreme merit and virtue with his vast and great practice and vows.

What is merit and virtue? Merit is what is established, and virtue is something that one does. I will give you an example. In schools, teachers exhaust their hearts and strength to teach, and besides earning their salary, they do much work which is not expected of them. Diligently doing more than what is expected of you is merit.

Virtue is good one does for others. It means to help others without seeking any recompense. For example, if I were to give someone $50,000 without any conditions, without any thought or hope of getting anything in return, this would be a virtuous act. If you wish for something in return, your actions are without virtue. You should be kind to others and not seek anything in return, doing good for everyone, and not hoping for a reward or self-benefit. This is what is mean by virtue.

Although there is great virtue and small virtue, it should not be the case that you only do greatly virtuous deeds and neglect small acts of goodness Small virtue comes about when you benefit people just a little, but if you do this often, then your virtuous conduct will become great. If you do not do small virtuous acts, you will never accumulate virtue. So it is said, “The Way must be practiced;” you must cultivate the Way in order for it to be the Way. Don’t talk from morning till night about cultivating the Way, while never really doing it. This amounts to nothing but “intellectual talk-Zen.” It is useless.

Merit is also something that someone does. If you do not do it, you will not have it. So it is said,

The Way must be practiced; if you do not practice it, what use is the Way?

Virtuous deeds are to be done; if you do not do them, how is there any virtue?

Therefore, the merit and virtue of the Thus Come One can never be adequately praised.

Sutra:

Told all the Bodhisattvas and Good Wealth.

Commentary:

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva spoke to all the immeasurable and boundless numbers of Bodhisattvas in the Flower Adornment Dharma assembly. Since “all” might mean many or few, in this case does it represent many or few Bodhisattvas? Here it means many, the infinite number of Bodhisattva in the Flower Adornment Dharma Assembly. In addition to Bodhisattvas, Universal Worthy spoke to the Youth Good Wealth. Although he is a child, the Youth Good Wealth, whose Sanskrit name is Sudhana, is most inconceivable.

The Youth Sudhana had fifty-three teachers, a matter which has caused complications in Chinese Buddhism. Disciples of the Buddha in China, wishing to practice along with the Youth Sudhana, would say, “The Youth Sudhana had fifty-three teachers, but I have only ten or twenty. That is not too many.”

This is one of the most deluded and improper practices of Chinese Buddhists, one which I have always opposed vehemently. I am certainly not afraid that my disciples will take other Dharma Masters as their teachers; but nevertheless, I oppose this kind of custom because it is very detrimental.

Someone may ask, “Why do you feel that Chinese Buddhists who have ten or twenty teachers are very bad, while you consider the conduct of the Youth Good Wealth, who had fifty-three teachers, acceptable?”

Everything must be based on true principle. The Youth Good Wealth’s first teacher told him to go on to his second teacher, and his second teacher told him to go on to his third teacher. That is the only reason he went to another teacher: he was told to do so. It is not the case that he heard about a particular person who was adept in cultivation, and so he stole away from his first teacher without advising him of his intentions to study with this new person. This is called “bowing to a new teacher, while turning your back on your old Master.” If you want to treat your teacher well, why do you bow to a new teacher?

For example, everyone has a father. One’s second father could be Shakyamuni Buddha, but there is no need to look for a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth father. Your teacher is your mother and father of your transcendental Dharma Body. What is the use of having so many teachers?

After the Youth Sudhana had studied all of the virtue, knowledge, and wonderful functions of the spiritual penetrations of his first teacher, this teacher told him to go south and take a particular person for his teacher. And so on he went to his next teacher. After he had learned all the skill of a teacher, then that teacher would tell Sudhana “Go south and take as your master a particular worthy sage, Bodhisattva, or Bhikshu, because his conduct in the Way is superior to mine.” So in each case, his previous teacher sent him off to a new teacher; he did not steal off to bow to another teacher. Each teacher instructed him to go on to the next, until he came to the fifty-third one. Because he had studied the spiritual penetrations of fifty-three teachers, he had the wonderful function of spiritual powers which are extremely great. You should not look upon him as being just a common child, because he is very capable.

Nevertheless, because he had so many teachers, Chinese Buddhists now go everywhere bowing to different teachers. This has come to be known as “recklessly bowing to teachers.” You bow to one teacher, and then you bow to another teacher, sneaking from one to another to bow to different teachers. Someone like this is quite detrimental to Buddhism. When I was in China and Hong Kong, if people had already taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, I would not accept them as a disciple. Why? Because I considered them to be the weak links in Buddhism: the worst kind of Buddhists. They were not told by their former teacher to take me as their master; they snuck off to study with me. This is called “turning your back on your good teacher.”

Taking refuge can only be done once. You cannot take refuge again and again. You can take the precepts more than once: the Three Precepts, the Four Precepts, the Five Precepts, the Eight Precepts, or the Ten Major and Forty-Eight Minor Bodhisattva Precepts. Precepts can all be taken more than once. But you cannot take one teacher in the East, one in the South, one in the West, and one in the North. When you finally die, whose disciple will you be? There will be no place to go.

Basically, taking refuge many times is equivalent to not having taken refuge at all. You have had so many teachers, you end up having none. In Buddhism we want to be true, but in China there are still elder Buddhists who run around taking refuge many times, perhaps even a few hundred times in one life. But if you ask them what it means to take refuge, their eyes become blank, and they do no know what to say. They do not know what it means. They have taken refuge hundreds of times, and they do not know what it means to take refuge. Is this not pitiful? They say, “All those who have left the home-life are my teachers.” They have taken refuge with everyone who has left the home-life, and yet I believe that they do not even have one teacher. Why? Because they do not truly believe. They must believe to be rescued. If they do not believe, then they cannot be rescued.

In China, the bhikshus quarreled over disciples. For example, the disciples of one Dharma Master would secretly run off to another Dharma master, unaware they were doing wrong. This indicates that a Dharma Master has no virtue, because if he had virtue, why would his disciples leave for another teacher? Because of this, the two Dharma Masters involved would get into an argument. “You’ve snatched my disciples!”

They would fight over the Dharma like this, and as soon as they began arguing, their bad aspects would become apparent. The fire and ignorance would flare up. For example, in china, Dharma Master T’ai Hsu and Dharma Master Yuan Ying would fight over disciples just like the clashing of water and fire. They were often unkind to one another, all because their disciples ran way to take refuge; they were afraid of losing their disciples to one another. They went to extremes to prevent this.

Even though the Youth Good Wealth has a very important position in the Flower Adornment Sutra, he has, nevertheless caused complications within Buddhism. Why do Dharma Masters accept disciples of other masters as their own disciples when they know that it is incorrect and not in accord with the Dharma? Now I will reveal their innermost intentions. It is because they wish to take advantage of the conditions. If they have more disciples, then they can get more red envelopes which they appreciate more than anything, because in China, these red envelopes always contain donations of money. So if they do not accept disciples, they will be losing money.

As soon as they accept a disciple, the disciple thinks, “This is my teacher, and I should do my best to make offerings to him.” So these Dharma Masters get money, which causes their hearts to move. Even though they clearly know they are incorrect, they still do this. Now is this not a complication?

Why did this happen? First, it is because of the Youth, and second it is because of Good “Wealth.” Since he was wealthy, he moved everyone. Everyone is fond of wealth. The Youth was just a child, and this child was very wealthy. Almost all people feel that money is very flashy and nice to have, and so some cultivators are moved to such extremes that they do things they know are incorrect. This is one of the worst aspects of Buddhism, one which I hope will not arise in America. Do not take refuge with one teacher and then take refuge with another. If you find a good teacher, after you take refuge with him, do not rebel against him. Rebel means to “renounce your religion, and turn your back on your teacher.”

The Youth Good Wealth had fifty-three teachers, and caused many improper, confusing customs to evolve in China. Before American Buddhism spreads everywhere, we should prevent this custom from taking root. For example, in Christianity, people are baptized only once. No one says, “You weren’t baptized clean the first time, and so you should be baptized again,” telling you that you have not been baptized and that you need to do it again and again.

Buddhism should also be the same. One does not need to take refuge again and again, each time making excuses, “Oh, the first time I took refuge, the Buddha probably did not know, so I’ll do it a second time.” If the Buddha did not know the first time, then he would not know about your taking refuge the second time either. How will he know about the third time up to the thousandth time? Why? The Buddha does not sleep all the time, and he sees when you take refuge. The Buddha is the Greatly Enlightened One. All you have to do is sincerely think that you want to take refuge in Buddhism, and he knows. So it is said, “The link between the request and the response is inconceivable.”

If you say the Buddha does not know about you, you do not really believe in Buddhism, and in actuality you have not taken refuge at all. Even if you have taken refuge hundreds of millions of times, it is of no use. When you take refuge with a Master, you should certainly respect him and honor the Way. You should be very respectful towards your teacher. I am not telling my disciples to respect me, because they already do; rather, I am just explaining this principle for you. I do not need to tell my disciples to be more respectful.

After one takes refuge, one absolutely must remember not to turn one’s back on one’s teacher, or to show disrespect to him. Those who are not respectful to their teachers may fall into a hell. Which hell? The Thousand Blades Hell which is explained in the Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra. Disciples who are not filial to their teachers fall into this hell.

There are some people who do not follow the teachings of their teachers but who wish to strike out on their own. These people like to follow their own inclinations and do not like to hear their teachers’ instructions. Not only that, but to compensate, they slander and scold their teachers. Do not think that this is a joke. There are all kinds of beings in this world. Some will poison their teachers and use various methods to harm them. To sit in the teacher’s chair is a mistake, and to play with hi bowl is a mistake. These acts are very dangerous, and only if your teacher tells you to use them, is it permissible to do so. If you recklessly do these things, then it is a mistake. This relationship is very important, and you cannot do whatever you wish, because a disciple has no freedom when it comes to his teacher. You should never slander your teacher or talk about him behind his back. These kinds of actions are offenses created with the mouth.

 Sutra:

“Good men, if all the Buddhas of the ten directions spoke continuously of the Thus Come One’s merit and virtue for kalpas as many as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha lands, those virtues could not fully be described.

Commentary:

This section of Sutra says that the merit and virtue of the Buddha can never be totally explained. The text says, good men, those of you who have taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, who have received the Five Precepts and who cultivate the Ten Good Acts, I will now tell you about the Thus Come One, the Buddha’s, merit and virtue. If all the Buddhas of the ten directions spoke continuously of the Thus Come One’s merit and virtue for kalpas as many as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha lands. “Fine” means extremely small, as small as a dust mote which borders on emptiness. It is something that cannot be seen with the eyes, unlike the particles in a ray of sunlight, which can be seen. If a fine dust particle, which is visible, is divided into seven pieces, one of the pieces is called a dust mote bordering on emptiness, which cannot be seen. This kind of dust particle is called a fine mote of dust.

“If all Buddhas of the ten directions spoke continuously” means, if they spoke without ceasing for as many kalpas as there are fine dust motes, perpetually speaking “of the Thus Come One’s merit and virtue,” those virtues could not fully be described. There is not way to describe the merit and virtue of the Buddha.

Sutra:

Those wishing to perfect the doors of this merit and virtue should cultivate ten vast and great conduct and vows.

Commentary:

The Buddha has immeasurable and boundless merit and virtue which cannot be fully described. Is it the case that only he possesses such merit and virtue, and no one else has any? No. You will not find prejudiced, despotic doctrines within Buddhism. In Buddhism every living being has the potential to become a Buddha; all living beings who fly, who walk on the ground, who swim in the water, all creatures who move, and all stationary living things-trees, flowers, and grasses-all can become Buddhas. Those beings born from wombs, born from eggs, moisture-born, and born by transformation, and all the rest of the twelve kinds of beings can all become Buddhas. Within Buddhism, you will not find cases where one can become a Buddha, but another cannot. And Buddhism is not like some other religions in which there is a being who says, “Only I am the true Spirit; all others are false.”

It is only to be feared that you will not work hard to become a Buddha. If anyone becomes a Buddha, that Buddha is the true Buddha. There are no false Buddhas. All Buddhas are true Buddhas, and all beings can become true Buddhas. It is not the case that I alone can become a Buddha, but you cannot. This doctrine is too narrow, and nowhere in Buddhism will you find the teaching that “I am thee true Spirit and all others are false.” What reason is there to have only one Spirit? This would certainly be a solitary spirit. In Buddhism, all beings can become Buddhas; there are many, many Buddhas who were once living beings, and the path they all took to become Buddhas is the same. Not one of them took a different path.

So those wishing to perfect the Buddha’s doors of this merit and virtue should cultivate ten vast and great conduct and vows. If they accomplish cultivation of these ten, they will obtain the merit and virtue of the Buddha.

Sutra:

What are the ten? The first is to worship and respect all Buddhas; the second is to praise the Thus Come Ones; the third is to extensively cultivate making offerings; the fourth is to repent of karmic obstacles and reform; the fifth is to follow along with and rejoice in merit and virtue; the sixth is to request the turning of the Dharma wheel; the seventh is to request that the Buddhas remain in the world; the eighth is to always study with the Buddhas; the ninth is to constantly accord with living beings; the tenth is to universally transfer all merit and virtue.

Commentary:

What are these ten vast and great doors of practice? This is a question about the methods and names of these ten great vows and practices. Just what are these ten doors, and how are they put into practice?

The first is to worship and respect all Buddhas. “To worship” means “to have the proper propriety;” you could say that it means “to show the proper etiquette” towards the Buddha. Worship brings about mutual respect. If you are polite to others, then others will be polite to you. Why do we want to be polite? Because we want to be respectful to whomever we meet. Therefore, we practice worship.

Worship is one of the Five Constant Virtues: benevolence, righteousness, propriety (also translated as worship, rites, and ritual), wisdom, and faith. People differ from animals because of propriety. If we are lacking in propriety, we are no different from animals. When we are respectful to someone, we must have proper comportment, and when respecting the Buddha, we should be even more attentive to proper comportment: we should have proper comportment and be respectful.

In the past, the Chinese people did not like to bow to the Buddha, somewhat like Americans of today. When I came to the United States, people told me that it really goes against the nature of Americans to bow to the Buddha. I replied, “Good. If they dislike bowing, then I will definitely want them to bow. If they don’t, I won’t teach them.”

If you want to study Buddhism with me you must bow. If you do not, then I will not teach you. Why? Because you do not have the proper attitude and comportment towards the Buddha. Without that, how could I teach you? The Chinese were this way in the past, too. Believing in the Buddha is one thing, but not bowing to the Buddha is comparable to being a monkey. Monkeys do not understand about bowing to the Buddha, and if you tell them to bow, they will not do it. Horses and cattle do not know about bowing to the Buddha either. They may be respectful to the Buddha in their minds, but they do not know how to bow.

Chinese people were the same way; they believed, but did not worship. They did not bow to the Buddha even though they believed in him. Ratnamati Bodhisattva (ca. 500 A.D.), saw this situation and thought, “What use is it to believe in the Buddha yet not bow to him?” Thereupon, he went to China to establish and teach seven types of worship, the seven ways to bow to the Buddha. He went to China to instruct and transform the people there and to lead them to bow to the Buddha.

Wherever Buddhism goes, the response is generally the same. When it was first taken to China, the Chinese did not like to bow to the Buddha either. Why did they not like to bow? Because in the past they never bowed, and they had a mark of a self which is a kind of arrogance which caused them to consider themselves as being larger than Sumeru. If they were more magnificent than Mount Sumeru, how could they bow to the Buddha?

So in the Buddha Hall, when everyone is bowing, some people stand there like hunks of wood, and some sit there like stones. Everyone acts in a different way, but those who believe in the Buddha must bow to the Buddha. If you do not bow, how can you insist that you believe? So you must bow to the Buddha images.

There are those who think that because Buddha images are carved from wood, there is no use in bowing to them. Do not mistakenly think that a Buddha image is actually a Buddha. The Buddha pervades everywhere. The Buddha’s Dharma body is omnipresent. A Buddha image is only a symbol of the Buddha, and nothing more. For example, each country in the world has its own flag, and the citizens of each country perform something like a pledge of allegiance to their flag. Even though flags are just made out of a piece of cloth, or pieces of cloth sewn together, they represent the country. We perform our pledge of allegiance to the flag as a way of embodying our respect for our country.

Showing respect to an image of the Buddha works in the same way. The symbolic images of the Buddhas are definitely not the Buddhas, and so why do we bow to them? The fact that the Buddha pervades everywhere suggest that we should bow to all the four directions and the eight points on the compass, but that is impractical. What is needed is something to which one can return and rely; a symbol is needed to represent the Buddha. You do not run off to all the different provinces and countries to show your respect to the country. This would not be practical. So a flag is considered sufficient as an object of respect. Bowing to the Buddha works in the same way.

There are seven different ways that people bow to the Buddha. The first is “arrogant bowing,” and describes a person who, although he or she bows to the Buddha, still has a mark of a self. When someone like this bows to the Buddha, it is forced, and is accompanied by thoughts like this: “What am I doing bowing to the Buddha? Why do I have to bow to him?” A person like this becomes annoyed at being forced to put his head down. He sees everyone else bowing and feels that if he does not bow along with them, he will stand out, and so out of embarrassment he bows to the Buddha. Although he bows, his mark of self is still not empty; on the contrary, he is filled with arrogance. This describes the first kind of bowing which is called “arrogant bowing.”

The second kind of bowing is called “seeking for fame.” This category describes someone who hears others praising a cultivator saying, “That person bows often and really cultivates vigorously; he bows to the Buddhas, he bows to Sutras, and he bows repentance ceremonies. He is truly a diligent cultivator. Upon hearing the praise of this cultivator, he also wishes to be recognized as a cultivator, so he begins vigorously bowing to the Buddha, and although he find pleasure in bowing, he does not truly bow to the Buddha; he is bowing for recognition. He is seeking recognition as a cultivator, and the pleasure he finds is in that recognition, and his dreams of fame. This is the category of bowing called “seeking for fame.”

With the first, arrogant bowing, you see others bowing so you bow along, but you think to yourself, “Oh, this is really superstitious. Of what possible use could it be?” The second, seeking for fame, is not performed because you believe or do not believe; you bow because you see someone else bowing and receiving offerings, respect and others’ praise. Since you too wish to receive offerings, respect, and praise, you bow to the Buddha.

The third is called “bowing with a body and mind concurring.” What does this mean? It describes a person who bows when he sees others bowing. Both his body and mind go along with what everyone else is doing in mindless imitation, without the slightest concern as to whether bowing to the Buddha is beneficial or not, or whether it is reasonable or superstitious. You do not seek for recognition; you just follow along with everyone else, your body and mind concurring. This kind of bowing has no real benefits and no real faults.

The fourth kind of bowing is called “wise and pure.” “Wise” refers to the function of wisdom, and “pure” refers to the development of purity. It describes one who uses true wisdom to purify his body and mind. People who are wise use their method to bow to the Buddha, and by so doing, they purify the Three Karmas of body, mouth, and mind.

When someone uses this fourth method to bow to the Buddha, his body karma is correct inasmuch as he does not kill, steal, commit sexual misconduct, and so in this way his body karma is purified. When he uses this method to bow to the Buddha, he entertains no thoughts of greed, hatred, or stupidity, but rather possesses the wisdom born from single-mindedly and respectfully bowing to the Buddha, and so the karma of mind also becomes pure. When someone bows to the Buddha, he also recites the Buddha’s name, and by doing so, or by holding and reciting Sutras and mantras, his mouth karma is also correct and devoid of any harsh speech, false speech, irresponsible speech or duplicity, and is thereby purified. When the Three Karmas of body, mouth, and mind are pure, this is called “wise and pure bowing,” with which one uses true wisdom to bow to the Buddha.

The fifth kind of bowing is called “pervading everywhere throughout the Dharma Realm.” What does this mean? It describes one who, when bowing, contemplates: “Although I have not yet become a Buddha in body, my mind’s nature fills the Dharma Realm. As I bow before this one Buddha, I bow everywhere before all Buddhas. I am not just bowing before one Buddha; my transformation bodies bow before each Buddha, simultaneously making offerings to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.”

Consider that “Everything is made from the mind alone,” and so one’s mind totally pervades the Dharma Realm. One’s bowing practice totally pervades the Dharma Realm. What is the Dharma Realm? All of the Three-thousand Great-thousand worlds are contained within it. In fact, nothing is outside of the Dharma Realm. With this kind of bowing, you contemplate your respectful bowing as it totally pervades the Dharma Realm. This bowing is called “pervading everywhere throughout the Dharma Realm.”

The sixth is called “sincerely cultivating proper contemplation.” One who cultivates proper contemplation is one who concentrates his mind and contemplates bowing to the Buddha. “Bowing to the Buddha is bowing to the Buddhas of the Dharma Realm; bowing to the Buddhas of the Dharma Realm is just bowing to one Buddha.” This is because all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time share one Dharma body in common, and all Buddhas countries and Ways are identical.” A concentrated mind must be used to bow to the Buddha, to contemplate the Buddha, and to cultivate, so that you will not have false thoughts.

It is not considered to be proper contemplation if when you are bowing, your mind runs off to the movies, or to the race track, or goes off hunting, or to a dance hall, a bar, or a restaurant. You do not need to purchase a ticket for your mind to travel off in all directions. With no travel arrangements at all, suddenly it is in the heavens, and suddenly it is on the earth. Sometimes your mind will fly off to New York and then for no apparent reason, it comes back to San Francisco. You think, “Oh, I was here bowing to the Buddha, and then I went to New York, only to fly back to San Francisco again. This must be a spiritual power!”

Now in fact, this is not even a ghostly power, let alone a spiritual power. It is nothing more than false thinking, and is called deviant contemplation or improper contemplation. If you cultivate with proper contemplation, then you will not have these false thoughts. You would bow to the Buddha with one mind which is not divided.

“Sincerely cultivating” means that when you bow once, it surpasses bowing one million bows made by someone who bows while false thinking. So, in cultivating, “When you reach the gate, then you enter.” You should understand this dharma door, because if you do not, then when you see others bowing to the Buddha, you will not bow the way they do, but instead will think, “Oh, as soon as I’m finished bowing, I’m going to have a cup of coffee, or perhaps I’ll have a drink.” People like this have no control over their minds, and after they have finished bowing, they run off to have a drink.

The problem is that not only do they themselves go out to drink, but they drag everyone else out with them. This is really pitiful. This is not “cultivating purely with proper contemplation,” but is a form of deviant contemplation, because if you have false thoughts while you are bowing, your worship is devoid of any merit and virtue.

The seventh is called the “true mark of impartial bowing.” It describes a person who bows and yet does not bow; who does not bow while he bows. When I say this, some of you are thinking, “You say we should bow and yet not bow, and not bow and yet bow. Therefore, if I don’t bow to the Buddha, won’t I be bowing to the Buddha?” This is not what I mean. Wit this kind of bowing, although you bow to the Buddha, you are not attached to a mark of bowing to the Buddha. You cannot distort the meaning and say that while you are not bowing to the Buddha, it counts as bowing to the Buddha. One who speaks like this is mentally disturbed.

For example, recently someone told me that he had attained the void. This is an extremely stupid thing to say. What is more, people like this cannot be helped, and there is no way to save them because their heavy attachment-nature makes them too stupid.

The “true mark of impartial bowing” means that “I am bowing to the Buddha, I am impartially bowing to the Triple Jewel; I am reverent to the Buddha; reverent to the Dharma; and reverent to the Sangha. Although I bow in this way, I nevertheless do not discriminate that I am bowing and “not one thought is produced, nor is one though destroyed.” This is the dharma of the “true mark of impartial bowing.” It is a dharma which involves neither production nor destruction: “When not even one thought arises, the entire substance appears.” When you bow to the Buddha to the point that not even one thought is produced, you manifest your body throughout the entire Dharma Realm. Although your body is bowing here, it is the same size as the Dharma Realm. This is just the true mark, which has no mark. You bow until there are no people, no self, no living beings and no life-span. You become one and the same substance with the Dharma Realm. Your body is just the Dharma Realm; the Dharma Realm is your body.

Is this not wonderful? Before your body was just a speck on Mount Sumeru, and Mount Sumeru was the size of a dust mote in the Dharma Realm. But when you reach the point of the “true appearance which has no appearance,” Mount Sumeru is contained within your Dharma body. You now contain Mount Sumeru. Is this not wonderful? You totally contain everything; everything in the universe is contained within your nature, and you understand everything. The true mark of impartial bowing is an inconceivable state. If you can reach this state while bowing to the Buddha, can you then explain all of its wonderful aspects? No, they are ineffable.

This has been a simple explanation of the Seven Kinds of Bowing which describe the proper etiquette or propriety one should observe while bowing to the Triple Jewel. If you wish to discuss these in more detail, there are three hundred forms of propriety, and the three thousand awesome deportments. In China there is a book called the Book of Rites which describes propriety: how one should conduct oneself. It describes the proper etiquette for different situation; for example, it says that everyone should take his proper position when sitting down. Adults should sit in the places for adults, and children should sit in their place. Men have a proper place, women have a proper place, and elder people sit in their place. No one can sit at random. I will give you a more specific example. The Book of Rites says, “Youths should sit in the corners.” Children should not sit in the middle of a room but should sit in the corners.

In the past when I was a child, I talked a lot about propriety. What kind of propriety did I advocate? I liked people to respect me. When I was a child, we had an emperor in China and I wished to be an emperor; so under my system of propriety, all the children in the town, perhaps fifty or a hundred, had to follow my orders. I had them build a mound of dirt, upon which I saw and told all of them to bow to me. This was before I had reached the age of twelve, and strange enough, these children were not opposed to bowing to me, but obediently listened to my orders.

When I was young I wanted people to bow to me, but after my twelfth birthday, I saw a dead child and realized that people die. After that I changed this bad practice, and did not wish people to bow to me anymore; in fact, on the contrary, I wished to bow to others. Whom did I bow to first? My parents. In the morning I bowed to my parents three times, and in the evening I bowed to them again, bowing a total of six times per day. But then I thought, “My parents are the only people in the world. There is heaven and earth, and the emperor, and my teacher. At that time I did not know who my teacher would be, but I knew I would meet him in the future, and so I wished to bow to him beforehand. Most people would think that all this bowing was really idiotic, but again I thought, “This world has sages so I will bow to them, and it has immortals so I will bow to them too.” Then I discovered that there are Buddhas in the world, so I bowed to them. I bowed to Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions, and then I thought, “The world has very many good people living in it,” so I bowed to the good people. And there are also kind people, so I bowed to the kind people, because they do what is proper, and I wanted to represent everyone to thank them for their proper actions. For example, I would wonder why they did kin things like helping the poor, and so I thanked them for the poor people by bowing to them.

By this time, I was bowing quite a lot when I thought, “I bow to the kind people, but since evil people are pitiful, I should bow to the Buddha on their behalf and ask the Buddha to cause them to forsake their offenses and do good instead of evil.” So I bowed to the Buddha for all those in the world who have offenses, repenting to the Buddha on their behalf. Moreover, I repented to the Buddha for all those who were not filial to their parents, and bowed in repentance for all the evil people of the world because I felt I was the worst of them.

When all was said and done, I was bowing more than eight hundred thirty times and I will tell you, my practice was very strange I got up before anyone else, go dressed, an washed my face. I lit a stick of incense and went outside to bow. Regardless of whether or not it was windy, rainy, or snowing, I bowed outside. When it snowed, I placed my hands I the snow and bowed, not caring whether or not it was cold. I would bow more than eight hundred thirty times which would take about an hour and a half. I bowed before everyone work up and again after everyone had gone to bed, practicing like this for many years. Later, when I cultivated filial practices by my mother’s graveside, I decreased the bows to nine, because it used up too much time. This is how I bowed to the Buddha and practiced in my youth.

What does “respect” mean? It means “to act in accord with the rules of propriety governing the circumstances of the situation at hand.” To always act according to the proper etiquette shows respect, whereas to disregard the proper etiquette is disrespectful. For example, if you respect someone, you will act in accordance with the proper rules when you are in their presence. If you do not wish to act respectfully towards a person, then you would be very lax in their presence, doing whatever you want.

Now we wish to worship and respect all Buddhas. “All Buddhas” refers to all the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time. “Buddha” means “greatly enlightened,” a person who is greatly enlightened. Common people are born in a stupor and die in a dream. Without the understanding that the Three Realms are suffering, they do not wish to transcend them. This is called being unenlightened.

Among common people, there are some who are considered to be enlightened. Called “Those of the Two Vehicles,” they have awakened to the fact that birth and death are impermanent and very dangerous, and so they cultivate and achieve understanding based on the principle of emptiness-a one-sided prejudice for emptiness. By virtue of understanding this principle, they enlighten to the Dharmas of the Twelve Links of Causes and Conditions and the Four Noble Truths. They are called Arhats and Those Enlightened to Conditions and can be considered as enlightened ones, when speaking form the point of view of common people. Their enlightenment, however, is one-sided and incomplete because they only know how to benefit themselves, and cannot benefit others; they are only capable of enlightening themselves, and cannot guide others to the realization of enlightenment.

Bodhisattvas are different from Arhats inasmuch as they are not only able to enlighten themselves, but they can also enlighten others, benefiting both themselves and others. Buddhas are different from Bodhisattvas. Although Bodhisattvas are able to enlighten themselves and others, their enlightenment is imperfect. The enlightenment and practices of the Buddha, however, are perfect, since the Buddha has perfected his enlightenment, the enlightenment of others, and enlightenment and practices. So only a Buddha is called a Greatly Enlightened One, having practiced these three aspects of enlightenment. When person has perfected the 10,000 kinds of merit and virtue, he becomes a Buddha.

Small Vehicle Buddhism only recognizes one Buddha, Shakyamuni, and does not acknowledge other Buddhas in the world systems of the other directions. The Dharma of the Small Vehicle was taught in the Deer Park for the Five Bhikshus, and as a consequence, those of the Small Vehicle only know of Shakyamuni Buddha becoming a Buddha, and know nothing about all the immeasurable Buddhas in the other world systems. Because of this, they say that there are no Buddhas throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time other than Shakyamuni.

Now is it true that there are no other Buddhas, since they say that there are no others? No. If they recognize the other Buddhas throughout the ten directions, then those Buddhas exist, but if they do not recognize those Buddhas, those Buddhas, nonetheless, still exist. The Buddhas of the ten directions are only with Shakyamuni Buddha, and so it is said, “The Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time share one Dharma Body in common.”

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva made these ten far-reaching vows to guide his practice. All of the vows are extremely great, to the point that they are inconceivable, so that there is no way one can know how great they are. It is because of this that Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is called the King of Vows.

The first vow is to worship and respect all Buddhas. To worship and respect all Buddhas does not mean to worship only Shakyamuni Buddha or Amita Buddha.

        Worshiping one is worshiping all;
        One Buddha is all Buddhas.

Worshiping all Buddhas without becoming attached to all Buddhas, and worshiping one Buddha without becoming attached to one Buddha, is the practice of the “true mark of impartial bowing.” Although you bow to the Buddha in worship, regardless of whether it is one Buddha or all Buddhas, you should not become attached to the mark of worship. For example, you do not want to say, “My merit and virtue is great indeed since I bow to so many Buddhas. No one else can match such practice as mine.” Do not become attached to marks in this way, or any other way, and then you will truly be able to practice the first vow, to worship and respect all Buddhas.

The second is to praise the Thus Come Ones. When we worship and respect all Buddhas, do we do so because they want the respect of others? Regardless of whether we worship the Buddhas or not, they are still Buddhas. If we worship the Buddhas, they do not obtain more benefit, or get larger, and if we do not worship the Buddhas, they do not lose any benefit, or get smaller. When we worship the Buddhas, it vitalizes our heart and spirit, but it does not affect the Buddhas. So when you worship the Buddhas, do not become attached to any mark.

Why should we praise the Thus Come Ones? They do not need our praise. They are not like us; when we are praised we become so happy our eyes and nose wrinkle up with laughter. But if we are not praised, our eyes and ears get angry. If the Buddhas were like this, they would be no different from common people. So it is not necessary to praise or worship them. Moreover, if they were the same as common people, what value would there be in worshiping them. Moreover, if they were the same as common people, what value would there be in worshiping and praising them? On the other hand, since Buddhas do not need our praise, then why praise them? It this not a contradiction?

It certainly is not a contradiction. When we praise the Buddhas, we obtain merit and virtue for our self-nature. How can this merit and virtue be described? Every person’s self-nature has light, and when you praise the Buddhas, your Yang light radiates and shines through the darkness of your ignorance. The merit and virtue which comes from praising the Buddhas is invisible and is brought about because you commit no offenses. To obtain this merit and virtue, you cannot indulge in false thinking, and the fewer false thoughts you have, the more the light of your wisdom flows forth. Cultivators of the Way fear having false thoughts because false thoughts defile the self-nature with darkness. If you are without false thoughts, the light of your self-nature shines through brighter and brighter. When you praise the Buddhas, you cherish the Buddhas, and when you cherish the Buddhas, you unite with the wisdom light of the Buddhas. Then the light of your self-nature spills forth.

What does it mean to praise the Thus Come Ones? You can say:

    In the heavens above and the earth below, there is no one like the Buddha.
    No one in the worlds of the ten directions equals him.
    I have seen everything in the world, and nothing compares with the Buddha.

This is an example of praising the Thus Come Ones. In the heavens, in the earth, and in between, no one is like the Buddha. There are no spirits, Bodhisattvas, Arhats, or Pratyekabuddhas who compare with the Buddha, so the verse reads, “In heaven above and the earth below, there is no one like the Buddha.” No one can compare with the Buddha. Not a single being in all the world systems of the ten directions compares with him. Not only is there no one found in the heaven above and the earth below who can compare with the Buddha, the same is true throughout the worlds of the ten directions.

Our world has five continents: Africa, the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Although it is made up of these five, it is still just one world. Beyond this world there are still an immeasurable and boundless number of worlds throughout the ten directions. Now we send people to the moon in rockets. The moon may be considered one of those other worlds, but it is just one minute world among an infinity of other worlds. None of the great number of people and creatures in all the worlds throughout the ten directions compares with the Buddha. “I have seen everything in the world,” and within it all, “nothing compares with the Buddha.” This is what is mean by “praising the Thus Come Ones.”

Another example of praise of the Thus Come Ones is the hymn in praise of Amita Buddha:

        Amitabha’s body is the color of gold,
        The splendor of his hallmarks has no peer.
        The light of his brow shines round a hundred worlds,
        Wide as the seas are his eyes pure and clear.
        Shining in his brilliance by transformation
        Are countless Bodhisattvas and infinite Buddhas.
        His forty-eight vows will be our liberation,
        In nine lotus-stages we reach the other shore.

Amitabha’s body is the color of gold.” Amita Buddha, who created the Land of Ultimate Bliss, has a golden body. “The splendor of his hallmarks has no peer.” The light shining from Thirty-two Marks and Eighty Subtle Characteristics illumines the universe and is everywhere without equal. “The light of his brow shines round a hundred worlds.” See how vast is the fragrant light which radiates from the white hair tuft between Amita Buddha’s eyebrows! And how big are Amita Buddha’s eyes? “Wide as the seas are his eyes pure and clear.” His purple colored eyes are clear and as large as the world’s great oceans.

“Shining in his brilliance by transformation / are countless Bodhisattvas and infinite Buddhas.” Amita Buddha makes immeasurable and boundless numbers of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas appear in his light. He does not just manifest Buddhas, but he also manifests Bodhisattvas. Not only that, he further manifests Sound Hearers and Those Enlightened to Conditions. Nor does he only manifest Sound Hearers and Those Enlightened to Conditions, but he also manifests immeasurable and boundless numbers of beings in the Six Paths of rebirth.

“Hi forty-eight vows will be our liberation.” Amita Buddha made forty-eight great vows to rescue living beings. “In nine lotus-stages we reach the other shore.” The lotus flowers of Amitabha’s land are divided into nine grades, each one of which is again divided into nine grades for a total of eighty-one grades. These eighty-one grades enable everyone to reach to the other shore of enlightenment and be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

Now I have explained one aspect of praising the Thus Come Ones. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s second vow is to cultivate the merit and virtue of praising the Thus Come Ones.

The Vajra (Diamond) Sutra says, “The Thus Come One does not come from anywhere, and does not go anywhere; therefore he is called the Thus Come One.” “Thus” is stillness, and “come” is movement. Thus Come One can also be explained as “like one who has come, yet his basic nature has not moved.” This is the Thus Come One.

“Come” refers to the fact that there is no place from which he comes, and “go” refers to the fact that there is no place to which he goes. “Thus” is the noumenon (principle), and “Come” is phenomena (specifics), an expression of the unobstructed state of the interpenetration of noumenon and phenomena found in this Sutra. This Sutra discusses the Dharma Realm of noumenon, of phenomena, of the unobstructed state of interpenetration of noumenon and phenomena, and the Dharma Realm of the unobstructed state of the interpenetration of phenomena and phenomena. The Thus Come One is just the Dharma Realm of the unobstructed state of the interpenetration of noumenon and phenomena. Thus Come One is also one of the ten names of the Buddha. This is also an aspect of praising the Thus Come One.

The third vow of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is to extensively cultivate making offerings. “Extensively” means “on a vast scale,” and “cultivate” means “to improve and develop;” that is, one develops the ability and improves the quality of making offerings without limit.

There are many kinds of offerings. One might give his body as an offering; another might give his mind; still another could give both his body and mind as an offering. What does “giving one’s body as an offering” mean? There are two kinds of disciples who give their bodies as offerings to all Buddhas. The first leave the home-life and use their bodies to do the Buddha’s work: to cultivate the Buddhadharma. The second are laypeople who are not able to leave the home-life, but who take time out of their busy schedules to come to the monastery, light incense, and bow to the Buddha. This is giving the body as an offering. If you are busy or for some other reason cannot go to a temple, then you may daily, with a pure and clean mind, light incense and contemplate the Buddha in your home. Perhaps you are in a remote place or in some other unusual circumstance, in which case you can still give your mind or body as an offering, by giving offerings of incense and flowers, or by lighting lamps before the Buddha, or by buying fruit or new clothing as an offering, or by offering lighted candles to the Buddha. One can also give his mind as an offering by cultivating the Buddhadharma with a true mind, daily bowing to the Buddhas, worshiping and reciting Sutras, always being mindful, and always doing wholesome things for the sake of the Buddhadharma. These are doing various kinds of offerings.

Originally there were ten different kinds of offerings, but in time the ten became one hundred, and the one hundred has finally become 10,000. When we make offerings to one Buddha, we contemplate ourselves making offerings to uncountable and unlimited numbers of Buddhas everywhere throughout the Dharma Realm, and in this way we make offerings before each one of these Buddhas. If you contemplate in this manner, you are doing what is called “making offerings throughout the Dharma Realm.” By making offerings throughout the Dharma Realm, you accumulate the merit and virtue of the Dharma Realm and obtain the wisdom of the Dharma Realm. By obtaining this wisdom, you totally perfect the resultant position of the Dharma Realm. Therefore we should extensively cultivate making offerings.

“Extensively cultivate making offerings,” means exhausting your strength to make offerings using whatever strength you have to make offerings to the Triple Jewel-the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva extensively cultivates the practice of making offerings as his third vow.

The Bodhisattva’s fourth vow is to repent of karmic obstacles and reform. “Repent” means to “regret previous offenses, to be contrite and self-reproachful.” “To reform” means “to correct oneself so that the same offense is not committed again.” To repent means that one wishes to change one’s previous offenses, and to have reformed means that one does not again make such mistakes. This means that evil acts that have already been done will not be done again, and that the potential for evil acts that have not yet been done is totally eradicated. It also means to cut off the continuing effect of evil acts which have already been done.

To reform means to increase ones good deeds and to do the good deeds which have not been done. You can also say it means to continuously do the kinds of good deeds that one has already done, and to cause the kinds of good deeds that have not yet been done to be done and continuously increase.

There are many kinds of karmic obstacles, and karmic obstacles are one of the three fundamental kinds of obstacles, which are: karmic obstacles, retribution obstacles, and the obstacles stemming from afflictions. Now we are discussing how to repent of karmic obstacles and reform. To repent of one’s karmic obstacles and reform involves repenting of one’s retribution obstacles and reforming the obstacles that come from afflictions.

In general, there are three kinds of karmic obstacles which are simply the karmas of body, mouth, and mind. The body creates three kinds of karma-killing karma, stealing karma, and the karma of sexual misconduct. When you discuss “killing” in terms of its broader aspects, it refers to killing larger animals, but in terms of its subtler aspects, killing refers to the killing of even the smallest creatures, like ants, mosquitoes, and flies. This broadly describes killing in its grosser and subtler forms, but there are also thoughts of killing. Although one does not actually kill, having the thought to kill is an offense in the realm of one’s self-nature. To have the thought to kill breaks the Bodhisattva Precepts. The cause of killing, the conditions of killing, the dharma of killing, and the karma of killing all break the precept against killing.

When we discuss “stealing” in its broadest sense, it means to steal a person’s country; on a smaller scale, it refers to stealing a person’s livelihood; and on a fine scale, it involves pilfering nothing more than a needle, a thread, a sliver of wood, or a blade of grass. In general, if you obtain something which is not given to you, you are stealing.

Sexual misconduct” also has its grosser and finer aspects. Even a thought of sexual desire in your mind causes your self-nature to be impure and breaks the Bodhisattva Precepts.

The previous discussion is a general description of the karmic obstacles of the body: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.

There are also the three karmic obstacles created by the mind: the evil acts of greed, hatred, and stupidity. Karma is created from thoughts of greed, karma is created from thoughts of hatred, and karma is created from thoughts of stupidity.

Finally there are four evil acts of the mouth; the mouth creates karmic obstacles by irresponsible speech, false speech, harsh speech, and duplicity.

There are many ways in which one may create offense karma, and so now we should resolve to repent, because we do not want to allow new mistakes to arise. This is the meaning of repenting of karmic obstacles and reforming.

How does one repent? Before the Buddha, one may feel deep sorrow, a pain for past mistakes so deep that one cries before the Buddha in a sincere wish to repent and reform. If you earnestly repent, your karmic obstacles will be spontaneously destroyed. This describes the fourth of Universal Worthy’s vast vows, “to repent of karmic obstacles and reform.”

The fifth of his vows is to follow along with and rejoice in merit and virtue. “To follow along with” means “to accord with and to comply.” “To rejoice” means “to be happy.” “Merit” is what one establishes by benefiting others, and “virtue” is the result of the wholesome good deeds one does. One both accords with and rejoiced in one’s own merit and virtue, and one also accords with and rejoices in one’s own merit and virtue, and one also accords with and rejoices in the merit and virtue done by others.

If you wish to repent of karmic obstacles and reform, then you must follow along and rejoice in merit and virtue by doing many kinds of meritorious and virtuous acts. In fact, doing meritorious and virtuous acts is just repenting of one’s karmic obstacles and reforming. Therefore it is said, “To follow and rejoice in merit and virtue is to repent of karmic obstacles and reform. And to repent of karmic obstacles and reform is to follow and rejoice in merit and virtue.”

If this is the case, then are not the fourth and fifth vows redundant, and if they are, then why do we have this fifth vow?

The fourth vow instructs us to repent of karmic obstacles and reform, and if one wishes to repent of karmic obstacles and reform, one should also fulfill the fifth vow and follow and rejoice in merit and virtue. But in fact there are two separate and distinct things that one must do to practice these vows.

To follow and rejoice in merit and virtue includes doing all kinds of good deeds, and not crimes or evil acts. To follow and rejoice in merit and virtue, one may do something which benefits others, and this action is called a good deed. Merit is established by doing things for everyone, by acting for the general good.

For example, the Chinese character which means “merit,” kung, is made up of the characters which means “work,” kung, and the character which means “strength,” li. You should use your strength when doing acts of merit and virtue, and be sure that you are working for everyone, for the general good, and not for your own selfish interests. At present, the government takes care of most public work projects, but in earlier times, government were not involved in projects like fixing bridges, and so those who did this work established merit. This is an example of how to establish merit; whatever you do that is for the general good is called merit.

Meritorious acts are readily apparent to everyone. They have obvious characteristics, and everyone knows who did a meritorious deed. For example, schools have peoples’ names carved into plaques to show who helped make the building possible. This describes establishing merit.

By practicing what is good, one improves oneself. This is “virtue.” Whatever good you do that delights your mind is called virtue. Most people will not necessarily know about a person’s virtuous acts, but establishing merit is something everyone knows about. There are the two kinds of virtue: apparent and hidden. Apparent virtue is known by all and causes everyone to be happy, and hidden virtue is done to benefit everyone, but rarely is anyone aware of it. For example, spiritual powers can help all living beings in an invisible way, but no one is aware of them. This is an example of hidden virtue.

When one follows and rejoices in merit and virtue, one should reveal one’s good deeds and cause others to do similar acts, so that they too can follow and rejoice in merit and virtue of others.

Not only does this vow involve following and rejoicing in the merit and virtue of oneself and others, but it also includes following and rejoicing in the merit and virtue of all good deeds that bring joy to all living beings of the Dharma Realm. You follow them and rejoice by helping them do their joyful and wholesome acts. You can also follow and rejoice in the merit and virtue of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, the Sound Hearers, and of Those Enlightened to Conditions, as well as the merit and virtue created by all living beings.

What does it mean to follow and rejoice in the merit and virtue of the Buddhas? To explain Sutras and speak Dharma and to teach and transform living beings is to follow and rejoice in the merit and virtue of the Buddhas. If you teach people to practice the Six Perfections and the 10,000 Practices, and to cultivate the Bodhisattva Way, then you are following and rejoicing in the merit and virtue of Bodhisattvas. When you teach people to cultivate the Twelve Links of Causes and Conditions, then you follow and rejoice in the merit and virtue of Those Enlightened to Conditions. To cause others to become aware of the Four Noble Truths is to follow and rejoice in the merit and virtue of the Sound Hearers. To follow and rejoice in the merit and virtue of gods and humans you must teach the practices of the Five Precepts and the Ten Wholesome Acts. This has been a general explanation of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s vow to follow and rejoice in merit and virtue; in actuality, the possible explanations are inexhaustible in number.

The Bodhisattva’s sixth great vow is to request the turning of the Dharma wheel. What is the “Dharma wheel?” Wheels roll over things, and the Dharma wheel rolls over gods, demons, and those of outside ways. It enables the proper Dharma to exist eternally. After Shakyamuni became a Buddha, he turned the Dharma wheel of the Four Truths three times and crossed over the Five Bhikshus. This is an example of turning the Dharma Wheel, which basically means to “explain the Dharma.” To request the turning of the Dharma wheel means to respectfully and sincerely ask the Buddha to speak Dharma, or to ask various Dharma Masters to explain the Buddha’s teachings. All of these exemplify Universal Worthy’s vow to request the turning of the Dharma wheel. For example, we explain Sutras here everyday, and each time the Dharma assembly convenes, lay people or Dharma Masters who request the Dharma are fulfilling one of the vows and performing one of the practices of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva.

What value does requesting the turning of the Dharma wheel have? We need to have people turning the Dharma wheel in this world so that the demon kings will not dare emerge. If no one explains the Dharma, then the demon kings will come out. A second reason is that when you request the turning of the Dharma wheel, the merit and virtue crated by this wholesome act arises because of you, and is obtained by you, and you thereby follow and rejoice in merit and virtue. Furthermore, if you request the turning of the Dharma wheel, you will expand your wisdom, but this brings benefit not just to you, because your request is that a Dharma Master speak the Dharma for everyone, and so it benefits everyone. This is also following and rejoicing in merit and virtue.

So you can see that these ten great vows are all related. When you repent of all karmic obstacles and reform, you also rejoice in merit and virtue. If you wish to follow and rejoice in merit and virtue, you may request the turning of the Dharma wheel, for this is the greatest way to rejoice in merit and virtue.

Turning the Dharma wheel is not limited to lecturing on Sutras and speaking the Dharma. Any activity you do for Buddhism is called turning the Dharma wheel. For example, recording the lectures, translating them, and then printing them is turning the Dharma wheel. Taking notes of the explanations of the Sutras is done with the intent of turning the Dharma wheel. First you take notes, then you memorize them, and then you speak them for others. So now you are preparing to turn the Dharma wheel. Reciting Sutras, reading Sutras, and bowing to Sutras also are all forms of requesting that the Dharma wheel be turned.

Therefore, turning the Dharma wheel is not just one special kind of activity. In fact, anything you do which is of benefit to Buddhism is called turning the Dharma wheel. Writing the instructive verses on the front door, participating in the evening lectures, and attending the daytime meditation periods are all considered turning the Dharma wheel. What we do here is to request the turning of the Dharma wheel; if you understand, then in your daily activities you are requesting the turning of the Dharma wheel, but if you do not understand, and just do the work, then all this is just tiresome suffering, and only makes you afraid to turn the Dharma wheel.

The seventh vow of Universal Worthy is to request that the Buddhas remain in the world. The Buddha enters the world, lives in the world, and then enters Nirvana. When the Buddha remains in the world, it is like the sun high in the sky filling the world with light. When the Buddha enters Nirvana, the sun sets and the world becomes dark. Therefore, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva made a great vow to ask the Buddhas to remain in the world-to forgo entering Nirvana and always remain in the world.

Universal Worthy made this vow to request that the Buddhas remain in the world because the Buddhas are able to satisfy desires of living beings. If all living beings realized and sincerely asked the Buddhas to dwell here in the world, then the Buddhas would not leave to enter Nirvana. If you do not ask the Buddhas to continue dwelling in the world, then as soon as they finish teaching and transforming the living beings who should receive their instruction, they enter Nirvana. Therefore the Bodhisattva vowed “to request that the Buddhas remain in the world.” This is the seventh vow.

His eighth vow is to always study with the Buddhas. “To study with the Buddhas” means to study their teachings, the Buddhadharmas, of which there are many. In your study, do not be afraid that there are too many Buddhadharmas, because the more you study, the more extensive your wisdom will become. For example, why was Ananda’s memory so good? “The Buddhadharma is like a great sea which flowed into Ananda’s mind.” It was not that the ocean of Dharma flowed into his mind, for this is just an analogy which means that at all time, in life after life, Ananda emphasized learning and studied diligently, and so his memory was very good. To always follow the Buddhas and continually study with them means that you cannot be lax or lazy, or muddled, but you must diligently cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, and put your greed, hatred, and stupidity, the three poisons, to rest. If you can do this diligently and cultivate sincerely, perfect in precepts, samadhi, and wisdom and totally free yourself from all greed, hatred, and stupidity, then you are always studying with the Buddhas.

The ninth vow of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is to constantly accord with living beings, and his tenth vow is to universally transfer all merit and virtue. “Constantly” means “always,” to be forever constant and never change. “Accord” means to “do what is suitable, to respond appropriately to the state of living beings.” Doing this may seem to some to pose a problem. While according with living beings who are deviant, should one accord with their deviant ways?

Basically, living beings are unaware, but if you accord with this lack of awareness, you will end up on the road of stupidity. To accord with living beings means to accord with their customs in order to rescue them from going against the flow. What does this mean? All living beings are topsy-turvy; it is their inverted views and behavior that are called “going against the flow.” For example, if a stream flows from west to east, but you wish to go up the stream from east to west, you are going against the flow. If you literally accord with living beings, then you will not become a Buddha, and if you want to become a Buddha, then you cannot accord with living beings. Then why does Universal Worthy wish to constantly accord with living beings? Did I not just speak about according with the living beings who are going against the flow until you rescue them? One goes against the flow of common people involved with the six sense objects, and enters the sages’ flow of the Dharma Nature. This is “to constantly accord with living beings.”

When living beings wish to create karma, should you accord with them by creating karma along with them? Does a Bodhisattva who constantly accords with living beings also create karma? Does he also create offenses along with living beings? Living beings give rise to delusions, they become confused, and then they create karma. After they create karma, they undergo the retribution. If you give rise to delusion, create karma, and undergo retribution along with living beings, then you are just a living being; you have become a living being. “To constantly accord with living beings” means to always, without the least feeling of distaste, go along with living beings to teach and transform them, and cause them “to turn their backs on confusion and return to enlightenment,” to leave the confused path and obtain enlightenment.

“To constantly accord with living beings” is also the Paramita of vigor. One who truly cultivates vigor never has a feeling of distaste for living beings who create offenses. Although living beings create immeasurable offenses, Bodhisattvas do not forsake them. They do not say, “You creatures have created so many offenses that I refuse to teach you, and even though some of you will fall into the hells, it is none of my business, so go as you wish.” Bodhisattvas do not have thoughts like this, but are always compassionate to living beings in spite of their offenses; they are kind and give to them, and take them across. This is truly the Paramita of vigor.

Once when Shakyamuni Buddha was on the causal ground cultivating the Way, cultivating the Paramitas of giving and vigor in the mountains, it snowed for many days, and everything was covered by a thick white blanket. When a mother tiger and her cubs came out to find something to eat, they could find nothing because of the heavy snow and were about to starve to death. It was then that Shakyamuni Buddha saw them, emaciated and unable to move. He thought, “I will give my body to the tigers and tell them to resolve their minds on Bodhi, and after they eat me, to perfect the unsurpassed Path.” After he made this vow, he covered his head with his clothes, leapt off a mountain cliff, smashing himself to death in front of the tigers. He gave up his body for three tigers. This is one way to constantly accord with living beings and is an example of vigor in cultivating the Paramita of giving. The Buddha always practices vigor and giving in this way and thereby constantly accords with living beings.

When constantly according with living beings, we should take them across. We should not think, “Universal Worthy says to constantly accord with living beings; now some of them take mind-confusing drugs, so I think I will too. Some are doing confused things, so I think I will indulge myself along with them.”

This is not the meaning of constantly according with living beings. “To constantly accord with living beings” means to pull living beings out of confusion, to pull them along with you on the way to enlightenment. It means to cause living beings to cultivate the Way along with you. Do not misunderstand and think that it means to run off and follow the confusion of living beings, running all over until you lose your way so that you don’t know the road back home. This vow reads in Chinese, “to constantly accord with living beings,” but the translation should read, “living beings constantly accord.” Now these are opposite in meaning, but now that I have said that living beings should constantly accord with me on the Path to enlightenment, the vow is more in accord with the Dharma.

The tenth vow is to universally transfer all merit and virtue. “Universal” means “infinitely pervasive, everywhere, and totally.” “To universally transfer all merit and virtue” means “to always make this transference.” To whom? To all Buddhas, like this:

    May the merit and virtue accrued from this work,
    Adorn the BuddhasPure Lands;
    Repaying four kinds of kindness above,
    And aiding those suffering in the three paths below.
    May those who see and hear of this,
    All bring forth resolve for Bodhi;
    And when this retribution body expires,
    May we be reborn together in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.

This is what is mean by transferring the merit, or performing dedications of merit.

“To transfer” means “to come back,” and “to go out.” It means “to come inside,” and “to go outside.” After you have returned, then you can leave. To what place do you return? To the point where you universally transfer all merit and virtue. “I want to transfer merit and virtue to all common people so they become sages. I want to transfer merit and virtue to living beings so they all become Buddhas.” This is universally transferring merit and virtue. To return the common to the sagely, to return living beings to Buddhahood, to return the small to the great, and to return oneself to others: each of these is a way to transfer all merit and virtue.

What is the meaning of to return oneself to others? To do something good and transfer all the merit derived from this action to a friend, and thus cause the friend to resolve his mind to attain Bodhi and perfect the unsurpassed Way, is to transfer oneself to others.

“To transfer phenomena to the noumenon.” Whatever you do has a mark. But if you transfer it to the noumenon, it no longer has a mark, because the noumenon is without a mark. That is to say, you transfer merit and virtue which has marks and characteristics to the inexhaustible Dharma Realm, the Dharma Realm which can never be exhausted.

“To return the small to the great.” “Previously I studied the Small Vehicle, but now I will study the Dharma of the Great Vehicle.” This is the meaning of returning the small to the great.

The verses above discuss transferring merit and virtue. Everyday at the end of the Sutra lecture, we recite these verses. Explaining the Sutras is the practice of giving Dharma, the highest form of giving, and the merit and virtue accrued from this giving is greater than making offerings of the seven precious jewels in all of the three thousand great-thousand worlds.

“Even though the merit and virtue is so great, I do not want to keep it.”

Then what do you want to do with it?

“I wish that the merit and virtue accrued by explaining the Sutras, speaking the Dharma, and turning the great Dharma wheel will adorn the Pure Lands of the Buddhas.” You should use the merit and virtue which you earn to adorn the Pure Lands of the Buddhas of the ten directions.

“Repaying four kinds of kindness above” means “to repay heaven and earth, the king, your mother and father, and your teachers and elders,” all of whom are kind ones who nurture others’ development.

“Aiding those suffering in the three paths below” means “to rescue animals, hungry ghosts, and beings in the hells.”

“May those who see and hear of this” Sutra being lectured or those who hear this Dharma “all bring forth the resolve for Bodhi.” Everyone should quickly resolve to attain Bodhi, the Path of Enlightenment. “And when this retribution body expires:” Our present body is called a retribution body, and when it reaches its end, when it is exhausted and dies, “may we be born together in the Land of Ultimate Bliss.” All of us together will be born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. This explanation of transferring merit and virtue, describes the tenth vow of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva as he transfers all the merit and virtue from his deeds to all Buddhas.

 Sutra:

Good Wealth asked, “Great Sage! What does it mean to worship and respect all Buddhas, up to and including to universally transfer all merit and virtue?”

Commentary:

The Youth Good Wealth already understood the Ten Great Vows listed by Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, but was afraid that all of us living beings had not yet understood them, and so he intentionally asked, “What does to worship and respect all Buddhas mean? What does to praise the Thus Come Ones mean? What does it mean to extensively cultivate making offerings? How does one repent of karmic obstacles and reform? How does one follow along with and rejoice in merit and virtue and request the turning of the Dharma wheel? How does one request the Buddhas to remain in the world? How does one always study with the Buddhas, and how does one constantly accord with living beings? And what does it mean to universally transfer all merit and virtue?”

The Youth Good Wealth asked about these vows, saying to Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, “Great Sage!” A Great Sage is a great Bodhisattva, a cultivator with great compassion. Therefore he asked the Great Sage, “What does it mean to worship and respect all Buddhas, up to and including to universally transfer all merit and virtue?”

The First Vow: To Worship and Respect all Buddhas

Sutra:

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva told Good Wealth, “Good man, to worship and respect all Buddhas is explained like this: All Buddhas, World Honored Ones, are as numerous as fine mots of dust in all Buddha lands in the ten directions and the three periods of time, to the exhaustion of the Dharma Realm and empty space. Because of the power of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s conduct and vows, I have a mind of deep faith and understanding of them as if they were before my eyes.

“With my body, mouth, and mind karma completely pure, I constantly worship and respect them.

Commentary:

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva said to the Youth Good Wealth, “Good man, you are one who cultivates well, and you have asked what it means to worship and respect all Buddhas. Now I will tell you. To worship and respect all Buddhas is explained like this: All Buddhas, World Honored Ones, are as numerous as fine mots of dust in all Buddha lands in the ten directions and the three periods of time, to the exhaustion of the Dharma Realm and empty space.” “Exhaustion” refers to the ultimate end, when there is nothing left. The Dharma Realm and empty space can never cease to exist, and yet he talks about when the Dharma Realm does not exist. “The exhaustion of the Dharma Realm” means “the end of empty space which pervades throughout the Dharma Realm.”

Because of the power of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s conduct and vows. Because I cultivates the practices, practices which exhaust empty space and pervade the Dharma Realm, I have a mind of deep faith and understanding of them. I want to use an honest and sincere mind to believe in and understand all Buddhas as if they were before my eyes.

When one bows to the Buddhas one should think, “I am before the Buddhas, and the Buddhas are before me.” There is a verse which everyone should know and contemplate when bowing the Great Compassion Repentance:

        The worshiper and worshiped in nature are empty and still.
        The response and the Way are intertwined and difficult to conceive of.
        My Bodhimanda is like the Imperial Pearl;
        Shakyamuni Thus Come One’s body manifests in it;
        My body manifests before Shakyamuni Buddha.
        Bowing down I return my life in worship.

“The worshiper and worshiped in nature are empty and still.” The one who is bowing to the Buddha is called the worshiper, and the Buddha receiving the bows is the worshiped The original nature of both the worshiper and worshiped is empty and still, and yet that which is empty and still is nonetheless able to respond, and so the next line reads, “The response and the Way are intertwined and difficult to conceive of.” The intertwining of the Way and the response is inconceivable. When you bow to the Buddhas, although you are empty, although everything is empty, there is an intertwining of the response with the Way. That is why the verse says difficult to conceive of. You cannot conceptualize this state; it is inconceivable. “Inconceivable” refers to the state beyond words-you wish to express it but you cannot-and the place where the mind functions is destroyed. You may want to have a false thought in order to know this state, but you cannot. The mind cannot grasp it. So the verse says, “The response and the Way are intertwined and difficult to conceive of.”

“My Bodhimanda is like the Imperial Pearl.” This line explains that the Bodhimanda in which I bow is like the pearl that Shakra has before him in which all forms appear. “Shakyamuni Thus Come One’s body manifests in it.” Shakyamuni Buddha’s body appears in the light of the pearl, and “my body manifests before Shakyamuni Buddha; bowing down I return my life in worship.” I am before Shakyamuni Buddha with my five extremities touching the ground, bowing to the Buddha with this attitude of mind, which is called the mind of deep faith and understanding.

“As if they were before my eyes.” Did I not say earlier that in bowing to the Buddhas, we should visualize them as being right before our eyes, and we should visualize ourselves as being right before the Buddhas, so that we mutually appear before one another? Confucius said:

        Sacrifice as if the object of sacrifice were present,
        Sacrifice to spirits as if they were present-
        As if they were above,
        Or as if they were on both sides.

One should sacrifice to spirits as if they were present. When you worship and sacrifice to spirits, you should do so as if they were above you or on your left and right.

“As if” means that you visualize them above and on both sides of you. You should do this when you bow to the Buddhas, as if they were above and as if they were on both sides. If the Buddhas were right in front of you, you would certainly bow to them very respectfully without being the least bit inattentive.

To make this point clear, if we wish to be courteous to a certain person when we see him, then we may be very respectful while in his presence. But when that person is not around, we allow ourselves to become a little more casual. Here the text puts us face to face with the Buddhas.

With my body, mouth, and mind karma completely pure. “Completely” means “totally.” “With” also means “to use,” and so the text can also mean to use pure body, mouth and mind karma in all that you think, say, and do. You cannot commit the Ten Evil Acts and then bow to the Buddhas thinking that you can balance off the karma in that way; it would not work, and so you must be pure in your karma of body, mouth, and mind.

As I have explained before, the body can commit three kinds of evil deeds: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. You cannot go out and kill something and then think, “This killing was an offense, so I will go to a temple to bow and repent of it.” You do not ordinarily bow to the Buddhas when you have not killed, but as soon as you kill, you wash the blood off your hands and run to the temple to repent. This is an example of impure body karma.

Further, you cannot steal valuables and then think, “I have stolen, and this has broken the second precept against stealing. I had better go quickly before the Buddhas to bow and repent.” This repentance is impure action.

Whether you are a man or a woman, if you are promiscuous and then think, “Oh, I have used my body incorrectly, I should go quickly to bow to the Buddhas,” and there you repent; this too is to be impure in body, speech, and mind while bowing to the Buddhas. You must not kill, steal, or commit sexual misconduct, and then when you bow to the Buddhas, there will be a response.

The mind can commit three kinds of evil offenses greed, hatred, and stupidity. I often talk about a mind and heart which are greedy. Why are we so hurried and flustered? Why is it that we never rest all day long? It is because of our greed. Hankering after this and that, covetous, and lustful, your greed stirs you up so you can never rest.

Following greed there is a mind and heart which are filled with hatred. If you desire something and you do not get it, if things do not go your way and you want them to, then you become afflicted with anger. Why do people become afflicted?

It is stupidity which allows afflictions to arise. It is because you are so stupid that you can become afflicted. Those who are wise do not become afflicted no matter what difficulties they encounter, even if things do not agree with their wishes.

Stupid people are at the same time the funniest and the most pitiful. How stupid can people be? There might be one who has not gone to elementary school or high school, or college, who meets a person with a Ph. D He notices that most people address the Ph. D as Doctor so and so, praising him in this way. Envious of the Ph. D’s special status, he also wants the same degree. But if he does not go to school, who will give him a Ph. D? No one.

Another person who has not studied the Dharma or attended Sutra lectures hears that the Buddha was the foremost and unsurpassed person in the world, and so he wishes to become a Buddha right on the spot. Is this not stupid? Another wants to start a business without capital. How can you start a business without capital? There is yet another person who is extremely funny. He does not buy a horse racing ticket and expects to win the feature race. This is totally unreasonable, impossible, and stupid.

There is a saying that illustrates the depths to which stupidity can go:

    Day in and day out, may my beautiful flowers stay fresh,
    And night after night, why can’t the shining moon be full?
    I wish that all the springs on earth will flow with sparkling wine,
    And in the forests, all the trees will sway with gold.

Someone who likes flowers wants them to be always fresh and beautiful, so he says, “May my beautiful flowers stay fresh.” Now is this not a false thought? The person described in this poem things that the full moon is the very finest and wishes that it would never wane, and those who like to drink think, “I wish that all the springs on earth will flow with sparkling wine.” They wish that every body of water would become wine so that whenever they want to take a drink, it would be very convenient. Although they feel this is the best, it too is impossible.

Those who are greedy for wealth wish that all the trees in the forests will sway with money so that when they need money, all they have to do is pick it off a tree. This would be best for them, but it too is impossible and does not exist.

“Day in and day out, may my beautiful flowers stay fresh.” This is the thought of those who wish that objects of beauty will never change. They want money and wine everywhere, and a full moon every night. The full moon represents anger, so in this short poem we find wine, wealth, sex, and anger. How does the full moon refer to anger? Such a person wants the moon to remain full, but it cannot be full every night, and so this person becomes dissatisfied, and dissatisfaction is just anger. So this poem discusses the subjects of wine, wealth, sex, anger, and of course stupidity. If people were not stupid, they would not give rise to desire and all the other different kinds of afflictions which follow it. This has been a brief descriptive explanation of the karma of the mind.

Our mouths crate many karmic obstructions and offenses, which are in general grouped together under four kinds of evil speech. Irresponsible speech refers to discussions about improper things; for example, men like to talk about women and women like to talk about men. Speech like this is useless and unprincipled; it is basically depraved. False speech refers to lying. There are big lies, medium-sized lies, and small lies. If you have killed someone and are interrogated about it, a great lie would be to say, “No, it wasn’t me; I didn’t do it.” The same is true if you are questioned about stealing or sexual misconduct. Covering up your misdeed is lying.

Harsh speech is very cruel, vicious, and cutting, something which people do not like to hear. Duplicity is spoken by one who is two-faced.

These are all descriptions of karmic obstructions, the evil karma done by our actions, words, and thoughts, and if you have these faults, then your three karmas are not pure. When we bow to the Buddhas, our body, speech, and mind karma should be pure.

I constantly worship and respect them. “Constantly” means to always cultivate pure karma of body, mouth, and mind to worship all Buddhas. Although to kill, steal, and commit sexual misconduct and then bow to the Buddhas is not pure, if you truly wish to have a change of heart, bowing is much better than not bowing to the Buddhas at all. Nonetheless, it cannot be considered worshiping the Buddhas with pure body, mouth, and mind. To worship and respect all Buddhas is to be pure in one’s three karmas. When your three karmas are pure, you constantly worship and respect them.

Sutra:

“In each and every place where there are Buddhas, I manifest bodies as numerous as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha lands.

Commentary:

He constantly worships and respects all Buddhas in each and every place where there are Buddhas. Buddhas are incalculable and measureless in number, and when we bow to them, our minds also manifest measureless and incalculable numbers of our own bodies, as numerous as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha lands before all of the Buddhas. The Buddhadharma reveals inconceivable states; if you resolve your mind to pervasively worship all Buddhas throughout the Dharma Realm, your merit will pervade throughout the Dharma Realm too. After the Youth Good Wealth first took Manjushri Bodhisattva as his teacher, the Bodhisattva told him to go to the south and bow to fifty-three wise teachers. Among these was Maitreya Bodhisattva. When he arrived at the abode of Maitreya, he saw towers adorned with the seven precious jewels piled continuously one upon another. In each of the towers were other towers, and in each of these towers there were even more towers. It was impossible to calculate how many there were. In each tower there was Maitreya, speaking Dharma. And what is more, the Youth Good Wealth saw his own body bowing before each transformation body of Maitreya Bodhisattva. He saw layer upon layer of them without end, incalculable in number.

Now, as the Flower Adornment Sutra is being explained, we should cultivate this contemplation, which is called the contemplation of the Dharma Realm. For example, when you bow to the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, you should, even though your body is here in the lecture hall, contemplate your body as appearing before Buddhas as many as the dust motes throughout the ten directions, in such a way that you bow to the Dharma Flower Sutra before each of those Buddhas. You should give rise to a limitless mind, because everything is made from the mind alone. If the limits of your mind totally pervade throughout the Dharma Realm, and you bow before an infinite number of Buddhas, then that number of Buddhas will accept your worship.

Sutra:

“Each and every body everywhere worships and respects Buddhas as many as the fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable numbers of Buddha lands.

Commentary:

Although you have not become a Buddha, when you contemplate like this you can manifest a body before each and every Buddha. This is to pervasively worship.

Sutra:

“When the realm of empty space is exhausted, my worship and respect will be exhausted. But because the realm of empty space is inexhaustible, my worship and respect will never end. In the same way, when the realms of living beings, the karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, my worship and respect will be exhausted. But the realms of living beings, the karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings are inexhaustible. Therefore, my worship and respect are inexhaustible. They continue in thought after thought without case. My body, mouth, and mind never tire of doing these deeds.

Commentary:

When the realm of empty space is exhausted, my worship and respect will be exhausted. “Empty” means “unreal,” and “space” means “non-existent.” The text talks about the time that the realm of empty space comes to an end, but at what time does empty space exist/ You cannot know this. Is there a time when it comes to an end? No. Empty space has no beginning or end. When did empty space begin? Never. When will empty space end? Never. And so the Bodhisattva said that when the realm of empty space is no more, my worship and respect of all the Buddhas of the ten directions will come to an end.

But because the realm of empty space is inexhaustible, my worship and respect will never end. At all times I worship and respect all Buddhas, and my worship and respect is endless and inexhaustible, continuing until the end of the limits of the future.

In the same way, when the realms of living beings are exhausted, and there are no living beings; when the karma of living beings is exhausted, and there is no more karma of living beings; and when the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, and living beings have no more afflictions, then my worship and respect will be exhausted. But the realms of living beings, the karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings are inexhaustible. Since they never end, my worship will never end. The afflictions of living beings are produced from ignorance, and the karma of living beings is created because of afflictions, and so living beings are born through the power of their karma. But since the realms, the karma, and the afflictions of living beings can never be cut off, ended or exhausted, therefore, my worship and respect of all Buddhas is inexhaustible.

They continue in thought after thought without cease. When I worship and respect all Buddhas, I do this with very sincere and earnest thoughts, in thought after thought without cease. Each thought is connected to the next so that in thought after thought without end, I worship the Buddhas continuously, without interruption.

My body, mouth, and mind never tire of doing these deeds. In my actions, words, and thoughts, I never grow tired of worshiping and respecting all Buddhas purely, without cease.

 The Second Vow: To Praise the Thus Come Ones

Sutra:

“Moreover, Good Man, to praise the Thus Come Ones is explained like this: in each fine mote of dust in all lands throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, exhausting the Dharma Realm and empty space, there are Buddhas as numerous as fine motes of dust in all worlds. Each of these Buddhas is circumambulated by an ocean-wide assembly of Bodhisattvas.

“With my profound and supreme understanding, I know and see them all. Each of my bodies brings forth a tongue of subtle and wonderful eloquence surpassing the skillful speech of even Sarasvati, the Goddess of Eloquence. Each tongue brings forth an inexhaustible sea of sounds. Each sound emits an ocean of all words, praising and glorifying all the Thus Comes Ones’ sea of all merit and virtue. These praises continue without case to the end of the boundaries of the future. Exhausting the Dharma Realm, these sounds reach everywhere.

“When the realm of empty space is exhausted, when the realms of living beings are exhausted, when the karma of living beings is exhausted, and when the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, only then will my praise be exhausted. But just as the realm of empty space up to and including living beingsafflictions are endless, so too are my praises endless. They continue in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never tire of doing these deeds.

Commentary:

Moreover, Good Man. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva called the Youth “good man,” because he has taken the Five Precepts, cultivates the Ten Wholesome Acts, and cultivates the subtle practices of the Bodhisattva. Although the Youth Good Wealth appears in the body of a youth, in actuality he is a great Bodhisattva, and so Universal Worthy Bodhisattva said, “Good Man, to praise the Thus Come Ones is explained like this. What is the meaning of this vow to praise the Thus Come Ones? Now I will tell you.

In each fine mote of dust in all lands throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, exhausting the Dharma Realm and empty space. “Exhausting” the Dharma Realm:” the “Dharma Realm” includes the Dharma Realm of Buddhas, and the Dharma Realms of Bodhisattva, Sound Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions, gods, humans, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings. These ten together are called the Ten Dharma Realms, and these Ten Dharma Realms are not beyond a single thought; one thought contains the Ten Dharma Realms, and the Ten Dharma Realms contain all the measureless Dharma Realms.

“In all lands.” “Lands” refers to all Buddha lands in each of the fine motes of dust in all worlds. There are Buddhas as numerous as fine motes of dust in all worlds. Each of these Buddhas is circumambulated by an ocean-wide assembly with immeasurable, limitless, and boundless numbers of great Bodhisattvas. “Ocean” represents a multitude, showing that the number of Bodhisattvas is extremely many, like the waters of the great ocean. All of the Bodhisattvas respectfully circumambulate these Buddhas.

With my profound and supreme understanding, I know and see them all. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva says, “I use the most profound and supreme understanding obtained from cultivation of the Way to know and see all of the countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I should both know and see them.” Knowledge is wisdom, and vision is perceiving the nature of things.

Each of my bodies brings forth a tongue of subtle and wonderful eloquence. My eloquence surpasses the eloquence of all people, surpassing the skillful speech of even Sarasvati, the Goddess of Eloquence. This Goddess is the most superb speaker and can make the most subtle distinctions. “Nevertheless, my powers of discrimination far surpass those of this Goddess.” Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s unobstructed eloquence surpasses the skillful speech of even the Goddess of the Heaven of Eloquence; it is even beyond the eloquence of the gods.

There are four kinds of unobstructed eloquence. The first is the unobstructed eloquence of phrasing. This means that one’s words flow forth smoothly without impediment, and that one is skilled in debating. The second is the unobstructed eloquence of dharmas.

    From one dharma immeasurable dharmas are produced,
    And the immeasurable dharmas return to the one dharma.

This saying characterizes the speech of one who has the unobstructed eloquence of dharma.

The third is the unobstructed eloquence of meaning. One who has this kind of unobstructed eloquence can within one meaning explain immeasurable meanings, and then return these immeasurable meanings to the one meaning. The fourth kind of unobstructed eloquence is delight in speaking. Delight in speaking means that one never tires of speaking the Buddhadharma. “The tongue of subtle and wonderful eloquence” refers to a person who is a most capable speaker. Whatever he says, everyone believes, and they enjoy hearing him. If your tongue is not skilled, when you speak, no one will believe you, and no one will want to listen to you.

Each tongue brings forth an inexhaustible ocean of sounds. These subtle and wonderful tongues let fall an immeasurable, boundless, and inexhaustible sea of subtle and wonderful sounds. Each sound praises the Thus Come Ones, and each sound emits an ocean of all words, which means that there is profusion of speech which is nonetheless delightful to hear. All of these sounds and words together are praising and revering all Thus Come Ones throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, praising and glorifying all the Thus Come Ones’ sea of all merit and virtue. They praise and revere the Buddhas with their sea of all merit and virtue. These praises continue without cease to the ends of the boundaries of the future. He continues and never ceases in his praise of the Thus Come Ones. Exhausting the Dharma Realm, these sounds reach everywhere. There is no place in the Dharma Realm where this sound does not totally pervade, and so in every place in the Dharma Realm his sound praises the Thus Come Ones.

When the realm of empty space is exhausted: he praises the Thus Come Ones by saying that when the realm of empty space is exhausted, when the realms of living beings are exhausted, when the karma of living beings is exhausted, and when the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, only then will my praise be exhausted-one then will my praise come to an end. But just as the realm of empty space up to and including living beingsafflictions are endless, so too are my praises endless. The realms of living beings cannot be exhausted, nor can the realm of empty space, the Dharma Realm, the karma of living beings, or the afflictions of living beings-none of these can be exhausted, and so the sounds of his praises will never cease. There is not time when his praises will cease, but they will continue on in thought after thought without cease. His faculties of body, mouth, and mind never tire of doing these deeds. “I always praise the Thus Come Ones and never give rise to even a thought of being tired, how much the less become worn out.”

The Third Vow: To Extensively Cultivate Making Offerings

Sutra:

“Moreover, Good Man, to extensively cultivate making offerings is explained like this: in every mote of dust in all the Buddha lands throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, exhausting the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, there are Buddhas as many as the fine motes of dust in all worlds. Each Buddha is circumambulated by various kinds of sea-like assemblies of Bodhisattvas. With the power of Universal Worthy’s practice and vows, I am able to deeply believe in and understand them. I can know and see them all. To each I make offerings of superb and wonderful gifts. That is to say, clouds of flowers, clouds of garlands, clouds of heavenly music, clouds of divine canopies, clouds of heavenly clothing, all varieties of heavenly incense, fragrant balms, burning incense, powdered incense, and clouds of gifts such as these; each cloud is as large as Sumeru, the king of mountains.

Commentary:

Why does the Bodhisattva say, moreover? He has discussed the first two vows, to worship and respect all Buddhas, and to praise the Thus Come Ones, and now he will explain another vow to extensively cultivate making offerings. “Moreover” indicates the beginning of the next vow, setting it apart from the previous sections.

Good Man. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva again calls out, “Good Man, to extensively cultivate making offerings is explained like this.

Now we will discuss the Dharma door of making offerings. What does it mean to extensively cultivate making offerings? You should now be attentive and I will explain this for you.

First, what is the scope of this vow? In every mote of dust in all the Buddha lands throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, exhausting the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space. “In all” includes everything; it includes the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space. “Exhausting the Dharma Realm” means reaching to the end of the Dharma Realm, totally pervading the Dharma Realm, and filling up the Dharma Realm. “Exhausting the realm of empty space” refers to totally pervading the realm of empty space and filling up the realm of empty space.

The ten direction are north, south, east, and west-the four directions-plus northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest, the intermediate directions, and above and below. The three periods refers to time, and the ten directions refer to space, to places, and locations. The three periods of time are the past, present, and future, and here they refer to all Buddhas of the past, all Buddhas of the present, and all Buddhas of the future.

“In every mote of dust:” each mote of dust in all Buddha lands can be divided into seven pieces, and one of these pieces is called “a dust mote bordering on emptiness,” or a “mote of dust.” In each of these motes of dust there is a Buddha turning the Dharma wheel. This is called “the large manifesting in the small.” Although each fine mote of dust is so small, each one contains an entire world; and although each world is so large, each one does not go beyond a dust mote. This is an example of what is large manifesting in what is small. The small can also manifest within what is large.

    The land of the Jeweled King appears on the tip of a hair,
    And sitting in a dust mote he turns the Dharma wheel.

A Buddha land can appear on the tip of a hair, and a Buddha land can appear in a dust mote. Therefore, what is large can manifest in what is small, yet the large does not obstruct the small; what is small can manifest in the large, yet the small does not obstruct the large. The large and small mutually function together; they are totally merged and unobstructed. In fact, the small is the large, and the large is the small. This state goes on infinitely, like many lights which illuminate together and reflect off one another, their light merging into one brightness without any obstructions.

There are immeasurable and uncountable worlds in each dust mote. How can you understand the Buddhadharma when an infinite number of worlds are contained in one dust mote? And in each world there are Buddhas as many as the fine motes of dust in all worlds. Each Buddha is circumambulated by various kinds of sea-like assemblies of Bodhisattvas. Some Bodhisattvas belong to the Vajra Sutra Dharma Assembly; some speak the Dharma Flower Sutra and belong to the Dharma Flower Sutra Dharma Assembly; some speak the Prajna Sutras and belong to the Prajna Sutras Dharma Assembly; some speak the Agama Sutras and belong to the Agama Sutras Dharma Assembly; some speak the Vaipulya Sutras and belong to the Vaipulya Sutras Dharma Assembly; some speak the Flower Adornment Sutra and belong to the assembly surrounding the Flower Adornment Sutras; and some speak the Shurangama Sutra and belong to the assembly surrounding the Shurangama Sutra. Each Buddha is circumambulated by a sea-like assembly of many kinds of Bodhisattvas.

With the power of Universal Worthy’s practice and vows, because of these vows, which are universally cultivated, I am able to deeply believe in and understand them. I give rise to a mind of deep belief and understanding in the Buddha, and in the Buddhadharma, which is like a great sea. If you have faith, you can enter this sea, but without faith, there is no way you can enter and understand it. So it is said,

    The Buddhadharma is like a great sea;
    Only through faith can one enter it.

I can know and see them all. This means to know and see all Buddhas and Buddha lands manifest in one thought, one thought of wisdom. To each I make offerings of superb and wonderful gifts. I gather up all of the most superb and wonderful things, things which cannot be surpassed, and use all of these to making offerings to all these Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. What are these superb and wonderful offerings? That is to say, measureless and boundless numbers of flowers in profusion like clouds of garlands, flowers strung together to make garland cloud adornments, and streamers and pennants, and clouds of heavenly music, all of which are used to make offerings. The Jade Emperor has gandharvas and kinnaras who play music for him, and since music is also a kind of offering, he uses it as an offering to the Buddhas.

When you light incense, it drifts in the air to form a cloud canopy of incense, in the shape of an umbrella which covers living beings. These are the clouds of divine canopies. In the Shurangama Mantra there is the Great White Canopy which appears in space when you recite the mantra. There are never any disasters in any place covered by this canopy, no earthquakes or natural disasters, and also no man-made disasters. There will be no disasters whatsoever.

Clouds of heavenly clothing. The clothing of the gods is very light, like nylon. You might even say that clothing made of nylon is clothing of the gods; it is very light, and beautiful. The Bodhisattva also makes offerings of clouds of heavenly clothing.

All varieties of heavenly incense. In the heavens there are many kinds of incense, and if you recite the Great Compassion Mantra sincerely, the perfume of this incense will manifest. This perfume is not like the fragrance we know, sandalwood and the like, because this perfume is not of this world. When you recite this mantra, all ghosts and spirits use this incense to make offerings. It is your sincerity which causes these fragrances to appear. If you are not sincere, you will not smell it, because the ghosts and spirits will not respond.

Fragrant balms. These are balms which you apply to your body, but they are not the kind of perfume we humans put on our bodies. These are too rare for that. You place them before the Buddhas as an offering.

Burning incense, powdered incense, and clouds of gifts such as these, just like the clouds of incense discussed above, each cloud is as large as Sumeru, the kind of mountains, and is given as an offering. What are the dimensions of these offerings? The size of each of them is as great as Mount Sumeru. What do you say, are these offerings great?

Sutra:

“I burn all kinds of lamps, butter lamps, oil lamps, and lamps of many fragrant oils. The wick of each lamp is as tall as Mount Sumeru; the quantity of oil in each lamp is equal in volume to the waters of the great sea. With all manner of gifts such as these, I constantly make offerings.

“Good man, of all offerings, the gift of Dharma is supreme. That is to say, the offering of cultivating according to the teachings, the offering of benefiting all living beings, the offering which gathers in all living beings, the offering of standing in for all beings to undergo their suffering, the offering of diligently cultivating good roots, the offering of not forsaking the deeds of the Bodhisattva, and the offering of not renouncing the Bodhi mind.

Commentary:

The offerings made by Universal Worthy Bodhisattva are described by comparing them to the size of Sumeru, but how big is Mount Sumeru? Sumeru is Sanskrit and means "wonderfully high." "Wonderfully" here means "inconceivably high." this mountain is surrounded by seven rings of seas and the Four Great Continents, Purvavideha in the East, Jambudvipa in the South, Aparagodaniya in the West, and Uttarakuru in the North. Sumeru is 84,000 yojanas high, and the sun and moon are located half way up its slope, as are the Heavens of the Four Kings. Therefore, Mount Sumeru is taller than the Heavens of the Four Kings. If the dimensions of your offerings are as large as Mount Sumeru, they are inconceivable.

I burn all kinds of lamps. To "burn" means to "light." What benefit is there in burning all kinds of lamps? If you light lamps before the Buddha, keen eyesight is the reward you will obtain from giving this offering. If you do not have keen eyesight, it is because you did not offer lamps. If you cause the space before the Buddha to be bright, then your eyes will be bright.

There are many kinds of lamps, not just one: butter lamps which burn butter made from cows' milk, and oil lamps, which burn common oil. In the Secret School, there is a Dharma called Hu Mo in which the Vajra Master lights a fire in front of himself and recites mantras. He may burn butter in the fire, common oil, clothing, or other articles as offerings to the Buddha. The more valuable the offerings, the more the merit and virtue derived. If one burns gold in the fire, the offering is especially great.

In actuality, it is not the value of the items burned that determines the amount of merit and virtue derived. For example, if you burn gold, it does not necessarily mean that your merit and virtue is great, or if you burn dirt, that your merit and virtue is small. The determining factor is your sincerity. If you can offer most valuable objects with a mind of extreme sincerity, this shows that your mind is true. If you have an honest mind, then there is merit and virtue, but you do not have to burn gold to gain it.

If, on the other hand, you offer up valuables but think, "What benefit is derived from burning these things, since in the end they are destroyed?" this shows you do not have a true mind, and the merit and virtue derived is considerably less. If your mind is true, you can give up anything to the fire. The merit and virtue derived depends upon the sincerity of your renunciation. This is the Hu Mo Dharma and several lamps like this are used in the practice of the Secret School.

In addition to these oil lamps, there are lamps of many fragrant oils including sesame oil lamps. The wick of each lamp is as tall as Mount Sumeru; the quantity of oil in each lamp is equal in volume to the waters of the great sea. Whoever can give offerings with the dimensions of Mount Sumeru and give fragrant oils in quantities equal to the waters of the great sea, according to the Flower Adornment Sutra, has made offerings that are of the dimensions of the Dharma Realm. What does this mean? If you have an honest and true mind when you give offerings, then the quantity will be vast. If your mind is honest, then the quantity will equal a number of worlds equal to the number of sand grains in the Ganges River.

With all manner of gifts such as these, I constantly make offerings. Using many different kinds of gifts in such vast quantities, I will constantly make offerings.

In the past in China, there was a very poor person who bought a catty of oil to offer to the Triple Jewel. He prepared to go to Gold Mountain Monastery the next day to burn lamps before the Buddha. At that time the Abbot of gold Mountain, a "bright eyed one," who had opened the Five Eyes, told the guest prefect, "Tomorrow open the main gate. A great Dharma protector will arrive around ten in the morning to make offerings to the Buddha, and after he has made his offerings, invite him to eat with the Abbot. You should be very polite to this Dharma protector, but don't let him go away."

The next day the grounds were swept and the great mountain gate was opened, and the Abbot put on his long ceremonial robe to greet the great Dharma protector. When he came to bow to the Buddha, the Abbot personally welcomed him, and invited him to eat in the Abbot's quarters.

What kind of person was this Dharma protector? He was so very poor that he could only afford one catty of oil to offer to the Buddha. Why did the Abbot treat a person who made such a small offering so well? Because he had used every cent of his life's savings to purchase the oil.

While this was going on, a rich person who had arrived at the monastery at the same time watched these proceedings and thought, "The Abbot is certainly treating him well." The next day the rich man bought 1000 catties of oil and gave them to the monastery to be burned in lamps, too. He thought that if an offering of just one catty of oil could occasion such good treatment, certainly with an offering of 1000 catties, one would be treated royally indeed.

Before the rich man sent his offerings, the Abbot declared, "Tomorrow, open the side door; a Dharma protector is sending oil to burn in the lamps. Ask him to eat in the guest hall. He doesn't have to eat in the Abbot's room."

The guest prefect did not understand why he was doing this, and after the rich man had paid his visit, he asked the Abbot, "How is it that you opened the main gate for the person who gave only one catty of oil and invited him to eat in the Abbot's quarters, while you didn't open the main gate or even greet the person who offered 1000 catties of oil, and had him eat in the guest hall?"

The Abbot replied, "The one who gave 1000 catties was very rich, and he could have easily given 100,000,000 catties of oil, and so there was no need for me to receive him." Then the guest prefect understood.

So in regard to making offerings, it does not matter how much you give, but you should give with a sincere mind. If your mind is extremely honest, you will obtain merit and virtue, but if your ind is not honest and sincere, even if you give much, you will have very little merit and virtue.

Offerings the size of Sumeru, King of Mountains, are not really as large as Mount Sumeru. It is the mind you produce that is as large as Mount Sumeru; thus your offerings will be of equal dimensions. But if you bring forth a small mind, then the merit and virtue from your offerings will be small.

Universal Worthy again said, "Good man, of all offerings, the gift of Dharma is supreme." The greatest offering is given by lecturing Sutras and explaining the Dharma. The Brahma Net Sutra says, "For every day you lecture Sutras and speak the Dharma, you can eat three ounces of gold." Your offerings of Dharma entitles you to eat food worth three ounces of gold for every day you teach. But we do not want to take this for granted and not feel repentant and go buy rich food to eat if we receive three ounces of gold as an offering. Although justification can be found in the Sutra, you do not want to say with conceit, "It is permissible for me to buy food with three ounces of gold you give me every day as an offering for explaining Sutras and speaking Dharma to buy food." You should not be so conceited.

In the Vajra Sutra it says that if you offer the Seven Jewels in Three Thousand Worlds, this offering is not equal to explaining a four line verse from the Sutra. So of all the kinds of offerings, the gift of Dharma is supreme. The offering of Dharma is the greatest.

Now every day I explain the Sutras so that you can hear the Dharma. This is giving Dharma. Turning the Dharma wheel and explaining a four line verse from the Sutra. So of all the kinds of offerings, the gift of Dharma is supreme. The offering of Dharma is the greatest.

Now every day I explain the Sutras so that you can hear the Dharma. This is giving Dharma. Turning the Dharma wheel and explaining Sutras is using the Dharma as an offering to the Buddhas. It is an offering that encourages others to cultivate according to the teachings.

That is to say, the offering of cultivating according to the teachings. An offering of cultivating according to the teachings is, for example, the teaching of the Paramita of giving, teaching others to give by one's words and actions. Others teach the Paramita of maintaining precepts by cultivating the Paramita of holding precepts. Someone may explain the Paramita of patience. Those who truly understand the Buddhadharma cultivate patience and do not get angry. They cultivate patience to the point that there are no people, no self, no living beings and no life span.

When some hear of the Paramita of vigor, throughout the day and night, they become constantly vigorous, and always cultivate according to the Dharma. When some hear the Paramita of Dhyana Samadhi explained, how one can obtain the Four Dhyanas and the Eight Samadhis, how one can produce all the immeasurable kinds of merit and virtue and perfect all kinds of liberations, they base their cultivations on the Paramita of Dhyana Samadhi. When some hear of the Prajna Paramita, they cultivate wisdom and do not give rise to stupid thoughts.

When some hear an explanation of the Four Noble Truths, suffering, accumulation, extinction, and Way, and are told to know suffering, cut off accumulation, long for extinction, and cultivate the Way, they rely on the Dharma of the Four Truths to cultivate. When some hear about the Twelve Links of Conditioned Causation, they rely on this Dharma to cultivate. Others hear an explanation of the Four Unlimited Minds, kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and renunciation, and they bring forth the mind to rely on the Four Unlimited Minds to cultivate.

To sum it all up, whatever Dharma door you hear, that is the Dharma door you cultivate. These are examples of offerings which enable others to cultivate according to the teachings. Of all offerings, these gifts of Dharma are supreme. How important are they? When Shakyamuni Buddha was on the causal ground, he gave up his life for half a gatha; not for an entire gatha, but for just two lines. A gatha is a poem of four lines, and he gave up his life for half of it. One day he heard a rakshasa ghost say,

    All practices are impermanent;
    This is the Dharma of production and extinction.

When Shakyamuni Buddha heard this he said, "You've spoken some verses of Dharma, but you've only spoken half. Will you speak the second half for me?"

The rakshasa ghost replied, "That's right, I did speak this Buddhadharma, but I am incredibly hungry. I've got to find a person to eat, and then I can explain this Dharma. Right now since I'm hungry, I have no energy to speak."

Shakyamuni Buddha said, "Is it all right if you speak first, and then eat me?"

The rakshasa ghost said, "You'll let me eat you?"

Shakyamuni Buddha replied, "Yes, but you must give me this Dharma first. After I understand, then I'll be happy to let you eat me."

The rakshasa ghost said, "All right," and then he recited the remainder of the gatha. He said,

After production and extinction have been extinguished,

Still extinction is bliss.

Then he said, "I've finished speaking this Dharma. Now I can eat you."

Shakyamuni Buddha said, "Wait a minute before you eat me."

The rakshasa said, "Are you backing down? Now don't you want to pay your debt? I've already answered you, but now do you want out? Is that how you keep an agreement?"

Shakyamuni Buddha replied, "No. But since you have spoken these four verses of Buddhadharma, and since most people have not heard the Buddhadharma, I want to carve these lines into a tree. Afterwards, you may eat me. Will you agree to this?"

The rakshasa ghost thought a while and said, "All right, go ahead and carve it into a tree." Then Shakyamuni Buddha carved the four-line gatha into the base of a tree with a knife.

But then he thought, "Tress are not that solid, but the rakshasa ghost is again eager to eat me." Then the Buddha said aloud, "Wait! Because I want everyone to know about the Buddhadharma, I want to chisel this four-line gatha into a rock. Then you can eat me. You should agree, because I'm not doing this for myself, but because I wish all living beings to understand the Buddhadharma."

The rakshasa ghost thought it over and said, "Well, you know I'm famished, but if you will hurry, I'll agree. Begin your work and don't waste time." So Shakyamuni Buddha carved this four-line gatha into a rock. When he had finished, he invited the rakshasa ghost to eat him.

Then the rakshasa said, "Oh, you are really going to let me eat you?"

Shakyamuni Buddha replied, "Of course. I don't lie. What do you mean, 'Really let me eat you?' Please begin your supper."

The rakshasa ghost then said, "You really are a cultivator of the Way; you are a true cultivator. Now that I know you are truly cultivating, I'll see you later." After saying this, the rakshasa ghost flew up into space, appearing int he body of the Bodhisattva Who Observes the Sounds of the World, who had manifested to test him.

In cultivating the Way, you must have an honest mind and not do things for yourself. If a ghost wants to eat you, forget yourself for the sake of the Dharma. You should be able to give your life away for the sake of the Dharma. Therefore, of all the kinds of offerings, the gift of Dharma is supreme. There are other kinds of offerings such as:

The offering of benefiting all living beings. Those who cultivate the Bodhisattva Way speak Dharma for the benefit of living beings. This is "the offering of benefiting."

The offering which gathers in all living beings. "To gather in" means to see all living beings as one's sons and daughters. You should be without discrimination and compassionately gather in living beings. This is the offering which gathers in all living beings.

The offering of standing in for all beings to undergo their suffering. Those who cultivate the Bodhisattva Way vow to undergo suffering for the sake of living beings. They constantly make vows before the Buddha, saying, "May all living beings avoid the many different kinds of disasters including those of knives, sickness, floods, fire, epidemics and so forth. I wish that I myself might undergo the suffering that all living beings should undergo, and further, that no living being undergoes the suffering which I should undergo." This describes the resolve of a Bodhisattva.

The offering of diligently cultivating good roots. The Bodhisattva diligently cultivates his own good roots and exhorts all living beings to diligently cultivate good roots as well. This is also a kind of offering.

The offering of not forsaking the deeds of the Bodhisattva. What are "the deeds of a Bodhisattva?" They are the Six Perfections and the Ten Thousand Practices. To constantly cultivate them is to cultivate the Bodhisattva Way, and is called "the offering of not forsaking the deeds of the Bodhisattva."

And there is also the offering of not renouncing the Bodhi mind. One eternally resolves his mind on Bodhi as an offering to living beings and never renounces the Bodhi mind, even for an instant. He does only those things which benefit living beings. Not only does he not leave the Bodhi mind, he also exhorts all living beings to never forsake the Bodhi mind. He exhorts them to eternally and truly resolve their minds on enlightenment.

Sutra:

"Good Man, the immeasurable merit and virtue created from making those offerings, when compared with the merit and virtue from a single thought of offering Dharma, does not equal one part in a hundred, one part in a thousand, one part in a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas, one part in a kala, one part by reckoning, one part by calculation, one part that can be demonstrated by comparison, or one part in an upanishad. None of them measure up to a single part. Why is this? Because all Thus Come Ones honor the Dharma. Cultivating according to the teachings gives birth to all Buddhas. If all Bodhisattvas make the offering of Dharma, they perfect the making of offerings to all Thus Come Ones. Cultivation in this manner is a true offering, a vast, great, and most supreme offering.

"When the realm of empty space is exhausted, when the realms of living beings are exhausted, when the karma of living beings is exhausted, and when the afflictions of living beings come to an end, only then will my making of offerings be exhausted. Just as the realm of empty space up to and including the afflictions are endless, so too are my making of offerings endless. In thought after thought without cease, my body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.

Commentary:

The passage immediately preceding this discussed making offerings. In the practice of giving many offerings, the gift of Dharma is the most supreme, because it causes all living beings to cultivate according to the teachings; it benefits them; it is the offering which attracts them; it is the offering of standing in for all beings to undergo their suffering; it is the offering of diligently cultivating good roots; it is the offering of never forsaking the deeds of the Bodhisattva; and it is the offering of never renouncing the Bodhi mind.

Therefore, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva again said, "Good man, the immeasurable merit and virtue created from making those offerings is great, but when compared with the merit and virtue from a single thought of offering Dharma, it does not equal one part in a hundred. An ordinary offering does not equal one hundredth part of the merit derived form giving Dharma, nor does it equal one part in a thousand, up to the point that it does not equal one part in a hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of the merit and virtue derived form the giving of Dharma." Koti is a Sanskrit word which means "10,000,000." It means "hundreds of thousands of millions of Nayutas." Nayuta is also a large number.

One part in a Kala. A Kala is an inconceivable number. One part by reckoning, or one part by calculation. You may use any means of reckoning or calculation. Or one part that can be demonstrated by comparison, and you still cannot measure the merit and virtue from giving Dharma.

Also, it does not equal one part in an Upanishad. Upanishad is the name of one who is mentioned in the Shurangama Sutra: "With Upanishad as their leader." Translated, the word means "the nature of dust" and "dust motes," and so it is a number as great as the number of dust motes. None of them measure up to a single part. They cannot equal one part of the merit and virtue derived from an offering of Dharma.

Why is this? Why is it that the offering of Dharma is so great? Because all Thus Come Ones, because all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, honor the Dharma. Not only should all common people honor the Dharma, but all Buddhas also honor the Buddhadharma, because if there were no Buddhadharma, no one could become a Buddha.

To become a Buddha, you must study the Buddhadharma, and the Buddhadharma must be transmitted by a left-home person, because those who have left the home-life are entrusted with the Buddhadharma. The merit and virtue derived from giving the Dharma as an offering to all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, and to all living beings, is inconceivable; there is no way one can discuss it all, because all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, honor the Buddhadharma.

Cultivating according to the teachings gives birth to all Buddhas. Because one relies on the Buddhadharma, which teaches how to cultivate, one can become a Buddha If you teach the Buddhadharma and people cultivate according to it, they can become Buddhas. This is what is mean by "gives birth to all Buddhas."

If all Bodhisattvas make the offering of Dharma, they perfect the making of offerings to all Thus Come Ones. They Bodhisattvas cultivate the practice of giving Dharma. On the one hand, they make offerings to Thus Come Ones, and on the other hand, they themselves can become Thus Come Ones. Cultivation in this manner is a true offering. This is truly making offerings. The gift of Dharma is a true offering, a vast, great, and most supreme offering. The offering of Dharma is the most extensive and supreme offering.

When the realm of empty space is exhausted, when there is no more empty space, when the realms of living beings are exhausted, when there are no more living beings, when the karma of living beings is exhausted, when the karmic obstructions of living beings are no more, and when the afflictions of living beings come to an end, and when living beings have no more afflictions, only then will my making of offerings be exhausted. When these four things, empty space, living beings, living beings' karma, and living beings' afflictions, no longer exist, then my giving of offerings need not continue. I need give no more. But since the realm of empty space, the realms of living beings, the karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings are endless, and there is no way they can be exhausted, no way they can be finished, so too are my gifts of offerings endless. Therefore, my resolve to extensively and greatly make offerings and to extensively cultivate the giving of offerings is inexhaustible and never-ending.

The strength from this vow continues in thought after thoughts without cease, and never ends. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds. When I give offerings with my body, I never grow weary; when I give offerings with my mind, I Never grow weary; and when I give offerings with my mouth, I never become tired.

There is a saying about the karma of body, mouth, and mind:

    When no anger appears in the face, then the offerings is complete.
    When the mouth is without anger, the saliva is fragrant.
    When the mind is without anger, it is a precious pearl.
    To be without stupidity and greed is the fragrance of giving.

When one is without angry facial expression, that is a complete offering. When you do not engage in harsh speech, you emit a fragrant breath. When you have no angry thoughts in your mind, your mind is an offering of a precious pearl. And the best offering is to be without stupidity, anger, and greed; this is a true and complete offering.

The Fourth Vow: To Repent of Karmic Obstacles and Reform

Sutra:

“Moreover, Good Man, to repent of karmic obstacles and reform I explained like this: The Bodhisattva reflects, ‘From beginningless kalpas in the past, I have created all measureless and boundless evil karma with my body, mouth, and mind, because of greed, hatred, and stupidity. If this evil karma had a substance and form, all of empty space could not contain it.

Commentary:

After explaining the previous vow, to extensively cultivate the making of offerings, the Bodhisattva says, "Moreover, Good Man." Now we want to understand the importance of repenting of our karmic obstacles and reforming. If you cultivate the giving of offerings but do not repent of and reform your karmic obstacles, there can be no real benefit. So Universal Worthy Bodhisattva says, to repent of karmic obstacles and reform is explained like this. "Repentance" has been explained as contrition for previous offenses, to be sorry for offenses committed in the past. "Reform" means "to correct oneself so one does not make further mistakes."

In Buddhism we learn to "bow repentances." this means that we earnestly bow before the Buddhas repenting of our mistakes. In doing this, you must be extremely sincere and not be scattered, and then your repentance will be efficacious. When the Great Master Chih Che was alive, the Shurangama Sutra had not yet come from India to China, and so he bowed to the west and the name of the Shurangama Sutra. He bowed for eighteen years but still did not see the Shurangama Sutra. If we were to bow for something and we did not attain it, then before eighteen moths had passed, not to speak of eighteen years, we would think, "Oh, my bowing is useless, I'm not going to bow any more."

For his entire life the Great Master Chih Che bowed to the Dharma Flower Sutra. Not only that, he wrote out Sutras, and he wrote out the entire Tripitaka time and time again. The Buddha images he pained and made from wood totaled over 80,000. And from morning to night he bowed repentances.

When the Great Master Chih Che was born, his mother saw a five-colored light in their home, and so he was named Chih Che, "the wise one." When he was in his early teens, he heard a Dharma Master reciting the Universal Door Chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra, at which time he memorized the entire chapter just as if he had read it in a previous life. Later when he went to see the Great Master Nan Yao, the Great Master said, "Oh, you've come. In the past we were part of the Vulture Peak Assembly and we heard the Dharma Flower Sutra. Do you remember that? Now our conditions have ripened, and we have come together again here." The Great Master Nan Yo then taught him the peaceful Happy Conduct Chapter, and told him to recite and bow to the Dharma Flower Sutra. Master Chih Che bowed until he reached the Chapter on the Original Affairs of Medicine King Bodhisattva, when at once he became enlightened.

After his enlightenment, he told the Great Master Nan Yao about his experience: "I bowed to the Sutra and recited it until I got to the lines, 'This is called true vigor; this is a true Dharma offering.' Then I saw Shakyamuni Buddha at Vulture Peak still speaking the Dharma Flower Sutra. What is the meaning of this?"

The Great Master Nan Yao certified him, saying, "Only you could have this wonderful experience, and only I could recognize it. Therefore, it had to be you to attain this state, and it had to be me to understand it, to certify you. So now you have attained the initial expedient of the Dharma Flower Samadhi, the I-hsuan Dharani, 'the single-turning' Dharani."

After the Great Master certified him, Master Chih Che's wisdom and eloquence grew limitless. The Great Master Nan Yao said to him, "With your wisdom you can defeat thousands upon tens of thousands of common Dharma Masters in debate. None of them can equal you." After this the Great Master Chih Che's wisdom opened up completely, after which he applied himself even more vigorously in cultivating the Dharma Flower Sutra.

When it was time for him "to perfect the stillness," he had an attendant recite the Dharma Flower Sutra for him while he listened. After this was finished, he told the attendant to bring him some mouth wash. After he had rinsed his mouth, he spoke some verses, sat down, and "perfected the stillness."

When the Great Master was at T'ien T'ai Mountain, there were many fishermen in the area, and so he bought up all the land there for one hundred miles, and within this area, no one fished or killed animals. Further, all the local people took refuge with him. The Great Master Chih Che was inconceivable, and he specialized in bowing repentances.

Most people who bring forth thoughts of repentance and reform are Bodhisattvas. Common people without good roots basically do not repent, how much the less reform. Like those who take refuge with the Triple Jewel, some like to recite Sutras and bow to the Buddhas, and some do not. Some start out with the idea that everyone should recite Sutras, and so everyone begins reciting, and after a while, they themselves stop reciting. This just shows that they have not gotten rid of their karmic obstacles.

The Bodhisattva reflects, "From beginningless kalpas in the past,..." "Beginningless" refers to past lives reaching back so far that there were eons upon endless aeons, never a beginning. I have created all evil karma which is measureless and boundless. The evil things I have thought, said, and done are without measure and have no limit. With my body, mouth, and mind--I have created karma of the body, mouth, and mind, these three kinds of karma--because of greed, hatred, and stupidity. If this evil karma had a substance and form, if it had a shape or appearance, all of empty space could not contain it; my karma would fill up empty space until it was overflowing. If these karmic obstacles all at once manifested an appearance, they would fill up empty space until it burst and was demolished.

Sutra:

'I now completely purify these three karmas, and before the assemblies of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, throughout the Dharma Realm in lands as many as fine motes of dust, I sincerely repent of and reform my offenses and vow never to create them again. I will always dwell in all merit and virtue of the pure precepts.’

"So it is that when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, then my repentance will be exhausted. But just as the realm of empty space up to the afflictions of living beings are endless, so too my repentance and reform are endless. They continue in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds."

Commentary:

Although this Bodhisattva considers his karmic obstacles to be extremely many he nonetheless thinks, "I will not completely purify these three karmas." He decides not to create any more karma with his body mouth, or mind but with his three karmas purified he thinks, "I will appear before the assemblies of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and will go throughout the Dharma Realm in lands as many as fine motes of dust, and sincerely repent of and reform my offenses and vow never to create them again." One should repent with an extremely sincere mind, and vow never to create these kinds of offenses again. The Bodhisattva further reflects, "I will always dwell in all merit and virtue of the pure precepts; I will dwell in all this merit and virtue, in the precept mark of merit and virtue that I receive."

So it is that when the realm of empty space is exhausted, when there is no more empty space, when there are no longer any living beings, even up to the point that the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings is exhausted, then my repentance will be exhausted. At that time my vow to repent will be complete. But just as the realm of empty space is endless, living beings are endless, the karmic obstacles up to the afflictions of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings is exhausted, then my repentance will be exhausted. At that time my vow to repent will be complete. But just as the realm of empty space is endless, living beings are endless, the karmic obstacles up to the afflictions of living beings are endless, so too my repentance and reform are endless. It continues in thought after thought, in each though, without cease. It never ends. My body, mouth, and ind never weary of these deeds." The more one bows repentances the better. One never retreats saying, "This i s too much suffering; I'm really tired." The Bodhisattva never tires, but the more he bows, the more energy he has. The more he repents, the happier he gets. This is true repentance.

The Fifth Vow: To Follow Along with and Rejoice in Merit and Virtue

Sutra:

“Moreover, Good Man, to follow along with and rejoice in merit and virtue is explained like this: All the Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, as numerous as the fine dust motes in all the Buddhalands of the ten directions and the three periods of time, throughout the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, from the time of their initial resolve for all wisdom, diligently cultivated accumulation of blessings without regard for their bodies and lives. They did this throughout kalpas as many as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable Buddhalands. During each kalpa they gave up their heads, eyes, hands, and feet, as many times as there are dust motes in ineffably ineffable Buddhalands.

“In this way, they cultivated all the difficult ascetic practices and perfected the gates of the various paramitas. They entered and were certified to each of the Bodhisattva grounds of wisdom and accomplished the unsurpassed Bodhi of all Buddhas. Upon their Parinirvana, their shariras were divided and distributed. I completely follow along with and rejoice in all of their good roots.

“Moreover, as for all the different types of beings in the six paths and the four kinds of birth in every world in the ten directions, I follow along with and rejoice in their merit and virtue as well, even if it is as small as a mote of dust. I completely follow along with and rejoice in the merit and virtue of all the Sound Hearers, Pratyeka-Buddhas, Learners, and Those Beyond Study in the ten directions and the three periods of time. I follow along with and rejoice in the vast and great merit and virtue of all Bodhisattvas, who in their quest for unsurpassed, right, and equal Bodhi, cultivate measureless difficult ascetic practices.

“So it is that even if the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, my following and rejoicing are endless. They continue in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.

Commentary:

This is the fifth of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's vows, to follow along with and rejoice in merit and virtue. Living beings' attitudes are many. Some follow but do not rejoice, some rejoice but do not follow, others follow and rejoice, and still others neither follow nor do they rejoice.

Following without rejoicing involves forcing someone to do deeds from which merit and virtue derive. Rejoicing without following refers to those who are happy about some idea, but who do not actually do acts of merit and virtue. These kinds of people can be forced to do meritorious acts, but will not do them on their own even though they may like a certain idea and say, "This is a good thing to do." But regardless of whether it is a good thing to do or not, they still do not do it. They tell others to do it, "Do it some more, it is the best thing you can do." This is rejoicing without following.

There are some who both follow and rejoice. They do meritorious and virtuous deeds and they like it. This is following and rejoicing in merit and virtue. Then there are those who neither follow nor rejoice. Basically they do not follow, and they are not happy about others doing it either. They do not like or do acts of merit and virtue.

"Merit" is the quality of something beneficial that is done, and "virtue" is the beneficial deed itself. Everyone can see merit, but sometimes virtue is not obvious. This vow involves following and rejoicing in merit and virtue.

"Moreover," Universal Worthy said to the Youth Good Wealth, "I will again explain for you Good Man. The vow to follow along with and rejoice in merit and virtue is explained like this. Now I will tell you. All the Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, as numerous as the fine motes in all the Buddhalands of the ten directions and the three periods of time: all the Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, are as numerous as fine motes of dust, throughout the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, to the exhaustion of empty space. From the time of their initial resolve for all wisdom, diligently cultivated accumulation of blessings. They were very diligent and never lazy in their cultivation of blessings and wisdom."

How does one accumulate blessings? From a number of actions, not just one. There is a saying, "Don't skip doing a good deed just because it is small and don't do a bad deed just because you think it is insignificant." Do not decline to do something just because you think the merit and virtue of the action is small, because great merit and virtue is made up of an accumulation of small acts of merit and virtue. Moreover, you should not think that an evil deed is too small to matter. For example, you should not think that a little lie is of no major importance. If you tell a lot of little lies, they become a big lie. In the same way, you should not think that killing an ant is a small and unimportant matter, because if one day you kill a person, it will have begun with your killing this ant. You should pay attention to little things and not follow your whims and wishes. To diligently cultivate the accumulation of blessings involves being very careful to do deed which should be done, even if they accumulate only a small amount of merit and virtue. Gradually they will become an accumulation of great merit and virtue. Mount T'ai is made up of individual grains of dust, but even though dust motes are small, many of them gathered together make up a mountain. Creating blessings is the same.

Without regard for their bodies and lives. All Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, gave up their lives to teach, transform, and rescue living beings. For example, Shakyamuni Buddha, during one of his past lives, cut off his flesh for an eagle.

At that time the eagle was preying on a small bird. The bird knew that a certain old cultivator was compassionate, so it flew under his arm to escape from the eagle. The eagle tried to snatch the bird to eat it, but Shakyamuni who was cultivating on the causal ground to become a Buddha, protected it.

Then the eagle said, "You can protect the bird, but if it lives, then I will die. If I don't have something to eat, I will starve. If you save the bird but don't save me, you will lack fairness and compassion. If you can't save me, you shouldn't save the bird either."

Shakyamuni Buddha said, "Since you eat meat, will it suffice if I give you some meat to eat?"

The eagle replied, "Yes. give me some meat to eat."

The Buddha then said, "I'll give you my own flesh to eat," and he cut a piece form his body and gave it to the eagle.

After the eagle had eaten it he said, "I'm still not full. give me another piece." And again Shakyamuni Buddha cut some flesh from his body. After the eagle had eaten all his flesh, it still wasn't full.

Shakyamuni Buddha said, "If you aren't satisfied after eating all my flesh, then you can eat my bones. Whatever you find left to eat, go ahead and eat it."

The eagle replied, "You really are a cultivator of the Way. In the future you will certainly become a Buddha." After he said this he flew into the sky and changed into his original form, a god who had come to test Shakyamuni the cultivator.

It is not known how many times Shakyamuni Buddha gave up his life to teach and transform living beings. Therefore it is said that there is not a single dust mote in the entire world where all Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time have not given up their bodies and lives. In the past Shakyamuni Buddha made sincere vows to give away 1000 bodies to rescue living beings. Are we of the present capable of making vows of this magnitude? Can we give up our bodies and lives to teach and transform living beings/ If you can, then you are one who follows rejoices in the merit and virtue of the Buddhas. If you cannot, then even though you may feel that Buddhas of the past are very special and even though you may respect them, because you cannot give up your body and life, you only rejoice but do not follow.

On the other hand, if you can think, "The Buddha was a living being, and he renounced his body; I too am a living being, so I too can make a vow to give up my body for the sake of rescuing living beings." If you renounce your body, you should do so by really solving the problem of birth and death for living beings and rescuing the wisdom life of their Dharma Body, not by giving up your life in a stupid worthless way. When you renounce your life, there should be some value in it. This is to follow and rejoice.

When we hear about renouncing life, but consider it too difficult, we will think, "I can't do that; I won't agree with that kind of dharma. I can't give up my body and life, and I won't practice these ascetic practices." A person who thinks like this is called one who neither follows nor rejoices. You do not follow along, and you do not rejoice in what others do. If you do any meritorious deeds, they are forced. If originally you were not going to do something, but you do it because everyone else is doing it, or you do it for fame or to gain profit, or for any other insincere reason, then you are forcing it, and are following without rejoicing. For example, in a certain country there are monks who burn their bodies for political reasons. They renounce their bodies, but they are not happy about it. They are angry and wish to fight. This is called following without rejoicing.

They did this throughout kalpas as many as fine motes of ineffably Buddhalands. Life after life they gave up their bodies and lives, passing through great aeons so many that the number cannot be known, through aeons as numerous as the dust motes in all the Buddhalands. During each kalpa they gave up their heads, eyes, hands, and feet, as many times as there are dust motes in ineffably ineffable Buddhalands. Life after life they gave up their bodies and lives, passing through great aeons so many that the number cannot be known, through aeons as numerous as the dust motes in all the Buddhalands. During each kalpas they gave up their heads, eyes, hands, and feet, as many times as there are dust motes in ineffably ineffable Buddhalands, and they did this throughout aeons in numbers that cannot be expressed or explained, which are as numerous as there are dust motes that are just barely bigger than nothingness. They gave that many heads and eyes; they renounces their hands, feet, brains, and marrow that many times. They gave their heads, hands, feet, brains, marrow, their bodies, and their lives.

In this way they cultivated all the difficult ascetic practices. They cultivated ascetic practices which people find impossible to do. For example, at present there are those who wish to give their eyes to the world after they die to be used in eye transplants so that others may see. Some people donate their hearts, and others donate their lungs, kidneys, livers, and stomachs. They give away their organs to others. We look at these people and they appear as people, but in actuality they are Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who have vowed to become people do to these things. So even now you can see all these Buddhas who have this kind of spirit of giving. This kind of spirit is especially great. but vowing to eat just a small amount is not the kind of ascetic practice discussed here. Here we are talking about the ascetic practices involved in giving one's body and life to all living beings in order to rescue them. These are the ascetic practices which are really difficult to practice.

Perfected the gates of the various paramitas. Those cultivating the Buddha Path are able to cultivate all the Paramitas, all those methods which "lead to the other shore," to perfection. They do not just cultivate one kind, but cultivate many Paramitas: giving, holding precepts, patience, vigor, dhyana samadhi, Prajna--the Six Paramitas--methods of cultivation which, along with the other 10,000 Practices, take people across to the other shore of enlightenment.

They entered and were certified to each of the Bodhisattva grounds of wisdom and accomplished the unsurpassed Bodhi of all Buddhas. On the causal ground of cultivation, all Buddhas obtained all the different kinds of Bodhisattva wisdom, and in the end, those people on the Bodhi Path were certainly able to perfect the unsurpassed Bodhi of all Buddhas and obtain the Buddha fruit. Upon their Parinirvana, they obtained the great Parinirvana of the Buddha; they reached the other shore of 'the great extinction;' they obtained Nirvana's fruit of bliss. Their sharira were divided and distributed after their cremation." Sharira are the Buddhas' solid relics which come from cultivating morality, samadhi, wisdom, and all the many methods of practice.

I completely follow along with and rejoice in all of their good roots. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva made a vow to follow and rejoice in the merit and virtue of all Buddhas, who give their heads, eyes, brains, and marrow, which means that he will do likewise.

Moreover, as for all the different types of beings, it does not matter whether their merit and virtue is great or small, or whether they are beings in any of the Six Destinies, born from any of the Four Kinds of Birth, I will follow and rejoice in whatever merit and virtue they create. In the Six Paths and the Four Kinds of Birth in every world in the ten directions: The Six Destinies are the realms of gods, humans, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and beings in the hells. These are the Six Destinies of the revolving wheel of birth and death. The Four Kinds of Birth are birth from a womb, from an egg, from moisture, and by transformation. I follow along with and rejoice in their merit and virtue as well, even if it is as small as a mote of dust. Even if they are unable to accomplish great deeds, and their acts of merit and virtue are as small as tiny motes of dust, I will still delight and follow them in doing these deeds.

I completely follow along with and rejoice in the merit and virtue of all the Sound Hearers, Pratyeka Buddhas, all the living being of the Ten Directions and the Three Periods of Time who belong to the vehicle of the Sound Hearers and the vehicle of the Pratyeka Buddhas, those 'enlightened to conditions,' as well as Learners and Those Beyond Study in the ten directions and the three periods of time. "Learners are those of the first, second, and third stages of Arhatship. One who has reached the fourth stage of Arhatship is called one "beyond study." I follow along with and rejoice in the vast and great merit and virtue, and will myself perform the meritorious deeds of all Bodhisattvas who in their quest for unsurpassed, right, equal Bodhi, cultivate measureless difficult ascetic practices. Their quest and their goal is the unsurpassed, right and equal, right enlightenment. On this path the merit and virtue created by all Bodhisattvas is vast and great, and Universal Worthy Bodhisattva says, "I follow along and rejoice in it."

So it is that even if the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, my follow and rejoicing are endless--still my vow to follow and rejoice will be without end. They continue in thought after thought without cease. In each thought I will unceasingly bring forth this vow. It can never be cut off, and my body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds. I make this vow with my body, with my mouth, and with my mind; with the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind, I make this vow and there never is a time when I become tired, nor will there ever be a time when I feel I have completed this vow. I constantly make this vow and never get lazy. The more difficult it is, the more I have reason to wish to do it. This is the true vigor of Universal Worth Bodhisattva.

The Sixth Vow: To Request the Turning of the Dharma Wheel

Sutra:

“Moreover, Good Man, to request the turning of the Dharma Wheel is explained like this: Within each and every fine mote of dust in the Buddhalands throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, throughout the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, there are vast and great Buddhalands as many as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable Buddhalands. In each and every land, in thought after thought, there are all Buddhas accomplishing equal and right enlightenment, their number as many as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable Buddhalands. A sea-like assembly of Bodhisattvas circumambulates each Buddha. Using all manner of skillful means of body, mouth, and mind, I sincerely and diligently request that they turn the wonderful Dharma Wheel.

Commentary:

I will now explain the principle of requesting the turning of the Dharma wheel. “Moreover, Good Man, to request the turning of the Dharma Wheel is explained like this: Within each and every fine mote of dust in the Buddhalands throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, throughout the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, there are vast and great Buddhalands as many as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable Buddhalands. In each dust mote are again ineffably ineffable Buddhalands as numerous as fine motes of dust in vast and great Buddhalands, and in each and every land, in thought after thought, there are all Buddhas accomplishing equal and right enlightenment, their number as many as fine motes of dust in ineffably ineffable Buddhalands. A sea-like assembly of Bodhisattvas, just as vast as the great sea, circumambulates each Buddha. Using all manner of skillful means of body, mouth, and mind. I use my body, my mouth, and my mind karma, and all kinds of skillful words, and I sincerely and diligently request that they turn the wonderful Dharma wheel. I request that they turn the great Dharma wheel of all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, and Those Enlightened to Conditions, that they turn this most wonderful Dharma wheel.

Sutra:

“So it is that even if the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, my request that all Buddhas turn the proper Dharma Wheel is without end. It continues in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds."

Commentary:

"I diligently request that the Buddhas turn the wonderful Dharma wheel. I vow to request that the Buddhas turn the wonderful Dharma wheel. So it is that even if the realm of empty space is exhausted, when there is no more empty space, the realms of living beings are exhausted, when there are no more living beings, the karma of living beings is exhausted, when the karmic obstructions of living beings have come to an end, and the afflictions of living beings are no more--still my vow to constantly request that all Buddhas turn the proper Dharma wheel is without end. There is no way my vow can end. It is inexhaustible.

My vow continues in thought after thought without cease. This vow continues through each thought continuously and is never cut off. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds. I never get fatigued, I never feel that this vow is too much trouble, and I never think about renouncing it.

The Seventh Vow: To Request that the Buddhas Remain in the World

Sutra:

“Moreover, Good Man, requesting that the Buddhas remain in the world is explained like this: All Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, are numerous as fine motes of dust in all Buddhalands, throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, exhausting the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space. When they are about to enter Parinirvana, along with all Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Enlightened by Conditions, Learners, and Those Beyond Study, including all Good Knowing Advisors, I ask them all not to enter Nirvana. I request that they remain in the world for as many kalpas as there are fine motes of dust in all Buddhalands, bringing benefit and bliss to all living beings.

“So it is that even if the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, still my requesting is endless. It continues in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds."

Commentary:

Moreover, Good Man, requesting that the Buddhas remain in the world is explained like this. I will not explain the meaning of the vow to request that the Buddhas remain in the world. All Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, are numerous as fine motes of dust in all Buddhalands, throughout the ten directions and the three periods of time, exhausting the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, throughout all of empty space, totally pervading all Buddhalands.When they are about to enter Parinirvana--after they have finished transforming those with whom they have affinities, the Buddhas wish to manifest entry into Nirvana. When they are about to enter Nirvana, I will already have requested that they not enter Nirvana, but always remain in the world, teaching and transforming living beings. Not only will I ask all Buddhas to dwell eternally in the world, I will also ask the Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions, Learners, and Those Beyond Study not to leave the world. Those of the First Fruition, the Second Fruition, and the Third Fruition are still on the level of learners, whereas those of the Fourth Fruition are on the level of those beyond study.

Including all Good Knowing Advisors. Not only will I request all these sages, but I ask all good advisors, Dharma Masters who lecture Sutras, not to leave the world. In accord with my vow, I ask them all, each and every one of them, not to enter Nirvana so quickly. I request that they remain in the world for as many kalpas as there are fine motes of dust in all Buddhalands. I request them to stay with us for a period of time throughout kalpas as many as all the fine motes of dust in all the Buddhalands, bringing benefit and bliss to all living beings. I wish all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions, and all good advisors will remain forever in the world and bring benefit to all living beings.

so it is that I make my vow like this, even if the realm of empty space is exhausted. Basically, the realm of empty space cannot be exhausted, nor can the realms of living beings be exhausted, nor can the karma, the karmic obstacles, of living beings be exhausted, but if eve they all could come to an end, my vow to ask all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Enlightened to Conditions, and good advisors to constantly remain in the world would still be endless. It continues in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds. My vow is inconceivably firm.

 The Eighth Vow: To Always Study With the Buddhas

Sutra:

“Moreover, Good Man, to always study with the Buddhas is explained like this: I will be like Vairochana Thus Come One of this Saha World who, from the time he first resolved his mind, never retreated from vigor. He gave up ineffably ineffable numbers of bodies and lives. He peeled off his skin for paper, split his bones to fashion brushes, drew blood for ink, and wrote out sutras stacked as high as Mount Sumeru. Because he valued the Dharma, he did not cherish his own body or life.

Commentary:

"Moreover, Good Man, Universal Worthy again called out to the Youth Good Wealth. What is the meaning of to always study with the Buddhas? It is explained like this. I will now explain it for you. It means to be like Vairochana, the Thus Come One of this Saha World. "To be like" means to follow the example and try to be the same as Vairochana Buddha.

Saha is Sanskrit; its meaning is "bearable." This world is very difficult for all creatures to bear, yet they are still able to bear it. How is it that this world is so difficult for all living beings? In this world everything is suffering, and even the happiness in this world is not real happiness, but is the cause of suffering. All the dharmas in this world are defiled and without purity; the world is all bitter suffering.

How is happiness the cause of suffering? For example, most people like to wear new clothes, and putting on a new outfit is considered a happy event. But when you are not careful and spill soup on it, or get it dirty some other way, you get afflicted, and this is suffering.

People especially like wealth. Although you acquire much during your life, when you die you cannot take it with you; nevertheless, while you are alive, you keep track of every cent. When you are without money, you devise ways to get it, and after you have it, you are afraid you will lose it. If you do not have any wealth, you greedily long for it and this is suffering. After you get it and are afraid of losing it, this is also suffering. You are not aware of these mental and emotional states as suffering however, because you are so busy worrying about obtaining and losing it. During your life you have fears about not having wealth and fears about losing it, but when you die, you cannot take along one penny. You tell me, is this suffering or happiness?

Everyone in the world is fond of these two things, new clothes and wealth, and so these makes good examples, but all the other kinds of happiness are causes for suffering too. Because you have not yet awakened to this fact, you are able to bear this world, and so it is called the "Saha World."

Vairochana Buddha is the Thus Come One of this Saha World who, from the time he first resolved his mind, never retreated from vigor. Vairochana is Sanskrit and means "pervading everywhere;" it refers to the Dharma Body of the Buddha. Nishyanada Buddha's Dharma Body is called Vairochana Buddha. When Shakyamuni Buddha first resolved to attain Bodhi, he met the ancient Shakya and made offerings to him, vowing to be just like him. He was a potter then, and made bricks, tiles, tea cups, and so forth. When he saw the Shakya of old, he vowed never to retreat, but to be vigorous in body and mind, day in and day out and at all time, never to be lax or lazy in his cultivation.

He gave up ineffably ineffable numbers of bodies and lives. For an ineffably ineffable number of lives, he renounced his body and life and gave them away. For example, before Shakyamuni became a Buddha, he met Burning Lamp Buddha and made an offering to him with his body. Burning Lamp Buddha walking along the road, had come upon a large puddle of water; Shakyamuni, seeing an old Bhikshu coming, lay down in the water so that the old Bhikshu could walk across his body. This is giving one's body, using one's body to help others.

Most of us would think that Shakyamuni's actions were stupid. Could he not have used sticks and boards rather than his body to provide a way for the old Bhikshu to cross the water? That is pretty smart, but Shakyamuni Buddha did not think of such an ingenious method. If he had, then it is not certain that Burning Lamp Buddha would have given him a prediction of Buddhahood, because he would still have had a concern for himself. He still would have had an attachment to his body. Lying in the water showed that he was without a notion of a self but only wished to help land benefit other beings. He practiced the Bodhisattva path, and paying no attention to himself, he lay down in the water to help an old Bhikshu walk across a ditch.

Shakyamuni was a practicing ascetic at that time, but even though ascetics do not cut their hair or their beards, still they are not hippies, so do not think that Shakyamuni was a hippie. I saw an article written by a Chinese person who said that Confucius was a hippie. this is total rubbish, and only amounts to confusing the false with the true and spreading false stories.

When Burning Lamp Buddha saw that this Bhikshu was so sincere that he lay down on the road to serve as a bridge across the mud, he made a prediction for Shakyamuni and said, "In the future you will become a Buddha. You cultivate the Bodhisattva path in this manner, and I do too. Thus it is, thus it is. In the future you will be a Buddha named Shakyamuni."

This is how Shakyamuni Buddha practiced on the causal ground, offering up his body and life as gifts. He did this in each life for immeasurable aeons past, continuing until the present, perfecting the Bodhisattva path.

Vairochana Buddha is the pure, all-pervasive Dharma Body Buddha. Vairochana means "to pervade everywhere." The Buddhas' Dharma Body is both non-existent and not non-existent, because there is nowhere that it exists and nowhere that it does not exist.

What does it mean to say that there is nowhere that the Dharma Body Buddha exists? If we say that there is nowhere that it does not exist, then it is everywhere, but why do we not see it? Since we do not see it, does this not prove that it does not exist?

Whether we see it or not, it still exists. Because it pervades all places, it is said that there is not place where it does exist, and there is no place where it does not exist. It fills up the entire universe to the ends of the Dharma Realm.

Someone may ask, "You say that it extends everywhere; does this include filthy places like toilets?" Not only does it exist in toilets, but it exists in places which are even more filthy. The Buddhas Dharma Body exhausts empty space to the limits of the Dharma Realm. The Buddhas Dharma Body is neither defiled nor pure, neither produced nor destroyed, and neither increasing nor decreasing. Shakyamuni Buddha gave his body and life in cultivating the Bodhisattva path to seek the unsurpassed path of the Buddha Dharma Body.

He peeled off his skin for paper. He stripped skin from his body to use as paper. He split his bones to fashion brushes, and drew blood for ink. Shakyamuni Buddha used his bones for pen, his blood for ink, and his skin for paper and wrote out Sutras stacked as high as Mount Sumeru. He used his skin for paper, his bones for brushes, and his blood for ink to write out Sutras.

Why didn't Shakyamuni go buy some paper, brushes, and ink to write out Sutras? The principle here is the same as the one which applied when Shakyamuni Buddha used his body to make a bridge in the mud. You could explain this by saying that there was no paper in India at that time when the Sutras were compiled, so Shakyamuni Buddha could not obtain any paper. What did they use in its place? They wrote out the Sutras on palm leaves. If one was to lay out the leaves upon which the Dharma Flower Sutra was written, they would stretch for about two and a half miles.

When Shakyamuni Buddha was practicing the Bodhisattva path and seeking the Buddhadharma, science had not progressed much and there was no such thing as paper as we know it, and certainly no such thing as a paper company. So paper could not be purchased anywhere. Unlike today, when paper is easily obtainable and books can be printed easily, things were not so convenient then. There was nowhere to buy paper, brushes, or ink. So he used his skin for paper, his bones for brushes, and his blood for ink to write out the Sutras.

In China, bamboo was used to write on before paper was invented. Bamboo was split and tied together to make writing tablets. In the past, the Book of History, the Book of Poetry and the Book of Changes, and all the other ancient classics, were written out on bamboo. So do not think that paper, brushes, and ink have always existed.

Besides the lack of a place to buy these things, there was another reason for him to use his skin, bones and blood to write out Sutras. He had forgotten himself for the sake of the Dharma and did not fear suffering. For the sake of the Dharma he feared nothing and renounced his blood, bones, and skin to write out Sutras. Because he had such dedication, you can say he gave up his body in search of the Buddhadharma. He used his skin, bones, and blood to write out a stack of Sutras as high as Mount Sumeru.

Because he valued the Dharma, he did not cherish his own body or life. In Hong Kong now, there is a monk named Shou Yeh. Some years ago at Wu T'ai Mountain, he built a small hut, and was the Abbot both there and at Bodhi Temple in Shanghai. Later he went to Vietnam and built a very large temple, but when the Vietnam war started, he returned to Hong Kong. He used his blood, obtained by cutting his tongue and body, to write out the Flower Adornment Sutra in Chinese characters two inches high. You can say that his state is inconceivable. He specialized in reciting the Flower Adornment Sutra, bowing to the Flower Adornment Sutra, and practicing the Flower Adornment Bodhimanda. This is a state of a Bodhisattva. The Buddha did not even cherish his own body and life.

Sutra:

How much the less did he crave a king’s throne, cities, towns, palaces, gardens, groves, or any material things at all. He exerted himself to the extreme in the different kinds of difficult ascetic practices.

Commentary:

In his past lives, Shakyamuni Buddha practiced different kinds of difficult ascetic practices and brought forth a great resolve to attain Bodhi for the sake of bringing benefit to all living beings. Therefore he cherished neither his body nor life, and he did not protect them, how much the less did he crave a king's throne. He did not cherish either his body or his life, and so how much less did he wish to become a king. If Shakyamuni Buddha had not left the home-life, he would have been a Wheel-Turning Sage King.

There are four kinds of Wheel-Turning Sage Kings: the Gold Wheel King, the Silver Wheel King, the Copper Wheel King, and the Iron Wheel King. The Gold Wheel King rules over all Four Continents, Purvavideha in the East, Jambudvipa in the South, Aparagodaniya in the West, and Uttarakuru in the North. The Silver Wheel King rules over all but the northern continent Uttarakuru. The Copper Wheel King watches over two continents, and the Iron Wheel King takes care of one continent. Shakyamuni Buddha passed up the throne of a king to leave the home-life and cultivate.

An emperor is a most respected person. Honored as the "Son of Heaven" in China, his wealth and blessings were as vast as four seas. Shakyamuni gave up all of this to leave the home-life and attain the Way. He renounced his country, his cities, his wife and child, all his towns, all his valuable palaces, and all his valuable gardens and groves He did not crave any material things at all and gave up everything he possessed.

He exerted himself to the extreme in the different kinds of difficult ascetic practices, and was able to bear what is most difficult to bear. He renounced a king's throne for the opportunity to leave the home-life; and the ascetic practices which Shakyamuni Buddha cultivated in this life and in previous lives were very austere. Can most people do this?

Sutra:

“He accomplished the Great Enlightenment beneath the tree, manifested different kinds of spiritual powers, gave rise to different kinds of transformations, made appear different kinds of Buddha bodies, and dwelled in different kinds of assemblies. He dwelled amidst the assemblies in the Bodhimandas of all great Bodhisattvas, the assemblies of Sound Hearers, the assemblies of Pratyeka-Buddhas. He dwelled amidst the assemblies in the Bodhimandas of Wheel Turning Sage Kings and the retinues of of lesser Kings. He dwelled amidst the assemblies in the Bodhimandas of Kshatriyas, Brahmans, elders and lay people, up to and including assemblies of gods, dragons, the remaining eight divisions, humans, and non-humans. As he dwelled in various different assemblies such as these, with a voice that was full and perfect like a great thunder clap, he brought all living beings to maturity according with their likes and wishes up until the time he manifested Nirvana.

“In all these ways I will learn from the Buddhas, and just as it is with the present World Honored One Vairochana, so it is with all the Thus Come Ones in every dust mote in all Buddhalands in the ten directions and the three periods of time, throughout the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space. In thought after thought I will learn from them all.

“So it is that even if the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, still my study with them is without end. It continues in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.

Commentary:

He accomplished the Great Enlightenment beneath the tree. After the Buddha meditated in the Himalayas for six years, he then went to sit beneath the tree--the Bodhi Tree.

When Shakyamuni Buddha went to the mountains, his parents sent five people after him to bring him home, but rather than fulfilling their mission, they ended up cultivating with him and acted as his Dharma protectors. Three of these five, however, were unable to endure the suffering, and they soon ran off to the Deer Park to cultivate the Way.

The two remaining ascetics stayed with Shakyamuni during the time he ate one sesame seed and one grain of wheat a day, until he became just skin and bones. At that time, a heavenly maiden came to him. Some say she was a heavenly maiden, and some say she was a milk maid, but I do not think that the distinction is important. She appeared and gave the Buddha some rice gruel prepared with milk, and the Buddha accepted her offering and ate it.

As he at it, the two remaining ascetics who were still with the Buddha said, "He's had it now. So far this prince has been able to undergo suffering and cultivate the Way, but now he's taking milk from a milk maid. He can't cultivate the Way if he does things like this."

So they packed up and left, abandoning the Buddha, saying, "You are unable to undergo suffering, so we can't cultivate with you." These two also left him to go to the Deer Park.

Shakyamuni Buddha also wished to leave, and it was then that he went to sit beneath the Bodhi Tree. The Bodhi Tree was very large, covering an area of approximately one square mile. When Shakyamuni Buddha saw it he thought it was a good place, so he decided to sit beneath the Bodhi Tree and cultivate the Way, resolving, "If I don't perfect my karma of the Way, then I won't get up beneath this auspicious tree." At that time the youth named Auspicious gave him some auspicious grass, and Shakyamuni Buddha sat down on it in full lotus and cultivated the Way.

He cultivated for forty-nine days until he saw a bright star in the east and became enlightened. As it is said, "In the night he saw a bright star and enlightened to the Way," and sighing three times he said,

    Strange indeed, strange indeed, strange indeed,
    All living beings have the Buddha Nature and can become Buddhas
    It is only because of their false thinking and attachments that they cannot certify to it.

Why is it that living being do not become Buddhas? Because they have false thinking and attachments.

He manifested different kinds of spiritual powers. He manifested the wonderful function of spiritual powers and changes and brought forth all kinds of inconceivable states. He gave rise to different kinds of transformations, made appear different kinds of Buddha bodies. He brought forth by transformation all kinds of Buddhas' bodies, and also brought forth the pure Dharma Body of Vairochana Buddha, the perfect Reward Body Nishyanda Buddha, and hundreds of thousands of millions of Transformation Body Shakyamuni Buddhas. He manifested all these many different kinds of Buddhas' bodies, to the extent that he manifested bodies going throughout the ten directions accomplishing Buddhahood, and dwelled in different kinds of assemblies. He spoke Dharma for everyone in all the many Dharma assemblies. Perhaps he dwelled amidst the assemblies in the Bodhimandas of all great Bodhisattvas. He spoke Dharma and lectured Sutras for all the great Bodhisattvas who came together. Or the assemblies of sound hearers, the assemblies of Pratyekabuddhas: he also explained the Sutras and spoke Dharma for the gatherings of those of the Two Vehicles who had set up Bodhimandas, the Sound Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas. Or he dwelled amidst the assemblies in the Bodhimandas of Wheel Turning Sage Kings and the retinues of lesser kings. Previously I explained that there are four kinds of Wheel-Turning Kings: the Gold-Wheel-Turning King, the Silver-Wheel-Turning King, the Copper-Wheel-Turning King, and Iron-Wheel-Turning King. The Gold Wheel King rules everywhere beneath the Four Heavens, and he possesses Seven Precious Jewels.

These Seven Jewels are not gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, red pearls, and carnelian. What are they? The first is the Wheel Jewel. When the Gold Wheel King rides on his Wheel Jewel, he can go faster than a rocket. In two hours he can travel everywhere beneath the Four Heavens and do all kinds of things. The Wheel Jewel is a flying wheel which can travel on land, on the sea, and in space. It can even travel in fire.

The Wheel-Turning King's second jewel is the Elephant Jewel, the white Elephant Jewel. When the Wheel-Turning King rides on his elephant, he can move about very quickly.

His third jewel is the Purple Horse Jewel. This horse is a dragon horse, which can also travel on the earth, on water, and can gallop rapidly through space.

The Wheel-Turning King also has the Wish-Fulfilling Jewel, which is also called the Wish Fulfilling Pearl. This spiritual pearl manifests all kinds of spiritual powers so that whatever the King thinks about actually appears.

The King's fifth jewel is called Jade Woman. Whenever he wishes, a beautiful woman will come to him.

He also has the Jewel of Capable Ministers of the Treasury. Because he possesses this jewel, the earth open up wherever he goes and gives him whatever he wants. If he wants gold, it open up and gives him gold. By means of this jewel, he can obtain whatever valuables he wishes for.

The Wheel-Turning King's seventh jewel is called the General Jewel. When he must deploy the military forces, he does not need to use ordinary soldiers, but by using this General Jewel, he can call up as large an army as he wishes.

The Wheel-Turning King also has one thousand sons, each one a brave and courageous warrior who is especially heroic.

"Lesser kings" are kings of lesser stature than Wheel-Turning Kings. The Buddha dwelled in the Bodhimandas of the assemblies of all these kings. He dwelled amidst the assemblies in the Bodhimandas of Kshatriyas, Brahmans, elders, and lay people. "Kshatriyas" are a high ranking social class in India, the ruling class of India. "Brahmans" are those whose conduct is pure, who cultivate pure practices. "Elders" are old people with great blessings, and "lay people" are the laity. The Buddha dwells in all of those assemblies, up to and including assemblies of gods, dragons, and the remaining eight divisions, and humans and non-humans. When he became a Buddha he also dwelled in the Bodhimandas of the assemblies of gods, dragons, and the remainder of the Eight divisions, as well s humans and non-humans. As he dwelled in various different assemblies such as these, with a voice which was full and perfect--the perfect sound of the Buddha is like a great thunder clap, just like a great clap of thunder resounding in the air--he brought all living beings to maturity according with their likes and wishes. He followed along with the wishes of living beings and brought them all to maturity, causing those living beings who had not yet planted good roots to plant good roots; those who had already planted good roots to increase them; and those who had increased their good roots to bring them to maturity. He also caused those whose good roots had matured to obtain liberation.

Up until the time he manifested Nirvana--at the end of this life he entered Nirvana and obtained its Four Virtues: permanence, bliss, true self, and purity. In all these ways I will learn from the Buddhas. Just as he practices all the many ascetic practices and explains the Dharma in all Bodhimandas, so too, I will do the same. I will accordingly study these many methods of practice.

And just as it is with the present World Honored One Vairochana, the pure Dharma Body Buddha, who pervades everywhere, and who cultivated all methods of practice amidst assemblies in the myriads of Bodhimandas, so it is with all the Thus Come Ones in every dust mote in all Buddhalands in the tend directions and the three periods of time throughout the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space. In thought after thought, in each and every thought, I will learn from them all. I will always study and cultivate the methods of practice of all Buddhas.

So it is that even if the realm of empty space is exhausted, I will continue with my study and practice in this way. Even when the realm of empty space no longer exists, when the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, still my study with them is without end. Even when the realms of living beings are empty, the karma of living beings is empty, and the afflictions of living beings are empty, nevertheless my vow to study with the Buddhas will never end. It continues in thought after thought without cease. I will learn from the Buddhas in thought after thought and my study will never end. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds. My body, mouth, and mind will continue these deeds without every tiring. There will never be a time when I become tired, lazy, or when I grow weary of the Buddhadharma.

 The Ninth Vow: To Constantly Accord with Living Beings

Sutra:

“Moreover, Good Man, to constantly accord with living beings is explained like this: Throughout seas of Kshetras in the ten directions exhausting the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, there are many different kinds of living beings. That is to say, those born from eggs, womb-born, moisture-born, transformationally born, as well as those who live and rely on earth, water, fire, and air for their existence. There are beings dwelling in space, and those who are born in and live in plants and trees. This includes all the many species and races with their diverse bodies, shapes, appearances, lifespans, families, names, and natures. This includes their many varieties of knowledge and views, their various desires and pleasures, their thoughts and deeds, and their many different deportments, clothing and diets. It includes beings who dwell in different villages, towns, cities and palaces, as well as gods, dragons, others of the eight divisions, humans and non-humans alike. Also there are footless beings, beings with two feet, four feet, and many feet, with form and without form, with thought and without thought, and not entirely with thought and not entirely without thought. I will accord with and take care of all these many kinds of beings, providing all manner of services and offerings for them. I will treat them with the same respect I show my own parents, teachers, elders, Arhats, and even the Thus Come Ones. I will serve them all equally without difference.

Commentary:

"Moreover, Good Man, to constantly accord with living beings is explained like this, said Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. "I will again explain the principle of constantly according with living beings for you. Throughout seas of kshetras in the ten directions, in all the Buddhalands of the ten directions, exhausting the Dharma Realm--the principle of being constantly in harmony with living beings includes all living beings to the exhaustion of the Dharma Realm, and the realm of empty space, there are many different kinds of living beings. All the many kinds of living beings with all their differences are born due to the union of a myriad of conditions, and thus each one has his own special conditions. Living beings are not of just one kind, but are of many different kinds and classifications.

That is to say, those born from eggs. The Shurangama Sutra says,

    Birth from a womb comes about because of emotion.
    Birth from eggs comes about because of thought.
    Birth from moisture depends on a union,
    and birth by transformation depends on separation.

Womb-born are creatures born from emotions, and birth from eggs takes place because of thought. For example, a mother hen sits on her eggs and thinks about her baby chicks, and eventually she hatches them. Moisture-born beings come about because of a union of moisture and consciousness. Those transformationally born com about from separation and change. for example, a caterpillar becomes a butterfly or a mouse transforms into a bat. This happens when the being separates from its previous body and changes into another kind. There are these four types of living beings.

As well as those who live and rely on earth, water, fire, and air for their existence. There are also living beings who rely on the four elements--earth, water, fire, and air, for their life. There are beings dwelling in space, and those who are born in and live in plants and trees. there are also living beings that live in space or on flowers, grasses, plants, and trees. This includes all the many species and races with their diverse bodies, shapes, their different shapes, their features and appearances, and their different lifespans, some long and some short. They also have their families; many kinds of living beings have families. Tigers have their own families; bears have their own families; deer have their own families; and so forth. All species have their own families, and each has its special names.

Living beings have their own natures as well. For example, the nature of tigers is to harm living beings, while the deer's nature is to be gentle and to eat only plants, not other living beings. Each living being is a kind of its own; some are large and some are small; some kinds run off when they see people, and others want to eat people when they see them.

This includes their many varieties of knowledge and views. Their knowledge and views are different. Their various desires and pleasures. They all like different things. Their thoughts and deeds. The things they do are also different. And their many different deportments. Their actions, behavior, and deportments are each different.

Even their clothing is different. People wear clothes, animals have skin as their clothing, while birds wear the clothing of feathers. And diets. Some living beings eat raw meat, whereas others eat grass; some eat only one kind of food, whereas others eat many kinds. It includes beings who dwell in different villages. Living beings live in a wide variety of places, such as villages, towns, cities and palaces.

As well as gods, dragons, and others of the eight divisions, humans and non-humans alike. The sum total of all living beings includes all gods, dragons, ghosts, spirits, gandharvas, asuras, kinnaras, garudas, mahoragas--that is, all the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eight divisions. Also there are footless beings. Some beings, like snakes, do not have feet. Some have two legs, some have four legs, and some have many legs. Some are with form and some are without form. Some are with thought and some are without thought. Some neither have thought nor lack thought. And some are not entirely with thought and not entirely without thought.

I will accord with and take care of all these many kinds of beings. I will change into all their many kinds of bodies to teach and transform all these different kinds of living beings. Providing all manner of services and offerings for them. I will serve them in different ways and make offerings to them, and I will treat them with the same respect I show my own parents. I will constantly be in harmony with all living beings and respect them in the same way I respect my parents, teachers, elders, arhats who have certified to the fruit, and even the Thus Come Ones. I will treat them all just as I do the Buddhas, to whom I make offerings. I do not see any of them as being different; I do not discriminate between them, but I will serve them all equally without difference.

Sutra:

“I will be a good doctor for the sick and suffering. I will lead those who have lost their way to the right road. I will be a bright light for those in the dark night, and cause the poor and destitute to uncover hidden treasures. The Bodhisattva impartially benefits all living beings in this manner.

Commentary:

There are many kinds of illnesses. There are 84,000 kinds of living beings and the Bodhisattva uses 84,000 kinds of good medicines to cure their 84,000 illnesses. So the text reads, I will be a good doctor for the sick and suffering. A good doctor is one who is an expert in the field of medicine. He treats the illnesses of other beings as he would treat his own illnesses, exhausting all the different methods to cure the illnesses of living beings.

I will lead those who have lost their way to the right road. Sometimes living beings take the wrong road. Although they have two eyes, sometimes they cannot tell which road is right and which road is wrong. If they have unwittingly taken a side track, and you know they have taken the wrong road, you should tell them about the right road to follow.

For example, today there are many young people who do not know the right road to follow. They only know about laziness, drinking, and taking poisonous drugs, and they go down the wrong road. At times like these the Bodhisattva uses different kinds of methods to turn them towards the proper road, so they do not, in ignorance, take a side track.

I will be a bright light for those in the dark night. What is "the dark night?" Those who do not understand the Buddhadharma are in the dark night, but after they understand the Buddhadharma, they have reached the light. Why is it explained like this? Because those who do not understand the Buddhadharma do everything in a topsy-turvy way, but upon understanding the Buddhadharma, they then travel along a proper road that is filled with light. You should enable living beings who do not understand the Buddhadharma to recognize it and reach the light, and cause the poor and destitute to uncover hidden treasures, so that they might find gold, silver, or other deposits of jewels in the earth.

The Bodhisattva impartially benefits all living beings in this manner. Without discriminating, the Bodhisattva benefits and aids all living beings by teaching and transforming them.

Sutra:

“Why is this? If a Bodhisattva accords with living beings, then he accords with and makes offerings to all Buddhas. If he can honor and serve living beings, then he honors and serves the Thus Come Ones. If he makes living beings happy, he is making all Thus Come Ones happy. Why is this? Because all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, take the mind of great compassion as their substance. Because of living beings, they bring forth great compassion. From great compassion, the Bodhi mind is born; and because of the resolve for Bodhi, they accomplish Equal and Proper Enlightenment.

“It is like a great king of trees growing in the rocks and sand of a barren wilderness. When the roots get water, the branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits will all flourish. The Bodhi-tree king growing in the wilderness of birth and death is the same. All living beings are its roots; all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are its flowers and fruits. By benefiting all beings with the water of great compassion, one can realize the flowers and fruits of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvaswisdom.

Commentary:

Earlier in the text it said that the Bodhisattva was a good doctor for sick living beings, and when they unwittingly take the wrong road, Bodhisattvas help them find their way back. Bodhisattvas are beacons for living beings in the dark of night and cause those who are suffering in poverty to find hidden treasures.

What is more, Bodhisattvas benefit living beings without partiality. Why is this? If a Bodhisattva accords with living beings, if a Bodhisattva who practices the Bodhisattva Way constantly accords with living beings, then he accords with and makes offerings to all Buddhas. If you accord with all living beings, just this is according with and making offerings to all Buddhas. Why? Because these three, the mind, Buddhas, and living beings, are not different.

If he can honor and serve living beings, then he honors and serves the Thus Come Ones. If you are respectful to and serve all living beings, then you honor and serve the Thus Come Ones; it is equivalent to honoring, respecting, and making offerings to the Thus Come Ones. If he makes living beings happy, he is making all Thus Come Ones happy. If living beings are happy, then the Thus Come Ones are happy, and so those who have left the home-life say,

        Guard your mouth, watch over your mind,
        do not transgress with your body;
        Don't trouble any living beings;
        And stay away from non-beneficial ascetic practices
        One who cultivates like this can take the world across.

Do not cause any living being to become afflicted, and do not cultivate beneficial ascetic practices. One who is like this can teach and transform living beings. If you can cause all living beings to be happy, then all the Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, will be happy too.

Why is this? Why is it that if all living beings are happy then the Buddhas are happy? Because the Buddhas and living beings are the same in substance. Buddhas are living beings, and living beings are Buddhas; Buddhas are living beings who have become Buddhas, and living beings have the potential to become Buddhas but have not yet done so. We are the same in substance as the Buddhas, and in the future we will be equal and identical with them. Buddhism is different from all other religions in this regards because it is the most impartial.

Why is it that if living beings are happy, the Buddhas are happy? Because all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, take the mind of great compassion as their substance. What is the substance of all Buddhas? The mind of great compassion, and it is because of living beings that they bring forth great compassion.

From great compassion the Bodhi mind is born. Because they give rise to a mind of great compassion, the mind of enlightenment arises. And because of the resolve for Bodhi, they accomplish equal and proper enlightenment.

Next the text presents a simile. It is like a great king of trees growing in the rocks and sand of a barren wilderness. When the roots get water, the branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits will all flourish. If this tree gets water, the branches and leaves will flourish and the flowers and fruits will be fragrant and sweet.

The Bodhi-tree King growing in the wilderness of birth and death is the same. We living beings are now in the desert of birth and death. The Bodhi-tree King, that is, Shakyamuni Buddha, who obtained the Way beneath this tree, is like the king of trees described above.

All living beings are its roots. What relationship do living beings have with Buddhas? All living beings are like the roots of the tree, and all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are its flowers and fruits. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are like the flowers that bloom and the fruits that ripen on the tree. By benefiting all beings with the water of great compassion, the Buddhas benefit living beings and cause them to obtain advantages, and one can realize the flowers and fruits of the Buddhas' and Bodhisattvas wisdom. Because of the wisdom-water of compassion, the boundless wisdom--the flowers and fruits of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas--can be perfected.

Sutra:

“Why is this? If all Bodhisattvas benefit living beings with the water of great compassion, they can attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Therefore, Bodhi belongs to living beings. Without living beings, no Bodhisattva could perfect the Unsurpassed Proper Enlightenment.

“Good Man, you should understand these principles in this way: When the mind is impartial towards all living beings, one can accomplish full and perfect great compassion. By using the heart of great compassion to accord with living beings, one perfects the making of offerings to the Thus Come Ones. In this way the Bodhisattva constantly accords with living beings.

“Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still accord endlessly, continuously in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.

Commentary:

Why is this? What is the principle behind the comparison in which the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are flowers and fruits, and living beings are the roots of the tree in the desert? If all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas benefit living beings with the water of great compassion--what is the water of great compassion? It is the nature of the mind when one is kind, compassionate, and sympathetic to all living beings. It is for this reason that Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and all the other Bodhisattvas recite the Great Compassion Mantra and dispense the water of compassion to benefit living beings.

Among the Forty-Two hands of Avalokiteshvara (Kuan Yin) Bodhisattva are the Willow Branch Hand and the Pure Bottle Hand. They are used together; the willow branch is dipped into the pure bottle to draw out the water of compassion. Avalokiteshvara continuously recites the Great Compassion Mantra and dispenses the water of great compassion from the pure bottle to benefit living beings. In the verse in praise of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, there is a line which reads, "The sweet dew in the vase is constantly sprinkled everywhere." The liquid in the pure bottle is called both the water of compassion and sweet dew, and it is constantly sprinkled everywhere.

The water of great compassion is used to benefit living beings to that they can attain Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Because they use the mind of great compassion to benefit living beings, they advance their position and are able to perfect Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, a Sanskrit term which is translated as "the unsurpassed, proper and equal, proper enlightenment."

When those of the Two Vehicles become enlightened, they reach the stage of Sound Hearers or of Those Enlightened to Conditions, which means that they have enlightened themselves, a state called Proper Enlightenment. Although they have enlightened themselves, they have not reached the stage of Proper and Equal Enlightenment, because this is the enlightenment of Bodhisattvas, a position of enlightenment which is both proper and equal to the Buddha. But even though they have obtained Proper and Equal Enlightenment, they still have not obtained the Unsurpassed Enlightenment. Bodhisattvas are called those with superiors, and Buddhas are called those without superiors; Unsurpassed Enlightenment is the position of the Buddhas.

To perfect the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal Enlightenment is to perfect the Buddha position. If Bodhisattvas do not benefit living beings, if they do not use the water of great compassion, and if they do not aid, teach and transform living beings, then the Bodhisattvas can never become Buddhas. How does one become a Buddha? A Bodhisattva must benefit living beings in order to become a Buddha. This is called benefiting oneself and benefiting others.

Therefore, Bodhi belongs to living beings. Where does Bodhi, the Way of enlightenment, come from? It comes from living beings, because without living beings, if there were no living beings, no Bodhisattva could perfect the Unsurpassed Proper Enlightenment. Without living beings, none of the Bodhisattvas could become Buddhas. Why? Because there would be no place for them to go to create merit and virtue. Living beings create merit and virtue before the Triple Jewel, and Bodhisattvas create merit and virtue before living beings. Bodhisattvas do this by benefiting living beings, causing them to leave suffering and obtain bliss, causing them to put an end to birth and death, and causing them to turn away from confusion and go towards enlightenment. This is what is meant by benefiting living beings.

Good Man, you should understand these principles. You good people who cultivate the Way should understand these principles and meanings in this Way: When the mind is impartial towards all living beings, when Buddhas, living beings, and the mind are one, then the three are one, and the one is three. They are inconceivable. The Buddha is inconceivable, living beings are inconceivable, and the mind is inconceivable. Therefore, the three, the mind, the Buddha, and living beings, are not different. When the Buddha, living beings, and the mind are of one substance, when beyond their appearances they are one, then one can accomplish full and perfect great compassion. If you can understand this principle, then you can perfect the mind of total great compassion.

By using the heart of great compassion to accord with living beings, one perfects the making of offerings to the Thus Come Ones. If you use a mind of great compassion to accord with living beings, then you can perfect the merit and virtue of making offerings to Thus Come Ones. In this way the Bodhisattva constantly accords with living beings. Bodhisattvas who cultivate the Way and practices of a Bodhisattva accord with living beings in this manner.

In making the vow to accord with living beings, even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted--even if these four were to come to an end, still my vow to accord with living beings would never end. It cannot cease. Basically empty space, the Dharma Realm, living beings' karma, and the afflictions of living beings can never end. But even if they did, still I would continue my vow. Therefore, I will still accord endlessly, continuously in thought after thought without cease. Just as the endless thoughts flow through the mind, I will continue my vow like this in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds. My actions in body, mouth, and mind will continue, and I will never get tired. I will constantly practice and maintain this vow and act accordingly.

The Tenth Vow: To Universally Transfer All Merit and Virtue

Sutra:

“Moreover, Good Man, to universally transfer all merit and virtue is explained like this: All of the merit and virtue, from the first vow, to worship and respect, up to and including the vow to constantly accord, I universally transfer to all living beings throughout the Dharma Realm and to the limits of empty space. I vow that all living beings will be constantly peaceful and happy, without sickness or suffering. I vow that no one will succeed in doing any evil, but that all will quickly perfect their cultivation of good karma. I vow to close the doors to the evil destinies and open the right paths of humans, gods, and Nirvana. I will stand in for beings and receive all the extremely severe fruits of suffering which they bring on with their evil karma. I will liberate all these beings and ultimately bring them to accomplish Unsurpassed Bodhi. The Bodhisattva cultivates transference in this way.

“Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still transfer all merit and virtue endlessly, continuously, in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.

Commentary:

This is Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's tenth vow, to universally transfer all merit and virtue. Moreover, Good Man, I will again speak for you. To universally transfer all merit and virtue is explained like this. What is the meaning of universally transferring all merit and virtue?

All of the merit and virtue, from the first vow, to worship and respect. The first vow is to worship and respect all Buddhas; the second is to praise the Thus Come Ones; the third is to extensively cultivate making offerings; the fourth is to repent of karmic obstacles and reform; the fifth is to follow along with and rejoice in merit and virtue; the sixth is to request the turning of the Dharma wheel; the seventh is to request that the Buddhas remain in the world; the eighth is to always study with the Buddhas; up to and including the ninth, the vow to constantly accord with living beings. "All of the merit and virtue:" cultivating all these kings of vows generates much merit and virtue. Is it the case that I should keep all this merit and virtue for my own benefit? No. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva said to the Youth Good Wealth, "All of the merit and virtue I universally transfer. I give it to others." "To transfer" means "to give away." Universal Worthy says that he does not want any of the merit and virtue for himself, but he wishes to give it to all living beings throughout the Dharma Realm and to the limits of empty space.

I vow that all living beings will be constantly peaceful and happy. my wish is that all living beings are always secure, happy, and obtain benefit, and be without sickness or suffering. I vow that no one will succeed in doing any evil, but that all will quickly perfect their cultivation of good karma. If there are those who engage in evil activities, my wish is that they will not succeed but will quickly accomplish their good karma.

I vow to close the doors to the evil destinies, that is, the doors to the hells, the realm of hungry ghosts, the realm of animals, and the realm of the asuras. I vow to transfer my merit and virtue to living beings so that the doors to the evil paths of the hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and asuras are closed, and to open the right paths of humans, gods, and Nirvana. Opening the right paths also means explaining the Dharma to people so that they can understand how to become a person, how to be born in the heavens, and how to attain Nirvana.

To be a person, you much maintain the Five Precepts. If you wish to be born as a god, you must in addition to cultivating the Five Precepts practice the Ten Good Acts. If you wish to reach Nirvana, you must cultivate the Four Truths, the Twelve Links, the Six Paramitas, the Ten thousand Practices, and the Bodhisattva path, and then you can obtain permanence, bliss, true self, and purity, the Four Virtues of Nirvana.

I will stand in for beings and receive all the extremely severe fruits of suffering which they bring on with their evil karma. "Because living beings have created so much evil karma, they carry a burden of many different kinds of bad karma mixed together, and as a result, they must undergo the most severe suffering and pain. But I, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, who have made these royal vows, will undergo suffering on their behalf so that they will not have to undergo the retribution from their accumulated evil karma."

Look at the vow made by this Bodhisattva! How extremely compassionate! Having heard about Universal Worthy's vow, if we still do not cultivate, we are most stupid. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva has vowed to undergo suffering on our behalf, so that now we do not have to bear so much pain and bitterness. But he never tells us how much suffering he has undergone on our behalf. He never says, "I've stood in for you and taken one day's worth of suffering, one year's worth of suffering, one life's worth of suffering; I've suffered so much for you; you should at least invite me for dinner or for tea." He is not like this; he does not ask for thanks, nor does he ask you to invite him over, to get something back for his efforts. When we have read the Sutra to this passage we should feel pain in our hearts to the point of tears and thank Universal Worthy Bodhisattva.

I will liberate all these beings so that they are untied. I will enable them to obtain liberation and ultimately bring them to accomplish unsurpassed Bodhi. They will finally perfect the proper and equal Bodhi, Proper and Equal Proper Enlightenment. The Bodhisattva cultivates transference in this way. He dedicates all of his merit and virtue to all living beings because that is what Bodhisattvas do; they benefit others. They are not interested in doing things for themselves. Therefore, they do not want any of their merit and virtue, but wish to transfer it to all living beings in the Dharma Realm.

Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, if the realm of empty space could be exhausted, if the realms of living beings are exhausted, if the karma of living beings is exhausted, and if the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still transfer all merit and virtue endlessly, because my vow to transfer all merit and virtue can never be exhausted. Basically, empty space, living beings, thee karma of living beings, and the afflictions of living beings cannot be exhausted, but even if these inexhaustible things became exhausted, still my vow to transfer all merit and virtue could never be exhausted. It would go on like the thoughts of people, continuously, in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds. I will cultivate these ten vows in my actions, in my speech, and in my thoughts, and I will never tire. I will never feel that there is too much suffering and too much effort involved, and wish to rest, but night and day I will be vigorous in cultivating the Dharma Door of these Ten Kings of Vows."

 The Merit of These Vows

Now we understand the Ten Kings of Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. When we compare their measure to the size of empty space, we find that although empty space may be exhausted, these vows can never end. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva would continue to cultivate according to these vows even if empty space collapsed.

These Ten Kings of Vows are not only cultivated by Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. If he were the only one who cultivated them, it would not be necessary to include them in the Flower Adornment Sutra. The vows are found in the Sutra so that all of us will use them cultivate, so that we will bring forth minds that are vast and great, that are equal in measure to all of empty space and include everything in thee Dharma Realm, and so that we will transfer all of our merit and virtue to all the living beings in the Dharma Realm. How big would you say is a body that is as large as empty space, that extends to the ends of the Dharma Realm?

The vows are presented in the Sutra so that all living beings will become one with these vows, so that all living beings will fulfill their potential of being Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, and so that all these Universal Worthy Bodhisattvas will return to teach and transform living being. It is not the case that only Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. Anyone who relies on these Ten Great Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. "Universal" means "everywhere," and "Worthy" means "a worthy sage." One universally pervades the Dharma Realm and causes all living beings to become worthy sages.

These Kings of Vows were not included for the sake of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, but are methods that are taught for all of us, because we might not understand how to cultivate. Universal Worthy, out of great compassion, introduces us to these Ten Kings of Vows, for the express purpose of teaching us how to cultivate, to tell us to rely on these Ten Great Vows in our cultivation. Therefore, after you have read this Sutra, you should not think that it concerns only Universal Worthy Bodhisattva and not yourself. This is a mistake. After hearing about these Ten Great Vows, which are methods for cultivation, we too, should make vows like these and cultivate according to them.

Sutra:

“Good Man, these are the Bodhisattva Mahasattva’s ten great vows in the entirety. If all Bodhisattvas can follow and enter these great vows, then they will be able to bring all living beings to maturity. They will be able to accord with anuttarasamyaksambodhi and complete Universal Worthy’s sea of conduct and vows. Therefore, Good Man, you should know the meaning of this.

“If a good man or good woman filled up worlds as many as very fine dust motes in measureless, boundless, ineffably ineffable Buddhalands throughout the ten directions with the supremely wonderful seven jewels; and if they as well gave all of the supreme peace and happiness known to gods and men to every living being in all those worlds; and if they offered such gifts to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of these worlds, doing so constantly without cease for as many kalpas as very fine motes of dust in those Buddhalands, they would acquire much merit and virtue.

“But the merit and virtue gained from these gifts, when compared to the merit and virtue of a person who hears these kings of vows pass by his ear but once, does not equal one part in one hundred, one part in one thousand, or even one part in an upanishad.

Commentary:

After Universal Worthy has explained the Ten Great Kings of Vows, he says, "Good Man, these are the Bodhisattva Mahasattva's ten great vows in their entirety. These are the vows practiced by a great Bodhisattva." Mahasattva is a Sanskrit term that means "a great being among Bodhisattvas."

All Bodhisattvas should cultivate these Ten Great Vows. It is for this reason that I have said that these Ten Great Vows are not just the personal cultivation of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. All Bodhisattvas should cultivate them, and all living beings can cultivate them too. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas become perfected because of their practice of these Ten Great Vows, and so living beings who wish to accomplish Buddhahood should rely on them to cultivate the Way.

When you cultivate the Ten Great Kings of Vows, you must cultivate them "in their entirety," sincerely and completely. You must act in accord with the vows that Universal Worthy Bodhisattva has made and not cultivate them half-heartedly. You should not practice them a while and then decide that they are very difficult and change your mind. If you change your mind, then you are not cultivating the vows in their entirety. If you are constant and never change, however, even when empty space is exhausted, when there are no more living beings, when the karma of living beings has been eradicated, and when the afflictions of living beings are totally gone, still your cultivation of these vows can never end.

Moreover, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva says, "If all Bodhisattvas can follow and enter these Great Vows:" to follow means to rely on these ten great methods of practice. To enter means to get inside these Great Vows. At this point the Ten Great Vows are the Bodhisattva who cultivates the Bodhisattva path, and the Bodhisattva who cultivates the Bodhisattva path is these Ten Great Vows. The Dharma and the person become one without distinction. This is the meaning of "following and entering."

Then they will be able to bring all living beings to maturity. If you can rely on these Ten Great Kings of Vows to cultivate, you will be able to bring all living beings to maturity. What does this mean? In your cultivation of the Ten Great Vows, you influence living beings without good roots to plant good roots. For example, teaching living beings who do not understand filial piety to be filial is a method to cause them to plant good roots. There is a saying,

    Of the ten thousand evil acts, lust is the worst;
    Of the one hundred wholesome deeds, filial piety is foremost.

What makes people different from animals is that people understand how to be filial to their parents and respectful to their teacher and elders. People are different from animals, who do not understand filiality, yet eventually

    The lamb kneels to nurse;
    The crow returns to feed its parents.

The young lamb kneels when it takes milk from its mother, and when the young crow grows up, it returns to care for its parents. Filial piety, therefore, is basic to being human. Those who are not filial to their parents do not have good roots, but one who is filial certainly does have good roots.

In bringing living beings to maturity, moreover, you help those who already have good roots to increase them. For example, when the Great Master the Sixth Patriarch was still living at home, he went to the mountains every day to gather firewood and then sold it at the market place. With the money he earned, he bought rice to support his mother. by his deeds he planted good roots, although basically, the Great Master the Sixth Patriarch already had good roots, since his state was the state of a Bodhisattva.

One day after he had finished selling his firewood, he heard someone reciting the Vajra Sutra. When the person reached the line, "One should bring forth the mind which does not dwell anywhere," the Great master became enlightened. This traveler, who recited the Sutra, gave him ten taels of gold, which he set aside for his mother's welfare, using a little of it to go to Huang Mei to seek the Dharma. This helped him plant good roots and accomplish his karma of the Way.

So by protecting the Ten Great Vows, one helps people who already have good roots to increase them, and one helps those who have already increased their good roots to reach maturity. "To mature" means "to accomplish one's karma in the Way." For a living being to be matured means that he or she becomes a Buddha: the Buddha seed becomes a fruit, and the fruit ripens. Therefore the text says that they will be able to bring all living beings to maturity.

They will be able to accord with Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. "To accord" means that their cultivation will accord with the Way. What Way? They will cultivate Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the "Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Proper Enlightenment" Unsurpassed Enlightenment surpasses the state of Bodhisattvas; Proper and Equal Enlightenment surpasses the state of Bodhisattvas; Proper and Equal Enlightenment surpasses the state of those of the Two Vehicles; and Proper Enlightenment surpasses the state of common people. Anuttarasamyaksambodhi refers to the accomplishment which leaves the common and the sagely realms behind, when one becomes a Buddha. And complete Universal Worthy's sea of conduct and vows. If you cultivate these Ten Great Vows, you can complete the sea of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's conduct and vows.

Universal Worthy specializes in granting the wishes of living beings, giving them whatever they seek. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva once served as a waiter in a monastery dining hall. Where people who have left the home life assemble in the refectory for their meal, the tables are narrow and arranged in rows facing one another. In front of each person are two bowls, one containing rice, and the other vegetables.

When Universal Worthy served as a waiter, he carried small bottles of soy sauce, hot sauce, pepper, and other seasonings around his waist. He would walk before each person, and if the person wanted salt, he would give him salt; or if he wanted soy sauce or oil, he would give him that, or whatever was thus wanted, fulfilling the wishes of living beings.

But satisfying the wishes of living beings is not all that easy to do. For example, someone might want salt, but as soon as he gave him salt, the monk would say, "Hey! I don't want that much. You gave me too much. What are you trying to do, pickle me?"

When he came to the next person who wanted salt, he would give him a little less, and the monk would say, "Give me more! You're too stingy. You act like I'm eating your salt. this salt belongs to everyone." Still, he always tried to comply with everyone's demands. This is how Universal Worthy satisfied the wishes of living beings.

Living beings are strange. If you give them a lot, they say it is too much, and if you give them a little, they say it is not enough. If you do not say anything when you give them something, they will say they do not want any; if you do not give them anything, they will say that you are looking down on them, that you are being unkind to them. You can see, then, that it is not easy for Universal Worthy Bodhisattva to fulfill the wishes of living beings.

Since that is how living beings are, should you decide not to try to fulfill their wishes? On the contrary, the more irrational and contrary they are, the more you should practice this ascetic work. If people scold you, hit you, or look down on you when you cultivate ascetic practices, they are testing you to see if you are sincere. Therefore, those who cultivate the Way should not fear difficulty. The more difficult things are, the more you should resolve to do them. For example, if you sweep the grounds and someone scolds you by saying, "From morning to night you do nothing but sweep the ground. What do you think you're doing? What's the use of sweeping the grounds?" Do not pay attention to them.

"Well, then, if your sweeping irritates people, should you intentionally sweep the grounds every day to cause them to get mad?" you ask. Of course not. But, in general, when you cultivate the Way, and if your cultivation is correct, then even if people scold you, you should not pay any attention to them. If you are practicing something that is incorrect, however, then you should quickly change. It is like that with everything.

In the ocean of Universal Worthy's conduct and vows, there are many kinds of practices in addition to these Ten Great Vows. The strength of his practices is like a great sea, and so we should follow him and perfect this sea of vows. Therefore, Good Man, because of what I have just said, you should know the meaning of this. You should understand the meaning of what I say.

If a good man or good woman who cultivates the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Acts filled up worlds as many as very fine dust motes in measureless, boundless, ineffably ineffable Buddhalands throughout the ten directions, with the supremely wonderful seven jewels--"supremely wonderful" means the very best of the Seven Jewels: gold, silver, red pearls, carnelian, and so forth, the most valuable things that exist. And if they as well gave all of the supreme peace and happiness known to gods and mean, together with the foremost happiness of gods and men, the most wonderful bliss, to every living being in all those worlds, if they gave this bliss as a gift to all the living beings in as many worlds as are discussed above...

    There are three kinds of giving:

    1) the giving of wealth,

    2) the giving of Dharma,

    3) the giving of fearlessness.

Of the first kind, the giving of wealth, there are two kinds, internal and external. Internal wealth includes your body, heart, nature, and life. One vows, "I will give things of my own; I will give my eyes to people, or my ears, my nose, my tongue, or my head, my brains, or my marrow." External wealth includes one's country, cities, wife, and children. One who truly practices giving gives away his whole country to others. He does not want to be a kind or to own cities. One also vows, "Although all the wealth in San Francisco belong to me, I wish to give it away to others."

Men find it most difficult to give up their wives and girlfriends. Although you cannot give them up, you still should be able to do so. This then is true giving, giving up what you basically cannot give up. If you cannot give up what you should be able to give up, then even if you give, it does not count as true giving.

There once was a woman who heard me say that giving a wife to others is a form of giving, so she asked if she could give away her husband. This is probably the first time anyone has given away her husband. I told her, "You must first find someone else for him; if you can't find anyone to accept him, how can you give him away? You can't throw him out in the street and call it giving." Later I said, "You don't really have a mind of giving. You still can't give him up." And in fact, she did not give him away after all. "Giving wealth" means that one can renounce one's valuables and give them all away.

The second kind of giving is the giving of Dharma. Of all the kinds of offerings, the offering of Dharma is foremost. Giving Dharma is also called offering Dharma. To lecture Sutras, speak Dharma, teach living beings, and turn the Dharma wheel are all forms of giving Dharma. Giving Dharma is better than giving wealth, but the Dharma you give should accord with the conditions of living beings it is intended for, so that when they hear the Dharma they will become enlightened.

The third is the giving of fearlessness. Someone may have an unexpected accident, or see a ghost, a demon, or some other strange beast or bandit, and forget everything and become totally disarranged. At that time you console them, "Don't be afraid. Recite Na Mwo Kuan Shi Yin Pu Sa, and Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva will protect you. Don't be afraid." If you explain this so that they can understand, they will then recite the name of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva and as soon as they do, they will naturally lose their fear and regain composure. Or they can recite the name of Amita Buddha, and they will very quickly be far from fear.

I have briefly described these three kinds of giving. You should practice them in cultivating the Bodhisattva Way.

And if they offered such gifts as have been described to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of these worlds--if they gave all kinds of offerings to the infinity of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in that infinity of worlds, doing so constantly without cease for as many kalpas as very fine motes of dust in those Buddhalands: if they gave these gifts constantly, passing through as many kalpas as there are motes of dust in that many Buddhalands, making gifts not for just one or two days, but continuously and without rest for as many aeons as there are dust motes in the infinity of worlds, they would then acquire much merit and virtue. The merit and virtue acquired by these people who practice giving would be very great indeed!

But the merit and virtue gained from these gifts, when compared to the merit and virtue of a person who hears these kings of vows pass by his ear but once: a person who hears these Ten Great Kings of Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva recited, not explained, but simply recited so that they pass by his ear but once, will gain merit and virtue which surpasses the merit and virtue of the person described above who made all those gifts. If you compare this person's merit and virtue with the merit and virtue derived form giving in the infinity of worlds for an infinity of kalpas, the merit of the latter, compared to the merit of a person who hears the great vows but once, does not equal one part in one hundred. When the ear hears, the eternal seeds of Bodhi are planted, and the merit and virtue derived from all this giving does not equal one hundredth the merit and virtue derived from hearing these Ten Great Kings of Vows, nor one part in one thousand. The infinity of giving does not equal one thousandth part, or even one part in an upanishad. An upanishad refers to the nature of a dust mote; it is smaller than a dust mote. The merit and virtue derived from giving all the unsurpassed gifts for many aeons of time does not equal an upanishad of the merit and virtue gained from hearing the Ten Kings of Vows.

Why is the merit and virtue derived from these Ten Great Kings of Vows so great? If you give wealth, you can only sustain a person's impermanent body and life, but giving these Ten Great Kings of Vows is a gift of Dharma, which perfects one's Buddha nature These Ten Great Vows are called "Universal Worthy's Contemplations," and when one cultivates this contemplation, the one becomes the many, and the many become one. The one becomes the entire Dharma Realm, and the Dharma Realm becomes one. Worshiping one Buddha, one worships all Buddhas of the Dharma Realm; worshiping all the Buddhas of the Dharma Realm; one worships one Buddha. The first of Universal Worthy's Ten Great Vows is to worship and respect all Buddhas, and the merit and virtue derived from this practice is inexhaustible. It follows, therefore, that the merit and virtue from making offering of this Dharma is especially great. If you cultivate this Dharma, then day by day your Bodhi seeds will grow, and before long you will accomplish the fruition of Bodhi. So you see that the merit and virtue of giving the Dharma of the Ten Great Vows is especially great.

Sutra:

“Moreover, if a person receives and maintains these great vows with a mind of deep faith, reads and recites them, or writes out just a single four line verse, he or she can quickly eradicate the karma of the Five Unintermittent Offenses. All of the world’s illnesses that afflict the body and mind, as well as the various kinds of bitter suffering, will be wiped away, up to and including bad karma equal to the fine motes of dust in Buddhalands.

Commentary:

"Moreover, if a person--it is not certain, but there may be such a person who receives and maintains these great vows with a mind of deep faith. Deep faith is not shallow, and the person spoken of here has brought forth a mind of proper and deep faith, which means a mind without doubts. This is a person who receives and maintains, read and recites, who relies on this Dharma to cultivate, and who receives and maintains this Chapter on the Conduct and Vow of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva every day. "To read" refers to using a book to read the text from memory. Of, if you cannot read or recite the text, perhaps you can write it out with a pen. Further, if you cannot write it out completely, perhaps you can write out just a single four-line verse. For example, you might write out,

        To worship and respect all Buddhas;
        To praise the Thus Come Ones;
        To extensively cultivate making offerings;
        To repent of karmic obstacles and reform.

Someone who write out just four lines like this, or who practices in any of the ways just mentioned, can quickly eradicate the karma of the five unintermittent offenses.

The Five Unintermittent Offenses are five karmic offenses whose retribution is the uninterrupted hell. If one person is in this particular hell, he sees that his body totally fills the hell up so that there is no space, and his suffering is ceaseless. If there is more than one person in this hell, their bodies do not obstruct one another, yet each person sees his own body totally filling up this hell. Time spent in this hell is unintermittent. Form the time someone first enters it until the time he leaves, there is no break in the suffering he undergoes as retribution for his offenses. His suffering is unintermittent, his lifetime is unintermittent, and the retribution he undergoes is unintermittent.

All of the world's illnesses that afflict the body and mind. Some people become ill in body, and some people become ill in mind. Illness of the body refers to the sicknesses we may contract, and illnesses of the mind refers to the suffering in our minds when we are not happy.

As well as the various kinds of bitter suffering. If you are sick, you undergo suffering and affliction, and if you suffer and are afflicted, then you are not happy. Every kind of evil karma can be wiped away. But to do so, you must have deep faith. If you do not have faith, but only wish to test the method, you will not get a response. Why? Because the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas do not need to pass any tests given by living beings. They can test you, but you cannot say, "I don't believe the methods spoken by the Buddha, so I think I'll try them out." If you want to do something honestly, you should follow the method sincerely, not test it. If you have true faith and use this method, then all karma will be wiped away, up to and including bad karma equal to the fine motes of dust in Buddhalands.

Sutra:

“All the demon-armies, the Yakshas, Rakshasas, Kumbhandas, Pishachas, Bhutas, and so forth, and all evil ghosts and spirits that drink blood and devour flesh will go far away from this person. Or they will resolve, before long, to draw near and protect him. Therefore, if he recites these vows aloud he will move freely through the world without obstruction, like the moon appearing through the clouds. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will praise him; people and gods should all bow in respect to him, and all living beings should make offerings to him. This good man will easily get reborn as a human and will perfect all of Universal Worthy’s merit and virtue. Before long, he will be just like Universal Worthy himself, obtaining a subtle and wonderful physical body complete with the thirty-two marks of the great man. If he is born among human or gods, he will always live in a superior family. He will totally destroy the evil destinies and will leave all bad companions. Fully able to vanquish all externalists, he will completely free himself from all afflictions, just as the lordly lion subdues all beasts. This person will be worthy of receiving the offerings of all living beings.

Commentary:

All the demon-armies. In this world there are many heavenly demons and externalists. Why don't they show themselves? They hide away because the Buddhadharma is in the world, but if there was no Buddhadharma here, they would pour forth and destroy the world.

What are these "demon armies?" The word "demon" in Chinese is derived from the Sanskrit mara, and its meaning is "murderer" or "one fond of killing." Mara wishes to kill any living being it sees, and the demonic armies include demon kings, demon citizens, demon sons, and demon daughters. Demon women are especially beautiful and especially deadly, because they still delight in killing.

The yakshas can move very fast; there are flying yakshas, earth traveling yakshas, and yakshas who travel in space. They are courageous, cruel, and delight in fighting, and their sole delight is in doing harm.

Rakshasa is a Sanskrit word which carries the meaning of "fearsome" ghost. Both the yakshas and rakshasas are mentioned in the Shurangama Mantra: yau cha jye la he, (line 247), and la cha sz jye la he, (line 248). Yau cha is the name yaksha, and la cha sz is the name rakshasa. Reciting the Shurangama Mantra prevents these demons from harming people and in fact causes them to protect people. Reciting yau cha jye la he, la cha sz jye la he can dissolve dangerous situations.

Kumbhandas are barrel-shaped ghosts; they are also called winter-melon ghosts because of their shape. This is a nightmare ghost that prevents people from talking when they are asleep. You want to scream, but you cannot, and you try to squirm away, but you cannot move. You are unable to do anything when they sit on you.

Pishachas are also ghosts, which eat the vitality of things. These ghosts eat people's essential energies as well as the essential energies of the five grains.

Bhutas, and so forth. Bhutas are another kind of ghost. This ghost's name means "big body," for in fact his body is as large as Mount Sumeru. These two ghosts, Bhutas and Kumbhandas, are also found in the Shurangama Mantra: bu dwo jye la he, jyou pan cha jye la he. The Kumbhanda ghost is also called the ghost which rides in cars and can prevent car accidents, and together with the Bhuta, can overcome problems in cities and countries. For example, if a city's walls were crumbling and if you recited the Shurangama Mantra, you could prevent this disaster. In the same way, you can prevent car accidents, accidents on horseback, and so forth. These two ghosts can protect people so that they will not be bothered by these kinds of difficulties. In the Shurangama Mantra we find the names of these ghost kings, and if you recite this mantra, not only will they refrain from hurting you, but they will protect you.

These types of ghosts also include all evil ghosts and spirits that drink blood and devour flesh which will go far away from this person. If these ghosts do not drink people's blood, then they eat their flesh. But if you recite the Ten Great Kings of Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, then these evil ghosts and spirits will go far away from you. Or they will resolve, before long, to draw near and protect him. If you are especially sincere in your cultivation, they will not go far away, but will decide to draw near you and become your Dharma protector.

Therefore, if he recites these vows aloud, he will move freely through the world without obstruction. One will not be hindered in one's travels in the world, for all one's obstructions will be destroyed. One will be like the moon appearing through the clouds, and wherever he goes, he seems to radiate light. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will praise him. Not only is he like the full moon in a cloudless sky, but all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas praise him, and people and gods should bow in respect to him. All humans and gods respect one who recites these Ten Great Kings of Vows, and all living beings should make offerings to him.

This good man, the good man who recites these Ten Great Kings of Vows, will easily get reborn as a human. In each life he will be born as a human being and will perfect all of Universal Worthy's merit and virtue. He will be able to cultivate to perfection the merit and virtue of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. Before long, he will be just like Universal Worthy himself, obtaining a subtle and wonderful physical body. He will quickly obtain a subtle and wonderful body, like Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, complete with the thirty-two marks of the great man, just like the Buddhas.

If he is born among humans or gods, if he is born in the human realm or in the heavens, he will always live in a superior family. Wherever he goes, the family in which he is born will always be a great one, with the most power, blessings, and wealth. He will totally destroy the evil destinies, the four evil destinies of the hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and asuras, and will leave all bad companions. Those who are good friends will always draw near to him, but bad companions will be left far behind. Fully able to vanquish all externalists, he will have the power to control all adherents of non-Buddhist religions. He will completely free himself from all afflictions. The worst problem that people have is all their afflictions, but by practicing the Ten Great Vows, one can be liberated from all afflictions, just as the lordly lion, the king of beasts, subdues all beasts. This person will be worthy of receiving the offerings of all living beings. He will receive the offerings of all living beings.

Sutra:

“Further, when a person is on the verge of death, at the last instant of life, when all his faculties scatter and he departs from his relatives, when all power and status are lost and nothing survives, when his prime minister, great officials, his inner court and outer cities, his elephants, horses, carts, and treasuries of precious jewels can no longer accompany him, these kings of vows alone will stay with him. At all times, they will guide him forward, and in a single instant he will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Arriving there, he will see Amita Buddha, Manjushri Bodhisattva, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates At Ease, Maitreya Bodhisattva, and others. The appearances of these Bodhisattvas will be upright and adorned, and their merit and virtue complete. Together, they will circumambulate him.

Commentary:

"Further, when a person who reads and recites Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's Ten Great Kings of Vows is on the verge of death, at the last instant of life, when all his faculties scatter--an instant is the shortest moment of time; and at the last instant of life, all of a person's faculties, his eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind, disperse. That is the moment when the faculties separate: the eyes can no longer see; the ears cannot hear; the tongue cannot taste; the nose can no longer detect smell; and the body loses the sense of touch. All the organs fail, and the dying person departs from his relatives. He leaves all his relatives and friends behind, because he has died.

At that time when all power and status are lost and nothing survives: when a person dies, all his awesome virtue, power, and influence are lost, including his prime minister and great officials. If you are a king, then you have a prime minister and all kinds of great ministers, as well as an inner court and outer cities, great palaces, and countries. "Inner court" refers to wives, and "cities" refers to all material wealth such as elephants, horses, carts, and treasuries of precious jewels. These things can no longer accompany him, even a king, when he dies. When you are on the verge of death, nothing will go along with you, nothing can accompany you, except these kings of vows. They alone will stay with him.

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's Ten Great Kings of Vows will stay with you when you die because they are in your Eighth Consciousness; there is no way they can leave you. At all times they will guide you forward, and everywhere, at all times, they will be in front of you, so that in a single instant, you will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Arriving there, you will see Amita Buddha. After arriving in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, one sees Amita Buddha.

The Land of Ultimate Bliss is one hundred billion Buddhalands away in the western direction. Amita Buddha presides over the Land of Ultimate Bliss. His name is Sanskrit for "limitless life" and "limitless light," because both his life and his light are infinite and unbounded; therefore he is called the Buddha of Limitless Light and Life.

Manjushri Bodhisattva's name means "wonderful virtues" and "wonderfully lucky." Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is the Bodhisattva who is the host for this Chapter on Universal Worthy's Conduct and Vows. The Bodhisattva Who Contemplates At Ease is thee Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World (Kuan Yin). Maitreya Bodhisattva, and others. Maitreya Bodhisattva's name in Sanskrit means "belonging to a kind clan." He is also called Ajita, which means "invincible;" no one can defeat him. In the future, Ajita Bodhisattva, who is Maitreya, will be the next Buddha in our Saha world, the fifth Buddha of the Worthy Kalpa.

When will Maitreya Bodhisattva accomplish Buddhahood? A non-Buddhist religion says that he has already come into the world and accomplished Buddhahood, but in fact this is talk in a dream, because quite a long time must pass before he becomes a Buddha. Presently our world is in a period of decline. The characteristics of this decline are that every one hundred years the average lifespan of a human being decreases by one year, and the average height of a human being decreases by one inch. This continues until the average lifespan is ten years, and people are no more than a foot tall, about the size of today's dogs. Although they will be small, their evil thoughts will be large, because the smaller they become, the meaner they get.

When the kalpa declines to the point that the average human lifespan is ten years, a few days after people are born they will understand sexual desire and will engage in sexual activity just like dogs and pigs do now. At that time they will be able to kill one another with no more than a blade of grass, and they will do so: "I'll kill you, and you'll kill me." This mutual slaughter will occur because there will be too many people invading the world like an army of ants. If a person is not killed, he will die when he reaches the age of ten.

From this nadir, a period of increase will begin, and every one hundred years the average lifespan will increase by one year, and the average height will increase by one inch. When the average age reaches eighty-four thousand years, another period of decline will begin, and when the average age is eighty thousand years, Maitreya Bodhisattva will come into the world and become a Buddha.

The appearance of these Bodhisattva will be upright and adorned. When a person is reborn in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, the bodies of all these Bodhisattvas that he sees will be upright, adorned, and inspiring, and their merit and virtue complete. These Bodhisattvas, with their perfect appearances and complete merit and virtue, will circumambulate him.

Sutra:

“This person will see himself born from a lotus flower and will receive a prediction from the Buddha. In this way, he will pass through numberless hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of nayutas of kalpas, and with his power of wisdom, he will accord with the minds of living beings in order to benefit them everywhere throughout the ineffably ineffable worlds in the ten directions.

“Before long, he will sit in a Bodhimanda, subdue the demonic armies, accomplish Equal and Proper Enlightenment and turn the wonderful Dharma Wheel. He will cause living beings in worlds as many as the fine motes of dust in Buddhalands to bring forth the Bodhi mind. According with their basic natures, he will teach, transform, and bring them to maturity. To the exhaustion of the seas of future kalpas, he will greatly benefit all living beings.

Commentary:

This person born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss will see himself born from a Lotus Flower. A person who reads, recites, receives, and maintains, and writes out Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's Ten Great Kings of Vows will be born in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss in a lotus flower. He will receive a prediction from the Buddha. In the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, there are only men, no women, and everyone is born by transformation from a lotus flower, not from the flesh of a father and mother. There is s saying about birth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss: "When the flower opens, one sees the Buddha." When one's lotus flower opens, one will see a Buddha manifest before one, seated in a lotus flower. Amita Buddha will then predict the time when one will become a Buddha.

In this way, he will pass through numberless hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of nayutas of kalpas, and with his power of wisdom, he will accord with the minds of living beings in order to benefit them everywhere throughout the ineffably ineffable worlds in the ten directions. He will follow living beings' minds and thoughts, understand their inclinations and propensities, and thereby be able to benefit them.

Before long he will sit in a Bodhimanda. After a short time he will sit in a Bodhimanda, which is another way of saying that he will become a Buddha. He will subdue the demonic armies, all the heavenly demons and externalists, and will accomplish Equal and Proper Enlightenment. Then he will turn the wonderful Dharma Wheel, which is another way of saying that he will teach and transform living beings by speaking the Dharma and taking them across. He will cause living beings in worlds as many as the fine motes of dust in Buddhalands to bring forth the Bodhi mind. According with their basic natures, he will teach, transform, and bring them to maturity. He will accord with living beings and use ingenious expedient methods to teach and transform them and bring their fundamental natures to maturity. To the exhaustion of the seas of future kalpas, he will greatly benefit all living beings. He will universally benefit all living beings for countless aeons, exhausting the limits of future time.

Sutra:

“Good Man, the merit and virtue obtained by living beings through hearing and believing in these great kings of vows, through receiving, maintaining, reading and reciting them, and through extensively explaining them for others, can be known only by the Buddha, the World Honored One, and by no one else. Therefore, you who hear these kings of vows should harbor no doubts. Reverently accept them. After accepting them, you should be able to read them. After you can read them, you should be able to recite them aloud; and after you can recite them aloud, you should be able to maintain them, to the extent that you can write them out and extensively explain them for others. Then in a single thought, one’s conduct and vows will be accomplished.

Commentary:

"Good Man! Universal Worthy Bodhisattva again calls to the person who cultivates good. The merit and virtue obtained by living beings through hearing and believing in these great kings of vows, through receiving, maintaining, reading and reciting them, and through extensively explaining them for others--this section of text describes people who receive, maintain, read, and recite the Chapter On the Practice and Vows of Universal Worthy. If you can receive them with your mind, maintain them with your body, read them from the text, recite them from memory, and explain these Ten Great Kings of Vows extensively for others, then the merit and virtue so obtained can be known only by the Buddha, the World Honored One, and by no one else. Only the Buddha can comprehend it. Only the Buddha, the World Honored One, knows how great this merit and virtue is. None of the other Bodhisattvas or Arhats can fathom the greatness of this merit and virtue.

Therefore, you who hear these kings of vows should harbor no doubts. Do not doubt. It is said, "The mind of a cultivator of the Way is without doubts. One who becomes doubtful loses his way." If you want to cultivate the Way, you cannot entertain doubts; if you do, you can easily go down the wrong path, and you will not obtain any benefit.

Reverently accept them. You should earnestly and honestly receive and maintain these Ten Great Kings of Vows. After accepting them, you should be able to read them. After you understand their meaning, you should read these Kings of Vows from the text; after you can read them, you should recite them aloud. Having read them, you should be able to recite them from memory without the aid of the text. And after you can recite them aloud, you should be able to maintain them. After you are able to recite them from memory, you should receive and maintain these Ten Great Kings of Vows, too the extend that you can write them out and extensively explain them for others. You should practice these Kings of Vows until you can constantly explain them for others.

Then in a single thought, in as short a period of time as one thought, one's conduct and vows will be accomplished. All one's cultivation and hopes will be accomplished, and one will perfect the merit and virtue of one's vows.

Sutra:

“The blessings one will obtain are measureless and boundless. One will be able to rescue living beings from the great sea of afflictions and suffering, causing them to make good their escape and to be