The Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva with Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store (Ksitigarbha) Bodhisattva
(Translated (into Chinese) by Tripitaka Master Shikshananda of Udyana in the Tang Dynasty (ca. A.D. 700)) with commentary by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua.
(Translated from Chinese into English by Buddhist Text Translation Society)
The Arisal of Conditions Leading to the Lecturing of the Sutra
At this point, to us every place is a Bodhimanda. Every place is a place for Dharma assemblies. Any time and any place are suitable for lectures on the Sutras and the Dharma. All times and all places are right for working on our cultivation and for plying our efforts.
That is why when it comes to cultivation, location or distance makes no difference. Any place we travel to is just the same as the place we started from. Make no distinctions among places, or between the good and bad Dharma assemblies. We should be able to lecture on the Sutras and the Dharma, and study the Buddhadharma wherever we happen to be. Only then will we be able to achieve wholeness and harmony in our skill. Make a habit of studying the Buddhadharma anywhere we travel. That is most important!
What is the key to studying the Buddhadharma? It is to refrain from false thinking! Gather in your body and mind—collect them together—and keep your thoughts from wandering off in all directions into the past, present, or future. Simply focus your mind totally on studying the Buddhadharma. Do that and you will not have many afflictions or worries.
Why do you have afflictions? It is just because you cannot see through and let go of things. You feel some matters are important and yet some other matters are all the more important. This feeling of importance leads to (a kind of) attachment. Once there is attachment, afflictions arise. Therefore, as students of the Buddhadharma, we should be free of attachments—that is, any and all attachments.
Today marks the first time the (Earth Store) Sutra is being lectured here. From now on, we'll try to fit in as many seats as possible. Move the first row back (a bit), and add another row in the front. Stagger the seats from row to row, so those in the front will not block the view of those in the back and everyone will have a clear line of sight. That will be the seating arrangement. As for the standing arrangement, two people will stand in a row, and leave enough room between the rows for bowing.
Earlier, we were reciting the Six Syllables Great Bright Mantra. Earth Store Bodhisattva likes for people to recite this mantra. If you are able to recite it, he will grant your wishes to your heart's content. He will help you with whatever you wish for. Words come short when describing Earth Store Bodhisattva's (many) efficacious responses—they will be covered in the Sutra lectures (later). We should recite the Six Syllables Great Bright Mantra often. It is an excellent mantra and its functions are also quite inconceivable.
There are some very important causes and conditions leading to the Earth Store Sutra lectures. I was renting this place for the summer and was planning to terminate the lease at the end of the summer vacation. In that case, quite a few people would have a tough time looking for new rentals since they were hard to come by. So I took a big chance and renewed the lease on this place and invited these people to stay. I also invited Earth Store Bodhisattva to stay here with us. This way, everyday we get to bow to the Bodhisattva, to plant good roots and cultivate blessings!
However, Americans are unfamiliar with Bodhisattvas. They were never introduced to one before, let alone having to live with one right now! Some people are delighted, yet others are frightened by the human-like image of the Bodhisattva. Therefore, I will now introduce you to this Bodhisattva's life stories. When you wish to make a new friend, you first would probably want to know the kind of person he or she is. So let us now get acquainted with Earth Store Bodhisattva. Given these circumstances, I will lecture on the Earth Store Sutra for everybody.
The Earth Store Sutra is a Buddhist scripture on filial piety. Earth Store Bodhisattva is a Bodhisattva who practices filial conduct and is most filial to his parents. By giving my lectures on the Sutra, I hope to inspire everyone to follow Earth Store Bodhisattva's example on filial piety.
Second, The Divisions and Vehicles in Which It Is Contained: "Divisions" refers to the Tripitaka, and "Vehicles" refers to the Great Vehicle (the Mahayana) and the Small Vehicle (the Hinayaha). Or, in terms of the Five Vehicles, there are the Vehicle of Humans, the Vehicle of Gods, the Vehicle of Sound Hearers (Shravakas), the Vehicle of Those Enlightened to Conditions (Prateyka-buddhas), and the Vehicle of Bodhisattvas. "The Divisions and Vehicles in Which It Is Contained" therefore refers to the type of text in the Tripitaka and the vehicle among the Five Vehicles to which the Sutra belongs.
Third, Determining Its Aim and Purport: We will explain its tenet.
Fourth, An Explanation of the Title: The title of the Sutra will be explained.
Sixth, Discerning and Explaining the Meaning of the Text : We will especially clarify the meanings in the Sutra text proper.
First, what does the Causes and Conditions for the Arising of the Teaching mean? "Teaching" is the (body of) language used by the Sages to transform living beings, as in the (Chinese) phrase: The language (that) the Sagely One administers to his charges.
After he had attained Buddhahood, Skakyamuni Buddha spoke the Dharma for forty-nine years in over three hundred assemblies, yet all along, never once did he get a chance to take his mother across (to the other shore of nirvana). Shakyamuni Buddha was born from his mother's left ribcage, and his mother passed away after giving birth. When he became a Buddha, he learned that his mother, Lady Maya, had ascended to the heavens. After he had spoken the Dharma Flower Sutra and before starting the Nirvana Sutra, he thought of his mother and ascended to the Palace of Trayastrimsha Heaven. He stayed there for three months to expound the Dharma for his mother. And what was that Dharma? It was the Earth Store Sutra, the sutra on filial piety.
For the sake of crossing over his dear mother, Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva in the Palace of Trayastrimsha Heaven—those are the causal conditions leading up to this Sutra. Shakyamuni Buddha speaking the Dharma for his mother—(do you agree) that this is a very important Sutra? That sums up the Causes and Conditions for the Arising of the Teaching.
Next, the Divisions and Vehicles in Which It Is Contained: "Contained" refers to the categories to which it belongs, i.e., the "divisions" of the tripitaka of Sutras, Vinaya and Shastras. Sutras fall within the study of samadhi, Vinaya the study of precepts, and Shastras the study of wisdom. Sutras, Vinaya and Shastras are simply precepts, samadhi and wisdom.
This Sutra is contained within the divisions of Sutras and Vinaya because they discuss the precepts as well. "Vehicles" refers to either the Five Vehicles or the Three Vehicles. The Three Vehicles are those of the Shravakas, the Pratyeka-buddhas, and the Bodhisattvas. Adding to these three the Vehicles of Humans and Gods completes the Five Vehicles.
Just as one human being is unique and different from one another in millions of ways, so are the celestial beings, the Shravakas and Pratyeka-buddhas. Likewise, there are—not just one—but many Bodhisattvas. The Earth Store Sutra is contained within the Vehicles of Humans, Celestial Beings, and Bodhisattvas. This is the Divisions and Vehicles in Which It Is Contained.
The third is Determining Its Aim and Purport. So what does the Sutra take as its aim and purport? Eight words: Filial piety, delivering beings (to the shore of liberation), uprooting suffering, and repaying kindness. What does it all come down to? It all comes down to being well versed in filial piety—the principle of being filial to one's parents. One who can be filial to one's parents is heaven and earth’s light of glory. What gladdens heaven and earth is for people to be filial to their parents, hence the verse:
Filiality begets filial offspring: If you are filial to your parents, your children will be filial to you, and vice versa.
Why be a person, and what is the point in that? Do not just resign yourself to being born a person muddled and confused. That is not the way to go. Being a person, you have a moral obligation to be filial to your parents because they are the heaven and earth; they are your elders and teachers; they are—simply—the Buddhas.
If (it were) not for your parents, you would not have this body of yours; without this body of yours, you would have no way of becoming a Buddha. Therefore, if you wish to become a Buddha, first you need to be filial to your parents, hence filial piety is foremost.
The second tenet of this Sutra is "delivering beings." What does "delivering" mean? It means to embark from this shore to arrive at the other shore, likewise from birth and death to nirvana, and also from afflictions to bodhi.
Here, "ferrying beings" means to take (sentient) beings across. To take across one (sentient) being, two (sentient) beings, or three, or five does not qualify as taking (sentient) beings across. The term refers to resolving on teaching and transforming all the 12 categories of (sentient) beings, thus quickly leading them to Buddhahood—that qualifies as taking beings across.
Filial piety, delivering beings, uprooting suffering, and repaying kindness—these eight words make up the aim and purport of the Earth Store Sutra. It would be too much for us to go into detail. I went over the important points so you would get the gist of it.
At the mention of (the practice of) filial piety, the thought, "I've got to get home to be filial to my parents" popped into some people's minds. Once they get home and see their parents, they may forget all about it. While here, they meant to be filial to their parents, but once back home, they forget all about filiality. Why? It is because they did not truly understand the meaning of being filial (to their parents).
True filiality is in investigating the Buddhadharma. You are being filial (to your parents) while investigating the Buddhadharma here—not necessarily (waiting) to be filial after you get home, in which case you only forget all about filiality anyway. By investigating the Buddhadharma here and becoming the best person in the world, you will benefit the world. Benefiting the world is being filial to your parents.
Therefore, filiality can be classified into four types: lesser, greater, abiding, and recent. What is "lesser filiality"? It refers to filiality in one's family, toward one's own parents. It falls short of "extending the filiality for one's elders to others' elders"—of achieving vast and great filiality.
What is vast and great filiality? It is the "greater filiality" that attends to all under the sky, considering everyone's parents as one's own parents. That is "extending filiality for one's elders to others' elders”. Its scope is expansive and not narrow.
Yet this greater filiality falls short of being true filiality. What is true filiality? True filiality is when you become a Buddha; it is beyond the scope of the four types of filiality. It is genuine and true filiality.
Take the example of Shakyamuni Buddha. Although his father forbade him from venturing forth into monastic life and locked him up in the palace, yet he stole away to cultivate (the Path) as a monastic. After six years of hardship on Snow Mountain, he sat under the bodhi tree and, upon seeing the shining (bright) stars in the night sky, became enlightened to the Path and attained Buddhahood. That is true filiality. Thereafter he became a Buddha. He later ascended to the celestial palace to instruct on the Dharma for his mother. Wouldn't you agree that that is true filiality?
What is "recent filiality"? It is to pattern one's filiality on latter-day role models.
- Abiding filiality: emulated for all time;
- Recent filiality: emulated in the present.
"Recent filiality" is comparable to "lesser filiality," with some exceptions.
The Story of Dongyong
One of China's twenty-four paragons of filiality was Dongyong, also known as Dongan, a very filial person. One of his neighbors, Wangji, was the richest man, while he himself was the poorest. Dongan's mom, because of her son's filial devotion, was well-nourished and plump. Though advanced in years, she felt happy day and night.
One day, when both sons were away, the skinny mom inquired of the plump mom, "Your family lives hand to mouth and can't put anything nice on the dinner table, yet you're all chubby and round. How is it that you get so plumpish in your old age?"
Dongan's mom said to the skinny mom, "My son is very filial. He stays out of trouble, behaves himself, and works hard at his job. I've got absolutely no worries and I'm very happy. As the saying goes, when the heart is carefree, the body plumps out. I'm happy at heart, so I plump out."
The skinny mom replied, "Sure I've got money and eat well, except my son is a roughneck. He gets in trouble with the law day in and day out. He's either wanted by the police for questioning, or there'd be some warrants to appear in court. I worry about him all the time. No matter how well I eat, I don't feel happy. I'm stressed out. I get skinnier by the day because there's no way I can put on weight when I'm all worried."
While the two moms—one skinny, one chubby—were chatting up a storm about their sons—one filial, one disobedient, the disobedient one returned and overheard their conversation. After the moms had said their goodbyes and went home, Wangji went to Dongan's house and roughed up the chubby mom good. "You blabbermouth! Why did you feed my mom all that crap?" he yelled.
When Dongan came home and saw his mom upset, he asked why. She told her son, "Wangji was here and beat me up. He accused me of speaking ill of him to his mom."
Dongan did not say anything to that but simply comforted his mom, "Please don't be mad. That's just how he is. Don't mind him."
However, after his mom got beat up and called down by that hooligan, she got sick and died.
Upon his mom's death, Dongan blew his top, "When my mom was alive, I shied away from fights with you to keep her from worrying. Now you've done her in."
So he picked up a knife and killed Wangji. The skinny mom had always worried that her son might get himself killed one day, and sure enough, he got killed. Afterwards, with Wangji's head in hand, Dongan went to his mom's grave and set the head on (an altar) table. He lit incense, bowed, and said, "Mom, please don't be mad (anymore). So he beat you up, right? Now I have avenged you. I killed him to offer his head to you."
When he finished with the rite (of offerings)—guess what happened next? He took the head with him and turned himself in, confessing, "My mom died after the beating. So I killed him and made offering of his head to my mom. Do what you will with me. I'll accept the court's verdict, and won't dodge the law."
The county prefect handed down a life sentence and he was put in jail. It just so happened that the emperor then issued an imperial pardon which exempted all criminals of their past crimes, and he was freed. After his release, he was later appointed to high offices in the government. That was the story of Dongyong, a filial son.
Though there are Abiding Filiality, Recent Filiality, Greater Filiality and Lesser Filiality, true filiality is cultivating the Path and accomplishing Buddhahood in the future. As right now you are investigating the Buddhadharma—without having to return to your homes—that is True Filiality. To truly be able to investigate the Buddhadharma, and to be able to practice and uphold the Buddhadharma, is to be truly filial to your parents.
An Explanation of the Title
Fourth, an Explanation of the Title. xiao as in ("to extinguish"). What does the word xiao mean? It means to explain clearly the meaning of the text. Therefore—an explanation of the title of the Sutra: Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store (Ksitigarbha) Bodhisattva.
The Sutra incorporates Earth Store Bodhisattva's name in its title, which refers to a person, and "Past Vows" denotes dharma—therefore, in the Seven Categories of Sutra Titles, this Sutra belongs to the category of "Titles Consisting of Person and Dharma." "Dharma" is just a kind of karma; "Past Vows" refers to his fundamental activity karma — deeds and karma created in his past lives.
Why the name "Earth Store"? Earth nurtures the growth of all things, and "Store" refers to treasure troves—all the treasure troves are in the ground. "Store" can also mean "to keep hidden", i.e., "to keep from view." All the treasure troves are hidden from view underground. The earth can grow the myriad things; it can also keep the myriad things hidden—buried underground.
Like the great earth, this Bodhisattva is able to make the myriad things grow. Like the great earth, he has endless, boundless treasure troves in the ground for people to uncover. Those who believe in this Bodhisattva are entitled to the treasures within. Anything (you can think of) can be found in these treasure troves, and there is something to suit everyone's fancy: all the precious diamonds, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother-of-pearl, to name a few.
If, say, you come into possession of a big, three-hundred-pound diamond, that should make you the world's richest person. I made some people laugh when I said "three-hundred-pound." They thought that was way too big. In fact, that is still "way too small"—the smallest of all, because the one that is "way too big" is practically too heavy for you to (even) pick up.
The word Bodhisattva is Sanskrit, translated into Chinese means "an enlightened sentient being"—an enlightened one among (sentient) beings. It can also be translated "to enlighten beings"—leading others to enlightenment with the principles that oneself has become enlightened to.
In other words, it is "the enlightened (one) enlightening others"—oneself has become enlightened and wishes for all (sentient) beings to become enlightened. Put another way, it is "the benefited (one) benefiting others"—oneself has attained to great wisdom, and wishes for all (sentient) beings to attain to great wisdom. With great wisdom, there will be no more upside down thinking.
"Past Vows" refers not to vows made in the present but the ones he had made since the origin. Since the origin—when was that? It was countless eons ago when he made those vows. The power of vows from lives past is called "past vows." Similar to the Events of the Past Lives—one of the Twelve Divisions of Sutras—which are accounts of events in lives past, here, the past vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva are the vows he made in his past lives—not at the present, because by now he has already fulfilled his vows.
"Hells" refers to all the hells. Anytime the hells are not (yet) empty, he will hold off on becoming a Buddha; only when the hells are completely empty will he become a Buddha. Now, think about that. How great is that vow-power?
Earth Bodhisattva says, "I will be in the hells to receive and guide all the hungry ghosts. For each day that they have not been lead from suffering to bliss, for one more day I will hold off on Buddhahood. The hungry ghosts in the hells must completely gain deliverance, leave suffering, and attain bliss, and then I will become a Buddha.
Let's think that over. The karma (sentient) beings create is endless, so are (their) afflictions. Then how could the hells ever come to an end? Only when (sentient) beings' afflictions were ended and their karmic obstruction cleared would the hells then be empty. Yet, as we (sentient) beings’ karmic obstruction cannot be eradicated or their afflictions ended, how will the hells ever be empty?
From the standpoint of contemporary scientists and philosophers, wouldn't the vows which Earth Store Bodhisattva made—the power of his vows—be considered the silliest of conduct and notions? Why do I say "the silliest of conduct and notions"? He (first) had the notions which he put into action and which manifested in his conduct. However, isn't this kind of conduct and notions (way) too foolish? Why? The bottom line is: It cannot be done. Since fundamentally, the hells can never be empty, does it follow that fundamentally, Earth Store Bodhisattva stands no chance to ever become a Buddha?
No. It is not the silliest kind of conduct and notions. It is the kindest, most compassionate type of conduct and notions—and also the most filial. Why do I say that?
Earth Store Bodhisattva perceived in his contemplation that his mother had fallen into the hells where she was undergoing great sufferings, and he asked the Buddha to (help) take his mother across. Who is Earth Store Bodhisattva, really? He is the Venerable Mahamaudgalyayana, and he serves as a Bodhisattva in the hells. Why would he want to do that? He felt the pain which his mother underwent in the hells, and reflected on the issue of "extending filiality for one's elders to others' elders." "If my mom went through such sufferings, others' moms could also be put through the same sufferings," he thought.
Therefore, with a filiality that is equal, level and indiscriminating, he sought to rescue all hell beings and guide them from suffering to bliss. That is what Earth Store Bodhisattva's vows are about. No amount of words can fully describe the extent of his vow-power.
Chapter I : Spiritual Penetrations in the Palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven
This is the start of the sutra text. “Trayastrimsha Heaven” is Sanskrit for the Heaven of Thirty-Three. This is not the 33rd layer of heaven from the bottom up. It is in the middle with eight heavens in the east, eight heavens in the west, eight heavens in the south and eight heavens in the north. Four times eight makes 32. Thirty-two heavens surround the 33rd heaven in the center, making this heaven the Heaven of Thirty-Three.
The Lord of the Heaven of Thirty-Three is Shakra. Shakra is a god, which is a Dharma protector in Buddhist terms. The Lord Indra in the Amitabha Sutra is Shakra the god. “Na mo yin tuo la ye” in the Shuragama Mantra also refers to Shakra the god. Though a heavenly ruler, he is merely a Dharma protector according to Buddhism. Not only does he not rule, but he does not even have a seat; he stands by the door. This heavenly ruler is the omnipotent God in most people’s minds. Right, he is omnipotent; he can manage things in the heavens and in the human realm. However, he is not too different from human beings because he still wants sex, food and sleep. His desires are lighter than humans though. Human beings are extremely hungry after going without food for a few days, uncomfortable and sleepless without sex for a few days; and lethargic without sleep for a few days. Lord Shakra, however, can fast for 100 days, 200 days, 300 days, or even a year without problems; he can also abstain from sleep or sex for a year without problems. Nevertheless, he has not let go of his desire.
Beings in the Tryastrimsha Heaven live for 1000 years, of which one day is equivalent to 100 human years. Think about it, how much longer is his 1000 years in human years? The Tryastrimsha Heaven is 80,000 yojanas in size. Its city walls are made of seven gems. Just the city mote itself is 60,000 yojanas in size. The city of the Tryastrimsha god is called the City of Fine Views. His palace is constructed with the most valuable gems. This is why he refuses to leave after becoming reborn there as the heavenly lord. All the buildings all around are constructed with gems. No wonder his desire refuses to quit; it’s such a beautiful place, with such beautiful palaces. He is content just enjoying his heavenly blessings there and considers the place most delightful. He even tells all beings to be reborn in his kingdom. He welcomes anyone who would like to come to his world, a joyous world. He thinks he is being generous by welcoming people to come and stay. He does not realize, however, that he cannot end his own birth and death because he is greedy for and attached to this kind of happiness.
Having said all this, how did he become a god? Did he get promoted from an earthly god to a heavenly god? Every household in Canton makes offerings to an earth lord. Did he get promoted from an earth lord to a heavenly lord, or from an earth lord to a human lord, then a heavenly lord? No. Then how did he become the heavenly lord? During the time of Kasyapa Buddha, this heavenly lord was a woman. Do not think he is any big deal. Lord god was a woman before. This woman set out to build a temple for Kasyapa Buddha. The circumstances that led to this resolve were that she saw a dilapidated temple with no roof or ceiling. The Buddha image in the temple was losing its gold gilding from the wind and the rain that came through. She was saddened by this and said, “Gee, the Buddha image is dirty to begin with, now it’s wind-blown and rained on. How embarrassing!” She made it her goal to rebuild this temple. Since she did not have any money, she asked her friends and relatives, “I want to rebuild a temple but I am penniless. Could you all help me? Get more of your relatives and friends together so we can do charity and repair this temple.” Her friends and relatives agreed, “Okay, let us cooperate and build a temple.” Thirty three people were found. She is the founder while there were 32 others, mostly women too; though unverifiable in history. Even if there were men, there were very few. Men probably thought they were too great to build temples, so they let the women do it. In any case, these 33 women finished rebuilding this temple, plus a jeweled stupa at that. Each person donated a little money and all their effort in building this temple and stupa. At the end of these 33 people’s lives, they were reborn in the heavens. Each person has one layer of heaven, so there are 33 layers for 33 people at this Heaven. The center of these heavens is the Tryastrimsha lord, Shakra. This is the origin of the Tryastrimsha Heaven.
What does “heaven” mean? It does not mean anything; if it did, it would not be called “heaven.” Why? Heaven is spontaneous by definition. The karma of these 33 individual created these heavens. Without these 33 individuals, there would not be the Tryastrimsha Heaven; that is why I say it does not mean anything.
Spiritual penetrations. The spirit is also known as the heaven’s mind. Penetrations is a type of wisdom. Penetrations are unhindered, and spirits are beyond the magical and the mystical. There are six kinds of spiritual penetrations, although these six are one and the same too. Furthermore, they could be nothing whatsoever because there was no spiritual penetration to begin with, or there was always spiritual penetrations. How can we say there was no spiritual penetration and there always was spiritual penetration? This is quite a terrific explanation.
Let us first explain the six spiritual penetrations individually: originally there was spiritual penetration and no spiritual penetration; originally there was one type of spiritual penetration and there was no spiritual penetration at all. The six spiritual penetrations are: the penetration of the heavenly eye, the penetration of the heavenly ear, the penetration of knowing others thoughts, the penetration of knowing past lives, the penetration of traveling freely, and the penetration of being free of outflows. The penetration of traveling freely is also called the penetration of spiritual states and the penetration of wishes fulfilled.
Speaking of the penetration of the heavenly eye— we are all people, but we are different. How are we different? Some people can observe the trichiliocosm as if it were an apple in the palm of their hand. Venerable Aniruddha had the penetration of the heavenly eye; he was foremost in the heavenly eye. The penetration of the heavenly ear, someone with this penetration can hear all the sounds throughout the human realm, the heavens and all of trichiliocosm. The penetration of others’ thoughts, someone with this penetration knows what you are thinking before you articulate it.
The penetration of knowing past lives: someone with this penetration knows everything you did in your past lives, both good and bad. The penetration of spiritual states: the spiritual here is what you mentioned earlier, a kind of inconceivable state. The spiritual and the wondrous are somewhat similar, so sometimes we use them together as one phrase to mean that they are unfathomably spiritual and wondrous, an incredible state. Penetrations are unimpeded; blockages clear up. For instance, walls obstruct, but puncture a hole in it and it is penetrated. Our ignorance obstructs the light of our inherent nature, if you can use your wisdom sword to pierce through, that would be penetration.
The penetration of no outflow. Why do we human beings not become Buddhas? It is because of our outflows. Why do we human beings not become Bodhisattvas? It is also because of these outflows. These outflows leak into the Triple Realm: the Desire Realm, the Form Realm and the Formless Realm. Not only do outflows lead into the Triple Realm but the nine realms too. What are the nine realms? The realms of the Bodhisattvas, Sound Hearers, Those Who Enlighten to Conditions, gods, humans, asuras, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. The reason that the beings in these nine realms do not become Buddhas is because of their outflows. They would be Buddhas if they did not have any outflows. Where do these outflows come from? Ignorance. If you can shatter ignorance, then there would be no outflows. With ignorance not shattered, you will leak until you have nothing left. Very few people have the penetration of no outflows. Without outflows, you become liberated from the cycle of birth and death; the reason that you cannot become liberated from birth and death is because you have outflows. Having outflows is similar to a leaky bottle: fill it with water and it leaks; fill it with more water and it cannot preserve it. End outflows and you would have the penetration of no outflow.
Originally we do not have any spiritual penetrations means that we did not have any spiritual penetrations when we were ordinary people. At the level of the sages’ fruition, we have always had spiritual penetrations. Ordinary people do not have spiritual penetrations while sages do. Do sages get their spiritual penetrations from the outside? No, they have always had them. Did ordinary people lose their spiritual penetrations so that they do not have them now? No, they are in their inherent nature; but they did not notice them and discover them. They think they’re not there and consider they were always without spiritual penetrations.
It is not important whether we have spiritual penetrations. Do not think having spiritual penetrations is equivalent to enlightenment or arhatship, far from it. Do not be so easily satisfied. Getting just a smidget of gold and you think, “Oh, I struck it rich this time!” Other people with millions and millions of ounces in the savings do not even think about it, it is as if it does not exist for these millionaires. So what is the big deal with your one little ounce? Do not be content with little. One of the states of the Two Vehicles is that they stop in mid-course, being content with very little; this is not a Mahayana Bodhisattva’s sensibility. If you think you are so great because of your spiritual penetrations, then you think too small; you are still attached and satisfied.
Thus I have heard. The Vajra Sutra, the Earth Store Sutra and the Dharma Flower Sutra are all starting to be lectured here, so “Thus I have heard” is said three times. “Thus” is a term that the Dharma thus spoken is credible. The Dharma that is not thus is not credible. This Dharma here is a Dharma that is “thus”. “Thus” is also a term for a seal of approval. This is the version that cannot be altered. “Thus I have heard” is one of the answers the Buddha gave to answer one of Ananda’s four questions. Before Shakyamuni Buddha entered nirvana, Ananda cried his heart out, forgetting everything.
Venerable Aniruddha did not have the Flesh Eye, only the Heavenly Eye, but he was especially cool and calm. He told Ananda to ask the Buddha four questions: 1. What words should be used at the beginning of each sutra after the sutras have been compiled to show that it is representative of the Buddhist Canon? 2. When the Buddha was in the world, the Buddha’s disciples lived with him. After the Buddha enters nirvana, with whom should we live? 3. When the Buddha was in the world, the Buddha was our teacher, after the Buddha enters nirvana, which venerable one should be our teacher? 4. How should we treat evil natured Bhikshus? The Buddha responded at that time: 1. Use the four words “Thus I have heard” before every sutra. 2. Abide in the Four Types of Mindfulness. The Four Types of Mindfulness are about the body, feelings, the mind and the Dharma. Contemplate the body as impure; contemplate feelings as suffering, contemplate the mind as impermanent; and contemplate the Dharma as without a self. These are the Four Types of Mindfulness. 3. When the Buddha was in the world, the Buddha was our teacher. After the Buddha enters nirvana, we take the pratimoksa as our teacher. This is the master for all Bhikshus and Bhikshunis. 4. Give evil natured Bhikshus the silent treatment and ignore them.
“Thus I have heard” is to end the multitude of doubts. When the sutras were being compiled, everyone developed three questions immediately. These questions were raised when Ananda joined the sutra compilations (before which he certified to the fourth level of arhatship). No one opened the door for him and he entered the sutra compilation place through the crack in the door. Although all the other participants who joined the compilation of the sutras had certified to arhatship, their memory was worse than Ananda. Ananda was a provisional manifestation in that life. He was the attendant to all the Buddhas in the past. When Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha, he was born. He became Shakyamuni Buddha’s attendant, who was being prepared for compiling sutras. As soon as Ananda stepped onto the Dharma seat, everyone had three suspicions: 1. The suspicion that Shakyamuni Buddha came to life again. 2. The suspicion that a Buddha from another direction came. 3. The suspicion that Ananda certified to the fruit of Buddhahood. The great assembly developed these three suspicions until Ananda said the four words “Thus I have heard”, then these three doubts disappeared.
The purpose of using “Thus I have heard” for sutra compilations is: 1. to eliminate everyone’s skepticism; 2. to observe the Buddha’s last words; 3. to end arguments. Since Ananda was quite young when the sutras were being compiled, some of the senior elders such as elder Kasyapa, Ajñāta-kaundinya, Subhuti, and others might say: “What kind of experience and knowledge could a young person like yourself have to compile the sutras? How will you compile the sutras?” If Ananda said he will write out the sutras, people would argue, “What you say is completely wrong. The Buddha did not say this.” But once Ananda said, “Thus I have heard,” no one fought. Why? Ananda heard this from the Buddha; Ananda did not make this up himself. This is to end arguments.
Four, to differentiate from the non-Buddhists. The thinking in non-Buddhist texts [at that time in India) is as follows: all dharmas are not apart from existence and void. Either everything is “existent” or “non-existent”. Existence and non-existence embody all dharmas. The non-Buddhist texts begin with the two words “ah” and “ga”. “Ah” is non-existence while “ga” is existence. To differentiate from non-Buddhists, the Buddha instructed on using the four words, “Thus I have heard” at the beginning of the sutras, which means, “thus is the Dharma that I, Ananda, personally heard from the Buddha.” “Thus” makes the condition of faith happen; “I have heard” makes the condition of hearing happen. Why not say one heard with the ears but say “I” have heard? It is because “I” represents all six senses in the body.
At one time. Why is not a specific year, specific month and specific day named? Why is the location where the Buddha spoke Dharma named? It is because different calendars are used around the world; January in some country is February in another country, or January in some country is March or April in another country. These dates are uncertain, so the Buddhist sutras just say there was such a time. If there were a fixed time, archeologists might use a lot of brain juices to do research. The Buddha did not want to waste archeologists’ brain juices and effort, so the Buddhist sutras used “at one time”. This makes the condition of time happen.
The Buddha makes the condition of the host happen. The Buddha enlightened himself, enlightens others and perfected enlightening conducts. He is a Buddha because “he perfected the three types of enlightenments and is replete with the myriad virtues.” This Buddha is the teaching host of the Saha World, Shakyamuni Buddha. Actually Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha millions and millions, even infinite eons ago. However, he saw that the time has come for living beings in the Saha World of Southern Jambudvipa and came and manifested as a Buddha so that all beings will become Buddhas, escape the cycle of birth and death. Dharmas spoken by the Buddha are unfailingly true, we must all accept these principles profoundly. If these words go in one ear and out the other, nothing will be gained by it. We must practice truly and honestly; reject even as much deceit as a hair’s breadth.
Speaking Dharma for his mother. Shakyamuni Buddha went up into the Tryastrimsha Heaven to save his mother. Seven days after the Buddha was born, the Buddha’s mother Lady Maya passed away and became reborn in the Tryastrimsha Heaven. Maya is Sanskrit. It means “great magic” or “illusions”. The Buddha’s mother was the mother of a thousand Buddhas; she came to be every Buddha’s mother. As strange as it sounds, this is what happened. She came to be the Buddha’s mother and after the Buddha realizes Buddhahood, he speaks Dharma for her. This is similar to a drama.
Actually, if you understand this world, everything would seem like a play. This is the truth in life. Once you understand one true principle, you will understand other true principles. Most people do not know how to really watch life’s drama unfold; they only watch the content that includes sadness and joy, separation and union, joy and happiness, sadness and fear, love and hate, and desire. People who see all this realize that life is but illusion and transformation. “All conditioned dharmas are but dreams, illusions, bubbles and shadows. They are like dew drops and lightning, contemplate them thus.” When the Buddha taught living beings he was in the Samadhi of playfulness; he did not treat this as a big deal. Unlike most of us who are attached to this and that, left and right, up and down. Not everything is perfectly integrated and unobstructed; all states are but illusory and unreal. We are attached if this is not how we perceive states.
The role of the Buddha’s mother, Lady Maya is to be a thousand Buddhas’ mother. After every Buddha realizes Buddhahood, he will go to the Tryastrimsha Heaven to speak the Dharma for his mother. Every Buddha is this way. But a Wheel-Turning Sage King or Shakra has to request the Dharma. Who requested that Shakyamuni Buddha go and speak the Dharma in the Tryastrimsha Heaven? His father, a Wheel King. He told the Buddha, “You should go to the Triyastrimsha Heaven to speak the Dharma for your mother, save her.” The Wheel King requested Dharma from Shakyamuni Buddha; some sutras say Shakra did. Shakra is the lord of the Tryastrimsha Heaven, whose former incarnation was that poor woman who renovated a temple. Having renovated a temple, she became a heavenly lord. Some sutra texts say Shakra knew that the Buddha’s mother was in the heavens and requested the Buddha to speak the Dharma at the Tryastrimsha Heaven. Regardless of which version, the general idea is that someone has to request the Buddha to speak the Dharma.
What Dharma did Shakyamuni Buddha speak for his mother? Earth Store Bodhisattva’s Fundamental Vows Sutra. This is a Dharma on filiality. Everyone should be filial to their parents. Why? It is because our parents are our roots. By being filial to your parents, you douse your roots with fertilizer. If you are not filial to your parents, you will definitely have no future. Being filial to your parents means tending to your roots well and ensuring a bright future. As the saying goes, “Stable roots lead to lush branches; deep roots lead to luxuriant leaves.” For his mother, Shakyamuni explained this type of Dharma, which follows.
At that time, uncountably many Buddhas and Great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas from infinite worlds in the ten directions assembled. Worlds throughout the ten directions are the dependent retribution while all the ineffably ineffable Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas are retribution proper. People are retribution proper, while worlds are dependent retribution. These are the two types of retributions. There are five ways to explain “at that time”. First, this refers to the times when the Dharma is about to be spoken, the time that the Dharma is being spoken, and the time when the Dharma has already been spoken. Here, it would be when the Buddha wanted to speak the Dharma, then when the Buddha was explaining this Dharma on filiality, and then when the Buddha finished explaining this Dharma on being filial to one’s parents. This is the first explanation.
The second explanation for it refutes the non-Buddhists. Non-Buddhists speak Dharmas that do not specify past, present or future; they are vague. This explanation contradicts the non-Buddhists by explaining a Dharma of the past, present and future. This is the second meaning to “at that time.”
The third meaning for “at that time” is a time for planting. Once the seeds are planted, there will be a time for ripening and harvesting. What happens after ripening? There is a time for liberation, which also occurs “at that time”. For example, someone who has never planted good roots, such as the elder who wanted to leave the homelife. The great arahats took a look at him though and saw that he did not do any good deeds in the last 80,000 great eons. They refused to let him leave the homlife. “Do not consider leaving home easy, it is all because of Bodhi planted in lives past.” People who are monastics now got to be monastics because they planted roots of goodness in the last 80,000 great eons. Do not think one can casually become a monk or a nun. Telling those who have never planted roots of goodness to plant some, those who have never recited the Buddha’s name to recite, and those who have never recited mantras to recite is about planting roots of goodness. Once the seeds are in the soil, they will grow and mature. It is like farming, for instance, where seeds planted in the spring are harvested in the fall. If they ripen but are not harvested, it would not do any good. Liberation means when the seeds are collected. This also means telling those who have not planted good roots to do so; those who have already planted good roots to become monks. They are ripe when they are monks. Monks must become Buddhas, which requires certifying to the fruit and becoming liberated.
So listening to sutra lectures is not about listening to the sutra a couple of times and refusing to listen to any more. The more you listen, the more you have this type of knowledge. If you do not listen, you will not increase your knowledge of Buddhist studies.
The fourth is an explanation that there is a real teacher speaking the Dharma. Once a real teacher is in place, then the orthodox teaching is spoken, after that there is proper learning. If you do not study properly, even proper teachings are not helpful to you. You may want to study properly and the orthodox teachings are there, but you do not have a teacher who truly understands, then you cannot learn. So the fourth explanation on “at that time” refers to the presence of a real teacher, the orthodox teachings, and proper learning.
The fifth explanation of “at that time” is the time when the Buddha was willing to speak the Dharma and living beings were willing to listen to the Dharma. Listening to the Dharma and speaking the Dharma occur simultaneously; neither one is higher nor lower as long as the audience and the teachings click. Some beings come and listen to the Buddha speak this Dharma; the Buddha wanted to speak and living beings wanted to listen. They are equal. Above are five different explanations of “at that time”.
For this sutra, the “thus” is the fulfilled condition of faith; the “I have heard” is the fulfilled condition of “hearing”; the “at one time” is the fulfilled condition of time; the “Buddha” is the fulfilled condition of the host; the “Tryastrimsha Heaven” is the fulfilled condition of a place; and the “speaking Dharma for his mother” is the fulfilled condition of the assembly. Although the Buddha was speaking the Dharma for his mother, beings in the heavens and human beings also followed him. Among those who always accompanied the Buddha, there were already 1,250 disciples of the Buddha alone. The lord of the Tryastrimsha Heaven, Indra, was the Dharma Protector, the Meal Host and the one who requested the Dharma. Although the Buddha was speaking Dharma for his mother, he was really speaking Dharma for the great assembly; therefore this line also fulfills the condition of the assembly. The above are the six conditions.
At that time, many, many Buddhas and all the great Bodhisattvas with lofty resolves throughout the ineffably ineffable worlds in space and the Dharma Realm of the ten directions gathered. See, all the Buddhas and the great Bodhisattvas gathered when the Earth Store Sutra was lectured, so people should gather too! All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas throughout the ten directions also gathered as we now lecture on the Earth Store Sutra. Open your Buddha eyes and look, all the infinite and uncountable number of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas throughout the ten directions now gather to support this Dharma Assembly.
All the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas throughout the ten directions went to the Tryastrimsha Palaceto praise how Shakyamuni Buddha. . . Shakyamuni is Sanskrit. Shakya is a surname while Muni is a first name. The name Shakyamuni is his individual name. Buddha is a name common to all Buddhas. Each Buddha has his unique name, in this case, Shakyamuni. Shakya means “capable of being humane” while Muni means “still and quiescent”. What does it mean by “capable of being humane”? It means that he can save all beings universally with humaneness and virtue. “Still and quiescent” means unmoving, silent and scent-free. Confucianism speaks of, “There is nothing more in quietude! No sounds, no odors.” This is an indication of having reached the original substance. Still and unmoving is Samadhi while capable of being humane is wisdom. How come the Buddha can rescue living beings universally with humaneness and kindness? It is because he has wisdom. Capable of being humane is to accord with conditions. Still and quiescent is unchanging. The Buddha never changes but always accords with conditions; accords with conditions but never changes. In this still and unmoving Samadhi, he immediately connects to responses. All beings with all their variety of thoughts, regardless of how many, the Thus Come One knows and sees them all. The Buddha sees them all because he is capable of being humane; he knows them all because he is still and quiescent. Do not think that no one knows what we do, the Buddha knows everything. So if we are but ten percent sincere in our cultivation, we will receive a ten percent response; if we are 100 percent sincere, we will receive a 100 percent response. If you are millions upon millions times sincere, then even though Shakyamuni Buddha is there on that quiescent and unmoving fundamental enlightenment, he will connect with you immediately, providing you with a helpful response so that you will be successful in your practice soon. This is what it means by Shakyamuni Buddha.
The Buddha enlightens himself, enlightens others and has perfected conducts that enlighten. As it is said, one becomes a Buddha when “he has perfected the three types of enlightenments and is replete with the myriad virtues.” The three types of enlightenments perfected are: beginning enlightenment, fundamental enlightenment and ultimate enlightenment. “Buddha” is half of the transliterated Sanskrit word, “Buddhaya”. What kind of an individual was the Buddha? The Buddha is a greatly enlightened one. If every one of us cultivate according to the Buddhadharma, we will reach this kind of enlightenment, this kind of result. So Shakyamuni Buddha long ago said, “All living beings can become Buddhas”. Why? It is because they all have the Buddha nature, so as long as you are willing to work hard on your cultivation, you can become a Buddha.
. . . in the evil world of the Five Turbidities. . . The Five Turbidities are: 1. Kalpa Turbidity, this is an impure time and age. 2. View Turbidity, the views are impure. 3. Afflictions Turbidity, impure because of people’s afflictions. 4. Living Beings Turbidity, living beings are impure. 5. Life Turbidity. Our lives are turbid and impure. The Kalpa Turbidity means that we live in very filthy times.
The Shurangama Sutra says that dirt placed in a bowl of clear water loses its original function. What was the function of the dirt? It acts as a blockade. Dirt holds up people as they walk on it. Without dirt, we would fall into the sea. Since there is water under dirt, water holds the dirt. Below water is fire. Sometimes volcanoes erupt, a transformative function. Would the fire not be squelched by water? No, there is so much fire that water cannot put it out. If you want to understand this kind of principle, you must study the Buddhadharma more. The Shurangama Sutra says, “Earth loses its ability to block and water stops being clean.” That is turbidity. So this evil world of Five Turbidities is like water and earth mixed together, it is unclean. How? The Kalpa Turbidity, for example, has no time or is not clear as to what time it is.
View Turbidity. How can our views be differentiated clearly? They cannot. Can you divide up everyone’s views, categorizing some as my views and some as your views? Where do you draw the boundary between your views and my views? There are no boundaries or they are unclear, so things seem to blur together. This is the View Turbidity.
Afflictions Turbidity means everyone is afflicted. Your afflictions and my afflictions mix together and become unclear. Some say, I know these afflictions are mine and those afflictions are yours. If so, how come you can bring out my afflictions? If those were mine, you should not be able to bring them out; if your afflictions were yours, I should not be able to bring out your afflictions. Thus, we can tell that afflictions have no boundary and are turbid.
Living Beings Turbidity. Living beings are human beings in this lifetime but may become dogs in the next life and cats in the life after that. Maybe even rats in the life after that, then as insects that crawl all over the place. How can you draw such concrete distinctions? Living beings cooperate to start a large firm; our distinctions are unclear. You are either selling others or being sold by others in this large firm. We are all related. Is this not turbid? This is Living Beings Turbidity.
The Five Turbidities are extremely complicated. But Shakyamuni Buddha is able to manifest powerfully great wisdom and spiritual penetrations in this evil world that is one of the worst worlds. He can manifest inconceivably wondrous wisdom, the subtle, wonderful and inconceivable power of wonderful great wisdom, wonderful spiritual powers. Inconceivable means that it is unimaginable and unthinkable, subtly and wonderfully incredible. This is the great power of great wisdom, great spiritual powers.
At that time, the division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva began gathering in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven from billions of inexpressible, inconceivable, immeasurable, ineffable, limitless asamkhyeyas of worlds. They came from wherever hells are found.
Due to the spiritual powers of the Thus Come One, each came from his own direction and was joined by thousands of billions of nayutas of those who had obtained liberation from the path of karma. All brought incense and flowers as offerings to the Buddha.
For long eons they had wandered in birth and death, undergoing suffering within the six paths without even temporary respite. Now they had reached various levels of sagehood, due to the great compassion and deep vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva.
Division Bodies. How does a body divide up ? Division Bodies can be said to be Divided Spirits, it can also be said to be Divided Natures or Divided Minds. Why are they call ed Divided Spirits? It is because Bodhisattvas have a kind of spiritual sense or intuition. When they “connect with that spiritual sense, all prayers are answered.” This kind of spiritual sense resembles, “a thousand reflections of the moon in a thousand ponds of water; ten thousand miles of clear sky across ten thousand cloudless miles.” With a thousand pools, there are a thousand reflections of the moon in these bodies of water. The moonlight on these pools is the Spirit, as well as the Nature, or it can be said to be the Body or the Mind. Because there are bodies of water, there are reflections of the moonlight; without bodies of water, the moon remains essentially undivided. Where there is a body of water, there is moonlight; does that mean a portion of the moon is there in the water? No. Nevertheless, water allows moonlight to show. Therefore, it is said, “a thousand reflections of the moon in a thousand ponds of water; ten thousand miles of clear sky across ten thousand cloudless miles.” – If ten thousand miles of land have no clouds overhead, that ten thousand miles of land is bright and sunny.
Earth Store Bodhisattva’s Division Bodies originally do not exist. Why do we say there are Division Bodies? Because of living beings’ conditions, there are Division Bodies. What are these Division Bodies like? Let me give you another simple analogy. Division Bodies resemble photographs. It starts with one person , ; after taking a picture, a picture comes out. So, the image in the picture has no ability, no spiritual sense and no life; however, the Division Bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva are divisions of his Body, which are the same as his original Body. There are “billions of billions of Division Bodies”. Earth Store Bodhisattva’s Division Bodies are such that when he sees a place with hells, he sends a body to that hell to teach and transform living beings. Everywhere throughout the three thousand great thousand worlds, to every place and every corner with hells, he sends Division Bodies there to teach and transform living beings. Because Earth Store Bodhisattva has made vows to teach and transform living beings in the hells, his Division Bodies are everywhere there are hells. This is what it means by Division Bodies.
At that time, from billions of inconceivable is this state to be imagined, inexpressible is the number with language, immeasurable, ineffable, limitless asamkhyeyas of worlds, from wherever hells are found, Division Bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva began gathering in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Because wherever there are hells, there is a division body of Earth Store Bodhisattva , ; there are countless Earth Store Bodhisattvas. Therefore there are that many Earth Store Bodhisattvas gathered together at the Heaven of Thirty-Three.
Due to the spiritual powers of the Thus Come One, because of Shakyamuni Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, each division body of Earth Store Bodhisattva came from his own direction and was joined by thousands of billions of nayutas of those who had obtained liberation from the path of karma. Division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva and these living beings all brought incense and flowers as offerings to the Buddha.
Those groups who came with Earth Store Bodhisattva were irreversible from AnuttarasamyaksamBodhi because they had been taught and transformed by Earth Store Bodhisattva. Because of the Bodhisattva’s teaching and transformation, they forever attained irreversibility from the state of Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.
They, for long eons, had wandered in the current of birth and death floating up and sinking down resembling waves, dying after being born and being born after dying -- birth and death in cycles like tides. Theyunderwent immeasurable suffering within the six paths without even temporary respite. Because of the great compassion and deep vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva: “I will not become a Buddha until the hells are emptied; I will only attain Bodhi after all beings have been saved.” Those individuals had reached various levels of sagehood, such as first stage, second stage, third stage, fourth stage Arhat or other stages of sagehood.
Now they felt great joy as they arrived at the Trayastrimasha Heaven and gazed at the Thus Come One, their eyes not leaving him for a moment. They gazed at Shakyamuni Buddha with one heart and mind, without closing their eyes for a moment; this is an act of supremely earnest respect.
At that time, the World Honored One stretched forth his golden-colored arm and rubbed the crowns of all the division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva gathered from billions of inexpressible, inconceivable, immeasurable, ineffable, limitless asamkhyeyas of worlds, and said, “I teach and transform obstinate beings such as these within the evil worlds of the Five Turbidities, causing their minds to be regulated and subdued so that they renounce the deviant and return to the proper. But one or two out of ten still cling to their bad habits. For them I again divide into thousands of billions of bodies and use numerous additional expedient means. Those with keen roots will listen and immediately believe. Those with good rewards will respond to exhortation and strive to succeed. Those who are dim and dull will only return after being taught for a long time. Those whose karma is heavy will fail to show any respect.
“My division bodies take across and liberate all those different kinds of beings. I may appear in a male body. I may appear in a female body. I may appear in the body of a god or dragon. I may appear in the body of a spirit or ghost. I may appear as a mountain, a forest, a stream, a spring, a river, a lake, a fountain, or a well in order to benefit people. I use all these ways to save beings. I may appear in the body of God Shakra. I may appear in the body of Lord Brahma. I may appear in the body of a Wheel-Turning King. I may appear in the body of a lay person. I may appear in the body of a national leader. I may appear in the body of a prime minister. I may appear in the body of an official. I may appear in the body of a Bhikshu, a Bhikshuni, an Upasaka, an Upasika, and so forth up to the body of a Hearer, an Arhat, a Pratyekabuddha, or a Bodhisattva in order to teach and rescue beings. It is not that I appear to them only in the body of a Buddha.
At that time, Shakyamuni the World Honored One stretched forth his golden-colored arm and rubbed the crowns of all the division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva gathered from billions of inexpressible, inconceivable, immeasurable, ineffable, limitless asamkhyeyas of worlds. Using one arm to rub the crowns of all these division bodies of Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva is the Buddha using the “as you wish” body –- a spiritual penetration that makes wishes come true. Although there is only one arm, it can transform into hundreds and thousands of arms. The Buddha used it to rub the crowns of hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of Earth Store Bodhisattvas at the same time and said, “I teach and transform obstinate beings such as these within the evil worlds of the Five Turbidities… The five turbidities are the turbidity of kalpa, the turbidity of views, the turbidity of afflictions, the turbidity of beings and the turbidity of lifespan. Who are the obstinate beings? Perhaps it is you, perhaps him or her. It is anyone who is obstinate, anyone who does not listen to the teachings, and anyone who is always naughty and does not follow the rules. The obstinate beings are those who do not observe the rules, in fact, who prefer no rules. For example, someone’s child once asked me, “Why are there rules?” You can tell that even this child would rather be free of any rules, which is a result of adults’ rejections of rules. Thus the ones not willing to follow rules are the obstinate beings. They are so obstinate that they do as they please.
It is not easy to get these obstinate beingsto voluntarily obey, Causing their minds to be regulated and subdued… What does it mean by regulated? For example, American cooking places no emphasis on seasoning, disregarding the flavors. However, Chinese cooking especially focus on regulating the flavors, using sourness, sweetness, bitterness, spiciness to modify the flavors until the food becomes very delicious. This is the meaning of regulated. For example, at the time of the City States, Yi-ya was an expert at creating delicious dishes by mixing sour flavors, sweet flavors, bitter flavors and spicy flavors. Therefore, Mencius said, “Yi-ya understands what my mouth wants.” Yi-ya was a famous imperial chef for the emperor in ancient China.
Subdued means submission, voluntary obedience without objections. No matter what dharma you speak of, they listen and accept all Buddhist teachings without a bit of doubt or objection. This is being subdued.
It is not that there are no new arhats, that no one is enlightened during the five hundred years after the Buddha’s Nirvana. Actually someone can become enlightened, at any place and any time; an arhat can be anywhere and at any time. However, an enlightened arhat should avoid displaying spiritual powers or interfere with others’ business. For example, Indian Dharma Masters Muo Teng and Zhu Fa Lan in China had spiritual powers. Even Bodhidharma the Patriarch, who was born thousands of years after the Buddha’s Nirvana, or Elder Master Hsu Yun (Empty Cloud), who is a contemporary and preeminent Chinese monk are all arhats, Bodhisattvas. Not only are they arhats; they are at the state of Bodhisattvas. The same with Vinaya Master Hong Yi and Elder Dharma Master Ying Guang of recent times. Elder Dharma Master Ying Guang is commonly recognized as a manifestation of Great Strength Bodhisattva in China. After the Buddha entered Nirvana, China has had many individuals with great virtue. Even five hundred years, one thousand years, ten thousand years after the Buddha entered Nirvana, anyone who truly cultivates according to the Buddha’s teachings will reach sagehood, will become enlightened.
So that they renounce the deviant view and deviant knowledge and return to the proper view and proper knowledge. But one or two out of ten still cling to their bad habits; they have not completely removed them yet. For them, I, Shakyamuni Buddha, again divide into thousands of billions of bodies and use numerous additional expedient means, setting up many many Dharma Doors.
Those with keen roots , meaning people with deep and profuse good roots, will listen and immediately believe. They are brilliant and sharp and have much wisdom. Once they hear the Dharma spoken, they believe it.
Those with good rewards will respond to exhortation and strive to succeed. Maybe they have done good deeds in their past lives, planted causes that lead to favorable consequences; they will respond to the eager pleading to succeed. Eager pleading is not like persuading someone just once, it is like when we have the intention to deliver someone (to salvation; we do not just try once and give up. If it does not work on one try, we try again. If it does not work the second time, we keep trying. For example, for people living far away, you need to write more letters telling them about the Buddhadharma. For people living close by, you should interact with them more often and explain the Buddha’s teachings to them. Volunteer to convert people instead of being converted. For instance, originally you wanted to convert someone to believe in the Buddha, but then he pulls you into Christianity. Originally you were going to convert people to Buddhism, but you end up being turned by others and start believing in Catholicism. This is about being converted.
If you can convert others, you have some power of concentration. If you are converted by others, you have no power of concentration. So eager pleading means not being lazy. For example, we can think about friends who are good to us and which relatives are very kind, and then encourage them to study the Buddhadharma. So, eager pleading is not about persuading once only but persuading multiple times. If this time I did not encourage enough so that you understand, I will do it again and again. In other words, volunteer to convert others into believing in Buddhism and continue to do so until they become Buddhas. Vows are fulfilled that way.
Those who are dim and dull , lacking in wisdom, will only return after being taught for a long time. A long time means a long period of time, not merely once, twice, three times or five times.“Eager pleading” is about the number of times. Whereas “a long time” can mean two days, three days, five days, one month, two months, three months, five months, one year, two years, three years, or five years’ time to convert you. I will remain committed to a long-term goal to teach you, persisting until you believe in the Buddha. This is about teaching someone a long time until he or she returns, such as taking refuge with the Triple Jewel.
Those whose karma is heavy will fail to show any respect. They fundamentally do not respect Buddhism. All those different kinds of beings are unique. Every person has his or her own causes and effects, karmic responses, and various differences. To take across and liberate all these living beings, I, Shakyamuni Buddha, also divide into many division bodies.
I may appear in a male body to cross over these living beings. I may appear in a female body. I may appear as a handsome man to save all women. Or I may appear as a beautiful woman to save all men. Because Buddhas also understand living beings’ desires, i.e. living beings take pleasure in the subject of men and women. The Buddhas manifest and teach living beings according to their potential. I may appear in the body of a god or dragon to save gods and dragons. I may appear in the body of a spirit or ghost. Shakyamuni Buddha may appear in the body of a god with great awesome virtue or a great ghost king.
I may appear as a mountain, a forest, a stream, a spring, a river, a lake, a fountain, or a well in order to benefit people. You see! Earth Store Sutra says a mountain or a forest, a stream or a meadow are all transformations of Tathagata’s Dharma Body. Perhaps we are sitting on Shakyamuni Buddha’s Dharma Body right now but we do not realize it. For example, the Buddhas made San Francisco appear a long time ago to benefit living beings, so that people may live here. Although the sutra only mentions how the Buddhas make mountains, forests, streams, and meadows appear, do not presume that the plains are not the Buddha’s Dharma Body. The plains are too. Perhaps we are sitting on top of the Buddha’s Dharma Body now? Why do we not see the Buddha’s Dharma Body? It is because we are like ants on the ground or ants on a human body that do not see the whole body of the person. Since we are like tiny bugs on the Buddha’s Dharma Body, we do not know where his Dharma Body is. In reality, we are on his Dharma Body but do not know it. Shakyamuni Buddha may make a river, a pond, a spring, or a well appear. In general, why do Buddhas manifest such things? It is to benefits people.
I use all these ways to save beings… The Buddhas make a mountain appear, so as you take a walk in the mountains and absorb some of the energy there, your Bodhi resolve comes forth. Or you may breathe some fresh air in the forest without realizing that this is the air of the Buddha’s Dharma Body. All air in space is the Buddha’s qi. Breathe in the Buddha’s qi and you will definitely become enlightened. Do not be attached to the idea that no one will become enlightened 500 years after the Buddha’s nirvana. Even 5,000 years after the Buddha’s nirvana, people will become enlightened. The only worry is that you do not truly cultivate. If you truly cultivate, I can guarantee you will definitely become enlightened. Or you can buy some insurance first. When you get enlightened, I will pay you a certain amount of money. Even though you bought insurance earlier, once you became enlightened, you would not want that money, so I would still end up with the profits.
The Buddhas may manifest as a river, so that you feel comfortable bathing in the river, and then become enlightened. Shakyamuni Buddha may manifest as a pond or a well. Drink the water from the well and your commitment to this path grows day after day. These are all inconceivable states. In summary, every action and every move of the Buddha is to benefit people so that they are liberated.
Shakyamuni Buddha may appear in the body of God Shakra. While meditating, God Shakra comes to bowto you and say he is Shakra from the heavens. Why does he bow to you? He wants you to develop solid commitment to this path and courageous vigor. He may appear in the body of Lord Brahma or the body of a Wheel-Turning King. A Wheel-Turning King has various treasures. He has a flying vehicle. Traveling in rockets to the moon takes a long time now, but a Wheel-Turning King’s flying vehicle can travel through the three thousand great thousand worlds within an hour. Actually, not only to the moon and different planets, but he can reach any place just as fast. He also has a treasure of jewels. No matter where he is, when a Wheel-Turning King says, “I need money”, the ground will break open with as much gold as he wants, as many jewels as you want. Why do these things occur? Because of his blessings, he owns everything in the world, including all the jewels which are in place for him. He also owns a treasure that is a horse that travels faster than rockets. He owns a treasure that produces women spontaneously. A Wheel-Turning Sage King likes women. He has such terrific blessings that he gets whatever he wants. Anything he wishes, he gets. He never experiences the suffering not getting what he wants. The Buddha makes an awesome body of a Wheel-Turning Sage King appear so that all beings see the way he looks and bring forth their resolve for Bodhi.
The Buddha may appear in the body of a lay person. Perhaps one of you laypeople is a manifestation of Shakyamuni Buddha, but we do not know. Don’t think it is impossible. Laity can be part of this too.He may appear in the body of a national leader, such as an emperor,or in the body of a prime minister, the highest official. He may appear in the body of an official. He may appear in the body of a member of the fourfold assembly, a Bhikshu, a Bhikshuni, an Upasaka, or an Upasika, and so forth up to the body of a Hearer, an Arhat, a Pratyekabuddha, or a Bodhisattva in order to teach and rescue beings. Although the Buddha appears in various bodies, none is not for the transformation of living beings. It is not that Shakyamuni Buddha appears only in the body of a Buddha to transform and liberate beings.
“Reflect on how I have toiled for repeated eons and endured acute suffering to take across and free stubborn beings who resist being taught and continue to suffer for their offenses. Those not yet subdued undergo retributions according to their karma. If they fall into the evil destinies and are enduring tremendous suffering, then you should remember the gravity of this entrustment I am now making to you here in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Find ways to liberate all beings in the Saha world from now until the time when Maitreya comes into the world. Help them escape suffering forever, encounter Buddhas, and receive predictions.”
Reflect on how I have toiled for repeated eons , an unknowable long period of time, and endured acute suffering… You see, Shakyamuni Buddha does not have time to be lazy; this is toil. Suffering means the absence of joy. Toiling and suffering means not being lazy and not seeking happiness. Why? To take across and free stubborn beings who resist being taught and continue to suffer for their offenses. Do not think that these stubborn beings who resist lessons do not include us. Actually you and I are among these stubborn beings. Do you realize how much thought and energy Shakyamuni Buddha has spent to teach and transform us, to liberate us? Yet we ourselves do not know shame and proudly think it is no big deal, “Me! It’s OK! It’s fine for Shakyamuni Buddha to work a little bit harder. I don’t want to learn Buddhism now. I don’t want to cultivate. I want to be a little lazy, sleep a little bit more.” We reason and argue for ourselves, being our own defense attorney. Those not yet subdued, not yet liberated, undergo retributions according to their karma. When they fall into the evil destinies, which are the hells, the realm of hungry ghosts and the realm of animals, and are enduring tremendous suffering, then you should remember and think about the gravity of this entrustment I am now earnestly making to you here in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Find ways to liberate all beings in the Saha world from now until the time when Maitreya comes into the world. Help them escape all suffering forever, encounter Buddhas, and receive predictions of themselves becoming Buddhas.
Now let’s talk about Elder Master Ying Guang. He is a native of Shanxi Province in China. After he received the precepts, he went to Potola Mountain for a secluded retreat. His retreat consisted of reading sutras all day. He read the sutras with utmost respect, sitting perfectly upright. He would change into a different set of clothing and shoes for the restroom. After he is done in the restroom and finishes cleaning himself, he puts on his clothes for reading the sutras. Even if the restroom is very clean, he nevertheless changes clothes. He never dresses in the attire worn while reading sutras to the restrooms, and he never wears the restroom clothes into the sutra room. He read the sutras respectfully everyday. He lived at the Potola Mountain, Guanyin Bodhisattva’s wayplace, for eighteen years, reading the sutras everyday and never taking one day’s break. After reading the sutras for eighteen years, he went to Nanjing to lecture on the Amitabha Sutra. Imagine the scene of the Amitabha Sutra lecture. A greatly virtuous and preeminent monk lectures to an empty house. He was pleased that someone was so attentive and asked, “Do you understand what I explain?” He asked in his Shanxi accent.
“You don’t understand? What are you doing here?” he said.
Ah! The elder Dharma Master was very sad to hear this, and he swore to never lecture on the sutras in Nanjing again. See! No one listened to the sutra lectures except for one person, who waited because he was the bench-keeper.
Later Shangha’s Forest of Laity invited him to speak on the Amitabha Sutra. He went to Shanghai to speak the Sutra. This time, the audience was large instead of non-existent. Since Buddhism was not thriving in Nanjing, no one will know about or attend the sutra lectures without advertisements, even if it was by a greatly virtuous and preeminent monk such as Dharma Master Ying Guang.
In Shanghai, however, some disciples who took refuge with him advertised their master’s sutra lectures. “Come and listen! Come and listen!” They got all the Buddhists together to listen to the Dharma. There was one 18, 19 or 20 year-old student among them. She was not a Buddhist, but she dreamt one night about someone telling her, “Go to the Forest of Laity to listen to sutra lectures! Great Strength Bodhisattva is there propagating the Buddhadharma, explaining the Amitabha Sutra!” The next morning, she read the newspapers, and read that Elder Master Ying Guang was going to lecture on the Amitabha Sutra at the Forest of Laity. “How strange! How come I dreamt that it was Great Strength Bodhisattva speaking the Amitabha Sutra there?” she thought.
She went to listen to the sutra lectures, bringing many classmates with her too. She told these students that she dreamt that this Dharma Master was Great Strength Bodhisattva. She did not know who Great Strength Bodhisattva was so she asked Buddhists, “What is Great Strength Bodhisattva?” They asked her why she wanted to know. She explained that she heard someone tell her in a dream that Great Strength Bodhisattva is at Shanghai’s Forest of Laity speaking on the Amitabha Sutra. These laypeople think, “Oh! This Elder Master is probably Great Strength Bodhisattva come again.” They told Elder Master Ying Guang, “A female student had a dream where she was told that you are Great Strength Bodhisattva and here speaking on the Amitabha Sutra!” The Elder Master said, “Nonsense.” He scolded these people and no one dared to say anymore. Thereafter, this female student took refuge with Elder Master Ying Guang.
That female student was also told in her dream that Great Strength Bodhisattva will stay for three more years. He will then disappear. Indeed, three years later, this Great Strength Bodhisattva, Elder Master Ying Guang, entered nirvana in 1944. It was only after his nirvana that people realized that he was Great Strength Bodhisattva come-again. Elder Master Ying Guang enjoyed copying out the text in the Shurangama Sutra’s “Great Strength Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration through Mindfulness of the Buddha Chapter” the most. Many laypeople own the Master’s calligraphy on this chapter. Elder Dharma Master Ying Guang is a contemporary enlightened master with great virtue and preeminence. No one can presume that there would be no arhats 500 years after the Buddha’s nirvana, because here we have someone who was not only an arhat, but surpasses arhats! When Elder Master Ying Guang entered nirvana, many shariras appeared after his cremation. Someone who has not attained the fruit of Arhatship or enlightenment will not leave any sharira behind. People with shariras are not ordinary people.
Chapter 3: Contemplating the Karmic Conditions of Beings
This third chapter is called Contemplating the Karmic Conditions of Living Beings. “To contemplate” means to observe. What are “living beings”? A multitude of causal conditions create living beings, who become born from pursuing different states. Why do we say they are formed as a result of many causes? The multitude of causal conditions includes form, feeling, cognition, formation and consciousness, which create the physical body as grasping occurs. Living beings are born because we pursue different states. Those who are born from such causes and conditions are living beings.
Karma. Where does karma come from? Karma may be created through speech, physical acts or thoughts. Why is the result “karma”, instead of “causes”? Causal conditions refer to a single incident; karma is an accumulation of many causal conditions after a long period of time. “Conditions” are a set of circumstances that create karma. Every living being has his/her own karmic conditions, and the states that he/she experiences are different. Some living beings always encounter happy states. Why? In the past they planted good causes, and therefore in this lifetime they reap good results. Some living beings always face very difficult situations, why? It is because in the past they did not plant good causes; they sowed bad ones instead. Over time these bad causes turn into bad karma; hence they face such miserable retributions in this lifetime. In general, plant good causes and reap good results; plant bad causes and reap bad results. We create good and evil personally; no one else makes us do it. This applies throughout our path to Buddhahood, a destination reached not because other people made us, but because of our own hard work at cultivation. Working hard at cultivation is about planting the causes for Buddhahood, which leads to Buddhahood in the future. Do the work of Buddhas and become Buddhas in the future; do the work of demons and become demons. Did the text not say earlier that the hells are called forth in response to the Three Evil Karmas?
At that time, the Buddha’s mother, Lady Maya, placed her palms together respectfully and asked Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Great Sage, could you tell us about the different kinds of karma that beings of Jambudvipa create, and the resulting retributions that they undergo?”
Earth Store replied, “There are many millions of worlds and lands that may or may not have hells, may or may not have women, may or may not have the Buddhadharma, and so forth up to having or not having Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas. Since the worlds differ, the retributions in the hells also differ.”
At that time, the Buddha’s mother, Lady Maya gave birth to the Buddha from her left armpit. She died from hemorrhage and was reborn in the heavens. After Shakyamuni Buddha became enlightened, he spoke Dharma for forty-nine years in over three hundred Dharma assemblies. The day before yesterday someone said the Buddha lectured on more than three hundred sutras, that is wrong. The Buddha held over three hundred Dharma assemblies. The Buddhist sutras are not limited to more than three hundred; there are more than several thousand. When the Buddha was about to enter Nirvana, he recalled that he had not delivered his mother [to the shore of perfection), so he went to the Trayastrimsa Heavens to speak the Dharma for Lady Maya.
Now Lady Maya placed her palms together respectfully and asked Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Great Sage, could you tell us about the different kinds of karma that beings of Jambudvipa create, and the resulting retributions that they undergo? How does this happen?”
To Lady Maya, Earth Store Bodhisattva replied, “There are many millions of worlds and lands that may or may not have hells. For instance, the Land of Ultimate Bliss has neither hells nor any of the Three Evil Paths. On the other hand, our Saha world embodies the Three Evil Paths— the hells, the realm of ghosts, and the realm of animals. Those places may or may not have women: Some worlds – ours for example – have both men and women as well as sages and common people. The Land of Ultimate Bliss has only men. If there were no women, how can there be men? Don’t you worry, when the men go to the world of Ultimate Bliss, they are still men. When the women get there, they become men too. Where do the people of the Land of Ultimate Bliss come from? Who gives birth to them? If there are no women, how can there be people? This you do not know. The people in the world of Ultimate Bliss do not come from women but are born transformationally from lotuses. When we recite the Buddha’s name once here, our mother, the lotus in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, grows a bit. The more we recite here, the more our flower grows. The more sincere our recitation, the more fresh our lotus becomes.
After death and before becoming reborn as a human, a ghost or a spirit, our Eighth Consciousness is in a state between skandhas, or “the Intermediate Skandha Body”. If we recite the Buddha’s name sincerely, when we die, our Intermediate Skandha Body will immediately enter the lotus. When the lotus blooms, a child in the Land of Ultimate Bliss is born. Since birth originates with lotuses, there are only men and no women.
May or may not have Buddhadharma. Perhaps there is the Buddhadharma, from the Buddhas there who are speaking the Dharma or Dharma that abides, in this country or this world. There are places where no one speaks the Dharma, where there are no Buddha images, sutras, or monastics. The Buddhist sutras say such a place exists in northern Uttarakuru, one of the eight places of difficulty because it does not have any Buddhadharma.
And so forth up to having or not having Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas. There may or may not be any Sound Hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, or Bodhisattvas in these worlds. From the point of view of ordinary people, Sound Hearers are very happy. In the eyes of the Bodhisattvas, however, Sound Hearers also suffer. So these worlds may or may not have Sound Hearers or Pratyekabuddhas who suffer.
Since the worlds differ, the retributions in the hells also differ : Regardless of who you are, create karma and you will face the matching retribution; avoid karma if you want to avoid the retribution that follows. This principle is impartial and equal.
Lady Maya spoke again to the Bodhisattva . The Buddha’s mother repeated to Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Could you please tell us about the offenses committed by those in Jambudvipa that result in retributions in the evil destinies?” “The other worlds are too far away and I have not been to them, even if I have I do not remember. Therefore I ask not about the other worlds but only of Jambudvipa. I wish to know the offenses of those in Jambudvipa, the evil destinies that result, and the retribution from different offenses. I would like to listen, will the Sagely One please tell me?”
When Earth Store Bodhisattva heard the Buddha’s mother plead in this manner, he answered “Worthy Mother, please listen to what I have to say. As I speak briefly about that type of principle. I will not explain it in detail because I may not even finish in several great eons. The Buddha’s mother answered, “Great Sage, please do tell us about it.” The Buddha’s mother heard what Earth Store Bodhisattva said and responded, “I am most delighted and wish for the Bodhisattva to speak.”
Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the worthy mother, “Retributions that result from offenses committed in Jambudvipa are described like this. . . At that time, Earth Store Bodhisattva told the Buddha’s mother that in this world of Jumbudvipa, the names of the hells in response to offenses created and retributions received, are as many as the ones he shall describe.
Beings who are not filial to their parents, even to the point of harming or killing them. . . We living beings should be filial to our parents, for those who are not filial commit offenses, even to go as far as murdering them. All these are offenses. Filial piety is important because it is the basis of humanity; if people are not filial, they forget their very origin. Therefore, it is said, “Father gave me a life, mother raised me; their kindness – as vast as high heaven, as manifold as the hairs on the head – is difficult to repay.”
What is filial piety? Does it mean buying delicious foods for our parents? Is it filiality to buy them some fine clothes? No. These are superficial forms of filial piety. Filial piety is about complying with our parents. I enjoy what my parents delight in; I like what my parents like. “Suppose my father likes to smoke opium. If he smoked one ounce a day, and I smoked two, would that be filial piety?” It certainly would not. When I said “comply,” I mean to comply with his wishes, not with his eating habits. If the latter were intended, you might as well tell your father who likes bread and butter, “I like that, too. You’re just going to have to wait while I eat it.” That would be fighting, not complying. To comply means to accord with another’s wish; look into his heart and do not go against his wishes. That is filiality. Earlier I said the kindness of parents is “as manifold as the hairs on the head and difficult to repay.” Even if you could count how many hair you have, you still would not be able to repay your parents’ kindness.
Last summer I mentioned the couplet “The lamb kneels to drink its milk; the young crow returns to the nest.” When the baby lamb drinks its mother’s milk, its forelegs genuflect. Crows are considered filial birds in China because young crows return with food for their aged mother who can no longer fly. Even baby crows know to be filial. Crows are birds and lambs are animals. If we were not filial to our parents, we are worse than birds and beasts.
Human beings are supposed to be replete with the Five Virtues: humaneness, propriety, righteousness wisdom, and trustworthiness. Since we can be virtuous in these five ways, how can we be worse than crows and sheep? There is nothing more important than being filial to our parents.
Someone might ask, “I want to be filial, but now I have left the homelife and my parents are nowhere nearby. How can I be filial?” Leaving the homelife is an act of great filial piety. There is a saying, “When one child enters the Buddha’s door, nine generations of ancestors ascend to the heavens.” If you leave home to cultivate the Way, nine generations of ancestors receive the benefit and may go to the heavens. In this way, you are being filial not only to your parents but to your ancestors and parents of lives past. Of course, you must continue to cultivate. If you do not do so, your nine generations of relatives will fall into the hells, where they will wail and moan: “We had a descendant who left the homelife to cultivate, and because of him we should have been born in the heavens. Who would have thought that he is so lazy that he sleeps all day instead of cultivating. Now our offenses cannot be pardoned, so we fall into the hells once again.”
The mere act of leaving home life is not sufficiently powerful to cause your nine generations of ancestors to be reborn in the heavens. If you do not cultivate, they will not enter the heavens, but if you do cultivate, you are practicing great filiality that helps your parents.
Speaking of which, I was in the Buddha hall for sometime today and thought, we have a Sramanera who has not been up. Even I, the teacher without any fiery temper, was on fire. “How can a monk be so lazy?” I thought. He was not bad though; he did not rebut at all. Upon investigating, I figured out why. Let me tell you all, this Sramanera is not lazy; he was too hungry to move. Not lazy, just hungry. Why was he hungry? No one made offerings. After going many days without any offerings, he tried alms rounds but no one donated anything. His temper flared and when he came back he decided not to eat. It’s been six or seven days and he has not eaten anything, so today he was too hungry to get up. Since I did not realize that he received no offerings, I scolded him severely. Afterwards, I inquired as to why he was this lazy. He said “No one made offerings to me and without food, I have no energy.” Upon hearing this I replied “Oh! I made a mistake. If you feel too weak, then you can rest and sleep inside. Do what you need to do; I’m giving you an expedient.”
It’s not easy being a teacher, sometimes you don’t know what method of teaching and transforming is suitable. I scolded a hungry disciple severely. However this disciple has some skill, a bit of cultivation. Without any cultivation, how can one go on without food for six to seven days and still follow the general assembly in reciting sutras, doing repentances, and listening to the lectures? So my anger is gone now and I am glad I have a hard working disciple. I hope all of you will emulate this Sramanera who had enough patience to withstand my scolding.
In addition, forget the fact that “I did not eat for a day,” “I did not eat for two days,” “I did not eat for three days”, “five days”, “six days”. Forget it. Having eaten or not is the same. Don’t pay attention to whether you have eaten or not. Forgetting that, you are really cultivating. You could not forget if you were not really cultivating. True concentration is derived from true practice. With real concentration, you will not notice that I’m scolding you, not to mention hitting you. Questions like “Who’s hitting me?” or “Where am I?” do not even occur because there is no “I”. When there is no self, there is true concentration. If there’s still an “I”, so that “you hit me”, “you scold me”, and “I haven’t eaten”, still exist, then you haven’t forgotten this self; consequently concentration will not grow. You must forget the self before concentration develops; when concentration is born, you have some real skill.
Beings who are not filial to their parents, even to the point of harming or killing them. . . Those who kill their father or mother, for example, will fall into the Relentless Hell where for thousands of billions of eons they will seek escape in vain. It will be difficult for them to escape the hells.
Beings who shed the Buddha’s blood. . . Suppose innocent living beings do commit some offense such as shed the Buddha’s blood. Now that Shakyamuni Buddha entered nirvana, how can we make the Buddha bleed? We do not live in a time when the Buddha is in the world and have never seen the Buddha, how can we make the Buddha bleed? When the Buddha was in the world, shedding his blood means injuring the Buddha’s physical body. After his nirvana, it means destroying images of the Buddha, such as removing an ear or a finger. Burning paper images of the Buddha, for instance, is also equivalent to shedding the Buddha’s blood. In principle, these offenses cannot be vindicated through repenting and reforming, but there are exceptions such as when intoxicated or overtaken by madness or mental breakdown. However, you cannot claim to be mentally ill or drunk but commit these offenses intentionally. It is when unintended that these karmic offenses are lighter.
The Buddha had such great spiritual powers, who could have shed his blood? The Buddha had certified to the fruit, who could have hurt his physical body? Sometimes even the Buddha gets injured unexpectedly. The Buddha’s cousin, Devadatta, opposed everything the Buddha did and invariably tried to ruin him. If the Buddha said something was proper, Devadatta would contradict him. He did everything he possibly could to undermine the Buddha.
Once when the Buddha was speaking, Devadatta bribed a poor woman to take part in a plot against the Buddha. As is the case with many impoverished persons, her resolve was weak and she would do anything for money. Devadatta had her tie a pillow around her waist under her clothes and in this condition go to the Buddha’s Dharma assembly and accuse him of fathering her unborn child. Devadatta promised her a large sum of money for making the Buddha no longer credible to his disciples.
When this woman followed suit and told the Buddha’s disciples that she is pregnant with the Buddha’s child, the Buddha used his spiritual powers to make the pillow fall to the ground, proving on the spot that she was dishonest. That was how Devadatta used various means to damage the Buddha.
Another time the Buddha was walking by Vulture Peak when Devadatta, hoping to crush the Buddha, used his spiritual powers to cause an avalanche. A Vajra knight and guardian spirit of Vulture Peak, named Bei La, used his Vajra pestle to smash one of the large boulders, which was about to hit the Buddha. One of the fragments, however, struck the Buddha’s little toe and cracked a bone. At that very moment a fiery chariot emerged to carry Devadatta alive off to the hells. The retribution incurred by those who burn and destroy images of the Buddha, dismantle temples or ruin stupas is similar.
Slander the Triple Jewel. Buddhists must remember not to commit this type of offense, that is, to speak evil of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Among the Bodhisattva precepts is one that prohibits people from speaking of the offenses of the Fourfold Assembly, the bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, and upasikas. Not only does it warn people to refrain from speaking of others’ faults, it also cautions against participating when others speak of them. Just ignore the conversation. If you participate in such a conversation, you also violate the precept. The best thing to do in a situation like this is to simply keep your mouth shut, remain silent.
Among other reasons for not speaking of the faults of the Fourfold Assembly is that the views of an ordinary person are often wrong. Ordinary people cannot fathom the realms of sages. Bodhisattvas of the First Ground, for example, do not know the states of those of the Second Ground, and so on up the line. Bodhisattvas on the Tenth Ground do not know the states of the Bodhisattvas on the Ground of Equal Enlightenment. Arhats of the First Fruition do not know the states of Second Fruition Arhats. Before you acquire true wisdom, you may not say harmful things about the Fourfold Assembly, which is one form of slandering the Triple Jewel. Even though people may very clearly be in the wrong, you should not speak of it. Just do things correctly yourself, rather than acting like a camera that goes about photographing faults and never examining itself.
At this point some stories come to mind. During the reign of Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty, there was a Dhyana Master named Zhi Gong who ate two pigeons every day. The cook assumed that the birds must be delicious, and one day tasted a wing on the sly. Then he brought the remainder of the dish to Dhyana Master Zhi Gong. After he finished eating, Dhyana Master Zhi Gong called for the cook.
“Why did you eat some of my pigeons?”
“I didn’t take any pigeon,” answered the cook.
Although in both cases the men ate pigeons, Dhyana Master Zhi Gong swallowed the chopped up and cooked pigeon, then spit it out alive; the cook, on the other hand, could not do it. Dhyana Master Zhi Gong’s state was one of “eating and yet not eating.”
At Ling Ying Monastery at West Lake, Hangzhou, there lived Dhyana Master Ji Gong, another famous monk who always ate dog meat and drank wine. He was invariably inebriated, and everyone said, “There goes another tippling monk.” In his drunkenness, however, Ji Gong taught and transformed living beings.
Once a Buddha image was not yet gilded with gold, so he told the abbot, “I will gild this Buddha image. No one else needs to do it.” The abbot of his temple agreed and then waited. After some time the image was still not finished, so the abbot questioned Dhyana Master Ji Gong about the matter. The Dhyana Master agreed to do the work that very evening. When night came, however, he merely kept on with his drinking.
When everyone was asleep though, he went to the image and began to spew forth pure gold, with which he covered the images. The abbot heard Dhyana Master Ji Gong spitting and abruptly ordered, “How could you spit at the Buddha image?” Dhyana Master Ji Gong immediately quit and left.
The next morning the abbot inspected the image. He found that it was covered with gold except for a small spot on the crown of the head. Although a master goldsmith completed the work, his ordinary gold could not match that supplied by Dhyana Master Ji Gong. The states of arhats are inconceivable.
So, you see, you should not speak of the faults of the Fourfold Assembly. It is not so serious if you criticize ordinary people, but should you criticize a sage, the penalty you might incur will be very great, enough to cause you to fall into the hells.
People slander the Triple Jewel because they do not have faith. Another cause is mixing with bad company—people who do not understand and therefore slander the Buddhadharma. Associating with such people may cause one to be influenced by their bad habits.
Some people berate and slander the Triple Jewel and use flattery for ill gain. Such persons’ minds are crooked; they engage in flattery to get what they want. They are stupid, yet puffed up with their own intelligence, like the five thousand bhikshus who left the assembly during the speaking of the Lotus Sutra. Because they had a tiny bit of cleverness, they looked down on others and slandered the good Dharma, thus blinding the selective Dharma eye of living beings.
What is the retribution for such persons? In the future they will be deformed and crippled, without arms, hands, ears, or legs. They may not be able to walk or have some speech impediment. Mutes are people who slandered the Triple Jewel. After they commit this offense they fall into the hells, where they spend two million years of hellish retribution, after which they are born into the realms of the animals, possibly as a horse, cow, sheep, chicken or dog. After two million years among the animals, they may be reborn as humans, but they will be disabled. Either they will be without eyes therefore blind, without ears therefore deaf, or perhaps without tongues or even with tongues, but yet they cannot speak. In general, they will be disabled and ugly. They undergo this kind of suffering and fall into the Relentless Hells after death. Such is the retribution of slandering the Triple Jewel in lives past.
And do not venerate sutras. . . Sutras must be treated with respect, for, as it says in the Diamond Sutra, “Wherever this sutra is, there is the Buddha.” Sutras are the Dharma-body of the Buddha, toward which we must be very respectful. Places where sutras are set must be organized and clean, and without acts of defilement. They should always be stored above other books. Also make sure that Buddhist sutras are on the side where we lay our head in a room and not on the side where we lay our feet. Our beds are unclean, thus sutras must not be placed there. If you do not show the same respect for sutras that you show the Buddha, you are slandering and harming the Triple Jewel. The retribution for not respecting sutras is the same: one falls into the Relentless Hall where for thousands of billions of eons they will seek escape in vain. It would be impossible to exit the hells despite such a long duration.
Beings who usurp or damage the property of the Eternally Dwelling, who defile Bhikshus or Bhikshunis, who commit sexual acts within the Sangharama, or who kill or harm beings there, will fall into the Relentless Hell where for thousands of billions of eons they will seek escape in vain.
Beings who usurp or damage the property of the Eternally Dwelling. . . Eternally Dwelling is the wayplace. There are four kinds of Eternally Dwelling: the Permanent Eternally Dwelling, the Eternally Dwelling of the Ten Directions, the Current Eternally Dwelling, and the Current Eternally Dwelling of the Ten Directions.
1. The Permanent Eternally Dwelling. This wayplace is fixed and continuous, within which monastics permanently reside. A wayplace is where the Sangha lives. To usurp and destroy the Eternally Dwelling is to make use of the food, drink, and goods of those permanently dwelling in the temples, without offering compensation. Laypeople who live in a temple must donate to the temple. If you live in a temple even for a few days and do not offer a monetary contribution, you usurp the goods of those permanently dwelling there. This offense will certainly send you to the hells. You should regard living in a temple as being similar to living anywhere else; you should pay for living expenses that approximate the amount of living elsewhere, thus avoid stealing from those permanently dwelling there. I tell my refuge disciples to make sure they never commit this offense but always help the wayplace.
If you cannot augment the resources of a place, you should at least make sure that you do not deplete them. People who do not understood any Buddhist principles think they are getting a bargain by living in a temple for free. This may be fine if you do not understand how to act properly; but if you understand the Buddhadharma and still behave that way, it is quite another. This principle holds true not only for laypeople but for those who have left home life as well. Anywhere I go to stay long term as a monk, I will pay half of the estimated cost for spending the night at a nearby hotel, e.g., I pay three dollars for an approximated charge of five dollars. Wherever I go I do this unless I have absolutely nothing, then that is okay. If I do have something, I will not usurp or damage the property of the Eternally Dwelling.
Since the Eternally Dwelling is like the great earth where a great assembly may live, we must take care not to drain the supplies, such as depleting the food supply so that deprive others of it. That would be an offense. “If I alone starve to death, that will be no problem, but I cannot deprive the assembly of its food. The Eternally Dwelling monastics must have food and offerings, unlike my little disciple who can do without.” Food is like the sky overhead, we need it; so we hurt the Eternally Dwelling if we leave nothing for them. With this attitude you will not commit a grave offense in this area.
For those of us who have studied the Buddhadharma, we need to make a donation to the temple. Even if it’s a little less than the payment at other places at least you have done your best. To give none and then run away is to usurp or damage the property of the Eternally Dwelling.
3. The Current Eternally Dwelling. The people who are currently living here are referred to as the Current Eternally Dwelling.
The difference is that goods of the Current Eternally Dwelling are only available to those living here temporarily; those who come afterwards do not have a share. Whereas that of the Current Eternally Dwelling of the Ten Directions is available to all, those who come earlier and later.
Who commit sexual acts within the Sangharama. . . The Sangharama is a still, pure place; in other words, any bodhimandala or temple. No one should be indulgent or unruly by engaging in sexual activity at any Sangharama, or any place where there is a Buddha image. A man who suffered from a genital ulcer once asked Mahamaudgalyayana the origin of his disease and was told, “In your past life, you wantonly engaged in sexual activity in a Sangharama. Having committed this offense, your male genital often festers with sores.” Although he was speaking to a man, the principle is the same for women. Anyone who violates this rule will, in the future, be born in the hells. After being in the hells, they will be reborn and their genitals will often grow ulcers. These diseases are incurable. The cause and effect of these causes and conditions must be believed. If you do not believe, in the future you will undergo the retribution.
Or who kill or harm beings there. . . those who murder or hurt the victim of an unsuccessful rape attempt, will fall into the Relentless Hell where for thousands of billions of eons they will seek escape in vain.
Some people discover that the more they study Buddhism, the more inconvenient things become; the more they practice, the less freedom they enjoy. When you do not study the Buddhadharma, constraints come later; now, however, constraints occur in the present. We increase our good roots when we study the Buddhadharma now; we increase our karmic obstructions when we do not study the Buddhadharma, constrains associated with those are forever. When you study Buddhism, you may be limited for a while, but this restraint is relatively short-lived. If you do not want perpetual freedom, you do not need to study Buddhism; if you want freedom in the future, you may want to accept a little less freedom in the meantime. The restraints of studying the Buddhadharma are short-term by comparison, and if you refuse to do so, your restraints will be lasting. Weigh the odds for yourself.
Chapter 4: Karmic Retributions of Beings in Jambudvipa
Jambudvipa is our southern continent of Jambudivipa. All living beings undergo retribution for whatever karma they created. Having sowed good causes, they reap good fruits; having sowed evil causes, they reap evil fruits. These are karmic retributions.
At that time Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, because I receive the awesome spiritual strength of the Buddha, Thus Come One, I am able to divide my body and rescue beings who are undergoing karmic retributions everywhere in billions of worlds. If it were not for the great compassionate strength of the Thus Come One, I would be unable to manifest such changes and transformations. Now the World Honored One has entrusted me with rescuing and liberating beings in the Six Paths until Ajita becomes a Buddha. I accept the entrustment, World Honored One. Please have no further concern.”
At that time Earth Store the Great Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, because I receive the awesome spiritual strength of the Buddha, Thus Come One, I am able to divide my body to teach beings and rescue all beings who give rise to delusion, create karma and who are undergoing karmic retributions everywhere in billions of worlds. Earth Store Bodhisattva did not say, “I have great spiritual powers; I have great wisdom; I have unobstructed eloquence.” He says that he is able to pervade billions and billions of worlds by relying on the power of the Buddha’s awesome virtues and spiritual penetrations. If it were not for the great compassionate strength of the Thus Come One, I would be unable to manifest such terrific changes and transformations such as teaching beings in billions and billions of division bodies. He changes roles or identities; he transforms something out of nothing all of a sudden.
Now the World Honored One has entrusted me with rescuing and liberating beings in the Six Paths of gods, humans, hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals and asuras, until Ajita becomes a Buddha. Does anyone know who Ajita is? You may not know Ajita, but you might have heard of Maitreya? Which Bodhisattva is Ajita? He is Maitreya Bodhisattva. Maitreya Bodhisattva’s name means “incomparably victorious”. He can overcome everything; no one can defeat him. His name means something so powerful, it is no wonder no one can defeat him. Since he smiles all day long and never gets angry, he enjoys wisdom that overcomes everything, hence his name “Incomparably Victorious”. Ajita also means “the kind clan”. I accept the entrustment, I agree to do this now, World Honored One. Please have no further concern. Do not worry.”
Then the Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Beings who have not yet obtained liberation have unfixed natures and consciousnesses. Their bad habits reap bad karma; their good habits bring rewards. Reacting to situations by committing good or evil deeds causes them to turn in the Five Paths without a moment’s rest. Throughout eons as numerous as dust motes they remain confused, deluded, obstructed, and afflicted by difficulties. They are like fish swimming through waters laced with nets. They may slip through and keep their freedom temporarily, but sooner or later they will be caught. I am concerned about such beings. But since you keep making extensive vows repeatedly throughout successive eons to take such offenders across, what further worries need I have?”
Then the Buddha Shakyamuni told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “All beings who are still on the Wheel of Rebirth have not yet obtained liberation. They have unfixed natures and consciousnesses. They may have wanted to study the Buddhadharma originally, but once they do, they change their goal, which means they are unfixed in natures and consciousnesses. Their bad habits reap bad karma; their good habits bring rewards. Reacting to situations by committing good or evil deeds causes them to turn in the Five Paths of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals, asuras, and humans without a moment’s rest. They become born according to their states and as they pursue states. For instance, encountering good friends who speak the Buddhadharma for us, we go and do good deeds. Or we encounter corrupt friends who tell us to indulge in dissipation or to be mean. Hearing them often enough, we will act on it and possibly become like them. For instance, we gradually develop the habits of being diligent and frugal when we are with such people. Diligent and frugal people, after being with lazy people for some time will be affected and become lazy. “One takes on the color of one's company.” Without realizing it, we turn red when we are around rouge. The same with the color black. For example, without realizing it, we make our hands black when we write with dark ink. “Washed with brown dye, we turn brown; we are yellow when we are dyed yellow.” In the words of this sutra, this is called, “reacting to situations by committing good or evil deeds.” People who do not drink will start drinking for some reason when they are always with friends who drink. Draw near druggies and eventually they will turn into druggies. This is why we must be especially careful about making friends. Furthermore, people must listen to friends’ advice. There are good friends and bad friends actually. We must believe everything that good friends tell us; we must dismiss everything that bad friends tell us. “Reacting to situations by committing good or evil deeds” is the same idea.
Throughout eons as numerous as dust motes they remain confused, deluded, obstructed, and afflicted by difficulties. Due to one action, they undergo as many eons as motes of dust in an environment of fraught with confusion and karmic obstructions. What is this like? The Sutra explains it aptly: they are like fish swimming through waters laced with nets. They may slip through and keep their freedom temporarily, but sooner or later they will be caught again by fishermen. I am concerned about such beings, this type of people. I am worried because, you see, Shakyamuni Buddha is sad that we cannot get out of this dangerous and not-at-all fun fishnet. Though this is cause for concern for Shakyamuni Buddha, we should not worry. As long as we concentrate on studying the Buddhadharma, things will work out.
But since youkeep making extensive vows. Shakyamuni Buddha addresses Earth Store Bodhisattva saying, ‘Since you will fulfill the vows you made in the past,’ repeatedly throughout successive eons to take such offenders across, what further worries need I have? What is there for me to be sad about? I do not have anything to be concerned about! I can rest assured. Okay! Go and do it. Shakyamuni Buddha heard Earth Store Bodhisattva tell him this, he responds by declaring that ‘I will not worry anymore.’”
After that was said, a Bodhisattva Mahasattva in the assembly named Samadhi Self-Mastery King said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, what vows has Earth Store Bodhisattva made during so many successive eons that now cause him to receive the World Honored One’s special praise? We hope the World Honored One will tell us about this.”
After that was said, a Bodhisattva Mahasattva, a great Bodhisattva too, in the assembly named Samadhi Self-Mastery King, who got his name because he reached self-mastery by cultivating Samadhi. Not only did he reach a sense of ease, but the king among different types of ease. He said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, what vows has Earth Store Bodhisattva made during so many successive eons that now cause him to receive the World Honored One’s compassionate, earnest, and special praise? We hope the World Honored One will tell us about this briefly.”
Then the World Honored One, at that time Shakyamuni Buddha, replied to Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “Listen attentively, listen attentively, and reflect well on and remember the examples and detailed explanations I am about to give you.
One time, limitless asamkhyeyas of nayutas of inexpressible eons ago, a Buddha named All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge, One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, Well-Gone One, Unsurpassed Knight Who Understands the World, Taming and Subduing Hero, Teacher of Gods and People, Buddha, World Honored One, appeared in the world. That Buddha’s life span was sixty thousand eons.
One time. . . how far back in time? Limitless asamkhyeyas of nayutas (these are terms for eons and large figures) of inexpressible eons ago, a Buddha named All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One appeared in the world. There are three types of knowledge: All Wisdom, Wisdom of Various Dharmas, and All Modes of Wisdom. All Wisdom includes the other two types of wisdom, and is what is realized by the Thus Come One. Thus Come One is one of the ten titles of the Buddha. One layperson asked me, “Are Thus Come One Buddha and Amitabha Buddha different?” Actually, Amitabha Thus Come One, Shakyamuni Thus Come One, Medicine Master Thus Come One, all have Thus Come One as part of their name. Just because one Buddha is named Thus Come One, it does not mean another Buddha cannot have the name Thus Come One.
The Buddha has ten titles. We may have a formal name that our elders call us by, then an informal name that our peers call us by. Lion’s Roar is a title that is heard far and wide as your reputation spreads. It symbolizes a loud sound. Thus Come One is one of the Buddha’s ten titles that are derived from former names of virtuous individuals.
“Thus” refers to not having any specific location. “Come” refers to manifestations when responses and the Way intertwine. These make up the name “Thus Come One”. Also, “Thus Come” also means one comes from nowhere and goes nowhere. “Thus” represents the noumenon in fundamental enlightenment. “Come” is starting of wisdom of enlightenment. The Thus Come One relates the noumenon of fundamental enlightenment to the wisdom of beginning enlightenment. This is roughly what “Thus Come One” means.
One Worthy of Offerings means that he deserves offerings from heavenly beings and people. There is another name for this, and that is “the title of Worthy of Being a Field of Blessings”. There are two types of fields of blessings, one that benefits oneself and another that benefits others. The one that benefits oneself is for one to study that which is true and eliminate delusion. What does that mean? It is beneficial for us when we study the truth and eliminate delusions. Once we understand, we can then go on to teach and change others, so that they also reach the truth and end delusions; hence benefiting others.
Three, One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge. He is omniscient. “Proper” makes it different from the non-Buddhists’ “improper”. “Pervasive” is different from the Two Vehicles’ “non-pervasive”. Adherents of the Two Vehicles have certified to the noumenon of extreme emptiness rather than pervasiveness, which is distinct from the Two Vehicles. “Knowledge” makes it different from ordinary individuals who have no “Knowledge”. Proper and pervasive knowledge is omniscience. There is a title to the One of Proper and Pervasive Knowledge, which is “the title of Pervasively Knowing the Dharma Realm.” What does this title mean? As the Shurangama Sutra says, “W hy the pine is straight, why the brambles are twisted, why the goose is white, why the crow is black - I understand the reasons.” The Buddha understands fundamentally why the way these things are the way they are. He even knows the number of raindrops, even just one, beyond the Three Thousand Great Thousand Worlds. The Buddha received this title because he is omniscient, which is “Pervasively Knowing the Dharma Realm”.
One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct. Clarity is also wisdom while cultivation is blessings. Beings replete in both blessings and wisdom make the Buddha One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct. There are three types of clarity embedded in this name, and what are they? Clarity There is Clarity with the Heavenly Eye from acquiring the penetration of the Heavenly Eye . , Clarity of Past Lives—one understands everything that occurred in lives past . , and Clarity in Ending Outflows. There is also a special title to One Perfect in Clarity and Conduct, which is “the title of Results that Show Virtues at the Causal Level”. At the level of consequences, the Buddha manifests the virtuous conducts he cultivated in the past.
Well-Gone One, One Who Understands the World. Another title for this is “Wonderful Proceeding Towards Bodhi”. This title includes Wonderful Proceeding because he is good at going to all the Buddhalands throughout the ten directions. He uses provisional and clever expedients to teach and transform living beings.
Unsurpassed Knight is one of the Buddha’s ten titles too because the Buddha has ended all delusions so that he has no more delusions of view, delusions of thought, delusions of dust motes, and others. If there are delusions left to sever still, then that would be a knight who still has something to surpass. Unsurpassed Knight has an alternate title too, which is “the title of Connecting with the False and Reaching the True”. The Buddha knows that everything inside and outside his body are illusory and false; only the Buddha Vehicle is true and hence “the title of Connecting with the False and Reaching the True.”
Taming and Subduing Hero who metaphorically steers a carriage. In ancient times, carts are drawn by horses with someone whipping the horses and steering the cart. Driving a car nowadays is like steering a carriage. One evening someone said to me, “A driver is a taming and subduing hero.” What does this hero tame and subdue? He tames and subdues beings of the six realms so that they reach the Buddhas’ fruit of Bodhi. This is the greatest hero because he tames and subdues living beings so that they all become liberated from birth and death, transcending the six paths of transmigration. There is also another title to Taming and Subduing Hero, and that is, “the title of Gathering in and Transforming so They Comply with the Way”. He transforms living beings, saving all so that they cultivate according to this path.
The ninth name is Buddha. “Buddha” is half of the Sanskrit word, “Buddhaya”. Since the Chinese prefers things simple, the word became “Buddha”. The “Buddha” also goes by “the title of Perfect and Clear in the Three Enlightenments.” The three types of enlightenment are self-enlightenment, enlightenment of others, and perfection in enlightening conducts. When the three types of enlightenment are perfected, one is replete with the myriad virtues; hence one becomes a Buddha.
The last one is the World Honored One. Whether in the world or beyond the world, the Buddha is respected. This name also goes by “the title of Being the Only Honored One in the Triple Realm”. The Triple Realm consists of the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm. The Buddha is alone honored. When Shakyamuni Buddha was born, he pointed at the sky with one hand and pointed down at the earth with another hand, proclaiming, “Above and below, I alone am honored.” This is why the tenth name for the Buddha is the World Honored One and an alias by “the title of Being the Only Honored One in the Triple Realm.” There are six meanings to the name “World Honored One”: 1. Self-mastery. The Buddha is most at ease. 2. Blazes like fire. 3. Proper and adorned. 4. Universally known. Everyone knows the name, “Buddha”. 5. Auspiciousness. The name, “World Honored One” means auspiciousness. 6. Honored. The above explanations are simple explanations of ten titles to the Buddha.
Before he became a monk, he was the king of a small country and was friendly with the king of a neighboring country. Both kings practiced the Ten Wholesome Deeds and benefited beings. Because the citizens of those two neighboring countries did many bad things, the two kings made a plan using far-reaching expedients. One king vowed to quickly become a Buddha and then rescue absolutely all the other beings.
The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “The king who vowed to quickly become a Buddha is All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One. The king who vowed to keep saving beings who are suffering for their offenses rather than become a Buddha is Earth Store Bodhisattva.
Before he became a monk. . . Before this All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come left the householder’s life, he was the king of a small country and was friendly with the king of a neighboring country. He was friends with a neighboring king. Both kings practiced the Ten Wholesome Deeds, which are not killing, not stealing, not committing sexual misconduct, not being greedy, not being angry, not being deluded, not speaking harshly, not lying, not speaking frivolously, and not speaking divisively. They did these ten kinds of good deeds and benefited beings. Because all the citizens of those two neighboring countries did many bad things, the two kings held a discussion, thought of some ways and made a plan using far-reaching expedients to help their people.
One king vowed to quickly become a Buddha. One of the kings made a vow that said, “I hope I will become a Buddha soon.” What will he do once he becomes a Buddha soon? On ce he becomes a Buddha, he will then do a good job of rescuing absolutely all the other beings who are creating evil. Without exception, all evil-creating beings will be saved.
“The other king vowed, ‘I do not want to become a Buddha until I first rescue all those who are suffering for their offenses, enabling them to find peace and finally to reach Bodhi. If I do not first save all beings who create evil and bear offenses, so that they leave suffering and reach peace and happiness, and even to Buddhahood, I will never become a Buddha. I must save all beings before I become a Buddha; I will not become a Buddha if there is still one being who is not yet a Buddha.’”
The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “The king who vowed to quickly become a Buddha is the Thus Come One we just talked about, All-Knowledge-Accomplished Thus Come One. The king who vowed to keep saving beings who are suffering for their offenses rather than become a Buddha is Earth Store Bodhisattva. Who is the king who refuses to become a Buddha if there is any being not yet a Buddha? He is Earth Store Bodhisattva and that is a vow he made in the past.
“Another time, limitless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One appeared in the world. His life span was forty eons. In his Dharma-Image Age, an Arhat who had accumulated blessings from rescuing beings met a woman named Bright Eyes, who offered a meal to him once while he was teaching and transforming beings.
“‘What is your wish?’ asked the Arhat.
“Sympathizing with her, the Arhat entered samadhi to contemplate and saw that Bright Eyes’ mother had fallen into a bad destiny where she was undergoing extreme suffering. The Arhat asked, ‘Bright Eyes, what unwholesome karma did your mother create while alive that makes her now have to undergo such terrible suffering in a bad destiny?’
“Bright Eyes replied, ‘My mother enjoyed eating fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. She especially liked to fry or broil fish and turtle eggs. Every time she ate those she took thousands of lives. Oh, Venerable One, please be compassionate and tell me how she can be saved!’
“The Arhat took pity on Bright Eyes and used his skillful means. He urged Bright Eyes thus, ‘With sincere resolve, be mindful of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One and also make carved and painted images of him. When you do so, both the living and the dead will be rewarded.’
“Another time, limitless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One appeared in the world. His life span was forty eons. In his Dharma-Image Age, the Dharma Image Age after this Buddha entered nirvana, an Arhat who certified to the fruition and who had accumulated blessings to rescue beings met a woman named Bright Eyes, who offered a meal to him once while he was teaching and transforming beings.
“Sympathizing with her, the Arhat meditated, entered samadhi to contemplate and saw that Bright Eyes’ mother had fallen into a bad destiny where she was undergoing extreme suffering. The Arhat saw these states and asked, ‘Bright Eyes, what unwholesome karma did your mother create while alive that makes her now have to undergo such terrible suffering in a bad destiny, in the hells?’
“Bright Eyes replied, ‘My mother enjoyed eating fish, turtles, and other sea creatures. She did not eat only fish and turtles, what else did she eat? She especially liked to fry or broil fish and turtle eggs. She ate with an abandoned indulgence. She forgets everything else, including her life, when she has food like this in front of her. Every time she ate those she took thousands of lives. Were we to count the number of lives she took, there would be as many as billions upon billions. Oh, Venerable One, please be compassionate and tell me how she can be saved! Please think of a way to save my mother.’
“The Arhat took pity on Bright Eyes and used his skillful means. He urged Bright Eyes thus, ‘With sincere resolve, be mindful of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One and also make carved and painted images of him. When you do so, both the living and the dead will be rewarded. This way you and your mother both acquire benefits. Whether those alive or passed away experiences advantages.’
“Bright Eyes heard that, quickly renounced everything she loved, and swiftly commissioned painted images of the Buddha. Then she made offerings before them. The reverence she felt moved her to tears and she wept in grief as she beheld and bowed to the Buddha. Suddenly near the end of the night, in a dream, she saw that Buddha’s body, dazzling gold in color and as large as Mount Sumeru, emitting great light.
“Shortly thereafter, a maidservant in the house bore a son who spoke before he was three days old. Lowering his head and weeping, he said to Bright Eyes, ‘The karmic conditions we create during our lives and deaths result in retributions that we ourselves must undergo. I am your mother and have been in darkness for a long time. Since you and I parted, I have repeatedly fallen into the great hells. Upon receiving the power of your blessings, I have been reborn as a servant’s child with a short life span. Thirteen years from now, I will fall into the evil paths again. Do you have some way to free me so that I can avoid them?’
“Bright Eyes heard that Arhat teach her, to pay respects and make offerings to Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One, so she quickly renounced, exchanged or sold everything she loved the way the Brahman woman sold her house, as mentioned earlier. This woman Bright Eyes sold everything she cherished. The most precious valuables and impossible to give up things were given away or sold. And she swiftly commissioned painted images of the Buddha on paper, silk and other fabric. Then she made offerings of incense, flowers, lamps, candles, and fruits, and different kinds of food, clothing, and bedding before them. The most sincere reverence she felt moved her to tears and she wept in grief as she beheld and bowed to the Buddha. Since she knew that her mother fell into one of the evil realms and is enduring the suffering of that evil realm, she sobbed out of sadness. She took a look at the Buddha image then bowed. Suddenly near the end of the night, in a dream, she saw that Buddha’s body. It felt like a dream, though it was not a dream. Since she was extremely sincere, she experienced a state where response and the Way intertwined-- she saw a Buddha in her room. If the sutra were just to say that she saw a vision, it may seem too strange, so the sutra says that she saw a Buddha in a dream. The Buddha, dazzling gold in color and as large as Mount Sumeru, emitting great light. “He said to Bright Eyes, ‘Your mother will be born in your household before long and as soon as that infant can feel hunger and cold, he will speak. Just you wait.’
“Shortly thereafter, a maidservant in the house bore a son who spoke before he was three days old. Maidservants are usually of a lower class and has to do what their employers order. So soon, their maid gave birth to a son. Usually children start talking at the age of three or four, but this child was not yet three-days-old and can could speak. What did he say? Lowering his head as if bowing to the Buddha image and weeping, he said to Bright Eyes, ‘The karmic conditions we create during our lives and deaths result in retributions that we ourselves must undergo. We must face positive and negative consequences ourselves. I am your mother and have been in darkness devoid of light from the sun, the moon, or the stars for a long time. Since you and I parted, I have repeatedly fallen into the great hells. Upon receiving the power of your blessings, for which I am very grateful, I have been reborn as a servant’s child with a short life span. Although reincarnated as a human being, I am of a lower class. That is not so critical as I will die an early death. Thirteen years from now, I will fall into the evil paths again. Do you have some way to free me so that I can avoid them? Hurry up and think of a way to liberate me from the suffering in the evil realms!’
“When Bright Eyes heard those words, she knew without a doubt that they were her mother’s. Choked with sobs, she said to the servant’s child, ‘Since you were my mother, you should know your own past offenses. What unwholesome karma did you create that made you fall into the Evil Paths?’
“The maidservant’s son answered, ‘I am undergoing retribution for two kinds of karma: killing and slandering. Had I not received the blessings you earned to rescue me from difficulty, I would not yet be released from that karma.’
’“The maidservant’s son answered, ‘I can’t bear to speak of the ways in which beings suffer for their offenses. Even if I were to live for a hundred thousand years, I would find it hard to talk about.”
“When Bright Eyes heard that, she wept bitterly and spoke into the air, saying, ‘I vow that my mother will be released from the hells forever. At the end of these thirteen years, she will be done with her heavy offenses and will not go back to the Evil Paths. O Buddhas of the Ten Directions, with your compassion and sympathy, please listen to the vast and mighty vow that I am making for the sake of my mother. If my mother never again enters the Three Evil Paths, is never again born into low stations, and will never again be female, then here before the image of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One, I vow that from this day on, throughout millions of billions of eons I will respond to all beings who are undergoing suffering for their offenses in the hells or the Three Evil Paths of any world. I vow to rescue them from the bad destinies of the hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and the like. Only after beings with such retributions have all become Buddhas will I myself achieve Proper Enlightenment.’
“After making that vow, she clearly heard Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One say to her, ‘Bright Eyes, your own great compassion and sympathy will reach your mother through this mighty vow that you are making. My contemplation shows me that after thirteen years your mother will be done with this retribution and will be born as a Brahman with a life span of one hundred years. After that retribution, she will be born in the Land of No Concern with a life span of uncountable eons. Later she will realize the fruition of Buddhahood and save people and gods as numerous as sand grains in the Ganges.’”
Shakyamuni Buddha told Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “The Arhat whose blessings helped Bright Eyes then is now Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva. The mother of Bright Eyes is now Liberation Bodhisattva. Bright Eyes herself is now Earth Store Bodhisattva.
“When Bright Eyes heard those words from her maid’s newborn son, she knew without a doubt that they were her mother’s. She knew without a doubt that the child was formerly her mother. Choked with sobs, she could hardly speak or cry out loud. She cannot seem to laugh or cry even if she wants to. She is all choked up because she is extremely sad. Then she said to the servant’s child, ‘Since you were my mother, you should know your own past offenses. What unwholesome karma did you create that made you fall into the Evil Paths?’
“The maidservant’s son answered, ‘I am undergoing retribution for two kinds of karma: killing and slandering. She killed a lot of fish eggs because she liked boiled or fried fish and turtle eggs. This type of karma from killing is tremendous. She slandered the Triple Jewel and spoke harshly to many beings. Two types of serious offenses led her to face this type of retribution. Had I not received the blessings you earned to rescue me from difficulty, I would not yet be released from that karma. Based on the karma I created, I should not have been released from my suffering yet.’
’“The maidservant’s son answered Bright Eyes, ‘I can’t bear and find it impossible to speak of the ways in which beings suffer for their offenses. You see, some people are sitting here listening to the sutras and consider it painful; what do you think they would do were they to fall into the hells? In the face of misery, you say, “I do not want to be there to bear punishment!” That is impossible to escape. Without atoning our offenses, it would be impossible to wish out of suffering in the hells. So while undergoing some pain in the human realm, think, “Oh! This is much better than the misery in the hells; suffering in the hells is much more severe.” If you can think that way, then you will be happy wherever you are; there would be no insufferable places. You will not find pains in the legs painful, for example. You see, in the hells, ghosts stick you with a fork and drop you in a pot of oil. Is that miserable? If you say, “Gee, I cannot stand it, please do not put me in that pot of oil.” They will not listen to you; there is no favor to speak of. Is that miserable? In fact, they fry you over and over again so that you suffer more. Even if I were to live for a hundred thousand years, I would find it hard to talk about or to finish talk about such pain at once.”
“When Bright Eyes heard that, she wept bitterly. See how in the past, Earth Store Bodhisattva could do nothing but cry; others do not even have such capabilities. She sobbed and wailed loudly, ‘Oh, what do I do?’ And spoke into the air. Since there was nothing she could do, she could only speak into the air, saying, ‘I vow that my mother will be released from the hells forever. Fortunately Bright Eyes’ mother had such a filial daughter, without whom the mother could not have come out of the hells so easily because she had taken many lives and yelled at many people. These are the reasons why she suffered in the hells. Fortunately, the mother had this filial daughter who made a vow that her mother may forever be released from the suffering in the hells. At the end of these thirteen years when her life ended, she will be done with her heavy offenses and will not go back to the Evil Paths. O Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the Ten Directions, with your compassion and sympathy, please listen to the vast and mighty vow that I am making for the sake of my mother. Be my witness.
If my mother never again enters the Three Evil Paths of the hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals where they experience the pain of knives, blood, and fire. If she is never again born into low stations such as that of a servant’s family, and will never again be female, then here before the image of Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One, I vow that from this day on, throughout millions of billions of eons I will respond to all beings who are undergoing suffering for their offenses in the hells or the Three Evil Paths (the hells, the realm of hungry ghosts, and the realm of animals) of any world. I vow to rescue them from the bad destinies and the sufferings of the hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and the like. You should know, if Earth Store Bodhisattva had not made such great vows, we would probably be suffering in the hells, in the realm of hungry ghosts, or in the realm of animals too. The reason that we can be humans now all comes from this vow that Earth Store Bodhisattva made infinite eons ago; we are consequently rescued from the hells, from the realm of hungry ghosts, or from the realm of animals. Since we do not have the penetration of past lives or the penetration of the heavenly eye, we do not realize how much benefit and compassion we received from Earth Store Bodhisattva before. None of us knows the benefit and kindness he gave us. If Earth Store Bodhisattva had not made such a great vow a long time ago, we would be in tremendous danger. This is why we must be grateful to Earth Store Bodhisattva and maintain the resolve to repay his kindness. Only after beings with such retributions have all become Buddhas will I myself achieve Proper Enlightenment. I will become a Buddha only once these people become Buddhas,’
“After making that vow, she clearly heard Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One say to her. . . She did not just hear in a way that was casual, vague, or confusing as if in a dream. She clearly heard Pure-Lotus-Eyes Thus Come One tell Bright Eyes, ‘Bright Eyes, your own great compassion and sympathy for making this kind of vow delights me.’ She praises Bright Eyes, ‘You are able to make a vow that will reach your mother through this mighty vow that you are making. Who taught you? Who told you? So that you can make this great filial vow for your mother! I have never heard any being who can make such a great vow at saving all beings in order to rescue her mother. This is truly rare! This is the best. You are the finest girl. My contemplation using my Buddha Eye shows me that after thirteen years your mother will be done with this retribution and will be born as a Brahman. Since you made such a huge vow, your mother in her next life will become a Brahman woman after thirteen years of this life. The Brahmans are the pure clan of generations of individuals who cultivate purity. With a life span of one hundred years as a Brahman, she will be different then. After that retribution, she will be born in the Land of No Concern, the Land of Ultimate Bliss, with a life span of uncountable eons. Later she will realize the fruition of Buddhahood and save people and gods as numerous as sand grains in the Ganges.’”
Shakyamuni Buddha told Samadhi Self-Mastery King, “The Arhat whose blessings helped Bright Eyes then to see where her mother fell is now Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva. He was an arhat at the time Pure-Lotus-Eyes was a Thus Come One and now he is Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva. Do you know who Bright Eyes’ mother is? The mother of Bright Eyes is now Liberation Bodhisattva. Bright Eyes herself is now Earth Store Bodhisattva.
“Men and women in the future may fail to do good deeds and only do evil; may not believe in cause and effect; may indulge in sexual misconduct and false speech; may use divisive and harsh speech; and may slander the Great Vehicle. Beings with karma like that should certainly fall into bad destinies.
He has been extending his compassion and sympathy like that from distant eons onward by making vows as many as Ganges’ sands to rescue vast numbers of beings. During an eon long, long ago, this Earth Store Bodhisattva was extremely compassionate and sympathetic toward living beings as described above, so he made as many vows as the number of sand grains in the Ganges River. The number of vows is not so as small as described in the sutras, it is equivalent to infinity. He universally teaches and transforms all beings, liberating all beings.
“Men and women in the future may fail to do good deeds and only do evil. People should do no evil and devote to doing every kind of good. These people, however, do not do any act of goodness but do every kind of evil. They may not believe in cause and effect.
Yesterday we went to lecture at University of California. After the lecture, one Chinese student asked me outside, “Does Buddhism believe in cause and effect?” I said, “Yes! Not only should we believe in cause and effect but know that it is absolutely accurate. There is cause and effect whether you believe in this law or not. Let me show you an on-the-spot experiment if you do not believe in the law of cause and effect. How do we conduct this experiment? Go find someone and slap him. This person will certainly slap you back. Your slapping him is the cause; his slapping you in return is the result. You hit someone else and someone else hits you. Do you believe in this principle?” He was left speechless. Initially he had a lot of theories with which he planned to argue that there is no cause and effect, but after what I said, he was either afraid that someone will hit him or that he did not want to hit anyone, so he became a believer in cause and effect. I said hitting people is a cause. You are not supposed to hit people, but you did, thus creating a cause; consequently people turn around to hit you, creating a result. Cause and effect refers to other people being mean to you because you are mean to others; were you good to others, they would be good to you too. This is the law of cause and effect. Sow causes of goodness and you will reap fruits of goodness; sow causes of evil and you will reap fruits of evil. For instance, befriend bad people and they will turn you into a bad person; befriend good people and you will become good even if you started out being bad. Everything is about cause and effect. Do not go searching for the answer outside. Quit saying that other people are mean to me; first ask ourselves whether we are good to others. Reflect on everything and search for the answers within. Stop acting like a camera that photographs others all the time but has no idea what itself looks like.
They may indulge in sexual misconduct and false speech all the time; they may use divisive and harsh speech. We must remember not to speak divisively or harshly. What is divisive speech? We reserve one kind of expression for some people and another kind of expression for some other people. For example, we criticize B in front of A and criticize A in front of B. We make mistakes in speaking divisively and harshly. Or we create schisms among an originally harmonious group; a group disperses because of our destructions. Among the different transgressions in speaking divisively and harshly, the most critical is not to break up the harmony of the Sangha. What does that mean? As a layperson, you should not speak of the faults of novices and Bhikshus because they have received at the least, the novice precepts or the Bodhisattva precepts. You learn the Buddhadharma from Bhikshus and novices. You cannot study the Buddhadharma then wreck the Buddhadharma. Do not create disharmony in the Sangha. If you do, then you speak divisively and harshly to break up a harmonious Sangha.
Ruining a Sangha’s harmony is one of the Five Rebellious Offenses, the most serious offenses. The five are: 1. Killing one’s father; 2. Killing one’s mother; 3. Killing an arhat who has certified to the fruition; 4. Destroying a Sangha’s harmony, such as telling one monastic about another monastic’s mistakes, faults, and wrong-doings, then tell the second one about how the first one is mean, wronged you, and is jealous and obstructive. As a result, monastics do not get along. They do not live together; they live apart. This would be wrecking a Sangha’s harmony. 5. Shedding the Buddha’s blood by burning Buddha images or damaging Buddha images. Although the Buddha is not in the world now, ruining Buddha images is also considered shedding the Buddha’s blood. The above are all included in the areas of divisive speech and harsh speech. We must be particularly attentive in avoiding these problems. Making such transgressions, we fall into the hells and will never come out.
And they may slander the Great Vehicle, claiming that there is no Great Vehicle text, only Pali text. Some such crazy man came yesterday, and asked, “Is your sutra translated from Pali?” He did not even know what Pali looks like and he asked whether the text came from a Pali text. He pretends to be an expert who knows; this kind of person is most pathetic. Beings with karma like that should certainly fall into bad destinies. They will definitely fall into the Three Evil Destinies, where things are dangerous.
Chapter 5: The Names of the Hells
This is the fifth chapter called the Names of the Hells. What are the hells? Who created the hells? Jails exist in the human realm as well as the underworld. In the human realm the government builds prisons for criminals, is it the same with prisons in the hells? No, the jails are not like the ones already built and ready in the human realm so that criminals can simply be locked up. Different labels are given to forms of confinement in the hells, but they do not exist in physical form; the hells are invisible. Only when it is time for you to face your sentence do the hells appear. In other words, depending on your offense, the hells manifest as a certain type of jail. Neither people nor ghosts create this type of prisons, individual karma does. Depending on one’s karma, a certain type of hell exists for one in the underworld. The underworld is always dark; there is no sun or moon. Depending on the offenses created, a certain type of hell occurs in the hells. A hell that is realized by the offenses you accumulate is quite an ingenious and inconceivable situation. This is why hells have names but no tangible substance; a hell appears when it is time for one to face one’s offenses.
At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Humane One, for the sake of gods and dragons, those in the Fourfold Assembly, and all other beings of the present and future, please tell us the names of the hells where beings in the Saha world on the continent of Jambudvipa must suffer retributions for offenses they commit. Please also describe what happens during retributions undergone for evil deeds, so that beings in the future Dharma Ending Age will know what those retributions are.”
At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Mahasattva. . . Everyone knows Universal Worthy Bodhisattva? He rides on a white elephant with six tusks. The power of his conduct is the greatest, so he is also called Great Conduct Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. This great Bodhisattva said to Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Humane One, another name for a Bodhisattva, for the sake of gods and dragons, those in the Fourfold Assembly such as Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas, and all other beings of the present and future, please tell us the names of the hells where beings in the Saha world have to bear suffering, where beings on the southern continent of Jambudvipa must suffer retributions for offenses they commit. Please also describe what happens during retributions undergone for evil deeds, so that beings in the future Dharma Ending Age will know what those serious retributions are in the hells.”
Earth Store Bodhisattva replied, “Humane One, based on the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha and relying on your strength, great Bodhisattva, I will give a general list of the names of the hells and describe some of what happens during retributions undergone for offenses and evil deeds.
“Humane One, in eastern Jambudvipa there is a mountain range called Iron Ring. That mountain range is pitch black because the light of the sun and moon does not shine on it. A great hell named Ultimately Relentless is located there. Another hell is called Great Avici. There is also a hell called Four Horns, a hell called Flying Knives,
Having heard Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s request, Earth Store Bodhisattva replied, “Humane One, the compassionate individual that you are, based on the awesome virtues and spiritual power of the Buddha and relying on your strength, great Bodhisattva, I will briefly give a general list of the names of the hells and describe some of what happens during retributions undergone for offenses and evil deeds. Beings face retribution for offenses that they create. Creating evil in the past, they face evil retribution. Doing good deeds, they face good retribution. The hells are all about undergoing evil retribution.
“Humane One,” Earth Store Bodhisattva calls out again, “in eastern Jambudvipa there is a huge mountain range called Iron Ring. That mountain range is pitch black because the light of the sun and moon does not and cannot shine on it. It is so dark, it is as if one were in a cave. A great hell that is the biggest and tallest named Ultimately Relentless is located there. The Relentless Hell is one of the five types of relentless hells described earlier. Another hell is called Great Avici. Avici is Sanskrit for relentless. The one before is Ultimately Relentless, this one is Relentless.
There is also a hell called Four Horns, Four Corners or Four Directions, which are east and west, north and south. This hell is called Four Horns because it is like there are four bull horns in there, when beings enter this hell, they come in contact with these horns, dying and becoming born, becoming born then dying.
There is also a hell called Flying Knives. In this hell, knives from nowhere will come flying at hell-beings. They may get their heads chopped off, get their arms axed, injure their bodies, bleed a lot, and die from stabs. They are stabbed so that their body hurts, their legs hurt. Just when their pain seems to alleviate, knives come flying and stabbing at them again. They hurt again and again. This is the hell of Flying Knives, which is most miserable.
. . . a hell called Fiery Arrows, a hell called Squeezing Mountains, a hell called Piercing Spears, a hell called Iron Carts, a hell called Iron Beds, a hell called Iron Oxen, a hell called Iron Clothing.
There is also a hell called Fiery Arrows. There are many arrows on fire in this Fiery Arrows hell. The fiery arrows in this hell are similar to the rockets that go the moon. However, the fiery arrows in this hell are extremely harsh; they are retribution for people who committed offenses.
There is also a hell called Squeezing Mountains. In this other kind of hell, people suffer severely. First the gate east of the hell opens so hell-beings start running out as if criminals escaping the penitentiary. They believe they will be free if they just run out. But they do not realize that as soon as they run out of the hells, they see two mountains which they head straight for during their getaway. But these mountains start to move and close in on them from all sides, squeezing them into bloody hamburger paddies. Not only is the eastern gate to this hell this way, the other gates in the west, north, and south are the same. Hell-beings do not realize that their escape through the open door and into the mountains is still within the hells. Why? It is because these beings’ offense karmas are so profound that they have to face their retribution anywhere they go, experiencing intolerable torture. Why would individuals have to experience the consequences of squeezing mountains? They harshly oppressed others with authority, for example, so they face this retribution after death.
There is also a hell called Piercing Spears. Arrows are thinner and smaller than spears. The head of spears are large enough to stab people to death. In this Piercing Spears hell, spears may be coming from the front, back, left or right. People’s bodies are punctured with many holes, as if they have many windows and doors to their body. This is the Piercing Spears hell, which is difficult to bear as well.
Furthermore, there is a hell called Iron Carts. In this kind of hell, iron carts drive over hell-beings. In one of Shakyamuni Buddha’s former lives, he had the power of the heavenly eye, so he saw how harsh beings in this hell suffered as iron carts rode over their bodies. He was moved with compassion and thought, “I will definitely cultivate to become a Buddha so that in the future I will save beings in the hells.” This was one of the earlier compassionate resolves of Shakyamuni Buddha.
There is also a hell called Iron Clothing. People who received the precepts but broke them will fall into the Iron Clothing hell. What is this hell like? There are lots of knives with hooks in this hell that poke at these hell-beings and rip apart their clothes. Unclothed, a set of metallic attire comes from the sky so that the offenders will wave their hands and say, “Come, come, clothes!” The clothing comes over when they wave them over. When they wave their hands, these clothes arrive. Hell-beings are wrapped with these metal pieces, all of which are scorched red-hot. When they wear these clothes, they burn themselves so that their body is burnt and turn into ash. Once they turn into ash, the clever wind blows over and beings that disappeared appear in physical form again. This is the Iron Clothing hell.
. . . a hell called Thousand Blades, a hell called Iron Asses, a hell called Molten Copper, a hell called Embracing Pillar, a hell called Flowing Fire, a hell called Plowing Tongues, a hell called Hacking Heads, a hell called Burning Feet, a hell called Pecking Eyes, a hell called Iron Pellets. . .
. . . a hell called Thousand Blades occurs because of the numerous amount of offense karmas that took place. People who fall into this hell will have millions and millions of knives rain on them. These knives are like raindrops that chop off offenders’ heads, slice their bodies into pieces, split their bones and flesh into smithereens, and then they die. After death, a type of clever wind blows over and they live again to endure this type of offense.
There is also a hell called Embracing Pillar. I explained this during my Shurangama Sutra lectures, but people have forgotten I am afraid. The Embracing Pillar hell is where people embrace this fiery hot copper pillar and cannot unglue themselves from it. Why do people fall into this type of hell? It is because they are licentious. Both lustful males and females engage in too many lewd acts in their lifetimes so they fall into this Embracing Pillar hell after death. A man who falls into this hell will see a copper pillar as his most beloved female and will go over and hold her, but the fiery hot copper pillar will burn and kill him. The clever wind blows over though and he lives again. The embrace, burning, and death occur again and again. Males see this pillar as females where as females see this pillar as their favorite man so they cannot help but run over and hug. When they do, they are burned into ash by the fire of this copper pillar. When the clever wind blows over them, they are live again. Then they again run over to embrace the pillar, then die again and then live again to embrace again. What makes them embrace and suffer, suffer then die, die only to live again to suffer? Did someone preplan this? No, this hell is created by their karma of lust. Whether male or female, being in love is not a good thing. If you walk down the wrong path, you will fall into the hell of Embracing Pillar, which is most miserable.
There is also a hell called Plowing Tongues. Some people die to become evil ghosts with tongues that are hooked several yards up in the air so that their tongues are long, large, and swollen. Their tongues are then cut and plows used to loosen soil swing back and forth on their tongues, marking up many grooves. Why do they suffer this kind of retribution? It is because when these people were alive they slandered the Triple Jewel, spoke of their offenses, and wrecked the Triple Jewel. For example, they say that you should not believe in the Buddha because the Buddha is nonexistent and unreal. “The Buddhadharma lies and monks lie with the Buddhadharma. Don’t believe them!” Also for the four evils of the mouth: 1. harsh speech means scolding people. 2. divisive speech means telling A what is wrong with B, then telling B what is wrong with A, so that A and B do not get along and fight all day. 3. frivolous speech means what a man will continue to say about a woman, “Look, isn’t she pretty? How about this one and that one?” They are always talking about women. Women, on the other hand, keep talking about men. That man is not bad, this and that. In general, frivolous speech refers to improper and lewd speech. 4. false speech is about dishonesty, lies. People fall into the Plowing Tongues hell due to the four evils of frivolous speech, false speech, harsh speech, and divisive speech.
There is also a hell called Hacking Heads. These beings’ heads are hacked off because they killed living beings while they were alive. Since they smashed living beings’ heads to pieces, they fall into the Hacking Heads hell after death. For instance, killing bugs, birds or animals with a blow to their head using a stick or something, or smashing centipedes and millipedes as soon as you see such venomous creatures. Having injured too many lives, they fall into the Hacking Heads hell. In general, whatever offense karma you create in your lifetime, you will face its retribution after death.
There is also a hell called Burning Feet. This does not mean that there is a fire that burns your feet, but that anywhere you walk appears fires that burn your feet. Your feet are like wax that act as kindling wherever you go, or like candles that start fires wherever you are. This is why this hell is called Burning Feet.
There is also a hell called Pecking Eyes where there are many vultures that eat impurities in particular. These eagles will fly to the offender and grab them by their shoulders with their iron claws. The victims try to knock off the vultures but cannot do it. The vultures will then turn their heads and peck the victims’ eyes. They injure the eyes, drink the liquid in the eye sockets, then drink the marrow in the offenders’ brains. Once these beings die, the vultures fly off. When the offenders live again, they fly back.
There is also a hell called Iron Pellets that are as large as metal eggs. In this hell, these pellets smack you on the head and body, from all four sides. Once these people are dead, they do not attack; but once they return to life, they recur.
Earth Store Bodhisattva said, “Humane One, within the Iron Ring are endless hells like that. There is also the Hell of Crying Out, the Hell of Pulling Tongues, the Hell of Dung and Urine, the Hell of Copper Locks, the Hell of Fire Elephants, the Hell of Fire Dogs, the Hell of Fire Horses, the Hell of Fire Oxen, the Hell of Fire Mountains, the Hell of Fire Rocks, the Hell of Fire Beds, the Hell of Fire Beams, the Hell of Fire Eagles, the Hell of Sawing Teeth, the Hell of Flaying Skin, the Hell of Drinking Blood, the Hell of Burning Hands, the Hell of Burning Feet, the Hell of Hanging Hooks, the Hell of Fire Rooms, the Hell of Iron Cells, and the Hell of Fire Wolves.
. . . a hell called Quarreling where many ghosts come and scold you all day long, criticizing you all the time. Why do people fall into this kind of hell? It is because they enjoy arguing with others so they fall into this type of hell.
Earth Store Bodhisattva said to Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, “Humane One, within the Iron Ring are endless hells like that described above. Though I have listed so many names to these hells, there is actually an infinite number of them.
There is also the Hell of Crying Out. There are eight cold hells and eight hot hells. The fourth hell out of the eight cold hells is the Hell of Crying Out or the Hell of Loud Crying Out where screaming and yelling occur constantly. The Hell of Pulling Tongues where people’s tongues are pulled out in particular. The Hell of Dung and Urine where beings eat excrement when hungry and drink urine when thirsty. The Hell of Copper Locks where beings seem to be locked inside and cannot get out. The Hell of Fire Elephants, the Hell of Fire Dogs that emit smoke, the Hell of Fire Horses, the horses are on fire, the Hell of Fire Oxen, the Hell of Fire Mountains, the Hell of Fire Rocks that smash you and press you under, the Hell of Fire Beds, the Hell of Fire Beams, the Hell of Fire Eagles that eat people’s eyes then fly away, the Hell of Sawing Teeth, the Hell of Flaying Skin, the Hell of Drinking Blood, the Hell of Burning Hands, the Hell of Burning Feet, the Hell of Hanging Hooks, the Hell of Fire Rooms that trap you inside, the Hell of Iron Cells, and the Hell of Fire Wolves.
“Each of those hells contains lesser hells numbering from one, two, three, four, to hundreds of thousands. There are larger hells and smaller hells. In each large hell, there may be one, two, three or four smaller hells, or hundreds of thousands. Each of those lesser hells has its own distinct name.”
Chapter VI: The Thus Come One’s Praises
At that time the World Honored One emitted a great bright light from his entire body, totally illuminating Buddhalands as many as grains of sand in millions of billions of Ganges Rivers. His strong voice reached all the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas in those Buddhalands, as well as the gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits, humans, non-humans, and others, as he said, “Listen today, as I praise Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, who displays inconceivable awesome spiritual strength and compassionate power throughout the ten directions in rescuing and protecting beings who are suffering for offenses they have committed. After I pass into tranquility, all of you Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas and all of you gods, dragons, ghosts, spirits, and others should use vast numbers of expedient means to protect this sutra and to cause all beings to attain the bliss of Nirvana.”
After that was said, a Bodhisattva named Universally Expansive rose in the assembly, placed his palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, “We are now about to witness the World Honored One praising Earth Store Bodhisattva’s inconceivably great awesome spiritual virtue. We hope that the World Honored One will also aid beings in the future Dharma-Ending Age by telling us about how Earth Store Bodhisattva benefits people and gods and about the workings of cause and effect. That will help the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division, along with beings of the future, to receive the Buddha’s teaching respectfully.”
Chapter six, the Thus Come One’s Praises. Like we said many times before, the Thus Come One is the Buddha. Praises include compliments. This is chapter six. The Earth Store Sutra contains 13 chapters. This is an explanation of chapter six, there are seven more chapters.
At that time the World Honored One emitted a great bright light from his entire body , an indication of the profound importance of the Earth Store Sutra. Totally illuminating Buddhalands as many as grains of sand in millions of billions of Ganges Rivers is this light. His strong voice isas loud as thunder or a lion’s roar. Most people are delighted with and respectful because of the Buddha’s voice. For example, some people lecture on the sutras with a voice that is not very loud and clear so that listeners get drowsy and do not wish to listen to any more. A Lecturer’s voice must be crystal clear like a copper bell, even if audience members are sleepy, they will wake up because of such strong and clear voice. People are happy with the Buddha’s voice so they do not fall asleep; the more they listen the happier they are. They hear one line and want to hear the next line, as if they are eating something delicious and do not wish to let go. Although the Buddha’s voice is loud, it is not the same as when we yell so that our voice sounds scratchy, volatile, or fuzzy. People hear the Buddha’s strong and clear voice and enter the Samadhi of Hearing the Dharma. Unfortunately we were not born during the time of the Buddha and do not get to hear the Buddha’s voice. So sorry, it is too bad!
. . . reached all the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas in those Buddhalands, as well as the gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits, humans, non-humans, and others, as he said, “Listen today, as I praise Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, who displays inconceivable awesome spiritual strength and compassionate power throughout the worlds in the ten directions in rescuing and protecting beings who are suffering for offenses they have committed. Why do I praise Earth Store Bodhisattva? It is because Earth Store Bodhisattva’s compassion is inconceivable; his wisdom is inconceivable; his awesome might is inconceivable; and the wonderful uses of his spiritual powers are all inconceivable. He vows to save beings who have committed offenses in particular. He believes that people who do not commit offenses do not suffer so much. People who commit offenses suffer too much; they suffer the worst suffering among all types of sufferings.
The Buddha said, “After I pass into tranquility, all of you Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas and all of you gods, dragons, ghosts, spirits, and others should use vast numbers of expedient means to protect this Earth Store Sutra. See, while we are explaining the Earth Store Sutra, the eightfold pantheon of gods, dragons, etc., as well as great Bodhisattvas are all here providing protection! And to cause all beings to attain the bliss of Nirvana: permanence, bliss, true self, and purity.”
After that was said, a Bodhisattva named Universally Expansive rose in the assembly, placed his palms together respectfully, and said to the Buddha, “We are now about to witness the World Honored One praising Earth Store Bodhisattva’s inconceivably great awesome spiritual virtue. I see now that the World Honored One is about to praise Earth Store Bodhisattva for his many inconceivable, mighty spiritual virtues like those mentioned earlier. We hope that the World Honored One will also aid beings in the future Dharma-Ending Age by telling us about how Earth Store Bodhisattva benefits people and gods and about the workings of cause and effect. That will help the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division, along with beings of the future, to receive the Buddha’s teaching respectfully.”
At that time, the World Honored One said to the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, and to all those in the fourfold assembly, “Listen attentively, listen attentively. I will briefly describe to you how Earth Store Bodhisattva’s virtuous deeds keep benefiting people and gods.”
At that time, the World Honored One said to the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, and to all those in the fourfold assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas and others such as the eightfold division of gods, dragons, and others: “Listen attentively, listen attentively. Think it over carefully and listen! Pay attention! Do not be casual but listen especially attentively. I will briefly describe to you how Earth Store Bodhisattva’s virtuous deeds keep benefiting people and gods. I will now briefly describe Earth Store Bodhisattva for all of you in the great assembly about the blessed and virtuous deeds he does to help humans and celestial beings.”
What are blessed and virtuous deeds? According to one article called “Great Standards” in the Book of History that contains nine sections that explains five types of blessings: the first type of blessing is called blessings and longevity. What are blessings? Blessings means being very much at ease with everything. Longevity means a long life and not a short life. One is shone upon by the stars of blessings, prosperity, and longevity. Blessings are natural so that you are very much at ease. Prosperity could be one’s monthly income from being a government official. Lord Longevity, or Son of the South Pole in China, is mostly bald and wears a long, white beard. He is said to be the Immortal Man of South Pole in Taoism. His head contains three volumes of celestial texts, so he knows everything. He is the elderly Prosperity star.
The second type of blessing is affluence and nobility. The third type refers to a healthy and safe body. The fourth type means enjoying cultivating virtues and doing good deeds. With this type of blessings, one is willing to do what is virtuous. The fifth type of blessing is a peaceful passing.
There are also five kinds of virtues: mild-mannered, kind, respectful, frugal, and yielding. Who has these five kinds of virtues? Confucius. What are the five? The first is mild-mannered, neither too cold nor too hot. Too cold, one is like the silent and stoic Lord Guan all the time. The second virtue is kindness. The third type of virtue is respect, always respectful toward others without slighting others. The fourth type is frugality and simplicity. One does not waste any material resources. For example, one usually eats five bowls of rice but reduces one’s intake to three bowls, leaving the other two bowls for those who are starving. One maintains a simple lifestyle. “One serves oneself a simple and restricted diet; one treats guests without letting the meal linger on.” We must try to save on what we use, what we wear, what we eat, what we live in so that none of it is excessive. The most important thing is frugality. The fifth type of virtue is yielding. Do not rush forward to fight for anything. Yield means letting other people be number one. Let other people enjoy the good things and pick up bad things ourselves. This is yielding. Politely yield. These are the five virtues.
Speaking of yielding, Kong Rong at the age of four knew to yield his pear. Kong Rong was someone before the Three Kingdoms period in China. He was in a real high political office. When he was four years old, some guests brought a gift basket (made out of bamboo) of pears for his family. The adults told him to get a pear and what does he do? He picks the smallest one. The guests ask, “Why don’t you pick a big one? Why do you pick such a small pear for yourself?” He said, “I am the youngest, I should eat a small one. My older brothers are older than I am, so they should eat the big ones.” He yielded the bigger pears for his brothers and took the smallest one for himself. Later he reached a very high office. During the Han Dynasty, Huang Xiang at the age of nine knew to warm his parents’ bed. Every night at bedtime, he would go and sleep on his parents’ bed so that it is warm before he goes to sleep on his own bed. He shows his filiality by warming up the bed, which is a type of virtuous conduct. The Five Virtues are about being mild-mannered, kind, respectful, frugal, and yielding.
The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, “If, in the future, good men or women, upon hearing Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva’s name, place their palms together, praise him, bow to him, or gaze at him in worship, they will overcome thirty eons’ worth of offenses. Universally Expansive, if good men or women gaze upon and bow but once to painted or drawn images of the Bodhisattva or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, gold, silver or bronze, they will be reborn one hundred times in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Destinies. If their blessings in the heavens come to an end and they are born in the human realm, they will become national leaders who will suffer no loss of benefits.
“There may be women who dislike having female bodies. Suppose they wholeheartedly make offerings to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva, such as paintings or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, brass, iron or other materials. If they continually make offerings day after day without fail, of flowers, incense, food, drink, clothing, colored silks, banners, money, jewels, and other items, then when those good women finish their current female retributions, throughout thousands of millions of eons they will never again be born in worlds where there are women, much less be one, unless they choose to through the strength of their compassionate vows, in order to liberate beings. Based on the strength of their offerings to Earth Store Bodhisattva and the power of their meritorious virtues, they will not be born with female bodies for hundreds of thousands of eons.
The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Universally Expansive, “If, in the future, good men or women who received the Five Precepts and practice the Ten Good Deeds, upon hearing Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva’s name, place their palms together when they see an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva, praise him saying that Earth Store Bodhisattva is a real great Bodhisattva who is truly compassionate, uses his spiritual powers in wonderful ways. He is really incredible. Or they bow to him, or gaze at him in worship. They may not wish to leave the image of Earth Store Bodhisattva that they see. They stay in place to look, forgetting to eat or anything else. This is similar to someone being infatuated with something and forgets everything else. They will overcome thirty eons’ worth of offenses. Universally Expansive, if good men or women who received the Five Precepts and practice the Ten Good Deeds gaze upon and bow but once to painted or drawn images of the Bodhisattva Earth Store or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, gold, silver or bronze, they will be reborn one hundred times in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Destinies. With the merit of bowing to Earth Store Bodhisattva, they will never fall into the evil destinies. If their blessings in the heavens come to an end and they are born in the human realm, they will become national leaders who will suffer no loss of such major benefits. People who are kings now bowed to Earth Store Bodhisattva before; presidents of nations had some merit from the past too.
“There may be women who dislike having female bodies. Do not be satisfied with having a female body because the female body is full of trouble. First guest-like objects come, then host-like objects come a few days later. Isn’t that so much trouble? Women may cry for no reason all of a sudden, smile for no reason all of a sudden, get angry for no reason all of a sudden, and then become distressed for no reason all of a sudden. Isn’t that so much trouble? Why is a female body so troublesome? I am not saying this to make you hate the female body so that you will leave the householder’s life and become a Bhikshu or Bhikshuni. The female body is really so much trouble, that is why some women do not want to be women. Why be a woman? Let us study this, it is because female habits such as envy, obstructionism, greed for petty gain, and vanity etc. are so ingrained. They become women in future lives as a result. However, if you were to respect Earth Store Bodhisattva, then all these problems dissolve. If you do not resolve these issues, then women’s five obstructive tendencies and ten evils are no fun.
What are the females’ five obstructive tendencies? The first obstruction is that women cannot become a Great Brahma Heaven King in this lifetime. Why? Great Brahma Heaven Kings become accomplished in their cultivation through pure conduct. The female body is mostly impure, so they cannot become Great Brahman Heaven Kings. The second obstruction: women cannot become Lord Shakra, the lord of the heavens. You wonder, “Didn’t a woman become the lord of the Thirty-Three Heavens?” Actually, she went from a woman to a man. Lord Shakra does not have very much desire. Women tend to have more lust, so they cannot become gods. The third obstruction for women is that they cannot become demon kings, which is best. The reason for this is that demon kings are tough and firm while women are very weak. Sometimes they cannot take care of themselves so that when certain things happen, they have to look for help. The fourth obstruction for women is that women cannot be Wheel Turning Sage Kings. There are Gold Wheel Sage Kings, Silver Wheel Sage Kings, Iron Wheel Sage Kings, and Copper Wheel Sage Kings. Why cannot one become a Wheel Sage King in the body of a woman? It is became Wheel Turning Sage Kings are most compassionate and kind. They teach people to practice the Five Precepts and the Ten Good Deeds. Women tend to be less compassionate and more envious; consequently they cannot become Wheel Turning Sage Kings. The fifth obstruction for women is that they cannot become Buddhas. Since the body of Buddhas comes with the myriad virtues while the female body is full of evil, such as jealousy, obstructive tendencies, and pettiness, a heart the size of sesame. This is why women in their bodies cannot become Buddhas.
Although women experience these five obstructions, if they can be free of jealousy, lust, and weakness, all the evils and tainted thoughts, then there is still hope for women to turn into men. Shariputra, for example, said that Dragon Girl cannot become a Buddha, so she took here favorite pearl that she cannot possibly give up and gave it to the Buddha. The Buddha accepted her pearl. She explained, “I can become a Buddha now. The Buddha accepted the pearl I offered him. Is this fast?” Shariputra responded, “It is very fast.” She said, “The speed at which I become a Buddha is as fast as the speed at which I offered this pearl to the Buddha.” After saying this, she became a Buddha immediately indeed. Women should not give up on themselves and lose hope because of these Five Obstructions. They should only be afraid that they are not bold enough in their resolves. Were they to bring forth their resolves boldly, they can become Buddhas too. For instance, the Dragon Girl offered her favorite pearl and became a Buddha immediately.
Now let me briefly explain women’s Ten Evils. I will not explain them in too much detail because of the time constraint. The first evil is that parents are unhappy that the newborn is a female; they would be happy if the baby were a male. Although not all parents are like this, most countries share this same attitude of favoring males over females. Girls leave a poor impression on their parents as soon as they are born. The second is that parents are not so interested in raising daughters. The third is that women are often afraid and shy. Conversely, men are not afraid of being embarrassed. The fourth is that parents worry about their daughter’s marriage. Americans are different though, they do not care. You do whatever you want. The trends in countries such as China, for example, are that Chinese parents worry about what kind of husband their daughter will have. The fifth is that daughters will definitely leave their parents. The sixth is that women are afraid of their husbands; they are very cautious about their husbands’ emotions. A wife is happy if her husband is happy; a wife trembles in fear if her husband gets angry. The seventh is that giving birth is difficult and scary. The eighth is that people will blame and criticize a girl’s parents for her meanness and debauchery. If a daughter does fine, okay, but if she goes awry then her parents are affected. The ninth is that a woman’s husband may order her about and restrain her with many rules. If she does not observe such rules, he may divorce her. Is that a hassle? This is when she is young, when she is older, she faces the tenth evil of being slighted by her children and grandchildren. Her offspring may think, “Why does she not die, she is already so old!” At that stage, even her children yell at her. Isn’t that sad? So women are replete with trouble. The above are the ten kinds of evils. There are actually twenty more, but we cannot finish telling them.
What should women who detest their impure female bodies do? Suppose they wholeheartedly make offerings to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva such as paintings. The reason why I requested a drawing of Earth Store Bodhisattva here is that this helps women who do not wish to have a female body anymore. Or images made of clay, stone, lacquer, brass, iron or other materials. If they continually make offerings day after day without fail, of flowers, incense, food, drink, clothing, colored silks, banners, money, jewels, and other items, then when those good women finish their current female retributions, throughout thousands of millions of eons they will never again be born in worlds where there are women. What kind of a world is a world without women? It is the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss. Much less be one, unless they choose to through the strength of their compassionate vows, in order to liberate beings. The only exception would be if they make the vow that “I would be willing to be a woman to teach and transform living beings.” Perhaps there some among you who made vows of being a woman to save living beings. Although as women now you do not wish to be women, but you became women because of the power of some compassionate vows. One example of this is the Buddha’s mother, Lady Maya. She plays about the human realm in the Great Illusion Samadhi. She vowed that she will be the mother to every Buddha who is born in this world. Among the one thousand Buddhas, Shakyamuni Buddha is the fourth. Lady Maya is the mother of all one thousand Buddhas; this is her vow. Another example is Guanyin Bodhisattva, who is originally neither man or woman, but he knows that everybody likes beautiful women so he appears as a very beautiful woman to save living beings in the Saha World. All of you should emulate Guanyin Bodhisattva and save beings and not be converted by living beings. How do I mean? Saving living beings means making living beings leave suffering and attain bliss. Avoid running into the sea of suffering and be turned by the tides because you have no Samadhi; instead of living beings you are involved in romance and infatuated with love. Although Guanyin Bodhisattva appears as woman, she does not dwell on love. He wants to save living beings because he wants to save living beings out of the genuine wish to protect and rescue. She wanted to be a woman to save and liberate beings. Otherwise, based on the strength of their offerings to Earth Store Bodhisattva and the power of their meritorious virtues, they will not be born with female bodies for hundreds of thousands of eons.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, some women may have imperfect features or be prone to sickness. Disliking those problems, they can sincerely gaze at and bow to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva with sincere resolve for even just a few minutes, and consequently, throughout millions of future eons of rebirth, they will continually be endowed with full and perfect features. If those women whose features are currently imperfect do not dislike having female bodies, then throughout millions of billions of lives they will always be born as women of royal lineage, or will marry into royalty, or will become daughters of prime ministers, or women in prominent families, or daughters of great elders. They will be of upright birth and full-featured. They will receive such blessings from having sincerely beheld and worshipped Earth Store Bodhisattva.
“Moreover, Universally Expansive, let me repeat, some women may have imperfect features or be prone to sickness. How come some women are really beautiful and some are really ugly? How come some are very healthy and some are often ill? Ten kinds of evil karma make people ugly, and what are these ten type of evil karma? 1. They get angry easily. They enjoy getting angry, one of the twenty afflictions. Most women get angry easily, though there are exceptions. Some get angry over a needle or a thread; some especially love getting angry. 2. They enjoy being skeptical and resentful. She doubts everything and resents everyone for not doing her right. 3. They like to lie and delude people so that they do not know what to do. 4. They enjoy disturbing living beings. 5. They do not truly love and respect her parents. Some may, but most do not.
6. They are not respectful at places with sages, worthy ones, and good spirits. Sages would be, for example, arhats who cultivated the Buddhadharma and certified to the fruition. 7. They, not all women, but some women, rob sages and worthy ones for the land, assets, and property that they need. 8. They may extinguish the lights before the Buddhas in Buddhist stupas and temples. Very few women probably actually do this. But this is one action that leads to being ugly. 9. They slander and look down on ugly people, saying, “Hey, that person is so ugly!” They are condescending so they end up being ugly themselves. We do not realize that there is a mirror in our inherent nature that reflects our condescension toward someone’s ugly looks; we become even ugly than that person in another life. 10. They enjoy learning all evil conducts and improper behavior. The above ten types of evil karma are the reasons for experiencing the retribution of ugliness.
There are also ten reasons for frequent illnesses. What are these ten types? 1. They enjoy beating all beings or any being they see. This is the first cause of the retribution of many illnesses. 2. They encouraged others to beat people, or even dogs, cats, or rats. Encouraging others to beat children or any being will result in illnesses. 3. They praise the means if hurting living beings, which led to the retribution of their many illnesses. 4. What do you say? They are delighted when they see beating occur. It is fun for them to watch; they are happier with this than movies. 5. They are happy when they see sick people. “Ha, excellent, they are sick.” Not only are they not sympathetic, they are very happy when they see people sick. 6. They are unhappy when they see people recover from their illness. As a result, they experience the retribution of facing many illnesses in future lives. 7. They give medicine to sick persons, but what kind of medicine? They do not give medicine that cures that particular sickness. For instance, they give someone with a headache a cure for stomach aches. They even try to earn a good reputation, saying, “See! I gave them medicine”, even though it is not the cure for the patient’s illnesses. 8. They grow jealous at the sight of a patient being treated by a doctor. 9. They are happy to see sick individuals and wish that these people will always be tortured by illness. 10. They enjoy eating. Before they even digest their food, they eat more. They enjoy eating nonstop. Due to these ten kinds of evil karma, they face the retribution of many illnesses.
Ugliness and sicknesses result from these twenty kinds of evil karma. Without committing these twenty kinds of evil karma, they will not be ugly or sick. What should they do? Disliking those problems, they can sincerely gaze at and bow to images of Earth Store Bodhisattva with sincere resolve for even just a few minutes, in a matter of a meal’s time, and consequently, throughout millions of future eons of rebirth, they will continually be endowed with full and perfect features. What are full and perfect features? Eyes look like eyes; ears look like ears. You say, “How can eyes not look like eyes?” For instance, most people have longer-looking eyes, but someone has square eyes; most ordinary people’s ears are long and look like shoe-shaped gold, but someone has ears like knives; also someone’s nostrils are turned out. In terms of physiognomy, someone with upturned nostrils does not have much blessings. Do not be friends with people with eyes that are triangular shaped like apricots; you will not experience too many advantages being friends with them. A certain Dharma Master, for example, openly sabotaged me after I helped him out a lot in Hong Kong. I do not blame him, but he later died of cancer. Before he passed away, he could not let go of his face and asked to sit in a crock pot like Dharma Master Cihang (Kind Boat). He said to open the crock three years later, if the body is still intact, then paste gold on it. However, before the next day, his head already sank. Someone told me that people with skills will sit upright no matter how long it has been since their death. His head lowered down the next day and he had wanted to earn reputation and asked his students to open up his crock pot three years later. His students never dared to because they know what this man with upturned nostrils is unreliable.
Also, it is good for men to have large mouths but not good for women. This is a difference between men and women. We can tell when someone will enjoy good fortune by looking at their features. We can tell someone who succeeds in everything at a young age, in their prime, and in their old age. With knowledge that has existed in China, one can tell whether someone will be accomplished in the future by looking at him. Someone with full and perfect features is successful in everything. Archbishop Yu Bin, for example, has very fine features where he enjoys the best luck in his later years. You might notice how his features, be it eyes, nose, or mouth, are very much symmetrical. His physiognomy is about blessings and virtue. He went astray though; had he been a Buddhist, he would have been an incredible Dharma Master. The retribution of full and perfect features come from bowing to the Buddhas, reciting the Buddha’s name, or bowing to a certain Bodhisattva.
If those ugly women whose features are currently imperfect do not dislike having female bodies, although they are ugly, they still enjoy being women, then throughout millions of billions of lives they will always be born as women of royal lineage. They may become daughters to national leaders; furthermore, their features are perfect and beautiful from bowing to some image of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Or they will marry into royalty, such becoming queen or first lady, or will become daughters of prime ministers or high ranking politicians, or women in prominent families, or daughters of great and affluent elders. They will be of upright birth and full-featured. Just as I said earlier, it is imperfect when the eyes are very beautiful while the nose is not so nice; it is imperfect when the nose is beautiful but the eyes are not so nice; it is imperfect when both the eyes and nose are nice but the ears are not so nice, they do not match; it is imperfect where one ear is bigger than the other, one ear is smaller than the other, the nose is on the side of the face, or the mouth is connected to the nose so that you cannot tell the nose and the mouth apart. Perfect features means they eyes are nice, the ears are nice, the nose is nice, the mouth is nice, and the face is nice too. They are really beautiful, why? They receive such blessings from having sincerely beheld and worshipped Earth Store Bodhisattva.
Chapter 7: Benefiting the Living and the Dead
At that time, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I see that every single movement or stirring of thought on the part of beings of Jambudvipa is an offense. Beings tend to use up any wholesome benefits they accrue, and many of them end up retreating from their initial resolve. If they encounter evil conditions, they magnify them with every thought. They are like people trying to carry heavy rocks while walking through mud. Each step becomes more difficult and the rocks more cumbersome as their feet sink deeper. If they meet a mentor, he may be strong enough to lighten or even totally remove their burdens. Helping them thus, the mentor will then advise them to stay on solid ground and be mindful never to go back into that treacherous path.
At that time, while the seventh chapter on Benefiting the Living and the Dead is being explained. Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I see that every single movement or stirring of thought on the part of beings of Jambudvipa is an offense. What do beings of Jambudvipa think about? They think about that which is deviant, that which involves lust, that which they are greedy for, and that which they are selfish about. They are jealous and obstructive. “When someone is better than me, I am jealous. For example, being jealous of someone more intelligent than me; or when someone is worse than me, I look down on them, thinking they are less than me, which is really stupid.” We do not promote stupid individuals and are jealous of those who are wise. The right thing to do is to teach deluded individuals so that they become wise and intelligent. But people refuse to act this way. This is why every movement or stirring of thought is nothing but an offense. We do not act like Bodhisattvas, who are happy when other people are better than us; we respect them more instead of being jealous. We try to think of ways to make those who are worse than me on par with me; this would be the resolve of Bodhisattvas. Since we did not develop resolves like Bodhisattvas, all these thoughts are offenses.
Beings tend to use up any wholesome benefits they accrue, and many of them end up retreating from their initial resolve. They throw away all their goodness. Perhaps they did some good deeds and wish to plant some good roots, but they do not last too long. They may study the Buddhadharma for a year then quit; study for two years then stop; or retreat when encountering some state. Initially they made the resolve to study the Buddhadharma or leave the home life; but after leaving the home life for one year, two years, three years, they feel that the monastic life is no big deal. Three years of cultivation and still no enlightenment or certification to the fruition; it is probably hopeless. They retreat and return to lay life. This is for monastics. For lay Buddhists? After studying for a year, the Buddhas are before their eyes and near them; after two years of studying, the Buddhas are as far away as 18,000 miles; after three years of studying, the Buddhas are at the edge of the heavens. Most retreat from their initial resolve. Therefore it is said, “By not neglecting our initial resolve in cultivation, we have what is more than sufficient to become a Buddha.” If we did not lose our initial thought of studying the Buddhadharma or leaving the home life, then we would have become Buddhas long ago.
Monastics must think, why did we leave the home life? What is the difference between monastics and laity? For instance, laypeople like to talk all day long; whereas monastics should speak less. Monastics may say things that are useful; otherwise, it is best not to talk so much. As it is said, “Our energy scatters when we open our mouth. Gossip occurs when we move our tongue.” Gossip about right and wrong occurs when we talk a lot. Once there is right and wrong, we do not accord with the Way; when our energy scatters, we do not accord with the Way either. Cultivators must always watch over themselves and not over other people, that would be not retreating from our initial resolve. If we mostly retreat from our initially firm resolve, then we forget our resolve after a while. Many end up retreating from their initial resolves.
If they encounter evil conditions, they increase such conditions with their every thought; they certainly do not retreat from such evil conditions. I encountered many people who cultivated with utmost sincerity, but were affected by demonic states that they encountered. This is about evil conditions. In general, any condition that prevents you from cultivating is an evil condition. They magnify them with every thought. Cultivation requires the gathering of Bodhi resolve that strengthens by the day; resolve that weakens by the day is eventually lost. We usually do not increase our Bodhi resolve by the day; but we develop evil conditions that we encounter by the day.
They are like people trying to carry heavy rocks while walking through mud. This is a simile about people walking into mud, which is not so bad except that they carry a big rock or some load that may be as heavy as 200 pounds. Walking in mud, one of their feet would sink in and by the time one foot gets pulled out, the other foot sinks in so that they cannot walk anymore; they have an extremely difficult time in the mud. One foot out and the other foot is in; the other foot is out and this foot sinks in. They may still walk if they did not have anything heavy with them; but they do have an extremely heavy load on them, which is their evil karma. What is mud? It is the three evil paths.
Each step becomes more difficult; the weight of each step increases. And the rocks more cumbersome as their feet sink deeper with each step. What shall they do? If they meet a mentor, he, a Buddha, a Bodhisattva, or an extremely wise teacher may be strong enough to lighten or even totally remove their heavy burdens. Since they cannot proceed with such a load, they need a good teacher who can help them lighten their load, carry half of their load or their entire load. Helping them thus, the powerful mentor will then help them and advise them to stay on solid ground: be careful and take steady steps. And be mindful never to go back into that treacherous path. When they reach level ground, they must reflect and not walk down evil paths of the past. Avoid the mud and dangerous paths.
“World Honored One, the bad habits of beings range from minor to major. Since all beings have such habits, their families or relatives should create blessings for them when they are on the verge of dying in order to assist them on the road ahead. That may be done by hanging banners and canopies; lighting oil lamps; reciting the sacred sutras; and making offerings before the images of Buddhas or sages. Another way to assist them is by reciting the names of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Pratyekabuddhas so that the recitation of each name passes by the ear of the dying one and is heard in his fundamental consciousness.
“Suppose the evil karma created by beings were such that they ought to fall into the bad destinies. If their relatives cultivate wholesome causes on their behalf when they are close to death, then their manifold offenses can be dissolved. If relatives can further do many good deeds during the first forty-nine days after the death of such beings, then the deceased can leave the evil destinies forever, be born as humans and gods, and receive supremely wonderful bliss.
Earth Store Bodhisattva again called out, “World Honored One, the bad habits of all beings range from minor to major, possibly infinite. Since all beings have such habits, their families or relatives should create blessings for them when they are on the verge of dying in order to assist them on the road ahead. At the brink of death, their parents or family should create blessings for them, to help them proceed on to the road ahead, which maybe the hells, the human realm. Regardless of their destiny, they are benefited. That may be done by hanging banners and canopies; lighting oil lamps before the Buddhas; reciting the sacred sutras such as the EarthStore Sutra, the Vajra Sutra, and other Mahayana sutras. And help them by making offerings before the images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, arhats, or sages. Another way to assist them is by reciting the names of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Pratyekabuddhas (those who enlighten to conditions) so that the recitation of each name of the Buddha, Bodhisattva or Pratyekabuddha passes by the ear of the dying one and is heard clearly in his fundamental consciousness. Make him hear it clearly before he passes away and before his consciousness fails.
The fundamental consciousness refers to the Eighth Consciousness, which is the last to leave the body and the first to enter it. One verse goes, “The inexhaustible and vast triple treasury, in the deep pool the waves of the Seventh come blowing like wind before our eyes; permeated with seeds from the senses, the body, and the environment, it is the host who leaves last and enters first.” At the time of [[[birth]] and] death, the Eighth Consciousness leaves last and comes first. The Eighth Consciousness commands our false thinking, making it the host. The fundamental consciousness in the sutra text is referring to the Eighth Consciousness. When all the consciousnesses have dispersed and left: the eye consciousness disappears, the ear consciousness is unable to hear, the nose consciousness, the tongue consciousness, the body consciousness, the mind consciousness all disappear, except for the Eighth Consciousness. Recite the sutras, the Buddha’s name, or create some merit for someone at the point where the Eighth Consciousness has not yet left so fundamental consciousness hears it.
“Suppose the evil karma and offenses created by beings were such that they ought to fall into the bad destinies. Counting up the evil karma they did in their lives and the retribution they deserve, they will definitely fall into the Three Evil Destinies. If their relatives cultivate wholesome causes and do various good deeds on their behalf, on behalf of the dying family member, for instance, when they are close to death, then their manifold offenses as described can be completely and utterly dissolved so that nothing remains.
If relatives can further do many good deeds during the first forty-nine days after the death of such beings, then the deceased can leave the evil destinies forever, be born as humans and gods, and receive supremely wonderful bliss. The seven weeks after death, the deceased is under evaluation in the hells and their offenses have not yet been determined. Were we to do good deeds for such evil beings during that period of time, they will leave the hells, the realm of hungry ghosts, and the realm of animals forever. They will become reborn in the human realm or the heavens and enjoy extremely wondrous happiness.
“Their surviving relatives will also receive limitless benefits. Therefore, before the Buddhas, World Honored Ones, as well as before the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division, humans and non-humans, I now exhort beings of Jambudvipa to be careful to avoid harming, killing, and doing other unwholesome deeds; to refrain from worshipping ghosts and spirits or making sacrifices to them; and never to call on mountain sprites on the day of death. Why is that? Killing, harming, and making sacrifices do not even have a tiny hairbreath of power with which to benefit the deceased. Such acts only bind up the conditions of offenses so that they grow ever deeper and heavier. The deceased might have been due to increase his potential for sagehood or gain birth among humans or gods in his next life or in the future. But if his family commits offenses in his name, his good rebirth will be delayed. How much more would that be the case for people on the verge of death who during their lives had failed to plant even a few good roots. Each offender has to undergo the bad destinies according to his own karma. How could anyone bear to have relatives add to that karma? That would be like having a neighbor add s a few more things to a load of over a hundred pounds being carried by someone who had already traveled a long distance and who had not eaten for three days. If that extra weight were added, that person’s burden would become even more unbearable.
“Their surviving relatives will also receive limitless benefits. If family members of the deceased can recite the names of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Earth Store Bodhisattva, arhats, Pratyekabuddhas, or any sutra, then not only will the deceased enjoy extremely wondrous joy, but his living family members will also acquire boundless benefits. Therefore, before the Buddhas, World Honored Ones, as well as before the gods, dragons, and the rest of the eightfold division including yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, and maharagas, humans and non-humans, out of compassion I now exhort beings of Jambudvipa to be careful to avoid harming, killing, and doing other unwholesome deeds; to refrain from worshipping ghosts and spirits or making sacrifices to them; and never to call on mountain sprites and water monsters on the day of death.
Here is a verse for everyone. The verse goes, “Some confused individuals are not at peace,” which means they do things inappropriately or poorly. “They pray to spirits by sacrificing swine and sheep.” China has a deleterious custom that the West is free of. What is it? The Chinese refer to funerals as white events and marriages as red events; white events are deaths while red events are congratulatory occasions. Whether it is death or marriage, the Chinese will slaughter animals such as chickens and ducks and offer them to ghosts and spirits. Have you not seen people bring chickens to temples for local city gods? These things are inappropriate and do not accord with the Dharma. They pray before images of gods saying, “Please bless my deceased father or mother, older or younger brother so that he or she does not fall into the hells. After a few days I will kill a pig or a sheep as an offering to you. The swine or sheep is their bet. “Karma of resentment comes from killing in past lives.” Killing is a type of karma that creates resentment. Having killed in past lives, you kill again in this lifetime. Originally the resentment from killing was created in lives past; but further killing in this lifetime is like adding another layer of frost on top of snow. “Like frost added on prior snow.” The snow earlier was already cold, but now another layer of frost is added on top, so it is even colder. Frost is that which falls before a snowfall. “Do not mistake swine and sheep for what they are.” Do not be too sure that swine is swine and sheep is sheep. “For a few thousand times they have changed faces.” These pigs and lambs come from people. People can become pigs and pigs can become people. Did you notice? Those in a country who enjoy eating pork look like pigs. Those in a country who enjoy eating beef will have eyes like a cow’s. In general, people in a certain country will look like whatever they enjoy eating. For instance, the Thais do not like to eat pork or mutton, but they like eating frog meat, which is why the Thais have eyes similar to frogs. People of each country have affinities with a certain species, so we do not know how many times people have changed their faces.
“Like cart wheels that turn and return to repay.” The wheels of a car turn and turn. The Shurangama Sutra says that sheep can become people again. Since sheep can become people, why is it that pigs cannot become people? Not only can sheep and swine become people, any creature can become human by changing the shell of their body. You do not recognize them because they have changed bodies. The spirit moves from a human body to a pig’s body, from a pig’s body to a human body. They exchange houses. This is like us moving from some high-class skyscraper to wooden shacks, the area with the worst housing. As human beings, it is as if we are living in high risers; but when you become pigs or lambs, it is as if you are living in some small wooden shack, some dilapidated housing. Hence it says, “Like cart wheels that turn and return to repay.” “Seas of clouds soar the sky so that there is nowhere to hide.” Someone who does not understand considers different living beings individual species. Someone who has the power to know past lives know that all beings are connected in this great ocean or space, including places where no one sees. Imperceptible, seas of clouds soar into the sky so that there is nowhere to hide; no one can hide from cause and effect because they exist forever in space. You reap whatever effects you sow. There will be a consequence for killing. Whatever karma you did, exists, so do not bother praying to ghosts and spirits.
Why is that? Killing, harming, and making sacrifices do not even have a tiny hairbreadth of power with which to benefit the deceased. The swine and sheep you killed and harmed, the evil ghosts and deviant spirits that you worship do not help the deceased a bit. Such acts only bind up the conditions of offenses so that they grow ever deeper and heavier. The deceased might have been due to increase his potential for sagehood or gain birth among humans or gods in his next life or in the future. Someone who in this life or in the next life receives the benefits of your created merit, he or she will become reborn in the human realm or the heavens. But if his family commits offenses in his name, his good rebirth will be negatively impacted, debated about, and delayed. The deceased will be negatively affected. He goes to the hells to argue with Lord Yama. For instance, Lord Yama says, “On your behalf, your family members slaughtered and offered many pigs to ghosts and spirits.” The deceased will definitely argue, “That is none of my business. I did not tell them to kill. I cannot do anything about their killing.” They hold a debate there. Unfortunately there are no defense attorneys in the hells so they must argue for themselves. They should have been reborn in the heavens quickly but what their families did delayed them for a long time. How much more would that be the case for people on the verge of death who during their lives had failed to plant even a few good roots. Each offender has to undergo the bad destinies according to his own karma. How could anyone bear to have relatives add to that karma? So we should not kill or do evil for someone who passed away. We should be vegetarians, recite the Buddha’s name, and recite the sutras.
For instance, that would be like having a neighbor add s a few more things to a load of over a hundred pounds being carried by someone who had already traveled a long distance and who had not eaten for three days. If that extra weight were added, that person’s burden would become even more unbearable. The additional items from the neighbor all of a sudden increased his load. Originally this individual has offense karma so you should create blessings for him to reduce his offense karma but not only do you not create blessings for him, but you kill on his behalf. He was already unable to walk from carrying so much stuff and not eating for three days, and yet you now add some more items to his increasingly heavy burden. This is analogous to how someone should fall into the hells but you kill on his behalf so that his stay in the hells lengthens. We talked about how someone who is carrying a load of over a hundred pounds had traveled a long distance and had not eaten for three days. If he suddenly meets a neighbor who adds a few more things for him, then his burden becomes even heavier and unbearable. The load the man carries represents the Five Skandhas. The one hundred pound load represents the Ten Evils. Encountering a neighbor all of a sudden is symbolic of his family members who help him slaughter swine and sheep. The few more items added are his increasingly heavy offense karma. His burden becomes heavier and his offense karma becomes heavier.
“World Honored One, I see that beings of Jambudvipa will themselves receive the benefit of any good deeds they are able to do that accord with the Buddha’s teachings. That holds true even when the deeds are as small as a strand of hair, a drop of water, a grain of sand, or a mote of dust.”
After that had been said, an elder named Great Eloquence rose in the assembly. He had realized Non-Production long ago and was appearing in the body of an elder only to teach and transform those in the Ten Directions.
“World Honored One, I see that beings of Jambudvipa will themselves receive the benefit of any good deeds they are able to do that accord with the Buddha’s teachings. That holds true even when the deeds are as small as a strand of hair, a drop of water, a grain of sand, or a mote of dust.”
After that had been said, an affluent elder named Great Eloquence, because he is replete with the Four Unobstructed Eloquences: of meaning, of Dharma, of phrasing, and of delight in speaking, rose in the assembly. He had realized Non-Production, the fruition of nirvana, long ago and was appearing in the body of an extremely affluent elder only to teach and transform those in the Ten Directions.
Lord Yama and his followers, just the sound of this seems scary. Yama is a Sanskrit word that means ghost king. The Chinese or the Indians consider Southern Jambudvipa to consist of ten Yama lords in Asia. But this sutra is actually referring to more than the Yama lords in China, India, or Asia in general; it is referring to all the Yama lords throughout the universe. There is a lord Yama in each world, so there are infinitely many Yama lords. Some Yama lords come from other worlds; some come from certain planets; some come from the moon, and some come from other Iron Ring mountains. In short, where there are human beings, there are Yama lords; where there are no human beings, there are no Yama lords. How come? Without humans, there are no ghosts; without ghosts, there are no Buddhas. That would be a world without Buddhas. Since that world has no Buddhas, it has no Yama lords. The key lies with humans; without human beings, there is nothing. Human beings control the world, create everything, are in need of everything, and use everything. Without people, essentially there would be no Buddhas, no Bodhisattvas, no hungry ghosts, no animals, and not anything in this world. Everything is made by people. What made people? People are made from the mind! Not only does the mind create people, but the mind can also create heaven and earth, hungry ghosts and animals, and everything else. The ten Dharma Realms are made from the mind alone. The mind creates the ten Dharma Realms and destroys the ten Dharma Realms too. The Avatamsaka Sutra says, “Anyone who wishes to know, all Buddhas throughout the three periods of time, should contemplate the nature of the Dharma Realm– everything is made from the mind alone.” Our mind consists of as many miscellaneous thoughts as waves on water. These miscellaneous thoughts express all the mountains, rivers, and great earth in the world. Everything is created by people’s false thoughts. People’s false thoughts are as numerous as dust motes. There are dust motes outside because we have false thoughts inside. Without false thoughts inside, the dust motes outside are empty, even the atoms that compose the dust motes are empty. Wherever there are human beings, there are ghosts, there are Buddhas, and hence there are Yama lords. Not only are there Yama lords, but his followers too.
At that time, from within the Iron Ring Mountain, Lord Yama and his following of infinite ghost kings came before the Buddha in the Trayastrimsha Heaven. They were: the Ghost King Evil Poison, the Ghost King Many Evils, the Ghost King Great Argument, the Ghost King White Tiger, the Ghost King Blood Tiger, the Ghost King Crimson Tiger, the Ghost King Spreading Disaster, the Ghost King Flying Body, the Ghost King Lightning Flash, the Ghost King Wolf Tooth, the Ghost King Thousand Eyes, the Ghost King Animal Eater, the Ghost King Rock Bearer, the Ghost King Lord of Bad News, the Ghost King Lord of Calamities, the Ghost King Lord of Food, the Ghost King Lord of Wealth, the Ghost King Lord of Domestic Animals, the Ghost King Lord of Birds, the Ghost King Lord of Beasts, the Ghost King Lord of Mountain Sprites, the Ghost King Lord of Birth, the Ghost King Lord of Life, the Ghost King Lord of Sickness, the Ghost King Lord of Danger, the Ghost King Three Eyes, the Ghost King Four Eyes, the Ghost King Five Eyes, the Ghost King Ch’i Li Shih, the Great Ghost King Ch’i Li Shih, the Ghost King Ch’i Li Ch’a, the Great Ghost King Ch’i Li Ch’a, the Ghost King No Ch’a, the Great Ghost King No Ch’a, and other such great ghost kings. With them were hundreds of thousands of minor ghost kings who dwelt throughout Jambudvipa, each presiding over certain jurisdictions.
At that time, from within the Iron Ring Mountain . . . In the Sea of Flower Treasury Worlds, human beings live in the Lotus Banner World on the 33 rd layer. There are seven gold mountains outside the Lotus Banner World; outside of the seven gold mountains there are seven fragrant seas. This Iron Ring Mountain composed of metallic matter sits outside of the seven fragrant seas. In this Iron Ring Mountain, there are Lord Yama and his following of infinite ghost kings. Lord Yama is like Jesus in saying that he is the son of god; he also calls himself the son of god. An emperor in the human realm also refers to himself as the son of god. But which son of god is greater or lesser? There is not anyone that is great or less. Who named them sons of gods? The Buddha acknowledged that a Yama lord would be a son of god; the Buddha also acknowledged that an emperor can call himself a son of god. Jesus is the only one who bestowed a title on himself, indulging in his fancies he named himself son of god. No one will object if I say am the son of god; but I do not enjoy being son of god; it is not worth it. Why does Lord Yama like this unworthy title? It is because that is his business. After Buddhist monks are ordained as Bhikshus and receive their precepts, they are teachers for gods and humans. They are the master in the heavens and human realm. Not only can they be sons of gods, they can be the grandmaster of sons of gods, which is why I say that title is not worth much. They came before the Buddha in the Trayastrimsha Heaven. Since the Buddha was speaking the Dharma for his mother in the Tryastrimsha Heaven, Lord Yama and ghost kings came here to listen to the sutra.
They were: the Ghost King Evil Poison . Among the ghost kings, there is one called Ghost King Evil Poison. This ghost king is the worst. How? He is extremely vicious, evil and venomous. He wants swallow any being he sees in one gulp. Is he not harsh? He is mean in thought and vicious in speech, which means that he deals with bad people rather than good people. Bad people are mean psychologically and mean verbally, so they can only be dealt with through viciousness and meanness. You are evil, but he is even more evil than you; you are venomous, but he is even more venomous than you. Do not think this Ghost King Evil Poison is someone we need to fear. Do not be afraid, as long as you recite the Buddha’s name, he will be respectful. If you do not recite the Buddha’s name, his hatred will rise. Once you recite the Buddha’s name, he will not be evil anymore; once you recite the sutras, he becomes good too. So, no need to be afraid of him. As long as you recite the Buddha’s name, recite the sutra, develop the resolve for Bodhi, then however evil he may be, he no longer will be, and however venous he may be, he no longer will be. He turns into a Dharma protector. Why? The Ghost King Evil Poison “appears to look like an evil and poisonous ghost king, but has the heart of a Bodhisattva’s compassion.” He uses corrupt and vicious methods to save living beings; otherwise why would he be with Son of God Yama? Son of God Yama does the same. Although this ghost king is named Evil Poison, he is not really evil and poisonous. He is respectful to Buddhists, so do not be afraid of him. If you mention my name in particular, saying, “My master is so and so, he will definitely give you face.” Why? I signed a contract with him. I said, “As long as any of my disciples come to you and mention my name, you must hand all their offenses to me.” As long as you mention me, I guarantee he will not poison you.
The Ghost King Many Evils . Although Ghost King Evil Poison is evil and poisonous, he is not evil enough and not poisonous enough. There is also the Ghost King Many Evils who incurs countless evils to counteract living beings who do countless evils. I believe all of you have now changed your faults for the better so that you will not be so evil. How is this Ghost King Many Evils evil? He does things such as murdering his father, murdering his mother, murdering arhats, wrecking the harmony of the Sangha, and shedding the blood of a Buddha.
The Ghost King Great Argument enjoys debates in particular. He can provide an argument where there is no argument to speak of. He counteracts unreasonable debaters who insist that they have a good reason. They obviously broke the precepts, but they say they did not. They lie and cheat others. This Ghost King Great Argument deals with this type of people, so be careful! Remember not to see the Ghost King Great Argument because when you do, you will lose any basis for your argument because he is great at arguing.
The Ghost King Spreading Disaster . Disasters are inauspicious events. He makes these things happen to you. Accidents, thefts, fires and others result as a part of cause and effect. Everything has its cause and effect; results occur due to some cause.
The Ghost King Flying Body . This ghost king can fly anywhere without having to buy an air ticket or a ride on a rocket. He can fly faster than a rocket. Anyone who wants to learn to fly should go and find the Ghost King Flying Body. This ghost king has such great skills.
The Ghost King Thousand Eyes does not have the same eyes as the Thousand Handed and Thousand Eyed Guanyin Bodhisattva. This type of ghost has lots of horns on them. These horns are similar to ox horns but on each tip of the horn is an eye. How is the eye grown? It is concave and grows out of the bone. There is no flesh around the eye, only an eye inset in his body, so when you look over, it is like a really bright flash of light.
The Ghost King Rock Bearer . To show how strong he is, this type of ghost king carries a rock as heavy as several ten’s of thousands of pounds. When he sees someone who has committed offenses, he smashes the person with this large piece of rock so that this person is flattened into a real thin pancake.
The Ghost King Lord of Bad News always delivers bad news. When you are sleeping, he tells in your dream: did you know you are going to die tomorrow? You only have today left to live. He delivers a letter of bad news to you in the form of a nightmare.
The Ghost King Lord of Food . What you eat each day is fixed. The story I told about the supervisor over food is a true one. What dishes we eat and what they are made of are all fixed. What we eat tomorrow is fixed too. Imperceptibly, someone is assigning these portions to you.
The Ghost King Lord of Wealth . Someone made an offering to me today and it has to do with the Ghost King Lord of Wealth; he told people to donate some money to the master. Really! This is not off by a hair. There are no wrong things in the world; nothing that occurs without cause and effect. You had created the causes to become my disciples; no one can force cause and effect. It is something major to deny the law of cause and effect; we must not discredit it.
The Ghost King Lord of Beasts. Earlier it was the Ghost King Lord of Domestic Animals, now it the Lord of wild beasts; there are no domesticated beasts really. There is a Ghost King Lord of Beasts in the Eastern Lapis Lazuli Mountain. He governs over beasts such as tigers, hares, and dragons. In the Southern Glass Mountain, there is a ghost king who governs over beasts such as snakes, horses, and goats. There is a Silver Mountain with a ghost king that governs over monkeys, chickens and dogs. In the North there is a Gold Mountain that is formed with gold. But do not try to excavate gold there like the way people did with the old Gold Mountain or new Gold Mountain. That Gold Mountain cannot be touched or reached. There is a ghost king in this Gold Mountain who governs over swine, rats, and ox. The Ghost King Lord of Beasts and the Ghost King Lord of Domestic Animals govern over different things and have their own area and turf.
The Ghost King Lord of Mountain Sprites. When there are problems with soil, woods, metal, rocks, or large trees, it is because of mountain sprites and their like. The supervisor for these ghosts is the Ghost King Lord of Mountain Sprites. In the third assembly of the Shurangama Mantra is a series of ghost kings in charge of such things: la she po ye, zhu la po ye, e qi nip o ye, wu tuo jia po ye, pi sha po ye, she sa duo la po ye, po la zhe jie la po ye, tu she cha po ye.
The Ghost King Lord of Birth governs human births. He will make sure that good people enjoy safe labors while bad people suffer more during labor or cannot complete their labor at all. They are punished so that they may become enlightened, reform and renew themselves.
The Ghost King Three Eyes has three eyes. How do his three eyes look? They do not look like the heavenly eye in the Five Eyes and Six Penetrations. He has one horizontal one in the middle and two on the sides. The three eyes form a triangle. Have you seen such thing?
The Great Ghost King Ch’i Li Shih is in charge of large fires. The Ghost King Ch’I Li Shih is in the south; while farther south, there is a mountain where the Great Ghost King Ch’I Li Shih is the ghost king.
The Ghost King No Ch’a is one of the kings of the Four Great Heavenly Kings. He is a Dharma protector, so although he belongs to the category of ghosts, he is not a ghost. That is why he is named the King No Ch’a.
The Great Ghost King No Ch’a, and other such great ghost kings as mentioned above. When we talked about small ghosts, we said that where there is a large ghost, there is a small ghost. With them were hundreds of thousands of minor ghost kings. A ghost king has these ghost offspring, including children, grandchildren, and other relatives who dwelt throughout southern Jambudvipa, each presiding over certain jurisdictions. Each ghost has a domain where they may exercise their power.
Aided by the Buddha’s awesome spiritual strength and the power of Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, all these ghost kings joined Lord Yama in the Trayastrimsha Heaven and together they stood to one side. Then Lord Yama knelt, placed his palms together, and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, aided by the Buddha’s awesome spiritual strength and the power of Earth Store Bodhisattva, I have been able to come here with all these ghost kings to join this great assembly in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, which will be very much to our benefit. There is now a small doubt that I should like to express, and we hope the World Honored One will be compassionate and resolve explain it.”
Each person has his/her individual authority. These ghosts have their authority as ghosts. Aided by the Buddha’s awesome spiritual strength and the psychic power of Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, all these ghost kings joined Lord Yama in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, the Heaven of the 33 and together they stood to one side. Then Lord Yama knelt, placed his palms together, and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, aided by the Buddha’s awesome spiritual strength and the power of Earth Store Bodhisattva, I, Son of god Yama, have been able to come here with all these ghost kings and members of our retinue to join this great assembly in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, which will be very much to our benefit. There is now a small doubt that I should like to express. May I have the privilege to ask the World Honored One? Am I qualified to ask the World Honored One? And we only hope the World Honored One will be compassionate and resolve explain it, thus resolving my problem.”
At that time Lord Yama looked respectfully at the World Honored One, made obeisance, turned his head to acknowledge Earth Store Bodhisattva, and then said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I observe that Earth Store Bodhisattva uses hundreds of thousands of expedient devices to rescue beings who are suffering for their offenses within the Six Paths of rebirth. I see that he does so unstintingly, without the least fatigue. Although this great Bodhisattva uses his inconceivable spiritual penetrations to do such deeds, it doesn’t take long for the beings whom he has helped in gaining release from retribution to fall into the evil paths again.
“World Honored One, since Earth Store Bodhisattva has such great inconceivable spiritual powers, why are beings not able to rely on him, to stay on the good paths, and to be freed once and for all? Please, World Honored One, explain that for us.”
The Buddha told Lord Yama, “I will answer any question you would like to ask. Ask whatever you would like to ask. I will definitely give you a good answer.” At that time Lord Yama looked respectfully at the World Honored One, made obeisance, turned his head to acknowledge Earth Store Bodhisattva. Since the Buddha is in front of him, he looked at the Buddha then turned his head to look a look at Earth Store Bodhisattva, a show of respect for Earth Store Bodhisattva. And then he said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I observe that Earth Store Bodhisattva uses hundreds of thousands of expedient devices, using different methods, to rescue beings who are suffering for their offenses within the Six Paths of rebirth: the realm of gods, the realm of humans, the realm of asuras, the hells, the realm of hungry ghosts, and the realm of animals. I see that he does so unstintingly, without the least fatigue. He is not afraid of any hardship or weariness. Although this great Bodhisattva uses his inconceivable spiritual penetrations to do such deeds, it doesn’t take long for the beings whom he has helped in gaining release from retribution to fall into the evil paths again.
“World Honored One, since Earth Store Bodhisattva has such great inconceivable spiritual powers, why are beings not able to rely on him? Why do they not listen to his teachings? Why do they defy the rules? Why are they unable to cultivate by staying on the good paths? Why do they create offenses? And why are they not to be freed once and for all, instead they are entangled by karmic obstructions? Please, World Honored One, explain that for us.”
The Buddha told Lord Yama, “The beings of Jambudvipa have stubborn and obstinate natures, difficult to tame, difficult to subdue. This great Bodhisattva continually rescues such beings throughout hundreds of thousands of eons, causing them to obtain liberation quickly. For those beings undergoing retributions even in the worst destinies, the Bodhisattva applies the strength of expedients to extricate them from their own basic karmic conditions and lead them to understand the events of their past lives.
“But because beings of Jambudvipa are so bound up by their own heavy bad habits, they keep revolving in and out of the various paths over and over, as this Bodhisattva labors throughout many long eons to entirely effect their rescue and release.
“They are like people who, in confusion, lose their way home, and take a dangerous road by mistake. On that dangerous road are many yakshas, tigers, wolves, lions, serpents, and vipers. Those confused people are sure to be harmed very quickly on that dangerous path.
The Buddha Shakyamuni told Lord Yama, “The beings of southern Jambudvipa have stubborn and obstinate natures, difficult to tame, difficult to subdue. It is very difficult to make gentle these beings and subdue them so that they will observe the rules. This is not very easy. For instance, everyone nowadays says that observing rules is bad, why? It is because they do not wish to observe the rules so they say it is bad to observe the rules. Actually, “Without a ruler and t-square [(which together means rules in Chinese)], one cannot draw a square or a circle.” This great Bodhisattva continually rescues such beings throughout hundreds of thousands of eons, causing them to obtain liberation quickly. Ghost kings and Lord Yama asked as to why living beings do not listen to Earth Store Bodhisattva and follow his teachings though he has such great spiritual powers? Why do they leave the evil paths and then come back down to the evil paths again? For as long as billions of eons, this great Bodhisattva repeatedly saves living beings of this sort so that they may become liberated soon!
Due to their confusion and action, for those types of beings undergoing retributionseven in the worst destinies, the three evil realms for hell-beings, hungry ghosts and animals, the Bodhisattva applies the strength of expedients to extricate them from their own basic karmic conditions and lead them to understand the events of their past lives.
“But because beings of Jambudvipa are so bound up by their own heavy bad habits. . . The karma of their past lives is connected to this life, while the karma of this life is connected to future lives. This kind of karmic retribution is continuous throughout lifetimes like a rope in a knot. This is what it means by beings bound up by their own heavy bad habits. What kind of bad habits are these? The foremost bad habit is sexual desire. All beings are the same. Every being has a problem that is foremost, something they have the worst time eliminating, and that is lust. Eliminating lust is even more difficult then climbing up to the sky. If you can subdue your lust so that women have no lust when they see men and men have no lust when they see women, then they have tamed their tiger. Free of afflictions, you have subdued your dragon. Afflictions and ignorance are just like a dragon that transforms endlessly. It develops without you realizing it. So first of all, end lust. This is where you can tell whether you have any cultivation, moral virtue, or skill. You can test yourself and know for yourself. You have some skill if you have eliminated desire; if you have not ended your desire, then you are someone with outflow. So cultivating non-outflow refers to no lust. With lust, there is outflow; without lust, there is no outflow.
The second [leading bad habit) is greed. Why is there lust? It is because of greed, such as greed for a good feeling and greed for satisfying one’s desire. The third [leading bad habit) is arrogance. What is arrogance? Some people are not necessarily smarter than others, but they always feel that they are smarter than everyone else. They look down at everyone. They have to be number one wherever they are. The fourth [leading bad habit) is hatred towards everyone. If you are not good to me, then I will think of a way and kill you or think of other ways to seek revenge. The fifth [leading bad habit) is deceptiveness, cheating and pretending. The sixth [leading bad habit) is lying. Deception involves pretending to be a good person when one is a mean person; that way people cannot tell. Lying is false speech. The seventh [leading bad habit) is blame, blaming others for every one of their obvious wrong-doings. They say, “I would not have done that if he had not told me. I cannot be faulted for this; it is his problem, his fault.” They shove the blame on others. The eighth [leading bad habit) is about deviant views. Instead of walking down proper paths, people with this habit always walk down improper paths. The ninth is crookedness. Instead of being straightforward, people with this habit do things that accuse others wrongly and in a twisted manner. The tenth [leading bad habit) is suing. People who enjoy filing baseless suits tell the judge that certain people are wrong. I am going to sue him. They think of ways to accuse others wrongly. This is suing. These ten are in the Shurangama Sutra as the Ten Habits, which will lead to the consequence of the Six Retributions. Due to these ten kinds of habits, living beings are said to be bounded by intense bad habits.
They keep revolving in and out of the various paths over and over. They created all kinds of offenses and evil because of these ten kinds of evil karma; hence they got to transcend the Three Evil Paths then return. They revolve in and out of the Three Evil Paths because they transcended them in the present life but then enter them again in the next life. As this Bodhisattva Earth Store labors and works so hard throughout many long eons to entirely effect their rescue and release, saving all beings. For instance, “They are like people who, in confusion, lose their way home, and take a dangerous road by mistake. On that dangerous road are many yakshas, tigers, wolves, lions, serpents, and vipers. Yakshas represent skepticism in the Five Dull Servants. Skepticism means doubting everything because there is a lack of confidence. Tigers represent greed. Were we to tame our lust, then we would have tamed our tiger. Without having subdued lust, we have not subdued the tiger. What do wolves symbolize? Hatred. Wolves are mean, which applies to both wolves and hatred. Lions represent delusion and foolishness. Serpents and vipers represent arrogance. Greed, hatred, delusion, arrogance, and doubt are the Five Dull Servants. Those confused people are sure to be harmed very quickly on that dangerous path full of the Five Dull Servants of greed, hatred, delusion, arrogance, and doubt. They will be hurt by the Five Dull Servants in an instant in time; thereby they commit offenses that push them into the Three Evil Paths.
But then they meet a knowledgeable guide, skilled in avoiding all the potential harm, including the toxins of the yakshas and others. This mentor begins to lead the travelers off that dangerous path, saying, ‘Beware, everyone! What business has brought you onto this road? What kinds of special skills do you have to avoid all those dangers?’
“Hearing that, the confused travelers realize that they are on a dangerous path and turn back, attempting to escape. The kind guide then tells them to join hands takes them by the hand, leads them off the dangerous path, and helps them avoid the deadly peril. When they reach a safe road, the travelers are relieved and calm down. Their guide then says to them, ‘Take care, confused ones, never to get back on that path again. Once on it, it is hard to get off; it can destroy a person’s very nature and life.’
“The travelers who had been lost confused express their deep gratitude, and as they are about to part, the mentor says to them, ‘If you see those dear to you and any other travelers, whether you know them personally or not, be they men or women, tell them that the dangers and evils on that path could destroy their very natures and lives. Do not allow them to unwittingly bring about their own deaths.’
But then they meet a knowledgeable guide, a good teacher. Who is he? He is Earth Store Bodhisattva. He is skilled in lots of magic because of his finely wondrous and inconceivable wisdom through spiritual powers. He is good at avoiding all the potential harm. What kind of harm? All the harms that tigers, wolves, lions, yakshas, and the like can do, including the toxins of the yakshas and others. Yakshas are speedy ghosts who are very evil. This mentor begins to lead the lost travelers off that dangerous path, saying, ‘Beware, everyone! Hey guys! What business has brought you onto this road? Why are you on this dangerous road? What kinds of special skills do you have to avoid all those dangers? Do you have any spiritual powers that can subdue all the tigers, wolves, and lions on this road?’
“Hearing that, the confused travelers are extremely shocked and realize that they are on a dangerous path and turn back, attempting to escape. Only then did they realize that they made a mistake and walked down the wrong road. They want to back up immediately and leave this path of danger. The kind guide, Earth Store Bodhisattva, then tells them to join hands takes them by the hand, leads them off or pulls them off the dangerous path, and helps them avoid the deadly peril. They get to avoid all the dangerous creatures such as tigers, wolves, and lions, yakshas, serpents, and vipers. When they leave the Three Evil Paths and reach a safe road, the travelers are relieved and calm down. Their guide then says to them, the previously lost travelers, ‘Take care, confused ones, lost individuals, never to get back on that path again, the Three Evil Paths. Once on it, it is hard to get off. People who enter the Three Evil Paths do not leave easily. It can destroy a person’s very life. Someone walking on this path of danger will lose his life.’
“The travelers who had been confused lost express their deep gratitude . Having heard such instructions from such a good teacher, Earth Store Bodhisattva, they are very grateful and think, ‘This person is really very good to me.’ And as they are about to part, the mentor says to them, ‘If you see those dear to you and any other travelers , whether you know them personally or not, be they men or women, tell them that the dangers and evils on that path that is the Three Evil Paths could destroy their very natures and lives. Do not allow them to unwittingly bring about their own deaths by walking onto the Three Evil Paths and suffer endlessly.’
Chapter 9: The Names of Buddhas
Reciting the names of Buddhas. I mentioned before that originally, every Buddha has ten thousand titles. Then due to the fact that people could not remember so much, the number gradually reduced to a thousand. However, people still had difficulty recalling one thousand names. They have bad memories like I do— by the time they recite the first to the thousandth, they forget the first. As a result, the number of titles was cut down to a hundred. In the end, though, it was still troublesome to remember a hundred names; therefore, they were decreased to ten. Every Buddha has ten titles: Thus Come One, Worthy of Offerings, of Right and Universal Knowledge, Perfect Clarity and Conduct, Well Gone One, Knower of Worlds, Unsurpassed Knight, Teacher of People and Gods, Buddha, and World Honored One. This is the ninth chapter called “The Names of Buddhas.” Earth Store Bodhisattva is about to explain what kind of merit and virtue one is going to receive by reciting the various Buddhas’ names.
At that time, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I want to discuss some practices that will be helpful to beings of the future and will enable them to gain great benefit throughout their lives and deaths. World Honored One, please hear my words.”
The Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Now with your expansive compassion you wish to discuss the inconceivable events involved in rescuing all those in the Six Paths who are suffering for their offenses. This is the right time. Speak now, since my Nirvana is near, so that I may soon help you complete your vows. Then neither of us will need to be concerned about beings of the present or future.”
Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, countless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Boundless Body Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and have a momentary thought of respect, those people will overstep the heavy offenses involved in birth and death for forty eons. How much more will that be the case for those who sculpt or paint this Buddha’s image or praise and make offerings to him. The merit they obtain will be limitless and boundless.
At that time after the eighth chapter was spoken, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I want to discuss some practices that will be helpful to living beings of the future , including you and I who are present now. Do not say that you are not counted. Both of us are included in this figure. These practices will enable them , the living beings, to gain great benefit throughout their lives and deaths. World Honored One, please , I sincerely request that you hear me explain my vow with words.”
The Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Now , with your expansive compassion atemindthat you are bringing forth, you wish to discuss the inconceivable events involved in rescuing all those in the Six Paths including beings from the heavens, humans, Asuras, hell beings, hungry ghosts and animals who are suffering for their offenses. This is the right time. Hurry up and s peak now, since my Nirvana is near .” From this statement, we can conclude that Earth Store Sutra was spoken after the Dharma Flower Sutra and before the Nirvana Sutra. The Buddha continued, “Speak up so that I may soon help you complete your vows. Then neither of us will need to be concerned about beings of the present or future. I will not have to worry about them any longer. ”
Earth Store Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, countless asamkhyeya eons ago, asamkhyeya is a Sanskrit word that refers to limitless and countless eons. There was a Buddha named Boundless Body Thus Come One who appeared in the world. His body is without bound— it pervades the whole empty space and the Dharma realm. If men or women of Southern Jambudvipa hear this Buddha’s name and have a momentary thought of respect, those people will overstep the heavy offenses involved in birth and death for forty great eons. How much more will that be the case for those who sculpt or paint this Buddha’s image or praise and make offerings to him ? The merit they obtain will be limitless and boundless. You will never finish counting because there is so much.
I am going to share a public record with you now. What is it? When the Buddha dwelt in the world, there was an old man who wanted to leave home and cultivate the Way. The Buddha was not at Jeta Grove then. His disciples were annoyed at seeing the old man. They wondered, “He is so old, poor and sloppy, why does he want to leave home?” These Arhats who have certified to the fruition observed, “This old man has no good roots within 80,000 great eons whatsoever! He cannot leave the home life because one must have good roots to do so.” “Do not claim it is easy to leave the home life, for it takes Bodhi seeds sowed in past lives.” One can only leave home after planting numerous good roots throughout past lives. Even though you want to leave home, you will not be able to if you lack good roots. You might want to, but then you think, “No! No! Leaving the home life is too difficult. It is not good! Do not leave home!” You might back down and say, “Do not go! Do not go!” Those Arhats saw that the old man had no good roots and rejected him. Being poor to the point that he had no food or clothes, the ninety or one-hundred-year-old man who had difficulty walking thought, “Now that I have lived to this age, I suppose I could obtain some peace by leaving the home life. But it turned out that the Buddha’s disciples declined to take me in.” Hence he started to cry. Sobbing and walking at the same time, a new idea emerged. What was it? He was mulling over a scheme to commit suicide by jumping down the Ganges River! He was not far from there and when he was about to jump into the Ganges, Shyakyamuni Buddha came and said, “Hey! Sir! What are you doing? You want to swim? At your age, your arms and legs are not so flexible, you cannot swim.” The old man said, “No! I am going to die. I am going to put an end to my life instead of living. There is no meaning to living.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Oh, why is it meaningless for you to go on living? Can you tell me?” The old man said, “I felt that nothing is meaningful, so I wanted to leave the home life, follow Shakyamuni Buddha and cultivate. But when I went there today requesting to leave the home life, the Buddha’s disciples rejected me, telling that I have no good roots. Since I cannot leave home when I want to, what is the use of being alive? I feel that being alive is worse off than being dead, so I wanted to jump into the Ganges River and drink its waters until I am full so that I may become a young man who leaves the home life in another incarnation. Since the Buddha’s disciples do not like old people, also probably because of how ugly I am, no one likes me.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “You want to leave the home life? Do not jump into the river. I will accept you as a disciple. You can come back.” The old man asked, “Who are you?” Shakyamuni Buddha answered, “I am Shakyamuni Buddha!” “You are Shakyamuni Buddha? You will accept me?” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “It is so sad the way you cry, I will accept you as an old disciple.” The Buddha brought the old man back and spoke Dharma for him. As soon as the Buddha spoke Dharma, the old man certified to the fruition of arhatship.
When the Buddha was alive, many people certified to the fruition of arhatship. The Buddha looked at his causes and conditions and spoke the Buddhadharma for him so that the man certified to the fruition. Some disciples think, “This old monster is old and without good roots, how can he certified to the fruition?” They became doubtful of the Buddhadharma and asked the World Honored One: “Really this old man should not leave home, but how come you accepted him and he certified to the fruition? It is awfully strange. We are skeptical about the Buddhadharma.” Shakyamuni Buddha said, “You arhats only know about the cause and effect and the good and bad throughout 80,000 great eons; whereas you do not see anything beyond this period of time. For instance, you can see things that occur in this house but nothing outside it. This old man was a logger in the mountains more than 80,000 great eons ago. When he encountered a tiger that was going to bite him to death, he recited, ‘Namo Buddha’ once. For that, the conditions now ripened for him to leave the home life and certify to the fruition.” It is not happenstance for people who wish to leave the home life. They may have recited Namo Buddha many times to leave home in this lifetime; otherwise I would not accept them as disciples either.
“Furthermore, in the past, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, a Buddha named Jewel Nature Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and instantly decide to take refuge, those people will never retreat from the Unsurpassed Path.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Lotus Supreme Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name or if the sound of his name merely passes by their ears, those people will be reborn one thousand times in the Six Desire Heavens. How much more will that be the case if those people sincerely recite the name of that Thus Come One.
“Furthermore, in the past, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, a Buddha named Jewel Nature Thus Come One, referring to how our nature is very precious, appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and instantly decide to take refuge, those people will never retreat from the Unsurpassed Path to Bodhi.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Lotus Supreme Thus Come One appeared in the world. Padma means red lotus, which is supreme because it surpasses other lotuses such as yellow, white, or green lotuses. Red is the most supreme among all the colors. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name or if the sound of his name, Lotus Supreme Thus Come One, merely passes by their ears, those people will be reborn one thousand times in the Six Desire Heavens. What are the Six Desire Heavens? The Heaven of the Four Heavenly Kings, Tryastrimsha Heaven, Suyama Heaven, Tushita Heaven, Heaven of Transformational Happiness, and the Heaven of Ease of Others’ Transformations. Celestial demons live in the Heaven of Ease of Others’ Transformations. How much more will that be the case if those people sincerely recite the name of that Thus Come One. Since one enjoys so much merit just from hearing the Buddha’s name once, then not to mention how much greater is the merit of sincerely reciting the Buddha’s name oneself.
Long ago someone went to Pratimoksa Monastery and saw an amala tree with golden flowers. He picked a blossom and walk to the Shakyamuni Buddha image before him. Seeing how wondrous the image of Shakyamuni Buddha is, he offered the flower before the Buddha image. Then he went and asked an old man, “How much merit do I get from making an offering of this flower to Shakyamuni Buddha?” The old man said, “I do not know, you have to go and ask a monastic.” He went to ask a monk who responded, “I do not know. You would have to ask the arhat who has practiced chan and certified to the fruition. Only he can tell you.” Then he went look for the arhat who certified to the fruition, “Can you tell me how much merit I get for having offered this flower to the Buddha?” The arhat said, “Wait and let me contemplate a bit.” He contemplated and said, “This merit is impossible to reckon; the blessings that result from it is inexhaustible for 80,000 great eons. As for beyond 80,000 great eons, I would not know. You would have to ask the Buddha.” He went to ask the Buddha and the Buddha said, “This merit is inexhaustibly many, pervading all of space and the Dharma Realm.” One individual receives this much blessings just for making a flower offering to the Buddha; hence we can enjoy a thousand births in the Six Desire Heavens if we just hear the Buddha’s name once. This kind of merit is inconceivable.
“Furthermore, in the past, inexpressibly ineffable asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Lion’s Roar Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and in a single thought take refuge, those people will encounter numberless Buddhas who will rub the crowns of their heads and bestow predictions of enlightenment upon them.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Krakucchanda appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and sincerely gaze at, worship, or praise him, those people will become Great Brahma Heaven kings in the assemblies of the Thousand Buddhas of the Worthy Eon and will there receive superior predictions.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Vipashin appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Paths, will always be born among people or gods, and will abide in supremely wonderful bliss.
“Furthermore, in the past, as many eons ago as there are grains of sand in limitless and countless Ganges Rivers, a Buddha named Jeweled Victory Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will never fall into the Evil Paths and will always abide in the heavens, experiencing supremely wonderful bliss.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Jeweled Appearance Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and give rise to a thought of respect, those people will soon attain the fruitions of Arhatship.
“Furthermore, limitless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Kashaya Banner Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will overcome the offenses created throughout one hundred great eons of births and deaths.
“Furthermore, in the past, inexpressibly ineffable asamkhyeya eons ago, an infinite number of eons ago, a Buddha named Lion’s Roar Thus Come One appeared in the world. His name represents how the Buddha speaks the Dharma the way lions roar. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and in a single thought take refuge, those people will encounter numberless Buddhas who will rub the crowns of their heads and bestow predictions of enlightenment upon them.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Krakucchanda appeared in the world. Krakucchanda is a Sanskrit word that means “Deserve to End” or “Adorned Treasury”. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and sincerely gaze at, worship, or praise him with verses, those people will become Great Brahma Heaven kings in the assemblies of the Thousand Buddhas of the Worthy Eon and will there receive superior predictions of becoming Great Brahma Heaven kings.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Vipashin appeared in the world. I know no one knows what Vipashin means, so let me tell you now. You should remember, because it is difficult to find it if you do not remember. Buddhist dictionaries do not always have this recorded. Vipashin means supreme contemplation or various contemplations. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will eternally avoid falling into the Evil Paths of the hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. As we listen to the Earth Store Sutra now, we also hear the name of Vipashin Buddha, so we will never fall into the Evil Paths. But only if you never do any evil deeds; if you continue to do evil deeds after hearing this Buddha’s name, you will still fall into the Evil Paths. Why? You have not changed for the better and reformed. Just because one has heard the name of the Buddha, it does not mean one will not fall into the Three Evil Paths, so one may go and kill, set fire, steal, and everything else, figuring one will not fall into the Three Evil Paths. Do not think in such a stupid fashion. Although you have heard the Buddha’s name, you will only avoid the Three Evil Paths if you never do evil deeds. They will always be born among people or gods, and will abide in supremely wonderful bliss.
“Furthermore, in the past, as many great eons ago as there are grains of sand in limitless and countless Ganges Rivers, a Buddha named Jeweled Victory ThusCome One appeared in the world. In Sanskrit, jeweled is ladna and victory is vipa. Ifmen or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will never fall into the Evil Paths and will always abide in the heavens, experiencing supremely wonderful bliss.
“Furthermore, in the past, a Buddha named Jeweled Appearance Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name and give rise to a thought of respect, those people will soon attain the fruitions of Arhatship.
“Furthermore, limitless asamkhyeya eons ago, a Buddha named Kashaya Banner Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will overcome the offenses created throughout one hundred great eons of births and deaths.
“Furthermore, in the past a Buddha named Great Penetration Mountain King Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will encounter as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. Those Buddhas will speak Dharma extensively for them, making certain that they realize Bodhi.
“Furthermore, in the past there were Buddhas named Pure Moon Buddha, Mountain King Buddha, Wise Victory Buddha, Pure Name King Buddha, Accomplished Wisdom Buddha, Unsurpassed Buddha, Wonderful Sound Buddha, Full Moon Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha, and indescribably many other Buddhas. World Honored One, beings of the present and future, both gods and humans, both male and female, can amass such limitless merit and virtue by reciting only one Buddha’s name. How much more merit will they amass by reciting many names. Those beings will personally obtain benefits in their lives and deaths significant enough to keep them from ever falling into the Evil Paths.
“When people are on the brink of death, a group of their relatives, or even just one of them, should recite a Buddha’s name aloud for the people who are ailing. If they do, the karmic retributions of those people who are about to die will be dissolved, even offenses deserving Fivefold Relentless Retribution. Offenses warranting Fivefold Relentless Retribution are so extremely heavy that those who commit them should not escape retribution for millions of eons. If, however, at the time of such offenders’ deaths, someone recites the names of Buddhas on their behalf, then their offenses can gradually be dissolved. How much more will that be the case for beings who recite those names themselves. The merit they create will be limitless and will eradicate measureless offenses.”
“Furthermore, in the past a Buddha named Great Penetration Mountain King Thus Come One appeared in the world. If men or women hear this Buddha’s name, those people will encounter as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. Those Buddhas will speak the various terms in the Dharma extensively for them, making certain that they realize the enlightened fruit of unsurpassed Bodhi.
“Furthermore, in the past there were Buddhas named Pure Moon Buddha, Mountain King Buddha, Wise Victory Buddha, Pure Name King Buddha, Accomplished Wisdom Buddha, Unsurpassed Buddha, Wonderful Sound Buddha, Full Moon Buddha, Moon-Face Buddha, and indescribably many other Buddhas. World Honored One, beings of the present and future, both gods and humans, both male and female, can amass such limitless merit and virtue by reciting only one Buddha’s name. How much more merit will they amass by reciting many names of Buddhas? Those beings will personally obtain the greatest benefits in their lives and deaths significant enough to keep them from ever falling into the Three Evil Paths: hell-beings, hungry ghosts, and animals.
“When people are on the brink of death, a group of their relatives, or even just one of them, should recite a Buddha’s name aloud or loudly for the people who are ailing. If they do, the karmic retributions of those people who are about to die will be dissolved, even offenses deserving Fivefold Relentless Retribution. Offenses warranting Fivefold Relentless Retribution are so extremely heavy that those who commit them should not escape retribution for millions of eons. If, however, at the time of such offenders’ deaths, someone recites the names of Buddhas on their behalf, then their offenses can gradually be dissolved. How much more will that be the case for beings who recite those names themselves. The merit they create will be limitless so they acquire limitless blessings and will eradicate measureless offenses.”
Chapter 10: The Conditions and Comparative Merit and Virtue of Giving
What is giving of wealth? The gift of wealth is divided into two types, inner and outer wealth. Inner wealth is your body, mind, and life. Your outer wealth is all the gold, silver, treasures, jewels, and everything external to the body. On a larger scale, giving of the outer wealth can be giving all the wealth of your country to another person, or the king gives the power and authority to another person to let him be the king. Just like Shakyamuni Buddha, he yielded the position of a king to others, giving all the wealth of his kingdom to others. This kind of giving even includes giving away one’s wife. The first thing that humans can’t let go of is wealth, if one can give away wealth, than this is the breaking through of stinginess and greediness. The second hardest is beauty, giving away beauty is difficult also. But if you can do what is difficult, that is because you are sincere. So, all the real cultivators who are seeking Dharma surrender even their spouses for the sake of Dharma. Any reason other than seeking Dharma, of course, is not justified; undoubtedly one cannot give up his wife and find a prettier one. This is the same as giving away nothing. It is not giving when you are tired of the old one and want to exchange him or her for a new one. The only words to describe this behavior are “insatiably greed”. It is desire and discontentment. One time during a lecture, we were on the subject of giving away one’s wife, there was a wife who wanted to give away her husband. But she couldn’t find anyone willing to accept him. So she could not give her husband away. Besides giving away external items, one can also give away one’s internal things. The gift of inner wealth consists of the giving of head, eyes, brain, and marrow. It also includes the giving away of skin, blood, muscles, and bones.
The giving of Dharma is learning the Buddhadharma. But it is not like “clutching your treasures while the country lies in waste.” An example of what that quote means is when you are holding a treasure that can save people, say, that treasure is the wish-fulfilling pearl . Having the wish-fulfilling pearl , one can have all kinds of gold, silver, treasure, and jewelry, all kinds of food, anything. Once you have this wish-fulfilling pearl , all the problems like poverty, and disasters can be resolved. But you don’t use this wish-fulfilling pearl to help your country and watch all the people of the country starving, suffering, and dying. Watching all of these suffering in front of your own eyes and not caring or even saving this matter is “clutching your treasures while the country lies in waste”. Another example is when you know how to speak Dharma, but refuse to because once other people understand the Dharma, they will reach your level of understanding. By refusing to speak Dharma, you remain at a higher level than others. These kinds of thoughts are about “clutching your treasures while the country lies in waste.” So, one should always speak Dharma to other people, telling everybody who hear the Dharma to cultivate, and become awakened.
At that time, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, based on the Buddha’s awesome spiritual strength, rose from his seat, knelt on one knee, placed his palms together and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, I have observed beings within the paths of karma and compared their acts of giving. Some do a little and some do a lot. Some receive blessings for one life, some for ten lives, and some receive great blessings and benefits for hundreds or thousands of lives. Why is that? Please, World Honored One, explain that for us.”
At that time, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva, based on the Buddha’s awesome spiritual strength, rose from his seat, knelt on one knee, placed his palms together and said to the Buddha … The passage before “World Honored One” is a preface added while the sutras were compiled. This is like a descriptive article on how this text came to be. The parts after the “World Honored One” to follow are Earth Store Bodhisattva’s words.
“World Honored One, I have observed beings within the paths of karma …the six paths are: heavenly beings, human beings, asuras, hell beings, hungry ghosts, and animals. How do they create karma? At first there is ignorance, confusion that creates karma and retribution to undergo. The beings in the six paths are all muddled and cannot find their way out…and compared their acts of giving. Some do a little and some do a lot. According to my comparisons, the merit from living beings’ giving range from slight to tremendous. Some receive blessings for one life, some for ten lives, and some receive great blessings and benefits for hundreds or thousands of lives. Why is that? Please, World Honored One, be compassionate and explain that for us.”
At that time the Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Here in this assembly in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven, I will now discuss the comparative merit and virtue derived from acts of giving done by the beings in Jambudvipa. Listen attentively to what I say.”
The Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “In Jambudvipa, leaders of nations, prime ministers, high officials, great elders, great Kshatriyas, great Brahmans, and others may encounter those who are poor, hunchbacked, crippled, dumb, mute, deaf, retarded, blind, or handicapped in other ways. Those leaders and good people may wish to give to those unfortunate ones and may be able to do so with great compassion, a humble heart, and a smile. They may arrange to give generously, either personally with their own hands, or by arranging for others to do so, using gentle words and sympathetic speech. The blessings and benefits that such leaders and good people will accrue will be comparable to the meritorious virtue derived from giving to as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in a hundred Ganges Rivers. Why is that? Those leaders and good people will receive such rewards of blessings and benefits for having shown a greatly compassionate heart toward the most impoverished and disabled individuals. Throughout hundreds of thousands of lives to come they will always have an abundance of the seven gems, not to mention clothing, food, and the necessities of life.
At that time the Buddha Shakyamuni told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “Here in this assembly …all the Bodhisattvas, Hearers, Arhats, and all the heavenly beings, dragons, ghosts, and spirits… in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven, I will now discuss the comparative merit and virtue derived from acts of giving done by the beings in Jambudvipa. Listen attentively to what I say.”
Earth Store said to the Buddha, “I have wondered about this matter and will be pleased to listen.” …We have to understand that it’s not that Earth Store Bodhisattva questions this subject. He understands the range of merit from giving very clearly, but he is requesting Dharma for living beings so all will understand the merit of giving. These are the causes and conditions for him saying that he has wondered about this matter. Don’t read the sutra and say Earth Store Bodhisattva does not know about this matter or questions it. No, Earth Store Bodhisattva understands the matter, but he said that he wondered about the subject…isn’t that lying? But this kind of lying does not benefit him, nor does it harm anybody else. In fact, it actually benefits other people. Because he knew that living beings don’t know this principle, so he set up this hypothetical question for the Buddha. So he acts as the dharma requestor. For instance, sometimes a person asks some question not because they themselves don’t understand, but rather, to help more people understand this matter.
The Buddha told Earth Store Bodhisattva, “In Jambudvipa, leaders of nations, prime ministers, high officials, great elders ... the ones who are most affluent and virtuous. A great elder has ten kinds of moral conduct: 1.) nobility 2.) high positions 3.) very wealthy 4.) almighty 5.) very wise 6.) older in age 7.) unadulterated conduct 8.) courteous 9.) praised by superiors 10.) supported by subordinates... great Kshatriyas are India’s royalty, nobility… great Brahmans, …descendants of those who practice purity; also nobility. There are four types of social classes in India: Kshatriyas, Brahmans, Vaishyas, and Chandalas. Vedas are businessmen, and Chandalas are butchers… and others may encounter those who are poor. The richest elders, great kshatriyas and great Brahmans encounter those of the lowest class, such as beggars, employees of ignoble occupations, the poorest people and the poor and sick. . . hunchbacked, crippled, dumb, mute or speech impaired, deaf, retarded, blind, or disabled in other ways , such as missing arms, legs, eyes or any other body part. Those leaders and good people may wish to give to those unfortunate ones and may be able to do so with great compassion, a humble heart, and a smile. They may arrange to give generously, either personally with their own hands, or by arranging for others to do so, using gentle words and sympathetic speech. The blessings and benefits that such leaders and good people will accrue will be comparable to the meritorious virtue derived from giving to as many Buddhas as there are grains of sand in a hundred Ganges Rivers.
Why is that? What is the reason? How come a leader who smiles as he gives to the poor will accrue as much merit as giving to Buddhas the number of grains of sand in a hundred Ganges rivers? What is the principle behind this? Though the party who receives the charity is not a Buddha, a leader who can humble himself and smile and give joyously and reverently, as if he were making offerings to all Buddhas, then such merit is equivalent to the merit of making offerings to Buddhas the number of grains of sand in a hundred Ganges rivers. Those leaders and good people will receive such rewards of blessings and benefits for having shown a greatly compassionate heart toward the most impoverished and handicapped individuals. Throughout hundreds of thousands of lives to come they will always have an abundance of the seven gems, not to mention clothing, food, and the necessities of life.
“Moreover, Earth Store, in the future, the leaders of nations, Brahmans, and others may encounter Buddhist stupas, monasteries, or images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, or Pratyeka-buddhas, and personally make offerings or give gifts to them. If they do that, each of those leaders and good people will serve as Lord Shakra for a duration of t en eons, enjoying supremely wonderful bliss. If they are able to transfer the blessings and benefits of that giving, dedicating it to the Dharma Realm, then those leaders of nations and good people will reign as great Brahma Heaven kings for ten eons.
“Moreover, Earth Store, in the future, leaders of nations, Brahmans, and others may, upon encountering ancient Buddhist stupas and monasteries or sutras and images that are damaged, decaying, or broken, resolve to restore them. Those leaders and good people may then do so themselves or encourage others, as many as hundreds of thousands of people, to help and thereby establish affinities. Those leaders and good people will become Wheel-Turning Kings for hundreds of thousands of successive lives and those who made offerings with them will later be leaders of small nations for as many lives. If they resolve to dedicate that merit before the stupas or monasteries, then, based on that limitless and unbounded reward, those leaders, good people, and their helpers will all eventually complete the path to Buddhahood.
“Moreover, let me tell you some causes and conditions of giving. Earth Store, you ought to know that in the future, the leaders of nations, Brahmans, and others may encounter Buddhist stupas, monasteries, or images of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, or Pratyeka-buddhas , Sanskrit for Those Enlightened by Conditions when there are Buddhas in the world and Solitarily Enlightened Ones when there are no Buddhas in the world. And they personally make offerings or give gifts to them. If they do that, each of those leaders and good people will serve as Lord Shakra for a duration of t en eons, enjoying supremely wonderful bliss. If they are able to transfer the blessings and benefits of that giving, rejecting these for themselves and dedicating it to the Dharma Realm, then those leaders of nations and good people will reign as great Brahma Heaven kings for ten eons.
“Moreover, let me make it a bit more clear, Earth Store Bodhisattva, in the future, leaders of nations, Brahmans, and others may, upon encountering ancient Buddhist stupas and monasteries or sutras and images that are damaged, decaying, or broken, resolve to restore them, volunteer to repair or reconstruct Buddha images and temples. Those leaders and good people may then do so themselves or encourage others. When he cannot make it happen himself, he will gather the strength of as many as hundreds of thousands of people so that everyone repairs the temple together. . . To help and thereby establish affinities … You donate a little and he donates a little. Everyone develops affinities with the Dharma.
Those leaders and good people will become Wheel-Turning Kings …if the Wheel-Turning Kings took a step further to cultivate, he will achieve Buddhahood…for hundreds of thousands of successive lives and those who made offerings with them will later be leaders of small nations for as many lives. If they resolve to dedicate that merit toward others, the Dharma Realm and living beings before the stupas or monasteries, then, based on that limitless and unbounded future reward, those leaders, good people, and their helpers will all eventually complete the path to Buddhahood.
Chapter 11: The Earth Spirit Protects the Dharma
The earth spirit that is referred to in this chapter is called “Firm and Stable”. What is firm? The earth is firm. What is solid? The earth is solid. Now we are standing on earth like ants on a great boat. The numerous ants would not make the boat rock back and forth, because they do not have enough strength to do so. Earth is hanging in space; the atmosphere and air are holding it in place, so it will not break . I t is like a great boat in the ocean.
There are a great number of earth spirits. When Shakyamuni Buddha was speaking the Agama Sutra, the earth spirit, Firm and Stable, appeared to listen to the Dharma. But this earth spirit was very arrogant and haughty . He said, “In the whole universe, I’m the only earth spirit, and there are no other spirits.” But Shakyamuni Buddha replied, “You are not the only earth spirit. There are also water spirits, fire spirits, and wind spirits.” This earth spirit was not pleased to hear the Buddha’s answer, and said in an arrogant tone, “How come there are other spirits? Everything is supported by earth; they have no right to be called spirits.” Shakyamuni Buddha then talked about water spirits, fire spirits, and wind spirits. Using various means, the Buddha finally persuaded the earth spirit. He took refuge with the Triple Jewels, and lost h is haughtiness. In space, there are four elemental spirits: the earth spirits, the water spirits, the fire spirits, and the wind spirits. Humans are composed of the four elements; each of these four spirits gives every individual a little bit of water, fire, wind, and earth, forming a body.
The word “earth” has two meanings. First, in terms of “phenomenon”: earth is the start of everything; it gives birth to all things, and supports them. In terms of “noumenon”: earth has four virtues -- permanence, happiness, purity, and true self. What is permanence? Systems are the door of earth, which never changes. Permanence, therefore, is a virtuous quality of earth. Earth supports all things; everything exists by the power of earth. Happiness, therefore, is a virtuous quality to earth. Earth can give life to all things. Things growing out of the earth are pure and untainted -- the virtue of purity. The earth is at ease; which is a virtuous quality of the true self. The earth spirits enjoy these four virtues.
The second meaning is in terms of “noumenon”. When the Buddha was speaking the eleventh chapter of the Earth Store Sutra, the earth spirit vowed to protect everyone who recites Earth Store Bodhisattva’s name, who recites the Earth Store Sutra and who enjoys good roots. This is why this chapter is called “the Dharma Protection of the Earth Spirits”.
Today is a very special day, graduation day for the summer session. Time flies by so quickly, in a blink of an eye, six weeks have gone. It is impossible to turn back time and repeat these six weeks. We will have to wait until next year for another summer. Although the time remains the same, it will be a different year. We will be one year older, and yet one year closer to death. The numbers exist, but there seems to be minimal difference between time experienced versus time to come. As our age increases by one year, our remaining years of life decreases by one year. For instance, a 40 year-old is meant to live until 80, so at the age of 39, he has 41 years left to live. One year passes, at the age of 40, he only has 40 years left to live. This is half and half. Is time not meaningless when pondered in this manner? Although some of your time spent this year was very meaningful and worthwhile. Why? You have deposited Buddhist teachings into your brain, planting them into your field of Eighth Consciousness. Once bodhi seeds are planted and bodhi sprouts develop, we bear bodhi fruits in the future, realizing Buddhahood.
At the same time, I need to tell you: something peculiar will happen. Let us take your parents, for example. They do not bother you at all when you learn to be degenerate. They figure they will let you go free. They treat you fine. However, when you want to be good and to study Buddhism, their temper seeps out, criticizing everything about you. They ignored your taking drugs, drinking alcohol, and smoking cigarettes, figuring that you will get over it. Now that you are over it, they are upset. They say, “You want to be good, then you must be filial to your parents. Let me scold you, hit you, or treat you poorly now!” Are troubles headed your way? Actually this is a test to see whether you really want to be good. If so, the more they criticize you or hit you, the more pleased you would be. Just remember not to cry. Seeing how happy you are, their temper will disappear; otherwise you will be in big trouble. Treat everything as a test on whether you know how to apply the Buddhadharma you learned: whether you are patient, keep the precepts, give, are diligent, meditate and are wise? If you pass these tests, you will earn boundless benefits; if you fail, you will have start over. These six weeks are gold. Keep it now that you have it; do not lose it. You will be different from others. How? I don’t mean for you to be arrogant, thinking, “I’m a Buddha, I want others to bow to me.” Don’t put on airs. Be compassionate and patient toward everyone. Be better to someone who is not nice to you. Regardless whether someone is nice to you, watch your own faults and not the faults of others. “Mahasattvas do not care about others; Amitabha takes care of himself.” You take care of yourself, OK!
Today concludes the six week summer session, but not the sutra lectures. I do not know when I will finish the lecture series. It will be done when I stop breathing. Everyday that I breathe is every day that I propagate the Dharma. Dharma propagation resumes every evening. We resume to lecturing on the Earth Store Sutra at 12:30 on Saturdays at Jyushiling, the Great Compassion Dharani Sutra from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and the Earth Store Sutra in the evenings. I will be explaining the Earth Store Sutra tonight. I used to lecture on the Dharma Flower Sutra Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings; however, since I have three chapters, including this chapter, on the Earth Store Sutra left, I would like to finish it before the shramanera and the shramanerika go to Taiwan to request the precepts. Since I would not be able to finish the Dharma Flower Sutra before then, I will rush through the Earth Store Sutra before I get to the Dharma Flower Sutra next. It’s not time for the Avatamsaka Sutra yet; we will need to wait on that. Thursday evenings so and so and others may lecture. In general, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings are times for you to practice lecturing on the sutras and share part of my load. Don’t make me do so much work, wearing me out and turning my hair grey. My hair became black not too long ago. I don’t want it grey again. So let’s resume our former evening lecture schedule.
At that time, the Earth Spirit Firm and Stable addressed the Buddha thus, “World Honored One, since long ago I have personally beheld and bowed to limitless numbers of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas. All of them have inconceivably great spiritual penetrations and wisdom that they use in taking across vast numbers of beings. Among all the Bodhisattvas, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva has made the deepest and weightiest vows. World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has great affinities with beings in Jambudvipa. Manjushri, Universal Worthy [[[Samantabhadra]]), Contemplator of the World’s Sounds [[[Avalokiteshvara]], Guanyin), and Maitreya also manifest hundreds of thousands of transformation bodies to rescue those in the Six Paths, but their vows will ultimately be fulfilled. Earth Store Bodhisattva keeps renewing his vows to teach and transform beings in the Six Paths throughout eons as numerous as the number of sand grains in thousands of billions of Ganges Rivers.
At that time, the Earth Spirit Firm and Stable, the Dharma guardian of this chapter, vowed to protect the Dharma. He addressed the Buddha thus, “World Honored One, since long ago. . . From limitless eons ago until now, I have personally beheld, without removing my gaze, andbowed to limitless numbers of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas… I saw a great number of Bodhisattvas before, and I bowed to a large number of Bodhisattvas. Mahasattvas are all great Bodhisattvas. All of them have inconceivably great spiritual penetrations and wisdom…these great Bodhisattvas all have great wisdom. One must have great wisdom to cultivate the Great Vehicle. What is the Great Vehicle? It is an inconceivable state. Their spiritual penetrations and wisdom are limitless. The unfathomablepowers that they use in taking across vast numbers of beings… they deliver all beings to perfection. Among all the Bodhisattvas, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva… all these great Bodhisattvas deliver all beings to the shore of perfection, one among all Bodhisattvas… is Earth Store Bodhisattva. Among all the great Bodhisattvas, he has made the deepest and weightiest vows . He said, “Unless the hells are emptied, I will not become a Buddha. Until all beings are saved, I will not realize Bodhi.” The power of this vow is particularly profound and substantial. World Honored One, Earth Store Bodhisattva has great affinities with beings in Jambudvipa. Manjushri, Universal Worthy [[[Samantabhadra]]) Bodhisattva, Contemplator of the World’s Sounds [[[Avalokiteshvara]], Guanyin) Bodhisattva, and Maitreya Bodhisattva also manifest hundreds of thousands of transformation bodies to rescue those in the Six Paths… They vowed to deliver every being of the Six Path to Buddhahood. But their vows will ultimately be fulfilled… Although the power of their vows is tremendous, it will be depleted one day, the day when their vows are realized. Earth Store Bodhisattva keeps renewing his vows to teach and transform beings in the Six Paths… he vowed to teach the beings in the Six Paths: heavenly beings, human, asuras, beings in the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals throughout eons as numerous as the number of sand grains in thousands of billions of Ganges Rivers… the vows he made and the eons he lived are as numerous as the number of sand grains in trillions of Ganges rivers.
“World Honored One, as I regard beings of the present and future, I see those who make shrines of clay, stone, bamboo, or wood and set them on pure ground in the southern part of their dwellings. They place within the shrines images of Earth Store Bodhisattva, either sculpted or painted, or made of gold, silver, copper, or iron. Then they burn incense, make offerings, behold, worship, and praise him. By doing those things, such people will receive ten kinds of benefits for their dwellings.
“What are those ten? First, their lands will be fertile. Second, their families and homes will always be peaceful. Third, their ancestors will be born in the heavens. Fourth, those of the current generation will enjoy benefits and long lives. Fifth, they will easily obtain what they want. Sixth, they will not encounter disasters of water and fire. Seventh, they will avoid unforeseen calamities. Eighth, they will never have nightmares. Ninth, they will be protected by spirits in their daily comings and goings. Tenth, they will create many causes that lead to sagehood.
The earth spirit, Firm and Stable, said: World Honored One, as I regard beings of the present and future… I see all beings in the present and in the future. I see those who make shrines of clay, stone, bamboo, or wood and set them on pure ground in the southern part of their dwellings. They place within the shrines images of Earth Store Bodhisattva, either sculpted or painted, or made of gold, silver, copper, or iron. Then they burn incense, make offerings, behold, worship, and praise him… Come and gaze in adoration. For instance, Bodhisattva when a man likes a woman, he will look and look, look and look again. Or when a woman likes a man, she will look and look, look and look again. This kind of looking is impure, consisting of lust. Transform thoughts of lust into wisdom. Gaze admiringly at Earth Store Bodhisattva with the purity of wisdom. This is the way to look; do not look the way men and women in love look. Gazing in admiration is a pure and natural force. We say, “Oh! The power of Earth Store Bodhisattva’s vows are huge! We should all believe in Earth Store Bodhisattva. Okay! Let’s all recite the Earth Store Sutra and bow to him!” So, let me send an Earth Store Bodhisattva home with you so that you may look and look, look until you become Buddhas, become Earth Store Bodhisattva. By doing those things, such people will receive ten kinds of benefits for their dwellings.
What are those ten? First, their lands will be fertile… One, the excellent soil is rich and fertile. Anything planted in this piece of land will grow and be big. Land in Alaska is like this, growing extremely long cucumbers. That is fertile.
Second, their families and homes will always be peaceful… Besides owning bountiful lands, they enjoy peace in their residence. What good is fertile land if the dwelling place is not peaceful? For these people, homes built on these lands never have to worry about earthquakes. So-and-so said if I were going to Minnesota, she will come with me. How come she does not bother to ask her husband for his preference? She said if I leave San Francisco, earthquakes might occur, so she wants to follow me to Minnesota. This benefit refers to everlasting peace in these individuals’ families and homes.
Third, their ancestors will be born in the heavens… This means our deceased parents, perhaps as far back as those in seven of our lifetimes, will become reborn in the heavens. How come they will reborn in the heavens? It is due to your worshipping, gazing at, bowing and believing in Earth Store Bodhisattva. Consequently our families and homes are forever peaceful, our lands are fertile, and our ancestors become reborn in the heavens.
Fourth, those of the current generation will enjoy benefits and long lives… Some may doubt this: I will not necessarily see the deceased become reborn in the heavens. This may just be your claim. Do you want to see it? Cultivate! When you acquire the Heavenly Eye, you will be able to see. Now let us not talk about what you cannot see; now let us talk about what you can see. Your parents were meant to live until fifty, but are now eighty years old; or if they were meant to live until eighty, but are now 100. Their lifes are extended. I will tell you a true story. Fortune tellers told a laywoman’s father that he will definitely die by the age of 79. He was afraid and came to take refuge. He took refuge with certain conditions; he wanted me to make him live another ten years. I said, “Fine, ten years! No problem.” I made him that promise so that he lived until the age of 91, another twelve years. I told him then, “I guarantee that you will live twelve more years if you listen to me and conduct yourself according to the teachings.” Who knows whether what I said was true or not, but he did not die at the age of 79. He lived for another twelve years and died at the age of 91. His wife and two daughters also became Buddhists. Everybody knows this story, but there is just a bit of uncertainty: is this real?
Fifth, they will easily obtain what they want… Those in the present may enjoy benefits and longer lives, but that is other people. I do not gain anything by it. Now here is something that is good for you. Your wishes come true. For example, one thing that most people think is most critical may be a man or a woman’s hope for a good spouse. He or she will get their wish. This is an issue for laypeople. What about monastics? They will be good monks and nuns, getting their wish. If you say, “I’m not interested in any of these.” Find something that interests you and the related wishes will come true.
Chapter 12: Benefits Derived from Seeing and Hearing
Benefits are derived from seeing and hearing. Benefits from seeing what? Benefits from hearing what? There are benefits from seeing an image of Earth Store Bodhisattva or the Fundamental Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra. Even if we do not see these, but just hear the name Earth Store Bodhisattva or Fundamental Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra, there are benefits. This is the twelfth chapter.
At that time refers to the time when Earth Spirit Firm and Solid and Shakyamuni Buddha were talking. Shakyamuni Buddha told Earth Spirit Firm and Solid to support all future beings. At that time, the World Honored One Shakyamuni Buddha emitted millions of billions of great rays of light from the crown of his head. The top of Shakyamuni Buddha’s head cannot be seen. Every one of us has a gate at the top of our head. People with a certain level of skill will have their Buddha nature leave from the top of their heads when they enter nirvana. When that occurs, they may go anywhere. However, you must cultivate hard so that you can do this well. If done poorly, then you cannot do it. Billions and billions of lights the size of hairs are released from the crown of Shakyamuni Buddha’s head. These billions and billions of lights shine upon each other and interpenetrate. For example, yesterday, we talked about how the Sixth Patriarch had a white beam come out of the top of his head when he entered nirvana. This kind of light is not one ray of light but millions of rays of light. This light is not just one color but billions of colors. Lights from the hair between the Buddha’s eyebrows light up all beings in the nine Dharma Realms. The Dharma Realm of the Buddhas: though Buddhas are living beings, they do not belong to any of the nine Dharma Realms. This kind of light from between the Buddha’s eyebrows not only lights up one world, but billions and billions of