"The Merits and Virtues of Holding Precepts and the Retribution of Breaking the Precepts."

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  "The Merits and Virtues of Holding Precepts and the Retribution of Breaking the Precepts."


On one occasion during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Buddha spoke the Dharma at the Garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary, and there were many sound hearers and bodhisattvas who came to listen to the lecture. That evening at about nine-o-clock, two heavenly beings also came to the Garden of the benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary to listen to the lecture. The two heavenly beings had in the past received the Eight-fold Precepts from the Buddha. Due to the merits and virtues of upholding the Eight-fold Precepts, they were born in the heaven. With the merits and virtue of holding the precepts, their bodies radiated with immense light. As a result, their bodies' light illuminated the Garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary with incomparable brightness. The Garden was filled with light of golden jewelry. The Buddha clearly knew the story behind it. After they were done radiating the brilliant light, the Buddha started to speak the wonderful Dharma to them, in accordance with their conditions. The moment they finished listening to the Buddha's wonderful Dharma, they felt they embodied the taste of sweet dew. It opened up their minds and they became enlightened. They instantly certified to the fruition of Arahantship. They were able to surpass the three realms. Thus, they respectfully bowed to the Buddha with the greatest gratitude and returned to the heaven.

The next morning, out of his curiosity, Venerable Ananda asked the Buddha what happened last night. He said, "I noticed that the two heavenly beings that came to the  World Honored One for the Dharma last night were especially awesome in their appearance, and they were radiating with unsurpassed golden light. I am wondering what merits and virtues they have cultivated so as to have those blessings? I reverently request the Buddha, out of compassion, to instruct us. to let us comprehend it clearly."

Thus the Buddha spoke to the assembly about the heavenly beings' causes and conditions in the past. The Buddha said, "Long, long ago, after Kasyapa Buddha's Nirvana, and during the dharma ending age, there were two pure conduct cultivators who were seeking to be reborn in the Brahma heaven. These two friends were born in the same year, same month, same day and same time. They lived in the same village, had the same aspiration, the same dream, and were really good friends. When they were grown up, they heard the goodness of the Buddha Dharma, especially the Eight-fold Precepts, which is easy to cultivate. They rejoiced in their hearts and decided to uphold the Eight-fold Precepts, in order to benefit from upholding the precepts.

Thus the two pure conduct cultivators came together, made an arrangement to go together to the most virtuous monk among the disciples of the Buddha, and to sincerely request for the transmission of the Eight-fold Precepts. Realizing their utmost sincerity, the virtuous monk then transmitted the Eight-fold Precepts to them accordingly. Though they were both sincere in requesting to receive the Eight-fold Precepts, their aspirations were slightly different. The first Brahmin vowed to ride on the merits and virtues of holding the precepts to be reborn in a heaven in order to enjoy the blessing. The second Brahmin instead vowed to ride on the merits and virtues of holding the precepts in order to come back to the world to be a king.

After they received the transmission of the Eight-fold Precepts, they both went back to their homes. After coming home, the second Brahmin held the precepts very strictly, especially the precept of not eating at the inappropriate time. He absolutely consumed no food after lunch.

Due to his seriousness in holding the precepts strictly, without breaking them, after his life was over, his vow was fulfilled and he was born in the king's palace. When he grew up, he became the king.

After going home, the first Brahmin, who vowed to reborn in a heaven, was also determined to hold the precepts accordingly. Unfortunately, his wife was not as understanding and wise; she did not agree with eating no food after lunch. She demanded her husband to accompany her at dinner. Due to his fear of his wife, he gave in under her pressure and very unwillingly ate dinner together with her. Thus he broke the precept of not eating food at the inappropriate time. By breaking the precept, his vow to be reborn in the Brahmin heaven was not fulfilled. He fell into the animal realm and was reborn as a dragon. Thus both of them faced their retributions accordingly.

Regarding the second Brahmin, he was now born as a king. He had a gardener who took care of his garden. The gardener's job was to cultivate and produce miraculous melons and fruit for the king's consumption everyday. One day, a miraculous rare exotic fruit was found floating down the clear stream in the king's garden. The gardener thought, "When I move in and out of the palace every day, I meet the guard at the gate. It would be a good idea to let him take care of it." When the guard took over the rare exotic fruit, he then thought, "Whenever I need to report to the king, I need to go through the eunuch. It would be most appropriate to pass the fruit to him" So he did. When the eunuch took over the fruit, he quickly gave it to the queen. After receiving the rare exotic fruit, the queen quickly presented it to the king.

Upon eating the fragrant, tasty, rare, exotic fruit, the king continued to think about it. He wanted to eat more. Thus he asked the queen, "Where did you get that delicious, rare, exotic fruit?" The queen answered accordingly. The king would not stop just after asking that question, he made a thorough investigation and finally he came upon his palace gardener. The king asked the gardener, "Since there is such delicious fruit in my garden, why have you never presented them to me to enjoy? Why do I have to wait for so long to taste such exotic fruit? Did you secretly let other people taste the fruit before me? Did you then finally decide to present it to me'?" The gardener quickly replied out of fear, "You're Majesty, I beg for your pardon. It was not my fault." He then told the whole story about where and how he found the exotic fruit. After listening, the king ordered the gardener, "This is my decision. From now on, everyday, I order you to present a rare exotic fruit to me to eat, not leaving even a single day without it." The gardener immediately responded to the king, "Your Majesty, this rare exotic fruit is not cultivated in the palace garden. On top of that, we do not have the seed to plant. It was found in the clear stream in the garden. Since Your Majesty ordered me to present the fruit, it would be impossible for me to find them." The king said, "For what is impossible you have to make possible. If you cannot do it, you have to pay with your life."

When the gardener went back to the garden, he was totally, emotionally distressed by the illogical order made by the king. He lost control of himself, burst into tears and cried very loudly. In the clear stream, there lived a dragon. When the dragon heard the deep sad cry of the gardener, he decided to find out what was going on. The dragon transformed himself into an old man and asked for the reason why the gardener was crying. The gardener told the whole story. The old man consoled him and said, "Don't be worried, I can provide you as much exotic fruit as you need. You could serve the fruit with a golden plate and present it to the king. When you see the king, I would need you to pass on my word to him. Please tell your king that I am his old good friend. We received the Eight-fold Precepts together and cultivated as fellow cultivators. Your king was upheld the precepts fully and thus he fulfilled his vow to reborn as a king. I did not uphold the precepts fully and thus fell into the animal realm as a dragon. I now contemplate liberating myself from being a dragon and the only way to do so is to practice the Eight-fold Precepts again. I wish your king would request the Eight-fold Precepts for me so that I can soon be liberated. If your king does not fulfill my request, I will pour rain down upon your whole country until it is flooded. I will make your whole country submerge under an ocean of water."

After listening to the dragon, the gardener quickly carried the golden plate of exotic fruit to the king. When he arrived at the palace and saw the king, he told the king about the dragon-transformed old man he met. He then repeated what the dragon requested. After listening to the gardener, the king was totally shocked. Why did the king become so afraid? It was because there was no Buddha Dharma dwelling in the world at the time. The Triple Jewels was completely gone from the human world, so how could he find the text of the Eight-fold Precepts? The king had no choice but to turn to his most intelligent and respected minister. The king spoke to the minister, "Oh, my good minister, there is a dragon begging me for the text of the Eight-fold Precepts. You have helped me solve many difficult problems in the past; I need you to solve this one now." The minister responded to the king, saying, "Your majesty, this is the era when Buddha Dharma does not exist. To find the text of the Eight-fold Precepts would be as difficult as climbing up into the sky." The king instantly replied, "This critical moment means life or death for our country, if you cannot find the text, you will be beheaded."

Upon hearing this, the minister started to worry. As he walked home, he was filled with distress; so much so, that he did not even realize it when he arrived home. Normally when he would reach home, he would greet his elderly father and talk to his father with affection. This time, he did not even greet his father. Seeing his son with distress on the face, his father quickly asked, "What has happened, my son? What makes you so terrified?" The minister then told his father the whole story. His father responded, "That pillar in our hall is constantly emitting light. Why don't we try to examine it and find out if there is any sacred object hidden inside it?" Upon hearing what his father said, the minister quickly asked some men to take down the pillar and broke it open. Instantaneously, within a cavity in the pillar were found two scrolls of sutra. One was the Twelve-fold Conditioned Arising Sutra and the other was the Eight-fold Precepts Sutra that the king was urgently looking for.

Out of great joy, the minister immediately carried the Eight-fold Precepts Sutra respectfully on both palms and presented it to the king. Seeing that his minister successfully found the Sutra and did not disappoint him, the king was delighted with great joy. Thus, the king laid the Sutra on a golden plate and personally sent it to his dragon friend. Having the Eight-fold Precepts Sutra before him, the dragon was totally delighted; there was nothing, no words, no writing, that could describe his joy. To express his utmost gratitude, the dragon took out all the silver, gold, jewels and treasures from his palace and gave them all to the king.

From then on, not only did the dragon diligently uphold the Eight-fold Precepts in the dragon palace, but the king also diligently upheld it at his own palace. They practiced it day after day. Thus when their retribution was over, the two friends were reborn in a heaven to rejoice in the blessing. With the blessing from the merits and virtues of holding the Eight-fold Precepts, these two heavenly beings came to the garden of the Benefactor of Orphans and the Solitary last night to request Dharma from me. After listening to the Dharma, instantly they were certified to the fourth stage of Arahantship. They then transcended the three realms and will never again revolve in the sea of birth and death.

From this story, it is clear that by upholding the Eight-fold Precepts, one will be rewarded by its merits and virtues, and by breaking the precepts, one will face its consequences. There is not a single bit of mistake when it comes to facing the reward or the consequence. Thus, I would ask you to sincerely uphold the precepts. If you would firmly uphold them, even at a critical moment, then you would definitely be able to ride on its merits and virtues to be reborn in a heaven, or even to the stage of easily liberating yourself from birth and death.