The Universal Door of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva
(The Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of All the World)
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra has seven rolls and twenty-eight chapters. This is Chapter Twenty-five, the "Universal Door Chapter." It deals with the spiritual powers and miraculous functions of the inconceivable state of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World.
There are ten causal conditions for the speaking of this chapter:
1. Person and Dharma. The person is Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. The Dharma is the manifestation of the Universal Door.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva saves beings from seven difficulties, counteracts the three poisons, and responds to the two kinds of seeking. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is an inconceivable person. The manifestation of the Universal Door-the response to all seeking and the penetration of all responses-is an inconceivable Dharma. Because it is inconceivable, it is called Wonderful Dharma.
Because of the causes and conditions of the Wonderful Person and the Wonderful Dharma, the "Universal Door Chapter" is spoken.
2. Kindness and Compassion. The second causal condition is kindness and compassion. Because of compassion, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva speaks the "Universal Door Chapter."
What is kindness and compassion? Kindness bestows happiness. Compassion relieves beings of suffering.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva saves living beings from seven difficulties, counteracts three kinds of poison, and responds to the two kinds of seeking of living beings. The seven difficulties are enumerated in the text itself. The three poisons are greed, hatred, and stupidity. The two seekings are seeking for a son and seeking for a daughter.
Living beings are all poisoned by greed, hatred, and stupidity. However, if a person who has much greed can always reverently recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, he can separate from greed. If he has a lot of hatred and can always reverently recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, he can separate from hatred. If he is very stupid and always reverently recites the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, he can leave his stupidity.
There are many forms of greed, and just as many, if not more, forms of hatred. Stupidity doesn't take too many forms or too few forms. What is stupidity? It is a lack of wisdom and depth of understanding. It is a failure to perceive the principle underlying events.
In China, the philosopher WangYang-ming said that stupidity is when one's conduct does not accord with one's knowledge. He says, "Why does someone fail to do something? It's because he doesn't understand. If he understood, he would do it."
Some people say, "Well, it's possible for some people to understand and still not do it." But Wang Yang-ming would say, "They don't really understand. If they really understood, they would do it." His philosophy was "understanding and doing are one." If a person really understood, he would not do stupid things. Why do people do stupid things? It's because they don't really understand.
There's a poem about stupid people that goes,
Why aren't the flowers always in bloom?
Why isn't the moon always full?
If only all the waters of the earth would turn to wine!
And the leaves of the trees turn to gold!
Someone says, "I wish my flowers would always bloom and never fade."
People who like the moon wish it would always be full and never wax or wane, "The full moon is so bright and pretty. And I don't need to light lamps, so I save money." Wouldn't you say that was stupid? Can the moon be full every night? No, that's impossible.
People who like to drink think, "Every day I have to go buy my bottle of whiskey or brandy, and it's very expensive. Wouldn't it be great if the lake turned into wine? I could just go down to the lake and take a drink whenever I felt like it."
People who are greedy for money think, "I have to go to work to earn money. It's really painful. If all the leaves of the trees turned to money, wouldn't that be great?" But that's obviously impossible. It's just another form of imaginary wishful thinking.
Another stupid person might be wishing for a Ph.D. degree when he hasn't even gone to elementary school or high school. That, too, is stupid. Someone may want to win the horse races when he hasn't even bought a ticket.
Stupid as it is, most people fall prey to such types of thinking. So what's to be done? If you are prone to this type of thinking, you should change, that's all.
With great kindness, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva helps living beings leave suffering and attain bliss. Out of great kindness and great compassion, the "Universal Door of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva Chapter" is spoken.
3. Blessings and Wisdom. It is said that Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva "follows the sounds to relieve beings from suffering."
He distinguishes all the different sounds in the world-good sounds, bad sounds, sounds of suffering, sounds of joy, sounds of what is right, and sounds of what is wrong. He does this with his wisdom. Where does his wisdom come from? It comes from the practice of giving. He gives the Dharma to living beings, and as a result, he gains boundless wisdom and blessings.
4. True Body and Response Bodies. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva uses the wonderful doctrine of the true body to rescue living beings from the seven kinds of difficulty, to counteract the three poisons, and to fulfill the two kinds of seeking. He also manifests in thirty-two kinds of response bodies.
The "Universal Door Chapter" is spoken on the basis of the true body and the response bodies.
5. Medicine King Tree. What is the Medicine King Tree?
Long, long ago, there was a man who went into the mountains to gather firewood. Then he would take it to the market to sell.
One day, he met a doctor. The doctor saw something emitting light in the firewood. He then bought it and took it home. When the doctor opened the bundle, he found a Medicine King Tree. No matter what illness someone had, all the doctor had to do was brush the Medicine King Tree over the patients or hit them with it, and they would be cured. In this way, he saved many people.
What is the Wish-Fulfilling Pearl? "Wish-Fulfilling" means that according to your heart's desire, you get your wish. If you want something nice to eat, something very delicious will manifest from inside the pearl for you. If you want some nice clothes, the outfit of your dreams will manifest from the Wish-Fulfilling Pearl. This pearl can manifest clothing, food, and even a place to live. You can say, "Tonight, I want to stay in the most beautiful room," and it will manifest for you. The next day, the room will go right back into the pearl.
The pearl can manifest exactly the right amount of food for you, never too much or too little. That's why it's called Wish-Fulfilling. As to your clothes, you won't need to hang them up in the closet, because when you are done wearing them, they will go right back into the pearl. How big is the pearl? It's pretty small. You can carry it with you. It's not heavy, and it doesn't take a lot of room. A woman is thinking, "Can it get me a good husband?" Well, I don't know about that. A man is thinking, "Can it get me a good wife?" Don't ask me that; I really don't know.
In any case, then, the "Universal Door Chapter" is like a Medicine King Tree and a Wish-Fulfilling Pearl. It fulfills your wishes just as you wish. All you have to do is recite the "Universal Door Chapter," and you will get what you wish for.
However, it's not the case that you can recite it today and have a response tomorrow. You have to set down a good foundation first. It's like constructing a building. You have to lay the foundation first. Without the foundation, you can't build the building.
The "Universal Door Chapter" is like a Medicine King Tree and a Wish-Fulfilling Pearl. It is that magical, amazing, and inconceivable; but you first have to recite it. You should recite it every day until Gwan Yin Bodhisattva thinks that you have passed the test, that you are sincere enough. If you don't regularly recite it, you can't get a response when you need one. You have to ordinarily apply effort in your cultivation, then an inconceivable response can have a chance to take place.
Someone says, "There are too many things in Buddhism to learn. There are the Shurangama Mantra, the Great Compassion Mantra, and now the "Universal Door Chapter." When am I going to get the time?" It doesn't take that much time. All you have to do is cut an hour off your sleeping time and do a little less chatting with people. If you don't have any aspirations, nothing you would like to be "Wish-Fulfilling," then you don't need to recite. If you say, "I don't want anything. I'm not greedy for anything. I'm not hateful or stupid, so I don't need to recite this," then what's there to talk about? But if you feel that perhaps you might run into trouble and need Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's help in the future, then you should certainly study a bit more Buddhadharma. The Buddhadharma is like a great sea, and all of you haven't even drunk one drop of it yet. You'll never be able to drink it all. Even though you can't drink it all, you can drink your fill according to your capacity. The Buddhadharma is endless for the taking and inexhaustible in its function.
Thus, we study and recite the "Universal Door Chapter," because it is like the Medicine King Tree and the Wish-Fulfilling Pearl.
6. Manifest and Secret. When you recite the "Universal Door Chapter," sometimes you will obtain a revealed or manifest response. Other times you will obtain a secret or hidden response.
A manifest response is one that everyone can see and understand. The "Universal Door Chapter" says, "If he enters a great fire, the fire will not burn him." When this great fire burns, if you single-mindedly believe in Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva and recite his name with true faith, the rooms around you may burn down, but your room won't. But this is only if by accident. You can't decide to try it out and light a fire to see if it will burn. If you do that, it is sure to be burned. Why? Because you are testing Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. That shows that you don't have adequate faith. That is like, say, you have a friend, and you test him out to see if he's really a loyal friend. "I'll just leave five hundred dollars here on the ground. If he's a good person, he won't take it. If he's a bad person, he will." But why do you want to test out your friend? It's because you don't really recognize your friend. You don't truly know if he is a good friend.
If you don't believe the Sutra and you feel you must test it out to see if the fire will burn you, you basically don't believe in Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. Since you don't believe in Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, he doesn't have time to watch over your affairs. Go ahead and burn your house down if you like. If you want to commit suicide and jump into the ocean to see if the water will drown you so that you can test out Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's spiritual powers, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is not going to pay any attention to you. Since you don't believe in him, he's not going to involve himself in your business. But if your house accidentally catches fire and you have been reciting regularly, you won't be burned. But it has to be accidental; it can't be something that you try as an experiment.
"Well, ultimately I don't know if it's true or false if I don't test it out," you say.
If you know it's true, then what? If you don't know it's true, then what? Whether you know or don't know that it's true, you still have to eat and wear clothes in order to live. What more do you want?
So the neighbor's house burns down, but yours doesn't. That's called a manifest response. Everybody knows about it.
There may also be a secret response. For example, perhaps you are due for some calamity-you were due to fall into the sea and drown-but Gwan Yin Bodhisattva secretly lets you know of the danger so that it doesn't happen. Nobody knows about it. You don't even know about it. You were supposed to undergo a calamity, but it disappears. That's called a secret response. Say someone was supposed to be burned to death in a fire, but he believes in Gwan Yin Bodhisattva and his disaster vanishes. You could have been due to die in a plane crash, a train crash, or on the highway, and because you sincerely recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name and the Great Compassion Mantra, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva secretly and silently dispels calamity and turns your misfortune into good fortune. Everything is auspicious as you will.
Thus, the "Universal Door Chapter" was spoken because of the manifest and secret responses. Both the manifest and secret responses are interpenetrating without obstruction, and so the merit and virtue of the "Universal Door Chapter" is inconceivable.
The Great Compassion Mantra functions in this inconceivable manner as well as the "Universal Door Chapter."
There was once in Manchuria a farmer who was returning home with his friends from a business trip. When he was almost halfway home, he saw a band of robbers about a mile up ahead. What was he going to do? He couldn't run away because it was their territory, and he was sure to be robbed. Just at that moment, he recited the Great Compassion Mantra. When he got to where the robbers were, one of them came forward and took the reins from the driver, saying, "I'll drive." They drove right through the gang of bandits as if they were invisible. When they were safely through, the man gave the reins back to the driver. The farmer said, "You saved us from the robbers today. What is your name? Where do you live? I would like to send you a reward." The man said, "My name is E Shr Yun." Now, everyone knows there is a line E shr yun in the Great Compassion Mantra that is the name of a Dharma Protector.
At that time, the farmer didn't remember that E shr yun was in the Great Compassion Mantra. After the man left, he remembered, "He's a Dharma Protector in the Great Compassion Mantra!" This is an inconceivable state manifest from the Great Compassion Mantra. But if you recite it just to test it out, E Shr Yun is not going to show up. It's only if you recite and believe in the Mantra that unlucky circumstances can be made lucky. If you run into E Shr Yun, make sure you recognize him. Don't be like the farmer who didn't remember who he was until he was gone.
7. Provisional and Real. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva uses the power of the Dharma body to secretly benefit living beings. This is called the real. He also uses the thirty-two response bodies to teach and transform living beings. This is the provisional.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva provides living beings a temporary teaching to lead them to the real teaching. Because of the provisional and the real, the "Universal Door Chapter" was spoken.
8. Roots and Traces. With the Dharma body, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva saves all living beings. The Dharma body is the root. The response bodies used to teach and transform living beings are the traces. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's Dharma body is like the moon; that's the root. The traces are like the moon's reflection in all the waters.
The moon lends its reflections to the waters of a thousand rivers.
The "Universal Door Chapter" is spoken because of the root and traces. With one Dharma body, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva manifests within the hearts of all living beings. He causes all living beings to change from evil and go toward the good, to leave suffering and attain bliss, and ultimately to become Buddhas.
Someone is thinking, "No wonder I haven't changed for the better. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has not manifested in my mind. That's why I don't wish to change my faults." Those who smoke, think, "Probably the reason I haven't quit smoking is that Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is not helping me." Someone who likes to drink is thinking, "It's Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's fault that I haven't quit drinking. He isn't helping me." And suddenly he is upset with Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, "He's unfair! Why does he help other people, but not me?" Now, that is stupidity added to stupidity.
Why isn't Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva helping you? Because you don't listen to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's instructions. Hearing Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name, you should reform yourself and go toward the good. You should calm your mind down and cool off. Let the past go and concentrate on doing better in the future. For instance, if you take the precepts, you must keep the precepts. If you know something is wrong but you still go ahead and do it anyway, then your offenses are doubled. It's a mistake to blame Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva for not protecting you. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva wants to help you out, but you keep the door to your mind closed. You don't let him help! All that Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva can do is sigh and say, "You are truly pitiful!" So don't blame Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
9. Condition and Finality. "Condition" refers to causes and conditions. "Finality" means putting an end to the cause; it also means understanding the cause.
Why have people come from such great distances to hear the Dharma? Because they want to understand and put an end to the cause. Also, they have those causes and conditions from the past that allow them to encounter the Buddhadharma in this lifetime.
10. Wisdom and Severing. Another reason is the pair of wisdom and severing. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is adorned with the virtue of wisdom and the virtue of severing. With the virtue of wisdom, he teaches and transforms living beings. With the virtue of severing, he cuts through and severs all forms of ignorance. The virtue of severing can also be called the virtue of blessings. Because the Bodhisattva has severed ignorance, he is truly adorned with blessings and wisdom. The Buddha is complete with blessings and wisdom. Although a Bodhisattva, Gwan Shr Yin is also adorned with blessings and wisdom.
Together these are ten causal conditions for the speaking of the "Universal Door Chapter" of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
Before we delve into the Sutra text, let's look into the meaning of the name Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the World's Sounds.
Gwan, "contemplate," is the wisdom that contemplates. Shr yin, "the world's sounds," are the states he contemplates. No matter what sound it is, this Bodhisattva knows. He knows all the sounds of living beings. He knows every single sound. Why? Because he contemplates them all day long!
Sounds are basically heard, not seen. Why is it said he "contemplates" or "observes" them? Can you see sounds? No. But Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva can see them! You can't see them, but he can. He sees them as if they were on a radar screen. Every living being manifests as a blip on his radar screen. He can chart your every sound. That's one way to explain it.
There's another way, and that is that Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva can see with his ears and hear with his eyes. Even though we say he observes the sounds of the world, he can also hear with his eyes. Not only can he see with his eyes, he can hear with them as well. Why? Because he has the spiritual powers of the interpenetration of the six sense organs. Others who cultivate the Dharma Flower Sutra will obtain the purity of the six faculties. Then they can use the six sense organs in mutual interpenetration. How much the more so can Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva! Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, then, can speak with his ears, eat with his ears, listen with his eyes, and think with his eyes. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva gained the state of the mutual interpenetration of the six sense organs a long, long time ago, and so he is able to contemplate the sounds of the world.
"Why does he want to look after so many things," you ask, "observing sounds all day long? What use is that?"
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva does so because he cannot put down living beings-you, me, and them. He sees all living beings as his own children. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is like a mother to all of us. He is always checking to see which child is crying, which child is laughing, or which child might be cold or hungry. He is busy all day long looking after all of us kids.
"Does that make him some kind of a baby-sitter?" you ask.
Pretty much, yes. But he doesn't get paid. Too bad! Because he can't put living beings down, he wants to contemplate the sounds of the world. He looks to see what suffering living beings are undergoing, and he finds a way to help them. When he sees living beings in a disaster, he saves them from it.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva "follows the sounds to rescue beings from suffering." If you are suffering, all you have to do is recite "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa," and you'll find your unlucky circumstances turn into good fortune. Everything will turn out just as you want it to. Most people don't know about this most wonderful Dharma, and so when they are in the greatest danger, it doesn't occur to them to recite Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name.
If, in great danger, you can remember to recite Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name, you will be okay. If you are in a fire, it won't burn you. If you are in the water, you will not drown. If you don't know how to swim, you'll just find yourself in a shallow place. This is the response from Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. All you have to do when in great danger is recite Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name. You are sure to gain a response and be rescued. But you must have faith. You can't waver between faith and doubt.
Let's say you are in a fire and you are reciting Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name, but you're thinking, "This isn't going to work. Nothing is that magical." With that one doubt, he won't be able to rescue you. Why not? Because you don't believe. You must single-mindedly believe. "I am reciting, and Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will certainly come and save me."
Let's say a tiger is just about to swallow you up. You shut your eyes and recite, "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa." Suddenly the tiger won't be able to open his mouth! That's how powerful Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is; yet it only happens if you are truly sincere and have faith.
Bodhisattvas are beings who enlighten other living beings. They are also called "living beings with great minds for the Way." They are "those who enlighten sentient beings." They can also be called "sentient beings who are enlightened."
And so Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva saves living beings-those who are "born from a multitude of conditions"-from danger and difficulty. What is meant by "born from a multitude of conditions"?
I just said that countries fight with countries, families fight with families, people fight with people, ghosts fight with ghosts, and animals fight with animals. The power of the collective karma of living beings creates our ominous present-day situations. There are many countries, in fact, where the population is not even composed of human beings! Sometimes a large group of mice might get reborn together as people in one place and make up a "country." Or sometimes a population of frogs can be born together as humans in a particular country.
Last spring (1968) a lay disciple showed us an article in the newspaper that reported there were several tens of thousands of frogs that all committed suicide together in Thailand. Why did that happen? It shows that most of the people in that country were frogs before. If you check out their physiognomy in detail, they even look somewhat like frogs. Each nationality has its own characteristics, because in former lives they were a particular kind of animal. Now there are many nationalities in America, and these came from various types of beings. There were people, animals, and all kinds of beings. That's the truth!
If you look carefully, and if you have the Buddha Eye, the Wisdom Eye, or the Heavenly Eye, you will know that the people in the world aren't necessarily "people." There are many kinds of creatures in human form. How can you tell? If you have the Buddha Eye, or the Wisdom Eye, and you want to know what people were in their past lives, you look at the "shadow" behind them. If there is a human "shadow" behind them, then they were people in their last lives. If they were animals or some strange creatures, they will have those "shadows" behind them.
If you haven't opened your Buddha Eye, Wisdom Eye, or Heavenly Eye, then you won't be able to tell. Anyway, don't think that everyone you meet is a person. You don't have to be nervous. If you obtain the Heavenly Eye, you can know all about these things. Just keep working hard. This is a very subtle doctrine, however. Most people won't believe it if they haven't experienced it. However, if you really want to know these things, you have to put your feet firmly on the ground and cultivate. When you obtain spiritual powers you will know "The things that Dharma Master said are really true! He told us really wonderful things!" Then you'll know.
At that time Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva rose from his seat, uncovered his right shoulder, placed his palms together, and facing the Buddha, said, "World Honored One, by means of what causes and conditions is the Bodhisattva Gwan Shr Yin called 'Gwan Shr Yin'?"
"At that time" refers to the time when the chapter on the Bodhisattva Wondrous Sound was finished and the "Universal Door Chapter" was about to begin. This is the time when Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, being present in the Dharma Flower assembly, asked the Buddha how Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva got his name.
"Inexhaustible Intention" is the Bodhisattva's name. In general, there are three kinds of inexhaustibility.
1. The inexhaustibility of worlds like floating motes of dust. We shouldn't think that the world consists simply of what our eyes can see or our ears can hear. There are limitless, boundless worlds-this world, that world, and an infinite number of worlds. These worlds are like floating specks of dust. Why "floating?" Because they are in a state of constant agitation and movement; they are never still. Another aspect of dust is that it is not clean; our world is filled with dust.
When the sun comes out and shines through a crevice in the window, you'll see an infinite number of dust particles dancing, bobbing up and down. Where does all this dust come from? It comes from the minds of living beings. Why? Because living beings' minds have too much polluted thinking. Polluted thinking is like floating dust. Take a look at how much polluted thinking you are aware of. Try to imagine how much polluted thinking you cannot perceive! In a single thought there are ninety kshanas. A kshana is the briefest instant of time. In one kshana, there are nine hundred births and deaths.
So where do all these worlds come from? They come from living beings' polluted thoughts. Relying on the truth, they give rise to the false. From a single false thought, the mountains, the rivers, the great earth, and all the buildings and vegetation are created.
2. The inexhaustibility of living beings who are obscured by karma. Worlds are boundless, and boundless living beings are created out of these worlds. Living beings are born from a mass of causes and conditions. Some are born from wombs, others from eggs, moisture, or transformation. These are discussed in detail in the Shurangama Sutra. Living beings are born from wombs because of the emotion of love. Beings are born from eggs because of thought.
Where do living beings come from? They come from the Buddha-nature.
We say, "All living beings have the Buddha-nature and all can become Buddhas." But this is not the same as saying, "Living beings are Buddhas." You can't become a Buddha without cultivating. You have to cultivate, meditate, and study the Buddhadharma. Then you can return to the root and go back to the source and become a Buddha. You can't say, "Living beings are Buddhas. We don't need to cultivate!" That's just deviant knowledge and deviant views. You must cultivate to become a Buddha.
3. The bottomlessness of the river of love. Not just people, but also animals, are attached to love. They aren't clear about principles, and their minds of sexual desire are very heavy. You should lighten your desires and purify your mind. Pare away your thoughts of desire. Then you are not far from Buddhahood.
Why is this river of love bottomless? Because the more you fall, the more you tend to fall; the deeper you sink, the deeper you get. Thoughts of desire are like waves, which never stop. Why are there waves on the sea? It's because there are waves in our minds. The waves in our minds are made from the river of love, which flows without stopping.
No matter how sharp a knife you may use to try to cut off your emotional love, it's still not easily severed. But it's said that, "The sword of wisdom can slice through emotion." With genuine wisdom, you can solve the problem and cut it off. Without wisdom, you fall into the bottomless river of love.
Because of these three kinds of inexhaustibility, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva wishes to turn inexhaustible worlds into the Land of Ultimate Bliss, to cause inexhaustible living beings to become Buddhas, and to fill up the bottomless and inexhaustible river of love. That's why he's called Inexhaustible Intention.
Bodhisattva is a Sanskrit word that means "enlightened being." Bodhi is "the Way of enlightenment." A sattva is "one with sentience." A Bodhisattva uses the doctrines of awakening to the Way to enlighten all beings with sentience. The Bodhisattva resolves, "I am enlightened, and I am going to find a way to cause all beings to become enlightened." This is to enlighten oneself and enlighten others.
Where do Bodhisattvas come from? They come from living beings. Bodhisattvas begin as living beings, just like you and me. However, they become enlightened living beings. We living beings are confused; they have awakened. If you wake up today, today you are a Bodhisattva. If you wake up tomorrow, tomorrow you will be a Bodhisattva.
Wake up to what? Wake up out of your ignorance. If you can know where your ignorance came from and break through it, you are awakened. If you cannot break through your ignorance, you are confused. When one breaks through ignorance, the Dharma-nature manifests. Ignorance disappears, and the river of love dries up. Once the river of love has dried up, your wisdom can manifest.
So, a Bodhisattva is a person who enlightens others-an enlightened one among living beings.
Bodhisattvas are also called "living beings with great minds of the Way." They are also called "Initiating Knights." They can open up living beings' stupidity and turn it into the original Buddha-nature.
When the Dharma Flower Sutra was spoken, five thousand people in the assembly walked out. Who were they? They were those with overweening pride. They were arrogant and naughty. When Shakyamuni Buddha started lecturing the Dharma Flower Sutra, he said, "I am now lecturing the real truth. I am not speaking provisionally." The five thousand people were unhappy with him and left in a huff.
Having heard the "Wondrous Sound Bodhisattva Chapter," Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva then rose from his seat. In a large assembly, if you want to say something you have to stand up. You can't just raise your hand. Not only did he stand up, but he uncovered his right shoulder. That was the custom to show respect in India, and so today our sashes do not cover the right shoulder.
In India and Southeast Asia, the monks don't have clasps on their sashes. They just wear them as clothes; they don't need a clasp. Since the robe is their main piece of clothing and is next to their skin, if it falls off they will know. In China, the monks wear clothing underneath their sashes. And so if their sashes fall off, it's not easy for them to detect it. That's why they attach a clasp to their sashes.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva uncovered his right shoulder as a gesture of respect, placed his palms together, and facing the Buddha, said, "World Honored One." "World Honored One" means that the Buddha is honored by those in and beyond the world. By means of what causes and conditions is the Bodhisattva Gwan Shr Yin called 'Gwan Shr Yin'? With great compassion, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva rescues people from the seven difficulties, counteracts the three poisons, and responds to the two kinds of seeking. He has fourteen kinds of fearlessness and nineteen ways of speaking Dharma. For what reason is he called Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva? What Dharma did he cultivate in the past that he is now called Gwan Shr Yin?
The Buddha told Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, "Good Man, if any of the limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of living beings who are undergoing all kinds of suffering hear of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva and recite his name single-mindedly, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will immediately hear their voices and rescue them."
The Buddha told Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva. This is a phrase of narrative spoken by the Sutra compiler, Ananda. "Good Man," said Shakyamuni Buddha, "if any of the limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of living beings…" Let us assume that there are countless living beings from all types of birth-egg, womb, moisture, transformation; with form, without form; with thought, without thought; not totally endowed with thought, and not totally lacking thought-who are undergoing all kinds of suffering.
There are many forms of suffering. In general, they can be said to fall into four categories.
1. One person may undergo one kind of suffering. This is like a mute who experiences suffering of which he alone is aware, for he cannot express his chagrin. Hence there is the saying, "like a mute tasting hwang lyan." Hwang lyan is the most bitter kind of Chinese herbal medicine.
2. One person may undergo many kinds of suffering. A single individual may run into natural disasters or manmade calamities, experiencing the entire gamut of suffering.
3. Many people may undergo one kind of suffering. For example, people in certain countries experience the pains of war, bloodshed, or political upheavals. Or there may be epidemics that wipe out entire populations at one instance.
4. Many people may undergo many kinds of suffering. Because there are many living beings, there are also many varieties of suffering. How many kinds of suffering are there? Basically, there's no way to count them all. In general, there are 84,000 kinds.
So what should people do when they have to undergo all these terrible kinds of suffering? When they hear of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they should recite his name single-mindedly. When you are suffering, do not forget Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
Now, how many people in America have heard of the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva? Those who have heard of it are very few. Think it over. "Hearing" just means understanding and being able to learn about. You have studied the Shurangama Sutra and you know of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's perfect penetration of the ear organ and his thirty-two response bodies-all his inconceivable spiritual powers of self-mastery-so that you recognize Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
Single-mindedness is the most important requisite. You should have one mind, not two or three. If you are scattered, the effect is lessened. Unless you turn to one, it is not efficacious. Therefore, be without two or three minds, but with one mind.
"Gwan" means to contemplate. "Shr" means world. "Yin" means sounds. This Bodhisattva contemplates the sounds in all worlds of all living beings at all distances who hear of or recite his name. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will immediately hear their voices and rescue them. These desperate living beings will be rescued from all torment. They will be happy. They will obtain genuine freedom and be without restraints or hang-ups.
"If a person who upholds the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva enters a great fire, the fire will not burn him, all because of this Bodhisattva's awesome spiritual power."
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva rescues living beings from seven kinds of difficulty, the first of which is fire. Another hypothetical case is presented this time of a person who upholds the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. "Uphold" means to receive and maintain, and not to forget. In every thought one recollects the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, reciting "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva." If such a person enters a great fire, the fire will not burn him. However, this means that ordinarily one recites the Bodhisattva's name. One can't wait until there is a disaster and then recite like crazy to make up for lost time.
There is a saying,
In your free time you never light incense,
But when there's an emergency, you are on your knees before the Buddha.
If you don't cultivate ordinarily but wait until an emergency to do so, it's not going to work.
"Sometimes there are cases when someone doesn't ordinarily recite, but Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva does save them. How does that happen?" You ask.
Everyone has his or her own set of causes and results. In former lives, perhaps this person recited vigorously and performed many kinds of meritorious work. In this life, even though he doesn't recite, the power of his good roots from reciting in previous lives carries through and he is saved. This is an example of a distant cause. But if you think you can wait and rely on your good roots, no one will guarantee you. If you recite well this life, I will guarantee that in the future you will be helped in an emergency. If you don't have the penetration of past lives, how do you know whether you did recite in the past? If you have the Heavenly Eye or Heavenly Ear, you might know; but still it's better to recite now to be sure.
Once there was a man who wanted to go to Pu Two mountain to bow to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. He became a vegetarian for three years before going to Mount Pu Two. Guess what happened? Just as he got on the boat, one of his neighbors came running up and said, "Our entire neighborhood is on fire." Then his relatives arrived and said, "It's bad timing. Come back and save our home!"
"I've been preparing for this pilgrimage for three years, and now I'm on the boat. If the house is supposed to burn, it will burn anyway, even if I get off the boat now. If Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva protects me, then it won't burn and I don't need to get off the boat now. I can go to the mountain. I would rather my house burned down, than that I not get to go bow to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva."
He didn't pay attention to anything after that. He went to Nan Hai to bow to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, and when he returned to his own village, every house in his neighborhood had burned down except for his. Everyone said, "Why didn't your house burn?"
He replied, "I put everything down. I just went to bow to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. It was through the power of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva."
So if he enters a great fire, the fire will not burn him, all because of this Bodhisattva's awesome spiritual power. That is why he will not be burned.
"If a person being tossed about in the great sea calls out the Bodhisattva's name, he will find a shallow place."
If a person being tossed about in the great sea. That is, if he is accidentally thrown into the ocean, he can be saved by reciting Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name. Now, you cannot do it on purpose just to test it out. If you try to test Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva to see if he is efficacious or not, he most certainly will not be. You will sink without a doubt. Why? Because you are testing him! You aren't a teacher and he is not a student, so why do you want to test him? You don't believe Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has such spiritual powers, and so you test him out. It's as if you really don't believe in a friend and so you test him out to see if he is truly loyal. You put some money out to see if he will steal it. That's because you really don't know whether he is your good friend.
Why would you want to test Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva? Because you don't really recognize him. But in testing him, you may lose your own life. Don't experiment with your life.
If the person calls out the Bodhisattva's name, he will find a shallow place. You won't quite know how it happens, but suddenly you will be on the shore. This is through the power of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
"If the hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of beings who seek gold, silver, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, carnelian, coral, amber, real pearls, and so forth enter the great sea, an evil wind may toss their boats into the territory of the rakshasha ghosts. But if among them there is even one person who calls out the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will all be saved from the difficulty of the rakshashas. For this reason, he is called Gwan Shr Yin."
Among the seven kinds of difficulties, this is the third, the difficulty of meeting with rakshasha ghosts. If the hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of beings who seek gold, silver, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, carnelian, coral, amber, real pearls, and so forth. People are greedy for these things because they think they are jewels. Actually these things are external to the body. Before you have understood the true jewels within your own nature, even if you greedily pursue external jewels, they won't be of any great use. They have nothing to do with your own nature. But most ordinary people seek these things.
Every country is greedy for gold, and so most citizens think it is a rare and valuable thing. Day and night, they scheme to get gold. This goes on to the point that countries fight with countries over gold. Why do people think gold is so valuable? Because there's not very much of it, so everybody is greedy for it. It's hard to get, and so people even dream of it. Some go to Africa. Some go to America. The Chinese used to call America "Old Gold Mountain." Everyone ran here from China for the gold. Once they got most of the gold from America, they ran off to Australia, to "New Gold Mountain."
People travel all over for gold. We don't know how many people died on the high seas coming over here to get gold. A lot of them. But communications weren't as advanced in those days, and the news didn't get reported. A lot of people died, and no one ever knew. That's because they met with the difficulty of the evil wind while searching for jewels. They had small boats, nothing like the big ones we have today. Some found gold, but most did not. Everyone knows about those who found gold, but who knows about all those people who died at sea? There's no record of those who were lost. Many went to New Gold Mountain, to Australia.
People also went to find silver. Gold is first, and silver is second in value. Next comes lapis lazuli, which is translated as "blue colored gem." Mother-of-pearl has lines running through it that look like cart tracks, but its surface is actually very smooth.
Carnelian is called "horse brain," because there are thread-like lines running through it that are the color of blood. In the old days in China, those who smoked pipes had their long pipes made out of carnelian or jade. They were very expensive. Those people, having eaten their fill and having nothing else to do, wanted to be different, to show how unusual they were, and so they made extravagant pipes. They would compete to see who could have the most expensive pipes, to show off how rich they were.
Coral grows in the ocean in formations that look like trees. Some of them get to be three feet tall. I have seen one that was one foot tall. There are small creatures in the ocean who leave their shells in shapes that look like trees. Such trees are very expensive.
In China, Shr Chung was competing to show off his wealth with a certain relative of the Emperor. The Emperor had given his relative a coral tree, probably about two feet tall, especially expensive. The person invited Shr Chung to dinner one night and showed him his coral tree. "See my expensive coral tree?" he asked.
Shr Chung picked it up and threw it on the ground, smashed it into pieces. The man was crushed. "That was my coral tree, which the Emperor gave me. Now what?"
"Don't worry about it," said Shr Chung, "I'll replace it. Come over to my house tomorrow and you can pick a coral tree out of my collection."
When the Emperor's relative went to Shr Chung's house the next day, he saw that the guest room was filled with lovely coral trees all over three feet tall! This man realized he wasn't as wealthy as Shr Chung, even though he was the Emperor's relative, and so he took a coral tree and left.
Later Shr Chung, however, was murdered for his money. It is said,
People die because of wealth;
Birds die because of food.
Amber is another kind of precious stone. Sometimes it's red and sometimes rich light brown in color. Real pearls are big pearls from the deep ocean.
If people should enter the great sea to acquire such things, they may run into trouble. And suppose an evil wind comes up. This is hypothetically speaking, mind you. An evil wind is literally a "black wind." This is something everyone personally has.
What do I mean? It's when your face gets all contorted with affliction and turns black. When you get angry, you have an evil wind. If you have no temper, then you don't have an evil wind. The great sea is the sea of our mind-our own nature. The evil wind is ignorance. We speak about it in many ways, but it all comes back to the same thing-ignorance. Ignorance is also called affliction. If you have affliction, you have an evil wind. Without affliction, the sea of your own nature is calm and placid. To seek jewels is to go within your own nature to look for treasures. When you try to uncover the treasures within your own nature, you might run into demonic obstacles. Demonic obstacles arise because you don't have enough Way virtue or virtuous conduct. If you haven't done enough virtuous deeds, your virtue is not complete, and so the evil wind-the demonic obstacle-starts blowing. If you possess great virtue, the evil wind will turn into lucky clouds-fortunate energy.
In China we say,
When the Way is lofty, dragons and tigers are subdued.
When virtue is profound, ghosts and spirits are respectful.
When the Way is lofty, the dragons and tigers will lie down when they see you. Dragons are basically very fierce, they can move mountains and turn over the seas with their spiritual penetrations. But if you have the Way, even though dragons have such spiritual powers, they don't dare use them on you. They have to lie down. Tigers are very mean, but if you have no anger, when they see you they will act like tame dogs-like house pets. They will wag their tails and welcome you like kitty cats. But you must have the Way-Dau. If you don't, the dragons won't lie down and the tigers won't crouch.
If your virtue is sufficiently profound, then when the ghosts and spirits see you, they will bow. But you must have virtue; otherwise, they won't. Therefore, developing virtue by doing virtuous deeds is most important.
The evil wind may toss their boats into the territory of the rakshasha ghosts; they will be in trouble. Rakshasha ghosts eat people's essence and energy. They are female. But if among them-the people on the boat-there is even one person who calls out the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will all be saved-all hundreds of myriads of millions of them-from the difficulty of the rakshashas. For this reason, he is called Gwan Shr Yin-the Contemplator of the World's Sounds.
Virtue is something all people should look upon as most important because virtue is that which makes people different from animals. Without virtue, we are not different from animals.
Virtue must be put into action. If you don't "do" it, it's not there.
In Manchuria, I had a very good friend. He was my good friend because he was of the same Path as I was. When I was observing filial piety by my mother's grave, he was doing the same by his mother's grave. He was called Filial Son Yu. Before he began his filial practice, he had been a thief. He went everywhere tying up people and robbing them.
Once he was wounded in a fight. The wound festered and refused to heal for over half a month. At that time he woke up: "Probably I have been doing too many wrong things and so my wound won't heal." Then he made a vow, "If my wound heals, I will never steal again. I will observe filial piety at the graves of my parents." Having had this thought, the wound was well in a few days, and he did go start his practice. Many strange things happened to him then. There isn't enough time to go into all of them in detail today.
Once, he sought to stop the rain on behalf of the village, and he cut off his flesh as an offering to heaven. While he was sitting beside his parents' graves, it started raining and rained for days and days. He thought, "All the crops will be flooded," and so he began to pray for the rain to stop. As a token of his sincerity, he said, "If the rain stops within three days, I shall cut off my flesh as an offering to the sky and the Buddha." Having made this vow, oddly enough, in two and a half days or so, the rain stopped.
To carry out his vow, he stood before the Buddha image and cut off about one or two liang of his flesh as an offering. He fainted from the shock and the pain. When he woke up again, the ground was covered with blood. The governor of Shwang Cheng County happened by. Seeing Filial Son Yu lying in a pool of blood, the governor thought he was deranged. But when he found out the details of his offering, he said, "That's terrific!" and he was very impressed.
Soon after this incident, a little bird came to visit Filial Son Yu. It chirped in a very strange way. It said, "Do more virtue! Do more virtue! Doing more virtue is good!" (Dwo dzwo de! Dwo dzwo de! Dzwo de dwo hau!) It was telling people to do more good things, the more the better.
That's why I'm not afraid of working too hard. I work along with you all day, and then I lecture at night. I do so because I want to do more giving of Dharma. In America, the Buddhadharma is extremely scarce, and so I am not afraid of working hard to give you the Buddhadharma. No matter how hard it is, I am not going to go on strike. To say nothing of all of you, even if only one or two of you understand what I am saying, that will be enough. I will have found "those who know my sound."
Now there are so many of you who come every day to hear the Sutra. You are all my most understanding Dharma friends and so, even though it gets tiring-people get tired when they work-I go ahead and speak the Buddhadharma for all of you.
"Further, if a person who is about to be harmed calls out the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, the swords and staves of the attackers will break into pieces and he will be saved."
This is the difficulty of knives and staves. Further, if a person who is about to be harmed-on the verge of being murdered-calls out the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, the swords and staves of the attackers will break into pieces. Just as they put the knife to your neck or the stick to your head, the weapon will split apart and be useless. Basically, a knife is stronger than your neck, but now your neck is stronger, and the sword breaks.
Why does this happen? It's because of the great awesome power of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. This power causes your neck to be stronger than iron, so the sword breaks. And in this way he-the person who is being attacked-will be saved from the difficulty of knives and staves. This is all because he recites the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
"Is it that magical?" you say.
It is even more efficacious than that! All you have to do is sincerely and faithfully recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
"If yakshas and rakshashas enough to fill the three thousand great thousand world system come to torment a person, if they hear him call out the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, all those evil ghosts will not even be able to stare at that person with their evil eyes, how much the less harm him."
If yakshas and rakshashas enough to fill the three thousand great thousand world system come to torment a person. Yakshas are "speedy ghosts." There are flying yakshas, space-traveling yakshas, and earth-bound yakshas. Yakshas are extremely fast. They can run faster than rockets. Rakshashas eat people's essence and energy.
Both these types of ghosts specialize in harming people. The more you try to bring forth the Bodhi resolve, the madder it makes them and the more they try to torment you. They think of all kinds of ways to control you so you can't cultivate. They cause you to retreat. You may bring forth the Bodhi resolve and be cultivating with great vigor, and then they will come along and say, "What are you cultivating for? Why do you study the Buddhadharma? Don't do it. It's of no advantage."
They can cause you to have doubts. They will bore into your mind, and say, "Don't study the Buddhadharma. Go somewhere else, where you can be free, where you can dance when you want to dance and listen to music when you want to listen. The Buddhadharma is just 'don't do this, don't do that, don't, don't, don't!' You can't see movies, can't drink, can't smoke. So many things that you can't do! The more you study it, the more trouble you will have." The yakshas and rakshashas cause you to think like that.
You may want to leave the home-life and be a monk, but these ghosts will say, "That's too bitter. You have to work all day long. You never get enough sleep, enough clothes to wear, or enough food to eat. You have to work your head off, practically. Forget it! What use is that?"
Someone else might want to be a Bhikshuni, but the yakshas and rakshashas come along and say, "Get married. You'll have a husband to keep you company and you can do whatever you want." That's just the work of yakshas and rakshashas. They specialize in ruining your Bodhi resolve, your mind of cultivation.
If they hear him call out the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, all those evil ghosts will not even be able to stare at that person with their evil eyes, how much the less harm him. The yakshas and rakshashas will come along to torment you. But as soon as you recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, you will emit light. This light will make it impossible for them to open their eyes and look at you. If they can't even open their eyes, how can they harm you? If you always recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, you will receive help. This is guaranteed.
"If a person, whether guilty or not, who has been put in stocks or bound with chains calls out the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, his fetters will break apart and he will immediately be saved."
If a person, whether guilty or not, who has been put in stocks or bound with chains calls out the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, his fetters will break apart. A person gets arrested and locked up. Perhaps he is guilty or perhaps it's a case of mistaken identity or a frame-up. In any case, he is locked up. However, if he can recite "Na mwo Da Bei Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa," very sincerely, the locks will fall off. And he will immediately be saved. He will be free. I have seen many such responses.
At Nan Hwa Monastery, there was a monk called Ti Hwei. He was captured by the Japanese and locked up in jail with handcuffs and chains. In jail, he recited Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name all day long. Then one night, all of a sudden, all the chains and handcuffs fell off. The door opened up by itself, and he ran away. There are many, many other such incidents. And so I know this is really true, not false.
"If thieves enough to fill the three thousand great thousand world system infest a dangerous road on which a merchant chief in charge of costly jewels is leading a group of merchants, but among the merchants there is even a single person who says, 'Good men, do not be afraid! You should all single-mindedly recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva bestows fearlessness upon living beings. If you recite his name, you shall surely be saved from these robbers,' and if upon hearing that, the merchants all cry out together, 'Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa,' then they will immediately be saved because they recited his name."
If thieves enough to fill the three thousand great thousand world system infest a dangerous road. These are malicious and hateful robbers. Because they have grudges against people from former lives, in this life they become thieves and steal things from others. Suppose these thieves lie await on a perilous road on which a merchant chief in charge of costly jewels is leading a group of merchants. Naturally, the thieves are going to want to steal their jewels. But if among the merchants there is even a single person who says, "Good men, do not be afraid! Friends! Brothers! Colleagues! You should all single-mindedly recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. Use one mind, not two minds, to recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name. This Bodhisattva bestows fearlessness upon living beings. If you recite his name, you shall surely be saved from these robbers." And if upon hearing that, the merchants all cry out together, "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa"-Na mwo Bodhisattva Who Contemplates the Sounds of the World-then they will immediately be saved from their predicament because they recited his name. This Dharma-door is especially efficacious. Everyone should believe in it. Don't have doubts.
"Inexhaustible Intention! The awesome spiritual power of the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Gwan Shr Yin is as lofty and sublime as that!"
Shakyamuni Buddha, having explained the above doctrine, now calls out, "Inexhaustible Intention! The awesome spiritual power of the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Gwan Shr Yin is as lofty and sublime as that! The power of his awesome virtue and spiritual penetrations is great, supreme, and magnificent!"
Mahasattvas are great Bodhisattvas among the Bodhisattvas. They are seniors. By way of analogy, ordinary Bodhisattvas are like compact cars; they can't carry too many people. Mahasattvas are like big vans that can carry a lot of people.
"If living beings who have much sexual desire constantly and reverently recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from desire."
If living beings who have much sexual desire. Some people study the Buddhadharma on one hand, and entertain lustful desire on the other. The more they study the Dharma, the stronger their desire is. They think about sex all day long, until their desire thoughts are like flowing water. This is the worst of thoughts and the worst kind of behavior, a very bad sign. What should they do? They don't have to get nervous or worry. They should just constantly and reverently recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. It's not good enough just to recite it; you must also be reverent. You should bow more to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
Bowing to the Buddhas is just paying great reverence to the Buddhas. Most people don't understand what bowing to the Buddhas means. Adherents to externalist religions say it's just bowing to wooden idols. Blind people speak blind-talk. They don't have eyes; they can't see the Buddhas' light, and so they say it's idol worship. But bowing to the Buddhas represents the reverence in our heart.
To respect the Triple Jewel, we must certainly bow to the Buddhas. Take care not to be arrogant and think, "I am great. I am greater than the Buddhas. Why should I bow to them?" That's a mistake. If people always bow and recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name, they will be separated from desire. It's gone!
You say, "But I like sexual desire. What am I going to do without it?"
If you like it, you don't have to recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name. That's all. It's simple enough. If you don't want your sexual desire, you can get rid of it. If you want to keep it, you don't have to get rid of it. Either way, it's up to you.
"If those who have much hatred constantly and reverently recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from hatred.
"If those who are very stupid constantly and reverently recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from stupidity."
If there are those who have much hatred, they should recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name. Hatred manifests as overt anger. Anger is a kind of affliction. Affliction is just ignorance. Hatred is like fire.
It is said, "One spark of fire can burn up a forest of merit and virtue." Therefore, there is an ancient saying that,
The firewood gathered in a thousand days,
Goes up in the fire of a single spark's blaze.
You can gather firewood for a thousand days, a long time; but one little match can burn it all up. This describes how ordinarily we may try to do good and virtuous deeds. We may do this over a long period of time, but then we get mad and the fire of ignorance rises. All that merit and virtue is burned right off. If you have a big temper, you will produce ignorance whenever you open your mouth.
What kind of people like to get mad? Asuras! Everyone has come down a particular path. Some have come down the Buddha path. Some have come down the path of gods. Others have come down the path of humans, asuras, animals, ghosts, or hell-beings.
Those who have come down the Buddha path are, for the most part, compassionate. Those who have come down the ghost path are, for the most part, cheap and lowly. They never take a loss. They are really sneaky and slimy-not reliable. Unreliable people are said to be ghostly. Those from the path of humans have affinities with everyone. Those from the animal path are insatiably greedy for everything. The more the better! Asuras like to get angry. Those from the immortal path like things clear and light.
So now we are talking about asuras. Have you noticed how there are some people who are just miserable all the time? They are always on the verge of "blowing their tops." They are just asuras. They have asura-natures. Can they change? Yes. How? The Dharma Flower Sutra tells us in detail. All you have to do is constantly and reverently recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. This means to recite all the time, without ever stopping. Recite constantly and be reverent by going to temples and bowing to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. You can't just bow today and not tomorrow, or bow in the morning and not bow at night. If you have no work to do, then spend your time bowing and reciting. Gradually, they will be separated from hatred. Your temper will vanish.
You won't know quite how it happened, but strangely enough your temper will have disappeared. It's just that mysterious. You don't know about this, but I have had personal experience, and I know. I used to have a terrible temper. I used to hit and scold people. When I was very young, twelve or so, I liked to fight with people. No matter how big a person was, he had to listen to my orders or I would clobber him until he submitted. That's just an asura-nature. Later, when I studied the Buddhadharma, I realized that anger was wrong, and I changed. I always recited the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. So now, sometimes even when my own disciples bully me, I still don't get angry. My disciples may get mad at me, but I practice patience and endure it. I know that eventually they will understand that they are wrong. Before I used to get mad at people, and now, my disciples get mad at me!
"Which ones?" You ask.
"You know who you are," I say.
Before, I got mad at others; now others get mad at me. This is just retribution. I have received these bad disciples who bully their good teacher. But the good teacher doesn't get angry anymore. I don't know where my temper went, but I am not going to look for it. If I find it again, it will be even worse!
If those who are very stupid. We have already discussed greed and hatred. Now we will discuss stupidity. These are the three poisons. They poison our Buddha-natures and put them to sleep. Why haven't we awakened yet? Why is it that we live as if drunk and die in a dream? It's all because of the three poisons.
The primary form of greed is sexual desire. Sexual desire is extremely harmful to people's natures. But most people think it's very enjoyable, and so they engage in all kinds of impure conduct. Day by day, the original Buddha-nature becomes covered with filth so that its light does not manifest. This is all because of greed for sex.
Sexual desire and hatred are the same thing. Now we are talking about stupidity. What's that? Stupidity just means that you feel that you are not stupid. That's stupid! A person may think he is intelligent and wise, but then you ask him, "Where did you come from? Where are you going to in the future?" and he can't answer. He doesn't know where he came from or where he is going, and he says he is intelligent. He won't admit that he is stupid.
In this world, everyone looks after the petty business of fame and profit. People toil for fame and profit all day long. They hurt each other, kill each other, and commit mayhem-all just for profit. If you put all the people in the world together, how many would there be? Two. One who seeks fame, and one who seeks profit.
Fame and profit turn people entirely upside down. They don't wake up. From birth to death, they fight and struggle. Some seek to get elected to office. Others seek to get rich. Some run after the opposite sex or some other kind of happiness. But when this happiness goes, at the time of death they have no idea where they are going. And yet they still think they are incredible geniuses with great wisdom! "I am the smartest. I have the most wisdom. I was first in my class every year. I am ahead of everyone in everything!" Actually, how is it? As long as you haven't recognized your own original face, no matter how smart you are, it's a false intelligence. People with genuine wisdom will not think that they are wise.
"Then will they think they are stupid?" you ask.
No, they won't think they are stupid or wise. They will feel they are pretty much the same as everyone else. But in their thinking and attitudes, they will be clear. They are clear about the fact that everything is like an illusion; like a bubble, a shadow, a dew drop, or a flash of lightning. Knowing that everything is like a dream, they will not be greedy for glory, power, or wealth. Knowing that everything is an illusion, they will not be greedy for sex, power, or profit. It's all impermanent. All of it. And so the Vajra Sutra says, "All conditioned dharmas are like a dream, a bubble, or a shadow."
What are conditioned dharmas? They are all those things with marks, all the things we perceive. All are like illusions, dreams, or bubbles. Would you say a bubble on the ocean is real? If you say it's real, it will soon pop and disappear. If you say it's false, there it is! Although it's there, it has no real substance. A shadow is also false. It's like dew in the morning. It's there, but as soon as the sun shines on it, it's gone. A lightning flash appears for but a moment.
If you can look upon everything as being like a dream, an illusion, a bubble, a shadow, dew, or a lightning flash, then what attachments could there be? None. Without attachments, you'll have genuine understanding. You won't let your thinking wander as it will to the north, east, south, or west. You will put down polluted thinking and involvement with the dust of the world. Having put it all down, you couldn't not become a Buddha if you tried! You would have wisdom whether you wanted it or not. You would naturally be wise.
When you don't have wisdom, you might think, "I'm pretty wise." But once you have true wisdom, you will think, "Oh, originally, this was mine all the time. It did not come from the outside." At that time you won't be arrogant. You won't think, "See me? I'm the smartest one here. I'm the prettiest one here. I'm the most talented, incredible, unusual person here." If you think like that, you are attached to appearances.
"Appearances" just means your stinking skin-bag-the dream, illusion, bubble, shadow, dew drop, and lightning flash. All day long you put on your nice clothes, eat your fancy food, live in your fine house, and enjoy your amusements. You may think these are great, but when the time comes to die, they aren't going to help you out in the least.
Besides, in order to satisfy their stinking skin-bags, people are busy all day long smoking, drinking, stuffing themselves with food, and trying to fill that bottomless pit. You can't fill a bottomless pit: it all keeps leaking right out! The more it leaks, the more you fill it; the more you fill it, the more it leaks. It certainly keeps you busy.
Why do I eat one meal a day? Because three meals a day are just too much trouble! Most people think that eating fine food is a real pleasure; I think it's a lot of trouble. If you over-eat, your stomach hurts. If you don't eat enough, your greed isn't satisfied. You think, "That was good. I'd like to have a little bit more!" If you don't eat such good food, you won't be so greedy; and it's a lot easier for your stomach.
It's just a lot of trouble and it all comes about because of stupidity. Being stupid, one seeks after pleasure, wealth, enjoyment, and fun with the opposite sex; it's all upside down. You can be as greedy as you want, and then what? When the time comes, you are still going to die. When the time comes to die, you won't have control over the situation at all. Isn't that stupid?
Now, being so stupid, what do we do? Rely upon the method given in the Dharma Flower Sutra. If people constantly and reverently recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will be separated from stupidity. Recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, and your stupidity will disappear as your wisdom comes forth.
If you know that you are stupid, you have recognized yourself. You have to have some wisdom to be able to realize that you are stupid. People without wisdom won't have any idea that they are stupid. The farther they run, the farther off they get. If it's not bad enough being stupid, they have to double it by thinking they're intelligent!
How do we get rid of our stupidity? We must constantly and reverently recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. This is the most wonderful and efficacious method. It's a money-back guarantee, wonderful beyond words.
Speaking of stupidity and wisdom, what is stupidity? What is wisdom? I'll tell you something you won't believe. Stupidity is wisdom; wisdom is stupidity! Why do I say this?
Take a look at the Heart Sutra: "Form does not differ from emptiness; emptiness does not differ from form. Form itself is emptiness; emptiness itself is form."
True form comes from true emptiness. True emptiness comes from true form. They are two and yet not two. If you know how to use it, it's wisdom; if you can't use it, it's stupidity. Stupidity and wisdom are not two. It just depends on whether or not you can use it. If you can use it, stupidity turns to wisdom; if you can't use it, wisdom turns to stupidity. They are two and yet not two. If you obtain genuine wisdom, then you will know, "Oh, originally it was like this," and you won't be upside down.
"Inexhaustible Intention, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has great awesome spiritual powers such as these and confers great benefits. Therefore living beings should always be mindful of him."
Shakyamuni Buddha calls out, "Inexhaustible Intention, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has great awesome spiritual powers such as these. He is able to rescue us from the seven difficulties and three poisons, and he confers great benefits." There are many, many ways in which he benefits living beings with his spiritual powers. Therefore living beings should always be mindful of him. Living beings should always keep his name in mind. The text makes it very clear here. It's not good enough just to recite with your mouth. You must keep his name in your mind. Your mouth doesn't necessarily have to recite, but you must keep his name in your thoughts.
"If women who seek sons bow and make offerings to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will give birth to blessed, virtuous, and wise sons. If they seek daughters, they will give birth to upright and handsome daughters who have planted the roots of virtue in previous lives and who are regarded and respected by all."
If women who seek sons bow and make offerings of fruits, lamps, flowers, and so forth to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will give birth to blessed, virtuous, and wise sons. If they seek sons, they will have sons. If they seek daughters, they will give birth to upright and handsome daughters. Their noses will look like noses, their eyes will look like eyes, their ears will look like ears, and their lips will look like lips.
"Well, could somebody have eyes that don't look like eyes?" you ask.
Some people have three-cornered eyes. In China we say these eyes are Jang Shr Gwei eyes. Jang Shr Gwei was a eunuch in the Tang dynasty in China. He had a very bad character and cheated everyone, and he had three-cornered eyes. Most people's eyes just go straight across, but his were triangular. So you should remember, if you become friends with such people, you will have a hard time. Jang Shr Gwei eyes make a person very hard to get along with.
"Can a nose not look like a nose?" you ask.
Sometimes people have a nose that sticks in instead of out, or it looks as if someone bit it off. Some people's ears look like a little mouse's ears, really tiny. Some have ears as long as a rabbit's. Is that good-looking? If one's ears hang down like the Buddha's, one can be said to have good ears. But if one's ears are long in the other direction-that is, they stick way up in the air-then they don't even look like ears, except maybe rabbit ears. Some people's lips don't look like lips. Some people have their noses and mouths stuck right together with their ears. They don't even look human. Dogs aren't even that ugly and weird. Some people like dogs, and they want to look like dogs, too. But these people with their noses, mouths, and ears all grown together don't even look as good as dogs. If a daughter looked like that, no one would like it, because she wouldn't be proper and attractive.
In general, women who are deformed have a hard time getting married, or even getting a boyfriend. Everyone is afraid of them. However, upright and handsome daughters are those who have planted the roots of virtue in previous lives. Why are they upright and beautiful? Beautiful people in their former lives made offerings of flowers and other things to the Buddhas.
During the summer session, one of my disciples said, "No wonder all the women are making offerings of flowers to the Buddhas. They want to be beautiful!" These attractive daughters under discussion are ones who are regarded and respected by all. Everyone is fond of them.
"Inexhaustible Intention! Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has powers such as these. If there are living beings who reverently bow to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will be blessed and their efforts will not be in vain."
Having talked about the two kinds of seeking-seeking for a son and seeking for a daughter-and also having talked about the seven kinds of difficulties and the three poisons, the Buddha now calls out, "Inexhaustible Intention! Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has powers such as these-as just described above. If there are living beings who reverently bow to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, they will be blessed and their efforts will not be in vain." If they can very respectfully pay homage to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, their blessed retribution will certainly follow; it won't pass in vain. It will certainly be there.
"Therefore living beings should all receive and uphold the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva."
Therefore living beings should all receive and uphold the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. "Receive and uphold" means to recite, to keep the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva always in mind. If you can recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, there is inconceivable power there.
"Inexhaustible Intention! If a person were to receive and uphold the names of Bodhisattvas in number as the grains of sand in sixty-two kotis of Ganges Rivers, and in addition were to exhaustively make offerings to them of food, drink, clothing, bedding, and medicine, what do you think-would that good man or good woman's merit and virtue be great or not?"
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva replied, "Very great, World Honored One."
The Buddha said, "If another person were to receive and uphold the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva and bow and make offerings but once, that person's blessings would be equal to and not different from the other person's. They could not be exhausted in hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons."
"Inexhaustible Intention! If a person were to receive and uphold the names of Bodhisattvas in number as the grains of sand in sixty-two kotis of Ganges Rivers. Receive and uphold means to recite the name not of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, but of other Bodhisattvas, an incredible number of them. And not only that, if the person in addition were to exhaustively make offerings to them of food, drink, clothing, bedding, and medicine, what do you think? Suppose this person throughout his entire life presents those four kinds of offerings to the Triple Jewel. Would that good man or good woman's merit and virtue be great or not?"
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva replied, "Very great, World Honored One."
The Buddha said, "If another person were to receive and uphold the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva and bow and make offerings but once-he doesn't have to make offerings for his entire life, he only has to do it once, just for a moment-then that person's blessings would be equal to and not different from the other person's. His blessings would not be different from those gained by the first person who made offerings to Bodhisattvas as many as sands of the Ganges Rivers. They could not be exhausted in hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons."
"Inexhaustible Intention, one who receives and upholds the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva obtains the benefit of blessings and virtues as limitless and boundless as those."
"Inexhaustible Intention," Shakyamuni Buddha continues, "one who receives and upholds and recites the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva obtains the benefit of blessings and virtues as limitless and boundless as those-countless and measureless."
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, how does Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva roam through this Saha World? How does he speak the Dharma for living beings? How does he carry out this work with the power of expedients?"
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, how does Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva roam through this Saha World?" Saha is a Sanskrit word. It means "worthy of being endured." We say "worthy" because although this world is filled with suffering, living beings find it worthy of being endured. It's not easy to bear this pain. There is so much suffering in the Saha World. How can Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva teach and transform living beings here? How does he speak the Dharma for living beings? How does he carry out this work with the power of expedients?
The Buddha told Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, "Good Man, if living beings in this land must be saved by means of someone in the body of a Buddha, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will manifest in the body of a Buddha and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Pratyekabuddha, he will manifest in the body of a Pratyekabuddha and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Hearer, he will manifest in the body of a Hearer and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of the Brahma King, he will manifest in the body of the Brahma King and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of Shakra, he will manifest in the body of Shakra and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of the God of Self-Mastery, he will manifest in the body of the God of Self-Mastery and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of the Great God of Self-Mastery, he will manifest in the body of the Great God of Self-Mastery and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a great heavenly general, he will manifest in the body of a great heavenly general and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of Vaishravana, he will manifest in the body of Vaishravana and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a minor king, he will manifest in the body of a minor king and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of an Elder, he will manifest in the body of an Elder and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a layman, he will manifest in the body of a layman and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a minister of state, he will manifest in the body of a minister of state and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Brahman, he will manifest in the body of a Brahman and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika, he will manifest in the body of a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of the wife of an Elder, of a layman, of a minister of state, or of a Brahman, he will manifest in a wife's body and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a pure youth or a pure maiden, he will manifest in the body of a pure youth or pure maiden and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a god, dragon, yaksha, gandharva, asura, garuda, kinnara, mahoraga, human, or nonhuman, and so forth, he will manifest in such a body and speak Dharma for them.
"If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit, he will manifest in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit and speak Dharma for them."
The Buddha told Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, "Good Man, if living beings in this land-in the three thousand great thousand world system-must be saved by means of someone in the body of a Buddha, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will manifest in the body of a Buddha and speak Dharma for them."
"But Gwan Shr Yin is a Bodhisattva; he isn't a Buddha. How can he manifest as a Buddha? Isn't that just being an impostor?" you ask.
No, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva became a Buddha limitless eons ago. His Buddha name was Proper Dharma Brightness Thus Come One. After becoming a Buddha, he did not forget about living beings. He came back to the world again, hiding the great and manifesting the small. He hid away the Buddha body, and manifested a Bodhisattva body.
Arhats may go from the small to the great, but Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva went from the great, from the Buddha position, back to the Bodhisattva position. This is called "putting the boat of compassion" in reverse in order to save living beings. This is what people called "putting the car in reverse."
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva went backwards from Buddhahood into Bodhisattvahood in order to guide living beings, and he hid the great and manifested the small.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Pratyekabuddha, he will manifest in the body of a Pratyekabuddha and speak Dharma for them. Pratyekabuddhas are Those Enlightened by Conditions. When the Buddha is in the world, they are called Those Enlightened by Conditions. When no Buddha is in the world, they are called Solitarily Enlightened Ones.
When the Buddha is in the world, they cultivate the Twelve Causes and Conditions and awaken to the Way, and they realize that everything is suffering, impermanent, empty, and without self. Knowing this, they put everything down and gain enlightenment.
When no Buddha is in the world, they also cultivate the Twelve Causes and Conditions. In the spring they watch the white flowers bloom. In the autumn they watch the yellow leaves fall. Observing the unceasing changes of nature, they wake up to the four marks of conditioned existence-production, dwelling, decay, and emptiness; all of which are impermanent-and they gain enlightenment.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva observes the causal conditions of living beings. He has the Penetration of the Heavenly Eye and the Penetration of the Heavenly Ear. With the Heavenly Eye he sees afar, and with the Heavenly Ear he hears afar. If he sees a living being who should be saved by a Pratyekabuddha, he manifests as a Pratyekabuddha and speaks the Dharma of the Twelve Causes and Conditions for them.
"Don't you know where your ignorance comes from? It's from a single thought of nonenlightenment. Your one thought of nonenlightenment produced ignorance in the Treasury of the Thus Come One. With ignorance, there was activity, …." He speaks the Dharma to that living being.
Having heard the Dharma, this potential Pratyekabuddha quickly gets enlightened. Then Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva causes him to bring forth the Bodhisattva resolve and go from the small toward the great.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Hearer, he will manifest in the body of a Hearer and speak Dharma for them. What are Hearers? They are Arhats. Those Enlightened by Conditions and Hearers together make up the Two Vehicles. Hearers are those who awakened to the Way when they heard the sound of the Buddha's voice as he taught the Four Holy Truths. The Four Holy Truths are suffering, accumulation, extinction, and the Way.
Shakyamuni Buddha turned the Dharma-wheel of the Four Truths three times for the Five Bhikshus. After he gained enlightenment, the Buddha went to the Deer Park to speak the Dharma for the Five Bhikshus, including Ajnatakaundinya. He spoke the Four Truths in three ways.
The first turning is called the Demonstration Turning. He said,
(1) "This is suffering. It oppresses the nature. It is unbearable."
There are three kinds of suffering: the suffering of suffering; the suffering of decay; and the suffering of process.
There are also eight kinds of suffering: birth; old age; sickness; death; being separated from what you love; being joined to what you hate; not getting what you want; and the raging blaze of the five skandhas.
Suffering bears down on people to the point that they never know a moment's peace. It pushes people so hard that they can't breathe. The problem of suffering is that of oppression.
(2) "This is accumulation. Its nature is seduction." Accumulation refers to the amassing of afflictions. Where does affliction come from? It comes from suffering. One suffers to the point that one can't stand it, and then one gets angry.
(3) "This is extinction. Its nature is that it can be certified to." One can be certified to the Bliss of Still Extinction, to the wonderful fruit of Nirvana.
(4) "This is the Way. Its nature is that it can be cultivated." Everyone can cultivate the Way. There is not a single person who is not qualified. Everyone can be certified to the principle-substance of Nirvana.
The second turning of the Four Truths is the Exhortation Turning:
1. This is suffering. I already know it.
2. This is accumulation. I have already cut it off.
3. This is extinction. I have already been certified to it.
4. This is the Way. I have already cultivated it.
Shakyamuni Buddha then turned the third turning of the Wheel of Four Truths, the Certification Turning. He said,
1. This is suffering. You should know it.
2. This is accumulation. You should cut it off.
3. This is extinction. You should certify to it.
4. This is the Way. You should walk it.
He turned the Dharma-wheel of the Four Truths three times. When the Five Bhikshus heard it, they got enlightened. And since they were awakened by the Buddha's sound, they are called Hearers.
The Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions are called the Two Vehicles. Those of the Two Vehicles are just the Small Vehicle. What's small about them? What's great about the Great Vehicle?
Basically, nothing is small and nothing is great. Great and small are based on the discriminating thoughts of living beings. Some minds are small, and some are great. Originally, the mind extends to the ends of space and the Dharma Realm. However, each one of us has not been able to use the original Thus Come One's Storehouse Nature. Some can use a little part of it. Others can use a little more. Some can use this entire nature. Those who can use this entire nature are the Buddhas. They have returned to the root and gone back to the source. Those who use a large part of it are the Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas have great wisdom, and so they can utilize more of the treasures of their original home. Those of the Small Vehicle know less, use less, and so are called the Small Vehicle.
If Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva meets a living being with the potential of a Hearer, he manifests in the body of a Hearer and speaks the Dharma to save him.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of the Brahma King, he will manifest in the body of the Brahma King and speak Dharma for them. The Brahma King is the king in the Great Brahma Heaven. Brahma means pure. He's very independent and free up there.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of Shakra, he will manifest in the body of Shakra and speak Dharma for them. In the Amitabha Sutra, Shakra is referred to as Shakra Devanam Indrah. There are actually many of them. Right now, we know about the Heaven of the Thirty-three here in our world, where our Lord Shakra resides. Most people call him God.
The twenty-seventh line of the Shurangama Mantra is, "Na mwo yin two la ye." That's Shakra. He is known and worshipped as Almighty God by most people. This heavenly lord possesses much authority and spiritual penetrations. However, he is still just a resident of heaven, and his life will come to an end. Shakra rules all the gods up there and takes care of business in heaven.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will use the body of Shakra to save living beings who can be crossed over in that way. He speaks the Dharma to them in the body of Shakra.
It's easy to cross over living beings if you are the same as they are. They are more likely to accept your teaching. It's easy to be friends with someone in your own line of work. Business people are friends with business people, students with students, Buddhists with Buddhists, gamblers with gamblers, and robbers with robbers. People seek out their own kind. Those of the same kind are called "friends." Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will manifest as the same as they are to teach and transform them.
When someone believes in Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva and makes offerings, and when one relies on the Bodhisattva's Dharma to cultivate, then that person turns into Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, and Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has just gained a transformation body. We say he has thousands of hundreds of kotis of transformation bodies. You can imitate him and then become a transformation body of his.
There are no fixed Dharmas. You shouldn't be attached to things being a certain way. If you want things to be a certain way, can you fix it so for certain you won't die? If you can definitely not die, then you can have things fixed as you like them. But if you can't and you are sure to die, then nothing is fixed. Therefore, there are no fixed dharmas in the Buddhadharma.
There can be millions of transformation bodies. If a hundred people imitate you, they are your hundred transformation bodies. If a thousand people study with you, then you have a thousand transformation bodies. If ten thousand people study with you, learn the doctrines you teach them, and then pass them on to others, who in turn accept and cultivate them, then you have ten thousand transformation bodies.
It's not that hard to have a million transformation bodies. All you have to do is resolve to propagate the Buddhadharma, and then you will gain limitless transformation bodies.
That's speaking of it from the viewpoint of specifics. To speak of it from the viewpoint of principle, if you become a Buddha, you can really transform into a million bodies. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva can manifest in the body of Shakra to speak the Dharma.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of the God of Self-Mastery, he will manifest in the body of the God of Self-Mastery and speak Dharma for them. The God of Self-Mastery refers to the heavenly demons and adherents to externalist ways. For example, some religions claim they alone are the highest, and they deny the existence of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. Why? Because they are too happy and independent. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva doesn't blame them. When he sees their conditions are ripe, he manifests in the body of the God of Self-Mastery and speaks the Buddhadharma to gather them in.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a great heavenly general, he will manifest in the body of a great heavenly general and speak Dharma for them.
There are two ways to explain this. You could say this was a spirit in the heavens who is a great general. Another way is to say that this refers to the gods who have just exhausted their heavenly blessings and are about to fall among human beings to become great generals.
Generals may have a lot of authority, but they may not understand the Buddhadharma. In that case, they may create a lot of karma and must undergo various kinds of retribution. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva observes the causes and conditions and, seeing how they can be saved, manifests as a great general and speaks the Dharma to them. They can then return from confusion and go toward enlightenment, put down all worldly happiness to seek transcendental, inexhaustible bliss.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of Vaishravana, he will manifest in the body of Vaishravana and speak Dharma for them. Vaishravana is one of the Four Heavenly Kings. He resides in the north in Uttarakuru, and his name means "Much Learning."
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a minor king, he will manifest in the body of a minor king and speak Dharma for them. A minor king rules over only one country.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of an Elder, he will manifest in the body of an Elder and speak Dharma for them. The Elders are those with noble names who are mature in years. They have Way-virtue and reputation. People above them like them and people below them respect them.
Elders don't necessarily have to be old; however, they are usually wealthy and honored and have Way-virtue and wisdom. Elders are very fair-minded and treat everyone with the same kindness. They like to help people. Because they like to help people, they become known as Elders.
If someone should be saved by the body of an Elder, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will appear as a great wealthy Elder and speak the Dharma for that person. In the Great Compassion Mantra, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva appears as a great, awesome-looking Elder with a long beard.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a layman, he will manifest in the body of a layman and speak Dharma for them. What is a layman? A layman is a person who lives at home and believes in the Buddhadharma. He keeps the Five Precepts and practices the Ten Good Deeds.
What are the Five Precepts? They are: no killing, no stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying, and no taking of intoxicants. Now many of you have taken the Five Precepts and are laypeople.
The Ten Good Deeds are the opposite of the Ten Evils. Of the Ten Evils, there are three with the body: killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct; three with the mind: greed, hatred, and stupidity; and four with the mouth: frivolous speech, false speech, abusive speech, and backbiting.
Frivolous speech means that one talks improperly. Perhaps one talks about women or men, pouring out a lot of irresponsible, deviant, and improper talk. False speech is lying. Abusive speech means scolding and slandering people. Backbiting is when one person has two tongues! How can this happen? He talks one way to one person. He talks another way to another person. He gossips back and forth and creates schisms among people.
Altogether these are Ten Evils. If you refrain from the Ten Evils, you are practicing the Ten Good Deeds: not killing, not stealing, and not committing sexual misconduct; not being greedy, not being hateful, and not being stupid; not speaking in a frivolous manner, and not indulging in abusive speech, false speech, or backbiting. Those are the Ten Good Deeds.
Whereas left-home people have the responsibility to propagate the Buddhadharma, laypeople have the responsibility to protect the Buddhadharma and the Triple Jewel.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, seeing living beings who should be saved by the body of a layman, will manifest in a layman's body and speak Dharma for them.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a minister of state, he will manifest in the body of a minister of state and speak Dharma for them.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Brahman, he will manifest in the body of a Brahman and speak Dharma for them. Brahmans are a caste in India. They practice pure conduct.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika, he will manifest in the body of a Bhikshu, Bhikshuni, Upasaka, or Upasika and speak Dharma for them. A Bhikshu is a man who has left the home-life. "Bhikshu" is a Sanskrit word. It has three meanings: mendicant, frightener of Mara, and destroyer of evil. A Bhikshuni is a woman who has left the home-life, and the same three meanings apply.
A Upasaka is a layman. Upasaka means "close in work." Upasakas work very closely with the Triple Jewel, always bowing to the Buddha and listening to the Dharma. An Upasika is a laywoman who is close to the Triple Jewel. Upasakas and Upasikas serve and protect the Triple Jewel.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will manifest in any one of these four kinds of bodies to save these people, speaking Dharma for them.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of the wife of an Elder, of a layman, of a minister of state, or of a Brahman, he will manifest in a wife's body and speak Dharma for them. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva will manifest in the body of a woman and speak Dharma.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a pure youth or pure maiden, he will manifest in the body of a pure youth or a pure maiden and speak Dharma for them. "Must" here means that the causes and conditions are such that as a young boy or girl, this living being can understand the Buddhadharma and cultivate the Way. For example, Wei Two Bodhisattva vowed that in every life he would manifest in the body of a pure youth. The Dragon Girl also made a vow to manifest in every life as a pure maiden and never marry.
"Youth" here means that they are still innocent and intact. Once one has sexual contact with the opposite sex, one's body is no longer "complete." In China they call this "ruining the body." Before one has sexual intercourse, one is a virgin.
In Chinese martial arts, there is a practice called "virgin skill." When this practice is accomplished, knives or guns cannot harm one. Within, they smelt their energy, which hasn't been ruined by intercourse, and they reach a level of skill whereby even knives or guns cannot harm them. Outwardly, they smelt their muscles, sinews, skin, and bones.
One of my disciples took refuge with me for the sole purpose of studying this skill. I taught him to meditate first, and he did. He had some Chan samadhi, but then he started looking into Taoism. He learned how to send a small child out the top of his head, but I don't know how far the small child could go. Lately, he hasn't been practicing. He said his mother wants him to go back to Hong Kong to get married. He has never even seen the girl before, but the marriage has already been arranged with the government. I told him, "Okay, you go and get married. But when you come back, you aren't going to be able to study the virgin skill." He laughed!
In Buddhism, young boys and young girls are said to have clean bodies. Young boys belong to the trigram chyan, which is yang. Young girls belong to the trigram kun, which is yin. One is pure yang and one is pure yin. This is a very pure state, without defilement. It's possible for one to cultivate to success very quickly. If young children can meditate, they can quickly gain the Penetration of the Heavenly Eye and open their Five Eyes. To "enter the Way as a virgin" is most valuable.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva observes the causes and conditions, and if he sees someone who is to be crossed over by means of the body of a pure youth or pure maiden, he will manifest in such a body to speak Dharma for them. He will cause them to bring forth the Bodhi resolve, and quickly accomplish the Buddha Way.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a god, dragon, yaksha, gandharva, asura, garuda, kinnara, mahoraga, human, or nonhuman, and so forth, he will manifest in such a body and speak Dharma for them. There are many kinds of dragons. There are dragons in the heavens, dragons in the seas, and hidden dragons. Heavenly dragons are Dharma protectors in the heavens. Sea dragons live in the dragon palace and are the leaders among all the fish and marine life. There are also dragons who are in charge of making rain. There are dragons in charge of guarding treasuries of jewels that are buried in the earth. In the ancient days, there were many, many dragons. Nowadays people don't see them, so they think they don't exist. Actually, there are many of them.
When the Great Master Sixth Patriarch was at Nan Hwa Monastery, there was a poisonous dragon who used to spit poisonous fog. This fog made people sick, and some even died from it. The present day Chan Hall at Nan Hwa Monastery was built over what used to be the pool of this poisonous dragon. The surface area of the pool was about (?) . Nobody knew how deep it was.
This dragon was not a good dragon; it was poisonous and hurt people. The left-home people at Nan Hwa Monastery all got sick from it. One time, it manifested spiritual penetrations for the Sixth Patriarch and appeared in a body so big that it filled up the entire pool. When the Sixth Patriarch saw this, he laughed. "Hah!" he said, "You can manifest in a large body, but I bet you can't manifest in a small body! You're not that talented."
Hearing this challenge, the dragon suddenly hid away its large body and manifested in a small body, about one foot long, skipping on top of the water.
The Sixth Patriarch said, "Oh, you do have some talent. You can be big and small, but I bet you can't jump into my bowl here!"
When the dragon heard this, it jumped right into the Sixth Patriarch's bowl. "You got in the bowl, but you won't get out!" said the Sixth Patriarch.
The dragon tried every trick it had, but it couldn't jump out of the bowl. What a dirty trick!
The Sixth Patriarch said, "Don't be so feisty! How did you turn into a poisonous dragon? In former lives, you cultivated. You had good roots. You heard the Buddhadharma, but your hatred was too heavy and your temper too big. This is called 'being quick with the vehicle but slow with the precepts.' You investigated the Buddhadharma very thoroughly, but you didn't keep the precepts, and so you have fallen into the body of a dragon. You shouldn't think that you are so talented just because you can be big or small. Here you are in my bowl, and you can't get out."
Hearing this, the dragon was subdued. The Sixth Patriarch then spoke Dharma for it. When it understood the Dharma, it cast off its dragon body. Its little skeleton was preserved at Nan Hwa Monastery for a long time, but then got lost during the warfare in that area. So that's how the Sixth Patriarch subdued the poisonous dragon.
During the Tang Dynasty there was a minister by the name of Wei Dzeng. Although he was an official in the human realm, he was also able to go up into the heavens to be a heavenly official. At that time there was a dragon whom everyone called "Little White Dragon." The people asked the dragon to please allow 1.3 inches of rain to fall, but it sent down 1.3 feet of rain, and the crops were totally flooded. This was a violation of the heavenly laws, so they called on Wei Dzeng to slay Little White Dragon.
Little White Dragon knew that Wei Dzeng was after it, and so it appeared in a dream to the Tang Emperor Tai-Dzung, and said, "You are a dragon, and I am also a dragon. You should save me."
The Emperor said, "Since we are both dragons, brother, I will certainly help you out. How can I save you?"
The dragon said, "I made a mistake with the rain, and I let too much fall. Tomorrow I am due to receive my retribution and be killed by your Minister Wei Dzeng."
"Well, that's easy enough to take care of," said the Emperor. "He is my Minister. I'll just tell him not to kill you. Don't worry."
The next day the Emperor called Wei Dzeng in for a game of chess, thinking that if Wei Dzeng was occupied playing chess, he would not be able to kill the dragon. They began their game, and around eleven o'clock Wei-Dzeng fell asleep right in the middle of the game. The Emperor was delighted with this, because now he certainly couldn't kill the dragon.
However, who could have guessed that when Wei Dzeng was asleep, his spirit left him, went up to the heaven, grabbed his heavenly sword and killed the dragon! When the spirit came back, Wei Dzeng woke up, and they continued their chess game.
Soon it was past noon, the time after which the dragon would be safe. The Emperor was very happy thinking he had saved his brother and probably created great merit and virtue for himself. Who would have guessed that on that very night, Little White Dragon would return to the Emperor, demanding the Emperor's life! "You said you were my brother and you would save me. Why didn't you save me? Your Minister killed me and now I want your life! It's just as if you killed me yourself."
When the Emperor woke up, he was petrified. He told Syu Mau Gung about it, and Syu Mau Gung said, "It's not important. There are two people who can stand up to the dragon. Who are they? They are Chin Chyung, a yellow-faced Heavenly General, and Jing De, a black-faced Heavenly General. If you can get these two to watch the back door, Little White Dragon won't dare come in."
The Emperor then ordered the two of them to stand guard at the door, and sure enough, Little White Dragon didn't show up that night. However, the two Great Generals couldn't watch the door at night forever; it was too exhausting. So pictures of them were painted and pasted outside the back door, and the dragon stayed away. At New Year's, Chinese people used to put up their pictures beside the doors to keep the demons and ghosts away.
Dragons became dragons because they were "quick with the vehicle and slow with the precepts." They cultivated and were very intelligent. They mastered the Buddhadharma right away. But they did not keep the precepts. Because they were quick with the vehicle, they have spiritual powers and can transform themselves. But because they did not keep the precepts, they have fallen into the bodies of animals. Dragons are animals, you know.
Yakshas are speedy ghosts. They can run faster than rockets.
Gandharvas are music spirits. They like to sniff incense and make music. When the Jade Emperor wishes to hear music, he burns some chye-lan incense or chandana incense and all the gandharvas gather to make music.
Asuras are the ugly ones who love to fight. One of my disciples knows his dog is an asura. Many dogs are asuras. Horses can be asuras, too. The wild horses, or mavericks, who like to make trouble in the herd are asuras.
Bulls are asuras out front. Look at the horns on their heads, put there just to fight! Bulls are asuras who used to wear iron helmets. When they get reborn as animals, they remembered they had those weapons on their heads, and so they end up with two horns. Chickens and roosters can also be asuras. The roosters are always fighting with each other.
Some insects, such as crickets, who fight with each other to death are asuras. During the Sung dynasty, it was very popular to stage cricket fights. People would bet on them. Any other animals who like to fight-such as snakes, mice, cats, and so forth-are asuras.
Asura is a Sanskrit word and means "ugly." They are hideous. Their lips are as big as a pig's. Their noses are as long as an elephant's. They have eyes like oxen and little ears like mice. They are ugly. Perhaps they have a person's body and a pig's head, or a person's body and an ox's head, or a horse's head, or a tiger's head. But, while the male asuras are very ugly, the female asuras are very beautiful.
As I have told you many times before, the asura king Vemachitrin had a beautiful daughter named Shachi to whom the Jade Emperor became engaged. Why did he want to marry her? The Jade Emperor still has a body with thoughts of desire. Because he has not severed thoughts of sexual desire, he likes beautiful women. One day, catching sight of the beautiful asura girl, he became enamored of her and asked the asura king for his daughter's hand in marriage. The asura king thought, "The Jade Emperor has got a lot of power. I had best not cross him."
After they were married, the Jade Emperor liked to listen to an immortal speak Dharma. Because he went to the lectures every day, the asura girl soon grew suspicious. "He goes out every day and never gets home until late at night. Most likely he's out playing around with other women."
Finally, she confronted him, "Just where do you go every day? You wouldn't be conducting some improper business on the side, would you?"
"No," said the Jade Emperor. "I go to the lectures on the Sutras every day, and that's why I'm always home late. You shouldn't be suspicious."
The asura girl, not believing he was going to the Sutra lectures, decided he must certainly be up to no good. She had a certain amount of spiritual power and was able to make herself invisible. She could be standing in one spot, and ordinary people with mortal eyes, or even the Jade Emperor with his heavenly eyes, couldn't see her.
So one day when, as usual, the Jade Emperor got in his chariot and headed for the lecture, the asura girl made herself invisible and rode along. Upon arriving, the Jade Emperor got out of the chariot and so did the asura girl. Then, she materialized.
"What are you doing here?" asked the Jade Emperor in surprise.
"What are you doing here?" she snorted, looking around at the beautiful goddesses in the assembly.
"I've come to listen to the Sutra lectures," he said.
"Well, so have I," she countered.
Now, the Jade Emperor is still a common mortal; he's not a certified sage by any means, and so he sometimes gets afflicted. This time he picked up his flower whip and lashed the asura girl. The asura girl was furious and went directly to her father.
Previously, when the Jade Emperor was about to be married, he had invited the asura king to a banquet. As a gesture of respect to his new father-in-law, he sent out his generals and troops to welcome him. However, the asura king was suspicious of the welcoming party. He felt intimidated and was displeased at the Jade Emperor's show of power. Now his daughter returned with the report that the Jade Emperor was not following the rules at all.
"Every day he goes out with other women," the asura girl said. "And today, when I tried to talk to him about it, he struck me!"
At this, the asura king became enraged. "Jade Emperor," he stormed, "this means war! We're going to fight to the finish," and he mobilized the asura troops against the Jade Emperor.
Strangely enough, the Jade Emperor lost battle after battle and could find no way to overcome the asura king. Finally, he had no recourse but to ask the Buddha for help. The Buddha told him to instruct his troops all to recite "Maha prajna paramita!" As they went into battle, they recited the phrase-"Maha prajna paramita!"-the asuras lost battle after battle until they had retreated as far as they could and were backed up into a lotus root.
Why was the asura king unable to withstand the "Maha prajna paramita?" It's very simple: Before the Jade Emperor's troops recited it, they would win a battle and then lose a battle; after they recited the phrase the Buddha taught them, they won continuously.
Previously, the asuras and the heavenly troops had been more or less equal in strength. Neither side had any wisdom to speak of, and their battles were utterly chaotic. When the heavenly troops recited "Maha prajna paramita," they attained great wisdom while the asuras still had none. When those without wisdom fight those with wisdom, they invariably lose. So the asuras were very stupid, and the heavenly troops were very wise. When the wise battles against the stupid, sooner or later, the stupid one always loses. Such was the situation between the asuras and the heavenly troops.
Now, the asuras have come into the world, and so there is fighting and conflict everywhere. Anyone who has a bad temper can turn into an asura, or perhaps even be one right now. If you can change your temper and cultivate patience, you can stay out of the path of asuras.
Garudas are the great gold-winged peng birds who formerly ate dragons; but now, thanks to the Buddha, they are vegetarians. The garuda bird is a Dharma protector for Shakyamuni Buddha.
As to food and drink, in Buddhism, the morning is the time when the gods eat. The Buddha eats only at noontime. Animals eat in the afternoon, and ghosts eat at night.
Now, ghosts basically can never find food to eat. They watch people eating, and they try to snatch some of the food. When they hear the clatter of plates and silverware, they come running to steal food. But when the food enters their mouths, it turns into fire. This happens because their karmic retribution is so heavy that they cannot eat food. They mistakenly think that people use some kind of magic on the food and make it turn into fire, and so they get angry at people and fight with them or make them sick. That is why left-home people do not eat at night.
Since the gods eat in the morning, when left-home people eat breakfast, they send out some food for the gods. They also send out food for the ghost mother and her children.
This rakshasha ghost mother used to eat human children. Why was she called "ghost mother"? Because she had one thousand ghost children. She always led her own children to places where they could steal children to eat. Sometimes a woman was pregnant. The ghost mother then followed her around and waited for a chance to eat the child. Perhaps the pregnant woman would get angry, get sick, eat too much, sleep too much, get in a peculiar mood, or drink some wine. At that time, the ghost mother would rush in and eat the unborn baby. She ate not only unborn children but also newborn children. This circumstance brought the great grief of there being lost children for many families. They then went to the Buddha and asked for help.
Seeing the ghost mother had eaten lots of children, the Buddha thought, "I should save the children of the world." So he took her youngest one, the thousandth one of the ghost mother's children, and kept it in his bowl.
The ghost mother still had 999 children left, but she just happened to love her littlest child the best and thought of him as a treasure. She went everywhere looking for her "treasure," but to no avail. "Where did he go?" she wondered. When she passed by the Buddha's place, she listened and heard her child crying. She then figured out that her little baby ghost was stuck underneath the Buddha's bowl. Without hesitation, she tried to seize the bowl to save her child, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't budge it. Finally, she went back and got her other 999 children, and all of them tried to use their ghost penetrations to move the bowl. But still it couldn't be budged.
Then, they all went to the Buddha to conduct negotiations. "Buddha, you are the most compassionate one. Why have you taken my little baby away and put him under your bowl? You are not very compassionate, are you?" the mother ghost cleverly said.
The Buddha said, "So I am not being compassionate? How about you?"
The ghost mother said, "I don't need to be compassionate. I am a ghost mother. Why should I be compassionate?"
"If you aren't going to be compassionate, the least you could do is refrain from killing and eating people," said the Buddha.
"If I don't eat people, what am I going to eat?" she demanded. "What else is there? I can eat only children. I don't like to eat adults or old people, because their flesh is smelly and rotten. It's children's flesh that I like, because it's tasty and tender!"
The Buddha asked, "How many children do you have?"
"I have one thousand children," she replied.
The Buddha said, "Among your one thousand children, you are missing only one child. Why are you so worried?"
"But I can't go with even one less son!" she cried.
"How many children have you eaten?" asked the Buddha.
"Oh! I could never give you a total-as many as sands in the Ganges River, for sure," she said.
The Buddha said, "You have eaten so many human children. How do you think their mothers felt when they lost their own children?"
"That's their business," said the ghost mother.
"You're wrong. Now you are missing one child, and you can't bear it. How do you expect human mothers to stand it when you eat so many of their children?"
"Basically, I don't want to eat children. But I have nothing to eat. If I don't steal children to eat, my children and I will starve to death."
The Buddha then told the ghost mother, "From now on, you must not steal any more children to eat. You should take refuge with the Triple Jewel and uphold the Five Precepts. And when my disciples eat, they will give you a share of their food."
The ghost mother relented. She had her child back. After that, she didn't eat children anymore. She became a vegetarian.
Kinnaras are also musical spirits. They look like people, except that they have a single horn on their head, and it's sometimes doubtful whether they are spirits or people. Kinnara means "doubtful spirit."
Mahoragas are big snakes. They aren't skinny like most snakes; they are very fat. Natives of Gwang-dung Province eat the flesh of these snakes. But then again, sometimes the snakes eat people. People eat them, so they eat people.
During the time of Emperor Wu of Lyang, the Emperor's wife was called Syi-Shr. Emperor Wu believed in the Buddha and the Triple Jewel, but his wife was quite adamant in her disbelief, and she also had a vicious and jealous temperament. Because of her jealous nature and her disbelief in the Triple Jewel, after she died, she fell into the body of one of these snakes.
This snake could speak, and it addressed the Emperor, asking him to save it. "Do you know who I am? I am your wife. But because I didn't believe in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, and because I didn't revere the Triple Jewel, I fell into the body of a big snake."
Hearing this, the Emperor sent for Dhyana Master Jr-Gung to save her. While she was alive, the Emperor's wife couldn't get along with Dhyana Master Jr-Gung. But when he came to save her, she bowed to him and repented. Dhyana Master Jr-Gung then wrote the Lyang-Hwang Repentance-the Repentance of the Emperor of Lyang. He and other high monks bowed this repentance and crossed over the Emperor's wife. Because of it, the Emperor's wife cast off the snake body and was reborn in the heavens.
When the Buddha was in the world, the mahoragas took refuge with the Triple Jewel, and so they are also Dharma protectors within the Buddhadharma.
"Nonhuman" refers to all kinds of animals.
If living beings must be saved in any one of the bodies mentioned above, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will manifest in such a body and speak Dharma for them. He contemplates all the gods, dragons, and the eightfold division and manifests in the appropriate body to save them.
If they must be saved by someone in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit, he will manifest in the body of a Vajra-wielding spirit and speak Dharma for them. The Vajra-wielding spirits are Dharma protectors.
Long ago, there was a wheel-turning sage king who had a thousand sons by his first wife. How could one woman have a thousand sons? She had a very long life. However, he wasn't satisfied with one thousand sons, and so he took another wife and had two sons by her.
The thousand sons made a vow, saying, "We are going to cultivate and become Buddhas. We will do it in order. We will draw straws." When they drew straws, Shakyamuni Buddha came up with number four, and so he was the fourth to become a Buddha. Now we are in the eon called "Worthy." The thousand princes from of old are to appear as the thousand Buddhas in this eon. Shakyamuni Buddha is the fourth Buddha in the Worthy Eon.
The two sons of the king's second wife also made vows. One of them vowed, "When our thousand older brothers become Buddhas, no matter what order, I will be the first to go and request him to speak Dharma."
The second brother said, "You are going to request the Buddha to speak Dharma. I am going to make a vow to be a Dharma protector. Whenever one of my brothers becomes a Buddha, I shall go protect him." Thus, the Vajra-wielding spirit is just the son who made a vow to be a Dharma protector long, long ago,before the Worthy Eon.
"Inexhaustible Intention! Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has accomplished merit and virtue such as this and, in all manner of forms, roams throughout the land, saving and liberating living beings."
Shakyamuni Buddha finished telling about the various transformation bodies of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva and said, "Inexhaustible Intention! Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has accomplished merit and virtue such as this and, in all manner of forms, as mentioned above, roams throughout the land, saving and liberating living beings."
"Therefore you should all single-mindedly make offerings to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva Mahasattva can, in the midst of fear, crisis, and hardship, bestow fearlessness. That is why in this Saha World all call him the "Bestower of Fearlessness."
Therefore you should all single-mindedly make offerings to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. Do not have "two minds," that is, do not have doubts. "One mind" means one mind of faith. If you have doubts, there is no merit and virtue, and no response. You should make offerings to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva with one heart. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva Mahasattva can, in the midst of fear, crisis, and hardship, bestow fearlessness. That is why in this Saha World all call him the "Bestower of Fearlessness." He can remove all of your anxiety and distress.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, I shall now make an offering to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva." He then removed his necklace of pearls, its value in the hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold, and offered it to the Bodhisattva, saying, "Humane One, accept this Dharma offering, this necklace of precious pearls."
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, I shall now make an offering to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva." Having heard the Buddha encourage all beings to make offerings to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva decided to do just that. Even though Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva himself had already become a Bodhisattva, on hearing about Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's great merit, virtue, and awesome spiritual power, he still wished to make an offering, so as to nurture his own merit and virtue.
He then removed his necklace of pearls, its value in the hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold, and offered it to the Bodhisattva immediately, without thinking twice. The beads were made outof the most expensive gems.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva presented the necklace to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, saying, "Humane One, accept this Dharma offering, this necklace of precious pearls." "Humane One" is a title used among Bodhisattvas when speaking to each other.
Now, jewels basically are an offering of wealth. But why does Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva speak of it as an offering of Dharma? There are three kinds of giving: the giving of wealth, the giving of Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness. In making this offering, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva did not have it in his mind that this gift was worth a great deal of money. He just wanted to present the necklace to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
Why does the text say that its value was in the hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold? This was added by Venerable Ananda when he compiled the Sutra. Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva himself certainly didn't mention that the necklace was worth so much money. He wanted to make an offering to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, and this necklace was something he liked. He gave it away as a token of respect, to show that there was no conception of personal wealth between the two Bodhisattvas. Thus, although the necklace would appear to be a gift of wealth, it was given in the spirit of a gift of Dharma. It was sealing the mind by means of the mind.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva refused to accept it.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva refused to accept it. Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva had offered a valuable necklace to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, but the latter refused to accept it. Why? Because Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva had come to the Dharma Flower Assembly to hear the Buddha speak the Dharma Flower Sutra, and he had not received the Buddha's permission to accept offerings, and so he was being polite and refused the offering.
Besides which, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva didn't have any greed for such things. He wouldn't say, "What a valuable necklace! I'd better take it while I have a chance." To Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, there is no giver, nothing given, and no receiver. Offerings or no offerings, he sees them all as the same.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva had merit and virtue, but Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva wouldn't accept the gift.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva again said to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, "Humane One, out of pity for us, accept this necklace."
Seeing Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva refuse the offering, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva again said to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, "Humane One, out of pity for us, accept this necklace." He wasn't half-hearted about it, like most people. Most people would just say, "Okay, if you don't want it, I won't give it. I'll take it back."
No, instead, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva got nervous and repeated his request. He said, "Greatly Compassionate and Humane Bodhisattva, please pity me, Inexhaustible Intention, and all the four assemblies of disciples. I want to make offerings to you, Humane One, on behalf of the fourfold assembly and all living beings. I am representing living beings in making this offering to you. I beg you to have pity on living beings and accept this offering."
The Buddha then told Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, "You should take pity on Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva and the fourfold assembly, as well as the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, nonhumans, and so forth, and accept this necklace."
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva had made it clear that he was determined to make his offering, and Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva had made it clear that he was determined not to accept it. "I don't want such a nice thing. I don't have any Way virtue. You keep it," he said. Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva started bowing and begging him to accept it.
Well, just at this impasse, Shakyamuni Buddha stepped in to intervene and present a solution. He, the Buddha, then told Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, "You should take pity on Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva and the fourfold assembly, as well as the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, nonhumans, and so forth, and accept this necklace. Since they have brought forth their true minds to present you with this gift, you shouldn't refuse their offering."
Then, out of pity for the fourfold assembly, the gods, dragons, humans, nonhumans, and so forth, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva accepted the necklace. He divided it into two parts: one part he offered to Shakyamuni Buddha and one part he offered to the Stupa of Many Jewels Buddha.
Then, out of pity for the fourfold assembly-Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, Upasikas-the gods, dragons, humans, nonhumans, and so forth, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva accepted the necklace. He accepted it, but then offered it up right away. He divided it into two parts: one part he offered to Shakyamuni Buddha and one part he offered to the Stupa of Many Jewels Buddha. No wonder Gwan Shr Yin is a Bodhisattva. Such a valuable thing, and he didn't want it. Ah! He accepted his offering and immediately transferred his gift to Shakyamuni Buddha and Many Jewels Buddha.
Measureless eons ago, Many Jewels Buddha became a Buddha. He vowed that after any person became a Buddha and then spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra, he would rise up out of the earth into empty space and go to that place to certify the Dharma Flower Sutra as the most perfect of Sutras.
Shakyamuni Buddha spoke the Avatamsaka, Agama, Vaipulya, and Prajna teachings. When he was about to speak the Dharma Flower Sutra, Many Jewels Buddha emerged to certify it. Now Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva gives half of the necklace as an offering to Many Jewels Buddha.
"Inexhaustible Intention, such is the self-mastery and spiritual power of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, who roams throughout the Saha World."
Inexhaustible Intention, such is the self-mastery and spiritual power of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, who roams throughout the Saha World. Thus, everyone should recite his name, "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa," and make offerings to him.
At that time, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva used verses to ask this question:
"World Honored One, complete with wondrous marks,
I now ask again,
Why is this disciple of the Buddha
Called Gwan Shr Yin?"
At that time, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva used verses to ask this question. Verses are used to restate the doctrines of the previous prose passage so as to elaborate upon them. The verses to this chapter were not translated by Kumarajiva, the original translator, but were added later.
World Honored One, complete with wondrous marks, / I now ask again. The Buddha has Thirty-two Marks and Eighty Subsidiary Characteristics. The Buddha's Marks are the most complete and wonderful. Why is this disciple of the Buddha / Called Gwan Shr Yin? The Buddha is the Dharma King, and the Bodhisattvas are his disciples. Why is this disciple of the Buddha called "Contemplator of the World's Sound"?
The Honored One of Perfect, Wondrous Marks,
With verses answered Inexhaustible Intention:
"Listen to the practice of Gwan Yin,
Who skillfully responds in all places,
With vast vows, as deep as the sea,
Throughout inconceivable eons,
Serving many thousands of kotis of Buddhas,
And making great, pure vows."
The Honored One of Perfect, Wondrous Marks, / With verses answered Inexhaustible Intention. "Perfect" means nothing lacking and nothing in excess. It also means perfect in both blessings and wisdom. But here we are not just talking about blessings and wisdom. We are talking about the perfection of the Thirty-two Marks and Eighty Subsidiary Characteristics of the Buddha. He is perfect in all respects.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva asked in verses, and so the Buddha answers him in verses.
Listen to the practice of Gwan Yin, / Who skillfully responds in all places. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses skillful expedients. He contemplates the potentials of living beings and dispenses the teaching. He manifests in the body of a Buddha, a Pratyekabuddha, and so forth, to speak the Dharma according to the needs of the living beings being taught. He skillfully responds to the needs of the person. A skillful method is not fixed. It varies with the needs of the person. For this reason, the Vajra Sutra says, "There is no fixed dharma called Anuttarasamyaksambodhi."
To save people, you need to know a lot of worldly dharmas. Let's say you become a Dharma Master and you want to teach and transform people. You still have to understand a lot of doctrines. If you see a businessman, you might talk about business, "How's it going? Making money? How's the economy?" If you see a laborer, you might say, "How are working conditions? Are you really busy?" and talk about his work. When the person finds out that you care about him and his work, he'll be happy. Once he is happy, you can speak a little Buddhadharma to him, and he will think, "Hey, that's pretty good!" If you see a student, you can ask him about his studies, "How is science or philosophy?" And so the saying goes,
Prescribe the medicine according to the illness;
Speak the Dharma in accord with the person.
This is to "skillfully respond" in all places. We also say,
With clever expedients we save living beings,
Skillfully turning the dust of the world into the Buddha's work.
All worldly affairs are turned, with ingenuity, into Buddhadharma.
With vast vows, as deep as the sea, / Throughout inconceivable eons, / Serving many thousands of kotis of Buddhas. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is in all respects subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable. He has served many, many millions of Buddhas. And he has been making great, pure vows in every life-vows of great kindness and great compassion. The realm of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is indeed lofty, deep, and unfathomable!
"I shall now tell you in brief,
That for those who hear his name or see him,
And who are mindful of his name unceasingly,
He can extinguish the suffering of all realms of existence."
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva made pure vows. What are pure vows? "Pure" means that they are not made for one's own selfishness; they are public and unselfish.
Shakyamuni Buddha said to Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, "I shall now tell you in brief, / That for those who hear his name or see him." To hear Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name, you must have good roots. If you don't have good roots, you cannot even hear Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name, let alone see him in person. Now we have all heard his name. To see him doesn't mean you necessarily have to see his physical body. It can also mean seeing a painting or a statue made of clay, copper, iron, silver, gold, wood, or mani. That's just the same as seeing him in person.
And who are mindful of his name unceasingly. This means that you keep his name in mind and you do not let the time slip by idly. You recite without wasting your time. Time is the most precious thing, more precious than gold. Don't waste your precious time. Instead recite, "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva."
What advantages does recitation of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name bring? He can extinguish the suffering of all realms of existence. All of existence refers to the twenty-five planes of existence in the Three Realms-the realms of desire, form, and formlessness.
"If someone is the victim of another's intent to harm,
And is pushed into a pit of fire,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The pit of fire will turn into a pool."
If someone is the victim of another's intent to harm. Let's say you go into business with someone and then the two of you take a trip together in the mountains. You are way up on a cliff, and your partner realizes, "If I push him off the cliff, I can have all the money!"
And if a person is pushed into a pit of fire, / If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The pit of fire will turn into a pool. Recitation of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name has great power and brings a great response. It is truly inconceivable.
Now that we can hear this chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra and understand this doctrine, we should always and everywhere recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. If you recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, in the future he will protect you. Such incidents are too many to be spoken of in full.
"If someone is being tossed about in the great sea,
And is surrounded by the dangers of dragons, fish, and ghosts,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The waves will not drown him."
If someone is being tossed about in the great sea, with no sign of the shore anywhere, And is surrounded by the dangers of dragons, fish, and ghosts. There are poisonous dragons and rakshasha ghosts in the sea. Big fish can eat people, too. But if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The waves will not drown him. Somehow, he will find himself in shallow water, transported to the other shore, or he will be saved by a boat or something. But if you don't recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva or see Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, it can be very dangerous.
I remember when I was in Hong Kong I had a very bad disciple. In what way was he bad? He had hurt people. His name was Jang. His family owned a drug company, and they were very wealthy. He imported Western drugs into Hong Kong. This was right after the Japanese surrendered. Since it was right after the war, there was a lot of sickness on the mainland. When he was on a boat coming back with a cargo of drugs, he pushed his business partner overboard. The business partner didn't know about reciting Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name, and he drowned.
When Jang returned, he made a lot of money. He also sold counterfeit drugs and made a fortune on them. He was incredibly rich. But, eventually, the retribution caught up with him, and he got cancer. Six of the most famous doctors in Hong Kong said that he would surely be dead within a hundred days; that there was no way to cure it. He advertised in the newspaper saying that if anyone could save his life, he would pay that person US$200,000, which was a considerable amount in those days. But no one could take him up on this offer, and so he came to Western Bliss Garden and asked me what to do.
I said, "You should do good deeds and make offerings to the Triple Jewel. The first thing you need to do is take refuge with the Triple Jewel. Next, make offerings. Then maybe you will get better."
And so, on the eighteenth day of the fifth month, he signed up to take refuge. I encouraged him to make offerings to the entire Triple Jewel by presenting a bolt of sturdy cloth to every member of the Sangha in Hong Kong. At that time, many Bhikshus and Bhikshunis had come from the mainland and they had no clothes to wear or food to eat. There were two or three thousand of them. I told him to give each of them US$15. He agreed to do this.
Now, there were a lot of old Dharma Masters in Hong Kong who, hearing that Jang Yu Jye had taken refuge with me, manifested their spiritual powers. What do I mean? They sent their friends and relatives to talk to Jang to get him to go to their temples instead. The old Dharma Masters all got people to "climb on conditions," that is, to be opportunistic on their behalf. All the old Dharma Masters were after him. So Jang went and did some merit at this temple and some virtue at that temple.
He had agreed to give each left-home person coming from the mainland $15 as I had told him to, but he didn't do it. He gave them each a bolt of cloth, though not the good kind he had promised but a kind of inferior quality, and he only gave them $5 each. Since I had already told the left-home people about this offering, I had to make up the difference. I borrowed money and made up the extra $10. Now, not one of them knew I had done this. Today, they still don't know. Monks know that other monks don't like to give money away. They prefer to receive money. In fact, there is a saying, "Left-home people aren't greedy for money; the more the better." Jang wanted to spend his money on something else, so I didn't say anything.
Anyway, one hundred days went by, and he didn't die. All the Dharma Masters said, "We did it for you by bowing repentances." Each one of them claimed that he was responsible for saving Jang's life. "I bowed to the Buddha every day for you. That did the trick." They all did their bit. I didn't claim to have anything to do with it, and I had nothing to say to him about it.
Six years passed, and he hadn't died.
At that time, I was building Tsz-Sying Monastery at Da-Yu Mountain. He heard I was building a temple, and since he was a disciple, he sent a servant to me with some money. The servant brought the money and said that Jang wanted to help me build the temple. I didn't even look at it. I just threw it out the door. I said, "His money is not clean. It didn't come in the proper way. Give it back to him."
This scared Jang nearly to death. He went to one of the groveling Dharma Masters, Ding-Syi by name, and tried to get him to give the money to me with some compliments. I said to Ding-Syi, "The work here is done. I don't need any money. He can do some other kinds of merit and virtue with his money. There are so many Dharma Masters and temples. Take it somewhere else." The old Dharma Master was a bit embarrassed.
Another two years went by. And then, in the first month of the year, I announced, "Jang Yu-Jye took refuge eight years ago. He said he was going to offer US$200,000 to build a temple. It hasn't happened yet, and I am not going to wait anymore for it to happen. However, after this, no matter what kind of a problem he has, I am not going to pay any attention to it. He can kneel in front of me until he dies, but I am not going to pay any attention to his business."
Less than six months later, his cancer returned. He sent his relatives to me because none of the other temples could bring him a response at that time. So he came to me, but I said, "I already announced in the first month of this year that I was no longer going to pay any attention to Jang Yu-Jye's affairs." I didn't either, and he died of cancer a few days later. His younger brother had earlier committed suicide by jumping into the ocean.
Soon after that, Dharma Master Ding-Syi, who had taken advantage of Jang Yu-Jye, also got cancer and died about a year later. The laywoman who had convinced Jang Yu-Jye to go to Ding-Syi also died of cancer. The three of them were one substance. They stuck together while alive and they all died of cancer together.
Jang Yu-Jye died because he had pushed his business partner into the ocean. His partner couldn't recite Gwan Yin's name, and so he became a hateful ghost and caused Jang to have cancer. Basically, since Jang had taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, if he had truly brought forth faith, he wouldn't have died. But his faith was not solid, and so even though he didn't die after a hundred days, he died eight years later. His family is still very rich. But when he died, he didn't take any of it with him. All the money he cheated out of everyone was useless. It all went to his third younger brother.
Why did his business partner drown? Because he didn't recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name.
"If someone is on the peak of Mount Sumeru,
And another person tries to push him off,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
He will stand firm as the sun in space."
If someone is on the peak of Mount Sumeru, / And another person tries to push him off. Mount Sumeru is the name of the highest mountain. However, the text here doesn't mean just Mount Sumeru; it could be any high place. Sumeru is a Sanskrit word that means "wonderfully high."
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / He will stand firm as the sun in space. The sun in space shines for ten thousand miles. Even though this person is left in a precarious position, still, he will have samadhi power and not be upset. This is as when,
In praise or blame,
His mind doesn't move.
"If someone is pursued by evil people,
Who want to throw him off a Vajra Mountain,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The people will not be able to harm a single hair on his body."
If someone is pursued by evil people, / Who want to throw him off a Vajra Mountain. What are evil people? They are those who do not speak reasonably. They specialize in murder. "What's yours is mine, and what's mine is mine! Your money is mine. My money is mine even more so." Does that make any sense? Evil people use force instead of reason.
Suppose a person is pursuing someone. He keeps his eyes on him all the time and waits for him to fall asleep, so that he can push him off a steep cliff and steal his money. However, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, if the person who is being pursued is mindful of Gwan Yin, the people will not be able to harm a single hair on his body. The Vajra Mountain represents a high and solid place. When meeting with danger like this, if you don't forget to recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name, you will certainly obtain a great response and the Bodhisattva will save you. This is called,
Meeting with misfortune, it turns lucky;
Encountering disaster, it becomes auspicious.
The danger will no longer be dangerous. That's how efficacious this Dharma is!
"If someone is surrounded by thieves,
Who threaten him with knives,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The thieves will all give rise to compassion."
Everything that people encounter has to do with former causes and latter effects. Now we meet up with thieves. Before it was evil people; they weren't outright robbers. But robbers are just outright murderers, and they do all kinds of evil. They will do anything except what is good. Perhaps they are our enemies because in past lives we stole from them, killed them, or treated them badly. Thus, in this life, we meet them as enemies. It is said,
If you kill, you will pay with your life,
If you owe money, you will have to pay it back.
This is all the matter of cause and effect. Since this is so, if we encounter hateful enemies, we should not hate them in return. We shouldn't curse the heavens or resent people.
Manjushri Bodhisattva once told this story: "In every life, life after life, I never stole anything from anyone. How can I prove it? I will take my most priceless jewel, put it right by the city's gate for three days without keeping my eye on it, and no one will take it. This will prove that I never stole or coveted other's goods."
Some people didn't believe him, so they tried it out. They put the jewel right by the gate, where everyone walked. Three days went by, and no one touched it. Manjushri Bodhisattva was able to do this because he never stole.
Now we meet with hateful enemies, and this proves that we are receiving retribution for deeds done in former lives. And so, if you lose something or take some loss, you shouldn't take it too hard and get all upset. You are just suffering what you deserve.
If someone is surrounded by thieves, / Who threaten him with knives. This reminds me of when I was at Nan-Hwa Monastery for one year. On the nineteenth day of the ninth month, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's anniversary, some thieves showed up to rob Nan-Hwa Monastery. The thieves knocked on the door and I refused to open it. Finally, they beat the door down, and suddenly I found myself surrounded by guns. It was a tight situation, but I didn't feel afraid at all. I said, quite casually, "What are you pointing those guns at me for?"
"Why didn't you open the door?" they demanded.
"If you were I," I said, "would you have opened the door? No! I didn't open the door because you are coming to steal from me, not to give me a present."
"Give us your money!" they demanded.
At that time I was wearing a rag robe. I said, "Take a look at this robe! Do I look like someone with money?"
"Then who has money?" they said.
I said, "I am a teacher here. These are my students. I have no money, and I am the teacher. How could the students have money? If you don't believe me, you can take a look in my room. You can take anything you want, any treasure you find. Go right ahead."
At that time, I really did have two treasures in my room. They were "living" treasures. When the thieves came, they were so scared that they couldn't even walk. They crawled around saying, "What shall we do? We're scared!" I said, "Don't be afraid. You can hide under my bed." Hearing me tell the thieves that they could take whatever they wanted, these two "treasures" were terrified. They were so scared that their teeth were chattering. Well, the thieves didn't go in.
Dharma Master Hwai-Yi saw me talking with the thieves in such an amicable manner, and so he came out of his room. The thieves turned around and pointed their guns at him, and he burst into tears. I said, "He doesn't have any money. Talk to me!" At that point they were surrounding him, and he led them to his room. They got about two hundred dollars from him, probably a year's worth of savings.
The next day it was announced to the two hundred monks that I was the only person who was not afraid. I said to everyone, "I'm not the only one who wasn't afraid. There were four of us. The first was the Sixth Patriarch. He sat there in samadhi, 'Thus, thus, unmoving! Take what you want, thieves. I'm not paying any attention to you.' The second was the Patriarch Han-Shan. He also sat in samadhi. The third was the Patriarch Dan-Tyan. He didn't have quite the samadhi power, but he turned his head to look at me. I said that because his flesh body does lean forward a bit. The fourth was I myself. I was only number four."
And so, if a person meets with thieves who threaten him with knives, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The thieves will all give rise to compassion. The thieves didn't hit me or shoot me. No doubt that was because I recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name. They started out very fierce, but eventually, they became subdued and kind. When they saw me in my rag robes they thought, "This monk is really pitiful."
"If someone is in difficulty with the law,
And on the verge of being executed,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The knives will break into pieces."
If someone is in difficulty with the law. If you break the royal law, there's no politeness about it; you get your head cut off. This happens sometimes by mistake, too. You get arrested and sentenced when you are actually innocent. And so the law has its advantages and disadvantages.
People may bear false witness against someone who is innocent. That happens a lot when lawyers get involved. The lawyer can "prove" someone broke the law, and that person gets executed when, in fact, he is innocent. Where are you ever going to find the truth in this world? You will have to look in the Buddhadharma. You won't find it in the world. The world is ruled by force, not by reason.
The text brings up the hypothesis of a person who is in difficulty with the law, regardless of whether he is innocent or guilty, and on the verge of being executed. However, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The knives will break into pieces. At such a time, if you can remain calm and can remember to recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name, the knife will just break into pieces. Your neck will become stronger than Vajra.
Now, you cannot try out these things as experiments. If you do, you'll end up getting your head chopped off. In order for it to be efficacious, you must have faith. If you have no faith and decide to try it out, it won't work. That's because in trying it out, you show that you have no faith. If you really believed, you wouldn't need to try it out. You should simply bring forth a genuine heart of faith in Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, then everything will be efficacious. Don't have doubts.
"If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained,
Or if his hands and feet are in stocks,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
His bonds will open and he will be free."
If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained, / Or if his hands and feet are in stocks. The character for prison, chyou, is the image of a person, ren, inside four walls.
Let's say you get put in jail, and then on top of that you are forced to wear handcuffs and chains, and your head is put in the stocks.
Those of you with families should hurry and wake up! Don't be imprisoned by the three big traps. One's parents are like a cangue around one's neck. Children are like handcuffs. And one's spouse is like the chains on one's legs.
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / His bonds will open and he will be free. Long ago in China, there was a monk who was captured by one of the Yau tribe. The Yau people had their own language, which is completely different from Chinese, and they were very wild. When they took prisoners, they would kill them and eat them. The monk was captured and locked in a cell. They were going to eat him!
The monk believed in Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, so even though he knew their intentions, he was not afraid. He just single-mindedly recited Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name. The monk recited and recited until a tiger showed up and tore the cell apart, and so he was set free. In spite of the danger, he was not harmed.
Reciting the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva brings so many responses that you could never speak of them to the end.
"If someone is about to be harmed,
By mantras, spells, or poisonous herbs,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The harm will all return to the sender."
If someone is about to be harmed, / By mantras, spells, or poisonous herbs. Spells are also mantras.
In the section on the twelve types of living beings, the Shurangama Sutra talks about the wasp, which steals caterpillars and transforms them into its own young. It puts the caterpillar in its mud nest and for seven days recites a mantra that says, "Be like me, be like me." At the end of that period, the change takes place, and the caterpillar becomes the offspring of the wasp.
There are evil mantras that can kill people, but there are also efficacious mantras that help and benefit people. Here, in the Sutra text, we are talking about mantras that can harm people. When these mantras are recited, the victim gets all drowsy and befuddled.
Suppose a person is about to be harmed by mantras, spells, and poisons, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, the harmful poisons and mantras cannot hurt him. Not only that, but the harm will all return to the sender. The poison or mantras will bounce back and harm the person who sent it out in the first place.
In China, long ago, there was a very accurate diviner, one who told fortunes with the Yi-Jing [The Book of Changes]. The reason he was so effective was that he had a strange demon helping him out. Every year the demon had to eat a pure youth and a virgin girl, which the diviner would offer to him.
One year, the young girl who was marked for the sacrifice recited Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name in her room. She was used to reciting Gwan Yin's name, and now she continued to do so. What do you think happened? The demon came for his meal. It walked up to the bed and shone light out of its two eyes onto the young girl. Suddenly, light came out of the girl's mouth, and she heard a loud noise as something fell down from the ceiling to the floor. Thinking that the demon had come to eat her, she screamed and attracted the attention of a policeman who was walking by. The policeman broke the door down, came into the room, and found a huge python, a mahoraga. It was dead.
The diviner was arrested by the police and questioned about locking the girl up. He said he had an immortal helping him do his divination, and the immortal demanded a young girl and a young boy to eat once a year. That was how he became such an accurate diviner and raked in so much money. They locked the diviner in jail. He told fortunes for others, but he never figured his own fortune would turn out so bleak! Therefore, harming others is just harming yourself.
The line "The harm will all return to the sender" was changed by the Sung Dynasty poet, Su-Dung-Po. He said, "In Buddhism they teach compassion. This line doesn't sound very compassionate to me." And so he changed the line to "For both parties there will be no affair." Neither the one who sent out the mantras nor the victim will be harmed.
He was wrong, though. Although in Buddhism killing is prohibited and the liberation of life is encouraged, still, evil people must be restrained from harming good people. Therefore, the victim who knows how to recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name will not be harmed, but if there is "no affair," the attacker will just go on to the next person, who may not know to recite. There are plenty of people who don't know how to recite.
So Su-Dung-Po's line doesn't work. "The harm will all return to the sender" is correct. It is fitting that the evil person should undergo such a retribution.
"If someone meets with evil rakshashas,
Poisonous dragons, or ghosts,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
They will then not dare to harm him."
If someone meets with evil rakshashas, / Poisonous dragons, or ghosts. Rakshashas are extremely evil ghosts. They eat people!
Some dragons harm people. They hide out in a pond, a river, or a lake, and when you walk by, they spit poisonous vapors, which can kill you. They can even suck you right into their stomachs!
There are many kinds of ghosts. There are rich ghosts, poor ghosts, and middle-class ghosts. Rich ghosts are the leaders of the ghosts. Middle-class ghosts aren't too well off. Poor ghosts have nothing at all.
"Do ghosts use money?" you ask.
Ghosts don't use money, but their bad habits cause them to act like people, and so they look for more money all day long. Basically, they don't need money for anything, but their attachment confuses them. Chinese people burn counterfeit paper money to pacify the ghosts. In the Shurangama Mantra, many different kinds of ghosts are mentioned. Here we are talking about ghosts in general.
When a person runs into evil ghosts, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / They will then not dare to harm him.
"If someone is surrounded by evil beasts,
With fearsome sharp teeth and claws,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The beasts will quickly run far away."
If someone is surrounded by evil beasts. "Evil beasts" refers to wolves, panthers, tigers, bears, and all kinds of animals who eat people. There are no tigers in the mountains in America, but in China and India there are many tigers. Tigers will eat anything. When I was a child, I used to roam in the mountains for five or six days at a time, and I ran into all these beasts. I don't know why, but they never ate me.
If a person runs into evil beasts with fearsome sharp teeth and claws, / If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The beasts will quickly run far away. Because of the magical response obtained through Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's intervention, the beasts will be afraid and run far, far away when they see you.
"Poisonous snakes and scorpions,
Have blazing lethal vapors,
But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
At the sound of one's voice, they will disperse."
Poisonous snakes and scorpions, / Have blazing lethal vapors. The sting of certain scorpions can prove fatal. Some kinds of lizards, such as a certain species found in Thailand, also emit toxic vapors.
But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / At the sound of one's voice, they will disperse. When the lethal creatures hear you recite the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, they will run off, hide away, and make no further mischief.
"Clouds of roaring thunder and lightning
May send down hail or great floods of rain,
But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The clouds will immediately scatter."
Clouds of roaring thunder and lightning / May send down hail or great floods of rain. Sometimes hailstones can weigh several tens of pounds. They can be so heavy that they can kill a cow, to say nothing of a person. But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The clouds will immediately scatter. You don't have to recite for very long, and the hailstones and storms will disperse.
"Living beings are beset with hardships,
And oppressed by limitless sufferings.
The power of Gwan Yin's wondrous wisdom
Can rescue the world from suffering."
Living beings are beset with hardships. Living beings are born because of a multitude of conditions. There are millions of different kinds of living beings.
In Chinese, the word for "living being" contains the word jung, which is the character for four, sz,with three people, ren, underneath it. It means "multitude."
Among living beings, the most problematical is the human being. People have to wear clothes, eat, and go to work. It's a lot of trouble. However, human beings are also the wisest among living beings. Animals and other living beings don't have as many problems, but they are also stupid. Since they are stupid, they get pushed around by people. And so in China, they have a saying,
Among the myriad creatures, people are the most magical.
People are the most intelligent of all creatures. Although we say they are the most intelligent, they sometimes do stupid things. How is that? They like to give themselves trouble. They fight with themselves. How do they do this? "Hardships" arise. It is said,
Under heaven there's nothing happening; stupid people just like to stir things up.
Stupid people make trouble for themselves.
Now the text says that living beings are beset by hardships and oppressed by limitless sufferings. They create trouble for themselves, and so they undergo limitless forms of suffering. If people don't have food to eat, clothes to wear, or a place to live, they suffer. With so many conditions on their happiness, they are forced to toil all day long to get food to eat. They may even steal from each other to preserve their own lives. They do this because they are tormented by suffering.
The power of Gwan Yin's wondrous wisdom / Can rescue the world from suffering. Therefore, no matter what is bothering you, you shouldn't worry. Just recite the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, then gradually the problem will resolve itself. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's wisdom is subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable. All you need is a sincere heart, and the Bodhisattva will help you.
"Complete with the power of spiritual penetrations,
Vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means,
Going throughout countries in the ten directions,
He manifests everywhere in all places."
Complete with the power of spiritual penetrations. What is meant by "the power of spiritual penetrations?" There are six types of spiritual penetrations.
1. The Penetration of the Heavenly Eye. With the Heavenly Eye, you can see at a glance what the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-three are doing.
2. The Penetration of the Heavenly Ear. With the Heavenly Ear, you can hear all the sounds throughout the ten directions, in the heavens and below.
3. The Penetration of Other's Thoughts. You can know what other people are thinking.
4. The Penetration of Past Lives. You can know the cause and effect involved in former lives.
5. The Penetration of the Perfected Spirit, also called the Penetration of the Complete Spirit. With this penetration, you can fly and transform at will.
6. The Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows. This is the hardest one to get.
The ghosts and spirits all have the above mentioned five penetrations. But they do not possess the Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has all six of them.
Vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means. "Vastly" means that the Bodhisattvas did not cultivate just one Dharma-door, but they cultivated all manner of Dharma-doors. Why are we studying the Mantras and the Sutras? It's all a part of "vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means."
Going throughout countries in the ten directions, / He manifests everywhere in all places. There's not one single place where Gwan Yin Bodhisattva does not go. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva has been everywhere.
All of us living beings have causal affinities with Gwan Yin Bodhisattva. Anyone who recites Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name will receive the Bodhisattva's protection. If you do not recite, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva won't pay any attention to you. Why not? Because you don't even care to get acquainted, and you don't even know or recollect the Bodhisattva's name.
If you want to be friends with Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, all you have to do is keep reciting, "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa." When he hears you reciting, he will think, "Ah, hah! I have made another friend! Good, I will help my new friend." If you don't recite, the Bodhisattva will say, "He doesn't want to be friends. I'm not going to pay any attention to his affairs."
Someone wants to know how to obtain the Penetration of the Heavenly Eye. There are many methods. First of all, you can single-mindedly recite the Shurangama Mantra. You can also study the Great Compassion Mantra and the Forty-two Hands. You can also give up sleeping to study the Buddhadharma. But trying to get the Heavenly Eye by giving up sleeping is very dangerous, and I hope that people won't use that method. Why not?
You probably remember the story about the Buddha's disciple Aniruddha, who used to sleep through the Buddha's lectures. The Buddha scolded him, saying,
Hey! Hey! How dare you sleep, like an oyster or a clam?
Sleep! Sleep for a thousand years, and you'll never hear the Buddha's name.
Then after the Buddha scolded him, he became very vigorous and refused to sleep for seven days. As a result, he went blind. The Buddha taught him the Vajra Illumining Bright Samadhi, and Aniruddha opened his Heavenly Eye. He was foremost of the Buddha's disciples in the Heavenly Eye.
Aniruddha means "not poor."
Limitless eons, countless lifetimes ago, Aniruddha was a poor farmer. He had to toil and sweat, and still he had no money. At that time he was a beginner in the Buddhadharma. Even though he was not a disciple of the Buddha, he did understand the principle of giving.
One day while the farmer was working, a cultivator happened by. The Bhikshu had been certified to the fruit and was a Pratyekabuddha, but the farmer didn't know that at the time. The old Bhikshu was returning from his begging rounds. It was his practice to beg from only three houses. Then, if he hadn't obtained any food, he would return to the mountain for another seven days before going out to beg again. At that particular time, he was returning with an empty bowl.
When the farmer saw the poor monk, he decided to offer up his lunch to him. He had no idea the old Bhikshu was a Pratyekabuddha. Now, the Pratyekabuddha had the Penetration of Other's Thoughts, so when he looked into the causes and conditions, he saw that this lunch, consisting of the poorest quality rice, constituted a most sincere offering. He praised the farmer and said, "So it is, so it is. Your offering is made with a true heart!" The Pratyekabuddha then returned to his mountain.
Later on, a rabbit hopped along and jumped up on the farmer's back. The farmer ran home and tried as he would, but he could not get the rabbit off. Then he noticed it was made of gold. He cut off one of the golden rabbit's leg and exchanged it for money. The leg grew right back. After that, he had money in every life. Why? Because he made offerings with a true heart to a Pratyekabuddha, a sage who had been certified to the fruit. That was his reward. In every life he was "not poor."
In the Sutra in Forty-two Sections, the Buddha said,
Giving food to a hundred bad people does not equal giving food to a single good person.
Giving food to a thousand good people does not equal giving food to one person who holds the Five Precepts.
Giving food to ten thousand people who hold the Five Precepts does not equal giving food to a single Srotaapanna.
Giving food to a million Srotaapannas does not equal giving food to a single Sakridagamin.
Giving food to ten million Sakridagamins does not equal giving food to a single Anagamin.
Giving food to a hundred million Anagamins does not equal giving food to a single Arhat.
Giving food to a billion Arhats does not equal giving food to a single Pratyekabuddha.
Giving food to ten billion Pratyekabuddhas does not equal giving food to a Buddha of the three periods of time.
Giving food to a hundred billion Buddhas of the three periods of time does not equal giving food to a single one who is without thoughts, without dwelling, without cultivation, and without accomplishment.
Because Aniruddha made offerings to a Pratyekabuddha with a true heart, as a good retribution in every life he was extremely wealthy. If he wasn't a prince, then he was a wealthy and respected individual. And so, if you want to be "not poor," you too should make offerings to the Triple Jewel; then in the future you will have a chance to be wealthy.
It is said, "It is difficult to give when one is poor." The reason Aniruddha was so wealthy is that he was able to give when he was poor. He gave his own lunch to the Triple Jewel. With that single true thought, he gained the reward of wealth.
It is also said, "It is difficult to study the Way when one has wealth and a noble status." It's hard to convince a rich person to study the Way.
The doctrines in the Sutra in Forty-two Sections are extremely important. Everyone should take note of them.
"The various evil destinies,
Those of the hells, ghosts, and animals,
And the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death
Are all gradually wiped away."
The various evil destinies. "Various"means that there are a lot of them, not just one. In general, there are Four Evil Destinies. What are they? They are the asuras, the hell-beings, the ghosts, and the animals.
Asuras have been explained previously. They like to fight.
What are hell-beings? How are the hells created? The hells are a creation of people's karmic obstacles. According to the type of evil karma one creates, one will fall into that type of hell. There are many types of hells. They are explained in detail in the Earth Store Sutra, where it says there are eighteen major hells and five hundred lesser hells. There are many hells.
Now, are the hells made in advance like the prisons in this world? No. The hells manifest through the evil karma of each person. If you create evil karma by killing people, you will fall into the "hell for killers." The same applies to other evil acts, such as setting fires. The type of hell depends on the type of karma. It's not fixed. When the karma is exhausted, the hell is then empty. Before it's ended, the hell is still there.
In Manchuria there was a man named Mr. Pig Foot Lyou. His family name was Lyou and he had a hoof instead of a foot. He was able to remember the events of his past three lives.
In one life he was born into a very wealthy family. When he was born, his father was in his forties. When the child Pig Foot Lyou was thirteen, he was married to a wife who was two years his senior. Although the father was then in his fifties, his lust was still going strong, so he took a young wife who was about the same age as the son's wife. A couple years later, Pig Foot Lyou had a son. The son was married when he was about thirteen, and the wife was also a couple years older than himself.
At that time, Pig Foot Lyou didn't believe in Buddhism. His parents had both died, and only his father's young wife was left. Pig Foot Lyou thought she was very beautiful, and he appropriated her for himself. Then Pig Foot Lyou's son died, and attracted to his son's wife, he took her, too. So he was carrying on an affair with his stepmother and his daughter-in-law! He was in his mid-twenties at that time.
When Pig Foot Lyou was in his forties, he woke up. "I have certainly amassed some terrible, offensive karma in this life!" he thought. "I took my stepmother and my daughter-in-law as wives." He started believing in Buddhism and took up recitation of the Vajra Sutra.
In his late forties, after reciting the Sutra for ten years, he died and went to meet King Yama, the cruel, black-faced Lord of the Dead.
"Since you created so much offensive karma," King Yama said, "I'm going to put you in the Hell of Boiling Oil where you'll be fried." He charged two ghosts with the task of taking him off to the oil pot, but there was someone standing by who said, "You can't do that."
"Why not?" asked King Yama.
"Because he has recited the Vajra Sutra, and he has still got it in his belly. He should first be reborn until he uses up all the Vajra Sutra, and then you can french fry him."
So he went to be reborn as a person, this time in a very poor household. His mother and father sold snacks for a living, and from a very early age he was fond of eating. He ate so much that soon he had a very big belly. When he was five years old, he died from a bloated stomach. After he died, his parents were curious to see what was in his big belly, so they cut him open. There they found a substance as solid as a vajra rock. At that point, the ghosts standing by said, "Oh, it's time now. We can take him to the oil pot and fry him."
The ghosts then took him to King Yama who pronounced that he could be reborn as a pig. As a pig, he was fed until he was plump, and then slaughtered and eaten.
When he got back to King Yama again, King Yama was ready to send him through the frying punishment, but the offender spoke up and said, "You don't have to fry me. Let me go back as a person but give me one pig hoof as proof. I will urge people in the world not to commit offenses."
King Yama thought that was a good idea, and so that was what happened. His surname was Lyou, and because of his hoof, most people called him Mr. Pig Foot Lyou. I met the man personally and talked to him for a long time, so I am very clear about his circumstances. This is how the evil destinies get created. People create their own hells. Hells are very dangerous.
In Harbin, where I am from, there was a Dharma Master named Cheng-Yi who was once so sick that he thought he had died. After he died, he went down a road to a place not too far away from his temple and was reborn there. As what was he reborn? As a pig! When he saw that he himself was a pig, he refused to suckle, and then he died of starvation. At that point, his spirit reentered the body of Dharma Master Cheng-Yi.
He then woke up and told people around him about what he had just experienced. "I have recovered from my illness. I was just reborn as a pig. Let me take you to the spot, and we'll have a look. There are seven piglets in the litter. I was reborn as one of them. I was the one who refused to take milk and starved."
Several Dharma Masters accompanied him to the spot, and sure enough, they found a litter of seven piglets, and one was dead. I also met that Dharma Master.
It's not at all easy to be reborn as a person. A human body is very difficult to obtain.
The Buddhadharma is not easy to get to hear. You figure it out. Of all the millions of people in America, how many come on any given night to listen to the Sutra lectures? Very, very few. It's difficult to meet a Good and Wise Advisor who really understands the Buddhadharma. Some who claim to be teachers are not clear about principles, so they say things to you that are unclear.
Those of the hells, ghosts, and animals. The destiny of hungry ghosts is also a result of karmic power. Hungry ghosts have bellies as big as drums and throats as thin as needles.The things we eat turn into fire when they enter the mouths of hungry ghosts. This happens because their karmic obstacles are so heavy.
Now, as to this question, the gods see water as crystal. People see it as water, fish see it as their environment, and ghosts see it as fire. This shows the power of karma. It influences what one experiences. Beings see the same thing in different ways.
It's also very easy to get reborn as an animal, such as a pig, a chicken, or a horse. These kinds of animals were formerly people. What kind of people? People who were not filial to their parents and who did not respect their teachers and elders. People like that get caught up in the animal kingdom.
People who are fond of eating meat also create ties with the creatures whose flesh they consume. By eating a certain kind of flesh, they establish a close connection with that animal, and the future is then very dangerous for them.
"The various evil destinies" then, include the Four Evil Destinies of hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and asuras.
And the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death. In human life, there are Three Sufferings:
1. The Suffering within Suffering
2. The Suffering of Decay
3. The Suffering of Process
An example of Suffering within Suffering is to be penniless and also without any food to eat or any place to live. This suffering is experienced by poor people. Lacking the very necessities of life, they cannot even find work. This kind of suffering is not easy to bear.
But wealthy people suffer even more. They experience the Suffering of Decay. Having money, they have to calculate all day about it. "I will put this much in the bank. I'll take this much out and put it into a business. I'll take that much…" and it goes on like that all day long. They keep on counting their money until their hair turns white, their teeth fall out, their eyes stop working, and their ears go deaf. But then trouble comes. The robbers get their number. They break in at night and pick the safe clean.
People in poverty get accustomed to their suffering, but when the Suffering of Decay hits wealthy people, they can't take it. It's very bitter.
Well, then, if you're neither rich nor poor, there's no suffering, right? There's still suffering. It's the Suffering of Process. Everyone goes through the process of aging. From youth, people pass into middle age, and then become old. Once old, they die. This process never stops. It continues with every passing thought. This is the Suffering of Process.
Then there are the Eight Sufferings; and even Eight Sufferings aren't very many, because suffering doesn't stop with eight kinds. There are thousands upon millions of kinds of sufferings. You could never count how many sufferings there are.
Well, what's the most suffering? It's being a person. It's much more pleasant to be an animal than to be a person. So what can you be that isn't suffering? Well, being a Buddha isn't suffering. Why do I say that it's more pleasant to be an animal than to be a person? Because, animals do not have to worry about clothes to wear, food to eat, or a place to live. Their lives happen very naturally, so they never worry about anything. But, when one is a person, there's just too much suffering.
Now, we're going to talk about the Eight Sufferings. They are:
1. The suffering of birth
2. The suffering of old age
3. The suffering of sickness
4. The suffering of death
5. The suffering of being apart from those you love
6. The suffering of being together with those you hate
7. The suffering of not getting what you seek
8. The suffering of the raging blaze of the Five Skandhas
And among these eight, which one is the worst? I believe the worst is the suffering of birth; because if you weren't born, then the others wouldn't happen. And you say, "Well, what's so much suffering about being born, anyway?" I know you've forgotten, so I'm going to remind you.
How is it that you got born? Birth comes from the union of the father's essence and the mother's blood; and there also has to be what is called the "intermediate skandha body," which enters the womb.
Once you're in the womb, the first few weeks are simply the development of a jelly-like substance; but after the seventh week, feeling arises. And once the fetus develops a sense of feeling, then if the mother drinks something cold, it feels like it's standing on a mountain of ice-extremely uncomfortable. If the mother drinks something hot, then it's just as if the fetus is plunged into hot water and scalded. So even in the womb one experiences the two unpleasant sensations of cold and heat. If the mother stoops over, then the embryo feels as though it's being crushed by Mount Tai.
But the birth is the worst experience; it's like two mountains crashing together-like the Hell of Crashing Mountains. And so, of course, the first thing a child does after being born is scream, "Ku a, ku a!" [The Chinese character for ku means to cry, and it sounds the same as another word ku that means suffering.]
And so it is said that human birth feels the same as when a live tortoise has its shell ripped away from its body-it's that painful. But as you grow up, you forget the suffering of birth. You pass through your prime and get old without even realizing it. There is also tremendous suffering connected with old age. For instance, your hearing goes bad; you don't even know if people are scolding you. And your eyesight goes dim, so you can't see things clearly anymore. The teeth fall out; the tongue doesn't, but the teeth do. You never heard of anyone losing his tongue, and the reason for that is that the tongue is yielding and supple.
One time I asked an old fellow about this, I said, "Teeth fall out when you get old, but have you ever met anyone who lost his tongue?"
He said, "Never. Have you?"
And I said, "Look, I'm a lot younger than you-you're almost ninety-and since you haven't ever seen it, how would you expect me to have ever seen it?"
Then I asked him, "Do you know why your tongue doesn't fall out, but your teeth do? It's because the teeth are too rigid, so they fall out. But the tongue is supple and yielding, so it doesn't fall out."
And he said, "Oh!"
And I said, "You're awfully old now, you'd better be careful not to be too rigid. You can take the lesson from your teeth."
Then you say, "What's so bad about having the teeth fall out?"
Well, you lose your appetite-nothing tastes good anymore. It may look and smell good, but when you put it in your mouth and gum it around, you can't even chew it up. You have to spit it out, because if you swallowed it, it wouldn't be digested. So, do you think that's suffering, or not? And also your face gets all wrinkled. It's said that people have "skin like a chicken and hair like a crane." If you have ever seen a plucked chicken, you have seen that its skin is all bumpy and wrinkled. And "hair like a crane" means that your hair turns totally white. But, of course, that doesn't apply to Westerners, because when infants are first born in the West, they're towheaded-they have white hair at birth; they don't even wait until they get old to have white hair.
Another point of interest is that although Westerners may be born with white hair, their hair doesn't turn black, and yet black hair can turn white. But then again, sometimes it does happen. For instance, when I was in Hong Kong, my hair turned totally white. Why? Because I was overseeing the construction of a temple. I erected three temples in Hong Kong, and it was a strain on my mind and my body, so my hair turned totally white. Then I took a look and thought, "Oh, this is really something. I'd better not tax my mind so much!" Then I just put everything down, and my hair turned black again. From this, you can see that nothing is fixed.
There are many kinds of sicknesses. You might get a headache, or your feet hurt, or sometimes your whole body aches. In general, if your heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, and lungs are ailing, it's a lot of suffering.
Another truly terrible suffering is death; in fact, it's the worst. It's easy to die, but once you're dead, the important question is where you will go. After you die, will you go to the hells? Will you become an animal? Will you be reborn as a person? No one can give you any insurance.
And so, that's birth, old age, sickness, and death-they're all suffering.
Now we've discussed the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
Why was it that Shakyamuni Buddha left home? It was because he came to realize that birth, old age, sickness, and death are not easy to endure.
When Prince Siddartha was nineteen years old, he wanted to see the sights outside the palace. So one day he went to the city's east gate. There he saw a woman in the process of delivering a baby. The Prince asked his followers, "What's happening?" They replied, "She is giving birth to a child." Looking at the woman who seemed to be enduring an extremely painful event and the newborn child crying loudly, the Prince returned home unhappily.
The next day, the Prince went to the city's southern gate. There he saw a very old man. His hair was totally white and his eyes were dim. His legs were too weak to stand straight or to walk. The Prince asked in surprise, "What's wrong with that man? Why has he become that way?" His followers answered, "This man is already old. He has too many years. That's why he is that way." Upon hearing this, the Prince became upset and quickly returned to his palace.
On the third day, the Prince went to the city's west gate. There he saw a sick person. Being sad, the Prince returned to the palace.
On the fourth day, the Prince went to the city's north gate. There lay a dead person. "What's the matter with that person?" asked the Prince. The followers said, "This man already died." The Prince again felt extremely depressed.
The Prince himself had witnessed the suffering of birth, sickness, old age, and death, and he realized that was the process that human beings have to pass through. He felt very sad and wanted to go back to the palace. Right at that moment, a left-home person appeared. The Prince asked his followers, "Who is this person? What's he doing?" They then went to talk to that cultivator. He told them, "I'm a left-home person. I investigate and study the Buddha Way in order to be liberated from the suffering of birth, sickness, old age, and death."
At that time the Prince had not yet become a Buddha. But when he heard that by cultivating the Way he could avoid birth, old age, sickness, and death, he said, "Can I cultivate in the same way you do?"
The monk replied, "Anybody can."
Then the Prince returned to the palace, and accompanied by one who was later known as Venerable Upali, he ran away.
Shakyamuni Buddha was totally disillusioned by birth, old age, sickness, and death. He didn't know how they arose or where they went. And so he left the home-life and practiced the Way with the intent to end birth and death. He went into the mountains and cultivated for six years trying to avoid birth, old age, sickness, and death.
Everybody who gets born cannot avoid dying. Some deaths are good and some are terrible. Some people die from sickness; some people starve to death; some people die from the fatigue of toil; some people die from quarreling-they have a fight and kill each other; then there's war, and people die on the battlefield; others die in automobile accidents or get crushed by mountains or in an avalanche.
There are many different kinds of deaths. Some people die from accidental poisoning; some people commit suicide by eating poison, or they may commit suicide in other kinds of ways. Some people have no wish to die, but they die; some wish to die, but they can't. Just death alone contains a myriad distinctions.
The kind of death differs, so does the retribution or reward that follows. In what way does it differ? For instance, if someone dies by accident-as in an automobile accident, or by drowning, or by being burned in a fire-he then turns into a ghost or a spirit with either yin or yang energy, but he doesn't go before King Yama, because King Yama pays no attention to him. The other ghosts don't pay any attention to this kind of spirit, either.
You say, "In that case, they're really free!" But, they're just free ghosts, not free people. Of course, if people are free, often they just take advantage of situations and don't follow the rules. The same thing happens with a ghost who is free-he tends not to follow the rules. People who die in this way can try to catch some other persons to turn into ghosts to take their place. That's why oftentimes when there's an accident in a certain place, within three days after it, there will be another one. The reason is that the ghost that died by accident is just waiting for the opportunity to catch someone else to replace him, because he won't get a chance at rebirth until he can get someone to take his place. If he doesn't get another ghost to represent him, then he just remains there forever, ignored. That's another kind of death.
If you kill yourself, say for instance from taking poison, you go to the hells. And the punishments are terrible. If, for example, you took poison to die, then you'll go to the hell where you have to drink molten iron. You burn up all your insides-your stomach, your intestines-and then you die. But then a "clever" wind blows and revives you and brings you back to life. Then you have to drink the molten iron again, and then you die again from the burns, and then the wind blows and you come back to life again. This process goes on unceasingly all day. It's unbearable. But, if you can recite the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, the text says, the various kinds of sufferings are all gradually wiped away. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva can gradually eliminate and eradicate the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
We have already discussed four of the sufferings. Next we will talk about the suffering of being apart from those we love.
Everybody knows what love is. Some people love wealth; others love beautiful forms or fame. If people who love wealth are separated from it, then that is known as the suffering of being apart from what one loves. How might this happen? Suppose someone is very wealthy-he has a flourishing business, but, suddenly, due to unforeseeable circumstances, he goes bankrupt. He loses everything. That's a case of being apart from what one loves. In his case, he loved money. He didn't ever want to be separated from money, and then suddenly he's penniless.
Next, let's consider someone who loves beautiful forms. Men love the looks of women; women love the looks of men. Between them there's a mutual love. But if in their former lives the causes and effects were not planted correctly, then the love will not last. Something will happen, and they'll have to part from each other. That's the kind of suffering that occurs between men and women when they must be apart from those they love.
Then there are those who love fame. Some people say that fame is one's second life. But sometimes your reputation gets ruined. You lose your fame. Basically, if you are the one who wanted to be well-known and then you did something wrong and ruined your own reputation, that's a case of being part from what you love-fame.
But then you say, "Well, there might be a couple who doesn't separate, and so they don't have to undergo the suffering of being apart from those they love."
But they might have a child who is both handsome and intelligent, and all of a sudden, unexpectedly, he dies. That's extremely hard to bear. Or suppose you are a person who is especially filial to your parents, and then your parents die. That's another example of being apart from those you love. Or, maybe you have an excellent relationship with your spouse, and then suddenly he or she dies unexpectedly. That's also an example of being apart from those you love. The same thing applies to brothers, sisters, friends-in each case there can exist the suffering of being apart from those you love.
Once you have experienced this kind of suffering, you should no longer be attached to love. You should not place all your love in one person. Instead, develop a kind regard for all living beings. Practice the Bodhisattva Path and save everybody. Don't only think of yourself. Think of all living beings, instead. Rescue and protect everybody. Then you will not experience the suffering of being apart from those you love.
The sixth kind of suffering is that of being together with those one hates. Of course, some people overreact and think, "Well, since love entails so much suffering, I'm not going to love anybody-I hate everybody!" So you detest everyone, and you don't love anything, including material objects. You feel that since loving is so much suffering, you don't want to love. But not loving also has its suffering. That's the suffering of being together with those you hate.
Maybe you find yourself in a circumstance in which you don't like where you are, or you don't like the people who are around you, and so you move. But then, who would have guessed, when you get to the new place, the people are all the same type as in the place you just left, and things are just as despicable; in fact, it's even worse.
In general, the things that you wish most to avoid and the things that you detest the most are the very things that come around. It's strange how this happens. For instance, if you're afraid of cats, then from morning to night, there are cats hanging around. Suppose you hate dogs with a passion; then everywhere you go, you have dogs trailing you. Or, you hate women, but all day there are women wanting to see you. They chase after you, and you get totally fed up, so you move; but at your new place, there's another group of women just like them.
Well, how does this suffering arise? It comes from your own nature. Because your intrinsic nature doesn't have any samadhi, you find fault with whatever you see. Say you're in one place where you can't get along with any of your neighbors, so you move to someplace else, and you still cannot get along with any of your new neighbors. Then that's not a question of the neighbors-it's probably a question of your lack of ability to get along. You just don't have any affinity with anyone, so nobody likes you.
You can see that the more you are attached to something, the more likely you will be separated from it. By the same token, the more you hate and wish to avoid something, the more you are going to get involved with it. These two-the suffering of love and the suffering of hate-come about because you don't truly understand the Middle Way. As soon as you get to an extreme, either too much or too little, you're going to suffer. If you could hold to the Middle Way, you wouldn't suffer.
The seventh kind of suffering is that of not getting whatever one seeks. Some people spend their whole lives seeking for an official job, but in the end they never make it. Some people try to become famous, but they can't make it either. Some people don't have any children, and no matter how much they try, they are never able to have a child. That's another example of not getting what one seeks.
In general, people spend their whole lives trying to get this or trying to get that, but in the end, they don't get what they want. Some people would like to get a Ph.D., but it's not their destiny to be students, because from of old they haven't planted those kinds of causes. For example, there was Lyang, who became top scholar in China when he was eighty-two. But not long after he got the honor, he died. If you get something and then can't enjoy it, that's just another version of the suffering connected with not getting what you seek.
Then there's the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas: form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness. In the Heart Sutra, it's said,
Form does not differ from emptiness;
Emptiness does not differ from form.
Form itself is emptiness;
Emptiness itself is form.
The point is, if you can see things as empty, then you won't have any suffering. But, if you can't see things as empty, then you will be burned by the five skandhas. The five skandhas are a raging blaze, yet although they are so much suffering, no one can bear to separate from them.
The first seven kinds of suffering are from external birth. This eighth suffering is innate; it's inherent in the five skandhas from birth. It never leaves you, and even if you want to part from it, you can't get free. This has been a discussion on the eight kinds of sufferings.
"True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator,
Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom,
Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator,
Constant are your vows, constant is our respect!"
True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator. True Contemplation is the Contemplation of True Emptiness. True Emptiness is no others, no self, no living beings, and no life span. There's no appearance of self, no appearance of others, no appearance of living beings, and no appearance of a life span. However, "no appearance" is not apart from appearance; this just means that right within the appearance itself, there's no appearance. Within the appearance of self, there is no appearance of self; within the appearance of others, there is no appearance of others; within the appearance of living beings, there is no appearance of living beings; within the appearance of a life span, there is no appearance of a life span.
There is a saying that goes,
The eyes see form, but inside there is nothing;
The ears hear defiling sounds, but the mind does not know.
It's perfectly clear that shape and form exist, and your eyes see them, so why do we say that inside there's nothing? It's because there is no attachment.
The Contemplation of True Emptiness is just likened to a great, perfect mirror. In a great and perfect mirror, when things come before it, they are reflected in the mirror; when they leave, no trace is left. This is the Contemplation of True Emptiness practiced by Gwan Yin Bodhisattva.
Pure Contemplation is the Contemplation of Purity. Purity is the opposite of defilement. What is defilement? Anything you're attached to is a defiled thing. Anything that you have fond regard for is a defiled thing. Anything that you are greedy for is a defiled thing.
In the Contemplation of Purity, there is no greed, hatred, or stupidity.
Take giving as an example. When most people give, they first have to think about it, "This person is related to me-as a friend, relative, or neighbor-so I'll help him out by giving him something." You first figure it all out and decide to give only to the people who are closest to you, and you pay no regard to those with whom you are unfamiliar. This is called "taking care of one's relatives first, without having concern for any others; paying attention to those who are close and ignoring those who are distant."
In other words, you make distinctions. You are attached to appearance, and so your regard is not pure. But Gwan Yin Bodhisattva does not make distinctions between himself and others. He does not distinguish between relatives and those who are not related, or between those who are close and those who are distant. He simply gives.
There are three kinds of giving: the giving of wealth, the giving of Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness.
Of wealth, there are two kinds: inner wealth and outer wealth. Probably it would be difficult for most people to figure out what is meant by "inner wealth," but most people would be able to figure out what is meant by "outer wealth." "Inner wealth" refers to things inside your body, and outer wealth refers to things outside your body.
The giving of outer wealth refers to the giving up of one's country, city, wife, or children. "This whole town belongs to me-I own it all-but I'll give it away." In some cases, one is able to give away all his storehouses and treasuries, or even his own wife and children. That's really putting everything down. That's true giving.
The giving of inner wealth means to give up one's body, nature, mind, and life to save living beings who are in need. The body refers to the entire physical body-head, eyes, brain, marrow, and so forth.
When Venerable Shariputra was trying to practice the Bodhisattva Path, someone came along and said that he really needed an eye to cure his ill mother. Shariputra then gouged out one of his eyes and gave it to that person. Who would have guessed that the person would say it was the wrong eye and then throw it on the ground. At that point, Shariputra retreated from the Bodhisattva Path-"It's too hard; I can't do it." And so Shariputra was only able to relinquish half of his inner wealth; he couldn't quite part with the other half.
In general, the giving of inner wealth means giving up one's internal treasures-one's own wisdom, essence, and energy.
The giving of Dharma means to speak Dharma in order to teach and transform living beings. Of the three kinds of giving, this is the greatest. And so it's said,
Of all the kinds of giving, the greatest is the giving of Dharma.
In speaking Dharma, you should want to spread it to all people. You wouldn't even mind not eating or going without sleep in order to speak Dharma. It has been that way for me in the past. If someone wanted to study the Dharma, I would explain it to them to the point of missing my lunch and sleep, until I could help them to thoroughly understand. I hope that all of you will be my transformation bodies and spread the Buddhadharma in this way-practice the giving of Dharma. There is much more value in spreading Dharma than in contributing any amount of money. We must establish a foundation, and each one of us should personally take responsibility for the future of Buddhism in the West. Don't just hang back and say, "Well, it doesn't have anything to do with me. Buddhism is not my business, it's someone else's."
As far as I am concerned, as long as I have a single breath left, spreading the Buddhadharma is my personal responsibility. And if someone else wants to take responsibility for it, too-how wonderful! Don't procrastinate; stand on your own, and take the job of propagating the Buddhadharma as your own. That's the first criterion for the process of giving Dharma.
The giving of fearlessness is the last one of the three kinds of giving. For instance, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva saves living beings from seven difficulties, releases them from the Three Evil Paths, and responds to the two kinds of seeking. That's an example of the giving of fearlessness. When people are in a terrifying situation and their very lives are at stake, if you appear in a fearless body to rescue them, then you are practicing the giving of fearlessness.
You can also practice the giving of fearlessness in an individual way, like Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva, who practiced the giving of fearlessness on another level. This Bodhisattva knew that people in a certain place needed a bridge in order to get across a river. If they tried to cross the river without a bridge, their lives would be in danger, and it would be a frightening experience for them. Since it was in ancient times, he had to use primitive techniques. For instance, he could build a pontoon bridge of logs floating on the river with flat boards on top of them, so that people could cross the river without incurring any danger upon themselves. Of course, if there was a flood, their lives would still be endangered. However, they no longer suffered the fear of crossing that river.
When the Venerable Elder Master Hsu-Yun came down from Jyu-Hwa mountain, remembering that there was a bridge at a particular spot on the river, he went to that place to cross the river. But the river was swollen, and the bridge had been destroyed by a flood. Since the bridge was no longer there, he accidentally fell into the river. He floated in the river for a day and a night-bobbing up and down for a total of twenty-four hours. Eventually, he was caught by an old fisherman in his fishnet. Thinking that he had caught a giant fish, the old man started to pull the fish out. But on closer examination, he discovered that his "fish" was, in fact, a monk wearing clothes!
Nearby there was a little temple, and so the fisherman went to alert the left-home people there. The monks recognized the Venerable Master immediately. They then set about applying artificial respiration and bringing him back to consciousness. At that point the Master truly gained a "second life."
After nearly being drowned in the river and escaping death, the Venerable Master proceeded to Gau-Min Monastery. He had gone there to participate in the Chan session, but he was still very ill and weak from his recent experience. However, he didn't breathe a single word about his mishap, and so nobody knew.
The Abbot then asked him to represent him as the head of the session; but the Master Hsu-Yun, knowing himself that he was too sick, refused. Now, the refusal to an appointment by the Abbot was considered a breach of monastic discipline. And for this, the Master was beaten with an incense board. Still, he said not a word.
The Venerable Master was the foremost monk, the loftiest good and wise advisor in all of China, but he underwent tremendous suffering at Gau-Min Monastery, where everyone looked down on him. "He's just a burden to all of us," they said, "very useless."
Now, back to the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth. He fixed the roads and bridges. When Elder Master Hsu-Yun went to Hu-Nan, he met a monk who spent all his time fixing the roads, and this monk didn't speak. That, indeed, was a transformation body of Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva spent all of his time guarding the earth. If there were rocks or rubble on the roads, he would remove them to one side so that people wouldn't step on them and hurt their feet. He kept the roads in good repair. Who paid him for all his hard labor? Nobody. Now, wasn't he stupid? Wasn't he just working in vain? Well, his working in vain enabled him to become the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth.
Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses the regard of great wisdom to cross over all living beings. Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator. The Bodhisattva also has universal compassionate regard for all living beings. The contemplation of compassion pulls living beings out of suffering; the contemplation of kindness gives living beings joy. This kind of joy is not temporary happiness, but an everlasting bliss that transcends the mundane. The Bodhisattva gives Dharma to living beings causing them to gain the true understanding of the Buddhadharma and thereby not do any more upside-down things. That is called the giving of happiness.
Constant are your vows, constant is our respect! Forever you will gaze up at Gwan Yin Bodhisattva with respect. You wish to always look upon that virtuous and kind countenance. The more you look, the happier you become. For instance, bowing the Great Compassion Repentance is a ceremony to show your respect to Gwan Yin Bodhisattva.
There are those who don't like to bow. They say, "Well, I believe in my own Buddha." Well, if you truly believed in your own Buddha, then there wouldn't be any you-there wouldn't be any "your own." It's just because you haven't found your own Buddha that you cannot recognize an external Buddha when you see one. If you really believed in your own Buddha, it wouldn't keep you from bowing.
Bowing-that is, kowtowing, a full bow to the floor-represents the most respectful of gestures. In Buddhism, this is a kind of formal courtesy. If you can't even perform this kind of courtesy, how can you call yourself someone who believes in the Buddha?
There's a certain doctor who commanded respect from many people; but he himself told everyone not to bow to the Buddha. When others bowed to the Buddha, he would stand there like a wooden stick. That's because he hadn't really broken through the mark of his ego.
The people who refuse to bow to the Buddha are the very first people I scold, because they have the arrogant attitude, "Me? Why should I bow to the Buddha?" What I am scolding is their arrogance. If you are self-satisfied and proud to the point that you can't even bow, then how in the world do you expect to be able to study Buddhism?
"Undefiled pure light,
The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness
Is able to quell calamities of wind and fire
As it shines on all worlds."
These four lines of text are ineffably wonderful. They can cure eye sicknesses. If you have eye trouble and you constantly recite this four-line verse, your eye disease will be cured. However, although your eye disease may be cured, you still have to go ahead and bring forth wisdom in order to be totally cured. If you don't have wisdom, then even though you may temporarily be made better, it could crop up again in the future.
In general, if you truly believe in the power of Sutra text, then Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's awesome spiritual strength will aid you and bring about an efficacious effect. But if you don't believe, nothing special will happen. There won't be any effect. That's why it's said,
The Buddhadharma is like a great sea,
But only through faith can you enter.
The verse says, "Undefiled pure light." Defilement refers to dust, dirt, and unclean things. Being without any defilement means that you don't have any polluted thinking. For every polluted thought that you strike up, you add another layer of dust upon your original pure nature. The more polluted thinking you have, the dustier it gets.
Therefore, you need to "understand the mind and see the nature."That's what people who investigate Chan aim to do. To "understand the mind" is to be "undefiled." To "see your nature" is to see the "pure light" as mentioned here. Your original mind is your permanently-dwelling true mind, the Treasury of the Thus Come One. When you understand your mind and see your nature, the bright light in your inherent Treasury of the Thus Come One manifests.
The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness. The wisdom-sun means that wisdom is like the sun. The kind of darkness referred to here is a lack of faith, a lack of wisdom, a lack of vows, and a lack of a resolve to truly practice.
Darkness also refers to not studying or upholding the precepts, not cultivating the power of samadhi, and not developing the power of wisdom. You're walking a dark path if you do not study precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. If you do cultivate according to precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, then you're walking on a bright path.
We can also explain it in this way. Your desire to listen to the Buddhadharma is the light. But someone might think, "I've listened for so many days and it doesn't really have much meaning. The Dharma Master has been sitting up there on that platform talking and talking about the same old thing. I've heard it over and over. He said that people should get rid of greed, hatred, and stupidity and should cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. I'm tired of listening." Some of you feel tired of listening? That's darkness.
However, there are those of you who do not grow weary of listening. The more you hear, the more you want to listen, even to the point that you just listen to the sound of the Dharma Master's voice and the subtle and incredible doctrines of the Sutra. And when you finish listening, it's as if the Dharma Master were still speaking in your ear. "From morning till night, I can hear the voice of the Dharma Master beside my ear speaking Dharma to me." That's the light.
At this point, I suddenly remember something that happened to me in Hong Kong. A certain laywoman came to see me, and after she saw me, what do you think happened? In everything she did, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, she always saw me. What do you suppose she thought? She thought, "Oh, that Dharma Master is a demon! Otherwise, why would I see him all the time?" Here she was, able to hear a Dharma Master speaking Dharma at all times, and she thought he was a demon. I suppose that if she saw a demon, she would have thought it was a Buddha. So, she started slandering me and even wanted to strike me. Inside of a month, she contracted cancer and died. Basically, I wanted to save her, but she thought I was a demon. She refused my rescue. And that's the way people are; they think the true is false, and the false is true.
Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses the Contemplation of True Emptiness to break through the delusion of views and thought.
The "delusion of views" is defined as "when faced with a state, giving rise to greed." You get caught up with something that appears before you, then give rise to greed and attachment.
The "delusion of thought" is defined as "giving rise to discrimination because one is confused about principle."
By means of the Contemplation of True Emptiness, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva breaks through the darkness of the delusion of views and thought. He brings forth the virtue of Prajna.
When Gwan Yin Bodhisattva cultivates the Contemplation of Purity, he breaks through the darkness of delusion like dust and sand, and is certified to the virtue of Liberation.
When Gwan Yin Bodhisattva cultivates the Contemplation of Wisdom, he breaks through the darkness of the delusion of ignorance, thus attaining the virtue of the Dharma-body.
When one is certified to the Secret Treasury of the Three Virtues, then Prajna, Liberation, and the Dharma-body will come about. One has to cultivate the Three Contemplations-the Contemplation of Purity, the Contemplation of True Emptiness, and the Contemplation of Wisdom-to be certified to the Three Virtues, and to cut off the delusion of views and thought, the delusion like dust and sand, and the delusion of ignorance. That's what's meant by "the sun of wisdom that breaks through all darkness." The wisdom here refers to these contemplations-the contemplations themselves are wisdom.
This wisdom sun is able to quell calamities of wind and fire. "Calamities" here refers to the three calamities of water, fire, and wind. Water floods the First Dhyana; fire burns through the Second Dhyana; wind destroys the Third Dhyana.
At the end of the kalpa, the first of the three calamities appears. The heavens of the First Dhyana are flooded by water. One doesn't know where this water comes from-whether it comes from the stars, moon, heavenly rivers, or earth-but it rises up in massive waves, and not only does it drown humankind, it also drowns the gods of the First Dhyana Heavens.
Therefore when the first calamity of water hits, almost everything is destroyed. Somehow a few people remain, and the population starts to multiply again. Eventually it gets overpopulated, people's offenses are redoubled, and things get very complicated.
Then the second calamity, that of fire, hits. This kalpic fire burns clear through the Second Dhyana Heavens. The gods in these heavens are burned by this fire. Why is it that fire can reach the Second Dhyana? It's because the gods in these heavens still have fire affliction, whereas the gods in the First Dhyana Heavens still have water affliction. The fire inside their intrinsic nature catches with the fire in the world, bringing about a huge conflagration. At that time seven suns appear in the sky. The mountains, rivers, and great earth all turn into burning coals, and people are reduced to a crisp. Even the seas are all burned dry. The seas turn into dry land, and the land becomes high mountains. Then the high mountains become great seas. There are many strange happenings in between heaven and earth.
After the disaster of fire, a very long time passes, and those people who are left in the world propagate the species until once again the world becomes overpopulated. Then the third disaster, that of wind, hits. "Wind destroys the Third Dhyana." Not only does the wind rip through people's houses and buildings, but the mountains, rivers, and earth are all ripped to bits. In fact, the wind reaches up to the gods in the Third Dhyana Heavens. Even the gods cannot avoid this disaster. So there's a verse that goes:
In the Six Desire Heavens, there are the Five Signs of Decay;
The Third Dhyana has the disaster of wind.
Even if you make it to the Heaven of Neither Thought nor No Thought,
It is not as good as going to the Pure Land and coming back again.
Therefore, people who cultivate the Way shouldn't do it with the idea in mind of seeking the blessings of the heavens. Once those blessings are exhausted, one will fall back into the cycle of rebirth.
In the Six Desire Heavens, when one's blessings are exhausted, the Five Marks of Decay set in. Just as human bodies deteriorate as death draws near, so too in the heavens, gods change as their life spans come to an end. Once their lives in those heavens are over, they will be reborn and undergo retribution in accord with their karma.
The Five Marks of Decay are:
1. The flower garlands wilt. Heavenly beings have crowns of flowers that adorn them naturally and stay ever-fresh. But when their heavenly blessings are exhausted, when their heavenly life has come to an end, their flower garlands start to wilt.
2. The clothes get dirty. The clothing worn by beings in the heavens is not at all like the clothes worn by common people in our world. The gods' clothes never get wrinkled or dirty. They never have to do laundry. Since their clothes stay naturally clean, they don't have to buy washing machines and detergent. The heavenly beings do not have to wash their clothes. They are all spontaneously and naturally clean-that is, until the second mark of decay sets in. Then the clothes of the gods start to get dirty.
3. The armpits perspire. Unlike common people who continually sweat, heavenly beings do not perspire. The reason their clothes stay clean is that they don't sweat. But with the third mark of decay, they start sweating.
4. The entire body smells bad. Ordinarily, the bodies of heavenly beings are always fragrant. But when these five marks of decay arrive, they start to smell bad.
5. They cannot sit still. Last of all, they can't remain in their places. They jump up and start walking around, but they're still uneasy, so they sit down again. But that won't do either. They lie down but still feel uncomfortable. They jump back up but can't find a single comfortable position to be in.
At just that moment-all of a sudden-the life of a heavenly being ends. If they have wholesome karma, then they will be reborn as wealthy and influential people. But if their evil karma ripens, they will fall into the Three Evil Destinies-the path of the hungry ghosts, the animals, or the beings in the hells. So even if you become a god, you still have this kind of trouble.
The disaster of wind destroys the Third Dhyana Heavens. Where do these disasters come from? They come from one's anger. If a person has a lot of anger, then even though he has cultivated significant blessings and is reborn in the heavens, he must still undergo the retribution of the disaster of wind. Because the root of anger, resentment, and temper has not been cut off, one has to take this loss. This is the retribution for anger.
Fortunately, the light of the sun of wisdom of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva can quell all disasters and break up all darkness as it shines a universal light on all worlds. The world that we common people live in now is called the Land in Which the Common and Sagely Live Together.
The great wisdom of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva also illumines the Land of Expedients with Residue. That's where those of the Two Vehicles live. "Expedients" refers to clever, provisional means. "With Residue" means that there's still something left, because the inhabitants of this world have not yet completely cut off all their afflictions.
Gwan Yin Bodhisattva dwells in the Adorned Land of Actual Reward, which is the land where all the Bodhisattvas dwell. The Buddhas dwell in the Land of Eternally Still and Pure Light.
With his great wisdom and great knowledge, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva universally illumines all of these lands, and so the text says his light "shines on all worlds."
"Compassionate substance: the thunder of Precepts.
Kind intent: a wondrous great cloud.
He rains down sweet dew and Dharma rain,
Which extinguish the flames of affliction."
Compassionate substance: the thunder of Precepts. Compassionate substance means that Gwan Yin Bodhisattva takes the substance of compassion as his Dharma substance. Where does this compassionate substance come from? It comes from Precepts. When Gwan Yin Bodhisattva first began to cultivate, he held the Precepts purely, and from this purity he brought forth kindness and compassion, the kindness that includes even those with whom one doesn't have affinities. This Dharma substance is like thunder-it emits a thunderous roar, and living beings are awakened by it. The blind can see and even the deaf can hear this sound of thunder. And so it says, "Compassionate substance: the thunder of precepts roars."
Kind intent: a wondrous great cloud. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses level and equal kindness and compassion to help living beings. The Sutra said, "With eyes of kindness, he regards all living beings." With kindness and compassion, he bestows joy upon living beings in a level and equal way.
Acting like a wondrous, huge cloud, he rains down sweet dew and Dharma rain. Sweet dew is actually the water of immortality found in the heavens. Why are the heavenly gods immortal? Because they drink sweet dew. So you say, "Even the gods take their vitalizers. It's no wonder that people these days who want to get enlightened pop all sorts of pills." But the heavenly medicine is natural-it's organic. When the gods imbibe this medicine, they never age. Now Gwan Yin Bodhisattva has a wonderful, great cloud that lets fall sweet dew, the elixir of immortality, which extinguishes the flames of affliction.
People in this world have afflictions, and it's as though they were being scorched by flames. Why do you not become a Buddha? Because you have afflictions. Why haven't you become enlightened? Because you have afflictions. Why aren't you truly free? Because you have afflictions.
Another name for afflictions is attachments. Where do attachments stem from? They come from selfishness. Why are you attached? Because you are selfish and you want to seek private gains. If you have a mind only for the common good, if you're truly public-spirited, then what attachments could you possibly have?
If you aren't selfish, you won't be attached; if you don't have attachments, you won't be afflicted; and if you don't have afflictions, you will be liberated. Once you are liberated, you're enlightened. To become enlightened is just to realize Buddhahood.
Afflictions are the very worst thing to have, yet people can't stand to be apart from them. Whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, they don't want to ever be apart from afflictions.
You say, "Well, I'm happy all the time, and I don't have any afflictions." Well, if you have attained genuine bliss, then of course you're not afflicted. But if you haven't attained genuine bliss and you fake it-you force yourself to believe that you're happy-then it's not true happiness. Inside, the affliction is still heavy. And one day it will turn up-it'll explode. It's like smothering weeds with a large rock-the weeds won't be able to grow. But once you remove the rock, the weeds will quickly flourish. If you haven't attained true bliss, your afflictions will still remain.
Of the Four Vast Vows that the Bodhisattva makes, the first one is, "Living beings are boundless, I vow to save them all." Why does Gwan Yin Bodhisattva come to this world? Only because living beings are boundless, and he has vowed to save them all.
The second vast vow is, "Afflictions are endless, I vow to sever them all." Does Gwan Yin Bodhisattva have afflictions? No, he has cut them off, but he takes living beings' afflictions as his own. Seeing that living beings haven't cut off their afflictions, he makes the vow: "Afflictions are endless, I vow to cut them off." Basically, afflictions are endless, like waves on water: The wave in front dissipates, and then the wave that follows rises up. That wave dissipates, and yet another wave rises up in its wake. This goes on continuously without cease. Afflictions are just like that-endless.
The third vast vow is, "Dharma-doors are limitless, I vow to study them all." Some people study one or two Sutras, and they become self-satisfied. They say they already understand Buddhism. But the Buddhism they understand is not as much as a single drop within the great sea of the Buddhadharma. These people who become self-satisfied are just like an ant who goes to the ocean to get a drink of water: He takes his fill and says that he has drunk up the entire sea. Actually the ant only filled up his own stomach-he hasn't even drunk a single drop of the great sea.
The last vast vow is "The Buddha Way is unsurpassed, I vow to realize it." There is nothing higher than the Buddha Way, so everyone should resolve to become a Buddha. You shouldn't look down on yourself. Originally you were a Buddha, but that doesn't mean you are a Buddha now. Basically we were all completely endowed with the Buddha-nature. But now, because we don't know how to cultivate, we don't possess the Three Bodies of the Buddha, the Four Types of Wisdom, the Five Eyes, or the Six Spiritual Penetrations.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva bases his teaching on the Four Vast Vows, and he uses the sweet dew of Dharma rain to cause all beings to become refreshed and content, so they won't have any more afflictions.
"In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits,
Or when someone is terrified on the battlefield,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
All his many enemies will scatter and leave."
In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits. "Contention" means fighting. During the Dharma-Ending Age, contention is at its height.
When the Buddha dwells in the world, it is called the Proper Dharma Age. During the Proper Dharma Age, Dhyana concentration is solid. At that time, everyone likes to investigate Dhyana and enter samadhi. The Proper Dharma Age lasts from the time the Buddha appears in the world until one thousand years following his extinction. After that comes the Dharma Image Age.
During the Dharma Image Age, people are resolute in building temples. They erect stupas and make images, and they consider that to be the most important work. Everyone likes to build big temples. That's why in this world some countries have great temples as a vestige of the Dharma Image Age. The Dharma Image Age also lasts for one thousand years, and after that comes the Dharma-Ending Age.
The Dharma-Ending Age lasts for ten thousand years. "Ending" here also refers to the tip of the branch. At that time the Dharma has arrived at its termination. We are at present in the Dharma-Ending Age. During this time, people are not resolute in Dhyana concentration nor in building temples. They are resolute in fighting. And that's what we are discussing now in this line of verse-contention. Countries fight with countries; families fight with families; people fight with people; animals fight with animals; ghosts fight with ghosts-there is fighting everywhere. Why? Because during the Dharma-Ending Age, it's within the nature of people to like to fight.
However, right within the Dharma-Ending Age is the Proper Dharma Age. And, in the Dharma Image Age, there is also the Proper Dharma Age. What is meant by this? Even within the Dharma-Ending Age, there are still people who want to investigate Chan and sit in meditation. For example, many people here like to take time out in the morning or evening, or even in the midst of a busy day, to sit in meditation. And this is just being in the Proper Dharma Age. During the Dharma-Ending Age, these people make up only a very, very small percentage of the entire population.
The facts that we can still lecture the Sutras and speak Dharma, and that people vigorously cultivate according to the teachings, and that some still find time amidst their busy schedules to sit in meditation-even to the point that some don't eat or sleep in order to come to hear the Sutra lectures-means that the Proper Dharma Age is found right within the Dharma-Ending Age.
Now, if all of us come together to build great Way-places and temples, then we are in the Dharma Image Age that is found within the Dharma-Ending Age.
Furthermore, within the Dharma Image Age, there are also the Dharma-Ending Age and the Proper Dharma Age. For instance, during the Dharma Image Age, when people like to build temples, there are those who don't like to build temples and who don't even believe in the Buddha, and that's like having the Dharma-Ending Age within the Dharma Image Age. And again, if at that time people get together and vigorously cultivate, then that's the Proper Dharma Age within the Dharma Image Age.
Likewise, within the Proper Dharma Age, there are also found the Dharma-Ending Age and the Dharma Image Age. During the Proper Dharma Age, if people like to build temples, then they are dwelling in the Dharma Image Age. There are also those who study the Buddhadharma just a bit and then stop-they don't thoroughly investigate-and that's like having the Dharma-Ending Age right within the Proper Dharma Age.
Although this age is generally recognized as the Dharma-Ending Age, there are those of us in the West who are abiding in and upholding the Proper Dharma, and who have made vows to propagate the Buddhadharma so that it will forever remain in the world; thus, we have the Proper Dharma Age within the Dharma-Ending Age.
Every day we recite and hold the Shurangama Mantra, and in this way we are helping the entire world. If there is not even a single person who recites the Shurangama Mantra in a world, then that world is about to be destroyed. At that time, all the strange essences, goblins, and demons, the li-mei and wang-lyang ghosts will appear. Why is it that they don't dare to make a full-force descent upon the world at this time? It's because in this world there are still people who hold the Shurangama Mantra and who cultivate the Great Compassion Mantra and the Forty-two Hands and Eyes. Because of this, the strange ghosts and goblins don't dare to come out.
Now the text is talking about a time that is strong in fighting, so it says, "In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits." At such a time you have to go before a judge and argue things out. Then you have to hire an attorney. Some attorneys have the talent to make it appear as though you are totally unreasonable, even if you are on the right side of the law; conversely, the cases of people who are clearly on the wrong side can be made to look completely justifiable. This is distorting right and wrong-turning things upside down.
Nowadays if you have enough money, you can kill and still get off scot-free. This often happens in cases of contention. People go to court to argue principles, but somehow the lawyers twist the facts around so that even if you have principle, they make it appear as if you don't; and if you don't have principle, they make it appear as if you do. People are manipulated by money to the point that their consciences are completely destroyed.
Or when someone is terrified on the battlefield. This is when one becomes petrified amidst clashing armies on the battlefield. If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / All his many enemies will scatter and leave. If you can only recite "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa," then your enemies will retreat and disperse; all the feuding will somehow disappear, and your enemies will disperse.
Who are your enemies? Say you have to go to court to argue a case against another person, or you fall before an adversary on the battlefield: The reason for this is the resentment piled up over many lifetimes. An animosity builds up over lifetimes to the point that these people come together to fight it out. Each person has to undergo his or her retribution. But if you can at that time be mindful of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, this kind of retribution will be lessened-the heavy offenses will be lightened and the light ones will completely disappear. So the text says, "All his many enemies will scatter and leave." And so the power of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva is truly inconceivable and not something that most people can understand.
During World War II, a man by the name of Fei Fan-Jing lived in Shanghai. He practiced reciting Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name every day. During the war between the Japanese and the Chinese, Shanghai was constantly being shelled, and so this person decided to move from his house to avoid the bombing. Right after he moved, his house was completely destroyed by a bomb. After staying about forty-five days at the new shelter, he got the notion that this place wouldn't be safe, either. So he moved again. He moved to the "Concession Zone," an area that was loaned to foreigners. That was an area that the Westerners leased from China to dwell in, and the Japanese didn't dare bomb that area.
After living in the Concession Zone for a while, Fei Fan-Jing thought that it also wasn't safe; but that area was guarded by sentries and he wasn't allowed to leave. Right at that time, when he was really pinned down-he couldn't go back and he couldn't go forward-he saw a child. The child said, "You'd better get out of here quickly; the Japanese army is on its way!" There was a wire net fencing in that entire area, and suddenly he saw a place in the net about two feet wide that was broken-just enough of a space to crawl through. He managed to get his mother, his wife, and his whole family out of the area through this hole in the wire net. When they had all gotten out, the guards who had been on sentry duty were astonished; they couldn't figure out how those people had gotten through.
Fei Fan-Jing then turned back to look for the child, but the child was nowhere to be seen. He looked back at the wire net and the hole was not there. He was really puzzled. In this way he was saved from "the terror of the battlefield." From this incident we can see that the power of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is truly inconceivable.
"Wondrous your sound, Contemplator of the World's Sounds-
A pure sound, a sound like the sea tide,
A sound beyond all worldly sounds,
We shall always bear it in mind."
Wondrous your sound, Contemplator of the World's Sound. Not only is the Bodhisattva's sound wondrous and subtle, it is also pure. A pure sound, a sound like the sea tide. The pure sound of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva is like the sound of the sea-the sea tide, which is reliable, ebbing and flowing. A sound beyond all worldly sounds, / We shall always bear it in mind. Everyone should always recollect the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
"In thought after thought we have no doubt.
Gwan Shr Yin is pure and sagely.
In times of suffering, agony, danger, and death,
He is our refuge and protector."
In thought after thought we have no doubt. You shouldn't think, "What use is it to recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva? Isn't that just meaningless, reciting it every day?" It is very important not to have doubts. You shouldn't have doubts for even a moment. Gwan Shr Yin is pure and sagely. / In times of suffering, agony, danger, and death, / He is our refuge and protector. You can turn your very life over to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. He will certainly protect and help you.
"Complete with all merit and virtue,
With eyes of kindness, watching living beings,
He is endowed with massive blessings, limitless as the sea.
Therefore we should reverently worship him."
Complete with all merit and virtue, / With eyes of kindness, watching living beings. Like a compassionate father, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, with the same kind eyes, looks upon all living beings to see whether they have committed offenses or not. He is endowed with massive blessings, limitless as the sea. His equal, great compassion saves all living beings. The blessed reward he has cultivated is as great and boundless as the sea. Therefore we should reverently worship him.
At that time the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth rose from his seat and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, if there are those who hear this chapter of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, who learn about the self-mastery of his deeds and the power of his spiritual penetrations as shown in this Universal Door, you should know that the merit and virtue of such people will not be small."
At that time, after Shakyamuni Buddha had finished speaking the verses, the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth. This Bodhisattva is mentioned in the Shurangama Sutra. Limitless eons ago, this Bodhisattva was illiterate. Although he had never studied the Buddhadharma, his conduct was very near that of a Buddhist. He was very strong and powerful. He could lift and move things that no one else could. His work was repairing roads. Sometimes he repaired bridges. He would help people move their carts or carry their burdens, and he never took any payment for these services. He did it for a long time.
Once a Buddha named Vishvabhu came by and said to him, "Leveling the roads is just casting aside the roots to grasp at the branches. It's superficial work."
"Then what should I do?" said the Bodhisattva.
"If you want to level the roads, first you should level your mind-ground. Why are there mountains and valleys, hills and dales? It's because people's minds aren't level. People's minds go 'up and down,' and so we have mountains, rivers, and valleys of the great earth. You should first level your mind-ground. If the mind-ground is level, then all places are level."
Having heard these instructions, Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva then cultivated the mind-ground Dharma-door. He leveled the ground of his mind and cultivated to accomplishment.
From among the assembly, Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva rose from his seat and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, if there are those who hear this chapter of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, who learn about the self-mastery of his deeds and the power of his spiritual penetrations as shown in this Universal Door-those are his Thirty-two Response Bodies, Fourteen Kinds of Fearlessness, and Nineteen Ways of Speaking Dharma-you should know that the merit and virtue of such people will not be small." The merit from hearing this chapter on Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's Universal Door is not small by any means.
When the Buddha had spoken the "Universal Door Chapter," eighty-four thousand living beings in the assembly all brought forth the resolve for Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
When the Buddha had spoken the "Universal Door Chapter," eighty-four thousand living beings in the assembly all brought forth the resolve for Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the mind for the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.
"Eighty-four thousand living beings" also refers to the 84,000 kinds of afflictions we living beings have. Each of our bodies contains 84,000 germs. We people are "big germs," and all the little germs live inside of us, inside our blood, flesh, and internal organs. We are the life-support systems for the little germs, and the little germs help the big germs. Each one of the germs is actually a living being. You could never count them, there being so many, but in general we say "eighty-four thousand."
Outwardly, the world is filled with many, many more than 84,000 beings. "Eighty-four thousand beings" refers to the thoughts in the minds of living beings, which rise and pass away continually. Each thought is a living being, rising and passing away, undergoing birth and death. The 84,000 living beings are not separate from your own nature. The 84,000 living beings all bring forth, at the same time, the resolve for Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi is Sanskrit. Anuttara means "proper and equal." Samyak means "unsurpassed," and sambodhi means "right enlightenment." There is nothing higher than this enlightenment; it's equal to the enlightenment of the Buddha. Upon hearing this "Universal Door Chapter," all the 84,000 living beings brought forth the resolve for enlightenment. That was an especially rare occasion!
Now at the Buddhist Lecture Hall in San Francisco, we have lectured the "Universal Door Chapter," and over twenty people have heard it. All of these twenty people have 84,000 living beings inside of them. Ultimately, how many beings are there? And yet, did they all bring forth the mind of unsurpassed enlightenment? Even if not all of them did, the majority of them probably did. Those who attend the lectures on the Dharma Flower Sutra all have a share in becoming Buddhas in the future. That you have heard this chapter on Gwan Yin Bodhisattva means that in the past, for many lives and many eons, you have planted limitless, boundless good roots, and so now you have this causal condition to assemble together and study the Buddhadharma. This is a wonderful, inconceivable state.
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi is the highest position, the position of the Buddha's enlightenment, the Unsurpassed, Pervasive, Proper Enlightenment. The Proper Enlightenment is the enlightenment of the Arhats, those of the Second Vehicle. They have not, however, obtained the Proper and Equal Enlightenment. Who has obtained Proper and Equal Enlightenment? The Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva has obtained both "Right" and "Proper and Equal" Enlightenment. Bodhisattvas are equal to the Buddha, in that sense. But they have not obtained the Unsurpassed Enlightenment.
Arhats have obtained Right Enlightenment; but they have not obtained Proper and Equal or Unsurpassed Enlightenment yet.
Bodhisattvas are said to be "Surpassed Knights" because they are surpassed by the Buddhas who are above them.
The Buddhas are called "Unsurpassed Knights," because none are higher than they are. They have obtained Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment, which is like the Perfect Bodhi that returns to Nonattainment. The Buddhas have attained the Perfection of the Three Kinds of Enlightenment and also the Ten Thousand Virtues. There is nothing higher than Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment. This title applies only to the Buddhas, not to the Bodhisattvas or Arhats. Thus, it is the highest position.
From what position is this highest state reached? One might think it was realized from a high position, but that is not the case. The highest position is realized from the lowest position. Those who cultivate the Way should be very careful not to become arrogant, because the highest position can only be reached from the lowest position.
Lau-Dz said, "The highest form of goodness is like water. Water skillfully benefits the ten thousand things but does not contend. Because it abides in places that people despise, it is close to the Way."
The ten thousand things include all creatures, flying, walking, and swimming, as well as all the plants and trees. All creatures need water, whether they are egg-born, womb-born, transformation-born, or moisture-born. But even though all creatures are nourished and supported by water, the water never thinks, "I am benefiting you, supporting your lives, and helping you out." Water doesn't fight either. It doesn't insist on taking the credit for what it does, as people usually do. People all say, "I did this good deed, or that good deed. I built that temple. I built that bridge." They are always competing. Water never thinks like that. It's unselfish; it doesn't seek to benefit itself. Water doesn't fight for fame or profit. Water always flows to the bottom; it doesn't run upwards nor fight to be on top.
"But rain falls down from the sky!" you say.
That's a very cogent point. The rain does fall down. But how does it get up there in the first place? It goes up from the lowest place. Then it falls down and flows into the rivers and the sea, and it still recedes into the lower places. It just goes up into the sky temporarily. Water goes to places where no one else wants to go.
Why is it that cultivators don't like to live in fancy houses? They may even live in caves. The reason is they want to imitate water in dwelling in a lowly place. Because water goes to places people despise, it's close to the Way.
If you want to realize Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment, you, too, must begin from the lowest position. You don't begin at the top.
If you want to become a Buddha, you must first be a good living being. How do you do that? You should just do what is good. Don't do evil. Follow the good and change the evil. Go down the good road, and get off the bad road. Go forward and pursue what is in accord with the Way. Retreat from that which is not in accord with the Way. Then you will be able to obtain Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.
Today we have finished this general explanation of the "Universal Door Chapter." The wonderful doctrine of the Universal Door is ineffable and endless. It's not something that can be completely explained in a short period of time. The Dharma Flower Sutra is ineffably wonderful. Its wonderful functions are infinite and endless. Today, I have explained the meaning in general. In the future, if there is an opportunity, we can go into it more deeply.
If there's anything that you are seeking for in your mind, you should pray to Gwan Yin Bodhisattva. I believe that you will get what you seek.
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra is the Sutra for becoming a Buddha. Having heard the Dharma Flower Sutra, we each have a share in future Buddhahood. This is a very rare opportunity.
*End of the Chapter on the Universal Door *