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THE BUDDHIST ONLINE GOOD NEWS LETTER
Dhammapada Verse 123 Mahadhanavanija VatthuShun Evil As Poison
123. Shun Evil As Poison
As merchant on a perilous path,
great wealth having little guard,
as life-loving man with poison
so with evil heedful be.
Explanation: A rich and wise trader carrying goods will
scrupulously avoid a risky road, especially if he does not have an adequate
escort to ensure safety. Again an individual fond of his life will very
carefully avoid poison. In the same way, one must totally avoid evil.
Vanijova bhayam maggam
Verse 123: Just as a wealthy merchant with few attendants avoids
a dangerous road, just as one who desires to go on living avoids poison, so
also, one should avoid evil.
The Story of Mahadhana
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered
Verse (123) of this book, with reference to Mahadhana the merchant.
Mahadhana was a rich merchant from Savatthi. On one occasion,
five hundred robbers were planning to rob him, but thy did not get the chance
to rob him. In the meantime, they heard that the merchant would soon be going
out with five hundred carts loaded with valuable merchandise. The merchant
Mahadhana also invited the bhikkhus who would like to go on the same journey to
accompany him, and he promised to look to their needs on the way. So five
hundred bhikkhus accompanied him. The robbers got news of the trip and went
ahead to lie in wait for the caravan of the merchant. But the merchant stopped
at the outskirts of the forest where the robbers were waiting. The caravan was
to move on after camping there for a few days. The robbers got the news of the
impending departure and made ready to loot the caravan; the merchant, in his
turn, also got news of the movements of the bandits and he decided to return home.
The bandits now heard that the merchant would go home; so they waited on the
homeward way. Some villagers sent word to the merchant about the movements of
the bandits, and the merchant finally decided to remain in the village for some
time. When he told the bhikkhus about his decision, the bhikkhus returned to
Savatthi by themselves.
On arrival at the Jetavana monastery they went to the Buddha and
informed him about the cancellation of their trip. To then, the Buddha said,
“Bhikkhus, Mahadhana keeps away from the journey beset with bandits; one
who does not want to die keeps away from poison; so also, a wise bhikkhu,
realizing that the three levels of existence* are like a journey beset with,
danger, should strive to keep away from doing evil.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
123: Just as a wealthy merchant with few attendants avoids a dangerous road,
just as one who desires to go on living avoids poison, so also, one should
At the end of the discourse, those five hundred bhikkhus
attained Sotapatti Fruition.
three levels of existence are:
the level of sensuous existence; comprising the eleven realms of sense
the level of fine material existence: comprising sixteen of the realms of Brahmas;
the level of non-material existence; comprising four realms of the upper
I. KAMMA REBIRTH AWAKEN-NESS BUDDHA
THUS COME ONE DHAMMA
A Gradual Training
The Dhamma, the truth
taught by the Buddha, is uncovered gradually through sustained practice. The
Buddha made clear many times that Awakening does not occur like a bolt out of
the blue to the untrained and unprepared mind. Rather, it culminates a long
journey of many stages:
Just as the ocean has a
gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off
only after a long stretch, in the same way this Doctrine and Discipline
(dhamma-vinaya) has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual
progression, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch.
— Ud 5.5
Monks, I do not say that
the attainment of gnosis is all at once. Rather, the attainment of gnosis is
after gradual training, gradual action, gradual practice. And how is there the
attainment of gnosis after gradual training, gradual action, gradual practice?
There is the case where, when conviction has arisen, one visits [a teacher].
Having visited, one grows close. Having grown close, one lends ear. Having lent
ear, one hears the Dhamma. Having heard the Dhamma, one remembers it.
Remembering, one penetrates the meaning of the teachings. Penetrating the
meaning, one comes to an agreement through pondering the teachings. There being
an agreement through pondering the teachings, desire arises. When desire has
arisen, one is willing. When one is willing, one contemplates. Having
contemplated, one makes an exertion. Having made an exertion, one realizes with
the body the ultimate truth and, having penetrated it with discernment, sees
— MN 70
The Buddha’s teachings are
infused with this notion of gradual development. His method of “gradual
instruction” (anupubbi-katha), which appears in various forms in countless
suttas, always follows the same arc: he guides newcomers from first principles
through progressively more advanced teachings, all the way to the fulfillment
of the Four Noble Truths and the full realization of nibbana:
Then the Blessed One,
having encompassed the awareness of the entire assembly with his awareness,
asked himself, “Now who here is capable of understanding the Dhamma?”
He saw Suppabuddha the leper sitting in the assembly, and on seeing him the
thought occurred to him, “This person here is capable of understanding the
Dhamma.” So, aiming at Suppabuddha the leper, he gave a step-by-step talk,
i.e., a talk on giving, a talk on virtue, a talk on heaven; he declared the
drawbacks, degradation, & corruption of sensual passions, and the rewards
of renunciation. Then when he saw that Suppabuddha the leper’s mind was ready,
malleable, free from hindrances, elated, & bright, he then gave the
Dhamma-talk peculiar to Awakened Ones, i.e., stress, origination, cessation,
& path. And just as a clean cloth, free of stains, would properly absorb a
dye, in the same way, as Suppabuddha the leper was sitting in that very seat,
the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye arose within him, “Whatever is subject
to origination is all subject to cessation.”
— Ud 5.3
At each stage of this
“gradual training” (anupubbi-sikkha), the practitioner discovers a
new and important dimension of the law of cause-and-effect — kamma, the
cornerstone of Right View. It is thus a very useful organizing framework with
which to view the entirety of the Buddha’s teachings.
The gradual training begins
with the practice of generosity, which helps begin the long process of weakening
the unawakened practitioner’s habitual tendencies to cling — to views, to
sensuality, and to unskillful modes of thought and behavior. This is followed
by the development of virtue, the basic level of sense-restraint that helps the
practitioner develop a healthy and trustworthy sense of self. The peace of mind
born from this level of self-respect provides the foundation for all further
progress along the path. The practitioner now understands that some kinds of
happiness are deeper and more dependable than anything that sense-gratification
can ever provide; the happiness born of generosity and virtue can even lead to
rebirth in heaven — either literal or metaphorical. But eventually the
practitioner begins to recognize the intrinsic drawbacks of even this kind of
happiness: as good as rebirth in wholesome states may be, the happiness it
brings is not a true and lasting one, for it relies on conditions over which he
or she ultimately has no control. This marks a crucial turning point in the
training, when the practitioner begins to grasp that true happiness will never
be found in the realm of the physical and sensual world. The only possible
route to an unconditioned happiness lies in renunciation, in turning away from
the sensual realm, by trading the familiar, lower forms of happiness for
something far more rewarding and noble. Now, at last, the practitioner is ripe
to receive the teachings on the Four Noble Truths, which spell out the course
of mental training required to realize the highest happiness: nibbana.
Many Westerners first
encounter the Buddha’s teachings on meditation retreats, which typically begin
with instructions in how to develop the skillful qualities of right mindfulness
and right concentration. It is worth noting that, as important as these
qualities are, the Buddha placed them towards the very end of his gradual
course of training. The meaning is clear: to reap the most benefit from
meditation practice, to bring to full maturity all the qualities needed for
Awakening, the fundamental groundwork must not be overlooked. There is no
short-cutting this process.
Here is the Buddha’s
six-stage gradual training in more detail:
The 5 Precepts
The 8 Precepts
The 10 Precepts
Uposatha observance days (including this
year’s calendar of Uposatha days)
The Thirty-one Planes of Existence
The Four Noble Truths (cattari ariya
The Noble Truth of Dukkha (dukkha ariya
The round of rebirth (samsara)
The Noble Truth of the Cause of Dukkha
(dukkha samudayo ariya sacca)
The Noble Truth of the Cessation of
Dukkha (dukkha nirodho ariya sacca)
The Noble Truth of the Path Leading to
the Cessation of Dukkha (dukkha nirodha gamini patipada ariya sacca) — The
Noble Eightfold Path. The Commentaries group the eight path factors into three
1. Right View (samma-ditthi)
Intentional action (kamma)
2. Right Resolve (samma-sankappo)
3. Right Speech (samma-vaca)
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort (samma-vayamo)
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration
Countless students over the centuries have
invested their time and energy grappling with the question, “Is
Enlightentment ’sudden’ or is it ‘gradual’?” These and other passages from
the Canon make the Buddha’s own view on the matter quite clear: The mind
develops gradually, until it is ripe to make that sudden leap to Awakening.
See also: Refuge: An Introduction
to the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.
to Dharma Records Video
Ajahn Suthep: Awareness and Mindfulness Make it
Bhante Mangala chanting the Ratanasutta (2009)
The Buddha Scriptures through Animated Images
Magic Moving Clay? (Clay Animation)
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THE BUDDHIST ONLINE GOOD NEWS LETTER
Dhammapada Verse 122
Bilalapadakasetthi Vatthu Merit Grows Little By
122. Merit Grows Little By Little
Think lightly not of goodness,
‘It will not come to me’,
for by the falling of water drops
a water jar is filled.
The sage with goodness fills himself,
he soaks up little by little.
Explanation: Some tend to think that virtue can be taken
lightly, and that virtue practiced is not likely to bring about any spectacular
good results. This view is not quite correct. The good done by an individual
accumulates little by little. The process is very much like the filling of a
water-pot, drop by drop. As time goes on, the little acts of virtue accumulate,
until the doer of good is totally filled with it.
na mandam agamissati
dhiro purati punnassa
thokam thokampi acinam.
Verse 122: One should not think lightly of doing good, imagining
‘A little will not affect me’; just as a water-jar is filled up by falling
drops of rain, so also, the wise one is filled up with merit, by accumulating
it little by little.
The Story of Bilalapadaka
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered
Verse (122) of this book, with reference to Bilalapadaka, a rich man.
Once, a man from Savatthi, having heard a discourse given by the
Buddha, was very much impressed, and decided to practise what was taught by the
Buddha. The exhortation was to give in charity not only by oneself but also to
get others to do so and that by so doing one would gain much merit and have a
large number of followers in the next existence. So, that man invited the
Buddha and all the resident bhikkhus in the Jetavana monastery for alms-food
the next day. Then he went round to each one of the houses and informed the
residents that alms-food would he offered the next day to the Buddha and other
bhikkhus and so to contribute according to their wishes. The rich man
Bilalapadaka seeing the man goings round from house to house disapproved of his
behaviour and felt a strong dislike for him and murmured to himself, “O this
wretched man! Why did he not invite as many bhikkhus as he could himself offer
alms, instead of going round coaxing people?” So he asked the man to bring
his bowl and into this bowl, he put only a little rice, only a little butter,
only a little molass. These were taken away separately and not mixed with what
others had given. The rich men could not understand why his things were kept
separately, and he thought perhaps that man wanted others to know that a rich
man like him had contributed very little and so put him to shame. Therefore, he
sent a servant to find out.
The promoter of charity put a little of everything that was
given by the rich man into various pots of rice and curry and sweetmeats so
that the rich man may gain much merit. His servant reported what he had seen;
but Bilalapadaka did not get the meaning and was not sure of the intention of
the promoter of charity. However, the next day he went to the place where
alms-food was being offered. At the same time, he took a knife with him, intending
to kill the chief promoter of charity, if he were to reveal in public just how
little a rich man like him had contributed.
But this promoter of charity said to the Buddha, “Venerable
Sir, this charity is a joint offering of all; whether one has given much or
little is of no account; each one of us has given in faith and generosity; so
may all of us gain equal merit.” When he heard those words, Bilalpadaka
realized that he had wronged the man and pondered that if he were not to own up
his mistake and ask the promoter of charity to pardon him, he would he reborn
in one of the four lower worlds (apayas). So he said, “My friend, I have
done you a great wrong by thinking ill of you; please forgive me.” The
Buddha heard the rich man asking for pardon, and on enquiry found out the
reason. So, the Buddha said, “My disciple, you should not think lightly
of a good deed, however small it may be, for small deeds will become big if you
do them habitually.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
122: One should not think lightly of doing good, imagining ‘A little will not
affect me’; just as a water-jar is filled up by falling drops of rain, so
also, the wise one is filled up with merit, by accumulating it little by
At the end of the discourse, Bilalapadaka the rich man attained
31 3 2012 LESSON 567WISDOM and PRACTICE
I.KAMMAREBIRTHAWAKEN-NESS BUDDHA THUS COME ONE DHAMMA
Matrix of the Thus Come One Sutra
[如来蔵経] (Skt Tathagatagarbha-sutra; Chin
Ju-lai-tsang-ching; Jpn Nyoraizo-kyo )
A sutra that sets forth the
concept of the matrix of the Thus Come One, i.e., that each person is the
matrix, womb, or embryo of a Thus Come One, or Buddha. This means that all
persons possess the Buddha nature, that all people are potential Buddhas.The
Sanskrit text is generally thought to have been produced in the early third
century, but is not extant. A Tibetan translation and two Chinese translations
exist. Of the Chinese translations, Buddhabhadra (359-429) produced one, and
Pu-k’ung (Skt; Amoghavajra; 705-774), the other. The “matrix of the Thus
Come One” became a core concept of Mahayana Buddhism, and this sutra is
regarded as one of the earliest to address it. Around the fourth or fifth
century, Vasubandhu and Saramati delved into the concept in their respective
treatises The Treatise on the Buddha Nature and The Treatise on the
Treasure Vehicle of Buddhahood. The principle that “all living beings
alike possess the Buddha nature,” which appears repeatedly in the Nirvana
Sutra, and the Lotus Sutra’s teaching of the one Buddha vehicle are related to
the concept of the matrix of the Thus Come One.
“Life Span of the Thus Come One” chapter
[如来寿量品] (Jpn Nyorai-juryo-hon )
Abbreviated as the
“Life Span” chapter. The sixteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in
which Shakyamuni Buddha reveals that he originally attained enlightenment in
the far distant past rather than in his present life in India as his listeners
generally thought. The chapter title “The Life Span of the Thus Come One”
means the duration of Shakyamuni’s life as a Buddha, that is, how much time has
passed since he originally attained Buddhahood. T’ient’ai (538-597) of China
ranks it as the key chapter of the essential teaching, or the latter fourteen
chapters of the sutra. The chapter opens with three exhortations and four
entreaties, in which the Buddha three times admonishes the multitude to believe
and understand his truthful words, and the assembly four times begs him to
preach. Shakyamuni then says, “You must listen carefully and hear of the
Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers.” He proceeds to
explain that, while all heavenly and human beings and asuras believe
that he first attained enlightenment in his present lifetime under the bodhi
tree, it has actually been an incalculable length of time since he attained
enlightenment. He then offers a dramatic description of the magnitude of this
immeasurably long period. He describes taking a vast number of worlds, grinding
them to dust, and then traversing the universe, dropping a particle each time
one passes an equally vast number of worlds. Having exhausted all the dust
particles, one takes all the worlds traversed, whether they have received a
dust particle or not, and grinds them to dust. Then Shakyamuni says: “Let
one particle represent one kalpa. The time that has passed since I
attained Buddhahood surpasses this by a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a
million nayuta asamkhya kalpas.” Commentaries on this chapter refer
to this cosmically immense period as “numberless major world system dust
particle kalpas.” In the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra,
Shakyamuni thus refutes the view that he attained enlightenment for the first
time in this life in India and reveals his original attainment of enlightenment
in the remote past. T’ient’ai refers to this in The Words and Phrases of the
Lotus Sutra and The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra as
“opening the near and revealing the distant,” “casting off the
transient and revealing the true,” and “opening the transient and
revealing the true.” Here, “the transient” means Shakyamuni’s
transient status, and “the true” means his true identity. From his
original attainment of Buddhahood, Shakyamuni declares, he has constantly been
here in this saha world preaching the Law, appearing as many different
Buddhas and using various means to save living beings. Though he says that he
enters nirvana, he merely uses his death as a means to arouse in people the
desire to seek a Buddha. He then illustrates this idea with the parable of the
skilled physician and his sick children. In the parable, the children of a
skilled physician have accidentally swallowed poison. Having lost their senses,
they refuse the medicine their father offers them as an antidote. The father
then goes off to a remote place and sends a message informing his children he
has died. Shocked to their senses, the children take the medicine their father
has left for them and are cured. The Buddha is compared to the father in this
parable, living beings to the children who have drunk poison, and the Buddha’s
entry into nirvana to the father’s report of his own death—an expedient means
to arouse in people the aspiration for enlightenment.The chapter concludes with
a verse section, which restates the important teachings of the preceding prose
In Profound Meaning, T’ient’ai
interprets the “Life Span” chapter as revealing the three mystic principles
of the true cause (the cause for Shakyamuni’s original attainment of
enlightenment), the true effect (his original enlightenment), and the true land
(the place where the Buddha lives and teaches). He interprets the passage
“Originally I practiced the bodhisattva way… ” as indicating the
stage of nonregression, or the eleventh of the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva
practice, which he explained as the true cause that enabled Shakyamuni to
attain Buddhahood. In answer to the question of what Shakyamuni practiced in
order to reach the stage of non-regression, Nichiren (1222-1282) identified it
as the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus
Twenty-One: “The Spiritual Powers of the
At that time the Bodhisattvas
Mahasattvas equal in number to the motes of dust in a thousand worlds, who had
welled forth out of the earth, in the presence of the Buddha, single-mindedly,
with palms joined, gazed up at the Buddha and spoke to him, saying, “World
Honored One, after the Buddha’s passing, in countries where there are division
bodies of the Buddha, in places where he has passed into stillness, we shall
extensively speak this Sutra. Why? Because we also wish to obtain this true,
pure, and great Dharma; to receive, uphold, read and recite, explain, write
out, and make offerings to it.”
This chapter is called The
Spiritual Powers of the Thus Come One. “Thus Come One” is one of
the Buddha’s ten titles. “Thus” is stillness. “Come” is movement.
“Thus” means “still and silent.” “Come” means
“able to be humane”-able to do the kind and humane work of the
Buddha. “Still and silent” represents the comfortable spiritual
powers enabling one to become a Buddha.
“Spiritual” means natural,
not artificial. “Spiritual” refers to an inner quality.
“Power” refers to external function. When there is spirituality
inside, then there is power outwardly. If you have no spirituality, then there
can be no power. “The spiritual powers of the Thus Come One” refers
to the inconceivable, wonderful function of the Buddha’s spiritual powers, an
Even though we have discussed it at
length, some people still don’t understand the concept of spiritual power. I
will now speak of it in general terms. It’s like the previous appearance of
Shakyamuni Buddha’s division bodies of the ten directions. Where did they come
from? They came from the spiritual power of Shakyamuni Buddha.
The Thus Come One Many Jewels came
to the Way-place to certify the Dharma Flower Sutra, and this also was
through the spiritual power of the Thus Come One. The Bodhisattvas who welled
forth out of the earth also did so through the spiritual power of the Thus Come
One. The purification of the six sense organs in the chapter “The Merit
and Virtue of a Dharma Master” also came through the spiritual power of
the Thus Come One. Thus, the spiritual power of the Thus Come One is limitless
and boundless. If you speak of it in detail, everything is a creation of the
spiritual power of the Thus Come One.
At that time,
when the chapter “Never-Slighting Bodhisattva” was finished, the
Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas equal in number to the motes of dust in a thousand
worlds, who had welled forth out of the earth-these were all Bodhisattvas
whom the Buddha in former lives had taught and transformed-in the presence
of the Buddha, single-mindedly, with palms joined, reverent in body, gazed
up at the Buddha with his fine marks and spoke to him, saying,
“World Honored One, after the Buddha’s passing, in countries where there
are division bodies of the Buddha, in places where he has passed into
stillness, regardless of which world or which country, wherever the World
Honored One has manifested a division-body Buddha and then entered Nirvana, we
shall extensively speak this Sutra. We will propagate the Dharma Flower
Sutra. Why? Because we also wish to obtain this true, pure, and great
Dharma.” Bodhisattvas also wish to obtain this true, pure, and great
Dharma. “True” represents the real Dharma. “Pure”
represents the provisional Dharma. The real and the provisional are
nondual-this is the great Dharma. The provisional is the real and the real is
the provisional. This is the great Dharma of the nonduality of the provisional
and the real.
“We wish to receive, uphold,
read and recite, explain, write out, and make offerings to it, to the
Dharma Flower Sutra.”
At that time, in the presence of
Manjushri and the others, limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis
of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas who had long resided in the Saha world, as well as
the Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, Upasikas, gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas,
asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, people,
nonpeople, and so forth, the World Honored One manifested great spiritual
At that time, in the presence of
Manjushri, Wonderfully Auspicious
Bodhisattva, and the others, limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis
of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas who had long resided in the Saha world-these
were Shakyamuni Buddha’s old disciples, the great Bodhisattvas-as well as
the Bhikshus; Bhikshunis; Upasakas; Upasikas; gods; dragons; yakshas; gandharvas,
musical spirits; asuras, the ugly ones; garudas,
the great golden-winged peng birds; kinnaras, also musical
spirits; mahoragas, big snakes; people; nonpeople; and so
forth, the World Honored One manifested great spiritual powers.
He put forth his vast and long
tongue which reached upward to the Brahma worlds. From all of his hair pores,
he emitted lights of limitless, countless colors, all of which pervasively
illuminated the worlds of the ten directions. In the same way, all the Buddhas
seated on lion thrones beneath jeweled trees also put forth their vast and long
tongues and emitted limitless lights.
When Shakyamuni Buddha and the
Buddhas beneath the jeweled trees had manifested their spiritual powers for a
full hundred thousand years, they withdrew their tongues.
He put forth his vast and long
tongue, which reached upward to the Brahma worlds. The
Buddha’s tongue reaches all the way up to his hairline. People with great
blessings and virtue can touch their nose with their tongue. The tongue of the
Perfect, Full Reward Body Buddha reaches all the way up to the Brahma Heaven.
Here the Buddha is manifesting his great spiritual powers and putting forth his
vast and long tongue. From all of his hair pores, he emitted lights of
limitless, countless colors, all of which pervasively illuminated the worlds of
the ten directions.
In the same way, all the Buddhas
seated on lion thrones beneath jeweled trees also put forth their vast and long
tongues and emitted limitless lights.
When Shakyamuni Buddha and the
Buddhas beneath the jeweled trees, the division
body Buddhas, had manifested their spiritual powers for a full hundred
thousand years, they withdrew their tongues.
Then they coughed and snapped their
fingers, and those two sounds pervaded the Buddha worlds of the ten directions.
Then they coughed,
very softly, to show they were thinking of living beings, to let them know they
were there. This represents calling out and getting living beings’ attention.
The Buddhas of the ten directions all made this coughing sound at the same
they then snapped their fingers; this represents alerting beings with
sound. For example, if someone has entered samadhi and you want to
awaken him from his state of concentration, you can snap your fingers three
times next to his ear, and he will arise from his state. And those two
sounds pervaded the Buddha worlds of the ten directions.
The earth quaked in six ways and the
living beings in those worlds-the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas,
asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, people,
nonpeople, and so forth-by means of the Buddha’s spiritual powers all saw in
the Saha world the limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis
of Buddhas seated on lion thrones beneath jeweled trees. They also saw
Shakyamuni Buddha, together with the Thus Come One Many Jewels, seated on the
lion throne within the jeweled stupa.
They further saw limitless,
boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas
Mahasattvas, as well as the four assemblies, reverently circumambulating
Shakyamuni Buddha. Having seen this, they greatly rejoiced, having gained what
they had never had.
The earth quaked in six ways-banging,
roaring, cracking, shaking, rising, and surging-throughout the ten
directions. The first three ways refer to sound; the second three refer to
movement. This also represents the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind,
the six sense organs functioning in mutual interpenetration.
Each of the six types of earthquakes
divides into three varieties: banging, universal banging, and equal universal
banging. This applies to the other five kinds of quaking, thus making eighteen
kinds in all, representing the eighteen realms.
And the living beings in those
worlds-the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas,
are music spirits in the court of the Jade Emperor. They can also dance. Their
music is millions of times better than music in the human realm. If people ever
heard this music, they would fly. Their thoughts would fly off into heaven. Mahoragasare
big pythons. They turned into snakes because, although they cultivated, they
didn’t keep the precepts. There were people, nonpeople, and so forth, who
by means of the Buddha’s inconceivable spiritual powers all saw in
the Saha world the limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis
of Buddhas seated on lion thrones beneath jeweled trees. The lion thrones
were five yojanas high. They also saw Shakyamuni Buddha, together
with the Thus Come One Many Jewels, seated on the lion throne within the
They further saw limitless,
boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas
Mahasattvas, as well as the four assemblies, reverently circumambulating
Shakyamuni Buddha. Having seen this, through the
Buddha’s great spiritual powers, they greatly rejoiced, having gained what
they had never had. They had never witnessed such an inconceivable state
Just then the gods in empty space
called out in a loud voice: “Passing from here through limitless,
boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of asamkhyeyas
of worlds, there is a country called Saha. Within it is a Buddha named
Shakyamuni who now, for the sake of all the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, proclaims
a Great Vehicle Sutra by the name of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower,
a Dharma for teaching Bodhisattvas, of whom the Buddha is protective and
mindful. You should all rejoice deep within your hearts, bow, and make
offerings to Shakyamuni Buddha.
Just then the gods.
Having just seen Shakyamuni Buddha in the Saha world being circumambulated by
all the Bodhisattvas and other beings in the Saha world, the gods manifested
great spiritual powers and spoke in space. The gods, dragons, and eightfold
division passed on the word and in empty space called out in a loud voice. The
voice sounded like thunder; all could hear it. It came through clearer than
radio or television. And it said, “Passing from here through limitless,
boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of asamkhyeyas
of worlds, now hear this! Now hear this! There is a country called
Saha.” Saha means “able to be endured,” because the
living beings in that world really know how to cultivate patience. It’s so
bitter, and still they can take it. So we are pretty good, hanging in here in
the Saha world practicing the Bodhisattva path. It’s so much suffering, but we
can still stand it. Within it is a Buddha named Shakyamuni who now, for the
sake of all the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas and the Arhats, too, proclaims
a Great Vehicle Sutra by the name of Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower,
the great Dharma of the real mark, the wonderful Sutra of the Great Vehicle.
The Dharma is wonderful and the vehicle is great. It is the Great Vehicle’s Wonderful
Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. The Wonderful Dharma is as beautiful and
immaculate as a lotus flower, which grows up out of the mud but is not defiled.
This king of Sutras is a Dharma for teaching Bodhisattvas, of whom the
Buddhas are protective and mindful. The Buddhas are protective of this
Sutra, and if you recite it, they are protective and mindful of you. If you
recite the Dharma Flower Sutra, the Buddhas of the ten directions will
be protective and mindful of you. If you obtain the wonderful doctrine of the
Dharma Flower Sutra you will develop wisdom and your stupidity will
disappear. If it weren’t that the Buddhas were being protective and mindful of
you, how could you get so intelligent? It’s because you recite the Dharma
Flower Sutra that you gain this kind of wisdom, wisdom like the sea.
Wouldn’t you say this is wonderful? You should all rejoice deep within your
hearts. All of you should bring forth the great Bodhi resolve, bring forth
the mind of true Prajna and rejoice in the merit and virtue of this Sutra, bow,
and make offerings to Shakyamuni Buddha in the Saha world.
Hearing this sound in empty space,
all the living beings placed their palms together, faced the Saha world, and
said, “Namo Shakyamuni Buddha! Namo Shakyamuni Buddha!”
Hearing this sound in empty space,
this amazing voice booming in empty space, all the living beings placed
their palms together. The Bodhisattvas and Arhats may have spiritual
powers, but common folks don’t. This sound, however, was heard not only by the
Bodhisattvas and Arhats, but by the common people as well. All the living
beings thought, “This is truly inconceivable. They are telling us from
empty space that Shakyamuni Buddha has appeared in the Saha world. Let’s put
our palms together and face that world which is ‘worthy of being
endured’.” And from such a long distance away they faced the Saha world
and said, “Namo Shakyamuni Buddha! Namo Shakyamuni Buddha!” Shakyamuni
Buddha is our teacher. After this, if someone asks you who your teacher is,
just say, “Shakyamuni Buddha,” because that’s correct. If they say
you are being evasive, you can say, “You just don’t understand the
And then from afar, they scattered
all kinds of flowers, incense, beads, banners, canopies, ornaments for the
body, and precious and rare objects on the Saha world. The objects they
scattered came from the ten directions like clouds gathering, and turned into
jeweled canopies, completely covering the Buddhas in that region.
And then from afar, they scattered
all kinds of flowers, incense, beads, millions of banners,
canopies, ornaments for the body, and precious and rare objects on the Saha
world. They sent down caps and clothing, all very nice-looking. They did
not follow the current American custom of making your clothes look old when
they are new. That’s really stupid. People like this are just too confused. The
young people start a fad, competing to cut holes in their clothes, wouldn’t you
say that was stupid? You shouldn’t wear clothing that is too expensive, but you
shouldn’t for no good reason destroy your clothes either. The objects they
scattered came from the ten directions like gathering clouds, and turned into
jeweled canopies completely covering the Buddhas in that region. They
covered Shakyamuni Buddha, the division-body Buddhas, and Many Jewels Buddha.
Then the worlds of the ten
directions interpenetrated without obstruction, as if they were one Buddhaland.
Then the worlds of the ten
directions, the other limitless worlds, interpenetrated
without obstruction. The worlds of the ten directions joined into one
world; one world was just the worlds of the ten directions. In this world, we
don’t know the situation in other worlds. But at that time, when Shakyamuni
Buddha was speaking the Dharma Flower Sutra, the worlds of the ten
directions united into one world. One world and the ten direction worlds had no
distinction. They penetrated one another without impediment, as if they were
one Buddhaland. Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in the Saha world, and the Saha
world and the worlds of the ten directions became one world.
At that time the Buddha told
Superior Conduct and all the great assembly of Bodhisattvas, “The
spiritual power of all the Buddhas is limitless, boundless, and inconceivable
like this. If, using these spiritual powers, I were to speak of the meritorious
virtues of this Sutra for limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of
myriads of kotis of asamkhyeya eons by way of entrustment, I
could not finish.”
At that time the Buddha told
Superior Conduct Bodhisattva and all the great assembly of Bodhisattvas, all
the Bodhisattvas who had welled forth out of the earth and the Bodhisattvas who
came with the division-body Buddhas, “The spiritual power of all the
Buddhas is limitless, boundless, and inconceivable like this. If, using these
spiritual powers, I were to speak of the meritorious virtues of this Sutra for
limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of asamkhyeya
eons by way of entrustment, I could not finish.”
“In general, all the Dharmas of
the Thus Come One, all the sovereign spiritual powers of the Thus Come One, all
the secret storehouses of the Thus Come One, all the extremely profound deeds
of the Thus Come One are all proclaimed and revealed in this Sutra.”
In general, all the Dharmas of the
Thus Come One, all the sovereign spiritual powers of the Thus Come One, all the
secret storehouses of the Thus Come One. The Dharma
Flower Sutra is the secret storehouse and contains all of the Buddha’s
Dharmas. All the extremely profound deeds of the Thus Come One are all
proclaimed and revealed in this Sutra. All the Dharma I did not speak for
over forty years of my teaching is contained in this final Dharma Flower
Sutra. No one had ever understood this Dharma, and now it’s plainly
revealed. I am revealing it to you all. It’s not like before when I held back
the Wonderful Dharma and did not speak it. Now I am proclaiming it.
“Therefore, all of you, after
the passing of the Thus Come One, should with a single mind receive, uphold,
read, recite, and explain it, write it out, and cultivate it as spoken. In any
land if there is a person who receives, upholds, reads, recites, explains,
writes out, and cultivates it as spoken, whether in a place where Sutras are
kept, in a garden, in a forest, or beneath a tree; in a Sangha dwelling; in the
dwelling of the white-robed; in a palace or hall; or in the mountains, valleys,
or wilderness-in all these places-one should build a stupa and make
Therefore, all of you, after the
passing of the Thus Come One, should with a single mind receive, uphold, read,
recite, and explain it, write it out, and cultivate it as spoken. In
cultivation the most important thing is to be single-minded. No matter what you
do, you should turn to one. Do not have two minds. If you have two minds, there
is no response. Those who believe in the Buddha should do so with one mind and
have no doubts. You shouldn’t think, “Is there really a Buddha? Wouldn’t
it be better to be a Catholic or some kind of Christian?” If you are that
scattered, no matter what you do, you won’t gain merit and virtue or
accomplishment. So you must turn your mind to one.
Now we’re having a Gwan Yin Session.
You could say that this is a Dharma hard to meet in a hundred thousand myriad
eons. You shouldn’t think that it’s so simple to recite “Namo Gwan Shr Yin
Pu Sa.” For every line you recite, there is one line of advantage gained.
The “Universal Door Chapter” says, “If a person has much desire
and always recites, reverently, the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, he will be
separated from desire.” Isn’t that a great advantage? If you have a lot of
desire and lust, then your mind will not be peaceful. How do you leave desire?
By reciting the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva.
“If a person has much hatred
and always recites, reverently, the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, he will be
separated from hatred.” Let’s say there’s a person who gets mad all the
time and rages with the fire of ignorance, like a tiger-very fierce. It’s said,
The fire of ignorance,
The spirit of a tiger,
Are the results of offenses
Done in the past.
If you always recite Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva’s name, your hatred will decrease.
I’ll tell you something. I used to
have a bigger temper than anyone. I was always getting mad at people. If I wasn’t
beating them, then I was yelling at them. I’ve told you this many times. When I
was very young I loved to hit and scold people. No matter who you were, you had
to be under my control. Anyone who refused to follow my orders got clobbered.
Now I no longer like to hit or scold people. I don’t know how I got rid of my
anger, but it’s gone.
“Sure, we know, we know,”
you say. “He’s still got a big temper!”
You never saw it when it was really
big! It would have scared you to death. I got rid of my temper by reciting the
name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva.
“If a person is very stupid but
always recites reverently the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, he will be
separated from stupidity.” Now we are having a Gwan Yin Session and
everyone-left-home people and laypeople-should recite if you have time. You
shouldn’t not participate. If you are especially busy or tied up with some
business, that’s one thing. Otherwise, laypeople who are not working should
come and recite. If you recite one sentence, it’s better than earning a hundred
dollars a day. You shouldn’t think, “What use is reciting Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva’s name?” It’s very useful.
“But if I earn a hundred
dollars, I can buy things to eat. If I recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva’s name,
that’s not going to fill me up when I’m hungry.”
That’s because you don’t have a true
heart. If you had a true heart, you would automatically become full. Not only
would you be full, but when Gwan Yin Bodhisattva gave you some sweet dew, you
would recite and feel it was sweeter than honey. If you don’t recite, you won’t
attain that state; but if you do recite, it will happen naturally. It’s for
sure I am not cheating you. If you are sincere and recite Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva’s name, it’s sweeter than eating grape sugar. You don’t know about
the good points, and you think you can goof off or make phone calls or do other
things. You are just wasting precious time and not turning to one. Turning to
one, you forget everything else. You forget about eating; you forget about
wearing clothes: all that remains is that one sentence, “Namo Gwan Shr Yin
Pu Sa.” If you can be like that, then Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva will pour
sweet dew on your crown, pat you on the head, and say, “You are really a
good kid. Good boy! Good girl! Bring forth the great resolve for Bodhi. I’ll
help you. Cultivate the true, and you’ll get a share and make progress in the
Way, free from demons.”
Then your cultivation will be
successful. But you have to be sincere. And so the present Sutra passage says,
“with a single mind receive it, uphold it, read it, recite it, explain it,
and write it out, and cultivate it as spoken.” You cultivate in accord
with the doctrines in the Dharma Flower Sutra.
“What doctrine is that?”
I’ve told you a million times! It’s
a doctrine wonderful beyond words. You forgot it? Never-Slighting Bodhisattva
bowed whenever he met anyone, saying, “I dare not slight you, for you will
all become Buddhas.” Note that he said, “You will become
Buddhas.” He did not say, “I am a Buddha.” He forgot
himself. He was cultivating according to the doctrines in the Dharma Flower
In any land, if there is a person
who receives, upholds, reads, recites, explains, writes out, and cultivates it
as spoken, whether in a place where Sutras are kept, in a garden or
a pavilion, in a forest, or beneath a tree; in a Sangha dwelling; in the
dwelling of the white-robed, that is, at a layperson’s home; in a palace
or hall; or in the mountains, valleys or a desolate wilderness-in all
these places-one should build a stupa made of the seven jewels and make
“What is the reason? You should
know that this place is a Way-place wherein all Buddhas gain
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, wherein all Buddhas turn the Dharma-wheel, and wherein
all Buddhas enter Nirvana.”
What is the reason? You should know
that this place is a Way-place wherein all Buddhas gain Anuttarasamyaksambodhi,
wherein all Buddhas turn the Dharma-wheel, and wherein all Buddhas enter
Nirvana. “Wherein” here refers not
to a place, but to the Dharma Flower Sutra. It was just in the Dharma
Flower Sutra that the Buddhas gained Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right
Enlightenment. It was just because all the Buddhas received, upheld, read,
recited, explained, and wrote out the Dharma Flower Sutra that they
turned the Dharma-wheel. Lecturing the Dharma Flower Sutra is turning
the Dharma-wheel. The Buddhas of the ten directions, within the Dharma
Flower Sutra, turn the great Dharma-wheel and enter Nirvana, obtaining the
four virtues of Nirvana: permanence, bliss, true self, and purity.
At that time the World Honored One,
wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,
The Buddhas, ones who save the
Dwelling in great spiritual penetrations,
In order to delight living beings,
Manifest limitless spiritual powers.
Their tongues reach to the Brahma Heavens,
Their bodies emit countless lights.
They make appear these rare events
For the sake of those who seek the Buddha Way.
The sounds made when the Buddhas cough
And the sounds made when they snap their fingers
Are heard throughout the lands of the ten directions
As the earth quakes in six ways.
Because after the Buddha’s passing
One can uphold this Sutra,
All Buddhas rejoice
And display limitless spiritual powers.
At that time the World Honored One,
being very compassionate and wishing to restate this meaning in a very
simple form, spoke verses, saying, “The Buddhas, ones who save the
world, who are greatly kind and compassionate and rescue all from
suffering and difficulty, wish to save all living beings.” Dwelling
in great spiritual penetrations. The Buddhas have great spiritual
powers, and so they are able to rescue living beings. If they were just like
ordinary people, what would they use to rescue living beings with? So they use
the power of great spiritual penetrations.
In order to delight living beings,
they manifest limitless spiritual powers. / Their
tongues reach to the Brahma Heavens. They put forth their vast and long
tongues, which reach all the way up to the Great Brahma Heaven. Their
bodies emit countless lights, light of countless colors. Theymake
appear these rare events, / For the sake of those who seek the Buddha Way.
The sounds made when the Buddhas
cough / And the sounds made when they snap their fingers.
The Buddhas make these sounds to wake living beings up. They clear their
throats or snap their fingers, signaling to living beings that they shouldn’t
remain asleep, living drunk and dying in a dream.
These kinds of sounds are
heard throughout the lands of the ten directions / As the earth quakes in six
ways.All the lands in the ten directions quake in six ways-banging,
roaring, shaking, cracking, surging, rising-which are auspicious portents.
Because after the Buddha’s passing /
One can uphold this Sutra, the Dharma
Flower Sutra, all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, rejoice
/ And display limitless spiritual powers.
In order to bequeath this Sutra,
He praises those who receive and hold it.
Doing so throughout limitless eons,
Still he cannot finish.
The merit and virtue of these people
Is boundless and infinite,
Like empty space in the ten directions,
Without any boundary.
In order to bequeath this Sutra,
Shakyamuni Buddha wanted to hand on the teaching to the Bodhisattvas and living
beings, exhorting them to receive and uphold this Sutra. “Bequeath”
means to pass on some work, to appoint someone to a job. Shakyamuni Buddha is
appointing all the Bodhisattvas as keepers and propagators of the Dharma
He praises those who receive and
hold it. / Doing so throughout limitless eons, / Still he cannot finish. / The
merit and virtue of these people / Is boundless and infinite
and eternal, like empty space in the ten directions. Where are
the boundaries of empty space? You can’t find them. The merit and virtue of
reciting the Dharma Flower Sutra is also like empty space-it is without
Someone says, “Empty space is
empty! There’s nothing there. Is our merit and virtue also empty and
Empty space is nonexistent. However,
if you can understand this “nonexistence” then you can understand
“all of existence.” Besides, this analogy isn’t comparing the merit
and virtue to empty space by its nonexistence, but rather because it is
boundless and infinite. Basically, within true emptiness, there is wonderful
existence. Wonderful existence cannot be seen, but you cannot presume that
because you cannot see it, it doesn’t exist. It truly exists; you just don’t
Those who can uphold this Sutra
Have already seen me
And also seen the Buddha Many Jewels
And all of the division bodies.
They also see me on this day
Teaching and transforming the Bodhisattvas.
Those who can uphold this Sutra-who
can receive, uphold, read, recite, write out, and explain the Dharma Flower
Sutra-have already seen me. They have seen my true body and
also seen the Buddha Many Jewels / And all of the division bodies, the Buddhas
who are division bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha. They also see me on this
day, here with Many Jewels Thus Come One in the jeweled stupa, teaching
and transforming the Bodhisattvas.
Those who can uphold this Sutra
Cause me and my division bodies
And the extinct Buddha, Many Jewels,
To all rejoice.
They shall also see and make offerings
To the Buddhas of the ten directions in the present,
The past, and the future,
Causing them to rejoice as well.
Those who can uphold this Sutra /
Cause me and my division bodies / And the extinct Buddha, Many Jewels, / To all
rejoice. / They shall also see and make offerings / To the Buddhas of the ten
directions in the present, / The past, and the future, / Causing them to
rejoice as well. The
Buddhas throughout the ten directions will be happy.
The secret and essential Dharma
By the Buddhas seated in their Way-places
Will also be gained before too long
By those who can uphold this Sutra.
The secret and essential Dharma-their
secret treasuries-obtained / By the Buddhas seated in their Way-places /
Will also be gained before too long / By those who can uphold this Sutra.
Why? Because they read and recite the Dharma Flower Sutra.
Those who can uphold this Sutra
Will take delight in speaking, without end,
The meaning of the Dharmas,
Their names and expressions,
Like the wind blowing through space,
After the Thus Come One’s passing,
They will understand the Sutras spoken by the Buddha,
The causes and conditions in sequence,
And speak them truly, according with their meanings.
Like the light of the sun and moon
Dispelling all darkness,
These people walk through the world
Dispersing the darkness of living beings,
Teaching limitless Bodhisattvas
Ultimately to dwell in the One Vehicle.
Those who can uphold this Sutra,
who can read, recite, explain, and write out the Dharma Flower Sutra, will
take delight in speaking, without end, / The meaning of the Dharmas, / Their
names and expressions, / Like the wind blowing through space, / Without
obstacle. He will gain the Four Kinds of Unobstructed Eloquence:
Unobstructed Eloquence of Expression, Unobstructed Eloquence of Meaning,
Unobstructed Eloquence of Dharma, and Unobstructed Eloquence of Delight in
Speech. He shall speak with unobstructed eloquence like the wind in space,
blowing where it will, without obstacle.
After the Thus Come One’s passing, /
They will understand the Sutras spoken by the Buddha.
They will deeply enter the Sutra store and gain wisdom like
the sea. They will understand the causes and conditions in sequence, and
speak them truly, according with their meanings-according with the
doctrine of the real mark.
Like the light of the sun and moon /
Dispelling all darkness, / These people walk through the world / Dispersing the
darkness of living beings, helping living
beings get rid of their stupidity. Basically living beings don’t understand;
they are confused. They take day to be night, sleeping during the day and
running around at night. I’ve seen a lot of people like this. They are like
cats prowling around at night. They are also like mice that hide in their holes
during the day and run around at night looking for food. But a person who
upholds the Dharma Flower Sutra is intent on teaching limitless
Bodhisattvas / Ultimately to dwell in the One Vehicle and attain
Therefore, those with wisdom,
Hearing the advantages of this merit
Should, after my passing,
Receive and uphold this Sutra.
These people most certainly
Will be unobstructed in the Buddha
Therefore, those with wisdom, /
Hearing the advantages of this merit and virtue, / Should, after my passing,-after
I enter Nirvana, receive and uphold this Sutra. / These people most
certainly / Will be unobstructed in the Buddha Way.They will certainly
attain Buddhahood. There is no doubt about it.
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus
“The Thus Come One’s Life Span”
Now we have explained the Wonderful
Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra as far as this chapter, the sixteenth, which is
“The Thus Come One’s Life Span.” “Thus Come One” is
one of the ten titles of a Buddha. Some people who do not understand the
Buddhadharma say, “Oh, that’s the Thus Come One, the
They think that “Thus Come One,
Buddha-Patriarch” is the name for one particular Buddha. Actually,
“Thus Come One” is a title given to all Buddhas. All the Buddhas of
the ten directions and the three periods of time, no matter which ones, are called
“Thus Come One.” They are all called “One Worthy of
Offerings.” They are all called “One of Proper and Universal
Knowledge,” “One Who is Perfect in Understanding and Conduct,”
“Skillful in Leaving the World through Liberation,” “Unsurpassed
Knight,” “Taming Hero,” “Teacher of Gods and People,”
“Buddha,” and “World Honored One.” They all have those ten
Now we’ll discuss the first title:
Thus Come One. What is meant by Thus Come One? The Vajra Sutra says:
“The Thus Come One doesn’t come from anywhere and doesn’t go anywhere.
Therefore, he is called the Thus Come One.”
Another explanation says: “He
rides on the Way that is actually thus and comes to realize Proper
Enlightenment.” “Thus” refers to the wisdom on which he rides.
“Come” refers to the state of thusness. He uses the wisdom of
thusness to contemplate the state of thusness. When the state and the wisdom
are both thus, then there is no state and there is no wisdom. That state and the
wisdom unite into one. The Way is the cause. Enlightenment is the fruition.
This is called the perfection of the cause and the fulfillment of the fruition.
Because the cause is perfected, the fruition is fulfilled, and so he is called
a Thus Come One. Thus Come One is one of the titles of the Buddhas.
There are also two Buddhas and three
Buddhas. There are also the fundamental Buddha and the discernible Buddha. What
are the two Buddhas? They are the true body Buddhas and the response-body
“True” means unmoving true
thusness: not moving and yet according with conditions. This is setting forth
the name based on the substance; it’s a substance. As to the response bodies,
although they accord with conditions, they do not move. Although they do not
move, they accord with conditions.
Let’s use an example to illustrate
more clearly. The true body is like the bright moon in space; the response body
is like the moonlight on water. Because there is truly the light of the moon,
there is a reflection of moonlight on water. Although there is moonlight on the
water, the moon does not come to that place, and the bright moon in space does
not indicate that the moon has gone there. This is described as:
In a thousand pools of water are a
thousand pools’ moons.
If a thousand pools have water in
them and the water is pure, there will be a thousand moonlights. The thousand
moonlights are certainly not a thousand moons that have come down into the
water of those pools. But although the moonlight is not the basic substance of
the moon, nonetheless, there is moonlight in the pools. Although the moonlight
is in the pools, it’s not that the moon itself came down into the pools. And so
In a thousand pools of water are a
thousand pools’ moons.
Ten thousand miles devoid of clouds is ten thousand miles of sky.
When there are no clouds for ten
thousand miles, there will be ten thousand miles of clear sky. The Thus Come
One is also like that.
That is, Shakyamuni Buddha came into
this world and manifested being born. Although he manifested being born, he did
not go through birth. Although he manifested passing into extinction, he didn’t
pass into extinction. Why? His basic substance did not move. When Shakyamuni
Buddha came into this world it was:
Without undergoing birth, he
manifested being born.
Without passing into extinction, he manifested extinction.
His basic substance, his Dharma
body, the true body Buddha, did not move. Therefore, you don’t want to think
that the Buddha is the same as we living beings are. The Buddha’s coming into
the world is not the same as the way we have come into the world. Shakyamuni
Buddha, while still in his mother’s womb, was already speaking Dharma for the
gods, dragons, and others of the eight divisions of ghosts and spirits. He
spoke the Dharma for gods and humans.
Now we shall explain the chapter
“The Thus Come One’s Life Span.” “Life” can be
explained with the homonym [in Chinese] “feeling,” which is one of
the five skandhas. Life refers to feeling. “Span”
refers to its accumulation in numbers of years. How long is the span of the
Thus Come One’s life? It is incalculable-uncountably many years long. This,
then, is the chapter “The Thus Come One’s Life Span.”
The meaning of “Thus Come
One” is indeed vast. If we were to explain only the word “Thus”
and the word “Come” in detail, it would take several years. The
meaning of “Thus” is similar to the meaning of “wonderful.”
One who is not “Thus” is not “wonderful”; one who is not “wonderful”
is not “Thus.” The Thus Come One, then, is also the Wonderfully Come
One. To be “Wonderfully Come” is to have not come in the way that we
people have. We people do not know how we were born; we don’t know how we will
die. A Thus Come One knows how he was born, and he knows beforehand when he will
Now let’s discuss the Thus Come One,
with his vast virtue. As the Flower Adornment Sutra Preface says:
He is wealthy with ten thousand
And cleansed, without the finest dust.
National Master Ching Lyang praised
the Buddha this way:
Therefore, our World Honored One,
The ten bodies just fulfilled,
Proper Enlightenment first perfected,
Rides vows and conduct all-pervasive.
He unites with empty space in substance and nature,
Is wealthy with ten thousand virtues,
And cleansed, without the finest dust.
The pellucid waves of his deep, sea-like wisdom
Are empty, yet hold a myriad reflections.
The full moon of his glistening, space-like nature
At once scatters into one hundred streams.
This is praising the Thus Come One:
Without rising from beneath the King
He extends to seven places in the Dharma Realm.
He sat beneath the Bodhi tree and spoke the Flower Adornment Sutra.
Unhindered by the bounds of afterwards,
He pervades the nine assemblies, as he first succeeds.
Therefore, the state of the Thus
Come One can never be completely expressed.
We have already discussed the
meaning of the two Buddhas. There are also three Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, which
may be called the “Three Bodies of a Thus Come One.” The three
Buddhas are: the Buddhas of the past, the Buddhas of the present, and the
Buddhas of the future. The past refers to those who have already become
Buddhas; the present refers to those who are about to become Buddhas now; the
future refers to those who have not yet become Buddhas. And so, even those who
have not yet become Buddhas are counted here as Buddhas.
The three bodies of a Thus Come One
are: the Pure Dharma Body, the Perfect Reward Body, and the millions of
transformation bodies. The Pure Dharma Body is Vairochana Buddha. Vairochana
Buddha pervades all places. There is no place he is and no place he is not.
There is no place where he exists, and yet there is no place that he doesn’t
exist. Well, ultimately does he exist or doesn’t he? He both exists and does
You say, “The ‘Pure Dharma Body
Vairochana Buddha’ that I know must certainly not exist in unclean places.
That’s because he’s pure. Impure places definitely wouldn’t house his Dharma
That’s not the way it is. Purity and
impurity are discriminations made on the part of people. From the point of view
of a Buddha, impurity is also pure. Purity is even more pure. Don’t you
remember in the Dharma Flower Sutra, when there were three
transformations of heaven and earth? That’s an example of purifying the impure
places. To repeat, the first is the Pure Dharma Body, Vairochana Buddha.
The Perfect Reward Body, Nishyanda
Buddha. Translated, Nishyanda means “pure and full.” This
body is also pure. As Shakyamuni Buddha was speaking the Great Means Expansive
Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra, he manifested the ten-thousand-foot-tall
Nishyanda Buddha-body. But those of the Two Vehicles could neither see him nor
hear him. Those of the Two Vehicles saw the Buddha as a six-foot-tall Bhikshu.
But the Great Knights of the Dharma Body, the Great Bodhisattvas, saw
Shakyamuni Buddha as the ten-thousand-foot-tall Nishyanda Buddha speaking the Flower
Adornment Sutra. That’s why it’s said,
They had eyes but could not see
Those of the Two Vehicles have eyes,
all right; some may have even opened the Heavenly Eye. But they still could not
see the ten-thousand-foot-tall body of Nishyanda Buddha.
They had ears but could not hear the
Perfect, Sudden Teaching.
They had ears, but couldn’t hear
Shakyamuni Buddha speaking the Flower Adornment Sutra.
Once one of my disciples asked me,
“Those of the Two Vehicles cannot see the ten-thousand-foot body of
Nishyanda Buddha. We aren’t even up to the level of the Two Vehicles; we
haven’t become enlightened or reached the state of those of the Two Vehicles.
How is it that we are able to read the Flower Adornment Sutra?”
That question has much principle.
The conditions of those of the Two Vehicles had not yet become mature. That’s
why they were unable to see and hear the Great Vehicle Buddhadharma. They could
neither see nor hear how the Flower Adornment Sutra was spoken.
Five hundred years after Shakyamuni
Buddha entered Nirvana, Dragon Tree Bodhisattva had learned all the languages
of the world; he had mastered them all. And he had already read all the books
in the world. Having done so, he went to the Dragon Palace, where he secured
the Flower Adornment Sutra and took it back with him. To get to the
Dragon Palace, he certainly did not ride in a submarine. He went by way of the
state of a sage certified to the fruition. Although he was submerged in the
water, the water did not drown him. When a certified sage enters the water, the
water will naturally part, opening a path for him, and will not drown him. The
state of a certified sage is just that wonderful; it’s even more dependable
than using a submarine.
When he got to the Dragon Palace, he
read the Flower Adornment Sutra and committed it to memory. That was how
he brought it back to the world. And so now we are able to see the Flower
Adornment Sutra because our conditions have become mature. Thus, the
Reward-body Thus Come One spoke the Flower Adornment Sutra.
There are also millions of
transformation-body Shakyamuni Buddhas. Transformation bodies are sometimes
called response bodies. To review:
The Two Bodies are:
1. the true body, that is, the
Dharma Body, and
2. the Reward Body.
The Three Bodies are:
1. the Dharma Body,
2. the Reward Body, and
3. the transformation bodies.
Someone who heard me say that Dragon
Tree Bodhisattva went to the Dragon Palace to get the Flower Adornment Sutra
had this thought, “I can’t believe something like that really happened.
How could a person, without the use of a submarine, go to the Dragon
A child of three has no way to know
the state of a child of thirteen. A thirteen-year-old child can’t know the
state of a young adult of twenty-three. A young person of twenty-three can’t
know the state of a mature person of forty-three. A forty-three-year-old mature
individual can’t know the state of a person of eighty.
Therefore, since you don’t have the
requisite level of scholarship and you don’t have this kind of wisdom, of
course you won’t be able to believe that such an event could occur. Not only do
you not believe, many, many children cannot believe the things that adults do.
And while you are still at the stage of disbelief, I have no way to make you
believe. You are still too young.
Children don’t realize they are
children. Once they grow up, they think back, “Oh, during that time of
life, I really had a lot of fun. How could I have put mud in my mouth and eaten
it?” And yet they know they certainly must have done that when they were
children. That’s because young children put whatever they find into their
mouths first. It doesn’t matter to them what it is. They pay no attention to
whether it’s clean or unclean. Children know only how to eat; aside from that
they understand very little principle.
If you want to understand, you
should investigate the Buddhadharma. After you understand the Buddhadharma, you
will come to understand what you now don’t understand. Without my telling you,
you will understand. Before you have at least investigated the Buddhadharma,
you have no basis for belief or disbelief. If you believe, I gain no advantage
from it. If you don’t believe, I don’t suffer any disadvantage. I am
propagating the Buddhadharma, and you want to investigate the Buddhadharma. We
set aside some time to investigate it together. When we investigate to the
point of understanding, there is no need for belief or disbelief.
When you grow up, you don’t have the
same kind of thinking you had as a child.
“Who are you talking to?”
If you think I’m talking to you,
then I’m talking to you. If it didn’t even occur to you to wonder who this is
being spoken for, then it’s being spoken for someone other than you. That other
person has nothing to do with you, so you don’t need to protest, “I’m not
You are an adult. Adults shouldn’t
lack understanding of the things they ought to understand.
At that time the Buddha spoke to the
Bodhisattvas and the entire great assembly, saying, “Good men, you should
believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come
One.” Once again he told the great assembly, “You should believe and
understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One.” He again
told the great assembly, “You should believe and understand the sincere
and truthful words of the Thus Come One.”
At that time,
after speaking the chapter “Welling forth from the Earth,” the Buddha
was ready to speak the chapter “The Thus Come One’s Life Span.” This
chapter tells about how long the life span of the Thus Come One is. This is the
At that time the Buddha spoke to
the Bodhisattvas and the entire great assembly. The Buddha addressed all
the Great Bodhisattvas in the Dharma assembly and all the rest of the great
assembly, including the Bhikshus and the Bhikshunis, the Upasakas and the
Upasikas, the gods, the dragons, those of the eight divisions of ghosts and
spirits, and all the good men and good women.
He said, “Good men.
There are so many of you good young people. You should believe and
understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One. You should
now purify your minds, gather in and guard your minds. In other words, I’m
telling you not to have false thinking. Don’t become weary. When listening to
the Sutras, you should give rise to reverence and respect. Don’t have false
thoughts. During the time you are listening to the Sutras, you must certainly
make your minds clear and pure. Most importantly, you must believe. You should
understand the Thus Come One’s sincere and truthful words. Whatever the Thus
Come One says is true and actual, with not a trace of falseness
After the Buddha said this to
everyone, he probably saw that some people’s minds were still giving rise to
false thinking. Their false thoughts might have been chased away temporarily,
but now they had come back, and so those people hadn’t heard what he said.
What kind of false thinking were
they having? Maybe they were wondering when the Buddha would begin to speak.
And so now the Buddha was speaking, but they were involved in their false
thoughts. So even though the Buddha was now speaking, they weren’t hearing him.
But they definitely weren’t deaf; it was only because they were engaged in
false thinking that they weren’t hearing.
The Buddha saw they were having
false thoughts, and so he repeated himself. Once again he told the great
assembly, “You should believe and understand the sincere and truthful
words of the Thus Come One. All of you should pay especially close
attention to the words the Buddha wants to say to you. Every word is true,
actual, and not false. The Buddha is one whose words are true, real,
appropriate, and not false. What the Buddha tells you is the truth.” He
told them again, but probably among them were still some who were not listening
attentively. They certainly weren’t deaf, but they hadn’t heard. It was just
because they weren’t being attentive.
And so the Buddha said it again. He
again told the great assembly, “You should believe and understand the
sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One. All of you in the great
assembly should be particularly attentive. Believe the Dharma the Thus Come One
“Before I spoke the provisional
and expedient Dharmas in order to teach and transform you. Now I am opening the
provisional to reveal the actual. I’m not using expedient Dharmas anymore. I’m
speaking true and actual, not false, Dharma to you. What I am saying now is the
Then the great assembly of
Bodhisattvas, headed by Maitreya, placed their palms together and spoke to the
Buddha, saying, “World Honored One we only pray that you will speak it. We
shall believe and accept the Buddha’s words.” They spoke in this way three
They again said, “We only pray
that you will speak it. We shall believe and accept the Buddha’s words.”
At that time the World Honored One, knowing that the Bodhisattvas would not
stop with three requests, spoke to them, saying, “You should listen attentively.
The power of the secret spiritual penetrations of the Thus Come One is
acknowledged by all gods, humans, and asuras in the world. They say that
Shakyamuni Buddha now, having left the palace of the Shakyan clan and gone to a
place not far from the city of Gaya to sit in the Bodhimanda, has attained
“However, good men, I actually
realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis
of nayutas of eons ago. Suppose a person were to grind into fine motes
of dust five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas
of three thousand great thousand world systems. Then, suppose he traveled to
the east across five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas
of asamkhyeyas of lands, and there he deposited one mote of dust.
Suppose he continued in this way, traveling to the east, until all the motes of
dust were gone.
“Good men, what do you think?
Could the number of worlds he passed through be reckoned or counted?”
Then the great assembly of
Bodhisattvas, headed by Maitreya… At that time,
among the Great Bodhisattvas, Maitreya Bodhisattva was the leader. He was the
senior-seated one, the first-seated; he was in the first position. They placed
their palms together and spoke to the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One,
we only pray that you will speak it.” Because he was the leader of all
the Bodhisattvas, he put his palms together and said to the Buddha, “World
Honored One, right now, our one and only hope is that you will speak for us
soon. We shall believe and accept the Buddha’s words. All of us
Bodhisattvas in this great assembly should believe and accept what the Buddha
has said. We certainly will have no doubts. Whatever Dharma the Buddha speaks,
we will believe it; we definitely will not give rise to doubts. We won’t be
skeptical anymore. Please, Buddha, speak for us a little sooner.”
They spoke in this way three times.
That’s because after they said it once, the Buddha didn’t open his mouth. And
so they asked again to show that they were increasingly sincere, but the Buddha
still did not say anything. He sat silently, and so they requested a third
time. That’s called a threefold Karmavachana. They made the request three
times, which shows how sincere and earnest they were in their request.
They again said, “We only pray
that you will speak it.” After three
requests, they spoke once again. Once again makes the fourth time. “We
shall believe and accept the Buddha’s words. We in the assembly will
certainly believe what the Buddha has spoken.”
Maitreya Bodhisattva and the
Bodhisattvas in the assembly had four times requested Shakyamuni Buddha to
speak the Dharma. At that time Shakyamuni Buddha, the World Honored
One, knowing that all the Great Bodhisattvas would not stop with
three requests-they had already requested a fourth time-spoke to them,
saying, “You should listen attentively.” All of you Bodhisattvas,
listen well. Be attentive.
“The power of the secret
spiritual penetrations of the Thus Come One-the
Buddha’s secret entrances into practice, his spiritual powers, the strength of
his secret state-is acknowledged by all gods, humans, and asuras in
the world and by the others of the eight divisions of ghosts and spirits.
All say the same thing. They say that Shakyamuni Buddha now, having left the
palace of the Shakyan clan, the palace of the Pure Rice King, his father, and
gone to a place not far from the city of Gaya, about five miles from that
mountain city, to sit in the Bodhimanda beneath the Bodhi tree to
cultivate, has attained Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. He became a
Buddha after sitting there for forty-nine days.
Actually, that’s not what happened
at all. What really happened? However, good men, I’ll tell you about
this. I actually realized Buddhahood a long time ago. If you want to
talk about how long it’s been since I became a Buddha-the time from then to
now-there’s no way to calculate how long it’s been. How long? Limitless
great kalpas, boundless great kalpas, hundreds of thousands of
myriads of kotis of nayutas of eons ago-countless, boundless
great kalpas ago. It has been an incredibly long time; I can’t tell you exactly
how long. All I can do is try to draw an analogy to give you some idea.
What is it analogous to? Suppose
a person were to grind into fine motes of dust five hundred thousand myriads of
kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of three thousand great
thousand world systems. This is talking about such a large number; there’s
no way to calculate it. He grinds them into dust just as if he were grinding an
ink stone. He pulverizes entire worlds, grinds them into motes of dust. Then,
suppose he traveled to the east across five hundred thousand myriads of kotis
of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, and there he deposited one
mote of dust. He sets down one minute particle of dust. Suppose he
continued in this way, traveling to the east. Every time he passes through
five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas
of lands, he drops one mote of dust. He repeatedly goes on through that great a
distance, each time setting down another mote of dust, until all the motes
of dust are gone. He sets all the dust motes down.
Bodhisattvas, what do you think? Could the number of worlds he passed
through be reckoned or counted? Would you say that is a great number? Are
those worlds many? If you had the best mathematician and the most advanced
technology, could you find the total?
Maitreya Bodhisattva and the others
all said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, those world systems would be
limitless, boundless, beyond calculation, and beyond the power of the mind to
know. All the Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, using their nonoutflow wisdom, could
not conceive of them or know their limit or number.
“We now dwell on the ground of avaivartika,
but we cannot comprehend this matter, World Honored One, and so such world
systems would be limitless and boundless.”
At that time the Buddha spoke to the
great hosts of Bodhisattvas, saying, “Good men, I shall now explain this
clearly for you. If all these world systems-whether a dust mote were deposited
in them or not-were reduced to dust motes, and if each dust mote were an eon,
the time that has passed since I became a Buddha would exceed even that by
hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas
“From that time on, I have
always remained in the Saha world, speaking the Dharma to teach and transform
beings. Also, in other places, in hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis
of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, I have guided and benefited
Maitreya Bodhisattva and the others,
the Great Bodhisattvas, all said to the Buddha-they simultaneously said
to the Buddha-“World Honored One, those world systems, that large
number of them you just now described, would be limitless and boundless,
beyond calculation. There would be no way to use numbers to calculate them.
And they would be beyond the power of the mind to know; nor is
this something that the ordinary mind can comprehend. All the Hearers and
Pratyekabuddhas-the Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions-using
their nonoutflow wisdom, by means of their wisdom devoid of afflictions and
outflows, still could not conceive of them. Although their wisdom is
quite lofty, they have no way to know this number. They cannot know their
limit or number. They can’t know the reaches of this calculation. There is
no certain number that can represent them. There is no way to know exactly how
many they are.
“We now dwell on the ground of avaivartika.
We abide on the ground of no retreat.” Avaivartika is Sanskrit and
is translated as “the ground of no retreat.” “No retreat”
1. Their position was irreversible.
They would not retreat to the Two Vehicles.
2. Their conduct was irreversible.
They would not retreat to the conduct of those of the Two Vehicles.
3. Their mindfulness was
irreversible. They would not retreat to the thoughts of those of the Two
But we cannot comprehend this
matter. We can’t figure out this number; we can’t understand this
event. World Honored One, such world systems would be limitless and
boundless. The World Honored One spoke of so many worlds. They have no
bounds and no limit.
At that time the Buddha spoke to the
great hosts of Bodhisattvas, saying… Shakyamuni
Buddha spoke to the multitude of Great Bodhisattvas, saying, “Good men,
I shall now explain this clearly for you. Isn’t it the case that you don’t
understand? Don’t be nervous. Now, at this time, I will clearly tell you. If
all these numberless world systems, whether a dust mote were
deposited in them or not-this includes all the worlds in which a dust
particle was dropped, as well as the five hundred thousand myriads of nayutas
of asamkhyeyas of lands where a mote of dust was not dropped-now, if all
those many worlds, both those lands where a mote of dust was dropped and those
where one was not, were taken and ground together and reduced to
fine dust motes, and if each dust mote were counted as an
eon, a great kalpa, the time that has passed since I became a Buddha,
from the time I realized the Buddha-Way to now, would exceed even that.
That number is even more than the number I have just described, by hundreds
of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas
of eons. The time since I became a Buddha is longer than this calculation
of time by hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas
of asamkhyeyas of eons. From that time on, until now, I have
always remained in the Saha world. I have always been in this Saha world speaking
the Dharma to teach and transform beings. I have been speaking Dharma for
living beings, teaching and transforming all living beings. Not only have I
been teaching and transforming living beings in this Saha world, but also in
other places. I go elsewhere to speak the Dharma for living beings. In
hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of asamkhyeyas of
lands, I have guided and benefited living beings. I use all kinds of
methods, not fearing suffering, not fearing difficulty, to teach and transform
By “guided” the Buddha
means that when he sees a living being, he assesses what that being likes, and
then he speaks an appropriate Dharma for him. If the being likes Great Vehicle
Dharma, the Buddha speaks Great Vehicle Dharma. If he likes Small Vehicle
Dharma, the Buddha speaks Small Vehicle Dharma for him. If he has the faculties
of a Hearer, the Buddha speaks the Dharma of the Four Truths for him. If he has
the faculties of One Enlightened by Conditions, the Buddha will speak the
Dharma of the Twelve Causes and Conditions for him. For Bodhisattvas, he speaks
the Dharma of the Six Paramitas and the myriad practices. Meeting with living
beings that all have different kinds of faculties, he speaks all different
kinds of Dharmas for them. In general, “guided” means he directed and
led them. “Benefited” means he did things to help them.
Shakyamuni Buddha, uncountable great
kalpas ago, had already become a Buddha. Therefore, the Bodhisattva disciples
he has taken across are so many. They fill up empty space throughout the three
thousand great thousand world systems. In the Dharma Flower Sutra, this
is the “opening of the provisional to reveal the actual.” He tells
when he actually became a Buddha. But the time was so long ago, there is no way
to calculate it. This is spoken in the Dharma Flower Sutra.
The most wonderful and the longest
Sutra spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha is the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower
Adornment Sutra. That Sutra was requested from the Dragon Palace by Dragon
Tree (Nagarjuna) Bodhisattva. That’s why we are now able to encounter that
The Dharma Flower Sutra has
been explained to the sixteenth chapter. There are twelve chapters left. I
believe the lecture series will be completed soon. After we are finished, if
you are not afraid of its great length and are not afraid you will fail to
understand it, we will explain the Flower Adornment Sutra. If you are
afraid of its great length, then you don’t have to listen. If you are afraid it
will be too much for you, then don’t listen. If you think “I only need to
study a little Buddhadharma, and that’s enough,” then you don’t need to
But if you are not afraid of
studying more Buddhadharma, then you can come to listen. I believe that at
least one of my disciples will not fear its being too much. She has such a good
memory that if she gets a chance to remember more, that will be even better. If
you are not afraid of there being too much, you can use your prajna-brains,
your computer, to remember it. Don’t fear it being too big or too extensive.
And don’t fear the length of time it will take. Consider how long it took
Shakyamuni Buddha to become a Buddha-an incalculable amount of time-and he did
not fear its being too long. I believe a big Bodhimanda is being prepared to be
the Flower Adornment Way-place. There are very few places in the world where
the Flower Adornment Sutra is taught. Those who explain the Flower
Adornment Sutra are few, but the wonderful advantages of the Flower
Adornment Sutra are many.
Today I spoke just a few sentences
in praise of the Flower Adornment, and the translator got so upset, he
broke out in a sweat. I’ll tell you that I never heard the Flower Adornment
Sutra lectured, because there are not many people who can explain it.
“Well, how can you lecture on
it if you’ve never heard it lectured on?” you wonder. I cannot not lecture
it just because I haven’t heard it. There are many things I haven’t heard. If
it’s the case that such things can’t be done by oneself, then one might just as
well become a stone person. If you want to study the Buddhadharma, you must eat
your fill of the Buddhadharma. In order to eat your fill, you must eat the
Buddhadharma of the Flower Adornment. If you don’t investigate the Flower
Adornment, then you won’t know of the Buddha’s true blessings and honor. The
Buddha’s true blessings and honor are the Flower Adornment Sutra. I’m
now giving you this little bit of information. After the big Way-place is
accomplished and I’m happy, I will transmit the big Dharma, the bountiful
Dharma, to you.
I’ll tell you a tale now. Although
I’ve never heard the Flower Adornment Sutra lectured before, I myself
have lectured it many times. But not in the present; I lectured it in the past.
How am I able to know how to lecture on it? Because there are some
exceptionally fine writings about it, especially those of National Master Ching
Lyang. I really like them; I have tremendous affinities with those writings. I
read them once and will never forget them; I can’t forget them. That’s because
I don’t want to be like a professor who lectures from his book, holding his
book and copying things out. And so I am capable of explaining the Sutra to
I’ll tell you another tale. If I
forget, National Master Ching Lyang will remind me in a dream, saying,
“That sentence goes like this…” He will say:
Opening and disclosing the
mysterious and subtle;
Understanding and exposing the mind and its states.
Fathoming the principle and exhausting the nature,
Penetrating the result, which includes the cause.
“Good men, in that interval, I
spoke of the Buddha Dipankara and others, and I further spoke of them as
entering Nirvana. But those were just discriminations made expediently.
“Good men, if a living being
comes to where I am, I observe with my Buddha eye his faith and other
qualities, as well as the keenness or dullness of his faculties, and take him
across in an appropriate manner.
“In place after place, although
the names by which I refer to myself differ and my age may be older or younger,
I also appear and announce that I am about to enter Nirvana. I also employ
various expedient devices, speaking the subtle and wonderful Dharma and
enabling living beings to bring forth happiness in their minds.”
The character ju here means many-many good men. Very many good men means
there were very few bad men. In fact we can say there weren’t any, and so the
reference is to many good men. That’s one way to explain it. The character ju
can also be used as an expletive or auxiliary participle. As such, it can refer
to many or to one.
Someone says, “Dharma Master,
you have explained this incorrectly. The character ju is always
explained as many.” No, you are hearing it explained as “fe,”
and that should make it acceptable. If we explain this word as an expletive,
then the text will read, “Good man.” You, this good man. In that
case, the one good man would refer to Maitreya Bodhisattva. Many good men would
refer to all the good men, all the Bodhisattvas in the assembly. Now you should
understand, and from now on when you encounter the character ju, you
should know it can be explained as “many” or as “one.”
In that interval:
In what interval? In the interval when the five hundred myriad kotis of nayutas
of asamkhyeyas of countries were passed through and the one mote of dust
was dropped. The five hundred myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas
of worlds were ground into fine dust, and then five hundred kotis of nayutas
of asamkhyeyas of lands were passed through and a mote of dust was
deposited until all the motes of dust were gone. Then all those lands that were
passed through were further ground into fine dust. Each of those fine motes of
dust was counted as a great kalpa. “In that interval” is that period
of time. How long a time could that interval be? No human being could calculate
I spoke of the Buddha Dipankara and
others. In the midst of that, I said, “At the time of
Dipankara Buddha, I was known as Good Wisdom Bodhisattva.” And I
further spoke of them as entering Nirvana. “At the time of Dipankara
Buddha, my name was Good Wisdom. When I met Dipankara Buddha, he bestowed a
prediction upon me. He said, ‘In the future, you will become a Buddha called
Shakyamuni.’” I also said that at such-and-such a time, Dipankara Buddha
would enter Nirvana.
Dharmas I spoke of were just discriminations made expediently. I will
now tell you the truth. What I said was expedient dharma; these causes and
conditions were spoken in accord with living beings’ faculties. I spoke based
on living beings’ basic foundation, what they had “planted” in the
cause ground. But these were just discriminations made expediently.
Good men, if a living being comes to
where I am-he comes to the place where I, the
Buddha, am-I observe with my Buddha eye. First I must look into it. What
do I look with? I use the Buddha eye to investigate with. What do I look into?
I regard his faith and other qualities. “And other
qualities” refers to vigor, mindfulness, samadhi, and wisdom.
Faith, vigor, mindfulness, samadhi, and wisdom are called the five
I look into it and see if he has the
root of faith. I look to see if he has the root of vigor. Does he
have the root and power of being diligent and vigorous? Does he have the root
and power of mindfulness? Is he mindful of the Buddhadharma? Does he
have the root and power of samadhi? In his study of the Buddhadharma,
does he study the Buddhadharma today and then tomorrow go to study demonic
dharma? Does he study the Dharma of Bodhisattvas today and the dharma of ghosts
What’s meant by
“ghost-dharma”? Don’t you know? Maybe you haven’t learned it before,
and so you don’t know the meaning of the term. It’s whatever dharmas one does
that one can’t stand for others to know about. What are dharma-doors that one
can’t stand for others to know about? They are secret dharma-doors. Secret
dharma-doors have within them spirits and ghosts. Be careful! If you don’t
listen to me, I will send a ghost to punish you. If you fear ghosts, then you
have to do the bidding of your teacher.
But first I must state clearly to
all of you, I don’t have this talent. Don’t be afraid of me. If you scold me, I
won’t send a ghost to make your lips swell up. And so if people scold me, they
won’t have to go through a retribution such as this. Don’t be afraid. I don’t
have any ghost-dharmas!
and wisdom. Wisdom also has its root. If you don’t have the root of
wisdom, you won’t be able to bring forth the sprouts of wisdom. If you have the
root of prajna, then you can have prajna sprouts. These five are
called roots because they derive their meaning from coming forth and growing.
If you have the root of faith, as
soon as you hear the Buddhadharma that the Dharma Master explains, you think,
“Oh! The Buddhadharma is really good. I should believe it. People should
follow the rules; they shouldn’t be lax in following the rules.” You
believe, and then every day you follow the rules. Others eat one meal a day,
and so you eat one meal a day. Even if someone told you to steal things to eat,
you wouldn’t do it. Why should you follow the rules? Although you may say
eating things is a small problem, do you really think it’s a small problem? I
think it’s a big problem. If in eating you are unable to follow the rules, how
much less will you be able to follow other rules.
And so we start with the events of
our daily life. In what you do each day you must have rules and regulations.
You should have a standard, a goal in mind. I definitely want to reach my goal.
Whatever I have decided I should do, I will do it. I will reach my goal.
It’s not that you come to the
Buddhist Lecture Hall to listen to the Sutra lecture, but once the lecture is
over, it’s as if it had been so much wind passing by your ears. It passes by
and is not retained, nor is it believed. You happen to have some friends who go
there, so you just go along to see what it’s like. Such people don’t come to
study the Dharma; they come to “take a look” at the Dharma. One must
Once one has faith, one must then be
vigorous. If you only have faith, and you don’t do anything, it’s of no use. If
you have only the root of faith and you don’t have the fruit of vigor, then you
don’t have enough of what you need. You must be vigorous. “When I hear one
sentence of Buddhadharma, I put that one sentence into practice. I hear ten
sentences, and I put ten sentences into practice. I must be vigorous. I must go
forward with vigor.” If you have the root of vigor but you forget to apply
it-you don’t keep your mind on the fact that no matter what you are doing, you
should be cultivating-then that’s also of no use. “Today I will be
vigorous. I won’t eat. I won’t sleep. I’ll bow to the Buddha and be mindful of
You do that for one day and one
night, and you feel very tired. “I need to rest.” As soon as you
rest, you sleep for three days straight. You were vigorous for one day and then
slept for three. Or maybe you sleep for five, saying, “I’m really tired. I
think I’ll sleep for a few more days.” You must keep your mind on what you
are doing. “Today I will be vigorous, tomorrow I will be vigorous, the day
after, I will be vigorous.” You should always be mindful of what you are
doing and never forget. That’s how it should be.
The root of mindfulness:
When your mindfulness becomes long-abiding and irreversible, then you give rise
to the root of samadhi. Once you have the root of samadhi, then
you can have wisdom. Why is it that whenever something comes up, you never
understand, you are very confused? It’s just because you don’t have the power
of samadhi or the power of wisdom. You have no root of samadhi or
root of wisdom, and so you become confused.
When the Buddha sees living beings
come, he looks into their five roots. Once there are five roots, they can turn
into the five powers. They are called the five powers because they have a
certain kind of strength. The Buddha looks into each living being’s causes and
conditions, and he contemplates, “If I speak the Dharma for you, will you
believe it? If you believe it, will you practice it? If you practice, will your
practice be long-abiding? If it is long-abiding, will it be eternal? If it is
eternal, will there be unmoving samadhi?”
He contemplates this. And so he
says, “as well as the keenness or dullness of his faculties”-his
faith and other faculties: the five roots of faith, vigor, mindfulness, samadhi,
and wisdom. “Keen” means sharp, astute. It refers to intelligence. It
refers to having the root of prajna. “Dull” means stupid; it
means not sharp. If a knife, when used to cut through something, is sharp, then
it’s said to be “keen.” But if you use the knife to try to cut
through something and you can’t, if it’s as if you were using a paper fan to
try to cut through wood, then the knife is “dull.” If you use a sharp
knife and with one slice you can cut through it, that’s called
“keen.” This represents a person’s intelligence. If intelligent, then
no matter what kind of state you encounter, you will understand it. You will
not be turned by the state; you will be able to turn the state. Bad states will
turn into good states. Adverse states will turn into favorable ones. You need
to have unobstructed eloquence.
“Dull” means stupid. A
stupid person can do things to turn a good situation into a bad one; he can
turn good matters into bad matters. Why? Because he’s stupid. How does one get
stupid? You should know. Stupidity comes from not having enough virtuous
conduct. You are lacking in Way-virtue. That’s why people are stupid. How can
one become intelligent? By having Way-virtue, one becomes intelligent.
I am now going to tell you something
I told you before. But I know you have all given it back to me already. That’s
because you aren’t greedy, and so you don’t even want to retain the
Buddhadharma. But even though you don’t want to retain it, I can’t fail to give
it. You can be devoid of greed, but I can’t renounce my resolve to give. Every
day I am involved in giving. Every day I speak the Buddhadharma for you, and so
I am practicing the giving of Dharma.
Of all the kinds of giving,
The giving of Dharma is the greatest.
I will explain slowly, and you can
listen rapidly. Why do I say that? If I lecture too rapidly, you won’t hear it
clearly, and so I will explain slowly. Why should you listen rapidly? Because
once you remember this word, if you don’t quickly listen to the next word, you
will forget the previous word. And so you need to listen rapidly in order not
to forget the first word while trying to hear what follows. That’s my advice to
As it is said:
Intelligence is aided by hidden
Hidden virtue leads one along the
path of intelligence.
Failing to do good deeds in secret,
thinking yourself smart,
You end up outsmarting yourself.
Why are you intelligent? Perhaps
it’s because in your previous lives you did good deeds. Printing Sutras is a
hidden virtue; helping other people is a hidden virtue; making contributions to
your country and to society is a hidden virtue; saving a person or rescuing an
animal is a hidden virtue. An animal is about to die, and you use some medicine
to save his life. A crippled pigeon would have starved to death, but you felt
sorry for it, and so every day you gave it something to eat. After a while, it
revived. If you tried to send it away now, it probably wouldn’t go. Why? There
are things here for it to eat. If you didn’t offer it food, then even if you
wanted to keep it here, it wouldn’t stay.
Those are examples of hidden virtue.
“Intelligence is aided by hidden virtue.” If you are
intelligent, hidden virtue is aiding you. “Hidden virtue leads one along
the path of intelligence.” “Hidden virtue” is another name for
virtuous conduct. It’s described as “hidden” because you yourself
know what merit and virtue you have done, but other people don’t know. No one
knows. It’s said, “Doing good with the hope others will see it is not true
good.” When you do good, it’s not necessary for others to know. If you
want others to know, then that’s not good; that’s doing it in order to become
known-”bartering for a name and fishing for a reputation.”
“Hidden virtue leads one
along the path of intelligence.” When one has hidden virtue, virtuous
conduct, one is propelled along the path that leads to intelligence.
“Failing to do good deeds in
secret, thinking yourself smart…” Now you don’t do virtuous deeds, you
don’t do good deeds, you don’t do things to help other people. Instead, you
always want other people to help you. You use your intelligence on other
people, hoping thereby to gain petty advantages. You always try to get a
bargain and can’t stand to take a loss.
That’s what’s meant by “one
does not do deeds based in hidden virtue, yet makes a display of
intelligence.” You use your intelligence to cheat others, even to the
point that you cheat your own parents. You say, “Give me a little money,
and I’ll go to school.” Your parents believe you and give you a little
money, thinking you’ll use it to go to school. They never guessed you would use
it to go gambling or perhaps to buy drugs. Or maybe you use the money to go
dancing and do other improper things. Those are examples of not doing deeds
based in hidden virtue, yet displaying one’s intelligence.
What happens then? “You end
up outsmarting yourself.” One abuses one’s intelligence. If one were
not intelligent, one wouldn’t be able to do things to cheat one’s parents,
cheat society, cheat one’s country, and cheat the people. It’s just because one
has a little bit of intelligence that one cheats foolish people.
In China there was Lao Dz, whose
name means “the old child.” He said,
Once the Great Way declines, there
will be humaneness and righteousness.
Once intelligence appears, there will be great deception.
Once the six kinds of immediate relatives are not in harmony, there will be
filial and kind children.
Once the country is in turmoil, there will be loyal ministers.
Only when the Great Way is gone do
people start talking about humaneness and righteousness. When people with
worldly intelligence make their appearance, then the world will also see
masters of deceit come forth. Because they have intelligence, they will be able
to cheat those who lack intelligence. Once families don’t get along, then the
filial sons and the kind daughters appear. When the country is in chaos, there
will be loyal officials.
as to the keenness or dullness of faculties, the Buddha will take him across
in an appropriate manner. You see, for the sake of those he should take
across in place after place, he personally speaks. It doesn’t matter
where he is, he will personally speak the Buddhadharma.
What’s more, he will say his name,
“although the names by which I refer to myself differ.” In
America he’s called by one name. In China he’s called by another. In Japan he
has another name. In Germany, France, in all the places he goes, he does not
use the same name. But the person is the same in all cases. And my age may
be older or younger. Maybe I am an older person, or a younger person.
I also appear and announce.
I appear in a body and speak the Dharma. I say, “I am about to enter
Nirvana.” He tells his disciples, “I am about to enter
Nirvana.” Actually the Buddha has no birth or demise. Within Eternal
Stillness and Light, he is always speaking the Dharma. I also employ various
expedient devices, speaking the subtle and wonderful Dharma. He spoke the
subtle, wonderful, inconceivable Dharma. What subtle, wonderful Dharma? That’s
what’s being explained now. This is subtle, wonderful Dharma. You say,
“What I hear is not so wonderful.” That’s because you are not full of
wonder. If you are full of wonder, then what you hear will be wonderful.
And enabling living beings to bring
forth happiness in their minds. Once they are
happy, they feel that the Dharma is wonderful. Once you get angry and
afflicted, the Dharma isn’t wonderful. You say, “What’s all this
talk-telling me to follow the rules? What I dislike the most is following the
rules. The things I like most intimately are my greed, hatred, and stupidity.
How can you be telling me to give them up? This is really not wonderful.
Not at all wonderful!” And so they are not happy.
But if you say, “Oh greed, hatred,
and stupidity are not good things, and I should not let them be my daily
companions. I should renounce them,” then you become happy. That’s called
wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!
“Good men, the Thus Come One,
seeing living beings delighting in lesser dharmas, of scanty virtue and heavy
with defilement, speaks for these people, saying, ‘When young, I left the
home-life and attained Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.’ In truth, however, I became a
Buddha a long time before that. I speak words in this way merely as expedient
devices to teach and transform living beings and to cause them to enter the
“Good men, the Sutras
proclaimed by the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and
liberating living beings. He may speak of his own body, or he may speak of
someone else’s body. He may manifest his own body, or he may manifest a body of
someone else. He may manifest his own affairs, or he may manifest the affairs
of others. But all that he says is true and not false.”
Shakyamuni Buddha addressed them
again, saying, “Good men, the Thus Come One, seeing living beings
delighting in lesser dharmas.” The Buddha observes the dispositions
and roots of living beings. Then he speaks the Dharma for them. When he sees
living beings who like the Small Vehicle Dharmas, he teaches them the Small
Vehicle Dharmas. If they like the Great Vehicle Dharmas, he teaches them the
Great Vehicle Dharmas. That defines “delighting in lesser dharmas.” Of
scanty virtue and heavy with defilement. “Scanty virtue” means no
virtue in the Way. “Heavy with defilement” results from serious
karmic obstacles. People of scanty virtue will not be able to believe the
Buddhadharma if you speak it for them. Those with heavy karmic obstacles won’t
believe it either. One must have deep and thick good roots to believe the
The Buddha speaks for these
people, saying, “When young, I left the home-life.” Because he is
speaking expediently to people whose foundations are shallow and whose good
roots are scant, he says to them, “I left home when I was nineteen and
attained Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. After I left home, I gained the
Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal Enlightenment. In truth, however, I became a
Buddha a long time before that. If we are to talk of how long I’ve been a
Buddha already, it’s been a long, long time. The length of that time is like
that analogy I explained before, of five hundred thousand myriads of kotis
of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of world systems of three thousand
great thousand worlds. Suppose someone traveled to the east across five hundred
thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of
lands, and there he deposited one mote of dust. Suppose, then, he continued in
this way, traveling to the east, until all the dust motes were gone.
Now if all these world systems,
whether a dust mote was deposited in them or not, were reduced to dust motes,
and if each of those dust motes represented a great eon, the time that has
passed since Shakyamuni Buddha became a Buddha would exceed even that, as stated
above. But I speak words in this way merely as expedient devices to teach
and transform living beings. I’m using expedient Dharma-doors to teach
living beings and to cause them to enter the Buddha-Way. I enable all
living beings to change from the deviant and return to the proper, to change
evil into good, to turn from the small and go toward the great, bringing forth
the Bodhi mind. I speak words in this way. It’s for this reason that I
speak of having left home when young, having realized the Way, having spoken
the Dharma, and having taught and transformed living beings.
Good men, the Sutras proclaimed by
the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and liberating living
beings. The Buddha spoke the Sutras, setting forth the
Dharma-doors, in order to save living beings. Living beings have 84,000
varieties of afflictions. The Buddha taught 84,000 Dharma-doors to counteract
those afflictions. The Buddha works like a physician curing illnesses. If
someone has a headache, the doctor prescribes a certain kind of medicine. If
someone has a sore leg, he prescribes another kind of medicine, and someone
with the flu gets yet another prescription. In the same way, the Buddha
“prescribes” Dharmas. To living beings plagued with much greed, he
prescribes the contemplation of impurity. He encourages them not to be greedy,
and he points out the impurity of desire. To living beings with big tempers, he
recommends the contemplation of compassion. To stupid living beings, he
prescribes the contemplation of causes and conditions. He uses these various
methods to cure the illnesses of living beings. So the text says, “He
may speak of his own body, or he may speak of someone else’s body.” He
may expound upon the deeds of another Buddha. He may manifest his own body,
to personally guide living beings, or he may manifest a body of someone else
as a guide. He may manifest his own affairs, talk about his deeds from
this and former lives, or he may manifest the affairs of others,
relating the causes and conditions of other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Hearers, or
Arhats, as an inspiration to living beings. But all that he says is true and
not false. There is nothing false in it at all.
“What is the reason? The Thus
Come One knows and sees the marks of the triple realm as they really are. There
is no birth or death, no retreating or advancing, no existence in the world or
passage into extinction. There is no reality or unreality, no likenesses or
differences. He views the triple realm as not being the triple realm. Matters
such as these, the Thus Come One clearly sees, without mistake or error.”
What is the reason? The Thus Come
One knows and sees the marks of the triple realm as they really are.
His knowledge and views accord with truth and principle. The triple realm is
the realm of desire, the realm of form, and the formless realm. On the Buddha’s
part, there is no birth or death, no retreating or advancing. There is
no retreating into the triple realm and no transcending of the triple realm.
There is no existence in the world, no birth or passage into
extinction, death. On the part of the Buddha, there is no birth or death.
There is no reality or unreality. Common people see the three realms as
real. Whatever common people see, they take it as true. Even the false they
consider to be true. Those of the Two Vehicles contemplate all dharmas as empty
marks. They see the three realms as flowers in space, that is, as unreal,
nonexistent, and empty. Common people take the three realms as real; those of
the Two Vehicles take the three realms as unreal. To the Buddha there is
nothing real or unreal, just as all things are contained within empty space but
do not obstruct empty space. Empty space does not obstruct the myriad forms of
existence, and the myriad forms of existence do not obstruct empty space. This
is the same principle as True Emptiness does not obstruct Wonderful Existence,
and Wonderful Existence does not obstruct True Emptiness.
There are no likenesses or
differences. The Buddha is one and not different. He views the triple
realm as not being the triple realm. He is not like ordinary living beings
who view the triple realm as something they must transcend. The Buddha, unlike
living beings, does not see the triple realm as the triple realm. To the Buddha,
there is no birth, no death, and no triple realm. Matters such as these, the
Thus Come One clearly sees. He is one who is truly awakened to all dharmas without
mistake or error. The Thus Come One makes no mistakes.
“Living beings have various natures,
various desires, various modes of conduct, and various ideas, thoughts, and
discriminations. Wishing to lead them to produce the roots of goodness, he
employs divers causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions to explain the
various dharmas, carrying out the Buddha work without respite.”
Living beings have various natures.
Each living creature has its own nature. Living beings are born from a complex
set of causes and conditions. “Living beings” refers to all living
creatures, not just human beings. Each person has a human nature. Each person
also has a Buddha nature, a Bodhisattva nature, a Hearer nature, and a
Pratyekabuddha nature. And so a human being has the nature of a sage and a
common nature-a wisdom nature and a stupid nature. Some people claim, “I
am number one.” If you ask them what they are number one in, they say,
“I am number one at being stupid!”
Someone else may claim to be
foremost in intelligence. Another person might say, “I am number one at
being neither stupid nor smart.” Everyone is number one at something,
because nobody wants to be number two. Men say, “Men are number one.”
Women say, “Ladies first.” These are just attachments formed
according to the differing natures of living beings.
Dogs have dog natures. Cats have cat
natures. Mice have mouse natures; they like to crawl into mouse holes. Today in
the newspaper we saw an article in which some people were asked what animal
they would like to be. One person wanted to be a deer; one wanted to be an
eagle; one wanted to be a cat, another a dog. One of my disciples probably
knows physiognomy. He said, “Look at their pictures. They each resemble
the animal they would like to be.” We can ask if any other people want to
be animals, too. This is quite a piece of news for the West-people wanting to
be animals. Some people in China do, too. Sometimes people can actually turn
into snakes if they are too mean and nasty.
Living beings have various natures,
and these natures aren’t fixed. If you would like to be a mosquito, it’s
possible. Just drink people’s blood all day. If you want to be a vulture, eat
the meat of other animals. Each living being has its own nature.
They harbor their own various
desires. Living beings all have hopes and wishes. Some people desire leadership;
some want to be officials. Some people desire to be scholars, still others wish
to cultivate and study the Buddhadharma. That’s a good wish. Others like to eat
good food. Some people like to drink wine. Some confused people have the desire
to take drugs. Why would anyone want to take drugs? In their confusion they
say, “It’s not bad. When I’m high, I feel that there is no me, no others,
and it’s all free and easy contemplation: no emptiness, no form-see the Thus
Living beings have various modes
of conduct. He likes to do this, and I like to do that. Someone says,
“You want to study the Buddhadharma? That’s really stupid.” Someone
who studies the Buddhadharma might criticize another person who likes music,
“You’re just following the desires of your ears, finding something nice
for your ears.” To people who like to see movies, he might say, “You
are indulging the desires of your eyes.” Living beings also have various
ideas, thoughts, and discriminations. All these living beings have their
And wishing to lead them to
produce the roots of goodness, he employs divers causes and conditions,
analogies, and expressions to explain the various dharmas, carrying out the
Buddha work without respite. How are good roots produced? Good roots are
grown by doing good deeds. If you do evil, you grow evil roots. What is meant
by “doing good?” If you were a thief, doing good would mean simply
not being a thief anymore. Helping others is doing good, benefiting others and
not oneself. For such an incredibly long time, every day, year after year he
does the Buddha’s work. He never stops for even a moment.
Now we are cultivating according to
the Dharma Flower Sutra, and so we are extremely busy. We get up at four
in the morning and go straight through until ten o’clock at night. We are all
immersed in the Buddha’s work every day. But be advised: It’s better to chat
less and recite the Buddha’s name more. There is a saying:
Speak one sentence less of chatter,
one sentence more of the Buddha’s name.
Recite until your false thoughts die and your Dharma body comes to life.
“Thus since I realized
Buddhahood in the very remote past, my life span has been limitless asamkhyeyas
of eons, eternal and never extinguished. Good men, the life span I realized
when formerly practicing the Bodhisattva path has not yet been exhausted and is
twice that of the above number.”
Thus, since I realized Buddhahood in
the very remote past, my life span has been limitless asamkhyeyas of
eons, eternal and never extinguished. The Buddha’s
life span knows no birth or death. Thus it is limitless and boundless nayutas
of asamkhyeyas of eons: eternal in the Pure Land of Eternal Stillness
and Light, not produced and not extinguished.
Good men, it
has been such a very long time since I became a Buddha, yet the life span I
realized when formerly practicing the Bodhisattva path has not yet been
exhausted and is twice that of the above number. It is twice the number
alluded to in the above-mentioned analogy, longer than the time it has been
since I became a Buddha.
“As I now proclaim that I am
about to enter the stillness, I am not really passing into the stillness. The
Thus Come One uses this only as an expedient to teach and transform living
As I now proclaim that I am about to
enter the stillness, I am not really passing into the stillness. The Thus Come
One uses this only as an expedient, this
manifesting entering the stillness, to teach and transform living beings.
“What is the reason? If the
Buddha were to stay in the world a long time, those of scanty virtue who do not
plant good roots, who are poor and lowly, who greedily attach to the five
desires, and who are caught in the net of schemes and false views, seeing the
Thus Come One constantly present and not entering the stillness, would give
rise to arrogance, laxness, and indifference. They would not consider how
difficult it is to encounter him, nor would their hearts be reverent.”
What is the reason?
Why does the Buddha, although he does not become extinct, still announce his
extinction? Why does he manifest production and extinction when for him there
is actually no production or extinction?
If the Buddha were to stay in the
world a long time, remaining long in the world and not
entering Nirvana, those of scanty virtue who do not plant good roots
would grow even more lazy. Those with heavy karmic obstacles would not plant
good roots. They would grow dependent on the Buddha, thinking, “The
Buddha’s here. I don’t need to plant good roots right now. I’ll get to it
later.” They would wait around.
That is why the Buddha manifests as
entering the stillness. Once he has entered Nirvana and people see that they
have nothing to rely on, they will get busy and plant some good roots. This is
a very obvious principle.
When I was in Manchuria, I had a lot
of disciples. I taught them how to cultivate, yet they didn’t cultivate. Some
said they wanted to take their time. Others said, “I don’t have time right
After I left Manchuria, I started to
get letters that said, “So-and-so, your disciple in Manchuria, didn’t
cultivate before, but now he’s cultivating because his teacher isn’t here. He’s
working very hard now.”
When I was in Hong Kong, my
disciples were pretty relaxed about their cultivation. After I left, they
realized how hard it is without a teacher, and they all wrote letters to me
asking me to come back. I didn’t pay any attention to them, however.
People are like that. If you see
something every day, you don’t think it’s important. When it’s taken away from
you, you realize how important it is. So the Buddha doesn’t remain in the world
for a long, long time, because if he did, people of scanty virtue would fail to
plant good roots. They would just choose to wait instead.
Those who are poor and lowly
also would not plant good roots or make offerings to the Triple Jewel; they
would continue to be poor and miserable. Those who greedily attach to
the five desires-wealth, form, fame, food and sleep-would still not give
them up. The affairs of the world are just that strange. The
“have-nots” are greedy, and those who have everything can’t put it
down. Shakyamuni Buddha, as a crown prince, had a surfeit of all the objects of
the five desires, but he put them all down. People who haven’t had their fill
of the five desires are greedy for them. Whether a person “has” or
“has not” is a matter of karmic retribution. If you don’t have good
roots and do no good deeds, you won’t have a good reward. How can you get a
good reward? Plant good roots and do good deeds, then you will reap a good
fruit and gain a good reward.
The poorer people are, the greedier
they are. People who have a little money aren’t as greedy. People who are
wealthy and are still greedy might as well be poor.
It’s said, “Good people don’t
hate others; hateful people are not good. Noble people don’t get angry; those
who get angry are not noble.” Sometimes sages get angry, but not really.
It’s just something they manifest according to certain circumstances. People
who get angry are stupid. Rich people don’t grab for bargains. People who like
bargains are poor people. Poor people are always looking for a deal, hoping to
benefit themselves. Because they don’t plant good roots, they are poor, lowly,
and greedy for the five desires: wealth, form, fame, food, and sleep; or forms,
sounds, smells, tastes, and tangible objects.
those who are caught in the net of schemes and false views are greedy
for the objects of the five desires. They are always plotting, thinking about
how they can appropriate something they want or how they can hold on to
something they have. They are opportunistic and take advantage of situations,
using deviant knowledge and deviant views. These schemes and false views are
like a net that covers up one’s genuine wisdom.
Seeing the Thus Come One constantly
present and not entering the stillness, they would
give rise to arrogance and laxness. They would not follow the rules,
and they would show indifference. If they see the Buddha every day,
all the time, and the Buddha does not enter Nirvana, they get tired of him.
This is similar to how, before you
came to the Buddhist Lecture Hall, you thought, “I must quickly go and
study the Buddhadharma.” But once you’ve been here for a year or two or
three, you run away. “Studying the Buddhadharma isn’t that great,”
you decide. “It’s kind of boring. I’d rather go where I can be free and
not have to listen to lectures every day. It’s too hard getting up so early and
not resting until late.” Before you came here, you were really looking
forward to it. Once you have been here studying for a while, you become
dissatisfied with the lifestyle, and you get lazy. Perhaps when you first
arrived here, you were more vigorous than anyone. You got up earlier and went
to bed later than anyone else. You listened to the Sutras regardless of what
else was going on. In all respects you were vigorous.
They would not consider how
difficult it is to encounter him, nor would their hearts be reverent. Because
you are constantly confronted with it and are always studying here, you are
unable to think, “It’s really difficult to encounter the Buddhadharma, especially
now in the West. No one here in the West has ever really had a chance to study
the Buddhadharma. How could I be so fortunate? Here I am so young, and I have
met up with the real, true Buddhadharma. It has come here to the West! This is
incredibly rare. I don’t care if I eat or sleep, but I am certainly going to
study the Buddhadharma. Not for just a day or a week or a month or two, but
always, year after year, remembering always how rare it is. If I were dead I
couldn’t study the Buddhadharma. Now, while I am still alive I am certainly
going to study it.” Think how rare it is to meet with the Buddhadharma.
Think of your grandparents and great-grandparents and ancestors for generations
back who never had a chance to study the Buddhadharma. Now, all of a sudden,
you have the chance! This is called “transcending your ancestors.”
For eight generations they never understood the Buddhadharma, but you are now
studying the Buddhadharma.
You shouldn’t let the Buddhadharma
that you are studying pass by like wind blowing in one ear and out the other.
You should make an effort to remember it, not like the verse I taught you
during the Shurangama Sutra session that none of you remembered:
Intelligence is aided by hidden
Hidden virtue leads one along the path of intelligence.
Failing to do good deeds in secret, thinking yourself smart,
You end up outsmarting yourself.
If you cannot remember it, you are
wasting your time. You should review it every day. Go over your lessons each
day. For example, before you go to sleep, you can reflect, “The Shurangama
Sutra lessons-the Youth Moonlight, what samadhi did he study? Was it
the water-light samadhi?” And also review your new lessons.
Granted, all this is false thinking, but this kind of false thinking is helpful
in the elevation of your Dharma body and Wisdom life. The superior person takes
the high road.
Don’t review your bad habits,
thinking, “I used to smoke marijuana. Should I try it again?” If you
do, you have entered a demonic state; you have retreated. Don’t have false
thoughts like that. The things that you did wrong before, you should change.
Once you have changed, don’t slip back and do them again. Consider how
difficult it is to meet the Buddhadharma. Young people who have been through
accidents should especially bring forth real sincerity and consider how hard it
is to encounter the Buddhadharma. Not only have you transcended your ancestors
with your good roots, but in hundreds of thousands of ten thousands of great
eons, it’s not easy to meet the Buddhadharma. Shakyamuni Buddha’s realization
of Buddhahood actually took place uncountable eons ago. And you should know
that we have been ordinary beings for an equally uncountable period of time.
Think about how long you have wandered in a human body.
Although the situation in becoming a
Buddha is, of course, not the same as continuing an ordinary existence, the
time factor is similar. Although it has been such a long time since you met the
Buddhadharma, consider this: In this world would you say that there are more
people who encounter the Buddhadharma or more who do not? Figure it out for
yourself. Even in Buddhist countries, many believe in Christianity, right? Even
in Buddhist countries not everyone understands the Buddhadharma. Think about
how many people don’t understand it. They may appear to understand it, but they
haven’t penetrated the inner doctrines at all. It’s not easy to meet up with
the Buddhadharma. You should consider how rare it is to encounter. “Nor
would their hearts would be reverent.” You should pay reverence to the
If the Buddha remained long in the
world, people wouldn’t think of the Buddhadharma as rare, and they wouldn’t be
reverent. Seeing that living beings weren’t being reverent toward him, the
Buddha said, “It’s time to go. I’m entering Nirvana!”
Hearing that, someone is thinking,
“Being a person and becoming a Buddha take the same length of time.”
They are happy and say, “That’s not bad. I may not get to be a Buddha, but
if I can be a person for such a long time, life after life, then I don’t need
to become a Buddha. I’ll just be a person, eat some good food, wear some nice
clothes, live in a fine house, buy a good car, a plane…. When I’m rich, I’ll go
for a vacation on the moon! That won’t be bad at all.”
That is a fairly intelligent plan,
but it doesn’t leave you any real control. There is no way to know with
certainty if you can do it. I said that we have been people for a long time,
but that was just an estimate. Actually, during all this time, not only have
you been a person, but you’ve been everything else as well. You’ve been up to
heaven and met God, and entered the earth to see one in charge of the earth.
You also roamed among human beings, meeting the leaders. You’ve been all
around. In fact, you went to the moon a long time ago, too. You just forgot,
just as you’ve forgotten a lot of things you did as a child. There are even
times when you forget the things you do from one day to the next. In fact,
sometimes by one o’clock in the afternoon you can’t remember what you did at
noon. If you forget the things you do in this life, how much more likely are
you to forget the things you did in your previous lives.
We say that the Buddha does not
change but accords with conditions, and accords with conditions but does not
change. He is forever unchanging. But as a person, you can turn into something
else anytime. You can turn into a cat, a dog, a little bug running around, or a
pigeon flying through the air. Take, for example, the article in yesterday’s
paper in which people wanted to become animals-cats, dogs, tigers, lions,
vultures, frogs, mice, and so forth. Everything is made from the mind alone; you
become what you want to be.
“Well, I want to become a god.
Can I do that?” you ask.
Yes, you can. You can be whatever
you want. Because you have a wish and an intention, you can arrive at your aim.
Based on this principle, if we want to become Buddhas, we can do so. If you
don’t want to become a Buddha, you won’t. Being a person is very dangerous.
Being a Buddha is very peaceful. If you like danger, then do dangerous things.
If you prefer peace and quiet and happiness, then do peaceful and happy things.
“For that reason, the Thus Come
One expediently says, ‘Bhikshus, you should know that it is difficult to meet
with a Buddha appearing in the world.’ What is the reason? Those of scant
virtue may pass through limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis
of eons, during which time they may see a Buddha or they may not. Because of
that, I tell them, ‘Bhikshus, the Thus Come One is difficult to get to see.’
These living beings, hearing such words, will necessarily realize how difficult
it is to get to encounter the Buddha and will cherish a longing and thirst for
him. They will then plant good roots. That is why the Thus Come One, although
he does not really become extinct, still speaks of passing into
For that reason, because
of the doctrines just discussed, the Thus Come One expediently says… He
uses skill-in-means in speaking the Dharma for living beings. “All of you
great Bhikshus and Arhats, you should know that it is difficult to
meet with a Buddha appearing in the world.” In a hundred million eons,
a Buddha may not appear in the world even once. What is the reason? Those of
scant virtue, who do not have good roots, may pass through limitless
hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons-such a long time,
so many great kalpas-during which time they may see a Buddha or they may
not. If they have good roots, they may see a Buddha. If they don’t, then
throughout all that time-hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of
eons-they will not encounter a Buddha. Consider how difficult it is! Because
of that, I tell them, “Bhikshus, the Thus Come One is difficult to get to
see.” Those of few good roots and little virtue cannot see the Buddha.
Not only is it hard to meet up with
a Buddha, it’s hard to get a human body. When Shakyamuni Buddha was in the
world, he reached down and picked up a handful of dirt and asked his disciples,
“Would you say there was more dirt in my hand or more dirt on the great
The disciples all said, “Of
course there’s more dirt on the earth; there isn’t very much in the Buddha’s
Shakyamuni Buddha said, “Those
who obtain human bodies are as few as the particles of dirt in my hand. Those
who lose their human bodies are as many as the particles of dirt on the
One may not know this, but among
human beings, some were gods, some came up from the hells, others were animals,
and others were ghosts. You shouldn’t think that it is easy to become a human
being. It’s as rare as the dirt in the Buddha’s hand.
Why do you lose a human body?
Because you don’t do a good job of being a person. Originally, you were a
person, but you acted like a dog or like a being from the hells or like an
animal or a ghost, and so you “moved house.” You moved from the path
of people to the path of animals. Then you moved back to the path of people.
You just keep on moving house. But once you get to your “new house,”
you forget your old house. Why would a person decide he wants to be an animal?
Because he has an animal-like nature. This applies especially to people who eat
meat. Whatever kind of meat you eat, you start to smell like that kind of
animal. Eventually you join up with those animals. It’s not easy to be a
All these living beings, hearing
such words, listening to the Buddha telling them how hard it is to get to
meet with a Buddha, will necessarily realize how difficult it is to get to
encounter the Buddha and will cherish a longing. They will long to meet a
Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. And so when they encounter the Buddha, they
are extremely happy. When they meet the Dharma and the Sangha, they are also
exceptionally happy. And thirst for him. They were as if thirsty, and
upon gazing at the Buddha, had their thirst quenched.
They will then plant good roots.
That is why the Thus Come One, although he does not really become extinct,
still speaks of passing into extinction. In reality, the
Buddha is presently on Vulture Peak speaking the Dharma.
“Further, Good Men, the Dharma
of all the Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, is like this, used to save living beings.
It is entirely true and not false.”
Further good men, the Dharma of all
the Buddhas, Thus Come Ones-not just mine,
Shakyamuni’s-is like this, used to save living beings. It is entirely true
and not false. It’s all true and real Dharma used to teach and transform
“It is as if there were a good
physician, wise and well-versed in the medical arts and intelligent, who is
skillful at healing the multitude of sicknesses. The man also has many sons-ten,
twenty, or even a hundred. Then, called away on business, he travels to a
The Buddha now brings up an analogy:
It is as if there were a good physician, wise and intelligent. A good
doctor can cure all illnesses. He has astute and penetrating wisdom.
Muddle-headed people cannot be doctors. One certainly must be very intelligent
to become a doctor. A stupid doctor can “cure people to death!” But
this doctor is intelligent and wise, well-versed in the medical arts, and
someone who is skillful at healing the multitude of sicknesses. The man also
has many sons-ten, twenty, or even a hundred. “Ten” represents
the Bodhisattvas of the Ten Grounds. “Twenty” represents those of the
Two Vehicles-the Hearers and the Pratyekabuddhas. “A hundred”
represents the Ten Dharma Realms times the Ten Suchnesses. Then, called away
on business, he travels to a far-off country to heal someone, or on tour.
“Meanwhile, the children drink
some poisonous medicine, which causes them to roll on the ground in
the children are not yet grown. It’s a physician’s home, and there are many
medicines in it. The children get hold of some poisonous concoction and drink
it. The children drink some poisonous medicine because it tastes like
syrup. Children don’t know any better. They can’t tell the difference between
poison and medicine. They think it’s a bottle of some kind of juice, and they
drink it up. When it takes effect, the pain, which is unbearable, causes
them to roll on the ground in delirium.
“Just then their father returns
home. Because they drank the poison, some have lost their senses, and others
have not. Seeing their father at a distance, they are all greatly happy. They
bow to him, kneel, and inquire after him. ‘Welcome back in peace and safety. In
our stupidity, we took some poisonous medicine by mistake. We pray that you
will rescue and heal us, and will restore our lives to us.’”
Just then their father,
the good doctor, finishes his business and returns home. Because they
drank the poison, some have lost their senses-they are totally oblivious-and
others have not. Some of them still have some sense and recognition left. Seeing
their father at a distance, they are all greatly happy. The children are
delighted to see their father. They bow to him, kneel, and inquire after
him. “Welcome back in peace and safety. We are really fortunate to be
able to see our father again.” Those who have not completely lost their
senses speak up and say, “In our stupidity, we took some poisonous
medicine by mistake. We thought it was syrup or apple juice or cola or
something, and we swallowed it.” Those who like to drink alcohol see the
poison as alcohol. Who would have known it was poison? “We pray that
you will rescue and heal us, and will restore our lives to us. Father, will
you save us, so we can live for a while longer?”
Above the text said this is an
analogy. Who is the good doctor? The Buddha, of course. The children are all
living beings. Maybe these living beings live at a time when the Buddha is not
in the world, or maybe the Buddha was in the world but has already entered
Nirvana and gone to some other world. The father’s leaving refers to the Buddha’s
entering Nirvana, so beings have no chance to meet him. When the Buddha goes
away, living beings are not careful about “what they eat.” It is
said, “Living beings take food as heaven.” It’s also said, “Food
and sex come naturally.” Children start drinking milk from the moment they
are born. They don’t know very much, but they know how to eat. They suck their
thumbs or suck their fingers; whatever you give them they put in their mouths.
And so, acting on this instinct, the children here managed to poison
What is the poison? The poisons are
the deviant sects and cults and externalist ways, the teachings of nonultimate
religions. If after the children have taken the poison, they know it is poison,
then there is a chance they can still be saved. But if they’ve taken a lot of
it and don’t even realize that it’s poison, thinking they have taken the nectar
of immortality or something, then they are hard to save. Having taken it, they
are senseless, but they think they will never die. They think they have been
born into some heavenly paradise. They are so deeply immersed in their
confusion that they don’t even know they have been poisoned. The poison has
penetrated all the way to their bones and marrow. So some have lost their
senses, that is, they don’t recognize true principle. Others have not lost
their senses, and they are still receptive to understanding the truth.
The doctor’s returning is an analogy
for the Buddha’s appearing in the world. The Buddha, having finished his work
of teaching and transforming living beings in other worlds, comes again to this
world to teach and transform living beings. He sees that these living beings
have been poisoned by those of deviant cults and sects and outside ways, and
they are almost beyond help. Some of them, however, are fairly intelligent.
When they see the Buddha, they are very happy. They bow respectfully to the
Buddha and say, “We living beings are too stupid. Please be compassionate,
Buddha, and give us some medicine to counteract this poison. We want to live a
bit longer and don’t want to die.”
Seeing how pitiful living beings
are, the Buddha uses various kinds of “medicines” to counteract their
respective poisons. Some of them are happy to take the medicine, and they get
well; they get rid of their deviant knowledge and deviant views. Others,
however, do not wish to take the medicine. They do not expel the poison, which
causes them not to believe in the Buddhadharma.
The Buddha is likened to a good
doctor. But there are inept doctors who kill people. Good doctors save people.
The quacks represent the leaders of deviant cults and sects and externalist
ways. They may say they are Taoists, but they don’t act like Taoists. Or they
may say they are Buddhists, but they don’t act like Buddhists. They may say
they are Confucians or Brahmans or adherents to any one of the ninety-six
There’s a good story about bad
doctors: Once King Yama ate too much and got diarrhea. He sent a young ghost to
find him a doctor. The little ghost said, “I don’t know which doctors are
good. How can I tell? Which one should I get?”
King Yama said, “Stand in the
doctors’ doorways and take a look. Pick the doctor who has the fewest ghosts
hanging around his door. He’ll probably be the best.”
“Okay,” said the little
ghost, and he ran off to check out all the doctors’ offices. Every single one
of them had anywhere from three or four hundred to three or four thousand
ghosts jamming their doorways. Finally he came upon one doctor’s office where
there were only two ghosts lingering by the doorway, crying, “He killed us
with those drugs.”
“This must be the best
doctor,” said the ghost. “I’ll take him to King Yama.”
When King Yama saw the doctor, he
asked him to sit down and take a look at him.
“I don’t need to look at
you,” said the doctor. “Just take this medicine here, and you’ll be
King Yama said, “But you didn’t
even look at me! How can you give me medicine?”
The doctor said, “That’s my
method! Try it out. It never fails.”
King Yama said, “Well, how long
have you been a doctor?”
“I started my practice
today,” said the doctor.
King Yama grabbed the little ghost
and took him aside. “Were there ghosts by his door?” he asked.
The little ghost said, “Only
King Yama said, “Two ghosts on
the first day! Two fatal cases! You probably don’t have such a bright future; I
think I’ll just keep you here with me, doctor.” And so the doctor became a
ghost. That made three ghosts in all.
From this we can see that it’s not
easy to be a doctor. In the West, people probably don’t realize how many
patients are killed by the drugs doctors prescribe. They give you medicine and
don’t even tell you what it is. The pills all look pretty much alike, and the
syrups are also almost the same color. You don’t really know whether it will
poison you or not. There’s no way to tell, and no one advises you.
This is one point where Western
people lack wisdom. Doctors should explain to you very clearly what kind of
medication they are giving you. Whatever your illness, they just listen to your
symptoms and prescribe something, saying, “Let’s try it out.” This is
just using people as guinea pigs! Life is very cheap. Even the president has to
obey his doctor. It doesn’t matter who you are, when you go into the hospital,
you have to do what you are told. “Do as I say! You’d better listen to
me!” They are more dictatorial than the emperors of old. They might be
responsible for people’s deaths, and people won’t even know. Would you say that
was fierce or not?
“Seeing his children in such
agony, the father consults his medical texts and then searches for good
medicinal herbs: colorful, fragrant, and good-tasting-perfect in all respects.
He then grinds, sifts, and mixes them together, and makes his sons take
The good doctor sees that his
children have taken poison. Seeing his children delirious and in such
agony, the father consults his medical texts-the “Nature of
Medicine” and such-and then searches for good medicinal herbs:
colorful, fragrant, and good-tasting-not bitter, but actually very sweet, perfect
in all respects. He then grinds, sifts, and mixes them together. This is
the Buddha using various Dharmas to teach and transform those of the Two
Vehicles. “Grinding, sifting, and mixing” takes places during the
Prajna period. Having passed through the Agamas and Vaipulya, arriving at
Prajna is likened to “grinding, sifting, and mixing.” And makes
his sons take them. He has the children take the medicine.
“And he says to them, ‘This is
an excellent medicine: colorful, fragrant, and good-tasting-perfect in every
respect. You should take it. Your agony will be relieved, and you will suffer
no further torment.’”
he, the good doctor, says to them, “This is an excellent
medicine: colorful and good to look at, fragrant and good-tasting-very
sweet, perfect in every respect. It is exceptionally fine medicine.
You should take it. Your agony will be relieved. Quickly take it, children,
and you will suffer no further torment. Once you take this medicine,
your illness will get better and all your pain and suffering will be relieved.
They will disappear.”
“Among the children are those
who have not lost their senses. Seeing the good medicine-colorful, fragrant,
good-tasting, and perfect-they immediately take it, and their sickness is
Among the children are those who
have not lost their senses. Some aren’t insane, but are
relatively alert. Seeing the good medicine-colorful, fragrant, good-tasting,
and perfect-they immediately take it, and their sickness is completely cured.
After the grinding and mixing of the Prajna period comes the Dharma-Flower
Nirvana period. The Wonderful Dharma of the Dharma Flower Sutra is
called “excellent medicine.” The children’s sickness being
“completely cured” means they have broken through the delusions of
views, the delusions of thought, and the delusions of ignorance. Having done
that, they gain enlightenment and have no more illnesses.
“Although the others who have
lost their senses rejoice in their father’s arrival, have inquired after his
well-being, and have sought to be cured of their illnesses, they refuse to take
the medicine. What is the reason? The poisonous vapors have entered them so
deeply that they have lost their senses, and so they say that the good,
colorful, fragrant medicine is not good.”
Although the others who have lost
their senses, who were badly poisoned and who have
already gone crazy, rejoice in their father’s arrival, have inquired after
his well-being, and have sought to be cured of their illnesses, they refuse to
take the medicine. They don’t want the medicine that the good doctor gave
them. The Buddha spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra, but they did not believe
it. They were unable to believe, accept, revere, and practice it.
What is the reason? The poisonous
vapors have entered them so deeply that they have lost their senses. They
are muddled and confused, and so they say that the good, colorful, fragrant
medicine is not good. They profess that if they take the medicine, they
will not gain any advantage. They don’t believe the Wonderful Dharma.
The Buddha, like the good doctor,
speaks the Wonderful Dharma for living beings. He uses the most magnificent
Dharma to try to teach and transform living beings. But if living beings do not
believe him, the Buddha has no way to force them to believe.
“The father then thinks, ‘How
pitiful are these children. The poison has turned their minds upside down.
Although they rejoice to see me and ask me to rescue them, still they refuse
such good medicine as this. I should now set up an expedient device to induce
them to take this medicine.’
“Immediately he says, ‘You should
know that I am now old and weak, and my time of death has arrived. I will now
leave this good medicine here for you to take. Have no worries about not
recovering.’ Having instructed them in this way, he then returns to the far-off
country and sends a messenger back to announce, ‘Your father is dead.’”
The father then thinks, “How
pitiful are these children. The poison has entered too
deeply and has turned their minds upside down, and they are unclear. Although
they rejoice to see me and ask me to rescue and cure them, still, once
I give them this excellent medicine, they refuse to take such good
medicine as this. I should now set up an expedient device to induce them to
take this medicine.”
Immediately he says, “You
should know that I am now old and weak, worn out, and
my time of death has arrived. I will now leave this good medicine right
here for you to take. You children who have ingested poison can use it. Have
no worries about not recovering. Don’t worry about not getting well. Just
take the medicine, and you shall certainly recover.” Having instructed
them in this way, he then returns to the far-off country and sends a messenger
back to announce to the children, “Your father is dead.”
The Buddha’s manifesting entry into
Nirvana is also like this. The Buddha prepared all these Dharmas to be good
medicines because he sees that living beings are so severely poisoned that they
are unable to believe in the Buddhadharma. For that reason he sets up the
expedient Dharma-door of entering Nirvana. In reality, the Buddha does not
undergo production and extinction. The Buddha’s state is one of no production
and no extinction, no defilement and no purity, no increasing and no
decreasing. His entering Nirvana is an expedient device for the sake of saving
“When the children hear that
their father is dead, their hearts are struck with grief, and they think, ‘If
our father were here, he would be compassionate and pity us, and we would have
a savior and protector. Now he has forsaken us to die in another country,
leaving us orphaned with no one to rely upon.’ Constantly grieving, their minds
then become awakened. They understand that the medicine is colorful, fragrant,
and good-tasting. They take it immediately, and their poisonous sickness is
When the children who
have been poisoned hear that their father, off in some other country,
is dead, their hearts are struck with grief. Although they have lost their
senses, they understand that their father has died, and they are extremely
distraught. And they think, “If our father were here, he would be
compassionate and pity us, and we would have a savior and protector. He
really cherished us. He was so good to us. He would have saved us from our
sickness. Now he has forsaken us to die in another country. He left us
and went somewhere far, far away. Now he is dead, leaving us orphaned with
no one to rely upon. No one will save us now. No one will offer us support
and protection.” Constantly grieving, their minds then become awakened.
They understand that the medicine their father offered them when he was
alive is colorful, fragrant, and good tasting. They take it immediately, and
their poisonous sickness is completely cured. They believe in the
Buddhadharma and no longer believe in the dharmas of externalist ways. As soon
as they came to believe in the Buddhadharma, they got rid of all their deviant
knowledge and deviant views.
“The father, hearing that his
sons have been completely cured, then comes back, and they all see him.”
The father, who
really hasn’t died, hearing that his sons have been completely cured, then
comes back, and they all see him. Before long, their father returns. All
the children who had previously been poisoned see their father.
“Good men, what do you think,
could anyone say that this good physician has committed the offense of false
“No, World Honored One.”
Shakyamuni Buddha called out again, “Good
men.” He was addressing the Great Bodhisattvas, asking them,
“What do you think? Look into this. Could anyone say that this good
physician has committed the offense of false speech? Could anyone rightly
say the good doctor has lied? Did he not tell the truth?”
The Bodhisattva who had been
questioning the Buddha replied, “No, World Honored One.”
The Buddha said, “I, too, am
like that. I realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of
myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons ago.
For the sake of living beings, I employ the power of expedients and say that I
am about to enter extinction. And there is no one who can, in accord with the
Dharma, say that I have committed an offense of false speech.”
Buddha, Shakyamuni, said, “I, too, am like that. The
Dharma I have spoken is that way as well. I spoke the Agamas, the Vaipulya
teachings, the Prajna teachings, and then the Dharma Flower/Nirvana teachings
in the same way, just like the good doctor. I realized Buddhahood limitless,
boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas
of asamkhyeyas of eons ago. For the sake of living beings, in order
to teach and transform them, I employ the power of expedients and say that I
am about to enter extinction. I speak expediently, bestowing the
provisional for the sake of the real, and say to living beings that I
am about to enter Nirvana. This is like the doctor going to another country
and then sending back the message that he has died. And there is no one who
can, in accord with the Dharma, say that I have committed an offense of false
speech.” No one can say that the Buddha lied.
At that time the World Honored One,
wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,
From the time I attained Buddhahood,
The eons that have passed
Are limitless hundreds of thousands
of asamkhyeyas in number.
At that time, the World Honored One,
wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying-Shakyamuni
Buddha said, “From the time I attained Buddhahood, / The eons that
have passed / Are limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads / Of kotis
of asamkhyeyas in number.” “Asamkhyeya”
itself means “uncountable,” so there is no way to know how many eons
I always speak the Dharma to teach
Countless millions of living beings,
So they enter the Buddha-Way.
And throughout these limitless eons,
In order to save living beings,
I expediently manifest Nirvana.
I always speak the Dharma in
different lands and countries, to teach and transform / Countless
millions of living beings, / So they enter the Buddha-Way. I am
teaching and transforming them and causing them to enter the Buddha-Way, and as
a consequence, all the countless millions of Bodhisattvas welled forth out of
the earth, as described in the previous chapter, “Welling forth from the
time to time throughout these limitless eons, / In order to save living
beings, / I expediently manifest Nirvana. This is like the doctor who
went to another country and sent back a messenger to tell his children he was
dead. When his children heard that, they no longer relied upon their father,
but took the medicine instead. Thus, the Buddha expediently said, “The
Buddha is going to enter Nirvana. All of you should ask whatever questions you
have. Hurry up! If there is something you don’t understand, get it cleared up
But in truth I do not pass into
I remain here always speaking the
But in truth I do not pass into
extinction. The Buddha does not really enter
Nirvana. I remain here always speaking the Dharma in the Saha
World on Vulture Peak, teaching and transforming living beings.
I always stay right here,
And using the power of spiritual
I cause inverted living beings,
Although near me, not to see me.
I always stay right here on
Vulture Peak in the Saha World. And using the power of spiritual
penetrations, / I cause inverted living beings, / Although near me, not to see
me. That means even before I enter Nirvana, I make it so they don’t
have an opportunity to see me. Although they are right beside me, because they
are upside down, they do not see me.
The multitudes see me as passing
They extensively make offerings to
All cherish ardent longing for me,
And their hearts look up to me in
Living beings, then faithful and
Straightforward, with compliant minds,
Single-mindedly wish to see the
Caring not for their very lives.
The multitudes see me as passing
into extinction. The upside-down living beings are
confused by ignorance. Although they are near me, they cannot see me. Everyone
sees me as entering extinction. They extensively make offerings to my sharira.
/ All cherish ardent longing for me. At this time, they all start
thinking about how much they long for and admire me, and their hearts
look up to me in thirst. They long to see the Buddha.
Living beings are
then faithful and subdued,/ Straightforward, with compliant minds. They
are not stubborn any longer. Now they just single-mindedly wish to see
the Buddha. “Now the Buddha has gone to Nirvana! Oh, if we could
only see the Buddha once again!” They realize how rare he is and how
difficult it is to meet up with him. Caring not for their very lives. If
they had to give up their very lives, they would do it without regrets. When
you seek the Buddha-Way and take the precepts, you burn some incense on your
head. This represents that you are willing to give up your life for the sake of
the Buddhadharma. If you still care for your own life, that burning will cause
unbearable pain, and you won’t be able to go through with it. To burn the body
as an offering to the Buddha represents that you are willing to give up your
life for the sake of the Dharma.
Why does the Buddha say that he
passes into extinction, when actually he doesn’t? The principle works like
this: For those who are enlightened, there is no extinction. Those who are
unenlightened think that the Buddha enters extinction. If one is enlightened
and has the Three Bodies, the Four Wisdoms, the Five Eyes, and the Six
Spiritual Penetrations, then one is with the Buddha at all times; one is always
right next to the Buddha. That is called “always seeing the Buddha.”
If you have not attained that state, then although the Buddha is actually right
beside you, you cannot see him. The Buddha says he does not pass into
extinction, because he is always present for those who have been certified to
the attainment of the Five Eyes. Those without the Five Eyes cannot see the
Buddha, and they conclude that he has become extinct. Actually, the Buddha does
not become extinct.
At that time I and the Sangha
All appear together on Magic Vulture
Where I say to living beings
That I am always here and never
But using the power of expedient
I manifest “extinction” and “nonextinction.”
When people get to the point that
they do not even care about their own lives, they are so intent on seeking the
Buddhadharma, at that time there is a response of the Way because
of the extreme earnestness in the minds of these living beings. I,
Shakyamuni Buddha, and the Sangha assembly of Bhikshus and
Bhikshunis all appear together on Magic Vulture Mountain. Thus
Great Master Jr Je of the Tyan Tai School entered the Dharma
Flower samadhi when reciting the Dharma Flower Sutra, and he
personally saw the Dharma assembly on Magic Vulture Mountain still taking
place; it had not dispersed. He obtained the “Dharani of a Single
Revolution.” That proves that even now the Buddha is still present on
Magic Vulture Mountain, speaking the Dharma, teaching and transforming living
Where I say to living beings / That
I am always here and never extinct. / But
using the power of clever expedient devices, / I manifest
“extinction” and “nonextinction.” I only manifest
the appearance of extinction; actually I do not become extinct. This is the
“extinction of nonextinction,” “the production of
For living beings in other lands,
Reverent, faithful, and aspiring,
I speak the supreme Dharma;
But you who do not hear this
Think that I have passed into
I see living beings
Sunk in misery,
And to cause them to look up in
I refrain from manifesting for them.
Then, when their minds are filled
I emerge and speak the Dharma.
For living beings in other lands, those
who are reverent, faithful, and aspiring, / I speak the supreme Dharma. /
But you who do not hear this / Think that I have passed into extinction. All
of you have not heard this doctrine, and you think I entered extinction. For me
there is neither extinction nor nonextinction. For me there is no production or
extinction, although I speak of it.
I see living beings / Sunk in
misery. They are drowning in the five
desires: wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep. The five desires are
“misery.” Since they are greedy for the objects of the five desires, I
refrain from manifesting for them. I do not manifest and speak the
Dharma for them. Why not? Because I want to cause them to look up in
thirst. / Then, when living beings all appear very thirsty and their
minds are filled with longing, / I emerge and speak the Dharma. I
reappear and speak the Buddhadharma for these living beings.
With such powerful spiritual
I remain always on Magic Vulture
And also dwell in other places.
When beings see the kalpa ending
And ravaged by the great fire,
My land is peaceful and secure,
Always filled with gods and humans,
Gardens and groves, halls and
And various precious adornments.
There are jeweled trees with many
flowers and fruits
Where living beings roam in delight.
The gods play celestial drums,
Always making various kinds of
Are scattered on the Buddha and the
My Pure Land is not destroyed,
But the multitudes see it being
Worried, terrified, and miserable,
Such ones are everywhere.
All these beings with offenses,
Because of their evil karmic causes
Pass through asamkhyeyas
Without hearing the name of the
All who have cultivated merit and
Who are compliant, harmonious, and
They all see me
Here, speaking the Dharma.
Sometimes for this assembly,
I speak of the Buddha’s life span as
To those who see the Buddha only
after long intervals,
I speak of the Buddha as being
difficult to meet.
With such powerful spiritual
penetrations / Throughout asamkhyeyas
of eons / I remain always on Magic Vulture Mountain / And also dwell in other
places. Why is it that some living beings
see the Buddha and others do not? Why is it that the Buddha says he is entering
extinction and then does not? These are all transformations worked by the power
of the Buddha’s spiritual penetrations. So we say, “There is production
and yet no production. There is extinction and yet no extinction. Those who
have affinities with the Buddha can see him any time; those lacking affinities
never get to see him.”
You say, “If I have no
affinities with the Buddha and cannot see him, then what should I do?”
Plant good roots, create affinities
with the Buddha by making offerings to the Triple Jewel-the Buddha, Dharma, and
Sangha. If you cultivate merit and virtue before the Triple Jewel, after a
while you will naturally have affinities with the Buddha. If you do not plant
good roots, you will never have affinities with the Buddha.
When beings see the kalpa ending /
And ravaged by the great fire-this refers to
the calamities of wind, water, and fire that arise at the close of the kalpa.
The fiery hate in the minds of living beings brings about huge conflagrations.
However, at this time, my land is peaceful and secure. Vulture
Peak and all the other places where I am present are peaceful. They cannot be
harmed by the three calamities but are always filled with gods and
humans. / Gardens and groves, halls and pavilions, / And various precious
adornments-the seven treasures-adorn the buildings. There are also
jeweled trees with many flowers and fruits / Where living beings
roam in delight. “Jeweled trees” means Bodhi trees, the kings
of trees. “Many flowers” refers to good causes that are planted. The
many good results reaped is what is meant by “many fruits.” As to
“living beings,” there are living beings all around you, and there
are also the living beings inside. The ones inside we call the living beings of
the self-nature. These are your thoughts. Whether inner or outer, they are all
living beings. We say the mind, the Buddha, and living beings are three, but
they are not different. In the adorned Bodhimanda of the Buddha, the beings
The gods play celestial drums, /
Always making various kinds of music. The
heavenly beings throughout the Three Realms make the heavenly drum resound
throughout space. And mandarava flowers, flowers which
“accord with one’s intent” and make people extremely happy as soon as
they see them drift down upon the multitude, are scattered on the Buddha
and the great assembly.
My Pure Land
of Eternal Stillness is not destroyed; light will never be destroyed.
But the multitudes see it being burned entirely. Living beings
with their afflictions see it as if totally burned, and they become worried,
terrified, and miserable. / Such ones are everywhere. They are
scattered to the extreme and miserable because of all their evil views.
All these beings with offenses, /
Because of their evil karmic causes and conditions, / Pass through asamkhyeyas
of eons-boundless, uncountable eons-without
hearing the name of the Triple Jewel. Such beings never hear of the Buddha,
the Dharma, or the Sangha.
Before the Buddha appeared in the
world, no one knew about the Buddhadharma; no one had heard the words
“Buddha,” “Dharma,” or “Sangha.” When the Elder
Sudatta heard the word “Buddha” all the hairs on his body stood
straight up on end, although he didn’t know why. That was because he had never
heard the names of the Triple Jewel before.
All who have cultivated merit and
virtue, / Who are compliant, harmonious, and straightforward,
are people who have practiced merit and virtue and planted good roots; they are
not crooked. They all see me. Beings with offenses cannot see me;
people with offenses cannot even see a Buddha image. If you can see a Buddha
image, it will lessen your offense-karma. In order to see the Buddha, the Dharma,
or the Sangha, you must have merit and virtue. Here, speaking the Dharma,
/ Sometimes for this assembly, / I speak of the Buddha’s life span as
limitless. / To those who see the Buddha only after long intervals, / I speak
of the Buddha as being difficult to meet. For those who pass through
long, long periods of time before they get to see the Buddha, I speak about how
the Buddha is difficult to encounter.
The power of my wisdom-
The unlimited illumination of my
Is such that my life span is one of
Attained through long cultivation
Those of you with wisdom,
Should not have doubts about this.
Cut doubts off entirely and forever,
For what the Buddha says is real,
Such is the power of my
wisdom. Those with good roots always see the Buddha. To these beings I
speak of the length of the Buddha’s life span. If it were not this way, how
could they see me? The unlimited illumination of my wisdom / Is such that
my life span is one of countless eons. The Buddha’s wisdom light shines
throughout limitless worlds, and limitless living beings bring forth the Bodhi
My life span was attained
through long cultivation and work. The Buddha did the good work of
liberating life. If you want to have a long life, you should liberate life. The
more life you liberate, the longer your own life will be.
Those of you with wisdom / Should
not have doubts about this. Do not have
doubts about what I have just said. Cut doubts off entirely and forever. Get
rid of them, for what the Buddha says is real, not false. Do not
have doubts about the Buddhadharma.
It is like the clever expedients of
Who, to cure his insane children,
Is actually alive, yet says he is
And none can say that he speaks
It is like the clever expedients of
the physician who is knowledgeable
about the different kinds of medicines-cool, hot, warm, and neutral-and who,
to cure his insane children who ingested poison, is actually
alive, yet says he is dead. When the children think their father is
dead, they finally take the medicine. The Dharma spoken by the Buddha is like
good medicine. As long as the Buddha remained in the world, living beings
thought they would take their time about studying the Dharma; they were not
eager to study it.
When the Buddha entered Nirvana and
they no longer had access to him, they decided to study the Buddhadharma and
lecture the Sutras. As long as the Buddha was in the world, they could just
listen to the Buddha, but they did not care to have Sutra lectures. So the
doctor is really alive, but says he is dead. And none can say that he
speaks falsely. No one can accuse this doctor, who is trying to save
the lives of his children, or say that he has committed an offense.
I, too, am like a father to the
Saving all from suffering and woe.
But to living beings, inverted as
I speak of extinction, although I
Otherwise, because they often see
They would grow arrogant and lax.
Unruly and attached to the five
They would tumble into the evil
I am ever aware of living beings-
Those who practice the Way and those
who do not.
I speak various Dharmas for their
To save them in an appropriate
I am always thinking,
“How can I cause living beings
To enter the unsurpassed path
And to quickly perfect the Buddha
I, too, am a father to the world. I
am a father saving all in the world from suffering and woe.
/ But to living beings, inverted as they are, / I speak of extinction, although
I actually remain. Living beings are upside down. They insist that
right is wrong, and wrong is right; white is black, and black is white. They
will say that it’s light at night and dark during the day. In the self-nature,
the great storehouse of light pervades both day and night. If your self-nature
is dark, you will think that light is dark. If your self-nature is light, then
the darkness turns light. But living beings are confused about this. For these
living beings, the Buddha appears to go to Nirvana. At the same time, the
Buddha tells us, “Really, I am right here. To me there is no entering or
nonentering of Nirvana. Living beings are upside down; thus I say I am entering
Otherwise, because they often see
me, / They would grow arrogant and lax. Why do I
say I am going to enter Nirvana? I do so because if living beings see me every
day they will grow sloppy and unruly. They won’t cultivate
according to the Dharma, and they will be attached to the
five desires of wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep, or else to forms,
sounds, smells, tastes, tangible objects, and dharmas. They would tumble
into the evil paths, the three “evil paths” of the animals,
ghosts, and hell beings.
I am ever aware of living beings. I,
Shakyamuni Buddha, keep track of all the thoughts in the minds of living
beings. So the Vajra Sutra says, “The Thus Come One completely
knows and sees all the thoughts in the minds of living beings.”
I keep up with the thoughts of
living beings-those who practice the Way and those who do not.
And I speak various Dharmas for
their sakes, / To save them in an appropriate manner.
If a person can be saved by means of a Buddha body, I, the Buddha, take the
body of a Buddha and speak Dharma for that person. If a person can be saved by
means of another kind of being, the Buddha will take the appropriate form and
save that person.
I am always thinking, / “How
can I cause living beings / To enter the unsurpassed path-to
be certified to the supreme Way and to quickly perfect the Buddha body,
the Dharma body?”
Thus Come One
Thus Come One is one of the ten titles of a buddha.
The Vajra Sutra
says, “The Tathāgata does not come from anywhere, nor does he go anywhere.
Therefore, he is called the Tathāgata.” (VS 147)
One who seeks me in forms
Or seeks me in sounds
Practices a deviant way
And cannot see the Thus Come One. (VS 141)
The title Thus Come One
refers to a Buddha’s Dharma body (three bodies of a buddha). The Buddha’s
transformation bodies come and go, but his Dharma body does not. Maitreya
Bodhisattva spoke this verse:
“What comes and goes are
the Buddha’s transformation bodies.
The Tathāgata is eternally unmoving.
He is neither the same nor different from every place within the Dharma
“You should know that it
is not the Tathāgata who comes and goes; rather the distinctions of our eighth
consciousness perceive a coming and a going. When the Vajra Sutra tells
you not to consider the Buddha as either sitting, lying, coming, or going, it
is telling you not to make such distinctions. When you no longer make
distinctions, your wisdom can appear.…” (VS 149)
Chinese / Sanskrit Terms
如來 ; Tathāgata
Can mean both ‘thus come’
and ‘thus gone.’
Visiting a Painful Experience as a Thus Come
At a SGI group meeting,
the young woman who was the MC dimmed the lights and said softly: “Tonight
we are going to do something a little different.”
“I want all of you
to close your eyes and relax.”
“I want you to go
back to a time of personal anguish.”
“Now I want you to
return to that place as an enlightened being.”
“What would you
have done differently?”
“Take a few moments
and we will discuss.”
I went back to one of
the most brutal beatings that I ever had as a child:
We were visiting our
cousins. A old neighbor lady accused one of the cousins and someone that he was
with of climbing her cherry tree, eating her cherries and when she told them to
get down, the cousin’s friend sassed her.
I was not the person who
sassed the old lady, but I was the kind of kid that would climb a tree, eat
cherries, and sass old ladies.
When my cousin’s parents
confronted my cousin, he lied about it. (This was standard procedure.) They
beat him until he admitted it (also standard procedure.) When they asked him
who the other kid was, he named me. If he would have told who it really was, he
would have gotten a beating from the other kid daily after the other kid got
his beating from his parents.
So my parents were
compelled to beat a confession out of me. The only problem was, I didn’t do it.
The beating was brutal. I knew all I had to do was to confess to something that
I didn’t do for it to stop. But I am stubborn, (especially when I think I am
right) so I took the beating.
At some point, the
parents used what had always been their trump card. They said that they were
going to take me down to the police station and put me on a lie detector. This
tactic had always worked in the past, but this time I knew that I would be
vindicated. This is how I found out the whole lie detector thing was just a
bluff and they could never use that threat against me again.
Now I return to this
experience as a Thus Come One:
Instead of proclaiming
my guilt or innocence, I ask if I can apologize to the woman. The parents would
have loved that. The moment that the woman sees me, she would say: “That’s
“No sin will remain
unforgiven, all good fortune will be bestowed, and all righteousness
proven.” (Nichikan Shonin)
I felt healed by
returning as a Buddha to my own past.
Lectures on the Hoben and
Juryo Chapters of the Lotus Sutra
by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda
The ‘Thus Come One’s Secret’ Indicates the Gohonzon’s
Niji butsu go. Sho
bo-satsu gyu. Issai daishu. Sho zen-nanshi. Nyoto to shinge. Nyorai jotai shi
go. Bu go daishu. Nyoto to shinge. Nyorai jotai shi go. U bu go. Sho daishu.
Nyoto to shinge. Nyorai jotai shi go. Zeji bo-satsu daishu. Mi-roku i shu.
Gassho byaku butsu gon. Seson. Yui gan ses^shi. Gato to shinju butsu-go. Nyo ze
san byaku i. Bu gon. Yui gan ses^shi. Gato to shinju butsu-go. Niji seson. Chi
sho bo-satsu. San sho fu shi. Ni go shi gon. Nyoto tai cho. Nyorai hi-mitsu.
Jinzu shi riki.
At that time the
Buddha spoke to the bodhisattvas and all the great assembly: “Good men,
you must believe and understand the truthful words of the Thus Come One.”
And again he said to the great assembly: “You must believe and understand
the truthful words of the Thus Come One.” And once more he said to the
great assembly: “You must believe and understand the truthful words of the
Thus Come One.”
At that time the
bodhisattvas and the great assembly, with Maitreya as their leader, pressed
their palms together and addressed the Buddha, saying: “World-Honored One,
we beg you to explain. We will believe and accept the Buddha’s words.”
They spoke in this manner three times, and then said once more: “We beg
you to explain it. We will believe and accept the Buddha’s words.”
At that time the
World-Honored One, seeing that the bodhisattvas repeated their request three
times and more, spoke to them, saying: “You must listen carefully and hear
of the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers. (Lotus Sutra, pp. 224-25).
Nyoto tai cho. Nyorai
himitsu. Jinzu shi riki.
“You must listen
carefully and hear of the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental
At one point Shakyamuni
says to his disciples, “I am most earnest when it comes to pursuing the
truth.” Likewise, those who dedicate themselves to the Buddhist Law should
possess the eye to strictly distinguish between true and false, good and evil,
and correct and erroneous. The Buddha is someone who clearly states the truth,
a leader who wages a struggle using words of the utmost sincerity.
“The truthful words
of the Thus Come One” means the Buddha’s words of truth — words that
cause people to realize profound and enduring happiness. In the “Life
Span of the Thus Come One” chapter, for the sake of those in the world
after his passing, Shakyamuni finally reveals the eternal truth in accordance
with which he has lived. And in the above passage, he specifically explains
“truthful words” as meaning “the Thus Come One’s secret and his
The phrase “the Thus
Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers” indicates the great
teaching that is to be expounded in the “Life Span” chapter.
Shakyamuni declares to Maitreya and the others that he is at last going to
reveal the secret teaching, and the powers and the functions of the Thus Come
In terms of its literal
meaning in the context of the sutra, the “secret” (Jpn. hi-mitsu) of
the Thus Come One is the revelation that Shakyamuni initially attained
Buddhahood long ago in the remote past. This is termed “actual attainment
in the remote past” (Jpn. kuon jitsujo).
In other words,
Shakyamuni’s true identity is that of the Buddha who attained enlightenment in
the distant past, in the time of gohyaku-jintengo. Since his true identity was
not revealed anywhere in pre-Lotus Sutra teachings or in the theoretical
teaching (first half) of the Lotus Sutra, it is called “hidden” (hi).
And because it is known only to the Buddha, it is described as
“intimate” (mitsu). This is the secret that Shakyamuni at last
clarifies and reveals in the “Life Span” chapter.
The phrase “his
transcendental powers” refers to the various aspects and functions that
the Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past manifests in order to
guide people and bring them benefit. In the “Life Span” chapter,
Shakyamuni explains that ever since he first attained Buddhahood, he has been
appearing in various lands as various Buddhas, expounding a variety of
teachings and carrying out various actions to lead people to enlightenment.
In other words, “the
Thus Come One’s secret” indicates the Buddha who attained enlightenment in
the remote past, and “his transcendental powers” indicates his
activities to eternally lead people to happiness.
From this standpoint, all
Buddhas are nothing but “functions” of the Buddha who attained
enlightenment in the remote past. In the context of the sutra, therefore, the
Buddha who attained enlightenment in the remote past is the “true
Buddha,” while all other Buddhas, who are functions of this Buddha, are
“provisional Buddhas.” Provisional, here, means “shadow” or
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Is the Original Identity of All
By contrast, from the
standpoint of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, we interpret “the Thus Come
One’s secret and his transcendental powers” as alluding to the Law of
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the ultimate cause behind the Buddha’s enlightenment in
the remote past. A state of life enlightened to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the
original identity of all Buddhas. This state of life itself is both the essence
of Buddhahood and the life of the true Buddha. From the standpoint of the
Daishonin’s Buddhism, the “true Buddha” is the Buddha of
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, that is, the “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Thus Come
“The Thus Come One’s
secret,” therefore, refers to the “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Thus Come
One.” And the functions of Shakyamuni, the Buddha who attained
enlightenment in the remote past, to eternally lead people to enlightenment are
ultimately the functions of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This is the meaning of
“his transcendental powers” from the Daishonin’s standpoint.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the true Buddha. And by contrast, Shakyamuni, Taho and
all other Buddhas are provisional Buddhas who manifest functions of
Now, why is the
interpretation of this passage from the standpoint of the Daishonin’s Buddhism
The reason is that without
the clarification of the Law originally enabling all Buddhas to attain
enlightenment, that is, of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the path for all people to
attain Buddhahood could not be opened.
The attainment of Buddhahood
by ordinary people is the heart of the “Life Span” chapter. And the
phrase, “the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers,”
which is the crystallization of the contents of the entire chapter, points to
the path for ordinary people to become Buddhas.
The “Life Span”
chapter clarifies that the true identity of all Buddhas is grounded in
Shakyamuni’s attainment of enlightenment in the remote past.
Regarding the term remote
past, Nichiren Daishonin says, “The culmination of this [’Life Span’]
chapter is the [principle of the] attainment of enlightenment in the remote
past. ‘Remote past’ means unmoving, uncreated, in its original state”
(Gosho Zenshu, p. 759).
This is the implicit
meaning of “remote past” (kuon). To distinguish this interpretation
from the literal meaning of “remote past” in the context of
Shakyamuni’s teaching, it is also termed “time without beginning” or
As the Daishonin says,
“remote past” means “in its original state.” “Life in
its original state” is the locus where true enlightenment occurs. And this
attainment of Buddhahood is itself “the secret of the Thus Come One.”
The “life in its original state” of the Buddha is identical with the
“life in its original state” of all people. The two could not be in
any way different. Fundamentally, all people are Buddhas. The only difference
is that the Buddha understands this while others are ignorant. Therefore, it is
termed “the Thus Come One’s secret.”
“Life in its original
state,” which is the basis of the principle that ordinary people are the
Buddhas and the Buddha is an ordinary person, is none other than
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It was Nichiren Daishonin who revealed this “life in
its original state” of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo through his own existence as an
Therefore, when ordinary
people such as ourselves believe in the Daishonin and chant
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can open up the life of kuon ganjo within the entity of
our own lives. This is the meaning of “transcendental powers.”
Eradicating Negative Causality From Our Lives
President Toda once said:
“Nichiren Daishonin established the Law that enables ordinary people to
break through the negative causality from the past existing in their lives and
return to the remote past [of kuon ganjo] in the course of their day-to-day
To put it another way,
dedicating oneself [to the Daishonin] and chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the
method for transforming one’s destiny for the better. Through following this
method, the common mortal of kuon ganjo appears and the negative causes and
effects formed in the interim all disappear.”
“The common mortal of
kuon ganjo appears,” he says. This is a wonderful way of putting it.
Herein lies the heart of the Lotus Sutra. These words express the wisdom of
President Toda, who read the Lotus Sutra with his life and attained the
realization that the Buddha is life itself.
causality from the past” and “negative causes and effects formed in
the interim,” he refers to the countless causes and effects that bring
However, just as the
rising of the sun causes all the stars to disappear from sight and brings on a
fresh morning, through faith in the Mystic Law we can at once eradicate the
countless negative causes and effects that we have accumulated in our lives
over the course of countless eons; and, just as we are, as ordinary people,
return to the life of kuon ganjo, which is totally free of karmic impurity.
This is what he means by the “appearance of the common mortal of kuon
Attaining Buddhahood does
not entail the termination of the life of the ordinary person. One certainly
does not become some kind of being who is better than or superior to others.
The Daishonin says:
“We, living beings,
have dwelt in the sea of the sufferings of birth and death since time without
beginning. But now that we have become votaries of the Lotus Sutra, we will
without fail attain the Buddha’s entity which is as indestructible as a
diamond, realizing that our bodies and minds that have existed since the
beginningless past are inherently endowed with the eternally unchanging nature,
and thus awakening to our mystic reality with our mystic wisdom. Then how can
we be in any way different from the Buddha who appeared from the sea?
Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, who declared in the remote past of gohyaku
jintengo, “I am the only person [who can rescue and protect
others,]” is none other than each of us, living beings.(MW2 [2nd. ed.],
A State of Happiness Indestructible as a Diamond
“Our bodies and minds
that have existed since the beginningless past” means “life in its
original state.” This is what President Toda referred to as “the
common mortal of kuon ganjo.” We can establish a state of eternal
happiness as indestructible as a diamond-that is, the true entity of the Buddha
-in our lives. This mystery of attaining Buddhahood is “the Thus Come
One’s secret and his transcendental powers.”
In short, “the Thus
Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers” indicates the attainment
of Buddhahood by ordinary people. In the “Ongi Kuden” (Record of the
Orally Transmitted Teachings), Nichiren Daishonin says, “Apart from
attaining Buddhahood, there is no ’secret’ or ‘transcendental powers”‘
(Gosho Zenshu, p. 753).
The Buddha’s “secret
and his transcendental powers” definitely does not indicate supernatural
or mystical abilities in the sense that these terms are commonly used.
President Toda remarked:
“People speak of transcendental powers such as flying on a cloud or some
such nonsense. But the transcendental powers we are talking about are far
greater. The secret and transcendental powers of the Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Thus
Come One lead all people to happiness. We are concerned with the transcendental
powers that enable ordinary people to become Buddhas.”
The Daishonin declares
that we should not place stock in supernatural or special powers. For example,
in the “Sho Hokke Daimoku Sho” (Chanting the Daimoku of the Lotus
Sutra) he says, “One should not base judgment of the validity of a
religion on the supernatural or occult powers of its followers” (Gosho
Zenshu, p. 16).
Shakyamuni, too, when
asked by King Ajatashatru about the difference between Buddhism and Brahmanism,
said, “My teaching warns that one should not carry out questionable
enchantments that entail such things as lighting fires, or practice techniques
of predicting the future by the cries of animals.”
Nothing is as full of
mystery as human life. Nothing is as respectworthy. Ordinary people, just as
they are, can become Buddhas. While remaining an ordinary person, we can
establish a state of happiness and total satisfaction arising from the very
depths of our being, the state of life of the Buddha. There is no greater
secret or transcendental power.
The Buddha’s “secret
and his transcendental powers” means the ability to enable all people to
enjoy a state of life of supreme happiness. In other words, it is the power to
elevate the lives of all people. And this is precisely the great beneficial
power of the Gohonzon.
expressed his own life as the Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Thus Come One in the form of
the Gohonzon. “The Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental
powers” is none other than the Gohonzon.
In the “Ongi
Kuden” the Daishonin clearly says, “This Gohonzon is based on the
passage, ‘the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental powers”‘
(Gosho Zenshu, p. 760).
Accordingly, from the
standpoint of the Daishonin’s teaching, the passage, “You must listen
carefully and hear of the Thus Come One’s secret and his transcendental
powers,” means, “Listen carefully, because the power of the Buddha
and the power of the Law of the Gohonzon will now be expounded.”
Ultimately, the “Life Span” chapter explains and praises the power of
Our daily practice of
gongyo and chanting daimoku is a struggle to break the chains of destiny and
suffering so as to return to “the common mortal of kuon ganjo.” And
as a result of these efforts, the true path for attaining Buddhahood in this
lifetime opens up before us.
Video on Medicine Master Thus Come One
Carrying Out the Thus
Come One’s Work
from Sixty-eighth High Priest Nichinyo Shonin
Occasion of the January Kosen-rufu Shodai
Ceremony January 1, 2011
Hall, Head Temple Taisekiji
Happy New Year to you all!
On the new spring of the
759th Anniversary of the Establishment of True Buddhism, I imagine the
Honorable Retired High Priest [Nikken Shonin], too, is welcoming the New
Year in splendid condition.
believe that both the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and laity
have welcomed “The Year of Taking Action to do
Shakubuku” feeling refreshed, and have renewed
their pledge to make further efforts in their practice.
wish that you will continue to have success this year and will
advance with powerful force, just like a ferocious lion, befitting “The
Year of Taking Action to do Shakubuku.”
The Teachers of the Law
(Hosshi; tenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra reads:
If one of these good
men or good women in the time after I have passed into extinction
expounds the Lotus Sutra to only one person, even one phrase of
it, then you should know that he or she is the envoy of the Thus
Come One. He has been dispatched by the Thus Come One and carries out the
Thus Come One’s work. And how much more so those who in the midst of the
great assembly broadly expound the sutra for others!
(Hokekyo, p. 321;
cf. The Lotus Sutra, Watson, p. 162)
In the Latter Day of the
Law, those who teach only one person even one verse or one phrase of
Myoho-Renge-Kyo are the messengers of the Buddha, and they carry out the
Buddha’s work. The term, “Thus Come One’s work,” is explained in
the Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke mongu):
A practitioner in this age
has great compassion and teaches the immutable doctrine in this sutra
for the sake of others, enabling them to obtain benefit. This task is called
the Thus Come One’s work.
chu, Gakurin version, p. 635)
passage states that expounding the significance of Myoho-Renge-Kyo
for the people, based on the Buddha’s great compassion to save them from
suffering and lead them to obtain benefits, means “to carry out the
Thus Come One’s work.”
“A Ship to Cross the Sea
of Suffering” (“Shiiji shirodono-Gosho”) reads:
The Teachers of the Law
chapter of the Lotus Sutra states, “If one of these good men or good women…[expounds the
Lotus Sutra to one person]…then you should know that he or she is the envoy of
the Thus Come One.” This means that a person who teaches even one phrase of the
Lotus Sutra, whether one be priest or nun, layman or laywoman, appears as the messenger
of the Buddha. You are a layman and one of these good men. Those who
listen to the Lotus Sutra, even one sentence or one phrase of it, and
take it to heart, are like ships that cross the great ocean of birth
(Gosho, p. 1555)
Furthermore, the “Ten
Superior Doctrines Described in the Outstanding Principles of the Lotus
Sutra” (“Shūku jissho-sho”) teaches:
We certainly know this to
be true. Those who teach the Lotus Sutra to others are the messengers of the
Buddha. In other words, they carry out the Buddha’s work.
(Gosho, p. 1327)
This does not
mean that only specific individuals are the emissaries of the Thus
Come One. In this defiled age of the Latter Day of the Law, those who uphold
Myoho-Renge-Kyo and preach its significance to only one person—in other words,
those who carry out shakubuku—are the messengers of the Buddha.
The Nichiren Shoshu
priesthood and laity are devoting themselves to do shakubuku day and night,
based on the golden words, “one’s body is insignificant while the Law
is supreme,” and “willing to give one’s life to propagate the
Law.” They are working toward the achievement of their goals for 2015 and
2021 based on the great aspiration to attain kosen-rufu. From this perspective,
they too are the envoys of the Thus Come One.
Accordingly, the benefits
one can gain from this practice are enormous. Words and Phrases of the
Lotus Sutra states:
You should know
that this person is the envoy of the Thus Come One. He will reveal the benefit
of carrying out the Buddha’s work.
chu, Gakurin version, p. 634)
(Note: This article can be
read in its entirety in the April, 2011 edition of the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly magazine. For
more information, please contact your local temple.)
Hello, ever wanted to
create your own animated movie? Well, you’re not alone!
A lot of people, young and old, want to do this without working in a studio or
using a moviola. Below are a few steps for creating your own animated movie
using Windows Movie Maker.
Extra photos for bloggers: 1,
Yup, that picture moves.
Nope, you’re not going
‘Cause who said photos can
only feature “still” life?
Inspired by the moving
pictures created by photographer and motion designer duo Jamie Beck and
Kevin Burg, we set out to make the magic happen.
Make your pictures move
like ours did with a some Photoshop magic!
p.s. It’s a Facebook giveaway today with our
friends at Keepsy!
Keepsy makes it easy to make photo albums from your digital photos, even from
Instagram and Facebook.
Makes ‘Em Move?
Photos can show movement
when made into GIFs.
GIFs stand for Graphics
Interchange Format, and it’s a bitmap image format that supports animation.
This supported animation is what makes any movement possible.
This magical movement hit
the world wide web in the late eighties, so it’s nothing new. However, the
animation in GIFs are generally characterized to be rather jumpy and irregular.
Then came along Jamie Beck
and Kevin Burg. This talented team of fashion photographer and motion designer
crafted “cinemagraphs”—incredibly sleek and sophisticated GIFs.
So celebrate the smooth
comeback of GIFs by making your own photos join the movement!
- A camera that can shoot video
- A tripod
- Ideas for scenes to make into
- A model and/or whatever props
- A computer
- Access to a video editing
- Access to Adobe Photoshop (for
this tutorial, we are using the CS4 version)
Scheming your Scene
First, plan out a scene you would
like to record.
For your first round of
cinemagraphs, try to keep it simple.
Some helpful hints &
- Remember that for this sort of
GIF, you want to show some sort of subtle movement; you want to create the
intrigue of “what a nice photo—whoa, it moves!!”
- Besides showing some movement,
you also want to make sure you have something in your scene that stays
consistent to contrast and emphasize that movement.
- Try to think of a scene or
movement that would be fairly easy to loop since your final GIF will be
set to loop forever.
- Your scene can involve a
person but it doesn’t necessarily have to.
Some of the ideas we came
up with were:
- Tree leaves gently moving in a
- Someone’s eyes blinking or
- People or things moving as
shown in glass window reflections
Shoot the Scene
Once you have your scene figured
out, set it up with whatever “characters” or props needed.
Then set up your camera up
on your tripod and start filming away!
Make sure your tripod is
standing on a solid surface to make sure your camera can film as still as
You don’t have to film
your scene for very long; 10-20 seconds of footage is more than enough to make
Have the Right Video File
When you’ve shot
what you needed
for you scene, transfer your video file(s) to your computer.
Before you can open and
edit your video file through Adobe Photoshop, you have to make sure the file is
something that can be opened in Photoshop.
Adobe Photoshop can open
MOV or AVI video files.
If the video files you
shot aren’t either of these files or any other video files that can be opened
in Photoshop, open your video files in any standard video editing program to
convert your files.
Frame your Video
To open and edit your video in
Photoshop, go to File > Import > Video Frames to Layers.
A window will pop up where
you will be given the option to:
- Import your entire file into
- Import a selected portion of
your video file.
As a general note, having
a lot of frames will make your resulting GIF animate much more smoothly.
However, more frames means
more memory, and thus a larger file to work with. And you don’t want to work
with a huge file on Photoshop because it’ll slow down the program (and your
computer in general).
So, the best is to aim for
a under 100 frames to start with. You can (and probably will) get rid of more
frames as you’re making your cinemagraph.
For our cinemagraph, we
decided to import a selected portion of our video—the particular moment where
our lovely model happened to look up from her book to gaze at the viewer.
Before you click “OK,”
make sure you’ve checked the appropriate import options you want on the left
side of the window, as well as to check the box next to the “Make Frame
Your Video File, Layered… Like cake
Once your video file has been
imported into frames in Photoshop, find your layers window.
You will see that each
frame of your video has been made into its own separate layer.
To view these layers as frames, go
to Windows > Animation.
In the animation window,
click on the bottom right icon of a film reel to see the animation as frames.
Now you’ll see that each
frame corresponds to each layer of your video file.
This means that these
layers and frames are linked to each other. Keep this in mind when you’re
editing and deleting layers and/or frames!
Catch that moving moment
Now that you can see all the frames
in your video, figure out what frames capture the movement you want for your
Hit the space bar to play
your video file so you can find the movement you want.
Once you’ve identified
what these frames are, isolate them by getting rid of both the frame AND the
layer, as these are linked to each other.
Note that when you delete
frames, Frame 1 in your animation window will always be the very last layer in
your Layer window, regardless if it’s Layer 1 (the original Frame 1) or Layer
92 (as in our case). If this break in coordinating frames and layers numbers
bothers you, you can rename the layers to match to the frames when you’ve finished
deleting all the unneeded frames and layers.
Alpha Layer In, Over
Within your now edited video file,
choose one layer to show the consistent, non-moving elements of your
Duplicate this layer and
place it on top of all the other layers in the Layers window.
Name this layer “Alpha,”
since it’ll be the layer that you want to consistently show on top of each and
every layer–and thus frame.
STEP 9: Masking
Now that you got your Alpha layer
chosen and situated, it’s time to show the movement in your GIF.
You’ll be editing your
Alpha layer to show this movement by using a vector mask and masking out the
elements in that layer that you want to show moving.
Don’t know what a vector
mask is or what masking means? Find
For our cinemagraph, we
masked out the areas of our model’s eyes and some of her hair, as well as the
bushes in the background, since these were the elements that we wanted to show
Testing, testing, 1 2 3
Once you’ve masked out what you
wanted in your Alpha layer, it’s time to do a test run of your cinemagraph!
In your animation
window—make sure it’s viewing the frames—make sure your animation is set to loop
“Forever”. Then play your animation.
From this test run, you
should be able to see what further edits you need to make to your layers and/or
frames for your final GIF.
One of the challenges you may see
from your initial test run of your GIF is in making a fairly smooth loop in the
This can be resolved in
the following ways:
- After the last frame in your
animation window, add a frame that contains the Alpha layer as well as the
very first layer (the bottom-most layer). To do so, duplicate the last
frame, and then change what layers show up in it in the Layer window.Then,
tween the last frame and this added frame to help ease the transition that
happens in the loop.For our cinemagraph, we chose this method to solve the
- Depending on the movement
you’re featuring in your GIF, you may want to have reversed frames of your
animation to make a smooth transition.To do this, first select all your
frames in the Animation (frames) window, duplicate them, and place them
after all your original frames.Then, select all these duplicate frames and
set them to reverse by clicking on the little down arrow on the top right
of the Animation (frames) window.
Don’t forget to test your
cinemagraph by playing it through the animation (frames) window as you figure
out how to smoothly loop it.
Color your Cinemagraph
As your cinemagraph will be a GIF
file, it’s important to know that GIF files can’t hold a lot of color memory
like other image file formats. This means your richly colored frames right now
will not look as vibrant when converted to a GIF file.
To accommodate to this
challenge, apply a color effect that will work with less color memory. Such
effects include duotone or color-processing effects.
You can do this manually
by playing with an adjustment mask over all your layers, or you can search the
web for free Photoshop actions for color effects that you can just apply over
all your layers.
We used cross-coloring
Photoshop actions from this site for our cinemagraph.
Resize to Optimize
We know you’re probably stoked to
show off your finished cinemagraph after ya get through this tutorial.
To help optimize your GIF
so that it’ll show up nicely on the web—like, say, your awesome blog—we have to
make sure your GIF file won’t be more large than is necessary. The internet is
not friendly to large GIF files.
With so many layers in
your file already, it’s already bound to be a large file, so how can you make
Why, resize your image, of
Resize your image
according to your preference in Image > Image Size.
Make sure the resolution
of your image is also set to 72 pixels/inch; that’s all the resolution needed
for images on the web.
Our cinemagraph, for the
purposes of this tutorial, is set at a rather large size of 600×400 pixels.
Note: If you’ve optimized
your GIF file as best you can, and you later find it’s still having trouble being
uploaded on the web, there are free GIF resizers available online that can make
your GIF file more web-friendly.
Huzzah! Now you’re ready to save your
cinemagraph file as a GIF.
First, save the file
you’ve been editing (if you haven’t done so during this process) as a PSD file
so you can come back for more edits if needed.
Then do a “Save for Web
In the window that pops
up, make sure in the top right hand corner that you’re saving a GIF file with
256 colors before you click to save.
You now have a cinemagraph done
under your belt!
It’s time to show the
digital world your spectacular creation so upload away to your blog, Tumblr, or
- The design process gets GIF-ted in the image above from a funny site called “I AM NOT AN ARTIST.” Bonus: Make a GIF to upload to the site!
- Haven’t seen the cinemagraphs by Jamie Beck & Kevin Burg? Check ‘em out on Jamie’s blog here.
- Visit the Cinemagraph Flickr group for inspiration and advice!
- Fashion cinemagraphs aren’t just for the ladies—check out the GIFs by Tim Barber of fashionable men rocking out in this online lookbook!
Special thanks to Fernando J. Baez, from whose cinemagraph tutorial this tutorial was loosely based on. You rock our neon socks, Mr. Baez!
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Cassandra C. Jones creates mesmerizing animations using her method “Snap
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equal parts digital camera, computer, and imagination (you’ve got all
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perception: wonder of evolution, miracle of sensory perception, and
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Published on June 16, 2011
— See more Tutorials
- The design process gets
GIF-ted in the image above from a funny site called “I AM NOT AN ARTIST.”
Bonus: Make a GIF to upload to the site!
- Haven’t seen the cinemagraphs
by Jamie Beck & Kevin Burg? Check ‘em out on Jamie’s blog here.
- Visit the Cinemagraph Flickr group
for inspiration and advice!
- Fashion cinemagraphs aren’t
just for the ladies—check out the GIFs by Tim Barber of fashionable men
rocking out in this online lookbook!
Special thanks to Fernando
J. Baez, from whose cinemagraph tutorial this tutorial was loosely based on.
You rock our neon socks, Mr. Baez!
You might also like…
4. Make Your Own 3D Camera for $15
or Less Depth perception: wonder of evolution, miracle of sensory
perception, and envy of the cyclops. It’s one of those things you wouldn’t miss
until it’s gone,…
Published on June 16, 2011 — See more Tutorials
Learning Space dedicated to
the Art and Analyses of Film Sound Design
poetry or Commercial Salad of Images?
- Perspective on
Music Video Analysis
Music video is a
many-faceted multi-discursive phenomenon. Some generally acknowledged
“facts” about music video are that …
i) music videos
communicate through TV-screen and TV-speakers
ii) music videos are a form of low-brow popular culture
iii) the reception of music videos depends on the beholder (music video may
be beautiful or ugly, art or trash, etc.).
recycled styles …
surface without substance … simulated
experience … information overload … image and style scavengers …
ambivalence … decadence … immediate gratification … vanity and the moment …
image assaults and outré folks … the death of content … anesthetizationof
violence thorough chic … adolescent male fantasies … speed, power, girls
and wealth … album art come to turgid life … classical storytelling’s
motifs … soft-core pornography … clichéd imagery …
approaches are possible when music videos are being dissected. One of the
most common methods of analysis is to break up the music video into black
and white boxes. Almost everything is then perceived as opposites – trash
or art, commerce or creativity, male or female, naturalism or
When this method is
used on music videos in general, videos fall into two rough groups:
performance clips and conceptual clips. When a music video mostly shows
an artist (or artists) singing or dancing, it is a performance clip. When
the clip shows something else during its duration, often with artistic
ambitions, it is a conceptual clip.
artist as a “modern mythic embodiment”
I have developed the following mythical method of analysis, which I call
“modern mythic embodiment” . Viewed from this perspective the music
video artist is seen as embodying one, or a combination of “modern
mythic characters or forces” of which there are three general. The music
video artist is representing different aspects of the free floating disparate
universe of music video.
In one type of
performance, the performer is not a performer anymore, he or she is a
materialization of the commercial
exhibitionist. He or she is a monger of their own body image,
selling everything to be in the spotlight – selling voice, face, lifestyle,
records, and so on. This commercial exhibitionist wants success and tries to
evoke the charisma of stardom and sexuality, he or she wishes to embody
dreams of celebrity, to be an icon, the center of procreative wishes.
Another type of
performance in the music video universe is that of the televised bard. He or she is a
modern bard singing banal lyrics using television as a medium. The televised
bard is a singing storyteller who uses actual on-screen images instead of
inner, personal images. Sometimes the televised bard acts in the story –
sometimes he or she is far away and inserted images help him or her tell the
story. The greatest televised bards create audio-visual poetry. They
transform the banal story of the lyrics employing on-screen images to create
a story about life and death. Too often, however, the televised bards only
contemplates her or his own greatness and unfulfilled wishes.
The third type of
performer is the electronic shaman.
Sometimes the shaman is invisible and it is only her or his voice and rhythm
that anchor the visuals. He or she often shifts between multiple shapes. At
one moment the electronic shaman animates dead objects or have a
two-dimensional alter egos (as in cartoon comics), seconds later he or she is
shifting through time and so on. The electronic shaman is our guide on a
spiritual journey through blipping images and magical attributes. And the
electronic shaman promises that there is a hidden meaning in everything; he
or she promises that we live in a magical, mythical reality. The electronic
shaman’s voice and rhythm form the life-line that connects images and sound
simultaneously creating new experiences and associations for those involved
in the conscious-streaming journey outside time and space. The electronic
shaman’s performance, and the other two types of performance, can be seen in
Cher’s music video Believe
By using the method of “modern mythical embodiment” it is possible
to view Cher as an electronic shaman in Believe:
she is a modern sorceress using the electronic magic of visual special
effects. The spiritual journey begins with concentration, her eyes glow in
the dark, the fog rises, and people walk in a slow-down, dreamy way, etc..
The spiritual journey concludes with a magical green surrounding Cher as a
soul exchange happens between the young woman and her..
Cher also uses the
electronic magic of aural effects (vocoder) on her voice to tell the audience
about her own, and maybe also her younger soulsister’s unearthly pain. Cher’s
voice and the “synthesized” modern dance rhythms anchor the
dreamlike journey. It is also possible to see Cher as a televised bard,
singing a story about life after love. An unhappy girl in the discotheque
watches her ex-boyfriend against a backdrop of happy dancing people. Cher is
a singing story-teller who visits this narrative world. She actively
participates in the story only at its conclusion, when she changes places
with the young girl.
In Believe Cher also promotes her record
and her audiovisual style. She scavenges on feelings of teenage unhappiness,
using these feelings as a commercial commodity. Cher aims to evoke the
charisma of stardom and sexuality. Older now, she takes advertising help from
the images of young healthy bodies. Thus she can be also seen as commercial
Standard clip with song performence and visual narration
Audiovisual Analysis of Music Video
Clearly, production of meaning in
music videos is complex, compromised of several flows of audio-visual
information. These flows interact and the resultant meaning is perceived as
one complete whole, created by both the ears and eyes. To illustrate these
information flows in a particular moment I use a model of audio-visual
analysis that I have developed. The model is a “crude map” which
points out how three aspects of the audio-visual flow – music, image, and
text – interact producing meaning for “literate” audio-viewers (cf.
Chion 1994) of music video. Sound effects are not as
common in music video as in ordinary TV-programming, yet when they do appear,
they are often are used at the video’s beginning or end.
Music video is a form of audio-visual communication in which the meaning is
created via carriers of information such as; (1) the music, (2) the lyrics
and (3) the moving images.
The music video is composed by adding
images to music.
The music video director creates moving pictures for an already existing
tune. A music video lacking a coherent narrative based on visuals and lyrics
uses unifying aspects which are a distinctive trait of music. Images are
bound together by the beat and other musical features.
Sometimes the musical elements shape of the moving pictures. Movements like
footsteps are often synchronized with the beat, so that people in the music
video seem to walk in synch to the music.
Melodic phrases can also be visualized by tilting the camera verticality to
match the musical phrase’s up and down travel on the scales. In Cher’s music
video Believe there is a synthesized cymbal-rattle sound which is sometimes
synchronized with effects of lightning, and which sometimes amplifies body
Lyrics and images interact creating
In many music videos a new
meaning is added to the banal lyrics through metaphorical language, often
with a amusing twist. When presented well, the concurrence of lyrics and text
opens a dimension that an create a poetic experience. The greater the leap
between the content of the lyrics and the imagery in this metaphorical
joining, the more difficult it becomes for viewers to understand and
interpret the context. The opposite of the metaphorical joining of lyrics and
images occurs when the illustration to the lyrics are simply illustrated by
the visual imagery. For instance, if a dog is mentioned in the lyrics, we see
a dog on the TV-screen, if a child is mentioned, we are shown a child. Like a
salad of images where the visual story is missing, the story is carried by
the music and lyrics and not by an independent visual story.
In the first verse of
Cher’s Believe to phrases
“I can’t break through” and “so sad” there is a kind of
visual echo made by special effects. I interpret this feature as a text-image
metaphor. A text-illustration appears for example when the girl sits drinking
as the lyrics intone “Sit around and wait for you”. Some clichés in
the video are quite amusing. For example, Cher has military pants when she is
in the third verse when she forcefully repeats “I don’t need you
anymore”. A standard gimmick in film-making wherein the environment is
made to mirror the feelings of the leading characters. The same kind of
effects also occurs when the unhappy girl climbs to the rooftop and the rain
of tears pours from the sky.
The visual form is close to the musical
To begin the analysis of the image the basic ideas behind the footage must be
discerned in order to identify the key concept behind the video. By
manipulating color, motive setting, story footage, clothing and so forth, the
music video director creates a couple of ideas which are repeated and varied.
The concept is to rearrange visual motifs so that the work forms a whole. The
concept behind Believe is
that Cher is a mystic singer who comments on a girl meeting a boy. The boy
rejects the girl, he leaves with another girl.
In the video there are
two main visual motifs: one is Cher’s performance track, the other is the
narrative track about the unhappy girl. Visual motifs are lightning effects
from the discotheque and especially the light that is traveling between the
girl and Cher.
Yet the concept does not
have to consist of visual motifs: it could be a short silent movie
accompanied by background music. A good example of this concept is Bruce
Springsteen’s I’m on fire
(1986), in which a “grease monkey” falls in love with a female
customer. The mechanic drives the customer’s car to her house, but he lack
the nerve to ring her doorbell and he walks away alone
I’m on fire (1986)
I’m on fire is a pure
There seems to be different layers of perception when a human being is
audio-viewing a music video. Interacting layers of perception may be
instinctive, inter-subjective and individual, which in turn activate social
aspects such as family, peer group, region, country, language etc. When these
different layers interact with unique personal memories and instinctive
behavior the analysis of music video becomes complicated. Situation variables
occur frequently and they are often the content. My experience as an educator
in music video suggest that many young people are unable to view a music
video if they dislike the artist or the music.
To give a simplified
explanation, music video pictures can be a interpreted as a merging of three
traditions of moving images: singing performance, visual story-telling, and
the non-narration of modern art
The cinematic tradition of
singing performance is as old as the first motion picture with sound - when
Al Johnson sang Oh Mama 1927
in The Jazz Singer. From then this type of performance has continued in
promotion pictures, musicals and concert documentaries. The basic formula
behind the filmed performance is to take a popular singing performer and
place him or her in a setting either literally suggested by the song’s lyrics
or in one that mirrors the escapist pleasantries common to movie musicals.
Visual story-telling has
developed from the early days of film-making into the film language of today.
The basic rules of visual narration make it easy to follow a story as in a
TV-soap: an outside shot on a window, inside shot presenting the room, shot
of a man and woman, close shot on a face showing grief, etc. If it is
possible to follow a filmed story without written text or aural cues (in
speech, music or sound effects) then the film maker has used the grammar of
In opposition to
traditional visual narration, the non-narration of modern art has been
developed by the representatives of the 20th-century art forms and created
experimental movies like Fernand Leger and Dudley Murhpy’s Ballet Mecanique (1924) and Oscar Fishinger’s
Composition in Blue (1934).
These experimental achievements are nowadays a part of standard music video
narration technique. In a music video clip collages, paraphrases, animated
abstract art, computer graphics, and unexpected combinations of pictures may
appear. The chock aesthetics in music videos can, from this point of view, be
interpreted as a combination of the provocative modern art tradition and a
cultural interpretation of the teenage rebellion.
Ballet Mecanique (1924)
Visual abstract form
Composition in Blue (1934)
Animated abstract art
Music Video Styles
A standard clip, as I call it, is
a music video that contains more or less these three visual traditions: a
filmed singer is blended with inserted images and the presentation is
artistically influenced by the experimental film tradition. Queen’s
influential Bohemian Rhapsody
(1975) provided a model of a standard music video and has all these narrative
The same goes for Robert
Miles’ One and One (1996).
The video exposes the vocalist, and the shots and the editing contain a
passable portion which emphasizes strange artistic features. There is a kind
of narrative inserted in the video with highlights of failure and dreams.
Even Cher’s Believe is a standard
clip. In relation to the visual traditions, the video is placed in the
traditions of performance and visual narration.
The concept of the
standard clip is dynamic and has many variations. The vocalist might
actively participate in the story while simultaneously standing outside the
video, offering self-reflexive commentary; he might have a singing alter ego,
for instance a cartoon character; or, he might change clothes between cuts,
jump around in time, shift his shape, fly, float, etc
Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
One and One (1996)
Standard clip with instrumental and song performances and visual narration
There are three pure
forms of visual tradition in music video: performance clip, narrative clip,
and art clip.
If a music video clip contains mostly filmed performance then it is a
performance clip. A performance clip is a video that shows the vocalist(s) in
one or more settings. Common places to perform are the recording studio and
the rehearsal room. But the performance can take place anywhere, from the
bath tube to outer space. Walking down the street is another performance
cliché, which is common in rap videos.
The performance can be
of three types: song performance, dance performance and instrumental
performance. Almost every music video includes song performance. Some videos
combines song and dance performances. Michael Jackson’s videos often contain
dance performance. Instrumental performance is not so common, but it occurs
occasionally. Concert performance on stage with audience is so common that it
has its own category, the concert clip.
If a music video clip is most appropriately understood as a short silent
movie to a musical background, it is a narrative clip. A narrative clip
contains a visual story that is easy to follow. A pure narrative clip
contains no lip-synchronized singing. Bruce Springsteen’s I’m on fire is a pure narrative clip.
If a music video clip contains no perceptable visual narrative and contains
no lip-synchronized singing then it is a pure
art clip. The main difference between a music video art clip and a
contemporary artistic video is the music. While the music video uses popular
music the artistic video uses more modern, experimental music, such as
The connections between the music genre and the visual genre of music video
are weak: when you listen to a new record you may know the genre of the music
but seldom do you immediately know how the moving image will realized. There
are, however, some connections. Dance music video clips are sometimes art
clips. The editing technique in soft ballads is mostly mixing. The hard rock
music genre usually features concert clips with inserted narrative shots.
Final Countdown (1994)
Europe’s Final Countdown is
mostly a Concert clip
The repetition of images in a music video resembles mostly the form of music,
and the formal principle may thus be called abstract form. Music videos are
often organized around what we might call “theme and variations”.
This term applies to music in which a melody, or, motif, follow
Music video works in a
similar fashion using pictorial elements that function thematically.
Pictorial elements are the small parts into which a moving image may be
divided in - quick zooming in and out, short cuts, colors, shapes, movements,
settings, clothes, footage etc. The abstract qualities of these pictorial
elements assembled in thematic combinations create form. An introduction
often presents the basic pictorial elements, which will develop to visual
For an example, in the first 20 seconds of Lisa Stansfield’s So Natural (1993) pictorial elements
such as colors (orange, blue and natural), flowing water, and camera
positions develop to visual themes.
So Natural (1993)
So Natural is a Standard
clip with almost no visual narration
What is music
Goodwin (1993: 3) lists these theoretical conclusions as the basis of
understanding music videos:
cinematic genre –
advertising — new forms of television
– visual art — “electronic wallpaper” — dreams — post-modern
texts — nihilstic neo-Fascist propaganda — metaphysicalpoetry — shopping
mall culture — LSD — “semiotic pornography” –.
Scholars may sometime
know too much and refer to their own perspective and specialty. Music video
has its own conventions which do not necessarily follow those of cinema. For
example, backlightning effects are often interpreted as a reference to film
noir, although a more reasonable association is with the lightning
conventions of live performance.
In music video,
narrative relations are highly complex and meaning can be created from the
individual audio-viewer’s musical personal musical taste to sophisticated
intertextuality that uses multidiscursive phenomena of Western culture. For
example George Michael’s video
Killer/Papa Was A Rolling Stone(1993) illustrates the words of
the lyrics with logotypes of well known consumer products. This feature plays
on another form of intertextuality – illustrations of important words in the
song lyrics is quite common in music video, especially rap videos. Thus the
new words in the form of commodities’ logotypes become an innovative way to
reuse this tradition. Some audio-viewers may identify with the
commercialization of human feelings signaled by the video.
Killer/Papa Was A Rolling Stone (1993)
Killer/Papa Was A Rolling Stone
is an Art clip with inserted song performence (in extreme close up)
The music video Killer/Papa Was A
Rolling Stone also stretches the audiovisual texture – the
video’s music track is a live concert with audience sounds; but the video
contains no shots from the concert, only a few big close-ups on George
Michael’s mouth synchronized with the music track.
I believe that music
video is today its own form of art with its own traditions. I hope this form
of art will get its own theory – not just old theories “amputated”
to fit music video. I have tried to point to possible directions for studying
Music video is not
inherently uninteresting, trivial and dumb. Music video is interesting and
fun; it always offers something to look at and something upon which we need
Ballet Mecanique Fernand Leger and Dudley Murhpy
(1924) >> Wikipedia
Composition in Blue Oscar Fishinger (1934)
EUROPE - Final Countdown
(1994) Dir Arxel
This article was originally
published in Muskiikin Sunta nr 2 1999 Special issue in English
on Music videos, The Finnish Society for Ethnomusicology, University of
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