The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
Chapter 14: Happily Dwelling Conduct
With Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
“What is meant by the Bodhisattva Mahasattva's range of association? Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas do not draw near to kings, princes, great ministers, or officials.”
J2. Explanation of the range of association
K1. Defining “drawing near” in terms of staying away from
L1. Staying away from those who have power and influence
How are the places that a Great Bodhisattva should draw near to defined? What is meant by the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas' range of association? Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas do not draw near to kings. They do not take advantage of situations in order to be able to draw near to kings; they do not try to set up lines of communication so that they can become friends with kings. That is called “seeking to be in favor with those in high positions.” This also applies to princes, great ministers, or officials. Bodhisattvas do not seek to get involved with those kinds of people. They do not interact with officials.
On the other hand, there are certain ways in which they may be involved that are appropriate. If such people, of their own accord, draw near to the Bodhisattva, without the Bodhisattva having sought out such people first, then it is permissible. For instance, if the Bodhisattva is in a monastery and does not have any intention of ingratiating himself with a king, and yet the king comes to the monastery to draw near to and bow to the Bodhisattva, then there is no problem. The Bodhisattva can speak appropriate Dharma for the king. That is what is meant by there being no fixed dharmas.
You should not be rigidly attached to this passage, saying, “Oh, the Dharma Flower Sutra, says that Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas who are cultivating should not associate with kings, princes, great ministers, and officials,” so that if a king did come to pay his respects, you would not even see him. That would also be incorrect. It is all right for such people to draw near to you. As long as you are not the one actively seeking to associate with them, it is okay. It is not all right for you to go to the king's quarters and say things like, “Ah! Today is your birthday; I have come to commemorate it. I will recite the Limitless Life Sutra to guarantee that you will live long and never age.” That is just being obsequious, and is incorrect behavior.
If you are residing in an aranya, a peaceful place for cultivation, and the king wants to approach you, then that is okay. However, you do not need to search for a method to induce the king to come. If you induce him to come by using some plan, then you are the one who is drawing near to him. You are thinking, “If the king were to come and bow to me, how great my fame would become! Or if the president came, ah!” It is not correct for you to scheme like this day and night.
Rather, you should seek a response. Seeking a response means asking Wei Tou Bodhisattva to go and tell the king to come. If you have cultivation, Wei Tou Bodhisattva sees you and thinks, “This Bodhisattva has nobody to protect him. I will find a great Dharma protector to protect him.” Then he finds a wealthy person to help you. This is acceptable. So, you should be clear about this principle.
“They do not draw near to externalists—brahmacharins, nirgranthas, and the like—or to writers of worldly literature, to those who sing praises of externalist writings, to lokayatas, or to the opponents of lokayatas.”
L2. Staying away from deviant people and deviant dharmas.
They do not draw near to externalists. Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas only study the Buddhadharma. They absolutely do not draw near to those of externalist ways, such as brahmacharins, who are ordained in an externalist sect. Nirgranthas is another externalist way. At the time of the Buddha, there were six major teachers of externalist ways in India, and as their teachings were developed further by their disciples, there came to be ninety-six sects. And the like refers to those other sects. “Nirgrantha” translates as “apart from bonds.” They were trying to attain liberation, but they had not yet attained it. They were seeking to free themselves from bonds but had not yet succeeded. They were one of the externalist sects. Or to writers of worldly literature. This includes writers of worldly-novels, plays, and movie scripts. It refers to those who write novels that incite people’s desire. All of these are considered worldly literature.
They do not draw near to those who sing praises of externalist writings, delineating the ways in which they think the externalist sects are good, or to lokayatas. “Lokayata” is a Sanskrit word and is translated as “evil discourses.” Such discourses are not wholesome; they go on and on, but contain no true principle. They teach people to create evil karma. For example they say, “Taking more drugs will make your enlightenment greater. By the same token, taking less drugs will give you less enlightenment. Therefore, take more drugs.” Not only do such people encourage others to take drugs, they use those drugs themselves. Such evil discourses enable the teacher to defeat his disciples, because in them the teacher always appears to have the loftier wisdom and in every way be better than his disciples. Whatever the disciples say is wrong; even if they are right, they are “wrong”. Those who give such evil, unprincipled discourses are called lokayatas.
The opponents of lokayatas are those with “discourses that incite rebellion.” For example, they say, “If you were to murder your father or give your teacher a beating, you would be a great hero!” Such discourses incite people to rebel. “Wreck the Buddha image, and I will bow to you.” This kind of discourse encourages people to be destructive. In this case, the disciples specialize in destroying the teacher. Nothing the teacher says is right. “We disciples are much better and much more intelligent than you.” In the lokayata sect, the teacher concentrates on ruining the disciples. In the opponents' sect, the disciples concentrate on ruining the teacher. In both cases, slander is involved. The teacher slanders the disciples, and the disciples think, “If we do not return the favor, then we are not acting properly.” So they come up with their rebellious discourses to slander their teacher. “Do not listen to him, he does not have any education. Listen to me.” That is the opponents of lokayatas.
“They also do not draw near to violent amusements such as boxing and wrestling, to displays of martial arts that involve mutual attack, to natas, or to any entertainment that uses magic.”
L2. Staying away from wicked and dangerous amusements
They also do not draw near to violent amusements where mutual killing is involved, such as boxing and wrestling, where people fight and beat each other up in public competitions or in movies and plays. One should not go to see such things or listen to them. This includes going to displays of martial arts that involve mutual attack.
No wonder someone has brought up a criticism, saying that we should not watch the kung fu performance. This is very reasonable since TheDharma Flower Sutra prohibits it. However, we are not Bodhisattvas. This prohibition is only for Bodhisattvas. You should understand this point. Right now we are still ordinary people. Ordinary people do a lot of wrong things, and it is okay.
But we've got to change, and then it is actually okay. If we do not change, then it is not okay. Nobody should say, “The Dharma Master says it is okay, so let's go commit some more offenses.” That would not do.
Or to natas. “Nata” is also a Sanskrit word, it means “man of great strength.” “You can lift five hundred pounds? Well, I can lift six hundred.” They are very boastful. Natas also like to show themselves off as great heroes whose strength is unsurpassed. Bodhisattvas do not draw near to such people. Or any entertainment that uses magic. Magicians can manifest things out of nowhere, or make things disappear. They have many sleight-of-hand tricks. They try to get you to believe that what you see is real. Children believe it is real, but adults know it is an illusion—a magic trick. Bodhisattvas do not watch that kind of show.
“They do not draw near to chandalas, to those who raise pigs, sheep, chickens, or dogs, or to those who hunt, fish, trap, or engage in any other evil activities. If such people should on occasion come to them, they speak the Dharma for them, but have no expectations.”
L4. Staying away from chandalas
They do not draw near to chandalas. “Chandalas” are the lowest caste in the Indian caste system. There were four main classes: kshatriyas, brahmans, vaishyas, and chandalas, which are outcasts, such as butchers. They were restricted to their own paths and were not allowed to walk on the roads that other people use. They even had to wear signs on their heads identifying them as chandalas. The Indian caste system is extremely rigid. Bodhisattvas do not draw near to chandalas; to those who raise pigs, sheep, chickens, or dogs; or to those who hunt. Bodhisattvas do not raise chickens, dogs, pigs, or sheep, and they must not hunt.
You say, “But the Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, lived with hunters and hunted for sixteen years.”
The Great Master, the Sixth Patriarch, did live with hunters, but he himself did not hunt.
A previous passage said that Bodhisattvas do not draw near to kings, princes, great ministers, and officials. The Sixth Patriarch of China was invited several times to the palace by Empress Wu Zetian, and he never went. The Fourth Patriarch was also invited to the palace four or five times by the Emperor Tai Zong of the Tang dynasty, and he never went. They were following the rule set forth here in the Dharma Flower Sutra that Bodhisattvas should not draw near to kings, princes, great ministers, and officials.
Bodhisattvas do not draw near to those who catch fish or trap birds, or engage in any other evil activities. A contemporary example of “other evil activities” is those who call themselves monks, dress up in outlandish costumes, act very strangely, play instruments, and beg for money.
If such people should on occasion come to them, the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, they speak Dharma for them, but have no expectations. One may speak the Buddhadharma for them, but one should not seek anything at all from them.
“They also do not draw near to those who seek to be Hearers, whether Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, or Upasikas, and they do not make a half bow to them. They do not remain in a room, a promenade, or a lecture hall with them. Should such people sometimes come to them, they speak Dharma as is appropriate, but seek nothing in return.”
L5. Staying away from followers of the Two Vehicles
They also do not draw near to those who seek to be Hearers, that is, those of the Small Vehicle, whether Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, or Upasikas, and they do not make a half bow to them. You may have seen some Japanese monks greeting everyone they see by joining their palms and bowing from the waist. That shows they are not familiar with this passage of the Dharma Flower Sutra. If they were, they would not act so indiscriminately. They do not remain in a room, say perhaps their own dwelling place, a promenade where they may be strolling, or a lecture hall, such as our Buddhist lecture hall, with them. They do not live with evil people, unless they are people who were once evil but who have reformed. If such people come, for example to our summer session here, and sincerely want to seek the Dharma, then you can associate with them.
Should such people sometimes come to them, they speak Dharma as is appropriate, but seek nothing in return. In accord with their potentials, one may speak Dharma for them, but one should not have any ulterior motives. One should not have even the slightest opportunistic thought.
“Manjushri, moreover Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas must not regard women's bodies as objects of desire, and speak Dharma for them. They do not take delight in looking at women. If they enter the homes of others, they do not speak with young girls, maidens, widows, and so forth.”
L6. Staying away from thoughts of desire
Shakyamuni Buddha called out again to Manjushri Bodhisattva, “Moreover, I will tell you more about the things that Bodhisattvas should not do. Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas must not regard women's bodies as objects of desire. When a Bodhisattva sees a woman, he should not make discriminations about the fineness or the beauty of her appearance and give rise to lust. Bodhisattvas should not be this way.
And speak Dharma for them. Moreover, a Bodhisattva should not feel happiness in encountering women or take delight in speaking Dharma for them while ignoring men who come to request the Dharma from him. When women request the Dharma, he should not be extremely happy and talk on and on, not finishing for days, because of his desire for women.
They do not take delight in looking at women. Not only would they not have thoughts of lust towards women, they would not even be willing to look at them, because the female body is unclean. Cultivators of the Way should avoid indulging in looking at members of the opposite sex. For those who have true samadhi power,
The eyes see forms, but there is nothing inside.
The ears hear defiling sounds, but the mind does not know.
Theirs is an altogether different state of being. But if you do not have samadhi power and are turned by states, you should not look at members of the opposite sex so much.
If they enter the homes of others, they do not speak with young girls. If for some special reason, a person who is practicing the Bodhisattva Way has to enter a lay person's home, he should not chat with young girls, or with maidens, or widows, and so forth. People who practice the Bodhisattva Way cannot go to someone's house and get involved in bantering with little girls. Nor should they have conversations with young maidens, especially when the two of them are alone.
“Maidens” refers to young women who have never married and who are still virgins. One must also not have private conversations with widows. “And so forth” refers to any other such women. To “speak with” means to have a conversation that no one else hears. Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas who practice the Bodhisattva Way should not hold private conversations with such women.
“Further, they do not draw near to the five kinds of unmanly men or become friends with them.”
L2. Staying away from unmanly men
Further, they do not draw near to the five kinds of unmanly men.
...“Further, they do not draw near to the five kinds of unmanly men.” There are five kinds of unmanly men. If they are unmanly, does that mean they are women? No, they are not women. There are five kinds of people who are neither male nor female. You cannot call them men, because they cannot conduct themselves as men do. And you cannot call them women, because they cannot do the things that women do. These are the five kinds of unmanly men. They have never been called “unwomanly women” before, but now I am giving them the name “five kinds of unwomanly women.”...
The Five Kinds of Unmanly Men
1. Unmanly from birth. While still in the womb, such people did not develop as either male or female; and when they were born, they did not have male organs or female organs. They can neither fulfill the man’s role of fathering children, nor can they fulfill the woman’s role of bearing children. Such people are born into the world unable to fulfill their proper functions...
2. Unmanly through dysfunction. In some cases, such people had male organs but were castrated. Some developed diseases that destroyed their male organs. The same thing may happen in the case of female organs.
3. Unmanly through jealousy. When they see a man, they become jealous, and “turn into” a man. The change takes place in their minds only, however, and they cannot conduct themselves as a man would. Sometimes when they see a woman, they become jealous of the woman and “turn into” a woman. But they are incapable of functioning as a woman would. They assume their sexual identity mentally as a result of the emotion of jealousy.
4. Unmanly through physical transformation. Such people do not transform into a man only when they see a man, or transform into a woman only when they see a woman. They can make the change by themselves. For instance at noon, the person is a man, but at one o'clock he changes into a woman. He does not need to see other men and women to bring about this change. Then at two o'clock or three o’clock, or five o'clock, he turns back into a man. This is called being a man, but not a man; being a woman, but not a woman...
You have to study the Buddhadharma to understand this principle. Those who do not investigate the Buddhadharma do not ever learn about the five kinds of unmanly men or five kinds of unwomanly women.
5. Unmanly Through Switching Back and Forth. These are hermaphrodites—half and half. For half a month they are men and then for the other half month, they are women. The previous kind of transformation does not last such a long time. In the previous case, the person is male for one or two days and then becomes female for one or two days. It does not take half a month before the change occurs. But in this case, this person has male organs for half a month and then changes into having female organs for half a month. This is the retribution of being neither male nor female. You should think it over...
You might say, “That is being without any mark of male or female,” but that is an undesirable characteristic. This is a case of deficient faculties. They lack proper male or female organs. To be like that is the worst possible way for a person to be. People should behave themselves and follow the rules. Those who do not will undergo the future retribution of being perverted. When people have their six sense organs incomplete, it is their retribution for having committed too many offenses.
Bodhisattvas do not become friends with them. Bodhisattvas practicing the Bodhisattva Way do not befriend people who are among the five kinds of unmanly men or unwomanly women. They do not become good friends with them.
“They do not enter others' houses alone. If for some reason they must enter alone, they single-mindedly recollect the Buddha.”
L8. Staying away from danger and harm
They do not enter others' houses alone. They cannot go alone to a layperson's home. In that way, they avoid danger and do not cause others to doubt them. If for some reason they must enter alone, they singlemindedly recollect the Buddha. If there is some special reason why they must enter someone's house alone, they singlemindedly recite “Namo Amitabha Buddha,” or “Namo Original Teacher Shakyamuni Buddha.”
“If they speak the Dharma for women, they do not smile or laugh and let their teeth show, nor do they expose their chests. Even for the sake of the Dharma, they do not become familiar with them, much less for the sake of other matters!”
L9. Staying above suspicion
If they speak the Dharma for women, they do not smile or laugh and let their teeth show. You should not laugh out loud or smile and giggle when speaking the Buddhadharma. You see, it is not the case that laughter is necessarily good. You should not laugh and show your teeth when lecturing the Dharma to those of opposite sex, for if you do, you might cause them to have thoughts of desire, or harbor defiled thoughts in your own mind. Nor do they expose their chests. They do not let their chest or stomach show. Even for the sake of the Dharma they do not become familiar with them. When speaking the Dharma, one cannot become too close to people—so well acquainted that two become as if one. Much less for the sake of other matters! Those who cultivate the Bodhisattva Way should at all times watch over themselves and be very careful.
When lecturing on the Dharma, you must cultivate samadhi power. If you have samadhi power, then you can enter the water and not be drowned and enter the fire and not be burned. You can be like pure gold. The best gold has been smelted by fire many times, and no matter how much it is smelted, it does not weigh any less. Let's say there were ten ounces of pure gold. After being smelted, it would still weigh ten ounces. If the gold were not pure, then it would weigh less.
Cultivation works the same way. If you truly cultivate until you have skill, then you would not melt in the fire or be drowned in the water. You will be able to “accord with conditions but not change; not change, yet accord with conditions.” If you can do that, you have achieved the most inconceivable of states. If you have not reached that state, then you definitely have to be very careful at all time not give rise to any false thinking.
“Is it a kind of false thinking when you are able to accord with conditions but not change, not change, yet accord with conditions? Isn’t according with conditions a kind of false thinking?” you may ask. No, not when you do not change. Only if you do not change can you accord with conditions. To be able to always accord with conditions, and yet not change; to never change and yet accord with conditions is an inconceivable state—something special that comes through cultivation. It is not something that most people can manage to do. Until you reach the state where fire won't burn you and water won't drown you, you must be careful in your cultivation.
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