THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
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The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra

Chapter 19: The Merit and Virtue of a Dharma Master

At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying,

“The ears he was born with
Are pure and without filth.
With his ordinary ears he hears
Sounds of the three thousand great thousand world system:
Sounds of elephants, horses, carriages and cows;
Gongs, bells, conches and drums;
Sounds of lutes and harps;
Sounds of pipes and flutes; and
Sounds of clear, fine chants.
He hears these, but is not attached to them.

Hearing the sounds of countless kinds of people,
He can understand them all.
He also hears the sounds of the gods--
Their subtle, elegant voices raised in song.

He also hears the sounds of men and women,
The sounds of young boys and girls,
As well as the kalavinka sound
Coming from the mountains, streams, and deep ravines.

He hears all the sounds
Of the jiva-jivaka and other birds,
The bedlam of misery and pain in the hells--
The sounds of all the torture there.

He hears the sounds of hungry ghosts,
driven by hunger and thirst,
As they seek for food and drink, and
The mighty roar put forth
By all of the asuras
As they dwell beside the sea
Bickering among themselves.

In this way, one who speaks the Dharma
Can dwell securely there and hear
The faraway multitude of sounds,
And yet there is no harm to his hearing.

Throughout all the ten directions,
Birds and beasts cry out to one another.
The one who speaks the Dharma
Can hear them one and all.

As for the sounds and speech of the Brahma gods,
The Light Sound gods and those of Pervasive Purity,
Up to the Heaven of the Peak of Existence,
The Dharma Master here in the world
Can hear them one and all.

The entire assembly of Bhikshus
And Bhikshunis,
Whether reading or reciting Sutras,
Or speaking them for others,
The Dharma Master dwelling here
Can hear them one and all.

Further, all the Bodhisattvas
Reading or reciting this Sutra-Dharma,
Or speaking it for others,
Or compiling commentaries on its meaning,
All such sounds as these,
He hears in detail.

All the Buddhas, great sagely honored ones,
Teaching and transforming living beings
In the midst of the great assemblies,
Expounding upon the subtle, wondrous Dharma,
Can be heard by one who holds the Dharma Flower.

All the sounds inside and out
Of the three thousand great thousand world system,
Below to the Avici hell,
And above to the Heaven of the Peak of Existence
Can each and every one be heard
And still his hearing is not harmed.

Since his ears are keen and sharp,
He can discern them all.
The one who upholds the Dharma Flower,
Although he has not yet gained the Heavenly Ear,
Merely using the ears he was born with,
Already has meritorious virtues such as these.”

Outline:

F2. The ears.


Commentary:

At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate his meaning, in detail, spoke verses, saying, “The ears he was born with are pure and without filth.” The Dharma Master who lectures on the Dharma Flower Sutra, with his ordinary ears hears sounds of the three thousand great thousand world system: Sounds of elephants, horses, carriages, and cows. He can distinguish these all very clearly. Gongs, bells, conches and drums, sounds of lutes and harps, sounds of pipes and flutes--he hears all the various musical instruments making sounds of clear, fine chants. Perhaps someone sings with a clear, fine voice. He hears these but is not attached to them.

Hearing the sounds of countless kinds of people, he can understand them all. He also hears the sounds of the gods--their subtle, elegant voices raised in song. He also hears the sounds of men and women, the sounds of young boys and girls, as well as the kalavinka sound coming from the mountains, streams, and deep ravines. The kalavinka is the "good-sounding bird." It starts singing even before it hatches out of its egg. It is also called the "immortal sound," and it sings extremely well. He hears all the sounds of the jiva-jivaka and other birds. The jiva-jivaka is a kind of bird with two heads. The two birds have different karma but shared retribution. The two heads fight over their food and chirp at each other. Have you ever seen such a bird?

He hears the bedlam of misery and pain in the hells—the sounds of all the various kinds of torture there as beings are punished, and he hears the sounds of hungry ghosts, driven by hunger and thirst as they seek for food and drink. The hungrier the ghosts get, the scarcer the food becomes. The scarcer the food gets, the hungrier they are. They are about ready to go up in flames, they are so hungry. And he hears distinctly the mighty roar put forth by all the asuras as they dwell beside the great sea bickering among themselves. They make a terrible racket when they talk. Alligators are a kind of asura. They roar at each other to show off.

In this way, one who speaks the Dharma, can dwell securely there and hear the faraway multitude of sounds, and yet there is no harm to his hearing. The person who speaks the Dharma Flower Sutra dwells securely in compassion. Those who cultivate the Way should develop as much compassion as they can. If you are not compassionate, the asuras will get you. If you are compassionate, the asuras have no way to get at you.

Throughout all the ten directions, birds and beasts cry out to one another. The one who speaks the Dharma, can hear them one and all. One tiger may cry out, "Tiger!" and the second one answers, "Yes!" The person who speaks the Dharma can hear all of these communications.

As for the sounds and speech of the Brahma gods, the Light Sound gods, and those of Pervasive Purity, up to the Heaven of the Peak of Existence, the Dharma Master here in the world can hear them one and all. The person who speaks the Dharma in the unmoving Bodhimanda can hear all the sounds in the three thousand great thousand world system. The Light Sound Heaven is in the Second Dhyana. The Pervasive Purity Heaven is in the Third Dhyana. The Peak of Existence is the Heaven of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception in the Fourth Dhyana. The Dharma Master who lectures on the Dharma Flower Sutra can hear all these sounds right in the Bodhimanda where he is lecturing.

The entire assembly of Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, whether reading or reciting Sutras, or speaking them for others, the Dharma Master dwelling here, can hear them one and all. Further, all the Bodhisattvas, reading or reciting this Sutra-Dharma, or speaking it for others, or compiling commentaries on its meaning, or writing articles of their own, or compiling others’ explanations on the Sutras--all such sounds as these, he hears in detail.

All the Buddhas, great sagely honored ones, teaching and transforming living beings in the midst of the great assemblies, expounding upon the subtle, wondrous Dharma, can be heard by one who holds the Dharma Flower. The Buddha's sound is inconceivable, and the Dharma Master can hear them set forth the subtle, inconceivable Dharma bestowing the provisional for the sake of the real, opening the provisional to reveal the real, proclaiming the Wonderful Dharma.

All the sounds inside and out of the three thousand great thousand world system can be heard by the Dharma Master. One sun, one moon, one Mount Sumeru, and one set of four continents makes up one world. One thousand of these are called a small world system. One thousand small world systems are called a middle world system. One thousand middle world systems are called a great world system. Therefore we say "three thousand" because the number "thousand" is raised to the third power. Now, the world that we know is just one small world. We should not be attached and pay attention just to our own small sphere, with Americans just thinking of America, British people of Great Britain, French people of France, Germans of Germany. Compared to the three thousand great thousand world system, our world is just like a tiny mote of dust. You may think it is great, but it is not really.

You say, "But I had no idea there were so many worlds!" Hah! If you had known, you would have become a Buddha long ago. You would not be an ordinary living being at all. You would not be so hateful, greedy and stupid.

He can hear below to the Avici hell, the unspaced hell, which is full even if only one person is in it, but which can also expand to accommodate millions of people, this hell is merely a manifestation of people’s karma.

And above to the Heaven of the Peak of Existence can each and every one be heard. You have no way to conceptualize this heaven. Even though the heavens are so high and the hells are so low, the Dharma Master can hear all of the sounds within them very clearly, and still his hearing is not harmed. He hears all these sounds, but they do not hurt his ears at all. Sometimes if you hear too much, you can go deaf. But that does not happen in this case. Since his ears are keen and sharp, he can discern them all. His ears are so sharp that before you finish your sentence, he has already heard the whole thing! Hearing one word, he knows everything you are about to say. The one who upholds the Dharma Flower, although he has not yet gained the Heavenly Ear, merely using the ears he was born with--his ordinary ears--already has meritorious virtues such as these. His merit and virtue is such as just described.

Above, we have discussed the meritorious virtues of the ears. We speak often of the Five Eyes: the flesh eye, the heavenly eye, the Dharma eye, the wisdom eye, and the Buddha eye. But there are also five such ears: the flesh ear, the heavenly ear, the Dharma ear, the wisdom ear, and the Buddha ear. Now the ears we are talking about in reference to this Dharma Master are not any of the Five Ears listed above. The ears in question are his ordinary, regular ears. You have these ears, and so do I. But if you are not able to lecture on the Dharma Flower Sutra, your hearing will not be as acute as that of the Dharma Master who can. He can hear all the sounds throughout the three thousand great thousand world system.

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