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

Chapter 23: The Former Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva

Sutra:

The Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon told the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, “Good man, the time of my Parinirvana has arrived. The time for my passing into stillness has arrived. You can arrange my couch, for tonight I shall enter Parinirvana.”

He further commanded the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, “Good man, I entrust you, all the Bodhisattvas and great disciples, with the Buddhadharma, and also with the Dharma of anuttarasamyaksambodhi. I also entrust to you the worlds of the seven treasures throughout the three thousand great thousand world systems, with their jeweled trees, jeweled terraces, and gods-in-waiting. After my passing into stillness, I also entrust you with all my sharira. You should distribute them and vastly make offerings to them. You should build several thousand stupas.”

In this way, the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, having commanded the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, in the last watch of the night entered Nirvana.

Outline:

I4. The Thus Come One’s entrustment.


Commentary:

The Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon told the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, "Good man, the time of my Parinirvana has arrived. You showed up just in time today. The time for my passing into stillness had arrived. I have taught all those beings I was supposed to teach and transform, and it is now time for me to leave. You can arrange my couch. Get my bed all ready, for tonight I shall enter Parinirvana.

The Buddha was born in the daytime, which represents the sun shining throughout the world. The Buddha entered Nirvana at midnight, which is yin. And so we have yin and yang. When the Buddha entered Nirvana, the world was plunged into darkness. We do not mean that the world was dark immediately after the Buddha entered Nirvana, but that after the Buddhadharma becomes extinct, the world will be in darkness. After the Buddha enters Nirvana, the Buddhadharma is still in the world, and so the world is still bright. If there were no Buddhadharma, the world would be as dark as night. He further commanded the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, saying, "Good Man, I entrust you, all the Bodhisattvas, and great disciples, with the Buddhadharma, and also with the Dharma of anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Here's a little work for you."

I also entrust to you the worlds of the seven treasures throughout the three thousand great thousand world systems, with their jeweled trees, jeweled terraces and gods-in-waiting. The jeweled trees represent the kings of vows; the jeweled terraces represent the emptiness of all dharmas. The gods-in-waiting served the Buddha, did house-cleaning for him, poured tea for him and things like that.

After my passing into stillness, I also entrust you with all my sharira. You should distribute them and vastly make offerings to them. You should build several thousand stupas, as many as eighty-four thousand of them."

In this way the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon, having commanded the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing, in the last watch of the night, after midnight, entered Nirvana.

Sutra:

Seeing the Buddha pass into stillness, the Bodhisattva was sorely grieved and longed for the Buddha. He then built a pyre of ‘this shore’ chandana incense as an offering to that Buddha’s body, and set it on fire. When the fire had consumed itself, he collected the sharira, made eighty-four thousand jeweled urns; and built eighty-four thousand stupas, three worlds in height, adorned with poles from which hung banners, canopies, and many jeweled bells.

Outline:

I5. Following orders.
J1. Building stupas.


Commentary:

Seeing the Buddha pass into stillness, the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing was sorely grieved, cried, and longed for the Buddha. He could not stand to see the Buddha enter Nirvana. He was like Ananda--all he did was cry, "Why didn't I ask the Buddha to remain in the world? If I had asked him to, he might not have entered Nirvana!" He was struck with grief and thought himself incompetent. He longed for the Buddha and could not let him go.

He then built a pyre of 'this shore' chandana incense as an offering to that Buddha's body and set it on fire. This is that very expensive incense, six little pieces of which are worth the entire Saha world. In Suzhou, at Lingyan Mountain, when the Venerable Yinguang completed the stillness, he was cremated with regular sandalwood incense. There were crowds of people there, covering the entire mountain for a couple of miles. After the cremation, they found many shariras in the ashes. When they had gathered up all the sharira, one of his disciples showed up, looking for one, but they were all gone. He looked and looked and could not find one. He stayed there for two days, crying. After two days, a sharira showed up, the biggest one yet! He took it home to make offerings to it. So the Buddhadharma is an inconceivable thing. Whoever is truly sincere and true will obtain a response. Whoever is not sincere or true will not obtain a response. That disciple was especially reverent and faithful to the old Master, always wishing to see him. But after the Master went to Nirvana, he could no longer see him, so he cried and cried until he found sharira.

When the fire had consumed itself and had died down, he collected the sharira, made eighty-four thousand jeweled urns, putting many sharira in each urn, and built eighty-four thousand stupas, the same number as were built for Shakyamuni Buddha by King Ashoka. They were three worlds in height, adorned with poles from which hung banners, canopies, and many jeweled bells made of gold and silver.

Sutra:

The Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing then further thought to himself, “Although I have made this offering, my heart is not yet satisfied. I should now make further offerings to the sharira.” He then spoke to the Bodhisattvas and great disciples, to the gods, the dragons, the yakshas, and so forth in the great assembly, saying, “All of you pay attention, and bring your thoughts to one, for I am now going to make offerings to the sharira of the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon.” Having said that, in front of the eighty-four thousand stupas, as an offering he burned his arms, with their adornments of a hundred blessings, for seventy-two thousand years…

Outline:

J2. Burning his arms.


Commentary:

The Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing then further thought to himself, "Although I have made this offering, my heart is not yet satisfied. Although I burned my body in my last life, I do not feel that I have done all I could. I do not feel I have exhausted my sincerity in making offerings to the Buddha."

We give away a little money and feel that we have created great merit and virtue. This Bodhisattva offered his entire body and still did not say, "That is enough. I have done my bit. I am number one." The Buddhas of the ten directions had already praised him as foremost, saying, "This is true vigor. This is a true Dharma offering," but he still felt it was not enough. This is really a case of "Present as if not there, real as if unreal." He had true merit and virtue, but acted as if he did not. Basically, he had already acquired a tremendous amount of merit and virtue, but he still felt it was not very much. The Bodhisattva's resolve is not like that of common people. If we burn off a finger to the Buddha, we remember it our whole lives, thinking no one can compare to us. Bodhisattvas do not think like that.

And so the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing decided, "I should now make further offerings to the sharira." He then spoke to the Bodhisattvas and the great disciples, to the gods, the dragons, the yakshas and so forth--the eight-fold division--in the great assembly, saying, "All of you should pay attention and bring your thoughts to one, for I am now going to make offerings to the sharira of the Buddha Virtue Pure and Bright Like the Sun and Moon. Help me by reciting this Buddha's name." Having said that, in front of the eighty-four thousand stupashe had built for that Buddha, as an offering he burned his arms, with their adornments of a hundred blessing. Living beings did not even have to see his face. Just seeing his arms and hands made all living beings rejoice. Why? He had exquisitely beautiful arms from having made offerings to the Buddha. He burned his arms for seventy-two thousand years. They burned for that long. Before, when he burned his body, it burned for twelve hundred years. Why did his arms take so long to burn? This time, his arms belonged to his transformation body, and so he could burn them for any length of time. Seventy-two thousand years is not that long.

Sutra:

…thereby causing countless multitudes of hosts seeking to be Hearers, and limitless asamkheyas of people to bring forth the resolve for anuttarasamyaksambodhi, and enabling them to dwell in the samadhi of the manifestation of all physical forms.

Outline:

J3. Benefits.


Commentary:

Why did he burn his arms, and why for so long? It is just to influence other living beings. Seeing his true mind in making offerings to the Buddha, those living beings who were not true would become true and those who were not sincere would become sincere. In his former life, he burned his entire body; this life he burns his arms. This is no piece of cake, either. It is not easy to do, but he did it anyway, thereby causing countless multitudes of hosts seeking to be Hearers, and limitless asamkhyeyas of people to bring forth the resolve for anuttarasamyaksambodhi. In this way he was teaching and transforming living beings and enabling them to dwell in the samadhi of the manisfestation of all physical forms, the same samadhi that the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing had attained.

Old Master Yinguang had a lot of learning. He lived at Buddha-Peak Mountain on Mount Putuo for eighteen years, during which time he read the Tripitaka over and over. He was extremely reverent when he read the Tripitaka, and he sat up very straight. If he had to go to the bathroom, he would change all of his clothes—everything, even his shoes and socks. Because of his great reverence, he became enlightened. After he got enlightened, he exclusively recited the Buddha's name and established the Lingyan (“Magical Cave”) Mountain, a Way-place exclusively for the practice of Buddha recitation, in Suzhou. In that Way-place, they recited the Buddha's name every day. They also had the best food; no other monastery had food like that. So all the monks moved there. They came to recite the Buddha's name and also to "recite" food! Since they ate well, they also recited well. They did not indulge in idle thinking. If one does not eat well, one might have idle thinking. A little good food never hurts.

When this Dharma Master lectured in Nanjing, a funny thing happened. Even though he lectured very well, no one came to listen. There were very few people in that area who understood the Buddhadharma, but he lectured anyway. One night, someone showed up. Master Yinguang thought that an audience of one was pretty good. After the lecture he asked the person, "Did you like my lecture? Pretty good, huh?" The man said, "I have no idea what you said."

"Then why are you listening?"

"I am just waiting to put the chairs away," the man said.

And here he thought he had found someone who “knew his sound”! All of you are ones who know my sound. You listen when I lecture, and so I am really fond of all of you.

Anyway, after that experience, Master Yinguang swore he would never lecture the Sutras in Nanjing again.

One time he was lecturing at the Lay Society in Shanghai, and a female student had a dream. In the dream someone told her, "Hurry up and go to the Lay Society in Shanghai and listen to the Amitabha Sutra. Great Strength Bodhisattva is lecturing it there!" This student had no idea who Great Strength Bodhisattva was or what the Amitabha Sutra was, but having had this dream, she went there. She spoke to the Old Master, "Actually, I am not a Buddhist. I had a dream in which someone told me Great Strength Bodhisattva was lecturing the Amitabha Sutra at the Lay Society here, so I came. The day after the dream, I saw an ad in the paper, saying that you were lecturing the Amitabha Sutra here."

Old Master Yinguang told her, "Do not tell this to anyone. Keep it to yourself."

She had wanted to tell people, but she followed his orders. She also took refuge with him. In less than three years the Old Master entered Nirvana. After he had entered stillness, she told everyone her dream. Everyone then knew that Old Master Yinguang was a transformation of Great Strength Bodhisattva. No one knew at the time. Afterwards, everyone knew. That is how people are. When something is right in front of them, they do not recognize it. When it is gone, they say, "Oh! So that is who it was!" But by then it is too late.

Sutra:

At that time all the Bodhisattvas, gods, humans, asuras and so forth, seeing him without arms, were smitten with grief and said, “The Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing is our teacher. He has taught and transformed us, and now his arms are burnt off and his body deformed.”

Then the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing made this vow amidst the great assembly, saying, “Having renounced both of my arms, I should certainly attain the Buddha’s golden-colored body. If this is true and not false, both of my arms should now be restored to as they were before.”

After he had made this vow, his arms were spontaneously restored. This came about through the purity and depth of this Bodhisattva’s blessings, virtue, and wisdom.

The three thousand great thousand world system then quaked in six ways. The heavens rained down jeweled flowers, and all the humans and gods gained what they had never had before.

Outline:

J4. The manifestation of the reward.


Commentary:

At that time all the Bodhisattvas, gods, humans, asuras and so forth, that is, the rest of the eightfold division, seeing him without arms, were smitten with grief. The Bodhisattvas got afflicted! They cried and said, "The Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing is our teacher. He has taught and transformed us so that we could understand the Buddhadharma. But now his arms are burnt off and his body deformed." Without arms a person looks like a log or something, not very attractive. It was quite a scene, with all the gods, yakshas, dragons, kinnaras, garudas, gandharvas, and so on stirring up a big fuss.

Then the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing made this vow amidst the great assembly, saying, "Having renounced both of my arms I should certainly attain the Buddha's golden-colored body. If this is true and not false, both of my arms should now be restored to as they were before. I should get my two arms back." After he had made this vow, his arms were spontaneously restored. This came about through the purity and depth of this Bodhisattva's blessings, virtue, and wisdom. This happened because he had great blessings, wisdom, and virtue. He was also very honest and reliable. He never lied, killed, stole, took intoxicants, or committed sexual misconduct.

The three thousand great thousand world system then quaked in six ways: banging, roaring, cracking, shaking, surging, and rising.

The heavens rained down jeweled flowers, and all the humans and gods gained what they had never had before. They had certainly never seen anything like that before.

Sutra:

The Buddha told the Bodhisattva Constellation King-Flower, “What do you think? Was the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing anyone else? He was just the present Medicine King Bodhisattva. Gifts of his body, such as this one, number in the limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas.”

Outline:

G3. Conclusion—past and present.
H1. Conclusion.


Commentary:

The Buddha, Shakyamuni, told the Bodhisattva Constellation King Flower, "What do you think? Was the Bodhisattva All Beings Delight in Seeing anyone else? He was just the present Medicine King Bodhisattva. Gifts of his body, such as this one, number in the limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas. I have just told you of his burning body and his arms to give you a general idea of how he practiced giving his life for living beings. Actually, his gifts like this one were innumerable.

Sutra:

“Constellation King Flower! If a person who brings forth the resolve desiring to obtain anuttarasamyaksambodhi can burn off a finger or a toe as an offering to a Buddha stupa, his offering will surpass that of one who uses as offerings countries, cities, wives and children or even the three thousand great thousand worlds with their mountains, forests, rivers, ponds and precious objects.”

Outline:

H2. Exhortation to cultivate.


Commentary:

Constellation King Flower! If a person who brings forth the resolve desiring to obtain anuttarasamyaksambodhi can burn off a finger or a toe as an offering to a Buddha stupa, his offering will surpass that of one who uses as offerings countries, cities, wives, and children, or even the three thousand great thousand worlds with their mountains, forests, rivers, ponds, and precious objects.

Sutra:

“If, further, a person filled the three thousand great thousand world system with the seven treasures and offered it to the Buddha, to the great Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Arhats, the merit and virtue that person would obtain would not be equal to that of one who receives and upholds even a single four-line verse of the Dharma Flower Sutra, for the latter’s blessings are greater by far.”

Outline:

E2. Praising the Sutra.
F1. Praising the one who upholds it.


Commentary:

If, further, a person filled the three thousand great thousand world system with the seven treasures and offered it to the Buddha, to the great Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Arhats, the merit and virtue that person would obtain from making offerings to the Four Kinds of Sages, would not be equal to that of one who receives and upholds even a single four-line verse of the Dharma Flower Sutra, for the latter's blessings are greater by far. The merit and virtue of one who receives and upholds the Dharma Flower Sutra greatly exceed that of one who makes offerings of such precious things.

Sutra:

“Constellation King Flower! Just as, for example, among all the streams, rivers, and bodies of water, the ocean is foremost, so too, among all the Sutras spoken by the Thus Come One, the Dharma Flower Sutra is the deepest and greatest.”

“Further, just as among Earth Mountain, Black Mountain, the Lesser Iron Ring Mountain, the Greater Iron Ring Mountain, the Ten Jeweled Mountains, and the entire multitude of mountains, Mount Sumeru is foremost, so too, among all the Sutras, the Dharma Flower Sutra is the most supreme.”

“Further, just as among the stars, the Moon God is foremost, so, too, among the thousands of myriads of kotis of kinds of Sutra Dharmas, the Dharma Flower Sutra shines the brightest.”

“Further, just as the Sun God can disperse all darkness, so, too, this Sutra can disperse all the darkness of unwholesomeness.”

“Further, just as among the minor kings, the Wheel-Turning Sage King is foremost, so, too, among the Sutras, this Sutra is the most honored.”

“Further, just as in the Heaven of the Thirty-three, Lord Shakra is king, so, too, among the Sutras, this Sutra is king.”

“Further, just as the great Brahma God is the father of all living beings, so, too, is this Sutra the father of all the worthy sages, those studying, those beyond study, as well as those who have brought forth the Bodhisattva mind.”

“Further, just as among the common people, the Shrotaapanna, Sakridagamin, Anagamin, Arhat and Pratyekabuddha are foremost, so, too, among all Sutra Dharmas whether spoken by the Thus Come Ones, by the Bodhisattvas, or by Hearers, this Sutra is foremost.”

“One who can receive and uphold this Sutra, in the same way, is foremost among all living beings.”

“Just as among all the Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, the Bodhisattva is foremost, so, too, among all the Sutra Dharmas, this Sutra is foremost.”

“Just as the Buddha is the king of all Dharmas, so, too, is this Sutra the king of all Sutras.”

Outline:

F2. Praising the Dharma that is upheld.
G1. Praising the substance of the Dharma.


Commentary:

Here we have ten analogies. Shakyamuni Buddha calls out again, Constellation King Flower! Just as, for example, among all the streams, rivers, and bodies of water the ocean is foremost, so, too, among all the Sutras spoken by the Thus Come One, the Buddha, the Dharma Flower Sutra is the deepest and greatest. It is the most wonderful and the most profound.

Further, just as among Earth Mountain, Black Mountain, the Lesser Iron Ring Mountain, the Greater Iron Ring Mountain, the Ten Jeweled Mountains, and the entire multitude of mountains, Mount Sumeru--Wonderfully High Mountain--is foremost, so, too, among all the Sutras, the Dharma Flower Sutra is the most supreme. The Ten Jeweled Mountains are mentioned in the Avatamsaka Sutra.

Further, just as among the stars, the Moon God is foremost, so, too, among the thousands of myriads of kotis of kinds of Sutra Dharmas, the Dharma Flower Sutra shines the brightest. The other Sutras are like stars, and the Dharma Flower Sutra is like the moon, very bright.

Further, just as the Sun God can disperse all darkness, so, too, this Sutra can disperse all the darkness of unwholesomeness. Goodness is light; evil is darkness. The Dharma Flower Sutra can break up the darkness of evil.

Further, just as among the minor kings, who are as many as scattered grain, the Wheel-Turning Sage King who rules over four continents, is foremost, so, too, among the Sutras, this Sutra is the most honored.

Further, just as in the Heaven of the Thirty-three, Lord Shakra--Lord God--is king, so, too, among the Sutras, this Sutra is king.

Further, just as the great Brahma God is the father of all living beings, or so he says, so, too, is this Sutra the father of all the worthy sages, those studying, those beyond study, as well as those who have brought forth the Bodhisattva mind.

Most people say they believe in God, meaning the Lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-three. How can the God Brahma claim to be the father of all living beings? At the end of the eon, after the world has gone through the processes of becoming, dwelling, and decay and when it is about to be destroyed and become empty, at that time, some living beings who believe in the Buddha or who cultivate will spontaneously be born in the Second Dhyana Heavens, in the heaven called the Light-Sound Heaven, also known as the Sound Heaven.

Then after the period of emptiness has passed and the life span of beings in the Light-Sound Heaven comes to an end and the world is about to be created again, one of the Light-Sound Gods will fall and go to the Great Brahma Heaven. Being just one, single God, friendless and alone, he will wait for some more Light-Sound Gods to fall into the Great Brahma Heaven, some to be the ministers and multitudes of Brahma. Once there is a crowd, the first person who got there and who now calls himself the Great Brahma God, will say, "Hi! You are all here. Guess what? I am the father of all of you!" Actually, this “father” business is purely imaginary. He is not really their father. Now the text refers to the Great Brahma God as the father of all living beings, but the text is just going along with him here. However, the Dharma Flower Sutra is indeed the father of all the Hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas.

Further, just as among the common people, the Srotaapanna, Sakridagamin, Anagamin, Arhat, and Pratyekabuddha are foremost, so, too, among all Sutra Dharmas whether spoken by the Thus Come One, by the Bodhisattvas, or by the Hearers, this Sutra is foremost.

One who can receive and uphold, read and recite, write out, and bow to this Sutra, or explain it to others, in the same way is foremost among all living beings.

Just as, among all the Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, the Bodhisattva is foremost, so, too, among all the Sutra Dharmas, this Sutra is foremost.

Just as the Buddha is king of all Dharmas, so, too, is this Sutra the king of all Sutras.

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