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

All you Dharma-protecting laymen and laywomen who are associated with the Buddhist Lecture Hall, the Sino-American Buddhist Association, or Vajra Bodhi Sea: when you come to the lecture hall, you should concentrate single-mindedly on whatever you came to do, whether it is studying Chinese or English, sitting in meditation, reciting the Buddha’s name, or listening to the Sutra lecture. Do not come here and gather in small groups of three, five, or ten people to chat about things that happened eighty thousand eons ago or to make plans for the next eighty thousand eons. People who come to the Buddhist Lecture Hall have to cultivate and not talk so much. The residents should not talk so much with visitors, and visitors should not talk so much with the residents.

Your talking obstructs the cultivation of others. If someone is trying to meditate, your talking will cause him to have false thinking; and if you cause a cultivator to have false thinking; you are creating offenses. Unless you have business to take care of, do not engage in casual conversations. If you have legitimate business, you should be able to deal with it in a few brief sentences. You should not have to hold meetings constantly. It is okay to hold a meeting if you have a legitimate reason, but three or five people should not get together just to shoot the breeze. You should know that talking is not as good as reciting the Buddha’s name.

“Speak one sentence less, and recite the Buddha’s name one more time.” Recite until your false thoughts die, and then your Dharma body will come to life. Only then can you apply effort successfully. As diligent cultivators, we should not mindlessly chatter. I am telling you this because some people have told me they do not like to come to the lecture hall because they cannot apply effort due to the constant chatter. All of you should pay attention to this and abide by the rules.

Sutra:

“Constellation King Flower! This Sutra can save all living beings. This Sutra can lead all living beings to separate from suffering and distress. This Sutra can greatly benefit all living beings, fulfilling their vows. Just as a clear, refreshing pool can quench the thirst of all; as a cold person finds fire; as a naked person finds clothing; as a merchant finds customers; as a child finds its mother; as a passenger finds a boat; as a sick person finds a doctor; as one in a dark place finds a lamp; as a poor person finds a jewel; as the people find a king; as a trader finds the sea; as a torch dispels darkness--the Dharma Flower Sutra, in the same way, can cause living beings to leave all suffering and all sickness and pain; it can untie all the bonds of birth and death.”

Outline:

G2. Praising the function of the Dharma.

Commentary:

Here we have twelve more analogies. Shakyamuni Buddha calls out again, “Constellation King Flower! This Sutra can save all living beings.” The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra has a great function. It can take living beings from great trials and tribulations to happier circumstances. This Sutra can lead all living beings to separate from suffering and distress. This Sutra can greatly benefit all living beings, fulfilling their vows. The great benefits this Sutra brings to living beings cannot be expressed in words. Whatever wish or vow living beings have, they can fulfill it. It is just as a clear, refreshing pool can quench the thirst of all.

It is as a cold person finds a fire. Not understanding the Buddhadharma is like being cold. Understanding the Buddhadharma is like being warmed by a fire.

It is as a naked person finds clothing. Before you read the Dharma Flower Sutra, you were as if naked. Now, studying the Dharma Flower Sutra and understanding it is like getting some clothes.

It is as a merchant finds customers, so that he can do business.

It is as a child finds its mother. Reading and reciting the Dharma Flower Sutra, you have found your Dharma-body mother.

It is as a passenger finds a boat. To get across the sea, you need a boat. The Dharma Flower Sutra is a great boat.

It is as a sick person finds a doctor. Otherwise he cannot get well. If a sick person finds a good doctor, he can get well. We are like sick people and the Dharma Flower Sutra is a great doctor who can cure us.

It is as one in a dark place finds a lamp. In a dark room, you cannot see anything. If you light a lamp, then you can see everything. The Dharma Flower Sutra is just a bright light in a dark room.

It is as a poor person finds a jewel. It is also like a poor man who finds a treasure, the seven treasures of gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, mother of pearl, red pearls, and carnelian.

It is as the people find a king. If the citizens do not have a king, there is chaos. Now they have a king.

It is as a trader finds the sea. A trader is a person who wanders around selling his wares. Traders gain their treasures travelling on the sea.

It is as a torch dispels darkness. The Dharma Flower Sutra,in the same way as the twelve analogies just mentioned, can cause living beings to leave all suffering and all sickness and pain. It can untie all the bonds of birth and death. Birth and death is like a rope that ties us up. Now, reading and reciting the Dharma Flower Sutra, we can untie those knots and obtain freedom and liberation.

Sutra:

“If a person hears the Dharma Flower Sutra, writes it out himself or employs others to write it out, the limits of the merit and virtue he shall obtain cannot be calculated even by means of the Buddha’s wisdom.”

“If a person writes out this Sutra and makes offerings to it of flowers; incense; beads; burning incense; powdered incense; paste incense; banners and canopies; clothing; and lamps of various kinds such as butter lamps, oil lamps and fragrant oil lamps, lamps of champaka oil, lamps of sumana oil, lamps of patala oil, lamps of varshika oil, and lamps of navamalika oil, the merit and virtue obtained is also limitless.”

Outline:

F3. Showing the depth of blessings of one who upholds the Sutra.
G1. The blessings of one who upholds the entire Sutra.


Commentary:

If a person hears the Dharma Flower Sutra--if he has good roots and good causal conditions enabling him to hear the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra--and if he writes it out himself or employs others to write it out, the limits of the merit and virtue he shall obtain cannot be calculated even by means of the Buddha's wisdom. Using the Buddha's omniscient wisdom to try to figure out how much merit and virtue he has, one still could not find its limits.

If a person writes out this Sutra and makes offerings to it of flowers; incense; beads; burning incense; powdered incense; paste incense; banners and canopies; clothing; and lamps of various kinds such as butter lamps, oil lamps and fragrant oil lamps, lamps of champaka oil, lamps of sumana oil, lamps of patala oil, lamps of varshika oil, and lamps of navamalika oil, the merit and virtue obtained is also limitless.Patala” is the name of a “flower that blooms repeatedly.” “Varshika” are “flowers that bloom in the summer.” "Navamalika" means “variegated flowers”; they have patches of all different colors.

Sutra:

“Constellation King Flower, if a person hears this chapter, “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva”, he will also obtain limitless, boundless merit and virtue. If a woman hears this chapter, “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva” and is able to receive and uphold it, after quitting this woman’s body, she will not undergo one again.

If, after the passing of the Thus Come One, in the last five hundred years, there is a woman who, hearing this Sutra, can cultivate according to its teachings, at the end of her present life, she will go straight to the blissful world of the Buddha Amitayus where she is surrounded by great Bodhisattvas.

Born from a lotus flower, seated on a jeweled seat, this person will never again be tormented by desire, tormented by hate and stupidity, or tormented by the filth of arrogance and jealousy.

He will obtain the Bodhisattva’s spiritual penetrations and the patience with the non-production of Dharmas. Having obtained this patience, his eye will be pure. By means of this pure eye, he will see Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, equal in number to the grains of sand in seven million two thousands kotis of nayutas of Ganges Rivers.”

“At that time all the Buddhas will praise this person from afar saying, ‘Good indeed, good indeed, good man, that within the Dharma of Shakyamuni Buddha you can receive, uphold, read, recite, and ponder this Sutra, and speak it for others. The merit and virtue you obtain is limitless and boundless. Fire cannot burn it. Water cannot flood it. Your merit and virtue is such that if a thousand Buddhas spoke of it together, they could not exhaust it.’”

“‘You have already been able to destroy the thieves of Mara, to ruin the troops of birth and death, and to demolish all remaining enemies.’”

“‘Good man, a hundred thousand Buddhas, with their power of spiritual penetrations, all protect you. In all the world with its gods and humans, there is none like you, with the exception of the Thus Come One. The Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, and even the Bodhisattvas, cannot equal you in wisdom and Dhyana concentration.’”

“Constellation King Flower, such is the power of the merit and virtue and wisdom accomplished by this Bodhisattva.”

“If a person hears this chapter, “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva”, and rejoices in accord, praising its goodness, that person’s mouth in his present life will always emit the fragrance of a blue lotus. The pores of his body will always emit the perfume of ox-head chandana. The merit and virtue he obtains will be as described above.”

Outline:

G2. The blessings of one who upholds this chapter.
H1. The description.


Commentary:

Constellation King Flower, if a person hears this chapter, “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva”--not even the entire Dharma Flower Sutra, but just this chapter alone--he will also obtain limitless, boundless merit and virtue.

If a woman hears this chapter, “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva” and is able to receive and uphold it, read and recite it, after quitting this woman's body, she will not undergo one again. Thinking it a lot of trouble and affliction, she does not want to be a woman. Then after her life as a woman naturally comes to an end--this does not mean that she commits suicide because she does not want to be a woman, but rather that her life naturally comes to an end--having undergone her retribution, she will not undergo a woman’s body again. If she receives and upholds this chapter, then after her life as a woman comes to a natural end, she would not have to be a woman again. If you want to be a woman, even thought it is trouble, and you do not want to be a man, then you can do as you please. No one is going to force you to give it up. It is up to you. So women hearing this should not be afraid and think they are not going to be women, run off and not listen to the Sutra.

If, after the passing of the Thus Come One, in the last five hundred years, there is a woman who, hearing this Sutra, or this chapter, can cultivate according to its teachings—cultivating patience, compassion, and the emptiness of Dharmas, these three Dharma doors—at the end of her present life she will go straight to the blissful world of the Buddha Amitayus, where she is surrounded by great Bodhisattvas. The Pure Ocean-wide Assembly of Bodhisattvas surround the Buddha as he speaks the Dharma. They are mindful of the Buddha, mindful of the Dharma, and mindful of the Sangha.

Born from a lotus flower, seated on a jeweled seat--seated on a golden terrace, with a lotus flower for a father and mother—this person will never again be tormented by desire. So you see, the Buddha really understands the thoughts of living beings. He knows that women have a difficult time seeing through greed and desire. These two words can totally confuse even the most intelligent women. Desire is extremely fierce. One may crave for food and always think, "What tasty thing can I have to eat?" With thoughts like this, eventually one goes to steal food--off to the refrigerator to see what is good and to steal some. One can also be greedy for nice clothing. "I think I need a new outfit." One can also be greedy for a fancy house to live in. Everyone has greedy thoughts like these about food, clothing, and a place to live.

There is another kind of desire that is even fiercer than the desire for food, clothing, and a place to live. This is a desire that comes with you at birth. Right when you are born, you come with these impure thoughts. The desire for food, clothing, or a place to live is a small problem compared with this one. This biggest problem of all is sexual desire. These thoughts are difficult indeed to stop. But if you can stop them, then you are on your way to becoming a sage, an Arhat, or a Bodhisattva. If you are not a sage, an Arhat, or a Bodhisattva, you would not be able to stop thoughts of sexual lust. You would not have control over yourself. You will be tormented by such thoughts. Then, confused by lust, without rhyme or reason, you will get angry.

Moreover, this person who upholds the Dharma Flower Sutra will not be tormented by hate and stupidity. Because you are hateful, you become stupid, totally lacking wisdom. One is afflicted by hatred and stupidity, but the root of the problem is sexual desire. Hatred and stupidity follow in its wake. Further, one would not be tormented by the filth of arrogance and jealousy.

If you understand the Dharma Flower Sutra you would not be arrogant and think yourself higher than Mount Sumeru. You would not look down on everyone. Jealousy means you are afraid someone else is going to be better than you. You should know that arrogance and jealousy are filth; they are unclean, extremely dirty. Why haven't you become enlightened? Why do you lack wisdom? It is just because you are arrogant and jealous. Here, we are talking about women, but men are subject to these faults too. If you have such faults, you should change them. Hearing this chapter about Medicine King, you should put down your body. You should think, "Medicine King Bodhisattva burned his body and his arms as an offering to the Buddha. What have I got to be arrogant about?" Get rid of your arrogance. When it is gone, you will obtain purity and give rise to genuine wisdom. Giving rise to genuine wisdom, you would not be tormented by greed and desire, by hatred, stupidity, and jealousy and all those impure thoughts.

He will obtain the Bodhisattva's spiritual penetrations and the patience with the non-production of Dharmas. Having obtained this patience, his eye will be pure. One who reads and recites this chapter, “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva” will not be defiled, and will obtain the Bodhisattva's spiritual penetrations. The patience with the non-production of Dharmas means that one does not see the slightest dharma produced or the slightest dharma destroyed. One experiences such a state and endures it mentally. Having obtained this patience, your eye will be pure and will obtain the merit and virtues enumerated above.

By means of this pure eye, he will see the Buddhas of the ten directions. Why can't we see them? Because our eyes are not pure. If your eyes obtain purity, then you can see Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, equal in number to the grains of sand in seven million, two thousand kotis of nayutas of Ganges Rivers.

At that time all the Buddhas will praise this person from afar, saying, "Good indeed, good indeed, good man, that within the Dharma of Shakyamuni Buddha, you can receive, uphold, read, recite, and ponder this Sutra, and speak it for others. The merit and virtue you obtain is limitless and boundless. You understand the Sutra's doctrines yourself, and you can communicate those doctrines to others. In general, fire cannot burn it. And if you enter a fire yourself, you would not burn. But you cannot try this out to see if it works. If you try it out, you are going to burn. It has to be an accident. Let's say you are in the mountains: The mountain may catch on fire, but you would not get burned. If your house catches on fire accidentally, the fire would not burn you. If you set the fire yourself trying to run an experiment, the Buddhas are not going to pay any attention to you. Water cannot flood it. You would not drown in any body of water--seas, rivers, lakes, or ponds. Your merit and virtue is such that if a thousand Buddhas spoke of it together, they could not exhaust it. If a thousand Buddhas all together tried to speak about your merit and virtue, they would never finish.

You have already been able to destroy the thieves of Mara—the demons of afflictions, the demons of the mind, all the demons—and to ruin the troops of birth and death. There is no more birth and death for you. And to demolish all remaining enemies, having totally vanquished them.

Good man, a hundred thousand Buddhas, with their power of spiritual penetrations, all protect you. The Buddhas are mindful and protective of you. In all the world with its gods and humans, there is none like you. No one has as much merit and virtue, with the exception of the Thus Come One. Of course the Buddha's merit is greater than yours. The Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, and even the Bodhisattvas, cannot equal you in wisdom and Dhyana concentration. Even their accomplishments do not come up to yours.

Constellation King Flower, such is the power of the merit and virtue and wisdom accomplished by this Bodhisattva who receives and upholds, reads and recites, explains and writes out the Dharma Flower Sutra.

If a person hears this chapter, “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva”--he does not need to hear the whole Sutra, just this chapter—and if he rejoices in accord, praising its goodness, that person’s mouth in his present life will always emit the fragrance of a blue lotus. From the pores of his body he will always emit the perfume of ox-head chandana--a very sweet incense. The merit and virtue he obtains will be as described above.

Sutra:

“Therefore, Constellation King Flower, I entrust to you this chapter, “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva”. After my passing, in the last five hundred years, propagate it extensively in Jambudvipa. Do no let it become extinct, thereby allowing evil demons, demonic denizens, all the heavenly dragons, yakshas, kumbhandas and so forth to get their way.”

“Constellation King Flower, you should use the power of spiritual penetrations to protect this Sutra. Why? Because this Sutra is good medicine for the sicknesses of those in Jambudvipa. If a sick person gets to hear this Sutra, his sickness will be cured immediately. He will not grow old or die.”

“Constellation King Flower, if you see a person who receives and upholds this Sutra, you should scatter blue lotuses filled with powdered incense over him as an offering. Having done that, you should reflect: ‘Before long, this person will certainly lay out a grass mat, sit in the Way-place, vanquish the troops of Mara, blow the Dharma conch, strike the great Dharma drum, and save all living beings from the sea of old age, sickness, and death. Therefore, when those who seek the Buddha Way see one who receives and upholds this Sutra, they should bring forth a reverent heart in this way.”

Outline:

H2. The entrustment.

Commentary:

Therefore, Constellation King Flower, I entrust to you this chapter, “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva.” I am putting you in charge of distributing this very important chapter, so bring forth your resolve to do so. After my passing, in the last five hundred years of the Dharma-ending age, propagate it extensively in Jambudvipa, distribute and circulate it. Do not let it become extinct, be cut off, thereby allowing evil demons, demonic denizens, all the heavenly dragons, yakshas, kumbhandas and so forth, to get their way, to run around and do whatever they wish. Kumbhanda means "wintermelon ghosts" and also "nightmare ghosts." Aside from kumbhandas, there are other kinds of ghosts like the putana, the kalaputana, and all the rest. Most people think ghosts just come in one variety, but they come in myriads of varieties. All living beings come in many varieties. Take ants, for example. There are many, many different kinds: yellow, white, black, big, small, long, short, and so forth. Who knows how many different kinds of ants there are? Some are very, very tiny. There are also black, yellow, red, green mosquitoes--all kinds of them. Such little things! Butterflies also come in infinite varieties.

There are just as many varieties of spirits and ghosts. This applies to all the various species of living beings. You could never classify them all. They vary from country to country. In cold climates the ants are different from the ones in hot climates. Western ants are not the same as Eastern ants.

Constellation King Flower, you should use the power of spiritual penetrations to protect this Sutra. Why? Because this Sutra is good medicine for the sicknesses of people in Jambudvipa. The chapter “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva” is good medicine for sick people here. If a sick person gets to hear this Sutra, if he recites this chapter of the Sutra, his sickness will be cured immediately. He will not grow old or die. Isn't this wonderful?

"But I have never seen anyone in the world who did not get old just because they recited this chapter," you say.

How many people do you know? Just because you have not met any people who do not grow old or die, you cannot say they do not exist.

Constellation King Flower, if you see a person who receives and upholds this Sutra, and this chapter, you should scatter blue lotuses filled with powdered incense over him as an offering. Take a blue lotus, fill it with powdered incense, and then sprinkle it over the one who recites this chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra. Having done that, you should reflect: 'Before long, this person will certainly lay out a grass mat--a seat made of auspicious grass--sit in the Way-place beneath the Bodhi tree, and accomplish Buddhahood. He will vanquish the troops of Mara, blow the Dharma conch, and strike the great Dharma drum. When you blow the Dharma conch, all the demons are afraid. And he will save all living beings from the sea of old age, sickness, and death. Therefore, when those who seek the Buddha Way see one who receives and upholds this Sutra, they should bring forth a reverent heart in this way. They should be very reverent and respectful.

Sutra:

When this chapter “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva” was spoken, eighty-four thousand Bodhisattvas obtained the Dharani of understanding the speech of all living beings.

Outline:

D3. The benefits.


Commentary:

When this chapter “The Past Deeds of Medicine King Bodhisattva” was spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha, eighty-four thousand Bodhisattvas obtained the Dharani of understanding the speech of all living beings. This is the language samadhi. They knew the languages of all living beings.

Sutra:

From within the jeweled stupa, the Thus Come One Many Jewels praised Constellation King Flower Bodhisattva saying, “Good indeed, good indeed, Constellation King Flower! You have accomplished such inconceivable merit and virtue that you are able to question Shakyamuni Buddha about matters such as these and to benefit limitless living beings.”

Outline:

D4. Praise from Many Jewels Thus Come One.


Commentary:

From within the jeweled stupa, the Thus Come One Many Jewels praised Constellation King Flower Bodhisattva saying, “Good indeed, good indeed, Constellation King Flower! You have accomplished such inconceivable merit and virtue this time. It cannot be conceived of by the mind or expressed in words. It is excellent that you are able to question Shakyamuni Buddha about matters such as these and benefit limitless living beings. This is of infinite benefit to all living beings, entirely inexpressible and inconceivable in its magnitude.”

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