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The Wondrous Adornments of the Rulers of the Worlds

Chapter One, Part Three



The Buddha, while in the midst of beings bereft of blessings,
Is adorned with great blessings. Majestically he illuminates,
Demonstrating the Dharma of still quiescence–free from dust.
Spirit Universally Blooming Flowers awakens to this truth.


The next verse describes the Buddha, while in the midst of beings bereft of blessings, who are suffering and troubled—sentient beings such as you and I right now. We are examples of beings who lack blessings. If we had blessings, we wouldn’t have been born after the time of the Buddha. However, since we lack the reward of blessings, we live in the post-Buddha era, which places us in one of the Eight Difficulties.

The Buddha, while in the midst of such beings is adorned with great blessings. Majestically he illuminates. We are born as beings bereft of blessings, but the Buddha is adorned with the hundred blessings and replete with the myriad virtues. That’s why the text describes him as being adorned with great blessings, and says he most majestically illuminates. That is, he has exceptionally majestic virtue and illuminates deluded sentient beings such as ourselves, so we can turn our delusion into wisdom, demonstrating the Dharma of still quiescence–free from dust. The Buddha demonstrates this Dharma to the beings who lack blessings. “Freedom from dust” means being free from all defiled attachment. “Dust” stands for defilement, for impurity, and refers to the Evil World of the Five Turbidities. Also, the Chinese character for “dust” sounds exactly like the Chinese character for “sinking” as in “bobbing and sinking.”

Therefore this could be further interpreted in that sense. How can that be? If there is a lot of dust, it sinks, so that is sinking. To where does one sink? One sinks into the three evil paths, those of hell-beings, hungry ghosts and animals. Although particles of dust look small when taken separately, and some even border on emptiness, when a lot of dust particles collect together, their weight is not light. Here it speaks of freedom from dust, which means separating oneself from all burdens. That “dust” refers to burdens. What are burdens? They are one’s karmic obstructions, so this refers to freeing oneself from karmic obstacles. Then what does one attain? One achieves the Dharma of still quiescence.

Spirit Universally Blooming Flowers awakens to this truth. Night-ruling Spirit Universally Blooming Flowers of Trees understood the principle just discussed. She understood that kind of state and entered that passage into liberation. The four-line stanza that came before this one was spoken by the Night-ruling Spirit who is the Youth Good Wealth’s Good Advisor on the Sixth Ground, the Ground of Manifestation. This four-line stanza is spoken by the Good Advisor on the Ground of Traveling Far, and the four-line stanza to come is about the Good Advisor on the Ground of Not Moving.


He displays great spiritual powers throughout the ten directions,
Taming and subduing all sentient beings.
All see his various features and forms:
Spirit Protecting and Nurturing contemplates thus.  


He displays great spiritual powers throughout the ten directions. All of you know what the ten directions are. He makes great spiritual penetrations appear everywhere throughout the ten directions, taming and subduing all sentient beings,those with blood and breath, as well as insentient beings. It’s not easy to tame and subdue us sentient beings. As the Earth Store Sutra says, “The beings of the Southern Continent, Jambudvipa, are difficult to tame, difficult to subdue.” In Buddhism we are the beings most notorious for being hard to subdue and regulate. The text continues: All see his various features and forms. The Buddha makes all kinds of Dharma bodies appear, with all sorts of physical attributes. This could be described as manifesting whatever body is required to liberate each particular sentient being, and speaking Dharma for that being. Spirit Protecting and Nurturing contemplates thus. Night-ruling Spirit Protecting and Nurturing contemplates this state and enters this passage into liberation.  


In thought after thought in the past, the Tathagata
Purified the ocean of expedients and compassion.
To save the world, there is no place he fails to go:
Blessings and Joy Spirit is liberated thus.  


In thought after thought without exception throughout limitless eons in the past, the Tathagata, the Buddha, was intent upon saving and rescuing sentient beings. For that reason the text says he purified the ocean of expedients and compassion. “Purified” means “cultivated.” He cultivated expedient dharma doors and practiced the power of compassion. He used kindness and compassion to devise expedients, and employed expedients to augment kindness and compassion. The text describes this as “purifying,” that is, “cultivating and regulating,” which contains the further idea of setting in order the skillful expedient dharmas, kindness, and compassion, and making them right. The kindness and compassion are so immense that they are like a great ocean.

To save the world of sentient beings, there is no place he fails to go. There is no location where his body fails to appear. The Buddha is most magnanimous. He doesn’t abandon a single sentient being. Even if the being has committed all kinds of evil karma, shut off the source of his mind, and is completely unreceptive, the Buddha still accepts that sentient being. He practices teaching the unteachable and universally saving the unsavable. The text says “there is no place he fails to go” because he has such a magnanimous spirit, such magnanimous vows, and such magnanimous kindness and compassion. Blessings and Joy Spirit is liberated thus. Night-ruling Spirit Joy of Playful Roaming attains this passage into liberation.

Night-ruling Spirit Joy of Playful Roaming has already entered this passage into liberation. Now do we want to enter it or not? If we want to, we can; but if we don’t want to, we won’t be able to. Why is that? It’s because everything is made from the mind alone. Once you make up your mind to do something, it’s as good as done. If you have made up your mind to become a Buddha, you will become a Buddha. And if you are determined to become a Bodhisattva, you will be a Bodhisattva. It all depends on what you take as your goal. Consequently, it’s not the case that sentient beings have no chance to enter this passage into liberation. Anyone can enter it. Otherwise, why would the Buddha even mention it? The Buddha speaks the Dharma so that sentient beings will cultivate according to that Dharma.

Unless you could cultivate according to the Dharma, the Dharma fundamentally would have no use, and there would be no reason to speak it. Hence the Buddha, speaking within non-speaking, spoke this passage into liberation, and you and I all have a chance to realize it. All you need to do is bring forth a resolve to be vigorous, go forward energetically and not turn back. Then there is hope.


Sentient beings are ignorant–forever muddled and murky.
Their stubbornly poisoned minds are terrifying indeed!
The Tathagata kindly appears in the world for their sakes.
The Spirit Quelling Enmity awakens and rejoices thus.


I’ll give a very simple explanation of these four lines of verse. I may remember the lines wrong, so if I recite them incorrectly, please tell me. Don’t be polite; let me know, because you are all Good Advisors with higher wisdom, more experience, and greater intelligence than I have. Sentient beings are ignorant–forever muddled and murky. Sentient beings are the Buddha, and the Buddha is sentient beings. Don’t search for the Buddha apart from sentient beings or try to find sentient beings apart from the Buddha. It is said, “The ten dharma realms are not apart from a single thought, and a single thought is replete with the ten dharma realms.” That being the case, the mind, the Buddha, and sentient beings are not three different things.

Sentient beings are ignorant. Ignorance is wisdom, and wisdom is ignorance. It’s like your hand: one side is the palm, and the other side is the back of the hand. All you have to do is turn your hand over; they aren’t different things. If you can turn ignorance over, it’s wisdom. If you can’t turn it around, it’s ignorance. Wisdom and ignorance are not different. If you understand, it’s wisdom. If you don’t understand, that’s ignorance. Therefore, you shouldn’t stack a head on top of the head you already have, and seek wisdom apart from ignorance, or look for ignorance separate from wisdom. They are also one. The mind, the Buddha, and sentient beings are not three different things.

Afflictions are bodhi. Afflictions are ignorance, and bodhi is wisdom. Therefore, bodhi and afflictions are two and yet are not two. This may seem rather meaningless, but right within what seems rather meaningless, there is great meaning. If you look for something very meaningful apart from this, you are putting a head on top of a head. It’s like the description of Yajñadatta in the Surangama Sutra. He ran out in the streets searching for his head, asking desperately, “Where’s my head? Where did my head go?” Who knows where your head went? Who are you asking? You’re nuts!

Now you’re thinking, “This Dharma Master really likes to scolds people, and even does so while lecturing sutras.” I’m not scolding people, I’m scolding myself. Scolding you is just scolding me, and so each day when I scold you, I’m just giving myself a scolding.

“Sentient beings are ignorant–forever muddled and murky.” “Forever” might also be interpreted as another Chinese character which is pronounced exactly the same, but means “long,” as in “for a long time.” A long time and a short time are not the same. However, the principle that one thought can be stretched out to 80,000 eons represents how there are no fixed limits to “long” and “short.” If you say something is long, there’s something longer; but once you decide to call that other thing long, there turns out to be something longer still. Then which is long? If you say something is short, there’s something shorter. There’s nothing definite to go by. Then why does the text have a “long” time here? It’s because this is being spoken in conformity with the way people think, so that when “long” is mentioned, “short” will occur to them. They will think, “I don’t want to be muddled and murky for long. I’d rather have it last a shorter time. Then when that shorter time is over, they won’t be that way anymore. That’s the intent. I’m not very good at explaining sutras, and I’m not eloquent. I’m just using my very ignorant understanding and this unintelligent analogy to explain this first verse.

Each individual has an “I”, an ego. I see this “I” as being high like Mount Sumeru, and I don’t think that’s a good way to be. That’s why I say, “You are me, and I’m pretty much the same as you.”

The second line reads: Their stubbornly poisoned minds are terrifying indeed! See how serious this is! This kind of poison can’t be neutralized. It’s as solid as vajra, adamantine in its toughness. That’s why they’re called “stubborn poisons.” If they weren’t that hard, why would they be called “stubborn poisons”? These tough toxins are in their minds. How did their minds become poisoned? It came from greed, from anger, and from ignorance. Ignorance by itself would not be a problem. As the saying goes, “When wisdom appears, great deceit occurs.” If you were just ignorant, you wouldn’t be phony, because you’d be too obtuse to be false. It’s wisdom that allows you to be phony. This was said by Lao Zi, not by me. Don’t say, “The Dharma Master says that when wisdom appears, great deceit occurs.” It’s a quote from the Chinese sage Lao Zi, whose name means “the Old Child.” He was old from the time he was born. He said,

When the great Way declines, humaneness and righteousness manifest.
When wisdom appears, great deceit occurs.
When the six relations are in disharmony, filial sons arise.
When the country is in chaos, loyal ministers come forth.  

We become phony because our minds are too clever. If we were ignorant, we wouldn’t be impostors. Ignorance alone might pass, but you mustn’t have greed, anger and ignorance. If you have all three poisons, then the toxins will be tough. That’s why the text says: “Their stubbornly poisoned minds are terrifying indeed!” Why are they terrifying? They lead one to fall into the hells—isn’t that scary? They make one turn into a hungry ghost—isn’t that reason to be afraid? They change one into an animal—isn’t that alarming? If you don’t think those are reasons to be scared, you can try out those poisons.  

The Tathagata kindly appears in the world for their sakes. The Tathagata spoils us sentient beings, like a kind mother indulging her child. When the child cries, she says, “I’ll give you some candy. Don’t cry.” Or she says, “I’ll take you to play in the park,” or “I’ll take you to see a movie,” or, “I’ll take you dancing,” and the child stops crying. The Tathagata has pity and kindly appears for the sake of sentient beings. Sentient beings make mischief, overturning heaven and earth. Suddenly they’re in the heavens, suddenly in the hells. They all of a sudden become hungry ghosts, and then suddenly are animals. They just as suddenly become people or asuras. Beings “playfully roam” like that in the revolving wheel of the six paths, bobbing and sinking and not knowing their way home. When they don’t come back, the Tathagata, who has been waiting for them in the Pure Land of Eternal Stillness and Light, decides to go after them. Where does he go? He goes wherever you are. Doesn’t he come to where I am? Yes, he comes here, too. What does he do? Out of kindness and pity, he rubs the crown of your head and mine, and says, “Good men and good women, hurry and wake up! Come back quickly to the Pure Land of Eternal Stillness and Light!” That’s how the Tathagata out of kindliness appears for their sake--according to my explanation.

The Spirit Quelling Enmity awakens and rejoices thus. Night-ruling Spirit Quelling Enmity understands this state of the Buddha, and awakens to this passage into liberation. Having awakened to and entered this passage into liberation, she wants to benefit others and not just benefit herself. That’s why this passage into liberation is described again so you, I, and all other sentient beings can hear about it. If you want to enter this passage into liberation, you can; and it will be even less difficult for others to enter it as well. Everyone is welcome. All sentient beings can together enter the door to prajña-paramita. In your study of the Flower Adornment (Avatamsaka) Syllabary, you chant, “…together enter the door to prajña-paramita,” and that’s together entering the passage into liberation. Now I hope that all of you Good Advisors will together enter the door to prajña-paramita!

There is a story to go with the previous four-line stanza. It concerns an image left in a cave that reformed some poisonous dragons’ minds. The essence of the story is that there were venomous dragons who begged the Buddha not to leave their territory. They said that if the Buddha went away, they were sure to make trouble and drive everyone away from the region. The Buddha said that he was obliged to leave, so he displayed spiritual penetrations and entered the stone wall of the cave. The image of the Buddha remained visible on the stone wall. It could be seen from a distance, but not up close. The Buddha told the venomous dragons that if they looked at the image regularly, they would not have venomous minds, and so this is the story of how the poisonous dragons’ minds were changed and reformed.


In the past, the Buddha cultivated for the sake of all sentient beings,
That their longings could be completely satisfied.
Accordingly he accomplished the marks of merit and virtue.
Spirit Displaying Blessings enters thus.  


The Buddha refers to Shakyamuni Buddha and also to the Buddhas of the ten directions. That’s because the Way of all Buddhas is the same. One Buddha is all Buddhas, and all Buddhas are one Buddha. The relationship between Buddhas resembles that among lights. Lights blend with each other, and so do all Buddhas. For that reason, each and every Buddha in the past, that is, before becoming a Buddha, cultivated, and maintained that cultivation in life after life. Prior to accomplishing Buddhahood, he was careful to cultivate even small ways of cultivating. A little accumulated into a lot, and it became great cultivation. Eventually that great cultivation resulted in the Dharma Body adorned with the myriad virtues.

Hence, to become a Buddha, one needs Enlightenment of Self. In cultivation you must achieve understanding yourself, and wake up yourself. But you still don’t forget sentient beings; you must also wake them up--that’s the Enlightenment of Others. There is a beginning, middle, and end to the Enlightenment of Others, and at the very end one achieves the Perfection of the Practices of Enlightenment. You perfect your own Enlightenment and the Enlightenment of Others, and you have cultivated each and every one of the 84,000 dharma doors to perfection. Why does one want to do that? It is for the sake of rescuing and saving all sentient beings.

With nothing going on, why does the Buddha find something to do? He has already become a Buddha. Isn’t it enough for him to sit there and receive offerings from all sentient beings? Why, in addition, does he want to rescue them? It’s because the Buddha sees himself as being one with all sentient beings, and so he wishes to take everyone to Buddhahood. That’s the reason he wants to rescue and save sentient beings. How does he do it?

The next line of verse explains it is so that their longings could be completely satisfied. The Buddha is able to fulfill sentient beings’ wishes. All their hopes and longings are realized. Since the Buddha rescues sentient beings and makes all their wishes come true, he himself obtains the hallmarks of merit and virtue. That’s why the stanza continues: Accordingly, from rescuing and saving sentient beings, he accomplished the marks of merit and virtue. This refers to the Thirty-two Hallmarks and the Eighty Subsidiary Characteristics. He has those wondrous adorning characteristics and is the Guiding Master of Humans and Gods. Those meritorious hallmarks were accomplished through prior cultivation. For each practice you have not yet perfected, the corresponding meritorious hallmark is not perfected either.

“But,” you may ask, “Doesn’t that imply the existence of marks? The Buddha is supposed to be beyond marks, so why is the sutra still talking about marks of merit and virtue?” If the Buddha had no hallmarks, then what Buddha would you believe in? The Buddha has neither marks nor the absence of marks. The very absence of marks is all marks, and “all marks” includes the marks of merit and virtue.

Spirit Displaying Blessings enters thus. Night-ruling Spirit Displaying Pure Blessings understands and enters this kind of state and passage into liberation.

This has just been a simple presentation of the meaning of the four-line stanza, but we haven’t by any means discussed the individual principles completely. Why is that? It’s because the principles of the Flower Adornment Sutra fill the Dharma Realm. Each stanza of verse has enough principles and doctrines to fill the Dharma Realm, and each is replete with the practices of the 84,000 dharma doors. Therefore, if we were to discuss them in detail to the end of time, we could never totally explain them. All I can do is to say just this little bit. As to saying more, I don’t understand either. Even though the meanings are vast, my knowledge has limits; I can’t discuss that much. Then why do I tell you there are so many meanings? I do so because it’s up to you to discover them. You should bring them to light in your Wisdom Regarding Reality. Look for them in your treasury of jewels.

For that reason, I only speak a little bit. However, each person who hears the lecture should understand that little bit. If you don’t understand that small amount, then you’ll have no way to understand the infinitely many meanings. Why not? If you don’t understand a little bit, you’ll be even less able to understand more. And so, although you can say the one is the many and the many are the one, just how is it that the one is the many and the many are the one? You need to verify it for yourself. It’s like eating. If you eat, you can become full; but you won’t be full before you’ve eaten. Also, you know what something tastes like after eating it, but not before you have eaten it. Consequently, if you wish to deeply enter the Treasury of Sutras and have wisdom like the sea, you need to keep at your investigation from morning to night, and then you can attain it.

Right now, I have just explained a little it for you, but if any of you do not understand even that little bit, we will now continue to use a democratic method, as if conversing together. You can bring up for discussion whatever word or phrase you don’t understand, or any doctrine which for you is like a date you’ve swallowed whole without knowing its flavor. You may be like Pigsy who, after eating the ginseng fruit, didn’t know what it tasted like, and went to ask his elder brother Monkey, “What was its flavor when you ate it?” That will never do. Now we must set up the pole and see its shadow—as the pole is set up, its shadow is seen. Any one of you who has not yet understood should ask immediately. If you do understand, don’t say anything. However, if you don’t understand, you are not allowed to feign understanding by keeping silent. Only if you truly understand are you allowed to remain silent.

You might say, “Teacher, in the past you told those who understood to speak, and those who didn’t understand to keep quiet. But now people who don’t understand shouldn’t stay silent. It’s different from before.” If you understand that difference, then you understand a little bit.

In our sutra lecture, we are investigating the principles, and at the very least we need to understand a little bit, so we won’t have wasted the evening’s time. Actually, what in human life is not a waste of time? Whether or not you understand the Buddhadharma, as long as we are investigating here as a group, we are not wasting time. Even if we only explained one word, or not even one word, just for us to be able to assemble together for the space of a split second generates limitless merit and virtue, and is far better than your idle daydreaming. Consequently, this is very precious time, and time that we haven’t wasted. Don’t have the idea that it’s a waste of time.

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