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Bodhisattvas Asks for Clarification

Chapter Ten




As a city wall is built
In order to protect the populace,
So, too, do patience and vigor
Guard and protect all Bodhisattvas. 


Here is another analogy: in making a metropolis, there is the inner city and the outer wall. Why is an outer wall necessary? It is in order to afford protection to all the citizens. And so the sutra says, as a city wall is build/ In order to protect the populace. The protecting wall is built to keep out foreign invaders. So, too, do patience and vigor/ Guard and protect all Bodhisattvas. The two Paramitas, patience and vigor, likewise serve as a wall of protection for all Bodhisattvas, so that the thief of ignorance cannot attack and destroy the inner city. If you can be patient, then you will be free of ignorance, and the thief of ignorance will be gone; you will have killed the thief of ignorance. If you can be vigorous, then you will defeat the demon of laziness. And so the text says, “So, too, do patience and vigor / Guard and protect all Bodhisattvas.” They serve as protection—like the city’s outer wall—for all resolved Bodhisattvas in their cultivation.


As a great and powerful king,
Is honored by the entire country,
So, too, samadhi and wisdom are
What all Bodhisattvas rely on. 


This next analogy presents a great and powerful king who is honored by the entire country. He has tremendous strength. This is as described in the verse:

Of all under heaven
None is not the king’s domain;
Among all in his domain;
None does not submit to the king.

“His domain” means all the land within the boundary of the country that he rules. He is the one who holds authority over the entire land. All the people of the land that he rules honor him. “Honor” is an English translation of the Chinese compound dai yang (戴仰), in the sutra text. Dai is the word used for holding and offering up from the crown of one’s head as a gesture of sincere reverence. And so, when the emperor used to issue an imperial edict, all the citizens would consent and bow and receive the edict at the crown of their heads in respect. The character yang, when used with the character wang (仰望) means to look up in admiration and respect. Because he serves the people as their king, they all revere him.

So, too, samadhi and wisdom—the two Paramitas of dhyana-samadhi and prajna wisdom—are as fundamental to practice as a great and powerful king of a country. These two are the primary dharmas, and the other dharma doors are subsidiary ones, or helpers, to the dharmas of samadhi and wisdom.

Therefore, they are what all Bodhisattvas rely upon. Bodhisattvas who are cultivating on the Bodhisattva path should rely o samadhi and wisdom in their cultivation. If you have samadhi and wisdom, you most certainly can become a Buddha.


Just as a wheel-turning king
Can bestow happiness upon his subjects,
So, too, the Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind
Can bring joy to all Bodhisattvas. 


This metaphor is of a wheel-turning king. How does one become a wheel-turning king? One amasses blessings and wisdom through ones practice. One who has the blessings and wisdom to be a wheel-turning king, but who relinquishes that position, need only wait until his next lifetime to realize Buddhahood. If he takes on the position of wheel-turning king, however, he will have to wait a longer period of time before becoming a Buddha.

In the lifetime Shakyamuni Thus Come One realized Buddhahood, had he not cultivated, he would have instead become a wheel-turning sage king possessing the seven treasures.

The wheel-turning sage king possesses an “as-you-will” pearl. What is the origin of this wish-fulfilling gem? It originates with the great golden-winged peng bird (garuda). A verse explains this:

At the golden-winged garuda’s demise,
His flesh and bones all scatter.
Only his undecaying heart
Remains perfect and dazzles.
A dragon king may nurture this pearl,
For it can dispel millenniums of darkness.
A wheel-turning king who cherishes this mani,
Can save his people from every disaster.
And why, when it is here with us right now,
Do we use it every day but fail to perceive it?

At the golden-winged garuda’s demise, when he dies, his flesh and bones all scatter and disappear. Only his undecaying heart remains perfect and dazzles. The golden-winged peng bird’s heart is the shape of a sphere, and it emits light. The light from that pearl can dispel millenniums of darkness. It is so bright that you cannot even open your eyes to look at it.

A dragon king may nurture this mani. The dragon-king snatches the great golden-winged peng bird’s heart, and then it becomes his precious pearl. The dragon king cherishes this pearl, constantly clinging onto it and nurturing it.

And this object, this pearl, can dispel millenniums of darkness. He places it in his Dragon Palace, and it illumines every corner of his palace as brightly as if there were electric lighting, so that not a single place is dark. A wheel-turning king may cherish this wishing pearl. When the wheel-turning king gets this object, it becomes his as-you-will pearl, and it can save his people from every disaster. No matter what the disaster, the pearl can dispel it.

And why, when it is here with us right now, do we use it every day but fail to perceive it? Every single person also possesses this wish-fulfilling pearl. This pearl is simply our originally wonderful, bright, true mind, our efficacious, bright, enlightened nature. That is why, when the wheel-turning king obtains this as-you-will pearl, it dispels all disasters. This is not to say that the pearl magically changes its form. It is not necessarily that way. It means that a sage king knows what people need and is able to use the pearl to provide people with those very things He is able to quell every disaster.

So, too, the Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind/Can bring joy to all Bodhisattvas. The verse is cryptic and only uses the number “Four”. Now, whoever has been paying close attention to this explanation knows what those four are. Such a student knows a bit of the language and terms of the Dharma. Previously we discussed the Six Paramitas. And these “Four” are kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and renunciation—the Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind. Where did your Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind run off too? They ran 80,000 miles away, and so you have forgotten what the Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind are!

The Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind—kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and renunciation—are just like the wish-fulfilling pearl of the wheel-turning king, which is able to bestow happiness upon all people. By the same token, these Four Unlimited Aspects of Mind can bring happiness to all Bodhisattvas.

Again, what is meant by Bodhisattvas? Bodhisattvas are those who wish to help others. But they also need to become enlightened. Could you say that all you need to do is wish to help people, and that makes you a Bodhisattvas? No. That is only the first step on the road to becoming a Bodhisattva. You cannot say, after helping a few people out, “I am a Bodhisattva.” What kind of Bodhisattva are you?

Are you a Bodhisattva who can go without eating? A real Bodhisattva can go without eating for ten days, twenty days, a hundred days, even a thousand days with no problem. If you can do that, then you can be called a Bodhisattva. But if you cannot go a thousand days without eating, then you are not a Bodhisattva yet. To gain the status of a Bodhisattva, you have to pass the qualifying examination. Then you may count as a Bodhisattva. Not only must you be able to go without eating, but you must also be able to go without water and without sleep. You must be able to go a thousand days without food, without sleep, without water, and without relieving yourself. If you can do that, then you can be called a Bodhisattva; I will certainly certify that you are a Bodhisattva. But if you cannot do that yet, then you will have to wait a while before becoming a Bodhisattva.

And so you cannot say that simply by receiving the Bodhisattva Precepts you become a Bodhisattva. You should not talk like that. Taking the Bodhisattva Precepts is only the very first step along the road to Bodhisattvahood.

Likewise, you should not say that simply by receiving the Bhikshu Precepts one becomes a Bhikshu. After having received the Bhikshu precepts, you must walk on that road, and then you count as a Bhikshu. But if you take a few steps on that road, and then turn around and go back to lay life, you are not a Bhikshu. If you walk a little way and then turn back, you are not a Bodhisattva, either.

Whether you aspire to be a Bodhisattva or a Bhikshu, you must walk down the corresponding road. Those who take a few steps on the Path and then turn back are many. I have had monastic disciples who walked a little way down the Bodhisattva Path a while and then turned back.

IX. The Profoundness of the One Path


At that time, Manjushri Bodhisattva asked Worthy Leader Bodhisattva, “Disciple of the Buddha, all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, were liberated by means of a single path. Why, then, do we perceive that the Buddhas’ lands, and their multitudes of deeds, are all different, with none the same? That is to say: their worlds, the sentient beings in them, the Dharma that they speak to tame and regulate beings, their life spans, the light they emit, their spiritual powers, their assemblies, the ways in which they teach, and the durations of their Dharma are all different. And yet, not one has failed to perfect all of the Buddhadharma and to realize anuttarasamyaksambodhi.” 

Then Worthy Leader Bodhisattva answered in verse. 


At that time, after Wisdom Leader Bodhisattva completely finished answering all Manjushri Bodhisattva’s questions, Manjushri Bodhisattva—the “Greatly Wise,” and “Wonderfully Auspicious” Bodhisattva—had some questions that he asked Worthy Leader Bodhisattva.

And so he said, “Disciple of the Buddha, all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, all the infinitely, boundlessly many Buddhas, World Honored Ones, of the ten directions and three periods of time, those honored in and beyond the world, were liberated by means of a single path. 

They all used the Dharma of the One Vehicle to escape. The “single path” in the text refers to the One Vehicle.

As it says in the Dharma Flower Sutra, “There is only One—the Buddha—Vehicle, and no other vehicle.” By means of the One Vehicle, they all escaped from the Triple Realm.

Why, then, do we perceive that the Buddhas’ lands and their multitudes of deeds, their good works, are all different, with none the same? Since they all got out of the Triple Realm and realized Buddhahood by way of the One Vehicle, why are their lands and the deeds they do all different, and why are none of them the same?

How are they different? Let us talk about their worlds. There are ten kinds of distinctions which can be made regarding worlds. There are: defiled worlds and pure worlds. Of the Buddhas’ lands, some are defiled and some are pure. For example, this Saha World is a defiled world, and the Land of Ultimate Bliss and the Eastern Crystal Land are both pure worlds. All worlds differ in respect to their level of purity or defilement.

Some are great and some are small. Another way in which Buddhalands differ is that some are larger, and some are smaller.

Dependent retributions, that is, the mountains, rivers, the grounds, buildings, verandas, homes and cottages also differ from one Buddhaland to the next.

The appearances and shapes of Buddhalands also differ. For example, the ground of some worlds is composed of gold, some of crystal. The ground of other worlds may be made of different varieties of dirt, rocks, and clay. 

 The appearance of each world differs from all the others, as does the shape.

Their substances also differ. Some worlds are composed of gold and some are composed of silver. Some worlds are made of giant lotuses. The appearance and substance of every world are different from all the others.

The adornments of various worlds are also different. There are different adornments in their bodhimandas, and every Buddha is also different. Some worlds are pure. There are worlds in which a Buddha is born. There are some worlds whose durations are long; those worlds last for a very, very long time. Other worlds are going through stages of evolution, in which there are all kinds of distinctions.

The sentient beings in them are all different in many ways, as is the Dharma that they—the Buddhas—speak to tame and regulate beings.Their life spans, the life spans of the Buddhas, also vary. Some Buddhas have long life spans, while others have short ones. For example, there is Moon Face Buddha, who realized Buddhahood in one day and night, and after another day and night, he entered nirvana. There are even some who realize Buddhahood in the morning and enter nirvana that same evening. Then there was Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived past the age of eighty before entering nirvana. And there are other Buddhas whose life spans are infinitely many great kalpas long. Thus, Buddhas’ life spans differ.

The light they emit is not the same, nor are their spiritual powers. Their assemblies also differ, in that some assemblies consist of a huge number of people and other kinds of sentient beings while others consist of only a few. The ways in which they teach, the methods by which they proclaim the teaching, also differ. And the durations of their Dharma are all different, too. How long their Dharma will abide differs. In all the ways listed above, each Buddha is different from the others,

And yet, not one has failed to perfect all of the Buddhadharma and to realize anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Not a single Buddha did not perfect the Myriad Practices and the Six Paramitas—giving, moral precepts, patience, vigor, samadhi, and wisdom. Once you have perfected wisdom, you will be completely free of delusion. Giving transforms stinginess and greed. Upholding the moral precepts counteracts committing offenses; patience is an antidote for anger; and, vigor counteracts laziness. Dhyana-samadhi counteracts scatteredness of mind, and wisdom counteracts delusion. Those who study the Buddhadharma should at the very least know about the Six Paramitas.

There is no such thing as a Buddha who failed to perfect the Buddhadharma in its entirety and yet was able to realize Unsurpassed, Proper, Equal, and Right Enlightenment.

Then Worthy Leader Bodhisattva answered Manjushri Bodhisattva’s questions in verse.

Question: If Shakyamuni Buddha had not become a Buddha, but a wheel-turning king instead, would he have been a gold wheel-turning king, or a silver wheel-turning king, or a copper wheel-turning king, or an iron wheel-turning king?

Venerable Master: If Shakyamuni Buddha had not become a Buddha, he would certainly have been a gold wheel-turning king. The same is true of all Buddhas: if they do not cultivate, they become wheel-turning kings; if they do cultivate, they become Buddhas.

Gold wheel turning kings have huge airships that they either drive themselves or are chauffeured around in.  These ships are as much as thirty yojanas in width. We have never before seen the likes of it in this world. It is only the gold wheel-turning sage king who has such a huge vehicle. However, one of my disciples could probably put one together. He likes to invent things. A small yojana equals forty li. A middle-sized yojana equals sixty li, and a great yojana equals eighty li. A gold wheel-turning sage king’s vehicle is larger than an aircraft carrier.

Question: What is nirvana?

Venerable Master: Nirvana is a state that is eternal, pure, blissful, unchanging, and characterized by true self. It is eternal in that it never decays, blissful in that one derives happiness in this state, and it belongs to the one in the state. It is pristine purity. Each one of us is inherently endowed with this, but we have forgotten it, and consequently it seems to be lost. But if you can find it again, it will be yours.

Question: Will a wheel-turning sage king use up his blessings?

Venerable Master: It depends on how great his blessings are. If his blessings are very great, he can be a wheel-turning sage king several times. If he has fewer blessings, he can be a wheel-turning sage king once. If he does not want to be a wheel-turning sage king even once, he can become a Buddha. Is it your intention, in asking this question, to become a wheel-turning sage king?

Question: Does the position of a wheel-turning sage king transcend karma?

Answer: No matter how high the position one holds, one is still subject to karmic retribution. Unless you have become a Buddha, there is no use in discussing the possibility of being free of karmic retribution. However, the wheel-turning sage king is someone who creates only good karma. He teaches and influences all the people so that they receive and uphold the precepts and practice the Ten Good Deeds. In his world, there is no killing. Nevertheless, it is best not to want to be a wheel-turning sage king, because a wheel-turning sage king has too many wives to deal with. He has, at the very least, five hundred wives. That would be a lot of hassle, right? So you should not admire the wheel-turning sage king and think he is just the greatest, to the point that you want to become one in the future.

Question: Did the sutra say that the spiritual powers of the Buddhas all differ? How does that work?

Answer: What are spiritual powers? They are just knowing the unknowable, and being able to do the impossible. What you originally did not know, you now know. That is a kind of spiritual power. And if what you could not do before, you can now do, you can be said to have a kind of spiritual power. But the spiritual powers of a Buddha are not as slight as that. With the Buddhas’ spiritual powers, he can move mountains to other worlds; he can switch the positions of worlds; he can move objects from the north to the south and from the south to the north. A Buddha can perform myriad transformations, and he has wonderful, unlimited functions. Therefore, the spiritual powers of all the Buddhas are different in many ways.

Being able to pick up a telephone and carry on a conversation over a distance of tens of thousands of miles is an example of the spiritual powers of people. But to be able to do that without the use of a telephone is to have genuine spiritual powers. Another example of this is that by watching television, people can know about all kind of things they would not ordinarily be able to know about. But to know about all those things without having to watch television is to have spiritual powers.

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