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The Coming into Being of Worlds

Chapter Four



Sutra:

The Bodhisattvas’ sea of boundless merit and virtue,
By their various great vows is adorned.
Their wondrous voices constantly resound in these lands,
Sending reverberations through the ten directions’ net of worlds.  

The sea of beings’ karma is vast and boundless.
Their individual retributions are not the same.
From within the adornments of every location,
The Buddhas proclaim all such phenomena.  

Every Thus Come One of the three periods of time
Displays his spiritual powers throughout the seas of worlds.
Every Buddha involved in every such instance--
Contemplate how each adorns and purifies.

Commentary:

Every Bodhisattva has from remote ages past cultivated the Six Paramitas and the myriad practices for the sake of benefiting beings. Because they have benefited beings a lot, the considerable amount of merit and virtue they have amassed is as vast as an ocean. That’s why it says: The Bodhisattvas’ sea of boundless merit and virtue / By their various great vows is adorned. This sea of merit and virtue results from all different kinds of great vows made by the Bodhisattvas.

Their wondrous voices constantly resound in these lands.The ksetras adorned by the great vows made by Bodhisattvas simultaneously echo with wonderful sounds. The wonderful sounds are not just within one land. Rather, they are always sending reverberations through the ten directions’ net of worlds. They universally teach and transform all the beings in the Buddhalands throughout the ten directions. There are many lands, and so they are like a net. 

The sea of beings’ karma is vast and boundless. The karma created by beings may be good or bad. Whether it is good or bad, it has no form or shape. If it did, then a single person’s karma would fill up all of space. But since it is formless, it is merely a name. Although the sea of beings’ karma has no form or shape, nonetheless it does exist. It is not void. There is so much karma that it is immeasurable.

Their individual retributions are not the same. Beings become deluded , create karma, and undergo retribution. The karma created by each person is unique, and so is the retribution he or she undergoes. If people plant good causes, they reap good effects; if they plant bad causes, they reap bad effects. The retributions for good and bad karma differ from person to person. From within the adornments of every location, every Buddhalands, the Buddhas proclaim all such phenomena. Only the Buddhas can clearly explain these inconceivable kinds of retributions.  

Every Thus Come One of the three periods of time --every Buddha of the past, the present, and the future--displays his spiritual powers throughout the seas of worlds. His spiritual penetrations and transformations universally appear in the countries of all Buddhas. Every Buddha involved in every such instance--every Buddha in every mote of dust and every land: Contemplate how each adorns and purifies. You ought to take a look at all the adornments and purifications discussed above and understand the states of all Buddhas.

Sutra:

The magnificent adornments
Of eons past, present, and future,
Throughout the lands of the ten directions,
Are beheld in this land, one and all.  

Amidst all phenomena are limitless Buddhas,
Equal in number to all beings throughout the worlds.
Using their spiritual powers to tame those beings,
They thereby adorn the seas of lands.  

Every ornament emits wondrous clouds:
Assorted clouds of flowers, clouds of blazing incense,
And clouds of mani gems constantly appearing,
All serving to embellish the seas of ksetras.  

Wherever the Way is realized in the ten directions
Myriad adornments are perfected
And colorful clouds of swirling light
Are seen throughout the seas of ksetras.  

Disciples of the Buddha,
For eons as numerous as beings, diligently practice
Universal Worthy’s conduct and vows.
Limitless lands, fully adorned,
Manifest in every place.  

Commentary:

The magnificent adornments / Of eons past, present, and future, / Throughout the Buddhalands of the ten directions. All the different adornments are manifested and are beheld by beings in this land, one and all.  

Amidst all phenomena are limitless Buddhas, / Equal in number to all beings throughout the worlds. In all of the worlds are limitlessly many Buddhas. Exactly how many are there? Their number equals the number of beings. Using their spiritual powers of transformation to tame those obstinate beings, / They thereby adorn the seas of Buddhalands.  

Every ornament emits wondrous clouds: / Assorted clouds of flowers, such as precious lotus flower clouds, clouds of blazing incense, / And clouds of mani gems constantly appearing at all times, / All serving to embellish the seas of ksetras. All the Buddhalands have these different kinds of precious clouds as adornments. 

Wherever the Way is realized in the ten directions, in all the places throughout all worlds where Buddhas have realized the Way, myriad adornments are perfected. The Dharma Flower Sutra talks about the three transformations of lands, which turn the Saha world into a world of adornment. That is an inconceivable state. In this Saha world, we beings discriminate and see the world as being covered with mud and dirt: the evil world of the five turbidities. Buddhas, however, see the earth as being paved with gold. We beings are hindered by our karma and cannot see the golden earth as such.

At the time when Shakyamuni Buddha dwelt in the world, water was as nutritious as milk is today. One hundred years after the Buddha entered nirvana, there was a king named Asoka who made an offering to some Arhats, saying, “Senior-Seated Ones, don’t drink too much of this milk, it’s not easy to digest.”

The Arhats answered, “How can this milk be hard to digest? Don’t you know that when the Buddha was in the world, the water people drank was more nutritious than this milk? Now, some one hundred years after the Buddha’s n irvana, milk isn’t even as rich as water was in the time of the Buddha.”

When King Asoka heard this, he asked, “Senior-Seated Ones, may I ask if it is possible that I could taste a little from a cup of water from the time of the Buddha?”

The Arhats replied in unison, “You certainly can!” Great Arhats have spiritual penetrations and so can move the past and future to the present. They can move the past to the future and vice versa, changing the time around. And so, using their spiritual penetrations, they brought a cup of water from the Buddha’s time and gave it to King Asoka to drink. The King discovered that the flavor was as delicious as present-day milk! This goes to show that when the Buddha was in the world, beings had many blessings. Their food was both delicious and nutritious. Now we are far from the Buddha’s time, and beings’ blessings are scanty. Nothing is as good as it was in the Buddha’s day.

I remember when I was a child and we had rice or noodles for a meal, the aroma could be smelled a block away. The smell was so good that even when you were stuffed, you wished you could eat more. If my disciples who are fasting had been there, they wouldn’t have been able to take it. Nowadays the rice and noodles aren’t so aromatic, so they can hold back the urge to eat. They might be able to not eat, but they can’t stop drinking. But if you drink too much, you’ll have problems.

Now that beings’ blessings have diminished, the food doesn’t taste as good. This is because of beings’ karma. In ancient times people didn’t have to plant crops and farm the land. “Well, now we have labor-saving devices which have increased the harvest many times over!” you might say. That’s no big deal. In ancient times, each planting of the fields yielded seven harvests. After each harvest, the plants would grow again and produce more grain. Why was this? It was a response to beings’ abundant blessings. Now we have so few blessings that there is no response. Yet we don’t know enough to feel ashamed. We say, “We’ve got machines to do the work!” If machines do all the work, people might as well starve to death.  

And there are colorful clouds of swirling light. These adornments have a light about them, and they form bright clouds wherever they circulate. These clouds are seen throughout the seas of ksetras. The beings of this land are able to see the adornments of that land, and the beings of that land are able to see the adornments of this land. They are simultaneously visible to each other. 

What brings about these inconceivable states? They are brought about and adorned by the power of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s conduct and vows. Disciples of the Buddha, / For eons as numerous as beings, diligently practice / Universal Worthy’s conduct and vows. All of you disciples of the Buddha! You should bring forth a constant and steadfast resolve to diligently practice Universal Worthy Bodhisattva’s conduct and vows for eons as numerous as beings, and then you will achieve success . Limitless lands, fully adorned with wonderful things, manifest in every place. These kinds of states manifest in all places.

II.E.2.f. The purities of the seas of worlds

Sutra:

At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva further told the great assembly, “Disciples of the Buddha! You should know that the seas of worlds have seas of pure expedient means as numerous as motes of dust in the seas of worlds. That is to say, Bodhisattvas draw near to all good advisors with whom they share good roots in common; their extensive cloud of merit and virtue grows until it pervades the Dharma Realm; they purely cultivate magnificent, sublime liberations; they contemplate and abide in the states of all Bodhisattvas; they cultivate all paramitas to perfection; they contemplate all Bodhisattva grounds, entering and dwelling within them; they give rise to a sea of pure vows; they cultivate all practices leading to liberation; they enter the sea of all adornments; and they achieve the power of pure expedient means. Such pure expedient means are as numerous as dust motes in the seas of worlds.”

Commentary:

At that time,Universal Worthy Bodhisattva further told the great assembly, “Disciples of the Buddha! You should know that the seas of worlds have seas of pure expedient means as numerous as motes of dust in the seas of worlds. That is to say, Bodhisattvas draw near to all good advisors with whom they share good roots in common. Bodhisattvas all have fellow cultivators and wholesome friends to whom they draw near. They have the opportunity to meet and be together because they share good roots in common. And in doing so their extensive cloud of merit and virtue grows until it pervades the Dharma Realm; they purely cultivate magnificent, sublime liberations. Everyone gathers together to cultivate excellent dharma doors of liberation.

They contemplate and abide in the states of all Bodhisattvas; they cultivate the Six Paramitas and Myriad Practices, all paramitas—methods for getting to the other shore—to perfection.They contemplate all Bodhisattva grounds--from the First Ground up to Tenth Ground, and then the position of Equal Enlightenment, entering and dwelling within them. They give rise to a sea of pure vows, mutually encouraging and helping each other to make pure, great vows and vigorously advance in cultivation. The Bodhisattvas say to each other, “That’s a fine vow you’re making!” They cultivate all the most essential practices leading to liberation from the Three Realms. They enter the sea of all Bodhisattvas’ adornments; and they achieve the power of pure expedient means, thereby attaining Buddhahood. Such pure expedient means are as numerous as dust motes in the seas of worlds.”  

Sutra:

Then Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, wishing to restate his meaning, received the Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power, contemplated the ten directions, and spoke verses.  

The adornments throughout all seas of worlds
Emerge from innumerable expedients and power of vows.
The seas of ksetras, ever luminous and bright,
Arise from the power of infinite pure karma.  

Since long ago, Bodhisattvas have drawn near good advisors,
Together cultivating wholesome karma, completely pure.
Vast kindness and compassion extends to all beings:
With these the seas of ksetras are adorned.  

All methods of practice as well as samadhis,
Dhyana concentrations, liberations, and expedient grounds
Are cultivated in the presence of Buddhas,
Thereby giving rise to seas of ksetras.  

As Bodhisattvas gain limitless, decisive understanding,
Their comprehension fully matches the Thus Come Ones’.
Having cultivated a sea of patience and skill-in-means,
They adorn and purify boundless ksetras.

Commentary:

Then Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, wishing to restate his meaning, wishing to elaborate upon the meanings in the prose section, received the Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva wasn’t arrogant. He didn’t say, “I am the one who’s saying this.” He didn’t have a big ego. He gave all the credit to the Buddha, implying that without the aid of the Buddha’s awesome power, he wouldn’t have the wisdom to speak the following verses. He contemplated the ten directions, and spoke verses.  

The adornments throughout all seas of worlds / Emerge from innumerable expedients and power of vows. The Buddhalands throughout space and the Dharma Realm are so numerous that they are like a sea. Each world has its own adornments. These adornments are brought into being by the vows and skill-in-means of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The seas of ksetras, ever luminous and bright, illuminating other worlds, arise from the power of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ infinite pure karma.  

Cultivators should make vows to draw near to good and wise teachers at all times. Before one has attained sagehood, it’s essential to draw close to good teachers and stay away from bad one s. Since long ago, over limitless and boundless eons, Bodhisattvas have drawn near good advisors. Even though they have drawn near good teachers for such a long period of time, it doesn’t feel long at all. That’s because they are extremely sincere and eager in seeking the Dharma. Together they have been cultivating wholesome karma, completely pure. By drawing near to good teachers, one can rely upon them to help one cultivate good, pure karma.  

Vast kindness and compassion extends to all beings. The Buddhas’ kindness and compassion reaches all beings. With these, with their compassionate vows to universally rescue beings, the seas of ksetras are adorned.  

All the 84,000 methods of practice as well as all the various kinds of samadhis, / Dhyana concentrations, liberations, and expedient grounds, / Are cultivated in the presence of Buddhas. In the Buddhas’ Way-places, the Bodhisattvas cultivate all these dharma doors, samadhis, and so forth, to perfection. They get rid of their bad habits and increase their good karma, regulating evil and increasing good. Just as medicine is used to cure illness, various dharma doors are used to cure beings’ habits and faults, thereby giving rise to seas of ksetras. The merit and virtue of such cultivation produces the myriad Buddhalands. 

Bodhisattvas gradually gain limitless, decisive understanding. Cultivators should develop wisdom. Then they will have the Dharma-selecting eye--the ability to pick the appropriate dharma door for themselves and for others. “Decisive understanding” means having no doubts. They are very clear and certain as to the method they should cultivate. The y won’t be plague d by nagging doubts. Their comprehension fully matches the Buddhas’. Bodhisattvas have proper knowledge and proper views. Although they haven’t become Buddhas, their level of understanding is equal to the Buddhas’. They won’t go wrong, because they have the same knowledge and views as the Thus Come Ones, even though they have not realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi.  

Having cultivated a sea of patience and skill-in-means, / They adorn and purify boundless ksetras. Patience is the most important aspect of cultivation. No matter what dharma door you practice, you need to have patience to succeed . If you aren’t patient, you won’t have any success. All dharma doors involve a certain amount of difficulty. For example, fasting is a simple practice, but impatient people cannot do it . They quit halfway through. If you are patient, then you can make it to the end. Then your samadhi power will grow and your desires will lessen. Your efforts will not go to waste.

Every bit of effort you apply yields merit and virtue. But patience is the key. You have to endure what you can’t endure , and bear the unbearable. If you can bear it for one second more, you’ll make it through. It’s only a matter of one second. If you can bear one second, you can bear many seconds. If you can’t bear that one second, then your patience won’t last for any amount of time. So just keep telling yourself, “Wait a moment, wait a moment.” If you constantly cultivate patience, you’ll succeed at whatever you do.

“Skill-in-means” refers to expedient dharma doors. Everything we cultivate is skill-in-means. For example, our sutra recitations and morning and evening ceremonies are all skill-in-means. We can not become Buddhas overnight. This is the road of expedient means that we must walk before we actually reach Buddhahood. The Buddhas of the past cultivated the sea of patience and skill-in-means to perfection. From this they gained spiritual penetrations, and therefore they can adorn and purify boundless Buddha lands. Sutra:

Cultivating sublime practices to benefit beings,
Their vast blessings and virtue constantly grow.
Like clouds spreading across the skies,
All seas of ksetras are perfected.  

Limitless perfections, numerous as dust motes in a ksetra,
Have already been cultivated to completion.
The infinite paramita of vows
Gives birth to oceans of pure ksetras.  

Pure cultivation of peerless dharmas
Initiates boundless transcendent practices.
By transforming beings with sundry skill-in-means,
Bodhisattvas thereby adorn the oceans of lands.  

By practicing and adorning the grounds of expedients,
They enter the sea of methods derived by the Buddhas’ merit and virtue.
When beings’ sufferings are exhausted,
Vast, pure ksetras come into being.  

Vast and peerless, the sea of powers
Causes all beings to plant good roots,
Make offerings to all Thus Come Ones,
And purify boundless lands.

Commentary:

Cultivating sublime practices to benefit beings, wishing to teach and transform beings so that they can leave suffering and attain bliss, Bodhisattvas cultivate difficult ascetic practices. They cultivate blessings and wisdom because they want to realize the Way so they can rescue beings. Their vast blessings and virtue constantly grow until both blessings and wisdom are brought to perfection. Like clouds spreading across the skies, / All seas of ksetras are adorned and perfected.  

Limitless perfections are as numerous as dust motes in a ksetra. There are not only Six or Ten Paramitas. The number of paramitas or perfections is immeasurable, as many as motes of dust in the lands of all Buddhas. These have already been cultivated to completion. The infinite paramita of vows made by Bodhisattvas gives birth to oceans of pure ksetras. If their vows were finite, Bodhisattvas wouldn’t be free and at ease. The Bodhisattva Who Contemplates at Ease (Avalokiteshvara) cannot stop in his practice of the profound prajna - paramita. If your vows have an end, then you become the Bodhisattva Who Doesn’t Contemplate at Ease. If you stop practicing the profound prajna - paramita , you won’t reach the other shore. Oceans of pure lands are born from the paramita of vows.  

Pure and single-minded cultivation of peerless dharmas—all the 84,000 dharma doors, initiates boundless transcendent practices. You can select the dharma door that will liberate you from the Three Realms. By transforming beings with sundry skill-in-means, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas thereby adorn the oceans of lands. Why do the Buddhas teach and transform beings? That’s how the seas of lands are beautified. Teaching beings is equivalent to adorning lands. When beings become Buddhas, lands are naturally beautified. 

By practicing and adorning the grounds of expedients, when Bodhisattvas practice the skill-in-means of teaching beings in order to adorn lands, they enter and achieve the sea of methods derived by the Buddhas’ merit and virtue. / When beings’ sufferings are exhausted…Having become Buddhas, Bodhisattvas are capable of drying up the wellsprings of beings’ sufferings.Since beings no longer suffer, but only experience bliss, vast and pure ksetras come into being.  

Vast and peerless, the sea of powers…The sea of powers refers to the power of great spiritual penetrations, the power of great awesome virtue, the power of great wisdom, the power of great eloquence, and other such powers, which are as profuse as a sea. No other powers can rival these power s . The sea of powers causes all beings to plant good roots, make the bodhi resolve, and quickly realize the Buddha Way. Those beings make offerings to all Thus Come Ones, / And purifyboundless lands. They bring forth vows to purify these lands.

II.E.2.g. The distinct manifestations of Buddhas in the seas of worlds

Sutra:

At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva further told the great assembly, “Disciples of the Buddha, you should know that each and every sea of worlds has Buddhas in different manifestations as numerous as the motes of dust in the seas of worlds. These Buddhas may manifest in small or large bodies; they may manifest short or long life spans; they may adorn and purify only one land or limitless Buddhalands; they may reveal the Dharma wheel of the One Vehicle or the Dharma wheels of inconceivably many vehicles; they may manifest the taming of a few beings or of boundless beings. Such manifestations are as numerous as the motes of dust in the seas of worlds.”  

Then Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, wishing to restate his meaning, received the Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power, contemplated the ten directions, and spoke verses.  

Commentary:

At that time, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva further told the great assembly, “Disciples of the Buddha, you should know that each and every sea of worlds has Buddhas in different manifestations as numerous as the motes of dust in the seas of worlds. These Buddhas may manifest in small bodies. The Buddha may manifest as a six-foot tall Bhikshu--that is a small body. Or they may appear in large bodies, such as the ten-thousand-foot body of Nishyanda Buddha. They may manifest short life spans. Maybe the Buddha only makes a brief appearance in the world, and then straightaway enters nirvana. Or they may appear to have long life spans. On the other hand, Buddhas may live in the world for limitless kalpas. They may adorn and purify only one land, only their own particular Buddhaland. Or they may adorn and purify limitless Buddhalands, all different from one another.

They may reveal the Dharma wheel of the One Vehicle , that is, the one and only Buddha Vehicle. Or they may reveal the Dharma wheels of inconceivably many vehicles, such as the Great Vehicle of the Bodhisattvas, the Middle Vehicle of Sages Enlightened by Conditions, and the Lesser Vehicle of the Hearers. They may manifest the taming of a few beings. Some Buddhas appear in the world and save only a few beings before they enter nirvana. Or they may manifest the taming of boundless beings. Other Buddhas teach and transform a great number of beings. Such manifestations are as numerous as the motes of dust in the seas of worlds, of which only a few are discussed here. 

Then Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, wishing to restate his meaning, received the Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power, contemplated the beings of the ten directions, and spoke verses.  

Sutra:

The Buddhas’ diverse expedient means
Give rise to all seas of ksetras,
Totally delighting sentient beings.
This is the Thus Come One’s power of skillful versatility.  

The Dharma body of all Buddhas is inconceivable—
Devoid of form, shape, or appearance.
Yet for beings it manifests in myriad forms,
Which beings perceive according to their wishes.  

Perhaps they manifest a short life span for beings,
Or perhaps enjoy a long life of limitless eons.
The Dharma body manifests throughout the ten directions,
Appearing in worlds at opportune times.  

Perhaps they adorn and purify inconceivable
Seas of all lands throughout the ten directions.
Or perhaps they adorn and purify only one land,
Manifesting in that single land and no other.  

Perhaps, depending on what beings delight in,
They display an unimaginable array of vehicles.
Or they may proclaim the Dharma of the One Vehicle,
Expediently revealing limitless means within the One.  

Commentary:

The Buddhas’ diverse expedient means / Give rise to all seas of ksetras. In responding to beings, all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are compassionate to the extreme. The proof of their utmost compassion is found in the array of ingenious methods they use to teach beings. They manifest in the seas of lands, totally delighting sentient beings: / This is an example of the Thus Come One’s power of skillful versatility. They employ their marvelous expedients to influence, teach, and transform beings.

The Dharma body of all Buddhas is inconceivable; it cannot be comprehended with the mind or expressed with language. “The mouth wants to speak, but there are no words; the mind wants to think, but thoughts are gone.” It is devoid of form, shape, or appearance. The Dharma body of all Buddhas is apart from all marks, without shape or appearance, yet for beings it manifests in myriad forms, / Which beings perceive according to their wishes. The Thus Come Ones will manifest whatever form it takes to save a particular being, in order to speak Dharma for that being. If the form of a Buddha is appropriate, they will assume that form. If the form of a Bodhisattva is appropriate, they will appear as Bodhisattvas. It is only because they wish to make beings happy that they manifest all kinds of forms. 

Perhaps, in order to demonstrate the impermanence of all things, they will manifest a short life span for beings. / Or perhaps they enjoy a long life of limitless eons, dwelling in the world for a very long time. The Buddhas’ Dharma body manifests throughout the ten directions, / Appearing in worlds at opportune times. They appear at the opportune time, in response to the potentials of beings. 

Perhaps they adorn and purify inconceivable limitless numbers of seas of all Buddha lands throughout the ten directions. / Or perhaps they adorn and purify only one land, / Manifesting in that single land and no other. A Buddha may appear in only one land to adorn it, and not travel to any other country. 

Perhaps depending on what beings delight in, knowing what delights them and wishing to make them happy, they display an unimaginable array of vehicles--great, small, limitless and boundless. Or they may proclaim only the Dharma of the One Vehicle, / Expediently revealing limitless means within the One. They show how the Dharma of the One Vehicle encompasses limitless and boundlessly many expedient dharma doors.

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