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Universal Worthy's Conduct and Vows

Chapter Forty



One increase and one decrease is called a kalpa. Increase refers to that part of the cycle when people's lifespans increase and reach 84,000 years. In every one hundred years the average height increases by one inch and the average lifespan increases by one year. the period of increase is followed by a period of decrease in which, similarly, there is a decrease of one inch in height and of one year in the lifespan every one hundred years. Our present kalpa declines until the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, when the average lifespan was eighty years. The decrease has continued, and today the average lifespan is around sixty years worldwide.

Now, people say that some people live for ninety or one hundred years. That is correct, but some people only live to be ten years old, and others just live to be twenty. Sixty years refers to the average lifespan. Some people live a little longer, and some live for a little less time, but the worldwide average lifespan is around sixty years.

When the average lifespan reaches thirty years a plague will come which will be fatal for anyone who contracts it, because there will be no medicine to cure it. Eighty percent of the population of the entire world will die of this plague. Only people living in the mountains, in the countryside, or in distant places where the disease cannot reach will survive. When the average lifespan reaches about twenty-five years, the disaster of fire will erupt. At that time seven suns, instead of the one we have now, will blaze down from space.

How will seven suns be able to appear? They will appear as retribution brought about by the power of living beings' karma. Now we are beginning to explore space, and this exploration will turn to exploitation as we plunder the resources of other worlds. Without any reason, we humans do not stay where we belong, but we feel that we must go to other worlds and ravage other people's possessions. As we continue to exploit space, we will decimate the moon, and it is then that seven suns will appear in the sky. At that time, the whole world will become a volcano, and all the rivers, lakes, and seas will dry up. There will not be any oceans, because this world will be destroyed and burned dry, up to the First Dhyana Heaven. This disaster of fire will be the first of the three great disasters which appear at the end of a kalpa.

When the average lifespan is twenty years, the second disaster, that of water, will strike. After the disaster of fire, when everything is burned and there is nothing left, in the midst of that nothing will appear something, as water comes forth from no water. There will be a transformation in space, a vast amount of water will flow forth, and this world will become a vast ocean, a world of water. First it will become a world of molten fire, and then it will become a world of water. The disaster of water will flood everything up to the Second Dhyana Heaven, so that even the gods in the Second Dhyana Heaven will drown. At this time, the human race will be nearly extinct.

After the water disaster, when the average lifespan is between fifteen and twenty years, the third disaster, that of wind, will occur. It will be even fiercer than the disasters of fire and water. It will blow all the way to the Third Dhyana Heaven. The six desire heavens, too, are blown to bits.

It is said that in all six desire heavens there are the five marks of decay. The six desire heavens are:

1. the Heaven of the Four Kings;

2. the Heaven of the Thirty-Three;

3. the Suyama Heaven;

4. the Tushita Heaven;

5. the Bliss From Transformations Heaven;

6. the Comfort From Others' Transformations Heaven.

In each of these six desire heavens, the five marks of decay afflict the gods just before they die.

What are the five marks of decay?

1. Gods wear a flower crown; at the end of their lives, the flowers wilt and dry out.

2. The clothing of the gods is always very clean. When the five marks of decay manifest, their clothing gets soiled.

3. Gods do not perspire, even when it is hot. When the five marks of decay manifest, their armpits begin to perspire. Once Vimalakirti told some cultivators with perfumed bodies, "Don't emit perfumed fragrances. If you do, living beings will become attached when they smell you, and they will become greedy for your fragrance. So don't emit such fragrances."

4. The bodies of the gods are always fragrant. Not just one god is fragrant, but all of them are. When the five marks of decay manifest, they lose their fragrance, and their bodies begin to give off a foul odor. This stench is the fourth mark of decay.

5. Gods can always sit in dhyana samadhi. They are not like people, who resemble monkeys: "If we don't go to one place, then we will go to another." Gods, on the contrary, always sit in meditation and possess dhyana samadhi. Moreover, they do not speak very much, unlike people, who cannot get everything said in a day and continue to talk ceaselessly through the night. When the five marks of decay manifest, the gods cannot sit still, and when they try to meditate, they are always moving in one direction or another. Unable to sit still, they get confused, and when they get confused, they fall. This is when gods die.

So gods, at the end of their lives, manifest the five marks of decay, and thus there is the saying, "In the six desire heavens, there are the five marks of decay." When the wind disaster reaches the Third Dhyana, all of the desire heavens are destroyed. Even if you have cultivated to the Third Dhyana Heaven and are reborn there, the disaster of wind will blow you away when it strikes.

It is said, "Those who cultivate to Neither Thought Nor No Thought are not as fortunate as those who go to the West." After someone is born in the Western Land of Ultimate Bliss, he can return to this world if he wants, to teach and transform living beings. Therefore, birth in the Western Land is a better state than birth in the Heaven of Neither Thought Nor No Thought.

After the wind disaster, there will be few people left alive. Those who are alive at that time will mature very quickly. When the average lifespan is ten years, there will be another fierce epidemic, and many people will die. After this is over, the period of increase will begin. Every one hundred years, the average height will increase by one inch, and the average lifespan will increase by one year. This rate of increase will continue until the average lifespan is 84,000 years.

A cycle of increase and decrease is called one kalpa. One thousand of these kalpas is called a small kalpa. Twenty small kalpas constitute one middle-sized kalpa, and four middle-sized kalpas equal one large kalpa. When a world completes the final stage of extinction, it remains empty for a time, and then it begins to grow. This period of growth lasts for twenty small kalpas. One thousand kalpas make up one small kalpa, and twenty small kalpas make up a middle-sized kalpa. There is growth for twenty small kalpas, and stasis for twenty small kalpas, decay for twenty small kalpas, and emptiness for twenty small kalpas.

Growth, stasis, decay, and emptiness make up one cycle of a world system. After a world is empty, it will again grow, and after that there will again be stasis, again decay, and again emptiness. There will be growth, stasis, decay, emptiness; growth, stasis, decay, emptiness; growth, stasis, decay, and emptiness. Our world system is constantly subject to growth, stasis, decay, and emptiness without end, just as people are born and die, are born and die, are born and die again and again.

This process continues endlessly, because living beings are inexhaustible, and the afflictions of living beings are inexhaustible. Yet if it could be the case that any of these were exhaustible, my vows would nonetheless still be inexhaustible. But they will never be exhausted. There will never be a time when any of them can be exhausted. Neither will any of my vows. My vow power can never be exhausted.

With myriads of jewels in boundless lands in all directions, I make decorations and offerings to the Thus Come Ones. Throughout all the boundless Buddha lands of the worlds of the ten directions, with all the myriad jewels of the worlds of the ten directions, I adorn and make offerings to all Thus Come Ones, thus generating the kind of merit and virtue that is the most supreme.

For aeons as many as the motes of dust in lands, I bring the foremost peace and joy to gods and humans. I bring the most superior happiness to gods in the heavens and people in the world. I make offerings for as many kalpas as there are dust motes in all the lands throughout the ten directions.

Yet, if one believes in these kings of vows supreme--if there is a person who can hear of the supreme and wonderful practices of these ten great kings of vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, as they pass by the ear but a single time; and if in search of Bodhi one thirstily craves these vows--if one sincerely and earnestly seeks wonderful superior Bodhi and craves these vows, just like a thirsty person craving a drink of water--then the merit and virtue gained will that surpass.

If his mind has the thought to seek Bodhi and craves these ten vows, then his merit and virtue will surpass the merit of one who makes offerings of jewels as numerous as dust motes to Thus Come Ones and adorns all their lands. The merit and virtue of one who earnestly wishes to practice the ten kings of vows and sincerely seeks Bodhi, surpasses the merit and virtue of those who offer jewels to all the Thus Come Ones in the ten directions.


With bad advisors forever left behind,
From paths of evil one departs for eternity.
Soon to see the Thus Come One’s limitless light
And perfect Samantabhadra’s supreme vows.  

Easily obtaining the blessings of long life,
Assured of rebirth in the human realm,
Before long, he’ll perfect and complete
The practices of Universal Worthy.  

In the past, owing to a lack of wisdom power,
The Five Unintermittent Offenses of extreme evil I have done,
In one thought can all be wiped away, by reciting
The great Kings of Vows of Universal Worthy.  


With bad advisors forever left behind. It is said,
When people are close to crimson, they become red;
When we are close to black ink, we become black;
If we contact brown, we become brown;
And if we touch yellow, we become yellow.

You end up like the people with whom you associate. In China the saying, "The mother of Mencius chose her neighbors," concerns the same concept.

Mencius' family first lived next to a cemetery, which also had a mortuary where corpses were prepared for burial and put into caskets. At that time, Mencius was very young, and like other children, he imitated his surroundings. What he saw taking place in the cemetery he began to mimic in his play. The children made corpses and coffins out of mud and buried them in the ground and made pigs and goats and bowed to them.

When his mother saw this, she said, "What good is it for my child to study these kinds of things? What future is there in this?" With that, she moved to another neighborhood.

This time Mencius' family found itself next to a butcher shop where pigs and sheep and so forth were killed. When Mencius began to study this kind of behavior, his mother would not stand for it, and so she again moved.

This time they moved next door to a school where a scholar named Tze Ssu taught students who came to study during the day, but who went home to eat and sleep. When his students entered the school, they bowed to the memorial plaque of Confucius and bowed again when they left the school, thus performing the proper etiquette for entering and leaving school.

When Mencius observed the students, he began to imitate their propriety. When his mother saw this she said, "It is right to live in a place like this; we should live here," and she enrolled Mencius in the school.

As a student, Mencius would study a new subject for a few days, and then lose interest. His mother would often weave at home on a loom. One day, when Mencius told her that he was not going to study any more, his mother did not say a word, but took out a knife and cut the thread in the cloth she was making.

When Mencius saw what she had done, he knew it was a mistake, and he knelt before his mother and said, "Why have you gotten angry? Did I do something wrong? Please tell me."

Mencius' mother replied, "Your not studying is just like my cutting the threads of this cloth. If you don't study, you will not accomplish anything in the future."

Mencius thought, "If that's the way things are, then I had better continue to study."

Later he became, after Confucius, one of China's great sages. How was he able to become a sage? He became a sage because his mother emphasized education, moving three times until she moved to a place where Mencius would have a change to study. If his mother had not moved in the beginning when they were living next to a cemetery, then Mencius would have grown up to be a mortician, and would have taken care of corpses and graves. If they had remained next to the butcher shop, Mencius would have grown up to kill sheep and pigs. As a result of their moving next to a school, however, Mencius was able to perfect his studies and become a famous scholar.

The story of Mencius' education is an example of what is meant by being far away from bad advisors and drawing near to good advisors. This is the meaning of the saying,

When people are close to crimson, they become red;
When we are close to black ink, we become black;
If we contact brown, we become brown;
And if we touch yellow, we become yellow.

So it all depends on what you are near. When you draw near good advisors, the same principle applies; you become good like them. If you meet with bad advisors, however, they will teach you wrong methods. If you stay near them, you will become like them, as they go everywhere disrupting people, being jealous, and obstructing others. That is one kind of bad advisor. Do not get close to such people; stay far away. If ever you should meet one, you should quickly get away from him. Therefore the text reads, "With bad advisors forever left behind." Why leave them behind? They do not teach you to cultivate good methods, only bad ones.

From paths of evil one departs for eternity. If you stay far away from bad advisors, you can eternally leave all evil realms. If you do not keep far away from bad advisors, however, you can easily fall into the three evil paths. The three evil paths are the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals. Asuras are also sometimes included in the evil paths, in which case they are called the four evil paths. The beings in these paths undergo the most extreme forms of suffering.

Why does a person undergo extreme suffering? Suffering comes from having learned all kinds of evil knowledge from bad advisors. Studying evil knowledge, you create evil offenses, and having created evil offenses, you fall into evil paths. Therefore, when you are apart from bad advisors, you can be far away from evil paths.

Soon to see the Thus Come One's measureless light. When you leave all evil paths, you can go to all the good paths. That is the way things work. Extinguishing evil in itself is good; the absence of evil is good. If you do good, you will have good karma and receive a wholesome retribution. What is wholesome retribution? To quickly be able to see the Buddha. So there is a saying, "Quickly see the Thus Come One Limitless Light." You will quickly be able to draw near and see Amita Buddha of the Land of Ultimate Bliss, the Buddha of Limitless Light, who is also known as the Buddha of Limitless Life.

And perfect Samantabhadra's supreme vows. When you reach the Land of Ultimate Bliss of Amita Buddha, you will be able to perfect the most supreme kings of vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, easily obtaining the blessings of a long life. A person like this will quickly obtain a superior lifespan, which means that he will have a long life.

Buddhism speaks about not having the mark of a lifespan, but now the text mentions a long lifespan. Is this not the mark of a lifespan? This mark of a lifespan is not that which such a person seeks after, but comes about because he stay far away from all evil advisors, eternally leaves all evil paths, and sees Amita Buddha. Although one does not seek for a long life, nonetheless one obtains the reward of a long life.

Not having the mark of a lifespan does not mean that if we want a long life we cannot have a long life, or if we want happiness, we cannot get real happiness. When you leave for the Land of Ultimate Bliss, your lifespan becomes limitless, and your light becomes limitless. Amita Buddha has a limitless lifespan, and we can have one, too. Amita Buddha's light is limitless, and if we are born in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, our light will be limitless as well. Therefore, the text says such a person will easily obtain the blessings of long life. He obtains it easily because of his good karma, not because of his attachments.

Assured of rebirth in the human realm. If this person wishes to teach and transform living beings, if he wants to return and be born among people, then everything he does will be perfect. This is called "wishing to return." If he does not want to return, he does not need to, but if he wants to return, he comes very naturally. This is true freedom to come and go as you please.

Before long, he'll perfect and complete the practices of Universal Worthy. He will perfect the ten great kings of vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva and all their merit and virtue. The practices he perfects are the same as those perfected by Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, and since the strength of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's practices is the greatest, your methods of practice as well can be perfected to be identical to his.

In the past, owing to a lack of wisdom power. "In the past" means long ago in the distant past. Earlier, the text reads,

For all the evil deeds I have done in the past,
Created by my body, mouth, and mind,
From beginningless greed, anger, and delusion;
I now know shame and of them all repent.

"For all the evil deeds I have done in the past created by my body, mouth, and mind, from beginningless greed, anger, and delusion." Why do we have greed, anger, and delusion? Because we do not have wisdom, and we are without the strength of Prajna. Why do we do evil? Because we do not have any wisdom. Therefore we create all kinds of evil karma. One with true wisdom would not create evil karma. So the text reads, "In the past, owing to a lack of wisdom power, the five unintermittent offenses of extreme evil I have done. The "extreme evil I have done" refers to the bad karma which people create.

Who can create things? Who does not practice good dharmas but practices evil dharmas instead? It is the doer, the person who does things. If you have a doer, a creator, you have the karma which is created. Therefore, there is the door and what is done. When karma is created, then the creator who made it must undergo the results of what he has done. Therefore, the text reads, "the evil I have done."

What is evil? There are five actions that are classified as extremely evil:

1. killing one's father;

2. killing one's mother;

3. killing an Arhat;

4. disrupting the harmonious Sangha;

5. spilling the Buddha's blood.

People are inherently incapable of killing their parents, but there is a type of person who can commit this unthinkable crime. This type of person can commit the ten extremely evil acts, and also the five rebellious acts.

There are some people who have killed their fathers, but very few have killed their mothers. Nevertheless, it still happens. A few months ago the newspaper reported the story of a child who had killed his mother. This happened in the United States, and the child was in his middle teens. I do not know if you saw this story. The boy's mother was a widow and had raised him alone for over ten years. Their family consisted of only two people, one son and his mother.

One day the mother told her son she wanted to paint a picture of him in the nude, and she asked him to take off his clothes. The son did not want to do this, but his mother insisted. The son was very filial, however, and so at her urging, he took off his clothes and modeled for his mother. She painted all day, from ten in the morning until ten at night, but still had not finished.

Now his mother was not just painting all this time, but was also eying her son. After a while, she began hugging him and wanted to involve him in a sexual relationship. The son became very worried and refused to take part. At this point, his mother brought out a handgun and told him that if he did not want to have a relationship with her, he should shoot her with the gun. She said that if he did not shoot here, she could not resist involving herself with him. When she gave the gun to her son and told him to shoot her, he probably got a little mixed up and shot and killed his mother.

After the killing, the police arrested him and took him to jail, and later at a hearing, he confessed the whole affair in great detail. I do not know what has become of the boy. This is an example of killing one's mother.

Killing an Arhat means to kill one who has been certified to the fruition of Arhatship. this is also one of the five rebellious acts. Another of the five rebellious acts is disrupting the harmonious Sangha. The Sangha are always referred to as a harmonious assembly. The Sangha are made up of four or more people who have taken the Complete Precepts.

The Sangha are harmonious in six ways. (a) Harmonious in body, they dwell together. The Sangha do not fight or argue among themselves.

(b) With speech harmonious, there is no contention. They are also harmonious in speech. When the Sangha are together, they do not argue about what is right and wrong, and they do not gossip about others or themselves. The Vajra Sutra discusses the Samadhi of Non-Contention. When those who have left the home life live together, they should not contend. They should have the Samadhi of Non-Contention. As soon as you contend, the marks of self and others arise. When there are self and others, there is right and wrong. If there is right and wrong, then there is victory and defeat Because of victory and defeat, there is the mark of living beings, and from the mark of living beings, there comes the mark of a lifespan. If you have these kinds of thoughts, you cannot obtain true wisdom, and so it is important to be harmonious in speech without contention.

(c) With blissful minds, they are happy together. The mind should also be harmonious. You should not think that you have your individual thoughts and I have mine, and that my thoughts need not be harmonious with yours, and yours need not be harmonious with mine. Everyone should have harmonious minds and be happy together.

(d) Being harmonious with respect to benefits, each gets his share. When there are good things, one shares them. It is not that one person gets everything. Everyone gets his share. Everyone is treated equally; you get some and I get some.

(e) Harmonious in views, each has the same understanding. When studying the Buddhadharma, everyone should agree and have similar views. Their views must be harmonious.

(f) Harmonious in the discipline, they cultivate together. Everyone cultivates the precepts together.

These are the six kinds of harmony in the Sangha. When these six kinds of harmony prevail, the Sangha are called the harmonious Sangha. If you create factions and gossip in the Sangha and prevent the Sangha from living in harmony, so that they are not satisfied with one another, so that they are jealous and obstructive of one another, you have done what is called disrupting the harmonious Sangha.

To spill the Buddha's blood is another of the five rebellious acts. Some people say that since we have been born after the time of the Buddha, we cannot spill the Buddha's blood. In fact, however, if what you do to Buddhism is harmful, it is considered spilling the Buddha's blood. If you harm the Buddha jewel, this is spilling the Buddha's blood. You harm the Buddha jewel if you damage a Buddha image. Although it is an image, it is still spilling the Buddha's blood. All the Sutras are the Buddha's Dharma body's wisdom life. Wherever there are Sutras, there is the Buddha--the Buddha's Dharma body. Therefore, if you burn or ruin Sutras, you spill the Buddha's blood. Further, if you burn a photograph of the Buddha, this too is considered spilling the Buddha's blood.

Members of the Sangha cultivate according to the Buddha's teachings so that in the future they will become Buddhas. To prevent the Sangha from being harmonious is also called spilling the Buddha's blood. To be disrespectful to the Triple Jewel and to disrupt it is also called spilling the Buddhas blood. It is not necessarily the case, then, that a Buddha must be in the world for you to spill the Buddha's blood. The Buddhas already entered Nirvana, but if you do not protect Buddhism, but rather disrupt it or disturb one who has left the home-life, then you have spilled the Buddha's blood all the same. These are all classified under the five rebellious acts and are all considered to be extremely evil.

"Extremely evil" means that there is not a more severe evil act. The retribution for doing extremely evil acts is the Avici Hell. Avici is Sanskrit which means "unintermittent time" and "unintermittent kalpas." Kalpas is also a Sanskrit word which means "a division of time." There are five meanings of "unintermittent." The first is "unintermittent time." Once one enters the unintermittent hells, there is not a single moment when the suffering ceases from the first day one is there to the very last. This kind of suffering continues in time without interruption, and so it is said that the time is unintermittent.

Avici also means "unintermittent form," referring to bodily form When one falls into this hell, one sees oneself filling up the entire hell. Even if there are many people in the hell, one still fills up the entire hell, as do the others, without obstructing one another. You have your hell, and I have mine, and everyone sees himself filling up his own hell. This is the meaning of unintermittent form.

The third meaning of Avici is "unintermittent suffering." This refers to the suffering undergone when you fall into this hell. In this hell, there is the hell of the mountain of knives, the hell of the pot of boiling oil, the hell of the iron trident, the hell of the iron stick, the saw hell, the iron net hell, the iron stove hell, the iron rope hell, the iron horse hell, and so forth. All these different hells cause one to suffer, and because this suffering never stops, it is called "unintermittent suffering."

The fourth meaning of Avici is "unintermittent retribution." It does not make any difference whether you are Chinese, American, or any other nationality. When you go to this hell, you must undergo the retribution of that hell without cease. This is called "unintermittent retribution."

The fifth is "unintermittent life." When you fall into the Avici hell, you undergo thousands of births and thousands of deaths in a single day and night. How is it that each day and night you are born a few thousand times and you die a few thousand times? In this hell you undergo your retribution to such an extreme that you die. After you die, a stimulating wind, called the "clever wind," blows on you, and you spring to life again only to immediately begin suffering. This process happens again and again. Therefore, in a night and a day you die and are born thousands of times. This is "unintermittent life."

In one thought can all be wiped away, by reciting the great Kings of Vows of Universal Worthy. If you are able to recite this Chapter on the Conduct and Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, then in one thought, very quickly, you can destroy all your offenses, including all of the five unintermittent offenses.

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