THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
Chapters: 1 * 2 * 3 * 4 * 5 * 6 * 7 * 8 * 9 * 10 * 11 * 12 * 13 * 14 * 15 * 16 * 17 * 18 * 19 * 20 * 21 * 22 * 23
24 * 25 * 26 * 27 * 28 * 29 * 30 * 31 * 32 * 33 * 34 * 35 * 36 * 37 * 38 * 39 * 40 * contents * previous * next

A Commentary by the Venerable Master
Hsuan Hua

The Names of the Thus Come Ones

Chapter Seven

Sutra:

The Names of the Thus Come Ones, Chapter Seven.

Commentary:

The Names of the Thus Come Ones. “Thus Come One” is one of the ten titles of the Buddha. Every Buddha has ten thousand titles, but people’s memories are too poor to remember so many names clearly in a single lifetime. Somewhere in time, the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three periods of time held a meeting, and decided they would simplify the ten thousand titles of a Buddha to one thousand. However, eventually a thousand were still too many, so the Buddhas investigated the question again and further simplified the matter so that each Buddha had one hundred titles. With the passage of time, that again was still too many, and so finally they were reduced to ten titles, which all Buddhas share. Those ten titles are:

  • Thus Come One
  • One Worthy of Offerings
  • One of Proper and Universal Knowledge
  • One of Perfect Clarity and Conduct
  • Well Gone One
  • Unsurpassed Knight Who Understands the World
  • A Hero who Subdues and Tames
  • Teacher of Gods and People
  • Buddha
  • World Honored One
The first title is “Thus Come One”.

He has followed the Way which is Thus, And come to accomplish Proper Enlightenment. That is one explanation. In the Vajra Sutra it says:

The Thus Come One does not come from anywhere,
Nor does he go anywhere,
Therefore he is called the Thus Come One.

Furthermore, “Thus” represents noumenon, the basic substance of principle, while “Come” represents phenomenon, the names and characteristics of specifics. Principle and specifics are non-dual. The Flower Adornment Sutra takes as its creed the harmony of principle and specifics. The title “Thus Come One” exemplifies the non-obstruction of noumenon and phenomena.

The second title is “One Worthy of Offerings”. The Buddha is one who should receive offerings from people and gods of the three realms, and who deserves the respect and reverence of those in and beyond the world. The third title is “One of Proper and Universal Knowledge”. There is nothing which he does not know and nothing which he fails to understand. His knowledge is both proper and pervasive. The fourth title is “One of Perfect Clarity and Conduct”, for the light of his four types of wisdom is perfect and full.

Four Types of Wisdom

  • The wisdom that accomplishes what must be done.
  • Wonderful contemplating and investigating wisdom.
  • The impartial wisdom of the nature.
  • The great perfect mirror wisdom.

The fifth title is “Well Gone One”, one who has gone to a good place, the very best place.

The sixth title is “Unsurpassed Knight Who Understands the World”. Bodhisattvas are called “Surpassed Knights”, for there are still the Buddhas above them. A Buddha, however, is unsurpassed. Since he understands all doctrines, both mundane and transcendental, he is one who well understands the world.

The seventh title is “A Hero who Subdues and Tames”, one who subdues and tames all the living beings in the world.

The eighth title is “Teacher of Gods and People”. The Buddha is the master of the gods in the heavens and the people in the world.

The ninth title is “Buddha”, which will be explained in detail below.

The tenth title is “World Honored One”. “World Honored One” means one who is honored by those in the world and those beyond the world. Those beyond the world have transcended the three realms, which are:

  • The Desire Realm
  • The Form Realm
  • The Formless Realm

Our world is part of the six heavens of the Desire Realm. There are also the heavens of the Form Realm and those of the Formless Realm, making up the Three Realms. The World Honored One is honored by those who have transcended the Three Realms and by those who are within those Three Realms.

All Buddhas hold these ten titles in common. “Buddha” is a Sanskrit word that also takes the form “Buddhaya”. The Chinese generally use only the first syllable fwo of the transliteration fwo two ye. The Sanskrit Buddhaya sounds like the Chinese words puta ye, which in Chinese means “not big”. So you could say that “Buddha” means “not big”, but you could also say a Buddha is not small either. I wrote a verse about Buddhas that says:

Neither great nor small,
Neither gone nor come,
In world systems like motes of dust,
They shine upon each other’s lotus thrones.

-The Ten Dharma Realms are not Beyond a Single Thought.

You may say the Buddha is great, but he’s not. He can:

On the tip of a single hair,
Manifest kshetras of the Jeweled Kings.

And,

Seated in a fine mote of dust,
Turn the Great Dharma Wheel.

On the fine point of a single strand of hair—such a minute area—he can make appear a huge world. That is an example of within the small manifesting the great. His sitting inside of a tiny particle of dust and turning the Great Dharma Wheel is another case of the great appearing within the small.

He can also manifest the small within the great. He can shrink a large world system, or even all the world systems of the ten directions, so that they enter into a tiny mote of dust.

Within the great there manifests the small.
Within the small there manifests the great.
Great and small are unobstructed.

That’s why it says the Buddha is neither great nor small. Do you say he’s small? He isn’t. You may say he is great, but he isn’t great either. “Neither gone nor come”—Do you say that the Buddha has gone somewhere? He hasn’t gone anywhere. Would you say he has come? He hasn’t come either. Why does he neither go nor come? It’s because to the exhaustion of empty space and the Dharma Realm, there is no place where he is, and no place where he is not.

“World systems like motes of dust” refers to the limitless and boundlessly many fine motes of dust throughout all of empty space and the Dharma Realm. “They shine upon each other’s lotus thrones.” Your Buddha light illumines my world system, and my Buddha light shines upon your world system, mutually releasing light and mutually illumining the Dharma Realm. Buddhas could be said to be many, and they could also be said to be one. One and many are non-dual, great and small are unobstructed. Everything is unobstructed and interpenetrating with every other thing—that is the way the Dharma Realm of Buddhas functions.

“Buddha” has three meanings:

  • One who is self-enlightened.
  • One who enlightens others.
  • One who is perfect in enlightenment and conduct

That he is self-enlightened means that, no matter what he does, he:

Returns the light and reverses the illumination.
Turns back and seeks everything in himself.

He has that kind of spirit. To sum it up, he is incapable of being muddled, for he truly understands. Since he has true understanding, in everything he does, he wishes to benefit other living beings. So he benefits himself and benefits others. In everything he does, there are advantages for him and others too.

Limitless kalpas ago, Shakyamuni Buddha was a deer, the leader of a herd of five hundred. And guess who else was there? Devadatta, who was also a deer king with a following of five hundred deer. In a later life when the Buddha realized Buddhahood, Devadatta became the Buddha’s jealous cousin and tried to kill him. But in that earlier life when both were deer kings, there was a king among the people who used a lot of manpower and machinery to corral vast numbers of wild animals into a certain area. He planned to hunt them all down and kill them on the grounds. Then Shakyamuni Buddha, in the form he had taken as a deer king, had a meeting with the deer king Devadatta. They said to each other, “We should save the lives of our retinue. We shouldn’t let the king kill all of us. How can we save ourselves? Let’s go talk it over with the king and petition him not to kill us off.” Although they were deer, they could speak the language of people. The two deer went to see the king, and when they encountered the armed guard at the gates they said in a commanding tone, “We would like an appointment with the king. Can you deliver our message?” When the guard heard that the deer could speak the human language, he went to repeat their message to the king.

The king also found it strange to hear that the deer could talk, and he agreed to an audience with them so they could state their petition. The two deer kings went before the king and said, “We are deer. Every day you kill seven or eight of us—more than you can possibly eat in a single day. What cannot be eaten is left to spoil. Wouldn’t it be better if we did it this way: every day we will take turns supplying you with one deer, and in that way you can have fresh venison every day without killing us off at once. If you use this method, your supply of venison will never run out. Several hundred years from now there will still be venison to eat.”

Because he saw the sense in their petition, and because the deer could speak, the king was moved to grant their request. Each of the deer kings, on alternate days, sent the king a deer. Now, one day, it happened to be the turn of a pregnant doe in Devadatta’s herd to go sacrifice herself to the king. Her fawn would probably be born in a day or two, so she pleaded with the deer king Devadatta, “Could you send someone else in my place today? Then after the fawn is born, I will go to the king and sacrifice myself.”

Devadatta replied, “Certainly not. It is your turn and you must go. There is no politeness in this matter. You don’t want to die. Who does? Not one of the deer wants to go to their death. You want to stay alive a few more days now that it has come around to your turn, but that is impossible. It’s out of the question.”

The pregnant doe’s eyes brimmed with tears and she went to talk to the deer king who would in future lives become Shakyamuni Buddha. Although she didn’t belong to his herd, she went to plead with him and ask if he could work out a temporary exchange so that she could live a few more days until her fawn was born. As he considered her request, Shakyamuni Buddha realized that not one of his five hundred deer would want to go in her place. However, the Buddha said to her, “Fine. You stay in my herd, you don’t need to go.” Then the deer king Shakyamuni Buddha went himself to be sacrificed in her place.

The king asked him, “What are you doing here? Have all of your deer been eaten? Is your herd all gone? Why have you come?”

And since he could talk, the deer king Shakyamuni Buddha said, “King, you haven’t eaten all of our deer; on the contrary, we are prospering. Day by day our herds are increasing. You only eat one deer a day, and in one day our does give birth to many fawns.”

The king said, “Then why have you come yourself?”

Shakyamuni Buddha explained, “There is a pregnant doe whose fawn will be born in a day or so. It was her turn to come today, but since she wanted to wait until she had given birth to her fawn before she came to let the king eat her, she came to me and pleaded to have someone sent in her place. I thought over her request and realized that none of the deer in the herd would want to die before they had to, so I came myself to substitute for her.”

When the king heard that, he was profoundly moved, and he said, “From now on, don’t send any more deer to the palace.” Then he spoke a verse:

You are a deer with a human head.
I am a person with a deer’s head.
From this day forward, I will not
Eat the flesh of living beings.

He said, “Although you have the head of a deer, you are a human being, and although I have the head of a human being, I am a deer.” Then he vowed never to eat the flesh of living beings again. Because of that, the deer population in the park increased significantly; and the park came to be known as the Deer Wilds Park.

In past lives, the Buddha went through everything. He was a deer king, yet even as a deer he was able to influence a king to change from the bad to the good and turn over a new leaf.

In past lives the Buddha was a carpenter and a stonemason. When he worked as a carpenter and did jobs for other people, he put all of his efforts into it. Beyond what was expected of him, he put extra effort into helping other people. Most people, while doing a job for someone else, don’t want to put their full effort into it. But whatever the Buddha did, half of it was to benefit himself and the other half was to benefit others. He absolutely did help the world and benefit living beings, and in all he did he was a model for others. Whether in building temples or constructing bridges, or establishing Way Places, he was always extremely enthusiastic. He wasn’t just working for a salary. He put his whole heart into it and used all of his efforts to establish Way Places. When he was a stonemason, he also benefited other people. Whatever job he did, he employed half the time helping others. Because of his helping other people life after life his own enlightenment became perfected. But he didn’t just want to be that way himself; he also wanted to lead other people to be that enthusiastic in their work, too. That way, his enlightenment of others also became perfected. When one has perfected one’s own enlightenment and that of others, one is said to be perfect in enlightened conduct. As it is said;

He is perfect in the three enlightenments,
And is replete with the myriad virtues.
Therefore he is called a Buddha.
That is what “Buddha” means.

The Buddha benefits other living beings and we who study the Buddha should do so too. We should not just be concerned about ourselves all the time. We should look at the large picture. For example, in this era, people are confused and upside-down. We should find some way to guide all people so that they are no longer confused and upside-down. That is the kind of work involved in enlightening self while enlightening others.

Question: Why was there no mention of Vairochana Buddha in the Vairochana Chapter Six of the Flower Adornment Sutra?

Answer: The Prince Great Awesome Light was Vairochana Buddha. Wait and it will gradually become clear. There is a connection between what comes before and what comes later. For example, I have several names, too: a layname, a left-home title, and a Dharma name. I’m also called the Living Dead Person, the Monk in the Grave, and “Candy”.

Sutra:

At that time, the World Honored One was in the country of Magadha, in the Aranya Dharma Bodhimanda, and had just accomplished Proper Enlightenment. Within the Universal Light Palace, he was seated upon the lion’s throne of a treasury of lotus flowers.

Commentary:

We previously discussed the title, “The Names of the Thus Come Ones”, and summarized the ten titles of the Buddha. This is Chapter Seven of the Sutra and it is the Second Assembly. The Flower Adornment Sutra was spoken in Seven Places and Nine Assemblies.

At that time means right after the previous Vairochana Chapter had been spoken, and right before the Names of the Thus Come Ones Chapter was spoken. This chapter belongs to the section “How Cultivation of the Cause Tallies with the Result and Gives Rise to Understanding”. When you cultivate on the causal ground it is certain that you will obtain the perfection of the resultant fruit position. While on the causal ground, you tally with the principle—the substance of the result, which is enlightenment. That is why it is known as the section, “How Cultivation of the Cause Tallies with the Result and Gives Rise to Understanding”. Up to the present chapter, the Sutra has been discussing the Bringing Forth of Faith, urging people to produce faith and to understand cause and result. Now it goes on to discuss cultivation of the cause. That is:

Whatever kind of cause you plant,
you will reap that kind of result.
If you plant a good cause, you will reap a good result.
If you plant a bad cause, you will reap a bad result.
If you plant the causes for Bodhi, you will reap the fruit of Buddhahood.

In this section “How Cultivation of the Cause Tallies with the Result and Gives Rise to Understanding”, we reach the Second Assembly, which is the assembly held in the Universal Light Palace. The First Assembly took place in the Bodhimanda. The Buddha spoke the Flower Adornment Sutra in the Universal Light Palace. Some say that the Universal Light Palace is made of all kinds of gems, and that since it is made of all precious jewels, it universally emits light.

At that time, The World Honored One was in the country of Magadha —“Magadha was the name of a country in India. He was in the Aranya DharmaBodhimanda. An “Aranya” is a still and quiet place, a place that is very peaceful and quiet and good for cultivating the Way. “Bodhimanda” means a Bodhi Way Place. The Thus Come One was beneath the Bodhi Tree, upon the Vajra Jeweled Seat. And had just accomplished Proper Enlightenment. At that time, he had just become a Buddha after sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree for seven weeks-forty-nine days. Before that, he had cultivated for six years on Ice Mountain, each day eating only one sesame seed and one grain of rice. He had been cultivating that kind of bitter practice, which was really bitter to the extreme. Of the five people who had come with him, some were unable to take the bitterness and left. He starved on Ice Mountain to the point that he was as thin as a stick of firewood, having become that emaciated from cultivating ascetic practices.

Afterwards, a goddess made an offering of milk to the Buddha. After the Buddha had accepted the offering of milk gruel from the goddess and eaten it, the two Shakyans who had stayed with the Buddha to cultivate bitter practices became upset. They said, “Before, the Buddha was able to cultivate bitter practices, but now he can’t. He’s eating milk porridge. That’s not how a cultivator of the Way should act! He won’t be able to have success. Let’s not stay with him.” So they left. Then after all the Five Bhikshus—Ajnatakaundinya and the others—had left, the Buddha was left alone to cultivate and he felt that after six years he should go somewhere else to do his work. So he went and sat beneath the Bodhi Tree. There, he made a vow saying, “I’m going to sit beneath this Bodhi Tree, and if I don’t accomplish my work in the Way, I shall sit here forever and never get up.” He sat there for seven weeks—forty-nine days and then:

At midnight he saw a bright star,
And became enlightened to the Way.

He all of a sudden opened enlightenment and became a Buddha. When the Buddha had just accomplished enlightenment beneath the Bodhi Tree, he sighed three times saying:

Every living being has the virtuous characteristics and wisdom of a Thus Come One.
It is only due to false thinking and attachments,
That they are unable to certify to their attainment.

After opening enlightenment, the Buddha was staying within the Universal Light Palace, which was made of a multitude of jewels and which constantly emitted light. Hewas seated upon the lion’s throne of a treasury of lotus flowers. He was sitting on the lion’s seat which was made of a treasury of infinite numbers of lotus blossoms.

There are Seven Places and Nine Assemblies where the Flower Adornment Sutra was spoken.

The Bodhimanda was the first,
The ninth the Jeta Grove.
The third and fourth, the Trayastrimsha
And Suyama Heavens.
In the Universal Light Palace were
The second, seventh, and eighth.
Tushita and Comfort from Other’s Transformations, the fifth and sixth.

The First Assembly was held in the Bodhimanda, the Bodhi Way Place where the Buddha accomplished Proper Enlightenment beneath the Bodhi Tree. The Ninth Assembly was held in the Jeta Grove. The Third Assembly took place in the Trayastrimsha Heaven—the Heaven of the Thirty-Three. The god Shakra rules the central heaven, overseeing the thirty-two other gods who rule in the respective heavens which are clustered together in four groups of eight in each of the four directions around it. The Fourth Assembly was in the Suyama Heaven, the Heaven of Well-Divided Time, where the opening and closing of a lotus flower signals the passage of time. That heaven is beyond the light of the sun and the moon. Three Assemblies, the second, seventh, and eighth, were held in the Universal Light Palace. The Fifth Assembly took place in the Tushita Heaven, the Heaven of Contentment. The Sixth Assembly was in the Heaven of Comfort from Others’ Transformations. That makes the Seven Places and the Nine Assemblies.

previous * next * contents

return to top