THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

The Record of Water Mirror Turning Back Heaven:
By Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua

From the 1986 issue of Vajra Bodhi Sea
Translated by the International Translation Institute

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva of Great Conduct

Universal Worthy Bodhisattva has the greatest conduct while Manjushri Bodhisattva has the greatest wisdom, Guanshiyin (Avalokiteshvara) Bodhisattva has the greatest kindness and compassion, and Earth Treasury Bodhisattva has the greatest vows. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva's ten great vows surpass all other Bodhisattvas'. He came to this Saha world from a world which is as limitlessly many kalpas away to the east as there are dustmotes. There is not only one world in the universe. The world that we live in is not the only world there is. There are limitlessly and boundlessly many worlds. So we should expand our minds. Our knowledge should not be limited to this small world that we live in. Worlds are boundless and endless, and so are Buddhas, living beings, afflictions, and empty space. Then what about the vow power of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva? It is also boundless and endless. Even if empty space were to come to an end, his vow power would never be exhausted. Therefore, all the states of this Bodhisattva are inconceivable; there is no way we can fathom them with our minds or express them in words. Let me briefly introduce this Bodhisattva's ten great kings of vows.

He came to the Saha world from the east. Since he knew that Shakyamuni Buddha was going to accomplish Buddhahood in the Saha world, he came to help the Buddha propagate the Dharma and transform living beings by being the influential assembly. What is meant by being influential? It means he can influence those living beings who have not brought forth the Bodhi mind to bring forth the Bodhi mind. He has already brought forth the Bodhi mind himself. He has heard quite a lot of Dharma spoken by the Buddhas. Although he has heard limitless Buddhas speaking the Dharma, he still comes to serve as the influential assembly when a Buddha speaks the Dharma. He wouldn't be lazy and say, "I live in the eastern world, which is very far from the Saha world. I don't care if a Buddha comes to that world." He is not like that. He goes to be the influential assembly at all the assemblies where a Buddha speaks the Dharma. He can influence those who have not brought forth the Bodhi mind to bring forth the Bodhi mind, and those who have brought forth the Bodhi mind to increase their resolves. His coming to the Saha world is described as a "Manifestation of great provisional dharma." That is to say, when he does not have to come, he comes anyway; and when he does not need to listen to Sutra lectures, he still comes to listen to the Dharma. This is known as the influential assembly. His conduct surpasses that of other Bodhisattvas. Thus he is a leader among Bodhisattvas. He made ten great kings of vows, and he goes to Dharma assemblies to be the influential assembly and to rejoice in and follow along with the merit and virtue of those Dharma assemblies. We students of Buddhism should deeply study, experience, and understand these ten great kings of vows.

The first of the Ten Great Kings of Vows is "To respect all Buddhas." Ordinary people would say: "Buddha images are made of wood or clay; what use is it to bow to them?" When we bow to the Buddhas, what counts is the mind of respect. Regardless whether the images are made of wood, clay, or any other kind of material, we should bow with a respectful mind. We are not only bowing to one Buddha, we are bowing to all Buddhas of the ten directions and three periods of time. It can also be said that we are respectfully bowing to limitless Buddhas of the ten directions and three period of times throughout the Dharma Realm and empty space.

The second vow is "To make praises to the Tathagatas." After we respectfully bow to the Buddhas, we shall make praises to the Tathagatas. What do we praise the Tathagatas for? Is it because the Buddhas like to be praised? That is not the case. The merit and virtue derived from praising Buddhas is boundless. It is to enhance our own Dharma body and wisdom life, and to increase our own wisdom, that we make praises to Buddhas. On the part of the Buddha, he remains a Buddha whether we praise him or not. He does not need that. However, on the part of us ordinary people, we should make praises to the Tathagatas. "Tathagata" [Thus Come One] is one of the ten titles of the Buddha. Then, is it enough to make praises to the Buddhas? No, that is still not enough.

The third vow is "To practice profoundly the giving of offerings." Profound does not refer to small offerings. It means that one must bring forth a great Bodhi mind to make offerings to the boundless, eternally abiding Triple Jewel of the Buddhas, the Dharma, and the Sangha of the ten directions and three periods of time throughout the Dharma Realm and empty space.

The fourth vow is "To repent and reform all karmic hindrance." When we make offerings, we should repent of our karmic obstacles in front of the Buddha. Why should we make offerings? It is because we feel that our merit and virtue are not sufficient and that our karmic obstacles are heavy. Therefore, we should repent of our karmic hindrance in front of the Buddha after we make offerings.

Once we truly understand,
we will know that karmic obstacles are originally empty.
However, before we come to the understanding,
we still must repay all the debts created in the past.

If we could truly understand, then we will know that karmic obstacles are originally empty. If you truly understand, if you are truly enlightened, then you will know that karmic obstacles are basically empty. However, before we come to that understanding, we still must repay all the debts created in the past. Before we come to understand what it is all about, we still have to repay all the debts. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva contemplates the real mark of all dharmas. What is meant by the real mark? The real mark means that which has no mark. Though it is without a mark, there is nothing which is not marked by it. Thus, the real mark means, "It is without a mark, but nothing is not marked by it." Since the essence of the real mark is wonderful existence, it is also true emptiness. Only true emptiness can give rise to wonderful existence; and only wonderful existence can contain true emptiness. True emptiness is not empty; thus it is wonderful existence; wonderful existence is not existence, thus it is called true emptiness. Both the existence that is transformed from emptiness and the emptiness that is transformed from existence are the wonderful existence transformed from true emptiness. The wonderful existence returns to true emptiness. This is called "The real mark is without a mark. However, nothing is not marked by it." This Bodhisattva cultivates this Dharma-door of repentance. To repent of karmic hindrance means to repent of all offense karma. To repent of all offense karma is called repenting and reforming all karmic hindrance.

The fifth vow is "To rejoice and follow in merit and virtue." To follow with joy means to draw near whomever does beneficial things. We should follow joyfully to praise people who do any kind of merit and virtue. It is to follow with joy if we praise others for their meritorious conduct. It is also to follow with joy if we actually do it ourselves. To rejoice and follow is to do our share to the best of our ability.

The sixth is "To request that the Dharma Wheel be turned." We request the Buddhas, all the great Bodhisattvas, and all the worthy sages of the Sangha to turn the Dharma Wheel. What does it mean to turn the Dharma Wheel? It means to teach and transform living beings. By giving lectures on the Sutras and speaking the Dharma, one is turning the Dharma Wheel; by printing Sutras and establishing Way-places, one is also turning the Dharma Wheel. If you build a foundation for anything related to Buddhism, then you are turning the Dharma Wheel. When we cultivate, that is also turning the Dharma Wheel. Therefore, the meaning of turning the Dharma Wheel is very broad.

The seventh vow is "To request that the Buddhas remain in the world." The Bodhisattva's seventh vow is to request that the Buddhas stay in the world and not enter Nirvana.

The eighth vow is "To always follow the Buddha's teaching." In his eighth vow, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva wants to follow the Buddhas at all times to learn the Buddhadharma.

The ninth vow is "To constantly accord with all living beings." To accord with all living beings means not to go against their wishes. Well, does it mean to try to get living beings to like us? No. That's not it. It does not mean to be like living beings, nor does it mean to be influenced by them. To accord with living beings means to accord with living beings' natural dispositions while causing them to reform and change from evil to wholesome, and to return from confusion to enlightenment. It does not mean to flow along with them in the current of birth and death.

The tenth vow is "To transfer all merit and virtue universally." I am willing to transfer everything I have to all living beings. All the merit and virtue are living beings', and all the offenses are mine. I want to transfer all my merit and virtue to living beings while I take upon myself all of their karmic obstacles.

The above are the ten great kings of vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva rides a white elephant with six tusks. In his hand, he always holds the Sutra of the Dharma Realm, The Avatamsaka Sutra, to teach and transform living beings. Thus he is the greatest in conduct, while Manjushri is the greatest in wisdom. These two Bodhisattvas are the Buddha's left and right hands, his two most helpful assistants. He manifests at Mount Emei of Sichuan Province. At Mount Emei, people go to the golden summit to see the sunrise. Sometimes, they will see Buddha light. Therefore, Universal Worthy Bodhisattva chose this place to be his Way-place. At Mount Emei, there are the Universal Worthy Bodhisattva Monastery, the Washing Elephant Pool, and other numerous large monasteries. It is said, "All the truths of the world have been explained by the Buddha. Most of the famous mountains under the heavens are taken up by the Sangha." There are many well-known mountains where Sangha members dwell.

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