Chapter Twenty-five, Part B:
"The Universal Door of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva"
(continued from Part A)
At that time, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva used verses to ask this question:
"World Honored One, complete with wondrous marks,
I now ask again,
Why is this disciple of the Buddha
Called Gwan Shr Yin?"
At that time, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva used verses to ask this question. Verses are used to restate the doctrines of the previous prose passage so as to elaborate upon them. The verses to this chapter were not translated by Kumarajiva, the original translator, but were added later.
World Honored One, complete with wondrous marks, / I now ask again. The Buddha has Thirty-two Marks and Eighty Subsidiary Characteristics. The Buddha's Marks are the most complete and wonderful. Why is this disciple of the Buddha / Called Gwan Shr Yin? The Buddha is the Dharma King, and the Bodhisattvas are his disciples. Why is this disciple of the Buddha called "Contemplator of the World's Sound"?
The Honored One of Perfect, Wondrous Marks,
With verses answered Inexhaustible Intention:
"Listen to the practice of Gwan Yin,
Who skillfully responds in all places,
With vast vows, as deep as the sea,
Throughout inconceivable eons,
Serving many thousands of kotis of Buddhas,
And making great, pure vows."
The Honored One of Perfect, Wondrous Marks, / With verses answered Inexhaustible Intention. "Perfect" means nothing lacking and nothing in excess. It also means perfect in both blessings and wisdom. But here we are not just talking about blessings and wisdom. We are talking about the perfection of the Thirty-two Marks and Eighty Subsidiary Characteristics of the Buddha. He is perfect in all respects.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva asked in verses, and so the Buddha answers him in verses.
Listen to the practice of Gwan Yin, / Who skillfully responds in all places. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses skillful expedients. He contemplates the potentials of living beings and dispenses the teaching. He manifests in the body of a Buddha, a Pratyekabuddha, and so forth, to speak the Dharma according to the needs of the living beings being taught. He skillfully responds to the needs of the person. A skillful method is not fixed. It varies with the needs of the person. For this reason, the Vajra Sutra says, "There is no fixed dharma called Anuttarasamyaksambodhi."
To save people, you need to know a lot of worldly dharmas. Let's say you become a Dharma Master and you want to teach and transform people. You still have to understand a lot of doctrines. If you see a businessman, you might talk about business, "How's it going? Making money? How's the economy?" If you see a laborer, you might say, "How are working conditions? Are you really busy?" and talk about his work. When the person finds out that you care about him and his work, he'll be happy. Once he is happy, you can speak a little Buddhadharma to him, and he will think, "Hey, that's pretty good!" If you see a student, you can ask him about his studies, "How is science or philosophy?" And so the saying goes,
Prescribe the medicine according to the illness;
Speak the Dharma in accord with the person.
This is to "skillfully respond" in all places. We also say,
With clever expedients we save living beings,
Skillfully turning the dust of the world into the Buddha's work.
All worldly affairs are turned, with ingenuity, into Buddhadharma.
With vast vows, as deep as the sea, / Throughout inconceivable eons, / Serving many thousands of kotis of Buddhas. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is in all respects subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable. He has served many, many millions of Buddhas. And he has been making great, pure vows in every life-vows of great kindness and great compassion. The realm of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is indeed lofty, deep, and unfathomable!
"I shall now tell you in brief,
That for those who hear his name or see him,
And who are mindful of his name unceasingly,
He can extinguish the suffering of all realms of existence."
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva made pure vows. What are pure vows? "Pure" means that they are not made for one's own selfishness; they are public and unselfish.
Shakyamuni Buddha said to Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, "I shall now tell you in brief, / That for those who hear his name or see him." To hear Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name, you must have good roots. If you don't have good roots, you cannot even hear Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name, let alone see him in person. Now we have all heard his name. To see him doesn't mean you necessarily have to see his physical body. It can also mean seeing a painting or a statue made of clay, copper, iron, silver, gold, wood, or mani. That's just the same as seeing him in person.
And who are mindful of his name unceasingly. This means that you keep his name in mind and you do not let the time slip by idly. You recite without wasting your time. Time is the most precious thing, more precious than gold. Don't waste your precious time. Instead recite, "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva."
What advantages does recitation of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name bring? He can extinguish the suffering of all realms of existence. All of existence refers to the twenty-five planes of existence in the Three Realms-the realms of desire, form, and formlessness.
"If someone is the victim of another's intent to harm,
And is pushed into a pit of fire,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The pit of fire will turn into a pool."
If someone is the victim of another's intent to harm. Let's say you go into business with someone and then the two of you take a trip together in the mountains. You are way up on a cliff, and your partner realizes, "If I push him off the cliff, I can have all the money!"
And if a person is pushed into a pit of fire, / If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The pit of fire will turn into a pool. Recitation of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name has great power and brings a great response. It is truly inconceivable.
Now that we can hear this chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra and understand this doctrine, we should always and everywhere recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. If you recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, in the future he will protect you. Such incidents are too many to be spoken of in full.
"If someone is being tossed about in the great sea,
And is surrounded by the dangers of dragons, fish, and ghosts,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The waves will not drown him."
If someone is being tossed about in the great sea, with no sign of the shore anywhere, And is surrounded by the dangers of dragons, fish, and ghosts. There are poisonous dragons and rakshasha ghosts in the sea. Big fish can eat people, too. But if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The waves will not drown him. Somehow, he will find himself in shallow water, transported to the other shore, or he will be saved by a boat or something. But if you don't recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva or see Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, it can be very dangerous.
I remember when I was in Hong Kong I had a very bad disciple. In what way was he bad? He had hurt people. His name was Jang. His family owned a drug company, and they were very wealthy. He imported Western drugs into Hong Kong. This was right after the Japanese surrendered. Since it was right after the war, there was a lot of sickness on the mainland. When he was on a boat coming back with a cargo of drugs, he pushed his business partner overboard. The business partner didn't know about reciting Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name, and he drowned.
When Jang returned, he made a lot of money. He also sold counterfeit drugs and made a fortune on them. He was incredibly rich. But, eventually, the retribution caught up with him, and he got cancer. Six of the most famous doctors in Hong Kong said that he would surely be dead within a hundred days; that there was no way to cure it. He advertised in the newspaper saying that if anyone could save his life, he would pay that person US$200,000, which was a considerable amount in those days. But no one could take him up on this offer, and so he came to Western Bliss Garden and asked me what to do.
I said, "You should do good deeds and make offerings to the Triple Jewel. The first thing you need to do is take refuge with the Triple Jewel. Next, make offerings. Then maybe you will get better."
And so, on the eighteenth day of the fifth month, he signed up to take refuge. I encouraged him to make offerings to the entire Triple Jewel by presenting a bolt of sturdy cloth to every member of the Sangha in Hong Kong. At that time, many Bhikshus and Bhikshunis had come from the mainland and they had no clothes to wear or food to eat. There were two or three thousand of them. I told him to give each of them US$15. He agreed to do this.
Now, there were a lot of old Dharma Masters in Hong Kong who, hearing that Jang Yu Jye had taken refuge with me, manifested their spiritual powers. What do I mean? They sent their friends and relatives to talk to Jang to get him to go to their temples instead. The old Dharma Masters all got people to "climb on conditions," that is, to be opportunistic on their behalf. All the old Dharma Masters were after him. So Jang went and did some merit at this temple and some virtue at that temple.
He had agreed to give each left-home person coming from the mainland $15 as I had told him to, but he didn't do it. He gave them each a bolt of cloth, though not the good kind he had promised but a kind of inferior quality, and he only gave them $5 each. Since I had already told the left-home people about this offering, I had to make up the difference. I borrowed money and made up the extra $10. Now, not one of them knew I had done this. Today, they still don't know. Monks know that other monks don't like to give money away. They prefer to receive money. In fact, there is a saying, "Left-home people aren't greedy for money; the more the better." Jang wanted to spend his money on something else, so I didn't say anything.
Anyway, one hundred days went by, and he didn't die. All the Dharma Masters said, "We did it for you by bowing repentances." Each one of them claimed that he was responsible for saving Jang's life. "I bowed to the Buddha every day for you. That did the trick." They all did their bit. I didn't claim to have anything to do with it, and I had nothing to say to him about it.
Six years passed, and he hadn't died.
At that time, I was building Tsz-Sying Monastery at Da-Yu Mountain. He heard I was building a temple, and since he was a disciple, he sent a servant to me with some money. The servant brought the money and said that Jang wanted to help me build the temple. I didn't even look at it. I just threw it out the door. I said, "His money is not clean. It didn't come in the proper way. Give it back to him."
This scared Jang nearly to death. He went to one of the groveling Dharma Masters, Ding-Syi by name, and tried to get him to give the money to me with some compliments. I said to Ding-Syi, "The work here is done. I don't need any money. He can do some other kinds of merit and virtue with his money. There are so many Dharma Masters and temples. Take it somewhere else." The old Dharma Master was a bit embarrassed.
Another two years went by. And then, in the first month of the year, I announced, "Jang Yu-Jye took refuge eight years ago. He said he was going to offer US$200,000 to build a temple. It hasn't happened yet, and I am not going to wait anymore for it to happen. However, after this, no matter what kind of a problem he has, I am not going to pay any attention to it. He can kneel in front of me until he dies, but I am not going to pay any attention to his business."
Less than six months later, his cancer returned. He sent his relatives to me because none of the other temples could bring him a response at that time. So he came to me, but I said, "I already announced in the first month of this year that I was no longer going to pay any attention to Jang Yu-Jye's affairs." I didn't either, and he died of cancer a few days later. His younger brother had earlier committed suicide by jumping into the ocean.
Soon after that, Dharma Master Ding-Syi, who had taken advantage of Jang Yu-Jye, also got cancer and died about a year later. The laywoman who had convinced Jang Yu-Jye to go to Ding-Syi also died of cancer. The three of them were one substance. They stuck together while alive and they all died of cancer together.
Jang Yu-Jye died because he had pushed his business partner into the ocean. His partner couldn't recite Gwan Yin's name, and so he became a hateful ghost and caused Jang to have cancer. Basically, since Jang had taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, if he had truly brought forth faith, he wouldn't have died. But his faith was not solid, and so even though he didn't die after a hundred days, he died eight years later. His family is still very rich. But when he died, he didn't take any of it with him. All the money he cheated out of everyone was useless. It all went to his third younger brother.
Why did his business partner drown? Because he didn't recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name.
"If someone is on the peak of Mount Sumeru,
And another person tries to push him off,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
He will stand firm as the sun in space."
If someone is on the peak of Mount Sumeru, / And another person tries to push him off. Mount Sumeru is the name of the highest mountain. However, the text here doesn't mean just Mount Sumeru; it could be any high place. Sumeru is a Sanskrit word that means "wonderfully high."
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / He will stand firm as the sun in space. The sun in space shines for ten thousand miles. Even though this person is left in a precarious position, still, he will have samadhi power and not be upset. This is as when,
In praise or blame,
His mind doesn't move.
"If someone is pursued by evil people,
Who want to throw him off a Vajra Mountain,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The people will not be able to harm a single hair on his body."
If someone is pursued by evil people, / Who want to throw him off a Vajra Mountain. What are evil people? They are those who do not speak reasonably. They specialize in murder. "What's yours is mine, and what's mine is mine! Your money is mine. My money is mine even more so." Does that make any sense? Evil people use force instead of reason.
Suppose a person is pursuing someone. He keeps his eyes on him all the time and waits for him to fall asleep, so that he can push him off a steep cliff and steal his money. However, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, if the person who is being pursued is mindful of Gwan Yin, the people will not be able to harm a single hair on his body. The Vajra Mountain represents a high and solid place. When meeting with danger like this, if you don't forget to recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name, you will certainly obtain a great response and the Bodhisattva will save you. This is called,
Meeting with misfortune, it turns lucky;
Encountering disaster, it becomes auspicious.
The danger will no longer be dangerous. That's how efficacious this Dharma is!
"If someone is surrounded by thieves,
Who threaten him with knives,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The thieves will all give rise to compassion."
Everything that people encounter has to do with former causes and latter effects. Now we meet up with thieves. Before it was evil people; they weren't outright robbers. But robbers are just outright murderers, and they do all kinds of evil. They will do anything except what is good. Perhaps they are our enemies because in past lives we stole from them, killed them, or treated them badly. Thus, in this life, we meet them as enemies. It is said,
If you kill, you will pay with your life,
If you owe money, you will have to pay it back.
This is all the matter of cause and effect. Since this is so, if we encounter hateful enemies, we should not hate them in return. We shouldn't curse the heavens or resent people.
Manjushri Bodhisattva once told this story: "In every life, life after life, I never stole anything from anyone. How can I prove it? I will take my most priceless jewel, put it right by the city's gate for three days without keeping my eye on it, and no one will take it. This will prove that I never stole or coveted other's goods."
Some people didn't believe him, so they tried it out. They put the jewel right by the gate, where everyone walked. Three days went by, and no one touched it. Manjushri Bodhisattva was able to do this because he never stole.
Now we meet with hateful enemies, and this proves that we are receiving retribution for deeds done in former lives. And so, if you lose something or take some loss, you shouldn't take it too hard and get all upset. You are just suffering what you deserve.
If someone is surrounded by thieves, / Who threaten him with knives. This reminds me of when I was at Nan-Hwa Monastery for one year. On the nineteenth day of the ninth month, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's anniversary, some thieves showed up to rob Nan-Hwa Monastery. The thieves knocked on the door and I refused to open it. Finally, they beat the door down, and suddenly I found myself surrounded by guns. It was a tight situation, but I didn't feel afraid at all. I said, quite casually, "What are you pointing those guns at me for?"
"Why didn't you open the door?" they demanded.
"If you were I," I said, "would you have opened the door? No! I didn't open the door because you are coming to steal from me, not to give me a present."
"Give us your money!" they demanded.
At that time I was wearing a rag robe. I said, "Take a look at this robe! Do I look like someone with money?"
"Then who has money?" they said.
I said, "I am a teacher here. These are my students. I have no money, and I am the teacher. How could the students have money? If you don't believe me, you can take a look in my room. You can take anything you want, any treasure you find. Go right ahead."
At that time, I really did have two treasures in my room. They were "living" treasures. When the thieves came, they were so scared that they couldn't even walk. They crawled around saying, "What shall we do? We're scared!" I said, "Don't be afraid. You can hide under my bed." Hearing me tell the thieves that they could take whatever they wanted, these two "treasures" were terrified. They were so scared that their teeth were chattering. Well, the thieves didn't go in.
Dharma Master Hwai-Yi saw me talking with the thieves in such an amicable manner, and so he came out of his room. The thieves turned around and pointed their guns at him, and he burst into tears. I said, "He doesn't have any money. Talk to me!" At that point they were surrounding him, and he led them to his room. They got about two hundred dollars from him, probably a year's worth of savings.
The next day it was announced to the two hundred monks that I was the only person who was not afraid. I said to everyone, "I'm not the only one who wasn't afraid. There were four of us. The first was the Sixth Patriarch. He sat there in samadhi, 'Thus, thus, unmoving! Take what you want, thieves. I'm not paying any attention to you.' The second was the Patriarch Han-Shan. He also sat in samadhi. The third was the Patriarch Dan-Tyan. He didn't have quite the samadhi power, but he turned his head to look at me. I said that because his flesh body does lean forward a bit. The fourth was I myself. I was only number four."
And so, if a person meets with thieves who threaten him with knives, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The thieves will all give rise to compassion. The thieves didn't hit me or shoot me. No doubt that was because I recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name. They started out very fierce, but eventually, they became subdued and kind. When they saw me in my rag robes they thought, "This monk is really pitiful."
"If someone is in difficulty with the law,
And on the verge of being executed,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The knives will break into pieces."
If someone is in difficulty with the law. If you break the royal law, there's no politeness about it; you get your head cut off. This happens sometimes by mistake, too. You get arrested and sentenced when you are actually innocent. And so the law has its advantages and disadvantages.
People may bear false witness against someone who is innocent. That happens a lot when lawyers get involved. The lawyer can "prove" someone broke the law, and that person gets executed when, in fact, he is innocent. Where are you ever going to find the truth in this world? You will have to look in the Buddhadharma. You won't find it in the world. The world is ruled by force, not by reason.
The text brings up the hypothesis of a person who is in difficulty with the law, regardless of whether he is innocent or guilty, and on the verge of being executed. However, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The knives will break into pieces. At such a time, if you can remain calm and can remember to recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name, the knife will just break into pieces. Your neck will become stronger than Vajra.
Now, you cannot try out these things as experiments. If you do, you'll end up getting your head chopped off. In order for it to be efficacious, you must have faith. If you have no faith and decide to try it out, it won't work. That's because in trying it out, you show that you have no faith. If you really believed, you wouldn't need to try it out. You should simply bring forth a genuine heart of faith in Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, then everything will be efficacious. Don't have doubts.
"If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained,
Or if his hands and feet are in stocks,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
His bonds will open and he will be free."
If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained, / Or if his hands and feet are in stocks. The character for prison, chyou, is the image of a person, ren, inside four walls.
Let's say you get put in jail, and then on top of that you are forced to wear handcuffs and chains, and your head is put in the stocks.
Those of you with families should hurry and wake up! Don't be imprisoned by the three big traps. One's parents are like a cangue around one's neck. Children are like handcuffs. And one's spouse is like the chains on one's legs.
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / His bonds will open and he will be free. Long ago in China, there was a monk who was captured by one of the Yau tribe. The Yau people had their own language, which is completely different from Chinese, and they were very wild. When they took prisoners, they would kill them and eat them. The monk was captured and locked in a cell. They were going to eat him!
The monk believed in Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, so even though he knew their intentions, he was not afraid. He just single-mindedly recited Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name. The monk recited and recited until a tiger showed up and tore the cell apart, and so he was set free. In spite of the danger, he was not harmed.
Reciting the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva brings so many responses that you could never speak of them to the end.
"If someone is about to be harmed,
By mantras, spells, or poisonous herbs,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The harm will all return to the sender."
If someone is about to be harmed, / By mantras, spells, or poisonous herbs. Spells are also mantras.
In the section on the twelve types of living beings, the Shurangama Sutra talks about the wasp, which steals caterpillars and transforms them into its own young. It puts the caterpillar in its mud nest and for seven days recites a mantra that says, "Be like me, be like me." At the end of that period, the change takes place, and the caterpillar becomes the offspring of the wasp.
There are evil mantras that can kill people, but there are also efficacious mantras that help and benefit people. Here, in the Sutra text, we are talking about mantras that can harm people. When these mantras are recited, the victim gets all drowsy and befuddled.
Suppose a person is about to be harmed by mantras, spells, and poisons, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, the harmful poisons and mantras cannot hurt him. Not only that, but the harm will all return to the sender. The poison or mantras will bounce back and harm the person who sent it out in the first place.
In China, long ago, there was a very accurate diviner, one who told fortunes with the Yi-Jing [The Book of Changes]. The reason he was so effective was that he had a strange demon helping him out. Every year the demon had to eat a pure youth and a virgin girl, which the diviner would offer to him.
One year, the young girl who was marked for the sacrifice recited Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name in her room. She was used to reciting Gwan Yin's name, and now she continued to do so. What do you think happened? The demon came for his meal. It walked up to the bed and shone light out of its two eyes onto the young girl. Suddenly, light came out of the girl's mouth, and she heard a loud noise as something fell down from the ceiling to the floor. Thinking that the demon had come to eat her, she screamed and attracted the attention of a policeman who was walking by. The policeman broke the door down, came into the room, and found a huge python, a mahoraga. It was dead.
The diviner was arrested by the police and questioned about locking the girl up. He said he had an immortal helping him do his divination, and the immortal demanded a young girl and a young boy to eat once a year. That was how he became such an accurate diviner and raked in so much money. They locked the diviner in jail. He told fortunes for others, but he never figured his own fortune would turn out so bleak! Therefore, harming others is just harming yourself.
The line "The harm will all return to the sender" was changed by the Sung Dynasty poet, Su-Dung-Po. He said, "In Buddhism they teach compassion. This line doesn't sound very compassionate to me." And so he changed the line to "For both parties there will be no affair." Neither the one who sent out the mantras nor the victim will be harmed.
He was wrong, though. Although in Buddhism killing is prohibited and the liberation of life is encouraged, still, evil people must be restrained from harming good people. Therefore, the victim who knows how to recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name will not be harmed, but if there is "no affair," the attacker will just go on to the next person, who may not know to recite. There are plenty of people who don't know how to recite.
So Su-Dung-Po's line doesn't work. "The harm will all return to the sender" is correct. It is fitting that the evil person should undergo such a retribution.
"If someone meets with evil rakshashas,
Poisonous dragons, or ghosts,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
They will then not dare to harm him."
If someone meets with evil rakshashas, / Poisonous dragons, or ghosts. Rakshashas are extremely evil ghosts. They eat people!
Some dragons harm people. They hide out in a pond, a river, or a lake, and when you walk by, they spit poisonous vapors, which can kill you. They can even suck you right into their stomachs!
There are many kinds of ghosts. There are rich ghosts, poor ghosts, and middle-class ghosts. Rich ghosts are the leaders of the ghosts. Middle-class ghosts aren't too well off. Poor ghosts have nothing at all.
"Do ghosts use money?" you ask.
Ghosts don't use money, but their bad habits cause them to act like people, and so they look for more money all day long. Basically, they don't need money for anything, but their attachment confuses them. Chinese people burn counterfeit paper money to pacify the ghosts. In the Shurangama Mantra, many different kinds of ghosts are mentioned. Here we are talking about ghosts in general.
When a person runs into evil ghosts, if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / They will then not dare to harm him.
"If someone is surrounded by evil beasts,
With fearsome sharp teeth and claws,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The beasts will quickly run far away."
If someone is surrounded by evil beasts. "Evil beasts" refers to wolves, panthers, tigers, bears, and all kinds of animals who eat people. There are no tigers in the mountains in America, but in China and India there are many tigers. Tigers will eat anything. When I was a child, I used to roam in the mountains for five or six days at a time, and I ran into all these beasts. I don't know why, but they never ate me.
If a person runs into evil beasts with fearsome sharp teeth and claws, / If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The beasts will quickly run far away. Because of the magical response obtained through Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's intervention, the beasts will be afraid and run far, far away when they see you.
"Poisonous snakes and scorpions,
Have blazing lethal vapors,
But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
At the sound of one's voice, they will disperse."
Poisonous snakes and scorpions, / Have blazing lethal vapors. The sting of certain scorpions can prove fatal. Some kinds of lizards, such as a certain species found in Thailand, also emit toxic vapors.
But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / At the sound of one's voice, they will disperse. When the lethal creatures hear you recite the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, they will run off, hide away, and make no further mischief.
"Clouds of roaring thunder and lightning
May send down hail or great floods of rain,
But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The clouds will immediately scatter."
Clouds of roaring thunder and lightning / May send down hail or great floods of rain. Sometimes hailstones can weigh several tens of pounds. They can be so heavy that they can kill a cow, to say nothing of a person. But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The clouds will immediately scatter. You don't have to recite for very long, and the hailstones and storms will disperse.
"Living beings are beset with hardships,
And oppressed by limitless sufferings.
The power of Gwan Yin's wondrous wisdom
Can rescue the world from suffering."
Living beings are beset with hardships. Living beings are born because of a multitude of conditions. There are millions of different kinds of living beings.
In Chinese, the word for "living being" contains the word jung, which is the character for four, sz,with three people, ren, underneath it. It means "multitude."
Among living beings, the most problematical is the human being. People have to wear clothes, eat, and go to work. It's a lot of trouble. However, human beings are also the wisest among living beings. Animals and other living beings don't have as many problems, but they are also stupid. Since they are stupid, they get pushed around by people. And so in China, they have a saying,
Among the myriad creatures, people are the most magical.
People are the most intelligent of all creatures. Although we say they are the most intelligent, they sometimes do stupid things. How is that? They like to give themselves trouble. They fight with themselves. How do they do this? "Hardships" arise. It is said,
Under heaven there's nothing happening; stupid people just like to stir things up.
Stupid people make trouble for themselves.
Now the text says that living beings are beset by hardships and oppressed by limitless sufferings. They create trouble for themselves, and so they undergo limitless forms of suffering. If people don't have food to eat, clothes to wear, or a place to live, they suffer. With so many conditions on their happiness, they are forced to toil all day long to get food to eat. They may even steal from each other to preserve their own lives. They do this because they are tormented by suffering.
The power of Gwan Yin's wondrous wisdom / Can rescue the world from suffering. Therefore, no matter what is bothering you, you shouldn't worry. Just recite the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, then gradually the problem will resolve itself. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's wisdom is subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable. All you need is a sincere heart, and the Bodhisattva will help you.
"Complete with the power of spiritual penetrations,
Vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means,
Going throughout countries in the ten directions,
He manifests everywhere in all places."
Complete with the power of spiritual penetrations. What is meant by "the power of spiritual penetrations?" There are six types of spiritual penetrations.
1. The Penetration of the Heavenly Eye. With the Heavenly Eye, you can see at a glance what the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-three are doing.
2. The Penetration of the Heavenly Ear. With the Heavenly Ear, you can hear all the sounds throughout the ten directions, in the heavens and below.
3. The Penetration of Other's Thoughts. You can know what other people are thinking.
4. The Penetration of Past Lives. You can know the cause and effect involved in former lives.
5. The Penetration of the Perfected Spirit, also called the Penetration of the Complete Spirit. With this penetration, you can fly and transform at will.
6. The Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows. This is the hardest one to get.
The ghosts and spirits all have the above mentioned five penetrations. But they do not possess the Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva has all six of them.
Vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means. "Vastly" means that the Bodhisattvas did not cultivate just one Dharma-door, but they cultivated all manner of Dharma-doors. Why are we studying the Mantras and the Sutras? It's all a part of "vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means."
Going throughout countries in the ten directions, / He manifests everywhere in all places. There's not one single place where Gwan Yin Bodhisattva does not go. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva has been everywhere.
All of us living beings have causal affinities with Gwan Yin Bodhisattva. Anyone who recites Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name will receive the Bodhisattva's protection. If you do not recite, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva won't pay any attention to you. Why not? Because you don't even care to get acquainted, and you don't even know or recollect the Bodhisattva's name.
If you want to be friends with Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, all you have to do is keep reciting, "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa." When he hears you reciting, he will think, "Ah, hah! I have made another friend! Good, I will help my new friend." If you don't recite, the Bodhisattva will say, "He doesn't want to be friends. I'm not going to pay any attention to his affairs."
Someone wants to know how to obtain the Penetration of the Heavenly Eye. There are many methods. First of all, you can single-mindedly recite the Shurangama Mantra. You can also study the Great Compassion Mantra and the Forty-two Hands. You can also give up sleeping to study the Buddhadharma. But trying to get the Heavenly Eye by giving up sleeping is very dangerous, and I hope that people won't use that method. Why not?
You probably remember the story about the Buddha's disciple Aniruddha, who used to sleep through the Buddha's lectures. The Buddha scolded him, saying,
Hey! Hey! How dare you sleep, like an oyster or a clam?
Sleep! Sleep for a thousand years, and you'll never hear the Buddha's name.
Then after the Buddha scolded him, he became very vigorous and refused to sleep for seven days. As a result, he went blind. The Buddha taught him the Vajra Illumining Bright Samadhi, and Aniruddha opened his Heavenly Eye. He was foremost of the Buddha's disciples in the Heavenly Eye.
Aniruddha means "not poor."
Limitless eons, countless lifetimes ago, Aniruddha was a poor farmer. He had to toil and sweat, and still he had no money. At that time he was a beginner in the Buddhadharma. Even though he was not a disciple of the Buddha, he did understand the principle of giving.
One day while the farmer was working, a cultivator happened by. The Bhikshu had been certified to the fruit and was a Pratyekabuddha, but the farmer didn't know that at the time. The old Bhikshu was returning from his begging rounds. It was his practice to beg from only three houses. Then, if he hadn't obtained any food, he would return to the mountain for another seven days before going out to beg again. At that particular time, he was returning with an empty bowl.
When the farmer saw the poor monk, he decided to offer up his lunch to him. He had no idea the old Bhikshu was a Pratyekabuddha. Now, the Pratyekabuddha had the Penetration of Other's Thoughts, so when he looked into the causes and conditions, he saw that this lunch, consisting of the poorest quality rice, constituted a most sincere offering. He praised the farmer and said, "So it is, so it is. Your offering is made with a true heart!" The Pratyekabuddha then returned to his mountain.
Later on, a rabbit hopped along and jumped up on the farmer's back. The farmer ran home and tried as he would, but he could not get the rabbit off. Then he noticed it was made of gold. He cut off one of the golden rabbit's leg and exchanged it for money. The leg grew right back. After that, he had money in every life. Why? Because he made offerings with a true heart to a Pratyekabuddha, a sage who had been certified to the fruit. That was his reward. In every life he was "not poor."
In the Sutra in Forty-two Sections, the Buddha said,
Giving food to a hundred bad people does not equal giving food to a single good person.
Giving food to a thousand good people does not equal giving food to one person who holds the Five Precepts.
Giving food to ten thousand people who hold the Five Precepts does not equal giving food to a single Srotaapanna.
Giving food to a million Srotaapannas does not equal giving food to a single Sakridagamin.
Giving food to ten million Sakridagamins does not equal giving food to a single Anagamin.
Giving food to a hundred million Anagamins does not equal giving food to a single Arhat.
Giving food to a billion Arhats does not equal giving food to a single Pratyekabuddha.
Giving food to ten billion Pratyekabuddhas does not equal giving food to a Buddha of the three periods of time.
Giving food to a hundred billion Buddhas of the three periods of time does not equal giving food to a single one who is without thoughts, without dwelling, without cultivation, and without accomplishment.
Because Aniruddha made offerings to a Pratyekabuddha with a true heart, as a good retribution in every life he was extremely wealthy. If he wasn't a prince, then he was a wealthy and respected individual. And so, if you want to be "not poor," you too should make offerings to the Triple Jewel; then in the future you will have a chance to be wealthy.
It is said, "It is difficult to give when one is poor." The reason Aniruddha was so wealthy is that he was able to give when he was poor. He gave his own lunch to the Triple Jewel. With that single true thought, he gained the reward of wealth.
It is also said, "It is difficult to study the Way when one has wealth and a noble status." It's hard to convince a rich person to study the Way.
The doctrines in the Sutra in Forty-two Sections are extremely important. Everyone should take note of them.
"The various evil destinies,
Those of the hells, ghosts, and animals,
And the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death
Are all gradually wiped away."
The various evil destinies. "Various"means that there are a lot of them, not just one. In general, there are Four Evil Destinies. What are they? They are the asuras, the hell-beings, the ghosts, and the animals.
Asuras have been explained previously. They like to fight.
What are hell-beings? How are the hells created? The hells are a creation of people's karmic obstacles. According to the type of evil karma one creates, one will fall into that type of hell. There are many types of hells. They are explained in detail in the Earth Store Sutra, where it says there are eighteen major hells and five hundred lesser hells. There are many hells.
Now, are the hells made in advance like the prisons in this world? No. The hells manifest through the evil karma of each person. If you create evil karma by killing people, you will fall into the "hell for killers." The same applies to other evil acts, such as setting fires. The type of hell depends on the type of karma. It's not fixed. When the karma is exhausted, the hell is then empty. Before it's ended, the hell is still there.
In Manchuria there was a man named Mr. Pig Foot Lyou. His family name was Lyou and he had a hoof instead of a foot. He was able to remember the events of his past three lives.
In one life he was born into a very wealthy family. When he was born, his father was in his forties. When the child Pig Foot Lyou was thirteen, he was married to a wife who was two years his senior. Although the father was then in his fifties, his lust was still going strong, so he took a young wife who was about the same age as the son's wife. A couple years later, Pig Foot Lyou had a son. The son was married when he was about thirteen, and the wife was also a couple years older than himself.
At that time, Pig Foot Lyou didn't believe in Buddhism. His parents had both died, and only his father's young wife was left. Pig Foot Lyou thought she was very beautiful, and he appropriated her for himself. Then Pig Foot Lyou's son died, and attracted to his son's wife, he took her, too. So he was carrying on an affair with his stepmother and his daughter-in-law! He was in his mid-twenties at that time.
When Pig Foot Lyou was in his forties, he woke up. "I have certainly amassed some terrible, offensive karma in this life!" he thought. "I took my stepmother and my daughter-in-law as wives." He started believing in Buddhism and took up recitation of the Vajra Sutra.
In his late forties, after reciting the Sutra for ten years, he died and went to meet King Yama, the cruel, black-faced Lord of the Dead.
"Since you created so much offensive karma," King Yama said, "I'm going to put you in the Hell of Boiling Oil where you'll be fried." He charged two ghosts with the task of taking him off to the oil pot, but there was someone standing by who said, "You can't do that."
"Why not?" asked King Yama.
"Because he has recited the Vajra Sutra, and he has still got it in his belly. He should first be reborn until he uses up all the Vajra Sutra, and then you can french fry him."
So he went to be reborn as a person, this time in a very poor household. His mother and father sold snacks for a living, and from a very early age he was fond of eating. He ate so much that soon he had a very big belly. When he was five years old, he died from a bloated stomach. After he died, his parents were curious to see what was in his big belly, so they cut him open. There they found a substance as solid as a vajra rock. At that point, the ghosts standing by said, "Oh, it's time now. We can take him to the oil pot and fry him."
The ghosts then took him to King Yama who pronounced that he could be reborn as a pig. As a pig, he was fed until he was plump, and then slaughtered and eaten.
When he got back to King Yama again, King Yama was ready to send him through the frying punishment, but the offender spoke up and said, "You don't have to fry me. Let me go back as a person but give me one pig hoof as proof. I will urge people in the world not to commit offenses."
King Yama thought that was a good idea, and so that was what happened. His surname was Lyou, and because of his hoof, most people called him Mr. Pig Foot Lyou. I met the man personally and talked to him for a long time, so I am very clear about his circumstances. This is how the evil destinies get created. People create their own hells. Hells are very dangerous.
In Harbin, where I am from, there was a Dharma Master named Cheng-Yi who was once so sick that he thought he had died. After he died, he went down a road to a place not too far away from his temple and was reborn there. As what was he reborn? As a pig! When he saw that he himself was a pig, he refused to suckle, and then he died of starvation. At that point, his spirit reentered the body of Dharma Master Cheng-Yi.
He then woke up and told people around him about what he had just experienced. "I have recovered from my illness. I was just reborn as a pig. Let me take you to the spot, and we'll have a look. There are seven piglets in the litter. I was reborn as one of them. I was the one who refused to take milk and starved."
Several Dharma Masters accompanied him to the spot, and sure enough, they found a litter of seven piglets, and one was dead. I also met that Dharma Master.
It's not at all easy to be reborn as a person. A human body is very difficult to obtain.
The Buddhadharma is not easy to get to hear. You figure it out. Of all the millions of people in America, how many come on any given night to listen to the Sutra lectures? Very, very few. It's difficult to meet a Good and Wise Advisor who really understands the Buddhadharma. Some who claim to be teachers are not clear about principles, so they say things to you that are unclear.
Those of the hells, ghosts, and animals. The destiny of hungry ghosts is also a result of karmic power. Hungry ghosts have bellies as big as drums and throats as thin as needles.The things we eat turn into fire when they enter the mouths of hungry ghosts. This happens because their karmic obstacles are so heavy.
Now, as to this question, the gods see water as crystal. People see it as water, fish see it as their environment, and ghosts see it as fire. This shows the power of karma. It influences what one experiences. Beings see the same thing in different ways.
It's also very easy to get reborn as an animal, such as a pig, a chicken, or a horse. These kinds of animals were formerly people. What kind of people? People who were not filial to their parents and who did not respect their teachers and elders. People like that get caught up in the animal kingdom.
People who are fond of eating meat also create ties with the creatures whose flesh they consume. By eating a certain kind of flesh, they establish a close connection with that animal, and the future is then very dangerous for them.
"The various evil destinies" then, include the Four Evil Destinies of hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and asuras.
And the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death. In human life, there are Three Sufferings:
1. The Suffering within Suffering
2. The Suffering of Decay
3. The Suffering of Process
An example of Suffering within Suffering is to be penniless and also without any food to eat or any place to live. This suffering is experienced by poor people. Lacking the very necessities of life, they cannot even find work. This kind of suffering is not easy to bear.
But wealthy people suffer even more. They experience the Suffering of Decay. Having money, they have to calculate all day about it. "I will put this much in the bank. I'll take this much out and put it into a business. I'll take that much…" and it goes on like that all day long. They keep on counting their money until their hair turns white, their teeth fall out, their eyes stop working, and their ears go deaf. But then trouble comes. The robbers get their number. They break in at night and pick the safe clean.
People in poverty get accustomed to their suffering, but when the Suffering of Decay hits wealthy people, they can't take it. It's very bitter.
Well, then, if you're neither rich nor poor, there's no suffering, right? There's still suffering. It's the Suffering of Process. Everyone goes through the process of aging. From youth, people pass into middle age, and then become old. Once old, they die. This process never stops. It continues with every passing thought. This is the Suffering of Process.
Then there are the Eight Sufferings; and even Eight Sufferings aren't very many, because suffering doesn't stop with eight kinds. There are thousands upon millions of kinds of sufferings. You could never count how many sufferings there are.
Well, what's the most suffering? It's being a person. It's much more pleasant to be an animal than to be a person. So what can you be that isn't suffering? Well, being a Buddha isn't suffering. Why do I say that it's more pleasant to be an animal than to be a person? Because, animals do not have to worry about clothes to wear, food to eat, or a place to live. Their lives happen very naturally, so they never worry about anything. But, when one is a person, there's just too much suffering.
Now, we're going to talk about the Eight Sufferings. They are:
1. The suffering of birth
2. The suffering of old age
3. The suffering of sickness
4. The suffering of death
5. The suffering of being apart from those you love
6. The suffering of being together with those you hate
7. The suffering of not getting what you seek
8. The suffering of the raging blaze of the Five Skandhas
And among these eight, which one is the worst? I believe the worst is the suffering of birth; because if you weren't born, then the others wouldn't happen. And you say, "Well, what's so much suffering about being born, anyway?" I know you've forgotten, so I'm going to remind you.
How is it that you got born? Birth comes from the union of the father's essence and the mother's blood; and there also has to be what is called the "intermediate skandha body," which enters the womb.
Once you're in the womb, the first few weeks are simply the development of a jelly-like substance; but after the seventh week, feeling arises. And once the fetus develops a sense of feeling, then if the mother drinks something cold, it feels like it's standing on a mountain of ice-extremely uncomfortable. If the mother drinks something hot, then it's just as if the fetus is plunged into hot water and scalded. So even in the womb one experiences the two unpleasant sensations of cold and heat. If the mother stoops over, then the embryo feels as though it's being crushed by Mount Tai.
But the birth is the worst experience; it's like two mountains crashing together-like the Hell of Crashing Mountains. And so, of course, the first thing a child does after being born is scream, "Ku a, ku a!" [The Chinese character for ku means to cry, and it sounds the same as another word ku that means suffering.]
And so it is said that human birth feels the same as when a live tortoise has its shell ripped away from its body-it's that painful. But as you grow up, you forget the suffering of birth. You pass through your prime and get old without even realizing it. There is also tremendous suffering connected with old age. For instance, your hearing goes bad; you don't even know if people are scolding you. And your eyesight goes dim, so you can't see things clearly anymore. The teeth fall out; the tongue doesn't, but the teeth do. You never heard of anyone losing his tongue, and the reason for that is that the tongue is yielding and supple.
One time I asked an old fellow about this, I said, "Teeth fall out when you get old, but have you ever met anyone who lost his tongue?"
He said, "Never. Have you?"
And I said, "Look, I'm a lot younger than you-you're almost ninety-and since you haven't ever seen it, how would you expect me to have ever seen it?"
Then I asked him, "Do you know why your tongue doesn't fall out, but your teeth do? It's because the teeth are too rigid, so they fall out. But the tongue is supple and yielding, so it doesn't fall out."
And he said, "Oh!"
And I said, "You're awfully old now, you'd better be careful not to be too rigid. You can take the lesson from your teeth."
Then you say, "What's so bad about having the teeth fall out?"
Well, you lose your appetite-nothing tastes good anymore. It may look and smell good, but when you put it in your mouth and gum it around, you can't even chew it up. You have to spit it out, because if you swallowed it, it wouldn't be digested. So, do you think that's suffering, or not? And also your face gets all wrinkled. It's said that people have "skin like a chicken and hair like a crane." If you have ever seen a plucked chicken, you have seen that its skin is all bumpy and wrinkled. And "hair like a crane" means that your hair turns totally white. But, of course, that doesn't apply to Westerners, because when infants are first born in the West, they're towheaded-they have white hair at birth; they don't even wait until they get old to have white hair.
Another point of interest is that although Westerners may be born with white hair, their hair doesn't turn black, and yet black hair can turn white. But then again, sometimes it does happen. For instance, when I was in Hong Kong, my hair turned totally white. Why? Because I was overseeing the construction of a temple. I erected three temples in Hong Kong, and it was a strain on my mind and my body, so my hair turned totally white. Then I took a look and thought, "Oh, this is really something. I'd better not tax my mind so much!" Then I just put everything down, and my hair turned black again. From this, you can see that nothing is fixed.
There are many kinds of sicknesses. You might get a headache, or your feet hurt, or sometimes your whole body aches. In general, if your heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, and lungs are ailing, it's a lot of suffering.
Another truly terrible suffering is death; in fact, it's the worst. It's easy to die, but once you're dead, the important question is where you will go. After you die, will you go to the hells? Will you become an animal? Will you be reborn as a person? No one can give you any insurance.
And so, that's birth, old age, sickness, and death-they're all suffering.
Now we've discussed the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
Why was it that Shakyamuni Buddha left home? It was because he came to realize that birth, old age, sickness, and death are not easy to endure.
When Prince Siddartha was nineteen years old, he wanted to see the sights outside the palace. So one day he went to the city's east gate. There he saw a woman in the process of delivering a baby. The Prince asked his followers, "What's happening?" They replied, "She is giving birth to a child." Looking at the woman who seemed to be enduring an extremely painful event and the newborn child crying loudly, the Prince returned home unhappily.
The next day, the Prince went to the city's southern gate. There he saw a very old man. His hair was totally white and his eyes were dim. His legs were too weak to stand straight or to walk. The Prince asked in surprise, "What's wrong with that man? Why has he become that way?" His followers answered, "This man is already old. He has too many years. That's why he is that way." Upon hearing this, the Prince became upset and quickly returned to his palace.
On the third day, the Prince went to the city's west gate. There he saw a sick person. Being sad, the Prince returned to the palace.
On the fourth day, the Prince went to the city's north gate. There lay a dead person. "What's the matter with that person?" asked the Prince. The followers said, "This man already died." The Prince again felt extremely depressed.
The Prince himself had witnessed the suffering of birth, sickness, old age, and death, and he realized that was the process that human beings have to pass through. He felt very sad and wanted to go back to the palace. Right at that moment, a left-home person appeared. The Prince asked his followers, "Who is this person? What's he doing?" They then went to talk to that cultivator. He told them, "I'm a left-home person. I investigate and study the Buddha Way in order to be liberated from the suffering of birth, sickness, old age, and death."
At that time the Prince had not yet become a Buddha. But when he heard that by cultivating the Way he could avoid birth, old age, sickness, and death, he said, "Can I cultivate in the same way you do?"
The monk replied, "Anybody can."
Then the Prince returned to the palace, and accompanied by one who was later known as Venerable Upali, he ran away.
Shakyamuni Buddha was totally disillusioned by birth, old age, sickness, and death. He didn't know how they arose or where they went. And so he left the home-life and practiced the Way with the intent to end birth and death. He went into the mountains and cultivated for six years trying to avoid birth, old age, sickness, and death.
Everybody who gets born cannot avoid dying. Some deaths are good and some are terrible. Some people die from sickness; some people starve to death; some people die from the fatigue of toil; some people die from quarreling-they have a fight and kill each other; then there's war, and people die on the battlefield; others die in automobile accidents or get crushed by mountains or in an avalanche.
There are many different kinds of deaths. Some people die from accidental poisoning; some people commit suicide by eating poison, or they may commit suicide in other kinds of ways. Some people have no wish to die, but they die; some wish to die, but they can't. Just death alone contains a myriad distinctions.
The kind of death differs, so does the retribution or reward that follows. In what way does it differ? For instance, if someone dies by accident-as in an automobile accident, or by drowning, or by being burned in a fire-he then turns into a ghost or a spirit with either yin or yang energy, but he doesn't go before King Yama, because King Yama pays no attention to him. The other ghosts don't pay any attention to this kind of spirit, either.
You say, "In that case, they're really free!" But, they're just free ghosts, not free people. Of course, if people are free, often they just take advantage of situations and don't follow the rules. The same thing happens with a ghost who is free-he tends not to follow the rules. People who die in this way can try to catch some other persons to turn into ghosts to take their place. That's why oftentimes when there's an accident in a certain place, within three days after it, there will be another one. The reason is that the ghost that died by accident is just waiting for the opportunity to catch someone else to replace him, because he won't get a chance at rebirth until he can get someone to take his place. If he doesn't get another ghost to represent him, then he just remains there forever, ignored. That's another kind of death.
If you kill yourself, say for instance from taking poison, you go to the hells. And the punishments are terrible. If, for example, you took poison to die, then you'll go to the hell where you have to drink molten iron. You burn up all your insides-your stomach, your intestines-and then you die. But then a "clever" wind blows and revives you and brings you back to life. Then you have to drink the molten iron again, and then you die again from the burns, and then the wind blows and you come back to life again. This process goes on unceasingly all day. It's unbearable. But, if you can recite the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, the text says, the various kinds of sufferings are all gradually wiped away. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva can gradually eliminate and eradicate the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
We have already discussed four of the sufferings. Next we will talk about the suffering of being apart from those we love.
Everybody knows what love is. Some people love wealth; others love beautiful forms or fame. If people who love wealth are separated from it, then that is known as the suffering of being apart from what one loves. How might this happen? Suppose someone is very wealthy-he has a flourishing business, but, suddenly, due to unforeseeable circumstances, he goes bankrupt. He loses everything. That's a case of being apart from what one loves. In his case, he loved money. He didn't ever want to be separated from money, and then suddenly he's penniless.
Next, let's consider someone who loves beautiful forms. Men love the looks of women; women love the looks of men. Between them there's a mutual love. But if in their former lives the causes and effects were not planted correctly, then the love will not last. Something will happen, and they'll have to part from each other. That's the kind of suffering that occurs between men and women when they must be apart from those they love.
Then there are those who love fame. Some people say that fame is one's second life. But sometimes your reputation gets ruined. You lose your fame. Basically, if you are the one who wanted to be well-known and then you did something wrong and ruined your own reputation, that's a case of being part from what you love-fame.
But then you say, "Well, there might be a couple who doesn't separate, and so they don't have to undergo the suffering of being apart from those they love."
But they might have a child who is both handsome and intelligent, and all of a sudden, unexpectedly, he dies. That's extremely hard to bear. Or suppose you are a person who is especially filial to your parents, and then your parents die. That's another example of being apart from those you love. Or, maybe you have an excellent relationship with your spouse, and then suddenly he or she dies unexpectedly. That's also an example of being apart from those you love. The same thing applies to brothers, sisters, friends-in each case there can exist the suffering of being apart from those you love.
Once you have experienced this kind of suffering, you should no longer be attached to love. You should not place all your love in one person. Instead, develop a kind regard for all living beings. Practice the Bodhisattva Path and save everybody. Don't only think of yourself. Think of all living beings, instead. Rescue and protect everybody. Then you will not experience the suffering of being apart from those you love.
The sixth kind of suffering is that of being together with those one hates. Of course, some people overreact and think, "Well, since love entails so much suffering, I'm not going to love anybody-I hate everybody!" So you detest everyone, and you don't love anything, including material objects. You feel that since loving is so much suffering, you don't want to love. But not loving also has its suffering. That's the suffering of being together with those you hate.
Maybe you find yourself in a circumstance in which you don't like where you are, or you don't like the people who are around you, and so you move. But then, who would have guessed, when you get to the new place, the people are all the same type as in the place you just left, and things are just as despicable; in fact, it's even worse.
In general, the things that you wish most to avoid and the things that you detest the most are the very things that come around. It's strange how this happens. For instance, if you're afraid of cats, then from morning to night, there are cats hanging around. Suppose you hate dogs with a passion; then everywhere you go, you have dogs trailing you. Or, you hate women, but all day there are women wanting to see you. They chase after you, and you get totally fed up, so you move; but at your new place, there's another group of women just like them.
Well, how does this suffering arise? It comes from your own nature. Because your intrinsic nature doesn't have any samadhi, you find fault with whatever you see. Say you're in one place where you can't get along with any of your neighbors, so you move to someplace else, and you still cannot get along with any of your new neighbors. Then that's not a question of the neighbors-it's probably a question of your lack of ability to get along. You just don't have any affinity with anyone, so nobody likes you.
You can see that the more you are attached to something, the more likely you will be separated from it. By the same token, the more you hate and wish to avoid something, the more you are going to get involved with it. These two-the suffering of love and the suffering of hate-come about because you don't truly understand the Middle Way. As soon as you get to an extreme, either too much or too little, you're going to suffer. If you could hold to the Middle Way, you wouldn't suffer.
The seventh kind of suffering is that of not getting whatever one seeks. Some people spend their whole lives seeking for an official job, but in the end they never make it. Some people try to become famous, but they can't make it either. Some people don't have any children, and no matter how much they try, they are never able to have a child. That's another example of not getting what one seeks.
In general, people spend their whole lives trying to get this or trying to get that, but in the end, they don't get what they want. Some people would like to get a Ph.D., but it's not their destiny to be students, because from of old they haven't planted those kinds of causes. For example, there was Lyang, who became top scholar in China when he was eighty-two. But not long after he got the honor, he died. If you get something and then can't enjoy it, that's just another version of the suffering connected with not getting what you seek.
Then there's the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas: form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness. In the Heart Sutra, it's said,
Form does not differ from emptiness;
Emptiness does not differ from form.
Form itself is emptiness;
Emptiness itself is form.
The point is, if you can see things as empty, then you won't have any suffering. But, if you can't see things as empty, then you will be burned by the five skandhas. The five skandhas are a raging blaze, yet although they are so much suffering, no one can bear to separate from them.
The first seven kinds of suffering are from external birth. This eighth suffering is innate; it's inherent in the five skandhas from birth. It never leaves you, and even if you want to part from it, you can't get free. This has been a discussion on the eight kinds of sufferings.
"True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator,
Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom,
Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator,
Constant are your vows, constant is our respect!"
True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator. True Contemplation is the Contemplation of True Emptiness. True Emptiness is no others, no self, no living beings, and no life span. There's no appearance of self, no appearance of others, no appearance of living beings, and no appearance of a life span. However, "no appearance" is not apart from appearance; this just means that right within the appearance itself, there's no appearance. Within the appearance of self, there is no appearance of self; within the appearance of others, there is no appearance of others; within the appearance of living beings, there is no appearance of living beings; within the appearance of a life span, there is no appearance of a life span.
There is a saying that goes,
The eyes see form, but inside there is nothing;
The ears hear defiling sounds, but the mind does not know.
It's perfectly clear that shape and form exist, and your eyes see them, so why do we say that inside there's nothing? It's because there is no attachment.
The Contemplation of True Emptiness is just likened to a great, perfect mirror. In a great and perfect mirror, when things come before it, they are reflected in the mirror; when they leave, no trace is left. This is the Contemplation of True Emptiness practiced by Gwan Yin Bodhisattva.
Pure Contemplation is the Contemplation of Purity. Purity is the opposite of defilement. What is defilement? Anything you're attached to is a defiled thing. Anything that you have fond regard for is a defiled thing. Anything that you are greedy for is a defiled thing.
In the Contemplation of Purity, there is no greed, hatred, or stupidity.
Take giving as an example. When most people give, they first have to think about it, "This person is related to me-as a friend, relative, or neighbor-so I'll help him out by giving him something." You first figure it all out and decide to give only to the people who are closest to you, and you pay no regard to those with whom you are unfamiliar. This is called "taking care of one's relatives first, without having concern for any others; paying attention to those who are close and ignoring those who are distant."
In other words, you make distinctions. You are attached to appearance, and so your regard is not pure. But Gwan Yin Bodhisattva does not make distinctions between himself and others. He does not distinguish between relatives and those who are not related, or between those who are close and those who are distant. He simply gives.
There are three kinds of giving: the giving of wealth, the giving of Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness.
Of wealth, there are two kinds: inner wealth and outer wealth. Probably it would be difficult for most people to figure out what is meant by "inner wealth," but most people would be able to figure out what is meant by "outer wealth." "Inner wealth" refers to things inside your body, and outer wealth refers to things outside your body.
The giving of outer wealth refers to the giving up of one's country, city, wife, or children. "This whole town belongs to me-I own it all-but I'll give it away." In some cases, one is able to give away all his storehouses and treasuries, or even his own wife and children. That's really putting everything down. That's true giving.
The giving of inner wealth means to give up one's body, nature, mind, and life to save living beings who are in need. The body refers to the entire physical body-head, eyes, brain, marrow, and so forth.
When Venerable Shariputra was trying to practice the Bodhisattva Path, someone came along and said that he really needed an eye to cure his ill mother. Shariputra then gouged out one of his eyes and gave it to that person. Who would have guessed that the person would say it was the wrong eye and then throw it on the ground. At that point, Shariputra retreated from the Bodhisattva Path-"It's too hard; I can't do it." And so Shariputra was only able to relinquish half of his inner wealth; he couldn't quite part with the other half.
In general, the giving of inner wealth means giving up one's internal treasures-one's own wisdom, essence, and energy.
The giving of Dharma means to speak Dharma in order to teach and transform living beings. Of the three kinds of giving, this is the greatest. And so it's said,
Of all the kinds of giving, the greatest is the giving of Dharma.
In speaking Dharma, you should want to spread it to all people. You wouldn't even mind not eating or going without sleep in order to speak Dharma. It has been that way for me in the past. If someone wanted to study the Dharma, I would explain it to them to the point of missing my lunch and sleep, until I could help them to thoroughly understand. I hope that all of you will be my transformation bodies and spread the Buddhadharma in this way-practice the giving of Dharma. There is much more value in spreading Dharma than in contributing any amount of money. We must establish a foundation, and each one of us should personally take responsibility for the future of Buddhism in the West. Don't just hang back and say, "Well, it doesn't have anything to do with me. Buddhism is not my business, it's someone else's."
As far as I am concerned, as long as I have a single breath left, spreading the Buddhadharma is my personal responsibility. And if someone else wants to take responsibility for it, too-how wonderful! Don't procrastinate; stand on your own, and take the job of propagating the Buddhadharma as your own. That's the first criterion for the process of giving Dharma.
The giving of fearlessness is the last one of the three kinds of giving. For instance, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva saves living beings from seven difficulties, releases them from the Three Evil Paths, and responds to the two kinds of seeking. That's an example of the giving of fearlessness. When people are in a terrifying situation and their very lives are at stake, if you appear in a fearless body to rescue them, then you are practicing the giving of fearlessness.
You can also practice the giving of fearlessness in an individual way, like Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva, who practiced the giving of fearlessness on another level. This Bodhisattva knew that people in a certain place needed a bridge in order to get across a river. If they tried to cross the river without a bridge, their lives would be in danger, and it would be a frightening experience for them. Since it was in ancient times, he had to use primitive techniques. For instance, he could build a pontoon bridge of logs floating on the river with flat boards on top of them, so that people could cross the river without incurring any danger upon themselves. Of course, if there was a flood, their lives would still be endangered. However, they no longer suffered the fear of crossing that river.
When the Venerable Elder Master Hsu-Yun came down from Jyu-Hwa mountain, remembering that there was a bridge at a particular spot on the river, he went to that place to cross the river. But the river was swollen, and the bridge had been destroyed by a flood. Since the bridge was no longer there, he accidentally fell into the river. He floated in the river for a day and a night-bobbing up and down for a total of twenty-four hours. Eventually, he was caught by an old fisherman in his fishnet. Thinking that he had caught a giant fish, the old man started to pull the fish out. But on closer examination, he discovered that his "fish" was, in fact, a monk wearing clothes!
Nearby there was a little temple, and so the fisherman went to alert the left-home people there. The monks recognized the Venerable Master immediately. They then set about applying artificial respiration and bringing him back to consciousness. At that point the Master truly gained a "second life."
After nearly being drowned in the river and escaping death, the Venerable Master proceeded to Gau-Min Monastery. He had gone there to participate in the Chan session, but he was still very ill and weak from his recent experience. However, he didn't breathe a single word about his mishap, and so nobody knew.
The Abbot then asked him to represent him as the head of the session; but the Master Hsu-Yun, knowing himself that he was too sick, refused. Now, the refusal to an appointment by the Abbot was considered a breach of monastic discipline. And for this, the Master was beaten with an incense board. Still, he said not a word.
The Venerable Master was the foremost monk, the loftiest good and wise advisor in all of China, but he underwent tremendous suffering at Gau-Min Monastery, where everyone looked down on him. "He's just a burden to all of us," they said, "very useless."
Now, back to the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth. He fixed the roads and bridges. When Elder Master Hsu-Yun went to Hu-Nan, he met a monk who spent all his time fixing the roads, and this monk didn't speak. That, indeed, was a transformation body of Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva. This Bodhisattva spent all of his time guarding the earth. If there were rocks or rubble on the roads, he would remove them to one side so that people wouldn't step on them and hurt their feet. He kept the roads in good repair. Who paid him for all his hard labor? Nobody. Now, wasn't he stupid? Wasn't he just working in vain? Well, his working in vain enabled him to become the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth.
Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses the regard of great wisdom to cross over all living beings. Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator. The Bodhisattva also has universal compassionate regard for all living beings. The contemplation of compassion pulls living beings out of suffering; the contemplation of kindness gives living beings joy. This kind of joy is not temporary happiness, but an everlasting bliss that transcends the mundane. The Bodhisattva gives Dharma to living beings causing them to gain the true understanding of the Buddhadharma and thereby not do any more upside-down things. That is called the giving of happiness.
Constant are your vows, constant is our respect! Forever you will gaze up at Gwan Yin Bodhisattva with respect. You wish to always look upon that virtuous and kind countenance. The more you look, the happier you become. For instance, bowing the Great Compassion Repentance is a ceremony to show your respect to Gwan Yin Bodhisattva.
There are those who don't like to bow. They say, "Well, I believe in my own Buddha." Well, if you truly believed in your own Buddha, then there wouldn't be any you-there wouldn't be any "your own." It's just because you haven't found your own Buddha that you cannot recognize an external Buddha when you see one. If you really believed in your own Buddha, it wouldn't keep you from bowing.
Bowing-that is, kowtowing, a full bow to the floor-represents the most respectful of gestures. In Buddhism, this is a kind of formal courtesy. If you can't even perform this kind of courtesy, how can you call yourself someone who believes in the Buddha?
There's a certain doctor who commanded respect from many people; but he himself told everyone not to bow to the Buddha. When others bowed to the Buddha, he would stand there like a wooden stick. That's because he hadn't really broken through the mark of his ego.
The people who refuse to bow to the Buddha are the very first people I scold, because they have the arrogant attitude, "Me? Why should I bow to the Buddha?" What I am scolding is their arrogance. If you are self-satisfied and proud to the point that you can't even bow, then how in the world do you expect to be able to study Buddhism?
"Undefiled pure light,
The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness
Is able to quell calamities of wind and fire
As it shines on all worlds."
These four lines of text are ineffably wonderful. They can cure eye sicknesses. If you have eye trouble and you constantly recite this four-line verse, your eye disease will be cured. However, although your eye disease may be cured, you still have to go ahead and bring forth wisdom in order to be totally cured. If you don't have wisdom, then even though you may temporarily be made better, it could crop up again in the future.
In general, if you truly believe in the power of Sutra text, then Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's awesome spiritual strength will aid you and bring about an efficacious effect. But if you don't believe, nothing special will happen. There won't be any effect. That's why it's said,
The Buddhadharma is like a great sea,
But only through faith can you enter.
The verse says, "Undefiled pure light." Defilement refers to dust, dirt, and unclean things. Being without any defilement means that you don't have any polluted thinking. For every polluted thought that you strike up, you add another layer of dust upon your original pure nature. The more polluted thinking you have, the dustier it gets.
Therefore, you need to "understand the mind and see the nature."That's what people who investigate Chan aim to do. To "understand the mind" is to be "undefiled." To "see your nature" is to see the "pure light" as mentioned here. Your original mind is your permanently-dwelling true mind, the Treasury of the Thus Come One. When you understand your mind and see your nature, the bright light in your inherent Treasury of the Thus Come One manifests.
The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness. The wisdom-sun means that wisdom is like the sun. The kind of darkness referred to here is a lack of faith, a lack of wisdom, a lack of vows, and a lack of a resolve to truly practice.
Darkness also refers to not studying or upholding the precepts, not cultivating the power of samadhi, and not developing the power of wisdom. You're walking a dark path if you do not study precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. If you do cultivate according to precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, then you're walking on a bright path.
We can also explain it in this way. Your desire to listen to the Buddhadharma is the light. But someone might think, "I've listened for so many days and it doesn't really have much meaning. The Dharma Master has been sitting up there on that platform talking and talking about the same old thing. I've heard it over and over. He said that people should get rid of greed, hatred, and stupidity and should cultivate precepts, samadhi, and wisdom. I'm tired of listening." Some of you feel tired of listening? That's darkness.
However, there are those of you who do not grow weary of listening. The more you hear, the more you want to listen, even to the point that you just listen to the sound of the Dharma Master's voice and the subtle and incredible doctrines of the Sutra. And when you finish listening, it's as if the Dharma Master were still speaking in your ear. "From morning till night, I can hear the voice of the Dharma Master beside my ear speaking Dharma to me." That's the light.
At this point, I suddenly remember something that happened to me in Hong Kong. A certain laywoman came to see me, and after she saw me, what do you think happened? In everything she did, whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, she always saw me. What do you suppose she thought? She thought, "Oh, that Dharma Master is a demon! Otherwise, why would I see him all the time?" Here she was, able to hear a Dharma Master speaking Dharma at all times, and she thought he was a demon. I suppose that if she saw a demon, she would have thought it was a Buddha. So, she started slandering me and even wanted to strike me. Inside of a month, she contracted cancer and died. Basically, I wanted to save her, but she thought I was a demon. She refused my rescue. And that's the way people are; they think the true is false, and the false is true.
Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses the Contemplation of True Emptiness to break through the delusion of views and thought.
The "delusion of views" is defined as "when faced with a state, giving rise to greed." You get caught up with something that appears before you, then give rise to greed and attachment.
The "delusion of thought" is defined as "giving rise to discrimination because one is confused about principle."
By means of the Contemplation of True Emptiness, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva breaks through the darkness of the delusion of views and thought. He brings forth the virtue of Prajna.
When Gwan Yin Bodhisattva cultivates the Contemplation of Purity, he breaks through the darkness of delusion like dust and sand, and is certified to the virtue of Liberation.
When Gwan Yin Bodhisattva cultivates the Contemplation of Wisdom, he breaks through the darkness of the delusion of ignorance, thus attaining the virtue of the Dharma-body.
When one is certified to the Secret Treasury of the Three Virtues, then Prajna, Liberation, and the Dharma-body will come about. One has to cultivate the Three Contemplations-the Contemplation of Purity, the Contemplation of True Emptiness, and the Contemplation of Wisdom-to be certified to the Three Virtues, and to cut off the delusion of views and thought, the delusion like dust and sand, and the delusion of ignorance. That's what's meant by "the sun of wisdom that breaks through all darkness." The wisdom here refers to these contemplations-the contemplations themselves are wisdom.
This wisdom sun is able to quell calamities of wind and fire. "Calamities" here refers to the three calamities of water, fire, and wind. Water floods the First Dhyana; fire burns through the Second Dhyana; wind destroys the Third Dhyana.
At the end of the kalpa, the first of the three calamities appears. The heavens of the First Dhyana are flooded by water. One doesn't know where this water comes from-whether it comes from the stars, moon, heavenly rivers, or earth-but it rises up in massive waves, and not only does it drown humankind, it also drowns the gods of the First Dhyana Heavens.
Therefore when the first calamity of water hits, almost everything is destroyed. Somehow a few people remain, and the population starts to multiply again. Eventually it gets overpopulated, people's offenses are redoubled, and things get very complicated.
Then the second calamity, that of fire, hits. This kalpic fire burns clear through the Second Dhyana Heavens. The gods in these heavens are burned by this fire. Why is it that fire can reach the Second Dhyana? It's because the gods in these heavens still have fire affliction, whereas the gods in the First Dhyana Heavens still have water affliction. The fire inside their intrinsic nature catches with the fire in the world, bringing about a huge conflagration. At that time seven suns appear in the sky. The mountains, rivers, and great earth all turn into burning coals, and people are reduced to a crisp. Even the seas are all burned dry. The seas turn into dry land, and the land becomes high mountains. Then the high mountains become great seas. There are many strange happenings in between heaven and earth.
After the disaster of fire, a very long time passes, and those people who are left in the world propagate the species until once again the world becomes overpopulated. Then the third disaster, that of wind, hits. "Wind destroys the Third Dhyana." Not only does the wind rip through people's houses and buildings, but the mountains, rivers, and earth are all ripped to bits. In fact, the wind reaches up to the gods in the Third Dhyana Heavens. Even the gods cannot avoid this disaster. So there's a verse that goes:
In the Six Desire Heavens, there are the Five Signs of Decay;
The Third Dhyana has the disaster of wind.
Even if you make it to the Heaven of Neither Thought nor No Thought,
It is not as good as going to the Pure Land and coming back again.
Therefore, people who cultivate the Way shouldn't do it with the idea in mind of seeking the blessings of the heavens. Once those blessings are exhausted, one will fall back into the cycle of rebirth.
In the Six Desire Heavens, when one's blessings are exhausted, the Five Marks of Decay set in. Just as human bodies deteriorate as death draws near, so too in the heavens, gods change as their life spans come to an end. Once their lives in those heavens are over, they will be reborn and undergo retribution in accord with their karma.
The Five Marks of Decay are:
1. The flower garlands wilt. Heavenly beings have crowns of flowers that adorn them naturally and stay ever-fresh. But when their heavenly blessings are exhausted, when their heavenly life has come to an end, their flower garlands start to wilt.
2. The clothes get dirty. The clothing worn by beings in the heavens is not at all like the clothes worn by common people in our world. The gods' clothes never get wrinkled or dirty. They never have to do laundry. Since their clothes stay naturally clean, they don't have to buy washing machines and detergent. The heavenly beings do not have to wash their clothes. They are all spontaneously and naturally clean-that is, until the second mark of decay sets in. Then the clothes of the gods start to get dirty.
3. The armpits perspire. Unlike common people who continually sweat, heavenly beings do not perspire. The reason their clothes stay clean is that they don't sweat. But with the third mark of decay, they start sweating.
4. The entire body smells bad. Ordinarily, the bodies of heavenly beings are always fragrant. But when these five marks of decay arrive, they start to smell bad.
5. They cannot sit still. Last of all, they can't remain in their places. They jump up and start walking around, but they're still uneasy, so they sit down again. But that won't do either. They lie down but still feel uncomfortable. They jump back up but can't find a single comfortable position to be in.
At just that moment-all of a sudden-the life of a heavenly being ends. If they have wholesome karma, then they will be reborn as wealthy and influential people. But if their evil karma ripens, they will fall into the Three Evil Destinies-the path of the hungry ghosts, the animals, or the beings in the hells. So even if you become a god, you still have this kind of trouble.
The disaster of wind destroys the Third Dhyana Heavens. Where do these disasters come from? They come from one's anger. If a person has a lot of anger, then even though he has cultivated significant blessings and is reborn in the heavens, he must still undergo the retribution of the disaster of wind. Because the root of anger, resentment, and temper has not been cut off, one has to take this loss. This is the retribution for anger.
Fortunately, the light of the sun of wisdom of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva can quell all disasters and break up all darkness as it shines a universal light on all worlds. The world that we common people live in now is called the Land in Which the Common and Sagely Live Together.
The great wisdom of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva also illumines the Land of Expedients with Residue. That's where those of the Two Vehicles live. "Expedients" refers to clever, provisional means. "With Residue" means that there's still something left, because the inhabitants of this world have not yet completely cut off all their afflictions.
Gwan Yin Bodhisattva dwells in the Adorned Land of Actual Reward, which is the land where all the Bodhisattvas dwell. The Buddhas dwell in the Land of Eternally Still and Pure Light.
With his great wisdom and great knowledge, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva universally illumines all of these lands, and so the text says his light "shines on all worlds."
"Compassionate substance: the thunder of Precepts.
Kind intent: a wondrous great cloud.
He rains down sweet dew and Dharma rain,
Which extinguish the flames of affliction."
Compassionate substance: the thunder of Precepts. Compassionate substance means that Gwan Yin Bodhisattva takes the substance of compassion as his Dharma substance. Where does this compassionate substance come from? It comes from Precepts. When Gwan Yin Bodhisattva first began to cultivate, he held the Precepts purely, and from this purity he brought forth kindness and compassion, the kindness that includes even those with whom one doesn't have affinities. This Dharma substance is like thunder-it emits a thunderous roar, and living beings are awakened by it. The blind can see and even the deaf can hear this sound of thunder. And so it says, "Compassionate substance: the thunder of precepts roars."
Kind intent: a wondrous great cloud. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses level and equal kindness and compassion to help living beings. The Sutra said, "With eyes of kindness, he regards all living beings." With kindness and compassion, he bestows joy upon living beings in a level and equal way.
Acting like a wondrous, huge cloud, he rains down sweet dew and Dharma rain. Sweet dew is actually the water of immortality found in the heavens. Why are the heavenly gods immortal? Because they drink sweet dew. So you say, "Even the gods take their vitalizers. It's no wonder that people these days who want to get enlightened pop all sorts of pills." But the heavenly medicine is natural-it's organic. When the gods imbibe this medicine, they never age. Now Gwan Yin Bodhisattva has a wonderful, great cloud that lets fall sweet dew, the elixir of immortality, which extinguishes the flames of affliction.
People in this world have afflictions, and it's as though they were being scorched by flames. Why do you not become a Buddha? Because you have afflictions. Why haven't you become enlightened? Because you have afflictions. Why aren't you truly free? Because you have afflictions.
Another name for afflictions is attachments. Where do attachments stem from? They come from selfishness. Why are you attached? Because you are selfish and you want to seek private gains. If you have a mind only for the common good, if you're truly public-spirited, then what attachments could you possibly have?
If you aren't selfish, you won't be attached; if you don't have attachments, you won't be afflicted; and if you don't have afflictions, you will be liberated. Once you are liberated, you're enlightened. To become enlightened is just to realize Buddhahood.
Afflictions are the very worst thing to have, yet people can't stand to be apart from them. Whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, they don't want to ever be apart from afflictions.
You say, "Well, I'm happy all the time, and I don't have any afflictions." Well, if you have attained genuine bliss, then of course you're not afflicted. But if you haven't attained genuine bliss and you fake it-you force yourself to believe that you're happy-then it's not true happiness. Inside, the affliction is still heavy. And one day it will turn up-it'll explode. It's like smothering weeds with a large rock-the weeds won't be able to grow. But once you remove the rock, the weeds will quickly flourish. If you haven't attained true bliss, your afflictions will still remain.
Of the Four Vast Vows that the Bodhisattva makes, the first one is, "Living beings are boundless, I vow to save them all." Why does Gwan Yin Bodhisattva come to this world? Only because living beings are boundless, and he has vowed to save them all.
The second vast vow is, "Afflictions are endless, I vow to sever them all." Does Gwan Yin Bodhisattva have afflictions? No, he has cut them off, but he takes living beings' afflictions as his own. Seeing that living beings haven't cut off their afflictions, he makes the vow: "Afflictions are endless, I vow to cut them off." Basically, afflictions are endless, like waves on water: The wave in front dissipates, and then the wave that follows rises up. That wave dissipates, and yet another wave rises up in its wake. This goes on continuously without cease. Afflictions are just like that-endless.
The third vast vow is, "Dharma-doors are limitless, I vow to study them all." Some people study one or two Sutras, and they become self-satisfied. They say they already understand Buddhism. But the Buddhism they understand is not as much as a single drop within the great sea of the Buddhadharma. These people who become self-satisfied are just like an ant who goes to the ocean to get a drink of water: He takes his fill and says that he has drunk up the entire sea. Actually the ant only filled up his own stomach-he hasn't even drunk a single drop of the great sea.
The last vast vow is "The Buddha Way is unsurpassed, I vow to realize it." There is nothing higher than the Buddha Way, so everyone should resolve to become a Buddha. You shouldn't look down on yourself. Originally you were a Buddha, but that doesn't mean you are a Buddha now. Basically we were all completely endowed with the Buddha-nature. But now, because we don't know how to cultivate, we don't possess the Three Bodies of the Buddha, the Four Types of Wisdom, the Five Eyes, or the Six Spiritual Penetrations.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva bases his teaching on the Four Vast Vows, and he uses the sweet dew of Dharma rain to cause all beings to become refreshed and content, so they won't have any more afflictions.
"In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits,
Or when someone is terrified on the battlefield,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
All his many enemies will scatter and leave."
In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits. "Contention" means fighting. During the Dharma-Ending Age, contention is at its height.
When the Buddha dwells in the world, it is called the Proper Dharma Age. During the Proper Dharma Age, Dhyana concentration is solid. At that time, everyone likes to investigate Dhyana and enter samadhi. The Proper Dharma Age lasts from the time the Buddha appears in the world until one thousand years following his extinction. After that comes the Dharma Image Age.
During the Dharma Image Age, people are resolute in building temples. They erect stupas and make images, and they consider that to be the most important work. Everyone likes to build big temples. That's why in this world some countries have great temples as a vestige of the Dharma Image Age. The Dharma Image Age also lasts for one thousand years, and after that comes the Dharma-Ending Age.
The Dharma-Ending Age lasts for ten thousand years. "Ending" here also refers to the tip of the branch. At that time the Dharma has arrived at its termination. We are at present in the Dharma-Ending Age. During this time, people are not resolute in Dhyana concentration nor in building temples. They are resolute in fighting. And that's what we are discussing now in this line of verse-contention. Countries fight with countries; families fight with families; people fight with people; animals fight with animals; ghosts fight with ghosts-there is fighting everywhere. Why? Because during the Dharma-Ending Age, it's within the nature of people to like to fight.
However, right within the Dharma-Ending Age is the Proper Dharma Age. And, in the Dharma Image Age, there is also the Proper Dharma Age. What is meant by this? Even within the Dharma-Ending Age, there are still people who want to investigate Chan and sit in meditation. For example, many people here like to take time out in the morning or evening, or even in the midst of a busy day, to sit in meditation. And this is just being in the Proper Dharma Age. During the Dharma-Ending Age, these people make up only a very, very small percentage of the entire population.
The facts that we can still lecture the Sutras and speak Dharma, and that people vigorously cultivate according to the teachings, and that some still find time amidst their busy schedules to sit in meditation-even to the point that some don't eat or sleep in order to come to hear the Sutra lectures-means that the Proper Dharma Age is found right within the Dharma-Ending Age.
Now, if all of us come together to build great Way-places and temples, then we are in the Dharma Image Age that is found within the Dharma-Ending Age.
Furthermore, within the Dharma Image Age, there are also the Dharma-Ending Age and the Proper Dharma Age. For instance, during the Dharma Image Age, when people like to build temples, there are those who don't like to build temples and who don't even believe in the Buddha, and that's like having the Dharma-Ending Age within the Dharma Image Age. And again, if at that time people get together and vigorously cultivate, then that's the Proper Dharma Age within the Dharma Image Age.
Likewise, within the Proper Dharma Age, there are also found the Dharma-Ending Age and the Dharma Image Age. During the Proper Dharma Age, if people like to build temples, then they are dwelling in the Dharma Image Age. There are also those who study the Buddhadharma just a bit and then stop-they don't thoroughly investigate-and that's like having the Dharma-Ending Age right within the Proper Dharma Age.
Although this age is generally recognized as the Dharma-Ending Age, there are those of us in the West who are abiding in and upholding the Proper Dharma, and who have made vows to propagate the Buddhadharma so that it will forever remain in the world; thus, we have the Proper Dharma Age within the Dharma-Ending Age.
Every day we recite and hold the Shurangama Mantra, and in this way we are helping the entire world. If there is not even a single person who recites the Shurangama Mantra in a world, then that world is about to be destroyed. At that time, all the strange essences, goblins, and demons, the li-mei and wang-lyang ghosts will appear. Why is it that they don't dare to make a full-force descent upon the world at this time? It's because in this world there are still people who hold the Shurangama Mantra and who cultivate the Great Compassion Mantra and the Forty-two Hands and Eyes. Because of this, the strange ghosts and goblins don't dare to come out.
Now the text is talking about a time that is strong in fighting, so it says, "In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits." At such a time you have to go before a judge and argue things out. Then you have to hire an attorney. Some attorneys have the talent to make it appear as though you are totally unreasonable, even if you are on the right side of the law; conversely, the cases of people who are clearly on the wrong side can be made to look completely justifiable. This is distorting right and wrong-turning things upside down.
Nowadays if you have enough money, you can kill and still get off scot-free. This often happens in cases of contention. People go to court to argue principles, but somehow the lawyers twist the facts around so that even if you have principle, they make it appear as if you don't; and if you don't have principle, they make it appear as if you do. People are manipulated by money to the point that their consciences are completely destroyed.
Or when someone is terrified on the battlefield. This is when one becomes petrified amidst clashing armies on the battlefield. If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / All his many enemies will scatter and leave. If you can only recite "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa," then your enemies will retreat and disperse; all the feuding will somehow disappear, and your enemies will disperse.
Who are your enemies? Say you have to go to court to argue a case against another person, or you fall before an adversary on the battlefield: The reason for this is the resentment piled up over many lifetimes. An animosity builds up over lifetimes to the point that these people come together to fight it out. Each person has to undergo his or her retribution. But if you can at that time be mindful of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, this kind of retribution will be lessened-the heavy offenses will be lightened and the light ones will completely disappear. So the text says, "All his many enemies will scatter and leave." And so the power of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva is truly inconceivable and not something that most people can understand.
During World War II, a man by the name of Fei Fan-Jing lived in Shanghai. He practiced reciting Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name every day. During the war between the Japanese and the Chinese, Shanghai was constantly being shelled, and so this person decided to move from his house to avoid the bombing. Right after he moved, his house was completely destroyed by a bomb. After staying about forty-five days at the new shelter, he got the notion that this place wouldn't be safe, either. So he moved again. He moved to the "Concession Zone," an area that was loaned to foreigners. That was an area that the Westerners leased from China to dwell in, and the Japanese didn't dare bomb that area.
After living in the Concession Zone for a while, Fei Fan-Jing thought that it also wasn't safe; but that area was guarded by sentries and he wasn't allowed to leave. Right at that time, when he was really pinned down-he couldn't go back and he couldn't go forward-he saw a child. The child said, "You'd better get out of here quickly; the Japanese army is on its way!" There was a wire net fencing in that entire area, and suddenly he saw a place in the net about two feet wide that was broken-just enough of a space to crawl through. He managed to get his mother, his wife, and his whole family out of the area through this hole in the wire net. When they had all gotten out, the guards who had been on sentry duty were astonished; they couldn't figure out how those people had gotten through.
Fei Fan-Jing then turned back to look for the child, but the child was nowhere to be seen. He looked back at the wire net and the hole was not there. He was really puzzled. In this way he was saved from "the terror of the battlefield." From this incident we can see that the power of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is truly inconceivable.
"Wondrous your sound, Contemplator of the World's Sounds-
A pure sound, a sound like the sea tide,
A sound beyond all worldly sounds,
We shall always bear it in mind."
Wondrous your sound, Contemplator of the World's Sound. Not only is the Bodhisattva's sound wondrous and subtle, it is also pure. A pure sound, a sound like the sea tide. The pure sound of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva is like the sound of the sea-the sea tide, which is reliable, ebbing and flowing. A sound beyond all worldly sounds, / We shall always bear it in mind. Everyone should always recollect the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
"In thought after thought we have no doubt.
Gwan Shr Yin is pure and sagely.
In times of suffering, agony, danger, and death,
He is our refuge and protector."
In thought after thought we have no doubt. You shouldn't think, "What use is it to recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva? Isn't that just meaningless, reciting it every day?" It is very important not to have doubts. You shouldn't have doubts for even a moment. Gwan Shr Yin is pure and sagely. / In times of suffering, agony, danger, and death, / He is our refuge and protector. You can turn your very life over to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. He will certainly protect and help you.
"Complete with all merit and virtue,
With eyes of kindness, watching living beings,
He is endowed with massive blessings, limitless as the sea.
Therefore we should reverently worship him."
Complete with all merit and virtue, / With eyes of kindness, watching living beings. Like a compassionate father, Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, with the same kind eyes, looks upon all living beings to see whether they have committed offenses or not. He is endowed with massive blessings, limitless as the sea. His equal, great compassion saves all living beings. The blessed reward he has cultivated is as great and boundless as the sea. Therefore we should reverently worship him.
At that time the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth rose from his seat and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, if there are those who hear this chapter of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, who learn about the self-mastery of his deeds and the power of his spiritual penetrations as shown in this Universal Door, you should know that the merit and virtue of such people will not be small."
At that time, after Shakyamuni Buddha had finished speaking the verses, the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth. This Bodhisattva is mentioned in the Shurangama Sutra. Limitless eons ago, this Bodhisattva was illiterate. Although he had never studied the Buddhadharma, his conduct was very near that of a Buddhist. He was very strong and powerful. He could lift and move things that no one else could. His work was repairing roads. Sometimes he repaired bridges. He would help people move their carts or carry their burdens, and he never took any payment for these services. He did it for a long time.
Once a Buddha named Vishvabhu came by and said to him, "Leveling the roads is just casting aside the roots to grasp at the branches. It's superficial work."
"Then what should I do?" said the Bodhisattva.
"If you want to level the roads, first you should level your mind-ground. Why are there mountains and valleys, hills and dales? It's because people's minds aren't level. People's minds go 'up and down,' and so we have mountains, rivers, and valleys of the great earth. You should first level your mind-ground. If the mind-ground is level, then all places are level."
Having heard these instructions, Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva then cultivated the mind-ground Dharma-door. He leveled the ground of his mind and cultivated to accomplishment.
From among the assembly, Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva rose from his seat and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, if there are those who hear this chapter of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, who learn about the self-mastery of his deeds and the power of his spiritual penetrations as shown in this Universal Door-those are his Thirty-two Response Bodies, Fourteen Kinds of Fearlessness, and Nineteen Ways of Speaking Dharma-you should know that the merit and virtue of such people will not be small." The merit from hearing this chapter on Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's Universal Door is not small by any means.
When the Buddha had spoken the "Universal Door Chapter," eighty-four thousand living beings in the assembly all brought forth the resolve for Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
When the Buddha had spoken the "Universal Door Chapter," eighty-four thousand living beings in the assembly all brought forth the resolve for Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the mind for the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.
"Eighty-four thousand living beings" also refers to the 84,000 kinds of afflictions we living beings have. Each of our bodies contains 84,000 germs. We people are "big germs," and all the little germs live inside of us, inside our blood, flesh, and internal organs. We are the life-support systems for the little germs, and the little germs help the big germs. Each one of the germs is actually a living being. You could never count them, there being so many, but in general we say "eighty-four thousand."
Outwardly, the world is filled with many, many more than 84,000 beings. "Eighty-four thousand beings" refers to the thoughts in the minds of living beings, which rise and pass away continually. Each thought is a living being, rising and passing away, undergoing birth and death. The 84,000 living beings are not separate from your own nature. The 84,000 living beings all bring forth, at the same time, the resolve for Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi is Sanskrit. Anuttara means "proper and equal." Samyak means "unsurpassed," and sambodhi means "right enlightenment." There is nothing higher than this enlightenment; it's equal to the enlightenment of the Buddha. Upon hearing this "Universal Door Chapter," all the 84,000 living beings brought forth the resolve for enlightenment. That was an especially rare occasion!
Now at the Buddhist Lecture Hall in San Francisco, we have lectured the "Universal Door Chapter," and over twenty people have heard it. All of these twenty people have 84,000 living beings inside of them. Ultimately, how many beings are there? And yet, did they all bring forth the mind of unsurpassed enlightenment? Even if not all of them did, the majority of them probably did. Those who attend the lectures on the Dharma Flower Sutra all have a share in becoming Buddhas in the future. That you have heard this chapter on Gwan Yin Bodhisattva means that in the past, for many lives and many eons, you have planted limitless, boundless good roots, and so now you have this causal condition to assemble together and study the Buddhadharma. This is a wonderful, inconceivable state.
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi is the highest position, the position of the Buddha's enlightenment, the Unsurpassed, Pervasive, Proper Enlightenment. The Proper Enlightenment is the enlightenment of the Arhats, those of the Second Vehicle. They have not, however, obtained the Proper and Equal Enlightenment. Who has obtained Proper and Equal Enlightenment? The Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva has obtained both "Right" and "Proper and Equal" Enlightenment. Bodhisattvas are equal to the Buddha, in that sense. But they have not obtained the Unsurpassed Enlightenment.
Arhats have obtained Right Enlightenment; but they have not obtained Proper and Equal or Unsurpassed Enlightenment yet.
Bodhisattvas are said to be "Surpassed Knights" because they are surpassed by the Buddhas who are above them.
The Buddhas are called "Unsurpassed Knights," because none are higher than they are. They have obtained Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment, which is like the Perfect Bodhi that returns to Nonattainment. The Buddhas have attained the Perfection of the Three Kinds of Enlightenment and also the Ten Thousand Virtues. There is nothing higher than Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment. This title applies only to the Buddhas, not to the Bodhisattvas or Arhats. Thus, it is the highest position.
From what position is this highest state reached? One might think it was realized from a high position, but that is not the case. The highest position is realized from the lowest position. Those who cultivate the Way should be very careful not to become arrogant, because the highest position can only be reached from the lowest position.
Lau-Dz said, "The highest form of goodness is like water. Water skillfully benefits the ten thousand things but does not contend. Because it abides in places that people despise, it is close to the Way."
The ten thousand things include all creatures, flying, walking, and swimming, as well as all the plants and trees. All creatures need water, whether they are egg-born, womb-born, transformation-born, or moisture-born. But even though all creatures are nourished and supported by water, the water never thinks, "I am benefiting you, supporting your lives, and helping you out." Water doesn't fight either. It doesn't insist on taking the credit for what it does, as people usually do. People all say, "I did this good deed, or that good deed. I built that temple. I built that bridge." They are always competing. Water never thinks like that. It's unselfish; it doesn't seek to benefit itself. Water doesn't fight for fame or profit. Water always flows to the bottom; it doesn't run upwards nor fight to be on top.
"But rain falls down from the sky!" you say.
That's a very cogent point. The rain does fall down. But how does it get up there in the first place? It goes up from the lowest place. Then it falls down and flows into the rivers and the sea, and it still recedes into the lower places. It just goes up into the sky temporarily. Water goes to places where no one else wants to go.
Why is it that cultivators don't like to live in fancy houses? They may even live in caves. The reason is they want to imitate water in dwelling in a lowly place. Because water goes to places people despise, it's close to the Way.
If you want to realize Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment, you, too, must begin from the lowest position. You don't begin at the top.
If you want to become a Buddha, you must first be a good living being. How do you do that? You should just do what is good. Don't do evil. Follow the good and change the evil. Go down the good road, and get off the bad road. Go forward and pursue what is in accord with the Way. Retreat from that which is not in accord with the Way. Then you will be able to obtain Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.
Today we have finished this general explanation of the "Universal Door Chapter." The wonderful doctrine of the Universal Door is ineffable and endless. It's not something that can be completely explained in a short period of time. The Dharma Flower Sutra is ineffably wonderful. Its wonderful functions are infinite and endless. Today, I have explained the meaning in general. In the future, if there is an opportunity, we can go into it more deeply.
If there's anything that you are seeking for in your mind, you should pray to Gwan Yin Bodhisattva. I believe that you will get what you seek.
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra is the Sutra for becoming a Buddha. Having heard the Dharma Flower Sutra, we each have a share in future Buddhahood. This is a very rare opportunity.
*End of the Chapter on the Universal Door *