The Annotated True Buddha Sutra
Written by Living Buddha Lian-sheng, Sheng-yen Lu
Translated by Janny Chow
Discourse No. 9:
(December 10th, 1988)
Upon seeing this, all the heavenly beings were greatly awed. Then Indra arose from his seat and, joining his palms to White Padmakumara, said, `This is most rare, 0 Holy and Revered One. By what cause does the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds emit such great light and splendor?`
White Mahapadmakumara said, `I will expound this for everyone present.` Indra said, `The Holy Revered One is the most mighty and powerful. Please explain to everyone present, that all Men and Devas may know where to turn.`
At that moment, White Mahapadmakumara addressed Indra and the assembly as follows: `Very well, very well. I will now explain to you and all the beings of the last period of this Buddha-kalpa, and all those in the future who have an affinity with the sutra, that all may know the True Buddha Dharma and the principle which removes obstacles and bestows good fortune.`
The `heavenly beings ` here refer to all of the celestial beings in the twenty-eight levels of heavens, including all devas from the thirty-three heavens. When these beings saw the manifestations of colored lights throughout the whole Empty Space, as well as the Ten Dharma Realms that comprise the four holy realms and the six realms of transmigration (with the three lower realms included), they were greatly awed. It was rare that the entire Ten Dharma Realms would be filled up this way by so many different colored-lights. At this time, Indra, ruler of the Trayastrimsas Heaven, stood up from his seat. With palms joined respectfully, he inquired of the principal deity White Padmakumara, `This is most rare, 0 Holy and Revered One. By what cause does the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds emit such great light and splendor? ` In other words, such a phenomenon of great illumination is extremely rare, what then are the reasons for the holy realm of Maha Twin Lotus Ponds to emit such great light and splendor?
The Great White Padmakumara then told Indra, `Since you asked, I shall explain to you the reasons behind such an occurrence.`
Indra said, `The Holy Revered One is the most mighty and powerful. Please explain to everyone present, that all Men and Devas may know where to turn. ` What does `most mighty and powerful` mean? Regarding `mighty,` I remember when we used to watch the Taiwanese puppet show. Before someone of mighty power was about to make an appearance, the stage would light up brightly with colorful lights, the music would be played to its highest notes, and the character would jump up to the stage. `Mighty` denotes great dignity and supreme majesty. For example, if you wanted to look directly at the sun, you would not be able to do so. Its `mighty` radiance is so magnificent and glorious that it makes direct viewing impossible. What about powerful`? Power denotes authority, influence, and the strength that one wields.
The Indra Deva, also known as the Jade Emperor, was deferring to the Great White Padmakumara as the `most mighty and powerful.` Perhaps he had seen the Great Sun Tathagata sitting up there in the highest end above the Great White Padmakumara. The Great Sun Tathagata is of course the `most mighty and powerful`!
We know that Padmakumara has been transformed from the Buddha Eyes Buddha Mother. The two eyes of the Buddha Eyes Buddha Mother have transformed themselves into the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds, and it was the Light of the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds that gave rise to Padmakumara. What about the origin of the Buddha Eyes Buddha Mother? She in turn came out of the Great Sun Tathagata. Thus Padmakumara was born out of the Light of the Great Sun Tathagata. This phrase - most mighty and powerful - is tantamount to acknowledging the origin and lineage of Padmakumara and tracing it back to the Great Sun Buddha.
Earlier this evening, we practiced group cultivation together on the Personal Deity Maha Cundi. What is the origin of Maha Cundi? In fact, Maha Cundi also emerged from the Great Sun Tathagata, more specifically from the `All-Conquering World` or `All-Conquering Dharma Realm Palace` [Akanistha Palace] of the Great Sun Tathagata. Therefore, Maha Cundi and Padmakumara share the same origin, and Maha Cundi is the elder sister of Padmakumara! They are like brother and sister and are very affectionate with each other. That is the basis for Maha Cundi to be included as one of the eight principal deities of our True Buddha School.
Maha Cundi is a revered principal deity in T`ien-tai Vajrayana [named after Mount T`ien-tai in China] or Chinese Vajrayana and Japanese Vajrayana. In Tibetan Vajrayana, Maha Cundi is less well known, and many Tibetan rinpoches have not heard of her. Therefore, Maha Cundi plays a greater nurturing role among practitioners of Chinese and Japanese Vajrayana than among those of Tibetan Vajrayana.
Since Padmakumara himself emerged from the Palace of the Great Sun Tathagata, he knows that Maha Cundi should be made known to the whole world. That is why Maha Cundi is one of the eight Personal Deities of our school. Maha Cundi is also known as the Most-Conquering Vajra and Wish-Fulfilling Vajra, due mainly to her having emerged from the Palace of the Great Sun Tathagata.
After saying `the Holy Revered One is the most mighty and powerful, ` Indra then requested the Holy Revered One to expound openly to all the heavenly beings, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas present, so that every man and deva would learn of the cause and thus know where to turn to take refuge.
`At that moment. White Mahapadmakumara addressed Indra and the assembly as follows, `Very well, very well. I will now explain to you and all the beings of the last period of this Buddha-kalpa, and all those in the future who have an affinity with the sutra, that all may know the True Buddha Dharma and the principle which removes obstacles and bestows good fortune.``
So, right there and then, Great White Padmakumara started explaining to Indra Deva and all of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and heavenly beings present. `Very well, very well` is a pet phrase often used by old monks in the martial art fiction that I have read in the past. These old monks would pick up their weapons and, right before killing someone, they would say, `Very well, very well! Let this old monk send you off to the Western Heaven!` It is of course not a good thing for a monk to kill, but the literary usage of `very well, very well` in that context is excellent. These monks seem to want to impart a deeper meaning to their killing by referring to it as sending someone off to the Western Heaven.
In fact, such descriptions of monks or Taoists in martial art fiction are generally a deliberate creation of writers who want their characters to be special people. Most monks and Taoists were spiritual cultivators, and only a tiny fraction was involved in the martial arts world. The content of martial art fiction is, to a large extent, fabrications. Therefore, the `very well, very well` used in our text indeed means `very well` and is not to be construed as sending someone off to the Western Heaven.
So, Great White Padmakumara told Indra Deva that, from then on in samsara, he would start teaching him as well as all other beings with affinity. `In the future` refers to a time beginning with the speaking of the sutra and extending to many generations in the future. Beings in the past would not have heard of this teaching. A certain principle is implied here. Take for example, I was previously a Christian and had been a teacher in a Bible study group.
There is a saying in the Bible regarding `faith` which is used by Christians in propagating their religion, `Those who believe will go to heaven, and those who do not will go to hell.` As Jesus Christ was born into this world one thousand nine hundred and eighty eight years ago, so it has only been 1988 years since he has come to spread the teachings of God. While studying this, I raised my hand to ask the minister, `Only people who believe Christ can go to heaven, and those who don`t go to hell. Since our Chinese civilization can be dated back to five thousand years ago, what has happened to all those people during the three thousand years prior to the appearance of Christ? All those people who lived during the successive dynasties of Hsia, Shang, Chou, Ch`in, Han, the Three Kingdoms, the Northern and Southern Dynasties, and all those who have lived before coming into contact with Matteo Ricci and have never heard of Jesus Christ, what were they going to do?` The minister`s face first turned red and then white, and he pointed at my nose, `You trouble-maker, you just like to make things difficult.` But I never got an explanation as to what had happened to those people during the first three thousand years of our five thousand year history.
Therefore, this sutra of ours says it very well. Those in the past who have not heard of this sutra did not have the affinity then. Those who, from now on and in the future, see and read this sutra are ones who have affinity with this sutra.
When I studied the first of the Ten Commandments given by Jehovah to Moses, I read `thou shalt not have no other gods before Me.` I found the wording of the commandment to be amiss. Right away I raised my hand to ask the minister, `This signifies that other gods exist in the universe.` In Biblical terms, this commandment is supposed to be interpreted as that, apart from God, all other gods are devils. That is why God should have said in the first commandment, `Other than for me, all gods are devils.`
Actually God is right in saying so. If he recognized the existence of other gods, then people would turn their faith to the other gods and that would be too disheartening for him. We understand God`s feelings. He hopes everyone can follow His way as He can also lead and guide one to His heavenly realm to enjoy blessings. He does not want you to go to another heaven, because it is better to have more business in His heaven than in others.
Based on what I know, the Indra Deva of Buddhism is the same being as the God of the Christians, and Allah of the Moslems. I have in the past spent quite a long time studying the Indra Deva. Indra is a good god. As the head of the Trayastrimsas Heaven, heavenly beings in the Thirty-three Heavens are under the rule of his vast domain. He hopes that all people in the world can have faith in him and regard him as their god. Despite many of his good qualities, there are nonetheless two minor flaws: first, being slightly too proud of himself and, second, having slightly too many wives. I hope Indra Deva would not be mad at me for saying so.
Indra Deva`s position and power are very respectable, as the whole human world is under his administration. He is the ruler of the Realm of Desire and also an emanation of an ancient Buddha. His only enemy is his father-in-law who also covets the position of ruler of the Trayastrimsas Heaven. The mess created in their heavenly realm had been caused by him and his father-in-law. [Someone asks, `How many wives does he have?`] I can`t even keep count of them.
Why am I bringing this up? Although the Indra Deva is great, Jehovah, the God of Christianity is also great, yet they still had to ask Padmakumara for an answer when they had a question. Therefore, Padmakumara was going to tell them, so everyone would learn of the True Buddha Dharma and the principle which removes obstacles and bestows good fortune.
An authentic Buddhadharma is not external worshipping. Many teachings in the Bible are external teachings. Of course, the Bible is also a very good book, as it teaches one to practice kindness, charity, and how to be a good person. When we go to church, we listen to the preaching of the minister, then we pray to heaven, read some prayers, sing hymns, and praise God. Sometimes, at Christmas, the preacher would give us candies. These are external practices.
These kinds of external practices also exist in Buddhism. Buddhists also read prayers, make repentance, sing praises, chant the names of Buddhas, sutras, and mantras. These practices are equivalent to the ritualistic practices of Christians. When I was a Christian, I said my prayers in Taiwanese. This was how I began, `Our Father, Who art in Heaven [in Taiwanese]...` This kind of prayer is an external or ritualistic worship.
What about an authentic Buddhadharma? In the practice of an authentic Buddhadharma, one explores one`s inner world to realize the Heart. When one is able to temper the True Heart by transforming human nature into Buddha Nature, one is practicing the authentic Buddhadharma.
So, an authentic Buddhadharma is not external worship, chanting, praying, or ritualistic repentance. It is not. It has to do entirely with understanding one`s inner world and gaining awakening. The practice of Buddhadharma cannot be separated from one`s Heart. Once it deviates from the Heart, it is no longer Buddhadharma.
So, when we go to church or temple and see people lighting incense or candles, bowing, talking to the Bodhisattvas, asking for blessings and making complaints, they are not practicing the true Buddhadharma. I have told this story before. There was an old woman who took a bunch of bananas with her to the temple to talk to the Bodhisattvas. Arriving at 10:00 p.m., she talked until 2:00 a.m.. When the old monk at the temple saw her coming, he knew he would not get any sleep that night and it would be dawn before he could lock the temple door. So he spoke to her, `Can you come during the day?` She said, `I am only free in the evening.` The monk asked again, `Then, can you shorten your monologue to the Bodhisattvas?` She replied, `I have been keeping all these grievances inside me for several years now, and I am ready to tell them all to the Bodhisattvas. How can you be so rude?` Then turning to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, she started complaining about her three sons, how the eldest one mistreated her, how the middle one behaved badly, how the youngest one did not give her any money. Next she started complaining about her three daughters-in-law, how the eldest one evicted her, how the middle one treated her with disdain, and how the youngest one purposely tossed out food that she liked. She hoped they would all fall down and break their legs.
We know that is not the true Buddhadharma. It is just external worship. Listening to preaching, singing hymns, and praying at church are, in general, only superficial cultivation. If one is able to act morally and do good deeds according to the teachings in the Bible or Buddhist sutras, this is already quite good. But even all these are still not the authentic Buddhadharma.
The authentic Buddhadharma is contained in this True Buddha Sutra. Only the practice of an authentic Buddhadharma can remove hindrances and bestow blessings. The removal of hindrances and bestowal of blessings is tantamount to transforming one`s fate and destiny. Not only can one change one`s fate, one can also be reborn to the highest spiritual realm at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds in Sukhavati.
Many people wish they could change their fate and luck. Thus many charlatans have seized upon this yearning by telling others that they can help them change their fate. Give them something and they will in return help you change your fate for the better.
I do not think such transactions can change one`s fate. To change fate, one has to study an authentic Buddhadharma and change one`s internal world. When basic changes take place in the inner world of heart and mind, then there is transformation in one`s fate. In other words, superficial changes are ineffectual. To completely rewrite fate, one must completely reconstruct the basic internal structure. This is the principle of removal of hindrances and bestowal of blessings of the True Buddha Dharma.
We`ll stop here today.
Om Mani Padme Hum
The Annotated True Buddha Sutra