The Annotated True Buddha Sutra
Written by Living Buddha Lian-sheng, Sheng-yen Lu
Translated by Janny Chow
Discourse No. 6:
(November 19th, 1988)
At that moment, the ground shook violently in Maha Twin Lotus Ponds and throughout countless heavens the tremors could be felt. Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Sound-Hearers all felt it as well and came to Maha Twin Lotus Ponds, as did the rulers of all the Thirty-three Heavens. The assembly included beings from the Twenty-eight Heavens, Lords Indra and Brahma, the eight classes of supernatural beings, and the Fourfold Sangha, all of whom came to hear the revelation of quintessential teaching.
[Living Buddha Lian-sheng reads above passage]
The first phrase is `at that moment. ` What is `at that moment`? It is neither this moment nor a moment in the past. It is not just one specific moment. There are many usages of `at that moment` in this sutra that actually signify that these moments transcend the limit of time. It may be any one moment.
At that moment, at the huge Twin Lotus Ponds, the entire Pure Land started shaking. Generally speaking, tremors rarely happen in the Pure Lands. If tremors were a common occurrence, the Pure Land would have crumbled away! However, in the sutras taught by the Buddha, `six great tremors` are mentioned. These are usually associated with events of great significance.
There are several famous `six great tremors` associated with the Buddha. At the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha, the six great tremors took place. When Shakyamuni Buddha attained Enlightenment under the bodhi tree, the six great tremors occurred. When Shakyamuni was about to enter nirvana, there also occurred six great tremors. Whenever Shakyamuni gave his most critical teachings, the six great tremors also happened. Another example is when Shakyamuni took up the vow of renunciation.
We now all wish that there would be no earth tremors. In California and the San Francisco area, people do not want any earthquakes. I am now afraid to give teachings on the most critical practices because it might bring on the six great tremors. We will be in trouble if that happened!
The six great tremors that take place at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds are not limited to earthquakes. They include tremors in the sky, in the wind, movements between right and left, up and down, and front and rear. The sky, stars and moons have all shifted and changed places. These roaring sounds are called six great tremors!
Such tremors at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds may be felt in all heavens, including the realms of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Sound-Hearers. From their experiences with other occurrences of the six great tremors, they know something of great significance is about to happen. Therefore, they all travel to the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds.
The rulers of all thirty-three heavens rush to the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds. These thirty-three heavens are within the Realm of Desire. The heavens of the Realm of Desire are located at the peak of Mount Meru. The heaven in the middle is Trayastrimsas Heaven, or Indra Heaven, which is surrounded by thirty-two other heavens. That is, eight heavens to each direction (4x8 =32). Thirty-two heavens plus the Indra Heaven in the middle constitute the thirty-three heavens. These 33 heavens are spread out on the same plane.
Above them are the rest of the twenty-eight heavens. What are these twenty-eight heavens? Within the three realms (Realm of Desire, Realm of Form, and Realm of Formlessness) there are altogether twenty-eight different levels of existence of heavens. Among the assembly that has come to the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds are rulers from these heavens, such as Indra, Brahma, the Conch Tuft Deva, the Conch Tuft Brahman, etc. What are the eight classes of supernatural beings? They are beings who are Dharma protectors lending support to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. They may be golden armored gods, devas, or dragons. What are the fourfold sanghas? They refer to the four classes of monks, nuns, male and female laymen, i.e., bhikshu, bhikshuni, upasaka, and upasika.
Indra, Brahman, the eight classes of supernatural beings, devas, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas have all come to this assembly. Why? Because there is going to be the revelation of quintessential teachings at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds. Many of these important teachings, tailored for contemporary practices, are going to be revealed.
Many devas, gods, even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas descend to hear Dharma teachings. When I was teaching in New York and San Francisco, there appeared, in the sky, the Light of the Revolving Dharma Wheel (a blue colored circle of light). These were captured on camera. The light photographs were taken by students who happened to have their cameras aimed at mid air. Why? It was because the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and devas knew that a great teaching was being given, so they descended to hear the teaching. Since they had descended and it was not possible for them to sit among us, they sat in mid air. They were sitting on the balcony while we were sitting on the ground floor. While sitting there, they happened to form a circle of light. They were sitting inside the light circle while listening to the teaching.
During Dharma teachings, Buddhas, Bodhsiattvas, and devas often descend among us.
We will stop here today.
Om Mani Padme Hum
The Annotated True Buddha Sutra