The Annotated True Buddha Sutra

Written by Living Buddha Lian-sheng, Sheng-yen Lu
Translated by Janny Chow

Day 4

Discourse No.4:
(October 29th, 1988)

Invocation of the Two Buddhas and Eight Bodhisattvas:

Namo Vairocana Buddha of the All-Conquering Palace in Dharma Realm
Namo Amitabha Buddha of Western Paradise
Namo Mahasattva Avalokitesvara
Namo Mahasattva Maitreya
Namo Mahasattva Akasagarbha
Namo Mahasattva Samantabhadra
Namo Mahasattva Vajrapani
Namo Mahasattva Manjusri
Namo Mahasattva Hindrance-Removing Bodhisattva
Namo Mahasattva Ksitigarbha
Namo all Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas

Sutra Opening Verse:

The most supreme profound Dharma,
is rarely encountered in hundreds and thousands of kalpas;
now receiving this transmission and blessing,
I vow to penetrate the true meaning of Tathagata.

The Sutra of Authentic Dharma that Removes Hindrances and Bestows Good Fortune, spoken by Living Buddha Lian-sheng:

Thus have I heard. At one time, White Mahapadmakumara was present at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds, sitting upon the great white lotus dharma-throne; surrounding Him were seventeen other great lotus blossoms. The Green Lotus radiated green light, the Yellow Lotus yellow light, the Red Lotus red light, the Purple Lotus purple light. Each lotus blossom was mysteriously wonderful,
pure, and full of fragrance.

The White Padmakumara, silently calling forth his spiritual power...

The two Buddhas being invoked are: Vairocana Buddha of the All-Conquering Palace in the Dharma Realm [Akanistha Palace] and Amitabha Buddha of the Western Paradise [Sukhavati]. Some esoteric Buddhists consider Vairocana Buddha to be the Primordial Buddha, the original source of all other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. His title mentions an `All-Conquering Palace in the Dharma Realm,` and this may bring to mind the image of a very beautiful palace, perhaps like the Ah-Fang Palace of Emperor Ch`in [221-207 B.C.E.] that burnt down.

However, what is mentioned here is the Dharma Realm. What is signified? The totality of all beings and existence, including the fourfold realm of sages and the sixfold realm of ordinary beings. The fourfold realm of sages consists of the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Solitary Buddhas, and Sound-Hearers [arhats]. The sixfold realm of ordinary beings consists of heavenly beings, human beings, asuras or fighting gods, hungry ghosts, animals, and hell beings. Therefore, this palace is comprised of the entire Universe, all that can be seen and all realms of existence that cannot ordinarily be seen. The whole universe exists within this celestial palace.

What is meant by ```All-Conquering`? It means that it is the ultimate, the perfect, the most harmonious, and most pervasive. We all know that the Vairocana Buddha is the Fundamental Buddha, the Primordial Buddha from whom the True Buddha School originates in terms of lineage transmission. So before reciting the scripture, we must first call upon the Buddha who originally transmitted these teachings.

Why then call upon Amitabha Buddha of the Western Paradise? Because Amitabha is the Buddha who requested Padmakumara of the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds to enter the human realm and transmit the True Buddha Tantra. Since Amitabha entrusted this mission to Padmakumara, it is necessary that we call upon Amitabha. Were it not for the Buddhas Vairocana and Amitabha, there would be no True Buddha School today.

We must then call upon the Eight Bodhisattvas: Namo Mahasattva Avalokitesvara, Namo Mahasattva Maitreya, Namo Mahasattva Akasagarbha, Namo Mahasattva Samantabhadra, Namo Mahasattva Vajrapani, Namo Mahasattva Manjusri, Namo Mahasattva Hindrance-Removing Bodhisattva, and Namo Mahasattva Ksitigarbha.

Finally we call upon the totality of all Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas. This is due to the very great affinity the totality of these Beings have with our True Buddha School. The Two Buddhas and Eight Great Bodhisattvas are the root lineage holders of the True Buddha Dharma, while the remaining bodhisattvas also come to listen and uphold the True Buddha Dharma.

Next we will discuss the `Sutra Opening Verse.` It is found in every sutra. These few simple sentences are saying that such profound Dharma is rarely encountered. Today you have come upon it, and so should study, recite, and contemplate the meaning of the scripture from this moment onwards.

Now we get to the sutra itself. The first sentence is `Thus have I heard. ` This is equivalent to saying `I heard this first-hand at a Teaching Assembly` [conducted by a Buddha]. This sentence is found at the beginning of every sutra, every Buddhist scripture. Some of you present are older than the Grand Master and some of you are younger. In the future, when I am no longer here, I cannot guarantee the elder students will still be present, while many more of the younger students will likely remain at my passing. Recently I have contemplated the significance of writing the eightieth book in my series of public writings. It is called King of Buddha Kings, and the title may lead others to accuse me of plagiarism; a similar title, `King of all Kings` has already been used. But in fact, the approach taken in this book is very serious, with little levity. Actually, it is a rather profound and difficult work, for it contains the crucial formulas of the Buddhist spiritual discipline. With this book I have completed a major cycle in my spiritual writings. While I will continue writing in the future, I can now rest, as when having carried a knapsack for a very long distance one can then put it down.

I then remind myself that to take a very long break would mean `closing the act` at age forty-four, which would be a rather short life. In order not to leave so soon, it becomes necessary to involve myself soon in the eighty-first book project. This will be titled The Liturgies of the True Buddha School, and it will contain the rules and answers to many questions raised concerning liturgical practice. The publication date has not been determined.

This eightieth book corresponds to a rest stop in my life, and I do feel that with the completion of this volume, I have fulfilled the primary mission of my present incarnation. Amitabha Buddha can take care of future concerns while I can approach my life without feeling so burdened.

In the future, any of you present who write concerning this teaching may begin with the classical phrase `Thus have I heard.` For you are present in the Dharma Teaching Assembly during the original exposition, and others will be able to confirm this. When the followers of Shakyamuni Buddha collected his teachings together, they have placed this remark at the beginning of each book to signify direct reception of the original teaching. In this case, the classical opening phrase indicates that I myself was present at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds of the Western Paradise, and at that time witnessed the teaching of the Great White Padmakumara.

The life of an individual results from many causes and develops through many rounds of death and rebirth. Actually, to be `born` or to `die` simply means that you disappear from here to reappear elsewhere. This is the basic meaning of transmigration.

I was present at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds in the Western Paradise among all others there. But I then transmigrated to the present life. Let me recall my age upon coming to the United States. I lived in Taiwan for thirty-seven years and then I was `reborn` in the United States exactly seven years ago. Perhaps next year I will die to this life circumstance and be reborn in Indonesia! Or in Malaysia, or Singapore, or Australia! This is to say that transmigration is not extinction of the individual.

Life and death are intimately inter-related. Here you are born through transmigration from somewhere else, or vice-versa. It is very peaceful to view the cycle of change in this way. When someone passes on you may cry in great bereavement due to a sense of personal loss, yet that individual may well have gone on to a far better existence. Therefore keep in mind this broader perspective.

What is meant by saying `At One Time `? Even the very distant past is included.

There was once an aged Buddhist master known by the name `Sky Dragon Zen Master.` Whenever people asked him existential questions, he always responded in the same way: he would silently raise his right index finger. He would respond thus when he knew the answer to a question, and even when he did not. Now, what does this signify? People were unable to understand such a response and would ask him for clarification.

Sky Dragon Zen Master would reply by saying `Oneness is all-encompassing. The answer to your question is certainly to be found among this all-inclusive totality. So I can guarantee you that this is the right answer.`

A person would ask, `Where is the Mount Meru?` Sky Dragon Zen Master made this gesture, which indeed resembled a mountain.

When asked `where is the world,` he would respond the same, indicating that the entire universe evolves from Oneness. And when asked `what is the nature of feminine and how does one distinguish masculine from feminine,` Sky Dragon Zen Master made this gesture again of extending his right index finger upwards, because in the Great Heavens which transcend all duality there is no separation between masculine and feminine nature.

So this Totality encompasses Heaven and Earth, the mountains and waters, humanity and all else. The primordial state of being, the past, the present, and the future are all within this totality. This is why the old monk, when challenged with a difficult question, would raise his right index finger in response.

As it happens, a student of his began to imitate him in this. Sky Dragon Zen Master challenged the student, who responded once more with an upraised index finger, and the enraged master grabbed this finger, chopping it off with a knife. The master then asked the howling student, `Where is your `Oneness` now?` And it was only `this.` [Here Grand Master holds up his right hand with the index finger folded in to represent a missing digit.]

The essence of Zen is not always explained or explainable in words and many related meanings are implicit in its principle. Thus you may ask me, `Grand Master, when exactly is the `At one time`?` I tell you that one century, one millennium, one eon, ten eons or even a thousand eons are within the indicated time. `At one time` thus means at that one time, which includes all time.

`At one time, White Mahapadmakumara was present at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds. ` The color white mentioned here is significant: white is the union or sum of all colors. For example, there are simple demonstrations of physical science in which a multicolored wheel is spun around at high speed and the composite color is white, is it not? But if one of the colors of such a wheel is taken out then the resultant composite color is black.

However one may spin the wheel painted with such a full color spectrum, the result is the same, so white is shown to be the most complete color, from which all others derive. This is why Vairocana Buddha and his All Conquering Palace in the primordial dimension are represented by the color white.

Similarly, the principal Padmakumara in the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds is white in color, because all Buddhas-to-be must engage the `White Purification Practices` before attaining Enlightenment. In other words, they must undergo purification to reach the ultimate goal of pure awareness, and this goal corresponds to the color white.

In a dharma talk just given by Master Cheng, it was explained that the goals of spiritual cultivation are to become `Emptiness` and `Nothingness.` What then is the color corresponding to these? The color white. To mix in any other color would represent a modification. Only white is truly pure. Therefore, the Great White Padmakumara is the principal deity at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds and he sits on top of the great white Lotus dharma-throne.

One student argued with me, `Grand Master, `to sit on the great white lotus dharma-throne` will do, why use the phrase `on top of? [Translator`s note: in the Chinese text, the phrase `upon` is literally `on top of.`] One of course will only sit on top of the lotus and not under it, nor to one side. So the phrase is redundant...` I replied, `Please don`t be unnecessarily critical! It is enough to understand that the Padmakumara is sitting on top of the Lotus dharma-throne. If you try to find minor faults like this, how can this sutra be written at all?`

Surrounding this white lotus are altogether seventeen other great lotus blossoms. That student was indeed very confrontational. He said, `This paragraph also contains many redundancies, with the Green Lotus radiating green light, and so forth. Can the Grand Master be color-blind? Does anyone expect the Green Lotus to radiate red light? How did you manage to obtain your driver`s license?` Actually, he was also trying to find fault. The seeming redundancy carries distinct meanings, for example that there is a lotus of a certain color, and then that the lotus radiates light of the same color.

Actually, the Buddhist sutras are replete with examples such as this: The Green Padmakumara holds a green lotus that is also radiating a green light and the whole surrounding becomes green. There are such precedents in the sutras to be followed. We are not being contradictory or redundant.

`Each lotus blossom was mysteriously wonderful, pure, and full of fragrance. ` This describes the mysterious wonders and fragrance of each lotus. Here fragrance represents purity and goodness. The `smell is good and clean.` The phrase `mysteriously wonderful` is often encountered in the Buddhist sutras. It refers to a state wherein everything is extremely fine.

One True Buddha student is Shen Miao-juan, who formerly lived in Tai-chung, Taiwan. Her given name contains the word `wonderful` [i.e. the Chinese character `miao`]. She did not originally fancy the name `wonderful` at all, and remarked, `A name is just a name, what is so `miao` about it?` When someone would call her, it was as though she were being mocked: `Wonderful? What is so wonderful about you? Your name is baffling, not wonderful.` Since however she has taken refuge in the Grand Master, Miao has read many sutras and found that `wonderful` is very commonly found in Buddhist scriptures. Furthermore, the True Buddha School has a local chapter in California named Miao Yin Tong. So she thought to herself `Ah! This is just too wonderful! Mine is a fine name after all.` And so she decided to not change her name.

`The White Padmakumara, silently calling forth his spiritual power, ` this is a wonderful usage of the word `silently` because spiritual power is, after all, invisible and inherently present in all of nature`s transformations. Clouds in the sky transform into water through their spiritual power. Through its spiritual power, water transforms into ice. Ice transforms through its spiritual power into water. The spiritual power of water again causes itself to transform into vapor. All these various transformations are manifestations of the spiritual powers of nature.

A person who possesses spiritual power may cause changes in the material world. He can cause clouds to turn into rain, rain into ice, and ice into vapor. All these transformations are just natural manifestations and `a silent calling forth of the spiritual power.`

In reality, many housewives are already `silently calling forth their spiritual powers` when they prepare meals in their homes. First one goes to the supermarket to buy a fish, the kind that is quite cheap, with a nauseating fishy smell. Then one comes home and starts marinating the fish in soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and green onion. The fish is then fried in fragrant oil. In an instant a foul-smelling fish is `silently transformed through spiritual power` into an `aromatic fish.` After such aromatic food is consumed by each of us, it again undergoes `silent transformation,` turning back into something that is as foul as it was before.

Vegetables growers use fertilizers. Some use organic and others use chemical fertilizers. But even the chemical fertilizers use ingredients such as nitrogen urea and amino acids, which are manufactured or derived from organic sources. The Universe is a miraculous recycler. When the filthiest and most foul smelling substances are fed to plants, fish, fowl, or mammals, they become nourishment for growth and expansion. The filthiest materials give rise to the most fragrant things, which in turn produce the most foul smelling substances. The foul are fed into the aromatic and the aromatic are fed again into the foul. They mutually nourish each other. If one sees this relationship, one will understand that the underlying principle of the Universe is an ongoing cycle of transformation, a `silent manifestation of spiritual power` through the phenomenal world.

Everyone has the potential to cultivate to the state where one is attuned with Nature. In this achieved condition, one may `silently call forth spiritual power` to act in accordance with or even bring forth transformations in Nature. Such powers are spiritual powers.

We know that X-rays can penetrate the human body to provide a picture of the bones and organs inside. When one`s eyes develop an X-ray like ability, one obtains the faculty of divine sight. A person with divine sight can aim his or her eyes at a space satellite and watch the live-action Olympic gymnastic competitions. Images transmitted from the Olympic venues to the satellite will be deflected to one`s eyes, and a person with divine sight can watch gymnastic events thousands of miles away.

If we want to talk to a friend in Taiwan, Singapore, or India, we just pick up the telephone and dial the number. If one develops divine hearing, the ears become like a line that extends all the way to the mouth of the friend. One may hear a friend`s conversation without picking up the telephone. The development of such abilities is not impossible and is entirely dependent on the `silently calling forth` of mysterious and wonderful faculties. How is `silently calling forth` accomplished? It is achieved by completely quieting down until the deepest level of consciousness is reached. The moment the self reaches the most quiescent and fundamental level of consciousness, it is transmuted into Emptiness. At that moment, one is in a state of attunement with all powers, and the greatest spiritual or miraculous power occurs.

In the future you can learn to create this miracle. For example, say there is a flower bud in front of you and, by silently calling forth your mysterious and wonderful power, you command the bud to bloom. If you can do this, you can transform the world into an extraordinarily beautiful and splendid place. A person with great transcendental powers can even cause changes in the weather. It is autumn as I speak, and the weather is turning colder and most flowers are withering. A person with spiritual power can change fall into spring. It is fall or winter on Earth when the light and heat of the sun have to travel a greater distance to reach the Earth. By `silently calling forth the spiritual power,` and slightly altering the angle between the sun and the Earth, one can transform fall or winter into spring or summer, making it so warm that one starts to perspire. In reality, even a slight shift of the Earth`s position in relationship to the sun will result in a complete alteration of the climate on Earth.

With silently calling forth the spiritual power, all the flower buds simultaneously burst into fragrant blossoms. As mentioned earlier, with a gesture, all flowers opened into full blooms. Next time I will teach you how to perform this miracle. The student who is a florist is happiest about this! With this miracle that I can teach you, your flowers will stay open without withering. But then this may not be such a good idea either, since people, after buying flowers once, won`t buy any more for the whole year. Then your flowers won`t sell either. I think it is better that you do not learn this kind of miracle.

We will stop here today.

Om Mani Padme Hum

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