Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra

A Detailed Exposition by Living Buddha Lian Sheng, Grandmaster Sheng-Yen Lu

Translated into English by the True Buddha School Vimala Sutra Translation Team 

Discourse 45, 23 October 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)

Chapter One—Buddhaverse

Indra Net Bodhisattva,

Bright Net Bodhisattva,

Beholding No Affinity Bodhisattva


Today we will talk about the Vimalakirti Sutra:

Indra Net Bodhisattva,

Bright Net Bodhisattva,

Beholding No Affinity Bodhisattva.


Of these three bodhisattvas, I will emphasize the Beholding No Affinity Bodhisattva. However, since most people don’t understand the meanings of Indra Net Bodhisattva and Bright Net Bodhisattva, I will also explain [them].

Indra Net Bodhisattva

The origin of the words “Indra Net” came from Trayastrimsa Heaven, the thirty-third heaven centered at the peak of Mount Meru. In this heaven, [the palace of the Indra King is called] the Joy Bestowing City, filled with multi-meshed layers of Indra-pearled nets, all beautifully luminous and radiant.

Unlike Trayastrimsa Heaven, here in samsara, our primary source of light is the sun. When the sun is overjoyed, it becomes unbearably hot. But when it goes into hiding, temperatures drop below zero, prompting snow, and freezing you to death. The sun in the winter is different from the sun in the summer. During a visit to Southeast Asia, I once commented, “Wow! You deal with this sort of heat?” Disciples there explained they have only two seasons: hot and hotter. Seattle is different, as we have four distinct seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

In Trayastrimsa Heaven, they do not rely on the sun but rely on the bright Indra-pearled net layers. The temperature is utterly comfortable, and it never fluctuates. Such is the case in the heavenly realms. That’s why we say there is pure enjoyment there. There are no abrupt instances of scorching, fiery heat or freezing, icy cold. They do not need natural gas or power generators. Naturally, having Indra nets, the temperature is the same everywhere, and it is very pleasant. So, in the Trayastrimsa Heaven, there are many layers of bright, illuminating pearled-nets. This is the Indra Net we see. Likewise, the Western Realm of Utmost Bliss also has Indra pearled nets.

What does it mean by Indra Net Bodhisattva? It means the bodhisattva delivers innumerable sentient beings, as if using a net—the net we use when we fish. When I was young, I loved to fish. In front of the Kaohsiung Train Station, there is a canal and behind it is the Baozhugou River. It runs toward Jiangong Road all the way to Chengqing Lake (Dabei Lake). There, I often went fishing for “taiya” [a kind of fish in Taiwanese]. I was very good at fishing. On the water, I sprinkled tiny insects or some food mixtures to lure over the fish. When the fish were eating them, I would place a piece of worm on the fishing hook and lower it into the water. The appetizing red worm on the hook would get them. The floating balls attached to the fishing rod would bob up and down, and I would then reel in the line to catch the fish.

The meaning of Indra Net Bodhisattva is likened to using a net to catch many fish. Has Grandmaster caught fish with a fish net? Yes. Where? In Xiaochijiao, Penghu. My paternal grandfather came to the Kinmen Islands from Fangyang in Fujian Province, and thereafter, settled at Xiaochijiao Sound in Penghu County.

When my uncle got married, I went there, and in the early morning they took me to go fish using a net. It was impressive. They placed a huge net at low tide, and gradually the fish swam into the net with the rising tide. When the tide receded, all the fish were caught in the net as they couldn’t swim back out. Then all you had to do was collect the fish. There were so many of them! You just needed to scoop up the fish, like collecting grains using winnowing baskets.

When Jesus was in the Sea of Galilee, there was the fisherman, Peter. Jesus walked over to him and asked, “You couldn’t catch any fish today, right?” Peter replied, “That’s right! We didn’t catch any fish today.” Jesus said, “Easy. If you drop your net here, then you will certainly catch many fish.” Saint Peter replied that he had already gone out to the open sea and didn’t catch anything. How could it be possible to catch them right here at the port?! Saint Peter wondered whether Jesus was trying to trick him, “Right here?” Jesus responded, “Just listen to me. Simply lower the net.” He then lowered the net. When he raised it back up, something amazing happened—the net was full of fish! Saint Peter then believed in Jesus and became his follower. He exclaimed, “Jesus was incredible!” He caught more fish than when he went out to the sea.

The meaning of Indra Net Bodhisattva is that he uses the net to deliver sentient beings. Like in fishing, when he extends the net, he can save many sentient beings all at once and with layers of nets he can save even more beings. This means this bodhisattva is very skilled in delivering sentient beings.

Bright Net Bodhisattva

What is the Bright Net Bodhisattva? The word bright represents “light.” He uses the prajna light to deliver numerous sentient beings. In your dharma practices, as part of the cultivation process, the first one you see is a small dot (or dots) of prajna light. Then, as you progress, you would see a chain of these prajna lights—called the vajra chain. The dots form a line. Next, the lines form a screen. So when many chains of prajna lights come together, you will see a veil of light—just like a screen monitor. This is called the vajra screen.

Many disciples have photographed prajna lights. Each prajna light is like the dots in a television screen. The screen consists of many dots linked together. Upon seeing this vajra screen, you will be able to see many deities appearing on the screen.

During the dharma teaching last night, we had a new disciple from Las Vegas who just took refuge. Please share what you saw last night. [The disciple shares,] “What I saw yesterday and today were different. Yesterday when you were speaking, all the bodhisattvas were interweaving and connected together—so many of them. There was one bodhisattva sitting next to you and leaning on you like this. Today, I saw a very bright light behind you, and in front there was… what you called the vajra screen.” Did you just take refuge? “Yes.” She could see those as soon as she took refuge. “Please let me finish. As you walked into the Homa Hall earlier, I saw you radiating rainbow colored light, and on the dharma throne, your body radiated golden light. Yesterday when you walked into the temple, I saw golden light too and protectors behind you. You were not alone as protectors and other beings were alongside you.”

She just took refuge yesterday, and her whole family came from Las Vegas. This little girl saw many phenomena upon taking refuge. In fact, I am telling all of you that there are disciples in Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, as well as Miss Lion Head from England who could see me at their homes. Li Fei from Singapore could also see me in Singapore. [Li Fei speaks,] “Respectfully, Grandmaster, Masters, and everyone. I saw Grandmaster with my eyes open in Singapore.” How about Miss Lion Head? Would you like to say a few words? [Miss Lion Head speaks,] “I can also see Grandmaster in my practice when I visualize Grandmaster or when I am mindful of Grandmaster. Grandmaster would descend then.”

My physical body is in Seattle and has been for the past three years, yet many disciples all over the world can see me wherever they are. When you have a luminous body, it can deliver sentient beings. Disciples from around the world have had such a vision. So, when Grandmaster gathers the net, many disciples will take refuge. 

In my upcoming trip to Taiwan, I will have an extremely tight schedule. On Saturdays, I will be at the Taiwan Leizang (Lei Tsang) Temple, and then on Sundays, I will be conducting ceremonies and teachings at various venues around Taiwan. There will also be other events such as the International Book Exhibition and book signings. Returning to Taiwan this time will be very straining as my schedule will be extremely full. The exact schedules have not been announced, but we will try to fulfill everyone’s wishes.

We have plans for the Fahua Chapter in Chiayi, the Emperor Temple in Taoyuan, the Taipei Arena in Taipei, and Dayi Leizang Temple in Kaohsiung. The International Book Exhibition will be in Taipei, and there are also other events, such as the one at the Ganlu Jingshe in Taichung [belonging to the three masters—Chen brothers]. We try to arrange ceremonies on both Saturday and Sunday so overseas disciples can attend at least two ceremonies in one trip.

Shimu is in charge of the scheduling; she will take all requests into consideration and arrange as she sees fit. My earlier signoffs may or may not be changed. So please rely only on the upcoming official announcement. We will be extremely busy!

A Bright Net Bodhisattva has a clear light radiance on his body, and he uses his luminosity to deliver countless beings. It is not just one luminous body but countless of them. Earlier, we heard from two dharma sisters about their witness of my light body. In fact, there are many more than these two, and they are all over the world. I can emanate countless light bodies to appear in front of my disciples. These light bodies continue to disseminate delivering countless sentient beings very swiftly. Such is the Bright Net Bodhisattva.

Beholding No Affinity Bodhisattva

The next one is Beholding No Affinity Bodhisattva. What does this name mean? This is very difficult to explain. We know that a buddha delivers sentient beings with affinity, yet unable to deliver beings without affinity. Then what does Beholding No Affinity mean? This bodhisattva is beholding beings with “no” affinity. What does it mean? Let me explain briefly.

There are two kinds of affinity. One is dharma affinity. What is it? It is the affinity with buddhadharma. All beings have dharma affinity because Sakyamuni Buddha has said every sentient being has buddhanature. Everyone “is” buddhanature. However, their buddhanature has been enshrouded with habitual tendencies, karma, and attachments accumulated over many lifetimes. This is the reason why their buddhanature cannot manifest and their dharma affinity is impeded by all these.

Dharma affinity implies that there is no self, no others, and no such [dualism] as existence and non-existence, or good and bad. Since everyone has buddhanature, everyone is equal without any differentiation. There is no self, no others, no existence, no non-existence, no good, and no bad. This is the so-called dharma affinity.

The second one is karmic affinity. In karmic affinity, there is differentiation. Some sentient beings have heavy karma, and others have light karma. Some even committed heinous karma.

The Beholding No Affinity Bodhisattva relates to dharma affinity. He delivers all sentient beings regardless of their karmic affinity—whether they are good or bad or neither or both. A bodhisattva who delivers—or gives to—all beings equally is called the Beholding No Affinity Bodhisattva.

He would never give to only his loved ones, family, parents, and then to his relatives and friends based on priority. No! On the other hand, ordinary people would normally give based on their affinity with the recipients. If your loved ones encounter a problem, you will help them right away. If a distant relative or friend is in need, you may consider them as well. This is because you have connection with them. This is beholding affinity. Such a bodhisattva helps only those who have affinity with him.

On the contrary, in beholding no affinity, one would give or help people they do not even know. They help impartially no matter how good or bad people are. Such is the Beholding No Affinity Bodhisattva. In his deliverance of sentient beings, he is free from any discrimination and differentiation. 

Is this explanation clear?

Om mani padme hum. 

Next discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 46, 29 October 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)

Previous discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 44, 22 October 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)

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