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 48, 5 November 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued) 

Chapter One—Buddhaverse  

Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva, 

White Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva, 
Ever-Diligent Bodhisattva, 
Non-Resting Bodhisattva


Let’s now talk about the Vimalakirti Sutra. The first two bodhisattvas are not easy to explain. Their names were literally translated as Fragrant Elephant and White Fragrant Elephant. Do white elephants exist? They do, in India. Samantabhadra Bodhisattva rides on a white elephant. If a white elephant is a bodhisattva, then Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is riding on a bodhisattva. How can a bodhisattva ride on another? [laughter]

Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva.

What is meant by Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva? In India, elephants are regarded to be auspicious. If one sees an elephant as they leave the house, their day would be very auspicious. The same applies to oxen, since Siva rides on a great white ox. Thus, oxen and cows roam freely on the roads in India. Siva or Mahesvara rides on a white ox, Mahabrahma on a swan, while Visnu rides on a garuda, the golden-winged bird.

It was written in the Jataka Tales that Sakyamuni Buddha was once an elephant king in his past life, and he was an elephant that exuded fragrance—thus the name Fragrant Elephant. There was truly such an elephant. The Buddha had also been a monkey king, a deer king, and a peacock king in his past lives.

One time, when the Buddha was on the bodhisattva path, three animals, an ox, a horse, and an elephant, attempted to cross a rapid river. Only the elephant managed to cross the gushing river and reach the other side, owing to its large and heavy build. No matter how torrential, the water could not knock over the elephant, whereas the other two animals could not make it. In this folk story, Three Animals Crossing the River, only the elephant could cross.

So, [the name] Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva signifies that he is a bodhisattva who has reached the other shore—it is a metaphor. The elephant is big and steady and can cross a raging river. This is the symbolic meaning of the Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva.

The next bodhisattva is:

White Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva.

As we know, Queen Maya dreamed of a six-tusked white elephant entering her body; then, she became pregnant with Sakyamuni Buddha. This six-tusked white elephant is the White Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva, and he is nearly a buddha. He represents Sakyamuni Buddha entering his mother’s womb. He is one step above the Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva. The White Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva is a great bodhisattva who comes to samsara and is close to buddhahood.

Next are:

Ever-Diligent Bodhisattva,

Non-Resting Bodhisattva.

These are very easy to explain. The Ever-Diligent Bodhisattva is unfailingly diligent, and the Non-Resting Bodhisattva never rests in delivering sentient beings.

Ever-Diligent Bodhisattva is like Grandmaster Lu. Not a day have I skipped the Thousand Dharma Vessels Bardo Deliverance during the past three years. Never have I taken a day off; I work round-the-clock, 365 days a year. Never have I missed giving dharma teachings on Saturdays and Sundays—group practice every Saturday and fire offering every Sunday at Rainbow Temple.

I give spiritual consultation in the afternoon from Monday to Saturday. Do I ever rest? You can ask Master Lian Qi who schedules appointments whether I have taken any days off, say for a toothache, a cold, or anything. Every night, I perform bardo deliverance until two or three o’clock in the morning. I have not taken any vacation! I only go to the temples, and not anywhere else—not to Safeway, Fred Meyer, the post office, the park, or any other place. My time has been spent at home and in temples. That’s it!

Every night, I sit on the dharma throne to perform bardo deliverance even when I am very tired. Once, I fell asleep midway through a bardo deliverance. To ensure that the vessels were in good care, the Thousand-Armed Thousand-Eyed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva appeared and held the thousand dharma vessels in her thousand hands. She did this until I woke up to finish my bardo deliverance. This is how the Ever-Diligent and Non-Resting Bodhisattvas are.

Why do they act in such a way? Because they are following the wishes of sentient beings. I, too, fulfill the wishes of sentient beings and am always providing for them. All I do now is follow and fulfill their wishes as fast and as best I can. I understand that’s what I need to do in this saha world. Why? Because I am walking the bodhisattva path.

I fully comprehend the view of true emptiness, so why exert so much effort? It is to follow the wishes of sentient beings [to deliver them]. Since we descended onto the saha world, we must walk on the bodhisattva path. And generosity is the first of the six perfections practiced by bodhisattvas.

The Ever-Diligent Bodhisattva never limits their generosity to sentient beings. The same applies to the Non-Resting Bodhisattva. Both follow and fulfill the wishes of sentient beings. There is not a single break, 365 days a year. That’s why Fo-Ching said that her father and mother lead a very unhealthy life. She periodically takes vacations—visiting various places domestically and abroad. It is common for people in Western society to go on vacation.

Christians also have a day off because God created heaven and earth in six days and rested on the seventh day. So even God rested! He is not an Ever-Diligent Bodhisattva or a Non-Resting Bodhisattva.

As for me, I never rest. I don’t even go shopping because I don’t need anything. All I use are offerings from my disciples, and I have no desire for anything else. My dragon robes, lama outfits, underwear, bag, cars, rings, watches, shoes… whatever I wear and use are all offerings. This ring was given by a Vietnamese disciple from France/Croatia. She is here with her husband and two children. And this other ring was given to me during the Atisa ceremony in Indonesia. This bracelet and Piaget watch were given to me by a disciple from mainland China. My underwear was offered by Morgan—even my underwear was given to me. Is there anything else I need to buy? Nothing!

With all these offerings, how dare I take a break when all I use is given by others? Thus, I cannot rest. Wouldn’t it be inappropriate to receive gifts without doing something in return? How could I? That’s why I am always so diligent. Now, do you understand?

Om mani padme hum.

Next discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 49, 6 November 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)

Previous discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 47, 30 October 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)

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