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 49, 6 November 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued) 

Chapter One—Buddhaverse

Marvel Born Bodhisattva,

Avatamsaka Bodhisattva/Flower Ornament Bodhisattva,

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva/the Bodhisattva who Perceives Samsaric Sound,

Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva/Greatly Powerful Bodhisattva


Now we will talk about the Vimalakirti Sutra:

        Marvel Born Bodhisattva.

The translator used “Marvel” for the name. Why not “Lotus” Born Bodhisattva? [jokes] The translator who translated the Vimalakirti Sutra into Chinese must have been brainless. Now, [in all seriousness], why is this bodhisattva called Marvel Born? There is a reason behind it: This bodhisattva has attained the state of no birth—he is unborn.

Last night I discussed fulfilling the wishes of sentient beings. Although the Marvel Born Bodhisattva has attained the state of no birth, he follows dharma nature—buddhanature—to come to samsara to deliver sentient beings and fulfill their wishes. In other words, he follows the causes and conditions and continuously stays in samsara to deliver sentient beings even after attaining the state of no birth. Thus, he is called the Marvel Born Bodhisattva.

Sakyamuni Buddha gained enlightenment under the bodhi tree. Upon his realization, the Buddha wanted to leave the saha world and enter nirvana. He understood the state of no birth and that sentient beings are not sentient beings. When he understood that sentient beings are not sentient beings and that they are merely called sentient beings, he thought that he might as well return to the realm of the buddhas. Lord Indra and Mahabrahma came and pleaded to the Buddha to stay in the saha world to turn the dharma wheel. Fortunately for us, he stayed. Otherwise, Buddhism would not exist today.

Marvel Born Bodhisattva has realized birthlessness, where births and deaths are the same, yet he follows his affinity and is continuously reborn without any suffering. Such a bodhisattva is called the Marvel Born Bodhisattva. He has attained birthlessness, yet he follows his buddhanature and affinity to deliver sentient beings by fulfilling their wishes.

The next one is:

        Avatamsaka Bodhisattva/Flower Ornament Bodhisattva.

He is also one of the great bodhisattvas on the list. Practicing the six perfections—generosity, precepts, endurance, diligence, meditation, and wisdom—is a cause that generates merit. And the merit is like flowers that never wither. Whereas physical flowers, although beautiful, bloom then wilt.

As one performs the six perfections, the merit generated will last forever; it is omnipresent and will never wither. Flower Ornament Bodhisattva adorns the purelands with his merit. Flower Ornament or Avatamsaka has also been used to name a school, the Avatamsaka sect, which advocates the so-called “One World in a Flower.” The Avatamsaka Trinity consists of Sakyamuni Buddha, Manjusri Bodhisattva, and Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. These bodhisattvas are also mentioned in this list of fifty-two bodhisattvas which we will cover later. The bodhisattva that adorns the pureland with the merit-flower of six perfections is called Flower Ornament or Avatamsaka Bodhisattva.

The next one is:

        Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva/Bodhisattva who Perceives Samsaric Sound.

Let’s talk about Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. This bodhisattva is too grand! Amitabha! Everyone knows Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. I frequently call upon them by chanting, “Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattvas, the greatly loving and compassionate ones who salvage us from suffering and calamities.”

During the Vietnam War, many South Vietnamese left Saigon to the seaside Vung Tau to board refugee boats to Hong Kong, Singapore, and eventually to America, Australia, and many parts of the world. Saigon is now called Ho Chi Minh City. I visited Ho Chi Minh City and swam among the big waves in Vung Tau. I see many of you have been there, too.

Master Changzhi’s sister-in-law told us that three hundred people were squeezed into these refugee boats, which normally accommodated only thirty people. Passengers onboard went through great torment. During their hardest time amid huge waves, they all earnestly chanted, “Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, the greatly loving and compassionate one who salvages us from sufferings and calamities.” So, they made it!

Why is Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva called the Bodhisattva who Seeks the Cries of Samsaric Suffering and Provides Salvation? Because he is especially on the lookout for any prayers and cries of suffering to provide relief.

At the Ci Yin Temple, I learned how to chant the sutra verses such as, “The World-Honored One, complete with marks of perfection, may I ask again why the son of the Buddha is named Seeking the Sound of Samsara?” That was a passage from the Avalokitesvara Universal Gate Sutra.

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva—one of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas—is an extraordinary bodhisattva. He immediately provides salvation upon hearing prayers in samsara. The entirety of Tibet is the pureland of the Four-Armed Avalokitesvara. Every Tibetan recites “om mani padme hum.” How remarkable! Everywhere in Tibet, they chant “om mani padme hum.”

Mount Potalaka in Zhejiang Province of China is also Avalokitesvara’s pureland and spiritual center. This marvelous bodhisattva is the most compassionate. I often recite “Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva” [in Chinese, “Namo Guanshiyin Pusa”]. I also recite, “Namo Amitabha Buddha, Namo Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, and Namo Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva.”

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is commonly depicted holding a nectar vase in one hand and a willow branch in the other to sprinkle the nectar. He has numerous manifestations resulting in the various images we know today. One of them is the Thousand-Armed Thousand-Eyed Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with eleven heads indicating that he is a bodhisattva of the eleventh ground—which is considered buddhahood. Prior to manifesting as a bodhisattva, he was an ancient buddha by the name of the Tathagata Who Embodies the Wisdom of True Dharma. I especially revere this bodhisattva.

Now, everybody understands who Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva is. Why is he called Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva? Because he observes and seeks the sound of samsaric sufferings and manifests everywhere to provide salvation. One of his myriad transformations includes Mahakala. That is how great he is.

Now, we move onto:

Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva/The Greatly Powerful Bodhisattva

Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva is the Greatly Powerful Bodhisattva. He has also been referred to as the Greatly Diligent Bodhisattva. Together with Amitabha Buddha and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, they make up the Pureland Trinity. In Mahayana Buddhism, the images of Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva and Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva look alike. They only differ by the lotus blossom they hold. Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva holds an unopened lotus bud, ready to blossom, unlike typical lotuses that are in full bloom.

I began my Buddhist study at the age of twenty-six after Golden Mother opened my third eye. Back then, I was part of the military’s 5802 Survey Team near the South Gate Bridge in Southern Taichung. Behind it was the Bodhi Hospital, which was a Buddhist hospital. In it was Great Master Tai Xu’s Memorial Hall.

Master Tai Xu had two very famous disciples: Master Yin Shun and Fa Zun, the translator. Master Yin Shun followed the Three Treatises Sect of Nagarjuna and in Taiwan, he was one of its patriarchs. Fa Zun studied Tibetan Tantrayana and translated Tibetan scriptures into Chinese. Master Yin Shun was very knowledgeable, and he helped Fa Zun review and revise his translations. Both were disciples of Master Tai Xu, but one follows Nagarjuna and the other one is a Tantric Buddhist. They both lived in seclusion at Mount Jingying in Sichuan, but they didn’t get along and often argued. They even got into a fight, and since Master Yin Shun was not as strong as Fa Zun, he fell off a cliff and broke his teeth. Even disciples of the Great Master Tai Xu got into fights. This is hearsay though, so the accuracy of this is uncertain.

At the Tai Xu Memorial Hall, there was a renowned lay Buddhist teacher, Li Bingnan, who belonged to the Pureland School, expounding the chapter on Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva’s Perfect Penetration with Mindfulness of the Buddha, from the Surangama Sutra. I learned about Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva from his exposition. He is Greatly Powerful because he has tremendous power. When he stomps his feet, the demon’s palace trembles.

Everyone knows and worships Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva because he has very close affinity with sentient beings. He is closer to earthly energy. Many people recite Avalokitesvara, but Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva is scarcely known. You might think that he is just a companion but no! He is also a great bodhisattva! He has been called Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva, Greatly Powerful Bodhisattva, or the Greatly Diligent Bodhisattva.

His might is boundless. He can shake the demon’s palace with just the stomp of his feet. He is almighty! If you want power and authority—say, to be elected for council, congress, or presidency, then he is the one you should enshrine and recite. By revering and calling upon his name, you would gain immense power, authority, and popularity, and create good connections with sentient beings.

That’s why he is called the Greatly Powerful BodhisattvaMahasthamaprapta.

Om mani padme hum.

Next discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 50, 12 November 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)

Previous discourse on the Vimalakirti Sutra: Discourse 48, 5 November 2022 - Chapter One—Buddhaverse (Continued)

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Full webcast of 2022.11.6 Padmakumara Homa Ceremony (Rainbow Temple, North Bend, USA) and dharma discourse with English interpretation: https://youtu.be/VplBDmH27Xs

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