The Annotated True Buddha Sutra
Written by Living Buddha Lian-sheng, Sheng-yen Lu
Translated by Janny Chow
Discourse No. 10:
(December 17th, 1988)
White Mahapadmakumara then said, `All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have, in order to liberate living beings, manifested the worlds known as `All-Conquering,` `Wonderful Treasure,` `Round Pearl,` `Sorrowless,` `Pure Rest,` `Dharma Thought,` `Full Moon,` `Profound Joy,` `Profound Completeness,` `Lotus,` `Immutable,` and `Omnipresence.` Now, there shall be the `True Buddha World.``
Thus the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound-Hearers, Solitary-Buddhas, and all the heavenly beings witnessed the Holy Revered One bringing forth the True Buddha World, understanding it to be a manifestation of the cause and fruition of great compassion of the auspicious Well-departed Ones of the past, present, and future, and realizing that the Holy Revered One came for the sake of all beings. All present were moved by joy as never before. Then bowing their heads they made praises with these verses:
Earlier this evening [during group cultivation], right when we were making the Mandala Offering, I was thinking to myself that I didn`t seem to have anything to offer to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Perhaps I had been looking at all the beautiful lights here and, when I closed my eyes, I found each of these lamps had turned into a Bodhisattva. My original thought, after seeing all the lights, was to offer them to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. But, to my surprise, every one of these lights had turned into a Buddha or Bodhisattva. Since there were infinite numbers of lights, there were also infinite numbers of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I thought to myself, `How can I use the Bodhisattvas as an offering to the Bodhisattvas? This just does not seem quite right.` It makes sense now, as this passage we just read demonstrates, how a Bodhisattva can be given as an offering to a Bodhisattva.
There is a Tantrayana practice wherein one offers rice grains, which represent all beings, to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It signifies that we spiritual cultivators, after offering our own hearts to help all beings, then in turn offer the beings we have helped to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In fact, all beings are Buddhas-to-be. On the surface, one is an ordinary person but, inside one`s heart, there is the Buddha Nature. Therefore, all beings are Buddhas. There is a golden saying in Buddhism: When one is deluded, one is an ordinary being; when one awakens and sees, one is a Buddha. All beings and Buddhas are equal.
I saw many lights earlier. Well, the lights are gone now. Since they had been used as offerings, they are gone now. My offering of Buddhas to the Buddhas is tantamount to offering all beings to the Buddhas. The offering of Buddhas to Buddhas is unexcelled; the highest kind of offering. When Buddhas are offered Buddhas, the result is a Buddha-world.
The worlds mentioned in this passage do not refer to the samsaric world; they are all Buddha-worlds. I have visited some of these worlds in the past, many many lifetimes ago. Some of the visits even occurred countless eons ago. I can tell you which ones I have been to and which ones I have not been to. I cannot lie about it. I have been to the `All-Conquering World.` `All-Conquering` [tsui-sheng] has the same character `sheng` as in my name, so, of course, I had to visit it.
Actually, the All-Conquering World is a world of root origin: the Most-Conquering Dhanna Realm Palace World is the same as the world of the Great Sun Tathagata.
Note that my name includes the character `sheng.` I admit that in the past I was quite `hao-sheng` [enjoying winning and one-upmanship]. Therefore, I was a little too aggressive in my writings and tended to `heroically` stick my neck into situations I found unjust. I am quite different now. Now, wanting to be like a bodhisattva and having performed the Four Immeasurable Minds and quietude practices, my heart has become softer. My world has now become the world of `tsui-shu` [all-losing]. Actually, this name of mine, Lu Sheng-yen should be changed to Lu Shu-yen. Instead of winning and conquering, it should become all losing and surrendering. Partial surrendering is not enough; it has to be total surrendering.
In the past, I have been to the All-Conquering World because the All-Conquering Dhanna Realm Palace is the world of the Great Sun Buddha. In my book, Yulinghu Chih Yeh (Evenings by Phantom Lake), I have described this All-Conquering Dharma Realm Palace.
I have also been to the second world mentioned, the Wonderful Treasure. Someone may ask, `From your trip to the Wonderful Treasure World, what kind of treasures have you brought back to show us?` `Wonderful Treasure` does not mean any material treasure, it refers to `Dharma treasure.` This world of Wonderful Treasure is the world of Ratnasambhava Buddha.
Next, I will discuss the Round Pearl World. If you have seen the round crystal ball I have on my personal shrine, you might say, `The Round Pearl World must be a world inside that crystal ball.` That is also wrong! But I have not been to this world, so I really have no idea what it is like, and I cannot describe it. After I visit it in the future, I will tell you about it.
The next one is the Sorrowless World. The Sorrowless World is the world of Maitreya Bodhisattva. I have been there. Regarding the two red crowns I have, one of them is invisible to physical eyes and can only be seen by people with Dharma eyes, wisdom eyes, Buddha eyes, and divine eyes. The red crown that can be seen by physical eyes was purchased by Master Cheng Yu-hsin for me. Master Cheng saw that it was cheap. It was, in fact, the most crudely made of all of my Five-Buddhas crowns. But it looks the best and most majestic when worn. I am reluctant to wear it too much because it might easily become worn out. The most precious Five-Buddhas crown is invisible and is at the place of Maitreya Bodhisattva. Sometimes it is here with me, and sometimes it flies back to be with Maitreya Bodhisattva.
The next world is `Pure Rest,` and I have not been there. Then there is the world `Dharma Thought,` and I have not been there either. I will discuss these in the future after visiting them.
The next world is `Full Moon,` and I have been to this one. The full moon is on clear view on the fifteenth day of every lunar month. I used to perform an assignment at school on full moon nights. We used special telescopic equipment that projected the round image of the moon on a pan filled with mercury. The Full Moon World is the world of the Medicine Lapis Lazuli Light Buddha. Of course I have been there, the Medicine Buddha is one of the eight Personal Deities of our school.
Our moon is sometimes white, sometimes lapis lazuli and bluish in color. (Have you seen the blue colored moon before? There was a popular Mandarin song called `Lemon-like Moon,` and in the song the lemon was described as blue in color.)
The Medicine Lapis Lazuli Light Buddha`s world is pervaded by myriad lapis lazuli lights and is perfectly full, just like the full moon. It signifies that everything there is pure, bright, and completely full. Such is the world of the Medicine Lapis Lazuli Light Buddha.
The next world is the World of Profound Joy. I have visited it before. It is the world of Ashobhya Buddha. In Ashobhya`s world, everything and everyone is filled with exquisite joy. It is a world without dispute or competition. Every person, Bodhisattva, or Buddha there is filled with Dharma Joy. The diet of the beings in that world is very special: it consists of Dharma Joy engendered from meditative absorption. How is the Dharma Joy from meditative absorption consumed? You will know when you go there in the future.
Next is the World of Profound Completeness, and I have not been there yet.
After that is the World of Lotus. Buddhist sutras mention that `the strata within the World of Lotus are limitless,` this is because all of the lights and brilliance of the worlds of all ten directions are stored here. I did not stay there for a visit. I only passed through it.
The Immutable World is the world of Amoghasiddhi Buddha. I only know of its existence. I have not been there.
The World of Omnipresence is the world of Kuan Yin, the Bodhisattva who observes the sounds of the world and who has attained self-mastery.
Following all these, and starting today after this announcement, there shall be the True Buddha World. What kind of place is the True Buddha World? It is a world in the domain of Padmakumara, the Lotus Bodhisattva, and it is the world of Maha Twin Lotus Ponds.
Why am I discussing all these worlds? Consider our globe. It is also a world, and it is called Saha (samsara) in the Buddhist scriptures. This name is puzzling. Perhaps it has something to do with all the sand on Earth (since `Saha` in Chinese is rendered as sa-po, which means sand-old ladies.`) Perhaps Shakyamuni Buddha was wondering how to describe this world and he took a look and saw sand everywhere - this is a world of sand. I really could not figure out the `po.` Perhaps Shakyamuni Buddha saw that, in this world, so many people were foolish because they were not interested in doing spiritual cultivation. One may tell them to go and do cultivation, but they have no idea what it is all about! One may tell them how wonderful the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss is, but they could not understand. It is as if they were deaf, senile, dumb and ignorant ?like some old women. So finally, I understood. This sa-po world is called sa-po because Shakyamuni felt that this was a world covered everywhere by sand, and that everyone was acting just like an ignorant and foolish old woman.
The All-Conquering World and the other worlds are, of course, not located on this sa-po world of our globe.
`All-Conquering` is unexcelled. `Wonderful Treasure` is full of wonderful Dharma Treasure. `Round Pearl` is full and filled with perfect light. `Sorrowless` is free from emotional afflictions. `Pure Rest` is full of complete purity. `Dharma Thought` is full of the consciousness of Buddha Dharma. `Full Moon` is full and filled with lapis lazuli lights. `Profound Joy` is full of profound and wonderful Dharma Joy. `Profound Completeness` is profound fullness. `Lotus` is the Lotus World made up of infinite, successive layers. `Immutable` is completely authentic and pertains to the Tathagata. `Omnipresence` is having the Dharma, Buddha, and Sangha of all ten directions perfectly pervading the entire world. `True Buddha` is a future world of True Buddha Dharma, where the true manifestation of Dharma, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas will exist in this world.
We will read one more passage:
Thus the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound-Hearers, Solitary-Buddhas, and all the heavenly beings witnessed the Holy Revered One bringing forth the True Buddha World, understanding it to be a manifestation of the cause and fruition of great compassion of the auspicious Well-departed Ones of the past, present, and future, and realizing that the Holy Revered One came for the sake of all beings. All present were moved by joy as never before. Then bowing their heads, they made praise with these verses.
This passage describes that, at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds, all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound-Hearers, Solitary-Buddhas, and all devas from the twenty-eight heavens, including those from the Trayastrimsas Heaven, heard the Great White Padmakumara discussing this True Buddha World. They knew it was a major Dharma cause, linking together beings from the past, present, and future.
It says here that this is a `manifestation of the great compassion of the auspicious Well-departed Ones.` I will first discuss the word `auspicious.` Many people have received my reply letters with the blessing of auspiciousness` written on the letters. What is `auspiciousness`? It is an `unexcelled sense of well being.` This is a state that surpasses all other states. There is no state of being which is better than that of auspiciousness.
What, then, are the `Well-departed Ones`? This is quite difficult to explain. Many times I have looked this up in the Buddhist scriptures and in the dictionary. It is one of the ten epithets of a Buddha, and it means having `a good death.` Isn`t this what the words mean anyway? `Well` is good, and `departed` is deceased! `Well-departed,` therefore, means that everything about the way that person died was perfect.
You might wonder to yourself, `What is this about? Why do the ten epithets of a Buddha include one of having died well?` Let me explain. It is true that the happiest things in life are to die at the right moment and to be born at the right moment. Someone who is able to be born and die just at the right time is a Tathagata! To come and go as one wishes! Just when people are having a banquet, he comes; just when a world war is going to erupt, he goes, because he does not want to be conscripted into the army. To become a `Well-departed One` is not simple at all. No one in this world is able to `depart well,` only a Tathagata can `depart well.` When the Tathagata knows that Buddhadharma is disappearing from the world, he comes because there is a need for him. When there are already many Tathagatas in the world and no need for him, he does not come. That is why one of the ten epithets of a Tathagata is a `Well-departed One.` Because I am a `Well-departed One,` I am able to give a teaching here today. Implicit in `well-departed` is the ability to be born, manifest, and die at the right time, precisely as one wishes.
Regarding the phrase `cause and fruition of great compassion, ` it means that, although the Great White Padmakumara has been born into the Saha world, he has come from a `cause` and a `fruition` level. Why is it `of great compassion`? This is because he has opted to leave the wonderful place he was in and come, instead, to live in such a filthy place. Do you think I really enjoy driving the Rolls Royce? Actually, it guzzles so much gas that my heart grieves each time I look at the gas meter. It also reminds me of my vehicle at the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds: the white lotus that carried me to wherever I wanted to go. How can this kind of oil-and-water-leaking car compare to a lotus vehicle? A lotus does not have such problems and it needs no gas to run. One just turns one`s thoughts to a certain place, and the lotus transports one there. It is, therefore, due to compassion for the sentient beings that the Well-departed One has come here to be born and to die.
In any case, the fact that the Holy Revered One has come for the sake of all beings, which is in itself a manifestation of the cause and fruition of great compassion, is a very remarkable and extraordinary event. Therefore, many Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Sound-Hearers, Solitary-Buddhas, and devas from the Trayastrimsas Heaven and the twenty-eight heavens, upon hearing this revelation, were moved by joy as never before. Indeed, it has not happened before.
Prior to now, has anyone talked about the `Maha Twin Lotus Ponds`? Has anyone before referred to the `Eighteen Maha Padmakumaras`? Practically no one! You could say this is a `created drama,` something created out of nothing. Well, I have chosen the wrong word to describe it, but then the transformation of something invisible into something visible is, in a way, a `creation.`
I have come from the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds. What kind of oath must I take to make you believe me? Actually, no matter how much I swear it is the truth, people who believe, will believe, and those who do not believe, will not. This is why helping sentient beings to cross over to the other shore is no easy task.
The very same night that the Golden Mother of the Jade Pond helped me open up my divine eyes faculty, I traveled through the spiritual realm and saw the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds. The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas spoke into my ear, `That one is the Padmakumara.` I saw it clearly; it was not a dream. I, indeed, heard and saw it. Later, I went to visit many practicing monks and Dharma masters and, after I told them my story, they all said that I was telling lies. What was I supposed to do? I truly saw and heard all those happenings. How was I going to bring about the liberation of the many beings the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas had wanted me to help?
Prior to my sixteenth book, I wrote essays and novels centering around themes of art and romantic love. It was only with my sixteenth book that I started writing about Taoism and Buddhism. Some people have said, `This Sheng-yen Lu harbors ill intentions and probably has some dark design, so he has fabricated this world of Padmakumara to try to deceive people of the world.` But, I am very candidly telling everyone: what I saw and heard that day was, indeed, absolutely true. Since all of you believe me, I don`t need to take an oath in front of you! But, truthfully, even if I were to swear in front of millions of people that some devastating event would strike me if I lied, those who do not believe would still not believe. I cannot do anything about that.
Thus, this is a very rare and remarkable Dharma practice. In the future, in order to demonstrate that the world of Padmakumara and the world of Maha Twin Lotus Ponds are real, I shall have to perform some `shows,` which might involve a few acts of miraculous transformation - these are not magic tricks. This is because, in the present world, people only believe it when they see it. It is very difficult to convince people, using only spoken and written language. My mother once said to me, `Even if you slice open your chest and offer to show your heart to everyone, people would only be affronted by it.`
I can only tell you this: I have, indeed, been to the Maha Twin Lotus Ponds. I will reiterate that I have, indeed, been there. Blessed are the ones who believe, and those who do not believe, simply do not yet have the affinity.
Om Mani Padme Hum.
The Annotated True Buddha Sutra