Flower Adornment Sutra Preface

With Commentary By The Venerable Master Hua

A.D. 700 | 42,486 words

The Flower Adornment Sutra (Avataṃsaka Sūtra) is one of the most influential Mahayana sutras of East Asian Buddhism. The Avataṃsaka Sūtra describes a cosmos of infinite realms upon realms, mutually containing one another. The Avataṃsaka Sūtra was written in stages, beginning from at least 500 years after the death of the Buddha....

III. The Teaching Host’s Inconceivability


Therefore, our World Honored One,
The ten bodies just fulfilled,
Proper Enlightenment first perfected,
Rides vows and conduct all-pervasive,
Unites with empty space in substance and nature,
Is wealthy with ten thousand virtues,
And cleansed without the finest dust.


This is the section of The Teaching Host’s Inconceivability. Therefore, means consequently. In saying, Our, National Master Ch’ing Liang is referring to himself. The World-Honored One is Shakyamuni Buddha, whom he calls our World-Honored One, that is, our Buddha. He could have been referring instead to the Buddha that all of us will become in the future by saying our World-Honored One, but in this passage it should be explained as, our World-Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha.

The Ten Bodies Just Fulfilled. The Buddha has ten kinds of bodies, which will be explained in detail when we reach that text or the Sutra. Just fulfilled refers to when they had just been attained and brought to fulfillment.

Proper Enlightenment first perfected. “Proper Enlightenment first perfected” is identical with “the ten bodies just fulfilled;” and “the ten bodies just fulfilled” are just “Proper Enlightenment first perfected.” The meaning is the same. Proper Enlightenment refers to proper knowledge and proper views, not the deviant views of sects of externalist ways. Those of externalist ways also have an enlightenment, but it is evil, not proper. When Shakyamuni Buddha first realized Buddhahood, he sighed and said, “Strange indeed!” three times:

Strange indeed! Strange indeed! Strange indeed! All living beings have the Buddha nature. All can become Buddhas. It is only due to false thinking and attachments that they do not certify to attainment.

His statement was that all living beings can realize Buddhahood, unlike some religions which claim, “I alone am true. All the rest of you are false.” The Buddha was not that way, but instead stated that all living beings can realize Buddhahood. “Living beings” refers not just to human beings, but to non-humans are well; animals, hungry ghosts, up to and including the beings suffering in the hells. All they need to do is change from bad to good. “The Sea of Suffering is boundless; a turn of the head is the other shore.” Then they can realize Buddhahood. Buddhism has that magnitude. it is not a case of, “Only I can become Buddha. None of the rest of you can become Buddha.” It is not that way. Everyone has a share. Everybody can become a Buddha. When the Buddha first perfected Proper Enlightenment, he saw that all living beings could realize Buddhahood.

Rides vows and conduct all-pervasive. Riding is using something as a conveyance to go somewhere. He rides his vows and conduct. For example, if you board a boat and go somewhere, that’s taking a boat ride. If you go by car, that’s riding a car. If you mount a horse, that’s horseback riding. Riding, then, is getting into or on something to go somewhere. Here it is getting on and going by the power of his vows. The vows that Shakyamuni Buddha made on the causal ground were measureless and boundless, all-pervasive. “All-pervasive  is another expression from the Book of Changes, in which it is said:

When the Sages made the Changes,
They based them upon the principles of heaven and earth,
Those principles being all-pervasive.

“All-pervasive” means extending everywhere and including everything. Extending everywhere means: No place is not gone to; nothing is excluded. Including everything means: Inclusive of the myriad existing things. That is, all of the myriad shapes and appearances are included within them, and so they are described as all-pervasive because the power of the Buddha’s vows extends everywhere and includes everything. Unlike us who make one vow and consider that sufficient, Shakyamuni Buddha on the causal ground made endless, inexhaustible great vows in each and every life, all of which were to accomplish Buddhahood and rescue living beings.

Unites with empty space in substance and nature. The Buddha is identical with empty space, and so it is said: If people wish to understand the Buddha’s state, they should purify their minds like empty space.” That is, if you want to know what the Buddha’s state is like, you ought to purify your thinking. Like what? Like empty space. That is why it says, “Unites with empty space is substance and nature.” To unite with is to combine with, become one with, and have the same substance as empty space. Empty space has no appearance and no boundaries, and the Buddha’s substance and nature are the same as that of empty space; and so he is said to unite with empty space in substance and nature.

Is wealthy with ten thousand virtues. “Ten thousand virtues” is a generalizing and symbolic expression. In fact, tens of thousand of tens of thousands is more like it. To say that the Buddha is adorned with ten thousand virtues and wealthy with ten thousand virtues really means he has the ultimate amount of blessings and honor it is possible to possess. He is adorned with the myriad virtues.

And cleansed without the finest dust. Cleansed means clean or cleaned. For example, our lecture hall periodically must be cleaned up, swept and purified. If you don’t sweep it, it will be dusty. The Buddha, however, is wealth with ten thousand virtues, and cleansed without the finest dust. He hasn’t the least bit of defiling dust. Being wealthy with ten thousand virtues means having wisdom which understands perfectly, while being cleansed without the finest dust refers to the complete eradication of karmic obstances, that all karmic obstacles have been “emptied.”

“Dust” is also an allusion to the complete elimination of all view-delusions, thought-delusions, and delusions like dust and sand. It could also be said to stand for putting an end to ignorance, in which case afflictions like dust and sand also disappear: taking everything which is impure and making it all pure without remainder getting rid of it all.

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