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....
The pellucid waves of his deep, sea-like wisdom are empty,
yet hold myriad reflections.
The full moon of his glistening, space-like nature
at once scatters in one hundred streams.
Without rising from beneath the King of Trees,
he extends to seven places in the Dharma Realm.
Unhindered by the bounds of ‘afterwards,’
He pervades the nine assemblies as he first succeeds.
Exhausting vast expanses of esoteric doctrine,
he aids the hard-to-conceive-of,
The perfect sound continually scatters through ten kshetras,
yet suddenly is everywhere.
Host and attendants keep repeating to the limits
of the ten directions, yet in unison proclaim.
This section of text is The Spoken Meanings’ Universal Pervasion, which describes how to modes of activity in speaking this Sutra are universal in scope and extend everywhere throughout the Dharma Realm.
Therefore, it begins: The Pellucid waves of his deep, sea-like wisdom. Deep represents profound stillness, and sea-like wisdom indicated that his wisdom is like the sea. However, it is profound and quiet, unmoving and still. The waves are pellucid, clear and still. That is, there are no waves at all. The absence of waves also stands for the complete eradication of afflictions: those waves disappear. Therefore it says that the pellucid waves of his deep, sea-like wisdom are empty, yet hold myriad reflections. In the same way as empty space includes all the myriad things that exist, the Buddha, with sea-like wisdom, understands all principles that exist. There is nothing that he does not know, nothing that he cannot do.
The full moon of his glistening, space-like nature. Glistening means bright and pure, while the full moon of his space-like nature means that his nature is like a full moon in empty space, the moon on the fifteenth day of the lunar month. It at once scatters in one hundred streams. One hundred streams is a way of saying all places where there is water. At once scatters: His nature is like the luminous, full moon is empty space, which at one and the same time appears in all places that have water. Therefore, it is said:
A thousand pools have water;
A thousand pools have moons.
One moon universally appears in all waters;
The single moon can make a luminous reflection of a moon appear universally in all waters. Then are there that many moons? No. As if says in the Song of Enlightenment of Great Master Yung Chia:
The moons of all waters come from a single moon.
All of the moons within the waters are reflections of one single moon. Although there are thousands upon tens of thousands of pools of water, in which there appear thousand upon tens of thousand of reflected moons, the basic substance of the moon is one. Therefore it says that the full moon of his glistening, space-like nature, his self-nature which is like a full moon in empty space, at once scatters in one hundred streams. This is the “at one” of the Sudden or All-at-Once Teaching. It scatters all-at-once into all waters. There is “water” within the minds of all living beings, and within the Buddha Nature there is “moonlight” which lights up the water in the minds of living beings. If the water in our minds of living beings is pure, Bodhi every day increases. If the mind is pure, Bodhi becomes bigger and grows higher day by day. At once scattering into the hundred streams has that meaning. If the water in the minds of living beings is pure, the light comes in and illuminates the water of our minds. If the water in our minds is not pure, the light of the Buddha nature cannot illuminate us. It is like a pool of water: if the water is murky, there is no reflection of the moon. If it is pure and clear, then in the water there appears a moon. It at once scatters in one hundred streams.
First The Bodhimanda (Field of Enlightenment)
Second, Seventh, and Eighth The Universal Light Palace
Third The Trayastrimsha Heaven
Fourth The Suyama Heaven
Fifth The Tushita Heaven
Sixth The Paranirmitavashavartin Heaven
Ninth The Jeta Grove’s Multi-storied Lecture Hall
The nine assemblies of speaking in the seven places all took place upon the initial accomplishment of the Way. Actually, the final one, the Multi-storied Lecture Hall also called the Jeta Grove, had not been built yet, and so the hall was not yet in existence when the Buddha accomplished the Way. If that lecture hall did not yet exist, then how did the Buddha manage to speak the Flower Adornment Sutra there? That has to be described as “wonderful.” The Buddha is able to move limitless kalpas of the past to the present, and move limitless kalpas of the future to the present too. There is no past there is no present and there is no future either. Therefore it is said: Past thought cannot be got at; present thought cannot be got at; future thought cannot be got at.” Why is that? If you say there is a present, that is an attachment. If you say there is a past, that is also attachment. If you say there is a future, that is attachment too. If you have no attachments, the past has already gone by, and the present does not stop. If you say, “This is the present,” that interval of one kshana right before your eyes has also already gone by. And so the saying goes: “The three thoughts cannot be got at.” That is to break people’s attachments.
Now, Shakyamuni Buddha, without rising from beneath the King of Trees, in that single place, does not arise from where he is sitting. He remains seated there, and yet he pervasively goes everywhere to every place and speaks the Dharma. He pervades all places and speaks Dharma. On the other hand, he can be in every place and not get up from his seat; in all Buddha lands be seated underneath the Bodhi tree, not arising from his seat, yet go to various places to speak the Dharma for living beings. That is, on the one hand, you may describe it in terms of his not arising from his seat in that one location yet being able to go to other places to speak the Dharma; that without getting up from his seat he can go to other places to speak Dharma. On the other hand, you may say that while located in a single place he is able to pervade seven places and speak the Dharma. That is because his state is inconceivable.
his state is inconceivable. The Buddha is able to compress limitless kalpas into a single thought, and stretch a single thought out to limitless kalpas. So it is said, Without rising from beneath the King of Trees, he extends to seven places in the Dharma Realm. Just sitting in that one place, he goes to seven places and speaks Dharma, the Great Flower Adornment Sutra.
Unhindered by the bounds of ‘afterwards; pervades the nine assemblies as he first succeeds. The way we people look at things, there is a definite ‘before’ and a clearly defined ‘afterwards.’ ‘Afterwards’ cannot move ahead to ‘before,’ and ‘before’ cannot be moved to ‘afterwards.’ However, the wonderful aspect of Shakyamuni Buddha’s speaking Dharma is not something ordinary people can know. Actually, immediately upon accomplishing Buddhahood, in the Jeta Grove he was able to make the Multi-storied Lecture Hall appear, and he spoke Dharma there. It is also known as the multi-stored hall in the wilds, a hall with many stories built in the wilderness. When he first accomplished Buddhahood, that structure did not exist, and yet he was able to bring that Multi-storied Hall into being and speak the Flower Adornment Sutra there. So the Preface reads: Unhindered by the bounds of ‘afterwards.’ He was not hindered by the limitation of what came afterwards. He pervades the nine assemblies as he first succeeds. In the twenty-one day period after accomplishing the Way, he extended to nine occasions of Dharma assemblies.
Exhausting vast expanses of esoteric doctrine. To exhaust means to use up, and vast means vast and great. Expanses suggests both space and amplitude. The esoteric is the mysterious, what people do not see. You could call it obscure, in the sense of occluded, but as having a wonderful aspect which people do not easily understand. It is not easy for people to see or hear esoteric doctrine.
He aids the hard-to-conceive-of, ocean-wide assembly. Aids means teaches. The Buddha’s Dharma is able to teach the hard-to-conceive-of, ocean-wide assembly of living beings. Hard-to-conceive-of means that you do not know how many living beings there are. The assembly is everyone collected together, described as ocean-wide because it resembles the sea. The Buddha employed the Sea-Seal Samadhi to speak the Flower Adornment Sutra. To speak the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, the Buddha entered the samadhi of the station of limitless meanings, but to speak the Flower Adornment Sutra, the Buddha entered The Sea-Seal Samadhi. The “Sea” of the Sea-Seal Samadhi refers to the seas of perfumed water of which there are seven which encircle Mount Sumeru. They are profoundly still and waveless, without even a single wave. Nonetheless, all the form bodies of all the living beings in the worlds of the ten directions appear within the seas of perfumed water in just the same way as a seal makes an imprint on an object. All the living beings of the worlds of the ten directions who have shape and form have a seal-imprint within the seas of perfumed water, just like prints of seals on paper hence the name” Sea-Seal Samadhi.” That is what is being described when it says, “He aids the hard-to-conceive-of, ocean-wide assembly.”
The perfect sound continually scatters. The perfect sound is very full and complete. When the Buddha speaks the Dharma: He speaks the Dharma with a single sound. Each being understands it according to its kind. When the Buddha speaks Dharma, the gods hear it as the language of the heavens. Bodhisattvas hear it as the language of Bodhisattvas. Those Enlightened by Conditions hear it as the language of Those Enlightened by Conditions. Arhats hear it as the language of Arhats. People hear it as the language of people. Animals hear it as the language of animals. Hungry ghosts hear it as the language spoken by hungry ghosts. Living beings in the hells hear it as the language of used in the hells. And so the Buddha employs one kind of sound to speak the Dharma, and living beings of whatever category all take in that Dharma. That is why it says, he speaks the Dharma with a single sound and each living being understands it according to its kind. That’s why it says the perfect sound continually scatters. Continually scatters means that all living beings, upon hearing this Dharma, understand it as if it had scattered right into their minds; as if it had fallen right into the living beings’ minds.
Through ten kshetras, yet suddenly is everywhere. “Suddenly” means right away. This sound is not confined to a single country, but in all other places in all Buddha-lands, the sound of the Buddha speaking Dharma can be heard, and the appearance of the Buddha speaking Dharma can be seen. It is just like the pure, full moon in empty space. Everyone who sees the pure, full moon in space feels that the moon is facing him and that it is shining right on him. It is that way with the Buddha too. When the Buddha speaks Dharma, each living being feels that the Buddha is right before him, speaking the Dharma right to him. Therefore, it says “The perfect sound continually scatters through ten kshetras, yet suddenly in every where.”
The perfect sound, right away, is universally everywhere, in all the seas of Buddha kshetras, Buddha-lands. “Kshetra” is a Sanskrit word for land or country. To say “ten kshetras” is just a symbolic way of saying all countries, not just ten. It means that the limitless seas of kshetras of all Buddhas all display the appearance of Shakyamuni Buddha speaking Dharma.
Host and attendants keep repeating. The Host is Shakyamuni Buddha, and the attendants are all the great Bodhisattvas. They keep being repeated endlessly without exhaustion, and without exhaustion are endlessly duplicated. That kind of state is inconceivable. Therefore it says, Host and attendants keep repeating, to the limits of the ten directions. To the limits of means to the utmost reaches of the countries of all Buddhas of the ten directions. Yet in unison proclaim. At one and the same time they all speak the Great Flower Adornment Sutra. The seven places and nine assemblies appear in each and every Buddha’s land. In all the other countries there appear these states and the inconceivable speaking of the Flower Adornment Sutra, and so it says, to the limits of the ten directions, yet in unison proclaim. At the same time they all proclaim the doctrines of this Sutra.
At this point in the explanation of the Preface, some people have raised a doubt. They are wondering how to reconcile the previous statement that when the Buddha spoke the Flower Adornment Sutra, those of the Two Vehicles had eyes but could not see... had ears but could not hear, with the statement that the Buddha speaks the Dharma with a single sound; each living being understands it according to its kind, finding a contradiction of ‘before’ and ‘afterwards,’ since the explanations differ. That is a good point, but it is merely one you yourself thought up. I’ve already told you it is inconceivable. If you still try to conceive of it, how can you? Although it is said that the people of the Two Vehicles do not see or hear, it is because their conditions have not yet ripened that they do not see the Buddha. When their conditions have become ripe, not only the Two Vehicles, but even the Three and Four Vehicles will be able to see and hear. The Three Vehicles are the Sound Hearers, those Enlightened to Conditions and the Bodhisattvas. Add the Buddha and that makes Four Vehicles. They all will be able to hear. There are some lines which say:
Heaven’s rain, though broad, does not moisten dried-up, rootless plants.
The Buddha’s door is vast and great, yet it is difficult to save people who have slight affinities and who are not good.
When it rains, it is like the Buddhadharma. Tall trees take in a lot of moisture, while small trees absorb a small amount. However, if plants are all dried up and have no roots, as much as it might like to, the rain cannot nourish them. The door of the Buddha is vast and great, but there is no way to save those who have no affinities with the Buddha. As it is said:
Face to face, passed by;
Within reach, yet missed.
The Buddha is right before them, but they fail to recognize the Buddha. Two people may be right in front of each other, close enough to grasp each other’s hands, yet they pass each other by and miss the opportunity. Therefore it is said:
Face to face not recognizing Gwan Shr Yin.
Gwan Shr Yin is right before you. You are mindful of Gwan Shr Yin, bow to Gwan Shr Yin, and recite Gwan Shr Yin’s name, but you do not recognize Gwan Shr Yin. You may say, “If I’d seen him, I would have recognized him.” You see him daily, and you daily fail to recognize him. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva recognizes you, but you don’t recognize Gwan Shr Yin. You may say, “I’ve never seen him. If I’d seen him I would have recognized him.” You see him daily, and you daily fail to recognize him. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva recognizes you, but you don’t recognize Gwan Shr Yin. It’s the same principle.
If people are not good, even though the Buddha’s door is vast and great, but there still is no way to save people who do not want to be good or to do good. So, even among those who study the Buddhadharma, there are some who study and study, and then run away. They are like the plants that have no roots, which the rain has no way to nourish. Now don’t you see, studying the Buddhadharma is like that, consequently, in order for there to be seeing and hearing, there must be some sort of affinities. Without affinities, even though one may want to see, one will not see. Therefore all who have come here to investigate the Buddhadharma during this summer session have lots of affinities. Wouldn’t you say that was something to be most happy about?
Therefore, some people even come from forty to fifty miles away to listen, which makes me happy. I’ve been lecturing every evening for the past week, and I could go on lecturing every night. But I think there are people who couldn’t come every evening to listen. Some want one evening either to go to the movies, or go dancing, or go to the beach and watch people fishing. Although they themselves don’t fish, by watching others fishing they satisfy their craving for fishing. There are lots of people who have not come and so I think I would still like to take it easy one day, and rest on Saturdays; which gives you an opportunity to rest too. But not the people who lives here in the temple all the time and study the Buddhadharma, they have no way to rest.