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....

VII. The Accomplishment of Benefit of Sudden Transcendence


Truth and falseness interlink and mingle:
Within the ordinary mind one sees the Buddha mind.
Specifics and principle are together cultivated:
On relies on basic wisdom to seek the Buddha’s wisdom.


Truth and falseness interlink and mingle. Falseness comes from truth, and truth comes from falseness, and so the false is not separate from the truth, and truth is not separate from falseness. That is why truth and falseness are said to interlink and mingle. What they resemble is waves in water and wetness: the waves are not separate from wetness, nor is the wetness separate from the waves. However, wetness definitely is not waves. Wetness and waves form an analogy for truth and falseness. In the analogy, falseness is comparable to the production of waves within wetness, while truth is comparable to wetness. Therefore, there is wetness in waves, yet the original substance of wetness has no waves. Wetness by itself does not necessarily have waves. This makes an appropriate model for the principle of the interlinking and mingling of truth and falseness. Nevertheless, falseness includes truth, and truth is included within falseness as well. Although they have two names, in origin they are one identical substance, comparable to wetness.

In Great Master Yung Chia’ Song of Enlightenment it is said:
Not seeking truth, not cutting off the false;
Fully knowing both dharmas are empty without appearance.

The reason there is no search for truth is that truth has no appearance. The reason there is no cutting off of falseness is that falseness, also, has no appearance. When you are confused, that is falseness. When you wake up, that is truth. That is what is meant by Truth and falseness interlink and mingle. Truth and falseness are not separate, not apart from each other, and so the text continues, within the ordinary mind, right within the mind of the ordinary person, one sees the Buddha mind. You can see the mind of the Buddha. However, whereas ordinary people can become Buddhas, can Buddhas become ordinary people? You can’t put it that way; for if the Buddha became an ordinary person, then people would have not further need to become Buddhas. The Buddha does not become an ordinary person. If the Buddha transformationally creates the body of an ordinary person, then it is the transformation body that becomes an ordinary person, while the Buddha’s basic substance is still in a state of unmoving suchness. However, are ordinary people ordinary people forever? No. It is right within the mind and nature of ordinary people that one is able to see the Buddha nature. That allows one to say that ordinary people can become Buddhas, but not that the Buddha returns to being an ordinary person. Hence “within the ordinary mind, one sees the Buddha mind.” It is right within the state of an ordinary, common individual that the Buddha’s state can be seen. Why? The reason is that truth and falseness interlink and mingle, that they are inseparable.

What enables living beings to become Buddhas is that living beings possess the Buddha Nature. All living beings have the Buddha nature, not just people. All living beings can become Buddhas. You may say, “I keep hearing about ‘all living beings,’ but when it comes right down to it  I don’t know what is meant by ‘living beings.’ “ Now I will tell you. There are womb-born living beings, those born from eggs, moisture-born, and transformationally born. Living beings that are womb-born are born from wombs due to the existence of emotion. Womb-born due to emotion come forth.

Egg-born because of thought are had. Those living beings born from eggs are born due to the existence of thought. An example is a mother hen sitting on her eggs. She sits there and thinks to herself, “my sons or daughters are going to be born. Hurry up and hatch!” She sits there day after day, all day long, and won’t move, that old mother hen, thinking, “They’ve got to hatch. They’ve got to be born. Hurry up!” She thinks that over and over again, and lo and behold, her wish is fulfilled and the little chicks are born. As they are born they use their beaks and crack open the egg shell. Once they crack it open, she is terrifically happy. She gets so heated up sitting there that her feathers fall out, but even then the mother hen doesn’t leave them. She wouldn’t leave them even if it meant giving up her life. Her attitude is, “Even if it kills me, I shall give birth to these little son and daughter chicks!” That is how they are born from thought. Prior to that, when she was laying the eggs, it was with the intention of giving birth to chicks. Then she sat on them, and they were born.

“Womb-born due to emotion come forth.” That means that parents give birth to sons and daughters as a result of emotions. The egg-born are due to the mother’s thinking. A mother hen on her eggs is really an example of focusing one’s mind. That’s really having no scattered thoughts. When hens are setting, they have no scattered thoughts. The only false thought they have is, “Hurry up, hurry up.” Another day ought to do it.” The next day it’s, “Just a little longer.” She waits for maybe three or four weeks, and then they are born.

Moisture-born due to union are conceived. Those born from moisture are born when potentials come together. Moisture and earth unite, and at that point there is something with a not defiled and not pure aspect to it, and then all of a sudden they are born. You could not say that it was clean, but you couldn’t quite call it dirty before it has produced larvae. But, as earth and water combine and receive the light of the sun due to the various causes and conditions, larvae are born, or maybe butterflies. Actually, butterflies are transformationally born. Transformation-born due to separation are produced. They arise from separation. There are others. As the Vajra Sutra says:

Whether womb-born, or egg-born; whether moisture-born, or transformationally born; whether with form of without form; whether with thought or without thought; not lacking thought, and not not lacking thought.

Some have shape and form that can be seen and some do not. There are living beings that have thinking, and living beings that lack thinking. There are also living beings that do not lack thought, and living beings not not lacking thought. There are that many different kinds of living beings. If you wish to understand them in detail, you can investigate the Shurangama Sutra where they are very clearly explained.

The literal meaning of “living beings” is “the multitude-born.” That is, they are born from a multitude of conditions coming together, uniting, and assisting in their birth. Living beings can all become Buddhas because they all have the Buddha Nature, and so “Truth and falseness interlink and mingle. Within the ordinary mind one sees the Buddha-mind.”

Specifics and principle are together cultivated.
Specifics refers to specific characteristics, while principle means the principle and substance. Specifics have appearances, whereas principle has no shape. For example, when we accomplish Buddhahood, we accomplish a principle. We know there is a certain kind of principle and so we want to cultivate. We base ourselves upon that principle to cultivate. The Flower Adornment Sutra discusses four kinds of Dharma Realms:

1.   The Dharma Realm of Specifics.
2.   The Dharma Realm of Principle.
3.   The Dharma Realm of Non-Obstruction of Principle and Specifics.
4.   The Dharma Realm of Non-Obstruction of Specifics by Specifics.

The text now says, “Specifics and Principle are together cultivated.” The specific marks are cultivated, and the principle is cultivated too. The specifics do not obstruct the principle, and the principle does not obstruct the specifics. That is “Specifics and principle are together cultivated.”

One relies on basic wisdom to seek the Buddha’s wisdom. Basic wisdom is everyone’s inherent wisdom. Relying upon that inherent wisdom, one seeks to obtain and accomplish the wisdom of a Buddha. The accomplishment of the Buddha’s wisdom is just the realization of our own inherent wisdom. Everyone has that basic wisdom, and so everyone can open the wisdom of a Buddha. If it were not for that basic wisdom, no one would be able to accomplish Buddhahood. However, everyone has it. Not only do people have it, all living beings have that basic wisdom, and that is why it says, Specific and principle are together cultivated: One relies on basic wisdom to seek the Buddha’s wisdom.

If all of you investigate the Flower Adornment Sutra to the point that you understand it, that is seeing the Buddha mind within the ordinary mind. If you go on to use the methods of the Flower Adornment Sutra to cultivate, then that is relying on basic wisdom to seek and obtain the Buddha’s wisdom. Unless you read Flower Adornment Sutra, you will not know of the Buddha’s true blessings and honor. The Flower Adornment Sutra is the Buddha’s greatest store of treasures. There are priceless, true treasures within the Flower Adornment Sutra, and so those who read it then know the wonderful aspects of the Buddhadharma.

If you had started from the beginning to memorize as much of the Preface text as I explained, so that you could recite it without looking at the book, by now you would be able to recite a great deal. However, if you didn’t do that at the start, by now you will have forgotten and if you try to go back and memorize it now, you will feel it is quite a lot. None the less, if one has determination, one can succeed and if you want to do it, you will still be able to manage it, and a week from now you can recite for me. We’ll see who can recite it. If you can’t recite all of it, it doesn’t matter! But if you can recite all of it, that’s even better, and I’ll be very please. But if you can’t recite it all, I won’t be displeased, because my...Every thing is ok,’ and if I were displeased about something, that would be ‘not ok.’



Principle changes according to specifics,
so one and many conditionally arise without bounds.
Specifics interfuse with principle,
so a thousand distinctions combine without obstruction.


Principle changes according to specifics. Principle and specifics are also interlinked and mingle. Therefore, at times principle may accord with specifics and change and transform. Principle accords with specifics and consequently one becomes many. The many also become one. Whether one or many, those kinds of arisals from conditions are boundless. They have no limit, which is why it says, principle changes according to specifics. So one and many conditionally arise without bounds. The meaning is the same as that of having no boundary. If you understand one mode, then you can understand all modes. If you do not understand even one mode, then you won’t understand mode after mode. Therefore it is said:

Once one is attained, ten thousand
specifics come to an end.

If you attain to the one, the myriad particulars may all be ended. If you have not attained the one, then you cannot attain the many. If you have not attained the many, then you have not yet understood the one.

A single root divides into ten thousand ramifications;
Ten thousand ramifications return to a single root.

In the world, all the various forms, shapes and characteristics are produced from the one. You calculate it: people are one, dogs are two, cats are three, pigs are four... Calculating you’ll calculate to limitless and boundlessly many living beings, including even lions and tigers in the computation of all living beings. Where do they all come from? They come from the one, and so, “A single root divides into ten thousand ramifications.” What, then do the ten thousand ramifications do? They return to the root. They all go back to a single place. What is that place? It is the place of one birth and one death. No matter who you are, you cannot escape birth and death. Therefore, although their shapes and characteristics are not the same, when the fruit is reaped, they again are one. Therefore, “A single root divides into ten thousand ramifications” is birth, and “Ten thousand ramifications return to a single root” is death. If you investigate the problem of birth and death to the point that you understand them, then one and many are unobstructed and have no bounds, So one and many conditionally arise without bounds. Those kinds of causally conditioned arisals have no bounds.

Specifics interfuse with principle. If specifics are fused together and blended with principle, then specifics and principle interpenetrate without being mutually obstructive, so a thousand distinctions, a thousand distinctions means a thousand kinds of differences, combine without obstruction. Although there are a thousand or ten thousand kinds of distinctions, they combine with one another. Combine has the same meaning as interlink and mingle. They combine with one another without obstruction. Even though they combine, they do not interfere with one another. No obstructions arise. That is a wonderful kind of state.

You may say as well that the ordinary and the sagely interlink and mingle; that specifics and principle interlink and mingle; that good and evil interlink and mingle; that true and false interlink and mingle; that right and wrong interlink and mingle. What, after all, is ‘right’? Doesn’t ‘right’ come from ‘wrong’? If you have ‘wrong,’ then you have ‘right.’ If you have ‘right,’ then you have ‘wrong.’ So right and wrong interlink and mingle. You can transform this statement into trillions of statements, which itself is an example of one and many conditionally arising without bounds. You could also call it a thousand distinctions combining without obstruction. That is how it works.

At this point in the explanation of the Preface, some people have raised a doubt. There’s a student of Philosophy saying, “That has something to it. It’s pretty logical.” However, there’s a sociologist who’s saying, “That’s not correct. Right is right and wrong is wrong. How can you talk of not distinguishing right and wrong, good and evil, specifics and principle, or true and false? If you don’t distinguish between them, how can you determine what is true and what is false?” Well, if you don’t have anything to do and you want to find something to do, then there are all kinds of things you can find to do. But if you are not interested in adding a head on top of a head, then basically there is nothing to do. If you want to go one further and are trying to avoid being like Yajnadatta, the man who went wandering all over the place looking for his head, then there is even less to do.

Those of you who haven’t heard the explanation of the Shurangama Sutra may not know about Yajnadatta, so I’ll tell you. He is very interesting. One morning he took a look in the mirror and exclaimed, “Hey, that guy in the mirror has a head, how come I don’t have a head? My head’s been stolen! How can that guy in the mirror have a head while I have no head.” Then he went nuts. “How can I live without a head?” He immediately ran out into the streets shouting, “Did you see where my head went? Where’s my head?” He went everywhere asking people. Now, wouldn’t you say that was a case of having nothing to do and looking for something to do? Without a head, how could he have talked? How could he have been asking people? But he didn’t realize that. He was just attached to having lost his head, to not having a head. There’s a Chinese proverb that goes:

Riding on the donkey, one looks for the donkey.
Riding on the horse, one looks for the horse.

Astride the donkey, one goes looking for the donkey, saying, “Where’s the donkey?” Astride one’s horse one goes looking for one’s horse, asking, “How did my horse get away?” without realizing one’s riding it. That’s a case of one single thought of ignorance clouding the person over so that he goes all over looking for it. Think about it. If you were to look down and break through that ignorance, then one would see, “Oh, I’m riding on my horse! I don’t need to look all over for it after all.” “Oh! I’ve been riding on my donkey all along, so I don’t have to go find it after all.” If you go looking for truth and falseness, then you are attached, and you still have truth and falseness. If you are unattached, truth and falseness fundamentally are one single substance.

Ultimately, then, what is the principle of one and many conditionally arising without bounds, so a thousand distinctions combine without obstruction? It has no principle at all. It is what is known as there being no fixed Dharma. You can discuss it from this angle, and discuss it from that angle, and discuss it forwards and backwards but what is spoken is false. If every day you can sit in meditation for a minute longer, then that is true. What is spoken is false; what is practiced is true. If you study and understand more principle, then that is opening more wisdom. If you meditate for a minute longer and obtain more samadhi power, then one may say, “Samadhi and wisdom are together cultivated.” Your listening to Sutras is just the cultivation of wisdom. Your sitting in meditation is the cultivation of samadhi. Isn’t your daily refraining from idle chatter the cultivation of precepts? If you aren’t thinking of stealing things to eat, that also is holding precepts. If you aren’t thinking of stealing all kinds of things here but we don’t have anything worth stealing here so we don’t need to consider that ¾ then you are holding precepts.There’s even less reason to speak of taking life: there is no way to kill in here.

Someone may say, “Oh, that does not apply to me. Every day I want to kill people.” Well, if you want to kill people, start by killing yourself. Why? If you don’t kill yourself, you could turn into a monster, a demon, from wanting to kill people.

You may say, “As for killing myself, I can’t do it.” In telling you to kill yourself, I mean for you to kill your killing mind, not to kill your person. Take that thought of killing of yours and kill it. Tell yourself, “Why is it that I want to kill people? I should put a stop to such thoughts.” You see, if you can do that, then that’s killing the thief which is ignorance. If you cut off afflictions and cast out evil, then that is true and actual killing. Don’t hesitate to kill some more: kill your ignorance. The reason you want to kill people is due to ignorance, so you should start by killing ignorance. That is what I meant by killing yourself, I didn’t mean you should commit suicide, I meant that you should kill your ignorance. Cut off your ignorance. Smash it to bits! When ignorance is cut off and smashed, then there is no darkness, and so there is light. Falseness is darkness. If there is an electric light, then that is truth, not falseness. The principle of truth and falseness is just that. Truth smashes falseness, and falseness displays truth. Look around. Now we have electric lights, true and actual light, and so everyone can see to write. If we didn’t have these lights, if we wanted to study and write, we wouldn’t be able to see to write. “Couldn’t we use the heavenly eye?” Someone asks. If you have the heavenly eye you can use the heavenly. If you don’t have the heavenly eye, what eye are you going to use? These earthly eyes? So that’s truth and falseness.



Therefore he obtains:
Ten bodies in succession, yet mutually operative,
Six positions not disordered, yet reciprocally contained.

And so:

The vast and great can enter where there is no place,
Dust-motes and hairs envelope with nothing left outside;
Clearly arrayed, like mustard seeds within a jar;
Completely simultaneous, like drops of water in the sea:
One and many unobstructed, like a thousand lamps in empty space;
Hidden and revealed together realized,
like the crescent moon in an autumn sky;
Layer on layer lights interlace,
like the Lord’s net of trailing pearls;
Thought after thought makes perfect fusion,
like an evening dream’s passing time.
Dharma doors pile up in layers,
like clouds billowing in space;
Myriad practices unfurl profusely,
like flowers blooming on brocade.


Therefore he obtains: As a consequence of the previous Specifics interfuse with principle, so a thousand distinctions combine without obstruction, therefore he obtains ten bodies in succession, yet mutually operative.

There are two lists of ten bodies. The first list is:

1.   The Bodhi Body.
2.   The Body of Vows.
3.   The Transformation Body.
4.   The Dwelling and Maintaining Body.
5.   The Body Adorned with Fine Marks.
6.   The Power Body.
7.   The As-you-will Body.
8.   The Body of Blessings and Virtue.
9.   The Wisdom Body.
10. The Dharma Body.

The second list is:

1.   The Living Beings Body.
2.   The Country Body.
3.   The Karmic Retribution Body.
4.   The Sound Hearer Body.
5.   The Body of One Enlightened by Conditions.
6.   The Bodhisattva Body.
7.   The Thus Come One Body.
8.   The Wisdom Body.
9.   The Dharma Body.
10. The Empty Space Body.

Those ten kinds of bodies are simultaneously completed and mutually operative, and so this is called the Door of Simultaneous Reflection Yet Mutual Interaction.

What is the Living Beings Body? “Living beings,” as was just discussed, means “multitude-born” born from a multitude of conditions coming together. Each category of living being has its own body. The Living Beings Body means that the Bodhisattvas:

Contemplate potentials and entice with teachings;
According to the person speak the Dharma.

They take a look at the opportune conditions and use the appropriate kind of teaching to teach and transform living beings. They contemplate potentials and entice with teachings, and according to the person speak the Dharma. They speak the kind of Dharma that is suited to a particular person and, as a result, they make appear bodies of living beings in order to speak the Dharma for living beings.

As for the Country Body, the countries that we live in have all been transformationally made to appear by Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas make a Country Body appear by transformation in order to benefit living beings and teach and transform them. They cause all of the living beings upon that Country Body to bring forth the resolve for Bodhi.

Then there is the Karmic Retribution Body. Living beings all have the karmic retribution of living beings. Bodhisattvas also make karmic retribution bodies appear in order to teach and transform living beings. They also make appear bodies of Sound Hearers the appearance of Sound Hearers is that of Bhikshus as well as those of Ones Enlightened by Conditions (also called the Solitarily Enlightened) to teach and transform living beings.

Anyone of us now who brings forth the mind of a Sound Hearer is a Sound Hearer, and whoever brings forth the mind of One Enlightened by Conditions is One Enlightened by Conditions. If you bring forth the mind of a Bodhisattva, you are a Bodhisattva. Your Bodhisattva may be a transformation body made to appear by transformation by a Bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas also make appear bodies of Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattva bodies are always benefiting living beings. They forget all about themselves and benefit living beings. They also make appear the bodies of Thus Come Ones, that is, of Buddhas, as well as Wisdom bodies, the bodies of persons with wisdom. They also make appear the Dharma Body and the Empty Space Body. However, the ten bodies can simultaneously be made to appear by transformation without the basic substance ever changing.

That is why the ten bodies are described as being in succession, which means that they are very clearly discernible yet mutually operative. There appear bodies of living beings, the characteristics of country bodies, karmic retribution bodies, Sound Hearer bodies and bodies of those Enlightened by Conditions all of which mutually appear and do the Buddha’s work without obstructing one another. We people who have just one single body are not that way. If we go to New York, we are no longer in San Francisco, and if we go to Honolulu we are no longer in New York. They are not like that, however. They can make those ten kinds of bodies appear all at the same time, without any mutual interference. In this Door of Simultaneous Reflection Yet Mutual Interaction, those ten kinds of bodies can be made to appear simultaneously.     

Six Positions not disordered, yet reciprocally contained.

The Six Positions are:

1.   The Ten Dwellings
2.   The Ten Conducts
3.   The Ten Transferences
4.   The Ten Grounds
5.   Equal Enlightenment
6.   Wonderful Enlightenment

Those Six Positions are not disordered. They are all very neatly arrayed, not the least bit out of order, yet reciprocally contained. That is, at one and the same time, the Ten Bodies are completed and the Six Positions, the six stages, are perfected without the possibility of their becoming mixed up.

And so the vast and great can enter where there is no place. The vast and great means what is largest, while where there is no place means what is smallest. Nonetheless, the vast and great can go in where there is no place - into such an infinitesimal area. However, what is large still does not become small. The wonderful is right at this point. What is more, when the vast and great state enters into the smallest area, that smallest areas also does not become any larger. This is called the Door of Free-and-Easy Non-Obstruction of Vast and Narrow. The vast does not obstruct the narrow, and the narrow does not obstruct the vast. Within the area which has no space may be seen a vast and great state. The vast and great state is also inside the area with no space. And so this is known as Door of Free-and-Easy Non-Obstruction of Vast and Narrow.

The next line says, Dust-motes and hairs envelope with nothing left outside. Dust-motes means fine particles of dust, and hairs refers to individual strands of hair. They are able to take in the vast and great, to describes the principle of the small enveloping the great with nothing left outside, nothing they fail to take in.

As it says in the Shurangama Sutra:

On the tip of a hair appear kshetras of the Jeweled Kings. On the tip of a single strand of a fine hair, all Buddha-lands are manifest, along with all the living beings in those lands yet that is all made to appear on the tip of a strand of hair.

Seated in a particle of dust, they turn the vast, great Dharma Wheel. Seated within a single fine mote of dust, they lecture Sutras and speak the Dharma, and there are limitlessly many living beings listening to the Dharma within that single fine mote of dust. Consequently, this kind of state is The Door of Free and Easy Non-Obstruction of Vast and Narrow. The vast does not obstruct the minute, and the minute does not obstruct the vast. Within the small there manifests the large, and within the large there manifests the small. This kind of state is not a state that ordinary beings can conceptualize.

Clearly arrayed. Clearly arrayed means set out in a very evident fashion, like mustard seeds within a jar just like mustard seeds stored in a glass container, which can be seen very distinctly. They are clearly arrayed like mustard seeds in a glass jar. The individual mustard seeds are very small, but when stored in a glass container, they can be seen very clearly.

Completely simultaneous, like drops of water in the sea. The many do not obstruct the one, and the one does not obstruct the many, just like mustard seeds stored in a glass container. “Completely simultaneous, like drops of water in the sea.” The one participates in the many, and the many participate in the one as well just like the individual drops of water in the sea, each of which has the flavor of the sea in its entirety. The Flower Adornment Sutra is also that way.

One and many unobstructed, like a thousand lamps in empty space. There is no inter-obstruction among the lights that come from lamps. When, within empty space, there are a thousand lamps, each gives off its own light, without the light of one interfering with that of another. One light would never say to another, “Your light is too great. It interferes with my light,” nor would the other light say, “My light is too small. It gets swallowed up by your light.” They do not interfere with one another. That is what is known as the harmony of lights. A thousand lamps in empty space do not obstruct each other. Your light does not interfere with mine, nor does my light interfere with yours. There is harmony of light, and one and many are unobstructed. If there is one, there is light; if there are a thousand, there is also light. One and many are unobstructed and do not obstruct one another. The principles of the Flower Adornment Sutra are just like that: limitless and boundless, yet all very clear.

Hidden and revealed together realized, like the crescent moon in an autumn sky. It is also as in autumn, the Fall Season, the moon in the sky has both a period when it is hidden and a period when it is revealed. Sometimes the moon is waxing, and sometimes it is waning, and yet both aspects are “together realized.” In the combination of hidden and revealed, what is hidden reinforces what is revealed, and what is revealed reinforces what is hidden. Once the moon has waxed to the full, then it wanes. After waning, it then waxes once again. The principles of the Flower Adornment Sutra also follow that pattern, and so they are like the crescent moon in an autumn sky, like the Fall Season’s moon in empty space.

Layer on layer lights interlace, like the Lord’s net of trailing pearls. Layer on layer means one layer after another, in multi-tiered and inexhaustible profusion, lights interlace. To interlace means to intertwine. Your light shines upon me, and my light shines upon you, as “layer on layer lights interlace.” Lights shine upon one another as in the lattice-work banner before Shakra, Lord Indra’s Heaven; and it is the same as the net in the Great Brahma Heaven. The lattice-work banner is cylindrical in shape, and has holes along its sides, just like a fish net which has one hole after another so that the fish are  trapped inside, but the water can pour out. However, within each hole there is inlaid a precious pearl. Each pearl can emit light. Upon this lattice-work banner there are inexhaustibly multi-layered amounts of holes, which are inlaid with inexhaustibly multi-layered amounts of previous pearls. The lights mutually interlace, which is the reference of “like the Lord’s net of trailing pearls.” The pearls of that banner of netting shine upon one another.

Thought after thought makes perfect fusion, like an evening dream’s passing time. This Sutra is one of interpenetration without obstruction. “Thought after thought makes perfect fusion, like an evening dream’s passing time.” It is like a dream one has at night during which one feels that a very, very long time has gone by. One dreams of being an Emperor, of holding public office, of striking it rich all kinds of dreams. Periods of time as long as whole lifetimes go by in the time of a single evening’s dream. The principles of the Flower Adornment Sutra also have that kind of inconceivability about them, and so it further states.

Dharma doors pile up in layers. The Dharma doors of the Flower Adornment Sutra are inexhaustibly multi-layered, both inexhaustible and multi-leveled, and so they are said to pile up in layers, like clouds billowing in space. What they resemble is banks of clouds in empty space. No sooner has one cloud gone by than another comes along. The principles of the Flower Adornment Sutra are also that way.

Myriad practices unfurl profusely. Myriad practices means the Six Paramitas and the Ten Thousand Conducts, which unfurl profusely, like flowers blooming on brocade. This resembles embroidering more flowers on top of flowers, adding flowers to brocade. To start with there were plenty of flowers on the piece of embroidery, yet one adds even more flowers. These flowers, however, are also inexhaustibly multi-layered, and so are compared to flowers blooming on brocade. In China there is a saying:

To add flowers to brocade, there are a thousand;
To give coal within the snow, not half of person.

To add flowers to brocade is as when someone is president, this person sends this gift and that person sends that gift, and if the president’s wife wants a diamond necklace to wear, immediately countless hundreds of people send her one. One person sends one, and then someone else sends one. She only wanted one, but in the long run she receives several hundred. Nonetheless, she can’t say to people, “I have one already, I don’t want yours.” That’s the meaning of To add flowers to brocade, there are a thousand. To give coal within the snow, not half a person. This refers to a person who is very, very cold out in the snow. The person is so poor, he doesn’t even have a house to live in, and so he lives under the snowy ground; but no one comes along to give that person a lump of charcoal to warm himself. Originally, To add flowers to brocade described the tendency of people in our present age to:

Flock to flames and fawn on power.

That they flock to flames means that they go where it’s hot, that they run to warm places. Fawn on power means that they go and submit themselves to authority. Here, however, the principles within the Flower Adornment Sutra are being compared to flowers added to brocade.



Too high is it for gazing,
So Bodhisattvas of accumulated practice are dried-up gills and scales before the dragon’s gate;
Too deep to be surveyed, so Sound Hearers of superior virtue stop seeing and hearing in the fine assembly.


Today’s translator came to me ahead of time saying she didn’t understand the “dried-up gills and scales before the dragon’s gate.” She wanted to get it all clear in advance. Now I see it was because she was due to translate tonight, which is understandable. But basically, before the Sutra is lectured, whether you understand the principles or not, you cannot ask questions. That’s because if before the Sutra is explained you come with questions and someone else comes with questions, there may be several hundred people all of whom don’t understand. That makes several hundred people all coming to ask questions, and in a given day there would not be enough time just for answering those questions. Therefore the rule when Sutras are lectured is, before the Sutra is explained, if you understand then you understand; and if you don’t understand you wait until it’s explained to understand, you can’t ask in advance. That’s because there are so many people, there’s no way to answer all their questions. What she asked about today was the “dried-up gills and scales before the dragon’s gate.” She didn’t know what it was talking about. Now I’ll tell you.

“Gills” are located on the side of a fish’s head, while “scales” are the fish’s scales. There is a story connected with this, a kind of legend handed down, and it concerns carp.

The Chinese character for “carp” is used in the name of Confucius’s son, K’ung Li, “Confucius Carp.” How did he get the name Confucius Carp? It is because at the time when he was born, the Emperor made him a gift of two carp, and so Confucius said, “Ah, there, he must be named ‘Confucius Carp!’ “ However, I don’t think it was very appropriate to name him ‘Confucius Carp’. Even if it is the Emperor who presents you with carp, still they are dead, and he intends for you to eat them. So how can you beget a live son and call it by the name of dead fish? So Confucius begat a son and couldn’t even come up with a name for him, and so he opted for ‘Confucius Carp.’ He commemorated the fact that he had carp to eat that day, and so that’s how his son became a ‘Carp.’ Now, it is characteristic of carp that they can leap. They leap and jump like frogs. In this line, “the Dragon’s Gate” refers to the gate to the Dragon Palace.

How high is the Dragon’s Gate? I’ve never paid a visit to the Dragon’s Palace, and so I don’t know how high it is, but at the very least it must be twenty feet high. It’s that high, but if any carp, whether large or small, can swim up and jump over the gate, jump from outside to within the gate, then that carp can become a dragon. Based on that there is a saying:

The carp has leaped the Dragon’s Gate.

When the carp has leaped the Dragon’s Gate, once it gets over it, it can become a dragon. But if the carp leaps and does not make it, then it will tear its gills or have its scales scraped off. Torn gills and scraped-off scales are not so bad, but it also may be dashed to death. Therefore, the line between life and death is right at this point. This is just as when someone is about to become enlightened. If you have no more attachments and have gone through all the demonic obstacles, then you become enlightened. However, if right when you’re about to become enlightened you become attached, then you will be possessed by a demon, and may even lose your life. Consequently, becoming enlightened is not so easy. It is like a carp’s leaping the Dragon’s Gate. If it manages to leap it, then it can become a dragon. If it doesn’t make it over, it turns into mud that is, it dies and afterwards turns into mud. That explains the phrase dried-up gills and scales. Dried-up means dried out by the sun, the fish-gills and fish scales dry up by the sun and turn to dust. So “Dried-up gills and scales before the Dragon Gate” refers to the carp who have not managed to leap over the Dragon Gate, and end up being dried out by the sun outside the gate.

Therefore, it says, too high is it for gazing. If it were of ordinary height one could see it; but if it is too fantastically high, you cannot get a glimpse of its summit. In the Analects, someone asks Confucius’ disciple Yen Hui what kind of state his teacher, Confucius, has. Yen Hui replies:

The more you gaze at him, the higher he is.

That means the more you look at him, the higher he appears to be. Nothing is higher. He is just too high.

The more you born into him, the more solid he becomes.

If you use a drill to bore into him, he becomes even more solid. There is no way to drill through him.

Regarding him from the front, suddenly he is behind.

He was right in front of you, but before you know it, there he is behind you.

That is all inconceivable. Now here, instead of saying as there, “The more you gaze at him, the higher he is, it uses, Too high is it for gazing.” So this amounts to saying that it is even higher, too high for gazing at altogether.

So Bodhisattvas of accumulated practice. As a Bodhisattva of accumulated practice, you may have been cultivating from limitless kalpas to the present, life after life, for one does not know how long. However, if you do not believe in the Flower Adornment Sutra, and fail to cultivate according to the principles in the Flower Adornment Sutra, then you cannot arrive at the Buddha’s family. If you do believe, then that counts as having leapt over the Dragon’s Gate. If you do not believe in the Flower Adornment Sutra, then that is like not having leapt over the Dragon’s Gate. You haven’t leapt it because it is too high for you to leap over. The Flower Adornment Sutra represents the Dragon’s Gate, and Bodhisattvas of accumulated practice are like the carp that have not made it over the Dragon’s Gate, and so cannot become dragons. They are dried-up gills and scales before the Dragon’s Gate. Do you understand?

Too deep to be surveyed. Deep means like the water of the ocean, the bottom of which cannot be seen. No matter how much you scan and survey it, you will not be able to see how far it is to the bottom of the sea. So Sound Hearers of superior virtue, ones who have great virtue, like Shariputra, Mahamaudgalyayana, Subhuti, Aniruddha, and the Venerable Kashyapa all of those Sound Hearers of superior virtue Stop seeing and hearing in the fine assembly. What do they stop? They stop up their ears and cover up their eyes.

They had eyes but did not see Nishyanda Buddha,
Had ears but did not hear the perfect, sudden Teaching.

That’s what it means when it says that they stop seeing and hearing in the fine assembly. Seeing is receiving with the eye, and hearing is listening with the ears, but they plug up their ears and cover their eyes.
Although they are right beside the Buddha in the Seven Places and the Nine Assemblies, still they do not hear or understand these principles.
We have been lecturing the Flower Adornment Sutra for more than a week now, and today it has accurred to me to ask all of you if you remember National Master Ch’ing Liang’s vows or not. Without looking at your paper, who can recite them from memory for me?



Seeing and hearing act as seeds:
The eight difficulties leap to the echelons of the Ten Grounds.
Understanding and practicing in one’s person:
One life perfects the fruit of distant kalpas.


If you just have a glimpse of the Flower Adornment Sutra or simply hear its name, that can plant the seed of Bodhi within the field of your eighth consciousness. That is why it says, seeing an hearing act as seeds. Once that kind of vajra seed has been planted, it will, in time, come to maturity. When that seed ripens in the future, that is the ripening of the fruit of Buddhahood. Therefore, it says, the eight difficulties leap to the echelons of the Ten Grounds.

The Eight Difficulties

1.   Hells.
2.   Hungry Ghosts.
3.   Animals.
4.   The Northern Continent. Uttarakuru.
5.   Heaven of Long Life.
6.   Being Blind, Deaf or Mute.
7.   Having Worldly Knowledge and Argumentative Intelligence.
8.   Being Before or After a Buddha.

The Eight Difficulties are eight circumstances in which it is very difficult to hear the Buddhadharma or cultivate it, even if you want to. The hells are a difficulty, inasmuch as one does not hear the Buddhadharma in the hells, and it is also not easy for hungry ghosts to hear the Buddhadharma. The same is true of animals. Those Three Evil Paths are fraught with difficulty.

Why is it that they cannot hear the Buddhadharma? Why were the Sound Hearers of superior virtue who stopped seeing and hearing in the fine assembly unable to hear the Buddhadharma although they were present while the Buddha was speaking Dharma? How?, when the Buddha was right in front of them, were they for all intents and purposes as if separated from the Buddha by as many as a hundred and eight thousand miles? You should all pay attention to this. The reason is that in previous lives they had not praised the Buddha, the Dharma or the Sangha. There attitude was very stuffy and conservative. When praises were being chanted before the Buddha, they refused to chant. They would say, “Cultivation is cultivation, isn’t it? What’s the use of chanting that? What’s the point in reciting that? It’s just so much play-acting. What point is there to it?” They would think, “It’s just a lot of ruckus, and it’s really meaningless.” They called doing the Buddhist ceremonies putting on a play. Even when it came to chanting, “Amitabha’s body is the color  of gold,” they said, “If I had wanted to hear that, wouldn’t I have been better off going to hear music? It’s just because I didn’t want to go hear music that I came and bowed to the Buddha only to find that even within Buddhism there’s still that kind of stuff,” and they refused.


It wasn’t just that they themselves refused. They went on to tell other people, “Hey, you don’t want to study that. That’s really meaningless and phony!” when it came right down to it, they didn’t know what was true. If you don’t understand the false, then how can you study what is true? And even if it is false, are you able to do it? If you don’t recognize even a single character... Therefore, it is because on the causal ground they didn’t praise the Buddha, the Dharma or the Sangha that when they arrived at the fruit position of Sound Hearers they did not see the Buddha speaking the Flower Adornment Sutra and did not hear it all due to having failed to praise the Triple Jewel. Therefore, all of you should be aware of this:

If the causal ground is not true,
The result obtained will be crooked.

If what you do on the causal ground is not true, there will be a lot of trouble in the consequent fruition, lots of twists and turns. It won’t be straight. So, those of the Two Vehicles did not hear the Flower Adornment Sutra being lectured because they had not praised the Buddha in the past, and had been very stuffy before the Buddha.

In the Eight Difficulties, however, one basically does not hear the Buddhadharma. For example, in the Northern Uttarakuru Continent people have lots of blessings and can live for a thousand years. However, they do not see the Buddha. Not to speak of seeing the Buddha, they do not even hear the Buddhadharma, and they do not see members of the Sangha. They never see people who have left home: monks and nuns, Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Shramanas. That is because they have cultivated blessings without cultivating wisdom. They are reborn in the Northern Continent Uttarakura with a lifespan so long that they can live a thousand years, but they never hear the name of the Triple Jewel. That is why the Northern Continent Uttarakuru is one of the Eight Difficulties in which it is not easy to hear the Buddhadharma. You may say, “That place is not bad. One lives for a thousand years, eats well and wears fine clothes.” However, one cannot plant good roots there. If you do not hear the name of the Triple Jewel, you won’t be able to make offerings to the Triple Jewel; and if you don’t make offerings to the Triple Jewel, your good roots cannot increase and grow. If you good roots do not increase and grow, after you have lived your thousand years there, either you fall to the hells, or you turn into a hungry ghost or an animal it’s not fixed.

The Heaven of Long Life is also called the Heaven of No Thought. Life-spans are even longer in that heaven, much longer than the life-span in the Northern Continent Uttarakuru. However, one still does not see the Buddha, hear the Dharma or encounter the Sangha, and so it is called one of the Difficulties.

Being blind, deaf or mute refers to one kind of person who has no vision, another kind of person who is unable to hear, and yet a third kind of person who is unable to talk a mute. All the blind, deaf and mute in limitless kalpas past slandered the Triple Jewel. They said the Buddha was not right, the Dharma was not right and the Sangha was not right, which is slandering the Triple Jewel. If you slander the Triple Jewel, you fall into the hells. After falling to the hells, once you have paid off your offenses that merited the hells, then you turn into a hungry ghost. After having been a hungry ghost, you turn into an animal; and after having spent one-does-not-know-how-long a time as an animal, you afterwards become a person. But, although you are a person, you are either blind, deaf or mute, or crippled. Someone who cannot walk, who has to stay in bed all the time and can either lie down or sit up, but cannot walk around is a cripple. People like that have all slandered the Triple Jewel, and they are within the Eight Difficulties.

In the past, America had very few people who had left home. There were some  who wanted to leave home, but they had not actually received the Shramanera precepts, the Bhikshu precepts and the Bodhisattva precepts. They all looked real but were not. They resembled left-home people, but actually they weren’t. One such American named Sumangala who had “left-home” in Japan by taking the five lay precepts which they call the Shramanera (novice) precepts and consider leaving home eventually realized that he had not received the full precepts in Japan, and wanted me to transmit the Bhikshu precepts to him. On that occasion I said to him, “The Chinese precepts, unlike the Japanese precepts, cannot be received so simply and casually. When the precepts are transmitted in China, you need fifty-three days, or thirty days. The very minimum is eighteen days, and it requires Three Masters and Seven Certifiers to transmit the precepts. They cannot be transmitted by a single individual. It turned out that he did not have time, and was unable to receive the complete precepts; and not long afterwards he died in Singapore.

Now in America there are Bhikshus and there are Bhikshunis, and they have all gone through the detailed study and cultivation of the precepts and the manner of someone who has left the home life Shramanas. This is actually to have the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. But in this country, very few people are aware of this, because to start with this country lacked the Buddhadharma, so now that it has it, few people actually recognize it. Without actually recognizing it, they are unable to cultivate properly and truly.

You should all realize that while I am here transmitting the Buddhadharma, I am not transmitting Chinese Buddhism, or Burmese Buddhism, or Indian Buddhism, or Ceylonese Buddhism. What I am transmitting is the Buddhadharma of the Mind-to-Mind Seal, which from the First Patriarch Mahakashyapa was handed down to the second Patriarch Ananda, until it reached to Twenty-eight Patriarch Bodhi-dharma who transmitted it to China. This Buddhadharma is not the Buddhadharma of just one country. It is the Buddhadharma of the entire world, the Buddhadharma of the universe, the Buddhadharma of the Dharma Realm. Why is that? I’m always telling you that I do not want anyone to believe in me, and I also do not want anyone to disbelieve in me. If you believe, you are still within the Dharma Realm. If you do not believe, you are still within the Dharma Realm, and have not run outside of it. Therefore, I pay no attention to whether you who have come to the Sino-American Buddhist Association’s Gold Mountain Monastery, believe or not. I lecture my Buddhadharma or rather, I have no Buddhadharma. It is the world’s Buddhadharma. The Sixth Patriarch said, “If I had a single dharma to transmit to you, that would be cheating you.” In the final analysis, I have not one dharma which can be got at. I have no dharma. Within this state of not one single dharma, the time of no dharma:

When not a single dharma is established,
The ten thousand dharmas all are empty.

There are some people on the outside who slander us and say, “That place follows such and such a Teaching,” or, “That place follows such and such other Teaching.” For example, someone described us to one of my disciples as transmitting the White Lotus Teaching. That was how they described it, but others might say it was the Red Lotus Teaching, the Yellow Lotus Teaching, the Blue Lotus Teaching or the or the Purple Lotus Teaching that many Teachings when in fact we establish not one dharma, and the ten thousand dharmas all are empty. If you don’t believe it, try it out and see. Right now we are not within the Eight Difficulties, and so we are able to investigate the Buddhadharma. This Buddhadharma of ours should not be described as either false or true. Basically it does not exist. Basically there is nothing whatsoever. Not one dharma is established. There is no knowing, and no attaining. There is no wisdom and nothing is attained.

The Seventh Difficulty is that of having worldly knowledge and argumentative intelligence. Such a person considers his wisdom very great. His philosophy is: both no head and no tail; both no beginning and no end; both no above and no below; both no ancient and no modern. The philosopher talks that way. If you say he’s dead, then he’s alive. If you say he’s alive, then he’s dead. However it’s said, it’s right. That’s philosophy: having worldly knowledge and argumentative intelligence. Wisdom of a worldly sort means the ability to argue and the possession of a certain amount of intelligence. However, worldly wisdom is not wisdom that transcends the world, and it is also one of the Eight Difficulties.

There is also the Difficulty of being born before or after a Buddha. That puts all of us now within one of the Eight Difficulties. Being born before a Buddha is a Difficulty, and being born after a Buddha is also a Difficulty. When the Buddha appeared in the world, we didn’t make it, and so we are in one of the Eight Difficulties. Don’t figure you’re so terrific. What’s so terrific about you? You’re within one of the Eight Difficulties. Within those eight kinds of Difficulties, it is not easy to study the Buddhadharma.

The period when the Buddha was appearing in the world, the Proper Dharma Age, was a time of solidity in liberation. The five hundred years that followed were a period of solidity in dhyana-samadhi. The next five hundred years after that were a period of solidity in erudition, when everyone was able to read and recite Great Vehicle Sutras, and could recite several of them by heart. They read lots of books, but there was no actual liberation. By liberation is meant certification to the fruit, the attainment of the First Fruit, the Second Fruit, the Third Fruit and the Fourth Fruit. Liberation means to have no limitations or ties, no hang-ups or obstructions, no troubles or afflictions. During the period of solidity in dhyana-samadhi, everyone liked to sit in meditation with single-minded concentration. Any of you now who likes to sit in meditation is solid in dhyana-samadhi. Whoever manages certify to the fruit is solid in liberation. Whoever can recite by heart the Shurangama Sutra or the Dharma Flower Sutra is solid in erudition.

After the period of solidity in erudition was the Dharma Semblance Age, a five-hundred period of solidity in building temples: building temples here, building temples there, building a whole lot of temples, all of which were very big. After that period comes our present period of solidity in fighting. At present there is fighting between countries, fighting between families, fighting between people. You usurp what is mine, and I usurp what is yours, and we fight with each other. We have a need to fight. Someone asks how long the fighting lasts: for five hundred years, of course, during all of which time there is fighting. The Dharma Ending Age is like that.

We now are within the Dharma Ending Age, are we not? So you shouldn’t keep on slandering the Triple Jewel, should you? In this world there are very, very few people who truly cultivate the Way. Everyone wants to fight, so now left-home people even fight with left-home people. They all fight. You say I’m not right, and I say you’re not good, and we fight with each other. “I simply must outdo you! Your temple can lodge a thousand people! I must surpass you! If yours can lodge a thousand people, I’ll build a temple that will hold ten thousand, which will certainly be better that yours!” All of that is fighting. Those are the Eight Difficulties. Nonetheless, although in the Eight Difficulties one cannot hear the Buddhadharma, still, if one has causal connections, upon hearing the name of the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra, one can, as a result, from within the hells and the realms of the hungry ghosts and the animals, certify to the Ten Grounds. The Ten Grounds are Bodhisattva positions, the Bodhisattvas’ First Ground, Second Ground, Third Ground, Fourth Ground, Fifth Ground, Sixth Ground, Seventh Ground, Eight Ground, Ninth Ground, and Tenth Ground. The Eight Difficulties leap to the echelons of the Ten Grounds means that they all certify to that fruition echelons meaning positions or stages.

Understanding and practicing in one’s person. To understand is to be clear, in this case to be clear about the principles of this Sutra. To practice is to cultivate. In one’s person means oneself. When you understand, you yourself understand, and cultivation is something that you do yourself as well. If you both understand and practice, then what? One life perfects the fruit of distant kalpas. Then, right within the single lifetime, you can perfect the fruit of distant, that is, limitless, kalpas. For many, many kalpas one may seek the perfect accomplishment of Buddhahood. For example, the Buddha:

For three asamkhyeyas cultivated blessings and wisdom; For three great asamkhyeya kalpas he cultivated blessings and cultivated wisdom, and:

For a hundred kalpas perfected the marks and characteristics. He took one hundred great kalpas to cultivate the marks and characteristics. However, if you now, upon hearing the Flower Adornment Sutra, can cultivate according to the Flower Adornment Sutra, and understand the Flower Adornment Sutra, then right within this lifetime you can certify to the fruit of distant kalpas and become a Buddha. In other words, whereas it took so long a time for Shakyamuni Buddha to become a Buddha, we can attain Buddhahood in this very lifetime.



The Lion Sprints:
The Ocean-Wide Assembly suddenly certifies in the Grove.
The Elephant King turns ‘round:
Six thousand realize the Way as the words fall.


The Lion Sprints. This is an analogy, that of the Lion’s Sprint Samadhi. This kind of samadhi is one of extremely courageous vigor, resembling a lion’s majesty and prowess. The lion’s sprint is fast, and it is also strong. The Ocean-Wide Assembly. The ocean-like assembly is the sea-wide multitudes, that is, a lot of people. Suddenly Certifies. It very quickly attains to certification in the Grove. The Grove is the Jeta Grove, and also means that all the Great Bodhisattvas assembled together in one place are like a forest. On that occasion, all of a sudden, they all certify to the Fruit, and attain Irreversibility of Position, Irreversibility of Thought, and Irreversibility of Conduct, those Fruit of Irreversibility.

The Elephant King turns ‘round: Six thousand realize the Way as the words fall.

This refers to the time when Shariputra was leading six thousand Bhikshus, all of whom wished to see Manjushri Bodhisattva. Thereupon Manjushri Bodhisattva manifested a body for those six thousand people to see, and spoke Dharma for them, causing all of them to cultivate the Dharmas of Great Compassion, bring forth and increase the greatly compassionate thought of Enlightenment, obtain the substance of Great Compassion, and cultivate the doors of practice of  Great Compassion. Therefore, at that time, the six thousand Bhikshus all certified to the Fruit of Arhatship, and obtained the purity of the Dharma Eye. In the elephant king turns ‘round, the image is that of a whole troop of elephants, lead by an elephant king at the head of the procession. The elephant king turns its head around and takes a look at the rest of the elephants, its retinue. Shariputra resembles a king of elephants as he leads the other Bhikshus, the six thousand who are to attain to the purity of the Dharma Eye and certify to the Fruit. The states represented by the Flower Adornment Sutra are inconceivable. The next passage of text says:



Dawn of understanding at the Chaitya in the east:
Fulfillment of wisdom does not differ from first thought.
Sojourning in positions while seeking in the South:
Perfected causes do not exceed a hair-pore.


Dawn of understanding at the Chaitya in the east. This will be discussed in the Sutra text proper. It refers to the Youth Sudhana, “Good Wealth,” going to a large temple, certifying to the Fruit, and opening wisdom. That Fulfillment of wisdom does not differ from first thought. Upon first bringing forth the thought, he certifies to Proper, Equal Right Enlightenment, very swiftly, so it is the same as the first thought, at the time of first bringing forth the thought which means it is very swift. The fulfillment of wisdom does not differ from first thought. Fulfillment of wisdom means that the fruit of enlightened wisdom is perfected and full; does not differ from first thought means that upon first bringing forth the thought, there is certification to Proper, Equal Right Enlightenment, very fast unlike the Buddha who passed through three great asamkhyeyas of kalpas before achieving Buddhahood. In other words, this entire passage speaks of attaining to the fruit position very quickly.

Sojourning in positions while seeking in the South. The Youth Sudhana bowed to fifty-three teachers. The average Chinese person who does not understand the Buddhadharma still wants to take him for a model and says, “The Youth Sudhana made fifty-three visits and bowed to fifty-three teachers.” As a result, within Chinese Buddhism a kind of custom has grown up of visiting teachers. Bowing to a single teacher is not enough: one bows to two. Two is also not enough, so one bows to three ... up to and including one hundred or two hundred. The claim is, the more teachers one bows to the better! Actually, this is a great mistake within Buddhism. The Youth Sudhana, to be sure, made fifty-three visits; but he was carrying out the instructions of his teacher when he bowed to other teachers. He was doing what his own teachers told him to do when they said, “Now I have taught you all my wisdom, spiritual penetrations, and Way-virtue. I have nothing more to teach you. Do you still want to keep on studying Buddhism? Then go to such and such a place, at such and such a distance in the South, and in that spot there is a good, wise advisor who cultivates the Way. His/her name is such and such. Go and bow to him/her as your Master.” Thereupon the Youth Sudhana inasmuch as he for Dharma’s sake forgot about himself, that is, since in his quest for the Buddhadharma he completely forgot about his own sufferings set out for the South in search of the Buddhadharma. He traveled great distances, and afterwards encountered good, wise advisors. He underwent all sorts of hardships and difficulties studying and practicing the Buddhadharma. Because he was very intelligent, he would study and come to understand all the Buddhadharma that a particular good and wise advisor himself had understood; whereupon that good and wise would introduce him to yet another good and wise advisor, and he would draw near that advisor and study the Buddhadharma. One would introduce him to another, and in that way he was introduced to fifty-three good and wise advisors.

Those good and wise advisors were definitely not like the present “good and wise advisors” who only know how to climb on conditions: “If you come take refuge with me, first you have to make offerings to me, present me with a red envelope. You have to make offerings to the Triple Jewel and be respectful to your teacher.” Furthermore, if you want to go on to receive the precepts, you have to make more offerings to the Triple Jewel. If you want to go one further and leave home, you have  to make still more offerings to the Triple Jewel. At the time of leaving home and receiving the precepts, there are Three Masters and Seven Certifiers, and the preceptee must make offerings to all of them. All of the Youth Sudhana’s good and wise advisors at that time were not greedy for offerings. They did not climb on conditions. They were all good and wise advisors with spiritual penetrations. They had Way-virtue and spiritual accomplishments, and cultivated the Bodhisattva Way. They were not concerned about whether you made offerings or not. If you were seeking the Dharma with sincerity, they would teach you. That is how it happened that there were fifty-three good and wise advisors who taught the Youth Sudhana under the very last of whom he certified to the Fruit.

Presently the custom in Chinese Buddhism dictates that you visit teachers, the more the better. None of the lay people understand or find it strange. They figure the Buddhadharma is paying visits to teachers. This visiting of teachers has brought a lot of trouble into Buddhism. One Dharma Master’s refuge-disciple will go off and pay a visit to some other Dharma Master, and if the first Dharma Master knows about it, he gets jealous: “You want to go bow to another teacher? You’re really not a loyal disciple of mine! You’ve done me wrong! Obviously the reason you’re bowing to another teacher is that you have no faith in me.” He gets jealous and starts to hate his disciple: “You are certain to fall to the hells.” He may even curse his disciple with falling to the hells. That’s the reaction if you let the teacher know. What if he does not know; if you turn your back on your teacher and steal off to bow to another teacher? That’s what happens in Chinese Buddhism. They steal off and bow to other teachers. For example, if there’s a very famous Dharma Master, people say, “Oh! That Dharma Master is in town. Let’s go visit that teacher and take refuge with him!” They keep visiting teachers and taking refuge with them.

Now, when you take refuge, if you have faith in the Buddha, you definitely took refuge the first time, so why would you want to take refuge a second time? By so doing you’re just cheating yourself. If you figure, “Oh, the first time I didn’t understand, and I don’t know if when I took refuge the Buddha was able to come. At that time I was all sloppy and insincere, so the ceremony was all messed up.” If you figure the Buddha didn’t come the first time, the Buddha also will not come the second time. Why is that? The Buddha came the first time and the second time, upon seeing that you have already failed to believe in Buddhism, why should he come again? Now, why is it that these Dharma Masters do not say to you, “You shouldn’t bow to any other teachers. You can take refuge once and that’s it”? It’s because if they informed you, they wouldn’t get red envelopes. No one would make offerings. That is what is described by:

Left-home people are not greedy for wealth:
the more the better!

I’m speaking very frankly with you, telling you the way it is. What’s more, I’m absolutely not afraid of my disciples going and making visits to other teachers. Whoever wants to go visiting can go. So a few months ago someone came and said me, “I want to go some other place and bow to another teacher. Is that all right?” I said, “If you want to, that’s fine.” Why is that? It’s because if you think another teacher has Way-virtue and Buddhadharma to teach you, then it’s no problem. Provided that you tell me, I certainly will not prevent you. But in China they don’t give notice. They steal off and bow to teachers, which amounts to turning their backs on and opposing good teachers.

If they bowed to the teacher and then cultivated, that would be one thing; but they don’t cultivate either. After they’ve bowed to that teacher for a few days, they’ve had enough. They figure that teacher has gone stale, and go on to bow to a fresh, new teacher. Consequently within this one lifetime they don’t understand a single phrase of Buddhadharma. All they’ve done is bow to a certain number of teachers. For example, at New Year’s several Chinese lay people will all bow to a whole lot of teachers. One says, “I bow to eight,” the next says, “I bow to nine,” and the third says, “I bow to over ten, which is more than either of you.” However, they don’t get to fifty-three. Why do they bow like that? They’ll tell you, “The Youth Sudhana made fifty-three visits, so it’s a good idea for us to bow to a few more teachers. Then, for instance, if we fall into the water, one teacher can stretch out his hand and pull us out, but if there are more than ten, then it won’t take any effort at all.”

What they mean is that if they fall into the hells, if they have ten or so teachers, whichever teacher has Way-virtue can save them. Wouldn’t you say that was just too calculating and hypocritical, that they were conniving slippery-heads? If someone rubs oil on his head then King Yama can’t grab hold of him. The little ghost finds the oil-coated head very slippery: that’s a slippery-head. A few days ago someone came here and said he wanted to cut off his hair that is, shave his head and then be on his way. I said, “Don’t go.” He said, “I have to go. I still have things left to do. I’m going to New York and then to Canada.” I asked him, “If you’re shaving your head, what can you have left to do? You’re not shaving your head, you’re greasing your head!” Therefore, in cultivating the Way, you should recognize true principle. Don’t be like all those stupid couples who don’t understand any principle and who go...about all over the place.

Basically within Buddhism it’s good. However, there are a number of people who do not understand the Buddhadharma who are at error without being aware of it themselves. That way it becomes not good. For example, in this country a few years ago, before you five here had returned from going to Taiwan to receive the precepts, this person was a “Dharma Master,” and that person was a “Dharma Master.” Left-home people were “Dharma Master,” and lay people were also “Dharma Masters.” This “Dharma Master” was a Doctor, and that “Dharma Master” was a Professor. That is what they were getting away with. But since the five here came back from Taiwan, somehow or other all of those ‘precious jewels’ have been:

Without sound and without trace.

There’s nothing left at all. They’ve all been subdued. This one doesn’t go around saying he’s a Dharma Master, and that one doesn’t go around saying she’s a Dharma Master. Or, if they do grit their teeth and say they are themselves, still they’ve been humbled. So this is very strange. Now, we do not want to say that we are true or false. A few years ago in America there were no genuine left-home people Buddhist Bhikshus and Bhikshunis and now there are. Therefore, you Americans should support your fellow Americans, and not pay any attention to me. Even though I am introducing the Buddhadharma to you in this country now, you yourselves should go on to create your very own American Buddhism. But don’t make American Buddhism too “Beautiful”. If you make it too beautiful, that’s also an extreme. So you don’t want it too beautiful, and you Americans now should protect your fellow American left-home people.

When people first come here, before they have been here for a least half a year, they should not seek personal instruction from me. If they want personal instruction, to ask some question, they must wait at least half a year, six months. I remember one disciple who was here for a long time without my ever speaking to him. I realized he was someone who had really brought forth his resolve, and yet I didn’t speak with him. Why was that? In cultivating the Way, if you ask this question today and that question tomorrow, it loses its importance.



Opening Fine Dust-motes’ Sutra scrolls:
Then in every thought the fruit is won.
Exhausting sentient beings’ vow doors:
then in every dust-mote practice is fulfilled.


Opening Fine Dust-motes’ Sutra scrolls. To open, as before, means to disclose, in this case revealing the Sutra scrolls many as fine motes of dust. One could also explain it as opening and showing forth the rolls of Sutras that are within fine motes of dust. Fine motes of dust are most minute. However, within fine motes of dust there is the Dharma Realm; and there are limitless and boundless rolls of Sutras as well, which one opens and discloses. If you open and reveal Sutra scrolls as many as fine motes of dust, then in every thought the fruit is won. In thought after thought you accomplish the fruit of Buddhahood. One many also explain this as the Dharma door of opening up the verses and chapters within the Flower Adornment Sutra which are as many as fine motes of dust, and then within every single thought accomplishing the fruit of Buddhahood. Hence it goes on to say:

Exhausting living beings’ vow doors. No matter what vows you make, the vows made by you as a living being constitute limitless and boundlessly many doors. However, it can completely fulfill all of the doors of practice represented by the vows that living beings have made, and Then in every dust-mote practice is fulfilled. In each fine particle of dust, the power of practice of your cultivation of the Bodhisattva Way is accomplished. This represents your having cultivated limitless and boundlessly many doors of practice. If you rely upon the Flower Adornment Sutra in your cultivation of those kinds of doors of practice, then they can be perfected and your work will be accomplished. Therefore, the Flower Adornment Sutra is the most subtle and wonderful of Sutras.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: