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 title reads: the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra.
That is the general name for inexhaustible Sutras.
The Wondrous Adornments of World Rulers,
Chapter Number One,
is a specific heading for one of many sections.
The Title is the descriptive title, and reads means that it is called: the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra. The is the definite article, particularizing that it is this very Sutra. That is the general name for inexhaustible Sutras. That refers back to the previous words of the title. Inexhaustible means never used up, hence infinite. Here “inexhaustible” modifies “Sutras.” When it says, a general name for inexhaustible Sutras, it means that all Sutras are included within it, and so are described as inexhaustible, never used up. Those seven words: Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra include within them the names and principles of all Sutras whatsoever. Therefore, if those seven words were discussed in detail, since they are multi-layered and inexhaustible, there would be no way to finish discussing them. They form the title, which, because it generalizes, is called a general name.
The previous passage which discussed the Bodhisattva’s search for the secret, was the Grateful Rejoicing at the Encounter. He was very thankful and joyous, and so he said how fortunate it was that he happened upon it. The present passage of text is the tenth, that of the General Explanation of the Title, in which the title Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra is analyzed in a very summary fashion.
This Preface, divided into ten general topics:
1. Presentation of the Substance of the Doctrine.
2. Specific Praise of That Which Illustrates. “That which illustrates” means that which makes evident and displays the principles of the Sutra.
3. The Teaching Host’s Inconceivability. The Buddha is inconceivable.
4. The Spoken Meaning’s Universal Pervasion. The principles that are spoken are universally pervasive.
5. The Expression’s Inclusion of the Roots and the Branch-tips.
6. The Profound Subtlety of the Doctrine’s Intent. This kind of purport is very profound and subtle, deep and subtle, astonishing and wonderful.
7. The Accomplishment of Benefit of Sudden Transcendence. This kind of benefit it that of sudden transcendence. One accomplishes the benefit of sudden overstepping.
8. Concluding Praise of its Vast Scope. It praises this Sutra’s vast reach and extensive scope.
9. Grateful Rejoicing at the Encounter.
10. General Explanation of the Title.
Those are the names of the ten passages by topic. This particular passage is the tenth, the General Explanation of the Title. In a very summary fashion the descriptive title is explained.
“The Wondrous Adornments or World Rulers, chapter number one”: The “World Rulers” are the rulers of the world and of what transcend the world. All the kings in the world are worldly rulers, while the Buddha is the Ruler of what transcends the world. The wonderful adornments are those of Dharma doors. Dependent retribution and proper retribution are both wondrous adornments, being subtle, wonderful, and adorning. This particular chapter is arranged as the first among the thirty-nine chapters which comprise, so it says it Is specific heading for one of many sections. It is the name of a particular section among the numerous chapter divisions of the Flower Adornment Sutra.
It may be that now while we are lecturing the Great means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra a number of earthquakes will occur, inasmuch as when the Great means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra is lectured, the earth trembles and quakes in six ways. So if this sort of event should take place, none of you should be afraid. They can only be minor, not severe earthquakes, because the good Dharma-protecting spirits are protecting the Dharma assembly. Even then there are also demon kings who come to trouble the Dharma Assembly, and so when, as regularly happens, people come and pound on the door, you should not move your minds. The Flower Adornment Sutra should be lectured with one’s mind in samadhi, which is how Shakyamuni Buddha spoke it, and all the Bodhisattvas listened to the Sutra with their minds in samadhi. It was in samadhi that the Dharma was spoken, so if something unusual should happen, none of you should be afraid. There may be nothing it’s not fixed. There is no fixed Dharma.
In the Chin Dynasty, there was a Dharma Master who made the first translation of the Flower Adornment Sutra, working in Bodhimanda Monastery. Every day right at the time when he was translating the Sutra, from the pool of water in front of the hall there would appear two youths, bounding and leaping, each one holding fresh flowers in his hands. They would approach, light incense, and make offerings to that Dharma Master. On those occasions it was not just the Dharma Master who was aware of what was going on. Within the Dharma Assembly there were many who knew of and saw those events, but not everyone saw them. Why not? It was because at that time there were people with deep, thick good roots, all of whom had opened the Dharma Eye which enabled them to see this.
The reason the two youths came to make offerings to the Dharma Assembly was that the Sutra had been stored in the Dragons’ Palace for several hundred years. Dragon Tree Bodhisattva appeared in this world six hundred years after the Buddha’s entry to Nirvana. During that six-hundred year period, no one knew about the Flower Adornment Sutra which was stored away in the Dragon Palace. Dragon Tree Bodhisattva went to the Dragon Palace, read the Sutra once, and remembered it, because he never forgot what passed before his eyes, the power of his memory being especially good. He remembered it very clearly after one reading, and transmitted it to the world. The Dragon King was also very happy to have the Flower Adornment Sutra circulate in the world. He didn’t selfishly say, “My Sutra in the Dragon Palace is an untransmitted secret, a hidden Dharma which people are not permitted to know.” He was not like that, but instead was delighted and said, “It’s really most wonderful that the Great Vehicle Dharma is being transmitted in the world,” and commissioned the dragon sons and dragon grandsons to appear by transformation as a pair of youths and make offerings to that Dharma Assembly.
The Dharma Assembly at that time was one in which the Sutra was being translated, not one in which it was being lectured. Right when people were translating, the two youths would appear and light incense before the Buddhas and make offerings of flowers. This is know as the Portent of the Appearance of the Pair of Youths, and is an event about which most Buddhists know. Now while we are lecturing the Flower Adornment Sutra, the earth may quake in six different ways, or various other kinds of things could happen. I’m telling you in advance so that if the earth quakes you won’t be afraid. On the other hand, it may not happen, for I have no Way-virtue, and it may be that I am lecturing the principles in a very superficial way, not at all in hormony with the Buddha’s Mind Seal Dharma. In that case the good Dharma-protecting spirits may pay no attention saying, “Let them lecture as they please.” But if it should happen that during the Sutra lecture the earth and lecture hall tremble, be forewarned and don’t be afraid.
Some people are bringing up a further problem, saying, “It is impossible for the place where this Sutra is being lectured to have an earthquake, because for four or five years now, Dharma Master, you have been telling us that San Francisco cannot have an earthquake that as long as you are in San Francisco there will be no earthquakes, or if there are any, they would be very slight. If there is an earthquake this year, won’t that be a case of contradiction between what was said before and afterwards? Not bad, it would be very contradictory. Telling it not to quake when it’s time for it to quake, and telling it to quake when it’s not time for it to quake is a case of there being no fixed Dharma. As it happens, one of my disciples called me on the phone a few days ago and questioned me that evening saying, “Everyone says there’s going to be an earthquake in New York tomorrow. If there’s certain to be an earthquake, then I’ll come back sooner. If there’s not going to be an earthquake, then I’ll wait until the fifth or sixth of next month.” When I first replied to her I said, “I don’t know, because right now I’m not in New York and I don’t know what’s happening in New York.” After we had talked a couple of minutes more, she asked again and said, “What about it?” I said, “It’s not serious. Don’t be afraid. If the earth quakes, it quakes. What are you going paying attention to that?” Now I read in the papers that there was no earthquake in New York, so this matter has passed ... Now if we have an earthquake in San Francisco, it’s not serious, so don’t be afraid. While we are lecturing the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra, perhaps some kind of inconceivable state may manifest.
In the T’ang Dynasty, when Dharma Master Shikshananda had finished translating the Flower Adornment Sutra, National Master Hsien Shou preceded to lecture it. The translation was begun in the first year of the Cheng Sheng reign period, the afternoon of the 14th day of the third month, and took until the second year of the Sheng Li reign period, the eighth day of the tenth month to complete. Right before the translation of the Sutra had begun, the empress Wu Tsai T’ien, who was probably not far removed in time from the Sixth Patriarch, had a dream. In the dream, in heaven and on earth throughout the entire universe there fell sweet dew, no place being without it. This made her very happy, and so she requested Dharma Master Shiksananda to translate this Sutra. He translated the present Sutra in eighty rolls, eighty-one rolls if one counts the “Chapter of the Conduct and Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva,” in thirty-nine chapters. After the translation of the Sutra had begun, as it turned out, rain fell and all the rain was sweet. That was an auspicious portent.
After the Sutra had been translated, National Master Hsien Shou began to lecture it at Buddha’s Bestowal of Predictions Monastery. The lecture series began on the fifteenth day of the tenth month. On the evening of the twelfth day of the twelfth month, the Sutra had been lectured as far as the seas of world-systems of the Flower Treasury to where the earth quakes. Right then there was an earthquake! Right at that time the monastery all of a sudden experienced an earthquake and everything shook. On that occasion there were several thousand people, both left-home and lay-persons, who had assembled there to listen to the lectures, all of whom felt the earth quake. There had never been anything like it before, but it happened, and so they called it obtaining what had never before existed.
Thereupon Dharma Master Shikshananda, along with a Vinaya Master of the time named Ming Ch’uan and another Dharma Master named Te Wei composed an account of the earthquake and sent it to Wu Tsai T’ien. When Wu Tsai T’ien, in her own hand, penned her remarks, she said, “Before you even wrote your account, I had already seen it. For at the time of lecturing the Sutra, when this secret, hidden Dharma was being propagated, in a dream I had already seen the sweet-dew portent, the omen of the heavens universally raining down sweet dew. And now that the lecturing of the Sutra has begun, for the earth to quake in six ways, is truly an inconceivable kind of state! This event should be broadcast throughout the world, and everyone in the world should be informed about this auspicious occurrence.”
|Great||is extensive union with no boundaries|
|Means||are proper Dharmas personally maintained|
|Expansive||says it fits the substance totality|
|Buddha||is awakened to this mysterious wonder|
|Flower||stands for virtues from the myriad conducts|
|Adornment’s||decorative Dharmas on the accomplished person|
is the flow without end of a bubbling spring,
Stringing deep crystalizations of wonderful meanings. Attracting the boundless, sea-wide assembly. It acts for late and ancient as a constant rule
The Buddha and all kings are called the World Rulers.
Dharma doors dependent and proper are both styled Wonderful Adornments.
In dividing meaning-units and assigning chapter names,
What caps the other sections is called number one.
This passage is the General Explanation of the Title. “General” means “summary”, and “Explanation” means “elucidation.” “The Title” is the Sutra’s descriptive title, its name. The seven words Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra combine into six pairs, and each word can be further divided into ten meanings, each of those meanings including within it limitless and boundlessly many principles.
The six pairs are:
- Teaching and Meaning.
- General and Particular.
- Subject and Object.
- Person and Dharma.
- Function and Substance.
- Appearance and Nature.
The single word Sutra, taken by itself, belongs to Teaching. The six words that precede it, i.e., Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment, belong to Meaning. That is the pair of Teaching and Meaning. The second pair is that of Adornment, which belongs to General, and the preceding five words Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower, which belong to Particular. That is the pair of General and Particular. The third: “Flower” is that which adorned, and “Great Means Expansive Buddha” is that which is adorned, and so the “Flower” is the subject, and the preceding four words are the object. The fourth consists of Buddha, the Person who becomes accomplished, while the preceding words Great Means Expansive are the Dharmas which adorn. That is the pair of Person and Dharma. In the fifth, Expansive is a Function, and the two preceding words Great Means are Substance. That is the pair of Function and Substance. The sixth has Means, which is an Appearance, and Great, which belongs to Nature. That is the pair of Appearance and Nature. All together there are six pairs. If the seven words Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra are discussed in detail, there are very many meanings, and the principles are even deeper and more wonderful than those of the Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
Great is extensive union with no boundaries. The meaning of the word Great is that of vast extension without any boundaries or limitations. Means are proper Dharmas personally maintained. Means are methods. There are proper and improper methods. Here this is to cultivate and maintain oneself by means of proper Dharmas or methods to use orthodox rules to guide oneself. Expansive says it fits the substance in totality. However great the substance may be, this Sutra’s principles are just that great, not more and not less, not greater and not smaller. They are a perfect match just right. Buddha is awakened to this mysterious wonder. The Buddha has awakened to the mysterious wonder of the principles of the Flower Adornment Sutra.
Flower stands for virtues from the myriad conducts. Flowers are a comparison for the perfection of the meritorious virtues of the Ten Thousand Conducts, which are like blossoming flowers.
Adornment’s decorative Dharmas on the accomplished person. The adornment decorates and ornaments the Buddha’s Ten Bodies. Sutra is the flow without end of a bubbling spring. This is as when, from within the earth, there bubbles forth an eternal spring whose flow never ceases and which is never used up. The flow of water can be used in ten thousand places and yet never be cut off. It is continuous and without interruption, and so is like a bubbling spring. Stringing deep crystalizations of wonderful meanings. To string is to thread, as if on a string, these most mysterious and wonderful solidifications of meanings, these inconceivable principles. Attracting the boundless, sea-wide assembly. This Sutra is able to attract the boundless, sea-wide assembly the number of people who come being like the great sea in the same way a magnet attracts iron filings. It acts for late and ancient as a constant rule. This Sutra is used for late and ancient, that is, in the past and in the present, as a guiding rule.
The Buddha and all kings are called the World Rulers.
Dharma doors dependent and proper are both styled Wonderful Adornments.
In dividing meaning-units and assigning chapter names,
What caps the other sections is called number one.
The Buddha and all kings are called the World Rulers. The Buddha and all of the worldly Wheel-Turning Sage Kings, namely the Gold Wheel-Turning Sage King, the Silver Wheel-Turning Sage King, the Bronze Wheel-Turning Sage King, and the Iron Wheel-Turning Sage King, are called World Rulers. The Buddha is the Dharma King while all those Kings are worldly rulers. The Buddha may also be described as the Ruler of the world and of what transcends the world, and is therefore called the World Ruler. The World Rulers belong to the worlds, there being Three Worlds:
- The World of Proper Enlightenment.
- The World of Utensils.
- The World of Living Beings.
Of the Three Worlds, the Buddha is the Ruler of the World of Proper Enlightenment. All the Kings are the Rulers of the World of Utensils. The Lords of Gods, Lords of Dragons, Yaksha Lords and so forth are the Rulers of the Worlds of Living Beings.
Dharma doors dependent and proper are both styled Wonder Adornments. Dharma doors are the doors of the Buddhadharma. Dependent is Dependent Retribution, and Proper is Proper Retribution. The two retributions, dependent and proper, are both called wonderful adornment. Those subtle and wonderful flowers are used as adornment. World-rulers belong to the world. Dependent Retribution means all of the:
Mountains, rivers, the great earth;
Houses, verandahs, porches and sheds.
Those are the places we rely on, where we dwell, and so are called the dependent retributions. All living beings are called proper retribution. Those are the two retributions, dependent and proper. Those kinds of states are inconceivable, and so they are both styled, known as, wonderful adornment.
In dividing meaning-units and assigning chapter names. In making a division into meaningful chapter-units and assigning the names of the descriptive titles of the chapters, what caps the other sections is called number one. This chapter comes before all of the other chapters, and so it is said to cap them, that is, to come before them. To cap is to put a hat on someone, and this chapter, coming before the others, is as it were worn like a hat. What caps the other sections is called Number One. It is designated as the first chapter.
The Seven Kinds of Greatness may also be employed to describe the meaning of the seven words, Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra:
|Word of Title||Greatness Represented|
|Great||Greatness of Substance|
|Means||Greatness of Appearance|
|Expansive||Greatness of Function|
|Buddha||Greatness of Fruit|
|Flower||Greatness of Cause|
|Adornment||Greatness of Knowledge|
|Sutra||Greatness of Teaching|
If you were to discuss the name of this Sutra in detail you would not finish discussing it to the exhaustion of the boundaries of the future. Not to speak of five years, in fifty years it would not be spoken to the end. However, we are not going to discuss it that way, but will just speak it very simply: for whatever way you lecture the title of this Sutra is in accord with Dharma. If you discuss it horizontally, it has principle; if you discuss it vertically, it also has principle. Therefore it is said:
Discussed in horizontal terms,
discussed on the vertical plane;
Discussed in terms of dust-motes,
Discussed on the scale of kshetras.
Any way it is discussed it has infinite and inexhaustibly many principles. Dust-motes means subtle and minute particles, and kshetras means large-scale lands or countries. Whatever way it is discussed it has principle, and so this Sutra is truly one of no fixed Dharma.
This Sutra has thirty-nine chapters,
This chapter comes first.
Therefore it is called the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra,
the World Rulers’ Wondrous Adornments of the World Rulers, Chapter Number One.
The number of chapters in the Flower Adornment Sutra is thirty-nine. Originally there were forty-five chapters, but six chapters were not translated from the original Indian language into Chinese. Nonetheless, the Sutra has all of the requisite divisions:
- Prefatory Division.
- Division of the Text Proper.
- Division of the Transmission.
Therefore it may be considered an entire Sutra, and so it says, This Sutra, that is, the present Flower Adornment Sutra, has thirty-nine chapters. All together there are eighty rolls, eighty-one if one counts the Chapter of the Conduct and Vows of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. This Chapter Comes First. This Chapter is the World-Rulers’ Wonderful Adornments Chapter. That it comes first means that is was put in the front, at the very beginning.
Therefore it is called the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra, the Wondrous Adornments of World Rulers, Chapter Number One.
The Flower Adornment Sutra is the greatest among the successive Teachings spoken by the Buddha. Previously, in the T’ang Dynasty, the Emperor T’ang T’ai Tsung, whose Reign Period was Chen Kuan, asked Dharma master Hsuan Tsang, “Which is the biggest of all the Sutras spoken by the Buddha?” Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang replied, “The Flower Adornment Sutra is the biggest.” T’ang T’ai Tsung wanted to recite a Sutra, but he wanted to recite a big Sutra, not a small one, which is why he asked that question. “The Flower Adornment Sutra?” he asked incredulously. At that time they were still using the Chin Dynasty translation of the Flower Adornment Sutra in sixty rolls. Afterwards, Dharma Master Shikshananda translated it, adding twenty rolls making eighty rolls, but at that time it only had sixty. “You say that the Flower Adornment Sutra is the biggest, but the Great Prajna Sutra has six hundred rolls, while it has only sixty.
How can the Flower Adornment Sutra be the biggest?” Dharma Master Hsuan Tsang then told him, “The Flower Adornment Sutra is such that one single door can open limitless doors, in multi-layered inexhaustibility. This Dharma is inconceivable, whereas the Great Prajna Sutra is just a single door within the Flower Adornment Sutra.” Thereupon T’ang T’ai Tsung exclusively recited the Flower Adornment Sutra.
The state of the Flower Adornment Sutra is not something that you can conceptualize. You cannot conceive of it.
In the past, during the Pei Ch’i Period (479 - 501), the third son of the Emperor went to Wu T’ai, “Five Peak Mountain” to burn his body as an offering to Manjushri Bodhisattva. On that occasion there was, among his escorts, a eunuch by the name of Liu Ch’ien who, upon seeing the Emperor’s son decide to burn himself as an offering to the Bodhisattva Manjushri, sought the Emperor’s permission to leave home himself. The Emperor granted his request, and after he had left home he devoted himself to reading and reciting the Flower Adornment Sutra. He was particularly sincere, and was vigorous day and night, seeking some sort of response. After he had cultivated for a certain time, his beard began to grow. Basically eunuchs do not have beards, but as he cultivated his beard started to grow, and he had all the masculine characteristics which eunuchs lack. After that he opened enlightenment and went on to write the Flower Adornment Treatise. Upon completing it, he died with no illness. That was one.
There was also the Elder Lee who cultivated the Flower Adornment Sutra, reading and reciting it. At one point he set out in search of a good place to cultivate. As he was walking down the road, he met a tiger. The tiger acted very friendly towards him. Basically tigers harm people, but when this one saw the Elder Lee, it acted as if they were old friends. The Elder Lee said to the tiger, “Right now I’m looking for a place to cultivate and do my work. Can you help me find such a place?” The tiger seemed to nod its head in confirmation, and so the Elder piled his gear upon the tiger’s back for the tiger to carry. After they had traveled some thirty miles, they came to mountain cave. The tiger stopped outside the cave and went no further. The Elder Lee looked inside and found the cave not bad at all, and so he stayed there to cultivate. The only trouble was that the place had no water. However, that very evening a great wind blew up, which uprooted an ancient pinetree, from the roots of which water flowed forth. So he used that water and cultivated there, and wrote a treatise on the Flower Adornment Sutra. There are many states of that sort, all proving that the Flower Adornment Sutra is inconceivable.