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....
I return my life to the ten directions’
And the three times’ utmost reach,
To dust-mote kshetras’ Taming Masters of perfect clarity,
To the Dharma Realm’s Great Compassion Cloud of merit and virtue,
To Vairochana, the Great Wisdom Sea;
National Master Ch’ing Liang divides the discussion of this Sutra into four sections. What was previously discussed was the General Preface and Meaning of the Title. The passage of text now under consideration consists of a sixteen-line Gatha in which National Master Ch’ing Liang, before writing the Prologue and Commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra, first takes refuse with, worships and requests the Triple Jewel to enable him to open wisdom, and so it is called Taking Refuge, Worshipping, and Requesting Aid. The four lines of verse quoted above are taking refuge with the Buddha Jewel.
I return my life means, “I take refuge and return my life, giving it To the ten directions’ and the three times’ utmost reach. The three times are the past, the present and the future. This represents taking refuge with all the Buddhas of the ten directions and the three period of time, all the Buddha Jewel. To dust-mote kshetras’ Taming Masters of perfect clarity. Dust-mote kshetras are kshetra-lands many as fine particles of dust. Taming Master is one of the ten titles of the Buddha. Of perfect clarity: The wisdom of the Taming and Regulating Masters is perfect, and so is their merit and virtue. They tame and regulate the living beings of the Three Realms the Desire Realm, the Form Realm and the Formless Realm enabling them all to leave suffering and attain bliss. Those are the Regulating Masters, Great Guiding Masters who tame and regulate.
To the Dharma Realm’s Great Compassion Cloud of merit and virtue. To the exhaustion of empty space and of the Dharma Realm, in the ten directions and the three periods of time, extends the infinitely Great Compassion Cloud of merit and virtue. The “Great Compassion Cloud” is another name for the Buddha, and compares the Buddha to a cloud in empty space. To Vairochana, the Great Wisdom Sea. Vairochana, which is Sanskrit, is translated as “All-Pervasive Light,” and as “One of Great and Perfect Enlightenment.” The Great Sea of Enlightenment is the Great Wisdom Sea, and the Great Wisdom Sea is the Great Sea of Enlightenment.
The four lines of verse praise and take refuge with the Buddha Jewel. The next two lines constitute taking refuge with the Dharma, and so they say:
To the dwelling place most deep,
The true Dharma Nature,
To what flows forth whole and perfect as the Sutra;
To the dwelling place most deep, the true Dharma Nature. This says that there is nothing deeper than the true and actual Dharma Nature which is dwelt in, the true and actual Dharma Jewel. To what flows forth whole and perfect as the Sutra, that which flows forth whole and perfect means this perfect Sutra, the Flower Adornment Sutra.
The next two phrases represent taking refuge with the Sangha Jewel, and so they say:
In each assembly of the Buddhas in each dust-mote,
To Universal Worth, Manjushri, all Great Lords,
In each assembly of the Buddhas in each dust-mote. In each and every one of the countries many as fine motes of dust, in all places throughout the ten directions, in all the Buddhas’ Dharma Assemblies where all Buddhas are speaking Dharma, To Universal Worthy, Manjushri, and all Great Lords. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is an important Bodhisattva in the Flower Adornment Sutra. These are also Manjushri “Wonderfully Lucky” Bodhisattva, and all Great Lords: many other very great Bodhisattvas besides.
I now wish with my one hair’s breadth of wisdom,
To fathom the boundless Dharma Realm’s vast void.
National Master Ch’ing Liang now says, I now wish with my one hair’s breadth of wisdom... He means that his wisdom is too small, to fathom the boundless Dharma Realm’s vast void. How can one use as little as a hair’s breadth of wisdom, which is so very small, to fathom entirely the principle of true emptiness so large as that of the Dharma Realm? It cannot be fathomed to the end, and so National Master Ch’ing Liang goes on to say,
May I receive the Triple Jewel’s Compassion of Identity in Substance,
May I receive the Triple Jewel’s Compassion of Identity in substance. “I hope to rely on the kindness and Compassion of Identity in Substance of the Triple Jewel of the ten directions and the three periods of time.
In each phrase profoundly meshing with all Buddha’s intent.
May I in each phrase of this Commentary which I am writing to the Flower Adornment Sutra be in accord with the intent of all Buddhas, Profoundly meshing with all Buddhas’ intent. May it, in a deep way, be in harmony and tally with the thought in the mind of all Buddhas.”
May I cause the Dharma Eye to never, ever fail,
Exhausting realms of living beings like Universal Worthy.
I transfer this supreme good equally to all that live:
May they soon accomplish Bodhi’s fruit of never-ending bliss!
The first eight lines of this sixteen-line Gatha express taking refuge with the inexhaustibly infinite permanently-dwelling Triple Jewel of the ten directions. The following six lines request the permanently-dwelling Triple Jewel of the ten directions to come to his National Master Ch’ing Liang’s aid, be protective and mindful of him, and open his wisdom so that each phrase of the Commentary which he is writing will be in accord with the Buddha’s meaning:
Above, meshing with the Buddha’s mind;
Below, tallying with living beings’ potentials.
In the final two lines, he transfers the merit and virtue of the entire Commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra as a gift to the living beings of the Dharma Realm: May I cause the Dharma Eye forever not to fail. The Dharma Eye in this instance is The Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra. To cause it to forever not to fail means to prevent it from ever being deficient, to keep this Dharma from ever declining or disappearing. Therefore, he says, May I cause the Dharma Eye to forever not to fail, Exhausting Realms of living beings like Universal Worthy.
In the Flower Adornment Sutra, Universal Worthy Samantabhadra Bodhisattva is the Host who requests Dharma on behalf of all the beings who have appropriate potential. There is no way to know the state of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva, and so he is Universal Worthy Bodhisattva of Great Conduct. Universal Worthy Bodhisattva is in the mind of each and every living being, and the bodies and minds of all living beings are also within the mind of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. Therefore, National Master Ch’ing Liang says, Exhausting realms of living beings like Universal Worthy. All living beings can become transformation bodies of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. All of them can practice this great power of conduct.
I transfer this supreme good equally to all that live. This phrase transfers all the merit and virtue from his Commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra as a gift to all living beings of all the Dharma Realms of the ten directions. Supreme Good means the merit and virtue of this Commentary are exceptionally good, the very best. Equally means pervading everywhere, that the merit and virtue are given to all living beings everywhere, equally to all that live. Consequently, among those of old, some resolved to read and recite the Flower Adornment Sutra, some to write it out, some to make offerings to it, and some to receive and maintain it.
The Flower Adornment Sutra is such a large Sutra, with eighty-one rolls and one hundred thousand gathas. Some resolved to use the blood from their own bodies to write out the Flower Adornment Sutra character by character. That is their way of repaying the Buddha’s kindness, for the Buddha’s compassion towards living beings is so great. In New York right now there is a high monk who vowed on Wu T’ai Mountain to write out the Flower Adornment Sutra in his own blood. He for that reason calls himself “the Flower Adornment Cultivator,” meaning that he cultivates according to the methods of the Flower Adornment Sutra. To start with that Dharma Master was...as tutor, but after he left home he studied the Four Books the Analects, etc, little by little he learned to read and write, eventually could use his own blood to write out the Flower Adornment Sutra which is an inconceivable state.
One may also say that Dharma Master certainly has great causal affinities with the Flower Adornment Sutra. At present he has not yet gone to rebirth, and no one recognizes him; but after he goes off to rebirth, perhaps it will be known that he was a certain Bodhisattva, a certain Arhat, or someone similar come to this world to teach and transform living beings.
May they soon accomplish bodhi’s fruit of never-ending bliss! In his transference, National Master Ch’ing Liang is not retaining any of the merit and virtue for himself. He is not saying, “It’s my merit and virtue. I want all of the merit from writing this Commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra to put in my pocket and hang onto.” He’s not that way. He wants to transfer it as a gift to all living beings that exist. He universally extends this supremely good merit and virtue as a gift to all living beings of the Dharma Realm everywhere. In what way? In a way that makes all living beings of the Dharma Realm rapidly certify to the attainment of this great, perfect enlightenment, to the wonderful fruit of the Four Virtues of Nirvana:
- True Self.
To such constant bliss and such fruit of Enlightenment.
Therefore, you see that when a Bodhisattva makes a vow, it absolutely is not for his own sake. Consequently, when he makes a Commentary to a Sutra, he then wishes to transfer the merit and virtue to all the living beings of the Dharma Realm. He has not the slightest selfishness, never saying, “I made this Commentary, and I want all the merit and virtue myself.” Never. Instead he bestows it upon the living beings of the Dharma Realm. You and I at present all form part of those living beings, and National Master Ch’ing Liang is bestowing the merit and virtue from his Commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra upon us, the living beings of the present. Therefore, we should all now be grateful to National Master Ch’ing Liang for that kind of compassion which enables us to see this Commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra and rely upon it to study and cultivate the Buddhadharma. We should repeatedly bow to National Master Ch’ing Liang.
Before you have understood the Buddhadharma, when you hear these kinds of principles, they many seem very ordinary to you, and you may not recognize that they are inconceivable states. After you have understood these wonderful Dharma doors, then you will know that National Master Ch’ing Liang’s compassion and concern for all of us living beings leaves no subtlety unreached. He enables us to conceptualize and make the fines of discernments. If you at present, who are able to hear wonderful Dharma of this sort, did not have great good roots, you fundamentally would have no way to hear this kind of Dharma. No matter what kind of person you are: whether you cultivate or not, whether you have brought forth the thought for Bodhi or not, for people to be able to hear this kind of Dharma truly is like panning gold from sand. If one has never seen gold before, one may not recognize it as a precious substance. If you’ve never seen a diamond, you may mistake it for glass and wonder why it costs so much when you do see one. We are now in a similar position with regard to the Flower Adornment Sutra. Those of you who do not understand the Dharma may feel there is nothing much to it when you do hear it. Those who do understand how that this Dharma is incomparable. It is the highest, unsurpassed, most profound, subtle and wonderful Dharma there is.
National Master Ch’ing Liang, prior to writing the Commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra, beseeched the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the sea-wide Flower Adornment Assembly to come to his assistance and bestow some kind of miraculous portent. He went before the Buddhas and bowed to them, seeking with the utmost sincerity of mind. He kept seeking, and then one day he had a dream in which he saw a golden Buddha image, from which was emitted great light that universally illumined the Dharma Realm. Thereupon he took the light into both his hands and swallowed it. He ate all that light. One of my disciples also says he has eaten light, probably not the same light as that however. There is also Mahakashyapa who is called the Light Drinker. It’s not known how he drank the light, but National Master Ch’ing Liang did not drink it, he swallowed it right into his belly. After that, he wrote the Flower Adornment Sutra Preface without pause. It flowed from his pen non-stop and required no revision, because he had opened great wisdom. All the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas came to his aid and told him what to write. We have just finished discussing the Preface to that Commentary, which is the first section of the Prologue. The Prologue is longer than the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, and will take at least a year to lecture. The kind of state he had when he started writing the Commentary is called the Omen of Light Universally Illumining, the meaning of the portent being that the light of the Flower Adornment Sutra pervasively illumines the Dharma Realm.
When he was actually into the writing of the Commentary, another state occurred to National Master Ch’ing Liang. He dreamed that he turned into a dragon whose head extended to the southern peak of Wu T’ai, “Five Peak,” Mountain, also known as “Ch’ing Liang Mountain,” and whose tail stretched to the northern peak. Shortly afterwards, he changed into quintillions of dragons which flew off into space and then disappeared. As he thought about it later he realized, “Oh! The Flower Adornment Sutra will disseminate to the exhaustion of empty space, and everywhere throughout the Dharma Realm there will be the Flower Adornment Sutra!” those of you who succeed in opening your five eyes will see the Flower Adornment Sutra present to the exhaustion of empty space and everywhere throughout the Dharma Realm. The Commentary to the Flower Adornment Sutra by National Master Ch’ing Liang is also everywhere. You can see them as soon as you enter samadhi.
The Flower Adornment Sutra was spoken by the Buddha while in samadhi, using the mind in samadhi to speak the Dharma of samadhi, in order to cross over the Bodhisattvas whose minds were in samadhi. There is the Flower Adornment Sutra to the exhaustion of empty space and of the Dharma Realm. If you do not believe it, there is no way I can convince you. If you look into it, gradually you will come to believe. This kind of state is utterly inconceivable, and will be even more so when we discuss the actual text of the Sutra. There is fundamentally no way for you to understand this kind of state and know what it is like. If you try to use the thought of an ordinary person, you basically will not be able to conceptualize these principles if you do not understand the Buddhadharma. That is why it needs to be lectured, which will be done rather superficially, discussing its principles in terms of what you do know. Then, little by little, you will understand it.
There is probably no other place in the entire world where the Flower Adornment Sutra is being lectured. At the very least, this Dharma Assembly will take five years for the Sutra to be completely lectured. I lectured the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra for one year and one month in this country. Lectured quickly, this Sutra will take at least five years. During that time, all of you young people will get old, and maybe the old people will die and, having died, exchange their bodies and come back to hear the Sutra some more. There may be a lot of transformations in that five-year period a lot of changes of face. People who did not previously believe in the Buddha, upon hearing, will believe. Those who previously believed, after hearing it, will proceed to cultivate. Therefore, with this Flower Adornment Assembly about to begin in America, all of you are the most sincere of those who study the Buddhadharma in the entire world. Consequently, this is an opportunity difficult to meet.