Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva
Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra Lecture #1, September 9, 2000.
Lectured by Reverend Heng Sure of Berkeley Monastery.
Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra Lecture #2, September 16, 2000.
Lectured by Reverend Heng Sure of Berkeley Monastery.
There are five schools within Buddhism: Pureland (they recite the BuddhaỖs name), ChỖan (Zen, emphasis on direct insight and meditation), Esoteric (mantras), Vinaya (precepts), and Teaching (study of sutras). The method we use to classify the Earth Store Sutra is based on the Tien Tai Sect. Another method, though not as popular as the Tien Tai, is the Avatamsaka. Hence, Tien Tai and Avatamsaka are the two main teaching School divisions. The Teaching School is a more "left-brain" approach in which there is a lot of analysis. Yet, all the school fall within Buddhism, just like Christianity, Catholic, Judaism, and Islam are Abrahamic religions.
One salient principle of the Earth Store Sutra is filial respect. Filial came from the French word fis meaning "son." The first relationship a child has is with his/her parents. In West (and also in the East), there is much tension in this relationship. Confucius said that the superior person attends to the roots. When the roots are set firmly, the Tao can spring forth. Enlightenment comes from the roots. Many Zen masters of the past looked for their parents upon enlightenment, e.g., Mahamaudgalyayana found his mother in hell. Parents are connections to the human aspect of life. If this relationship is not ideal, it can be difficult and scary to deal with. Earth Store Bodhisattva is a filial bodhisattva. Between heaven and earth filiality is the foremost virtue. With one filial child, the entire family is at peace. If we are filial to our parents, our kids will be filial towards us.
Filiality is not only taught by Easterners. Moses also "commanded" filiality in one of the Ten Commandments: "Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Without parents, we have no bodies; without a body, one cannot become a Buddha.
Another principle in this sutra is crossing over living beings. Crossing over means to go from affliction to bodhi. To cross over living beings, bodhisattvas use the six paramitas: giving, precepts, patience, vigor, concentration, and wisdom. We will talk in greater details about this in future lectures.
Earth Store Bodhisattva is a tenth stage bodhisattva who has vowed to rescue all living beings, especially those who are in hell; he is right there with them. This sutra is full of methods that are practical in many phases of life-at birth, pregnancy, and death. So stay tuned!
Another principle in this sutra is repaying kindness, i.e., gratitude. Sometimes when life seems so hectic with traffic jams and pandemonium in the family, we forget how much blessings we have, compared with other people in the world. Be grateful! This sutra reminds us to be grateful, to the point that even a sip of water is great joy.
Master Heng Syan told a story about filial respect. In one family, there was a grandfather who was very old and couldnỖt take of himself. Whenever he ate, he would make a big mess all around. His son was fed up with the sloppiness and decided do something about it. He in turn told his son (the grandkid), to go to a carpenter and order a trough. Grandfather would be placed in it to contain the mess. In effect, grandfather would be treated like an animal. The grandkid said, "Dad, I will order two troughs." The father said, "Why? We only need one." The kid said, "We need one for grandfather and when you become old, I will use the other one for you." The father cancelled the order and treated grandfather like a human being from that time on.
There are three kinds of filiality:
1. limited - filial to family members, but not to other people. This is not ultimate filiality.
2. extensive - take all mothers and fathers as your own. For example, there are many lonely elders. When we visit them, they welcome it like the rising sun. If we didnỖt have a chance to be filial when our parents were in the world, find an elder. As the verse goes, "The tree would be still, but the wind does not stop. The child wishes to be filial, but his parents are gone." Is there any difference between being filial to our parents and another elder? It is like eating a fruit from your tree or from a farm-weỖre still eating the fruit. Or like enjoying the shade of a tree in our yard and a tree at the park. Kids today come home to an empty house because the parents are away. Kids will take root with TV and/or gangs. This filiality, though extensive, it still limited.
3. ultimate - reaching Buddhahood is ultimate filiality. A Buddha has kinship with all living beings-animals, hell-dwellers, ghosts, asuras, and devas. The Buddha connects with all living beings. One thought touches all.
Reverend Heng Sure recalled that during his bowing pilgrimage, every scolding that he gave his parents when he was young surfaced in his mind. He recalled having strong hateful thoughts of his parents when he was grounded. This kind of thoughts cuts off the roots of life.
Master Syan recalled that he was asked a question of how it would be possible to attain ultimate filiality in the midst of this "degenerative" society. In a society in which kids take off at 18 and later send their parents to nursing homes. Master Syan responded, "Return the light and shine within. Transform ourselves first. Heal ourselves then we can do good for living beings."
Earth Store Bodhisattva
Sutra Lecture #3, September 23, 2000.
Lectured by Reverend Heng Sure of Berkeley Monastery.
When Tiger Woods won the Master's Tournament, he gave his father a huge hug. In the public life, he acknowledged the connection to his folks. The same can be said of the Williams sisters in which their parents are at the center of their success.
Unfortunately, in our culture, elderly are often
"throwaway." People don't see filiality as important. Traditional cultures
respect the connection between parents and children. Great people are close to the roots;
i.e., they value filiality. In China, there is a book called
Here are two stories from the book (taken from the UCSD link above):
12. HE LAY ON ICE IN SEARCH OF CARP
Wáng Xiáng of the Jìn dynasty lost his mother early. His stepmother, named Zhu, was unloving toward him and unceasingly spoke ill of him before his father. Because of this, he also he lost the love of his father. His stepmother often liked to eat fresh fish, but one winter the cold froze [the river] to ice. Xiáng loosened his clothes and lay on the ice to [melt it so he could] procure them. Suddenly the ice opened of itself and a pair of carp leapt out. He took them and returned to serve them to his stepmother. A verse speaks of this:
We have seen stepmothers before,
But never a Wáng Xiáng,
Until today upon the river, when
He left us a model by lying on the ice.
17. HE AMUSED HIS PARENTS WITH PLAY AND GLAD CLOTHES
Old man Lái of the Zhou dynasty was noted for his filial nature. He respectfully cared for his two parents, preparing them sweet and crispy foods. He was over seventy, but he never mentioned the word "old." He wore five-colored patterned clothes and played like a child before his parents; often he carried water into the room and would slip and fall, and then he would cry like a baby to amuse his parents. A verse says of him:
He plays and dances and pretends delicate nonsense;
The spring wind blows his colorful clothes;
His two parents throw open their mouths in laughter,
And their joy fills the hall.
Earth Store Bodhisattva is ultimately filial. His parents are not just biological, but includes all living beings.
Explanation of the Sutra Title (Sutra of the Past Vows of Earth Store Bodhisattva)
There are seven classifications of sutra titles:
1) Person, e.g., the Amitabha Sutra,
2) Dharma, Mahaparinirvana Sutra
3) Analogy, The Brahma Net Sutra,
4) Person and Dharma, The Sutra of the Questions of Manjushri,
5) Person and an analogy, e.g., The Sutra of the Lion's Roar of the Thus Come One,
6) Dharma and an analogy, e.g., The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra
7) Person, Dharma, and analogy together, e.g., The Great Universal Buddha Flower Adornment Sutra
A vow is a Dharma. It is a very powerful promise that can originate from many lifetimes earlier. (Here we assume that everyone believes in the existence of past lives.) When we make a vow in the past lives, it will mature or come to fruition in future lives. It is a powerful seed. Look at marriage. Some people know immediately when their spouse-to-be shows up. Conversely, "Upon seeing his face, I hated his guts!" We plant the seeds; the condition makes it mature. Hence, be careful what we think!
Earth Store Bodhisattva made a great vow: "Until the hells are empty I will never become a Buddha." Earth Store Bodhisattva is a 10th stage bodhisattva who is a thought away from Buddhahood. In the Bay Area in which people are constantly in a hurry, Earth Store Bodhisattva wants to be last. If in our mind, we make a similar resolve, we are Earth Store Bodhisattva. Where are the hells? The hells begin in the mind. Hell can be in our mind and it can also be a real and horrible place.
Reverend Heng Sure told a story about hell and how it can easily be transformed into heaven. There is a lavish banquet going on and people are glued to their chairs around a sumptuous dinner table. The table is big and people have to use very long spoons and chopsticks. Unfortunately, because of the long utensils, people cannot eat. Hence, not being able to enjoy in the midst of abundance is hellish. A while later, St. Peter tells Satan, "Look now. Hell has become heaven." How? People are feeding each other.
Earth Store Bodhisattva
Sutra Lecture #4, September
Lectured by Reverend Heng Sure of Berkeley Monastery.
Reverend Heng Sure started the lecture
by asking people in the audience what books changed their lives. Several responses were
a guideline or chalk line that allows us to walk the straight path, creates a straight line to cut confusion.
a thread that strings things together; for example, the beads would be useless with the thread. No sutra, no Dharma for future generations.
permanent Ờ nothing added, nothing subtracted.
tally Ờ teachings in sutra tallies with the Buddha's mind and living beings' mind.
bubbling spring Ờ a source of spiritual nourishment, in the same way that a water spring nourishes life.
well rope Ờ allows us to extract the deep wisdom from the Buddha's mind.
The word sutra in Chinese is jing. However, jing in Chinese has several uses. For example, the jing in I-Jing (Book of Changes) or Dao De Jing, does not mean the same as the jing in Buddhist sutras, albeit the same character is used.
The Venerable Master, after three years
sitting by his mother's grave came to the realization that Catholicism was a major religion in the world because the Bible had
been translated to many languages. Buddhist sutras, as great and wonderful as they are,
are limited to a handful of languages. He therefore made a vow to make sutras available
The Venerable Master came from a
generation in which memorization was the primary learning technique. Today, memorization
is not emphasized as much. Words are like confetti and are disposable. When he first left
the home life, Reverend Heng Sure
Sutras are principles that permeate the universe. Anyone with a pure mind can tap into the source and speak all the sutras. Sutras are omnipresent. Depending on the conditions, different Buddhas speak different sutras.
After lunch during the bowing pilgrimage, Reverend Heng Sure took a stroll along the beach and saw a dead seal. The seal had been dead for quite some time and his body was half rotted. Reverend Heng Sure saw the seal's bones showing through his skin. The bones gave him his shape as a seal. Reverend Heng Sure thought, "I felt the sutra Dharma that I was memorizing as I walked on the beach giving me a shape, too. Like bones providing a shape for my 'Dharma body,' the principles of the sutra, beneath my skin, had already begun to give me an eternal shape. Would it be a Buddha in the future, a Bodhisattva, a Sage, an Arhat, a Worthy? It depends on the Dharma that I memorized and digested. The seal was 'speaking Dharma' for me, manifesting externally what I was experiencing inside. The sutra principles, right away, were giving me some new vajra indestructible strength inside."
Reading sutras creates immeasurable merit and virtue. The Diamond Sutra says there is immeasurable merit and virtue in reciting just a four-line verse:
Reverend Heng Syan told the audience a famous verse: "If we look at the sutra at face value, then we do an injustice to the Buddhas of the three periods of time; if we depart from the sutra by even a single word, then we speak the words of the demons." Reverend Heng Syan said we should not be too rigid when it comes to the meanings within the sutras. We should not always speak the same sutra to everybody and in every situation. We must use our wisdom to explain according to the capacity of the audience. We should speak in a way that is flexible and, at the same time, tallies with the principles in the sutras. Reverend Heng Syan encouraged everyone to speak Dharma and not rely solely on monks and nuns. If young people stop coming to temples, then by the next generation, we will have deserted temples. Young people of today must bear the torch to preserve the proper Dharma.
Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra Lecture #5, October 7, 2000.
Lectured by Reverend Heng Sure of
Earth Store Sutra was first lectured by the Venerable Master in 1968-1969, the beginning
of the AbbotỖs teachings to westerners. The commentary in the white book, published
by the Institute for the Advanced Studies of World Religions (IAWR) came from the
1968-1969 lecture. The Venerable Master lectured this sutra again in the early 1980s. With
this Dharma talk in Berkeley, this is now the third time the Earth Store Sutra is lectured
Before getting into the sutra text, Reverend Heng Sure discussed the titles of the 13 chapters in the sutra.
In Earth Store Sutra there is a chapter about how to find out where a loved one has gone after death (parent or children). If we cultivate a certain method, Earth Store Bodhisattva would come in a dream to tell us where. It involves being pure and reciting the sutra. Purity means abstaining from meat, alcohol, and sexual contact for a certain time. Who among us will not lose our parents at some point in life? Are we going to approach it from Earth Store BodhisattvaỖs wisdom or are we going to use worldly emotion and ignorance?
Reverend Heng Sure told a story about two UCB students who died in the summer of 1995. At the same time as when the Venerable Master was about to leave the world, Reverend Heng Sure heard news of two UCB students who had gone to the beach in SF and was swept out into the water and drowned. The body of the girl came back to shore and the boyỖs did not come back right away. These kids were part of the UC Berkeley Buddhist group. The parents of the girl found it hard to cope. The parents of the boy relied on the Dharma much greater than before. The families and friends recited the Buddha's name at the Berkeley Monastery and got through it. A year later, the father of the boy wanted to come back and do a one-year retrospective to wrap things up. After the memorial ceremony, there was a stick of incense on Earth Store BodhisattvaỖs altar whose ashes had formed a complete circle. People took that as a sign of completion. A huge grief was resolved. Two months later, the father of the boy came and related a dream about his son to Reverend Heng Sure. In the dream, he saw and felt the warm hands of his son. His son told him not to worry and that he was moving on. He encouraged his father to calm down and continue cultivating. It so happened that the father had been reciting the Earth Store Sutra everyday, especially the chapter about finding out where a loved one has gone after death.
Who of us will not die? Who do we turn to when things like this happen? Americans need this kind of guidance too.
Reverend Heng Syan told the audience he recited the Earth Store Sutra for his ailing father. The father passed away peacefully and, at times, he saw his father in dreams wearing a gray attire of a left home person.
Reverend Heng Sure spoke at the Zen Center today. People there were at the peak of empirical science. There were doctors, lawyers, and many sharp people. Their understanding was from psychology and science. To bring out Earth Store Bodhisattva, contact with the realm of spirits, faith in cause and effect, realms of hell, ghost, etc. is a big step. We want to open it up. Westerners need to understand this clearly. It needs to be explained. These topics are sometimes considered superstitious, cult-like, idolatry, and so forth. We are not going to look down on Western views, but instead, offer another way to look at the world. We can get a dialog going and make it work. We want to honor Western tradition; we want to bridge this understanding.
Earth Store Bodhisattva Sutra Lecture #6 and #7 , October 14 and 28, 2000.
"The Earth Store Sutra was translated in the Tang Dynasty by Tripitaka Master Sramana Siksananda of Khotan."
Siksananda means "Joy of Learning." He came to China with the Avatamsaka and Earth Store Sutra. Sramana is a Sanskrit word which means 'diligently putting to rest.' The sramana diligently cultivates precepts, samadhi, and wisdom, and he puts to rest and extinguishes greed, hatred, and stupidity.
"Spiritual Penetration in the Trayatrimsha Heaven"
Trayastrimsha means Heaven of 33. It is the second heaven closest to us. It is called 33 because there is one heaven surrounded by 32 other heavens. The heaven directly above our earthly realm is called the Heaven of Four Kings. The heavens have 28 levels-six desire heavens, 18 Brahma heavens, and four formless heavens. This is Buddhist cosmology as depicted by the Buddha's wisdom.
The Heaven of 33 is ruled by Lord Shakra. How did he become the Lord of the Heaven of 33? Long ago, a poor woman and 32 of her friends spent all their money to regild a Buddha statue that was damaged by the rain. Because of her leadership, the poor woman was reborn as Lord Shakra and the 32 other friends each became rulers of the surrounding heavens. When we honor another person, we in turn will be honored. Lord Shakra speaks Dharma for the other gods in the Wholesome View Palace. He encourages them to move on in their cultivation so that they would not fall back to the earthly realm. The heavens is not the final stop. The gods still have temper, desire, and even fight among themselves. The heavens are blissful and people their can easily forget about cultivation.
Spiritual penetration is sort of like psychic powers. These skills are usually possessed by sages. Everyone has them, there is no need to get them from outside.
Six types of power:
1) heavenly eyes - the ability to see an entire world system of a billion worlds as clearly as an apple held in the palm. One can see the heavens and the hells. Can we handle looking at the hells? It takes someone with very strong samadhi to bear the sight of the hells.
2) heavenly ears - the ability to hear all the sounds in a world system of a billion worlds, not merely the sounds in the heavens.
3) spiritual power of the knowledge of past lives - power that enables one to know past events, both good and bad.
4) spiritual power of the knowledge of the minds of others - A power through which others' thoughts are known before they are even spoken.
5) The powers derived from spiritual fulfillment - This refers to all kinds of powers of magical transformation. One can be sitting in one place and at the same time go off to New York. As said in the Avatamsaka Sutra, "A Bodhisattva who has this power can move the great earth. He can make one body into many bodies, and many bodies into one body. He can either disappear or appear. He goes through stone walls and solid mountains as if they were space. In empty space he travels in full lotus, just like a bird in flight. He enters earth as if into water, and treads upon water as if it were earth. His body puts forth smoke and flames like an immense heap of fire. He further sends down rain just like a mighty cloud. The sun and moon in space have tremendous, awesome might, yet he can touch and rub them with his hand. His body is free and at ease, even up to the world of Brahma."
6) The spiritual power from the elimination of outflows - outflows refer to all our faults, especially ignorance and desire, which cause us to expend energy outward as we seek pleasure in external sense-objects.
Note, however, that demons possess five of the six powers above. They cannot extinguish their outflows. Bodhisattvas regard spiritual powers as tools to accomplish their vows. To them, these powers are like dirt; yet, they need dirt to cross people over. Don't mistake spiritual powers as the goal of cultivation. That would be a serious mistake indeed.
Reverend Heng Sure told a story about a former monk who was very good at fasting. After fasting for 72 days, he obtained the heavenly eyes. But because he could not rein in his desires, his five eyes became shut and he went nuts. As a result, his cultivation was obstructed.
"Thus I have heard; at one time the Buddha dwelt in the Trayastrimsa Heaven speaking Dharma for his mother. At that time an indescribable number of Buddhas as well as great Bodhisattvas, Mahasattvas, from limitless worlds in the ten directions, all assembled together to praise Shakyamuni Buddha's ability to manifest the power of indescribably great wisdom and spiritual penetrations in the evil world of the Five Turbidities, as well as his ability to regulate and subdue obstinate living being so that they might come to know the Dharma of suffering and bliss. Each of these sent his attendants to greet the World Honor One."
"Thus I have heard" means a report from Ananda of what the Buddha said in the Heaven of 33. Thus shows it has been verified as being credible and authentic and is used in accordance with the instructions of the Buddha to Ananda.
When speaking sutras, there are six things to establish:
1) credibility - Thus I have heard ....
2) A hearer - I (Ananda)
3) A time - At one time....
4) A host - Buddha (sometimes a Bodhisattva or god)
5) A place - Heaven of 33
6) An assembly - (bodhisattvas, devas, etc.)
Sutras are spoken in response to a certain situation-to save someone, or thank a King. The Buddha could be at Live Oak Park speaking a sutra for disobedient kids.
Buddhas sometimes release light before speaking sutras. Veteran bodhisattvas would know which sutra the Buddha would speak by the kind of lights being emitted or a location from which the lights are emitted. In the Avatamsaka Sutra, the Buddha emits light from his teeth, knee, and eye brow. Countless number of beings have assembled at the Heaven of 33 to listen to the Buddha.
The Five Turbidities are like the Five Mix. The Saha world in which we live has a mixture of pleasure and pains; it is not perfect:
1) time - not clear, always changing, we have many different types of calendars: Buddhist, Jweish, Mayan, etc.
2) view - invisible, but strong. Why do people kill each other over a few acres of land? the root cause of conflicts in the Middle East is not clear.
3) affliction - physical and mental dis-ease. Hard to separate other people's afflictions from our own.
4) living beings - hell beings, ghosts, humans, gods. We all play musical chair. Maybe rich people came from the heavens. Animals and people eating them trade places over time.
5) a- different lifespan-from few years to infinite aeons.
This world is all mixed up. We progress a little and then start all over again. Although the path is difficult, we need to boldly forge ahead.