General Explanation of
By Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
(continued from last issue)
REVERING THE ORTHODOX TEACHING
"MOREOVER, SUBHUTI, YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT ALL THE GODS, MEN, AND ASURAS OF THE WORLD SHOULD MAKE OFFERINGS TO ANY PLACE AT WHICH EVEN SO FEW AS FOUR LINES OF VERSE FROM THIS SUTRA ARE SPOKEN AND SO FORTH, JUST AS THEY WOULD TO A BUDDHAỖS SHRINE OR TEMPLE; HOW MUCH THE MORE SO TO ANY PLACE WHERE PEOPLE CAN COMPLETELY RECEIVE, HOLD, READ AND RECITE THE SUTRA. SUBHUTI, YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT SUCH PEOPLE ACCOMPLILSH THE FOREMOST AND MOST RARE OF DHARMAS. IN ANY PLACE THE SUTRA TEXT IS FOUND, THERE IS THE BUDDHA OR A REVERENT DISCIPLE."
MOREOVER indicates that the passage of Sutra continues from the previous one. For some reason it may not be convenient to speak the entire Sutra, so a four-line gatha is chosen--one similar to those mentioned before. Perhaps:
Use any four lines which you consider appropriate to speak in response to each opportunity and practice complete giving to cure each living being of his particular problem. The place where you speak even no more than four lines of Sutra text is a place where the gods, and the men, and the asuras of the world come to make offerings. ALL actually refers to all beings in the six paths of rebirth: gods, men, asuras, animals, hungry ghosts, and beings in the hells. However only GODS, MEN, AND ASURAS are specifically mentioned in the passage of Sutra text, because it is not easy for beings in the three evil paths to make offerings to the Triple Jewel.
THE WORLD. There are two kinds of worlds, the sentient world, and the material world. The sentient world includes all beings with sentience, who has breath and blood. What lacks breath and blood is called insentient. The material world includes rooms, porches, halls, houses, mountains, rivers, the great earth, all the ten thousand things.
The sentient world is also called proper retribution. Why does the world exist? Because sentient beings exist. If there were no living beings there would be no world. The material world is insentient, and since the insentient depends upon the sentient, it is called the dependent, retribution. Proper retribution refers to beings undergoing their appropriate retributions, as is the case with the people who live in the world. Proper and dependent retributions form the world.
GODS refers to beings in the heavens. MEN refers to people in the world. ASURAS may be found among animals and among men, as well as among gods, and are described as beings who like to fight. For example, gods who war against the heavenly generals are asuras. Fighting is strongly imbedded in the asura nature.
ASURA is a Sanskrit word which translates as "misshapen" or as "lacking wine." From morning to night asuras think of drinking wine, but for reasons unknown to them, whenever they try to buy some, shopkeepers will not sell. People refuse to sell asuras alcohol knowing that if asuras become drunk they beat up other people. The asuraỖs situation is one of having the blessings of the gods, but lacking their authority. In other world, they merit the reward of the heavens, but they lack the virtuous conduct of gods.
How does one become an asura?
Those who constantly seek revenge become asuras. For instance, if someone uses one sentence to scold you, you retort with two sentences to put him down. If someone hits you with one first, you smash him back with both of yours. In general, you want to pay back double, and by acting that way when you quickly become an asura.
When someone speaks a four-line gatha of the Sutra, not only should people come to make offerings, but goods should come as well.
What does it mean to MAKE OFFERINGS?
There are offerings which are made to the Buddha, offerings which are made to the Dharma, and offerings which are made to the Sangha. Offerings to the Buddha include placing incense, flowes, lamps, fruit, adornments, or perhaps tea or water before a Buddha image.
Offerings to the Dharma refers to the careful protection of the Dharma. When reading sutras you should not be sloppy or casua. When you are not reading them you should not just carelessly lay them aside. You should have a specific place desginated for sutras, and when you place them there you should do so very gently and respectfully, laying them squarely so that no corners extend beyond the edge of a table. Anyone who has opened his Buddha e6e can see that wherever a sutra is not surely placed, Wei TỖou Bodhisattva comes and stands, patiently holdingup the corner of the sutra with his hand. Also, placing the sutra in an unclean place is disrespectful and cannot be considered an offering to the Dharma. Buddhist sutras should be placed above all secula books. You should have the same regard for sutras as for your own body and life. If you tears, or rip up sutras or heedlessly burn them, you will be so stupid in future lives that you wonỖt be able to remember anything no matter how many times people attempt toteach you. The same retribution befalls those who ar stingly with the Dharma. For instance, in a former life Aniruddha endured the retribution of extreme stupidity because prior to that he had known the Dharma and had refused to speak it for others. Later he planted many good roots, when he met Sakyamuni Buddha he certified to the fruit of Arhatship. If you destroy sutras there is no tellilng when you will again see a Buddha. In the futur you will be stupid and subject to unthinkably many additional retributions.
Offerings to the Sangha vary according to country and custom. In Thailand and Burma one offers food to the Sangha because in those countries members of the Sangha go begging with their bowls. Every householder saves a bowl of food to give to the Sangha member when he comes to beg. There are Four Kinds of Offerings which may be made to the Sangha:
People who are at home should make these offerings. People who have left the home life receive them. Since Sangha members receive offerings in that way, they cultivate the Three Recollections and Five Contemplations as they take their daily meal. Actually, members of the lay community as well as members of the Sangha should practice the Three Recollections as they eat.
With the first bite of food one thinks, "I vow to cut off all evil. The vow precludes giving rise to any evil thought, not to mention doing evil deeds. With the second bite of food one thinks, "I vow to cultivate all good." You should not just mechanically recite the vows and consider that sufficient. You need to truly cut off all evil and actually cultivate all good. With the third bite of food one thinks, "I vow to take all living beings across." The vow means to take all living beings across the sea of suffering to Buddhahood.
You should not glance around as you eat, finding out what everyone else is eating, until you discover, "My bowl doesnỖt have any of the delicacies you had tc eat..." When you are supposed to "kuan shih yin" (contemplate the sounds of the world) you are busy "kuan yin shih" (looking after food and drink). Yet unlike the compassionate Kuan Shih Yin Bodhisattva who is mindful of everyoneỖs food and drink in order to offer them some of his own in case they donỖt have enough, as Kuan Yin Shih Bodhisattva, you are busy grumbling "Why didnỖt I get any of that in my bowl? How come he gets to eat better food than I do?" You should not give rise to such greed. Instead you should be mindful of Five Contemplations:
1. Reckon the amount of work it took to bring the food to where you eat.
Figure out how much work the farmer did to plant the fields, and the amount of manual labor needed to cultivate, wee, nourish, and water the crops as they ripened. When ripe the rice had to be harvested and the chaff had t be separated from the grain. Through this contemplation you come to realize it was not easy to bring the food to your bowl.
2. Consider whether your virtuous conduct is sufficient for you to accept the offering.
Ask yourself, "Do I have any cultivation? Do I have any Way virtue? If I am receiving peopleỖs offerings and I have no cultivation, I should be ashamed and penitant." Then encourage yourself, "Ah, I must immediately cultivate. I must use effort and do the work to end birth and death."
If your virtue is abundant, you should say, "Although I am a greatly virtuous High masterỞprobably the foremost of all High Master in the world in Way virtueỞnonetheless I shall work even harder. I accept this offering, and afterwards I shall use even more effort. I still need to progress. If I have certified to the first fruit of Arhatship, then I shall seek the second fruit; if I have certified to the second fruit, I shall seek the third; and if I am a third stage Arhat, then I shall seek to reach the fourth stage. I need to go forward with ever increasing vigor."
3. Guard your heart against excesses of which greed and so forth are the source.
When you eat, donỖt stuff. Eat just enough, then stop. Do not be greedy for more. Sickness enters through the mouth. If you are too greedy, you get diarrhea. No matter how good the food is, if you eat too much and there is no room for it in your stomach, it will have to move out fast, and you will suffer the illness which results from passing undigested food.
4. This is a dose of medicine to keep my body from wasting away.
The food is like medicine which keeps my body healthy.
5. It is to accomplish my karma of the Way that I should accept this food.
Ask yourself, "Why do I eat these things?" Then answer yourself, "because I want to cultivate and realize my Way karma so that ultimately I become a Buddha."
When members of the Sangha are given offerings they should not be arrogant. And when no one makes offerings to them, they should not harbor greed. Even if you are starving to death you should cultivate the Way. To starve to death in the course of cultivation is the very greatest glory, the worthiest kind of sacrifice. DonỖt fear starvation.
IN ANY PLACE THE SUTRA IS FOUND, THERE IS THE BUDDHA. That place is just the BuddhaỖs Dharma body. It is the BuddhaỖs sarira. The sutra itself is the BuddhaỖs Dharma body and sarira. The Sutra itself is the BuddhaỖs Dharma body and sarira.
... OR A REVERENT DISCIPLE. All people who see the Sutra should be as respectful to it as a disciple is to his Master. Disciples should respect their Master and should respect the Sutra. Respecting the Sutra is like respecting the Master. Respecting the Master is like respecting the Sutra. DonỖt discriminate between the Sutra and the Master.
The Dharma, which you understand, has come from your Master. The MasterỖs Dharma comes from the Sutra. They are the three and one, one and three. But do not make the mistake of saying, "The Sutra is my Master so I donỖt need any other Master!" If you renounce your Master, then the Master, which is the Sutra also disappears.
(to be continued)