Explanations by Master Cheng-Yan
Subject: A Look Back at the First Two Chapters (回顧前二 開菩提場)
Date: December.15. 2014
“The Buddha, at the Vulture Peak Assembly, freely taught in accordance with His mind’s place of enlightenment. In the preface of the sutra, the Six Fulfillments were met. He radiated light and manifested auspicious appearances to teach the Dharma.”
This is a brief review of the first two chapters. In the seven volumes of the Lotus Sutra, the first volume contains two chapters, the Introductory Chapter and the Chapter on Skillful Means. We have now finished our discussion of them. Do you remember yesterday’s final oassage from the Chapter on Skillful Means?
“Since all of you already know how the Buddhas, the teachers of the world, work by giving suitable and skillful means, you should have no further doubts. Let your hearts be filled with joy, knowing that you will attain Buddhahood.”
The Buddha tirelessly taught with various skillful means, expressions and analogies, always hoping that everyone could realize that [all] principles are the truth; they are just taught according to capabilities. So, “Since all of you already know” means they had all understood that the Buddha’s intention was to turn everyone toward the same direction and raise people’s [capabilities for understanding]. This is the Buddha’s one great cause. He hoped everyone could realize that. He was sharing the most important principles at that time. When the Buddha comes to the world, He does everything He can to adapt to the capabilities of sentient beings. So, we “should have no further doubts.” We should not have any misgivings. When we come to a place like this, our minds should be open and accepting and we should be happy we can learn the Great Dharma. This Dharma and our wisdom-life are closely interrelated.
So He said, “Let your hearts be filled with joy, knowing that you will attain Buddhahood.” We should understand that we are no longer ordinary people. We understand the origins of our transmigration in the Six Realms and our karmic retributions. How did we come to be unenlightened beings? Once we discover the reason, we naturally understand that we need to immediately change our course and step onto the great and direct Bodhi-path. This will completely free us from transmigration in the Six Realms so that we can forever roam with ease over the Dharma-sea. This is a tranquil and clear state, as pure as crystal. This is the state we are in when we apply the Dharma to return to our intrinsic nature of True Suchness. So, we feel happy.
That is why I say, “The Buddha, at the Vulture Peak Assembly, freely taught in accordance with His mind’s place of enlightenment.” Previously, His consideration was, “Can I teach the Dharma at this moment? If I teach it, can sentient beings accept it? If they cannot, would it be counterproductive?” He considered many factors. At this time, the Buddha needed no further consideration. Without obstacles, He felt free. The [connection between] the Buddha’s mind and the minds of all sentient beings and of His disciples should be free and unhindered. From His own mind, He delivered that Dharma into their minds.
So, He “freely taught in accordance with His mind’s place of enlightenment.” He fully opened up this place of enlightenment. “In the preface of the sutra, the Six Fulfillments were met.” The first chapter of the first volume of the Lotus Sutra is considered the “sutra preface”. Every sutra is organized in this way. The Introductory Chapter that opens the sutra must include the Six Fulfillments. The Six Fulfillments began with the Buddha’s arrival at Vulture Peak. Then the listeners also arrived. This place for spiritual cultivation was empty; originally, there was no one at Vulture Peak. Before the Great Dharma can be taught, the speaker must arrive, gradually followed by the audience. Beings of various forms all gathered there.These are the Six Fulfillments.
We should understand.What the Buddha did at Vulture Peak before He began teaching at the Dharma-assembly.The way He taught there was different from the way He had taught in the past.In His teachings this time, He summarized and addressed the most essential part of His one great cause.For the sake of His one great cause, the Buddha manifested in the world.
He was born into and grew up in the royal palace, and experienced many matters of the world, like the inequality that existed among humans and the suffering of servants and Untouchables in society.He was saddened by this.This description of how.He had been young and wealthy but was still able to feel for people who suffered shows His exceptional wisdom.As He grew up, He wanted to find a way to resolve these entanglements of the world.The only way to fulfill this kind of great vow was to leave the family He loved and look for ways that He could break the restrictions of the caste system.In order to change this system, He traveled to learn about the 96 religious teachings of the time.The Buddha visited all the spiritual centers.None of these methods led to the ultimate.Moreover, these various spiritual practices were inhumane and irrational.
Therefore, after coming to understand them fully, the Buddha felt that there must be one true, pure, undefiled principle that could unite Him with the heavens and earth.Therefore, after these five years of travel, He began to seek the truth and meaning of all things in the universe.So, over six years of ascetic practices, He tried to connect His body to nature.He first experienced the cycle of the four seasons and then other aspects of living in nature.
Then He considered the ascetic practices of living in nature, in conjunction with the 96 other religious practices, to try to fathom the ultimate path.He calmed His mind and slowly contemplated this.Then His karmic conditions matured, He saw the morning star in the night sky and became one with the universe.In that state, it seemed that all past Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and Their countless places of spiritual practice, along with the countless states of all the heavens, were fully revealed to Him.This state is called the Avatamsaka assembly.
It is vast and boundless, pure and undefiled.All the Dharma in the universe, the trillions, the incalculable numbers of teachings, were instantly encompassed by His ocean of enlightenment.This was what He really wanted to share.This was His one great cause.
However, sentient beings could not easily accept this teaching.
The Buddha expended a lot of effort on figuring out the right methods.What was the best way to give teachings?How could He help everyone realize the great path?How could He help all sentient beings to universally understand the great path?Everyone has the potential to understand it, and when they do, naturally they will “enter the ocean of enlightenment and wisdom”.
The Buddha taught the Dharma at Vulture Peak for the sake of one great cause, to help everyone realize the great path and enter the ocean of enlightenment and wisdom.Sadly, people’s capabilities were dull and they found it hard to resonate with the Buddha-mind.Now was the time to open up the provisional and reveal the true for the sake of expounding the One Vehicle of the Lotus teachings.
Sadly, sentient beings’ capabilities were dull, so to resonate with the Buddha-mind was very difficult.This was why the Buddha, for over 40 years, had to work very hard, up to this point; “now was the time”.This was the right time.The Buddha was almost 80 years old.
According to the natural course of life, He did not have much time left.So, “now was time”; the Buddha had to open up the provisional to reveal the True Dharma.This happened at the Lotus Dharma-assembly, which took place at Vulture Peak.When the Buddha had to open up the provisional to reveal the true, it was time to teach the One Vehicle Dharma [found in] the Lotus Sutra.So, we must deeply comprehend the Buddha’s mindset.]
He finds ways to help us develop our wisdom-life and open up our sea of wisdom. That is the grace the Buddha shows to all beings. Now, all of us should understand that every sutra have the Six Fulfillments. At the beginning of the Vulture Peak Assembly, the listeners arrived. First, every sutra begins with, “Thus have I heard. One time, the Buddha” taught at some place, and certain people came to listen. All this must first be fulfilled.
The Six Fulfillments in the Introductory Chapter.
1.Thus: Fulfillment of Faith
2.I have heard: Fulfillment of Hearing
3.At one time: Fulfillment of Time
4.the Buddha: Fulfillment of Host
5.Where the Buddha Taught: Fulfillment of Place
6.The group of listeners: Fulfillment of Assembly
In the Introductory Chapter, just discussing. “Thus have I Heard, One Time, the Buddha…” took a very long time. Simply put, “Thus” is the fulfillment of faith. This is the truth. We must believe in it. Since we want to listen to the Dharma, we must believe in it. Moreover, the one who recounts the Dharma must enable people to have faith in it. This is Fulfillment of Faith. Those without faith will not listen to the Dharma. So, we must have faith, a very firm faith.
Ananda proclaimed, “[Thus] have I heard”. “I heard” refers to the things he had [learned]. He wants us to believe that, at a certain place, te Buddha and certain people engaged in a dialogue where He gave teachings and that he heard all of it. Everything that the Buddha taught was precisely repeated by Ananda for everyone else.
So, he could say, “I have heard”. Fortunately, Ananda had a great memory and could repeat the teachings of the Buddha. So, the Buddha-Dharma was first passed down through the primitive method of recitation and oral transmission. “One time” refers to the moment, the time when the Buddha taught the Great Dharma. Over those 40-plus years, everyone Dharma-assembly happened at “one time”. The Buddha taught a certain time and place, to certain people; the date could not recorded. No matter how good one’s memory is, one can still forget the actual time.
Moreover, at that time, the Buddha had the wisdom to thoroughly understand the principles of the universe. For instance, morning in Taiwan is nighttime in New York, not to mention the time on other planets! How would we specify a [universally applicable] month and day? Thus we generally refer to this as “one time”. Then there will not be any contradictions. Even if we just peak in term of time to Earth, basically, there are different time zones, so there is no universal time. So, we generally refer to “one time”.
That is the Fulfillment of Time. The time referred to here is the time of the Vulture Peak Assembly. The Buddha was the one who taught the Dharma. If the time comes and the speaker is not yet there the conditions cannot be fulfilled. When the speaker is there but the listeners are not, the conditions cannot be fulfilled either. Therefore, all the conditions must be fulfilled. There has to be the Fulfillment of Host. Thus the “host” is the Buddha. The place where the Dharma is taught satisfies the Fulfillment of Place. There is a person to teach, people to listen, and the right time. But where is the Dharma being taught?
For instance, at this moment, we are in Hualien, at the Jing Si Abode. At this moment of time, I am here and so are all of you. So many causes and conditions have matured. Similarly, during the Buddha’s lifetime, there had to be a place, as well as listeners. Everyone in the world, from monastics, to kings, to ordinary merchants, all came. One top of that, all Bodhisattvas and the eight classes of Dharma-protectors also arrived. This was such an exceptional Dharma-assembly. These are the Six Fulfillments.
The host, the speaker, was Sakyamni Buddha. The palce for teaching was Vulture Peak, and with the listeners, the conditions for the Vulture Peak. Dharma-assembly were completely fulfilled. While the Buddha was sitting, He radiated light. At that time, the tuft of hair between His brows became especially bright. Everyone wondered why He remained in Samadhi for such a long time. During that period of time, He was teaching the “unspoken Lotus Sutra”.
Prior to teaching the “unspoken Lotus Sutra”, He taught the Sutra of Infinite Meanings, as this sutra taught the Bodhisattva Way. It clearly explained the close connection between Bodhisattvas and this world. So, prior to teaching the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha taught the Sutra of Infinite Meanings to help everyone gain a clearer understanding of the Bodhisattva Way.Beside skillful means, He also used analogies. He wanted everyone to know that for 40-plus years, the skillful means that He taught never deviated from true principles or from the One Vehicle Dharma.
So, the Sutra of Infinite Meanings is the essence of the Lotus Sutra, which describes how the Bodhisattva-pat, the human path and the path to Buddhahood are all one continuous path. This path must not be severed. The Human path and the Bodhisattva-path help us deeply penetrate the path to Buddhahood. This had to be done in sequence.
So, after teaching the Sutra of Infinite Meanings, He sat down and began to radiate light and manifest auspicious appearances. Then Manjusri engaged in a dialogue, referencing Sun-Moon-Lamp Radiant Buddha.
At the Vulture Peak Assembly, all conditions [for teaching] were fulfilled. The Buddha sat, radiating light in silence. Maitreya and Manjusri engaged in a dialogue, referencing Sun-Moon-Lamp Radiant Buddha and all the subsequent Buddhas also named Sun-Moon-Lamp Radiant.
There was sequence of Buddhas, each named Sun-Moon-Lamp Radiant Buddha. We talked about them for a while. How many in total were there? 20,000. Manjusri Bodhisattva kept talking about how Sun-Moon-Lamp Radiant Buddhas constantly returned. There were 20,000 such Buddhas.
These were the 20,000 Buddhas “who expounded the Great Vehicle sutra named Infinite Meanings. They taught the Bodhisattva Way.”
When Sakyamuni Buddha sat in meditation, Manjusri Bodhisattva described how, in the past, 20,000 Buddhas appeared in the world and did the same thing. In the end, they all taught a Great Vehicle sutra named Infinite Meanings, of the Bodhisattva Way. Every Buddha shared this same original intent. Those with average and limited capabilities could not develop faith and understanding.
Those with average and limited capabilities who have not developed faith and understanding were taught with analogies so they could understand and turn from the Small [Vehicle] to the Great.
In the past, the 20,000 Sun-Moon-Lamp Radiant Buddha also taught in this way. Before freely expressing Their original intent, they waited for the right time because those with average and limited capabilities could not believe and understand. Therefore, They taught with analogies. With various analogies, They explained things so those with average and limited capabilities could turn from the Small [Vehicle] to the Great. This was what the Buddha began to teach. This was what the Buddha began to teach in the Introductory Chapter.
Next is the Chapter on Skillful Means, which focuses on ultimate reality.
Next is the Chapter on Skillful Means, which focuses on ultimate reality. It includes teachings of analogies and causes and conditions to guide those of average and limited capabilities to clearly understand the meaning of the Buddha Vehicle.
Although it is called the Chapter on Skillful Means, these are wondrous provisional teachings; their essence is the True Path. Everything is teaching the ultimate truth. Although it is titled Skillful Means, it is actually explaining to us the appearances of matters and objects and [the nature of] their underlying principles. This is how the Chapter in Skillful Means teaches [the principles of] ultimate reality.
If people still cannot accept this, then the next section of the sutra will start drawing analogies. The third chapter is the Chapter on Parables, which is entirely focused causes and conditions. Its sole purpose is to guide those with average and limited capabilities to come together and realize the principles of the One Vehicle.
The Buddha was mindful, with great aspirations; as ordinary beings, we must learn from Him and set aside the Small Vehicle for the Great. Therefore, we must always be mindful.
(Source: Da Ai TV – Wisdom at Dawn program – Explanation by Master Chen-Yen)