Sutra: At that time, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva used verses to ask
this question: "World Honored One, complete with wondrous marks, I now ask again, Why is this disciple of the Buddha Called Gwan Shr Yin?"
At that time, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva used verses to ask
"World Honored One, complete with wondrous marks,
I now ask again,
Why is this disciple of the Buddha
Called Gwan Shr Yin?"
At that time, Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva used verses to ask
this question. Verses are used to restate the doctrines of the previous
prose passage so as to elaborate upon them. The verses to this chapter were
not translated by Kumarajiva, the original translator, but were added later.
World Honored One, complete with wondrous marks, /I
now ask again. The Buddha has Thirty-two Marks and Eighty Subsidiary
Characteristics. The Buddha's Marks are the most complete and wonderful.
Why is this disciple of the Buddha / Called Gwan Shr Yin?
The Buddha is the Dharma King, and the Bodhisattvas are his disciples. Why
is this disciple of the Buddha called "Contemplator of the World's Sound"?
The Honored One of Perfect, Wondrous Marks,
With verses answered Inexhaustible Intention:
"Listen to the practice of Gwan Yin,
Who skillfully responds in all places,
With vast vows, as deep as the sea,
Throughout inconceivable eons,
Serving many thousands of kotis of Buddhas,
And making great, pure vows."
The Honored One of Perfect, Wondrous Marks, /With
verses answered Inexhaustible Intention. "Perfect" means nothing
lacking and nothing in excess. It also means perfect in both blessings and
wisdom. But here we are not just talking about blessings and wisdom. We are
talking about the perfection of the Thirty-two Marks and Eighty Subsidiary
Characteristics of the Buddha. He is perfect in all respects.
Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva asked in verses, and so the Buddha
answers him in verses.
Listen to the practice of Gwan Yin, /Who skillfully
responds in all places. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses skillful
expedients. He contemplates the potentials of living beings and dispenses
the teaching. He manifests in the body of a Buddha, a Pratyekabuddha, and so
forth, to speak the Dharma according to the needs of the living beings being
taught. He skillfully responds to the needs of the person. A skillful method
is not fixed. It varies with the needs of the person. For this reason, the
Vajra Sutra says, "There is no fixed dharma called
To save people, you need to know a lot of worldly dharmas. Let's say you
become a Dharma Master and you want to teach and transform people. You still
have to understand a lot of doctrines. If you see a businessman, you might
talk about business, "How's it going? Making money? How's the economy?" If
you see a laborer, you might say, "How are working conditions? Are you
really busy?" and talk about his work. When the person finds out that you
care about him and his work, he'll be happy. Once he is happy, you can speak
a little Buddhadharma to him, and he will think, "Hey, that's pretty good!"
If you see a student, you can ask him about his studies, "How is science or
philosophy?" And so the saying goes,
Prescribe the medicine according to the illness;
Speak the Dharma in accord with the person.
This is to "skillfully respond" in all places. We also say,
With clever expedients we save living beings,
Skillfully turning the dust of the world into the Buddha's work.
All worldly affairs are turned, with ingenuity, into Buddhadharma.
With vast vows, as deep as the sea, /Throughout
inconceivable eons, /Serving many thousands of
kotis of Buddhas. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva is in all respects
subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable. He has served many, many millions of
Buddhas. And he has been making great, pure vows
in every life-vows of great kindness and great compassion. The realm of Gwan
Shr Yin Bodhisattva is indeed lofty, deep, and unfathomable!
"I shall now tell you in brief,
That for those who hear his name or see him,
And who are mindful of his name unceasingly,
He can extinguish the suffering of all realms of existence."
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva made pure vows. What are pure vows? "Pure" means
that they are not made for one's own selfishness; they are public and
Shakyamuni Buddha said to Inexhaustible Intention Bodhisattva, "I
shall now tell you in brief, / That for those who hear his
name or see him." To hear Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name, you must have
good roots. If you don't have good roots, you cannot even hear Gwan Shr Yin
Bodhisattva's name, let alone see him in person. Now we have all heard his
name. To see him doesn't mean you necessarily have to see his physical body.
It can also mean seeing a painting or a statue made of clay, copper, iron,
silver, gold, wood, or mani. That's just the same as seeing him in
And who are mindful of his name unceasingly. This means
that you keep his name in mind and you do not let the time slip by idly. You
recite without wasting your time. Time is the most precious thing, more
precious than gold. Don't waste your precious time. Instead recite, "Na
mwo Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva."
What advantages does recitation of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name bring?
He can extinguish the suffering of all realms of existence. All
of existence refers to the twenty-five planes of existence in the Three
Realms-the realms of desire, form, and formlessness.
"If someone is the victim of another's intent to harm,
And is pushed into a pit of fire,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The pit of fire will turn into a pool."
If someone is the victim of another's intent to harm. Let's
say you go into business with someone and then the two of you take a trip
together in the mountains. You are way up on a cliff, and your partner
realizes, "If I push him off the cliff, I can have all the money!"
And if a person is pushed into a pit of fire,
/If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, /The
pit of fire will turn into a pool. Recitation of Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva's name has great power and brings a great response. It is truly
Now that we can hear this chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra and
understand this doctrine, we should always and everywhere recite the name of
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. If you recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin
Bodhisattva, in the future he will protect you. Such incidents are too many
to be spoken of in full.
"If someone is being tossed about in the great sea,
And is surrounded by the dangers of dragons, fish, and ghosts,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The waves will not drown him."
If someone is being tossed about in the great sea, with no
sign of the shore anywhere, And is surrounded by the dangers of
dragons, fish, and ghosts. There are poisonous dragons and
rakshasha ghosts in the sea. Big fish can eat people, too. But if
he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / The waves will
not drown him. Somehow, he will find himself in shallow water,
transported to the other shore, or he will be saved by a boat or something.
But if you don't recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva or see Gwan Shr
Yin Bodhisattva, it can be very dangerous.
I remember when I was in Hong Kong I had a very bad disciple. In what way
was he bad? He had hurt people. His name was Jang. His family owned a drug
company, and they were very wealthy. He imported Western drugs into Hong
Kong. This was right after the Japanese surrendered. Since it was right
after the war, there was a lot of sickness on the mainland. When he was on a
boat coming back with a cargo of drugs, he pushed his business partner
overboard. The business partner didn't know about reciting Gwan Shr Yin
Bodhisattva's name, and he drowned.
When Jang returned, he made a lot of money. He also sold counterfeit
drugs and made a fortune on them. He was incredibly rich. But, eventually,
the retribution caught up with him, and he got cancer. Six of the most
famous doctors in Hong Kong said that he would surely be dead within a
hundred days; that there was no way to cure it. He advertised in the
newspaper saying that if anyone could save his life, he would pay that
person US$200,000, which was a considerable amount in those days. But no one
could take him up on this offer, and so he came to Western Bliss Garden and
asked me what to do.
I said, "You should do good deeds and make offerings to the Triple Jewel.
The first thing you need to do is take refuge with the Triple Jewel. Next,
make offerings. Then maybe you will get better."
And so, on the eighteenth day of the fifth month, he signed up to take
refuge. I encouraged him to make offerings to the entire Triple Jewel by
presenting a bolt of sturdy cloth to every member of the Sangha in Hong
Kong. At that time, many Bhikshus and Bhikshunis had come from the mainland
and they had no clothes to wear or food to eat. There were two or three
thousand of them. I told him to give each of them US$15. He agreed to do
Now, there were a lot of old Dharma Masters in Hong Kong who, hearing
that Jang Yu Jye had taken refuge with me, manifested their spiritual
powers. What do I mean? They sent their friends and relatives to talk to
Jang to get him to go to their temples instead. The old Dharma Masters all
got people to "climb on conditions," that is, to be opportunistic on their
behalf. All the old Dharma Masters were after him. So Jang went and did some
merit at this temple and some virtue at that temple.
He had agreed to give each left-home person coming from the mainland $15
as I had told him to, but he didn't do it. He gave them each a bolt of
cloth, though not the good kind he had promised but a kind of inferior
quality, and he only gave them $5 each. Since I had already told the
left-home people about this offering, I had to make up the difference. I
borrowed money and made up the extra $10. Now, not one of them knew I had
done this. Today, they still don't know. Monks know that other monks don't
like to give money away. They prefer to receive money. In fact, there is a
saying, "Left-home people aren't greedy for money; the more the better."
Jang wanted to spend his money on something else, so I didn't say anything.
Anyway, one hundred days went by, and he didn't die. All the Dharma
Masters said, "We did it for you by bowing repentances." Each one of them
claimed that he was responsible for saving Jang's life. "I bowed to the
Buddha every day for you. That did the trick." They all did their bit. I
didn't claim to have anything to do with it, and I had nothing to say to him
Six years passed, and he hadn't died.
At that time, I was building Tsz-Sying Monastery at Da-Yu Mountain. He
heard I was building a temple, and since he was a disciple, he sent a
servant to me with some money. The servant brought the money and said that
Jang wanted to help me build the temple. I didn't even look at it. I just
threw it out the door. I said, "His money is not clean. It didn't come in
the proper way. Give it back to him."
This scared Jang nearly to death. He went to one of the groveling Dharma
Masters, Ding-Syi by name, and tried to get him to give the money to me with
some compliments. I said to Ding-Syi, "The work here is done. I don't need
any money. He can do some other kinds of merit and virtue with his money.
There are so many Dharma Masters and temples. Take it somewhere else." The
old Dharma Master was a bit embarrassed.
Another two years went by. And then, in the first month of the year, I
announced, "Jang Yu-Jye took refuge eight years ago. He said he was going to
offer US$200,000 to build a temple. It hasn't happened yet, and I am not
going to wait anymore for it to happen. However, after this, no matter what
kind of a problem he has, I am not going to pay any attention to it. He can
kneel in front of me until he dies, but I am not going to pay any attention
to his business."
Less than six months later, his cancer returned. He sent his relatives to
me because none of the other temples could bring him a response at that
time. So he came to me, but I said, "I already announced in the first month
of this year that I was no longer going to pay any attention to Jang Yu-Jye's
affairs." I didn't either, and he died of cancer a few days later. His
younger brother had earlier committed suicide by jumping into the ocean.
Soon after that, Dharma Master Ding-Syi, who had taken advantage of Jang
Yu-Jye, also got cancer and died about a year later. The laywoman who had
convinced Jang Yu-Jye to go to Ding-Syi also died of cancer. The three of
them were one substance. They stuck together while alive and they all died
of cancer together.
Jang Yu-Jye died because he had pushed his business partner into the
ocean. His partner couldn't recite Gwan Yin's name, and so he became a
hateful ghost and caused Jang to have cancer. Basically, since Jang had
taken refuge with the Triple Jewel, if he had truly brought forth faith, he
wouldn't have died. But his faith was not solid, and so even though he
didn't die after a hundred days, he died eight years later. His family is
still very rich. But when he died, he didn't take any of it with him. All
the money he cheated out of everyone was useless. It all went to his third
Why did his business partner drown? Because he didn't recite Gwan Yin
"If someone is on the peak of Mount Sumeru,
And another person tries to push him off,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
He will stand firm as the sun in space."
If someone is on the peak of Mount Sumeru, /And
another person tries to push him off. Mount Sumeru is the name of
the highest mountain. However, the text here doesn't mean just Mount Sumeru;
it could be any high place. Sumeru is a Sanskrit word that means
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, /He
will stand firm as the sun in space. The sun in space shines for ten
thousand miles. Even though this person is left in a precarious position,
still, he will have samadhi power and not be upset. This is as when,
In praise or blame,
His mind doesn't move.
"If someone is pursued by evil people,
Who want to throw him off a Vajra Mountain,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The people will not be able to harm a single hair on his body."
If someone is pursued by evil people, /Who want to
throw him off a Vajra Mountain. What are evil people? They are those
who do not speak reasonably. They specialize in murder. "What's yours is
mine, and what's mine is mine! Your money is mine. My money is mine even
more so." Does that make any sense? Evil people use force instead of reason.
Suppose a person is pursuing someone. He keeps his eyes on him all the
time and waits for him to fall asleep, so that he can push him off a steep
cliff and steal his money. However, if he uses the power of
mindfulness of Gwan Yin, if the person who is being pursued is
mindful of Gwan Yin, the people will not be able to harm a single hair
on his body. The Vajra Mountain represents a high and solid place.
When meeting with danger like this, if you don't forget to recite Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva's name, you will certainly obtain a great response and the
Bodhisattva will save you. This is called,
Meeting with misfortune, it turns lucky;
Encountering disaster, it becomes auspicious.
The danger will no longer be dangerous. That's how efficacious this
"If someone is surrounded by thieves,
Who threaten him with knives,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The thieves will all give rise to compassion."
Everything that people encounter has to do with former causes and latter
effects. Now we meet up with thieves. Before it was evil people; they
weren't outright robbers. But robbers are just outright murderers, and they
do all kinds of evil. They will do anything except what is good. Perhaps
they are our enemies because in past lives we stole from them, killed them,
or treated them badly. Thus, in this life, we meet them as enemies. It is
If you kill, you will pay with your life,
If you owe money, you will have to pay it back.
This is all the matter of cause and effect. Since this is so, if we
encounter hateful enemies, we should not hate them in return. We shouldn't
curse the heavens or resent people.
Manjushri Bodhisattva once told this story: "In every life, life after
life, I never stole anything from anyone. How can I prove it? I will take my
most priceless jewel, put it right by the city's gate for three days without
keeping my eye on it, and no one will take it. This will prove that I never
stole or coveted other's goods."
Some people didn't believe him, so they tried it out. They put the jewel
right by the gate, where everyone walked. Three days went by, and no one
touched it. Manjushri Bodhisattva was able to do this because he never
Now we meet with hateful enemies, and this proves that we are receiving
retribution for deeds done in former lives. And so, if you lose something or
take some loss, you shouldn't take it too hard and get all upset. You are
just suffering what you deserve.
If someone is surrounded by thieves, / Who threaten
him with knives. This reminds me of when I was at Nan-Hwa Monastery
for one year. On the nineteenth day of the ninth month, Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva's anniversary, some thieves showed up to rob Nan-Hwa Monastery.
The thieves knocked on the door and I refused to open it. Finally, they beat
the door down, and suddenly I found myself surrounded by guns. It was a
tight situation, but I didn't feel afraid at all. I said, quite casually,
"What are you pointing those guns at me for?"
"Why didn't you open the door?" they demanded.
"If you were I," I said, "would you have opened the door? No! I didn't
open the door because you are coming to steal from me, not to give me a
"Give us your money!" they demanded.
At that time I was wearing a rag robe. I said, "Take a look at this robe!
Do I look like someone with money?"
"Then who has money?" they said.
I said, "I am a teacher here. These are my students. I have
no money, and I am the teacher. How could the students have money? If you
don't believe me, you can take a look in my room. You can take anything you
want, any treasure you find. Go right ahead."
At that time, I really did have two treasures in my room. They were
"living" treasures. When the thieves came, they were so scared that they
couldn't even walk. They crawled around saying, "What shall we do? We're
scared!" I said, "Don't be afraid. You can hide under my bed." Hearing me
tell the thieves that they could take whatever they wanted, these two
"treasures" were terrified. They were so scared that their teeth were
chattering. Well, the thieves didn't go in.
Dharma Master Hwai-Yi saw me talking with the thieves in such an amicable
manner, and so he came out of his room. The thieves turned around and
pointed their guns at him, and he burst into tears. I said, "He doesn't have
any money. Talk to me!" At that point they were surrounding him, and he led
them to his room. They got about two hundred dollars from him, probably a
year's worth of savings.
The next day it was announced to the two hundred monks that I was the
only person who was not afraid. I said to everyone, "I'm not the only one
who wasn't afraid. There were four of us. The first was the Sixth Patriarch.
He sat there in samadhi, 'Thus, thus, unmoving! Take what you want,
thieves. I'm not paying any attention to you.' The second was the Patriarch
Han-Shan. He also sat in samadhi. The third was the Patriarch Dan-Tyan.
He didn't have quite the samadhi power, but he turned his head to
look at me. I said that because his flesh body does lean forward a bit. The
fourth was I myself. I was only number four."
And so, if a person meets with thieves who threaten him with knives,
if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, /The
thieves will all give rise to compassion. The thieves didn't hit me
or shoot me. No doubt that was because I recite Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name.
They started out very fierce, but eventually, they became subdued and kind.
When they saw me in my rag robes they thought, "This monk is really
"If someone is in difficulty with the law,
And on the verge of being executed,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The knives will break into pieces."
If someone is in difficulty with the law. If you break the
royal law, there's no politeness about it; you get your head cut off. This
happens sometimes by mistake, too. You get arrested and sentenced when you
are actually innocent. And so the law has its advantages and disadvantages.
People may bear false witness against someone who is innocent. That
happens a lot when lawyers get involved. The lawyer can "prove" someone
broke the law, and that person gets executed when, in fact, he is innocent.
Where are you ever going to find the truth in this world? You will have to
look in the Buddhadharma. You won't find it in the world. The world is ruled
by force, not by reason.
The text brings up the hypothesis of a person who is in difficulty with
the law, regardless of whether he is innocent or guilty, and on the
verge of being executed. However, if he uses the power of
mindfulness of Gwan Yin, /The knives will break into pieces.
At such a time, if you can remain calm and can remember to recite Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva's name, the knife will just break into pieces. Your neck will
become stronger than Vajra.
Now, you cannot try out these things as experiments. If you do, you'll
end up getting your head chopped off. In order for it to be efficacious, you
must have faith. If you have no faith and decide to try it out, it won't
work. That's because in trying it out, you show that you have no faith. If
you really believed, you wouldn't need to try it out. You should simply
bring forth a genuine heart of faith in Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, then
everything will be efficacious. Don't have doubts.
"If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained,
Or if his hands and feet are in stocks,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
His bonds will open and he will be free."
If someone is imprisoned, shackled, or chained, /Or
if his hands and feet are in stocks. The character for prison,
chyou, is the image of a person, ren, inside four walls.
Let's say you get put in jail, and then on top of that you are forced to
wear handcuffs and chains, and your head is put in the stocks.
Those of you with families should hurry and wake up! Don't be imprisoned
by the three big traps. One's parents are like a cangue around one's neck.
Children are like handcuffs. And one's spouse is like the chains on one's
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, /His
bonds will open and he will be free. Long ago in China, there was a
monk who was captured by one of the Yau tribe. The Yau people had their own
language, which is completely different from Chinese, and they were very
wild. When they took prisoners, they would kill them and eat them. The monk
was captured and locked in a cell. They were going to eat him!
The monk believed in Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, so even though he knew
their intentions, he was not afraid. He just single-mindedly recited Gwan
Shr Yin Bodhisattva's name. The monk recited and recited until a tiger
showed up and tore the cell apart, and so he was set free. In spite of the
danger, he was not harmed.
Reciting the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva brings so many responses
that you could never speak of them to the end.
"If someone is about to be harmed,
By mantras, spells, or poisonous herbs,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The harm will all return to the sender."
If someone is about to be harmed, /By mantras,
spells, or poisonous herbs. Spells are also mantras.
In the section on the twelve types of living beings, the Shurangama
Sutra talks about the wasp, which steals caterpillars and transforms
them into its own young. It puts the caterpillar in its mud nest and for
seven days recites a mantra that says, "Be like me, be like me." At the end
of that period, the change takes place, and the caterpillar becomes the
offspring of the wasp.
There are evil mantras that can kill people, but there are also
efficacious mantras that help and benefit people. Here, in the Sutra text,
we are talking about mantras that can harm people. When these mantras are
recited, the victim gets all drowsy and befuddled.
Suppose a person is about to be harmed by mantras, spells, and poisons,
if he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, the harmful
poisons and mantras cannot hurt him. Not only that, but the harm will
all return to the sender. The poison or mantras will bounce back and
harm the person who sent it out in the first place.
In China, long ago, there was a very accurate diviner, one who told
fortunes with the Yi-Jing [The Book of Changes]. The reason he
was so effective was that he had a strange demon helping him out. Every year
the demon had to eat a pure youth and a virgin girl, which the diviner would
offer to him.
One year, the young girl who was marked for the sacrifice recited Gwan
Yin Bodhisattva's name in her room. She was used to reciting Gwan Yin's
name, and now she continued to do so. What do you think happened? The demon
came for his meal. It walked up to the bed and shone light out of its two
eyes onto the young girl. Suddenly, light came out of the girl's mouth, and
she heard a loud noise as something fell down from the ceiling to the floor.
Thinking that the demon had come to eat her, she screamed and attracted the
attention of a policeman who was walking by. The policeman broke the door
down, came into the room, and found a huge python, a mahoraga. It was
The diviner was arrested by the police and questioned about locking the
girl up. He said he had an immortal helping him do his divination, and the
immortal demanded a young girl and a young boy to eat once a year. That was
how he became such an accurate diviner and raked in so much money. They
locked the diviner in jail. He told fortunes for others, but he never
figured his own fortune would turn out so bleak! Therefore, harming others
is just harming yourself.
The line "The harm will all return to the sender" was changed by
the Sung Dynasty poet, Su-Dung-Po. He said, "In Buddhism they teach
compassion. This line doesn't sound very compassionate to me." And so he
changed the line to "For both parties there will be no affair." Neither the
one who sent out the mantras nor the victim will be harmed.
He was wrong, though. Although in Buddhism killing is prohibited and the
liberation of life is encouraged, still, evil people must be restrained from
harming good people. Therefore, the victim who knows how to recite Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva's name will not be harmed, but if there is "no affair," the
attacker will just go on to the next person, who may not know to recite.
There are plenty of people who don't know how to recite.
So Su-Dung-Po's line doesn't work. "The harm will all return to the
sender" is correct. It is fitting that the evil person should undergo such a
"If someone meets with evil rakshashas,
Poisonous dragons, or ghosts,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
They will then not dare to harm him."
If someone meets with evil rakshashas, /
Poisonous dragons, or ghosts. Rakshashas are extremely evil
ghosts. They eat people!
Some dragons harm people. They hide out in a pond, a river, or a lake,
and when you walk by, they spit poisonous vapors, which can kill you. They
can even suck you right into their stomachs!
There are many kinds of ghosts. There are rich ghosts, poor ghosts, and
middle-class ghosts. Rich ghosts are the leaders of the ghosts. Middle-class
ghosts aren't too well off. Poor ghosts have nothing at all.
"Do ghosts use money?" you ask.
Ghosts don't use money, but their bad habits cause them to act like
people, and so they look for more money all day long. Basically, they don't
need money for anything, but their attachment confuses them. Chinese people
burn counterfeit paper money to pacify the ghosts. In the Shurangama Mantra,
many different kinds of ghosts are mentioned. Here we are talking about
ghosts in general.
When a person runs into evil ghosts, if he uses the power of
mindfulness of Gwan Yin, / They will then not dare to harm
"If someone is surrounded by evil beasts,
With fearsome sharp teeth and claws,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The beasts will quickly run far away."
If someone is surrounded by evil beasts. "Evil beasts"
refers to wolves, panthers, tigers, bears, and all kinds of animals who eat
people. There are no tigers in the mountains in America, but in China and
India there are many tigers. Tigers will eat anything. When I was a child, I
used to roam in the mountains for five or six days at a time, and I ran into
all these beasts. I don't know why, but they never ate me.
If a person runs into evil beasts with fearsome sharp teeth and
claws, / If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
/ The beasts will quickly run far away. Because of the magical
response obtained through Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's intervention, the beasts
will be afraid and run far, far away when they see you.
"Poisonous snakes and scorpions,
Have blazing lethal vapors,
But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
At the sound of one's voice, they will disperse."
Poisonous snakes and scorpions, /Have blazing lethal
vapors. The sting of certain scorpions can prove fatal. Some kinds
of lizards, such as a certain species found in Thailand, also emit toxic
But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, /
At the sound of one's voice, they will disperse. When the lethal
creatures hear you recite the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, they will run
off, hide away, and make no further mischief.
"Clouds of roaring thunder and lightning
May send down hail or great floods of rain,
But if one uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
The clouds will immediately scatter."
Clouds of roaring thunder and lightning /May send
down hail or great floods of rain. Sometimes hailstones can weigh
several tens of pounds. They can be so heavy that they can kill a cow, to
say nothing of a person. But if one uses the power of mindfulness of
Gwan Yin, / The clouds will immediately scatter. You
don't have to recite for very long, and the hailstones and storms will
"Living beings are beset with hardships,
And oppressed by limitless sufferings.
The power of Gwan Yin's wondrous wisdom
Can rescue the world from suffering."
Living beings are beset with hardships. Living beings are
born because of a multitude of conditions. There are millions of different
kinds of living beings.
In Chinese, the word for "living being" contains the word jung,
which is the character for four, sz, with three people, ren,
underneath it. It means "multitude."
Among living beings, the most problematical is the human being. People
have to wear clothes, eat, and go to work. It's a lot of trouble. However,
human beings are also the wisest among living beings. Animals and other
living beings don't have as many problems, but they are also stupid. Since
they are stupid, they get pushed around by people. And so in China, they
have a saying,
Among the myriad creatures, people are the most magical.
People are the most intelligent of all creatures. Although we say they
are the most intelligent, they sometimes do stupid things. How is that? They
like to give themselves trouble. They fight with themselves. How do they do
this? "Hardships" arise. It is said,
Under heaven there's nothing happening; stupid people just like to
stir things up.
Stupid people make trouble for themselves.
Now the text says that living beings are beset by hardships and
oppressed by limitless sufferings. They create trouble for
themselves, and so they undergo limitless forms of suffering. If people
don't have food to eat, clothes to wear, or a place to live, they suffer.
With so many conditions on their happiness, they are forced to toil all day
long to get food to eat. They may even steal from each other to preserve
their own lives. They do this because they are tormented by suffering.
The power of Gwan Yin's wondrous wisdom /Can rescue
the world from suffering. Therefore, no matter what is bothering
you, you shouldn't worry. Just recite the name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, then
gradually the problem will resolve itself. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's wisdom is
subtle, wonderful, and inconceivable. All you need is a sincere heart, and
the Bodhisattva will help you.
"Complete with the power of spiritual penetrations,
Vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means,
Going throughout countries in the ten directions,
He manifests everywhere in all places."
Complete with the power of spiritual penetrations. What is
meant by "the power of spiritual penetrations?" There are six types of
1. The Penetration of the Heavenly Eye. With the Heavenly Eye, you
can see at a glance what the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-three are
2. The Penetration of the Heavenly Ear. With the Heavenly Ear, you
can hear all the sounds throughout the ten directions, in the heavens and
3. The Penetration of Other's Thoughts. You can know what other
people are thinking.
4. The Penetration of Past Lives. You can know the cause and
effect involved in former lives.
5. The Penetration of the Perfected Spirit, also called the
Penetration of the Complete Spirit. With this penetration, you can fly and
transform at will.
6. The Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows. This is the
hardest one to get.
The ghosts and spirits all have the above mentioned five penetrations.
But they do not possess the Penetration of the Extinction of Outflows. Gwan
Shr Yin Bodhisattva has all six of them.
Vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient means. "Vastly"
means that the Bodhisattvas did not cultivate just one Dharma-door, but they
cultivated all manner of Dharma-doors. Why are we studying the Mantras and
the Sutras? It's all a part of "vastly cultivating wisdom and expedient
Going throughout countries in the ten directions, /He
manifests everywhere in all places. There's not one single place
where Gwan Yin Bodhisattva does not go. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva has been
All of us living beings have causal affinities with Gwan Yin Bodhisattva.
Anyone who recites Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name will receive the
Bodhisattva's protection. If you do not recite, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva won't
pay any attention to you. Why not? Because you don't even care to get
acquainted, and you don't even know or recollect the Bodhisattva's name.
If you want to be friends with Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, all you have to
do is keep reciting, "Na mwo Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa." When he hears you
reciting, he will think, "Ah, hah! I have made another friend! Good, I will
help my new friend." If you don't recite, the Bodhisattva will say, "He
doesn't want to be friends. I'm not going to pay any attention to his
Someone wants to know how to obtain the Penetration of the Heavenly Eye.
There are many methods. First of all, you can single-mindedly recite the
Shurangama Mantra. You can also study the Great Compassion Mantra and the
Forty-two Hands. You can also give up sleeping to study the Buddhadharma.
But trying to get the Heavenly Eye by giving up sleeping is very dangerous,
and I hope that people won't use that method. Why not?
You probably remember the story about the Buddha's disciple Aniruddha,
who used to sleep through the Buddha's lectures. The Buddha scolded him,
Hey! Hey! How dare you sleep, like an oyster or a clam?
Sleep! Sleep for a thousand years, and you'll never hear the Buddha's
Then after the Buddha scolded him, he became very vigorous and refused to
sleep for seven days. As a result, he went blind. The Buddha taught him the
Vajra Illumining Bright Samadhi, and Aniruddha opened his Heavenly Eye. He
was foremost of the Buddha's disciples in the Heavenly Eye.
Aniruddha means "not poor."
Limitless eons, countless lifetimes ago, Aniruddha was a poor farmer. He
had to toil and sweat, and still he had no money. At that time he was a
beginner in the Buddhadharma. Even though he was not a disciple of the
Buddha, he did understand the principle of giving.
One day while the farmer was working, a cultivator happened by. The
Bhikshu had been certified to the fruit and was a Pratyekabuddha, but the
farmer didn't know that at the time. The old Bhikshu was returning from his
begging rounds. It was his practice to beg from only three houses. Then, if
he hadn't obtained any food, he would return to the mountain for another
seven days before going out to beg again. At that particular time, he was
returning with an empty bowl.
When the farmer saw the poor monk, he decided to offer up his lunch to
him. He had no idea the old Bhikshu was a Pratyekabuddha. Now, the
Pratyekabuddha had the Penetration of Other's Thoughts, so when he looked
into the causes and conditions, he saw that this lunch, consisting of the
poorest quality rice, constituted a most sincere offering. He praised the
farmer and said, "So it is, so it is. Your offering is made with a true
heart!" The Pratyekabuddha then returned to his mountain.
Later on, a rabbit hopped along and jumped up on the farmer's back. The
farmer ran home and tried as he would, but he could not get the rabbit off.
Then he noticed it was made of gold. He cut off one of the golden rabbit's
leg and exchanged it for money. The leg grew right back. After that, he had
money in every life. Why? Because he made offerings with a true heart to a
Pratyekabuddha, a sage who had been certified to the fruit. That was his
reward. In every life he was "not poor."
In the Sutra in Forty-two Sections, the Buddha said,
Giving food to a hundred bad people does not equal giving food to a
single good person.
Giving food to a thousand good people does not equal giving food to one
person who holds the Five Precepts.
Giving food to ten thousand people who hold the Five Precepts does not
equal giving food to a single Srotaapanna.
Giving food to a million Srotaapannas does not equal giving food to a
Giving food to ten million Sakridagamins does not equal giving food to a
Giving food to a hundred million Anagamins does not equal giving food to
a single Arhat.
Giving food to a billion Arhats does not equal giving food to a single
Giving food to ten billion Pratyekabuddhas does not equal giving food to
a Buddha of the three periods of time.
Giving food to a hundred billion Buddhas of the three periods of time
does not equal giving food to a single one who is without thoughts, without
dwelling, without cultivation, and without accomplishment.
Because Aniruddha made offerings to a Pratyekabuddha with a true heart,
as a good retribution in every life he was extremely wealthy. If he wasn't a
prince, then he was a wealthy and respected individual. And so, if you want
to be "not poor," you too should make offerings to the Triple Jewel; then in
the future you will have a chance to be wealthy.
It is said, "It is difficult to give when one is poor." The reason
Aniruddha was so wealthy is that he was able to give when he was poor. He
gave his own lunch to the Triple Jewel. With that single true thought, he
gained the reward of wealth.
It is also said, "It is difficult to study the Way when one has wealth
and a noble status." It's hard to convince a rich person to study the Way.
The doctrines in the Sutra in Forty-two Sections are extremely
important. Everyone should take note of them.
"The various evil destinies,
Those of the hells, ghosts, and animals,
And the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death
Are all gradually wiped away."
The various evil destinies. "Various" means
that there are a lot of them, not just one. In general, there are Four Evil
Destinies. What are they? They are the asuras, the hell-beings, the
ghosts, and the animals.
Asuras have been explained previously. They like to fight.
What are hell-beings? How are the hells created? The hells are a creation
of people's karmic obstacles. According to the type of evil karma one
creates, one will fall into that type of hell. There are many types of
hells. They are explained in detail in the Earth Store Sutra, where
it says there are eighteen major hells and five hundred lesser hells. There
are many hells.
Now, are the hells made in advance like the prisons in this world? No.
The hells manifest through the evil karma of each person. If you create evil
karma by killing people, you will fall into the "hell for killers." The same
applies to other evil acts, such as setting fires. The type of hell depends
on the type of karma. It's not fixed. When the karma is exhausted, the hell
is then empty. Before it's ended, the hell is still there.
In Manchuria there was a man named Mr. Pig Foot Lyou. His family name was
Lyou and he had a hoof instead of a foot. He was able to remember the events
of his past three lives.
In one life he was born into a very wealthy family. When he was born, his
father was in his forties. When the child Pig Foot Lyou was thirteen, he was
married to a wife who was two years his senior. Although the father was then
in his fifties, his lust was still going strong, so he took a young wife who
was about the same age as the son's wife. A couple years later, Pig Foot
Lyou had a son. The son was married when he was about thirteen, and the wife
was also a couple years older than himself.
At that time, Pig Foot Lyou didn't believe in Buddhism. His parents had
both died, and only his father's young wife was left. Pig Foot Lyou thought
she was very beautiful, and he appropriated her for himself. Then Pig Foot
Lyou's son died, and attracted to his son's wife, he took her, too. So he
was carrying on an affair with his stepmother and his daughter-in-law! He
was in his mid-twenties at that time.
When Pig Foot Lyou was in his forties, he woke up. "I have certainly
amassed some terrible, offensive karma in this life!" he thought. "I took my
stepmother and my daughter-in-law as wives." He started believing in
Buddhism and took up recitation of the Vajra Sutra.
In his late forties, after reciting the Sutra for ten years, he died and
went to meet King Yama, the cruel, black-faced Lord of the Dead.
"Since you created so much offensive karma," King Yama said, "I'm going
to put you in the Hell of Boiling Oil where you'll be fried." He charged two
ghosts with the task of taking him off to the oil pot, but there was someone
standing by who said, "You can't do that."
"Why not?" asked King Yama.
"Because he has recited the Vajra Sutra, and he has still got it
in his belly. He should first be reborn until he uses up all the Vajra
Sutra, and then you can french fry him."
So he went to be reborn as a person, this time in a very poor household.
His mother and father sold snacks for a living, and from a very early age he
was fond of eating. He ate so much that soon he had a very big belly. When
he was five years old, he died from a bloated stomach. After he died, his
parents were curious to see what was in his big belly, so they cut him open.
There they found a substance as solid as a vajra rock. At that point,
the ghosts standing by said, "Oh, it's time now. We can take him to the oil
pot and fry him."
The ghosts then took him to King Yama who pronounced that he could be
reborn as a pig. As a pig, he was fed until he was plump, and then
slaughtered and eaten.
When he got back to King Yama again, King Yama was ready to send him
through the frying punishment, but the offender spoke up and said, "You
don't have to fry me. Let me go back as a person but give me one pig hoof as
proof. I will urge people in the world not to commit offenses."
King Yama thought that was a good idea, and so that was what happened.
His surname was Lyou, and because of his hoof, most people called him Mr.
Pig Foot Lyou. I met the man personally and talked to him for a long time,
so I am very clear about his circumstances. This is how the evil destinies
get created. People create their own hells. Hells are very dangerous.
In Harbin, where I am from, there was a Dharma Master named Cheng-Yi who
was once so sick that he thought he had died. After he died, he went down a
road to a place not too far away from his temple and was reborn there. As
what was he reborn? As a pig! When he saw that he himself was a pig, he
refused to suckle, and then he died of starvation. At that point, his spirit
reentered the body of Dharma Master Cheng-Yi.
He then woke up and told people around him about what he had just
experienced. "I have recovered from my illness. I was just reborn as a pig.
Let me take you to the spot, and we'll have a look. There are seven piglets
in the litter. I was reborn as one of them. I was the one who refused to
take milk and starved."
Several Dharma Masters accompanied him to the spot, and sure enough, they
found a litter of seven piglets, and one was dead. I also met that Dharma
It's not at all easy to be reborn as a person. A human body is very
difficult to obtain.
The Buddhadharma is not easy to get to hear. You figure it out. Of all
the millions of people in America, how many come on any given night to
listen to the Sutra lectures? Very, very few. It's difficult to meet a Good
and Wise Advisor who really understands the Buddhadharma. Some who claim to
be teachers are not clear about principles, so they say things to you that
Those of the hells, ghosts, and animals. The destiny of
hungry ghosts is also a result of karmic power. Hungry ghosts have bellies
as big as drums and throats as thin as needles. The things we
eat turn into fire when they enter the mouths of hungry ghosts. This happens
because their karmic obstacles are so heavy.
Now, as to this question, the gods see water as crystal. People see it as
water, fish see it as their environment, and ghosts see it as fire. This
shows the power of karma. It influences what one experiences. Beings see the
same thing in different ways.
It's also very easy to get reborn as an animal, such as a pig, a chicken,
or a horse. These kinds of animals were formerly people. What kind of
people? People who were not filial to their parents and who did not respect
their teachers and elders. People like that get caught up in the animal
People who are fond of eating meat also create ties with the creatures
whose flesh they consume. By eating a certain kind of flesh, they establish
a close connection with that animal, and the future is then very dangerous
"The various evil destinies" then, include the Four Evil Destinies of
hells, hungry ghosts, animals, and asuras.
And the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death. In
human life, there are Three Sufferings:
1. The Suffering within Suffering
2. The Suffering of Decay
3. The Suffering of Process
An example of Suffering within Suffering is to be penniless and also
without any food to eat or any place to live. This suffering is experienced
by poor people. Lacking the very necessities of life, they cannot even find
work. This kind of suffering is not easy to bear.
But wealthy people suffer even more. They experience the Suffering of
Decay. Having money, they have to calculate all day about it. "I will put
this much in the bank. I'll take this much out and put it into a business.
I'll take that much…" and it goes on like that all day long. They keep on
counting their money until their hair turns white, their teeth fall out,
their eyes stop working, and their ears go deaf. But then trouble comes. The
robbers get their number. They break in at night and pick the safe clean.
People in poverty get accustomed to their suffering, but when the
Suffering of Decay hits wealthy people, they can't take it. It's very
Well, then, if you're neither rich nor poor, there's no suffering, right?
There's still suffering. It's the Suffering of Process. Everyone goes
through the process of aging. From youth, people pass into middle age, and
then become old. Once old, they die. This process never stops. It continues
with every passing thought. This is the Suffering of Process.
Then there are the Eight Sufferings; and even Eight Sufferings aren't
very many, because suffering doesn't stop with eight kinds. There are
thousands upon millions of kinds of sufferings. You could never count how
many sufferings there are.
Well, what's the most suffering? It's being a person. It's much more
pleasant to be an animal than to be a person. So what can you be that isn't
suffering? Well, being a Buddha isn't suffering. Why do I say that it's more
pleasant to be an animal than to be a person? Because, animals do not have
to worry about clothes to wear, food to eat, or a place to live. Their lives
happen very naturally, so they never worry about anything. But, when one is
a person, there's just too much suffering.
Now, we're going to talk about the Eight Sufferings. They are:
1. The suffering of birth
2. The suffering of old age
3. The suffering of sickness
4. The suffering of death
5. The suffering of being apart from those you love
6. The suffering of being together with those you hate
7. The suffering of not getting what you seek
8. The suffering of the raging blaze of the Five Skandhas
And among these eight, which one is the worst? I believe the worst is the
suffering of birth; because if you weren't born, then the others wouldn't
happen. And you say, "Well, what's so much suffering about being born,
anyway?" I know you've forgotten, so I'm going to remind you.
How is it that you got born? Birth comes from the union of the father's
essence and the mother's blood; and there also has to be what is called the
"intermediate skandha body," which enters the womb.
Once you're in the womb, the first few weeks are simply the development
of a jelly-like substance; but after the seventh week, feeling arises. And
once the fetus develops a sense of feeling, then if the mother drinks
something cold, it feels like it's standing on a mountain of ice-extremely
uncomfortable. If the mother drinks something hot, then it's just as if the
fetus is plunged into hot water and scalded. So even in the womb one
experiences the two unpleasant sensations of cold and heat. If the mother
stoops over, then the embryo feels as though it's being crushed by Mount
But the birth is the worst experience; it's like two mountains crashing
together-like the Hell of Crashing Mountains. And so, of course, the first
thing a child does after being born is scream, "Ku a, ku a!" [The
Chinese character for ku means to cry, and it sounds the same as
another word ku that means suffering.]
And so it is said that human birth feels the same as when a live tortoise
has its shell ripped away from its body-it's that painful. But as you
grow up, you forget the suffering of birth. You pass through your prime and
get old without even realizing it. There is also tremendous suffering
connected with old age. For instance, your hearing goes bad; you don't even
know if people are scolding you. And your eyesight goes dim, so you can't
see things clearly anymore. The teeth fall out; the tongue doesn't, but the
teeth do. You never heard of anyone losing his tongue, and the reason for
that is that the tongue is yielding and supple.
One time I asked an old fellow about this, I said, "Teeth fall out when
you get old, but have you ever met anyone who lost his tongue?"
He said, "Never. Have you?"
And I said, "Look, I'm a lot younger than you-you're almost ninety-and
since you haven't ever seen it, how would you expect me to
have ever seen it?"
Then I asked him, "Do you know why your tongue doesn't fall out, but your
teeth do? It's because the teeth are too rigid, so they fall out. But the
tongue is supple and yielding, so it doesn't fall out."
And he said, "Oh!"
And I said, "You're awfully old now, you'd better be careful not to be
too rigid. You can take the lesson from your teeth."
Then you say, "What's so bad about having the teeth fall out?"
Well, you lose your appetite-nothing tastes good anymore. It may look and
smell good, but when you put it in your mouth and gum it around, you can't
even chew it up. You have to spit it out, because if you swallowed it, it
wouldn't be digested. So, do you think that's suffering, or not? And also
your face gets all wrinkled. It's said that people have "skin like a chicken
and hair like a crane." If you have ever seen a plucked chicken, you have
seen that its skin is all bumpy and wrinkled. And "hair like a crane" means
that your hair turns totally white. But, of course, that doesn't apply to
Westerners, because when infants are first born in the West, they're
towheaded-they have white hair at birth; they don't even wait until they get
old to have white hair.
Another point of interest is that although Westerners may be born with
white hair, their hair doesn't turn black, and yet black hair can turn
white. But then again, sometimes it does happen. For instance, when I was in
Hong Kong, my hair turned totally white. Why? Because I was overseeing the
construction of a temple. I erected three temples in Hong Kong, and it was a
strain on my mind and my body, so my hair turned totally white. Then I took
a look and thought, "Oh, this is really something. I'd better not tax my
mind so much!" Then I just put everything down, and my hair turned black
again. From this, you can see that nothing is fixed.
There are many kinds of sicknesses. You might get a headache, or your
feet hurt, or sometimes your whole body aches. In general, if your heart,
liver, kidneys, spleen, and lungs are ailing, it's a lot of suffering.
Another truly terrible suffering is death; in fact, it's the worst. It's
easy to die, but once you're dead, the important question is where you will
go. After you die, will you go to the hells? Will you become an animal? Will
you be reborn as a person? No one can give you any insurance.
And so, that's birth, old age, sickness, and death-they're all suffering.
Now we've discussed the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and
Why was it that Shakyamuni Buddha left home? It was because he came to
realize that birth, old age, sickness, and death are not easy to endure.
When Prince Siddartha was nineteen years old, he wanted to see the sights
outside the palace. So one day he went to the city's east gate. There he saw
a woman in the process of delivering a baby. The Prince asked his followers,
"What's happening?" They replied, "She is giving birth to a child." Looking
at the woman who seemed to be enduring an extremely painful event and the
newborn child crying loudly, the Prince returned home unhappily.
The next day, the Prince went to the city's southern gate. There he saw a
very old man. His hair was totally white and his eyes were dim. His legs
were too weak to stand straight or to walk. The Prince asked in surprise,
"What's wrong with that man? Why has he become that way?" His followers
answered, "This man is already old. He has too many years. That's why he is
that way." Upon hearing this, the Prince became upset and quickly returned
to his palace.
On the third day, the Prince went to the city's west gate. There he saw a
sick person. Being sad, the Prince returned to the palace.
On the fourth day, the Prince went to the city's north gate. There lay a
dead person. "What's the matter with that person?" asked the Prince. The
followers said, "This man already died." The Prince again felt extremely
The Prince himself had witnessed the suffering of birth, sickness, old
age, and death, and he realized that was the process that human beings have
to pass through. He felt very sad and wanted to go back to the palace. Right
at that moment, a left-home person appeared. The Prince asked his followers,
"Who is this person? What's he doing?" They then went to talk to that
cultivator. He told them, "I'm a left-home person. I investigate and study
the Buddha Way in order to be liberated from the suffering of birth,
sickness, old age, and death."
At that time the Prince had not yet become a Buddha. But when he heard
that by cultivating the Way he could avoid birth, old age, sickness, and
death, he said, "Can I cultivate in the same way you do?"
The monk replied, "Anybody can."
Then the Prince returned to the palace, and accompanied by one who was
later known as Venerable Upali, he ran away.
Shakyamuni Buddha was totally disillusioned by birth, old age, sickness,
and death. He didn't know how they arose or where they went. And so he left
the home-life and practiced the Way with the intent to end birth and death.
He went into the mountains and cultivated for six years trying to avoid
birth, old age, sickness, and death.
Everybody who gets born cannot avoid dying. Some deaths are good and some
are terrible. Some people die from sickness; some people starve to death;
some people die from the fatigue of toil; some people die from
quarreling-they have a fight and kill each other; then there's war, and
people die on the battlefield; others die in automobile accidents or get
crushed by mountains or in an avalanche.
There are many different kinds of deaths. Some people die from accidental
poisoning; some people commit suicide by eating poison, or they may commit
suicide in other kinds of ways. Some people have no wish to die, but they
die; some wish to die, but they can't. Just death alone contains a myriad
The kind of death differs, so does the retribution or reward that
follows. In what way does it differ? For instance, if someone dies by
accident-as in an automobile accident, or by drowning, or by being burned in
a fire-he then turns into a ghost or a spirit with either yin or yang
energy, but he doesn't go before King Yama, because King Yama pays no
attention to him. The other ghosts don't pay any attention to this kind of
You say, "In that case, they're really free!" But, they're just free
ghosts, not free people. Of course, if people are free, often they just take
advantage of situations and don't follow the rules. The same thing happens
with a ghost who is free-he tends not to follow the rules. People who die in
this way can try to catch some other persons to turn into ghosts to take
their place. That's why oftentimes when there's an accident in a certain
place, within three days after it, there will be another one. The reason is
that the ghost that died by accident is just waiting for the opportunity to
catch someone else to replace him, because he won't get a chance at rebirth
until he can get someone to take his place. If he doesn't get another ghost
to represent him, then he just remains there forever, ignored. That's
another kind of death.
If you kill yourself, say for instance from taking poison, you go to the
hells. And the punishments are terrible. If, for example, you took poison to
die, then you'll go to the hell where you have to drink molten iron. You
burn up all your insides-your stomach, your intestines-and then you die. But
then a "clever" wind blows and revives you and brings you back to life. Then
you have to drink the molten iron again, and then you die again from the
burns, and then the wind blows and you come back to life again. This process
goes on unceasingly all day. It's unbearable. But, if you can recite the
name of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, the text says, the various kinds of sufferings
are all gradually wiped away. Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva can
gradually eliminate and eradicate the sufferings of birth, old age,
sickness, and death.
We have already discussed four of the sufferings. Next we will talk about
the suffering of being apart from those we love.
Everybody knows what love is. Some people love wealth; others love
beautiful forms or fame. If people who love wealth are separated from it,
then that is known as the suffering of being apart from what one loves. How
might this happen? Suppose someone is very wealthy-he has a flourishing
business, but, suddenly, due to unforeseeable circumstances, he goes
bankrupt. He loses everything. That's a case of being apart from what one
loves. In his case, he loved money. He didn't ever want to be separated from
money, and then suddenly he's penniless.
Next, let's consider someone who loves beautiful forms. Men love the
looks of women; women love the looks of men. Between them there's a mutual
love. But if in their former lives the causes and effects were not planted
correctly, then the love will not last. Something will happen, and they'll
have to part from each other. That's the kind of suffering that occurs
between men and women when they must be apart from those they love.
Then there are those who love fame. Some people say that fame is one's
second life. But sometimes your reputation gets ruined. You lose your fame.
Basically, if you are the one who wanted to be well-known and then you did
something wrong and ruined your own reputation, that's a case of being part
from what you love-fame.
But then you say, "Well, there might be a couple who doesn't separate,
and so they don't have to undergo the suffering of being apart from those
But they might have a child who is both handsome and intelligent, and all
of a sudden, unexpectedly, he dies. That's extremely hard to bear. Or
suppose you are a person who is especially filial to your parents, and then
your parents die. That's another example of being apart from those you love.
Or, maybe you have an excellent relationship with your spouse, and then
suddenly he or she dies unexpectedly. That's also an example of being apart
from those you love. The same thing applies to brothers, sisters, friends-in
each case there can exist the suffering of being apart from those you love.
Once you have experienced this kind of suffering, you should no longer be
attached to love. You should not place all your love in one person. Instead,
develop a kind regard for all living beings. Practice the Bodhisattva Path
and save everybody. Don't only think of yourself. Think of all living
beings, instead. Rescue and protect everybody. Then you will not experience
the suffering of being apart from those you love.
The sixth kind of suffering is that of being together with those one
hates. Of course, some people overreact and think, "Well, since love entails
so much suffering, I'm not going to love anybody-I hate everybody!" So you
detest everyone, and you don't love anything, including material objects.
You feel that since loving is so much suffering, you don't want to love. But
not loving also has its suffering. That's the suffering of being together
with those you hate.
Maybe you find yourself in a circumstance in which you don't like where
you are, or you don't like the people who are around you, and so you move.
But then, who would have guessed, when you get to the new place, the people
are all the same type as in the place you just left, and things are just as
despicable; in fact, it's even worse.
In general, the things that you wish most to avoid and the things that
you detest the most are the very things that come around. It's strange how
this happens. For instance, if you're afraid of cats, then from morning to
night, there are cats hanging around. Suppose you hate dogs with a passion;
then everywhere you go, you have dogs trailing you. Or, you hate women, but
all day there are women wanting to see you. They chase after you, and you
get totally fed up, so you move; but at your new place, there's another
group of women just like them.
Well, how does this suffering arise? It comes from your own nature.
Because your intrinsic nature doesn't have any samadhi, you find
fault with whatever you see. Say you're in one place where you can't get
along with any of your neighbors, so you move to someplace else, and you
still cannot get along with any of your new neighbors. Then that's not a
question of the neighbors-it's probably a question of your lack of ability
to get along. You just don't have any affinity with anyone, so nobody likes
You can see that the more you are attached to something, the more likely
you will be separated from it. By the same token, the more you hate and wish
to avoid something, the more you are going to get involved with it. These
two-the suffering of love and the suffering of hate-come about because you
don't truly understand the Middle Way. As soon as you get to an extreme,
either too much or too little, you're going to suffer. If you could hold to
the Middle Way, you wouldn't suffer.
The seventh kind of suffering is that of not getting whatever one seeks.
Some people spend their whole lives seeking for an official job, but in the
end they never make it. Some people try to become famous, but they can't
make it either. Some people don't have any children, and no matter how much
they try, they are never able to have a child. That's another example of not
getting what one seeks.
In general, people spend their whole lives trying to get this or trying
to get that, but in the end, they don't get what they want. Some people
would like to get a Ph.D., but it's not their destiny to be students,
because from of old they haven't planted those kinds of causes. For example,
there was Lyang, who became top scholar in China when he was eighty-two. But
not long after he got the honor, he died. If you get something and then
can't enjoy it, that's just another version of the suffering connected with
not getting what you seek.
Then there's the suffering of the raging blaze of the five skandhas:
form, feeling, thought, activity, and consciousness. In the Heart Sutra,
Form does not differ from emptiness;
Emptiness does not differ from form.
Form itself is emptiness;
Emptiness itself is form.
The point is, if you can see things as empty, then you won't have any
suffering. But, if you can't see things as empty, then you will be burned by
the five skandhas. The five skandhas are a raging blaze, yet
although they are so much suffering, no one can bear to separate from them.
The first seven kinds of suffering are from external birth. This eighth
suffering is innate; it's inherent in the five skandhas from birth.
It never leaves you, and even if you want to part from it, you can't get
free. This has been a discussion on the eight kinds of sufferings.
"True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator,
Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom,
Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator,
Constant are your vows, constant is our respect!"
True Contemplator, Pure Contemplator. True Contemplation is
the Contemplation of True Emptiness. True Emptiness is no others, no self,
no living beings, and no life span. There's no appearance of self, no
appearance of others, no appearance of living beings, and no appearance of a
life span. However, "no appearance" is not apart from appearance; this just
means that right within the appearance itself, there's no appearance. Within
the appearance of self, there is no appearance of self; within the
appearance of others, there is no appearance of others; within
the appearance of living beings, there is no appearance of living beings;
within the appearance of a life span, there is no appearance of a
There is a saying that goes,
The eyes see form, but inside there is nothing;
The ears hear defiling sounds, but the mind does not know.
It's perfectly clear that shape and form exist, and your eyes see them,
so why do we say that inside there's nothing? It's because there is no
The Contemplation of True Emptiness is just likened to a great, perfect
mirror. In a great and perfect mirror, when things come before it, they are
reflected in the mirror; when they leave, no trace is left. This is the
Contemplation of True Emptiness practiced by Gwan Yin Bodhisattva.
Pure Contemplation is the Contemplation of Purity. Purity is the opposite
of defilement. What is defilement? Anything you're attached to is a defiled
thing. Anything that you have fond regard for is a defiled thing. Anything
that you are greedy for is a defiled thing.
In the Contemplation of Purity, there is no greed, hatred, or stupidity.
Take giving as an example. When most people give, they first have to
think about it, "This person is related to me-as a friend, relative, or
neighbor-so I'll help him out by giving him something." You first figure it
all out and decide to give only to the people who are closest to you, and
you pay no regard to those with whom you are unfamiliar. This is called
"taking care of one's relatives first, without having concern for any
others; paying attention to those who are close and ignoring those who are
In other words, you make distinctions. You are attached to appearance,
and so your regard is not pure. But Gwan Yin Bodhisattva does not make
distinctions between himself and others. He does not distinguish between
relatives and those who are not related, or between those who are close and
those who are distant. He simply gives.
There are three kinds of giving: the giving of wealth, the giving of
Dharma, and the giving of fearlessness.
Of wealth, there are two kinds: inner wealth and outer wealth. Probably
it would be difficult for most people to figure out what is meant by "inner
wealth," but most people would be able to figure out what is meant by "outer
wealth." "Inner wealth" refers to things inside your body, and outer wealth
refers to things outside your body.
The giving of outer wealth refers to the giving up of one's country,
city, wife, or children. "This whole town belongs to me-I own it all-but
I'll give it away." In some cases, one is able to give away all his
storehouses and treasuries, or even his own wife and children. That's really
putting everything down. That's true giving.
The giving of inner wealth means to give up one's body, nature, mind, and
life to save living beings who are in need. The body refers to the entire
physical body-head, eyes, brain, marrow, and so forth.
When Venerable Shariputra was trying to practice the Bodhisattva Path,
someone came along and said that he really needed an eye to cure his ill
mother. Shariputra then gouged out one of his eyes and gave it to that
person. Who would have guessed that the person would say it was the wrong
eye and then throw it on the ground. At that point, Shariputra retreated
from the Bodhisattva Path-"It's too hard; I can't do it." And so Shariputra
was only able to relinquish half of his inner wealth; he couldn't quite part
with the other half.
In general, the giving of inner wealth means giving up one's internal
treasures-one's own wisdom, essence, and energy.
The giving of Dharma means to speak Dharma in order to teach and
transform living beings. Of the three kinds of giving, this is the greatest.
And so it's said,
Of all the kinds of giving, the greatest is the giving of Dharma.
In speaking Dharma, you should want to spread it to all people. You
wouldn't even mind not eating or going without sleep in order to speak
Dharma. It has been that way for me in the past. If someone wanted to study
the Dharma, I would explain it to them to the point of missing my lunch and
sleep, until I could help them to thoroughly understand. I hope that all of
you will be my transformation bodies and spread the Buddhadharma in this
way-practice the giving of Dharma. There is much more value in spreading
Dharma than in contributing any amount of money. We must establish a
foundation, and each one of us should personally take responsibility for the
future of Buddhism in the West. Don't just hang back and say, "Well, it
doesn't have anything to do with me. Buddhism is not my business, it's
As far as I am concerned, as long as I have a single breath left,
spreading the Buddhadharma is my personal responsibility. And if someone
else wants to take responsibility for it, too-how wonderful! Don't
procrastinate; stand on your own, and take the job of propagating the
Buddhadharma as your own. That's the first criterion for the process of
The giving of fearlessness is the last one of the three kinds of giving.
For instance, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva saves living beings from seven
difficulties, releases them from the Three Evil Paths, and responds to the
two kinds of seeking. That's an example of the giving of fearlessness. When
people are in a terrifying situation and their very lives are at stake, if
you appear in a fearless body to rescue them, then you are practicing the
giving of fearlessness.
You can also practice the giving of fearlessness in an individual way,
like Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva, who practiced the giving of
fearlessness on another level. This Bodhisattva knew that people in a
certain place needed a bridge in order to get across a river. If they tried
to cross the river without a bridge, their lives would be in danger, and it
would be a frightening experience for them. Since it was in ancient times,
he had to use primitive techniques. For instance, he could build a pontoon
bridge of logs floating on the river with flat boards on top of them, so
that people could cross the river without incurring any danger upon
themselves. Of course, if there was a flood, their lives would still be
endangered. However, they no longer suffered the fear of crossing that
When the Venerable Elder Master Hsu-Yun came down from Jyu-Hwa mountain,
remembering that there was a bridge at a particular spot on the river, he
went to that place to cross the river. But the river was swollen, and the
bridge had been destroyed by a flood. Since the bridge was no longer there,
he accidentally fell into the river. He floated in the river for a day and a
night-bobbing up and down for a total of twenty-four hours. Eventually, he
was caught by an old fisherman in his fishnet. Thinking that he had caught a
giant fish, the old man started to pull the fish out. But on closer
examination, he discovered that his "fish" was, in fact, a monk wearing
Nearby there was a little temple, and so the fisherman went to alert the
left-home people there. The monks recognized the Venerable Master
immediately. They then set about applying artificial respiration and
bringing him back to consciousness. At that point the Master truly gained a
After nearly being drowned in the river and escaping death, the Venerable
Master proceeded to Gau-Min Monastery. He had gone there to participate in
the Chan session, but he was still very ill and weak from his recent
experience. However, he didn't breathe a single word about his mishap, and
so nobody knew.
The Abbot then asked him to represent him as the head of the session; but
the Master Hsu-Yun, knowing himself that he was too sick, refused. Now, the
refusal to an appointment by the Abbot was considered a breach of monastic
discipline. And for this, the Master was beaten with an incense board.
Still, he said not a word.
The Venerable Master was the foremost monk, the loftiest good and wise
advisor in all of China, but he underwent tremendous suffering at Gau-Min
Monastery, where everyone looked down on him. "He's just a burden to all of
us," they said, "very useless."
Now, back to the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth. He fixed the roads
and bridges. When Elder Master Hsu-Yun went to Hu-Nan, he met a monk who
spent all his time fixing the roads, and this monk didn't speak. That,
indeed, was a transformation body of Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva. This
Bodhisattva spent all of his time guarding the earth. If there were rocks or
rubble on the roads, he would remove them to one side so that people
wouldn't step on them and hurt their feet. He kept the roads in good repair.
Who paid him for all his hard labor? Nobody. Now, wasn't he stupid? Wasn't
he just working in vain? Well, his working in vain enabled him to become the
Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth.
Contemplator with Vast, Great Wisdom. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva
uses the regard of great wisdom to cross over all living beings.
Compassionate Contemplator, Kind Contemplator. The Bodhisattva also
has universal compassionate regard for all living beings. The contemplation
of compassion pulls living beings out of suffering; the contemplation of
kindness gives living beings joy. This kind of joy is not temporary
happiness, but an everlasting bliss that transcends the mundane. The
Bodhisattva gives Dharma to living beings causing them to gain the true
understanding of the Buddhadharma and thereby not do any more upside-down
things. That is called the giving of happiness.
Constant are your vows, constant is our respect! Forever
you will gaze up at Gwan Yin Bodhisattva with respect. You wish to always
look upon that virtuous and kind countenance. The more you look, the happier
you become. For instance, bowing the Great Compassion Repentance is a
ceremony to show your respect to Gwan Yin Bodhisattva.
There are those who don't like to bow. They say, "Well, I believe in my
own Buddha." Well, if you truly believed in your own Buddha, then
there wouldn't be any you-there wouldn't be any "your own." It's just
because you haven't found your own Buddha that you cannot recognize an
external Buddha when you see one. If you really believed in your own Buddha,
it wouldn't keep you from bowing.
Bowing-that is, kowtowing, a full bow to the floor-represents the most
respectful of gestures. In Buddhism, this is a kind of formal
courtesy. If you can't even perform this kind of courtesy, how
can you call yourself someone who believes in the Buddha?
There's a certain doctor who commanded respect from many people; but he
himself told everyone not to bow to the Buddha. When others bowed to the
Buddha, he would stand there like a wooden stick. That's because he hadn't
really broken through the mark of his ego.
The people who refuse to bow to the Buddha are the very first people I
scold, because they have the arrogant attitude, "Me? Why should I bow to the
Buddha?" What I am scolding is their arrogance. If you are self-satisfied
and proud to the point that you can't even bow, then how in the world do you
expect to be able to study Buddhism?
"Undefiled pure light,
The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness
Is able to quell calamities of wind and fire
As it shines on all worlds."
These four lines of text are ineffably wonderful. They can cure eye
sicknesses. If you have eye trouble and you constantly recite this four-line
verse, your eye disease will be cured. However, although your eye disease
may be cured, you still have to go ahead and bring forth wisdom in order to
be totally cured. If you don't have wisdom, then even though you may
temporarily be made better, it could crop up again in the future.
In general, if you truly believe in the power of Sutra text, then Gwan
Yin Bodhisattva's awesome spiritual strength will aid you and bring about an
efficacious effect. But if you don't believe, nothing special will happen.
There won't be any effect. That's why it's said,
The Buddhadharma is like a great sea,
But only through faith can you enter.
The verse says, "Undefiled pure light." Defilement refers
to dust, dirt, and unclean things. Being without any defilement means that
you don't have any polluted thinking. For every polluted thought that you
strike up, you add another layer of dust upon your original pure nature. The
more polluted thinking you have, the dustier it gets.
Therefore, you need to "understand the mind and see the nature."
That's what people who investigate Chan aim to do. To "understand
the mind" is to be "undefiled." To "see your nature" is to see the "pure
light" as mentioned here. Your original mind is your permanently-dwelling
true mind, the Treasury of the Thus Come One. When you understand your mind
and see your nature, the bright light in your inherent Treasury of the Thus
Come One manifests.
The sun of wisdom that breaks through the darkness. The
wisdom-sun means that wisdom is like the sun. The kind of darkness referred
to here is a lack of faith, a lack of wisdom, a lack of vows, and a lack of
a resolve to truly practice.
Darkness also refers to not studying or upholding the precepts, not
cultivating the power of samadhi, and not developing the power of
wisdom. You're walking a dark path if you do not study precepts, samadhi,
and wisdom. If you do cultivate according to precepts, samadhi, and
wisdom, then you're walking on a bright path.
We can also explain it in this way. Your desire to listen to the
Buddhadharma is the light. But someone might think, "I've listened for so
many days and it doesn't really have much meaning. The Dharma Master has
been sitting up there on that platform talking and talking about the same
old thing. I've heard it over and over. He said that people should get rid
of greed, hatred, and stupidity and should cultivate precepts, samadhi,
and wisdom. I'm tired of listening." Some of you feel tired of listening?
However, there are those of you who do not grow weary of listening. The
more you hear, the more you want to listen, even to the point that you just
listen to the sound of the Dharma Master's voice and the subtle and
incredible doctrines of the Sutra. And when you finish listening, it's as if
the Dharma Master were still speaking in your ear. "From morning till night,
I can hear the voice of the Dharma Master beside my ear speaking Dharma to
me." That's the light.
At this point, I suddenly remember something that happened to me in Hong
Kong. A certain laywoman came to see me, and after she saw me, what do you
think happened? In everything she did, whether walking, standing, sitting,
or lying down, she always saw me. What do you suppose she thought? She
thought, "Oh, that Dharma Master is a demon! Otherwise, why would I see him
all the time?" Here she was, able to hear a Dharma Master speaking Dharma at
all times, and she thought he was a demon. I suppose that if she saw a
demon, she would have thought it was a Buddha. So, she started slandering me
and even wanted to strike me. Inside of a month, she contracted cancer and
died. Basically, I wanted to save her, but she thought I was a demon. She
refused my rescue. And that's the way people are; they think the true is
false, and the false is true.
Gwan Yin Bodhisattva uses the Contemplation of True Emptiness to break
through the delusion of views and thought.
The "delusion of views" is defined as "when faced with a state, giving
rise to greed." You get caught up with something that appears before you,
then give rise to greed and attachment.
The "delusion of thought" is defined as "giving rise to discrimination
because one is confused about principle."
By means of the Contemplation of True Emptiness, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva
breaks through the darkness of the delusion of views and thought. He brings
forth the virtue of Prajna.
When Gwan Yin Bodhisattva cultivates the Contemplation of Purity, he
breaks through the darkness of delusion like dust and sand, and is certified
to the virtue of Liberation.
When Gwan Yin Bodhisattva cultivates the Contemplation of Wisdom, he
breaks through the darkness of the delusion of ignorance, thus attaining the
virtue of the Dharma-body.
When one is certified to the Secret Treasury of the Three Virtues, then
Prajna, Liberation, and the Dharma-body will come about. One has to
cultivate the Three Contemplations-the Contemplation of Purity, the
Contemplation of True Emptiness, and the Contemplation of Wisdom-to be
certified to the Three Virtues, and to cut off the delusion of views and
thought, the delusion like dust and sand, and the delusion of ignorance.
That's what's meant by "the sun of wisdom that breaks through all darkness."
The wisdom here refers to these contemplations-the contemplations themselves
This wisdom sun is able to quell calamities of wind and fire.
"Calamities" here refers to the three calamities of water, fire, and wind.
Water floods the First Dhyana; fire burns through the Second Dhyana; wind
destroys the Third Dhyana.
At the end of the kalpa, the first of the three calamities
appears. The heavens of the First Dhyana are flooded by water. One doesn't
know where this water comes from-whether it comes from the stars, moon,
heavenly rivers, or earth-but it rises up in massive waves, and not only
does it drown humankind, it also drowns the gods of the First Dhyana
Therefore when the first calamity of water hits, almost everything is
destroyed. Somehow a few people remain, and the population starts to
multiply again. Eventually it gets overpopulated, people's offenses are
redoubled, and things get very complicated.
Then the second calamity, that of fire, hits. This kalpic fire
burns clear through the Second Dhyana Heavens. The gods in these heavens are
burned by this fire. Why is it that fire can reach the Second Dhyana? It's
because the gods in these heavens still have fire affliction, whereas the
gods in the First Dhyana Heavens still have water affliction. The fire
inside their intrinsic nature catches with the fire in the world, bringing
about a huge conflagration. At that time seven suns appear in the sky. The
mountains, rivers, and great earth all turn into burning coals, and people
are reduced to a crisp. Even the seas are all burned dry. The seas turn into
dry land, and the land becomes high mountains. Then the high mountains
become great seas. There are many strange happenings in between heaven and
After the disaster of fire, a very long time passes, and those people who
are left in the world propagate the species until once again the world
becomes overpopulated. Then the third disaster, that of wind, hits. "Wind
destroys the Third Dhyana." Not only does the wind rip through people's
houses and buildings, but the mountains, rivers, and earth are all ripped to
bits. In fact, the wind reaches up to the gods in the Third Dhyana Heavens.
Even the gods cannot avoid this disaster. So there's a verse that goes:
In the Six Desire Heavens, there are the Five Signs of Decay;
The Third Dhyana has the disaster of wind.
Even if you make it to the Heaven of Neither Thought nor No Thought,
It is not as good as going to the Pure Land and coming back again.
Therefore, people who cultivate the Way shouldn't do it with the idea in
mind of seeking the blessings of the heavens. Once those blessings are
exhausted, one will fall back into the cycle of rebirth.
In the Six Desire Heavens, when one's blessings are exhausted, the Five
Marks of Decay set in. Just as human bodies deteriorate as death draws near,
so too in the heavens, gods change as their life spans come to an end. Once
their lives in those heavens are over, they will be reborn and undergo
retribution in accord with their karma.
The Five Marks of Decay are:
1. The flower garlands wilt. Heavenly beings have crowns of
flowers that adorn them naturally and stay ever-fresh. But when their
heavenly blessings are exhausted, when their heavenly life has come to an
end, their flower garlands start to wilt.
2. The clothes get dirty. The clothing worn by beings in the
heavens is not at all like the clothes worn by common people in our world.
The gods' clothes never get wrinkled or dirty. They never have to do
laundry. Since their clothes stay naturally clean, they don't have to buy
washing machines and detergent. The heavenly beings do not have to wash
their clothes. They are all spontaneously and naturally clean-that is, until
the second mark of decay sets in. Then the clothes of the gods start to get
3. The armpits perspire. Unlike common people who continually
sweat, heavenly beings do not perspire. The reason their clothes stay clean
is that they don't sweat. But with the third mark of decay, they start
4. The entire body smells bad. Ordinarily, the bodies of heavenly
beings are always fragrant. But when these five marks of decay arrive, they
start to smell bad.
5. They cannot sit still. Last of all, they can't remain in their
places. They jump up and start walking around, but they're still uneasy, so
they sit down again. But that won't do either. They lie down but still feel
uncomfortable. They jump back up but can't find a single comfortable
position to be in.
At just that moment-all of a sudden-the life of a heavenly being ends. If
they have wholesome karma, then they will be reborn as wealthy and
influential people. But if their evil karma ripens, they will fall into the
Three Evil Destinies-the path of the hungry ghosts, the animals, or the
beings in the hells. So even if you become a god, you still have this kind
The disaster of wind destroys the Third Dhyana Heavens. Where do these
disasters come from? They come from one's anger. If a person has a lot of
anger, then even though he has cultivated significant blessings and is
reborn in the heavens, he must still undergo the retribution of the disaster
of wind. Because the root of anger, resentment, and temper has not been cut
off, one has to take this loss. This is the retribution for anger.
Fortunately, the light of the sun of wisdom of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva can
quell all disasters and break up all darkness as it shines a
universal light on all worlds. The world that we common people
live in now is called the Land in Which the Common and Sagely Live Together.
The great wisdom of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva also illumines the Land of
Expedients with Residue. That's where those of the Two Vehicles live.
"Expedients" refers to clever, provisional means. "With Residue" means that
there's still something left, because the inhabitants of this world have not
yet completely cut off all their afflictions.
Gwan Yin Bodhisattva dwells in the Adorned Land of Actual Reward, which
is the land where all the Bodhisattvas dwell. The Buddhas dwell in the Land
of Eternally Still and Pure Light.
With his great wisdom and great knowledge, Gwan Yin Bodhisattva
universally illumines all of these lands, and so the text says his light
"shines on all worlds."
"Compassionate substance: the thunder of Precepts.
Kind intent: a wondrous great cloud.
He rains down sweet dew and Dharma rain,
Which extinguish the flames of affliction."
Compassionate substance: the thunder of Precepts.
Compassionate substance means that Gwan Yin Bodhisattva takes the substance
of compassion as his Dharma substance. Where does this compassionate
substance come from? It comes from Precepts. When Gwan Yin Bodhisattva first
began to cultivate, he held the Precepts purely, and from this purity he
brought forth kindness and compassion, the kindness that includes even those
with whom one doesn't have affinities. This Dharma substance is like
thunder-it emits a thunderous roar, and living beings are awakened by it.
The blind can see and even the deaf can hear this sound of thunder. And so
it says, "Compassionate substance: the thunder of precepts roars."
Kind intent: a wondrous great cloud. Gwan Yin Bodhisattva
uses level and equal kindness and compassion to help living beings. The
Sutra said, "With eyes of kindness, he regards all living beings." With
kindness and compassion, he bestows joy upon living beings in a level and
Acting like a wondrous, huge cloud, he rains down sweet dew and
Dharma rain. Sweet dew is actually the water of immortality found in
the heavens. Why are the heavenly gods immortal? Because they drink sweet
dew. So you say, "Even the gods take their vitalizers. It's no wonder that
people these days who want to get enlightened pop all sorts of pills." But
the heavenly medicine is natural-it's organic. When the gods imbibe this
medicine, they never age. Now Gwan Yin Bodhisattva has a wonderful, great
cloud that lets fall sweet dew, the elixir of immortality, which
extinguishes the flames of affliction.
People in this world have afflictions, and it's as though they were being
scorched by flames. Why do you not become a Buddha? Because you have
afflictions. Why haven't you become enlightened? Because you have
afflictions. Why aren't you truly free? Because you have afflictions.
Another name for afflictions is attachments. Where do attachments stem
from? They come from selfishness. Why are you attached? Because you are
selfish and you want to seek private gains. If you have a mind only for the
common good, if you're truly public-spirited, then what attachments could
you possibly have?
If you aren't selfish, you won't be attached; if you don't have
attachments, you won't be afflicted; and if you don't have afflictions, you
will be liberated. Once you are liberated, you're enlightened. To become
enlightened is just to realize Buddhahood.
Afflictions are the very worst thing to have, yet people can't stand to
be apart from them. Whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, they
don't want to ever be apart from afflictions.
You say, "Well, I'm happy all the time, and I don't have any
afflictions." Well, if you have attained genuine bliss, then of course
you're not afflicted. But if you haven't attained genuine bliss and you fake
it-you force yourself to believe that you're happy-then it's not true
happiness. Inside, the affliction is still heavy. And one day it will turn
up-it'll explode. It's like smothering weeds with a large rock-the weeds
won't be able to grow. But once you remove the rock, the weeds will quickly
flourish. If you haven't attained true bliss, your afflictions will still
Of the Four Vast Vows that the Bodhisattva makes, the first one is,
"Living beings are boundless, I vow to save them all." Why does Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva come to this world? Only because living beings are boundless,
and he has vowed to save them all.
The second vast vow is, "Afflictions are endless, I vow to sever them
all." Does Gwan Yin Bodhisattva have afflictions? No, he has cut them off,
but he takes living beings' afflictions as his own. Seeing that living
beings haven't cut off their afflictions, he makes the vow: "Afflictions are
endless, I vow to cut them off." Basically, afflictions are endless, like
waves on water: The wave in front dissipates, and then the wave that follows
rises up. That wave dissipates, and yet another wave rises up in its wake.
This goes on continuously without cease. Afflictions are just like
The third vast vow is, "Dharma-doors are limitless, I vow to study them
all." Some people study one or two Sutras, and they become self-satisfied.
They say they already understand Buddhism. But the Buddhism they understand
is not as much as a single drop within the great sea of the Buddhadharma.
These people who become self-satisfied are just like an ant who goes to the
ocean to get a drink of water: He takes his fill and says that he has drunk
up the entire sea. Actually the ant only filled up his own stomach-he hasn't
even drunk a single drop of the great sea.
The last vast vow is "The Buddha Way is unsurpassed, I vow to realize
it." There is nothing higher than the Buddha Way, so everyone should resolve
to become a Buddha. You shouldn't look down on yourself. Originally you were
a Buddha, but that doesn't mean you are a Buddha now. Basically we were all
completely endowed with the Buddha-nature. But now, because we don't know
how to cultivate, we don't possess the Three Bodies of the Buddha, the Four
Types of Wisdom, the Five Eyes, or the Six Spiritual Penetrations.
Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva bases his teaching on the Four Vast Vows, and he
uses the sweet dew of Dharma rain to cause all beings to become refreshed
and content, so they won't have any more afflictions.
"In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits,
Or when someone is terrified on the battlefield,
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin,
All his many enemies will scatter and leave."
In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits.
"Contention" means fighting. During the Dharma-Ending Age, contention is at
When the Buddha dwells in the world, it is called the Proper Dharma Age.
During the Proper Dharma Age, Dhyana concentration is solid.
At that time, everyone likes to investigate Dhyana and enter samadhi.
The Proper Dharma Age lasts from the time the Buddha appears in the world
until one thousand years following his extinction. After that comes the
Dharma Image Age.
During the Dharma Image Age, people are resolute in building temples.
They erect stupas and make images, and they consider that to be the most
important work. Everyone likes to build big temples. That's why in this
world some countries have great temples as a vestige of the Dharma Image
Age. The Dharma Image Age also lasts for one thousand years, and after that
comes the Dharma-Ending Age.
The Dharma-Ending Age lasts for ten thousand years.
"Ending" here also refers to the tip of the branch. At that time the Dharma
has arrived at its termination. We are at present in the Dharma-Ending Age.
During this time, people are not resolute in Dhyana concentration nor in
building temples. They are resolute in fighting. And that's what we are
discussing now in this line of verse-contention. Countries fight with
countries; families fight with families; people fight with people; animals
fight with animals; ghosts fight with ghosts-there is fighting everywhere.
Why? Because during the Dharma-Ending Age, it's within the nature of people
to like to fight.
However, right within the Dharma-Ending Age is the Proper Dharma Age.
And, in the Dharma Image Age, there is also the Proper Dharma Age. What is
meant by this? Even within the Dharma-Ending Age, there are still people who
want to investigate Chan and sit in meditation. For example, many people
here like to take time out in the morning or evening, or even in the midst
of a busy day, to sit in meditation. And this is just being in the Proper
Dharma Age. During the Dharma-Ending Age, these people make up only a very,
very small percentage of the entire population.
The facts that we can still lecture the Sutras and speak Dharma, and that
people vigorously cultivate according to the teachings, and that some still
find time amidst their busy schedules to sit in meditation-even to the point
that some don't eat or sleep in order to come to hear the Sutra
lectures-means that the Proper Dharma Age is found right within the
Now, if all of us come together to build great Way-places and temples,
then we are in the Dharma Image Age that is found within the Dharma-Ending
Furthermore, within the Dharma Image Age, there are also the
Dharma-Ending Age and the Proper Dharma Age. For instance, during the Dharma
Image Age, when people like to build temples, there are those who don't like
to build temples and who don't even believe in the Buddha, and that's like
having the Dharma-Ending Age within the Dharma Image Age. And again, if at
that time people get together and vigorously cultivate, then that's the
Proper Dharma Age within the Dharma Image Age.
Likewise, within the Proper Dharma Age, there are also found the
Dharma-Ending Age and the Dharma Image Age. During the Proper Dharma Age, if
people like to build temples, then they are dwelling in the Dharma Image
Age. There are also those who study the Buddhadharma just a bit and then
stop-they don't thoroughly investigate-and that's like having the
Dharma-Ending Age right within the Proper Dharma Age.
Although this age is generally recognized as the Dharma-Ending Age, there
are those of us in the West who are abiding in and upholding the Proper
Dharma, and who have made vows to propagate the Buddhadharma so that it will
forever remain in the world; thus, we have the Proper Dharma Age within the
Every day we recite and hold the Shurangama Mantra, and in this way we
are helping the entire world. If there is not even a single person who
recites the Shurangama Mantra in a world, then that world is about to be
destroyed. At that time, all the strange essences, goblins, and demons, the
li-mei and wang-lyang ghosts will appear. Why is it that they
don't dare to make a full-force descent upon the world at this time? It's
because in this world there are still people who hold the Shurangama Mantra
and who cultivate the Great Compassion Mantra and the Forty-two Hands and
Eyes. Because of this, the strange ghosts and goblins don't dare to come
Now the text is talking about a time that is strong in fighting, so it
says, "In the midst of contention, when faced with lawsuits." At such a time
you have to go before a judge and argue things out. Then you have to hire an
attorney. Some attorneys have the talent to make it appear as though you are
totally unreasonable, even if you are on the right side of the law;
conversely, the cases of people who are clearly on the wrong side can be
made to look completely justifiable. This is distorting right and
wrong-turning things upside down.
Nowadays if you have enough money, you can kill and still get off
scot-free. This often happens in cases of contention. People go to court to
argue principles, but somehow the lawyers twist the facts around so that
even if you have principle, they make it appear as if you don't; and if you
don't have principle, they make it appear as if you do. People are
manipulated by money to the point that their consciences are completely
Or when someone is terrified on the battlefield. This is
when one becomes petrified amidst clashing armies on the battlefield.
If he uses the power of mindfulness of Gwan Yin, /All his many
enemies will scatter and leave. If you can only recite "Na mwo
Gwan Shr Yin Pu Sa," then your enemies will retreat and disperse; all
the feuding will somehow disappear, and your enemies will disperse.
Who are your enemies? Say you have to go to court to argue a case against
another person, or you fall before an adversary on the battlefield: The
reason for this is the resentment piled up over many lifetimes. An animosity
builds up over lifetimes to the point that these people come together to
fight it out. Each person has to undergo his or her retribution. But if you
can at that time be mindful of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva, this kind of
retribution will be lessened-the heavy offenses will be lightened and the
light ones will completely disappear. So the text says, "All his many
enemies will scatter and leave." And so the power of Gwan Yin Bodhisattva is
truly inconceivable and not something that most people can understand.
During World War II, a man by the name of Fei Fan-Jing lived in Shanghai.
He practiced reciting Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's name every day. During the war
between the Japanese and the Chinese, Shanghai was constantly being shelled,
and so this person decided to move from his house to avoid the bombing.
Right after he moved, his house was completely destroyed by a bomb. After
staying about forty-five days at the new shelter, he got the notion that
this place wouldn't be safe, either. So he moved again. He moved to the
"Concession Zone," an area that was loaned to foreigners. That was an area
that the Westerners leased from China to dwell in, and the Japanese didn't
dare bomb that area.
After living in the Concession Zone for a while, Fei Fan-Jing thought
that it also wasn't safe; but that area was guarded by sentries and he
wasn't allowed to leave. Right at that time, when he was really pinned
down-he couldn't go back and he couldn't go forward-he saw a child. The
child said, "You'd better get out of here quickly; the Japanese army is on
its way!" There was a wire net fencing in that entire area, and suddenly he
saw a place in the net about two feet wide that was broken-just enough of a
space to crawl through. He managed to get his mother, his wife, and his
whole family out of the area through this hole in the wire net. When they
had all gotten out, the guards who had been on sentry duty were astonished;
they couldn't figure out how those people had gotten through.
Fei Fan-Jing then turned back to look for the child, but the child was
nowhere to be seen. He looked back at the wire net and the hole was not
there. He was really puzzled. In this way he was saved from "the terror of
the battlefield." From this incident we can see that the power of Gwan Shr
Yin Bodhisattva is truly inconceivable.
"Wondrous your sound, Contemplator of the World's Sounds-
A pure sound, a sound like the sea tide,
A sound beyond all worldly sounds,
We shall always bear it in mind."
Wondrous your sound, Contemplator of the World's Sound. Not
only is the Bodhisattva's sound wondrous and subtle, it is also pure.
A pure sound, a sound like the sea tide. The pure sound of Gwan Yin
Bodhisattva is like the sound of the sea-the sea tide, which is reliable,
ebbing and flowing. A sound beyond all worldly sounds, /We
shall always bear it in mind. Everyone should always recollect the
name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva.
"In thought after thought we have no doubt.
Gwan Shr Yin is pure and sagely.
In times of suffering, agony, danger, and death,
He is our refuge and protector."
In thought after thought we have no doubt. You shouldn't
think, "What use is it to recite the name of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva? Isn't
that just meaningless, reciting it every day?" It is very important not to
have doubts. You shouldn't have doubts for even a moment. Gwan Shr Yin
is pure and sagely. / In times of suffering, agony, danger,
and death, /He is our refuge and protector. You can
turn your very life over to Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva. He will certainly
protect and help you.
"Complete with all merit and virtue,
With eyes of kindness, watching living beings,
He is endowed with massive blessings, limitless as the sea.
Therefore we should reverently worship him."
Complete with all merit and virtue, /With eyes of
kindness, watching living beings. Like a compassionate father, Gwan
Shr Yin Bodhisattva, with the same kind eyes, looks upon all living beings
to see whether they have committed offenses or not. He
is endowed with massive blessings, limitless as the sea. His equal,
great compassion saves all living beings. The blessed reward he has
cultivated is as great and boundless as the sea. Therefore we should
reverently worship him.
At that time the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth rose from his seat
and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, if there are those who hear this
chapter of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, who learn about the self-mastery of his
deeds and the power of his spiritual penetrations as shown in this Universal
Door, you should know that the merit and virtue of such people will not be
At that time, after Shakyamuni Buddha had finished speaking the
verses, the Bodhisattva Guardian of the Earth. This Bodhisattva is
mentioned in the Shurangama Sutra. Limitless eons ago, this
Bodhisattva was illiterate. Although he had never studied the Buddhadharma,
his conduct was very near that of a Buddhist. He was very strong and
powerful. He could lift and move things that no one else could. His work was
repairing roads. Sometimes he repaired bridges. He would help people move
their carts or carry their burdens, and he never took any payment for these
services. He did it for a long time.
Once a Buddha named Vishvabhu came by and said to him, "Leveling the
roads is just casting aside the roots to grasp at the branches. It's
"Then what should I do?" said the Bodhisattva.
"If you want to level the roads, first you should level your mind-ground.
Why are there mountains and valleys, hills and dales? It's because people's
minds aren't level. People's minds go 'up and down,' and so we have
mountains, rivers, and valleys of the great earth. You should first level
your mind-ground. If the mind-ground is level, then all places are level."
Having heard these instructions, Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva then
cultivated the mind-ground Dharma-door. He leveled the ground of his mind
and cultivated to accomplishment.
From among the assembly, Guardian of the Earth Bodhisattva rose from
his seat and said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, if there are those who
hear this chapter of Gwan Shr Yin Bodhisattva, who learn about the
self-mastery of his deeds and the power of his spiritual penetrations as
shown in this Universal Door-those are his Thirty-two Response Bodies,
Fourteen Kinds of Fearlessness, and Nineteen Ways of Speaking Dharma-you
should know that the merit and virtue of such people will not be small."
The merit from hearing this chapter on Gwan Yin Bodhisattva's Universal Door
is not small by any means.
When the Buddha had spoken the "Universal Door Chapter," eighty-four
thousand living beings in the assembly all brought forth the resolve for
When the Buddha had spoken the "Universal Door Chapter," eighty-four
thousand living beings in the assembly all brought forth the resolve for
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, the mind for the Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal,
"Eighty-four thousand living beings" also refers to the 84,000 kinds of
afflictions we living beings have. Each of our bodies contains 84,000 germs.
We people are "big germs," and all the little germs live inside of us,
inside our blood, flesh, and internal organs. We are the life-support
systems for the little germs, and the little germs help the big germs. Each
one of the germs is actually a living being. You could never count them,
there being so many, but in general we say "eighty-four thousand."
Outwardly, the world is filled with many, many more than 84,000 beings.
"Eighty-four thousand beings" refers to the thoughts in the minds of living
beings, which rise and pass away continually. Each thought is a living
being, rising and passing away, undergoing birth and death. The 84,000
living beings are not separate from your own nature. The 84,000 living
beings all bring forth, at the same time, the resolve for
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi is Sanskrit. Anuttara means "proper
and equal." Samyak means "unsurpassed," and sambodhi means
"right enlightenment." There is nothing higher than this enlightenment; it's
equal to the enlightenment of the Buddha. Upon hearing this "Universal Door
Chapter," all the 84,000 living beings brought forth the resolve for
enlightenment. That was an especially rare occasion!
Now at the Buddhist Lecture Hall in San Francisco, we have lectured the
"Universal Door Chapter," and over twenty people have heard it. All of these
twenty people have 84,000 living beings inside of them. Ultimately, how many
beings are there? And yet, did they all bring forth the mind of unsurpassed
enlightenment? Even if not all of them did, the majority of them probably
did. Those who attend the lectures on the Dharma Flower Sutra all
have a share in becoming Buddhas in the future. That you have heard this
chapter on Gwan Yin Bodhisattva means that in the past, for many lives and
many eons, you have planted limitless, boundless good roots, and so now you
have this causal condition to assemble together and study the Buddhadharma.
This is a wonderful, inconceivable state.
Anuttarasamyaksambodhi is the highest position, the position of the
Buddha's enlightenment, the Unsurpassed, Pervasive, Proper Enlightenment.
The Proper Enlightenment is the enlightenment of the Arhats, those of the
Second Vehicle. They have not, however, obtained the Proper and Equal
Enlightenment. Who has obtained Proper and Equal Enlightenment? The
Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva has obtained both "Right" and "Proper and
Equal" Enlightenment. Bodhisattvas are equal to the Buddha, in that sense.
But they have not obtained the Unsurpassed Enlightenment.
Arhats have obtained Right Enlightenment; but they have not obtained
Proper and Equal or Unsurpassed Enlightenment yet.
Bodhisattvas are said to be "Surpassed Knights" because they are
surpassed by the Buddhas who are above them.
The Buddhas are called "Unsurpassed Knights," because none are higher
than they are. They have obtained Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right
Enlightenment, which is like the Perfect Bodhi that returns to Nonattainment.
The Buddhas have attained the Perfection of the Three Kinds of Enlightenment
and also the Ten Thousand Virtues. There is nothing higher than Unsurpassed,
Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment. This title applies only to the
Buddhas, not to the Bodhisattvas or Arhats. Thus, it is the highest
From what position is this highest state reached? One might think it was
realized from a high position, but that is not the case. The highest
position is realized from the lowest position. Those who cultivate the Way
should be very careful not to become arrogant, because the highest position
can only be reached from the lowest position.
Lau-Dz said, "The highest form of goodness is like water. Water
skillfully benefits the ten thousand things but does not contend. Because it
abides in places that people despise, it is close to the Way."
The ten thousand things include all creatures, flying, walking, and
swimming, as well as all the plants and trees. All creatures need water,
whether they are egg-born, womb-born, transformation-born, or moisture-born.
But even though all creatures are nourished and supported by water, the
water never thinks, "I am benefiting you, supporting your lives, and helping
you out." Water doesn't fight either. It doesn't insist on taking the credit
for what it does, as people usually do. People all say, "I did this good
deed, or that good deed. I built that temple. I built that bridge." They are
always competing. Water never thinks like that. It's unselfish; it doesn't
seek to benefit itself. Water doesn't fight for fame or profit. Water always
flows to the bottom; it doesn't run upwards nor fight to be on top.
"But rain falls down from the sky!" you say.
That's a very cogent point. The rain does fall down. But how does it get
up there in the first place? It goes up from the lowest place. Then it falls
down and flows into the rivers and the sea, and it still recedes into the
lower places. It just goes up into the sky temporarily. Water goes to places
where no one else wants to go.
Why is it that cultivators don't like to live in fancy houses? They may
even live in caves. The reason is they want to imitate water in dwelling in
a lowly place. Because water goes to places people despise, it's close to
If you want to realize Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right
Enlightenment, you, too, must begin from the lowest position. You don't
begin at the top.
If you want to become a Buddha, you must first be a good living being.
How do you do that? You should just do what is good. Don't do evil. Follow
the good and change the evil. Go down the good road, and get off the bad
road. Go forward and pursue what is in accord with the Way. Retreat from
that which is not in accord with the Way. Then you will be able to obtain
Unsurpassed, Proper and Equal, Right Enlightenment.
Today we have finished this general explanation of the "Universal Door
Chapter." The wonderful doctrine of the Universal Door is ineffable and
endless. It's not something that can be completely explained in a short
period of time. The Dharma Flower Sutra is ineffably wonderful. Its
wonderful functions are infinite and endless. Today, I have explained the
meaning in general. In the future, if there is an opportunity, we can go
into it more deeply.
If there's anything that you are seeking for in your mind, you should
pray to Gwan Yin Bodhisattva. I believe that you will get what you seek.
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra is the Sutra for
becoming a Buddha. Having heard the Dharma Flower Sutra, we each have
a share in future Buddhahood. This is a very rare opportunity.
*End of the Chapter on the Universal Door *