IT IS NOT KNOWN when and by whom this sutra, the so-called closing sutra of the Lotus Sutra, was first recited. The first man to do so, however, was surely a great person. This is because the Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue is so profound that it is considered to be the continuation of the Buddha's preaching of the Lotus Sutra, and because it teaches us how we should actually apply the Lotus Sutra in our daily lives. This method is repentance. The Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue teaches us the true meaning and method of repentance so thoroughly that it is commonly called "the Sutra of Repentance."
TWO MEANINGS AND METHODS OF REPENTANCE. The word "repentance" has two meanings and applications. One is repentance in a general sense, the confession of our own past physical and mental misdeeds. Our minds are purified by such repentance, and because it frees us from a sense of sin, we feel greatly refreshed. There are cases too numerous to mention of Rissho Kosei-kai members recovering from disease or being freed from family problems just by confessing their misdeeds before fellow members in group-counseling sessions. Psychoanalysts, especially those practicing depth analysis, have applied this principle in helping many disturbed people.
Recovery from illness is, of course, dependent on our repentance, whose true value consists in disclosing our buddha-nature. Through the Lotus Sutra, we have become able to understand that all people have the buddha-nature equally. Through this sutra we are awakened to the fact that all of us possess the invaluable gem of the buddha-nature. In fact, the Lotus Sutra can be said to be the teaching of the disclosing of our buddha-nature.
Immediately after it is mined, a gemstone is covered with mud and does not display its true brilliance. It does not disclose its nature as an invaluable gem until the mud is washed off. Washing the mud from the gem is like the first stage of repentance. The surface of our buddha-nature is covered with various delusions acquired in the course of our daily lives. Through repentance we remove such delusions from our buddha-nature, just as water washes the mud from a precious stone.
Repentance toward others is the first stage of repentance. We must pass through this stage, but as our faith deepens, eventually we come to repent all our sins directly toward the Buddha. We examine ourselves as being imperfect and mistaken, study the Buddha's teachings more deeply, meditate on Buddhist doctrines, and elevate ourselves ever higher. This is the secret principle of repentance; this is true repentance.
This second stage of repentance is the practice through which we constantly polish the gem of our buddha-nature. A gem does not reveal its brilliance even after the mud has been washed from it. Its surface is coated with mineral deposits, and it cannot display its intrinsic brilliance until polishing removes such impurities from its surface. The same thing can be said of our buddha-nature. The second stage of repentance is the practice by which we polish our buddha-nature.
As stated in chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra, "The Bodhisattva Never Despise," in order to disclose the buddha-nature of others it is important for us to revere it, that is, to pay respect to everyone. We must have a much stricter attitude toward ourselves. We must constantly cleanse and polish our buddha-nature. We feel pain when we pour cold water on our body and scrub vigorously with a wet towel in order to cleanse it. When we dare to cleanse and polish our buddha-nature despite pain, it begins to emit a brilliant light.
The Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue teaches concretely and thoroughly the meaning and practice of the second stage of repentance. Let us now proceed to the sutra itself.
Once, when the Buddha was staying at the two-storied assembly hall in the Great Forest Monastery at Vaishali, he addressed all the bhiksus, saying: "After three months, I shall surely enter parinirvana." Thereupon the honored Ananda rose from his seat, straightened his garments, and with joined palms and folded hands he made procession around the Buddha three times and saluted him, kneeling with his palms joining together, and attentively gazed at the Tathagata without turning away his eyes for a moment. The elder Maha-Kashyapa and the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Maitreya also rose from their seats, and with his palms joining together saluted and gazed up at his honored face. Then the three great leaders with one voice spoke to the Buddha, saying: World-honored One! After the extinction of the Tathagata, how can living beings raise the mind of the bodhisattva, practice the sutras of Great Extent, the Great Vehicle, and ponder the world of one reality with right thought? How can they keep from losing the mind of supreme buddhahood? How, without cutting off their earthly cares and renouncing their five desires, can they also purify their organs and destroy their sins? How, with the natural pure eyes received at birth from their parents and without forsaking their five desires, can they see things without any impediment?"
The Buddha said to Ananda: "Do you listen to me attentively! Do you listen to me attentively, ponder, and remember it! Of yore on Mount Grdhrakuta and in other places the Tathagata had already extensively explained the way of one reality. But now in this place, to all living beings and others in the world to come who desire to practice the supreme Law of the Great Vehicle, and to those who desire to learn the works of Universal Virtue and to follow the works of Universal Virtue, I will now preach the Law that I have entertained. I will now widely make clear to you the matter of eliminating numerous sins from anyone who may happen to see or not see Universal Virtue. Ananda! The Bodhisattva Universal Virtue was born in the eastern Pure Wonder Land, whose form I have already clearly and extensively explained in the Sutra of Miscellaneous Flowers. Now I, in this sutra, will briefly explain it again.
"Ananda! If there be bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, upasikas, the eight groups of gods and dragons, and all living beings who recite the Great Vehicle, practice it, aspire to it, delight to see the form and body of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, have pleasure in seeing the stupa of the Buddha Abundant Treasures, take joy in seeing Shakyamuni Buddha and the buddhas who emanated from him, and rejoice to obtain the purity of the six organs, they must learn this meditation. The merits of this meditation will make them free from all hindrances and make them see the excellent forms. Even though they have not yet entered into the contemplation, just because they recite and keep the Great Vehicle they will devote themselves to practicing it, and after having kept their minds continuously on the Great Vehicle for a day or three times seven days, they will be able to see Universal Virtue; those who have a heavy impediment will see him after seven times seven days; again, those who have a heavier one will see him after one birth; again, those who have a much heavier one will see him after two births; again, those who have a still heavier one will see him after three births. Thus the retribution of their karma is various and not equal. For this reason, I preach the teaching variously."
Several important points are included in the above passage. Especially noteworthy is the following expression: "How, without cutting off their earthly cares and renouncing their five desires, can they also purify their organs and destroy their sins?"
The ideal of our practice is to cut off our earthly cares and renounce our five desires. Though such an ideal should be demanded of Buddhist monks, it is much more difficult for lay devotees to pursue because they must maintain their faith while living and working in secular society. In their circumstances, situations caused by the five desires occur continually, and they are surrounded by people and situations that cause them earthly cares. Ideally speaking, they should become free from all desires, but in actuality, to expect them to reach such a spiritual level immediately is asking too much. Nevertheless, as long as they are believers, they must aim toward their ultimate ideal. But how should they bridge the gap between their ideal and actuality? This sutra teaches the answer to this practical question, which believers face in the age of degeneration.
Running through the entire sutra is a concept expressed in the following words: "Even though they have not yet entered into the contemplation, just because they recite and keep the Great Vehicle they will devote themselves to practicing it. . . ." Only a person who has undergone considerable religious training can concentrate his mind on a single object and enter directly into the mental stage of discriminating the real state of all things. One who has not yet attained such a mental stage, by reciting and keeping the Great Vehicle wholeheartedly, will approach the practice of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue little by little. Some will approach the practice of this bodhisattva after three times seven days, while others will do so only after three births. In either case, the assurance of approaching such a mental stage step by step is a great encouragement to us in the age of degeneration.
VIRTUES AND POWERS OF THE BODHISATTVA UNIVERSAL VIRTUE. The Buddha said: "The Bodhisattva Universal Virtue is boundless in the size of his body, boundless in the sound of his voice, and boundless in the form of his image. Desiring to come to this world, he makes use of his free transcendent powers and shrinks his statue to the small size of a human being. Because the people in Jambudvipa have the three heavy hindrances, by his wisdom power he appears transformed as mounted on a white elephant. The elephant has six tusks and, with its seven legs, supports its body on the ground. Under its seven legs seven lotus flowers grow. The elephant is white as snow, the most brilliant of all shades of white, so pure that even crystal and the Himalaya Mountains cannot be compared with it. The body of the elephant is four hundred and fifty yojanas in length and four hundred yojanas in height. At the ends of the six tusks there are six bathing pools. In each bathing pool grow fourteen lotus flowers exactly the size of the pools. The flowers are in full bloom as the king of celestial trees. On each of these flowers is a precious daughter whose countenance is red as crimson and whose radiance surpasses that of nymphs. In the hand of that daughter there appear, transformed of themselves, five harps, and each of them has five hundred musical instruments as accompaniment. There are five hundred birds including ducks, wild geese, and mandarin ducks, all having the color of precious things, arising among flowers and leaves. On the trunk of the elephant there is a flower, and its stalk is the color of a red pearl. That golden flower is still a bud and has not yet blossomed. Having finished beholding this matter, if one again further repents one's sins, meditates on the Great Vehicle attentively with entire devotion, and ponders it in his mind incessantly, he will be able to see the flower instantly blossom and light up with a golden color. The cup of the lotus flower is a cup of kimsuka gems with wonderful Brahma jewels, and the stamens are of diamond. A transformed buddha is seen sitting on the petals of the lotus flower with a host of bodhisattvas sitting on the stamens of the lotus flower. From the eyebrows of the transformed buddha a ray of light is sent forth and enters the elephant's trunk. This ray, having the color of a red lotus flower, emanates from the elephant's trunk and enters its eyes; the ray then emanates from the elephant's eyes and enters its ears; it then emanates from the elephant's ears, illuminates its head, and changes into a golden cup. On the head of the elephant there are three transformed men: one holds a golden wheel, another a jewel, and yet another a diamond pounder. When he raises the pounder and points it at the elephant, the latter walks a few steps immediately. The elephant does not tread on the ground but hovers in the air seven feet above the earth, yet the elephant leaves on the ground its footprints, which are altogether perfect, marking the wheel's hubs with a thousand spokes. From each mark of the wheel's hub there grows a great lotus flower, on which a transformed elephant appears. This elephant also has seven legs and walks after the great elephant. Every time the transformed elephant raises and brings down its legs, seven thousand elephants appear, all following the great elephant as its retinue. On the elephants' trunk, having the color of a red lotus flower, there is a transformed buddha who emits a ray from his eyebrows. This ray of light, as mentioned before, enters the elephant's trunk; the ray emanates from the elephant's trunk and enters its eyes; the ray then emanates from the elephant's eyes and again enters its ears; it then emanates from the elephant's ears and reaches its head. Gradually rising to the elephant's back, the ray is transformed into a golden saddle which is adorned with the precious seven. On the four sides of the saddle are pillars of the precious seven, which are decorated with precious things, forming a jewel pedestal. On this pedestal there is a lotus-flower stamen bearing the precious seven, and that stamen is also composed of a hundred jewels. The cup of that lotus flower is made of a great jewel.
"On the cup there is a bodhisattva called Universal Virtue who sits cross-legged. His body, pure as a white jewel, radiates fifty rays of fifty different colors, forming a brightness around his head. From the pores of his body he emits rays of light, and innumerable transformed buddhas are at the ends of the rays, accompanied by the transformed bodhisattvas as their retinue."
Here, in cadenced sentences, are listed the virtues and the powers possessed by the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue. Brief explanations of important words and expressions follow.
The expression "The Bodhisattva Universal Virtue is boundless in the size of his body, boundless in the sound of his voice, and boundless in the form of his image" indicates the unfathomed store of virtues and powers possessed by the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue. If this bodhisattva looked completely different from the people of this saha world when he appeared to instruct them, they would feel ill at ease with him and would feel unable to follow him. Therefore he appears in human form and as such should be regarded as the personification of the "principle of half a step."
The "three hindrances" refer to the three evils of arrogance, envy, and covetousness. Because people in the saha world are burdened with these three heavy hindrances, they should be guided through practices that relate to their own environment. This is the work of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue. For this reason he rides a white elephant, which is symbolic of Buddhist practice and represents purity. The six tusks of the elephant suggest the purity of the six sense organs: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The elephant's seven legs suggest the absence of the seven evils of killing, stealing, committing adultery, lying, ill speaking, improper language, and a double tongue.
Next, the body of the elephant and its beauty are described in various ways. This symbolizes how beautiful and valuable it is to practice the Buddha's teachings. Then is mentioned a precious daughter appearing on each of the lotus flowers that grow from the bathing pools at the end of the elephant's tusks, along with many musical instruments and colorful birds. This means that if anyone practices the Buddha's teachings, those around him will be naturally purified.
Another description reads: "On the trunk of the elephant there is a flower, and its stalk is the color of a red pearl. That golden flower is still a bud and has not yet blossomed." This symbolizes the state in which one's faith is not perfect, like a flower bud, and in which one has not yet attained enlightenment. However, if one is aware of this state, further repents his sins, and pursues wholeheartedly the bodhisattva practice, he will be able to see the flower of faith instantly blossom and shine with a golden color. A transformed buddha is seen sitting on the petals of this lotus flower. From the eyebrows of the transformed buddha a ray of light beams forth and enters the elephant's eyes; the ray emanates from its eyes and enters its ears; the ray then emanates from the elephant's ears and illuminates its head. This indicates the idea that the Buddha's mind dwells in each action of whoever practices his teachings.
The following expression then occurs: "On the head of the elephant there are three transformed men: one holds a golden wheel, another a jewel, and yet another a diamond pounder." The golden wheel typifies the leadership with which one can freely govern people, the jewel indicates the power of wisdom with which one can discern the real state of all things, and the diamond pounder signifies the power of refuting erroneous views, with which power one can smite the wicked and their sins. Anyone who practices the Buddha's teachings gradually comes to be endowed with such powers.
"When he raises the pounder and points it at the elephant, the latter walks a few steps immediately." This expression means that one's practice of the teaching begins with the repentance of smiting his own evils and sins. "The elephant does not tread on the ground but hovers in the air seven feet above the earth, yet the elephant leaves on the ground its footprints, which are altogether perfect, marking the wheel's hubs with a thousand spokes." This figure of speech teaches that while one proceeds toward his ideal (the elephant that hovers in the air), he will actually receive the results of his right practice.
"From each mark of the wheel's hub there grows a great lotus flower, on which a transformed elephant appears. This elephant also has seven legs and walks after the great elephant. Every time the transformed elephant raises and brings down its legs, seven thousand elephants appear, all following the great elephant as its retinue." This means that as a person practices the Buddha's teachings, he influences many other people, causing them to believe the teachings, and these people gradually come to practice the teachings by following the example of those senior to them in the faith.
The Buddha continued: "The elephant walks quietly and slowly, and goes before the follower of the Great Vehicle, raining large jeweled lotus flowers. When this elephant opens its mouth, the precious daughters, dwelling in the bathing pools on the elephant's tusks, play music whose sound is mystic and extols the way of one reality in the Great Vehicle." The phrase "extols the way of one reality in the Great Vehicle" means that anyone who devotes himself to the practice of the Buddha's teachings will surely attain enlightenment.
"Having seen this wonder, the follower rejoices and reveres, again further reads and recites the profound sutras, salutes universally the innumerable buddhas in all direction, makes obeisance to the stupa of the Buddha Abundant Treasures and Shakyamuni Buddha, and salutes Universal Virtue and all the other great bodhisattvas. Then the follower makes this vow: 'Had I received some blessings through my former destinies, I could surely see Universal Virtue. Be pleased, honored Universal Fortune, to show me your form and body!" The expression "the follower makes this vow" means not only to make a vow but also to make all possible efforts to realize it.
The efforts one should make in order to realize his vow are indicated in the following words: "Having thus made his vow, the follower must salute the buddhas in all directions six times day and night, and must practice the law of repentance; he must read the Great Vehicle sutras and recite them, think of the meaning of the Great Vehicle and reflect on its practice, revere and serve those who keep it, see all people as if he were thinking of the Buddha, and treat living beings as if he were thinking of his father and mother." This teaches us that when a person makes all possible efforts to realize his vow, he will become deeply conscious of the honorable virtues and works of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue.
"When he finishes reflecting thus, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue will at once send forth a ray of light from the white hair-circle, the sign of a great man, between his eyebrows. When this ray is displayed, the body of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue will be dignified as a mountain of deep gold, so well ordered and refined that it possesses all the thirty-two signs. From the pores of his body he will emit great rays of light which will illuminate the great elephant and turn it to the color of gold. All the transformed elephants will also be colored gold and all transformed bodhisattvas will be colored gold. When these rays of light shine on the innumerable worlds in the eastern quarter, they will turn them all to the color of gold. So, too, will be it in the southern, western, and northern quarters, in the four intermediate directions, in the zenith and the nadir.
"Then in each quarter of all directions there is a bodhisattva who, mounting the six-tusked white elephant king, is exactly equal to Universal Virtue. Like this, by his transcendent powers, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue will enable all the keepers of the Great Vehicle sutras to see transformed elephants filling the infinite and boundless worlds in all directions."
This passage indicates that one good deed (a transformed elephant) produces more good deeds (more transformed elephants). Good deeds increase by geometrical progression, until finally the worlds in all directions are filled with good deeds. This idea teaches us that the believers in this sutra can gain the deep conviction of the realization of an ideal society in this saha world.
"At this time the follower will rejoice in body and mind, seeing all the bodhisattvas, and will salute them and speak to them, saying: 'Great merciful and great compassionate ones! Out of compassion for me, be pleased to explain the Law to me!' When he speaks thus, all the bodhisattvas and others with one voice will each explain the pure Law of the Great Vehicle sutras and will praise him in various verses. This is called the first stage of mind, in which the follower first meditates on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue."
SEEING UNIVERSAL VIRTUE IN A DREAM. The Buddha continued: "Thereupon, when the follower, having beheld this matter, keeps the Great Vehicle in mind without forsaking it day and night, even while sleeping, he will be able to see Universal Virtue preach the Law to him in a dream. Exactly as if the follower were awake, the Bodhisattva will console and pacify the follower's mind, speaking thus: 'In the sutras you have recited and kept, you have forgotten this word or have lost this verse.' Then the follower, hearing Universal Virtue preach the profound Law, will comprehend its meaning and keep it in his memory without forgetting it."
"To see Universal Virtue in a dream," a metaphor that appears often in this chapter, has two meanings. First, it means that though when one is awake he can try consciously to keep the Great Vehicle in mind, when asleep he cannot control his mind (the subconscious mind). Even if he wants to have a certain dream or determines not to talk in his sleep, it is impossible for him to control his mind and actions while asleep. However, if a person truly deepens his faith, he can see the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue preach the Law to him even in his dreams. This bodhisattva will appear before him in a dream and will encourage him, saying, "You will be able to attain the mental stage of a bodhisattva," and will give him careful advice, saying, "You have forgotten this word or have misunderstood this verse."
Secondly, "to see Universal Virtue in a dream" suggests the following meaning: a person who has truly deepened his faith can frequently realize the truth of the teaching by intuition. This phrase indicates the mental state of having obtained a revelation from the Buddha or of having attained enlightenment by oneself. However, the revelation that a person obtains from the Buddha by intuition is just like a dream; it is not materialized. When he examines his revelation thoroughly and is confident that it is certainly the truth when judged from every angle, it will be beneficial to him and will be a teaching worthy of transmitting to others.
The Buddha continued: "As the follower does like this day by day, his mind will gradually acquire spiritual profit. The Bodhisattva Universal Virtue will cause the follower to remember the buddhas in all directions. According to the teaching of Universal Virtue, the follower will rightly think and remember everything, and with his spiritual eyes he will gradually see the eastward buddhas, whose bodies are gold colored and very wonderful in their majesty. Having seen one buddha, he will again see another buddha. In this manner, he will gradually see all the buddhas everywhere in the eastern quarter, and because of his profitable reflection, he will universally see all the buddhas in all directions."
The words "east" and "eastward" have often appeared in preceding chapters of this book. East is the direction in which the sun rises, thus it implies the beginning of everything. On the other hand, west is the direction in which the sun sets, and so implies the end of everything. The latter idea is associated with the belief within Buddhism that anyone who invokes the name of Amitabha Buddha with a sincere heart can achieve rebirth in the Pure Land in the west. In this chapter, the phrase "see the eastward buddhas" suggests the time when a person has just begun to practice a true faith.
The expression, "Having seen one buddha, he will again see another buddha," means that though the truth is one, the believer will be able to see many manifestations of the truth in succession if he realizes one truth. If a person can see all the buddhas everywhere in the eastern quarter, he will become able to reflect on himself much more profitably and will thus become able to see all the buddhas in all directions. Attaining this state of mind, his spiritual joy will deepen. The Buddha teaches us in the next sentence, however, that even though the believer can reach such a mental stage, he should not be satisfied with it but should further repent his sins. Through this we understand that the practice of true repentance must not be limited only to the confession of our sins. Repentance is not limited to washing our buddha-nature but includes polishing it.
Specifically, how should we practice repentance? The Buddha teaches us to have the following mental attitude even if we attain the higher state of mind mentioned above: "Having seen the buddhas, he [the follower] conceives joy in his heart and utters these words: 'By means of the Great Vehicle, I have been able to see the great leaders. By means of their powers, I have also been able to see the buddhas. Though I have seen these buddhas, I have yet failed to make them plain. Closing my eyes I see the buddhas, but when I open my eyes, I lose sight of them.' After speaking thus, the follower should universally make obeisance, prostrating himself toward the buddhas in all directions. Having made obeisance to them, he should kneel with his palms joining together and should speak thus: 'The buddhas, the world-honored ones, possess the ten powers, the fearlessnesses, the eighteen unique characteristics, the great mercy, the great compassion, and three kinds of stability in contemplation. These buddhas, forever remaining in this world, have the finest appearance of all forms. By what sin do I fail to see these buddhas?'"
The words "closing my eyes I see the buddhas, but when I open my eyes I lose sight of them" describe an experience that every Buddhist will recognize.
THE TEN POWERS. The ten powers mean perfect comprehension in the ten fields of knowledge that belong only to the Buddha. A brief explanation of these powers will be given here because it is very important for believers in the Lotus Sutra to understand them. The ten powers attributed to the Buddha are: 1) the power to know right and wrong states, 2) the power to know the consequences of karma, 3) the power to know all meditations and contemplations, 4) the power to know the various higher and lower capabilities of living beings, 5) the power to know what living beings understand, 6) the power to know the basic nature and actions of living beings, 7) the power to know the causes and effects of living beings in all worlds, 8) the power to know the results of karmas in former lives, 9) the power to know by supernatural insight, and 10) the power of being free from all error, or infallibility in knowledge.
The eighteen unique characteristics are the eighteen merits that belong only to the Buddha. These special characteristics are: 1) faultlessness in body, 2) faultlessness in speech, 3) faultlessness in mind and thought, 4) no unsteadiness of mind, 5) impartiality, 6) perfect resignation, 7) imperishable aspiration to save all living beings, 8) unfailing zeal, 9) unfailing memory of all teachings of all buddhas past, present, and future, 10) unfailing contemplation, 11) unfailing wisdom, 12) unfailing, freedom from all hindrances, 13) all bodily deeds being in accord with wisdom, 14) all deeds of speech being in accord with wisdom, 15) all deeds of thought being in accord with wisdom, 16) unhindered knowledge of the past, 17) unhindered knowledge of the future, and 18) unhindered knowledge of the present.
The three kinds of stability in contemplation mean the attitudes that the Buddha assumes toward all living beings by dividing them into three types: the first stability in contemplation (sho-nenjo), the second stability in contemplation (ni-nenjo), and the third stability in contemplation (san-nenjo).
When living beings praise the virtue of the Buddha, he applauds their praising him rather than the fact that he is being praised. This attitude is the first stability in contemplation. When anyone blasphemes or curses the Buddha, the Buddha never feels sorrowful toward such a person or becomes angry with him because he is being reviled. With his deep compassion, he instead feels pity for such a person. This attitude is the second stability in contemplation. Among the many living beings, some take refuge in the Buddha's teachings, but others do not. The Buddha never discriminates between these two kinds of living beings but has compassion equally for all of them because they all possess the buddha-nature. This attitude, with which the Buddha treats all living beings without discrimination, is the third stability in contemplation. These three attitudes are attributed only to the Buddha, but we must follow the Buddha's example when we spread his teachings.
The Buddha continued: "Having spoken thus, the follower should again practice further repentance. When he has achieved the purity of his repentance, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue will again appear before him and will not leave his side in his walking, standing, sitting, and lying, and even in his dreams will ceaselessly preach the Law to him. After awaking from his dreams, this person will take delight in the Law. In this manner, after three times seven days and nights have passed, he will thereupon acquire the dharani of revolution. Through acquiring the dharani, he will keep in his memory without losing it the wonderful Law that the buddhas and bodhisattvas have taught. In his dreams, he will also see constantly the Seven Buddhas of the past, among whom only Shakyamuni Buddha will preach the Law to him. These world-honored ones will each praise the Great Vehicle sutras. At that time the follower will again further rejoice and universally salute the buddhas in all directions. After he salutes the buddhas in all directions, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, abiding before him, will teach and explain to him all karmas and environments of his former lives, and will cause him to confess his black and evil sins. Turning to the world-honored ones, he should confess his sins with his own mouth."
ONLY SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA PREACHES THE LAW. A very important expression occurs in the above paragraph: "In his dreams, he will also see constantly the Seven Buddhas of the past, among whom only Shakyamuni Buddha will preach the Law to him." It is true that all the buddhas of the past are sacred, but among them only Shakyamuni Buddha preaches his teachings to us in the saha world. Through these teachings we can know the truth that has existed unchanged since the infinite past. Therefore, we have only to take refuge in Shakyamuni Buddha; through doing so we also take refuge in the other buddhas (the various manifestations of the truth).
To see the buddhas in one's dreams means that one gains a vague awareness of existing together with the buddhas. Gaining such an indistinct awareness, one feels still more spiritual joy and universally salutes the buddhas in all directions. Then the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue will appear before the believer and will teach him that he has been unable to see the buddhas because of all the karmas and environments of his former lives, and will cause him to confess his sins. This means that the believer awakens to his own sins through the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue. This is the repentance that one practices before the buddhas. The expression "he should confess his sins with his own mouth" implies the repentance that he performs mentally.
The Buddha continued: "After he finishes confessing his sins, then he will attain the contemplation of revelation of buddhas to men.1 Having attained this contemplation, he will plainly and clearly see the Buddha Akshobhya and the kingdom of Wonderful Joy in the eastern quarter. In like manner he will plainly and clearly see the mystic lands of the buddhas in each of all directions. After he has seen the buddhas in all directions, he will have a dream: on the elephant's head is a diamond-man pointing his diamond pounder at the six organs; after pointing it at the six organs, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue will preach to the follower the law of repentance to obtain the purity of the six organs. In this way the follower will do repentance for a day or three times seven days. Then by the power of the contemplation of revelation of buddhas to men and by the adornment of the preaching of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, the follower's ears will gradually hear sounds without impediment, his eyes will gradually see things without impediment, and his nose will gradually smell odors without impediment. This is as preached extensively in the Wonderful Law Flower Sutra. Having obtained the purity of the six organs, he will have joy of body and mind and freedom from evil ideas, and will devote himself to this Law so that he can conform to it. He will again further acquire a hundred thousand myriad kotis of the dharani of revolution and will again see extensively a hundred thousand myriad kotis of innumerable buddhas. These world-honored ones will all stretch out their right hands, laying them on the head of the follower, and will speak thus: 'Good! Good! You are a follower of the Great Vehicle, an aspirant to the spirit of great adornment, and one who keeps the Great Vehicle in his mind. When of old we aspired to buddhahood, we were also like you. Do you be zealous and do not lose the Great Vehicle! Because we practiced it in our former lives, we have now become the pure body of the All Wise. Do you now be diligent and not lazy! These Great Vehicle sutras are the Law treasury of the buddhas, the eyes of the buddhas from all directions in the past, present, and future, and also the seed which produces the tathagatas in the past, present, and future. He who keeps these sutras has the body of a buddha and does the work of a buddha; know that such is the apostle sent by the buddhas; such is covered by the robes of the buddhas, the world-honored ones; such is a true Law heir of the buddhas, the tathagatas. Do you practice the Great Vehicle and do not cut off the Law-seeds! Do you now attentively behold the buddhas in the eastern quarter!'
"When these words are spoken, the follower sees all the innumerable worlds in the eastern quarter, whose lands are as even as one's palm, with no mounds or hills or thorns, but with ground of lapis lazuli and with gold to bound the ways. So, too, is it in the worlds of all directions. Having finished beholding this matter, the follower will see a jewel tree which is lofty, wonderful, and five thousand yojanas high. This tree will always produce deep gold and white silver, and will be adorned with the precious seven; under this tree there will be a jeweled lion throne of itself; the lion throne will be two thousand yojanas high and from the throne will radiate the light of a hundred jewels. In like manner, from all the trees, the other jewel thrones, and each jewel throne will radiate the light of a hundred jewels. In like manner, from all the trees, the other jewel thrones, and each jewel throne will emerge of themselves five hundred white elephants on which all the Bodhisattvas Universal Virtue mount."
The diamond pounder was originally a kind of weapon used in ancient India. In Buddhism it is regarded as a symbol of the bodhi mind because it can destroy all defilement and false views. Therefore the phrase "pointing his diamond pounder at the six organs" indicates the believer's power to destroy the defilement of his six organs. It bears witness to the fact that his mind is moving toward repentance. The expression "the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue will preach to the follower the law of repentance to obtain the purity of the six organs" means that through his practice of repentance the believer can gain the awareness of being purified in body and mind.
Another noteworthy expression is: "When these words are spoken, the follower sees all the innumerable worlds in the eastern quarter. . . ." This indicates that if everyone deeply understands the holiness of the Buddha's teachings and the preaching of them (jewel trees and jewel thrones), and if the Buddha's teachings spread universally, all people, society, and the whole world will become beautiful.
"Thereupon the follower, making obeisance to all Universal Virtues, should speak thus: 'By what sin have I only seen jewel grounds, jewel thrones, and jewel trees, but have been unable to see the buddhas?'"
In the passage preceding this occurred the following words: "because of his profitable reflection, he will universally see all the buddhas in all directions." Readers may think that this statement conflicts with the words "By what sin have I . . . been unable to see the buddhas?" but the two are not really inconsistent. Even if one has gained a strong awareness of existing together with the buddhas, if he has not yet attained the mental stage of a bodhisattva this awareness will fade as soon as something else catches his interest and distracts him.
"When the follower finishes speaking thus, he will see that on each of the jewel thrones there is a world-honored one who is sitting on a jewel throne and very wonderful in his majesty. Having seen the buddhas, the follower will be greatly pleased and will again further recite and study the Great Vehicle sutras. By the power of the Great Vehicle, from the sky there will come a voice, praising and saying: 'Good! Good! Good son! By the cause of the merit you have acquired practicing the Great Vehicle, you have seen the buddhas. Though you have now been able to see the buddhas, the world-honored ones, you cannot yet see Shakyamuni Buddha, the buddhas who emanated from him, and the stupa of the Buddha Abundant Treasures.'
"After hearing the voice in the sky, the follower will again zealously recite and study the Great Vehicle sutras. Because he recites and studies the sutras of Great Extent, the Great Vehicle, even in his dreams he will see Shakyamuni Buddha staying on Mount Grdhrakuta with the great assembly, preaching the Law Flower Sutra and expounding the meaning of one reality. After the teaching is preached, with repentance and a thirsting heart of hope, he will wish to see the Buddha. Then he must join his palms together, and kneeling in the direction of Mount Grdhrakuta, he must speak thus: 'Tathagata, the world's hero forever remains in this world. Out of compassion for me, please reveal yourself to me.'"
Readers may wonder why the follower says, "Please reveal yourself to me," in spite of the declaration that "even in his dreams he will see Shakyamuni Buddha staying on Mount Grdhrakuta." This is because the follower wants to grasp the true intention of the Buddha more clearly and more deeply. When he reflects thus and pictures Mount Grdhrakuta to himself, he can see the following beautiful scene:
"After he has spoken thus, he will see Mount Grdhrakuta adorned with the precious seven and filled with countless bhiksus, sravakas, and a great assembly; this place is lined with jewel trees, and its jewel ground is even and smooth; there a wonderfully jeweled lion throne is spread. On it sits Shakyamuni Buddha, who sends forth from his eyebrows a ray of light, which shines everywhere throughout all directions of the universe and passes through the innumerable worlds in all directions. The buddhas emanated from Shakyamuni Buddha in all directions where this ray reaches assemble like a cloud at one time, and preach extensively the wonderful Law - as it is said in the Wonderful Law Flower Sutra. Each of these emanated buddhas, having a body of deep gold, is boundless in the size of his body and sits on his lion throne, accompanied by countless hundreds of kotis of great bodhisattvas as his retinue. The practice of each bodhisattva is equal to that of Universal Virtue. So, too, is it in the retinue of the countless buddhas and bodhisattvas in all directions. When the great assembly have gathered together like a cloud, they will see Shakyamuni Buddha, who from the pores of his whole body emits rays of light in each of which a hundred kotis of transformed buddhas dwell. The emanated buddhas will emit rays of light from the white hair-circles, the sign of a great man, between their eyebrows, streaming onto the head of Shakyamuni Buddha. Beholding this aspect, the emanated buddhas will also emit from all the pores of their bodies rays of light in each of which transformed buddhas, numerous as the atoms of the sands of the Ganges, abide."
The above paragraph contains four important descriptions. The first is that the buddhas emanated from Shakyamuni Buddha are seen through a ray of light emitted from his eyebrows. This means that if a person takes refuge in the Buddha's teachings, his mind will communicate with the minds of all the buddhas; in other words, if he realizes the truth taught by Shakyamuni Buddha, he will come to understand the true meaning of all the teachings. The second is that the buddhas emanated from Shakyamuni Buddha preach the same Law as preached in the Lotus Sutra. This proves that all the teachings are unified in the Lotus Sutra. The third is that the practice of each one of the countless hundreds of kotis of great bodhisattvas is equal to the practice of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue. This means that the holiness of a bodhisattva consists before all else in his practice. The fourth is that when rays of light emitted from the eyebrows of the emanated buddhas stream onto the head of Shakyamuni Buddha, the emanated buddhas emit from all the pores of their bodies rays of light in each of which innumerable transformed buddhas abide. This signifies that the Buddha's teachings spread limitlessly. The light of the truth reaches everywhere, and everything consonant with the truth shines by its reflected light. But anything that covers the truth with delusions and sins does not shine even if it receives the reflected light of the truth. Therefore, so long as a person does not remove delusions and sins from his mind by the practice of repentance, he remains spiritually base.
"Thereupon the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue will again emit the ray of light, the sign of a great man, between his eyebrows, and put it into the heart of the follower. After this ray has entered into his heart, the follower himself will remember that under the countless hundreds and thousands of buddhas in the past he received and kept, read and recited the Great Vehicle sutras, and he will himself plainly and clearly see his former lives. He will possess the very faculty of transcendent remembrance of former states of existence.2 Immediately attaining a great enlightenment, he will acquire the dharani of revolution and a hundred thousand myriad kotis of dharanis."
"Immediately attaining a great enlightenment" does not mean that we can then end our practice of repentance. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if we believe ourselves to have attained enlightenment, there is a great difference between the Buddha's enlightenment and ours. Therefore we must not neglect the practice of polishing our buddha-nature as long as we live.
SIX OBJECTS OF REFLECTION. The Buddha continued: "Rising from his contemplation, he will see before himself all the emanated buddhas sitting on lion thrones under all the jewel trees. He will also see the ground of lapis lazuli springing up from the lower sky like heaps of lotus flowers; between each flower there will be bodhisattvas, numerous as the atoms of the sands of the Ganges and sitting cross-legged. He will also see the bodhisattvas who emanated from Universal Virtue, extolling and expounding the Great Vehicle among their assembly.
"Then the bodhisattvas with one voice will cause the follower to purify his six organs. One bodhisattva's preaching will say: 'Do you reflect on the Buddha'; another's preaching will say: 'Do you reflect on the Law'; yet another's preaching will say: 'Do you reflect on the Sangha'; still another's preaching will say: 'Do you reflect on the precepts'; still another one's preaching will say: 'Do you reflect on giving'; yet another's preaching will say: 'Do you reflect on the heavens.' And the preaching will further say: 'Such six laws are the aspiration to buddhahood and are the ones that beget the bodhisattvas. Before the buddhas, do you now confess your previous sins and repent them sincerely.'"
The bodhisattvas here tell the follower what to do in order to purify his six organs. This means that he examines and reflects upon his imperfections when comparing his own practices with those of the bodhisattvas as related in the Great Vehicle sutras. This should be regarded as a voice coming from the sky. The first voice orders the follower: "Do you reflect on the Buddha." This voice tells him: "You believe yourself to have taken refuge in the Buddha, but your taking refuge is not yet perfect. You will not become a really good believer unless you devote yourself much more to the worship of the Buddha." Another voice orders the follower: "Do you reflect on the Law." This voice says to him: "Do you flatter yourself that you are so assiduous that you have completely understood the Buddha's teachings? Are you not arrogant to think so? The teachings of the Buddha are very profound. Unless you study them very profoundly and have a deep understanding of them, you will not truly understand them."
Yet another voice orders the follower: "Do you reflect on the Sangha." This voice reproaches him: "The unity and harmony of believers are absolutely necessary for spreading the Buddha's teachings in this world. Did you strive for the realization of these two things essential to the Sangha? Is your endeavor sufficient? You should remove the selfishness from your mind and labor for the community of fellow believers."
Another voice asks the follower whether he keeps the precepts given by the Buddha or not; still another voice asks him whether he practices giving or not; yet another voice asks him whether he has already attained the mental stage of the heavens, one perfectly free from delusion and suffering.
The voices further say that the follower will attain enlightenment when he is perfect in the six requisites - the Buddha, the Law, the Sangha, the precepts, giving, and the heavens - and that the practice of these six requisites is the way to become a bodhisattva. Therefore the follower must confess his imperfections before the buddhas and sincerely practice repentance.
- The contemplation in which the buddhas always reveal themselves to everyone.
- One of the six transcendent powers. These are mysterious powers of the Buddha and arhats that can be gained by meditation and wisdom.
Copyright © 2009 by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.