Wondrous Lotus Sutra 靜思妙蓮華
The Wondrous Mind-Root Is Clear and Undefiled
From Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s notes:
>> "With only broad learning and love for the path, the path is hard to attain. We must uphold our mission and follow the path. Then our path will be great."
>> "Those who teach the Dharma understand the minds of sentient beings and speak what is on their own mind. Their speech never deviates from the Buddha-Dharma because they have attained the pure mind-root."
>> Though they have yet to attain flawless wisdom, their mind-root will be as pure as this. All their contemplations, calculations and speech will be the Buddha-Dharma, and they will all be true. Moreover, they will all be what was spoken of by prior Buddhas within the sutras. [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 19 - On Dharma Masters' Merits and Virtues]
>> At that time, the World-Honored One, wishing to restate His meaning, spoke in verse, "These people's minds will be pure, clear, sharp and undefiled. With their wondrous mind-root, they will understand the superior, average and limited teachings." [Lotus Sutra, Chapter 19 - On Dharma Masters' Merits and Virtues]
>> These people's minds will be pure, clear, sharp and undefiled: As for those who uphold the sutra, their ground of the mind is clear, bright, keen, sharp and free of defilements.
"With only broad learning and love for the path,
the path is hard to attain.
We must uphold our mission and follow the path.
Then our path will be great."
Some people say, "I like to listen; I like to understand, and I want to seek very broad and profound knowledge. I want people to know that I have this ability; I have these credentials and I have..." There are [many] people in life who possess these kinds of superficial titles. [Unfortunately], we still have a long way to go before [people] understand what this knowledge [really amounts to]. Who knows how long [until] they discover this? [Attaining such credentials] is a kind of desire. "I want to seek this; I want to attain that." We want many, many things.
For instance, [in] a news story from the U.S., there was an announcement that trips to the International Space Station would now be possible. The cost for the trip is US 52 million, lodging costs NT 1 million per night, and they can stay at the space station for [up to] a month. Will people truly be able to enjoy a month at the space station? How will they have changed after returning to Earth?
Here on Earth, we often talk about heavenly beings. Only those with an abundance of blessings can become heavenly beings. Just [to travel] to the space station for a one-month trip costs US 52 million, [not to mention lodging]. Thus, only the very blessed, those with disposable income, are able to go. They must have the blessings of heavenly beings.
Actually, while we are on Earth, if we took that US 52 million that [we might have used for] a month of enjoyment and really put it to use to help the poor, then this is also creating heavenly blessings. [With this] pure heart, we could help the poor to leave behind their suffering. By using this US 52 million to do these [kinds of good] deeds, this creates blessings without [intentionally] seeking them. With such great blessings, then in our future [lifetime], we naturally will be born into the heavenly realms. For example, in Trayastrimsa Heaven, one day there equals 100 years on Earth. The blessings of an [entire] lifetime on Earth [are experienced in] one day there; [such blessings] would be inexhaustible in an entire lifetime [here on Earth].
In summary, if we can create a lifetime of great blessings in the human realm, then we would naturally be born in the heavenly realms [in the future] to really enjoy heavenly blessings. Here in the human realm, even if one has so much money that they can go live [at the space station] for US 52 million, their [trip] to and from space would only last one month in human years.
We have seen [footage of] astronauts on the moon in the past; there is nothing on the lunar [surface]. If there were people [who lived] in space, [they would think that] Earth is the most beautiful place to be.
There was an astronaut, [named Leonid Kadeniuk], whom I met in Taichung in 2017. He told me, "Looking from space, Earth is the most beautiful [place]. It is a pity that destruction from humans [has caused it] to become damaged. Human activity is destroying Earth." Modern technology is advanced, and we continuously try to satisfy humans with technology. But can humans ever be satisfied? [Human desires] will never be satiated.
Some in the human realm dream of [becoming] heavenly beings. They would pay so much for a dream, [for an] illusory experience. To travel to a place you cannot set foot on is nothing more than an illusory experience. Yet in [traveling to space], do they know whether such a journey will bring disaster or blessings to their lives? For them, they are enjoying their blessings. But for the environment and atmosphere, [such a trip] causes significant pollution. Spending so much money is unimaginable to us.
We just mentioned that, "With only broad learning and love for the path, the path is hard to attain. We must uphold our mission and follow the path. Then our path will be great." We may continue to think, "I seek this and I seek that. I know this and I know that. You must see how much I know." To show off one's knowledge like this is vanity, and it will only cause us to become deluded and to live a life of illusion. Thus, the Sutra of 42 Chapters says, "With only broad learning and love for the path, the path is hard to attain." However, it also [says that] by "[upholding] our mission and following the path, then our path will be great." It is better that we remain grounded and truly safeguard our resolve. We must do things that are truly practical and beneficial to the world. This means putting the principles into action. If we can do this, then our path will become the broadest, greatest path. Our path will be great.
If we look at those in this world who have no money, how do they uphold vows and follow the path? They have done this throughout their entire lives. South African Tzu Chi volunteer, Abegail Cetyiwe, is a disciple close to my heart. She became seriously ill, but did not want to rest a single day at home. She said that she did not want to wait at home for death [to come]. No matter how difficult it would be, she insisted on going to the Tzu Chi service center every day so that she could make care visits with everyone.
She insisted on walking slowly from her home with much difficulty to where Tzu Chi volunteers gathered and waiting for the car that takes them to make care visits. There were many people in need, so she made home visits every day. When her condition grew serious, she was unable to climb into the car by herself. No matter how hard she tried, she could not lift her leg up into the car. Despite her efforts, she had no strength [left]. She could only rely on the others inside the car to help pull her in. She [continued on] this way, not just once or twice, [but many times]. She was a Bodhisattva who was never absent, despite her illness.
At that time, she and Tzu Chi volunteers in South Africa made a vow because they heard that I wished to transform people in Africa. They formed aspirations to cross borders throughout Africa and [help those who are suffering] in each country. Even while suffering from diabetes, she would not rest; she [continued to make care visits] with everyone. As she rode in the car, she had to take diabetes medication and so on, enduring much anguish caused by her condition. Sometimes, the trips took several days by car, so [the volunteers] slept under trees [at night]. She truly endured many difficulties along the way, like an ascetic practitioner. Upon reaching the destination, she would become full of energy and vigor. She would dance and sing along with the other [volunteers], all the while sharing the Dharma with everyone.
She would share the spirit and principles that I teach. She was among the volunteers there who all work together in unity. But despite this hard work, for the sake of spreading the Dharma, she disregarded her illness and [continued to] travel to other countries, sharing about Tzu Chi and doing Tzu Chi work until she became seriously ill.
One day, while helping with disaster relief in another country, she lost her prayer beads at some point. [The loss] stayed on her mind, and she was very upset and sad. Losing the prayer beads made her very upset and very sad for a long time. Her body was suffering, and she was sad emotionally over having lost her prayer beads. In the end, she dreamt that I gave her prayer beads and personally slipped them onto her [wrist]. At that time, she was so ill and close to death. Everyone knew that it was about time, and she herself also told everyone, "I will not live to see the new year."
It was then that she dreamt that I put on the prayer beads for her. When she woke up, it was as if she was healthy again. She quickly called [other] Tzu Chi volunteers and told them, "I am so happy. Master came to me in my dream and put prayer beads on [my wrist] for me. I feel just like [before]. My spirits are lifted, and I have strength." Just like that, she continued to join others in doing Tzu Chi work; it was just like before. However, she [passed away] a few days later. Truly, she carried out Tzu Chi's work with such joy and without hindrances. It was not until she took her last breath on her last day in [this] life that her time of doing Tzu Chi work came to an end, and she passed away.
[The news of] her passing spread widely. The Tzu Chi volunteers, her friends, [the Taiwanese] commissioners and Faith Corps and the local commissioners all planned a very grand service for her. As the hearse departed, her companions on the Bodhisattva-path followed; a long line of people trailed behind the car. They could not bear for her to leave, so they followed along, walking behind the car for a very long way until the car drove off [into the distance]. This was how [they sent her off] in a very dignified manner. This was how Abegail left, but I believe that she has already returned and has been reborn in this world.
There is also a Tzu Chi volunteer, Getrude Shandu, whom everyone [affectionately] calls "Grandma." She has been a Tzu Chi volunteer for many years, and she wears the grey uniform with a white skirt. She has actually been [suffering from] cancer, and the tumor has grown quite large. However, she still goes out every single day; what for? [To share about] "the spirit of the bamboo banks." She goes around to raise funds, sharing with people about Tzu Chi and raising funds to help others. She dedicates herself to caring for patients, providing physical care for them and so on. Despite her physical illness, she raises funds [by asking for small donations]. She is suffering from this illness, but still, she refuses to be absent from the work that Tzu Chi volunteers do every day.
As her physical condition grew worse and as she became more advanced in age, she also grew more and more earnest in her hope of coming to Taiwan with everyone to become certified by me. However, when it was time for everyone to come, she was unable to come along. The volunteers came back and told me [about her]. Mr. Pan also told me, "She is very qualified. She went through certification training and has been doing [Tzu Chi work] for so many years, but she is unable to come back for certification." Despite [suffering from] her tumor, she was wholeheartedly dedicated to Tzu Chi, never absent from volunteering with everyone.
[In 2019], when South African volunteers came [to Taiwan], they told me about Getrude Grandma. I asked them to take her the commissioner badge, so that a commissioner can certify her in my place and bring her joy. So, [when] the South African volunteers returned, they moved up their retreat a few days earlier and used it as a chance to hold a certification ceremony [for Getrude]. They saw that she did not have much time left, so they moved up [the date of] their retreat. She joined the event very joyfully, [despite having to travel] 60km to get there. How did she travel 60km? By taking the bus and making many transfers.
After [the final] bus, she walked [to get there]. Others saw her and quickly went over to support her. They supported her like this, holding her head up as she made her way in. But before she could go inside, she was unable to go on, so other Tzu Chi volunteers hurried to lay out cardboard on the ground for her to sit and rest for a moment. Then, after a while, they helped her stand up to enter [the building].
They helped her into the qipao, and once she put it on, she was very happy. Then, [the ceremony] began as everyone sat there, waiting for her to be certified and to give her their blessings. Everyone asked her to sit down. When the music started, indicating that it was time for certification, Gladys, who is the most experienced volunteer and among the earliest volunteers, led the others; she represented me in certifying [Getrude]. Getrude tried to stand up, and everyone told her, "Please sit, please sit." She refused, "I want to be certified standing up." She stood up. Someone wanted to support her, but she refused. She wanted to stand [by herself] to be certified.
In the moment [she was certified], she smiled while everyone cried, witnessing the strength of [her spirit]. She had formed her aspiration and made a vow to me, "I will do Tzu Chi's work until my last breath." Getrude and Abegail are both good disciples of mine. From the moment they encountered Tzu Chi, they never strayed from the teachings of Tzu Chi, [even] for a day, and they never strayed from my heart. They always shared [my teachings] with everyone. They were truly engaged in spiritual practice. They were diligent and really loved me. They truly upheld their vows and followed the path. Once they learned something good, they sincerely adhered to it, thus upholding their vows and following the path.
They did not have money or good health, but they did not just speak of [doing good deeds]. The two of them lived in poverty, but when it came to transforming sentient beings, they had the spirit of Purna Maitrayaniputra; they were unafraid of hardships and dangers. Through [their actions], they have already fulfilled their vow in Tzu Chi.
I hope when they are reborn to this world, they are born to families with wisdom; I hope their families do not seek wealth but have roots of goodness and wisdom. In this way, from an early age, they can become Tzu Chi volunteers again. I hope that after their birth, they can transform their parents and family to become Tzu Chi volunteers [once again]. We have [heard stories of] children like this, young children who transform their families; there are many such cases. When we talk about [these children], they are truly very dear to our hearts; we have endless touching stories to share.
Some would spend US 52 million [to go to space], while in comparison, [the volunteers we just discussed] had nothing and lived in poverty, yet they had great spiritual wealth. They were able to cross borders and transform many people, [providing] care to so many suffering people. [They used] their lives to do so many [good deeds], [which is why there are] so many stories that cause us to feel great respect [for them]. It is no surprise that, in the end, despite living in such poverty, [Abegail] received a grand send off with a dignified procession. This is what Abegail's life [teaches us]. It is truly not a simple matter.
She was willing to be a teacher of the Dharma. Continuing on, the next passage says,
"Those who teach the Dharma understand the minds of sentient beings and speak what is on their own mind. Their speech never deviates from the Buddha-Dharma because they have attained the pure mind-root."
Those who teach the Dharma understand the minds of sentient beings. Is this not the case for the two volunteers we just discussed? They were born into [difficult] circumstances, but they understood the Dharma and did not want to be "the poor among the poor," continuing to be trapped by poverty. They wanted to be the wealthy among the poor, to be [spiritually] wealthy. Despite being very poor, they wanted to be benefactors to those who are spiritually wealthy. So, they understood the importance of teaching the Dharma. They "speak what is on their own mind." They spoke sincerely from their hearts. It is not a matter of having money or not. It is a matter of being sincere, upholding our vows and following the path. "Their speech never deviates from the Buddha-Dharma." Despite [maintaining their own faith], after joining Tzu Chi, they sincerely adhered to the good [teachings] of Dharma they have learned. They have taken the Buddha-Dharma to heart and practiced it in their lives. The Buddha-Dharma is present in all they do.
"They have attained the pure [mind-root]." Their mind-root is very pure. Just like the stories of people [in the sutras], [who share the same] mindset of spiritual cultivation. Their methods of spiritual cultivation [may have been] unconventional, yet they led exemplary lives. Truly, they serve as our role models and are classic [examples of] spiritual practitioners. They are Living Bodhisattvas.
A previous sutra passage says, "Though they have yet to attain flawless wisdom, their mind-root will be as pure as this."
Though they have yet to attain flawless wisdom, their mind-root will be as pure as this. All their contemplations, calculations and speech will be the Buddha-Dharma, and they will all be true. Moreover, they will all be what was spoken of by prior Buddhas within the sutras.
This is like the two [women] we just discussed. Though they lived lives of ordinary people, their mindsets were transcendent. There are many people similar in age who also practice [the Dharma] as they did; in South Africa, there are many who practice doing [good] deeds every day.
"[They] have yet to attain flawless wisdom." [Because] these two volunteers lived in their [particular] circumstances, they still experienced ordinary emotions. However, for any task they took on, they would absolutely carry out their mission. In [their] sharing the Dharma and willingness to do hard work, they truly practiced as exemplary Bodhisattvas. Though they have yet to reach a flawless state, and though we cannot say that they have pure wisdom, [compared to] others in the world, their wisdom does surpass [that of others].
"Their mind-root will be as pure as this." Their mind-root is [as pure] as this. They did not have a [physical] spiritual training ground, but they lived in suffering. Suffering sentient beings are their spiritual training ground. Truly, their spiritual training ground is among the suffering sentient beings. They are suffering themselves, but they have opened their hearts. The Dharma is their greatest fortune, for it is an inexhaustible fortune. Since they took the Dharma with them, they will likely return with the Dharma. Although their mind-root is not yet flawless, their minds have reached a state of purity.
"All their contemplations, calculations and speech will be the Buddha-Dharma, and they will all be true." They have been this way for their entire lifetime. For all these years, what have they been thinking? What have they been contemplating? All that they say accords with the Buddha-Dharma. They are transforming those who are suffering, those who are more confused and do not understand the principles. They explain it until others understand. They speak with True Dharma. "Moreover, they all are what was spoken of by prior Buddhas within the sutras." This sutra passage, is well-suited to these Bodhisattvas in South Africa. With their spirit and ideals, they overcome various difficulties and accomplish [their tasks to] the greatest extent of their abilities. This is truly remarkable, so we must truly admire this group of volunteers.
As we live in our current environment, how can we [continue to] live our lives? We must eliminate our afflictions and earnestly practice the Dharma to benefit others. As long as we are sincere, it is not difficult. Those [in disadvantaged environments] are unable to do it. However, what they are able to do, we are unable to do. Our mindset and our conditions are different from the suffering they experience. They have experienced great suffering, but still help others who are [also] suffering.
The next passage says, "At that time, the World-Honored One, wishing to restate His meaning, spoke in verse."
At that time, the World-Honored One, wishing to restate His meaning, spoke in verse, "These people's minds will be pure, clear, sharp and undefiled. With their wondrous mind-root, they will understand the superior, average and limited teachings."
The previous passage was long-form prose, which explains that [in practicing] the Buddha-Dharma, we must continue even when it is hard and practice very thoroughly. Whether in reciting and transcribing the sutra or teaching the Dharma and so on, we must continue on until our minds are pure. This is the Dharma that the Buddha taught us. Has He finished this teaching? After finishing teaching in long-form prose, [because] the meaning is very important, [He] wanted to help us review it. For instance, because their example was important, I brought up the two South African Bodhisattvas. Some might not find [these stories] significant, but if we put our hearts into understanding them, [we see how remarkable] their achievements are, considering their circumstances. By transforming [others], sharing about Tzu Chi, understanding the Buddha-Dharma through Tzu Chi and putting the Buddha-Dharma into practice, [their actions] say, "We are very happy." Have we achieved such a disposition? The Buddha wants to refresh our [memory] by explaining it for us again so that we can experience and understand life.
The verse goes, "These people's minds will be pure, clear, sharp and undefiled. With their wondrous mind-root, they will understand the superior, average and limited teachings." The description in this passage seems ordinary and easy. It seems like we simply have to recite, transcribe and teach the sutra, pass on the Dharma and eliminate our afflictions. Is this really all? In fact, we must put [the Dharma] into practice and truly broaden our mindset so we will not suffer from difficult circumstances and can overcome our difficulties with joy.
After the recent Cyclone Idai disaster, Tzu Chi volunteers from South Africa quickly arrived [in the affected areas], and the village chief took them around to provide information on how to help people rebuild their homes, [as they had already] rebuilt several homes. There, they recruited volunteers to help rebuild homes. This is the path they took, traveling back and forth to South Africa to [encourage others to donate] second-hand clothing and food donations. Then, they carefully packaged everything and brought it with them. Transportation was difficult, but they brought many packages with them and had to go through inspection at customs. They were able to achieve things we could not.
From the impoverished, they were able to solicit clothing and food, accumulating them little by little to be brought [to disaster victims]. This was truly "the poor helping the poor." It is remarkable. There is so much to talk about here. There are so many short stories, [but] I cannot share them all. This is how we pass down the Dharma, by upholding, transcribing and reading the sutra, spreading the sutra and teaching the Dharma. These volunteers are spreading the sutras and teaching the Dharma. This is not simple.
Thus, "These people's minds will be pure, clear, sharp and undefiled."
These people's minds will be pure, clear, sharp and undefiled: As for those who uphold the sutra, their ground of the mind is clear, bright, keen, sharp and free of defilements.
Those with "clear and sharp" [minds] understand that they must go to benefit the people; [their] minds are not defiled in the slightest, so [these people] clearly understand that they must travel back and forth to benefit the locals. Their minds are pure and clear, free of defilements. They have sharp capabilities and clear minds. They travel back and forth, their minds free from defilements. "As for those who uphold the sutra their ground of the mind is clear, bright, keen, sharp and free of defilements." They are those who uphold the sutra; these South African Bodhisattvas are all truly those who uphold the sutra. They are truly upholding the sutra and truly transforming sentient beings.
"With their wondrous mind-root, they will understand the superior, average and limited teachings."
With their wondrous mind-root, they will understand the superior, average and limited teachings: Because their mind-root is pure, subtle and wondrous, when it comes to all Dharma, they thoroughly understand the Buddha's true and profound principles. They understand that the Three Vehicle teachings are merely skillful means.
The Buddha tells us that [these teachings] are the profound, subtle and wondrous Dharma. To accept it, we must use our mind-root. This mind-root is the same one that we have just discussed. Their mind-roots already accepted [the Dharma]. If their minds were not pure, they would not have been able to persist. So, when we have pure mind-roots, we will "understand the superior, average and limited teachings." We now must understand the superior, average and limited teachings "because our mind-root is pure, subtle and wondrous." There are superior teachings, average teachings and limited teachings. These teachings all bring purity to people of all capabilities and help them purify their minds. "When it comes to all Dharma, they thoroughly understand the Buddha's true and profound principles." When it comes to all the Buddha's teachings, we must thoroughly understand them so that, regardless of circumstances and capabilities, we can thoroughly understand the Buddha's true and profound principles. We are able to achieve this even if it is very profound.
"They understand that the Three Vehicle teachings are merely skillful means." Although [the teachings] are skillful means, they are real ways to work among people. Those who understand "the superior [teachings]" are Bodhisattvas. With the capabilities of Bodhisattvas, they can benefit themselves. "I myself hear the Dharma and I want to explain the Dharma to others. I can help myself and bring joy to my mind, so I want to bring joy to others and help them understand [the need to] help others." This is what Bodhisattvas' capabilities are like; [People like this have] superior capabilities. What of those with average capabilities? "I know, I actually understand the Buddha-Dharma and know that the world is impermanent." These are those with average capabilities, the Solitary Realizers. What of those with limited capabilities? They are Hearers. "After I hear the sounds, I understand the teachings. I understand and will engage in spiritual practice." Then, they stay in their state.
This Buddha-Dharma is adapted to Three Vehicle practitioners. So, everyone must be mindful. The true sutras are found in the world. The Buddha has taught us the methods, but those who must truly walk the Bodhisattva-path are the people. After we listen to the Dharma, we understand it and put it into practice; we know it, understand it and practice it. We must put the Dharma into practice. Regardless of circumstances and of us being wealthy or poor, everyone can do this. When we accept the Dharma with our minds, we understand impermanence in the world and make use of our lives to serve others.