We need to mindfully understand this. We should be able to gradually understand this. When the Buddha teaches sentient beings, He in fact gives us teachings in the hope that we can all become Bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas must be replete in these six methods. This is how we become Bodhisattvas. We should be clear on the six ways of Bodhisattvas. "Giving, upholding precepts, patience, diligence, Samadhi and wisdom." These are the Six Perfections of Bodhisattvas.
Is giving difficult? Actually, it is not difficult at all. Giving is expressing the love in our hearts. When we see seniors who have trouble walking, we extend our hand to support them and help them walk easily up the stairs, feeling free and at ease. This is giving.
In interacting with other people, when we are walking, we yield to others so they can walk past us. We move just slightly to the side. This action is also a kind of giving. Giving is when, in our daily living, we step aside for a moment to give others a broad path [to walk]. We can use love to mutually guide each other and create harmony in our interpersonal relationships. With each phrase of kind words, we forge a path toward opening up people's hearts. So, in terms of tangible [giving], as we just mentioned, we can yield to open up the road for others to walk. That is tangible [giving]. In terms of intangible [giving], by saying a kind word and being understanding, we can help people open up their hearts by interacting with others. However, we need to have wisdom. We must be clear on what is right, what is wrong.
To clearly distinguish between right and wrong, we need to learn the Dharma. We must go among people and say kind words. When it comes to right and wrong, we must be very clear. Then, we can open up people's hearts and help people understand not to commit wrongdoings in order to help them avoid making mistakes. We must abstain from wrongdoing. When something is right, we must all come together to go out and help people [in need]. We have this aspiration, but this is not something we can do by ourselves. We need the strength of many people to accomplish this together. Our minds need to be open and spacious. Everyone's mind needs to be open and spacious. With open and spacious minds, we can mutually accommodate one another. When we unite our strength, that [power] is truly great. This requires being very clear on right and wrong. We come together to do the right thing, to give to people [in need]. As for wrongdoings, of course we cannot become involved in them. When we become involved in wrongdoings, that will disrupt people's minds. If a group deviates even slightly, it will easily stray far off course. So, we need to apply wisdom.
When we are among people, of course, we hope that everyone can develop the resolve to go out and help people. This is going among people. We need to be clear on right and wrong. If it is the right thing to do, we must quickly encourage everyone to join in giving. If something is wrong, we must quickly urge people not to make mistakes. In fact, this is also a kind of giving. Giving is not necessarily donating money; that is not the only kind of giving. Giving is not just about giving away many things. No. That is [just] tangible giving. Most important is intangible giving; that is what we must do. For example, when the Buddha came to the world, He told many stories from the process of His spiritual cultivation. Of course, the process of. His spiritual practice was very long, and over all those lifetimes He touched many lives. So, He had many stories [to tell].
In the Jataka Sutra, He told this story about one of His past lifetimes. In that lifetime, his life was very difficult. He was an impoverished man who always did manual labor. He always worked to serve others. As he worked with others, he was often together with the poor and people in difficulty. Some of these poor and suffering people were physically weak. Their lives were hard, and they lacked food. So, they were physically weak. However, the work they had to do was very heavy manual labor. He said that, in doing this kind of manual labor, he would often help others. When it came to his own assigned work, he used his time and energy to quickly finish it. Then he helped those who were weak and needed to earn money to support their families. He would always help these manual laborers. He did this over an extended period, without any [free] time remaining. He exerted all his strength for their sake. Helping in this way was his spiritual practice.
One time, his boss wanted to [transport] some goods to engage in trade. To engage in trade, these goods had to be shipped across the sea. The boss came to choose workers. He wanted laborers who were strong and had good character to go out to sea with him on the ship. This impoverished man was one of the laborers the owner chose. All the crops that were harvested were all piled onto this large ship. On this ship, in addition to the boss's goods, there were also the goods of many other people. All these were to be used in trade across the sea. After boarding this ship, every day his lifestyle was no different. Normally, when he worked on land, he diligently practiced the Buddha-Dharma. He was a very reverent person. Every day, he took refuge in the Three Treasures. Early in the morning, he purified his body and mind. While everyone was still asleep, he would the very first to get up. Then, he would look out onto the expansive land and take refuge in the Three Treasures.
First, he took refuge in the Buddha, praying to comprehend the great path. He made vows; he was always willing to form the supreme aspiration. Next, he took refuge in the Dharma. He hoped to comprehend the principles and delve deeply into the sutra treasury, to understand infinite principles and develop wisdom like the ocean. Finally, he took refuge in the Sangha. His deepest wish was to become a monastic, take refuge with the Buddha and draw closer to the Dharma. He hoped to be able to join the Sangha. But that was not possible. His life did not allow him to join the Sangha. However, in his mind he was constantly taking refuge with the Sangha and upholding precepts. His conduct was like that of a monastic. He upheld the precepts and hoped he could influence his fellow laborers, the people who did manual labor with him. He hoped that he could help people. He hoped he could uphold the precepts and influence everyone to listen to his words and understand the Buddha-Dharma. This was his wish.
Every day he worked on shore, he did these things, taking refuge with the Three Treasures. He had deep faith. [Facing] the vast open sea, he had deep faith in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha within himself. He never strayed from the practice of the Three Refuges. Having boarded the ship, he did the same. Every day he faced the vast open sea and the expansive starry sky. Before daybreak, facing the wide, vast sky with the moon and countless stars, on that vast open sea, he likewise took refuge in the Three Treasures. This was his daily practice.
The ship was very steady as it travelled across the great sea. Then, one time, the ship ran aground; it could not move. The ship could not move, however, everyone was safe. The owner of the ship, the boss of this manual laborer, had a dream. He dreamed of an old man. His hair and beard were white, and he was dressed in white. This man came to him and said, "This ship has already been here for six days and is still unable to leave. It is stranded and unable to leave. This is because of a certain person on your ship. This is a person you brought with you. He is a manual laborer; he is a spiritual practitioner. So, on your ship, he often practices precepts, Samadhi and wisdom. It is because his power of Samadhi is so strong that this ship is firmly stuck in this place. It is unable to move forward. If this person leaves, then naturally the ship will move."
When the boss had this dream, it seemed very odd to him. "Indeed, I hired this worker. He certainly has a strong will to practice. Every day he engages in morning recitation and takes refuge with [the Three Treasures] within. His mind is very steady and firm. But what does this have to do with my ship being unable to move?" He could not understand, so he brought it up. He described the events of his dream to everyone, to the others who also had goods on the ship. These businessmen said to him, "Do not overanalyze this. Since you had a dream in which this old man directly told you that it is because of this person on our ship that the ship is unable to move, why don't you have this person leave the ship? He is such a good person. How would you have him leave the ship?"
"All around, there is nothing but the sea. As we are in the middle of the ocean, how could we have him to leave the ship?" As they were discussing it, this manual laborer heard what they said. He said, "Everyone here is a big boss. I do not want my presence on the ship to cause you to rack your brains like this. If everyone wants me to leave this ship, I can leave. Just give me some bamboo or wooden planks. If you give me some bamboo or wood, then I can leave this ship." Everyone thought, "If he can leave, then our ship will move again. If we take some planks of wood or some bamboo and tie them together, then he will be able to leave. That is very good!" So, in this way, they tied wood and bamboo into [a raft], allowing him to float on the ocean, drifting with the wind. So, this person left the ship and floated far away.
However, a day later, suddenly, in the middle of the night, the weather abruptly changed. The wind and waves became stronger. Because of the large waves, the ship was lifted by the water and was set free from the reef. However, once in the open sea, there were huge, roaring waves. The winds and waves were so strong that the ship began to shake. Soon, the entire ship capsized. Not a single person survived. Everyone drowned in the sea.
As for the [laborer] with his [raft] made by a few pieces of wood and bamboo, he was blown by the wind and, amazingly, safely reached a big island. As he got close to the island, a wave pushed his raft onto the beach. In this way this man reached the shore. From shore, he saw an endless open space. Where should he go? He slowly walked forward and kept going. After [walking] for several days, he was both thirsty and hungry. Then in the distance, he finally saw a boatman. He asked him, "What is this place?" The boatman said, "I too do not know what this place is called. However, all of us living in this place rely on the ocean for our livelihood. In our village, things are happy and harmonious. We live peacefully and free."
After talking with him, he followed this boatman into the village. The people in the village were all very friendly, and it was a very beautiful place. This impoverished man then began to share [teachings] with everyone. Everyone saw that this person from the outside was very kind and very knowledgeable. They had never heard such well-informed principles. Everyone wanted him to stay there, in that place, and share the principles with them every day. He took this opportunity to share the principles of the Five Precepts and Three Refuges for everyone to hear. This inspired everyone to give up fishing and take up farming instead. They took up agriculture and lived as farmers. Everyone upheld the precepts and took refuge in the Three Treasures. The Buddha-Dharma started to flourish there.
After the Buddha shared this story, He said to His disciples, "Of my innumerable lifetimes since dust-inked kalpas ago, this is just one of the countless lives I lived. In every one of my lifetimes, though my body had to endure much torment, I never forgot the Dharma. My one wish was that wherever I went, I could share [the Dharma] with everyone and transform sentient beings so they would develop affinities with the Buddha, uphold precepts and take refuge in the Buddha-Dharma." This was how the Buddha taught and transformed. So, "The Buddha teaches the six ways of Bodhisattvas." This is how He teaches and guides sentient beings. He starts out with the Five Precepts. We must first closely uphold our rules, the Five Precepts. Then, we can cherish living things, abstain from killing and promote love.
In this way, the Buddha began with very detailed rules relating to our daily living. "The Buddha teaches the six ways of Bodhisattvas." These are six methods to use in daily living. If we can uphold these rules, we can transform misfortune into fortune. I believe that the god of the sea saved [that man]. At sea, if he had shared collective karma with the people on the ship, then he would have lost his life. But he did not share collective karma with them, so the sea god appeared and allowed him to leave the ship. His causes and conditions brought him to that small village, where he transformed sentient beings. This was a matter of causes and conditions.
So, it is possible everywhere for "enlightened sentient beings to go among people." They go among people, showing by their example how to "uphold the pure Dharma without being defiled." Though he was in a fishing village, he did not engage in any killing. Instead, he transformed people to stop killing. So, He "widely transforms sentient beings and liberates them from suffering."
"Bodhisattvas practice the Six Paramitas." This means, "The Six Paramitas are the vehicle they use." To us spiritual practitioners, the Buddha gave these methods to practice. Even though they are such simple teachings, once causes and conditions in place, as long as we have good intentions and do good deeds, we can likewise practice and uphold our precepts. When we do the things we should do and do not share collective negative karma with others, we can likewise save ourselves.
This is just like the poor young man. Because he did not ordinarily uphold the rules, he succumbed to the poison of alcohol. Unawares, he ended up in a drunken stupor. In previous sutra passages, we have already discussed this. The previous sutra passage [says],
"Now you can use this jewel to trade in exchange for what you need. Then you will always have what you wish and be short of nothing."
This was what he was like in the past, haggard and homeless, wandering about. He was intoxicated by the wine of ignorance. He was in a drunken stupor. Yet, he had this kind of close friend who, seeing him passed out drunk in his house, quickly gave him a precious jewel. After the close friend left, the drunk man woke up and then went somewhere else. Eventually they encountered each other again. This close friend said to him, "I have already given you this priceless jewel, yet you are still wandering about homeless, in this haggard state. You have this priceless jewel on your person. You can make use of it!"
This is what we discussed yesterday. To trade refers to going among people to give; it is not cultivating the Dharma just for our own use. We should go out and give to others. This is what the Buddha taught us. If we are willing to share the Buddha-Dharma with everyone, it is inexhaustible. We must listen mindfully, seek the Buddha-Dharma and transform beings, thus unceasingly advancing in seeking the Dharma. Clearly, as we earnestly transform sentient beings, the Dharma we have is inexhaustible. So, this is what it means to trade.
Next, it says,
"The Buddha is also like this." The Buddha is also this way. "When He was a Bodhisattva, He taught and transformed us, enabling us to form aspirations of the wisdom of all Dharma. But we soon neglected and forgot this, so we were unaware."
This refers to the 500 disciples who, after the Buddha bestowed predictions upon them, were very joyful. They compared themselves to a drunken man. They then compared the Buddha to that close friend. "The Buddha is also like this." He is just like that close friend. This is the way He was in the past when He was a Bodhisattva. Lifetime after lifetime, He served as a Bodhisattva for all sentient beings. So, "When He was a Bodhisattva, He taught and transformed us." This was how He taught us in the past. He taught us to form aspirations of the wisdom of all Dharma; He wanted to awaken our wisdom and our heart of loving-kindness.
But then we left. In each lifetime, according to the laws of nature, [in the end] we leave and go our separate ways. Then we forget. This was how "We soon neglected and forgot this, so we were unaware." Once again, we forget it. A veil of darkness separates us from what. Bodhisattvas taught us in the past. Because our practice is not advanced enough, this is beyond our control. We follow the karma we create to our circumstantial and direct retributions; in this way, we follow our karmic forces. So, once again, we forget what. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have taught us in our past lifetimes. However, the causes and conditions still remain.
So, the next sutra passage continues with,
"Having attained Arhatship, we thought we had reached Nirvana. We had difficulty making a living, and we felt content attaining even a little. But the vow to seek the wisdom of all Dharma was still there and had not been lost."
This passage continues to explain that, in this lifetime, causes and conditions have come together for us to follow the Buddha in spiritual practice. We have accepted the Buddha's teachings. According to our capabilities, the Buddha gave us the Four Noble Truths and the Twelve Links. We mindfully engage in spiritual practice, but we just focus on entering Nirvana ourselves, seeking only our own benefit. We know that cyclic existence in the Six Realms causes deep suffering and that birth and death are beyond our control in the Four Forms of Birth and Six Realms. Now that we have attained the Buddha's teachings, we hope that this life will be the end. We do not want to return to cyclic existence in the human realm. So, we want to continue to stay at this place, in the [state] of Arhatship, where we only practice for our own benefit.
Having attained Arhatship, we thought we had reached Nirvana: Once they realized the Four Fruits, they thought they had already attained the ultimate Nirvana.
"Once they realized the Four Fruits," they merely remained at the state of Nirvana. Reaching Nirvana requires spiritual practice. Through practice, they realized the Four Fruits and "thought they had already attained the ultimate." They worked hard and had deep understanding; they had already attained [the fruits of] Sakrdagamin, Anagamin and so on. They had already attained Arhatship and the Four Fruits. However, they were still only seeking to benefit themselves. They thought, "We have already attained the ultimate Nirvana." They thought that this was the ultimate Nirvana. "I completely [understand] the Dharma, and as long as I uphold this Dharma and do not form affinities with people, I will not get lost again and follow my karma back to the human realm." They thought this was the case.
So, "We had difficulty making a living, and we felt content attaining even a little."
We had difficulty making a living, and we felt content attaining even a little: Eliminating evil and cultivating good requires extremely hard work. To make a living was extremely difficult for them. They had attained the stage beyond learning, so they felt content.
So, once in the state of Arhatship, they thought their level of spiritual practice was enough. Actually, they had attained very little Dharma. They still had ignorance, still had not put an end to dust-like delusions. They still had many delusions. So, "we had difficulty making a living, and we felt content attaining even a little." It turns out that they had only attained a little bit of Dharma. They only knew the Four Noble Truths and Twelve Links of Cyclic Existence. The Buddha had attained so many teachings, the true principles of all things in the universe, but they were still unable to deeply understand it. So, they only thought about "eliminating evil and cultivating good." This "requires extremely hard work."
They had always known that all these things were [filled with] suffering, that they had accumulated so much ignorance, the causes and conditions for coming to this world. They only knew about these things. So, knowing about these things alone, they already knew things were very difficult. This "was extremely difficult for them." So, "they had attained the stage beyond learning." They thought that since they already knew all these complicated matters, they did not need to pursue anything more. They thought what they knew was [enough]. They knew that when ignorance and afflictions accumulate, the result is suffering. "I already know all this. I do not need to further advance in my practice. I have already attained the stage beyond learning. I am already satisfied with this." This is what they thought.
So, "the vow to seek the wisdom of all Dharma was still there and had not been lost."
The vow to seek the wisdom of all Dharma was still there and had not been lost: In the past they formed great aspirations to seek the wisdom of all Dharma. This great aspiration still exists; it is not lost until now.
The Buddha had already begun to expound the Lotus Sutra. In the beginning, Sariputra was the initiator, asking the Buddha to teach the Great Vehicle Dharma in depth. Sariputra then received a prediction of Buddhahood. The four great disciples also awakened and also received predictions. Then came the [parable] of the conjured city, through which they clearly understood that [spiritual practice] takes a very long time. They also heard about how Purna Maitrayaniputra was so close to the Buddha's heart and how the Buddha praised him. They [had seen] this entire process. "As for the vow to seek the wisdom of all Dharma, it turns out we too already have this kind of comprehension. Sariputra comprehended this, and the four great disciples also comprehended this. So we, the 500 Arhats, should be able to reach the same comprehension. They had already received predictions, and we are not that different from them."
So, "the vow to seek the wisdom of all Dharma was still there and had not been lost." These were the great aspirations we formed in the past. The Buddha taught us and Bodhisattvas guided us, so we began to form great aspirations and seek the wisdom of all Dharma. This vow is still within us. Now, we finally know that it has not been lost. Since we made this vow in our hearts, this vow is already there. Although we have not gone out to help others, the vow we made is still there. With these good aspirations, we return to our intrinsic nature of True Suchness.
"The vow to seek the wisdom of all Dharma is the original vow of the Great Vehicle." Everyone intrinsically has this. The principles of the Great Vehicle is what we all have, what we are all able to follow.
The vow to seek the wisdom of all Dharma: This is the original vow of the Great Vehicle. Was still there and had not been lost: This unsurpassed heart of awakening had long permeated them. This is in their clothes of new consciousness. Therefore it is still not forgotten or lost until now.
So, "was still there and had not been lost" means "this unsurpassed heart of awakening had long permeated them." A very long time ago, countless, dust-inked kalpas ago, we had already heard these teachings and had taken in the fragrance of the Dharma. We were already permeated by this Dharma. This is "in our clothes of new consciousness." Now, at this time, we are again absorbing the Buddha's teachings. We already accumulated the old teachings and were permeated by them; we still remember them. Now, we need to put effort into awakening our Great Vehicle heart of awakening. It is now gradually being opened up; we are gradually attaining understanding. We are able to completely comprehend all the true principles of the world.
In this lifetime, [this is] "in [our] clothes of new consciousness." Now we know we have this jewel. "I now already understand that it is in my clothing. This is because my close friend told me that, in my clothing I have this precious jewel. I now know this. Thus, even now it is still not forgotten or lost. It turns out that this jewel is still here. Though I have wandered for a long time and lived such a haggard life, this jewel has been in my clothing all along." Are we not the same? Although we ordinary beings are ignorant, actually, our nature of True Suchness is still there. What the Buddha could accomplish, we should all be able to accomplish too.
" Now the World-Honored One awakens us all. He spoke these words, 'All bhiksus what you attained is not the ultimate Nirvana For a long time, I have helped all of you to plant the Buddha’s good roots.'"
This passage states, "Now the World-Honored One...." Now the Buddha was expounding the Lotus Sutra. Now the Buddha was already enlightened and was awakening us to help us all understand. Everyone spoke of how deluded they had been, how they had been lost in their intoxication. So, the Buddha has told us, "all bhiksus, what you attained is not the ultimate Nirvana." The Buddha has already said this to us. But, "for a long time, I have helped you all plant the Buddha's roots of goodness. From a very long time ago, I have already planted roots of goodness for you. In your spiritual practice, there is still room for you to improve even more. In the past, I constantly told you to earnestly form great aspirations and make great vows. Now the World-Honored One awakens us all."
Now the World-Honored One awakens us all: Now the Enlightened World-Honored One at the Vulture Peak awakens and enlightens us all.
Now at the Vulture Peak Dharma-assembly, the Great Enlightened World-Honored One opened up [our wisdom]. He helped us realize our nature of True Suchness. This is what the Buddha began to do now.
"He spoke these words, 'all bhiksus, what you attained is not the ultimate Nirvana.'"
He spoke these words, "all bhiksus, what you attained is not the ultimate Nirvana": He announced these words, "the stage beyond learning that you realized is still of the Small Vehicle. It is not the true Nirvana."
Now the Buddha tells us that the stage beyond learning that we have realized is a Small Vehicle fruit. Everyone thought that this was enough. Actually, what we understood was the Small Vehicle Dharma, which is about benefiting ourselves. "It is not the true Nirvana." This was not the true, ultimate Nirvana. We were just benefiting ourselves, just focusing on ourselves. This is very dangerous; when outside challenges arise, we will still become defiled.
So, "for a long time, I have helped you all plant the Buddha's roots of goodness."For a long time, I have helped you all plant the Buddha's roots of goodness: For long kalpas I have helped you all plant the Buddha's roots of goodness.
The Buddha had already told everyone this. For a long time, He had taught them to plant great roots of goodness and form great aspirations to go among people. For a long time, this is what He told us. It was many kalpas ago that He began to tell us to "all plant the Buddha's roots of goodness." These roots of goodness already exist within us. We should all earnestly look inside to find our nature of True Suchness. Our nature of True Suchness is everlasting; it is forever in our hearts. We just have to be mindful of the nature of True Suchness in our hearts. We must not disrupt this awakened nature. We must practice precepts, Samadhi and wisdom. After listening to and taking in the Dharma, we must put effort into contemplating it. After contemplating it, we must earnestly practice. By putting the principles into practice, there is nothing we cannot understand and nothing we cannot accomplish. So, we must always be mindful!