2019.10.25 Lotus Sutra Preface (1)

2019.10.25

Lotus Sutra Episode 0001
Lotus Sutra Preface (1)

From Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s notes:


>> The incense is now lit, perfuming the Dharma-realm. From afar the scent is received by the Buddha Assembly. Auspicious clouds gather everywhere. With utmost sincerity, we request the presence of all Buddhas. Homage to the. Incense Cloud Canopy Bodhisattva-Mahasattva.


>> Homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at the Lotus Dharma-assembly. We wholeheartedly bow and prostrate to the ever-abiding Three Treasures of all ten directions.


>> May this cloud of fragrant incense pervade the realms of the ten directions. May it be an offering to all Buddhas, the Wondrous Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, Bodhisattvas and Hearers. May all receive merits from the offering and carry on the Buddhas work.


>> We prostrate to all Buddhas of the ten directions, who are perfect and supreme. [The Sutra] opens two doors, the intrinsic and the manifest. The Dharma and analogies clarify the profound truth, enabling all those in limited vehicles to realize the Buddha’s wisdom.



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Previously, in the Dharma as Water series, I shared that it is as if there is a room in a house that has been dark for thousands of years. No one has lived there for a long time. The room has never been opened. Then we were given this key to open the door. When we lit the lamp, we discovered that this dark room that has not been opened for thousands of years is covered in so much dust. There are so many dirty corners. The lamp we lit illuminates everything. Hurry, we must eagerly enter this house and examine which corners are filled with dirty things, and covered with layers of accumulated dust. We must quickly wash them with water, and clean and clear out all those dirty, dusty things. This is why water is a good analogy for Dharma. We can understand that for many countless lifetimes, our minds were in a state of ignorance. We have created so much karma and ignorance has covered our minds. Therefore the built-up defilement and ignorance must be cleared away, layer by layer. Gradually, as we eliminate this filth, our intrinsic mind will slowly appear. Purifying the spirit is like cultivating the fields in our minds. The mind needs to be pure. When the mind is pure, the field is pure. Therefore, we must all have a reverent mind. Be as reverent as farmers. Notice how the farmer cultivates his land. First, he must respect nature and understand the timing and the seasons. This is the wisdom of a farmer. He knows how to seize the right time, during the right season, to plant the right type of seeds and how to cultivate them. He is very mindful. Farmers mindfully respect nature and understand the seasons to cultivate this land. So we spiritual practitioners are like farmers, and must also practice with that respect and love. As spiritual practitioners, when the bell rings each morning, we slowly assemble and come to the Great Hall. Hearing the bell, afflictions are alleviated, wisdom grows, and. Bodhi arises. The enlightened Bodhi-path appears before us. After we enter the Great Hall, the morning recitation begins. The fragrance from the incense burner before the Buddha, the smell of sandalwood, gradually rises along with the delicate spirals of smoke from the incense. This environment can mold our minds. A sense of reverence arises as we enter the Great Hall and see the smoke spiraling up from the incense burner like a swelling cloud. Sometimes when we check the weather report and see the clouds swelling, we contemplate how there may be. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas high in the clouds. In this sky, in this universe, if we contemplate a Dharma-realm like this, we will be there at all times. Look at this picture of the Great Enlightened One of the Universe. It shows many Buddhas, shadowing each other closely. The multiple manifestation and original bodies of the Buddha appear to be gathering from the ten directions. They come to gather on this planet. May our Earth be safeguarded by all Buddhas in this universe. This is a Dharma-realm.. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas gather in this universe. If we have this sense of reverence, through all space, across realms of reality, there will be an assembly of Buddhas in all places.

The incense is now lit, perfuming the Dharma-realm. From afar the scent is received by the Buddha Assembly. Auspicious clouds gather everywhere. With utmost sincerity, we request the presence of all Buddhas. Homage to the. Incense Cloud Canopy Bodhisattva-Mahasattva.

Therefore, we must be reverent. Jing Si is a path of diligent practice. It is the teaching of Infinite Meanings. Our bodies and minds are tranquil and clear. With vows as vast as the endless void, we will remain unwavering. All of us, as Tzu Chi volunteers, must first have this thought. We must make a vow. We must have the aspiration to promote the noble path for Buddhas teachings, for sentient beings. The teachings that the Buddha left behind in this world are what we must promote, We do not just listen to or talk about them. We must physically practice them. The Sutra of Infinite Meanings comes from the essence of the Lotus Sutra. Therefore, every day we feel as if we are at the Vulture Peak assembly. So, as for the opening of the Lotus Sutra Preface, every morning when we are bowing to and chanting the Lotus Sutra Preface, we must first establish a reverent mind. With great reverence, we face the Buddhas image. Even though it is just an image, in our hearts there are countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. When we bow to and chant the Lotus Sutra Preface, we have the mindset of taking refuge. We take refuge in our bodily form, completely dedicating our body and lifespan to take refuge. That is why we say Namo, meaning to pay homage and take refuge. Every time we say Namo, we say it with the deepest reverence and wholeheartedly draw near to the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha. That way of taking refuge and paying respect arises from taking refuge with the body and mind. That is Namo. Who are we taking refuge with and relying on? The Buddhas and Bodhissatvas at the Lotus Dharma-assembly. 

Homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at the Lotus Dharma-assembly. We wholeheartedly bow and prostrate to the ever-abiding Three Treasures of all ten directions.

Let us have a mindset that we are present at the Spiritual Vulture Peak and the Buddha is about to expound the Lotus Sutra. At Spiritual Vulture Peak, countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas assembled from worlds of all directions. Since we are all Buddhist practitioners, we must have a sense of reverence. We take refuge both in body and mind, reverently bow and chant to all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at the Lotus Dharma-assembly. With a deep sense of respect, we pay reverence to the ever-abiding. Three Treasures of all ten directions.

May this cloud of fragrant incense pervade the realms of the ten directions. May it be an offering to all Buddhas, the Wondrous Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, Bodhisattvas and Hearers. May all receive merits from the offering and carry on the Buddhas work.

We read this passage whenever we bow and recite the Lotus Sutra. Those words do not just come from our mouths, but from our hearts, as if we are offering abundant incense and flowers and our deepest reverence, as if we are offering up our body and mind to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. It is not just one Buddha in one direction. It is as if our body can also multiply and travel in all directions to go in front of every Buddha and reverently present flowers. When we reverently offer the flowers of the heart, it pervades the realms of the ten directions. We must make offerings to all Buddhas, and even all Dharma. The true path to all Dharma is the Wondrous Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. For the first 42 years, the Buddhas teachings were provisional. After 42 years, He began revealing the perfect teachings. That is the Wondrous Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. Therefore, we are not just applying these teachings, we need to reverently take them to heart and make offerings to them. There are Bodhisattvas and Hearers. We do not just show reverence to the Buddha or the Dharma. Bodhisattvas and Hearers are also part of that Dharma-assembly. We reverently make offerings to each of them. When we make these offerings we are doing the Buddhas work, which is to promote the Buddha-Dharma in the world. After this we must then reverently prostrate and pay respect. 

We prostrate to all Buddhas of the ten directions, who are perfect and supreme. [The Sutra] opens two doors, the intrinsic and the manifest. The Dharma and analogies clarify the profound truth, enabling all those in limited vehicles to realize the Buddha’s wisdom.

We do not prostrate with just our body. With a heart of utmost sincerity, we prostrate to all Buddhas of the ten directions. The perfect and supreme is the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra opens two doors, the intrinsic and the manifest. The intrinsic is the Buddha-nature we all have. The manifest is how we appear in this world, the role we take on. The role the Buddha played was to manifest in India. In that land, He was born into the palace. Then, to save sentient beings all over the world, to open every persons heart, to bring light to the house in each heart that has been dark for thousands of years, He first cleansed and organized His own mind. Then, He taught us how to clean and organize this house, how to illuminate this house. This is a manifestation, the footprints He left on this world. This is the Buddha, the trace He left in the world. This is called leaving a footprint. He did not stay here forever; He was in this world for 80 years. However, the intrinsic Buddha is the Dharma-body, which remains the same, and lasts forever and forever, as long as heaven and earth, and will pervade the universe. He even said that you, I, and all people have the same nature as the Buddha. So, divided into two parts, the intrinsic and the manifest means the Buddha used His purest intrinsic nature to come to this world. He revealed this appearance to teach us that even glory and wealth are like drifting clouds that pass by very quickly. He did not crave status and fortune. He willingly suffered for sentient beings so. He could reveal the Buddha-Dharma. This kind of truth can save sentient beings. There are two doors. Even though there are two, they lead to the same place. So we say, divided into two, the intrinsic and the manifest. Dharma and analogies clarify the profound truth. [He spoke] the True Dharma, but we could not understand it, so He used analogies, many kinds of analogies. Take the Dharma-body for example: If we were told what it looks like, we still would not see it. The birth of the crown prince in India was recorded in history. This is an analogy. Likewise, the manifestation and analogies are similar. Manifestation refers to where He was and how He walked this path. Now we have maps and a sense of the geography. So we know that His country was somewhere in ancient India. Now the place is called Nepal. Because He left this trace, we can use it as an analogy. The Dharma will always be the same, but the manifest and the analogies differs in the past, present and future. The Dharma is the same in the past, present and future but different analogies are used to describe it at those different times. Thus, The Dharma and analogies clarify the profound truth. To discuss the Dharma, we must use many kinds of worldly matters to illustrate these truths. Everything said is the Truth, but it is very profound and mysterious. Take humans for example. Why do humans exist? Why are we so small when we are born, but turn old at the end? What happens biologically? Whatever happens, we are living each day, we are changing each day, and every day we coexist with the profound mysteries of life but we do not understand them. Yet biological principles exist. This is similar to the Dharma in the world. So The Dharma and analogies clarify the profound truth. The Buddha told us that aside from our biological appearance, we have the Dharma of True Emptiness and Wondrous Existence. So, how will we comprehend. True Emptiness and Wondrous Existence? These are indeed true mysteries. Enabling all those in limited vehicles to realize the Buddha’s wisdom. We must hope to deeply penetrate this Dharma. We can look forward to awakening to this supreme Dharma of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Those in limited vehicles: even those with weak, low capabilities can accept it, and can also attain Buddhahood. Therefore, we must make vows, dedicate merits and take refuge. We hope we can take refuge in body and mind with this assembly of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and transcend the mindset of life and death. Therefore when we reverently bow and recite every day, we must prepare with a sense of reverence so when we come together with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, our spirits will be more in line with theirs. So, starting from now, I hope we will all be farmers of the fields in our minds. Now is the right time to sow seeds. Just as a farmer is reverent, respects the heavens and earth, and knows the proper season to plant, so too must we seize this moment to truly purify and brighten our minds. Therefore, every day, we must be very reverent and treat all the people around us as. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the assembly by showing them this respect. I believe that if we constantly nurture and develop this mindset, every day our mind will be refreshed and we will draw near to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. So everyone, please always be mindful.