Chapter 2: The Virtues of Samantabhadra were Followed by All

It is stated in the Flower Adornment Sutra that if one does not cultivate Samantabhadra Bodhisattva's virtue, one cannot achieve the perfect awakening of enlightenment.

The Western Pure Land is the ultimate destination for practicing Samantabhadra's Ten Great Vows.

Many great Bodhisattvas, appearing as lay persons, attended this teaching. The first was "Worthy and Protective" Bodhisattva, the only one from our Saha (Skrt) world. His name teaches us that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas always protect and help those who sincerely generate their Bodhi mind, the great compassionate mind to help all beings.

"Skillful in Contemplation" and "Wise and Eloquent" Bodhisattvas represent true understanding. In Buddhism, if one does not have true understanding, one cannot believe this sutra. Every sutra tells us that the time required for an ordinary being to become a Buddha is three great Asankhya aeons (an incalculably long amount of time). However, in this Pure Land teaching, three great Asankhya aeons can be transcended by a single thought of Buddha Amitabha.

"Observation of NonDwelling" Bodhisattva reminds us of the teaching from the Diamond Sutra, "One's mind should not attach to anything, then the true mind will arise."

"Spiritual Penetration Flower" Bodhisattva teaches us that many different abilities can be used to help sentient beings as he pledged in his vows.

"Light Emitting" Bodhisattva symbolizes the light of wisdom. Chanting Buddha's name will help us generate this limitless light.

"Precious Pennant" Bodhisattva stands for how precious the opportunity is to help all beings through the Buddha's teachings. In the past, people would raise a pennant from a pole in front of a Buddhist teaching center, which signaled that a lecture would be given that day.

"Utmost Wisdom" Bodhisattva illustrates that infinite wisdom is within this Pure Land teaching.

"Stilled Root" Bodhisattva demonstrated purification of the six sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, mind, and body). Practicing according to the Buddha's teachings naturally purifies these six sense organs.

"Faith and Wisdom" Bodhisattva clarified that, without wisdom, one cannot believe in this teaching.

"Vow and Wisdom" Bodhisattva told us that, after unwavering belief is developed, it is important to vow to go to the Western Pure Land. From true wisdom comes the vow.

The elephant was the strongest animal to haul vehicles in ancient times. So the name of "Fragrant Elephant" Bodhisattva is a way to show us how great the benefit is to chant the Buddha's name.

"Treasury Revelation" Bodhisattva taught us that after one goes to the Western Pure Land, with the help of Buddha Amitabha, the treasury in one's selfnature will be uncovered.

"Dwelling in the Middle" Bodhisattva represents how one's mind should be set on the practice in the middle path, avoiding the extremes.

"Practice of Restraint" Bodhisattva advocated two points in the Pure Land School; following the precepts and Buddhaname chanting. Following the precepts disciplines one's thought, speech and behavior.

"Liberation" Bodhisattva was the last of the sixteen great guests of honor. He represented the result one attains from this practice: to be freed from worry and to attain liberation from the cycle of life and death.

The first fourteen Bodhisattvas teach us to recognize this Buddha Name Chanting method and the Infinite Life Sutra, illustrating their importance in uncovering our true wisdom.

The fifteenth Bodhisattva represents our actual transformation by correcting erroneous ways in thought, speech and behavior.

The sixteenth and the last of the Bodhisattvas symbolized the final outcome of the entire practice.

All of those who attended this teaching followed the "Ten Great Vows" of Samantabhadra. The characteristics of this Bodhisattva are having a great compassionate mind and tirelessly fulfilling his vows.

The first great vow of Samantabhadra is to "Pay respect to all the Buddhas." Respect should be paid to both sentient and nonsentient beings, even to inanimate objects, since all essentially have a Buddhanature.

Cultivating respect can help to subdue a person's arrogance and learn humility.

The second vow is to "Praise 'Thus Come One.'" "Thus Come One" is one's true nature. Things that correspond with one's true mind can be praised. Those that do not correspond with one's true nature are to be respected, but not praised.

One needs to have true wisdom to praise others. With this wisdom, one is able to differentiate between proper and deviated, right and wrong, to praise the good and proper teachings, and not to praise the deviated ones.

The third vow is to "Make offerings extensively." In Buddhism, the distinction between offering and giving is that offering is a form of giving or contribution with respect whereas, giving is not necessarily done with respect. When making offerings, one should do so with a compassionate mind, a pure mind and a mind of equality for all beings, because everyone possesses a Buddha nature.

The fourth vow is to "Repent of karmic obstacles." Karma (cause and effect) results from thought, speech and behavior of aeons past. Karmic retribution, arising from former wrong thought, speech and behavior, blocks wisdom, virtue and talent within our selfnature.

Repenting of karmic obstacles and the ensuing reduction of karma begins with an immediate end to wrong thought, speech and behavior.

One then should not attach to either good or bad deeds, because good karma would have one go to the upper three realms (heavens, Asuras, and humans), and bad karma to the lower three realms (animal, hungry ghosts, and hells). Whichever way, we are still mired in reincarnation.

Accumulating Pure Karma is a goal of a Pure Land practitioner. Rather than resulting in reincarnation, Pure Karma leads the practitioner to rebirth into the Pure Land.

The fifth vow is to "Be joyful over other's meritorious deeds." Jealousy and arrogance present serious obstacles for one to overcome, not only in the pursuit of worldly progress, but even more so for one on the path to enlightenment. When others accumulate merits, one should be happy and want to help them, thus, one's jealousy is overcome.

The sixth vow is to "Appeal to the Buddha to turn the wheel of Buddha's teaching." Buddhists should request all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and venerable masters to give teachings for the benefit of all beings.

The seventh vow is to "Request the Buddha to reside in this world." Presently there is no Buddha in our world. If there is any venerable master who has achieved attainment, we should try to have him/her remain with us; so more beings can benefit from his/her teaching.

The eighth vow is to "Constantly be a diligent follower of the Buddha's teaching." For a Pure Land practitioner, the Infinite Life Sutra is the Buddha's guideline for one's thought, speech and behavior.

The ninth vow is to "Accord with all sentient beings." Filial piety is the heart of this vow. Wisdom and serenity are required for one to be patient with others. True conformation derives from one's Bodhi Mind.

The tenth vow is to "Dedicate all merits." All merits should be dedicated to beings and inanimate objects, existing everywhere in the universe and beyond, which in reality is our Bodhi Mind.

Samantabhadra Bodhisattva said that his great vows could be perfectly accomplished only in the Western Pure Land. Therefore, he wishes all those who suffer within all the realms in all the worlds of ten directions, to quickly obtain rebirth into the Pure Land.

One should be mindful of the name "Amitabha," for this name enables one to reflect and intensify the same merits and virtues, thus eventually achieving a Buddha's perfection.

All attending this assembly wanted themselves and all beings to accept this Pure Land teaching and that all could reach the Buddha's state of perfection.

Out of their great compassionate nature of first wanting to help all sentient beings escape suffering; Bodhisattvas perfect their wisdom and virtues.

Today, people might ask, "why should we help others?" They do not understand the true reality of life and the universe, thinking others and they are not one, so why should they help? This is similar to one's left hand being bitten by a mosquito. Would the right hand help to shoo away the mosquito or would it ask, "why should I help the left hand, it isn't me?" As worldly people, we have deluded thoughts and behavior, not realizing that all sentients and we are one being.

Wandering thoughts and attachments arise when one strays away from the truth; thus, deluded beings differentiate themselves from others. Knowing that others and self are an inseparable entity, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas also understand that "helping others is helping oneself."

It is said in the Surangama Sutra that, "Buddha or Bodhisattvas respond specifically to each person's appeal due to the differences in the minds of all beings." For example, they may appear as Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, if that is the form the individual would most willingly accept.

When a Bodhisattva in this world is ready to attain perfect realization, he goes through the same eight phases to instruct the world. Usually this Bodhisattva is called a "Next Buddha to Be."

If a Bodhisattva is a "Next Buddha to Be" he lives in and descends from Tusita Deva to the human realm where he will attain Buddhahood. This is the first phase.

The second and the third phases are "Choosing parents" and "Being born." When a Buddha comes to this world, he is born into a royal family. This good fortune comes naturally to him due to his great merits and virtue. In addition, in this position he can best show the world that such dignity and wealth are not the most important pursuits in one's life.

"Leaving home and giving up the throne" is the fourth phase to show that true happiness comes from being able to let go of worldly possessions and prestige.

Manifestation of a Buddha requires him to take the ascetic path in his cultivation. This is to be acceptable to this world.

Only through the strength developed from concentration and wisdom, can one overcome the obstacles presented by one's internal afflictions and external temptations. This is the fifth phase, "Subduing Mara's evil obstacle."

Severing one's wandering thoughts and attachments will enable one to attain the wonderful reality of truth. This representation is within the sixth phase "Attaining Enlightenment."

All beings have been trapped in reincarnation for countless aeons. Although they have encountered Buddhism before, somehow it has only helped them to plant or reinforce their good roots. With the Pure Land teaching, if a person can truly grasp this opportunity and practice sincerely, one will finally take the last glimpse at reincarnation.

The seventh phase is "Turning the Dharma wheel." Once the Buddha achieved perfect enlightenment, the heavenly beings, recognizing him for what he was, requested him to give the teachings to this world.

Lecturing on Buddhism is turning the Dharma wheel. Turning the wheel symbolizes making this education available to beings in all directions. The center of the wheel is stationary while its circumference moves, representing stillness and movement in one. The center is hollow while its circumference is solid representing emptiness and existence. The wheel represents Buddhism as the most complete and perfect education.

The Buddha's teaching helps all beings subdue their evil obstacles, thus uncovering their true mind.

The eighth stage is "Entering the state of Nirvana." The person with good understanding knows that the Buddha actually is never apart from us at any time. However, those with less understanding believe that the Buddha left this world.

Established date: 03/06/10