Universal Door Chapter Lecture 2 — Brief intro to Lotus Sutra

Lectured by Rev. Heng Sure on March 26, 2021

Rev. Heng Sure: Good morning everyone, this is Reverend Heng Sure. Welcome to our sutra lecture today!  Happy Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s birthday to everybody, we passed that this week, and there we go. Okay good. We are going to begin our Lotus Sutra Guan Yin 菩薩 Púsà lecture series. So I wanted to begin with a Dharma Request. I’m going to ring the bell three times, everybody is welcome to join me to do a half bow. Here we go.

[Three bells]

Okay, three and a half bows. Paul, would you like to request Dharma?

Paul Kang (Pinole, CA): yeah, Dharma Master.


Gōngqǐng dà dé sēng tīng, wèi cǐ fǎ huì jí yīqiè zhòngshēng, qǐng zhuǎn miào fǎlún,


Jiàodǎo wǒmen, rúhéle shēng tuō sǐ, lí kǔ dé lè, sù zhèng wú shēng.

Will the Sanga with great virtue,

Out of compassion,

For the sake of this assembly

And all living beings,

Please turn the wonderful Dharma-wheel,

To teach us how to leave suffering,

And attain bliss,

And end birth and death and

Quickly realize non birth.

Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato, Samma Sambuddhassa

Homage to the Blessed, Noble, and Perfectly Enlightened one

Namo Sa Dan Tuo 南無薩怛他

Su Qie Duo Ye 蘇伽多耶

E La He Di 阿喇訶帝

San Miao San Pu Tuo Xie 三藐三菩陀寫

開經偈 Kāi jīng jì

無上甚深微妙法 百千萬劫難遭遇

Wú shàng shèn shēn wéimiào fǎ bǎi qiān wàn jiénàn zāoyù

我今見聞得受持 願解如來真實義

Wǒ jīn jiànwén dé shòu chí yuàn jiě rúlái zhēnshí yì

Supreme and wondrous Dharma, subtle and profound, 

Rarely is encountered,

Even in billions of eons.

But now we see it, hear it and accept it reverently;

May we truly understand the Buddha’s actual meaning.

Thank you Paul for the Dharma request. When you add a new microphone, you also have to adjust your speaker and I had given my speaker the wrong assignment. 

Good morning again everyone. We are about to launch into our 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng 觀世音菩薩普門品 Guānshìyīn púsà pǔ mén pǐn Guan Shi Yin Pusa Universal Door lecture series. The lecture series of Universal Door Chapter. It is a good translation, suitable, good enough translation of the Dharma Flower Sutra known as Lotus. And I want to say hello to everyone here. Chen Yu is our host today and Cliff Wong is co-host and also our interpreter. 


Yǒurén xiànzài fānyì zhōngguó huà, pǔtōnghuà, rúguǒ nǐmen dàjiā xiǎng tīng zhōngwén dehuà, yòushǒu biān, xià yòubiān yǒu gè niǔ kěyǐ qǐng “zhōngwén.”

If everybody wants to hear Chinese translation of our Sutra lecture, down below on the bottom of your Control Panel, there’s a button that allows you, it shows you a globe and you can choose “Chinese” from that list, and one of our volunteer is happily translating along; somebody who used to my Midwestern English and knows my jokes. We also have a Vietnamese translation available, so go to the Chat function that says “Chat” and click on that and you can choose the link that said for Vietnamese translation. So, how nice we have got three languages translation going! Yi-Huan is our Co-host from Ukiah; I didn’t mention it. Cliff is here in the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Aileen is here with us; Alice and Ann and Bill in Colorado; and Melissa and Brenda, Brian. Brian Conroy is with us. Welcome Brian. Katrina is from Danville and Chin Cheng and Cheng Yang, Connie is here. Good.  Cynthia is with us, never miss. Dale. Hi Dale, long time no see. Duc Levan is from Montreal. Elaine and Emma are from London. And Galaxy tab, nice to meet you. Grace is here with us. Halu and Henry from San Jose; thank you for joining Henry. Hua Yuan, Huali, wow, we get the whole team here. Iris, Ivy, Jane, Jenny, Quo Hoa. Hi Jenny! Jasky is with us. Bienvenue! Welcome! Jason and Jennifer and Jenny. Super! Another Jenny as well. Jensen is here all the way from Indonesia. Jin Fo Shi is tuning in; whoa! Catherine, Kelly, the whole Lam family from London. Kevin is here from Sydney, far South. Khai and Mai and Liz from New York City. Madalena, wow, honored that she should be here. Mai is with us. Matthew and Paul who just requested the Dharma. Peggy and Phung and Prajna, my goodness! Rebecca and Ron and Sam. Sandy and Sang Phu regular. Sheryl from New Zealand. We are covering the globe today. 

Then Shirley Salem from France. Sue and Sue and Susan. Suzanne. Sydney, Bernie, Xing Fei, hi there. Bernie, that’s Sydney Bernie; three of you. No, it’s Bernie and Xing Fei from Sydney. Tan You Kai, Tina and then Vera from Brazil; stay healthy in Brazil. And then Viet DRBA, Wong Fo Yin. Winnie from California. Srinlan. Yang Liu from Ukiah. YC is on the call. Thank you for joining YC. Yi Ding Shin. Then we have a number of Chinese friends and I’m just going to mention them from where. We could probably keep a list and see how many of China’s provinces are represented. For example, we have Shanghai; we have Lanhai from Zhejiang; we have Suzhou from Anhui; we have Quanzhou from Fujan; we have Jiazhou, that’s not a Chinese Zhou; then we have Baotou. Oh, lovely. Shenzhen, Beijing and then we have another Beijing then we have a San Jose. Then we have Taipei. 歡迎! Annie is with us too. 駱國欽,台北來的,歡迎歡迎!Alright. Welcome! 

Now, what’s going on with the Lotus Sutra? Last week we talked about Guan Yin Pusa. Today we’re going to talk about a chapter from the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng. Now the Lotus Sutra is called the king of sutras; it’s one of the most beloved, revered, respected Buddhist texts. A Mahayana text! There’s lots and lots and lots of responses to the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng that people have done over the years. 

People when we encountered the Buddha’s teaching  responded in different ways. There’s a lot of different, really different responses to the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng. Some people are drawn to its mystical elements. One of the teachings said the Buddha spoke the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng at Dharma Peak and that he’s still speaking; he never stopped. 

Some people hear that and go, “wow…,” you know, “hmm.” That’s the way I like my sutras outside of time and space. 

Other people hear the very same teachings of 法華經 Fa Hua Jing and they’re drawn, their minds kick in, their left brain said,  “I want to understand that. How long is it? How many words did the Buddha used? How many chapters are in it? Is there a system to the chapters? Which is the most important chapter? Who is the Buddha speaking to? Who is speaking to the Buddha?,” you know. And their minds respond intellectually. Well, that’s perfectly adequate, predictable, understandable, welcome response.

So other people want to deal with the text in a sacred way; they want to make it magic and powerful; they don’t want to understand intellectually. They’re not drawn to it as something they can own and make powerful, make a use for them. They instead want to surrender to it, the devotional side; people who want to take the Sutra and recite the name only. Would you all be surprised to know that numerically probably the Number One way that people respond to the Lotus Sutra is to recite the title? Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Soka Gakkai approach. Nichiren was a reformer in Japan, a very controversial figure, but that was his response. He said, “Nevermind the mystical, nevermind the intellectual, just get it to work for you and your life will improve. So let’s recite the title of the Sutra.”

Lots and lots and lots of approaches. So let’s take a step back and I would like folks who are listening right now to kind of figure out your own approach to the Lotus Sutra. 

I knew this title because Lotus was a very compelling word when I was growing up. There was a sports car called a Lotus — really fast, really expensive, really hard to keep tuned up. If you lost a tire you probably had to call a specialist to come and put air back in your tire—a special mechanic. Lotuses I knew were these wonderful flowers that grew in Asia. 

What else about lotuses? Well, they were considered..they had their thing, you know; roses have their thing; daisies have their thing. Lotuses, thing about lotuses, was always they grew above the mud, they were on tall, tall stems. Now, this is what I knew about lotuses. I’d never seen one; in the Midwest, we didn’t have lotuses. So it was only much later, actually, after I got to Gold Mountain Monastery and saw our teacher, Master Hsuan Hua, saw him in his approach to the Lotus Sutra did I start to realize, what’s involved when you say「諸經之王 (Zhū jīng zhī wáng)」, the King of Sutras. If you’re ordinary you don’t approach the King very easily. In fact, I wasn’t ready to come close to the Lotus Sutra as an entire text until I cleaned myself up, honestly speaking. 

You don’t get to walk in on the king, and you know, lean against the kitchen counter and chat with him, you can’t do that. You have to prepare yourself if you’re going to get to focus the attention of the king; you have to qualify. Well, the ordinary “I’m kind of interested in meditation and kind of not” Buddhists, somebody approaching Buddhism isn’t ready for the Lotus Sutra. 

So later, after I had been cultivating for awhile, I had an opportunity to be with Master Hua when he encountered a group of monks from China and among the monks from China was one who was known as a cultivator among the various monks who were already a self selected, a selected group of special individual Sangha members. And this Elder, as we were waiting for the elevator, someone mentioned in the San Francisco airport—somebody mentioned that this Elder cultivator from China recited the Lotus Sutra every single day, and never missed. And I looked at  Shrfu and he and the Elder cultivator exchanged a glance and in a single glance between my teacher and this elder monk, they shared some knowledge, experience, appreciation. I’m a bystander and I saw two elder Sangha members exchange a glance and maybe I shouldn’t be peeking at the teacher, but of course, you’re peeking at your teacher, you want to follow your teacher. Shrfu and this older monk in that single glance about reciting the Lotus Sutra—there was a power, an energy, a light, a wisdom, a joy… I think that probably was the thing that struck me most was they were like two kids with their first taste of ice cream. That kind of lighting up. And I knew that was not my experience, but they were, two of them knew something from their experience of cultivating according to the Lotus Sutra. 

The Elder from his reciting it every day and Shrfu’s biography when he said, if you read the early Manchurian biography of Master Hsuan Hua, what does it say? It says, when he first met the Lotus Sutra, he read it until his eyes bled, meaning he couldn’t stop reading it. He was so overjoyed when he first met the Lotus Sutra that he didn’t want to stop reading it. 

So, that’s not an ordinary book is it, friends? I mean what is going on in the Lotus Sutra? My goodness. So there you go, that’s kind of  “wow!”

It came to my attention that the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng/妙法蓮華經 Miàofǎ liánhuá jīng,there was something going on here that I should pay attention to. Now, let’s shift our focus to history, Chinese Buddhist history, and there was a time in China when Buddhism was still Indian, just thinking about Chinese Buddhist history. Because Buddhism was originally Indian, historically, and then it came to China. And it wasn’t entirely satisfying. People still looked back to India as the source of real Buddhism. So we had, for example, Master 玄奘 Xuán Zàng who traveled back to India to get the texts because he felt like what they had in China was not the real deal. It wasn’t the real thing. There were mistakes. There were things to improve. So for hundreds of years, people were struggling with the teachings that they got from India, and lots of questions, lots of concerns. Is it real? What if what they had was not complete, etc? 

So there was a time when Buddhism had been in China long enough for a genuine Chinese Buddhism to emerge. And that was by and large, some people would say Chan, some people would point to repentances, repentance ceremonies coming out etc., different questions, but a lot of people will tell you that when the 天台 Tiantai teachings emerged in China, that was when real Chinese Buddhism first arrived, first emerged. 

Now the Tiantai teachings, with this is, you know, we’re painting with big broad brushstrokes, but the Tiantai teachings were based largely on the Lotus Sutra. And the Tiantai teachings were they’re pointed at, they’re not exclusively, but they were, if we had to pin it down in Chinese history, the person responsible for the emergence of the Tiantai teachings was Master 智顗 (Zhì yǐ) , Zhi Yi. 

Here is where the 天台 Tiantai teachings, by and large, came into being. This is 國清寺 Guó Qīng Sì, Guo Qing Monastery. Notice it says, “隋 (Suí) Sui Dynasty Ancient Monastery”. This is 隋代古剎 Sui Dai Gu Cha. This is outside of 杭州 (Hángzhōu) Hangzhou. It’s 140 miles by car from 杭州 (Hángzhōu) Hangzhou in 浙江 (Zhèjiāng) Zhejiang. This monastery has been there for how long? Well, it’s been there since the 隋  (Suí) Sui, which is before the Tang, which is to say the Sixth Century. So here I am with Dharma Master Lai and other dharma friends—you see Madalena, Guoji. 

Guo Qing Monastery. There we are, entering the temple. 

Here we are in the courtyard. Guo Qing Monastery, look at these ancient trees. 

We’ve switched to my desktop. Can you all see? Those of you on phones may have a problem. Hope you can see these photos. 

This is the seat of historically, we’re going to go past. Ah! Here’s a plum tree. This is a Sui Dynasty plum tree! 

Now that is an ancient tree still producing plums, which we’ve enjoyed! So a tree, okay, so if you use 2000, 1400, 1600 years, one thousand six hundred years old. Yeah! There’s some wisdom. Lord of the Rings (movie reference) we had the Ents, remember the Ents? Okay, we’re getting there. One more, see here, here’s the scene from inside Guo Qing Temple, Guo Qing Monastery. 

Shrfu, when he was a young monk, traveled and stayed at Guo Qing Temple as had most of China’s famous Buddhist monks at one time or another have lived at Guo Qing Monastery. Yup, yup. Okay, that’s above Guo Ching Monastery. Hope I can find it. Let’s see here. 

Okay, here we are. 智者塔院 Zhìzhě Tǎ Yuàn.

This is a temple, a branch temple that is above Guo Ching Temple. You have to get out on the road, hard to find, it is not developed, it’s not a tourist temple. This is the..it said, “the Stupa, yard, Temple of Master Zhizhe 智者 (Zhìzhě), the Wise One.” And Master Zhizhe, the abbot of Guo Ching Temple. 

Master 允觀 Yun Guan said, “If I had to pick a place in China that I consider to be holding the real spirit of the Mahayana, it would be 智者塔院 (Zhìzhě Tǎ Yuàn), the stupa temple of Master Zhizhe.” he said. He looked at me and said, “don’t you agree? This is ‘gatha.’ This has the feel,” he said. 

So, what are we talking about? What do we need to do? We missed our banjo opening. Let’s listen to Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s name. (Reciting Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva to banjo melody) 

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva

Namo Guan Shi Yin Bodhisattva

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

Guan Yin Bodhisattva 

That’s a palate cleanser. My voice kind of gets tedious after a while and puts people to sleep.  

So, take a step back, look at the bigger picture, the Buddha, they say, is over 49 years, spoke the Dharma over 300 different occasions.  The Lotus, when it comes to the Lotus sutra teachings, the tradition said that he is just speaking; he never really stopped, which gives you a sense of the importance of what was taught in the Lotus Sutra.  

So of the Mahayana teachings, all the things that the Buddha said, that’s what we’re looking at, the Lotus Sutra holds a very important place. Chinese Buddhists over the years, once Buddhism became Chinese, because if you go to India and say, “tell me about the Lotus Sutras.” The Theravada monks will say, “I’m sorry. We’re not trained in the Lotus Sutra. We don’t know about it.” Mahayana monks will go, “Oh… 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng. Yes, it’s deep. It’s big. It’s pure and holy.” 

So, in between those extremes, what door do you go through? How do you get a handle on it?  How do you get a staircase up to it? How do you find the ladder that will carry it up to the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng? We know it’s special. We know it’s profound. How do you approach it? 

Chinese Buddhists came up with what it was called 判教 (Pàn jiào). Pan Jiao is an intellectual way to approach not only the Lotus Sutra, but everything the Buddha taught. When one begins a lecture series on the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng, traditionally, according to the 天台教觀 Tiāntái jiào guān, the teachings of the Tiantai, which is China first unique non-Indian contribution to Buddhism, they created this structure called “判教 (Pàn Jiào)”. Master Zhizhe is associated with it; whether he, himself, was the monk who created it, doesn’t really matter. He is associated with it strongly. Master Zhizhe was a Sixth Century monk 538-597. And he divided the Buddhist Teachings into the 五時 Wǔ Shí and 八教 Bā Jiào. This is what it’s called 教宗 Jiào Zōng. This is the teaching school and I have to say there’s a large number of people who would say, “this is what I hate about Chinese Buddhism.” People who will say that. Because if you’re not interested in the intellectual language heavy approach, this is going to put you to sleep. 

So, our teacher, Shrfu, came to the West very aware of the shortcomings of Eastern systems, very interested in reforming the Dharma so that it would take root in Western soil. What did he do? Shrfu is trained in the 天台教觀 Tiāntái jiào guān. If he simply repeated the way it was done in China, when there was no foundation in the West, Shrfu would have lost everybody. “Oh, Buddhism is like that? I came to meditate. I’ll go somewhere else.” 

What did he do? Well, he was faithful to the tradition. He gave us in his explanation of the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng. He gave us the Pan Jiao, the basics, the outline; he laid it out for us and respected it strongly, and then said, “you all look it up. I gave it to you whether or not you pick it up is up to you.”  I want to say right now if people are interested in Master Hua’s commentary to the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng, please go here. I’m going to put a link in our Chat Box.  Ok, everybody found your Chat Box in your Zoom guide?  Here you go. Cttbusa.org I give that to Chen Yu to give to everybody. There it is. Got that? Everybody find your Chat Box? What you’re going to find there is this. I’ll do it again. That’s the right one. That will take you to the start. Here is Shrfu’s explanation to the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng, the whole thing!  Here it is.  Look at the contents. Isn’t that nice? There you are. There is Master Hua’s commentary. We’re done. [Rev. Heng Sure is referring to the Lotus Sutra here: 


Thank you all for joining. Nah. Why listen to me when you can listen to Shrfu? Oh my goodness! Because Shrfu would say, “Lazy! What’s wrong? You ate and you’re going to eat today. Why don’t you talk today?” We want to speak 21st Century Dharma in English. So here it is. That’s Shrfu’s entire lecture series. If you go up to ‘Buddhadharma’ and go to ‘Sutra Texts,’ you can get the Sutra alone without the commentary. I think I’ll give you that too. See here, yeah, here is one more, you’ll find your chat box there, here we go. Here it is. That is Sutra only. This photograph with the photoshopped, various figures on top, this is Vulture Peak, that’s the actual present contemporary Vulture Peak, there it is right there. “Thus I have heard at one time,” so  that’s the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng.

So what the Chinese did when they got to the Lotus Sutra in order to climb a ladder, climb a staircase, climb up Vulture Peak to get themselves ready to hear it, they turned to the mind and said, “all right, here’s how we approach it,” there are five different periods of the Buddha’s teachings. First is the Avatamsaka 華嚴時, second is the Agama 阿含時, third is the Vaipulya  方廣時, fourth is the 般若時 Prajna; fifth is the what? 法華涅磐時. They divided it into five periods of time. What’s going on? Then, there are eight different kinds of teachings, there are four contents and then there are four methods: storehouse, pervasive, separate, perfect; sudden, gradual, secret, unfixed. There’s a milk product’s analogy; this is how people who have cows think about ways of dividing teachings; there’s raw milk, there’s cream, there’s curd, there’s butter and ghee. So Shrfu gave us this, right, anybody is still awake?

So what is this? This is a profound, hallowed traditional way to approach a Sutra. Now, Shrfu had the choice to rip it up and innovate, and he didn’t. Shrfu gave us a traditional opening when he explained the Lotus Sutra at Gold Mountain Monastery in San Francisco in the 70s.

Now, I had the same choice. Understand that I am not explaining the 法華經 Fa Hua Jing. I’m talking about a single chapter, but what I wanted to do with it for everybody was to point us back to the tradition because if we lose the tradition, we’re cut adrift; we’re a tree without roots. If we only unpack the tradition, we have 100, over 100 folks listening right now, next week, there will be 10 fewer, following week, there will be 20 fewer, finally we only get diehard.

Now I have a story, and many people can appreciate it this way. I was blessed to attend a lecture by Master 顯明 Xian Ming, 顯明長老 and Master 顯明 Xian Ming was said to hold the current Tiantai teaching lineage; he was the lineage holder in our age. He was a very elderly monk, he was approaching 100, he wasn’t quite 100 at the time, and Master 顯明 Xian Ming was a great Sutra speaker. He just loved the Sutras. You could tell it when he just lit up around Sutras. He had so much to give plus he was a kind-hearted, fun elderly Sangha member. He was just a delight to be around, and you did the thing—you put your palms together, bowed to him. He was so radiant. You felt better immediately just to be around him. 

It was his turn to Sutra lecture time and I forgot what he was lecturing, might have been the Vajra Sutra or something, and I was thrilled to get the chance to sit in because I want to do it better. I want to do it right. I want to be a good sutra lecturer in the tradition. I want to get it. Do it the way it should be done. So I’m with my notebook ready to take notes sitting to one side as a guest monk. And so, I noticed in the audience, there was a big hall and there were seven people in the chairs. If there were 100 chairs on the floor, there were 93 empty chairs. I was to one side and of the seven people, two of them were children who had been brought in by their grandparents. There was 公公 there was 婆婆 and they were wearing their precept robes, but 婆婆 was already asleep. Of the three, there were four and you could see that the other four—these were the kind of faithful Buddhist laymen who always showed up. So it’s like where is everybody?! 

And so the time came, Master 顯明 Xian Ming came in and he had his two young acolytes, two disciples with him and they came in. They marched in; they had been out to 请师, to request the teaching, and they brought him in slowly, very slowly came down, he made three perfect bows at the host’s bowing cushion then he came up and they laid incense and while he was offering up incense, they started the 香讚, the Incense Praise (Rev. Heng Sure humming how the Assembly begins the Incense Praise), launched into it. It was beautiful. The bells, drum and Master 顯明 Xian Ming slowly went up correctly to the left to circle around clockwise, got in his seat and had the paraphernalia. They’re still chanting and he arranged his robe and he had, they have all these paraphernalias that you need such as if you touch your face while you’re lecturing, you need a wet damp cloth to wipe your hand because your hand is not clean anymore. You can’t touch the sutra after having scratched or something, scratched your ear. So, everything was there and the incense was curling. Put his palms together in there, everyone—the four elderly monks, the lay people who are still awake—were bowing out there. So that’s the prayer. Then what? Next, on the program, is a praise to the sutra and the monks have to start out. They praise the sutras, another five seven minutes goes by. 

Then there’s the protocol before you begin, you have to do the Dharma Request and on and on. I was watching Master Xian Ming and he was, I don’t want to say impatient, but he had so much to give; he was so full of knowledge, wisdom and tradition, but he couldn’t start talking because of all of the protocols, all of the formal sutra lecture preparation that had to be done. I could just sense his, I don’t want to say frustration. That doesn’t sound right, but Master Xian Ming couldn’t start because they hadn’t finished with the intro yet. And so finally, finally the young monks are..you know, they’re doing their job; this is the tradition; this is the way it always has been done in the Chinese tradition. So finally, it was his turn. With his palms together, he said, “各位請山僧下來為大眾” (Reverend Heng Sure interprets what Master Shen Ming said in Chinese). “You all have respectfully requested the mountain monk to come down to turn the magical, the wonderful, unbreakable Dharma Wheel.” He started his speech. He had to go through his 各位; he had to thank the donors; he had to respond to conditions that had allowed him to come. Another five minutes passed. At this point, it dawned on me; I realized why the Hall was empty and why this wonderful, national, international, treasure, the Patriarch of the Tientai Teaching, why he was, basically, alone in the Hall. It had to do with the weight of the tradition crushing against mere humanity, ordinary folks like us. 

I appreciated Master Hua. What did Shrfu do? Shrfu gave us the 天台教觀 Tiāntái jiào guān. With what? Here we are. What do we have? We got the 八教, four types of teaching kind of like four types of medicine; four methods of teaching like four methods of applying the medicine; the 五宗玄義 five profound meanings where you explain the title—seven classes of title: person, dharma, analogy. The Lotus is dharma and analogy. We have to identify the body of the teachings, clarify the meanings of the teaching, discuss its functions, determine the teaching mark. 

So I felt such appreciation for Master Shen Ming and for Shrfu 宣公上人 who both came from this line of Mahayana dharma that included, that was produced, that was given birth by Guo Qing 国清 Monastery and Master Zhizhe 智者. There we are, here at 國清寺 Guo Qing Si, 天台山 Tiantai Shan in the Sixth Century. Six Century! What else did you encounter today that came down from the Sixth Century? Well, redwoods! The oldest redwoods were saplings back in 600, so 500 something. 

Incredible. How do you respond when you have something this ancient, this lofty, this venerated, sacred, you could say. It’s been part of human history for sixteen hundred years. You choose Master Xian Ming’s choice? He was the Patriarch, he couldn’t, he had no choice, despite his joy in sharing Dharma, he had to sit there until they were done singing. And then, we have Shifu’s response, which was to say, “您们各位谁有什么问题没有啊?” “Anybody have any questions about what I just said? If you don’t have any questions, I’m going to start asking you what you understand about what I just said.” 

Shrfu kept the form alive; he gave us if you look back at cttbusa, go look for yourself. What did Shifu actually say? Shifu gave us, in his early lectures, the outlines of 判教 Pàn Jiào, of the 天台教观 Tiantai Jiao Guan, but he didn’t drown under the waves of the 天台教观 Tiantai Jiao Guan. I could see that the Patriarch, poor, the current, the elder, that patriarch sounds like patriarchal; we have a problem with that word these days. The current lineage holder, he, 怎么办? What do you do? How much do you look back at the tradition? How much do you innovate it so that any contemporary person will want to wrap his mind, her mind around it and pick it up? So oh my goodness, what a challenge to keep it alive! 

Mostly the Chinese tradition, the Chinese cultural habit is to—well, until 1949 until things got ripped up in China—but mostly you honored tradition. The result of that is what? People don’t wait. They ignore, they overlook, they dismiss the 教宗 Jiào Zōng the teaching school. It’s just too slow! We have a world burning down around our ears. We have a world drowning. We have a world infected by virus. How can we wait for the niceties of the praise of the Lotus Sutra being sung entirely before we—nah! People just say sorry, I’m gonna … I mean we have Netflix. We have Hulu. We have entertainment with things exploding in fireballs, and fast car chases through the streets of San Francisco. Who’s gonna want to wait? 

Shrfu did his best to innovate the Tiantai Jiào Guān 教观 and mind you, we haven’t even touched the 賢首宗 Xian Shuo Zong. There’s a second school inside the 教宗 Jiào Zōng, the teaching school, that focuses on the Hua Yuan Jing, the Avatamsaka Sutra, which is my particular deepest interest you could say and that’s the 賢首 Xian Shuo teachings, not the rival, but parallel to the Tiantai teachings—Heavenly Vista, Tientai. So, more of the same, which is what? Boring! Nobody wants to listen. So Shifu innovated, and he gave us, his next generation, permission to innovate further as long as we acknowledge, respect and investigate the 天台教觀 Tiāntái jiào guān 判教 Pàn Jiào, the Pan Jiao system. 

So that’s what I have done today. The lecture time is already over. I want to introduce people to the 判教 Pàn Jiào, the discriminating teachings scheme, the tradition, the framework, and the structure so that we can go beyond it and get to the 妙 (Miào),不可說 (Bùkě shuō),不可思議 (Bùkěsīyì),the wonderful parts of the lotus sutra that would motivate Shrfu to exchange a glance with the elder who recited the Lotus Sutra every day. How long does it take? About seven hours. If you do the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng every day, you’re putting up a lot of hours every single day. So, the Lotus Sutra is quite  wonderful. Master Zhizhe, our hero, the monk who is attributed to whom the 天台 Tientai teachings are attributed, explained the word 妙 Miao, 妙法蓮華經 Miao Fa Lian Hua Jing, the first word of the title, for 90 days, they said, and he wasn’t done, but in deference to his audience, the fact that there was an entire sutra waiting and he was just back on the first word of the title, he explained it in 90 days. I guarantee you only the oldest of the 婆婆 (Pópo) went to sleep; everybody else was at the edge of their seats, waiting to hear what was coming next from the Wondrous Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. 

To conclude today’s lecture, I want to run my next vision of Shrfu’s regarding the Lotus Sutra in a story that I witnessed when Dharma Realm Buddhist University had its very first graduation. It was the first 畢業典禮 (Bìyè diǎnlǐ), the first graduation of 法界大學 (Fǎjiè dàxué) Dharma Realm Buddhist University. Everybody had their mortar boards in the shape of a lotus. Very beautiful. Golden cloth mortar board, that’s the hat you wear, graduation hat with a tassel and our gowns and our robes; the monks wear their robes, academics wear their gowns and Susan Rounds was there with her son, Nathaniel! Nathaniel, David and Susan’s boy, was a blonde, little towhead; he was a blonde-headed kid and I think I looked like Nathaniel when I was his age.

Nathaniel might have been six. Was he six? I think he was younger than six because Shrfu picked him up and set him on Shrfu’s eating table in the center of the 五觀齋堂 (Wǔ guān zhāi táng). He said, I don’t remember Nathaniel’s Dharma name, ”he said, ‘Nathaniel, can you recite for us?’’ And Nathaniel said, “the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. Thus I have heard, at one time…” Nathaniel Rounds started in reciting in English the 法華經, The Lotus Sutra. And Shr Fu was beaming. His smile just filled the 五觀齋堂 (Wǔ guān zhāi táng). It was a moment I will never ever forget it. I was impressed; he was so little guy; he might have been five, and small enough that Shrfu could pick him up and he stood up on top of Shr Fu’s lunch table there in the Dining Room and recited the first words of The Lotus Sutra in English. And I thought, Ah! The tradition has made it across to see, and across the ages.’ 

Thank you all for joining. What have I done today? That’s as much of the 判教 (Pàn Jiào) as I want to give it to everybody. So when people say how does 宣化上人 Hsuan Hua Shang Ren’s next generation explain the Lotus Sutra, you could say they acknowledge and respect the 天台教觀 Tiāntái jiào guān, and they moved on. Is that good enough? Have I honored it sufficiently? We’re only, mind you, Medicine Buddha Mantra, understand that we are only doing, not that, that’s the Vajra Sutra, that’s the 法華經 Fǎhuá jīng, 普門品 (Pǔ mén pǐn) . We‘re only doing one Chapter; we are not doing the whole thing. If I was doing the whole Lotus Sutra, we’d have to have two to three years to go through it adequately, right? We have to buckle our seatbelts strapping for the long run so we are doing only one Chapter—the  普門品 (Pǔ mén pǐn), Chapter Twenty-Five of the Lotus Sutra.

Question: Have you considered adding some sutras lectures? I do. 我在講華嚴經嘛 (Wǒ zài jiǎng huá yán jīng ma),十地品 (Shí dì pǐn),就是可以去 (Jiùshì kěyǐ qù)YouTube, 有中文的翻譯(Yǒu zhòng wén de fānyì)。Is anybody may be YiHuan and Cliff, can somebody type in where folks can find the Chinese of my 華嚴 (Huá yán) lectures? 

We had a question from Prajna, which was, “what is the Chinese of 判教 (Pàn Jiào)?” Here we go. One second. (opening Word Document). Let’s get it on the bottom here. 判教 (Pàn Jiào) is probably something like discriminating among the teachings or the systematic teachings. Something like that. That’s the generic name. That’s the way to say how the Chinese approached the entirety of what the Buddha spoke. That includes the five periods, the eight teachings etc.

If you want to look it up further, if you want to go to Wikipedia, go to “Tiantai Teaching.” That will get you there. Or is it T-i-a-n Tiantai? “Tiantai Teaching,” there you go. Look this one up in Wikipedia and it will get you to 判教  (Pàn Jiào). 

The analytical method, yeah, that’s good. I like that. Because you analyze what the Buddha said. You don’t bow to it. You don’t pick up on its magical side. It’s a different approach; it’s a different way of approaching the teaching. 

We have innovated it to include the banjo. (Playing the banjo melody of Medicine Master Buddha Mantra)

Jiang Lihua says classification of Buddhist teaching. Wait. Stop that banjo before I play it again.

(Stop playing the banjo. Type in Word Document “Classification of the Buddha’s teaching”). 

That’s a good place to start. 

Transfer the merit using a mantra not a transference. This is a response to the pandemic, which continues to rage and is on its fourth surge with the various variants. Recite this mantra. Keep your spirits high. Actually send out a vibration that puts things back where they belong. See you all next week. Thank you all for joining. 

(Sing Medicine Master Buddha Mantra with banjo music)

Om namo bhagavate bhaisajyaguru

Vaidurayaprabharajaya tathagataya

Arhate samyaksambuddhaya tadyatha: om

Bhaisajye bhaisajye bhaisajya samudgate svaha om (3x)

Thank you all for joining everyone. See you next week. Stay healthy. Stay well. Amituofo! 

Contributors of this transcribing this lecture:

Yan Ming, L. Lau, Thuy Bui, Aurora Yu, Alice Cheng, Annie Tran, Vera Cristofani, Susan Chai, Grace Woo, Bernie Moloney, Hong Anh Nguyen, Zhongni Zhu

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