Buddhism Sutras Introduction – Chapter 4: The Causal Ground of Dharmakara

“In past, inconceivable countless aeons ago, there was a Buddha who appeared in the world named Lokesvararaja.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

Buddha Lokesvararaja appeared in this world when people were very conservative and law-abiding to the extreme, following the letter of the law and not the spirit. The name Lokesvararaja means to be comfortable and at ease while still following the rules, which is what this Buddha was trying to convey.

Every Buddha, including Buddha Lokesvararaja, has the same ten titles to represent their infinite wisdom, virtue and abilities.

First, “Thus Come One” is one who truly and thoroughly comprehends that the intrinsic nature and the extrinsic form are one inseparable entity.

Second, “Worthy of Offerings” indicates that the Buddha deserves the offerings from all beings for his perfection in knowledge and cultivation of virtue. Sowing in the field of merit, by making offerings to the Buddha, enables one to harvest good fortune in the future.

One of the most important rea-sons why Buddhists make offerings to Buddha Shakyamuni is to repay our gratitude for his being our original teacher; reminding us to respect teachers and their teachings, and not to blindly worship them. Another important reason is to acknowledge and emulate the virtuous; vowing to become a Buddha also.

Third, “Likeness of Perfect Enlightenment” is the abbreviated form of Supreme Unbiased Perfect Enlightenment.

Fourth, “Perfection in Wisdom and Cultivation” means one’s under-standing and practice reach full completion.

Fifth, “Skillful in Non-attachment.” All Buddhas are neither bound by birth and death or the state of Nirvana.

Sixth, “Knower of the Worlds” comprehends everything in the universe.

Seventh, “The Unsurpassed Scholar.”

Eighth, “Great Hero” is what the Buddha is by guiding all beings in their individual practices and solving their problems through his teachings, achieving what others cannot.

Ninth, “Teacher of Heavenly Be-ings and Men.”

“Buddha, the World Honored One” is the person who has already attained perfect complete realization and the above nine virtues, thus deserving the respect of the world even though he is unaffected by his achievements, viewing himself as equal to all beings. This concludes the ten titles for all Buddhas.

Buddha Lokesvararaja gave the teaching for forty-two aeons. This indicates that the life span of a human being at that time was even longer.

“At that time, a great king by the name of World Abundant heard the Buddha’s teaching.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

After King World Abundant received the teaching from Buddha Lokesvararaja, he decided to give up his kingship to become a monk. He was renamed Dharmakara meaning Dharma treasure.

Giving up the kingship is an ex-ample of pursuing self-realization and dedicating oneself to educating others about the Buddha’s teaching; thus, one serves all the sentient beings in the infinite uni-verse and beyond.

To create good fortunes for all, one contributes one’s wisdom and capabilities. Ordinary people only think of themselves, their family or perhaps even their country, whereas, a realized person strives to help all beings break through delusion to find true liberation.

Dharmakara started practicing the Bodhisattva’s way, which helped him to attain an awakened mind.

A Bodhisattva can be any person in any place. They are no different from us except that they do not harbor any discrimination and attachments, and are unaffected by worries and troubles in their daily lives and work. For example, the clergy can also be Bodhi-sattvas, guiding beings from delusion, improper thoughts and view-points, and polluted thinking.

Dharmakara was an extraordinarily talented person, who in many ways already surpassed most people. In his past lives Dharmakara must have practiced extensively the giving of wealth, fearlessness and teaching in order to be born into a royal family and to have wealth, longevity, intelligence and wisdom.

By practicing diligently the Buddha’s teaching, Dharmakara reached the utmost achievement.

As the power of mindfulness and wisdom enhanced Dharmakara’s determination to achieve in the practice with no regression, he began to formulate his great vows. No one could surpass him.

“He went to visit the Buddha, showed his respect by prostrating…”(Infinite Life Sutra)

Prostration is one form of practice. When prostrating, one should do so with a sincere and pure mind, having no wandering thoughts. Thus, one cultivates concentration in addition to conditioning a healthy body.

“He placed his palms together in reverence towards the Buddha and praised him with these verses and made the great vows.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

“The Thus Come One has a subtle, wonderful and majestic appearance, which no one in the universe can equal.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

This is one of the reasons why people like to get close to them.

“The Buddha’s light shines without limit throughout the ten directions, covering up all the brightness from the sun and moon.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

This verse praises the Buddha’s light and wisdom representing purity, equality, wisdom and com-passion.

“The World Honored One can pre-sent with a sound and make all living beings understand in their own languages.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

When the Buddha gives a teaching, people from different regions in the world could understand it. Moreover, all heavenly beings, Bodhisattvas and Arhats from other worlds and realms who at-tend, will also comprehend.

“The Buddha can manifest in a subtle and wonderful appearance, and let all living beings see him as their own kind.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

The appearances of the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas are images projected from the minds of different beings.

The above verses praise the Buddha’s virtuous capabilities.

“I (Dharmakara) wish to attain the Buddha’s pure and clear sound, and let the Dharma voice universally reach limitless boundaries.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

“I wish to penetrate the profound, subtle and wonderful Buddha’s teaching.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

“May my wisdom be as vast and deep as the sea and my mind pure and void of impurities and afflictions.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

Although one may not be verbally chanting the Buddha’s name at all times, it is important to be mindful of the Buddha unceasingly or else wandering thoughts may arise. Wandering thoughts are what pull us back into the endless cycle of reincarnation. In other words, if a Pure Land practitioner is not truly practicing for the Pure Land, he/she is practicing for the six realms of reincarnation.

Pure mind and true wisdom pre-vent one from falling into the three bad realms; moreover, they lift one up to reach the perfection of the mind.

“The poisons of greed, anger and ignorance will forever disappear, with the strength of samadhi I will end all delusions and faults.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

Three good roots for ordinary people to develop are ridding themselves of the Three Poisons: greed, anger and ignorance. Bodhisattvas have already eradicated these three. What they concentrate on is cultivating diligence.

Strength developed from Contemplation of Buddha Amitabha Samadhi may dissolve all past transgressions, and uncover our wisdom by ending greed, anger, ignorance and delusion. This enables our inner brightness to shine through. We achieve this by sincere mindfulness of Buddha Amitabha and cultivate without doubt, intermingling with other thoughts and methods, or cessation.

In the Surangama Sutra, Great Strength Bodhisattva taught us to use the Buddha name chanting method, to constantly maintain a pure mind void of thoughts. This will eventually un-cover our true mind, leading us to the state of Samadhi.

“Like the past incalculable Buddhas, may I become a great teacher to all living beings in the nine realms.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

Dharmakara wished that one day he would be a teacher to the beings in the whole universe like other countless Buddhas in the past, present and future.

“And liberate everyone in every world from the myriad miseries of birth, old age, sickness and death.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

A great teacher helps to liberate all beings in the six realms from the suffering of birth, aging, sick-ness and death. He also helps those enlightened beings who have transcended reincarnation, but have not yet become a Buddha, to transcend their remaining ignorance.

“I will constantly practice the Six Paramitas of giving, precept observation, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

Bodhisattvas themselves not only practice the Six Paramitas (Principles)

but also encourage others to practice as well.

The first of the Six Principles is Giving. There are three kinds of Giving.
1. Giving of wealth, which will result in wealth in return.

2. Giving of knowledge, either worldly or spiritual, which will result in intelligence or in-sight.

3. Giving of fearlessness, which will result in longevity and good health.

All the infinite afflictions can be summed into six basic afflictions: greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, doubt and erroneous view-points. These six can all be categorized under “greed.” Anger arises when one cannot satisfy the greed within. Once the greed is satisfied, the anger naturally subsides. The practice of giving neutralizes greed, the worst of the three poisons of the mind.

To rid ourselves of greed, we first reflect deeply to see what we crave the most. Starting from there, we proceed to let go of reputation, wealth, the five de-sires and the temptations of the six senses.

One creates obstacles for oneself by being unable to give. Reading Liao Fan’s Four Lessons is a good basis for developing the Paramita of Giving. Understanding the truth of Cause and Effect, one will have the courage and joy to let go.

When letting go of what one is destined to have, one will simply find it coming back from some-where else. One will not be able to discard what one was meant to have, nor will one be able to keep what one was not meant to have. Furthermore, using devious means will not retain it either, but will instead bring disaster.

The life of a human being is mapped out at birth. Bodhisattvas, heavenly beings, or Kings of the Underworld do not control fate. Fate is determined by the causes one planted in previous lives. Thus, one will either experience suffering or happiness in this life. However, one’s thoughts, speech or behavior, resulting in good or bad karma, can change fate.

Giving is not discarding, but gaining. It is actually a way of earning interest, but even more secure than that of a bank. Banks can go bankrupt. The value of a dollar may fall. However, the value within the acts of true giving will not diminish.

The second Principle is precept observation. Its extended meaning is to follow the laws and customs wherever or whenever they apply.

It is essential to practice giving before precept observation be-cause without giving to neutralize the greed, one is unable to observe the precepts (laws, etc)

For example, when greed is in control, one thinks only of ways to possess wealth, not how to observe laws.

Cultivating the ten good conducts always brings good results. Although the result is good, this will only help one to reach heaven. However, one is still mired in re-incarnation. On the other hand, observing the precepts brings the profound benefits of transcending reincarnation.

The third Principle is patience. It teaches us to be patient in everything we say and do.

It takes great patience to transcend the cycle of life and death. For all its simplicity and ease, the Buddha Name Chanting Method calls for patience in maintaining continuity, without doubt or inter-mingling. Though it may be hard at first, the result is attaining a certain degree of purity of mind, which brings out the true self, the joy, true happiness, giving one the utmost enjoyment in life.

With patience, Buddha Name Chanting elevates one’s state of mind, level by level, enabling one to experience utmost happiness. The practice of giving is the first level, precept observation the second and patience the third. Like constructing a building while disregarding the first level, not being able to give will hinder one from reaching the second or the third levels.

The fourth Principle is diligence. Diligence is being skillful and focusing on only one specialty, which brings a meaningful out-come. To succeed, one needs to concentrate on one method. People who attained achievements in this world initially specialized in one method. For those who study a variety of fields simultaneously, it is very hard to rise above the ones who have specialized.

Upon reaching a certain level through profound cultivation on one method, we end affliction and open our mind. The more we focus on one simple method, the faster we progress. The more we intermingle with numerous difficult methods, the slower we progress.

Because all sutras originate from self-nature, when one thoroughly comprehends one sutra, one comprehends all sutras.

The fifth Principle is concentration. Insight gained from the practice of concentration helps us to truly suppress afflictions.

The sixth Principle is wisdom. With firm concentration, we can awaken our realization, turning affliction into enlightenment and thus, truly severing our afflictions. At this point, one thoroughly comprehends the true reality of life and the universe, understanding clearly cause and effect, thereby attaining the great liberation.

“For those undelivered sentient beings, let them be crossed over (to the other shore) .” (Infinite Life Sutra)

For those sentient beings who have not had the chance to encounter the Buddha’s teaching, let the seed be planted so that in the future they will encounter these teachings.

“For those already delivered let them attain Buddhahood.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

For those with good roots able to accept the Buddha’s teaching, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will help them to progress rapidly to Buddhahood.

The Infinite Life Sutra is the passport that the Buddha gave us to go to the Western Pure Land. Although we possess it, it may not be ours to use. Only when we are familiar with and practice its teachings, does it be-come ours to use.

When lacking good roots, good fortune, merit, causes and conditions from the past, all one has to do is to nurture more in the present. Studying, reciting and comprehending the sutras, will help to break through doubt and instill unwavering belief in the Pure Land.

“I would rather firmly and gallantly seek the proper enlightenment, than make offerings as boundless as Ganges sands, to the sages.” (Infinite Life Sutra)

The Ganges is the largest river in India with sand as fine as flour. It is often used in the sutras to de-scribe an uncountable number.

Making offerings to innumerable Buddhas and Bodhisattvas brings incredible good fortune. Yet, this fortune can only be enjoyed in the three good realms of reincarnation. Rather than staying in rein-carnation, a Pure Land practitioner should put all their efforts into attaining rebirth in the Western Pure Land.