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 20170227《靜思妙蓮華》教誡止惡出三界獄 (第1032集) (法華經•化城喻品第七)

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發表主題: 20170227《靜思妙蓮華》教誡止惡出三界獄 (第1032集) (法華經•化城喻品第七)   周一 2月 27, 2017 12:00 am

20170227《靜思妙蓮華》教誡止惡出三界獄 (第1032集)
(法華經•
化城喻品

 
見人間苦多,說慈悲長情;大愍念覆護,如來慈普被;轉法輪度脫,獲永恆輕安。
見大通智勝如來處於道場菩提樹下,坐師子座,諸天、龍王、乾闥婆、緊那羅、摩睺羅伽、人非人等恭敬圍繞,及見十六王子請佛轉法輪。《法華經化城喻品第七
時諸梵天王頭面禮佛,繞百千匝,即以天華而散佛上。所散之華如須彌山,並以供養佛菩提樹。華供養已,各以宮殿奉上彼佛。《法華經化城喻品第七
而作是言:惟見哀愍,饒益我等,所獻宮殿,願垂納處。時諸梵天王即於佛前,一心同聲,以偈頌曰。《法華經化城喻品第七
⊙而作是言惟見哀愍,饒益我等:惟願見佛,慈憫念我,知我求法若渴,願祈愍饒益施法,利益我等。
善哉見諸佛,救世之聖尊,能於三界獄,勉出諸眾生。」《法華經化城喻品第七》
⊙善哉見諸佛,救世之聖尊,善哉:表欣喜得見諸佛如來,救護世間大聖世尊。以下歎佛恩德。善哉乃自慶幸之辭。無邊法門,拯濟有情,故云救世之聖尊。
⊙能於三界獄,勉出諸眾生:能於三界生死獄中,勸勉眾生,令得出離。
⊙眾生沉於生死,宛轉無出,故喻牢獄。獄中不強無罪之人,三界總是自迷之輩,以勸修善法,教誡止惡行善法二門,令出三界,故云勉出。
 
【證嚴上人開示】

「見人間苦多,說慈悲長情;大愍念覆護,如來慈普被;轉法輪度脫,獲永恆輕安。」
 
見人間苦多
說慈悲長情
大愍念覆護
如來慈普被
轉法輪度脫
獲永恆輕安
 
看了應該瞭解。人間苦難偏多,佛陀大慈憫心,所以來人間為一大事,就是人間苦難事多,所以慈悲長情,向大家講說覺悟之道,覺有情的道理,這是佛陀慈悲施教。
 
人生世間,豈是一生一世而已嗎?不是,是生生世世。生生世世,既然是無間斷,有人是樂,有人是苦,有人是富,有人是貧,富者享受人間樂,貧者受盡世間苦,這到底是什麼因由?
 
佛陀來人間,就是要讓人人能知道,知道如何致富,如何預防貧困。貧富之間,佛陀用心分析、講說,讓大家能瞭解,生命不是一生一世,是長長久久,這種累生世不斷連連接接,要如何能在這人間有情,建立一個永恆不間斷的,覺悟有情人,那就是教菩薩法,如何來行菩薩法?菩薩法就是在人間造福,在人間有情群中,讓大家起歡喜心,讓大家得利益,這就是有情者,而且是長情,叫做覺有情,是生生世世,不是短暫。
 
所以在經典裡面,有一段這樣的故事,那就是佛陀在祇園精舍,一大早天未亮時,大家開始用功,集會要來聽佛說法。忽然間一道光從天而降,來到佛前,原來是一位天女。這位天女來到佛前,恭敬禮拜,禮佛、法、僧,就是來禮佛、禮僧,之後她就退坐一邊,佛陀開始說法了。
 
在說法當中,這位天女來佛前,再叩頭,再感恩,「瞭解了,我瞭解我為什麼能得到天福,是因為佛陀的教法,讓我能生天。現在來聽佛的說法,我忽然頓悟了,天壽再長也有盡期,我願意皈依成為佛的弟子,希望能夠時時,佛在說法,我就能在身邊聽法。」佛陀就為她說法,真的體會佛理的究竟。
 
大家覺得很奇怪,這位天女為什麼來佛的面前感恩呢?與佛陀所對答的語言,到底是什麼因緣?大家就趕緊問佛,佛陀就這樣說:這要說須達長者,他在之前有一次,他的心起了一個動念,這個動念就是,只要在我家裡面的人,我都希望他們人人能得到善法,人人能夠身體力行做善事。這個念已起,就開始集合家裡的人、傭人,每天每天,他都將(從)佛所聽的法,再回來向他的家人,與所有的傭人都集在一起,向他們講他聽佛所講的法。就是「如是我聞」,佛這樣說的法。
 
須達長者覺得所有的人,都很歡喜,人人都願意用小小的錢,願意要布施,不只是長者有辦法布施,也希望能夠讓人人有機會,滴水也能成甕,這樣來布(施)供佛僧。
 
但是這時候,須達長者他就起一分心念:我的傭人,大家都願意捐一點點的錢,看大家這麼歡喜要供佛僧。供佛僧,不是我有錢人才能做,原來即使這麼貧困,用他的身體勞苦所賺的工資,也願意付出一點點這樣來共集,想要布施。這念心覺得,既然如此,所有的人人,全城的人民應該都有機會供佛。
 
所以他這念心一起,開始他就規畫,七天後,他要將全城的人人,都能來布施,隨喜做功德。將這個意思就傳達給國王,國王聽到了也是很歡喜,國王覺得,說:「你有這分心,你願意去呼籲貧困的人,人人願意滴水成河,點滴做布施,很好啊!」所以就擂鼓,通告城中的人人,都能七天後,須達長者要讓大家,有供佛僧的機會。大家也是很歡喜。
 
七天後,其中有一位婦女,是很貧困,其實她一點點錢都沒有,不過,她才在不多久之前,辛辛苦苦累積一點錢,剛好去買了一塊布,就是披身的布料,是舊的,人家用過的,便宜的布料,心想寒冷的時候,能遮蔽身體來取暖。她只有這個東西,能夠拿來獻給須達長者。她這樣告訴他:「長者,這塊布有沒有用呢?是不是能算是我很虔誠?盡所有的一切,就是這個東西,我願意布施。」長者看了歡喜,親手把它收下來。「很不容易啊!這麼貧困,累積這麼久,才能得到少數的錢買這塊舊布料,但是你也願意付出,我很感動,所以,獻佛僧,應該是佛最歡喜的。」他就這樣把它收下來了。
 
不過,他已經知道,這位婦女是這麼貧困,他不忍心,所以他就這樣長久的時間,布施給她,長久有布可以遮身,有資糧,就是有得吃,有米、有糧食,讓她過一生。這位女人,這位婦女,從布施之後,每天都很歡喜,須達長者都會傳達佛的善法,所以她就發心立願:「將來我若能來生來世,只是一個心願,能夠聽聞佛法。」就這樣,身體虛弱,往生了。往生之後,就是因為她這分盡心造福,清淨福,所以這個福,生在天堂,也滿了她的心願,她也從天而降來聽佛說法。
 
所以,佛陀就為比丘,解開這個疑問,比丘眾,大家覺得,怎麼有這樣的天女,忽然間從天而降?就說出了過去,應該是十幾年前,那時候的須達長者,他所付出,要解除人人的貧苦,要能夠讓人人都能聞佛法,能夠解脫苦難,須達的心願。這位婦女,她也因為須達長者的這個心願,她也從旁得到這樣的利益。
 
看到這段經文,也是很歡喜。看看我們現在,不論是在什麼樣貧困的國家,慈濟人已經用「竹筒歲月」,同樣的,哪個地方有災難,哪個地方,他們去救濟,同時將「竹筒歲月」這個故事,去引導人人。我們要布施給他,以道理說給他們聽,知道布施的源頭,是來自於五毛錢的故事。
 
所以,很多地方、很多人就已經,要來領救濟品時,他們就這樣銅板,不論是一角、五角、一元,他們就這樣投,來回饋。這也就是讓他們有造福的機會,點滴回歸。
 
看看尼泊爾回來的慈濟人,他們帶著尼泊爾的竹筒,大家捐的錢,就是銅板、硬幣,帶回來了。那個銅板,那個圖案,就是牛在拖車。那個畫面與我們在說,我們精舍生活的開頭,向人借牛來犁田的畫面,非常相似。
 
所以,看到這個故事,須達長者聚集貧困的人來布施,與現在慈濟人,在任何一個國家付出,付出的同時,將慈濟的起頭,「五毛錢」的故事,說給大家聽,大家也是同樣有(存)硬幣。
 
(2014年)歲末祝福,莫三比克(志工)拿回來的錢,也是用五毛錢,他們所投進(竹筒)的錢,都收回來臺灣,總共千多元。我就說:「我們把它買下來,再用(福慧)紅包,年底做祝福的紅包,再包回去,再回給莫三比克,做歲末祝福。」
 
他們拿回來的錢,再回歸回去給他們。他們也是捐出來,只是精舍買下來。與這位須達長者,那位貧困的婦女捐這塊布,卻是須達長者還是,再長期去幫助她的糧食,讓她每天不會挨餓,讓她的身體不會受到風寒,這個故事很類似。與慈濟人在全球布施,在竹筒歲月,非常類似。
 
道理就是這樣,過去佛世的時代是這樣的道理,二千多年後,現在我們人間在幫助,富有的人幫助困難的人,困難的人也能累積,「粒米成籮,滴水成河」,每一滴水入大海,都沒有,不會乾涸,就是說大家集合起來,可以成就大功德事。所以,這是佛陀的道理,來人間說法。我們現在是鼓勵人人行善事,所以希望人人放長情、擴大愛,所以「說慈悲長情」。
 
「大愍念覆護,如來慈普被」。這種大慈愍心,就是普遍讓較多人,能夠得到利益。就如須達長者,覺得,不是只有我能供僧造福,我的家人、傭人,也能造福;看到家人、傭人點滴造福,那麼歡喜,他就又想到城市的人人,應該貧困的人,也有機會供佛、聽法。就這樣的方法,就一直擴大出去。這是供佛僧得的福。
 
而現在,我們是期待,人人發揮愛心,普遍將愛普被給大眾,困難的人就是得到幫助,富有的人所得的是法喜,助人是最快樂、歡喜的事。
 
所以這就是如來的慈悲,大慈愍心,為天下眾生,保護大家不要去造惡,鼓勵人人來行善,這樣生生世世,就能夠得福、造福,造福、得福,所以是如來的慈悲普被。又是法輾轉輾轉相教,所以叫做轉法輪,來度脫苦難的眾生;而且,人人能夠將這分長情大愛,繼續在生生世世,付出最快樂、最輕安自在,所以「獲永恆輕安」。
 
能夠做好事,是一件很歡喜的事情。這是受佛教化,瞭解道理,生生世世,法流傳,人人依教奉行,這樣法傳下去,這樣來行菩薩道,這就是我們人間應該長長久久。雖然娑婆世界,人生壽命苦短,我們已經盡人生有意義的事,做就對了,我們就心安。自然法則總是,人人都有一天(會離開),不過,我們每天都是,心安理得、輕安自在,就是在付出,行善、付出,每天都是輕安自在。
 
來,我們來看前面的經文。上方的梵天王,尸棄大梵所領導,也全都來到,大通智勝佛的道場了,所以經文這樣說,「見大通智勝如來處於道場菩提樹下,坐師子座,諸天、龍王、乾闥婆、緊那羅、摩睺羅伽、人非人等恭敬圍繞,及見十六王子請佛轉法輪。」
 
見大通智勝如來
處於道場菩提樹下
坐師子座
諸天、龍王、
乾闥婆、緊那羅、
摩睺羅伽、
人非人等恭敬圍繞
及見十六王子
請佛轉法輪
《法華經化城喻品第七
 
已經來到這個地方,看到這個道場,除了諸天,還有龍神八部,還有看到,及十六王子在請佛轉法輪。這是一個很殊勝的法會,所以他們從天下降了。
 
「時諸梵天王頭面禮佛,繞百千匝,即以天華而散佛上。所散之華如須彌山,並以供養佛菩提樹。華供養已,各以宮殿奉上彼佛。」
 
時諸梵天王
頭面禮佛
繞百千匝
即以天華而散佛上
所散之華如須彌山
並以供養佛菩提樹
華供養已
各以宮殿奉上彼佛
《法華經化城喻品第七
 
天人看到這麼殊勝的道場,他們也起歡喜心,他們也是很虔誠恭敬,這樣禮佛、繞佛百千匝,還是不斷在散花。
 
所以「所散之華如須彌山,並以供養佛菩提樹」。大家所散的花不只是供佛而已,又是供菩提樹。所散之花很多、很多,已經從薄薄的地面,累積到花囤積如山了。天華表示清淨,所以這道場的莊嚴,清淨的天華降落地上。
 
「華供養已,各以宮殿奉上彼佛」。除了散花供養之後,連他們所帶來的宮殿俱,也願意奉上,供養彼佛。彼佛,就是大通智勝佛。這是表達至高無上,虔誠的獻供。
 
下面接下來,我們今天這段經文說,「而作是言:惟見哀愍,饒益我等,所獻宮殿,願垂納處。時諸梵天王即於佛前,一心同聲,以偈頌曰。」
 
而作是言
惟見哀愍
饒益我等
所獻宮殿
願垂納處
時諸梵天王
即於佛前
一心同聲
以偈頌曰
《法華經化城喻品第七
 
獻供之後,還是懇求佛,能接受他們所獻供的一切,這就是表達虔誠。這個時候,梵天王等等都在佛前,「一心同聲」,同一念心,很多人同一念心,同一個聲音,請佛來接受(供養),同時作偈。
 
所以說「惟見」,「惟願見佛」。這些天人離開了梵天,一路經過那麼遠,專程來到佛的道場,就是為了要見佛。知道是佛的一大因緣,要轉大法輪,所以他們從遙遠的地方來,心願,唯一就是見佛。
 
所以「慈愍念我」。我們這樣一心來,就是要見佛,就是一心想要供養,供養的心應該佛陀能夠,「知我求法若渴」。我們現在來到這個地方,就像是很口渴的人,只期待有這口水可喝。所以佛陀應該瞭解我們,知道我們所要求的是法。所以「願祈愍」,願祈求佛陀慈悲憫念,來「饒益施法」,布施這個法來利益我們大家。
 
而作是言
惟見哀愍
饒益我等:
惟願見佛
慈憫念我
知我求法若渴
願祈愍饒益施法
利益我等
 
因為,每一位都是因為光,追求光的源頭,光就是道理的源頭而來,所以他們的虔誠獻宮殿,只是求佛的接受,希望佛陀布施佛法。所以說,「我等所獻隨身宮殿」,我們隨身所來的,全都獻給佛。「願佛垂慈」,就是懇求佛陀,能夠納受我們的供養,這是我們的虔誠。所以諸梵天王表達他們的心意,還是「以偈頌曰」,用偈文再次重複,這是梵天王的懇誠,大眾的一心。這麼多人共同一念心,就是虔誠的心,就是要求佛說法這念心。
 
善哉見諸佛
救世之聖尊
能於三界獄
勉出諸眾生
《法華經化城喻品第七》
 
「善哉」就是表示很歡喜,歡喜能見到諸佛如來。因為梵天壽命長,佛都是出現人間,人間人壽短暫,所以梵天王已經見過很多佛出現人間。雖然很長久,才有一尊佛出現人間,對人間來說,時間過得很長;對天人來說,尤其是梵天,色界最頂上的梵天,時日很長。
 
我們光是,時常說的忉利天的一天,是人間的一百年;我們一百年是忉利天的一天。所以說來,再上去的天界,不斷不斷高層的天界,愈來他們的時日愈長。所以說,人間過了幾萬年,也是他們天界,尤其是梵天,應該就是很短的時間,所以他們所見到的,如來世尊出世,應該也是見過不少。
 
所以這個地方表示諸佛,「見諸佛」,表示不只見一尊佛。過去都說佛難得見,出現人世很難得。但是在這個地方,諸梵天王來到這裡,所表達的是歡喜見諸佛。諸佛就是表示很多諸佛如來,他們所看到的很多。每一尊佛來到人間,就是為了要救護世間,這就是大聖世尊,世間人人所尊重的大聖者。這就是梵天王,將要讚歎他們來到人間,看到大通智勝佛坐道場,將要轉法輪的那分歡喜的心。不只是看到大通智勝佛,過去也見過不少佛了。所以這就是讚歎佛來人間施恩,所以叫做「善哉」,就是讚歎佛德。「乃自慶幸」,也是自己慶幸,自己已經又再次,看到佛在人間了。
 
所以「無邊法門,拯濟有情」。佛若出世人間,自然就能覺性慧海展現在人間,所說的是無邊無際的法,能夠,道道的門,都是度眾生的方法。要用種種的方法,來適應種種眾生的根機,所以叫做「無邊法門」。眾生根機不同,就要用不同的方法,這叫做法門,這樣來「拯濟有情」,來救度有情。
 
「有情」就是眾生,眾生就表示不只是人而已,「蠢動含靈皆有佛性」。要教導眾生保護生靈,眾生若瞭解道理,就是不忍殺害眾生。所以,善法,人懂得聽,懂得聽法就懂得,保護一切的生靈,所以人若得救,所有的眾生都能得救。所以拯濟,佛出現人間就是說善法,「拯濟有情」。
 
善哉見諸佛
救世之聖尊
善哉:
表欣喜得見
諸佛如來
救護世間大聖世尊
以下歎佛恩德
善哉
乃自慶幸之辭
無邊法門
拯濟有情
故云救世之聖尊
 
就如現在(農曆)七月,在七月一直在推動正法。大甲很多里長來邀請慈濟人,二十幾個里來邀請慈濟人,里長就說:「請慈濟人去我們的里,帶動我們祈福。」慈濟人很歡喜,任何一位里長邀請,我們就趕緊動員,慈濟人就到任何一個里,就這樣去帶動他們祈福,用很虔誠的心,這樣祈福。他們回來,我就說:「是不是這樣的祈福,就不必再殺生普度了呢?若能夠這樣,功德無量啊!」
 
這叫做正信,不必燒金紙,不用三牲五醴,在那裡殺生。這種世俗應該要改革,不要再有這種,用殺生來「普門口」(編按:習俗拜好兄弟),這實在是很沒有意義,只是一種世俗的這樣延續下來,不是佛教,絕對不是佛教。佛教完全都是以表達虔誠的心,用花布置場地,清淨,大家虔誠的心來祈求,祈禱、祝福,這叫做祈福,祈禱、祝福。祈禱天下四大調和,平安就是福,這就是要以虔誠的心,不是殺生。
 
所以佛陀來人間說理,說正法,我們能正行、正思惟,自然地,人瞭解道理了,就懂得愛護生靈。所以人得救,眾生就都得救,因為這樣,叫做「救世之聖尊」。
 
「能於三界獄,勉出諸眾生」。就是在三界,三界是欲界、色界、無色界,現在已經集中來到,大通智勝佛的道場,是色界諸天的梵天王都到達了,所以是在三界──欲界、色界、無色界。
 
諸梵天王還有生死,因為他們還有少分、微分的惑,道理還沒有了徹,所以還有一點點的惑未斷。所以天福享盡,天壽已盡,他們要再來人間,所以他們也是要求法,要來請佛轉法輪。包括在三界,三界中還有生死,所以,三界生死獄中來勸勉,能夠救度眾生。
 
佛陀出現人間,就是勸誡教育。所以勸誡眾生、勉勵眾生戒除惡習,勉勵行善,這就是佛陀在人間所說的法,能夠普及三界,斷生死的方法。不只是行善,還有很多,如何去除煩惱無明,斷惑的道理,這就是要請佛用心,事相分明來說,轉法輪。這是我們前面一連串說過來,大悲梵天王,請佛將事相在道理中轉,轉法輪。轉法輪,說清事相,就是用人間事相來說道理,這是過去我們說過。要如何消除三界生死獄,唯有佛陀在人間,「勸勉眾生,令得出離」,唯有佛。
 
能於三界獄
勉出諸眾生:
能於三界生死獄中
勸勉眾生
令得出離
 
所以「眾生沉於生死,宛轉無出」,這樣宛轉無法出離。所以「獄中不強無罪之人」,地獄中,不強無罪之人,這種地獄,絕對無法勉強沒罪的人去地獄,不可能。我們人人若行善,自然地獄再怎麼拉你也拉不下去。這就是我們已經造福在人間,不會墮落地獄,這就是「獄中不強無罪之人」。有罪才會墮地獄,無罪他就不會墮地獄,無罪就必定要好好行善。
 
「三界總是自迷之輩」,在這三界中的人,都是還有煩惱無明惑。梵天,既然修清淨戒,但是還有微分的惑未斷,還有一點的迷。所以說「三界總是自迷之輩」。自己迷,自己還不清楚透徹的道理,所以要「教誡止惡行善」,善惡法這二項道理一定要教。
 
「教」,就是教育,「誡」就是要停止,停止這個惡法。停止惡法,就是教以善法,就是教善戒惡的意思,所以教誡。該惡的要止,善的要行,所以這就是善惡二法的門,善法二門,這就是佛法,教我們如何正確行善。
 
眾生沉於生死
宛轉無出
故喻牢獄
獄中不強無罪之人
三界總是自迷之輩
以勸修善法
教誡止惡行善法二門
令出三界
故云勉出
 
我們過去有說,(修)上上善、(持)上上戒,這種善。惡,也有上上惡,所以他有上上的苦難。這種你造十惡,最極端的惡,就墮地獄,次等就是墮餓鬼,再更微弱的惡,那就是墮畜生道。我們過去已經說過了。所以我們要如何教善誡惡,我們要止,止惡;教行,行善,所以這是佛陀人間說法有二門,就是善惡二門。
 
「令出三界」,能夠離開三界,斷生死,這叫做「勉」,勉勵人人要知道善惡分明。我們現在的人,就是不知善惡,是非不分,常常都是受惡的念一起,無明不斷複製,所以使得人間人倫道理就這樣一直喪失了。學法,學正法,我們要在正法中,要時時多用心。


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Explanations by Master Cheng-Yan
Subject: Stop Evil to Escape the Prison of the Three Realms (教誡止惡 出三界獄)
Date: February.27. 2017
 
“Seeing how much suffering there is in the world, the Buddha teaches loving-kindness and long-lasting compassion. With thoughts of great mercy, He covers and protects; the Tathagata’s loving-kindness is universal. He turns the Dharma-wheel to liberate all, so we can attain a state of everlasting peace.”
 
This passage’s meaning is fairly self-evident. The world is filled with suffering. The Buddha, out of loving-kindness and mercy, comes to the world for one great cause. Because there is so much suffering in the world, with loving-kindness and long-lasting compassion, He taught us the path to enlightenment and the principles of enlightened sentient beings. These are the teachings of the Buddha given out of His compassion.
 
Are our lives in this world limited to this single lifetime? No; we return life after life. Since this continues on, life after life, some people will be happy, some will suffer. Some people will be rich, some will be poor. The rich enjoy the world’s pleasures; the poor experience the extent of its sufferings. Just what are the reasons for this? The Buddha came to the world and wanted to let everyone know how to attain wealth and how to prevent poverty. The Buddha mindfully analyzed and explained the reasons why people are rich and poor. He helped everyone to understand that life is not limited to a single lifetime, but goes on over a long period of time. As the lifetimes continue, one after the next, how could He, for sentient beings in the world, establish an everlasting and uninterrupted way for people to become enlightened sentient beings? This is done by teaching the Bodhisattva Way.
 
How do we practice the Bodhisattva Way? The way of the Bodhisattva is to benefit the world, to go among sentient beings in the world and help everyone give rise to joy, help everyone attain benefit. These are sentient beings with feelings, and moreover with feelings of long-lasting compassion. They are called enlightened sentient beings. Their practice lasts lifetime after lifetime, not only for a short time.
 
This is why in the sutras there is a story like this. When the Buddha was at the Jetavana Abode, very early one day, before daybreak, when everyone had begun diligently gathering to listen to the Buddha teach, a ray of light suddenly appeared in the heavens, and a heavenly maiden appeared before the Buddha. The heavenly maiden came before the Buddha, prostrated in reverence and paid respect to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. She came to pay respects to the Buddha and Sangha, then she stepped back and sat to one side. The Buddha began teaching the Dharma. As the Buddha taught the Dharma, the heavenly maiden again came before the Buddha, again bowed and gave thanks, saying, “I now understand how I came to attain heavenly blessings. It was because of the Buddha’s teaching that I was enabled to be born in heaven. While listening to the Buddha teach now, I suddenly had an awakening. Life in heaven, no matter how long it lasts, will eventually come to an end. I wish to take refuge as the Buddha’s disciple, hoping that I will constantly be able, whenever the Buddha is teaching, to listen to the Dharma by His side.” The Buddha then taught her the Dharma so she could comprehend the ultimate truth of the principles of Buddhahood.
 
Everyone thought it strange. Why did this heavenly maiden come before the Buddha to give thanks? And what were the causes and conditions behind the conversation that they had? They immediately asked the Buddha, so the Buddha told them this. He said this was related to Elder Sudatta. There was one time previously that a thought had arisen in his mind. This thought was that he would like everyone in his family to be able to attain the virtuous teachings and put them into practice by doing good deeds. Having had this thought, he began gathering all his family and servants, and every day he would, after hearing the Dharma that the Buddha taught, return home and share it with his family. He would gather all his servants together and teach them the Dharma that he had heard. He would begin with, “Thus have I heard,” then relate what the Buddha had taught. Elder Sudatta felt that everyone was joyful; everyone was willing to donate small amounts to give charitably. It was not only the elder who was able to give charitably; he wanted everyone to have the chance, for drops of water eventually fill a barrel. This was how they gave and made offerings to the Buddha and the Sangha. But then Elder Sudatta had the thought, “Even my servants are willing to give small amounts. I see how they rejoice in making offerings to the Buddha and the Sangha. Making offerings to Buddha and the Sangha is not limited to the wealthy like me. Even those who are so poor take the wages they earned through hard labor and are willing to give and put all these small amounts together. They wish to practice giving.”
 
He felt that since this was the case, then everyone in the city should be given the chance to make offerings of the Buddha. With this thought, he began planning how, in seven days, all of the people of the city could have the chance to practice giving and joyfully create merits and virtues. The news of this reached the ears of the king. The king rejoiced when he heard this and said, “You aspiration to appeal to the poor to pool their small amounts together in order to practice giving is wonderful.” So, he sent out word and announced to everyone in the city that in seven days, Elder Sudatta would give everyone the chance to make offerings to the Buddha and the Sangha. Everyone was very happy.
 
Among those who came seven days later was a woman, a very poor woman. She actually had no money at all. However, not very long before, she had painstakingly accumulated some money and had bought a piece of fabric, a piece of old fabric to cover her body. It was cheap fabric that had been used before. She thought when it got cold, she could use it to keep herself warm. It was the only thing she had, yet she brought it and presented it to Sudatta. She told him, “Elder, is this piece of cloth of any use? Can it count as my sincere offering? It is the only thing I own, but I am willing to give it.” The elder felt joy when he saw this and received it personally with his own hands. “This is no simple matter. In your poverty, you saved for so long just to get a little money together to purchase this piece of old fabric, and yet you are willing to give it away. I am very moved, so I will offer it to the Buddha and the Sangha. It will probably make the Buddha very happy.” Thus, he accepted it from the woman. However, the elder already knew that this woman was so impoverished. His heart went out to her, so for a long time after that, he gave to her so she would always have something to wear and provisions to keep her full, rice and food for the rest of her life. After this woman had practiced giving, she felt joyful every day. Since Elder Sudatta had passed on the Buddha’s virtuous Dharma to her, she formed an aspiration and made a vow. “My only hope for my future lifetime is that I will be able to hear the Buddha-Dharma.” After that, she died due to her weak health. After she died, because of her wholeheartedly creating blessings, with her pure blessings she was reborn in heaven. She also fulfilled her wish, for she descended from heaven to hear the Buddha-Dharma.
 
So, the Buddha thus answered the bhiksus’ questions. All the bhiksus were wondering why this heavenly maiden had suddenly descended from the heavens. So, the Buddha spoke of the past, of what had happened more than ten years ago. At that time, what Elder Sudatta had given was the [chance] to break free of poverty and suffering. He wanted everyone to hear the Buddha-Dharma so they could be liberated from suffering. That was Sudatta’s wish. This woman, because of Elder Sudatta’s aspirations, was also able to benefit as a side effect.
 
When I see this passage, I too feel joy. Look at us now; no matter how poor a country may be, Tzu Chi volunteers still share with them the spirit of bamboo banks. Likewise, wherever there is a disaster, wherever we go to bring relief aid, we also share the story of the bamboo banks in order to teach everyone. When we give aid to them, we share the principles for them to hear, so they know the origin of our charitable giving, that it started with the story of the 50 cents. So, in many places, already many people, when they come to receive relief aid, bring their coins, whether 10 cents, 50 cents or a dollar, to throw them in as a way of giving back. It also gives them a chance to create blessings, to give back bit by bit.
 
Look at Tzu Chi volunteers returning from Nepal. They brought bamboo banks back from Nepal with the money that everyone had donated there. They had brought back these coins. The image on the coins there is that of an ox pulling a cart. That image reminds us of that picture of our early life here at the Jing Si Abode and how we had to borrow an ox to plow our fields. The images are so similar. So, when we see the story of Sudatta gathering the poor people to donate, it is like Tzu Chi volunteers now who are dedicating themselves in every country. At the same time they are there serving, they tell the story of Tzu Chi’s origins, the story of the 50 cents. So, everyone likewise donated their coins. In 2014, during the Year-End Blessing Ceremony, the money brought back by Mozamique volunteers was also in 50-cent coins. They brought all the money they collected back to Taiwan, which totaled more than 1000 yuan. I told them we would buy those coins for them and put them inside that year’s red envelopes that we use for year-end blessings. Then we would send them back to Mozambique for them to use in their own year-end ceremony. The money that they brought back was again returned to them. They still made a donation; we just bought the coins from them. This is like Elder Sudatta; he accepted the poor woman’s donated cloth, but then still continued to help her with provisions for a long time so that she would not go hungry nor suffer from the cold. This story is very similar to how our volunteers practice giving around the world, very similar to the spirit of the bamboo bank. This is how the principles are.
 
This was a principle during the Buddha’s era, and now, more than 2000 years later, as we help people, those who are wealthy can help those who are poor, and those who are poor also accumulate [blessings]. “Many grains of rice make a bushel many drops of water make a river.” Every drop of water that enters the great ocean will never dry up. This means that when everyone comes together, we can accomplish things of great merit and virtue. So, this is the principles the Buddha taught when He came to the world.
 
We now encourage everyone to do good deeds, hoping everyone can have long-lasting compassion, and spread great love. So it is said, “The Buddha teaches loving-kindness and long-lasting compassion. With thoughts of great mercy, He covers and protects; the Tathagata’s loving-kindness is universal”. Such great loving-kindness and mercy is universal, allowing even more people to be able to benefit. This is like Elder Sudatta, who thought, “It is not only I who can make offerings to the Sangha and create blessings. My family and my servants can also create blessings.” Seeing the joy his family and servants took even in making small donations, he thought of everyone else in the city and how to give all in poverty the chance to also make offerings to the Buddha and listen to the Dharma. This kind of method has continually spread like this. These are the blessings of making offerings to the Buddha and the Sangha. For us now, we hope that everyone will be able to exercise their love. As everyone gives of their love universally, those in hardship can receive help, and the rich can attain Dharma-joy. Helping others is the happiest and most joyful thing that one can do. So, this is the compassion of the Tathagata. His great loving-kindness and mercy are for all the world’s sentient beings. He safeguards us from doing evil while encouraging us to do good deeds. Then, lifetime after lifetime we can attain blessings and create blessings, create blessings and attain blessings. So, the Tathagata’s compassion is universal, and He continually passes on the teachings. This is called turning the Dharma-wheel, to liberate suffering sentient beings. Furthermore, we can all extend this long-lasting compassion and great love so it lasts lifetime after lifetime. Those who give are the happiest and most at ease. So, they “can attain a state of everlasting peace.”
 
Being able to do good deeds is a very joyful thing. This means that on receiving the Buddha’s teachings and understanding the principles, we can spread the Dharma lifetime after lifetime so everyone can practice according to the teaching. This is how the Dharma is transmitted. This is how we walk the Bodhisattva-path. This is what we must be doing in this world for a long time to come. Though life is painfully short in the Saha World, we already know the most meaningful thing in life, so we should just do it; then we will be at peace. The laws of nature dictate that all of us will eventually depart one day. However, every day, our conscience remains clear and we are at peace because we are practicing giving. By doing good deeds and giving to help others, we live every day in peace and ease.
 
Now let us look at the previous sutra passage. The Brahma kings from above, led by Great Brahma King Sikhin, had all arrived at the place of enlightenment of Great Unhindered Wisdom Superior Buddha. So, the passage states, “They saw Great Unhindered Wisdom Superior Tathagata in the place of enlightenment beneath the Bodhi-tree, sitting on the lion throne. All heavenly beings, naga kings, gandharvas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, non-humans and so on respectfully surrounded Him. They also saw the 16 Princes asking the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel.
 
Having arrived at this place, they saw the assembly there. Apart from heavenly beings, there were the eight classes of Dharma-protectors. They also saw the 16 princes asking the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel. This was an auspicious Dharma-assembly. So, they had came down from the heavens.
 
“Then all the Brahma kings prostrated out of respect for the Buddha, circumambulated Him thousands of times and scattered celestial flowers upon Him. The flowers they scattered were like Mt. Sumeru. They were used to make offerings to both the Buddha and the Bodhi-tree. Having made offerings with flowers, they each offered their palaces to that Buddha.
 
The heavenly beings, upon seeing such an auspicious Dharma-assembly, gave rise to a sense of joy. They were also very reverent and respectful, paying respect to the Buddha and circumambulating Him thousands of times while continuously scattering flowers. “The flowers they scattered were like Mt. Sumeru. They were used to make offerings to both the Buddha and the Bodhi-tree.” The flowers they scattered were not just offerings for the Buddha, but also for the Bodhi-tree. The flowers they scattered were so plentiful that not only did they cover the ground, they had accumulated into a pile like a mountain. Celestial flowers represent purity. So, this place of enlightenment was dignified by pure celestial flowers falling to the ground.
 
“Having made offering with flowers, they each offered their palaces to that Buddha.” Beside scattering flowers as offerings, they were even willing to give the palaces they brought with them as offering to that Buddha. That Buddha was Great Unhindered Wisdom Superior. This represents making offerings with the most supreme reverence.
 
Next, we continue with today’s passage, which says, “They said these words, ‘Please look upon us with mercy and benefit all of us. As for the palaces that we offer, may You honor us taking them.’ Then all the Brahma kings in the presence of the Buddha, with one mind and in one voice spoke in verse.”
 
After their offerings, they entreated the Buddha to accept all that they offered. They were expressing their reverence. At this time, the Brahma kings were all before the Buddha, and “with one mind and in one voice spoke in verse.” So, many people all were of one mind and all spoke in one voice, asking the Buddha to accept their offerings. At the same time they all spoke in verse. So it says, “Look upon us. We only wish to see the Buddha.” These heavenly beings left the Brahma heavens and traveled such a long distance to come to the Buddha’s place of enlightenment, just to see the Buddha. They knew that it was the Buddha’s one great cause to turn the Great Dharma-wheel, so they came from very far away, with their wish being to see the Buddha. So, they wished for “Him to think of us with compassion and mercy.” We came here with one intent, to see the Buddha, and with one mind, we wish to make offering. From our offerings, the Buddha should be able to “know we thirst for the Dharma.”
 
In coming here at this time, it is as if they were thirsty, only hoping for a drink of water. So, the Buddha should understand them and know that what they seek is the Dharma. Thus “We pray He [is] merciful.” They prayed for the Buddha’s compassion and mercy, for Him to benefit them and everyone, to benefit everyone by giving them the Dharma.


They said these words, “Please look upon us with mercy and benefit all of us”: We only wish to see the Buddha, for Him to think of us with compassion and mercy and for Him to know we thirst for the Dharma so as benefit all of us.
 
Every one of them had come due to the light, had come seeking the source of the light. The light came from the source of principles. So, they reverently offered their palaces, all with the hope the Buddha would accept would accept them and in turn would give them the Buddha-Dharma. Thus it says, “We often the palaces we brought.” Everything they brought with them was offered to the Buddha. “May the Buddha look upon us with mercy.” They were begging the Buddha to accept all of their offerings; such was their reverence. So, the Brahma kings, in expressing their intent, “with one mind and in one voice spoke in verse.” They repeated themselves again in verse. This was the Brahma kings’ sincerity. All of them were of one mind. So many people were all of one mind, a very reverent mind, to request that the Buddha teach them the Dharma.
 
So, “Excellent! We see all Buddhas, the honored sages who save the world, who, in the prison of the Three Realms, can spur sentient beings to escape.”
 
“Excellent!” This is expressing their joy, their joy in seeing all Buddhas and Taehagatas. Since the lifespan in the Brahma heavens is long, and Buddhas always manifest in the human realm where the lifespan is short, the Brahma kings had already seen many Buddhas manifest in the human world. Although it takes a very long time between Buddhas manifesting in the world, though it is a long time from a human viewpoint, for heavenly beings, especially those in the Brahma heavens, the highest Brahma heaven in the form realm, their days are very long. We often talk about Trayastrimsa heaven, how 100 years in the human realm is only one in Trayastrimsa heaven. So, as one goes upward through the heavens, as one continually achieves higher states in the heaven realm, the days become longer and longer. So, although tens of thousands of years may pass in the human realm, in the heaven realm, especially in the Brahma heavens it still counts as a very short amount of time. So, most likely they had already seen more than a few Tathagatas manifesting world.
 
Thus, here it is talking about all Buddhas. They see all Buddhas, not just one Buddha. We always say that a Buddha rarely appears, that They rarely manifest as humans in the world, but it that place, where all the Brahma kings had come, they expressed their joy in seeing “all Buddhas.” All Buddhas means many Buddhas and Tathagatas, for they had seen many. Every Buddha comes to the human realm to save and protect the world. They are the great sages, the World-Honored Ones, the great sages who are respected by everyone. The Brahma kings wanted to praise Them for coming to the world. Seeing Great Unhindered Wisdom Buddha sitting in His place of enlightenment and about to turn the Dharma-wheel, the heavenly beings’ hearts grew joyful.
 
They did not only see Great Unhindered Wisdom Superior Buddha; they had seen many other Buddhas in the past. So, they were praising all Buddhas, who came to the world to bestow Their grace.  Thus, they exclaimed “Excellent!” to praise the Buddha’s virtue.
 
“It is a word of self-congratulation.” They themselves were celebrating, congratulating themselves for again seeing another Buddha in the world. “With His boundless Dharma-doors, He saves and benefits sentient beings.” If a Buddha appears in the world, naturally His ocean of enlightened wisdom will spread throughout the world. The Dharma He teaches is vast and boundless, and every Dharma-door is a method of transforming sentient beings. He uses all kinds of methods to adapt to sentient beings’ capabilities. So, these are called “His boundless Dharma-doors.” Sentient beings’ capabilities differ, so different methods must be used. These are called Dharma-doors. He uses them to “save and benefits sentient beings.” He saves and transforms sentient beings with these. “Sentient beings” are all beings with sentience. It says “sentient beings” to show it is not only talking about humans. “All living, moving beings have Buddha-nature.” Sentient beings must be taught to protect other living beings. When sentient beings understand the principles, they cannot bear to kill other sentient beings. So, with the virtuous Dharma, if we know to listen to the Dharma, we will know to protect all living beings. Thus, if humans can be saved, all sentient beings can be saved. So, to aid and to save them, the Buddha appeared in the world to teach the virtuous Dharma. “He saves and benefits sentient beings.”
 
“Excellent! We see all Buddhas, the honored sages who save the world.” Excellent: This expresses their joy at being able to see all Buddhas, all Tathagatas, the great sages, the World-Honored Ones, who save and protect the world. What follows praises the Buddha’s grace and virtue. Excellent: It is a word of self-congratulation. With His boundless Dharma-doors, He saves and benefits sentient beings. Hence it speaks of the honored sages who save the world.
 
For example, now in the seventh lunar month, we are continuing to promote the right teachings. In Dajia, more than 20 neighborhood leaders extended invitations to our Tzu Chi volunteers. The village heads said, “We invite your volunteers to our neighborhood to lead us in a prayer ceremony.”    Our Tzu Chi volunteers were happy to do this. Whenever any village head invites us, we immediately mobilize Tzu Chi volunteers go to that village to lead them in a prayer ceremony. Everyone prays with great reverence. When they come back, I ask them, “Did our prayer ceremony get them to avoid sacrificing animals for ‘Universal Deliverance’? If so, that creates countless merits!” With correct beliefs, there is no need to burn joss money, no need for animal sacrifices or taking lives. These folk traditions need to be reformed; we should not have to kill animals to “feed the spirits.” It truly has no meaning; it is just a custom that has been passed down. It has absolutely nothing to do with Buddhism. Buddhism is completely about expressing reverence. We use flowers to decorate the halls to express purity and reverence. When we pray, we pray for blessings. This is what we call prayer. When we pray for blessings, we pray for the world to have peace, for the four elements to be in harmony. Peace is a blessing. This requires reverence in our hearts, not the taking of lives. So, the Buddha came to the world to teach the principles, to teach Right Dharma. When we practice right conduct and right thinking, we naturally come to understand the principles and know we must love and protect all life. So, when humans are saved, sentient beings are too. Because of this, the Buddhas are called “the honored sages who save the world, who, in the prison of the Three Realms, can spur sentient beings to escape.”   The Three Realms are the desire, form and formless realms. Now everyone had already gathered together at Great Unhindered Wisdom Superior Buddha’s place of enlightenment. The Brahma kings who were lords of all the heavens of the form realm had arrived. So, there are the three Realms, the desire realm, the form realm and the formless realm. The Brahma kings still faced cyclic existence. They still had a small amount of delusion and had not thoroughly understood all the principles. Thus, there was a small measure of delusion that they still had not eliminated.
 
So, when their heavenly blessings are depleted, when their heavenly lifespan comes to an end, they still have to come to the world again. Thus, they too sought the Dharma and asked the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel. They are still within the Three Realms, where there is still cyclic existence. So, in the prison of samsara of the Three Realms, Buddhas come to encourage, to save and to transform sentient beings. The Buddha appeared in the world to teach through exhortation and admonishment. So, He exhorted and admonished sentient beings, encouraging them to eliminate their unwholesome tendencies and do good deeds. This is the Dharma the Buddha taught in the world. It is the method to eliminate cyclic existence used universally throughout the Three Realms. It is not just doing good; there is much more, such as how to eliminate afflictions or ignorance, the principles of how to eliminate delusion. Thus they must ask the Buddha to mindfully teach, to distinguish matters and appearances and to turn the Dharma-wheel. This is what we continually talked about earlier, about how Brahma King Great Compassion asked the Buddha to explain matters and appearances through His turning of the Dharma-wheel. Turning the Dharma-wheel and explaining matters and appearances clearly is using worldly matters and appearances to explain the principles. We talked about this before. How do we eliminate the prison of samsara of the Three Realms? Only Buddhas in the world can “encourage all sentient beings and enable them to escape from it.”    Only Buddha can do this.
 
In the prison of the Three Realms, [They] can spur sentient beings to escape: In the prison of samsara of the Three Realms, They encourage all sentient beings and enable them to escape from it.
 
“Sentient beings are sinking in samsara, twisting and turning, unable to escape.” They twist and turn like this, unable to escape. “Those who commit no sin will not be forces into this prison.” Those without transgressions are not forced into hell. For those without transgressions, it is absolutely impossible to be forced into hell. It is impossible. If we all practice virtue, there is naturally no way hell can drag us in. If we have created blessings in the world, we won’t fall into the hell. “Those who commit no sin will not be forced into this prison.” Only those who have transgressed descend into hell. Without transgression, we will not fall into hell. To remain without transgression, “Those in the Three Realms are always those who are self-deluded.” Those in the Three Realm all still have afflictions, ignorance and delusion. In the Brahma heavens, though they cultivated pure precepts, there are still subtle delusions that they have yet to eliminate. They still have a little bit of delusion. “Those in the Three Realms are always those who are self-deluded.” They are self-deluded, they themselves have still not thoroughly understood the principles. So, they must be “instructed and admonished with stopping evil and practicing good.” They must be taught principles of good and evil. “Instructing” them is educating them, and “admonishing” them is telling them to stop on the way of stopping evil. The way to stop evil is through virtuous teachings. This is why we teach goodness and prevent evil. So, we need to be instructed and admonished to stop the evil and practice the good. These are the two Dharma-doors of good and evil. In the Dharma, the two Dharma –doors of doing good and stopping evil teach us the correct way to practice goodness.
 
Sentient beings are sinking in samsara, twisting and turning, unable to escape. Thus it is likened to a prison. Those who commit no transgressions will not be forced into this prison. Those in the Three Realms are always those who are self-deluded. The Buddhas urge them to cultivate virtuous Dharma and instruct and admonish them with the two Dharma-doors of stopping evil and practicing good, to enable them to escape from the Three Realms. Hence it says “spur them to escape.”
 
Previously we talked about supreme good deeds and supreme precepts. There is also supreme evil, which results in supreme suffering. If one commits the Ten Evils, or commits the most extreme evils, one will fall into hell. The next level down is birth as a hungry ghost. If the evil is even less severe, it will result in birth in the animal realm. We have discussed this before. So, we teach goodness and admonish against evil. We must put a stop to evil and teach the practice of goodness. So, these are the two Dharma-doors the Buddha taught while in the world, the two Dharma-doors of good and evil.
 
“To enable them to escape the Three Realms…” To escape the Three Realms and end cycle existence, we are “spurred.” He encouraged everyone to tell right from wrong. People today do not know the different between good and evil between right and wrong,  so often, when an evil thought arises, our ignorance is multiplied endlessly, which leads to the continued degradation of the moral principles in this world. So, in learning the Dharma, we must stay within the teachings of Right Dharma. Please always be mindful.
 

(Source: Da Ai TV – Wisdom at Dawn program – Explanation by Master Chen-Yen)
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