All Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Venerable Master, all Dharma Masters and all dharma friends. Amitabha. Today, it is Shramenerika Jinben’s turn to practice tying affinity with the assembly. If I have said anything that does not accord with the Buddha’s teachings, please compassionately point it out to me.
Today I would like to start with a story told by the Buddha on the retribution of hell beings. At the end of the story, we’ll try to analyze the story using the topics we have recently learn from the evening lectures. Namely, we will analyze it with the ten suchnesses from the Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra and the ten habitual causes and six interacting retributions from Shurangama Sutra.
The following is a story from the Sutra of the hundred karma titled: “The Tripitaka Master”: baseless slander resulting in falling into the relentless hell
At one time, when the Buddha was in the city of Shravasti, Venerable Maudgalyayana often roam about the hell realm, hungry ghost realm, animal realm, human realm and celestial realm to discern the different sufferings undergone in each of these realm. He witnessed the sufferings of hell beings undergoing retribution of extreme heat, extreme cold and being killed; he sees hungry ghosts undergo the retribution of extreme hunger, extreme thirst and being burned;he sees animals undergo retribution of devouring each other and the sufferings of being ordered around; he sees humans and sentient beings undergo the suffering of not getting what one wants, the suffering of being near those one hates, the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, death and etc. he sees celestial beings undergo the retribution of decay and falling into the lower realms. In turn, he speaks about all that he sees in order to save sentient beings, so that they know about the principles of causes and retribution, that transmigration is suffering hoping that they will cultivate the Buddha’s path and leave the three realms and six lower destinies.
One time, Venerable Maudgalyayana again went to the hells with his spiritual powers. He saw one hell being undergoing great suffering in the relentless hell. Through the manifestation of its own karma, the hell being sees the ground as a burning hot steel plate and its tongue is pulled out by a lot of people to be nailed to the ground. In an instant, its tongue and body engulf in flames and burned to ashes. Not long afterwards, it comes back to life again, its tongue is then cut into many small pieces. He cannot bear the pain and roll around continuously, screaming and wailing loudly. When Venerable Maudgalyayana saw it, he tried to enter into samadhi to contemplate the causes and condition of this hell being, However, his wisdom power was not enough to contemplate the causes and condition of all of its lifetimes. So he return to the City of Shravasti to ask the Buddha. When he saw the Buddha, he went up, bowed and asked the Buddha about the causes and condition of that hell being.
The Buddha replied: “This hell being has committed great offense. A very long time ago, when the Buddha Never Losing the Bodhi Resolve was dwelling in the world, there was a Tripitaka Master living in the palace. This Tripitaka Master received many offerings from the all the people in the palace and in the city, he was very wealthy. One day, a Tripitaka Arhat Bhikshu came to the city, he was very adorn and posses the virtuous conduct of a sage. The people develop faith in this Bhikshu, accepted his teachings and gradually forgot about the Tripitaka Master in the palace. The Tripitaka Master resorted to spreading rumors everywhere, he slandered the Bhikshu without any basis, lying about how the Bhikshu broke the fundamental precepts, he claimed the Bhikshu Arhat was not practicing the Buddhadharma, but upheld deviant ways instead. He told people not to take refuge with the Bhikshu Arhat, telling them how their offerings will not bring about any benefits at all. The people could not differentiate the truth so they no longer respect the Bhikshu Arhat. The Bhikshu Arhat was very understanding, he realized his affinity with the city has come to an end. Not wanting to cause the Tripitaka Master to create more offensive karma of slander, he left rationally. After that, the Tripitaka Master regained his status with the people. However, when he died, he fell into the relentless hell to undergo his retribution. The Tripitaka Master is this hell being. Because he slandered an Arhat without any basis, he is undergoing this retribution from the time of the Buddha Never Losing the Bodhi Resolve, until now he has not been able to be liberated.”
Venerable Maudgalyayana asked the Buddha again: “World Honored One, when will this hell being be liberated?”
The Buddha replied: “He has to wait until the Buddha Teacher of Proper Understanding to come into the world, only then he will regain a human boy. He will then leave the house-holder’s life under this Buddha, eventually attaining arhatship. When he attained arhatship, a lot of people will also slander and defame him. Because he slander an Arhat without basis, he will undergo defamation life after life.
At that time, all those who heard the Buddha’s teachings on living beings’ causes and retribution gave rise to repulsion towards transmigration and developed faith on the principle of causes and retribution. At that time, the Buddha saw that many people at the assembly qualified as Dharma vessels and transmitted expedient Dharma. When they heard the Dharma, many people attained fruition.
The suchness of the causes. The venerable master explains that a cause refers to the minds of all living beings. The mind may be likened to a piece of ground. The seed is planted in your mind and so it is called the “mind ground.” All the seeds of good and evil planted in your mind are the causes.
The Tripitaka Master possesses the mind of jealousy and hatred, fulfilling the suchness of causes.
The suchness of the conditions. The Venerable Master explains that there are two factors that go into making up the conditions. The first is the factor of time. The second is the factor of the situation. The condition itself is basically devoid of good or evil, but it must be present for a particular appearance to manifest. The conditions come together and help the seed, the cause, grow.
The Tripitaka Master resorted to spreading rumors everywhere, he slandered the Bhikshu without any basis, lying about how the Bhikshu broke the fundamental precepts, he claimed the Bhikshu Arhat was not practicing the Buddhadharma, but upheld deviant ways instead. He told people not to take refuge with the Bhikshu Arhat, Fulfilling the suchness of condition..
The suchness of the effects. The Venerable Master explains that to start out on a course of action is called the cause. If you do something, at the very beginning it is a cause. When the matter has been successfully completed, the completed matter is the effect.
The Tripitaka Master fell into the relentless hell after he died, fulfilling the suchness of effect.
The suchness of retributions. The Venerable Master explains that retribution is the complex of effects incurred as a result of the karma you have created. According to the type of karma you create, you undergo just that kind of retribution.What is the difference, then, between the effect and the retribution? The effect takes place before the retribution is undergone. It is the immediate consequence. One undergoes retribution when the effects have been broken through and one receives recompense. If you planted an evil cause, you reap the effect. Later, you receive the retribution. What is meant by the effect? If we create all kinds of evil karma and fall into hell, that is the attainment of the effect of hell. For example, if you are sentenced to the hell of boiling oil, before you are put in the pot of boiling oil, that is the effect. Once you are in the pot, you are undergoing retribution. Receiving the torments of hell is retribution.
The hell being sees the ground as a burning hot steel plate and its tongue is pulled out by a lot of people to be nailed to the ground. In an instant, its tongue and body engulf in flames and burned to ashes. Not long afterwards, it comes back to life again, its tongue is then cut into many small pieces. He cannot bear the pain and roll around continuously, screaming and wailing loudly. Fulfilling the suchness of retribution.
Next, we’ll analyze the story with the principals of ten habitual causes and six interacting retributions from the Shurangama Sutra.
Sutra: “The ninth consists of the habits of injustice and their interconnected support of one another; they result in instigating false charges and libeling. From them are produced crushing between mountains, crushing between rocks, stone rollers, stone grinders, plowing, and pulverizing. It is like a slanderous villain who engages in persecuting good people unjustly.”
The Venerable Master explains that stone rollers is another hell, as are stone grinders, plowing, and pulverizing. If a person is a constant liar and bears false witness, if his speech is totally unreliable, then in this hell his tongue is cut out. Or it is grappled with an iron hook and pulled out, and then oxen drag plows back and forth across it.
The Tripitaka Master has the habit of injustice, therefore when he fell into the hells, his tongue was pulled out and nailed to the ground.
Sutra: “The fifth is the retribution of touching, which beckons one and leads one to evil ends.” “There, it is aware of two sensations. One is touch that involves coming together, in which mountains come together to squeeze its body until its flesh, bones, and blood are totally dispersed. The other is touch that involves separation, in which knives and swords attack the body, ripping the heart and liver to shreds.”
The Tripitaka Master is undergoing the retribution of touch, specifically the retribution involving separation of touch because his tongue is severed and cut into many small pieces.
I would like to end here with a quote from Avatamsaka Sutra’s Transcending the World Chapter:
“Bodhisattvas and Mahasattvas have ten kinds of habits. What are these ten habits? They are: the habit of bringing forth the Bodhi mind, the habit of planting wholesome roots, the habit of teaching and transforming living beings, the habit of seeing the Buddha, the habit of dwelling in a world that is pure, the habit of practicing the Bodhisattva path, the habit of making vows, the habit of paramita, the habit of contemplating all Dharmas are equal, the habit of understanding the differences of all states. These are ten habits. If Bodhisattvas dwell within this dharma, they will forever leave all habits that give rise to afflictions and attain the Tathagata’s habit of great wisdom and the wisdom that is free from all habits. Amitabha.