A Brief Commentary on The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha(Part I)By Acharya ZhiguangAt Namkha Dzong Retreat Centre in Spain on July 2015First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to His Eminence Namkha Rinpoche and all the Dharma friends in the Rigdzin Community for giving me this opportunity to study with you The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha. As far as I know, Namkha Rinpoche has given teachings on The Words Of My Perfect Teacher many times, so you must have already known a lot…
A Brief Commentary on The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha
By Acharya Zhiguang
At Namkha Dzong Retreat Centre in Spain on July 2015
First of all, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to His Eminence Namkha Rinpoche and all the Dharma friends in the Rigdzin Community for giving me this opportunity to study with you The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha.
As far as I know, Namkha Rinpoche has given teachings on The Words Of My Perfect Teacher many times, so you must have already known a lot about it. There are many similarities between this Sutra and The Words Of My Perfect Teacher. So I think you may feel familiar with this lecture. This Sutra is very concise. It summarizes all the practices of Mahayana Bodhisattvas into four points, making it easy for us to remember.
1. Explanation of the title of the Sutra
Let’s look at the title of the Sutra first, The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha. As indicated by the expression “spoken by the Buddha”, the Sutra was taught by the exalted Buddha personally. It is directed to the Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition. The “four practices” are the four key points of practice that we must grasp as Mahayana Bodhisattvas. By studying this Sutra, we can find that many teachings in The Words Of My Perfect Teacher have their origins in Buddhist scriptures.
2. Brief introduction to the translator of the Sutra
In the Chinese Tripitaka (Dazangjing), I have found three scriptures related to the four practices of Bodhisattvas. One of them is the Mahayana Sutra On The Four Practices translated by Siksananda. It has very long text, in which homage is paid to Vairocana Buddha in the beginning. According to the scriptures from Tang Dynasty of China, it has connections with Tangmi (Tantric Buddhism in Tang Dynasty). The other two scriptures are two different translated versions of the same sutra, both translated by Master Divakara. The title of the first version is The Mahayana Sutra On The Practices Spoken By The Buddha. The second version is The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha, which we are going to study today.
Master Divakara was a prominent Buddhist monk from Nalanda Monastery during the time of Tang Dynasty in China. Many Buddhist masters such as Nagarjuna, Padmasambhava, Tilopa and Naropa all studied in Nalanda Monastery. Meanwhile, many Chinese Buddhist masters went to Nalanda Monastery to study Dharma. One of them, for example, was Master Hsuan Tsang.
According to historical records, Master Divakara admired Master Hsuan Tsang very much and was deeply intrigued by Tang Dynasty. He vowed to go to China to spread Dharma to benefit the beings. He was well versed in Tripitaka, and proficient in the Five Sciences, especially in Tantric mantras. So he was not just a Dharma master of Tripitaka, but also a master of Tantric mantras. When he traveled to China, his most important job was translating the Buddhist scriptures. So he was also a great translator. He had translated thirty four volumes of eighteen sutras in total.
Master Divakara was the first master to translate the scriptures of Maha Cundhi Bodhisattva into Chinese. The Sutra Of Maha Cundhi Dharani Heart Of Seven Kotis Of Buddha-Mothers Spoken By The Buddha, which was translated by Master Divakara, is an important scripture in Tangmi. Maha Cundhi Bodhisattva is one of the major Yidam deities in Tantric Buddhism. I have received the transmission of Maha Cundhi practice from my exalted master ─ His Eminence the Fifth Patrul Rinpoche. This is a very precious practice. It was introduced into China in Tang Dynasty, and was first translated by Master Divakara. It had a widespread influence in China later. Many people practiced it and it became a very important part of Tangmi.
Master Divakara also translated another very important Tantric sutra which is called The Usnisa Vijaya Dharani Sutra. It also became very popular in China. The emperor of Tang Dynasty at that time ordered all the monks and nuns in China to chant it twenty one times every day. So it is clear that Master Divakara had made great contributions to the spreading of Tantric Buddhism in China.
India consists of five regions: Eastern, Southern, Western, Northern and Central India, and Master Divakara came from the Central India. After his research, Matsunaga Yukei, a Great Acharya of Shingon Sect in Japan, believes that Tantric Buddhism was thriving in central and southern India during the 7th and 8th centuries when many Buddhist masters followed Tantric practice. So, Master Divakara must also be very experienced in Tantric Buddhism.
I have taught two of the sutras translated by Master Divakara before.
In May 2013, I taught an important sutra translated by Master Divakara at Daigoji Monastery of Shingon Sect in Japan. It is called The Mahayana Sutra Of No-Letter Dharma Entrance All Pervasive Illuminating Treasure. It is also a sutra taught personally by the Buddha. It mainly mentions some key points of practice for Bodhisattvas. It also teaches how to recognize our own Tathagatagarbha or Buddha Nature. It is stated in this sutra that, “Suppose in future lives, among good men and good women, there are those who have committed sins, such as the five rebellious acts. If they have heard this Dharma Entrance whether they copy this sutra, read and chant it, or explain it, whether they persuade others to copy it, read and chant it, or explain it, I can see that these individuals will not fall to the evil realms. All their hindrances ─ afflictions, karmas and retribution ─ will be eliminated. In a future life they will acquire five kinds of eyes. They will receive empowerment from all Buddhas.” So reading this sutra gives you the empowerment by all Buddhas. It is also stated in the sutra that: “If sentient beings in future lives are able to hear this rare Dharma Entrance, one should know that they have already acquired immeasurable merit and wisdom for a long time; that they in effect serve me and make offerings to me; that they in effect carry on the great Bodhi course of the Buddha; that they will certainly achieve command of eloquence; that they will certainly arrive in pure Buddha Lands; that when their lives come to an end, they will certainly see themselves surrounded by Amitabha Buddha and all his Bodhisattvas; that they will constantly see me on Vulture Peak Mountain and see a multitude of Bodhisattvas like these here; that they have already acquired the inexhaustible Dharma treasure; that they will gain past-life knowledge; and that they will never go down the evil realms.” So it is quite clear that this sutra is really precious.
Early this year, I taught another sutra translated by Master Divakara, The Sutra Of Maha Cundhi Dharani Heart Of Seven Kotis Of Buddha-Mothers Spoken By The Buddha. It is a scripture on Cundi Tantric teachings firstly translated by Master Divakara into Chinese. It explains the Maha Cundi practice in great detail. It also expounds the peaceful, increasing, loving and wrathful methods in individual lives and careers, as well as the methods of how to cure diseases, and make one wiser. The Maha Cundi practice enables you to fulfill all your wishes. In particular, the sutra teaches many methods of fire Puja.
So these are the two sutras translated by Master Divakara that I have taught before. Today we are going to study another sutra translated by him, The Sutra Of The Four Practices For Bodhisattvas Spoken By The Buddha.
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