All Fulfilling Medicine Guru Vows

Transcript of a Talk given in Mandarin by Guru Yutang Lin
Perak Buddhists Association, Ipoh, Malaysia
June 30, 2011

Translated into English by Guru Yutang Lin

 

The Twelve Original Vows of Tathagata Medicine Guru with Lapis Lazuli Light

Under Imperial Order of Tang Dynasty
Translated into Chinese by
Tripitaka Dharma Master Xuan Zang

Translated from Chinese into English by
Dr. Yutang Lin

The first great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may my body be glowingly bright to shine upon immeasurable countless boundless worlds and be adorned with the thirty‑two marks of a great man and the eighty ensuing refined features. I shall render all beings to resemble me without any differences.

The second great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may my body be like Lapis Lazuli, transparent throughout and pure without blemish, with extensive brightness and majestic merits, well at ease, and adorned with aureole brighter than sun and moon. Sentient beings in hellish darkness will all be taught the right path. I shall engage in all kinds of salvation activities as my intention moves along.

The third great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may I employ countless boundless skillful means of wisdom to render all beings in possession of inexhaustible things of comfort and not to let sentient beings be in want of anything.

The fourth great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may I settle well all those who practice the heterodox ways onto the Bodhi path and establish securely those who practice Sravakayana or Pratyeka-Buddha-yana in Mahayana.

The fifth great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may the countless boundless sentient beings who would cultivate pure conducts in accordance with my teachings all attain no breach of silas and fulfill the three cumulative silas. If they fail to comply or violate silas, upon hearing my name, they will regain purity and not fall into bad realms.

The sixth great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those sentient beings who are physically inferior with incomplete senses, and are suffering from being ugly, retarded, blind, deaf, mute, victim of convulsion, crippled, humpbacked, leprous, lunatic, or sick with various diseases, upon hearing my name, all attain proper features, become smart, with all senses wholesome, and without any illness.

The seventh great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those sentient beings who are tormented by diseases, with neither help nor refuge, neither medical treatment nor medication, neither relatives nor family, and in poverty with much hardship, upon hearing my name, become free from diseases, attain peace and joy of body and mind, have abundance of family and possessions, and even up to all attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment.

The eighth great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those women who are tormented by hundreds of suffer­ings of the female sex and are extremely weary to the extent of wishing to give up their female bodies, upon hearing my name, all transform into men with proper male features, and even up to all attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment.

The ninth great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may I let all sentient beings escape the nets of evils and become free from entanglements of heterodox ways. If they are trapped in all sorts of dense forest of perversive views, I shall induce and introduce them to right views, gradually lead them to practice the Bodhisattva ways, and help them soon attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment.

The tenth great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those sentient beings who are condemned by royal laws to be bound by ropes, lashed by whips, enchained in prisons, or executed, and are tormented by numerous other disasters and insults so that they are afflicted by sorrow and anguish, and are suffering in both body and mind, upon hearing my name, through the majestic supernatural power of my merits and virtue, all become free from all sorrows and sufferings.

The eleventh great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those sentient beings who are torment­ed by hunger and thirst, and in order to obtain food have committed all sorts of evil karma, have the opportunity to hear my name and continue to repeat my name whole-heartedly. I shall first satisfy their physical needs with most wondrous foods and drinks, and afterwards provide them with the flavors of Dharma so as to establish them in ultimate peace and joy.

The twelfth great vow: In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those sentient beings who are poor without clothing, tormented day and night by mosquitoes, wasps, cold and heat, and upon hearing my name continue to repeat it whole-heartedly, obtain all sorts of most wondrous clothes according to their preferences, and also obtain all kinds of jewel ornaments, floral garlands, perfumes, drums, music, and dancers; whatever their hearts desire will all be satisfied.

Today′s topic is ″All Fulfilling Medicine Guru Vows″. The reason for talking on this topic is because tomorrow morning at 8 o′clock we will perform a fire puja in honor of Medicine Guru Buddha at the Xin Yi Dharma Center. A fire puja in honor of Medicine Guru Buddha is a Buddhist Tantric ritual; it is also a kind of making offerings to the Buddha. However, ordinarily, when we make offerings to Buddha, we display the offering items in front of Buddha, and then we gather them for our own uses. But in a Buddhist Tantric fire puja a pile of firewood is set up, and during the ritual performance, all offerings are burned to ashes so as to demonstrate the sincerity in making offering to Buddha, without retracting them. Since we will make offerings to Medicine Guru Buddha tomorrow, hence today we talk about the Great Vows of Medicine Guru Buddha. He developed 12 Great Vows at the beginning of his endeavors on the enlightenment path, and as we study his Great Vows, we will come to appreciate his compassion and his real intentions. As you read the texts of his vows, you will discover that, all various kinds of suffering of sentient beings are taken into his considerations. Hence, let us find out now how he intends to fulfill our wishes, and, on the other hand, let us learn from his Bodhi intentions as to how to develop our Bodhi intentions so that we may become fully enlightened. He has 12 Great Vows; the so-called ″Great Vows″ of a Buddha were developed before he attained Buddhahood. At the beginning of his quest for full enlightenment, he pledged that, in the future, certain attainments will be realized as the consequence of his spiritual practices. Hence, these vows were developed from the very beginning. Now, what did he pledge as his first vow? He said, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment″, that means when he attains Buddhahood—the enlightenment which is complete and unsurpassable, what is the result he looks forward to?  ″May my body be glowingly bright to shine upon immeasurable countless boundless worlds″, that means the brightness of his Buddhahood will shine and enlighten all worlds without limitation. Furthermore, he will ″be adorned with the thirty‑two marks of a great man and the eighty ensuing refined features″, that means all the supreme and refined features of a Buddha as described in Buddhist Sutras will surface on his body. And yet, see what he pledged next? ″I shall render all beings to resemble me without any differences″; this is the key point. Usually when we have a wish, it is all about self-interests, and all these wishes are self-centered. And yet, the vows of this Buddha, how are they different from ours? The difference lies in that, he immediately said, ″I shall render all beings to resemble me without any differences″. In other words, this vow was not pledged for himself but for all sentient beings. He wished that, all sentient beings will become Buddhas at the time of his attainment of Buddhahood; thus, it is a Great Vow. The spiritual practices adopted are not just for self-interests but for helping all sentient beings to attain the perfect enlightenment. Therefore, here we need to learn that all his vows for Buddhahood are not for personal gains; if you sustain personal intentions, you cannot attain full enlightenment. His enlightenment can transcend suffering and attain ultimate peace and joy, all because he is utterly, if not selfless, at least has forgotten about ′self′. In other words, it is no longer about oneself but about all sentient beings who are basically the same, wishing to escape from suffering and attain happiness, and he intends to endeavor toward being able to help all beings to reach such results. Thus, first of all, we have learned that the best he wishes for is for all beings to share the same. Note that the sentient beings mentioned here are not just confined to people but include mosquitoes, ants, usually too tiny to worth our attention, and ghosts that we are scared of; all these beings are within his compassionate cares.

In his second vow he pledged, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may my body be like Lapis Lazuli, transparent throughout″, that means a body as transparent as Lapis Lazuli; why will there be such a result? It is because upon attainment of Buddhahood one no longer regards the physical body as his Buddha-body, and the Buddha-body is a body of brilliance, and hence it is transparent without physical materials. ″And pure without blemish″, it will be so pure that it has neither flaw nor tarnish. And ″with extensive brightness and majestic merits″, that means not only his brilliance is boundless and limitless, and, upon attainment of Buddhahood, his merits are majestic—having helped immeasurable countless boundless numbers of sentient beings proceed toward enlightenment. In Dharma, ″merits″ refer not to deeds accumulated with a personal intention to do much good in order to reap good rewards in the future; such deeds are called ″rewarding virtues″ because it will only yield rewards for oneself. In Dharma, ″merits″ refer to deeds performed solely with all beings in mind and for benefiting all sentient beings. Thus, ″having helped immeasurable countless boundless numbers of sentient beings attain enlightenment″ means that, according to each sentient being′s aptitude and propensity he did his utmost to guide them onto the enlightenment path, and thus, his merits are already immeasurable. Also, ″well at ease″ means he abides in meditative tranquility; ″and adorned with aureole brighter than sun and moon″ means Buddha-body is wrapped in brightness like a net of flames, and its degree of brightness surpasses that of sun or moon. With such brilliance ″sentient beings in hellish darkness will all be taught the right path″. The ″sentient beings in hellish darkness″ mentioned here could refer to two kinds of beings. One kind is beings in hells and hungry ghosts, while the other kind is beings who have not recognize the enlightenment path and hence still trapped in transmigration within Samsara—they remain in darkness without the guiding light of Dharma. And ″will all be taught the right path″ means to show them the significance and essences of Dharma so they will appreciate its importance and begin practicing Dharma. Then, ″I shall engage in all kinds of salvation activities as my intention moves along″, that means, according to the aptitude and propensity of a being encountered, Buddha will naturally develop the intention to provide suitable guidance and put it into deeds. Therefore, we can observe further that, his vow is not just aiming at his own perfection in the future but emphasizes on having the ability to help all sentient beings; this is the key point taught to us in the second vow. Hence, when we develop Bodhi aspirations, we need to aspire toward such goals. For example, in our time we all see matters like, severe pollution of our environments, global warming, and more and more hardships in life, and yet as civilization develops, all such matters become more prominent without a solution in sight. Thus, when you develop your own Bodhi vows, you could think of, since sentients beings in this time have these kinds of suffering, when in the future I shall attain full enlightenment, I will contrive to help them realize that all such sufferings are causal consequences of public karma, and hence each one need to begin improving the situations through personal activities that are friendly to environments and reducing global warming, etc., and thus help sentient beings in this way.

In the third great vow he pledged, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may I employ countless boundless skillful means of wisdom to render all beings in possession of inexhaustible things of comfort and not to let sentient beings be in want of anything″. What kind of compassionate vow is this? At the beginning, the vows are stating that he wishes to enable all sentient beings to attain full enlightenment. Nevertheless, what is the first and foremost problem sentient beings are facing? Problems of lack or shortage of resources, hardships in surviving. Hence, his compassion takes note of this. Therefore, he said, ″when I shall attain full enlightenment, I will comprehend the causal relations among all matters, and hence I will know how to improve the causal conditions to benefit sentient beings″. And then, ″my first goal is to substantiate sentient beings′ livelihood; whatever to their desires, I will know how to provide the causal conditions so they may fulfill their desires″; thus, the most pressing, to common people, problem of livelihood will be tackled first through his endeavors to help. Here, we notice that he also realizes that, not all people can begin to learn Dharma at once; he realizes that, when people are under the pressure of livelihood, unless problems of livelihood have been helped to resolve, people cannot be carefree enough to pay attention to learning Dharma. His compassionate vows notice this point, and hence he begins his endeavors from improving livelihood of sentient beings. Thus, we are taught here that, attaining enlightenment is not a matter apart from real life. After he attained enlightenment, he is not confined by self-centered self-interests, and hence he can comprehend what would be good for all and offer guidance on how to do things so all will be benefitted.

The fourth great vow states, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may I settle well all those who practice the heterodox ways onto the Bodhi path and establish securely those who practice Sravakayana or Pratyeka-Buddha-yana in Mahayana″. Next, he pledged that, since sentient beings are in various conditions, and some are in the condition of practicing the deviating-from-enlightenment ways—they are engaging in unsound matters which benefit self-interests but causing harm to others; now that they have committed such deeds, then, what will he do?  He will offer advice to help them comprehend that the consequences of such deeds will not only harm others but also, eventually, harm oneself. Since no one can be totally independent on others and just take care of oneself only, therefore, to benefit oneself one must take others into considerations—only through mutual cooperation can one gain benefits. Through such kind of guidance, the sentient beings in such condition will move toward the Bodhi path, while ″the Bodhi path″ here refers to the path toward the right and full enlightenment. Furthermore, he pledged that, ″those who practice Sravakayana or Pratyeka-Buddha-yana″, meaning people who already know to do good and to practice Dharma, and yet, however, they emphasize on cultivating themselves, and have not thought of helping others around them by conveying matters related to the quest toward enlightenment, or encouraging others to adopt Dharma practices, or helping others to embark on Dharma practices, he will ″establish these people securely in Mahayana.″ In other words, he will guide them to open their mind expansively to all sentient beings. Therefore, he remains step-by-step, in light of your situations and needs, in guiding beings gradually toward enlightenment.

The fifth great vow states, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may the countless boundless sentient beings who would cultivate pure conducts in accordance with my teachings all attain no breach of silas″, that means he pledged that, in the future if there are sentient beings who cultivate pure conducts in accordance with his teachings—what is ″cultivating pure conducts in accordance with his teachings″ here? For example, regularly repeat Medicine Guru Buddha′s holy epithet, repeat his Heart Mantra, making prostrations toward his holy images or statues, recite or copy his Sutra, have his holy images or statues made for people to make prostrations to, etc., all these are cultivating pure conducts in accordance with his teachings. If one practices in this way—″cultivating pure conducts″ means to practice Dharma, then what does one cultivate? The goal is for one to return to the natural state of being originally pure and tranquil. It does not mean that one is to consider oneself as superior and proud of having learned Dharma—I am better, I am a good person, and you are bad. This demonstrates that the person has not comprehended the essence of Dharma. Dharma is to guide us to return to our original purity, that means one does not need to add judgments to experiences—experiences as they are, are originally pure, free from artificial labelling; and one strives to return to such purity. And then, if one practices Dharma in accordance with his teachings, he will bless one—in what way? He will render one free from lapses in silas observation; that means, one will not commit errors breaking the rules governing proper conducts in body, mind and speech. Further, ″and fulfill the three cumulative silas″, that means, one will fulfill all sorts of silas regarding the accumulation of merits, wisdom and compassion. In other words, one will engage in many Dharma activities serving sentient beings. ″If they fail to comply or violate silas″, since it would be difficult for one to observe silas perfectly at once—one could hardly avoid regresses and making mistakes, then what to do? ″Upon hearing my name, they will regain purity and not fall into bad realms″; one simply need to hear the Buddha′s holy epithet—how could one hear the Buddha′s holy epithet? Either from others′ recitation or while one is repeating this holy epithet, then one can hear it. Then, one ″will regain purity″, this is because his boundless merits are capable of compensating and extinguishing the karmic hindrances born of one′s misdeeds and render one free from falling into bad realms. The so-called ″bad realms″ here refers to the realms of animals, hungry ghosts and hells.

The sixth great vow, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those sentient beings who are physically inferior with incomplete senses, and are suffering from being ugly, retarded, blind, deaf, mute, victim of convulsion, crippled, humpbacked, leprous, lunatic, or sick with various diseases, upon hearing my name, all attain proper features, become smart, with all senses wholesome, and without any illness″. This one is aiming at all sorts of disabilities and suffering in illnesses. He pledged that if anyone is facing such problems, then, what to do? Upon hearing his holy epithet, i.e., one only need to repeat his holy epithet regularly or listening to recitation of his holy epithet, then one will eventually become free from these problems—one will become free from all sorts of disabilities and suffering in illnesses that one originally had. This great vow aspires toward freedom from disabilities and sickness for all sentient beings. Thus, if one looks into it, one can see that, whatever problems people are facing, while developing his great vows he had already taken them into considerations; among the main aspects of life—birth, aging, sickness and death, sickness is a serious problem.

Next (the seventh great vow), he pledged that, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment, may those sentient beings who are tormented by diseases″—sometimes someone is inflicted with many kinds of illnesses and in much torment, and furthermore, ″with neither help nor refuge″—no physician can cure him, no medication can cure him, and no place for him to be cared for, ″neither medical treatment nor medication, neither relatives nor family″—all alone, ″and in poverty with much hardship″—already trapped in such desperate situation, ″upon hearing my name, become free from diseases, attain peace and joy of body and mind, have abundance of family and possessions, and even up to all attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment″. He wished that people with all such various kinds of suffering, upon hearing his holy epithet and thereby received his blessing, will be liberated from all suffering; furthermore, whatever they were lacking earlier will gradually all come into their possession. Besides, the most important point is that he is not satisfied with temporarily freeing people from physical and economical sufferings; he pledged, ″and even up to all attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment″—he intended to guide each one, step by step, on the enlightenment path until all become Buddha. This is a very important point because all matters in worldly life, no matter how well one is taken care of in aging, sickness till death, if one′s mind is not open, then even when there are no other problems, one will still have many problems of mind. In order for one to become free from all sufferings in Samsara, the most important point, key point, is for one to engage in Dharma practices and thereby gradually return to original purity, only then can one ultimately and thoroughly become free from all sufferings. Furthermore, one who is thoroughly liberated will have the ability to help other sentient beings because, once returned to original purity, one will become in oneness with all. Since such a one is in oneness with all, hence, he is capable of rendering help with whatever you plead to him; this is why, when we supplicate to Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, often there are inspirational results. That is, when one is very sincere in one′s faith and supplicate earnestly, their powers will reach one, and then one will become free from suffering in illness, from suffering in all sorts of worldly problems that have no solutions.

Then, the next one (the eighth great vow) is aiming at females because females have many physiological problems, and in many traditional societies, females are treated with inequality; thus, with a female body, one suffers more. Hence, taking this situation into consideration, he noticed that both males and females wish for equality—his mind cares for all sentient beings equally, and hence, seeing special suffering of certain kind of sentient beings, he pledged vows aiming at alleviating their suffering. Hence, he pledged, ″in the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those women who are tormented by hundreds of suffer­ings of the female sex and are extremely weary to the extent of wishing to give up their female bodies″—with a female body, one has menstrual periods, may go through child-birth, has many hardships, and hence she raises the wish not to be born as a female in future lives, and then, upon hearing his holy epithet, in the future she will not be reborn as a female but only as a male with all masculine features. And ″even up to all attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment″, he wished to help her, not just obtain liberation from her suffering temporarily, but attain ultimate liberation. Similarly, nowadays, when we observe babies or toddlers being forsaken due to disability or illness or other matters, we can also develop a Bodhi vow as saying, if there are abandoned kids, then may they all soon encounter good people to adopt them, and subsequently enjoy a happy life, etc., and then, ″even up to all attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment″—also wishing them to embark on the enlightenment path and eventually attain full enlightenment.

The ninth great vow, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may I let all sentient beings escape the nets of evils and become free from entanglements of heterodox ways. If they are trapped in all sorts of dense forest of perversive views, I shall induce and introduce them to right views, gradually lead them to practice the Bodhisattva ways, and help them soon attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment″. Here, ″the nets of evils″ and ″entanglements of heterodox ways″ refer to engaging in activities harmful to others, such as gang and illegitimate dealings. Or they are holding views deviated from the enlightenment path, such as no need to pay respect to gods but only need to gain material well-being, then they will make mistakes in many ways due to incorrect views, and yet he still will gradually advise and guide these people onto the correct paths, and lead them to practice the Bodhisattva ways—that means to enable them to open their minds to care for all sentient beings equally, and thus help them to attain soon the full enlightenment.

The tenth great vow, In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those sentient beings who are condemned by royal laws to be bound by ropes, lashed by whips, enchained in prisons, or executed, and are tormented by numerous other disasters and insults so that they are afflicted by sorrow and anguish, and are suffering in both body and mind, upon hearing my name, through the majestic supernatural power of my merits and virtue, all become free from all sorrows and sufferings″. As people live in worldly life, sometimes some would encounter legal problems, and consequently become locked in ceil, some would be wrongly accused, some would be arrested, etc., all sorts of situations. Aiming at this kind of suffering, he also developed a great vow, pledging that, when he will attain full enlightenment, his merits will be so inconceivably overwhelming so that all people in this kind of suffering, simply through hearing his holy epithet, will be free from such suffering—serious matters turn into minor affairs, and minor affairs turn into no matter.

Next, the eleventh great vow, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those sentient beings who are torment­ed by hunger and thirst and have committed all sorts of evil karma in order to obtain food, have the opportunity to hear my name and continue to repeat my name whole-heartedly. I shall first satisfy their physical needs with most wondrous foods and drinks, and afterwards provide them with the flavors of Dharma so as to establish them in ultimate peace and joy″. He realized that in life, basically people engage in all sorts of activities to sustain livelihood. Hence, he pledged that, through hearing his holy epithet, people will come to comprehend the blessing power of his merits and become converted by such grace, and he will gradually, first satisfy people with abundant sustenance, and then teach Dharma, step by step, suitable to each one, and ultimately send them onto the right path toward enlightenment.

The twelfth great vow, ″In the future when I shall attain unsurpassable complete Enlightenment may those sentient beings who are poor without clothing, tormented day and night by mosquitoes, wasps, cold and heat, and upon hearing my name continue to repeat it whole-heartedly, obtain all sorts of most wondrous clothes according to their preferences, and also obtain all kinds of jewel ornaments, floral garlands, perfumes, drums, music, and dancers; whatever their hearts desire will all be satisfied″. Here, he pledged that, since people have additional suffering in lacking clothing, bedding, and other comforts in life, hence, through repetition of his holy epithet whole-heartedly, gradually people will emerge from such sufferings. Besides, not just free from suffering but also enjoy comforts in abundance. Thus, we see that all his vows are aiming at alleviating all sorts of suffering for all beings, and then, depending on each one′s aptitude and propensity, lead each one, step by step, to engaging in Dharma practices.

Now, having comprehended the significance of his great vows, we understand why engaging in practicing his teachings will fully satisfy our wishes because all our sufferings have already been taken into his considerations. Whatever we wish for, he will help us to realize it. And yet, the more important point is that he not only wishes us to attain temporary happiness but also wishes us to attain ultimate and lasting liberation from all sufferings; in other words, all his endeavors are for our full enlightenment! Now that we have comprehended his great compassion and great vows, we should also follow his example to develop our Bodhi aspirations. For example, when we participate in the fire puja to Medicine Guru Buddha tomorrow, we should dedicate merits not only toward the well-being of personal relatives and friends but also, first of all, toward the well-being of all sentient beings and the eventual full enlightenment of all beings. Only after we have developed such an all-encompassing great Bodhi wish, whatever we put into deeds will yield merits in the Dharma sense, and only then will the power of such merits become unbounded. Thus, we can dedicate the merits to pacification of sufferings for individuals whose predicaments we happen to know, regardless of personal relationships or acquaintance. As soon as we learn of sentient beings in suffering, we pray equally to Buddha for their salvation through Buddha′s blessings. If we practice in this way, on the one hand, our wish will readily match his great vows, and thus invoke his blessings; and, on the other hand, in order for one to become genuinely free from personal problems, it depends on one′s mind can become open, tolerant and all-encompassing, no longer grasping to personal matters, and only then can one attain ultimate liberation and peace.

Now, I will end my talk on this topic here. If you have questions, you are welcome to bring them up. If no questions, since earlier there is one Upasaka here who would like to take refuge, I will conduct refuge ceremony now. People seeking refuge, please come forward to the front now.

Auspicious Completion

Chinese transcript completed on August 4, 2011
Translated into English on August 20, 2021
El Cerrito, California


[Home][Back to list][Back to Chinese versions][Related works: 药师如来十二大愿礼拜药师佛十二大愿〈药师如来十二大愿〉之说明]