Offer gifts with compassion and wisdom.
Reject gifts with compassion and wisdom.
Accept gifts with compassion and wisdom.
Redirect gifts with compassion and wisdom.
‘无 尽意！是观世音菩萨成就如是功德，以种种形，游诸国土，度脱众生，是故汝等应当一心供养观世音菩萨。是观世音菩萨摩诃萨于怖畏急难之中，能施无畏，是故， 此娑婆世界皆号之为“施无畏者”。’
时，观世音菩萨不肯受之。无尽意复白观世音菩萨言：‘仁者！愍我等故，受此璎珞。’ 尔时，佛告观世音菩萨：‘当愍此无尽意菩萨及四众，天、龙、夜叉、乾闼婆、阿修罗、迦楼罗、紧那罗、摩 睺罗伽、人非人等故，受是璎珞。’
‘Wujinyi! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has accomplished such meritorious virtues. With various forms, he travels through all lands to liberate sentient beings. This is why you and all should wholeheartedly [single-mindedly] make offerings to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva. Guanshiyin Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, in the midst of fear and grave danger, is able to give fearlessness. This is why, in this Saha World, all name him [her] as the “Giver of Fearlessness”.’
Wujinyi Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, ‘World-Honoured One, I will now make an offering to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva.’ He immediately unfastens from his neck, a necklace of many precious gems worth a hundred thousand ounces of gold, and with this, says, ‘Benevolent One, accept this Dharma offering, this necklace of precious gems.’
Immediately, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva would not accept it. Wujinyi Bodhisattva again said to Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, ‘Benevolent One, out of empathy for me and others, accept this necklace.’ Then, the Buddha told Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, ‘You should, out of empathy for Wujinyi Bodhisattva and the fourfold assembly, heavenly beings, dragons, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans-yet-not-humans and others, accept this necklace.’
Immediately, Guanshiyin Bodhisattva, out of empathy for all of the fourfold assembly, and the heavenly beings, dragons, human-yet-not-humans and others, accepted that necklace. Dividing it into two parts, one part [s]he offers to Sakyamuni Buddha, and one part [s]he offers to Duobao Buddha’s stupa. ‘Wujinyi! Guanshiyin Bodhisattva has such ease of supernormal powers, with which [s]he travels in this Saha world.’
- Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s Universal Door Chapter
As summarised from above, in ‘Guanshiyin (Avalokiteshvara or ‘Guanyin’ in short) Bodhisattva’s Universal Door Chapter’ of the Lotus Sutra, there is this interesting episode… After the Buddha (Sakyamuni; Shijiamouni: Sage of the Sakyas [those Capable of Charity]), to Wujinyi (Aksayamati: Inexhaustible Intention) Bodhisattva and thousands in the audience, introduced some of the countless manifestations of Guanyin Bodhisattva in many worlds for skilful guiding of beings with the Dharma towards liberation, he explained that this is why all should wholeheartedly make offerings to him her, so as to honour her accomplishment of such meritorious virtues. The Buddha then remarked that in the midst of fear and grave danger, she is able to bestow fearlessness, which is why she is also named the ‘Giver of Fearlessness’.
Heeding the Buddha’s advice, Wujinyi Bodhisattva immediately offered his precious necklace to Guanyin Bodhisattva, asking her to accept his Dharma offering. Just as immediately, Guanyin Bodhisattva declined his offer. Seeking her consent again, Wujinyi Bodhisattva asked her to accept it out of empathy for him and the others. The Buddha too, encouraged her to accept it, for the same reason.
Just as immediately again, she accepts it, divides it into two parts, offers one to the Buddha and the other to Duobao (Prabhutaratna: Abundant Treasures) Buddha’s stupa. The Buddha concludes this section by exclaiming to Wujinyi Bodhisattva that Guanyin Bodhisattva has such ease of supernormal powers, with which she travels in this Saha World [with endurance of suffering] to guide beings. The following is commentary on the significance of this incident.
As Guanyin Bodhisattva is so meritoriously great, making offerings to her respectfully is naturally meritorious for the giver too. This is why the Buddha compassionately urged the practice of generosity towards her. It is not that she needs any offerings, but that it would benefit us much to make offerings to her. While we should emulate her practice of giving, she already embodies the perfection of generosity, being able to give not only fearlessness by sharing of merits to offer blessings for assurance, but also in terms of wealth and the Dharma. The greatest gift is of course the Dharma, which is the most precious spiritual wealth, that includes fearless courage. All skilful gifts lead to the ultimate gift of fearless ease that Guanyin Bodhisattva attained.
The more we practise giving, as inspired by Guanyin Bodhisattva, the more will we embody her great compassion. Understanding this, Wujinyi Bodhisattva, without hesitation, offered his necklace to her, which represents that most immediate and precious to him, which he is not attached to – his personal great merits accumulated from Dharma practice and realisation.
As a recurring metaphor in the sutras, Bodhisattvas are adorned with the ‘necklace’ of merits for their two kinds of Dharmakaya (法身: Dharma body) – the Wisdom Dharmakaya (智法身), as realised with cultivation of the Dharma, and the Absolute (Fundamental) Dharmakaya (理法身), the thusness of their Buddha-nature, the potential for perfect enlightenment. The two become one when Buddhahood is realised.
Wujinyi Bodhisattva’s readiness to give generously is in sharp contrast from many of us, who often hesitate to give, or only give reluctantly, harbouring fears of loss and hopes of reciprocation, which render our giving less genuine, more of a ‘gift exchange’ at times! Readiness to give appropriately however, accumulates merits swiftly. Nothing is really lost in the long run, other than the suffering from craving and clinging. Just as swiftly, Guanyin Bodhisattva rejects the necklace, which is symbolic of her being without any subtle material or spiritual greed, while already immeasurably adorned with merits (from constant diligent practice of compassion) and complete wisdom (of the Dharma).
Not discouraged, Wujinyi Bodhisattva sought her acceptance of the necklace again, requesting that it be done out of compassion not just for himself, but the audience too, to let everyone have the opportunity to express reverence and practise generosity, thus also creating merits. This reminds us to enthusiastically make offerings on the behalf of all beings, so as to benefit them. This practice expands our compassion and generosity too, while creating even more merits for one and all. Although on the brink of Buddhahood, Wujinyi Bodhisattva continues to give diligently. Already fully accomplished, Guanyin Bodhisattva continues to reject humbly. There are great lessons of diligence and humility here!
Sometimes, rejecting of gifts is just as important as accepting them – to ensure that we are not motivated by greed for our good works. (Interestingly, this creates more merits.) For example, when we do volunteer welfare work, it is not so much to get something, not even a sense of satisfaction or gratitude from others, but simply to practise pure compassion to benefit others as unconditionally as possible, without losing motivation if there is lack of reward. Rejection of gifts is also appropriate if acceptance could be mistaken as corruptibility for wrongful personal gains.
The Buddha’s asking of Guanyin Bodhisattva to accept the offering is also a reminder for us to accept others’ appropriate good will, which allows them to practise compassion and generosity. Guanyin Bodhisattva’s again swift response of accepting means she is spontaneously compassionate, with her earlier spontaneous rejection as a skilful way to further express the Dharma.
However, she does not adorn herself with the necklace, as she has no need for it. She uses her supernormal powers to divide it in two instead, offering one each to Sakyamuni Buddha and Duobao Buddha, which represents equanimous reverence to Buddhas who are equally perfect. Of course, the Buddhas, especially when they manifest as monastics, do not need the necklaces. Yet, out of compassion as well, they accept them.
The sometimes elaborate construction and adornment of small and giant magnificent images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with precious materials is a cherished custom of expressing reverent and generous offering to the enlightened too. Especially for huge statues, they are also built as gifts to the world for many generations to come, with the hope of inspiring fellow Buddhists and even non-Buddhists, to remind one another to emulate virtues of the enlightened, to adorn ourselves with merits and wisdom, and to guide others to do the same.
Guanyin Bodhisattva’s selfless redirection of the gift to the Buddhas further exemplifies generosity, by giving the audience’s gift to fully enlightened ones (although she is already an ancient Buddha too, who manifests as a Bodhisattva out of boundless compassion to exemplify the Bodhisattva path), to help them multiply the meritoriousness of their giving.
Sakyamuni Buddha and Duobao Buddha represent present and past Buddhas respectively, while the audience members represent future Buddhas. In this way, she practised giving to all Buddhas of the three periods of time! The entire process of rejection, acceptance and redirection is itself a precious gift of the Dharma too. With such great ease from the combination of compassion and wisdom to be skilful means, she teaches beings throughout Samsara.
There was once a Buddhist master, who would most gladly accept Buddha images presented to him by many lay disciples. One day, one of them, who assumed his room to be decked with these images, snuck a peep into it to behold them. To his surprise, it was very bare. It turned out that just as the master had happily, with rejoice accepted the images, he also joyfully gave them away to other lay disciples who appreciated them! Similar to Guanyin Bodhisattva as an example, this is unceasing skilful and compassionate generosity of receiving and giving in action!
Whoever it is we give to, it is not so much of what we give that matters, whether the gift is big or small, material or spiritual, expensive or cheap… What matters more is how we give, with pure intentions and appropriateness or otherwise, that determines the giving as truly meritorious or not. Likewise applies to receiving and re-gifting! [Get Guanshiyin Bodhisattva's Universal Door Chapter]
Reject the needless.
Accept the needed.
Give the needful.
Why The Dharma Is The Greatest Gift
The Universal Door Of Guanyin Bodhisattva: From Seeking To Becoming Compassion
Next round of the course will be in 2015.
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