String of pearls for offerings

Update: 10/09/2021

String of pearls for offerings


In the 25th Samantamukha Section of the Wonderful Law Lotus Flower Sutra, there is a passage with the following gist: After listening to the Buddha telling about moralizing all sentient beings merit and the appearance of incarnations of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in normal life, Aksaya Mati Bodhisatva praised that merit and took of his precious string of pearls for offerings to Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. At first, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva refused to take it but after being advised by the Buddha, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva agreed to take the chain. However, she did not use it for herself but split it into two parts to offer Sakyamuni Buddha and Prabhutaratna Buddha. Through the sutra, we can learn a lot of lessons for our cultivation. 

Aksaya Mati Bodhisattva offers the string of pearls:

On our cultivation, we cannot go alone; we need some companions who would help us keep our cultivation more diligent. In Buddhism, there is a concept of “affection of Buddhist religion”. The concept shows us that we - the Buddhists – have a lot of different things but we all worship one Buddha and step on the same path to liberation and enlightenment. So, we must treat each other as brothers living in a family (Buddhist family).  The concept of friendship in Buddhism is not narrowed down just in our relationship with our relatives, with people living in the same pagoda with us or our religious fellows but it has a broader meaning. But sometimes when we see one of our religious friends who achieve a lot of success and teach many disciples, we start to feel envious and jealous. We fear that they will take away all of our disciples along with our prestige and position. Therefore, we create a jealous mind because we do not want anyone better than us, and we even try to harm them.

The image of Aksaya Mati Bodhisattva represents a big hearted person who does not attach to the common reason of winning or losing in life. He feels happy and offers the string of pearls because he sees that Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva moralized many beings. We should do the same thing when our fellows succeed. Moreover, we should help them when they are lacking materials so that they can have a better chance to finish deeds that benefit human beings.

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva refuses to receive the pearl chain:

If people do good deeds and help other people, they frequently receive good things, gain properties and positions, and they are praised and respected by all. They will easily generate complacency and self-importance of what they have done. As normal, sowing seeds, harvesting fruits; doing good, receiving merit; the merits will come no matter what we wish. If we just enjoy the merits we have, the merits will be used up. When we are out of merit, we will be poor again; when we are poor, we do good things and re-gain merits. In the end, do we – the cultivators – just go around in the circle of doing good things and enjoying the merits?

How can we get out of the circle?

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva represents the image of a person who refused to receive the merits. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva with utmost deeds moralized many sentient beings. When Aksaya Mati Bodhisatva offered Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva the string of pearls for the accomplished merit, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva refused to take it. Through Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva’s image, we learn lessons about the spirit of non-attachment, non-demanding and not having a mind of doing things just to seek for merits. We must realize that cause and effect is an inevitable truth. No matter what we wish, when we create a cause, the effect will come itself. At that time, even if you don't want to be praised, there are people who will come to praise you. Although you don't want money, someone will bring it to you. It is not necessary to show up to the world what you have done. So, what should we do when the good effects come to us?

Men without wisdom will spend all they have. On the contrary, when the merits come, men with wisdom, the true Buddhists who follow the teaching of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva know how to refuse and do not enjoy themselves. For example, when someone comes to praise us, we must not be attached to that praise and we should not have pride in our mind. If people bring property to give us, we will just accept it, we will not refuse it. After that, we use that property for doing good deeds, the merits will arise and increase gradually. We will go directly to the path of enlightenment and will no longer go back to enjoy the worldly blessings.

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva offers the pearl chain to the Buddha:

There is another way that helps us refuse the merit when we clearly reflect on the causational conditions of all things. They show us what we have done is not only by ourselves but also by many other causes and effects. For example, a man who is talented, intelligent and good at study will do research and contribute many inventions to social communities. When the inventions are recognized, he becomes famous; he must not take all the fame. He must realize that there are many factors that led to his success. The first to mention is his parents who gave birth and raised him. The next to mention is his teachers, who taught and imparted his knowledge; and a lot of other factors. If he can realize things clearly, he will no longer be proud of what he has accomplished. Or a general leads troops to battle; if he wins the war, people will praise him as a talented person. However, many people have to sacrifice their blood and bones to exchange the general's success. If the general could think so deeply, he probably would not be too proud of his feats.

Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva offered the merit to the Buddha and did not enjoy the merit herself as she saw clearly the Cause and Effect of all things. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva knew that all of the Buddhist acts she had performed were blessed and helped silently by the Buddha. Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva could not finish it by herself. That is the mind of modesty of a Bodhisattva.

The short sutra taught us a lot of precious lessons for our cultivation. We learn the merit of Aksaya Mati Bodhisattva in praising and being ready to help our fellow students and transferring our jealous and envious minds. We also follow the vows of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva in order not to attach to this worldly treasure, and we know how to refuse the ordinary glories in life. Then we can advance in our path to enlightenment.


Tâm Thiện

Translated into English by Nguyen Khanh Hoa

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