The Buddha is in a state of unmoving suchness, but when someone wants to protect the Buddhadharma and help people become Buddhas, it nonetheless makes him happy.
At that time, the World Honored One praised Ananda in front of the whole assembly, saying, “Good indeed!” The Buddha was pleased. “You’re really fine, Ananda. How good it is”, he praises him twice, that you have asked how to establish a Bodhimanda and to rescue and protect living beings who are sunk in the morass of the final age. You want to help beings in the Dharma-ending Age who are being drowned in the water and consumed by the fire. Listen well, now, and I will tell you.”
Ananda and the great assembly agreed to uphold the teaching. When they heard the Buddha agree to speak the dharma, their joy was even greater. The Buddha probably said, “Do you want to listen to this?”
Everyone undoubtedly answered, “We want to. We want to.” When deviant teachers explain their methods, their sole topic is sexual desire. The things they say are unprincipled. This should be distinguished clearly. Sometimes Bodhisattvas also use compassion, kind words, and a protective heart to teach living beings, because they know that all living beings are steeped in desire. Every living being has thoughts of sexual desire. So he does not expect them to cut off their love and desire immediately, but he uses all kinds of expedient means to get them to see through and renounce sexual desire. Then they can put a stop to it themselves. This is the state of a Bodhisattva, totally different from that of the deviant teachers of externalist ways.
Once, Guan Yin Bodhisattva transformed into a fishmonger. She was an exquisite woman who went about the village with her fish-basket. No one in the village believed in the Buddha. But when the young men of the village caught sight of this maiden, they desired her. The village wasn’t large, but there were at least a hundred young men there, and every one of them wanted to marry her.
Guan Yin with the fish-basket said, “There are so many of you! I can’t marry a hundred men, but I’ve thought of a method to choose a husband. I will marry whichever of the hundred of you is the first to be able to learn to recite by heart the ‘Universal Door Chapter’ of the Lotus Sutra. Go back home and I’ll give you three days.”
But, at the end of three days, there were forty or fifty who could recite it from memory. The woman with the fish basket said, “But there are still too many of you. Even though you have met the requirements, I can’t have fifty husbands. This time go back and within five days memorize the Vajra Sutra. I’ll marry whoever does that.”
So the fifty who’d made it to the first level went back and began to practice the Vajra Sutra. At the end of five days there were some twenty who could recite it by heart. The fish monger said, “There are still too many of you. It’s impossible for me to marry you all. I have one more task. Anyone who can memorize the Lotus Sutra in seven days will be my husband. I believe whoever can do that will be worthy.”
The twenty began to recite the Lotus Sutra, and at the end of seven days there was one man who could recite it from memory. He was named Ma, and came from a wealthy family. So there was a large wedding and everyone was invited. That evening, after the festivities, they retired, but who would have guessed that the bride would have a heart attack and die instantly? And the bridegroom had gone to so much effort! He’d memorized the “Universal Door Chapter,” the Vajra Sutra, and the Lotus Sutra, and still he had no bride. Shortly thereafter, the funeral took place, and a monk in purple robes appeared on the scene. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Our new daughter-in-law passed away suddenly, and we are burying her.”
“No,” said the monk. “There’s nothing in that coffin at all! Who are you mourning for? Open it and take a look.”
Indeed, the coffin was empty. They were all amazed. “Where’s she gone? After her! Bring her back!”
The monk told them, “That was Guan Yin Bodhisattva. You people in this village didn’t believe in the Buddha, so she manifested the appearance of a beautiful woman in order to get you young men who are so fond of forms to study the Buddhadharma. Then she left.”
When the bridegroom, Ma, heard that, he renounced all worldly things and left the home-life. After that, he was certified to the fruition of a sage. That really happened in China.
Story & Commentary by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua