Bowl of Rice of Fragrance
The Catering Unit of Minh Quang Retreat in Sydney, Australia has offered good services in a very solemn and deliciated manner and its very first meal reminded me of the nice smell of the Bowl of Rice of Fragrance in the old times.
As Lankavatara Moon Watching, Boat of Prajana, Jogye Tea, etc… Rice of Fragrance is one of the terminologies used in temples that has been heard by everyone at least once. So, what is the Rice gf Fragrance?
Rice of Fragrance is a type of rice brought from the Land of Citizens of Fragrance that is 42 thousand realms away from our world. It is said that one day, not long before the lunchtime, on His Holiness’ way to pay a visit to Layman Vimalakirti, who was sick in Vesali, Sariputta wondered: “It’s nearly lunchtime, where will the Bodhisattvas be eating?” Vimalakirti (who used to be a Maha Bodhisattva in the Land of Ultimate Bliss named Great Joy ruled by Aksobhya Buddha), who presented himself at Vesali,which is approximately 253 km from Mahabohdi in the North, to give Sakya Muni Buddha a hand in the transformation and salvation of human beings. His Holiness had super psychic powers so He could minds, therefore He said, “Please wait a moment, I will offer you a meal that you have never seen before.” Then Vimalakirti Bodhisattva entered a deep concentration and used his psychic power to display to the public the Land of Buddha of Fragrance. The scent from that land is superior to the one from the lands of devas, human beings, and other Buddhas in the ten directions. Everything, every object, is made of fragrance. From soil to buildings to castles to trees, plants, etc… they all have nice scents. And the scent diffuses to the ten directions. At the time, the Buddha of Fragrance and other Bodhisattvas were having meals that were being offered by the Sons of Heaven having the same name of Adornment Gloring, who have made vows to develop the Bodhi Mind.
At the time, the response body of Vimalakirti Bodhisattva flew to the Land of Citizens of Fragrance to ask for an offering of Rice of Fragrancefor all those in this Saha World. As soon as he arrived, His Holiness came in to bow to the Buddha and said: “I amVimalakirti. I am sincerely bowing to The World One and would like to know if His Holiness is doing well, not sick, not having defilement, and being safe? We would like to have some rice to bring to the Saha World for a good affair. To help cultivators, who like to take the narrow path, to reach out for a broader path, and to promote His Holiness’ name to every place.” The Buddha of Fragrancewas happy with the greetings and statements of reasons so His Holiness straight away got a bowl to fill it with all the Rice of Fragrance and handed it over in response to the body of Vimalakirti Bodhisattva. His Holiness and 9 million other Bodhisattvas from Land of Citizens of Fragrance flew back to Saha World. Only after a moment Their Holinesses all arrived at Bodhisattva Vimalakirti’s place. The response body of the Bodhisattva gave the bowl to His Holiness Vimalakirti. When the lid was opened, the scent defusedall over the entire Vesali City and the Whole Great Universe. All the inhabitants felt the scent and had joy and peace, saying that it was something that had never happened before (extracted from Lankavatara Sutra, translated by the Most Venerable Duy Luc).
In this Sutra, there is a comparison of the difference in the transformation methods in the Land of Buddha of Fragrance and in the Saha World. The Buddha of Fragrance does not use language, but uses the “Worldly Scent” to transform human beings. That is when citizens of Fragrance Land smelled the miraculous scent, they returned to their own nature and felt peaceful and enlightened. On the other hand, human beings in the Saha World are hard to be taught and transformed, so the Sakya Muni Buddha had to use the contrary method to teach and warn them to help them attain salvation. His Holiness had to use the right methods based on their capacity and backgrounds. His Holiness used the Six Paramitas for Bodhisattvas, the 12 Causes and Conditions for Pacceka-Buddhas, and the 4 Noble Truths for Hearers. For people who want to be reborn in the Devas’s Lands, the 10 Virtuous Deeds applies and if you want to be reborn as a human being, preserve the five precepts. For slow-minded people, His Holiness would advise on the law of causality,which means, if you bring people happiness, you will have joy, or vice versa. Especially, His Holiness would let you know what the harsh consequences of bad deeds are; for example, killing will shorten your life expectancy, stealing will produce poverty, not returning what you have borrowed will lead to rebirth in the animals’ realm of existence to pay back (by giving your fur or horns, for example), angry people will have ugly faces, etc. All are skilled means but obviously, harsher language is used for this Saha World’s beings, compared with the one for the Land of Citizens of Fragrance.
In this story, it is also mentioned that this type of rice is marinated by “Great Compassion Scent” of the Buddha so a bowl will be sufficient for countless amounts of people, as it will never run out. As such, the Rice of Fragrance is the boundless source of food offered by the Buddha, which can be used to eliminate people’s poverty in this cycle of birth and death. Especiallythose who have this type of rice, will experience ease and peace in their body and soul, and will smell nice.
This is a sparkling and superexcellent figure and is only available for those who have enough blessings. In Mahayana Buddhism, it is the accumulated scent that is the accumulation of virtuous deeds cultivated as great compassion. Great Compassioncomes from unconditional love. Normal love will include some conditions but if they are not provided, it will be gone and replaced with grief, hatred, and suffering. Therefore, conditional love has much to do with the ego, and the ego produces suffering and ignorance, which are the causes for the cycle of birth and death. Unconditional love has no ego, which means it is great compassion, which are both the attributes of Nirvana. This is the highest universal gift in the Dharma that is being taught in His whole life while in the Land of Citizens of Fragrance, these are normal truth, just like the acts of eating food or drinking water. Such unconditional love becomes a scent that is defused into the air andwhich anyone who inhales will feel peaceful and liberated. That is a scent of quiet mind, of wisdom, and enlightenment.
With this meaning, the Rice of Fragrance is no longer a food with a gross form, but a joy gained from Dharma learning and nourishing powers obtained from the practice of meditation. It is food for thoughts, for spiritual development nableto e the cultivators to maintain and enhance their Bodhi Mind and Great Compassion Mind. When this scent has been absorbed into the body and the mind, it will never leave and will produce itself inits owner’s words, actions, and thoughts. Wherever the person goes, the scent of peace comes along. In the Dhammapada Sutra, this is also expressed in another way: “Scent of flowers does not fly against the wind but the scent of virtuous men flies everywhere”. And it was said in the old times that the scent of cinnamon cannot reach as far as that of books and sutras. Taste in the Saha World cannot compare with the one of Dharma. Obviously, anything that has form is impermanent, only the invisible scent inside will last forever. The joy in the Saha World is to deal with money, fame, and positions which are non-lasting, “joy brought about by desire will only produce suffering”. Joy and peace coming from cultivation will last long as they are produced by the calmness and tranquility of the mind.
We wish to extend our unlimited gratefulness to Vimalakirti Bodhisattva, who has offered us such a marvelous type of rice as amrita to nourish and develop our Dharma body and wisdom in this cycle of birth and death. We wish to compliment the merits earned by the Host Most Venerable Thich Minh Hieu and the Catering Unit of Minh Quang Retreat who have offered meals for the virtuous monks and nuns of The Unified Vietnamese Buddhist Congregation of Australia – New Zealand for 10 days, especially by the Buddhists who cooked every day. This areindescribable merits. We wish the Buddhas will support you so you have good health and fulfil your vows.
Hompage to The Buddha of Fragrance
At Minh Quang Retreat 2013
Senior Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang
Translated by Dr Tam Tinh and Hoa Chi Truong Nga