What do dragons look like? Ordinary people don’t know. Only sages who have opened the five eyes know what dragons really look like. The dragons depicted by Chinese artists have horns, scales, prominent eyes, a large mouth, whiskers, four feet, a long body and a short tail. The artists paint only the dragon’s head and not its tail. The saying, “You can see only a divine dragon’s head, not its tail” refers to the sense of mystery here.
Why did the Chinese paint dragons that way? Because there was a Dhyana Master who saw a dragon in his samadhi that looked like that. Dragons have spiritual penetrations. Their transformations are inconceivable. They can become big or small; visible or invisible. The Sixth Patriarch used his bowl to subdue a giant dragon that had been a menace to Nanhua Monastery.
Dragons are giant worms. In their past cultivation, since they diligently cultivated the Great Vehicle, they are endowed with supernatural powers. However, since they were lax in holding the precepts, they have fallen into the animal realm. There are different varieties of dragons, such as gold, white, blue, and black dragons. Some dragons are born from embryos, some from eggs, some from moisture, and others by transformation. There are also two-horned young dragons, eagle dragons, single-horned dragons, black dragons, celestial dragons, earthly dragons, imperial dragons, human dragons, fish-transformed dragons, horse-transformed dragons, elephant-transformed dragons, and toad-transformed dragons. Dragons undergo four sufferings:
(1) the suffering of being swallowed by golden-winged peng birds,
(2) the suffering of tails intersecting and being changed to snake form,
(3) the suffering of being bitten by insects, and
(4) the suffering of being scorched by hot sands.
The dragons’ duty is to spread clouds and make the rain fall. But there are five situations under which they cannot make rain:
(1) the fire element is in preponderance,
(2) the wind blows the clouds asunder,
(3) asuras condense the clouds into the sea,
(4) the rainmakers are remiss, or
(5) living beings’ offenses are heavy.
Do you want to know the dragons’ real form? Then you must apply effort in cultivation and work hard in meditation, and after you open your five eyes you will be able to see the original face of the dragon. Now let me tell you a story about dragons. This is my personal experience. It is absolutely true and not made up.
When I was in Manchuria, I accepted a disciple named Guo Shun. He worked very hard in cultivation. In less than half a year he could enter samadhi when he sat in meditation. When he was in samadhi, he learned the principle of cause and effect and its resultant retributions. His skill in cultivation was quite good. Later on he went out to build a hut as his Way-place for cultivation. On the day of its inauguration, he invited me over to perform the opening ceremonies. I brought along four disciples, two of whom had opened the five eyes. I did not notice there was a dragon temple next to the hut. The state came that day. While we were sitting in meditation, the two disciples who had opened the five eyes came to me and said, “Master! There are ten dragons outside the hut. They want to take refuge with you.”
I said, “Don’t talk nonsense! How do you know they are dragons? What do they want to take refuge with me for? How could I be their master? I don’t have any great ability like they do.”
The disciples said, “They themselves said they were dragons. They are kneeling outside now, insisting on taking refuge.”
This happened in the early summer. There hadn’t been any rain. The young grain shoots in the fields were almost withered. I told the dragons (who had assumed human form), “You can take refuge with me on one condition. You are dragons and you are in charge of rainfall. Now there hasn’t been any rain in the vicinity of Harbin. It is very dry. If it rains tomorrow, I’ll transmit the Three Refuges to you the day after. However, if there’s no rain, I won’t take you as my disciples.”
The dragons said in unison, “Our duty is to make the rain fall. But we don’t dare make rain without orders from the Jade Emperor; otherwise we’ll be punished.”
I said, “You go before the Jade Emperor and tell him that there is a monk in Harbin asking for rain within a radius of forty li [13.3 American miles] from Harbin. Those are my terms.”
On the second day it rained and the drought was over. Sweet dew fell within the area forty li around Harbin. On the third day, I transmitted the Three Refuges to the ten dragons and gave them a collective Dharma name, “Quickly Cultivate.” After the refuge ceremony they disap-peared and went back to teach and transform their own kind. From then on, wherever I went I could get water. When I was in Hong Kong, Hong Kong had water. I came to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, and the City has water. That is not a miracle. It happens because the ten dragons and their families have all come to protect the Dharma.
Someone asked, “Master, what did the ten dragons look like?” The dragons that took refuge with me had changed themselves into human form. They looked no different from ordinary people. People who have opened the five eyes would know they were dragons. Do you want to know? Then hurry up and work hard, concentrate in meditation, cut down your false thoughts, don’t become angry, be patient with both good and bad states, and don’t be greedy. When you reach the state where not one thought arises and the mind is totally pristine, you will naturally open the five eyes. Then you can see clearly what dragons look like!