The Lotus Sutra Chapter 7
01-15-2016    FJNET

The Lotus Sutra

Translated by Burton Watson

 

Chapter Seven: The Parable of the Phantom City


The Buddha made this announcement to the monks: Once in the distant past, an immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable asamkhya number of kalpas ago, there was at that time a Buddha named Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Thus Come One, worthy of offerings, of right and universal knowledge, perfect clarity and conduct, well gone, understanding the world, unexcelled worthy, trainer of people, teacher of heavenly and human beings, Buddha, World-Honored One. His land was named Well Constituted and his kalpa was named Great Form.

"Now monks, since that Buddha passed into extinction, a very great, a very long time had passed. Suppose, for example, that someone took all the earth particles in the thousand-million-fold world and ground the up to make ink powder, and as he passed through the thousand lands of the east, he dropped one grain of the ink powder no bigger in size than a speck of dust. Again., when he passed through another thousand lands, he dropped another grain of ink. Suppose he went on in this way until he had finished dropping all the grains of the ink made from the earth particles. Now what is your opinion? Do you think that, with regard to those lands, the masters of calculation or the disciples of calculation would be able to determine the number of lands that had been visited in the process, or would they not?"

"That would be impossible, World-Honored One."

"Now monks suppose that one should take the earth of all the lands this man had passed through, whether he dropped a grain of ink there or not, and should pound it into dust. And suppose that one particle of dust should represent one kalpa. The kalpas that had elapsed since that Buddha entered extinction would still exceed the number of dust particles by immeasurable, boundless, hundreds, thousands, ten thousands millions of asamkhya kalpas. But because I employ the Thus Come One's power to know and see, when I look at that far-off time it seems like today."

At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:

When I think of it, in the past,
immeasurable, boundless kalpas ago,
there was a Buddha, most honored of two-legged beings,
named Great Universal Wisdom Excellence.
If a person should use his strength to smash
the ground of the thousand-million-fold world,
should completely crush its earth particles
and reduce them all to powdered ink,
and if when he passed through a thousand lands
he should drop one speck of ink,
and if he continued in this manner
until he had exhausted all the specks of ink,
and if one then took the soil of the lands he had passed
through,
both those he dropped a speck in and those he did not,
and once more ground their earth into dust,
and then took one grain of dust to represent one kalpa-
the number of tiny grains of dust would be less
than the number of kalpas in the past when that Buddha lived.
Since that Buddha passed into extinction,
an immeasurable number of kalpas such as this have passed.
The Thus Come One, through his unhindered wisdom,
knows the time when that Buddha passed into extinction
and his voice-hearers and bodhisattvas
as though he were witnessing that extinction right now.
You monks should understand
that the Buddha wisdom is pure, subtle, wonderful,
without outflows, without hindrance,
reaching to and penetrating immeasurable kalpas.

The Buddha announced to the monks: "The Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellent had a life span of five hundred and forty ten thousand million nayutas of kalpas. This Buddha at first sat in the place of practice and, having smashed the armies of the devil, was on the point of attaining anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, but the doctrines of the Buddhas did not appear before him. This state continued for one small kalpa, and so on for ten small kalpas, the Buddha sitting with legs crossed, body and mind unmoving, but the doctrines of the Buddhas still did not appear before him.

"At that time the heavenly beings of the Trayastrimsha heaven had earlier spread a lion seat measuring one yojana in height underneath a bodhi tree for the Buddha, intending that the Buddha should sit on this when he attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. As soon as the Buddha took his seat there, the Brahma kings caused a multitude of heavenly flowers to rain down, covering the ground for a hundred yojanas around. From time to time a fragrant wind would come up and blow the withered flowers away, whereupon new ones would rain down. This continued without interruption for the space of ten small kalpas as an offering to the Buddha. Up until the time he entered extinction, such flowers constantly rained down. The four Heavenly Kings as their offering to the Buddha constantly beat on heavenly drums, while the other heavenly beings played heavenly musical instruments, all for ten small kalpas. Until the Buddha entered extinction, such was the state of affairs.

"Now, monks, the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence passed ten small kalpas before him and he was able to attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Before the Buddha left the householder's life, he had sixteen sons, the first of whom was named Wisdom Accumulated. These sons, each had various kinds of rare objects and toys of one kind or another, but when they heard that their father had attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, they all threw aside their rare objects and went to where the Buddha was. Their mothers, weeping, followed after them.

"Their grandfather, who was a wheel-turning sage king, along with a hundred chief ministers, as well as hundred, thousand, ten thousand, million of his subjects, all together surrounded the sons and followed to the place of practice, all wishing to draw close to the Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Thus Come One, to offer alms, pay honor, venerate and praise him. When they arrived. They touched their heads to the ground and bowed before his feet. When they had finished circling the Buddha, they pressed their palms together with a single mind, gazed up in reverence at the World-Honored One, and recited these verses of praise, saying:

The World-Honored One, of great authority and virtue,
in order to save living beings
spent immeasurable millions of years
and at last succeeded in becoming a Buddha,
all your vows have now been fulfilled-
it is well--no fortune could be greater!
The World-Honored One is vary rarely met with;
having taken his seat, ten small kalpas pass,
his body and his hands and feet
rest in stillness, never moving,
his mind constantly calm and placid,
never in turmoil or disorder.
In the end he attains eternal tranquility and extinction,
resting in the Law of no outflows.
Now as we observe the World-Honored One
in tranquility, having completed the Buddha way,
we gain excellent benefits
and praise and congratulate him with great joy.
Living beings undergo constant suffering and anguish,
benighted, without teacher or guide,
not realizing there is a way to end suffering,
not knowing how to seek emancipation.
Through the long night increasingly they follow evil paths,
reducing the multitude of heavenly beings;
from darkness they enter into darkness,
to the end never hearing the Buddha's name.
But now the Buddha has attained the unexcelled,
the tranquility of the Law of no outflows.
We and the heavenly and human beings
hereby obtain the greatest benefit.
For this reason all of us bow our heads,
dedicate our lives to the one of unexcelled honor.

At that time the sixteen princes, having praised the Buddha in these verses, urged the World-Honored One to turn the wheel of the Law, speaking all together in these words: "World-Honored One, expound the law. By doing so, you will bring tranquility to and will comfort and benefit heavenly and human beings in large measure." They repeated this request in verse form, saying:

World hero without peer,
you who adorn yourself with a hundred blessings,
you have attained unsurpassed wisdom--
we beg you to preach for the sake of the world.
Save and free us
and other kinds of living beings.
Draw distinctions, enlighten us
and allow us to attain wisdom.
If we can gain Buddhahood,
then all living beings can do likewise.
World-Honored One, you know the thoughts
that living beings hold deep in their minds.
You know the paths they tread

and you know the strength of their wisdom,
their pleasures, the blessings they have cultivated,
the actions they have carried out in past existences,
World-Honored One, all this you know already-
now you must turn the unsurpassed wheel!

The Buddha announced to the monks: "When the Buddha Great Universal Wisdom Excellence attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, five hundred ten thousand million Buddha worlds in each of the ten directions trembled and shook in six different ways. The dark and secluded places within those lands, where the light of the sun and moon is never able to penetrate, were able to see one another, and they all exclaimed, saying, 'How is it that living beings have suddenly come into existence in this place?'

"Also the palaces of the various heavenly beings in those lands and the Brahma palaces trembled and shook in six different ways and a great light shone everywhere, completely filling the worlds and surpassing the light of the heavens. At that time in five hundred ten thousand million lands in the eastern direction the Brahma palaces shone with the brilliant light that was twice its ordinary brightness, and the Brahma kings each thought to himself. Now the brilliance of the palace is greater than ever in the past. What can be the cause of this phenomenon?

"At that time the Brahma kings visited one another to discuss this matter. Among them was a great Brahma king named Save All who, on behalf of the multitude of Brahma kings, spoke these verses, saying:

Our palaces have a brilliance
never known in the past.
What is the cause of this?
Each of us seeks an answer.
Is it because of the birth of some heavenly being of great virtue,
or because the Buddha has appeared in this world
that this great light
shines everywhere in the ten directions?

"At that time the Brahma kings of five hundred ten thousand million lands, accompanied by their palaces, each king taking his outer robe and filling it with heavenly flowers, journeyed together to the western region to observe the signs there. They saw the Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Thus Come One in the place of practice, seated on a lion seat underneath a bodhi tree, with heavenly beings, dragon kings, gandharvas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human, and nonhuman beings surrounding him and paying reverence. And they saw the sixteen princes entreating the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Law.

"At once the Brahma kings touched their heads to the ground and bowed before the Buddha, circled around him a hundred thousand times, and took the heavenly flowers and scattered them over the Buddha. The flowers they scattered piled up like Mount Sumeru. They also offered them as alms to the Buddha's bodhi tree. This bodhi tree was ten yojanas in height. When they had finished offering the flowers, each one took his place and presented it to the Buddha, speaking these words: 'We hope you will bestow comfort and benefit on us. We beg you to accept and occupy these palaces that we present.'

"At that time the Brahma kings, in the presence of the Buddha, with a single mind and joined voices recited these verses of praise:

World-Honored One, vary rarely met with,
one whom it is difficult to encounter,
endowed with immeasurable blessings,
capable of saving everyone,
great teacher of heavenly and human beings,
you bestow pity and comfort on the world.
Living beings in the ten directions
all receive benefit everywhere.
In the five hundred ten thousand million lands
from which we come,
we have put aside the joy of deep meditation
in order to offer alms to the Buddha,
Because of our good fortune in previous existences
our palaces are very richly adorned.
Now we present them to the World-Honored One,
begging that he be kind enough to accept them.

"At that time, when the Brahma kings had finished praising the Buddha in verse, they each spoke these words: 'We beg the World-Honored One to turn the wheel of the Law, save living beings, and open up the way to nirvana!'

"Then the Brahma kings with a single mind and joined voices spoke in verse form, saying:

World hero, most honored of two-legged beings,
we beg you to expound the Law,
Through the power of your great mercy and compassion,
save living beings in their suffering and anguish!

"At that time the Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Thus Come One silently agreed to do so. Now, monks, in five hundred ten thousand million lands in the southeast, the Brahma kings each observed that his palace was shining with a brilliant light such as had never been known in the past. Dancing for joy, entering a frame of mind seldom experienced, they went about visiting one another and discussing these things together.

"At that time there was among the assembly a great Brahma king named Great Compassion who on behalf of the multitude of Brahma kings, spoke in verse form, saying:

What cause is in operation
that such a sign should be manifest?
Our palaces display a brilliance
never known before.
Is it because of the birth of some heavenly being of great virtue,
or because the Buddha has appeared in the world?
We have never seen such a sign
and with a single mind we seek the reason.
Though we must travel a thousand, ten thousand a million lands,
together we will search out the cause of this light.
Likely it is because a Buddha has appeared in the world
to save living beings in their suffering.

"At that time the five hundred ten thousand million brahma kings, accompanied by their palaces, each king taking his outer robe and filling it with heavenly flowers, journeyed together to the northwestern region to observe the signs there. They saw the Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Thus Come One in the place of practice, seated on a lion seat beneath a bodhi tree, with heavenly beings, dragon kings, gandharvas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings surrounding him and paying reverence. And they saw the sixteen princes entreating the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Law.

"At once the Brahma kings touched their heads to the ground and bowed before the Buddha, circled him a hundred thousand times, and then took the heavenly flowers and scattered them over the Buddha. The flowers they scattered piled up like Mount Sumeru. They also offered them as alms to the Buddha's bodhi tree. When they had finished offering the flowers, each one took his palace and presented it to the Buddha, speaking these words: 'We hope you will bestow comfort and benefit on us. We beg you to accept and occupy these palaces that we present.'

"At that time the Brahma kings, in the presence of the Buddha, with a single mind and joined voices recited these verses of praise:

Sage lord, heavenly being among heavenly beings,
voiced like the kalavinka bird,
you who pity and comfort living beings,
we now pay honor and reverence.
The World-Honored One is vary rarely met with,
appearing only once in many long ages.
One hundred and eighty kalpas
have passed in vain without a Buddha,
when the three evil paths were everywhere
and the multitude of heavenly beings was reduced in number.
Now the Buddha has appeared in the world
to be an eye for living beings.
The world will hurry to him
and he will save and guard one and all.
He will be a father to living beings,
comforting and benefiting them.

We through the good fortune of past existences,
now we are able to encounter the World-Honored One!

"At that time, after the Brahma kings had recited these verses in praise of the Buddha, they each spoke these words: "We beg the World-Honored One to pity and comfort one and all, to turn the wheel of the Law and cause the heavenly beings

"Then the Brahma kings with a single mind and joined voices spoke in verse form, saying:

Great sage, turn the wheel of the Law,
reveal the characteristics of teachings,
save living beings in their suffering and anguish,
allow them to attain great joy.
When living beings hear this Law
they will gain the way or be reborn in heaven;
those in the evil paths will be reduced in number
and those patient in goodness will increase.

"At that time the Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Thus Come One silently agreed to do so. Now, monks, in five hundred ten thousand million lands in the southern region the Brahma kings each observed that his palace was shining with a brilliant light such as had never been in the past. Dancing with joy, entering a frame of mind seldom experienced, they went about visiting with one another and discussing these things together, saying, 'What is the reason our palaces put forth this brilliant light?'

"Among their group there was a great Brahma king named Wonderful Law who, on behalf of the multitude of Brahma kings, spoke in verse form, saying:

Our palaces
shine with exceeding brilliance.
This cannot be without reason-
it is well we should inquire.
In the past hundred thousand kalpas
such a sign has never been seen.

It is because some heavenly being of great virtue has been born,
or because the Buddha has appeared in the world.

"At that time the five hundred ten thousand million Brahma kings, accompanied by their palaces, each king taking his outer robe and filling it with heavenly flowers, journeyed together to the northern region to observe the signs there. They saw the Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Thus Come One in the place of practice, seated on a lion seat beneath a bodhi tree, with heavenly and human beings, dragon kings, gandharvas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings surrounding him and paying reverence. And they saw the sixteen princes entreating the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Law.

"At that time the Brahma kings touched their heads to the ground and bowed before the Buddha, circled around him a hundred thousand times, and then took the heavenly flowers and scattered them over the Buddha. The flowers they scattered piled up like Mount Sumeru. They also offered them as alms to the Buddha's bodhi tree. When they had finished offering the flowers, each one took his palace and presented it to the Buddha, speaking these words: 'We hope you will bestow comfort and benefit on us. We beg you to accept and occupy these palaces that we present.'

"At that time the Brahma kings, in the presence of the Buddha, with a single mind and joined voices recited these verses of praise:

World-Honored One, most difficult to encounter,
destroyer of all earthly desires,
one hundred and thirty kalpas have pass
and now at last we can see you.
Living beings in their hunger and thirst
are made full with the rain of the Dharma.
One such as was never seen in the past,
one of immeasurable wisdom,
like the udumbara flower
today at last appears directly before us.
Our palaces because they receive your light
are wonderfully adorned.

World-Honored One, of great mercy and compassion,
we beg you to accept them.

"At that time, after the Brahma kings had recited these verses in praise of the Buddha, they each spoke these words: 'We beg the World-Honored One to turn the wheel of the Law and cause the heavenly beings, devils, Brahma kings, shramanas, and Brahmans throughout the world all to gain peace and tranquility and to attain salvation.'

At that time the Brahma kings with a single mind and joined voices recited in praise, saying;

We beg the most honored of heavenly and human beings
to turn the wheel of the unsurpassed Law.
Strike the great Dharma drum,
blow the great Dharma conch,
rain down the great Dharma rain all around
to save immeasurable living beings!
We direct all our faith and entreaties to you-
let your profound and far-reaching voice sound out!

"At that time the Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Thus Come One silently agreed to do so. In the southwestern region, and so an to the lower region, a similar succession of events occurred.

"At that time in the upper region, the Brahma Kings of five hundred ten thousand million lands all observed that the palaces where they were residing shone with a brilliant light such as had never been known in the past. Dancing with joy, entering a frame of mind seldom experienced, they went about visiting one another and discussing these things together, saying, 'What is the reason our palaces puts forth this bright light?'

"Among their group there was a Brahma king named Wonderful Law who, on behalf of the multitude of Brahma kings, spoke in verse form, saying:

Now what is the reason
that our places
glow and shine with such authority and virtue,
adorned as never before?
A wonderful sign of this kind
has never been seen or heard of in the past.
It is because some heavenly being of great virtue has been born,
or because the Buddha has appeared in the world.

"At that time the five hundred ten thousand million Brahma kings, accompanied by their palaces, each king taking his outer robe and filling it with heavenly flowers, journeyed together to the lower region to observe the signs there. They saw the Great Universal wisdom Excellence Thus Come One in the place of practice, seated on a lion seat beneath a bodhi tree, with heavenly beings, dragon kings, gandharvas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings surrounding him and paying reverence. And they saw the sixteen princes entreating the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Law.

"At that time the Brahma kings touched their heads to the ground and bowed before the Buddha, circled around him a hundred thousand times, and then took the heavenly flowers and scattered them over the Buddha. The flowers they scattered piled up like Mount Sumeru. They also offered them as alms to the Buddha's bodhi tree. When they had finished offering the flowers, each one took his place and presented it to the Buddha, speaking these words: 'We hope you will bestow comfort and benefit on us. We beg you to accept and occupy these palaces that we present.'

"At that time the Brahma kings, in the presence of the Buddha, with a single mind and joined voices recited these verses of praise:

How fine, that we may see the Buddhas,
sage and venerable ones who save the world,
capable of rescuing and releasing living beings
from the hell of the threefold world!
Venerable among heavenly and human beings, of universal wisdom,
you pity and have mercy on the mass of burgeoning creatures,
you are capable of opening the gates of sweet dew
and broadly saving one and all.
Formerly, immeasurable kalpas
passed in vain when no Buddha was present.

The time had not yet come for the World-Honored One
to appear,
and all in the ten directions were in constant darkness.
Those in the three evil paths increased in number
and the realm of the asuras flourished;
the multitude of heavenly beings was reduced,
and many when they died fell into the evil paths.
Since no one could attend the Buddha and hear the Law,
constantly people followed ways that were not good
and their physical strength and wisdom
all diminished and declined.
Because of the sinful deeds they had done,
they lost all delight or the thought of delight.
They rested in heretical doctrines
and had no knowledge of good customs or rules.
Unable to be converted by the Buddha,
constantly they fell into the evil paths.
But now you, the Buddha, who will be the eye of the world,
after this long time have at last come forth.
In order to bring pity and comfort to living beings
you have appeared it the world.
You have transcended the world to gain correct enlightenment;
we are filled with delight and admiration.
We and all others in the assembly
rejoice, delighting in what we have never known before.
Our palaces because they receive your light
are wonderfully adorned.
Now we present them to the World-Honored One,
hoping he will have pity and accept them.
We beg that the merit gained through these gifts
may be spread far and wide to everyone,
so that we and other living beings
all together may attain the Buddha way.

"At that time, after the five hundred ten thousand million Brahma kings had recited these verses in praise of the Buddha, they each spoke to the Buddha, saying: 'We beg the World-Honored One to turn the wheel of the Law, bringing peace and tranquility to many, bringing salvation to many.' Then the Brahma kings spoke in verse form, saying:

World-Honored One, turn the wheel of the Law,
strike the Dharma drum of sweet dew,
save living beings in their suffering and anguish,
open up and show us the way to nirvana!
We beg you to accept our entreaties
and with a great, subtle and wonderful sound
to bring pity and comfort by expounding
the Law you have practiced for immeasurable kalpas.

At that time the Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Thus Come One, receiving entreaties from the Brahma kings of the ten directions and from the sixteen princes, immediately gave three turnings to the twelve-spoked wheel of the Law. Neither shramana, Brahman, heavenly being, devil, Brahma, nor any other being in the world was capable of such a turning. He said, 'Here is suffering, here is the origin of suffering, here is the annihilation of suffering, here is the path on the annihilation of suffering.'

"Then he broadly expounded the Law of the twelve-linked chain of causation: ignorance causes action, action causes consciousness, consciousness causes name and form, name and form cause the six sense organs, the six sense organs cause contact, contact causes sensation, sensation causes desire, desire causes attachment, attachment causes existence, existence causes birth, birth causes old age and death, worry and grief, suffering and anguish. If ignorance is wiped out, then action will be wiped out. If action is wiped out, then consciousness will be wiped out. If consciousness is wiped out, then name and form will be wiped out. If name and form are wiped out, then the six sense organs will be wiped out, then contact will be wiped out. If contact is wiped out, then sensation will be wiped out. If sensation is wiped out, then desire is wiped out. If desire is wiped out, then birth will be wiped out. If birth is wiped out, then old age and death will be wiped out. If birth is wiped out, then old age and death, worry and grief, suffering and anguish will be wiped out.

"When the Buddha in the midst of the great assembly of heavenly and human beings expounded this Law, six hundred ten thousand million nayutas of persons, because they ceased to accept any of the things of the phenomenal world and because their minds were able to attain liberation from the outflows, all achieved profound and wonderful meditation practice, acquired the three understandings and the six transcendental powers, and were endowed with the eight emancipations. And when he expounded the second, third and fourth Laws, living beings equal the a thousand ten thousand millions of Ganges sands of nayutas, because they likewise ceased to accept any of the things of the phenomenal world, were able to liberate their minds from the outflows. From that time on, the multitude of voice-hearers became immeasurable, boundless, incapable of being counted.

"At that time the sixteen princes all left their families while still young boys and became shramaneras. Their faculties were penetrating and sharp, their wisdom was bright and comprehending. Already in the past they had offered alms to a hundred thousand ten thousand million Buddhas, had carried out brahma practices in a flawless manner, and had striven to attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. All together they addressed the Buddha, saying: World-Honored One, these innumerable thousands, ten thousands, millions of voice-hearers of great virtue have all ready achieved success. World-Honored One, now it is fitting that you should preach the Law of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi for our sake is that, once we have heard it, we all may join in practicing and studying it. World-Honored One, we are determined to attain the insight of the Thus Come One. Deep in our minds we have this in thought, as the Buddha himself must know.'

"At that time the Buddha, responding to pleas from the shramaneras, passed a period of twenty thousand kalpas and then at last, in the midst of the four kinds of believers, preached the Great Vehicle sutra entitled the Lotus of the Wonderful Law, a Law to instruct the bodhisattvas, one that is guarded and kept in mind by the Buddhas. After he had preached the sutra, the sixteen shramaneras, for the sake of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, all together accepted and embraced it, recited and intoned it, penetrated and understood it.

"When the Buddha preached this sutra, the sixteen bodhisattva shramaneras all took faith in it and accepted it, and among the multitude of voice-hearers there were also those who believed in it and understood it. But the other thousand ten thousand million types of living beings all gave way to doubt and perplexity.

"The Buddha preached this sutra for a period of eight thousand kalpas, never once stopping to rest. After he had preached this sutra, he entered a quiet room and dwelled in meditation for a period of eighty-four thousand kalpas.

"At this time the sixteen bodhisattva shramaneras, knowing that ascended a Dharma seat and likewise for a period of eighty-four thousand kalpas for the sake of the four kinds of believers broadly preached the distinctions put forth in the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law. In this way each of them one by one saved living beings equal in number to six hundred ten thousand million nayutas of Ganges sands, instructing them, bringing them benefit and joy, and causing them to set their minds upon anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

"The Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Buddha, after passing eighty-four thousand kalpas, arose from his samadhi and approached the Dharma seat. Seating himself calmly, he addressed the whole of the great assembly, saying: these sixteen bodhisattva shramaneras are of a kind very rarely to be found, their faculties penetrating and sharp, their wisdom bright and company of those Buddhas they have constantly carried brahma practices, received and embraced the Buddha wisdom, and expounded it to living beings, causing them to enter therein. Now all of you should from time to time associate closely with them and offer them alms. Why? Because if any of you, voice-hearers or pratyekabuddhas or bodhisattvas, are able to take faith in the sutra teachings preached by these sixteen bodhisattvas, and will accept and embrace them and never disparage them, then such persons will all be able to attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, the wisdom of the Thus Come One.'"

The Buddha, addressing the monks, said: "These sixteen bodhisattvas have constantly desired to expound this Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Law. The living beings converted by each one of these bodhisattvas are equal in number to six hundred ten thousand million nayutas of Ganges sands. Existence after existence these living beings are reborn in company with that Bodhisattva, hear the Law from him, and all have faith in and understand it. For this reason they have been able to encounter forty thousand million Buddhas, World-Honored Ones, and have never ceased to do so down to the present.

"You monks, I will now tell you this. These disciples of the Buddha, these sixteen shramaneras, have now all attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. In the lands in the ten directions they are at present preaching the Law, with immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of bodhisattvas and voice-hearers for their retinue. Two of these shramaneras have become Buddhas in the eastern region. One is named Akshobhya and lives in the Land of Joy. The other is named Sumeru Peak. Two are Buddhas in the southeastern region, one named Lion Voice, the other named Lion Appearance. Two are Buddhas in the southern region, one named Void-Dwelling, the other named Ever Extinguished. Two are Buddhas in the south-western region, one named Emperor Appearance, the other named Brahma Appearance. Two are Buddhas in the western region, one named Amitayus, the other named Saving All from Worldly Suffering. Two are Buddhas in the northwestern region, one named Tamalapatra Sandalwood Fragrance Transcendental Power, the other named Sumeru Appearance. Two are Buddhas in the northern region, one named Cloud Freedom, the other named Cloud Freedom King. Of the Buddhas of the northeastern region, one is named Destroying all Worldly Fears, The sixteenth is I, Shakyamuni Buddha, who in this saha land gave attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

"Monks, when I and these others were shramaneras, each one of us taught and converted living beings equal in number in immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of Ganges sands. They heard the Law from us and attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Some of these living beings are now dwelling in the ranks of voice-hearers. But we have constantly instructed them in anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, and these persons should be able, through this Law, to enter into the Buddha Way, albeit gradually. Why do I say this? Because the wisdom of the Thus Come One is difficult to believe and difficult to understand. Those living beings equal in number to immeasurable Ganges sands who converted at that time are you who are now monks, and those who, after I have entered extinction, in ages to come will be voice-hearer disciples.

"After I have entered extinction, there will be other disciples who will not hear this sutra and will not understand or be aware of the practices carried out by the Bodhisattvas, but who, through the blessings they have been able to attain, will conceive an idea of extinction and enter into what they believe to be nirvana. At that time I will be a Buddha in another land and will be known by a different name. Those disciples, though they have conceived an idea of extinction and entered into what they take to be nirvana, will in that other land seek the Buddha wisdom and will be able to hear this sutra. For it is only through the Buddha vehicle that one can attain extinction. There is no other vehicle, if one excepts the various doctrines that the Thus Come Ones preach as an expedient means.

"Monks, if a Thus Come One knows that the time has come to enter nirvana, and knows that the members of the assembly are pure and clean, firm in faith and understanding, thorough in their comprehension of the Law of emptiness and deeply entered into meditation practice, then he will call together the assembly of bodhisattvas and voice-hearers and will preach this sutra for them. In the world there are not two vehicles whereby one may attain extinction. There is only the one Buddha vehicle for attaining extinction and one alone.

"Monks, you must understand this. The Thus Come One in his use of expedient means penetrates deeply into the nature of living beings. He knows how their minds delight in petty doctrines and how deeply they are attached to the five desires. And because they are like this, when he expounds nirvana, he does so in such a way that these persons, hearing it, can readily believe and accept it.

"Let us suppose there is a stretch of bad road five hundred yojanas long, steep and difficult, wild and deserted, with no inhabitants around, a truly fearful place. And suppose there are a number of people who want to pass over this road so they can reach a place where there are rare treasures. They have a leader, of comprehensive wisdom and keen understanding, who is thoroughly acquainted with this steep road, knows the layout of its passes and defiles, and is prepared to guide the group of people and go with them over this difficult terrain.

"The group he is leading, after going part way on the road, become disheartened and say to the leader, "We are utterly exhausted and fearful as well. We cannot go any farther. Since there is still such a long distance ahead, we would like now to turn around and go back.'

"The leader, a man of many expedients, thinks to himself, What a pity that they should abandon the many rare treasures they are seeking and want to turn and go back! Having had this thought, he resorts to the power of expedient means and, when they have gone three hundred yojanas along the steep road, conjures up a city. He says to the group, 'Don't be afraid! You must not turn back, for now here is a great city where you can stop, rest, and do just as you please. If you enter this city you will be completely at ease and tranquil. Then later, if you feel you can go on to the place where the treasure is, you can leave the city.'

"At that time the members of the group, being utterly exhausted, are overjoyed in mind, exclaiming over such an unprecedented event, 'Now we can escape from this dreadful road and find ease and tranquility!' The people in the group thereupon press forward and enter the city where, feeling that they have been saved from their difficulties, they have a sense of complete ease and tranquility.

"At that time the leader, knowing that the people have become rested and are no longer fearful or weary, wipes out the phantom city and says to the group, 'You must go now. The place where the treasure is is close by. That great city of a while ago was a mere phantom that I conjured up so that you could rest.'

"Monks, the Thus Come One is in a similar position. He is now acting as a great leader for you. He knows that the bad road of birth and death and earthly desires is steep, difficult, long and far-stretching, but that it must be traveled, it must be passed over. If living beings hear only of the one Buddha vehicle, then they will not want to see the Buddha, will now want to draw near him, but will immediately think to themselves, The Buddha road is long and far reaching and one must labor diligently and undergo difficulties over a long period before he can ever attain success!

"The Buddha knows that the minds of the living beings are timid, weak and lowly, and so, using the power of expedient means, he preaches two nirvanas in order to provide a resting place along the road. If living beings choose to remain in these two stages, then the Thus Come One will say to them, 'You have not yet understood that is to be done. This stage where you have chosen to remain is close to the Buddha wisdom. But you should observe and ponder further. This nirvana that you have attained is not the true one. It is simply that the Thus Come One, using the power of expedient means, has taken the one Buddha vehicle and, making distinctions, has preached it as three.'

"The Buddha is like that leader who, in order to provide a place to rest, conjured up a great city and then, when he knew that the travelers were already rested, said to them, 'The place where the treasure is, is nearby. This city is not real. It is merely something I conjured up.'"

At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:

The Great Universal Wisdom Excellence Buddha
sat in the place of practice for ten kalpas,
but the Law of the Buddha did not appear before him
and he could not attain the Buddha way.
The assembly of heavenly gods, dragon kings,
asuras and others
constantly rained down heavenly flowers
as alms offered to that Buddha.
The heavenly beings beat on heavenly drums
and made many kinds of music.
A fragrant wind blew away the withered flowers,
whereupon fresh and beautiful ones rained down.
When ten small kalpas had passed,
then at last he was able to attain the Buddha way.
The heavenly beings and people of the world
in their hearts all felt like dancing.
That Buddha's sixteen sons
all, in company with their followers,
a thousand ten thousand million of them gathered around,
all came to the place of the Buddha,
touching heads to the ground, bowing at the Buddha's feet
and entreating him to turn the wheel of the Law, saying,
"Saintly Lion, let the Dharma rain
fall in full upon us and all others!"
The World-Honored One is very difficult to encounter;
only once in a long time does he appear.
In order to bring enlightenment to the many beings
he shakes and moves the regions all around.
In the worlds in the eastern direction
in five hundred ten thousand million lands
the palaces of the Brahma kings glowed with a light
they had never known in the past.
When the Brahma kings saw this sign
they came in search of the Buddha's place
scattering flowers as a form of offering,
at the same time presenting their palaces,
entreating the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Law
and praising him in verses.
The Buddha knew that the time had not yet come,
and though they entreated, he sat in silence.
In the other three directions and the four directions in between
and in the upper and lower regions, the same occurred,
the Brahma kings scattering flowers, presenting their palaces,
entreating the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Law, saying,
"The World-Honored One is very difficult to encounter.
We beg you in your great mercy and compassion
to open wide the gates of sweet dew
and turn the wheel of the unsurpassed Law."
The World-Honored One, immeasurable in wisdom,
accepted the entreaties of the assembly
and for their sake proclaimed various doctrines,
the four noble truths, the twelve-linked chain of causation,
describing how, from ignorance to old age and death,
all are produced through the cause of birth, saying,
"With regard to these many faults and vexations,
you should understand this about them."
When he expounded this Law,
six hundred ten thousand million trillion beings
were able to exhaust the limits of sufferings,
all attaining the status of arhat.
The second time he preached the Law
a multitude like a thousand Ganges sands
ceased to accept the things of the phenomenal world
and they too were able to become arhats.
Thereafter those who attained the way
were immeasurable in number-
one might calculate for ten thousand million kalpas
and never be able to reckon their extent.
At that time the sixteen princes
left their families and became shramaneras.
All together they entreated that Buddha
to expound the Law of the Great Vehicle, saying,
"We and our attendants
are all certain to attain the Buddha way.
We desire the wisdom eye of foremost purity
such as the World-Honored One possesses."
The Buddha understood their boyish minds
and the actions they had carried out in past existences,
and employing immeasurable causes and conditions
and various similes and parables,
he preached the six paramitas
and matters concerning transcendental powers,
distinguishing the true Law,
the way practiced by bodhisattvas,
preaching this Lotus Sutra
in verses as numerous as the Ganges sands.
When the Buddha had finished preaching the sutra
he entered into meditation in a quiet room,
with a single mind sitting in a single place
for eighty-four thousand kalpas.
The shramaneras knew
the Buddha would not yet emerge from meditation
and so for the assembly of immeasurable millions
they preached the unsurpassed wisdom of the Buddha,
each one sitting in a Dharma seat,
preaching this Great Vehicle sutra.
And after the Buddha had entered peaceful tranquility,
they continued to proclaim, helping to convert others to
the Law.
The living beings saved
by each one of those shramaneras
were equal in number
to six hundred ten thousand million Ganges sands.
After that Buddha had passed into extinction,
those persons who had heard the Law
dwelled here and there in various Buddha lands,
constantly reborn in company with their teachers.
And these sixteen shramaneras,
having fully carried out the Buddha way,
at present are dwelling in the ten directions,
where each has attained correct enlightenment.
The persons who heard the Law at that time
are each in a place where there is one of these Buddhas,
and those who remain at the stage of voice-hearer
are gradually being instructed in the Buddha way.
I myself was numbered among the sixteen
and in the past preached for you.
For this reason I will employ an expedient means
to lead you in the pursuit of Buddha wisdom;
because of these earlier causes and conditions
I now preach the Lotus Sutra.
I will cause you to enter the Buddha way-
be atte¨¬ive and harbor no fear!
Suppose there was a stretch of steep bad road,
in a remote wasteland with many harmful beasts,
a place moreover without water or grass,
one dreaded by people.
A group of countless thousands and ten thousands
wanted to pass over this steep road,
but the road was very long and far-stretching,
extended five hundred yojanas.
At this time there was a leader,
well informed, possessing wisdom,
of clear understanding and determined mind,
capable of saving endangered persons from manifold difficulties.
The members of the group were all weary and disheartened
and said to their leader,
"We are now exhausted with fatigue
and wish at this point to turn around and go back."

The leader thought to himself,
These people are truly pitiful!
Why do the wish to turn back
and miss the many rare treasures ahead?
At that time he thought of an expedient means,
deciding to exercise his transcendental powers.
He conjured up a great walled city
and adorned its mansions,
surrounding them with gardens and groves,
channels of flowing water, ponds and lakes,
with double gates and tall towers and pavilions,
all filled with men and women.
As soon as he had created this illusion,
he comforted the group, saying, "Have no fear-
you can enter this city
and each amuse himself as he pleases."
When the people had entered the city,
they were all overjoyed in heart.
All had a feeling of ease and tranquility,
telling themselves that they had been saved.
When the leader knew they were rested,
he called them together and announced,
"Now you must push forward--
this is nothing more than a phantom city.
I saw that you were weary and exhausted
and wanted to turn back in mid-journey.
Therefore I used the power of expedient means
to conjure up this city for the moment.
Now you must press forward diligently
so that together you may reach the place where the treasure is."
I too do likewise,
acting as a leader to all beings.
I see the seekers of the way
growing disheartened in mid-journey,
unable to pass over the steep road
of birth and death and earthly desires,
and therefore I see the power of expedient means
and preach nirvana to provide them with rest,
saying, "Your sufferings are extinguished,
you have carried out all there is to be done."
When I know they have reached nirvana
and all have attained the stage of arhat,
thin I can call the great assembly together
and preach the true Law for them.
The Buddhas through the power of expedient means
make distinctions and preach three vehicles,
but there is only the single Buddha vehicle--
the other two nirvanas are preached to provide a resting place.
Now I expound the truth for you-
what you have attained is not extinction.
For the sake of the comprehensive wisdom of the Buddha
you must expend great effort and diligence.
If you gain enlightenment in the Law of the Buddha
with its comprehensive wisdom and ten powers
and are endowed with the thirty-two features,
then this will be true extinction.
The Buddhas in their capacity as leaders
preach nirvana to provide a rest.
But when they know you have become rested,
they lead you onward to the Buddha wisdom.

   
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