Thus I have heard:
At one time the Buddha was staying on the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain, near the city of Rājagṛha, together with 12,000 great bhikṣus, who all had acquired great transcendental powers. Such venerable ones included Ājñātakauṇḍinya, Aśvajit, Bāṣpa, Mahānāma, Bhadrajit, Yaśodeva, Vimala, Subāhu, Pūrṇa-Maitrayāṇīputra, Uruvilvākāśyapa, Nadīkāśyapa, Gayākāśyapa, Kumārakāśyapa, Mahākāśyapa, Śāriputra, Mahāmaudgalyāyana, Mahākauṣṭhila, Mahākapphiṇa, Mahācunda, Aniruddha, Nandika, Kampila, Subhūti, Revata, Khadiravaṇika, Vakula, Svāgata, Amogharāja, Pārāyaṇika, Patka, Cullapatka, Nanda, Rāhula, and the blessed Ānanda. Holy bhikṣus such as these were at the head of the assembly.
In attendance as well was a multitude of Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, such as Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva, and Maitreya Bodhisattva. Also present were all Bodhisattvas of this Worthy Kalpa, including the sixteen Upright Ones: Worthy Protector Bodhisattva, Good Deliberation Bodhisattva, [Wisdom Eloquence Bodhisattva], Faith and Wisdom Bodhisattva, Emptiness Bodhisattva, Transcendental Power Bloom Bodhisattva, Brilliant Hero Bodhisattva, Wisdom Superior Bodhisattva, Knowledge Banner Bodhisattva, Silent Faculty Bodhisattva, Vow and Wisdom Bodhisattva, Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva, Jewel Hero Bodhisattva, Center Abiding Bodhisattva, Restrained Action Bodhisattva, and Liberation Bodhisattva.
They all cultivate the virtues of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva. Equipped with immeasurable Bodhisattva action vows, they stand firm in all virtuous ways. They visit worlds in the ten directions, skillfully carrying out suitable missions. They enter into the store of the Buddha Dharma, arrive on the shore of nirvāṇa, and demonstrate attainment of samyak-saṁbodhi in innumerable worlds.
A Bodhisattva first stays in Tuṣita Heaven to expound the true Dharma. Then he leaves the celestial palace and descends into his mother’s womb. He is born from the right side of his mother and walks seven steps as his dazzling radiance illuminates innumerable Buddha Lands in the ten directions. As the earth quakes in six different ways, he declares aloud, “I will be the unsurpassed honored one in this world.”
The Bodhisattva is attended by the god-king Śakra and Brahma-kings, and gods and humans take refuge in him. As a demonstration, he learns mathematics, literature, archery, and horsemanship, masters sacred arts, and studies voluminous texts. Playing in the garden, he discusses martial arts and tests his ability. Even as he manifests enjoyment of sense objects in his palace, such as sights and flavors, he perceives old age, illness, and death, and realizes the impermanence of the world. Abandoning his kingdom, riches, and status, he goes into mountain forests, seeking bodhi. He rides off on his white horse then sends it back with his jeweled crown and necklaces.
Shedding his regal garment, the Bodhisattva puts on the Dharma robe and shaves off his hair and beard. He meditates under trees, training arduously as he should for six years. Because he has appeared in the world of the five turbidities, he conforms to the way of the multitudes and displays dirt on his body. He then bathes in [the Nairañjanā] the river of gold. Gods bend the tree branches so that he can hold them to get out of the river. Intelligent birds follow him to his bodhimaṇḍa. The youth who offers him grass is an auspicious sign of the fullness of his merit and endeavor. Out of compassion, the Bodhisattva accepts this offering of grass and makes a seat under the bodhi tree, upon which he sits cross-legged. Alerted by his great radiance, the celestial māra-king leads māra legions to harass and test him. However, he subjugates them all with his wisdom and power.
Then he realizes the wondrous Dharma and attains anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. The god-king Śakra and Brahma-kings all beseech Him to turn the Dharma wheel. As a Buddha, He walks the Buddha steps and roars the Buddha roar. He beats the Dharma drum, blows the Dharma conch shell, wields the Dharma sword, and erects the Dharma banner. He rumbles the Dharma thunder, flashes the Dharma lightning, pours down the Dharma rain, and gives the Dharma alms. Sounding the wondrous Dharma tones, he awakens the world. As the Buddha illuminates everywhere in innumerable Buddha Lands with His radiance, the entire world quakes in six different ways, reaching the māra’s dominion, and the māra’s palace is shaken. The māras in multitudes are intimidated and terrified, and none of them fails to fall under submission. He shatters the web of evils and crushes the wrong views. He expels [sentient beings’] afflictions, which enslave their body and mind, and destroys their pit of desires. He cleanses their impurities to reveal purity. He protects the Dharma fortress and opens Dharma Doors. He illuminates the Buddha Dharma and widely disseminates it to transform all [sentient beings].
The Buddha enters towns to beg for food and receives offerings in abundance. Revealing Himself as a fortune field, He enables the almsgivers to accumulate merit acquired from their planting. He smiles as He expounds the Dharma. He heals with Dharma medicine the three kinds of suffering. He teaches the immeasurable merit of the resolve to attain bodhi. He bestows upon Bodhisattvas the prophecy that they all will attain Buddhahood. By His demonstration of entering parinirvāṇa, He helps innumerable multitudes to eradicate their afflictions and plant their roots of virtue.
The merit He has acquired is wondrous and immeasurable as he visits Buddha Lands, giving everyone the teachings for attaining bodhi. His actions are pure and untainted. Like a master of illusion who conjures up various images, He manifests Himself as male or female, or in any suitable form. With perfect understanding of what He has learned, He manifests Himself at will.
The Bodhisattvas [in this assembly] do the same. To learn all Dharmas [on their Way to Buddhahood], they collect them and train accordingly. The truth they uphold can inspire and transform all sentient beings. Fully equipped with ways to help sentient beings compassionately, they manifest themselves everywhere in innumerable Buddha Lands, never acting arrogant or domineering. They thoroughly understand the essentials of Bodhisattva scriptural texts. As their names spread everywhere, their virtuous ways prevail in the ten directions. They are protected and remembered by innumerable Buddhas. They abide in the truths that Buddhas abide in, and they establish the teachings that great holy ones have established. Under Tathāgatas’ guidance, they are Bodhisattvas and great teachers, who each can proclaim the Way. With wisdom arising from profound meditation, they educate and guide multitudes of sentient beings. Penetrating dharma nature, they understand sentient beings’ appearances and their lands.
When such Bodhisattvas make offerings to Buddhas, they magically manifest themselves like flashes of lightning. They skillfully learn the way of fearlessness and fully understand that dharmas are illusory. They annihilate the webs of māras and liberate sentient beings from bondage and fetters. Transcending the ground of voice-hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, they attain the Three Samādhis: emptiness, no appearance, and no wish. By skillful means, they present the Three Vehicles. For those of middling or low capacity, they demonstrate parinirvāṇa. Knowing that [in true reality] there is neither action nor existence, neither arising nor ceasing, they realize the truth of equality and fully attain innumerable dhāranīs and hundreds and thousands of samādhis. As their faculties and wisdom remain in boundless silence, they delve into the store of the Bodhisattva Dharma and attain the Samādhi of Buddha Adornment. While they remain inside the profound Samādhi Door, they see Buddhas before them.
Then they promote and expound the Dharma in all the sūtras. In the instant of a thought, they visit everywhere in all Buddha Lands, rescuing those in extreme suffering, both those who do and those who do not find respite from suffering. As they explicate the true reality of dharmas, they acquire a Tathāgata’s eloquence. With mastery of the languages of the multitudes, they educate and transform them all. Having transcended the dharmas of the world, their minds abide in ways to deliver the world. With command of all things in the world, they are the unasked friends to multitudes of sentient beings, and they carry the heavy load of sentient beings [to the shore of nirvāṇa].
As such Bodhisattvas accept and uphold Tathāgatas’ profound Dharma store, they protect those of the Tathāgata character-type and help them to carry on this character-type. Exuding great compassion for sentient beings, they speak to them with lovingkindness to open their dharma-eye. As they block the three evil life-paths, they open the door to the good life-paths and, unasked, they teach the Dharma to the multitudes. Like a dutiful son who loves and respects his parents, they regard sentient beings as they do themselves. All their roots of goodness contribute to their crossing over to the shore of nirvāṇa, as they acquire the immeasurable merit, inconceivable wisdom, and holy knowledge of Buddhas.
Innumerable such Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas came to this assembly. At that time the World-Honored One looked vigorous and joyful, His appearance pure, radiant, and majestic. The venerable Ānanda, at the Buddha’s unspoken holy command, rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, and fell on both knees. With palms joined, he said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, You look vigorous and joyful today, Your appearance pure, radiant, and majestic, like a clear mirror that reflects images inside and is shiny outside. Your sublime visage is resplendent, unparalleled, and indescribable. Never have I beheld such wondrous splendor as You now display. Indeed, Great Holiness, my mind has these thoughts: ‘Today the World-Honored One abides in the extraordinary Dharma. Today the Hero of the World abides in the truth in which all Buddhas abide. Today the Eye of the World carries on as the guiding teacher. Today the Victor of the World abides in the supreme bodhi. Today the Heaven-Honored One demonstrates the Tathāgata virtues. As Buddhas of the past, present, and future think of one another, does the present Buddha not think of other Buddhas? Why is His awesome presence so radiant?’”
The World-Honored One asked Ānanda, “Why Ānanda? Did the gods tell you to ask the Buddha? Do you ask about my sublime visage based on your own perception?”
Ānanda replied to the Buddha, “No god told me to. I ask about this meaning based on my own perception.”
The Buddha said, “Very good! Ānanda, your question is opportune. You have developed profound wisdom and truly wonderful eloquence and, out of compassion for sentient beings, you wisely ask about this meaning.
“The Tathāgata, out of inexhaustible great compassion for sentient beings in the Three Realms of Existence, has appeared in the world to expound the teachings for attaining bodhi, to rescue sentient beings, and to give them true benefits. Like an udumbara flower, the auspicious, wonderful flower that appears only once in a long while, He is hard to encounter in innumerable koṭis of kalpas. What you ask now will greatly benefit and transform all gods and humans.
“Ānanda, know that immeasurable is the Tathāgata-Saṁbuddha’s wisdom, which leads and guides. His knowledge and views are hindrance free and indestructible. With the power of one meal, He can make his life last 100,000 koṭi kalpas or even innumerable, countless kalpas, His faculties undiminished in vigor and His appearance unchanged in radiance. What is the reason? Because the Tathāgata, with His boundless and endless samādhi and wisdom, has command of all dharmas. Hearken, Ānanda, I now will explain to you.”
“Indeed, I would be glad to hear,” responded Ānanda.
The Buddha told Ānanda, “In the distant past, innumerable, countless inconceivable kalpas ago, a Tathāgata called [Dīpaṁkara] Lamp Lighter appeared in the world. He taught and delivered innumerable sentient beings, enabling them to attain bodhi, and then entered parinirvāṇa. After Him, Tathāgatas that appeared in succession included Distant Light, Moonlight, Sandalwood Scent, Fine Mountain King, Sumeru Celestial Crown, Sumeru Equal Brilliance, Moon Color, Right Mindfulness, No Affliction, No Attachment, Dragon God, Nocturnal Light, Peaceful Bright Summit, Immovable Ground, Wonderful Aquamarine Flower, Golden Aquamarine Color, Gold Store, Flaming Light, Flaming Faculty, Earth Seed, Moon Image, Sun Tone, Liberation Flower, Splendid Radiance, Transcendental Power in the Ocean of Enlightenment, Water Light, Great Fragrance, Freedom from Sense Objects, Abandoning Aversion, Jewel Flame, Wonderful Summit, Valiant Stand, Merit Held in Wisdom, Outshining the Sun-Moon Light, Sun-Moon Aquamarine Light, Unsurpassed Aquamarine Light, Foremost Position, Bodhi Flower, Moon Radiance, Sunlight, Flower Color King, Water-Moon light, Removing the Darkness of Delusion, Action to Remove Hindrance, Pure Faith, Fine Constellation, Awesome Spirit, Dharma Wisdom, Bird Tone, Lion Tone, Dragon Tone, and Staying in the World. These Buddhas have all passed away.
“Next appeared a Buddha called [Lokeśvararāja] World Sovereign King, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, Knowledge and Conduct Perfected, Sugata, Understanding the World, Unsurpassed One, Tamer of Men, Teacher to Gods and Humans, Buddha the World-Honored One.
His Resolve to Form a Splendid Buddha Land
“At that time there was a king who heard that a Buddha was expounding the Dharma. With joy in his heart, he immediately activated the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind. He abandoned his kingdom and throne and became a śramaṇa named Dharmākara. Exceptionally intelligent and valiant, he was outstanding in the world. He went to World Sovereign King Tathāgata. He made obeisance at that Buddha’s feet, then circled Him to the right three times. Kneeling on both knees, he joined his palms and praised in verse:
Sublime is the radiant visage.
Boundless is the awesome spirit.
Such resplendent glow
The sun-moon jewel
That shines with flaming brilliance
Like pooled ink.
The Tathāgata’s features are
Unrivaled, beyond the world.
His great tones of true enlightenment
Flow to and resound in the ten directions.
His achievement of precepts, knowledge, energetic progress,
And awesome virtue are
Unequaled, supreme, and rare.
His profound contemplation and deliberation of
The ocean of the Buddha Dharma
Unravel its profound secrets and
Penetrate to its bottom.
Nevermore has the World-Honored One
Ignorance, greed, or anger.
He, the hero and lion among men,
Has immeasurable spiritual virtue,
And profound, wondrous wisdom.
His radiance and awesome appearance
Shake the Large Thousandfold World.
I resolve to become a Buddha,
Equal to the holy Dharma King,
To deliver others from their cycle of birth and death,
Enabling them all to achieve liberation.
I will give alms and control my mind,
Observe precepts, endure adversities, make energetic progress,
Abide in samādhi,
And unfold wisdom, as the foremost training.
I vow to attain Buddhahood
And completely fulfill this vow
To give great peace to
Those living in fear.
Suppose there are Buddhas
A billion koṭi in number
And great holy beings as
Numerous as the sands of the Ganges.
Making offerings to
Buddhas such as these
Is inferior to seeking bodhi
Resolutely without retreat.
Buddha Lands are as numerous as
The sands of the Ganges.
Although they are countless,
My radiance will illuminate everywhere
In all these lands.
As I make energetic progress,
My awesome spirit is measureless.
After I become a Buddha,
My land will be foremost in splendor,
Adorned with myriad wonders,
And its bodhimaṇḍa will be supreme.
My land will be like nirvāṇa,
Peaceful beyond comparison.
I will deliver all [sentient beings].
Those from worlds in the ten directions who are reborn in my land
Will have joyful pure minds.
Upon arrival in my land,
They all will have peace and bliss.
May the Buddha’s pure trust
Be my true witness.
Before Him, I make my vow
And strive to achieve my goal.
Just as World-Honored Ones [in worlds] in the ten directions
Have hindrance-free wisdom,
So does this World-Honored One know
My mind and actions.
Even if I am in the midst of
Pain and anguish,
I persist in my energetic progress
And endure without regrets.
“Having spoken these stanzas, the bhikṣu Dharmākara said to that Buddha, ‘Indeed, World-Honored One, I have activated the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind, and I pray that the Buddha will fully expound to me the Dharma in the sūtras. I will train myself and collect the pure adornments of innumerable Buddha Lands, so that I will quickly attain the perfect enlightenment and uproot the suffering of repeated birth and death.’”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Then, World Sovereign King Buddha said to the bhikṣu Dharmākara, ‘You should know how to train yourself and adorn your Buddha Land.’ The bhikṣu replied to that Buddha, ‘This profound significance is beyond my state. World-Honored One, I pray that You will fully expound to me the way Buddha-Tathāgatas form their Pure Lands. Having heard it, I will train according to what You say and fulfill my vow.’
“At that time World Sovereign King Buddha knew this bhikṣu’s exceptional capacity, and the profundity and immensity of his resolve. He then said to the bhikṣu Dharmākara, ‘As an analogy, a person keeps drawing water from an ocean with a small container. After kalpas of work, he can reach its bottom and obtain the treasures there. Likewise, if a person makes earnest, energetic progress to seek bodhi unceasingly, he will definitely harvest the holy fruit. No wish will fail to come true.’
“Then, World Sovereign King Buddha fully described to him 210 koṭi Buddha Lands. In response to his request, that Buddha also displayed all lands, coarse or fine, and the gods and humans there, good or evil.
“At that time the bhikṣu heard that Buddha’s description of magnificent Pure Lands and also beheld them all. He made the unsurpassed supreme resolve. His mind was silent and free from attachment, and no one in the entire world could compare with him. For five kalpas, he contemplated and collected the pure actions to adorn a Buddha Land.”
Ānanda asked the Buddha, “What was that Buddha’s lifespan?”
The Buddha replied, “That Buddha lived for forty-two kalpas, during which time the bhikṣu Dharmākara collected the pure actions taken to adorn those 210 koṭi wonderful Buddha Lands. Having trained himself in this way, he went to that Buddha. He made obeisance at that Buddha’s feet and circled Him three times. Standing properly with his palms joined, he said to that Buddha, ‘World-Honored One, I have collected the pure actions to adorn my Buddha Land.’
“That Buddha told the bhikṣu, ‘You now may declare your vows. Know that now is the right time to delight all multitudes. After other Bodhisattvas have heard you, they too can train in the way that you have, and fulfill immeasurable great vows.’
His Forty-eight Vows
“The bhikṣu said to that Buddha, ‘I pray that you will grant me your attention. I will declare my vows completely:
1. After I become a Buddha, if there should be hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts, or animals in my land, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
2. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land, after their death, should take any of the three evil life-paths, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
3. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should not be the color of gold, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
4. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should have varied shapes and forms, beautiful or ugly, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
5. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should not have the power to know their past lives and the past events in 100,000 koṭi nayuta kalpas, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
6. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should not have the god-eye to see everything in 100,000 koṭi nayuta Buddha Lands, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
7. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should not have the god-ear to hear, accept, and uphold the words spoken by 100,000 koṭi nayuta Buddhas, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
8. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should not have the power to know the thoughts of sentient beings in 100,000 koṭi nayuta Buddha Lands, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
9. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should not have the power to travel, in the instant of a thought, to 100,000 koṭi nayuta Buddha Lands, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
10. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should imagine that they have embodied selves, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
11. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should not belong in the group of sentient beings that definitely progress on the right path to bodhi until their attainment of the great nirvāṇa, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
12. After I become a Buddha, if my radiance should have a limit of illuminating 100,000 koṭi nayuta Buddha Lands, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
13. After I become a Buddha, if my lifespan should have a limit of 100,000 koṭi nayuta kalpas, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
14. After I become a Buddha, if the number of voice-hearers in my land should be known by calculation, and be obtained through calculating for 100,000 kalpas by sentient beings in the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World that all have become Pratyekabuddhas, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
15. After I become a Buddha, if the lifespan of gods in my land should have a limit, except being shortened by their own wish, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
16. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should ever hear of any wrongdoings there, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
17. After I become a Buddha, if innumerable Buddhas in worlds in the ten directions should not praise my name, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
18. After I become a Buddha, in worlds in the ten directions, there will be sentient beings that, with earnest faith and delight, wish to be reborn in my land, even if by only thinking ten thoughts [of that wish]. If they should fail to be reborn there—excepting those who have committed any of the five rebellious sins or maligned the true Dharma—I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
19. After I become a Buddha, in worlds in the ten directions, there will be sentient beings that activate the bodhi mind, acquire merit, and earnestly wish to be reborn in my land. If I should not appear, surrounded by a holy multitude, before them at their death, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
20. After I become a Buddha, in worlds in the ten directions, there will be sentient beings that hear my name, intently think of my land, plant their roots of virtue and, with a wish for rebirth in my land, transfer their merits to others. If they should fail to be reborn in my land, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
21. After I become a Buddha, if gods in my land should not be complete with a great man’s thirty-two physical marks, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
22. After I become a Buddha, if Bodhisattvas from other Buddha Lands who are reborn in my land should eventually fail to be in the holy position of waiting to attain Buddhahood in their next life, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment. Excepted are Bodhisattvas who choose not to be in that position because of their original vows. For the sake of delivering all sentient beings, they don their armor of great vows and develop their roots of virtue. They visit Buddha Lands, train in the Bodhisattva Way, and make offerings to Buddha-Tathāgatas [in worlds] in the ten directions. They develop and transform as many sentient beings as the sands of the Ganges, setting them on the Way to the unsurpassed bodhi. Transcending the regular course through the Bodhisattva Grounds, they currently cultivate the virtues of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.
23. After I become a Buddha, if Bodhisattvas in my land should fail to arrive, by virtue of my spiritual power, in the time of a meal, in innumerable, countless koṭis of nayutas of Buddha Lands to make offerings to those Buddhas, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
24. After I become a Buddha, Bodhisattvas in my land will demonstrate their roots of virtue before Buddhas. If they should fail to manifest at will their intended offerings to their satisfaction, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
25. After I become a Buddha, if Bodhisattvas in my land should be unable to expound [sarvajña] the overall wisdom-knowledge, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
26. After I become a Buddha, if Bodhisattvas in my land should not have the god Nārāyaṇa’s adamantine body, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
27. After I become a Buddha, all things in my land will be radiant and splendid in extraordinary forms and colors, beyond description. If sentient beings in my land, including those with the god-eye, should know and distinguish them all by their names and numbers, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
28. After I become a Buddha, if Bodhisattvas in my land, including those with a meager store of merits, should fail to know and see in my bodhimaṇḍa the innumerable radiant colors of the [bodhi] tree, which is four million lis tall, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
29. After I become a Buddha, if Bodhisattvas in my land who read, recite, uphold, and expound sūtras should fail to acquire eloquence and wisdom, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
30. After I become a Buddha, if Bodhisattvas in my land should have a limit in their eloquence and wisdom, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
31. After I become a Buddha, my land will be so pure that it illuminates and reflects innumerable, countless inconceivable Buddha Lands in the ten directions, like one’s own facial image seen in a clear mirror. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
32. After I become a Buddha, in my land, from the ground to the open sky, there will be palaces, towers, ponds, streams, flowers, and trees. Myriad things in my land will be made of innumerable varieties of treasures and 100,000 kinds of fragrances, and these wonderful adornments will surpass those of gods. As the fragrances suffuse all worlds in the ten directions, Bodhisattvas who smell them will all train in the Buddha Way. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
33. After I become a Buddha, in innumerable inconceivable Buddha Lands in the ten directions, all sentient beings touched by my radiance will become gentle in body and mind, surpassing gods. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
34. After I become a Buddha, in innumerable inconceivable Buddha Lands in the ten directions, if sentient beings that hear my name should fail to achieve the Bodhisattva Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas and to acquire profound dhāranīs, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
35. After I become a Buddha, in innumerable inconceivable Buddha Lands in the ten directions, women who hear my name will have faith and delight, activate the bodhi mind, and tire of their female form. If, after their death, they should be reborn in female form, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
36. After I become a Buddha, in innumerable inconceivable Buddha Lands in the ten directions, multitudes of Bodhisattvas who hear my name, after their death, will be reborn to train in the Brahma way of life until their attainment of Buddhahood. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
37. After I become a Buddha, in innumerable inconceivable Buddha Lands in the ten directions, Bodhisattvas who hear my name will prostrate themselves in obeisance and, with faith and delight, train in the Bodhisattva Way, and gods and humans will salute them. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
38. After I become a Buddha, gods in my land, by a single thought, will be able to make appear on their bodies garments, which are as wonderful as Buddhas say. If their garments should require sewing, dyeing, or laundering, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
39. After I become a Buddha, if the bliss experienced by gods in my land should be inferior to that of bhikṣus with no more afflictions to discharge, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
40. After I become a Buddha, Bodhisattvas in my land who wish to see innumerable splendid, pure Buddha Lands in the ten directions will see them all displayed in the jeweled trees as they wish, like one’s facial image in a clear mirror. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
41. After I become a Buddha, if multitudes of Bodhisattvas in other lands who hear my name should remain incomplete in their faculties until their attainment of Buddhahood, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
42. After I become a Buddha, multitudes of Bodhisattvas in other lands who hear my name will all attain the Samādhi of Pure Liberation and abide in it. By a single thought, they will be able to make offerings to innumerable inconceivable Buddha-Bhagavāns without losing their samādhi state. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
43. After I become a Buddha, multitudes of Bodhisattvas in other lands who hear my name will, after their death, be reborn into a noble family. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
44. After I become a Buddha, multitudes of Bodhisattvas in other lands who hear my name will, with delight and exuberance, train in the Bodhisattva Way and fully develop their roots of virtue. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
45. After I become a Buddha, multitudes of Bodhisattvas in other lands who hear my name will all attain the Samādhi of Universal Equality and abide in it until their attainment of Buddhahood. They will constantly see innumerable inconceivable Buddhas. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
46. After I become a Buddha, Bodhisattvas in my land will hear the Dharma according to their wishes and preferences. If this should not come true, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
47. After I become a Buddha, if multitudes of Bodhisattvas in other lands who hear my name should not soon attain [avinivartanīya] the spiritual level of no regress, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.
48. After I become a Buddha, if multitudes of Bodhisattvas in other lands who hear my name should not achieve the first, second, or third of the Three Endurances in the Dharma, and thus fail to attain the level of no regress from the Buddha Dharma, I would not attain the perfect enlightenment.’”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “After the bhikṣu Dharmākara finished declaring his vows, he spoke in verse:
Making vows to transcend the world,
I will definitely attain the unsurpassed bodhi.
If my vows are not fulfilled,
I swear not to attain samyak-saṁbodhi.
If I am not a great almsgiver who,
For innumerable kalpas,
Universally relieves all those in poverty and suffering,
I vow not to attain samyak-saṁbodhi.
After I attain Buddha bodhi,
My renown will spread [to worlds] in the ten directions.
If there are those who never hear my name,
I vow not to attain samyak-saṁbodhi.
Leaving behind desires and keeping the right mindfulness,
I will train in the Brahma way of life with pure wisdom.
Resolved to attain the unsurpassed bodhi,
I will become the teacher to gods and humans.
I will display vast radiance with my spiritual power,
Universally illuminating innumerable lands,
To dispel the darkness of the three afflictions
And rescue those in tribulations.
I will open their wisdom-eye
And dispel the darkness of their blindness.
I will close the evil life-paths
And open the door to the good life-paths.
When my meritorious work is completed,
My awesome radiance will shine in the ten directions.
The double luminosity of the sun and the moon will be eclipsed
And the light of the skies will be withdrawn.
I open the Dharma store to the multitudes
And lavish upon them the treasure of merits.
In the midst of the multitudes,
I expound the Dharma with the lion’s roar.
I make offerings to all Buddhas,
Fully developing my roots of virtue.
I wish to unfold my wisdom in full,
To become the hero in the Three Realms,
Like the Buddha, whose immeasurable wisdom
Penetrates everything everywhere.
I wish that the power of my merit
May equal that of the Supreme Honored One.
If my vows are to bear fruit,
The Thousandfold World will be moved,
And gods in the open sky
Will shower splendid flowers.
“As soon as the bhikṣu spoke these stanzas, the earth quaked in six different ways, and the sky rained wonderful flowers down upon him. Music sprang up in the sky, praising, ‘He will definitely attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi.’ Then the bhikṣu Dharmākara completely fulfilled these great vows. Truly he transcended the world, for he deeply delighted in nirvāṇa.”
His Accumulation of Merits from Virtuous Actions
The Buddha said, “Ānanda, the bhikṣu Dharmākara made these great vows before that Buddha, amid multitudes of celestial māras, Brahma gods, and the eight classes of Dharma protectors, such as gods and dragons. Having made his vows, he intently worked on the adornment of his Buddha Land so that it should be open and vast, superb and uniquely wonderful, as well as everlasting, without decay or change.
“For inconceivable trillions of kalpas, the bhikṣu engaged in immeasurable virtuous Bodhisattva actions. He permitted neither thoughts nor perceptions of greed, anger, or harm to arise in his mind. He was not attached to the sense objects: sights, sounds, scents, flavors, tactile sensations, and mental objects. He was accomplished in endurance, never disheartened by myriad tribulations. With few desires and much contentment, he had no greed, anger, or delusion. Silently abiding in samādhi, his wisdom was hindrance free. Free from the mind of falsehood and sycophancy, he spoke loving words with a kind face and considerately asked the questions for those who hesitated to ask.
“He made boldly energetic progress, never feeling weary. He sought only the pure dharmas to benefit sentient beings. He revered the Three Jewels and served his teachers and elders. With great adornments [his merit and wisdom], he completed many works and enabled sentient beings to acquire merit. He abided in the Three Samādhis: emptiness, no appearance, and no wish. With no act and no arising in his mind, he saw that dharmas are illusory. Keeping far away from abusive speech, which can harm self, others, and both, he trained in speaking virtuous words to benefit self, others, and both.
“He abandoned his kingdom and throne, wealth, and women to practice the six pāramitās and teach others to practice them as well. After countless kalpas of accumulation of merit and virtue, in any place where he was reborn, innumerable treasure stores were spontaneously uncovered at his wish. He taught and transformed innumerable sentient beings, setting them on the Way to the unsurpassed enlightenment. He manifested himself as elders, laypeople, people with a great family name, or dignitaries, as kings in the kṣatriya caste or Wheel-Turning Kings, and as god-kings of the six desire heavens or even god-kings of Brahma heavens. He always reverently offered the four necessities to all Buddhas. Such merit is beyond description and acclaim.
“His breath was fragrant and fresh, like utpala flowers. The pores of his body emitted sandalwood scent, which suffused innumerable worlds. His facial features were even and comely and his appearance superb. Manifested from his hands were inexhaustible treasures, clothing, food and drink, and adornments, such as splendid flowers, incense, and silky canopies and banners. Things such as these surpass those of gods. He achieved command of all dharmas.”
Ānanda asked the Buddha, “Has Dharmākara Bodhisattva already attained Buddhahood and entered parinirvāṇa? Has he not yet attained Buddhahood? Is he now somewhere?”
The Buddha replied to Ānanda, “Dharmākara Bodhisattva has already attained Buddhahood. He is now in the west, 100,000 koṭi lands away from here. His Buddha Land is called Peace and Bliss.”
Ānanda next asked, “How long has it been since that Buddha attained bodhi?”
The Buddha replied, “It has been ten kalpas since He attained Buddhahood.
The Virtues of His Land
“His Buddha Land naturally has the seven treasures. Its ground is made of gold, silver, aquamarine, coral, amber, conch shell, and emerald, and it is open, vast, and boundless. The treasures intermingle and combine with one another, dazzling and sparkling. They are wonderful, beautiful, pure, and splendid, surpassing those in all worlds in the ten directions. These treasures, the best of all treasures, are like those in the sixth desire heaven.
“His land does not have the four seasons. In spring, autumn, winter, or summer, the temperature is neither cold nor hot, but constantly pleasant and comfortable. By virtue of that Buddha’s spiritual power, things manifest at one’s wish. Life forms that take grueling life-journeys, i.e., hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts, and animals, do not exist His land.
“In addition, His land has neither Mount Sumeru nor its surrounding mountain ranges, such as the vajra mountain range. Nor does it have immense oceans, small seas, streams, channels, wells, or valleys.”
Then Ānanda asked the Buddha, “If that land does not have Mount Sumeru, upon what do Heaven of the Four God-Kings [the first desire heaven] and Trayastriṁśa Heaven [the second desire heaven] rely?”
The Buddha replied to Ānanda, “Upon what do other heavens, from Yāma Heaven, the third desire heaven, up to [Akaniṣṭha Heaven] the Ultimate Form Heaven, rely?”
Ānanda said to the Buddha, “One’s karmas and their corresponding requitals are inconceivable!”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “As karmas and corresponding requitals are inconceivable, so too are Buddha Lands inconceivable. For sentient beings in any land, their merits and powers are grounded in their karmas.”
Ānanda said to the Buddha, “I have no doubts regarding this Dharma. It is for removing the doubts of sentient beings of the future that I ask about this meaning.”
His Infinite Light
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Amitāyus Buddha’s radiance is dignified and supreme, with which other Buddhas’ radiance cannot compare. There are Buddhas whose radiance reaches a distance of seven feet, or one, two, three, four, or five yojanas, or to a distance extended to illuminate one Buddha Land. There are Buddhas whose radiance illuminates 100 or 1,000 Buddha Lands.
“As Amitāyus Buddha’s radiance illuminates as many Buddha Lands in the east as the sands of the Ganges, so does it illuminate those in the south, west, and north, in the in-between directions, and toward the zenith and the nadir. Therefore, Amitāyus Buddha is also called Infinite Light Buddha, Boundless Light Buddha, Hindrance-Free Light Buddha, Matchless Light Buddha, Flame-King Light Buddha, Pure Light Buddha, Joyful Light Buddha, Wisdom Light Buddha, Ceaseless Light Buddha, Inconceivable Light Buddha, Ineffable Light Buddha, and Outshining the Sun-Moon Light Buddha.
“If sentient beings are touched by His radiance, their three afflictions will be eliminated and their bodies and minds will become gentle. They will be filled with joy and exuberance as benevolence arises in their minds. If those who are in extreme suffering, taking any of the three evil life-journeys, see this radiance, they can rest, no more pain or distress. After their death, they will be saved [from resuming such life-journeys].
“Amitāyus Buddha’s radiance gloriously illuminates Buddha Lands in the ten directions, and no one fails to hear of it. As I now praise His radiance, so too do all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Pratyekabuddhas, and voice-hearers.
“If sentient beings that have heard of His radiance, awesome spirit, and merit, unceasingly praise Him day and night with an earnest mind, they will be reborn in His land as they wish. There, multitudes of Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers will praise their merit. In addition, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas [in worlds] in the ten directions, just as they now praise [Amitāyus Buddha’s radiance], will praise these sentient beings’ radiance until their eventual attainment of Buddha bodhi.”
The Buddha continued, “I could describe the majesty and wonder of Amitāyus Buddha’s radiance and awesome spirit day and night for a kalpa, but still could not finish my narration.”
His Infinite Life
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Amitāyus Buddha’s lifespan is so long that it is beyond calculation. Do you not know? Suppose innumerable sentient beings in worlds in the ten directions all assume human form and become voice-hearers or Pratyekabuddhas. Suppose they assemble and single-mindedly calculate, for a billion kalpas, with all the power of their intellect, the length of His lifespan in terms of kalpas. They can never find its end or know its limit. The lifespan of the multitude of Bodhisattvas, voice-hearers, and gods there is also not a number that can be known by calculation or analogy.
The Countless Numbers of the Holy Multitudes
“In addition, the numbers of voice-hearers and Bodhisattvas are hard to calculate and describe. They have superb spiritual knowledge and command of awesome powers. They can hold the entire world in their hands.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “The number of voice-hearers and Bodhisattvas who attended that Buddha’s first assembly is beyond calculation. Suppose there are innumerable, countless billions of koṭis of people just like Mahāmaudgalyāyana, and they all calculate for asaṁkhyeya nayuta kalpas until they enter parinirvāṇa. They can never find this number, which is like the immeasurable depth of the immense ocean. Suppose someone cuts a hair into a hundred pieces and uses a piece to draw a drop of water from the ocean. What is your opinion? Is this drop more than the water in the immense ocean?”
Ānanda replied to the Buddha, “The quantity of water in the immense ocean can never be gauged by the drop of water taken by the person. It cannot be known by skillful calculation or described by words.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “The number of voice-hearers and Bodhisattvas who attended the first assembly as calculated by Maudgalyāyana for a billion koṭi nayuta kalpas is like a drop of water. The number unknowable to him is like the water in the immense ocean.
The Jeweled Trees
“In addition, all over that land are trees made of the seven treasures, such as gold trees, silver trees, aquamarine trees, crystal trees, coral trees, emerald trees, and conch shell trees. Some trees are made of two, three, or even seven treasures. Some gold trees have silver leaves, flowers, and fruits. Some silver trees have gold leaves, flowers, and fruits. Some aquamarine trees have crystal leaves, flowers, and fruits. Some crystal trees have aquamarine leaves, flowers, and fruits. Some coral trees have emerald leaves, flowers, and fruits. Some emerald trees have aquamarine leaves, flowers, and fruits. Some conch shell trees have leaves, flowers, and fruits made of several treasures.
“Some jeweled trees have purple-tinged gold roots, silver trunks, aquamarine branches, crystal twigs, coral leaves, emerald flowers, and conch shell fruits. Some jeweled trees have silver roots, aquamarine trunks, crystal branches, coral twigs, emerald leaves, conch shell flowers, and purple-tinged gold fruits. Some jeweled trees have aquamarine roots, crystal trunks, coral branches, emerald twigs, conch shell leaves, purple-tinged gold flowers, and silver fruits. Some jeweled trees have crystal roots, coral trunks, emerald branches, conch shell twigs, purple-tinged gold leaves, silver flowers, and aquamarine fruits. Some jeweled trees have coral roots, emerald trunks, conch shell branches, purple-tinged gold twigs, silver leaves, aquamarine flowers, and crystal fruits. Some jeweled trees have emerald roots, conch shell trunks, purple-tinged gold branches, silver twigs, aquamarine leaves, crystal flowers, and coral fruits. Some jeweled trees have conch shell roots, purple-tinged gold trunks, silver branches, aquamarine twigs, crystal leaves, coral flowers, and emerald fruits.
“These trees in lines are matched line to line, trunk to trunk, branch to branch, leaf to leaf, flower to flower, and fruit to fruit. Their splendid colors and radiance are beyond the capacity of one’s eyesight. When cool breezes blow, these trees play music in the five tones, and their wonderful melodies are naturally in harmony.
The Bodhi Tree in His Bodhimaṇḍa
“In addition, the bodhi tree in Amitāyus Buddha’s bodhimaṇḍa is four million lis tall. The tree trunk is 5,000 yojanas in circumference, with branches and leaves spreading 200,000 lis in the four directions. All are naturally made of various treasures and adorned with the kings of jewels, such as the moonlight jewel and the ocean wheel jewel. Hanging from the twigs are garlands of jewels in a billion changing colors, radiating boundless beams of glowing light. Covering this tree are wonderful jeweled nets that manifest all kinds of adornments at one’s wish. They emit wondrous Dharma tones as breezes gently stir. These tones flow to all Buddha Lands in the ten directions. Those who hear them achieve the profound Endurance in Dharmas, abiding in the spiritual level of no regress. Even before they attain Buddhahood, they will not encounter tribulations. Although their eyes see sights, ears hear sounds, noses smell scents, tongues taste flavors, bodies touch the light, and minds perceive mental objects, they acquire purity in their six faculties, which will trouble them no more.
“Ānanda, when gods in that land see this bodhi tree, they achieve the Three Endurances in the Dharma. First, the Endurance in Hearing the Sounds; second, the Endurance in Accord; third, the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas. They achieve these endurances entirely by virtue of Amitāyus Buddha’s awesome spiritual power and by virtue of the power of His original vows, the fulfillment of these vows, the clarity of these vows, the firmness of these vows, and the ultimacy of these vows.”
The Musical Trees
The Buddha told Ānanda, “A king in the human world is entertained by 100,000 kinds of music, and music is also played in the palace of a Wheel-Turning King and in each of the six desire heavens. The music in each place is ten million koṭi times superior to that in the preceding place. However, the 10,000 musical tones in the sixth desire heaven are 1,000 koṭi times inferior to even a single tone from the trees made of the seven treasures, in Amitāyus Buddha’s land. These trees naturally play 10,000 kinds of instrumental music. The sounds of music are none other than Dharma tones, which are pure and resonant, wonderful and harmonious. They are foremost among all the sounds in worlds in the ten directions.
The Palaces and Towers
“The auditoriums, ashrams, palaces, and towers in that land are made of the seven treasures by magic. Covering them are intermingled multitudinous jewels, such as precious gems and moon jewels.
The Jeweled Ponds
“Inside and outside of these structures are bathing ponds 10, 20, or 30 yojanas, or even 100,000 yojanas in size. Each pond’s length, width, and depth are equal. They are filled with water with the eight virtues, pure and fragrant, tasting like sweet nectar. The beds of yellow gold ponds are covered with silver dust. The beds of silver ponds are covered with yellow gold dust. The beds of crystal ponds are covered with aquamarine dust. The beds of aquamarine ponds are covered with crystal dust. The beds of coral ponds are covered with amber dust. The beds of amber ponds are covered with coral dust. The beds of conch shell ponds are covered with emerald dust. The beds of emerald ponds are covered with conch shell dust. The beds of white jade ponds are covered with purple-tinged gold dust. The beds of purple-tinged gold ponds are covered with white jade dust. Some ponds are made of two, three, or even seven treasures.
“On the banks of these ponds stand sandalwood trees covered with leaves and flowers, wafting fragrances everywhere. All over the surfaces of the waters are lotus flowers, such as celestial utpalas, padmas, kumadas, and puṇḍarīkas, all gleaming with colorful light.
“When Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers enter a jeweled pond, if they wish the water to cover their feet, the water will cover their feet. If they wish the water to reach their knees, the water will rise to their knees. If they wish the water to reach their waist, the water will rise to their waist. If they wish the water to reach their chest, the water will rise to their chest. If they wish the water to reach their neck, the water will rise to their neck. If they wish the water to shower on their body, the water will shower on their body. If they wish the water to return to its former level, the water will return to its former level. The water temperature can be adjusted at will to either cool or warm. The water vitalizes the spirit, delights the body, and cleanses the mind of filth. Pure and clean, it is as clear as if invisible, and the treasure dust at the bottom of the pond can be seen at any depth. The ripples merge and separate, vanishing peacefully, neither too slow nor too fast.
“The ripples produce innumerable wonderful sounds. No one fails to hear the sounds suiting his needs, whether the sounds of the Buddha, the Dharma, the Saṅgha, silence, emptiness, no self, great lovingkindness and compassion, the pāramitās, the Ten Powers, the Four Fearlessnesses, the Eighteen Exclusive Dharmas, the overall wisdom-knowledge, no act, no arising or ceasing, the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas, or even sweet nectar pouring on one’s head. Such wonderful Dharma sounds that suit one’s needs delight one beyond measure. They accord with the true meaning of purity, freedom from desires, and nirvāṇa; with the power of the Three Jewels, the Fearlessnesses, and the Eighteen Exclusive Dharmas; and with the path and wisdom of Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers. That land does not have even the names of the three evil life-journeys; it has only joyful tones. Therefore, that land is called Peace and Bliss.”
“Ānanda, those who are reborn in that land are endowed with pure physical bodies, wonderful voices, and the virtue of transcendental powers.
“The palaces in which they live, their clothing, food and drink, and adornments, such as wonderful flowers and incense, are like those in the sixth desire heaven. When they desire to eat, bowls made of the seven treasures spontaneously appear before them. Such bowls, made of gold, silver, aquamarine, conch shell, emerald, coral, amber, or the moonlight jewel, appear at their wish. The bowls are naturally filled with food and drink of one hundred flavors. Although such food is present, there are no eaters. Gentle in body and mind, they are naturally satiated merely by seeing the food and smelling its aroma. They take their intention of eating as food, with no attachment to flavors. The bowls vanish when the meal is over, and reappear in due time. The purity, peace, and wonderful pleasures of that Buddha Land are below only the state of nirvāṇa, which is free from causes and conditions.
“The Bodhisattvas, voice-hearers, and gods of that land have superb wisdom and marvelous transcendental powers. They all appear in the same form, without any difference. To conform to the way of other lands, the name ‘gods’ is used for them. They have wonderful appearances, with even facial features, extraordinary and unearthly. Being neither gods nor humans, they all are endowed with bodies that are naturally ethereal and boundless.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “As an analogy, when a poor beggar in the world stands beside a king, can you compare his features with those of the king?”
Ānanda replied to the Buddha, “If this person stands beside the king, his features, ugly and sordid beyond analogy, are reckoned as a billion koṭi times inferior to the king’s. Why is he so? The poor beggar is lowly, and his clothes can barely cover his body. He can hardly feed himself to stay alive. He is always hungry, cold, and in distress, having lost all human standards. All his tribulations stem from his past lives, during which he did not plant roots of virtue. Wealthy and miserly, he did not give any of his accumulated riches to others. He desired to acquire things unearned, never tiring of his greedy pursuits. He did not believe in cultivation of virtue, and the evil he did piled high, like a mountain. In this way, he died, and his wealth and treasures all dispersed. The wealth amassed by his toiling body, which caused him concern and distress, did not benefit him, but went to others in the end. Without goodness or virtue to depend upon, after death he went down an evil life-path to undergo long suffering. After his sins have been purged, although he is reborn as a human, he is lowly and extremely stupid and sordid.
“A king in the world is honored among men because of the merit he has accumulated in his past lives. Caring and generous, he gave alms to the needy with lovingkindness. He honored his trust and cultivated virtue, never disputative. After his death, supported by his merit, he is reborn to go up a good life-path. He can even be reborn [as a god] in a heaven to enjoy myriad pleasures. With a wealth of accumulated credit, he is reborn as a human into a royal family. Noble by birth, he has even, comely features. Respected and served by the multitudes, he enjoys wonderful garments and choice delicacies served at his command. Supported by the merit acquired in his past lives, a king lives a king’s life.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “What you say is true. Although a king is dignified and noble among men, his even, comely features, in comparison with those of a Wheel-Turning King, are lowly and sordid, just like the beggar standing beside the king. The Wheel-Turning King’s awesome appearance is the foremost one in the world. However, he is ugly in the presence of the god-king of Trayastriṁśa Heaven, 10,000 koṭi times uglier by comparison. If this god-king is compared with the god-king of the sixth desire heaven, he is 100,000 koṭi times inferior in appearance. If the god-king of the sixth desire heaven is compared with Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers in Amitāyus Buddha’s land, his radiant features and colors are a billion koṭi times inferior.”
The Splendors of His Land
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Gods in Amitāyus Buddha’s land, by a single thought, can instantly manifest clothing, food and drink, flowers and incense, necklaces, silky canopies and banners, and wonderful music, as well as dwellings, palaces, and towers, made of one, two, or even innumerable treasures, in desired shapes, colors, heights, and sizes.
“Spread all over the ground are wonderful garments made with jewels. Gods step on them as they walk. Canopying that Buddha Land are innumerable jeweled nets, made of gold threads and precious gems and adorned with 100,000 varieties of jewels and wonderful treasures. Hanging from the four sides of these nets are jeweled bells, which sparkle with colorful light, extremely beautiful.
“Breezes of virtue naturally stir, and they are gentle and pleasant, neither hot nor cold, but warm or cool. Neither too weakly nor too strongly, they sweep across the jeweled nets and the jeweled trees, which sound innumerable wonderful Dharma tones and waft 10,000 kinds of gentle fragrances of virtue. For those who smell the fragrances, their afflictions, which enslave their body and mind, and their defiling habits will remain inactive. When these winds touch their bodies, they experience bliss like that of a bhikṣu in the Samādhi of Total Suspension of Sensory Reception and Perception.
“Moreover, the breezes carry flowers all over that Buddha Land, which fall orderly, according to their colors, not chaotically. They are soft and lustrous, with a strong perfume. When one steps on them, the foot sinks down four inches. When one lifts one’s foot, the flowers spring back to the same height as before. After the flowers have been stepped on, the ground cracks open, and they gradually vanish, leaving no trace behind. According to schedule, the breezes disperse the flowers in this way six times a day.
“Moreover, there are jeweled lotus flowers all over that world, and each jeweled flower has 100,000 koṭi petals. The petals in innumerable colors are radiant. The blue colors gleam with blue light; the white colors, with white light. In black, yellow, red, and purple, the colorful light is striking, radiant, and splendid, outshining the sun and the moon. Each flower emits 3,600,000 koṭi beams of light. Manifested in each beam are 3,600,000 koṭi Buddhas, each with a purple-tinged golden body and an extraordinary, superb appearance. Each Buddha emits 100,000 beams of light as He expounds the wondrous Dharma [in worlds] in the ten directions. These Buddhas each set innumerable sentient beings on the right path to Buddhahood.”
The Certainty of Buddhahood
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Those who are reborn in that land all belong in the group of sentient beings that definitely progress on the right path to bodhi. Why? Because in that Buddha Land, there is neither the group that definitely is not on the bodhi path nor the group that is indecisive about its paths.
The Three Classes to Be Reborn
“Buddha-Tathāgatas in worlds in the ten directions, who are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, each praise Amitāyus Buddha’s inconceivable awesome spirit and merit. If sentient beings that hear His name elicit faith and joy in but one thought and, with an earnest wish for rebirth in that land, transfer their merits to others, they will be reborn there and attain the spiritual level of no regress. Excepted are those who have committed any of the five rebellious sins or maligned the true Dharma.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Gods and humans in worlds in the ten directions who earnestly wish to be reborn in that land are grouped into three classes. In the high class are those who have renounced family life, abandoned desires, and become śramaṇas. They should activate the bodhi mind and constantly think only of Amitāyus Buddha. They should accumulate merit and resolve to be reborn in His land.
“When they die, Amitāyus Buddha, together with a holy multitude, will appear before them, and they will follow that Buddha to His land. They will be naturally reborn in lotus flowers made of the seven treasures, and they will abide in the spiritual level of no regress. Their wisdom will be keen, and they will have command of transcendental powers. Therefore, Ānanda, if there are sentient beings that wish to see Amitāyus Buddha in their present life, they should activate the unsurpassed bodhi mind, accumulate merit, and resolve to be reborn in His land.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “In the middle class are gods and humans in worlds in the ten directions who earnestly wish to be reborn in that land, but are unable to become śramaṇas and to accumulate merit on a large scale. They should activate the unsurpassed bodhi mind and constantly think only of Amitāyus Buddha as they cultivate goodness on a smaller scale. They should observe the pure precepts, erect memorial towers, enshrine Buddha images, offer food to śramaṇas, hang silk screens, light lamps, scatter flowers, and burn incense. With a wish for rebirth in that land, they should transfer their merits to others.
“When they die, Amitāyus Buddha will magically manifest a copy of Himself, who is just as radiant and splendid as a real Buddha, to appear, together with a holy multitude, before them. They will follow this magically manifested Buddha to His land, and will abide in the spiritual level of no regress. Their merit and wisdom will be below those in the high class.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “In the low class are gods and humans in worlds in the ten directions who earnestly wish to be reborn in that land. Although they are unable to acquire various merits, they should activate the unsurpassed bodhi mind and, with a wish for rebirth in that land, single-mindedly think ten thoughts of Amitāyus Buddha. If they hear the profound Dharma, they should delight and believe in it without raising doubts. Even if they think only one thought of that Buddha, with utmost sincerity they should resolve to be reborn in His land. When they die, they will dream of that Buddha and will be reborn in His land. Their merit and wisdom are below those in the middle class.”
Praises by Buddhas and Homage by Bodhisattvas
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Amitāyus Buddha’s awesome spirit is boundless. None of the innumerable, countless inconceivable Buddha-Tathāgatas in worlds in the ten directions fails to praise Him. Innumerable, countless multitudes of Bodhisattvas in Buddha Lands in the east, which are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, together with multitudes of voice-hearers, all go to Amitāyus Buddha, to make offerings reverently to Him and the Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers there. They hear and accept the Dharma, in order to disseminate the Dharma and transform sentient beings. As they do these things, so too do Bodhisattvas in worlds in the south, west, and north, in the in-between directions, toward the zenith, and toward the nadir.”
At that time the World-Honored One spoke in verse:
Buddha Lands in the east,
Their numbers are like the sands of the Ganges.
Multitudes of Bodhisattvas in those lands
Visit Amitāyus Buddha reverently.
In the south, west, and north, in the four in-between directions,
Toward the zenith, and toward the nadir,
Multitudes of Bodhisattvas in those lands
Also visit Amitāyus Buddha reverently.
Carries wonderful celestial flowers,
Choice incense, and priceless garments
To make offerings to Amitāyus Buddha.
Celestial music plays harmoniously,
Exquisite tones in concert.
They praise the Supreme Honored One in hymns
As an offering to Amitāyus Buddha,
Who has fully attained wisdom and spiritual power,
Gone through profound Dharma Doors,
And completed His store of merits.
His unparalleled wondrous wisdom-knowledge
Shines on the world like the sun of wisdom,
And removes the clouds of birth and death.
They reverently circle Him three times
And bow down to the Unsurpassed Honored One.
Seeing that His well-adorned Pure Land is
So wondrous and inconceivable,
They hereupon activate the unsurpassed bodhi mind,
Each wishing the land [he will form] to be the same.
Then Amitāyus Buddha is moved,
And he smiles joyfully.
His mouth emits innumerable beams of light,
Illuminating everywhere in worlds in the ten directions.
The returning beams of light circle His body three times
And enter into the crown of His head.
The entire multitude of gods is
Exuberant and exultant.
Arranges his garment, bows his head, and asks
Why the Buddha is smiling.
To the request for an explanation, that Buddha replies,
“Brahma sounds reverberate like thunders,
The eight tones resonating wonderful melodies,
An accompaniment to my bestowal of prophecies upon Bodhisattvas!
I now explain and you should hearken.
The Upright Ones have come from worlds in the ten directions,
And I know all their wishes.
They resolve to form and adorn their Pure Lands
And to attain Buddhahood.
Realizing that all dharmas are
Like dreams, illusions, and echoes,
They will fulfill their wonderful wishes,
Definitely to form such lands as mine.
Knowing that dharmas are like lightning and reflection,
They will eventually complete the Bodhisattva Way,
Perfect their roots of virtue,
And attain Buddhahood.
Thoroughly understanding dharma nature,
They know that everything is empty and has no self.
Intently seeking pure Buddha Lands,
They definitely will form such lands.”
All Buddhas tell Bodhisattvas to visit
That Buddha in the Land of Peace and Bliss,
To hear the Dharma, accept it joyfully and train accordingly,
And quickly attain the state of purity.
Upon arrival in that well-adorned Pure Land,
One will quickly acquire transcendental powers
And will definitely receive from Amitāyus Buddha
The prophecy of attaining Buddhahood.
By virtue of the power of that Buddha’s original vows,
Those who hear His name and resolve to be reborn [in His land]
Will all arrive in that land
And attain the spiritual level of no regress.
Bodhisattvas who make earnest vows,
Wishing that their own lands be no different from that land,
Remember and deliver all sentient beings.
Their renown spreads across worlds in the ten directions.
To serve koṭis of Tathāgatas,
They fly to all lands.
After joyfully paying homage to Tathāgatas,
They return to the Land of Peace and Bliss.
Those who do not have roots of goodness
Cannot hear this sūtra.
Only those who are pure and observe their precepts
Will come to hear the true Dharma.
Only those who have seen a World-Honored One before
Will believe this explanation.
Humble and reverent, they hear and carry out the Dharma
With exuberance and great joy.
For those who are arrogant and indolent,
It is difficult to believe in the Dharma.
But those who have seen Buddhas in their past lives
Delight in hearing these teachings.
Voice-hearers and Bodhisattvas are unable
To fathom the mind of the Holiest One,
Just as a person who is born blind
Tries to guide others.
The ocean of the Tathāgata’s wisdom is
Deep and vast, without a bottom.
Those riding the Two Vehicles can never measure it.
Only Buddhas themselves can understand.
Suppose that all people
Have attained bodhi [through the Two Vehicles] and
Acquired the pure wisdom that everything is empty.
For koṭis of kalpas, they ponder the wisdom of a Buddha,
Trying to describe it with all their strength.
They still do not know it at the end of their life.
Buddha wisdom is boundless,
And it brings the ultimate state of purity.
As a long lifespan is hard to obtain,
Even harder is to encounter a Buddha appearing in the world.
It is difficult for people to have faith and wisdom.
Those who energetically seek to hear the Dharma
And do not forget the Dharma they have heard
Will face that Buddha and receive great benefits.
Therefore, my good kinfolk and friends,
You should resolve
To hear the Dharma
Even if the world is in flames.
Then you will definitely attain Buddha bodhi
To rescue all those in the flow of birth and death.
The Sublime Bodhisattvas
The Buddha told Ānanda, “All Bodhisattvas in that land will eventually be in the holy position of waiting to attain Buddhahood in their next life, except those whose original vows put sentient beings first. They adorn themselves with the merit of their great vows, hastening to deliver all sentient beings everywhere.
“Ānanda, in that Buddha Land, a voice-hearer’s body light is one yojana across, and a Bodhisattva’s radiance reaches a distance of one hundred yojanas. There are two foremost Bodhisattvas, who are most honored. Their awesome spiritual radiance shines everywhere in the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World.”
Ānanda asked the Buddha, “What are these two Bodhisattvas’ names?”
The Buddha replied, “One is called Avalokiteśvara and the other [Mahāsthāmaprāpta] Great Might Arrived. These two Bodhisattvas trained in the Bodhisattva Way in this land. After their death, they have been reborn in that Buddha Land.
“Ānanda, sentient beings reborn in that land are all endowed with a great man’s thirty-two physical marks. Fulfilled in wisdom, they delve into dharmas and understand their essence. Their transcendental powers are hindrance free, and their faculties are brilliant and keen. Those of inferior capacity achieve the first two of the Three Endurances, and those of superior capacity achieve the asaṁkhyeya Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas.
“In addition, these Bodhisattvas, on their way to Buddhahood, will never again go down the evil life-journeys. They have command of transcendental powers and know the past lives of themselves and others. However, if they choose to be reborn elsewhere, in an evil world with the five turbidities, resembling my world, they will manifest themselves to resemble the inhabitants there.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Bodhisattvas in that land, by virtue of that Buddha’s power, in the time of a meal, can visit innumerable worlds in the ten directions to make offerings to the Buddha-Tathāgatas there. According to their thoughts, innumerable, countless offerings instantly appear like magic, such as flowers, incense, instrumental music, silky canopies, and banners, which are precious and extraordinary, not of this world. These Bodhisattvas offer such objects to the multitude of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and voice-hearers there, which then change into flower canopies in the sky. The flower canopies are radiant and colorful, wafting fragrances everywhere. Each flower canopy is 400 lis in circumference, and continues to double in size until it covers the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World. These flower canopies then vanish, one after another. Delighted, these Bodhisattvas play celestial music in the sky and, with wonderful tones, they hymn Buddhas’ virtues. They hear and accept the Dharma with infinite joy. After making offerings to those Buddhas, before mealtime, they effortlessly lift off and return to their own land.”
Pronouncement of the Dharma and Presentation of Offerings
The Buddha told Ānanda, “When Amitāyus Buddha pronounces the Dharma to Bodhisattvas, voice-hearers, and gods, they all assemble in the auditorium made of the seven treasures. As He widely expounds the wondrous Dharma, no one fails to understand and accept with delight the teachings for attaining bodhi.
“Meanwhile, winds arise from the four directions, blowing across trees made of the seven treasures, which sound the five tones. The winds scatter innumerable wonderful flowers everywhere. These natural offerings continue endlessly. All gods take 100,000 celestial flowers and fragrances, and play 10,000 kinds of instrumental music, to make offerings to that Buddha and the multitude of Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers. Scattering flowers and incense, playing music, they walk to and fro and quickly get out of one another’s way. During that time, their harmony and delight are beyond words.”
The Merit of the Bodhisattvas
The Buddha told Ānanda, “When Bodhisattvas reborn in that Buddha Land speak, they always pronounce the true Dharma in accord with their wisdom, with no contradictions or mistakes. For the myriad things in that land, they hold no concept of belonging or attachment. Without emotional bondage, they come and go, move or stop, completely at ease. Unfettered by endearment or alienation, with no sense of self versus others, neither competitive nor disputative, they have the altruistic mind of great lovingkindness and compassion for sentient beings. Gentle and docile, they have no anger. Free from the mental coverings, they have a pure mind. Never weary or indolent, they retain in their minds equality, excellence, profundity, and concentration, as well as love, appreciation, and joy of the Dharma. Having eradicated afflictions and purified the mind bent on the evil life-journeys, they take all Bodhisattva actions and acquire immeasurable merit.
“Equipped with profound samādhi, transcendental powers, and illuminating wisdom, they practice the Seven Bodhi Factors, training their minds in accordance with the Buddha Dharma. Their physical-eye is pure and perceptive, able to distinguish all things. Their god-eye reaches an immeasurable, boundless distance. Their dharma-eye observes the ultimate Way. Their wisdom-eye sees the truth, which can cross them over to the opposite shore. Their Buddha-eye completely penetrates dharma nature.
“With hindrance-free wisdom, they expound the Dharma to others. Seeing that all things in the Three Realms of Existence are equal in their emptiness, they resolve to seek the Buddha Dharma. Equipped with eloquence, they annihilate the afflictions that trouble all sentient beings. Born from the Tathātaga, they understand the true suchness of dharmas. Equipped with a good understanding of nirvāṇa and with verbal skills, they do not enjoy worldly talks but delight in true discussions [of the Dharma]. They develop their roots of goodness and resolve to attain Buddha bodhi. Knowing that all dharmas are in nirvāṇa, they end both their afflictions and their cycle of birth and death. When they hear the profound Dharma, they have no fears or doubts in their minds and are able to train themselves accordingly. Their great compassion is so profound, far-reaching, and wonderful that it embraces all sentient beings without exception, and they carry them all aboard the ultimate One Vehicle to the opposite shore.
“As they resolutely shatter the web of doubts, wisdom arises in their minds, completely encompassing the Buddha Dharma. Their wisdom is like the immense ocean, and their samādhi is like the king of mountains. The radiance of their wisdom surpasses that of the sun and the moon, as they master the pure ways.
“They are like the snow mountain because they sparkle with merits that are equal in purity; like the great earth because they do not discriminate between purity and impurity, good and evil; like the pure water because they wash away afflictions, like filth; like the fire-king because they burn way afflictions, like firewood; like the powerful wind because they travel across worlds unhindered; like the open sky because they are not attached to anything; like the lotus flower because they live in the world untainted; like the Mahāyāna because they carry sentient beings out of their cycle of birth and death; like the thick clouds because they rumble the great Dharma thunder to awaken those asleep; like the torrential rain because they pour down sweet nectar to water sentient beings; like the vajra mountain because they cannot be moved by māras or non-Buddhists; like the Brahma-kings because they are foremost in upholding virtuous dharmas; like the banyan tree because they shelter all; like the udumbara flower because they are rare to encounter; like the golden-winged garuḍa because they subdue adherents of the wrong views; like the soaring birds because they do not accumulate things; like the ox-king because they are invincible; like the elephant-king because they are skilled tamers; like the lion-king because they are fearless; like the vast sky because their lovingkindness is given equally.
“They annihilate the mind of jealousy, not wanting to overtake others. They delight in seeking the Dharma, never satiated. They widely expound the Dharma, never tiring. They beat the Dharma drum and erect the Dharma banner. They invoke the sun of wisdom to shine and dispel the darkness of delusion. They live by the six elements of harmony and respect. They always give the Dharma as alms. They make boldly energetic progress, never feeling weak or discouraged. They serve as the world-illuminating lamp and as the supreme fortune field. They serve as the guiding teacher who teaches all equally without likes or dislikes. They delight in only the true Way without elation or dejection. They pull out the thorns of desire to give comfort to sentient beings. Their merit is so outstanding that no one fails to respect them. They destroy the hindrances caused by the three afflictions and playfully demonstrate their transcendental powers.
“They have the power of causes, conditions, mind, resolve, skillful means, persistency, virtue, samādhi, wisdom, hearing much of the Dharma, and the six pāramitās—almsgiving, observance of precepts, endurance of adversity, energetic progress, meditation, and wisdom—and the power of right mindfulness, right observation, the six transcendental powers, the Three Clarities, and taming sentient beings in accordance with the Dharma. Such power is complete in them!
“Adorned with merit and eloquence, their physical features are majestic. No one can compare with them. They reverently make offerings to innumerable Buddhas, and they are always praised by Buddhas. They perfect their practice of pāramitās required for Bodhisattvas as they train in the Three Samādhis—emptiness, no appearance, and no wish—and go through Samādhi Doors, such as no birth and no death. They stay far away from the ground of voice-hearers and Pratyekabuddhas.
“Ānanda, those Bodhisattvas are adorned with such immeasurable merit, which I have only briefly described to you. If I elaborate, I cannot finish even in a billion kalpas.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, gods, and humans, “The merit and wisdom of the voice-hearers and Bodhisattvas in Amitāyus Buddha’s land are beyond description. So peaceful, blissful, and pure is that land! How can one not strive for merit, and not think of bodhi, which transcends the boundless limit, beyond the distinction between high and low? If one makes energetic progress seeking bodhi, one definitely will transcend this world and be reborn in the Land of Peace and Bliss. If one decisively rejects the five evil life-paths, they will be closed to one. However, although the limitless [spiritual] ascension is easy to achieve, no one wants to go that way. Although that land poses no obstructions, people are tethered to their world. Why does one not give up one’s worldly matters to walk the virtuous Way in order to acquire an extremely long life and infinite delight?
“However, people of the world are shallow and earthly, and they fight over minor matters. In extreme suffering, they toil to support themselves. Noble or base, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, they all are concerned about money. Whether or not they have money, they worry about it just the same. Burdened by their concerns and anxieties, they are in anguish and sorrow. Driven by their minds, they never live in peace.
“If they own farmland, they worry about their farmland. If they own houses, they worry about their houses. In addition, their slaves, riches, clothing, food, sundry goods, and the six kinds of livestock, such as cows and horses, are all their concerns. Thinking and panting, they live in anxiety and fear.
“Unexpectedly, floods, fires, bandits, enemies, and creditors wash, burn, and take away their goods. When the objects of their concern are all destroyed or dispersed, their toxic anxiety and anguish can find no release. Anger stays in their minds, together with concern and distress. Obstinately attached to their belongings, they refuse to let go of them. Some live out the rest of their lives as ruined men. After death, they leave everything behind, and nothing follows them. The dignified and the wealthy have this trouble as well, which causes them myriad concerns and fears. As all toil painfully in cold or hot weather, all live in pain.
“The poor and lowly are constantly in destitution. Those who do not own farmland desire to own farmland; those who do not own houses desire to own houses; those who do not own slaves, riches, clothing, food, sundry goods, or the six kinds of livestock, such as cows and horses, desire to own them. They may have one item, lacking another; they may have some items, lacking others. They think about getting all of them. Even as they get everything, these objects soon are dispersed. With anxiety and pain, they seek but cannot get what they want. Their thinking is futile, which only tires their body and mind. Plagued by their concerns, they are restless in their conduct. They cannot help toiling in cold or hot weather, living in pain. They carry on in this way until they die.
“They refuse to do good, walk the right path, or cultivate virtue. After death, each of them will travel long distances alone, taking the next life-journey, unable to know whether it is good or evil.
“People of the world—parents, children, siblings, spouses, and close or distant relatives—should have love and respect for one another, not hatred. The fortunate should be generous to the unfortunate, not stingy. People should be kind and gentle to one another in their speech and manners, not hostile. However, those who are in dispute harbor anger, and their anger in the present life will become an enormous feud in a future life. Why? Because although mutually harmful acts in one’s present life may not immediately result in a deadly fight, the poisonous anger and hardened fury remain in one’s [ālaya] consciousness, not going away. Life after life, enemies reciprocate their revenge.
“People live in the loves and desires of the world. However, everyone is born alone, dies alone, comes alone, and goes alone. One must complete one’s own life-journey of pain or pleasure, and no one else can take one’s place. One’s good or evil karmas lead one to fortune or misfortune. As one’s past karmas relentlessly await, one must go alone on one’s next life-journey to a distant place that cannot be known. Family members, each accompanied by good and evil karmas, which are hidden from them, will be separated by their different life-paths for a long time. It will be extremely difficult for them to meet again. Why do people not give up their worldly pursuits and not strive to cultivate virtue while they are still healthy and strong? If they strive to cultivate virtue and make energetic progress, aiming to transcend the world, they can acquire infinite life. Why do they not seek bodhi? What other delight can they possibly desire?
“However, people of the world do not believe that doing good karmas reaps good requitals or that seeking bodhi leads to attainment of bodhi. They do not believe in rebirth after death. Nor do they believe that generous giving yields good fortune or that requitals match good or evil karmas. They contend that it is not so and that there is no such thing.
“They cling to their wrong views and look to one another for support. From one generation to the next, fathers pass their views down to children. Just like their deceased fathers and forefathers, who neither did good nor recognized morality, these descendants, with their delusions, closed minds, and dark spirits, are of course unable to distinguish between good and evil ways, or to understand the resultant journeys of birth and death. Nor does anyone tell them about these things. Whether good or evil, fortunate or unfortunate, they race to do anything as they please, and no one finds it disturbing.
“In the usual course of karmic life, family members die. Parents weep for the loss of their children; children weep for the loss of their parents. Siblings and spouses weep for their respective losses. Death does not occur according to any order. Under the law of impermanence, nothing can stay forever and all things will pass away. Even when people are told or taught this, few believe it.
“Therefore, one’s transmigration through birth and death is endless. But in their ignorance, people still refuse to believe in the Dharma [as explained] in the sūtras. Without any forethought, they each desire instant gratification. Stupefied in their loves and desires, they disregard morality. They are lost in anger and hatred, and greedy for wealth and carnal pleasures. Set in their ways, they do not seek bodhi. They continue to undergo birth and death endlessly, suffering through their evil life-journeys. How agonized and pathetic they are!
“If there is a death in a family, whether a parent, a child, a sibling, or a spouse, the survivors mourn their loss. They think of their loved one, and their thoughts of grief form a knot. Enduring days and years of pain in their hearts, they still cannot release themselves from their attachment. Even when they are given the true teachings, their minds stay closed because their thoughts are not apart from sensual desires. Dazed and blocked, their minds are mired in delusion. They cannot reflect and think straight in order to make a decision about their worldly affairs and to set off on the Way. Before long, their lives come to an end. They cannot help failing to attain bodhi.
“Troubled and confused, people are greedy for loves and desires. The deluded are many while the enlightened are few. In this bustling world, a place upon which one cannot rely, whether dignified or humble, high or low, rich or poor, noble or base, each toils in his work, harboring malice and dark, evil energy. They launch enterprises that are against the heaven and earth and disagreeable to people’s hearts. They attract evils to follow them, which let them do as they please until their sins have peaked. Before the end of their natural lifespans, they die sudden deaths. Then they go down the evil life-paths life after life, for thousands of koṭis of kalpas, not knowing when release will come. Their suffering is indescribable. How pathetic they are!”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, gods, and humans, “I now have described to you the affairs of the world. Those who are involved cannot attain bodhi. One should carefully reflect on one’s life, stay far away from evils, and diligently do well-chosen good deeds. Love, desire, rank, and wealth are impossible to preserve. They are not pleasurable, and they all will depart. When one encounters a Buddha in the world, one should make energetic progress. Those who earnestly resolve to be reborn in the Land of Peace and Bliss will acquire illuminating wisdom and excellent merit. One should not allow self-indulgence or fail the teachings and the precepts, thus falling behind others. If you have any doubts about this sūtra, you may ask the Buddha. I will explain to you.”
Maitreya Bodhisattva fell on both knees and said, “The Buddha is revered for His awesome spirit. His words are direct and virtuous. Having heard the Buddha’s teachings, we each should thoroughly think them over. People of the world act just as described by the Buddha. Out of His lovingkindness and compassion, the Buddha now has indicated the great Way. One’s ear and eye are opened and cleared because of one’s deliverance. None of those who have heard the Buddha fails to rejoice. By His lovingkindness, gods, humans, and even wriggly insects are all liberated from anxiety and suffering. The Buddha’s admonition is profound and virtuous. His wisdom clearly sees all things of the past, present, and future, everywhere [in worlds] in the ten directions, hindrance free. The reason we have deliverance bestowed upon us is that the Buddha in His past lives arduously sought bodhi with humility. His kindness is all-embracing and his merit majestic. His radiance shines through the limitless emptiness [of all dharmas], opening the entrance to nirvāṇa. He ceaselessly teaches, tames, commands, transforms, and inspires all [sentient beings in worlds] in the ten directions. The Buddha is the Dharma King revered above all multitudes of holy beings. As the teacher to all gods and humans, He enables them to attain bodhi as they wish. We now have encountered the Buddha and even heard His introduction of Amitāyus Buddha. No one fails to rejoice and open his mind wide.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “What you say is true. Reverence for the Buddha is a great virtue. Only once in a long, long time will a Buddha appear in the world. I now have become a Buddha in this world to expound the Dharma, giving the teachings for attaining bodhi, to shatter the web of doubts, to pull out the roots of love and desire, and to destroy the source of evils, as I visit the Three Realms of Existence unhindered. With all-encompassing wisdom, I teach the essentials of the right path and explain its guidelines. I reveal the five life-journeys and deliver those who have not been delivered, enabling them to take the right path that goes from saṁsāra to nirvāṇa.
“Maitreya, know that you have trained in the Bodhisattva Way for innumerable kalpas. It has been a long time since you first resolved to deliver sentient beings. Those whom you will deliver in the time period between your attainment of bodhi and your parinirvāṇa will be innumerable.
“You, gods and humans in worlds in the ten directions, and my four groups of disciples have been transmigrating through the five life-paths since time without a beginning. Your anxiety, suffering, and toil are beyond description. Up to the present life, you have not ended your cycle of birth and death. Nevertheless, you have encountered a Buddha, and have heard and accepted the Dharma. You have even heard about Amitāyus Buddha. This is delightful and excellent. I express my sympathetic joy. You all should be tired of the pain of birth, old age, illness, and death, [a process of] discharging impurities, nothing enjoyable. It would be wise to resolve to organize yourselves for the right actions—to do good karmas, to purify your body and mind, and to speak and act truthfully in accord with your mind.
“One can deliver oneself then help and rescue others. To fulfill one’s wish energetically, one should develop one’s roots of goodness. Although one has to toil arduously in one’s entire life, it would be like an instant in comparison [with one’s lifespan in the Pure Land]. One will then enjoy infinite bliss after one’s rebirth in Amitāyus Buddha’s land. One will always act in accord with virtue and will have forever pulled out the roots of birth and death, freed from the trouble of afflictions, such as greed, anger, and delusion. One’s lifespan can last for one kalpa, 100 kalpas, 1,000 kalpas, or 10,000 koṭi kalpas, according to one’s wish. The freedom and ease of one’s mind are below only the state of nirvāṇa.
“You each should make energetic progress, striving to fulfill your wish. Doubts and regrets would be a blunder, which would cause one’s rebirth on the edge of that land. There, one would be confined for 500 years in a palace made of the seven treasures, undergoing tribulations.”
Maitreya Bodhisattva said, “Having received the Buddha’s solemn admonition, we will intently train and learn, carrying out His teachings. We dare not have any doubts.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “If you each can rectify your minds and intentions and refrain from doing evil, this is the highest virtue, unparalleled in worlds in the ten directions. Why? Because gods and humans in many Buddha Lands spontaneously do good, not evil, and they easily develop and transform themselves. I now have become a Buddha in this world of the five evils, the five pains, and the five burns, and I teach sentient beings in extreme suffering to discard the five evils, remove the five pains, and stay away from the five burns. I transform their minds, enabling them to uphold the five virtues and acquire merits, so that they will live a long life [in Amitāyus Buddha’s land] and eventually attain nirvāṇa.”
The Buddha asked, “What are the five evils, the five pains, and the five burns? How does one destroy the five evils and uphold the five virtues in order to acquire merit, live a long life, and attain nirvāṇa?”
The First Evil and the First Virtue
The Buddha explained, “The first evil is this. Sentient beings, from gods and humans down to wriggly insects, do evil without exception. As the strong crush the weak, they harm, kill, and eat one another. They do not know how to cultivate virtue, but do evil without compunction. Evildoers receive punishment as they head for the next life-journey. The evils lodged in their [ālaya] consciousnesses find no pardon. That is why there are those who are poor and lowly, deprived and forlorn, those who are deaf, blind, mute, or stupid, and those who are vicious and violent. Then there are those who are dignified, noble, wealthy, or capable and brilliant, because in their past lives they were kind and dutiful, and acquired merit and cultivated virtue.
“Although the world has its regular systems of law and prison, there are those who do not fear them, and they commit crimes. Then, by law, they receive punishment from which it is hard to escape or to be absolved. This kind of punishment takes place in their present life. The consequence in their next life is even more intense and severe. Each of them enters darkness and assumes a body in a new life to undergo torture, as if enforced by human law.
“Hence, there naturally are the three evil life-journeys with immeasurable suffering and distress. The sinners change bodies, forms, and life-paths. Whether a lifespan is long or short, one’s [ālaya] consciousness cannot help heading for it. One goes alone in one’s rebirth, timed with enemies’ rebirths to continue mutual revenge endlessly. Until the purging of one’s horrible sins, one is unable to leave the evil life-journeys. One continues to trudge through them, not knowing when release will come. As liberation is hard to achieve, one’s pain is indescribable. Such things do take place between heaven and earth. Although requitals are not always immediate, virtuous and evil ways will be returned in due time. These are the first enormous evil, the first pain, and the first burn.
“As one toils painfully, it is like a huge fire burning one’s body. In its midst, if one can control one’s mind and harness one’s body only to do good, not evil, one will achieve liberation, acquire merit, transcend the world, and attain nirvāṇa. This is the first great virtue.”
The Second Evil and the Second Virtue
The Buddha said, “The second evil is this. People of the world—parents, children, siblings, and spouses—neither follow honorable principles nor comply with regulations. They revel in extravagance and dissipation for gratification. Self-centered and self-willed, they deceive one another. Their mouth and mind contradict each other; their words and thoughts are dishonest. Sycophantic and untrustworthy, they flatter others with cunning words. They slander the worthy and the virtuous, incriminating them of wrongdoings.
“Unwise rulers appoint deceitful and conniving ministers, who size up the situations and implement their schemes. Those in a shaky position are deceived by them. Against the law of conscience, they purposely slander the loyal and the upright. Ministers deceive their kings; children deceive their parents. Likewise, siblings, spouses, and close or casual friends deceive one another. Afflicted with greed, anger, and delusion, each desires to benefit himself. Dignified or humble, high or low, people have the same mentality. They disregard the consequences of their actions, bringing about the destruction of their families and their own deaths. Both close and distant relatives may be implicated, and the entire clan may be annihilated.
“Sometimes, they engage in enterprises involving family, friends, villagers, townsfolk, fools, and the uncivilized. They exploit one another, and their anger becomes a grudge. The wealthy are miserly and refuse to give alms. Greedy for and attached to riches, they continue to fatigue their bodies and minds. Yet, at the end of their lives, they have nothing to depend upon. As they each have come alone, they each will go alone, and no one will accompany them. Good or evil, fortune or misfortune, follows them as each begins the next life-journey, pleasant or painful. Their remorse comes too late.
“People of the world are stupid and unwise. Instead of admiring the virtuous, they hate and slander them. They desire to do evil and willfully do unlawful deeds. Thievery is in their minds as they covet others’ wealth. After they have squandered their goods, they seek to restock them. Although they fear others’ detection of their evil motives, they act without any foresight, and regret after they are caught. The world now has law and prison. Evildoers are punished for their crimes. In their past lives, they did not believe in morality, nor did they develop roots of goodness. In their present life, they do evil. Gods even record their names. After death, they go down the evil life-paths.
“Hence, there naturally are the three evil life-journeys with immeasurable suffering and distress. Sinners transmigrate through them life after life, for kalpas, not knowing when release will come. While liberation is hard to achieve, their pain is indescribable. These are the second enormous evil, the second pain, and the second burn.
“As one toils painfully, it is like a huge fire burning one’s body. In its midst, if one can control one’s mind and harness one’s body only to do good, not evil, one will achieve liberation, acquire merit, transcend the world, and attain nirvāṇa. This is the second great virtue.”
The Third Evil and the Third Virtue
The Buddha said, “The third evil is this. People of the world, who have limited lifespans, depend upon one another and the environment as they live together between heaven and earth. At the top are wise elders, the dignified, the noble, and the wealthy. At the bottom are the poor, the lowly, the vile, and the foolish. In the middle are the depraved, who are evil and lustful. Filled with chaotic loves and desires, they are restless in their conduct. Greedy and stingy, they desire unearned things. They leer at objects of lust, displaying their evil manners. They detest their own wives and go out to seek adventures. They squander family assets and perform unlawful deeds. They band together and launch lawless warfare, attacking, killing, and pillaging. Their evil minds target external objects, unconcerned about improving their karmas. They obtain things by robbery or thievery. To evade prosecution by law, they give their loot to their wives. They seek gratification in physical pleasure, abusing even their own relatives. People, whether dignified or humble, loathe them, as they cause trouble and anguish to their families. They do not fear the law or other prohibitions. Touching humans and ghosts, their evils are exposed under the sun and the moon and lodged in their [ālaya] consciousnesses.
“Hence, there naturally are the three evil life-journeys with immeasurable suffering and distress. Sinners transmigrate through them life after life, for kalpas, not knowing when release will come. While liberation is hard to achieve, their pain is indescribable. These are the third enormous evil, the third pain, and the third burn.
“As one toils painfully, it is like a huge fire burning one’s body. In its midst, if one can control one’s mind and harness one’s body only to do good, not evil, one will achieve liberation, acquire merit, transcend the world, and attain nirvāṇa. This is the third great virtue.”
The Fourth Evil and the Fourth Virtue
The Buddha said, “The fourth evil is this. People of the world do not think of cultivating virtue. Instead, they teach one another to do evil. With divisive speech, abusive speech, false speech, and suggestive speech, they dispute with and slander others. They hate the virtuous and find pleasure in maligning the worthy. They are neither dutiful nor respectful to their parents, and they disdain their teachers and elders. They betray their friends’ trust and find it hard to become honest. Conceited and self-aggrandizing, they claim that they are righteous. Lacking self-knowledge, they brutally assault and terrorize others. Considering themselves tough, they do evil shamelessly, making it impossible to earn others’ respect. They have no fear of the law between heaven and earth, under the sun and the moon. Unwilling to do good karmas, they are hard to tame. Obstinate and mentally blocked, they claim that their ways can last. With nothing to worry or fear, they are arrogant. All their evils are noted by gods.
“They rely on the merit they acquired in their past lives and use their little virtue for protection and support. Then, in the present life they do evil and deplete their store of merits. Benign spirits all leave them, and they are left alone without any support. After they die, their evils spontaneously return to them and overpower them. Because their evils are lodged in their [ālaya] consciousnesses, their horrible sins will drag them toward inescapable requitals. They must move forward into a cauldron of fire. When their bodies are consumed and their minds in agony, their remorse at that moment comes too late. The way of karma is swift and infallible.
“Hence, there naturally are the three evil life-journeys with immeasurable suffering and distress. Sinners transmigrate through them life after life, for kalpas, not knowing when release will come. While liberation is hard to achieve, their pain is indescribable. These are the fourth enormous evil, the fourth pain, and the fourth burn.
“As one toils painfully, it is like a huge fire burning one’s body. In its midst, if one can control one’s mind and harness one’s body only to do good, not evil, one will achieve liberation, acquire merit, transcend the world, and attain nirvāṇa. This is the fourth great virtue.”
The Fifth Evil and the Fifth Virtue
The Buddha said, “The fifth evil is this. People of the world wander in indolence and negligence. They are unwilling to do good karmas, harness their bodies, and earn a livelihood, though their families are in hardship, hungry and cold. When their parents instruct them, they stare and respond in defiance, and argue and contradict, acting like enemies. Parents are better off without such children. They are takers who know no limit, and people loathe them. They take others’ kindness and friendship for granted and have no intention of reciprocating. Unable to alter their poverty and hardship, they resort to thievery and vagrancy, and live on what is not earned. They revel in drinking and debauchery, eating and drinking without moderation. Rude and aggressive, they do not understand human rapport and willfully deny it. When they see virtue in people, they envy and hate them. Without any scruples or manners, they have no misgivings. They do as they please, beyond admonition. They have no concern about the means of their six branches of family, never thinking of the kindness of their parents and teachers, or the fellowship of their friends. Devoid of a single virtue, their minds think evil, their mouths speak evil, and their bodies do evil. They disbelieve the Dharma taught by Buddhas and holy ones. They disbelieve that walking the Way leads to transcendence of the world; that after one’s death one’s [ālaya] consciousness heads for rebirth; or that good karmas reap fortune and evil karmas reap misfortune. They desire to kill the virtuous, damage the Saṅgha, and harm their parents, siblings, and dependents. Their six branches of family are appalled by them, wishing them dead.
“Thus, many people of the world have the same mentality. Stupid and ignorant, they think that they are wise. They know neither whence they are born nor where they will go after death. Cold-hearted and rebellious, they do evil between heaven and earth. They hope to get lucky and live a long life, but only end in death. If someone kindly teaches them to think of virtue and explains to them the good and evil life-journeys, they refuse to believe him. Painstaking advice cannot benefit them because their minds are entirely blocked and impossible to open. Upon the ending of their life, they are crushed by fear and remorse. They refuse to cultivate virtue, only to regret in the end. What good is their remorse to their next life?
“Between heaven and earth, the five life-paths are distinct, extensive, profound, and vast. One’s good and evil requitals, manifested as fortune and misfortune, respond without fail to one’s good and evil karmas. One must personally bear them, and no one else can take one’s place. The karmic law responds to one’s actions, and requitals chase one’s life, never relenting. While a virtuous person who does good karmas goes from pleasure to pleasure, from light to light, an evil person who does evil karmas goes from pain to pain, from dark to dark. Who, besides a Buddha, knows all this? However, few believe and carry out the teachings. As one’s cycle of birth and death and the evil life-journeys are endless, so too people of the world are endless.
“Hence, there naturally are the three evil life-journeys with immeasurable suffering and distress. Sinners transmigrate through them life after life, for kalpas, not knowing when release will come. While liberation is hard to achieve, their pain is indescribable. These are the fifth enormous evil, the fifth pain, and the fifth burn.
“As one toils painfully, it is like a huge fire burning one’s body. In its midst, if one can control one’s mind and harness one’s body to think the right thoughts, to act according to one’s words with utmost sincerity, to keep one’s words in accord with one’s mind, and to do good, not evil, one will achieve liberation, acquire merit, transcend the world, and attain nirvāṇa. This is the fifth great virtue.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “As I say to you all, people of the world toil painfully in the five evils. As a result, they suffer the five pains and, in turn, the five burns. They do myriad evils but do not develop roots of goodness, so they naturally go down the evil life-journeys. As witnessed by the multitudes, some, even in their present life, suffer prolonged illness brought about by their sins, and are unable either to die or to live. Then, after death, they go down the three evil life-paths to experience immeasurable horrendous suffering, burning in fire.
“These people bear each other grudges that begin small but, after a long time, grow into an enormous evil. Because of their greed for wealth, they cannot give alms. Mired in delusion, they can neither think straight nor liberate themselves from the bondage of afflictions. They fight for self-benefit, never stopping to reflect. As they seek fleeting pleasures in wealth and rank, they can neither endure adversity nor cultivate virtue. The little power they hold is soon spent. Their longtime toil only leads to severe consequences. The law of karma prevails, and the net of requitals is accordingly spread. They each fall into the net, alone and afraid. From ancient times to the present, there are such deplorable pains.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “All Buddhas are sad over the ways of the world. With their awesome spiritual power, they annihilate evils, enabling people to drop their habitual thoughts, uphold sūtras and precepts, and practice the Dharma without misunderstandings or violations. They will eventually transcend the world and attain nirvāṇa.”
The Buddha continued, “You, gods and humans, and people of the future, who have received the Buddha’s teachings, should ponder them well. Then all can take the right actions with an upright mind. A ruler who cultivates virtue sets an example for his ministers, who in turn command all subjects to maintain good conduct. All should revere the holy and respect the virtuous, and be kind and loving to others. Do not fail the Buddha’s teachings. All should seek to transcend the world and uproot the evils of repeated birth and death, leaving forever the immeasurable anxiety and agony through the three evil life-journeys.
“You all should widely plant roots of virtue and practice the six pāramitās: almsgiving, observance of precepts, endurance of adversity, energetic progress, meditation, and development of wisdom. You each should teach others, who in turn will teach many others, to uphold virtue and to rectify one’s mind and intention. If one observes the precepts with purity for one day and one night in this land, one’s merit exceeds that from doing good karmas for 100 years in Amitāyus Buddha’s land. Why? Because that Buddha Land is pure, and its inhabitants, having no evil even as slight as a hair, spontaneously accumulate good karmas. If one cultivates virtue for ten days and ten nights in this land, one’s merit exceeds that from doing good karmas for 1,000 years in Buddha Lands in other directions. Why? Because most inhabitants of other Buddha Lands do good, and few do evil. With no place to do evil, acquiring merit is their natural way of life. However, in this land are many evils, and acquiring merit is not the natural way of life. People toil painfully to satisfy their desires, and they take advantage of one another. Exhausted in body and mind, they eat bitterness and drink poison. Their evils never end.
“I pity you gods and humans, and painstakingly instruct you to cultivate virtue. According to your capacities, I guide you and teach you the Dharma for you to carry out, so that you all will attain bodhi as you wish. Wherever the Buddha visits, in countries or settlements, no one will fail to be transformed. The world will be in harmony, the sun and the moon will be bright, and the winds and rains will be timely. Natural disasters and epidemics will not strike. The country will prosper, and the people will live in peace, rendering weaponry useless. As people admire virtue and appreciate kindness, they will learn to be courteous and to yield to one another.”
The Buddha continued, “I pity you gods and humans more than parents are concerned about their children. I now have become a Buddha in this world, and I [teach sentient beings to] destroy the five evils, remove the five pains, and eliminate the five burns. I attack evil with virtue to end the suffering of repeated birth and death, enabling all to acquire the five virtues and ascend to the peace [of nirvāṇa], which is free from causes and conditions. After I have left this world, the Way to bodhi will gradually disappear. People will resume their evil ways of sycophancy and falsehood, and will experience the five pains and the five burns just as before. How severe their condition will become cannot be described in detail. I have only told you briefly about it.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “You all should ponder and admonish one another in accordance with the Buddha Dharma, not to violate it.”
Then Maitreya Bodhisattva joined his palms and said, “What the Buddha has said is true. People of the world are like that. The Tathāgata, out of lovingkindness and compassion, enables us all to be liberated. Having received the Buddha’s solemn admonition, we dare not defy or lose it.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Rise, arrange your robe, join your palms reverently, and make obeisance to Amitāyus Buddha. Buddha-Tathāgatas in worlds in the ten directions all praise and acclaim that Buddha, who has neither attachment nor hindrance.”
Then Ānanda rose, arranged his robe, and stood properly, facing the west. He joined his palms reverently and prostrated himself on the ground, making obeisance to Amitāyus Buddha. He said, “World-Honored One, I wish to see that Buddha, His Land of Peace and Bliss, and the multitude of Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers there.”
As soon as he spoke these words, Amitāyus Buddha emitted great radiance, illuminating all Buddha Lands. The vajra mountain range, Sumeru the king of mountains, and other large and small mountains all became the same color. The radiance was like the water covering the world at the end of a kalpa when everything is submerged, and one sees only an expanse of water. That Buddha’s radiance had the same effect. The radiance of voice-hearers and Bodhisattvas was entirely obscured, and one saw only that Buddha’s radiance, brilliant and magnificent.
At that time Ānanda saw Amitāyus Buddha, awesome and majestic, like Sumeru the mountain-king, taller than all the worlds. The radiance of his sublime appearance shone on everything. As the four groups of Śākyamuni Buddha’s disciples in this assembly all saw Amitāyus Buddha and His land, likewise all inhabitants of the Land of Peace and Bliss saw Śākyamuni Buddha and His people in this Sahā World.
Then the Buddha asked Ānanda and Maitreya Bodhisattva, “Do you not see all the wonderful pure adornments in that land, from its ground up to pure abode heavens?”
Ānanda replied, “Yes, I see them.”
“Do you not hear Amitāyus Buddha pronounce [the Dharma] aloud to all worlds to transform their sentient beings?”
Ānanda replied, “Yes, I hear Him.”
“People of that land ride a palace 100,000 yojanas in size, made of the seven treasures, to make offerings to Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions unhindered. Do you see this?”
“I see this,” replied Ānanda.
“Some people of that land are reborn from the womb. Do you see this?”
“I see this,” replied Ānanda.
“Those who are reborn from the womb live in palaces 100 or 500 yojanas in size. They each enjoy pleasures as naturally as if they were in Trayastriṁśa Heaven.”
At that time Maitreya Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why are people of that land reborn from the womb or reborn miraculously [in lotus flowers]?”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “There are sentient beings that wish to be reborn in that land, but they accumulate merit with a mind of doubts. They do not understand Buddha wisdom, including the inconceivable wisdom-knowledge, the indescribable wisdom-knowledge, the vast Mahāyāna wisdom-knowledge, and the unsurpassed supreme wisdom-knowledge. They disbelieve in and doubt such wisdom-knowledge. Nevertheless, they believe in sin and merit, and they develop their roots of goodness, wishing to be reborn in that land. These sentient beings are reborn [on the edge of that land] and live a 500-year lifespan in a palace. They never see that Buddha, nor do they hear the Buddha Dharma, nor do they see the multitude of Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers. Therefore, in that land this is called a rebirth from the womb.
“Then, there are sentient beings that believe in Buddha wisdom, including the unsurpassed supreme wisdom-knowledge. They acquire merits and faithfully transfer their merits to others. These sentient beings are reborn miraculously, seated cross-legged in lotus flowers made of the seven treasures. In an instant, their physical features, radiance, wisdom, and merits are as complete as those of the Bodhisattvas already there.
“Moreover, Maitreya, in Buddha Lands in other directions are great Bodhisattvas who wish to see Amitāyus Buddha and His multitude of Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers, and to make offerings reverently to them. These Bodhisattvas after death will also be reborn miraculously in Amitāyus Buddha’s land, in lotus flowers made of the seven treasures.
“Maitreya, know that those reborn miraculously have superior wisdom while those reborn from the womb have little wisdom. For 500 years they do not see that Buddha, nor do they hear the Dharma, nor do they see the multitude of Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers. Unable to make offerings to Buddhas and ignorant of Bodhisattvas’ Dharma procedures, they cannot acquire merit. Know that all this is caused by their lacking wisdom and harboring doubts in their past lives.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “As an analogy, a Wheel-Turning King has a special palace adorned with the seven treasures. It is furnished with beds, curtains, and silky canopies. If young princes have offended the king, they are detained in that palace, chained with gold locks. Just like a Wheel-Turning King, they are provided with food and drink, clothing and bedding, flowers and incense, and instrumental music, without any shortage. What is your opinion? Do these princes enjoy staying there?”
“No,” replied Maitreya Bodhisattva, “using various methods, they seek the strength to escape.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “These sentient beings live in the same way. Because they have doubts about Buddha wisdom, they are reborn in that palace made of the seven treasures. There is no punishment, not even a single thought of evil. However, for 500 years, they do not see the Three Jewels and are unable to make offerings or develop roots of goodness. This is their suffering. Although there are pleasures to spare, they do not enjoy that place. However, if these sentient beings can recognize their initial sins, reproach themselves, and beseech to leave that place, their wish will be fulfilled. Then they can go to the place where Amitāyus Buddha is and can make offerings reverently. They also can go to the places where innumerable, countless Buddhas are, to acquire merit. Maitreya, know that those who harbor doubts will lose great benefits. Therefore, one should recognize and believe in Buddhas’ unsurpassed wisdom.”
Maitreya Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, how many Bodhisattvas in this world who are at the spiritual level of no regress have been reborn in that land?”
The Buddha replied to Maitreya Bodhisattva, “From this world, 67 koṭi Bodhisattvas who never regress have been reborn in that land. Each of these Bodhisattvas has made offerings to innumerable Buddhas, though less so than Maitreya. Innumerable Bodhisattvas with lesser achievement and lesser merit will all be reborn there.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “Not only from my land, but also from Buddha Lands in other directions, will Bodhisattvas be reborn in that land. The first Buddha is called Shining Far, whose 180 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The second Buddha is called Treasure Store, whose 90 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The third Buddha is called Infinite Tone, whose 220 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The fourth Buddha is called Sweet Nectar Flavor, whose 250 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The fifth Buddha is called Dragon Victory, whose 14 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The sixth Buddha is called Victory Power, whose 14,000 Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The seventh Buddha is called Lion, whose 500 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The eighth Buddha is called Immaculate Light, whose 80 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The ninth Buddha is called Virtue Leader, whose 60 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The tenth Buddha is called Wonderful Virtue Mountain, whose 60 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The eleventh Buddha is called King of Men, whose 10 koṭi Bodhisattvas will be reborn there. The twelfth Buddha is called Supreme Flower, whose innumerable Bodhisattvas, all at the spiritual level of no regress, all with wisdom and valor, having made offerings to innumerable Buddhas, able to collect in seven days the firm dharmas practiced by great Bodhisattvas for 100,000 koṭi kalpas, will be reborn there. The thirteenth Buddha is called Fearlessness, whose 790 koṭi great Bodhisattvas, and innumerable bhikṣus and novice Bodhisattvas, will be reborn there.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “Not only will Bodhisattvas from these fourteen Buddha Lands be reborn there, but also countless Bodhisattvas from innumerable Buddha Lands in the ten directions will be reborn there. If I tell day and night only the names of Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions and their Bodhisattvas and bhikṣus who will be reborn there, I cannot finish the list in a kalpa. I now have told you only in brief.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “If there is a person who, having heard that Buddha’s name, is joyful and exuberant even for a single thought, know that he has acquired great benefits and unsurpassed merits. Therefore, Maitreya, even if there is an enormous fire filling this entire Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, one regardless should cross the fire to hear this sūtra, delight and believe in it, accept and uphold it, read and recite it, and train accordingly. Why? Because there are many Bodhisattvas who wish to hear this sūtra but do not have access. If sentient beings have heard this sūtra, they will never regress from their resolve to attain the unsurpassed bodhi. Therefore, they should deeply believe in this sūtra, accept and uphold it, recite and pronounce it, and carry out its teachings. For the sake of sentient beings, I have pronounced this sūtra and enabled them to see Amitāyus Buddha and everything in His land, so that they can resolve to do what should be done and not allow doubts to arise after my parinirvāṇa.
“In times to come, the Dharma will be annihilated. Out of lovingkindness and compassion, I will specially save this sūtra and make it stay for a hundred years more. Sentient beings that encounter this sūtra will all be delivered as they wish.”
The Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “The appearance of a Tathāgata in the world is hard to encounter and hard to see. The Buddha Dharma is hard to acquire and hard to hear. The excellent Bodhisattva Dharma, including the pāramitās, is hard to hear as well. To practice the Dharma after hearing it from a beneficent learned friend is also very hard. To believe, appreciate, accept, and uphold this sūtra after hearing it, is the hardest of all. Nothing is harder than this.
“Such is my Dharma. This is how it is pronounced and how it is taught. You all should believe and follow, and train accordingly.”
When the World-Honored One pronounced this sūtra, innumerable sentient beings activated the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind. In addition, 12,000 nayuta people acquired the pure dharma-eye, 22 Koṭi gods and humans achieved the third voice-hearer fruit, becoming Anāgāmins, and 80 koṭi bhikṣus eradicated their afflictions and liberated their minds, [becoming Arhats]. Forty koṭi Bodhisattvas achieved the spiritual level of no regress, adorning themselves with their great merits and vows. They would in a future life attain true enlightenment.
Then the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World quaked in six different ways. Great radiance illuminated everywhere in worlds in the ten directions. One hundred thousand kinds of music spontaneously played, and innumerable wonderful flowers rained down from the sky.
After the Buddha pronounced this sūtra, the entire assembly—Maitreya Bodhisattva and the multitude of Bodhisattvas who came from worlds in the ten directions, together with the Elder Ānanda and other great voice-hearers—having heard the Buddha’s words, greatly rejoiced.
1. These 34 names are taken from the Sanskrit text of Sukhāvatīvyūhaḥ at the website of the Digital Sanskrit Buddhist Canon posted by the University of the West, Rosemead, California. The Chinese text (T12n0360) contains only 31 names. Some names phonetically translated into Chinese can be easily matched with their corresponding Sanskrit names. However, other Chinese names were created by using the reputations of given subjects. For example, on the Chinese list is a name Great Pure Willpower (大淨志). According to the Buddha’s Light Dictionary (1988, 6313a), it belongs to a monk called Raṣtrapāla (country protector), who refused to accept the woman his parents sent him. Neither Great Pure Willpower nor Raṣtrapāla is on the Sanskrit list. Therefore, it would be unproductive to try matching such names in the Chinese text with names in the Sanskrit text. (Return to text)
2. The name Wisdom Eloquence is included in a corresponding passage in text 310 (T11n0310, 0091c16–20). Adding this name to the fifteen Upright Ones named in text 360 brings the total to sixteen. (Return to text)
3. In text 360, the Chinese term 天人 can mean gods or gods and humans. The word gods is used here because all inhabitants of the Pure Land are reborn miraculously in lotus flowers, not from the womb. The Buddha explains later that they are neither gods nor humans, so gods is a false name. (Return to text)
4. In text 360, the subject of vow 37 is gods. However, for the same vow in text 310 (T11n0310, 0094b21–23), the subject is Bodhisattvas. The latter makes more sense in the context. (Return to text)
5. Five evil life-paths refer to the life-paths of gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell-dwellers. Asuras are not included here as a sixth life form because they may assume any of the first four life forms and live among sentient beings in these forms. In this human world, only the last three life-paths are considered evil. However, compared with the life of the inhabitants in the Land of Peace and Bliss, all five life-paths are evil. (Return to text)
6. Prohibited by the five precepts are the five evils: (1) killing; (2) stealing; (3) sexual misconduct; (4) false speech, divisive speech, abusive speech, suggestive speech; (5) drinking alcohol. All five evils arise from greed, anger, and delusion (the wrong views). The five pains are an evildoer’s suffering in his present life. The five burns are his suffering in his next life in hell. The five virtues are the opposites of the five evils. (Return to text)
7. This sentence is a simplified version of a corresponding passage in text 310 (T11n0310, 0100a2–4). (Return to text)
8. The womb is a figure of speech, meaning a confined life after rebirth. According to texts 361 and 362 (T12n0361, 0292a28–29; T12n0362, 0310b9–10), some of those in the middle class (and very likely in the low class as well) who could be reborn in the Pure Land proper, because of their doubts, are instead reborn in lotus flowers in the ponds of a city on the edge of the Pure Land. There, they live for 500 years in palaces made of the seven jewels. According to text 310 (T11n0310, 0100b17–20), each of them remains for 500 years in an unopened lotus flower, as if in a womb, and thinks that he lives in a palace. (Return to text)
9. Four different figures are found for the number of Bodhisattvas. (1) It is 500 koṭi in text 360. (2) It is 500 in the same text in the Song, Yuan, and Ming editions of the Chinese Canon, and in text 310. (3) It is 1,800 in text 363. (4) It is 16 koṭi in F. Max Müller’s translation (1894, part 2, 66). The first figure is used here though the figure 500 is adopted in the circulation text. (Return to text)
10. They should train for rebirth in Amitāyus Buddha’s land. (Return to text)