Sūtra 48 (posted 01/2015, updated 09/2015) Book information on Home page
fascicle 1 fascicle 2
Thus I have heard:
At one time the Bhagavān was staying atop the Malaya Mountain, beside a splendid lake in a great garden. Inaccessible to humans, this place was the abode of great vidyādharas and the abode of those with spiritual attainment. He was accompanied by 1,250 great bhikṣus. All of them were great voice-hearers who had completed their endeavor [for Arhatship] and transcended the ground of ordinary beings. Such great voices-hearers included the honorable Ājñātakauṇḍinya, Aśvajit, Mahākāśyapa, Śāriputra, and Mahāmaudgalyāyana.
Also present were Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, who had acquired all Bodhisattva samādhis and dhāraṇīs. All of them abided on Bodhisattva grounds. Among them were the holy Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, Great Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, Excellent Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, Firm Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, Quiet Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, Endless Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, Boundless Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, Ocean Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, Peaceful Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, Pure Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, and Knowledge Wisdom Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva. Such Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas had received the prophecy of their attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi in certain worlds and turning the Dharma wheel.
In attendance as well were great gods, dragons, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṁnaras, mahoragas, vidyādharas, and nonhumans, who assumed different shapes and facial features, wore different crowns and different garments, and held staffs, banners, and canopies. They all gathered there to hear the Dharma.
At that time the World-Honored One was surrounded by multitudes as massive as the ocean. The Dharma he expounded was good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end. Its meaning was profound and His words were skillful. He broadly expounded the pure Brahma way of life.
Meanwhile the rākṣasa-king Viviśana, who ruled the city of Laṅkā [atop the Malaya Mountain], heard that the Buddha was staying beside a splendid lake in a great garden, that the place, inaccessible to humans, was the abode of vidyādharas and the bode of those with spiritual attainment, and that He was accompanied by 1,250 great bhikṣus and was expounding to them the Brahma way of life.
Then Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, thought, “Rare like the udumbara flower, throughout an immeasurable timespan, hardly heard even once is the name of a Tathāgata, not to mention encountering a Buddha. For an immeasurable timespan, like a blind turtle trying to enter a hole in a piece of driftwood, I have been unable to hear the Dharma. Much harder would be to encounter a Buddha and His Dharma, to enter a Buddha’s state, and to attain Buddha bodhi. I should take a great many treasures, pearl necklaces, countless flowers, choice incense, powdered incense, solid perfumes, magnificent crowns and garments, jeweled banners and canopies, and silks, and should play music, sing songs of praise, and go, together with my retinue, to where the Buddha is. Upon arrival I will make these offerings to the Tathāgata and ask for the true Dharma, to make my life worthwhile.”
Then Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, announced to his rākṣasas, “All of you should, with one mind, take abundant gold, silver, precious jewels, jade, aquamarine [vaiḍūrya], coral, emerald, ruby, pearl necklaces, choice incense, and countless diverse flowers, and should play music, sing songs of praise, and go to where the Buddha is. The Tathāgata is the Dharma King, the supreme one in the Three Realms of Existence. Having accumulated unexcelled merits, He has excellent physical marks and all wisdom-knowledge. He is the unsurpassed fortune field. We should make these offerings to Him. Why? Because it takes an immeasurable timespan for a Buddha to appear in the world. It is hard to see a Buddha, to hear the Three Jewels, and to leave behind the eight difficulties.”
Then Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, made his announcement in verse:
It takes an immeasurable timespan
For a Buddha to appear in the world.
It takes an immeasurable timespan
To leave behind the eight difficulties.
In 100,000 koṭi kalpas,
It is rare to encounter a World-Honored One,
Like the udumbara flower, which
Takes an immeasurable timespan to bloom.
Sentient beings, like carriage wheels,
Transmigrate through the six life-paths.
Among them hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts,
And animals suffer the most.
To benefit sentient beings
And enable them
To leave behind the eight difficulties,
A Buddha, like a lamp, appears in the world.
His sunlight of wisdom shines
And dispels the darkness of ignorance.
We should go to His place
To make offerings to the unsurpassed honored one,
The teacher of gods and humans.
Making offerings to Him will bring great fruits.
After Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, spoke these stanzas, through the Buddha’s spiritual power, a web of 100,000 beams of light appeared in the open sky and illuminated the great city of Laṅkā. Touched by its radiance, Viviśana and all his rākṣasas felt joyful and exuberant.
Then a voice in that vast flaming radiance expounded the profound Dharma in verse:
Dharmas have always been quiet and empty,
And have no self.
No sentient being can be captured
In the past, present, or future.
Like illusions, dreams, bubbles, mirages,
Fog, lightning, foam,
And a flaming wheel drawn by whirling a torch,
All dharmas arising through causes and conditions are unreal.
From ignorance and thirsty love [tṛṣṇā] of being, the roots of birth and death,
One’s world arises.
Observe that ignorance and thirsty love have no self-essence
Because dharmas are innately pure
Like the open sky,
Beyond description with words.
After hearing these stanzas spoken by the web of radiance, Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, forthwith acquired endurance in the realization that dharmas have no self. Among the rākṣasas, some acquired endurance of adversity, some activated the bodhi mind, some acquired endurance in accord, and some saw the truth. Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, acquired a perfect understanding of the Buddha Dharma without doubts about it. He donned the armor of unwavering faith and made a vow in verse:
The Brahma-king, and all Brahma gods
Do not see or know
The unsurpassed wondrous Dharma.
I will master the Dharma in the future,
Acquire all hindrance-free wisdom-knowledge,
Attain Buddhahood in this world,
And deliver countless koṭis of sentient beings.
I will expound the wondrous Dharma of Buddhas,
Such as the unexcelled Eightfold Right Path,
And acquire boundless wisdom
And a sublime body adorned with the thirty-two marks [of a great man].
I will enable sentient beings
To diligently do pure karmas,
Complete the virtuous training for Buddhahood,
And discard their fears.
I will accumulate merits, end all afflictions,
And widely benefit sentient beings.
My face as radiant as the sun and moon,
I will become a Buddha in the Three Realms of Existence.
Then Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, attained [the spiritual level of] no regress from the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind. He manifested various wonderful flowers, choice incense, powdered incense, solid perfumes, magnificent crowns and garments, jeweled banners and canopies, silks, and pearl necklaces, and he played music, clapped his hands, and sang songs of praise. His wonderful voice pervading everywhere, he praised the Tathāgata’s superb merits and sublime appearance. Holding these offerings, walking across the open sky like a goose-king, he and his retinue went to the place where the Buddha was. Upon arrival they descended from the sky and joined their palms, facing the Buddha. They prostrated themselves at the World-Honored One’s feet a hundred times and circled Him three times and even a thousand times. Then Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, like a felled tree, prostrated himself before the Buddha. He said, “Namo [Homage to] immeasurable merit and majesty, the supreme dharma body, the lion among men, the supreme World-Honored One in the Three Realms of Existence, Śākyamuni Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha!”
Then he rose, joined his palms, and praised the Buddha’s merits in verse:
In koṭis of His past lives,
To seek bodhi,
He diligently did what was hard to do
And practiced asceticism.
He gave solicitors, as alms,
Food and drink, clothing, vehicles,
And the seven treasures in the koṭis
For an inconceivable number of kalpas, without regrets.
For koṭis of kalpas,
He relinquished things hard to relinquish,
Such as His country, villages, subjects,
Majestic palaces, and abundant treasures.
In a past life, He was Prince Siddhārtha.
In a mountain forest He gave away His wife.
[In other past lives] He relinquished His life to save a starving tigress suckling its cubs,
Cut off His flesh to feed hungry doves,
And gave His eyes to a blind Brahmin
Without resentment or regret.
To cultivate the cause of bodhi,
With delight He gave away his head to a solicitor.
To cultivate purity,
He observed the precepts
In His holy training
Without omission or violation.
He never took lives
Or stole others’ things
As He led the Brahma way of life
With no attachment to the worldly ways.
He never used false speech
Or drank alcohol,
And He protected sentient beings
As if they were Himself.
He never used divisive speech, abusive speech,
Or suggestive speech, out of anger.
The World-Honored One always did good and stayed away from evil,
And was never offended or angered by sentient beings.
To accumulate merits, He never followed the wrong views or harbored malice,
And He sincerely made offerings to the Three Jewels.
He renounced family life
And discarded the five desires.
He abided by the Buddha precepts
And trained to achieve liberation.
He endured adversity, suffering,
Slander, abuse, and false blame.
He harbored no malice toward sentient beings
Because he endured suffering for their sake.
With lovingkindness he gazed upon sentient beings
As if they were his sons.
Life after life, the Buddha trained in endurance [of adversity],
Aiming to deliver koṭis of suffering sentient beings.
In a past life, the Tathāgata was a ṛṣi called Endurance Advocate [Kṣāntivādin],
Who sought bodhi.
When his body was mutilated by the king of Kaliṅga,
He endured pain without harboring malice toward that king.
Then He expounded the Dharma to that king and his queen
To delight them.
For inconceivable koṭis of kalpas,
He made energetic progress in
Removing indolence, evil thinking, and narrow-mindedness.
He endured all practices of asceticism
And made vast energetic progress in attaining bodhi.
He did walking meditation without sleep or fatigue
And reverently made offerings to innumerable Buddhas.
He satisfied sentient beings’ needs
And trained to attain Buddhahood and acquire the unsurpassed Dharma.
He practiced meditation to tame his mind
And attained the four dhyānas [of the form realm]
And the four samādhis of the formless realm.
His attainment in samādhi and right mindfulness
Led to the five transcendental powers
As He mastered meditation free from afflictions.
The Tathāgata’s wisdom is perfect and affliction free.
He knows that dharmas are illusory and false, and that
There is no autonomous self, no person, no sentient being, and no everlasting soul.
Yet sentient beings are trapped in the web of afflictions
And transmigrate according to their karmas.
The desire realm is impure
Because sentient beings have the four defilements.
However, the realm of sentient beings has always been pure.
Knowing the purity of that realm, He achieved the six pāramitās.
Who can better expound the wisdom-knowledge and skillful means
To accumulate the endless merits required for Buddhahood?
I revolve before the Tathāgata
To do excellent karmas using my body, voice, and mind.
I bow down to the Buddha,
Praying that I will attain Buddhahood in a future life.
After Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, spoke these stanzas, he again manifested wonderful flowers, choice incense, powdered incense, solid perfumes, magnificent crowns and garments, and jeweled banners and canopies, and he played music, sang songs of praise, and reverently attended the Buddha. As he properly made these offerings to the Buddha, voice-hearers, and great Bodhisattvas, so too did his rākṣasas, to delight the Buddha.
After Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, made his offerings, he asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, I have questions and would like to ask the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha. I pray that the World-Honored One will explain to me.”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, you have my permission to ask your questions at your pleasure. I will explain to delight your heart.”
With the Buddha’s permission, Viviśana asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what is a sentient being? Why is a sentient being called a sentient being?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, a sentient being is called a sentient being because it is an assemblage of multiple conditions, such as name and form, the six faculties, and the six domains—earth, water, fire, wind, space, and consciousness. Moreover, [the birth of] a sentient being is the requital for its past karmas, which are like a bundle of reeds. A sentient being mistakenly holds the self-image of having an autonomous self, and being a person, a sentient being, and an everlasting soul, and regards itself as a nurturer, a knower, a perceiver, a doer, a toucher, and a recipient.”
Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, for a sentient being, what is its root, in what does it abide, and what is its cause?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, for a sentient being, ignorance is its root, in love [of being] it abides, and karmas are its cause.”
Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, how many kinds of karmas are there?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, there are three kinds of karmas. What these three? They are body, voice, and mind karmas. A karma has one of the three appearances: pure, impure, and neither.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, how does a sentient being abandon this life to accept the next life, and how does it abandon its old body to accept a new body?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, after a sentient being abandons its body, the karmic wind blows its [ālaya] consciousness away to accept the requital for the karmas it has done, whether good, evil, or neither. Driven by the karmic wind, a sentient being effortlessly accepts a new body in a place, whether through a womb, an egg, moisture, or miraculous formation, though karma does not know what requital it brings. King of Laṅkā, this is how a sentient being abandons its old body and life to accept a new body and life.”
Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, after a sentient being’s [ālaya] consciousness has abandoned its dead body and before it accepts a new body, where does it stay in the interim?”
The Buddha asked, “King of Laṅkā, what is your opinion? When a seed in the field sprouts, does the seed perish before the sprout emerges, does the sprout emerge before the seed perishes, or does the sprout emerge when the seed perishes?”
Viviśana answered, “World-Honored One, the seed does not perish before the sprout emerges. Nor does the sprout emerge before the seed perishes. It is when the seed perishes that the sprout emerges.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed, King of Laṅkā. Likewise the old consciousness does not end before the new consciousness arises. Nor does the new consciousness arise before the old consciousness ends. The arising of the new consciousness and the end of the old consciousness take place simultaneously. King of Laṅkā, as an analogy, when an inchworm moves, its body always follows its head, and flexes and extends without interruption. Indeed, indeed. King of Laṅkā, likewise when [ālaya] consciousness sees that the life [of the old body] has ended, without interruption it transfers itself into a new body.”
Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, if so, there is no interim body?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, for a sentient being born through an egg, its [ālaya] consciousness abandons its dead body and enters an egg. However, captured by the karmic wind, it stays in the egg unconscious. Consciousness arises only after [the new body in] the egg is ripe to hatch. Why? Because this is the way of a sentient being born through an egg. Before the new body is ripe, it has no awareness. Why? Because of the karmic force.
“King of Laṅkā, if a sentient being has a great store of merits, he can be reborn into a Wheel-Turning King’s family. When he is in his mother’s womb, he is neither blended with nor tainted by the impurities in the womb. King of Laṅkā, a Wheel-Turning King’s son usually is born through miraculous formation. However, if he is born through the womb, his [ālaya] consciousness enters a completely formed body in the womb and breaks the placenta to be born. Therefore, King of Laṅkā, there can be an interim body.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is the size of a sentient being’s consciousness, and what is its form?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, a sentient being’s consciousness is immeasurable in size. It has no form, no shape, no appearance, no hindrance, and no definite place. It is invisible and indescribable.”
Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, if consciousness is immeasurable in size, with no form, no shape, no appearance, no hindrance, and no definite place, and is invisible and indescribable, is it nonexistent?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, I now will use analogies to explain to you. King of Laṅkā, as an analogy, when you, great king, sit comfortably in your palace or a high tower, you are surrounded and attended by beautiful maidens wearing various garments and necklaces. In your magnificent garden there are aśoka trees and various flowers. When gentle or strong winds blow across the aśoka garden, fragrance flows into your palace. Do you smell it?”
Viviśana answered, “Yes, World-Honored One, I smell the fragrance.”
The Buddha asked, “King of Laṅkā, can you distinguish the fragrance of different kinds of flowers?”
The king answered, “Yes, World-Honored One, I can.”
The Buddha asked, “King of Laṅkā, do you see the size or form of the fragrance you say that you know?”
The king answered, “No, World-Honored One. Why not? Because fragrance has no form, no appearance, no hindrance, and no definite place. Therefore, I do not see its size or form.”
The Buddha asked, “King of Laṅkā, what is your opinion? If the size of that fragrance cannot be seen, is this evidence of its nonexistence?”
Viviśana answered, “No, World-Honored One. If that fragrance were nonexistent, no one could smell it.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed, indeed. King of Laṅkā, you should see consciousness in the same way. King of Laṅkā, if consciousness ceased, there would be no difference between birth and death. King of Laṅkā, consciousness is pure. However, it is covered by visitor-like afflictions, such as ignorance, greed, and habits. King of Laṅkā, as an analogy, the pure open sky is covered by four visitor-like things. What are these four? They are smoke, cloud, dust, and fog. King of Laṅkā, likewise consciousness has always been pure, ungraspable, and free from taints. However, it is covered by visitor-like afflictions. Why? Because, King of Laṅkā, if you observe with true wisdom, no sentient being can be captured. There is no self, no person, no sentient being, no everlasting soul, no nurturer, no knower, no toucher, no recipient, no viewer, and no hearer, and there is no form, no sensory reception, no perception, no mental processing, and no consciousness [the five aggregates]. King of Laṅkā, if you observe with true wisdom, no differentiation can be made. King of Laṅkā, dharmas have no self-essence because they are assemblages of conditions. Although you have learned about the true reality of a sentient being, you should not abandon the wilderness of birth and death. What is meant by understanding the true reality of a sentient being? It means achieving a clear understanding of the Mahāyāna.”
Then the World-Honored One spoke in verse:
Those driven by karmic force
Are not taking the supreme Eightfold Right Path.
If they remove their evil karmas and realize what is free from afflictions,
They will take unexcelled actions to benefit sentient beings.
Then Viviśana said, “World-Honored One, sentient beings are as numerous as the countless sands of the Ganges. Some have crossed the vast deep ocean of the Three Realms of Existence to its opposite shore, and some wish to do the same. Some have crossed the ocean by riding the Voice-Hearer Vehicle, some by riding the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle, and some by achieving a clear understanding of the Mahāyāna. In the future there will be sentient beings as numerous as the countless sands of an asaṁkhyeya Ganges Rivers, riding any of the Three Vehicles to enter nirvāṇa. Yet the realm of sentient beings neither increases nor decreases in number. Therefore, I feel disheartened.”
The Buddha said, “King of Laṅkā, do not feel disheartened. Why? Because, as the dharma realm and the domain of space have no beginning and no end, so too does the realm of sentient beings. Therefore, King of Laṅkā, because the realm of sentient beings is indescribable, we know that it neither increases nor decreases. Thus, in the ocean of the Three Realms of Existence, although some sentient beings have crossed it and some will cross it, the realm of sentient beings neither increases nor decreases. King of Laṅkā, as an analogy, the domain of space neither increases nor decreases, and has no beginning, middle, or end. Therefore, it cannot be known. Yet it pervades everywhere, with no hindrance, no shape, no action, and no appearance. Indeed, indeed. King of Laṅkā, one can never find the beginning, middle, or end of the realm of sentient beings. King of Laṅkā, only achieving a clear understanding of the holy teachings can be called ending the realm of sentient beings, though the path of saṁskṛta dharmas never ends. King of Laṅkā, the path of liberation is not apart from the path of saṁskṛta dharmas. Why? Because this is the natural way of the realm of sentient beings. Therefore, it has no beginning, middle, or end.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for a sentient being’s cycle of birth and death?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, a sentient being’s cycle of birth and death is like an immense ocean.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for the Dharma of Buddhas?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, the Dharma of Buddha is like a ship.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for a bhikṣu who has accepted the complete [monastic] precepts?”
The Buddha answered, “A bhikṣu who has accepted the complete precepts is like a merchant who rides a ship.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for whoever fully observes the Buddha precepts without violation?”
The Buddha answered, “Whoever follows the Dharma, fully observes the Buddha precepts without violation, and makes energetic progress, is like a merchant who brings full provisions to ride a sturdy ship.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for a beneficent learned friend?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, a beneficent learned friend is like a ship captain.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for diligently walking the Eightfold Right Path?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, diligently walking the Eightfold Right Path is like the right wind driving the ship to sail fast [in the right direction].”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for dhyāna, samādhi, and transcendental powers?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, dhyāna, samādhi, and transcendental powers are like a treasure land.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for the Seven Bodhi Factors?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, the Seven Bodhi Factors are like the seven treasures.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for completing the Seven Bodhi Factors and achieving a clear understanding of the Mahāyāna?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, completing the Seven Bodhi Factors and achieving a clear understanding of the Mahāyāna are like taking the seven treasures and becoming hugely wealthy and completely satisfied. It is good to renounce family life to follow my Dharma and attain the unsurpassed Buddhahood.”
Then the World-Honored One spoke in verse:
Observe one’s own and others’ suffering
In the Three Realms of Existence.
He who renounces family life
And the fetters of existence to follow my Dharma
Is called a Buddha-son,
The most virtuous one amid multitudes.
Training diligently in accordance with the Dharma,
He will become a World-Honored One.
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, suppose that someone has renounced family life to follow the Buddha Dharma. However, he cannot observe the precepts. He either violates the precepts, such as the precept for celibacy, or gives up his Dharma robe and returns to secular life. World-Honored One, what is an analogy for this fool?”
The Buddha answered, “If someone has renounced family life to follow my Dharma and has accepted the precepts, then violates them, this fool will likely be reborn to go down an evil life-path. He is like a merchant who drowns at sea because his ship is broken.”
Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what is an analogy for someone who will be reborn to take a good life-path, though he has violated the precept for celibacy and still claims that he diligently trains in the Brahma way of life? What is an analogy for someone who will be reborn to take a good life-path, though he has given up his Dharma robe and the precepts and returned to secular life?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, he is like a merchant who, after his ship is broken, grabs a ship board or a corpse, or stays afloat on his own power. If he holds onto a ship board, he may be blown to an island. If he holds onto a corpse, he may be washed ashore. Why? Because the sea does not lodge a corpse. If he has the power to stay afloat, he may swim somewhere with the compassionate help of the sea god. Indeed, indeed. King of Laṅkā, likewise if someone renounces family life to follow my Dharma but cannot observe the precepts with purity, or if someone gives up his Dharma robe and the precepts and returns to secular life, he may nevertheless be reborn to take a good life-path. The reason is that he has acquired the right faith, that he retains innate purity, that he constantly takes compassionate actions, or that he continues to make energetic progress. Therefore, King of Laṅkā, because of my Dharma, whoever has violated the precepts or returned to secular life may nevertheless be reborn to take a good life-path.”
Then the World-Honored One spoke in verse:
For the multiple sins committed
In one’s countless thousands of koṭis of past lives,
If one repents of them and vows never to commit any new sin,
One’s sins are expunged and will never increase.
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, how many aids are there to attain bodhi?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, there are thirty-seven aids to attain bodhi. What are these thirty-seven? They comprise the Four Abidings of Mindfulness, the Four Right Endeavors, the Four Ways to Attain Samādhi, the Five Roots, the Five Powers, the Seven Bodhi Factors, and the Eightfold Right Path. These are called the thirty-seven aids to attain bodhi.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, how many liberation doors are there?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, there are Three Liberation Doors: emptiness, no appearance, and no wish.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, how should one train?”
The Buddha answered, “One should train to eradicate afflictions, end suffering, and enter nirvāṇa.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, how many remedial practices are there [for greed, anger, and delusion]?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, there are three remedial practices. What are these three? Those with a greedy mind should meditate on the impurities [of a corpse]; those with an angry mind should meditate on lovingkindness and compassion; those with a deluded mind should meditate on the dependent arising of dharmas. These are the three remedial practices.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what things should one skillfully train to know?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, one should skillfully train to know four things: (1) the five aggregates, (2) the eighteen spheres, (3) the six faculties, and (4) skillful means.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what observations should one make?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, one should observe the cause and effect revealed in the profound Four Noble Truths and the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising.”
Then Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, circled the World-Honored One three times and showered on the Buddha flowers made of varicolored seven treasures. Then, facing the Buddha, he knelt with his right knee on the ground, joined his palms, and reverently asked the Tathāgata in verse:
What holy training should a Bodhisattva do
To make energetic progress in benefiting the world?
Making the supreme resolve to attain bodhi,
He practices almsgiving, observing the precepts, enduring adversity, and making energetic progress.
As he seeks wisdom free from afflictions,
He draws in and transforms koṭis of sentient beings.
Adorned with taint-free treasures,
He attains Buddhahood in a splendid land.
Then the World-Honored One answered, “Very good, very good! King of Laṅkā, you ask the Tathāgata about this matter. Hearken, hearken, and ponder well. I will explain to you. King of Laṅkā, a Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva should constantly train in the six pāramitās and harbor no malice toward any sentient being. King of Laṅkā, a Bodhisattva should never regress from this training, but should increase his mastery of the Buddha Dharma. With no attachment to worldly dharmas, he draws in, teaches, and transforms innumerable sentient beings. He purifies Buddha Lands and achieves a clear understanding of the Mahāyāna in order to master the Buddha Dharma hindrance free.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, how should one train to attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, one should discard pride, arrogance, and jealousy, and cultivate the Four Immeasurable Minds. One should delight in benefiting all sentient beings and should refrain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, drinking, false speech, divisive speech, abusive speech, and suggestive speech. One should never lose the bodhi mind, even temporarily, but should diligently train in the six pāramitās. Whatever one does should be done to bring peace and joy to sentient beings. In the midst of saṁskṛta dharmas, one’s mind should remain quiet and peaceful. To cross the ocean of existence, filled with formidable fears, one should rightly observe sentient beings in the Three Realms of Existence, in order to deliver them.
“Moreover, King of Laṅkā, if you aspire to seek bodhi, you should know that bodhi is but a name, a word called bodhi. Why? Because, King of Laṅkā, bodhi has no existence, no root, no place to abide, no impurity, no affliction, no self, no substance to grasp, no form, no shape, no entrance, no exit, no anxiety, no vexation, no attachment, no taint, no boundary, no turbidity, and no dependency on conditions. Bodhi transcends all faculties and all life-paths, and is apart from all thoughts and differentiations. With no bottom, bodhi is profound and hard to know. Bodhi has no word [for itself], no appearance, and no analogy, and is quiet, pure, unsurpassed, and inconceivable. Bodhi seeks nothing and has no end, no destruction, and no decay. Bodhi has no self-essence, no action, no indication, and no hindrance, Bodhi has no illumination and no continuous flow of afflictions. Bodhi constantly abides and, like the open sky, is unequaled and indescribable.
“King of Laṅkā, how does one seek bodhi? Seeking nothing is seeking bodhi. Why? Because, King of Laṅkā, if one has no attachment to anything, one can attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. If one discards the self-image of having a self, and being a person, a sentient being, an everlasting soul, a nurturer, a doer, a recipient, a knower, and a perceiver, then one can attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. If one has no attachment to dharmas, the five aggregates, or the eighteen spheres, nor to Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, then one can attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. Why? Because, King of Laṅkā, no-fixation is bodhi. If one does not fixate on the permanence or impermanence of dharmas, one will attain bodhi in a future life. Why? Because, King of Laṅkā, all dharmas will perish.”
Then Viviśana asked, “World-Honored One, what should one know about all worldly dharmas?”
The Buddha answered, “King of Laṅkā, one should know that all dharmas are like illusions, manifestations, dreams, mirages, a moon in the water, and a gandharva’s city. This is the way to observe, know, and understand all worldly dharmas.”
Forthwith Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, acquired the Bodhisattva samādhi called Wisdom-Knowledge of Unequaled Dharma Radiance and acquired the dhāraṇī called All Wonderful Sounds, as well as countless other samādhis and dhāraṇīs. Then Viviśana said, “World-Honored One, now that I have acquired this samādhi and this dhāraṇī, I know all worldly dharmas.”
The Buddha asked, “King of Laṅkā, what do you know about them?”
Viviśana answered, “World Honored One, all worldly dharmas are like dreams, illusions, echoes, mountain cascades, the moon in the water, the wind blowing illusory flowers in the sky, autumn clouds, the radiance of a jewel, lamp flames, dewdrops on a flower, a gandharva’s city, bubbles on water, rainbows, and mirages. World-Honored One, I now realize that worldly dharmas are impermanent.”
Then the World-Honored One emitted from the top of His head vast radiance in 100,000 koṭi nayuta diverse colors, such as blue, yellow, red, white, purple, crystal, and golden. It illuminated countless asaṁkhyeyas of Buddha Lands. Then it returned and entered into the top of His head.
Then the honorable Mahāmaudgalyāyana rose from his seat, facing the Buddha, bared his right shoulder, knelt with his right knee on the ground, joined his palms, and asked the Tathāgata in verse:
The Buddha’s release of a web of pure radiance
Is not without reason.
I pray that the Buddha will explain that His web of radiance
Prophesies someone’s attainment of the unsurpassed enlightenment.
The Buddha asked Mahāmaudgalyāyana, “Do you see that Viviśana, this king of Laṅkā, with joined palms is standing properly before me, making vast offerings to me, voice-hearers, and Bodhisattvas, and using this merit to activate the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind?”
Mahāmaudgalyāyana answered, “World-Honored One, I see this. I see this.”
The Buddha said, “Mahāmaudgalyāyana, Viviśana, this king of Laṅkā, after my time, will make offerings to and attend 100,000 koṭi nayuta Buddhas. Then, using the power of his roots of goodness, he will be reborn in a world called Lotus Flower City. That world has a Buddha called Lotus Flower Merit and Thunder Mighty King Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, who now resides there and expounds the Dharma. That Buddha-Tathāgata has an immeasurable lifespan in that pure world. After Viviśana, this king of Laṅkā, is reborn there through miraculous formation, he will forthwith ascend to the first Bodhisattva ground, the Joyful Ground. Then he will ascend [through higher grounds] even to the tenth Bodhisattva ground. After countless kalpas, he will be born in this Sahā World and become a Buddha called Wonderful Thunder Pure Golden Radiance That Reveals the Jeweled Canopy of Merit Adorning the Topknot Vairocana King Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, Knowledge and Conduct Perfected, Sugata, Understanding the World, Unsurpassed One, Tamer of men, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha-Bhagavān. His world will be called Lightning Jeweled Crown. Its ground will be level without mountains, craters, cliffs, rocks, or filthy things. There will be no women or evil life-paths. The purity of that Buddha Land will surpass that of Amitābha Tathāgata’s Buddha Land. Bodhisattvas will fill that land. The kalpa in which He will appear will be called Observation of Illumination. In this final life, that Buddha-Tathāgata’s lifespan will be immeasurable. Mahāmaudgalyāyana, that is why the Tathāgata, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, smiled and emitted radiance from the top of His head.”
Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, after receiving the prophecy of his attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi, was joyful and exuberant, his entire body shaking with Dharma delight. He flew up into the air as high as seven tāla [palm] trees. In the open sky, he spoke in verse:
All dharmas are empty like dreams.
Without self-essence, they are as pure as the open sky.
Dharmas have neither self nor no-self,
And I know that they are like illusions and lightning.
As a sentient being is born and dies,
No dharma can be captured.
The beginning, middle, and end have no self-essence,
Nor does a sentient being’s life.
However, a sentient being receives requitals according to its karmas
And endlessly transmigrates through life-paths.
If one trains to attain bodhi,
One will come to know that dharmas have no self-essence.
After speaking these stanzas, Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, descended from the sky and circled the Buddha three times. Through the Buddha’s awesome spiritual power, he stepped back and sat on one side. Meanwhile in this ocean-like assembly, some gods, dragons, and asuras acquired spiritual fruits; some yakṣas and rākṣasas activated the bodhi mind; some kiṁnaras and mahoragas acquired freedom from doubts about the Buddha Dharma; some garuḍas, gandharvas, and vidyādharas acquired dhāraṇīs and spiritual fruits with no regress.
Then the great earth quaked, and radiance naturally pervaded everywhere in this Buddha Land, even illuminating the large and small iron mountain ranges. All suffering on evil life-paths was removed. The sky rained down celestial flowers and sounded celestial drums and calls. Celestial garments naturally unfurled in the sky. Such inconceivable things were displayed!
Then Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, said to his multitude, “Together you should come to the World-Honored One to pay homage and activate the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind.”
Then countless hundreds of thousands of rākṣasas assembled. Facing the Buddha, they joined their palms and said, “World-Honored One, we are assembled here. From now on, we take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha, and activate the bodhi mind. World-Honored One, from now on, we will do Mahāyāna training as the Tathāgata can verify. World-Honored One, we will in a future life attain true enlightenment in this Sahā World because we will definitely end evil karmas and benefit all sentient beings.”
The Buddha said, “Very good, very good! If you can activate the bodhi mind, you should do four kinds of good dharmas. If you do these dharmas well, you will not lose the bodhi mind. What are these four? They are (1) never losing or contradicting your vows and actions; (2) always eliciting lovingkindness for sentient beings; (3) ceaselessly making offerings to the Three Jewels during the three periods of the day [morning, midday, and afternoon]; (4) never seeking the fruits of voice-hearers or Pratyekabuddhas. If you can fully do these four kinds of dharmas, you will not lose the bodhi mind.”
Then the dragon-king Sāgara rose from his seat, facing the Buddha, bared his right shoulder, knelt with his right knee on the ground, joined his palms, and asked, “World-Honored One, what roots of goodness did Viviśana, king of Laṅkā, develop in the past, which enabled him to make vast offerings to the Buddha and innumerable voice-hearers and Bodhisattvas, to activate the bodhi mind with no regress, and to receive the prophecy of his attaining anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi?”
The Buddha answered, “Dragon-King, before countless asaṁkhyeya kalpas in the past, there was a Buddha called Wisdom Banner Produced by Great Compassion Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, Knowledge and Conduct Perfected, Sugata, Understanding the World, Unsurpassed One, Tamer of Men, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha-Bhagavān. That Tathāgata was born in this Sahā World with the five turbidities and He expounded the Three Vehicles to sentient beings. Dragon-King, at that time that Tathāgata was staying atop this Malaya Mountain, together with five hundred great voice-hearer bhikṣus and innumerable gods, dragons, and other nonhumans, and was expounding the Dharma in their midst.
“Dragon-King, at that time there was a rākṣasa youth named Viviśaka, who resided in the great city of Laṅkā [atop the Malaya Mountain]. He was fierce and strong, and had an ugly face. He ate only flesh and blood with his fearsome teeth. When he heard that a Buddha-Bhagavān was staying atop the Malaya Mountain, he thought, ‘I do not want this śramaṇa and his bhikṣus to stay atop the Malaya Mountain. Why not? Because when that śramaṇa is there, I cannot catch various sea creatures, nor can I kill sentient beings. Then I will go hungry.’
“Dragon-King, that rākṣasa youth Viviśaka announced to other rākṣasas, ‘You strong ones should quickly don sturdy armors and take up various weapons, such as knives, clubs, mallets, halberds, arrows and bows, shields, vajras, and battle wheels. Why? Because I will drive that śramaṇa and his group away from my territory and make them leave my domicile.’
“Dragon-King, then that rākṣasa youth Viviśaka and other rākṣasas donned sturdy armors, took various weapons, and flew across the open sky to the place where Wisdom Banner Produced by Great Compassion Tathāgata was. Upon arrival they stood in the sky, and Viviśaka said to that Tathāgata, ‘Go away, go away, Śramaṇa. I do not want you on this mountaintop. Do not force me to kill you and your group.’
“Dragon-King, Wisdom Banner Produced by Great Compassion Tathāgata then displayed His transcendental powers. That rākṣasa youth Viviśaka and his rākṣasa group saw themselves surrounded by iron nets in the ten directions and each bound by five fetters. They saw no way to escape and stood shivering. Dragon-King, that rākṣasa youth Viviśaka and his rākṣasa group were frightened and thought, ‘Where can we go? In whom can we take refuge? Whom can we ask to rescue us from this disaster?’
“Dragon-King, seated in the midst of that Tathāgata’s assembly was a vidyādhara-king called Virtue and Might of the Profound Right Samādhi, who had been friends with that rākṣasa youth Viviśaka. He said to Viviśaka, ‘My good friend, Buddha-Bhagavāns teach and transform gods and humans. Their immeasurable virtuous teachings are supreme in the Three Realms of Existence and a treasure to sentient beings. They take actions with great compassion. You, my good friend, and your rākṣasa group can take refuge in this Buddha and His Dharma and Saṅgha. As soon as all of you take refuge in the Three Jewels and activate the bodhi mind, all your fetters will fall away.’
“Dragon-King, through the power of that vidyādhara-king’s persuasive teachings and the spiritual power of that Buddha, that rākṣasa-youth Viviśaka and his rākṣasa group joined their palms and said, ‘Namo the One Adorned with Boundless Virtues! Namo the One with Supreme Compassion and Enlightenment! From now on, we take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha, and activate the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind.’
“Dragon-King, after that rākṣasa-youth Viviśaka and his rākṣasa group spoke those words, all their fetters fell away. They descended from the sky and circled Wisdom Banner Produced by Great Compassion Tathāgata three times. They prostrated themselves at that Buddha’s feet and entreated Him to accept their repentance. After repentance, they returned to their own places.
“Dragon-King, what is your opinion? Was the rākṣasa-youth Viviśaka in that life a different person? He is today none other than Viviśasa, king of Laṅkā. Viviśaka’s rākṣasa group in that life is today none other than Viviśasa’s rākṣasa group. The vidyādhara-king called Virtue and Might of the Profound Right Samādhi is today none other than the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva called Ocean-Deep Mastery of Wisdom and Transcendental Powers.”
After the Buddha spoke these words, this Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World quaked like a ship rocked by waves in an immense ocean. However, no sentient being was shocked, terrified, or harmed. Instead, all acquired peace and joy, and trained to do the ten good karmas. Then this Buddha Land called Sahā lost its high Mount Sumeru, immense oceans, mountains, forests, islands, black mountains, caves, dense forests, gardens, lakes, rivers, springs, swamps, craters, cliffs, deserts, and thorn bushes. All filth, feces, stench, and loathsome things were gone. A vast radiance in the color of Jambūnada gold illuminated this Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World. Even the dark places in all large and small iron mountains, and the places unreachable by sunlight and moonlight, became bright. That pervasive radiance obscured the sun and moon, not to mention other kinds of radiance, and all shadows disappeared. It removed the suffering of all hell-dwellers, hungry ghosts, and animals. Forthwith gods and humans in this Sahā World received benefits. Those in suffering received peace and joy; those in hunger received food; those in thirst received drinks; those naked received clothing; those in poverty received treasures; those blind gained sight; those deaf gained hearing; those mute gained speech; those with incomplete faculties became complete; those in prison were released.
1. The Sanskrit title of this sūtra is Mahāyānābhisamaya-sūtra. The Sanskrit word abhisamaya means comprehension, clear understanding, or spiritual realization. Texts 673 and 674 are the two Chinese versions of this sūtra. The title of text 673 (T16n0673), based on the Mahāyāna teaching that all dharmas have the same nature, is Same Nature Revealed by the Mahāyāna. The title of text 674 (T16n0674), translated from its Sanskrit title, is Achieving a Clear Understanding of the Mahāyāna. Here, the latter is used. (Return to text)
2. A vidyādhara is a supernatural being skilled in using spells. (Return to text)
3. According to text 671, the 10-fascicle Chinese version of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, the Malaya Mountain is near the ocean, and the rākṣasa-king Rāvaṇa rules the city of Laṅkā atop the mountain (T16n0671, 0514c7–8; 0515a10–12). (Return to text)
4. Udumbara, the ficus glomerata, a tree that produces fruit with hidden flowers. Hence the appearance of its bloom is likened to the rare appearance of a Buddha. (Return to text)
5. See “three fortune fields” in the glossary. (Return to text)
6. See “endurance in accord” in the glossary’s Three Endurances in the Dharma. (Return to text)
7. See “four appearances” in the glossary. (Return to text)
8. The four defilements are self-delusion, self-love, self-view, and self-arrogance. According to the Consciousness-Only School, one’s seventh consciousness (manas consciousness) has an inborn sense of self, characterized by these four defilements. (Return to text)
9. See “name and form” in the glossary’s “five aggregates.” (Return to text)
10. See “four modes of birth” in the glossary. (Return to text)
11. The interim body is an ethereal temporary body formed after death if ālaya consciousness does not immediately find rebirth through an egg, a womb, moisture, or miraculous formation. An example is given in the Mahāyāna Sūtra of Consciousness Revealed in Rulu’s Teachings of the Buddha (Rulu 2012a, 137). In general, it does not refer to a developing chick in an egg or a fetus in a womb. (Return to text)
12. The Sanskrit word aśoka means carefree. The aśoka is an evergreen tree, important in the cultural traditions of the Indian subcontinent and adjacent areas. It is prized for its beautiful foliage and fragrant bright red flowers in heavy, lush bunches (Wikipedia.com). (Return to text)
13. The opposite shore is that shore of nirvāṇa, opposite this shore of saṁsāra. (Return to text)
14. See Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi in the glossary. (Return to text)
15. The Sanskrit word gandharva means fragrance eater. He is a celestial musician who can conjure up a city in the open sky. Therefore, a mirage is also called a gandharva’s city. (Return to text)
16. A diseased eye can see flowers in the sky. (Return to text)
17. See “six periods” in the glossary. (Return to text)
18. Jambūnada gold is gold from the river that flows through the jambū (rose apple) grove. It is renowned for its supreme quality and red-golden color with a purple tinge. (Return to text)