The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law
Translated By H. Kern (1884)
As the venerable Subhûti, the venerable MahâKâtyâyana, the venerable Mahâ-Kâsyapa, and the venerable Mahâ-Maudgalyâyana heard this law unheard of before, and as from the mouth of the Lord they heard the future destiny of Sâriputra to superior perfect enlightenment, they were struck with wonder, amazement, and rapture. They instantly rose from their seats and went up to the place where the Lord was sitting; after throwing their cloak over one shoulder, fixing the right knee on the ground and lifting up their joined hands before the Lord, looking up to him, their bodies bent, bent down and inclined, they addressed the Lord in this strain:
Lord, we are old, aged, advanced in years; honoured as seniors in this assemblage of monks. Worn out by old age we fancy that we have attained Nirvâna; we make no efforts, O Lord, for supreme perfect enlightenment; our force and exertion are inadequate to it. Though the Lord preaches the law and has long continued sitting, and though we have attended to that preaching of the law, yet, O Lord, as we have so long been sitting and so long attended the Lord's service, our greater and minor members, as well as the joints and articulations, begin to ache. Hence, O Lord, we are unable, in spite of the Lord's preaching, to realise the fact that all is vanity (or void), purposeless (or causeless, or unconditioned), and unfixed; we have conceived no longing after the Buddha-laws, the divisions of the Buddha-fields, the sports [or display of magical phenomena] of the Bodhisattvas or Tathâgatas. For by having fled out of the triple world, O Lord, we imagined having attained Nirvâna, and we are decrepit from old age. Hence, O Lord, though we have exhorted other Bodhisattvas and instructed them in supreme perfect enlightenment, we have in doing so never conceived a single thought of longing. And just now, O Lord, we are hearing from the Lord that disciples also may be predestined to supreme perfect enlightenment. We are astonished and amazed, and deem it a great gain, O Lord, that to-day, on a sudden, we have heard from the Lord a voice such as we never heard before. We have acquired a magnificent jewel, O Lord, an incomparable jewel. We had not sought, nor searched, nor expected, nor required so magnificent a jewel. It has become clear to us, O Lord; it has become clear to us, O Sugata.
It is a case, O Lord, as if a certain man went away from his father and betook himself to some other place. He lives there in foreign parts for many years, twenty or thirty or forty or fifty. In course of time the one (the father) becomes a great man; the other (the son) is poor; in seeking a livelihood for the sake of food and clothing he roams in all directions and goes to some place, whereas his father removes to another country. The latter has much wealth, gold, corn, treasures, and granaries; possesses much (wrought) gold and silver, many gems, pearls, lapis lazuli, conch shells, and stones(?), corals, gold and silver; many slaves male and female, servants for menial work. and journeymen; is rich in elephants, horses, carriages, cows, and sheep. He keeps a large retinue; has his money invested in great territories, and does great things in business, money-lending, agriculture, and commerce.
In course of time, Lord, that poor man, in quest of food and clothing, roaming through villages, towns, boroughs, provinces, kingdoms, and royal capitals, reaches the place where his father, the owner of much wealth and gold, treasures and granaries, is residing. Now the poor man's father, Lord, the owner of much wealth and gold, treasures and granaries, who was residing in that town, had always and ever been thinking of the son he had lost fifty years ago, but he gave no utterance to his thoughts before others, and was only pining in himself and thinking: I am old, aged, advanced in years, and possess abundance of bullion, gold, money and corn, treasures and granaries, but have no son. It is to be feared lest death shall overtake me and all this perish unused. Repeatedly he was thinking of that son: O how happy should I be, were my son to enjoy this mass of wealth!
Meanwhile, Lord, the poor man in search of food and clothing was gradually approaching the house of the rich man, the owner of abundant bullion, gold, money and corn, treasures and granaries. And the father of the poor man happened to sit at the door of his house, surrounded and waited upon by a great crowd of Brâhmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sûdras; he was sitting on a magnificent throne with a footstool decorated with gold and silver, while dealing with hundred thousands of kotis of gold-pieces, and fanned with a chowrie, on a spot under an extended awning inlaid with pearls and flowers and adorned with hanging garlands of jewels; sitting (in short) in great pomp. The poor man, Lord, saw his own father in such pomp sitting at the door of the house, surrounded with a great crowd of people and doing a householder's business. The poor man frightened, terrified, alarmed, seized with a feeling of horripilation all over the body, and agitated in mind, reflects thus: Unexpectedly have I here fallen in with a king or grandee. People like me have nothing to do here; let me go; in the street of the poor I am likely to find food and clothing without much difficulty. Let me no longer tarry at this place, lest I be taken to do forced labour or incur some other injury.
Thereupon, Lord, the poor man quickly departs, runs off, does not tarry from fear of a series of supposed dangers. But the rich man, sitting on the throne at the door of his mansion, has recognised his son at first sight, in consequence whereof he is content, in high spirits, charmed, delighted, filled with joy and cheerfulness. He thinks: Wonderful! he who is to enjoy this plenty of bullion, gold, money and corn, treasures and granaries, has been found! He of whom I have been thinking again and again, is here now that I am old, aged, advanced in years.
At the same time, moment, and instant, Lord, he despatches couriers, to whom he says: Go, sirs, and quickly fetch me that man. The fellows thereon all run forth in full speed and overtake the poor man, who, frightened, terrified, alarmed, seized with a feeling of horripilation all over his body, agitated in mind, utters a lamentable cry of distress, screams, and exclaims: I have given you no offence. But the fellows drag the poor man, however lamenting, violently with them. He, frightened, terrified, alarmed, seized with a feeling of horripilation all over his body, and agitated in mind, thinks by himself: I fear lest I shall be punished with capital punishment; I am lost. He faints away, and falls on the earth. His father dismayed and near despondency says to those fellows: Do not carry the man in that manner. With these words he sprinkles him with cold water without addressing him any further. For that householder knows the poor man's humble disposition I and his own elevated position; yet he feels that the man is his son.
The householder, Lord, skilfully conceals from every one that it is his son. He calls one of his servants and says to him: Go, sirrah, and tell that poor man: Go, sirrah, whither thou likest; thou art free. The servant obeys, approaches the poor man and tells him: Go, sirrah, whither thou likest; thou art free, The poor man is astonished and amazed at hearing these words; he leaves that spot and wanders to the street of the poor in search of food and clothing. In order to attract him the householder practises an able device. He employs for it two men ill-favoured and of little splendour. Go, says he, go to the man you saw in this place; hire him in your own name for a double daily fee, and order him to do work here in my house. And if he asks: What - work shall I have to do? tell him: Help us in clearing the heap of dirt. The two fellows go and seek the poor man and engage him for such work as mentioned. Thereupon the two fellows conjointly with the poor man clear the heap of dirt in the house for the daily pay they receive from the rich man, while they take up their abode in a hovel of straw in the neighbourhood of the rich man's dwelling. And that rich man beholds through a window his own son clearing the heap of dirt, at which sight he is anew struck with wonder and astonishment.
Then the householder descends from his mansion, lays off his wreath and ornaments, parts with his soft, clean, and gorgeous attire, puts on dirty raiment, takes a basket in his right hand, smears his body with dust, and goes to his son, whom he greets from afar, and thus addresses: Please, take the baskets and without delay remove the dust. By this device he manages to speak to his son, to have a talk with him and say: Do, sirrah, remain here in my service; do not go again to another place; I will give thee extra pay, and whatever thou wantest thou mayst confidently ask me, be it the price of a pot, a smaller pot, a boiler or wood, or be it the price of salt, food, or clothing. I have got an old cloak, man; if thou shouldst want it, ask me for it, I will give it. Any utensil of such sort, when thou wantest to have it, I will give thee. Be at ease, fellow; look upon me as if I were thy father, for I am older and thou art younger, and thou hast rendered me much service by clearing this heap of dirt, and as long as thou hast been in my service thou hast never shown nor art showing wickedness, crookedness, arrogance, or hypocrisy; I have discovered in thee no vice at all of such as are commonly seen in other man-servants. From henceforward thou art to me like my own son.
From that time, Lord, the householder, addresses the poor man by the name of son, and the latter feels in presence of the householder as a son to his father. In this manner, Lord, the householder affected with longing for his son employs him for the clearing of the heap of dirt during twenty years, at the end of which the poor man feels quite at ease in the mansion to go in and out, though he continues taking his abode in the hovel of straw.
After a while, Lord, the householder falls sick, and feels that the time of his death is near at hand. He says to the poor man: Come hither, man, I possess abundant bullion, gold, money and corn, treasures and granaries. I am very sick, and wish to have one upon whom to bestow (my wealth); by whom it is to be received, and with whom it is to be deposited. Accept it. For in the same manner as I am the owner of it, so art thou, but thou shalt not suffer anything of it to be wasted.
And so, Lord, the poor man accepts the abundant bullion, gold, money and corn, treasures and granaries of the rich man, but for himself he is quite indifferent to it, and requires nothing from it, not even so much as the price of a prastha of flour; he continues living in the same hovel of straw and considers himself as poor as before.
After a while, Lord, the householder perceives that his son is able to save, mature and mentally developed; that in the consciousness of his nobility he feels abashed, ashamed, disousted, when thinking of his former poverty. The time of his death approaching, he sends for the poor man, presents him to a gathering of his relations, and before the king or king's peer and in the presence of citizens and country-people makes the following speech: Hear, gentlemen! this is my own son, by me begotten. It is now fifty years that he disappeared from such and such a town. He is called so and so, and myself am called so and so. In searching after him I have from that town come hither. He is my son, I am his father. To him I leave all my revenues, and all my personal (or private) wealth shall he acknowledge (his own).
The poor man, Lord, hearing this speech was astonished and amazed; he thought by himself: Unexpectedly have I obtained this bullion, gold, money and corn, treasures and granaries.
Even so, O Lord, do we represent the sons of the Tathâgata, and the Tathâgata says to us: Ye are my sons, as the householder did. We were oppressed, O Lord, with three difficulties, viz. the difficulty of pain, the difficulty of conceptions, the difficulty of transition (or evolution); and in the worldly whirl we were disposed to what is low. Then have we been prompted by the Lord to ponder on the numerous inferior laws (or conditions, things) that are similar to a heap of dirt. Once directed to them we have been practising, making efforts, and seeking for nothing but Nirvâna as our fee. We were content, O Lord, with the Nirvâna obtained, and thought to have gained much at the hands of the Tathâgata because of our having applied ourselves to these laws, practised, and made efforts. But the Lord takes no notice of us, does not mix with us, nor tell us that this treasure of the Tathâgata's knowledge shall belong to us, though the Lord skilfully appoints us as heirs to this treasure of the knowledge of the Tathâgata. And we, O Lord, are not (impatiently) longing to enjoy it, because we deem it a great gain already to receive from the Lord Nirvâna as our fee. We preach to the Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas a sublime sermon about the knowledge of the Tathâgata; we explain, show, demonstrate the knowledge of the Tathâgata, O Lord, without longing. For the Tathâgata by his skilfulness knows our disposition, whereas we ourselves do not know, nor apprehend. It is for this very reason that the Lord just now tells us that we are to him as sons, and that he reminds us of being heirs to the Tathâgata. For the case stands thus: we are as sons to the Tathâgata, but low (or humble) of disposition; the Lord perceives the strength of our disposition and applies to us the denomination of Bodhisattvas; we are, however, charged with a double office in so far as in presence of Bodhisattvas we are called persons of low disposition and at the same time have to rouse them to Buddha-enlightenment. Knowing the strength of our disposition the Lord has thus spoken, and in this way, O Lord, do we say that we have obtained unexpectedly and without longing the jewel of omniscience, which we did not desire, nor seek, nor search after, nor expect, nor require; and that inasmuch as we are the sons of the Tathâgata.
On that occasion the venerable Mahâ-Kâsyapa uttered the following stanzas:
1. We are stricken with wonder, amazement, and rapture at hearing a Voice; it is the lovely voice, the leader's voice, that so unexpectedly we hear to-day.
2. In a short moment we have acquired a great heap of precious jewels such as we were not thinking of, nor requiring. All of us are astonished to hear it.
3. It is like (the history of) a young, person who, seduced by foolish people, went away from his father and wandered to another country far distant.
4. The father was sorry to perceive that his son had run away and in his sorrow roamed the country in all directions during no less than fifty years.
5. In search of his son he came to some great city, where he built a house and dwelt, blessed with all that can gratify the five senses.
6. He had plenty of bullion and gold, money and corn, conch shells, stones (?), and coral; elephants, horses, and footboys; cows, cattle, and sheep;
7. Interests, revenues, landed properties; male and female slaves and a great number of servants; was highly honoured by thousands of kolis and a constant favourite of the king's.
8. The citizens bow to him with joined hands, as well as the villagers in the rural districts; many merchants come to him, (and) persons charged with numerous affairs.
9. In such way the man becomes wealthy, but he gets old, aged, advanced in years, and he passes days and nights always sorrowful in mind on account of his son.
10. 'It is fifty years since that foolish son has run away. I have got plenty of wealth and the hour of my death draws near.'
11. Meanwhile that foolish son is wandering from village to villave, poor and miserable, seeking food and clothing.
12. When begging, he at one time gets something, another time he does not. He grows lean in his travels, the unwise boy, while his body is vitiated with scabs and itch.
13. In course of time he in his rovings reaches the town where his father is living, and comes to his father's mansion to beg for food and raiment.
14. And the wealthy, rich man happens to sit at the door on a throne under a canopy expanded in the sky and surrounded with many hundreds of living beings.
15. His trustees stand round him, some of them counting money and bullion, some writing bills, some lending money on interest.
16. The poor man, seeing the splendid mansion of the householder, thinks within himself: Where am I here? This man must be a king or a grandee.
17. Let me not incur some injury and be caught to do forced labour. With these reflections he hurried away inquiring after the road to the street of the poor.
18. The rich man on the throne is glad to see his own son, and despatches messengers with the order to fetch that poor man.
19. The messengers immediately seize the man, but he is no sooner caught than he faints away (as he thinks): These are certainly executioners who have approached me; what do I want clothing or food?
20. On seeing it, the rich, sagacious man (thinks): This ignorant and stupid person is of low disposition and will have no faith in my magnificence', nor believe that I am his father.
21. Under those circumstances he orders persons of low character, crooked, one-eyed, maimed, ill-clad, and blackish 1, to go and search that man who shall do menial work.
22. 'Enter my service and cleanse the putrid heap of dirt, replete with faeces and urine; I will give thee a double salary' (are the words of the message).
23. On hearing this call the poor man comes and cleanses the said spot; be takes up his abode there in a hovel near the mansion.
24. The rich man continually observes him through the windows (and thinks): There is my son engaged in a low occupation, cleansing the heap of dirt.
25. Then he descends, takes a basket, puts on dirty garments, and goes near the man. He chides him, saying: Thou dost not perform thy work.
26. 1 will give thee double salary and twice more ointment for the feet; I will give thee food with salt, potherbs, and, besides, a cloak.
27. So he chides him at the time, but afterwards he wisely conciliates him (by saying): Thou dost thy work very well, indeed; thou art my son, surely; there is no doubt of it.
28. Little by little he makes the man enter the house, and employs him in his service for fully twenty years, in the course of which time he succeeds in inspiring him with confidence.
29. At the same time he lays up in the house gold, pearls, and crystal, draws up the sum total, and is always occupied in his mind with all that property.
30. The ignorant man, who is living outside the mansion, alone in a hovel, cherishes no other ideas but of poverty, and thinks to himself: Mine are no such possessions!
31. The rich man perceiving this of him (thinks): My son has arrived at the consciousness of being noble. He calls together a gathering of his friends and relatives (and says): I will give all my property to this man.
32. In the midst of the assembly where the king, burghers, citizens, and many merchantmen were present, he speaks thus: This is my son whom I lost a long time ago.
33. It is now fully fifty years-and twenty years more during which I have seen him-that he disappeared from such and such a place and that in his search I came to this place.
34. He is owner of all my property; to him I leave it all and entirely; let him do with it what he wants; I give him my whole family property.
35. And the (poor) man is struck with surprise; remembering his former poverty, his low disposition 1, and as he receives those good things of his father's and the family property, he thinks: Now am I a happy man.
36. In like manner has the leader, who knows our low disposition (or position), not declared to us: 'Ye shall become Buddhas,' but, 'Ye are, certainly, my disciples and sons.'
37. And the Lord of the world enjoins us: Teach, Kâsyapa, the superior path to those that strive to attain the highest summit of enlightenment, the path by following which they are to become Buddhas.
38. Being thus ordered by the Sugata, we show the path to many Bodhisattvas of great might, by means of myriads of kolis of illustrations and proofs.
39. And by hearing us the sons of Gina realise that eminent path to attain enlightenment, and in that case receive the prediction that they are to become Buddhas in this world.
40. Such is the work we are doing strenuously, preserving this law-treasure and revealing it to the sons of Gina, in the manner of that man who had deserved the confidence of that (other man).
41. Yet, though we diffuse the Buddha-treasure we feel ourselves to be poor; we do not require the knowledge of the Gina, and yet, at the same time, we reveal it.
42. We fancy an individual [i.e. separate] Nirvâna; so far, no further does our knowledge reach; nor do we ever rejoice at hearing of the divisions of Buddha-fields.
43. All these laws are faultless, unshaken, exempt from destruction and commencement; but there is no law-' in them. When we hear this, however, we cannot believe.
44. We have put aside all aspiration to superior Buddha-knowledge a long time ago; never have we devoted ourselves to it. This is the last and decisive word spoken by the Gina.
45. In this bodily existence, closing with Nirvâna, we have continually accustomed our thoughts to the void; we have been released from the evils of the triple world we were suffering from, and have accomplished the command of the Gina.
46. To whom(soever) among the sons of Gina who in this world are on the road to superior enlightenment we revealed (the law), and whatever law we taught, we never had any predilection for it.
47. And the Master of the world, the Self-born one, takes no notice of us, waiting his time; he does not explain the real connection of the things, as he is testing our disposition.
48. Able in applying devices at the right time, like that rich man (he says): 'Be constant in subduing your low disposition,' and to those who are subdued he gives his wealth.
49. It is a very difficult task which the Lord of the world is performing, (a task) in which he displays his skilfulness, when he tames his sons of low disposition and thereupon imparts to them his knowledge.
50. On a sudden have we to-day been seized with surprise, just as the poor man who acquired riches; now for the first time have we obtained the fruit under the rule of Buddha, (a fruit) as excellent as faultless.
51. As we have always observed the moral precepts under the rule of the Knower of the world, we now receive the fruit of that morality which we have formerly practised.
52. Now have we obtained the egregious, hallowed, exalted, and perfect fruit of our having observed an excellent and pure spiritual life under the rule of the Leader.
53. Now, O Lord, are we disciples, and we shall proclaim supreme enlightenment everywhere, reveal the word of enlightenment, by which we are formidable disciples.
54. Now have we become Arhats, O Lord; and deserving of the worship of the world, including the gods, Mâras and Brahmas, in short, of all beings.
55. Who is there, even were he to exert himself during kotis of Æons, able to thwart thee, who accomplishes in this world of mortals such difficult things as those, and others even more difficult I?
56. It would be difficult to offer resistance with hands, feet, head, shoulder, or breast, (even were one to try) during as many complete Æons as there are grains of sand in the Ganges.
57. One may charitably give food, soft and solid, clothing, drink, a place for sleeping and sitting, with clean coverlets; one may build monasteries of sandal-wood, and after furnishing them with double pieces of fine white muslin, present them;
58. One may be assiduous in giving medicines of various kinds to the sick, in honour of the Sugata; one may spend alms during as many Æons as there are grains of sand in the Ganges-even then one will not be able to offer resistance.
59. Of sublime nature, unequalled power, miraculous might, firm in the strength of patience is the Buddha; a great ruler is the Gina, free from imperfections. The ignorant cannot bear (or understand) such things as these.
60. Always returning, he preaches the law to those whose course (of life) is conditioned, he, the Lord of the law, the Lord of all the world, the great Lord, the Chief among the leaders of the world.
61. Fully aware of the circumstances (or places) of (all) beings he indicates their duties, so multifarious, and considering the variety of their dispositions he inculcates the law with thousands of arguments.
62. He, the Tathâgata, who is fully aware of the course of all beings and individuals, preaches a multifarious law, while pointing to this superior enlightenment.
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