The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law
Translated By H. Kern (1884)
The Lord then addressed the eighty thousand Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas by turning to Bhaishagyarâga as their representative. Seest thou, Bhaishagyarâga, in this assembly the many gods, Nâgas, goblins, Gandharvas, demons, Garudas, Kinnaras, great serpents, men, and beings not human, monks, nuns, male and female lay devotees, votaries of the vehicle of disciples, votaries of the vehicle of Pratyekabuddhas, and those of the vehicle of Bodhisattvas, who have heard this Dharmaparyâya from the mouth of the Tathâgata? 'I do, Lord; I do, Sugata.' The Lord proceeded: Well, Bhaishagyarâga, all those Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas who in this assembly have heard, were it but a single stanza, a single verse (or word), or who even by a single rising thought have joyfully accepted this Sûtra, to all of them, Bhaishagyarâga, among the four classes of my audience I predict their destiny to supreme and perfect enlightenment. And all whosoever, Bhaishagyarâga, who, after the complete extinction of the Tathâgata, shall hear this Dharmaparyâya and after hearing, were it but a single stanza, joyfully accept it, even with a single rising thought, to those also, Bhaishagyarâga, be they young men or young ladies of good family, I predict their destiny to supreme and perfect enlightenment. Those young men or ladies of good family, Bhaishagyarâga, shall be worshippers of many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Buddhas. Those young men or ladies of good family, Bhaishagyarâga, shall have made a vow under hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of Buddhas. They must be considered as being reborn amongst the people of Gambudvîpa, out of compassion to all creatures. Those who shall take, read, make known, recite, copy, and after copying always keep in memory and from time to time regard were it but a single stanza of this Dharmaparyâya; who by that book shall feel veneration for the Tathâgatas, treat them with the respect due to Masters, honour, revere, worship them; who shall worship that book with flowers, incense, perfumed garlands, ointment, powder, clothes, umbrellas, flags, banners, music, &c., and with acts of reverence such as bowing and joining hands; in short, Bhaishagyarâga, any young men or young ladies of good family who shall keep or joyfully accept were it but a single stanza of this Dharmaparyâya, to all of them, Bhaishagyarâga, I predict their being destined to supreme and perfect enlightenment.
Should some man or woman, Bhaishagyarâga, happen to ask: How now have those creatures to be who in future are to become Tathâgatas, Arhats, &c.? then that man or woman should be referred to the example of that young man or young lady of good family. 'Whoever is able to keep, recite, or teach, were it but a single stanza of four lines, and whoever shows respect for this Dharmaparyâya, that young man or young lady of good family shall in future become' a Tathâgata, &c.; be persuaded of it.' For, Bhaishagyarâga, such a young man or young lady of good family must be considered to be a Tathâgata, and by the whole world, including the gods, honour should be done to such a Tathâgata who keeps were it but a single stanza of this Dharmaparyâya, and far more, of course, to one who grasps, keeps, comprehends, makes known, copies, and after copying always retains in his memory this Dharmaparyâya entirely and completely, and who honours that book with flowers, incense, perfumed garlands, ointment, powder, clothes, umbrellas, flags, banners, music, joined hands, reverential bows and salutations. Such a young man or young lady of good family, Bhaishagyarâga, must be held to be accomplished in supreme and perfect enlightenment; must be held to be the like of a Tathâgata, who out of compassion and for the benefit of the world, by virtue of a former vow, makes his appearance here in Gambudvîpa, in order to make this Dharmaparyâya generally known. Whosoever, after leaving his own lofty conception of the law and the lofty Buddha-field occupied by him, in order to make generally known this Dharmaparyâya, after my complete Nirvâna, may be deemed to have appeared in the predicament of a Tathâgata, such a one, Bhaishagyarâga, be it a young man or a young lady of good family, must be held to perform the function of the Tathâgata, to be a deputy of the Tathâgata. As such, Bhaishagyarâga, should be acknowledged the young man or the young lady of good family, who communicates this Dharmaparyâya, after the complete Nirvâna of the Tathâgata, were it but in secret or by stealth or to one single creature that he communicated or told it.
Again, Bhaishagyarâga, if some creature vicious, wicked, and cruel-minded should in the (current) Age speak something injurious in the face of the Tathâgata, and if some should utter a single harsh word, founded or unfounded, to those irreproachable preachers of the law and keepers of this Sûtrânta, whether lay devotees or clergymen, I declare that the latter sin is the graver. For, Bhaishagyarâga, such a young man or young lady of good family must be held to be adorned with the apparel of the Tathâgata. He carries the Tathâgata on his shoulder, Bhaishagyarâga, who after having copied this Dharmaparyâya and made a volume of it, carries it on his shoulder. Such a one, wherever he goes, must be saluted by all beings with joined hands, must be honoured, respected, worshipped, venerated, revered by gods and men with flowers, incense, perfumed garlands, ointment, powder, clothes, umbrellas, flags, banners, musical instruments, with food, soft and hard, with nourishment and drink, with vehicles, with heaps of choice and gorgeous jewels. That preacher of the law must be honoured by heaps of gorgeous jewels being presented to that preacher of the law. For it may be that by his expounding this Dharmaparyâya, were it only once, innumerable, incalculable beings who hear it shall soon become accomplished in supreme and perfect enlightenment.
And on that occasion the Lord uttered the following stanzas:
1. He who wishes to be established in Buddhahood and aspires to the knowledge of the Self-born must honour those who keep this doctrine.
2. And he who is desirous of omniscience and thinks: How shall I soonest reach it? must try to know this Sûtra by heart, or at least honour one who knows it.
3. He has been sent by the Lord of the world to convert (or catechise) men, he who out of compassion for mankind recites this Sûtra.
4. After giving up a good position, that great man has come hither, he who out of compassion for mankind keeps this Sûtra (in memory).
5. It is by force of his position, that in the last times he is seen preaching this unsurpassed Sûtra.
6. That preacher of the law must be honoured with divine and human flowers and all sorts of perfumes; be decked with divine cloth and strewed with jewels.
7. One should always reverentially salute him with joined hands, as if he were the Chief of Ginas or the Self-born, he who in these most dreadful, last days keeps this Sûtra of the Extinct (Buddha).
8. One should give food, hard and soft, nourishment and drink, lodging in a convent, kotis of robes to honour the son of Gina, when he has propounded, be it but once, this Sûtra.
9. He performs the task of the Tathâgatas and has been sent by me to the world of men, he who in the last days shall copy, keep, or hear this Sûtra.
10. The man who in wickedness of heart or with frowning brow should at any time of a whole Æon utter something injurious in my presence, commits a great sin.
11. But one who reviles and abuses those guardians of this Sûtrânta, when they are expounding this Sûtra, I say that he commits a still greater sin.
12. The man who, striving for superior enlightenment, shall in a complete Æon praise me in my face with joined hands, with many myriads of kotis of stanzas,
13. Shall thence derive a great merit, since he has glorified me in gladness of heart. But a still greater merit shall he acquire who pronounces the praise of those (preachers).
14. One who shall during eighteen thousand kotis of Æons pay worship to those objects of veneration, with words, visible things, flavours, with divine scents and divine kinds of touch,
15. If such a one, by his paying that worship to the objects of veneration during eighteen thousand kotis of Æons, happens to hear this Sûtra, were it only once, he shall obtain an amazingly great advantage.
I announce to thee, Bhaishagyarâga, I declare to thee, that many are the Dharmaparyâyas which I have propounded, am propounding, and shall propound. And among all those Dharmaparyâyas, Bhaishagyarâga, it is this which is apt to meet with no acceptance with everybody, to find no belief with everybody. This, indeed, Bhaishagyarâga, is the transcendent spiritual esoteric lore of the law, preserved by the power of the Tathâgatas, but never divulged; it is an article (of creed) not yet made known. By the majority of people, Bhaishagyarâga, this Dharmaparyâya is rejected during the lifetime of the Tathâgata; in far higher degree such will be the case after his complete extinction.
Nevertheless, Bhaishagyarâga, one has to consider those young men or young ladies of good family to be invested with the robes of the Tathâgata; to be regarded and blessed by the Tathâgatas living in other worlds, that they shall have the force of individual persuasion, the force that is rooted in virtue, and the force of a pious vow. They shall dwell apart in the convents of the Tathâgata, Bhaishagyarâga, and shall have their heads stroked by the hand of the Tathâgata, those young men and young ladies of good family, who after the complete extinction of the Tathâgata shall believe, read, write, honour this Dharmaparyâya and recite it to others.
Again, Bhaishagyarâga, on any spot of the earth where this Dharmaparyâya is expounded, preached, written, studied, or recited in chorus, on that spot, Bhaishagyarâga, one should build a Tathâgata-shrine, magnificent, consisting of precious substances, high, and spacious; but it is not necessary to depose in it relics of the Tathâgata. For the body of the Tathâgata is, so to say, collectively deposited there. Any spot of the earth where this Dharmaparyâya is expounded or taught or recited or rehearsed in chorus or written or kept in a volume, must be honoured, respected, revered, worshipped as if it were a Stûpa, with all sorts of flowers, incense, perfumes, garlands, ointment, powder, clothes, umbrellas, flags, banners, triumphal streamers, with all kinds of song, music, dancing, musical instruments, castanets, and shouts in chorus. And those, Bhaishagyarâga, who approach a Tathâgata-shrine to salute or see it, must be held to be near supreme and perfect enlightenment. For, Bhaishagyarâga, there are many laymen as well as priests who observe the course of a Bodhisattva without, however, coming so far as to see, hear, write or worship this Dharmaparyâya. So long as they do not hear this Dharmaparyâya, they are not yet proficient in the course of a Bodhisattva. But those who hear this Dharmaparyâya and thereupon accept, penetrate, understand, comprehend it, are at the time near supreme, perfect enlightenment, so to say, immediately near it.
It is a case, Bhaishagyarâga, similar to that of a certain man, who in need and in quest of water, in order to get water, causes a well to be dug in an and tract of land. So long as he sees that the sand being dug out is dry and white, he thinks: the water is still far off. After some time he sees that the sand being dug out is moist, mixed with water, muddy, with trickling drops, and that the working men who are engaged in digging the well are bespattered with mire and mud. On seeing that foretoken, Bhaishagyarâga, the man will be convinced and certain that water is near. In the same manner, Bhaishagyarâga, will these Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas be far away from supreme and perfect enlightenment so long as they do not hear, nor catch, nor penetrate, nor fathom, nor mind this Dharmaparyâya. But when the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas shall hear, catch, penetrate, study, and mind this Dharmaparyâya, then, Bhaishagyarâga, they will be, so to say, immediately near supreme, perfect enlightenment. From this Dharmaparyâya, Bhaishagyarâga, will accrue to creatures supreme and perfect enlightenment. For this Dharmaparyâya contains an explanation of the highest mystery, the secret article of the law which the Tathâgatas, &c., have revealed for the perfecting of the Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas. Any Bodhisattva, Bhaishagyarâga, who is startled, feels anxiety, gets frightened at this Dharmaparyâya, may be held, Bhaishagyarâga, to have (but) newly entered the vehicle. If, however, a votary of the vehicle of the disciples is startled, feels anxiety, gets frightened at this Dharmaparyâya, such a person, devoted to the vehicle of the disciples, Bhaishagyarâga, may be deemed a conceited man.
Any Bodhisattva Mahâsattva, Bhaishagyarâga, who after the complete extinction of the Tathâgata, in the last times, the last period shall set forth this Dharmaparyâya to the four classes of hearers, should do so, Bhaishagyariga, after having entered the abode of the Tathâgata, after having put on the robe of the Tathâgata, and occupied the pulpit of the Tathâgata. And what is the abode of the Tathâgata, Bhaishagyarâga? It is the abiding in charity (or kindness) to all beings; that is the abode of the Tathâgata, Bhaishagyarâga, which the young man of good family has to enter. And what is the robe of the Tathâgata, Bhaishagyarâga? It is the apparel of sublime forbearance; that is the robe of the Tathâgata, Bhaishagyarâga, which the young man of good family has to put on. What is the pulpit of the Tathâgata, Bhaishagyarâga? It is the entering into the voidness (or complete abstraction) of all laws (or things); that is the pulpit, Bhaishagyarâga, on which the young man of good family has to sit in order to set forth this Dharmaparyâya to the four classes of hearers. A Bodhisattva ought to propound this Dharmaparyâya with unshrinking mind, before the face of the congregated Bodhisattvas, the four classes of hearers, who are striving for the vehicle of Bodhisattvas, and I, staying in another world, Bhaishagyarâga, will by means of fictious creatures make the minds of the whole congregation favourably disposed to that young man of good family, and I will send fictious monks, nuns, male and female lay devotees in order to hear the sermon of the preacher, who are unable to gainsay or contradict him. If afterwards he shall have retired to the forest, I will send thither many gods, Nâgas, goblins, Gandharvas, demons, Garudas, Kinnaras, and great serpents to hear him preach, while I, staying in another world, Bhaishagyarâga, will show my face to that young man of good family, and the words and syllables of this Dharmaparyâya which he happens to have forgotten will I again suggest to him when he repeats his lesson.
And on that occasion the Lord uttered the following stanzas:
16. Let one listen to this exalted Sûtra, avoiding all distractedness; for rare is the occasion (given) for hearing it, and rare also the belief in it.
17. It is a case similar to that of a certain man who in want of water goes to dig a well in an arid tract of land, and sees how again and again only dry sand is being dug up.
18. On seeing which he thinks: the water is far off; a token of its being far off is the dry white sand which appears in digging.
19. But when he (afterwards) sees again and again the sand moist and smooth, he gets the conviction that water cannot be very far off.
20. So, too, are those men far from Buddha-knowledge who have not heard this Sûtra and have failed to repeatedly meditate on it.
21. But those who have heard and oft meditated on this profound king amongst Sûtras, this authoritative book for disciples,
22. Are wise and near Buddha-knowledge, even as from the moisture of sand may be inferred that water is near.
23. After entering the abode of the Gina, putting on his robe and sitting down on my seat, the preacher should, undaunted, expound this Sûtra.
24. The strength of charity (or kindness) is my abode; the apparel of forbearence is my robe; and voidness (or complete abstraction) is my seat; let (the preacher) take his stand on this and preach.
25. Where clods, sticks, pikes, or abusive words and threats fall to the lot of the preacher, let him be patient, thinking of me.
26. My body has existed entire in thousands of kotis of regions; during a number of kotis of.Æons beyond comprehension I teach the law to creatures.
27. To that courageous man who shall proclaim this Sûtra after my complete extinction I will also send many creations.
28. Monks, nuns, lay devotees, male and female, will honour him as well as the classes of the audience.
29. And should there be some to attack him with clods, sticks, injurious words, threats, taunts, then the creations shall defend him.
30. And when he shall stay alone, engaged in study, in a lonely place, in the forest or the hills,
31. Then will I show him my luminous body and enable him to remember the lesson he forgot.
32. While he is living lonely in the wilderness, I will send him gods and goblins in great number to keep him company.
33. Such are the advantages he is to enjoy; whether he is preaching to the four classes, or living, a solitary, in mountain caverns and studying his lesson, he will see me.
34. His readiness of speech knows no impediment; he understands the manifold requisites of exegesis; he satisfies thousands of kotis of beings because he is, so to say, inspired (or blessed) by the Buddha.
35. And the creatures who are entrusted to his care shall very soon all become Bodhisattvas, and by cultivating his intimacy they shall behold Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges.
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