The Buddha’s Past Life:
A King Who Practiced the Shurangama Samadhi Meditation
The Buddha said: “Long ago in the past there was another Buddha by the name of Satyanama, a Tathagata, an Arhat, and a Perfectly Awakened One. At that time there was a monk by the name of Varuna. After the Parinirvana of that Buddha, this monk was in possession of this meditation. I was then a king of the ksatriya caste, and in a dream I heard about this meditation.
On waking, I then went in search of the monk who possessed this meditation, and forthwith became an ascetic under him. I wished to hear this meditation once under this monk. I served the teacher for thirty-six thousand years, but because of the frequent occurrence of acts of Mara I did not once succeed in hearing it.”
The Buddha said to the monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen: “Therefore I say to you: you should quickly accept this meditation, and you should not forget it. You should serve your teacher well and take up this meditation. Whether it takes one aeon or a hundred aeons or a thousand aeons, you should not grow lazy. You should master this meditation at once. Look after your good teacher and do not forsake him. Present the teacher with food and drink, with goods, with clothes, with beds and bedding, with a thousand myriad precious gems; make offerings to the teacher without begrudging anything. If you have nothing, you should go and beg for food, and offer it to the teacher. You should master this meditation at once, and not tire of it.”
The Buddha said: “Setting aside these offerings, which are just not worth mentioning, you should always cut off your own flesh and offer it to the good teacher, you should never begrudge him your person, how much less anything else? You should serve the good teacher as a slave serves his lord. Those people who seek this meditation should know this. Having mastered this meditation they should hold fast to it, and always be grateful to their teachers.” The Buddha said: “This meditation is difficult to meet with. Even if one sought this meditation for a hundred million aeons and only wished to hear its name, one might not be able to hear it, much less study it or teach it to others in one’s turn. If one filled with precious gems as many Buddha-fields as there are grains of sand on the banks of the Ganges and made a gift of them, wouldn’t the blessings from that be considerable? Yet that would not compare with copying this meditation or preserving the volumes of the sutra, the blessings from which would be extensive beyond computation.”
The Buddha then recited the following verses:
I myself remember how, in a past age, For years whose number reached a full sixty thousand, I always followed a teacher of the Dharma, without forsaking him, Yet from the first I did not succeed in hearing this meditation.
There was a Buddha whose name was Satyanama, Who then knew a monk called Varuna; After the nirvana of that Buddha, Lord of the World, The monk always kept this meditation.
Then I was a king, of princely stock; In a dream I heard of this meditation: “The monk Varuna has this sutra; You, O King, should accept this mental concentration from him.”
When I awoke from the dream I went in search of him, And straightaway met the monk who held the meditation. Then I removed my hair and beard, became an ascetic, And studied for eight thousand years so as to hear it once.
For years whose number reached a full eighty thousand, I made offerings to and served this monk; At the time, conditions due to Mara frequently arose, And from the first I never once heard it.
Therefore, monks and nuns, Men of pure faith and women of pure faith, I commit this sutra-dharma to you. When you hear this meditation, quickly take it up!
Always honor the teacher who practises and keeps this Dharma Unremittingly for a whole aeon; For the sake of the Way, do not regard a thousand million years as a hardship; You shall succeed in hearing this Dharma, this meditation.
Robes and beds by the millions, And food which the monk begs from house to house— Make offerings of them to the teacher of Dharma; If you are energetic in this way you will master the meditation.
Whatever lamps, food, and drink you obtain, Gold, silver, and precious gems, offer them all. If you should cut off your own flesh To make an offering of it, how much more so food and drink?
When the intelligent person obtains the Dharma he quickly takes it up, He accepts and studies the sutra volumes repeatedly. This meditation is difficult to find; For millions and billions of aeons you should constantly seek it.
Wherever you circulate, listen to this Dharma; You should disclose it widely to students;
Even if for a thousand million billion aeons One looks for this meditation, it is difficult to hear.
If worlds as numerous as the sands of the Ganges Were filled with precious gems and used as a gift, And if someone accepted one verse of this and preached it, The merit of that reverent recitation would exceed the former.