The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law
Translated By H. Kern (1884)
Then the venerable Sâriputra, pleased, glad, charmed, cheerful, thrilling with delight and joy, stretched his joined hands towards the Lord, and, looking up to the Lord with a steady gaze, addressed him in this strain: I am astonished, amazed, O Lord! I am in ecstasy to hear such a call from the Lord. For when, before I had heard of this law from the Lord, I saw other Bodhisattvas, and heard that the Bodhisattvas would in future get the name of Buddhas, I felt extremely sorry, extremely vexed to be,deprived from so grand a sight as the Tathâgata-knowledge. And whenever, O Lord, for my daily recreation I was visiting the caves of rocks or mountains, wood thickets, lovely gardens, rivers, and roots of trees, I always was occupied with the same and ever-reeurring thought: ‘Whereas the entrance into the fixed points [Or, elements] of the law is nominally equal, we have been dismissed by the Lord with the inferior vehicle.’ Instantly, however, O Lord, I felt that it was our own fault, not the Lord’s. For had we regarded the Lord at the time of his giving the allsurpassing demonstration of the law, that is, the exposition of supreme, perfect enlightenment, then, O Lord, we should have become adepts in those laws. But because, without understanding the mystery of the Lord, we, at the moment of the Bodhisattvas not being assembled, heard only in a hurry, caught, meditated, minded, took to heart the first lessons pronounced ori the law, therefore, O Lord, I used to pass day and night in self-reproach. (But) to-day, O Lord, I have reached complete extinction; to-day, O Lord, I have become calm; to-day, O Lord, I am wholly come to rest; to-day, O Lord, I have reached Arhatship; to-day, O Lord, I am the Lord’s eldest son, born from his law, sprung into existence by the law, made by the law, inheriting from the law, accomplished by the law. My burning has left me, O Lord, now that I have heard this wonderful law, which I had not leant before, announced by the voice from the mouth of the Lord.
And on that occasion the venerable Sâriputra addressed the Lord in the following stanzas:
1. I am astonished, great Leader, I am charmed to hear this voice; I feel no doubt any more; now am I fully ripe for the superior vehicle.
2. Wonderful is the voice [Rather, call] of the Sugatas; it dispels the doubt and pain of living beings; my pain also is all gone now that I, freed from imperfections, have heard that voice (or, call).
3. When I was taking my daily recreation or was walking in woody thickets, when betaking myself to the roots of trees or to mountain caves, I indulged in no other thought but this:
4. ‘O how am I deluded by vain thoughts! whereas the faultless laws are, nominally, equal, shall I in future not preach the superior law in the world?
5. ‘The thirty-two characteristic signs have failed me, and the gold colour of the skin has vanished; all the (ten) powers and emancipations have likewise been lost. O how have I gone astray at the equal laws!
6. ‘The secondary signs also of the great Seers, the eighty excellent specific signs, and the eighteen uncommon properties have failed me. O how am I deluded!’
7. And when I had perceived thee, so benigh and merciful to the world, and was lonely walking to take my daily recreation, I thought: ‘I am excluded from that inconceivable, unbounded knowledge!’
8. Days and nights, O Lord, I passed always thinking of the same subject; I would ask the Lord whether I had lost my rank or not.
9. In such reflections, O Chief of Ginas, I constantly passed my days and nights; and on seeing many other Bodhisattvas praised by the Leader of the world,
10. And on hearing this Buddha-law, I thought: ‘To be sure, this is expounded mysteriously’; it is an inscrutable, subtle, and faultless science, which is announced by the Ginas on the terrace of enlightenment.’
11. Formerly I was attached to (heretical) theories, being a wandering monk and in high honour (or, of the same opinions) with the heretics; afterwards has the Lord, regarding my disposition, taught me Nirvâna, to detach me from perverted views.
12. After having completely freed myself from all (heretical) views and reached the laws of void, (I conceive) that I have become extinct; yet this is not deemed to be extinction.
13. But when one becomes Buddha, a superior being, honoured by men, gods, goblins, Titans, and adorned with the thirty-two characteristic signs, then one will be completely extinct.
14. All those (former) cares have now been dispelled, since I have heard the voice. Now am I extinct, as thou announcest my destination (to Nirvâna) before the world including the gods.
15. When I first heard the voice of the Lord, I had a great terror lest it might be Mâra, the evil one, who on this occasion had adopted the disguise of Buddha.
16. But when the unsurpassed Buddha-wisdom had been displayed in and established with arguments, reasons, and illustrations, by myriads of kotis, then I lost all doubt about the law I heard.
17. And when thou hadst mentioned to me the thousands of kotis of Buddhas, the past Ginas who have come to final rest, and how they preached this law by firmly establishing it through skilfulness;
18. How the many future Buddhas and those who are now existing, as knowers of the real truth, shall expound or are expounding this law by hundreds of able devices;
19. And when thou wert mentioning thine own course after leaving home, how the idea of the wheel of the law presented itself to thy mind and how thou decidedst upon preaching the law;
20. Then I was convinced: This is not Mâra; it is the Lord of the world, who has shown the true course; no Mâras can here abide. So then my mind (for a moment) was overcome with perplexity;
21. But when the sweet, deep, and lovely voice of Buddha gladdened me, all doubts were scattered, my perplexity vanished, and I stood firm in knowledge.
22. I shall become a Tathâgata, undoubtedly, worshipped in the world including the gods; I shall manifest Buddha-wisdom, mysteriously rousing many Bodhisattvas.
After this speech of the venerable Sâriputra, the Lord said to him: I declare to thee, Sâriputra, I announce to thee, in presence of this world including the gods, Mâras, and Brahmas, in presence of this people, including ascetics and Brahmans, that thou, Sâriputra, hast been by me made ripe for supreme, perfect enlightenment, in presence of twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Buddhas, and that thou, Sâriputra, hast for a long time followed my commandments. Thou, Sâriputra, art, by the counsel of the Bodhisattva, by the decree of the Bodhisattva, reborn here under my rule. Owing to the mighty will of the Bodhisattva thou, Sâriputra, hast no recollection of thy former vow to observe the (religious) course; of the counsel of the Bodhisattva, the decree of the Bodhisattva. Thou thinkest that thou hast reached final rest. I, wishing to revive and renew in thee the knowledge of thy former vow to observe the (religious) course, will reveal to the disciples the Dharmaparyaya called ‘the Lotus of the True Law,’ this Sûrânta, &c.
Again, Sâriputra, at a future period, after innumerable, inconceivable, immeasurable Æons, when thou shalt have learnt the true law of hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Tathâgatas, showed devotion in various ways, and achieved the present Bodhisattva-course, thou shalt become in the world a Tathâgata, &c., named Padmaprabha, endowed with science and conduct, a Sugata, a knower of the world, an unsurpassed tamer of men, a master of gods and men, a Lord Buddha.
At that time then, Sâriputra, the Buddha-field of that Lord, the Tathâgata Padmaprabha, to be called Viraga, will be level, pleasant, delightful, extremely beautiful to see, pure, prosperous, rich, quiet, abounding with food, replete with many races of men; it will consist of lapis lazuli, and contain a checker-board of eight compartments distinguished by gold threads, each compartment having its jewel tree always and perpetually filled with blossoms and fruits of seven precious substances.
Now that Tathâgata Padmaprabha, &c., Sâriputra, will preach the law by the instrumentality of three vehicles . Further, Sâriputra, that Tathâgata will not appear at the decay of the Æon, but preach the law by virtue of a vow.
That Æon, Sâriputra, will be named Mahâratnapratimandita (i. e. ornamented with magnificent jewels). Knowest thou, Sâriputra, why that Æon is named Mahâratnapratimandita? The Bodhisattvas of a Buddha-field, Sâriputra, are called ratnas (jewels), and at that time there will be many Bodhisattvas in that sphere (called) Viraga; innumerable, incalculable, beyond computation, abstraction made from their being computed by the Tathâgatas. On that account is that Æon called Maharatnapratimandita.
Now, to proceed, Sâriputra, at that period the Bodhisattvas of that field will in walking step on jewel lotuses. And these Bodhisattvas will not be plying their work for the first time, they having accumulated roots of goodness and observed the course of duty under many hundred thousand Buddhas; they are praised by the Tathâgatas for their zealous application to Buddha-knowledge; are perfectioned in the rites preparatory to transcendent knowledge; accomplished in the direction of all true laws; mild, thoughtful. Generally, Sâriputra, will that Buddha-region teem with such Bodhisattvas.
As to the lifetime, Sâriputra, of that Tathâgata Padmaprabha, it will last twelve intermediate kalpas, if we leave out of account the time of his being a young prince. And the lifetime of the creatures then living will measure eight intermediate kalpas. At the expiration of twelve intermediate kalpas, Sâriputra, the Tathâgata Padmaprabha, after announcing the future destiny of the Bodhisattva called Dhritiparipûrnan [Dhriti, perserverence, endurance. Dhritiparipûrna is, full of perserverance or endurance] to superior perfect enlightenment, is to enter complete Nirvâna. ‘This Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Dhritiparipûrna, O monks, shall immediately after me come to supreme, perfect enlightenment. He shall become in the world a Tathâgata named Padmavrishabhavikrâmin, an Arhat, &c., endowed with science and conduct, &c. &c.’
Now the Tathigata Padmavrishabhavikrâmin, Sâriputra, will have a Buddha-field of quite the same description. The true law, Sâriputra, of that Tathâgata Padmavrishabhavikrâmin will, after his extinction, last thirty-two intermediate kalpas, and the counterfeit of his true law will last as many intermediate kalpas.
And on that occasion the Lord uttered the following stanzas:
23. Thou also, son of Sari, shalt in future be a Gina, a Tathâgata named Padmaprabha, of illimited sight; thou shalt educate thousands of kotis of living beings.
24. After paying honour to many kotis of Buddhas, making strenuous efforts in the course of duty, and after having produced in thyself the ten powers, thou shalt reach supreme, perfect enlightenment.
25. Within a period inconceivable and immense there shall be an Æon rich in jewels (or, the Æon jewel-rich), and a sphere named Viraga, the pure field of the highest of men;
26. And its ground will consist of lapis lazuli, and be set off with gold threads; it will have hundreds of jewel trees, very beautiful, and covered with blossoms and fruits.
2 7. Bodhisattvas of good memory, able in showing the course of duty which they have been taught under hundreds of Buddhas, will come to be born in that field.
28. And the afore-mentioned Gina, then in his last bodily existence, shall, after passing the state of prince royal, renounce sensual pleasures, leave home (to become a wandering ascetic), and thereafter reach the supreme and the highest enlightenment.
29. The lifetime of that Gina will be precisely twelve intermediate kalpas, and the life of men will then last eight intermediate kalpas.
30. After the extinction of the Tathigata the true law will continue thirty-two Æons in full, for the benefit of the world, including the gods.
31. When the true law shall have come to an end, its counterfeit will stand for thirty-two intermediate kalpas. The dispersed relics of the holy one will always be honoured by men and gods.
32. Such will be the fate of that Lord. Rejoice, O son of Sâri, for it is thou who shalt be that most excellent of men, so unsurpassed.
The four classes of the audience, monks, nuns, lay devotees male and female, gods, Nagas, goblins, Gandharvas, demons, Garudas, Kinnaras, great serpents, men and beings not human, on hearing the announcement of the venerable Sâriputra’s destiny to supreme, perfect enlightenment, were so pleased, glad, charmed, thrilling with delight and joy, that they covered the Lord severally with their own robes, while Indra the chief of gods, Brahma Sahâmpati, besides hundred thousands of kotis of other divine beings, covered him with heavenly garments and bestrewed him with flowers of heaven, Mandâravas and great Mandâravas. High aloft they whirled celestial clothes and struck hundred thousands of celestial musical instruments and cymbals, high in the sky; and after pouring a great rain of flowers they uttered these words: The wheel of the law has been put in motion by the Lord, the first time at Benares at Rishipatana in the Deer-park; to-day has the Lord again put in motion the supreme wheel of the law.
And on that occasion those divine beings uttered the following stanzas:
33. The wheel of the law was put in motion by thee, O thou that art unrivalled in the world, at Benares, O great hero! (that wheel which is the rotation of) the rise and decay of all aggregates.
34. There it was put in motion for the first time; now, a second time, is it turned here, O Lord. Today, O Master, thou hast preached this law, which is hard to be received with faith.
35. Many laws have we heard near the Lord of the world, but never before did we hear a law like this.
36. We receive with gratitude, O great hero, the mysterious speech of the great Sages, such as this prediction regarding the self-possessed Arya Sâriputra.
37. May we also become such incomparable Buddhas in the world, who by mysterious speech announce supreme Buddha-enlightenment.
38. May we also, by the good we have done in this world and in the next, and by our having propitiated the Buddha, be allowed to make a vow for Buddhaship.
Thereupon the venerable Sâriputra thus spoke to the Lord: My doubt is gone, O Lord, my uncertainty is at an end on hearing from the mouth of the Lord my destiny to supreme enlightenment. But these twelve hundred self-controlled (disciples), O Lord, who have been placed by thee on the stage of Saikshas, have been thus admonished and instructed: ‘My preaching of the law, O monks, comes to this, that deliverance from birth, decrepitude, disease, and death is inseparably connected with Nirvâna;’ and these two thousand monks, O Lord, thy disciples, both those who are still under training and adepts, who all of them are free from false views about the soul, false views about existence, false views about cessation of existence, free, in short, from all false views, who are fancying themselves to have reached the stage of Nirvâna, these have fallen into uncertainty by hearing from the mouth of the Lord this law which they had not heard before. Therefore, O Lord, please speak to these monks, to dispel their uneasiness, so that the four classes of the audience, O Lord, may be relieved from their doubt and perplexity.
On this speech of the venerable Sâriputra the Lord said to him the following: Have I not told thee before, Sâriputra, that the Tathâgata, &c., preaches the law by able devices, varying directions and indications, fundamental ideas, interpretations, with due regard to the different dispositions and inclinations of creatures whose temperaments are so various? All his preachings of the law have no other end but supreme and perfect enlightenment, for which he is rousing beings to the Bodhisattva-course. But, Sâriputra, to elucidate this matter more at large, I will tell thee a parable, for men of good understanding will generally readily enough catch the meaning of what is taught under the shape of a parable.
Let us suppose the following case, Sâriputra. In a certain village, town, borough, province, kingdom, or capital, there was a certain housekeeper, old, aged, decrepit, very advanced in years, rich, wealthy, opulent; he had a great house, high, spacious, built a long time ago and old, inhabited by some two, three, four, or five hundred living beings. The house had but one door, and a thatch; its terraces were tottering, the bases of its pillars rotten, the coverings and plaster of the walls loose. On a sudden the whole house was from every side put in conflagration by a mass of fire. Let us suppose that the man had many little boys, say five, or ten, or even twenty, and that he himself had come out of the house.
Now, Sâriputra, that man, on seeing the house from every side wrapt in a blaze by a great mass of fire, got afraid, frightened, anxious in his mind, and made the following reflection: I myself am able to come out from the burning house through the door, quickly and safely, without being touched or scorched by that great mass of fire; but my children, those young boys, are staying in the burning house, playing, amusing, and diverting themselves with all sorts of sports. They do not perceive, nor know, nor understand, nor mind that the house is on fire, and do not get afraid. Though scorched by that great mass of fire, and affected with such a mass of pain, they do not mind the pain, nor do they conceive the idea of escaping.
The man, Sâriputra, is strong, has powerful arms, and (so) he makes this reflection: I am strong, and have powerful arms; why, let me gather all my little boys and take them to my breast to effect their escape from the house. A second reflection then presented itself to his mind: This house has but one opening; the door is shut; and those boys, fickle, unsteady, and childlike as they are, will, it is to be feared, run hither and thither, and come to grief and disaster in this mass of fire. Therefore I will warn them. So resolved, he calls to the boys: Come, my children; the house is burning with a mass of fire; come, lest ye be burnt in that mass of fire, and come to grief and disaster. But the ignorant boys do not heed the words of him who is their well-wisher; they are not afraid, not alarmed, and feel no misgiving; they do not care, nor fly, nor even know nor understand the purport of the word ‘burning;’ on the contrary, they run hither and thither, walk about, and repeatedly look at their father; all, because they are so ignorant.
Then the man is going to reflect thus: The house is burning, is blazing by a mass of fire. It is to be feared that myself as well as my children will come to grief and disaster. Let me therefore by some skilful means get the boys out of the house. The man knows the disposition of the boys, and has a clear perception of their inclinations. Now these boys happen to have many and manifold toys to play with, pretty, nice, pleasant, dear, amusing, and precious. The man, knowing the disposition of the boys, says to them: My children, your toys, which are so pretty, precious, and admirable, which you are so loth to miss, which are so various and multifarious, (such as) bullock-carts, goat-carts, deer-carts, which are so pretty, nice, dear, and precious to you, have all been put by me outside the house-door for you to play with. Come, run out, leave the house; to each of you I shall give what he wants. Come soon; come out for the sake of these toys. And the boys, on hearing the names mentioned of such playthings as they like and desire, so agreeable to their taste, so pretty, dear, and delightful, quickly rush out from the burning house, with eager effort and great alacrity, one having no time to wait for the other, and pushing each other on with the cry of ‘Who shall arrive first, the very first?’
The man, seeing that his children have safely and happily escaped, and knowing that they are free from danger, goes and sits down in the open air on the square of the village, his heart filled with joy and delight, released from trouble and hindrance, quite at ease. The boys go up to the place where their father is sitting, and say: ‘Father, give us those toys to play with, those bullock-carts, goat-carts, and deer-carts.’ Then, Sâriputra, the man gives to his sons, who run swift as the wind, bullock-carts only, made of seven precious substances, provided with benches, hung with a multitude of small bells, lofty, adorned with rare and wonderful jewels, embellished with jewel wreaths, decorated with garlands of flowers, carpeted with cotton mattresses and woollen coverlets, covered with white cloth and silk, having on both sides rosy cushions, yoked with white, very fair and fleet bullocks, led by a multitude of men. To each of his children he gives several bullockcarts of one appearance and one kind, provided with flags, and swift as the wind. That man does so, Sâriputra, because being rich, wealthy, and in possession of many treasures and granaries, he rightly thinks: Why should I give these boys inferior carts, all these boys being my own children, dear and precious? I have got such great vehicles, and ought to treat all the boys equally and without partiality. As I own many treasures and granaries, I could give such great vehicles to all beings, how much more then to my own children. Meanwhile the boys are mounting the vehicles with feelings of astonishment and wonder. Now, Sâriputra, what is thy opinion? Has that man made himself guilty of a falsehood by first holding out to his children the prospect of three vehicles and afterwards giving to each of them the greatest vehicles only, the most magnificent vehicles?
Sâriputra answered: By no means, Lord; by no means, Sugata. That is not sufficient, O Lord, to qualify the man as a speaker of falsehood, since it only was a skilful device to persuade his children to go out of the burning house and save their lives. Nay, besides recovering their very body, O Lord, they have received all those toys. If that man, O Lord, had given no single cart, even then he would not have been a speaker of falsehood, for he had previously been meditating on saving the little boys from a great mass of pain by some able device. Even in this case, O Lord, the man would not have been guilty of falsehood, and far less now that he, considering his having plenty of treasures and prompted by no other motive but the love of his children, gives to all, to coax them, vehicles of one kind, and those the greatest vehicles. That man, Lord, is not guilty of falsehood.
The venerable Siriputra having thus spoken, the Lord said to him: Very well, very well, Sâriputra, quite so; it is even as thou sayest. So, too, Sâriputra, the Tathâgata, &c., is free from all dangers, wholly exempt from all misfortune, despondency, calamity, pain, grief, the thick enveloping dark mists of ignorance. He, the Tathâgata, endowed with Buddha-knowledge, forces, absence of hesitation, uncommon properties, and mighty by magical power, is the father of the world, who has reached the highest perfection in the knowledge of skilful means, who is most merciful, long-suffering, benevolent, compassionate. He appears in this triple world, which is like a house the roof and shelter whereof are decayed, (a house) burning by a mass of misery, in order to deliver from affection, hatred, and delusion the beings subject to birth, old age, disease, death, grief, wailing, pain, melancholy, despondency, the dark enveloping mists of ignorance, in order to rouse them to supreme and perfect enlightenment. Once born, he sees how the creatures are burnt, tormented, vexed, distressed by birth, old age, disease, death, grief, wailing, pain, melancholy, despondency; how for the sake of enjoyments, and prompted by sensual desires, they severally suffer various pains. In consequence both of what in this world they are seeking and what they have acquired, they will in a future state suffer various pains, in hell, in the brute creation, in the realm of Yama; suffer such pains as poverty in the world of gods or men, union with hateful persons or things, and separation from the beloved ones. And whilst incessantly whirling in that mass of evils they are sporting, playing, diverting themselves; they do not fear, nor dread, nor are they seized with terror; they do not know, nor mind; they are not startled, do not try to escape, but are enjoying themselves in that triple world which is like unto a burning house, and run hither and thither. Though overwhelmed by that mass of evil, they do not conceive the idea that they must beware of it.
Under such circumstances, Sâriputra, the Tathâgata reflects thus: Verily, I am the father of these beings; I must save them from this mass of evil, and bestow on them the immense, inconceivable bliss of Buddha-knowledge, wherewith they shall sport, play, and divert themselves, wherein they shall find their rest.
Then, Sâriputra, the Tathâgata reflects thus: If, in the conviction of my possessing the power of knowledge and magical faculties, I manifest to these beings the knowledue, forces, and absence of hesitation of the Tathâgata, without availing myself of some device, these beings will not escape. For they are attached to the pleasures of the five senses, to worldly pleasures; they will not be freed from birth, old age, disease, death, grief, wailing, pain, melancholy, despondency, by which they are burnt, tormented, vexed, distressed. Unless they are forced to leave the triple world which is like a house the shelter and roof whereof is in a blaze, how are they to get acquainted with Buddha-knowledge?
Now, Sâriputra, even as that man with powerful arms, without using the strength of his arms, attracts his children out of the burning house by an able device, and afterwards gives them magnificent, great carts, so, Sâriputra, the Tathâgata, the Arhat, &c., possessed of knowledge and freedom from all hesitation, without using them, in order to attract the creatures out of the triple world which is like a burning house with decayed roof and shelter, shows, by his knowledge of able devices, three vehicles, viz. the vehicle of the disciples, the vehicle of the Pratyekabuddhas, and the vehicle of the Bodhisattvas. By means of these three vehicles he attracts the creatures and speaks to them thus: Do not delight in this triple world, which is like a burning house, in these miserable forms, sounds, odours, flavours, and contacts. For in delighting in this triple world ye are burnt, heated, inflamed with the thirst inseparable from the pleasures of the five senses. Fly from this triple world; betake yourselves to the three vehicles: the vehicle of the disciples, the vehicle of the Pratyekabuddhas, the vehicle of the Bodhisattvas. I give you my pledge for it, that I shall give you these three vehicles; make an effort to run out of this triple world. And to attract them I say: These vehicles are grand, praised by the Aryas, and provided with most pleasant things; with such you are to sport, play, and divert yourselves in a noble manner. Ye will feel the great delight of the faculties, powers, constituents of Bodhi, meditations, the (eight) degrees of emancipation, self-concentration, and the results of self-concentration, and ye will become greatly happy and cheerful.
Now, Sâriputra, the beings who have become wise have faith in the Tathâgata, the father of the world, and consequently apply themselves to his commandments. Amongst them there are some who, wishing to follow the dictate of an authoritative voice, apply themselves to the commandment of the Tathâgata to acquire the knowledge of the four great truths, for the sake of their own complete Nirvâna. These one may say to be those who, coveting the vehicle of the disciples, fly from the triple world, just as some of the boys will fly from that burning house, prompted by a desire of getting a cart yoked with deer. Other beings desirous of the science without a master, of self-restraint and tranquillity, apply themselves to the commandment of the Tatha’gata to learn to understand causes and effects, for the sake of their own complete Nirvâna. These one may say to be those who, coveting the vehicle of the Pratyekabuddhas, fly from the triple world, just as some of the boys fly from the burning house, prompted by the desire of getting a cart yoked with goats. Others again desirous of the knowledge of the all-knowing, the knowledge of Buddha, the knowledge of the self-born one, the science without a master, apply themselves to the commandment of the Tathâgata to learn to understand the knowledge, powers, and freedom from hesitation of the Tathâgata, for the sake of the common weal and happiness, out of compassion to the world, for the benefit, weal, and happiness of the world at large, both gods and men, for the sake of the complete Nirvâna of all beings. These one may say to be those who, coveting the great vehicle, fly from the triple world. Therefore they are called Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas. They may be likened to those among the boys who have fled from the burning house prompted by the desire of getting a cart yoked with bullocks.
In the same manner, Sâriputra, as that man, on seeing his children escaped from the burning house and knowing them safely and happily rescued and out of danger, in the consciousness of his great wealth, gives the boys one single grand cart; so, too, Sâriputra, the Tathigata, the Arhat, &c., on seeing many kotis of beings recovered from the triple world, released from sorrow, fear, terror, and calamity, having escaped owing to the command of the Tathâgata, delivered from all fears, calamities, and difficulties, and having reached the bliss of Nirvâna, so, too, Sâriputra, the Tathâgata, the Arhat, &c., considering that he possesses great wealth of knowledge, power, and absence of hesitation, and that all beings are his children, leads them by no other vehicle but the Buddha-vehicle to full development. But he does not teach a particular Nirvâna for each being; he causes all beings to reach complete Nirvâna by means of the complete Nirvâna of the Tathigata. And those beings, Sâriputra, who are delivered from the triple world, to them the Tathâgata gives as toys to amuse themselves with the lofty pleasures of the Aryas, the pleasures of meditation, emancipation, self-concentration, and its results; (toys) all of the same kind. Even as that man, Sâriputra, cannot be said to have told a falsehood for having held out to those boys the prospect of three vehicles and given to all of them but one great vehicle, a magnificent vehicle made of seven precious substances, decorated with all sorts of ornaments, a vehicle of one kind, the most egregious of all, so, too, Sâriputra, the Tathâgata, the Arhat, &c., tells no falsehood when by an able device he first holds forth three vehicles and afterwards leads all to complete Nirvâna by the one great vehicle. For the Tathâgata, Sâriputra, who is rich in treasures and storehouses of abundant knowledge, powers, and absence of hesitation, is able to teach all beings the law which is connected with the knowledge of the all-knowing. In this way, Sâriputra, one has to understand how the Tatha’gata by an able device and direction shows but one vehicle, the great vehicle.
And on that occasion the Lord uttered the following stanzas:
39. A man has an old house, large, but very infirm; its terraces are decaying and the columns rotten at their bases.
40. The windows and balconies are partly ruined, the wall as well as its coverings and plaster decaying; the coping shows rents from age; the thatch is everywhere pierced with holes.
41. It is inhabited by no less than five hundred beings; containing many cells and closets filled with excrements and disgusting.
42. Its roof-rafters are wholly ruined; the walls and partitions crumbling away; kotis of vultures nestle in it, as well as doves, owls, and other birds.
43. There are in every corner dreadful snakes, most venomous and horrible; scorpions and mice of all sorts; it is the abode of very wicked creatures of every description.
44. Further, one may meet in it here and there beings not belonging to the human race. It is defiled with excrement and urine, and teeming with worms, insects, and fire-flies; it resounds from the howling of dogs and jackals.
45. In it are horrible hyenas that are wont to devour human carcasses; many dogs and jackals greedily seeking the matter of corpses.
46. Those animals weak from perpetual hunger go about in several places to feed upon their prey, and quarrelling fill the spot with their cries. Such is that most horrible house.
47. There are also very malign goblins, who violate human corpses; in several spots there are centipedes, huge snakes, and vipers.
48. Those animals creep into all corners, where they make nests to deposit their brood, which is often devoured by the goblins.
49. And when those cruel-minded goblins are satiated with feeding upon the flesh of other creatures, so that their bodies are big, then they commence sharply fighting on the spot.
50. In the wasted retreats are dreadful, malign urchins, some of them measuring one span, others one cubit or two cubits, all nimble in their movements.
51. They are in the habit of seizing dogs by the feet, throwing them upside down upon the floor, pinching their necks and using them ill.
52. There also live yelling ghosts naked, black, wan, tall, and high, who, hungry and in quest of food, are here and there emitting cries of distress.
53. Some have a mouth like a needle, others have a face like a cow’s; they are of the size of men or dogs, go with entangled hair, and utter plaintive cries from want of food.
54. Those goblins, ghosts, imps, like vultures, are always looking out through the windows and loopholes, in all directions in search of food.
55. Such is that dreadful house, spacious and high, but very infirm, full of holes, frail and dreary. (Let us suppose that) it is the property of a certain man,
56. And that while he is out of doors the house is reached by a conflagration, so that on a sudden it is wrapt in a blazing mass of fire on every side.
57. The beams and rafters consumed by the fire, the columns and partitions in flame are crackling most dreadfully, whilst goblins and ghosts are yelling.
58. Vultures are driven out by hundreds; urchins withdraw with parched faces; hundreds of mischievous beasts of prey I run, scorched, on every side, crying and shouting.
59. Many poor devils move about, burnt by the fire; while burning they tear one another with the teeth, and bespatter each other with their blood.
60. Hyenas also perish there, in the act of eating one another. The excrements burn, and a loathsome stench spreads in all directions.
61. The centipedes, trying to fly, are devoured by the urchins. The ghosts, with burning hair, hover about, equally vexed with hunger and heat.
62. In such a state is that awful house, where thousands of flames are breaking out on every side. But the man who is the master of the house looks on from without.
63. And he hears his own children, whose minds are engaged in playing with their toys, in their fondness of which they amuse themselves, as fools do in their ignorance.
64. And as he hears them he quickly steps in to save his children, lest his ignorant children might perish in the flames.
65. He tells them the defect of the house, and says: This, young man of good family, is a miserable house, a dreadful one; the various creatures in it, and this fire to boot, form a series of evils.
66. In it are snakes, mischievous goblins, urchins, and ghosts in great number; hyenas, troops of dogs and jackals, as well as vultures, seeking their prey.
67. Such beings live in this house, which, apart from the fire, is extremely dreadful, and miserable enough; and now comes to it this fire blazing on all sides.
68. The foolish boys, however, though admonished, do not mind their father’s words, deluded as they are by their toys; they do not even understand him.
69. Then the man thinks: I am now in anxiety on account of my children. What is the use of my having sons if I lose them? No, they shall not perish by this fire.
70. Instantly a device occurred to his mind: These young (and ignorant) children are fond of toys, and have none just now to play with. Oh, they are so foolish!
71. He then says to them: Listen, my sons, I have carts of different sorts, yoked with deer, goats, and excellent bullocks, lofty, great, and completely furnished.
72. They are outside the house; run out, do with them what you like; for your sake have I caused them to be made. Run out all together, and rejoice to have them.
73. All the boys, on hearing of such carts, exert themselves, immediately rush out hastily, and reach, free from harm, the open air.
74. On seeing that the children have come out, the man betakes himself to the square in the centre of the village, and there from the throne he is sitting on he says: Good people, now I feel at ease.
75. These poor sons of mine, whom I have recovered with difficulty, my own dear twenty young children, were in a dreadful, wretched, horrible house, full of many animals.
76. As it was burning and wrapt in thousands of flames, they were amusing themselves in it with playing, but now I have rescued them all. Therefore I now feel most happy.
77. The children, seeing their father happy, approached him, and said: Dear father, give us, as you have promised’, those nice vehicles of three kinds;
78. And make true all that you promised us in the house when saying, ‘I will give you three sorts of vehicles.’ Do give them; it is now the right time.
79. Now the man (as we have supposed) had a mighty treasure of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls; he possessed bullion, numerous slaves, domestics, and vehicles of various kinds;
80. Carts made of precious substances, yoked with bullocks, most excellent, with benches and a row of tinkling bells, decorated with umbrellas and flags, and adorned with a network of gems and pearls.
81. They are embellished with gold, and artificial wreaths hanging down here and there; covered all around with excellent cloth and fine white muslin.
82. Those carts are moreover furnished with choice mattresses of fine silk, serving for cushions, and covered with choice carpets showing the images of cranes and swans, and worth thousands of kotis.
83. The carts are yoked with white bullocks, well fed, strong, of great size, very fine, who are tended by numerous persons.
84. Such excellent carts that man gives to all his sons, who, overjoyed and charmed, go and play with them in all directions.
85. In the same manner, Sâriputra, I, the great Seer, am the protector and father of all beings, and all creatures who, childlike, are captivated by the pleasures of the triple world, are my sons.
86. This triple world is as dreadful as that house, overwhelmed with a number of evils, entirely inflamed on every side by a hundred different sorts of birth, old age, and disease.
87. But I, who am detached from the triple world and serene, am living in absolute retirement in a wood. This triple world is my domain, and those who in it are suffering from burning heat are my sons.
88. And I told its evils because I had resolved upon saving them, but they would not listen to me, because all of them were ignorant and their hearts attached to the pleasures of sense.
89. Then I employ an able device, and tell them of the three vehicles, so showing them the means of evading the numerous evils of the triple world which are known to me.
90. And those of my sons who adhere to me, who are mighty in the six transcendent faculties (Abhigñas) and the triple science, the Pratyekabuddhas, as well as the Bodhisattvas unable to slide back;
91. And those (others) who equally are my sons, to them I just now am showing, by means of this excellent allegory, the single Buddha-vehicle. Receive it; ye shall all become Ginas.
92. It is most excellent and sweet, the most exalted in the world, that knowledge of the Buddhas, the most high among men; it is something sublime and adorable.
93. The powers, meditations, degrees of emancipation and self-concentration by many hundreds of kotis, that is the exalted vehicle in which the sons of Buddha take a never-ending delight.
94. In playing with it they pass days and nights, fortnights, months, seasons, years, intermediate kalpas, nay, thousands of kotis of kalpas.
95. This is the lofty vehicle of jewels which sundry Bodhisattvas and the disciples listening to the Sugata employ to go and sport on the terrace of enlightenment.
96. Know then, Tishya, that there is no second vehicle in this world anywhere to be found, in whatever direction thou shalt search, apart from the device (shown) by the most high among men.
97. Ye are my children, I am your father, who has removed you from pain, from the triple world, from fear and danger, when you had been burning for many kotis of Æons.
98. And I am teaching blessed rest (Nirvâna), in. so far as, though you have not yet reached (final) rest, you are delivered from the trouble of the mundane whirl, provided you seek the vehicle of the Buddhas.
99. Any Bodhisattvas here present obey my Buddha-rules. Such is the skilfulness of the Gina that he disciplines many Bodhisattvas.
100. When the creatures in this world delight in low and contemptible pleasures, then the Chief of the world, who always speaks the truth, indicates pain as the (first) great truth.
101. And to those who are ignorant and too simple-minded to discover the root of that pain I lay open the way: ‘Awaking of full consciousness, strong desire is the origin of pain.’
102. Always try, unattached, to suppress desire. This is my third truth, that of suppression. It is an infallible means of deliverance; for by practising this method one shall become emancipated.
103. And from what are they emancipated, Sâriputra? They are emancipated from chimeras. Yet they are not wholly freed; the Chief declares that they have not yet reached (final and complete) rest in this world.
104. Why is it that I do not pronounce one to be delivered before one’s having reached the highest, supreme enlightenment? (Because) such is mywill; I am the ruler of the law, who is born in this world to lead to beatitude.
105. This, Sâriputra, is the closing word of my law which now at the last time I pronounce for the weal of the world including the gods. Preach it in all quarters.
106. And if some one speaks to you these words, ‘I joyfully accept,’ and with signs of utmost reverence receives this Sûtra, thou mayst consider that man to be unable to slide back.
107. To believe in this Sûtra one must have seen former Tathâgatas, paid honour to them, and heard a law similar to this.
108. To believe in my supreme word one must have seen me; thou and the assembly of monks have seen all these Bodhisattvas.
109. This Sûtra is apt to puzzle the ignorant, and I do not pronounce it before having penetrated to superior knowledge. Indeed, it is not within the range of the disciples, nor do the Pratyekabuddhas come to it.
110. But thou, Siriputra, hast good will, not to speak of my other disciples here. They will walk in my faith, though each cannot have his individual knowledge.
111. But do not speak of this matter to haughty persons, nor to conceited ones, nor to Yogins who are not self-restrained; for the fools, always revelling in sensual pleasures, might in their blindness scorn the law manifested.
112. Now hear the dire results when one scorns my skilfulness and the Buddha-rules for ever fixed in the world; when one, with sullen brow, scorns the vehicle.
113. Hear the destiny of those who have scorned such a Sûtra like this, whether during my lifetime or after my Nirvâna, or who have wronged the monks.
114. After having disappeared from amongst men, they shall dwell in the lowest hell (Avîki) during a whole kalpa, and thereafter they shall fall lower and lower, the fools, passing through repeated births for many intermediate kalpas.
115. And when they have vanished from amongst the inhabitants of hell, they shall further descend to the condition of brutes, be even as dogs and jackals, and become a sport to others.
116. Under such circumstances they shall grow blackish of colour, spotted, covered with sores, itchy; moreover, they shall be hairless and feeble, (all) those who have an aversion to my supreme enlightenment.
117. They are ever despised amongst animals; hit by clods or weapons they yell; everywhere they are threatened with sticks, and their bodies are emaciated from hunger and thirst.
118. Sometimes they become camels or asses, carrying loads, and are beaten with whips and sticks; they are constantly occupied with thoughts of eating, the fools who have scorned the Buddharule.
119. At other times they become ugly jackals, half blind and crippled; the helpless creatures are vexed by the village boys, who throw clods and weapons at them.
120. Again shooting off from that place, those fools become animals with bodies of five hundred yoganas, whirling round, dull and lazy.
121. They have no feet, and creep on the belly; to be devoured by many kotis of animals is the dreadful punishment they have to suffer for having scorned a Sûtra like this.
122. And whenever they assume a human shape, they are born crippled, maimed, crooked, one-eyed, blind, dull, and low, they having no faith in my Sûtra.
123. Nobody keeps their side; a putrid smell is continually issuing from their mouths; an evil spirit has entered the body of those who do not believe in this supreme enlightenment.
124. Needy, obliged to do menial labour, always in another’s service, feeble, and subject to many diseases they go about in the world, unprotected.
125. The man whom they happen to serve is unwilling to give them much, and what he gives is soon lost. Such is the fruit of sinfulness.
126. Even the best-prepared medicaments, administered to them by able men, do, under those circumstances, but increase their illness, and the disease has no end.
127. Some commit thefts, affrays, assaults, or acts of hostility, whereas others commit robberies of goods; (all this) befalls the sinner.
128. Never does he behold the Lord of the world, the King of kings ruling the earth, for he is doomed to live at a wrong time, he who scorns my Buddha-rule.
129. Nor does that foolish person listen to the law; he is deaf and senseless; he never finds rest, because he has scorned this enlightenment.
130. During many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Æons equal to the sand of the Ganges he shall be dull and defective; that is the evil result from scorning this Sûtra.
131. Hell is his garden (or monastery), a place of misfortune his abode; he is continually living amongst asses, hogs, jackals, and dogs.
132. And when he has assumed a human shape he is to be blind, deaf, and stupid, the servant of another, and always poor.
133. Diseases, myriads of kotis of wounds on the body, scab, itch, scurf, leprosy, blotch, a foul smell are, in that condition, his covering and apparel.
134. His sight is dim to distinguish the real. His anger appears mighty in him, and his passion is most violent; he always delights in animal wombs.
135. Were I to go on, Sâriputra, for a whole Æon, enumerating the evils of him who shall scorn my Sûtra, I should not come to an end.
136. And since I am fully aware of it, I command thee, Sâriputra, that thou shalt not expound a Sûtra like this before foolish people.
137. But those who are sensible, instructed, thoughtful, clever, and learned, who strive after the highest supreme enlightenment, to them expound its real meaning.
138. Those who have seen many kotis of Buddhas, planted immeasurably many roots of goodness, and undertaken a strong vow, to them expound its real meaning.
139. Those who, full of energy and ever kindhearted, have a long time been developing the feeling of kindness, have given up body and life, in their presence thou mayst preach this Sûtra.
140. Those who show mutual love and respect, keep no intercourse with ignorant people, and are content to live in mountain caverns, to them expound this hallowed Sûtra.
141. If thou see sons of Buddha who attach themselves to virtuous friends and avoid bad friends, then reveal to them this Sûtra.
142. Those sons of Buddha who have not broken the moral vows, are pure like gems and jewels, and devoted to the study of the great Sûtras, before those thou mayst propound this Sûtra.
143. Those who are not irascible, ever sincere, full of compassion for all living beings, and respectful towards the Sugata, before those thou mayst propound this Sûtra.
144. To one who in the congregation, without any hesitation and distraction of mind, speaks to expound the law, with many myriads of kotis of illustrations, thou mayst manifest this Sûtra.
145. And he who, desirous of acquiring all-knowingness, respectfully lifts his joined hands to his head, or who seeks in all directions to find some monk of sacred eloquence;
146. And he who keeps (in memory) the great Ritras, while he never shows any liking for other books, nor even knows a single stanza from another work; to all of them thou mayst expound this sublime Sûtra.
147. He who seeks such an excellent Sûtra as this, and after obtaining it devoutly worships it, is like the man who wears a relic of the Tathâgata he has eagerly sought for.
148. Never mind other Satras nor other books in which a profane philosophy is taught; such books are fit for the foolish; avoid them and preach this Sûtra.
149. During a full Æon, Sâriputra, I could speak of thousands of kotis of (connected) points, (but this suffices); thou mayst reveal this Sûtra to all who are striving after the highest supreme enlightenment.
Source: Reluctant Messenger
Source: Reluctant Messenger
The Lotus Sutra: Saddharma Pundarika Sutra or the Lotus of the True Law (H.Kern)
The Lotus Sutra and its Opening and Closing Sutras: A Beautiful Translation with Deep Love from a Lay Buddhist Practitioner (Minerva Lee)