The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law
Translated By H. Kern (1884)
The Lord then addressed the Bodhisattva Mahisattva Mahâsthâmaprâpta. In a similar way, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, one may infer from what has been said that he who rejects such a Dharmaparyâya as this, who abuses monks, nuns, lay devotees male or female, keeping this Sûtra, insults them, treats them with false and harsh words, shall experience dire results, to such an extent as is impossible to express in words. But those that keep, read, comprehend, teach, amply expound it to others, shall experience happy results, such as I have already mentioned: they shall attain such a perfection of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind as just described.
In the days of yore, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, at a past period, before incalculable Æons, nay, more than incalculable, immense, inconceivable, and even long before, there appeared in the world a Tathâgata, &c., named Bhîshmagargitasvararâga, endowed with science and conduct, a Sugata, &c. &c., in the Æon Vinirbhoga, in the world Mahâsambhava. Now, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, that Lord Bhîshmagargitasvararâga, the Tathâgata, &c., in that world Vinirbhoga, showed the law in the presence of the world, including gods, men, and demons; the law containing the four noble truths and starting from the chain of causes and efferts, tending to overcome birth, decrepitude, sickness, death, sorrow, lamentation, woe, grief, despondency, and finally leading to Nirvâna, he showed to the disciples; the law connected with the six Perfections of virtue and terminating in the knowledge of the Omniscient, after the attainment of supreme, perfect enlightenment, he showed to the Bodhisattvas. The lifetime of that Lord Bhîshmagargitasvararâga, the Tathâgata, &c., lasted forty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Æons equal to the sands of the river Ganges. After his complete extinction his true law remained hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of Æons equal to the atoms (contained) in Gambudvîpa, and the counterfeit of the true law continued hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of Æons equal to the dust-atoms in the four continents. When the counterfeit of the true law of the Lord Bhîshmagargitasvararâga, the Tathâgata, &c., after his complete extinction, had disappeared in the world Mahâsambhava, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, another Tathâgata Bhîshmagargitasvararâga, Arhat, &c., appeared, endowed with science and conduct. So in succession, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, there arose in that world Mahâsambhava twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Tathâgatas, &c., called Bhîshmagargitasvararâga. At the time, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, after the complete extinction of the first Tathâgata amongst all those of the name of Bhîshmagargitasvararâga, Tathâgata, &c., endowed with science and conduct, &c. &c., when his true law had disappeared and the counterfeit of the true law was fading; when the reign (of the law) was being oppressed by proud monks, there was a monk, a Bodhisattva Mahâsattva, called Sadâparibhûta. For what reason, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, was that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva called Sadâparibhûta? It was, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, because that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva was in the habit of exclaiming to every monk or nun, male or female lay devotee, while approaching them: I do not contemn you, worthies. You deserve no contempt, for you all observe the course of duty of Bodhisattvas and are to become Tath.âgatas, &c. In this way, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva, when a monk, did not teach nor study; the only thing he did was, whenever he descried from afar a monk or nun, a male or female lay devotee, to approach them and exclaim: I do not contemn you, sisters. You deserve no contempt, for you all observe the course of duty of Bodhisattvas and are to become Tathâgatas, &c. So, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva at that time used to address every monk or nun, male or female devotee. But all were extremely irritated and angry at it, showed him their displeasure, abused and insulted him: Why does he, unasked, declare that he feels no contempt for us? just by so doing he shows a contempt for us. He renders himself contemptible by predicting our future destiny to supreme, perfect enlightenment; we do not care for what is not true. Many years, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, went on during which that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva was being abused, but he was not angry at anybody, nor felt malignity, and to those who, when he addressed them in the said manner, cast a clod or stick at him, he loudly exclaimed from afar: I do not contemn you. Those monks and nuns, male and female lay devotees, being always and ever addressed by him in that phrase gave him the (nick)name of Sadâparibhûta.
Under those circumstances, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sadâparibhûta happened to hear this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law when the end of his life was impending, and the moment of dying drawing near. It was the Lord Bhîshmagargitasvararâga, the Tathâgata, &c., who expounded this Dharmaparyâya in twenty times twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of stanzas, which the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sadâparibhûta heard from a voice in the sky, when the time of his death was near at hand. On hearing that voice from the sky, without there appearing a person speaking, he grasped this Dharmaparyâya and obtained the perfections already mentioned: the perfection of sight, hearing, smell, taste, body, and mind. With the attainment of these perfections he at the same time made a vow to prolong his life for twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of years, and promulgated this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law. And all those proud beings, monks, nuns, male and female lay devotees to whom he had said: I do not contemn you, and who had given him the name of Sadâparibhûta, became all his followers to hear the law, after they had seen the power and strength of his sublime magic faculties, of his vow, of his readiness of wit, of his wisdom. All those and many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of other beings were by him roused to supreme, perfect enlightenment.
Afterwards, Mahâsthamaprâpta, that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva disappeared from that place and propitiated twenty hundred kotis of Tathâgatas, &c., all bearing the same name of Kandraprabhâsvararâga, under all of whom he promulgated this Dharmaparyâya. By virtue of his previous root of goodness he, in course of time, propitiated twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Tathâgatas, &c., all bearing the name of Dundubhisvararâga, and under all he obtained this very Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law and promulgated it to the four classes. By virtue of his previous root of goodness he again, in course of time, propitiated twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Tathâgatas, &c., all bearing the name of Meghasvararâga, and under all he obtained this very Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law and promulgated it to the four classes. And under all of them he was possessed of the afore-mentioned perfectness of sight, hearing, smell, taste, body, and mind.
Now, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sadâparibhûta, after having honoured, respected, esteemed, worshipped, venerated, revered so many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Tathâgatas, and after having acted in the same way towards many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of other Buddhas, obtained under all of them this very Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, and owing to his former root of goodness having come to full development, gained supreme, perfect enlightenment. Perhaps, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, thou wilt have some doubt, uncertainty, or misgiving, and think that he who at that time, at that juncture was the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva called Sadâparibhûta was one, and he who under the rule of that Lord Bhishmagargitasvararâga, the Tathâgata, &c., was generally called Sadâparibhûta by the four classes, by whom so many Tathâgatas were propitiated, was another. But thou shouldst not think so. For it is myself who at that time, at that juncture was the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sadâparibhûta. Had I not formerly grasped and kept this Dharmaparyâya, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, I should not so soon have arrived at supreme, perfect enlightenment. It is because I have kept, read, preached this Dharmaparyâya (derived) from the teaching of the ancient Tathâgatas, &c., Mahâsthâmaprâpta, that I have so soon arrived at supreme, perfect enlightenment. As to the hundreds of monks, nuns, male and female lay devotees, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, to whom under that Lord the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sadâparibhûta promulgated this Dharmaparyâya by saying: I do not contemn you; you all observe the course of duty of Bodhisattvas; you are to become Tathâgatas, &c., and in whom awoke a feeling of malignity towards that Bodhisattva, they in twenty hundred thousand myriads of kotis of .Æons never saw a Tathâgata, nor heard the call of the law, nor the call of the assembly, and for ten thousand Æons they suffered terrible pain in the great hell Avîki. Thereafter released from the ban, they by the instrumentality of that Bodhisattva Mahâsattva were all brought to full ripeness for supreme, perfect enlightenment. Perhaps, Mahâsthâmaprâpta, thou wilt have some doubt, uncertainty, or misgiving as to who at that time, at that juncture were the persons hooting and laughing at the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva. They are, in this very assembly, the five hundred Bodhisattvas headed by Bhadrapâla, the five hundred nuns following Simhakandrâ, the five hundred lay devotees following Sugataketanâ,who all of them have been rendered inflexible in supreme, perfect enlightenment. So greatly useful it is to keep and preach this Dharmaparyâya, as it tends to result for Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas in supreme, perfect enlightenment. Hence, Mahâsthâmaprapta, the Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas should, after the complete extinction of the Tathâgata, constantly keep, read, and promulgate this Dharmaparyâya.
And on that occasion the Lord uttered the following stanzas:
1. I remember a past period, when king Bhîshmasvara, the Gina, lived, very mighty, and revered by gods and men, the leader of men, gods, goblins, and giants.
2. At the time succeeding the complete extinction of that Gina, when the decay of the true law was far advanced, there was a monk, a Bodhisattva, called by the name of Sadâparibhûta.
3. Other monks and nuns who did not believe but in what they saw, he would approach (and say): I never am to contemn you, for you observe the course leading to supreme enlightenment.
4. It was his wont always to utter those words, which brought him but abuse and taunts from their part. At the time when his death was impending he heard this Sûtra.
5. The sage, then, did not expire; he resolved upon a very long life, and promulgated this Sûtra under the rule of that leader.
6. And those many (persons) who only acknowledged the evidence of sensual perception were by him brought to full ripeness for enlightenment. Then, disappearing from that place, he propitiated thousands of kotis of Buddhas.
7. Owing to the successive good actions performed by him, and to his constantly promulgating this Sûtra, that son of Gina reached enlightenment. That Bodhisattva then is myself, Sâkyamuni.
8. And those persons who only believed in perception by the senses, those monks, nuns, male and female lay devotees who by the sage were admonished of enlightenment,
9. And who have seen many kotis of Buddhas, are the monks here before me,-no less than five hundred,-nuns, and female lay devotees.
10. All of them have been by me brought to complete ripeness, and after my extinction they will all, full of wisdom, keep this Sûtra.
11. Not once in many, inconceivably many kotis of Æons has such a Sûtra as this been heard. There are, indeed, hundreds of kotis of Buddhas, but they do not elucidate this Sûtra.
12. Therefore let one who has heard this law exposed by the Self-born himself, and who has repeatedly propitiated him, promulgate this Sûtra after my extinction in this world.
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)