Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “before departing, samantarashmi bows to the buddhas of the east” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Act 9.8: Before departing, Samantaraśmi bows to the Buddhas of the East

Sūtra: [Before leaving], they express their homage (pūja), their respects (satkāra), their esteem (gurukāra) and their veneration (māna) to the Buddhas of the east.

Śāstra: Question. – They pay all their homage to the Buddhas of the east. But these Buddhas are very numerous; when will they be finished and when will they be able to start off for the Sahā universe?

Answer. – These bodhisattvas do not pay homage in the manner of gods or men; they carry out the rituals (pūjādharma) current among bodhisattvas. Here is what it consists of: They enter into samādhi and they draw forth innumerable bodies from their own upright body (ṛjukāyaṃ praṇidhāya); they create all kinds of objects of worship (pūjādravya) and fill the Buddha [130c] universes with them. They are like the nāga king who, at the moment of acting, raises his body from the water and causes rain to fall over an entire continent (dvīpaka).

Question. – These bodhisattvas wish to go to the Buddha Śākyamuni. Why do they pay homage to all the Buddhas on their way?

Answer. – The Buddhas are a supreme field of merit (paramapuṇyakṣetra); those who pay homage to them receive a great reward (vipāka). It is like the man who cultivates his field well and reaps a big harvest of grain. The bodhisattvas see the Buddhas and the worship (pūjā) which they pay to these Buddhas brings them the reward of the Buddhas. This is why they pay homage to them.

Furthermore the bodhisattvas always feel a respect (satkāra) towards the Buddhas comparable to that of a son for his parents; they have received instructions (deśanadharma) from them and they have received samādhis, dhāraṇīs and miraculous powers (ṛddhibala) of all kinds from them. Out of gratitude, they pay homage to them. Thus, in the Fa houa king (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka),[1] the bodhisattva Yo wang (Bhaiṣajyarāja) who had acquired the samādhi called ‘Faculty of making all forms appear’, had this thought: “How am I going to worship the Buddha and the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka?” At once, he entered into samādhi, rose up into the sky, and by the power of samādhi, caused a rain of lotuses made of seven jewels (saptaratnapuṇḍarīka), perfumes (gandha), banners (patākā) and bouquets (dāma) to pay homage to the Buddha. When he came out of samādhi, he felt that it was not enough, so for twelve hundred years he fed on [inflammable] perfumes and drank perfumed oil (gandhataila); then he clothed himself in divine white garments and burned his own body (svaṃ kāyaṃ prajvālayāmāsa). He made the following vow (praṇidhāna): “May the rays of my body illumine Buddha universes (buddhalokadhātu) as numerous as the sands of eighty Ganges (aśītigaṅgānadīvalukāsama).” In these Buddha universes as numerous as the sands of eighty Ganges, all the Buddhas congratulated him (sādhukāraṃ dadati sma): “Good, good, O son of noble family: the offering of the body (ātmabhāvaparityāga) is the foremost offering. Abandoning royalty (rājyaparityāga), abandoning a wife and children (bhāryāputyaparityāga), does not equal a thousandth part of it.” For twelve hundred years the body [of the bodhisattva] burned without, however, becoming consumed (tasyātmabhāvasya dīpyato dvādaśavarṣaśatāny atikrāntāny abhūvan na ca praśamaṃ gacchati sma).

Finally, the worship of the Buddhas (buddhapūjā) assures glory (yaśas), merit (puṇya) and immense benefits (artha); all the bad dharmas (akuśaladharma) disappear (nirudyante) and all the roots of good (kuśalamūla) show progress (vṛddhim āpadyante); in the present (iha) lifetime as in future (paratra) lifetimes, one is always rewarded for this worship; long afterwards, one comes to be able to do the Buddha’s work. Thus, the worship of the Buddha assures all kinds of immense benefits. This is why the bodhisattvas pay homage to the Buddhas.

Footnotes and references:


The bodhisattva Sarvasattvapriyadarśana, who would later become the Buddha Bhaiṣajya-rāja, had heard the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka from the mouth of the Buddha Candrasūrya-vimalaprahāsraśrī and acquired, thanks to this teaching, the sarvarūpasaṃdarṣanasamādhi “faculty of making all forms appear”. Out of gratitude, he cremated his own body to pay homage to the Tathāgata and the Saddharmapuṇḍarīka. The legend is told in the Saddharmapuṇḍarika, chap. XXII, p. 415–418; here is the original text:

Sa ca Sarvasattvapriyadarśana bodhisattvaḥ… sarvarūpasaṃdarśanaṃ sāma samādhiṃ pratilabhate sma … sa paścad dvādaśānāṃ varṣaśatanām atyayāt praśānto ‘bhūt.