by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 941,039 words
This page describes “value of the buddha fields” 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.
Question. – Why praise the universes that have a Buddha and depreciate those that do not have one?
Answer. – The subject does not lend itself to such a question. The Buddha adorned with the ten powers (daśabala) is the master of the entire universe (lokadhātusvāmin) and, a fortiori, of a single field (kṣetra). The inhabitants of a universe without a Buddha can enjoy human and divine happiness (manuṣyadevasukha), but do not know the extent of the beneficent power of the Buddhas and so are no different from animals.
If Buddhas did not appear in the world, the path (mārga) of the three Vehicles (yānatraya) and of nirvāṇa would not exist; beings would be always shut up in the prison of the threefold world (traidhātukabandhana) and would never get out. In the universes where there is a Buddha, beings succeed in leaving the prison of the threefold world.
[Acchariyā-abbhutadhammā-sutta]. (also see Appendix 2) Thus, in the intermediate spaces between two worlds (lokāntarikā) where there is no sun, beings live and die in the shadows (andhakāra). At the time when a Buddha is born, a brilliant light (avabhāsa) shines temporarily, and all see themselves, see one another (anyonyaṃ paśyanti) and see the sun and moon. Thus illuminated, the beings [of the lokāntarikā] recognize and say: “Those over there are very worthy; we ourselves are great sinners.” Sometimes, the Buddha illumines the Buddha fields with his brilliance completely, and the beings of the universes without Buddha, seeing the Buddha’s brilliance, experience great joy (mahāmuditā) and say: “For us, it was shadows (andhakāra), but for them, great light.”
Finally, in the fields where there is a Buddha, beings recognize the existence of sin (āpatti) and merit (puṇya); the people take the triple refuge (triśaraṇa), the fivefold morality (pañcaśīla) [of the upāsaka] or the fast of eight vows [of the upavāsastha], the many profound meditations (dhyāna), absorptions (samāpatti) and wisdoms (prajñā); the four fruits of religious life (śrāmanyaphala), the five kinds of religious stages, nirvāṇa with residue (sopadhiśeṣa) or without residue (nirupadhiśeṣa), etc. Because it is the cause and conditions (hetupratyaya) of these many good dharmas, the Buddha field (buddhakṣetra) is honored.
Supposing even that the beings of a Buddha field do not see the Buddha, they meet, however, the Dharma of the sūtras, cultivate the roots of good (kuśalamūla), morality (śīla), generosity (dāna), the signs of respect (vandana), etc.; they plant the causes and conditions for nirvāṇa, and even animals can plant the causes and conditions of merit (puṇya). On the other hand, in the fields without a Buddha, even the gods and humans there are incapable of practicing good. This is why the bodhisattva formulates the vow (praṇidhāna) that the Buddha universes not be broken.
Footnotes and references:
Adopting the variant wou fo kouo.
The pañcaśīla and the upavāsa of the layman have already been studied above, p. 819–839F.
Bhikṣu, bhikṣuṇī, śaikṣa, śrāmaṇera and śrāmaṇerī: cf. p. 577F.
Adopting the variant chan-ken.
On the Buddhist behavior towards animals, or the Bodhisattva in animal form, see p. 716–721F, and Hōbōgirin, p. 317–318, under chikushō.