The Lotus Sutra

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The Lotus Sūtra (Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra) is one of the most popular and influential Mahāyāna sūtras, and is known for its extensive instruction on the concept and usage of skillful means (upāya), the seventh paramita or "perfection of a Bodhisattva". The ultimate teaching of the sutra is implied to the reader that "full Buddhahoo...

Chapter VIII - The Five Hundred Disciples Receive Their Predictions

At that time, Pūrṇa, the son of Maitrāyaṇī, after hearing the Buddha teach the Dharma according to what is appropriate to sentient beings through the wisdom of skillful means and bestow the prediction of highest, complete enlightenment on all the great disciples, and then hearing stories about past causes and conditions and that all the buddhas have obtained perfect mastery of transcendent powers, obtained an unprecedented experience and became pure in mind and joyful. He immediately rose from his seat, went into the presence of the Buddha, bowed until his forehead touched the Buddha’s feet, and then stood to one side gazing unwaveringly at the Buddha and thought this:

The Bhagavat is truly marvelous. His actions are rare. He teaches the Dharma according to the natural capacities of the beings in the world through skillful means, wisdom, and insight. He leads sentient beings away from their various attachments. We have no words to describe the Buddha’s qualities. Only the Buddha, the Bhagavat, is able to know our deep intentions and original vow.

Then the Buddha addressed the monks, saying: “Do you see Pūrṇa, the son of Maitrāyaṇī? I always praise him as the foremost among the teachers of the Dharma. I also always praise his various qualities. He diligently maintains and propagates my teaching and is able to gladden and benefit the fourfold assembly. He interprets the True Dharma of the buddhas perfectly and greatly benefits those who practice the pure path of discipline and integrity together with him. With the exception of the Tathāgata no one else explains the doctrine more eloquently.

“You must not think that Pūrṇa is only now able to protect and propagate my teaching. He also protected and propagated the True Dharma of the buddhas in the presence of ninety koṭis of buddhas in the past when he was always the foremost among the teachers of the Dharma. Moreover he was completely versed in the teaching of emptiness that the buddhas taught, and attained the fourfold unobstructed wisdom. He has always been able to teach the Dharma clearly and purely. He never had any doubts and was endowed with the transcendent powers of the bodhisattvas.

“Throughout each life he always practiced the pure path of discipline and integrity. The people who lived in the same buddha world all thought he really was a śrāvaka, yet Pūrṇa benefited immeasurable hundreds of thousands of sentient beings through this skillful means and also led and inspired immeasurable incalculable numbers of beings and caused them to attain highest, complete enlightenment. In order to purify the buddha land he always did what the buddhas have done and led and inspired sentient beings.

“O monks! Pūrṇa also was able to become the foremost among the teachers of the Dharma under the past seven buddhas; and he is also the foremost of those who preach the Dharma under me. He will also be the foremost among the teachers of the Dharma under the future buddhas in this auspicious kalpa. He will protect and propagate the Buddha-Dharma; and also in the future he will protect and propagate the Dharma of incalculable limitless buddhas. He will lead, inspire, and benefit incalculable sentient beings and cause them to attain highest, complete enlightenment. In order to purify the buddha lands he will always be diligent and persevering, leading and inspiring sentient beings.

“He will gradually perfect the bodhisattva path and, after immeasurable incalculable kalpas, he will attain highest, complete enlightenment in this land. He will be called Dharmaprabhāsa, a Tathāgata, Arhat, Completely Enlightened, Perfect in Knowledge and Conduct, Well-Departed, Knower of the World, Unsurpassed, Tamer of Humans, Teacher of Devas and Humans, Buddha, Bhagavat. That Buddha’s land will consist of all the worlds in the great manifold cosmos, equal in number to the sands of the Ganges River. The earth will be made of the seven treasures and it will be level, just like the palm of one’s hand. There will be no mountains, valleys, or hollow places. This land will be filled with towers of the seven treasures. The heavenly palaces will be in the sky close at hand, and the humans and devas will come and go between them, so that they will be able to see each other. There will be no troubled states of being nor any women. All the sentient beings will be born here spontaneously, without any sexual desires. They will attain great transcendent powers, emit rays of light from their bodies, and fly freely through the air.

“These beings will be firm in recollection, persevering, and wise. They will all be of golden hue and adorned with the thirty-two marks. The sentient beings in that land will always eat two meals: one being the meal of delight in the Dharma, and the other the meal of pleasure in meditation.

“There will be immeasurable incalculable thousands of myriads of koṭis of nayutas of bodhisattvas who have attained great transcendent powers and the fourfold unobstructed wisdom. They will be able skillfully to lead and inspire sentient beings. The number of śrāvakas there will be impossible to calculate. They will all perfect the six transcendent powers, the three sciences, and the eight liberations.

“Such will be the immeasurable merits of this buddha’s land, being perfect in adornment. The kalpa will be called Ratnāva bhāsa and his land will be called Suviśuddha. This buddha’s lifespan will last for immeasurable incalculable kalpas, and the Dharma will abide for a very long time. After the parinirvāṇa of that buddha, stupas of the seven treasures will be erected everywhere throughout the land.”

Then the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:

O monks! Listen carefully!
The path that the heir of the buddhas
Has practiced by learning skillful means
Cannot be conceived.
Because the bodhisattvas know
That sentient beings long for inferior teachings
And are afraid of great knowledge,
They make themselves either śrāvakas
Or pratyekabuddhas.
They inspire those sentient beings
Using innumerable skillful means, saying:

We are śrāvakas and still very far away
From attaining the buddha path.

They save immeasurable sentient beings,
All of whom they cause to attain perfection;
And they even cause those who are lazy,
Or who have lowly intentions,
Gradually to become buddhas.
These beings secretly carry out the bodhisattva practice
While outwardly calling themselves śrāvakas.
Having little desire,
Their thoughts fixed on birth and death,
They in fact purify the buddha lands.
These bodhisattvas show sentient beings
That they have the three poisons
And further they reveal the mark of false views.
In this way my disciples save
Sentient beings through skillful means.
If I fully disclosed
That they had taken on various forms,
The sentient beings hearing this
Would immediately become doubtful.
This Pūrṇa has now practiced the path
Under thousands of koṭis of buddhas in the past,
And he has propagated and protected
The teaching of these buddhas.
Seeking the highest wisdom
Under all these buddhas,
He showed that he was the foremost
Among the disciples,
And that he was knowledgeable and wise.
Fearless in his teaching,
He was able to gladden the people.
He never tired in performing
The actions of a buddha.
He has already attained the great transcendent powers
And is endowed with the fourfold unobstructed wisdom.
Knowing whether the faculties
Of sentient beings are sharp or dull,
He always teaches the pure Dharma.
Expounding such doctrines as these,
He has taught thousands of koṭis of beings
And, by making them abide in the Mahayana teaching,
He himself has purified his buddha land.
In the future he will also pay homage to
Incalculable innumerable buddhas,
Protect and propagate the True Dharma,
And also purify his buddha land.
He will always fearlessly teach the Dharma
Using his skillful means,
Save incalculable sentient beings,
And enable them to achieve omniscience.
Paying homage to all the Tathāgatas
And preserving the treasure house of the Dharma,
He will eventually become the Buddha
Called Dharmaprabhāsa.
His land will be called Suviśuddha
Which will consist of the seven treasures;
His kalpa will be called Ratnāvabhāsa.
There will be a large number of bodhisattvas there
Numbering immeasurable koṭis.
His buddha land will be filled
With bodhisattvas who have attained
Great transcendent powers,
And are endowed with dignity.
There will also be innumerable śrāvakas
Who have perfected the three sciences,
The eight liberations,
And the fourfold unobstructed wisdom.
Such beings as these will form the sangha.
The sentient beings in his land
Will have already cut themselves off from sexual desires.
Everyone there will thus be pure and born spontaneously,
With bodies adorned with the thirty-two marks.
They will feast on delight in the Dharma
And pleasure in meditation,
Never thinking of eating anything else.
There will be neither women
Nor troubled states of existence.
The qualities of the monk Pūrṇa
Will be completely perfected
And there will be many wise people
In this pure land.
I am now only briefly explaining
These immeasurable things.

Thereupon there were twelve hundred arhats, who had attained complete mental discipline, who thought this: “We have joyfully attained an unprecedented experience. If the Bhagavat would give each of us a prediction like those he has given the other great disciples, we would be overjoyed!”

The Buddha, knowing their minds, addressed Mahākāśyapa, saying: “I shall now bestow the prediction of highest, complete enlightenment one by one on these twelve hundred arhats who are in my presence.

“My great disciple, the monk Ājñātakauṇḍinya who is in this assembly, will pay homage to sixty-two thousands of koṭis of buddhas. He will thereafter become the buddha called Samanta prabha, a Tathāgata, Arhat, Completely Enlightened, Perfect in Knowledge and Conduct, Well-Departed, Knower of the World, Unsurpassed, Tamer of Humans, Teacher of Devas and Humans, Buddha, Bhagavat.

“The five hundred arhats beginning with Uruvilvakāśyapa, Gayākāśyapa, Nadīkāśyapa, Kālodāyin, Udāyin, Aniruddha, Revata, Kapphiṇa, Bakkula, Cunda, Svāgata, and the others will all attain highest, complete enlightenment. They will all have the same name, that of Samantaprabha.”

Then the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:

The monk Kauṇḍinya
Will meet immeasurable buddhas
And, after incalculable kalpas have passed,
He will attain perfect enlightenment.
He will always emit a great ray of light
And will be endowed with transcendent powers.
His fame will spread universally
Throughout the ten directions.
He will be honored by all beings
And will always teach the highest path;
He will therefore be called Samantaprabha.
His land will be pure,
And the bodhisattvas there
Will all be of great vigor.
They will all ascend marvelous towers
And roam in the lands of the ten directions;
They will present the most excellent offerings
To all of the buddhas.
After having shown their reverence in this way,
They will be full of great joy
And immediately return to their own lands.
Such will be their transcendent powers.
The lifespan of this buddha
Will be sixty thousand kalpas
And the True Dharma will last
Twice as long as his lifespan.
The Semblance Dharma
Will last twice as long as this.
When the Dharma disappears,
The devas and humans will grieve.
Those five hundred monks
Will become buddhas each in their turn,
All having the same name Samantaprabha.
They will give predictions
One after the other, saying:
After my parinirvāṇa
So-and-so will become a buddha.
The world he inspires
Will be exactly like mine today.
The embellishments of their lands,
All the transcendent powers,
The assembly of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas,
The True and Semblance Dharma,
The lifespan and duration of the kalpa,
Will be just as I explained before.
O Kāśyapa! You now know
That the five hundred arhats
Whose minds are free,
And the remaining śrāvakas
Will also be exactly like this.
You should teach those
Who are not in this assembly!

Thereupon the five hundred arhats, having obtained their predictions from the Buddha, were joyful and ecstatic. They rose from their seats, approached the Buddha, bowed until their foreheads touched his feet, repented of their faults, and reproached themselves, saying: “O Bhagavat! We have always thought we had attained complete nirvana. We now realize that we were ignorant. Why is this? We should have attained the wisdom of the Tathāgatas. Yet we were satisfied with little wisdom!

“O Bhagavat! Suppose there were a man who came to the house of a close friend and went to sleep after becoming intoxicated with wine. The intimate friend, having to go out on official business, sews a priceless jewel into the inside of his friend’s garment and, giving it to him, leaves. But the man who was drunk and asleep is totally unaware of this. After getting up he leaves and roams around until he arrives in another country. Although he diligently seeks for food and clothing they are very difficult to obtain. He is satisfied if he just obtains a very meager amount. Later on the intimate friend happens to meet this man. Seeing him, he says:

O poor fellow! How have you come to this state through lack of food and clothing? Once, on such-and-such a day in such-and-such a month and year, I sewed a priceless jewel into the inside of your garment, wanting to make things easier for you and to let you enjoy the desires of the five senses as much as you wished.

It is still there, although you aren’t aware of it, and you seek your livelihood with great effort and hardship! You have been very foolish. Sell this jewel and use it to buy what you need. From now on you will know neither poverty nor want and can live as you wish.

“The Buddha is exactly like this. When he was a bodhisattva he aroused in us the aspiration for omniscience. Nevertheless we forgot, we did not know or understand. We attained the path of the arhats and considered that we had attained nirvana. It was very hard for us to support ourselves and we were satisfied with little. But we never fully lost our wish for all-knowledge. Now the Bhagavat, perceiving our minds, has said this:

O monks! What you have attained is not the complete nirvana. For a long time I have made you plant the various roots of good merit of a buddha and shown you the marks of nirvana through skillful means. That is why you consider yourselves to have actually attained nirvana!

“O Bhagavat! We now know that we are actually bodhisattvas and will obtain a prediction of highest, complete enlightenment. For this reason we are extremely happy at having obtained such an unprecedented experience.”

At that time Ājñātakauṇḍinya and the others, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:

We have heard his voice
Giving the prediction of utmost ease.
Rejoicing in this unprecedented experience,
We bow to the Buddha whose wisdom is immeasurable.
We now repent of our faults
In the presence of the Bhagavat.
Although we had attained
Only a small measure of nirvana,
Out of the immeasurable treasures of the Buddha,
We were self-satisfied,
Just like ignorant fools!
Suppose there were a poor man
Who went to the house of a close friend
Whose family was very wealthy.
He was entertained with a feast
And had a priceless jewel sewn
To the inside of his garment.
The wealthy friend made him this gift
Without saying anything, and went away.
The poor man had fallen asleep
And did not know of this.
Shortly afterward this man gets up,
And after wandering around
Arrives in another country.
He manages to seek out
Enough food and clothing to live
But has great difficulty in supporting himself.
Yet he is satisfied to obtain a little
And does not desire anything better.
He is still unaware of the priceless jewel
Sewn inside his garment.
The intimate friend who gave him the jewel
Meets this poor man later
And bitterly reproaches him,
Showing him the jewel
That had been sewn into his garment.
The poor man, seeing this jewel, rejoices greatly
And with this rich treasure he enjoys
To his satisfaction the desires of the five senses.
We are exactly like this.
For a long time, the Bhagavat
Has led and inspired us
Through his compassion,
And planted in us the highest aspiration.
Because we were ignorant
We neither noticed nor knew;
We were satisfied with attaining
Only a small measure of nirvana
And did not seek for the rest.
Now the Buddha has enlightened us, saying:

This is not the real nirvana.
Attaining the highest wisdom of the buddhas
Is indeed the only real nirvana.

Now, having heard the predictions from the Buddha
And of the adorned lands,
And the subsequent predictions,
We universally rejoice in body and mind!

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