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...
The Buddha then addressed the assembly of bodhisattvas, and also the devas, humans, and the fourfold assembly, saying: “In the past, immeasurable kalpas ago, I tirelessly sought the Lotus Sutra. Throughout many kalpas I always became a king and made a vow to seek highest enlightenment. My mind became irreversible. Wanting to fulfill the six perfections I diligently carried out practices: unstintingly giving elephants, horses, the seven precious treasures, countries and cities, wives and children, male and female servants, my head, eyes, marrow and brains, the flesh of my body, hands, and feet, without stinginess, not even hesitating to give my own life.
“At that time the lifespan of the people in the world was immeasurable. In order to seek the Dharma I abandoned my kingdom and abdicated my throne to the crown prince. Beating a drum I proclaimed to the four directions that I was seeking the Dharma, saying:
I will be as a servant for the rest of my life to whosoever can teach me the Mahayana.
“At that time there was a sage who came to this king and said:
I possess the Mahayana teaching called the Lotus Sutra. If you faithfully obey me I will expound it to you.
“Having heard the sage, the king became joyful and ecstatic and, accompanying the sage, he did everything he was asked. He gathered fruits, drew water, collected firewood, and provided meals. He even provided his own body as a bed for the sage. Yet he never tired in either body or mind and in this way served the sage for one thousand years. For the sake of the Dharma he served him diligently, making certain the sage never lacked for anything.”
At that time the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:
I remember that in the past, many kalpas ago,
Although I became king of the world,
In order to seek the great Dharma
I was never attached to the desires of the five senses.
Striking a bell I declared this
To the four directions:
If anyone possesses the great Dharma
And explains it to me,
I will become his servant.
At that time there was a sage called Asita
Who came to the great king and said:
I possess a subtle and true Dharma
That is rare in the world.
If you are able to practice it,
I will explain it to you!
On hearing what the sage said
The king became overjoyed.
He immediately accompanied the sage
And performed whatever he was asked.
He gathered firewood and various fruits
And respectfully offered them whenever requested.
Because he longed for the True Dharma,
He never tired in body or mind.
For the sake of sentient beings
He diligently sought everywhere the great Dharma.
He never sought it for his own sake
Nor for the desires of the five senses.
For this reason, although a great king,
He diligently sought and attained this Dharma,
Ultimately becoming a buddha.
That is why I now tell you this.
The Buddha addressed the monks, saying: “The king at that time was I myself, and the sage was he who is now Devadatta. Through the virtuous
friendship of Devadatta I was able to become endowed with the six perfections, benevolence, compassion, sympathetic joy, generosity, the thirty-two marks, the eighty excellent characteristics, reddish-gold skin, the ten powers, the four kinds of fearlessness, the four methods of gaining trust, the eighteen excellent qualities, the transcendent powers, and the power of the path. It is all due to the good and virtuous friendship of Devadatta that I attained complete enlightenment and extensively saved innumerable sentient beings.”
The Buddha addressed the fourfold assembly, saying: “After immeasurable kalpas have passed, Devadatta will then become a buddha called Devarāja, 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. His world will be called Devas op ānā. At that time the Buddha Devarāja will abide in the world for twenty intermediate kalpas and extensively teach the True Dharma to sentient beings. Sentient beings equal in number to the sands of the Ganges River will attain arhatship. The thought of a pratyekabuddha has awakened in incalculable numbers of sentient beings. The thought of the highest path will awaken in sentient beings equal in number to the sands of the Ganges River, and they will become convinced of the nonarising of all dharmas and reside in the stage of nonretrogression.
“Then, after the parinirvāṇa of the Buddha Devarāja, the True Dharma will abide in the world for twenty intermediate kalpas. A seven-jeweled stupa, sixty yojanas in height and forty yojanas in both length and width, will be built for all his relics; and all the devas and humans will honor and revere this beautiful seven-jeweled stupa with various flowers, scented powders, burning incense, fragrant ointments, clothing, necklaces, banners, flags, jeweled canopies, music, and songs. Incalculable sentient beings will attain arhatship. Innumerable sentient beings will be enlightened as pratyekabuddhas; and the thought of enlightenment will awaken in an inconceivable number of sentient beings, and they will reach the stage of nonretrogression.”
The Buddha addressed the monks, saying: “If, in the future, there are sons and daughters of a virtuous family who, upon hearing the Devadatta chapter of the Lotus Sutra, accept it with pure minds and without doubt, they shall not fall into the realms of hell or to the states of hungry ghosts or of animals, but will be born in the presence of the buddhas in the ten directions. Wherever they may be, they will always hear this sutra. If they are born among humans or devas, they will enjoy a supreme and delightful contentment; and if in the presence of a buddha, they will be born spontaneously in a lotus flower.”
At that time, in the lower region there was a bodhisattva called Prajñā kūṭa who was accompanying the Bhagavat Prabhūtaratna. He urged the Buddha Prabhūtaratna to return to their original land. The Buddha Śākyamuni addressed Prajñākūṭa, saying: “O son of a virtuous family! Wait for a moment! There is a bodhisattva called Mañjuśrī. Let us meet him together and discuss the True Dharma. After that you can return to your original land.”
At that time Mañjuśrī, sitting on a thousand-petaled lotus flower as large as a carriage wheel, together with attendant bodhisattvas also seated on jeweled lotus flowers, emerged spontaneously out of the ocean from the palace of the nāga king Sāgara and floated in midair. Arriving at Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa they descended from the lotus flowers and went into the presence of the buddhas, where they bowed until their foreheads touched the feet of both Bhagavats. Having honored them, Mañjuśrī approached Prajñā kūṭa. They greeted each other and withdrew to sit at one side. Then Bodhisattva Prajñā kūṭa asked Mañjuśrī, saying: “Your Eminence! How many sentient beings did you lead and inspire at the palace of the nāga king?”
Mañjuśrī answered: “The number is immeasurable and incalculable. It is not possible to express it in words nor is it possible to calculate it with one’s mind. Wait a moment and you will have proof!”
Before he had finished speaking, innumerable bodhisattvas emerged from the ocean, seated on jeweled lotus flowers. Arriving at Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa they floated in midair. All of these were bodhisattvas who had been led and inspired by Mañjuśrī. Those who had perfected the bodhisattva practices discussed the six perfections together. Those who were originally śrāvakas explained the śrāvaka practices in the air; and now they all practice to understand the meaning of emptiness of the Mahayana.
Mañjuśrī said to Prajñākūṭa: “Thus did I lead and inspire people in the ocean!”
Thereupon Bodhisattva Prajñākūṭa spoke these verses in praise:
O One of great wisdom, virtue, and courage!
This assembly and I have now all witnessed that
You have led and inspired
Incalculable numbers of sentient beings.
You have expounded the essential character of dharmas
And revealed the teaching of the single vehicle.
You have extensively led many sentient beings,
Causing them to quickly attain enlightenment.
Mañjuśrī said: “In the ocean I always expounded only the Lotus Sutra.”
Then Prajñākūṭa questioned Mañjuśrī, saying: “This sutra is profound and subtle. It is a jewel among sutras and rare in the world. If sentient beings diligently strive to practice this sutra, will they immediately become buddhas or not?”
Mañjuśrī answered: “Yes, they will. There is the daughter of the nāga king Sāgara who is only eight years old. She is wise; her faculties are sharp; and she also well knows all the faculties and deeds of sentient beings. She has attained the power of recollection. She preserves all the profound secret treasures taught by the buddhas, enters deep meditation, and is well capable of discerning all dharmas. She instantly produced the thought of enlightenment and attained the stage of nonretrogression. She has unhindered eloquence and thinks of sentient beings with as much compassion as if they were her own children. Her virtues are perfect. Her thoughts and explanations are subtle and extensive, merciful, and compassionate. She has a harmonious mind and has attained enlightenment.”
The Bodhisattva Prajñākūṭa said: “I see the Tathāgata Śākyamuni who has been incessantly carrying out difficult and severe practices for immeasurable kalpas, accumulating merit and virtue while seeking the bodhisattva path. Looking into the great manifold cosmos, there is not a single place even the size of a mustard seed where this bodhisattva has not abandoned his life for the sake of sentient beings. He attained the path to enlightenment only after this. It is hard to believe that this girl will instantly attain complete enlightenment.”
Before he had finished speaking the daughter of the nāga king suddenly appeared in their presence. Bowing until her forehead touched their feet, she withdrew to one side and spoke these verses in praise:
The Buddha is deeply versed
In the characteristics of good and evil,
And he completely illuminates the ten directions.
His subtle and pure Dharma body
Is endowed with the thirty-two marks;
With the eighty good characteristics
Is his Dharma body adorned.
He is adored by devas and humans,
And honored by nāgas.
There is no sentient being
Who does not pay him homage.
Moreover, that I will attain enlightenment
Upon hearing him
Can only be known by a buddha.
I will reveal the teaching of the Mahayana
And save suffering sentient beings.
At that time Śāriputra spoke to the daughter of the nāga king, saying: “You say that you will soon attain the highest path. This is difficult to believe. Why is this? The female body is polluted; it is not a fit vessel for the Dharma. How can you attain highest enlightenment?
“The buddha path is long. One can only attain it after diligently carrying out severe practices, and completely practicing the perfections over immeasurable kalpas. Moreover, the female body has five obstructions. The first is the inability to become a great Brahma. The second is the inability to become Śakra. The third is the inability to become Māra, and the fourth is the inability to become a universal monarch (cakravartin). The fifth is the inability to become a buddha. How can you with your female body quickly become a buddha?”
Then the daughter of the nāga king presented to the Buddha a jewel worth the great manifold cosmos, and the Buddha accepted it. The daughter of the nāga king spoke to Bodhisattva Prajñā kūṭa and the noble Śāri putra, saying: “I offered a jewel and the Bhagavat accepted it. Was that done quickly or not?”
They answered, saying: “It was done extremely quickly!”
The daughter said: “Through your transcendent powers watch me become a buddha even more quickly than that!”
Then the assembly there all saw the daughter of the nāga king instantly transform into a man, perfect the bodhisattva practices, go to the vimalā world in the south, sit on a jeweled lotus flower, and attain highest, complete enlightenment, become endowed with the thirty-two marks and eighty excellent characteristics, and expound the True Dharma universally for the sake of all sentient beings in the ten directions.
Then the bodhisattvas, śrāvakas, eight kinds of devas, nāgas, and so on, humans and nonhumans of the sahā world, all saw in the distance that the daughter of the nāga king had become a buddha and was universally teaching the Dharma for the sake of the humans and devas in that assembly. They rejoiced greatly and honored her from afar.
On hearing the Dharma, incalculable numbers of sentient beings became enlightened and attained the stage of nonretrogression. Incalculable numbers of sentient beings received their predictions to the path and the vimalā world quaked in six ways. In the sahā world three thousand sentient beings attained the stage of nonretrogression, and three thousand sentient beings, in whom the thought of enlightenment had awakened, received their predictions. The Bodhisattva Prajñākūṭa, Śāriputra, and the entire assembly accepted and believed in silence.