The Lotus Sutra

92,709 words

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 XXI - The Transcendent Powers of the Tathāgata

Thereupon the bodhisattva mahāsattvas equal to the number of particles in the great manifold cosmos, who had emerged from the earth, all in the presence of the Buddha gazed singlemindedly at his face with their palms pressed together, and spoke to the Buddha, saying: “O Bhagavat, after the parinirvāṇa of the Buddha, we will teach this sutra extensively in the lands of the Bhagavat’s separate forms, at the time of his extinction. Why is this? Because we also wish to attain this true, pure, great Dharma, and to preserve, recite, explain, copy, and make offerings to it.”

Then the Bhagavat manifested his great transcendent powers in the presence of Mañjuśrī and other immeasurable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of bodhisattva mahāsattvas who had long lived in this sahā world, such humans and nonhumans as monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnaras, and mahoragas.

He put out his wide and long tongue which reached upward to the Brahma world. He emitted innumerable and immeasurable colored rays of light from all his pores and universally illuminated the worlds of the ten directions.

All the buddhas sitting on the lion seats under the jeweled trees also put out their wide and long tongues and emitted immeasurable rays of light in the same way. Śākyamuni Buddha and the other buddhas under the jeweled trees manifested transcendent powers while fully hundreds of thousands of years passed.

After this they drew back their tongues, coughed, and snapped their fingers together in unison. Those two sounds penetrated throughout the various buddha worlds of the ten directions and the earth quaked in six ways.

Through the transcendent powers of the Buddha, all the sentient beings in these worlds—humans and such nonhumans as devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnaras, and mahoragas—saw all the buddhas sitting on the lion seats under the immeasurable, limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of jeweled trees in this sahā world.

They saw Śākyamuni Buddha sitting on the lion seat in the jeweled stupa, together with Tathāgata Prabhūtaratna. They also saw immeasurable,

52a limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of bodhisattva mahāsattvas and the fourfold assembly respectfully surrounding Śākyamuni Buddha. After seeing this, they all rejoiced greatly at having attained this unprecedented experience. At the same time all the devas spoke loudly while in the air, saying: “Beyond these immeasurable, limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of incalculable worlds, there is a land called Sahā. In it is a buddha called Śākyamuni. For the sake of the bodhisattva mahāsattvas he now teaches the Mahayana sutra called the Lotus Sutra, the instruction for bodhisattvas and treasured lore of the buddhas. You should rejoice deeply. You should also honor and pay homage to Śākyamuni Buddha.”

Hearing this voice in the air, all those sentient beings pressed their palms together, faced the sahā world and said: “We take refuge in Śākyamuni Buddha. We take refuge in Śākyamuni Buddha.”

All of them scattered various kinds of flowers, incense, necklaces, banners, canopies, ornaments, jewels, and other beautiful things over the sahā world from afar. All that had been scattered formed together from the ten directions like a cloud and was transformed into a jeweled screen that covered all the buddhas. Then the worlds of the ten directions became pellucid, without obstruction, as if they were one buddha land.

Thereupon the Buddha addressed the great assembly of bodhisattvas, beginning with Viśiṣṭacāritra:

“The transcendent powers of the buddhas are as immeasurable, limitless, and inconceivable as this. Yet if I were to use these transcendent powers to teach the benefits of this sutra so that it would be entrusted to you for immeasurable, limitless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of incalculable kalpas, I would not be able to reach the end of these qualities. To sum up, in this sutra I have clearly revealed and taught all the teachings of the Tathāgata, all the transcendent powers of the Tathāgata, all the treasure houses of the hidden essence of the Tathāgata, and all the profound aspects of the Tathāgata. For this reason, after the pari nirvāṇa of the Tathāgata, you should wholeheartedly preserve, recite, explain, and copy it, and practice according to the teaching. Those who accept, recite, explain, and copy it, and practice according to the teaching, in whichever land they may be, in a place where the sutra abides—either in a garden, a forest, under a tree, in a monk’s chamber, in a layman’s house, in a palace, on a mountain, in a valley, or in the wilderness—in all of these places they should erect and pay homage to a monument. Why is this? Because you should know that these places are the terraces of enlightenment where all the buddhas have attained highest, complete enlightenment, where all the buddhas have turned the wheel of the Dharma, and where all the buddhas entered parinirvāṇa.”

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

The buddhas, world-inspirers,
Abiding in their great transcendent powers,
Manifest this immeasurable power
In order to gladden sentient beings.
Their tongues reach up to the Brahma world
And they emit innumerable rays of light
From their bodies.
They manifest this marvel
For those who seek for the buddha path.
The coughing and snapping sounds
Of the buddhas are universally heard
In the lands of the ten directions.
The earth quakes in six ways.
Because this sutra can be preserved
After the nirvana of the Buddha,
All the buddhas rejoice and manifest
Their immeasurable transcendent powers.
Even if, for immeasurable kalpas,
They praise those who preserve this sutra,
In order to entrust it,
They will not reach the limit of their merit.
The qualities of those people are
Limitless and endless,
Just like the boundless sky
In the ten directions.
Those who preserve this sutra
Have already seen me,
The Buddha Prabhūtaratna,
And the various magically created forms;
And today they see all the bodhisattvas
I have led and inspired up until now.
Those who preserve this sutra
Will gladden me, my magically created forms,
As well as the Buddha Prabhūtaratna
Who has entered nirvana.
They will also see, gladden, and pay homage to
The past and future buddhas, and those who are present
In the ten directions.
Those who preserve this sutra
Will before long attain the Dharma,
The hidden essence,
Which was attained by the buddhas
Seated upon the terrace of enlightenment.
Those who preserve this sutra
Will explain the meaning of the Dharma,
The names and phrases, joyfully and with undying vigor,
Like the wind in the sky
That has no obstruction whatsoever.
After the parinirvāṇa of the Tathāgata,
They will know the causes and conditions
And the sequences of the sutras
Taught by the Buddha,
And will explain the truth
In accordance with its meaning.
As the light of the sun and moon
Eliminates the darkness,
These people practicing in the world
Will extinguish the blindness of sentient beings,
Teaching innumerable bodhisattvas
To dwell ultimately in the single vehicle.
For this reason,
The wise, hearing of the benefits of these merits,
Should preserve this sutra
After my nirvana.
Those people will be resolute and will
Unwaveringly follow the buddha path.

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