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 XXVII - Ancient Accounts of King Śubhavyūha

Thereupon, the Buddha addressed the great assembly, saying: “Once upon a time, immeasurable, limitless, inconceivable, and incalculable kalpas ago, there was a buddha named Jaladhara garj ita ghoṣa susvarana kṣatrarā ja saṃ - 59c ku su mitābhijña, a Tathāgata, Arhat, Completely Enlightened. His land was called Vairo cana raśmi pratimaṇḍitā and the kalpa was named Priyadarśana. There was a king practicing the teaching of the Buddha. He was called Śubha vyūha, and his consort was named Vimaladatta. They had two sons. One was named Vimalagarbha, and the other Vimala netra. These two sons were endowed with great transcendent power, merit, and wisdom, and practiced the bodhisattva path for a long time. They were versed in the perfections of giving (dāna), good conduct (śīla), perseverance (kṣānti), effort (vīrya), meditation (dhyāna), wisdom (prajñā), and skillful means and compassion, benevolence, joy, and generosity; as well as the thirty-seven helpful ways to attain the Dharma. Furthermore, they were also versed in the bodhisattva samā- dhis of vimala, nakṣatrarājā ditya, vimala nirbhāsa, vimala rūpa, vimala bhāsa, alaṃkāra śubha, and mahātejogarbha.

“Then the Buddha, wanting to guide King Śubhavyūha, and out of compassion for sentient beings, taught this Lotus Sutra. At that time Prince Vimalagarbha and Prince Vimalanetra approached their mother and addressed her with their palms and ten fingers pressed together, saying:

We entreat you, O mother, to go before the Buddha Jaladharagarjitaghoṣasusvaranakṣatrarājasaṃkusumitābhijña. We shall also go before him together with you, attend him, make offerings to him, and pay him homage. Why is this? Because this buddha teaches the Lotus Sutra amid the assembly of all the devas and humans. Thus we should all listen to him.

“Their mother answered the sons, saying:

Your father follows heresies and is deeply attached to the teachings of the brahmans. You should go to your father to ask him to come with us.

“Vimalagarbha and Vimalanetra said to their mother with their palms and ten fingers pressed together:

We are the children of the King of the Dharma, although we were born in this house of wrong views.

“The mother replied to her sons, saying:

You should have compassion for your father and show him great miracles. If he sees them, his mind will certainly be purified. He will then allow us to go before the Buddha.

“Thereafter the two sons jumped up into the air as high as seven tāla trees and, out of their love for their father, showed him various miracles. They walked, stood, sat, and slept in the air, causing water to flow from their upper bodies and blowing fire out of their lower bodies, causing water to flow from their lower bodies, and blowing fire out of their upper bodies; enlarging their bodies so that they filled the air, making them small and then enlarging them again; disappearing in midair and instantly reappearing on the earth; entering the earth as if it were water and walking on the water as though on the earth. By showing various marvels like these, they purified their father’s mind and caused him to believe them. When their father saw the transcendent powers of his sons, he rejoiced a great deal at his unprecedented experience and addressed his sons with his palms pressed together, saying:

Who is your teacher? Whose pupils are you?

“The two sons said:

O great king! The Buddha Jaladharagarjitaghoṣa susvaranak ṣatrarāja- saṃ kusumitābhijña is now sitting on the seat of the Dharma under the seven-jeweled bodhi tree and teaching the Lotus Sutra extensively to the assembly of all the devas and humans in this world. He is our teacher. We are his pupils.

“The father said to his sons:

I now also wish to see your teacher. Let me go with you!

“Thereupon, the two sons descended from the air, approached their mother, and addressed her with their palms pressed together, saying:

Our father believed us and the thought of highest, complete enlightenment can now awaken in him. We have done the Buddha’s work for the sake of our father. We entreat you, O mother, to allow us to renounce household life and practice the bodhisattva path under the guidance of that buddha.

“At that time the two sons addressed the mother in verse, wanting to elaborate on this meaning further, saying:

We entreat you, O mother, to allow us
To renounce household life
And to become śrāmaṇas!
It is extremely difficult to meet buddhas.
We will learn by following this buddha.
It is more difficult to meet a buddha
Than to see uḍumbara flowers.
It is also difficult to escape from adversity.
We entreat you to allow us
To renounce household life.

“Their mother addressed them immediately, saying:

I give my consent for you to renounce household life. What is the reason for this? It is because it is difficult to meet a buddha.

“Then the two sons addressed their parents, saying:

Splendid! O father and mother! We entreat you now to approach and meet the Buddha Jaladharagar jitag hoṣa su svara na kṣatrarāja saṃ kusu- mitā bhijña and pay homage to him. Why is this? Because it is difficult to meet a buddha, just as it is to see uḍumbara flowers or for a one-eyed turtle to find the hole in a floating piece of wood. Because of our profound merits accumulated in the past, we were born to meet the Buddha-Dharma. For this reason our father and mother should allow us to renounce household life. Why is this? Because it is difficult to meet buddhas and it is also difficult to obtain an opportunity for meeting them.

“At that time eighty-four thousand women in the palace of King Śubha vyūha all became capable of preserving this Lotus Sutra. Bodhisattva Vimala netra had already been versed in the saddharmapuṇḍarīka samādhi for a long time and Bodhisattva Vimalagarbha had also been versed in the sarvasattva- pāpa jahana samādhi for immeasurable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of kalpas, for he wanted all sentient beings to be separated from evil states of being. The consort of that king attained the sarva buddha saṃgīti samādhi and the secret treasure house of the buddhas was revealed to her. In this way the two sons inspired their father through the power of their skillful means and caused him to have faith and pleasure in the Buddha-Dharma.

“Then King Śubhavyūha together with his subjects and retinue, Queen Vimaladatta together with her servants and retinue, and the two princes together with forty-two thousand people came before the Buddha at the same time. Having approached the Buddha, they bowed until their foreheads touched his feet, then circled around him three times and sat to one side.

“At that time the Buddha expounded and taught the Buddha-Dharma for the king’s sake, greatly benefiting and rejoicing him. Then King Śubhavyūha and his queen took off their pearl necklaces worth hundreds of thousands and scattered them over the Buddha. In the air they transformed into a four-pillared jeweled platform. On the platform was a great jeweled bed, spread with hundreds of thousands of myriads of heavenly clothes. The Buddha sat crosslegged upon it, emitting great rays of light. Then King Śubhavyūha thought:

The Buddha’s form is marvelous, most superior in dignity, and given perfection by the most delicate countenance.

“Thereupon the Buddha Jaladharagarj ita ghoṣa susvaranak ṣatrarāja saṃ kusu mitābhijña addressed the fourfold assembly, saying:

Do you see King Śubhavyūha standing with his palms pressed together in my presence? This king has become a monk in my Dharma. He will diligently practice the Dharma that aids those on the buddha path, and will become a buddha. He will be called Śālendrarāja. His land will be called Vistīrṇavatī and the kalpa Abhyudgatarāja. With this buddha Śālendra rāja will be innumerable bodhisattvas and śrāvakas. His land will be level. Such will be his merits.

“That king immediately gave his kingdom to his younger brother. He renounced household life and practiced the Buddha-Dharma together with his queen, two sons, and their retinue. For a period of eighty-four thousand years after their renunciation the king continued to make diligent efforts and practiced the Lotus Sutra. After this he attained the sarvaguṇālaṃkāravyūha samā dhi. He ascended instantly into the air to a height of seven tāla trees and addressed the Buddha, saying:

O Bhagavat! My two sons have done the Buddha’s work. Through their miracles they have reformed my erring mind so that I dwell in the Buddha-Dharma. These two sons are my good friends; they enabled me to see the Bhagavat. It was because they wanted to nurture the roots of good merit accumulated in my past and benefit me that they were born in my house.

“Then the Buddha Jaladharagar jita ghoṣa susvarana kṣatra rājas aṃkusu- mitābhijña addressed King Śubhavyūha, saying:

Exactly! Exactly! It is exactly as you have said. If the sons and daughters of a virtuous family make good friends throughout many lives, after having planted roots of good merit, those good friends will perform the Buddha’s work, illuminating, teaching, benefiting, and gladdening them, and will cause them to enter highest, complete enlightenment. O great king! You should know that a good friend is indeed the great spur that brings inspiration to others, causing them to meet a buddha and the thought of highest, complete enlightenment to awaken in them. O great king! Do you see these two sons? These two sons have already paid homage to buddhas equal in number to the sands of sixty-five hundred thousands of myriads of koṭis of nayutas of Ganges Rivers, closely attended the buddhas with respect, accepted the Lotus Sutra in their presence, and, in their compassion, caused sentient beings with false views to dwell in right views.

“Immediately after that, King Śubhavyūha descended from the air and addressed the Buddha, saying:

O Bhagavat! The Tathāgata is extraordinary. Because he is endowed with merits and wisdom, his topknot is brilliantly illuminated, his deep blue eyes are long and wide, the tuft of hair between his eyebrows is white like the bright moon, his white teeth are even and always shining, and his scarlet lips are like the bimba fruit in their beauty.

“At that time King Śubhavyūha praised immeasurable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of qualities of the Buddha like these and, again, wholeheartedly addressed the Buddha with his palms pressed together, in the presence of the Tathāgata, saying:

O Bhagavat! This is unprecedented. The Tathāgata’s Dharma is endowed and perfected with inconceivable subtle qualities. His teaching, integrity, and deeds are serene and comfortable. From today on we shall never act selfishly and the wrongful thoughts of false views, pride and anger shall never awaken in us.

“Having spoken these words he bowed to the Buddha and went away.”

The Buddha addressed the great assembly, saying: “What do you think about this? Is King Śubhavyūha someone unknown? He is none other than this Bodhisattva Padmaśrī. His Queen Vimala datta is none other than this Vairocanaraśmipratimaṇḍitādhvaja rāja now in the presence of the Buddha. Because she had compassion for King Śubhavyūha and his retinue, she was born here. These two sons are none other than Bodhisattva Bhaiṣajyarāja and Bodhisattva Bhaiṣajyasamudgata. These bodhisattvas Bhaiṣa jyarāja and Bhaiṣajyasamudgata perfected great qualities such as these and, having planted many roots of good merit under the guidance of innumerable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of buddhas, perfected inconceivable good merit. If anyone holds the names of these two bodhisattvas in memory, the devas and humans in this entire world will certainly pay homage to those bodhisattvas.”

When the Buddha taught this chapter, “Ancient Accounts of King Śubha vyūha,” eighty-four thousand people removed themselves from impurity, rid themselves of defilement, and attained pure Dharma-eyes with which to see the teachings.

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