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 XXVIII - Encouragement of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra

Thereupon Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, through his effortless transcendent power, dignity, and fame, arrived from the east together with innumerable, limitless, and incalculable numbers of great bodhisattvas. All the lands quaked universally wherever he passed. Jeweled lotus flowers rained down and immeasurable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of kinds of music were heard. He was surrounded by a great assembly of innumerable beings: humans and such nonhumans as devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnaras, and mahoragas, each manifesting dignity and transcendent powers. He then arrived at Mount Gṛdhra kūṭa in the sahā world. He prostrated himself before Śākyamuni Buddha and circled around him to the right. He then addressed him, saying: “O Bhagavat! Afar in the land of the Buddha Ratna tejo’bhyudgatarāja I heard you expound the Lotus Sutra in this sahā world. I have come here to listen to you, together with the assembly of immeasurable and limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of bodhisattvas. I entreat you, O Bhagavat, to teach us how the sons and daughters of a virtuous family may attain the Lotus Sutra after the parinirvāṇa of the Tathāgata.”

The Buddha said to Bodhisattva Samantabhadra: “After the parinirvāṇa of the Tathāgata the sons and daughters of a virtuous family will attain the Lotus Sutra if they achieve the four necessary accomplishments: the first is to be protected by the buddhas; the second is to plant roots of good merit; the third is to enter a group of those who are rightly resolute; and the fourth is to awaken the thought of saving all sentient beings. Those sons and daughters of a virtuous family will definitely attain this sutra after the parinirvāṇa of the Tathāgata if they perfect these four accomplishments.”

Then Bodhisattva Samantabhadra addressed the Buddha, saying: “O Bhagavat! If there are those who preserve this sutra in the troubled world of five hundred years after, I will protect them and rid them of their heavy cares, cause them to attain happiness, and allow no one to strike at them through their weaknesses. I will not give Māra any chance to afflict them, nor the sons of Māra, daughters of Māra, minions of Māra, those possessed by Māra, yakṣas, rākṣasas, kumbhāṇḍas, piśācas, kṛtyas, pūtanas, or vetālas. If they recite this sutra, whether walking or standing, I will then come before them on a white elephant king with six tusks, together with the assembly of great bodhisattvas, manifest myself, pay homage and protect them, and console their minds for the sake of revering the Lotus Sutra. If they sit contemplating upon this sutra, I will then manifest myself before them on a white elephant king. If they forget a single line or a verse in the Lotus Sutra, I will teach and recite it with them and cause them to become proficient in it. At that time those who accept and recite the Lotus Sutra will be able to see me and, greatly rejoicing, will thus make further efforts. As a result of seeing me they will attain the samādhi and dhāraṇīs named āvartā dhāraṇī, koṭīśatasahasrāvartā dhāraṇī, and sarva rutak auśalyāvartā dhāraṇī. They will attain dhāraṇīs like these. O Bhagavat! In the troubled world of five hundred years after those monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen who seek, preserve, recite, copy, and wish to practice this Lotus Sutra should persevere singlemindedly for twenty-one days. After a full twenty-one days I will appear on a white elephant with six tusks, accompanied by innumerable bodhisattvas who themselves will also be surrounded by their retinues, and manifest myself before sentient beings in whatever form they wish to see. Then I will expound and teach the Dharma to them and gladden them. I will also give them a dhāraṇī spell. When they attain this dhāraṇī, nonhumans will have no power to destroy them and women no power to trouble them. I myself will also protect these people. I entreat you, O Bhagavat, to allow me to teach this dhāraṇī.” Thus he taught the spell in the presence of the Buddha, saying:

Adaṇḍe daṇḍapati daṇḍāvartani daṇḍakuśale daṇḍa sudhāri sudhāri sudhārapati buddhapaśyane sarvadhāraṇī āvartani sarvabhāṣyā-vartane su-āvartane saṃghaparīkṣani saṃ gha nirghātani asaṃge saṃgāpa-gate tṛ-adhvasaṃgatulyap rāpte sarvasaṃgasamatikrānte sarvadharma suparīkṣite sarva sattvarutakauśalyānugate siṃhavikrīḍite.

“O Bhagavat! If there is any bodhisattva who hears this dhāraṇī, he should know it is because of the transcendent power of Samantabhadra. If there is anyone who accepts the Lotus Sutra practiced in Jambudvīpa, he should think: ‘This is nothing but Samantabhadra’s virtuous power.’ If there is anyone who preserves, recites, correctly remembers, understands this meaning, and practices in accordance with the teaching, know that they are practicing the practice of Samantabhadra. They plant deep roots of good merit in the presence of innumerable and limitless buddhas. The Tathāgatas will caress their heads. If they copy this sutra, after their death they will be born in the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven. At that time eighty-four thousand heavenly maidens will welcome them, performing various kinds of music. They will wear seven-jeweled coronets and be happy among their female servants. How much more for those who preserve, recite, remember correctly, understand the meaning, and practice in accordance with the teaching! If there is anyone who preserves, recites, and understands this meaning, at the end of their life a thousand buddhas will offer their hands, so that they will neither be afraid nor fall into the troubled states of being. They will thus arrive in the Tuṣita Heaven of Bodhisattva Maitreya, who is endowed with the thirtytwo marks and surrounded by an assembly of great bodhisattvas and a retinue of hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of heavenly maidens. There they will be born and such will be their merit and benefits. For this reason the wise should wholeheartedly copy, move others to copy, preserve, recite, and remember it correctly and practice in accordance with the teaching. O Bhagavat! Through my transcendent powers I will now protect, extensively distribute and keep this sutra from extermination in Jambudvīpa after the pari nirvāṇa of the Tathāgata.”

Thereupon the Buddha Śākyamuni praised him, saying: “Splendid! Splendid! O Samantabhadra! You will protect this sutra and bring benefit and happiness to sentient beings in many places. You have already accomplished inconceivable merits and profound compassion. Long, long ago the thought of highest, complete enlightenment awakened in you, and you made this vow of transcendent power: ‘I will protect this sutra. Through my transcendent powers I will protect the one who holds to the name of Bodhisattva Samanta bhadra.’ O Samantabhadra! If there is anyone who preserves, recites, correctly remembers, practices, and copies this Lotus Sutra, they should know that they will meet the Buddha Śākyam uni and hear this sutra from the mouth of the Buddha. By this they should know that they are paying homage to the Buddha Śākyamuni. They should know that they will be praised by the Śākyamuni Buddha with the word ‘Splendid!’ They should know that the hand of the Buddha Śākyamuni will caress their heads. They should know that they will be clad in the robe of the Buddha Śākyamuni. Such people are not attached to worldly pleasures. They dislike heretical scriptures and writings. They are not pleased to consort with heretics, wicked people, butchers, those who keep boars, sheep, chickens, or dogs, hunters, or those who make a living by pandering. They will be honest in mind, and will have correct recollection and the power of merit. They will not be troubled by the three kinds of poison. Nor will they be confused by jealousy, selfishness, false pride, or arrogance. Having little desire they can know satisfaction and practice the practice of Samantabhadra. O Samantabhadra! If you meet anyone who preserves and recites the Lotus Sutra five hundred years after the parinirvāṇa of the Tathāgata, you should think like this:

This man will before long approach the terrace of enlightenment, destroy the hosts of Māra, attain highest, complete enlightenment, turn the wheel of the Dharma, beat the drum of the Dharma, blow the conch of the Dharma, pour down the rain of the Dharma, and will sit on the lion seat of the Dharma in the great assembly of devas and humans.

“O Samantabhadra! Those who preserve and recite this sutra in the future world will not be greedy for clothes, bedding, food and drink, and the necessities of life. Their aspirations will not be unrewarded, and their happy reward will be attained in this world. If there is anyone who despises them, saying: ‘You are mad. This practice of yours is in vain and will attain nothing at the end,’ they will have no eyes lifetime after lifetime as a retribution for this wrongdoing. If there is anyone who pays them homage and praises them, he will attain tangible rewards in this world. If anyone sees those who preserve this sutra and speaks maliciously about their faults, whether true or not, such a person will suffer from leprosy in this life. If anyone scorns them, that person’s teeth will be either loose or missing; their lips will be ugly, their nose will be flat, their limbs will be crooked; they will squint; their body will stink and be dirty, suffering from evil tumors, oozing pus; their belly will swell with water; and they will have tuberculosis and other evil and serious illnesses. For this reason, O Samantabhadra, if you see anyone who holds to this sutra, you should stand up and show your respect even from afar, just as you would pay homage to the Buddha.”

When this chapter, “Encouragement of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra,” was being taught, innumerable and limitless bodhisattvas equal in number to the sands of Ganges Rivers attained hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of dhāraṇīs named āvartā, and bodhisattvas equal to the number of atoms in the manifold cosmos mastered the path of Samantabhadra.

When the Buddha had taught this sutra, the entire great assembly of bodhisattvas including Samantabhadra, the śrāvakas including Śāriputra, devas, nāgas, humans, and nonhumans rejoiced greatly, accepted the Buddha’s words, bowed to him and departed.

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