The Sutra of Queen Śrīmālā of the Lion’s Roar

15,590 words

The Sutra of Queen Śrīmālā of the Lion’s Roar (Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra) is a Mahayana text no longer extant in Sanskrit but preserved in both the Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist canons. It teaches the doctrines of Tathāgatagarbha and the One Vehicle (Skt. ekayāna), through the words of the Indian queen Śrīmālā....

Chapter V - The One Vehicle

The Buddha said to Queen Śrīmālā, “Now you should further explain the acceptance of the True Dharma that was taught by all the buddhas.”

Queen Śrīmālā said to the Buddha, “Very well, O Lord, I will, upon receiving your exhortation.” Then she said to the Buddha, “O Lord, acceptance of the True Dharma is [acceptance of] the Mahayana. Why? Because the Mahayana brings forth all the good acts of the world and of the transcendental, of the disciples and of the pratyekabuddhas. O Lord, just as the eight great rivers flow from Lake Anavatapta, so likewise all the good acts of the world and of the transcendental, of the disciples and of the pratyeka-buddhas, emerge from the Mahayana.

“O Lord, moreover, just as all seeds are able to grow [only] when they depend upon the earth, so likewise all the good acts of the world, of the transcendental, of the disciples, and of the pratyekabuddhas are able to increase [only] when they depend upon the Mahayana. Therefore, O Lord, abiding in the Mahayana, one accepts Mahayana—this is identical with abiding in the two vehicles and accepting all the good acts of the world, of the transcendental, and of the two vehicles.

“What are the six stations that the Lord explains? They are: 1) the continuity of the True Dharma, 2) the extinction of the True Dharma, 3) the rules of the Prātimokṣa, 4) the discipline of the Vinaya, 5) renunciation of one’s home, and 6) ordination. On behalf of the Mahayana, the Lord preaches these six stations. Why? Because the continuity of the True Dharma is explained for the sake of the Mahayana. Continuity of the Mahayana is continuity of the True Dharma. Extinction of the Mahayana is extinction of the True Dharma.

“The rules of the Prātimokṣa and the discipline of the Vinaya have the same meaning even though they are different in name. The discipline of the

Vinaya is learned by Mahayanists. Why? Because one renounces home and becomes ordained for the sake of the Buddha. Therefore, the conduct of the Mahayana, which is the [perfection of] discipline, is the Vinaya—renouncing one’s home and taking ordination.

“Consequently, in the case of the arhat, there is no renunciation of home nor taking ordination [as a separate vehicle from the Mahayana]. Why? Because the arhat renounces his home and is ordained for the sake of the Tathāgata. The arhat, seeking refuge in the Buddha, is afraid. Why? Because the arhat lives in a state of fear toward all conditioning forces, as if a man holding a sword wished to cause him harm. Therefore, the arhat has no ultimate happiness. Why? O Lord, being a [final] refuge, one does not seek refuge. Living beings who are without a refuge, having this or that fear, seek refuge because of these fears. Likewise, arhats who have fears seek refuge in the Tathāgata because of these fears.

“O Lord, arhats and pratyekabuddhas are afraid. Because these arhats and pratyekabuddhas still have not extinguished their lives, these [psychophysical forces] continue. They have not completed the practice of purity, and so remain impure. Because their actions are not ultimate, they still have actions to perform. Because they have not reached that [final stage], they still have defilements that should be severed. Because these are not severed, one is far from the realm of nirvana. Why? Because only the Tathāgata, Arhat, Perfectly Enlightened One attains final nirvana, being endowed with all merits. Arhats and pratyekabuddhas are not endowed with all merits. When it is said that they attain nirvana, this is [merely] the skillful means of the Buddha.

“Because only the Tathāgata attains final nirvana, being endowed with inconceivable merits, arhats and pratyekabuddhas are only endowed with conceivable merits. When it is said that they attain nirvana, this is [merely] the skillful means of the Buddha.

“Because only the Tathāgata attains final nirvana, eliminating transgressions that should be eliminated and endowed with supreme purity, arhats andpratyekabuddhas who still have transgressions are not supremely pure. When it is said that they attain nirvana, this is [merely] the skillful means of the Buddha.

“Only the Tathāgata attains final nirvana, is revered by all living beings, and surpasses the arhat, pratyekabuddha, and bodhisattva realms. Therefore,

arhats and pratyekabuddhas are far from the realm of nirvana. When it is said that the arhats and pratyekabuddhas meditate on liberation, have the four wisdoms, and have ultimately attained their resting place, this is also the skillful means of the Tathāgata and is taught as the incomplete meaning. Why? There are two kinds of death. What are the two? They are ordinary death and the inconceivable death of transformation [for a purpose]. Ordinary death refers to living beings who live in unreality. The inconceivable death of transformation [for a purpose] refers to the mind-made bodies of the arhats, pratyekabuddhas, and greatly powerful bodhisattvas until the time of their supreme, complete enlightenment.

“Within these two kinds of death, it is the ordinary death through which arhats and pratyekabuddhas have completely attained the knowledge said to have ‘extinguished their lives.’ Because they attain realization (nirvana) with remainder, it is said that ‘the practice of holiness has been completely upheld.’ Because their errors and defilements have been eliminated, it is said that ‘their actions have been completed,’ actions which the common people, gods, and seven kinds of educated people are incapable of performing. Because arhats and pratyekabuddhas cannot be reborn since their defilements are eliminated, it is said that ‘they are not reborn.’ When it is said that ‘they are not reborn, ’ this is not because they have eliminated all defilements nor exhausted all births. Why? Because there are defilements that cannot be eliminated by arhats and pratyekabuddhas.

“There are two kinds of defilements. What are the two? They are latent defilements and active defilements. There are four kinds of latent defilements. They are: 1) the stage of all [false] views of monism, 2) the stage of desiring sense pleasures, 3) the stage of desiring forms, and 4) the stage of desiring existence. From these four stages of [defilement], there are all the active defilements. ‘What is active’ is momentary and associated with the momentariness of the mind. O Lord, the mind does not associate with the stage of beginningless ignorance [in the same manner].

“O Lord, the power of these four latent defilements is a basis for all active defilements but cannot possibly be compared in number, fraction, counting, similarity, nor resemblance to ignorance [in power].

“O Lord, such is the power of the stage of ignorance! The power of the stage of ignorance is much greater than the other stages represented by the

fourth stage of desire for existence. The power of the stage of ignorance is like that of the wicked Evil One (Māra), whose form, power, longevity, and retainers are both superior to and more powerful than the heaven where the gods control the enjoyments created by others. Its power is far superior to that of the other stages of defilement represented by the fourth stage of desire for existence. This basis for the active defilements, more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River, causes the four kinds of defilements to continue for a long time. The arhats’ and pratyekabuddhas’ wisdom cannot eliminate it. Only the Tathāgata’s enlightenment-wisdom can eliminate it. Yes, O Lord, the stage of ignorance is extremely powerful!

“O Lord, the three states of existence arise, conditioned by clinging to existence and by defiled actions. In like manner, O Lord, the three forms of mind-made bodies of arhats, pratyekabuddhas, and greatly powerful bodhi-sattvas are conditioned by the stage of ignorance and by pure actions. In these three levels (the arhat, pratyekabuddha, and bodhisattva stages), the three kinds of mind-made bodies and pure actions are based upon the latent stage of ignorance. Because all things are conditioned and not unconditioned, the three kinds of mind-made bodies and pure actions are conditioned by the stage of ignorance.

“O Lord, thus the other stages of defilement, represented by the fourth stage of desire for existence, are not identical with the stage of ignorance with respect to action. The stage of ignorance is different from the four stages and is eliminated by the buddha stages and by the enlightenment-wisdom of the Buddha. Why? Arhats and pratyekabuddhas eliminate the four kinds of stages but their purity is not complete, for they have not attained autonomy nor have they accomplished their realization [of enlightenment].

“‘Their purity that is not completed’ refers to the stage of ignorance. O Lord, arhats, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas in their very last body do not know and do not awaken to the various phenomena because of the impediments of the stage of ignorance. Because they are not aware [of these phenomena] they cannot absolutely eliminate what should be eliminated. Because they do not eliminate [all defilements] they are ‘liberated with remaining faults,’ which is not ‘liberation separated from all faults.’ They have ‘purity with remaining’ [purification to be done,] which is not purity in its entirety. They ‘accomplish merits with remaining’ [merits to be accomplished,] which is not entirely meritorious. Because they accomplish liberation with remainder, purity with remainder, and merits with remainder, arhats, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas know suffering with remainder, eliminate the source of suffering with remainder, attain the extinction of suffering with remainder, and practice the path with remainder. This is ‘attaining partial nirvana.’

“Those who attain partial nirvana are ‘turned toward the nirvana realm.’ If one knows all suffering, entirely eliminates the source of suffering, attains the complete extinction [of suffering], and practices the entire path, one will attain permanent nirvana in a world that is impermanent and decadent, impermanent and distressed. In a world without protection, a world without a refuge, there is a protector and a refuge. Why? There is attainment of nirvana because of [the differentiation between] inferior and superior phenomena. [O Lord, there is attainment of nirvana because of the equality of all phenomena.] Because of the equality of knowledge, one attains nirvana. Because of the equality of liberation, one attains nirvana. Because of the equality of purity, one attains nirvana. Therefore, nirvana has the same quality as liberation.

O Lord, if the stage of ignorance is not absolutely eliminated, then one does not attain the same quality of knowledge and liberation. Why? If the stage of ignorance is not absolutely eliminated, then phenomena more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River that should be eliminated will not be absolutely eliminated. Because phenomena more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River that should be eliminated are not eliminated, the phenomena more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River that should be attained will not be attained, and [the phenomena] that should be manifested will not be manifested. Therefore, the accumulation [of defilements] in the stage of ignorance produces both the defilements that are severed by the practice of the entire path and the virulent defilements, as well as the virulent defilements of the mind, of meditation, of concentration, of contemplation, of insight, of skillful means, of wisdom, of the results [of the path], of attainment, of power, and of fearlessness. These are all the active defilements more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River that are eliminated by the enlightenment-wisdom of the Tathāgata.

“All these defilements are due to the stage of ignorance. All the active defilements that arise are caused by and conditioned by the stage of ignorance.

O Lord, among the defilements that arise, the mind and its various faculties arise together momentarily. O Lord, the mind does not associate with the stage of beginningless ignorance [in the same manner].

“O Lord, all phenomena more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River that should be eliminated by the Tathāgata’s enlightenment-wisdom are supported and sustained by the stage of ignorance. For example, all the seeds that depend on the earth for their life, sustenance, and growth would be ruined if the earth were ruined. Similarly, all phenomena more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River that should be eliminated by the Tathā-gata’s enlightenment-wisdom are based upon the stage of ignorance for their life, sustenance, and growth.

“If the stage of ignorance is eliminated, all phenomena more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River that should be eliminated by the Tathā-gata’s enlightenment-wisdom will be eliminated. If all defilements and virulent defilements are eliminated, all phenomena more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River will be attained by the Tathāgatas, who penetrate them without obstruction. Omniscience is separate from all transgressions, attaining all the merits of the Dharma King, the Dharma Lord, attaining autonomy and manifesting the stage of autonomy from all phenomena.

“O Tathāgata, Arhat, Perfectly Enlightened One, who has the lion’s roar, the complete extinction of one’s life, ‘the complete practice of holiness,’ ‘the completion of actions,’ and the ‘nonacceptance of rebirth’ have been explained up until now, based upon your lion’s roar, for their complete meaning.

“O Lord, there are two kinds of knowledge that do not accept rebirth. First, there is the knowledge of the Tathāgatas who, by means of their unsurpassed powers, subdue the four Evil Ones, appear in all worlds, and are worshiped by all living beings. They attain the inconceivable Dharma body, all spheres of knowledge, and unobstructed autonomy in all things. In this stage there is no action nor attainment that is higher. Having the ten magnificent powers [of knowledge] they ascend to the supreme, unexcelled, fearless stage. With their omniscient, unobstructed knowledge, they understand without relying on another. This wisdom that does not accept rebirth is the lion’s roar.

“O Lord, second, there is the knowledge of arhats and pratyekabuddhas who cross over the fears of birth and death and gradually attain the happiness of liberation with this thought: ‘I have parted from the fears of birth and death and no longer experience the suffering of birth and death.’ Lord, when arhats and pratyekabuddhas meditate, they do not accept rebirth and have insight into the supremely restful stage of nirvana.

“O Lord, those who first attained that stage [of nirvana] were not ignorant of the Dharma and were not dependent upon others. They also knew they had attained the stages with remainder [through their own efforts], and would inevitably attain supreme, complete enlightenment (anuttarā samyak-saṃbodhi). Why? Because the śrāvaka (disciple) andpratyekabuddha vehicles are included in the Mahayana. The Mahayana is the buddha vehicle. Therefore, the three vehicles are the One Vehicle.

“Those who attain the One Vehicle attain supreme, complete enlightenment. Supreme, complete enlightenment is the realm of nirvana. The realm of nirvana is the Dharma body of the Tathāgata. Attaining the absolute Dharma body is [attaining] the absolute One Vehicle. The Tathāgata is not different from the Dharma body. The Tathāgata is identical to the Dharma body. If one attains the absolute Dharma body then one attains the absolute One Vehicle. The absolute [One Vehicle] is unlimited and unceasing.

“O Lord, the Tathāgata, who is not limited by time, is the Tathāgata, Arhat, Perfectly Enlightened One, equal to the utmost limit [of the cycle of birth and death]. The Tathāgata is without limitation. His great compassion also is unlimited, bringing peace and comfort to the world. His unlimited great compassion brings unlimited peace and comfort to the world. This explanation is a good explanation concerning the Tathāgata. If one again speaks of the inexhaustible Dharma, the eternally abiding Dharma that is the refuge of all worlds—this is also a good explanation concerning the Tathāgata. Therefore, in a world that has not been saved, a world without a refuge, there is an inexhaustible, eternally abiding refuge equal to the utmost limit [of the cycle of birth and death], namely, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Perfectly Enlightened One.

“The Dharma is the path of the One Vehicle. The sangha is the assembly of the three vehicles. These two refuges are not the ultimate refuge. They are called ‘the partial refuge.’ Why? The Dharma of the path of the One Vehicle attains the absolute Dharma body. Furthermore, there can be no Dharma body other than that of the One Vehicle.

“The assembly of the three vehicles (the sangha), being afraid, seeks refuge in the Tathāgata. Those students who go out to practice turn toward supreme, complete enlightenment. Therefore, these two refuges are not the ultimate refuge but are limited refuges.

“If there are living beings who are subdued by the Tathāgata, they will seek refuge in the Tathāgata, attain the permeation of the Dharma, and will have faith and happiness, seeking refuge in the Dharma and Sangha. These two refuges, [however,] are not two refuges, for they seek refuge in the Tathāgata. Seeking refuge in the supreme truth is seeking refuge in the Tathāgata.

“The supreme truth of these two refuges is the ultimate refuge, the Tathā-gata. Why? Because the Tathāgata is not different from the two refuges. The Tathāgata is identical with the three refuges. Why? Because of the path of the One Vehicle. The Tathāgata, who has perfected the four states of fearlessness, is the one who teaches with the lion’s roar. The Tathāgata, according to individual dispositions, teaches through skillful means. This is the Mahayana and not the three vehicles. The three vehicles enter the One Vehicle. The One Vehicle is the supreme vehicle.”

Let's grow together!

I humbly request your help to keep doing what I do best: provide the world with unbiased sources, definitions and images. Your donation direclty influences the quality and quantity of knowledge, wisdom and spiritual insight the world is exposed to.

Let's make the world a better place together!

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: