by John R. McRae | 44,185 words
The Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra is a Mahāyāna sūtra that teaches the meaning of nonduality. It contains a report of a teaching addressed to both arhats and bodhisattvas by the layman Vimalakīrti, who expounds the doctrine of śūnyatā, or emptiness, to them. According to Burton Watson, the Vimalakīrti Sūtra probably originated in India in approximatel...
1. At this point Śāriputra saw that there were no seats in the room. He thought, “Where will this congregation of bodhisattvas and great disciples sit?”
The Elder Vimalakīrti knew what he was thinking and said to Śāriputra, “Which is it, sir—did you come for the Dharma or come seeking a seat?”
Śāriputra said, “I came for the Dharma, not for a seat.”
2. Vimalakīrti said, “O Śāriputra, those who seek the Dharma should begrudge neither body nor life. How much more so a seat!
“To seek the Dharma is not a seeking in the context of form, sensation, concept, processes, and consciousness, nor a seeking in the context of the realms (dhātus) and entrances (āyatanas).
“[To seek the Dharma] is not a seeking in the context of [the three realms of] desire, form, and formlessness.
3. “O Śāriputra, in seeking the Dharma one should not be attached to the Buddha in seeking, nor be attached to the Dharma in seeking, nor be attached to the congregation [of the Sangha] in seeking. In seeking the Dharma, one should seek without recognizing suffering, one should seek without cutting off the accumulation [of suffering], one should seek without contriving the complete realization and cultivation of the path. Why? The Dharma is without contrived theories. If one says ‘I will recognize suffering, cut off the accumulation [of suffering], and realize the extinction [of suffering] and cultivate the path,’ this would be a contrived theory and not to seek the Dharma.
“O Śāriputra, the Dharma is named extinction: if one practices generation and extinction this is to seek generation and extinction, not to seek the Dharma.
“The Dharma is named the undefiled: if the dharmas, up to and including nirvana, are defiled, then this is defiled attachment and not to seek the Dharma.
“The Dharma is without any locus of its practice: if one practices in the Dharma, this is a locus of practice and not to seek the Dharma.
“The Dharma is without grasping and forsaking: if one grasps and forsakes the Dharma, then this is grasping and forsaking and not to seek the Dharma.
4. “The Dharma is without locus: if one is attached to locus, this is to be attached to locus and not to seek the Dharma.
“The Dharma is named ‘without characteristics’: if one’s understanding accords with characteristics, this is to seek characteristics and not to seek the Dharma.
“One cannot abide in the Dharma: if one abides in the Dharma, this is to abide in the Dharma and not to seek the Dharma.
“One cannot see, hear, sense, or know the Dharma: if one practices seeing, hearing, sensing, and knowing, this is seeing, hearing, sensing, and knowing and not to seek the Dharma.
5. The Dharma is named the unconditioned: if one practices [within] the conditioned, this is to seek the conditioned and not to seek the Dharma.
“Therefore, Śāriputra, if one seeks the Dharma one should be without seeking regarding all the dharmas.”
When he spoke these words, five hundred gods attained purity of the Dharma eye with regard to the dharmas.
6. At this time the Elder Vimalakīrti asked Mañjuśrī, “Sir, in your wanderings throughout the immeasurable ten million koṭis of incalculable numbers of [buddha] countries, which buddha land has lion seats made with the best and most wondrous qualities?”
Mañjuśrī said, “Retired scholar, in the east, as many countries away as there are grains of sand in thirty-six Ganges Rivers, there is a world-system called Characteristic of Sumeru. Its buddha is called Sumeru Lamp King, who is manifest [in that world] at present. That buddha’s body is eighty-four thousandyojanas tall. His lion seat is eighty-four thousandyojanas high and paramount in ornamentation.”
7. At this the Elder Vimalakīrti manifested the power of numinous penetration, and immediately that Buddha dispatched thirty-two thousand lion seats, tall, wide, and pure in ornamentation, which arrived in Vimalakīrti’s room. This was something the bodhisattvas, great disciples, Indras, Brah-mās, and four heavenly kings had never seen before.
The breadth of the room entirely accommodated the thirty-two thousand lion seats with no obstruction. Nor was there any deformation of the city of Vaiśālī, Jambudvīpa, or all the worlds of four continents. All appeared just as before.
8. At this time Vimalakīrti said to Mañjuśrī, “Take a lion seat and sit there along with the bodhisattvas and superior ones. You should adjust [the size of] your body to match the image of the seat.”
Those bodhisattvas who had attained the numinous penetrations immediately transformed themselves to become forty-two thousandyojanas [tall] and sat on the lion seats. But none of the beginner bodhisattvas and great disciples were able to ascend [the seats].
At that time Vimalakīrti said to Śāriputra, “Take a lion seat.”
Śāriputra said, “Retired scholar, this seat is [so] huge I am unable to ascend it.”
Vimalakīrti said, “O Śāriputra, after you have worshiped Sumeru Lamp King Tathāgata you will be able to sit there.”
Then the beginner bodhisattvas and great disciples worshiped Sumeru Lamp King Tathāgata and were immediately able to sit on the lion seats.
9. Śāriputra said, “Retired scholar, this is unprecedented! Such a small room has accommodated these huge seats, and there is no hindrance in the city of Vaiśālī, nor is there any distortion in the villages and towns of Jam-budvīpa, nor in all the worlds of four continents, nor in the palaces of the gods, dragon kings, and demonic spirits.”
10. Vimalakīrti said, “O Śāriputra, the buddhas and bodhisattvas have an emancipation called ‘inconceivable.’ For a bodhisattva residing in this emancipation, the vastness of [Mount] Sumeru can be placed within a mustard seed without [either of them] increasing or decreasing in size. Sumeru, king of mountains, will remain in appearance as before, and the gods of the [heavens of the four heavenly kings and the Trayastriṃśa [Heaven] will not sense or know their own entry [into the mustard seed]. Only those one is trying to save will see Sumeru enter into the mustard seed. This is called abiding in the teaching of inconceivable emancipation.
11. “Also, [a bodhisattva] may cause the waters of the four great oceans to enter into a single pore.
“[The bodhisattva does so] without discomforting the fish, turtles, tortoises, crocodiles, and [other] aquatic life forms, and the fundamental characteristics of those great oceans [remain] as before. The dragons, demonic spirits, and asuras do not realize that they have entered [into the single pore]. At this, the sentient beings [just mentioned] are not discomforted.
12. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, a bodhisattva residing in inconceivable emancipation who eradicates grasping of the great trimegachiliocosm does so just like a potter grasping a wheel in his right palm: were he to throw it past world-systems as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges River, the sentient beings within [that great trimegachiliocosm] would be unaware of where they had gone. Also, when it returns to its original location, none of them would have any conception of having gone and returned, and the fundamental characteristics of this world-system would be as before.
13. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, if there are sentient beings who can be saved through their desire for longevity, a bodhisattva will extend seven days into an entire kalpa and cause those sentient beings to consider it a kalpa. If there are sentient beings who can be saved through their desire for brevity of lifespan, a bodhisattva will compress an entire kalpa into seven days and cause those sentient beings to consider it [only] seven days.
14. “Furthermore, Śāriputra, a bodhisattva who resides in inconceivable emancipation can assemble the ornaments of all the buddha lands in a single country to manifest them to sentient beings.
“Furthermore, a bodhisattva can take the sentient beings of a buddha land in the right palm and fly to all ten directions, showing them everything, without moving from the original location.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, a bodhisattva can make visible in a single pore all the articles offered to the buddhas by [all] the sentient beings throughout the ten directions. Also, he can make visible all the suns, moons, and constellations of the countries of the ten directions.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, a bodhisattva can without physical harm inhale through the mouth all the winds of the worlds in the ten directions, and the trees outside [the bodhisattva] will not be damaged [by the winds].
15. “Also, during the kalpa-ending conflagration of the world-systems of the ten directions, he can take all the fires within his abdomen, and though the fires will be as before he will not be harmed.
“Also, passing beyond buddha world-systems in the lower direction more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River, he can take a single buddha land and lift it up in the upper direction, passing beyond world-sys-tems more numerous than the sands of the Ganges River. Like holding a needle or a thorn, he is not inconvenienced [at all by doing so].
16. “Also, Śāriputra, a bodhisattva who resides in inconceivable emancipation is able to use the numinous penetrations to manifest the body of a buddha, or to manifest the body of a pratyekabuddha, or to manifest the body of a śrāvaka, or to manifest the body of an Indra, or to manifest the body of a Brahmā king, or to manifest the body of a world lord (i.e., heavenly king), or to manifest the body of a universal ruler.
17. “Also, [a bodhisattva can take] all the sounds in the world-systems of the ten directions, high, medium, and low, and can change them into the sounds (i.e., voices) of the Buddha, playing the sounds of impermanence, suffering, emptiness, and no-self, with all the various Dharmas explained by the buddhas of the ten directions within those sounds, to be heard everywhere.
18. “Śāriputra, I have now briefly explained the power of the bodhisattva’s inconceivable emancipation. If I were to explain it extensively a kalpa would be exhausted without completing it!”
19. Then Mahākāśyapa, hearing the teaching of the bodhisattva’s inconceivable emancipation, exclaimed that it was unprecedented and said to Śāriputra, “It is as if someone displayed to a blind person all the colors and forms he cannot see. In the same fashion, when all the śrāvakas hear this teaching of the inconceivable emancipation, they are not able to comprehend it. When the wise hear it, who among them would not generate the intention to achieve anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi?
“How is it that we have long cut off our capacity [for understanding]? With regard to this Mahayana we are like destroyed seeds. When all the śrā-vakas hear this teaching of the inconceivable emancipation, they should all scream out a cry to shake the trimegachiliocosm. All the bodhisattvas should accept this Dharma with great joy.
“If there are bodhisattvas who devoutly understand this teaching of inconceivable emancipation, all the congregations of Māras will be unable to do anything to them.” When Mahākāśyapa spoke these words, thirty-two thousand gods all generated the intention to achieve anuttarā samyaksaṃ-bodhi.
20. At that time Vimalakīrti said to Mahākāśyapa, “Sir, the majority of those acting as Māra kings in the incalculable asaṃkhyeyas of world-sys-tems are bodhisattvas residing in the inconceivable emancipation. They manifest themselves as Māra kings through the power of skillful means, to teach sentient beings.
“Also, Kāśyapa, as to the immeasurable bodhisattvas of the ten directions, there may be people who beg them for a hand, foot, ear, nose, head, eye, marrow, brain matter, blood, flesh, skin, bone, village, town, wife and sons, slave, elephant, horse, vehicle, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, sapphire, agate, coral, emerald, pearl, conch shell, clothing, or food.
“Beggars such as these are usually bodhisattvas residing in the inconceivable emancipation, who use the power of skillful means to go test [the bodhisattvas] and make them resolute. Why? Bodhisattvas who reside in the inconceivable emancipation possess the power of awesome virtue and therefore manifest the practice of pressuring, showing sentient beings difficulties such as these. Ordinary people are inferior and lack energy, and they are unable to pressure bodhisattvas in this way. It is like the kick of a dragon or elephant, which is not something a donkey could withstand.
“This is called the ‘gate of wisdom and skillful means of bodhisattvas residing in the inconceivable emancipation.’”