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 the Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “Maitreya, I now bestow on you this Dharma of anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi, which I have accumulated over immeasurable koṭis of asaṃkhyeyas of kalpas. Sutras of this type should, during the final period after my nirvana, be circulated extensively throughout Jambudvīpa by you and others with your numinous power, so [the Dharma] is not cut off.
“Why? In the future time, there will be good men and women, as well as gods, dragons, demonic spirits, gandharvas, rakṣasas, and so on, who will generate the intention to achieve anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi and take pleasure in the great Dharma. If they are unable to hear sutras such as this, they will lose its good benefit. When people such as this hear these sutras, they must with great faith and joy realize their rarity and accept them with humility, explaining them extensively according to the benefits that sentient beings will receive from them.
2. “Maitreya, you should understand that bodhisattvas [may] have two [inferior] characteristics. What are these two? The first is the fondness for miscellaneous phrases and literary embellishment. The second is their lack of fear of penetrating deeply into the actualities of profound meanings.
“You should understand that it is novice bodhisattvas who are fond of miscellaneous phrases and literary embellishment. Those who lack the fear of entering into profound scriptures that are without defilement and without attachment, and who upon hearing them become pure in mind and accept and maintain, read and recite, and practice them as explained—you should understand that these [bodhisattvas] have been cultivating the path for a long time.
3. “Maitreya, there are two other dharmas (i.e., characteristics) regarding how those who are called novices are unable to be definite about the extremely profound Dharma. What are these two?
i) “The first is that when they hear profound sutras for the first time, they become fearful, generate doubts, and are unable to follow [those sutras]. Reviling them and lacking faith in them, they say ‘I have not heard this before. Where did it come from?’
ii) “The second is that, when there are those who defend, maintain, and explain profound sutras such as these, [the novices] are unable to associate with [those teachers], make offerings to them, and revere them. Or, at times they talk about [the teachers’] transgressions and errors.
“You should understand that those who have these two dharmas are novice bodhisattvas. They only harm themselves, and they are unable to control their minds within the profound Dharma.
4. “Maitreya, there are two other dharmas concerning bodhisattvas who devoutly understand the profound Dharma, but who still harm themselves and are unable to attain forbearance of the nonarising of dharmas. What are these two?
i) “The first is to belittle novice bodhisattvas and not instruct them.
ii) “The second is to understand the profound Dharma, but with a discrimination that grasps at characteristics.
“These are the two dharmas.”
5. When Maitreya heard this explanation he addressed the Buddha,
“World-honored One, this is unprecedented! It is as you have explained.
“I will distantly transcend such evils and maintain the Dharma of anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi that the Tathāgata has accumulated over innumerable asaṃkhyeyas of kalpas.
“If in the future there are good men and women who seek the Mahayana, I will make certain that they get hold of such sutras. Using their power of mindfulness, I will cause them to receive and maintain, read and recite, and extensively explain them for others.
“World-honored One, if in the latter age there are those able to receive, maintain, read, recite, and explain them for others, one should understand that these will all be established by Maitreya’s numinous power.”
The Buddha said, “Excellent, excellent, Maitreya! It is as you have explained. I am happy for you!”
6. At this all the bodhisattvas held their palms together and addressed the Buddha, “We too, after the Buddha’s nirvana, will extensively disseminate the Dharma of anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi throughout the countries of the ten directions. We will also guide those who explain the Dharma and cause them to obtain this sutra.”
7. Then the four heavenly kings addressed the Buddha, “World-honored One, in every place, whether city, village, mountain forest, or wilderness, where there are those who read and recite and explain these fascicles of scripture, we will lead our palace retainers in proceeding to those places, to listen to the Dharma and protect those people. For an area of a hundred yojanas we will make it convenient [to hear their explanations] without seeking.”
8. At this point the Buddha said to Ānanda, “Accept and maintain this sutra, and disseminate it extensively.”
Ānanda said, “Assuredly. I have already accepted and maintained its essentials. World-honored One, what is the name of this sutra?”
The Buddha said,
“Ānanda, this sutra is named the ‘Discourse of Vimalakīrti.’ It is also called the ‘Dharma Gate of the Inconceivable Emancipation.’ As such you should accept and maintain it.”
When the Buddha finished explaining this sutra, the Elder Vimalakīrti, Mañjuśri, Śāriputra, Ānanda, and all the great congregations of gods, humans, and asuras, hearing what the Buddha had explained, rejoiced greatly.
End of Fascicle Three