The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra

by Vimalakirti | 1972 | 32,509 words

Translated and edited from the Chinese (Kumarajiva ed. T.475) by Charles Luk (Lu K'uan Yi) in 1972....

Chapter 6 - The Inconceivable Liberation

Sariputra saw no seats in the room and thought: “Where do the Bodhisattvas and chief disciples sit?”

Sariputra replied: “I come here for the Dharma and not for a seat.”

Vimalakirti said: “Hey Sariputra, he who searches for the Dharma does not even cling to his body and life, still less to a seat, for the quest of Dharma is not related to (the five aggregates): form (rupa), sensation (vedana), conception (sanjna), discrimination (samskara) and consciousness (vijnana); to the eighteen fields of sense (dhatu: the six organs, their objects and their perceptions); to the twelve entrances (ayatana: the six organs and six sense data that enter for or lead to discrimination); and to the worlds of desire, form and beyond form. Sariputra, a seeker of the Dharma, does not cling to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. A seeker of the Dharma does not hold the view of suffering, of cutting off all the accumulated causes, thereof, to put an end to it by treading the path to nirvana (i.e. the four noble truths). Why is it so? Because the Dharma is beyond all sophistry. For if one says: ‘Because I see suffering, I cut off its accumulated causes to wipe it out by treading the path thereto’, this is mere sophistry and is not the quest of the Dharma.

“Sariputra, the Dharma is called nirvana (the condition of complete serenity and ultimate extinction of reincarnation); if you give rise to (the concept of) birth and death, this is a search for birth and death and is not the quest of Dharma. The Dharma is (absolute and) immaculate, but if you are defiled by the (thought of) Dharma and even that of nirvana, this is pollution which runs counter to the quest of Dharma. Dharma cannot be practiced and if it is put into practice, this implies something (i.e. an object) to be practiced and is not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is beyond grasping and rejecting, and if you grasp or reject it, this is grasping or rejecting (something else) but not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is beyond position but if you give it a place, this is clinging to space but not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is formless but if you rely on form to conceive the Dharma, this is search for form but not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is not an abode but if you want to stay in it this is dwelling in (an objective) Dharma, but not the quest of (absolute) Dharma. Dharma can be neither seen, nor heard nor felt nor known but if you want to see, hear, feel and know it, this is the functioning of your (discriminatory) seeing, hearing, feeling and knowing but not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is (transcendentally) inactive (wu wei) but if you are set on worldly activities, this is a search for the worldly way of life but not the quest of Dharma. Therefore, Sariputra, the quest of Dharma does not imply seeking anything whatsoever.”

When Vimalakirti so spoke, five hundred sons of devas realized the pure Dharma Eye.

Vimalakirti then asked Manjusri: “The Virtuous One has traveled in countless thousands and tens of thousands of lakhs of worlds; which one is the Buddha land where the highest merits make the lion throne (of its Buddha)?”

Manjusri replied: “Venerable Upasaka, in the east there is a Buddha land which is separated from here by a distance represented by worlds as countless as the sand grains in thirty-six Ganges rivers; it is called Merudhvaja whose Buddha is called Merukalpa who is still there. His body is 84,000 yojana tall and his lion throne, also as high, is of prominent majesty.”

At that time, Vimalakirti used his transcendental powers to invite Buddha Merukalpa to send to his room thirty-two thousand high, large, majestic and clean lion thrones which the Bodhisattvas, chief disciples of the Buddha (Sakyamuni), Indra and Brahma, the four deva kings, etc., had never seen before.

The room contained all the thirty-two thousand lion thrones which did not hinder one another and which did not obstruct anything at Vaisali, in Jambudvipa (our earth) and in the four heavens where all things remained unchanged as before.

Vimalakirti then said to Manjusri: “Please take a lion throne and be seated amongst the great Bodhisattvas by enlarging the size of your body to that of the seat.” Those Bodhisattvas who had acquired supernatural powers, enlarged their bodies to the size of the thrones on which they sat (without difficulty). But the newly initiated Bodhisattvas and chief disciples of the Buddha could not mount the high thrones.

Vimalakirti then said to Sariputra: “Please be seated on a lion throne.”

Sariputra replied: “Venerable Upasaka, these thrones are large and high; I cannot mount them.”

Vimalakirti said: “Sariputra, you should first pay reverence to the Tathagata Merukalpa and will then be able to sit on one of them.”

At that time, all newly initiated Bodhisattvas and chief disciples of the Buddha paid reverence to the Tathagata Merukalpa and then sat on the lion throne.

Sariputra said to Vimalakirti: Pvenerable Upasaka, this was not seen before; this small room can contain these high and large thrones which do not obstruct anything at Vaisali and do not interfere with the cities, towns and villages on Jambudvipa (our world) as well as with the palaces of the devas and heavenly nagas (dragons) and the abodes of the ghosts and spirits.”

Vimalakirti said: “Sariputra, the liberation realized by all Buddhas and (great) Bodhisattvas is inconceivable. If a Bodhisattva wins this liberation, he can put the great and extensive (Mount) Sumeru in a mustard seed, which neither increases nor decreases (its size) while Sumeru remains the same, and the four deva kings (guardians of the world) and the devas of Trayastrimsas (the heavens of Indra) are not even aware of their being put into the seed, but only those who have won liberation see Sumeru in the mustard seed. This is the inconceivable Dharma door to liberation.

He can also put the four great oceans that surround Sumeru in a pore without causing inconvenience to fishes, water tortoises, sea-turtles, water-lizards and all other aquatic animals while the oceans remain the same and the nagas (dragons), ghosts, spirits and asuras (titans) are not even aware of being displaced and interposed.

“Further, Sariputra, a great Bodhisattva who has won this inconceivable liberation can (take and) put on his right palm the great chiliocosm like the potter holding his wheel, throw it beyond a number of worlds as countless as the sand grains in the Ganges and then take it back (to its original place) while all living beings therein do not know of their being thrown away and returned and while our world remains unchanged.

Further, Sariputra, if there are living beings who are qualified for liberation but who want to stay longer in the world, this Bodhisattva will (use his supernatural power to) extend a week to an aeon so that they will consider their remaining in time to be one week.

Further, Sariputra, a Bodhisattva who has won this inconceivable liberation can gather in one country all the majestic things of all Buddha lands so that they are all visible in that particular country.

Further, he can place on his right palm all the living beings of a Buddha land and then fly in all the ten directions to show them all things everywhere without even shaking them.

Further, Sariputra, this Bodhisattva can show through one of his pores all offerings to the Buddhas by living beings in the ten directions.

He can show through one of his pores all suns, moons, planets and stars in all the worlds in the ten directions.

Further, Sariputra, he can breathe in (and hold in his mouth) all the winds blowing in the worlds in the ten directions without injuring his own body or the trees of these worlds.

Further, when the worlds in the ten directions come to an end through destruction by fires, this Bodhisattva can breathe in these fires into his own belly without being injured by them while they continue to burn without change.

Further, this Bodhisattva can take from the nadir a Buddha land separated from him by worlds as countless as the sand grains in the Ganges and lift it up to the zenith, which is separated from him by worlds as countless as there are sand grains in the Ganges, with the same case as he picks up a leaf of the date tree with the point of a needle.

Further, Sariputra, a Bodhisattva who has won this inconceivable liberation can use his transcendental powers to appear as a Buddha, or a Pratyeka-buddha, a Sravaka, a sovereign Sakra, Brahma, or a ruler of the world (cakravarti). He can also cause all sound and voices of high, medium and low pitches in the worlds in the ten directions to change into the Buddha’s voice proclaiming (the doctrine of) impermanence, suffering, unreality and absence of ego as well as all Dharmas expounded by all Buddhas in the ten directions, making them heard everywhere.

Sariputra, I have mentioned only some of the powers derived from this inconceivable liberation but if I were to enumerate them all, a whole aeon would be too short for the purpose.

Mahakasyapa who had heard of this Dharma of inconceivable liberation, praised it and said it had never been expounded before. He then said to Sariputra: “Like the blind who do not see images in various colours shown to them, all sravakas hearing this Dharma door to inconceivable liberation will not understand it. Of the wise men hearing about it, who will not set his mind on the quest of supreme enlightenment? What should we do to uproot for ever the rotten sravaka root as compared with this Mahayana, so that all sravakas hearing this doctrine of inconceivable liberation, shed tears of repentance and scream so loudly as to shake the great chiliocosm? As to the Bodhisattvas, they are all happy to receive this Dharma reverently by placing it on the tops of their heads. If a Bodhisattva believes and practices this Dharma door to inconceivable liberation, all demons cannot oppose him.”

When Mahakasyapa spoke these worlds, thirty-two thousand sons of the devas set their minds on the quest of supreme enlightenment.

At that time, Vimalakirti declared to Mahakasyapa: “Virtuous One, those who appear as kings of demons in countless worlds in the ten directions are mostly Bodhisattvas who have realized this inconceivable liberation and who use expedient devices (upaya) to appear as their rulers in order to convert living beings.

Further, Mahakasyapa, countless Bodhisattvas in the ten directions appear as beggars asking for hands, feet, ears, noses, heads, brains, blood, flesh, skin and bones, towns and hamlets, wives and (female) slaves, elephants, horses, carts, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, agate, cornelian, coral, amber, pearl, jade shell, clothing, food and drink; most of these beggars are Bodhisattvas who have realized this inconceivable liberation and use expedient devices to test believers in order to cement their faith (in the Dharma). Because the Bodhisattvas who have realized inconceivable liberation possess the awe-inspiring power to bring pressure to bear upon (believers) and ask for inalienable things (to test them), but worldly men whose spirituality is low have no such (transcendental) powers and cannot do all this. These Bodhisattvas are like dragons and elephants which can trample (with tremendous force), which donkeys cannot do. This is called the wisdom and expedient methods (upaya) of the Bodhisattvas who have won inconceivable liberation.”