The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra

by Charles Luk | 1972 | 32,509 words

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

Chapter 8 - The Buddha Path

Manjusri asked Vimalakirti: “How does a Bodhisattva enter the Buddha path?”

Vimalakirti replied: “If a Bodhisattva treads the wrong ways (without discrimination), he enters the Buddha path.”

Manjusri asked: “What do you mean by a Bodhisattva treading the wrong ways?”

Vimalakirti replied: “(In his work of salvation) if a Bodhisattva is free from irritation and anger while appearing in the fivefold uninterrupted hell; is free from the stain of sins while appearing in (other) hells; is free from ignorance, arrogance and pride while appearing in the world of animals; is adorned with full merits while appearing in the world of hungry ghosts; does not show his superiority while appearing in the (heavenly) worlds of form and beyond form; is immune from defilements while appearing in the world of desire; is free from anger while appearing as if he were resentful; uses wisdom to control his mind while appearing to be stupid; appears as if he were greedy but gives away all his outer (i.e. money and worldly) and inner (i.e. bodily) possessions without the least regret for his own life; appears as if he broke the prohibitions while delighting in pure living and being apprehensive of committing even a minor fault; appears as if he were filled with hatred while always abiding in compassionate patience; appears as if he were remiss while diligently practicing all meritorious virtues; appears as if he were disturbed while always remaining in the state of serenity; appears as if he were ignorant while possessing both mundane and supramundane wisdoms; appears as if he delighted in flattering and falsehood while he excels in expedient methods in conformity with straightforwardness as taught in the sutras; shows arrogance and pride while he is as humble as a bridge; appears as if he were tormented by troubles while his mind remains pure and clean; appears in the realm of demons while defeating heterodox doctrines to conform with the Buddha wisdom; appears in the realm of sravakas where he expounds the unheard of supreme Dharma; appears in the realm of pratyeka-buddhas where he converts living beings in fulfillment of great compassion; appears amongst the poor but extends to them his precious hand whose merits are inexhaustible; appears amongst the crippled and disabled with his own body adorned with the excellent physical marks (of the Buddha); appears amongst the lower classes but grows the seed of the Buddha nature with all relevant merits; appears amongst the emaciated and ugly showing his strong body to the admiration of them all; appears as an old and ill man but is actually free from all ailments with no fear of death; appears as having all the necessities of life but always sees into impermanence and is free from greed; appears to have wives, concubines and maids but always keeps away from the morass of the five desires; appears amongst the dull-witted and stammerers to help them win the power of speech derived from the perfect control of mind; appears amongst heretics to teach orthodoxy and deliver all living beings; enters all worlds of existence to help them uproot the causes leading thereto; and appears as if entering nirvana but without cutting off birth and death; Manjusri, this Bodhisattva can tread heterodox ways because he has access to the Buddha path.”

Vimalakirti then asked Manjusri: “What are the seeds of the Tathagata?”

Manjusri replied:

“Body is (a) seed of the Tathagata;

Ignorance and craving are its (two) seeds;

Desire, hate and stupidity its (three) seeds;

The four inverted views its (four) seeds;

The five covers (or screens) its (five) seeds;

The six organs of sense its (six) seeds;

The seven abodes of consciousness its (seven) seeds;

The eight heterodox views its (eight) seeds;

The nine causes of klesa (troubles and their causes) its (nine) seeds;

The ten evils its (ten) seeds. To sum up, all the sixty-two heterodox views and all sorts of klesa are the seeds of Buddhahood.

Vimalakirti asked Mnjusri: “Why is it so?”

Manjusri replied: “Because he who perceives the inactive (wu wei) state and enters its right (nirvanic) position, is incapable of advancing further to achieve supreme enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi). For instance, high ground does not produce the lotus, which grows only in marshy land. Likewise, those perceiving nirvana and entering its right position, will not develop into Buddhahood, whereas living beings in the mire of klesa can eventually develop the Buddha Dharma. This is also like seeds scattered in the void, which do not grow, but if they are planted in manured fields they will yield good harvests. Thus, those entering the right position (of nirvana) do not develop the Buddha Dharma, whereas those whose view of the ego is as great as (Mount) Sumeru may (because of the misery of life) eventually set their minds on the quest of supreme enlightenment, thereby developing the Buddha Dharma.

“Therefore, we should know that all sorts of klesa are the seeds of the Tathagata. This is like one who does not plunge into the ocean will never find the priceless pearl. Likewise, a man who does not enter the ocean of klesa will never win the gem of all-knowledge (sarvajna).”

At that time, Mahakasyapa exclaimed : “Excellent, Manjusri, excellent, your sayings are most gratifying. As you have said, those suffering from klesa are the seeds of the Tathagata. So we are no longer capable of developing a mind set on enlightenment. Even those committing the five deadly sins can eventually set their minds on the quest of the Buddha Dharma but we are unable to do so, like persons whose defective organs prevent them from enjoying the five objects of the senses. Likewise, the sravakas who have cut off all bonds (of transmigration) are no longer interested in the Buddha Dharma and will never want to realize it.

Therefore, Manjusri, the worldly man still reacts (favourably) to the Buddha Dharma whereas the sravaka does not. Why? Because when the worldly man hears about the Buddha Dharma, he can set his mind on the quest of the supreme path, thereby preserving for ever the Three Treasures (of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), whereas the sravaka, even if he passes his lifetime listening to the Dharma and witnessing the fearlessness of the Buddha, etc., will never dream of the supreme way.”

A Bodhisattva called Universal Manifestation, who was present asked Vimalakirti: “Who are your parents, wife and children, relatives and kinsmen, official and private friends, and where are your pages and maids, elephants and horse carts?”

In reply Vimalakirti chanted the following:

Wisdom-perfection is a Bodhisattva’s Mother, his father is expedient method, For the teachers of all living beings come, Only from these two (upaya and prajna).

His wife is joy in Dharma’s law; Kindness and pity are his daughters; His sons morality and truthfulness; Absolute voidness his quiet abode.

Passions are his disciples Whom he transforms at will. Bodhipaksita dharma are his friends. Helping him to win supreme enlightenment.

All other perfections are his companions. The four winning methods are his courtesans, hymns, chants and intonations of Dharma are his melodies. Complete control over passions is his domain, passionlessness is his grove. The (seven) grades of bodhi are the flowers bearing the fruit of wisdom’s liberation.

The pool of eightfold liberation holds calm water, which is clear and full. The seven blossoms of purity are well arranged to bathe this undefiled (Bohdisattva) man.

Whose five supernatural powers are walking elephants and horses while the Mahayana is his vehicle, which controlled by the one mind, rolls through the eight noble paths.

(Thirty-two) distinctive marks dignify his body; while (eighty) excellences add to it their grace. Shamefulness is his raiment, and deep mind his coiffure.

The seven riches that he owns are his assets which, used to teach others, earn more dividends. Dedicating all merits (to Buddhahood), his practice of the Dharma has received wins far greater profit.

The four dhyanas are his meditation bed, which from pure living originates. Much learning increases wisdom announcing self-awakening.

His broth is the flavour of release. The precepts are his perfumed

Salve and pure mind is his bath. By killing the culprit klesa is his boldness unsurpassed. By defeating the four demons, he plants his triumphant banner as a bodhimandala.

Though he knows there is neither birth nor death, he is reborn to show himself to all, appearing in many countries. Like the sun seen by everyone.

When making offerings to countless Buddhas in the ten directions, he does not discriminate between himself and them.

Although He knows that Buddha lands are void like living beings. He goes on practicing the Pure Land (Dharma) to teach and convert men.

In their kinds, features, voices and bearing, this fearless Bodhisattva can appear the same as they.

He, knows the mischief demons, do but appears as one of them. Using wise expedient means to look like them at will. Or he appears old, ill and dying to make living beings realize that all things are but illusion, to free them from all handicaps.

Or he shows the aeon’s end with fire destroying heaven and earth, so that those clinging to permanence realize the impermanence of things.

Then countless living beings call on this Bodhisattva, inviting Him to their homes to convert them to the Buddha path. In heterodox books, spells, skills, magic, arts and talents, he appears to be an expert to help and benefit (all) living beings.

Appearing in their midst, he joins the Sangha in order to release them from defilement, to prevent their slipping into heresy. Then, is he seen as the sun, moon or heaven as Brahma or the lord of (all) the world. At times, as earth or water or as the wind and fire.

When they fall ill or epidemics rage, he prepares medicinal herbs for them to take to cure their illness or infection.

When famine prevails, he makes food and drink to save them from thirst and hunger, before teaching them the Dharma.

In times of war, he teaches kindness mercy to convert living beings, so that they can live in peace.

When armies line up for battle, he gives equal strength to both. With his authority and power, he forces them to be reconciled and live in harmony.

To all countries where there are hells, he comes unexpectedly

to relieve their sufferings.

Wherever animals devour one another, he appears among them urging them to do good.

Seeming to have the five desires, he is always meditating to upset the demons and prevent their mischief.

Like that thing most rare, a lotus blossoming in a scorching fire, he meditates amidst desires, which also is a thing most rare.

Or, he appears as a prostitute to entice those, who to lust is a given. First, using temptation to hook them, he then leads them to the Buddha wisdom.

He appears as a district magistrate, or as a chief of the caste of traders, a state preceptor or high official to protect living beings.

To the poor and destitute, he appears with boundless purse to advise and guide them until they develop the bodhi mind.

To the proud and arrogant, he appears as powerful to overcome their vanity until they tread the path supreme.

Then he comes to comfort people who are cowards, first he makes them fearless, then urges them to seek the truth.

Or he appears without desires and acts, like a seer with five spiritual powers to convert living beings by teaching them morality, patience and mercy.

To those needing support and help, he may appear as a servant to please and induce them to grow the Tao mind.

Providing them with all they need to enter on the Buddha path; thus using expedient methods to supply them with all their needs.

Then as with boundless truth, his deeds are also endless; with his wisdom that has no limit, he frees countless living beings.

If all the Buddhas were to spend countless aeons in praising his merits, they could never count them fully.

Who, after hearing this Dharma, develops not the bodhi mind, can only be a worthless man without wisdom.”

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