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 12 - Seeing Aksobhya Buddha

The Buddha then asked Vimalakirti: “You spoke of coming here to see the Tathagata, but how do you see Him impartially?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Seeing reality in one’s body is how to see the Buddha. I see the Tathagata did not come in the past, will not go in the future, and does not stay in the present. The Tathagata is seen neither in form (rupa, the first aggregate) nor in the extinction of form nor in the underlying nature of form. Neither is He seen in responsiveness (vedana), conception (sanjna), discrimination (samskara) and consciousness (vijnana) (i.e. the four other aggregates), their extinction and their underlying natures. The Tathagata is not created by the four elements (earth, water, fire and air), for He is (immaterial) like space. He does not come from the union of the six entrances (i.e. the six sense organs) for He is beyond eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and intellect. He is beyond the three worlds (of desire, form and formlessness) for He is free from the three defilements (desire, hate and stupidity). He is in line with the three gates to nirvana and has achieved the three states of enlightenment (or three insights) which do not differ from (the underlying nature of) unenlightenment. He is neither unity nor diversity, neither selfness nor otherness, neither form nor formlessness, neither on this shore (of enlightenment) nor in mid-stream when converting living beings. He looks into the nirvanic condition (of stillness and extinction of worldly existence) but does not dwell in its permanent extinction. He is neither this nor that and cannot be revealed by these two extremes. He cannot be known by intellect or perceived by consciousness. He is neither bright nor obscure. He is nameless and formless, being neither strong nor weak, neither clean nor unclean, neither in a given place nor outside of it, and neither mundane nor supramundane. He can neither be pointed out nor spoken of. He is neither charitable nor selfish; he neither keeps nor breaks the precepts; is beyond patience and anger, diligence and remissness, stillness and disturbance. He is neither intelligent nor stupid, and neither honest nor deceitful. He neither comes nor goes and neither enters nor leaves. He is beyond the paths of word and speech. He is neither the field of blessedness nor its opposite, neither worthy nor unworthy of worship and offerings. He can be neither seized nor released and is beyond ‘is’ and ‘is not’. He is equal to reality and to the nature of Dharma (Dharmata) and cannot be designated and estimated, for he is beyond figuring and measuring. He is neither large nor small, is neither visible nor audible, can neither be felt nor known, is free from all ties and bondage, is equal to the All-knowledge and to the (underlying) nature of all living beings, and cannot be differentiated from all things. He is beyond gain and loss, free from defilement and troubles (klesa), beyond creating and giving rise (to anything), beyond birth and death, beyond fear and worry, beyond like and dislike, and beyond existence in the past, future and present. He cannot be revealed by word, speech, discerning and pointing.

“World Honoured One, the body of the Tathagata being such, seeing Him as above-mentioned is correct whereas seeing Him otherwise is wrong.”

Thereupon, Sariputra asked Vimalakirti: “Where did you die to be reborn here?”

Vimalakirti asked back: “Is the (sravaka) Dharma which you have realized subject to death and rebirth?”

Sariputra replied: “It is beyond death and birth.”

Vimalakirti asked: “If there is neither birth nor death, why did you ask me: ‘Where did you die to be reborn here?’ What do you think of illusory men and women created by an illusionist; are they subject to death and birth?”

Sariputra replied: “They are not subject to death and birth. Have you not heard the Buddha say that all things are illusions?”

Vimalakirti said: “Yes, if all things are illusions, why did you ask me where I died to be reborn here? Sariputra, death is unreal and deceptive, and means decay and destruction (to the worldly man), while life which is also unreal and deceptive means continuance to him. As to the Bodhisattva, although he disappears (in one place) he does not put an end to his good (deeds), and although he reappears (in another) he prevents evils from arising.”

At that time, the Buddha said to Sariputra: “There is a (Buddha) land called the realm of Profound Joy whose Buddha is Aksobhya Buddha where Vimalakirti disappeared to come here.”

Sariputra said: “It is a rare thing, World Honoured One, that this man could leave a pure land to come to this world full of hatred and harmfulness!”

Vimalakirti asked Sariputra: Sariputra, what do you think of sunlight; when it appears does it unite with darkness?”

Sariputra replied: “Where there is sunlight, there is no darkness.”

Vimalakirti asked: “Why does the sun shine on Jambudvipa (this earth)?”

Sariputra replied: “It shines to destroy darkness.”

Vimalakirti said: “Likewise, a Bodhisattva, although born in an unclean Buddha land, does not join and unite with the darkness of ignorance but (teaches and) converts living beings to destroy the obscurity of klesa.”

As the assembly admired and wished to see the Immutable Tathagata, the Bodhisattvas and sravakas of the pure land of Profound Joy.

The Buddha who read their thoughts said to Vimalakirti: “Virtuous man, please show the Immutable Tathagata and the Bodhisattvas and sravakas of the land of Profound Joy to this assembly who want to see them.”

Vimalakirti thought that he should, while remaining seated, take with his hand the world of Profound Joy with its iron enclosing mountains, hills, rivers, streams, ravines, springs, seas, Sumerus, sun, moon, stars, planets, palaces of heavenly dragons, ghosts, spirits and devas, Bodhisattvas, sravakas, towns, hamlets, men and women of all ages, the Immutable Tathagata, his bo-tree (bodhi-tree) and beautiful lotus blossoms, which were used to perform the Buddha work of salvation in the ten directions, as well as the tree flights of gemmed steps linking Jambudvipa (our earth) with Trayastrimsas by which the devas descended to earth to pay reverence to the Immutable Tathagata and to listen to his Dharma, and by which men ascended to Trayastrimsas to see the devas. All this was the product of countless merits of the realm of Profound Joy, from the Akanistha heaven above to the seas below and was lifted by Vimalakirti with his right hand with the same ease with which a potter raises his wheel, taking everything to earth to show it to the assembly as if showing his own head-dress.

Vimalakirti then entered the state of samadhi and used his supramundane power to take with his right hand the world of Profound Joy which he placed on earth. The Bodhisattvas, sravakas and some devas who had realized supramundane said to their Buddha: “World Honoured One, who is taking us away? Will you please protect us?”

The Immutable Buddha said: “This is not done by me but by Vimalakirti who is using his supramundane power.” But those who had not won supramundane powers neither knew nor felt that they had changed place. The world of Profound Joy neither expanded nor shrank after landing on the earth which was neither compressed nor straitened, remaining unchanged as before.

At that time, Sakyamuni Buddha said to the assembly: “Look at the Immutable Tathagata of the land of Profound Joy which is majestic, where the Bodhisattvas live purely and the (Buddha’s) disciples are spotless.”

The assembly replied: “Yes, we have seen.”

The Buddha said: “If a Bodhisattva wishes to live in such a pure and clean Buddha land, he should practise the path trodden by the Immutable Tathagata.”

When the pure land of Profound Joy appeared fourteen nayutas of people in this saha world developed the mind set on supreme enlightenment, and vowed to be reborn in the realm of Profound Joy. Sakyamuni Buddha then prophesied their coming rebirth there.

After the (visiting Bodhisattvas had done their) work of salvation for the benefit of living beings in this world, the pure land of Profound Joy returned to its original place. And this was seen by the whole assembly.

The Buddha then said to Sariputra: “Have you seen the world of Profound Joy and its Immutable Tathagata?”

Sariputra replied: “Yes, World Honoured One, I have. May all living beings win a pure land similar to that of the Immutable Buddha and achieve supramundane powers like those of Vimalakirti!

World Honoured One, we shall soon realize a great benefit resulting from our meeting and paying obeisance to this man now. And living beings, hearing this sutra now or after the Buddha’s nirvana, will also realize a great benefit; how much more so, if after hearing it, they believe, understand, receive and uphold it or read, recite, explain and preach it, and practice its Dharma accordingly? He who receives this sutra with both hands, will in reality secure the treasure of the Dharma-gem; if, in addition, he reads, recites and understands its meaning and practices it accordingly, he will be blessed and protected by all Buddhas. Those making offerings to this man (Vimalakirti), will through him automatically make offerings to all Buddhas. He who copies this sutra to put it into practice, will be visited by the Tathagata who will come to his house. He who rejoices at hearing this sutra, is destined to win all knowledge (sarvajna). And he who can believe and understand this sutra, or even (any of) its four-line gathas and teaches it to others, will receive the (Buddha’s) prophecy of his future realization of supreme enlightenment.”

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