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 13 - The Offering Of Dharma

Thereupon, Sakra who was in the assembly, said to the Buddha: “World Honoured One, although I have listened to hundreds and thousands of sutras expounded by you and Manjusri, I did not hear of this inconceivable sutra of supramundane sovereign power and absolute reality. As I understand from your present preaching, if living beings listening to the Dharma of this sutra, believe, understand, receive, uphold, read and recite it, they will surely realize this Dharma. How much more so if someone practices it as expounded; he will shut all doors to evil destinies and will open up all doors to blessing; will win the Buddha’s perfection; will overcome heresy; destroy the demons; cultivate bodhi; set up a place of enlightenment (bodhimandala) and follow in the Tathagata’s footsteps.

World Honoured One, if there are people who receive, uphold, read, recite and practice this sutra, I and my followers will provide them with all the necessaries of life. If this sutra is kept in a town or a hamlet, in a grove or a desert, I and my followers will come to the place of the preacher to listen to its Dharma. I shall cause the unbelievers to develop faith in this sutra. As to the believers of it I shall protect them.”

The Buddha said: “Excellent, Sakra, excellent; it is gratifying to hear what you have just said. This sutra gives a detailed exposition of the inconceivable supreme enlightenment realized by past, future and present Buddhas.

“Therefore, Sakra, if a virtuous man or woman receives, keeps, reads, recites and reveres this sutra, such an attitude is equal to making offering to past, future and present Buddhas. Sakra, if the great chiliocosm were full of countless Tathagatas as many as the sugar canes, bamboos, reeds, recites grains and hemp seeds in its fields; and if a virtuous man or woman who has passed either a whole aeon or decreasing kalpa to revere, honour, praise, serve and make offerings to these Buddhas, and then after their nirvana (death) should build with relics from their bodies a seven-gemmed stupa as large as the four deva-heavens (put together) and of a height reaching the Brahma heaven with a majestic spire, to which he or she will make offerings of flowers, incense, strings of precious stones, banners and melodious music, during either a whole kalpa or in a decreasing one, Sakra, what do you think of his or her merits? Are they many?”

Sakra replied: “Very many, World Honoured One, and it is impossible to count his or her merits for hundreds and thousands of aeons.”

The Buddha said: “Sakra, you should know that if another virtuous man or woman, after hearing this sutra of inconceivable liberation, believes, understands, receives, keeps, reads, recites and practices this sutra, his or her merits will surpass those of the former man or woman. Why? Because the bodhi (enlightenment) of all Buddhas originates from this Dharma, and since enlightenment is beyond all measuring, the merits of this sutra cannot be estimated.”

The Buddha continued: “Long before an uncountable number of aeons in the past there was a Buddha called Bhaisajya-raja (whose titles are:) Tathagata, Arhat, Samyaksambuddha, Vidya-Carana-Sampanna, Sugata, Lokavid, Anuttara, Purusa-Damya-Sarathi, Sasta Devamanusyanam, and Buddha-lokanatha or Bhagavan. His world was called Mahavyuha and the then aeon Alamkarakakalpa. The Buddha Bhaisajya-raja lived for twenty small kalpas. The number of sravakas reached thirty-six nayutas and that of Bodhisattvas twelve lacs. There, Sakra, was a heavenly ruler (cakravarti) called Precious Canopy who possessed all the seven treasures and was the guardian of four heavens. He had a thousand sons who were respectable and brave and had overcome all opposition.

“At the time Precious Canopy and his retinue had worshipped and made offerings to the Tathagata Bhaisajya-raja for five aeons after which he said to his thousand sons: ‘You should respectfully make offerings to the Buddha as I have done.’

Obeying their father’s order they made offerings to the Tathagata Bhaisajya for five-aeons after which one of the sons called Lunar Canopy, while alone, thought: ‘Is there some other form of offering surpassing what we have made up to now?

Under the influence of the Buddha’s transcendental power a deva in the sky said: “Virtuous man, the offering of Dharma surpasses all other forms of offering.”

Lunar Canopy asked: ‘What is this offering of Dharma?’

The deva replied: ‘Go to the Tathagata Bhaisajya who will explain it fully.’

Thereupon, Lunar Canopy came to the Tathagata Bhaisajya, bowed his head at his feet and stood at his side, asking: ‘World Honoured One, (I have heard that) the offering of Dharma surpasses all other forms of offering; what is the offering of Dharma?’

“The Tathagata repolied: ‘Virtuous one, the offering of Dharma is preached by all Buddhas in profound sutras but it is hard for worldly men to believe and accept it as its meaning is subtle and not easily detected, for it is impeacable in its purity and cleanness. It is beyond the reach of thinking and discriminating; it contains the treasure of the Bodhi-sattva’s Dharma store and is sealed by the Dharani-symbol; it never backslides for it achieves the six perfections (paramitas); discerns the difference between various meanings; is in line with the bodhi Dharma; is at the top of all sutras; helps people to enter upon great kindness and great compassion; to keep from demons and perverse views, and to conform with the law of causality and the teaching on the unreality of an ego; a man, a living being and life and on voidness, formlessness, non-creating and non-uprising. It enables living beings to sit in a bodhimandala to turn the wheel of the law. It is praised and honoured by heavenly dragons, gandharvas, etc. It can help living beings to reach the Buddha’s Dharma store and gather all knowledge (sarvajna realized by) saints and sages, preach the path followed by all Bodhisattvas; rely on the reality underlying all things; proclaim the (doctrine of) impermanence, suffering; voidness and absence of ego and nirvana. It can save all living beings who have broken the precepts and keep in awe all demons, heretics and greedy people. It is praised by the Buddhas, saints and sages for it wipes out suffering from birth and death; proclaims the joy in nirvana as preached by past; future and present Buddhas in the ten directions.

“If a listener after hearing about this sutra, believes, understands, receives, upholds, reads and recites it and uses appropriate methods (upaya) to preach it clearly to others, this upholding of the Dharma is called the offering of Dharma.

“Further, the practice of all Dharmas as preached; to keep in line with the doctrine of the twelve links in the chain of existence; to wipe out all heterodox views; to achieve the patient endurance of the uncreate (anutpatti-dharma-ksanti) (as beyond creation); to settle once for all the unreality of the ego and the non-existence of living beings; and to forsake all dualities of ego and its objects without deviation from and contradiction to the law of causality and retribution for good and evil; by trusting to the meaning rather than the letter; to wisdom rather than consciousness; to sutras revealing the whole truth rather than those of partial revelation; and to the Dharma instead of the man (i.e. the preacher); to conform with the twelve links in the chain of existence (nidanas) that have neither whence to come nor wither to go; beginning from ignorance (avidya) which is fundamentally non-existent, and conception (samskara) which is also basically unreal, down to birth (jati) which is fundamentally non-existent; and old age and death (jaramarana) which are equally unreal. Thus, contemplated, the twelve links in the chain of existence are inexhaustible, thereby putting an end to the (wrong) view of annihilation. This is the unsurpassed offering of Dharma.”

The Buddha then said to Sakra: “Lunar Canopy, after hearing the Dharma from the Buddha Bhaisajya (the Buddha of Medicine), realized (only) the patience of Meekness and took off his precious robe to offer it to that Buddha, saying: “World Honoured One, after your nirvana, I shall make offerings of Dharma to uphold the right doctrine; will your awe-inspiring majestic help me to overcome the demons and to practise the Bodhisattva line of conduct?’”

The Buddha Bhaisajya knew of his deep thought and prophesied: “Until the last moment you will guard the Dharma protecting citadel.”

Sakra, at that time Lunar Canopy perceived the pure and clean Dharma, and after receiving the Buddha’s prophecy, believed it and left his home to join the order. He practiced the Dharma so diligently that he soon realized the five transcendental powers. In his Bodhisattvas development, he won the endless power of speech through his perfect control (dharani- of all external influences). After the nirvana of the Buddha Bhaisajya, he used this power of speech to turn the wheel of the law, spreading the Dharma widely for ten small aeons.

Lunar Canopy was indefatigable (untiring) in his preaching of the Dharma and converted a million lacs of people who stood firm in their quest of supreme enlightenment, fourteen nayutas of people who set their minds on achieving the sravaka and pratyeka-buddha stages, and countless living beings who were reborn in the heavens.

Sakra, who was that Royal Precious Canopy? He is now a Buddha called the Tathagata Precious Flame and his one thousand sons are the thousand Buddhas of the (present) Bhadrakalpa (the virtuous aeon) whose first Buddha was Krakucchanda and last Buddha was Rucika. Bhiksu Lunar Canopy was myself. Sakra, you should know that the offering of Dharma is the highest form of offering. Therefore, Sakra, you should make the offering of Dharma as an offering to all Buddhas.”

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