At that time Shariputra, observing that there were no seats in Vimalakirti's room, thought to himself: "All these bodhisattvas and major disciples-where are they going to sit?"
The rich man Vimalakirti, knowing what was in his mind, said to Shariputra, "Did you come here for the sake of the Law, or are you just looking for a place to sit?"
"I came for the Law, not for a seat!" said Shariputra.
"Ah, Shariputra," said Vimalaldrti, "a seeker of the Law doesn't concern himself even about life or limb, much less about a seat! A seeker of the Law seeks nothing in the way of form, perception, conception, volition, or consciousness; he seeks nothing in the way of sense-realms or sense-media; he seeks nothing in the threefold world of desire, form, and formlessness.
"Ah, Shariputra, a seeker of the Law does not seek it through attachment to the Buddha, does not seek it through attachment to the Law, does not seek it through attachment to the order. A seeker of the Law does not seek it through recognition of suffering, does not seek it through renunciation of attachments, does not seek it through realization of how to end attachments, or through practice of the Way. Why? Because the Law has nothing to do with idle theorizing. To declare that one must recognize suffering, renounce attachments, realize how to reach extinction, and practice the Way is mere idle theorizing, not seeking the Law.
"Ah, Shariputra, the Law is called 'tranquil extinction.' But if one strives for birth followed by extinction, this is seeking birth and extinction, this is not seeking the Law. The Law is called 'unstained.' But if one is stained with the idea of the Law or of nirvana, then one is stained with attachment, and this is not seeking the Law. The Law has no goal of activity, but if one actively pursues the Law, one is pursuing a goal, and this is not seeking the Law. The Law knows no picking and choosing, but if one picks and chooses the Law, this is picking and choosing, not seeking the Law. The Law is independent of place, but if one fixes on the idea of place, this is fixation with place, not a seeking of the Law The Law is called 'formless.' If one tries to know it through form, this is seeking form, not seeking the Law.
"The Law is not something that can be resided in. If one tries to reside in it, this is trying to reside in the Law, not seeking the Law. The Law is not something that can be seen, heard, perceived, or understood. If one tries to see, hear, perceive, and understand it, this is trying to see, hear, perceive, and understand the Law, not seeking the Law. The Law is called 'unconditioned.' If one tries to approach it through the conditioned, this is seeking the conditioned, not seeking the Law
"Therefore, Shariputra, if one would be a seeker of the Law, one must not seek it in anything at all."
When Vimalakirti spoke these words, five hundred heavenly sons gained the purity of the Dharma eye in their perception of phenomena.
At that time the rich man Vimalakirti said to Manjushri, "You have visited countless thousands, ten thousands, billions of asamkhyas of countries. What Buddha lands have the finest and most beautiful lion seats, those endowed with the best quaJities?"
Manjushri replied, "Layman, to the east, beyond countries numerous as the sands of thirty-six Ganges, lies a world called Sumeru Shape. Its Buddha is named Sumeru Lamp King, and he is there now This Buddha's body is eighty-four thousand yojanas in height and the lion seat [he sits on] is eighty-four thousand yojanas high and adorned in the finest fashion."
The rich man Vimalakirti then exercised his transcendental powers and at once that Buddha dispatched thirty-two thousand lion seats, tall, broad, adorned, and pure, and had them brought into Vimalakirti's room, where the bodhisattvas, major disciples, Indras, Brahmas, Four Heavenly Kings and the others saw something they had never seen before. For the room was broad and spacious enough to hold all these thirty-two thou-sand lion seats without the slightest crowding or hindrance. The city of Vaishali and Jambudvipa and the other of the four continents too seemed in no way cramped or inconvenienced, but all appeared just as usual.
At that time Vimalakirti said to Manjushri, "Sit down in one of the lion seats! The bodhisattvas and other distinguished persons -should also sit down, but when they do so they should assume bodies suitabJe to the size of the seat."
The bodhisattvas who had acquired transcendental powers thereupon immediately transformed their shapes, making themselves forty-two yojanas tall, and sat down in the lion seats. But among the bodhisattvas who had newly embarked on their course or the major disciples, there were none who could climb up into the seats.
At that time Vimalakirti said to Shariputra, "Sit down in a lion seat!"
But Shariputra said, "Layman, these seats are too tall and wide-we can't climb up in them!"
Vimalakirti said, "Ah, Shariputra, if you will make obeisance to the Thus Come One Sumeru Lamp King, then you will be able to take a seat."
The bodhisattvas who had newly embarked on their course and the major disciples accordingly made obeisance to the Thus Come One Sumeru Lamp King, and after that they were able to seat themselves in the lion seats.
Shariputra said, "Layman, I have never seen such a thing! A little room like this and still it can hold seats as tall and broad as these! And the city of Vaishali is in no way crowded or obstructed, nor are any of the towns or villages of Jambudvipa or of the other of the four continents cramped or inconvenienced, or the palaces of the heavenly beings, dragon kings and spirits i "
Vimalakirti said, "Ah, Shariputra, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas have an emancipation that is called Beyond Comprehension. When a bodhisattva dwells in this emancipation, he can take something as tall and broad as Mount Sumeru and put it inside a mustard seed without enlarging one or shrinking the other, and Mount Sumeru, king of mountains, will still have its original shape. Moreover, the Four Heavenly Kings and the gods of the Trayastrimsha heaven [who live on Mount Sumeru] will not even know or realize where they have gone to. Only those destined for enlightenment will be able to see that Sumeru has been put inside a mustard seed. This is called dwelling in the doctrine of the emancipation Beyond Comprehension.
"Or again, this bodhisattva can take the waters of the four great oceans and pour them into the opening that holds a single hair, without the fish, turtles, sea turtles, lizards, or other sea creatures being in any way troubled, and those great seas will still have their original form. And the dragons, spirits, asuras, and others [who live in the sea] will not know or realize where they have gone to, and these beings will not be at all troubled.
"Or again, Shariputra, this bodhisattva who dwells in the emancipation Beyond Comprehension can slice off the thousand-millionfold world, grasp it in the palm of his right hand like a potter's wheel, and toss it beyond lands numerous as the sands of the Ganges, and the beings in that world will not know or realize where they have gotten to. The bodhisattva can then bring it back and put it in its original place, and none of the people will have any idea they have gone somewhere and come back, and the world will have the same shape as before.
"Again, Shariputra, suppose there are beings who want to live in this world for a long time but are qualified to enter enlightenment. This bodhisattva can stretch seven days into a kalpa, so that to those beings they really seem like a whole kalpa. Or if there are beings who do not want to live in this world for long and they are qualified to enter enlightenment, this bodhisattva can squeeze a kalpa into seven days, so that to those beings it seems like only seven days.
"Again, Shariputra, the bodhisattva who dwells in the emancipation Beyond Comprehension can take the magnificent adornments from all the Buddha lands, gather them together, and show them to the beings living in a single country Or this bodhisattva can place all the beings of a single Buddha land in the palm of his right hand and fly with them all around the ten directions, showing them everything, and yet never move from his original spot.
"Or, Shariputra, this bodhisattva can take all the objects offered to the Buddhas by the beings in the worlds in the ten directions and make them all visible within a pore that holds a single hair, or take all the suns, moon, stars, and constellations that belong to the worlds in the ten directions and make them visible within the pore of a single hair Or, Shariputra, he can suck into his mouth all the winds from the worlds in the ten directions without doing any harm to himself or breaking down the trees that grow there. Or, when the worlds in the ten directions come to the end of the kalpa and everything is destroyed by fire, he can take all those fires and hold them in his belly, and though the fires go on burning as before, the bodhisattva suffers no harm. Or he can go down into the lower region, past Buddha lands numerous as the sands of the Ganges, pick up one Buddha land, and lift it to the upper region, above Buddha lands numerous as the sands of the Ganges, as one would lift the leaf of a jujube tree on the point of a needle, and that land will be in no way troubled.
"Or, Shariputra, the bodhisattva who dwells in the emancipation Beyond Comprehension can use his transcendental powers to make himself appear in the body of a Buddha, or the body of a pratyekabuddha, or that of a voice-hearer, an Indra, a Brahma king, one of the Four Heavenly Kings, or a wheel-turning king. Or again he can take all the voices uttered by the beings in the worlds of the ten directions, high, middle, and low-grade sounds, and transform them all into the voice of the Buddha. He can make these voices discourse with the sounds of 'impermanence', 'suffering,' 'emptiness,' or 'non-ego,' or expound all the various other doctrines preached by the Buddhas of the ten directions, and cause those doctrines to be heard everywhere.
"Shariputra, I have just now briefly described the powers possessed by this bodhisattva of the emancipation Beyond Comprehension. If I were to describe them in full, I could go on for a whole kalpa and never have done."
At that time Mahakashyapa, hearing this discourse on the doctrine of the emancipation Beyond Comprehension, sighed at encountering what he had never heard before, and said to Shariputra, "It is like someone displaying various painted images before a blind man when he cannot see them. In the same way, when we voice-hearers hear this doctrine of the emancipation Beyond Comprehension, we are all incapable of understanding it. If wise persons hear it, there will be none who do not set their minds on attaining anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. But what of us, who are forever cut off at the root, who with regard to these Great Vehicle teachings have already become like rotten seed?
When voice-hearers hear this doctrine of the emancipation Beyond Comprehension, they will surely all cry out in anguish in voices loud enough to shake the whole thousand-millionfold world. But bodhisattvas should all accept this teaching with great joy and thanksgiving. For if there are bodhisattvas who put faith in this doctrine of the emancipation Beyond Comprehension, then none of the host of devils can do anything to them!"
When Mahakashyapa spoke these words, thirty-two thousand offspring of the gods set their minds on the attainment of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
At that time Vimalakirti said to Mahakashyapa, "Sir, among those who play the part of devil kings in the immeasurable asamkhyas of worlds in the ten directions, there are many who in fact are bodhisattvas dwelling in the emancipation Beyond Comprehension. They employ their skill in expedient means to teach and convert living beings by appearing in the guise of devil kings.
"Or again, Kashyapa, with regard to the immeasurable numbers of bodhisattvas in the ten directions, sometimes people come to them begging for a hand or a foot, an ear, a nose, a head, an eye, marrow or brains, blood, flesh, skin, bones, or for their villages, towns, wives and children, men and women servants, elephants, horses, carriages, or for gold, lapis lazuli, seashell, agate, coral, amber, pearls, agate shell, clothing, food or drink. Many of those who beg in this fashion are bodhisattvas who dwell in the emancipation Beyond Comprehension. They employ their skill in expedient means and go to the other bodhisattvas to test them and make sure they are firm in their resolve [to give alms]. How can they do this? Because the bodhisattvas who dwell in the emancipation Beyond Comprehension possess powers of authority and virtue that enable them to importune others and make them perform difficult feats in this manner. Ordinary persons of inferior type have no such powers and hence cannot importune others as these bodhisattvas do. They are like donkeys who cannot stand up before the kicking and trampling of dragons or elephants.
"This is what is called the wisdom and expedient means possessed by the bodhisattvas who dwell in the emancipation Beyond Comprehension."
Footnotes and references:
These are the four noble truths, that existence is suffering, that suffering is caused by craving or attachment, that there is a way to end craving, that it can be done through practice of the eightfold path.
The voice-hearers, who represent Hinayana Buddhism, because they have taken as their goal the attainment of the state of arhat, have in effect cut themselves off at the root from the search for the higher goal of Buddhahood, the goal of Great Uehicle or Mahayana Buddhist doctrine and practice. In Mahayana terms, the potential for Buddhahood inherent in the voice-hearers has become like rotten seed that will never sprout.
In speaking of people being importuned for an eye or some other part of the body, Vimalakirti probably has in mind the various tales in Buddhist lore of deities who take on devilish form and beg practitioners of the way for a piece of their body as a means of testing their dedication to the paramita of almsgiving. Vimalakirti is thus suggesting that the difficulties that Mahakashyapa and the other voice-hearers face may in fact just be a means of testing their resolve.