Vimalakirti Sutra

by Burton Watson | 1997 | 43,710 words

Translated by Burton Watson in 1997 from the Chinese version by Kumarajiva (T.475)...

Chapter 14 - Entrustment

Then the Buddha addressed the bodhisattva Maitreya, saying, "Maitreya, I now take this Law of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, gathered over countless millions of asamkhya kalpas, and entrust it to you. In the latter age after the Buddha has passed into extinction, you must employ your supernatural powers to propagate sutras such as this, spreading them throughout the continent of Jambudvipa and never allowing them to be wiped out. Why? Because in the ages to come there will be good men and good women, as well as heavenly beings, dragons, spirits, gandharvas, rakshasas, and others, who will set their minds on attaining anuttara-samyak-sambodhi and will delight in the great Law If they are unable to hear sutras such as this, they will lose the opportunity to gain excellent benefits. But if beings such as these hear these sutras, they will surely believe and delight greatly in them and set their minds on a rare achievement. Therefore you must respectfully accept these and, considering how living beings can best gain benefits from them, expound them far and wide.

"Maitreya, you should understand that there are two types of bodhisattvas. What are these two types? The first type loves varied phrases and literary embellishment. The second is not afraid of deeper principles and is able to enter into the true meaning. If there are those who love varied phrases and literary embellishments, you máy be sure that they are beginners in the bodhisattva way. But if there are those who, approaching these extremely profound sutras, with their teachings on nondefilement and nonattachment, are not timid or fearful but can enter into the meaning and, having heard the sutras, with pure minds will accept, uphold, read, and recite them and practice them as the Law directs, you may be sure that they have been practicing the way for a long time.

"Again, Maitreya, there are two attitudes among those called beginners that prevent them from getting a firm grasp on these extremely profound teachings. What are these two? First is that of persons who, when they hear some profound sutra they have not heard before, are alarmed and timorous and, giving way to doubt, cannot bring themselves to comply with it. In their disbelief they speak slanderously of it, saying, 'I have never heard this before! Where does it come from?' Second is that of persons who, though there are those who guard, uphold, understand, and expound profound sutras of this type, are unwilling to associate closely with them, to offer them alms or treat them with respect, but at times may even speak of their faults before others. Where you find these two attitudes, you may be sure the persons are beginners in the bodhisattva way. They do injury to themselves and cannot train their minds to accept the profound teachings.

"Again, Maitreya, there are two attitudes among the bodhisattvas who, though they believe and understand the profound teachings, yet do injury to themselves and are unable to accept the truth of birthlessness. What are these two? First is that of persons who are contemptuous of beginner bodhisattvas and will not teach or enlighten them. Second is that of persons who, though they understand the profound teachings, seize upon surface appearances and make distinctions. These are the two attitudes."

The bodhisattva Maitreya, after listening to these words of exposition, addressed the Buddha, saying, "World-Honored One, this is something I have never heard before. It is as the Buddha has said. I must remove myself far off from evils such as these and strive to uphold this Law of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi that the Thus Come One has gathered over numberless asamkhya kalpas. If in the ages to come there are good men and good women who seek the Great Vehicle, I will see to it that sutras such as this come into their hands, will lend them powers of memorization, and will cause them to accept, uphold, read, and recite the sutras and expound them far and wide for others. World-Honored One, if in that latter age there are those who can accept, uphold, read, and recite them and expound them for others, you should know that all of them do so because I have inspired and strengthened them with my supernatural powers."

The Buddha said, "Excellent, excellent, Maitreya! It is as you have said. And the Buddha will assist you in your joyful task " ,

With this all the bodhisattvas, pressing their palms together, said to the Buddha, "After the Thus Come One has passed into extinction, we too will spread the Law of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi far and wide throughout the lands in the ten directions and will guide and assist those who expound the Law, seeing to it that they acquire this sutra."

Then the Four Heavenly Kings said to the Buddha, "World-Honored One, in the towns and villages, the mountain forests and the broad plain, wherever there are those who possess this sutra, read and recite it, understand and expound it, we will take our ranks of officials and underlings and go to where they are so that we may hear the Law and will shelter and protect them, making certain that no one approaches within a hundred yojanas of them on any side to try to take unfair advantage of them"

Then the Buddha said to Ananda, "You must accept and up-hold this sutra and propagate it far and wide."

Ananda replied, "Indeed I will! I have already accepted and upheld its essentials, World-Honored One. But by what name should this sutra be called?"

The Buddha said, "Ananda, this sutra should be called The Expositions of Vimalakirti. And another name for it is The Doctrine of the Emancipation Beyond Comprehension. This is how you should accept and uphold it."

When the Buddha had finished expounding this sutra, the rich man Vimalakirti, Manjushri, Shariputra, Ananda, and the others, along with the heavenly and human beings, asuras, and all the other members of the great assembly were filled with joy at hearing the preaching of the Buddha, [and they believed and accepted it and respectfully put it into practice.]1

The concluding passage in brackets is lacking in some versions of the text.

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