Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Lotus Sutra - Chapter 4 Faith Discernment

At that time Shariputra, ecstatic with joy, instantly rose up, folded his hands, and looking up at the honorable face, spoke to the Buddha, saying: "Now, hearing the sound of the Law from the World-honored One, I am filled with ecstasy, obtaining that which I have never experienced before. Wherefore? Because of yore when I heard of such a Law as this from the Buddha and saw bodhisattvas who were predicted to become buddhas, we were never prepared for these things and greatly distressed ourselves at having lost the Tathagata's infinite knowledge.

World-honored One! Constantly when dwelling alone in mountain forests or under trees, whether sitting or walking, I was occupied with this thought: 'We equally have entered the Law-nature.1 [But] why does the Tathagata save us by the small-vehicle law?' This is our own fault, not the World-honored One's. Wherefore? [Because] had we attended to his preaching in regard to the accomplishment of Perfect Enlightenment, we should certainly have been delivered by the Great-vehicle. Whereas we, not understanding [his] tactful method of opportune preaching, on first hearing the Buddha-law [only] casually believed, pondered, and bore witness to it.

World-honored One! Ever since then I have passed whole days and nights in self-reproach. But now, on hearing from the Buddha the unprecedented Law which I have never before heard, I have ended all my doubts and regrets, am at ease in body and mind, and am happily at rest. Today I indeed know that I am really a son of the Buddha, born from the mouth of the Buddha, evolved from the Law, and have obtained a place in the Buddha-law."

At that time Shariputra, desiring to announce this meaning over again, spoke thus in verse:

"I, hearing the voice of the Law,
Have obtained the unprecedented;
My heart is full of joy
And all nets of doubts are gone.
From of yore have I received the Buddha's teaching
And shall not miss the Great-vehicle.
The voice of the Buddha is very precious,
Able to rid all creatures of distress.
I, now freed from imperfections,
Hearing it, am also rid of anxiety.
When dwelling in mountain valleys
Or abiding under forest trees,
Whether sitting or walking to and fro,
I ever pondered on this matter
And deeply accused myself, lamenting:
'Why am I [so] self-deluding?
We also are Buddha-sons
Who have equally entered the faultless Law,
[Yet] we cannot, in the future,
Proclaim the supreme Way.
The golden thirty-two [signs],
The ten powers and [eight] emancipations
Are all included in the one Law,
Yet [I] do not attain them.
The eighty kinds of excellence,2
The eighteen unique characteristics,
Merits such as these
I have entirely missed.'
When alone I was walking to and fro
And saw the Buddha in the great assembly,
His fame filling the universe,
Abundantly benefiting all creatures,
I thought I had lost this advantage
And that I had deluded myself.
Always by day and by night
I ever pondered these things,
Desiring to ask the World-honored One
Whether I had lost [my opportunity] or not.
Ever did I see the World-honored One
Extolling the bodhisattvas;
Therefore by day and night
I have pondered such things as these.
Now I hear the voice of the Buddha
Opportunely preaching the Law,

Faultless and inscrutable,
Which causes all to reach the wisdom throne.
Formerly I was attached to heretical views,
Being a teacher of heretical mendicants.3
The World-honored One, knowing my heart,
Uprooted my heresy and taught me nirvana.
[Thus] having completely freed myself from heretical views
And obtained proof of the Law of the Void,
Then in my mind I said to myself:
'I have attained extinction.'
But now I have perceived
This is not the real extinction.
Whenever one becomes a buddha,
He possesses all the thirty-two signs;
Gods, men, and yakshas,
Dragons and other spirits revere him.
Then it may be said:
'Extinction is forever complete, nothing remaining.'
The Buddha in the great assembly
Proclaims [that] I shall become a buddha.
Hearing such a voice of the Law,
All doubts and regrets have been removed.
On first hearing the Buddha's preaching,
In my mind there was fear and doubt
Lest it might be Mara acting as Buddha,
Distressing and confusing my mind.
[But when] the Buddha, with various reasonings
And parables, speaks so skillfully,
One's heart is peaceful as the sea.
On hearing, my nets of doubts were broken.
The Buddha preaches that the infinite, extinct
Buddhas of past worlds
Calmly established [and] in tactful ways
All likewise expounded this Law.
The present and future buddhas,
Countless in their numbers,
Also with tactful ways
Proclaim such a Law as this.
The present World-honored One,
After his birth and leaving home,
Having gained the Way and rolled the Law-wheel,
Also has preached with tactfulness.
It is the World-honored One who preaches the true Way;
The Evil One4 has no [such] truths [as] these.
Hence I know for certain that
This is not Mara acting as Buddha,
But because I had fallen into nets of doubts,
I conceived it as the doing of Mara.
Hearing the gentle voice of the Buddha,
Profound and very refined,
Expounding the pure Law,
My heart is filled with joy,
My doubts and regrets are forever ended,
[I am] at rest in real wisdom.
I am sure I shall become a buddha,
Revered by gods and men,
And rolling the supreme Law-wheel,
Shall teach many bodhisattvas."

At that time the Buddha said to Shariputra: "Now I declare in this great assembly of gods, men, ascetics, Brahmans, and others. Of yore, in the presence of twenty thousand kotis of buddhas, for the sake of the supreme Way, I continuously taught you, while you also for long nights [and days] have followed me and received my teaching. By reason of my tactful guidance, you have been born into my Law. Shariputra! Of yore I caused you to resolve on the Buddha-way.

But you have now entirely forgotten it and so consider that you have attained extinction. Now again desiring to cause you to recollect the Way which you originally resolved to follow, I preach for all the shravakas this Great-vehicle sutra called the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law, by which bodhisattvas are instructed and which the buddhas watch over and keep in mind.

"Shariputra! In a world to come, after infinite, boundless, and inconceivable kalpas, when you shall have served some thousand myriad kotis of buddhas, maintained the Right Law, and completed the way which bodhisattvas walk, you shall become a buddha whose title will be Flower Light Tathagata, Worshipful, All Wise, Perfectly Enlightened in Conduct, Well Departed, Understander of the World, Peerless Leader, Controller, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha, World-honored One, and whose domain shall be named Undefiled, whose land will be level and straight, pure and ornate, peaceful and prosperous, replete with celestial people; with lapis lazuli for earth, having eight intersecting roads with golden cords to bound their cities, and by each road a line of precious-seven trees always [filled] with flowers and fruits. The Tathagata Flower Light also will teach and convert all living creatures by the three vehicles.

"Shariputra! When that buddha appears, though it is not in an evil age, he will preach the three-vehicle Law because of his original vow. Its kalpa will be named Ornate with Great Jewels. For what reason is it named Ornate with Great Jewels? Because in that domain the bodhisattvas are considered the great jewels. These bodhisattvas will be infinite, boundless, inconceivable, beyond computation or compare, such as none can apprehend who has not a buddha's wisdom.

Whenever they walk, jewel flowers will receive their feet. These bodhisattvas will not have started in this conception for the first time, for all of them will have cultivated the roots of virtue for a long time, purely performing noble deeds under infinite hundred thousand myriad kotis of buddhas, being always praised by buddhas, constantly practicing the Buddha-wisdom, perfecting the great spiritually pervading [power], knowing well the way of all the laws, and being upright and genuine [in character], firm in will and thought. Such bodhisattvas as these will fill that domain.

"Shariputra! The lifetime of the Buddha Flower Light will be twelve minor kalpas, except the time during which he, being a prince, has not yet become a buddha. And the lifetime of the people of his domain will be eight minor kalpas. The Tathagata Flower Light, at the expiration of twelve minor kalpas, will predict the future destiny of the Bodhisattva Full of Firmness5 to Perfect Enlightenment and will declare to all the bhikshus:

'This Bodhisattva Full of Firmness shall next become a buddha, whose title will be Calmly Walking on Flowery Feet Tathagata, Arhat, Samyaksambodhi. The domain of the buddha also will be of like character.'

"Shariputra! After the extinction of this Flower Light Buddha, the Righteous Law will abide in the world during thirty-two minor kalpas and [then] the Counterfeit Law will also abide in the world during thirty-two minor kalpas."
At that time the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:

"Shariputra! In an age to come,
You shall become a buddha, honored for universal wisdom,6
By name and title Flower Light,
And you shall save innumerable creatures.
Paying homage to numberless buddhas,
Perfecting bodhisattva-actions
And the merits of the ten powers and so on,
It shall be evident that [you have attained] the supreme Way.
After infinite kalpas have passed
There will be a kalpa named Ornate with Great Jewels,
And a world named Undefiled,
Pure and flawless,
With lapis lazuli for its ground,
With golden cords defining its ways,
With trees variegated by the precious seven,
Always having flowers and fruits.
All the bodhisattvas of that domain,
Ever firm in will and thought,
Of supernatural powers and paramitas
All in complete possession,
Under numberless buddhas
Having well learned the bodhisattva-way:
Such leaders as these
Shall be converted by the Buddha Flower Light.
[That] buddha, when he is a prince,
Will abandon his domain and give up earthly glory,
And in his last bodily existence
Will leave home and achieve the Buddha-way.
The Buddha Flower Light will dwell in the world
For a lifetime of twelve minor kalpas,
And the people of his domain
Will live for eight minor kalpas.
After that buddha's extinction
The Righteous Law will abide in the world
For thirty-two minor kalpas,
Widely saving living creatures.
At the expiration of Righteous Law,
The Counterfeit Law [will abide] for thirty-two [minor kalpas].
His relics will be widely dispersed,
Universally worshiped by gods and men.
The doings of the Buddha Flower Light,
Such as these will be his deeds.
That most holy honored of men,
Most excellent and incomparable,
He is really you yourself;
Therefore rejoice and be glad."

At that time all the four groups of bhikshus, bhikshunis, upasakas, and upasikas, and gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, and others, all the great assembly, seeing that Shariputra in the presence of the Buddha had received his prediction of Perfect Enlightenment, rejoiced greatly in unbounded ecstasy, each divesting himself of the robe he wore and offering it in homage to the Buddha, while Shakra Devendra, the Lord Brahma, and others, with countless divine sons, also paid homage to the Buddha with wonderful heavenly robes and celestial mandarava flowers, maha-mandarava flowers, and so on.

The celestial robes bestrewed, remaining in the sky, whirled round of themselves and hundreds of thousands of myriads of sorts of heavenly musical instruments all at once made music in the sky. And, raining numerous heavenly flowers, they uttered these words: "Of old at Varanasi the Buddha first rolled the wheel of the Law and now again rolls the supreme and greatest Law-wheel."

Thereupon all the divine sons, desiring to announce this meaning over again, spoke [thus] in verse:

"Of old, at Varanasi,
[Thou] didst roll the Law-wheel of the Four Noble Truths
And discriminately preach the laws
Of the rise and extinction of the five aggregates,
And now again thou dost roll the most wonderful,
Supreme, great wheel of the Law,
The Law which is extremely profound
And which few are able to believe.
We for a long time past
Have often heard the World-honored One preach,
[But] we have never before heard such
A profound, mystic, and supreme Law.
The World-honored One preaching this Law,
We all follow it with joy.
The great wise Shariputra
Now has received the Honored One's prediction.
We also in like manner
Must certainly become buddhas,
Who in all worlds
Are the most honored and peerless.
The Buddha-way is beyond conception
And is preached by opportune tactful methods.
May all our happy karma
In the present world or past worlds,
And the merit of seeing the Buddha,
All turn to the Way of buddhahood."

Thereupon Shariputra spoke to the Buddha, saying: "World-honored One! I now have no doubts or regrets. In person, before the Buddha, I have received my prediction of Perfect Enlightenment. [But] these twelve hundred self-controlled ones, who of yore abode in the [four] stages of learning,7 were always instructed by the Buddha, saying: 'My Law is able to give freedom from birth, decrepitude, disease, and death, and the final attainment of nirvana.' Each of these who are under training and no longer under training is also free from [false] views about the self and about 'existence' or 'nonexistence,' and considers he has attained nirvana. But now, in the presence of the Buddha, hearing that which they have never heard before, they have all fallen into doubts and perplexities.

Good! World-honored One! Please state the reasons to the four groups so that they may be free from doubts and regrets."

Then the Buddha spoke to Shariputra: "Have I not before said that the buddhas, the world-honored ones, by various reasonings, parables, and terms preach the Law tactfully, all for the purpose of Perfect Enlightenment? All these teachings are for the purpose of transforming bodhisattvas. But Shariputra! Let me now again in a parable make this meaning still more clear, [for] intelligent people through a parable reach understanding.

"Shariputra! Suppose in a [certain] kingdom, city, or town there is a great elder, old and worn, of boundless wealth, and possessing many fields, houses, slaves, and servants. His house is spacious and large, having only one door, and with many people dwelling in it, one hundred, two hundred, or even five hundred in number. Its halls and chambers are decayed and old, its walls crumbling, the bases of its pillars rotten, the beams and rooftree toppling and dangerous. On every side at the same moment fire suddenly starts and the house is in flames. The sons of the elder, say ten, twenty, or even thirty, are in this dwelling. The elder, on seeing this conflagration spring up on every side, is greatly startled and reflects thus:

'Though I am able to get safely out of this burning house, yet my children in the burning house are pleasurably absorbed in amusements, without apprehension, knowledge, surprise, or fear. Though the fire is pressing upon them and pain and suffering are imminent, they do not mind or fear and have no impulse to escape.'
"Shariputra! This elder ponders thus: 'I am strong in my body and arms. Shall I get them out of the house by means of a flower vessel,8 or a bench,9 or a table?'10 Again he ponders: 'This house has only one gate; moreover, it is narrow and small; [my] children are young, knowing nothing as yet and attached to their place of play; perchance they will fall into and be burned in the fire.

I must speak to them on this dreadful matter, [warning them] that the house is burning and that they must come out instantly lest they be burned and injured by the fire.' Having reflected thus, according to his thoughts, he notifies his children: 'Come out quickly, all of you!'

"Though the father, in his pity, lures and admonishes with kind words, yet the children, joyfully attached to their play, are unwilling to believe him and have neither surprise nor fear, nor any mind to escape; moreover, they do not know what is the fire [he means], or what the house, and what he means by being lost, but only run hither and thither in play, glancing at their father. Then the elder reflects thus: 'This house is burning in a great conflagration. If I and my children do not get out at once, we shall certainly be burned up by it. Let me now by some tactful means cause my children to escape this disaster.' Knowing that to which each of his children is predisposed and all the various attractive playthings and curiosities to which their natures will joyfully respond, the father informs them, saying:

'The things with which you are fond of playing, so rare and precious--if you do not [come and] get them, you will be sorry for it afterward. Such a variety of goat carts, deer carts, and bullock carts is now outside the gate to play with. All of you must come quickly out of this burning house, and I will give you whatever you want.' Thereupon the children, learning of the attractive playthings mentioned by their father, and because they suit their wishes, every one eagerly, each pushing the other and racing against each other, comes scrambling out of the burning house.

"Then the elder, seeing his children have safely escaped and are all in the square, sits down in the open, no longer troubled but with a mind at ease and ecstatic with joy. Then each of the children says to their father: 'Father! Please now give us those lovely things you promised us to play with, goat carts, deer carts, and bullock carts.' Shariputra! Then the elder gives to each of his children equally a great cart, lofty and spacious, adorned with all the precious things, surrounded with railed seats, hung with bells on its four sides, and covered with curtains, splendidly decorated also with various rare and precious things, linked with strings of precious stones, hung with garlands of flowers, thickly spread with beautiful mats, supplied with rosy pillows, yoked with white bullocks of pure [white] skin, of handsome appearance, and of great muscular power, which walk with even steps and with the speed of the wind, having also many servants and followers to guard them. Wherefore? Because this great elder is of boundless wealth and all his various treasuries and granaries are full to overflowing. So he reflects thus: 'My possessions being boundless, I must not give my children inferior small carts. All these children are my sons, whom I love without partiality. Having such great carts made of the precious seven, infinite in number, I should with equal mind bestow them on each one without discrimination.

Wherefore? Because if I gave them to the whole nation, these things of mine would not run short--how much less to my children!' Meanwhile each of the children rides on his great cart, having got that which he had never had before and never expected to have. Shariputra! What is your opinion? Has that elder, in giving great carts of the precious substances to his children equally, been somewhat guilty of falsehood?"

Shariputra said: "No, World-honored One! That elder only caused his children to escape the disaster of fire and preserved their bodies alive--he committed no falsity. Why? He has in such a manner preserved their bodies alive and also they have obtained those playthings; how much more by tactful means has he saved them from that burning house! World-honored One! Even if that elder did not give them one of the smallest carts, still he is not false. Wherefore? [Because] that elder from the first formed this intention: 'I will by tactful means cause my children to escape.' For this reason he is not false. How much less [so] seeing that this elder, knowing his own boundless wealth and desiring to benefit his children, gives them great carts equally!"

The Buddha said to Shariputra: "Good! Good! It is even as you say. Shariputra! The Tathagata is also like this, for he is the father of all worlds, who has forever entirely ended all [his] fear, despondency, distress, ignorance, and umbrageous darkness and has perfected [his] boundless knowledge, powers, and fearlessness; is possessed of great spiritual power and wisdom; has completely attained the paramitas of tactfulness and wisdom; who is the greatly merciful and greatly compassionate, ever tireless, ever seeking the good, and benefiting all beings. And he is born in [this] triple world, the old decayed burning house, to save all living creatures from the fires of birth, old age, disease, death, grief, suffering, foolishness, darkness, and the three poisons, and teach them to obtain Perfect Enlightenment.

He sees how all living creatures are scorched by [the fires of] birth, old age, disease, death, grief, and sorrow, and suffer various kinds of distress by reason of the five desires and the [greed for] gain; and how, by reason of the attachments of desire and [its] pursuits, they now endure much suffering and hereafter will suffer in hell, or as animals or hungry spirits; even if they are born in a heaven, or amongst men, there are such various kinds of sufferings as poverty, distress, separation from loved ones, and union with hateful beings.

Absorbed in these things, all living creatures rejoice and take their pleasure, while they neither apprehend nor perceive, are neither alarmed nor fear, and are without satiety, never seeking to escape but in the burning house of this triple world running about hither and thither, and although they will meet with great suffering, count it not a cause for anxiety.

"Shariputra! The Buddha, having seen this, then reflects thus: 'I am the father of all creatures and I must snatch them from suffering and give them the bliss of the infinite, boundless Buddha-wisdom for them to play with.'

"Shariputra! The Tathagata again reflects thus: 'If I only use spiritual power and wisdom, casting aside every tactful method, and extol for the sake of all living creatures the wisdom, powers, and fearlessness of the Tathagata, living creatures cannot by this method be saved. Wherefore? As long as all these creatures have never escaped birth, old age, disease, death, grief, and suffering, but are being burned in the burning house of the triple world, how can they understand the Buddha-wisdom?'

"Shariputra! Even as that elder, though with power in body and arms, yet does not use it but only by diligent tact resolutely saves [his] children from the calamity of the burning house and then gives each of them great carts made of precious things, so is it with the Tathagata; though he has power and fearlessness, he does not use them, but only by his wise tact does he remove and save all living creatures from the burning house of the triple world, preaching the three vehicles: the shravaka, pratyekabuddha, and Buddha vehicles. And thus he speaks to them: 'All of you! Do not delight to dwell in the burning house of the triple world. Do not hanker after [its] crude forms, sounds, odors, flavors, and contacts.

[For] if, through hankering, you beget a love [of it], then you will be burned by it. Get you out of the triple world and attain to the three vehicles, the shravaka, pratyekabuddha, and Buddha vehicles. I now give you my pledge for this, and it will never prove false. Do you only be diligent and zealous!' By these tactful means does the Tathagata lure all creatures forth, and again speaks thus: 'Know ye! All these three vehicles are praised by sages; [in them you will be] free and independent, without wanting to rely on anything else. Riding in these three vehicles, by means of perfect faculties,11 powers,12 perceptions,13 ways,14 concentrations, emancipations, and contemplations, you will as a matter of course be happy and gain infinite peace and joy.'

"Shariputra! If there are living beings who have a spirit of wisdom within and, following the Buddha, the World-honored One, hear the Law, receive it in faith, and zealously make progress, desiring speedily to escape from the triple world and seeking nirvana for themselves, these will [have the vehicle] named the shravaka-vehicle, just as some of those children come out of the burning house for the sake of a goat cart. If there are living beings who, following the Buddha, the World-honored One, hear the Law, receive it in faith, and zealously make progress, seeking self-gained wisdom,15 delighting in the tranquillity of [their] individual goodness, and deeply versed in the causes and reasons of the laws, these will [have the vehicle] named the pratyekabuddha-vehicle, just as some of those children come out of the burning house for the sake of a deer cart.

If there are living beings who, following the Buddha, the World-honored One, hear the law, receive it in faith, diligently practice, and zealously advance, seeking the complete wisdom, the wisdom of the Buddha, the natural wisdom, the wisdom without a teacher, and the knowledge, powers, and fearlessness of the Tathagata, who take pity on and comfort innumerable creatures, benefit gods and men, and save all [beings], these will [have the vehicle] named the Great-vehicle. Because the bodhisattvas seek this vehicle, they are named mahasattvas. They are like those children who come out of the burning house for the sake of a bullock cart.

"Shariputra! Just as that elder, seeing his children get out of the burning house safely to a place free from fear, and, pondering on his immeasurable wealth, gives each of his children a great cart, so also is it with the Tathagata. Being the father of all living creatures, if he sees infinite thousands of kotis of creatures by the teaching of the Buddha escape from the suffering of the triple world, from fearful and perilous paths, and gain the joys of nirvana, the Tathagata then reflects thus: 'I possess infinite, boundless wisdom, power, fearlessness, and other Law-treasuries of buddhas. All these living creatures are my sons to whom I will equally give the Great-vehicle, so that there will be no one who gains an individual nirvana,16 but all [gain] nirvana by the same nirvana as the Tathagata.

All these living creatures who escape the triple world are given the playthings of buddhas, concentrations, emancipations, and others, all of one form and one kind, praised by sages and able to produce pure, supreme pleasure.' Shariputra! Even as that elder at first attracted his children by the three carts and afterward gave them only a great cart magnificently adorned with precious things and supremely restful, yet that elder is not guilty of falsehood, so also is it with the Tathagata: there is no falsehood in first preaching three vehicles to attract all living creatures and afterward saving by the Great-vehicle only.

Wherefore? Because the Tathagata possesses infinite wisdom, power, fearlessness, and the treasury of the laws, and is able to give all living creatures the Great-vehicle Law, but not all are able to receive it. Shariputra! For this reason know that the buddhas, by their tactful powers, in the One Buddha-vehicle discriminate and expound the three."

The Buddha, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:

"Suppose there is an elder
Who has a large house,
And for long this house has been old,
Is also falling and decayed,
With lofty halls in dangerous condition,
Pillar bases broken and rotten,
Beams and rooftree toppling and leaning,
Foundation and steps in a state of collapse,
Walls and partitions ruined and cracked,
Their plaster crumbling away,
Thatch in disorder and dropping,
Rafters and eaves awry and slipping,
Its surrounding fences bent and distorted,
Filled with all kinds of refuse.
Five hundred people
Are dwelling within it.
Owls, hawks, and vultures,
Crows, magpies, pigeons, doves,
Black snakes, vipers, scorpions,
Centipedes, millipedes,
Geckos, galley worms,
Weasels, ferrets, rats, and mice,
All sorts of evil creatures,
Run about in every direction;
There are places stinking with excrement and urine,
Overflowing with uncleanliness,
Where dung beetles and worms
Flock together.
Foxes, wolves, and jackals
Bite and trample each other
To gnaw [human] carcasses,
Scattering their bones and flesh.
Following these, packs of dogs
Come, striving to snatch and grab,
And gaunt with hunger skulk about
Seeking food everywhere,
Quarreling and scuffling,
Snarling and barking.
Such is the fearfulness of that house
Full of variety.
In every direction there are
Goblins and ogres,17
Yakshas and malign demons,
Who devour the flesh of men;
All sorts of venomous insects
And evil birds and brutes
Hatch or suckle their broods,
Each hiding and protecting its own;
Yakshas come striving with each other
To seize and eat them;
When they have eaten their fill,
Their evil minds become inflamed,
And the sound of their quarreling
Is dreadful in the extreme
Kumbhanda demons
Crouch on the earth and mold,
Sometimes springing from the ground
A foot or two high,
Wandering about to and fro,
Giving full rein to their sports;
Seizing dogs by their feet,
Striking them so that they lose their voices,
Twisting their legs around their necks,
Frightening dogs for their own amusement.
Also there are demons
Tall of stature,
Naked, black, and lean,
Always dwelling in that [house],
Who emit great and dreadful sounds,
Bellowing in search of food.
Again there are demons
With throats [narrow] as a needle.
And there are demons
With heads like a bullock's.
Some eat human flesh,
Some devour dogs;
Their locks are all disheveled,
They are cruel and fiendish,
And, oppressed by hunger and thirst,
Race about crying and calling.
Yakshas and hungry ghosts,
Evil birds and brutes
Hungrily hurry in all directions,
Peeping and looking through window and lattice.
Such are its plagues,
Terrible beyond measure.
This decaying old house
Belongs to a man
Who has just gone outside
But a little while ago,
Whereupon that house
Of a sudden catches fire.
All at once, in every direction,
Its flames are in full blaze;
Rooftree, beams, rafters, pillars
With cracking sound burst open,
Break, split, and topple down;
Walls and partitions crumble.
Demons and spirits
Bellow and cry aloud;
Hawks, vultures, and other birds,
Kumbhanda demons and others
Hurry about in alarm,
Powerless to escape.
Evil beasts and venomous insects
Hide away in holes and cavities;
Pishacaka demons
Also take up their abode therein.
For lack of merits
They are driven by the fire,
Cruelly hurting each other,
Supping and devouring each other's flesh and blood.
Creatures of the jackal tribe
Are already dead in herds.
The bigger evil beasts
Come striving to devour [them].
Fetid smoke and bursting flames
Fill and choke the surrounding [air].
Centipedes and millipedes
And all kinds of venomous snakes,
Burned by the fire,
Run contending from their holes.
Kumbhanda demons
Thereon seize and eat them.
And hungry demons,
Their heads ablaze with fire,
Tormented with hunger, thirst, and heat,
Rush about confused and in distress.
Such is the state of that house,
Dreadful in the extreme,
With horrid calamities and conflagration
And disasters not a few.
At this very time the master of the house
Is standing outside the gate,
When he hears someone saying:
'All of your children
A little while ago in their play
Came into this house
In their youth and ignorance,
Enjoying themselves with their amusements.'
On hearing this, the elder
In alarm enters the burning house,
With intent to save them
From the harm of burning.
So he tells his children
Of all the [impending] dangers, saying:
'There are evil demons and venomous worms,
And calamitous fire is spreading;
Sufferings upon sufferings
Follow each other unceasing;
Venomous snakes and vipers,
All kinds of yakshas,
Kumbhanda demons,
Jackals, foxes, and dogs,
Hawks, vultures, owls,
And all sorts of galley worms
Are tormented by hunger and thirst
And to be feared in the extreme.
Even these distresses are hard to deal with;
How much more this conflagration?'
The children, unheeding,
Though they hear their father's admonition,
Remain attached to their pleasures
And do not stop their play.
Thereupon the elder
Begins to reflect thus:
'My children, [acting] in this manner,
Add to my anxiety and distress.
Now this house [really]
Has nothing to delight in,
Yet all my children,
Bewitched by their play,
Take no notice of my instructions
And will be injured by the fire.'
Instantly he ponders,
Arranges a device,
And says to his children:
'I have many varieties
Of rare playthings,
Excellent carts wonderfully bejeweled,
Goat carts and deer carts
And great bullock carts,
Now all just outside the door;
Come out, all of you!
I, for your sakes,
Have made these carts.
You may roam and play with them
At your own will and pleasure.'
When the children hear him tell
Of such carts as these,
They immediately rush in rivalry,
Scampering forth,
And reach the open ground,
Away from harm.
The elder, seeing his children
Escape from the burning house,
Takes his place in the square,
Sitting on the lion throne,
And congratulates himself, saying:
'Now I am joyful.
All these children,
Brought up with so much difficulty,
Stupid, little, and ignorant,
Entered this dangerous house,
Abounding with venomous worms
And fearful goblins.
Conflagrations and raging flames
Broke out on every side,
But all these children were
Fascinated by their play.
Now I have rescued them
And caused them to escape from harm.
Therefore, all you people!
Now I am joyful.'
Then the children,
Knowing their father is sitting at ease,
All come to the father
And speak to the father, saying:
'Please give to us
The three kinds of precious carts
As you promised, [saying]:
"If you children come out,
I will give you three carts
And you can [choose] whichever you like."
Now is the very time;
Be pleased to give them [to us].'
The elder is very rich
And has treasuries full of
Gold, silver, lapis lazuli,
Moonstone, and agate.
With all kinds of precious things
[He has] made great carts,
Magnificently adorned and splendidly decorated,
Surrounded with railed seats,
Hung with bells on every side,
Strung with golden cords,
And with networks of pearls
Spread over them;
Festoons of golden flowers
Hang down here and there;
Many colors and varied decorations
Surround and encircle;
Soft silks and silk floss
Make the cushions;
The best quality of fine felt,
Worth thousands of kotis,
Snow white and pure,
Is spread above [the cushions].
There are great white bullocks,
Sleek, strong, and active,
Of finest shape,
Yoked to the precious carts;
There are numerous retinues
Tending and guarding them.
These excellent carts
Are equally given to all the children.
Then the children,
Ecstatic with joy,
Riding these precious carts,
Roam in every direction,
Playing joyfully
Just as they wish, without hindrance.
I tell you, Shariputra!
I also am like this,
The most honored of all the sages,
The father of the world;
All living beings
Are my sons
[But] are deeply attached to earthly pleasures
And without wisdom.
The triple world is not safe,
Just as the burning house,
Full of all kinds of sufferings,
Was greatly to be feared.
Ever there are distresses of birth,
Old age, disease, and death;
Such fires as these
Are burning ceaselessly.
The Tathagata, freed from
The burning house of the triple world,
Tranquilly lives in seclusion,
Abiding in peace in the woodland.
Now this triple world
All is my domain;
The living beings in it
All are my sons.
But now this place
Abounds with distresses;
And I alone
Am able to save and protect them.18
Though I taught and admonished them,
Yet they did not believe,
For they were imbued with desires
To which they were greedily attached.
Therefore, tactfully
I tell them of the three vehicles
Which cause all living beings
To know the sufferings of the triple world,
And reveal and expound
The way of escaping from the world.
If all these sons
Are resolved in their minds,
They will perfectly have the three clear views
And the six transcendent faculties,
And will become pratyekabuddhas
Or bodhisattvas who never slide back.19
I, for the sake of all beings,
By means of this parable
Preach the One Buddha-vehicle.
If all of you are able
To receive these words in faith,
You shall all be able
To accomplish the Buddha-way.
This vehicle is wonderful,
Pure, and supreme;
In all the worlds
There is nothing more exalted;
It is that which the Buddha rejoices in
And which all living creatures
Should praise,
Worship, and adore.
Infinite thousands of kotis
Of powers, emancipations,
Meditations, and wisdom,
And the Buddha's other laws:
Such is the vehicle provided20
To cause all my sons,
Night and day for many kalpas,
Ever to take their recreation in it,
With bodhisattvas
As well as shravakas
Riding in this precious vehicle
Directly to the wisdom throne.
For these causes and reasons,
[Though] one searches in every direction,
There is no other vehicle
Except the Buddha's device.21
I tell you, Shariputra!
All you people
Are my sons;
I then am father.
You, for successive kalpas
Burning in many sufferings,
Have I wholly rescued,
That you may escape the triple world.
Though I previously preached that
You [would attain] extinction,
You have only become free from birth and death,
And have not [attained] real extinction.
What you have now to do
Is only [to attain] the Buddha-wisdom.
If there be any bodhisattvas
Amongst this assembly,
Be you able wholeheartedly to obey
The real Law of the buddhas.
Though buddhas, world-honored ones,
[Convert] by tactful methods,
[Yet] living creatures transformed by them
Are all bodhisattvas.
If there are any of little wit
Who are deeply attached to desires and passions,
[The Buddha] for their sake
Preaches the truth of suffering.
All the living with joyful hearts
Attain the unprecedented.
The truth of suffering preached by the Buddha
Is real without differentiation.
If there are any living beings
Who do not know the source of suffering,
Deeply attached to the cause of suffering,
And unable to forsake it even for a moment,
[The Buddha] for the sake of them
Preaches the Way22 by tactful methods, [saying]:
'The cause of all suffering
Is rooted in desire.'
If desire be extinguished,
[Suffering] has no foothold.
To annihilate all suffering
Is called the third truth.
For the sake of the truth of extinction
To observe and walk in the Way,
Forsaking all bonds of suffering,
This is called the attaining of emancipation.
From what have these people
Attained emancipation?
Merely to depart from the false
Is called emancipation.
But they have not yet really attained
Entire emancipation.
[So] the Buddha declares that these people
Have not yet really reached extinction.
Because these people have not yet gained
The supreme Way,
I am unwilling [to declare]
That they have attained extinction.
I am the king of the Law,
Absolute in regard to the Law,
Pacifying all creatures,
And therefore appear in the world.
This my seal of the Law,23
Because of my desire to benefit
All the world, is [now] expounded
Wherever you roam;
Do not recklessly proclaim it.
If there be any hearers
Who joyfully receive with profound obeisance,24
You may know these people
Are of avivartika.
If there be any who receive
This sutra-law in faith,
These people must have already
Seen buddhas of past times,
Revered and worshiped them,
And heard this Law.
If there be any people who are able
To believe your preaching,
They must have seen me
And also seen you
And these bhikshus,
As well as [these] bodhisattvas.25
This Law-Flower Sutra
Is preached for [men of] profound wisdom.26
Men of shallow knowledge, hearing it,
Go astray, not understanding.
All the shravakas
And pratyekabuddhas
Cannot by their powers
Attain this sutra.
Even you into this sutra
Can [only] enter by faith;
How much [more difficult] for the other shravakas.
All the other shravakas,
Because of believing the Buddha's words,
Obediently follow this sutra;
But it is not that they themselves have knowledge.
Again, Shariputra!
To those who are haughty and lazy27
And to those with self-centered views,
Do not preach this sutra.
Common shallow people
Deeply attached to the five desires,
Who on hearing cannot apprehend,
Do not preach it to them.
If any people do not believe in
And vilify this sutra,
Then they cut [themselves] off [from] all
The buddha-seeds in the worlds;28
Or if again they sullenly frown,
And cherish doubts and perplexities,
Listen to my declaration
Concerning the recompense of such people's sin:
Whether during the Buddha's lifetime
Or after his extinction,
If there be any who slander
Such a sutra as this,
Who, seeing those who read and recite,
Write or hold this sutra,
Scorn and despise, hate and envy them
And bear them a tenacious grudge.
Concerning the recompense of such people's sin,
Listen now again:
After their lifetimes end
They will enter into the Avici hell
For a complete kalpa,
Being born again at each kalpa's end
And thus revolving
In innumerable kalpas;
When they come out of hell,
They will be degraded to animals,
Such as dogs or jackals,
With lean-cheeked forms,
Blue-black, with scabs and sores,
Knocked about by men;
Moreover, by men
Hated and scorned,
Constantly suffering hunger and thirst,
Bones and flesh withered.
During life beaten with thorns29
And after death with potsherds and stones,
Because of cutting [themselves] off from the buddha-seed
They receive such recompense for their sin.
Perhaps they become camels,
Or are born amongst asses,
Always carrying burdens on their backs,
Being beaten with sticks,
Thinking only of water and grass,
Knowing nothing else.
Because of slandering this sutra,
Such is their punishment.
Some[times] becoming jackals,
They enter a village,
Their bodies scabbed with sores,
Having not even an eye,
By all the boys
Beaten and stoned,
Suffering bitter pains,
At times even [beaten] to death.
When they have thus died,
Again they each receive a serpent's body
Of a shape as long as
Five hundred yojanas.
Deaf and stupid, without feet,
They wriggle about on their bellies,
By many kinds of insects
Stung and devoured,
Day and night in misery,
With never any rest.
Because of slandering this sutra,
Such is their punishment.
Should they become human beings,
Their powers [of life] are blunted,
Short and ugly, palsied and lame,
Blind, deaf, and humpbacked;
Whatever they may say,
People do not believe;
Their breath is vile,
They are possessed by demons,
They are needy and menial,
Ordered about by others,
Often ill and emaciated,
Having none on whom to rely;
Though they are dependent on others,
These take no notice of them;
Even if they gain anything,
They instantly forget and lose it;
If they make use of means of healing
And follow the usual methods of treatment,
Other ailments will only be added,
Or, again, they will cause [their patients] to die;
If they themselves are ill,
None will save and cure them;
Though they take good medicine,
[Their disease] becomes increasingly severe;
If other people cause rebellion,
And plunder and rob,
For such crimes as these
The retribution pervertedly falls on them.
Such sinners as these
Never see the Buddha,
The king of all the holy ones,
Who preaches the Law, instructs, and transforms.
Such sinners as these
Are always born in distress;
Mad, deaf, and confused in mind,
They never hear the Law;
During kalpas innumerable
As the sands of the Ganges,
Whenever they are born they are deaf and dumb
And with deficient natural powers;
They constantly dwell in the hells
As their pleasure gardens,
Or in other evil states
As their dwellings;
Among asses, hogs, and dogs
Are the places where they [must] go.
Because of slandering this sutra,
Such is their punishment.
If they become human beings,
They are deaf, blind, and dumb,
Poor, needy, and feeble,
As their own ornament;
Dropsy and scurf,
Scabs, sores, and abscesses,
All such ills as these
Will be there apparel.
Their bodies are always fetid abodes,
Filthy and unclean;
They are deeply absorbed in themselves,
They become angrier and angrier,
Their carnal passions are utterly inflamed,
They are no better than animals;
Because of slandering this sutra,
Such is their punishment.
I say [to you], Shariputra!
Those who slander this sutra,
If I told the tale of their evils,
I could not exhaust them in a whole kalpa.
For this cause and reason
I especially say to you:
Amongst undiscerning people,
Do not preach this sutra.
If there be any who are clever,
Of clear wisdom,
Learned and of strong memory,
Who seek after the Buddha-way,
To such people as these,
Then, you may preach it.
If any have ever seen
Hundreds of thousands of kotis of buddhas,
Cultivated many roots of goodness,
And been firm in their innermost minds,
To such people as these,
Then, you may preach it.
If any have zealously progressed,
Constantly maintained kindly hearts,
And never spared body and life,
Then you may preach it to them.
If any have been reverent,
With unvarying mind,
Having left all the ignorant
And dwelt alone in mountains and swamps,
To such people as these,
Then, you may preach it.
Again, Shariputra!
If you see any
Who give up bad friends
And make friends of the good,
To such people as these,
Then, you may preach it.
If you see Buddha-sons
Who keep the commands in purity,
Like pure bright jewels,
Who seek the Great-vehicle sutra,
To such people as these
Then, you may preach it.
If any be free from irascibility,
Of upright character and patient,
Always compassionate to all beings
And reverent to the buddhas,
To such people as these,
Then, you may preach it.
Further, if there be Buddha-sons
Who, in the general assembly,
With pure hearts,
By various reasonings,
Parables, and expressions,
Expound the Law without hesitation,
To such people as these
Then, you may preach it.
If there be bhikshus
Who, for the sake of perfect knowledge,
Seek the Law in every direction,
Folding their hands in profound obeisance,
Only pleased to receive and keep
The Great-vehicle sutra,
Even without accepting
A single verse of any other sutra,
To such people as these,
Then, you may preach it.
Like a man who with all his mind
Seeks for the Buddha's relics,
So those who seek the sutra and,
Having obtained it, receive it with profound obeisance,
And who are not again
Bent on seeking other sutras,
And also have never minded
Books of other philosophies,
To such people as these
Then, you may preach it.
I say to you, Shariputra!
Were I to speak [in detail] of [all] these kinds
Of seekers after the Buddha-way,
In a whole kalpa I could not finish.
Such people as these
Are able to believe and discern.
You should to them preach
The Sutra of the Flower of the Wonderful Law.