Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law Chapter 4 - Faith Discernment

At that time the wisdom-destined Subhuti, Maha-Katyayana, Maha-Kashyapa, and Maha-Maudgalyayana, hearing from the Buddha the unprecedented Law and the prediction by the World-honored One of Shariputra's [future destiny of] Perfect Enlightenment, were struck with wonder and ecstatic with joy. Thereupon they rose from their seats, and, arranging their garments, humbly baring their right shoulders, placing their right knees on the ground, with one mind folding their hands, bending their bodies in reverence, and gazing upon his honored face, addressed the Buddha, saying:

"We, heads of the monks, in years moreover worn out, consider that we have attained nirvana, and that there is nothing more we are able to undertake, so we do not press forward to seek after Perfect Enlightenment. The World-honored One for a long time has been preaching the Law, and we all the time seated in our places have become weary in our bodies and neglectful, only thinking of the void, of the formless, and of nonfunction,1 but in regard to the bodhisattva-laws, their supernatural displays, the purifying of the buddha-lands, and the perfecting of all living beings, our hearts have not taken delight. Wherefore? [Because we have fancied that] the World-honored One had caused us to escape the triple world and to obtain [proof of] nirvana, and besides, now we are [so] worn with age that in regard to Perfect Enlightenment, for which the Buddha instructs bodhisattvas, we have not conceived a single fond thought of joy.

Now we, in the presence of the Buddha, hearing that shravakas are predicted to [attain] Perfect Enlightenment, are extremely glad in our minds and have obtained that which we have never experienced before. Unexpectedly we now of a sudden hear this rare Law. Profoundly do we congratulate ourselves [on] having acquired so great and good a gain, an inestimable jewel, without the seeking. World-honored One! Now let us have the pleasure of speaking in a parable to make plain this meaning.

"It is like a man who, in his youth, leaves his father and runs away. For long he dwells in some other country, for ten, twenty, or fifty years. The older he grows, the more needy he becomes. Roaming about in all directions to seek clothing and food, he gradually wanders along till he unexpectedly approaches his native country. From the first the father searched for this son, but in vain, and meanwhile settled in a [certain] city. His home became very rich, his goods and treasures incalculable: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, coral, amber, crystal, and other gems, so that his granaries and treasuries overflow; he has many youths and slaves, retainers and attendants, and numberless elephants, horses, carriages, animals to ride, cows, and sheep. His revenues and investments spread to other countries, and his traders and customers are many in the extreme.

"At this time the poor son, wandering through village after village and passing through countries and cities, at last reaches the city where his father has settled. The father has always been thinking of his son, and though he has been parted from him over fifty years, he has never spoken of the matter to anyone, only pondering it himself and cherishing regret in his heart as he reflects: 'Old and worn, I own much wealth--gold, silver, and jewels, granaries and treasuries overflowing--but I have no son. Someday my end will come and my wealth will be scattered and lost, for there is no one to whom I can leave it.' Thus does he earnestly, whenever he thinks of his son, repeat this reflection: 'If I could only get [back] my son and commit my wealth to him, how contented and happy should I be, with never any more anxiety!'

"World-honored One! Meanwhile the poor son, hired for wages here and there, unexpectedly arrives at his father's house. Standing by the gate, he sees from afar his father seated on a lion couch, his feet on a jeweled footstool, revered and surrounded by Brahmans, Kshatriyas, and citizens, and with strings of pearl worth thousands and myriads adorning his body; attendants and young slaves with white fly whisks wait upon him right and left; he is covered by a precious canopy from which hang streamers of flowers; perfume is sprinkled on the earth, all kinds of famous flowers are scattered around, and precious things are placed in rows; some he accepts, others he rejects. Such is his glory, and the honor of his dignity. The poor son, seeing his father possessed of [such] great power, was seized with fear, regretting that he had come to [this] place, and secretly reflected thus: 'This must be a king or someone of royal rank; it is no place for me to obtain anything for the hire of my labor. I had better go to some poor hamlet, where there is a place to hire out my labor, and food and clothing are easier to get. If I tarry here long, I may suffer oppression and forced labor.'

"Having reflected thus, he hastily runs away. Meanwhile the rich elder on his lion seat has recognized his son at first sight and with great joy in his mind has thus reflected: 'Now I have the one to whom my treasuries of wealth are to be made over. Always have I been thinking of this [my] son, with no means of seeing him; but suddenly he himself has come and my longing is satisfied. Though worn with years, I still yearn [for him].'

"Instantly he dispatches his attendants to rush after him and fetch him back. Thereupon the messengers hasten forth to seize him. The poor son, surprised and scared, loudly cries his complaint: 'I have committed no offense against you; why should I be arrested?' The messengers all the more hasten to lay hold of him and compel him to go back. Thereupon the poor son thinks to himself that [though] he is innocent yet he will be imprisoned, and that will certainly mean his death, so that he is all the more terrified, faints away, and falls on the ground. The father, seeing this from afar, gives the messengers his word: 'There is no need for this man. Do not fetch him by force. Sprinkle cold water on his face to restore him to consciousness and do not speak to him any further!'2 Wherefore? The father, knowing that his son's disposition is inferior, knowing that his own lordly position has caused distress to his son, yet profoundly assured that he is his son, tactfully says nothing to others that this is his son. A messenger says to the son: 'I now set you free; go wherever you will.' The poor son is delighted, [thus] obtaining the unexpected. He rises from the ground and goes to a poor hamlet in search of food and clothing.

"Then the elder, desiring to attract his son, sets up a device. Secretly he sends two men of doleful and undignified appearance, [saying]: 'You go and visit that place and gently say to the poor man: "There is a place for you to work here; you will be given double wages." If the poor man agrees, bring him back and give him work. If he asks what work do [you] wish him to do, then you may say to him: "It is for removing [a heap of] dirt that we hire you, and we both also would work along with you."' Then the two messengers went in search of the poor son and, having found him, placed [before him] the above proposal. Thereupon the poor son, having received his wages beforehand, joins with them in removing the dirt [heap]. His father, beholding the son, is struck with compassion for and wonder at him.

"Another day he sees at a distance through a window his son's figure, gaunt, lean, and doleful, filthy and unclean from the piles of dirt and dust; thereupon he takes off his strings of jewels, his soft attire and ornaments, and puts on again a coarse, torn, and dirty garment, smears his body with dust, takes a dustpan in his right hand, and with an appearance of fear3 says to the laborers: 'Get on with your work, don't be lazy.' By [such] a device he gets near his son, to whom he soon afterward says: 'Aye, [my] man, you stay and work here, do not go again elsewhere; I will increase your wages; whatever you need, bowls, utensils, rice, wheat flour, salt, vinegar, and so on; have no hesitation; besides, there is [an] old and worn-out servant whom you shall be given if you need him. Be at ease in your mind; I am as it were your father; do not be worried again. Wherefore? I am old and advanced in years, but you are young and vigorous; all the time you have been working, you have never been deceitful, lazy, angry, or grumbling; I have never seen you have such vices as these, like the other laborers. From this time forth you shall be as my own begotten son.'

"Thereupon the elder gives him a name anew and calls him a son. Then the poor son, though he rejoices at this happening, still thinks of himself as a humble hireling. For this reason, for twenty years he continues to be employed for removing dirt. After this period, there is confidence between them and he goes in and out and at his ease, though his abode is still the original place.

"World-honored One! Then the elder becomes ill and, knowing that he will shortly die, says to the poor son: 'Now I possess abundant gold, silver, and precious things, and my granaries and treasuries are full to overflowing. The quantities of these things, and the [amounts] which should be received and given, [I want] you to understand in detail. Such is my mind. Do you agree to this my will. Wherefore? Because now I and you are of the same mind. Be increasingly mindful so that there be no waste.'

"Then the poor son accepts his instructions and commands, and becomes acquainted with all the goods, gold, silver, and precious things, as well as all the granaries and treasuries, but has no idea of expecting to receive [as much as] a meal, while his abode is still the original place and his sense of inferiority too he is still unable to abandon.

"After a short time has passed, again the father, knowing that his son's ideas have gradually been enlarged and his will well developed, and that he despises his previous [state of] mind, on seeing that his own end is near, commands his son [to come] and at the same time gathers together his relatives, and the kings, ministers, Kshatriyas, and citizens. When they are all assembled, he thereupon addresses them, saying: 'Know, gentlemen, this is my son begotten by me. It is over fifty years since, from a certain city, he left me and ran away to endure loneliness and misery. His former name was so and so and my name is so and so. At that time in that city I sought him sorrowfully. Suddenly in this place I met and regained him. This is really my son and I am really his father. Now all the wealth which I possess belongs entirely to my son, and all my previous disbursements and receipts are known by this son.'

"World-honored One! When the poor son heard these words of his father, great was his joy at such unexpected [news], and thus he thought: 'Without any mind for or effort on my part these treasures now come of themselves to me.'

"World-honored One! The very rich elder is the Tathagata and we all are as the Buddha's sons. The Tathagata has always declared that we are his sons. World-honored One! Because of the three sufferings, in the midst of births and deaths we have borne all kinds of torments, being deluded and ignorant and enjoying [our] attachment to trifles. Today the World-honored One has caused us to ponder over and remove the dirt of all diverting discussions of [inferior] laws [or things]. In these we have been diligent to make progress and have got [but] a day's pay [for our effort] to reach nirvana.4 Having got this, we greatly rejoiced and were contented, saying to ourselves: 'For our diligence and progress in the Buddha-law what we have received is ample.'

But the World-honored One, knowing beforehand that our minds were attached to low desires and delighted in inferior things, lets us go our own way and does not discriminate against us, [saying]: 'You shall [yet] have control of the treasury of Tathagata-knowledge.' The World-honored One by his tactful power tells of the Tathagata-wisdom, [but] we, [though] following the Buddha and receiving [but] a day's wage of nirvana, have deemed it a great gain and never devoted ourselves to seeking after this Great-vehicle.

We also have declared and expounded the Tathagata-wisdom to bodhisattvas, but in regard to this [Great-vehicle] we have never had a longing for it. Wherefore? The Buddha, knowing that our minds delight in inferior things, by his tactful power teaches according to our [capacity], but still we do not perceive that we are really Buddha-sons. Now we have just realized that the World-honored One does not begrudge the Buddha-wisdom. Wherefore? From of old we are really sons of the Buddha, but only have taken pleasure in minor matters; if we had had a mind to take pleasure in the great, the Buddha would have preached the Great-vehicle Law to us. Now he in this sutra preaches only the One-vehicle; and though formerly in the presence of bodhisattvas he spoke disparagingly of shravakas who were pleased with minor matters, yet the Buddha had in reality been instructing them in the Great-vehicle. Therefore we say that though we had no mind to hope or expect it, [yet] now the great treasure of the King of the Law has of itself come to us, and such things that Buddha-sons should obtain we have all obtained."

Then Maha-Kashyapa, desiring to proclaim this meaning over again, spoke [thus] in verse:

"We on this day
Have heard the Buddha's voice teach
And are ecstatic with joy at
Having obtained the unprecedented.
The Buddha declares that [we] shravakas
Will become buddhas;
[His] peerless collection of treasures
We have received without seeking.
It is like a youth,
Immature and ignorant,
Who leaves his father and runs away
To other lands far distant,
Wandering about in many countries
For over fifty years.
His father, with anxious care,
Searches in all directions.
Wearied with his search,
He abides in a certain city.
Where he builds a house,
Enjoying the pleasures of life;5
Very rich in his house,
With abundance of gold and silver,
Moonstones and agates,
Pearls and lapis lazuli,
Elephants, horses, oxen, and sheep,
Palanquins, litters, carriages,
Husbandmen, young slaves,
And a multitude of people;
His revenues and investments
Spread even to other countries;
His traders and customers
Are found everywhere;
A thousand myriad kotis of people
Surround and honor him;
Constantly by the king
He is held in affection;
All the ministers and noble families
Honor him highly;
For all these reasons
His guests are many;
Such are the abundance of his wealth
And the greatness of his power.
But his years are wearing away
And he grieves the more over his son;
Morning and night he ponders:
'The time of my death is approaching;
My foolish son has left me
For over fifty years;
These things in my storehouses -
What shall I do [with them]?'
At that time the poor son
Seeks food and clothing
From city to city,
From country to country,
Sometimes getting something,
Sometimes nothing;
Famished, weak, and gaunt,
Covered with scabs and sores,
Gradually he passes along
To the city where his father dwells.
Hired for wages he roams about,
At last reaching his father's house.
At that very hour the elder
Within his gates
Has set up a great jeweled curtain
And sits on a lion seat
Surrounded by his attendants,
Everybody taking care of him.
Some are counting
Gold, silver, and precious things,
[Others] incoming and outgoing goods,
Noting and recording bonds.
The poor son, seeing his father
So noble and splendid,
Thinks: 'This must be a king
Or one of royal rank.'
Alarmed and wondering, [he says]:
'Why have I come here?'
Again he thinks to himself:
'If I tarry [here] long,
I may suffer oppression
And be driven to forced labor.'
Having pondered thus,
He runs off in haste
In search of some poor place,
That he may go and hire his labor.
At that time the elder
On the lion seat,
Seeing his son from afar,
Secretly recognizes him
And instantly orders servants
To pursue and fetch him back.
The poor son cries in alarm,
Faints away, and falls on the ground, [saying]:
'These men have caught me;
I shall certainly be killed.
Why, for food and clothing,
Did I come here?'
The elder, knowing that his son,
Being foolish and inferior,
Will not believe in his word,
Nor believe that he is his father,
With tactful method
Again dispatches other men,
One-eyed, squat, common,
And unimposing, [saying]:
'You [go and] tell him,
Saying: "You be hired along with us
To remove dirt and rubbish
And you shall be given double wages."'
The poor son hearing this
Is glad, and comes with them,
For the purpose of removing dirt
And cleansing outhouses.
The elder, through a lattice,
Continually sees his son,
And thinks of him as foolish
And pleased with humble things.
Then the elder,
Donning a tattered dirty garment,
Takes a dirt hod,
Goes to where his son is,
And by [this] device gets near him,
Bidding him be diligent, [saying]:
'I have [decided to] increase your wages,
Besides oil for your feet,
And plenty of food and drink,
And thick warm mats.'
Then with sharp words he thus chides:
'Get you on with the work.'
Again he speaks gently:
'You are as if you were my son.'
The elder, being wise,
Gradually causes him to go in and out,
And after twenty years
Employs him in house affairs,
Showing him gold and silver,
Pearls and crystal,
And the incoming and outgoing of things;
All these he makes him know.
Still he dwells without,
Lodging in a hovel,
For himself thinking of penurious things,
[Saying]: 'These things are not mine.'
The father, knowing his son's mind
Has gradually developed,
And wishing to give him his wealth,
Gathers together his relatives,
Princes and ministers,
Kshatriyas and citizens.
In this great assembly,
He announces: 'This is my son,
Who left me and went elsewhere
Fifty years ago;
Since I saw my son arrive,
Twenty years have passed.
Long ago in a certain city
I lost this son;
In wandering round in search of him,
At last I arrived here.
All that I have,
Houses and people,
I entirely give to him;
He is free to use them as he will.'
The son thinks of his former poverty
And inferior disposition,
[Yet] anew from his father
Obtains such great treasures,
Together with houses and buildings
And all this wealth,
[And so] rejoices greatly
On receiving such unexpected [fortune].
So it is with the Buddha;
Knowing that we are pleased with trifles,
He did not before proclaim,
'You will become buddhas,'
But said that we
Who are attaining faultlessness
And perfect in Hinayana
Are his shravaka disciples.
The Buddha commands us:
'Preach the most high Way,
And that these who practice it
Will become buddhas.'
We, receiving the Buddha's teaching,
For the sake of great bodhisattvas,
By numerous reasonings,
By various parables,
And by so many expressions,
Preach the supreme Way.
The sons of the Buddha,
Hearing the Law from us,
Day and night ponder over
And with unflagging zeal practice it.
Then the buddhas
Will predict of them:
'You, in a future generation,
Shall become buddhas.'
The mystic Law
Of all the buddhas
[Can] only to bodhisattvas
Be expounded in full reality,
So not to us [till now]
Was this truth preached.
Just as that poor son
Who came to be near his father,
Though he knew all the goods,
Had no hope of possessing them,
[So] we, though we proclaimed
The treasury of the Buddha-law,
Yet had no will or wish for it,
Being also like him.
We, with the extinction of inward [fires],6
Considered ourselves satisfied;
Having thus settled this matter,
Nothing more remained to be done.
Even if we had heard
Of the purification of buddha-lands
And the conversion of living beings,
We would never have rejoiced.
And wherefore?
[Because we fancied that] all things
Were altogether void,
Without birth, without extinction,
Nothing large, nothing small,
Without fault, without effort.
Thinking thus,
With no conception of joy,
We, for long,
Neither coveted nor were attached
To the Buddha-wisdom,
Nor had we any will or wish [for it].
But we, in regard to the Law,
Considered we had reached finality.
We, for a long time
Practicing the Law of the Void,
Obtained release from the triple world's
Distressing troubles,
Dwelling in the final bodily state
Of nirvana [in which form still] remains;
Being instructed by the Buddha, [we thought]
We had, without a doubt, attained the Way
And that we had therefore
Repaid the Buddha's grace.
Though we, for the sake
Of all Buddha-sons,
Have preached the Bodhisattva-law
That they should seek the Buddha-way,
Yet we, in regard to this Law,7
Had never any wish or pleasure.
Our Leader saw and let us alone,
Because he looked into our minds;
[So] at first he did not stir up our zeal
By telling of the true gain.
Just as the rich elder,
Knowing his son's inferior disposition,
By his tactfulness
Subdues his mind,
And afterward gives him
All his wealth,
So is it with the Buddha
In his display of rarities.
Knowing those who delight in trifles,
And by his tactfulness
Subduing their minds,
He instructs them in the greater wisdom.
Today we have obtained
That which we have never had before;
What we have not previously looked for
Now we have unexpectedly obtained,
Just as that poor son
Obtained inestimable treasures.
World-honored One! Now we
Have got the Way and got the fruit,
And, in the faultless Law,
Attained to clear vision.8
We for long
Having kept the Buddha's pure commands,
Today for the first time
Obtain their fruit and reward.
In the Law of the Law-king,
Having long practiced holy deeds,9
Now we have attained to the faultless,
Peerless great fruit;
Now we are
Really hearers of the sound,10
Who cause all beings to hear
The sound of the Buddha-way.
Now we are
Really arhats,
Who, in all the worlds
Of gods, men, Maras, and Brahmans,
Universally by them
Are worthy of worship.
The World-honored One, in his great grace,
By things which are rare
Has compassion for and instructs
And benefits us;
Through countless kotis of kalpas,
Who could repay him?
Service by hands and feet,
Homage with the head,
All kinds of offerings,
Are all unable to repay him.
If one bore [him] on one's head,11
Or carried [him] on one's shoulders
Through kalpas [numerous] as the sands of the Ganges;
Or revered him with one's whole mind,
Or with the best of food,
Or garments of countless value
And all kinds of bed things,
Or every sort of medicament;
Or with ox-head sandalwood12
And all kinds of jewels
Erected stupas and monasteries;
Or carpeted the ground with precious garments;
With such things as these
To pay homage
Through kalpas as the sands of Ganges,
Yet one would be unable to repay.
Buddhas rarely [appear with their]
Infinite and boundless,13
Great transcendent powers;
They are faultless and effortless,
The kings of the Law,
Who are able, for inferior [minds],
Patiently [to bide their time] in this matter,
And for common folk attached to externals
To preach as is befitting.
Buddhas in the Law
Attain to supreme power.
Knowing all living beings,
With their various desires and pleasures,
And their powers,
[So] according to their capacities,
By innumerable parables,
They preach the Law to them.
According as all living beings
In past lives [have planted] good roots.
[The buddhas,] knowing the mature
And the immature,
And taking account of each,
Discriminating and understanding,
In the One-vehicle, as may be befitting,
They preach the three."*