At that time the World-honored One addressed Maha-Kashyapa and the [other] great disciples: "Good! Good! Kashyapa; you have well proclaimed the real merits of the Tathagata. Truly they are as you have said. The Tathagata, in addition, has infinite, boundless, innumerable merits, [which] if you spoke of for infinite kotis of kalpas you could not fully express. Know, Kashyapa! The Tathagata is the king of the Law. Whatever he declares is wholly free from falsity.
He expounds all the laws by wise tactfulness. The Law preached by him all leads to the stage of perfect knowledge. The Tathagata sees and knows what is the good of all the laws and also knows what all living beings in their inmost hearts are doing; he penetrates them without hindrance. Moreover, in regard to all laws, having the utmost understanding of them, he reveals to all living beings the wisdom of perfect knowledge.1
"Kashyapa! Suppose, in the three-thousand-great-thousandfold world there are growing on the mountains, along the rivers and streams, in the valleys and on the land, plants, trees, thickets, forests, and medicinal herbs of various and numerous kinds, with names and colors all different. A dense cloud, spreading over and everywhere covering the whole three-thousand-great-thousandfold world, pours down [its rain] equally at the same time. Its moisture universally fertilizes the plants, trees, thickets, forests, and medicinal herbs, with their tiny roots, tiny stalks, tiny twigs, tiny leaves, their medium[-sized] roots, medium stalks, medium twigs, medium leaves, their big roots, big stalks, big twigs, and big leaves; every tree big or little, according to its superior, middle, or lower [capacity], receives its share. From the rain of the one cloud [each] according to the nature of its kind acquires its development, opening its blossoms and bearing its fruit. Though produced in one soil and moistened by the same rain, yet these plants and trees are all different.
"Know, Kashyapa! The Tathagata is also like this; he appears in the world like the rising of [that] great cloud. Universally he extends his great call over the world of gods, men, and asuras, just as that great cloud everywhere covers the three thousand-great-thousandfold region. In the great assembly he sounds forth these words: 'I am the Tathagata, the Worshipful, the All Wise, the Perfectly Enlightened in Conduct, the Well Departed, the Understander of the World, the Peerless Leader, the Controller, the Teacher of Gods and Men, the Buddha, the World-honored One. Those who have not yet been saved I cause to be saved; those who have not been set free to be set free; those who have not yet been comforted to be comforted; those who have not yet obtained nirvana to obtain nirvana.2 I know the present world and the world to come as they really are.
I am the All Knowing, the All Seeing, the Knower of the Way, the Opener of the Way, the Preacher of the Way. Come to me, all you gods, men, and asuras, to hear the Law.' At that moment numberless thousand myriad kotis of classes of living beings came to the Buddha to hear the Law. Thereupon the Tathagata, observing the natural powers of all these beings, keen or dull, zealous or indifferent, according to their [capacity] preached to them the Law in varying and unstinted ways, causing them all to rejoice and joyfully obtain much profit. All these living beings, having heard this Law, [are] comforted in the present life and afterward [will be] born in happy states, [where they will be] made joyful by the Truth and also hear the Law. Having heard the Law, they are freed from hindrances, and according to their capacity in all the laws, they gradually enter the Way.
"Just as that great cloud, raining on all the plants, trees, thickets, forests, and medicinal herbs, and according to the nature of their seed perfectly fertilizing them so that each grows and develops, [so] the Law preached by the Tathagata is of one form3 and flavor,4 that is to say, deliverance,5 abandonment,6 extinction,7 and finally the attainment of perfect knowledge.8 If there be living beings who hear the Law of the Tathagata and keep, read, recite, and practice it as preached [by him], their achievements will not [enable them] to understand their own [nature]. Wherefore? [Because] there is only the Tathagata who knows the seed, the form, the embodiment, and the nature of all these living beings, what things they are reflecting over, what things they are thinking, what things practicing, how reflecting, how thinking, how practicing, by what laws reflecting, by what laws thinking, by what laws practicing, and by what laws attaining to what laws.
There is only the Tathagata who in reality sees, clearly and without hindrance, the stages in which all living beings are, just as those plants, trees, thickets, forests, medicinal herbs, and others do not know their own natures, superior, middle, or inferior. The Tathagata knows this unitary essential Law, that is to say, deliverance, abandonment, extinction, final nirvana of eternal tranquillity, ending in return to the void. The Buddha, knowing this and observing the dispositions of all living beings, supports and protects them. For this reason he does not immediately declare to them the complete and perfect wisdom. Kashyapa! All of you! A most rare thing it is that you should be able to know the Law preached by the Tathagata as he sees fit, and be able to believe and able to receive it. Wherefore? [Because] the Law preached by buddhas, the world-honored ones, as they see fit is difficult to discern and difficult to know."
At that time the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:
"The Law-king who destroys existence
Appears in this world;
According to the natures of all living beings,
He preaches the Law discriminately.
The Tathagata is greatly to be honored
And profound in wisdom;
For long has he kept secret this essential [truth],
Not endeavoring hastily to declare it.
The wise, if they hear it,
Are able to believe and discern;
The ignorant doubt and turn away,
Losing it perpetually.
According to their powers I preach to them
With varied reasonings
To bring them to right views.
It is like a great cloud
Rising above the world,
Covering all things everywhere,
A beneficent cloud full of moisture;
Flashes of lightning shine and glint,
The voice of thunder vibrates afar,
Bringing gladness and ease to all.
The sun's rays are veiled,
And the earth is colored;
The cloud lowers and spreads
As if it might be caught and gathered;
Its rain everywhere equally
Descends on all sides,
Streaming and pouring without stint,
Enriching all the land.
On mountains, by rivers, in steep valleys,
In hidden recesses, there grow
The plants, trees, and herbs;
Trees, big or small,
The shoots of all the ripening grain,
Sugar cane and grapevine,
All these by the rain are fertilized
And abundantly enriched.
The dry ground is all soaked,
And herbs and trees flourish together.
From the one water which
Issued from that cloud,
Plants, trees, thickets, forests,
According to their need, receive moisture.
All the trees,
Superior, middle, inferior, all,
Each according to its size,
Grow and develop
Roots, stalks, branches, and leaves,
Blossoms and fruits in their brilliant colors;
By the pouring of the one rain,
All become fresh and glossy.
Just as their bodies, forms,
And natures are divided into great and small,
So the enriching [rain], though one and the same,
Yet makes each flourish.
In the same manner the Buddha also
Appears in the world,
Like a great cloud
Universally covering all things;
And having appeared in the world,
He, for the sake of all living beings,
Discriminates and proclaims
The reality of all the laws.
The great holy World-honored One
Among the gods and men
And all the other beings
Proclaims this, saying:
'I am the Tathagata,
The most honored among men;
I appear in the world
Just like a great cloud,
To pour enrichment on all
Parched living beings,
To free them all from misery
And so attain the joy of peace,
Joy in the world,
And the joy of nirvana.
Gods, men, and all!
With all your mind hearken to me.
Come all of you here
And behold the peerless honored one.
I am the World-honored One,
Who cannot be equaled.
To give peace to all creatures
I appear in the world,
And for the hosts of the living
Preach the Law, pure as sweet dew:
The one and only Law
Of emancipation and nirvana.'
With one transcendent voice
I proclaim this meaning,
Constantly taking the Great-vehicle
As my subject.
I look upon all [living beings]
Everywhere [with] equal [eyes],
Without distinction of persons,
Or mind of love or hate.
I have no predilections
Nor limitations [or partiality];
Ever to all [beings]
I preach the Law equally;
As [I preach] to one person,
So [I preach] to all.
Constantly I proclaim the Law,
Never occupied with aught else;
Going or coming, sitting or standing,
I never weary of
Pouring it abundantly upon the world,
Like the rain enriching universally.
Honored and humble, high and low,
Law-keepers and law-breakers,
Those of perfect character
And those of imperfect,
Orthodox and heterodox,
Quick-witted and dull-witted,
[With] equal [mind] I rain the rain of the Law
All living creatures
On hearing my Law,
According to their receptive powers,
[Find their] abode in their several places;
Some dwell [amongst] gods or men
Or holy wheel-rolling kings,
Or Shakra, Brahma, or other kings;
These are [like] smaller herbs.
[Those who] know the faultless Law
[And are] able to attain nirvana,
[Who] cultivate the six transcendent [faculties]
And obtain the three clear [views],
Who dwell alone in mountain forests,
Ever practicing meditation,
And obtain pratyekabuddhahood -
These are the larger herbs.
Those who seek the World-honored One,
[Resolving,] 'We will become buddhas,'
And practice zeal and meditation -
These are the superior herbs.
And these Buddha-sons
Who single-minded [walk] the Buddha-way,
Ever practicing compassion,
Assured that they will become buddhas
Certainly and without doubt -
These are named shrubs.
The firmly settled in the transcendent [faculties],
Who roll the unretreating wheel
And save infinite hundred
Thousand kotis of the living,
Such bodhisattvas as these
Are named trees.
The Buddha's equal preaching
Is like the one rain;
[But] beings, according to their nature,
Receive it differently,
Just as the plants and trees
Each take a varying supply.
The Buddha by this parable
And with various expressions
Proclaims the One Law;
[But of] the Buddha-wisdom
It is as a drop in the ocean.
I rain down the rain of the Law,
Filling the whole world,
The one essential Law,
To be practiced according to ability,
Just as those thickets, forests,
Herbs, and trees,
According to their size,
The Law of all buddhas
Ever by its essential oneness
Causes all the worlds
Universally to gain perfect weal.
Gradually by its observance
All attain the Way's fruition.
Shravakas and pratyekabuddhas
Who dwell in the mountain forests,
Are in the final bodily state,
And, hearing the Law, reach fruition
Are named herbs,
Each progressing in growth.
As to the bodhisattvas
Who are firm in wisdom,
Penetrate the triple world,
And seek the highest vehicle,
These are named shrubs
Which gain increasing growth.
Again, those who practice meditation
And gain transcendent powers,
Who, hearing the doctrine of the Void,
Greatly rejoice in their minds,
And emitting innumerable rays
Save all living beings,
These are named trees
Which gain increasing growth.
Like this, Kashyapa,
Is the Law preached by the Buddha.
It is just like a great cloud
Which with the same kind of rain
Enriches men and blossoms,
So that each bears fruit.
By numerous reasonings
And various parables
I reveal the Buddha-way;
This is my tactful method.
All buddhas do the same.
What I have now said to you all
Is the veriest truth.
[Have] not [yet] attained nirvana.9
The Way in which you walk
Is the bodhisattva-way;
By gradually practicing and learning,
All [of you] will become buddhas.