At that time the World-honored One addressed the eighty thousand great leaders through the Bodhisattva Medicine King, [saying]: "Medicine King! Do you see in this assembly innumerable gods, dragon kings, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings, as well as bhikshus, bhikshunis, male and female lay devotees, seekers after shravakaship, seekers after pratyekabuddhahood, seekers after bodhisattvaship, and seekers after buddhahood? All such beings as these, in the presence of the Buddha, if they hear a single verse or a single word of the Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra and even by a single thought delight in it, I predict that they will all attain Perfect Enlightenment."
The Buddha [again] addressed Medicine King: "Moreover, after the extinction of the Tathagata, if there be any people who hear even a single verse or a single word of the Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra, and by a single thought delight in it, I also predict for them Perfect Enlightenment. Again, let there be any who receive and keep, read and recite, expound and copy even a single verse of the Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra, and look upon this sutra with reverence as if it were the Buddha,
and make offering to it in various ways with flowers, perfume, garlands, sandal powder, perfumed unguents, incense for burning, silk canopies, banners, flags, garments, and music, as well as revere it with folded hands: know, Medicine King, these people have already paid homage to ten myriad kotis of buddhas and under the buddhas performed their great vows; therefore, out of compassion for all living beings they are born here among men.
"Medicine King! If there be any people who ask you what sort of living beings will become buddhas in future worlds, you should show them that those are the people who will certainly become buddhas in future worlds. Wherefore? If [my] good sons and good daughters receive and keep, read and recite, expound, and copy even a single word of the Law-Flower Sutra, and make offerings to it in various ways with flowers, perfumes, garlands, sandal powder, fragrant unguents, incense for burning, silk canopies, banners, flags, garments, and music, as well as revere it with folded hands, these people will be looked up to by all the worlds; and as you pay homage to tathagatas, so should you pay homage to them. Know!
These people are great bodhisattvas who, having accomplished Perfect Enlightenment and out of compassion for all living beings, are willingly born in this world, and widely proclaim and expound the Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra. How much more those who are perfectly able to receive, keep, and in every way pay homage to it! Know, Medicine King! These people will of themselves abandon the recompense of their purified karma, and after my extinction, out of pity for all living beings, will be born in the evil world and widely proclaim this sutra.
If these good sons and daughters, after my extinction, should be able [even] by stealth to preach to one person even one word of the Law-Flower Sutra, know these people are Tathagata-apostles sent by the Tathagata to perform Tathagata-deeds. How much more so those who in great assemblies widely preach to others.
"Medicine King! Even if there be some wicked person who out of an evil mind, throughout a whole kalpa, appears before the Buddha and unceasingly blasphemes the Buddha, his sin is still light, [but] if anyone, even with a single ill word, defames the lay devotees or monks who read and recite the Law-Flower Sutra, his sin is extremely heavy. Medicine King! He who reads and recites the Law-Flower Sutra--know! That man has adorned himself with the adornment of the Buddha, and so is carried by the Tathagata on his shoulder. Wherever he goes, he should be saluted with hands wholeheartedly folded, revered, worshiped, honored, and extolled, and offerings made to him of flowers, perfumes, garlands, sandal powder, perfumed unguents,
incense for burning, silk canopies, banners, flags, garments, edibles and dainties, and music; he should be served with the most excellent offerings found amongst men. He should be sprinkled with celestial jewels, and offerings made of celestial jewels in heaps. Wherefore? Because, this man delighting to preach the Law, they who hear it but for a moment thereupon attain Perfect Enlightenment."
Then the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:
"Should one wish to abide in the Buddha-way
And accomplish intuitive wisdom,
He must always earnestly honor
The keepers of the Flower of the Law.
Should one wish quickly to attain
Every kind of wisdom,
He must receive and keep this sutra
And honor those who keep it.
Should one be able to receive and keep
The Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra,
Know, he is the Buddha's apostle,
[Who] has compassion for all living beings.
He who is able to receive and keep
The Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra,
Giving up his pure land,1
And, from pity for the living, being born here:
Know, such a man as this,
Free to be born where he will,
Is able, in this evil world,
Widely to preach the supreme Law.
You should, with celestial flowers and perfumes,
Garments of heavenly jewels,
And heaps of wonderful celestial jewels,
Pay homage to [such] a preacher of the Law.
In evil ages after my extinction,
Those who are able to keep this sutra
Must be saluted and revered with folded hands,
As if paying homage to the World-honored One.
With the best of dainties and abundant sweets,
And every kind of garment,
This son of the Buddha should be worshiped
In the hope of even a momentary hearing.
In future ages, if anyone is able
To receive and keep this sutra,
I will send him to be amongst men
To perform the task of the Tathagata.
If anyone in the course of a kalpa
Unceasingly cherishes a wicked heart
And, with angry mien, rails at the Buddha,
He commits an infinitely heavy sin.
But anyone who reads, recites, and keeps
This Sutra of the Law-Flower,
[Should one] abuse him even a moment,
His sin is still heavier.
Anyone who seeks after the Buddha-way
And for a [complete] kalpa,
With folded hands, in my presence
Extols me in numberless verses,
Because he thus extols the Buddha
Will acquire infinite merit.
[But] he who praises the bearers of the sutra,
His happiness will be even greater.
During eighty kotis of kalpas,
With the most excellent color, sound,
Scent, flavor, and touch,
If one worships the sutra-bearers;
If, having thus worshiped,
He hears [it from them but] for a moment,
Then let him joyfully congratulate himself,
[Saying]: 'I have now obtained a great benefit.'
Medicine King! Now I say to you:
Of the sutras I have preached,
Amongst [all] these sutras,
The Law-Flower is the very foremost."
Thereupon the Buddha again addressed the Medicine King Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, [saying]: "Infinite thousand myriad kotis are the sutras I preach, whether already preached, now being preached, or to be preached in the future; and, among them all, this Law-Flower Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand. Medicine King! This sutra is the mystic, essential treasury of all buddhas, which must not be distributed among or recklessly delivered to men. It is watched over by buddhas, world-honored ones, and from of yore it has never been revealed and preached.
And this sutra while the Tathagata is still here has [aroused] much enmity and envy; how much more after his extinction!
"Know, Medicine King! After the Tathagata is extinct those who are able to copy, keep, read, recite, worship, and preach it to others will be invested by the Tathagata with his robe, and will be protected and remembered by buddhas abiding in other regions. They shall have great powers of faith and the power of a resolute vow [and] the powers of virtuous character. Know, those people shall dwell with the Tathagata, and the Tathagata shall place his hand upon their heads.
"Medicine King! In every place where [this sutra] is preached or read or recited or copied or its volumes are kept, one should erect a caitya2 of the precious seven, making it very high, spacious, and splendid. But there is no need to deposit relics. Wherefore? [Because] in it there is the whole body of the Tathagata. This caitya3 should be served, revered, honored, and extolled with all kinds of flowers, perfumes, garlands, silk canopies, banners, flags, music, and hymns. If any, seeing that caitya, salute and worship it, know that they all are near to Perfect Enlightenment.
Medicine King! Many people there are, both laymen and monks, who walk in the bodhisattva-way, without, as it were, being able to see, hear, read, recite, copy, keep, and worship this Law-Flower Sutra. Know that those people are not yet rightly walking in the bodhisattva-way; but if any of them hear this sutra, then they shall be able to walk aright in the bodhisattva-way. If any living beings who seek after the Buddha-way either see or hear this Law-Flower Sutra, and after hearing it believe and discern, receive and keep it, you may know that they are near Perfect Enlightenment.
"Medicine King! It is like a man, extremely thirsty and in need of water, who searches for it by digging in a tableland. So long as he sees dry earth, he knows that the water is still far off. Continuing his labor unceasingly, he in time sees moist earth and then gradually reaches the mire. Then he makes up his mind, knowing that water is at hand. Bodhisattvas are also like this. If they have not heard, nor understood, nor been able to observe this Law-Flower Sutra, you may know that they are still far from Perfect Enlightenment.
If they hear, understand, ponder, and observe it, you may assuredly know that they are near Perfect Enlightenment. Wherefore? [Because] the Perfect Enlightenment of every bodhisattva all belongs to this sutra. This sutra brings out the fuller meaning of the tactful or partial method in order to reveal the real truth.4 The [treasury] of this Law-Flower Sutra is so deep and strong, so hidden and far away that no human being has been able to reach it. Now the Buddha has revealed it for instructing and perfecting bodhisattvas.
"Medicine King! If any bodhisattva, on hearing this Law-Flower Sutra, is startled, doubts, and fears, you may know that this is a bodhisattva neophyte. If any shravaka, on hearing this sutra, is startled, doubts, and fears, you may know him for an arrogant person.
"Medicine King! If there be any good son or good daughter who after the extinction of the Tathagata desires to preach this Law-Flower Sutra to the four groups, how should he preach it? That good son or good daughter, entering into the abode of the Tathagata, wearing the robe of the Tathagata, and sitting on the throne of the Tathagata, should then widely proclaim this sutra to the four groups [of hearers].
"The abode of the Tathagata is the great compassionate heart within all living beings; the robe of the Tathagata is the gentle and forbearing heart; the throne of the Tathagata is the voidness of all laws. Established in these, then with unflagging mind to bodhisattvas and the four groups [of hearers] he will preach this Law-Flower Sutra. Medicine King! I [though dwelling] in another realm will send spirit messengers5 to gather together hearers of the Law for that [preacher] and also send spirit bhikshus, bhikshunis, and male and female lay devotees to hear his preaching of the Law. All these spirit people, hearing the Law,
shall unresistingly receive it in faith and obey it. If the preacher of the Law takes up his abode in a secluded place, then I will abundantly send gods, dragons, spirits, gandharvas, asuras, and others to hear him preach. Though I am in a different domain, I will from time to time cause the preacher of the Law to see me. If he forgets any detail of this sutra, I will return and tell him, that he may be in perfect possession of it."
At that time the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:
"In order to be rid of sloth,
Hearken to this sutra!
Rare is the chance of hearing it
And rare are those who receive it in faith.
It is like a thirsty man needing water,
Who digs in a tableland;
Still seeing dry and arid earth,
He knows water is yet far off.
Moist earth and mire gradually appearing,
He is assured that water is near.
Know, Medicine King!
Such is the case with those
Who hear not the Law-Flower Sutra;
They are far from the Buddha-wisdom.
Should they hear this profound sutra,
Which determines the Law for disciples
And is the king of all sutras,
And, hearing, truly ponder it,
Know that those people
Are near the Buddha-wisdom.
Should anyone preach this sutra,
Let him enter the Tathagata robe,
Wear the Tathagata robe,
And sit on the Tathagata throne;
Undaunted amidst the multitude,
Let him openly expound and preach it.
With great compassion for his abode,
Gentleness and forbearance for his robe,
And the voidness of all laws for his throne,
Abiding in these, let him preach the Law.
If, when he preaches this sutra,
Some should with evil mouth abuse,
Or lay on swords, sticks, shards, or stones,
Think of the Buddha; let him be patient.
In thousands of myriads of kotis of lands,
I appear with pure imperishable bodies,
And in infinite kotis of kalpas
Preach the Law for all the living.
If anyone after my extinction
Is able to proclaim this sutra,
I will send him the four spirit groups
Of bhikshus and bhikshunis,
Pure[-minded] men and women,
To worship him as teacher of the Law,
While I will draw living beings
And assemble them to hear [this] Law.
Should men seek to assail with ill [words],
With swords, sticks, shards, or stones,
I will send spirit people
To act as his protectors.
Should any preacher of [this] Law,
Dwelling alone in a secluded place,
In solitude where is no voice of man,
Read and recite this sutra,
Then I will appear to him
With a pure and luminous body.
Should he forget sentences or words,
I will tell him to his clear apprehension.
Whenever such a man, perfect in these merits,
Either preaches to the four groups
Or in seclusion reads and recites the sutra,
He will always see me.
When such a man is in seclusion,
I will send gods and dragon kings,
Yakshas, demons, spirits, and others
To be hearers of [this] Law.
That man will delight to preach the Law
And expound it without hindrance.
Because buddhas guard and mind him,
He can cause multitudes to rejoice.
Whoever is close to [such] a teacher of the Law
Will speedily attain the bodhisattva-way;
And he who becomes a pupil of that teacher
Will behold buddhas [numerous] as the sands of the Ganges