At that time the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Manjushri, the Law-king's son, spoke to the Buddha, saying: "World-honored One! Rare indeed are such bodhisattvas as these! Reverently according with the Buddha, they have made great vows that in the evil age to come they will protect, keep, read, recite, and preach this Law-Flower Sutra. World-honored One! How are these bodhisattva-mahasattvas to be able to preach this sutra in the evil age to come?"
The Buddha addressed Manjushri: "If any bodhisattva-mahasattva desires to preach this sutra in the evil age to come, he should be steadfast in the four methods: first, steadfast in the bodhisattva's spheres of action and intimacy, so that he may be able to preach this sutra to living beings. Manjushri! Why is it called a bodhisattva-mahasattva's sphere of action? If a bodhisattva-mahasattva abides in a state of patience, is gentle and agreeable, is neither hasty nor overbearing, and his mind [is] imperturbed; if, moreover, he has no laws by which to act,1 but sees all things in their reality, nor proceeds along the undivided way2 - this is termed a bodhisattva-mahasattva's sphere of action.
Why is [the other] termed a bodhisattva-mahasattva's sphere of intimacy? A bodhisattva-mahasattva is not intimate with kings, princes, ministers, and rulers; nor intimate with heretics, the brahmacarins, Nirgranthas,3 and so on; nor with composers of worldly and outside literature or poetry; nor with Lokayatas4 and Anti-Lokayatas;5 nor does he resort to brutal sports, boxing, and wrestling, nor to the various juggling performances of nartakas6 and others; nor does he consort with candalas,7 keepers of pigs, sheep, fowl, and dogs, hunters, fishermen, and [those engaged in] these evil pursuits; whenever such people as these sometimes come to him, he preaches the Law to them expecting nothing [in return]. Further, he does not consort with bhikshus, bhikshunis, and male and female lay devotees who seek after shravakaship, nor does he address them; neither in a room, nor in the place of promenade, nor in the hall does he dwell or stay with them; if at times they come to him he takes the opportunity of preaching the Law expecting nothing in return.
"Manjushri! Again a bodhisattva-mahasattva should not preach the Law to women, displaying an appearance capable of arousing passionate thoughts, nor have pleasure in seeing them; if he enters the homes of others, he does not converse with any girl, virgin, widow, and so forth, nor again does he become on friendly terms with any hermaphrodite; he does not enter the homes of others alone; if for some reason he must enter there alone, then with single mind he thinks of the Buddha; if he preaches the Law to women, he does not display his teeth in smiles nor let his breast be seen, nor even for the sake of the Law does he ever become intimate, how much less for other reasons. He takes no pleasure in keeping young pupils, shramaneras, and children, nor has he pleasure in being with them as teacher; but ever preferring meditation and seclusion, he cultivates and controls his mind. Manjushri! This is termed the first [grade or] sphere of intimacy [of a bodhisattva].
"Further, a bodhisattva-mahasattva contemplates all existences as void--appearances as they really are,8 neither upside down, nor moving, nor receding, nor turning, just like space, of the nature of nothingness, cut off from the course of all words and expressions, unborn, not coming forth, not arising, nameless, formless, really without existence, unimpeded, infinite, boundless, unrestrained, only existing by causation, and produced through perversion [of thought].
"Therefore I say constantly to delight in the contemplation of things [or laws] such as these is termed a bodhisattva-mahasattva's second sphere of intimacy."
Thereupon the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:
"If there be any bodhisattva
Who, in the future evil age,
With fearless mind
Desires to preach this sutra,
He must occupy his [proper] sphere of action
And his [proper] sphere of intimacy,
Constantly avoiding kings
Ministers and rulers,
Brutal and dangerous performers,
Nor does he consort with
Men of arrogance
Who are fond of studying
The Tripitaka of Hinayana,
With commandment-breaking bhikshus,
Arhats [only] in name,
Or with bhikshunis
Fond of jocularity,
Or with female disciples
Who, through sensuousness,
Seek present nirvana.
He consorts with none of them.
But if such people as these,
In goodness of mind,
Come to the bodhisattva
To hear the Buddha-way,
Then the bodhisattva,
With fearless mind,
Cherishing no expectation,9
[Should] preach the Law to them.
Widows and virgins
And all sorts of eunuchs
He never approaches
For close friendship;
Nor does he consort with
Butchers and meat mincers,
Hunters and fishermen,
Who slaughter for gain;
Those who vend meat for a living
With such people as these
He should not consort.
With brutal wrestlings,
Amusements and plays,
Whores and so forth
He should have no intimacy whatever.
He should not, alone in a screened-off place,
Preach the Law to a woman;
If he has to preach the Law [to her]
He will avoid jocularity.
[When] he enters a hamlet in quest of food,
Let him take along [another] bhikshu;
If there be no [other] bhikshu,
Let him with single mind think of the Buddha.
These then are what are called
The spheres of action and of intimacy.
Maintaining these two spheres,
He can teach with peace and joy.
And again [if] he does not observe
Laws, higher, middle, or lower,
Active or passive,
Laws real or unreal;
Also [if] he does not discriminate,
'This is a man' or 'This is a woman';
[If] he discovers no laws
Nor recognizes nor sees them;
This then is called
A bodhisattva's sphere of action.
All laws [or things] are
Void and nonexistent,
Neither beginning nor ending;
This is named the sphere
To which wise men resort.
The perverse discriminate
All laws as either existing or nonexisting,
Real or unreal,
Produced or unproduced.
Let [the bodhisattva] abide in seclusion,
Cultivate and control his mind,
And be firmly fixed and immovable
As Mount Sumeru;
Contemplating all laws
As though they were not,
As if they were space,
Neither produced nor coming forth,
Motionless and unreceding,
Ever remaining a unity.
This is named the [proper] sphere of intimacy.
If any bhikshu,
After my extinction,
Enters this sphere of action
And sphere of intimacy,
When he preaches this sutra
He will have no timidity or weakness.
When the bodhisattva at times
Enters a quiet room
And in perfect meditation
Contemplates things in their true meaning,
And, rising up from his meditation,
To kings of nations,
Princes, ministers and people,
Brahmans and others
And preaches this sutra,
His mind shall be at ease
And free from timidity and weakness.
This is called a bodhisattva's
Steadfastness in the first method.10
He is [then] able, in future generations,
To preach the Law-Flower Sutra.
"Again, Manjushri! After the extinction of the Tathagata, in [the period of] the Decline of the Law, he who desires to preach this sutra should abide in the pleasant ministry [of speech].11 Wherever he orally proclaims or reads the sutra, he takes no pleasure in telling of the errors of others of the sutras; neither does he despise other preachers; nor speaks of the good and evil, the merits and demerits of other people; nor singles out shravakas by name and publishes their errors and sins, nor by name praises their excellences; nor does he beget an invidious mind. By keeping well such a cheerful heart as this, those who hear will offer no opposition to him. To those who ask difficult questions, he does not answer with the law of the small vehicle [but] only with the Great-vehicle, and explains it to them that they may obtain perfect knowledge."
Thereupon the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:
"The bodhisattva ever delights
And is at ease in preaching the Law;
In a clean and pure spot,
Setting up [his] pulpit,
He anoints himself with oil,
Having bathed away uncleanliness,
Puts on a new, clean robe,
All clean within and without;
Calmly seated on the Law throne,
He teaches as he is questioned.
If there be any bhikshus
Male lay disciples
And female lay disciples,
Kings and princes,
Their retainers and people,
He preaches the mystic principle to them
With a gentle countenance.
If there be any difficult question,
He answers according to its meaning.
By reasonings and parables
He expounds and discriminates it.
By this tactful method,
He stirs them all to earnestness,
To steady advance
And entry on the Buddha-way.
He rids [himself] of a lazy mind
And slackness of thought;
He is free from all worries
And with kindly heart proclaims;
Day and night he ever propounds
The teaching of the supreme Way,
By various reasonings
And innumerable parables,
Revealing it to the living,
And causing them all to rejoice.
Garments and provision for sleep,
Drink, food, and medicines -
For all these things
He has no anticipation.
Only with single mind he thinks of
The cause of [his] preaching the Law,
Resolved on accomplishing the Buddha-way
And causing all others likewise so to do;
This then is [his] great profit
And joy and service.
After my extinction,
If there be any bhikshu
Who is able to proclaim
This Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra,
His mind will be free from envy,
From distresses and obstacles,
And from grief and sorrow,
As well as from the abuse of men.
Further, he will be free from fear,
From laying on of swords and staves;
Nor will he be driven away,
Because he is steadfast in forbearance.
The wise man, in such ways as these,
Rightly cultivates his mind,
Being able to dwell at ease,
As I have said above.
The merit of that man,
Though thousands of myriads of kotis of kalpas
Were reckoned in illustration,
Is incapable of full expression.
"Again, Manjushri! The bodhisattva-mahasattva who, in the corrupt ages to come, when the Law is about to perish, receives and keeps, reads and recites this sutra, does not cherish an envious and deceitful mind; nor does he slight and abuse [other] learners of the Buddha-way and seek out their excesses and shortcomings. If there be bhikshus, bhikshunis, male and female lay disciples who seek after shravakaship, or seek after pratyekabuddhahood, or seek after the bodhisattva-way, he does not distress them, causing them doubts and regrets, saying to them: 'You are far removed from the Way and will never be able to attain to perfect knowledge. Wherefore? Because you are unstable people and remiss in the Way.' Moreover, he should not indulge in discussions about the laws or engage in disputations; but in regard to all the living he should think of them with great compassion; in regard to the tathagatas he should think of them as benevolent fathers; in regard to the bodhisattvas he should think of them as his great teachers; in regard to the universal great bodhisattvas he should ever from his deepest heart revere and worship them. In regard to all living beings, he should preach the Law equally, so as to accord with the Law, neither more nor less; even for those who deeply love the Law, he will not preach more [than it].
"Manjushri! When this bodhisattva-mahasattva, in the last age when the Law is about to perish, has accomplished this third pleasant ministry [of thought],12 and preaches this sutra, nothing will be able to disturb him. He will find good fellow students who will read and recite this sutra with him. He will also find a great multitude come and hear him, who after hearing are able to observe it, after observing are able to recite it, after reciting are able to preach it, after preaching are able to copy or cause others to copy it, and who will pay homage to the sutra, revering, honoring, and extolling it."
Then the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:
"If one would preach this sutra,
Let him renounce an envious, angry, proud,
Deceitful, or false mind,
And ever do upright deeds;
He should disparage none,
And never for diversion discuss the laws,
Nor cause others doubt or regret,
Saying: 'You will never become buddhas.'
This Buddha-son in preaching the Law
Will ever be gentle, patient,
And compassionate to all,
With never a thought of slackness.
To the great bodhisattvas everywhere,
Who walk the Way in pity for all,
He should beget a reverent mind,
[Thinking]: 'These are my great teachers.'
To all world-honored buddhas
He should feel as to peerless fathers,
And suppressing his haughty spirit,
Should preach the Law without hindrance.
Such is the third method.
Let the wise man guard it.
Such a single-hearted pleasant ministry
Will be revered by countless hosts.
"Again, Manjushri! The bodhisattva-mahasattva, in the last ages to come when the Law is about to perish, who keeps this Law-Flower Sutra should beget a spirit of great charity to laymen and monks, and beget a spirit of great compassion for those not [yet] bodhisattvas. And he should reflect thus: 'Such people as these have suffered great loss; the Law preached, as opportunity served, by the tactful method of the Tathagata they have neither heard nor known nor apprehended nor inquired for nor believed in nor understood. Though those people have not inquired for, nor believed in, nor understood this sutra, when I have attained Perfect Enlightenment, wherever I am, by my transcendental powers and powers of wisdom, I will lead them to abide in this Law.'
"Manjushri! This bodhisattva-mahasattva who, after the extinction of the Tathagata, has accomplished this fourth method,13 when he preaches this Law will be free from errors. He will ever be worshiped, revered, honored, and extolled by bhikshus, bhikshunis, male and female lay devotees, by kings and princes, by their ministers and people, by Brahmans and citizens, and by others; all the gods in the sky also, in order to hear the Law, will always follow and attend on him; if he be in a village or city or secluded forest and someone comes desiring to put difficult questions to him, the gods day and night, for the sake of the Law, will constantly guard and protect him, so that he shall be able to cause all his hearers to rejoice. Wherefore? Because this sutra is that which all past, future, and present buddhas watch over by their divine powers.
"Manjushri! In countless countries even the name of this Law-Flower Sutra cannot be heard; how much less can it be seen, received, and kept, read and recited.
"Manjushri! It is like a powerful holy wheel-rolling king who desires by force to conquer other domains. When minor kings do not obey his command, the wheel-rolling king calls up his various armies and goes to punish them. The king, seeing his soldiers who distinguish themselves in the war, is greatly pleased and, according to their merit, bestows rewards, either giving fields, houses, villages, or cities, or giving garments or personal ornaments, or giving all kinds of treasures, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, moonstones, agates, coral, amber, elephants, horses, carriages, litters, male and female slaves, and people; only the [crown] jewel on his head he gives to none. Wherefore? Because only on the head of a king may this sole jewel [be worn], and if he gave it, all the king's retinue would be astounded. Manjushri! The Tathagata is also like this. By his powers of meditation and wisdom he has taken possession of the domain of the Law and rules as king over the triple world. But the Mara kings are unwilling to submit. The Tathagata's wise and holy generals fight with them. With those who distinguish themselves he, too, is pleased, and in the midst of his four hosts preaches the sutras to them, causing them to rejoice, and bestows on them the meditations, the emancipations, the faultless roots and powers, and all the wealth of the Law. In addition, he gives them the city of nirvana, saying that they have attained extinction, and attracts their minds so that they all rejoice; yet he does not preach to them this Law-Flower Sutra. Manjushri! Just as the wheel-rolling king, seeing his soldiers who distinguish themselves, is so extremely pleased that now at last he gives them the incredible jewel so long worn on his head, which may not wantonly be given to anyone, so also is it with the Tathagata.
As the great Law-king of the triple world, teaching and converting all the living by the Law, when he sees his wise and holy army fighting with the Mara of the five mental processes, the Mara of earthly cares, and the Mara of death,14 and [doing so] with great exploits and merits, exterminating the three poisons, escaping from the triple world, and breaking [through] the nets of the Maras, then the Tathagata also is greatly pleased, and now [at last] preaches this Law-Flower Sutra which has never before been preached, and which is able to cause all the living to reach perfect knowledge, though all the world greatly resents and has difficulty in believing it. Manjushri! This Law-Flower Sutra is the foremost teaching of the tathagatas and the most profound of all discourses. I give it to you last of all, just as that powerful king at last gives the brilliant jewel he has guarded for long. Manjushri! This Law-Flower Sutra is the mysterious treasury of the buddha-tathagatas, which is supreme above all sutras. For long has it been guarded and not prematurely declared; today for the first time I proclaim it to you all."
At that time the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:
"Ever acting patiently,
Pitying all beings,
Such a one can proclaim
The sutra the Buddha extols.
In the last ages to come,
They who keep this sutra,
Whether laymen or monks
Or not [yet] bodhisattvas,
Must have [hearts of] compassion;
[For] those who do not hear
Nor believe this sutra
Suffer great loss.
I, attaining the Buddha-way,
By tactful methods
Preach this sutra to them
That they may abide in it.
It is like a powerful
Who to his war-distinguished soldiers
Presents many rewards,
Elephants, horses, carriages, litters,
As well as fields and houses,
Villages and cities;
Or bestows garments,
Various kinds of jewels,
Slaves and wealth,
Bestowing all with joy.
[But] only for one heroic
And of rare exploits
Does the king take from his head
The [crown] jewel to give him.
Thus is it also with the Tathagata;
He is the king of the Law,
[Possessed of] great powers of patience
And the treasury of wisdom;
He, with great benevolence,
Transforms the world with his Law.
Seeing all human beings
Suffering from pains and distresses,
Seeking for deliverance,
Fighting against the Maras,
He to all these living beings
Has preached various laws,
And in great tactfulness
Has preached these [numerous] sutras;
Finally knowing the creatures
Have attained their [developed] powers,
At last he to them
Preaches this Law-Flower,
As the king took from his head
The jewel and gave it.
This sutra is preeminent
Among all the sutras.
I have always guarded
And not prematurely revealed it.
Now indeed is the time
To preach it to you all.
After my extinction,
Whoever seeks the Buddha-way
And desires imperturbedly
To proclaim this sutra
Should relate himself to
The four rules15 such as these.
He who reads this sutra
Will be ever free from worry
And free from pain and disease;
His countenance will be fresh and white;
He will not be born poor,
Humble, or ugly.
All creatures will delight to see him
As a longed-for saint;
Will be his servants.
Swords and staves will not be laid on him;
Poison cannot harm him.
If anyone curses him,
[That man's] mouth will be closed.
Fearlessly he will roam
Like a lion king.
The radiance of his wisdom
Will shine like the sun.
If he should dream,
He will see only the wonderful,
Seeing the tathagatas
Seated on lion thrones.
Preaching the Law to hosts
Of surrounding bhikshus;
Seeing also dragon spirits,
Asuras, and others,
In number as the sands of the Ganges,
Who worship him with folded hands;
And he sees himself
Preaching the Law to them.
He will also see the buddhas,
With the sign of the golden body,
Emitting boundless light,
Illuminating all beings,
And with Brahma-voice
Expounding the laws.
[While] the Buddha to the four groups
Is preaching the supreme Law,
He will find himself in the midst,
Extolling the Buddha with folded hands;
He will hear the Law with joy,
Pay homage to him,
Attain the dharanis,
And prove the truth of never retreating.16
The Buddha, knowing his mind
Has entered deep into the Buddha-way,
Will then predict that he will accomplish
Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment,
[Saying]: 'You, my good son,
Shall in the age to come
Obtain infinite wisdom,
The Great Way of the Buddha:
A domain splendidly pure,
Of extent incomparable,
And with [its] four hosts
With folded hands hearing the Law.'
He will also find himself
In mountain groves,
Exercising himself in the good Law,
And deep in meditation
Seeing the universal buddhas.
Golden colored are those buddhas,
Adorned with a hundred blessed signs;
[He who] hears and preaches to others
Ever has good dreams like these.
Again he will dream he is a king
Who forsakes his palace and kinsfolk
And exquisite pleasures of the senses
To go to the wisdom throne;
At the foot of a Bodhi tree,
He sits on the lion throne;
After seeking the Way for seven days,
He attains the wisdom of buddhas;
Having attained the supreme Way,
He arises and, rolling the Law-wheel,
To the four hosts preaches the Law
For thousands of myriads of kotis of kalpas.
After preaching the faultless Wonderful Law
And saving innumerable creatures,
He shall then enter nirvana,
As a lamp is extinct when its smoke ends.
If anyone in the evil ages to come
Preaches this preeminent Law,
He will obtain the great blessing
Of such rewards as the above.