Monday, March 12, 2012

The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law Chapter 17 - Discrimination of Merits

At that time when the great congregation heard the Buddha proclaim that such were the number of kalpas and the length of his lifetime, innumerable, countless living beings obtained great benefit.

Then the World-honored One said to the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Maitreya: "Ajita! While I proclaimed the duration of the Tathagata's life, sixty-eight hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of living beings, [numerous as] the sands of the Ganges, have attained to the assurance of [their] nonrebirth; again a thousand times more bodhisattva-mahasattvas have attained the dharani-power of hearing and keeping [the Law];1 again, bodhisattva-mahasattvas, numerous as the atoms of a world, have attained the faculty of eloquent and unembarrassed discussion; again,

bodhisattva-mahasattvas numerous as the atoms of a world have attained to hundreds of thousands of myriad kotis of the dharani of infinite revolutions;2 again, bodhisattva-mahasattvas numerous as the atoms of a three-thousand-great-thousandfold world have been enabled to roll forward the never-retreating Law-wheel; again, bodhisattva-mahasattvas numerous as the atoms of a middle-two-thousandfold domain have been enabled to roll forward the pure Law-wheel; again, bodhisattva-mahasattvas numerous as the atoms of a small-thousandfold domain after eight rebirths will attain Perfect Enlightenment;

again, bodhisattva-mahasattvas numerous as the atoms of four four-continent worlds3 after four births will attain Perfect Enlightenment; again, bodhisattva-mahasattvas numerous as the atoms of three four-continent worlds after three births will attain Perfect Enlightenment; again, bodhisattva-mahasattvas numerous as the atoms of two four-continent worlds after two births will attain Perfect Enlightenment; again, bodhisattva-mahasattvas numerous as the atoms of one four-continent world after one birth will attain Perfect Enlightenment; again, living beings numerous as the atoms of eight worlds have all aspired to Perfect Enlightenment."

When the Buddha had told of those bodhisattva-mahasattvas obtaining [such] great benefits of the Law, from the sky there rained down mandarava and maha-mandarava flowers, scattering over the innumerable hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of buddhas on lion thrones below the jewel trees, scattering also over Shakyamuni Buddha and the long-extinct Abundant Treasures Tathagata [seated] on the lion throne in the Stupa of the Precious Seven, and also scattering over all the great bodhisattvas and the host of the four groups; it also rained incense of fine sandalwood, aloes, and so forth; in the sky the heavenly drums resounded of themselves with exquisite deep resonance; there rained down also thousands of kinds of celestial garments,

and in every direction4 there hung down necklaces, pearl necklaces, mani necklaces, and felicitous-pearl necklaces; censers of many jewels, burning priceless incense, moved everywhere of their own accord to pay homage to the great congregation. Over each buddha, bodhisattvas held canopies, one above another, right up to the Brahma heaven. All these bodhisattvas with exquisite voices sang countless praise-hymns extolling the buddhas.

Thereupon Maitreya Bodhisattva rose from his seat and humbly bared his right shoulder, folded his hands toward the Buddha, and spoke thus in verse:

"The Buddha has preached the rare Law
Never heard [by us] before.
Great is the power of the World-honored One
And his lifetime beyond estimation.
Numberless Buddha-sons,
Hearing the World-honored One in detail
Tell of those who obtained the Law-benefit,
Have been filled with joy.
Some are steadfast in the never-retreating stage,
Some have attained to the dharanis,
Some to unembarrassed eloquence
Or to controlling myriads of kotis of revolutions.
There are bodhisattvas numerous as the atoms
Of a great-thousandfold world,
Each of them able to roll
The unretreating Law-wheel;
And bodhisattvas numerous as the atoms
Of a middle-thousandfold world,
Each of them able to roll
The unsullied Law-wheel;
And bodhisattvas numerous as the atoms

Of a small-thousandfold world,
Each of whom, after eight rebirths,
Will accomplish the Buddha-way.
Again there are bodhisattvas,
Numerous as the atoms of four, three, two
Worlds of four continents like this,
Who will become buddhas after those numbers of rebirths.
Or bodhisattvas numerous as the atoms
Of one four-continent world,
Who after one more birth
Will accomplish perfect knowledge.
Such living beings as these,
Hearing the duration of the Buddha's life,
Will obtain infinite, perfect,
And pure reward.
Also there are the living, numerous
As the atoms of eight worlds, who,
Hearing the Buddha's announcement of his lifetime,
Have all aspired to the supreme [truth].
The World-honored One, by preaching the infinite
And inconceivable Law,
Has benefited many,
Boundlessly as space.
Divine mandarava flowers rain down
And maha-mandaravas.
Shakras and Brahmas [numerous] as sands of the Ganges
From countless buddha-lands have come,
Raining sandal and aloes, which
Fall blended and commingled;
Like birds flying below the sky
They reverently bestrew the buddhas.
The celestial drums in space
Roll forth of themselves their wondrous sounds.
A thousand myriad kinds of divine robes
Whirl around in their descent.
Exquisite bejeweled censers,
Burning priceless incense,
Move all around of their own accord
In homage to the world-honored ones.
Hosts of great bodhisattvas
Hold canopies of the precious seven,
Of wondrous height and of myriads of kotis of varieties,
One above another up to the Brahma heaven.
Before each one of the buddhas
Jeweled streamers hang fluttering;
Also with thousands of myriads of stanzas
They [celebrate] the tathagatas in song.
Such a variety of things as these
We have never known before.
Hearing the Buddha's lifetime is infinite,
All beings are gladdened.
The Buddha's fame throughout the universe
Widely refreshes the roots of goodness
Of all living beings,
Aiding their desire for supreme [truth]."

Thereupon the Buddha addressed Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahasattva: "Ajita! Those living beings who have heard that the lifetime of the Buddha is of such long duration and have been able to receive but one thought of faith and discernment--the merits they will obtain are beyond limit and measure. Suppose there be any good son or good daughter who, for the sake of Perfect Enlightenment, during eight hundred thousand kotis of nayutas of kalpas practices the five paramitas: dana-paramita, sila-paramita, kshanti-paramita, virya-paramita, and dhyana-paramita,

prajna-paramita being excepted; these merits compared with the above-mentioned merits are not equal to even the hundredth part, the thousandth part, or one part of a hundred thousand myriad kotis of it; indeed, neither numbers nor comparisons can make it known. If any good son or good daughter possesses such merit as this, there is no such thing as failing [to obtain] Perfect Enlightenment."

Thereupon the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:

"Though a man, seeking the Buddha-wisdom,
During eighty myriad kotis
Of nayutas of kalpas
Were to perform the five paramitas,
And during those kalpas
Give alms and offerings to buddhas,
Pratyekabuddhas, and disciples,
As well as to bodhisattvas--
Rare and precious food and drink,
Superior clothing and bed furniture,
Monasteries built of sandalwood and
Adorned with gardens and groves,
Such alms as these,
Wonderful in variety -
Were he to maintain them through all those kalpas
As meritorious gifts to the Buddha-way;
Moreover, though he were to keep the commandments
Purely, without flaw or fault,
And seek the supreme Way
Which all buddhas praise;
Or were he patiently to endure insult,
Stand firm in the stage of gentleness,
And though evils came upon him,
Keep his mind undisturbed;
Were he by [other] believers

Filled with utmost arrogance
To be scorned and distressed,
Yet able to bear even this;
Or were he to be diligent and zealous,
Ever strong in will and memory,
And during measureless kotis of kalpas
With all his mind continue unremitting,
And during numberless kalpas
Dwell in secluded places,
Whether resident or vagrant,
Avoiding sleep and ever concentrating his mind;
Were [he], by this means,
To be able to beget meditations
And for eighty myriad kotis of kalpas
Calmly remain in them with unperturbed mind;
Were [he], maintaining this single-minded happiness,
Willingly to seek the supreme Way, [saying]:
'I will attain all knowledge
And go on to the utmost point of meditation':
Were such a man for hundreds of thousands of
Myriads of kotis of kalpas
To perform such deeds of merits
As those above expounded;
Yet any good son or daughter
Who, hearing me declare my [eternal] life,
Believes it with but a single thought,
This one's reward surpasses his.
If anyone be entirely free
From all doubts and misgivings
And in his deepest heart believes it but a moment,
Such shall be his reward.
If there be bodhisattvas
Who have followed [good] ways for innumerable kalpas
And hear of my announcement of my [eternal] life,
They will be able to receive it in faith;
Such men as these
Will bow their heads in receiving this sutra
And say: 'May we in the future
Have long life to save all the living;
And just as the present World-honored One
Who, King of Shakyas,
On his wisdom terrace raises the lion's roar,

Preaching the Law without fear,
So may we in future ages,
Honored and received by all,
When sitting on the wisdom terrace,
In like manner tell of the duration of life!'
If there be any of profound spirit,
Pure and upright,
Learned and able to uphold [the truth],
Who understand the meaning of the Buddha's word,
Such men as these
Will have no doubts about this teaching.

"Again, Ajita! If anyone hears of the duration of the Buddha's lifetime and apprehends its meaning, the merit obtained by this man will be beyond limit and he will advance to the supreme wisdom of tathagatas; how much more will [this be the case with] the one who is devoted to hearing this sutra, or causes others to hear it, or himself keeps it, or causes others to keep it, or himself copies it, or causes others to copy it, or with flowers, incense, garlands, banners, flags, silk canopies, and lamps of fragrant oil and ghee pays homage to the sutra; this man's merit will be infinite and boundless and able to bring forth perfect knowledge. Ajita!

If any good son or good daughter, hearing of my declaration of the duration of my lifetime, believes and discerns it in his inmost heart, such a one will see the Buddha always on Mount Gridhrakuta surrounded by a host of great bodhisattvas and shravakas, and preaching the Law. And he will see this saha-world whose land is lapis lazuli, plain and level, its eight roads marked off with jambunada gold, lined with jewel trees; it has towers, halls, and galleries all made of jewels, in which dwell together its bodhisattva host. If anyone is able so to behold, you may know that this is the sign of profound faith and discernment.

"And again, if [anyone], after the extinction of the Tathagata, hears this sutra, and does not defame but rejoices over it, you may know that he has had the sign of deep faith and discernment; how much more the one who reads and recites, receives and keeps it--this man carries the Tathagata on his head.5 Ajita! Such a good son or good daughter need no more erect stupas, temples, or monasteries for me, nor make offerings of the four requisites to the monks.6 Wherefore? [Because] this good son or good daughter who receives and keeps, reads and recites this sutra has already erected stupas, built monasteries, and made offerings to the monks,

that is to say, has erected, for the Buddha's relics, stupas of the precious seven, high and broad, and tapering up to the Brahma heaven, hung with flags and canopies and precious bells, and with flowers, perfumes, garlands, sandal powder, unguents, incense, drums, instruments, pipes, flutes, harps, all kinds of dances and plays--singing and lauding with wondrous notes--he has already made these offerings for innumerable thousands of myriads of kotis of kalpas. Ajita!

If anyone, after my extinction, hears this sutra, and is able either to receive and keep, or himself copy or cause others to copy it, he has [already] erected monasteries and built red sandalwood temples of thirty-two shrines, tall as eight tala trees, lofty, spacious, splendid, in which abide hundreds, thousands of bhikshus; [adorned also with] gardens, groves, and bathing pools, promenades and meditation cells; with clothing, victuals, bedding, medicaments,

and all aids to pleasure provided to the full therein. Such monasteries and such numbers of temples, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis, countless in their number, he has here in my presence offered to me and [my] bhikshus. Therefore I say if anyone after the extinction of the Tathagata receives and keeps, reads and recites it, preaches it to others, either himself copies it or causes others to copy it, and pays homage to the sutra, he need no longer erect stupas and temples or build monasteries and make offerings to the monks.

How much less he who is able to keep this sutra and add thereto almsgiving, morality, forbearance, zeal, concentration, and wisdom. His merit will be most excellent, infinite and boundless; even as space, which, east, west, south, and north, the four intermediate directions, the zenith and nadir, is infinite and boundless, so also the merit of this man will be infinite and boundless, and he will speedily reach perfect knowledge. If anyone7 reads and recites, receives and keeps this sutra,

preaches it to other people, or himself copies it, or causes others to copy it; moreover, is able to erect caityas and build monasteries, and to serve and extol the shravaka-monks, and also, with hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of ways of extolling, extols the merits of the bodhisattvas; also [if he] to other people, with various reasonings according to its meaning, expounds this Law-Flower Sutra; again [if he] is able to keep the commandments in purity, amicably to dwell with the gentle, to endure insult without anger,

to be firm in will and thought, ever to value meditation, to attain profound concentration, zealously and boldly to support the good, to be clever and wise in ably answering difficult questionings; Ajita, again, if after my extinction there be good sons and good daughters who receive and keep, read and recite this sutra, who possess such excellent merits as these, you should know that those people have proceeded toward the wisdom terrace and are near Perfect Enlightenment, sitting under the tree of enlightenment. Ajita! Wherever those good sons or good daughters sit or stand or walk in that place, [you] should erect a caitya; all gods and men should pay homage to it as a stupa of [the relics of] the Buddha."

Thereupon the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:

"If anyone, after my extinction,
Is able respectfully to keep this sutra,
This man's happiness will be infinite
As is above explained.
Such a one will have made perfectly
All kinds of offerings
And erected stupas for relics,
Adorned with the precious seven,
With banner towers, high and broad,
Tapering up to the Brahma-heaven,
With thousands of myriads of kotis of gem-bells,
Stirred by the wind to mystic music.
For innumerable kalpas
He will have paid homage to these stupas
With flowers, incense, and garlands,
With celestial garments and playing of music,
With perfumed oil and ghee lamps burning
And illuminating all around.
In the evil ages of the Law's decay,
He who can keep this sutra
Will have, as above [shown],
Perfectly made all kinds of offerings.
If anyone can keep this sutra,
It will be as if the Buddha were present
And he, with ox-head sandalwood,
Built monasteries to serve him,
Consisting of thirty-two halls,
Eight tala trees in height,
With superior food and fine garments,
Beds and all complete,
With abodes for hundreds and thousands;
With gardens, groves, and bathing pools,
With walks and meditation cells,
All beautifully adorned.
If anyone has the mind of faith and discernment,
Receives, keeps, reads, recites, and copies,
Or moreover causes others to copy,
And pays homage to the sutra,
Strewing flowers, incense, and sandal powder,
And uses perfumed oil of sumana
And campaka and atimuktaka
For constant burning;
He who pays such homage to it
Will obtain infinite merit;
Just as space is boundless,
So will it be with his merits;
How much more with one who keeps this sutra,
Gives alms and keeps the commandments,
Is long-suffering and delights in meditation,
Not irascible, nor speaking ill,
Reverent to caityas and sanctuaries,
Humble toward the bhikshus,
Far removed from haughtiness,
Ever pondering on wisdom,
Not angry when asked about difficulties
But compliantly explaining them;
If he is able to do these deeds,
His merits cannot be estimated.
If one meets such a Law-teacher
Who has accomplished such virtues,
Let him strew divine flowers upon him,
Cover him with divine clothing,
And salute him by bowing to his feet,
With a mind as if thinking of the Buddha.

Moreover, let him reflect thus:
'Soon he will be going to the Bodhi tree
To achieve perfection and effortlessness,
Widely benefiting gods and men.'
Wherever he dwells and stays,
Walks, sits, or lies,
Or preaches but a stanza [of this sutra],
In that place erect a stupa,
Adorn it and make it beautiful,
And in all ways pay homage to it.
When a Buddha-son dwells in such a place,
It means that the Buddha himself uses it
And ever abides in it,
Walking, or sitting, or lying down