At that time Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahasattva spoke to the Buddha, saying: "World-honored One! If there be a good son or good daughter who, hearing this Law-Flower Sutra, accepts it with joy, how much happiness will he obtain?"
And he spoke [it again] in verse:
"After the extinction of the World-honored One,
If anyone, hearing this sutra,
Is able to accept it with joy,
How much happiness will he obtain?"
Then the Buddha addressed Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahasattva: "Ajita! If, after the extinction of the Tathagata, any bhikshu, bhikshuni, upasaka, upasika, or other wise person, whether old or young, on hearing this sutra has accepted it with joy, and coming out of the assembly goes elsewhere to dwell either in a monastery or solitary place, or in a city, street, hamlet, or village, to expound [what] he has heard, according to his ability, to his father, mother, kindred, good friends,
and acquaintances; and all these people, having heard it, accept it with joy and again go on to transmit the teaching; these others, having heard it, also accepting it with joy, and transmitting the teaching, and so on in turn to the fiftieth [person] - Ajita! I will now tell you about the merit of that fiftieth good son or good daughter, who joyfully receives [the truth]. Do you hearken well!
"It is as [the number of] all the living creatures in the six states [of existence], in four hundred myriad kotis of asamkhyeyas of worlds, born in the four [ways], egg-born, womb-born, humidity-born, or born by metamorphosis, whether they are formed or formless, whether conscious or unconscious, or neither conscious nor unconscious; footless, two-footed, four-footed, or many-footed - it is as the sum of all these living creatures.
Suppose someone, seeking [their] happiness, provides them with every article of pleasure they may desire, giving each creature the whole of a Jambudvipa, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, moonstone, agate, coral, amber, and all sorts of wonderful jewels, with elephants, horses, carriages, and palaces and towers built of the precious seven, and so forth. This great master of gifts thus bestows gifts for full eighty years and then reflects thus: 'I have bestowed on all these beings articles of pleasure according to their desires, but now they have all grown old and worn, over eighty years of age, with hair gray and faces wrinkled,
and death is not far off - I ought to instruct and guide them in the Buddha-law.' Thereupon, gathering together those beings, he proclaims to them the Law's instruction; and by his revealing, teaching, benefiting, and rejoicing, they all in a moment become srota-apannas, sakridagamins, anagamins, and arhats,1 free from all imperfections, having all acquired mastery of profound meditation and completed the eight emancipations. What is your opinion? May the merits obtained by this great master of gifts be considered many or not?" Maitreya said to the Buddha: "World-honored One! The merits of this man are very many, infinite and boundless. Even though this master of giving had only made gifts of all those articles of pleasure to those creatures, his merits would be infinite; how much more when he causes them to attain arhatship?"
Then said the Buddha to Maitreya: "I will now speak clearly to you. The merits attained by this man in bestowing those means of happiness to all beings in the six states [of existence] of four hundred myriad kotis of asamkhyeyas of worlds and causing them to attain arhatship do not compare with the merits of that fiftieth person who, hearing a single verse of the Law-Flower Sutra, receives it with joy; they are not up to one hundredth, or one thousandth, or one fraction of a hundred thousand myriad kotis; the power of figures or comparisons cannot express it. Ajita! If the merits of such a fiftieth person who in turn hears the Law-Flower Sutra
and accepts it with joy are indeed so infinite, boundless, and numberless, how much more is the happiness of him who among the first hearers in the assembly receives it joyfully, surpassing [happiness] still more infinite, boundless, and beyond number or compare.
"Again, Ajita! If anyone, for the sake of this sutra, goes to a monastery and, either sitting or standing, hears and receives it even for a moment, by reason of that merit in his next bodily rebirth he will acquire the most excellent kind of elephants, horses and carriages, jeweled palanquins and litters, and ride in celestial cars. If again there be anyone who sits down in the place where [this] Law is preached, and when others come persuades them to sit down and hear it, or shares his seat with others, that person's merit, on his bodily rebirth, will give him a Shakra's seat, or a Brahma's, or the seat of a sacred wheel-rolling king. Ajita!
If, moreover, anyone says to another: 'There is a sutra named the Flower of the Law; let us go together and listen to it,' and if he who is persuaded hears it but for a moment, that person's merit, after his bodily rebirth, will cause him to be born in the same place with bodhisattvas [who have attained] dharani. He will be of keen faculties and wise; for hundreds of thousands of myriads of ages he will never be dumb nor have unpleasant breath; [will] ever be free from ailments of the tongue or ailments of the mouth; his teeth will never be dirty and black, nor yellow, nor in gaps, nor fall out, nor irregular, nor crooked;
his lips will not be pendulous or twisted and shrunk, not coarse and rough, nor have sores and pustules, not be cracked and broken or awry and out of shape, neither thick nor big, neither sallow nor black, having nothing loathsome; his nose will not be flat or crooked and distorted; the color of his face will not be black, nor will it be narrow and long or ever be hollow and crooked, having nothing whatever unpleasing; his lips, tongue, and teeth all will be beautiful; his nose long, high, and straight; his face round and full; his eyebrows high and long; his forehead broad, even, and upright. His sign of manhood will be perfect.
In whatever age he is born, he will see the Buddha, hear the Law, and receive the teaching in faith. Ajita! Just notice this - if the merit obtained from persuading one person to go and hear the Law is such as this, how much more is that of one who with his whole mind hears and reads it, in the assembly interprets it to the people, and practices what it preaches."
Thereupon the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:
"If anyone in an assembly
Hears this sutra,
Though only one stanza,
And joyfully proclaims it to others,
And thus its teaching rolls on
Till it reaches the fiftieth [hearer],
The happiness obtained by this last
I now will explain.
Suppose a great benefactor
Who provides for a countless throng
During full eighty years
According to all their desires,
Then sees them decayed and old,
Gray-haired and faces wrinkled,
Teeth sparse and forms withered,
And thinks their death approaches;
'Now,' says he, 'I must teach them
To obtain the fruits of the right way.'
Then by tactful methods he
Teaches them the true Law of nirvana:
'All worlds are unstable,
Like water bubbles or will-o'-the-wisp.
Do you all hasten to beget
A spirit turning in disgust from them.'
All of them on hearing this truth
Perfect in the six transcendent [faculties],
Three clear [views], and eight emancipations.
The last, the fiftieth [person],
Who hears one verse and rejoices -
This man's felicity surpasses that [benefactor's]
Beyond the power of comparison.
If a hearer whose turn is [so remote]
Has such boundless felicity,
How much greater his who, in the congregation,
First hears it with joyfulness.
Let a man exhort but one person
And bring him to listen to the Law-Flower,
Saying: 'This sutra is profound and wonderful,
Hard to meet in thousands of myriads of kalpas.'
Persuaded, he goes to listen
And hears it but for a moment;
The reward of such a persuader
Let me now define.
Age by age his mouth will never suffer,
His teeth not be gapped, yellow, or black,
Nor his lips thick, awry, or cracked,
With no loathsome appearance;
His tongue neither dried up, black, nor shrunk;
His nose high, long, and straight;
His forehead broad, level, and upright;
A joy for men to behold;
No fetid breath from his mouth, but
The scent of the utpala flower
Ever exhaling from his lips.
[Or] suppose one on purpose visits a monastery
To hear the Law-Flower Sutra,
And hearing it but a moment rejoices;
Let me now tell of his happiness.
He will hereafter be born among gods and men,
Have fine elephants, horses and carriages,
Jeweled palanquins and litters,
And ride in celestial aerial cars.
If, in the place of preaching,
He begs men to sit and hear the sutra,
Because of this felicity he will attain
The seat of a Shakra, a Brahma, a wheel-rolling king.
How much more with him who single-minded
Hears and expounds its meaning
And practices according to [its] teaching -
His happiness is beyond limit.