Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law Chapter 23 - The Story of the Bodhisattva Medicine King

At that time the Bodhisattva Star Constellation King Flower addressed the Buddha, saying: "World-honored One! Why does the Medicine King Bodhisattva wander in the saha-world? World-honored One! What hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of distresses the Bodhisattva Medicine King has to suffer!

Excellent [will it be], World-honored One, if you will be pleased to explain a little, so that the gods, dragon spirits, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings, and the bodhisattvas who have come from other lands, as well as these shravakas, hearing it will all rejoice."

Thereupon the Buddha addressed the Bodhisattva Star Constellation King Flower: "Of yore, in the past, kalpas ago incalculable as the sands of the Ganges River, there was a buddha entitled Sun Moon Brilliance Tathagata, Worshipful, All Wise, Perfectly Enlightened in Conduct, Well Departed, Understander of the World, Peerless Leader, Controller, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha, World-honored One. That buddha had eighty kotis of great bodhisattva-mahasattvas and a great assembly of shravakas [numerous] as the sands of seventy-two Ganges rivers.

The lifetime of that buddha was forty-two thousand kalpas, and the lifetime of his bodhisattvas was the same. His domain had no women, no hells, no hungry ghosts, no animals, no asuras, and no disasters; its land was level as one's palm and made of lapis lazuli; it was adorned with jewel trees, covered with jewel curtains, hung with flags of jewel flowers, and jeweled vases and censers were [seen] everywhere in the country. Terraces were there of the precious seven, with trees for each terrace, the trees distant from it a full arrow's flight.1

Under all these jewel trees bodhisattvas and shravakas were seated. Above each of these platforms were a hundred kotis of gods performing celestial music and singing praises to the buddha in homage to him. Then that buddha preached the Law-Flower Sutra to the Bodhisattva Loveliness2 and all the bodhisattvas and host of shravakas. This Bodhisattva Loveliness had rejoiced to follow the course of suffering and in the Law of the Buddha Sun Moon Brilliance had made zealous progress, wandering about single-mindedly seeking the Buddha for fully twelve thousand years, after which he attained the contemplation of revelation of all forms.3 Having attained this contemplation he was very joyful and reflected thus, saying:

'My attainment of the contemplation of revelation of all forms is entirely due to the power [resulting] from hearing the Law-Flower Sutra. Let me now pay homage to the Buddha Sun Moon Brilliance and the Law-Flower Sutra.' No sooner did he enter into this contemplation than [he] rained from the sky mandarava flowers, maha-mandarava flowers, and fine dust of hard and black sandalwood, which filled the sky and descended like a cloud; [he] rained also incense of inner-sea-shore sandalwood;4 six karshas of this incense are worth a saha-world. [All this he did] in homage to the Buddha.

"Having made this offering, he arose from contemplation and reflected within himself, thus saying: 'Though I by my supernatural power have paid homage to the Buddha, it is not as good as offering my body.' Thereupon he partook of many kinds of incense--sandalwood, kunduruka, turushka, prikka, aloes, and resin incense--and drank the essential oil of campaka and other flowers. After fully twelve hundred years, he anointed his body with perfumed unguents, and in the presence of the Buddha Sun Moon Brilliance wrapped himself in a celestial precious garment, bathed in perfumed oil, and by his transcendent vow burned his own body.

Its brightness universally illuminated worlds fully numerous as the sands of eighty kotis of Ganges rivers, whose buddhas simultaneously extolled him, saying: 'Good, good! Good son! This is true zeal. It is called the True Law Homage to the Tathagata. Offerings of flowers, scents, necklaces, incense, sandal powder, unguents, flags and canopies of celestial silk, and incense of inner-sea-shore sandalwood,

offerings of such various things as these cannot match it, nor can the giving of alms, countries, cities, wives, and children match it. My good son! This is called the supreme gift, the most honored and sublime of gifts, because it is the Law homage to the tathagatas.' After making this statement they all became silent.

"His body continued burning for twelve hundred years, after which his body came to an end.

"The Bodhisattva Loveliness, after making such a Law offering as this, on his death was again born in the domain of the Buddha Sun Moon Brilliance, being suddenly metamorphosed, sitting cross-legged in the house of King Pure Virtue, to [whom as] his father he forthwith spoke thus in verse:

'Know, O great king!
Sojourning in that other abode,
I instantly attained the contemplation of
The revelation of all forms,
And devotedly performed a deed of great zeal
By sacrificing the body I loved.'

"After uttering this verse, he spoke to his father, saying: 'The Buddha Sun Moon Brilliance is still existing as of yore. Having first paid homage to that buddha, I obtained the dharani of interpreting the utterances of all the living, and moreover heard this Law-Flower Sutra [in] eight hundred thousand myriad kotis [of] nayutas, kankaras, bimbaras, akshobhyas of verse. Great King! I ought now to return and pay homage to that buddha.' Having said this, he thereupon took his seat on a tower of the precious seven, arose in the sky as high as seven tala trees, and on reaching that buddha, bowed down to his feet, and folding his ten fingers, extolled the buddha in verse:

'Countenance most wonderful,
Radiance illuminating the universe:
Formerly I paid homage to thee,
Now again I return to behold.'

"Then the Bodhisattva Loveliness, having uttered this verse, spoke to that buddha, saying: 'World-honored One! The World-honored One is still present in the world.'

"Thereupon the Buddha Sun Moon Brilliance addressed the Bodhisattva Loveliness: 'My good son! The time of my nirvana has come. The time of my extinction has arrived. You may arrange my bed. Tonight I shall enter parinirvana.' Again he commanded the Bodhisattva Loveliness: 'My good son! I commit the Buddha-law to you. And I deliver to you all [my] bodhisattvas and chief disciples, [my] Law of Perfect Enlightenment, also [my] three-thousand-great-thousandfold world [made] of the precious seven, [its] jewel trees and jewel towers, and my celestial attendants.

I also entrust to you whatever relics may remain after my extinction. Let them be distributed and paid homage to far and wide. Let some thousands of stupas be erected.' The Buddha Sun Moon Brilliance, having thus commanded the Bodhisattva Loveliness, in the last division of the night entered into nirvana.

"Thereupon the Bodhisattva Loveliness, seeing the buddha was extinct, mourned, was deeply moved and distressed, and ardently longed for him. Then piling up a pyre of inner seashore sandalwood, he paid homage to the body of that buddha and burned it. After the fire died out he gathered the relics, made eighty-four thousand precious urns, and erected eighty-four thousand stupas high as a threefold world, adorned with banner towers, hung with flags and canopies and with many precious bells. Then the Bodhisattva Loveliness again reflected within himself, saying:

'Though I have paid this homage, my mind is not yet satisfied. Let me pay still further homage to the relics.' Thereupon he addressed the bodhisattvas and chief disciples, as well as gods, dragons, yakshas, and all the host, saying: 'Pay attention with all your mind, [for] I am now about to pay homage to the relics of the Buddha Sun Moon Brilliance.' Having said this, he thereupon before the eighty-four thousand stupas burned his arms, with their hundred felicitous signs,

for seventy-two thousand years in homage to him, and led a numberless host of seekers after shravakaship and countless asamkhyeyas of people to set their mind on Perfect Enlightenment, causing them all to abide in the contemplation of revelation of all forms.

"Then all those bodhisattvas, gods, men, asuras, and others, seeing him without arms, were sorrowful and distressed and lamented, saying: 'This Bodhisattva Loveliness is indeed our teacher and instructor, but now his arms are burned off and his body is deformed.' Thereupon the Bodhisattva Loveliness in the great assembly made this vow, saying: 'Having given up both my arms, I shall [yet] assuredly obtain a buddha's golden body. If this [assurance] be true and not false,

let both my arms be restored as they were before.' As soon as he had made this vow, [his arms] were of themselves restored, [all] brought to pass through the excellence of this bodhisattva's felicitous virtue and wisdom. At that moment the three-thousand-great-thousandfold world was shaken in the six ways, the sky rained various flowers, and gods and men all attained that which they had never before experienced."

The Buddha [then] addressed the Bodhisattva Star Constellation King Flower: "In your opinion what say you, was the Bodhisattva Loveliness some other person? It was indeed the present Medicine King Bodhisattva. His self-sacrifice and gifts were of such countless hundred thousand myriad kotis of nayutas in number as these. Star Constellation King Flower! If anyone with his mind set on and aiming at Perfect Enlightenment is able to burn the fingers of his hand or even a toe of his foot in homage to a buddha's stupa he will surpass him who pays homage with domains, cities, wives, children, and his three-thousand-great-thousandfold land with its mountains, forests, rivers, pools, and all its precious things.

"Again, if anyone offers a three-thousand-great-thousandfold world full of the seven precious things in homage to buddhas, great bodhisattvas, pratyekabuddhas, and arhats, the merit this man gains is not equal to the surpassing happiness of him who receives and keeps but a single fourfold verse of this Law-Flower Sutra.
"Star Constellation King Flower! Suppose just as amongst all brooks, streams, rivers, canals, and all other waters the sea is the supreme, so is it also with this Law-Flower Sutra; amongst all the sutras preached by tathagatas it is the profoundest and greatest. And just as amongst all mountains--the earth mountains,

the Black Mountains,5 the Small Iron Circle Mountains, the Great Iron Circle Mountains, the ten precious mountains, and all other mountains--it is Mount Sumeru which is the supreme, so is it also with the Law-Flower Sutra; amongst all sutras it is the highest. Again, just as amongst all stars the princely moon is the supreme, so is it also with this Law-Flower Sutra; amongst thousands of myriads of kotis of kinds of sutra-law it is the most illuminating. Further, just as the princely sun is able to disperse all darkness, so is it also with this sutra; it is able to dispel all unholy darkness. Again, just as amongst all minor kings the holy wheel-rolling king is supreme, so is it also with this sutra; amongst all the sutras it is the most honorable. Again just as what Shakra is amongst the gods of the thirty-three heavens, so is it also with this sutra; it is the king of all sutras.

Again, just as the Great Brahma Heavenly King is the father of all living beings, so is it also with this sutra; it is the father of all the wise and holy men, of those training and the trained, and of bodhisattva-minded. Again, just as amongst all the common people srota-apanna, sakridagamin, anagamin, arhat, and pratyekabuddha are the foremost, so is it also with this sutra; amongst all the sutras preached by tathagatas, preached by bodhisattvas, or preached by shravakas,

it is the supreme. So is it also with those who are able to receive and keep this sutra--among all the living they are supreme. Amongst all shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas are supreme; so is it also with this sutra; amongst all the sutras, it is the supreme. Just as the buddha is king of the laws, so is it also with this sutra; it is king amongst the sutras.

"Star Constellation King Flower! This sutra is that which can save all the living; this sutra can deliver all the living from pains and sufferings; this sutra is able greatly to benefit all the living and fulfill their desires. Just as a clear, cool pool is able to satisfy all those who are thirsty, as the cold who obtain a fire [are satisfied], as the naked who find clothing, as [a caravan of] merchants who find a leader, as children who find their mother, as at a ferry one who catches the boat,

as a sick man who finds a doctor, as in the darkness one who obtains a lamp, as a poor man who finds a jewel, as people who find a king, as merchant venturers who gain the sea, and as a torch which dispels the darkness, so is it also with this Law-Flower Sutra; it is able to deliver all the living from all sufferings and all diseases, and is able to unloose all the bonds of mortal life.

"If anyone, hearing this Law-Flower Sutra, either himself copies or causes others to copy it, the limits of the sum of merit to be obtained cannot be calculated [even] by the Buddha-wisdom. If anyone copies this sutra and pays homage to it with flowers, scents, necklaces, incense, sandal powder, unguents, flags, canopies, garments, and various kinds of lamps, ghee lamps, oil lamps, lamps of scented oil, lamps of campaka oil, lamps of sumana oil, lamps of patala oil, lamps of varshika oil, and lamps of navamalika oil, the merit to be obtained by him is equally inestimable.

"Star Constellation King Flower! If there be anyone who hears this chapter of the former deeds of the Medicine King Bodhisattva, he will also obtain infinite and boundless merits. If there be any woman who hears this chapter of the former deeds of the Medicine King Bodhisattva and is able to receive and keep it, she, after the end of her present woman's body, will not again receive [one]. If, after the extinction of the Buddha, in the last five hundred years,6 there be any woman who hears this sutra and acts according to its teaching, at the close of this life she will go to the Happy World, where Amita Buddha dwells,

encompassed by his host of great bodhisattvas, and will [there] be born in the middle of a lotus flower upon a jeweled throne. Never again will he7 be harassed by desire, nor be harassed by anger and foolishness, nor again be harassed by pride, envy, or uncleanliness, [but] will attain transcendent [powers] and the assurance of no [re]birth; and having obtained this assurance, his organ of the eye will be serene, by which serene organ of the eye he will see seven million two thousand kotis of nayutas of buddha-tathagatas equal to the sands of the Ganges river, when these buddhas from afar will unite in lauding him, saying:

'Excellent, excellent! Good son! You have been able to receive and keep, read and recite, and ponder this sutra in the Law of Shakyamuni Buddha and to expound it to others. The blessed merit you have obtained is infinite and boundless; fire cannot burn it, water cannot wash it away. Your merit is beyond the powers of a thousand buddhas to explain. You have now been able to destroy the Mara-marauders,

to overthrow the [hostile] forces of mortality, and to crush all other enemies. Good son! Hundreds of thousands of buddhas, with their transcendent powers, together guard and protect you. Among the gods and men of all worlds none can equal you except the Tathagata. The wisdom and meditation of shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, or even bodhisattvas does not equal yours.' Star Constellation King Flower! Such is the power of the merit and wisdom attained by this bodhisattva.

"If there be anyone who, hearing this chapter of the former deeds of the Medicine King Bodhisattva, is able joyfully to receive and applaud it, that man during his present life will ever breathe out the fragrance of the blue lotus flower, and from the pores of his body will ever emit the fragrance of ox-head sandalwood; and his merit will be as above stated. Therefore, Star Constellation King Flower, I commit to you this chapter of the former deeds of the Medicine King.

In the last five hundred years, after my extinction, proclaim and spread it abroad in Jambudvipa, lest it be lost and Mara the Evil [One], his Mara-people, gods, dragons, yakshas, kumbhandas, and others gain their opportunity. Star Constellation King Flower! Guard and protect this sutra by your transcendent powers. Wherefore? [Because] this sutra is good medicine for the diseases of the Jambudvipa people. If a man be sick, on hearing this sutra his sickness will instantly disappear and he will neither grow old nor die. Star Constellation King Flower!

If you see anyone who receives and keeps this sutra, you should strew upon him blue lotus flowers full of sandal powder, and after strewing them thus reflect: 'This man ere long will accept the bundle of grass8 and take his seat on the wisdom plot; he will break the Mara host, and blowing the conch of the Law and beating the drum of the Great Law, he will deliver all living beings from the sea of old age, disease, and death.' Therefore he who seeks the Buddha-way, on seeing a man who receives and keeps this sutra, should thus beget a reverent mind."

While this chapter of the former deeds of the Medicine King Bodhisattva was being preached, eighty-four thousand bodhisattvas attained the dharani of interpreting the utterances of all the living. The Tathagata Abundant Treasures in the Precious Stupa extolled the Bodhisattva Star Constellation King Flower, saying "Excellent, excellent, Star Constellation King Flower! You have accomplished inconceivable merits, for you have been able to ask Shakyamuni Buddha such things as these and have infinitely benefited all the living.