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Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma

translated from the Chinese of Kumarajiva by Leon Hurvitz

(Columbia Université Press, New-York, revised edition 2009)



At that time, the World-Honored One rose serenely from his samadhi and proclaimed to Sâriputra: "The buddhas' wisdom is profound and incalculable. The gateways of their wisdom are hard to understand and hard to enter, so that no voice hearer or pratyeka­buddha can know them. Why is this? In former times the Buddha, personally approaching hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of innumerable buddhas, performed exhaustively the dharmas of those buddhas' incalculable paths. His fame for bold and earnest exertion having spread everywhere, he achieved profound dharmas that had never been before. What he preaches accords with what is appropriate, but the end point of its meaning is hard to understand. Sâriputra, since achieving buddhahood I have, by a variety of means and by resort to a variety of parables, broadly set forth the spoken doctrine, by countless devices leading the living be­ings and enabling them to abandon their encumbrances. Why is this? The Thus Come One's expedient devices, his knowledge and insight, and his paramitas have all been acquired to the fullest measure.

"Sâriputra, the Thus Come One's knowledge and insight are broad and great, profound and recondite, without measure and without obstruction. His might, his fearlessness, his dhyâna concentration, his release samadhi have deeply penetrated the limitless. He has perfected all the dharmas that have never been before. Sâriputra, by making a variety of distinctions, the Thus Come One can skillfully preach the dharmas. His words are gentle, gladdening many hearts. Sariputra, to speak of the essential: as for the immeasurable, unlimited dharmas that have never been before, the Buddha has perfected them all. Cease, Sâriputra, we need speak no more. Why is this?

Concerning the prime, rare, hard-to-understand dharmas, which the Buddha has perfected, only a buddha and a buddha can exhaust their reality, namely, the suchness of the dharmas, the suchness of their marks, the suchness of their nature, the suchness of their substance, the suchness of their powers, the suchness of their functions, the suchness of their causes, the suchness of their conditions, the suchness of their effects, the suchness of their retributions, and the absolute identity of their beginning and end. (NOTE)


1. These two paragraphs of Kumârajiva's version are so different from the Skt. that it behooves us, for comparison, to quote the latter in full:

"And then the Blessed One (bhagavan), mindful and conscious, arose from that samadhi. Having arisen, he addressed the long-lived Sâriputra: `Hard to see, hard to understand is the buddha knowledge directly and intuitively perceived by the Thus Gone Ones, the Worthy Ones, the Properly and Fully Enlightened Ones, hard to discern for all auditors and individually enlightened ones. For what reason is that? The Thus Gone Ones, the Worthy Ones, the Properly and Fully Enlightened Ones have sat at the feet of many hundreds of thousands of kotis of nayutas of buddhas, Sâriputra; they have fulfilled their obligation with respect to unexcelled proper and complete enlightenment under many hundreds of kotis of nayutas of buddhas, having followed them far, having done deeds of valor, endowed with wonderful and miraculous dharmas, endowed with dharmas hard to discern, ac­cepting dharmas hard to discern.

"`Hard to discern, Sâriputra, is the intentional speech (samdhàbhàsya) of the Thus Gone Ones, the Worthy Ones, the Properly and Fully Enlightened Ones. For what reason is that? The self-dependent dharmas they do illustrate by means of divers skills in [the employment of] means—knowledge and insight, demonstration of causes and conditions, enunciation of reasons, and predications—in order, through these several skills in [the employment of] means, to release the beings bogged down in the sundry objects of their respective attachments. They, the preachers of the divers dharmas, are endowed with the wondrous dharmas of the self-confidence born of the power of unattached and impalpable knowledge and insight, born of the power of their unique faculties, of the components of enlight­enment, of the release born of meditation, of the attainment to concentration. They have arrived at great wonders and miracles, Sâriputra, the Thus Gone Ones, the Worthy Ones, the Properly and Fully Enlightened Ones. Enough, Sâriputra! Let this statement, at least, stand: the Thus Gone Ones, the Worthy Ones, the Properly and Fully Enlightened Ones, have arrived at the supremely wonderful, Sâriputra. Therefore let it be the Thus Gone One, Sâriputra, who shall teach the dharma of the Thus Gone One, what dharmas the Thus Gone One knows. All the dharmas, every one of them, Sâriputra, does the Thus Gone One himself teach. All the dharmas, every one of them, Sâriputra, does the Thus Gone One himself know. Which the dharmas are, how the dharmas are, what the dharmas are like, of what appearance the dharmas are, and of what essence the dharmas are: which and how and like what and of what appearance and of what essence the dharmas are, indeed it is the Thus Gone One who is the manifest eyewitness of these dharmas."

My guess is that bhagavant, by this time, was a pure honorific, for which Kumârajiva substituted another honorific, standing for lokasammata (?).
Samdhaibhasya perhaps requires some explanation. Its meaning is this: if, for example, it is understood to both of us, but to us alone, that, whenever I say "black" to you, I mean "white," then "black" is samdhâbhasya. When the Buddha had spoken to the earlier schools in terms of dharma, they took him at his word, not realizing the intention (samdha) of his speech (bhasya). Such was the standard Mahayana position. Here in the Lotus, the Buddha seems to be implying that, on the highest level, the absolute truth is not in contradiction with the orthodox view of the dharmas or, for that matter, with the data of everyday experience.

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