Revelation of the [Eternal] Life of the Tathagata
At that time the Buddha said to the bodhisatt vas and
all the great assembly: "Believe and discern, all you good sons,
the veracious word of the Tathâgata." Again he said to the
great assembly: "Believe and discern the veracious word of the Tathâgata."
And again he said to all the great assembly : "Believe and discern
the veracious word of the Tathagata." Then the great host of bodhisattvas,
Maitreya at their head, folded their hands and said to the Buddha: "World-honored
One ! Be pleased to expound the matter, and we will believingly receive
the Buddha's words." Thus they spoke three times, repeating the words:
"Be pleased to expound the matter, and we will believingly receive
the Buddha's words."
Then the World-honored One, perceiving that the bodhisattvas thrice without
ceasing repeated their request, addressed them, saying: "Listen then
all of you attentively to the secret, mysterious, and supernaturally pervading
power' of the Tathâgata. All the worlds of gods, men, and asuras
consider: 'Now has Sakyamuni Buddha corne forth from the palace of the
Sâkya clan, and seated at the training place of enlightenment, not
far from the city of Gayâ, has attained Perfect Enlightenment.'
But, my good sons, since I veritably became Buddha [there have passed]
infinite, boundless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas
of kalpa. For instance, suppose there were five hundred thousand myriad
kotis of nayutas of asarpkhyeya threethousand-great-thousandfold worlds;
let someone grind them to atoms, pass eastward through five hundred thousand
myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya countries, and then drop one of
those atoms; suppose he thus proceeded eastward till he had finished those
atomswhat do you think, my good sons, is it possible to imagine and calculate
all those worlds so as to know their number ? " Maitreya Bodhisattva
and the others all laid to the Buddha: "World-honored One ! Those
worlds are infinite, boundless, beyond the knowledge of reckoning and
beyond the reach of thought. Not all thesrâvakas and pratyekabuddhas,
with their faultless wisdom, would be able to imagine and know the bounds
of those numbers. And to us also, who are dwelling in the stage of avaivartika,
these matters are beyond apprehension. World-honored One ! All such worlds
as these are measureless and boundless.
Thereupon the Buddha addressed all those bodhisattva-mahâsattvas:
"Good sons ! Now I must clearly announce and declare to you. Suppose
you take as atomized all those worlds where an atom lias been deposited
or where it has not been deposited, and [count] an atom as a kalpa, [the
time] since I became Buddha still surpasses these by hundreds of thousands
of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya kalpa. From that time forward
I have constantly been preaching and teaching in this sahâ-world,
and also leading and benefiting all living beings in other places in hundreds
of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asarpkhyeya domains.
sons ! During this time I have ever spoken of myself as the Buddha Burning
Light and other [buddhas], and also have told of their entering into nirvana.
Thus have I tactfully described them all. Good sons ! Whenever living beings
corne to me, I behold with a buddha's eyes all the faculties, keen or
dull, of their faith and so on. And I explain to them, in stage after
stage, according to their capacity and degree of salvation, my different
naines and die length of my lives, and moreover plainly state that I must
enter nirvana. I also, in various tactful ways, preach the Wonderful Law
which is able to cause all the living to beget a joyful heart. Good sons
! Beholding die propensities of all the living toward lower things, so
that they have little virtue and much vileness, to these men die Tathâgata
declares: `In my youth I left home and attained Perfect Enlightenment.'
But since I verily became Buddha, thus have I ever been, and thus have
I made declaration, only by my tactful methods to teach and transform
all living beings, so that they may enter the Way of the Buddha. Good
sons ! All the sutras which the Tathâgata preaches are for the deliverance
of the living. Whether speaking of himself or speaking of others, whether
indicating himself or indicating others, and whether indicating his own
affairs or the affairs of others, 2 whatever he says is all real and not
empty air. Wherefore ? [Because] the Tathâgata knows and sees the
character of the triple world as it really is: [to him] there is neither
birth nor death, or going away or coming forth; neither living nor dead;
neither reality nor unreality; neither thus nor otherwise.3 Unlike [the
way] the triple world beholds the triple world, the Tathâgata clearly
sees such things as these without mistake. Because all the living have
various natures, various desires, various activities, various ideas and
reasonings, [so] desiring to cause them to produce the roots of goodness,
[the Tathagata] by so many reasonings, parables, and discourses has preached
his various truths. The Buddha-deeds which he does have never failed for
a moment. Thus it is, since I became Buddha in the very far distant past,
[that my] lifetime is of infinite asarnkhyeya kalpa, forever existing
and immortal. Good sons ! The lifetime which I attained by pursuing the
bodhisattva-way is not even yet accomplished but will still be twice the
previous number [of kalpa]. But now, in this unreal nirvana, I announce
that I must enter the [real] nirvana. In this tactful way die Tathâgata
teaches all living beings. Wherefore ? If the Buddha abides long in the
world, men of little virtue who do not cultivate the roots of goodness
and are [spiritually] poor and mean, greedily attached to the five desires,
and are caught in the net of [wrong] reflection and false views —
if they see the Tathâgata constantly present and not extinct, [they]
will then become puffed up and lazy, and unable to conceive the idea that
it is hard to meet [the Buddha] or a mind of reverence [for him]. Therefore
the Tathâgata tactfully teaches : `Know, bhikshus, die appearance
of buddhas in the world is a rare occurrence.' Wherefore ? In the course
of countless hundreds of thousands of myriad kotis of kalpa, some men
of little virtue may happen to see a buddha or none may see him. For this
reason I say : `Bhikshus ! A tathâgata may rarely be seen ! ' All
these living beings, hearing such a statement, must certainly realize
the thought of the difficulty of meeting a buddha and cherish a longing
and a thirst for him; then will they cultivate die roots of goodness.
Therefore the Tathâgata, though he does not in reality become extinct,
yet announces [his] extinction. Again, good sons ! The method of all buddha-tathâgatas
is aiways like this in order to save all the living, and it is altogether
real and not false.
"Suppose, for instance, a good physician, who is wise and perspicacious,
conversant with medical art, and skillful in healing all sorts of diseases.
He has many sons, say ten, twenty, even up to a hundred. Be-cause of some
matter he goes abroad to a distant country. After his departure, his sons
drink his other poisonous medicines, which send them into a delirium,
and they lie rolling on the ground. At this moment their father cornes
back to his home. Of the sons who drank the poison, some have lost their
senses, others are [still] sensible, but on seeing their father [approaching]
in the distance they are all greatly delighted, and kneeling, salute him,
asking: 'Flow good it is that you are returned in safety ! We, in our foolishness,
have mistakenly dosed ourselves with poison. We beg that you will heal
us and give us back our lives.' The father, seeing his sons in such distress,
in accordante with his prescriptions seeks for good herbs altogether perfect
in color, scent, and fine flavor, and then pounds, sifts, and mixes them
and gives them to his sons to take, speaking thus : `This excellent medicine,
with color, scent, and fine flavor altogether perfect, you may [now] take,
and it will at once rid you of your distress so that you will have no
more suffering.' Those amongst the sons who are sensible, seeing this
excellent medicine with color and scent both good, take it immediately
and are totally delivered from their illness. The others, who have lost
their senses, seeing their father corne, though they are also delighted,
salute him, and ask him to heal their illness, yet when he offers them
the medicine, they are unwilling to take it. Wherefore ? Because die poison
has entered deeply, they have lost their senses, and [even] in regard
to this medicine of excellent color and scent they acknowledge that it
is not good. The father reflects thus : `Alas for these sons, afflicted
by this poison, and their minds all unbalanced. Though they are glad to
see me and implore to be healed, yet they are unwilling to take such excellent
medicine as this. Now I must arrange an expedient plan so that they will
take this medicine.' Then he says to them: `You should know that I am
now worn out with old age and the time of my death has now arrived. This
excellent medicine I now leave here. You may take it and have no fear
of not being better.' After thus admonishing them, he departs again for
another country and sends a messenger back to inform them: `Your father
is dead.' And now, when those sons hear that their father is dead, their
minds are greatly distressed and they thus reflect: 'Ifour father were
alive he would have pity on us, and we should be saved and preserved.
But now he has left us and died in a distant country. [Now] we feel we
are orphans and have no one to rely on.' Continuous grief brings them
to their senses, and they recognize the color, scent, and excellent flavor
of the medicine and thereupon take it, their poisoning being entirely
relieved. The father, hearing that the sons are all recovered, seeks an
opportunity and returns so that they all see him. All my good sons ! What
is your opinion ? Are there any who could say that this good physician
had committed the sin of falsehood ? "
"No, World-honored One ! "
The Buddha [then] said: "I also am like this. Since I became Buddha,
infinite boundless hundred thousand myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya
kalpa ago, for the sake of all living beings, by my tactful power, I
have declared that I must enter nirvana, yet there is none who can lawfully
accuse me of the error of falsehood."
At that time the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim
teaching over again, spoke thus in verse:
"Since I attained buddhahood,
The kalpa through which I have passed
Are infinite thousands of myriads
Of kotis of asatpkhyeya years.
Ceaselessly preached I the Law and taught
Countless kotis of creatures
To enter the Way of the Buddha;
Since then are unmeasured kalpa.
In order to save all creatures,
By tactful methods I reveal nirvana,
Yet truly I am not [yet] extinct
But forever here preaching the Law.
I forever remain in this [world],
Using all my spiritual powers
So that all perverted creatures,
Though I am near, yet fail to see me.
All looking on me as extinct
Everywhere worship my relics,
All cherishing longing desires,
And beget thirsting hearts of hope.
[When] all creatures have believed and obeyed,
In [character] upright, in mind gentle,
Wholeheartedly wishing to see the Buddha,
Not caring for their own lives,
Then I with all the Samgha
Appear together on the Divine Vulture Peak.
And then I tell all creatures
That I exist forever in this [world],
By the power of tactful methods
Revealing [myself] extinct and not extinct.
[If] in other regions there are beings
Reverent and with faith aspiring,
Again I am in their midst
To preach the supreme Law.
You, not hearing of this,
Only say I am extinct.
I behold all living creatures
Sunk in the sea of suffering,
Hence I do not reveal myself
But set them all aspiring,
Till, when their hearts are longing,
I appear to preach the Law.
In such supernaturally pervading power,
Throughout asarnkhyeya kalpa
[I am] always on the Divine Vulture Peak
And in every other dwelling place.
When all the living see, at the kalpa's end,
The conflagration when it is burning,
Tranquil is this realm of mine,
Ever filled with heavenly beings,
Parks, and many palaces
With every kind of gem adorned,
Precious trees full of blossoms and fruits,
Where all creatures take their pleasure;
All the gods strike the heavenly drums
And evermore make music,
Showering mandarava flowers
On the Buddha and his great assembly.
My Pure Land will never be destroyed,
Yet all view it as being burned up,
And grief and horror and distress
Fill them all like this.
All those sinful creatures,
By reason of their evil karma,
Throughout asalnkhyeya kalpa,
Hear not the name of the Precious Three.
But all who perform virtuous deeds
And are gentle and of upright nature,
These all see that I exist
And am here expounding the Law.
At times for all this throng
I preach the Buddha's life is eternal;
To those who at length see the Buddha
I preach that a buddha is rarely met.
My intelligence-power is such,
My wisdom-light shines infinitely,
My life is of countless kalpa,
From long-cultivated karma obtained.
You who have intelligence,
Do not in regard to this beget doubt
But bring it forever to an end,
For the Buddha's words are true, not false.
Like the physician who with clever device,
In order to cure his demented sons,
Though indeed alive announces [his own] death,
[Yet] cannot be charged with falsehood,
I, too, being father of this world,
Who heals all misery and affliction,
For the sake of the perverted people,
Though truly alive, say [I am] extinct;
[Lest, ] because always seeing me,
They should beget arrogant minds,
Be dissolute and set in their five desires,
And fall into evil paths.
I, ever knowing all beings,
Those who walk or walk not in the Way,
According to the right principles of salvation
Expound their every Law,
Ever making this my thought:
`Hlow shall I cause all the living
To enter the Way supreme
And speedily accomplish their buddhahood ? ' "