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Home China Spirituality Chinese Buddhism The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra


The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra


Translated and edited from the Chinese (Kumarajiva ed. T.475) by Charles Luk ( 陸寬昱 Luk Foon Yuk ) in 1972

The Chinese Version of The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra: 维摩诘经



CHAPTER ONE

THE BUDDHA LAND

Thus have I heard, once upon a time the Buddha sojourned in the Amra park at Vaisali with an assembly of eight thousand great bhiksus. With them, here were thirty-two thousand Bodhisattvas, who were well known for having achieved all the perfections that lead to the great wisdom. They had received instructions from many Buddhas and formed a Dharma-protecting citadel. By upholding the right Dharma, they could fearlessly give the lion’s roar to teach sentient beings; so their names were heard in the ten directions. They were not invited but came to the assembly to spread the teaching on the Three Treasures to transmit it in perpetuity. They had overcome all demons and defeated heresies; and their six faculties, karmas of deeds, words and thoughts were pure and clean; being free from the (five) hindrances and the (ten) bonds. They had realized serenity of mind and had achieved unimpeded liberation. They had achieved right concentration and mental stability, thereby, acquiring the uninterrupted power of speech. They had achieved all the (six) paramitas: charity (dana), discipline (sila), patience (ksanti), devotion (virya), serenity (dhyana) and wisdom (prajna), as well as the expedient method (upaya) of teaching which completely benefit self and others. However, to them, these realizations did not mean any gain whatsoever for themselves, so, that they were in line with the patient endurance of the uncreate (anutpattika-dharma-ksanti). They were able to turn the wheel of the Law that never turns back. Being able to interpret the (underlying nature of) phenomena, they knew very well the roots (propensities) of all living beings; they surpassed them all and realized fearlessness.

They had cultivated their minds by means of merits and wisdom, with which they embellished their physical features which were unsurpassable, thus, giving up all earthly adornments. Their towering reputation exceeded the height of Mount Sumeru. Their profound faith (in the uncreate) was unbreakable like a diamond. Their treasures of the Dharma illuminated all lands and rained down nectar. Their speeches were profound and unsurpassed.

They entered deep into all (worldly) causes but cut off all heretical views, for they were already free from all dualities and had rooted out all (previous) habits. They were fearless and gave the lion’s roar to proclaim the Dharma, their voices being like thunder. They could not be gauged, for they were beyond all measures.

They had amassed all treasures of the Dharma and acted like (skillful) seafaring pilots. They were well versed in the profound meanings of all Dharmas. They knew very well the mental states of all living beings and their comings and goings (within the realms of existence). They had reached the state near the unsurpassed sovereign wisdom of all Buddhas, having acquired the ten fearless powers (dasabala) giving complete knowledge and the eighteen different characteristics (of a Buddha as compared with Bodhisattvas (avenikadharma). Although they were free from (rebirth in ) evil existences, they appeared in five mortal realms as royal physicians to cure all ailments, prescribing the right medicine in each individual case, thereby, winning countless merits to embellish countless Buddha lands. Each living being derived great benefit from seeing and hearing them, for their deeds were not in vain. Thus, they had achieved all excellent merits.

Their names were: the Bodhisattva Beholding All Things As Equal, the Bodhisattva Beholding All Things As Unequal, the Bodhisattva Beholding All Things As Equal Yet As Unequal, the Bodhisattva of Sovereign Serenity, the Bodhisattva of Sovereign Dharma, the Bodhisattva of Dharma-aspects, the Bodhisattva of Light, the Bodhisattva of Glorious Light, the Bodhisattva of Great Majesty, the Bodhisattva Store of Treasures, the Bodhisattva Store of Rhetoric, the Bodhisattva of Precious Hands, the Bodhisattva of Precious Mudra, the Hand Raising Bodhisattva, the Hand Lowering Bodhisattva, the Always Grieved Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva Root of Joy, the Bodhisattva Prince of Joy, the Bodhisattva Discerner of Sound, the Bodhisattva Womb of Space, the Bodhisattva Holding the Precious Torch, the Bodhisattva of Precious Boldness, the Bodhisattva of Precious Insight, the Bodhisattva of Indra-jala, the Bodhisattva Net of Light, the Bodhisattva of Causeless Contemplation, the Bodhisattva of Accumulated Wisdom, the Bodhisattva Precious Conqueror, the Bodhisattva King of Heavens, the Bodhisattva Destroyer of Demons, the Bodhisattva with Lightning Merits, the Bodhisattva of Sovereign Comfort, the Bodhisattva of Majestic Merits, the Bodhisattva of the Lion’s Roar, the Bodhisattva of Thundering Voice, the Bodhisattva with a Voice like Rocks Knocking One Another, the Bodhisattva Fragrant Elephant, the Bodhisattva White Fragrant Elephant, the Bodhisattva of Constant Devotion, the Bodhisattva of Unremitting Care, the Bodhisattva of Wonderful Rebirth, the Bodhisattva Garland, the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva Mahasthama, the Bodhisattva Brahma-jala, the Bodhisattva of Precious Staff, the Unconquerable Bodhisattva, the Bodhisattva of Majestic Land, the Bodhisattva with a Golden Topknot, the Bodhisattva with a Pearl in His Topknot, the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the Bodhisattva Manjusri and other Bodhisattvas numbering in all thirty-two thousand.

There were also ten thousand Brahma-devas including Mahadeva Sikhin, coming from the four quarters to hear about the Dharma. There were as well twelve thousand kings of heavens who came from the four quarters to sit in the assembly. There were also other devas of awe-inspiring majesty, dragons, spirits, yaksas, gandharas, asuras, garudas, kin-naras and mahoragas who came to sit in the assembly. Many bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas and upasikas also came to the assembly.

Thus, surrounded by an incalculable number of people circumambulating to pay their respects, the Buddha was about to expound the Dharma. Like the towering Mount Sumeru emerging from the great ocean. He sat comfortably on the lion throne eclipsing the imposing assembly.

A son of an elder (grhapati), called Ratna-rasi, came with five hundred sons of elders, with canopies decorated with the seven gems to pay respect and offer them to Him. By using His transcendental powers, the Buddha transformed all the canopies into a single one which contained the great chiliocosm.

With Mount Sumeru and all the concentric ranges around it, great seas, rivers, streams, the sun, the moon, planets and stars, and the palaces of devas, dragons, and holy spirits appeared in the precious canopy, which also covered all the Buddhas who were expounding the Dharma in the ten directions.

All those present, who witnessed the Buddha’s supernatural powers, praised the rare occurrence which they had never seen before, brought their palms together and gazed at Him without pausing for an instant. Thereupon, Ratna-rasi chanted the following gatha of praise:

“I salute Him whose eyes are broad like the green Lotus, whose mind is unchanging and serene, who has accumulated countless pure deeds that lead all beings to the extinction of mortality.

I have seen the great saint use His transcendental powers to create in the ten directions countless lands in which Buddhas still proclaim the Dharma; all this has the assembly seen and heard.

The power of your Dharma surpasses all beings and bestows on them the wealth of the Law. With great skill your discernment all while unmoved in Reality.

You are from all phenomena released; hence, to the King of Dharma, I bow down. You preached neither is nor is not for all things by causes are created. There is neither self nor doing nor thing done, but good or evil karma is infallible.

Under the Bodhi tree You conquered Mara, obtained Ambrosia, realized Nirvana and won Bodhi. From mind, thought and feeling are You free, thereby, overcoming heresies, turning thrice in the chiliocosm the wheel of the Law that is pure and clean at heart.

To this gods and men who were saved attested, thus, the Three Treasures appeared in the saha world to save living beings with this profound Dharma which, when applied, fails never to Nirvana lead. You are the king physician who destroys old age, illness and death. So your unfathomable Dharma of boundless merits, I salute.

While like Mount Sumeru you are unmoved by both praise and censure. Your compassion is extended to both good and evil men, like space thy mind remains impartial. Does not anyone revere this human Buddha after hearing about Him?

I have offered Him a small canopy, which encloses the great chiliocosm with palaces of gods, dragons and spirits, Gandharas, yaksas and others such as well.

As all kings in this world. With mercy He used His ‘ten powers’ to make this change. The witnesses praise the Buddha. I bow to the most Honoured One in the three realms. The whole assembly (now) take refuge in the King of The Law. Those gazing at Him are filled with joy, each seeing the Bhagavat before him; ‘tis one of His eighteen characteristics.

When he proclaims the Dharma with unchanging voice, all beings understand according to their natures saying the Bhagavat speaks their own languages; this one of His eighteen characteristics.

When He expounds the Dharma in one voice, they understand according to their versions deriving great benefit from what they have gathered; this is one more of His eighteen characteristics.

When He expounds the Dharma in one voice, some are filled with fear, others are joyful, some hate it while others are from doubts relieved; ‘this is one of His eighteen characteristics.

I bow to the Possessor of ‘ten powers’, I bow to Him who has achieved fearlessness acquiring all eighteen characteristics; I bow to Him who guides others like a pilot.

I bow to Him who has untied all bonds; I bow to Him who has reached the other shore; I bow to Him who can all worlds deliver; I bow to Him who from birth and death is free.

Who knows how living beings come and go and penetrates all things to win His freedom, who is skillful in nirvanic deeds, cannot be soiled like the lotus.

Who plumbs the depths of everything without hindrance. I bow to Him, who like space, relies on nothing.

After chanting the gatha, Ratna-rasi said to the Buddha: “World Honoured One, these five hundred sons of elders have set their minds on seeking supreme enlightenments (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi); they all wish to know how to win the pure and clean land of the Buddha. Will the World Honoured One teach us the Bodhisattva deeds that leads to the realization of the Pure Land?”

The Buddha said: “Excellent, Ratna-rasi, it is good that you can ask on behalf of these Bodhisattvas about deeds that lead to the realization of the Buddha’s Pure Land. Listen carefully and ponder over all what I now tell you.”

At that time, Ratna-rasi and the five hundred sons of elders listened attentively to His instruction.

The Buddha said: “Ratna-rasi, all species of living beings are the Buddha land sought by all Bodhisattvas. Why is it so? Because a Bodhisattva wins the Buddha land, according to the living beings converted by him (to the Dharma); according to the living beings tamed by him; according to the country (where they will be reborn to) realize the Buddha-wisdom and in which they will grow the Bodhisattva root. Why is it so? Because a Bodhisattva wins the pure land solely for the benefit of all living beings. For instance, a man can build palaces and houses on vacant ground without difficulty, but he will fail if he attempts to build them in (empty) space. So, a Bodhisattva, in order to bring living beings to perfection seeks the Buddha land which cannot be sought in (empty) space.

a) The straightforward mind is the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he realizes Buddhahood, beings who do not flatter will be reborn in his land.

b) The profound mind is the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he realizes Buddhahood, living beings who have accumulated all merits will be reborn there.

c) The Mahayana (Bodhi) mind is the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood all living beings seeking Mahayana will be reborn there.

d) Charity (dana) is the Bodhisattva.s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, living beings who can give away (to charity) will be reborn there.

e) Discipline (sila) is the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he realizes Buddhahood, living beings who have kept the ten prohibitions will be reborn there.

f) Patience (ksanti) is the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, living beings endowed with the thirty-two excellent physical marks will be reborn there.

g) Devotion (virya) is the Bodhisattva.s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, living beings who are diligent in their performance of meritorious deeds will be reborn there.

h) Serenity (dhyana) is the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, living beings whose minds are disciplined and unstirred will be reborn there.

i) Wisdom (prajna) is the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, living beings who have realized samadhi will be reborn there.

j) The four boundless minds (catvari apramanani) are the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, living beings who have practiced and perfected the four infinites: kindness, compassion, joy and indifference, will be reborn there.

k) The four persuasive actions (catuh-samgraha-vastu) are the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, living beings who have benefited from his helpful persuasion will be reborn there.

l) The expedient methods (upaya) of teaching the absolute truth are the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, living beings conversant with upaya will be reborn there.

m) The thirty-seven contributory states to enlightenment (bodhipaksika-dharma) are the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, living beings who have successfully practised the four states of mindfulness (smrtyu-pasthana), the four proper lines of exertion (samyakpra-hana), the four steps towards supramundane powers (rddhipada), the five spiritual faculties (panca indriyani), the five transcendental powers (panca balani), the seven degrees of enlightenment (sapta bodhyanga) and the eightfold noble path (asta-marga) will be reborn in his land.

n) Dedication (of one’s merits to the salvation of others) is the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, his land will be adorned with all kinds of meritorious virtues.

o) Preaching the ending of the eight sad conditions is the Buddhahood his land will be free from these evil states.

p) To keep the precepts while refraining from criticizing those who do not is the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, his country will be free from people who break the commandments.

q) The ten good deeds are the Bodhisattva’s pure land, for when he attains Buddhahood, he will not die young, he will be wealthy, he will live purely, his words are true, his speech is gentle, his encourage will not desert him because of his gift of conciliation, his talk is profitable to others and living beings free from envy and anger and holding right views will be reborn in his land.

So, Ratna-rasi, because of his straightforward mind, a Bodhisattva can act straightforwardly; because of his straightforward deeds, he realizes the profound mind; because of his profound mind his thoughts are kept under control; because of his controlled thoughts, his acts accord with the Dharma (he has heard); because of his deeds in accord with the Dharma, he can dedicate his merits to the benefit of others; because of this dedication, he can make use of expedient methods (upaya); because of his expedient methods, he can bring living beings to perfection; because he can bring them to perfection, his Buddha land is pure; because of his pure Buddha land, his preaching of the Dharma is pure; because of his pure preaching, his wisdom is pure; because of his pure wisdom, his mind is pure, and because of his pure mind, all his merits are pure. Therefore, Ratna-rasi, if a Bodhisattva wants to win the pure land, he should purify his mind and because of his pure mind, the Buddha land is pure.”

As Sariputra was fascinated by the Buddha’s awe-inspiring majesty, he thought: “If the Buddha land is pure, because of the Bodhisattva’s pure mind, is it because the mind of the World Honoured One was not pure when He was still in the Bodhisattva stage, that this Buddha land (i.e. this world) is so unclean (as we see it now)?”

The Buddha knew of his thought and said to Sariputra: “Are the sun and the moon not clean when a blind man does not see their cleanliness?”

Sariputra said: “World Honoured One, this is the fault of the blind man and not that of the sun and the moon.”

The Buddha said: “Sariputra, because of their (spiritual) blindness, living beings do not see the imposing majesty of the Tathagata’s pure land; this is not the fault of the Tathagata. Sariputra, this land of mine is pure but you do not see its purity.”

Thereupon, Brahma with a tuft of hair on his head (resembling a conch) said to Sariputra: “Don’t think this Buddha land is impure. Why? Because I see that the land of Sakyamuni Buddha is pure and clean, like a heavenly palace.”

Sariputra said: “I see that this world is full of hills, mountains, pits, thorns, stones and earth, which are all unclean.”

Brahma said: “Because your mind is up and down and disagrees with the Buddha-wisdom, you see that this land is unclean. Sariputra, because a Bodhisattva is impartial towards all living beings and his profound mind is pure and clean in accord with the Buddha Dharma, he can see that this Buddha land is (also) pure and clean.”

At that time, the Buddha pressed the toes of His (right ) foot on the ground and the world was suddenly adorned with hundreds and thousands of rare and precious gems of the great chiliocosm, like the precious Majestic Buddha’s pure land adorned with countless precious merits, which the assembly praised as never seen before; in addition each person present found himself seated on a precious lotus throne.

The Buddha said to Sariputra: “Look at the majestic purity of this Buddha land of mine.”

Sariputra said: “World Honoured One, I have never seen and heard of this Buddha land in its majestic purity.”

The Buddha said: “This Buddha land of mine is always pure, but appears filthy so that I can lead people of inferior spirituality to their salvation. This is like the food of devas which takes various colours according to the merits of each individual eater. So, Sariputra, the man whose mind is pure sees this world in its majestic purity.”

When this Buddha land (i.e. the world) appeared in its majestic purity, the five hundred sons of elders, who came with Ratna-rasi, realized the patient endurance of the uncreate (anutpattika-dharma-ksanti), and eighty-four thousand people developed their minds set on Supreme Enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi).

The Buddha then stopped pressing His toes on the ground and the world returned to its previous (filthy) condition. Thirty-two thousand devas and men aspiring to the sravaka stage understood the impermanence of all phenomena, kept from earthly impurities and achieved the Dharma-eye (which sees the truth of the four noble truths); eight thousand bhiksus kept from phenomena and succeeded in putting an end to the stream of transmigration (thus realizing arhatship).

CHAPTER TWO

THE EXPEDIENT METHOD (UPAYA) OF TEACHING

In the great town of Vaisai, there was an elder called Vimalakirti, who had made offerings to countless Buddhas and had deeply planted all good roots, thereby, achieving the patient endurance of the uncreate. His unhindered power of speech enabled him to roam everywhere using his supernatural powers to teach others. He had achieved absolute control over good and evil influences (dharani) thereby, realizing fearlessness. So he overcame all passions and demons, entered all profound Dharma-doors to enlightenment, excelled in Wisdom perfection (prajna-paramita) and was well versed in all expedient methods (upaya) of teaching, thereby, fulfilling all great Bodhisatva vows. He knew very well the mental propensities of living beings and could distinguish their various (spiritual) roots. For along time, he had trodden the Buddha-path and his mind was spotless. Since he understood Mahayana, all his actions were based on right thinking. While dwelling in the Buddha’s awe-inspiring majesty, his mind was extensive like the great ocean. He was praised by all Buddhas and revered by Indra, Brahma and worldly kings.

As he was set on saving men, he expediently stayed at Vaisali for this purpose. He used his unlimited wealth to aid the poor; he kept all the rules of morality and discipline to correct those breaking the precepts; he used his great patience to teach those giving rise to anger and hate; he taught zeal and devotion to those who were remiss; he used serenity to check stirring thoughts; and employed decisive wisdom to defeat ignorance. Although wearing white clothes (of the laity) he observed all the rules of the Sangha. Although a layman, he was free from all attachments to the three worlds (of desire, form and beyond form). Although he was married and had children, he was diligent in his practice of pure living. Although a householder, he delighted in keeping from domestic establishments. Although he ate and drank (like others), he delighted in tasting the flavour of moderation. When entering a gambling house, he always tried to teach and deliver people there. He received heretics but never strayed from the right faith. Though he knew worldly classics, he always took joy in the Buddha Dharma. He was revered by all who met him. He upheld the right Dharma and taught it to old and young people. Although occasionally he realized some profit in his worldly activities, he was not happy about these earnings. While walking in the street, he never failed to convert others (to the Dharma). When he entered a government office, he always protected others (from injustice). When joining a symposium, he led others to the Mahayana. When visiting a school he enlightened the students. When entering a house of prostitution, he revealed the sin of sexual intercourse. When going to a tavern, he stuck to his determination (to abstain from drinking). When amongst elders he was the most revered for he taught them the exalted Dharma. When amongst upasakas, he was the most respected for he taught them how to wipe out all desires and attachments. When amongst those of the ruling class, he was the most revered, for he taught them forbearance. When amongst Brahmins, he was the most revered, for he taught them how to conquer pride and prejudice. When amongst government officials he was the most revered, for he taught them correct law. When amongst princes, he was the most revered, for he taught them loyalty and filial piety. When in the inner palaces, he was the most revered, for he converted all maids of honour there. When amongst common people, he was the most revered, for he urged them to cultivate all meritorious virtues. When amongst Brahma-devas, he was the most revered, for he urged the gods to realize the Buddha wisdom. When amongst Sakras and Indras, he was the most revered, for he revealed to them the impermanence (of all things). When amongst lokapalas, he was the most revered, for he protected all living beings. Thus, Vimalakirti used countless expedient methods (upaya) to teach for the benefit of living beings.

Now using upaya he appeared ill and because of his indisposition kings, ministers, elders, upasakas, Brahmins, etc., as well as princes and other officials reaching many thousands came to enquire after his health. So Vimalakirti appeared in his sick body to receive and expound the Dharma to them, saying: “Virtuous ones, the human body is impermanent; it is neither strong nor durable; it will decay and is, therefore, unreliable. It causes anxieties and sufferings, being subject to all kinds of ailments. Virtuous ones, all wise men do not rely on this body which is like a mass of foam, which is intangible. It is like a bubble and does not last for a long time. It is like a flame and is the product of the thirst of love. It is like a banana tree, the centre of which is hollow. It is like an illusion being produced by inverted thoughts. It is like a dream being formed by fasle views. It is like a shadow and is caused by karma. This body is like an echo for it results from causes and conditions. It is like a floating cloud, which disperses any moment. It is like lightning for it does not stay for the time of a thought. It is without owner for it is like the earth. It is egoless for it is like fire (that kills itself). It is transient like the wind. It is not human for it is like water. It is unreal and depends on the four elements for its existence. It is empty, being neither ego nor its object. It is without knowledge like grass, trees and potsherds. It is not the prime mover, but is moved by the wind (of passions). It is impure and full of filth. It is false, and though washed, bathed, clothed and fed, it will decay and die in the end. It is a calamity being subject to all kinds of illnesses and sufferings. It is like a dry well, for it is prusued by death. It is unsettled and will pass away. It is like a poisonous snake, a deadly enemy, a temporary assemblage (without underlying reality), being made of the five aggregates, the twelve entrances (the six organs and their objects) and the eighteen realms of sense (the six organs, their objects and their perceptions).

“Virtuous ones, the (human) body being so repulsive, you should seek the Buddha body. Why? Because the Buddha body is called Dharmakaya, the product of boundless merits and wisdom; the outcome of discipline, meditation, wisdom, liberation and perfect knowledge of liberation; the result of kindness, compassion, joy and indifference (to emotions); the consequence of (the six perfections or paramitas) charity, discipline, patience, zeal, meditation and wisdom and the sequel of expedient teaching (upaya); the six supernatural powers; the three insights; the thirty-seven stages contributory to enlightenment; serenity and insight; the ten transcendental powers (dasabala); the four kinds of fearlessness; the eighteen unsurpassed characteristics of the Buddha; the wiping out of all evils and the performance of all good deeds; truthfulness, and freedom from looseness and unrestraint. So countless kinds of purity and cleanness produce the body of the Tathagata.

Virtuous Ones, if you want to realize the Buddha body in order to get rid of all the illnesses of a living being, you should set your minds on the quest of supreme enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi).”

Thus, the elder Vimalakirti expounded the Dharma to all those who came to enquire after his health, urging countless visitors to seek supreme enlightenment.

CHAPTER THREE

THE DISCIPLES

SARIPUTRA:

Vimalakirti wondered why the great compassionate Buddha did not take pity on him as he was confined to bed suffering from an indisposition.

The Buddha knew of his thought and said to Sariputra: “Go to Vimalakirti to enquire after his health on my behalf.”

Sariputra said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him and enquire after his health. The reason is that once, as I was sitting in meditation under a tree in a grove, Vimalakirti came and said: ‘Sariputra, meditation is not necessarily sitting. For meditation means the non-appearance of body and mind in the three worlds (of desire, form and no form); giving no thought to inactivity when in nirvana while appearing (in the world) with respect-inspiring deportment; not straying from the Truth while attending to worldly affairs; the mind abiding neither within nor without; being imperturbable to wrong views during the practice of the thirty-seven contributory stages leading to enlightenment: and not wiping out troubles (klesa) while entering the state of nirvana. If you can thus sit in meditation, you will win the Buddha’s seal.’

“World Honoured One, when I heard his speech I was dumbfounded and found no word to answer him. Therefore I am not qualified to call on him and enquire after his health.”

MAUDGALYAYANA:

The Buddha then said to Maudgalaputra: “Go to Vimalakirti and enquire after his health on my behalf.”

Maudgalyayana said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him to enquire after his health. The reason is that one day when I came to Vaisali to expound the Dharma to lay Buddhists (upasakas) in the street there, Vimalakirti came and said: “Hey Maudgalyayana, when expounding the Dharma to these upasakas, you should not preach like that for what you teach should agree with the absolute Dharma, which is free from the (illusion of) living beings; is free from the self for it is beyond an ego; from life for it is beyond birth and death and from the concept of a man which lacks continuity (thought seemingly continuous, like a torch whirled around); is always still for it is beyond (stirring) phenomena; is above form for it is causeless; is inexpressible for it is beyond word and speech; is inexplainable for it is beyond intellect; is formless like empty space; is beyond sophistry for it is immaterial; is egoless for it is beyond (the duality of) subject and object; is free from discrimination for it is beyond consciousness; is without compare for it is beyond all relativities; is beyond cause for it is causeless; is identical with Dharmata (or Dharma-nature), the underlying nature (of all things); is in line with the absolute for it is independent; dwells in the region of absolute reality, being above and beyond all dualities; is unmovable for it does not rely on the six objects of sense; neither comes nor goes for it does not stay anywhere; is in line with voidness, formlessness and inactivity; is beyond beauty and ugliness; neither increases nor decreases; is beyond creation and destruction; does not return to anywhere; is above the six sense organs of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind; is neither up nor down; is eternal and immutable; and is beyond contemplation and practice. “Maudgalyayana, such being the characteristics of the Dharma, how can it be expounded?”

For expounding, it is beyond speech and indication, and listening to it is above hearing and grasping. This is like a conjurer expounding the Dharma to illusory men, and you should always bear all this in mind, when expounding the Dharma. You should be clear about the sharp or dull roots of your audience and have a good knowledge of this to avoid all sorts of hindrance. Before expounding the Dharma, you should use your great compassion (for all living beings) to extol Mahayana to them and think of repaying your own debt of gratitude to the Buddha by striving to preserve the three treasures (of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) for ever.

“When Vimalakirti spoke, eight hundred upasakas set their minds on seeking supreme enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi). I do not have the eloquence and I am, therefore, not fit to call on him to inquire after his health.”

MAHAKASYAPA:

The Buddha then said to Mahakasyapa: “ Go to Vimalakirti to enquire after his health on my behalf.”

Mahakasyapa said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health. The reason is that once when I went begging for food in a lane inhabited by poor people, Vimalakirti came and said: “Hey, Mahakasyapa, you are failing to make your kind and compassionate mind all-embracing by begging from the poor while staying away from the rich. Mahakasyapa, in your practice of impartiality, you should call on your donors in succession (regardless of whether they are poor or rich). You should beg for food without the (ulterior) idea of eating it. To wipe out the concept of rolling (food into a ball in the hand), you should take it by the hand (i.e. without the idea of how you take it). You should receive the food given without the idea of receiving anything. When entering a village, you should regard it as void like empty space. When seeing a form, you should remain indifferent to it. When you hear a voice, you should consider it (as meaningless as) an echo. When you smell an odor, take it for the wind (which has no smell). When you eat, refrain from discerning the taste. Regard all touch as if you were realizing wisdom (which is free from feelings and emotions). You should know that all things are illusory, having neither nature of their own nor that of something else, and that since fundamentally, they are not self-existent, they cannot now be the subject of annihilation. Mahakasyapa, if you can achieve all eight forms of liberation without keeping from the eight heterodox ways (of life), that is by identifying heterodoxy with orthodoxy (both as emanating from the same source), and if you can make an offering of your (own) food to all living beings as well as to all Buddhas and all members of the Sangha, then you can take the food. Such a way of eating is beyond the troubles (of the worldly man) and the absence of the troubles of Hinayana men); above the state of stillness (in which Hinayana men abstain from eating) and the absence of stillness (of Mahayana men who eat while in the state of serenity); and beyond both dwelling in the worldly state or in nirvana, while your donors reap neither great nor little merits, what they give being neither beneficial nor harmful. This is correct entry upon the Buddha path without relying on the small way of sravakas. Mahakasyapa, if you can so eat the food given you, your eating shall not be in vain.”

“World Honoured One, when I listened to his words which I had never heard before, I gave rise to profound reverence to all Bodhisattvas and thought, ‘His wisdom and power of speech being such, who will fail to develop a mind set on supreme enlightenment?’ Since then I have refrained from urging people to follow the practices of sravakas and pratyeka-buddhas. Hence, I am not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health.”

SUBHUTI:

The Buddha then said to Subhuti: “You call on Vimalakirti to enquire after his health on my behalf.”

Subhuti said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him and enquire after his health. The reason is that once when I went to his house begging for food, he took my bowl and filled it with rice, saying: ‘Subhuti, if your mind set on eating is in the same state as when confronting all (other) things, and if this uniformity as regards all things equally applies to (the act of) eating, you can then beg for food and eat it. Subhuti, if without cutting off carnality, anger and stupidity you can keep from these (three) evils: if you do not wait for the death of your body to achieve the oneness of all things; if you do not wipe out stupidity and love in your quest of enlightenment and liberation; if you can look into (the underlying nature of) the five deadly sins to win liberation, with at the same time no idea of either bondage or freedom; if you give rise to neither the four noble truths nor their opposites; if you do not hold both the concept of winning and not winning the holy fruit; if you do not regard yourself as a worldly or unworldly man, as a saint or not as a saint; if you perfect all Dharmas while keeping away from the concept of Dharmas, then can you receive and eat the food. Subhuti, if you neither see the Buddha nor hear the Dharma; if the six heterodox teachers, Purana-kasyapa, Maskari-gosaliputra, Yanjaya-vairatiputra, Ajita-kesakambala, Kakuda-katyayana and Nirgrantha-jnatiputra are regarded impartially as your own teachers and if, when they induce leavers of home into heterodoxy, you also fall with the latter; then you can take away the food and eat it. If you are (unprejudiced about) falling into heresy and regard yourself as not reaching the other shore (of enlightenment); if you are unprejudiced about the eight sad conditions and regard yourself as not free from them; if you are unprejudiced about defilements and relinquish the concept of pure living; if when you realize samadhi in which there is absence of debate or disputation, all living beings also achieve it; if your donors of food are not regarded (with partiality) as (cultivating) the field of blessedness; if those making offerings to you are partially looked on as also falling into the three evil realms of existence; if you impartially regard demons as your companions without differentiating between them as well as between other forms of defilement; if you are discontented with all living beings, defame the Buddha, break the law (Dharma), do not attain the holy rank and fail to win liberation; then you can take away the food and eat it.

“World Honoured One, I was dumbfounded when I heard his words, which were beyond my reach, and to which I found no answer. Then I left the bowl of rice and intended to leave his house but Vimalakirti said: ‘Hey, Subhuti, take the bowl of rice without fear. Are you frightened when the Tathagata makes an illusory man ask you questions? I replied: ‘No.’ He then continued: ‘All things are illusory and you should not fear anything. Why? Because words and speech are illusory. So all wise men do not cling to words and speech, and this is why they fear nothing. Why? Because words and speech have no independent nature of their own and, when they are no more, you are liberated. This liberation will free you from all bondage.’

“When Vimalakirti expounded the Dharma two hundred sons of devas realized the Dharma eye. Hence I am not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health.”

PURUNA:

The Buddha then said to Purnamaitrayaniputra: “You call on Vimalakirti to enquire after his health on my behalf.”

Purnamaitrayaniputra said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him and enquire after his health. This is because when I was once in a grove and was expunding the Dharma under a tree to a group of newly initiated bhiksus, Vimalakirti came and said: “Hey, Purnamaitraynaiputra, you should first enter the state of samadhi to examine the minds of your listeners before expounding the Dharma to them. Do not put rotten food in precious bowls. You should know their minds and do not take their precious crystal for (ordinary) glass. If you do not know their propensities, do not teach them Hinayana. They have no wounds, so do not hurt them. To those who want to tread the wide path, do not show narrow tracks. Do not enclose the great sea in the print of an ox’s foot; do not liken sunlight to the dim glow of a firefly. Purnamaitryaniputra, these bhiksus have long ago developed the Mahayana mind but they now forget all about it; how can you teach them Hinayana? Wisdom as taught by Hinayana is shallow; it is like a blind man who cannot discern the sharp from the dull roots of living beings.”

At that time, Vimalakirti entered the state of samadhi and caused the bhiksus to remember their former lives when they had met five hundred Buddhas and had then planted seeds of excellent virtues, which they had dedicated to their quest of supreme enlightenment; they instantly awakened to their past and recovered their fundamental minds. They at once bowed with their heads at the feet of Vimalakirti, who then expounded the Dharma to them; they resumed their quest of supreme enlightenment without backsliding.

I think that Sravakas, who do not know how to look into the roots of their listeners, should not expound the Dharma. Hence, I am not qualified to call on Vimalakirti to inquire after his health.

MAHAKATYAYANA:

The Buddha then said to Mahakatyayana: “You go to Vimalakirti to enquire after his health on my behalf.”

Mahakatyayana said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him and inquire after his health. For once after the Buddha had expounded the essential aspects of the Dharma to a group of bhiksus, I followed Him to explain to them the meanings of impermanence, suffering, voidness, egolessness and nirvana. “Vimalakirti came and said: ‘Hey, Mahakatyayana, do not use your mortal mind to preach immortal reality. Mahakatyayana, all things are fundamentally above creation and destruction; this is what impermanence means. The five aggregates are perceived as void and not arising; this is what suffering means. All things are basically non-existent; this is what voidness means. Ego and its absence are not a duality; this is what egolessness means. All things basically are not what they seem to be, they cannot be subject to extinction now; this is what nirvana means.

After Vimalakirti had expounded the Dharma, the bhiksus present succeeded in liberating their minds. Hence, I am not qualified to call on him and inquire after his health.

ANIRUDDHA:

The Buddha then said to Aniruddha: “You call on Vimalakirti to inquire after his health on my behalf.”

Aniruddha said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him and inquired after his health. For once when I was walking about while meditating to prevent sleepiness, a Brahma called, ‘The Gloriously Pure’, together with an entourage of ten thousand devas sent off rays of light, came to my place, bowed their heads to salute me and asked: ‘How far does your deva eye see?’ I replied: ‘Virtuous one, I see the land of Sakyamuni Buddha in the great chiliocosm like an amala fruit held in my hand.’ Vimalakirti (suddenly) came and said: ‘Hey, Aniruddha, when your deva eye sees, does it see form or formlessness? If it sees form, you are no better than those heretics who have won five supernatural powers. If you see formlessness, your deva eye is non-active (wu wei) and should be unseeing.’ “World Honoured One, I kept silent.”

And the devas praised Vimalakirti for what they had not heard before, They then paid reverence and asked him: ‘Is there anyone in this world who has realized the real deva eye?”

Vimalakirti replied: “There is the Buddha who has realized the real deva eye; He is always in the state of samadhi and sees all Buddha lands without (giving rise to) the duality (of subjective eye and objective form).”

At that time, Brahma and five hundred of his relatives developed the anuttara-samyak-sambodhi mind; they bowed their heads at Vimalakirti’s feet and suddenly disappeared. This is why I am not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health.”

UPALI:

The Buddha then said to Upali: “You call on Vimalakirti to inquire after his health on my behalf.”

Upali said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on Vimalakirti to inquire after his health. For once, two bhiksus broke the prohibitions, and being shameful of their sins, they dared not call on the Buddha. They came to ask me: ‘Upali, we have broken the commandments and are ashamed of our sins, so we dare not ask the Buddha about this and come to you. Please teach us the rules of repentance so as to wipe out our sins.’ I then taught them the rules of repentance.

At that time, Vimalakirti came and said: ‘Hey, Upali, do not aggravate their sins which you should wipe out at once without further disturbing their minds. Why? Because the nature of sin is neither within nor without, nor in between. As the Buddha has said, living beings are impure because their mind are impure; if their minds are pure, they are all pure. And, mind also is neither within nor without nor in between. Their minds being such, so, are their sins. Likewise all things do not go beyond (their ) suchness. Upali, when your mind is liberated, is there any remaining impurity?’ I replied: ‘There will be no more.’ He said: ‘Likewise, the minds of all living beings are free from impurities. Upali, false thoughts are impure and the absence of false thoughts is purity. Inverted (ideas) are impure and the absence of inverted (ideas) is purity. Clinging to ego is impure and non-clinging to ego is purity. Upali, all phenomena rise and fall without staying (for an instant) like an illusion and lightning. All phenomena do not wait for one another and do not stay for the time of a thought. They all derive from false views and are like a dream and a flame, the moon in water, and an image in a mirror for they are born from wrong thinking. He who understands this is called a keeper of the rules of discipline and he who knows it is called a skillful interpreter (of the precepts).’

At that time, the two bhiksus declared: ‘What a supreme wisdom which is beyond the reach of Upali who cannot expound the highest principle of discipline and morality?’

I said: ‘Since I left the Buddha I have not met a sravaka or a Bodhisattva who can surpass his rhetoric, for his great wisdom and perfect enlightenment have reached such a high degree.’

Thereupon, the two bhiksus got rid of their doubts and repentance, set their mind on the quest of supreme enlightenment and took the vow to make all living beings acquire the same power of speech. Hence, I am not qualified to call on Vimalakirti and inquire after his health.

RAHULA:

The Buddha then said to Rahula: “You go to Vimalakirti to inquire after his health on my behalf.”

Rahula said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him and inquire after his health. For once the sons of the elders at Vaisali came to my place and bowed to salute me, saying: ‘Rahula, you are the Buddha’s son and left the throne to search for the truth; what advantage derives from leaving home? I then spoke of the advantage of earning merits that so derive. Vimalakirti came and said: “Hey, Rahula, you should not speak of the advantage of earning merits that derive from leaving home. Why? Because home-leaving bestows neither advantage nor good merits. Only when speaking of the worldly (way of life) can you talk about advantage and merits. For home-leaving is above the worldly, and the transcendental is beyond advantage and merits. Rahula, home-leaving is beyond thisness, thatness and in between; is above the sixty-two wrong views, and abides in (the state of) nirvana. It is praised by all wise men and practiced by all saints. It overcomes all demons; liberates from the five realms of existence; purifies the five kinds of eyes; helps realize the five spiritual powers and sets up the five spiritual faculties; releases from earthly grievances; keeps from varied evils (derived from a mixed mind); frees from the unreality of names and terms; gets out of the mud (of defilement); relieves from all bondages, wipes out the duality of subject and object and all responsiveness and disturbances; it gives inner joy; protects all living beings; dwells in serenity and guards against all wrongs. If all this can be achieved, this is true home-leaving.’

Vimalakirti then said to the sons of the elders: ‘During this period of correct Dharma, you should leave home to join the Sangha. Why? Because it is very difficult to have the good fortune of living in the Buddha-age.’

The sons of the elders replied: ‘Venerable Upasaka, we have heard the Buddha said that one cannot leave home without the consent of one’s parents.’

Vimalakirti said: ‘Yes, it is so, but you will really leave home the moment you develop a mind set on the quest of supreme enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi), which completes your home-leaving.’

At that time, all the thirty-two sons of the elders developed the anuttara-samyak-sambodhi mind. This is why I am not qualified to call on Vimalakirti and inquire after his health.”

ANANDA:

The Buddha then said to Ananda: “You call on Vimalakirti and inquire after his health on my behalf.”

Ananda replied: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health. This is because once when the World Honoured One had a slight indisposition and needed some cow milk, I took a bowl and went to a Brahmin family where I stood at the door. Vimalakirti came and asked me: ‘Why are you out so early holding a bowl in your hand?”

I replied: ‘Venerable Upasaka, the World Honoured One is slightly indisposed and wants some cow milk; this is why I have come here.’

Vimalakirti said: ‘Stop, Ananda, stop speaking these words. The Tathahata’s body is as strong as a diamond for He has cut off all evils and has achieved all good. What kind of indisposition and trouble does He still have? Ananda, do not slander the Tathagata and do not let other people hear such coarse language. Do not let the god (devas) as well as the Bodhisattvas of other pure lands hear about it. Ananda, world ruler (cakravarti) who has accumulated only a few small merits is already free from all ailments; how much more so is the Tathagata who has earned countless merits and has achieved all moral excellences? Go away, Ananda, do not cover us all with shame. If the Brahmins heard you they would say: “How can this man be a saviour if he cannot cure his own illness; how can he pretend to heal the sick?” Get away unnoticed and quickly and do not let others hear what you have said. Ananda, you should know that the body of the Tathagata is the Dharmakaya and does not come from (the illusion of) thought and desire. The Buddha is the World Honoured One (Bhagavat); His body is above and beyond the three realms (of desire, form and beyond form) and is outside the stream of transmigratory suffering. The Buddha body is transcendental (we wei) and is beyond destiny. How then can such a body be ill?’

World Honoured One, his word covered me with shame and I asked myself if I had not wrongly understood the Buddha’s order. At that time, a voice was heard in the air above, saying: ‘Ananda, the Upasaka is right, but since the Buddha appears in the five kasaya (or periods of turbidity on earth), He uses this (expedient) method (upaya) to liberate living beings. Ananda, go and beg for the cow milk without shame.’

World Honoured One, Vimalakirti’s wisdom and power of speech being such, I am really not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health.”

Thus each of the five hundred chief disciples related his encounter with Vimalakirti and declined to call on him to inquire after his health.

CHAPTER FOUR

THE BODHISATTVAS

MAITREYA:

The Buddha then said to Maitreya Bodhisattva: “You go to Vimalakirti to inquire after his health on my behalf.”

Maitreya replied: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him and inquire after his health. The reason is that once when I was expounding to the deva-king and his retinue in the Tusita heaven the never-receding stage (of Bodhisattva development into Buddhahood) Vimalakirti came and said to me: ‘Maitreya, when the World Honoured One predicted your future attainment of supreme enlightenment (anuttara-sayak-sambodhi) in one lifetime, tell me in which life, whether in the past, future or present, did or will you receive His prophecy? If it was in your past life, that has gone; if it will be in your future life, that has not yet come; and if it is in your present life, that does not stay. As the Buddha once said: ‘O bhiksus, you are born, are aging and are dying simultaneously at this very moment’; if you received His prophecy in a lifeless (state), the latter is prediction (of your future Buddhahood) nor realization of supreme enlightenment. How then did you receive the prediction of your attainment of Buddhahood in one lifetime? Or did you receive it in the absolute state (thatness or tathata) of either birth or death? If you receive it in the absolute state of birth, this absolute state is uncreated. If you receive it in the absolute state of death, this absolute state does not die. For (the underlying nature of) all living beings and of all things is absolute; all saints and sages are in this absolute state, and so, also are you, Maitreya. So, if you, Maitreya, received the Buddhahood, all living beings (who are absolute by nature) should also receive it. Why? Because that which is absolute is non-dual and is beyond differentiation. If you, Maitreya, realize supreme enlightenment, so should all living beings. Why? Because they are the manifestation of bodhi (enlightenment). If you, Maitreya, win nirvana, they should also realize it. Why? Because all Buddhas know that every living being is basically in the condition of extinction of existence and suffering which is nirvana, in which there can be no further extinction of existence. Therefore, Maitreya, do not mislead the devas because there is neither development of supreme bodhi-mind nor its backsliding. Maitreya, you should instead urge them to keep from discriminating views about bodhi (enlightenment). Why? Because bodhi can be won by neither body nor mind. For bodhi is the state of calmness and extinction of passion (i.e. nirvana) because it wipes out all forms. Bodhi is unseeing, for it keeps from all causes. Bodhi is non-discrimination, for it stops memorizing and thinking. Bodhi cuts off ideation, for it is free from all views. Bodhi forsakes inversion, for it prevents perverse thoughts. Bodhi puts an end to desire, for it keeps from longing. Bodhi is unresponsive, for it wipes out all clinging. Bodhi complies (with self-nature), for it is in line with the state of suchness. Bodhi dwells (in this suchness), for it abides in (changeless) Dharma-nature (or Dharmata, the underlying nature of all things.) Bodhi reaches this suchness, for it attains the region of reality. Bodhi is non-dual, for it keeps from (both) intellect and its objects. Bodhi is impartial, for it is equal to boundless space. Bodhi is the non-active (we wei) state, for it is above the conditions of birth, existence and death. Bodhi is true knowledge, for it discerns the mental activities of all living beings. Bodhi does not unite, for it is free from all confrontation. Bodhi disentangles, for it breaks contact with habitual troubles (klesa). Bodhi is that of which the position cannot be determined, for it is beyond form and shape, and is that which cannot be called by name for all names (have no independent nature and so) are void. Bodhi is like the mindlessness of an illusory man, for it neither accepts nor rejects anything. Bodhi is beyond disturbance, for it is always serene by itself. Bodhi is real stillness, because of its pure and clean nature. Bodhi is non-acceptance, for it keeps from causal attachments. Bodhi is non-differentiating, because of its impartiality towards all. Bodhi is without compare, for it is indescribable. Bodhi is profound and subtle, for although unknowing, it knows all.’

World Honoured One, when Vimalakirti so expounded the Dharma, two hundred sons of devas realized the patient endurance of the uncreate (anutpattika-dharma-ksanti). This is why I am not qualified to call on him and inquire after his health.”

GLORIOUS LIGHT:

The Buddha then said to the Bodhisattva Glorious Light: “You go to Vimalakirti to inquire after his health on my behalf.”

Glorious Light replied: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health. The reason is that once while I was leaving Vaisali, I met Vimalakirti who was entering it. I saluted and asked him ‘Where does the Venerable Upasaka come form?

He replied: ‘From a bodhimandala (a holy site).’

I asked him: ‘Where is this bodhimandala?’

He replied: ‘The straightforward mind is the bodhimandala, for it is free from falsehood. The initiated mind is the bodhimandala, for it can keep discipline. The profound mind is the bodhimandala, for it accumulates merits. The enlightened mind is the bodhimandala, for it is infallible. Charity (dana) is the bodhimandala, for it does not expect reward. Discipline (sila) is the bodhimandala, for it fulfills all vows. Patience (ksanti) is the bodhimandala for it has access to the minds of all living beings. Zeal (virya) is the bodhimandala, for it is free from being remiss. Serenity (dhyana) is the bodhimandala, because of its harmonious mind. Wisdom (prajna) is the bodhimandala, for it discerns all things. Kindness (maitri) is the bodhimandala, for it treats all living beings on an equal footing. Compassion (karuna) is the bodhimandala, because of its great forbearance. Joy (mudita) is the bodhimandala, for it is pleasant. Indifference (upeksa) is the bodhimandala, for it wipes out both love and hate. Transcendental efficiency is the bodhimandala, for it perfects all the six supernatural powers (sadabhijna). Liberation is the bodhimandala, for it turns its back to all phenomenal conditions. Expedient devices (upaya) are the bodhimandala, for they teach and convert living beings. The four winning actions of a Bodhisattva are the bodhimandala, for they benefit all living beings. Wide knowledge through hearing the Dharma is the bodhimandala, for its practice leads to enlightenment. Control of the mind is the Bodhimandala, because of its correct perception of all things. The thirty-seven contributory stages to enlightenment are the bodhimandala, for they keep from all worldly activities. The four noble truths are the bodhimandala, because they do not deceive. The twelve links in the chain of existence are the bodhimandala, because of their underlying nature which is infinite. Troubles (klesa) are the bodhimandala, for their underlying nature is reality. Living beings are the bodhimandala, because they are (basically) egoless. All things are the bodhimandala, for they are empty. The defeat of demons is the bodhimandala, for it is imperturbable. The three realms (of desire, form and beyond form) are the bodhimandala, for fundamentally they lead to no real destination. The lion’s roar is the bodhimandala, because of its fearlessness. The ten powers (dasabla), the four kinds of fearlessness and the eighteen unsurpassed characteristics of the Buddha are the bodhimandala, for they are without fault. The three insights are the bodhimandala, for they are free from all remaining hindrances. The knowledge of all things in the time of a thought is the bodhimandala, for it brings omniscience (sarvajna) to perfection. Thus, son of good family, a Bodhisattva should convert living beings according to the various modes of perfection (paramitas) and all his acts, including the raising or lowering of a foot, should be interpreted as coming from the seat of learning (bodhimandala); he should thus stay within the Buddha Dharma.’

While Vimalakirti was thus expounding the Dharma, five hundred devas developed their minds set on supreme enlightenment. This is why I am not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health.”

BODHISATTVA RULER OF THE WORLD:

The Buddha then said to the Bodhisattva Ruler of the World: “You call on Vimalakirti to inquire after his health on my behalf.”

Ruler of the World replied: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him and inquire after his health. I still remember that once as I was staying in a vihara, a demon like Indra appeared followed by twelve thousand goddesses (devakanya) playing music and singing songs. After bowing their heads at my feet they brought their palms together and stood at my side. I mistook the demon for Sakra and said to him: ‘Welcome, Sakra, although you have won merits, you should guard against passion (arising from music, song and sex). You should look into the five desires (for the objects of the five senses) in your practice of morality. You should look into the impermanence of body, life and wealth in your quest of indestructible Dharma (i.e. boundless body, endless life and inexhaustible spiritual wealth.).’

He said: ‘Bodhisattva, please take these twelve thousand goddesses who will serve you.’ I replied: ’Sakra, please do not make to a monk this unclean offering which does not suit me.’ “Even before I had finished speaking, Vimalakirti came and said: ‘He is not Sakra; he is a demon who comes to disturb you.’ He then said to the demon: ‘You can give me these girls and I will keep them.’

The demon was frightened, and being afraid that Vimalakirti might give him trouble, he tried to make himself invisible but failed, and in spite of his use of supernatural powers, he could not go away. Suddenly a voice was heard in the air, saying: ‘Demon, give him the girls and then you can go.’ Being scared, he gave the girls.’

At that time, Vimalakirti said to them: “The demon has given you to me. You can now develop a mind set on the quest of supreme enlightenment.” Vimalakirti then expounded the Dharma to them urging them to seek the truth. He declared: ‘You have now set your minds on the quest for the truth and can experience joy in the Dharma instead of in the five worldly pleasures (arising from the objects of the five senses).’ “They asked him: ‘What is this joy in the Dharma?’

“He replied: ‘Joy in having faith in the Buddha; joy in listening to the Dharma; joy in making offerings to the Sangha; and joy in forsaking the five worldly pleasures; joy in finding out that the five aggregates are like deadly enemies; that the four elements (that make the body) are like poisonous snakes; and that the sense organs and their objects are empty like space; joy in following and upholding the truth; joy in being beneficial to living beings; joy in revering and making offerings to your masters; joy in spreading the practice of charity (dana); joy in firmly keeping the rules of discipline (sila); joy in forbearance (ksanti); joy in unflinching zeal (virya) to sow all excellent roots; joy in unperturbed serenity (dhyana); joy in wiping out all defilement that screens clear wisdom (prajna); joy in expanding the enlightened (bodhi) mind; joy in overcoming all demons; joy in eradicating all troubles (klesa); joy in purifying the Buddha land; joy in winning merits from excellent physical marks; joy in embellishing the bodhimandala (the holy site); joy in fearlessness to hear (and understand ) the profound Dharma; joy in the three perfect doors to nirvana (i.e. voidness, formlessness and inactivity) as contrasted with their incomplete counterparts (which still cling to the notion of objective realization); joy of being with those studying the same Dharma and joy in the freedom from hindrance when amongst those who do not study it; joy to guide and convert evil men and to be with men of good counsel; joy in thestat of purity and cleanness; joy in the practice of countless conditions contributory to enlightenment. All this is the Bodhisattva joy in the Dharma.’

At that time, the demon said to the girls: ‘I want you all to return with me to our palace.’

The girls replied: ‘While we are here with the Venerable Upasaka, we delight in the joy of the Dharma; we no longer want the five kinds of worldly pleasures.’

The demon then said to Vimalakirti: ‘Will the Upasaka give away all these girls, as he who gives away everything to others is a Bodhisattva?’

Vimalakirti said: ‘I now give up all of them and you can take them away so that all living beings can fulfill their vows to realize the Dharma.’

The girls then asked Vimalakirti: ‘What should we do while staying at the demon’s palace?’

Vimalakirti replied: ‘Sisters, there is a Dharma called the Inexhaustible Lamp, which you should study and practice. For instance, a lamp can (be used to) light up hundreds and thousands of other lamps; darkness will thus be bright and this brightness will be inexhaustible. So, sisters, a Bodhisattva should guide and convert hundreds and thousands of living beings so that they all develop the mind set on supreme enlightenment; thus his deep thought (of enlightening others) is, likewise, inexhaustible. This teaching of the Dharma will then increase in all excellent Dharmas; this is called the Inexhaustible Lamp. Although you will be staying at the demon’s palace you should use this Inexhaustible Lamp to guide countless sons and daughters of devas to develop their minds set on supreme enlightenment, in order to repay your debt of gratitude to the Buddha, and also for the benefit of all living beings.’

The devas’ daughters bowed their heads at Vimalakirti’s feet and followed the demon to return to his palace and all of a sudden they vanished.”

World Honoured One, since Vimalakirti possesses such supernatural power, wisdom and eloquence, I am not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health.”

EXCELLENT VIRTUE:

The Buddha then said to a son of an elder called Excellent Virtue: “You call on Vimalakirti to inquire his health on my behalf.”

Excellent Virtue said: “World Honoured One, I am not qualified to call on him to inquire after his health. The reason is that once I held a ceremonial meeting at my father’s house to make offerings to the gods and also to monks, brahmins, poor people, outcastes and beggars. When the meeting ended seven days later, Vimalakirti came and said to me: ‘O son of the elder, an offering meeting should not be held in the way you did; it should bestow the Dharma upon others, for what is the use of giving alms away?’

I asked: ‘Venerable Upasaka, what do you mean by bestowal of Dharma?’

He replied: ‘The bestowal of Dharma is (beyond the element of time, having) neither start nor finish and each offering should benefit all living beings at the same time. This is a bestowal of Dharma.’

I asked: ‘What does this mean?’

He replied: ‘This means that bodhi springs from kindness (maitri) toward living beings; the salvation of living beings springs from compassion (karuna); the upholding of right Dharma from joy (mudita); wisdom from indifference (upeksa); the overcoming of greed from charity–perfection (dana-parmita); ceasing to break the precepts from discipline-perfection (sila-paramita); egolessness from patience-perfection (ksanti-paramita); relinquishment of body and mind from zeal-perfection (virya-paramita); realization of enlightenment from serenity-perfection (dhyana-paramita); realization of all-knowledge (sarvajna) from wisdom–perfection (prajna-paramita); the teaching and converting of living beings spring from the void; non-rejection of worldly activities springs from formlessness; appearance in the world springs from inactivity; sustaining the right Dharma from the power of expedient devices (upaya); the liberation of living beings from the four winning virtues; respect for and service to others from the determination to wipe out arrogance; the relinquishment of body, life and wealth from the three indestructibles; the six thoughts to dwell upon from concentration on the Dharma; the six points of reverent harmony in a monastery form the straightforward mind; right deeds from pure livelihood; joy in the pure mind from nearness to saints and sages; non-rising of hate for bad people from the effective control of mind; retiring from the world from the profound mind; practice in accordance with the preaching from the wide knowledge gained from hearing (about the Dharma); absence of disputation from a leisurely life; the quest of Buddha wisdom from meditation; the freeing of living beings from bondage from actual practice; the earning of all excellent physical marks to embellish Buddha lands from the karma of mortal excellence; the knowledge of the minds of all living beings and the relevant expounding of Dharma to them, from the karma of good knowledge; the understanding of all things commensurate with neither acceptance nor rejection of them to realize their oneness, from the karma of wisdom; the eradication of all troubles (klesa), hindrances and evils from all excellent karmas; the realization of all wisdom and good virtue from the contributory conditions leading to enlightenment. All this, son of good family, pertains to the bestowal of Dharma. A Bodhisattva holding this meeting that bestows the Dharma, is a great almsgiver (danapati); he is also a field of blessings for all worlds.’

World Honoured One, as Vimalakirti was expounding the Dharma, two hundred Brahmins who listened to it, set their minds on the quest of supreme enlightenment.

I myself realized purity and cleanliness of mind, which I had never experienced before. I then bowed my head at his feet and took out my priceless necklace of precious stones, which I offered to him but he refused it. I then said: ‘Venerable Upasaka, please accept my present and do what you like with it.’ He took my necklace and divided it in two, offering half to the poorest beggar in the assembly and the other half to the ‘Invincible Tathagata’, whose radiant land was then visible to all those present, who saw the half-necklace transformed into a precious tower in all its majesty on four pillars which did not shield one another.

After this supernatural transformation, Vimalakirti said: ‘He who gives alms to the poorest beggar with an impartial mind performs an act which does not differ from the field of blessings of the Tathagata, for it derives from great compassion with no expectation of reward. This is called the complete bestowal of Dharma.’

After witnessing Vimalakirti’s supernatural power, the poorest beggar who had also listened to his expounding of the Dharma developed a mind set on supreme enlightenment. Hence, I am not qualified to call on Vimalakirti to inquire after his health.”

Thus, each of the Bodhisattvas present related his encounter with Vimalakirti and declined to call on him to inquire after his health.

CHAPTER FIVE

MANJUSRI’S CALL ON VIMALAKIRTI

The Buddha then said to Manjusri: “You call on Vimalakirti to inquire after his health.”

Manjusri said: “World Honoured One, he is a man of superior wisdom and it is not easy to match him (in eloquence). For he has reached reality, and is a skillful teacher of the essential aspects of the Dharma. His power of speech is unhindered and his wisdom is boundless. He is well versed in all matters pertaining to Bodhisattva development, for he has entered the mysterious treasure of all Buddhas. He has overcome all demons, has achieved all transcendental powers and has realized wisdom by ingenious devices (upaya). Nevertheless, I will obey the holy command and will call on him to inquire after his health.”

The Bodhisattvas, the chief disciples of the Buddha and the rulers of the four heavens who were present, thought to themselves: “As the two Mahasattvas will be meeting, they will certainly discuss the profound Dharma.” So, eight thousand Bodhisattvas, five hundred sravakas and hundreds and thousands of devas wanted to follow Manjusri.

So Manjusri, reverently surrounded by the Bodhisattvas, the Buddha’s chief disciples and the devas, made for Vaisali town.

Vimalakirti, who knew in advance that Manjusri and his followers would come, used his transcendental powers to empty his house of all attendants and furniture except a sick bed.

When entering the house, Manjusri saw only Vimalakirti lying on sick bed and was greeted by the upasaka.

Who said: “Welcome, Manjusri, you come with no idea of coming and you see with no idea of seeing.”

Manjusri replied: “It is so, Venerable Upasaka, coming should not be further tied to (the idea of) coming, and going should not be further linked with (the concept of) going. Why? Because there is neither whence to come nor whither to go, and that which is visible cannot further be (an object of) seeing. Now, let us put all this aside. Venerable Upasaka, is your illness bearable? Will it get worse with the wrong treatment? The World Honoured One sends me to inquire after your health, and is anxious to have good news of you. Venerable Upasaka, where does your illness come from; how long since it arose, and how will it come to an end?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Stupidity leads to love, which is the origin of my illness. Because all living beings are subject to illness, I am ill as well. When all living beings are no longer ill, my illness will come to an end. Why? A Bodhisattva, because of (his vow to save) living beings, enters the realm of birth and death which is subject to illness; if they are all cured, the Bodhisattva will no longer be ill. For instance, when the only son of an elder falls ill, so do his parents, and when he recovers his health, so do they. Likewise, a Bodhisattva loves all living beings as if they were his sons; so when they fall ill, the Bodhisattva is also ill, and when they recover, he is no longer ill.”

Manjusri asked: “What is the cause of a Bodhisattva’s illness?”

Vimalakirti replied: “A Bodhisattva’s illness comes from (his) great compassion.”

Manjusri asked: “Why is the Venerable Upasaka’s house empty and without servants?”

Vimalakirti replied: “All Buddha lands are also void.”

Manjusri asked: “What is the Buddha land void of?”

Vimalakirti replied: “It is void of voidness.”

Manjusri asked: “Why should voidness be void?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Voidness is void in the absence of discrimination.”

Manjusri asked: “Can voidness be subject to discrimination?”

Vimalakirti replied: “All discrimination is also void.”

Manjusri asked: “Where can voidness be sought?”

Vimalakirti replied: “It should be sought in the sixty-two false views.”

Manjusri asked: “Where should the sixty-two false views be sought?”

Vimalakirti replied: “They should be sought in the liberation of all Buddhas.”

Manjusri asked: “Where should the liberation of all Buddhas be sought?”

Vimalakirti replied: “It should be sought in the minds of all living beings.”

He continued: “The virtuous one has also asked why I have no servants; well, all demons and heretics are my servants. Why? Because demons like (the state of) birth and death which the Bodhisattva does not reject, whereas heretics delight in false views in the midst of which the Bodhisattva remains unmoved.”

Manjusri asked: “What form does the Venerable Upasaka’s illness take?”

Vimalakirti replied: “My illness is formless and invisible.”

Manjusri asked: “Is it an illness of the body or of the mind?”

Vimalakirti replied: “It is not an illness of the body, for it is beyond body and it is not that of the mind, for the mind is like an illusion.”

Manjusri asked: “Of the four elements, earth, water, fire and air, which one is ill?”

Vimalakirti replied: “It is not an illness of the element of earth but it is not beyond it; it is the same with the other elements of water, fire and air. Since the illnesses of all living beings originate from the four elements which cause them to suffer, I am ill too.”

Manjusri then asked: “What should a Bodhisattva say when comforting another Bodhisattva who falls ill?”

Vimalakirti replied: “He should speak of the impermanence of the body but never of the abhorrence and relinquishment of the body. He should speak of the suffering body but never of the joy in nirvana. He should speak of egolessness in the body while teaching and guiding all living beings (in spite of the fact that they are fundamentally non-existent in the absolute state). He should speak of the voidness of the body but should never cling to the ultimate nirvana. He should speak of repentance of past sins but should avoid slipping into the past. Because of his own illness he should take pity on all those who are sick. Knowing that he has suffered during countless past aeons, he should think of the welfare of all living beings. He should think of his past practice of good virtues to uphold (his determination for) right livelihood. Instead of worrying about troubles (klesa) he should give rise to zeal and devotion (in his practice of the Dharma). He should act like a king physician to cure others’ illnesses. Thus, a Bodhisattva should comfort another sick Bodhisattva to make him happy.”

Manjusri asked: “How does a sick Bodhisattva control his mind?”

Vimalakirti replied:

“A sick Bodhisattva should think thus: ‘My illness comes from inverted thoughts and troubles (klesa) during my previous lives but it has no real nature of its own. Therefore, who is suffering from it? Why is it so? Because when the four elements unite to form a body, the former arewithout owner and the latter is without ego. Moreover, my illness comes from my clinging to an ego; hence, I should wipe out this clinging.’

Now that he knows the source of his illness, he should forsake the concept of an ego and a living being. He should think of things (dharma) thus: ‘A body is created by the union of all sorts of dharmas (elements) which alone rise and all, without knowing one another and without announcing their rise and fall.’ In order to wipe out the concept of things (dharmas), a sick Bodhisattva should think thus: ‘This notion of dharma is also an inversion, which is my great calamity. So I should keep from it.’ What is to be kept from? From both subject and object. What does this keeping from subject and object mean? It means keeping from dualities. What does this keeping from dualities mean? It means not thinking of inner and outer dharmas (i.e. contraries) by the practice of impartiality. What is impartiality? It means equality (of all contraries e.g.) ego and nirvana. Why is it so? Because both ego and nirvana are void. Why are both void? Because they exist only by names which have no independent nature of their own. “When you achieve this equality you are free from all illnesses but there remains the conception of voidness which also is an illusion and should be wiped out as well.’

A sick Bodhisattva should free himself from the conception of sensation (vedana) when experiencing any one of its three states (which are painful, pleasurable and neither painful nor pleasurable feeling). Before his full development into Buddhahood (that is before delivering all living beings in his own mind), he should not wipe out vedana for his own benefit with a view to attaining nirvana for himself only. Knowing that the body is subject to suffering he should think of living beings in the lower realms of existence and give rise to compassion (for them). Since he has succeeded in controlling his false views he should guide all living beings to bring theirs under control as well. He should uproot theirs (inherent) illnesses without (trying to) wipe out non-existence dharmas (externals for sense data). For he should teach them how to cut off the origin of illness. What is the origin of illness? It is their clinging which causes their illness What are the objects of their clinging? They are the three realms (of desire, form and beyond form). By what means should they cut off their clinging? By means (of the doctrine that) nothing whatsoever can be found, and (that) if nothing can be found there will be no clinging. What is meant by ‘nothing can be found’? It means (that) apart from dual views (there is nothing else that can be had). What are dual views? They are inner and outer views beyond which there is nothing.

Manjusri, this is how a sick Bodhissattva should control his mind. Top wipe out suffering from old age, illness and death is the Bodhisattva’s bodhi (enlightened practice). If he fails to do so, his practice lacks wisdom and is ineffective. For instance, a Bodhisattva is (called) courageous if he overcomes hatred; if in addition he wipes out (the concept of) old age, illness and death, he is a true Bodhisattva.

A sick Bodhisattva should again reflect: since my illness is neither real nor existing, the illnesses of all living beings are also unreal and non-existent. But while so thinking if he develops a great compassion derived from his love for living beings and from his attachment to this false view, he should (immediately) keep from these feelings. Why is it so? Because a Bodhisattva should wipe out all external causes of troubles (klesa) while developing great compassion. For (this) love and (these) wrong views result from hate of birth and death. If he can keep from this love and these wrong views, he will be free from hatred, and wherever he may be reborn he will not be hindered by love and wrong views. His next life will be free from obstructions and he will be able to expound the Dharma to all living beings and free them from bondage. As the Buddha has said, there is no such thing as untying others when one is still held in bondage for it is possible to untie others only after one is free from bonds.

Therefore, a Bodhisattva should not tie himself up (with wrong views). What is tying and what is untying? Clinging to serenity (dhyana) is a Bodhisattva’s bondage, but his expedient rebirth (for the salvation of others) is freedom from bondage. Further, he is held in bondage by wisdom which lacks expedient methods (upaya), but is liberated by wisdom supported by expedient device; he is (also) held in bondage by expedient methods which are not upheld by wisdom but is liberated by expedient methods backed by wisdom.

What is bondage by wisdom unsupported by expedient methods? It is bondage caused by the Bodhisattva’s desire to embellish the Buddha land (with merits) in order to bring living beings to perfection while practicing for his self-control (the three gates to nirvana, namely,) voidness, formlessness and inactivity. This is called bondage by wisdom unsupported by expedient methods (upaya).

What is liberation by wisdom backed by expedient methods? It is liberation achieved in the absence of desire to embellish the Buddha land (with merits) in order to bring living beings to perfection, while practicing unremittingly for his self-control (the three gates to nirvana, namely) voidness, formlessness and inactivity. This is called liberation by wisdom supported by expedient methods (upaya).

What is bondage by expedient methods unsupported by wisdom? It is bondage caused by a Bodhisattva’s lack of determination to keep from desire, anger, perverse views and other troubles (klesa) while planting all wisdom roots. This is called bondage by expedient methods, which lack wisdom.

What is liberation by expedient methods sustained by wisdom? It is liberation won by a Bodhisattva who keeps from desire, anger, perverse views and other troubles (klesa) while planting all virtuous roots which he dedicates to his realization of supreme enlightenment. This is called liberation by expedient methods sustained by wisdom.

Manjusri, a sick Bodhisattva should look into all things in this way. He should further meditate on his body, which is impermanent, is subject to suffering and is non-existent and egoless; this is called wisdom. Although his body is sick, he remains in (the realm of) birth and death for the benefit of all (living beings) without complaint; this is called expedient method (upaya).

Manjusri! He should further meditate on the body, which is inseparable from illness and on illness, which is inherent in the body, because sickness and the body are neither new nor old; this is called wisdom. The body, though ill, is not to be annihilated; this is the expedient method (for remaining in the world to work for salvation).

Manjusri, a sick Bodhisattva should thus control his mind while dwelling in neither the (state of) controlled mind nor its opposite, that of uncontrolled mind. For if he dwells in (the state of) uncontrolled mind, this is stupidity and if he dwells in (that of) controlled mind, this is the sravaka stage. Hence, a Bodhisattva should not dwell in either and so keep from both; this is the practice of the Bodhisattva stage. When staying in the realm of birth and death he keeps from its impurity, and when dwelling in nirvana, he keeps from (its condition of) extinction of reincarnation and escape from suffering; this is the practice of the Bodhisattva stage. That which is neither worldly nor saintly is Bodhisattva development (into Buddhahood). That which is neither impure nor pure is Bodhisattva practice. Although he is beyond the demonic state, he appears (in the world) to overcome demons; this is Bodhisattva conduct. In his quest of all knowledge (sarvajna) he does not seek it at an inappropriate moment; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he looks into the uncreated he does not achieve Buddhahood; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he looks into nidana (or the twelve links in the chain of existence), he enters all states of perverse views (to save living beings); this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he helps all living beings he does not give rise to clinging; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he keeps from the phenomenal he does not lean on the voidness of body and mind; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he passes through the three worlds (of desire, form and beyond form), he does not injure the Dharmata; this is the Bodhisattva conduct. Although he realizes the voidness (of thing) he sows the seeds of all merits; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he dwells in formlessness, he continues delivering living beings; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he refrains from (creative) activities he appears in his physical body; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he keeps (all thoughts) from rising he performs all good deeds; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the six perfections (paramitas), he knows all the mental states of living beings; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he possesses the six supernatural powers, he refrains from putting an end to all worldy streams; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the four infinite states of mind, he does not wish to be reborn in the Brahma heavens, this is the Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices meditation, serenity (dhyana), liberation and samadhi, he does not avail himself of these to be reborn in dhyana heavens; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the four states of mindfulness, he does not keep for ever from the karma of body and mind; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the four right efforts, he persists in physical and mental zeal and devotion; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the four Hinayana steps to supernatural powers, he will continue doing so until he achieves all Mahayana supernatural powers; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the five spiritual faculties of the sravaka stage, he discerns the sharp and dull potential of living beings; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the five powers of the sravaka stage, he strives to achieve the ten powers of the Buddha; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the seven Hinayana degrees of enlightenment, he discerns the Buddha’s all-wisdom (sarvajna); this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the eightfold noble truth (of Hinayana), he delights in treading the Buddha’s boundless path; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices samathavipasyana, which contributes to the realization of bodhi (enlightenment), he keeps from slipping into nirvana; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he practices the doctrine of not creating and not annihilating things (dharma), he still embellishes his body with the excellent physical marks of the Buddha; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he appears as a sravaka or a pratyeka-buddha, he does not stray from the Buddha Dharma; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he has realized ultimate purity, he appears in bodily form to do his work of salvation; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he sees into all Buddha lands, which are permanently still like space, he causes them to appear in their purity and cleanness; this is Bodhisattva conduct. Although he has reached the Buddha stage, which enables him to turn the wheel of the Law (to preach the Dharma) and to enter the state of nirvana, he does not forsake the Bodhisattva path; this is bodhisattva conduct.”

While Vimalakirti was expounding the Dharma, all the eight thousand sons of devas who had come with Manjusri, developed the profound mind set on the quest of supreme enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi).

CHAPTER SIX

THE INCONCEIVABLE LIBERATION

Sariputra saw no seats in the room and thought: “Where do the Bodhisattvas and chief disciples sit?”

Sariputra replied: “I come here for the Dharma and not for a seat.”

Vimalakirti said: “Hey Sariputra, he who searches for the Dharma does not even cling to his body and life, still less to a seat, for the quest of Dharma is not related to (the five aggregates): form (rupa), sensation (vedana), conception (sanjna), discrimination (samskara) and consciousness (vijnana); to the eighteen fields of sense (dhatu: the six organs, their objects and their perceptions); to the twelve entrances (ayatana: the six organs and six sense data that enter for or lead to discrimination); and to the worlds of desire, form and beyond form. Sariputra, a seeker of the Dharma, does not cling to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. A seeker of the Dharma does not hold the view of suffering, of cutting off all the accumulated causes, thereof, to put an end to it by treading the path to nirvana (i.e. the four noble truths). Why is it so? Because the Dharma is beyond all sophistry. For if one says: ‘Because I see suffering, I cut off its accumulated causes to wipe it out by treading the path thereto’, this is mere sophistry and is not the quest of the Dharma.

“Sariputra, the Dharma is called nirvana (the condition of complete serenity and ultimate extinction of reincarnation); if you give rise to (the concept of) birth and death, this is a search for birth and death and is not the quest of Dharma. The Dharma is (absolute and) immaculate, but if you are defiled by the (thought of) Dharma and even that of nirvana, this is pollution which runs counter to the quest of Dharma. Dharma cannot be practiced and if it is put into practice, this implies something (i.e. an object) to be practiced and is not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is beyond grasping and rejecting, and if you grasp or reject it, this is grasping or rejecting (something else) but not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is beyond position but if you give it a place, this is clinging to space but not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is formless but if you rely on form to conceive the Dharma, this is search for form but not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is not an abode but if you want to stay in it this is dwelling in (an objective) Dharma, but not the quest of (absolute) Dharma. Dharma can be neither seen, nor heard nor felt nor known but if you want to see, hear, feel and know it, this is the functioning of your (discriminatory) seeing, hearing, feeling and knowing but not the quest of Dharma. Dharma is (transcendentally) inactive (wu wei) but if you are set on worldly activities, this is a search for the worldly way of life but not the quest of Dharma. Therefore, Sariputra, the quest of Dharma does not imply seeking anything whatsoever.”

When Vimalakirti so spoke, five hundred sons of devas realized the pure Dharma Eye.

Vimalakirti then asked Manjusri: “The Virtuous One has traveled in countless thousands and tens of thousands of lakhs of worlds; which one is the Buddha land where the highest merits make the lion throne (of its Buddha)?”

Manjusri replied: “Venerable Upasaka, in the east there is a Buddha land which is separated from here by a distance represented by worlds as countless as the sand grains in thirty-six Ganges rivers; it is called Merudhvaja whose Buddha is called Merukalpa who is still there. His body is 84,000 yojana tall and his lion throne, also as high, is of prominent majesty.”

At that time, Vimalakirti used his transcendental powers to invite Buddha Merukalpa to send to his room thirty-two thousand high, large, majestic and clean lion thrones which the Bodhisattvas, chief disciples of the Buddha (Sakyamuni), Indra and Brahma, the four deva kings, etc., had never seen before.

The room contained all the thirty-two thousand lion thrones which did not hinder one another and which did not obstruct anything at Vaisali, in Jambudvipa (our earth) and in the four heavens where all things remained unchanged as before.

Vimalakirti then said to Manjusri: “Please take a lion throne and be seated amongst the great Bodhisattvas by enlarging the size of your body to that of the seat.” Those Bodhisattvas who had acquired supernatural powers, enlarged their bodies to the size of the thrones on which they sat (without difficulty). But the newly initiated Bodhisattvas and chief disciples of the Buddha could not mount the high thrones.

Vimalakirti then said to Sariputra: “Please be seated on a lion throne.”

Sariputra replied: “Venerable Upasaka, these thrones are large and high; I cannot mount them.”

Vimalakirti said: “Sariputra, you should first pay reverence to the Tathagata Merukalpa and will then be able to sit on one of them.”

At that time, all newly initiated Bodhisattvas and chief disciples of the Buddha paid reverence to the Tathagata Merukalpa and then sat on the lion throne.

Sariputra said to Vimalakirti: Pvenerable Upasaka, this was not seen before; this small room can contain these high and large thrones which do not obstruct anything at Vaisali and do not interfere with the cities, towns and villages on Jambudvipa (our world) as well as with the palaces of the devas and heavenly nagas (dragons) and the abodes of the ghosts and spirits.”

Vimalakirti said: “Sariputra, the liberation realized by all Buddhas and (great) Bodhisattvas is inconceivable. If a Bodhisattva wins this liberation, he can put the great and extensive (Mount) Sumeru in a mustard seed, which neither increases nor decreases (its size) while Sumeru remains the same, and the four deva kings (guardians of the world) and the devas of Trayastrimsas (the heavens of Indra) are not even aware of their being put into the seed, but only those who have won liberation see Sumeru in the mustard seed. This is the inconceivable Dharma door to liberation.

He can also put the four great oceans that surround Sumeru in a pore without causing inconvenience to fishes, water tortoises, sea-turtles, water-lizards and all other aquatic animals while the oceans remain the same and the nagas (dragons), ghosts, spirits and asuras (titans) are not even aware of being displaced and interposed.

“Further, Sariputra, a great Bodhisattva who has won this inconceivable liberation can (take and) put on his right palm the great chiliocosm like the potter holding his wheel, throw it beyond a number of worlds as countless as the sand grains in the Ganges and then take it back (to its original place) while all living beings therein do not know of their being thrown away and returned and while our world remains unchanged.

Further, Sariputra, if there are living beings who are qualified for liberation but who want to stay longer in the world, this Bodhisattva will (use his supernatural power to) extend a week to an aeon so that they will consider their remaining in time to be one week.

Further, Sariputra, a Bodhisattva who has won this inconceivable liberation can gather in one country all the majestic things of all Buddha lands so that they are all visible in that particular country.

Further, he can place on his right palm all the living beings of a Buddha land and then fly in all the ten directions to show them all things everywhere without even shaking them.

Further, Sariputra, this Bodhisattva can show through one of his pores all offerings to the Buddhas by living beings in the ten directions.

He can show through one of his pores all suns, moons, planets and stars in all the worlds in the ten directions.

Further, Sariputra, he can breathe in (and hold in his mouth) all the winds blowing in the worlds in the ten directions without injuring his own body or the trees of these worlds.

Further, when the worlds in the ten directions come to an end through destruction by fires, this Bodhisattva can breathe in these fires into his own belly without being injured by them while they continue to burn without change.

Further, this Bodhisattva can take from the nadir a Buddha land separated from him by worlds as countless as the sand grains in the Ganges and lift it up to the zenith, which is separated from him by worlds as countless as there are sand grains in the Ganges, with the same case as he picks up a leaf of the date tree with the point of a needle.

Further, Sariputra, a Bodhisattva who has won this inconceivable liberation can use his transcendental powers to appear as a Buddha, or a Pratyeka-buddha, a Sravaka, a sovereign Sakra, Brahma, or a ruler of the world (cakravarti). He can also cause all sound and voices of high, medium and low pitches in the worlds in the ten directions to change into the Buddha’s voice proclaiming (the doctrine of) impermanence, suffering, unreality and absence of ego as well as all Dharmas expounded by all Buddhas in the ten directions, making them heard everywhere.

Sariputra, I have mentioned only some of the powers derived from this inconceivable liberation but if I were to enumerate them all, a whole aeon would be too short for the purpose.

Mahakasyapa who had heard of this Dharma of inconceivable liberation, praised it and said it had never been expounded before. He then said to Sariputra: “Like the blind who do not see images in various colours shown to them, all sravakas hearing this Dharma door to inconceivable liberation will not understand it. Of the wise men hearing about it, who will not set his mind on the quest of supreme enlightenment? What should we do to uproot for ever the rotten sravaka root as compared with this Mahayana, so that all sravakas hearing this doctrine of inconceivable liberation, shed tears of repentance and scream so loudly as to shake the great chiliocosm? As to the Bodhisattvas, they are all happy to receive this Dharma reverently by placing it on the tops of their heads. If a Bodhisattva believes and practices this Dharma door to inconceivable liberation, all demons cannot oppose him.”

When Mahakasyapa spoke these worlds, thirty-two thousand sons of the devas set their minds on the quest of supreme enlightenment.

At that time, Vimalakirti declared to Mahakasyapa: “Virtuous One, those who appear as kings of demons in countless worlds in the ten directions are mostly Bodhisattvas who have realized this inconceivable liberation and who use expedient devices (upaya) to appear as their rulers in order to convert living beings.

Further, Mahakasyapa, countless Bodhisattvas in the ten directions appear as beggars asking for hands, feet, ears, noses, heads, brains, blood, flesh, skin and bones, towns and hamlets, wives and (female) slaves, elephants, horses, carts, gold, silver, lapis lazuli, agate, cornelian, coral, amber, pearl, jade shell, clothing, food and drink; most of these beggars are Bodhisattvas who have realized this inconceivable liberation and use expedient devices to test believers in order to cement their faith (in the Dharma). Because the Bodhisattvas who have realized inconceivable liberation possess the awe-inspiring power to bring pressure to bear upon (believers) and ask for inalienable things (to test them), but worldly men whose spirituality is low have no such (transcendental) powers and cannot do all this. These Bodhisattvas are like dragons and elephants which can trample (with tremendous force), which donkeys cannot do. This is called the wisdom and expedient methods (upaya) of the Bodhisattvas who have won inconceivable liberation.”

CHAPTER SEVEN

LOOKING at LIVING BEINGS

Manjusri asked Vimalakirti: “How should a Bodhisattva look at living beings?”

Vimalakirti replied: “ A Bodhisattva should look at living beings like an illusionist does at the illusory men (he has created); and like a wise man looking at the moon’s reflection in water; at his own face in a mirror; at the flame of a burning fire; at the echo of a calling voice; at flying clouds in the sky; at foam in a liquid; at bubbles on water; at the (empty) core of a banana tree; at a flash of lightning; at the (non-existent) fifth element (beside the four that make the human body); at the sixth aggregate (beside the five that make a sentient being); at the seventh sense datum (beside the six objects of sense); at the thirteenth entrance (ayatana-beside the twelve involving the six organs and six sense date); at the nineteenth realm of sense (beside the eighteen dhatus or fields of sense); at form in the formless world; at the (non-existent) sprout of a charred grain of rice; at a body seen by a srota-apanna (who has wiped out the illusory body to enter the holy stream); at the entry of an anagamin (or a non-returning sravaka) into the womb of a woman (for rebirth); at an arhat still preserving the three poisons (of desire, anger and stupidity which he has eliminated forever); at a Bodhisattva realizing the patient endurance of the uncreate who is still greedy, resentful and breaking the prohibitions; at a Buddha still suffering from klesa (troubles); at a blind man seeing things; at an adept who still breathes air in and out while in the state of nirvanic imperturbability; at the tracks of birds flying in the air; at the progeny of a barren woman; at the suffering of an illusory man; at a sleeping man seeing he is awake in a dream; at a devout man realizing nirvana who takes a bodily form for (another) reincarnation; and at a smokeless fire. This is how a Bodhisattva should look at living beings.”

At that time, Manjusri asked Vimalakirti: “When a Bodhisattva so meditates how should he practise kindness (maitri)?

When a Bodhisattva has made this meditation, he should think that:

Ought to teach living beings to meditate in the same manner; this is true kindness.

Should practise causeless (nirvanic) kindness which prevents creativeness;

Should practice unheated kindness which puts an end to klesa (troubles and causes of troubles);

Should practice impartial kindness which coves all the three periods of time (which means that it is eternal involving past, future and present);

Should practice passionless kindness which wipes out disputes;

Should practice non-dual kindness which is beyond sense organs within and sense data without;

Should practice indestructible kindness which eradicates all corruption;

Should practice stable kindness which is a characteristic of the undying self-mind;

Should practice pure and clean kindness which is spotless like Dharmata;

Should practice boundless kindness which is all-pervasive like space;

Should practice the kindness of the arhat stage which destroys all bondage;

Should practice the Bodhisattva kindness which gives comfort to living beings;

Should practice the Tathagata kindness which leads to the state of thatness;

Should practice the Buddha kindness which enlightens all living beings;

Should practice spontaneous kindness which is causeless;

Should practice Bodhi kindness which is one flavour (i.e. uniform and unmixed wisdom);

Should practice unsurpassed kindness which cuts off all desires;

Should practice merciful kindness which leads to the Mahayana (path);

Should practice untiring kindness because of deep insight into the void and non-existent ego;

Should practice Dharma-bestowing (dana) kindness which is free from regret and repentance;

Should practice precepts (sila) upholding kindness to convert those who have broken the commandments;

Should practice patient (ksanti) kindness which protects both the self and others;

Should practice Zealous (virya) kindness to liberate all living beings;

Should practice serene (dhyana) kindness which is unaffected by the five senses;

Should practice wise (prajna) kindness which is always timely;

Should practice expedient (upaya) kindness to appear at all times for converting living beings;

Should practice unhidden kindness because of the purity and cleanliness of the straightforward mind;

Should practice profound minded kindness which is free from discrimination;

Should practice undeceptive kindness which is without fault;

Should practice joyful kindness which bestows the Buddha joy (in nirvana). “Such are the specialities of Bodhisattva kindness.”

Manjusri asked Vimalakirti: “What should be his compassion (karuna)?”

Vimalakirti replied: “His compassion should include sharing with all living beings all the merits he has won.”

Manjusri asked: “What should be his joy (mudita)?”

Vimalakirti replied: He should be filled with joy on seeing others win the benefit of the Dharma with no regret whatsoever.”

Manjusri asked “What should he relinquish (upeksa)?”

Vimalakirti replied: “In his work of salvation, he should expect nothing (i.e. no gratitude or reward) in return.”

Manjusri asked: “On what should he rely in his fear of birth and death?”

Vimalakirti replied: “He should rely on the power of the Tathagata’s moral merits.”

Manjusri asked: “What should he do to win support from the power of the Tathagata’s moral merits?”

Vimalakirti replied: “ He should liberate all living beings in order to win support from the power of the Tathagata’s moral merit.”

Manjusri asked: “What should he wipe out in order to liberate living beings?”

Vimalakirti replied: “When liberating living beings, a Bodhisattva should first wipe out their klesa (troubles and causes of troubles)?”

Manjusri asked: “What should he do to wipe out klesa?”

Manjusri asked: “What should he do to uphold right mindfulness?”

Vimalakirti replied: “He should advocate the unborn and the undying.”

Manjusri asked: “What is the unborn and what is the undying?”

Vimalakirti replied: “The unborn is evil that does not arise and the undying is good that does not end.”

Manjusri asked: “What is the root of good and evil?”

Vimalakirti replied: “The body is the root of good and evil.”

Manjusri asked: “What is the root of the body?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Craving is the root of the body.”

Manjusri asked: “What is the root of craving?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Baseless discrimination is the root of craving.”

Manjusri asked: “What is the root of baseless discrimination?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Inverted thinking is the root of discrimination.”

Manjusri asked: “What is the root of inverted thinking?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Non-abiding is the root of inverted thinking.”

Manjusri asked: “What is the root of non-abiding?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Non-abiding is rootless. Manjusri, from this non-abiding root all things arise.”

A goddess (devakanya) who had watched the gods (devas) listening to the Dharma in Vimalakirti’s room appeared in bodily form to shower flowers on the Bodhisattvas and the chief disciples of the Buddha (in their honour). When the flowers fell on the Bodhisattvas, they fell to the ground, but when they fell on the chief disciples, they stuck to their bodies and did not drop in spite of all their efforts to shake them off.

At that time, the goddess asked Sariputra why he tried to shake the flowers off.

Sariputra replied: “I want to shake off these flowers which are not in the state of suchness.”

The goddess said: “Do not say these flowers are not in the state of suchness. Why? Because they do not differentiate, and it is you (alone) who give rise to differentiation. If you (still) differentiate after leaving home in your quest of Dharma, this is not the state of suchness, but if you no longer give rise to differentiation, this will be the state of suchness. Look at the Bodhisattvas whose bodies do not retain the flowers this is because they have put an end to differentiation. This is like a man taking fright who invites trouble for himself is like a man taking right and evil (people). So if a disciple fears birth and death, then form, sound, smell, taste and touch can trouble him, but if he is fearless he is immune from all the five sense data. (in your case). It is because the force of habit still remains that these flowers cleave to your body but if you cut it off, they will not stick to it.”

Sariputra asked: “How long have you been in this room?”

The goddess replied: “My stay in this room is just like the Venerable Elder’s liberation.”

Sariputra asked: “Do you then mean that you have stayed here for a long time?”

The goddess retorted: “Does your liberation also involve time?”

Sariputra kept silent and did not reply.

The goddess then asked: “Why is the wise elder silent on this point?”

Sariputra replied: “He who wins liberation does not express it in words; hence I do not know what to say!”

The goddess said: “Spoken and written word reveal liberation. Why? For liberation is neither within nor without nor in between, and words also are neither inside nor outside nor in between. Therefore, Sariputra, liberation cannot be preached without using words. Why? Because all things point to liberation.”

Sariputra asked: “Do you then mean that thee is no need to keep from carnality, hatred and stupidity to win liberation?”

The goddess replied: “In the presence of those who are proud (of their superior knowledge) the Buddha said it is important to keep from carnality, hatred and stupidity in the quest of liberation; but where they are absent, He said that the underlying nature of carnality, hatred and stupidity (i.e. the self-nature) is identical with liberation.

Sariputra exclaimed: “Excellent, goddess, excellent, what have you gained and experienced that gives you such an eloquence?”

The goddess replied: “The fact that I neither gain nor experience anything gives me this eloquence. Why is it so? Because he who (claims to) have won and experienced (something) is arrogant in the eye of the Buddha Dharma.”

Sariputra asked: “Which of the three vehicles is your aim?”

The goddess replied: “When I preach the sravaka Dharma to convert people, I appear as a sravaka; when I expound the (twelve) links in the chain of existence I appear as a pratyeka-buddha; and when I teach great compassion to convert them, I appear as a (teacher of) Mahayana. Sariputra, like those entering a campa grove who smell only the fragrance of campas to the exclusion of all other odours, those entering this room smell only the fragrance of Buddha merits and no longer like the aroma of achievements by sravakas and pratyeka-buddha.”

Sariputra, when Indra, Brahma, the four deva kings of the four heavens (guardians of the world), heavenly dragons, ghosts and spirits, etc. entered the room and heard this Upasaka (Vimalakirti) expound the right Dharma, they all took delight in smelling the fragrance of Buddha merits and developed the Mahayana mind before returning to their worlds.

Sariputra, I have stayed here for twelve years during which I have never heard the Dharmas of sravakas and pratyeka-buddhas but only the doctrine of great kindness (maitri) and great compassion (karuna) of the Bodhisattvas and the inconceivable Buddha Dharma. Sariputra, in this room there are always eight unusual manifestations:

First, this room is illuminated by a golden light, which is the same by day and by night and does not depend on either sunlight or moonlight to light it up;

Second, he who enters it is immune from all troubles caused by defilements;

Third, this room is visited by Indra, Brahma, the four deva kings of the four heavens and Bodhisattvas from other realms;

Fourth, the never-receding Dharma of the six paramitas is always expounded in it;

Fifth, the most melodious heavenly music intoning countless Dharma doors (to enlightenment) is heard in it;

Sixth, this room contains the four canons (of sutras, vinaya, sastras and miscellaneous scriptures) full of inexhaustible precious treasures for those who are (spiritually) poor

Seventh, when the Venerable Upasaka thinks of Sakyamuni Buddha, Amitabha Buddha, Aksobhya Buddha, the Buddha of Precious Virtues, the Buddha of Precious Flame, the Buddha of Precious Moonshine, the Buddha of Precious Majesty, the Invincible Buddha, the Buddha of the Lion’s Roar, the Buddha of All-Perfection, and countless other Buddhas in the ten directions, they all come to expound the secrets of the esoteric Buddha Dharma, after which they return to their realms;

Eighth, all majestic heavenly palaces and all pure lands of Buddhas appear in this room.

Sariputra, after witnessing these eight remarkable things in this room, who still seeks the sravaka Dharma?”

Sariputra asked: “Why do not you change your female bodily form?”

The goddess replied: “For the last twelve years, I have been looking in vain for a female bodily form; so what do you want me to change? This is like an illusionist who creates an illusory woman; is it correct to ask him to change this unreal woman?”

Sariputra said: “No, because it is not a real body; into what then can it be changed?”

The goddess said: “All phenomena (including forms) are also unreal. So why have you asked me to change my unreal female body?”

At that time, she used her supernatural powers to change Sariputra into a heavenly goddess and herself into a man similar to Sariputra, and asked him: “Why do you change your female form?”

Sariputra replied: “I do not know why I have turned into a goddess.”

The goddess said: “Sariputra, if you can change your female body, all women should also be able to turn into men. Like Sariputra who is not a woman but appears in female bodily form, all women are the same and though they appear in female form, they are fundamentally not women. Hence the Buddha said: ‘All things are neither male nor female’.”

At that time, the goddess again used her supernatural powers to change Sariputra back to his (original) male body, and asked: “Where is your female body now?”

Sariputra replied: “The form of a woman neither exists nor is non-existent.”

The goddess then declared: “Likewise, all things are fundamentally neither existing nor non-existent, and that which neither exists nor is non-existent is proclaimed by the Buddha.”

Sariputra asked: “When will you leave (die) here and where will you be reborn?”

The goddess replied: “I shall be reborn like a Buddha by transformation.”

Sariputra interjected: “The Buddha’s transformation body implies neither birth nor death.”

The goddess said: Likewise all living beings (fundamentally) are subject to neither death nor birth.”

Sariputra asked: “When will you realize supreme enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi)?”

The goddess replied: “I shall realize supreme enlightenment when Sariputra returns to the worldly way of life.”

Sariputra retorted: “There is no such thing as myself (a holy man at the sravaka stage) returning to the worldly way of life.”

The goddess said: “There is also no such thing as myself realizing enlightenment. Why? Because bodhi (or enlightenment) is not an objective, which can be realized.”

Sariputra retorted: “There are Buddhas as countless as sand grains in the Ganges, who have realized and will win supreme enlightenment; what will you say of them?”

The goddess said: “The three periods of time(the past, future and present) are spoken of (to the common man) as being in line with worldly thinking but this does not mean that bodhi (which is timeless or eternal) is tied to the past, future and present.” She then asked Sariputra: “Sariputra, have you realized arhatship?”

Sariputra replied: “I have realized it because I hold no concept of winning anything.”

The goddess said: “Likewise, all Buddhas and great Bodhisattvas achieved their goals because they were free from the idea of winning supreme enlightenment.”

At that time, Vimalakirti said to Sariputra: “This goddess has made offering to ninety-two lacs of Buddhas. She is able to play with the Bodhisattva transcendental powers, has fulfilled all her vows, has realized the patient endurance of the uncreate and has reached the never-receding Bodhisattva stage. In fulfillment of a vow, she appears at will (everywhere) to teach and convert living beings.”

CHAPTER EIGHT

THE BUDDHA PATH

Manjusri asked Vimalakirti: “How does a Bodhisattva enter the Buddha path?”

Vimalakirti replied: “If a Bodhisattva treads the wrong ways (without discrimination), he enters the Buddha path.”

Manjusri asked: “What do you mean by a Bodhisattva treading the wrong ways?”

Vimalakirti replied: “(In his work of salvation) if a Bodhisattva is free from irritation and anger while appearing in the fivefold uninterrupted hell; is free from the stain of sins while appearing in (other) hells; is free from ignorance, arrogance and pride while appearing in the world of animals; is adorned with full merits while appearing in the world of hungry ghosts; does not show his superiority while appearing in the (heavenly) worlds of form and beyond form; is immune from defilements while appearing in the world of desire; is free from anger while appearing as if he were resentful; uses wisdom to control his mind while appearing to be stupid; appears as if he were greedy but gives away all his outer (i.e. money and worldly) and inner (i.e. bodily) possessions without the least regret for his own life; appears as if he broke the prohibitions while delighting in pure living and being apprehensive of committing even a minor fault; appears as if he were filled with hatred while always abiding in compassionate patience; appears as if he were remiss while diligently practicing all meritorious virtues; appears as if he were disturbed while always remaining in the state of serenity; appears as if he were ignorant while possessing both mundane and supramundane wisdoms; appears as if he delighted in flattering and falsehood while he excels in expedient methods in conformity with straightforwardness as taught in the sutras; shows arrogance and pride while he is as humble as a bridge; appears as if he were tormented by troubles while his mind remains pure and clean; appears in the realm of demons while defeating heterodox doctrines to conform with the Buddha wisdom; appears in the realm of sravakas where he expounds the unheard of supreme Dharma; appears in the realm of pratyeka-buddhas where he converts living beings in fulfillment of great compassion; appears amongst the poor but extends to them his precious hand whose merits are inexhaustible; appears amongst the crippled and disabled with his own body adorned with the excellent physical marks (of the Buddha); appears amongst the lower classes but grows the seed of the Buddha nature with all relevant merits; appears amongst the emaciated and ugly showing his strong body to the admiration of them all; appears as an old and ill man but is actually free from all ailments with no fear of death; appears as having all the necessities of life but always sees into impermanence and is free from greed; appears to have wives, concubines and maids but always keeps away from the morass of the five desires; appears amongst the dull-witted and stammerers to help them win the power of speech derived from the perfect control of mind; appears amongst heretics to teach orthodoxy and deliver all living beings; enters all worlds of existence to help them uproot the causes leading thereto; and appears as if entering nirvana but without cutting off birth and death; Manjusri, this Bodhisattva can tread heterodox ways because he has access to the Buddha path.”

Vimalakirti then asked Manjusri: “What are the seeds of the Tathagata?”

Manjusri replied:

“Body is (a) seed of the Tathagata;

Ignorance and craving are its (two) seeds;

Desire, hate and stupidity its (three) seeds;

The four inverted views its (four) seeds;

The five covers (or screens) its (five) seeds;

The six organs of sense its (six) seeds;

The seven abodes of consciousness its (seven) seeds;

The eight heterodox views its (eight) seeds;

The nine causes of klesa (troubles and their causes) its (nine) seeds;

The ten evils its (ten) seeds. To sum up, all the sixty-two heterodox views and all sorts of klesa are the seeds of Buddhahood.

Vimalakirti asked Mnjusri: “Why is it so?”

Manjusri replied: “Because he who perceives the inactive (wu wei) state and enters its right (nirvanic) position, is incapable of advancing further to achieve supreme enlightenment (anuttara-samyak-sambodhi). For instance, high ground does not produce the lotus, which grows only in marshy land. Likewise, those perceiving nirvana and entering its right position, will not develop into Buddhahood, whereas living beings in the mire of klesa can eventually develop the Buddha Dharma. This is also like seeds scattered in the void, which do not grow, but if they are planted in manured fields they will yield good harvests. Thus, those entering the right position (of nirvana) do not develop the Buddha Dharma, whereas those whose view of the ego is as great as (Mount) Sumeru may (because of the misery of life) eventually set their minds on the quest of supreme enlightenment, thereby developing the Buddha Dharma.

“Therefore, we should know that all sorts of klesa are the seeds of the Tathagata. This is like one who does not plunge into the ocean will never find the priceless pearl. Likewise, a man who does not enter the ocean of klesa will never win the gem of all-knowledge (sarvajna).”

At that time, Mahakasyapa exclaimed : “Excellent, Manjusri, excellent, your sayings are most gratifying. As you have said, those suffering from klesa are the seeds of the Tathagata. So we are no longer capable of developing a mind set on enlightenment. Even those committing the five deadly sins can eventually set their minds on the quest of the Buddha Dharma but we are unable to do so, like persons whose defective organs prevent them from enjoying the five objects of the senses. Likewise, the sravakas who have cut off all bonds (of transmigration) are no longer interested in the Buddha Dharma and will never want to realize it.

Therefore, Manjusri, the worldly man still reacts (favourably) to the Buddha Dharma whereas the sravaka does not. Why? Because when the worldly man hears about the Buddha Dharma, he can set his mind on the quest of the supreme path, thereby preserving for ever the Three Treasures (of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), whereas the sravaka, even if he passes his lifetime listening to the Dharma and witnessing the fearlessness of the Buddha, etc., will never dream of the supreme way.”

A Bodhisattva called Universal Manifestation, who was present asked Vimalakirti: “Who are your parents, wife and children, relatives and kinsmen, official and private friends, and where are your pages and maids, elephants and horse carts?”

In reply Vimalakirti chanted the following:

Wisdom-perfection is a Bodhisattva’s Mother, his father is expedient method, For the teachers of all living beings come, Only from these two (upaya and prajna).

His wife is joy in Dharma’s law; Kindness and pity are his daughters; His sons morality and truthfulness; Absolute voidness his quiet abode.

Passions are his disciples Whom he transforms at will. Bodhipaksita dharma are his friends. Helping him to win supreme enlightenment.

All other perfections are his companions. The four winning methods are his courtesans, hymns, chants and intonations of Dharma are his melodies. Complete control over passions is his domain, passionlessness is his grove. The (seven) grades of bodhi are the flowers bearing the fruit of wisdom’s liberation.

The pool of eightfold liberation holds calm water, which is clear and full. The seven blossoms of purity are well arranged to bathe this undefiled (Bohdisattva) man.

Whose five supernatural powers are walking elephants and horses while the Mahayana is his vehicle, which controlled by the one mind, rolls through the eight noble paths.

(Thirty-two) distinctive marks dignify his body; while (eighty) excellences add to it their grace. Shamefulness is his raiment, and deep mind his coiffure.

The seven riches that he owns are his assets which, used to teach others, earn more dividends. Dedicating all merits (to Buddhahood), his practice of the Dharma has received wins far greater profit.

The four dhyanas are his meditation bed, which from pure living originates. Much learning increases wisdom announcing self-awakening.

His broth is the flavour of release. The precepts are his perfumed

Salve and pure mind is his bath. By killing the culprit klesa is his boldness unsurpassed. By defeating the four demons, he plants his triumphant banner as a bodhimandala.

Though he knows there is neither birth nor death, he is reborn to show himself to all, appearing in many countries. Like the sun seen by everyone.

When making offerings to countless Buddhas in the ten directions, he does not discriminate between himself and them.

Although He knows that Buddha lands are void like living beings. He goes on practicing the Pure Land (Dharma) to teach and convert men.

In their kinds, features, voices and bearing, this fearless Bodhisattva can appear the same as they.

He, knows the mischief demons, do but appears as one of them. Using wise expedient means to look like them at will. Or he appears old, ill and dying to make living beings realize that all things are but illusion, to free them from all handicaps.

Or he shows the aeon’s end with fire destroying heaven and earth, so that those clinging to permanence realize the impermanence of things.

Then countless living beings call on this Bodhisattva, inviting Him to their homes to convert them to the Buddha path. In heterodox books, spells, skills, magic, arts and talents, he appears to be an expert to help and benefit (all) living beings.

Appearing in their midst, he joins the Sangha in order to release them from defilement, to prevent their slipping into heresy. Then, is he seen as the sun, moon or heaven as Brahma or the lord of (all) the world. At times, as earth or water or as the wind and fire.

When they fall ill or epidemics rage, he prepares medicinal herbs for them to take to cure their illness or infection.

When famine prevails, he makes food and drink to save them from thirst and hunger, before teaching them the Dharma.

In times of war, he teaches kindness mercy to convert living beings, so that they can live in peace.

When armies line up for battle, he gives equal strength to both. With his authority and power, he forces them to be reconciled and live in harmony.

To all countries where there are hells, he comes unexpectedly

to relieve their sufferings.

Wherever animals devour one another, he appears among them urging them to do good.

Seeming to have the five desires, he is always meditating to upset the demons and prevent their mischief.

Like that thing most rare, a lotus blossoming in a scorching fire, he meditates amidst desires, which also is a thing most rare.

Or, he appears as a prostitute to entice those, who to lust is a given. First, using temptation to hook them, he then leads them to the Buddha wisdom.

He appears as a district magistrate, or as a chief of the caste of traders, a state preceptor or high official to protect living beings.

To the poor and destitute, he appears with boundless purse to advise and guide them until they develop the bodhi mind.

To the proud and arrogant, he appears as powerful to overcome their vanity until they tread the path supreme.

Then he comes to comfort people who are cowards, first he makes them fearless, then urges them to seek the truth.

Or he appears without desires and acts, like a seer with five spiritual powers to convert living beings by teaching them morality, patience and mercy.

To those needing support and help, he may appear as a servant to please and induce them to grow the Tao mind.

Providing them with all they need to enter on the Buddha path; thus using expedient methods to supply them with all their needs.

Then as with boundless truth, his deeds are also endless; with his wisdom that has no limit, he frees countless living beings.

If all the Buddhas were to spend countless aeons in praising his merits, they could never count them fully.

Who, after hearing this Dharma, develops not the bodhi mind, can only be a worthless man without wisdom.”

CHAPTER NINE

INITIATION INTO THE NON-DUAL DHARMA

At that time, Vimalakirti said to the Bodhisattvas present: “Virtuous Ones, each of you please say something about the non-dual Dharma as you understand it.”

In the meeting, a Bodhisattva called “Comfort in the Dharma” said: “Virtuous Ones, birth and death are a duality but nothing is created and nothing is destroyed. Realization of this patient endurance leading to the uncreate is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The bodhisattva called “Guardian of the Three Virtues” said: “Subject and object are a duality for where there is ego there is also (its) object, but since fundamentally there is no ego, its object does not arise; this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Never Winking” said: “Responsiveness (vedana, the second aggregate) and unresponsiveness are a duality. If there is no response to phenomena, the latter cannot be found anywhere; hence there is neither accepting nor rejecting (of anything), and neither karmic activity nor discrimination; this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Highest virtue” said: “Impurity and purity are a duality. When the underlying nature of impurity is clearly perceived, even purity ceases to arise. Hence this cessation (of the idea of purity) is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Winner of Samadhi by Looking at the Star” said: “(External) disturbance and (inner) thinking are a duality; when disturbance subsides, thinking comes to an end and the absence of thought leads to non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Skillful Eye” said: “Monistic form and formlessness are a duality. If monistic form is realized as (fundamentally) formless, with relinquishment of formlessness in order to achieve impartiality, this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Wonderful Arm” said: “The Bodhisattva mind and the Sravaka mind are a duality. If the mind is looked into as void and illusory, there is neither Bodhisattva mind nor sravaka mind; this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva Pusya said: “Good and evil are a duality; if neither good nor evil arises so that formlessness is realized to attain Reality, this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva Simha (Lion) said: “Weal and woe are a duality; if the underlying nature of woe is understood, woe does not differ from weal. If the diamond (indestructible) wisdom is used to look into this with neither bondage nor liberation (coming into play), this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Lion’s Fearlessness” said: “The mundane and supra-mundane are a duality. If all things are looked into impartially, neither the mundane nor the supra-mundane will arise, with no differentiation between form and formlessness, this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Pure Interpretation” said: “Activity (ju wei) and non-activity (wu wei) are a duality, but if the mind is kept from all mental conditions it will be (void) like space and pure and clean wisdom will be free from all obstructions. This is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva Narayana said: “The mundane and the supra-mundane are a duality but the underlying nature of the mundane is void (or immaterial) and is but the supra-mundane, which can be neither entered nor left and neither overflows (like the stream of transmigration) nor scatters (like smoke). This is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Skillful Mind” said: “Samsara and nirvana are a duality. If the underlying nature of samsara is perceived there exists neither birth nor death, neither bondage nor liberation, and neither rise nor fall. Such an understanding is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Direct Insight” said: “The exhaustible and the inexhaustible are a duality. If all things are looked into exhaustively, both the exhaustible and the inexhaustible cannot be exhausted; and the inexhaustible is identical with the void which is beyond both the exhaustible and the inexhaustible. Such an interpretation is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Upholder of Universality” said: “The ego and non-ego are a duality. Since the ego cannot be found, where can the non-ego be found? He who perceives the real nature of the ego will not give rise to dualities; this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Lightning Perception” said: “Enlightenment and unenlightenment are a duality, but the underlying nature of non-enlightenment is enlightenment which should also be cast away; if all relativities are discarded and replaced by non-dual impartiality, this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva Priyadarsana said: “Form (rupa) and voidness are a duality, (but) form is identical with voidness, which does not mean that form wipes out voidness, for the underlying nature of form is void of itself. So are (the other four aggregates) reception (vedana), conception (sanjna), discrimination (samskara) and consciousness (vijnana- in relation to voidness). “Consciousness and voidness are a duality (yet) consciousness is identical with voidness, which does not mean that consciousness wipes out voidness for the underlying nature of voidness is void of itself. A thorough understanding of this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Understanding the Four Elements” said: “The four elements (earth, water, fire and air) and their voidness are a duality (but) the underlying nature of the four elements is identical with that of voidness. Like the past (before the four elements came into being) and the future (when they scatter away) which are both void, the present (when they appear) is also void. Identical understanding of the underlying nature of all four elements is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Deep Thought” said: “Eyes and form are a duality (but) if the underlying nature of the eye is known with neither desire nor anger nor stupidity in relation to things seen, this is nirvana. “Likewise, the ear and sound, the nose and smell, the tongue and taste, the body and touch, and the mind and ideation are dualities (but) if the underlying nature of the mind is known with neither desire, anger and stupidity in relation to things (heard, smelt, tasted, touched and thought), this is nirvana. Resting in this state (of nirvana) is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Inexhaustible Mind” said: “Charity-perfection (dana-paramita) and the dedication (parinamana) of its merits towards realizing the all-knowledge (sarvajna) are a duality, (but) the underlying nature of charity is dedication towards the All-knowledge. “Likewise, discipline perfection (sila-paramita), patience-perfection, (ksanti-paramita), zeal-perfection (virya-paramita), meditation-perfection (dhyana-paramita) and wisdom-perfection (prajna-paramita), with dedication to the All-knowledge, are (five) dualities, but their underlying natures are but dedication to the All-knowledge, while realization of their oneness is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Profound Wisdom” said: “Voidness, formlessness and non-activity are (three different gates to liberation, and when each is compared to the other two there are) three dualities, (but) voidness is formless and formlessness is non-active. For when voidness, formlessness and non-activity obtain, there is neither mind, nor intellect nor consciousness, and liberation through either one of these three gates is identical with liberation through all the three. This is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Unstirred Sense Organs” said: “Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are three different treasures and when each is compared to the other two there are three dualities (but) Buddha is identical with Dharma, and Dharma is identical with Sangha. For the three treasures are non-active (wu wei) and are equal to space, with the same equality for all things. The realization of this (equality) is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Unimpeded Mind” said: “Body and its eradication (in nirvana) are a duality but body is identical with nirvana. Why? Because if the underlying nature of body is perceived, no conception of (existing) body and its nirvanic condition will arise, for both are fundamentally non-dual, not being two different things. The absence of alarm and dread when confronting this ultimate state is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Superior Virtue” said: “The three karmas (produced by) body, mouth and mind (are different when each is compared to the other two and make three) dualities (but) their underlying nature is non-active; so non-active body is identical with non-active mouth, which is identical with non-active mind. These three karmas being non-active, all things are also non-active. Likewise, if wisdom (prajna) is also non-active, this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Field of Blessedness” said: “Good conduct, evil conduct and motionlessness are (different and when each is compared to the other two make three) dualities (but) the underlying nature of all three is voidness which is free from good, evil and motionlessness. The non-rising of these three is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Majestic Blossom” said: “The ego and its objective are a duality, (but) if the underlying nature of the ego is looked into, this duality vanishes. If duality is cast away there will be no consciousness, and freedom from consciousness is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Treasure of Threefold Potency” said: “Realization implies subject and object which are a duality, but if nothing is regarded as realization, there will be neither grasping nor rejecting, and freedom from grasping and rejecting is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Moon in Midheaven” said: “Darkness and light are a duality. Where there is neither darkness nor light, this duality is no more. Why? Because in the state of samadhi resulting from the complete extinction of sensation and thought there is neither darkness nor light, while all things disappear. A disinterested entry into this state is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva Ratna Mudra( (Precious Symbol) said: Joy in nirvana and sadness in samsara are a duality which vanishes when there is no longer joy and sadness. Why? Because where there is bondage, there is also (desire for) liberation, but if fundamentally there is no bondage nor liberation, there will be neither joy nor sadness; this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Gem on the Head” said: “Orthodoxy and heterodoxy are a duality, (but) he who dwells in (i.e. realizes) orthodoxy does not discriminate between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Keeping from these two extremes is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

The Bodhisattva “Joy in Reality” said: “Reality and non-reality are a duality, (but) he who realizes reality does not even perceive it, still less non-reality. Why? Because reality is invisible to the ordinary eyes and appears only to the eye of wisdom. Thus (realization of) the eye of wisdom, which is neither observant nor unobservant, is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

After the Bodhisattva had spoken, they asked Manjusri for his opinion on the non-dual Dharma.

Manjusri said: “In my opinion, when all things are no longer within the province of either word or speech, and of either indication or knowledge, and are beyond questions and answers, this is initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

At that time, Manjusri asked Vimalakirti: “All of us have spoken; please tell us what is the Bodhisattva’s initiation into the non-dual Dharma.”

Vimalakirti kept silent without saying a word. At that, Manjusri exclaimed: “Excellent, excellent! Can there be true initiation into the non-dual Dharma until words and speech are no longer written or spoken?”

After this initiation into the non-dual Dharma had been expounded, five thousand Bodhisattvas at the meeting were initiated into it thereby, realizing the patient endurance of the uncreate.

CHAPTER TEN

THE BUDDHA of the FRAGRANT LAND

Sariputra was thinking of mealtime and of the food for the Bodhisattvas in the meeting when Vimalakirti, who read his thought, said to him: “The Buddha taught the eight forms of liberation which you have received for practice; do you know mix your desire to eat with His Dharma? If you want to eat, please wait for a moment and you will have a rare treat.”

At that, Vimalakirti entered the state of samadhi and used his transcendental power to show to the assembly a country, which is above separated from this world by a distance represented by Buddha lands as countless as sand grains in forty-two Ganges rivers and which was called the country of All Fragrances, whose Buddha was called the Tathagata of the Fragrant Land, and was still there. The fragrance of that country surpassed all scents emitted by the devas in Buddha lands in the ten directions. In that Buddha land, there were neither sravakas nor pratyeka-buddhas but only pure and clean Bodhisattvas to whom that Buddha expounded the Dharma. All things there are formed by fragrances, such as palaces, the earth, gardens and parks which emit sweet scent, and the fragrance of its food spreads to countless worlds in the ten directions.

Its Buddha and Bodhisattvas were sitting down for the meal offered to them by the sons of devas who were all called Glorious Fragrances and were setting their minds on the quest of supreme enlightenment. This was seen by all those present in the meeting.

Vimalakirti said to his listeners: “Virtuous Ones, who of you can go there to beg for food from that Buddha?”

As Manjusri was noted for his supernatural power, all the Bodhisattvas kept silent. At that time, Vimalakirti said: “Are not the Virtuous Ones ashamed (of their inability to do so)? “

Manjusri retorted: “As the Buddha has said, those who have not yet study and practiced Mahayana should not be slighted.”

Thereupon, Vimalakirti, without rising from his seat, used his transcendental power to create an illusory (bogus) Bodhisattva whose features were radiant and whose dignity was unsurpassable, overshadowing the whole assembly. He then said to this illusory Bodhisattva: “Ascend to the Fragrant Land to call on its Buddha, saying what I now tell you: ‘Upasaka Vimalakirti bows his head at your feet to pay his reverence and inquires respectfully about your happy tidings; he hopes you are well and have no difficulties (in converting living beings) and that your vigor is full. He wishes to receive some leftovers from your meal to do the salvation work in the saha world for the purpose of converting to Mahayana those of the small vehicle and of spreading the renown of the Tathagata to make it known everywhere’.”

After that, the illusory Bodhisattva ascended and was seen by the whole assembly to approach the Buddha of Fragrant Land and repeat what Vimalakirti had ordered him to say. When the Bodhisattvas there saw the messenger, they praised the rare visit, asking their Buddha: “Where does this Bodhisattva come from? Where is this world called saha? What does the small vehicle mean?”

Their Buddha replied: “There is a world called saha, which is below and is separated from here by Buddha lands as countless as the sand grains in forty-two Ganges rivers, whose Buddha is called Sakyamuni and is now staying in the midst of five turbid conditions, where he teaches the supreme Dharma to those clinging to the small vehicle. Over there is a Bodhisattva called Vimalakirti who has achieved inconceivable liberation and is expounding the Dharma to other (young) Bodhisattvas. Hence, he has created an illusory messenger to extol my name and praise this land so that they can earn more merits.”

The Bodhisattvas asked: “Who is that Bodhisattva who can create an illusory messenger and whose transcendental powers, fearlessness and ubiquity are so great?”

That Buddha replied: “His (powers, fearlessness and ubiquity) are very great indeed. He used to send his illusory messengers to all places in the ten directions to perform the Bodhisattva work of salvation for the benefit of living beings.”

That Buddha then filled a bowl of fragrant rice and handed it to the illusory messenger. All his nine million Bodhisattvas declared they all wished to go to saha to pay reverence to Sakyamuni Buddha and to see Vimalakirti and the other Bodhisattvas there.

That Buddha warned them: “You may go there but hide your fragrance, if not, the people give rise to the wrong thought of clinging to it. You should also change your appearance in order not to provoke their self-abasement. To avoid wrong views do not slight them. Why? Because all worlds in the ten directions are (fundamentally immaterial) like space and because all Buddhas wishing to convert those of the small vehicle do not reveal completely to them their own pure and clean lands.”

At that, the illusory messenger received the bowl of fragrant rice and together with the nine million Bodhisattvas availed themselves of that Buddha’s and Vimalakirti’s transcendental powers, disappeared from the Fragrant Land and, a little later, arrived at Vimalakirti’s abode.

Vimalakirti then used his transcendental powers to make nine million lion thrones as majestic as those already there, for the visitors. The illusory messenger then handed him the bowl of rice the fragrance of which spread to the whole town of Vaisali and then to the whole great chiliocosm.

Brahmin devotees at Vaisali perceived the fragrance and became elated; they praised the rare occurrence. Their chief, called “Lunar Canopy” took eighty-four thousand men to Vimalakirti’s house where they saw many Bodhisattvas seated on majestic lion thrones; they were jubilant and paid reverence to the Bodhisattvas and the Buddha’s chief disciples, and then stood at one side. Earthly and heavenly ghosts as well as the devas of the worlds of desire and of form who smelt the fragrance, came as well.

At that time, Vimalakirti said to Sariputra and the sravakas: “Virtuous Ones, you may now take the Tathagata’s immortal rice which has been infused with great compassion; do not give rise to the thought of limitation when taking it or you will not be able to digest it.” When some sravakas thought that the small quantity of rice seemed insufficient for the whole assembly.

The illusory Bodhisattva said: “Do not use the little virtue and intelligence of a sravaka to estimate the Tathagata’s boundless blessing and wisdom; the four oceans are exhaustible but this rice is inexhaustible. If all men took and rolled it into a ball as large as (Mount) Sumeru, they would not have finished eating it by the end of the aeon. Why? Because food that has been left over by those who have practiced boundless morality and discipline (sila), serenity (dhyana) and wisdom (prajna), liberation and knowledge of liberation, and who have won all merits, is inexhaustible.

Hence this bowl of rice will satisfy the whole meeting without being exhausted. The Bodhisattvas, Sravakas, devas and men who take it will experience comfort and joy, like the Bodhisattvas of all blessed pure lands. Their pores will give out profound fragrance which is like the scent of the trees in Fragrant Lands.”

Vimalakirti then asked the visiting Bodhisattvas: “How does the Tathagata of your land preach the Dharma?”

They replied: “The Tathagata of our land does not use word and speech to preach but uses the various fragrance to stimulate the devas in their observance of the commandments. They sit under fragrant trees and perceive how sweet the trees smell thereby realizing the samadhi derived from the store of all merits. When they realize this samadhi, they win all merits.”

These Bodhisattvas then asked Vimalakirti: “How does the World Honoured One, Sakyamuni Buddha, preach the Dharma?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Living beings of this world are pig-headed (stubborn) and difficult to convert; hence the Buddha uses strong language to tame them. He speaks of hells, animals and hungry ghosts in their planes (realms) of suffering; of the places of rebirth for stupid men as retribution for perverse deeds, words and thoughts, i.e. for killing, stealing, carnality, lying, double tongue, coarse language, affected speech, covetousness, anger, perverted views (which are the ten evils); for stinginess, breaking the precepts, anger, remissness, confused thoughts and stupidity (i.e. the six hindrances to the six paramitas); for accepting, observing and breaking the prohibitions; for things that should and should not be done; for obstructions and non-obstructions; for what is sinful and what is not; for purity and filthiness; for the worldly and holy states; for heterodoxy and orthodoxy; for activity and non-activity; and for samsara and nirvana. Since the minds of those who are difficult to convert are like monkeys, various methods of preaching are devised to check them so that they can be entirely tamed. Like elephants and horses which cannot be tamed without whipping them until they feel pain and become easily managed, the stubborn of this world can be disciplined only with bitter and eager words.”

After hearing this, the visiting Bodhisattvas said: “We have never heard of the World Honoured One, Sakyamuni Buddha, who conceals his boundless sovereign power to appear as a beggar to mix with those who are poor in order to win their confidence (for the purpose of liberating them) and of the Bodhisattvas here who are indefatigable and so humble and whose boundless compassion caused their rebirth in this Buddha land.”

Vimalakirti said: “As you have said, the Bodhisattvas of this world have strong compassion and their lifelong works of salvation for all living beings surpass those done in other pure lands during hundreds and thousands of aeons. Why? Because they achieved ten excellent deeds which are not required in other pure lands. What are these ten excellent deeds? They are: 1, charity (dana) to succour the poor; 2, precept-keeping (sila) to help those who have broken the commandments; 3, patient endurance (ksanti) to subdue their anger; 4, zeal and devotion (virya) to cure their remissness; 5, serenity (dhyana) to stop their confused thoughts; 6, wisdom (prajna) to wipe out ignorance; 7, putting an end to the eight distressful conditions for those suffering from them; 8, teaching Mahayana to those who cling to Hinayana; 9, cultivation of good roots for those in want of merits; and 10, the four Bodhisattva winning devices for the purpose of leading all living beings to their goals (in Bodhisattva development). These are the ten excellent deeds.”

The visiting Bodhisattvas asked: “How many Dharmas should a Bodhisattva achieve in this world to stop its morbid growth (defilements) in order to be reborn in the Buddha’s pure land?”

Vimalakirti replied: “A Bodhisattva should bring to perfection eight Dharmas to stop morbid growth in this world in order to be reborn in the Pure Land. They are: 1, benevolence towards all living beings with no expectation of reward; 2, endurance of sufferings for all living beings dedicating all merits to them; 3, impartiality towards them with all humility free from pride and arrogance; 4, reverence to all Bodhisattvas with the same devotion as to all Buddhas (i.e. without discrimination between Bodhisattvas and Buddhas); 5, absence of doubt and suspicion when hearing (the expounding of) sutras which he has not heard before; 6, abstention from opposition to the sravaka Dharma, 7, abstention from discrimination in regard to donations and offerings received with no thought of self-profit in order to subdue his mind; and 8, self-examination without contending with others. Thus, he should achieve singleness of mind bent on achieving all merits; these are the eight Dharmas.”

After Vimalakirti and Manjusri had thus expounded the Dharma, hundreds and thousands of devas developed the mind set on supreme enlightenment, and ten thousand Bodhisattvas realized the patient endurance of the uncreate.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

THE BODHISATTVA CONDUCT

The Buddha was expounding the Dharma at Amravana park which suddenly became majestic and extensive while all those present turned golden hued.

Ananda asked the Buddha: “World Honoured One, what is the cause of these auspicious signs, why does this place become extensive and majestic and why does the assembly turn golden hued?”

The Buddha replied: “This is because Vimalakirti and Manjusri, with their followers circumambulating them, want to come here; hence these auspicious signs.”

At Vaisali, Vimalakirti said to Manjusri: “We can now go and see the Buddha, so that we and the Bodhisattvas can pay reverence and make offerings to Him.”

Manjusri said: “Excellent, let us go; it is now time to start.”

Vimalakirti then used his transcendental powers to carry the whole meeting with the lion thrones on the palm of his right hand and flew (in the air) to the Buddha’s place. When they landed there, Vimalakirti bowed his head at His feet, walked round Him from the right seven times, and bringing his palms together, stood at one side. The Bodhisattvas left their lion thrones to bow their heads at His feet, and also walked round Him seven times and stood at one side. The Buddha’s chief disciples with Indra, Brahma (both as protectors of the Dharma) and the four deva kings of the four heavens, also left their lion thrones, bowed their heads at His feet, walked round Him seven times and then stood at one side.

The Buddha comforted the Bodhisattvas and ordered them to take their seats to listen to His teaching.

After they had sat down the Buddha asked Sariputra: “Have you seen what the great Bodhisattvas have done with their transcendental powers?”

Sariputra replied that he had.

The Buddha asked: “What do you think of all this?”

Sariputra answered: “I saw them do inconceivable (feats), which the mind can neither think of nor anticipate.”

Ananda then asked the Buddha: “World Honoured One, the fragrance we are smelling was never perceived before; what is it?”

The Buddha replied: “Ananda, it is the fragrance given out by the pores of these Bodhisattvas.”

At that, Sariputra said to Ananda: “Our pores also give the same fragrance!”

Ananda asked Sariputra: “Where does it come from?”

Sariputra replied: “It is this Upasaka Vimalakirti who obtained what was left over from the Buddha’s meal in the Fragrant Land, and those who ate it at his abode give out this fragrance from their pores.”

Ananda then asked Vimalakirti: “How long does this fragrance last?”

Vimalakirti replied: “It lasts until the rice has been digested.”

Ananda asked: “How long does this take?”

Vimalakirti replied: “It will be digested after a week. Ananda, sravakas who have not reached the right position (nirvana) will attain it after taking this rice which will then be digestible, and those who have attained nirvana will realize liberation of their minds (from the subtle conception of nirvana) and then the rice will be digested. Those who have not developed the Mahayana mind will develop it and then the rice will be digested. Those who have developed it and take this rice will achieve the patient endurance of the uncreate, and the rice will then be digestible. Those who have achieved the patient endurance of the uncreate and take this rice will reincarnate once more for final development into Buddhahood and the rice will be digested. Like an effective medicine which cures an ailment before wasting away, this rice will be digestible after it has killed all troubles and afflictions (klesa).”

Ananda said to the Buddha: “World Honoured One, it is indeed a rare thing that this fragrant rice performs the Buddha work of salvation.”

The Buddha said: “It is so, Ananda, it is so.”

There are Buddha lands where the Buddha light performs the work of salvation;

Where the Bodhisattvas perform it;

Where illusory men created by the Buddha do it;

Where the Bodhi-trees do it;

Where the Buddha’s robe and bedding do it;

Where the rice taken by the Buddha does it;

Where parks and temples do it;

Where (the Buddha’s) thirty-two physical marks and their eighty notable characteristics do it;

Where the Buddha’s body (rupa-kaya) does it;

Where empty space does it;

Living beings practice discipline with success because of these causes. Also used for the same purpose are dream, illusion, shadow echo, the image in a mirror, the moon reflected in water, the flame of a fire, sound, voice, word, speech and writing,

The pure and clean Buddha land, silence with neither word nor speech, neither pointing, discerning, action nor activity. Thus, Ananda, whatever the Buddhas do by either revealing or concealing their awe-inspiring majesty, is the work of salvation.

Ananda, because of the four basic delusions (in reference to the ego) divided into 84,000 defilements which cause living beings to endure troubles and tribulations, the Buddhas avail themselves of these trials to perform their works of salvation. This is called entering the Buddha’s Dharma door to enlightenment (Dharmaparyaya).

“When entering this Dharma door, if a Bodhisattva sees all the clean Buddha lands, he should not give rise to joy, desire and pride, and if he sees all the unclean Buddha lands he should not give rise to sadness, hindrance and disappointment; he should develop a pure and clean mind to revere all Tathagatas who rarely appear and whose merits are equal in spite of their appearance in different lands (clean and unclean) to teach and convert living beings.

“Ananda, you can see different Buddha lands (i.e. clean and unclean) but you see no difference in space which is the same everywhere. Likewise, the physical bodies of Buddhas differ from one another but their omniscience is the same.

“Ananda, the (underlying) nature of the physical bodies of the Buddhas, their discipline, serenity, liberation and full knowledge of liberation, their (ten) powers, their (four) fearlessnesses, their eighteen unsurpassed characteristics, their boundless kindness and compassion, their dignified deeds, their infinite lives, their preaching of the Dharma to teach and convert living beings and to purify Buddha lands are all the same. Hence, their titles of Samyaksambuddha, Tathagata and Buddha.

“Ananda, if I am to give you the full meaning of these three titles, you will pass the whole aeon without being able to hear it completely. Even if the great chiliososm is full of living beings who are all good listeners and like you can hold in memory everything they hear about the Dharma, they will also pass the whole aeon without being able to hear my full explanation (of these three titles). For, Ananda, the Buddha’s supreme enlightenment is boundless and his wisdom and power of speech are inconceivable.”

Ananda said: “From now on I dare no more claim to have heard much of the Dharma.”

The Buddha said: “Ananda, do not give way to backsliding. Why? Because I have said that you have heard much more about the Dharma than the sravakas but not than the Bodhisattvas. Ananda, a wise man should not make a limited estimate of the Bodhisattva stage (because) the depths of the oceans can be measured but the Bodhisattva’s serenity, wisdom, imperturbability, power of speech and all his merits cannot be measured. Ananda, let us put aside the Bodhisattva conduct. The transcendental powers which Vimalakirti has demonstrated today cannot be achieved by all sravakas and pratyeka-buddhas using their spiritual powers for hundreds and thousands of aeons.”

At that time, the visiting Bodhisattvas put their palms together and said to the Buddha: “World Honoured One, when we first saw this world we thought of its inferiority but we now repent of our wrong opinion. Why? Because the expedients (upaya) employed by all Buddhas are inconceivable; their aim being to deliver living beings they appear in different Buddha lands suitable for the purpose. World Honoured One, will you please bestow upon us some little Dharma so that when we return to our own land we can always remember you.”

The Buddha said to them: “There are the exhaustible and the inexhaustible Dharmas which you should study. What is the exhaustible? It is the active (yu wei or mundane) Dharma. What is the inexhaustible? It is the non-active (wu wei or supramundane) Dharma. As Bodhisattvas, you should not exhaust (or put an end to) the mundane (state); nor should you stay in the supramundane (state).

“What is meant by not exhausting the mundane (state)? It means not discarding great benevolence; not abandoning great compassion; developing a profound mind set on the quest of all-knowledge (sarvajna or Buddha knowledge) without relaxing for even an instant; relentless teaching and converting living beings; constant practice of the four Bodhisattva winning methods; upholding the right Dharma even at the risk of one’s body and life; unwearied planting of all excellent roots; unceasing application of expedient devices (upaya) and dedication (parinamana); never-ending quest of the Dharma; unsparing preaching of it; diligent worship of all Buddhas; hence fearlessness when entering the stream of birth and death; absence of joy in honour and of sadness in disgrace; refraining from slighting non-practisers of the Dharma; respecting practisers of Dharma as if they were Buddhas; helping those suffering from klesa to develop the right thought; keeping away from (desire and) pleasure with no idea of prizing such a high conduct; no preference for one’s happiness but joy at that of others; regarding one’s experience in the state of samadhi as similar to that in a hell; considering one’s stay in samsara (i.e. state of birth and death) as similar to a stroll in a park; giving rise to the thought of being a good teacher of Dharma when meeting those seeking it; giving away all possessions to realize all-knowledge (sarvajna); giving rise to the thought of salvation when seeing those breaking the precepts; thinking of the (six) perfections (paramitas) as dear as one’s parents; thinking of the (thirty-seven) conditions contributory to enlightenment as if they were one’s helpful relatives; planting all excellent roots without any restrictions; gathering the glorious adornments of all pure lands to set up one’s own Buddha land; unrestricted bestowal of Dharma to win all the excellent physical marks (of the Buddha); wiping out all evils to purify one’s body, mouth and mind; developing undiminished bravery while transmigrating through samsara in countless aeons; untiring determination to listen to (an account of) the Buddha’s countless merits; using the sword of wisdom to destroy the bandit of klesa (temptation) to take living beings out of (the realm of the five) aggregates (skandhas) and (twelve) entrances (ayatana) so as to liberate them for ever; using firm devotion to destroy the army of demons; unceasing search for the thought-free wisdom of reality; content with few desires while not running away from the world in order to continue the Bodhisattva work of salvation; not infringing the rules of respect-inspiring deportment while entering the world )to deliver living beings); use of the transcendental power derived from wisdom to guide and lead all living beings; controlling (dharani) the thinking process in order never to forget the Dharma; being aware of the roots of all living beings in order to cut off their doubts and suspicions (about their underlying nature); use of the power of speech to preach the Dharma without impediment; perfecting the ten good (deeds) to win the blessings of men and devas (in order to be reborn among them to spread the Dharma); practicing the four infinite minds (kindness, pity, joy and indifference) to teach the Brahma heavens; rejoicing at being invited to expound and extol the Dharma in order to win the Buddha’s (skillful) method of preaching; realizing excellence of body, mouth and mind to win the Buddha’s respect-inspiring deportment; profound practice of good Dharma to make one’s deeds unsurpassed; practicing Mahayana to become a Bodhisattva monk; and developing a never-receding mind in order not to miss all excellent merits.

“This is the Bodhisattva not exhausting the mundane state.

“What is the Bodhisattva not staying in the supra-mundane state (nirvana)? It means studying and practicing the immaterial but without abiding in voidness; studying and practicing formlessness and inaction but without abiding in them; studying and practicing that which is beyond causes but without discarding the roots of good causation; looking into suffering in the world without hating birth and death (i.e. samsara); looking into the absence of the ego while continuing to teach all living beings indefatigably (relentlessly); looking into nirvana with no intention of dwelling in it permanently; looking into the relinquishment (of nirvana) while one’s body and mind are set on the practice of all good deeds; looking into the (non-existing) destinations of all things while the mind is set on practicing excellent actions (as true destinations); looking into the unborn (i.e. the uncreate) while abiding in (the illusion of) life to shoulder responsibility (to save others); looking into passionlessness without cutting off the passion-stream (in order to stay in the world to liberate others); looking into the state of non-action while carrying out the Dharma to teach and convert living beings; looking into nothingness without forgetting about great compassion; looking into the right position (of nirvana) without following the Hinayana habit (of staying in it); looking into the non-reality of all phenomena which are neither firm nor have an independent nature, and are egoless and formless, but since one’s own fundamental vows are not entirely fulfilled, one should not regard merits, serenity and wisdom as unreal and so cease practicing them.

“This is the Bodhisattva not staying in the non-active (wu wei) state.

“Further, to win merits, a Bodhisattva does not stay in the supramundane, and to realize wisdom he does not exhaust the mundane. Because of his great kindness and compassion, he does not remain in the supramundane, and in order to fullfil all his vows, he does not exhaust the mundane. To gather the Dharma medicines he does not stay in the supramundane, and to administer remedies he does not exhaust the mundane. Since he knows the illnesses of all living beings he does not stay in the supramundane, and since he wants to cure their illnesses, he does not exhaust the mundane.

“Virtuous Ones, a Bodhisattva practicing this Dharma neither exhausts the mundane nor stays in the supramundane. This is called the exhaustible and inexhaustible Dharma doors to liberation which you should study.”

After hearing the Buddha expounding the Dharma, the visiting Bodhisattvas were filled with joy and rained (heavenly) flowers of various colours and fragrances in the great chiliocosm as offerings to the Buddha and His sermon. After this, they bowed their heads at the Buddha’s feet and praised His teaching which they had not heard before, saying: “How wonderful is Sakyamuni Buddha’s skillful use of expedient methods (upaya).”

After saying this, they disappeared to return to their own land.

CHAPTER TWELVE

SEEING AKSOBHYA BUDDHA

The Buddha then asked Vimalakirti: “You spoke of coming here to see the Tathagata, but how do you see Him impartially?”

Vimalakirti replied: “Seeing reality in one’s body is how to see the Buddha. I see the Tathagata did not come in the past, will not go in the future, and does not stay in the present. The Tathagata is seen neither in form (rupa, the first aggregate) nor in the extinction of form nor in the underlying nature of form. Neither is He seen in responsiveness (vedana), conception (sanjna), discrimination (samskara) and consciousness (vijnana) (i.e. the four other aggregates), their extinction and their underlying natures. The Tathagata is not created by the four elements (earth, water, fire and air), for He is (immaterial) like space. He does not come from the union of the six entrances (i.e. the six sense organs) for He is beyond eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and intellect. He is beyond the three worlds (of desire, form and formlessness) for He is free from the three defilements (desire, hate and stupidity). He is in line with the three gates to nirvana and has achieved the three states of enlightenment (or three insights) which do not differ from (the underlying nature of) unenlightenment. He is neither unity nor diversity, neither selfness nor otherness, neither form nor formlessness, neither on this shore (of enlightenment) nor in mid-stream when converting living beings. He looks into the nirvanic condition (of stillness and extinction of worldly existence) but does not dwell in its permanent extinction. He is neither this nor that and cannot be revealed by these two extremes. He cannot be known by intellect or perceived by consciousness. He is neither bright nor obscure. He is nameless and formless, being neither strong nor weak, neither clean nor unclean, neither in a given place nor outside of it, and neither mundane nor supramundane. He can neither be pointed out nor spoken of. He is neither charitable nor selfish; he neither keeps nor breaks the precepts; is beyond patience and anger, diligence and remissness, stillness and disturbance. He is neither intelligent nor stupid, and neither honest nor deceitful. He neither comes nor goes and neither enters nor leaves. He is beyond the paths of word and speech. He is neither the field of blessedness nor its opposite, neither worthy nor unworthy of worship and offerings. He can be neither seized nor released and is beyond ‘is’ and ‘is not’. He is equal to reality and to the nature of Dharma (Dharmata) and cannot be designated and estimated, for he is beyond figuring and measuring. He is neither large nor small, is neither visible nor audible, can neither be felt nor known, is free from all ties and bondage, is equal to the All-knowledge and to the (underlying) nature of all living beings, and cannot be differentiated from all things. He is beyond gain and loss, free from defilement and troubles (klesa), beyond creating and giving rise (to anything), beyond birth and death, beyond fear and worry, beyond like and dislike, and beyond existence in the past, future and present. He cannot be revealed by word, speech, discerning and pointing.

“World Honoured One, the body of the Tathagata being such, seeing Him as above-mentioned is correct whereas seeing Him otherwise is wrong.”

Thereupon, Sariputra asked Vimalakirti: “Where did you die to be reborn here?”

Vimalakirti asked back: “Is the (sravaka) Dharma which you have realized subject to death and rebirth?”

Sariputra replied: “It is beyond death and birth.”

Vimalakirti asked: “If there is neither birth nor death, why did you ask me: ‘Where did you die to be reborn here?’ What do you think of illusory men and women created by an illusionist; are they subject to death and birth?”

Sariputra replied: “They are not subject to death and birth. Have you not heard the Buddha say that all things are illusions?”

Vimalakirti said: “Yes, if all things are illusions, why did you ask me where I died to be reborn here? Sariputra, death is unreal and deceptive, and means decay and destruction (to the worldly man), while life which is also unreal and deceptive means continuance to him. As to the Bodhisattva, although he disappears (in one place) he does not put an end to his good (deeds), and although he reappears (in another) he prevents evils from arising.”

At that time, the Buddha said to Sariputra: “There is a (Buddha) land called the realm of Profound Joy whose Buddha is Aksobhya Buddha where Vimalakirti disappeared to come here.”

Sariputra said: “It is a rare thing, World Honoured One, that this man could leave a pure land to come to this world full of hatred and harmfulness!”

Vimalakirti asked Sariputra: Sariputra, what do you think of sunlight; when it appears does it unite with darkness?”

Sariputra replied: “Where there is sunlight, there is no darkness.”

Vimalakirti asked: “Why does the sun shine on Jambudvipa (this earth)?”

Sariputra replied: “It shines to destroy darkness.”

Vimalakirti said: “Likewise, a Bodhisattva, although born in an unclean Buddha land, does not join and unite with the darkness of ignorance but (teaches and) converts living beings to destroy the obscurity of klesa.”

As the assembly admired and wished to see the Immutable Tathagata, the Bodhisattvas and sravakas of the pure land of Profound Joy.

The Buddha who read their thoughts said to Vimalakirti: “Virtuous man, please show the Immutable Tathagata and the Bodhisattvas and sravakas of the land of Profound Joy to this assembly who want to see them.”

Vimalakirti thought that he should, while remaining seated, take with his hand the world of Profound Joy with its iron enclosing mountains, hills, rivers, streams, ravines, springs, seas, Sumerus, sun, moon, stars, planets, palaces of heavenly dragons, ghosts, spirits and devas, Bodhisattvas, sravakas, towns, hamlets, men and women of all ages, the Immutable Tathagata, his bo-tree (bodhi-tree) and beautiful lotus blossoms, which were used to perform the Buddha work of salvation in the ten directions, as well as the tree flights of gemmed steps linking Jambudvipa (our earth) with Trayastrimsas by which the devas descended to earth to pay reverence to the Immutable Tathagata and to listen to his Dharma, and by which men ascended to Trayastrimsas to see the devas. All this was the product of countless merits of the realm of Profound Joy, from the Akanistha heaven above to the seas below and was lifted by Vimalakirti with his right hand with the same ease with which a potter raises his wheel, taking everything to earth to show it to the assembly as if showing his own head-dress.

Vimalakirti then entered the state of samadhi and used his supramundane power to take with his right hand the world of Profound Joy which he placed on earth. The Bodhisattvas, sravakas and some devas who had realized supramundane said to their Buddha: “World Honoured One, who is taking us away? Will you please protect us?”

The Immutable Buddha said: “This is not done by me but by Vimalakirti who is using his supramundane power.” But those who had not won supramundane powers neither knew nor felt that they had changed place. The world of Profound Joy neither expanded nor shrank after landing on the earth which was neither compressed nor straitened, remaining unchanged as before.

At that time, Sakyamuni Buddha said to the assembly: “Look at the Immutable Tathagata of the land of Profound Joy which is majestic, where the Bodhisattvas live purely and the (Buddha’s) disciples are spotless.”

The assembly replied: “Yes, we have seen.”

The Buddha said: “If a Bodhisattva wishes to live in such a pure and clean Buddha land, he should practise the path trodden by the Immutable Tathagata.”

When the pure land of Profound Joy appeared fourteen nayutas of people in this saha world developed the mind set on supreme enlightenment, and vowed to be reborn in the realm of Profound Joy. Sakyamuni Buddha then prophesied their coming rebirth there.

After the (visiting Bodhisattvas had done their) work of salvation for the benefit of living beings in this world, the pure land of Profound Joy returned to its original place. And this was seen by the whole assembly.

The Buddha then said to Sariputra: “Have you seen the world of Profound Joy and its Immutable Tathagata?”

Sariputra replied: “Yes, World Honoured One, I have. May all living beings win a pure land similar to that of the Immutable Buddha and achieve supramundane powers like those of Vimalakirti!

World Honoured One, we shall soon realize a great benefit resulting from our meeting and paying obeisance to this man now. And living beings, hearing this sutra now or after the Buddha’s nirvana, will also realize a great benefit; how much more so, if after hearing it, they believe, understand, receive and uphold it or read, recite, explain and preach it, and practice its Dharma accordingly? He who receives this sutra with both hands, will in reality secure the treasure of the Dharma-gem; if, in addition, he reads, recites and understands its meaning and practices it accordingly, he will be blessed and protected by all Buddhas. Those making offerings to this man (Vimalakirti), will through him automatically make offerings to all Buddhas. He who copies this sutra to put it into practice, will be visited by the Tathagata who will come to his house. He who rejoices at hearing this sutra, is destined to win all knowledge (sarvajna). And he who can believe and understand this sutra, or even (any of) its four-line gathas and teaches it to others, will receive the (Buddha’s) prophecy of his future realization of supreme enlightenment.”

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

THE OFFERING OF DHARMA

Thereupon, Sakra who was in the assembly, said to the Buddha: “World Honoured One, although I have listened to hundreds and thousands of sutras expounded by you and Manjusri, I did not hear of this inconceivable sutra of supramundane sovereign power and absolute reality. As I understand from your present preaching, if living beings listening to the Dharma of this sutra, believe, understand, receive, uphold, read and recite it, they will surely realize this Dharma. How much more so if someone practices it as expounded; he will shut all doors to evil destinies and will open up all doors to blessing; will win the Buddha’s perfection; will overcome heresy; destroy the demons; cultivate bodhi; set up a place of enlightenment (bodhimandala) and follow in the Tathagata’s footsteps.

World Honoured One, if there are people who receive, uphold, read, recite and practice this sutra, I and my followers will provide them with all the necessaries of life. If this sutra is kept in a town or a hamlet, in a grove or a desert, I and my followers will come to the place of the preacher to listen to its Dharma. I shall cause the unbelievers to develop faith in this sutra. As to the believers of it I shall protect them.”

The Buddha said: “Excellent, Sakra, excellent; it is gratifying to hear what you have just said. This sutra gives a detailed exposition of the inconceivable supreme enlightenment realized by past, future and present Buddhas.

“Therefore, Sakra, if a virtuous man or woman receives, keeps, reads, recites and reveres this sutra, such an attitude is equal to making offering to past, future and present Buddhas. Sakra, if the great chiliocosm were full of countless Tathagatas as many as the sugar canes, bamboos, reeds, recites grains and hemp seeds in its fields; and if a virtuous man or woman who has passed either a whole aeon or decreasing kalpa to revere, honour, praise, serve and make offerings to these Buddhas, and then after their nirvana (death) should build with relics from their bodies a seven-gemmed stupa as large as the four deva-heavens (put together) and of a height reaching the Brahma heaven with a majestic spire, to which he or she will make offerings of flowers, incense, strings of precious stones, banners and melodious music, during either a whole kalpa or in a decreasing one, Sakra, what do you think of his or her merits? Are they many?”

Sakra replied: “Very many, World Honoured One, and it is impossible to count his or her merits for hundreds and thousands of aeons.”

The Buddha said: “Sakra, you should know that if another virtuous man or woman, after hearing this sutra of inconceivable liberation, believes, understands, receives, keeps, reads, recites and practices this sutra, his or her merits will surpass those of the former man or woman. Why? Because the bodhi (enlightenment) of all Buddhas originates from this Dharma, and since enlightenment is beyond all measuring, the merits of this sutra cannot be estimated.”

The Buddha continued: “Long before an uncountable number of aeons in the past there was a Buddha called Bhaisajya-raja (whose titles are:) Tathagata, Arhat, Samyaksambuddha, Vidya-Carana-Sampanna, Sugata, Lokavid, Anuttara, Purusa-Damya-Sarathi, Sasta Devamanusyanam, and Buddha-lokanatha or Bhagavan. His world was called Mahavyuha and the then aeon Alamkarakakalpa. The Buddha Bhaisajya-raja lived for twenty small kalpas. The number of sravakas reached thirty-six nayutas and that of Bodhisattvas twelve lacs. There, Sakra, was a heavenly ruler (cakravarti) called Precious Canopy who possessed all the seven treasures and was the guardian of four heavens. He had a thousand sons who were respectable and brave and had overcome all opposition.

“At the time Precious Canopy and his retinue had worshipped and made offerings to the Tathagata Bhaisajya-raja for five aeons after which he said to his thousand sons: ‘You should respectfully make offerings to the Buddha as I have done.’

Obeying their father’s order they made offerings to the Tathagata Bhaisajya for five-aeons after which one of the sons called Lunar Canopy, while alone, thought: ‘Is there some other form of offering surpassing what we have made up to now?

Under the influence of the Buddha’s transcendental power a deva in the sky said: “Virtuous man, the offering of Dharma surpasses all other forms of offering.”

Lunar Canopy asked: ‘What is this offering of Dharma?’

The deva replied: ‘Go to the Tathagata Bhaisajya who will explain it fully.’

Thereupon, Lunar Canopy came to the Tathagata Bhaisajya, bowed his head at his feet and stood at his side, asking: ‘World Honoured One, (I have heard that) the offering of Dharma surpasses all other forms of offering; what is the offering of Dharma?’

“The Tathagata repolied: ‘Virtuous one, the offering of Dharma is preached by all Buddhas in profound sutras but it is hard for worldly men to believe and accept it as its meaning is subtle and not easily detected, for it is impeacable in its purity and cleanness. It is beyond the reach of thinking and discriminating; it contains the treasure of the Bodhi-sattva’s Dharma store and is sealed by the Dharani-symbol; it never backslides for it achieves the six perfections (paramitas); discerns the difference between various meanings; is in line with the bodhi Dharma; is at the top of all sutras; helps people to enter upon great kindness and great compassion; to keep from demons and perverse views, and to conform with the law of causality and the teaching on the unreality of an ego; a man, a living being and life and on voidness, formlessness, non-creating and non-uprising. It enables living beings to sit in a bodhimandala to turn the wheel of the law. It is praised and honoured by heavenly dragons, gandharvas, etc. It can help living beings to reach the Buddha’s Dharma store and gather all knowledge (sarvajna realized by) saints and sages, preach the path followed by all Bodhisattvas; rely on the reality underlying all things; proclaim the (doctrine of) impermanence, suffering; voidness and absence of ego and nirvana. It can save all living beings who have broken the precepts and keep in awe all demons, heretics and greedy people. It is praised by the Buddhas, saints and sages for it wipes out suffering from birth and death; proclaims the joy in nirvana as preached by past; future and present Buddhas in the ten directions.

“If a listener after hearing about this sutra, believes, understands, receives, upholds, reads and recites it and uses appropriate methods (upaya) to preach it clearly to others, this upholding of the Dharma is called the offering of Dharma.

“Further, the practice of all Dharmas as preached; to keep in line with the doctrine of the twelve links in the chain of existence; to wipe out all heterodox views; to achieve the patient endurance of the uncreate (anutpatti-dharma-ksanti) (as beyond creation); to settle once for all the unreality of the ego and the non-existence of living beings; and to forsake all dualities of ego and its objects without deviation from and contradiction to the law of causality and retribution for good and evil; by trusting to the meaning rather than the letter; to wisdom rather than consciousness; to sutras revealing the whole truth rather than those of partial revelation; and to the Dharma instead of the man (i.e. the preacher); to conform with the twelve links in the chain of existence (nidanas) that have neither whence to come nor wither to go; beginning from ignorance (avidya) which is fundamentally non-existent, and conception (samskara) which is also basically unreal, down to birth (jati) which is fundamentally non-existent; and old age and death (jaramarana) which are equally unreal. Thus, contemplated, the twelve links in the chain of existence are inexhaustible, thereby putting an end to the (wrong) view of annihilation. This is the unsurpassed offering of Dharma.”

The Buddha then said to Sakra: “Lunar Canopy, after hearing the Dharma from the Buddha Bhaisajya (the Buddha of Medicine), realized (only) the patience of Meekness and took off his precious robe to offer it to that Buddha, saying: “World Honoured One, after your nirvana, I shall make offerings of Dharma to uphold the right doctrine; will your awe-inspiring majestic help me to overcome the demons and to practise the Bodhisattva line of conduct?’”

The Buddha Bhaisajya knew of his deep thought and prophesied: “Until the last moment you will guard the Dharma protecting citadel.”

Sakra, at that time Lunar Canopy perceived the pure and clean Dharma, and after receiving the Buddha’s prophecy, believed it and left his home to join the order. He practiced the Dharma so diligently that he soon realized the five transcendental powers. In his Bodhisattvas development, he won the endless power of speech through his perfect control (dharani- of all external influences). After the nirvana of the Buddha Bhaisajya, he used this power of speech to turn the wheel of the law, spreading the Dharma widely for ten small aeons.

Lunar Canopy was indefatigable (untiring) in his preaching of the Dharma and converted a million lacs of people who stood firm in their quest of supreme enlightenment, fourteen nayutas of people who set their minds on achieving the sravaka and pratyeka-buddha stages, and countless living beings who were reborn in the heavens.

Sakra, who was that Royal Precious Canopy? He is now a Buddha called the Tathagata Precious Flame and his one thousand sons are the thousand Buddhas of the (present) Bhadrakalpa (the virtuous aeon) whose first Buddha was Krakucchanda and last Buddha was Rucika. Bhiksu Lunar Canopy was myself. Sakra, you should know that the offering of Dharma is the highest form of offering. Therefore, Sakra, you should make the offering of Dharma as an offering to all Buddhas.”

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

INJUNCTION to SPREAD this SUTRA

The Buddha then said: to Maitreya: “Maitreya, I now entrust you with the Dharma of supreme enlightenment which I have collected during countless aeons. In the third (and last) period of the Buddha kalpa you should use transcendental power to proclaim widely in Jambuvipa (the earth) (profound) sutras such as this one, without allowing them to be discontinued. For in future generations there will be virtuous men and women, as well as heavenly dragons, ghosts, spirits, gandharvas, and raksasas who will take pleasure in the great Dharma and will set their minds on the quest of supreme enlightenment; if they do not hear about such sutras they will miss a great advantage. For these people are fond of and believe in these sutras, which they will readily accept by placing them on their heads and which they will widely proclaim for the profit of living beings.

Maitreya, you should know that there are two categories of Bodhisattvas: those who prefer proud words and a racy style, and those who are not afraid (of digging out) the profound meanings which they can penetrate. Fondness of proud words and a racy style denotes the superficiality of a newly initiated Bodhisattva; but he who, after hearing about the freedom from infection and bondage as taught in profound sutras, is not afraid of their deep meanings which he strives to master, thereby developing a pure mind to receive, keep, read, recite and practise (the Dharma) as preached is a Bodhisattva who has trained for a long time.

Maitreya, there are two classes of newly initiated Bodhisattvas who cannot understand very deep Dharmas: those who have not heard about profound sutras and who, giving way to fear and suspicion, cannot keep them but indulge in slandering them, saying: ‘I have never heard about them; where do they come from?’, and those who refuse to call on, respect and make offerings to the preachers of profound sutras or who find fault with the latter; these are two classes of newly initiated Bodhisattvas who cannot control their minds when hearing the deep Dharma, thereby harming themselves.

Maitreya, further, there are two categories of Boshisattvas who harm themselves and fail to realize the patient endurance of the uncreate in spite of their belief and understanding of the deep Dharma: they are (firstly) those who belittle newly initiated Boshisattva and do not teach and guide them; and (secondly) those who, despite their faith in the deep Dharma, still give rise to discrimination between form and formlessness.”

After hearing the Buddha expound the Dharma, Maitreya said: “World Honoured One, I have not heard all this before. As you have said, I shall keep from these evils and uphold the Dharma of supreme enlightenment which the Tathagata has collected during countless aeons. In future, if there are virtuous men and women who seek for Mahayana, I shall see to it that this sutra will be placed in their hands, and shall use transcendental power to make them remember it so that they can receive, keep, read, recite and proclaim it widely.

“World Honoured One, in the coming Dharma ending age, if there are those who can receive, keep, read and recite this sutra and expound it widely, they will do so under the influence of my transcendental power.”

The Buddha said: “Excellent, Maitreya, excellent; as you have said, I will help you achieve this great joy.”

At that, all the Bodhisattvas in the assembly brought their palms together and said to the Buddha: After your nirvana, we will also proclaim this Dharma of supreme enlightenment widely in the ten directions and will guide preachers of Dharma to obtain this sutra.”

The four kings of devas said to the Buddha: “World Honoured One, in all towns and villages, in the groves and wilderness, and where there is this sutra and people reading, reciting, explaining and proclaiming it, I will lead local officials to go to their places to listen to the Dharma and to protect them so that no one dares to one within one hundred yojanas of their places to trouble them.”

The Buddha then said to Ananda: “Ananda, you too should receive, keep and spread this sutra widely.”

Ananda said: “Yes, World Honoured One, I have received this sutra and will keep it. What is its title?”

The Buddha said: “Ananda, its title is ‘The Sutra spoken by Vimalakirti’, or ‘The Inconceivable Door to Liberation’, under which you should receive and keep it.”

After the Buddha had expounded this sutra, the old upasaka Vimalakirti, Manjusri, Sariputra, Ananda and others as well as devas, asuras and all those present were filled with joy; believed, received and kept it; paid reverence and went away.






More Readings: The Diamond Sutra in Chinese, The Heart Sutra, Dao De Jing of Taoism






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