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The Dharma Flower Sutra seen through the Oral Transmission of Nichiren Daishōnin:The Fifteenth Chapter on the Bodhisattvas who Swarm up Out of the Earth

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The Dharma Flower Sutra
seen through the Oral Transmission of
Nichiren Daishōnin


At that time, all the completely evolved bodhisattvas who had refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva), who had come from the terrain upon which they depend for an existence in other dimensions, and whose number exceeded eight times the number of grains of sand in the Ganges, stood up in the midst of the assembly, put the palms of their hands together, paid reverence to the Buddha, and then addressed him, saying: “World Honoured One, with the Buddha’s authorisation and after his extinction into nirvana, we will exert our zeal to the utmost in this Dimension that has to be Endured (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu) (i.e., our world) to hold to, safeguard, read and recite, copy out, and make offerings to this sutric text, as well as expounding it far and wide.”

Thereupon the Buddha said to the multitude of completely evolved bodhisattvas who had refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Budhha enlightenment for all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva):

Stop! All you believing and convinced people, it will not be necessary for you to hold to and safeguard this sutra.

What is the reason for this?

In this Dimension that has to be Endured (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu) which is mine, there are also completely evolved bodhisattvas who have refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva), whose number is equal to six myriads of times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges, and each one of them has a following of six myriads of times as many as there are grains of sand in the Ganges. All these people are capable of safeguarding, holding to, reading, reciting, as well as expounding this sutra far and wide.

When the Buddha had said this, all the three thousand great thousands of terrains upon which beings depend for an existence in this Dimension that has to be Endured (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu) shuddered and split open, out of which and all at once there swarmed up uncountable thousands of myriads of myriads of myriads of completely evolved bodhisattvas who had refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva). Each one of these bodhisattvas had a body that was gold in colour, with the thirty-two special characteristics of a Buddha and shone with immeasurable light.

Formerly, they had all been biding their time in the empty space underneath this Dimension that has to be Endured (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu).

These completely evolved bodhisattvas who had refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva), on hearing the voice of Shākyamuni, who was making his point clear, emerged from these regions below our world. Each one of these completely evolved bodhisattvas was the leader of the chant (Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō) for the enormous multitudes.

All of these completely evolved bodhisattvas had brought along their respective retinues of at most six myriads of times the number of grains of sand in the Ganges. Yet, how many more of these completely evolved bodhisattvas had fetched a following of only five, four, three, two, or only a myriad of times the number of grains of sand in the Ganges, or even half or simply a quarter of that amount, or again only a following of a thousand or a hundred or only ten people? There were also some of these people who simply took pleasure in this voyage from far, far away – such a number of individuals, without limit, whose number cannot be known.

When all the bodhisattvas had swarmed up from the earth, they made their way to the Tathāgata Abundant Treasure (Tahō Nyorai) and the Buddha Shākyamuni, in the stupa, made of precious materials, that was suspended in empty space.

When they had arrived, they faced the two World Honoured Ones and bowed, with their heads towards the feet of these two Buddhas. They then went to the Buddhas who were seated upon their lion thrones under trees of precious material. There all the bodhisattvas paid homage to the Buddhas and made three circumambulations towards the right, in veneration and respect, putting the palms of their hands together. Then all these bodhisattvas praised the Buddhas, by chanting various hymns to honour them. Afterwards, they all stood to one side, filled with joy, looking upwards and gazing at the two World Honoured Ones.

While all these completely evolved bodhisattvas who had refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva) were swarming up from the earth and praising the two World Honoured Ones with various dharmic honours and hymns of veneration, fifty minor kalpas had past.

During all this time, the Buddha Shākyamuni remained seated in silence, as well as the four congregations of monks, nuns, lay believers both male and female, who also remained silent for fifty minor kalpas. Due to the reaches of the mind of the Buddha, he made all these enormous multitudes imagine that only half a day had gone by.

These four congregations of monks, nuns and lay believers of both sexes, again on account of the reaches of the mind of the Buddha, saw all the bodhisattvas fill the whole empty space with myriads of myriads of myriads of terrains upon which sentient beings depend for an existence. There were four leaders and teachers, at the head of this multitude of bodhisattvas.


The first important point, with regard to the expression, “the teachers who lead the chant”.

The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that the whole of the Chapter on the Bodhisattvas who Swarm up out of the Earth refers entirely to the bodhisattvas who had been taught their enlightenment in the original archetypal state (honke), which is unconditioned and never defiled by any form of unenlightenment or delusion. What these bodhisattvas, who had been enlightened in the original archetypal state, do is to recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō). (This title and theme are understood as the embodiment of the eternal Buddha nature that is present in the whole of life and death.)

The place where these bodhisattvas lead all sentient beings of the world of humankind is the Immaculate Terrain of Spirit Vulture Peak (Ryōjusen, Gridhrakūta) (which alludes to all the possible implications of the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon)). During the final period of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō), the term “teachers who guide” is limited to those teachers who had been enlightened in the original archetypal state.

When it comes to making clear who these all-embracing (as Buddhahood) bodhisattvas are, then they are referred to in the ninth volume of the Correctly Recorded Supplement (Fushōki), which in turn refers to the ninth volume of the Textual Explanation of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke Mongu), where it says, “These four teachers who guide, that are mentioned in the sutra, now point to four archetypal aspects of the fundamental Buddha.”

Jogyō (Vishishtachāritra), which means “superior practice”, refers to his fundamental identity. Muhengyō (Anantachārita), which means “infinite practice”, implies the eternal aspect of the identity of the fundamental Buddha. Jyōgyō (Vishuddhachārita), whose name means “pure practice”, represents the aspect of the fundamental Buddha as absolute purity, and Anryūgyō (Supratishthichārita), whose name means “firmly established practice”, represents his inherent happiness and fulfilment. There are times when a single individual possesses all four of these qualities.

To go beyond the apparently alternating facets of living and dying (which both involve various kinds of suffering) is called Superior Practice. To overcome the changes that interrupt eternity by continual lives and deaths is referred to as Infinite Practice. To get out of the entanglement of the troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha) (that are caused by the threefold realm of existence (sangai, triloka) – 1) where sentient beings have appetites and desires, 2) which are incarnated in subjective materiality with physical surroundings, 3) who, at the same time, are endowed with the immateriality of the realm of fantasies, thoughts and ideas (sangai, triloka)) – is called Pure Practice.

This threefold realm of existence gives rise to five kinds of wrong views of reality – 1) wrong views that are common to this three-dimensional space, 2) attachment to one’s appetites and desires, 3) attachment to our subjective physicality, and 4) attachment to all that goes on in our heads, 5) the intrinsic state of unenlightenment which is this threefold realm of existence itself. The transcendence of this whole predicament is referred to as Pure Practice.

Would it be because, when our merits become as all-inclusive as those attained by Shākyamuni under the bodhi tree, this state is called Firmly Established Practice?

Now Nichiren and the people that follow him reverently recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō and are all followers of these Four Bodhisattvas who had surged out of the earth.

Again, The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) states that fire is something that consumes and flares upwards, which is represented by the Bodhisattva Superior Practice (Jōgyō, Vishishtachāritra), who is on the fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon), as you face it on the top right-hand side of Abundant Treasure (Tahō Nyorai, Prabhūtaratna). Water is something that cleanses and is represented by the Bodhisattva Pure Practice (Jyōgyō, Vishuddhachārita), who is on the left next to Shākyamuni. The wind is an element that blows away dust and dirt and is represented by the Bodhisattva Infinite Practice (Muhengyō, Anantachārita), who is immediately to the right of the Bodhisattva Superior Practice (Jōgyō, Vishishtachāritra). The great earth has the function of making plants and trees grow, which is equated with Anryūgyō (Firmly Established Practice, Supratishthichārita), who is on the immediate left of the Bodhisattva Superior Practice (Jōgyō, Vishishtachāritra). These are the merits of the Four Bodhisattvas on the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon).

Although the role of each of these Four Bodhisattvas is different, jointly their roles involve the whereabouts of the realms of dharmas whose underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect permeates the entirety of existence (Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō).

The reason why the bodhisattvas dwelt in the lower regions is said to be because, “In the extreme inner depths of the nature of existence (hōsho, dharmata), there is the ultimate ground of recondite meaningfulness” (i.e., the source of life itself). That they were dwelling in the lower regions (beyond the storehouse or the eighth level of consciousness (arayashiki, ālaya-vijñāna) refers to that which is the foundation on which human consciousness is based. These bodhisattvas surged up from the undefiled ninth level of consciousness (amarashiki, amala-vijñāna). This is the very essence of life itself.)

The Correctly Recorded Supplement (Fushōki) reiterates that Tao Shêng (Dōshō, active around 409 C.E.,) said, “Abiding in the lower regions implies living in the essential element of existence in theory (ri), whereas what is manifested from this essential element of existence in theory is understood as a matter of fact (ji).” Again, The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says that out of the thousands of plants and the myriads of trees, there are none that are bodhiasattvas who had swarmed up from the earth.

Therefore, we can say that the bodhisattvas who swarmed up from the earth were enlightened in the original archetypal state. Here, the term “original archetypal state (hon)” represents the source of incarnate life, which, in the India of Shākyamuni, was understood as a depth in our minds that was expressed as the uncountable grains of dust that would be left over if someone were to grind five hundred universes from their inception to their extinction into powder. Now, this is understood as the awareness of the advantages of being alive, which are advantages that have no beginning and no end. These bodhisattvas were people who were in possession of the wisdom of the Dharma of the original archetypal state.

This Dharma of the original archetypal state is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam(u)) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō). The wisdom of this title and theme was necessarily the possession of the bodhisattvas who swarmed up out of the earth and not that of the bodhisattvas who were converted by those teachings derived from the external events of Shākyamuni’s life and work.

From the wisdom of this original archetypal Dharma, that penetrates all that exists, is derived the role that is propagated as the practice of fixing the mind in one place so as to observe and sift the evidence (shikan) that each instant of mental activity contains all the realms of sentient beings (i.e., the various archetypal dimensions), the non-sentient existences that surround us and the five aggregates (go’on seken), which constitute all existence either sentient or non-sentient (ichinen sanzen).

Generally speaking, all explanations given by the universal teachers and ordinary instructors direct their attention to the propagation of this application of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) (which is to recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō). In order to receive and hold to this original archetypal Dharma, the single word faith is needed (and through practice and study its meaning will become apparent).

The wordfaith” is the sharp sword which confronts and cures our fundamental unenlightenment (and bewilderment as to what life is all about). In the ninth volume of the Textual Explanation of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke Mongu), it says, “Having no doubts is faith.” You should think about this.


The first bodhisattva was called Superior Practice (Jōgyō, Vishishtachāritra); the second bodhisattva was called Infinite Practice (Muhengyō, Anantachārita)); the third bodhisattva was called Pure Practice (Jyōgyō, Vishuddhachārita), and the fourth bodhisattva was called Firmly Established Practice (Anryūgyō, Supratishthichārita). These Four Bodhisattvas were among the multitude, the leaders of the chant, as well as being their guides and teachers.

Standing in front of these vast multitudes, they each put the palms of their hands together. They gazed upon Shākyamuni and demonstrated their homage, by saying: “World Honoured One, we hope you have no sickness and no trouble. Are you practising in peace and with joy? Do those people whom you must ferry from the shores of living and dying to the shore of nirvana receive your teaching easily? Do they not cause the World Honoured One to have any fatigue or toil?”

Thereupon the Four Bodhisattvas expressed themselves in the form of a metric hymn.

May the World Honoured One
be without sickness or troubles
and, in teaching
and converting sentient beings,
neither become tired nor fatigued.
Moreover, do sentient beings
easily accept
the Buddha’s exhortations
to extricate them
from living and dying?
Does the World Honoured One
not tend to be tired or stressed?

Then, at that time, the World Honoured One, in the midst of the assembly of bodhisattvas, said the following words: It is just as you say, believing and convinced people. The Tathāgata is at peace and filled with joy, without illness or trouble. Also, to exhort and instruct people to cross over from the shores of living and dying to the shore of nirvana causes neither fatigue nor stress.

Why is this so?

It is because all these sentient beings have, from one lifetime to the next, continuously received my instruction to save them. Also, they have made offerings and paid deep homage to the Buddhas of the past, as well as having put down roots of goodness or merit (i.e., absence of covetousness, absence of hatred, absence of unknowingness). All these sentient beings, when they first saw my person and heard what I was explaining, immediately accepted and held faith in the wisdom of the Tathāgata.

In particular for those people who began with the practices of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna), it is for such people I am going to get them to listen to this sutra so that they can enter into the wisdom of the Buddha.

There and then the bodhisattvas replied in the form of a metric hymn.

Good! Excellent!
World Honoured One
and universal hero,
all sentient beings
can easily be taught
to extricate themselves
from living and dying,
because they can inquire
into the profoundly deep wisdom
of the Buddha.
Having listened,
they can hold faith in it
and do the necessary practices,
which, as a result, makes us rejoice.

Thereupon the World Honoured One praised the leaders of the completely evolved bodhisattvas (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva) who had refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings, by saying: “Good! Excellent! Believing and convinced people, because of your faith in the teachings of the Tathāgata, your lives are consequently filled with joy.”

Then the Bodhisattva Maitreya (Miroku) along with eight thousand times the number of grains of sand in the Ganges of completely evolved bodhisattvas who had refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva), all had this innermost thought: “On no occasion have we ever seen or heard of such a vast multitude of completely evolved bodhisattvas (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva) swarming up out of the earth and going before the World Honoured One, putting the palms of their hands together, making offerings, and exchanging greetings with the Tathāgata.”

Thereupon the completely evolved bodhisattva (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva) Maitreya (Miroku) knew what was going on in the minds of the eight thousand times the number of grains of sand in the Ganges of completely evolved bodhisattvas (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva) and, wishing to resolve the doubts in his own mind, put the palms of his hands together, faced the Buddha, and expressed his question in the form of a metric hymn.

The vast multitude of bodhisattvas
of innumerable myriads
of myriads of persons
is something we have never seen before.
Could he who is honoured
by all two-legged beings
explain from what place they come
and for what reason
they are all assembled,
with huge bodies
and the all-embracing reaches
of their minds
and a wisdom
that cannot be pondered over
or discussed,
whose wills are resolved, firm,
and who are also
a remarkably joyful sight
for sentient beings?
But where indeed do they come from?
Each and all of these bodhisattvas
are accompanied by their suite,
whose number cannot be estimated
like the grains of sand of the Ganges.
Or even there are
fully evolved bodhisattvas (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva),
whose assemblies amount to
six myriads of times
the number of grains of sand
in the Ganges.
All such vast assemblies
single-mindedly seek
the path of Buddhahood.
All these great teachers,
whose number totals
six myriads of times the number
of grains of sand in the Ganges,
have come to make offerings
to the Buddha
and to protect
and hold to this sutra.
Their number exceeds
five times the number
of grains of sand in the Ganges,
or simply two myriads
or even a myriad,
a thousand or a hundred times,
or only a single amount
of the grains of sand in the Ganges,
or even half
or only a quarter of that amount,
or even the single part
of a myriad of myriads
of myriads.
Or even a myriad times
ten myriads (nayuta),
or myriads of myriads
of myriads of disciples
without their suites,
who enjoy being entirely alone,
have all come together
to where the Buddha is,
and their number exceeds
all those quoted above.
If anybody tried to calculate
the number of people,
by making notches in a piece of wood
for such an enormous assembly as this,
it would take more kalpas
then there are grains of sand in the Ganges,
which is something that cannot ever
be really known.
All this assembly of bodhisattvas
of all-embracing dignity,
enthusiasm, and merit,
for whom no one can expound the Dharma,
who was it that taught them?
What led to their fulfilment?
From whom did they first decide
to seek enlightenment?
What was the Buddha teaching
that they all praised and admired?
Whose sutra do they protect and hold to?
What is the Buddha path that they practise,
bodhisattvas such as these,
whose reaches of the mind
and strength of wisdom
could make the earth split in all four directions
and who all swarm up out of the ground?
World Honoured One,
never have I seen such a thing.
Please explain from where they all come,
the name of the dimension
upon which they depended
for an existence.
I who travel around all kingdoms
have never yet seen this multitude.
In the midst of their assembly
there is not a single person
that I recognise.
They suddenly came up out of the ground.
Please, would you explain the reason?
Now in this present assembly,
there are countless hundreds
of thousands of myriads of people
who are all bodhisattvas,
who would also like to know what it is
that fetches up these bodhisattvas.
World Honoured One
whose merits are without bounds,
I only wish
you would settle all these queries.

Thereupon all the Buddha emanations from the person of Shākyamuni who had come from innumerable thousands of myriads of myriads of myriads of other dimensions upon which they depended for an existence (kokudo) were all seated cross-legged on their lion thrones under trees of precious materials, in all the eight directions of the compass.

Each one of the attendants of the Buddhas, on seeing this vast multitude of bodhisattvas who had swarmed up from the ground from the thousand great thousands of realms of existence of the four quarters and remained suspended in empty space, all of these attendants addressed their Buddha, saying, “World Honoured One, where does this uncountable and boundless vast multitude of bodhisattvas come from?”

Then all the Buddhas said to the attendants, “Believing and convinced people, just wait a little while. There is the completely evolved bodhisattva who has refused his own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva) who is called Maitreya (Miroku)”.

He had just received the announcement of his future enlightenment from the Buddha Shākyamuni.

“You will be the next Buddha,” Shākyamuni said to Maitreya (Miroku), who had finished asking about the bodhisattvas who had swarmed up out of the earth.

The Buddha emanations said to their attendants, “You should listen to the reason for this, yourselves.”

Then Shākyamuni said to Maitreya (Miroku): “Excellent, excellent, invincible Maitreya (Miroku)”. You are capable of asking the Buddha about such an important matter. You must now, with your whole mind, put on your armour of zealousness and give rise to a mind of firm and solid intention. The Tathāgata now wishes to proclaim and reveal the wisdom and discernment of all the Buddhas, along with the reaches of their minds that are free from any resistance (jizai shinzū shi riki), as well as the leonine, imperious power and the majestic, authoritative strength of all the Buddhas.”

Then the World Honoured One wishing to reiterate and proclaim the significance of what he had said expressed it in the form of a metric hymn.

Be single-mindedly full of zeal.
I wish to explain this matter.
The wisdom of the Buddha
is beyond concept or speculation.
You must bring about your strength of faith
and abide in patience and wholesomeness.
The Dharma that has not yet been heard,
since beyond time,
is now to be heard in reality.
I now bring you consolation
and security.
Do not be afraid or hold any doubts.
The Buddha does not say anything
that is not really true,
and his wisdom and discernment
cannot possibly be measured.
The primordial Dharma
that the Buddha has realised
is extremely profound
and far beyond any kind
of differentiation.
The Buddha now must explain it
as it really is.
All of you must listen to it
with full attention.

The World Honoured One, having declaimed this metric hymn, said to the Bodhisattva Maitreya (Miroku): “Invincible Maitreya (Miroku), I shall now declare in the midst of this vast assembly that these completely evolved bodhisattvas, who have refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva), whom you have not seen, swarmed up out of the earth in innumerable, infinite, incalculable numbers, beyond time itself.

In this Dimension of ours that has to be Endured (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu), I had already attained the unexcelled, correct, and all-embracing enlightenment (anokutara sanmyaku sanbodai, anuttara-samyak-sambodhi). When I taught and converted as well as revealing the Dharma to and guiding all these bodhisattvas, I set in tune and formed their minds to take the direction of the path of Buddhahood.

“All these bodhisattvas were dwelling in the empty space underneath this Dimension of ours that has to be Endured (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu), where they read and recited all the sutras, as well as looking deeply into them, for their benefit and enlightenment. In addition, they pondered over them and were able to distinguish all their various implications (funbetsu), as well as committing them to memory correctly and bearing their meaning in mind.

Invincible Maitreya (Miroku), all these convinced and believing people took no pleasure in expounding in the assembly. They always preferred quiet places where they could practise with fervour, without ever taking a rest. Furthermore, they did not dwell on or rely on the teachings of humankind or the deva (ten), but constantly derived happiness from the deep wisdom that has no obstacles, as well as enjoying the Dharma of all the Buddhas. They single-mindedly and zealously sought after the wisdom that is unequalled.”

Then the World Honoured One, wishing to reiterate and proclaim the significance of what he had just said, expressed it in the form of a metric hymn.

Invincible Maitreya (Miroku),
you ought to know
that all those bodhisattvas have,
since innumerable kalpas,
practised the wisdom of the Buddhas
and that all of them
were converted by myself,
who made them develop a mind
for the all-embracing path.
They are all my faithful followers
who abided in and depended on
this world for their existence,
where they dedicated themselves
to ascetic practices.
They all aspired to quiet places
and rejected the confusing bustle
of big crowds.
They derived no pleasure
from copious explanations.
Such faithful disciples as these
have studied and practised
the path of my Dharma,
both day and night
continuously
and with enthusiasm,
in their search
for the path of Buddhahood.
They were dwelling in the empty space
beneath this Dimension we have to Endure (shaba sekai, sahā-lokadhātu),
firm and solid
in their power of concentration.
They sought understanding constantly
with application
and could explain
the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma)
in all its diversity.
Also their minds
were without any trepidation.
In this district of Gayā (present-day Buddha-gayā)
seated under the bodhi tree,
I fully understood
the supreme, correct enlightenment,
as well as setting in motion
the wheel of the unsurpassable Dharma.
Then I taught and converted them,
so as to make them begin to develop
a mind for the Buddha path.
Now they all abide in the stage
of not giving up their practice,
and they will arrive,
at the state of Buddhahood.
I am now telling you the truth.
You must single-mindedly
believe all this.
It was in the past
infinity of time (kuon)
that I taught and converted
this multitude.

Thereupon the completely evolved Bodhisattva Maitreya (Miroku), who had refused his own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva), and the other innumerable multitude of bodhisattvas became sceptical, confused, and astonished, in a way they had never experienced before.

Then this thought crossed their minds: How is it that the World Honoured One, within such a short period of time, has been able to teach and enlighten innumerable, limitless numbers of completely evolved bodhisattvas who have refused their own extinction into nirvana for the sake of the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings (bosatsu makasatsu, bodhisattva mahāsattva) and to get them to substantiate the unexcelled, correct, and all-embracing enlightenment (anokutara sanmyaku sanbodai, anuttara-samyak-sambodhi)?

They then addressed the Buddha, saying: When the Tathāgata was a crown prince and left the palace of the Shakya clan to go somewhere in the vicinity of Gayā (present-day Buddha-gayā), where he was to sit in the place of his enlightenment, and realised the unexcelled, correct, and all-embracing Buddha awakening, then having accomplished this, in a little more than forty years, how did the World Honoured One, in such a short period of time, achieve such an enormous result of propagating the Buddha teaching in reality (ji, artha)? Was it due to the strength of the Buddha’s energy, or was it on account of the Buddha’s merit that he was able to teach and correct such a boundless assembly of completely evolved bodhisattvas, so that they really attained the unexcelled, correct, and all-embracing enlightenment (anokutara sanmyaku sanbodai, anuttara-samyak-sambodhi)?

World Honoured One, as for this enormous multitude of bodhisattvas, let us suppose that there is a person who would count this vast number of people over a period of a thousand myriads of myriads of myriads of kalpas. This person would never come to the end, nor even a quarter of that number. These people – who, ever since they were in the dimension which is conceived as the origin of all existence (kuon), have established their basis of goodness and merit (absence of covetousness, absence of hatred, and an absence of unknowing or not wanting to know what life is about) – due to their relationship with infinite and innumerable Buddhas, have even realised the path of the bodhisattva and have constantly practised the conduct of purity (bongyō, brahma-charya).

World Honoured One, such matters as these are difficult to believe in this world of ours. It is as if a young, good-looking man with black hair who, appears to be twenty-five years of age, points his finger to a centenarian and says, ‘this is my son’, whereupon the centenarian points his finger to the young-looking man, and says, ‘this is my father who sired me and brought me up’. Such a thing would be difficult to believe.

It is the same thing with the Buddha. Since he attained to the path of Buddhahood, in reality it is not so long ago. But when it comes to this enormous multitude of bodhisattvas, already uncountable thousands of myriads of myriads of myriads of kalpas have gone by, since, in order to reach the path of Buddhahood, they have been regularly and diligently reciting the sutras, as well as paying homage in front of the Buddha altar (gongyō).

They also have realised countless thousands of myriads of myriads of myriads of ways to enter into and awaken from numerous perfect absorptions into their single objects of meditation (sanmai, samādhi). Furthermore, they have attained the furthest reaches of the mind (daijinzu, abhijña) (the sort of psychic powers that cannot be known by ordinary people), as well as having practised progressively the dharmas of righteousness, and are skilful at questions and answers of humankind, and are seen as rarities in the dimensions where existence takes place.

Today the World Honoured One says: “When I indeed did realise the path of Buddhahood, at first I instilled a religious awakening in them, so that they could be taught. Then I converted them and guided them, so that they could attain the unexcelled, correct, and all-embracing enlightenment (anokutara sanmyaku sanbodai, anuttara-samyak-sambodhi).”

World Honoured One, since you attained Buddhahood, it is not so long ago, and, yet, you have been able to accomplish this enormous meritorious deed. Although we believe that what the Buddha expounds is what is called for, the words that come out of his mouth are never meaningless or indiscriminate: what is known about the Buddha is penetratingly complete.

However, if, after the Buddha’s extinction into nirvana, all those bodhisattvas who have begun to have faith in the Buddha teaching were to hear such words, they would neither accept nor give credence to them. Or they would even bring about the negative karma of vandalising the Dharma. However, all that we would ask is that the World Honoured One explain and clarify this, so as to remove our doubts, also so that believing and convinced people in ages to come, on hearing this matter, will have no feelings of uncertainty.

Thereupon the Bodhisattva Maitreya (Miroku), wishing to reiterate the content of what he had said, expressed it in the form of a metric hymn.

Formerly, the Buddha’s line of descent
was from the Shakya clan,
but he left his family
to take up the ascetic way of life,
and, not far from Gayā (present-day Buddha-gayā),
he sat under the bodhi tree.
Yet, it was not long afterwards
when all these bodhisattvas,
whose number cannot be estimated
and who had practised
the path of Buddhahood
for a very long time,
relying on the strength of their wisdom
and the reaches of their minds (the sort of psychic powers that cannot be known by ordinary people (jinzūriki, abhijña)),
who thoroughly studied
the path of the bodhisattva,
who were never tainted with the dharmas
of our dimension of existence (seken),
in the same way
as lotus flowers in the water,
surged up out of the mud.
They all gave rise
to a mind of veneration and respect
and stood still
in front of the World Honoured One.
This matter is conceived
with difficulty.
How should we believe it?
The Buddha arrived at the way
only very recently.
His attainments are many indeed.
We ask you to take away
the doubts of the assembly
and explain
and pick it out of relativity (, shūnyatā),
as it is
in our everyday reality.
(The Buddhas see all existence as the oneness of relativity (, shūnyatā).)
For example,
it is as though a sturdy young man
who is twenty-five years of age,
who flaunts to the people
his hundred-year-old son
whose hair is white and features wrinkled, says:
“This is the same son whom I have sired.”
And the son says, “This is my father.”
The father is young, and the son is old,
which is something that is hard to accept.
It is the same with the World Honoured One,
who has attained to the path
only recently,
as well as all the bodhisattvas here,
whose will is firm
and without any weaknesses,
have, for innumerable kalpas,
practised the path of the bodhisattvas.
They are skilled at questions and answers.
Their minds know no reticence.
Their determination and patience
are upright, majestic, and influential
and are praised
by the Buddhas of the ten directions.
They are able to distinguish
and explain things
out of the oneness of relativity (, shūnyatā).
(The Buddhas see all existence as the oneness of relativity (, shūnyatā).)
They have an aversion to large crowds.
They prefer absorption
into the one object
of their meditation.
For the sake of their quest
for enlightenment,
they dwelt in the relativity (, shūnyatā)
underneath our world.
We have no doubt about this,
since we heard it
from the Buddha himself.
What we desire
is that he clarify
and explain this matter
for the future,
in case someone has doubts
or does not believe this sutra,
which will cause that person
to fall into incarnations
with negative qualities.
We hope that the Buddha
will explain clearly
how these innumerable bodhisattvas,
in so short a time,
were taught and converted,
so that their religious awakening
made them abide at the stage
of being bodhisattvas
without ever turning back.



End of the fifth fascicle

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