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Vision of Akṣobhya Buddha

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The Vimalakīrti Sutra

Chapter XII - Vision of Akṣobhya Buddha

1. At this point the World-honored One asked Vimalakīrti, “When you wish to see the Tathāgata, in what ways do you view the Tathāgata?”

Vimalakīrti said, “As if contemplating the real characteristic of my own body—so do I view the Buddha.

“When I view the Tathāgata, he does not come in the past, does not go in the future, and does not abide in the present.

“I neither view him as form, nor view him as the suchness of form, nor view him as the nature of form. I neither view him as feeling, conception, process, or consciousness; nor view him as the suchness of consciousness; nor view him as the nature of consciousness.

“He does not arise from the four great elements and is identical to space. He has no accumulation of the six sensory capacities, and his eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind have already passed beyond and are not within the triple world.

“Having transcended the three defilements, he is in accord with the three emancipations. Complete in the three illuminations, he is equivalent to ignorance.

“He is neither the single characteristic nor different characteristics. He is neither a self-characteristic nor an other-characteristic. He is neither without characteristics, nor does he grasp characteristics.

“He is not of this shore, nor of the other shore, nor of the current of samsara in between, yet he converts sentient beings. I view him in extinction, yet he is not permanently in extinction. He is neither this nor that, and he neither uses this nor uses that.

“He cannot be understood with wisdom, nor can he be known by consciousness. He is without darkness (i.e., ignorance), without brightness (i.e., understanding), without name, and without characteristic. He is without strength, without weakness, and neither pure nor defiled. He does not occupy a region, nor does he transcend the regions.

“He is neither conditioned nor unconditioned. He is without manifesting and without explaining.

“He is neither charitable nor stingy, neither observant nor transgressive of the precepts, neither forbearant nor angry, neither energetic nor lazy, neither composed nor perturbed, and neither wise nor foolish. He is neither sincere nor dissembling, neither coming nor going, neither exiting nor entering. All the paths of words are eliminated.

“He is neither a field of blessings nor not a field of blessings. He is neither one worthy of offerings (i.e., arhat) nor not one worthy of offerings.

“He neither grasps nor forsakes; he neither has characteristics nor is without characteristics.

“He is identical to the true limit and equivalent to the Dharma-nature.

“He is indescribable, incalculable; he transcends appellations and measures. He is neither great nor small.

“He is neither vision, nor hearing, nor perceiving, nor knowing; he transcends the host of fetters. He is equivalent to the various types of wisdom and identical to sentient beings. He is without discrimination with regard to the dharmas.

“He is entirely without failing, without impurity, without vexation, without intentionality (lit., “unconstructed”), without activation, without generation, and without extinction; without fear, without sorrow, without joy, without dislike, and without attachment; without past, without future, and without present. He cannot be discriminated or manifested using any verbal explanations at all.

World-honored One, such is the body of the Tathāgata, and thus do I perform its contemplation. To use this contemplation is called the correct contemplation. If [one uses some] other contemplation, this is called the incorrect contemplation.”

2. Śāriputra then asked Vimalakīrti, “Where did you die to become born here?”

Vimalakīrti said, “Are there death and birth in the dharmas as you apprehend (lit., “attain”) them?”

Śāriputra said, “There are no death and birth in the dharmas.”

Vimalakīrti said, “If the dharmas are without the characteristics of death and birth, why do you ask ‘Where did you die to become born here?’

What do you mean? It is as if a magician conjures up a man and a woman— do they die and become born?”

Śāriputra said, “They do not die and become born.”

Vimalakīrti said, “But can you not have heard the Buddha explain that the dharmas are like conjured characteristics?”

Śāriputra said, “So I have.”

Vimalakīrti said, “If all the dharmas are like conjured characteristics, why do you ask ‘Where did you die to become born here?’ Śāriputra, death is the characteristic of the destruction of false dharmas, and birth is the characteristic of continuity of false dharmas. Although bodhisattvas die, they do not exhaust their roots of goodness, and although they are born they do not nurture the various evils.”

3. Then the Buddha told Śāriputra, “There is a country called Wondrous Joy (Abhirati), where the Buddha is entitled Akṣobhya (Immovable). Vimalakīrti died in that country prior to being born here.”

Śāriputra said, “This is unprecedented! World-honored One, this person is able to forsake a pure land and come take pleasure in this place of great anger and harm.”

Vimalakīrti said to Śāriputra, “What do you think? When the sun’s light appears, is it conjoined with darkness?”

Śāriputra answered, “No. When the sun’s light appears, the darkness disappears.”

Vimalakīrti said, “Why does the sun come to Jambudvīpa?”

Śāriputra answered, “To illuminate it and eliminate the darkness.”

Vimalakīrti said, “Bodhisattvas are like this. Even though they are born in impure buddha lands in order to convert sentient beings, they are not therefore conjoined with the darkness of stupidity. They merely extinguish the darkness of the afflictions of sentient beings.”

4. At this time the great congregation eagerly wished to see the Wondrous Joy world, Akṣobhya Tathāgata, and his congregations of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas.

Knowing what the entire assembly was thinking, the Buddha told Vimalakīrti, “Good man, on behalf of this assembly, manifest Wondrous Joy world, Akṣobhya Tathāgata, and his congregations of bodhisattvas and śrā-vakas. The congregations all wish to see them.”

Vimalakīrti then thought to himself, “Without getting up from my seat I should lift the Wondrous Joy world, including its Iron Ring Mountains; streams, rivers, oceans, springs; [Mount] Sumeru and the other mountains; the sun, moon, and stars; the palaces of the gods, dragons, demonic spirits, and Brahmā gods; its congregations of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas; the cities, towns, villages, men and women, adults and childen; and even Akṣobhya Tathāgata with the bodhi tree and its wondrous lotus flowers, which are able to perform the Buddha’s work throughout the ten directions. There are three jeweled stairways from Jambudvipa to the Tuṣita Heaven, and the gods descend these jeweled stairways. They all worship Akṣobhya Tathāgata and listen to his Dharma. The people of Jambudvipa also climb those stairways, ascending to Tuṣita to see the gods there.

“The Wondrous Joy world is composed of such immeasurable merits, from the Akaniṣṭha Heaven above to the water limit (i.e., the disk of water) below. I will grasp it in my right hand, as a potter does a wheel, bringing it into this world like carrying a flower garland, to show all the congregations.”

5. Thinking this thought, Vimalakīrti entered samādhi and manifested the power of numinous transformation. With his right hand he grasped the Wondrous Joy world and placed it in this land.

6. Those congregations of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas in that Wondrous Joy world, as well as the other gods and humans who had attained numinous penetration, all said, “O World-honored One, who is taking us away? Please save us!”

Akṣobhya Buddha said, “This is not my doing. This is being done through the numinous power of Vimalakīrti.

The others, who had not attained numinous penetration, were unaware of where they were going.

Although the Wondrous Joy world entered this land, it did not expand or contract. At this the [sahā] world was not constricted, but unchanged from before.

7. At this point Śākyamuni Buddha told the great congregations, “You may view the Wondrous Joy world, Akṣobhya Tathāgata, and the ornamentations of that country, and the pure practices of the bodhisattvas and purity of the disciples.”

They all said, “Yes, we see them.”

The Buddha said, “Bodhisattvas who wish to attain pure buddha lands such as this should learn the path that has been practiced by Akṣobhya Tathā-gata.”

When this Wondrous Joy world was manifested, fourteen nayutas of people in the sahā world generated the intention to achieve anuttarā samyak-saṃbodhi, all wishing to be born in the Wondrous Joy buddha land. Śākyamuni Buddha predicted for them, saying, “You will be born in that country.”

Then the benefits in response of having the Wondrous Joy world in this country were finished, and it returned to its original place, as seen by the entire congregation.

8. The Buddha told Śāriputra, “Did you see this Wondrous Joy world and Akṣobhya Buddha?”

Śāriputra said, “Yes, I saw them. World-honored One, I wish that every sentient being could attain a pure land like that of Akṣobhya Buddha and obtain the power of numinous penetration like Vimalakīrti.

World-honored One, we have quickly attained good benefit, seeing these people and making offerings directly to them. Those sentient beings who hear this sutra, either now [while you are] present or after the Buddha’s nirvana, will also attain good benefit. How much more so if, after hearing it, they devoutly understand, accept, recite, explain, and practice according to it!

9. “Those who get hold of this sutra will attain the [entire] storehouse (i.e., treasury) of the Dharma jewel.

“If one reads, recites, explains its meaning, or practices according to its explanation, one will be protected and remembered by the buddhas. To make offerings to such a person—understand that this is to make offerings to the Buddha. To copy and maintain these fascicles of scripture—understand that the Tathāgata is present in that room. Those who hear this sutra and are able to become joyful accordingly will achieve omniscience. If one is able to devoutly understand this sutra, even just a single four-phrase verse (gāthā), and explain it to others—understand that such people will immediately receive a prediction of [their future achievement of] anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi.”