Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra | 1

Preface

[1] Thus have I heard. 

At one time the Buddha was staying on the Vulture Peak in Rajagriha with a large company of twelve thousand monks.

They were all great sages who had already attained supernatural powers. Among them were the following:

the Venerable Ajnata-kaundinya, the Venerable Aśvajit, the Venerable Vaspa, the Venerable Mahanama, the Venerable Bhadrajit, the Venerable Vimala, the Venerable Yashodeva, the Venerable Subahu, the Venerable Purnaka, the Venerable Gavampati, the Venerable Uruvilva-Kaśyapa, the Venerable Gaya-Kaśyapa, the Venerable Nadi-kashyapa, the Venerable Maha Kaśyapa, the Venerable Śāriputra, the Venerable Maha Maudgalyayana, the Venerable Kapphina, the Venerable Mahākauṣṭhila, the Venerable Maha Katyāyana, the Venerable Mahacunda, the Venerable Purna-maitrayaniputra, the Venerable Aniruddha, the Venerable Revata, the Venerable Kimpila, the Venerable Amogha-raja, the Venerable Parayanika, the Venerable Vakkula, the Venerable Nanda, the Venerable Svagata, the Venerable Rāhula and the Venerable Ānanda. All of these were Elders.

Mahāyāna bodhisattvas also accompanied the Buddha, including all those of this Auspicious Kalpa, such as the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva Manjushri and the Bodhisattva Maitreya.

There were also the sixteen lay bodhisattvas, such as Bhadrapala, as well as the Bodhisattva Profound Thought, the Bodhisattva Wisdom of Faith, the Bodhisattva Voidness, the Bodhisattva Bloom of Supernatural Power, the Bodhisattva Hero of Light, the Bodhisattva Superior wisdom, the Bodhisattva Banner of Wisdom, the Bodhisattva Tranquil Ability, the Bodhisattva Wisdom of Vows, the Bodhisattva Sweet-smelling Elephant, the Bodhisattva Hero of Treasures, the Bodhisattva Dwelling-in-the-Center, the Bodhisattva Practice of Restraint and the Bodhisattva Emancipation.

Virtues of the Bodhisattva audience

[2] Each of these bodhisattvas, following the virtues of the Mahāsattva Samantabhadra, is endowed with the immeasurable practices and vows of the Bodhisattva Path, and firmly dwells in all the meritorious deeds:

He freely travels in all the ten quarters and employs skilful means of emancipation. He enters the treasury of the Dharma of the Buddhas, and reaches the Other Shore.

Throughout the innumerable worlds he attains Enlightenment:

First, dwelling in the Tuṣita Heaven, he proclaims the true Dharma. Having left the heavenly palace, he descends into his mother's womb.

Soon after he is born from her right side, he takes seven steps. As he does so, an effulgence illuminates everywhere in the ten quarters and innumerable Buddha-lands shake in six ways.

Then he utters these words, "I will become the most honoured one in the world." 

Śakra and Brahma reverently attend him, and heavenly beings adore and worship him. He shows his ability in calculation, writing, archery and horsemanship. He is also conversant with the divine arts and well-read in many volumes. In the field outside the palace he trains himself in the martial arts, and at court shows that he also enjoys the pleasures of the senses.

When he first encounters old age, sickness and death, he realizes the impermanence of the world. He renounces his kingdom, wealth and throne, and goes into the mountains to practice the Way.

After sending back the white horse that he has been riding, together with the jewelled crown and ornaments which he has been wearing, he takes off his magnificent clothes and puts on a Dharma robe.

He cuts his hair and shaves his beard, sits upright under a tree and strives at ascetic practices for six years in accord with the traditional way.

Since he has appeared in the world of the five defilements, he behaves as the multitude. And as his body appears dirty, he takes a bath in the Golden River.

As a god bends a branch down towards him, he is able to climb up the river bank. A divine bird follows him closely to the seat of Enlightenment.

A deva takes the form of a youth and, perceiving a favourable sign, respectfully presents him with the auspicious grass. The Bodhisattva compassionately accepts it, spreads it under the Bodhi-tree and sits upon it with his legs crossed.

He emits a great flood of light to inform Mara of this. Mara and his army come to attack and tempt him, but he brings them under control with the power of wisdom and makes them all surrender.

Then he attains the supreme Dharma and realizes the highest, perfect Enlightenment.

As Śakra and Brahma request him to turn the Wheel of the Dharma, the Buddha visits various places and preaches the Dharma in his thunderous voice.

He beats the Dharma-drum, blows the Dharma-conch, brandishes the Dharma-sword, hoists the Dharma-banner, rolls the Dharma-thunder, hurls the Dharma-lightning, brings the Dharma-rain, and bestows the Dharma-gift.

At all times, he awakens the world with the sound of the Dharma. His light illuminates countless Buddha-lands, causing the entire world to quake in six ways.

It encompasses Mara's realm, shaking his palace, so that he and his host become frightened and surrender.

The bodhisattva tears asunder the net of evil, destroys wrong views, removes afflictions, flushes the gutters of desire, protects the Dharma-castle, opens the Dharma-gate, washes off the grime of the passions, and reveals the pure white Dharma.

He unifies everything in the Buddha Dharma, and thus proclaims the right teaching.

He enters the town to beg alms; he accepts even rich food to enable the donors to accumulate merit and also to show that he is a field of virtue.

Wishing to expound the Dharma, he smiles and so cures the three pains with various Dharma-medicines. He teaches that the aspiration for Enlightenment has immeasurable merit and, by giving predictions to bodhisattvas, he enables them to attain Buddhahood.

He demonstrates that he passes into Nirvana, but endlessly brings sentient beings to emancipation. In removing their defilements, planting various roots of virtue and attaining excellent merit, he displays wonderful and inconceivable works.

Furthermore, each of the bodhisattvas in the assembly is able to visit various Buddha-lands and expound teachings of the Way. His manner of practice is pure and undefiled.

Just as a magician with his perfect skill can create at will various illusions, including images of man or woman, at will, so the bodhisattva, having thoroughly learned all the methods of emancipation and attained serene awareness of reality, can freely teach and transform beings. 

He manifests himself everywhere in innumerable Buddha-lands, performing acts of compassion for sentient beings tirelessly and with diligence.

He has thus obtained complete mastery of such methods of emancipation.

He is thoroughly conversant with the essentials of the sutras for bodhisattvas and, as his fame spreads everywhere, he guides sentient beings throughout the ten quarters.

All Buddhas remember him and give him their protection. He has already dwelt in all the Buddha's abodes and performed all the deeds of the Great Sage. 

He proclaims the Tathagata's teachings, acts as a great master for other bodhisattvas and, with profound samadhi and wisdom, guides multitudes of beings.

With penetrating insight into the essential nature of dharmas, he discerns different aspects of living beings and closely watches over all the worlds. In making offerings to the Buddhas, he manifests transformed bodies like flashes of lightning. 

Having well learned the extensive wisdom of fearless and having realized the illusory nature of dharmas, he destroys Mara's nets and unties all the bonds of passion.

He rises above the stages of shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas and attains the samādhis of emptiness, non-form, and non-desire. He skilfully provides expedient means and thus reveals three distinct teachings. 

Then for those of the middle and lower stages, he demonstrates his passing into Nirvana.

But, in reality, he is non-active and non-acquisitive, and, being aware that dharmas in themselves neither arise nor perish, he realizes that they are of absolute equality.

He has attained innumerable Dhāraṇas, a hundred thousand samādhis and various kinds of spiritual faculties and wisdom.

With the Meditation of Vast and Universal Tranquillity, he enters deeply into the Dharma-treasury for bodhisattvas. After attaining the Buddha-garland Samādhi, he proclaims and expounds all the sutras.

While dwelling deep in meditation, he visualizes all the innumerable Buddhas and in an instant visits every one of them.

By elucidating and teaching the ultimate truth to sentient beings, he delivers them from the state of extreme pains, from the conditions in which suffering is so great as to prevent people from finding time for Buddhist practices, and also from the conditions in which suffering is not so great as to prevent them from doing so.

Having attained the Tathagata's thorough knowledge and eloquence, he has fluent command of languages, with which he enlightens all beings.

He is above all worldly affairs and his mind, always serene, dwells on the path of emancipation; this gives him complete control over all dharmas. 

Without being asked to do so, he becomes a good friend to each of the multitude of beings and carries their heavy karmic burdens on his back.

He upholds the Tathagata's profound Dharma-treasury and protects the seeds of Buddhahood, so that they may continue to multiply.

Having awakened great compassion for sentient beings, he kindly expounds the teaching, and endows them with the Dharma-eye.

He blocks the paths to the three evil realms, opens the gate of virtue and, without waiting for their request, provides beings with the Dharma.

He does this for the multitude of beings just as a dutiful son loves and respects his parents. He indeed looks upon sentient beings as his own self.

With such roots of virtue, all the bodhisattvas in the assembly had reached the shore of emancipation. They had acquired the Buddha's immeasurable merit and attained the sacred, pure and inconceivable wisdom.

Innumerable bodhisattvas, mahāsattvas, such as these assembled there all at once.

Glorious features of the Buddha

[3] At that time all the senses of the World-Honoured One radiated joy, his entire body appeared serene and glorious, and his august countenance looked most majestic.

Having perceived the Buddha's holy intention, the Venerable Ānanda rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, prostrated himself, and joining his palms in reverence, said to the Buddha:

"World-Honoured One, today all your senses are radiant with joy, your body is serene and glorious, and your august countenance is as majestic as a clear mirror whose brightness radiates outward and inward.

The magnificence of your dignified appearance is unsurpassed and beyond measure. I have never seen you look so superb and majestic as today.

With respect, Great Sage, this thought has occurred to me:

'Today, the World-Honoured One dwells in the rare and marvellous Dharma; today, the World-Hero dwells in the Buddha's abode; today, the World-Eye concentrates on the performance of the leader's duty; today, the World-Valiant One dwells in the supreme Bodhi; today, the One Most Honoured in Heaven realizes the Tathagata's virtue.

The Buddhas of the past, present and future contemplate each other. How can this present Buddha not contemplate all other Buddhas?' For what reason does his countenance look so majestic and brilliant?"

Then the World-Honoured One said to Ānanda:

"Tell me, Ānanda, whether some god urged you to put this question to the Buddha or whether you asked about his glorious countenance from your own wise observation."

Ānanda replied to the Buddha:

"No god came to prompt me. I asked you about this matter of my own accord."

The Buddha said:

"Well said, Ānanda. I am very pleased with your question. You have shown profound wisdom and subtle insight in asking me this wise question out of compassion for sentient beings.

As the Tathagata, I regard beings of the three worlds with boundless great compassion. The reason for my appearance in the world is to reveal teachings of the Way and save multitudes of beings by endowing them with true benefits.

Even in countless millions of kalpas it is difficult to come upon and meet a Tathagata. It is as difficult as seeing an Uḍumbara flower, which blooms very rarely. Your question is of great benefit and will enlighten all heavenly and human beings.

Ānanda, you should realize that the Tathagata's perfectly enlightened wisdom is unfathomable, capable of leading innumerable beings to emancipation, and that his penetrating insight cannot be obstructed.

With just one meal, he is able to live for a hundred thousand koṭi of kalpas, or an incalculable and immeasurable length of time, or beyond.

Even after that lapse of time, his senses will still be radiant with joy and show no signs of deterioration; his appearance will not change, and his august countenance will look just the same.

The reason for this is that the Tathagata's meditation and wisdom are perfect and boundless and that he has attained unrestricted power over all dharmas.

Ānanda, listen carefully. I shall now expound the Dharma."

Ānanda replied, "Yes, I will. With joy in my heart, I wish to hear the Dharma."