Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra | 2

53 Past Buddhas

[4] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"In the distant past -- innumerable, incalculable and inconceivable kalpas ago -- a Tathagata named Dipankara appeared in the world. Having taught and freed innumerable beings and led them all along the path of Enlightenment, he passed into Nirvana.

Next appeared a Tathagata named Far-reaching Light. After him came Moonlight, and then Sandalwood-Incense, King of Beautiful Mountains, Crown of Mount Śumeru, Brilliant like Mount Śumeru, Colour of the Moon, Right Recollection, Free of Defilement, Non-attachment, Dragon-deva, Nocturnal Light, Peaceful and Brilliant Peak, Immovable Ground, Exquisite Beryl Flower, Golden Beryl Lustre, Gold-treasury, Flaming Light, Fiery Origin, Earth-shaking, Image of the Moon, Sound of the Sun, Flower of Freedom, Glorious Light, Miraculous Power of the Ocean of Enlightenment, Water Light, Great Fragrance, Free of Dust and Defilement, Abandoning Enmity, Flame of Jewels, Beautiful Peak, Heroic Stance, Merit-possessing Wisdom, Outshining the Sun and the Moon, Beryl Light of the Sun and the Moon, Supreme Beryl Light, Highest Peak, Flower of Enlightenment, Brightness of the Moon, Sunlight, King of the Colours of Flowers, Moonlight on the Water, Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance, Practice of Removing Hindrances, Pure Faith, Storage of Good, Majestic Glory, Wisdom of the Dharma, Call of the Phoenix, Roar of the Lion, Voice of the Dragon and Dwelling-in-the-world.

All these Buddhas have already passed into Nirvana.

Lokeshvararaja Buddha and Dharmakāra

[5] "Then appeared a Buddha named Lokeshvararaja, the Tathagata, Arhat, Perfectly Enlightened One, Possessed of Wisdom and Practice, Perfected One, Knower of the World, Unsurpassed One, Tamer of Men, Master of Gods and Men, Buddha and World-Honoured One.

"At that time there was a king, who, having heard the Buddha's exposition of the Dharma, rejoiced in his heart and awakened aspiration for the highest, perfect Enlightenment. He renounced his kingdom and the throne, and became a monk named Dharmakāra.

Having superior intelligence, courage and wisdom, he distinguished himself in the world. He went to see the Tathagata Lokeshvararaja, knelt down at his feet, walked round him three times keeping him always on his right, prostrated himself on the ground, and putting his palms together in worship, praised the Buddha with these verses:

Sanbutsuge - Verses praising the Buddha

The shining face of the Buddha is glorious;
Boundless is his magnificence.
Radiant splendour such as his
Is beyond all comparison.

The sun, the moon and the mani-jewel,
Though shining with dazzling brightness,
Are completely dimmed and obscured
As if they were a pile of ink-sticks

The countenance of the Tathagata
Is beyond compare in the whole world.
The great voice of the Enlightened One
Resounds throughout the ten regions.

His morality, learning, endeavour,
Absorption in meditation, wisdom
And magnificent virtues have no equal;
They are wonderful and unsurpassed.

He meditates deeply and directly
On the oceanic Dharma of all the Buddhas.
He knows its depth and breadth
And penetrates to its farthest end.

Ignorance, greed and anger
Are forever absent in the World-Honoured One.
He is the lion, the most valiant of all men;
His glorious virtue is unlimited.

His meritorious achievements are vast;
His wisdom is deep and sublime.
His light, with awe-inspiring glory, 
Shakes the universe of a thousand million worlds.

I resolve to become a Buddha,
Equal in attainment to you, O holy king of the Dharma,
To save living beings from birth-and-death,
And to lead them all to emancipation.

My discipline in giving, mind-control,
Moral virtues, forbearance and effort,
And also in meditation and wisdom,
Shall be supreme and unsurpassed.

I vow that, when I have become a Buddha,
I shall carry out this promise everywhere;
And to all fear-ridden beings
Shall I give great peace.

Even though there are Buddhas,
A thousand million Koṭis in number,
And multitudes of great sages
Countless as the sands of the Ganges,
I shall make offerings
To all those Buddhas.
I shall seek the supreme Way
Resolutely and tirelessly.

Even though the Buddha-lands are as innumerable
As the sands of the Ganges,
And other regions and worlds
Are also without number,
My light shall shine everywhere,
Pervading all those lands.
Such being the result of my efforts,
My glorious power shall be immeasurable.

When I have become a Buddha,
My land shall be most exquisite,
And its people wonderful and unexcelled;
The seat of Enlightenment shall be supreme.
My land, being like Nirvana itself,
Shall be beyond comparison.
I take pity on living beings
And resolve to save them all.

Those who come from the ten quarters
Shall find joy and serenity of heart;
When they reach my land,
They shall dwell in peace and happiness.
I beg you, the Buddha, to become my witness
And to vouch for the truth of my aspiration.
Having now made my vows to you,
I will strive to fulfil them.

The World-Honoured Ones in the ten quarters
Have unimpeded wisdom;
I call upon those Honoured Ones
To bear witness to my intention.
Even though I must remain
In a state of extreme pain,
I will diligently practice,
Enduring all hardships with tireless vigour."

Dharmakāra's resolution to become a Buddha

[6] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"Having spoken these verses, the Bhikṣu Dharmakāra said to the Buddha Lokeshvararaja:

'Respectfully, World-Honoured One, I announce that I have awakened aspiration for the highest, perfect Enlightenment.

I beseech you to explain the Dharma to me fully, so that I can perform practices for the establishment of a pure Buddha-land adorned with infinite excellent qualities.

So please teach me how to attain Enlightenment quickly and to remove the roots of afflictions of birth-and-death for all.'"

The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"At that time the Buddha Lokeshvararaja replied to the Bhikṣu Dharmakāra:

'You yourself should know by what practice you can establish a glorious Buddha-land.'

The Bhikṣu said to the Buddha:

'That is far too vast and deep for my comprehension. I sincerely beseech you, World-Honoured One, to explain in detail the practices by which Buddhas, Tathagatas, established their pure lands. After I hear that, I wish to practice as instructed and so fulfil my aspirations.'

"At that time the Buddha Lokeshvararaja recognized the Bhikṣu Dharmakāra's noble and high aspirations, and taught him as follows:

'If, for example, one keeps on bailing water out of a great ocean with a pint-measure, one will be able to reach the bottom after many kalpas and then obtain rare treasures.

Likewise, if one sincerely, diligently and unceasingly seeks the Way, one will be able to reach one's destination. What vow is there which cannot be fulfilled?'

"Then the Buddha Lokeshvararaja explained in detail the greater and lesser aspects of two hundred and ten Koṭis of Buddha-lands, together with the good and evil natures of heavenly and human beings living there.

He revealed them all to the Bhikṣu just as he had requested.

Then the Bhikṣu, having heard the Buddha's exposition of the glorious pure land and also having seen all of them, resolved upon his supreme, unsurpassed vows. His mind being serene and his aspirations free of attachment, he was unexcelled throughout the world. For five full kalpas he contemplated the vows, and then chose the pure practices for the establishment of his Buddha-land."

Ānanda asked the Buddha:

"How long was the life-span of beings in the land of the Buddha Lokeshvararaja?"

The Buddha replied: "The length of life of that Buddha was forty-two kalpas."

He continued:

"After that Dharmakāra Bodhisattva adopted the pure practices which had led to the establishment of the excellent lands of two hundred and ten Koṭis of Buddhas.

When he had finished this task, he went to the Buddha, knelt down at his feet, walked round him three times, joined his palms in worship and sat down.

He then said to the Buddha: 'I have adopted the pure practices for the establishment of a glorious Buddha-land.'

The Buddha said to him:

'You should proclaim this. Know that now is the right time. Encourage and delight the entire assembly. Hearing this, other bodhisattvas will practice this Dharma and so fulfil their innumerable great vows.'

The Bhikṣu replied:

'I beg you to grant me your attention. Now I will fully proclaim my vows.'

Dharmakāra's 48 Vows

[7] (1) If, when I attain Buddhahood, there should be in my land a hell, a realm of hungry spirits or a realm of animals, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(2) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should after death fall again into the three evil realms, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(3) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not all be the colour of pure gold, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(4) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not all be of one appearance, and should there be any difference in beauty, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(5) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not remember all their previous lives, not knowing even the events which occurred during the previous hundred thousand Koṭis of nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(6) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not possess the divine eye of seeing even a hundred thousand Koṭis of nayutas of Buddha-lands, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(7) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not possess the divine ear of hearing the teachings of at least a hundred thousand Koṭis of nayutas of Buddhas and should not remember all of them, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(8) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not possess the faculty of knowing the thoughts of others, at least those of all sentient beings living in a hundred thousand Koṭis of nayutas of Buddha-lands, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(9) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not possess the supernatural power of travelling anywhere in one instant, even beyond a hundred thousand Koṭis of nayutas of Buddha-lands, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(10) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should give rise to thoughts of self-attachment, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(11) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not dwell in the Definitely Assured State and unfailingly reach Nirvana, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(12) If, when I attain Buddhahood, my light should be limited, unable to illuminate at least a hundred thousand Koṭis of nayutas of Buddha-lands, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(13) If, when I attain Buddhahood, my life-span should be limited, even to the extent of a hundred thousand Koṭis of nayutas of kalpas, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(14) If, when I attain Buddhahood, the number of the shravakas in my land could be known, even if all the beings and Pratyekabuddhas living in this universe of a thousand million worlds should count them during a hundred thousand kalpas, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(15) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should have limited life-spans, except when they wish to shorten them in accordance with their original vows, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(16) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should even hear of any wrongdoing, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(17) If, when I attain Buddhahood, innumerable Buddhas in the land of the ten quarters should not all praise and glorify my Name, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(18) If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, desire to be born in my land, and call my Name, even ten times, should not be born there, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment. Excluded, however, are those who commit the five gravest offences and abuse the right Dharma.

(19) If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters, who awaken aspiration for Enlightenment, do various meritorious deeds and sincerely desire to be born in my land, should not, at their death, see me appear before them surrounded by a multitude of sages, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(20) If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the lands of the ten quarters who, having heard my Name, concentrate their thoughts on my land, plant roots of virtue, and sincerely transfer their merits towards my land with a desire to be born there, should not eventually fulfill their aspiration, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(21) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not all be endowed with the thirty-two physical characteristics of a Great Man, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(22) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the Buddha-lands of other quarters who visit my land should not ultimately and unfailingly reach the Stage of Becoming a Buddha after One More Life, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

Excepted are those who wish to teach and guide sentient beings in accordance with their original vows:

For they wear the armour of great vows, accumulate merits, deliver all beings from birth-and-death, visit Buddha-lands to perform the bodhisattva practices, make offerings to Buddhas, Tathagatas, throughout the ten quarters, enlighten uncountable sentient beings as numerous as the sands of the River Ganges, and establish them in the highest, perfect Enlightenment.

Such bodhisattvas transcend the course of practice of the ordinary bodhisattvas, manifest the practices of all the bodhisattva stages, and cultivate the virtues of Samantabhadra.

(23) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in my land, in order to make offerings to Buddhas through my transcendent power, should not be able to reach immeasurable and innumerable Koṭis of nayutas of Buddha-lands in as short a time as it takes to eat a meal, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(24) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in my land should not be able, as they wish, to perform meritorious acts of worshipping the Buddhas with the offerings of their choice, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(25) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in my land should not be able to expound the Dharma with the all-knowing wisdom, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(26) If, when I attain Buddhahood, there should be any bodhisattva in my land not endowed with the body of the Vajra-god Nārāyaṇa, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(27) If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings should be able, even with the divine eye, to distinguish by name calculate by number all the myriads of manifestations provided for the humans and devas in my land, which are glorious and resplendent and have exquisite details beyond description, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(28) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in my land, even those with little store of merit, should not be able to see the Bodhi-tree which has countless colours and is four million li in height, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(29) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in my land should not acquire eloquence and wisdom in upholding sutras and reciting and expounding them, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(30) If, when I attain Buddhahood, the wisdom and eloquence of bodhisattvas in my land should be limited, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(31) If, when I attain Buddhahood, my land should not be resplendent, revealing in its light all the immeasurable, innumerable and inconceivable Buddha-lands, like images reflected in a clear mirror, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(32) If, when I attain Buddhahood, all the myriads of manifestations in my land, from the ground to the sky, such as palaces, pavilions, ponds, streams and trees, should not be composed of both countless treasures, which surpass in supreme excellence anything in the worlds of humans and devas, and of a hundred thousand kinds of aromatic wood, whose fragrance pervades all the worlds of the ten quarters, causing all bodhisattvas who sense it to perform Buddhist practices, then may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(33) If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters, who have been touched by my light, should not feel peace and happiness in their bodies and minds surpassing those of humans and devas, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(34) If, when I attain Buddhahood, sentient beings in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters, who have heard my Name, should not gain the bodhisattva's insight into the non-arising of all dharmas and should not acquire various profound dharanis, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(35) If, when I attain Buddhahood, women in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters who, having heard my Name, rejoice in faith, awaken aspiration for Enlightenment and wish to renounce womanhood, should after death be reborn again as women, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(36) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters, who have heard my Name, should not, after the end of their lives, always perform sacred practices until they reach Buddhahood, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(37) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in the immeasurable and inconceivable Buddha-lands of the ten quarters, who having heard my Name, prostrate themselves on the ground to revere and worship me, rejoice in faith, and perform bodhisattva practices, should not be respected by all devas and people of the world, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(38) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not obtain clothing, as soon as such a desire arises in their minds, and if the fine robes as prescribed and praised by the Buddhas should not be spontaneously provided for them to wear, and if these clothes should need sewing, bleaching, dyeing or washing, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(39) If, when I attain Buddhahood, humans and devas in my land should not enjoy happiness and pleasure comparable to that of a monk who has exhausted all the passions, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(40) If, when I attain Buddhahood, the bodhisattvas in my land who wish to see the immeasurable glorious Buddha-lands of the ten quarters, should not be able to view all of them reflected in the jewelled trees, just as one sees one's face reflected in a clear mirror, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(41) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should, at any time before becoming Buddhas, have impaired, inferior or incomplete sense organs, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(42) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not all attain the samadhi called 'pure emancipation' and, while dwelling therein, without losing concentration, should not be able to make offerings in one instant to immeasurable and inconceivable Buddhas, World-Honoured Ones, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(43) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not be reborn into noble families after their death, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(44) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not rejoice so greatly as to dance and perform the bodhisattva practices and should not acquire stores of merit, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(45) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not all attain the samadhi called 'universal equality' and, while dwelling therein, should not always be able to see all the immeasurable and inconceivable Tathagatas until those bodhisattvas, too, become Buddhas, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(46) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in my land should not be able to hear spontaneously whatever teachings they may wish, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(47) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not instantly reach the Stage of Non-retrogression, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

(48) If, when I attain Buddhahood, bodhisattvas in the lands of the other quarters who hear my Name should not instantly gain the first, second and third insights into the nature of dharmas and firmly abide in the truths realized by all the Buddhas, may I not attain perfect Enlightenment."

Juseige - Verses confirming the 48 Vows

[8] The Buddha said to Ānanda: "The Bhikṣu Dharmakāra, having thus proclaimed those vows, spoke the following verses:

I have made vows, unrivalled in all the world;
I will certainly reach the unsurpassed Way.
If these vows should not be fulfilled,
May I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

If I should not become a great benefactor
In lives to come for immeasurable kalpas
To save the poor and the afflicted everywhere,
May I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

When I attain Buddhahood,
My Name shall be heard throughout the ten quarters;
Should there be any place where it is not heard,
May I not attain perfect Enlightenment.

Free of greed and with deep, perfect mindfulness
And pure wisdom, I will perform the sacred practices;
I will seek to attain the unsurpassed Way
And become the teacher of devas and humans.

With my divine power I will display great light,
Illuminating the worlds without limit,
And dispel the darkness of the three defilements;
Thus I will deliver all beings from misery.

Having obtained the eye of wisdom,
I will remove the darkness of ignorance;
I will block all the evil paths
And open the gate to the good realms.

When merits and virtues are perfected,
My majestic light shall radiate in the ten quarters,
Outshining the sun and the moon
And surpassing the brilliance of the heavens.

I will open the Dharma-store for the multitudes
And endow them all with treasures of merit.
Being always among the multitudes,
I will proclaim the Dharma with the lion's roar.

I will make offerings to all the Buddhas,
Thereby acquiring roots of virtue.
When my vows are fulfilled and my wisdom perfected,
I shall be the sovereign of the three worlds.

Like your unhindered wisdom, O Buddha,
Mine shall reach everywhere, illuminating all;
May my supreme wisdom
Be like yours, Most Excellent Honoured One.

If these vows are to be fulfilled,
Let this universe of a thousand million worlds shake in response 
And let all the devas in heaven
Rain down rare and marvellous flowers."