Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra | 3

Dharmakāra's practices of the Bodhisattva Path

[9] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"As soon as the Bhikṣu Dharmakāra spoke those verses, the entire earth shook in six ways, and a rain of wonderful flowers fell from heaven, scattering everywhere. Spontaneous music was heard, and a voice in the sky said, 'Surely you will attain the highest, perfect Enlightenment. "

Then the Bhikṣu Dharmakāra kept all those great vows which were sincere, unfailing and unsurpassed in the whole world, and intensely aspired to attain Nirvana.

"Then, Ānanda, after proclaiming and establishing those universal vows in the presence of the Buddha Lokeshvararaja before the multitude of beings, including the eight kinds of superhuman beings, such as devas and dragon-spirits, and also Mara and Brahma, the Bhikṣu Dharmakāra was solely intent on producing a glorious and exquisite land.

The Buddha-land which he sought to establish was vast in extent, unsurpassed and supremely wonderful, always present and subject neither to decay nor change.

During inconceivable and innumerable kalpas, he cultivated the immeasurable meritorious practices of the Bodhisattva Path.

"He did not harbour any thought of greed, hatred or cruelty; nor did he allow any ideas of greed, hatred or cruelty to arise.

He was unattached to any form, sound, smell, taste, touch or idea. Possessed of the power to persevere, he did not avoid undergoing various afflictions. Having little desire for his own sake, he knew contentment.

Without any impure thought, enmity or stupidity, he dwelt continually in tranquil samadhi. His wisdom was unobstructed, and his mind free of falsehood and deceitfulness.

With an expression of tenderness in his face and with kindness in his speech, he spoke to others in consonance with their inner thoughts.

Courageous and diligent, strong-willed and untiring, he devoted himself solely to the pursuit of the pure Dharma, thereby benefiting a multitude of beings.

He revered the Three Treasures, respected his teachers and elders, and thus adorned his practices with a great store of merits. By so doing, he enabled sentient beings to partake of it.

"He dwelt in the realization that all dharmas are empty, devoid of distinctive features, and not to be sought after, and that they neither act nor arise; he thus realized that all dharmas are like magical creations.

He avoided all wrong speech that would bring harm upon himself or others or both; he engaged in right speech that would bring benefit to himself or others or both.

He abandoned his kingdom and renounced the throne, leaving behind wealth and sensuous pleasures. Practicing the Six Paramitas himself, he taught others to do the same. During innumerable kalpas, he accumulated merits and amassed virtues.

"Wherever he was born, an immeasurable stock of treasure spontaneously appeared as he wished. He taught countless sentient beings and guided them on the path of the highest, true Enlightenment.

He was reborn as a rich man, a lay devotee, a member of the highest caste or of a noble family, a kṣatriya king, a wheel-turning monarch, a king of one of the six heavens in the world of desire, or even higher, as a Brahma-king.

He revered and worshipped all Buddhas by making the four kinds of offering to them. The merit he thus acquired was indescribably great.

Fragrance issued from his mouth as from a blue lotus-flower, and every pore of his body emitted the scent of sandalwood, which permeated innumerable worlds. His appearance was majestic, and his physical characteristics and marks were truly wonderful.

From his hands, inexhaustible treasures, clothes, food and drink, rare and exquisite flowers and incense, silken canopies, banners, and other ornaments were produced.

In such manifestations he was unrivalled among all heavenly and human beings. He thus attained the command of all dharmas."

Dharmakāra's attainment of Buddhahood

[10] Ānanda asked the Buddha:

"Has the Bodhisattva Dharmakāra already attained Buddhahood and then passed into Nirvana? Or has he not yet attained Buddhahood? Or is he dwelling somewhere at present?"

The Buddha replied to Ānanda:

"The Bodhisattva Dharmakāra has already attained Buddhahood and is now dwelling in a western Buddha-land, called 'Peace and Bliss,' a hundred thousand Koṭis of lands away from here."

Ānanda further asked the Buddha, "How much time has passed since he attained Buddhahood?"

The Buddha replied, "Since he attained Buddhahood, about ten kalpas have passed."

He continued:

"In that Buddha-land, the earth is composed of seven jewels --namely, gold, silver, beryl, coral, amber, agate and ruby -- which have spontaneously appeared. The land itself is so vast, spreading boundlessly to the farthest extent, that it is impossible to know its limit.

All the rays of light from those jewels intermingle and create manifold reflections, producing a dazzling illumination.

Those pure, superb and exquisite adornments are unsurpassed in all the worlds of the ten quarters. They are the finest of all gems, and are like those of the Sixth Heaven.

In that land, there are no mountains, such as Mount Śumeru and the Encircling Adamantine Mountains. Likewise, there are neither oceans or seas, nor valleys or gorges. But one can see those manifestations by the Buddha's power if one so wishes.

In that land there is no hell; neither are there realms of hungry spirits and animals nor other adverse conditions. Neither do the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter exist. It is always moderate and pleasant, never cold or hot."

Then, Ānanda asked the Buddha, "If, World-Honoured One, there is no Mount Śumeru in that land, what sustains the Heaven of the Four Kings and the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods?"

The Buddha said to Ānanda, "What sustains Yama, which is the Third Heaven of the world of desire, and other heavens up to the Highest Heaven of the world of form?"

Ānanda answered: "The consequences of karma are inconceivable."

The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"Inconceivable indeed are the consequences of karma, and so are the worlds of the Buddhas. By the power of meritorious deeds, sentient beings in that land dwell on the ground of karmic reward. That is why those heavens exist without Mount Śumeru."

Ānanda continued, "I do not doubt this myself but have asked you about it simply because I wished to remove such doubts for the benefit of sentient beings in the future."

Amida's light

[11] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"The majestic light of the Buddha Amitāyus is the most exalted. No other Buddha's light can match his.

The light of some Buddhas illuminates a hundred Buddha-lands, and that of others, a thousand Buddha-lands.

Briefly, that of Amitāyus illuminates the eastern Buddha-land, as numerous as the sands of the River Ganges. In the same way, it illuminates the Buddha-lands in the south, west and north, in each of the four intermediate quarters, above and below.

Further, the light of some Buddhas extends seven feet; that of others, one yojana, or two, three, four or five yojanas; and the distance covered increases in this way until the light of some Buddhas illuminates one Buddha-land.

"For this reason, Amitāyus is called by the following names:

the Buddha of Infinite Light, the Buddha of Boundless Light, the Buddha of Unhindered Light, the Buddha of Incomparable Light, the Buddha of the Light of the King of Flame, the Buddha of Pure Light, the Buddha of the Light of Joy, the Buddha of Light of Wisdom, the Buddha of Unceasing Light, the Buddha of Inconceivable Light, the Buddha of Ineffable Light, and the Buddha of the Light Outshining the Sun and the Moon.

"If, sentient beings encounter his light, their three defilements are removed; they feel tenderness, joy and pleasure; and good thoughts arise. If sentient beings in the three realms of suffering see his light, they will all be relieved and freed from affliction. At the end of their lives, they all reach emancipation.

"The light of Amitāyus shines brilliantly, illuminating all the Buddha-lands of the ten quarters. There is no place where it is not perceived.

I am not the only one who now praises his light. All the Buddhas, shravakas, Pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas praise and glorify it in the same way.

If sentient beings, having heard of the majestic virtue of his light, glorify it continually, day and night, with sincerity of heart, they will be able to attain birth in his land, as they wish.

Then the multitudes of bodhisattvas and shravakas will praise their excellent virtue.

Later, when they attain Buddhahood, all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas in the ten quarters will praise their light, just as I now praise the light of Amitāyus."

The Buddha continued:

"The majestic glory of the light of Amitāyus could not be exhaustively described even if I praised it continuously, day and night, for the period of one kalpa."

Amida's life-span

[12] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"The life of Amitāyus is so long that it is impossible for anyone to calculate it.

To give an illustration, let us suppose that all the innumerable sentient beings in the worlds of the ten quarters were reborn in human form and that everyone became a shravaka or Pratyekabuddha.

Even if they assembled in one place, concentrated their thoughts, and exercised the power of their wisdom to the utmost to reckon the length of the Buddha's life, even after a thousand million kalpas they could still not reach its limit.

So it is with the life-span of shravakas, bodhisattvas, heavenly beings and human beings in his land. Similarly, it is not to be encompassed by any means of reckoning or by any metaphorical expression.

Again, the number of the shravakas and bodhisattvas living there is incalculable. They are fully endowed with transcendent wisdom and free in their exercise of majestic power; they could hold the entire world in their hands."

The number of the audience at the first assembly

[13] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"The number of shravakas at the first teaching assembly of that Buddha was incalculable; so was the number of the bodhisattvas.

Even if an immeasurable and uncountable number of humans multiplied by millions of Koṭis should all become like Maha Maudgalyayana and together reckon their number during innumerable nayutas of kalpas, or even until they attain Nirvana, they could still not know that number.

Let us suppose that there is a great ocean, infinitely deep and wide, and that one takes a drop of water out of it with a hundredth part of a split hair. How would you compare that drop of water with the rest of the ocean?"

Ānanda replied:

"When the drop of water is compared with the great ocean, it is impossible even for one skilled in astronomy or mathematics to know the proportion, or for anyone to describe it by any rhetorical or metaphorical expressions."

The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"Even if people like Maha Maudgalyayana were to count for millions of Koṭis of kalpas, the number of the shravakas and bodhisattvas at the first teaching assembly who could be counted would be like a drop of water, and the number of sages yet to be counted would be like the rest of the ocean."

Jewelled trees

[14] Again, seven-jewelled trees completely fill that land. There are some made of gold, some of silver, and others made of beryl, crystal, coral, ruby or agate. There are also trees made of two to seven kinds of jewels.

"There are gold trees with leaves, flowers and fruits of silver; silver trees with leaves, flowers and fruits of gold; beryl trees with leaves, flowers and fruits of crystal; crystal trees with leaves, flowers and fruits of beryl; coral trees with leaves, flowers and fruits of ruby; ruby trees with leaves, flowers and fruits of beryl; agate trees with leaves, flowers and fruits made of various jewels.

"Again, there are jewelled trees with purple-gold roots, white-silver trunks, beryl branches, crystal twigs, coral leaves, ruby flowers and agate fruits.

There are jewelled trees with white-silver roots, beryl trunks, crystal branches, coral twigs, ruby leaves, agate flowers and purple-gold fruits.

There are jewelled trees with beryl roots, crystal trunks, coral branches, ruby twigs, agate leaves, purple-gold flowers and white-silver fruits.

There are jewelled trees with crystal roots, coral trunks, ruby branches, agate twigs, purple-gold leaves, white-silver flowers and beryl fruits.

There are jewelled trees with coral roots, ruby trunks, agate branches, purple-gold twigs, white-silver leaves, beryl flowers and crystal fruits.

There are jewelled trees with ruby roots, agate trunks, purple-gold branches, white-silver twigs, beryl leaves, crystal flowers and coral fruits.

There are jewelled trees with agate roots, purple-gold trunks, white-silver branches, beryl twigs, crystal leaves, coral flowers and ruby fruits.

"These jewelled trees are in parallel rows, their trunks are evenly spaced, their branches are in level layers, their leaves are symmetrical, their flowers harmonize, and their fruits are well arranged.

The brilliant colours of these trees are so luxuriant that it is impossible to see them all. When a pure breeze wafts through them, exquisite sounds of the pentatonic scales, such as kung and shang, spontaneously arise and make symphonic music.

The Bodhi-tree

[15] "Again, the Bodhi-tree of the Buddha Amitāyus is four million li in height and five thousand yojanas in circumference at its base. Its branches spread two hundred thousand li in each of the four directions.

It is a natural cluster of all kinds of precious stones and is adorned with the kings of jewels, namely, moon-light mani gems and ocean-supporting-wheel gems.

Everywhere between its twigs hang jewelled ornaments with a thousand million different colours intermingling in various ways, and their innumerable beams shine with the utmost brilliance.

The Bodhi-tree itself is covered with nets of rare, excellent gems, and on it appear all kinds of ornaments in accordance with one's wishes.

"When a gentle breeze wafts through its branches and leaves, innumerable exquisite Dharma-sounds arise, which spread far and wide, pervading all the other Buddha-lands in the ten quarters.

Those who hear the sounds attain penetrating insight into dharmas and dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression. Until they attain Buddhahood, their senses of hearing will remain clear and sharp, and they will not suffer from any pain or sickness.

Whether they hear the sounds of the Bodhi-tree, see its colours, smell its perfumes, taste its flavours, perceive its lights or conceive of the Dharma in their minds, they all attain profoundly penetrating insight into dharmas and dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression.

Until they attain Buddhahood, their six sense-organs will remain sharp and clear, and they will not suffer from any pain or disease.

"Ānanda, when humans and devas of that land see the Bodhi-tree, they will attain three insights: first, insight into reality through hearing the sacred sounds; second, insight into reality by being in accord with it; and third, the insight into the non-arising of all dharmas.

These benefits are all bestowed by the majestic power of Amitāyus, the power of his primal vow, his perfectly fulfilled vow, his clear and manifest vow, his firm vow, and his accomplished vow."

The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"A king of this world possesses a hundred thousand kinds of music.

From the realm ruled by a wheel-turning monarch up to the Sixth Heaven, the sounds of the music produced in each higher realm are ten million Koṭis of times superior to those of a lower one.

The thousands of varieties of musical sound produced in the Sixth Heaven are a thousand Koṭis of times inferior to one sound produced from the seven-jewelled trees in the land of Amitāyus.

Again, in that land, there are thousands of varieties of natural music, which are all, without exception, sounds of the Dharma.

They are clear and serene, full of depth and resonance, delicate and harmonious; they are the most excellent of sounds in all the worlds of the ten quarters.

Glorious adornments

[16] "Again, the halls, monasteries, palaces and pavilions are spontaneous apparitions, all adorned with the seven jewels and hung with curtains of various other jewels, such as pearls and moon-bright mani gems.

"Inside and out, to right and left, are bathing pools:

Some of them are ten yojanas in length, breadth and depth; some are twenty yojanas, others, thirty, and so on, until we come to those measuring a hundred thousand yojanas in length, breadth and depth. They are brimful of the water of eight excellent qualities, clear, fragrant and tasting like nectar.

"There are golden pools with beds of silver sand; silver pools with beds of golden sand; crystal pools with beds of beryl sand; beryl pools with beds of crystal sand; coral pools with beds of amber sand; amber pools with beds of coral sand; agate pools with beds of ruby sand; ruby pools with beds of agate sand; white-jade pools with beds of purple-gold sand; purple-gold pools with beds of white-jade sand. Others are composed of two to seven jewels.

"On the banks of these pools are sandalwood trees, whose flowers and leaves hang down and diffuse perfumes everywhere. Heavenly lotuses of blue, pink, yellow and white bloom profusely in various tints and tones, completely covering the surface of the water.

"If bodhisattvas and shravakas in that land enter the jewel-ponds and wish the water to rise to their ankles, it rises to their ankles. If they wish it to rise to their knees, it rises to their knees.

If they wish it to rise to their waists, it rises to their waists. If they wish it to rise to their necks, it rises to their necks. If they wish it to pour over their bodies, it spontaneously pours over their bodies. If they wish it to recede, it recedes. Its temperature is moderate, cool or warm, according to their wishes.

The water comforts the body and refreshes the mind, washing away their mental defilements. Clear and pure, the water is so transparent that it seems formless.

The jewel-sand shines so brightly that even the depth of the water cannot prevent its brilliance from being seen.

The rippling water forms meandering streams, which join and flow into each other. Their movement is peaceful and quiet, neither too fast nor too slow, and their ripples spontaneously produce innumerable wonderful sounds.

One can hear whatever sound one wishes:

For example, some hear the sound 'Buddha,' some hear the sound 'Dharma,' some 'Sangha,' others hear 'tranquillity,' 'emptiness and non-self,' 'great compassion,' 'paramita,' 'ten powers,' 'fearlessness,' 'special qualities,' 'supernatural powers,' 'non-activity,' 'neither arising nor perishing,' 'insight into the non-arising of all dharmas,' and so on until the various sounds of the wonderful Dharma, such as 'the sprinkling of nectar upon the head of a bodhisattva,' are heard.

As one hears those sounds, one attains immeasurable joy and accords with the principles of purity, absence of desires, extinction, and reality.

One is in harmony with the Three Treasures, the Buddha's powers, fearlessness and special qualities, and also with supernatural powers and other methods of practice for bodhisattvas and shravakas.

Not even the names of the three realms of suffering are heard there, but only Nirvāṇic sounds of bliss. For this reason, that land is called 'Peace and Bliss'."