Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra | 5

Bodhisattvas in the Pure Land

[28] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"All the bodhisattvas in the land of Amitāyus will ultimately attain the Stage of Becoming a Buddha After One More Life.

Excepted are those who have made original vows for the sake of sentient beings, resolving to cultivate the merit of realizing their great vows to save all sentient beings.

Ānanda, each shravaka in the Buddha-land of Amitāyus emits light for one fathom around his body. The light of a bodhisattva shines a hundred yojanas.

There are two bodhisattvas who are the most dignified; their majestic light shines everywhere in the universe of a thousand million worlds."

Ānanda asked, "What are the names of those two bodhisattvas?"

The Buddha replied:

"One is called Avalokiteshvara and the other, Mahāsthāmaprāpta. They had both performed Bodhisattva practices in this world, and, at the end of their lives, were born by transformation in that Buddha-land.

Ānanda, the sentient beings born there all fully possess the thirty-two physical characteristics of a Great Man as well as perfect wisdom, with which they penetrate deeply into the nature of all dharmas and reach their subtle essence. Their supernatural powers know no obstruction, and their physical senses are sharp and clear.

The bodhisattvas of lesser capacities attain two insights:

Those with superior capacities attain innumerable [merits by the] insights into the non-arising of all dharmas. Those bodhisattvas will not be subject to rebirth in evil realms before they become Buddhas.

Excepted are those who seek birth in the worlds of other quarters during the turbulent period of the five defilements, manifesting their forms in the likeness of the beings there, as in this world. They can freely exercise supernatural powers and always remember their past lives."

The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"By the Buddha's power, bodhisattvas of that land go to innumerable worlds of the ten quarters, in as short a time as it takes to eat a meal, in order to pay homage and make offerings to the Buddhas, the World-Honoured Ones.

If those bodhisattvas so wish, uncountable and innumerable offerings, such as flowers, incense, music, silken canopies and banners, spontaneously appear before them as soon as they are imagined. They are rare and marvellous, unlike anything in this world. They are, accordingly, offered to the assemblies of Buddhas, bodhisattvas and shravakas.

The flowers remain in the sky and gather into canopies. Their brilliance is dazzling and their fragrance pervades everywhere. The flower-canopies range in size, from those of four hundred li in circumference up to those large enough to cover the universe of a thousand million worlds. As new flower-canopies appear, old ones disappear. 

These bodhisattvas all rejoice together, and, while poised in mid-air, play heavenly music and praise the virtues of the Buddhas with hymns accompanied by wonderful sounds. They listen to the Dharma and attain immeasurable joy.

After thus worshipping the Buddhas, they quickly return home to the Pure Land before their meal."

Amida's preaching and exquisite sounds produced by the trees, etc.

[29] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"When Amitāyus expounds the Dharma to shravakas and bodhisattvas, they all assemble in the seven-jewelled lecture-hall. There he fully expounds the teachings of the Way and proclaims the wonderful Dharma. The whole audience rejoices, comprehends, and attains Enlightenment.

At that time a breeze spontaneously arises in each of the four directions and wafts over the jewelled trees, producing sounds of the pentatonic scales and causing innumerable exquisite flowers to fall like rain and scatter everywhere.

Natural ways of glorification such as these are endlessly repeated.

All the devas bring with them a hundred thousand flowers and pieces of aromatic wood and thousands of musical instruments to use as offerings to the Buddha and the assembly of bodhisattvas and shravakas; they scatter flowers, diffuse perfumes everywhere and play various kinds of music.

They come and go in succession, giving way to each other. At such times their joy and happiness are beyond description."

Bodhisattvas' virtues

[30] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"The bodhisattvas born in that Buddha-land expound the right Dharma whenever appropriate and, because they are in accord with the wisdom of enlightenment, their expositions are infallible and free of error.

In regard to the myriads of things in that land, they have no thought of possession or attachment.

Whether going or coming, proceeding or remaining, their hearts are unattached, their acts are in accordance with their will and are unrestricted, and they have no thought of discrimination.

In them there is no idea of self or others, no idea of competition or dispute. With the heart of great compassion to benefit all living beings and with tenderness and self-control, they bear no enmity or grudge against anyone.

Free of mental hindrances, they are pure in mind and without indolence. Unbiased, noble-minded, sincere and tranquil, their hearts can revere, appreciate and enjoy the Dharma.

"Having extinguished all evil passions, they are free of those tendencies which cause one to fall into evil realms. They have accomplished all the duties of a bodhisattva and are fully endowed with immeasurable virtues.

Having reached deep meditation and gained supernatural powers, transcendent knowledge and wisdom, they are established in the seven practices leading to Enlightenment and are devoted to the Buddha Dharma.

"With the physical eye they see clearly, discerning objects without error; the sight of their heavenly eye reaches everywhere without limit; with the Dharma-eye they observe and know thoroughly the teachings of the Way; with the wisdom-eye they see truth and attain the Other Shore; with the Buddha-eye they completely realize the nature of dharmas; and with unhindered wisdom they expound the Dharma to others.

"Although they observe with the eye of equality that the three worlds are empty and non-existent, they strive to learn the Buddha Dharma and acquire varied eloquence in order to rid living beings of affliction caused by evil passions.

Since all dharmas have arisen from Suchness, the bodhisattvas see them as they really are and know skilful means of speech that will develop good habits and destroy bad ones in living beings. They dislike secular talk, enjoying only right discourse on the Dharma.

"They cultivate roots of virtue, revere the Path of the Buddha, and know that all dharmas are completely tranquil and non-existent.

Their samsaric bodies and evil passions have been extinguished together with their remaining karmic tendencies. When they hear the profound Dharma, their minds are free of doubt and fear. They are always able to cultivate great compassion which is deep and subtle, embracing everything like the sky and bearing all like the earth.

Having reached the end of the Single Path, they have gone to the Other Shore. Having cut the net of doubt, wisdom arises in their minds. Within the Buddha Dharma there is nothing that they do not comprehend.

"Their wisdom is like the ocean, and their samadhi, like the king of mountains. The light of their wisdom, being brilliant and pure, outshines the sun and the moon.

They are in complete possession of the pure, undefiled Dharma. They are like the Himalayas, because the brilliance of their virtues is reflected evenly and clearly.

They are like the great earth, because they have no discriminative thoughts, such as pure or impure, beautiful or ugly. They are like pure water, because they wash away afflictions and defilements.

They are like the king of fire, because they burn the firewood of all evil passions. They are like a great wind, because they travel throughout the worlds without hindrance.

They are like the sky, because they have no attachments. They are like lotuses, because nothing in the world can defile them. They are like a great vehicle, because they carry the multitude of beings out of birth-and-death.

They are like a heavy cloud, because they cause the great thunder of the Dharma to roar and awaken the unenlightened. They are like a great rain, because they cause the nectar of Dharma to fall like showers to nourish living beings.

They are like the Adamantine Mountains, because demons and non-Buddhists cannot move them. They are like the king of the Brahma Heaven, because they are foremost in the performance of various good deeds.

They are like the Nyāgrodha tree, because they afford shelter to all beings. They are like the Uḍumbara flower, because they rarely appear in the world and are difficult to encounter. They are like the gold-winged Garuḍa, because they subdue non-Buddhists.

They are like a flock of playful birds, because they do not store things. They are like the king of bulls, because they are invincible. They are like the king of elephants, because they conquer adversaries.

They are like the king of lions, because they fear nothing. They are like the vest sky, because their great compassion reaches everywhere without discrimination.

"They have destroyed envy by not being jealous of the superiority of others.  With singleness of heart they seek the Dharma tirelessly.

Always desiring to expound the doctrine, they never grow weary. Striking Dharma-drums and hoisting Dharma-banners, they cause the sun of wisdom to shine forth and dissipate the darkness of ignorance.

They perform the six acts of accord and respect, and always provide others with the gift of the Dharma. Strong-willed and diligent, their determination never falters.

Thus they become lamps to the world and fields of supreme merit; they always become teachers and harbour no thought of discrimination, aversion, or attachment.

They seek only the right Path, finding neither joy nor sorrow in other matters. They extract thorns of passion and give peace of mind to multitudes of beings. Because of their supreme wisdom, there is no one who does not revere them.

"They have destroyed the hindrances of the three defilements and mastered the supernatural powers.

They also possess the power of good karma from their past lives, the power of guiding others, of the will, of vowing, of employing skilful means, of continuous practice, of doing good, of meditation, of wisdom, of hearing the Dharma widely.

They also possess the power of the Six Paramitas -- generosity, morality, patience, effort, meditation and wisdom -- and the power of right mindfulness, concentration, contemplation, the supernatural faculties, transcendent knowledge, and the power to tame and train living beings in the right way, as well as other powers.

"Fully possessed of all the physical characteristics and marks, virtues, and eloquence, they have no equals. They revere and worship innumerable Buddhas and are, in turn, always praised by them.

They have completed the bodhisattva's course of Paramitas and practiced the samādhis of emptiness, non-form and non-desire, the samadhi of non-arising and non-ceasing and many other samādhis; they have gone far beyond the stages of shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas.

"Ānanda, bodhisattvas of that land have innumerable virtues such as these, of which I have given you only an outline. If I were to expound them in full detail, a thousand million kalpas would not be long enough to do so."

Three kinds of evil passions and their consequences

[31] The Buddha said to the Bodhisattva Maitreya and to devas and humans:

"The virtue and wisdom of shravakas and bodhisattvas in the land of Amitāyus are indescribable. That land is sublime, blissful, serene and pure.

Why do you not diligently practice good, reflect on the naturalness of the Way and realize that it is above all discriminations and is boundlessly pervasive? You should each make a great effort to attain it.

Strive to escape from Samsara and be born in the Land of Peace and Provision. Then, the causes of the five evil realms having been destroyed, they will naturally cease to be, and so you will progress unhindered in your pursuit of the Way.

The Pure Land is easy to reach, but very few actually go there. It rejects nobody, but naturally and unfailingly attracts beings. Why do you not abandon worldly matters and strive to enter the Way? If you do, you will obtain an infinitely long life and one of limitless bliss.

"People of the world, being weak in virtue, engage in strife over matters which are not urgent. In the midst of abject wickedness and extreme afflictions they painstakingly toil for their living.

Whether noble or corrupt, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, all people worry about wealth and property. In this there is no difference between the rich and the poor; both have their anxieties.

Groaning in dejection and sorrow, they pile up thoughts of anguish or, driven by inner urges, they run wildly in all directions and they have no time for peace and rest.

"For example, if they own fields, they are concerned about them. If they have houses, they worry about them.

They are also anxious about their six kinds of domestic animals, such as cows and horses, about their male and female servants, money, wealth, clothes, food and furnishings.

With deepening troubles they sigh repeatedly, and anxiety increasingly torments and terrifies them. Sudden misfortune may befall them: all their possessions may be destroyed by fire, swept away by floods, plundered by robbers, or seized by adversaries or creditors.

Then gnawing grief afflicts them and incessantly troubles their hearts. Anger seizes their minds, keeps them in constant agitation, increasingly tightens its grip, hardens their hearts and never leaves them.

"When their lives end in such agonizing conditions, they must leave everybody and everything behind. Even nobles and men of wealth have these worries. With much anxiety and fear, they endure such tribulations. Breaking out in cold sweats or fevers, they suffer unremitting pain.

"The poor and the underprivileged are constantly destitute:

If, for example, they have no fields, they are unhappy and want them. If they have no houses, they are unhappy and want them.

If they have none of the six kinds of domestic animals, such as cows and horses, or if they have no male and female servants, or lack money, wealth, clothes, food, or furnishings, they are unhappy and want those as well.

If they possess some of them, others may be lacking. If they have this, they do not have that, and so they wish to possess all.

But, even if by some chance they come to possess everything, it will soon be destroyed or lost. Then, dejected and sorrowful, they strive to obtain such things again, but it may be impossible.

Brooding over this is to no avail. Exhausted in mind and body, they become restless in all their doings, and anxieties follow on their heels.

Such are the troubles they must endure. Breaking out in cold sweats or fevers, they suffer unremitting pain. Such conditions may result in the sudden end of their lives or an early death.

Since they have not done any good in particular, nor followed the Way, nor acted virtuously, when they die, they will depart alone to an inferior world.

Although they are destined to different states of existence, none of them understands the law of karma that sends them there.

"People of the world, parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and other family members and kinsmen, should respect and love each other, refraining from hatred and envy. They should share things with others, and not be greedy and miserly, always speak friendly words with a pleasing smile, and not hurt each other.

"If one disagrees with others and grows angry, however small one's grudge and enmity may be in this life, these will increase in the life to come until they grow into a mass of hostility.

For, if people are engaged in tormenting and harming each other in this life, such conflict may not immediately end in mutual destruction.

But persistent bitterness and raging fury are impressed upon the mind, and thus naturally leave indelible marks on consciousness, so that those involved will be reborn about the same time to take revenge on each other.

"Further, in the midst of worldly desires and attachments one comes and goes alone, is born alone and dies alone. After death, one goes to a painful or to a pleasant state of existence.

Each receives his karmic consequences and nobody else can take his place. In accordance with different acts of good and evil, people are destined to realms of bliss or suffering.

Unalterably bound by their karma, they depart for those realms all alone. Having reached the other world, they cannot see each other. The law of good and evil naturally pursues them, and wherever they may be reborn, distance and darkness always separate them. Since their paths of karma are different, it is impossible to tell the time of their reunion, and so difficult to meet again. Can they ever see each other once more?

"Why do they not abandon all worldly involvements and strive, while they are strong and healthy, to pursue the good and diligently seek deliverance from Samsara? If they do, they will be able to attain infinite life.

Why do they not seek the Way? What is there in this world that should be longed for? What pleasure is there that ought to be sought after?

"Thus people of the world do not believe in pursuing good and receiving reward or in practicing the Way and attaining Enlightenment; neither do they believe in transmigration and retribution for evil acts or reward for good ones, such as obtaining merit by helping others. Believing that these do not exist, they totally reject such a view.

"Further, by so doing, they cling to their own views more tenaciously. Later generations learn from previous ones to act likewise. Fathers, perpetuating their wrong views, pass them on to their children.

Since parents and grandparents from the beginning did not do good deeds, were ignorant of the Way, committed foolish acts, and were benighted, insensitive and callous, their descendants are now unable to realize the truth of birth-and-death and the law of karma.

There is no one to tell them about this. Nobody seeks to know the cause of fortune and misfortune, happiness and misery, although these states result from such acts.

"The reality of birth-and-death is such that the sorrow of parting is mutually felt by all generations.

A father cries over the death of his children; children cry over the death of their father. Brothers, sisters, husbands and wives mourn each other's death.

According to the basic law of impermanence, whether death will occur in order of seniority or in the reverse is unpredictable.

All things must pass. Nothing stays forever. Few believe this, even if someone teaches and exhorts them. And so the stream of birth-and-death continues everlastingly.

"Because they are stupid and callous, such people do not accept the teachings of the Buddha; they lack forethought, and only wish to satisfy their own desires.

They are deluded by their passionate attachments, unaware of the Way, misguided and trapped by anger and enmity, and intent on gaining wealth and gratifying their carnal desires like wolves.

And so, unable to follow the Way, they are again subject to suffering in evil realms in an endless cycle of birth-and-death. How miserable and pitiable this is!

"In the same family, when one of the parents, children, brothers, sisters, husband or wife dies, those surviving mourn over the loss, and their attachment to the deceased persists.

Deep sorrow fills their hearts and, grief-stricken, they mournfully think of the departed. Days pass and years go by, but their distress goes on.

Even if someone teaches them the Way, their minds are not awakened.

Brooding over fond memories of the dead, they cannot rid themselves of attachment.

Being ignorant, inert, and illusion-bound, they are unable to think deeply, to keep their self-composure, to practice the Way with diligence, and to dissociate themselves from worldly matters.

As they wander here and there, they come to their end and die before entering on the Way. Then what can be done for them?

"Because they are spiritually defiled, deeply troubled and confused, people indulge their passions. Hence, many are ignorant of the Way, and few realize it.

Everyone is restlessly busy, having nothing upon which to rely. Whether moral or corrupt, of high or low rank, rich or poor, noble or base, all are preoccupied with their own work.

They entertain venomous thoughts, creating a widespread and dismal atmosphere of malevolence. Subversive activities are planned, contrary to the universal law and the wishes of the people.

"Injustice and vice inevitably follow and are allowed to run their course unchecked until evil karma accumulates to the limit.

Before they expect their lives to end, people meet sudden death and fall into evil realms, where they will suffer excruciating torments for many lives. They will not be able to escape for many thousands of Koṭis of kalpas. How indescribably painful! How pitiable that is!"