Larger Sukhāvatīvyūha Sutra | 7

Further admonition by the Buddha

[40] The Buddha said to Maitreya:

"I shall explain further:

Such are the afflictions of the five evils in this world. The five sufferings and the five burnings continue to arise from them.

People commit nothing but evil and fail to cultivate roots of virtue, and so it is natural that they all go to evil realms.

Even in this life they suffer from incurable illnesses. Longing for death, they cannot die; craving for life, they cannot live. Thus they are an example to others of what retribution for evil acts is like.

After death, driven by their karma, they fall into the three evil realms, where they suffer countless tortures and are themselves consigned to the flames.

"After a long time they are reborn again in this world, only to foment hatred against each other. At first hatred is slight but finally develops into a major evil.

All this is because of their greedy attachment to wealth and sensuous pleasures and of their refusal to share with others. Further, wayward thoughts arise from the desires born of stupidity. Their bondage to evil passions will never be severed. In the pursuit of selfish gain, there is no chance for them to reflect on their evils and turn to good.

When wealthy and prosperous, they are happy and do not learn to be modest and virtuous. Consequently, their pomp and power are short-lived; when these are exhausted, they must undergo further afflictions. Their sufferings are bound to increase in time to come.

"The law of karma operates like a net stretched everywhere; in its meshes, it inevitably catches all offenders. The net woven of large and small ropes covers the whole world, from top to bottom, and those caught in it feel utterly helpless and tremble in fear. This net has been in existence from of old. How painful and heart-rending!"

The Buddha said to Maitreya:

"People of this world are as I have described.

All the Buddhas pity them and with divine powers destroy their evils and lead them all to goodness. If you give up wrong views, hold fast to the scriptures and the precepts, and practice the Way without committing any fault, then you will finally be able to attain the path to emancipation and Nirvana."

The Buddha continued:

"You and other devas and humans of the present and people of future generations, having received the Buddha's teachings, should reflect upon them and, while following them, should remain upright in thought and do virtuous deeds.

Rulers should abide by morality, reign with beneficence and decree that everyone should maintain proper conduct, revere the sages, respect men of virtue, be benevolent and kind to others, and take care not to disregard the Buddha's teachings and admonitions.

All should seek emancipation, cut the roots of Samsara and its various evils, and so aspire to escape from the paths of immeasurable sorrow, fear and pain in the three evil realms.

"In this world, you should extensively plant roots of virtue, be benevolent, give generously, abstain from breaking the precepts, be patient and diligent, teach people with sincerity and wisdom, do virtuous deeds, and practice good.

If you strictly observe the precepts of abstinence with upright thought and mindfulness even for a day and a night, the merit acquired will surpass that of practicing good in the land of Amitāyus for a hundred years.

The reason is that in that Buddha-land of effortless spontaneity all the inhabitants do good without committing even a hair's breadth of evil.

If in this world you do good for ten days and nights, the merit acquired will surpass that of practicing good in the Buddha-land of other quarters for a thousand years.

The reason is that in the Buddha-land of other quarters many practice good and very few commit evil. There are lands where everything is naturally provided as a result of one's merit and virtue, and so no evil is done.

But in this world much evil is committed, and few are provided for naturally; people must work hard to get what they want. Since they intend to deceive each other, their minds are troubled, their bodies exhausted, and they drink bitterness and eat hardship. In this way, they are preoccupied with their toil no have time for rest.

"Out of pity for you and other devas and humans, I have taken great pains in exhorting you to do good deeds. I have given you instructions appropriate to your capacities. You have, without fail, accepted my teachings and practiced them, and so have all entered on the Way as you wished.

"Wherever the Buddha comes to stay, there is no state, town or village which is not blessed by his virtues. The whole country reposes in peace and harmony. The sun and the moon shine with pure brilliance; wind rises and rain falls at the right time. There is no calamity or epidemic, and so the country becomes wealthy, and its people enjoy peace. Soldiers and weapons become useless; and people esteem virtue, practice benevolence and diligently cultivate courteous modesty."

The Buddha continued:

"My concern for you, devas and humans, is greater than the care of parents for their children:

I have become a Buddha in this world, destroyed the five evils, removed the five sufferings, and extinguished the five burnings.

I have countered evil with good, eradicated the suffering of birth-and-death, and enabled people to acquire the five virtues and attain the peace of unconditioned Nirvana.

But after I have departed from this world, my teaching will gradually decline and people will fall prey to flattery and deceit and commit various evils, resulting in the recurrence of the five sufferings and the five burnings.

As time goes on, their sufferings will intensify. As it is impossible to describe this in detail, I have given you only a brief outline.

The Buddha said to Maitreya: "You should each ponder on this well, teach and admonish each other, and be on guard against disobeying the Buddha's instruction."

The Bodhisattva Maitreya, with his palms together, said:

"O Buddha, how sincere and earnest your admonition is! People of the world are just as you have described. O Tathagata, you take pity on and care for us without discrimination and seek to deliver us all from suffering. Having accepted the Buddha's repeated exhortations, I will be careful not to disobey them."

Amida and the Pure Land shown to the audience

[41] The Buddha said to Ānanda:

"Rise to your feet, rearrange your robes, put your palms together, and respectfully revere and worship Amitāyus. Buddhas and Tathagatas in the lands of the ten quarters always praise with one accord that Buddha's virtues of non-attachment and unimpeded activity."

Ānanda stood up, rearranged his robes, assumed the correct posture, faced westward, and, demonstrating his sincere reverence, joined his palms together, prostrated himself on the ground and worshipped Amitāyus.

Then he said to the Buddha Shakyamuni, "World-Honoured One, I wish to see that Buddha, his Land of Peace and Bliss, and its hosts of bodhisattvas and shravakas."

As soon as he had said this, Amitāyus emitted a great light, which illuminated all the Buddha-lands. The Encircling Adamantine Mountains, Mount Śumeru, together with large and small mountains, and everything else shone with the same (golden) colour.

That light was like the flood at the end of the period of cosmic change that fills the whole world, when myriads of things are submerged, and as far as the eye can see, there is nothing but a vast expanse of water.

Even so was the flood of light emanating from Amitāyus. All the lights of shravakas and bodhisattvas were outshone and surpassed, and only the Buddha's light remained shining bright and glorious.

At that time Ānanda saw the splendour and majesty of Amitāyus resembling Mount Śumeru, which rises above the whole world. There was no place which was not illuminated by the light emanating from his body of glory.

The four groups of followers of the Buddha in the assembly saw all this at the same time. Likewise, those of the Pure Land saw everything in this world.

Two kinds of birth in the Pure Land

[42] Then the Buddha said to Ānanda and the Bodhisattva Maitreya:

"Have you seen that land filled with excellent and glorious manifestations, all spontaneously produced, from the ground to the Heaven of Pure Abode?"

Ānanda replied, "Yes, I have."

The Buddha asked: "Have you also heard the great voice of Amitāyus expound the Dharma to all the worlds, guiding sentient beings to the Way of the Buddha?"

Ānanda replied, "Yes, I have."

The Buddha further asked, "Have you also seen the inhabitants of that land move freely, riding in seven-jewelled airborne palaces as large as a hundred thousand yojanas, to worship the Buddhas of the lands in the ten quarters?"

"Yes, I have," replied Ānanda.

"Have you also seen that some of the inhabitants are in the embryonic state?"

"Yes, I have. Those in the embryonic state dwell in palaces as high as a hundred yojanas or five hundred yojanas, where they spontaneously enjoy pleasures as do those in the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods."

The cause of the two kinds of birth

[43] Then the Bodhisattva Maitreya said to the Buddha:

"World-Honoured One, for what reason are some of the inhabitants of that land in the embryonic state and the others born by transformation?"

The Buddha replied:

"Maitreya, if there are sentient beings who do various meritorious deeds aspiring for birth in that land while still entertaining doubt, such beings are unable to comprehend the Buddha-wisdom, inconceivable wisdom, ineffable wisdom, boundless Mahayana wisdom, and incomparable, unequalled, and unsurpassed supreme wisdom.

Although they doubt these wisdoms, they still believe in retribution for evil and reward for virtue and so cultivate a stock of merits, aspiring for birth in that land.

Such beings are born in a palace, where they dwell for five hundred years without being able to behold the Buddha, hear his exposition of the Dharma, or see the hosts of bodhisattvas and shravakas.

For this reason, that type of birth in the Pure Land is called 'embryonic state.'

"If there are sentient beings who with resolute faith accept these kinds of wisdom, from the Buddha's wisdom to the supreme wisdom, do meritorious deeds and sincerely transfer the merit acquired (to that land), those beings will be born by transformation spontaneously, seated with legs crossed, in the seven-jewelled lotus-flowers, and instantly attain the same glorious forms, wisdom and virtue as those of other bodhisattvas there.

Shakyamuni's encouragement of faith

[44] "Further, Maitreya, if great bodhisattvas in the Buddha-lands of other quarters desire to see Amitāyus, and revere and make offerings to him and the hosts of bodhisattvas and shravakas, they will, after death, be born in the land of Amitāyus. Spontaneously transformed they will be born from within the seven-jewelled lotus-flowers.

"Maitreya, you should know that those born by transformation are possessed of supreme wisdom, while those in the embryonic state lack that wisdom and must pass five hundred years without being able to see the Buddha, hear his teaching of the Dharma, see the hosts of bodhisattvas and shravakas, make offerings to the Buddha, learn the rules of conduct for bodhisattvas, or perform meritorious practices. You should know that this is because those beings harboured doubt and lacked wisdom in their previous lives."

Embryonic birth

[45] The Buddha said to Maitreya:

"Let us suppose that a wheel-turning monarch has a special chamber which is adorned with seven jewels and provided with curtained couches and silken banners hanging from the ceiling.

If princes have committed offense against the king, they are taken to that chamber and fettered with gold chains. There they are served with food and drink, provided with clothes, couches and cushions, flowers and incense, and can enjoy music.

Being treated just like the wheel-turning monarch himself, they have no wants. Do you think that those princes would enjoy living there?"

"No they do not," replied Maitreya. "They would seek various means of approach to ask a man of power to help them escape."

The Buddha said to Maitreya:

"Those beings born within the lotus-buds are like that. Because of their doubt in the Buddha's wisdom, they have been born in palaces.

Although they receive no punishment or ill treatment even for a single moment, they must pass five hundred years there without being able to see the Three Treasures, make offerings to the Buddha, or cultivate a stock of virtue.

This is distressing to them. Though there are other pleasures, they do not enjoy living there.

"If those beings become aware of the faults committed in their former lives and deeply repent, they can, as they wish, leave and go to where Amitāyus dwells.

Then they can worship and make offerings to him; they can also visit innumerable and countless other Buddhas to perform various meritorious practices.

Maitreya, you should know that the bodhisattvas who allow doubt to arise lose great benefits. For this reason, you should have resolute faith in the supreme wisdom of the Buddha."

Bodhisattvas' visits to the Pure Land from other Buddha-lands

[46] The Bodhisattva Maitreya said to the Buddha: "World-Honoured One, how many non-retrogressive bodhisattvas are there in this world who will be born in that Buddha-land?"

The Buddha replied:

"Sixty-seven Koṭis of non-retrogressive bodhisattvas from this world will be born there.

Each of these bodhisattvas has previously made offerings to innumerable Buddhas with almost as much diligence as you did, Maitreya. Furthermore, bodhisattvas of lesser practices and those who have performed small acts of merit, whose number is beyond calculation, will all be born there."

The Buddha said to Maitreya:

"Not only those bodhisattvas from this world but also those from Buddha-lands in other quarters are born there:

First, in the land of the Buddha named Far-reaching Illumination there are one hundred and eighty Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Second, in the land of the Buddha Jewel-storehouse there are ninety Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there.

Third, in the land of the Buddha Immeasurable Sound there are two hundred and twenty Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Fourth, in the land of the Buddha Taste of Nectar there are two hundred and fifty Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there.

Fifth, in the land of the Buddha Dragon-subduing there are fourteen Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Sixth, in the land of the Buddha Superior Power there are fourteen thousand bodhisattvas, who all visit there.

Seventh, in the land of the Buddha Lion there are five hundred Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Eighth, in the land of the Buddha Undefiled Light there are eighty Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there.

Ninth, in the land of the Buddha Peak of Virtue there are sixty Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Tenth, in the land of the Buddha Mountain of Excellent Virtue there are sixty Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there.

Eleventh, in the land of the Buddha King of Men there are ten Koṭis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there.

Twelfth, in the land of the Buddha Splendid Flower there are innumerable and incalculable bodhisattvas who are all non-retrogressive and possessed of unrivalled wisdom, who have previously made offerings to countless Buddhas and are able to learn in seven days the adamantine teachings of the Dharma that can only be attained by mahāsattvas after practicing for a hundred thousand Koṭis of kalpas.

Those bodhisattvas all visit there.

Thirteenth, in the land of the Buddha Fearlessness there are seven hundred and ninety Koṭis of great bodhisattvas and incalculable minor bodhisattvas and Bhikṣus, who all visit there."

The Buddha said to Maitreya:

"Not only do the bodhisattvas from those fourteen Buddha-lands visit that land, but also bodhisattvas from innumerable Buddha-lands in the ten quarters, whose number is incalculable.

Even if I were to give you only the names of the Buddhas in the ten quarters and the number of the bodhisattvas and Bhikṣus who visit that land, enumerating them continuously day and night for a Kalpa, I would not be able to complete the list.

This is why I have given you only a brief description."

Shakyamuni's encouragement to accept this sutra

[47] The Buddha said to Maitreya:

"If there are people who hear the Name of that Buddha, rejoice so greatly as to dance, and remember him even once, then you should know that they have gained great benefit by receiving the unsurpassed virtue.

For this reason, Maitreya, even if a great fire were to fill the universe of a thousand million worlds, you should pass through it to hear this sutra, to arouse joyful faith, to uphold and chant it, and to practice in accordance with its teachings.

This is because there are many bodhisattvas who wish to hear this teaching but are still unable to do so.

If there are sentient beings who have heard it, they will attain the Stage of Non-retrogression for realizing the highest Enlightenment.

This is why you should single-heartedly accept in faith, uphold and chant this sutra, and practice in accordance with its teaching."

The Buddha further said:

"I have expounded this teaching for the sake of sentient beings and enabled you to see Amitāyus and all in his land. Strive to do what you should. After I have passed into Nirvana, do not allow doubt to arise.

In the future, the Buddhist scriptures and teachings will perish. But, out of pity and compassion, I will especially preserve this sutra and maintain it in the world for a hundred years more. Those beings who encounter it will attain deliverance in accord with their aspirations.

The Buddha said to Maitreya:

"It is difficult to encounter and behold Tathagata when he is in this world. Difficult of access, difficult to hear are the Buddhas' teachings and scriptures.

It is also difficult to hear the excellent teachings for bodhisattvas, the Paramitas. Difficult too is it to meet a good teacher, to hear the Dharma and perform the practices.

But most difficult of all difficulties is to hear this sutra, have faith in it with joy and hold fast to it. Nothing is more difficult than this.

Thus have I formed my Dharma, thus have I expounded my Dharma, and thus have I taught my Dharma. You must receive it and practice it by the method prescribed."

Epilogue

[48] When the World-Honoured One had finished his exposition of this sutra, aspiration for the highest Enlightenment was awakened in innumerable sentient beings.

Twelve thousand nayutas of human beings attained the pure Dharma-eye; twenty-two Koṭis of devas and humans attained the Stage of a Non-returner; eight hundred thousand Bhikṣus realized the wisdom of destroying defilements; forty Koṭis of bodhisattvas attained the Stage of Non-retrogression; and all, adorned with the virtue of the universal vows, will ultimately attain perfect Enlightenment.

At that time the entire universe of a thousand million worlds shook in six ways, and a great light illuminated all the lands in the ten quarters. A hundred thousand kinds of music played spontaneously, and innumerable marvellous flowers fell in profusion from the sky.

When the Buddha finished delivering this sutra, the Bodhisattva Maitreya and bodhisattvas from the lands in the ten quarters, together with the Elder Ānanda, other great shravakas, and all those in the assembly, without exception, rejoiced at the Buddha's discourse.