LOTUS SUTRA - Chapter 14. Issuing of Bodhisattvas from the Gaps of the Earth
Out of the multitude of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas who had flocked from other worlds, Bodhisattvas eight (times) equal to the sands of the river Ganges then rose from the assembled circle. Their joined hands stretched out towards the Lord to pay him homage, they said to him: If the Lord will allow us, we also would, after the extinction of the Lord, reveal this Dharmaparyâya in this Saha-world; we would read, write, worship it, and wholly devote ourselves to that law. Therefore, O Lord, deign to grant to us also this Dharmaparyâya. And the Lord answered: Nay, young men of good family, why should you occupy yourselves with this task? I have here in this Saha-world thousands of Bodhisattvas equal to the sands of sixty Ganges rivers, forming the train of one Bodhisattva; and of such Bodhisattvas there is a number equal to the sands of sixty Ganges rivers, each of these Bodhisattvas having an equal number in their train, who at the end of time, at the last period after my extinction, shall keep, read, proclaim this Dharmaparyâya.
No sooner had the Lord uttered these words than the Saha-world burst open on every side, and from within the clefts arose many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas with gold-coloured bodies and the thirty-two characteristic signs of a great man, who had been staying in the element of ether underneath this great earth, close to this Saha-world. These then on hearing the word of the Lord came up from below the earth. Each of these Bodhisattvas had a train of thousands of Bodhisattvas similar to the sands of sixty Ganges rivers; (each had) a troop, a great troop, as teacher of a troop. Of such Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas having a troop, a great troop, as teachers of a troop, there were hundred thousands of myriads of kotis equal to the sands of sixty Ganges rivers, who emerged from the gaps of the earth in this Saha-world. Much more there were to be found of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas having a train of Bodhisattvas similar to the sands of fifty Ganges rivers; much more there were to be found of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas having a train of Bodhisattvas similar to the sands of forty Ganges rivers; Of 30, 20, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Ganges river; of 1/2, 1/4, 1/6, 1/10, 1/20, 1/50, 1/100, 1/1000, 1/100,000, 1/10,000,000, 1/100 X 10,000,000, 1/1000 X 10,000,000, 1/100 X 1000 X 10,000,000, 1/100 X 1000 X 10,000 X 10,000,000 part of the river Ganges. Much more there were to be found of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas having a train of many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas; of one koli; of one hundred thousand; of one thousand; Of 500; Of 400; Of 300; Of 200; Of 100; Of 50; Of 40; Of 30; Of 20; Of 10; Of 5, 4, 3, 2. Much more there were to be found of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas having one follower. Much more there were to be found of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas standing isolated. They cannot be numbered, counted, calculated, compared, known by occult science, the Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas who emerged from the gaps of the earth to appear in this Saha-world. And after they had successively emerged they went up to the Stûpa of precious substances which stood in the sky, where the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the extinct Tathâgata, was seated along with the Lord Sâkyamuni on the throne. Whereafter they saluted the feet of both Tathâgatas, &c., as well as the images of Tathâgatas produced by the Lord Sâkyamuni from his own body, who all together were seated on thrones at the foot of various jewel trees on every side in all directions, in different worlds. After these Bodhisattvas had many hundred thousand times saluted, and thereon circumambulated the Tathâgatas, &c., from left to right, and celebrated them with various Bodhisattva hymns, they went and kept themselves at a little distance, the joined hands stretched out to honour the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c., and the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c.
And while those Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas who had emerged from the gaps of the earth were saluting and celebrating the Tathâgatas by various Bodhisattva hymns, fifty intermediate kalpas in full rolled away, during which fifty intermediate kalpas the Lord Sâkyamuni remained silent, and likewise the four classes of the audience. Then the Lord produced such an effect of magical power that the four classes fancied that it had been no more than one afternoon, and they saw this Saha-world assume the appearance of hundred thousands of worlds replete with Bodhisattvas. The four Bodhisattvas Mahisattvas who were the chiefest of that great host of Bodhisattvas, viz. the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva called Visishtakâritra (i.e. of eminent conduct), the Bodhisattva Mahasattva called Anantakâritra (i.e. of endless conduct), the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva called Visuddhakâritra (i.e. of correct conduct), and the Bodhisattva Mahasattva called Supratishthitakâritra (i.e. of very steady conduct), these four Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas standing at the head of the great host, the great multitude of Bodhisattvas stretched out the joined hands towards the Lord and addressed him thus: Is the Lord in good health? Does he enjoy well-being and good ease? Are the creatures decorous, docile, obedient, correctly performing their task, so that they give no trouble to the Lord?
And those four Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas addressed the Lord with the two following stanzas:
1. Does the Lord of the world, the illuminator, feel at ease? Dost thou feel free from bodily disease, O Perfect One?
2. The creatures, we hope, will be decorous, docile, performing the orders of the Lord of the world, so as to give no trouble.
And the Lord answered the four Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas who were at the head of that great host, that great multitude of Bodhisattvas: So it is, young men of good family, I am in good health, well-being, and at ease. And these creatures of mine are decorous, docile, obedient, well performing what is ordered; they give no trouble when I correct them; and that, young men of good family, because these creatures, owing to their being already prepared under the ancient, perfectly enlightened Buddhas, have but to see and hear me to put trust in me, to understand and fathom the Buddha-knowledge. And those who fulfilled their duties in the stage of disciples have now been introduced by me into Buddha-knowledge and well instructed in the highest truth.
And at that time the Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas uttered the following stanzas:
3. Excellent, excellent, O great Hero! we are happy to hear that those creatures are decorous, docile, well performing their duty';
4. And that they listen to thy profound knowledge, O Leader, and that after listening to it they have put trust in it and understand it.
This said, the Lord declared his approval to the four Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas who were at the head of that great host, that great multitude of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas, saying: Well done, young men of good family, well done, that you so congratulate the Tathâgata.
And at that moment the following thought arose in the mind of the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Maitreya and the eight hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas similar to the sands of the river Ganges: We never yet saw so great a host, so great a multitude of Bodhisattvas; we never yet heard of such a multitude, that after issuing from the gaps of the earth has stood in the presence of the Lord to honour, respect, venerate, worship him and greet him with joyful shouts. Whence have these Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas flocked hither?
Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Maitreya, feeling within himself doubt and perplexity, and inferring from his own thoughts those of the eight hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas similar to the sands of the river Ganges, stretched out his joined hands towards the Lord and questioned him about the matter by uttering the following stanzas:
5. Here are many thousand myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas, numberless, whom we never saw before; tell us, O supreme of men!
6. Whence and how do these mighty persons come? Whence have they come here under the form of great bodies'?
7. All are great Seers, wise and strong in memory, whose outward appearance is lovely to see; whence have they come?
8. And each of those Bodhisattvas, O Lord of the world, has an immense train, like the sands of the Ganges.
9. The train of (each) glorious Bodhisattva is equal to the sands of sixty Ganges in full. All are striving after enlightenment.
10. Of such heroes and mighty possessors of a troop the followers are equal to the sands of sixty Ganges.
11. There are others, still more numerous, with an unlimited train, like the sands of fifty, forty, and thirty Ganges;
12, 13. Who have a train equal to the (sands of) twenty Ganges. Still more numerous are the mighty sons of Buddha, who have each a train (equal to the sands) of ten, of five Ganges. Whence, O Leader, has such an assembly flocked hither?
14. There are others who have each a train of pupils and companions equal to the sands of four, three, or two Ganges.
15. There are others more numerous yet; it would be impossible to calculate their number in thousands of kotis of Æons.
16. (Equal to) a half Ganges, one third, one tenth, one twentieth, is the train of those heroes, those mighty Bodhisattvas.
17. There are yet others who are incalculable; it would be impossible to count them even in hundreds of kotis of Æons.
18. Many more yet there are, with endless trains; they have in their attendance kotis, and kotis and again kotis, and also half kotis.
19. Other great Seers again, beyond computation, very wise Bodhisattvas are seen in a respectful posture.
20. They have a thousand, a hundred, or fifty attendants; in hundreds of kotis of Æons one would not be able to count them.
21. The suite of (some of these) heroes consists of twenty, of ten, five, four, three, or two; those are countless.
22. As to those who are walking alone and come to their rest alone, they have now flocked hither in such numbers as to be beyond computation.
23. Even if one with a magic wand in his hand would try for a number of Æons equal to the sands of the Ganges to count them, he would not reach the term.
24. Where do all those noble, energetic heroes, those mighty Bodhisattvas, come from?
25. Who has taught them the law (or duty)? and by whom have they been destined to enlightenment? Whose command do they accept? Whose command do they keep?
26. Bursting forth at all points of the horizon through the whole extent of the earth they emerge, those great Sages endowed with magical faculty and wisdom.
27. This world on every side is being perforated, O Seer, by the wise Bodhisattvas, who at this time are emerging.
28. Never before have we seen anything like this. Tell us the name of this world, O Leader.
29. We have repeatedly roamed in all directions of space, but never saw these Bodhisattvas.
30. We never saw a single infant of thine, and now, on a sudden, these appear to us. Tell us their history, O Seer.
31. Hundreds, thousands, ten thousands of Bodhisattvas, all equally filled with curiosity, look up to the highest of men.
32. Explain to us, O incomparable, great hero,who knowest no bounds, where do these heroes, these wise Bodhisattvas, come from?
Meanwhile the Tathâgatas, &c., who had flocked from hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of worlds, they, the creations of the Lord Sâkyamuni, who were preaching the law to the beings in other worlds; who all around the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c., were seated with crossed legs on magnificent jewel thrones at the foot of jewel trees in every direction of space; as well as the satellites of those Tathâgatas were struck with wonder and amazement at the sight of that great host, that great multitude of Bodhisattvas emerging from the gaps of the earth and established in the element of ether, and they (the satellites) asked each their own Tathâgata: Where, O Lord, do so many Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas, so innumerable, so countless, come from? Whereupon those Tathâgatas, &c., answered severally to their satellites: Wait awhile, young men of good family; this Bodhisattva Mahâsattva here, called Maitreya, has just received from the Lord Sâkyamuni a revelation about his destiny to supreme, perfect enlightenment. He has questioned the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c., about the matter, and the Lord Sâkyamuni, the Tathâgata, &c., is going to explain it; then you may hear.
Thereupon the Lord addressed the Bodhisattva Maitreya: Well done, Agita, well done; it is a sublime subject, Agita, about which thou questionest me. Then the Lord addressed the entire host of Bodhisattvas: Be attentive all, young men of good family - be well prepared and steady on your post, you and the entire host of Bodhisattvas; the Tathâgata, the Arhat, &c., is now going to exhibit the sight of the knowledge of the Tathâgata, young men of good family, the leadership of the Tathâgata, the work of the Tathâgata, the sport [i.e. magic display of creative power, lîlâ, synonymous with mâyâ.] of the Tathâgata, the might of the Tathâgata, the energy of the Tathâgata.
And on that occasion the Lord pronounced the following stanzas:
33. Be attentive all, young men of good family; I am to utter an infallible word; refrain from disputing about it, O sages: the science of the Tathâgata is beyond reasoning.
34. Be all steady and thoughtful; continue attentive all. To-day you will hear a law as yet unknown, the wonder of the Tathâgatas.
35. Never have any doubt, ye sages, for I shall strengthen you, I am the Leader who speaketh infallible truth, and my knowledge is unlimited.
36. Profound are the laws known to the Sugata, above reasoning and beyond argumentation. These laws I am going to reveal; ye, hear which and how they are.
After uttering these stanzas the Lord addressed the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Maitreya: I announce to thee, Agita, I declare to thee: These Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas, Agita, so innumerable, incalculable, inconceivable, incomparable, uncountable, whom you never saw before, who just now have issued from the gaps of the earth, these Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas, Agita, have I roused, excited, animated, fully developed to supreme, perfect enlightenment after my having arrived at supreme, perfect enlightenment in this world. I have, moreover, fully matured, established, confirmed, instructed, perfected these young men of good family in their Bodhisattvaship. And these Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas, Agita, occupy in this Saha-world the domain of the ether-element below. Only thinking of the lesson they have to study, and devoted to thoroughly comprehend it, these young men of good family have no liking for social gatherings, nor for bustling crowds; they do not put off their tasks, and are strenuous. These young men of gyood family, Agita, delight in seclusion, are fond of seclusion. These young men of good family do not dwell in the immediate vicinity of gods and men, they not being fond of bustling crowds. These young men of good family find their luxury in the pleasure of the law, and apply themselves to Buddha-knowledge.
And on that occasion the Lord uttered the following stanzas:
37. These Bodhisattvas, immense, inconceivable and beyond measure, endowed with magic power, wisdom, and learning, have progressed in knowledge for many kotis of Æons.
38. It is I who have brought them to maturity for enlightenment, and it is in my field that they have their abode; by me alone have they been brought to maturity; these Bodhisattvas are my sons.
39. All have devoted themselves to a hermit life and are assiduous in shunning places of bustle; they walk detached, these sons of mine, following my precepts in their lofty course.
40. They dwell in the domain of ether, in the lower portion of the field, those heroes who, unwearied, are striving day and night to attain superior knowledge.
41. All strenuous, of good memory, unshaken in the immense strength of their intelligence, those serene sages preach the law, all radiant, as being my sons.
42. Since the time when I reached this superior (or foremost) enlightenment, at the town of Gayâ, at the foot of the tree, and put in motion the allsurpassing wheel of the law, I have brought to maturity all of them for superior enlightenment.
43. These words I here speak are faultless, really true; believe me, all of you who hear me: verily, I have reached superior enlightenment, and it is by me alone that all have been brought to maturity.
The Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Maitreya and those numerous hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of Bodhisattvas were struck with wonder, amazement, and surprise, (and thought): How is it possible that within so short a moment, within the lapse of so short a time so many Bodhisattvas, so countless, have been roused and made fully ripe to reach supreme, perfect enlightenment? Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Maitreya asked the Lord: How then, O Lord, has the Tathâgata, after he left, when a prince royal, Kapilavastu, the town of the Sâkyas, arrived at supreme, perfect enlightenment on the summit of the terrace of enlightenment, not far from the town of Gayâ, somewhat more than forty years since, O Lord? How then has the Lord, the Tathâgata, within so short a lapse of time, been able to perform the endless task of a Tathâgata, to exercise the leadership of a Tathâgata, the energy of a Tathâgata? How has the Tathâgata, within so short a time, been able to rouse and bring to maturity for supreme, perfect enlightenment this host of Bodhisattvas, this multitude of Bodhisattvas, a multitude so great that it would be impossible to count the whole of it, even if one were to continue counting for hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of Æons? These Bodhisattvas, so innumerable, O Lord, so countless, having long followed a spiritual course of life and planted roots of goodness under many hundred thousands of Buddhas, have in the course of many hundred thousands of Æons become finally ripe.
It is just as if some man, young and youthful, a young man with black hair and in the prime of youth, twenty-five years of age, would represent centenarians as his sons, and say: 'Here, young men of good family, you see my sons;' and if those centenarians would declare: 'This is the father who begot us! Now, Lord, the speech of that man would be incredible, hard to be believed by the public. It is the same case with the Tathâgata, who but lately has arrived at supreme, perfect enlightenment, and with these Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas, so immense in number, who for many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Æons, having observed a spiritual course of life, have long since come to certainty in regard to Tathâgata-knowledge; who are able to plunge in and again rise from the hundred thousand sorts of meditation'; who are adepts at the preparatories to noble transcendent wisdom, have accomplished the preparatories to noble transcendent wisdom; who are clever on the Buddha-ground, able in the (ecclesiastical) Council and in Tathâgata duties; who are the wonder and admiration of the world; who are possessed of great vigour, strength, and power. And the Lord says: From the very beginning have I roused, brought to maturity, fully developed them to be fit for this Bodhisattva position. It is I who have displayed this energy and vigour after arriving at supreme, perfect enlightenment. But, O Lord, how can we have faith in the words of the Tathâgata, when he says: The Tathâgata speaks infallible truth? The Tathâgata must know that the Bodhisattvas who have newly entered the vehicle are apt to fall into doubt on this head; after the extinction of the Tathâgata those who hear this Dharmaparyâya will not accept, not believe, not trust it. Hence, O Lord, they will design acts tending to the ruin of the law. Therefore, O Lord, deign to explain us this matter, that we may be free from perplexity, and that the Bodhisattvas who in future shall hear it, be they young men of good family or young ladies, may not fall into doubt.
On that occasion the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Maitreya addressed the Lord with the following stanzas:
44. When thou wert born in Kapilavastu, the home of the Sâkyas, thou didst leave it and reach enlightenment at the town of Gayâ. That is a short time ago, O Lord of the world.
45. And now thou hast so great a crowd of followers, these sages who for many kotis of Æons have fulfilled their duties, stood firm in magic power, unshaken, well disciplined, accomplished in the might of wisdom;
46. These, who are untainted as the lotus is by water; who to-day have flocked hither after rending the earth, and are standing all with joined hands, respectful and strong in memory, the sons of the Master of the world.
47. How will these Bodhisattvas believe this great wonder? Expel (all) doubt, tell the cause, and show how the matter reallv is.
48. It is as if there were some man, a young man with black hair, twenty years old or somewhat more, who presented as his sons some centenarians,
49. And the latter, covered with wrinkles and grey-haired, declared the (young) man to be their father. But such (a young man) never having sons of such appearance, it would be difficult to believe, O Lord of the world, that they were sons to so young a man.
50. In the same manner, O Lord, we are unable to conceive how these numerous Bodhisattvas of good memory and excelling in wisdom, who have been well instructed during thousands of kotis of Æons;
5 1. Who are firm, of keen intelligence, lovely and agreeable to sight, free from hesitation in the decisions on law, praised by the Leaders of the world;
52. Who in freedom live in the wood; who unattached in the element of ether constantly display their energy, who are the sons of Sugata striving after this Buddha-ground;
5 3. How will this be believed when the Leader of the world shall be completely extinct? After hearing it from the Lord's own mouth we shall never more feel any doubt.
54. May Bodhisattvas never come to grief by having doubt on this head. Grant us, O Lord, a truthful account how these Bodhisattvas have been brought to maturity by thee.
End of LOTUS SUTRA - Chapter 14. Issuing of Bodhisattvas from the Gaps of the Earth
Previous Chapter «
» Next Chapter
Purchase posters, art prints, media (music CD & DVD)
by Chris Simpson
→Puchase this Item
→More Art Prints & Media
→Zen & Buddhism books