Revised July 24, 2000


CONTEMPLATION SUTRA

THE SUTRA ON CONTEMPLATION
OF AMITAYUS

delivered by Shakyamuni Buddha
Translated into Chinese during the Liu-Sung dynasty
by the Tripitaka Master Kalayashas from Central Asia

translated from Chinese by Hisao Inagaki

The text follows the Taisho Tripitaka edition, vol. 12, and the passage numbers follow Jodoshinshu Seiten, 1988, pp. 87-117.

[TT.12,340c]


Preface

[1] Thus have I heard. At one time the Buddha was staying on the Vulture Peak in Rajagriha [341a] with a large assembly of twelve hundred and fifty monks. He was also accompanied by thirty-two thousand bodhisattvas led by Manjushri, the Dharma Prince.

King Bimbisara imprisoned by his son Ajatashatru

[2] At that time, in the great city of Rajagriha, there was a prince named Ajatashatru. Instigated by his wicked friend, Devadatta, he seized his father, King Bimbisara, confined him in a room with seven-fold walls, and forbade all the court officials to visit the king.
Vaidehi, the king's consort, was devoted to him. After having bathed and cleansed herself, she spread over her body ghee and honey mixed to a paste with wheat flour, filled her ornaments with grape juice and secretly offered this food and drink to the king. He ate the flour paste and drank the juice and then asked for water. Having rinsed his mouth, he joined his palms in reverence and, facing the Vulture Peak, worshipped the World-Honored One from afar, said, "Mahamaudgalyayana is my close friend. I beseech you to have pity on me and send him here to give me the eight precepts."
Then Mahamaudgalyayana flew as swift as a hawk to the king. Day after day he came like this to give him the eight precepts. The World-Honored One also sent the Venerable Purna likewise to the palace to expound the Dharma to the king. Three weeks passed in this way. Because he had eaten the flour-paste and heard the Dharma, he appeared peaceful and contented.

Queen Vaidehi's imprisonment

[3] Then Ajatashatru asked the guard, "Is my father still alive?"
The guard replied, "Great king, his consort spreads flour paste over her body and fills her ornaments with grape juice and offers these to the king. The monks Mahamaudgalyayana and Purna come here through the air to expound the Dharma to him. It is impossible to stop them."
Hearing this, Ajatashatru became furious with his mother and said, "Because you are an accomplice to that enemy, mother, you too are an enemy. Those monks are evil, for with their delusive magic they have kept this wicked king alive for many days." So saying, he drew his sharp sword, intending to kill her.
At that time the king had a minister named Candraprabha who was intelligent and wise. Together with Jivaka he made obeisances to the king and said, "Great King, according to a certain Vedic scripture, since the beginning of this cosmic period, there have been eighteen thousand wicked kings who have killed their fathers out of their desire to usurp the throne, but we have never heard of anyone who has committed the outrage of killing his mother. Your Majesty, if you commit such an outrage, you will bring disgrace upon the ksatriya class. As your ministers, we cannot bear to hear what people will say. As this would be the act of an outcaste, we could no longer remain here."
Having spoken these words, the two ministers grasped their swords and stepped back. Agitated and frightened, Ajatashatru said to Jivaka, "Are you not on my side?"
Jivaka replied, "Your Majesty, please restrain yourself and do not kill your mother."
Hearing this, the king repented and begged their forgiveness. [341b] Having thrown away his sword, he stopped short of killing his mother and, instead, ordered the court officials to lock her in an inner chamber and not to allow her to leave.

Shakyamuni's visit to Vaidehi

[4] Vaidehi, thus confined, grew emaciated with grief and despair. Facing the Vulture Peak, she worshipped the Buddha from afar and said, "O Tathagata, World-Honored One, you used to send Ananda to comfort me. Now I am in deep sorrow and distress. Since there is no way of my coming to look upon your august countenance, World-Honored One, I pray you send the Venerable Mahamaudgalyayana and the Venerable Ananda here to see me."
When she had said these words, tears of sorrow streamed down her cheeks like rain. Then she bowed towards the Buddha in the distance. Even before she raised her head, the World-Honored One, who was then staying on the Vulture Peak, knew Vaidehi's thoughts and immediately ordered Mahamaudgalyayana and Ananda to go to her through the air; he himself disappeared from the mountain and reappeared in the inner chamber of the royal palace.
After worshipping him, Vaidehi raised her head and saw Shakyamuni Buddha, the World-Honored One. He was the color of purple gold and was seated upon a lotus-flower of a hundred jewels. He was attended by Mahamaudgalyayana on his left and Ananda on his right. Shakra, Brahma, the guardian gods of the world and other devas were in the air about him. Scattering heavenly blossoms like rain, they paid homage to the Buddha.
When she saw the World-Honored One, Vaidehi tore off her ornaments and prostrated herself on the ground. Weeping bitterly, she said to the Buddha, "O World-Honored One, what bad karma did I commit in former lives that I have borne such an evil son? I wonder, World-Honored One, what karmic relations could have made you a relative of Devadatta?

Vaidehi wishes to be born in Amida's Pure Land

[5] "I beseech you, World-Honored One, to reveal to me a land of no sorrow and no affliction where I can be reborn. I do not wish to live in this defiled and evil world of Jambudvipa where there are hells, realms of hungry spirits, animals and many vile beings. I wish that in the future I shall not hear evil words or see wicked people. World-Honored One, I now kneel down to repent and beg you to take pity on me. I entreat you, O Sun-like Buddha, to teach me how to visualize a land of pure karmic perfection."
Then the World-Honored One sent forth from between his eyebrows a flood of light, which was the color of gold and illuminated the innumerable worlds in the ten quarters. Returning to the Buddha, the light settled on his head and transformed itself into a golden platform resembling Mount Sumeru. On the platform appeared the pure and resplendent lands of all the Buddhas in the ten quarters. Some of these lands were made of seven jewels, some solely of lotus-flowers; some resembled the palace in the Heaven of Free Enjoyment of Manifestation by Others, while some were like a crystal mirror in which all the lands in the ten quarters were reflected. Innumerable Buddha-lands like these, glorious and beautiful, were displayed to her.
Vaidehi then said to the Buddha, "O World-Honored One, these Buddha-lands are pure and free of defilement, and all of them are resplendent. But I wish to be born in the Land of Utmost Bliss of Amitayus. I beseech you, World-Honored One, to teach [341c] me how to contemplate that land and attain samadhi."

Emitting of light from Shakyamuni's smile

[6] The World-Honored One smiled, and from his mouth came five-colored rays of light, each shining on King Bimbisara's head. Although the old king was confined, with his unhindered mind's eye he saw the World-Honored One in the distance. He knelt down in homage to the Buddha and effortlessly made spiritual progress until he reached the Stage of a Non-returner.

Three acts of virtue for attaining birth in the Pure Land

[7] Then the World-Honored One said to Vaidehi, "Do you know that Amitayus is not far away? Fix your thoughts upon and contemplate that Buddha-land, then you will accomplish the pure acts. I shall describe it to you in detail with various illustrations, so that all ordinary people in the future who wish to practice the pure karma may also be born in that Western Land of Utmost Bliss. Whoever wishes to be born there should practice three acts of merit: first, caring for one's parents, attending to one's teachers and elders, compassionately refraining from killing, and doing the ten good deeds; second, taking the three refuges, keeping the various precepts and refraining from breaking the rules of conduct; and third, awakening aspiration for Enlightenment, believing deeply in the law of causality, chanting the Mahayana sutras and encouraging people to follow their teachings. These three are called the pure karma."
The Buddha further said to Vaidehi, "Do you know that these three acts are the pure karma practiced by all the Buddhas of the past, present and future as the right cause of Enlightenment?"

Vaidehi asks how to visualize the Pure Land

[8] The Buddha said to Ananda and Vaidehi, "Listen carefully, listen carefully and ponder deeply. I, the Tathagata, shall discourse on pure karma for the sake of all sentient beings of the future who are afflicted by the enemy, evil passions. It is very good, Vaidehi, that you have willingly asked me about this. Ananda, you must receive and keep the Buddha's words and widely proclaim them to the multitude of beings. I, the Tathagata, shall now teach you, Vaidehi, and all sentient beings of the future how to visualize the Western Land of Utmost Bliss. By the power of the Buddha all will be able to see the Pure Land as clearly as if they were looking at their own reflections in a bright mirror. Seeing the utmost beauty and bliss of that land, they will rejoice and immediately attain the insight into the non-arising of all dharmas."
The Buddha said to Vaidehi, "You are an unenlightened, and so your spiritual powers are weak and obscured. Since you have not yet attained the divine eye, you cannot see that which is distant. But the Buddhas, Tathagatas, have special ways to enable you to see afar."
Vaidehi said to the Buddha, "World-Honored One, through the Buddha's power, even I have now been able to see that land. But after the Buddha's passing, sentient beings will become defiled and evil, and be oppressed by the five kinds of suffering. How then will those beings be able to see the Land of Utmost Bliss of Amitayus?"

<