The Great Parinirvana Sutra

(Taisho Tripitaka 0375)

Chapter 2: Cunda

[611b] At that time there was in the assembly an upasaka, a worker from Kusinagara, whose name was Cunda. He was accompanied by fifteen other such workers. In order to cause the world to attain a good effect, they discarded their majestic deportment and rose from their seats, adjusted their robes, and kneeled upon their right knees. With their palms pressed together, they felt empathy for the Buddha. Their tears flowing, they prostrated themselves at his feet and said, "Our only wish is for the World Honored One and the bhiksu sangha to mercifully accept our very last offerings in order to save the infinite number of sentient beings. World Honored One, from now on we shall be without a master, without a companion, without succor, without refuge, and without advancement. Poor, impoverished, hungry, and distressed shall we be. We hope that the Tathagata will seek another meal [1]. Our only wish is for him to mercifully accept our fine gifts before his Nirvana.

"World Honored One, it is just like those of the ksatriya, brahmana, vaisya, and the sudra castes [2]. When they are impoverished, they go to other countries to become laborers and farmers, obtaining good and tame oxen as well as excellent farmland that is flat and devoid of sand, salt, bad weeds, or deserted rubbish. Their only concern is about the rains from heaven. The aforementioned tame oxen are a metaphor for the seven commandments [dealing with] bodily and verbal actions. The excellent farmland that is flat is a metaphor for wisdom. The absence of sand, salt, bad weeds, and deserted rubbish is a metaphor for the removal of affliction.

"World Honored One, I myself now have a tame ox, excellent farmland, and have weeded out the myriad pollutants. My only concern is whether the Tathagata will rain down the sweet Dharma dew. Poor are those of the four castes, and so am I. Poor are they in the wealth of the unsurpassed Dharma. My only wish is for you to have mercy and root out our poverty, troubles, and anxiety. Take away, also, the infinite sufferings of the sentient beings. I now make these offerings. Although they are small and meager, I wish that they could fill up the Tathagata's great congregation [grounds]. I am now without a master, without companion, and without refuge. My hope is that you will confer upon us compassion as you would on [your son] Rahula."

At that time, the World Honored One, with the knowledge of all modes, the unsurpassed tamer, addressed Cunda, "Excellent, excellent! I will now root out this poverty for you and rain down the unsurpassed Dharma rain upon your fields, causing the Dharma to sprout and grow there. You now wish to seek my life span, form, powers, peace, joy, unobstruction, and talent in discourse. I shall give you that eternal life span, form, powers, peace, unobstruction, and discourse ability. And why? Good son, the giving of alms has two rewards [611c], which are not distinguished. What are the two? One, once accepted, one attains the anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Two, once accepted, one enters into Nirvana. I now accept your very last offerings in order to lead you to the consummation of the perfection of giving (dana-paramita).

At that time, Cunda said to the Buddha, "The Buddha has said that these two rewards of giving are undistinguished. The meaning of this is unclear. Why? Prior to the acceptance of the charity, the afflictions have not yet ended and the knowledge of all modes has not yet been brought to fruition. And one is not yet able to lead sentient beings to consummate the perfection of giving. After the acceptance of the charity, the afflictions are then ended and the knowledge of all modes is brought to fruition. And one is able to lead sentient beings to the consummation of the perfection of giving. Prior to the acceptance of the charity, one is like a sentient being; while after the acceptance of the charity, one is a god in heaven. Prior to the acceptance of the charity, the body is a body of component parts, a body of afflictions, a body with boundaries, and an impermanent body. Yet, after the acceptance of the charity, the body is devoid of afflictions, a body of adamantine (vajra-kaya), the essential body (dharma-kaya), the eternal body, and a limitless body. Why do you say that the two rewards of charity are undistinguished?

"Prior to the acceptance of the charity, one is not yet able to consummate the perfection of giving through to the perfection of wisdom (prajna-paramita). Merely having the eye of flesh, one has not yet attained the Buddha eye through to the wisdom eye. Yet, after the acceptance of the charity, one has attained the consummation of the perfection of giving through to the perfection of wisdom. And one then consummates the Buddha eye through to the wisdom eye. Why do you say that the two rewards of charity are undistinguished?

"World Honored One, prior to the acceptance of the charity, once the alms are accepted, they enter the stomach and are digested. And then one acquires the life span, acquires form, acquires power, acquires peace, and acquires unobstructed discourse. After the acceptance of the charity, the meal is not taken, not digested, and there are none of these five rewards. Why do you say that the two rewards of charity are undistinguished?"

The Buddha replied, "Good son, for infinite and limitless asankhyas of kalpas the Tathagata has not had a food body or a body of afflictions. His body is limitless, an eternal body, the essential body, and a body of adamantine. Good son, it is the body of one who has not yet seen this nature of the Buddha that is called an afflicted body or a body of component parts and food. This is a bodhisattva with a limited body. At the time that this food and drink has been accepted, he then enters the adamantine samadhi. Once the meal is digested, he sees the nature of the Buddha and attains the anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. This is why I have said that the two rewards of giving are undistinguished. The bodhisattva at that time obliterates the four maras. This is why I have said that the two rewards of giving are undistinguished. That bodhisattva at that time, while he could not thoroughly explain the twelve-section scriptural canon before, he could penetrate through it [afterward]. Now that he has entered Nirvana [612a], he can discern and thoroughly explain it for the expanse of sentient beings. This is why I have said that the two rewards of giving are undistinguished.

"Good son, for infinite asankhyas of kalpas, the body of the Tathagata has not accepted any drink or food. It is for voice-hearers (sravaka) that it is said that first he accepted from Nanda and Nandapara [?] a pasture with two cows which gave him milk and gruel and then afterward he attained the anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. In reality, I did not eat them. I now shall demonstrate it to all of the great assembly of congregations. This is why I have taken your very last offerings. In reality, I will not eat them."

At that time, upon hearing that the Buddha, the World Honored One, would mercifully accept Cunda's very last offerings for the sake of the great assembly, the congregation was elated, danced joyfully, and sang praises in unison, saying, "Excellent, excellent is this most extraordinary Cunda! Your name shall be established to be a non-empty praise. The meaning of the word Cunda is 'Free and Marvelous'. You are now the expression of such a great meaning. This is why it is in accord with reality that your name is established from this meaning. It is why you are named Cunda. In this present life, you have attained this great name, your blessed virtue and vows are fulfilled. Most exceptional is Cunda who has been born human and attained this difficult blessing of the unsurpassed.

"Excellent is this Cunda! He is a rarity in the world like that of the udumbara flower. The appearance of the Buddha in the world is also very rare [3]. To meet with the birth of a Buddha and have faith in the Dharma one hears [from him] is again difficult. Being able to provide the very last offerings when the Buddha nears parinirvana is also the rarest of events. Namo Cunda, namo Cunda! You have now fulfilled the perfection of giving. Just as the Autumn moon is pure for a period of fifteen days and nights, it is completely full without any clouds to obstruct the view. Just as none the sentient beings can avoid look at it with reverence, you are also so. And we do look reverently upon the Buddha who has accepted your very last offerings and lead you to consummate the perfection of giving. Namo Cunda! This is why we say that you are like the moon at its peak fullness, which none of the sentient beings can avoid look at with reverence. Namo Cunda! Although you have received a human body, your mind is like the Buddha's mind. You, Cunda, are truly a Buddhist disciple, no different than Rahula.

At that time, the great congregation proclaimed gathas, saying,

"Although you were born into the path of humans
You have transcended even the sixth heaven [4].
Because of this, we and all of the sentient beings
Now prostrate ourselves to and beseech you.

In the person of the most exceptional worthy
Who now shall soon enter Nirvana,
You should commiserate with us.
Our only wish is to make haste to and beseech the Buddha

To remain in the world for a long time
And bless the infinite sentient beings
With the thorough praises for the wisdom
Of the unsurpassed sweet Dharma dew.

[612b]If you do not beseech the Buddha [to do this],
Our lives will not be full.
This is why it should be seen that
We prostrate ourselves to the lion tamer."

At that time, Cunda was elated and danced joyfully. He was like someone whose father and mother's dead corpses had suddenly returned to life. Cunda's elation was also so. He again rose to pay his respects to the Buddha and proclaimed gathas, saying,

"How delightful it is to obtain one's own benefit!
Skillfully attaining it in a human body
By abolishing greed and anger,
One forever parts with the three evil paths.

How delightful it is to obtain one's own benefit!
Coming to attain piles of gold and gems
And encountering the Lion Tamer,
One does not fear falling into [the path] of animals [5].

The Buddha is like the udumbara flower.
Encountering his birth faithfully is difficult.
Having encountered him, one sows the good roots,
Forever extinguishing the distress of the hungry ghosts.

And, again, one is able to censure and extinguish
The species of asuras.
Like mustard seeds landing on a needle point [6]
The Buddha's appearance is as rare as this.

By perfecting charity (dana)
I shall liberate both men and gods from birth and death.
The Buddha is not defiled by worldly dharmas
Like the lotus flower in a pond.

Skillfully ending existence, the top of its shoot is
Forever liberated from the flow of birth and death
[beneath]. Birth in the world as a human is difficult.
And meeting the Buddha in the world is as difficult

As a blind turtle in the great ocean
Meeting a floating log with an opening [7].
Now I will hand over these alms,
Vowing to attain the unsurpassed reward
Of destroying and breaking up

All of the bonds of afflictions
Are destroyed, broken, without solidity.
I, here and now,
No longer seek the body of a god or human.

For the minds of those who attempt to obtain that [goal]
Will not be sweetly delighted.
The Tathagata having accepted my offerings
There is no measure for my elation.

It is like the airavana flower
That produces a fragrance of sandalwood.
My body is like that airavana flower.
The Tathagata having accepted my offerings

It is as if it now produces that fragrance of sandalwood.
This is why I am elated.
Now I have attained the manifest reward
Of this most excellent and marvelous place

Where the indra and brahma gods are present
All of whom have come bearing offerings. In myself
And all those of the world
There has arisen a great anguish

[612c]Because they know that the Buddha, the World Honored One,
Now wishes to enter Nirvana.
In a high voice they cry out, saying,
'The world will be devoid of the [Lion] Tamer!

You should not abandon the sentient beings
You should instead regard each of them like an only child.
Tathagata, remain here with the sangha
And thoroughly expound the unsurpassed Dharma!

Like the jewel mountain of Sumeru,
Or a peaceful spot on the ocean,
Is the Buddha's knowledge that is able to skillfully end Our ignorance (avidya) and clarify [our minds].
Just as the clouds that arise in the empty sky
Bring a pure refreshment [of rain],
The Tathagata is able to skillfully remove
All of the afflictions.
It is like when the sun rises
And removes the clouds. Its light illuminates everything.
The sentient beings'
Passionate yearning increases and they empathetically wail.
They all are subject to birth and death,
Drifting on its waters of distress.
This is why, World Honored One,
You should remain in the world for a long time
In order to end the suffering of birth and death Of these old and faithful sentient beings.'"
The Buddha addressed Cunda, "So it is, so it is. As you have said, the Buddha's appearance in the world is rare like that of the udumbara flower.
Meeting the Buddha and giving rise to faith is also most difficult. Giving the very last offerings as the Buddha's Nirvana nears and so being able to consummate the perfection of giving is, again, very difficult. Now, Cunda, you should not be greatly anguished or distressed. You should instead be elated by your profound fortune to have the opportunity to give the very last offerings to the Tathagata and bringing to fruition the consummation of the perfection of giving. Do not ask the Buddha to remain any longer in the world. Instead, you should regard the Buddha sphere of elements as being impermanent. The nature of his actions are also so." Then the Buddha proclaimed gathas for Cunda, saying,
"All that is born in the world
Will return to death.
While their life spans may be measureless
It is necessary that they have an end.
The sage, too, must have his waning.
What comes together and assembles must break apart And so the healthy years eventually come to a end.
The prosperous form is transgressed by disease
And life is swallowed up by death.
There is nothing (no dharma) that lasts forever.
The power of the Kings who have attained sovereignty,
Who have no comparison,
They all pass on and perish.
[My] life span is also so.
The myriad sufferings turn without end
Flowing round without cease or respite.
The three realms are all impermanent
And all existences are unhappy.
What has paths, roots, natures, and signs
All these are empty and non-existent.
Such destructible things (dharmas) flow round
Always having sorrow, anxiety,
Fear, and advancing evils.
Old age, disease, and death are the decline into distress.
These are without bounds
That are transgressed by change, destruction, and bitterness.
The afflictions that are the bondages
Are just like the silkworm's cocoon.
Why would anyone with wisdom
Be happy in this place?
This body is a collection of sorrows
All of which are impure.
Stopping the bonds and tumors
The roots of which are without righteousness or blessing.
Going up to the heavenly body [8]
Is also so.
The desires are all impermanent
And that is why I do not covet attachments.
Departing from desires, skillfully contemplating [things], And realizing the true Dharma:
This is the ultimate cutting off of existence.
Today I shall go into Nirvana,
Crossing over to that other shore
And leaving behind all of the suffering.
This is why on this day
You should only feel a marvelous happiness."

At that time, Cunda said to the Buddha, "So it is, World Honored One, so it is. Sincerely, the sage says, 'I am now in possession of the wisdom that is fine and straightforward.' Being like the mosquitoes, how can we conceive of the meaning of the Tathagata's Nirvana at its very core? World Honored One, I have now been with the great nagas, these bodhisattva-mahasattvas, who have cut away the bonds of defilement, who are the likes of Manjusri. World Honored One, I am like a youth who first leaves the household, but who has not yet fulfilled the precepts. Because of the spiritual power of the Buddha and bodhisattvas and because of being with such a number of bodhisattvas, I now wish to cause the Tathagata to remain in the world and not enter Nirvana. Like a starved person who can no longer produce saliva, my only wish for the World Honored One is also so. Remain forever in the world and do not enter Nirvana!"

At that time, the Dharma prince Manjusri addressed Cunda, "Cunda, you should not say that you wish the Tathagata to remain in the world forever and forgo Nirvana, being like a starved person who can no longer produce saliva. You should, instead, regard the nature and signs of his actions. Thus regarding his actions, you should fulfill the samadhi of emptiness. Wishing to seek the true Dharma, [613b] thus you should train."

Cunda asked, "Manjusri, the Tathagata is the most honored and most excellent among the beings in the heavens above. How can such a Tathagata's actions be so? If the person acting is something (a dharma) subject to birth and death, then he would be like water bubbles, arising quickly and quickly perishing, coming and going, spinning round like a cart wheel. And all of his actions would also be so. I have heard that the life span of gods is extremely long. How could the life span of the World Honored One, who is a god among gods, be hurried and not even fill the span of a hundred years? Like a chief of a village whose power has reached sovereignty. And so with that sovereign power, he is able to govern other people. After this person's merit is exhausted, he will become an impoverished person who is taken lightly by other foremen [9]. And why is that? It is because he has lost his power. The World Honored One would also be so. The same would be his actions and the person acting. And then he would not be called a god among gods. And why? Because then his actions would be things (dharmas) subject to birth and death. This is why, Manjusri, that I do not regard the Tathagata as the same as his actions.

"Furthermore, Manjusri, knowing [him] and speaking, not knowing [him] and speaking [10], and the words of the Tathagata would also be the same as his actions. Supposing that the Tathagata is the same as the person who acts, he would not then be said to be the sovereign Dharma king, a god among the gods in the three realms. He is just like a human king who has great champions, and so his power will be a thousand times again [a single man's] and cannot be defeated. Therefore it is held that these champions cause this single person to have the power of a thousand [men]. Thus, the king of the champions is fondly mindful of them. He is inclined to bestow noble titles and award fiefs to them, and so the champions themselves come to be held as the equals of a thousand [men]. The Tathagata is also so. He has defeated the mara of afflictions, the mara of skandhas, the heavenly maras, and the mara of death. This is why the Tathagata is called the Honored One of the three realms. Like that one warrior, who is equal to a thousand, he has become so through the causes and conditions of bringing to fruition the consummation of a variety of infinite and real virtues. This is why he is proclaimed the Tathagata, the Arhat, the perfectly enlightened.

"Manjusri, you should not consider and discern the Tathagata to be something (a dharma) the same as its actions. It is like when a wealthy elder has a son and a fortuneteller divines that the child will have a short life. Upon hearing this the mother and father know not to give up on continuing the family lineage or to never again cherish, esteem, or teach the child. Those of short life span do not become shramanas or brahmanas to whom men and women, young and old, are respectful. If it is that the Tathagata is the same as the person who acts, then is it also so that he would not become a sentient being among gods and men who give him respect. The Tathagata has said that the unchanging and unvarying Dharma of reality also is without a receiver. [613c] This is why, Manjusri, that you should not say that the Tathagata is the same as all of his actions.

"Furthermore, Manjusri, it is like an impoverished woman who has no household in which to have shelter. She is subjected to repeated diseases, distress, hunger, and thirst. She goes about begging and stops at a guest house where she stays and gives birth to a child. The landlord of this guest house chases her out and, embracing the child, she wishes to go to another country. On the way she encounters the distress of wickedness, winds, rains, and cold as she went. Many were the hungry noises of the biting mosquitoes, horseflies, and venomous snakes. Passing through the Ganges River, she embraces her child and begins to cross it. Its waters are tumultuous and swift, but she would not let go [of her child]. Both mother and child are drowned. Thus, having been compassionately mindful and virtuous, after the woman's death she is reborn in the brahma heavens.

"Manjusri, if there is a good son who wishes to protect the true Dharma, he does not say that the Tathagata is the same as his actions. He is not the same as his actions. It may only be if he himself claims that I now am deluded and do not yet possess the wisdom eye. The Tathagata's true Dharma is inconceivable. This is why it should not be proclaimed that the Tathagata is established to be conditioned, [but] that he is established to be unconditioned. Someone who has the correct view says that the Tathagata is established to be unconditioned. And why? It is because he is able to give rise to the good Dharma for sentient beings, and because he gives rise to the compassionate mind, as did that impoverished woman did in the Ganges river, when she was willing to abandon her own life because of her compassionate mindfulness of her child. Good son, the bodhisattva who protects the Dharma also responds in this way. He would rather give up his life than say that the Tathagata is the same as the conditioned. Instead, he will say that the Tathagata is the same as the unconditioned. Because he says that the Tathagata is unconditioned, he attains the anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, as that woman attained rebirth in the brahma heaven. And why? It is because of his defense of the Dharma. How did he defend it? By that I mean his holding that the Tathagata is the same as the unconditioned. Good son, such a person, while not seeking liberation, liberates himself, just as that impoverished woman did not seek rebirth in the brahma heavens but in fact was as a result of her [actions].

"Manjusri, it is like a person who travels a far distance and on the way grows tired and stops at a guest house. In it he lays down to sleep. And then suddenly a large fire breaks out in the building. He awakens in a fright and attempts to [regain] his concentration, thinking, "I have no doubt that today I shall die." Because he was full of repentance, his body was ensnared by his clothing.

Thereupon, at the end of his life, he was reborn into the Trayas-trimsa heaven. And from there, after fully eighty rebirths, he became a great Brahma king. And after fully 100,000 rebirths, he was born among humans as a wheel turning king. This man was not reborn amidst the three evil destinies, but was always reborn in consecutive places of peaceful happiness because of these causes and conditions. Manjusri, [614a] if a good son is one who repentant, then he should not contemplate the Buddha as being the same as his actions.

"Manjusri, the heretical paths of those with mistaken views may say that the Tathagata is the same as the conditioned. A precept-holding bhiksu, however, should not give rise to such conditioned thinking about the Tathagata. If he were to say that the Tathagata is something conditioned, then that is a deluded statement. It should be known that upon death this person will enter the hells as though his own home. Manjusri, in reality the Tathagata is an unconditioned dharma and should not be said to be conditioned. From this day all in samsara should abandon this deficient understanding and seek the correct knowledge. Then, you will know that the Tathagata is unconditioned. If you can thus regard the Tathagata, then on perfection [of that knowledge] you will attain the thirty-two marks and swiftly realize the anuttara-samyak-sambodhi."

At that time, the Dharma prince Manjusri praised Cunda, saying, "Excellent, good son, excellent! You have now created the causes and conditions for a long life span, for you are able to understand that the Tathagata is eternally abiding, an unchanging dharma, and a dharma of the unconditioned. You have now well overturned the appearance of the Tathagata being conditioned. You are like that person who burned and because of his good thought of repentance at his clothed body was born in the Trayas-trimsa heaven, and again as a brahma king, and a wheel-turning king, never returning to the evil destinies, and always experiencing peaceful happiness. You are also so, since you have skillfully overturned the Tathagata's appearance of being conditioned. In a future life, it must be that you will attain the thirty-two marks, the eighty excellencies, the eighteen special qualities, an infinite life span, not existing in samsara, and always experiencing peaceful happiness. It is not long now before you will realize the Arhat's perfect enlightenment.

"Cunda, those who follow after the Tathagata [is gone], they will say, 'Company of ours, together you also must overturn [the view] that the Tathagata is conditioned or conditioned to be unconditioned, and moreover all of you must stop having such a view yourselves. You may, following this day, make haste to give food and drink. The giving of such gifts is the best. Whether it is bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, or upasikas, when they go on distant travels and grow weary for the need of things, should they not bath the following day and be furnished with them? Thus, quickly giving it to them is the consummation of the root seed of the perfection of charity (dana-paramita).' Cunda, so it is if someone makes the very last offerings to the Buddha and the sangha, whether the offerings are many or few, whether sufficient or not, fitting or timely. The Tathagata is truly so and shall enter parinirvana."

Cunda replied, "Manjusri, why do you now covet these alms and say 'many, few, sufficient, or insufficient' in order to lead me to give on this day. Manjusri, the Tathagata in the old days practiced asceticism for six years and honored only what his arms held. How could he on this day be in need [of more] for an instant? Manjusri, do you really mean to say that the Tathagata who is truly awakened has accepted these alms? Verily, I resolutely know that the body of the Tathagata is the essential body (dharma-kaya) and not an alms-eating body."

At that time, the Buddha addressed Manjusri, saying, "It is so, it is so."

He likewise said to Cunda, "Excellent, Cunda! You have brought to fruition the subtle and wondrous great knowledge and skillfully entered the most profound Mahayana scriptures."

Manjusri said to Cunda, "You have stated that the Tathagata is the unconditioned, that the body of the Tathagata has a long life span. Have you come to the knowledge of the Buddha's bliss?"

Cunda replied, "The Tathagata does not only bring bliss for me, but also for all sentient beings."

Manjusri said, "The Tathagata brings bliss for you and I as well as all other sentient beings?"

Cunda replied, "You should not say that the Tathagata brings bliss. The blissful person is a mistaken idea. If there are mistaken ideas then there is birth and death. When there is birth and death, then there are conditioned things (dharmas). This is why, Manjusri, that one is not to state that the Tathagata is conditioned. If it is said that the Tathagata is conditioned, I and the sages together would be practicing in delusion. Manjusri, the Tathagata does not have the idea of being compassionately mindful. Compassionate mindfulness is like the cow being compassionately mindful of its calf. Although it may be hungry or thirsty, the cow goes in search of water and grass, whether it is sufficient or not, and then immediately returns [once obtaining it]. The Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, have no such mindfulness, seeing clearly all [beings] to be like Rahula. Such mindfulness, then, is the perspective of the Buddhas' wisdom.

"Manjusri, it is just like a country's king who tames a team of four horses, wishing to have draft horses to pull his chariot, and then orders them to go nowhere. The sages and I are also so. We wish to go to the deepest core of the Tathagata's subtle esoterica, which has no location. Manjusri, he is like a golden winged bird that flies up into empty space and looks down at the ocean from an infinite number of yojanas . It sees all the beings contained in the waters; including the fish, fresh-water turtles, sea turtles, and nagas. And seeing their shapes is like looking into a bright mirror and seeing the images of their forms. Ordinary men of little knowledge are unable to comprehend such a perspective. The sages and I are also so, unable to comprehend the wisdom of the Tathagata.

Manjusri said to Cunda, "So it is, so it is. It is as you have said. In this case I am doing no evil. Instead, my desire is only to test you [against] the bodhisattva work."

At that time, the World Honored One emitted a variety of lights from his facial orifices. Those lights brilliantly lit Manjusri's body. Encountering these lights, Manjusri then knew that the time was at hand and addressed Cunda, saying, "The Tathagata now has manifested this auspicious sign. It will not be long before he must [614c] enter into parinirvana. Now is the time to present the very last offerings you have prepared to the Buddha and the great congregation. Cunda, you should know, the Tathagata's emission of this variety of lights is not without causes and conditions."

Cunda heard this and sadly moved away quietly.

The Buddha addressed Cunda, "Now is the time for you to present your gifts to the Buddha and the great congregation. It is true that the Tathagata shall enter parinirvana, and the second and third [statements by Manjusri?] are also so."

At that time, having heard this said, Cunda raised his voice in a cry of grief, saying, "The suffering, the suffering! The world is vacant!" And to the great congregation he said, "We all now must throw our five members [11] to the ground and with the same voice exhort the Buddha not to enter parinirvana."

At that time, the World Honored One addressed Cunda, "Do not cry out and confuse your own mind! You should regard this body just like the banana plant when it is burned, frothing water, a conjured illusion, a gandharva city, a clay vessel, and like a lightning flash. It is also like a drawing made in water, a prisoner facing execution, burnt fruit, and like a lump of flesh. It is like the end of a woven thread and like a mallet going up and down. You should regard its actions to be like various poisonous foods. Conditioned things (dharmas) are its numerous errors and anxieties."

From this, Cunda addressed the Buddha, "The Tathagata does not wish to remain long in the world. How can I not cry aloud, 'The suffering, the suffering!

The world is vacant!'? My only wish of the World Honored One is for him to have mercy on us and the sentient beings. Remain long in the world and do not enter parinirvana!"

The Buddha addressed Cunda, "You should not say, 'Have mercy on me and remain long in the world.' I do have mercy for you and all the rest. This is why today I wish to enter Nirvana. And why? The Buddha's Dharma is that and the conditions is also so. This is why the Buddhas proclaim this gatha, 'Conditioned things (dharmas) Are by nature impermanent. Once born, they do not remain. The peaceful extinction is happiness.'

"Cunda, you should regard all types of actions to be things (dharmas) devoid of self, devoid of permanence, and not remaining. These bodies are numerous and have infinite errs and anxieties. They are just like water bubbles. This is why you should not cry aloud."

At that time, Cunda said to the Buddha, "So it is, so it is. Sincere is the honored teaching. Although I know that the Tathagata expediently manifests the entry into Nirvana, still I am incapable of not being greatly grieved about it. It upsets my concentration [needed] to again give rise to consolation and happiness."

The Buddha praised Cunda, "It is excellent! It is excellent that you are able to understand that the Tathagata manifests the expedient of Nirvana for sentient beings. Now, Cunda, you should listen closely. Like the Sarasa [615a] birds in the months of Spring, when they flock together at Lake Anavatapta, the Buddhas are also so. Their appearance is like a conjured image. The Tathagata while remaining [in the world] uses the power of expedients to remove the taints of attachment. And why? The Buddha's Dharma is so.

"Cunda, I will now accept you presentation of offerings in order to lead you to the liberation from the flows of birth and death. If men and gods make the very last offerings to me, they all will attain the unmoving reward of always experiencing a peaceful happiness. And why? It is because I am the sentient beings' excellent field of blessings. If you wish for the sentient beings to create a blessed field, then you should quickly prepare your gifts. It would not be proper to wait any longer."

At that time, in order for sentient beings to attain liberation, Cunda bowed his head, choked on his tears, and said to the Buddha, "Excellent, World Honored One! If I were to deeply serve [the beings] for their blessed fields, then I would be able to comprehend and know the Tathagata's Nirvana and non-Nirvana. As it is now, our wisdom along with that of the voice hearers and pratyeka-buddhas is like that of mosquitos. We are, indeed, unable to fathom the Tathagata's Nirvana and non-Nirvana."

At that time, Cunda and his retinue sorrowfully wept and encircled the Tathagata, burning incense, scattering flowers, and with their last thought respectfully presenting [gifts]. And soon those with Manjusri also rose from their seats and went to offer their alms and supplies.

Endnotes to Chapter 2

1.The Chinese literally reads " yet a future meal." In other words, to not enter Nirvana now, but to stay alive another day and accept alms.

2.These are the four major social castes of ancient Indian society. The ksatriya is warrior and ruling caste, brahmana is the priestly caste, vaisya is the farming and mercantile caste, and the sudra is the worker caste.

3.The Chinese reads "difficult". The term "difficult" (nan) occurs sometimes where it more reasonable to read it as "rare", and I have translated accordingly. For example, the Chinese reads that it is "difficult" to be born human and encounter the Buddha, but also that the appearance of the Buddha in the world is also "difficult" like the blooming of the udumbara tree. In the latter case, I have translated nan as "rare".

4.This is a reference to the sixth (and last) heaven of the desire realm, the Paranirmita-vasa-vartin Heaven. Beyond this heaven are the dhyana heavens of the form realm and the abodes of the formless realm.

5.That is to say, being reborn as an animal in the next life.

6.The Chinese literally reads "Mustard seeds tossed onto needle points".

7.This is a passing reference. The full metaphor is that the chances of meeting the Buddha are like that of a mostly blind sea turtle managing to poke its head through a hole in driftwood floating on the ocean surface and then catching a glimpse of the moon. I have slightly rearranged these two lines to make the verse flow better in English.

8.That is to say, the deva (godly) bodies, not celestial bodies (Saturn, Jupiter, Pluto).

9.The Chinese term is literally "whipping envoy", which I take to mean something akin to "foreman" (as in the foreman who drives slaves, serfs, etc.).

10.The subject of these two verb phrases is unclear to me. They may refer to disciples who know the Tathagata (spiritually) and transmit his teachings and disciples who do not know him and transmit what they have heard.

11.The "five members" are the arms, legs, and head.

<< Prev   Table of Contents   Next >>