Bodhisattva Maitreya

Then Bodhisattva Maitreya rose from his seat in the midst of the assembly, prostrated himself at the feet of the Buddha, circled the Buddha three times to the right, knelt down, joined his palms, and said: “O World Honored One of great compassion! You have opened wide the secret treasure for bodhisattvas and have caused the great assembly to deeply awaken from cyclic existence and distinguish between the erroneous and the correct. Your teaching is capable of bestowing the Fearless Eye of the Path to sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age, causing them to give rise to resolute faith in the great nirvana, and never again to flow within the realm of the turning wheel [of samsara] or hold cyclic views.

“World Honored One, if bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age desire to sail on the Tathagata’s ocean of great quiescent-extinction, how should they sever the roots of cyclic existence? In the various cyclic existences, how many types of capacities are there? What are the different kinds of cultivation of Buddha’s bodhi? When [bodhisattvas] enter the world of passions, how many expedient methods should they devise to deliver sentient beings? Pray do not forsake your great compassion in saving the world, but cause all practicing bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age to cleanse their wisdom-eyes and illumine their mirrorlike minds. May they be completely awakened to the Tathagata’s unsurpassed knowledge and vision.” Having said these words, he prostrated himself on the ground. He made the same request three times, each time repeating the same procedure.

At that time the World Honored One said to Bodhisattva Maitreya: “Excellent, excellent! Virtuous man, for the benefit of the multitude of bodhisattvas and sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age, you have asked the Tathagata about the most profound, secret, subtle, and wondrous truth so that bodhisattvas’ wisdom-eyes may become pure, so that all sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age may permanently sever themselves from cyclic existence, so that their minds may awaken to Absolute Reality, and so that they may possess the patient endurance of the unborn [wisdom]. Listen attentively now. I shall explain it to you.”

Hearing this, Bodhisattva Maitreya was filled with joy and listened silently along with the assembly.

“Virtuous man, all sentient beings [experience illusory] cyclic existence due to all kinds of affection, love, craving, and desire [1] since beginningless time. The different types of births in the world - be they from egg, womb, humidity, or by transformation - are created by sexual desire. [2] You should know that attached love is the root of cyclic existence. Because there are all sorts of desirable [objects] that enhance and augment the activity [3] of attached love, birth and death proceed in unending succession.

“Desire arises because of attached love. The existence of fife comes from desire. Sentient beings’ love of their lives [in turn] relies on desire as a base. Therefore, love and desire are the cause, love of life is the consequence. Because the objects of desire [vary], like and dislike arise. If the object goes against one’s grasping mind, one gives rise to hatred and jealousy and commits evil karmic deeds. As a result, one is reborn in hell or as a hungry ghost.

“Realizing that desire is detestable, if one desires to leave behind karmic paths and abandons evil and delights in doing good, one is reborn in the realms of gods or humans. If, further, one knows that attachment is detestable, and thus abandons attachment and delights in renunciation, one still stirs up the root of attachment. This results in increased worldly meritorious fruit, which, being samsaric, does not lead to accomplishing the holy path. Therefore, if sentient beings wish to be liberated from birth and death and to avoid cyclic existende, they should first sever craving and desire, and eliminate their attached love.

“Virtuous man, the transformation and manifestation of bodhisattvas [in various forms] in the world are not based on attachment. Out of their compassion, they cause sentient beings to abandon attachment by provisionally taking on all kinds of craving and desire so they can enter birth and death. If sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age can abandon desire, eliminate love and hatred, permanently sever cyclic existence, and diligently pursue the Tathagata’s state of Complete Enlightenment with a pure mind, they will attain awakening.

“Virtuous man, due to the inherent desire in all sentient beings, ignorance flourishes and increases. Thus [sentient beings] manifest five distinct natures. According to the two obstructions, their hindrances may appear to be deep or shallow. What are the two obstructions? The first is the obstruction of principle, [4] which hinders right views. The second is the obstruction of phenomena, [5] which perpetuates birth and death.

“What are the five distinct natures? [6] Virtuous man, sentient beings who have not eliminated and extinguished these two obstructions are called ‘those who have not attained Buddhahood.’ Sentient beings who have permanently abandoned craving and desire and have eliminated the obstruction of phenomena, but not the obstruction of principle, can only be enlightened as srackas or pratyekabuddhas. They are unable to manifest and abide in the realm of bodhisattvas.

“Virtuous man, if sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age desire to sail on the Tathagata’s great ocean of Complete Enlightenment, they should first vow to practice with diligence and sever the two obstructions. When these two obstructions have been subdued, they will be able to awaken to the realm of bodhisattvas. If the obstructions of principle and phenomena are permanently severed, they will enter into the subtle and wondrous Complete Enlightenment of Tathagatas and consummate bodhi and great nirvana.

“Virtuous man, all sentient beings [intrinsically] actualize Complete Enlightenment. If they meet a good teacher and can rely on his Dharma practice of the causal ground, [their karmic roots for attainments] will be either gradual or sudden. However, if they come across the Tathagata’s unsurpassable bodhi and engage in the correct path of practice, they will attain Buddhahood whether they are of great or small [karmic] roots. If sentient beings, though they seek a good teacher, meet one with erroneous views, they will not gain correct awakening. These people are called ones of outer path nature. This fault is due to the teacher and not to sentient beings.

“The above are the five distinct natures of sentient beings.

“Virtuous man, with great compassionate expedient methods, a bodhisattva enters the world to ex and and mature [the mind~ ofl the ~e6t~ene~dHe manifests in various forms, amidst favorable or adverse situations so that he may work together with sentient beings in order to guide them to Buddhahood. In so doing, he relies entirely on the power of his pure vows made since beginningless time.

“If sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age can arouse the supreme thought of [awakening to] great Complete Enlightenment, they should make the pure great vow of bodhisattvas, declaring: ‘May I, from now on, abide in Buddha’s Complete Enlightenment, and may I, in my search for a good teacher, not meet outer paths and practitioners of the Two Vehicles.’ [7] With their practice based on this vow, they will gradually sever all hindrances. When all hindrances are exhausted, their vows will be fulfilled. They will then ascend the pure Dharma hall of liberation and actualize the wondrous, august citadel of great Complete Enlightenment.”

At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to clarify his meaning, proclaimed these gathas:

Maitreya, you should know
that sentient beings
cannot attain great liberation
because of their craving and desire,
which cause them to fall into
the cycle of birth and death.
If they can sever like and dislike,
along with greed, anger, and delusion,
regardless of their difference in nature,
they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.
The two obstructions will also be permanently severed.
After correct awakening is attained
by meeting a good teacher,
one accords with the bodhisattva vow
and abides in the great nirvana.
All bodhisattvas in the ten directions,
relying on the great compassionate vow,
manifest the appearance of entering birth and death.
Practitioners now and
sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age,
should diligently sever all attached views.
Then they will return to great Complete Enlightenment.

[1] These four terms - affection, love, craving, and desire (en, ai, tan, yu) - are subtle distinctions of attachment and desire, which, despite their role in the secular world, are all causes for the continuance of cyclic existence. Here love (ai) should be understood as attached love (zhi ai) or self-centered love. The translator has simply translated this term as attached love or grasping in some later passages. The same word is sometimes translated into like, as in the case of like and dislike, in later paragraphs and chapters.

[2] “The different types of births in the world ... are created by sexual desire” points to the fact that all samsaric beings still have within them the roots and potential of sexual desire (yin yu xing), and (yin yu xi qi), which perpetuates cyclic existence. This sentence does not mean that all births literally come into being through sexual activity, because births through humidity and transformation are not results of sexual activity. Births through humidity and transformation are either caused by the combination of various conditions in the natural environment such as moisture, sunlight, and air or by the power of a deity or spirit. Bodhisattvas can also manifest transformation bodies for the purpose of liberating sentient beings.

[3] Activity is a rendering of xing, which is usually translated as nature, as in “the nature of Complete Enlightenment.” However in this context, xing refers to te xing, which means characteristic, quality, function, or activity.

[4] Obstruction of principle (li zhang) is an obstruction one may have in understanding or accepting the ultimate truth or view of Reality.

[5] Obstruction of phenomena (shi zhang) refers to all the vexations and afflictions one may have that bind one to samsara.

[6] Here, nature (xing) should be understood as capacities or dispositions.

[7] The Two Vehicles (er cheng) are the sravaka (sheng wen) and pratyekabuddha (bi zhi fo) vehicles.