Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment

Then the Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment 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 with no hesitation explained the faults in practice so that this great assembly [of bodhisattvas] has gained what it never had before. Their minds are thoroughly at peace and they have gained a great, secure, and steadfast [teaching as a guiding vision for their practice]. [1]

“World Honored One, sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age will gradually be further away from the days of the Buddha. The sages and saints will seldom appear, while the heretical teachings win increase and flourish. What kind of people, then, should sentient beings seek to follow? What kind of Dharma should they rely on? What line of conduct should they adopt? Of what faults [in practice] should they rid themselves? How should they arouse the [bodhi] mind so that the blind multitude can avoid falling into erroneous views?” Having said these words, he fully 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 the Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment: “Excellent, excellent! Virtuous man, you have asked the Tathagata about such methods of practice which are able to impart to all sentient beings, in the Dharma Ending Age, the Fearless Eye of the Path so that they will be able to accomplish the holy path. Listen attentively now. I shall explain it to you.”

Hearing this, the Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment was filled with joy and listened silently along with the assembly.

“Virtuous man, sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age who wish to arouse the great mind should search for a good teacher. Those who wish to practice should look for one who has correct views in all aspects. Such a teacher’s mind does not abide in characteristics. He has no attachment to the realms of sravakas and pratyekabuddhas. Though [expediently] manifesting worldly afflictions, his mind is always pure. Though displaying misdeeds, he praises the practice of purity and does not lead sentient beings into undisciplined conduct and demeanor. If sentient beings seek out such a teacher, they will accomplish unexcelled perfect enlightenment. [2]

“If sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age meet such a teacher, they should make offerings to him even at the expense of their lives, not to mention their food, wealth, spouse, children, and retinue. Such a teacher always reveals purity in the four modes of conduct. [3] Even if he shows misdeeds and excesses, disciples should not give rise to pride and contempt in their minds. If these disciples do not entertain evil thoughts of their teacher, they will ultimately be able to accomplish correct enlightenment. Their mind-flowers will blossom and illumine all Pure Lands in the ten directions.

“Virtuous man, the wondrous Dharma that is actualized by this good teacher should be free from four kinds of faults. What are these four faults?

“The first is the fault of contrivance. If a man says: ‘I exert myself in all kinds of practices based on my intrinsic [pure] mind in order to seek Complete Enlightenment,’ this is a fault, because the nature of Complete Enlightenment is not ‘attained’ by contrivance.

“The second is the fault of allowing things to be as they are. If a man says: ‘I neither wish to sever birth and death nor seek nirvana. There are no conceptions of samsara and nirvana as truly arising or perishing. I allow everything to take its course with the various natures of dharmas in my quest for Complete Enlightenment,’ this is a fault, because the nature of Complete Enlightenment does not come about through accepting things as they are.

“The third is the fault of stopping. If a man says: ‘In my quest for Complete Enlightenment, if I permanently stop my mind from having any thoughts, then I will attain the quiescence and equality of the nature of all [dharmas],’ this is a fault, because the nature of Complete Enlightenment does not conform with the stopping of thoughts.

“The fourth is the fault of annihilation. If a man says: ‘In my quest for Complete Enlightenment, if I permanently annihilate all vexations, then my body and mind, not to mention the illusory realms of sense faculties and dust, will ultimately be emptiness and utter nothingness. Everything will be [in the state of] eternal quiescence,’ this is a fault, because the nature of Complete Enlightenment is not annihilation.

“One who is free from these four faults will know purity. To discern these faults is to have the right discernment. To have other discernments than these is called erroneous discernment.

“Virtuous man, sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age who wish to cultivate themselves should, to the end of their lives, make offerings to virtuous friends and serve good teachers. When a good teacher approaches them, they should sever arrogance and pride. When the teacher leaves them, they should sever hatred and resentment. Be it favorable or adverse condition that [a teacher] brings to them, they should regard it as empty space. They should fully realize that their own bodies and minds are ultimately identical with all sentient beings’, and are the same in essence, without difference. If they practice in this way, they will enter the [realm of] Complete Enfightenment.

“Virtuous man, when sentient beings in the Dharina Ending Age are unable to accomplish the Path, it is due to the seeds of love and hatred toward themselves and others since beginningless time. Thus they are not liberated. If a man regards his foes as he would his parents, without duality, then all faults will be eliminated. Within all dharmas, self, others, love, and hatred will also be eliminated.

“Virtuous man, sentient beings in their quest for Complete Enlightenment in the Dharma Ending Age should give rise to the bodhi-mind, saying: ‘I will lead all sentient beings throughout boundless space into ultimate Complete Enlightenment. In [the realm of] Complete Enlightenment, there is no realizer of enlightenment, and [the signs of] self, others, and all characteristics are left behind.’ Giving rise to such a mind, they will not fall into erroneous views.”

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

Universal Enlightenment, you should know
that sentient beings in the Dharma Ending Age
who wish to seek a good teacher
should find one with correct views
whose mind is far away from the Two Vehicles.
The Dharma [he actualizes] should be free
from the four faults of
contrivance, stopping, allowing things
to be as they are, and annihilation.
Approached by the teacher, they should
not be arrogant and proud.
Left by the teacher, they should not be resentful.
When witnessing different conditions
displayed by the teacher,
they should regard them as precious rare occurrences,
like a Buddha appearing in the world.
[They should] break not the rules of discipline and demeanor
and keep the precepts forever pure,
lead all sentient beings into
the ultimate Complete Enlightenment,
be free from the signs of the self,
person, sentient beings, and life.
When relying on correct wisdom,
they will transcend erroneous views,
actualize enlightenment, and enter parinirvana.

[1] In this context, the Bodhisattva of Universal Enlightenment is referring back to the answer that the Buddha gave to the previous bodhisattva about the teaching as a guiding vision for future practice. Therefore, the translator has taken the liberty to add this line in the text.

[2] “Perfect enlightenment” refers to anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

[3] Walking, standing, sitting, and lying down.