The Lotus Sutra
Translated into English by Burton Watson
Chapter Fourteen: Peaceful Practices
At that time Manjushri, Dharma prince, bodhisattva and mahasattva, said to the Buddha: "World-Honored One, these bodhisattvas undertake something that is very difficult. Because they revere and obey the Buddha, they have taken a great vow that in the evil age hereafter they will guard, uphold, read, recite and preach this Lotus Sutra. World-Honored One, in the evil age hereafter, how should these bodhisattvas, mahasattvas go about preaching this sutra?"
The Buddha said to Manjushri: "If these bodhisattvas and mahasattvas in the evil age hereafter wish to preach this sutra they should abide by four rules. First they should abide by the practices and associations proper for bodhisattvas so that they can expound this sutra for the sake of living beings. Manjushri, what do I mean by the practices of a bodhisattva or mahasattva? If a bodhisattva or mahasattva takes his stand on perseverance, is gentle and compliant, never violent, and never alarmed in mind; and if with regard to phenomena he takes no action but observes the true entiry of phenomena without acting or making any distinction, then this one might call the practices of a bodhisattva and mahasattva.
"As for the associations proper for them, bodhisattvas and mahasattvas should not associate closely with rulers, princes, high ministers or heads of offices. They should not associate closely with non-Buddhists, Brahmans or Jains, or with those who compose works of secular literature or books extolling the heretics, nor should they be closely associated with Lokayatas or anti-Lokayatas 4. They should not be closely associated with hazardous amusement, boxing or wrestling, or with actors or others engaging in various kinds of illusionary entertainment, or with the chandalas, persons engaging in raising pigs, engaged in raising pigs, sheep, chickens or dogs, or those who engage in hunting or fishing or other evil activities. If such persons at times come to one, then one may preach the Law for them, but one should expect nothing from it. Again one should not associate with monks, nuns, laymen or laywomen who seek to become voice-hearers, nor should one question or visit them. One should not stay with them in the same room, or in the place where one exercises, or in the lecture hall. One should not join them in their activities. If at times they come to one, one should preach the Law in accordance with what is appropriate, but should expect nothing from it.
"Manjushri, the bodhisattva or mahasattva should not, when preaching the Law to women, do so in a manner that could arouse thoughts of desire in them, nor should he delight in seeing them. If he enters the house of another person, he should not engage in talk with the young girls, unmarried women or widows. Nor should he go near the five types of unmanly men or have any close dealings with them 5. He should not enter another person's house alone. If for some reason it is imperative to enter alone, he should concentrate his full mind on thoughts of the Buddha. If he should preach the Law for a woman, he should not bear his teeth in laughter or let his chest become exposed. He should not have any intimate dealings with her even for the sake of the Law, much less for any other purpose.
"He should not delight in nurturing underage disciples, shramaneras or children, and should not delight in sharing the same teacher with them. He should constantly take pleasure in sitting in meditation, being in quiet surroundings and learning to still his mind. Manjushri, these are what I call the things he should first of all associate himself with.
"Next, the bodhisattva or mahasattva should view all phenomena as empty, that being their true entity. They do not turn upside down, do not move, do not regress, do not revolve. They are like empty space, without innate nature, beyond the reach of all words. They are not born, do not emerge, do not arise. They are without name, without form, without true being. They are without volume, without limits, without hindrance, without barriers. It is only through causes and conditions that they exist, and come to be taken upside down, to be born. Therefore I say that one should constantly delight in viewing the form of phenomena as this. This is what I call the second thing that the bodhisattva or mahasattva should associate himself with."
At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:
If there are bodhisattvas
who in the evil age hereafter
wish with fearless hearts
to preach this sutra,
these are the places they should enter
and the persons they should closely associate with.
At all times shun rulers
and the princes of kingdoms,
high ministers, heads of offices,
those engaged in hazardous amusements
as well as chandalas,
non-Buddhists and Brahmans.
One should not associate
with persons of overbearing arrogance
or those who stubbornly adhere to the Lesser Vehicle
and are learned in its three storehouses.
Monks who violate the precepts,
arhats who are so in name only,
nuns who are fond
of jesting and laughter,
or women lay believers
who are profoundly attached to the five desires
or who seek immediate entry into extinction -
all these one should not associate with.
If there are persons
who come with good hearts
to the place of the bodhisattva
in order to hear the Buddha way,
then the bodhisattva
with a fearless heart
but without harboring expectations
should preach the Law for them.
But widows and unmarried women
and the different kinds of unmanly men -
all these he should not associate with
or treat with intimacy.
Also he must not associate with
slaughterers or flesh-carvers,
those who hunt animals or catch fish,
or kill to do harm for profit.
Those who peddle meat for a living
or display women and sell their favors -
all persons such as this
one should never associate with.
Those engaged in hazardous sports,
wrestling, or other kinds of amusements,
women of lascivious nature -
never associate with any of these.
Never go alone into an enclosed place
to preach the Law to a woman.
When you preach the Law,
let there be no jesting or laughter.
When you enter a village to beg for food,
take another monk with you;
if there is no other monk around,
with a single mind concentrate on the Buddha.
These are what I call
proper practices and associations.
By being careful about these two,
one can preach in a peaceful manner.
One should not speak in terms of
superior medial or inferior doctrines,
of doctrines of the conditioned or unconditioned,
or the real or the not real.
Again one should not make distinctions
by saying "This is a man," "This is a woman."
Do not try to apprehend phenomena,
to understand or to see them.
These are what I call
the practices of the bodhisattva.
are empty, without being,
without any constant abiding,
without arising or extinction.
This I call the position
the wise person associates himself with.
From upside-down-ness come distinctions,
that phenomena exist, do not exist,
are real, or not real,
are born, are not born.
Place yourself in quiet surroundings,
learn to still your mind,
remain tranquil, and moving,
like Mount Sumeru.
Look upon all phenomena
as having no existence,
like empty space,
as without firmness or hardness,
not born, not emerging,
not moving, and regressing,
constantly abiding in a single form -
this I call the place to draw near to.
If after I have entered extinction
there are monks
who take up these practices
and these associations,
then when they preach this sutra
they will be free of quailing and timidity.
If a bodhisattva will at times
enter a quiet room
and with the correct mental attitude
will view phenomena according to the doctrine,
and then, rising from his meditation,
will for the sake of the ruler,
the princes, ministers and people,
the Brahmans and others,
unfold, propagate, expound
and preach this sutra,
then his mind will be tranquil,
free of quailing and timidity.
these I call the first set of rules
for the bodhisattva to abide by
to enable him in later ages
to preach the Lotus Sutra.
"Furthermore, Manjushri, after the Thus Come One has passed into extinction, in the Latter Day of the Law, if one wishes to preach this sutra, you should abide by these peaceful practices. When he opens his mouth to expound or when he reads the sutra, he should not delight in speaking of the faults of other people or scriptures. He should not display contempt for other teachers of the Law or speak of other people's tastes or shortcomings. With regard to the voice-hearers he should not refer to them by name and describe their faults, or name them and praise their good points. Also he should not allow his mind to become filled with resentment or hatred. Because he is good at cultivating this kind of peaceful mind, his listeners will not oppose his ideas. If he is asked difficult questions, he should not reply in terms of the Law of a Lesser Vehicle. He should explain things solely in terms of the Great Vehicle so that people will be able to acquire wisdom embracing all species."
At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:
The bodhisattva should at all times delight
in preaching the Law in a tranquil manner.
On pure and clean ground
he should spread his sitting mat,
anoint his body with oil,
wash away dust and impurities,
put on a new clean robe
and make himself both inwardly and outwardly pure.
Seating himself comfortably in the Dharma seat,
he should preach the Law in accordance with questions.
If there are monks
men lay believers,
women lay believers,
rulers and princes,
officials, gentlemen and common people,
with a mild expression he should preach for them
the subtle and wonderful doctrines.
If there are difficult questions
he should answer them in accordance with the doctrines,
employing causes and conditions, similes and parables
to expound and make distinctions,
and through these expedient means
cause all listeners to aspire to enlightenment,
to increase their benefits little by little
and enter the Buddha way.
He should put aside all ideas of laziness,
all thought of negligence or ease,
remove himself from cares and worries
and with a compassionate mind preach the Law.
Day and night constantly he should expound
the teachings of the unsurpassed way,
employing causes and conditions,
immeasurable similes and parables
to instruct living beings
and cause them all to be joyful.
Clothing and bedding,
food, drink, medicine -
with regard to such things
he should have no expectations
but with a single mind concentrate
upon the reasons for preaching the Law,
desiring to complete the Buddha way
and to cause those in the assembly to do likewise.
That will bring great gain to them,
an offering of peace.
After I have passed into extinction
if there are monks
who are able to expound
this Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law
their minds will be free of the jealousy and anger,
of all worry and hindrance.
No one will trouble them,
curse or revile them.
They will know no fear,
no attacks by sword or staff,
nor will they ever be banished,
because they abide in patience.
Wise persons will be good
at cultivating their minds like this
and be able to abide in peace
as I have described above.
The blessings of such persons
are beyond calculation, simile or parable;
thousands, ten thousands, millions of kalpas
would not suffice to describe them.
"Also, Manjushri, if a bodhisattva or mahasattva in the latter age hereafter, when the Law is about to parish, should accept and embrace, read and recite this sutra, he must not harbor a mind marked by jealousy, fawning or deceit. And he must not be contemptuous of or revile those who study the Buddha way or seek out their shortcomings.
"If there are monks, nuns, laymen, or laywomen who seek to become voice-hearers, seek to become pratyekabuddhas, or seek the bodhisattva way, one must not trouble them by causing them to have doubts or regrets, by saying to them, 'You are far removed from the way and in the end will never be able to attain wisdom embracing all species. Why? Because you are self-indulgent and willful people who are negligent of the way!'
"Also one should never engage in frivolous debate over the various doctrines or dispute or wrangle over them. With regard to all living beings one should think of them with great compassion. With regard to the Thus Come Ones, think of them as kindly fathers; with regard to the bodhisattvas, think of them as great teachers. Toward the great bodhisattvas of the ten directions at all times maintain a serious mind, paying them due reverence and obeisance. To all living beings preach the Law and in an equitable manner. Because a person is heedful of the Law, that does not mean one should vary the amount of preaching. Even to those who show a profound love for the Law one should not on that account preach at greater length.
"Manjushri, if among these bodhisattvas and mahasattvas there are those who in the latter age hereafter, when the Law is about to perish, succeed in carrying out this third set of peaceful practices, then when they preach this Law they will be free from anxiety and confusion, and will find good fellow students to read and recite this sutra with. They will attract a large assembly of persons who come to listen and assent. After they have listened, they will embrace; after they have embraced, they will recite; after they have recited, they will preach; and after they have preached, they will copy, or will cause others to copy, and will present offerings to the sutra rolls, treating them with reverence, respect and praise."
At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:
If you wish to preach this sutra,
you must set aside jealousy, hatred, arrogance,
a mind that is fawning, deceitful, false,
and constantly practice honest and upright conduct.
Do not look with contempt on others
or hold frivolous debates on the doctrine.
Do not cause others to have doubts or regrets
by saying, "You will never become a Buddha!"
When a son of the Buddha preaches the Law
he is at all times gentle and full of forbearance,
having pity and compassion on all,
never giving way to a negligent or a slothful mind.
The great bodhisattvas of the ten directions
out of pity for the multitude carry out the way.
One should strive to respect and read and revere them,
saying, "These are great teachers!"
Regarding the Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones,
learn to think of them as unsurpassed fathers.
Wipe out the mind of pride and arrogance
and preach the Law without hindrance.
Such is the third set of rules;
wise persons should guard and obey them.
If with a single mind they observe these peaceful practices,
they will be respected by immeasurable multitudes.
"Manjushri, if among these bodhisattvas and mahasattvas there are those who in the age hereafter, when the Law is about to perish, accept and embrace the Lotus Sutra, toward the believers who are still in the household or those who have left the household they should cultivate a mind of great compassion, and toward those who are not bodhisattvas they should also cultivate a mind of great compassion, and should think to themselves: These persons have made a great error. Though the Thus Come One as an expedient means preaches the Law in accordance with what is appropriate, they do not listen, do not know, do not realize, do not inquire, do not believe, do not understand. But although these persons do not inquire about, do not believe and do not understand this sutra, when I have attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, wherever I happen to be, I will employ my transcendental powers and the power of wisdom to draw them to me to cause them to abide in this Law.
"Manjushri after the Thus Come One has entered extinction, if among these bodhisattvas and mahasattvas there are those who will succeed in carrying out this fourth set of rules, then when they preach the Law they will commit no error. Monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, and rulers, princes, great ministers, common people, Brahmans and householders will constantly offer them alms and will revere, respect and praise them. The heavenly beings in the sky, in order to listen to the Law, will constantly follow and attend them. If they are in a settlement or town or in a quiet and deserted place or a forest and people come and want to ask them difficult questions, the heavenly beings day and night will for the sake of the Law constantly guard and protect them and will cause all the listeners to rejoice. Why? Because this sutra is protected by the supernatural powers of all the Buddhas of the past, future, and present.
"Manjushri, as for this Lotus Sutra, throughout immeasurable numbers of lands one cannot even hear its name, much less be able to see it, accept and embrace, read and recite it. Manjushri, suppose, for example, that there is a powerful wheel-turning sage king who wants to use his might to subdue other countries, but the petty rulers will not heed his commands. At that time the wheel-turning king calls up his various troops and sets out to attack. If the king sees any of his fighting forces who have won distinction in battle, he is greatly delighted and immediately rewards the persons in accordance with their merits, handing out fields, houses, settlements and towns, or robes and personal adornments, or perhaps giving out various precious objects such as gold, silver, lapis lazuli, seashell, agate, coral or amber, or elephants, horses, carriages, men and women servants, and people. Only the bright jewel that is in his topknot he does not give away. Why? Because this one jewel exists only on the top of the King's head, and if he were to give it away, his followers would be certain to express great consternation and alarm.
"Manjushri, the Thus Come One is like this. He uses the power of meditation and wisdom to win Dharma lands and become king of the threefold world. But the devil kings are unwilling to obey and submit. The worthy and sage military leaders of the Thus Come One engage them in battle, and when any of the Buddha's soldiers achieve distinction, the Buddha is delighted in heart and in the midst of the four kinds of believers he preaches various sutras, causing their hearts to be joyful. He presents them with meditations, emancipations, roots and powers that are free of outflows, and other treasures of the Law. He also presents them with the city of nirvana, telling them that they have attained extinction, guiding their minds and causing them all to rejoice. But he does not preach the Lotus Sutra to them.
"Manjushri, when the wheel-turning king sees someone among his soldiers who has gained truly great distinction, he is so delighted in heart that he takes the unbelievably fine jewel that has been in his topknot for so long and has never been recklessly given away, and now gives it to this man. And the Thus Come One does the same. In the threefold world he acts as the great Dharma king. He uses the Law to teach and convert all living beings, watches his worthy and sage armies as they battle with the devils of the five components, the devils of earthly desires, and the death devil. And when they have won great distinction and merit, wiping out the three poisons, emerging from the threefold world, and destroying the nets of the devils, at that time the Thus Come One is filled with great joy. This Lotus Sutra is capable of causing all living beings to attain comprehensive wisdom. It will face much hostility in the world and be difficult to believe. It has not been practiced before, but now I preach it.
"Manjushri, this Lotus Sutra is foremost among all that is preached by the Thus Come One. Among all that is preached it is the most profound. And it is given at the very last, the way that profound ruler did when he took the bright jewel he had guarded for so long and finally gave it away.
"Manjushri this Lotus Sutra is the secret storehouse of the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones. Among the sutras, it holds the highest place. Through the long night I have guarded and protected it and have never recklessly propagated it. But today for the first time I expound it for your sake."
At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoken in verse form, saying:
Constantly practice perseverance,
have pity on all beings,
and do your best to expound and preach
the sutra praised by the Buddha.
In the latter age hereafter
those who embrace this sutra should,
without regard to persons in the household, persons who have
or persons who are not bodhisattvas,
cultivate pity and compassion,
saying, "If they do not listen to
and do not believe this sutra
they will be committing a great error.
If I gain the bodhisattva way
I will employ expedient means
and preach this Law for them,
causing them to abide in it.
Suppose there is a powerful
His soldiers have won merit in battle
and he rewards them with various articles,
elephants, horses, carriages,
adornments for their person,
fields and houses,
settlements and towns,
or gives them clothing,
various kinds of precious objects,
men and women servants, wealth and goods,
delightedly bestowing all these.
But if there is someone brave and stalwart
who can carry out difficult deeds,
the king will remove the bright jewel from his topknot
and present it to the man.
The Thus Come One is like this.
He acts as king of the doctrines,
possessing the great power of perseverance
and the precious storehouse of wisdom,
and with his great pity and compassion
he converts the age in accordance with the Law.
He sees all persons
as they undergo suffering and anxiety,
seeking to gain emancipation
battling with the devils,
and for the sake of the living beings
he preaches various doctrines,
employing great expedient means
and preaching these sutras.
And when he knows that living beings
have gained powers through them,
then at the very last for their sake
he preaches this Lotus Sutra,
like the king who unbinds his topknot
and gives away his bright jewel.
This sutra is to be honored
as highest among all sutras.
Constantly I guard and protect it,
and do not purposely reveal it.
But now the time is right
for me to preach it to you.
After I have entered extinction
if someone seeks the Buddha way
and hopes to be able in tranquility
to expound this sutra,
then he should associate himself closely
with the four rules described.
Anyone who reads this sutra
will at all times be free of worry and anxiety;
likewise he will be without illness or pain,
his expression fresh and bright.
He will not be born in poverty or want,
in humble or ugly circumstances.
Living beings will delight to see him
and look up to him as a worthy sage.
The young sons of heavenly beings
will wait on him and serve him.
Swords and staves will not touch him
and poison will have no power to harm him.
If people speak ill and revile him,
their mouths will be closed and stopped up.
He will stroll about without fear
like the lion king.
The brilliance of his wisdom
will be like the shining of the sun;
even in his dreams
he will see only wonderful things.
He will see the Thus Come Ones
seated in their lion seats
surrounded by multitudes of monks
and preaching the Law.
And he will see dragons, spirits,
asuras and others,
numerous as Ganges sands,
reverently pressing their palms together.
He will see himself there
and will preach the Law for them.
Again he will see Buddhas,
their bodies marked by a golden hue,
emitting immeasurable rays
that light up all things,
employing Brahma sounds
to expound the doctrines.
For the four kinds of believers
the Buddha will preach the unsurpassed Law,
and he will see himself among them
pressing his palms together and praising the Buddha.
He will hear the Law and delight
and will offer alms.
He will obtain dharanis
and proof of the wisdom without regression.
And when the Buddha knows that his mind
has entered deep into the Buddha way,
then he will give him a prophecy
that he will attain the highest, the correct enlightenment.
"You, good man,
in an age to come
will attain immeasurable wisdom,
the great way of the Buddha.
Your land will be adorned and pure,
incomparably broad and great,
with the four kinds of believers
who press their palms together and listen to the Law.
Again he will see himself
in the midst of mountains and forests
practicing the good Law,
understanding the true nature of all phenomena,
deeply entering meditation
and seeing the Buddhas of the ten directions.
Of Buddhas, their bodies of golden hue,
adorned with the marks of a hundred kinds of good fortune,
of listening to the Law and preaching it to the people -
such will be the good dreams he constantly dreams.
Again he will dream he is king of a country
but casts aside palaces and attendants
and the superb and wonderful objects of the five desires,
repairs to the place of practice
and under the bodhi tree
seats himself in a lion seat,
seeking the way, and after seven days
gains the wisdom of the Buddhas.
Having succeeded in the unsurpassed way,
he rises and turns the wheel of the Law,
preaching the Law for the four kinds of believers,
for thousands, ten thousands, millions of kalpas
preaching the wonderful Law free of outflows,
saving immeasurable living beings.
And afterward he will enter nirvana
like smoke coming to an end when a lamp goes out.
If in that evil age hereafter
someone preaches this foremost Law,
that person will gain great benefits,
blessings such as have been described above.
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