Category Archives: Vimalakirti Sutra

Vimalakirti Sutra – Epilogue: Antecedents and Transmission of the Holy Dharma

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Then Sakra, the prince of the gods, said to the Buddha, “Lord, formerly I have heard from the Tathagata and from Manjusri, the crown prince of wisdom, many hundreds of thousands of teachings of the Dharma, but I have never before heard a teaching of the Dharma as remarkable as this instruction in the entrance into the method of inconceivable transformations. Lord, those living beings who, having heard this teaching of the Dharma, accept it, remember it, read it, and understand it deeply will be, without a doubt, true vessels of the Dharma; there is no need to mention those who apply themselves to the yoga of meditation upon it. They will cut off all possibility of unhappy lives, will open their way to all fortunate lives, will always be looked after by all Buddhas, will always overcome all adversaries, and will always conquer all devils. They will practice the path of the bodhisattvas, will take their places upon the seat of Enlightenment, and will have truly entered the domain of the Tathagatas. Lord, the noble sons and daughters who will teach and practice this exposition of the Dharma will be honored and served by me and my followers. To the villages, towns, cities, states, kingdoms, and capitals wherein this teaching of the Dharma will be applied, taught, and demonstrated, I and my followers will come to hear the Dharma. I will inspire the unbelieving with faith, and I will guarantee my help and protection to those who believe and uphold the Dharma.”

At these words, the Buddha said to Sakra, the prince of the gods, “Excellent! Excellent, prince of gods! The Tathagata rejoices in your good words. Prince of gods, the enlightenment of the Buddhas of the past, present, and future is expressed in this discourse of Dharma. Therefore, prince of gods, when noble sons and daughters accept it, repeat it, understand it deeply, write it completely, and, making it into a book, honor it, those sons and daughters thereby pay homage to the Buddhas of the past, present and future.

“Let us suppose, prince of gods, that this billion-world-galactic universe were as full of Tathagatas as it is covered with groves of sugarcane, with rosebushes, with bamboo thickets, with herbs, and with flowers, and that a noble son or daughter were to honor them, revere them, respect and adore them, offering them all sorts of comforts and offerings for an aeon or more than an aeon. And let us suppose that, these Tathagatas having entered ultimate liberation, he or she honored each of them by enshrining their preserved bodies in a memorial stupa made of precious stones, each as large as a world with four great continents, rising as high as the world of Brahma, adorned with parasols, banners, standards, and lamps. And let us suppose finally that, having erected all these stupas for the Tathagatas, he or she were to devote an aeon or more to offering them flowers, perfumes, banners, and standards, while playing drums and music.

That being done, what do you think, prince of gods? Would that noble son or daughter receive much merit as a consequence of such activities?”

Sakra, the prince of gods, replied, “Many merits, Lord! Many merits, O Sugata! Were one to spend hundreds of thousands of millions of aeons, it would be impossible to measure the limit of the mass of merits that that noble son or daughter would thereby gather!”

The Buddha said, “Have faith, prince of gods, and understand this: Whoever accepts this exposition of the Dharma called ‘Instruction in the Inconceivable Liberation,’ recites it, and understands it deeply, he or she will gather merits even greater than those who perform the above acts. Why so? Because, prince of gods, the enlightenment of the Buddhas arises from the Dharma, and one honors them by the Dharma worship, and not by material worship. Thus it is taught, prince of gods, and thus you must understand it.”

The Buddha then further said to Sakra, the prince of gods, “Once, prince of gods, long ago, long before aeons more numerous than the innumerable, immense, immeasurable, inconceivable, and even before then, the Tathagata called Bhaisajyaraja appeared in the world: a saint, perfectly and fully enlightened, endowed with knowledge and conduct, a blissful one, knower of the world, incomparable knower of men who need to be civilized, teacher of gods and men, a Lord, a Buddha. He appeared in the aeon called Vicarana in the universe called Mahavyuha.

“The length of life of this Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja, perfectly and fully enlightened one, was twenty short aeons. His retinue of disciples numbered thirty-six million billion, and his retinue of bodhisattvas numbered twelve million billion. In that same era, prince of gods, there was a universal monarch called King Ratnacchattra, who reigned over the four continents and possessed seven precious jewels. He had one thousand heroic sons, powerful, strong, and able to conquer enemy armies. This King Ratnacchattra honored the Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja and his retinue with many excellent offerings during five short aeons. At the end of this time, the King Ratnacchattra said to his sons, ‘Recognizing that during my reign I have worshiped the Tathagata, in your turn you also should worship him.’

“The thousand princes gave their consent, obeying their father the king, and all together, during another five short aeons, they honored the Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja with all sorts of excellent offerings.

“Among them, there was a prince by the name of Candracchattra, who retired into solitude and thought to himself, ‘Is there not another mode of worship, even better and more noble than this?’

“Then, by the supernatural power of the Buddha Bhaisajyaraja, the gods spoke to him from the heavens: ‘Good man, the supreme worship is the Dharma-worship.’

“Candracchattra asked them, ‘What is this “Dharma-worship”?’

“The gods replied, ‘Good man, go to the Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja, ask him about the “Dharma-worship,” and he will explain it to you fully.’

“Then, the prince Candracchattra went to the Lord Bhaisajyaraja, the saint, the Tathagata, the insuperably, perfectly enlightened one, and having approached him, bowed down at his feet, circumambulated him to the right three times, and withdrew to one side. He then asked, ‘Lord, I have heard of a “Dharma-worship,” which surpasses all other worship. What it this “Dharma-worship”?’

“The Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja said, ‘Noble son, the Dharma-worship is that worship rendered to the discourses taught by the Tathagata. These discourses are deep and profound in illumination. They do not conform to the mundane and are difficult to understand, difficult to see and difficult to realize. They are subtle, precise, and ultimately incomprehensible. As Scriptures, they are collected in the canon of the bodhisattvas, stamped with the insignia of the king of incantations and teachings. They reveal the irreversible wheel of Dharma, arising from the six transcendences, cleansed of any false notions. They are endowed with all the aids to enlightenment and embody the seven factors of enlightenment. They introduce living beings to the great compassion and teach them the great love. They eliminate all the convictions of the Maras, and they manifest relativity.

“‘They contain the message of selflessness, living-beinglessness, lifelessness, personlessness, voidness, signlessness, wishlessness, nonperformance, nonproduction, and nonoccurrence.

“‘They make possible the attainment of the seat of enlightenment and set in motion the wheel of the Dharma. They are approved and praised by the chiefs of the gods, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, and mahoragas. They preserve unbroken the heritage of the holy Dharma, contain the treasury of the Dharma, and represent the summit of the Dharma-worship. They are upheld by all holy beings and teach all the bodhisattva practices. They induce the unmistaken understanding of the Dharma in its ultimate sense. They certify that all things are impermanent, miserable, selfless, and peaceful, thus epitomizing the Dharma. They cause the abandonment of avarice, immorality, malice, laziness, forgetfulness, foolishness, and jealousy, as well as bad convictions, adherence to objects, and all opposition. They are praised by all the Buddhas. They are the medicines for the tendencies of mundane life, and they authentically manifest the great happiness of liberation. To teach correctly, to uphold, to investigate, and to understand such Scriptures, thus incorporating into one’s own life the holy Dharma – that is the “Dharma-worship.”

“‘Furthermore, noble son, the Dharma-worship consists of determining the Dharma according to the Dharma; applying the Dharma according to the Dharma; being in harmony with relativity; being free of extremist convictions; attaining the tolerance of ultimate birthlessness and nonoccurrence of all things; realizing selflessness and living-beinglessness; refraining from struggle about causes and conditions, without quarreling, or disputing; not being possessive; being free of egoism; relying on the meaning and not on the literal expression; relying on gnosis and not on consciousness; relying on the ultimate teachings definitive in meaning and not insisting on the superficial teachings interpretable in meaning; relying on reality and not insisting on opinions derived from personal authorities; realizing correctly the reality of the Buddha; realizing the ultimate absence of any fundamental consciousness; and overcoming the habit of clinging to an ultimate ground. Finally, attaining peace by stopping everything from ignorance to old age, death, sorrow, lamentation, misery, anxiety, and trouble, and realizing that living beings know no end to their views concerning these twelve links of dependent origination; then, noble son, when you do not hold to any view at all, it is called the unexcelled Dharma-worship.’

“Prince of gods, when the prince Candracchattra had heard this definition of Dharma-worship from the Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja, he attained the conformative tolerance of ultimate birthlessness; and, taking his robes and ornaments, he offered them to the Buddha Bhaisajyaraja, saying, ‘When the Tathagata will be in ultimate liberation, I wish to defend his holy Dharma, to protect it, and to worship it. May the Tathagata grant me his supernatural blessing, that I may be able to conquer Mara and all adversaries and to incorporate in all my lives the holy Dharma of the Buddha!’

“The Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja, knowing the high resolve of Candracchattra, prophesied to him that he would be, at a later time, in the future, the protector, guardian, and defender of the city of the holy Dharma. Then, prince of gods, the prince Candracchattra, out of his great faith in the Tathagata, left the household life in order to enter the homeless life of a monk and having done so, lived making great efforts toward the attainment of virtue. Having made great effort and being well established in virtue, he soon produced the five superknowledges, understood the incantations, and obtained the invincible eloquence. When the Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja attained ultimate liberation, Candracchattra, on the strength of his superknowledges and by the power of his incantations, made the wheel of the Dharma turn just as the Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja had done and continued to do so for ten short aeons.

“Prince of gods, while the monk Candracchattra was exerting himself thus to protect the holy Dharma, thousands of millions of living beings reached the stage of irreversibility on the path to unexcelled, perfect enlightenment, fourteen billion living beings were disciplined in the vehicles of the disciples and solitary sages, and innumerable living beings took rebirth in the human and heavenly realms.

“Perhaps, prince of gods, you are wondering or experiencing some doubt about whether or not, at that former time, the King Ratnacchattra was not some other than the actual Tathagata Ratnarcis. You must not imagine that, for the present Tathagata Ratnarcis was at that time, in that epoch, the universal monarch Ratnacchattra. As for the thousand sons of the King Ratnacchattra, they are now the thousand bodhisattvas of the present blessed aeon, during the course of which one thousand Buddhas will appear in the world. Among them, Krakucchanda and others are already born, and those remaining will still be born, from Kakutsunda up to the Tathagata Roca, who will be the last to be born.

“Perhaps, prince of gods, you are asking yourself if, in that life, in that time, the Prince Candracchattra who upheld the Holy Dharma of Lord Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja was not someone other than myself. But you must not imagine that, for I was, in that life, in that time, the Prince Candracchattra. Thus it is necessary to know, prince of gods, that among all the worships rendered to the Tathagata, the Dharma-worship is the very best. Yes, it is good, eminent, excellent, perfect, supreme, and unexcelled. And therefore, prince of gods, do not worship me with material objects but worship me with the Dharma-worship! Do not honor me with material objects but honor me by honor to the Dharma!”

Then the Lord Sakyamuni said to the bodhisattva Maitreya, the great spiritual hero, “I transmit to you, Maitreya, this unexcelled, perfect enlightenment which I attained only after innumerable millions of billions of aeons, in order that, at a later time, during a later life, a similar teaching of the Dharma, protected by your supernatural power, will spread in the world and will not disappear. Why? Maitreya, in the future there will be noble sons and daughters, devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, and asuras, who, having planted the roots of virtue, will produce the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment. If they do not hear this teaching of the Dharma, they will certainly lose boundless advantages and even perish. But if they hear such a teaching, they will rejoice, will believe, and will accept it upon the crowns of their heads. Hence, in order to protect those future noble sons and daughters, you must spread a teaching such as this!

“Maitreya, there are two gestures of the bodhisattvas. What are they? The first gesture is to believe in all sorts of phrases and words, and the second gesture is to penetrate exactly the profound principle of the Dharma without being afraid. Such are the two gestures of the bodhisattvas. Maitreya, it must be known that the bodhisattvas who believe in all sorts of words and phrases, and apply themselves accordingly, are beginners and not experienced in religious practice. But the bodhisattvas who read, hear, believe, and teach this profound teaching with its impeccable expressions reconciling dichotomies and its analyses of stages of development these are veterans in the religious practice.

“Maitreya, there are two reasons the beginner bodhisattvas hurt themselves and do not concentrate on the profound Dharma. What are they? Hearing this profound teaching never before heard, they are terrified and doubtful, do not rejoice, and reject it, thinking, ‘Whence comes this teaching never before heard?’ They then behold other noble sons accepting, becoming vessels for, and teaching this profound teaching, and they do not attend upon them, do not befriend them, do not respect them, and do not honor them, and eventually they go so far as to criticize them. These are the two reasons the beginner bodhisattvas hurt themselves and do not penetrate the profound Dharma.

“There are two reasons the bodhisattvas who do aspire to the profound Dharma hurt themselves and do not attain the tolerance of the ultimate birthlessness of things. What are these two? These bodhisattvas despise and reproach the beginner bodhisattvas, who have not been practicing for a long time, and they do not initiate them or instruct them in the profound teaching. Having no great respect for this profound teaching, they are not careful about its rules. They help living beings by means of material gifts and do not help them by means of the gift of the Dharma. Such, Maitreya, are the two reasons the bodhisattvas who aspire to the profound Dharma hurt themselves and will not quickly attain the tolerance of the ultimate birthlessness of all things.”

Thus having been taught, the bodhisattva Maitreya said to the Buddha, “Lord, the beautiful teachings of the Tathagata are wonderful and truly excellent. Lord, from this time forth, I will avoid all such errors and will defend and uphold this attainment of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment by the Tathagata during innumerable hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of aeons! In the future, I will place in the hands of noble sons and noble daughters who are worthy vessels of the holy Dharma this profound teaching. I will instill in them the power of memory with which they may, having believed in this teaching, retain it, recite, it, penetrate its depths, teach it, propagate it, write it down, and proclaim it extensively to others.

“Thus I will instruct them, Lord, and thus it may be known that in that future time those who believe in this teaching and who enter deeply into it will be sustained by the supernatural blessing of the bodhisattva Maitreya.”

Thereupon the Buddha gave his approval to the bodhisattva Maitreya: “Excellent! Excellent! Your word is well given! The Tathagata rejoices and commends your good promise.”

Then all the bodhisattvas said together in one voice, “Lord, we also, after the ultimate liberation of the Tathagata, will come from our various buddha-fields to spread far and wide this enlightenment of the perfect Buddha, the Tathagata. May all noble sons and daughters believe in that!”

Then the four Maharajas, the great kings of the quarters, said to the Buddha, “Lord, in all the towns, villages, cities, kingdoms, and palaces, wherever this discourse of the Dharma will be practised, upheld, and correctly taught, we, the four great kings, will go there with our armies, our young warriors, and our retinues, to hear the Dharma. And we will protect the teachers of this Dharma for a radius of one league so that no one who plots injury or disruption against these teachers will have any opportunity to do them harm.”

Then the Buddha said to the venerable Ananda, “Receive then, Ananda, this expression of the teaching of the Dharma. Remember it, and teach it widely and correctly to others!”

Ananda replied, “I have memorized, Lord, this expression of the teaching of the Dharma. But what is the name of this teaching, and how should I remember it?”

The Buddha said, “Ananda, this exposition of the Dharma is called ‘The Teaching of Vimalakirti,’ or ‘The Reconciliation of Dichotomies,’ or even ‘Section of the Inconceivable Liberation.’ Remember it thus!”

Thus spoke the Buddha. And the Licchavi Vimalakirti, the crown prince Manjusri, the venerable Ananda, the bodhisattvas, the great disciples, the entire multitude, and the whole universe with its gods, men, asuras and gandharvas, rejoiced exceedingly. All heartily praised these declarations by the Lord.

Vimalakirti 11 – Lesson of the Destructible and the Indestructible

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Meanwhile, the area in which the Lord was teaching the Dharma in the garden of Amrapali expanded and grew larger, and the entire assembly appeared tinged with a golden hue. Thereupon, the venerable Ananda asked the Buddha, “Lord, this expansion and enlargement of the garden of Amrapali and this golden hue of the assembly – what do these auspicious signs portend?”

The Buddha declared, “Ananda, these auspicious signs portend that the Licchavi Vimalakirti and the crown prince Manjusri, attended by a great multitude, are coming into the presence of the Tathagata.”

At that moment the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the crown prince Manjusri, “Manjusri, let us take these many living beings into the presence of the Lord, so that they may see the Tathagata and bow down to him!”

Manjusri replied, “Noble sir, send them if you feel the time is right!”

Thereupon the Licchavi Vimalakirti performed the miraculous feat of placing the entire assembly, replete with thrones, upon his right hand and then, having transported himself magically into the presence of the Buddha, placing it on the ground. He bowed down at the feet of the Buddha, circumambulated him to the right seven times with palms together, and withdrew to one side.

The bodhisattvas who had come from the buddha-field of the Tathagata Sugandhakuta descended from their lion-thrones and, bowing down at the feet of the Buddha, placed their palms together in reverence and withdrew to one side. And the other bodhisattvas, great spiritual heroes, and the great disciples descended from their thrones likewise and, having bowed at the feet of the Buddha, withdrew to one side. Likewise all those Indras, Brahmas, Lokapalas, and gods bowed at the feet of the Buddha, placed their palms together in reverence and withdrew to one side.

Then, the Buddha, having delighted those bodhisattvas with greetings, declared, “Noble sons, be seated upon your thrones!”

Thus commanded by the Buddha, they took their thrones.

The Buddha said to Sariputra, “Sariputra, did you see the miraculous performances of the bodhisattvas, those best of beings?”

“I have seen them, Lord.”

“What concept did you produce toward them?”

“Lord, I produced the concept of inconceivability toward them. Their activities appeared inconceivable to me to the point that I was unable to think of them, to judge them, or even to imagine them.”

Then the venerable Ananda asked the Buddha, “Lord, what is this perfume, the likes of which I have never smelled before?”

The Buddha answered, “Ananda, this perfume emanates from all the pores of all these bodhisattvas.”

Sariputra added, “Venerable Ananda, this same perfume emanates from all our pores as well!”

Ananda: Where does the perfume come from?

Sariputra: The Licchavi Vimalakirti obtained some food from the universe called Sarvagandhasugandha, the buddha-field of the Tathagata Sugandhakuta, and this perfume emanates from the bodies of all those who partook of that food.

Then the venerable Ananda addressed the Licchavi Vimalakirti: “How long will this perfume remain?”

Vimalakirti: Until is it digested.

Ananda: When will it be digested?

Vimalakirti: It will be digested in forty-nine days, and its perfume will emanate for seven days more after that, but there will be no trouble of indigestion during that time. Furthermore, reverend Ananda, if monks who have not entered ultimate determination eat this food, it will be digested when they enter that determination. When those who have entered ultimate determination eat this food, it will not be digested until their minds are totally liberated. If living beings who have not conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment eat this food, it will be digested when they conceive the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment. If those who have conceived the spirit of perfect enlightenment eat this food, it will not be digested until they have attained tolerance. And if those who have attained tolerance eat this food, it will be digested when they have become bodhisattvas one lifetime away from Buddhahood. Reverend Ananda, it is like the medicine called “delicious,” which reaches the stomach but is not digested until all poisons have been eliminated only then is it digested. Thus, reverend Ananda, this food is not digested until all the poisons of the passions have been eliminated only then is it digested.

Then, the venerable Ananda said to the Buddha, “Lord, it is wonderful that this food accomplishes the work of the Buddha!”

“So it is, Ananda! It is as you say, Ananda! There are buddha-fields that accomplish the buddha-work by means of bodhisattvas; those that do so by means of lights; those that do so by means of the tree of enlightenment; those that do so by means of the physical beauty and the marks of the Tathagata; those that do so by means of religious robes; those that do so by means of good; those that do so by means of water; those that do so by means of gardens; those that do so by means of palaces; those that do so by means of mansions; those that do so by means of magical incarnations; those that do so by means of empty space; and those that do so by means of lights in the sky. Why is it so, Ananda? Because by these various means, living beings become disciplined. Similarly, Ananda, there are buddha-fields that accomplish the buddha-work by means of teaching living beings words, definitions, and examples, such as ‘dreams,’ ‘images,’ ‘the reflection of the moon in water,’ ‘echoes,’ ‘illusions,’ and ‘mirages’; and those that accomplish the buddha-work by making words understandable. Also, Ananda, there are utterly pure buddha-fields that accomplish the buddha-work for living beings without speech, by silence, inexpressibility, and unteachability. Ananda, among all the activities, enjoyments, and practices of the Buddhas, there are none that do not accomplish the buddha-work, because all discipline living beings. Finally, Ananda, the Buddhas accomplish the buddha-work by means of the four Maras and all the eighty-four thousand types of passion that afflict living beings.

“Ananda, this is a Dharma-door called ‘Introduction to all the Buddha-qualities.’ The bodhisattva who enters this Dharma-door experiences neither joy nor pride when confronted by a buddha-field adorned with the splendor of all noble qualities, and experiences neither sadness nor aversion when confronted by a buddha-field apparently without that splendor, but in all cases produces a profound reverence for all the Tathagatas. Indeed, it is wonderful how all the Lord Buddhas, who understand the equality of all things, manifest all sorts of buddha-fields in order to develop living beings!

“Ananda, just as the buddha-fields are diverse as to their specific qualities but have no difference as to the sky that covers them, so, Ananda, the Tathagatas are diverse as to their physical bodies but do not differ as to their unimpeded gnosis.

“Ananda, all the Buddhas are the same as to the perfection of the Buddha-qualities, that is: their forms, their colors, their radiance, their bodies, their marks, their nobility, their morality, their concentration, their wisdom, their liberation, the gnosis and vision of liberation, their strengths, their fearlessnesses, their special Buddha-qualities, their great love, their great compassion, their helpful intentions, their attitudes, their practices, their paths, the lengths of their lives, their teachings of the Dharma, their development and liberation of living beings, and their purification of buddha-fields. Therefore, they are all called ‘Samyaksambuddhas,’ ‘Tathagatas,’ and ‘Buddhas.’

“Ananda, were your life to last an entire aeon, it would not be easy for you to understand thoroughly the extensive meaning and precise verbal significance of these three names. Also, Ananda, if all the living beings of this billion-world galactic universe were like you the foremost of the learned and the foremost of those endowed with memory and incantations – and were they to devote an entire aeon, they would still be unable to understand completely the exact and extensive meaning of the three words ‘Samyaksambuddha,’ ‘Tathagata,’ and ‘Buddha.’ Thus, Ananda, the enlightenment of the Buddhas is immeasurable, and the wisdom and the eloquence of the Tathagatas are inconceivable.”

Then, the venerable Ananda addressed the Buddha: “Lord, from this day forth, I shall no longer declare myself to be the foremost of the learned.”

The Buddha said, “Do not be discouraged, Ananda! Why? I pronounced you, Ananda, the foremost of the learned, with the disciples in mind, not considering the bodhisattvas. Look, Ananda, look at the bodhisattvas. They cannot be fathomed even by the wisest of men. Ananda, one can fathom the depths of the ocean, but one cannot fathom the depths of the wisdom, gnosis, memory, incantations, or eloquence of the bodhisattvas. Ananda, you should remain in equanimity with regard to the deeds of the bodhisattvas. Why? Ananda, these marvels displayed in a single morning by the Licchavi Vimalakirti could not be performed by the disciples and solitary sages who have attained miraculous powers, were they to devote all their powers of incarnation and transformation during one hundred thousand millions of aeons.”

Then, all those bodhisattvas from the buddha-field of the Tathagata Sugandhakuta joined their palms in reverence and, saluting the Tathagata Sakyamuni, addressed him as follows: “Lord, when we first arrived in this buddha-field, we conceived a negative idea, but we now abandon this wrong idea. Why? Lord, the realms of the Buddhas and their skill in liberative technique are inconceivable. In order to develop living beings, they manifest such and such a field to suit the desire of such and such a living being. Lord, please give us a teaching by which we may remember you, when we have returned to Sarvagandhasugandha.”

Thus having been requested, the Buddha declared, “Noble sons, there is a liberation of bodhisattvas called ‘destructible and indestructible.’ You must train yourselves in this liberation. What is it? ‘Destructible’ refers to compounded things. ‘Indestructible’ refers to the uncompounded. But the bodhisattva should neither destroy the compounded nor rest in the uncompounded.

“Not to destroy compounded things consists in not losing the great love; not giving up the great compassion; not forgetting the omniscient mind generated by high resolve; not tiring in the positive development of living beings; not abandoning the means of unification; giving up body and life in order to uphold the holy Dharma; never being satisfied with the roots of virtue already accumulated; taking pleasure in skillful dedication; having no laziness in seeking the Dharma; being without selfish reticence in teaching the Dharma; sparing no effort in seeing and worshiping the Tathagatas; being fearless in voluntary reincarnations; being neither proud in success nor bowed in failure; not despising the unlearned, and respecting the learned as if they were the Teacher himself; making reasonable those whose passions are excessive; taking pleasure in solitude, without being attached to it; not longing for one’s own happiness but longing for the happiness of others; conceiving of trance, meditation, and equanimity as if they were the Avici hell; conceiving of the world as a garden of liberation; considering beggars to be spiritual teachers; considering the giving away of all possessions to be the means of realizing Buddhahood; considering immoral beings to be saviors; considering the transcendences to be parents; considering the aids to enlightenment to be servants; never ceasing accumulation of the roots of virtue; establishing the virtues of all buddha-fields in one’s own buddha-field; offering limitless pure sacrifices to fulfill the auspicious marks and signs; adorning body, speech and mind by refraining from all sins; continuing in reincarnations during immeasurable aeons, while purifying body, speech, and mind; avoiding discouragement, through spiritual heroism, when learning of the immeasurable virtues of the Buddha; wielding the sharp sword of wisdom to chastise the enemy passions; knowing well the aggregates, the elements, and the sense-media in order to bear the burdens of all living beings; blazing with energy to conquer the host of demons; seeking knowledge in order to avoid pride; being content with little desire in order to uphold the Dharma; not mixing with worldly things in order to delight all the people; being faultless in all activities in order to conform to all people; producing the superknowledges to actually accomplish all duties of benefit to living beings; acquiring incantations, memory, and knowledge in order to retain all learning; understanding the degrees of people’s spiritual faculties to dispel the doubts of all living beings; displaying invincible miraculous feats to teach the Dharma; having irresistible speech by acquiring unimpeded eloquence; tasting human and divine success by purifying the path of ten virtues; establishing the path of the pure states of Brahma by cultivating the four immeasurables; inviting the Buddhas to teach the Dharma, rejoicing in them, and applauding them, thereby obtaining the melodious voice of a Buddha; disciplining body, speech, and mind, thus maintaining constant spiritual progress; being without attachment to anything and thus acquiring the behavior of a Buddha; gathering together the order of bodhisattvas to attract beings to the Mahayana; and being consciously aware at all times not to neglect any good quality. Noble sons, a bodhisattva who thus applies himself to the Dharma is a bodhisattva who does not destroy the compounded realm.

“What is not resting in the uncompounded? The bodhisattva practices voidness, but he does not realize voidness. He practices signlessness but does not realize signlessness. He practices wishlessness but does not realize wishlessness. He practices non-performance but does not realize non-performance. He knows impermanence but is not complacent about his roots of virtue. He considers misery, but he reincarnates voluntarily. He knows selflessness but does not waste himself. He considers peacefulness but does not seek extreme peace. He cherishes solitude but does not avoid mental and physical efforts. He considers placelessness but does not abandon the place of good actions. He considers occurrencelessness but undertakes to bear the burdens of all living beings. He considers immaculateness, yet he follows the process of the world. He considers motionlessness, yet he moves in order to develop all living beings. He considers selflessness yet does not abandon the great compassion toward all living beings. He considers birthlessness, yet he does not fall into the ultimate determination of the disciples. He considers vanity, futility, insubstantiality, dependency, and placelessness, yet he establishes himself on merits that are not vain, on knowledge that is not futile, on reflections that are substantial, on the striving for the consecration of the independent gnosis, and on the Buddha-family in its definitive meaning.

“Thus, noble sons, a bodhisattva who aspires to such a Dharma neither rests in the uncompounded nor destroys the compounded.

“Furthermore, noble sons, in order to accomplish the store of merit, a bodhisattva does not rest in the uncompounded, and, in order to accomplish the store of wisdom, he does not destroy the compounded. In order to fulfill the great love, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, in order to fulfill the great compassion, he does not destroy compounded things. In order to develop living beings, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and in order to aspire to the Buddha-qualities, he does not destroy compounded things. To perfect the marks of Buddhahood, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to perfect the gnosis of omniscience, he does not destroy compounded things. Out of skill in liberative technique, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, through thorough analysis with his wisdom, he does not destroy compounded things. To purify the buddha-field, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, by the power of the grace of the Buddha, he does not destroy compounded things. Because he feels the needs of living beings, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, in order to show truly the meaning of the Dharma, he does not destroy compounded things. Because of his store of roots of virtue, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and because of his instinctive enthusiasm for these roots of virtue, he does not destroy compounded things. To fulfill his prayers, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, because he has no wishes, he does not destroy compounded things. Because his positive thought is pure, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, because his high resolve is pure, he does not destroy compounded things. In order to play with the five superknowledges, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, because of the six superknowledges of the buddha-gnosis, he does not destroy compounded things. To fulfill the six transcendences, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to fulfill the time, he does not destroy compounded things. To gather the treasures of the Dharma, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, because he does not like any narrow-minded teachings, he does not destroy compounded things. Because he gathers all the medicines of the Dharma, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to apply the medicine of the Dharma appropriately, he does not destroy compounded things. To confirm his commitments, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to mend any failure of these commitments, he does not destroy compounded things. To concoct all the elixirs of the Dharma, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, to give out the nectar of this subtle Dharma, he does not destroy compounded things. Because he knows thoroughly all the sicknesses due to passions, he does not rest in the uncompounded, and, in order to cure all sicknesses of all living beings, he does not destroy compounded things.

“Thus, noble sons, the bodhisattva does not destroy compounded things and does not rest in the uncompounded, and that is the liberation of bodhisattvas called ‘destructible and indestructible.’ Noble sirs, you should also strive in this.”

Then, those bodhisattvas, having heard this teaching, were satisfied, delighted, and reverent. They were filled with rejoicing and happiness of mind. In order to worship the Buddha Sakyamuni and the bodhisattvas of the Saha universe, as well as this teaching, they covered the whole earth of this billion-world universe with fragrant powder, incense, perfumes, and flowers up to the height of the knees. Having thus regaled the whole retinue of the Tathagata, bowed their heads at the feet of the Buddha, and circumambulated him to the right three times, they sang a hymn of praise to him. They then disappeared from this universe and in a split second were back in the universe Sarvagandhasugandha.

Vimalakirti 12 – Vision of the Universe Abhirati and the Tathagata Aksobhya

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Thereupon, the Buddha said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “Noble son, when you would see the Tathagata, how do you view him?”

Thus addressed, the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the Buddha, “Lord, when I would see the Tathagata, I view him by not seeing any Tathagata. Why? I see him as not born from the past, not passing on to the future, and not abiding in the present time. Why? He is the essence which is the reality of matter, but he is not matter. He is the essence which is the reality of sensation, but he is not sensation. He is the essence which is the reality of intellect, but he is not intellect. He is the essence which is the reality of motivation, yet he is not motivation. He is the essence which is the reality of consciousness, yet he is not consciousness. Like the element of space, he does not abide in any of the four elements. Transcending the scope of eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind, he is not produced in the six sense-media. He is not involved in the three worlds, is free of the three defilements, is associated with the triple liberation, is endowed with the three knowledges, and has truly attained the unattainable.

“The Tathagata has reached the extreme of detachment in regard to all things, yet he is not a reality-limit. He abides in ultimate reality, yet there is no relationship between it and him. He is not produced from causes, nor does he depend on conditions. He is not without any characteristic, nor has he any characteristic. He has no single nature nor any diversity of natures. He is not a conception, not a mental construction, nor is he a nonconception. He is neither the other shore, nor this shore, nor that between. He is neither here, nor there, nor anywhere else. He is neither this nor that. He cannot be discovered by consciousness, nor is he inherent in consciousness. He is neither darkness nor light. He is neither name nor sign. He is neither weak nor strong. He lives in no country or direction. He is neither good nor evil. He is neither compounded nor uncompounded. He cannot be explained as having any meaning whatsoever.

“The Tathagata is neither generosity nor avarice, neither morality nor immorality, neither tolerance nor malice, neither effort nor sloth, neither concentration nor distraction, neither wisdom nor foolishness. He is inexpressible. He is neither truth nor falsehood; neither escape from the world nor failure to escape from the world; neither cause of involvement in the world nor not a cause of involvement in the world; he is the cessation of all theory and all practice. He is neither a field of merit nor not a field of merit; he is neither worthy of offerings nor unworthy of offerings. He is not an object, and cannot be contacted. He is not a whole, nor a conglomeration. He surpasses all calculations. He is utterly unequaled, yet equal to the ultimate reality of things. He is matchless, especially in effort. He surpasses all measure. He does not go, does not stay, does not pass beyond. He is neither seen, heard, distinguished, nor known. He is without any complexity, having attained the equanimity of omniscient gnosis. Equal toward all things, he does not discriminate between them. He is without reproach, without excess, without corruption, without conception, and without intellectualization. He is without activity, without birth, without occurrence, without origin, without production, and without nonproduction. He is without fear and without subconsciousness; without sorrow, without joy, and without strain. No verbal teaching can express him.

“Such is the body of the Tathagata and thus should he be seen. Who sees thus, truly sees. Who sees otherwise, sees falsely.”

The venerable Sariputra then asked the Buddha, “Lord, in which buddha-field did the noble Vimalakirti die, before reincarnating in this buddha-field?”

The Buddha said, “Sariputra, ask this good man directly where he died to reincarnate here.”

Then the venerable Sariputra asked the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “Noble sir, where did you die to reincarnate here?”

Vimalakirti declared, “Is there anything among the things that you see, elder, that dies or is reborn?”

Sariputra: There is nothing that dies or is reborn.

Vimalakirti: Likewise, reverend Sariputra, as all things neither die nor are reborn, why do you ask, “Where did you die to reincarnate here?” Reverend Sariputra, if one were to ask a man or woman created by a magician where he or she had died to reincarnate there, what do you think he or she would answer?

Sariputra: Noble sir, a magical creation does not die, nor is it reborn.

Vimalakirti: Reverend Sariputra, did not the Tathagata declare that all things have the nature of a magical creation?

Sariputra: Yes, noble sir, that is indeed so.

Vimalakirti: Reverend Sariputra, “death” is an end of performance, and “rebirth” is the continuation of performance. But, although a bodhisattva dies, he does not put an end to the performance of the roots of virtue, and although he is reborn, he does not adhere to the continuation of sin.

Then, the Buddha said to the venerable Sariputra, “Sariputra, this holy person came here from the presence of the Tathagata Aksobhya in the universe Abhirati.”

Sariputra: Lord, it is wonderful that this holy person, having left a buddha-field as pure as Abhirati, should enjoy a buddha-field as full of defects as this Saha universe!

The Licchavi Vimalakirti said, “Sariputra, what do you think? Does the light of the sun accompany the darkness?”

Sariputra: Certainly not, noble sir!

Vimalakirti: Then the two do not go together?

Sariputra: Noble sir, those two do not go together. As soon as the sun rises, all darkness is destroyed.

Vimalakirti: Then why does the sun rise over the world?

Sariputra: It rises to illuminate the world, and to eliminate the darkness.

Vimalakirti: Just in the same way, reverend Sariputra, the bodhisattva reincarnates voluntarily in the impure buddha-fields in order to purify the living beings, in order to make the light of wisdom shine, and in order to clear away the darkness. Since they do not associate with the passions, they dispel the darkness of the passions of all living beings.

Thereupon, the entire multitude experienced the desire to behold the universe Abhirati, the Tathagata Aksobhya, his bodhisattvas, and his great disciples. The Buddha, knowing the thoughts of the entire multitude, said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “Noble son, this multitude wishes to behold the universe Abhirati and the Tathagata Aksobhya – show them!”

Then the Licchavi Vimalakirti thought, “Without rising from my couch, I shall pick up in my right hand the universe Abhirati and all it contains: its hundreds of thousands of bodhisattvas; its abodes of devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, and asuras, bounded by its Cakravada mountains; its rivers, lakes, fountains, streams, oceans, and other bodies of water; its Mount Sumeru and other hills and mountain ranges; its moon, its sun, and its stars; its devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, and asuras themselves; its Brahma and his retinues; its villages, cities, towns, provinces, kingdoms, men, women, and houses; its bodhisattvas; its disciples; the tree of enlightenment of the Tathagata Aksobhya; and the Tathagata Aksobhya himself, seated in the middle of an assembly vast as an ocean, teaching the Dharma. Also the lotuses that accomplish the buddha-work among the living beings; the three jeweled ladders that rise from its earth to its Trayastrimsa heaven, on which ladders the gods of that heaven descend to the world to see, honor, and serve the Tathagata Aksobhya and to hear the Dharma, and on which the men of the earth climb to the Trayastrimsa heaven to visit those gods. Like a potter with his wheel, I will reduce that universe Abhirati, with its store of innumerable virtues, from its watery base up to its Akanistha heaven, to a minute size and, carrying it gently like a garland of flowers, will bring it to this Saha universe and will show it to the multitudes.”

Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti entered into a concentration, and performed a miraculous feat such that he reduced the universe Abhirati to a minute size, and took it with his right hand, and brought it into this Saha universe.

In that universe Abhirati, the disciples, bodhisattvas, and those among gods and men who possessed the superknowledge of the divine eye all cried out, “Lord, we are being carried away! Sugata, we are being carried off! Protect us, O Tathagata!”

But, to discipline them, the Tathagata Aksobhya said to them, “You are being carried off by the bodhisattva Vimalakirti. It is not my affair.”

As for the other men and gods, they had no awareness at all that they were being carried anywhere.

Although the universe Abhirati had been brought into the universe Saha, the Saha universe was not increased or diminished; it was neither compressed nor obstructed. Nor was the universe Abhirati reduced internally, and both universes appeared to be the same as they had ever been.

Thereupon, the Buddha Sakyamuni asked all the multitudes, “Friends, behold the splendors of the universe Abhirati, the Tathagata Aksobhya, the array of his buddha-field, and the splendors of these disciples and bodhisattvas!”

They replied, “We see them, Lord!”

The Buddha said, “Those bodhisattvas who wish to embrace such a buddha-field should train themselves in all the bodhisattva-practices of the Tathagata Aksobhya.”

While Vimalakirti, with his miraculous power, showed them thus the universe Abhirati and the Tathagata Aksobhya, one hundred and forty thousand living beings among the men and gods of the Saha universe conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment, and all of them formed a prayer to be reborn in the universe Abhirati. And the Buddha prophesied that in the future all would be reborn in the universe Abhirati. And the Licchavi Vimalakirti, having thus developed all the living beings who could thereby be developed, returned the universe Abhirati exactly to its former place.

The Lord then said to the venerable Sariputra, “Sariputra, did you see that universe Abhirati, and the Tathagata Aksobhya?”

Sariputra replied, “I saw it, Lord! May all living beings come to live in a buddha-field as splendid as that! May all living beings come to have miraculous powers just like those of the noble Licchavi Vimalakirti!

“We have gained great benefit from having seen a holy man such as he. We have gained a great benefit from having heard such teaching of the Dharma, whether the Tathagata himself still actually exists or whether he has already attained ultimate liberation. Hence, there is no need to mention the great benefit for those who, having heard it, believe it, rely on it, embrace it, remember it, read it, and penetrate to its depth; and, having found faith in it, teach, recite, and show it to others and apply themselves to the yoga of meditation upon its teaching.

“Those living beings who understand correctly this teaching of the Dharma will obtain the treasury of the jewels of the Dharma.

“Those who study correctly this teaching of the Dharma will become the companions of the Tathagata. Those who honor and serve the adepts of this doctrine will be the true protectors of the Dharma. Those who write, teach, and worship this teaching of the Dharma will be visited by the Tathagata in their homes. Those who take pleasure in this teaching of the Dharma will embrace all merits. Those who teach it to others, whether it be no more than a single stanza of four lines, or a single summary phrase from this teaching of the Dharma, will be performing the great Dharma-sacrifice. And those who devote to this teaching of the Dharma their tolerance, their zeal, their intelligence, their discernment, their vision, and their aspirations, thereby become subject to the prophesy of future Buddhahood!”

Vimalakirti 9 – The Dharma-Door of Nonduality

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Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti asked those bodhisattvas, “Good sirs, please explain how the bodhisattvas enter the Dharma-door of nonduality!”

The bodhisattva Dharmavikurvana declared, “Noble sir, production and destruction are two, but what is not produced and does not occur cannot be destroyed. Thus the attainment of the tolerance of the birthlessness of things is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Srigandha declared, “‘I’ and ‘mine’ are two. If there is no presumption of a self, there will be no possessiveness. Thus, the absence of presumption is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Srikuta declared, “‘Defilement’ and ‘purification’ are two. When there is thorough knowledge of defilement, there will be no conceit about purification. The path leading to the complete conquest of all conceit is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Bhadrajyotis declared, “‘Distraction’ and ‘attention’ are two. When there is no distraction, there will be no attention, no mentation, and no mental intensity. Thus, the absence of mental intensity is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Subahu declared, “‘Bodhisattva-spirit’ and ‘disciple-spirit’ are two. When both are seen to resemble an illusory spirit, there is no bodhisattva-spirit, nor any disciple-spirit. Thus, the sameness of natures of spirits is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Animisa declared, “‘Grasping’ and ‘nongrasping’ are two. What is not grasped is not perceived, and what is not perceived is neither presumed nor repudiated. Thus, the inaction and noninvolvement of all things is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Sunetra declared, “‘Uniqueness’ and ‘characterlessness’ are two. Not to presume or construct something is neither to establish its uniqueness nor to establish its characterlessness. To penetrate the equality of these two is to enter nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Tisya declared, “‘Good’ and ‘evil’ are two. Seeking neither good nor evil, the understanding of the nonduality of the significant and the meaningless is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Simha declared, “‘Sinfulness’ and ‘sinlessness’ are two. By means of the diamond-like wisdom that pierces to the quick, not to be bound or liberated is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Simhamati declared, “To say, ‘This is impure’ and ‘This is immaculate’ makes for duality. One who, attaining equanimity, forms no conception of impurity or immaculateness, yet is not utterly without conception, has equanimity without any attainment of equanimity – he enters the absence of conceptual knots. Thus, he enters into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Suddhadhimukti declared, “To say, ‘This is happiness’ and ‘That is misery’ is dualism. One who is free of all calculations, through the extreme purity of gnosis – his mind is aloof, like empty space; and thus he enters into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Narayana declared, “To say, ‘This is mundane’ and ‘That is transcendental’ is dualism. This world has the nature of voidness, so there is neither transcendence nor involvement, neither progress nor standstill. Thus, neither to transcend nor to be involved, neither to go nor to stop – this is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Dantamati declared, “‘Life’ and ‘liberation’ are dualistic. Having seen the nature of life, one neither belongs to it nor is one utterly liberated from it. Such understanding is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Pratyaksadarsana declared, “‘Destructible’ and ‘indestructible’ are dualistic. What is destroyed is ultimately destroyed. What is ultimately destroyed does not become destroyed; hence, it is called ‘indestructible.’ What is indestructible is instantaneous, and what is instantaneous is indestructible. The experience of such is called ‘the entrance into the principle of nonduality.'”

The bodhisattva Parigudha declared, “‘Self’ and ‘selflessness’ are dualistic. Since the existence of self cannot be perceived, what is there to be made ‘selfless’? Thus, the nondualism of the vision of their nature is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Vidyuddeva declared, “‘Knowledge’ and ‘ignorance’ are dualistic. The natures of ignorance and knowledge are the same, for ignorance is undefined, incalculable, and beyond the sphere of thought. The realization of this is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Priyadarsana declared, “Matter itself is void. Voidness does not result from the destruction of matter, but the nature of matter is itself voidness. Therefore, to speak of voidness on the one hand, and of matter, or of sensation, or of intellect, or of motivation, or of consciousness on the other – is entirely dualistic. Consciousness itself is voidness. Voidness does not result from the destruction of consciousness, but the nature of consciousness is itself voidness. Such understanding of the five compulsive aggregates and the knowledge of them as such by means of gnosis is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Prabhaketu declared, “To say that the four main elements are one thing and the etheric space-element another is dualistic. The four main elements are themselves the nature of space. The past itself is also the nature of space. The future itself is also the nature of space. Likewise, the present itself is also the nature of space. The gnosis that penetrates the elements in such a way is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Pramati declared, “‘Eye’ and ‘form’ are dualistic. To understand the eye correctly, and not to have attachment, aversion, or confusion with regard to form – that is called ‘peace.’ Similarly, ‘ear’ and ‘sound,’ ‘nose’ and ‘smell,’ ‘tongue’ and taste,’ ‘body’ and touch,’ and ‘mind’ and ‘phenomena’ – all are dualistic. But to know the mind, and to be neither attached, averse, nor confused with regard to phenomena – that is called ‘peace.’ To live in such peace is to enter into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Aksayamati declared, “The dedication of generosity for the sake of attaining omniscience is dualistic. The nature of generosity is itself omniscience, and the nature of omniscience itself is total dedication. Likewise, it is dualistic to dedicate morality, tolerance, effort, meditation, and wisdom for the sake of omniscience. Omniscience is the nature of wisdom, and total dedication is the nature of omniscience. Thus, the entrance into this principle of uniqueness is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Gambhiramati declared, “It is dualistic to say that voidness is one thing, signlessness another, and wishlessness still another. What is void has no sign. What has no sign has no wish. Where there is no wish there is no process of thought, mind, or consciousness. To see the doors of all liberations in the door of one liberation is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Santendriya declared, “It is dualistic to say ‘Buddha,’ ‘Dharma,’ and ‘Sangha.’ The Dharma is itself the nature of the Buddha, the Sangha is itself the nature of the Dharma, and all of them are uncompounded. The uncompounded is infinite space, and the processes of all things are equivalent to infinite space. Adjustment to this is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Apratihatanetra declared, “It is dualistic to refer to ‘aggregates’ and to the ‘cessation of aggregates.’ Aggregates themselves are cessation. Why? The egoistic views of aggregates, being unproduced themselves, do not exist ultimately. Hence such views do not really conceptualize ‘These are aggregates’ or ‘These aggregates cease.’ Ultimately, they have no such discriminative constructions and no such conceptualizations. Therefore, such views have themselves the nature of cessation. Nonoccurrence and nondestruction are the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Suvinita declared, “Physical, verbal, and mental vows do not exist dualistically. Why? These things have the nature of inactivity. The nature of inactivity of the body is the same as the nature of inactivity of speech, whose nature of inactivity is the same as the nature of inactivity of the mind. It is necessary to know and to understand this fact of the ultimate inactivity of all things, for this knowledge is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Punyaksetra declared, “It is dualistic to consider actions meritorious, sinful, or neutral. The non-undertaking of meritorious, sinful, and neutral actions is not dualistic. The intrinsic nature of all such actions is voidness, wherein ultimately there is neither merit, nor sin, nor neutrality, nor action itself. The nonaccomplishment of such actions is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Padmavyuha declared, “Dualism is produced from obsession with self, but true understanding of self does not result in dualism. Who thus abides in nonduality is without ideation, and that absence of ideation is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Srigarbha declared, “Duality is constituted by perceptual manifestation. Nonduality is objectlessness. Therefore, nongrasping and nonrejection is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Candrottara declared, “‘Darkness’ and ‘light’ are dualistic, but the absence of both darkness and light is nonduality. Why? At the time of absorption in cessation, there is neither darkness nor light, and likewise with the natures of all things. The entrance into this equanimity is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Ratnamudrahasta declared, “It is dualistic to detest the world and to rejoice in liberation, and neither detesting the world nor rejoicing in liberation is nonduality. Why? Liberation can be found where there is bondage, but where there is ultimately no bondage where is there need for liberation? The mendicant who is neither bound nor liberated does not experience any like or any dislike and thus he enters nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Manikutaraja declared, “It is dualistic to speak of good paths and bad paths. One who is on the path is not concerned with good or bad paths. Living in such unconcern, he entertains no concepts of ‘path’ or ‘nonpath.’ Understanding the nature of concepts, his mind does not engage in duality. Such is the entrance into nonduality.”

The bodhisattva Satyarata declared, “It is dualistic to speak of ‘true’ and ‘false.’ When one sees truly, one does not ever see any truth, so how could one see falsehood? Why? One does not see with the physical eye, one sees with the eye of wisdom. And with the wisdom-eye one sees only insofar as there is neither sight nor nonsight. There, where there is neither sight nor nonsight, is the entrance into nonduality.”

When the bodhisattvas had given their explanations, they all addressed the crown prince Manjusri: “Manjusri, what is the bodhisattva’s entrance into nonduality?”

Manjusri replied, “Good sirs, you have all spoken well. Nevertheless, all your explanations are themselves dualistic. To know no one teaching, to express nothing, to say nothing, to explain nothing, to announce nothing, to indicate nothing, and to designate nothing – that is the entrance into nonduality.”

Then the crown prince Manjusri said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “We have all given our own teachings, noble sir. Now, may you elucidate the teaching of the entrance into the principle of nonduality!”

Thereupon, the Licchavi Vimalakirti kept his silence, saying nothing at all.

The crown prince Manjusri applauded the Licchavi Vimalakirti: “Excellent! Excellent, noble sir! This is indeed the entrance into the nonduality of the bodhisattvas. Here there is no use for syllables, sounds, and ideas.”

When these teachings had been declared, five thousand bodhisattvas entered the door of the Dharma of nonduality and attained tolerance of the birthlessness of things.

Vimalakirti 10 – The Feast Brought by the Emanated Incarnation

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Thereupon, the venerable Sariputra thought to himself, “If these great bodhisattvas do not adjourn before noontime, when are they going to eat?”

The Licchavi Vimalakirti, knowing telepathically the thought of the venerable Sariputra, spoke to him: “Reverend Sariputra, the Tathagata has taught the eight liberations. You should concentrate on those liberations, listening to the Dharma with a mind free of preoccupations with material things. Just wait a minute, reverend Sariputra, and you will eat such food as you have never before tasted.”

Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti set himself in such a concentration and performed such a miraculous feat that those bodhisattvas and those great disciples were enabled to see the universe called Sarvagandhasugandha, which is located in the direction of the zenith, beyond as many buddha-fields as there are sands in forty-two Ganges rivers. There the Tathagata named Sugandhakuta resides, lives, and is manifest. In that universe, the trees emit a fragrance that far surpasses all the fragrances, human and divine, of all the buddha-fields of the ten directions. In that universe, even the names “disciple” and “solitary sage” do not exist, and the Tathagata Sugandhakuta teaches the Dharma to a gathering of bodhisattvas only. In that universe, all the houses, the avenues, the parks, and the palaces are made of various perfumes, and the fragrance of the food eaten by those bodhisattvas pervades immeasurable universes.

At this time, the Tathagata Sugandhakuta sat down with his bodhisattvas to take his meal, and the deities called Gandhavyuhahara, who were all devoted to the Mahayana, served and attended upon the Buddha and his bodhisattvas. Everyone in the gathering at the house of Vimalakirti was able to see distinctly this universe wherein the Tathagata Sugandhakuta and his bodhisattvas were taking their meal.

The Licchavi Vimalakirti addressed the whole gathering of bodhisattvas: “Good sirs, is there any among you who would like to go to that buddha-field to bring back some food?”

But, restrained by the supernatural power of Manjusri, none of them volunteered to go.

The Licchavi Vimalakirti said to crown prince Manjusri, “Manjusri, are you not ashamed of such a gathering?”

Manjusri replied, “Noble sir, did not the Tathagata declare, ‘Those who are unlearned should not be despised’?”

Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti, without rising from his couch, magically emanated an incarnation-bodhisattva, whose body was of golden color, adorned with the auspicious signs and marks, and of such an appearance that he outshone the whole assembly. The Licchavi Vimalakirti addressed that incarnated bodhisattva: “Noble son, go in the direction of the zenith and when you have crossed as many buddha-fields as there are sands in forty-two Ganges rivers, you will reach a universe called Sarvagandhasugandha, where you will find the Tathagata Sugandhakuta taking his meal. Go to him and, having bowed down at his feet, make the following request of him:

“‘The Licchavi Vimalakirti bows down one hundred thousand times at your feet, O Lord, and asks after your health – if you have but little trouble, little discomfort, little unrest; if you are strong, well, without complaint, and living in touch with supreme happiness.’

“Having thus asked after his health, you should request of him ‘Vimalakirti asks the Lord to give me the remains of your meal, with which he will accomplish the buddha-work in the universe called Saha. Thus, those living beings with inferior aspirations will be inspired with lofty aspirations, and the good name of the Tathagata will be celebrated far and wide.”

At that, the incarnated bodhisattva said, “Very good!” to the Licchavi Vimalakirti and obeyed his instructions. In sight of all the bodhisattvas, he turned his face upward and was gone, and they saw him no more. When he reached the universe Sarvagandhasugandha, he bowed down at the feet of the Tathagata Sugandhakuta and said, “Lord, the bodhisattva Vimalakirti, bowing down at the feet of the Lord, greets the Lord, saying: ‘Do you have little trouble, little discomfort, and little unrest? Are you strong, well, without complaint, and living in touch with the supreme happiness?’ He then requests, having bowed down one hundred thousand times at the feet of the Lord: ‘May the Lord be gracious and give to me the remains of his meal in order to accomplish the buddha-work in the universe called Saha. Then, those living beings who aspire to inferior ways may gain the intelligence to aspire to the great Dharma of the Buddha, and the name of the Buddha will be celebrated far and wide.'”

At that the bodhisattvas of the buddha-field of the Tathagata Sugandhakuta were astonished and asked the Tathagata Sugandhakuta, “Lord, where is there such a great being as this? Where is the universe Saha? What does he mean by ‘those who aspire to inferior ways’?”

Having thus been questioned by those bodhisattvas, the Tathagata Sugandhakuta said, “Noble sons, the universe Saha exists beyond as many buddha-fields in the direction of the nadir as there are sands in forty-two Ganges rivers. There the Tathagata Sakyamuni teaches the Dharma to living beings who aspire to the inferior ways, in that buddha-field tainted with five corruptions. There the bodhisattva Vimalakirti, who lives in the inconceivable liberation, teaches the Dharma to the bodhisattvas. He sends this incarnation-bodhisattva here in order to celebrate my name, in order to show the advantages of this universe, and in order to increase the roots of virtue of those bodhisattvas.”

The bodhisattvas exclaimed, “How great must that bodhisattva be himself if his magical incarnation is thus endowed with supernatural power, strength, and fearlessness!”

The Tathagata said, “The greatness of that bodhisattva is such that he sends magical incarnations to all the buddha-fields of the ten directions, and all these incarnations accomplish the buddha-work for all the living beings in all those buddha-fields.”

Then, the Tathagata Sugandhakuta poured some of his food, impregnated with all perfumes, into a fragrant vessel and gave it to the incarnation-bodhisattva. And the ninety million bodhisattvas of that universe volunteered to go along with him: “Lord, we also would like to go to that universe Saha, to see, honor, and serve the Buddha Sakyamuni and to see Vimalakirti and those bodhisattvas.”

The Tathagata declared, “Noble sons, go ahead if you think it is the right time. But, lest those living beings become mad and intoxicated, go without your perfumes. And, lest those living beings of the Saha world become jealous of you, change your bodies to hide your beauty. And do not conceive ideas of contempt and aversion for that universe. Why? Noble sons, a buddha-field is a field of pure space, but the Lord Buddhas, in order to develop living beings, do not reveal all at once the pure realm of the Buddha.”

Then the incarnation-bodhisattva took the food and departed with the ninety million bodhisattvas and by the power of the Buddha and the supernatural operation of Vimalakirti, disappeared from that universe Sarvagandhasugandha and stood again in the house of Vimalakirti in a fraction of a second. The Licchavi Vimalakirti created ninety million lion-thrones exactly like those already there, and the bodhisattvas were seated.

Then, the incarnation-bodhisattva gave the vessel full of food to Vimalakirti, and the fragrance of that food permeated the entire great city of Vaisali and its sweet perfume spread throughout one hundred universes. Within the city of Vaisali, the brahmans, householders, and even the Licchavi chieftain Candracchattra, having noticed this fragrance, were amazed and filled with wonder. They were so cleansed in body and mind that they came at once to the house of Vimalakirti, along with all eighty-four thousand of the Licchavis.

Seeing there the bodhisattvas seated on the high, wide, and beautiful lion-thrones, they were filled with admiration and great joy. They all bowed down to those great disciples and bodhisattvas and then sat down to one side. And the gods of the earth, the gods of the desire-world, and the gods of the material world, attracted by the perfume, also came to the house of Vimalakirti.

Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti spoke to the elder Sariputra and the great disciples: “Reverends, eat of the food of the Tathagata! It is ambrosia perfumed by the great compassion. But do not fix your minds in narrow-minded attitudes, lest you be unable to receive its gift.”

But some of the disciples had already had the thought: “How can such a huge multitude eat such a small amount of food?”

Then the incarnation-bodhisattva said to those disciples, “Do not compare, venerable ones, your own wisdom and merits with the wisdom and the merits of the Tathagata! Why? For example, the four great oceans might dry up, but this food would never be exhausted. If all living beings were to eat for an aeon an amount of this food equal to Mount Sumeru in size, it would not be depleted. Why? Issued from inexhaustible morality, concentration, and wisdom, the remains of the food of the Tathagata contained in this vessel cannot be exhausted.”

Indeed, the entire gathering was satisfied by that food, and the food was not at all depleted. Having eaten that food, there arose in the bodies of those bodhisattvas, disciples, Sakras, Brahmas, Lokapalas, and other living beings, a bliss just like the bliss of the bodhisattvas of the universe Sarvasukhamandita. And from all the pores of their skin arose a perfume like that of the trees that grow in the universe Sarvagandhasugandha.

Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti knowingly addressed those bodhisattvas who had come from the buddha-field of the Lord Tathagata Sugandhakuta: “Noble sirs, how does the Tathagata Sugandhakuta teach his Dharma?”

They replied, “The Tathagata does not teach the Dharma by means of sound and language. He disciplines the bodhisattvas only by means of perfumes. At the foot of each perfume-tree sits a bodhisattva, and the trees emit perfumes like this one. From the moment they smell that perfume, the bodhisattvas attain the concentration called ‘source of all bodhisattva-virtues.’ From the moment they attain that concentration, all the bodhisattva-virtues are produced in them.”

Those bodhisattvas then asked the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “How does the Buddha Sakyamuni teach the Dharma?”

Vimalakirti replied, “Good sirs, these living beings here are hard to discipline. Therefore, he teaches them with discourses appropriate for the disciplining of the wild and uncivilized. How does he discipline the wild and uncivilized? What discourses are appropriate? Here they are:

“‘This is hell. This is the animal world. This is the world of the lord of death. These are the adversities. These are the rebirths with crippled faculties. These are physical misdeeds, and these are the retributions for physical misdeeds. These are verbal misdeeds, and these are the retributions for verbal misdeeds. These are mental misdeeds, and these are the retributions for mental misdeeds. This is killing. This is stealing. This is sexual misconduct. This is lying. This is backbiting. This is harsh speech. This is frivolous speech. This is covetousness. This is malice. This is false view. These are their retributions. This is miserliness, and this is its effect. This is immorality. This is hatred. This is sloth. This is the fruit of sloth. This is false wisdom and this is the fruit of false wisdom. These are the transgressions of the precepts. This is the vow of personal liberation. This should be done and that should not be done. This is proper and that should be abandoned. This is an obscuration and that is without obscuration. This is sin and that rises above sin. This is the path and that is the wrong path. This is virtue and that is evil. This is blameworthy and that is blameless. This is defiled and that is immaculate. This is mundane and that is transcendental. This is compounded and that is uncompounded. This is passion and that is purification. This is life and that is liberation.’

“Thus, by means of these varied explanations of the Dharma, the Buddha trains the minds of those living beings who are just like wild horses. Just as wild horses or wild elephants will not be tamed unless the goad pierces them to the marrow, so living beings who are wild and hard to civilize are disciplined only by means of discourses about all kinds of miseries.”

The bodhisattvas said, “Thus is established the greatness of the Buddha Sakyamuni! It is marvelous how, concealing his miraculous power, he civilizes the wild living beings who are poor and inferior. And the bodhisattvas who settle in a buddha-field of such intense hardships must have inconceivably great compassion!”

The Licchavi Vimalakirti declared, “So be it, good sirs! It is as you say. The great compassion of the bodhisattvas who reincarnate here is extremely firm. In a single lifetime in this universe, they accomplish much benefit for living beings. So much benefit for living beings could not be accomplished in the universe Sarvagandhasugandha even in one hundred thousand aeons. Why? Good sirs, in this Saha universe, there are ten virtuous practices which do not exist in any other buddha-field. What are these ten? Here they are: to win the poor by generosity; to win the immoral by morality; to win the hateful by means of tolerance; to win the lazy by means of effort; to win the mentally troubled by means of concentration; to win the falsely wise by means of true wisdom; to show those suffering from the eight adversities how to rise above them; to teach the Mahayana to those of narrow-minded behavior; to win those who have not produced the roots of virtue by means of the roots of virtue; and to develop living beings without interruption through the four means of unification. Those who engage in these ten virtuous practices do not exist in any other buddha-field.”

Again the bodhisattvas asked, “How many qualities must a bodhisattva have, to go safe and sound to a pure buddha-field after he transmigrates at death away from this Saha universe?”

Vimalakirti replied, “After he transmigrates at death away from this Saha universe, a bodhisattva must have eight qualities to reach a pure buddha-field safe and sound. What are the eight? He must resolve to himself: ‘I must benefit all living beings, without seeking even the slightest benefit for myself. I must bear all the miseries of all living beings and give all my accumulated roots of virtue to all living beings. I must have no resentment toward any living being. I must rejoice in all bodhisattvas as if they were the Teacher. I must not neglect any teachings, whether or not I have heard them before. I must control my mind, without coveting the gains of others, and without taking pride in gains of my own. I must examine my own faults and not blame others for their faults. I must take pleasure in being consciously aware and must truly undertake all virtues.’

“If a bodhisattva has these eight qualities, when he transmigrates at death away from the Saha universe, he will go safe and sound to a pure buddha-field.”

When the Licchavi Vimalakirti and the crown prince Manjusri had thus taught the Dharma to the multitude gathered there, one hundred thousand living beings conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment, and ten thousand bodhisattvas attained the tolerance of the birthlessness of things.

 

Vimalakirti 7 – The Goddess

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Thereupon, Manjusri, the crown prince, addressed the Licchavi Vimalakirti: “Good sir, how should a bodhisattva regard all living beings?”

Vimalakirti replied, “Manjusri, a bodhisattva should regard all livings beings as a wise man regards the reflection of the moon in water or as magicians regard men created by magic. He should regard them as being like a face in a mirror; like the water of a mirage; like the sound of an echo; like a mass of clouds in the sky; like the previous moment of a ball of foam; like the appearance and disappearance of a bubble of water; like the core of a plantain tree; like a flash of lightning; like the fifth great element; like the seventh sense-medium; like the appearance of matter in an immaterial realm; like a sprout from a rotten seed; like a tortoise-hair coat; like the fun of games for one who wishes to die; like the egoistic views of a stream-winner; like a third rebirth of a once-returner; like the descent of a nonreturner into a womb; like the existence of desire, hatred, and folly in a saint; like thoughts of avarice, immorality, wickedness, and hostility in a bodhisattva who has attained tolerance; like the instincts of passions in a Tathagata; like the perception of color in one blind from birth; like the inhalation and exhalation of an ascetic absorbed in the meditation of cessation; like the track of a bird in the sky; like the erection of a eunuch; like the pregnancy of a barren woman; like the unproduced passions of an emanated incarnation of the Tathagata; like dream-visions seen after waking; like the passions of one who is free of conceptualizations; like fire burning without fuel; like the reincarnation of one who has attained ultimate liberation.

“Precisely thus, Manjusri, does a bodhisattva who realizes the ultimate selflessness consider all beings.”

Manjusri then asked further, “Noble sir, if a bodhisattva considers all living beings in such a way, how does he generate the great love toward them?”

Vimalakirti replied, “Manjusri, when a bodhisattva considers all living beings in this way, he thinks: ‘Just as I have realized the Dharma, so should I teach it to living beings.’ Thereby, he generates the love that is truly a refuge for all living beings; the love that is peaceful because free of grasping; the love that is not feverish, because free of passions; the love that accords with reality because it is equanimous in all three times; the love that is without conflict because free of the violence of the passions; the love that is nondual because it is involved neither with the external nor with the internal; the love that is imperturbable because totally ultimate.

“Thereby he generates the love that is firm, its high resolve unbreakable, like a diamond; the love that is pure, purified in its intrinsic nature; the love that is even, its aspirations being equal; the saint’s love that has eliminated its enemy; the bodhisattva’s love that continuously develops living beings; The Tathagata’s love that understands reality; the Buddha’s love that causes living beings to awaken from their sleep; the love that is spontaneous because it is fully enlightened spontaneously; the love that is enlightenment because it is unity of experience; the love that has no presumption because it has eliminated attachment and aversion; the love that is great compassion because it infuses the Mahayana with radiance; the love that is never exhausted because it acknowledges voidness and selflessness; the love that is giving because it bestows the gift of Dharma free of the tight fist of a bad teacher; the love that is morality because it improves immoral living beings; the love that is tolerance because it protects both self and others; the love that is effort because it takes responsibility for all living beings; the love that is contemplation because it refrains from indulgence in tastes; the love that is wisdom because it causes attainment at the proper time; the love that is liberative technique because it shows the way everywhere; the love that is without formality because it is pure in motivation; the love that is without deviation because it acts from decisive motivation; the love that is high resolve because it is without passions; the love that is without deceit because it is not artificial; the love that is happiness because it introduces living beings to the happiness of the Buddha. Such, Manjusri, is the great love of a bodhisattva.”

Manjusri: What is the great compassion of a bodhisattva?

Vimalakirti: It is the giving of all accumulated roots of virtue to all living beings.

Manjusri: What is the great joy of the bodhisattva?

Vimalakirti: It is to be joyful and without regret in giving.

Manjusri: What is the equanimity of the bodhisattva?

Vimalakirti: It is what benefits both self and others.

Manjusri: To what should one resort when terrified by fear of life?

Vimalakirti: Manjusri, a bodhisattva who is terrified by fear of life should resort to the magnanimity of the Buddha.

Manjusri: Where should he who wishes to resort to the magnanimity of the Buddha take his stand?

Vimalakirti: He should stand in equanimity toward all living beings.

Manjusri: Where should he who wishes to stand in equanimity toward all living beings take his stand?

Vimalakirti: He should live for the liberation of all living beings.

Manjusri: What should he who wishes to liberate all living beings do?

Vimalakirti: He should liberate them from their passions.

Manjusri: How should he who wishes to eliminate passions apply himself?

Vimalakirti: He should apply himself appropriately.

Manjusri: How should he apply himself, to “apply himself appropriately”?

Vimalakirti: He should apply himself to productionlessness and to destructionlessness.

Manjusri: What is not produced? And what is not destroyed?

Vimalakirti: Evil is not produced and good is not destroyed.

Manjusri: What is the root of good and evil?

Vimalakirti: Materiality is the root of good and evil.

Manjusri: What is the root of materiality?

Vimalakirti: Desire is the root of materiality.

Manjusri: What is the root of desire and attachment?

Vimalakirti: Unreal construction is the root of desire.

Manjusri: What is the root of unreal construction?

Vimalakirti: The false concept is its root.

Manjusri: What is the root of the false concept?

Vimalakirti: Baselessness.

Manjusri: What it the root of baselessness?

Vimalakirti: Manjusri, when something is baseless, how can it have any root? Therefore, all things stand on the root which is baseless.

Thereupon, a certain goddess who lived in that house, having heard this teaching of the Dharma of the great heroic bodhisattvas, and being delighted, pleased, and overjoyed, manifested herself in a material body and showered the great spiritual heroes, the bodhisattvas, and the great disciples with heavenly flowers. When the flowers fell on the bodies of the bodhisattvas, they fell off on the floor, but when they fell on the bodies of the great disciples, they stuck to them and did not fall. The great disciples shook the flowers and even tried to use their magical powers, but still the flowers would not shake off. Then, the goddess said to the venerable Sariputra, “Reverend Sariputra, why do you shake these flowers?”

Sariputra replied, “Goddess, these flowers are not proper for religious persons and so we are trying to shake them off.”

The goddess said, “Do not say that, reverend Sariputra. Why? These flowers are proper indeed! Why? Such flowers have neither constructual thought nor discrimination. But the elder Sariputra has both constructual thought and discrimination.

“Reverend Sariputra, impropriety for one who has renounced the world for the discipline of the rightly taught Dharma consists of constructual thought and discrimination, yet the elders are full of such thoughts. One who is without such thoughts is always proper.

“Reverend Sariputra, see how these flowers do not stick to the bodies of these great spiritual heroes, the bodhisattvas! This is because they have eliminated constructual thoughts and discriminations.

“For example, evil spirits have power over fearful men but cannot disturb the fearless. Likewise, those intimidated by fear of the world are in the power of forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures, which do not disturb those who are free from fear of the passions inherent in the constructive world. Thus, these flowers stick to the bodies of those who have not eliminated their instincts for the passions and do not stick to the bodies of those who have eliminated their instincts. Therefore, the flowers do not stick to the bodies of these bodhisattvas, who have abandoned all instincts.”

Then the venerable Sariputra said to the goddess, “Goddess, how long have you been in this house?”

The goddess replied, “I have been here as long as the elder has been in liberation.”

Sariputra said, “Then, have you been in this house for quite some time?”

The goddess said, “Has the elder been in liberation for quite some time?”

At that, the elder Sariputra fell silent.

The goddess continued, “Elder, you are ‘foremost of the wise!’ Why do you not speak? Now, when it is your turn, you do not answer the question.”

Sariputra: Since liberation is inexpressible, goddess, I do not know what to say.

Goddess: All the syllables pronounced by the elder have the nature of liberation. Why? Liberation is neither internal nor external, nor can it be apprehended apart from them. Likewise, syllables are neither internal nor external, nor can they be apprehended anywhere else. Therefore, reverend Sariputra, do not point to liberation by abandoning speech! Why? The holy liberation is the equality of all things!

Sariputra: Goddess, is not liberation the freedom from desire, hatred, and folly?

Goddess: “Liberation is freedom from desire, hatred, and folly” that is the teaching of the excessively proud. But those free of pride are taught that the very nature of desire, hatred, and folly is itself liberation.

Sariputra: Excellent! Excellent, goddess! Pray, what have you attained, what have you realized, that you have such eloquence?

Goddess: I have attained nothing, reverend Sariputra. I have no realization. Therefore I have such eloquence. Whoever thinks, “I have attained! I have realized!” is overly proud in the discipline of the well-taught Dharma.

Sariputra: Goddess, do you belong to the disciple-vehicle, to the solitary-vehicle, or to the great vehicle?

Goddess: I belong to the disciple-vehicle when I teach it to those who need it. I belong to the solitary-vehicle when I teach the twelve links of dependent origination to those who need them. And, since I never abandon the great compassion, I belong to the great vehicle, as all need that teaching to attain ultimate liberation.

Nevertheless, reverend Sariputra, just as one cannot smell the castor plant in a magnolia wood, but only the magnolia flowers, so, reverend Sariputra, living in this house, which is redolent with the perfume of the virtues of the Buddha-qualities, one does not smell the perfume of the disciples and the solitary sages. Reverend Sariputra, the Sakras, the Brahmas, the Lokapalas, the devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, and mahoragas who live in this house hear the Dharma from the mouth of this holy man and, enticed by the perfume of the virtues of the Buddha-qualities, proceed to conceive the spirit of enlightenment.

Reverend Sariputra, I have been in this house for twelve years, and I have heard no discourses concerning the disciples and solitary sages but have heard only those concerning the great love, the great compassion, and the inconceivable qualities of the Buddha.

Reverend Sariputra, eight strange and wonderful things manifest themselves constantly in this house. What are these eight?

A light of golden hue shines here constantly, so bright that it is hard to distinguish day and night; and neither the moon nor the sun shines here distinctly. That is the first wonder of this house.

Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, whoever enters this house is no longer troubled by his passions from the moment he is within. That is the second strange and wonderful thing.

Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, this house is never forsaken by Sakra, Brahma, the Lokapalas, and the bodhisattvas from all the other buddha-fields. That is the third strange and wonderful thing.

Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, this house is never empty of the sounds of the Dharma, the discourse on the six transcendences, and the discourses of the irreversible wheel of the Dharma. That is the fourth strange and wonderful thing.

Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, in this house one always hears the rhythms, songs, and music of gods and men, and from this music constantly resounds the sound of the infinite Dharma of the Buddha. That is the fifth strange and wonderful thing.

Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, in this house there are always four inexhaustible treasures, replete with all kinds of jewels, which never decrease, although all the poor and wretched may partake to their satisfaction. That is the sixth strange and wonderful thing.

Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, at the wish of this good man, to this house come the innumerable Tathagatas of the ten directions, such as the Tathagatas Sakyamuni, Amitabha, Aksobhya, Ratnasri, Ratnarcis, Ratnacandra, Ratnavyuha, Dusprasaha, Sarvarthasiddha, Ratnabahula, Simhakirti, Simhasvara, and so forth; and when they come they teach the door of Dharma called the “Secrets of the Tathagatas” and then depart. That is the seventh strange and wonderful thing.

Furthermore, reverend Sariputra, all the splendors of the abodes of the gods and all the splendors of the fields of the Buddhas shine forth in this house. That is the eighth strange and wonderful thing.

Reverend Sariputra, these eight strange and wonderful things are seen in this house. Who then, seeing such inconceivable things, would believe the teaching of the disciples?

Sariputra: Goddess, what prevents you from transforming yourself out of your female state?

Goddess: Although I have sought my “female state” for these twelve years, I have not yet found it. Reverend Sariputra, if a magician were to incarnate a woman by magic, would you ask her, “What prevents you from transforming yourself out of your female state?”

Sariputra: No! Such a woman would not really exist, so what would there be to transform?

Goddess: Just so, reverend Sariputra, all things do not really exist. Now, would you think, “What prevents one whose nature is that of a magical incarnation from transforming herself out of her female state?”

Thereupon, the goddess employed her magical power to cause the elder Sariputra to appear in her form and to cause herself to appear in his form. Then the goddess, transformed into Sariputra, said to Sariputra, transformed into a goddess, “Reverend Sariputra, what prevents you from transforming yourself out of your female state?”

And Sariputra, transformed into the goddess, replied, “I no longer appear in the form of a male! My body has changed into the body of a woman! I do not know what to transform!”

The goddess continued, “If the elder could again change out of the female state, then all women could also change out of their female states. All women appear in the form of women in just the same way

as the elder appears in the form of a woman. While they are not women in reality, they appear in the form of women. With this in mind, the Buddha said, ‘In all things, there is neither male nor female.'”

Then, the goddess released her magical power and each returned to his ordinary form. She then said to him, “Reverend Sariputra, what have you done with your female form?”

Sariputra: I neither made it nor did I change it.

Goddess: Just so, all things are neither made nor changed, and that they are not made and not changed, that is the teaching of the Buddha.

Sariputra: Goddess, where will you be born when you transmigrate after death?

Goddess: I will be born where all the magical incarnations of the Tathagata are born.

Sariputra: But the emanated incarnations of the Tathagata do not transmigrate nor are they born.

Goddess: All things and living beings are just the same; they do not transmigrate nor are they born!

Sariputra: Goddess, how soon will you attain the perfect enlightenment of Buddhahood?

Goddess: At such time as you, elder, become endowed once more with the qualities of an ordinary individual, then will I attain the perfect enlightenment of Buddhahood.

Sariputra: Goddess, it is impossible that I should become endowed once more with the qualities of an ordinary individual.

Goddess: Just so, reverend Sariputra, it is impossible that I should attain the perfect enlightenment of Buddhahood! Why? Because perfect enlightenment stands upon the impossible. Because it is impossible, no one attains the perfect enlightenment of Buddhahood.

Sariputra: But the Tathagata has declared: “The Tathagatas, who are as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, have attained perfect Buddhahood, are attaining perfect Buddhahood, and will go on attaining perfect Buddhahood.”

Goddess: Reverend Sariputra, the expression, “the Buddhas of the past, present and future,” is a conventional expression made up of a certain number of syllables. The Buddhas are neither past, nor present, nor future. Their enlightenment transcends the three times! But tell me, elder, have you attained sainthood?

Sariputra: It is attained, because there is no attainment.

Goddess: Just so, there is perfect enlightenment because there is no attainment of perfect enlightenment.

Then the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the venerable elder Sariputra, “Reverend Sariputra, this goddess has already served ninety-two million billion Buddhas. She plays with the superknowledges. She has truly succeeded in all her vows. She has gained the tolerance of the birthlessness of things. She has actually attained irreversibility. She can live wherever she wishes on the strength of her vow to develop living beings.”

Vimalakirti 8 – The Family of the Tathagatas

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Then, the crown prince Manjusri said to the Licchavi Vimalakirti, “Noble sir, how does the bodhisattva follow the way to attain the qualities of the Buddha?”

Vimalakirti replied, “Manjusri, when the bodhisattva follows the wrong way, he follows the way to attain the qualities of the Buddha.”

Manjusri continued, “How does the bodhisattva follow the wrong way?”

Vimalakirti replied, “Even should he enact the five deadly sins, he feels no malice, violence, or hate. Even should he go into the hells, he remains free of all taint of passions. Even should he go into the states of the animals, he remains free of darkness and ignorance. When he goes into the states of the asuras, he remains free of pride, conceit, and arrogance. When he goes into the realm of the lord of death, he accumulates the stores of merit and wisdom. When he goes into the states of motionlessness and immateriality, he does not dissolve therein.

“He may follow the ways of desire, yet he stays free of attachment to the enjoyments of desire. He may follow the ways of hatred, yet he feels no anger to any living being. He may follow the ways of folly, yet he is ever conscious with the wisdom of firm understanding.

“He may follow the ways of avarice, yet he gives away all internal and external things without regard even for his own life. He may follow the ways of immorality, yet, seeing the horror of even the slightest transgressions, he lives by the ascetic practices and austerities. He may follow the ways of wickedness and anger, yet he remains utterly free of malice and lives by love. He may follow the ways of laziness, yet his efforts are uninterrupted as he strives in the cultivation of roots of virtue. He may follow the ways of sensuous distraction, yet, naturally concentrated, his contemplation is not dissipated. He may follow the ways of false wisdom, yet, having reached the transcendence of wisdom, he is expert in all mundane and transcendental sciences.

“He may show the ways of sophistry and contention, yet he is always conscious of ultimate meanings and has perfected the use of liberative techniques. He may show the ways of pride, yet he serves as a bridge and a ladder for all people. He may show the ways of the passions, yet he is utterly dispassionate and naturally pure. He may follow the ways of the Maras, yet he does not really accept their authority in regard to his knowledge of the qualities of the Buddha. He may follow the ways of the disciples, yet he lets living beings hear the teaching they have not heard before. He may follow the ways of the solitary sages, yet he is inspired with great compassion in order to develop all living beings.

“He may follow the ways of the poor, yet he holds in his hand a jewel of inexhaustible wealth. He may follow the ways of cripples, yet he is beautiful and well adorned with the auspicious signs and marks. He may follow the ways of those of lowly birth, yet, through his accumulation of the stores of merit and wisdom, he is born in the family of the Tathagatas. He may follow the ways of the weak, the ugly, and the wretched, yet he is beautiful to look upon, and his body is like that of Narayana.

“He may manifest to living beings the ways of the sick and the unhappy, yet he has entirely conquered and transcended the fear of death.

“He may follow the ways of the rich, yet he is without acquisitiveness and often reflects upon the notion of impermanence.

He may show himself engaged in dancing with harem girls, yet he cleaves to solitude, having crossed the swamp of desire.

“He follows the ways of the dumb and the incoherent, yet, having acquired the power of incantations, he is adorned with a varied eloquence.

“He follows the ways of the heterodox without ever becoming heterodox. He follows the ways of all the world, yet he reverses all states of existence. He follows the way of liberation without ever abandoning the progress of the world.

“Manjusri, thus does the bodhisattva follow the wrong ways, thereby following the way to the qualities of the Buddha.”

Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti said to the crown prince Manjusri, “Manjusri, what is the ‘family of the Tathagatas’?”

Manjusri replied, “Noble sir, the family of the Tathagatas consists of all basic egoism; of ignorance and the thirst for existence; of lust, hate, and folly; of the four misapprehensions, of the five obscurations, of the six media of sense, of the seven abodes of consciousness, of the eight false paths, of the nine causes of irritation, of the paths of ten sins. Such is the family of the Tathagatas. In short, noble sir, the sixty-two kinds of convictions constitute the family of the Tathagatas!”

Vimalakirti: Manjusri, with what in mind do you say so?

Manjusri: Noble sir, one who stays in the fixed determination of the vision of the uncreated is not capable of conceiving the spirit of unexcelled perfect enlightenment. However, one who lives among created things, in the mines of passions, without seeing any truth, is indeed capable of conceiving the spirit of unexcelled perfect enlightenment.

Noble sir, flowers like the blue lotus, the red lotus, the white lotus, the water lily, and the moon lily do not grow on the dry ground in the wilderness, but do grow in the swamps and mud banks. Just so, the Buddha-qualities do not grow in living beings certainly destined for the uncreated but do grow in those living beings who are like swamps and mud banks of passions. Likewise, as seeds do not grow in the sky but do grow in the earth, so the Buddha-qualities do not grow in those determined for the absolute but do grow in those who conceive the spirit of enlightenment, after having produced a Sumeru-like mountain of egoistic views.

Noble sir, through these considerations one can understand that all passions constitute the family of the Tathagatas. For example, noble sir, without going out into the great ocean, it is impossible to find precious, priceless pearls. Likewise, without going into the ocean of passions, it is impossible to obtain the mind of omniscience.

Then, the elder Mahakasyapa applauded the crown prince Manjusri: “Good! Good Manjusri! This is indeed well spoken! This is right! The passions do indeed constitute the family of the Tathagatas. How can such as we, the disciples, conceive the spirit of enlightenment, or become fully enlightened in regard to the qualities of the Buddha? Only those guilty of the five deadly sins can conceive the spirit of enlightenment and can attain Buddhahood, which is the full accomplishment of the qualities of the Buddha!

“Just as, for example, the five desire objects have no impression or effect on those bereft of faculties, even so all the qualities of the Buddha have no impression or effect on the disciples, who have abandoned all adherences. Thus, the disciples can never appreciate those qualities.

“Therefore, Manjusri, the ordinary individual is grateful to the Tathagata, but the disciples are not grateful. Why? The ordinary individuals, upon learning of the virtues of the Buddha, conceive the spirit of unexcelled perfect enlightenment, in order to insure the uninterrupted continuity of the heritage of the Three Jewels; but the disciples, although they may hear of the qualities, powers, and fearlessnesses of the Buddha until the end of their days, are not capable of conceiving the spirit of unexcelled perfect enlightenment.”

Thereupon, the bodhisattva Sarvarupasamdarsana, who was present in that assembly, addressed the Licchavi Vimalakirti: “Householder, where are your father and mother, your children, your wife, your servants, your maids, your laborers, and your attendants? Where are your friends, your relatives, and your kinsmen? Where are your servants, your horses, your elephants, your chariots, your bodyguards, and your bearers?”

Thus addressed, the Licchavi Vimalakirti spoke the following verses to the bodhisattva Sarvarupasamdarsana:

Of the true bodhisattvas,
The mother is the transcendence of wisdom,
The father is the skill in liberative technique;
The Leaders are born of such parents.

Their wife is the joy in the Dharma,
Love and compassion are their daughters,
The Dharma and the truth are their sons;
And their home is deep thought on the meaning of voidness.

All the passions are their disciples,
Controlled at will.
Their friends are the aids to enlightenment;
Thereby they realize supreme enlightenment.

Their companions, ever with them,
Are the six transcendences.
Their consorts are the means of unification,
Their music is the teaching of the Dharma.

The incantations make their garden,
Which blossoms with the flowers of the factors of enlightenment,
With trees of the great wealth of the Dharma,
And fruits of the gnosis of liberation.

Their pool consists of the eight liberations,
Filled with the water of concentration,
Covered with the lotuses of the seven impurities –
Who bathes therein becomes immaculate.

Their bearers are the six superknowledges,
Their vehicle is the unexcelled Mahayana,
Their driver is the spirit of enlightenment,
And their path is the eightfold peace.

Their ornaments are the auspicious signs,
And the eighty marks;
Their garland is virtuous aspiration,
And their clothing is good conscience and consideration.

Their wealth is the holy Dharma,
And their business is its teaching,
Their great income is pure practice,
And it is dedicated to the supreme enlightenment.

Their bed consists of the four contemplations,
And its spread is the pure livelihood,
And their awakening consists of gnosis,
Which is constant learning and meditation.

Their food is the ambrosia of the teachings,
And their drink is the juice of liberation.
Their bath is pure aspiration,
And morality their unguent and perfume.

Having conquered the enemy passions,
They are invincible heroes.
Having subdued the four Maras,
They raise their standard on the field of enlightenment.

They manifest birth voluntarily,
Yet they are not born, nor do they originate.
They shine in all the fields of the Buddhas,
Just like the rising sun.

Though they worship Buddhas by the millions,
With every conceivable offering,
They never dwell upon the least difference
Between the Buddhas and themselves.

They journey through all Buddha-fields
In order to bring benefit to living beings,
Yet they see those fields as just like empty space,
Free of any conceptual notions of “living beings.”

The fearless bodhisattvas can manifest,
All in a single instant,
The forms, sounds, and manners of behavior
Of all living beings.

Although they recognize the deeds of Maras,
They can get along even with these Maras;
For even such activities may be manifested
By those perfected in liberative technique.

They play with illusory manifestations
In order to develop living beings,
Showing themselves to be old or sick,
And even manifesting their own deaths.

They demonstrate the burning of the earth
In the consuming flames of the world’s end,
In order to demonstrate impermanence
To living beings with the notion of permanence.

Invited by hundreds of thousands of living beings,
All in the same country,
They partake of offerings at the homes of all,
And dedicate all for the sake of enlightenment.

They excel in all esoteric sciences,
And in the many different crafts,
And they bring forth the happiness
Of all living beings.

By devoting themselves as monks
To all the strange sects of the world,
They develop all those beings
Who have attached themselves to dogmatic views.

They may become suns or moons,
Indras, Brahmas, or lords of creatures,
They may become fire or water
Or earth or wind.

During the short aeons of maladies,
They become the best holy medicine;
They make beings well and happy,
And bring about their liberation.

During the short aeons of famine,
They become food and drink.
Having first alleviated thirst and hunger,
They teach the Dharma to living beings.

During the short aeons of swords,
They meditate on love,
Introducing to nonviolence
Hundreds of millions of living beings.

In the middle of great battles
They remain impartial to both sides;
For bodhisattvas of great strength
Delight in reconciliation of conflict.

In order to help the living beings,
They voluntarily descend into
The hells which are attached
To all the inconceivable buddha-fields.

They manifest their lives
In all the species of the animal kingdom,
Teaching the Dharma everywhere.
Thus they are called “Leaders.”

They display sensual enjoyment to the worldlings,
And trances to the meditative.
They completely conquer the Maras,
And allow them no chance to prevail.

Just as it can be shown that a lotus
Cannot exist in the center of a fire,
So they show the ultimate unreality
Of both pleasures and trances.

They intentionally become courtesans
In order to win men over,
And, having caught them with the hook of desire,
They establish them in the buddha-gnosis.

In order to help living beings,
They always become chieftains,
Captains, priests, and ministers,
Or even prime ministers.

For the sake of the poor,
They become inexhaustible treasures,
Causing those to whom they give their gifts
To conceive the spirit of enlightenment.

They become invincible champions,
For the sake of the proud and the vain,
And, having conquered all their pride,
They start them on the quest for enlightenment.

They always stand at the head
Of those terrified with fright,
And, having bestowed fearlessness upon them,
They develop them toward enlightenment.

They become great holy men,
With the superknowledges and pure continence,
And thus induce living beings to the morality
Of tolerance, gentleness, and discipline.

Here in the world, they fearlessly behold
Those who are masters to be served,
And they become their servants or slaves,
Or serve as their disciples.

Well trained in liberative technique,
They demonstrate all activities,
Whichever possibly may be a means
To make beings delight in the Dharma.

Their practices are infinite;
And their spheres of influence are infinite;
Having perfected an infinite wisdom,
They liberate an infinity of living beings.

Even for the Buddhas themselves,
During a million aeons,
Or even a hundred million aeons,
It would be hard to express all their virtues.

Except for some inferior living beings,
Without any intelligence at all,
Is there anyone with any discernment
Who, having heard this teaching,
Would not wish for the supreme enlightenment?