The Lotus Sutra
Translated by Burton Watson
Chapter Eight: Prophecy of Enlightenment for Five Hundred Disciples
At that time Purna Maitrayaniputra, hearing from the Buddha this Law as it was expounded through wisdom and expedient means and in accordance with what was appropriate, and also hearing the prophecy that the major disciples would attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, hearing matters relating to causes and conditions of previous existences, and hearing how the Buddha possesses great freedom and transcendental powers, obtained what he had never before, and his mind was purified and felt like dancing. Immediately he rose from his seat, advanced to a position in front of the Buddha, touched his head to the ground and bowed to the Buddha's feet. Then he withdrew to one side, gazed up in reverence at the face of the Honored One, his eyes never leaving it for an instant, and thought to himself: the World-Honored One is very extraordinary, very special, his actions rarely to be encountered! Adapting himself to the various natures of the people of this world and employing expedient means and insight, he preaches the Law for them, drawing living beings away from their greed and attachment to this or that. The Buddha's blessings are such that we cannot set them forth in words. Only the Buddha, the World-Honored One, is capable of knowing the wish that we have had deep in our hearts from the start.
At that time the Buddha said to the monks: "Do you see this Purna Maitrayaniputra? I have always commended him as being foremost among those who preach the Law. And I have always praised his various blessings, his diligence in protecting, upholding, aiding and proclaiming my Law, his ability in teaching, benefitting and delighting the four kinds of believers, the thoroughness with which he understands the correct Law of the Buddha, the great degree to which he enriches those who carry out its brahma practices. If one excepts the Thus Come One, there is no other who can so thoroughly exemplify the eloquence of its theories.
"You should not suppose that Purna is capable of protecting, upholding, aiding and proclaiming my Law only. In the presence of ninety million Buddhas of the past too he protected, upheld, aided and proclaimed the correct Law of the Buddhas. Among all those who at that time preached the Law, he was likewise foremost.
"In addition, concerning the Law of emptiness preached by the Buddhas he has clear and thorough understanding, he has gained the four unlimited kinds of knowledge, and is at all times capable of preaching the Law in a lucid and pure manner, free of doubts and perplexities. He is fully endowed with the transcendental powers of a bodhisattva. Throughout his allotted life span he constantly carries out brahma practices, so that the other people living in the era of that particular Buddha all think, 'Here is a true voice-hearer!
"And Purna by employing this expedient means has brought benefit to immeasurable hundreds and thousands of living beings, and has converted immeasurable asamkhyas of persons, causing them to turn toward anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. In order to purify the Buddha lands he constantly devotes himself to the Buddha's work, teaching and converting living beings.
"Monks, Purna was foremost among those who preached the Law in the time of the seven Buddhas. He is also foremost among those who preach the Law in my presence now. And he will likewise be foremost among those who preach the Law in the time of the future Buddhas who appear in the present Wise Kalpa, in all cases protecting, upholding, aiding and proclaiming the Law of the Buddha. In the future too he will protect, uphold, aid and proclaim the Law of immeasurable, boundless Buddhas, teaching, converting and enriching immeasurable living beings and causing them to turn toward anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. In order to purify the Buddha lands he will constantly apply himself with diligence, teaching and converting living beings.
Little by little he will become fully endowed with the way of the bodhisattva, and when immeasurable asamkhya kalpas have passed, here in the land where he is dwelling he will attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. He will be called Law Bright Thus Come One, worthy of offerings, of right and universal knowledge, perfect clarity and conduct, well gone, understanding the world, unexcelled worthy, trainer of people, teacher of heavenly and human beings, Buddha, World-Honored One.
"This Buddha will have thousand-millionfold worlds equal in number to Ganges sands as his Buddha land. The ground will be made of the seven treasures and level as the palm of a hand, without hills or ridges, ravines or gullies. The land will be filled with terraces and towers made of the seven treasures, and the heavenly palaces will be situated close by in the sky, so that human and heavenly beings can communicate and be within sight of each other. There will be no evil paths of existence there, nor will there be any women. All living beings will be born through transformation and will be without lewd desires. They will gain great transcendental powers, their bodies will emit a bright glow, and they will be able to fly at will. They will be firm in intent and thought, diligent and wise, and all alike will be adorned with golden color and the thirty-two features. All the living beings in that land will regularly take two kinds of food, one being the food of Dharma joy, the other the food of meditation delight
There will be immeasurable asamkhyas, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of bodhisattvas there, who will gain great transcendental powers and the four unlimited kinds of knowledge, and will be skilled and capable in teaching and converting the different varieties of living beings. The number of voice-hearers will be beyond the power of calculation or reckoning to determine. All will be fully endowed with the six transcendental powers, the three understandings, and the eight emancipations.
"This Buddha land will thus possess measureless blessings of this kind that will adorn and complete it. The kalpa will be named Treasure Bright and the land named Good and Pure. The Buddha's life span will be immeasurable asamkhya kalpas, his Law will endure for a very long time, and after the Buddha has passed into extinction, towers adorned with the seven treasures will be erected to him throughout the entire land."
At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spake in verse form, saying:
You monks, listen carefully!
The way followed by the sons of the Buddha,
because they are well learned in expedient means,
is wonderful beyond conception.
They know how most beings delight in a little Law
and are fearful of great wisdom.
Therefore the bodhisattvas
pose as voice-hearers or pratyekabuddhas,
employing countless expedient means
to convert the different kinds of living beings.
They proclaim themselves to be voice-hearers
and say they are far removed from the Buddha way,
and so bring emancipation to immeasurable multitudes,
allowing them all to achieve success.
Limited in aspiration, lazy and indolent though the
bit by bit they are led to the attainment of Buddhahood.
Inwardly, in secret, the sons act as bodhisattvas,
but outwardly the show themselves as voice-hearers.
They seem to be lessening desires out of hatred for birth
but in truth they are purifying the Buddha lands.
Before the multitude they seem possessed of the three poisons
or manifest the signs of heretical views.
My disciples in this manner
use expedient means to save living beings.
If I were to describe all the different ways,
the many manifestations they display in converting others,
the living beings who heard me
would be doubtful and perplexed in mind.
Now this Purna in the past
diligently practiced the way
under a thousand million Buddhas,
proclaiming and guarding the Law of those Buddhas.
In order to seek out unsurpassed wisdom
he went to where the Buddhas were,
became a leader among their disciples,
one of wide knowledge and wisdom.
He showed no fear in what he expounded
and was able to delight the assembly.
Never was he weary or disheartened
in assisting the work of the Buddhas.
Already he had passed over into great transcendental powers
and possessed the four unlimited kinds of knowledge.
He knew whether the capacities of the multitude were keen
and constantly preached the pure Law.
He expounded such principles as these,
teaching a multitude of thousands of millions,
causing them to reside in the Great Vehicle Law
and himself purifying the Buddha lands.
And in the future to will offer alms
to immeasurable, countless Buddhas,
protecting, aiding and proclaiming their correct Law
and himself purifying the Buddha lands,
constantly employing various expedient means,
preaching the Law without fear,
saving multitudes beyond calculation,
causing them to realize comprehensive wisdom.
He will offer alms to the Thus Come Ones,
guarding and upholding the treasure storehouse of the Law.
And later he will become a Buddha
known by the name Law Bright.
His land will be called Good and Pure
and will be composed of the seven treasures.
The kalpa will be named Treasure Bright.
The Multitude of bodhisattvas will be very numerous,
numbering immeasurable millions,
all having passed over into great transcendental powers,
endowed with dignity, virtue, strength,
filling the entire land.
Voice-hearers too will be numberless,
with the three understandings and eight emancipations,
having attained the four unlimited kinds of knowledge--
such as these will be monks of the Order.
The living beings of that land
will all be divorced from lewd desires.
They will be born in a pure manner by the process
with all the features adorning their bodies.
With Dharma joy and meditation delight to feed upon,
they will have no thought of other food.
There will be no women there
and non of the evil paths of existence.
The monk Purna
has won all these blessings to the fullest
and will acquire a pure land such as this,
with its great multitude of worthies and sages.
Of the countless matters pertaining to it
I have now spoken only in brief.
At that time the twelve hundred arhats, being free in mind, thought to themselves, We rejoice at gaining that we have never had before. If the World-Honored One should give each of us a prophecy of enlightenment such as he has given to this other major disciples, would that be a cause for delight?
The Buddha, knowing that this thought was in their minds, said to Mahakashyapa: on these twelve hundred arhats who are now before me I will one by one bestow a prophecy that they will attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Among this assembly is a major disciple of mine, the monk Kaundinya he will offer alms to sixty-two thousand million Buddhas, and after that will become a Buddha. He will be designated Universal knowledge, perfect clarity and conduct, well gone, understanding the world, unexcelled worthy, trainer of people, teacher of heavenly and human beings, Buddha, World-Honored One. Five-hundred arhats, including Uruvilvakashyapa, Gayakashyapa, Nadikashyapa, Kalodayin, Udayin, Anirudda, Revata, Kapphina, Bakkula, Chunda, Svagata, and others, will attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. All will have the same designation, being called Universal Brightness."
The World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:
The monk Kaundinya
will see immeasurable Buddhas
and after asamkhya kalpas have passed
will at last achieve impartial and correct enlightenment.
Constantly he will emit a great bright light,
will be endowed with transcendental powers,
and his name will be known in all ten quarters,
respected by one and all.
Constantly he will preach the unsurpassed way;
therefore he will be named Universal Brightness.
His realm will be pure and clean,
his bodhisattvas brave and spirited.
All will ascend the wonderful towers,
travel to the lands in the ten directions,
in order to offer unsurpassed articles
as gifts to the various Buddhas.
After they have offered these alms
their minds will be filled with great joy
and they will speedily return to their native lands--
such will be their supernatural powers.
The life span of this Buddha will be sixty thousand kalpas,
his Correct Law will endure twice that time,
his Counterfeit Law twice that time again,
and when his Law is extinguished, heavenly and human beings
The five hundred monks
will one by one become Buddhas,
all with the same name, Universal Brightness.
Each will bestow a prophecy on his successor, saying,
"After I have entered extinction,
you, so-and-so, will become a Buddha.
The world in which you carry out conversions
will be like mine today."
The adornment and purity of their lands,
their various transcendental powers,
their bodhisattvas and voice-hearers,
their Correct Law and Counterfeit Law,
the number of kalpas in their life span--
all will be as I have described above.
Kashyapa, now you know the future
of these five hundred who are free in mind.
The remainder of the multitude of voice-hearers
will also be like this.
As for those not in this gathering,
you must expound and preach to them.
At that time the five hundred arhats in the presence of the Buddha, having received a prophecy of enlightenment, danced for joy. Immediately they rose from their seats, advanced to a position in front of the Buddha, touched their heads to the ground and bowed to the Buddha's feet. They bewailed their error, reproving themselves and saying, "World-Honored One, we always used to think to ourselves, We have already attained the ultimate extinction. But now we know that we were like persons of no wisdom. Why? Because, although we were capable of attaining the wisdom of the Thus Come One, we were willing to content ourselves with petty wisdom.
"World-Honored One, it was like the case of a man who went to the house of a close friend and, having become drunk on wine, lay down to sleep. At that time the friend had to go out on official business. He took a priceless jewel, sewed it in the lining of the man's robe, and left it with him when he went out. The man was asleep drunk and knew nothing about it. When he got up, he set out on a journey to other countries. In order to provide himself with food and clothing he had to search with all his energy and diligence, encountering very great hardship and making do with what little he could come by.
"Later, the close friend happened to meet him by chance. The friend said, 'How absurd, old fellow! Why should you have to do all this for the sake of food and clothing? In the past I wanted to make certain you would be able to live in ease and satisfy the five desires, and so on such-and-such a day and month and year I took a priceless jewel and sewed it in the lining of your robe. It must still be there now. But you did not know about it, and fretted and wore yourself out trying to provide a living for yourself. What nonsense! Now you must take the jewel and exchange it for goods. Then you can have whatever you wish at all times and never experience poverty or want.'
"The Buddha is like this friend. When he was still a bodhisattva, he taught and converted us, inspiring in us the determination to seek comprehensive wisdom. But in time we forget all that, became unaware, unknowing. Having attained the way of the arhat, we supposed we had gained extinction. Finding it difficult to provide for our livelihood, as it were, we made do with what little we could come by. However, we not yet lost the desire for comprehensive wisdom. And now the World-Honored One awakens us and makes us aware, speaking these words: 'Monks, what you have acquired is not the ultimate extinction. For a long time I caused you to cultivate the good roots of Buddhahood, and as on expedient means I showed you the outward signs of nirvana, but you supposed that you had in truth attained nirvana.'
"World-Honored One, now we understand. In fact we are bodhisattvas and have received a prophecy that we will attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Fro this reason we are filled with great joy, having gained what we never had before."
At that time Ajnata Kaundinya and the others, wishing to state their meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:
We have heard the sound of this prophecy
assuring us of unsurpassed ease and tranquility;
we rejoice in gaining what we never had before
and make obeisance to the Buddha of measureless wisdom.
Now in the presence of the World-Honored One
we bewail our faults and errors.
Of the Buddha's immeasurable treasure
we have gained only a small portion of nirvana,
and like ignorant and foolish persons
have taken that to be sufficient.
We are like the poor and impoverished man
who went to the house of a close friend.
The house was a very prosperous one
and he served many trays of delicacies.
The friend took a priceless jewel,
sewed it in the lining of the poor man's robe,
gave it without a word and then went away,
and the man, being asleep, knew nothing of it.
After the man had gotten up,
he journeyed here and there to other countries,
seeking food and clothing to keep himself alive,
finding it very difficult to provide for his livelihood
He made do with what little he could get
and never hoped for anything finer,
unaware that in the lining of his robe
he had a priceless jewel.
Later the close friend who had given him the jewel
happened to meet the poor man
and after sharply rebuking him,
showed him the jewel sewed in the robe.
When the poor man saw the jewel
his heart was filled with great joy,
for he was rich, possessed of wealth and goods
sufficient to satisfy the five desires.
We are like that man.
Through the long night the World-Honored One
constantly in his pity teaches and converts us,
causing us to plant the seeds of an unsurpassed aspiration.
But because we are without wisdom,
we are unaware of this, unknowing.
Having gained a small portion of nirvana,
we are satisfied and seek nothing more.
But now the Buddha awakens us,
saying 'This is not really extinction,
when you have gained the Buddha's unsurpassed wisdom,
then that will be true extinction!'
Now we have heard from the Buddha
these prophecies and descriptions of adornment,
and how each in turn will bestow a prophecy on his successor,
and in body and mind we are filled with joy.