The Lotus Sutra
Translated by Burton Watson
Chapter Twenty-one: The Mystic Powers of the Tathagata
At that time the bodhisattvas and mahasattvas who had emerged from the earth, numerous as the dust particles of a thousand worlds, all in the presence of the Buddha single-mindedly pressed their palms together, gazed up in reverence at the face of the Honored One, and said to the Buddha: "World-Honored One, after the Buddha has entered extinction, in the lands where the emanations of the World-Honored One are present, and in the place where the Buddha has passed into extinction, we will preach this sutra far and wide. Why? Because we ourselves wish to gain this great Law, true and pure, to accept, uphold, read, recite, explain, preach, transcribe and offer alms to it."
At that time the World-Honored One, in the presence of Manjushri and the other immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of bodhisattvas and mahasattvas who from of old had dwelled in the saha world, as well as the monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, heavenly beings, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimvaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings-before all these he displayed his great supernatural powers. He extended his long broad tongue upward till it reached the Brahma heaven, and from all his pores he emitted immeasurable, countless beams of light that illuminated all the worlds in the ten directions.
The other Buddhas, seated on lion thrones underneath the numerous jeweled trees, did likewise, extending their long broad tongues and emitting immeasurable beams of light. When Shakyamuni Buddha and other Buddhas beneath the jeweled trees thus displayed their supernatural powers, they did so for fully a hundred thousand years. After that they drew in their long tongues again, coughed in unison, and altogether snapped her fingers. The sounds made by these two actions filled all the Buddha worlds in the ten directions, and the earth in all of them quaked and trembled in six different ways.
The living beings in their midst, the heavenly beings, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings, thanks to the Buddha's supernatural powers, all saw in this saha world immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of Buddhas seated on lion seats under the numerous jeweled trees, and also saw Shakyamuni Buddha and Many Treasures Thus Come One seated together on a lion seat in the treasure tower. Moreover, they saw immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of bodhisattvas and mahasattvas and the four kinds of believers who reverently surrounded Shakyamuni Buddha.
When they had seen these things, they were all filled with great joy, having gained what they had never had before. At the time the heavenly beings in the midst of the sky cried out with loud voices, saying: "Beyond these immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of asamkhya worlds there is a land named saha, and in it a Buddha named Shakyamuni. Now for the sake of the bodhisattvas and mahasattvas he is preaching in his sutra of the Great Vehicle called the Lotus of the Wonderful Law., a Law to instruct the bodhisattvas, one that is guarded and kept in mind by the Buddhas. You must respond with joy from the depths of your heart, and also offer obeisance and alms to Shakyamuni Buddha!"
When the various living beings heard the voices in the sky, they pressed their palms together, faced the saha world, and spoke these words: "Hail, Shakyamuni Buddha! Hail, Shakyamuni Buddha!"
Then they took different kinds of flowers, incense, necklaces, banners and canopies, as well as the ornaments, rare jewels and other wonderful articles that adorned their persons, and all together scattered them far off in the direction of the saha world. The objects thus scattered poured in from the ten directions like clouds gathering together. Then they changed into a jeweled curtain that completely covered the area where the Buddhas were. At that time the worlds in the ten directions were opened up so that there was unobstructed passage from one to the other and they were like a single Buddha land.
At that time the Buddha spoke to Superior Practices and the others in the great assembly of bodhisattvas, saying: "The supernatural powers of the Buddhas, as you have seen, are immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable. If in the process of entrusting this sutra to others I were to employ these supernatural powers for a measurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of asamkhya kalpas to describe the benefits of the sutra, I could never finish doing so. To put it briefly, all the doctrines possessed by the Thus Come One, the storehouse of all the secret essentials of the Thus Come One - all these are proclaimed, revealed, and clearly expounded in this sutra.
For this reason, after the Thus Come One has entered extinction, you must single-mindedly accept, uphold, read, recite, explain, preach and transcribe it, and practice it as directed. In any of the various lands, wherever there are those who accept, uphold, read, recite, explain, preach, transcribe, or practice it as directed, or wherever the sutra rolls are preserved, whether in a garden, a forest, beneath a tree, in monks quarters, in the lodgings of white-robed laymen, in palaces, or in mountain valleys or the wide wilderness, in all these places one should erect towers and offer alms. Why? Because you should understand that such spots are places of religious practice. In such places have the Buddhas gained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, in such places have the Buddhas turn the wheel of the Law, in such places have the Buddhas entered parinirvana."
At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:
The Buddhas, saviors of the world,
abide in their great transcendental powers,
and in order to please living being
they display immeasurable supernatural powers.
Their tongues reach to the Brahma heaven,
their bodies emit countless beams of light.
For the sake of those who seek the Buddha way
they manifest these things that are rarely seen.
The sound of the Buddhas coughing,
the sound of them snapping their fingers,
is heard throughout the lands in the ten directions
and the earth in all those lands moves in six ways.
Because after the Buddha has passed into extinction
there will be those who can uphold this sutra,
the Buddhas are delighted
and manifest immeasurable supernatural powers.
Because they wish to entrust this sutra,
they praise and extol the person who accepts and upholds it,
and though they should do so for immeasurable kalpas
they could never exhaust their praises.
The benefits gained by such a person
are boundless and inexhaustible,
like the vast sky in the ten directions
that no one can set a limit to.
One who can uphold this sutra
has in effect already seen me,
and likewise has seen Many Treasures Buddha
and the Buddhas that are emanations of my body.
And he also sees me today
as I teach and convert the bodhisattvas.
One who can uphold this sutra
causes me and my emanations,
and Many Treasures Buddha who has already
all to be filled with joy.
The Buddhas who are present in the ten directions
and those of past and future ages -
he will see them too, offer alms to them
and cause them to be filled with joy.
The secret essentials of the Law
gained by the Buddhas who sat in the place of practice -
one who can uphold this sutra
will gain them too before long.
One who can uphold this sutra
will delight in endlessly expounding
the principles of the various doctrines
and their names and phrases
like a wind in the open sky
moving everywhere without hindrance or block.
After the Thus Come One has passed into extinction,
this person will know the sutras preached by the Buddha,
their causes and conditions and their proper sequence,
and will preach them truthfully in accordance with principle.
As the light of the sun and moon
can vanish all obscurity and gloom,
so this person as he passes through the world
can wipe out the darkness of living beings,
causing immeasurable numbers of bodhisattvas
in the end to dwell in the single vehicle.
Therefore a person of wisdom,
hearing how keen are the benefits to be gained,
after I have passed into extinction
should accept and uphold this sutra.
Such a person assuredly and without doubt
will attain the Buddha way.