The Lotus Sutra
Translated by Burton Watson
Chapter Twenty: Bodhisattva Never Disparaging
At that time the Buddha said to the bodhisattva and mahasattva Gainer of Great Authority: 'You should understand this. When monks, nuns, laymen or laywomen uphold the Lotus Sutra, if anyone should speak ill of them, curse or slander them, he will suffer severe recompense for his crime, as I have explained earlier. And I have also explained earlier the benefits gained by those who uphold the sutra, namely, purification of their eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind.
"Gainer of Great Authority, long ago, an immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable number of asamkhya kalpas in the past, there was a Buddha named Awesome Sound King Thus Come One, worthy of offerings, of right and universal knowledge, perfect clarity and conduct, well gone, understanding the world, unexcelled trainer of people, teacher of heavenly and human beings, Buddha, World-Honored One. His kalpa was called Exempt from Decay and his land was called Great Achievement.
"This Buddha Awesome Sound King during the age when he lived preached the Law for heavenly and human beings and asuras. For those who were seeking to become voice-hearers he responded by preaching the Law of the four noble truths so that they could transcend birth, old age, sickness and death and eventually attain nirvana. For those seeking to become pratyekabuddhas he responded by preaching the Law of the twelve-linked chain of causation. For the bodhisattvas, as a means to lead them to anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, he responded by preaching the Law of the six paramitas so they could eventually gain the Buddha wisdom.
"Gainer of Great Authority, this Buddha Awesome Sound King had a life span of kalpas equal to four-hundred thousand million nayutas of Ganges sands. His correct Law endured in the world for as many kalpas as there are dust particles in one Jambudvipa. His counterfeit Law endured in the world for as many kalpas as there are dust particles in the four continents. After this Buddha had finished bringing great benefits to living beings, he passed into extinction.
"After his Correct Law and Counterfeit Law had come to an end, another Buddha appeared in the same land. He too was named Awesome Sound King 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 process continue until twenty-thousand million Buddhas had appeared one after another, all bearing the same name.
"After the original Awesome sound King Thus Come One had passed into extinction, and after his Correct Law had also passed away, in the period of his Counterfeit Law, monks of overbearing arrogance exercised great authority and power. At this time there was a bodhisattva monk named Never Disparaging. Now, Gainer of Great Authority, for what reason was he named Never Disparaging? This monk, whatever persons he happened to meet, whether monks, nuns, Laymen or laywomen, would bow in obeisance to all of them and speak words of praise, saying, 'I have profound reverence for you, I would never dare treat you with disparaging and arrogance. Why? Because you are all practicing the bodhisattva way and are certain to attain Buddhahood.'
"This monk did not devote his time to reading or reciting the scriptures, but simply went about bowing to people. And if he happened to see any of the four kinds of believers far off in the distance, he would purposely go to where they were, bow to them and speak words of praise, saying, 'I would never dare disparage you, because you are all certain to attain Buddhahood!'
"Among the four kinds of believers there were the those who gave way to anger, their minds lacking in purity, and they spoke ill of him and cursed him, saying, 'This ignorant monk - were does he come from, presuming to declare that he does not disparage us and bestowing on us a prediction that we will attain Buddhahood? We have no use for such vain and irresponsible predictions!'
"Many years passed in this way, during which this monk was constantly subjected to curses and abuse. He did not give way to anger, however, but each time spoke the same words, 'You are certain to attain Buddhahood.' When he spoke in this manner, some among the group would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him. But even as he ran away and took up his stance at a distance, he continued to call out in a loud voice, ' I would never dare disparage you, for you are all certain to attain Buddhahood!' And because he always spoke these words, the overbearing arrogant monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen gave him the name Never Disparaging.
"When this monk was on the point of death, he heard up in the sky fully twenty thousand, ten thousand, a million verses of the Lotus Sutra that had been previously preached by the Buddha Awesome Sound King, and he was able to accept and uphold them all. Immediately he gained the kind of purity of vision and purity of the faculties of the ear, nose, tongue, body and mind that have been described above. Having gained this purity of the six faculties, his life span was increased by two hundred ten million nayutas of years, and he went about widely preaching the Lotus Sutra for people.
"At that time, when the four kinds of believers who were overbearingly arrogant, the monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen who had looked with contempt on this monk and given him the name Never Disparaging - when they saw that he had gained great transcendental powers, the power to preach pleasingly and eloquently, the power of great goodness and tranquility, and when they heard his preaching, they all took faith in him and willingly became his followers.
"This bodhisattva converted a multitude of a thousand, ten thousand, a million, causing them to abide in the state of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. After his life came to an end, he was able to encounter two thousand million Buddhas, all bearing the name Sun Moon Bright, and in the midst of their Law he preached this Lotus Sutra. Through the causes and conditions created thereby, he was also able to encounter two thousand million Buddhas, all with the identical name Cloud Freedom Lamp King. In the midst of the Law of these Buddhas, he excepted, upheld, read, recited and preached this sutra for the four kinds of believers. For that reason he was able to gain perfection of his ordinary eyes, and the faculties of his ears, nose, tongue, body and mind were likewise purified. Among the four kinds of believers he preached Law with no fear in his mind.
"Gainer of Great Authority, this bodhisattva and mahasattvas Never Disparaging in this manner offered alms to a vast number of Buddhas, treating them with reverence and honor and praising them. Having planted these good roots, he was later able to encounter a thousand, ten thousand, a million Buddhas, and in the midst of the Law of these Buddhas, he preached this sutra, gaining benefits about him to attain Buddhahood.
"Gainer of Great Authority, what do you think? The bodhisattva Never Disparaging who lived at that time - could he be unknown to you? In fact he was none other than I myself! If in my previous existences I had not accepted, upheld, read and recited this sutra and preached it for others, I would never have been able boat to attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi so quickly. Because in the presence of those earlier Buddhas I accepted, upheld, read and recited this sutra and preached it for others, I was able quickly to attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
"Gainer of Great Authority, at that time before the four kinds of believers, the monks, nuns, laymen and many women, because anger arose in their minds and they threatened me with disparagement and contempt, were for two hundred million kalpas never able to encounter a Buddha, to hear the Law, or to see the community of monks. For a thousand kalpas they underwent great suffering and Avichi hell. After they had finished paying for their offenses, they once more encountered the bodhisattva Never Disparaging, who instructed them in anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
"Gainer of Great Authority, what do you think? The four kinds of believers who at that time constantly disparaged this bodhisattva - could they be unknown to you? They are in this assembly now, Bhadrapala and his group, five hundred bodhisattvas; Lion Moon and her group, five hundred laymen, all having reached the state where they will never regress in their search for anuttara-samyak-sambodhi!
"Gainer of Great Authority, you should understand that this Lotus Sutra richly benefits the bodhisattvas and mahasattvas, for it can cause them to obtain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. For this reason, after the Thus Come One has passed into extinction, the bodhisattvas and mahasattvas should at all times accept, uphold, read, recite, explain, preach and transcribe this sutra."
At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:
In the past there was a Buddha
named Awesome Sound King,
of immeasurable supernatural powers and wisdom,
leading and guiding one and all.
Heavenly and human beings, dragons, spirits
joined in offering him alms.
After this Buddha had entered extinction,
when his Law was about to expire,
there was a bodhisattva
named Never Disparaging.
The four kinds of believers at that time
scrutinized and adhered to the Law.
The bodhisattva Never Disparaging
would go to where they were
and speak to them, saying,
"I would never disparage you,
for you are practicing the way
and all of you will become Buddhas!"
When the people heard this,
they gibed at him, cursed and reviled him,
but the bodhisattva Never Disparaging
bore all this with patience.
When his offenses had been wiped out
and his life was drawing to a close,
he was able to hear this sutra
and his six faculties were purified.
Because of his transcendental powers
his life span was extended,
and for the sake of others
he preached this sutra far and wide.
The many persons who adhered to the Law
all received teaching and conversion
from this bodhisattva,
who caused them to dwell in the Buddha way.
When Never Disparaging's life ended,
he encountered numerous Buddhas,
and because he preached this sutra
he gained measurable blessings.
Bit by bit he acquired benefits
and quickly completed the Buddha way.
Never Disparaging who lived at that time
was none other than myself.
And the four kinds of believers
who adhered to the Law then,
who heard Never Disparaging say,
"You will become Buddhas!"
and through the causes thus created
encounter numerous Buddhas -
they are here in this assembly,
a group of five hundred bodhisattvas,
and the four kinds of believers,
men and women of pure faith
who now in my presence
listen to the Law.
In previous existences
I encouraged these persons
to listen to and accept this sutra,
the foremost in the Law,
unfolding it, teaching people,
and causing them to dwell in nirvana.
So in age after age they accepted and upheld
scriptures of this kind.
A million million ten thousand kalpas,
an inconceivable time will pass
before at least one can hear
this Lotus Sutra.
A million million ten thousand kalpas,
an inconceivable time will pass
before the Buddhas, World-Honored Ones,
preach this sutra.
Therefore its practitioners
after the Buddha has entered extinction,
when they hear a sutra like this
should entertain no doubts or perplexities
but should with a single mind
preach this sutra far and wide,
age after age encountering Buddhas
and quickly completing the Buddha way.