THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS

Chapter I

Spiritual Penetrations in the Palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven

Thus I have heard. At one time, the Buddha was in the Trayastrimsha Heaven speaking Dharma for his mother. At that time, uncountably many Buddhas and Great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas from infinite worlds in the ten directions assembled to praise how Shakyamuni Buddha is able to manifest powerfully great wisdom and spiritual penetrations in the evil world of the Five Turbidities. They lauded how he regulates and subdues the obstinate beings so that they can learn what causes suffering and what brings bliss. Each one sent his attendants to pay their respects to the World Honored One.

At that time the Thus Come One smiled and emitted billions of great light clouds. There was the light cloud of great fulfillment, the light cloud of great compassion, the light cloud of great wisdom, the light cloud of great prajna, the light cloud of great samadhi, the light cloud of great auspiciousness, the light cloud of great blessings, the light cloud of great merit, the light cloud of great refuge, and the light cloud of great praise.

After emitting indescribably many light clouds, he also uttered many wonderful, subtle sounds. There was the sound of dana paramita, the sound of shila paramita, the sound of kshanti paramita, the sound of virya paramita, the sound of dhyana paramita, and the sound of prajna paramita. There was the sound of compassion, the sound of joyous giving, the sound of liberation, the sound of no outflows, the sound of wisdom, the sound of great wisdom, the sound of the Lion’s roar, the sound of the Great Lion’s roar, the sound of thunderclouds, and the sound of great thunderclouds.

After he had uttered indescribably many sounds, countless millions of gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits from the Saha world and other worlds also gathered in the palace of the Trayastrimsha Heaven.

They came from the Heaven of the Four Kings, the Trayastrimsha Heaven, the Suyama Heaven, the Tushita Heaven, the Blissful Transformations Heaven, and the Heaven of Comfort Gained Through Others’ Transformations.

They came from the Heaven of the Multitudes of Brahma, the Heaven of the Ministers of Brahma, the Heaven of the Great Brahma Lord, the Heaven of Lesser Light, the Heaven of Limitless Light, the Heaven of Light Sound, the Heaven of Lesser Purity, the Heaven of Limitless Purity, and the Heaven of Universal Purity.

They came from the Birth of Blessings Heaven, the Love of Blessings Heaven, the Abundant Fruit Heaven, the No Thought Heaven, the No Affliction Heaven, the No Heat Heaven, the Good Views Heaven, the Good Manifestation Heaven, the Ultimate Form Heaven, the Maheshvara Heaven, and so forth, up to the Heaven of the Station of Neither Thought Nor Non-Thought.

All those groups of gods, dragons, ghosts and spirits came and gathered together.

Moreover, sea spirits, river spirits, stream spirits, tree spirits, mountain spirits, earth spirits, brook and marsh spirits, sprout and seedling spirits, day, night, and space spirits, heaven spirits, food and drink spirits, grass and wood spirits, and other such spirits from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together.

In addition, all the great ghost kings from the Saha and other worlds came and gathered together. They were the Ghost King Evil Eyes, the Ghost King Blood Drinker, the Ghost King Essence and Energy Eater, the Ghost King Fetus and Egg Eater, the Ghost King Spreader of Sickness, the Ghost King Collector of Poisons, the Ghost King Kindhearted, the Ghost King Blessings and Benefits, the Ghost King Great Regard and Respect, and others.

At that time, Shakyamuni Buddha said to the Dharma Prince Manjushri Bodhisattva Mahasattva, “As you regard these Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits from this land and other lands who are now gathered in the Trayastrimsha Heaven, do you know how many of them there are?”

Manjushri said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, even if I were to measure and reckon with my spiritual powers for a thousand eons, I still would not be able to know how many of them there are.”

The Buddha told Manjushri, “Regarding them with my Buddha Eye, their numbers cannot be exhausted. Those beings have been taken across, are being taken across, will be taken across, have been brought to accomplishment, are being brought to accomplishment, or will be brought to accomplishment by Earth Store Bodhisattva [Ksitigharba] throughout many eons.”

Manjushri said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, throughout many eons I have cultivated good roots and my wisdom has been certified as unobstructed. When I hear what the Buddha says, I immediately accept it with faith. But Hearers of small attainment, gods, dragons, and the rest of the Eightfold Division, and beings in the future who hear the Thus Come One’s true and sincere words, will certainly harbor doubts. Even if they receive the teaching most respectfully, they will still be unable to avoid slandering it. My only wish is that the World Honored One will proclaim for everyone what Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva practiced and what vows he made while on the level of planting causes that now enable him to succeed in doing such inconceivable deeds."

The Buddha said to Manjushri, “By way of analogy, suppose that each blade of grass, tree, forest, rice plant, hemp stalk, bamboo, reed, mountain, rock, and dust mote in a Three Thousand Great Thousand World System was a Ganges River. Then suppose that each grain of sand in each of those Ganges Rivers was a world and that each dust mote in each of those worlds was an eon. Then suppose that each dust mote accumulated in each of those eons was itself an eon. The time elapsed since Earth Store Bodhisattva was certified to the position of the Tenth Ground is a thousand times longer than that in the above analogy. Even longer was the time that he dwelled on the levels of Hearer and Pratyekabuddha.

“Manjushri, the awesome spiritual strength and vows of this Bodhisattva are inconceivable. If good men or women of the future hear this Bodhisattva’s name, praise him, behold and bow to him, call his name, make offerings to him, or if they draw, carve, cast, sculpt, or make lacquered images of him, such people will be reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three one hundred times and will never fall into the Evil Paths.

“Manjushri, indescribably many eons ago, during the time of a Buddha named Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices Thus Come One, Earth Store Bodhisattva Mahasattva was the son of a great elder. That elder’s son, upon observing the Buddha’s hallmarks and fine features and how the thousand blessings adorned him, asked that Buddha what practices and vows made him so magnificent. Lion Sprint Complete in the Ten Thousand Practices Thus Come One then said to the elder’s son, ‘If you wish to have a body like mine, you must first spend a long time liberating beings who are undergoing suffering.’

“Manjushri, that comment caused the elder’s son to make a vow: ‘From now until the end of future time throughout uncountable eons, I will use expansive expedient means to help beings in the Six Paths who are suffering for their offenses. Only when they have all been liberated, will I myself become a Buddha.’ From the time he made that great vow in the presence of that Buddha until now, hundreds of thousands of nayutas of inexpressibly many eons have passed, yet he still is a Bodhisattva.

“Another time, inconceivable asamkhyeya eons ago, there was a Buddha named Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One. That Buddha’s life span was four hundred billion asamkhyeya eons. During his Dharma-Image Age, there lived a Brahman woman endowed with ample blessings from previous lives who was respected by everyone. Whether she was walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, gods surrounded and protected her. Her mother, however, embraced a deviant faith and often slighted the Triple Jewel.

“The worthy daughter made use of many expedients in trying to convince her mother to hold right views, but her mother never totally believed. Before long, the mother’s life ended and her consciousness fell into the Relentless Hell.

“When her mother’s life ended, the Brahman woman, knowing that her mother had not believed in cause and effect while alive, feared that her karma would certainly pull her into the Evil Paths. For that reason, she sold the family house and acquired many kinds of incense, flowers, and other gifts. With those she performed a great offering in that Buddha’s stupas and monasteries. She saw an especially fine image of the Thus Come One Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King in one of the monasteries. As the Brahman woman beheld the honored countenance, she became doubly respectful while thinking to herself, ‘Buddhas are called Greatly Enlightened Ones who have attained All-Wisdom. If this Buddha were in the world I could ask him where my mother went after she died. He would certainly know.’

“The Brahman woman then wept for a long time as she gazed longingly upon the Thus Come One. Suddenly a voice in the air said, ‘O weeping worthy woman, do not be so sorrowful. I shall now show you where your mother has gone.’

“The Brahman woman placed her palms together as she addressed space, saying, ‘Which virtuous divinity is comforting me in my grief? Ever since the day I lost my mother, I have held her in memory day and night, but there is nowhere I can go to ask about the realm of her rebirth.’

“The voice in the air spoke to the woman again, ‘I am the one whom you behold and worship, the former Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One.  Because I have seen that your regard for your mother is double that of ordinary beings, I have come to show you where she is.’

“The Brahman woman suddenly lunged toward the voice she was hearing and then fell, injuring herself severely. Those around her supported and attended to her, and after a long time she was revived. Then she addressed the air, saying, ‘I hope the Buddha will be compassionate and quickly tell me into what realm my mother has been reborn. I am now near death myself.’

“Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One told the worthy woman, ‘After you make your offerings, return home quickly. Sit upright and concentrate on my name. You will soon know where your mother has been reborn.’ The Brahman woman bowed to the Buddha and returned home. The memory of her mother sustained her as she sat upright recollecting Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One.

“After doing so for a day and a night, she suddenly saw herself beside a sea whose waters seethed and bubbled. Many evil beasts with iron bodies flew swiftly back and forth above this sea. She saw billions of men and women bobbing up and down in the sea, being fought over, seized, and eaten by the evil beasts. She saw yakshas with different shapes. Some had many hands, some many eyes, some many legs, some many heads. With their sharp fangs, they drove the offenders on toward the evil beasts. Or the yakshas themselves seized the offenders and twisted their heads and feet together into shapes so horrible that no one would dare even look at them for long.

“During that time the Brahman woman was naturally without fear, due to the power of recollecting the Buddha.

“A ghost king named Poisonless bowed his head in greeting and said to the worthy woman, ‘Welcome, O Bodhisattva. What conditions bring you here?’

“The Brahman woman asked the ghost king, ‘What is this place?’

“Poisonless replied, ‘We are on the western side of the Great Iron Ring Mountain and this is the first of the seas that encircle it.’

“The worthy woman said, ‘I have heard that the hells are within the Iron Ring. Is that actually so?’

“Poisonless answered, ‘Yes, the hells are here.’

“The worthy woman asked, ‘How have I now come to the hells?’

“Poisonless answered, ‘If it wasn’t awesome spiritual strength that brought you here, then it was the power of karma. Those are the only two ways that anyone gets here.’

“The worthy woman asked, ‘Why is this water seething and bubbling, and why are there so many offenders and evil beasts?’

“Poisonless replied, ‘These are beings of Jambudvipa who did evil deeds. They have just died and passed through forty-nine days without any surviving relatives doing any meritorious deeds on their behalf to rescue them from their distress. Besides that, during their lives they themselves didn’t plant any good causes. Now their own karma calls forth these hells. Their first task is to cross this sea. Ten thousand yojanas east of this sea is another sea in which they will undergo twice as much suffering. East of that sea is yet another sea where the sufferings are doubled yet again. What the combined evil causes of the three karmic vehicles evoke is called the sea of karma. This is that place.’

“The worthy woman asked the Ghost King Poisonless, ‘Where are the hells?’

“Poisonless answered, ‘Within the three seas are hundreds of thousands of hells, each one different. Eighteen of those are known as the great hells. Five hundred subsequent ones inflict limitless cruel sufferings. Following those are hundreds of thousands that inflict limitless further sufferings.’

“The worthy woman again questioned the great ghost king, ‘My mother died recently and I do not know where she has gone.’

“The ghost king asked the worthy woman, ‘When the Bodhisattva’s mother was alive, what habits did she have?’

“The worthy woman replied, ‘My mother held deviant views and ridiculed and slandered the Triple Jewel. Even if she occasionally believed, she would soon become disrespectful again. She died recently and I still do not know where she was reborn.’

“Poisonless asked, ‘What was the Bodhisattva’s mother’s name and clan?’

“The worthy woman replied, ‘My parents were both Brahmans; my father’s name was Shila Sudarshana, my mother’s name was Yue Di Li.’

“Poisonless placed his palms together and implored the worthy woman, ‘Please, Worthy One, quickly return home. There is no need for you to grieve further. The offender Yue Di Li was born in the heavens three days ago. It is said that she received the benefit of offerings made and blessings cultivated by her filial child who practiced giving to Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One at stupas and monasteries. Not only was the Bodhisattva’s mother released from the hells, but all the other offenders who were destined for the Relentless Hell also received bliss and were reborn with her.’ Having finished speaking, the ghost king put his palms together and withdrew.

“The Brahman woman returned swiftly as if from a dream, understood what had happened, and then made a profound and far-reaching vow before the stupas and images of Enlightenment-Flower Samadhi Self-Mastery King Thus Come One, saying, ‘I vow that until the end of future eons I will respond to beings suffering for their offenses by using many expedient devices to bring about their liberation.’”

The Buddha told Manjushri, “The Ghost King Poisonless is the present Bodhisattva Foremost Wealth. The Brahman woman is now Earth Store Bodhisattva.”

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