THE SAGELY CITY OF TEN THOUSAND BUDDHAS
The Buddha told Ananda, "When I contemplate living beings, I see that although they are born as human beings, nonetheless, they are stupid and dull in their thoughts and actions. They don't consider their parents' great kindness and virtue. They are disrespectful and turn their backs on kindness and what is right. They lack humaneness and are neither filial nor compliant.
For ten months while the mother is with child, she feels discomfort each time she rises, as if she were lifting a heavy burden. Like a chronic invalid, she is unable to keep her food and drink down. When the ten months have passed and the time comes for the birth, she undergoes all kinds of pain and suffering so that the child can be born. She is afraid of her own mortality, like a pig or lamb waiting to be slaughtered. Then the blood flows all over the ground. These are the sufferings she undergoes.
Once the child is born, she saves what is sweet for him and swallows what is bitter herself. She carries the child and nourishes it, washing away its filth. There is no toil or difficulty that she does not willingly undertake for the sake of her child. She endures both cold and heat and never even mentions what she has gone through. She gives the dry place to her child and sleeps in the dump herself. For three years she nourishes the baby with milk, which is transformed from the blood of her own body.
Parents continually instruct and guide their children in the ways of propriety and morality as the youngsters mature into adults. They arrange marriages for them and provide them with property and wealth or devise ways to get it for them. They take this responsibility and trouble upon themselves with tremendous zeal and toil, never speaking about their care and kindness.
When a son or daughter becomes ill, parents are worried and afraid to the point that they may even grow ill themselves. They remain by the child's side providing constant care, and only when the child gets well are the parents happy once again. In this way, they care for and raise their children with the sustained hope that their off-spring will soon grow to be mature adults.
How sad that all too often the children are unfilial in return! In speaking with relatives whom they should honor, the children display no compliance. When they ought to be polite, they have no manners. They glare at those whom they should venerate and insult their uncles and aunts. They scold their siblings and destroy any family feeling that might have existed among them. Children like that have no respect or sense of propriety.
Children may be well taught, but if they are unfilial, they will not heed the instructions or obey the rules. Rarely will they rely upon the guidance of their parents. They are contrary and rebellious when interacting with their brothers. They come and go from home without ever reporting to their parents. Their speech and actions are very arrogant and they act on impulse without consulting others. Such children ignore the admonishments and punishments set down by their parents and pay no regard to their uncles' warnings. Yet, at the same time, they are immature and always need to be looked after and protected by their elders.
As such children grow up, they become more and more obstinate and uncontrollable. They are entirely ungrateful and totally contrary. They are defiant and hateful, rejecting both family and friends. They befriend evil people and under their influence soon adopt the same kinds of bad habits. They come to take what is false to be true.
Such children may be enticed by others to leave their families and run away to live in other towns, thus denouncing their parents and rejecting their native town. They may become salesmen or civil servants who languish in comfort and luxury. They may marry in haste and that new bond provides yet another obstruction which prevents them from returning home for long periods of time.
Or, in going to live in other towns, these children may be incautious and find themselves plotted against or accused of doing evil. They may be unfairly locked up in prison. Or they may meet with illness and become enmeshed in disasters and hardships, subject to the terrible pain of poverty, starvation, and emaciation. Yet no one there will care for them. Being scorned and disliked by others, they will be abandoned on the street. In such circumstances, their lives may come to an end. No one bothers to try to save them. Their bodies swell up, rot, decay, and are exposed to the sun and blown away by the wind. The white bones entirely disintegrate and scatter as these children come to their final rest in the dirt of some other town. These children will never again have a happy reunion with their relatives and kin. Nor will they ever know how their aging parents mourn for and worry about them. The parents may grow blind from weeping or become sick from extreme grief and despair. Constantly dwelling on the memory of their children, they may pass away, but even when they become ghosts, their souls still cling to this attachment and are unable to let it go.
Others of these unfilial children may not aspire to learning, but instead become interested in strange and bizarre doctrines. Such children may be villainous, coarse, and stubborn, delighting in practices that are utterly devoid of benefit. They may become involved in fights and thefts, setting themselves at odds with the town by drinking and gambling. As if their own debauchery were not enough, they drag their brothers into it as well, to the further distress of their parents.
If such children do live at home, they leave early in the morning and do not return until late at night. Never do they ask about the welfare of their parents or make sure that they don't suffer from heat or cold. They do not inquire after their parents' well being in the morning or the evening, nor even on the first and fifteenth of the lunar month. In fact, it never occurs to these unfilial children to ever ask whether their parents have slept comfortably or rested peacefully. Such children are simply not concerned in the least about their parents' well being. When the parents of such children grow old and their appearance becomes more and more withered and emaciated, they are made to feel ashamed to be seen in public and are subjected to abuse and oppression.
Such unfilial children may end up with a father who is a widower or a mother who is a widow. The solitary parents are left alone in empty houses, feeling like guests in their own homes. They may endure cold and hunger, but no one takes heed of their plight. They may weep incessantly from morning to night, sighing and lamenting. It's only right that children should provide for ageing parents with food and drink of delicious flavours, but irresponsible children are sure to overlook their duties. If they ever do attempt to help their parents out in any way, they feel embarrassed and are afraid people will laugh at them. Yet, such offspring may lavish wealth and food on their own wives and children, disregarding the toil and weariness involved in doing so. Other unfilial offspring may be so intimidated by their wives that they go along with all of their wishes. But when appealed to by their parents and elders, they ignore them and are totally unfazed by their pleas.
It may be the case that daughters were quite filial to their parents before their own marriages, but that they become progressively rebellious after they marry. This situation may be so extreme that if their parents show even the slightest signs of displeasure, the daughters become hateful and vengeful toward them. Yet they bear their husband's scolding and beatings with sweet tempers, even though their spouses are outsiders with other surnames and family ties. The emotional bonds between such couples are deeply entangled, and yet those daughters hold their parents at a distance. They may follow their husbands and move to other towns, leaving their parents behind entirely. They do not long for them and simply cut off all communication with them. When the parents continue to hear no word from their daughters, they feel incessant anxiety. They become so fraught with sorrow that it is as if they were suspended upside down. Their every thought is of seeing their children, just as one who is thirsty longs for something to drink. Their kind thoughts for their offspring never cease.
The virtue of one's parents' kindness is boundless and limitless. If one has made the mistake of being unfilial, how difficult it is to repay that kindness!"
At that time, upon hearing the Buddha speak about the depth of one's parents' kindness, everyone in the Great Assembly threw themselves on the ground and began beating their breasts and striking themselves until all their hairpores flowed with blood. Some fell unconscious to the ground, while others stamped their feet in grief. It was a long time before they could control themselves. With loud voices they lamented, "Such suffering! What suffering! How painful! How painful! We are all offenders. We are criminals who have never awakened, like those who travel in a dark night. We have just now understood our offenses and our very insides are torn to bits. We only hope that the World Honored One will pity us and save us. Please tell us how we can repay the deep kindness of our parents!"
At that time the Tathagata used eight kinds of profoundly deep and pure sounds to speak to the assembly. "All of you should know this. I will now explain for you the various aspects of this matter.
"If there were a person who carries his father on his left shoulder and his mother on his right shoulder until his bones were ground to powder by their weight as they bore through to the marrow, and if that person were to circumambulate Mount Sumem for a hundred thousand kalpas until the blood that flowed out from his feet covered his ankles, that person would still not have repayed the deep kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, during the period of a kalpa fraught with famine and starvation, sliced the flesh off his own body to feed his parents and did this as many times as there are dust motes as he passed through hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repayed the deep kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, for the sake of his parents, took a sharp knife and cut out his eyes and made an offering of them to the Tathagatas, and continued to do that for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repayed the deep kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, for the sake of his father and mother, used a sharp knife to cut out his heart and liver so that the blood flowed and covered the ground and if he continued in this way to do this for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, never once complaining about the pain, that person still would not have repayed the deep kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, for the sake of his parents, took a hundred thousand swords and stabbed his body with them all at once so that they entered one side and came out the other, and if he continued in this way to do this for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repayed the deep kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, for the sake of his parents, beat his bones down to the marrow and continued in this way to do this for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repayed the deep kindness of his parents.
"If there were a person who, for the sake of his parents, swallowed molten iron pellets and continued in this way to do this for hundreds of thousands of kalpas, that person still would not have repayed the deep kindness of his parents."
At that time, upon hearing the Buddha speak about the kindness and virtue of parents, everyone in the Great Assembly wept silent tears and felt searing pain in their hearts. They reflected deeply, simultaneously brought forth shame and said to the Buddha, " World Honored One, how can we repay the deep kindness of our parents?"
The Buddha replied, "Disciples of the Buddha, if you wish to repay your parents' kindness, write out this Sutra on their behalf. Recite this Sutra on their behalf. Repent of transgressions and offenses on their behalf. For the sake of your parents, make offerings to the Triple Jewel. For the sake of your parents, hold the precept of pure eating. For the sake of your parents, practice giving and cultivate blessings. If you are able to do these things, you are being a filial child. If you do not do these things, you are a person destined for the hells."
The Buddha told Ananda, "If a person is not filial, when his life ends and his body decays, he will fall into the Spaceless, Avici Hell. This great hell is eighty thousand yojanas in circumference and is surrounded on all four sides by iron walls. Above, it is covered over by nets, and the ground is also made of iron. A mass of fire burns fiercely, while thunder roars and bright bolts of lightning set things afire. Molten brass and iron fluids are poured over the offenders' bodies. Brass dogs and iron snakes constantly spew out fire and smoke which burns the offenders and broils their flesh and fat to a pulp.
"Oh, such suffering! Difficult to take, difficult to bear! There are poles, hooks, spears, and lances, iron halberds and iron chains, iron hammers, and iron awls. Wheels of iron knives rain down from the air. The offender is chopped, hacked, or stabbed, and undergoes these cruel punishments for kalpas without respite.
Then they enter the remaining hells, where their heads are capped with fiery basins, while iron wheels roll over their bodies, passing both horizontally and vertically until their guts are ripped open and their bones and flesh are squashed to a pulp. Within a single day, they experience myriad births and myriad deaths. Such sufferings are a result of committing the five rebellious acts and of being unfilial when one was alive."
At that time, upon hearing the Buddha speaks about the virtue of parents' kindness, everyone in the Great Assembly wept sorrowfully and addressed the Tathagata, "On this day, how can we repay the deep kindness of our parents?"
The Buddha said, "Disciples of the Buddha, if you wish to repay their kindness, then for the sake of your parents print this Sutra. This is truly repaying their kindness. If one can print one copy, then one will get to see one Buddha. If one can print ten copies, then one will get to see ten Buddhas. If one can print one hundred copies, then one will get to see one hundred Buddhas. If one can print one thousand copies, then one will get to see one thousand Buddhas. If one can print ten thousand copies, then one will get to see ten thousand Buddhas. This is the power derived when good people print Sutras. All Buddhas will forever protect such people with their kindness and can immediately cause the parents of such people to be reborn in the heavens, to enjoy all kinds of happiness, and to leave behind the sufferings of the hells."
At that time, Ananda and the rest of the Great Assembly--the asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, people, non-people, and others, as well as the gods, dragons, yakshas, gandarvas, wheel-turning sage kings, and all the lesser kings--felt all the hairs on their bodies stand on end when they heard what the Buddha had said. They wept grievously and were unable to stop themselves. Each one of them made a vow saying, "All of us, from now until the exhaustion of the bounds of the future, would rather that our bodies be pulverized into small particles of dust for a hundred thousand kalpas, than to ever go against the Thus Come One's sagely teachings. We would rather that our tongues be plucked out, so that they would extend for a full yojana, and that for a hundred thousand kalpas an iron plough would run over them; we would rather have a hundred-thousand bladed wheel roll freely over our bodies, than ever go against the Tathagata's sagely teachings. We would rather that our bodies be ensnared in an iron net for a hundred thousand kalpas, than ever go against the Tathagata's sagely teachings. We would rather that for a hundred thousand kalpas our bodies would be chopped, hacked, mutilated, and chiselled into ten million pieces so that our skin, flesh, joints, and bones would be completely disintegrated, than ever go against the Tathagata's sagely teachings."
At that time, Ananda, with a dignity and a sense of peace, rose from his seat and asked the Buddha, "World Honored One, what name shall this Sutra have when we accord with it and uphold it?"
The Buddha told Ananda, "This Sutra is called THE SUTRA ABOUT THE DEEP KINDNESS OF PARENTS AND THE DIFFICULTY OF REPAYING IT. Use this name when you accord with it and uphold it."
At that time, the Great Assembly, the gods, humans, asuras, and the others, hearing what the Buddha has said, were completely delighted. They believed it, received it, and offered up their conduct in accord with it, and then bowed and withdrew.