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The Analogy of the Transformed City
At that time, the five hundred myriads of millions of Brahma Heaven Gods, having praised the Buddha in verse, addressed the Buddha, saying, “We only pray that the World Honored One will turn the Dharma-wheel to bring tranquility and liberation to many beings.” Then, the Brahma Heaven King spoke these verses of praise:
“World Honored One, turn the Dharma-wheel
Sound the sweet dew Dharma-drum,
To cross over tormented living beings,
Showing them Nirvana’s path.
Pray, accept our request,
And, with the great and subtle sound,
Pity us, and set forth,
Dharma gathered through countless eons.”
At that time, the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, having received the request of the Brahma Heaven Kings of the ten directions, as well as the sixteen princes, thereupon, three times turned the Dharma-wheel of twelve parts which cannot be turned by Shramanas, Brahmans, gods, maras, Brahmas, or other beings of the world. He said, “This is suffering. This is the origination of suffering. This is the extinction of suffering. This is the way to the extinction of suffering.”
And he extensively set forth the Dharma of the twelve causes and conditions:
ignorance conditions dispositions.
Dispositions condition consciousness.
Consciousness conditions name and form.
Name and form condition the six sense organs.
The six sense organs condition contact.
Contact conditions feeling.
Feeling conditions craving.
Craving conditions grasping.
Grasping conditions becoming.
Becoming conditions birth. B
irth conditions old age and death, worry, grief, suffering and distress.
When ignorance is extinguished, dispositions are extinguished.
When dispositions are extinguished, then consciousness is extinguished.
When consciousness is extinguished, then name and form are extinguished.
When name and form are extinguished, then the six sense organs are extinguished.
When the six sense organs are extinguished, then contact is extinguished.
When contact is extinguished, then feeling is extinguished.
When feeling is extinguished, then craving is extinguished.
When craving is extinguished, then grasping is extinguished.
When grasping is extinguished, then becoming is extinguished.
When becoming is extinguished, then birth is extinguished.
When birth is extinguished, then old age and death, worry, grief, suffering and distress are extinguished.
When the Buddha spoke this Dharma, amidst the great assembly of gods and humans, six hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of human beings, because they did not grasp at any dharma, had their minds liberated from all outflows. All attained profound and subtle Dhyana concentration, the Three Clarities, the Six Penetrations, and perfected the Eight Liberations.
The second, third, and fourth times he set forth this Dharma, thousands of millions of nayutas of living beings, their numbers like the Ganges’ sands, also because they did not grasp at any dharma, had their minds liberated from outflows. From that time onwards, the assembly of Hearers was unlimited, boundless, and unreckonable.
At that time the sixteen princes all left home as virgin youths and became Shramaneras. They all possessed sharp faculties and clear wisdom. They had already made offerings to hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of Buddhas, purely cultivating Brahman conduct, seeking anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
They all spoke to the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, all these limitless thousands of myriads of millions of greatly virtuous Hearers already have reached accomplishment. World Honored One, you should, for our sake, also, speak the Dharma of anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Having heard it, we will all cultivate and study it. World Honored One, we all aspire to the Thus Come One’s knowledge and vision. As to the thoughts deep within our minds, the Buddha himself knows.”
Then, the multitudes, led by the Wheel-turning Sage King, eighty thousand million of them, upon seeing the sixteen princes leave home, also sought to leave home, and the king permitted them to do so.
At that time, the Buddha, having received the request of the sixteen Shramaneras, after twenty thousand eons, then at last, amidst the fourfold assembly, spoke the Great Vehicle Sutra by the name of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower, a dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas of whom the Buddha is protective and mindful. After he spoke the Sutra, the sixteen Shramaneras, for the sake of anuttarasamyaksambodhi, all received, upheld and recited it and keenly penetrated its meaning.
When the sutra was spoken, the sixteen Bodhisattva-Shramaneras all received it with faith. Among the host of Hearers, too, there were those who had faith in it and understood it. The remaining thousands of myriads of millions of living beings, however, all gave rise to doubts.
The Buddha spoke this sutra for eighty thousand eons without cessation.
When he had finished speaking the Sutra, he entered a quiet room where he remained in dhyana samadhi for eighty-four thousand eons.
Then the sixteen Bodhisattva-Shramaneras, knowing that the Buddha had entered his room and was silently absorbed in dhyana samadhi, each ascended the Dharma seat. For a period of eighty-four thousand eons, for the sake of the fourfold assembly, they spoke the Wonderful Dharma Flower Sutra extensively and in detail. Each one of them crossed over six hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of Ganges’ sands of living beings, instructing them with the teaching, benefiting them, making them rejoice and causing them to bring forth the thought of anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
After eighty-four thousand eons had passed, the Buddha, Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory arose from samadhi, approached the Dharma throne and serenely sat down upon it. He addressed the great assembly, saying, “these sixteen Bodhisattva-Shramaneras are very rare. All their faculties are keen and their wisdom is clear. They have in the past already made offerings to limitless thousands of myriads of millions of Buddhas. In the presence of those Buddhas, they constantly cultivated Brahman conduct, accepting and upholding the Buddha’s wisdom, instructing living beings and causing them to enter into it.”
“You should all make a point of drawing near to and making offerings to them. Why? Those Hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, or Bodhisattvas who can have faith in the Dharma of the Sutra spoken by these sixteen Bodhisattvas, accept and uphold it without defaming it, will all attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, that is, the wisdom of the Thus Come One.”
The Buddha told the bhikshus, “These sixteen Bodhisattvas always delight in speaking the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. Each Bodhisattvas has transformed six hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of Ganges’ sands of living beings who, life after life were born together with the Bodhisattvas and heard the Dharma from them, fully believing and understanding it. For this reason, they have met up with forty thousand millions of Buddhas, World Honored Ones and to this moment have not stopped doing so.”
“Bhikshus, I will tell you, those disciples of the Buddha, the sixteen Shramaneras, have all now attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi, and in the lands of the ten directions, are presently speaking the Dharma. They have as their retinues limitless hundreds of thousands of millions of Bodhisattvas and Hearers.
Two have become Buddhas in the East. One is named Akshobhya, in the Land of Happiness. The other is named Sumeru Peak.
Two have become Buddhas in the Southeast. One is named Lion Sound. The other is named Lion Sign.
Two have become Buddhas in the South. One is named Space Dweller. The other is named Eternal Extinction.
Two have become Buddhas in the Southwest. One is named Royal Sign. The other is named Brahma Sign.
Two have become Buddhas in the West. One is named Amitayus. The other is named Savior of all Worlds from Suffering and Anguish.
Two have become Buddhas in the Northwest. One is named Tamalapatrachandana Fragrance and Spiritual Penetrations. The other is named Sumeru Sign.
Two have become Buddhas in the North. One is named Cloud Self-Mastery. The other is named King of Cloud Self-Mastery. In the Northeast there is a Buddha by the name of Destroyer of All Worldly Fear.
The other Buddha, the sixteenth, is myself, Shakyamuni Buddha, here in the Saha World, where I have realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
“Bhikshus, we, as Shramaneras each taught and transformed limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of Ganges’ sands of living beings, who, hearing the Dharma from us, were set towards anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
“Of these living beings, there are those who dwell at the level of Hearers. I constantly instruct and transform them in anuttarasamyaksambodhi. All these people will, by means of this Dharma, gradually enter the Buddha Path. Why? The Thus Come One’s wisdom is hard to believe and hard to understand.
You were Bhikshus while I transformed living beings as limitless as Ganges sands who shall become disciples as Hearers after my extinction in the future.
After my extinction, furthermore, there will be disciples who will not hear this Sutra, who will not know or be aware of the Bodhisattva conduct, but who will, through the attainment of their own merit and virtue give rise to the thought of extinction and who will enter Nirvana. I shall be a Buddha in another land, with another name. Although these people will have produced the thought of extinction and enter into Nirvana, they will, in those lands, seek the Buddha’s wisdom and get to hear this Sutra and that it is only by means of the Buddha Vehicle that extinction can be attained. There are no other vehicles, except for those expedient devices taught by other Thus Come Ones.”
“Bhikshus, when the Thus Come One knows of himself, that the time of his Nirvana has come, that the assembly is pure, that their faith and understanding are solid and firm, that they fully comprehend the Dharma of emptiness and have deeply entered into dhyana samadhi, he will gather together the host of Bodhisattvas and Hearers and speak this Sutra for them, saying, “there are not two vehicles by which extinction is attained. There is only the one Buddha Vehicle by which extinction can be attained.”
Bhikshus, you should know, the expedients of the Thus Come One deeply enter the natures of living beings. Knowing that they aspire to and are content with lesser Dharmas and are deeply attached to the five desires, he speaks to them of Nirvana. When they hear him, then they immediately believe and accept it.
It is as if, for example, there is a road, five hundred yojanas long, steep, dangerous and bad, an uninhabited and terrifying place. A large group of people wish to travel this road to reach a cache of precious jewels. Among them, there is a guide, intelligent, wise and clear-headed, who knows the road well, both its passable and impassable features, and who wishes to lead the group through this hardship.
Midway, the group he is leading grows weary and wishes to turn back. They say to the guide, “we are exhausted and afraid. We cannot go forward. It’s too far. We want to turn back now.”
Their leader, who has many expedients, had this thought; “How pitiful they are. How can they renounce the great and precious treasure and wish to turn back?” Having had this thought, through the power of his expedient devices, he transforms a city in the center of the dangerous road, three hundred yojanas in extent, and says to them, “Do not be afraid. Do not turn back; Stay here now in this great city I have created just for you. If you go into this city, you will be happy and at peace. If you then wish to proceed to the jewel cache, you may do so.”
Then the exhausted group rejoiced greatly, having gained what they had never had. “We have now escaped this bad road and gained happiness and peace.” Then the group went forward and entered the transformed city; thinking that they had already been saved, they felt happy and at peace.
At that time, the guide, knowing that they were rested and no longer weary, made the city disappear, saying to them, “All of you, come, let us go. The jewel cache is near. The great city was merely something I created from transformation to give you a rest.”
Bhikshus, the Thus Come One is also like this. He now acts as a great guide for all of you. He knows that living beings should leave and cross over the evil road of the torments of birth and death which is so steep, difficult and long. He shall respond to and save them.
If living beings only hear of the one Buddha Vehicle, they will not wish to see the Buddha or to draw near to him. Instead, they will think, “The Buddha path is long and far; it can only be accomplished after much labor and suffering.” The Buddha knows their minds to be weak and lowly. When they reach the “Midway-Nirvana”, he uses the power of expedients to rest at the Midway and to speak of the two Nirvanas. If living beings dwell on these two levels, the Thus Come One then tells them, “You have not yet finished your job. The level you are dwelling at is near the Buddhas’ wisdom. You should observe and ponder this: the Nirvana you have attained is not the real one. The Thus Come One has but used the power of his expedients and, within the one Buddha Vehicle, discriminated and spoken of three.”
He is like that guide, who, in order to give the travelers a rest, conjured up a great city. Then, when they had rested, he told them, “the place of the jewels is near. This city is not real, but merely something I have conjured up.”
At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying,
“The Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory
Sat in the Bodhimanda for ten eons,
Without the manifestation of the Buddhadharma,
And he did not realize the Buddha Way.
Heavenly spirits and dragon kings,
And the host of asuras,
Constantly rained down heavenly flowers,
As an offering to that Buddha.
The Gods beat upon their heavenly drums
And made all kinds of music;
Fragrant breezes blew away the withered flowers
And fine, new ones rained down.
When ten eons had passed,
He then realized the Buddha Way.
All the gods and humans,
Danced for the joy within their minds.
The sixteen sons of that Buddha
As well as their retinues,
Thousands of millions surrounding them,
All went before that Buddha.
They bowed with their heads at his feet
And asked him to turn the Dharma-wheel,
“May the sagely lion’s Dharma rain
Fill us and everyone!”
A World Honored One is very hard to encounter,
Appearing but once in a long time.
In order to awaken all creatures,
He shakes all things.
In five hundred myriads of millions of lands,
In worlds in the eastern direction,
Brahma palaces shone with a light
Such as they never had before.
The Brahmas, seeing these signs,
Followed them to the Buddha.
They scattered flowers as an offering,
And offered up their palaces,
Asking the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel,
With verses in his praise.
The Buddha knew the time had not yet come
And received their request seated in silence.
From the other three directions, and four points in between,
And, likewise, from above, and below,
They scattered flowers and offered their palaces,
Asking the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel:
“The World Honored One is very hard to meet;
We pray that through his great compassion and pity
He will open wide the sweet dew door
And turn the supreme Dharma-wheel.”
The World Honored One, having limitless wisdom,
Received the multitude’s request
And proclaimed various Dharmas for their sakes.
The Four Truths, the Twelve Conditions,
From ignorance up to old age and death —
All arise because of birth.
In this way the host of calamities comes to be;
You should all know this.
When he expounded on this Dharma
Six hundred myriads of millions of billions
Exhausted the limits of all suffering
And all became Arhats.
When he spoke the Dharma the second time,
Hosts like the sands of a thousand myriads of Ganges rivers
Their minds grasping no dharmas,
Also attained Arhatship.
After that, those who gained the Way,
Were incalculable in number;
Were one to count through myriads of millions of eons
One could not reach their limit.
At that time, the sixteen princes,
Left home and became Shramaneras.
Together they requested that the Buddha
Extensively proclaim the Dharma of the Great Vehicle:
“May we and our followers
All perfect the Buddha Way.
We wish to become like the World Honored One,
With the Wisdom Eye and foremost purity.”
The Buddha, knowing the intentions of the youths,
Their practices in former lives,
Used limitless causes and conditions
And various analogies,
To reach them the Six Paramitas,
As well as matters of spiritual penetrations.
He discriminated the real Dharma,
And the pathway walked by the Bodhisattvas.
He spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra
Its verses in numbers like Ganges' sands.
After the Buddha had spoken the Sutra
In a quiet room he entered dhyana Samadhi
Singlemindedly sitting in one place,
For eighty-four thousand eons.
All the Shramaneras,
Knowing the Buddha had not yet left dhyana,
For the sake of the limitless millions assembled,
Spoke of the Buddha’s unsurpassed wisdom.
Each seated on his Dharma throne,
Spoke this Great Vehicle Sutra.
After the Buddha had become peacefully still,
They propagated and taught the Dharma.
Each one of the Shramaneras
Took across living beings
To the number of grains of sand
In six hundred myriads of Ganges rivers.
After that Buddha had crossed over into extinction,
All those who heard the Dharma,
In whatever Buddhalands they might be,
Were reborn there together with their teachers.
The sixteen Shramaneras
Perfectly practiced the Buddha Path.
Presently in the ten directions
Each has realized proper enlightenment.
Those who heard the Dharma then,
Are each in the presence of a Buddha;
Those who are Hearers,
Are gradually taught the Buddha Path.
I was one of the sixteen;
In the past, I taught all of you.
I therefore use expedients
To draw you into the Buddha’s wisdom.
Through these former causal conditions,
I presently speak The Dharma Flower Sutra,
Leading you to enter the Buddha Path.
Take care not to become frightened.
Suppose there is a steep and bad road,
Remote and teeming with venomous beasts,
Lacking, as well, water or grass
--A place feared by all.
Countless thousands of myriads
Wish to traverse this dangerous road
With its pathways so distant,
Extending five hundred yojanas.
There is among them a guide,
Intelligent and wise,
Clear and resolute in mind,
Who can rescue them from their difficulty.
The group grows weary
And says to the guide,
“We are all exhausted, now
And want to turn back.”
The guide thinks to himself,
“How very pitiful they are.
How can they wish to turn back
And lose the great and precious treasure?”
Instantly he thinks of a device:
Using the power of spiritual penetrations
He conjures up a great city
Adorned with houses,
Surrounded by gardens and groves,
Brooks and bathing ponds,
Layered gates and tiered pavilions,
Filled with men and women.
After creating this,
He pities them saying, “Do not be afraid.
But go into this city
And enjoy yourselves as you wish.”
When they had entered the city,
They rejoiced greatly at heart
Thinking they were safe and sound,
And that they had been saved.
The guide, knowing they were rested,
Assembled them together and said,
“You should all go forward,
For this is nothing but a transformed city.
Seeing that you were exhausted
And wanted to turn back midway,
I used the power of expedients,
To transform provisionally this city.
You should now be vigorous
And proceed to the jewel cache.”
I, too, am like this,
I am the guide of all;
Seeing those who seek the way,
Exhausted in mid-course
Unable to cross the dangerous paths,
Of birth, death and affliction,
Therefore, I use the power of expedients,
To speak of Nirvana and give them a rest,
Saying, “Your sufferings are ended.
You have done what you had to do.
Then, knowing they have reached Nirvana,
And had all become Arhats,
I gather them together,
To teach them the genuine Dharma.
The Buddhas use the power of expedients,
To discriminate and speak of three vehicles
But there is only the one Buddha Vehicle.
The other two were spoken as a resting place.
What I am telling you now is the truth;
What you have gained is not extinction.
For the sake of the Buddha’s All Wisdom,
You should exert yourselves with great vigor.
When you have certified to All Wisdom,
And have the Ten Powers and other Buddhadharma
And have perfected the thirty-two marks,
Then that is genuine extinction.
The Buddhas, the guiding masters,
Speak of Nirvana to give living beings rest,
But once they know that they are rested,
They lead them into the Buddhas’ wisdom.”
Verse In Summary
Moistening all the three dispositions
The disciples receive the (Buddha’s) kindness;
But the transformed city is falsely created and is not real.
One takes another look at the causes behind (the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory)
So the sixteen grandsons,
In the eight directions, certify to a golden body.
Homage to the Dharma Flower Assembly of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Homage to the Dharma Flower Assembly of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
Homage to the Dharma Flower Assembly of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.