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At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,
“In the past there was a Buddha
By the name of King of Awesome Sound.
With limitless spiritual powers and wisdom,
He guided all living beings.
Gods, humans, dragons, and spirits
Made offerings to him.”
F1. Rewards and retribution for faith and slander.
G1. The origins.
At that time the World Honored One, Shakyamuni Buddha, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying, "In the past there was a Buddha by the name of King of Awesome Sound. With limitless spiritual powers and wisdom, he guided all living beings." He led all living beings to bring forth the resolve for Bodhi and to quickly realize the Buddha Way. Gods, humans, dragons, and spirits made offerings to him. The gods, dragons, and eightfold division all made offerings to him.
After this Buddha’s passing into stillness,
When the Dharma was about to become extinct,
There was a Bodhisattva
By the name of Never-Slighting.
At that time the four assemblies were attached to the Dharma.
G2. Past affairs.
H1. The two names.
After this Buddha's passing into stillness, when the Dharma was about to become extinct. This Buddha propagated the Dharma in the world for a long time. Then he entered Nirvana. After the Proper Dharma Age and the Dharma Image Age had transpired, there was a Bodhisattva by the name of Never-Slighting. He treated all living beings as respectfully as one would the Buddha.
At that time the four assemblies had heavy karmic obstacles. That being the Dharma Ending Age, they did not cultivate. They were called left-home people, but they did not really cultivate. They were arrogant and haughty; they thought of themselves as better than everyone else. "I alone am honored!" was their pet saying. When Shakyamuni Buddha was born, he pointed one finger to the heavens and one to the earth, and said, "In the heavens and below, I alone am honored." The Buddha can say things like that, but ordinary people cannot. This is like those externalists who say, "I am the Buddha. You should make offerings to me."
They were attached to the Dharma. Basically, even the Dharma has to be relinquished, how much the more so that which is not Dharma. If you do not understand the Dharma, you must study it. Once you understand it, you have to put it down. You cannot cling to the Dharma. At that time, because the Buddhadharma was about to become extinct, the Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas were all attached to the superficial aspects of the Dharma. Not only did they fail to understand the Dharma, but they were attached to it. Attached to the Dharma, they gave rise to overweening pride.
The Bodhisattva Never-Slighting
Would approach them
And say to them,
“I will not slight you,
For you are practicing the Way
And shall become Buddhas.”
Hearing that, they slighted him,
Slandered and reviled him,
And Never-Slighting Bodhisattva endured it all.
H2. Faith and slander.
The Bodhisattva Never-Slighting would approach them—the Bhikshus of overweening pride—and say to them, "I will not slight you, for you are practicing the Way, the Bodhisattva Path, and shall become Buddhas." In the future you will all become Buddhas.
Hearing that, they slighted him. Those so attached to the Dharma slandered and reviled him, and Never-Slighting Bodhisattva endured it all. People yelled at him, hit him with sticks, and threw rocks at him. Never-Slighting Bodhisattva did not get angry in the least. No matter how cruel people were to him, he was patient.
When his punishment was finished,
At the end of his life,
He got to hear this Sutra,
And his six sense faculties were purified.
By the power of spiritual penetrations,
His life span was increased,
And for the sake of others,
He vastly spoke this Sutra.
The multitudes who were attached to Dharma
All received this Bodhisattva’s
Teaching and successfully
Were led to dwell in the Buddha Way.
When Never-Slighting’s life ended,
He met with countless Buddhas,
And because he spoke this Sutra,
He obtained limitless blessings.
Gradually perfecting his merit and virtue,
He quickly realized the Buddha Way.
At that time Never-Slighting
Was indeed myself!
H3. Rewards and retributions.
I1. Rewards of the faithful.
When his punishment was finished, Never-Slighting Bodhisattva bowed to everyone. Why did he have offenses? They were not from bowing; they were offenses from former lives that he had not yet paid for. The Vajra Sutra says, "Moreover, Subhuti, if a good man or good woman receives, holds, reads, and recites this Sutra and if people ridicule him, that person has karmic offenses from previous lives which destine him for the evil paths. But because in his present life he is ridiculed by others, his previous karmic offenses are destroyed, and he will attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi."
Never-Slighting Bodhisattva practiced never ridiculing people. He was scolded, hit, and maligned by others, and so the offenses he had incurred from having ridiculed others in former lives were canceled out. Since they were all gone, at the end of his life, he got to hear this Sutra—the Dharma Flower Sutra and this inconceivable doctrine—and his six sense faculties were purified. By the power of spiritual penetrations, his life span was increased. With his great powers not only did he not die, but he increased his life span. And for the sake of others, he vastly spoke this Sutra, expounding upon it.
The multitudes who were attached to Dharma—the Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas of overweening pride who were attached to the Dharma and fell into the hells—after they had received their punishment, were reborn again as people. Seeing the awesome spiritual powers Never-Slighting Bodhisattva had attained, the great power of wholesome silence, all received this Bodhisattva's teaching and successfully were led to dwell in the Buddha Way.
When Never-Slighting's life ended, he met with countless Buddhas. Life after life, he met with countless Buddhas, and because he constantly spoke this Sutra, he obtained limitless blessings. Gradually perfecting his merit and virtue of the Bodhisattva Path, he quickly realized the Buddha Way. At that time Never-Slighting was indeed myself! It was me, Shakyamuni Buddha in a former life when I was practicing the Bodhisattva Path of universal respect.
At that time the four assemblies
Were attached to the Dharma.
Hearing Never-Slighting’s words,
”You shall become Buddhas,”
By means of those causes and conditions
Were countless Buddhas encountered.
The multitude of five hundred
Bodhisattvas in this assembly
And the men and women of pure faith
Within the four assemblies
Are now in front of me,
Listening to the Dharma.
In former lives
I exhorted these people
To listen to and receive this Sutra,
Which is the foremost Dharma.
I instructed them
And led them to dwell in Nirvana,
And life after life, to receive and uphold
A Sutra such as this.
I2. Retribution for slanderers.
At that time the four assemblies were attached to the Dharma. Hearing Never-Slighting's words, "You shall become Buddhas," by means of those causes and conditions, were countless Buddhas encountered. The multitude of five hundred Bodhisattvas in this assembly. Bhadrapala Bodhisattva and those Bhikshus and Bhikshunis of overweening pride have now attained irreversibility. Now they keep the precepts very well, but long ago they slandered the Bodhisattva Never-Slighting.
And the men and women of pure faith within the four assemblies are now in front of me. They are all right here. In the past they ridiculed, slighted, and slandered me. Now they have all brought forth the Bodhi mind. Why have they brought forth the Bodhi mind? Because I planted the Bodhi seed in them by saying, "I dare not slight you, for you shall all become Buddhas." I gave them predictions and also bowed to them. Because of this, they are now listening to the Dharma. They are right here listening to me speak the Dharma Flower Sutra. It was not always like this, however.
In former lives I exhorted these people to listen to and receive this Sutra, to bring forth the Bodhi mind and cultivate the Bodhisattva Path. I always lectured upon the Dharma Flower Sutra and they listened to it. Which is the foremost Dharma. The Dharma Flower Sutra is number one, the most wonderful of Buddhadharmas. I instructed them and led them to dwell in Nirvana to obtain the happiness of Nirvana with its four virtues of permanence, bliss, true self, and purity. And life after life, to receive and uphold a Sutra such as this. I taught and transformed these living beings, life after life. They received and upheld the Dharma Flower Sutra. I myself also received and upheld it, life after life.
For only in millions and millions of myriads of eons,
Inconceivable in number,
Can one get to hear
The Dharma Flower Sutra.
And only in millions and millions of myriads of eons,
Inconceivable in number,
Do the Buddhas, World Honored Ones,
Happen to speak this Sutra.
Therefore, the practitioner,
After the Buddha’s passing,
On hearing this Sutra,
Should not give rise to doubts,
But should, with a single mind,
Extensively proclaim this Sutra,
So that life after life he may meet the Buddhas
And quickly realize the Buddha Way.
F2. Exhortation to uphold.
For only in millions and millions of myriads of eons, inconceivable in number, can one get to hear the Dharma Flower Sutra. In limitless eons one may not get to hear it. It is difficult to encounter. And only in millions and millions of myriads of eons, inconceivable in number, do the Buddhas, World Honored Ones, happen to speak this Sutra.
Therefore, the practitioner, you who cultivate the Bodhisattva Path, after the Buddha's passing, on hearing this Sutra, should not give rise to doubts. He should not have doubts, but should, with a single mind, extensively proclaim this Sutra for everyone, so that life after life he may meet the Buddhas and quickly realize the Buddha Way. Now that you have heard the Dharma Flower Sutra, you should lecture on it wherever you go.