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Welling forth from the Earth
At that time all the division bodies of Shakyamuni Buddha, who had come from limitless thousands of myriads of kotis of lands in other directions, sat in lotus posture on lion thrones beneath jeweled trees throughout the eight directions. The attendants of those Buddhas, seeing this great assembly of Bodhisattvas of the three thousand great thousand worlds welling forth from the earth in the four directions and dwelling in space, each said to his respective Buddha, “World Honored One, where have all the limitless boundless, asamkhyeyas of Bodhisattvas in this great host come from?”
Each of those Buddhas then told his attendants, “All of you good men, just wait one moment! There is a Bodhisattva Mahasattva named Maitreya, upon whom Shakyamuni Buddha has bestowed a prediction that he shall be the next Buddha. He has already asked about this matter, and the Buddha is about to answer him. For this reason, you may all hear about it.”
Shakyamuni Buddha then said to Maitreya Bodhisattva, “Good indeed, good indeed, Ajita, that you can ask the Buddha about such a great matter.”
“You should all single-mindedly don the armor of vigor and bring forth a firm resolve.”
“The Thus Come One now wishes to disclose and proclaim the wisdom of all Buddhas , the power of all Buddhas’ sovereignty and spiritual penetrations, the power of all Buddhas’ lion sprint, and the power of all Buddhas’ awesome courage and mighty strength.”
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate these principles, spoke verses:
“You should be vigorous and single-minded.
For I wish to speak about this matter.
Hold no doubts or regrets—
The wisdom of the Buddhas is inconceivable.
Bring forth, now, the power of faith,
And abide in patience and goodness,
For the Dharma which from of old has never been heard,
You are now about to hear.
I am comforting you now,
So have no doubt or fear.
The Buddhas never speak falsely,
And their wisdom cannot be measured.
That foremost Dharma they have gained
Is extremely profound, beyond discerning.
As such, it should now be explained,
And you should single-mindedly listen.”
The World Honored One, having recited those verses, then said to Maitreya Bodhisattva, “In this great assembly, I now make this announcement to all of you: Ajita! These incalculable asamkhyeyas of Great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, who have welled forth from the earth and whom you have never seen before, are those whom I taught, transformed, and guided in this Saha World after I attained Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. I tamed and subdued the minds of these Bodhisattvas, causing them to bring forth the resolve for the Way.”
“All of these Bodhisattvas live in the space beneath the Saha World. They have read and recited all the Sutras until they have penetrated them thoroughly. They have pondered their meanings in detail and have been properly mindful of them.”
“Ajita! All these good men take no delight in dwelling with the multitudes or in much talk. They always enjoy living in quiet places where they practice with diligence and vigor, never resting. They do not take up residence with humans or gods.”
“They always delight in deep wisdom and have no obstacles. They also always delight in the Dharmas of all Buddhas. With single-minded vigor they seek supreme wisdom.”
At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying:
“Ajita, you should know,
For countless eons,
All these Great Bodhisattvas,
Have cultivated and practiced the Buddha-wisdom.
I taught them all,
Causing them to bring forth the great resolve for the Way.
They are all my disciples,
Dwelling in this world system.
Ever practicing the work of dhuta,
They delight in quiet places.
Renounce the bustle of crowds,
And take no delight in much talk.
Study and practice the Dharma of my Way,
Vigorous always, day and night,
They seek the Buddha Way.
They dwell in the space
Beneath this Saha world,
Solid and powerful in resolve and will.
They are ever diligent, seeking wisdom.
They speak various Wonderful Dharmas,
With no fear in their hearts.
In the City of Gaya,
Sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree,
I realized the most proper enlightenment
And turned the supreme Dharma-wheel.
Only then did I teach and transform them,
Causing them first to bring forth their resolve for the Way.
Now they all dwell in irreversibility,
And shall all become Buddhas.
I now speak the truth,
You should believe it with a single mind.
For endless eons,
I have taught and transformed these multitudes.”
At that time Maitreya Bodhisattva Mahasattva and the countless Bodhisattvas gave rise to doubts in their minds. Puzzling over this unprecedented occurrence, they thought, “How could the World Honored One, in such a short space of time, have taught and transformed such limitless, boundless, asamkhyeyas of Great Bodhisattvas and caused them to dwell in Anuttarasamyaksambodhi?”
Just then they spoke to the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, when the Thus Come One was a crown prince, he left the Shakya Palace and went to a place not far from the city of Gaya where he sat in the Bodhimanda and realized Anuttarasamyaksambodhi. From that time until now, only forty-some years have elapsed. How, in such a short space of time, could the World Honored One have done such great Buddha work—using the Buddha’s mighty power and the Buddha’s merit and virtue to teach and transform such limitless hosts of Great Bodhisattvas so that they can realize Anuttarasamyaksambodhi?”
“World Honored One, the multitudes of Great Bodhisattvas are such that if a person were to try to count them throughout thousands of myriads of millions of eons, he could not finish or reach their limit. From endless eons in the presence of limitless, boundless numbers of Buddhas, they have planted good roots and accomplished the Bodhisattva Way, always cultivating Brahma conduct.”
“World Honored One, a matter such as this is hard for those in the world to believe.”
“It is as if, by way of analogy, there were a handsome man, twenty-five years old and with shiny black hair, who pointed to hundred-year-old men and said, ‘These are my sons.’ Then suppose the hundred-year-old men pointed to that young man and said, ‘He is our father, the one who begot and reared us.’ Such a thing would be hard to believe.
“The Buddha is also like this. It has really not been long since he attained the Way. On the other hand, the great hosts of Bodhisattvas have already, throughout limitless thousands of myriads of millions of eons, practiced with diligence and vigor for the sake of the Buddha Way. They are well able to enter, leave, and dwell in limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of samadhis.
They have attained great spiritual powers and have long cultivated Brahma conduct. They are well able to practice in succession all wholesome dharmas, and their questions and answers are clever. They are jewels among humankind, extremely rare in the world. Yet, just now, the World Honored One said that only when the Buddha attained the Way did he cause them to first bring forth their resolve. By teaching, transforming, and guiding them, he led them toward Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
“It has not been long since the World Honored One gained Buddhahood, and yet he has been able to do these great and meritorious deeds!”
“We believe that the Buddha speaks in accord with what is appropriate, that the Buddha has never spoken falsely, that the Buddha’s understanding is complete and penetrating.”
“However, when Bodhisattvas who have just brought forth the resolve hear these words after the Buddha’s quiescence, they may not believe or accept them. On the contrary, they may give rise to the causes and conditions for the offense karma incurred in destroying the Dharma.”
“This being the case, World Honored One, we hope that you will explain in order to dispel our doubts, and so that those good people of the future who hear of this matter also will not give rise to doubts.”
At that time, Maitreya Bodhisattva, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying:
“In the past, the Buddha of the Shakyan line
Left home and drew near the city of Gaya
To sit beneath the Bodhi Tree,
And it has not been long since then.
All these disciples of the Buddha,
Incalculable in their number,
Have long practiced the Buddha Way
And now dwell in the power of spiritual penetrations.
Well have they studied the Bodhisattva Way.
Undefiled by worldly dharmas,
Like a lotus flower floating on the water,
They have welled forth from the earth.
All give rise to reverent hearts,
As they stand before the World Honored One.
Such a thing is hard to conceive of,
How can it be believed?
The Buddha only recently attained the Way,
Yet his accomplishments are so very many.
Please dispel the doubts of the assembly
And tell us how this can actually be.
It is as if a strong young man,
Only twenty-five years of age,
Pointed to hundred-year old men
With white hair and wrinkled faces
And said, “These are my sons.”
And the sons also said, “He is our father.”
A father so young with sons so old
Is a thing hard for the world to believe.
The World Honored One is also like this;
He has only recently attained the Way
And all these Bodhisattvas
Of firm resolve, neither weak nor indecisive,
Throughout limitless eons
Have practiced the Bodhisattva Way.
Clever in answering difficult questions,
They have no fear in their minds.
Patient under insult, resolute in their thoughts,
They are upright and proper, possessing awesome virtue.
Praised by the Buddhas of the ten directions,
Skilled in their ability to distinguish and explain,
They take no delight in being with the multitudes,
But always prefer Dhyana concentration.
Because they seek the Buddha Way,
They have been dwelling in the space below.
Hearing this from the Buddha,
We have no doubts about this matter,
But we hope that the Buddha will, for those of the future,
Give explanations to cause them to understand.
For if they were to give rise to doubts
And fail to believe this Sutra,
They would thereupon fall into the evil paths.
Presently we have asked for this explanation
Of these limitless Bodhisattvas
And how, in such a short space of time,
You have taught and transformed them,
Causing them to bring forth the resolve
And to dwell on the Ground of Irreversibility.”