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At that time the World Honored One arose serenely from samadhi and told Shariputra, “The wisdom of all the Buddhas is extremely profound and unlimited. The gateway to this wisdom is difficult to understand and difficult to enter. It cannot be known by any of the Hearers or Pratyekabudhas.
What is the reason? The Buddhas have, in the past, drawn near to countless hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of Buddhas, exhaustively practicing the unlimited dharmas of the Way of those Buddhas. They are forging ahead with courage and vigor and their names are known everywhere.”
“They have accomplished the most profound Dharma, one which has never been before, and speak of it according to what is appropriate, but its purport is difficult to understand.”
“Shariputra, from the time I realized Buddhahood, I have, by means of various causes and conditions and various analogies, extensively proclaimed the verbal teaching. With countless expedient devices, I have guided living beings, leading them to separate from all attachments.”
“Why is this? The Thus Come One has already perfected his expedient devices, his knowledge and vision, and the paramitas.”
“Shariputra, the knowledge and vision of the Thus Come One is vast, great, profound, and far-reaching. He has profoundly entered, without boundary, the unlimiteds, the unobstructeds, the powers, the fearlessnesses, the dhyana concentrations, and the samadhis of liberation, accomplishing all those dharmas never had before.”
“Shariputra, the Thus Come One is able to make various discriminations, cleverly speaking all dharmas. His speech is gentle and delights the hearts of the multitudes.”
“Shariputra, essentially speaking, the Buddha has fully accomplished all of those unlimited, boundless dharmas which have never been before.”
“Shariputra, there is no need to speak further. Why is this? As to that foremost, rare, and hard-to-understand Dharma accomplished by the Buddha—only the Buddhas and the Buddha can exhaust the Real Mark of all dharmas. That is to say with regard to all dharmas: the suchness of the marks, the suchness of the nature, the suchness of the substance, the suchness of the power, the suchness of the function, the suchness of the causes, the suchness of the conditions, the suchness of the effects, the suchness of the retributions, and the suchness of the ultimate equality from beginning to end.”
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying,
Illimitable are the heroes of the world.
All the gods and people in the world,
And all the classes of living beings
Cannot know the Buddhas.
The Buddhas’ powers, fearlessnesses,
Liberations and samadhis,
And other dharmas of the Buddhas
Can be fathomed by no one.
Formerly, following countless Buddhas,
I perfectly walked all the paths
Of the wonderful Dharma, subtle and deep,
Hard to see and hard to understand;
Through limitless millions of eons,
I walked down all these paths.
In the Bodhimanda, I realized the fruit,
And have fully known and seen it all.
The great effect and retribution,
The various natures, marks, and meanings,
Are such that I and the ten-direction Buddhas
Alone can understand these matters.
This Dharma cannot be demonstrated,
The mark of language being still and extinct;
Of all the kinds of living beings
There is none who can understand it.
Except the host of Bodhisattvas,
Firm in the power of faith.
The host of the Buddha’s disciples
Who have made offerings to the Buddhas
And who have exhausted all outflows,
And dwell in their final bodies—
The strength of people such as these
Also proves inadequate.
If the world were filled
With those like Shariputra,
Who together spent their thoughts to measure it,
They could not fathom the Buddha’s wisdom.
Truly, suppose the ten directions,
Were filled with those like Shariputra,
And that the remaining disciples filled
All the lands in the ten directions,
And that together they spent their thoughts to measure it,
They also could not know it.
If Pratyekabuddhas of sharp wisdom
Without outflows, in their final bodies,
Also filled the ten directions,
Their number like the bamboo in the forest,
And if they put their minds together,
Wishing to think about the Buddha’s real wisdom,
Throughout measureless millions eons,
They could not know the smallest part of it.
Suppose newly resolved Bodhisattvas,
Who have made offerings to countless Buddhas,
Who understand the principle and the purport,
And are well able to speak the Dharma,
Whose numbers are like rice, hemp, bamboo, and reeds,
Filled the ten-direction lands,
And suppose with one mind and with wondrous wisdom,
Throughout eons like the Ganges’ sands,
They were all together to think it over,
Even they could not know the Buddha’s wisdom.
Suppose that non-retreating Bodhisattvas,
Their number like the Ganges’ sands,
With one mind thought to seek that wisdom
They also could not know of it.
And what is more, Shariputra,
That inconceivable, non-outflow,
Most profound and subtle Dharma,
I have perfectly obtained,
And I alone know its mark,
Along with the ten-direction Buddhas.
Shariputra, you should know
The words of the Buddhas do not differ.
In the Dharma spoken by the Buddhas
You should place the power of great faith.
When the World Honored One’s Dharma is at its end,
The true and real must be spoken.
I tell the assembly of Hearers
And those who seek the Conditioned Enlightened Vehicle,
That I will lead them to cast off suffering’s bond,
And arrive at Nirvana.
The Buddha uses the power of expedients,
Demonstrating the teaching of Three Vehicles,
So that living beings, attached in many places,
May be guided to escape.
At that time in the assembly there were Hearers, Arhats with outflows extinguished, Ajnatakaundinya and others, twelve hundred persons, as well as Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas who had brought forth the resolve to become Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas. They all had the following thought:
“Why, now, does the World Honored One repeatedly praise the expedient devices saying, ‘the Dharma obtained by the Buddha is so extremely profound and difficult to understand and the purport of his speech is so difficult to know, that none of the Hearers or Pratyekabuddhas can grasp it.’ The Buddha has spoken of but one principle of liberation and we have already obtained this Dharma and arrived at Nirvana. Now, we do not understand his intention.”
At that time Shariputra, knowing the doubts in the minds of the fourfold assembly, and himself not yet fully understanding, addressed the Buddha saying: “For what reason has the World Honored One repeatedly praised the foremost expedient devices of the Buddhas and the extremely profound and wonderful Dharma which is difficult to understand? From the past onwards I have never heard the Buddha speak in such a way. Presently, the fourfold assembly all has doubts. I only pray that the World Honored One will expound upon this subject: Why has the World Honored One repeatedly praised the Dharma, which is extremely profound, subtle, and hard to understand?”
At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying,
Oh! Sun of Wisdom, Great Honored Sage,
Long have you waited to speak this Dharma;
Speaking of your attainments of such
Powers, fearlessnesses, and samadhis,
Dhyana samadhis and liberations,
And other inconceivable dharmas.
Concerning the Dharma obtained in the Bodhimanda,
No one is able to raise a question.
I find its meaning hard to fathom,
And am also unable to ask about it.
So you speak unasked,
Praising the path you have walked
And that wisdom fine and subtle,
Attained by all the Buddhas.
All the Arhats, without outflows,
And those who seek Nirvana,
Have fallen into a net of doubts.
“Why has the Buddha said this?”
Those who seek Condition Enlightenment,
The Bhikshus, the Bhikshunis,
Gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits,
Gandharvas and others,
Look at one another, perplexed,
And then gaze at the Doubly Complete Honored One.
“What is the meaning of this matter?”
“We pray that the Buddha will explain.”
Of the host of Hearers
The Buddha has declared me foremost,
And yet now with my own wisdom
I cannot resolve my doubts.
Is this Dharma ultimate?
Or is it the path to be walked?
Disciples born from the Buddha’s mouth,
With joined palms wait, expectantly.
Pray put forth the subtle sound,
For it is time to tell it as it really is.
The gods, dragons, spirits, and others
Their numbers like the Ganges’ sands,
Bodhisattvas seeking Buddhahood,
Numbering a full eighty thousand,
And, from myriads of millions of lands,
Wheel-turning sage kings have come,
With joined palms and reverent minds
All wish to hear of the perfect way.
At that time the Buddha told Shariputra, “Stop! Stop! There is no need to speak further. If this matter were spoken of, the gods and humans in all the worlds would be frightened and led to doubts.”
Shariputra again addressed the Buddha saying, “World Honored One, I only pray that you will speak it. I only pray that you will speak it. What is the reason? In this assembly are countless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of asankhyeyas of living beings who have, in the past, seen the Buddhas. Their roots are keen and their wisdom bright. Hearing what the Buddha says they will be able to revere and believe it.”
At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke the following verses:
Dharma King, Supremely Honored One,
Do but speak; pray have no worries,
For, with in the limitless multitudes,
Are those who can revere and believe it.
The Buddha again stopped Shariputra, “If this matter were spoken of, the gods, humans, and asuras in all the worlds would be frightened and led to doubt, and those Bhikshus of overweening pride would fall into a big pit.”
Then the World Honored One restated his meaning in verse, saying,
Stop, stop. It must not be spoken.
My Dharma is wonderful beyond conception,
And those of undue pride who heard it,
Surely would neither revere nor believe it.
At that time, Shariputra further addressed the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, I only pray that you will speak it. I only pray that you will speak it. Presently, within this assembly are those who are my equal, hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of them. Life after life they have been transformed by the Buddha. People such as these will surely be able to revere and believe you. They will gain security and great benefit within the long night.”
At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate his meaning, recited the following verses:
Supreme and Doubly Honored One.
Pray speak the foremost Dharma.
I, the Buddha’s eldest disciple,
Wish you will but speak it in detail.
The limitless host here assembled,
Can revere and believe this Dharma,
For the Buddha has, for life after life,
Taught and transformed such ones as these.
With one mind, with palms joined,
We all wish to hear the Buddha speak.
Twelve hundred of us there are,
And more, seeking Buddhahood.
Pray, for those assembled here,
Speak of it in detail;
Having heard this Dharma,
Great will our rejoicing be.
Thereupon the World Honored One told Shariputra, “Since you have earnestly requested three times, how can I not speak? You should now listen attentively, think upon it well, and be mindful of it; I will explain it in detail for your sake.”
As he said these words, five thousand Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas in the assembly rose from their seats, made obeisance to the Buddha and left. What was the reason? The roots of their offenses were deep and grave and they were of such overweening pride that they claimed to have obtained what they had not yet obtained and to have certified to that to which they had not yet certified to. With faults such as these they could not stay. The World Honored One remained silent and did not restrain them.
The Buddha then told Shariputra, “My assembly has now been cleared of its branches and leaves and only the trunks remain. Shariputra, it is excellent that those of overweening pride have left. You should now listen well and I shall speak it for you.”
Shariputra said, “So be it, World Honored One. I wish joyfully to hear it.”
The Buddha told Shariputra, “A wonderful Dharma such as this is spoken only occasionally by the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, just as the udumbara flower appears but once in a great while.”
“Shariputra, you should all believe that which the Buddha says, for his words are not vain or false. Shariputra, all the Buddhas speak the Dharma in accord with what is appropriate, but its purport is difficult to understand. What is the reason? I extensively speak all dharmas by means of countless expedient devices, various causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions. This Dharma cannot be understood through deliberation or discrimination. Only the Buddhas alone can know it. Why is this? All the Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, appear in the world only because of the causes and conditions of the one great matter.”
“Shariputra, what is meant by ‘All Buddhas, World Honored Ones, appear in the world only because of the causes and conditions of the one great matter?’ The Buddhas, the World Honored Ones, appear in the world because they wish to lead living beings to open the knowledge and vision of the Buddhas and gain purity. They appear in the world because they wish to demonstrate to all living beings the knowledge and vision of the Buddhas. They appear in the world because they wish to lead living beings to awaken to the knowledge and vision of the Buddhas. They appear in the world because they wish to lead living beings to enter into the Path of the knowledge and vision of the Buddhas.”
“Shariputra, these are the causes and conditions of the one great matter for which all the Buddhas appear in the world.”
The Buddha told Sharipura, “All the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, teach and transform only Bodhisattvas. All their actions are always for the one matter, and that is only to demonstrate and enlighten living beings to the Buddha’s knowledge and vision. Shariputra, in speaking Dharma to living beings, the Thus Come Ones use only the Buddha Vehicle. There are no other vehicles, whether two or three. Shariputra, the Dharma of all the Buddhas of the ten directions is thus. Shariputra, the Buddhas of the past, by means of limitless, countless expedient devices, various causes and conditions, analogies and expressions, have proclaimed all the dharmas to living beings. These dharmas were all for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle. All these living beings, hearing the Dharma from the Buddhas, ultimately attain the Wisdom of All Modes.”
“Shariputra, when the Buddhas of the future shall come into the world, they will also by means of limitless, countless expedient devices, various causes and conditions, analogies and expressions, proclaim all the dharmas to living beings. These dharmas will all be for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle. Hearing the Dharma from the Buddhas, all these living beings will ultimately attain to the Wisdom of all Modes.
Shariputra, presently, all the Buddhas, World Honored Ones, throughout the ten directions in limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of Buddhalands, greatly benefit living beings and bring them peace and happiness. These Buddhas also by means of limitless, countless expedient devices, various causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions, extensively proclaim all the dharmas to living beings. These dharmas are all for the sake of the One Buddha Vehicle. All these living beings, hearing the Dharma from the Buddhas, ultimately attain the Wisdom of All Modes.
Shariputra, all the Buddhas only teach and transform Bodhisattvas because they wish to demonstrate to living beings the Buddha’s knowledge and vision, because they wish to awaken living beings to the Buddha’s knowledge and vision, and because they wish to lead living beings to enter the Buddha’s knowledge and vision.”
“Shariputra, I, now, too am also like this. Knowing that living beings have various desires to which their hearts are deeply attached, according to their basic dispositions, and by means of various causes and conditions, analogies, expressions, and the power of expedient devices, I speak the Dharma to them.”
“Shariputra, this is all done so that they may attain the One Buddha Vehicle and the Wisdom of All Modes.”
“Shariputra, in the worlds of the ten directions, there are not even two vehicles, how much the less three. Shariputra, all Buddhas appear in the world of the five evil turbidities, that is, the kalpa turbidity, the affliction turbidity, the living beings turbidity, the view turbidity, and the life turbidity. So, Shariputra, it is that in the time of the confusion of the kalpa turbidity, living beings are heavy-laden with impurities. Because they are stingy, greedy, envious, and jealous, they develop unwholesome roots. For this reason, all the Buddhas, by means of the power of expedient devices, within the One Buddha Vehicle, make discriminations and speak of three.
Shariputra, if a disciple of mine calls himself an Arhat or Pratyekabuddha, but does not hear or know of the fact that all the Buddhas, the Thus Come Ones, only teach and transform the Bodhisattvas, he is not a disciple of the Buddha nor is he an Arhat, nor is he a Pratyekabuddha.”
“Furthermore, Shariputra, it should be known that those Bhikshus and Bhikshunis who claim to have attained Arhatship and to dwell in their final bodies before ultimate Nirvana, but who do not further resolve to seek anuttarasamyaksambodhi, are people of overweening pride. Why is this? It is impossible that any Bhikshu who had actually attained Arhatship should not believe this Dharma, except in the case when the Buddha has passed into extinction and no Buddha is in existence. Why is this? After the Buddha has passed into extinction, those who accept, uphold, read, recite, and understand the meaning of Sutras such as this will be hard to find. If they encounter other Buddhas, they will then obtain thorough understanding of this Dharma.”
“Shariputra, all of you should, with one heart, believe, understand, accept and uphold the speech of the Buddha, for in the words of all the Buddhas there is nothing vain or false. There are no other vehicles; there is only the One Buddha Vehicle.”