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Chapter 2 - Expedient Devices

At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate his meaning, spoke verses, saying,

Those Bhikshus and Bhikshunis,
Who harbor overweening pride.
The arrogant Upasakas,
Upasikas who do not believe,
In the fourfold host, such ones as these,
Numbering five thousand strong…
Who do not see their own mistakes,
Deficient in morality,
And guarding imperfections,
Those of paltry wisdom have left;
The chaff within the multitude is gone,
Thanks to the Buddha’s awesome virtue.
These people, lacking blessings and virtue,
Are unworthy of receiving this Dharma.
The assembly is free of branches and leaves;
The trunks alone remain intact.

Shariputra, listen well:
The Dharma obtained by the Buddhas,
Is spoken for living beings
Through the power of limitless expedients,
The thoughts in living being’s minds,
The various pathways they have walked,
The nature of their various desires,
Their karma, good or ill, from former lives,
The Buddha knows them all thoroughly.
Using conditions, analogies,
Expressions, and powerful expedients,
I cause them to rejoice.
I may speak the Sutras,
Gathas, or past events,
Of former lives, the unprecedented,
Causes and conditions,
Analogies or geyas,
Or the upadesha texts.

To dull-rooted ones who delight in lesser dharmas,
And who are greedily attached to birth and death,
Who, under limitless Buddhas,
Have not walked the deep and wondrous Path,
Oppressed by scores of sufferings,
For them I speak of Nirvana.

I have established these expedients
To cause them to enter the Buddha’s wisdom.
Never did I say, “All of you
Will realize the Buddha Way.”
I did not say as much because
The time to speak had not yet come.
The time, now, is exactly right,
To speak the Great Vehicle.

The nine division of my Dharma,
Are spoken to accord with living beings;
Intending to lead them into the Great Vehicle,
I therefore speak this Sutra text.

For the Buddha’s disciples, pure in heart,
Who are compliant and have keen faculties,
Who, under countless Buddhas,
Have walked the deep and wondrous Path,
I speak the Sutra of the Great Vehicle.

I predict that such people
In the future will realize the Buddha Way,
For with profound thoughts they recollect the Buddha,
Cultivate and uphold pure morality.

When they hear that they will become Buddhas
Great will their rejoicing be.
The Buddha knows their thoughts and conduct,
And speaks the Great Vehicle for them.

If Hearers or Bodhisattvas,
Hear this Dharma that I speak,
Be it but a single verse,
They will become Buddhas, without a doubt.
In the Buddhalands of the ten directions,
There is only the Dharma of One Vehicle;
There are not two or three,
Except those spoken by the Buddhas as expedients,
And those are but false appellations
Used to induce living beings,
So that he may teach them the Buddha’s wisdom.

The Buddhas appear in the world
Only for the sake of this One Real Matter;
The other two are not the truth;
To the end they would not use the Small Vehicle
To rescue living beings.

The Buddha himself dwells in the Great Vehicle,
And in accord with the Dharmas he has gained,
Adorned with the power of samadhi and wisdom,
He uses these to save living beings.

Having certified to the supreme path, myself,
The Great Vehicle’s Dharma of equality,
Were I to teach by means of the Small Vehicle,
Even a single human being,
I would have fallen into stingy greed;
But such a thing could never be.

Should people rely, in faith, upon the Buddha,
The Thus Come One will not deceive them;
He has no thoughts of envy or greed,
And he has cut off all the evil in the dharmas.
Therefore, throughout the ten directions,
The Buddha alone has nothing to fear.

My body adorned with marks,
I brilliantly illumine the world.
Revered by countless multitudes
I speak the Seal of the Real Mark.
Shariputra, you should know,
That in the past I took a vow,
Wishing to lead the multitudes,
To be identical with me.

That vow, made long ago,
Now has been perfectly fulfilled,
For I have transformed all beings,
Leading them into the Buddha Path.
If, when I met with living beings,
I taught them just the Buddha Path,
Those lacking wisdom would be puzzled;
Confused, they would not accept the teaching.

I know that these living beings
Have never cultivated good roots.
They are firmly attached to the five desires,
And, out of stupidity and love, become afflicted.

Because of all their desires,
They fall into the three evil paths,
They turn on the wheel in the six destinies,
Suffering utter misery.

They take a tiny form in the womb;
Life after life, it continues to grow.
With scanty virtue and few blessings,
They are oppressed by scores of sufferings,
They enter the dense forest of deviant views,
Those of existence, non-existence, and the like.
They become dependent on those views—
Sixty-two of them in all.

Deeply attached to illusory dharmas,
They cling to them firmly and cannot let them go.
Arrogant, they brat of their loftiness;
They are flatterers, their hearts insincere.

Throughout ten billion eons,
They never hear the Buddha’s name,
Nor do they hear the proper Dharma.
Such people are difficult to save.

Therefore, Shariputra,
I set forth expedients for them,
Speak of the way to suffering’s end,
And demonstrate Nirvana.
Although I speak of Nirvana,
It is not true extinction.

All dharmas from their origin,
Are ever marked by still extinction.
When the Buddhas’s disciples have walked the Path,
In a future age they will become Buddhas.

I possess the power of expedients,
And demonstrate the Dharma of Three Vehicles.
All the World Honored Ones,
Speak the Dharma of One Vehicle.

Now all of you assembled here,
Should cast your doubts aside.
The speech of all Buddhas is the same:
There is only One Vehicle, not two.

Throughout countless eons in the past,
Innumerable extinct Buddhas,
Hundreds of thousand of myriads of millions of them,
A number beyond all calculation,
World Honored Ones such as these,
Used various conditions, analogies,
And the power of countless expedients,
To proclaim the marks of all dharmas.

All of those World Honored Ones,
Spoke the Dharma of One Vehicle,
Transforming beings without limit,
Leading them to the Buddha Path.

Further, all great Sagely Lords,
Know the deep desires in the hearts
Of all the gods, humans, and other beings
Within all the worlds.

Using different expedients,
Which help to reveal the foremost principle.
If there are living beings
Who have met with Buddhas in the past
Heard the Dharma, practiced giving,
Morality, patience, and vigor
Dhyanasamadhi, wisdom, and so on,
Cultivating blessings and wisdom,
Persons such as these
Have all realized the Buddha path.

When those Buddhas have become extinct
If there are those with compliant hearts,
Beings such as these
Have attained the Buddha Way.

After the extinction of those Buddhas,
Those who have made offerings to their shariras,
Building millions of kinds of stupas,
Made of gold, silver, or of crystal,
Mother-of-pearl, carnelian,
Rose quartz, lapis lazuli, and other gems,
Clear, pure and most ornate,
Worked to grace the stupas,
Or should there be those who have built temples
Out of stone, chandana, or aloeswood,
Hovenia, or other timbers,
Bricks, clay, and the like,
Or those who, in the barren waste,
Have piled up earth into a Buddha-shrine,
Or even children who, at play,
Have piled up sand to make a stupa,
All persons such as these,
Have realized the Buddha Way.

Those who, for the Buddhas,
Have erected images,
Carving all their myriads of marks,
Have realized the Buddha Way.

They may have used the seven gems,
Or bronze or copper, white or red,
Wax, lead, or tin,
Iron, wood, or clay,
Or, perhaps, lacquered cloth,
In making Buddha images;
Persons such as these
Have realized the Buddha Way.

Those who painted bright Buddha images,
Adorned with the marks of their hundreds of blessings,
Whether they did it themselves or employed others,
Have realized the Buddha Way.

Even children who, at play,
Who with a straw, a stick, or pen,
Or even with their fingernails,
Drew images of the Buddha,
People such as these,
Gradually accumulated merit and virtue,
Perfected the heart of great compassion,
And have realized the Buddha Way.

They teach only Bodhisattvas,
And rescue countless multitudes.
Should persons, in stupas or in temples,
Make offerings with a reverent heart,
To jeweled or painted images,
With flowers, incense, banners, or canopies,
Or should they cause others to make music,
With drums, horns, or conches,
Pan-pipes, flutes, lutes or bamboo lyres,
Guitars, cymbals, or brass gongs,
With many wondrous sounds as these,
Played solely as offerings…
Or if, with happy hearts, with songs
And chants they praised the Buddha’s virtues,
With even just one small sound,
They have realized the Buddha Way.

If people with scattered minds
Have given but a single flower
As an offering to a painted image,
They shall gradually see numberless Buddhas.

If they bowed in worship,
Or merely placed their palms together,
Or even raised a single hand,
Or gave a slight nod of the head,
As an offering to the images,
They shall gradually see countless Buddhas,
And have, themselves, realized the Buddha Way.

They will rescue countless multitudes,
And enter Nirvana without residue,
As a fire goes out when the fuel has been consumed.
If people with scattered minds,
Enter stupas or temples,
And say but once, “Namo Buddha,”
They have realized the Buddha Way.

Be it from Buddhas of the past,
While existent, or after their extinction,
Those who have heard this Dharma,
Have realized the Buddha Way.
The World Honored Ones of the future,
Are limitless in number;
All of these Thus Come Ones,
Will also speak the Dharma of expedient devices.

All of the Thus Come Ones,
By means of limitless expedients,
Help all living beings
To enter the Buddha’s non-outflow wisdom.

Of those who have heard the Dharma,
None will fail to become Buddhas.
All the Buddhas have made this vow
“As to the Buddha Way which I have walked,
I wish to lead all living beings
Alike to obtain this Path.”

And although the Buddhas of the future
Will speak a hundred thousand million,
Countless Dharma-doors,
They are, in fact, for the sake of One Vehicle.

All Buddhas, Doubly Perfect Honored Ones,
Know the Dharmas are eternally without a nature.
The Buddha-seed arises from conditions;
Thus they speak of the One Vehicle.

This Dharma abides in the Dharma’s position,
Dwelling forever in worldly marks.
Having understood this in the Bodhimanda,
The Guiding Master teaches it expediently.

Those who receive the offerings of gods and humans,
The Buddhas of the present in the ten directions,
Their number like the Ganges’ sands,
Manifest within the world
To bring peace and comfort to living beings,
And also speak Dharma such as this.

Knowing the foremost still extinction,
They use the power of expedients
To demonstrate the various paths,
In reality, for the sake of the Buddha Vehicle.
Knowing the conduct of living beings,
The thoughts deep within their minds,
Their habitual actions in the past,
The nature of their desire, the power of their vigor,
And their faculties, keen or dull,
They employ various causes and conditions,
Analogies and verbal expressions,
To teach them the appropriate expedients.
Now I, too, am like them.

Using various Dharma-doors,
I proclaim the Buddha Way
To bring peace and comfort to living beings.
I use the power of my wisdom,
To know the nature of beings’ desires;
I speak all dharmas expediently,
To lead them all to happiness.
Shariputra, you should know,
As I regard them with my Buddha Eye,
I see living beings in the six paths,
Impoverished, lacking blessings and wisdom,
Entering the dangerous path of birth and death,
Where they suffer unremittingly.

They are deeply attached to the five desires,
Like a yak caring for its tail,
They smother themselves with greed and love,
Blind, and in darkness, seeing nothing.
They do not seek the mighty Buddha,
Or the Dharma which cuts off suffering,
But instead they deeply enter into deviant views;
With suffering, they wish to cast off suffering.

For the sake of these beings,
I give rise to the great compassion heart.
When first I sat in the Bodhimanda,
In contemplation, or walking about the tree,
For a full three times seven days,
I thought over matters such as these:
The wisdom which I have obtained,
Is subtle, wonderful, and foremost,
But living beings are dull-rooted,
Attached to pleasure, blinded by delusion;
Beings such as these,
How can they possibly be saved?

Just then the Brahma Heaven Kings,
As well as the God Shakra,
The Four World-Protecting God Kings,
The god of the Heaven of Great Comfort,
And the other heavenly multitudes,
With retinues numbering in the billions
Reverently placed their palms together,
And requested me to turn the Dharma-wheel.

I then thought to myself,
“Were I to praise only the Buddha Vehicle,
Beings sunk in suffering
Would be unable to believe this Dharma.
They would slander it out of disbelief,
And fall into the three evil paths.
It is better that I do not speak the Dharma,
But quickly enter into Nirvana.”

Then I recalled that the Buddhas of the past
Practiced powerful expedients,
And as I now have obtained the Path,
It is fitting that I also teach Three Vehicles.

When I had been thinking thus,
The Buddhas of the ten directions all appeared,
And with the Brahma sound encouraged me, saying,
“Good indeed, O Shakyamuni,
Foremost Guiding Master.
Having attained the supreme Dharma,
You follow the precedent of all Buddhas,
To employ the power of expedient devices.
We have all obtained as well,
That foremost Dharma, most wonderful.
For the various kinds of living beings,
We discriminate and teach Three Vehicles.

Those of little wisdom who delight in lesser dharmas,
Would not believe that they could become Buddhas.
That is why we use expedient means,
To discriminate and teach the various fruits.
Although Three Vehicles are taught,
It is only for the sake of teaching Bodhisattvas.”

Shariputra, you should know,
That when I heard the Sagely Lions’
Deep, pure, and wondrous sound,
I called out “Homage to all Buddhas.”
And further had this thought,
“I have come into a turbid, evil world;
As the Buddhas speak,
I should follow in accord.”

Having thought upon this matter,
I went straightaway to Varanasi.
Since the still and extinct mark of all dharmas,
Cannot be expressed in words,
I used the power of expedients,
To instruct the five Bhikshus.
This was called the turning of the Dharma-wheel.

Then came the sound of Nirvana,
As well as “Arhatship,”
“Dharma,” and the “Sangha,” various names.
From remote eons onward,
I have praised and shown Nirvana’s dharma,
As the final end of birth and death’s sufferings;
Always have I spoken thus.

Shariputra, you should know,
I see disciples of the Buddha,
Resolutely seeking the Buddha Way,
Limitless thousands of myriads of millions of them,
All with hearts of reverence,
All coming before the Buddha.
They had heard, from former Buddhas,
Expedient teachings of the Dharma.

This causes me to think,
“The reason why the Thus Come One appears,
Is to teach the wisdom of the Buddha,
And now the time is exactly right.”
Shariputra, you should know,
Those with dull faculties and slight wisdom,
Those attached to marks, the arrogant,
Cannot believe this Dharma.

I now rejoice and have no fear,
And among the Bodhisattvas,
I shall cast expedients aside and be straightforward,
Speaking only of the supreme Path.
When the Bodhisattvas have heard this Dharma,
The network of their doubts will be rent (destroyed);
Twelve hundred Arhats
Will all attain to Buddhahood.

As the Buddhas of the three periods of time
In such a manner spoke the Dharma,
So do I likewise now expound
The undiscriminated Dharma.
All Buddhas come into the world
But rarely, and are hard to meet;
And when they appear in the world,
It is hard for them to speak the Dharma.
Throughout countless eons, too,
It is difficult to hear this Dharma.

And those who can hear this Dharma—
Such people too, are rare,
Like the udumbara flower,
In which all take delight,
Which the gods and humans prize,
For it blooms but once in a long, long time
So one who hears this Dharma, gives joyful praise,
With even just a single word,
Has thereby made offerings,
To all the Buddhas of the three periods of time.

Such people are extremely rare,
Rarer than the udumbara flower.
All of you should have no doubts,
For I am the Dharma King;
I declare to the assembly:
I use only the path of One Vehicle,
To teach and transform Bodhisattvas.

There are no Hearer Disciples.
Shariputra, all of you,
The Hearers and Bodhisattvas,
Should know that this wondrous Dharma
Is the secret essence of all Buddhas.

In the evil world of five turbidities,
Beings who are blissfully attached
To pleasures and desires,
Will never seek the Buddha Way.

Evil people of the future,
Hearing the Buddha speak of One Vehicle,
In their delusion will not accept or believe it,
But will slander it and fall into the evil paths.

Still, those with shame and purity,
Who resolutely seek the Buddha Way,
For such ones as these I praise
The path of One Vehicle, extensively.

Shariputra, you should know,
The Dharma of all Buddhas is like this:
By means of millions of expedients,
I speak Dharma in accord with what is appropriate.

But those who do not study it,
Will never come to understand it.
Since all of you already know
All Buddhas, Masters of the World,
Work by means of appropriate expedients,
You should have no further doubts.
Let your hearts be filled with joy;
You know you will reach Buddhahood.

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