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Welling forth from the Earth

Chapter 15


At that time the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, who had come from other lands in numbers exceeding the grains of sand in eight Ganges Rivers, rose up in the great assembly, placed their palms together, made obeisance, and said to the Buddha, “World Honored One, if you will allow us, after the Buddha’s quiescence, here in this Saha world we will with ever-increasing vigor protect, maintain, read, recite, write out, and make offerings to this Sutra, and we will proclaim it far and wide throughout this land.”

The Buddha then told the host of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas, “Stop! Good men, you do not need to protect and maintain this Sutra. Why not? Within my Saha world itself there are Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas equal in number to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers, each of whom has a retinue equal in number to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers. After my quiescence, all of them will protect, uphold, read, recite, and vastly proclaim this Sutra.”

Just as the Buddha said this, the earth in the three thousand great thousand lands in the Saha world trembled and split open, and from its midst limitless thousands of tens of thousands of millions of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas simultaneously welled forth.

All of those Bodhisattvas possessed golden-hued bodies, the thirty-two marks, and limitless light.

They had been dwelling beneath the Saha world in the space belonging to this world.

Upon hearing the sound of Shakyamuni Buddha’s voice, all the Bodhisattvas came up from below.

Each one of the Bodhisattvas was a leader who instructed and guided a great multitude. Each had a retinue numbering as many as the sand grains of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers. Still others had retinues numbering as many as the sand grains of fifty thousand, forty thousand, thirty thousand, twenty thousand, or ten thousand Ganges Rivers. Others had retinues numbering as many as the sand grains of one Ganges River, one half a Ganges River, one fourth, and on down to one thousandth of a ten thousandth of a millionth of a nayuta of a Ganges River.

Other had retinues numbering in the billions of nayutas. Others had retinues numbering in the hundreds of millions. Others had retinues numbering in the tens of millions, the millions, and on down to the tens of thousands. Others had a thousand or a hundred and on down to ten. Others had five, four, three, or two disciples, down to one disciple. Still others came alone, preferring isolation. And so it was that their numbers were limitless and boundless, beyond the power of calculation or analogy to make known.

Having welled forth from the earth, all the Bodhisattvas went to the Wonderful Stupa of Seven Jewels in space, where the Thus Come One Many Jewels and Shakyamuni Buddha were. Arriving there, they turned toward the two World Honored Ones and bowed with their heads at those Buddhas’ feet. They went on to where all the Buddhas were seated on lion thrones beneath jeweled trees, bowed to them, circumambulated them three times to the right, put their palms together respect­fully, and praised them with various Bodhisattva praises. Then they withdrew to one side and gazed joyfully at the two World Honored Ones.

From the time the Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas first welled forth from the earth, and while they praised the Buddhas with various Bodhisattva praises, a period of fifty small eons elapsed. During that time, Shakyamuni Buddha remained seated in silence, and the four assemblies were silent for fifty small eons as well.

Because of the Buddha’s spiritual power, all in the great assembly thought only half a day had passed. At that time the four assemblies were also able, because of the Buddha’s spiritual power, to see all the Bodhisattvas completely filling the space of limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of lands.

Among the multitude of Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas were four leaders. The first was named Superior Practice, the second was named Boundless Practice, the third was named Pure Practice, and the fourth was named Secure Practice. These four Bodhisattvas, among the assembly, were the foremost leaders, the spokesmen and guides. Before the great multitudes, they joined their palms together, contemplated Shakyamuni Buddha, made deep bows from the waist and said, “World Honored One, are you in good health and free from worry? Are you peaceful and happy in your practice? Are those who should be crossed over receptive to the teaching? They do not cause the World Honored One weariness, do they?”

The four Great Bodhisattvas then spoke verses, saying:

“Is the World Honored One happy and at peace,
Free from worry and disease?
In teaching and transforming beings,
Is he free from weariness?
And further, do living beings
Receive transformation easily?
They do not cause the World Honored One
To become fatigued, do they?”

The World Honored One then, in the midst of the great host of Bodhisattvas, said this: “So it is, so it is, good men. The Thus Come One is peaceful and happy, free from disease and worry. All the living beings are easy to transform and cross over, and they do not cause me weariness. Why is this? All these living beings have, in lifetime after lifetime, have always received my teaching, and they have also paid reverence to and venerated the Buddhas of the past, thereby planting the roots of goodness. All these living beings, from the time they first saw me and heard my teaching, all, except for those who had formerly cultivated and studied the small vehicle, immediately believed and accepted it and entered the Thus Come One’s wisdom. As to those who cast aside their former cultivation and study the Small Vehicle, I now lead even such people as these to hear this Sutra and to enter the Buddha’s wisdom.”

At that time the Great Bodhisattvas spoke these verses:

“Good indeed, good indeed,
Great Hero, World Honored One,
That all the living beings
Are easy to transform and save,
That they can ask about the Buddha’s deep wisdom
And, having heard it, believe and practice it.
We all rejoice accordingly.”

Then the World Honored One praised the leaders of all those Great Bodhisattvas: “Good indeed, good indeed, that you good men have brought forth a heart of rejoicing in accord with the Thus Come One.”

At that time Maitreya Bodhi­sat­tva and the Bodhi­sat­tvas in the multitudes, numbering as many as the sand grains in eight thousand Ganges Rivers, all had this thought: “From of old, we have never seen or heard of these Great Bodhisattvas Mahasattvas who have welled forth from the earth and who are standing before the World Honored One, joining their palms, making offerings, bowing from the waist, and inquiring after his welfare.”

Then Maitreya Bodhisattva Mahasattva, knowing the thoughts in the minds of the Bodhi­sat­tvas and others, num­ber­ing as many as the sand grains in eight thousand Ganges Rivers, and wishing as well to resolve his own doubts, placed his palms together, faced the Buddha, and spoke verses.

“These limitless thousands of myriads of kotis of
Bodhisattvas forming a great host,
Such as we have never seen before.
We pray the Doubly-Complete Honored One
Will tell us where they came from
And why they are gathered here.

They have huge bodies, great spiritual penetrations,
And inconceivable wisdom.
They are solid in resolve and will,
And possess the great power of patience.

Living beings delight in seeing them.
But where did they come from?
Each and every Bodhisattva
Has brought a retinue
Limitless in number,
Like the Ganges sand grains.

Some of the Great Bodhisattvas
Lead retinues of beings as many as
The sand grains in sixty thousand Ganges Rivers.
Such are the great assemblies
Single-mindedly seeking the Buddha Way.

These Great Masters,
In number like the sand grains in sixty thousand Ganges Rivers,
Have all come to make offerings to the Buddha
And to protect and uphold this Sutra.
Those with retinues comprised of as many as
the sand grains in fifty thousand Ganges Rivers
Are even more in number.

Those with retinues numbering forty, or thirty thousand,
Twenty down to ten thousand,
One thousand, one hundred,
And so forth, down to the sand grains of a single Ganges River,
And those with a half, a third, or a quarter thereof,
Down to one ten thousandth of a millionth thereof,
Or one thousandth of a ten thousandth of a nayuta thereof,
And the ones with tens of thousands of millions of disciples,
on down to half a million,
Are even more numerous.

There are also those with hundreds of tens of thousands,
Or tens of thousands
Thousands, or hundreds,
Fifty, or ten,
Down to three, two, or one,
And those who come alone without a retinue,
Preferring isolation—
All these come before the Buddha
In numbers surpassing those just stated.

So large is the assembly,
That were one to count them
For eons numbering more than Ganges sand grains,
Still one could not fully know them.

Who spoke the Dharma for
All these of great awesome virtue—
This vigorous host of Bodhisattvas—
Teaching, transforming, and bringing them to accomplishment?
Under whom did they first bring forth their resolve?
Whose Buddhadharma do they praise and proclaim?
Whose Sutras do they receive, uphold, and practice?
And which Buddha’s Way do they cultivate?
Such are the Bodhisattvas’ powers
Of spiritual penetrations and great wisdom,
That throughout the four directions,
The earth quakes and splits open,
And they rise out of it.

World Honored One, from of old,
I have never seen such a thing.
Pray tell us the names
Of the countries they come from.

I am always roaming through the lands,
But I have never seen this assembly.
I do not recognize
A single one of them.

Suddenly they have welled forth out of the earth.
Pray explain the reason why.
Now in this great assembly,
The limitless hundreds of thousands of millions
Of Bodhisattvas all
Wish to understand this event:
The causes and conditions, first to last,
Of this host of Bodhisattvas.
O World Honored One of limitless virtue,
We only pray you will resolve the assembly’s doubts.”

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