Editors Note: This is chapter 3 in our ongoing series on the Lotus Sutra, and the first of the seven parables found in the Lotus Sutra. This is the famous parable of the burning house. In this wonderful story, a man tries to get his family to leave their burning house, and resorts to enticing them with toys and other bribes. Danger from the flames is not enough to motivate the children to escape.
Synopsis of the insights
- In this parable, the Buddha is the wise father, trying to get his children to understand, using “skillful means” — by customizing the message to the student’s level of comprehension or practice.
- The blazing mansion is the world. The mansion is “comfortable” and what the children are used to, so they, of course, don’t see the danger. They feel no urgent need to leave the house.
- The goat cart in the story represents the Four Noble Truths. This is the “lure” for the child who is analogous to a shravaka or voice-hearer level of practice or understanding
- The deer cart represents the twelve links of Causation — the message for the pratyekabuddha or cause-awakened ones.
- The ox-cart represents the Six Paramitas — targeting the Bodhisattva practitioners.
- The last cart is the White Ox Cart, representing the One Buddha Vehicle or Law of Supreme Perfect Enlightenment. (For more on this see Lotus Sutra Chapter 2, found here.>>
Previous Chapter translations:
Venerable Master Hsuang Hua said,
“We cannot be negligent in doing this work. We must do our best to carry out our real responsibilities. However much we can do, we should do that much. Let’s keep pressing forward and working. We should take Buddhism as our own responsibility. The propagation of the Buddhadharma should be our personal duty in life.”
In that spirit, we are publishing chapter 3 of his amazing translation of the Lotus Sutra. Publishing Sutra is an important way to preserve and spread the Dharma! It is also an important practice. Recitation of Sutra is an excellent Dharma practice for everyone. In Mahayana Sutra, the Lotus Sutra holds a special place for it’s beautiful, lyrical, complete and brilliant teachings.
Translation by the Venerable Kumarajiva. Dedicating His Life to Propagating the Buddhadharma: And the Translation of the Buddhist Canon.
Translation to English.
Translation by the Venerable Master Hsuang Hua. Great Master Hsuan Tsang
sought the Dharma on behalf of the people, enabling living beings to reach the Land of Bliss. From the
Buddhist Text Translation Society Published in the website of
The Cities of 10,000 Buddhas.
A Parable – Chapter 3
Part One : Shariputra’s predicament
Thereupon, Shariputra, with joyful enthusiasm, rose, placed his palms together, gazed reverently at the World Honored One’s face and said to the Buddha, “Now, having heard this sound of Dharma from the World Honored One, my heart rejoices and I have obtained what I never had before.”
所以者何。 我昔从佛闻如是法，见诸菩萨授记作佛，而我等不与斯事，甚自感 伤、失于如来无量知见。
“What is the reason? In the past, I heard a Dharma such as this from the Buddha, and saw the Bodhisattvas receive predictions of Buddhahood, but we had no part in this matter. I was deeply hurt that I had lost the limitless knowledge and vision of the Thus Come One.”
“World Honored One, when I used to dwell alone in mountain forests, at the foot of trees, whether sitting or walking, I continually had this thought, “We all identically enter into the Dharma-nature, why has the Thus Come One shown us deliverance by means of the Small Vehicle Dharma?
We are at fault, not the World Honored One.”
所以者何。若我等待说所因，成就阿耨多罗三藐三菩提者，必以大 乘而得度脱。然我等不解方便随宜所说，初闻佛法，遇、便信受、 思惟取证。
“What is the reason? If we had waited for the lecture on the cause of realizing anuttarasamyaksambodhi, we would certainly have been delivered by means of the Great Vehicle Dharma. But we did not understand that expedient devices are spoken in accord with what is appropriate. Therefore, when we first heard the Buddhadharma, upon encountering it, we immediately believed, accepted, and considered it, and attained realization.”
“World Honored One, from of old, I have, day and night, continually reproached myself. Now, from the Buddha, I have heard what I never heard before, this Dharma which has never been before, and all my doubts have been severed. My body and mind are blissful, and I am at peace.”
今日乃知真是佛子，从佛口生，从法化生，得佛法分。’ “Today, indeed, I know that I am a true disciple of the Buddha, born from the Buddha’s mouth, transformed from the Dharma; I have obtained a share of the Buddhadharma”
At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying:
我闻是法音， 得所未曾有， 心怀大欢喜， 疑网皆已除。
Hearing this Dharma sound,
I gained what I never had;
My heart is filled with great joy,
The net of doubts has been cast aside .
昔来蒙佛教， 不失于大乘， 佛音甚稀有， 能除众生恼， 我已得漏尽， 闻亦除忧恼。
From of old, favored with the Buddha’s teaching,
I had never lost the Greater Vehicle.
The Buddha’s sound is extremely rare,
And can rid beings of their woes.
I have already attained to the end of outflows, Yet hearing it my woes also are dispelled.
我处于山谷， 或在树林下， 若坐若经行， 常思惟是事，
As I dwelt in the mountain valleys, Sometimes at the foot of trees, Whether sitting or walking,
I constantly thought upon this topic:
呜呼深自责， 云何而自欺。 我等亦佛子， 同入无漏法，
“Ah,” I cried in bitter self-reproach,
“Why have I deceived myself?
We, too, are the Buddha’s disciples,
And equally enter the non-outflow Dharma;
Yet, in the future, we shall not be able To proclaim the Unsurpassed Path.
金色三十二， 十力诸解脱， 同共一法中， 而不得此事，
The Golden Color, the Thirty-two,
The Ten Powers and all the Liberations Are together in a single Dharma,
But I have not attained these things.
八十种妙好， 十八不共法， 如是等功德， 而我皆已失，
The Eighty Wondrous Hallmarks, The Eighteen Unshared Dharmas– Such qualities of virtue–
I have missed them, every one.”
我独经行时， 见佛在大众， 名闻满十方， 广饶益众生。 自惟失此利， 我为自欺诳。
When I used to walk alone,
I would see the Buddha in the Great Assembly,
His fame filling the ten directions, Vastly benefiting all beings.
I felt I had lost this benefit,
And had but cheated myself.
我常于日夜， 每思惟是事， 欲以问世尊， 为失为不失，
Constantly, both day and night,
I thought upon this matter,
And wished to ask the World Honored One Whether or not I had lost it.
我常见世尊， 称赞诸菩萨， 以是于日夜， 筹量此是事。
I often saw the World Honored One Praising all the Bodhisattvas,
And so it was, by day and night,
I pondered on matters such as these.
今闻佛音声， 随宜而说法， 无漏难思议， 令众至道场。
Now I hear the Buddha’s sound,
Opportunely speaking that Dharma
Which is without outflows–hard to conceive of– And leads living beings to the Bodhimanda.
我本著邪见， 为诸梵志师， 世尊知我心， 拔邪说涅盘。
Once, I was attached to deviant views,
And was a teacher of the Brahmins.
The World Honored One knew my heart, Pulled out the deviant, and taught me Nirvana.
我悉除邪见，于空法得证， 尔时心自谓， 得至于灭度。
I rid myself of deviant views,
And realized the Dharma of emptiness. Then, I said to myself
That I had arrived at Quiescence.
而今乃自觉， 非是实灭度， 若得作佛时， 具三十二相，
But now, at last, I realize
It is not real Quiescence.
For when I become a Buddha, Complete with the Thirty-two Marks,
天人夜叉众、 龙神等恭敬， 是时乃可谓， 永尽灭无余。
Revered by gods, humans, and yaksha hordes, Dragons, spirits, and others,
Only then will I be able to say,
“This is eternal Quiescence without residue.”
佛于大众中， 说我当作佛， 闻如是法音， 疑悔悉已除。
The Buddha, in the Great Assembly, Has said, I shall become a Buddha. Hearing such a Dharma sound,
All my doubts have been dispelled.
初闻佛所说， 心中大惊疑， 将非魔作佛， 恼乱我心耶。
When I first heard the Buddha speak,
My heart was filled with great fear and doubt: “Is this not Mara disguised as the Buddha, Come to disturb and confuse my heart?”
佛以种种缘、 譬喻巧言说， 其心安如海， 我闻疑网断。
The Buddha, by means of various conditions, Analogies, and ingenious speech,
Makes one’s heart as calm as the sea. Hearing him, the net of my doubts was rent.
佛说过去世、 无量灭度佛， 安住方便中， 亦皆说是法。
The Buddha says that in the past,
The limitless Buddhas, now extinct, Dwelling in the use of expedients,
Also spoke this Dharma–each of them.
现在未来佛， 其数无有量， 亦以诸方便， 演说如是法。
The Buddhas of the present and future, Their numbers without limit,
Also used expedients
To expound Dharma such as this.
如今者世尊， 从生及出家、 得道转法輪， 亦以方便说。
Just as now, the World Honored One,
From birth until his leaving home,
His attaining the Way and turning the Dharma wheel, Also speaks by means of expedients.
世尊说实道， 波旬无此事， 以是我定知、 非是魔作佛。 我堕疑网故， 谓是魔所为，
The World Honored One speaks of the real Path.
The evil one does no such thing;
Hence, I know for certain
This is not the demon posing as the Buddha. Because I had fallen into a net of doubts,
I said it was the doings of the demon.
闻佛柔软音， 深远甚微妙， 演畅清净法。 我心大欢喜， 疑悔永已尽， 安住实智中。
Hearing the Buddha’s compliant voice,
Profound, far-reaching, subtle and fine
Proclaiming wide the clear, pure Dharma, Great is the joy within my heart.
My doubts are forever ended,
As in Real Wisdom I stand firm.
我定当作佛， 为天人所敬， 转无上法輪， 教化诸菩萨。
I am certain to become a Buddha,
Revered by gods and humans.
I shall turn the Unsurpassed Wheel of Dharma, To teach and transform Bodhisattvas.
Part Two : Shariputra’s Prediction
尔时佛告舍利弗:‘吾今于天、人、沙门、婆罗门、等，大众中说 ，我昔曾于二万亿佛所，为无上道故，常教化汝，汝亦长夜随我受 学。我以方便引导汝故，生我法中。
At that time, the Buddha told Shariputra, “I, now, amidst the great assembly of gods, humans, Shramanas, Brahmins, and others, declare that in the distant past, in the presence of twenty thousand kotis of Buddhas, for the sake of the Unsurpassed Way, I have constantly taught and transformed you. You, throughout the long night, have followed me and received my instructions. I have used expedient devices to guide you to be born within my Dharma.”
“Shariputra, in the past, I taught you to resolve yourself on the Buddha Way, but you have completely forgotten this, and so you say of yourself that you have already attained quiescence.
“Now, again, wishing you to recall the path you have practiced according to your past vows, I, for the sake of the Hearers, speak this Great Vehicle Sutra by the name of The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower, a Dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas of whom the Buddhas are protective and mindful.”
‘舍利弗，汝于未来世，过无量无边、不可思议劫，供养若干千万亿佛，奉持 正法，具足菩萨所行之道，当得作佛，号曰华光如来、应供、正遍知、明行 足、善逝世间解、无上士、调御丈夫、天人师、佛、世尊。
“Shariputra, in a future age, after limitless and boundless, inconceivable eons, having made offerings to some thousands of myriads of kotis of Buddhas, having reverently upheld the Proper Dharma, and having perfected the Path practiced by the Bodhisattvas, you shall become a Buddha by the name of Flower Light Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Universal Knowledge, One Whose Understanding and Conduct Are Complete, a Well-gone One Who Understands the World, an Unsurpassed Knight, a Taming and Regulating Hero, a Teacher of Gods and Humans, a Buddha, a World Honored One.”
国名离垢，其土平正，清净严饰，安隐、丰乐，天人炽盛。琉璃为 地，有八交道，黄金为绳、以界其侧。其傍、各有七宝行树，常有 华果。
“His country shall be called ‘Apart From Filth.’ Its ground will be level, pure and adorned, tranquil, and prosperous, and abounding with gods. It shall have lapis lazuli for soil and eight intersecting roads bordered with golden cords, and by which shall stand rows of trees made of the seven treasures constantly blooming and bearing fruit.”
“The Thus Come One Flower Light will also teach and transform living beings by means of the Three Vehicles.
‘舍利弗，彼佛出时，虽非恶世，以本愿故，说三乘法。 Shariputra, when this Buddha comes into the world, although it will not be an evil age, because of his past vows, he shall teach the Dharma of Three Vehicles.”
“That eon will be called ‘Adorned With Great Jewels.’
Why will it be called ‘Adorned With Great Jewels’? Because in that land, Bodhisattvas will be considered great jewels.”
“These Bodhisattvas will be limitless, boundless, and inconceivable in number, beyond the reach of calculation or analogy. Without the power of the Buddha’s wisdom, no one could know their number.”
“When they wish to walk, jeweled flowers will spring up beneath their feet.
此诸菩萨，非初发意，皆久植德本，于无量百千万亿佛所、净修梵 行，恒为诸佛之所称叹。 常修佛慧，具大神通，善知一切诸法之门，质直无伪，志念坚固。 These Bodhisattvas will not be those who have just brought forth the resolve. They will have planted the roots of virtue for a long time, and in the presence of limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of Buddhas purely cultivated Brahman conduct, constantly receiving the Buddhas’ praise, constantly cultivating the Buddha’s wisdom, and complete with great spiritual penetrations, they will be well-versed in all the doors of Dharma, straightforward, ingenuous, and resolute.
Bodhisattvas such as these will fill that country.”
“Shariputra, the life span of the Buddha Flower Light will be twelve small eons, not counting the time during which, as a prince, he will not yet have become a Buddha. The life spans of the people in that country will be eight small eons.”
华光如来过十二小劫，授坚满菩萨、阿耨多罗三藐三菩提记。 告诸比丘，是坚满菩萨、次当作佛，号曰华足安行、多陀阿伽度、 阿罗诃、三藐三佛陀，其佛国土，亦复如是。
“After twelve small eons, the Thus Come One Flower Light will confer upon the Bodhisattva Solid Fullness a prediction of anuttarasamyaksambodhi, and announce to the Bhikshus, ‘The Bodhisattva Solid Fullness shall next become a Buddha by the name of Flowery Feet Peacefully Walking, Tathagata, Arhat, Samyaksambuddha. His Buddha-country will be of like character.’”
“Shariputra, when the Buddha Flower Light has passed into quiescence, the Proper Dharma Age shall dwell in the world for thirty-two small eons. The Dharma Image Age shall dwell in the world also for thirty-two small eons.”
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,
舍利弗来世， 成佛普智尊， 号名曰华光， 当度无量众。 Shariputra, in a future age,
Shall become a Buddha, honored and all-wise,
By the name of Flower Light,
Who will save limitless multitudes.
供养无数佛， 具足菩萨行、 十力等功德， 证于无上道。
Having made offerings to countless Buddhas, And having perfected the Bodhisattva conduct, The Ten Powers and other meritorious qualities, He shall certify to the Unsurpassed Way.
过无量劫已， 劫名大宝严， 世界名离垢， 清净无瑕秽。
When limitless eons have passed,
There shall be an eon named “Adorned with Great Jewels,” And a world by name of “Apart from Filth,”
Being pure and without flaw,
以琉璃为地， 金绳界其道， 七宝杂色树， 常有华果实。
With lapis lazuli as its ground,
And its roads bordered with golden cords,
With multicolored trees made of seven treasures, Which constantly bloom and bear fruit.
彼国诸菩萨， 志念常坚固， 神通波罗蜜， 皆已悉具足。
The Bodhisattvas in that land,
Will be always firm in mindfulness,
With spiritual penetrations and paramitas , All thoroughly perfected.
于无数佛所， 善学菩萨道， 如是等大士， 华光佛所化。
In the presence of countless Buddhas,
They will have well-learned the Bodhisattva Way .
佛为王子时， 弃国舍世荣， 于最末后身， 出家成佛道。
Great Knights such as these
Shall have been transformed by the Buddha Flower Light . That Buddha, when still a prince,
Shall renounce his land and worldly glory,
And in his final body,
Leave home to realize the Buddha Way.
华光佛住世、 寿十二小劫， 其国人民众， 寿命八小劫。
The Buddha Flower Light shall dwell in the world For a life span of twelve small eons.
The people of his land
Shall live for eight small eons.
佛灭度之后， 正法住于世， 三十二小劫， 广度诸众生。
When that Buddha has passed into quiescence, The Proper Dharma shall remain in the world For thirty-two small eons,
Widely saving living beings.
正法灭尽已， 像法三十二， 舍利广流布， 天人普供养。
When the Proper Dharma has vanished,
The Dharma Image shall remain for thirty-two. The sharira shall be distributed widely,
For the offerings of gods and humans.
华光佛所为， 其事皆如是， 其两足圣尊， 最胜无伦匹。 彼即是汝身， 宜应自欣庆。
The deeds of the Buddha Flower Light,
Shall be such as these.
That Sagely Honored One, Twice Complete, Shall be supreme and beyond compare. And he is just you, yourself!
It is fitting that you do rejoice.
Part Three : The Parable
尔时四部众，比丘、比丘尼、优婆塞、优婆夷，天龙、夜叉、乾闼 婆、阿修罗、迦楼罗、紧那罗、摩侯罗伽、等大众，见舍利弗于佛 前受阿耨多罗三藐三菩提记，心大欢喜，踊跃无量， At that time, the Four-fold Assembly of Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas, as well as the great multitude of yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and so forth, seeing Shariputra, in the presence of the Buddha, receive a prediction for anuttarasamyaksambodhi, greatly rejoiced in their hearts and leapt for unbounded joy.
Each removed his upper garment and presented it as an offering to the Buddha.
Shakro Devanam Indrah and the Brahma Heaven King, together with countless gods, also made offerings to the Buddha of heavenly wonderful garments, heavenly mandarava flowers and mahamandarava flowers, and so forth.
The heavenly garments they tossed aloft remained in empty space and whirled around.
Then, all at once, in empty space hundreds of thousands of myriads of kinds of heavenly music began to play, and there fell a rain of heavenly flowers.
而作是言:‘佛昔于波罗奈、初转法輪，今乃复转无上最大法輪。’ As they uttered these words, “Long ago in Varanashi, the Buddha first turned the Wheel of Dharma. Now, he turns again that unsurpassed, magnificent Dharma -wheel.”
At that time, all the gods, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke the following verse:
昔于波罗奈、 转四谛法輪， 分别说诸法， 五众之生灭。
Long ago in Varanashi,
You turned the Dharma-wheel of Four Truths, Discriminatingly speaking of the Dharmas, The production and extinction of Five Heaps.
今复转最妙， 无上大法輪， 是法甚深奥， 少有能信者。
Now, again, you turn that wondrous, Unsurpassed, great Wheel of Dharma. This Dharma is deep and recondite, And few are those who can believe it .
我等从昔来， 数闻世尊说， 未曾闻如是， 深妙之上法。
We from of old,
Have often heard the World Honored One speak, But never have we heard such Dharma,
So deep, wondrous, and supreme.
世尊说是法， 我等皆随喜。 大智舍利弗， 今得受尊记，
The World Honored One has spoken the Dharma, And we rejoice accordingly,
As the greatly wise Shariputra
Now receives the Honored One’s prediction.
我等亦如是， 必当得作佛， 于一切世间， 最尊无有上。
We, too, are like this,
And will surely become Buddhas, Throughout all the worlds,
Most honored and supreme.
佛道叵思议， 方便随宜说。 我所有福业， 今世若过世， 及见佛功德， 尽回向佛道。
The Buddha’s Way is inconceivable,
Taught expediently according to what is fitting.
May all of our blessed karma,
In this life and in lives gone by,
And the merit and virtue gained from seeing the Buddha, Be dedicated to the Buddha Way.
At that time, Shariputra spoke to the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, I now have no further regret, having received from the Buddha a prediction for Annutarasamyaksambodhi.
But the twelve hundred whose hearts have attained self-mastery, and who formerly dwelt in the Stage of Study, were constantly taught by the Buddha who said, ‘My Dharma can enable one to separate from birth, old age, sickness, and death and attain to Ultimate Nirvana.’
Both Those Who Study and Those Beyond Study alike have separated from the View of Self, the Views of Existence and Non-existence, and so forth, and claim that they have attained Nirvana.
Yet now, hearing from the World Honored One that which they have never heard before, they have all fallen into doubt and delusion.
Good indeed, World Honored One, I hope that you would, for the sake of the Four-fold Assembly, speak of these causes and conditions, to free them of their doubts and regrets.”
At that time, the Buddha told Shariputra, “Have I not said before that all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, speak the Dharma by means of various causes and conditions, parables, phrases, and expedient devices, all for the sake of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi?
All of these teachings are for the sake of transforming Bodhisattvas. – 17 –
然舍利弗，今当复以譬喻、更明此义，诸有智者、以譬喻得解。’ However, Shariputra, I shall now again make use of a parable in order to further clarify the principle, for all those who are wise gain understanding through parables.”
“Shariputra, suppose that in a country, a city, or a village, there is a great Elder, aged and worn, of limitless wealth, possessing many fields, houses, and servants.”
“His house is spacious and large, having only one door but with a great many people–one hundred, two hundred, even five hundred of them– dwelling within it.”
“Its halls and chambers are decaying and old; its walls are crumbling. The pillars are rotting at their bases; the beams and ridgepoles are toppling dangerously.”
“All at once, throughout the house, a fire breaks out, setting the house ablaze.”
“The Elder’s sons, ten, twenty, even thirty of them are inside the house.”
长者见是大火从四面起，即大惊怖，而作是念:“我虽能于此所烧 之门、安隐得出，而诸子等，于火宅内、乐著嬉戏，不觉不知，不 惊不怖，火来逼身，苦痛切己，心不厌患，无求出意。”’
“The Elder, seeing the fire arise from the four sides, is greatly alarmed and makes the following reflection: ‘Although I have been able to escape safely through this burning doorway, all my children remain inside the burning house, happily attached to their amusement, unaware, unknowing, not alarmed and not afraid. The fire presses upon them and the pain will sear them, but at heart they do not mind it, nor have they any thought to escape.”
“Shariputra, the Elder then reflects, ‘My body and arms are strong. I might gather them into a cloth pouch or onto a table and take them from the house.’
复更思惟:“是舍、唯有一门，而复狭小。诸子幼稚，未有所识， 恋著戏处，或当堕落，为火所烧。 我当为说怖畏之事，此舍已烧，宜时疾出，勿令为火之所烧害。” He further reflects, ‘This house has only one door and it is narrow and small. My sons are young and immature and as yet know nothing. Attached to their place of play, they may fall and be burnt in the fire.’”
“ ‘I must tell them of this frightful matter, that the house has caught fire, and they must hurry and come out so as not to be burned.’
父虽怜愍、善言诱喻，而诸子等乐著嬉戏，不肯信受，不惊不畏， 了无出心。亦复不知何者是火，何者为舍，云何为失，但东西走戏 、视父而已。’
So thinking, he speaks to his sons, saying, ‘Come out, all of you quickly!’ Although the father, in his pity, induces them with good words, still all the sons are happily attached to their amusements and play and refuse to believe him. They are not frightened or afraid and have no intention of leaving. What is more, they do not know what is meant by fire, what is meant by house or what is meant by being lost. They merely run from east to west in play, staring at their father.”
“Then, the Elder has this thought, ‘The house is already ablaze with a great fire. If my sons and I do not get out in time, we certainly shall be burned. I shall now devise an expedient device so that my sons can avoid this disaster.’”
“The father, knowing both the predispositions of his sons and the preferences each has for various precious toys and unusual playthings to which they happily responded, speaks to them, saying, ‘The things you will love to play with are rare and hard to get. If you do not take them, you will certainly regret it later.
Things such as these: a variety of sheep carts, deer carts, and ox carts, are now outside the door for you to play with.
All of you should quickly come out of this burning house and I shall give you whatever you want.’”
“Then the children, hearing their father speak of these precious playthings which suited their wishes exactly, eagerly push and shove one another aside in a mad scramble, all fighting to get out of the burning house.”
“At that time, the Elder, seeing that all his sons had gotten out safely and were seated on the ground at the crossroads, is without further obstruction; his mind is at peace and he is filled with joy.”
“Then the children all speak to their father, saying, ‘Father, the fine playthings you promised us a while ago, the sheep carts, the deer carts, and the ox carts, please give them to us now.’”
“O Shariputra, at that time, the Elder gives to all of his sons equally great carts.”
“The cart is high and wide, adorned with a multitude of intertwining jewels, surrounded by railings, and hung with bells on its four sides.
Further, it is covered with canopies, adorned with various rare and precious jewels, strung with jeweled cords and hung with flowered tassels. The cart is heaped with beautiful mats and set about with rosy cushions.
It is yoked to an ox, plump and white and of fine appearance, of great muscular strength, that walks with even tread, as fleet as the wind, having also many servants who follow and guard it.”
“And why is this? That great Elder has limitless wealth and all manner of storehouses full to overflowing.”
而作是念，我财物无极，不应以下劣小车、与诸子等，今此幼童， 皆是吾子，爱无偏党，我有如是七宝大车，其数无量，应当等心、 各各与之，不宜差别。所以者何。
“So he reflects thus: ‘My possessions are boundless. I should not give my children small or inferior carts. All of these youngsters are my children whom I love without partiality. Having such great carts made of the seven jewels, infinite in number, I should give them to each one equally. Why?
If I gave them to an entire country, they would not run short; how much the less if I gave them to my children!”
“Meanwhile, all of the children are riding around on the great carts, having gotten what they never expected to have, beyond their original hopes.”
“Shariputra, what do you think? When that Elder gives equally to all of his children the great jeweled carriages, is he guilty of falsehood or not?”
Shariputra replied, “No, World Honored One. The Elder is not guilty of falsehood, for he has only enabled his children to avoid the calamity of fire, and has thereby saved their lives. Why is this?
In saving their lives, he has already given them a fine plaything. How much the more so his setting up of expedients to save them from the burning house.”
“World Honored One, if that Elder had not given them even so much as a single small cart, he still would not have been speaking falsely. Why?
Because the Elder previously had this thought, ‘I will use expedients to lead my children out.’
For this reason, he is not guilty of falsehood. He is even less guilty since, knowing his own wealth to be limitless and wishing to benefit all his children, he gives to them equally great carts.”
The Buddha told Shariputra, “Good indeed, good indeed! It is just as you say.”
“Shariputra, the Thus Come One is also like this in that he is a father to all in the world.
于诸怖畏、衰恼、忧患、无明闇蔽，永尽无余，而悉成就无量知见 、力无所畏，有大神力及智慧力，具足方便、智慧波罗蜜，大慈、 大悲，常无懈倦，恒求善事，利益一切。
He has forever ended all fear, weakness, worry, ignorance and obscurity. He has completely realized the limitless Knowledge and Vision, Powers, and Fearlessnesses. He has great spiritual might and the power of wisdom. He has perfected the paramitas of expedients and wisdom.
He is greatly kind and compassionate. Never tiring, he ever seeks the good, benefiting all.
Thus he is born in the Three Realms which are like a burning house in order to save living beings from the fires of birth, old age, sickness, death, grief, misery, stupidity, dullness, and the three poisons. He teaches and transforms them, leading them to the attainment of Anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
见诸众生为生老病死、忧悲、苦恼、之所烧煮，亦以五欲财利故、 受种种苦，又以贪著追求故，现受众苦，后受地狱、畜生、饿鬼、 之苦，若生天上、及在人间，贫穷困苦、爱别离苦、怨憎会苦、如 是等种种诸苦。
“He sees all living beings are scorched by birth, old age, sickness, death, grief, and misery. They undergo various sufferings, because of the Five Desires, wealth and profit. Further, because of their clinging and grasping, they presently undergo a mass of sufferings and in the future will undergo sufferings in the hells, among the animals, or hungry ghosts. If born in the heavens or among human beings, they will suffer poverty and distress, the suffering of being separated from what one loves, the suffering of being joined together with what one hates, and all the various sufferings such as these.
However, living beings sunk in morass, joyfully sport, unaware, unknowing, unalarmed and unafraid. They do not grow satiated nor do they seek liberation.
In the burning house of the Three Realms, they run about from east to west. Although they encounter tremendous sufferings, they are not concerned.”
“Shariputra, having seen this, the Buddha further thinks, ‘I am the father of living beings. I should rescue them from these sufferings and difficulties, and give them the limitless and boundless joy of the Buddha-wisdom to play with.’”
‘舍利弗，如来复作是念:“若我但以神力、及智慧力，舍于方便， 为诸众生赞如来知见、力无所畏者，众生不能以是得度。 “Shariputra, the Thus Come One further thinks, ‘If I merely use spiritual power and the power of wisdom, and cast aside expedients, praising for all living beings the power of the Thus Come One’s Knowledge and Vision, Powers, and Fearlessnesses, living beings will not be able to be saved in this way. Why is this?
All of these living beings have not yet escaped birth, old age, sickness, death, grief and misery. They are being scorched in the burning house of the Three Realms. How could they understand the wisdom of the Buddha?’”
‘舍利弗，如彼长者、虽复身手有力，而不用之，但以殷勤方便、 勉济诸子火宅之难，然后各与珍宝大车。如来亦复如是，虽有力、 无所畏，而不用之，
“ Shariputra, just as that Elder, although he had a powerful body and arms, did not use them, but merely applied expedients with diligence to save all the children from disaster in the burning house, and afterwards gave to each of them a great cart adorned with precious jewels, in the same way, the Thus Come One, although he has powers and fearlessnesses, does not use them.”
“He merely uses wisdom and expedients to rescue living beings from the burning house of the Three Realms, speaking to them of Three Vehicles: those of Hearer, Pratyeka Buddha, and Buddha.”
“And he says to them, ‘All of you should take no pleasure in dwelling in the burning house of the Three Realms. Do not lust after vulgar and evil forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangible objects. If you attach to them greedily and give rise to love for them, you will be burnt.
You should quickly escape the Three Realms and attain the Three Vehicles: the Hearer, Pratyeka Buddha, and Buddha Vehicles.’”
“I now give my Pledge for this and it shall never be proved false.
You need only diligently and vigorously cultivate.
The Thus Come One using these expedient means leads all living beings.”
“He further says, ‘You should all know that the Dharmas of the Three Vehicles have been praised by the sages. They will make you free, unbound, and self-reliant.
Riding on these Three Vehicles, by means of non-outflow roots, powers, enlightenments, ways, dhyanas, concentrations, liberations, samadhis, and so on, you shall amuse yourselves and attain limitless peace and joy.’”
‘舍利弗，若有众生，内有智性，从佛世尊闻法信受，殷勤精进， 欲速出三界，自求涅盘，是名声闻乘，如彼诸子为求羊车、出于火 宅。
“Shariputra, if there are living beings who inwardly posses the wisdom- nature, and hearing the Dharma from the Buddha, the World Honored One, believed and accepted it, diligently making progress, wishing quickly to escape the Three Realms and seeking Nirvana for themselves, they are called those of the Hearer Vehicle. They are like the children who sought the sheep carts and thereby escaped from the burning house.”
若有众生，从佛世尊闻法信受，殷勤精进，求自然慧，乐独善寂， 深知诸法因缘，是名辟支佛乘，如彼诸子为求鹿车、出于火宅。 “If there are living beings who hearing the Dharma from the Buddha, the World Honored One, believed and accepted it, diligently making progress, and who seek for themselves Spontaneous Wisdom, delighting in solitude and fond of stillness, deeply understanding the causal conditions of all dharmas; they are called those of the Pratyeka Buddha Vehicle. They are like the children who sought the deer carts and so escaped from the burning house.”
若有众生，从佛世尊闻法信受，勤修精进，求一切智、佛智、自然 智、无师智、如来知见、力无所畏，愍念、安乐无量众生，利益天 人，度脱一切，是名大乘，菩萨求此乘故，名为摩诃萨，如彼诸子 为求牛车、出于火宅。’
“If there are living beings who hearing the Dharma from the Buddha, the World Honored One, believed and accepted it, earnestly cultivating with vigor, seeking All-wisdom, Buddha-wisdom, Spontaneous Wisdom, Untutored Wisdom, the Knowledge and Vision of the Thus Come One, his Powers and Fearlessnesses, pitying and comforting limitless living beings, benefiting gods and humans, saving all, they are called those of the Great Vehicle. Because the Bodhisattvas seek this vehicle, they are called Mahasattvas. They are like the children who sought the ox carts and so escaped from the burning house.”
“Shariputra, just as that Elder, seeing all his children safely escape the burning house to a place of fearlessness, and considering his own unlimited wealth, give to all of his children great carts.”
“The Thus Come One, in the same way, is the father of all living beings. When he sees limitless kotis of living beings using the gateway of the Buddha’s teaching to get off the fearsome and dangerous path of the sufferings of the Three Realms and attain the bliss of Nirvana, he has this thought,
‘I have limitless and boundless wisdom, powers, fearlessnesses and so on–the complete storehouse of the Buddhadharma.
– 29 –
是诸众生，皆是我子，等与大乘，不令有人独得灭度。” 皆以如来 灭度而灭度之。
All of these living beings are my children. I should give to all of them great carts, not allowing them to gain individual Quiescence, but crossing them over to Quiescence by means of the Thus Come One’s Quiescence.
Having escaped the Three Realms, all these living beings are given as playthings the Buddha’s Dhyana Samadhis, Liberations, and so forth, all of one mark and one kind, praised by the sages and productive of pure, wondrous, and foremost bliss.’”
‘舍利弗，如彼长者、初以三车诱引诸子，然后但与大车，宝物庄 严，安隐第一，然彼长者无虚妄之咎。如来亦复如是、无有虚妄， 初说三乘、引导众生，然后但以大乘而度脱之。何以故。 “Shariputra, just as that Elder first having used the three carts to entice his children and then later having given them great carts adorned with jewels and supremely comfortable, is not guilty of falsehood, just so is the Thus Come One likewise not guilty of falsehood in first speaking of the Three Vehicles to entice living beings and then afterwards delivering them only by means of the Great Vehicle. What is the reason?
The Thus Come One has limitless wisdom, powers and fearlessnesses, a storehouse of Dharmas, and is able to give to all living beings the Great Vehicle Dharma. Not all living beings, however, are able to accept it.
‘舍利弗，以是因缘，当知诸佛方便力故，于一佛乘、分别说三。’ Shariputra, because of these causes and conditions, you should know that the Buddhas, using the power of expedient devices, in the One Buddha Vehicle, discriminate and speak of three.”
The Buddha, wishing to restate his meaning, spoke verses, saying:
譬如长者、 有一大宅， 其宅久故， 而复顿敝，
Suppose there was an Elder, Who had a large house, Which was very old,
And so was collapsing.
堂舍高危， 柱根摧朽， 梁栋倾斜， 基陛隤毁，
The halls were high and precarious,
The pillars rotting at their bases,
The beams and ridgepoles aslant,
The foundations and stairways crumbling.
墙壁圯坼， 泥涂褫落， 覆苫乱坠， 椽梠差脱，
The walls and partitions were cracked and ruined, The plaster flaking and falling off.
The thatch was falling every which way,
And the rafters and eavepoles were coming loose,
周障屈曲， 杂秽充遍。 有五百人， 止住其中。
The partitions on all sides were bent and misshapen; It was filled with all kinds of filth.
There were five hundred people
Dwelling within it.
鸱枭雕鹫、 乌鹊鸠鸽、 蚖蛇蝮蝎， 蜈蚣蚰蜒，
There were kites, owls, hawks, and vultures, Crows, magpies, pigeons, and doves,
Black snakes, vipers and scorpions, Centipedes and millipedes.
守宫百足， 狖狸鼷鼠， 诸恶虫辈， 交横驰走。
There were geckoes and myriapods, Weasels, badgers, and mice–
All sorts of evil creatures,
Running back and forth.
屎尿臭处， 不净流溢， 蜣螂诸虫、 而集其上。
There were places stinking of excrement and urine, Oozing with filth,
With dung beetles
Clustered upon them.
狐狼野干， 咀嚼践蹋， 嚌啮死尸、 骨肉狼藉。
There were foxes, wolves, and Yeh Kan, Who nibbled at, trampled on,
And devoured corpses,
Scattering the bones and flesh.
由是群狗、 竞来搏撮， 饥羸慞惶， 处处求食。 斗诤攎掣， 啀喍嗥吠，
Then packs of dogs
Came running to grab them,
Hungry, weak and terrified, Seeking food everywhere, Fighting and shoving, Snarling, howling and barking.
其舍恐怖， 变状如是。 处处皆有， 魑魅魍魉， 夜叉恶鬼， 食啖人肉，
The terrors in that house,
And the sights were such as these.
Li Mei and Wang Liang Were everywhere. Yakshas and evil ghosts Were eating human flesh.
毒虫之属， 诸恶禽兽， 孚乳产生， 各自藏护。
There were poisonous creatures of all kinds, And evil birds and beasts,
Hatching their young,
Each protecting its own.
夜叉竞来， 争取食之， 食之既饱， 恶心转炽， 斗诤之声， 甚可怖畏。
Yakshas raced to the spot
Fighting one another to eat them.
Having eaten their fill,
Their evil thoughts grew more inflamed. The sound of their quarreling,
Was dreadful to the extreme.
鸠盘荼鬼、 蹲踞土埵， 或时离地， 一尺二尺，
Were squatting on high ground, Sometimes leaving the ground A foot or two,
往返游行， 纵逸嬉戏， 捉狗两足， 扑令失声，
As they wandered to and fro
Amusing themselves as they wished, Grabbing dogs by two legs,
And striking them so they lost their bark,
Twisting their legs around their necks, Frightening the dogs for their own pleasure.
复有诸鬼， 其身长大， 裸形黑瘦， 常住其中， 发大恶声， 叫呼求食。
Further there were ghosts,
Their bodies very tall and large,
Naked, black and thin,
Always dwelling therein, Emitting loud and evil sounds, Howling in search of food.
复有诸鬼， 其咽如针。 复有诸鬼， 首如牛头， 或食人肉， 或复啖狗，
Further there were ghosts
With throats like needles.
Again there were ghosts With heads like oxen, Now eating human flesh, And then devouring dogs.
头发蓬乱， 残害凶险， 饥渴所逼， 叫唤驰走。
Their hair was disheveled
They were harmful, cruel and dangerous, Oppressed by hunger and thirst,
They ran about shouting and crying out.
夜叉饿鬼， 诸恶鸟兽， 饥急四向， 窥看窗牖， 如是诸难， 恐畏无量。
There were yakshas, hungry ghosts,
And all sorts of evil birds and beasts,
Frantic with hunger, facing the four directions, Peeking out the windows,
Such were the troubles
And terrors beyond measure there.
是朽故宅， 属于一人。 其人近出， 未久之间， 于后舍宅， 忽然火起，
This old, decaying house
Belonged to a man
Who had gone but a short distance When, before very long,
The rear rooms of the house Suddenly caught fire.
四面一时， 其炎俱炽。 栋梁椽柱、 爆声震裂， 摧折堕落， 墙壁崩倒。
All at once, all four sides
Were enveloped by raging flames,
The beams, ridgepoles, rafters, and pillars Shook and split with the sound of explosion, Snapped apart and fell,
As the walls and partitions collapsed and fell in.
诸鬼神等、 扬声大叫。 雕鹫诸鸟， 鸠盘荼等， 周章惶怖， 不能自出。
All the ghosts and spirits
While the hawks, vultures, and other birds, The Kumbhandas, and so forth,
Ran about in a panic,
Unable to get themselves out.
恶兽毒虫， 藏窜孔穴， 毗舍阇鬼、 亦住其中，
Evil beasts and poisonous insects Hid away in the holes and crevices, While the pishacha ghosts
Also dwelt therein.
薄福德故， 为火所逼， 共相残害， 饮血啖肉。
Their blessings and virtue scanty, They were hard pressed by the fire; They wrought harm on one another, Drinking blood and eating flesh.
野干之属， 并已前死， 诸大恶兽、 竞来食啖，
As the packs of Yeh Kan Were already dead, Monstrous evil beasts Raced to devour them,
While billows of stinking smoke Permeated all four sides.
蜈蚣蚰蜒， 毒蛇之类， 为火所烧， 争走出穴， 鸠盘荼鬼、 随取而食。
Centipedes and millipedes,
And various kinds of poisonous snakes,
Burnt by the fire,
Fought to escape their holes. Kumbhanda ghosts
Grabbed and ate them.
又诸饿鬼， 头上火燃， 饥渴热恼， 周章闷走。
Further, all the hungry ghosts,
The tops of their heads aflame, Tormented by hunger, thirst, and heat, Ran about in terror and distress.
其宅如是、 甚可怖畏， 毒害火灾， 众难非一。
So it was in that house:
Terrifying to the extreme,
With dangers and conflagrations– A host of troubles, not just one.
是时宅主、 在门外立， 闻有人言， 汝诸子等，
At that time the owner of the house Was standing outside the door When he heard someone say,
“All of your children
先因游戏、 来入此宅， 稚小无知， 欢娱乐著。
Awhile ago, in play,
Went into this house.
Being young and ignorant,
They delight in play and cling to amusements.”
Having heard this, the Elder
Entered the burning house, in alarm.
方宜救济， 令无烧害。 告喻诸子， 说众患难，
Intending to save them From being burned
He warned his children Of the host of disasters:
恶鬼毒虫， 灾火蔓延， 众苦次第、 相续不绝。
“The evil ghosts, the poisonous insects and the spreading conflagration,
A host of sufferings, in succession
Are continuous, without interruption.
毒蛇蚖蝮， 及诸夜叉、 鸠盘荼鬼， 野干狐狗，
The poisonous snakes and vipers And all the yakshas,
And Kumbhanda ghosts,
Yeh Kan, foxes and dogs,
雕鹫鸱枭， 百足之属， 饥渴恼急， 甚可怖畏，
Hawks, vultures, kites and owls, And varieties of centipedes
Are frantic with hunger and thirst, And terrifying to the extreme.
此苦难处， 况复大火。 诸子无知， 虽闻父诲， 犹故乐著， 嬉戏不已。
There are so many sufferings and troubles,
So much increased by this great fire!”
But all the children, without knowledge, Although they heard their father’s warnings, Still clung to their amusements
And sported without cease.
是时长者， 而作是念， 诸子如此， 益我愁恼。
At that time, the Elder Further had this thought: “Being like this, my children Add to my worry and distress;
今此舍宅， 无一可乐， 而诸子等、 耽湎嬉戏，
Now, in this house, there is not
A single thing in which to take pleasure, And yet all these children
Are intoxicated by their play.
不受我教， 将为火害。 即便思惟， 设诸方便、
Not heeding my instructions, They will be injured in the fire.” Just then he thought
To devise expedients.
告诸子等， 我有种种， 珍玩之具， 妙宝好车，
He said to the children,
I have all kinds
Of precious playthings:
Fine carriages, wonderful, bejeweled
羊车鹿车、 大牛之车， 今在门外。 汝等出来，
Sheep carts and deer carts, And great ox carts,
Now, right outside the door. So come out, all of you,
吾为汝等 造作此车， 随意所乐， 可以游戏。
For I have, just for you, Had these carts made. Just as you wish,
You can play with them.”
诸子闻说， 如此诸车， 即时奔竞、 驰走而出， 到于空地， 离诸苦难。
When the children heard him speak
Of carriages such as these,
They immediately raced
Out in a scramble,
To a clearing where
They were then safe from harm.
长者见子， 得出火宅， 住于四衢， 坐师子座、
The Elder, seeing that his children Had escaped the burning house,
And were standing at the crossroads, Sat on his Lion’s throne
而自庆言， 我今快乐。 此诸子等， 生育甚难，
And rejoiced to himself, saying,
“Now, I am happy!
All of these children
Were hard to bring into the world and raise;
愚小无知， 而入险宅。 多诸毒虫， 魑魅可畏，
Stupid, young and without knowledge, They went into this dangerous house, Swarming with poisonous insects
And fearful Li Mei ghosts,
大火猛炎、 四面俱起， 而此诸子、 贪著嬉戏，
Ablaze with a great fire,
Raging on all sides.
But all these children
Still clung to their amusements.
我已救之， 令得脱难。 是故诸人， 我今快乐。
I have now rescued them
And saved them from disaster. Therefore, of all people,
I am the happiest!”
尔时诸子、 知父安坐， 皆诣父所、 而白父言，
Then, all the children,
Knowing their father was sitting at ease, All went before him
And addressed him saying,
愿赐我等， 三种宝车。 如前所许， 诸子出来，
“Please give to us
The three jeweled carts
That you promised to us, saying, ‘If you children come out
– 41 –
当以三车、 随汝所欲， 今正是时， 惟垂给与。
I will give you three carts Just like you wanted.’ Now the time has come, Please give them to us!”
长者大富， 库藏众多， 金银琉璃、 砗磲玛瑙，
The Elder, having great wealth, And storehouses containing much Gold, silver and lapis lazuli, Mother-of-pearl and carnelian,
以众宝物、 造诸大车。 庄校严饰， 周匝栏楯，
Used these precious things
To make several great carts.
They were decorated and adorned, Surrounded by railings,
四面悬铃， 金绳交络。 真珠罗网， 张施其上，
Hung with bells on all four sides,
With golden cords strung about them, And gem-studded nets
Spread above them.
金华诸璎， 处处垂下， 众彩杂饰， 周匝围绕，
There were golden flowered tassels Hanging from them everywhere,
And various multi-colored ornaments Encircling them.
柔软缯纩， 以为茵蓐。 上妙细叠， 价值千亿， 鲜白净洁， 以覆其上。
Soft silk and cotton
Made up the cushions,
And fine coverings,
Valued in the thousands of millions, Pure white and sparkling clean Were spread atop them.
有大白牛， 肥壮多力， 形体姝好， 以驾宝车。
Great white oxen,
Plump, strong and powerful,
Of fine appearance,
Were yoked to the precious carts.
多诸傧从， 而侍卫之。 以是妙车， 等赐诸子。
They were surrounded by many footmen Who were attending to them.
Such fine carriages as these
Were given equally to all the children.
诸子是时， 欢喜踊跃， 乘是宝车， 游于四方， 嬉戏快乐， 自在无碍。
Then all the children
Danced for joy;
They mounted their jeweled carts And rode off into the four directions, Happily amusing themselves
In unobstructed comfort.
告舍利弗， 我亦如是， 众圣中尊， 世间之父。
I tell you, Shariputra,
I am like this, too,
The honored among many sages, The father of the worlds.
一切众生， 皆是吾子， 深著世乐， 无有慧心。
All living beings
Are my children;
Deeply attached to worldly pleasures, They have no wise thoughts at all.
三界无安， 犹如火宅， 众苦充满， 甚可怖畏， 常有生老 病死忧患， 如是等火， 炽燃不息。 In the three realms there is no peace;
They are like a burning house
filled with many sufferings,
And frightening indeed.
Ever present are the woes
Of birth, old age, sickness, death, Fires such as these,
Raging without cease.
如来已离， 三界火宅， 寂然闲居， 安处林野。
The Thus Come One has already left
The three realms’ burning house behind. Quietly I dwell at ease,
In forest and field at peace.
今此三界， 皆是我有， 其中众生， 悉是吾子。
And now it is, that the three realms, Entirely belong to me,
And in them all the living beings Are children of mine.
而今此处， 多诸患难， 唯我一人， 能为救护。
But now, this place
Is filled with calamities, And I am the only one Able to rescue them.
虽复教诏， 而不信受， 于诸欲染， 贪著深故。
Although I instructed them,
They do not believe or accept,
Because of their deep attachment and greed To all the defiling desires.
以是方便， 为说三乘， 令诸众生， 知三界苦，
Using these expedients,
I speak to them of three vehicles,
Causing all living beings
To understand the pain of the three realms,
开示演说、 出世间道。 是诸子等， 若心决定，
I reveal and extensively proclaim
The Way which transcends the world. All of these children,
If they fix their minds,
Can perfect the three clarities And the six spiritual powers.
Some shall become conditioned-enlightened ones, And others irreversible Bodhisattvas.
汝舍利弗， 我为众生， 以此譬喻、 说一佛乘，
I, for living beings,
Speak this parable
Of the One Buddha Vehicle.
汝等若能、 信受是语， 一切皆当， 成得佛道。
If all of you are able
To believe and accept these words, You shall, in the future,
Realize the Buddha Way.
是乘微妙、 清净第一， 于诸世间、 为无有上，
This vehicle is subtle and wonderful, Pure and foremost.
In all the worlds
It is the most supreme.
佛所悦可， 一切众生、 所应称赞、 供养礼拜。
The Buddhas rejoice in it,
And all living beings
Should praise it as well.
Make offerings and bow before it.
无量亿千、 诸力解脱， 禅定智慧， 及佛余法， 得如是乘。
Limitless Thousands of Millions
Of powers and liberations,
Dhyana samadis and wisdom,
And the Buddhas’ other Dharmas Are obtained in a vehicle such as this.
令诸子等， 日夜劫数、 常得游戏， 与诸菩萨、 及声闻众， 乘此宝乘， 直至道场。 I cause all my children,
Night and day for many aeons,
Ever to amuse themselves
In the company of the Bodhisattvas
And the host of Hearers,
Riding this precious vehicle
Straight to the field of the Way.
以是因缘， 十方谛求， 更无余乘， 除佛方便。
For these reasons,
Though they seek in the ten directions, There is no other vehicle,
Except for the Buddhas’ expedients.
告舍利弗， 汝诸人等， 皆是吾子， 我则是父。
I tell you, Shariputra, That all of you
Are my children, And I am your father.
汝等累劫、 众苦所烧， 我皆济拔， 令出三界。
For many aeons, you
Have been burned by many miseries, And I have saved you all,
Leading you out of the triple realm.
我虽先说、 汝等灭度， 但尽生死， 而实不灭， 今所应作， 唯佛智慧。
Although earlier I said
That you had passed into Quiescence,
It was only an end to birth and death And not real Quiescence.
What you should accomplish now,
Is nothing but the Buddhas’ wisdom.
若有菩萨， 于是众中， 能一心听、 诸佛实法，
If there are Bodhisattvas
Within this assembly,
They can singlemindedly listen to The Buddha’s real Dharma.
诸佛世尊、 虽以方便， 所化众生， 皆是菩萨。
Although the Buddhas, World Honored Ones, Employ expedient devices,
The living beings they transform
All are Bodhisattvas.
若人小智， 深著爱欲， 为此等故、 说于苦谛。
If there are those of little wisdom, Deeply attached to love and desire, For their sakes
I teach the truth of suffering.
众生心喜， 得未曾有， 佛说苦谛， 真实无异。
Living beings then rejoice
Gaining what they never had,
For the Buddha’s Teaching of suffering’s truth is true, real and not false.
若有众生， 不知苦本， 深著苦因， 不能暂舍， 为是等故、 方便说道。 诸苦所因，贪欲为本， If there are living beings,
Who do not know the origin of suffering,
Who are deeply attached to the cause of suffering, Unable to leave if for even a moment,
For their sakes, I expediently speak of the Way, The cause of all suffering
Is rooted in desire.
若灭贪欲， 无所依止， 灭尽诸苦， 名第三谛。
If one extinguishes greed and desire, Suffering has nothing to rest upon. The extinction of all suffering
Is called the third truth.
为灭谛故， 修行于道， 离诸苦缚， 名得解脱。
For the sake of the truth of Quiescence, One cultivates the Way;
Leaving all suffering’s bonds
Is called the attainment of liberation.
是人于何 而得解脱， 但离虚妄， 名为解脱，
From what is it
That these people have been liberated? The mere separation from the false
Is called liberation.
其实未得、 一切解脱。 佛说是人、 未实灭度， 斯人未得， 无上道故，
In reality they have not yet
Attained total liberation.
The Buddha says that these people Have not yet truly reached Quiescence, Because they have not yet attained The Unsurpassed Way.
我意不欲、 令至灭度。 我为法王， 于法自在， 安隐众生， 故现于世。
It is not my wish
To lead them to Quiescence.
I am the Dharma King,
At ease within all the Dharmas.
I manifest within this world
To bring peace and tranquility to living beings.
汝舍利弗， 我此法印， 为欲利益， 世间故说， 在所游方， 勿妄宣传。
Shariputra! This Dharma Seal of mine
Is spoken because I wish to benefit the world. Wherever you roam, do not propagate it wrongly.
若有闻者， 随喜顶受， 当知是人、 阿鞞跋致。
If there be those who hear it,
And rejoice, receiving it atop their crowns, You should know that such people
若有信受， 此经法者， 是人已曾， 见过去佛，
Those who believe and accept The Dharma of this Sutra, These people have already seen The Buddhas of the past,
Reverently making offerings, And hearing this Dharma as well.
若人有能， 信汝所说， 则为见我， 亦见于汝、 及比丘僧、 并诸菩萨。
Those who are able
To believe what you say,
They then see me,
And they see you,
And also the Bhikshusangha, As well as all the Bodhisattvas.
斯法华经， 为深智说， 浅识闻之， 迷惑不解，
This Sutra of the Dharma Flower
Is spoken for those of profound wisdom;
When those of shallow understanding hear it, Confused and deluded, they fail to understand it.
一切声闻、及辟支佛， 于此经中， 力所不及。
The Hearers, every one,
And the Pratyeka Buddhas, Find the contents of this Sutra Far beyond their powers.
汝舍利弗，尚于此经、 以信得入， 况余声闻。
Gained entry to this Sutra
By means of faith.
How much the more so other Hearers.
其余声闻， 信佛语故， 随顺此经， 非己智分。
Because of their faith in the Buddha’s words, Comply with this Sutra.
But it is beyond the range of their own wisdom.
又舍利弗， 憍慢懈怠、 计我见者， 莫说此经。
To the arrogant and lazy
And those who reckon the view of self, Do not speak this Sutra.
凡夫浅识， 深著五欲， 闻不能解， 亦勿为说。
Common folk of shallow understanding, Deeply attached to the five desires, Hearing it, will fail to understand;
Do not speak it to them, either.
若人不信， 毁谤此经， 则断一切， 世间佛种。
If there be those who do not believe, And who slander this Sutra,
They thereby sever all
Worldly Buddha seeds.
或复颦蹙， 而怀疑惑， 汝当听说， 此人罪报。 若佛在世， 若灭度后，
Or if, with a scowl,
They harbor doubts and delusions
You should listen now,
As I speak of their offense-retribution: Whether a Buddha is in the world,
Or has entered into Quiescence.
其有诽谤， 如斯经典， 见有读诵、 书持经者，
If there be those who slander
A Sutra such as this one,
Who, seeing others read or recite it, Copy it out or uphold it,
轻贱憎嫉、 而怀结恨， 此人罪报， 汝今复听，
Scorn, despise, hate and envy them, And harbor grudges against them, As to their offense retribution, Listen now, once again:
其人命终， 入阿鼻狱， 具足一劫， 劫尽更生，
These people at life’s end
Will enter the Avichi Hell
For an entire aeon.
At the aeon’s end, born there again,
如是展转， 至无数劫， 从地狱出， 当堕畜生，
In this way they will revolve,
Through uncountable aeons.
When they escape from the hells, They shall take the bodies of animals,
若狗野干， 其影贏瘦， 黧黮疥癞， 人所触娆， Such as dogs or Yeh Kan,
Tall and emaciated,
Mottled, black and scabbed,
Repulsive to others.
又复为人， 之所恶贱， 常困饥渴， 骨肉枯竭，
Further, by human beings,
They will be hated and scorned;
Always suffering from hunger and thirst, Their bones and flesh will be withered up.
生受楚毒， 死被瓦石， 断佛种故， 受斯罪报。
During their lives they will be pricked by poisonous thorns; When dead they will be buried under tiles and stones. They suffer this offense retribution,
Because they have severed their Buddha seeds.
若作骆驼， 或生驴中， 身常负重， 加诸杖捶， 但念水草， 余无所知，
They may become camels
Or they may be born among asses,
Always carrying heavy burdens And beaten with sticks and whips, Thinking only of water and grass, And knowing nothing else.
谤斯经故， 获罪如是。 有作野干， 来入聚落，
They suffer retribution such as this Because of slandering this Sutra. Some may become Yeh Kan, Entering villages,
身体疥癞， 又无一目， 为诸童子 之所打掷，
Their bodies covered with scabs and sores, And also missing an eye,
Beaten and stoned
By young children,
Undergoing all this pain, Even to the point of death.
于此死已， 更受蟒身， 其形长大， 五百由旬，
Having died in this manner
They are then reborn as huge serpents, Their bodies as long
As five hundred yojanas.
聋騃无足， 宛转腹行， 为诸小虫， 之所咂食，
Deaf and stupid, without feet,
They writhe about on their stomachs, Stung and eaten
By many small insects.
– 55 –
昼夜受苦， 无有休息， 谤斯经故， 获罪如是。
Undergoing suffering day and night Without respite,
They suffer such retribution
For having slandered this Sutra.
若得为人， 诸根闇钝， 矬陋挛躄， 盲聋背伛，
If they become humans,
All their faculties are dim and dull. They are squat, ugly, palsied, lame, Blind, deaf and hunchbacked.
有所言说， 人不信受， 口气常臭， 鬼魅所著，
Whatever they may say,
People will not believe them. Their breath ever stinking,
They will be possessed by ghosts,
贫穷下贱， 为人所使， 多病痟瘦， 无所依怙，
Poor and lowly,
The servants of others, Always sick and emaciated, With no one to rely upon.
虽亲附人， 人不在意， 若有所得， 寻复忘失。
Although they may draw near to others, Others will never think of them.
If they should gain something
They will quickly forget and lose it.
若修医道， 顺方治病， 更增他疾， 或复致死。
Should they study the ways of medicine, Following the prescription to cure illness, They will only make other’s illnesses worse. Even to the point of death.
若自有病， 无人救疗， 设服良药， 而复增剧。
If they get sick themselves,
No one will try to save or cure them. Although they take good medicine, It will only increase their pains.
若他反逆、 抄劫窃盗， 如是等罪， 横罗其殃。
If they meet with rebellion,
They will be plundered and robbed.
People with such offenses,
Will perversely be subject to such misfortunes,
如斯罪人， 永不见佛， 众圣之王， 说法教化，
Offenders such as these
Will never see the Buddha,
The King among the sagely hosts,
Speaking the Dharma, teaching and transforming.
如斯罪人， 常生难处， 狂聋心乱， 永不闻法。
Offenders such as these
Will always be born in difficult circumstances. Insane, deaf, with mind confused,
They will never hear the Dharma.
于无数劫、 如恒河沙， 生辄聋哑， 诸根不具、
Throughout aeons as countless
As the Ganges river’s sands,
They will be born deaf and dumb, With all their faculties incomplete;
常处地狱， 如游园观， 在余恶道， 如己舍宅，
They will always dwell in the hells,
Roaming there as if in pleasure gardens,
Or born in the other evil paths,
Which they will take as their house and home.
驼驴猪狗、 是其行处， 谤斯经故， 获罪如是。
Among camels, asses, pigs and dogs– These are the places they will walk, They undergo such retribution, Because of slandering this Sutra.
若得为人， 聋盲喑哑、 贫穷诸衰、 以自庄严，
If they become humans,
They will be deaf, blind and dumb, Poor and decrepit,
Yet adorning themselves therewith.
水肿干痟、 疥癞痈疽、 如是等病， 以为衣服， 身常臭处， 垢秽不净，
Swollen with water, or else dehydrated,
With scabs and boils,
And other such illnesses, They will clothe themselves. Their bodies will always stink Of filth and impurity.
深著我见， 增益嗔恚， 淫欲炽盛， 不择禽兽， 谤斯经故， 获罪如是。
Deeply attached to the view of self,
Their hatred shall only increase.
Ablaze with sexual desire,
They are no different than birds or beasts. They will suffer such retribution
For having slandered this Sutra.
告舍利弗， 谤斯经者， 若说其罪， 穷劫不尽。
I tell you, Shariputra,
Were I to speak of the offenses
Of those who slander this Sutra,
I would not finish to the end of an aeon.
以是因缘， 我故语汝， 无智人中， 莫说此经。
For these reasons,
I expressly tell you,
Do not speak this Sutra
Among those who have no wisdom.
若有利根， 智慧明了， 多闻强识， 求佛道者， 如是之人， 乃可为说。
If there are those with keen faculties,
And wisdom which clearly comprehends,
With much learning and a strong memory, Who seek the Buddha’s Path,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.
– 59 –
若人曾见， 亿百千佛， 植诸善本， 深心坚固， 如是之人， 乃可为说。
If there are those who have seen in the past Hundreds of thousands of millions of Buddhas, Who have planted wholesome roots,
Who have deep and firm minds, For people such as these,
You may speak it.
若人精进， 常修慈心， 不惜身命， 乃可为说。
If there are those who are vigorous, Ever cultivating minds of compassion, Not sparing body or life,
For them you may speak it.
若人恭敬， 无有异心， 离诸凡愚， 独处山泽， 如是之人， 乃可为说。
If there are those who are reverent,
Without any other thoughts,
Who have left the common stupid folk,
Who dwell alone in mountains and marshes, For people such as these
You may speak it.
又舍利弗， 若见有人， 舍恶知识， 亲近善友， 如是之人， 乃可为说。
If you see people
Who have cast aside bad knowing advisors, And draw near to good friends,
For people such as these,
You may speak it.
若见佛子， 持戒清洁， 如净明珠， 求大乘经， 如是之人， 乃可为说。
If you see disciples of the Buddha,
Holding precepts as purely,
As pure, bright jewels,
Seeking Great Vehicle Sutra
For people such as these, You may speak it.
若人无嗔， 质直柔软， 常愍一切， 恭敬诸佛， 如是之人， 乃可为说。
If there are those who have no hatred,
Who are straightforward and gentle,
Always merciful to all beings, And reverent of all Buddhas, For people such as these, You may speak it.
复有佛子， 于大众中， 以清净心， 种种因缘、
Further, if there are Buddha’s disciples, Who in the great assembly,
With minds clear and pure,
Use various causal conditions,
譬喻言辞、 说法无碍， 如是之人， 乃可为说。
Parables and phrases,
To speak the Dharma without obstruction, For people such as these,
You may speak it.
若有比丘， 为一切智， 四方求法， 合掌顶受，
If there are Bhikshus,
Who, for the sake of all-wisdom,
Seek the Dharma in the four directions,
With palms together, receiving it atop the crown,
但乐受持， 大乘经典， 乃至不受， 余经一偈，
Who delight only in receiving and upholding The canon of Great Vehicle Sutras,
Refusing to accept so much
As a single line from another scripture,
For people such as these, You may speak it.
如人至心， 求佛舍利， 如是求经， 得已顶受，
If there be those who, with mind intent,
Seek the Buddha’s sharira,
Or who likewise seek the Sutras,
And attaining them hold them atop their crowns,
其人不复， 志求余经， 亦未曾念， 外道典籍，
Such people will never again Resolve to seek other Sutras,
Nor ever have the thought
To seek the writings of outside ways,
For people such as these, You may speak it.
告舍利弗， 我说是相， 求佛道者、 穷劫不尽，
I tell you, Shariputra,
Were I to speak of the characteristics Of those who seek the Buddha’s Path, Exhausting aeons, I would not finish.
如是等人， 则能信解， 汝当为说， 妙法华经。
People such as these
Can believe and understand,
And for their sake you should speak
The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
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Author | Buddha Weekly
Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
Lee also contributes as a writer to various other online magazines and blogs.