Expedient Means — the Lotus Sutra’s Essence Chapter (Chapter 2) 妙法莲华经 translated by Venerable Master Hsuang Hua
Editors Note — 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 2 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.
At the request of the City of 10000 Buddhas, we are publishing the great Master Venerable Hsuang Hua’s English translation of the Lotus Sutra — a magnificent and meritorious deed. Venerable Hsuang Hua dedicated his life to the translation and preservation of sutra.
“The work of translating the Sutras is sacred work, and it will last for endless generations. We are common people doing the work of sages. Not only is this our duty, it is also very meaningful, for we can benefit others and establish merit. In the past, the kings and emperors used their imperial authority and the strength of the government to carry out the translation of the Sutras. Now we are merely using our strength as ordinary citizens. If we can produce some results, I believe the national leaders will also become involved in this work in the future. Right now, we must first lay a foundation. We must first gather strength among the people.”
Even so, the Venerable Master never thought of himself as having initiated some greatly meritorious endeavor. Instead, he humbly said,
“I’m just a worker who sweeps the ground and levels the road for everyone. In the future, there will be others who can lay the gravel and pour on the asphalt. Right now, we can do the work that nobody wants to do, the work that no one dares to do. Bit by bit, we will open up this road of the Buddhadharma.”
We will publish this translation chapter by chapter for the benefit of all sentient beings.
Translation to Chinese.
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.
Expedient Devices Chapter 2
Expedient Devices – Chapter 2
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,
世雄不可量， 诸天及世人、 一切众生类， 无能知佛者。
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.
佛力无所畏、 解脱诸三昧， 及佛诸余法， 无能测量者。
The Buddhas’ powers, fearlessnesses, Liberations and samadhis,
And other dharmas of the Buddhas Can be fathomed by no one.
本从无数佛， 具足行诸道， 甚深微妙法， 难见难可了。
Formerly, following countless Buddhas,
I perfectly walked all the paths
Of the wonderful Dharma, subtle and deep, Hard to see and hard to understand;
于无量亿劫， 行此诸道已， 道场得成果， 我已悉知见。
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.
如是大果报， 种种性相义， 我及十方佛， 乃能知是事。
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.
是法不可示， 言辞相寂灭， 诸余众生类， 无有能得解， 除诸菩萨众、 信力坚固者。
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.
诸佛弟子众， 曾供养诸佛， 一切漏已尽， 住是最后身， 如是诸人等， 其力所不堪。
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.
假使满世间， 皆如舍利弗， 尽思共度量， 不能测佛智。
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.
正使满十方、 皆如舍利弗， 及余诸弟子、 亦满十方刹， 尽思共度量， 亦复不能知。
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.
辟支佛利智， 无漏最后身， 亦满十方界， 其数如竹林， 斯等共一心，
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,
于亿无量劫、 欲思佛实智， 莫能知少分。 新发意菩萨， 供养无数佛，
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,
了达诸义趣， 又能善说法， 如稻麻竹苇， 充满十方刹，
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,
一心以妙智， 于恒河沙劫、 咸皆共思量， 不能知佛智。
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.
不退诸菩萨， 其数如恒沙， 一心共思求， 亦复不能知。
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.
又告舍利弗， 无漏不思议、 甚深微妙法， 我今已具得， 唯我知是相， 十方佛亦然。
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.
舍利弗当知， 诸佛语无异， 于佛所说法， 当生大信力， 世尊法久后， 要当说真实。
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.
告诸声闻众、 及求缘觉乘， 我令脱苦缚， 逮得涅盘者，
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.
佛以方便力， 示以三乘教， 众生处处著， 引之令得出。
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.
尔时大众中，有诸声闻漏尽阿罗汉阿若憍陈如、等，千二百人，及 发声闻辟支佛心、比丘、比丘尼、优婆塞、优婆夷，各作是念: 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.’
佛说一解脱义，我等亦得此法，到于涅盘，而今不知是义所趋。’ 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?” 尔时舍利弗欲重宣此义，而说偈言:
At that time, Shariputra, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying,
慧日大圣尊， 久乃说是法， 自说得如是 禅定解脱等， 不可思议法。
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.
道场所得法， 无能发问者。 我意难可测， 亦无能问者。
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.
无问而自说， 称叹所行道， 智慧甚微妙， 诸佛之所得。
So you speak unasked,
Praising the path you have walked And that wisdom fine and subtle, Attained by all the Buddhas.
无漏诸罗汉、 及求涅盘者， 今皆堕疑网， 佛何故说是。
All the Arhats, without outflows, And those who seek Nirvana, Have fallen into a net of doubts. “Why has the Buddha said this?”
其求缘觉者、 比丘比丘尼、 诸天龙鬼神、 及乾闼婆等，
Those who seek Condition Enlightenment, The Bhikshus, the Bhikshunis,
Gods, dragons, ghosts, and spirits, Gandharvas and others,
相视怀犹豫， 瞻仰两足尊， 是事为云何， 愿佛为解说。
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.”
于诸声闻众， 佛说我第一。 我今自于智、 疑惑不能了， 为是究竟法， 为是所行道。
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?
佛口所生子， 合掌瞻仰待， 愿出微妙音， 时为如实说。
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.
诸天龙神等， 其数如恒沙， 求佛诸菩萨， 大数有八万，
The gods, dragons, spirits, and others Their numbers like the Ganges’ sands, Bodhisattvas seeking Buddhahood, Numbering a full eighty thousand,
又诸万亿国、 转轮圣王至， 合掌以敬心， 欲闻具足道。
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.
尔时佛告舍利弗: ‘止，止，不须复说。 若说是事，一切世间诸天、及人、皆当惊疑。’
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:
法王无上尊， 惟说愿勿虑。 是会无量众， 有能敬信者。
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,
止止不须说， 我法妙难思， 诸增上慢者， 闻必不敬信。
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.
尔时舍利弗重白佛言:‘世尊，惟愿说之，惟愿说之。今此会中， 如我等比、百千万亿，世世已曾从佛受化。如此人等，必能敬信， 长夜安隐，多所饶益。’
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:
无上两足尊， 愿说第一法， 我为佛长子， 惟垂分别说。
Supreme and Doubly Honored One. Pray speak the foremost Dharma.
I, the Buddha’s eldest disciple, Wish you will but speak it in detail.
是会无量众， 能敬信此法， 佛已曾世世， 教化如是等，
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.
皆一心合掌， 欲听受佛语。 我等千二百、 及余求佛者，
With one mind, with palms joined, We all wish to hear the Buddha speak. Twelve hundred of us there are,
And more, seeking Buddhahood.
愿为此众故， 惟垂分别说。 是等闻此法， 则生大欢喜。
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.”
舍利弗，是为诸佛以一大事因缘故、出现于世。’ “Shariputra, these are the causes and conditions of the one great matter for which all the Buddhas appear in the world.”
– 16 –
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.”
舍利弗，未来诸佛、当出于世，亦以无量无数方便、种种因缘、譬 喻言辞、而为众生演说诸法，是法、皆为一佛乘故。 是诸众生，从佛闻法，究竟皆得一切种智。
“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.
舍利弗，现在十方无量百千万亿佛土中、诸佛世尊，多所饶益、安 乐众生，是诸佛、亦以无量无数方便、种种因缘、譬喻言辞、而为 众生演说诸法，是法、皆为一佛乘故。是诸众生，从佛闻法，究竟 皆得一切种智。
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.”
– 18 –
“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.”
‘又、舍利弗，是诸比丘、比丘尼、自谓已得阿罗汉，是最后身， 究竟涅盘，便不复志求阿耨多罗三藐三菩提，当知此辈皆是增上慢 人。
“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.”
– 20 –
“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.”
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate his meaning, spoke verses, saying,
比丘比丘尼， 有怀增上慢， 优婆塞我慢， 优婆夷不信，
Those Bhikshus and Bhikshunis, Who harbor overweening pride. The arrogant Upasakas, Upasikas who do not believe,
如是四众等， 其数有五千， 不自见其过， 于戒有缺漏，
In the fourfold host, such ones as these, Numbering five thousand strong…
Who do not see their own mistakes, Deficient in morality,
护惜其瑕疵。 是小智已出， 众中之糟糠， 佛威德故去，
And guarding imperfections,
Those of paltry wisdom have left;
The chaff within the multitude is gone, Thanks to the Buddha’s awesome virtue.
斯人鲜福德， 不堪受是法。 此众无枝叶， 唯有诸贞实。
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.
舍利弗善听， 诸佛所得法， 无量方便力， 而为众生说。
Shariputra, listen well:
The Dharma obtained by the Buddhas,
Is spoken for living beings
Through the power of limitless expedients,
众生心所念， 种种所行道， 若干诸欲性， 先世善恶业。
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,
佛悉知是已， 以诸缘譬喻、 言辞方便力， 令一切欢喜。
The Buddha knows them all thoroughly. Using conditions, analogies, Expressions, and powerful expedients,
I cause them to rejoice.
或说修多罗、 伽陀及本事、 本生未曾有。 亦说于因缘、 譬喻并只夜、 优波提舍经。
I may speak the Sutras,
Gathas, or past events,
Of former lives, the unprecedented, Causes and conditions,
Analogies or geyas,
Or the upadesha texts.
– 22 –
钝根乐小法， 贪著于生死， 于诸无量佛， 不行深妙道， 众苦所恼乱， 为是说涅盘。
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.
我设是方便， 令得入佛慧， 未曾说汝等、 当得成佛道。
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.”
所以未曾说， 说时未至故， 今正是其时， 决定说大乘。
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.
我此九部法， 随顺众生说， 入大乘为本， 以故说是经。
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,
无量诸佛所， 而行深妙道。 为此诸佛子， 说是大乘经。
Who, under countless Buddhas,
Have walked the deep and wondrous Path, I speak the Sutra of the Great Vehicle.
For such disciples of Buddha
我记如是人， 来世成佛道， 以深心念佛， 修持净戒故。
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.
此等闻得佛， 大喜充遍身， 佛知彼心行， 故为说大乘。
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.
声闻若菩萨， 闻我所说法， 乃至于一偈， 皆成佛无疑。
If Hearers or Bodhisattvas,
Hear this Dharma that I speak,
Be it but a single verse,
They will become Buddhas, without a doubt.
十方佛土中， 唯有一乘法， 无二亦无三。
In the Buddhalands of the ten directions, There is only the Dharma of One Vehicle; There are not two or three,
除佛方便说， 但以假名字， 引导于众生， 说佛智慧故。
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.
诸佛出于世， 唯此一事实， 余二则非真， 终不以小乘、 济度于众生。
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.
佛自住大乘， 如其所得法、 定慧力庄严， 以此度众生。
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.
自证无上道， 大乘平等法， 若以小乘化、 乃至于一人， 我则堕悭贪， 此事为不可。
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.
若人信归佛， 如来不欺诳， 亦无贪嫉意， 断诸法中恶。 故佛于十方， 而独无所畏。
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.
我以相严身， 光明照世间， 无量众所尊， 为说实相印。
My body adorned with marks,
I brilliantly illumine the world. Revered by countless multitudes I speak the Seal of the Real Mark.
舍利弗当知， 我本立誓愿， 欲令一切众、 如我等无异。
Shariputra, you should know, That in the past I took a vow, Wishing to lead the multitudes, To be identical with me.
如我昔所愿， 今者已满足， 化一切众生， 皆令入佛道。
That vow, made long ago,
Now has been perfectly fulfilled, For I have transformed all beings, Leading them into the Buddha Path.
若我遇众生， 尽教以佛道， 无智者错乱， 迷惑不受教。
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.
我知此众生， 未曾修善本， 坚著于五欲， 痴爱故生恼。
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.
以诸欲因缘， 坠堕三恶道， 轮回六趣中， 备受诸苦毒，
Because of all their desires,
They fall into the three evil paths,
They turn on the wheel in the six destinies, Suffering utter misery.
受胎之微形， 世世常增长。 薄德少福人， 众苦所逼迫，
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,
入邪见稠林， 若有若无等。 依止此诸见， 具足六十二，
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.
深著虚妄法， 坚受不可舍， 我慢自矜高， 谄曲心不实，
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.
于千万亿劫、 不闻佛名字， 亦不闻正法， 如是人难度。
Throughout ten billion eons,
They never hear the Buddha’s name, Nor do they hear the proper Dharma. Such people are difficult to save.
是故舍利弗， 我为设方便， 说诸尽苦道， 示之以涅盘。 我虽说涅盘， 是亦非真灭，
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.
诸法从本来， 常自寂灭相。 佛子行道已， 来世得作佛，
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.
我有方便力， 开示三乘法。 一切诸世尊， 皆说一乘道，
I possess the power of expedients,
And demonstrate the Dharma of Three Vehicles. All the World Honored Ones,
Speak the Dharma of One Vehicle.
今此诸大众， 皆应除疑惑， 诸佛语无异， 唯一无二乘。
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.
过去无数劫， 无量灭度佛， 百千万亿种， 其数不可量。
Throughout countless eons in the past,
Innumerable extinct Buddhas,
Hundreds of thousand of myriads of millions of them, A number beyond all calculation,
如是诸世尊， 种种缘譬喻， 无数方便力， 演说诸法相。
World Honored Ones such as these, Used various conditions, analogies, And the power of countless expedients, To proclaim the marks of all dharmas.
是诸世尊等， 皆说一乘法， 化无量众生， 令入于佛道。
All of those World Honored Ones, Spoke the Dharma of One Vehicle, Transforming beings without limit, Leading them to the Buddha Path.
又诸大圣主， 知一切世间、 天人群生类， 深心之所欲，
Further, all great Sagely Lords,
Know the deep desires in the hearts
Of all the gods, humans, and other beings Within all the worlds.
更以异方便， 助显第一义。 若有众生类， 值诸过去佛，
Using different expedients,
Which help to reveal the foremost principle. If there are living beings
Who have met with Buddhas in the past
– 29 –
若闻法布施， 或持戒忍辱、 精进禅智等， 种种修福慧。
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.
诸佛灭度已， 若人善软心， 如是诸众生， 皆已成佛道。
When those Buddhas have become extinct If there are those with compliant hearts, Beings such as these
Have attained the Buddha Way.
诸佛灭度已， 供养舍利者， 起万亿种塔， 金银及玻璃、
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,
砗磲与玛瑙、 玫瑰琉璃珠， 清净广严饰， 庄校于诸塔。
Rose quartz, lapis lazuli, and other gems, Clear, pure and most ornate,
Worked to grace the stupas,
或有起石庙， 栴檀及沉水， 木蜜并余材， 塼瓦泥土等。
Or should there be those who have built temples Out of stone, chandana, or aloeswood,
Hovenia, or other timbers,
Bricks, clay, and the like,
若于旷野中， 积土成佛庙。 乃至童子戏， 聚沙为佛塔。
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.
若人为佛故， 建立诸形像， 刻雕成众相， 皆已成佛道。
Those who, for the Buddhas, Have erected images,
Carving all their myriads of marks, Have realized the Buddha Way.
或以七宝成， 鋀石赤白铜、 白镴及铅锡， 铁木及与泥，
They may have used the seven gems, Or bronze or copper, white or red, Wax, lead, or tin,
Iron, wood, or clay,
– 31 –
或以胶漆布、 严饰作佛像， 如是诸人等， 皆已成佛道。
Or, perhaps, lacquered cloth, In making Buddha images; Persons such as these
Have realized the Buddha Way.
彩画作佛像， 百福庄严相， 自作若使人， 皆已成佛道。
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.
乃至童子戏， 若草木及笔、 或以指爪甲、 而画作佛像，
Even children who, at play,
Who with a straw, a stick, or pen, Or even with their fingernails, Drew images of the Buddha,
如是诸人等， 渐渐积功德， 具足大悲心， 皆已成佛道。
People such as these,
Gradually accumulated merit and virtue, Perfected the heart of great compassion, And have realized the Buddha Way.
但化诸菩萨， 度脱无量众。 若人于塔庙、 宝像及画像，
They teach only Bodhisattvas,
And rescue countless multitudes. Should persons, in stupas or in temples, Make offerings with a reverent heart,
以华香幡盖、 敬心而供养。 若使人作乐， 击鼓吹角贝，
To jeweled or painted images,
With flowers, incense, banners, or canopies, Or should they cause others to make music, With drums, horns, or conches,
箫笛琴箜篌、 琵琶铙铜钹， 如是众妙音， 尽持以供养。
Pan-pipes, flutes, lutes or bamboo lyres, Guitars, cymbals, or brass gongs,
With many wondrous sounds as these, Played solely as offerings…
或以欢喜心， 歌呗颂佛德， 乃至一小音， 皆已成佛道。
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.
若人散乱心， 乃至以一华， 供养于画像， 渐见无数佛。
If people with scattered minds
Have given but a single flower
As an offering to a painted image,
They shall gradually see numberless Buddhas.
或有人礼拜， 或复但合掌， 乃至举一手， 或复小低头，
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,
以此供养像， 渐见无量佛。 自成无上道，
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.
若人散乱心， 入于塔庙中， 一称南无佛， 皆已成佛道。
If people with scattered minds, Enter stupas or temples,
And say but once, “Namo Buddha,” They have realized the Buddha Way.
于诸过去佛， 在世或灭后， 若有闻是法， 皆已成佛道。
Be it from Buddhas of the past,
While existent, or after their extinction, Those who have heard this Dharma, Have realized the Buddha Way.
未来诸世尊， 其数无有量， 是诸如来等， 亦方便说法。
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.
一切诸如来， 以无量方便、 度脱诸众生， 入佛无漏智，
All of the Thus Come Ones,
By means of limitless expedients,
Help all living beings
To enter the Buddha’s non-outflow wisdom.
若有闻法者， 无一不成佛。 诸佛本誓愿， 我所行佛道， 普欲令众生、 亦同得此道。
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.”
未来世诸佛， 虽说百千亿、 无数诸法门， 其实为一乘。
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.
诸佛两足尊， 知法常无性， 佛种从缘起， 是故说一乘。
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.
是法住法位， 世间相常住， 于道场知已， 导师方便说。
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.
天人所供养、 现在十方佛， 其数如恒沙， 出现于世间， 安隐众生故， 亦说如是法。
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.
知第一寂灭， 以方便力故， 虽示种种道， 其实为佛乘。
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.
知众生诸行， 深心之所念， 过去所习业， 欲性精进力，
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,
及诸根利钝， 以种种因缘、 譬喻亦言辞， 随应方便说。
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.
以种种法门、 宣示于佛道。 我以智慧力， 知众生性欲，
Using various Dharma-doors,
I proclaim the Buddha Way
To bring peace and comfort to living beings. I use the power of my wisdom,
方便说诸法， 皆令得欢喜。 舍利弗当知， 我以佛眼观，
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,
见六道众生， 贫穷无福慧， 入生死险道， 相续苦不断，
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.
深著于五欲， 如牦牛爱尾、 以贪爱自弊， 盲瞑无所见。
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.
不求大势佛、 及与断苦法， 深入诸邪见， 以苦欲舍苦。
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.
为是众生故、 而起大悲心。 我始坐道场， 观树亦经行，
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,
于三七日中， 思惟如是事。 我所得智慧， 微妙最第一。
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,
众生诸根钝， 著乐痴所盲， 如斯之等类， 云何而可度，
But living beings are dull-rooted,
Attached to pleasure, blinded by delusion; Beings such as these,
How can they possibly be saved?
尔时诸梵王， 及诸天帝释、 护世四天王， 及大自在天，
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,
并余诸天众、 眷属百千万， 恭敬合掌礼， 请我转法輪。
And the other heavenly multitudes,
With retinues numbering in the billions Reverently placed their palms together,
And requested me to turn the Dharma-wheel.
我即自思惟， 若但赞佛乘， 众生没在苦， 不能信是法，
I then thought to myself,
“Were I to praise only the Buddha Vehicle, Beings sunk in suffering
Would be unable to believe this Dharma.
破法不信故， 坠于三恶道。 我宁不说法， 疾入于涅盘。
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.”
寻念过去佛、 所行方便力， 我今所得道， 亦应说三乘。
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.
作是思惟时， 十方佛皆现， 梵音慰喻我， 善哉释迦文，
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,
第一之导师， 得是无上法， 随诸一切佛、 而用方便力。
Foremost Guiding Master.
Having attained the supreme Dharma,
You follow the precedent of all Buddhas, To employ the power of expedient devices.
我等亦皆得 最妙第一法， 为诸众生类、 分别说三乘。
We have all obtained as well,
That foremost Dharma, most wonderful. For the various kinds of living beings,
We discriminate and teach Three Vehicles.
少智乐小法， 不自信作佛， 是故以方便、 分别说诸果。 虽复说三乘， 但为教菩萨。
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.”
舍利弗当知， 我闻圣师子、 深净微妙音， 喜称南无佛。
Shariputra, you should know,
That when I heard the Sagely Lions’ Deep, pure, and wondrous sound,
I called out “Homage to all Buddhas.”
复作如是念， 我出浊恶世， 如诸佛所说， 我亦随顺行。
And further had this thought,
“I have come into a turbid, evil world; As the Buddhas speak,
I should follow in accord.”
思惟是事已， 即趋波罗奈， 诸法寂灭相， 不可以言宣。
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.
便有涅盘音， 及以阿罗汉， 法僧差别名。 从久远劫来， 赞是涅盘法， 生死苦永尽， 我常如是说。 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.
舍利弗当知， 我见佛子等， 志求佛道者， 无量千万亿，
Shariputra, you should know,
I see disciples of the Buddha,
Resolutely seeking the Buddha Way,
Limitless thousands of myriads of millions of them,
咸以恭敬心， 皆来至佛所， 曾从诸佛闻， 方便所说法。
All with hearts of reverence,
All coming before the Buddha.
They had heard, from former Buddhas, Expedient teachings of the Dharma.
我即作是念， 如来所以出， 为说佛慧故， 今正是其时。
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.”
舍利弗当知， 钝根小智人、 著相憍慢者， 不能信是法。
Shariputra, you should know,
Those with dull faculties and slight wisdom, Those attached to marks, the arrogant, Cannot believe this Dharma.
今我喜无畏， 于诸菩萨中， 正直舍方便， 但说无上道。
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.
菩萨闻是法， 疑网皆已除， 千二百罗汉、 悉亦当作佛。
When the Bodhisattvas have heard this Dharma, The network of their doubts will be rent (destroyed); Twelve hundred Arhats
Will all attain to Buddhahood.
如三世诸佛， 说法之仪式， 我今亦如是， 说无分别法。
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.
诸佛兴出世， 悬远值遇难， 正使出于世， 说是法复难，
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.
能听是法者， 斯人亦复难。 譬如优昙花， 一切皆爱乐，
And those who can hear this Dharma— Such people too, are rare,
Like the udumbara flower,
In which all take delight,
天人所稀有， 时时乃一出。 闻法欢喜赞， 乃至发一言，
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.
是人甚稀有， 过于优昙花。 汝等勿有疑， 我为诸法王，
Such people are extremely rare, Rarer than the udumbara flower. All of you should have no doubts, For I am the Dharma King;
普告诸大众， 但以一乘道、 教化诸菩萨，
I declare to the assembly:
I use only the path of One Vehicle,
To teach and transform Bodhisattvas.
汝等舍利弗， 声闻及菩萨， 当知是妙法， 诸佛之秘要。 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.
以五浊恶世， 但乐著诸欲， 如是等众生， 终不求佛道。
In the evil world of five turbidities, Beings who are blissfully attached To pleasures and desires,
Will never seek the Buddha Way.
当来世恶人， 闻佛说一乘， 迷惑不信受， 破法堕恶道。
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.
有惭愧清净、 志求佛道者， 当为如是等、 广赞一乘道。
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.
舍利弗当知， 诸佛法如是， 以万亿方便、 随宜而说法，
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.
其不习学者， 不能晓了此。 汝等既已知， 诸佛世之师，
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,
随宜方便事， 无复诸疑惑， 心生大欢喜， 自知当作佛。
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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Venerable Master Hsuang Hua
Author | Buddha Weekly
Hsuan Hua founded several institutions in the US. The Dharma Realm Buddhist Association (DRBA) is a Buddhist organization with chapters in North America, Australia and Asia. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) in Ukiah, California, is one of the first Chan Buddhist monasteries in America. Hsuan Hua founded Dharma Realm Buddhist University at CTTB. The Buddhist Text Translation Society works on the phonetics and translation of Buddhist scriptures from Chinese into English, Vietnamese, Spanish, and many other languages.
The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (traditional Chinese: 萬佛聖城; ; pinyin: Wànfó Shèngchéng; Vietnamese: Chùa Vạn Phật Thánh Thành) is an international Buddhist community and monastery founded by Hsuan Hua, an important figure in Western Buddhism. It is one of the first Chan Buddhist temples in the United States, and one of the largest Buddhist communities in the Western Hemisphere.