Editors Note: This is chapter 7 in our ongoing series on the Lotus Sutra, one of the parable / metaphor chapters translated as the “Transformed City” in the Lotus Sutra. There are seven well-known parables in the Lotus Sutra — a favorite teaching method of the Buddha.
The initial commentary is from the great teacher Venerable Master Hua. The full sutra in both English (translated by the translation committee of City of 10,000 Buddhas under the direction of Master Hua) and Chinese.
This is an ongoing series, publishing the beautiful English translations of the Lotus Sutra as guided by Venerable Master Hsuang Hua.
Previous Chapter translations
- Chapter 1 of the Lotus Sutra is here>>
- Chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra is here>>
- Chapter 3 “The Burning House” parable of the Lotus Sutra is here>>
- Chapter 4 “Parable of the Vagabond Son” of the Lotus Sutra is here>>
- Chapter 5 “Parable of the Medicinal Plants” of the Lotus Sutra is here>>
- “Prophecy” Chapter 6 of the Lotus Sutra
Commentary of Master Hua
This is the seventh of the twenty-eight chapters of The Dharma Flower Sutra. What is meant by “Transformed”? It means to create something out of nothing, and to turn something back into nothing. Most people do not understand this doctrine. It is inconceivable and cannot be understood with the mind or expressed in words. “City” is a large town. People build cities to protect themselves from invaders, scoundrels, and unreasonable people.
Where does the transformation come from? It comes from the Buddha’s spiritual penetrations. That is how, out of nothing, something can appear. Originally, the City did not exist, but now it appears. Once it appears, it is given the name “ Transformed City”.
The first thing we should understand about the Transformed City is that there is no such thing! It is an unreal city, created through transformation. It is an unreal city, an expedient city, an expedient Dharma, as it were. It is all entirely unreal: the city, the people, and the Dharma are all unreal.
“What is the use of it all, if it is all unreal?” you ask.
If you do not understand what is unreal, you will be unable to find the true. The Transformed City is a place where the Treasure Trove is kept. The Transformed City is the Provisional while the Treasure Trove is the Real. Basically, the Transformed City does not exist at all. If it were real, it would not be called a “Transformed City”; it would just be called a city. The analogy contains those of the Two Vehicles: the Hearer Vehicle and the Conditioned Enlightened Vehicle. Are there really Two Vehicles? No. There are not Two Vehicles. Then why do you talk about Two Vehicles? Because they do not exist! If they did exist, we would not have to speak about them!
The Two Vehicles are an expedient Dharma. So the Transformed City is an analogy for the Nirvana of the Two Vehicles. Nirvana means “not produced and not destroyed”. Without production, there is no extinction; without extinction, there is no production. The Nirvana of the Two Vehicles is that taught by the Provisional Wisdom; it is an expedient. The Buddha used his expedient and provisional wisdom to set forth the Dharma of the Two Vehicles. Why did he do this? When you go to school, why do you start out in elementary school? Why don’t you just start out going to the University? You could have your Ph.D. by the time you are ten. Wouldn’t that be great? Skip elementary school and high school. Unfortunately, you cannot do this. You have to start with elementary school. The Bodhisattva Vehicle is like high school. The Buddha Vehicle is like the university.
So, when l was in Hong Kong, I did not teach elementary school. I taught only at the university level. In grade school you have to keep the kids interested by telling them stories, and so forth, for them to make any progress. You can teach some doctrine in High School, but it is not until they reach college that they can really learn something.
The Buddhadharma works in the same way. Originally, there were not Two Vehicles. The Buddha set them up; just like, originally, we did not need elementary school, except that kids are too young to understand what they need to know and so an elementary school is set up to take care of them. When people are older, they attend high school and enter college at the age of eighteen or twenty. Once they enter higher education, the university has various degrees available: the Bachelor’s, the Master’s and the Ph.D. There are a lot of distinctions there. And so, those of the Two Vehicles are like the elementary school. If you want to become a Buddha, you must start out in “elementary school”, then go to “high school”, and then to the “university”. “High school” is like the Bodhisattva Path, and the “university” is like Buddhahood. You will understand this analogy, because you have all been to school.
“Oh?” you think, “the Two Vehicles are just elementary school”. Do not get too attached to the idea. It is only an analogy, you know. In Buddhism, the most important thing is to become a Buddha. But most people, if you told them right off that they should cultivate and become a Buddha, would be scared stiff. “What is that? Why should I become a Buddha? Arghh!!” Since they do not understand, you set up an “elementary school”. Obviously, you cannot give a small child a Ph.D., because he would not even have the sense to know what it was, and he would not value it at all. So, the Transformed City represents the Nirvana of the Two Vehicles, a provisionally spoken expedient term. Basically, there is no such thing, but because of the power of the provisionally spoken expedient, something appears out of nothing.
Someone hears this and starts to retreat, thinking, “Oh, so the Buddha lies. There is nothing there, and he says there is something there!”
There was nothing there, and then something was transformed. This is not a lie. This is called Two Vehicles rather than the Great Vehicle or the Vehicle of the Buddhas. It is a provisional expedient. He uses the substance of the teaching to teach and transform living beings. Living beings are taught to guard against delusive thoughts. They are taught to cut off the delusions of desire and views. This is called the Nirvana which leans toward emptiness. It leans one way; it is not the Middle way.
There are four ways of explaining the Sutras: 1) according to causes and conditions, 2) according to the essentials of the teaching.
Here I shall use the first two to explain to concept of the Transformed City.
Causes and Conditions
1) According to causes and conditions: The doctrine of one-sided emptiness causes living beings to “rest, to be led, and to enter.” To “rest” refers to the teaching of the Three Storehouses; it is the Small Vehicle concept of Nirvana as consisting of understanding and the cessation of affliction.
“To be led” refers to the two types of milk products which represent the Vaipulya (curdled milk) and Prajna (butter) Teachings. During these two teachings, one is being led.
“Enter” means to “enter the Buddha’s knowledge and vision.” We speak of opening, demonstrating, awakening to, and entering the Buddha’s wisdom. To “rest” refers to the opening of the Buddha’s wisdom. “To be led” refers to the demonstrating and awakening to the Buddha’s wisdom.
“Enter” means to enter the Buddha’s wisdom, to open the provisional and reveal the real, to speak of the Buddha Vehicle and no other vehicles.
Still, with “rest, to be led, and to enter” one has not yet arrived at the Ultimate Treasure Trove. That is why this extinction is called a “ Transformed City”. It is a provisionally set up expedient device. The Treasure Trove is the Real Teaching. The Nirvana of the Two Vehicles is merely a Transformed City. It is a provisional expedient device set up by the Buddha.
This is an explanation according to causes and conditions. Now, to explain it,
Nirvana – Peace and Rest?
2) According to the essentials of the teaching: Those of the Three Storehouse Teaching, thought of Nirvana as peace and rest. They thought, “Going to Nirvana is the greatest! Ahhh!!! There is no trouble there at all. No affliction. No gossip.” So those of the Three Storehouse Teaching really liked the idea of Nirvana. They wished to cross over into extinction. They viewed the Three Realms and wanted to be Solitarily Enlightened Ones. This is like a certain type of person who feels that everyone else is wrong, and he alone is right. He wants to go off and live somewhere all by himself thinking that would be the most wonderful. He feels it is just too much trouble to be around people.
Bodhisattvas of the Separate Teaching are not like that. They think, “You are not very good? I will draw closer to you. I will not leave you. I specialize in crossing over those who do not believe in Buddhism. If you do not believe in Buddhism, I will influence you somehow to bring forth the Bodhi mind.” This is the state of a Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattvas and those of the Two Vehicles are direct opposites. Bodhisattvas are like fathers who are out looking for their children, traveling across a very dangerous road. Suddenly they come to a very dangerous city. One foot is inside the dangerous city, and the other is outside. They are well aware that it is a very dangerous city. V-e-r-y dangerous! But when they think of their children they forget the danger. They go right into the dangerous city after them. This is the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas making vows to come into the world to save living beings. The Bodhisattva, keeping a few of his old habits—not cutting them all off yet–goes into birth and death and does not certify to the doctrine of true emptiness.
The Separate Teaching is the Prajna Period. The Storehouse Teaching is the Agama Period. The Pervasive Teaching is the Vaipulya Period. The Perfect Teaching is the Lotus Flower-Nirvana Period. The Separate Teaching calls the City “The so-called City, which is Like an Illusion”. It is an unreal city used to guard against dangers. The city is used as an expedient to cut off the delusions of views and thought. Although the delusions of views and thought have been cut off, they do not claim this is the highest state. Therefore, they call it the “so-called City”.
They do not claim it is the ultimate state. Those of the Two Vehicles go ahead and claim that their Nirvana is the highest state when actually it is not at all ultimate. Bodhisattvas purify the Buddhalands, roam and play among human beings, teaching and transforming living beings. They realize it is not the ultimate Dharma. Those of the Perfect Teaching, the Lotus Flower-Nirvana Period, know that originally there are no thieves. Since there are no thieves, they do not want a city, so they call the city they have a “ Transformed City”, an unreal city. This chapter takes its title from the doctrine of the Perfect Teaching. Thus, it is called “The Analogy of the Transformed City”.
Those of the Three Storehouse and the Pervasive Teachings think that their Nirvana is ultimate. They do not think of it as a Transformed City. Those are the Two Vehicles for you. Those of the Separate Teaching would not say it is ultimate and they would not admit that it is just a transformation. That is the state of the Bodhisattva. Those of the Perfect Teaching, the state of the Buddha, say it is not ultimate; it is a transformed city.
One may also analyze it from the point of view of the Four Siddhantas, or Four Methods by which the Buddha bestowed the teaching, the first being: 1) Mundane, or ordinary methods of giving: originally, the Transformed City was not there. But, suddenly it appeared, and the people who saw it were happy. 2) Individual treatment: when certain individuals gained understanding and rest through the analogy. 3) Diagnosing and treating moral diseases: the City guards against thieves and invaders. 4) Primary truth: in the end, when they gain real extinction.
The Four Siddhantas explained according to the Buddha’s response body: 1) The Buddha used the provisional expedient Dharma to set up the City. This is the transforming of the mundane, or ordinary. 2) Living beings brought forth goodness in small measure and this is transforming through individual treatment. 3) Getting rid of the delusions of views and thought is transformation through diagnoses and treatment of moral diseases. 4) In the end, they attain the Great Vehicle and the Great Fruit. This is transformation according to the primary truth.
The Buddha scolded those of the Small Vehicle who held to their one-sided emptiness. He told those of the Small Vehicle that they were withered sprouts and sterile seeds, utterly useless. What is to be done? Then he praised the Great Vehicle. He said it was the most wonderful Buddhadharma. It is the unsurpassed, profound, subtle, wonderful Dharma. He praised the Perfect Teaching as the most wonderful, and he spoke The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. The doctrine set forth in this Sutra is all perfectly fused without obstruction. It is all inconceivable.
Someone might wonder why, if this Sutra is the Real Teaching, this chapter is not called “Former Causes and Conditions”, instead of “ Transformation City,” which is Provisional?
That is a good question. The first part of this chapter does discuss former causes and conditions from many eons back. Later in the chapter, the analogy of the Transformed City is raised. Bringing up the Transformed City is actually a revelation of the Real Teaching. Those of the Two Vehicles insisted on staying in samadhi all day and refused to move. They stayed in their Nirvana, thinking it very peaceful. They thought they had done what they had to do, finished their great work, and that they would undergo no further becoming. They got stuck in Nirvana and did not make progress in their cultivation. They were attached to Nirvana. Their provisional Dharma was revealed, and they were told it was not right to stay there. They should go forward. That was the purpose of the Transformed City.
At all times, in all places, once you have heard the Buddhadharma, you should not form an attachment to it. Get rid of your attachments.
The Analogy of the Transformed City – Chapter 7
佛告诸比丘:‘乃往过去无量无边不可思议阿僧只劫，尔时有佛， 名大通智胜如来、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，其国名好城，劫名大相。
The Buddha told the Bhikshus, “long ago, past limitless, boundless, inconceivable, asamkheyaeons, there was a Buddha called Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, Thus Come One, One Worthy of Offerings, One of Proper and Universal Knowledge, One Whose Understanding and Conduct are Complete, A Well-gone One, One Who Understands the World, Unsurpassed Lord, Taming and Regulating Hero, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, World Honored One. His country was named “ Good City,” and his eon was named “Great Mark”.
O Bhikshus, it has been a great, long time since that Buddha passed into extinction.
譬如三千大千世界所有地种，假使有人、磨以为墨、过于东方千国 土、乃下一点，大如微尘，又过千国土、复下一点，如是展转尽地 种墨，于汝等意云何，是诸国土，若算师，若算师弟子，能得边际 、知其数否?
Suppose someone were to grind all the earth in the three thousand great thousand worlds into ink powder and then suppose he passed through a thousand lands to the east and then dropped a particle the size of a mote of dust, and then passing through another thousand lands deposited another mote, and continued to do this until all the ink made of earth was exhausted. What do you think?
Could a mathematician or his disciple ever reach the limit of the lands and know their number?
“No, World Honored One.”
“O Bhikshus, if the lands this person had passed through, whether or not he set down a particle in them, were all grounded into dust, and if each dust mote was equal to an eon, then the time since that Buddha passed into extinction would exceed their number by limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of tens of thousands of millions of asamkheya eons.
Using the power of the Thus Come One’s knowledge and vision, I behold that time in the distant past as if it were today.
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate his meaning, spoke verses, saying,
我念过去世、 无量无边劫， 有佛两足尊， 名大通智胜。 “I recall that in a past age,
Limitless, boundless eons ago,
There was a Buddha, doubly honored,
By the name of Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory.
如人以力磨， 三千大千土， 尽此诸地种， 皆悉以为墨，
Suppose a person ground
All of the earth that there was
In three thousand great thousand lands Entirely into ink powder;
过于千国土， 乃下一尘点， 如是展转点， 尽此诸尘墨。
And then suppose he passed through a thousand lands, And then let fall one particle of it,
Continuing to drop particles in this way
Until all the ink particles were gone.
如是诸国土， 点与不点等、 复尽抹为尘， 一尘为一劫。
Suppose all of the countries he passed through, Whether he dropped particles in them or not, Again were completely grounded into dust motes, And each dust mote was an eon;
此诸微尘数， 其劫复过是， 彼佛灭度来， 如是无量劫。
These grains of dust would in number
Be exceeded by the number of eons
Since that Buddha has passed into extinction; It has been limitless eons such as this.
如来无碍智， 知彼佛灭度， 及声闻菩萨， 如见今灭度。
The Thus Come One, with unobstructed wisdom, Knows of that Buddha’s extinction,
And of his Hearers and Bodhisattvas,
As if seeing his extinction now.
诸比丘当知， 佛智净微妙， 无漏无所碍， 通达无量劫。
Bhikshus, you should know
The Buddha’s wisdom is pure, subtle, and wondrous; Without outflows and without obstructions
It penetrates limitless eons.”
The Buddha told the Bhikshus, “ The Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory had a life span of five hundred forty myriads of millions of nayutas of eons.”
When this Buddha was seated on the Bodhimanda, having destroyed the troops of Mara, although he was on the point of attaining anuttarasamyaksambodhi, still the Buddhadharma did not appear before him.
So it was for one minor eon and then onwards to ten minor eons that he sat in the lotus posture, body and mind unmoving, and yet the Buddhadharma still did not appear before him.
‘尔时忉利诸天、先为彼佛、于菩提树下、敷师子座，高一由旬， Thereupon, the gods of the Triyastrimsha Heaven, spread out for the Buddha, under a Bodhi tree, a lion throne one yojana in height;
on that throne the Buddha was to attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi. -4-
Just as he sat down upon that throne, the Kings of the Brahma Heavens rained down heavenly flowers over a distance of one hundred yojanas.
A fragrant wind from time to time swept away the withered flowers as fresh ones rained down.
This continued without interruption for a full ten minor eons as an offering to the Buddha, the rain of these flowers continuing right up until his extinction.
In the same way the gods of the four heavenly Kings constantly played heavenly drums as an offering to that Buddha and the other gods made heavenly instrumental music for a full ten minor eons, right up until his extinction.
Bhikshus, the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory passed through ten minor eons before the Buddhadharma finally manifested before him and he attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
Before that Buddha left home he had sixteen sons, the first of whom was named Accumulation of Knowledge.
Each of them had a variety of precious, unusual fine toys. -5-
When they heard that their father had realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi they all cast aside these things they valued and went before the Buddha, escorted by their weeping mothers.
Their grandfather, a Wheel-Turning Sage King, together with a hundred great ministers and with hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of citizens all surrounded them and accompanied them to the Bodhimanda, all wishing to draw near to the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, to make offerings to him, to honor, revere and praise him.
When they arrived, they bowed with their head at his feet, and having circumambulated him, they singlemindedly joined their palms, respectfully gazed upward at the World Honored One, and uttered these verses:
大威德世尊， 为度众生故， 于无量亿劫， 尔乃得成佛， 诸愿已具足， 善哉吉无上。
“World Honored One of great and awesome virtue,
For the sake of crossing over living beings
After limitless millions of eons, You accomplished Buddhahood, And perfected all your vows; Unsurpassed is our good fortune.
世尊甚稀有， 一坐十小劫， 身体及手足、 静然安不动。
Very rare you are, World Honored One,
In one sitting, passing through ten minor eons, With body, hands, and feet,
Still, secure, and unmoving.
其心常惔怕， 未曾有散乱， 究竟永寂灭， 安住无漏法。
Your mind, ever tranquil,
Never knows distraction.
Ultimate, your eternal extinction,
As you dwell firmly in the non-outflow Dharma.
今者见世尊 安隐成佛道， 我等得善利， 称庆大欢喜。
Now we see the World Honored One Serenely realize the Buddha Path;
We all gain good benefit
And proclaim our delight and great joy.
众生常苦恼、 盲瞑无导师， 不识苦尽道， 不知求解脱。
Living beings, ever tormented by suffering, Blind, and without a guide,
Fail to recognize the Path which ends that pain, And do not know to seek their liberation.
长夜增恶趣， 减损诸天众， 从冥入于冥， 永不闻佛名。
During the long night the evil destinies increase, While the hosts of gods are reduced in number; From darkness they proceed into darkness, Never hearing the Buddha’s name.
今佛得最上、 安隐无漏道， 我等及天人， 为得最大利， 是故咸稽首、 归命无上尊。
Now, the Buddha’s gained the utmost
Peace, rest, the non-outflow way;
And we, and all the gods,
To attain the greatest benefit
Therefore bow our heads
And return our lives to the Unsurpassed Honored One.”
When the sixteen sons had finished praising the Buddha, they then entreated him to turn the Dharma-wheel, saying, “World Honored One, speak the Dharma and bring us peace, show us pity, and benefit both gods and humans.” Then they spoke more verses saying:
世雄无等伦， 百福自庄严， 得无上智慧。 愿为世间说， 度脱于我等、 及诸众生类，
“O Hero of the world, incomparable
Adorned with a hundred blessings,
And having attained unsurpassed wisdom, Pray speak for the sake of this world
To cross over and liberate us and
All classes of living beings as well.
为分别显示， 令得是智慧。 若我等得佛， 众生亦复然。
And lead us to attain that wisdom, Demonstrate it: speak it in detail For, if we can attain Buddhahood, Other living beings can do the same.
世尊知众生 深心之所念， 亦知所行道， 又知智慧力，
The World Honored One knows the profound thoughts Within the minds of living beings;
He knows the ways on which they walk
And the strength of their wisdom,
欲乐及修福， 宿命所行业。 世尊悉知已， 当转无上轮。
The pleasures and the blessings they have cultivated, And all the deeds done in former lives.
The World Honored One, knowing all of this,
Should turn the unsurpassed wheel !”
The Buddha, Shakyamuni, told the Bhikshus, “When the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi, in each of the ten directions, five hundred myriads of millions of Buddha worlds quaked in six ways.
The dark recesses between those lands, that the awesome light of the sun and moon could not illumine then, were brightly lit, and the living beings therein were able to see one another.
They all said, “where have all these living beings come from?” Further, in those lands, all the heavenly palaces, up to the Brahma palaces, quaked in six ways.
A great light shone everywhere, illumining the entire universe and surpassing the light of the heavens.”
At that time, in five hundred myriads of millions of lands to the east, the Brahma Heaven palaces shone with a light twice that of their usual brightness.
Each of the Brahma Heaven Kings had this thought, “now the palaces are brighter than ever before. What is the reason for this manifestation?”
Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings visited one another and discussed this matter. In the assembly there was one great Brahma Heaven King by the name of Rescuing All, who on behalf of the Brahma hosts spoke verses, saying,
我等诸宫殿， 光明昔未有， 此是何因缘， 宜各共求之。
“All of our palaces
Are bright as never before; What is the reason for this? Let us seek it together.
为大德天生， 为佛出世间， 而此大光明、 遍照于十方。
Is it because a great and virtuous god has been born? Or because a Buddha has appeared in the world, That this great light
Shines throughout the ten directions?”
At that time, the Brahma Heaven Kings from five hundred myriads of millions of lands, together with their palaces, each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers, went to the west to seek out this manifestation.
见大通智胜如来、处于道场菩提树下，坐师子座，诸天、龙王、乾 闼婆、紧那罗、摩侯罗伽、人非人、等，恭敬围绕，及见十六王子 、请佛转法轮。
They saw the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory seated on the lion throne beneath the Bodhi tree in the Bodhimanda, revered and circumambulated by gods, dragon kings, gandharvas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and beings both human and non-human. They saw as well the sixteen sons of the king requesting the Buddha to turn the Dharma- wheel.
Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings bowed with their heads at the Buddha’s feet, circumambulated him a hundred thousand times, and scattered heavenly flowers upon him.
The flowers were piled as high as Mount Sumeru, and they offered them as well to the Buddha’s Bodhi tree, which was ten yojanas in height.
Having made offerings of flowers, each presented his palace to the Buddha, saying, “pray show us pity, and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces that we offer you!”
Then the Brahma Heaven Kings, in front of the Buddha, with a single mind and the same voice, spoke verses in praise, saying:
世尊甚稀有， 难可得值遇， 具无量功德， 能救护一切。
“World Honored One, you are very rare,
And difficult to encounter;
Complete with limitless meritorious virtues, You are able to rescue and protect all creatures.
天人之大师， 哀愍于世间， 十方诸众生， 普皆蒙饶益。
Great teacher of gods and humans, You who pity all the world
All beings in the ten directions Receive your beneficence.
我等所从来、 五百万亿国， 舍深禅定乐， 为供养佛故。
We have come from
Five hundred myriads of millions of lands, Setting aside the bliss of deep dhyana samadhi, For the sake of making offerings to the Buddha.
我等先世福， 宫殿甚严饰， 今以奉世尊， 唯愿哀纳受。
Blessings we’ve gained in former lives
Well ornament our palaces,
Now we offer them to the World Honored One, Only praying you will show mercy and accept them.”
At that time, the Brahma Heaven Kings, having praised the Buddha, said
“We only pray that the World Honored One will turn the Dharma- wheel, crossing over living beings, opening up the way to Nirvana.”
Then; all the Brahma Heaven Kings, with one mind and the same voice, proclaimed these verses:
世雄两足尊， 惟愿演说法， 以大慈悲力、 度苦恼众生。
“Hero of the world, doubly perfect honored one,
We only pray that
You will expound and proclaim the Dharma,
And through the power of your great compassion and pity Cross over suffering and tormented living beings.”
Thereupon, the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, assented by his silence.
Furthermore, O Bhikshus, to the southeast the great Brahma Kings in five hundred myriads of millions of lands, seeing their palaces in dazzling brilliance as never before, jumped for joy, thinking it rare indeed.
They visited one another and discussed this matter.
Then, in the assembly, a Brahma Heaven King by the name of Great Compassion, on behalf of the Brahma hosts spoke these verses:
是事何因缘、 而现如此相， 我等诸宫殿， 光明昔未有。 为大德天生， 为佛出世间，
“What is the reason for this event?
Why has this sign appeared?
All of our palaces
Are aglow as never before.
Has a greatly virtuous god been born? Or has a Buddha appeared in the world?
未曾见此相， 当共一心求。 过千万亿土， 寻光共推之， 多是佛出世， 度脱苦众生。
We have never seen such signs before.
With one mind we should investigate it,
Passing through a thousand myriads of millions of lands, Searching for the light, investigating it together.
It must be that a Buddha has appeared
To take across the suffering living beings.”
At that time, five hundred myriads of millions of Brahma Heaven Kings, together with their palaces, each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers, went to the northwest to seek out this manifestation.
见大通智胜如来、处于道场菩提树下，坐师子座，诸天、龙王、乾 闼婆、紧那罗、摩侯罗伽、人非人、等，恭敬围绕，及见十六王子 、请佛转法轮。
They saw the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory seated on the lion throne beneath the Bodhi tree in the Bodhimanda, revered and circumambulated by gods, dragon kings, gandharvas, kinnaras,mahoragas, and beings both human and non-human. They saw, as well, the sixteen sons of the king requesting the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel.
Then the Brahma Heaven Kings bowed with their heads at the Buddha’s feet, circumambulated him a hundred thousand times, then scattered heavenly flowers upon him.
The flowers were piled as high as Mount Sumeru, and they offered them as well to the Buddha’s Bodhi tree.
Having made offerings of flowers, each presented his palace to the Buddha saying,
“Show us pity and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces
that we offer you!”
Then the Brahma Heaven Kings, before the Buddha, with a single mind and the same voice, spoke verses in praise, saying,
圣主天中王， 迦陵频伽声， 哀愍众生者， 我等今敬礼。
“Sagely Lord, king among gods, With the kalavinka sound,
To you who pity living beings, We now reverently bow.
世尊甚稀有， 久远乃一现， 一百八十劫、 空过无有佛，
The World Honored One is most rare, Appearing but once in long ages.
One hundred and eighty eons have passed Empty, without a Buddha.
三恶道充满， 诸天众减少， 今佛出于世， 为众生作眼，
The three evil paths are full.
The hosts of gods decrease.
Now the Buddha has appeared in the world, To act as eyes for living beings,
世间所归趋， 救护于一切， 为众生之父， 哀愍饶益者。 我等宿福庆， 今得值世尊。
As a refuge for the world,
Rescuing and protecting all creatures,
A father for all beings,
Pitying and benefiting them.
Now, through blessings gained in former lives,
We are enabled to meet the World Honored One.”
Brahma Heaven Gods
At that time, the Brahma Heaven Gods, having praised the Buddha, said, “We only pray that the World Honored One will take pity on all beings and turn the Dharma-wheel to liberate living beings.”
Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings, with one mind and a single voice, spoke verses saying,
大圣转法轮， 显示诸法相， 度苦恼众生， 令得大欢喜。
“Great Sage, turn the Dharma-wheel, To reveal the marks of all Dharmas, To cross over tormented living beings, So they may gain great joy.
众生闻此法， 得道若生天， 诸恶道减少， 忍善者增益。
When living beings hear the Dharma,
They may gain the way, or be reborn in the heavens; The evil paths will decrease
And those of patience and goodness will increase.”
At that time, the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory assented by his silence.
又、诸比丘，南方五百万亿国土、诸大梵王，各自见宫殿光明照曜 ，昔所未有。欢喜踊跃，生稀有心，即各相诣，共议此事: Furthermore, O Bhikkshus, to the south, the great Brahma Kings in five hundred myriads of millions of Buddhalands, seeing their palaces in dazzling brilliance as never seen before, jumped for joy, thinking it rare indeed. Thereupon, they visited one another and discussed this matter, wondering,
“Why do our palaces glow with the light?”
Then, in the assembly a Brahma Heaven King called Wonderful Dharma, on behalf of the Brahma hosts, spoke these verses,
我等诸宫殿， 光明甚威曜， 此非无因缘， 是相宜求之。
“All of our palaces
Shine with awesome brilliance; This cannot be for no reason; We should seek out this sign.
过于百千劫， 未曾见是相， 为大德天生， 为佛出世间。
In a hundred thousand eons,
Such a sign has never been seen.
Has a great and virtuous god been born? Or has a Buddha appeared in the world?”
、推寻是相。见大通智胜如来、处于道场菩提树下，坐师子座，诸 天、龙王、乾闼婆、紧那罗、摩侯罗伽、人非人、等，恭敬围绕， 及见十六王子请佛转法轮。
At that time, five hundred myriads of millions of Brahma Heaven Kings, together with their palaces, each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers, went to the north to seek out this manifestation. They saw the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory seated on the lion throne beneath the Bodhi tree in the Bodhimanda, revered and circumambulated by gods, dragon kings, gandharvas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and beings both human and non-human. They saw, as well, the sixteen sons of the king requesting the Buddha to turn the Dharma- wheel.
Then the Brahma Heaven Kings bowed with their heads at the Buddha’s feet, circumambulated him a hundred thousand times and scattered heavenly flowers upon him.
The flowers were piled as high as Mount Sumeru, and they offered them, as well to the Buddha’s Bodhi tree. Having made offerings of flowers, each presented his palace to the Buddha, saying,
“Show us pity and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces that we offer you.”
Then the Brahma Heaven Kings, before the Buddha, with a single mind – 19 –
and the same voice, spoke verses in praise, saying,
世尊甚难见， 破诸烦恼者， 过百三十劫 ， 今乃得一见。
“The World Honored One is very hard to meet; He who breaks through all afflictions.
Passing through a hundred and thirty aeons, Only now do we get to see him.
诸饥渴众生， 以法雨充满， 昔所未曾睹、 无量智慧者，
May living beings, starving and thirsty, Be filled with the rain of Dharma.
He, whom we have never seen before, One of unlimited wisdom,
如优昙钵华， 今日乃值遇。 我等诸宫殿， 蒙光故严饰， 世尊大慈愍， 惟愿垂纳受。
Rare as the Udumbara blossom
Today, at last we have met.
All of our palaces
Receiving your light, are adorned.
In your great compassion, World Honored One Pray accept and live with them.”
尔时诸梵天王、偈赞佛已，各作是言:‘惟愿世尊转于法轮，令一 切世间、诸天、魔、梵、沙门、婆罗门，皆获安隐、而得度脱。’ At that time, the Brahma Heaven Kings, having praised the Buddha, said, “We only pray that the World Honored One will turn the Dharma- wheel, causing the entire world with its gods, maras, Brahmans, shramanas, all to become peaceful and calm and to attain liberation.”
Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings, with a single mind and the same voice, spoke verses in praise, saying,
惟愿天人尊、 转无上法轮， 击于大法鼓， 而吹大法螺，
“Honored One among gods and humans, Pray turn the unsurpassed wheel of Dharma. Beat upon the Dharma drum,
And blow the great Dharma conch,
普雨大法雨， 度无量众生。 我等咸归请， 当演深远音。
Let fall everywhere the great Dharma rain, To cross over limitless living beings.
We all beseech you to expound and proclaim The profound, far reaching sound.”
Thereupon, the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory assented by his silence.
And so it was in all directions from the southwest to the lower direction.
Then, five hundred myriads of millions of great Brahma Kings in the upper directions, seeing the palaces they rested in shining with awesome brilliance, as never before, jumped for joy, thinking it rare indeed.
They visited one another and discussed this matter, wondering, ‘以何因缘，我等宫殿，有斯光明?’
“Why do our palaces shine with this bright light?” 时彼众中、有一大梵天王，名曰尸弃，为诸梵众而说偈言: Then, in the assembly, a Brahma Heaven King by the name of Shikhin,
on behalf of the Brahma hosts, spoke verses, saying,
今以何因缘， 我等诸宫殿、 威德光明曜， 严饰未曾有。
“Now, for what reason
Do our palaces shine
With such an awesome light Adorned as never before?
如是之妙相， 昔所未闻见， 为大德天生， 为佛出世间。
Wondrous marks, such as these
We have never seen before
Has a great and virtuous god been born? Has a Buddha appeared in the world?”
、推寻是相。见大通智胜如来、处于道场菩提树下，坐师子座，诸 天、龙王、乾闼婆、紧那罗、摩侯罗伽、人非人、等，恭敬围绕， 及见十六王子请佛转法轮。
At that time, five hundred myriads of millions of Brahma Heaven Kings, together with their palaces, each with sacks filled with heavenly flowers, went to the lower direction to seek out this sign. They saw the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory seated on the lion throne beneath the Bodhi tree in the Bodhimanda, revered and circumambulated by gods, dragon kings, gandharvas, kinnaras, mahoragas, and beings both human and non-human. They saw, as well, the sixteen sons of the king requesting the Buddha to turn the Dharma- wheel.
时诸梵天王头面礼佛，绕百千匝，即以天华而散佛上。所散之华、 如须弥山，并以供养佛菩提树。华供养已，各以宫殿、奉上彼佛， 而作是言:‘惟见哀愍、饶益我等，所献宫殿，愿垂纳受。’时诸梵 天王，即于佛前、一心同声、以偈颂曰:
Then, the Brahma Heaven Kings bowed with their heads at the Buddha’s feet, circumambulated him a hundred thousand times, and scattered heavenly flowers upon the Buddha. The flowers that they scattered were as high as Mount Sumeru, and they offered them as well to the Buddha’s Bodhi tree. Having made offerings of flowers, they each presented their palace as an offering to the Buddha, saying, “We only pray that you will show us pity and benefit us by accepting and occupying these palaces.” Then the Brahma Heaven Kings, before the Buddha, with one mind and a single voice, spoke these verses:
善哉见诸佛， 救世之圣尊， 能于三界狱， 勉出诸众生。
“It is good indeed to see the Buddhas, Honored Sages who save the world
And who, from the prison of the triple realm Can effect escape for living beings,
普智天人尊， 哀愍群萌类， 能开甘露门， 广度于一切。
All-wise, revered by gods and humans, Pitying the flocks of beings
Opening the door of sweet dew, Vastly saving all beings.
于昔无量劫， 空过无有佛， 世尊未出时， 十方常暗冥，
Limitless eons of yore
Have passed emptily, without a Buddha. Before the World Honored One emerged, The ten directions were ever in darkness,
三恶道增长， 阿修罗亦盛， 诸天众转减， 死多堕恶道。
The three evil paths increased,
And the asuras flourished,
While the hosts of gods diminished, Most falling into evil paths at death.
不从佛闻法， 常行不善事， 色力及智慧， 斯等皆减少， 罪业因缘故， 失乐及乐想，
They did not hear the Dharma from the Buddha,
But ever followed unwholesome paths.
Their bodily strength and wisdom, Both decreased.
Because of offense karma
They lost joy and thoughts of joy.
住于邪见法， 不识善仪则， 不蒙佛所化， 常堕于恶道。
They dwelt in Dharmas of deviant views, Not knowing the rules of goodness.
Failing to receive the Buddha’s transforming, They constantly fell into evil paths.
佛为世间眼， 久远时乃出， 哀愍诸众生， 故现于世间。
The Buddha acts as eyes for all the world, And but once in a long while does appear. Out of pity for living beings,
He manifests in the world,
超出成正觉，我等甚欣庆， 及余一切众，喜叹未曾有。 我等诸宫殿，蒙光故严饰，
Transcends it and realizes right enlightenment.
We rejoice exceedingly;
We and all the other beings,
Are happy as never before,
And all of our palaces
Receive the light and are adorned.
今以奉世尊， 惟垂哀纳受。 愿以此功德， 普及于一切， 我等与众生、 皆共成佛道。
We now offer them to the World Honored One.
May he pity us and accept them.
We vow that this merit and virtue
May extend to all living beings,
So that we and all beings
May together realize the Buddha Way.”
At that time, the five hundred myriads of millions of Brahma Heaven Gods, having praised the Buddha in verse, addressed the Buddha, saying, “We only pray that the World Honored One will turn the Dharma-wheel to bring tranquility and liberation to many beings.” Then, the Brahma Heaven King spoke these verses of praise:
世尊转法轮， 击甘露法鼓， 度苦恼众生， 开示涅盘道。
“World Honored One, turn the Dharma-wheel Sound the sweet dew Dharma-drum,
To cross over tormented living beings, Showing them Nirvana’s path.
惟愿受我请， 以大微妙音， 哀愍而敷演、 无量劫集法。
Pray, accept our request,
And, with the great and subtle sound,
Pity us, and set forth,
Dharma gathered through countless eons.”
尔时大通智胜如来、受十方诸梵天王、及十六王子请，即时三转十 二行法轮，若沙门、婆罗门，若天、魔、梵、及余世间所不能转， 谓是苦，是苦集，是苦灭，是苦灭道。
At that time, the Thus Come One Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory, having received the request of the Brahma Heaven Kings of the ten directions, as well as the sixteen princes, thereupon, three times turned the Dharma-wheel of twelve parts which cannot be turned by Shramanas, Brahmans, gods, maras, Brahmas, or other beings of the world. He said, “This is suffering. This is the origination of suffering. This is the extinction of suffering. This is the way to the extinction of suffering.”
Dharma of the twelve causes and conditions
And he extensively set forth the Dharma of the twelve causes and conditions:
无明缘行，行缘识，识缘名色，名色缘六入，六入缘触，触缘受， 受缘爱，爱缘取，取缘有，有缘生，生缘老死忧悲苦恼。 ignorance conditions dispositions.
Dispositions condition consciousness.
Consciousness conditions name and form. Name and form condition the six sense organs. The six sense organs condition contact. Contact conditions feeling.
Feeling conditions craving.
Craving conditions grasping.
Grasping conditions becoming.
Becoming conditions birth.
Birth conditions old age and death, worry, grief, suffering and distress.
无明灭、则行灭，行灭、则识灭，识灭、则名色灭，名色灭、则六 入灭，六入灭、则触灭，触灭、则受灭，受灭、则爱灭，爱灭、则 取灭，取灭、则有灭，有灭、则生灭，生灭、则老死忧悲苦恼灭。 When ignorance is extinguished, dispositions are extinguished.
When dispositions are extinguished, then consciousness is extinguished.
When consciousness is extinguished, then name and form are extinguished.
When name and form are extinguished, then the six sense organs are extinguished.
When the six sense organs are extinguished, then contact is extinguished.
When contact is extinguished, then feeling is extinguished. When feeling is extinguished, then craving is extinguished. When craving is extinguished, then grasping is extinguished. When grasping is extinguished, then becoming is extinguished. When becoming is extinguished, then birth is extinguished. When birth is extinguished, then old age and death, worry, grief, suffering and distress are extinguished.
佛于天人大众之中、说是法时，六百万亿那由他人，以不受一切法 故，而于诸漏、心得解脱，皆得深妙禅定，三明、六通，具八解脱 。
When the Buddha spoke this Dharma, amidst the great assembly of gods and humans, six hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of human beings, because they did not grasp at any dharma, had their minds liberated from all outflows. All attained profound and subtle Dhyana concentration, the Three Clarities, the Six Penetrations, and perfected the Eight Liberations.
The second, third, and fourth times he set forth this Dharma, thousands of millions of nayutas of living beings, their numbers like the Ganges’ sands, also because they did not grasp at any dharma, had their minds liberated from outflows.
From that time onwards, the assembly of Hearers was unlimited, boundless, and unreckonable.
At that time the sixteen princes all left home as virgin youths and became Shramaneras. They all possessed sharp faculties and clear wisdom. They had already made offerings to hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of Buddhas, purely cultivating Brahman conduct, seeking anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
They all spoke to the Buddha, saying, “World Honored One, all these limitless thousands of myriads of millions of greatly virtuous Hearers already have reached accomplishment. World Honored One, you should, for our sake, also, speak the Dharma of anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
Having heard it, we will all cultivate and study it. World Honored One, we all aspire to the Thus Come One’s knowledge and vision. As to the thoughts deep within our minds, the Buddha himself knows.”
Then, the multitudes, led by the Wheel-turning Sage King, eighty thousand million of them, upon seeing the sixteen princes leave home, also sought to leave home, and the king permitted them to do so.
妙法莲华 – Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower
At that time, the Buddha, having received the request of the sixteen Shramaneras, after twenty thousand eons, then at last, amidst the fourfold assembly, spoke the Great Vehicle Sutra by the name of the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower, a dharma for instructing Bodhisattvas of whom the Buddha is protective and mindful.
After he spoke the Sutra, the sixteen Shramaneras, for the sake of anuttarasamyaksambodhi, all received, upheld and recited it and keenly penetrated its meaning.
When the sutra was spoken, the sixteen Bodhisattva-Shramaneras all received it with faith. Among the host of Hearers, too, there were those who had faith in it and understood it. The remaining thousands of myriads of millions of living beings, however, all gave rise to doubts.
The Buddha spoke this sutra for eighty thousand eons without cessation.
When he had finished speaking the Sutra, he entered a quiet room where he remained in dhyana samadhi for eighty-four thousand eons.
Then the sixteen Bodhisattva-Shramaneras, knowing that the Buddha had entered his room and was silently absorbed in dhyana samadhi, each ascended the Dharma seat.
亦于八万四千劫、为四部众、广说分别妙法华经，一一皆度六百万 亿那由他恒河沙等众生，示教、利喜，令发阿耨多罗三藐三菩提心 。
For a period of eighty-four thousand eons, for the sake of the fourfold assembly, they spoke the Wonderful Dharma Flower Sutra extensively and in detail. Each one of them crossed over six hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of Ganges’ sands of living beings, instructing them with the teaching, benefiting them, making them rejoice and causing them to bring forth the thought of anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
After eighty-four thousand eons had passed, the Buddha, Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory arose from samadhi, approached the Dharma throne and serenely sat down upon it.
He addressed the great assembly, saying,
“these sixteen Bodhisattva-Shramaneras are very rare. All their faculties are keen and their wisdom is clear. They have in the past already made offerings to limitless thousands of myriads of millions of Buddhas.
In the presence of those Buddhas, they constantly cultivated Brahman conduct, accepting and upholding the Buddha’s wisdom, instructing living beings and causing them to enter into it.”
“You should all make a point of drawing near to and making offerings to them. Why?
Those Hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, or Bodhisattvas who can have faith in the Dharma of the Sutra spoken by these sixteen Bodhisattvas, accept and uphold it without defaming it, will all attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi, that is, the wisdom of the Thus Come One.”
The Buddha told the bhikshus, “These sixteen Bodhisattvas always delight in speaking the Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra.
Each Bodhisattvas has transformed six hundred myriads of millions of nayutas of Ganges’ sands of living beings who, life after life were born together with the Bodhisattvas and heard the Dharma from them, fully believing and understanding it.
For this reason, they have met up with forty thousand millions of Buddhas, World Honored Ones and to this moment have not stopped doing so.”
‘诸比丘，我今语汝，彼佛弟子十六沙弥，今皆得阿耨多罗三藐三 菩提，于十方国土、现在说法，有无量百千万亿菩萨、声闻、以为 眷属。
“Bhikshus, I will tell you, those disciples of the Buddha, the sixteen Shramaneras, have all now attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi, and in the lands of the ten directions, are presently speaking the Dharma. They have as their retinues limitless hundreds of thousands of millions of Bodhisattvas and Hearers.
Two have become Buddhas in the East. One is named Akshobhya, in the
Land of Happiness. The other is named Sumeru Peak.
– 32 –
Two have become Buddhas in the Southeast. One is named Lion Sound. The other is named Lion Sign.
Two have become Buddhas in the South. One is named Space Dweller. The other is named Eternal Extinction.
Two have become Buddhas in the Southwest. One is named Royal Sign. The other is named Brahma Sign.
Two have become Buddhas in the West. One is named Amitayus. The other is named Savior of all Worlds from Suffering and Anguish.
西北方二佛，一名多摩罗跋栴檀香神通，二名须弥相。 Two have become Buddhas in the Northwest. One is named
Tamalapatrachandana Fragrance and Spiritual Penetrations. The other is named Sumeru Sign.
Two have become Buddhas in the North. One is named Cloud Self- Mastery. The other is named King of Cloud Self-Mastery.
In the Northeast there is a Buddha by the name of Destroyer of All Worldly Fear.
The other Buddha, the sixteenth, is myself, Shakyamuni Buddha, here in the Saha World, where I have realized anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
“Bhikshus, we, as Shramaneras each taught and transformed limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of millions of Ganges’ sands of living beings, who, hearing the Dharma from us, were set towards anuttarasamyaksambodhi.”
“Of these living beings, there are those who dwell at the level of Hearers. I constantly instruct and transform them in anuttarasamyaksambodhi. All these people will, by means of this Dharma, gradually enter the Buddha Path.
Why? The Thus Come One’s wisdom is hard to believe and hard to understand.
You were Bhikshus while I transformed living beings as limitless as Ganges sands who shall become disciples as Hearers after my extinction in the future.
After my extinction, furthermore, there will be disciples who will not hear this Sutra, who will not know or be aware of the Bodhisattva conduct, but who will, through the attainment of their own merit and virtue give rise to the thought of extinction and who will enter Nirvana.
我于余国作佛，更有异名，是人虽生灭度之想、入于涅盘，而于彼 土、求佛智慧，得闻是经，惟以佛乘而得灭度，更无余乘，除诸如 来方便说法。’
I shall be a Buddha in another land, with another name. Although these people will have produced the thought of extinction and enter into Nirvana, they will, in those lands, seek the Buddha’s wisdom and get to hear this Sutra and that it is only by means of the Buddha Vehicle that extinction can be attained. There are no other vehicles, except for those expedient devices taught by other Thus Come Ones.”
‘诸比丘，若如来自知涅盘时到，众又清净，信解坚固，了达空法 ，深入禅定，便集诸菩萨及声闻众，为说是经。世间无有二乘而得 灭度，惟一佛乘得灭度耳。
“Bhikshus, when the Thus Come One knows of himself, that the time of his Nirvana has come, that the assembly is pure, that their faith and understanding are solid and firm, that they fully comprehend the Dharma of emptiness and have deeply entered into dhyana samadhi, he will gather together the host of Bodhisattvas and Hearers and speak this Sutra for them, saying, “there are not two vehicles by which extinction is attained. There is only the one Buddha Vehicle by which extinction can be attained.”
Bhikshus, you should know, the expedients of the Thus Come One deeply enter the natures of living beings. Knowing that they aspire to and are content with lesser Dharmas and are deeply attached to the five desires, he speaks to them of Nirvana. When they hear him, then they immediately believe and accept it.
It is as if, for example, there is a road, five hundred yojanas long, steep, dangerous and bad, an uninhabited and terrifying place.
A large group of people wish to travel this road to reach a cache of precious jewels.
Among them, there is a guide, intelligent, wise and clear-headed, who knows the road well, both its passable and impassable features, and who wishes to lead the group through this hardship.
Midway, the group he is leading grows weary and wishes to turn back. They say to the guide, “we are exhausted and afraid. We cannot go forward. It’s too far. We want to turn back now.”
Their leader, who has many expedients, had this thought; “How pitiful they are. How can they renounce the great and precious treasure and wish to turn back?”
Having had this thought, through the power of his expedient devices, he transforms a city in the center of the dangerous road, three hundred yojanas in extent, and says to them,
“Do not be afraid. Do not turn back; Stay here now in this great city I have created just for you. If you go into this city, you will be happy and at peace. If you then wish to proceed to the jewel cache, you may do so.”
Then the exhausted group rejoiced greatly, having gained what they had never had.
“We have now escaped this bad road and gained happiness and peace.”
Then the group went forward and entered the transformed city; thinking that they had already been saved, they felt happy and at peace.
At that time, the guide, knowing that they were rested and no longer weary, made the city disappear, saying to them,
“All of you, come, let us go. The jewel cache is near. The great city was merely something I created from transformation to give you a rest.”
Bhikshus, the Thus Come One is also like this. He now acts as a great guide for all of you.
He knows that living beings should leave and cross over the evil road of the torments of birth and death which is so steep, difficult and long. He shall respond to and save them.
If living beings only hear of the one Buddha Vehicle, they will not wish to see the Buddha or to draw near to him. Instead, they will think,
“The Buddha path is long and far; it can only be accomplished after much labor and suffering.”
The Buddha knows their minds to be weak and lowly. When they reach the “Midway-Nirvana”, he uses the power of expedients to rest at the Midway and to speak of the two Nirvanas.
If living beings dwell on these two levels, the Thus Come One then tells them,
“You have not yet finished your job. The level you are dwelling at is near the Buddhas’ wisdom. You should observe and ponder this: the Nirvana you have attained is not the real one. The Thus Come One has but used the power of his expedients and, within the one Buddha Vehicle, discriminated and spoken of three.”
He is like that guide, who, in order to give the travelers a rest, conjured up a great city. Then, when they had rested, he told them, “the place of the jewels is near. This city is not real, but merely something I have conjured up.”
At that time the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses saying,
大通智胜佛， 十劫坐道场， 佛法不现前， 不得成佛道。
“The Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory Sat in the Bodhimanda for ten eons,
Without the manifestation of the Buddhadharma, And he did not realize the Buddha Way.
诸天神龙王、 阿修罗众等， 常雨于天华， 以供养彼佛，
Heavenly spirits and dragon kings,
And the host of asuras,
Constantly rained down heavenly flowers, As an offering to that Buddha.
诸天击天鼓， 并作众伎乐， 香风吹萎华， 更雨新好者。
The Gods beat upon their heavenly drums
And made all kinds of music;
Fragrant breezes blew away the withered flowers And fine, new ones rained down.
过十小劫已， 乃得成佛道， 诸天及世人， 心皆怀踊跃。
When ten eons had passed,
He then realized the Buddha Way.
All the gods and humans,
Danced for the joy within their minds.
彼佛十六子， 皆与其眷属、 千万亿围绕， 俱行至佛所，
The sixteen sons of that Buddha
As well as their retinues,
Thousands of millions surrounding them, All went before that Buddha.
头面礼佛足， 而请转法轮。 圣师子法雨， 充我及一切，
They bowed with their heads at his feet And asked him to turn the Dharma-wheel, “May the sagely lion’s Dharma rain
Fill us and everyone!”
世尊甚难值， 久远时一现， 为觉悟群生， 震动于一切。
A World Honored One is very hard to encounter, Appearing but once in a long time.
In order to awaken all creatures,
He shakes all things.
东方诸世界、 五百万亿国， 梵宫殿光曜， 昔所未曾有。
In five hundred myriads of millions of lands, In worlds in the eastern direction,
Brahma palaces shone with a light
Such as they never had before.
诸梵见此相， 寻来至佛所， 散花以供养， 并奉上宫殿， 请佛转法轮， 以偈而赞叹。
The Brahmas, seeing these signs,
Followed them to the Buddha.
They scattered flowers as an offering,
And offered up their palaces,
Asking the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel, With verses in his praise.
佛知时未至， 受请默然坐。 三方及四维、 上下亦复尔，
The Buddha knew the time had not yet come
And received their request seated in silence.
From the other three directions, and four points in between, And, likewise, from above, and below,
散华奉宫殿， 请佛转法轮， 世尊甚难值， 愿以大慈悲、 广开甘露门， 转无上法轮。
They scattered flowers and offered their palaces,
Asking the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel:
“The World Honored One is very hard to meet;
We pray that through his great compassion and pity He will open wide the sweet dew door
And turn the supreme Dharma-wheel.”
无量慧世尊， 受彼众人请， 为宣种种法， 四谛十二缘， 无明至老死、 皆从生缘有。
The World Honored One, having limitless wisdom,
Received the multitude’s request
And proclaimed various Dharmas for their sakes. The Four Truths, the Twelve Conditions,
From ignorance up to old age and death —
All arise because of birth.
如是众过患， 汝等应当知。 宣畅是法时， 六百万亿垓、 得尽诸苦际， 皆成阿罗汉。
In this way the host of calamities comes to be;
You should all know this.
When he expounded on this Dharma
Six hundred myriads of millions of billions Exhausted the limits of all suffering
And all became Arhats.
第二说法时， 千万恒沙众， 于诸法不受， 亦得阿罗汉。
When he spoke the Dharma the second time,
Hosts like the sands of a thousand myriads of Ganges rivers Their minds grasping no dharmas,
Also attained Arhatship.
从是后得道， 其数无有量， 万亿劫算数、 不能得其边。
After that, those who gained the Way,
Were incalculable in number;
Were one to count through myriads of millions of eons One could not reach their limit.
时十六王子、 出家作沙弥， 皆共请彼佛、 演说大乘法。
At that time, the sixteen princes,
Left home and became Shramaneras.
Together they requested that the Buddha
Extensively proclaim the Dharma of the Great Vehicle:
我等及营从， 皆当成佛道， 愿得如世尊、 慧眼第一净。
“May we and our followers
All perfect the Buddha Way.
We wish to become like the World Honored One, With the Wisdom Eye and foremost purity.”
佛知童子心， 宿世之所行， 以无量因缘、 种种诸譬喻， 说六波罗蜜、 及诸神通事。
The Buddha, knowing the intentions of the youths,
Their practices in former lives,
Used limitless causes and conditions
And various analogies,
To reach them the Six Paramitas,
As well as matters of spiritual penetrations.
分别真实法、 菩萨所行道， 说是法华经， 如恒河沙偈。
He discriminated the real Dharma,
And the pathway walked by the Bodhisattvas. He spoke the Dharma Flower Sutra
Its verses in numbers like Ganges’ sands.
彼佛说经已， 静室入禅定， 一心一处坐、 八万四千劫。
After the Buddha had spoken the Sutra
In a quiet room he entered dhyana Samadhi Singlemindedly sitting in one place,
For eighty-four thousand eons.
是诸沙弥等， 知佛禅未出， 为无量亿众、 说佛无上慧，
All the Shramaneras,
Knowing the Buddha had not yet left dhyana, For the sake of the limitless millions assembled, Spoke of the Buddha’s unsurpassed wisdom.
各各坐法座， 说是大乘经， 于佛宴寂后， 宣扬助法化。
Each seated on his Dharma throne,
Spoke this Great Vehicle Sutra.
After the Buddha had become peacefully still, They propagated and taught the Dharma.
一一沙弥等、 所度诸众生， 有六百万亿， 恒河沙等众。
Each one of the Shramaneras
Took across living beings
To the number of grains of sand
In six hundred myriads of Ganges rivers.
彼佛灭度后， 是诸闻法者， 在在诸佛土、 常与师俱生。
After that Buddha had crossed over into extinction, All those who heard the Dharma,
In whatever Buddhalands they might be,
Were reborn there together with their teachers.
是十六沙弥， 具足行佛道， 今现在十方， 各得成正觉。
The sixteen Shramaneras
Perfectly practiced the Buddha Path. Presently in the ten directions
Each has realized proper enlightenment.
尔时闻法者， 各在诸佛所， 其有住声闻， 渐教以佛道。
Those who heard the Dharma then, Are each in the presence of a Buddha; Those who are Hearers,
Are gradually taught the Buddha Path.
我在十六数， 曾亦为汝说， 是故以方便、 引汝趋佛慧。
I was one of the sixteen;
In the past, I taught all of you.
I therefore use expedients
To draw you into the Buddha’s wisdom.
以是本因缘， 今说法华经， 令汝入佛道， 慎勿怀惊惧。
Through these former causal conditions,
I presently speak The Dharma Flower Sutra, Leading you to enter the Buddha Path.
Take care not to become frightened.
譬如险恶道， 迥绝多毒兽， 又复无水草， 人所怖畏处。
Suppose there is a steep and bad road, Remote and teeming with venomous beasts, Lacking, as well, water or grass
–A place feared by all.
无数千万众、 欲过此险道， 其路甚旷远， 经五百由旬。
Countless thousands of myriads Wish to traverse this dangerous road With its pathways so distant, Extending five hundred yojanas.
时有一导师， 强识有智慧， 明了心决定， 在险济众难。
There is among them a guide,
Intelligent and wise,
Clear and resolute in mind,
Who can rescue them from their difficulty.
众人皆疲倦、 而白导师言， 我等今顿乏， 于此欲退还。
The group grows weary And says to the guide,
“We are all exhausted, now And want to turn back.”
导师作是念， 此辈甚可愍， 如何欲退还， 而失大珍宝。
The guide thinks to himself,
“How very pitiful they are.
How can they wish to turn back
And lose the great and precious treasure?”
寻时思方便， 当设神通力， 化作大城郭， 庄严诸舍宅，
Instantly he thinks of a device:
Using the power of spiritual penetrations He conjures up a great city
Adorned with houses,
周匝有园林、 渠流及浴池， 重门高楼阁， 男女皆充满。
Surrounded by gardens and groves, Brooks and bathing ponds,
Layered gates and tiered pavilions, Filled with men and women.
即作是化已， 慰众言勿惧， 汝等入此城， 各可随所乐。
After creating this,
He pities them saying, “Do not be afraid. But go into this city
And enjoy yourselves as you wish.”
诸人既入城， 心皆大欢喜， 皆生安隐想， 自谓已得度。
When they had entered the city, They rejoiced greatly at heart Thinking they were safe and sound, And that they had been saved.
导师知息已， 集众而告言， 汝等当前进， 此是化城耳。
The guide, knowing they were rested, Assembled them together and said,
“You should all go forward,
For this is nothing but a transformed city.
我见汝疲极， 中路欲退还， 故以方便力、 权化作此城， 汝今勤精进， 当共至宝所。
Seeing that you were exhausted
And wanted to turn back midway,
I used the power of expedients,
To transform provisionally this city. You should now be vigorous
And proceed to the jewel cache.”
I, too, am like this,
I am the guide of all;
见诸求道者、 中路而懈废， 不能度生死、 烦恼诸险道。 故以方便力， 为息说涅盘， 言汝等苦灭，
Seeing those who seek the way,
Exhausted in mid-course
Unable to cross the dangerous paths,
Of birth, death and affliction,
Therefore, I use the power of expedients, To speak of Nirvana and give them a rest, Saying, “Your sufferings are ended.
所作皆已办。 既知到涅盘， 皆得阿罗汉， 尔乃集大众， 为说真实法。
You have done what you had to do.
Then, knowing they have reached Nirvana, And had all become Arhats,
I gather them together,
To teach them the genuine Dharma.
诸佛方便力， 分别说三乘， 唯有一佛乘， 息处故说二。 今为汝说实， 汝所得非灭，
The Buddhas use the power of expedients,
To discriminate and speak of three vehicles
But there is only the one Buddha Vehicle.
The other two were spoken as a resting place. What I am telling you now is the truth;
What you have gained is not extinction.
为佛一切智， 当发大精进。 汝证一切智， 十力等佛法， 具三十二相， 乃是真实灭。
For the sake of the Buddha’s All Wisdom,
You should exert yourselves with great vigor.
When you have certified to All Wisdom,
And have the Ten Powers and other Buddhadharma And have perfected the thirty-two marks,
Then that is genuine extinction.
诸佛之导师， 为息说涅盘， 既知是息已， 引入于佛慧。
The Buddhas, the guiding masters,
Speak of Nirvana to give living beings rest, But once they know that they are rested, They lead them into the Buddhas’ wisdom.”
Verse In Summary
Moistening all the three dispositions
The disciples receive the (Buddha’s) kindness;
But the transformed city is falsely created and is not real.
One takes another look at the causes behind (the Buddha Great Penetrating Wisdom Victory)
So the sixteen grandsons,
In the eight directions, certify to a golden body.
Homage to the Dharma Flower Assembly of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Homage to the Dharma Flower Assembly of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Homage to the Dharma Flower Assembly of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
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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.