The White Lotus of the Good Dharma
- Yeshé De
Degé Kangyur, vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1.b–180.b
Translated by Peter Alan Roberts
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
The White Lotus of the Good Dharma, popularly known as the Lotus Sūtra, is taught by Buddha Śākyamuni on Vulture Peak to an audience that includes bodhisattvas from countless realms, as well as bodhisattvas who emerge from under the ground, from the space below this world. Buddha Prabhūtaratna, who has long since passed into nirvāṇa, appears within a floating stūpa to hear the sūtra, and Śākyamuni enters the stūpa and sits beside him. The Lotus Sūtra is celebrated, particularly in East Asia, for its presentation of crucial elements of the Mahāyāna tradition, such as the doctrine that there is only one yāna, or “vehicle”; the distinction between expedient and definite teachings; and the notion that the Buddha’s life, enlightenment, and parinirvāṇa were simply manifestations of his transcendent buddhahood, while he continues to teach eternally. A recurring theme in the sūtra is its own significance in teaching these points during past and future eons, with many passages in which the Buddha and bodhisattvas such as Samantabhadra describe the great benefits that come from devotion to it, the history of its past devotees, and how it is the Buddha’s ultimate teaching, supreme over all other sūtras.
The White Lotus of the Good Dharma Sūtra was translated from Tibetan with reference to the Sanskrit by Peter Alan Roberts. Ling Lung Chen was the consultant for the Chinese versions. Emily Bower was the project manager and editor. Ben Gleason was the proofreader.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of May & George Gu, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
The bodhisattva mahāsattva Samantabhadra, leading a following of countless bodhisattva mahāsattvas, and leading a following of countless devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, and mahoragas, humans, and nonhumans, came from the east, and the realms shook, a rain of lotuses fell, and a hundred thousand quintillion musical instruments played. With the great power of a bodhisattva, with the great manifestations of a bodhisattva, with the great miraculous power of a bodhisattva, with the great majesty636 of a bodhisattva, with the great brilliant magnificence of a bodhisattva, with the great way637 of a bodhisattva, with the great miracles of a bodhisattva, and with the great miraculous manifestation of leading a following638 of devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, and nonhumans—it was with such an inconceivable miraculous manifestation that the bodhisattva mahāsattva Samantabhadra came to this Sahā world realm.
He came to Vulture Peak, to the Bhagavān, bowed his head to the Bhagavān’s feet, circumambulated the Bhagavān seven times, and said to the Bhagavān, “Bhagavān, I have come here from the buddha realm of the bhagavān tathāgata Ratnatejobhyudgatarāja. Bhagavān, [F.175.b] I have come before the bhagavān tathāgata Śākyamuni in order to listen to this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma in this Sahā world realm. Bhagavān, these hundred thousand bodhisattvas have also come to listen to this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma. Therefore, Bhagavān, Tathāgata, Arhat, perfectly enlightened Buddha, teach extensively this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma to these bodhisattva mahāsattvas.”
The Bhagavān said to the bodhisattva mahāsattva Samantabhadra, “Noble one, these bodhisattva mahāsattvas all have instant comprehension. This639 Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma is like this: it is inseparable from the true nature, the limit of reality, and the essence of phenomena.”640
Then in order to establish the bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās who had gathered in that assembly in this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma, the Bhagavān said to the bodhisattva mahāsattva Samantabhadra, “Noble one, a woman who has four qualities will obtain The White Lotus of the Good Dharma in her hands. What are these four? She will have the blessing of the buddha bhagavāns, she will have planted the roots of merit, [F.176.a] she will be among the class of those who are determined,641 and she will have developed the aspiration to attain the highest, complete enlightenment in order to protect all beings.
“Noble son, a woman who has those four qualities will obtain this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma in her hands.”
Then the bodhisattva mahāsattva Samantabhadra declared, “Bhagavān in the later times, during the later times, in the last five hundred years of the Dharma, I will protect the bhikṣus who are upholding such a sūtra as this. I will bring them happiness. I will cause them to avoid punishment, and I will neutralize poison. Bhagavān, I will continually guard and protect those dharmabhāṇakas so that whoever seeks to harm them and seeks such an opportunity will not be able to find such an opportunity.
“The evil Māra, Māra’s sons, and the Mārakāyika devas, Māra’s maidens, and Mara’s retinue who seek to harm them and seek such an opportunity will not be able to find such an opportunity. No deva, yakṣa, rākṣasa, preta, pūtana, kṛtya, or vetāla that seeks to harm those dharmabhāṇakas and seeks for such an opportunity, will be able to find such an opportunity.
“Bhagavān, when the dharmabhāṇakas are walking while dedicated to the practice of contemplating this Dharma teaching, at that time, in order to protect this Dharma teaching, I will mount a white, six-tusked king of elephants and, accompanied by an entourage of bodhisattvas, I shall come before those dharmabhāṇakas in the place where the dharmabhāṇakas are walking.
“When the dharmabhāṇakas [F.176.b] who are dedicated to the practice of contemplating this Dharma teaching make a mistake in even one word or one letter of this Dharma teaching, at that time I will mount a white, six-tusked king of elephants and reveal myself to them and I will repeat the Dharma teaching correctly. Those dharmabhāṇakas will see my body and hear from me this Dharma teaching correctly and they will be pleased, delighted, and overjoyed—they will be joyful, and experience happiness and pleasure—and they will be dedicated to this Dharma teaching. As soon as they see me they will attain samādhi. They will attain the power of mental retention that is called the convergence of retentions. They will attain the power of mental retention that is called a trillion convergences. They will attain the power of mental retention that is called expertise in all sounds.
“Bhagavān, in the later times, during the later times, in the last five hundred years of the Dharma, I will reveal my body, the sight of which brings happiness to all beings, to the bhikṣus or bhikṣuṇīs, the upāsakas or upāsikās who possess such a sūtra as this, who write out such a sūtra as this, who seek for such a sūtra as this, who read such a sūtra as this, and who in the later times, during the later times, in the last five hundred years of the Dharma, are dedicated to walking, for the sake of this Dharma teaching, for three weeks—twenty-one days. I will mount a white, six-tusked king of elephants and, accompanied by an entourage of bodhisattvas, I shall come before those dharmabhāṇakas in the place where those dharmabhāṇakas are walking for twenty-one days. When I have arrived there I will reveal myself to those dharmabhāṇakas, inspire them to uphold it, encourage them, and bring them joy. I shall give them a dhāraṇī so that no one will be able to harm those dharmabhāṇakas, [F.177.a] no human or nonhuman will find such an opportunity and no woman will beguile them. I shall protect them. I shall save them from punishment. I shall counteract poison. Bhagavān, I shall give the dharmabhāṇakas these dhāraṇī words:
“Tadyathā:642 adaṇḍe643 daṇḍapati644 daṇḍāvartani645 daṇḍakuśale646 daṇḍasudhāri647 sudhārapati648 buddhapaśyane649 sarvadhāraṇi650 āvartani651 saṃvartani652 saṃghaparīkṣite653 saṃghanirghātani654 dharmaparīkṣite655 sarvasattvarutakauśalye kauśalyānugate656 siṃhavikrīḍite657 anuvarte658 vartani vartāli659 svāhā.660
“Bhagavān, while this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma is existing in this Jambudvīpa, the bodhisattvas into whose hands it comes, those dharmabhāṇakas, Bhagavān, should know that this Dharma teaching has come into their hands through the power of the bodhisattva mahāsattva Samantabhadra, and through the magnificence of the bodhisattva mahāsattva Samantabhadra.
“Bhagavān, the beings who write out this sūtra and who uphold it have obtained the activity of the bodhisattva Samantabhadra. Those beings will be those who have planted roots of merit under many buddhas.
“Bhagavān, those beings will have their heads stroked by the hand of the Tathāgata.
“Bhagavān, those beings who write out this sūtra, and those who study it after having written it out, Bhagavān, when they pass away they will be reborn as one of the devas of Trāyastriṃśa. The moment they are reborn there, in front of them will be eighty-four thousand deva maidens, and as devas with crowns the size of bherī drums they will dwell among those deva maidens.662
“Therefore, Bhagavān, this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma should be contemplated in the mind663 and written out. If someone keeps it in mind without distraction and writes it out, a hundred thousand buddhas will extend their hands toward them. When they die they will see a thousand buddhas. They will not fall into the lower existences at death. When they pass away from this world they will be reborn among the devas of Tuṣita. They will be reborn where the bodhisattva mahāsattva Maitreya, possessing the thirty-two signs of a superior being, is teaching the Dharma accompanied by an entourage of bodhisattvas and attended upon by a hundred thousand quintillion deva maidens.
“Therefore, a wise noble man or noble woman should respectfully write out this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma. They should respectfully transmit it. They should respectfully read it aloud. They should respectfully keep it in mind.
“Therefore, Bhagavān, a wise noble man or noble woman should possess this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma and they will have the benefit of that great number of qualities. [F.178.a]
Then the bhagavān, the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Śākyamuni said to the bodhisattva mahāsattva Samantabhadra, “It is excellent, Samantabhadra, excellent that for the benefit of many beings664 you, who are thus endowed with inconceivable qualities, with a superior motivation of compassion, and with an inconceivable aspiration, are blessing this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma.
“The noble men or noble women who possess the name of the bodhisattva mahāsattva Samantabhadra should be known to be those who have seen the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Śākyamuni and have heard this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma directly from Tathāgata Śākyamuni, have made offerings to Tathāgata Śākyamuni, have lauded Tathāgata Śākyamuni’s teaching of the Dharma, and have rejoiced in this Dharma teaching. Tathāgata Śākyamuni will have placed his hand upon their heads. They will have dressed Śākyamuni in Dharma robes.
“Samantabhadra, those noble men or noble women should be known to be the holders of the Tathāgata’s teaching. They will not delight in the Lokāyatas. [F.178.b] They will not delight in those who recite poetry. They will not delight in dancing, music, wrestling, meat sellers, butchers, chicken sellers, pig sellers, or pimps. Those who have heard, have written out, possess, and read such a sūtra as this will have no craving for anything else. Those beings will possess the essence of the Dharma. They will have their own correct attention. They will possess the power of their own merit. Beings will be happy to see them.
“Samantabhadra, in the later times, during the later times of the last five hundred years of the Dharma, if someone sees a bhikṣu who is a holder of this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma, they should think, ‘This noble man is going to go to the Bodhimaṇḍa. This noble man is going to be victorious over Māra’s army.666 This noble man is going to turn the wheel of the Dharma. He is going to beat the drum of the Dharma. He is going to blow the conch of the Dharma. He is going to send down a rain of the Dharma. He is going to sit upon the lion throne of the Dharma.’ Those are the thoughts that should arise in their minds.
“In the later times, during the later times of the last five hundred years of the Dharma, the bhikṣus who are holders of this Dharma teaching will not have cravings, [F.179.a] will have no attachment to Dharma robes, and will have no attachment to their alms bowls. Those dharmabhāṇakas will be honest. Those dharmabhāṇakas will have attained the three liberations.667 They will have turned away from this life.
“Those who criticize bhikṣus who are holders of such a sūtra as this will become blind. Those who speak unpleasantly to bhikṣus who are holders of such a sūtra as this will in that life have a discolored body. Those who ridicule and mock those who write out such a sūtra as this will have broken teeth, blackened teeth, ugly lips, flat noses, disfigured legs and arms, defective eyes, and a bad body odor. Their bodies will be covered with blisters, rashes, sores, abscesses, and itching spots.
“If someone says something unpleasant, whether it is true or not, to someone who upholds such a sūtra as this, who writes out such a sūtra as this, who reads aloud such a sūtra as this, who teaches such a sūtra as this, they should be known to have extremely heavy, bad karma.
“Therefore, Samantabhadra, one should stand up for bhikṣus who hold this Dharma teaching, even when they are far away. One should respect those bhikṣus who hold such a sūtra as this just as one would respect the Tathāgata.”
When this chapter on “Samantabhadra’s Encouragement” was being taught, bodhisattva mahāsattavas as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges River attained the power of mental retention called a trillion convergences.
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