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.
Then the bodhisattva mahāsattva Bhaiṣajyarāja and the bodhisattva mahāsattva Mahāpratibhāna, together with a following of two hundred thousand bodhisattvas, facing the Bhagavān, said, “Bhagavān, have no concern over this matter. Bhagavān, we will teach, we will expound this Dharma teaching to beings after the nirvāṇa of the Tathāgata.
“Bhagavān, in that time beings will be wicked, have few roots of merit, be arrogant, be devoted to gain and honor, engage in roots of demerit, be difficult to guide, have no interest, and be filled with disinterest, but, Bhagavān, we will demonstrate the power of patience and in that time we will teach this sūtra, we will uphold it, we will expound it, we will write it out, we will honor it, we will venerate it, and we will make offerings to it. Bhagavān, we will cast aside body and life and teach this sūtra. Therefore, Bhagavān, have no concern.”
That assembly’s bhikṣus, both those in training and those who had passed beyond training, and the five hundred bhikṣus, then said to the Bhagavān, “Bhagavān, we too are resolved to teach this Dharma teaching and will do so in other world realms.”
Thereupon the Bhagavān gave prophecies of the highest, complete enlightenment to all the Bhagavān’s śrāvakas, both those in training and those who had passed beyond training. All the eight thousand bhikṣus, with their hands together in homage, bowed toward the Bhagavān and said to the Bhagavān, “Bhagavān, do not be concerned. In the later times, in the later era, after the Tathāgata has passed into nirvāṇa, we also will expound this Dharma teaching in other world realms. [F.101.b] Why is that? Bhagavān, the beings in this Sahā world realm will be arrogant, with few roots of merit, constantly malicious, deceitful, and dishonest.”
The Bhagavān’s maternal aunt Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī and six thousand bhikṣuṇīs, both bhikṣuṇīs in training and those who had passed beyond training, now arose from their seats at the same time, with their hands together in homage, bowed toward the Bhagavān, and stood there gazing at the Bhagavān.
The Bhagavān said to Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī, “Gautamī, do not stand394 gazing at the Tathāgata, unhappily thinking, ‘The Tathāgata has not spoken to me, has not prophesied the highest, complete enlightenment for me.’ For when I gave a prophecy to the entire assembly, you too, Gautamī, received a prophecy accordingly.
“Gautamī, from now on you will be a bodhisattva mahāsattva dharmabhāṇaka under thirty-eight hundred thousand quintillion buddhas. These six thousand bhikṣuṇīs, both bhikṣuṇīs in training and those who have passed beyond training, will be bodhisattva dharmabhāṇakas with you under those tathāgatas.
“Beyond that and even further beyond that, you will complete your bodhisattva practice and appear in the world as the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha, the one with perfect wisdom and conduct, the sugata, the knower of the world, the unsurpassable guide who tames beings, the teacher of gods and humans, the buddha, the bhagavān named Sarvasattvapriyadarśana.
“Gautamī, the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Sarvasattvapriyadarśana will give a prophecy to those six thousand bodhisattvas [F.102.a] of their successive attainment of the highest, complete enlightenment.”
The Bhagavān, knowing the thoughts that were in the mind of Bhikṣuṇī Yaśodharā, said to Bhikṣuṇī Yaśodharā, “Yaśodharā, I declare to you, I make it known to you,395 that you will be a bodhisattva dharmabhāṇaka under a hundred thousand million buddhas. You will eventually complete your bodhisattva practice and in the world realm named Bhadrā you will appear in the world as the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha, the one with perfect wisdom and conduct, the sugata, the knower of the world, the unsurpassable guide who tames beings, the teacher of gods and humans, the buddha, the bhagavān named Raśmiśatasahasraparipūrṇadhvaja. The lifespan of the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Raśmiśatasahasraparipūrṇadhvaja will be immeasurable.”
At this, Bhikṣuṇī Mahāprajāpatī Gautamī and her following of six thousand bhikṣuṇīs, and Bhikṣuṇī Yaśodharā and her following of four thousand bhikṣuṇīs, were astonished and amazed by obtaining from the Bhagavān the prophecy of their highest, complete enlightenment.
As soon as the Bhagavān looked at them, those bodhisattva mahāsattvas rose from their seats. With their hands placed together in homage they bowed toward the Bhagavān and thought, “The Bhagavān is going to exhort us to teach this Dharma teaching.” At that thought, they all trembled and said to each other, “Noble ones, if the Bhagavān exhorts us to teach this Dharma teaching in the future times, how shall we respond?”
Then those noble ones, because of their veneration for the Bhagavān and because of their past practice and prayers, roared the lion’s roar in the presence of the Bhagavān. “Bhagavān, in the future time when the Tathāgata has passed into nirvāṇa, we will go into the ten directions, and through the power of the Bhagavān we will have beings write out this Dharma teaching, recite it, contemplate it, and teach it. And the Bhagavān, who will be residing in other world realms, will guard us, protect us, and hide us.”
This concludes “Resolutions,” the twelfth chapter of the Dharma teaching of “The White Lotus of the Good Dharma.” [B9]
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