The White Lotus of the Good Dharma
The Tathāgata’s Miracles
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
First published 2018
Current version v 1.2.12 (2022)
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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 Tathāgata’s Miracles
Then those hundreds of millions of quintillions of bodhisattvas who had emerged from the ground, as numerous as the atoms in a world realm, placed their hands together in homage and said to the Bhagavān, “Bhagavān, we will teach this Dharma teaching in all the buddha realms where the Tathāgata has passed into nirvāṇa, and in the buddha realms where the Bhagavān will pass into nirvāṇa.
“Bhagavān, we will possess this vast Dharma teaching, and read it, teach it, explain it, and write it out.”
At this, many hundred thousands of quintillions of bodhisattvas, such as Mañjuśrī, who dwelled in the world realm Sahā, as well as bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, upāsikās, devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, nonhumans, and bodhisattva mahāsattvas as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges River, said to the Bhagavān, “Bhagavān, when the Tathāgata has passed into nirvāṇa, we shall teach this Dharma teaching. Bhagavān, without a body we will reside in the air and we will proclaim it with our voices. We will make beings who are without roots of merit create roots of merit.” [F.144.a]
Then the Bhagavān said to the bodhisattva mahāsattva Viśiṣṭacāritra—the one who was foremost among the previously described multitudes, great multitudes, and masters of the multitudes of bodhisattva mahāsattvas—and said to the multitudes, great multitudes, and masters of the multitudes of bodhisattva mahāsattvas, “Excellent, Viśiṣṭacāritra, excellent! Do so! The Tathāgata ripened you for the sake of this Dharma teaching.”494
At that moment both the bhagavān, tathāgata Śākyamuni and the bhagavān who had passed into nirvāṇa, the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Prabhūtaratna, who were seated on a lion throne inside the stūpa, smiled. From the mouths of both, the organs of their tongues emerged. Those tongues extended as far as the realm of Brahmā, and from both those tongues many hundreds of thousands of quintillions of light rays radiated. From those light rays, from each light ray, there emanated many hundreds of thousands of quintillions of bodhisattvas whose bodies were the color of gold, who possessed the thirty-two signs of a great being, and were seated upon lion thrones in the center of lotuses. Those bodhisattvas went to hundreds of thousands of world realms in the main and intermediate directions. In those main and intermediate directions they taught the Dharma while remaining in midair.
Just as the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Śākyamuni and the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Prabhūtaratna performed this miracle with their tongues, tathāgatas, arhats, perfectly enlightened buddhas in other hundreds of thousands of quintillions of world realms, [F.144.b] who were seated on their individual lion thrones at the foot of precious trees, also performed this miracle with their tongues.
The Bhagavān Śākyamuni, Tathāgata Prabhūtaratna, and all those tathāgatas, arhats, perfectly enlightened buddhas performed this miracle for a hundred thousand years. Then, after a hundred thousand years had passed, the tathāgatas, arhats, perfectly enlightened buddhas concluded their miracle, and simultaneously, in the same instant, the same moment, the same second, made the great sound of clearing their throats and the sound of snapping their fingers once. That great sound of clearing their throats and the great sound of their finger snaps shook all the hundreds of thousands of quintillions of buddha realms in the ten directions. They shook, shook strongly, shook intensely; shuddered, shuddered strongly, shuddered intensely; and quaked, quaked strongly, and quaked intensely. All the devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, and nonhumans who were in those buddha realms, while remaining there, through the power of the buddhas saw this Sahā world realm. They saw the hundreds of thousands of quintillions of tathāgatas, arhats, perfectly enlightened buddhas seated on their individual lion thrones at the foot of precious trees, the bhagavān, the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Śākyamuni and the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Prabhūtaratna seated upon a lion throne in the center of the stūpa, and the fourfold assembly. [F.145.a] Seeing them they were astonished, amazed, and overjoyed, and they heard these words that came from the air: “Oh friends, beyond countless, innumerable hundreds of thousands of quintillions of world realms the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Śākyamuni is teaching to bodhisattva mahāsattvas the Dharma teaching, the extensive sūtra called The White Lotus of the Good Dharma, which is an instruction for bodhisattvas that is possessed by all buddhas. You should, with a superior motivation, rejoice in this! Pay homage to the bhagavān, the tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened buddha Śākyamuni! Make offerings to him!”
All those beings, having heard those words from the air, while remaining in their worlds now said, “We pay homage to the bhagavān tathāgata Śākyamuni!” In order to make offerings to the bhagavān tathāgata Śākyamuni and this Dharma teaching of The White Lotus of the Good Dharma, they placed their hands together in homage and scattered in the direction of this Sahā world realm many flowers, incenses, perfumes, garlands, ointments, powders, monastic robes,495 parasols, banners, divine flags, and banners of victory. They also scattered jewelry, clothing, long necklaces, short necklaces, jewels, and many kinds of precious materials. All those flowers, incenses, perfumes, garlands, ointments, powders, robes, parasols, banners, divine flags, banners of victory, long necklaces, short necklaces, jewels, and precious materials came to this Sahā world realm. [F.145.b] All those flowers, incenses, perfumes, garlands, ointments, powders, robes, parasols, banners, divine flags, banners of victory, long necklaces, short necklaces, jewels, and precious materials covered the all-inclusive Sahā world realm. At the same time they also covered those other hundred thousand quintillion world realms. In those hundred thousand world realms where those tathāgatas were present, the skies above them were each completely covered by a vast canopy of flowers.
Then the Bhagavān said to Viśiṣṭacāritra and the other bodhisattva mahāsattvas, “Noble ones, the tathāgatas, arhats, perfectly enlightened buddhas have inconceivable power. Noble ones, in order to bestow upon you this Dharma teaching, I could teach the many kinds of benefits through many aspects of the Dharma for many hundreds of thousands of quintillions of eons; but even if I were to teach these benefits, I would not have finished describing the many kinds of benefits of this Dharma teaching.
“Noble ones, in brief, all the dharmas of the Buddha, all that is preeminent from the Buddha, all the great secrets of the Buddha, all the profundities of the Buddha, I teach within this Dharma teaching.
“Therefore, noble ones, after the Tathāgata has passed into nirvāṇa you should be in possession of this Dharma teaching. You should teach it, write it out, read it, explain it, meditate upon it, and make offerings to it.
“Noble ones, wherever this Dharma teaching is read, taught, explained, [F.146.a] written out, contemplated, spoken about, chanted, or made into texts, whether it is a park, a temple, a palace, the foot of a tree, a house, or a cave, a caitya for the Tathāgata should be erected in that place. Why is that? It is because that place should be perceived as being the Bodhimaṇḍa of all the tathāgatas. It should be perceived as the place where all the tathāgatas, arhats, perfectly enlightened buddhas attain the highest, complete enlightenment of complete buddhahood. It should be perceived as the place where all the tathāgatas turn the wheel of the Dharma, and the place where all the tathāgatas pass into nirvāṇa.
This concludes “The Tathāgata’s Miracles,” the twentieth chapter of the Dharma teaching of “The White Lotus of the Good Dharma.” [B12]
Translated, revised, and finalized by the Indian Upādhyāya Surendrabodhi and the chief editor Lotsawa Bandé Nanam Yeshé Dé.
Tibetan Editions of the Sūtra
dam chos padma dkar po’i mdo (Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra) [The White Lotus of the Good Dharma]. Toh 113, Degé Kangyur, 103 vols. New Delhi: Karmapae Chodhey Gyalwae Sungrab Patrun Khang, 1976–79, vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1a–180b.
———. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 108 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2006–2009, vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), pp. 3–427.
———. Choné Kangyur (co ne bka’ ’gyur). 108 vols. Choné: co ne par khang, 1926, vol. 31 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1–212b.
———. Lhasa Kangyur (lha sa bka’ ’gyur). 100 vols. Lhasa: zhol bka’ ’gyur par khang, 1934, vol. 53 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1b–285b.
———. Narthang Kangyur (snar thang bka’ ’gyur). 102 vols. Narthang: snar thang par khang, eighteenth century, vol. 53 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1b–281b.
———. Stok Palace Kangyur (stog pho brang bris ma bka’ ’gyur). 109 vols. Leh: smad rtsis shes rig dpe mdzod, 1975–80. vol. 67 (mdo sde, ma), folios 1a–270b.
———. Urga Kangyur (ur ga bka’ ’gyur). New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1990–94. vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1a–180b.
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Sanskrit Editions of the Sūtra
Zhongxin, Jiang. Sanskrit Lotus Sutra Fragments from the Lüshun Museum Collection. Tokyo: Sōka Gakkai, 1997.
Vaidya, P. L. Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra. Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning, 1960.
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Other Kangyur Texts
rgya cher rol pa’i mdo (Lalitavistarasūtra, Toh 95. Degé Kangyur vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1b–216b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation committee (2013).
ting nge ’dzin gyi rgyal po’i mdo (Samādhirājasūtra), Toh 127, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 1a–175b. English translation in Roberts (2018).
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phal po che’i mdo (Avataṁsakasūtra) [A Multitude of Buddhas Sūtra]. Toh 44, Degé Kangyur vols. 35–38 (phal chen, ka–a), folios ka 1a–nga 363a.
lang kar gshegs pa’i mdo (Laṅkāvatārasūtra) [The Entry into Laṅka Sutra]. Toh 107, Degé Kangyur vol. 49 (mdo sde, ca), folios 56a–191b.
shes rab pha rol tu phyin pa brgyad stong pa (Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā) [The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses]. Toh 12, Degé Kangyur vol. 33 (brgyad stong pa, ka), folios 1b–286a.
sa bcu pa’i mdo (Daśabhūmikasūtra) [The Sūtra of the Ten Bhūmis]. Chapter 31, in Toh 44, Degé Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, kha), folios 166a–283a. English translation in Roberts (2021).
gser ’od dam pa’i mdo (Suvarṇaprabhāsūtra) [The Golden Light Sūtra]. Toh 556, Degé Kangyur vol. 89 (rgyud, pa), folios 151b–273a.
Abhayākaragupta. thub pa’i dgongs pa’i rgyan (Munimatālaṁkāra). Toh 3903, Degé Tengyur vol. 210 (dbu ma, a), folios 73b–293a.
Asaṅga. theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma’i bstan bcos rnam par bshad pa (Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā). Toh 4025, Degé Tengyur vol. 225 (sems tsam, phi), folios 74b–129a.
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———. byang chub sems dpa’i rnal ’byor spyod pa bzhi brgya pa’i ’grel pa (Bodhisattvayogacaryācatuḥśatakaṭīkā) Toh 3865, Degé Tengyur vol. 205 (dbu ma, ya), folios 30b–239a.
Daṃṣṭrāsena, Vasubandhu, or neither. shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa ’bum pa dang nyi khri lnga stong pa dang khri brgyad stong pa’i rgya cher bshad pa (Śatasāhasrikāpañcaviṁśatisāhasrikaṣṭādaśasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitābṛhaṭṭīkā). Toh 3808, Degé Tengyur vol. 93 (sher phyin, pha), folios 1a–292b. English translation in Sparham (2022).
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Maitreya-Asaṅga. theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma’i bstan bcos (Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra) [A Mahāyāna Treatise on the Supreme Continuum]. Toh 4024, Degé Tengyur vol. 225 (sems tsam, phi), folios 54b–73a.
Nāgārjuna. mdo kun las btus pa (Sūtrasamuccaya). Toh 3934, Degé Tengyur vol. 212 (dbu ma, ki), folios 148b–215a.
Saitsalak (sa’i rtsa lag, Kuiji, Pṛthivībandhu). dam pa’i chos padma dkar po’i ’grel pa. Toh 4017, Degé Tengyur, vol. 120 (mdo ’grel, di), folios 175b–302a.
———. dam pa’i chos padma dkar po’i ’grel pa. bstan ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Tengyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 120 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 1994–2008, vol. 69 (mdo sde, di, vol. 135), pp. 476–826.
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Vasubandhu. theg pa chen po bsdus pa’i ’grel pa (Mahāyānasaṁgrahabhāṣya). Toh 4050, Degé Tengyur vol. 225 (sems tsam, yi), folios 121b–190a.
Wantsik (wan tshig, Yuan Tso). dgongs pa zab mo nges par ’grel pa (Gambhīrasaṁdhinirmocanasūtraṭīkā). Toh 4016, Degé Tengyur vols. 220–22 (mdo ’grel, ti–ti), folios ti 1a–di 175a.
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