The Inquiry of Lokadhara
Chapter Eleven: The Teaching on What Occurred in the Past
Degé Kangyur, vol. 60 (mdo sde, ma), folios 7.b–78.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
In The Inquiry of Lokadhara, the bodhisattva Lokadhara asks the Buddha to explain the proper way for bodhisattvas to discern the characteristics of phenomena and employ that knowledge to attain awakening. In reply, the Buddha teaches at length how to understand the lack of inherent existence of phenomena. As part of the teaching, the Buddha explains in detail the nonexistence of the aggregates, the elements, the sense sources, dependently originated phenomena, the four applications of mindfulness, the five powers, the eightfold path of the noble ones, and mundane and transcendent phenomena, as well as conditioned and unconditioned phenomena.
The sūtra was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the guidance of Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation from the Tibetan was produced by Timothy Hinkle. Andreas Doctor checked the translation against the Tibetan, edited the text, and wrote the introduction. James Gentry subsequently compared the translation against Kumārajīva’s Chinese translation and made further edits.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
“Lokadhara, through their great knowledge of the five aggregates, the eighteen elements, the twelve sense sources, the twelve links of dependent origination, the four applications of mindfulness, the five powers, the eightfold path of the noble ones, the phenomena of the world and transcendence, and conditioned and unconditioned phenomena, bodhisattva great beings will gain great knowledge of the characteristic of the thatness of all phenomena. They will become highly skilled in discerning the characteristics of phenomena. They will attain the power of recollection. They will have the intelligence that discerns the terminology for all phenomena. As soon as they exchange their bodies, they will obtain unbroken recollection, and they will eventually attain unsurpassed and perfect awakening.
“Lokadhara, countless immeasurable eons ago, a blessed buddha named Majestic Mount Meru of Gold from the Jambū River appeared in the world. He was a thus-gone one, a worthy one, a perfect buddha, perfect in knowledge and conduct, a well-gone one, a knower of the world, an unsurpassed being, a charioteer who guides beings, and a teacher of gods and humans. Lokadhara, the lifespan of the blessed Majestic Mount Meru of Gold from the Jambū River was five eons. His saṅgha of hearers was immeasurable. His buddha realm was pure and happy. All the beings who lived there were happy and joyful; they had little attachment, aggression, and ignorance; [F.71.a] they were easy to guide, easy to correct, and easy to purify.
“Lokadhara, the blessed Majestic Mount Meru of Gold from the Jambū River taught his bodhisattva assemblies a discourse called The Bodhisattva Collection That Counters the Doubts of All Beings. Lokadhara, in the assembly there was a bodhisattva named Ratnaprabha. He became tremendously diligent when he heard the teachings on the practices of the five aggregates, the eighteen elements, the twelve sense sources, the twelve links of dependent origination, the four applications of mindfulness, the five powers, the eightfold path of the noble ones, the phenomena of the world and transcendence, and conditioned and unconditioned phenomena. For the length of his life, which was two hundred thousand years, he never generated any attitude of negativity. Thus, he did not give rise to attachment, aggression, or ignorance, nor did he have any concern for profit, fame, food, drink, clothing, or his begging bowl. Rather, he generated great diligence in order to engage in the practice of this teaching. Lokadhara, the bodhisattva great being Ratnaprabha observed pure conduct within the teachings of the blessed Majestic Mount Meru of Gold from the Jambū River for his entire life. As he transitioned to another life, he was born again in that very buddha realm. After passing away young, he was once again born into that buddha realm, where he practiced pure conduct. He then took birth five hundred times per eon, until finally, at the end of the fifth eon, as the blessed Majestic Mount Meru of Gold from the Jambū River neared parinirvāṇa, he gained extensive learning and skill in applying Dharma teachings of the true characteristic such as this.75 At that point, he remembered all the teachings that he had heard from this Buddha. Endowed with the power of such recollection, he requested the Blessed One, ‘Blessed One, I request an extensive explanation of these Dharma teachings. Would you please give it?’ [F.71.b] In that very life, he brought countless, immeasurable beings to unsurpassed and perfect awakening.
“As the blessed Majestic Mount Meru of Gold from the Jambū River passed into parinirvāṇa, he entrusted the bodhisattva Ratnaprabha to uphold the Dharma. Thereby, after the Blessed One had passed into parinirvāṇa, the Dharma remained for another eon. In his five hundred lifetimes during that eon, Ratnaprabha always took birth as a human being, received ordination, and generated and propagated the true reality of all phenomena. Additionally, he served the purpose of bringing benefit and happiness to countless numbers of immeasurably many beings.
“Lokadhara, in the same manner, the bodhisattva Ratnaprabha met many tens of thousands of other buddhas, until finally he received a prophecy from the buddha Apramāṇābha, who prophesied that after one countless eon, Ratnaprabha would fully awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood. During that countless eon, Ratnaprabha met billions of buddhas, after which he fully awakened to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood as the blessed buddha Ornament of Certainty in Any Subject. He became a thus-gone one, a worthy one, a perfect buddha, perfect in knowledge and conduct, a well-gone one, a knower of the world, an unsurpassed being, a charioteer who guides beings, and a teacher of gods and humans. His bodhisattva assembly was unfathomable and immeasurable. His assembly of hearers was also beyond count. This buddha’s lifespan was two eons, and his buddha realm was very happy and adorned with the finest ornaments. Therefore, Lokadhara, bodhisattvas who wish to become skilled in the application of these teachings [F.72.a] must train in, recite, and exert themselves diligently in these teachings.
“Furthermore, bodhisattva great beings who wish to attain the skillful application of these teachings must exert themselves in developing four qualities. What are these four? They are going forth from the household into the homeless life, living alone, having pure discipline, and dispelling the attitude of laziness. Endowed with these four bodhisattva qualities, they will swiftly encounter four circumstances, if they apply themselves to study and are steadfast in patience. What are these four? They are being born in the center of Jambudvīpa, meeting the Buddha, practicing the Dharma, and dispelling the obscurations of negative action.
“Moreover, Lokadhara, bodhisattva great beings who exert themselves in this teaching will purify the powers of generosity, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration, and insight. When bodhisattva great beings live by this teaching, they will swiftly attain the power of skillful application. Moreover, Lokadhara, even when bodhisattva great beings engage in a small aspect of ascetic practice, they will do so with great compassion for beings. Immersed in such great compassion, they will exert themselves in the skillful application of these teachings. Moreover, Lokadhara, bodhisattva great beings who wish to attain such qualities must exert themselves in entering the dhāraṇī gateways. What does it mean to make effort to enter the dhāraṇī gateways? It means contemplating the limitless conditions for all Dharma teachings, contemplating the limitless skillful applications of all Dharma teachings, and, moreover, contemplating the emergence of these limitless skillful applications.76 [F.72.b] As they contemplate such, they will use their skillful application of gateways of absorption to enter limitless conditions for gateways into all Dharma teachings. With such power of entry, with its limitless skillful applications, they will gain knowledge of the true reality of all phenomena. They will be skilled in discerning the characteristics of all phenomena. They will possess the power of recollection. They will possess the insight that is skilled in discerning all phenomena. After leaving their bodies, they will obtain unbroken recollection. Having become irreversible from the Dharma, they will eventually attain unsurpassed and perfect awakening.
“Lokadhara, furthermore, through having entered the dhāraṇī gateways, bodhisattva great beings understand all phenomena in accordance with each of their causes and conditions. Through a single cause and condition, they understand thousands of causes and conditions, and attain access to all phenomena in accord with insight. Furthermore, Lokadhara, by generating such diligence in the practice of the Dharma, bodhisattva great beings will enter the absorption of the gateway of the single characteristic. Once they attain the absorption of the gateway of the single characteristic, they will enter the absorption of limitless characteristics. Once they have entered that, they will enter the gateway of all phenomena by means of various causes, conditions, and methods. In this manner, bodhisattvas attain access to all phenomena by entering the gateway of all phenomena.
“Furthermore, Lokadhara, by intensively cultivating insight, bodhisattva great beings become skilled concerning the characteristics of concentration and skilled in the absorption free from observation. Through the force of such absorption, they will become skilled in limitless forms of observation and limitless ways of arising from absorption. If bodhisattvas abide in this, they will gain access to the true characteristics of all phenomena. [F.73.a] Furthermore, Lokadhara, while bodhisattva great beings always contemplate the means of observing the world and contemplate the observation of conditioned phenomena, they also exert themselves in destroying the means of observing all phenomena, and they are free from any attachment. By cultivating this teaching, bodhisattvas will swiftly gain access to all phenomena. Furthermore, Lokadhara, when bodhisattva great beings practice with tremendous diligence and generate the strength of practice, they contemplate the true characteristic of all phenomena, do not dwell on worldly happiness, and do not get mixed up with worldly concerns. With such a practice, one will swiftly become skilled concerning the true characteristics of phenomena, become skilled in discerning the characteristics of phenomena, gain the power of recollection, gain the insight that is skilled in discerning the categories of all phenomena, gain unbroken recollection after leaving one’s body, and attain unsurpassed and perfect awakening. Therefore, Lokadhara, bodhisattva great beings who wish to perfect these qualities must practice according to this teaching. Lokadhara, if you diligently practice this teaching, before long you will attain unimpeded wisdom with regard to this teaching.
“Lokadhara, countless, limitless, fathomless immeasurable eons ago, a blessed buddha named Royal Light of Limitless Qualities appeared in the world. He was a thus-gone one, a worthy one, a perfect buddha, perfect in knowledge and conduct, a well-gone one, a knower of the world, an unsurpassed being, a charioteer who guides beings, and a teacher of gods and humans. [F.73.b] The lifespan of the blessed one Royal Light of Limitless Qualities was one eon. His buddha realm was covered with a latticed canopy of the seven precious substances. This world was adorned with palm trees made of the seven precious substances, and these palm trees themselves were adorned with latticed canopies of the seven precious substances. Below each palm tree was a lion throne. Divine fabrics magically appeared from each palm tree. The lion thrones were fashioned of beryl, gold from the Jambū River, and red pearl. In each of the four directions surrounding the palm trees were fragrant and flowering trees. Below each tree as well were small ponds filled with water of the eight qualities. The ponds were made of crystal, emerald, and red pearl. The surfaces of the ponds were covered with blue, red, white, and pink lotus flowers. The banks of the ponds were made of the seven precious substances.
“Lokadhara, this buddha realm was adorned with many precious substances. In the periphery, in the four directions of this world, were many thousands of trees found in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, such as pārijāta and kovidāra trees. The light shining from these trees outshone the light of the sun, moon, and stars. Lokadhara, in this world various sublime melodies sprang from the palm trees and their jeweled lattices, and it sounded just like the melodious song and praises of the gods. The music was always extremely pleasing. There were no three lower realms here; even the name three lower realms was unheard of.
“Lokadhara, the blessed Royal Light of Limitless Qualities [F.74.a] taught the following Dharma in full to the beings there. He taught the perfection of insight and the Bodhisattva Collection called Countering the Doubts and Pleasing the Minds of All Beings. Lokadhara, when the blessed Royal Light of Limitless Qualities taught the Dharma, within a single day, hundreds of thousands of beings would develop the mind directed toward unsurpassed and perfect awakening. All of them also completed the accumulations that lead to awakening. Lokadhara, in this manner, the blessed Royal Light of Limitless Qualities ripened countlessly many innumerable beings to unsurpassed and perfect awakening. The bodhisattva great beings in this buddha realm were in great number. Lokadhara, after that Blessed One entered parinirvāṇa, the sublime Dharma remained for half an eon. Then, since the blessed Royal Light of Limitless Qualities had entered parinirvāṇa, the sublime Dharma came close to disappearing. At that time there was a bodhisattva named Limitless Intelligence, who lived in a buddha realm located below, past ten buddha realms. When his life there ended, he was born in this buddha realm, where he received ordination at the age of sixteen. When the Dharma of the blessed Royal Light of Limitless Qualities had come close to disappearing, he heard the discourse that applies the liberation of the bodhisattva great beings to the aggregates, elements, and sense sources. The bodhisattva Limitless Intelligence heard this discourse and generated great diligence, perfected the related qualities, and gained the profound power of mastery. Through the causes and conditions of his roots of virtue, after this bodhisattva left that life, he encountered two hundred thousand buddhas [F.74.b] and received their teachings. Since he continuously recalled his past lives, he received ordination at an early age. He practiced pure conduct and always had the power of remembrance. No matter where he was born, he never lost this Dharma. In all his lives, his remembrance was unbroken. Once he fully awakened to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood, his name was Royal Array of Boundless Light. Lokadhara, therefore bodhisattva great beings who wish to fully awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood, and who seek to perfect omniscient wisdom rapidly, must, during the final period of five hundred years after I have entered parinirvāṇa, be diligent and generate a strong resolve. Then they must generate great interest, great diligence, and great carefulness, so that in that dire latter age they will protect and sustain this discourse and others.”
At that moment the bodhisattva Bhadrapāla rose from his seat, and with his palms pressed together in the direction of the Blessed One said, “Blessed One, when the sublime Dharma comes close to disappearing during the final five-hundred-year period to come, we shall generate tremendous diligence and read, recite, listen, retain, and teach in full this discourse and others, in order to protect and sustain them.”
Additionally, thousands of bodhisattvas rose from their seats, and with palms pressed together in the direction of the Blessed One, gazed upon him with unblinking eyes and promised, “Blessed One, in the final five-hundred-year period to come, we will sustain and uphold this discourse, which is profound and free from attachment, which is the light of all the buddhas, [F.75.a] which arouses the virtuous qualities of the bodhisattvas, and which perfects the accumulations of awakening of all bodhisattvas. Having heard this teaching, we are purified—our minds are purified. We will exert ourselves in seeking, bearing, retaining, reciting, and reading it.”
The Blessed One then smiled, and the worlds of the great trichiliocosm were filled with light, and all the worlds shook six times. Then Ānanda rose from his seat, draped his shawl over one shoulder, and knelt on his right knee. With his palms together, he bowed toward the Blessed One and asked, “Due to what cause and condition did you smile today such that the earth shook?”
The Blessed One answered, “Did you see these bodhisattva great beings pledge, with great resolve, to sustain and uphold this profound discourse, the Dharma of nonattachment, in the future? Ānanda, these bodhisattvas have not only made this pledge in this one life. Ānanda, I recall that these bodhisattvas have previously pledged, in countless, innumerable buddha realms, to sustain the teachings of those buddhas throughout the three times. Thereby, they have served the purpose of benefitting and bringing happiness to countless, innumerable beings. They will also protect and sustain my teachings throughout the three times. At present, and when the Dharma is waning after I have entered parinirvāṇa, they will serve the purpose of benefitting and bringing happiness to innumerable beings. [F.75.b] Ānanda,77 Bhadrapāla and the others will not only sustain my teachings throughout the three times—they will also sustain and uphold the teachings of all the buddhas of this Fortunate Eon. Likewise, they will sustain and uphold similar teachings of the buddhas of the future. Ānanda, if I attempted to describe the effortlessly accomplished virtues of such bodhisattvas and the purposes they have served in benefitting and bringing happiness to innumerable beings, my explanations would never end. Ānanda, if I described the qualities of these bodhisattvas, beings would not believe it. If beings do not trust the Buddha’s speech, they will toss aside their long-term well-being and fall into the lower realms to suffer greatly. Ānanda, I shall now describe a mere fraction of the purposes these bodhisattvas have served in benefitting others and bringing them happiness, aside from the fact that they have adhered to their previous aspirations. Imagine that all beings in all the worlds of the great trichiliocosm had fallen into the great hells. One of them might then say, ‘All of you, do not be afraid. I will take upon myself all your suffering in these great hells.’ That being might then physically accept, for thousands of years, all the hellish suffering of the beings that had thus been freed from the great hell realms. Tell me Ānanda? Would that person have brought them great benefit and happiness?”
“Ānanda, imagine then that, having extricated these beings from the hells, that person independently brought them all the most sublime worldly happiness. Ānanda, would that person then have kindly benefitted these beings and brought them happiness?”
“Ānanda, today I have spoken the truth, for the benefit and happiness brought by such a person does not come close in terms of the measure, size, or likeness of the benefit and happiness brought to beings by the bodhisattva Bhadrapāla and the others. Why is this? Ānanda, the benefit brought by that being would be in terms of material comforts, all of which are conditioned phenomena, and so they would not bring about disenchantment, contentment, the abandonment of desire, insight, the fruits of the mendicant life, or nirvāṇa. On the other hand, Ānanda, the benefit and happiness brought to beings by these bodhisattvas bring them unsurpassed happiness. They make the wise develop interest in pursuing the awakening of buddhahood; they perform the deeds of the buddhas; they cause the hearers and solitary buddhas—who have not yet entered the genuine abode—to attain that level; and they bring benefit and joy to bodhisattvas by teaching and instructing them through the Dharma teachings of buddhahood. Ānanda, bodhisattvas remain in the world teaching and instructing, thus bringing benefit and joy to others, in order to ensure the continuity of the lineage of the Buddha, and to protect and sustain the lineage of omniscient wisdom. Ānanda, when these beings previously engaged in bodhisattva conduct, they ensured the continuity of the buddhas’ lineage for billions of eons, and in the future too they will ensure the continuity of the buddhas’ lineage for countless millions of eons. Why is this? Ānanda, when these bodhisattvas were engaged in bodhisattva conduct in the past, they steered countless buddhas toward the awakening of buddhahood. In all their lives, these bodhisattvas protected the Dharma [F.76.b] and effortlessly accomplished the unsurpassed and perfect awakening of millions of buddhas. They also steered countless hundreds of thousands of beings toward the awakening of buddhahood, and, through the power of teaching and training them, they all perfected the qualities of buddhahood and fully awakened to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood. Ānanda, Bhadrapāla and the others have exerted themselves diligently so that many beings could attain the happiness of buddhahood and omniscient wisdom. Ānanda, if someone wishes to teach about the support and refuge, which are like a bodhisattva’s parents, and the source of the bodhisattvas, they must be aware of the one hundred bodhisattvas, such as Bhadrapāla. Ānanda, if someone asks who was born in the family of the bodhisattvas, one must reply, ‘They are the one hundred bodhisattvas, such as Bhadrapāla.’
“In this manner, these noble children stay in the world to ensure the continuity of the lineage of the buddhas, and to ensure the continuity of the lineage of omniscient wisdom. During the final five-hundred-year period to come, these noble children will use their power of skillful application in teaching and training, and the causes and conditions of happiness to prevent many beings from falling into the three lower realms. They will also establish countless thousands of other beings in the vehicle of the bodhisattvas. Ānanda, even thousands of buddhas could not conclusively extol the qualities of these noble children. Why is this? Because the virtues of these noble children are unfathomable. Ānanda, these noble children will sustain and uphold the Dharma that I accomplished over thousands of countless and incalculable eons. Ānanda, I entrust them with, and instruct them in, the Jewel of the Dharma that I accomplished over countless thousands of eons. [F.77.a] This is because these noble children are cared for by all the buddhas presently abiding in their countless and incalculable buddha realms. Ānanda, these noble children are always an object for the veneration of the world and its gods and humans. Ānanda, when the thousands of buddhas throughout the ten directions teach the Dharma, they praise and advise these noble children. Ānanda, I prophesy that, in the future, a noble son or daughter who upholds, remembers, reads, recites, explains, or teaches it fully to others, in order to counter the doubts of all beings, be close to omniscient wisdom. Any being who hears this discourse in the future and feels faith, interest, and commitment to this profound Dharma must be prophesied to fully awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood. Any noble son or daughter who, during the final five-hundred-year period to come, arouses an attitude of faith and inspiration, and diligently guards and retains this discourse, will be entrusted and invested by me with the Dharma of unsurpassed and perfect awakening. I prophesy that any hearer who trusts this profound Dharma and does not have wrong notions about it will meet the Buddha Maitreya in the future. All those seeking the qualities of buddhahood who remember and trust this Dharma will receive prophecy from Buddha Maitreya; due to their past aspirations, they will take ordination and train in the lineage of awakening. Ānanda, know that during the final five-hundred-year period to come, any noble son or daughter who gives rise to diligence for the sake of this teaching will have zealous and constant roots of virtue.” [F.77.b]
This was the eleventh chapter: “The Teaching on What Occurred in the Past.”
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