Victory of the Ultimate Dharma
Toh 246, Degé Kangyur, vol. 66 (mdo sde, za), folios 33.a–42.b
Translated by the UCSB Buddhist Studies Translation Group–2
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2021
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Victory of the Ultimate Dharma presents the Buddha’s answers to questions posed by a non-Buddhist seer named Ulka concerning the origin of life, the end of the universe, and the nature of the soul. These questions are posed following a miraculous display by the Buddha, in which countless living beings are emitted from the Buddha in the form of rays of light. Although this miraculous display awes the bodhisattvas and gods who are present, Ulka is not swayed by these powers, arguing that non-Buddhist gods such as Nārāyaṇa and Maheśvara are also able to perform such feats. In answering his questions, the Buddha articulates core teachings of Buddhism such as impermanence, karma, and emptiness.
Translated, edited, and introduced by ErdeneBaatar Erdene-Ochir, Jed Forman, and Michael Ium, members of the UCSB Buddhist Studies Translation Group–2. The group wishes to thank José I. Cabezón for his support and guidance. We also give our heartfelt gratitude to all our generous teachers.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Victory of the Ultimate Dharma1 begins as the Buddha enters a meditative concentration called precious emission and subsequently performs a range of spectacular miraculous displays. A bodhisattva called Victorious Heap is about to ask the bodhisattva Mañjughoṣa (Mañjuśrī) to explain the significance of these displays when he is unexpectedly interrupted by the non-Buddhist seer Ulka, who is unimpressed with the Buddha’s display of miracles and decides to test his omniscience. Ulka therefore proceeds to ask a series of questions concerning the origin of life, the end of the universe, and the nature of the soul.
In answering these questions, the Buddha presents several core Buddhist doctrines. Without espousing a theory of its origin, he sets sentient life in the context of dependent arising. Concerning the end of the universe, he states that it will come because “everything is impermanent.” As for the various realms of existence in saṃsāra, beings are born into them due to their karma. The soul, moreover, does not exist because it cannot be observed anywhere, and therefore sentient beings themselves do not truly exist. The text concludes with a scene in which Ulka—and all the other non-Buddhists in attendance—become the Buddha’s followers. Finally, the Buddha prophesies that Ulka will become a buddha in the future named Vipaśyin, and he entrusts this discourse to Mañjuśrī.
An interesting feature of this sūtra is the presence of many non-Buddhist ascetics, who are described as naked, with matted hair, emaciated bellies, and so forth. Moreover, the central interlocutor of this sūtra is a non-Buddhist seer, Ulka, whose questions to the Buddha also seem to be founded in non-Buddhist cosmological views. It is therefore also fitting that the setting of this sūtra is Gayāśīrṣa Hill, a brahmanical holy site referred to in texts such as the Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa and the Mahābhārata. For Buddhists, this hill is also a sacred site as the venue where the Buddha taught the Dharma after he had brought to the Buddhist path the three ascetic Kāśyapa brothers and a thousand of their followers, likewise through a series of miracles. In this sūtra, however, the Buddha’s miraculous display is not sufficient to assuage Ulka’s doubts, and his questions to the Buddha serve as a launching point for the teaching of important Buddhist concepts.
Non-Buddhist ideas are clearly reflected in this sūtra. First of all, as part of the Buddha’s miraculous displays, he emits lights that constitute countless living beings, including the higher castes of the kṣatriyas and brahmins. This is somewhat reminiscent of how the body of the Vedic god Prajāpati, the Lord of Creatures, is the source of human beings of different castes. Secondly, in a question reminiscent of Śiva’s role as the destroyer of creation, Ulka asks the Buddha why the world will be destroyed by fire at the end of the eon, and in an ambiguous passage the Buddha answers that the buddhas do not needlessly “bring forth” the apocalyptic fire. Lastly, in the end the ascetic Ulka swears to pursue the Buddha’s omniscience in a manner suited to an ascetic, promising to do so even if he has to abide in a pit, jump off a mountain, be tormented, be roasted by the sun, or fast for eons.
Ulka’s transformative encounter with the Buddha in this text has echoes in several similar stories of dialogues involving other wandering ascetics of fiercely independent bent. Perhaps the best known story, found in several Pali works as well as in the Mahāsāṅghika, Sarvāstivāda, and Mūlasarvāstivāda vinayas, is that of the skeptic Dīrghanakha (Pali: Dīghanakha), also known by his birth name Koṣṭhila or Kauṣṭhila and as Agnivaiśyāyana. In the Kangyur, his story is told in The Chapter on Going Forth (Pravrajyāvastu), the first chapter of the Vinayavastu (Toh 1),2 and in The Questions of Dīrghanakha the Wandering Mendicant (Dīrghanakhaparivrājakaparipṛcchā, Toh 342).3 Another is the story of Śreṇika Vatsagotra (Pali: Vacchagotta), mentioned in all the long Prajñāpāramitā sūtras as significant in passages discussing the Buddha’s omniscience, which Śreṇika Vatsagotra is said to have accepted through conviction alone.4 The Prajñāpāramitā sūtras themselves give little further detail, and Vatsagotra’s questioning of the Buddha does not seem to appear in full in any canonical text in Tibetan translation; it is, however, related in a number of Pali texts and āgamas in Chinese.5 In fact, the Buddha’s omniscience—directly or indirectly—can be seen as the principal focus of the questions put by all these individuals. Dīrganakha’s questions seek to establish some sort of ultimate reality (in the vinaya version, although in the sūtra version his questions are limited to the past causes of some of the Buddha’s unique physical marks). Śreṇika Vatsagotra’s questions directly address what have come to be called the twelve or fourteen “unanswerable points” (avyākṛtavastu). Ulka begins with the “unanswerable” question of where sentient beings originated from in the first place. In each case, the ways in which the Buddha responds bring about not only a complete resetting of the parameters of the questions, but also a fundamental change in how the questioners perceive him.6 The exchanges typify how the Buddha is said to have convinced even very mature seekers of the truth as to the authenticity of his teaching—although perhaps none could claim maturity comparable to Ulka’s sixty eon quest.
There appears to be no surviving Sanskrit edition of this sūtra, but there are two translations of the text in the Chinese canon.7 In the Tibetan translation the colophon states that it was translated by the Indian preceptors Jinamitra and Dānaśīla together with the Tibetan editor-translator Yeshé Dé, all of whom flourished during the late eighth and early ninth century. This dating is confirmed by the text’s inclusion in the Denkarma catalog of Tibetan imperial translations, which is dated to 812 ᴄᴇ.8 For this English translation, we relied on the Degé, the Comparative Edition (dpe bsdur ma), and the Stok Palace versions of the Kangyur and occasionally consulted the Mongolian translation as well. As far as we can tell, this is the first translation or study of the sūtra in a Western language.
Homage to all the buddhas and bodhisattvas!
Thus did I hear at one time. Soon after fully awakening, the Bhagavān was staying at Gayāśīrṣa Hill with an assembly of devoted monks and nine hundred ninety million bodhisattvas. In the gathering were also two hundred eighty million gods and an assembly of eighty-six thousand monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. Also in attendance were sixty thousand strongmen, one hundred twenty million naked ascetics, and five hundred great seers endowed with the five types of superknowledge, who had bodies made excellent9 through the five fires. Also in attendance were eighty-four thousand other seers who had pale limbs, who were emaciated, and whose skulls and bones were visible through their skin. Their stomachs shrunken,10 hair matted on their heads, and bodies hunched, they wore animal skins and tree bark and carried begging bowls in their hands.11 Other seekers of liberation were also there.
In the midst of these seers, the Bhagavān was as radiant, clear, and brilliant as Mount Meru, the king of mountains, among dark mountains. Indeed, like the six-tusked king of elephants among sheep, like the sun or the moon next to fireflies, like a branch of coral tree flowers next to flowers of kāśa grass, and like the king of garuḍas surrounded by crows, the Bhagavān in the midst of these seers was twice as resplendent.
Then, the Bhagavān entered the meditative concentration called precious emission and performed inconceivable miracles. From both his right and left sides, he emitted rays of light. Then he emitted countless millions of tathāgatas, [F.33.b] in addition to countless millions of bodhisattvas and countless śakras, brahmās, and world guardians.
He also emitted countless hundreds of thousands of arhats; countless hundreds of thousands of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen; countless universal monarchs, universal monarchs who rule by force, feudal lords, and vidyādharas; countless Bharatas mountain dwellers, Drāviḍians, southerners, and forest dwellers. He also emitted kṣatriyas like great śāla trees, brahmins, and householders like great śāla trees; all the other varieties of human form in their different costumes, classes, and languages; and all the different types of gods. Thereupon, those in the great assembly looked at one another in bewilderment. The bodhisattvas, however, rejoiced, and all types of precious things, from jewels to ornaments, rained down.
Then, the Bhagavān arose from the meditative concentration of precious emission and, poised like a lion, surveyed the ten directions. As soon as the Bhagavān had gazed in the ten directions, all bhagavān buddhas in all the buddhafields of the ten directions—which previously had appeared only in the Buddha’s purview—now appeared clearly to the Sahā world system as if placed in the palm of one’s hand. Then, all these tathāgatas also emitted miracles of magical emanation just as the Bhagavān Śākyamuni had done. All those emanations emitted by the tathāgatas then approached the Bhagavān and joined his assembly. Countless bodhisattvas, monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen, as numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges River, came [F.34.a] bearing great, unparalleled offerings for the Tathāgata. Also, having seen the Bhagavān’s miraculous emanations, multitudes of gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, and nonhumans approached the Bhagavān.
Those bodhisattvas who arrived from the ten directions then venerated the Bhagavān with unsurpassable offerings and sat on seats attained by way of the six perfections. All the beings present, from human to nonhuman, also sat on their appropriate seats. All those emanations emitted by the Bhagavān now went everywhere, from the lowest hell of Endless Torment up to the highest heaven, Below No Other, and returned once more. All the emanations emitted by the buddhas of the ten directions then dissolved into the hair follicles of the Bhagavān Śākyamuni. Similarly, all the emanations emitted by the Bhagavān dissolved into the bodies of all the buddhas of the ten directions.
Thereupon, a bodhisattva mahāsattva called Victorious Heap rose from his seat, placed his upper robe over one shoulder, knelt with his right knee on the ground, joined his palms and bowed toward the Bhagavān, and praised him with these verses:
Then, from within that retinue and by the Buddha’s blessing, one of the great seers called Ulka said to the bodhisattva Victorious Heap, “Hey, young lord, keep quiet for a bit. I have a question to ask the Bhagavān. If he is able to decipher it, I will concede that he is worthy of the title Omniscient One. But given that Nārāyaṇa and Maheśvara have gotten magical birds13 to emanate various things, the amazing miracles that he has shown here are not that impressive. Even rogues and conjurers are able to perform that trick!”
Thereupon, the Bhagavān, his smiling countenance observing the assembly of seers, said to the great seer Ulka, “O venerable Great Seer, ask all of your questions, and I shall resolve them!”
Then, the great seer Ulka said to the Bhagavān, “O Gautama, what is the origin of sentient beings’ life? [F.35.a] Why will the world be consumed by apocalyptic fire at the end of the eon?14 At that time, in what realm will sentient beings gather? Within that realm, what is the size of the subtle soul that resides there? Is it a cubit? Is it a finger span? Is it the size of a forefinger, a thumb, a grain of barley, a grain of wheat, a black gram, a sesame seed, or a mustard seed? Please tell me how big this subtle soul within that realm is.”
The Bhagavān responded to the great seer Ulka, “Excellent, Great Seer. Excellent. These questions asked by this great seer—who is in fact sixty eons old—are felicitous.”
Now the assembly of great seers became amazed, thinking, “How did he know the great seer Ulka’s age without being told? Even we who have lived with him for a long time did not know it!”
The Bhagavān continued, “Great seers, listen to me carefully and pay attention, and I will explain. Great Seer, you asked me what is the origin of sentient beings’ life; about that, there is no verbal account. What we call a sentient being is one who is born from the condition of ignorance and who persists until old age and death. Great Seer, alternatively, one can say that a sentient being is born from causes and conditions, and those causes and conditions are the parents. Great Seer, the union of the parents is the cause. And whenever there is entry into the body of a woman caused by the karmic winds, themselves impelled by concepts, that is the condition.
Great Seer, the truths of the noble ones—suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path one travels to end suffering—are a sentient being. The five appropriated aggregates and the eighteen constituent elements are a sentient being. Great Seer, a sentient being is nothing other than karma, and karma is nothing other than a sentient being. Great Seer, a sentient being neither diminishes nor develops.”
The great seer asked, “O Gautama, if a sentient being neither diminishes nor develops, how could sentient beings become sovereign after transmigrating from a previous rebirth, such as that of a dog?” [F.35.b]
The Bhagavān replied, “Great Seer, it is not as you have said. If sovereign persons were truly sovereign, it would not make sense for them to be powerless against death. Great Seer, how could those people who are not even the master of their own body be sovereign? Great Seer, it would be like the case of a firefly thinking, ‘I shall illuminate Jambudvīpa myself.’ Could a firefly illuminate Jambudvīpa by virtue of that thought alone? Those who have not disciplined their mind are not genuine sovereigns.
“Also, Great Seer, if a sovereign person had fewer afflictions, then it follows that when that person was a dog, that person would have had many more afflictions. But since both a dog and a sovereign person possess both sovereignty and afflictions, sentient beings cannot be seen as either diminishing or developing.”
The great seer then asked, “Gautama, can afflictions be diminished?” The Bhagavān replied, “Great Seer, I have not overcome errors, nor have I diminished them.” The great seer retorted, “If that is true, then you too are not sovereign!”
The Bhagavān replied, “Great Seer, that is the case. Due to a lack of origination, I too am not sovereign.” The great seer then said, “Gautama, leave this topic aside for a moment. A child of Gautama said that sentient beings are born from the union of the parents. Well, if this is so, then why are the births of sentient beings fewer than the many instances of union?”
The Bhagavān said, “I shall demonstrate it to you with the following analogy. Great Seer, it is like the case of a tree that grows from a single seed, or the case of limitless fruits growing from a single fruit with many seeds. How is it that sometimes one seed grows whereas the other seeds do not?” [F.36.a]
The great seer replied, “O Gautama, fruits are ruined by the wind and the sun.” The Bhagavān said, “Great Seer, that is the case. The fruits of sentient beings are also ruined by karmic winds. Great Seer, some are eaten by worms when they are just in the womb, and some are turned to dust by karmic winds. Great Seer, the faults of a tree are few, but the faults of sentient beings are many. Great Seer, the constituent elements of sentient beings are impelled by conceptions. Great Seer, sentient beings are seen as existent insofar as their minds and mental factors are operating. Therefore, Great Seer, I assert that the constituent elements of sentient beings are impelled by conceptions.”
The great seer said, “O Gautama, that is the case. The response you have given is faultless. Next, please explain why the world will be consumed by apocalyptic fire at the end of the eon.”
The Bhagavān replied, “Great Seer, the world will be consumed by apocalyptic fire because the expanse of reality is unconditioned. Great Seer, if it were not consumed by apocalyptic fire, then the expanse of reality would be dual: some things would be impermanent and others permanent. If that were so, the Tathāgata would not be telling the truth. Great Seer, since everything is impermanent and unstable and offers no respite, the Tathāgata attains the title Omniscient.”
The great seer said to a young brahmin, “He’s worthy of the title Omniscient.”
The Bhagavān said, “Great Seer, if the world were not consumed by apocalyptic fire, saying ‘This is a fortunate period’ versus ‘This is an unfortunate period’ would be a meaningless distinction. Also, Great Seer, if it were not consumed by apocalyptic fire, the karmic ripening of good and evil deeds would be indistinguishable. [F.36.b] Great Seer, moreover, the destruction of the world by apocalyptic fire is a skillful means of the tathāgatas. Great Seer, after learning about this destruction by apocalyptic fire, sentient beings gain faith and are attracted to the tathāgatas via their methods of gathering disciples.
“Great Seer, for example, a saliva-licking snake is able to inhale through its eyes, as well as through its ears, nose, and mouth. Great Seer, likewise, tathāgatas attract sentient beings through generosity, affectionate speech, beneficial actions, and consistency between their words and actions.
“Great Seer, for example, one does not place gold in fire in order to destroy it. Rather, one puts solid gold in the fire with the intention to produce gold dust. It is by exposing the gold to intense heat that it becomes more precious. That way, whatever it decorates becomes priceless. Great Seer, that is why gold is pounded and burnt. Great Seer, likewise, the bhagavān buddhas do not needlessly bring forth15 the apocalyptic fire, and no sentient being is harmed during the destruction.”
Thereupon, the great seer Ulka said to the Bhagavān, “O Bhagavān, it is wonderful that no sentient being is harmed even though the world is consumed by apocalyptic fire at the end of the eon.”
The Bhagavān said, “Great Seer, tathāgatas do not harm any sentient being. Great Seer, the tathāgatas and bodhisattvas of the ten stages, who hold sentient beings near and dear and lead them hand in hand to liberation, are more numerous than droplets of light mist falling throughout the ten directions. Great Seer, at that time, [F.37.a] sentient beings will even see the bodies and radiant luster of those tathāgatas and bodhisattvas who liberate them from the terrors of the apocalyptic fire at the end of the eon.
“They will become contented and very joyful. So, they will sing, ‘May we also become liberators like them. May our bodies also become beautiful like theirs. May our luster also become radiant like theirs.’ Rueful, some of their minds will be freed, and they will attain the level of a stream enterer as a result.
“Others will attain the level of a once-returner or the level of a non-returner. Still others will attain the level of an arhat, or the enlightenment of a solitary realizer, or the level of acceptance that phenomena are unborn, and some will reach the stage of nonregression. Some will be born as gods in the realms of the Four Great Kings, or as gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, or of the Yāma Heaven, or of the Joyous Heaven, or of Delightful Emanations, or of Controlling Others’ Emanations.
“Great Seer, according to this Dharma teaching, some will be born as gods in all the heavens up to the highest heaven, Below No Other. Likewise, others will become universal monarchs, or universal monarchs who rule by force, or feudal lords. Great Seer, some will be born as kṣatriyas, as brahmins, as householders, or anywhere in between.
“Great Seer, these types of beings will see the form bodies of the tathāgatas. Seeing themselves liberated from great fear, they will realize and remember the kindness of the tathāgatas. Learning about the true nature of dharmas from the tathāgatas, they will become vigilant in the forms of training. By this means, they will not be reborn in unfortunate rebirths.
“Great Seer, there are as many realms of sentient beings who possess the faults of craving for saṃsāra as there are particles of the earth element that appear to the eyes of bodhisattvas on the tenth stage. [F.37.b] Having realized this, sentient beings will frequently pass completely beyond sorrow into the sphere of liberation, beyond the sorrow of the psycho-physical aggregates. Great Seer, this is why the world will be consumed by apocalyptic fire.”
The great seer Ulka contemplated this and said eloquently, “Alas! How can I be called Great Seer? The magnificence of this son of the Śākya clan is extremely vast. I have tested him enough, for he is manifestly omniscient. I too will call him by his proper title!” Then the great seer Ulka said to the Bhagavān, “You have earned the title Omniscient because you have become the source of all good qualities, and your exalted knowledge is infinite. Please tell me in what realm sentient beings will congregate.”
The Bhagavān said, “Great Seer, sentient beings will congregate nowhere. They will congregate in the state of equality. Great Seer, sentient beings will congregate in the state produced by the one vehicle. Sentient beings will congregate in the essence of enlightenment. Great Seer, sentient beings will congregate in the sphere of liberation from the sorrow of the psycho-physical aggregates. Great Seer, for instance, various rivers, streams, and tributaries flow toward one vast ocean and thus become indistinguishable. Great Seer, likewise, all the realms of sentient beings will be expunged of impurities, and their inhabitants will thereby congregate in the state of liberation.
“Great Seer, I would say that since sentient beings have congregated in saṃsāra, they have yet to really congregate. Great Seer, for instance, butterflies from all over, buffeted by the wind, cluster around a puddle.16 When there is no wind, they separate from one another. Like this, Great Seer, those sentient beings who are mutually connected through karma to go to hell will congregate there. [F.38.a]
“Great Seer, in the same manner, those beings who are mutually connected through karma to be reborn as hungry ghosts or as animals will congregate there. Great Seer, those beings who would be reborn as gods and humans will congregate there.”
The great seer said, “O Surpasser of All, Omniscient One! Please explain how those formerly born as humans will later become other types of beings, be they animals, hungry ghosts, or anywhere in between.”
The Bhagavān replied, “Great Seer, when sentient beings see other sentient beings with whom they will be born and congregate in hell, they become sad, they get angry, their heads pound, and they even defecate and urinate upon themselves. Great Seer, this is characteristic of how those who will be born in hell are embodied. Anyone in this situation will also come to understand, ‘Now this sentient being and I will abide together in hell.’ ”
The great seer then said, “O One Who Clarifies the Types of Beings, O Omniscient One, what are the features of those who will abide together in the animal realm?”
The Bhagavān replied, “Whenever sentient beings who have been born in the human realm see one another, they hold bonds of enmity. Then, they seek out the faults of others, thinking, ‘How can I find their faults?’ Great Seer, this is characteristic of how those who will be born in the animal realm are embodied. They will also come to understand, ‘Now this sentient being and I will abide together in the animal realm.’
“Great Seer, those who will be born as hungry ghosts desire foul smells and excessively crave food. Even if they want to give to others, [F.38.b] attachment arises. Those who will be born as hungry ghosts, having seen the wealth of another with whom they have congregated, become jealous and desirous of the possessions of others. This is characteristic of how those who will be born as hungry ghosts are embodied. They will also come to understand, ‘Now this sentient being and I will abide together in the hungry ghost realm.’
“Great Seer, those from other rebirths who become lustful when they see one another will congregate as humans. Great Seer, this is characteristic of how those who will be born as human beings congregate. They will also come to understand, ‘Now this sentient being and I will abide together as humans.’ ”
The great seer then said, “Bhagavān, what is the case for those beings who will be born in all those births between gods and humans?”
The Bhagavān replied, “Great Seer, when those who will be born and congregate as gods see one another, they become enamored. Consequently, they perceive, ‘This sentient being and I will be born and congregate together as gods.’ Great Seer, sentient beings will congregate in this manner.”
Then the great seer Ulka became joyful and rejoiced. He said to the Bhagavān, “Bhagavān, I would say that those sentient beings who do not perform prayers to you, Omniscient One, are deceived.”
Then the Bhagavān said to the great seer Ulka, “Great Seer, when you asked me about how subtle a so-called sentient being is, this demonstrated that you conceive the referent of a sentient being to be the subtle soul of a sentient being. Great Seer, consider, for instance, if someone were to ask a blind person, ‘What is the color white like?’ Since they cannot see, are they able to say what the color white is like?” [F.39.a]
The great seer asked, “How is this relevant?”
The Bhagavān said, “Great Seer, similarly, I am like a blind person. Since I do not see it, I am not able to describe what is termed the subtle soul of sentient beings.
“Also, Great Seer, so-called sentient beings are not found in the eye, or the ear, or the nose, or the tongue, or the body, and so-called sentient beings are not found in the mind. Great Seer, so-called sentient beings are not found in the five appropriated aggregates. Great Seer, so-called sentient beings are found neither in the eighteen constituent elements, nor in the twelve links of dependent origination, nor in the emptiness of the internal, nor in the emptiness of the external, nor in the emptiness of both the internal and external.
“Great Seer, the eye is wretched and perishable, and it does not endure even for a moment. Likewise, the ear, the nose, the tongue, the body, and the mind are wretched and perishable, and they do not endure even for a moment. Great Seer, the five appropriated aggregates are also wretched and perishable; they do not endure even for a moment. Great Seer, the thirty-six impure substances are also wretched and perishable, and they do not endure even for a moment.
“Neither so-called sentient beings nor their bodies exist. Great Seer, only a collection of substances is reckoned to be a so-called sentient being. Those who conceptualize discriminate substances, but they do not actually apprehend a life principle, growth, a being, a person, a human, or humankind. Great Seer, if sentient beings were always already existent, the Tathāgata would not come to teach the Dharma via the four truths of the noble ones. Thus, Great Seer, since sentient beings do not exist, the state of a tathāgata can be attained. Therefore, however much one practices, to the same degree will one succeed.” [F.39.b]
Then the great seer Ulka said to the Bhagavān, “Bhagavān, from today henceforth, I, the great seer Ulka, will aspire to omniscience. Bhagavān, even if in order to gain omniscience I have to abide for limitless eons in the pits that lead to the hell realms, or jump off of Mount Meru, whose peak is so tall that it reaches the highest heaven, Below No Other, or I have to be burned by the eon of five torments, or roast under the sun for eons, or experience the pain of fasting for thirty eons in a single month, O Bhagavān, I would endure and even hope for such hardships. For the sake of omniscience, I will not allow my effort to wane.”
Then all the great seers possessed of the five types of superknowledge who were assembled near the Bhagavān rose from their seats and said to the Bhagavān, “Bhagavān, we too, from today henceforth, will aspire for perfect, unsurpassable enlightenment. We shall strive to the best of our ability.”
Immediately after the great seers had spoken those words, the Bhagavān emitted rays of light called tamers from the spot between his eyebrows. All the buddhas of the ten directions also emitted rays of light called tamers from the spots between their eyebrows.
Due to the power of those rays of light, the great earth shook in six ways: it shook, it shook intensely, it quaked, it quaked intensely, it trembled, and it trembled intensely. As the east rose, the south fell. As the west fell, the north rose. As the east fell, the south rose. As the west rose, the north fell.
All the buddhas of the ten directions also brought down a rainfall of flowers atop the Tathāgata. Drums were beaten. Charming gandharva lords hailed the Bhagavān with the five types of instruments. [F.40.a] The aroma of sweet smelling, divine incense also filled and infused the air around the Tathāgata. The bodhisattvas rejoiced, and with supremely blissful minds they scattered necklets and necklaces and brought down a rainfall of precious substances atop the Tathāgata. They also made offerings with flowers, perfumes, incense, garlands, unguents, aromatic powders, garments, parasols, victory banners, and flags. The assemblies of gods also rejoiced and brought down a rainfall of coral tree and great coral tree blossoms. The entire retinue rejoiced and offered fitting garments to the body of the Tathāgata as well.
Then, the rays of light called tamers manifested everywhere, from the highest heaven, Below No Other, to the lowest hell of Endless Torment. They circled around all the buddhas of the ten directions. Returning, they disappeared into the crown of the Bhagavān’s head. Then, Venerable Subhūti said to the Bhagavān:
Thereupon, the Bhagavān asked Venerable Subhūti, “Do you see this great seer Ulka?” Subhūti replied, [F.40.b] “Yes, Bhagavān, I see him.” The Bhagavān said, “Subhūti, in the future, after the one thousand buddhas of this fortunate eon have passed, this great seer Ulka will become the thus-gone, worthy, fully and perfectly enlightened Buddha Vipaśyin in the world system Moonlit. Subhūti, the name alone of the Tathāgata Vipaśyin will fulfill the deeds of a pure wish-fulfilling jewel.
“Subhūti, eighty-four thousand great seers will subsequently achieve the stage of nonregression immediately upon hearing this Dharma teaching. Subhūti, through the sacred words of the Tathāgata Maitreya, they will attain the tenth stage. After three hundred eons, I, the thus-gone, worthy, fully and perfectly enlightened Buddha, will come into the world with the name Eloquent Speech. Subhūti, immediately upon hearing this Dharma teaching, immeasurable bodhisattvas will achieve the meditative concentration of going as a hero, and they will achieve the meditative concentrations called knowing as spoken and unspoken, the empowerment of victory, illusion-like, differentiation of realms, the king of intelligence, the essence of the ocean, the level of pliability, the essence of the mind, and the clear light.
“Subhūti, gods numbering ten million times the grains of sand in the Ganges River will achieve the level of acceptance that phenomena are unborn. Immeasurable thousands of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen will actualize the state of an arhat. Subhūti, gods, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, mahoragas, humans, and nonhumans numerous as the grains of sand in the Ganges River will generate the wish for perfect, unsurpassable enlightenment. [F.41.a] O Subhūti, foreseeing the import of all this, the Tathāgata has emitted the lights called tamers.”
Then, the Bhagavān covered his face with his tongue. From his tongue came light rays of many different colors, such as blue, yellow, red, white, violet, crystal, and silver. Going out toward endless and limitless world-systems, they came back and, circling the Bhagavān three times, disappeared into his two feet.
Thereupon, the bodhisattva mahāsattva Akṣayamati rose from his seat. Having placed his upper robe over one shoulder, he knelt on his right knee. He joined his palms in devotion and bowed before the Bhagavān. He then asked the Bhagavān, “If the bhagavān buddhas do not stick out their tongues causelessly, then what are the causes and what are the conditions under which you have just stuck out your tongue?”
The Bhagavān replied to the bodhisattva Akṣayamati, “O noble son, for the sake of those with no faith, I extended my tongue so that they would think, ‘A tongue like that could not tell a lie.’ ”
Then, the bodhisattva Akṣayamati asked the Bhagavān, “O Bhagavān, if anyone transmits at least one verse from this Dharma teaching, how much merit does that son or daughter of a noble family generate?”
The Bhagavān replied, “O noble son, suppose someone were to honor as many bhagavān buddhas as there are in the ten directions—as many as appear to the Buddha’s eye—with everything that pleases them, doing so until they had passed into final nirvāṇa. And suppose that even after those buddhas had passed into final nirvāṇa [F.41.b] that person were to make stūpas of the seven types of precious substances. Compared to that person, if someone were to transmit even a single verse of this Dharma teaching, that would generate far more merit.
“Noble son, when those with faith praise someone who teaches this Dharma teaching by saying ‘Excellent!’ they themselves will be lauded by all the buddhas. Whoever pays homage to one who teaches this Dharma teaching thereby pays homage to me.”
Then, looking at the entire retinue, the Bhagavān said these words: “O noble ones, I shall speak the truth. Wherever this Dharma teaching is taught, all the buddhas will esteem that place. Noble ones, this Dharma teaching will become the medicine of all sentient beings in Jambudvīpa. When one speaks this Dharma teaching three times or impels someone else to speak it, that person requests the Teacher to turn the wheel of Dharma. O Subhūti, whoever writes this Dharma teaching or impels someone else to write it will become enlightened—attaining perfectly complete enlightenment, endowed with bodily and mental bliss. Thereby, that person will possess the treasury of all buddhas.
“O noble ones, this Dharma teaching is not heard by the ears of those going to hell. This Dharma teaching is heard by the ears of those who, having been born human, will be born in the field of perfectly pure buddhas after they pass on. Subhūti, this Dharma teaching is heard by the ears of those who have generated the roots of virtue connected to a thousand buddhas. Subhūti, enlightenment is said to be held in the palm of the hand of a noble son or daughter [F.42.a] who—having heard this Dharma teaching—has faith in it, memorizes it, reads it aloud, fully understands it, or also correctly teaches it to others. Thereby, that person achieves the five eyes. That person’s sense faculties will not become impaired.
“That person will be mindful and will not lose memory at the time of death. That person will obtain the meditative concentration of accomplishing all buddhas. That person will obtain the meditative concentrations of emanations of Vairocana, the essence of magical formulas, the great seal of the crown jewel, the empowerment, and Avalokiteśvara’s great seal.
“That person will obtain the magical formula of the letterless basket of scripture. That person will gain the magical formulas of obtaining victory over all dharmas, purifying all doubts, and ascertaining ultimate reality. That person will gain access to limitless hundreds of thousands of magical formulas and meditative concentrations, including these. That person becomes endowed with the five types of superknowledge. That person can intentionally control birth and death.”
Then, the Bhagavān said this to Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta: “O Mañjuśrī, who has paid homage to many buddhas, I will entrust you with this Dharma teaching. Give a correct explanation of it over and over again! Mañjuśrī, think about all the tathāgatas to whom you may show reverence, pay respects, worship, and make offerings. Mañjuśrī, is there a limit or end to the roots of virtue gained by those offerings? Can you fathom those roots of virtue?” Mañjuśrī replied, “O Bhagavān, indeed not. O Sugata, indeed not.”
The Bhagavān said, “O Mañjuśrī, the roots of virtue of those who disseminate this Dharma teaching in this realm of suffering during the time of the five degenerations will become even greater than this. [F.42.b] Mañjuśrī, even if you were to show reverence to all the tathāgatas by offering garments, foods, bedding, medicine that cures diseases, and goods, but were not to teach this Dharma teaching, your efforts toward the tathāgatas would still be deficient. Mañjuśrī, even if you do not prostrate to a single tathāgata but disseminate this Dharma teaching, you will have done the equivalent of making all those offerings to all the tathāgatas.”
The Bhagavān having spoken thus, Mañjuśrīkumārabhūta, the great seer Ulka, and those monks, gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas of the world were joyous. All praised what the Bhagavān had said.
This concludes the noble Mahāyāna sūtra “Victory of the Ultimate Dharma.”
don dam pa’i chos kyis rnam par rgyal ba. (Paramārthadharmavijaya). Toh 246, Degé Kangyur vol. 66 (mdo sde, za), folios 33.a–42.b.
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don dam pa’i chos kyis rnam par rgyal ba. Stok Palace Kangyur vol. 65 (mdo sde, pha), folios 403.a–416.a.
pho brang stod thang ldan dkar gyi chos kyi ’gyur ro cog gi dkar chag [Denkarma]. Toh 4364, Degé Tengyur vol. 206 (sna tshogs, jo), folios 294.b–310.a.
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Acceptance that phenomena are unborn
- mi skye ba’i chos la bzod pa
- blo gros mi zad pa
- dgra bcom pa
- lha ma yin
Below No Other
- ’og min
- bcom ldan ’das
- tshangs pa
- bram ze
Child of Gautama
- gau ta ma’i sras
Controlling Others’ Emanations
- gzhan ’phrul dbang byed
- man dA ra ba
- dA na shI la
- ’phrul dga’
- sen rings
- ’gro lding ba
Eighteen constituent elements
- khams bcwa brgyad
- bka’ blo bde ba
- mnar med pa
Enlightenment of a solitary realizer
- rang byang chub
Expanse of reality
- chos kyi dbyings
Five appropriated aggregates
- nye bar len pa’i phung po lnga
- snyigs ma lnga
- mig lnga
- gdung ba lnga
Five types of instruments
- yan lag lnga pa’i sil snyan
Five types of superknowledge
- mngon par shes pa lnga
Four Great Kings
- rgyal po chen po bzhi
Four truths of the noble ones
- phags pa’i bden pa bzhi
- dri za
- gang gA
- nam mkha’ lding
- gau ta ma
- ga yA’i ri
- drang srong chen po
Heaven of the Thirty-Three
- sum cu rtsa gsum
- ’dzam bu’i gling
- dzi na mi tra
- dga’ ldan
- las kyi rlung
- ka shi
- mi ’am ci
- rgyal rigs
- dge bsnyen
- dge bsnyen ma
Level of a non-returner
- phyir mi ’ong ba’i ’bras bu
Level of a once-returner
- lan cig phyir ’ong ba’i ’bras bu
Level of a stream enterer
- rgyun du zhugs pa’i ’bras bu
- dbang phyug chen po
- lto ’phye chen po
- byams pa
- ’jam pa’i dbyangs
- ’jam dbyangs
- ’jam dpal
- ’jam dpal gzhon nur gyur pa
- ting nge ’dzin
- dge slong
- zla ba can
- ri rab
- gcer bu pa
- sred med kyi bu
- dge slong ma
- thams cad mkhyen pa
- phung po
Realms of the Four Great Kings
- rgyal chen bzhi’i ris
Sahā world system
- mi mjed kyi ’jig rten gyi khams
- brgya byin
- shing sA la
- drang srong
Seven types of precious substances
- rin po che sna bdun
- pha rol tu phyin pa drug
- bzo sbyangs
- phreng ba can
- Śreṇika Vatsagotra
Stage of nonregression
- phyir mi ldog pa’i sa
- rab ’byor
- sems can phra ba
- de bzhin gshegs pa
- ston pa
- sa bcu
Thirty-six impure substances
- mi gtsang ba’i rdzas sum cu rtsa drug
True nature of dharmas
- chos nyid
Truths of the noble ones
- phags pa’i bden pa
Twelve links of dependent origination
- rten cing ’brel par ’byung ba yan lag bcu gnyis pa
- me sgron
- ’khor los sgyur ba
- rgyal ba’i phung po
- rig sngags ’chang
- rnam par gzigs
- ’jig rten skyong ba
- dgra bcom pa
- gnod sbyin
- mtshe ma
- ye shes sde