The Application of Mindfulness of the Sacred Dharma
- Tsultrim Gyaltsen
- Shang Buchikpa
- Sherap Ö
Degé Kangyur, vol. 68 (mdo sde, ya), folios 82.a–318.a; vol. 69 (mdo sde, ra), folios 1.b–307.a; vol. 70 (mdo sde, la), folios 1.b–312.a; and vol. 71 (mdo sde, sha), folios 1.b–229.b
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
While on the way to Rājagṛha to collect alms, a group of newly ordained monks are approached by some non-Buddhists, who suggest that their doctrine is identical to that of the Buddha, since everyone agrees that misdeeds of body, speech, and mind are to be given up. The monks do not know how to reply, and when they later return to the brahmin town of Nālati, where the Buddha is residing, Śāradvatīputra therefore encourages them to seek clarification from the Blessed One himself. In response to the monks’ request, the Buddha delivers a comprehensive discourse on the effects of virtuous and unvirtuous actions, explaining these matters from the perspective of an adept practitioner of his teachings, who sees and understands all this through a process of personal discovery. As the teaching progresses, the Buddha presents an epic tour of the realm of desire—from the Hell of Ultimate Torment to the Heaven Free from Strife—all the while introducing the specific human actions and attitudes that cause the experience of such worlds and outlining the ways to remedy and transcend them. In the final section of the sūtra, which is presented as an individual scripture on its own, the focus is on mindfulness of the body and the ripening of karmic actions that is experienced among humans in particular.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. The translation was produced by Thomas Doctor with help from Benjamin Collet-Cassart and Timothy Hinkle. Thomas also wrote the introduction. Andreas Doctor checked the translation against the Tibetan and edited the text. The 84000 editorial team subsequently reviewed the translation and made further edits. Wiesiek Mical assisted by reviewing numerous passages against the available Sanskrit sources. Robert Kritzer generously shared several unpublished articles on the text with us, and Vesna Wallace and Mitsuyo Demoto kindly gave us access to drafts of their critical Sanskrit editions of chapters 1 and 3, respectively.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of Sun Ping, Tian Xingwen, and Sun Fanglin, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
“The monk, the spiritual practitioner who carefully observes inner phenomena, has in this way seen the reality of karmic effects. He has investigated the hells and their neighboring regions, and he has also investigated the second realm, that of the starving spirits. He sees this intolerable cyclic existence correctly, just as it is, and acknowledges it in his mind. Thus, the monk does not dwell in the realm of the māras but abides within the limit of the transcendence of suffering. With unceasing joy, he attains the fruition of entering the fifteenth ground.
“As he reaches this ground, the terrestrial yakṣas will inform the celestial yakṣas, who in turn will pass the news to the Four Great Kings. The Four Great Kings will inform the gods in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, who for their part will inform the gods in the Heaven Free from Strife. The latter will bring the message to the Heaven of Joy, and the gods in the Heaven of Joy will inform the gods in the Heaven of Delighting in Emanations, who will proceed to tell the gods in the Heaven of Making Use of Others’ Emanations. From there, the message will journey beyond the desire realm and into the form realm, where the news will be received by the gods in the Brahmā Realm, and so forth, up to the gods in Luminosity.
“Thus, the gods in Luminosity will hear these words: ‘O gods, in Jambudvīpa a noble son, who is of such and such a town, city, and village in such and such a country, and who bears such and such a name, has shaved off his hair and beard, donned the saffron-colored robes, and with faith gone forth from the household to become a homeless mendicant. He has no wish to remain at the level of the māras and does not want any of the objects that belong to their realm. He is conquering the armies of the māras and destroying their servants. He shakes down the mountain of afflictions and causes others to enter the path of the sacred Dharma. [F.314.a] His light shines, and thus he has now entered the fifteenth ground.’
“As they receive this message, the gods in Luminosity will rejoice and say to the other gods, ‘O gods, we are supremely happy, because the forces of the māras have been brought down and the side of the sacred Dharma has risen truly high. The retinue of the māras has collapsed! The river of the sacred Dharma flows on! The ocean of the non-Buddhists has dried up! Desire, anger, and delusion are fully pacified!200 The forces of non-Dharma have collapsed! The forces of the sacred Dharma have advanced! Cyclic existence has been destroyed! Ah, we listen to this message with supreme joy!’
“In this way the sound of the sacred Dharma will pass from one to the other, all the way up to the gods in Luminosity. All will note how this monk has mustered diligence, how his mind is virtuous, unshakeable, and steadfast, and how, free from deceit, he is of an honest nature. Proclamations of his virtues will pave the way to the city of the transcendence of suffering.
“The monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action has correctly understood the ripening of the karmic phenomena in hell. He has understood the extent of the lifespans and the remainder of lives within the hundred and thirty-six regions of the hells. He has also concerned himself with the second realm of beings and thus examined, in short, the thirty-six classes of starving spirits. Now, as he examines the nature of the various levels of life, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and thus perceive thirty-four different kinds of animal life.
“He will consider, ‘The five realms of beings have come about in dependence on mental misdeeds. In general, the animals all have distinct appearances, forms, movements, and means of sustenance. Some live in harmony while others do not, some are aggressive and some are not, some are friendly and some are not, some live together and some do not. [F.314.b] Those bearing wings include eagles,201 fowl, crows, swans, and so on. Those that may or may not live in harmony include foxes, dogs, and the like. Those that may or may not be aggressive include crows, owls, horses, buffalo, snakes, and mongooses. What are the karmic actions that result in all those different appearances, forms, movements, and feeding habits?’
“Here the monk will apply knowledge derived from hearing, and further consider, ‘These beings have different types of minds, different things on which they depend, and engage in different actions. They constitute many different types of beings and partake of distinct forms of food. Now, what are the causes for those animals that may or may not be in harmony?’
“As he examines their karmic actions, he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so see how two proud human beings who are skilled in reciting treatises that promulgate wrong views may recite such unwholesome treatises to each other. What they let each other hear is meaningless, joyless, and offers no means to ascend to the higher realms. Nevertheless, they may cause each other to be zealous about the positions linked with such unwholesome treatises, unwholesome causes, and unwholesome views. When two such people die, they will both be born in hell. In the event that they are born as animals, the causes that can inspire both harmony and disharmony will make them become furious at each other, as in the case of snakes, mongooses, horses, buffalo, crows, owls, and so forth.
“The monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will continue to examine the animal world, wondering what karmic actions and causes may lead to birth as a member of a herd or flock of animals. He will apply knowledge derived from hearing and thus perceive how some female patrons, who are strongly attached to cyclic existence, think, ‘If I am later born as an animal, by this gift may you be my husband [F.315.a] and may I be your wife.’ When later such people separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and be born among animals that are fond of pleasure. Thus, due to their completed acts, they will be born as pheasants, pigeons, or ducks that enjoy copulating.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will think of foxes and other such disharmonious animals, wondering, ‘What actions will make one take birth as a fox or a dog?’ As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how some people steal and constantly covet the delicious food of scholars and people who have taken vows. When people with such inordinate covetousness later separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and be born as foxes that look for fights and engage in fierce competition among one another.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will examine deer. Applying knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how some people blow conches or beat drums to drive out other people from towns, cities, or marketplaces and thus incite panic. When later such people separate from their bodies, they will be born in hell. Once they escape the hells, they will become deer that suffer from constant fear. Just as in the past they drove out people from towns, cities, and marketplaces and into the wilderness, they will now themselves live in the jungle or in the forest. If they should be born with the general lot in life of a human, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, suffer from constant fear, and their minds will be extremely feeble and witless. Thus, they will to some extent think like those in the animal world, as if they were animals trapped with snares.202 As for those that remain, due to the power of their karmic actions, they will live in mutual discord. [F.315.b]
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects continues to examine the animal world, he will ask himself, ‘What karmic actions cause one to take spontaneous birth?’ As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how some people out of desire boil worms in water to produce silk. When worms are boiled in this way, millions of tiny insects203 are born spontaneously. People then burn these small insects in a fire offering sacrifice. When later such people separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and be born in hell. Once freed from hell, they will repeatedly take spontaneous birth as animals, such as silkworms.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects continues to examine the animal world, he will ask himself, ‘What karmic actions cause one to take birth from warmth and moisture?’ As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how for the sake of wealth some evil people who have wrong views kill fish and turtles,204 and bury them in the ground. In a similar vein, other people do the same to otters. Later, as maggots are born from warmth and moisture there, these people will also kill those beings, either sacrificing them or killing them for the sake of profit. When later such people separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and be born in hell. Once they escape hell, they will be born from warmth and moisture as ants, lice, or the like. Thus, the monk will carefully discern the second mode of birth by means of the path that is true in all respects, comprehending it with exhaustive intelligence.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects [F.316.a] continues to examine the animal world, he will ask himself, ‘What karmic actions cause one to take birth from an egg?’ As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how some people who have attained mundane concentration may pacify desire, anger, and delusion. If, however, some condition should make them angry, that mental flaw will make them lose their objective. When separating from their bodies, such people will then fall into the lower realms and be born in the hells. Once free from hell, they will be born from an egg in the animal realm, as a vulture, a crow, or the like. If, when free from such an existence, they are born with the general lot in life of a human, they will constantly be angry and afraid.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects continues to examine the animal world, he will ask himself, ‘What karmic actions cause one to take birth from a womb?’ As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how there are some desirous people who let a stallion have its way with a mare, or likewise a bull with a cow, or they set fire to a forest, or associate with a promiscuous, unsuitable person. When such people later separate from their bodies, they will be born in hell. Once free from hell, they will take birth as an animal from a womb. If, when free from such a state, they should be born with the general lot in life of a human, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, be born as the third kind of being.205
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects examines the eleven types of animals,206 he will proceed to concern himself with the four kinds of food: coarse food, the food of contact, the food of volition, and the food of joy. As he examines the ripening of the effects of these four kinds of food, [F.316.b] he will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so notice how some people of bad character offer food to robbers and thieves, telling them, ‘Eat this and then go kill my enemy.’ If, craving for food, the criminals then proceed to murder the other people, they will, upon separating from their bodies, fall into the lower realms and be born in hell. Once free from hell they will, by force of their actions, be born as animals that live from coarse food. Thus, they will be born as cows, buffalo, donkeys, pigs, dogs, foxes, camels, elephants, horses, sheep, deer, goats, jungle cows, crows, vultures, geese,207 herons, gazelle, antelopes, barking deer, spotted deer,208 domestic fowl, pheasants, or snakes. They may be born in myriad habitats, living in thorny places, wildernesses, and so forth.
“As the monk carefully examines the directions, he will then concern himself with sustenance through contact. Thus, he will think, ‘Some animals are born from an egg. This concerns birds, as well as those animals that live in the water,209 on the shore, and in the ocean, as well as nāgas, snakes, animals that live in burrows, or any other such animal. What karmic actions may cause them to eat the food of contact?’
“Inquiring in this way, the monk will apply knowledge derived from hearing and thus perceive how some people think, ‘I shall give to others,’ yet they only make gifts mentally, without saying anything. Once they have died, due to karmic actions to be experienced in other lives, they may take birth as animals. In that case their purely mental acts [F.317.a] will make them later consume the food of contact.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects continues to examine the animal world, he will ask himself, ‘How do sentient beings subsist on the food of volition, the third kind of sustenance?’ As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how those animals that are born from an egg, such as fish, sea monsters, crocodiles, alligators, oysters, conches, and so forth, live from the food of volition. Thus, if such a mother or father merely thinks of their offspring, they will be satiated by that alone, and they may grow and derive nourishment from that, just as if they were eating with their mouths.
“Wondering what karmic actions may cause one to be born in that way, the monk will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so notice how some feeble-minded people, who have no understanding of the consequences of actions, will promise another person that in two weeks, or a month, they will give them a little bit of money, food, or gemstones. The poor person who hears this may then become elated and think, ‘That benefactor is going to give a gift to this poor fellow!’ Yet when the poor person shows up two weeks or a month later filled with joy, the cruel person will go back on his promise.
“When later such people separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and be born in a hell of shifting happiness and pain. Once free from that, they will proceed to take birth among the animals and, by force of having falsely made someone happy, they will gain nourishment from acts of volition. If they should be born among humans, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, become servants of the people they lied to. [F.317.b]
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will concern himself with the fourth kind of sustenance, the so-called food of joy, as it is partaken of in the animal world. With knowledge derived from hearing he will notice how certain animals subsist on the afflictive food of joy. Thus, for example, the great ajagara snake that dwells in dark dungeons derives sustenance from the food of joy and wind. The same is the case with creatures such as lizards210 and the so-called mountain dweller. The gods in Luminosity also draw nourishment from the food of joy, yet their sustenance is free from ill will. The food of joy sought by animals, on the other hand, is connected with resentful beliefs and sustained by tightly held grudges.
“Wondering what karmic actions may cause one to be born in that way, the monk will apply knowledge derived from hearing and thus notice how some people, who are predominantly angry and have a naturally hostile disposition, become motivated by a grudge, which incites them to murder others while under the strong influence of delusion. When later such people separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and be born in hell. If such beings, who possess both the bases for resentment and pleasure, are born as animals, they will live on the food of joy and wind. If they are born with the general lot in life of a human, they will, in accordance with their causal actions, always get into random and baseless fights with others.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects continues to concern himself with the infinite world of animals, he will ask himself how the animals that live in water take birth. With knowledge derived from hearing he will notice how some people of feeble mind and consciousness may die while tormented by thirst. When that happens, such people fall into the lower realms, where they take birth as water creatures. [F.318.a] Likewise, they may be born into a solitary life in one of the numerous worlds of fish. When people tormented by thirst see water during the intermediate existence, they may pursue it and think, ‘Let me be born there!’ The moment that wish occurs, they will be born in water. Existence manifests due to causes and conditions, and this is how one remains within the corridors of existence. As the karmic actions of those beings—who were not generous and who did not practice virtue—ripen, they will have a constant feeling that the water is hot. Their thirst will continue and the water will feel salty.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will concern himself with birds that scuttle about on dry land and those that fly in the sky. He will wonder, ‘What karmic actions allow birds to fly in empty space and be supported where there is no support?’ As he employs knowledge derived from hearing, he will then notice three forms of miraculous ability: intentional transformation, physical movement, and mental speed. Intentional transformation pertains to those who have miraculous powers. Such individuals are able to travel wherever they wish. If they wish for space to become earth, they will be able to see it as such and walk upon it. Physical movement occurs according to particular features of reality, as in the case of the birds. Mental speed is the provenance of thus-gone buddhas, who are able to arrive in whichever location they set their sights on. In this way, the monk will see that, due to the particular differences in the karmic actions associated with the three realms, there are three forms of miraculous ability. [V69][B21] [F.1.b]
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects continues to examine the world of animals, he will notice that certain animals, such as birds or deer—whether they move in water, on dry land, or in the sky—may appear in the realms of hell beings, starving spirits, animals, gods, or humans. The monk will then ask himself, ‘Why do such animals experience pain in hell?’ Examining this matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that the hells contain both animals that are counted as sentient beings and animals that are not counted as sentient beings. When beings are born in hell and burn in the fires, there are some birds with physiological distortions that make them perceive that place as enjoyable and therefore form the wish to be born there. Then, as soon as that thought crops up, [F.2.a] they will be born as birds in hell and experience all the sufferings of hell beings that were explained earlier.
“When beings take birth in the various regions of hell in accordance with their completed and accumulated acts, they will be frightened by animals that are not counted as sentient beings, such as all the horrifying throngs of lions, tigers, owls, insects, vipers, and constrictors. Those hell beings that are counted as sentient beings may also be hurt by those that are not counted as sentient beings. However, although they may be wounded by such animals that manifest due to their karmic actions, those animals that are not counted as sentient beings do not feel any pain themselves.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will examine the world of starving spirits. He will ask himself, ‘What action may cause an animal to be born in the world of starving spirits, tormented by hunger and thirst?’ Applying knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that animals take birth in all thirty-six classes of starving spirits. Thus, some birds that live in the human realm, such as crows, vultures, or the like,211 may kill and eat other birds there. When they later die, the ripening of killing will make them take birth as birds in the realms of starving spirits, [F.2.b] and so they will suffer the physical torments of hunger and thirst. Such birds live from plucking out and eating the eyes of starving spirits, but, as they feed in this way, their negative acts will make their marrow and brains feel extremely hot, as if they were made of acid or molten copper.
“As the monk thus examines the birds that live in the realm of starving spirits, he will utter the following verses of instruction:
“Thus, the monk will briefly consider the animal realm, noticing how the chains of karmic action connect many hundreds of thousands of lives, thus causing the river of immeasurable pain and suffering to flow. In this way, due to the interplay of numerous actions that lead to lives as animals, as well as a variety of causes and conditions involving various intentions, there arises an ocean measuring ten leagues. Within this ocean live various fish, sea monsters, whales, crocodiles, and shellfish that torment one another. Those beings have obscured and desirous minds and hence, without any understanding of right and wrong, [F.3.a] they take birth in the deep sea. With a feeling like being burned by acid, and constantly tormented by thirst, they live in fear of mutual killing.
“Those that live in the middle ocean212 experience anger. Anger may cause beings to take birth as nāgas that lurk in this middle sea. Such nāgas feel hostile toward each other, and, due to this aggression, they shoot poison at each other and are constantly intent on harming one another. Their realm is called Endowed with Enjoyments. Measuring one thousand leagues, it is full of nāga kings. Two kinds of nāga kings live there: those that are righteous and those that are not righteous. The righteous nāga kings bring happiness to the entire human world, whereas the latter cause harm there. Moreover, within the realms of the righteous nāga kings, there is no rain of nāga particles, which are particles that feel like burning sand falling on their heads. However, throughout the realms of the unrighteous nāga kings, such particles do pour down, and thus they burn all the female nāgas there. This happens repeatedly.
“The monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will contemplate the causes of the nāga particles and their related karmic actions, wondering what acts cause the nāga particles to fall. As he examines this with knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how some people who are overcome and driven by anger, or who are deluded, set fire to the temples of the saṅgha, or to villages, towns, or markets. When such people later separate from their bodies, they will be born in hell. [F.3.b] When they escape from there, they will be born among the nāgas, where, due to their earlier misdeeds of arson, they will be bombarded by the falling nāga particles.
“The monk will further examine the world of the nāgas, wondering what actions may cause one to be born where no nāga particles fall. Investigating with knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how some non-Buddhists with mundane afflictions give thorn-like gifts, and are born within ‘seven thorns’ in the way that was described earlier.213 While obscured by anger they may thus pray to be born among the nāgas. When such people later separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and be born among the nāgas. However, once born as nāgas, rather than having an aggressive nature, they will be righteous and practice the Dharma. Thus, nāga particles will not fall upon their heads.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects continues to examine the world of the nāgas, he will wonder, ‘Karmic actions cause beings to take birth as nāgas in Endowed with Enjoyments, yet how many kinds of righteous nāgas are there, and how many unrighteous nāgas are there?’
“Investigating with knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how the righteous nāgas live in abodes encircled by jewel fences made of the seven precious substances. Their abodes are radiant and feature perfect ponds, cascades, and blue lotuses. The nāgas there live on elixir and are always happy. Their bodies are adorned with flowers, powders, and ointments. While they all have the head of a serpent, they can nevertheless transform themselves into any form they like. Wherever they wish to proceed or relocate to, they will appear there.
“The righteous nāga kings are the following: [F.4.a] Seven-Headed, Gajānana, the nāga king Vāsuki, the nāga king Takṣaka, the nāga king Bhadraka, the nāga king Janaka, the nāga king Undefeatable, the nāga king Meghamālin, the nāga king Kuṇḍalin, and the nāga king Shining. All these nāga kings are righteous and follow the Dharma. To ensure fine harvests, they bring timely, sufficient, and delightful rainfall, and they will not cause untimely hail, clouds, or winds. They have faith in the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha, and follow them with faith. They also protect buddha relics. Since no nāga particles fall on them, their lives are very pleasant.
“These nāgas will make rain shower down on the four human abodes: Jambudvīpa, Godānīya in the west, Videha in the east, and Kuru in the north. Whenever mendicants, brahmins, and people in general are righteous and follow the Dharma, the strength of these nāga kings will, as a unique effect of the Dharma, increase. They will then send abundant rain and there will be fine crops with exquisite smell, taste, and color. These nāga kings will not create any harmful disturbances, poisons, or winds. Fine fruits will grow forth and no one will be harmed by the light of the sun or the moon. The righteous nāga kings will not create any nāga trouble, and they will not rouse storms.
“Four factors create obstacles to the lives of beings in Jambudvīpa: failed harvests, armed conflicts, being struck by poison and wind, and water problems. When people are righteous and follow the Dharma, [F.4.b] the righteous nāgas will gain strength. They will then abstain from creating any dark clouds—they will not gather any such clouds, and they will not release any troublesome storms. They will not disrupt the rivers but instead they will water the crops and nourish them well. Flowers and fruits will have fine fragrances and tastes. Thus, sentient beings will be happy, free of disease, and strong. These nāgas create positive karmic actions and, as a beneficent effect for sentient beings, they also ensure that the crops are excellent. Thus, these nāgas regard the people of Jambudvīpa with great affection on many levels.
“When the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects has examined Jambudvīpa in this way, he will next consider Godānīya in the west. Thus, he will wonder, ‘In what ways do the righteous nāgas that follow the Dharma protect that realm?’
“The people of Godānīya in the west have extremely gentle minds. One obstacle that they do experience, however, is unclean water, which may shorten their lives. The righteous nāga kings who follow the Dharma will not create any clouds and thereby let unclean water fall into ravines, gorges, or the mighty mountains. Instead, such nāgas will use their power to purify the water, and so the people of the western realm of Godānīya live happily.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will consider Videha in the east, and so ask himself, ‘Well, how are the righteous nāgas that follow the Dharma able to bring happiness to Videha in the east?’
“As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that the people on the eastern continent of Videha encounter obstacles in the form of frightening flashes of lightning and thunderclaps. [F.5.a] Seeing lightning and hearing thunder will make their extremely gentle minds unsound. Thus, whenever the lords of the righteous nāgas that follow the Dharma abstain from causing any thunder or lightning, this protects the humans in Videha from illness.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will think of the harms suffered by the humans in Kuru in the north. Thus, he will ask himself, ‘What harms do the human beings in Kuru encounter?’ As he examines this matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that the people of Kuru in the north are vexed by cold winds. Black clouds and cold winds cause the flowers there to wither and lose their pleasant scent, which makes the inhabitants of that realm despondent. Due to the presence of those black clouds, birds will no longer sing beautifully, and the sounds of lutes and clay drums will no longer be pleasing. In such ways, the activities of the nāgas may cause harm to those who live on mountains such as Mount Illuminator. Yet when righteous nāga kings who follow the Dharma appear there, there will not be any cold winds or black clouds. In these ways the righteous nāga kings that follow the Dharma will bring happiness and benefit to the inhabitants of all four human abodes.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects continues to examine the world of the nāgas, he will ask himself, ‘What actions cause nāgas to become unrighteous and abandon the Dharma?’
“When he examines this matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice that the nāga realm known as Endowed with Enjoyments contains the following unrighteous nāga kings: the nāga king Pramatha, the nāga king Aṭopa, the nāga king Kāla, [F.5.b] and the nāga king Huluhulu. All of these reside in the realm known as Endowed with Enjoyments within the middle ocean.
“Wondering what powers the unrighteous nāga kings possess, the monk will apply knowledge derived from hearing and so notice how those nāgas hold sway whenever people do not respect mendicants or brahmins. In Jambudvīpa those nāgas will then create hostility and emit poison from their bodies. They will move within black clouds and cause poisonous trees to grow. They will stir harmful winds that spoil the water, which in turn spoil the crops, so that those who consume them are stricken by severe disease. As the crops are ruined, the lifespan of people will shorten, and wicked and aggressive kings will kill each other. Due to such drawbacks, the number of humans in Jambudvīpa will greatly diminish. These are the ways that evil nāgas create obstacles.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects concerns himself with the nāga kings, he will next ask himself how the unrighteous nāga kings may cause obstacles for humans living in Godānīya in the west. Applying knowledge derived from hearing, he will then see that that realm is ruled by unrighteous human kings. Unrighteous nāga kings that do not follow the Dharma will cause a toxic rain to fall in all the ravines, gorges, and mighty mountain peaks. This rainwater will pollute the water table in general, and so, when consumed by the people of Godānīya in the west, it will cause them obstacles. Thus, the monk will correctly examine Godānīya in the west, and become aware of this.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects will examine Videha in the east. [F.6.a] Applying knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that when unrighteous people who do not follow the Dharma appear, it will make the hostile nāgas become powerful. They will then produce very loud thunderclaps in Videha in the east. The noise will be as loud as if a mountain were being crushed. When the people in Videha hear this, their hearts will be disturbed, and some will even become sick. The nāgas will also produce flashes of lightning that shoot tongues of flames in the ten directions, while the nāgas dwelling in the clouds take on frightening forms. Their eyes will be as large as chariots, their bodies will be like black mountains, and fire will burn from their three heads. They can also assume the forms of dogs, snakes, and many other horrible forms. Seeing all this will create obstacles for the people of Videha in the east.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action will examine Kuru in the north, which, although different from the heavens, is like a second heaven. Thus, he will wonder, ‘How do the hostile nāga lords cause harm to the people of Kuru in the north?’ As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how, as mentioned before, the people of Kuru in the north enjoy lotuses, blooming flowers, fragrant flowers, and many other exquisite pleasures. Seeing such things satisfies and delights the people of Kuru. However, whenever people who do not respect mendicants or brahmins show up, the hostile nāgas will create thick clouds on the northern continent of Kuru, and those clouds will obscure the sun. As the clouds cover the sun, the lotuses will wither, their smell will become unpleasant, and the flowers will disappear from sight, just like the sun. [F.6.b] When the flowers fade, the minds of the people of Kuru in the north will become gloomy, and the clouds and winds will make the sound of their lutes and clay drums seem unpleasant. Thus, the monk will see how the nāgas can create obstacles in all four realms of human beings.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action will consider the four continents in terms of their positive and negative attributes. Thus, with knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that while there is tremendous happiness in Kuru in the north, this not so in the other three human realms. In Jambudvīpa the people may be either righteous or unrighteous, and accordingly there will be both prosperity and decline, happiness and suffering. Among these three continents, this one manifests according to people’s karmic actions. Here people may pay heartfelt respect to the ten virtuous actions. Here buddhas appear. Here one depends on the four human abodes. Here people can consider and examine the ten virtuous actions. Here pure conduct is practiced. Here people are mindful of death and birth. Here the Vajra Seat is made of vajra. Even if all of cyclic existence within a distance of eighty-four thousand leagues from Jambudvīpa were destroyed and disappeared, the Vajra Seat would endure and could not be demolished. Since the very cause for them to set their minds on awakening is found here, the blessed buddhas take birth in Jambudvīpa. The number of roots of virtue that cause the attainment of awakening cannot be fathomed, even with the example of Mount Sumeru, so how could anything else within the directions serve as an example? The causes for the emergence of buddhas are here. Although the causes for the birth of buddhas are as rare as a sea turtle poking its head through a yoke floating on the ocean, they are here and not on any other continent. This is where such causes and conditions lie. Among all four human abodes, [F.7.a] Jambudvīpa is the foremost—not any of the others.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action continues to examine the world of the nāgas, he will ask himself, ‘What karmic actions will make the unrighteous nāga kings who do not act according to the Dharma eat frogs, sand, or air?’ With knowledge derived from hearing he will then see how, in previous human lives, such nāgas would enslave and rule over214 their children and wives. Thus, with watering mouths, the women would watch while their masters had their main meal alone, while they themselves would only be given inferior food. Having separated from their bodies those men are then born in the nāga realm, where they subsist on frogs, sand, or air, because karmic effects ripen in ways that accord with their relevant actions.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action continues to examine the world of the nāgas, he will ask himself, ‘What karmic actions cause the nāgas to bring rain and hail?’ As he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that when unrighteous nāgas become incensed and angry at each other, they produce harmful rain clouds and rouse fierce rain- and hailstorms that destroy the barley, rice, and other grains in the fields.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action continues to examine the world of the nāgas, he will ask himself, ‘How do the nāgas create wealth in the human realm by sending delightful rains that nourish sugarcane, barley, wheat, and other grains?’ With knowledge derived from hearing, he will then see that as a determinate effect brought about by sentient beings, [F.7.b] the righteous nāga kings that follow the Dharma send rains that enrich harvests for the benefit and happiness of all the people.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action continues to examine the world of the nāgas, he will ask himself, ‘How many nāgas live in the ocean and the waters of the sea?’ As he examines this matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that when most people in Jambudvīpa are unrighteous, countless nāgas will be born at the ocean shores. When most people are righteous, five hundred and seventy million nāgas will appear.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action continues to examine the world of the nāgas, he will examine the nāga city known as Endowed with Enjoyments, which is situated underneath the ocean. As he examines the bottom of the sea, he wonders who might live there.
“As he investigates this with knowledge derived from hearing, the monk will see that this is the abode of the so-called asuras, who compete with the gods. These asuras are, briefly, of two kinds, because some belong to the class of starving spirits while others belong to the animal realm. Those that belong to starving spirits are, moreover, either starving spirits of the māra class or starving spirits with great magical powers.
“Those that belong to the animal realm live at the bottom of the sea, upon which rests the subterranean base of Mount Sumeru, which in total measures eighty-four thousand leagues. This mountain has four plateaus, of which the first measures twenty-one thousand leagues.
“On that first plateau resides Rāhu, king of the asuras, whose magical power to create forms exceeds that of anyone else within the desire realm. Because of the virtues and vices of human beings, Rāhu [F.8.a] will think to himself, ‘The gods are rivals of us, the asuras. Let us go and have a look at those groves, forests, and divine maidens that the gods are so fond of and so attached to!’
“With that thought in mind, Rāhu will adorn his body with precious gems such as sapphire and ruby, or with dazzling and pure royal gold, or with natural royal fabrics of blue, red, yellow, or black. Whichever precious stone Rāhu may choose as his adornment, it will make his entire body, which is as large as Mount Sumeru, shine with that same hue. Thus, if he wears a great sapphire, his body will emit an awesome bluish light. Likewise, he may also shine with a red or a yellow radiance, and if he adorns himself with coral, he will shine with the light of that gem. Whichever gem he may choose will lend him its radiance. In this fashion, he is able to compete with the gods and attract the attention of maidens among both the asuras and the gods.
“Wanting to meet the goddesses, Rāhu will put on his travel attire and then set forth from his abode. He will make his way into his city, which is known as Radiant. Spanning a hundred thousand leagues, this city is adorned with delightful groves, forests, trees, mansions, ponds, fountains, pools, and spouts that are all made of jewels. The lord of the asuras, who is adorned with flower garlands, powders, and ointments, will then leave this city to inspect the groves and forests of the gods.
“If at that time the humans in Jambudvīpa pursue non-Dharma—if they do not respect their fathers, [F.8.b] mothers, mendicants, or brahmins; if they do not maintain the traditions of their paternal ancestors; or if they do not rely on the Dharma, worship the Three Jewels, or take care regarding virtuous and unvirtuous actions—then the gods of the Four Great Kings, who inhabit the lowest of the divine abodes, will feel their power diminish. Alarmed, they will shout to each other, ‘O gods, the son of the lioness, Rāhu, has come to subdue and kill us!’
“However, if at that time the humans in Jambudvīpa are righteous—if they respect their fathers, their mothers, mendicants, and brahmins; if they maintain the traditions of their paternal ancestors; and if they rely on the Dharma, worship the Three Jewels, and take care regarding virtuous and unvirtuous actions—then the gods of the Four Great Kings will proceed to dress up in their various jewels, adorn their bodies with numerous ornaments and garments, drape themselves with flower garlands, and apply colored powders and fragrant ointments. They will then let a rain of weapons fall, and, with a roar of laughter, hasten to the groves and forests on Mount Sumeru where the son of the lioness, Rāhu, is now present.
“While Rāhu is still in the groves and forests on the slopes of Mount Sumeru, he will feel millions of light rays strike his face and impair his vision. Unable to see and with his eyes aching, he will think, ‘It is the sun’s fault that I cannot see the divine maidens or the groves, forests, ponds, or riches of the gods!’ Angry and red-eyed, he will think, ‘Because of the sun I cannot see the goddesses!’ and so he will block out the sunlight with his hand. [F.9.a] While blocking the sun with his hand, Rāhu will think, ‘I want to see the goddesses and the heavens!’ and so he will eagerly and earnestly try to see those beautiful sights.
“As he stands there, the ocean will reach to his waist, but his jewel ornaments will still saturate everything above his waist with their colors. Thus, as he stands there blocking the harmful sunlight, the light from his jewels will make his hand blue, red, yellow, or black. When brahmin pundits, who are deceived by incorrect learning, see this, they will say, ‘The sun has been taken by an evil planet! The sun has been taken by a red planet! The sun has been eclipsed by a yellow planet! The sun has been eclipsed by a black planet!’ Harboring disregard for the consequences of actions and seeking to make a living, such people will proceed to make prognostications that this eclipse means harvests will be either good or bad, that the king will have either success or failure, or that this is either an auspicious or an inauspicious sign. In fact, this is just Rāhu blocking the sun with his hand as he seeks to better see the divine forests, groves, pools, and jeweled beauties.
“When Śakra, lord of the gods, sees this, he will summon the gods and order them, ‘Send forth my chariot and drive back this Rāhu!’ Heeding Śakra’s command, the gods will adorn their bodies with numerous jewels and race forth to meet the son of the lioness, Rāhu, in battle. As Rāhu then beholds the advancing gods, he will retreat to his own realm.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action will consider lunar eclipses, and so he will wonder, ‘How can Rāhu engulf the moon?’ Examining this matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he notices how Rāhu’s servants, who always glide over the surface of the sea, see the moon as it rises [F.9.b] over the summits of the eastern mountains and approaches Jambudvīpa with its full orb of radiant beryl beauty. The servants report this to Rāhu, saying, ‘Your Majesty, the full moon, which looks just as if it were the face of a divine maiden, is approaching.’
“When Rāhu, who is full of desire for divine maidens, hears this, he will want to see the moon and so he will leave his abode. Wanting to touch the face of a divine maiden, he will hold up his hand from a long distance, thereby covering the moon disk. As before, his body will be adorned with numerous jewels, and when the sophists in Jambudvīpa see this, they will proclaim to the people of their lands, ‘There is a black planet!’ ‘There is a red planet!’ ‘There is a yellow planet!’ ‘Harvests will be good!’ ‘Harvests will be bad!’ ‘Things will go well for our king!’ ‘Things will go badly for our king!’ ‘There will be war!’ ‘There will be peace!’
“Thus, such is the underlying cause when the sun and moon appear eclipsed by a planet.
“The sophists will also make pronouncements because of noises heard from the sky. Thus, when Rāhu resides below the ground, the asuras may approach him and say, ‘The king of the gods, Kauśika, resides on the summit of Mount Sumeru. His city is delightful and Sudharma, the assembly hall of the gods, is rich in sense pleasures, to the delight the gods. That is how Kauśika, king of the gods, lives. But you are our king. You are greater and more powerful than him, and your miraculous feats are greater than his. Therefore, let us march on him. Let us wage war on the gods and their king! Let us crush their city!’
“When he is invoked in this way, Rāhu, king of the asuras, will become furious, [F.10.a] roar aloud, and immediately sally forth from the city of Radiant. When this happens, the sophists will proclaim, ‘Harvests will be good!’ ‘Harvests will be bad!’ ‘Things will go well for our king!’ ‘Things will go badly for our king!’ ‘There will be war!’ ‘There will be peace!’ They will proceed to proffer burned offerings and perform rituals for peace and happiness.
“Rāhu, king of the asuras, will then think, ‘When the jewels in the city of Radiant shine, the jewels in my radiant castle will also do so. When the light of the jewels of that city dims, the same will happen in my castle. Now, since the radiance of the gods is due to the full moon and the sun, I shall cover both of them so that the gods are left in darkness.’
“If Rāhu gets this idea during the day, he will, just as before, block the disk of the sun with his one hand, while holding on to the summit of Mount Sumeru with the other. When the gods see Rāhu’s hand, they will advance on him to wage war. Now, since Rāhu is a kind of animal, he has little courage. Thus, as he beholds the magnificent bodies of the gods, adorned with their various jewels, he will be frightened and again retreat to the subterranean city of Radiant. This is the second cause of solar and lunar eclipse and of thunderous sounds in the sky.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions will examine the pleasures of Rāhu, king of the asuras. Investigating with knowledge derived from hearing, he will see that Rāhu’s city measures eight thousand leagues, rests upon Mount Sumeru, and is adorned with various jewels. It features streams, ponds, and parks, and the ground is paved with refined gold. The houses are made of gold and beautified by coral trees. [F.10.b] Bells and bangles ring from the trees, and delightful songs can be heard, accompanied by large and small cymbals. In the pools grow lovely golden lotuses, and beautiful golden swans, buffalo, and ducks live there. The beautiful peacocks resemble those of the land of the gods. These birds have jewel beaks and are always delightful and beautiful to behold. They move in ravishing ways and their bodies are made of the seven precious substances. Some are colored in hues of blue beryl and azure. Frolicking, they beautify the tops of the palaces. Their eyes do not close and the sounds they emit are like the rumble of thunder in rain clouds. The birds behave as though they are performing dramatic spectacles and regal duties.215 They are delightful to behold and they can always be seen clearly, whether one is near or far away.216
“Another bird in that realm is the agnicūḍa bird, which has two heads and casts sidelong glances. It is accompanied by two female partners. These birds are intoxicated by flower nectar and, like the flowers of the bakula tree, they are clustered together.217 The songs of these birds echo. They have golden or beryl horns, and they frolic in the water. Some mate only once a year, while others are passionate and amorous all the time. They all have shiny eyes. The karada bird is of the color of fire and its voice is like thunder. Another bird218 that lives there is soft and of the color of lightning. With its beautiful feathers it flies through the forests, gorges, and valleys. It is always passionate. Several other birds live inside the mansions.219 Their colors are gorgeous like rainbows and exquisite flower bouquets. Their necks are lovely, red, [F.11.a] and resemble lotuses. Their feathers are soft, undulating, and sport myriad colors and shapes. Their long beaks are all made of jewels or gold. The bodies of the cuckoos and ravens are firm, and they hold their necks of spotless, beautiful feathers high. These birds soar in the sky, drink from the waters, and gather on the ground. They dance, sing, mate, and chirp. The different types of birds that live in the bakula trees sing in parks and groves throughout the city.
“The ponds of the city are covered with clusters of various lotuses and surrounded by beautiful groves. The city is also surrounded by four forests filled with golden trees. Each forest measures eight leagues. Known as Pinnacle, Park of Passion, Home of Geese, and Park of the Cuckoo Birds, these four forests cover the city limits. Three thousand types of trees flourish in these forests.220 Most of the trees have thick crowns and tall, slender branches full of birds. The trees are constantly in bloom and their scent extends an entire league. Bees swarm around them and they drip with honey. They are golden-hued and also drip with nectar. The forests include the following trees: gośīrṣacandana, black-cloud-color, milkwood-pine, keṭaka,221 fragrant-breeze, black agarwood, pine, jewel pine, agnivarṇa, blue aśoka tree, [F.11.b] red aśoka tree, bakula, arjuna, mango-pine, sinduvarati, tilaka, and burflower-tree. On the outskirts of the forests lie lotus ponds and many other trees that bloom with flowers such as maduka, nalikera, and panasa.222 There are plantain trees and trees that contain juice.223 The trees cover the ground, hide the sky like clouds, and are delightful to behold. They have thick crowns filled with birds and bees. They smell of incense and are full of sweet-scented flowers in all colors. Ripe with flowers, some bloom throughout the year while others bloom according to the seasons. Women delight in their sight, and their flowers are given to women as colorful ornaments.224 These beautiful trees are radiant, and some of them grow on embankments, while others are delightful to behold on mountainsides where they are visible from afar. Some of the trees are also found in Jambudvīpa, others in Kuru in the north, while some grow exclusively in the cities of the asuras. Some of the trees that adorn the city of the asuras, which is known as Radiant, only have flowers, while others bear flowers or fruits, or yield nectar.
“Rāhu, king of the asuras, is himself surrounded by a circle of asurīs who dance, giggle, and try to look their best. Frolicking most delightfully, they indulge in afflictive pleasures that soon prove to be impermanent, unreliable, and unpleasant. The asura king has four queens who are called Delightful Beauty, Lovely Scent, Grove of Beauty, and Maṅgalā. One billion two hundred million asura ladies-in-waiting serve the queens. Surrounded by this retinue, [F.12.a] Rāhu remains attached to the pleasures of the senses. It would be no easy task to even name the astonishing pleasures and enjoyments of his realm. He is served by many millions of asuras. His mansion is adorned with one thousand pillars, and the rooms, which are made of silver, are covered with circular designs.225 There Rāhu sports, delights, and enjoys himself, experiencing the effects of his own actions.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions will inquire into Rāhu’s karmic actions and destiny. Thus, he will wonder, ‘What actions did he perform that he now experiences the results of such ripening?’
“At this point there are some verses:
“Examining these matters with knowledge derived from hearing, the bright-minded monk will see that in earlier times Rāhu practiced the brahmins’ Vedas and Vedic auxiliary studies, including studying their traditional legends, and that he was very fond of being generous. To those traveling through deep forests he would offer drink, food, fruits, roots, water, shelter, bedding, and entertainment. When requested by the lowly, beggars, the poor, and the destitute, he would offer them abundant food, drink, bedding, and entertainment. Thus, in those days he possessed an authentic view.
“At that time there was temple of the saṅgha [F.12.b] known as Mithila Grove. The temple measured twenty leagues and was surrounded by many hundreds of thousands of beautiful stūpas made of shining gold. The stūpas had been constructed by five hundred kings, including King Nimi. The stūpas had foundations and surrounding ledges that were also made of shining gold, and they were adorned with the seven precious substances, various types of stucco, and edicts from the Buddha Vehicle. They had also been decorated with drawings of forests and groves of the same kind as described before. All the trees that grow in the realm of Rāhu could in those days also be found here in Jambudvīpa, and artists had thus painted them accurately on the stūpas just as they had seen them. The various ponds mentioned before were also painted on the stūpas.
“One time, when one thousand chariots were traveling through the deep forest, the brahmin226 brought food, soup, and water to the travelers. At that time, however, an evil person set fire to a stūpa that was two leagues tall and five leagues wide, and the stūpa was about to burn down. Seeing that the stūpa had caught fire, the brahmin thought, ‘I have no need for any of its merits, nor is this stūpa an abode of omniscience. Still, because of its beauty, it would be a shame if it burned down. Moreover, if I can save it, the king will surely not reprimand me.’
“Thus, without any faith or reverence, he arranged for the chariots to carry water to extinguish the fire. Not thinking much of what he had done, he later said with a laugh, ‘Should there be any meritorious ripening from having done this act, it may be rather coarse. Therefore, by the ripening of this, may I become the being with the largest body within the desire realm.’ Thus, he made this wish without faith or proper attention, [F.13.a] and under the influence of his competitive nature. By the power of that act—as the result of such mindless action as well as the ripening of such true merits—he was born as the lord of the asuras.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic action will ask himself what further lands of the asuras might exist beyond the residence of Rāhu. Examining this matter with knowledge derived from hearing or through the divine eye, he will perceive a golden ground that measures thirty million leagues. This land features groves, forests, ponds, pools, birds, trees, houses, cities, islands, and a plateau filled with asurīs and numerous jewels. Adorned with bracelets, these beautiful women are all courtesans of Rāhu alone, and he has no rival. Thus, he sports and circulates among them as he pleases. This land of the lord of the asuras contains thirteen asura realms inhabited by classes of asuras that are known by the following names: eaters, roamers, those fond of causing disease, crystal holders, those who swarm like bees, red-eyed ones, runners, water dwellers, space dwellers, mountain mansion dwellers, ponds of beauty, fish faces, and highway possessors.
“These asuras flourish and decline in the following way. When people do not respect mendicants and do not respect brahmins, the forces of the gods weaken, while the forces of the asuras gain strength. At such times, unrighteous beings become extremely powerful and the gods grow weak. When people respect mendicants and respect brahmins, however, the forces of the gods will grow, and the forces of the asuras will weaken. [F.13.b] Thus the success and failure of both gods and asuras depend on Dharma and non-Dharma.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions will examine the karmic action and destiny of those asuras who live in the realm of Rāhu. He will then see that they are beings who previously protected the lives of animals, released fish from their nets to keep them alive, or who protected the lives of others motivated by a desire for wealth, fame, or royal favors, or due to observing the religious duties of their family. However, while doing so, these people also engaged in a great number of unwholesome activities. Therefore, when such people separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and take birth as asuras in the realm of Rāhu. There, they will live with a lifespan of five thousand asura years, of which one day lasts five hundred human years. It is possible, however, that they will die prematurely. Whether they live in good or mediocre circumstances depends on their states of mind. As for their size, colors, and height, these all depend on their actions and destinies, which are determined by the various attitudes and inclinations of sentient beings. [B22]
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions will examine the depths of the ocean in the land of Rāhu. Inquiring with extremely bright, pure knowledge derived from hearing, he will accurately see how a second plateau exists below that of Rāhu. There, extending for twenty-one thousand leagues, is a distinct realm known as Moon Garland. This realm is inhabited by the so-called necklaces, a class of asuras ruled by their lord, Kaṇṭhamāla. Also found in that realm is the city known as Double Pleasure.227 Measuring eight thousand leagues, the city is adorned with groves, forests, pools, lotus ponds, waterfalls, mountains, golden mountains, [F.14.a] golden rocks, boulders, rock shelters, wild animals, and feathery birds. The ground is made of beryl and carpeted with beautiful meadows. Various species of birds chirp delightfully, and the asuras who live there have abundant wealth. Thus, they wear exquisite jewelry made of perfect pieces of the seven precious stones and metals.
“The city’s trees are beautiful, as mentioned before. There are nāga flowers, nāga aśoka trees, axlewood, teak trees, flame-of-the-forest, and so forth. There are also a great number of other trees, such as niśa, prahasa, itiniśa, bagu, and nitanata. These trees are filled with delightful blooming flowers. They are lavish and grow five types of leaves and flowers, which are cherished by humming bees and singing birds alike. With their rich foliage, they shimmer brightly. All these many trees can be seen in the city of Double Pleasure.
“Centrally located, the city lies between four golden mountains: Delightful Summit, Abhrakrama Summit, Invisible Summit, and Gorgeous Gold Summit. Each of them towers five thousand leagues in height. In their beautiful forests lie waterfalls, rivers, and cool ponds. Herds of deer of sundry colors roam therein, while the men and women enjoy constant and abundant pleasures. The beautiful gates are made of precious stones and metals and the forests are continually fanned by cool, fragrant, healing breezes that whisper through the delightful sandal trees. The flowers there are always in bloom and one hears the melodious cries of the many hundreds of thousands of peacocks. The land is guarded by great asuras and the temperature is never unpleasant. [F.14.b] Everywhere are found happy individuals, who enjoy themselves with music, song, dance, and laughter.
“In the center of the great asura city known as Star Garland lies a water basin that measures five leagues. Its water is clear, delicious, free of mud and other impurities, constantly present, and radiant like a second moon. This basin in the center of Star Garland is known as Mirror Lake, and its powers are as follows. Before the asuras march to the battlefield, the necklace asuras first proceed to Mirror Lake. Holding their weapons and helmets, they will line up on the shores of the lake and stare into its waters, watching for any omens concerning their military fortune. As if they were gazing into a spotless mirror, they will see their reflections standing clearly in the lake. If they are about to lose the upcoming battle with the gods, the asuras reflected in the lake will appear to be fleeing. And if they are about to die on the battlefield, they will see themselves dead in the lake.
“In this manner, the asura king Kaṇṭhamāla and the asura leader who resides in the asura city called Desired Wind, may see themselves fleeing or dead in the lake. When that happens, they will wonder, ‘What are the causes and conditions that enable us to see within Mirror Lake whether we will be defeated and killed at the hands of the gods?’ They will then return to their cities.
“Then, when either a hundred years, five hundred years, or ten years have passed, the necklace asuras, together with the asura king called Firm, will approach the lake. Brandishing their weapons and helmets, donning their military attire, adorned with flowers and colored powders, and with their bodies slathered in ointments, [F.15.a] the asuras will line up, surrounding the shores of the lake. As they look at the surface of the water, they will first see how the human beings of Jambudvīpa who respect their fathers, their mothers, mendicants, and brahmins are born as gods once they die. Next, they will see how the battalions of the gods are victorious, and how the battalions of the asuras are defeated.
“At this point the necklace asuras and the asura king Firm will think, ‘Ah! The gods depend on humans. The problem is humans,228 for they are the supporters of the gods. Rather than help the humans, let us do what we can to make them unhappy. When the humans have been brought down, we will be able to defeat the gods.’
“With such thoughts in mind, they will turn to the unvirtuous, aggressive, and constantly malicious nāgas of the sea. Speaking to Pramatha, Kāla, Aṭopa, Huluhulu, and other such unvirtuous and unrighteous nāga kings, the necklace asuras will say, ‘The humans who depend on you have taken the side of the gods, but they need food to stay alive. Do what you can to destroy all the humans, who depend on you and stay alive based on food. Destroy them, because just as nāga kings such as Vāsuki and Takṣaka are your bitter enemies, so the gods are our enemies. You ought to come and help us.’ [F.15.b]
“When they hear these words from the asura kings, the unrighteous nāgas will reply, ‘We are your allies. We shall do just that.’ The nāgas, afflicted by anger, will then leave their abodes, thereby stirring the waters within a distance of one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred leagues. Upon the water there is earth, and when the nāgas thus stir up the sea, the earth will tremble as well—the earth will quake as far as the waves reach. Such is the power of aggressive nāgas, afflicted by anger.
“When brahmin scholars who are deceived by unwholesome treatises notice this, they will declare, ‘Harvests will be good!’ ‘Harvests will be bad!’ ‘Things will go well for our king!’ ‘Things will go badly for our king!’ ‘There will be war!’ ‘There will be peace!’ ‘Good rain will fall!’ ‘No rain will fall!’ ‘Cows and brahmins will flourish!’ ‘Cows and brahmins will decline!’ The sophists will make such pronouncements when the earth shakes.
“Next, the monk will examine other causes of earthquakes by means of knowledge derived from hearing. Thus, he will notice how the so-called gripping wind rises due to the virtue and nonvirtue of sentient beings. When that wind stirs, the waters will stir as well, and when the waters churn, the earth will also do so. The wind thus may blow across one hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, or five hundred leagues, or some other distance, and as far as the wind blows, the waters will be stirred as well. And when the waters churn, the earth will quake.
“Noticing this, the monk will wonder, ‘What are the causes and conditions that rouse the wind, thereby stirring the waters, [F.16.a] so that the earth trembles?’ When the monk has examined this matter by means of knowledge derived from hearing or through the divine eye, he will think, ‘The wind seizes the waters and the waters support the earth. Hence, when the wind is stirred, the waters will be stirred, and this will make the ground shake.’
“In this regard, the monk may observe two types of earth tremors. If the ground shakes due to virtuous karmic action, this is auspicious. Beings will be happy, and harvests will be good. But if the ground shakes due to unvirtuous karmic action, the conduct and activity of sentient beings is inauspicious. Since earthquakes thus depend on virtue and nonvirtue, they are not uncaused or random, nor do they happen by the will of an agent. Rather, they are effects that accord with their causes.
“However, scholars who are ignorant about effects will examine this and say, ‘This earthquake is due to the forces of the Lord!’ ‘This earthquake is due to the forces of the wind!’ ‘This earthquake is due to the forces of the water god!’ ‘Harvests will be good!’ ‘Harvests will be bad!’ ‘Things will go well for our king!’ ‘Things will go badly for our king!’ ‘Good rain will fall!’ ‘No rain will fall!’ ‘There will be war!’ ‘There will be peace!’ ‘Cows and brahmins will flourish!’ ‘Cows and brahmins will decline!’ In this manner, they will proclaim whichever random idea they have arrived at to be the one, true account.229
“The monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions is at this point aware that the necklace asuras, the asura king Firm, and the unrighteous nāga kings, such as Pramatha, will do nothing good for the world. Contemplating the prospects of a just remedy, [F.16.b] the monk will think, ‘What might cause the fall of the aggressive nāgas and evil asuras, who do nothing good for the world?’
“Investigating with knowledge derived from hearing, he will then notice that the terrestrial yakṣas gain power when people in Jambudvīpa are righteous and follow the Dharma, and when kings and ministers revere mendicants and brahmins and have respect for the previous generations of their families. When the terrestrial yakṣas see that the evil nāgas and asuras that live underground are causing the ground to quake, these righteous yakṣas who follow the Dharma will inform the celestial yakṣas and the nāga kings Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and so on, just as before. When the celestial yakṣas receive the message from the terrestrial yakṣas, their miraculous powers and force will increase. In order to summon the wandering gods of the Four Great Kings, they emit a wrathful, steamy breath that fills the atmosphere. With this, they send this message: ‘Gods, aggressive nāgas and evil asuras are preparing to harm those righteous humans who follow the Dharma!’
“When sophists who are deluded by unwholesome treatises see the yakṣas’ steamy breath, they will think, ‘Now Ketu, who is one of the hundred sons of the Lord of Death, has arrived.’ Thus, when the one hundred and one very powerful yakṣas soar upward—both those that are visible and those that are not230—the sophists will claim that this is Ketu, who is one of the hundred sons of the Lord of Death. They will then proclaim such things as ‘Harvests will be good!’ ‘Harvests will be bad!’ ‘Things will go well for our king!’ ‘Things will go badly for our king!’ ‘There will be war!’ ‘There will be peace!’ ‘Cows and brahmins [F.17.a] will flourish!’ ‘Cows and brahmins will decline!’ ‘Good rain will fall!’ ‘No rain will fall!’ ‘Such and such a place will suffer harm!’ ‘Such and such a place will not suffer harm!’
“The monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions will continue to examine the tremors caused by evil nāgas and asuras. Hence, as he applies knowledge derived from hearing, he sees how those yakṣas with great miraculous powers inform the wandering gods in the way just explained. In response, the wandering gods of the Four Great Kings will proclaim, ‘The forces of the asuras are weak, but our own divine forces possess tremendous power. In Jambudvīpa there are righteous people who follow the Dharma, who respect their mothers and fathers, mendicants, brahmins, and vow holders, and who respect their ancestral families. For their sake we shall defeat the aggressive nāgas and evil asuras! Fear not, fear not!’
“When the yakṣas of great miraculous powers hear these words of the wandering gods, their fury at the asuras will intensify and they will feel exulted. In the same way as before, they will then send the message to Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and all other such righteous nāga kings who follow the Dharma. If these beings, who have blazing bodies, approach during the day, the rays of the sun will outshine them and render them invisible. On the other hand, if these beings set out during the night to inform the righteous nāgas who follow the Dharma, they will be visible to everyone as they enter the ocean.
“At this point, sophists will think that they are witnessing a shooting star. Therefore, since they think they have seen a shooting star, they will declare, ‘Harvests will be good!’ [F.17.b] ‘Harvests will be bad!’ ‘Things will go well for our king!’ ‘Things will go badly for our king!’ ‘There will be war!’ ‘There will be peace!’ ‘There will be epidemics!’ ‘There will not be any epidemics!’ ‘Cows and brahmins will flourish!’ ‘Cows and brahmins will decline!’ In this fashion, they imagine things without having any direct knowledge.
“As the monk further examines shooting stars, he will employ knowledge derived from hearing and so perceive other causes for them. He will notice how the chariots of the gods course swiftly across the sky and, as they traverse to and fro, flames emerge in the wake of their being pulled. When the scholars witness that, they will say, ‘Look, a shooting star! Now the harvests will be good!’ ‘Harvests will be bad!’ ‘Things will go well for our king!’ ‘Things will go badly for our king!’ ‘There will be war!’ ‘There will be peace!’ ‘There will be epidemics!’ ‘There will not be any epidemics!’ ‘Cows and brahmins will flourish!’ ‘Cows and brahmins will decline!’ This is how sophists, who have no knowledge of the effects of actions, will interpret mundane signs. Why do they do that? Because among all the gods, humans, and asuras—including gods, māras, brahmās, mendicants, and brahmins—there is no one who fully understands the subtle ripening of actions. Therefore, it is the intention of our Dharma-Vinaya to emphasize the ten virtuous actions.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions will ask himself, ‘How do the celestial yakṣas with great miraculous powers go before the wandering gods, and how do they visit the righteous nāgas that live in the ocean?’ [F.18.a]
“As he examines this matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how the blazing, celestial yakṣas enter the ocean and go before the righteous nāga kings, such as Takṣaka and Vāsuki. They bring them this message: ‘The necklace asuras and the asura king Firm are looking at the surface of Mirror Lake.’
“When Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and other such wealthy nāga kings hear this, they will instruct the nāgas that travel through the atmosphere, ‘We shall stop the advance of the unrighteous nāgas. Let us drive them out and punish them. Let us ensure that the righteous humans in Jambudvīpa enjoy good harvests and timely rain, and that they are protected from harm. Let us make their rice, barley, and other foods abundant. Let us help the righteous people who follow the Dharma.’
“When in this way they have informed the nāgas, the celestial yakṣas will next move on the unrighteous nāgas to do battle with them. Thus, to nāga kings such as Pramatha and Aṭopa they will say, ‘You are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma. We are righteous and follow the Dharma. Hence, we are opposed and rivals. We have come here to defeat you.’
“Hearing this message, the nāga kings Pramatha, Aṭopa, and so on will come forth to meet them in battle, and, as they fight, the two parties will send thunderstorms against each other. If at that time the people in Jambudvīpa respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, and brahmins, nāga kings such as Takṣaka and Vāsuki will prevail and Pramatha, Aṭopa, and so on will lose. This will be followed by excellent rainfalls and harvests in Jambudvīpa. [F.18.b]
“At that time, sophists will say, ‘When rain falls abundantly and in a timely fashion, that is the benefit of celestial bodies, planets, and auspicious omens. The bounty of cows and brahmins is also the effect of that and of nothing else.’
“If at that time, however, the people of Jambudvīpa do not respect their mothers, fathers, mendicants, or brahmins, and if they are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma, nāga kings such as Pramatha and Aṭopa will prevail. They will then cause failed harvests, inopportune rain, torrential rains that destroy the crops, or droughts. Brahmin scholars, however, will construe this wrongly and claim, ‘This is due to harm caused by celestial bodies, planets, time, and inauspicious omens.’
“So say these sophists who have no knowledge of the effects of karmic action, and thus they construe things wrongly and fail to see reality. Why is that? Because this can only be realized by my hearers, or those who hear my Dharma-Vinaya and subsequently apply themselves to understanding karmic ripening, or to understanding effects. Apart from these people, such things remain beyond the domain of any gods, asuras, or humans—the entire godly realm including Brahmā, the entire human realm including mendicants and brahmins, or anyone else.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of karmic effects continues to examine the realm of the asuras, he will notice what happens when the unrighteous nāgas that do not follow the Dharma are defeated by the righteous nāgas that follow the Dharma. When the necklace asuras come to know of that defeat, they and all the asuras who live in the city of Star Garland, [F.19.a] as well as in the surrounding groves and forests, will become gloomy, downcast, and ashamed, and will thus return home. ‘Alas,’ they will think, ‘it turns out that we asuras are incapable of defeating the gods. When will the day come that we finally vanquish the gods?’
“When approached in this way, Rāhu, ruler of the asuras, will say to the necklace asuras and the asura king Firm, ‘I shall soon conquer the gods and their king, so do not worry much!’ When they hear Rāhu say this, the necklace asuras will be overjoyed and thus return to their homes.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions continues to examine the city of the asuras known as Star Garland, he will proceed to examine the surroundings of the city, wondering, ‘How many groves and forests might the necklace asuras possess?’ With knowledge derived from hearing he will see that the necklace asuras have seven forests that extend across thirty million leagues. That area is full of groves inhabited by birds. In the forests lie many pools, waterfalls, and lotus ponds where lovely swans, ducks, and yellow geese frolic. The forests are beautiful, pleasant, delightful, bountiful, and a constant source of pleasure. These seven forests in the land of the necklace asuras are known by the following names: Cloud below Gold,231 Always Delightful, Lovely Pleasure Garden, Fruits of Constant Beauty, Pleasant Breeze, Always Joyous,232 and Adorned. [F.19.b] This land is rife with asuras who enjoy themselves due to the karmic effects that are experienced by asuras.
“As the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions concerns himself with the ripening of karmic action as experienced by the asuras, he will ask himself, ‘What actions lead to birth as a necklace asura?’ When inquiring with knowledge derived from hearing, he will see how some non-Buddhists make offerings in a way that is limited, unwholesome, and flawed. Although they arrange much food and drink, they do not offer it to individuals who observe spiritual discipline. Instead, they offer it as an unwholesome gift to those with untrained minds.233 When they later separate from their bodies, such people will fall into the lower realms and be born as necklace asuras within the animal realm. Their respective level of happiness will depend on whether their offerings were minor, mediocre, or great. They will experience karmic effects that accord with their causes.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions will examine the karmic ripening that is experienced by the asura king Firm. In this regard, he will wonder, ‘What karmic actions ripen as the attainment of Firm’s rule over the asuras?’ Investigating with knowledge derived from hearing, he will then see that when a human thief, who lives from the wealth of others, carelessly offers food to satisfy a non-Buddhist practitioner who has attained freedom from desire, that act will make the person become ruler of the asuras.
“Next, the monk will examine the lifespan of the necklace asuras, wondering, ‘How long may the necklace asuras live?’ Examining this matter with knowledge derived from hearing or with the divine eye, the monk will see that six hundred human years make one day and night among the necklace asuras and that they live for six thousand years made of such days. [F.20.a] However, they may also die prematurely. The effects of positive and negative actions depend on the totality of their actions.
“As the monk examines the second level of asuras, which is a class of beings that belongs to the animal realm, he observes and abides by the Dharma. He understands that all beings in cyclic existence depend on the Dharma and are protected by the Dharma—through wholesome actions they are born among gods and humans and through unwholesome actions they are born among hell beings, starving spirits, and animals.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions will wonder, ‘How will the wandering gods respond to the message they receive from the yakṣas who have great miraculous powers?’
“As he inquires with knowledge derived from hearing, the monk will notice how the wandering gods utter the following words to the Four Great Kings and the garland-bearer gods: ‘We have heard that the unrighteous asuras who do not follow the Dharma have called on the nāgas to create obstacles for those righteous humans who follow the Dharma and who therefore create the causes for attaining divine births subsequent to their deaths. The asuras have told the nāgas that all the generosity, spiritual discipline, and knowledge of such virtuous people is entirely dependent on food. They therefore encouraged the nāgas to travel to Jambudvīpa and let a rain pour down that will deprive all humans of their crops and destroy their grains. This we have been told by the righteous sky-traveling yakṣas that follow the Dharma, and now we inform you. You too should pass this news on to the gods near you so that the vessel bearers can inform the triple-lute-bearers, who in turn should pass the message to the ever-ecstatic gods.’
“In this way the gods of the Four Great Kings [F.20.b] will spread the news of this campaign against the Dharma far and wide. All the details will, as before, gradually be conveyed all the way up to Kauśika, who—as the lord of the gods endowed with abundant pleasures of the five senses—resides within his Sudharma hall in the city of Sudarśana. Kauśika, lord of the gods, will then employ the guardians of the world, enjoining them as follows: ‘Guardians of the world, do the people of Jambudvīpa have faith in the jewel of the Buddha? Do they have faith in the jewel of the Dharma? Do they have faith in the jewel of the Saṅgha? Do they respect mendicants? Do they respect brahmins? Do they return kindness? Do they repay help? Are they honest? Are they of an honest character? Do they respect their mothers? Do they respect their fathers? Are they devoted to the elders of their families? Do they observe their periodic fasts? Do they stay clear of deceit and pretense? Are their scales and weights free from trickery and deception? Do they harm one another, or do they not? Go to Jambudvīpa and find out!’
“In response the gods will say, ‘As you command!’ and so they will depart for Jambudvīpa to help the humans who live there. Traveling throughout Jambudvīpa—from country to country, district to district, village to village, town to town, city to city, and market to market—they will determine where and how the righteous people who follow the Dharma live. When the four guardians of the world encounter righteous people who follow the Dharma, they will tell them, ‘Do not be afraid of nāgas such as Vāsuki and Takṣaka, who live among their treasures within the ocean. Friends, do not be afraid! The forces of the sacred Dharma are on the rise. The forces of the māras are waning. The forces of the māras are weak. [F.21.a] The righteous gods, humans, and nāgas who follow the Dharma are celebrating. They beat the drum of the Dharma. They sing the melodies of the Dharma. The forces of the gods are on the rise. The forces of the māras are waning. The nāgas and asuras who have no Dharma remain weak.’
“When they hear this, Vāsuki, Takṣaka, and other such nāgas will be delighted. Full of appreciation, they will say to the guardians of the world, ‘Gods, we are overjoyed! The unrighteous nāgas and asuras will not succeed in creating obstacles for us, nor for human beings. Please convey to Śakra, lord of the gods, that we are overjoyed.’
“Upon receiving this message, the guardians of the world will take leave from the nāgas and journey to the residence of Śakra, lord of the gods. As they convey the nāgas’ message to Śakra, he will rejoice deeply and say:
“When the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic action has considered the second level of the asuras, he will proceed to examine the third. In this regard, he wonders, ‘What might the third level of the asuras be like?’ Examining this matter with knowledge derived from hearing, he will perceive the third ground that extends across twenty-one thousand leagues. Known as Excellent Abode, this land features groves, forests, pools, and springs and is full of individuals living in harmony, perpetually happy, and enjoying the sounds of music. Within it lies the city known as Profound. This city covers eight thousand leagues and is the residence of the asura ruler known as Puṣpamāla. The asuras there are known as the players. The city of Profound has numerous jewels, groves, forests, ponds, and lotus pools. The player asuras spend their time hanging out with their friends around the beautiful pools that are abloom with lotuses free from mud and dirt. All six seasons are delightful, and the land is adorned with four great forests. In the forest known as Garland of Bell Bangles, one constantly hears the melodious sounds of trees filled with bangles with bells; [F.22.b] in the second forest, known as Golden Garland, grow trees of gold; in the third forest, known as Fire Garland, grow fire-like trees that yield red fruits; and in the fourth forest, known as Mixture, grow a blend of beautiful flowers and fruits. Those four forests adorn the city of Profound. When the player asuras thus have a good time with their friends, their happiness is like that of the gods. Adorning their bodies with flower garlands, powders, and ointments, they always have fun, enjoy themselves, play, sport, and joke. Surrounded by a hundred thousand asurīs, the asura king Puṣpamāla sustains the land. He always plays around in the parks and he wears various jewel ornaments around his waist.
“The asura king Firm, who lives on the second level, will send an asura called Jambha to go before the asura Puṣpamāla. Jambha will say, ‘In the world of humans everyone respects their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, and brahmins, and they repay the kindness of others. Living in that way, those powerful humans make the gods powerful as well. We and the nāgas must therefore by all means endeavor to create obstacles for the sacred Dharma of gods and humans.’
“When Puṣpamāla, king of the third level of the asuras, thus hears the same message as before, he will become extremely upset and declare, ‘The gods are our enemies and the gods depend on humans. We shall therefore create obstacles for both the gods and humans!’
“The player asuras will at that point brandish their various weapons and don their armor, and will strike out toward the wealthy abodes of the nāgas. When they hear the noises of the asuras, the great nāga gods, such as Vāsuki and Takṣaka, will emit beams of light from their bodies. [F.23.a] Sending forth a great shower of lightning, an army of millions of nāgas will advance toward the center of the ocean where they will meet the asuras in a gigantic battle. As before, if at that time humans are righteous and follow the Dharma, the asuras will suffer defeat, but if people are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma, the asuras will be victorious and the nāgas will suffer defeat. Thus, everything depends on the Dharma.
“If the nāgas lose, they will say to the wandering gods, ‘O friends, call upon everyone to stop the power of the asuras!’ Breathing with fury, the wandering gods will then tell the gods of the Four Great Kings, ‘Ah, gods, the battalions of the asuras are strong and have defeated the nāgas. Call on everyone to mobilize so that we may defeat the asuras.’
“When sophists see the breath of the wandering divine sons, they will say, ‘The comet Ketu has arrived!’ ‘Harvests will be good!’ ‘Harvests will be bad!’ ‘Good rain will fall!’ ‘No rain will fall!’ and so on, just like before. This, then, is the second reason for the appearance of a comet.
“When the gods, nāgas, and yakṣas are victorious, there will be timely rain and excellent harvests, and there will be neither plagues nor wars. However, when sophists see such circumstances, they will go on at length about the rain being caused by planets and the like.
“Now, if at that time people are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma, if they do not respect their mothers and fathers, and if they are not devoted to their elders, then the asuras will be victorious. In that case there will be no rain, harvests will be destroyed by those who are unrighteous, [F.23.b] and warfare will ensue. Sophists, however, will construe those events differently, blaming the lack of rain on the planets, the failed harvests on the celestial bodies, and so on, as mentioned before. In this way, sophists who cannot distinguish truth from error will construe things wrongly and spread their ideas among the people of the world. All who suffer from ignorance will then be impressed by these non-Buddhists.
“Thus, striking great drums, the four guardians of the world will call to the gods, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’ When the gods hear their words, they will arm themselves with weapons and chain mail, and, in the wink of an eye, proceed to face the nāgas and asuras to meet them in battle. The asuras will then take stock of the army of gods. If at that time people respect mendicants, respect brahmins, and so on, the sight of the gods will cause the asuras to retreat below the ground. If, however, people do not respect mendicants and brahmins, the asuras will prepare to do battle with the gods. Nevertheless, after just a moment of fighting, the gods will defeat the asuras, and thus King Puṣpamāla and his defeated asuras will return to their respective places.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the effects of the ripening of karmic actions will examine the ripening of karmic qualities associated with the third level of the asuras, to which the asura Puṣpamāla belongs. In this regard, he will wonder, ‘What ripening of karmic qualities will cause birth in Excellent Abode, the third level of the asuras?’
“As he inquires with knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice how some people, for the sake of a seasonal festival,237 offer improper gifts to members of the saṅgha,238 such as athletes, music,239 or food offerings, [F.24.b] thus giving inattentively toward improper recipients. When such people later separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and be born among the asuras of the third level. Seven hundred human years constitute one day and night in the lives of those asuras and they may live for seven thousand of their own years. However, they could also die prematurely.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of the effects of karmic actions will examine the karmic ripening experienced by the asura ruler, Puṣpamāla. Inquiring with knowledge derived from hearing, he will notice that someone who inattentively offers a meal to people with corrupt discipline may be born as an asura ruler who consumes contaminated elixir in the asura site known as Profound.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of the effects of karmic actions will examine the fourth level of the asuras. Through knowledge derived from hearing he will perceive this fourth level of the asuras, which is included in the animal realm, and is known as Immovable. This level extends twenty-one thousand leagues across, and in its center lies the city of Beauty, measuring eight thousand leagues. The abode measures thirteen thousand leagues.240 Within the city resides the asura king called Overjoyed. The asuras that inhabit this realm are known as the cheerful; they have great powers, yet their king is far more powerful than they are. He is completely at ease, stable, powerful, and in possession of miraculous powers. He is also completely fearless and not intimidated by anything in the world, including Śakra. With special vigor, he has developed great haughtiness. His realm is located deep below the earth. From there it is impossible to go any deeper, because it rests upon a jewel ground.
“The inhabitants of this realm are constantly joyous, cheerful, and happy, yet their minds are also very distracted and absorbed in various obsessions. [F.25.a] And so, this distinct fourth realm is far more enjoyable than the city of Profound. Featuring lotus ponds, pools, cascades, gardens, ornamental fences, and mansions made of the seven precious substances, this city is unrivaled. Those who live therein are all on friendly terms, free from any animosity or fear of rivalry. The city is like a second sky, because just as the sky is adorned with planets, stars, and other celestial bodies, this city is decorated and adorned with many different jewels.
“At this point, there are some verses:
“Thus, the more sentient beings succeed in practicing the true path, the more such various causes will make them experience different forms of agreeable realms.
“The outskirts of that city within that realm are delightful, ornamented by trees, groves, ponds, villages, lotus pools, various rivers, and hundreds of beautiful species of birds. The asuras that inhabit that fourth abode are called the cheerful because they are steadfast, undaunted, always dressed in the finest robes and most exquisite ornaments, [F.25.b] free from the slightest animosity toward one another, and always happy and joyous. Surrounded by groups of women who wear exquisite garments and ornaments, they enjoy themselves, frolic, and partake of pleasures in hundreds and thousands of ways.
“Moreover, this fourth realm is always adorned with females who proffer jewels, and the cheerful asuras always adhere to the command of their asura king, Overjoyed. Although their minds are scattered, he maintains control because they heed his command.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of the effects of karmic actions will examine the karmic ripening pertaining to the asura king Overjoyed. He will wonder, ‘What karmic action may cause such a birth?’ With knowledge derived from hearing he will then see how some people, who in the past were attached to wrong views, ignorant about the effects of actions, and averse to the Buddha, Dharma, and Saṅgha, may nevertheless offer a meal to a traveling monk, who is disciplined and diligent, when they are earnestly requested to do so. In retrospect, such a person may think, ‘This donation of food was pointless, and it will bring me nothing good in return. Feeding a commoner like him, who has taken a perverse form of ordination, is as useless as making a donation to a piece of salty soil.’ Thus, although the recipient is filled with good qualities and the gift is of help to others, the donation becomes a spoiled and thorn-like gift. Hence, when such people separate from their bodies, they will fall into the lower realms and be born as an animal that lives in an extremely rich environment adorned with jewels: the realm known as Immovable. As the act of giving to a field endowed with tremendous qualities, without mentally acknowledging that, comes to ripen, one will take birth in a situation like that of Overjoyed, the lord of the cheerful asuras, with all his pleasures. [B23] [F.26.a]
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of the effects of karmic actions will inquire into the karmic ripening that pertains to the cheerful asuras. He will wonder, ‘What karmic actions may cause birth among the cheerful asuras?’ With knowledge derived from hearing he will then see how some people, who live in a forest filled with animals, are attached to the tastes of craving. Such people will think, ‘I shall not let anyone gather the animals in this forest, nor shall I let anyone herd them. Rather, I shall keep this forest to myself.’ Thus, out of love for the animals and due to a wish to live from collecting honey, such a person will then proceed to collect it. When such people later separate from their bodies, they will be born among the asuras, and the ripening of the act of protecting sentient beings for the sake of their livelihood will cause them to become cheerful asuras.
“Next, the monk who has knowledge of the ripening of the effects of karmic actions will examine the war between the gods and the asuras. With knowledge derived from hearing he will notice the seven-headed nāga leaders, who are righteous and follow the Dharma, living at Endowed with Enjoyments. They are the nāga king Vāsuki, the nāga king Takṣaka, the nāga king Bhadraka, the nāga king Rohina, the nāga king Meghamālin, the nāga king Expanse, the nāga king Ahi, the nāga king Joyous, and the nāga king Rainfall. They are all righteous and follow the Dharma. They possess the right view and observe spiritual discipline. When they defeat the nāga kings who are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma, such as the nāga king Pramatha, the nāga king Aṭopa, the nāga king Kāla, and the nāga king Huluhulu, the latter will flee to their dwellings below the surface of the earth, on Mount Sumeru, or within the waters. [F.26.b]
“At that time the asuras who dwell on the first level will tell the asuras in Double Pleasure, ‘The nāga kings Vāsuki, Takṣaka, and so on, are joined by the gods of the Four Great Kings, and now they inflict harm upon us. You must rush to our assistance!’
“When they hear this, the asuras in Double Pleasure will journey to the asura city Radiant and the residence of the asura king Rāhu. In the same way as before, they will report everything to Rāhu, king of the asuras. If at that time Rāhu knows that people respect mendicants, respect brahmins, return kindness, and have respect for their elders, he will now tell Pramatha and other such nāga kings that asuras of the second level have come to call upon him because the gods are hurting them. He will then instruct the nāga kings, ‘Go stop the nāga king Takṣaka and the rest! Go stop them!’
“Next, the asura king Rāhu will tell the necklace asuras who reside on the second level that the nāga king Pramatha and the rest are being attacked by nāga kings such as Takṣaka and the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings. When they hear this news, the necklace asuras will inform the royal ruler of the asuras who resides in the asura city known as Star Garland, saying, ‘O great king, the asura ruler Rāhu, the nāga king Pramatha, and others have told us that nāga kings such as Pramatha are under siege from nāga kings such as Takṣaka and Vāsuki, along with the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings.’
“As the asura ruler receives this message, if people respect mendicants and brahmins [F.27.a] and follow the Dharma, he will look at the level of his own powers and then say to the necklace asuras, ‘Alas, the people of Jambudvīpa are righteous and follow the Dharma, and therefore the gods are extremely strong. I shall now pass this full message to the asuras who live on the third level.’ He will then inform the so-called ever-present asuras, and the latter will travel to the asura ruler Puṣpamāla, who resides in the city of Profound, and convey the entire message to him.
“At that time King Puṣpamāla may see that people are righteous and follow the Dharma, and he may see that people respect mendicants and brahmins. In that case he will tell those asuras that he is going to inform the asuras who live on the fourth level. The ruler of the asuras of the third level will then travel to the assembly of the asuras of the fourth level. There, he will say, ‘Pramatha and other such nāga kings are under siege from Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and other nāga kings, who are assisted by the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings. Those nāgas are on our side, so we must definitely attempt to create obstacles for the gods.’
“When the armies of the asuras of the fourth level make the same observation as before, they will go before the asura ruler Overjoyed, who resides in the city of Profound. When the latter beholds the approaching asuras, he will ask them what their mission is, and the asura armies will pass on the message to the asura ruler Overjoyed. Having received their message, the asura king Overjoyed will proclaim to the assembled asura rulers, ‘Alas, the asura ruler Rāhu has little vigor, and hence the subjects of nāga kings such as Pramatha [F.27.b] have been defeated by the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings. Now, let us not be overly concerned by the fact that people respect mendicants and brahmins and that they practice the Dharma.’
“Next, the asura ruler Overjoyed will go before his own assembly of asuras and say to his armies, ‘Sally forth and create obstacles for the nāga kings such as Takṣaka and Vāsuki, and for the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings! The vigor, enthusiasm, and retinue of the king of asuras are unrivaled, so let us wage war with the gods! Asuras, quickly, ready yourselves! Quickly, ready yourselves!’
“To the other three rulers of the asuras, the asura ruler Overjoyed will then say, ‘How could you accept this state of affairs? Have you no diligence? Have you no courage? Since I hold both power and vigor in my own hands, I will act!’
“Before long the asura king Overjoyed will call upon his own asuras: ‘Friends, quickly, ready yourselves! Quickly, ready yourselves! I have already called upon all the kings of the asuras. Now that you know that I act quickly and carry arms, you must enter the war of the asuras with fervor. Now that we know their intentions, we must do what needs to be done. We shall no longer accept defeat by the gods!’
“With great vigor, strong confidence, vast intelligence, and without any regard for the level of his own strength relative to that of others, the asura ruler Overjoyed will then leave his own asura realm and travel to the third level. In the city of Profound,241 he will go before the asura ruler Puṣpamāla, who reigns over many trillions of asuras. [F.28.a] With a fervent mind, he will say the following words: ‘Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and other such nāga kings must be defeated! The asuras shall march forth into battle!’
“To this Puṣpamāla will reply, ‘The time has not yet come for us to wage battle. People respect their mothers and fathers, and they respect their elders. They respect mendicants and brahmins, and they practice the Dharma. The forces of the gods are therefore strong, so today is not the right time for us to go to war.’
“In response to this unpleasant message, the asura king Overjoyed will reply, ‘I could defeat those nāgas and gods single-handedly, so if you also come along, they will surely fall. Therefore, let the asura kings march forth!’
“Inspired by those words, Puṣpamāla will now join ranks with an army of many millions of asuras and together they will proceed to the second level. Overjoyed, Firm, and Puṣpamāla will proceed to call upon the asura ruler Rāhu: ‘We shall defeat the gods! Let the asuras march into battle!’
“In reply the asura ruler Rāhu will say, ‘Alas, rulers of the asuras, the time has not yet come. It is not time for us to wage war. In Jambudvīpa people are righteous and follow the Dharma. They respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, and brahmins. When such people die, they are reborn as gods, and in this way the gods have become so powerful that we cannot defeat them. The time of the asuras has not yet come.’
“However, all the others will unanimously declare, ‘We eagerly anticipate that war with the gods. Let us march!’
“In accord with those sentiments, the asura ruler Rāhu [F.28.b] will proceed to enter the ocean and hasten to the realms of Pramatha and other such nāga kings. There, he will tell them, ‘We asura kings are on our way! We will wage war on Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and those other nāga kings!’
“Hearing this, Pramatha will be overjoyed, and he will therefore join ranks to face Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and the other nāga kings in battle. Meanwhile, the remaining nāga kings will also prepare for war and proceed to the battlefield. As the war rages, the unrighteous nāga rulers will soon face defeat. As they are losing, many millions of asuras will now come racing forward. Still, when Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and the others see the advancing army, they will themselves race forth to fight. At this point, these nāgas and the infinitely numerous asuras will clash at sea. As the battle rages, fire and weapons will pour down like a ceaseless rain. This is how those beings who are afflicted by black poison and inferior attitudes wage war upon each other.
“If at that time people are righteous, follow the Dharma, and respect mendicants and brahmins, the nāgas will decisively vanquish the asuras. However, if people are entirely unrighteous, the asuras will defeat the nāgas.
“When in that way the nāgas have lost the war, they will cry out to the wandering gods, ‘Those subterranean beings have done us harm! We cannot defeat them in battle, so you must come quickly! You must come quickly!’
“At this time, the nāgas and the gods will together proceed to where the asura ruler Rāhu dwells. As the asuras see them, they will rush forth to attack, and the gods and asuras will wage battle at sea. If at that time humans are righteous and follow the Dharma, the wandering gods will soon defeat the asuras. Defeated, the asuras will then retreat to the residence of the asura ruler Rāhu.
“When the asuras who inhabit the second level see that their forces have been vanquished, they will say, ‘Why do the asuras flee when we line up for battle? Why do the asuras flee?’ They will then race forth to meet the gods in battle, and a terribly destructive war will rage between the gods and the asuras in the middle of the ocean. When the gods emerge victorious, they will completely crush the asura army.
“At that moment, the asuras who live upon the earth, finding themselves surrounded by terror, will also come forth to face the gods. As the gods see the terrifying asura army, they will assemble for battle. The asuras will then march on the gods, and a great battle will rage back and forth. If at that time the gods are defeated, the guardians of the world [F.29.b] will journey to the land of the vessel-bearer gods, bringing them the message, ‘The gods have done us harm. You must rush forth! You must rush forth!’
“In retaliation, the vessel-bearer gods will sally forth to meet the asuras in battle, brandishing their various arms and equipment. When the asuras see the gods, they will become infuriated and launch an attack. The gods and asuras will then fight what is called the hair-raising battle, a conflict unlike any other.
“If the people are righteous and follow the Dharma, the vessel-bearer gods will triumph over the asuras. Thus, as they fight this extremely destructive battle in the middle of the ocean, it is a war between Dharma and non-Dharma, a battle unlike any other.
“If the vessel-bearer gods should lose that battle, the guardians of the world will go before the garland-bearer gods and demand of them, ‘Defeat the asuras!’ Having investigated the asuras, the garland bearers will then rush to assistance. Thus, the wandering gods, the vessel bearers, and the garland bearers will unite and join forces with Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and the others. On the opposing side the asuras of the realm of Rāhu, the city of Radiant, Double Pleasure, and the second level, as well as the ‘necklaces,’ will gather. In this way, many billions of asuras will unite to fight.
“If at that time the people are righteous and follow the Dharma, the gods will be victorious and the asuras will be defeated. [F.30.a] Therefore, when people rely on the Dharma, everything will turn out well, but how could that ever be the case if people do not rely on the Dharma? If people are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma, the forces of the asuras will triumph. In that case, when the guardians of the world have witnessed the asura army, they will go before the ever-infatuated gods and say, ‘Gods, the forces of the asuras have won, and so you must now rush forth! You must rush forth!’
“Having received this message, the ever-infatuated gods will come forth to crush the asuras. Brandishing their weapons and equipment, many hundreds of thousands of them will head to sea to defeat the asuras. With terrifying laughter, they will surge into action and, as the two sides clash in a horrifying battle, much destruction and harm will ensue.
“If at that time the gods are victorious over the asuras, the latter will retreat to the realm of the asura ruler Rāhu. However, Rāhu, ruler of the asuras, will tell them, ‘Friends, why would you flee as long as we are in your army? Why would you flee? The gods are few and no better than you. They have little endurance so we can still defeat them. Therefore, lords of asuras, return! Return!’
“When they hear these orders from the asura ruler Rāhu, the asuras will return to fight the gods, and thus the gods and asuras will continue to raise arms and wage a vicious war against each other. All the asuras of the second level, of Double Pleasure, of the third level, and of the necklace class will then return to fight the gods.
“If at that time people are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma, [F.30.b] the asuras will defeat the gods. Yet if people are righteous and follow the Dharma, the gods will conquer the asuras. Thus, the gods are Dharma leaders; they are banners of the Dharma and patrons of the Dharma. The asuras all lack the Dharma; they rely on non-Dharma and are not protected by the Dharma.
“At this point, the gods will think, ‘How could the asuras inflict any harm upon us? They are not our superiors, nor are they even our equals. In Jambudvīpa, people still respect their mothers and fathers, and they are righteous and follow the Dharma. They serve their elders. They maintain their training and practice. They are generous, create merit, and are duly conscientious. When these beings who are duly conscientious die, they will be reborn among the gods. Hence, there is no way for the traditions of the asuras to spread or thrive.’
“With this insight, the wandering gods, the garland bearers,242 and the ever-infatuated gods will raise the victory banner of the Dharma and then storm down on the asura army, shouting, ‘Stop! Stop! Why do you pester us? Your army is no better than ours, you are not our superiors, and you do not have any more weapons than us. We are all set to demolish you, so do not walk into this abyss! Aggressors who are unrighteous and who do not follow the Dharma will never find happiness or be free from pain!’ [F.31.a] Thus, joining forces with the nāgas such as Vāsuki and Takṣaka, they will charge toward the asuras and let a rain of weapons and military implements pour down on them.
“The asuras will proceed to examine the nāgas and will say to Pramatha and the other nāga kings who are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma, ‘You belong to our side, so come forth and wage war on the nāga kings Vāsuki, Takṣaka, and so on.’
“When they hear these words, Pramatha and other such nāga kings will bear down on the nāga kings Vāsuki, Takṣaka, on so on, with a boiling rain of fire. Then, as the nāgas bring down great rains of fire upon each other, the gods and asuras will clash in an enormous battle.
“In the end, the gods will defeat the asuras. Frightened, pale, and looking for protection, the asuras will come before the asura ruler Rāhu. When he sees them, Rāhu will say, ‘Asuras, when I am here, what could possibly hurt you? I alone can defeat the gods and their ruler, and thus conquer the entire world of the gods, so I need not say what will happen if we fight together. The army of the gods is not that large. Therefore, friends, what could hurt you? I shall call on the asura kings Firm, Puṣpamāla, Overjoyed, and Vemacitrin, and together we will defeat the gods.’
“At this point, the asura ruler Rāhu will go swiftly before the asura rulers Firm, [F.31.b] Puṣpamāla, Overjoyed, and Vemacitrin. There, he will tell them, ‘All those gods are bearing down on us, together with the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings. With this in mind, think carefully about what sort of reply the asura rulers should deliver.’
“When they hear these words, all the asura rulers will reply to Rāhu, ‘We are ready and willing to meet the gods in battle. We must now go ahead and stop the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, including Kauśika. We must ensure that the asuras prevail. So please, proceed!’
“The asura Rāhu will then return to the field where the battle between the gods and the asuras is raging. When he sees the asuras, the asura ruler will tell them, ‘Ah, the forces of the asuras are much greater than those of the gods. The gods assembled for battle here will prove unable to resist us.’
“The asura ruler Rāhu will then send forth a rain of weapons and arms, and thus charge forward to meet the gods in battle. When the gods see the asura ruler Rāhu racing toward them, they and the nāgas will rush to meet him and bring down a rain of fire to destroy Rāhu. With weapons, arms, and vajras pelting down like rain, a great battle between the gods and the asuras ensues.
“If at that time people are righteous and follow the Dharma, respect mendicants and brahmins, and follow their elders, the gods will defeat the asuras. If, however, people are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma, [F.32.a] the asuras will defeat the gods. Thus, the war between gods and asuras depends on nothing but Dharma and non-Dharma.
“When the asuras are victorious and defeat the gods, the latter will tell each other, ‘Gods, think of the Dharma. Gods, let the Dharma be what matters most.’ While thus keeping the Dharma in mind and arousing faith in the Dharma, the gods will go to where the asuras dwell. Protected by the Dharma, the splendor of the gods will increase a hundredfold, and when the asuras behold them, blazing with glory, they will become totally discouraged.
“At that point, the asura ruler will say to the downcast asuras, ‘Why so sad? These gods are no better than us in terms of splendor, weaponry, arms, or military prowess. So why do you feel so disheartened?’ Thus, the asuras of the realm of Rāhu and the rest will return to fight the gods. Meanwhile, with their bodies nourished by the Dharma, the gods will rush forth to confront the asuras, and thus the two sides will attack each other and wage combat once again.
“In the midst of the battle, Rāhu will remain powerful, like a second Mount Sumeru. Still, it is the nature of things that the asuras will be defeated because among all forms of protection, the protection of the Dharma is supreme, and among all forms of splendor the splendor of the Dharma is supreme.
“When Rāhu and the other asuras see themselves on the brink of defeat, Rāhu will once more attempt to inspire the dejected asuras, saying, ‘Asuras, why do you flee? Why should asuras find themselves at the level of inferior people? The gods are less heroic than so many asuras, and they cannot compete with our military devices and terrifying weapons. So, come back and take up your positions! [F.32.b] What harm could they possibly do to us?’ Hearing those words, the asuras will once more return to fight in the war. Encouraged, with renewed confidence and infatuated by pride, the asuras will again sally forth to battle the gods, but once again they will end up fleeing.
“Rāhu will then show himself as the leader of all the asuras. As their leader, all the asuras obey him, rely on him, are protected by him, and surround him. Therefore, they will again charge toward the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings, encouraged and reinvigorated by the strength of Rāhu. ‘Our ruler Rāhu strides ahead of everyone. Since he is capable of crushing all the gods and their rulers single-handedly, he can surely destroy the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings.’ With such thoughts, they examine each other and make sure that their weapons are distributed among them all.243
“To bring victory to the asuras and defeat to the gods, Rāhu will now begin to hurl rocks as large as mountains at the assembled gods. When the guardians of the world see how Rāhu is bombarding the gods, they will exclaim, ‘The gods are being damaged by Rāhu, who hurls stones upon them! Now the gods must stop him with a downpour of weapons and arms. Rāhu must be stopped from harming the gods.’
“Furious, they will then race toward the asura ruler Rāhu to defeat him. What follows is an utterly hair-raising battle with rocks and weapons cascading down. As the volley of rocks falls into the water, the ocean becomes extremely agitated. The downpour of stones from the gods [F.33.a] ends up decimating many hundreds of thousands of beings that live in the ocean, thus causing great upheaval and mayhem among all the denizens of the sea. As Rāhu and the guardians of the world battle on, the gods and asuras will watch. With amazement they will cry out, ‘Ah, this truly is the mother of all wars!’
“If at that time people are righteous and follow the Dharma, the asura ruler Rāhu will be defeated even without any recourse to weapons, armies, or terrorism. If, however, people are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma, the asura ruler Rāhu will prevail and not the gods. Thus, all of this is primarily determined by the Dharma and is not accidental.
“When the army and the powers of the asura ruler Rāhu flounder and face imminent defeat, those asuras still full of trust will say, ‘Why should the asuras flee? If we allow ourselves to lose this battle, we will fall apart. Enough of this despair! Enough! At home we do not find any happiness and our minds will not be happy among the asuras. Therefore, we must not think in this way. We must summon our courage! You need to stop pining for home and get back here! Come back!’
“When they hear this encouraging speech, all the asuras will rush back toward the guardians of the world. The two parties will now hurl an unparalleled torrent of rocks at each other, and from the mountaintops they will let loose a barrage of lightning. In this way, they will fight a devastating and utterly hair-raising battle. In the end, however, the gods will be victorious and the asuras will be defeated.
“At that time the asuras will think, ‘Alas, the gods are extremely powerful. Thus, in order to regain our strength, [F.33.b] and be successful, happy, and preserve ourselves, let us seek refuge with Firm, the ruler of Star Garland, who lives on the second level. The asura ruler Firm has a firm character. In the war between gods and asuras, he is a hundred, or even a thousand times stronger than the gods, including their ruler.’
“Thus, all the leaders of the asuras will go to meet the asura ruler Firm. They will then tell him, ‘O ruler of asuras, the forces of the gods are very strong and no one, including the asura Rāhu, can repulse them. Your Majesty, you must therefore be the guardian and savior of the asuras and ensure that our enemy is crushed. No one—neither the gods and their ruler, nor we ourselves—can withstand the weapon that you wield, and with which you have achieved many a victory in the war between the gods and the asuras. Your Majesty, we request that you decisively repel the enemy. Please brandish your arms and lead your forces and use your powers to conquer the gods. You can defeat even Śakra himself a hundred thousand times. Your strength and prowess will definitely defeat those gods.’
“When he hears these words, the asura ruler Firm will go before the asura rulers Puṣpamāla, Vemacitrin, and Overjoyed and say, ‘The forces of the asura rulers, including Rāhu, have been defeated by the gods, and the gods have become very powerful. Because they are so strong, they are hard to resist, and thus the asuras cannot withstand them. Please join the effort so that we can win this war.’ [F.34.a]
“To this the asura rulers Puṣpamāla, Vemacitrin, and Overjoyed will reply, ‘Your Majesty, we shall be there to assist you, so please go ahead. Please go ahead. We will be there to help, so that you and Rāhu will be able to defeat all the gods.’
“When he has received this message, the asura ruler Firm will set out to meet Rāhu and join the war. When the asuras see the asura ruler Firm, they will become extremely happy and energized. Shooting and striking with various weapons, arms, and arrows, they will storm the gods.
“When the gods see them advancing, they will say, ‘Do the asuras just want us to defeat them again and again? Here come those animals that, in spite of their diligence, are already defeated due to the very nature of things!’
“With this understanding, the gods will muster all their fortitude. Brandishing their various arms and weapons, they will advance on the asuras with great speed. Seeing them advance, the asura rulers Firm and Rāhu will say, ‘The gods are upon us, the gods are coming to fight us. We shall flank them between our two troops and destroy them.’ Thus, with their hearts set on victory, the asura rulers Firm and Rāhu will jointly advance on the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings.
“Now, while the gods are facing the direction where the sun sets, the asuras will look toward the rising sun. As a result, the rays of the rising sun will hurt the asuras’ eyes [F.34.b] so that they are unable to assail the gods with their downpour of weapons. Thus blinded, the asuras will cry, ‘The sunrays have made us unable to see properly! We cannot fight against the gods!’ At that point, the asura ruler Rāhu will block the sunlight that comes toward him.
“This is the third cause of a solar eclipse. Still, scholars who are ignorant about this will in this regard declare, ‘Good rain will fall!’ ‘There will be little rain!’ ‘Things will go well for our king!’ ‘Things will go badly for our king!’ ‘People will face calamity!’ ‘People will be safe!’ Thus, those who are deceived by unwholesome treatises will conceive things in misguided ways.
“At this point, by covering the disk of the sun and blocking its sunlight, Rāhu is once again able to see. As he beholds the gods, he will say to the asura ruler Firm, ‘I see the gods well, but I don’t see the asuras clearly. Summon them for the victory charge!’
“Then, letting their various weapons pour down like rain, the asuras will hasten forward to attack, headed by Firm. When the gods see them charging, they too will take up arms and run toward the asuras. As Firm advances on the garland-bearer gods, subjecting them to a downpour of weapons, the garland-bearer gods will say, ‘So be it, asura rulers. So be it. The gods have defeated you numerous times, but it seems that you still do not understand about the Dharma. We possess the way of the Dharma, we pursue the Dharma, and we practice the Dharma. We seek victory without giving up the Dharma. [F.35.a] You, on the other hand, are afflicted by covetousness and want to take possession of things that belong to others. When it comes to covetousness, no one has more of it than you. Since you are unrighteous beings, how do you intend to defeat us gods, who practice the ten virtuous courses of action, who are righteous, and who follow the Dharma? Darkness can never overcome brilliant light!’
“In response, Firm will say, ‘Oh, why so much talk? We do not want any of your possessions. Rather, the armies of Vemacitrin, Overjoyed, and the others among the four asura rulers have been mobilized to crush all the gods. We have no interest in your wealth.’
“At that point the asuras will rush toward the garland-bearer gods. The advancing asuras, when spotted by the latter, will release a rain of arrows so dense that not even a speck of their powerful bodies can be seen.244 Even as they are caught in the rain of Firm’s arrows, the garland-bearer gods will still call to him, ‘What is the point to all that covetousness—to all that karmic destruction and production? Non-Dharma can never defeat the Dharma. We never hurt you in any way, so why do you seek to harm us?’ Still, the asuras will continue their attack on the gods.
“Thus, the nāga king Takṣaka will single out the nāga king Pramatha and release a rain of fire on him. He will also storm toward Firm and let a rain of fire descend upon him as well. Thus, the asuras [F.35.b] and nāgas become engulfed in a great downpour of fire. As the rain of fire falls, the asura ruler Rāhu will pick up a mountain measuring eleven leagues and assail the garland-bearer gods. When the vessel-bearer gods see this, they will bring down a rain of fire to burn the mountain, and so they race toward Rāhu. In this way, they will succeed in burning the mountain to ashes.
“When Firm sees that the mountain has been consumed by fire, his strength will weaken, but still he will say to the gods, ‘I shall let other flaming mountains fall upon you all!’ The asuras will then bring a burning mountain before him, and Firm will hurl it at the gods.
“Seeing this as mockery by the gods, the asura ruler Rāhu will summon all the asuras to storm the gods. When the gods see them coming, they will rush forth to meet them, and thus the gods and asuras will engage in an utterly unbearable battle fought with masses of weapons. At some point, the gods will recite the Dharma, invoke the blessing of the truth, and mentally take refuge in the Three Jewels. Then they shall advance. At that point, the mere sight of the advancing gods will make the entire army of asuras collapse in hundreds and thousands of ways. All the asuras will then flee below the ground.
“Pramatha and other such unrighteous nāgas will now call out to the asuras, ‘Asuras, why do you abandon us and flee? We can get the better of Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and other such nāgas, [F.36.a] so you should also be able to vanquish the gods. If you are so afraid, then why did you bring your cowardly army up from beneath the earth to fight with the gods in the first place? If you hostile ones now retreat below the earth, where are we supposed to go? Where should we go when Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and the others attack?’
“When the asuras hear this, they will once more return to battle the gods. Yet, the gods will be undeterred and diligently charge forth to fight the asuras. When the asuras see that the gods are storming toward them, they will become unable to resist any longer. At that point, the asura rulers Rāhu and Firm will jointly retreat to their subterranean dwellings.
“Seeing the asura army defeated makes some of the asuras rush to see the asura ruler of the third level. They will say to him, ‘Arise, O great king Puṣpamāla! The throng of gods has been unstoppable, and so all the asuras have been defeated and are now scattered about everywhere. In the war against the gods, you previously achieved numerous victories for the asuras, and must now do so once again. Please pay heed to these matters and arise! Go forth and vanquish the gods and their king!’
“Keeping those words in mind, the asura ruler Puṣpamāla will then take up various weapons and arms. Surrounded by millions of asuras, and with their rumbling filling the sky, he will depart for the battlefield of the war between the gods and the asuras.
“When the asura ruler Rāhu sees them coming by the thousands, he will say to Firm, ‘That is the army of the asura ruler Puṣpamāla. They are coming to our assistance [F.36.b] to help us defeat the gods. Therefore, let the asuras turn them back! This army is here to assist us, the asura rulers.’
“When they hear this news, the asuras will again return to war, marching to where the gods of the Four Great Kings have assembled. When the gods see them, they will say, ‘You animals, how long can you be kept in one place? Have you returned here, obscured and bewildered, to destroy your own army?’ With those words, the gods will then charge toward the asuras.
“At this point Puṣpamāla will say to the asuras, ‘The asuras stand united. So, what do you think? Shouldn’t we now bring harm upon the gods? Shouldn’t we now defeat the disarrayed gods? My realm can defeat all the gods unassisted, so there is no need to mention what we can achieve when the asura rulers Firm and Rāhu, the son of the lioness, are with us as well. Have no fear! You needn’t ever fear the battlefield, so enough of this disheartened sentiment. The asuras shall be victorious! The asuras with their mighty powers shall triumph!’
“Having proclaimed this, the asura ruler Puṣpamāla and the other asura rulers unite, while the divine rulers of the flower garland bearers, the ever-infatuated gods, the vessel bearers, and the triple-lute-bearers climb to the summit of the beryl mountain. There, they will spread out and take their positions. Enthusiastically, they will think, ‘Even without Śakra and the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, we alone have often defeated the asuras due to possessing the same Dharma.’245 [F.37.a]
“Meanwhile, the asuras will spread across the sea, plowing forward to wage war. When the gods see the advancing asuras, they will say, ‘The one who has assembled this great army of asuras that is now bearing down on us is certainly Puṣpamāla, the third ruler of the asuras.’ As they watch them approach, they talk about them and take positions to confront them head-on in battle.
“To the asuras the gods will then say, ‘Who has fooled you into coming here? There are still righteous people who follow the Dharma, who respect their mothers, respect their fathers, respect mendicants, and respect brahmins, who persevere for the sake of virtue, and are engaged in virtue. When they die, such people are born as gods. They make up our army, which is much greater and more significant than yours. Therefore, do not try to harm us, we who practice the Dharma. Why would you harm us?’
“Yet the asuras will disregard those words and instead proceed to battle with the gods. Filling the sky, the gods will then come forth to meet and defeat the asuras, and each side will surge forth to defeat the other. The battle that follows is such that the hearts of many fish, shellfish, crocodiles, infant-eating crocodiles, sea crocodiles, great sea crocodiles, alligators, and other ferocious crocodiles246 will burst into a hundred or a thousand pieces. Thus, the gods and asuras will fight each other in a continuous and unparalleled downpour of numerous weapons.
“The asura ruler Puṣpamāla, who stands alone, having dispatched the other asuras, will address the gods, saying, ‘This battle will not take me long, [F.37.b] and I am certain to win. I have come here to vanquish you all and assist the asuras. At my hand, all the gods will fall, including their ruler, so no need to mention the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings. You will surely be vanquished!’ Having spoken these words, he will then rush toward the gods.
“When the vessel-bearer gods see Puṣpamāla approaching, they will come forth to vanquish him. Standing at the center of the ocean, the asura ruler Puṣpamāla will then unearth flaming mountains measuring five, four, three, two, or one league, and hurl these mountains at the vessel-bearer gods. The gods, however, will recollect the Dharma and take refuge in the Three Jewels. Thus, the stream of their arrows will pulverize the mountains that came from the center of the sea as if they were handfuls of sand. When, as a karmic effect, Puṣpamāla sees the mountains reduced to nothing, he will instead take up a staff and stand before the vessel-bearer gods. But when the gods see him approaching with his retinue, army, and forces, they will cut his staff to pieces with a power that is like a meteoric rain. Thus, they will humble and defeat the asuras.
“Meanwhile, the asura ruler Firm will go to wage war in the realm of the ever-infatuated gods, carrying with him an all-destroying weapon that is one league long. As he approaches with much noise, the asura king will shout to the gods of that realm, ‘Today I shall defeat everyone! With this all-destroying weapon, I shall dispatch you to the realm of the Lord of Death!’
“However, as the guardians of the world [F.38.a] see him approaching, they will grab his weapon and strike his own chest with it. [B24] Struck by his own weapon, his power will wane, and he will retreat below the earth. When the necklace asuras witness his defeat, all those still alive will likewise flee below the ground.
“The asura ruler Rāhu and his retinue will then advance on the realm of the triple-lute-bearer gods. When the gods see the haughty asuras approaching, they will apply all their strength to bring down a rain of fire upon the asuras and will then rush forth to take on the asura ruler Rāhu. Scorched by the rain of fire, the asuras will run to take cover beneath the earth.
“When they witness the three asura rulers losing in this way, the gods will be utterly delighted. All the asuras will feel inferior and, with their strength depleted, they will rush to the tunnels that lead below the earth, yearning for a protector, savior, and guardian. As the asuras enter the tunnels to the subterranean world, the gods will climb to the summit of the beryl mountain and take up positions there. They will say to one another, ‘The asuras will no doubt return, because Vemacitrin and Overjoyed have not yet come. The life force of the asuras depends on them, the asuras rely on them, and they are their leaders. Defeating them means defeating them all; losing to them means losing to them all.’ Saying this to one another, the gods will feel utterly elated and invigorated. Thus, they will rest, prepared for battle.
“At this time the nāga kings Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and so on will also have wiped out [F.38.b] the military might of Pramatha and other such nāga kings in the city Endowed with Enjoyments. Their defeat will weigh strongly on the mind of Overjoyed, and so he will think, ‘I must raise an army that can defeat the gods. Otherwise, the forces of the asuras will have been completely defeated, and the forces of the gods will have prevailed.’
“In this way, the nāgas that are allied with the asuras, and the asuras themselves, all suffer mental anguish and remain despondent. Vemacitrin and Overjoyed will receive news that the asuras of the three realms of Puṣpamāla, Firm, and Rāhu have all suffered defeat. They will hear that the asuras have been rendered powerless and joyless. They will be told that, as their military strength has been broken, the asuras now have no other refuge besides them. The asura ruler Overjoyed will at that point command, ‘Go and find out where those three asura rulers are! Go and find out!’
“The asuras will then bring this reply to him: ‘They are hiding in the deepest tunnels to the subterranean world. With their armies and strength broken, they entrust their lives to you. They look to you for strength and depend on you. Bewildered and embarrassed, they now remain incapacitated below the ground.’
“ ‘No, he has not,’ the asuras will reply.
“With furious red eyes, Overjoyed will then look at his army and say, ‘The gods of the Four Great Kings have defeated the asuras in the regions of three levels! They have broken their military strength and taken the wind out of their sails. Alas, the military strength of the asuras has been shattered by a minor class of gods! Now I shall set out and defeat all the gods!’ [F.39.a]
“At this juncture, that asura ruler will assemble an army that is even more powerful than the armies of all the other asuras and thus, calling upon all his various officers, he will proclaim, ‘I am leaving to kill, crush, and thwart all the gods! Beat the great drum! Beat it! I shall single-handedly bring down all the gods, including Śakra, for I will not stand for even intermittent losses! Don’t you think I am aware that those eager armies of gods just want to ogle and grope our asura maidens?’
“Vemacitrin and Overjoyed will then let drums resound as they call upon the asuras, ‘Storm ahead! Storm ahead! We are setting out to defeat all the gods and make all the asuras prosper!’ Thus, they will strike out, riding chariots with a hundred thousand spokes and accompanied by many millions of asuras who shine like a hundred thousand suns.
“As the army sets out, all the mountains, rivers, mountain caves, hills, and mountain peaks, as well as Mount Sumeru itself, begin to rumble. Everything will quiver, up to and including the seat of Śakra at the Sudharma divine assembly hall within the Sudarśana park. At this point, Śakra will think to himself, ‘Ah, since even my own seat is trembling, there will no doubt be a war between the gods and the asuras, because whenever the asura king Vemacitrin sets out against us, these groves and forests, as well as all mountain caves, rivers, mountain slopes, and even Sumeru, the king of mountains, begin to rumble.’
“Having understood this, Śakra will address the gods: ‘Gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, get ready, get ready! Vemacitrin and Overjoyed have set out and are on their way to defeat the gods. I shall therefore mount my elephant, Airāvaṇa, and ride out with all the gods to fight in that war between the gods and the asuras, because I do not see any gods involved in the war with Overjoyed and Vemacitrin.’ [F.39.b]
“In Sudharma, the assembly hall of the gods, and at crossroads and road forks throughout the city of Sudarśana, Śakra, ruler of the gods, will then, as head of the army, make an announcement: ‘Śakra, ruler of the gods, is leaving to fight in the war between the gods and the asuras. Everyone must march forth to confront Vemacitrin and Overjoyed!’
“When this announcement has been made, everyone will march to Caitrarathavana, the arsenal of weapons and arms. In this way, hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, and many millions of gods will hasten to Caitrarathavana to obtain weapons. As they arrive, a clamor that sounds like a thunderstorm at sea will resound, and the dust raised by the arriving gods will blanket the sky. Whether they live in the sky, on dry land, or on mountaintops, masses of gods will set out from their residences to arm themselves. Additionally, those living in groves, forests, and summits will rush to Caitrarathavana upon hearing the sound of the war drum.
“Putting aside all other desires, the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will thus rush forth and receive hundreds, thousands, millions, and billions of weapons, arms, and military equipment. Eager to see Śakra, they will all line up. When Śakra notices their commitment, this makes the gods ecstatic with joy. They will proceed to mount their numerous chariots, some of which are adorned with the seven precious substances, others with gold, others with silver, others with beryl, others with crystal, others with great gems such as musāragalva, [F.40.a] and others with a variety of jewels. Covered with nets of bells, the chariots are beautiful, exquisitely crafted, and each adorned with its own distinctive splendor. The column of chariots extends all the way to the summits of the golden mountains. Arriving by the hundreds and thousands, some come soaring through the sky. As the gods take their places, looking attentively at Śakra, they will think, ‘When will the ruler of the gods set out to defeat the asuras?’ Conversing with one another, they all stand ready, anticipating the battle.
“At this point Śakra, ruler of the gods, will instruct his elephant driver Mātali, ‘Be so good as to go tell my elephant, Airāvaṇa, the six-headed one possessing all the good qualities of elephants, that I wish to ride him and thus defeat the asuras.’
“Following Śakra’s instruction, Mātali will then go before the elephant Airāvaṇa, who will be enjoying himself in a lotus grove surrounded by a great herd of elephants. There Mātali will say to that thoroughbred elephant, ‘Śakra, ruler of the gods, is summoning you. He wishes to ride you and defeat the asuras.’
“The elephant Airāvaṇa will then stride toward Mātali and proceed to Sudharma, the assembly hall of the gods. When they arrive there, Mātali will say to Śakra, ‘Ruler of the gods, your supreme elephant has arrived.’
“With his magical powers, Śakra will now make one hundred flawless heads appear on the body of the elephant, each of them bearing ten white tusks. On each of the tusks lie ten lotus pools, each of them containing one thousand lotuses. Each of the lotuses supports ten mountains, each one of those capped by a hundred peaks. Upon each peak stand a hundred goddesses, who play the five classes of instruments, sing, dance, and perform, in an exceedingly gorgeous and truly exceptional fashion. [F.40.b] Such is the magical creation that Śakra, ruler of the gods, conjures upon his supreme elephant, Airāvaṇa.
“The body of this elephant measures a thousand leagues, and when Śakra, ruler of the gods, rides this supreme and beautiful white elephant to defeat the asuras, it is to the delightful accompaniment of the sounds of instruments, melodious songs, sweet noises, and playful antics. When they see him coming, the gods will mount their multicolored chariots, brandish their weapons, and adorn their bodies with various ornaments while they laugh and joke excitedly in a state of tremendous joy and exultation.
“Residing upon his seat, the ruler of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three is endowed with great powers of merit. Surrounded by many supreme gods, he displays an unrivaled splendor. In this fashion, encircled by numerous gods, the lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three now fills the sky with a light that is brighter than a hundred thousand suns. Then, as beautiful songs resound across a span of twenty thousand leagues, he launches into the war between the gods and the asuras.
“The guardians of the world will then come before Śakra and tell him in trembling voices, ‘Ruler of the gods, the asura rulers Overjoyed and Vemacitrin are intent on defeating the gods. They have stirred the entire ocean and shaken the mountains in a thousand different ways. The asuras have produced an awesome, terrifying sound that pains the fish and nāgas in the sea and intimidates even the rākṣasas and piśācas. The sound thoroughly emboldens Pramatha and other such unrighteous nāga kings, so that they make thunderclaps. [F.41.a] On the other hand, thinking that the asura kings Vemacitrin and Overjoyed are on the way, the righteous nāga kings, such as Takṣaka and Vāsuki, have become downcast and do not create any thunder. Sixty thousand gold mountains, and Mount Sumeru as well, have been rumbling. All the spirits have lost heart and thus the garland bearers, the ever-infatuated, the vessel bearers, and the triple-lute-bearers have become extremely dejected. They have therefore sent us before you, ruler of the gods, with the request that you offer a proper response from the gods. We, for our part, have already won hundreds and thousands of times over the asura rulers of the three levels: Puṣpamāla, Rāhu, and Firm.’
“In response to these words from the guardians of the world, the ruler of the gods will say, ‘Guardians of the world, I am completely aware of all this. Overjoyed and Vemacitrin have set out, and now I am here to punish them. I am here to protect and guard those gods, and that is how I shall proceed. I am the protector of the Dharma, the guardian of the Dharma, the support of the Dharma, the victory banner of the Dharma, the patron of the Dharma. I do not like non-Dharma and have no concern for non-Dharma. Since we possess such qualities, they will never defeat us. Have no fear of them. Do not be afraid. With this great army I am on my way to confront the asuras, so fear them not. In Jambudvīpa, people still respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, and brahmins. They repay kindness. They are righteous and nurture the Dharma. [F.41.b] They take delight in the sacred Dharma, revere the sacred Dharma and the Saṅgha, understand the reality of karmic action and its effects, practice mending and purification, engage in generosity, sustain those who create merit, and train in wakefulness and commit themselves to it. I also act in accordance with the Dharma, so even if we should be fewer in number than them, those asuras will be unable to harm us.’
“Having spoken those words, the ruler of the gods will then proceed to the beryl mountain where the gods of the Four Great Kings are assembled. When he sees them, the ruler of the gods will say, ‘Guardians of the world, these gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings have assembled to defeat the asuras.’
“The guardians of the world will reply, ‘These gods of the Four Great Kings rely on you, Śakra. They take refuge in you, follow you, and have no regard for the hosts of asuras, including their rulers.’
“The gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will then march ahead to welcome Śakra, ruler of the gods. They shall sincerely beseech him, ‘Proceed and be victorious!’ and shall offer him their praise. Thus, while receiving the praises of the gathering of gods, he will proceed to where the gods of the Four Great Kings are staying. Surrounded by many hundreds of thousands of chariots, the ruler of the gods and his party will proceed, while Śakra rides his elephant, Airāvaṇa. He is adorned with the seven precious substances, and his body fills the sky with bright light. In all ten directions, the sounds of cymbals in myriad sizes can be heard as he travels with a retinue of many hundreds of thousands of ecstatically joyful gods. He is accompanied by the gandharvas that live throughout Mount Sumeru and is extolled by great hosts of gods and sages. Thus, he travels in unparalleled comfort, [F.42.a] enjoying the karmic effects of his superb actions.
“When they see him in this way, the gods of the realm of the Four Great Kings will be completely overjoyed. As Śakra beholds the gods, he will tell them, ‘I have come to conquer the asuras. Have no fear! Have no fear!’
“When they hear this message, the gods will be exultant and reply, ‘Ruler of the gods, even on our own, we would have been able to defeat the asuras—so no need to mention that we will be able to do so now that you are here. With the protection of your army, we have no fear of the asuras at all!’
“Eager to see the asuras, the gods who follow Śakra will proceed to form a circle around the ruler of the gods and take up their positions, thinking, ‘When will the asura ruler Vemacitrin arrive accompanied by the asura rulers Rāhu, Firm, and Puṣpamāla?’ Donning their indestructible iron armor and gripping their various weapons, they will thus prepare to defeat the asuras in battle. With one mind, they will line up in their chariots, which are adorned by numerous jewels.
“At this time Takṣaka and Vāsuki and the other righteous nāga kings will also prepare themselves for war. Looking toward Śakra, and respectfully heeding his command, they will think, ‘What shall Śakra’s order be?’
“At this point, just as the gods are eagerly watching the entire subterranean world, the four asura rulers also stand surrounded by their retinues of asuras. Clenching many millions of weapons and arms in their hands, [F.42.b] they are arrayed in their various formations.
“As the asura rulers are surrounded by billions of asuras, they will shake the entirety of Mount Sumeru with their might. Displaying tremendous military force and ambition, their army is expert at deploying an infinite array of weapons. As mighty as a second Mount Sumeru, Pramatha and the other unrighteous nāga kings who do not follow the Dharma will now also encircle the lords of the subterranean world, Vemacitrin and Overjoyed.
“In this way the assembly of gods will take their positions by filling the sky, whereas the assembly of asuras will take their positions by covering the sea. With minds filled with determination, the two armies thus stand before each other, eager to wage battle.
“Hungry for action, the army that includes Takṣaka and Vāsuki and other such nāga kings, as well as the guardians of the world, will now say to the ruler of the gods, ‘Ruler of gods, the asuras stand before us. Why do you not give the command for us to instigate the battle between the gods and the asuras?’
“To this the ruler of the gods will reply, ‘Guardians of the world, I dispatch you to Jambudvīpa. Find out whether people respect their mothers and fathers, and whether they are righteous and follow the Dharma. Once you have examined this matter, we shall proceed to defeat the asuras. The gods are protected by the Dharma and supported by the Dharma. When the Dharma flourishes, the gods flourish. When the Dharma declines, so do the gods. Therefore, guardians of the world, I now dispatch you to the human realm of Jambudvīpa.’
“Śakra, the ruler of the gods, will then instruct the guardians of the world, ‘You must quickly set out for Jambudvīpa. Look for those who respect their mothers and fathers, [F.43.a] who follow their family leaders, who practice mending and purification, engage in generosity, observe discipline, are careful as appropriate, and observe their Dharma.’
“When they have been given this instruction, the four guardians of the world will leave for Jambudvīpa as fast as when an arrow is released. As they visit every place, village, town, city, crossroad, land, and district in Jambudvīpa, they will inquire, ‘Among the people here, who respects their mother, father, mendicants, and brahmins? Who takes care of the elders in their family?’ In this regard, they will find that in Jambudvīpa people are righteous and follow the Dharma. They will see that people respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, and brahmins, that they take care of the elders in their families, and that they thus are endowed with all good qualities.
“All this the guardians of the world will observe with joy, and, with the speed of an arrow released, they will return to stand before Śakra, ruler of the gods. With tremendous joy they will inform him, ‘Śakra, ruler of the gods, please rejoice! In Jambudvīpa, people are righteous and follow the Dharma. They respect their mothers, their fathers, mendicants, and brahmins. They take care of the elders in their families, they practice generosity, and they engage in that which is virtuous. They are causing the forces of the gods to increase tremendously and the forces of the asuras to decline profoundly.’
“With great joy, Śakra, ruler of the gods, will then say, ‘Since there are people in Jambudvīpa who are righteous and follow the Dharma, [F.43.b] I shall defeat the forces of the asuras. You gods, rejoice!’
“When they hear this the gods will be tremendously happy, and with great exultation they will call out to Śakra, ‘Lord of gods, proceed, proceed!247 May you be victorious over the asuras! By your kindness we shall defeat the asuras!’
“To Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and other such nāga kings the ruler of the gods will then say, ‘Rush forth, rush forth to demolish Pramatha and the other nāga kings who lack the Dharma, and to vanquish Vemacitrin, Overjoyed, and the rest of the asuras.’
“Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and all other such nāga rulers will then proceed toward Pramatha and the other unrighteous nāga rulers who do not follow the Dharma and who are allied with the asuras. With great fury, they will bring down a rain of fire upon them. In the meantime, however, Pramatha has similarly been counseled by Vemacitrin and Overjoyed. Thus, as they see them coming, they will, in turn, bring down flashes of lightning upon the advancing nāgas. Yet feeling the burning pain, the unrighteous nāgas will be forced to retreat to the asura army. With their military might and strength weakened, they will tell the asuras, ‘We have been beaten so far, and winning will be difficult. Still, if we rally together, we might be able to defeat the gods after all.’ With this, they will once more surge toward Takṣaka, Vāsuki, and the other righteous nāga kings.
“When Takṣaka and Vāsuki see them approaching, they will say, ‘Pramatha is surging toward us. We must punish him severely, because otherwise he will continue to harm us, again and again.’ [F.44.a] They will then storm toward Pramatha, seize him, and strike him with a rain of fire. The fire will even burn down mountains, and so, wishing to save their lives, Pramatha and the others will retreat back to the asuras.
“When the asura ruler Rāhu sees them coming, he will call to the other asura rulers, ‘Take a good look at those defeated nāgas!’ They and their armies will then surge ahead. When the vessel-bearer gods see them coming, they too will surge forward, and, as their armies clash, the gods and asuras will proceed to hurl giant mountaintops at each other and engage in an extremely terrifying and totally excruciating battle in the middle of the ocean. In the course of their fighting, some among the hundreds of thousands of asuras that thus glide upon the sea will either lose their hearing or lose their lives. The battling gods and asuras will release a rain of hundreds of thousands of dreadful weapons upon each other.
“A special feature of the gods is that whenever they lose a leg, it will grow out again, and whenever one of their arms is cut off, a new one will likewise grow out to replace it. Thus, whatever major or minor body part a god may lose, a new one will grow out in its place. Consequently, they do not become incapacitated, nor is their healthy complexion ruined or lost. The only exception is when a god is decapitated, in which case even the enemy of the gods will be pacified.248 The asuras, on the other hand, are hurt by weapons in the same way as humans. Such are the differences between gods and asuras, or between the vessel-bearer gods and the asuras belonging to Rāhu’s level.
“The vessel-bearer gods will lift up numerous mountain peaks [F.44.b] and then storm the asuras, releasing a rain of falling mountains on them that will smash the asura army in hundreds and thousands of ways. When Rāhu sees that, he will himself lift up a mountain measuring three leagues. Noticing that he is rushing toward them, the vessel-bearer gods will take up their weapons and arms and race toward him. As they rain down their weapons upon Rāhu’s mountain, it will be reduced to dust and crumble into the sea. Seeing this, the animal Rāhu, the most inferior among sentient beings, will completely lose heart and, in a rain of the weapons, run back toward the asura army.
“When the asura ruler Firm sees this, he will tell his retinue, ‘Rāhu is twice as big as Mount Sumeru, so he should be able to punish these gods single-handedly. Yet, in spite of his size, he shows only meager power, and so the gods are now shaming him as he runs back to the asuras, yearning for safety, refuge, and protection. He is no more than an ordinary asura. He is weak and loathsome. The vessel-bearer gods who are fighting him have more courage than he does.’
“When he has uttered these words, the asura ruler Firm will then, assisted by his own retinue and the very large necklace asuras, launch an attack on the vessel-bearer gods. When the vessel-bearer gods see them coming, they will call to the garland-bearer gods, ‘Firm is attacking us, the vessel-bearer gods, so the gods should counterattack now! The gods must go on the offensive!’ With this, they race forth toward the asura rulers Rāhu [F.45.a] and Firm.
“At this point, Firm will make Rāhu turn around with renewed courage. As Rāhu’s physical strength and his wish to pursue the army combine, he once more returns to battle. The vessel-bearer gods and the ‘necklaces’ that belong to the level of the asura Rāhu will thus meet as enemies, and the two great armies will enter a battle that is horrific on both sides. As mountaintops, rocky summits, arrows, weapons, and trees shower down like rain, the sky above the two armies becomes thoroughly dark, without a trace of light. In this manner, they will struggle to defeat each other in an unrivaled battle.
“When a god’s major or minor body part is severed, the limb in question will grow out again just as before. However, when an asura loses a body part, he will be afflicted by the loss and no replacement will grow out. Just as with humans, neither will the head of an asura grow out again once it has been cut off. As for the gods, they only die once they have been decapitated or cut through at the waist. In this way, the gods will not suffer losses as great as those of the asuras. Consequently, although the gods and asuras both sustain losses, the gods do not face total annihilation in the same way as the asuras. When their numbers have been halved at the hands of the gods, the asuras will flee below the ground, yearning for refuge and protection, while the gods triumphantly laugh, ‘The asura rulers Firm and Rāhu have little vigor, their refuge is weak, and their life force is inferior—now they flee all together!’
“When Puṣpamāla sees that the strength and support of the former two asura rulers have thus been eroded, he will say to the third asura ruler, ‘Let us rush to the side of our asuras! [F.45.b] The vigor of the gods is weak, and we shall defeat them in accordance with our superior might and potency!’ At that point Puṣpamāla begins charging the gods.
“When they see him coming, the remnants of the asuras who were defeated by the great army will regain their vigor and strength and will tell each other, ‘Must the so-called “asura” always be merely someone who runs away, someone who lacks ambition, and someone who cannot stick to his weapons? Is he someone who sits defeated at home—someone who sits at home with his wife, overpowered?’ Thus, with great might and strength, they will once again charge toward the gods, brandishing their various weapons. Like blazing mountain peaks, they shall return to battle with a speed like the wind.
“At this point, the wandering gods, the garland-bearer gods, the ever-infatuated gods, and the vessel-bearer gods will all say to each other, ‘How sad—the whole league of asuras has such a fickle mindset. Although these asuras have understood that their army is inferior to ours, they nevertheless come against us.’ At this point, they will run forth to meet the asuras head-on, and, as the two armies clash, the gods and asuras will wage a battle like no other. Sending rains of mountains upon each other, as well as rains of fire, stone, and weapons, the two armies will clash and destroy each other. With numerous weapons, kinds of destruction, horrors, and killings, they will fight a battle beyond compare, [F.46.a] covering the entire surface of the sea. Since this battle is unlike any other, there is no example for it. Thus, the two sides will wage war, and the nāgas will likewise remain engaged in a war that defies example.
“When Śakra, ruler of the gods, witnesses the many battles, he will tell the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, ‘Overjoyed is still holding out, but the rest of the asuras are all on the run now. So, get ready, get ready! I shall ride forth on my elephant, Airāvaṇa, to fight whomever remains.’
“Having given the gods that message, he shall now, with one-pointed mind, say to his elephant, Airāvaṇa, ‘Riding on your back, my elephant, I shall defeat Vemacitrin, Overjoyed, and any other remaining asura!’ He will then hold up his vajra and keep his gaze fixed on the asuras.
“In the utterly unbearable battle that ensues, the asuras will suffer a crushing defeat. The victorious gods will be filled with elation and continue pursuing the asuras. Smiling, Śakra, ruler of the gods, will set out to vanquish all the asuras.
“When Overjoyed beholds all this, he will think to himself, ‘Alas, the three asura rulers and the inhabitants of their realms, numbering many millions, have all been defeated. That which was seen reflected in Mirror Lake has indeed come to pass. Alas, the omen observed upon the lake was not mistaken. I must nonetheless set out to defeat Śakra and crush all the gods! Ah, these gods are not different from me at all!’
“With such thoughts in mind, he will proceed to take a position at the gateways to the subterranean world, seeking to quickly enter into warfare. When Overjoyed [F.46.b] and Vemacitrin, afflicted by anger, thus take their positions too, all the mountains will shake, waves will swell throughout the ocean, and red sunrays will fall upon the mountains.
“Meanwhile, the gods will talk among each other about the way Rāhu and the other asuras have been defeated and beaten, and how they have fled to the gateways of the subterranean world—miserable, without protector, harmed from all sides, distraught, and humiliated by the sounds of laughter.
“Yet at that point some other asuras will call out, ‘Asuras, do not flee, do not flee! Come back, come back!’ As the asuras relay this message to each other, they will once again begin to hurl a torrent of mountaintops at the gods.
“In response the joyous gods will say, ‘The asuras are unrighteous and do not follow the Dharma! Therefore, let’s seize them and take them captive! Those animals keep getting furious at us for no reason and when they do, they have no fear of combat. Those unholy gods have no fear of war! Still, they have no skill with weapons and arms, so we shall defeat them to ensure that they never come back. Ah, since they are so obsessed with fighting untimely wars, let us vanquish them, so they never again return!’
“In this manner, the gods will encourage each other. With their minds set on crushing the asuras, they will now charge, eyes red with rage, releasing upon them a steady downpour of swords, weapons, and fire.
“Yet the hordes of asuras assembled at the gateways to the subterranean world shall now ride forth upon hundreds of thousands of chariots, each surrounded by numerous other asuras, and they will also bring down a great downpour of different weapons upon the gods and hurl mountains that measure three, four, and even five leagues upon them. [F.47.a] When the other asuras witness that display of tremendous force, they will regain their strength and rejoin the battle.
“To bolster the asuras, Overjoyed will cry, ‘I have set out to vanquish all the gods. Asuras, return, return! Rulers of asuras, don’t run, don’t run! Ah, what would you say to your women back home? We are men, but if we flee, would we be worthy of that name? Calling us men would be meaningless.’
“Having said that, Overjoyed will proceed to storm the gods. When the gods see him coming, they will exuberantly rush forward to meet him in battle. As the gods and asuras clash, the noise will resound everywhere, from the lowest of the mountains to Mount Sumeru itself.
“Rāhu will for his part set out against the vessel-bearer gods, and the asura ruler Firm will charge the garland-bearer gods, brandishing his staff. The asura ruler Puṣpamāla will pick up a mountain that measures three leagues and race toward the triple-lute-bearer gods and the wandering gods. The battle that ensues will become known as that which causes everyone’s hair to stand on end when recounted. Needless to mention how hair-raising it would be to actually behold or hear that battle!
“The asura ruler Overjoyed will crush the gods like a wind that scatters clouds in the sky, and no god will be able to withstand his extremely powerful attack. When the gods of the Four Great Kings thus suffer devastation, the lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, Śakra, will say to the gods in his realm, ‘Without exception the asuras are bringing harm upon these gods. [F.47.b] So now the next army of gods must advance. Would you like to defeat the army of asuras, who are beating and crushing the gods? Everyone except those posted at the divine assembly hall of Sudarśana must now move forward! Forward, everyone!’
“When they receive this command, the gods will then race to confront Overjoyed and Vemacitrin. Against Overjoyed the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will volley incessant swarms of arrows and a downpour of mountains, filling the sky. In return, Overjoyed will rain down mountains on the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and storm them. The whole sky will be filled with cacophony as the gods and asuras seek to defeat each other and the entire extent of their armies clash. As they lift up hundreds of thousands of golden mountains and fling them at each other, the sky fills with dust, so that soon the sky becomes completely filled with gold dust for up to a thousand leagues. Swarms of arrows from the two sides fall like a constant rain between the dust particles, and the warring parties likewise release a downpour of mountains upon each other. As the battle rages, many millions of asuras are destroyed, but many thousands of gods are likewise crushed in the terrible battle.
“As the battle progresses, those asuras with lesser courage will retreat below the earth, defeated and fearing for their lives. Seeing those losers, the asura women will ask, ‘Oh, where are those of our husbands that were left behind?’
“The asuras will reply, ‘They have triumphed in the battle between the gods and asuras and are on their way.’ The asura women will then go to Mirror Lake, [F.48.a] but, as they behold its surface, they will see how the asuras have been defeated and destroyed by the gods. When they see the myriad ways in which the asuras suffered defeat, they will realize that their husbands have been killed. Overwrought by pain and despair, they will stand crying and wailing on the banks of the lake. In this way, Mirror Lake will become encircled by suffering asura women beating their chests, tearing out their hair, and scratching their bodies, with their faces covered in tears. As the women thus witness the defeat and killing of their husbands, they will cry out in anguish.
“While the gods and asuras are engaged in their terrible battle, the asura ruler Overjoyed, surrounded by millions of asuras, will move on Śakra, ruler of the gods. When Śakra sees that, he will tell the gods, ‘The asuras are coming to attack us. Their trifling army may be hard to control, but, friends, just like light disperses darkness, we shall defeat them with the Dharma.’
“When he has given this instruction to the gods, he will proceed to ride forth on his elephant, Airāvaṇa, while shooting iron arrows at Overjoyed. As Śakra advances, the gods inhabiting the divine assembly hall of Sudarśana will surround him and charge forward while throwing rocks and trees. Some of them will also fire off a rain of arrows as they march on Overjoyed.
“At this point Śakra will tell Overjoyed, ‘You animal wandering the path of non-Dharma, where are you going now? I have come here to vanquish you. I shall relieve you of your arrogance and send you back, below the ground.’ [F.48.b]
“Overjoyed and Vemacitrin will jointly reply, ‘Śakra, we are here to chastise you and all the gods.’ With this, they will hurl a gold mountain measuring five leagues at Śakra, but when his elephant Airāvaṇa sees that, he will exhale so forcefully that the mountain is pulverized and dissolves into the sea as though it were a handful of sand.
“When they see how the mountain is reduced to dust and dispersed, the asuras will proceed to pick up a mountain that also measures five leagues but has a vajra core, and hurl it at Śakra. However, when Airāvaṇa sees that, he will catch the mountain in his trunk and hurl it back at the asura rulers. Indeed, that elephant is a thoroughbred. When the mountain that Overjoyed threw in that way is thrown back at him, he will be hurt and fall from his seat. As he tries to stand up, however, he will be struck once again, and thus become devastated.
“As the gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three see this, they fill the sky with their exclamations: ‘The ruler of the gods has defeated that animal! If a blow caused merely by Lord Śakra’s perfect elephant can make Overjoyed fall and roll over, then just imagine what a strike by his vajra would do!’
“The gods of the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will then surge toward the asuras. Some will fight with rocks and trees, some with mountains, some with tridents, some with axes, some with lightning, some with plowshares, some with their powers, some with disks, some with swords, some by flying, some with various maneuvers, some with hammers, some with sophisticated weapons, some with stainless weapons, some with common weapons, some with scything weapons, some with blades, some with fire, [F.49.a] some with water, some with streams of water, some with combinations of sundry weapons, some with black weapons, some with magic, some with noise, some with nails, some with clamor, some with unbearably loud noises, and some by kicking. Fighting in these ways, and with their bodies well protected by various types of armor, all the gods headed by Śakra shall set out to conquer the asuras.
“Seeing that Overjoyed has become pale, Vemacitrin and the other asura rulers will come to support him. Brandishing various weapons, they will approach Śakra to destroy249 him. Noticing that all four of the asura rulers are coming to attack Śakra, the gods will in turn come forth to offer their military assistance to Śakra and to display their own prowess.
“When Śakra sees the approaching asuras, he will become furious and shout, ‘Animals, why are you so stupid? Even if all the asuras were to join your army, I alone could defeat it. Why? Because our army is righteous. The army of the gods is righteous. The army of the asuras is unrighteous. The difference between Dharma and non-Dharma is tremendous. They are as different as darkness and sunshine, truth and lies, Mount Sumeru and a sesame seed, liberation and bondage, the edible and the inedible, ambrosia and poison, night and day, trinkets and jewels, [F.49.b] poverty and wealth, right and wrong, the sun and a firefly, a great storm and a mosquito,250 the seen and the unseen, the true path and the false path, buddhas and non-Buddhists, heaven and earth, an eon and an instant. You and I are that different! You take unrighteousness to be the most important thing while I hold righteousness to be the most important. Your intelligence is inferior, whereas the gods are intelligent. You have no vigor, whereas the gods do. You are animals, whereas the gods are gods. Once you comprehend this, you will understand that it makes no sense to run up against me.’
“While creating the same kinds of emanations as before, Śakra, leader of the gods, will gallop toward the four asura leaders, brandishing his thousand-pointed vajra. Without any evil thoughts and having no intent to kill or capture anyone, he will rush ahead with a speed that is greater than the wind.
“When they see Śakra storming ahead while the attacking asuras come up against him, the gods of the Four Great Kings and the Heaven of the Thirty-Three will also charge forward. Thus, when the gods and asuras clash and combat each other [F.50.a] in pursuit of victory, they will strike each other and become pale, and some asuras will die. Some asuras will be distraught by suffering and retreat. Some will lose all courage and retreat. Some will just stand there, staring blankly ahead. Some will linger, though they long to return home. Some will become overcome by anger. Some will be dazed and stupefied. Some will be damaged and depressed. Then, to all who linger, Śakra, riding upon Airāvaṇa, will display his emanations.
“As he does so, the rulers of the asuras will behold a lotus flower upon each of Airāvaṇa’s heads. Upon each of the lotuses stands a separate Śakra, who brandishes a vajra and is equipped with arms and weaponry as described before. Moreover, upon each of the thousand heads of Airāvaṇa, the elephant of the lord of the gods, they will behold a thousand lotus pools, and in each pool will lie a thousand lotuses. Each of the lotuses has a thousand petals and a hundred stamens, and upon each lotus and each stamen stand trillions of Śakras, brandishing vajras, weapons, and arms.
“The sight of these emanations terrifies the asuras, because all these Śakras, brandishing numerous forms of weaponry and taking a variety of forms, will fill the sky in its entirety, displaying unimaginable power and might. Horrified, the asuras will gasp at one another, ‘This multitude of weapons extends throughout all directions without any gaps between them. I fear that these Śakras have also infiltrated the ground beneath us in the same way!’
“To those who speak in this way, Overjoyed will reply, [F.50.b] ‘Asuras, I shall repel Śakra and his Airāvaṇa! Fear not, fear not!’ With these words Overjoyed will charge Airāvaṇa, the king of elephants. [B25] When Airāvaṇa sees him coming, the elephant will snatch Overjoyed up with the tip of his trunk and twirl him around as if he were light as air. Having swung him around like that, he will finally let go of him when only a trace of life is left in him. When Overjoyed regains consciousness, he will ask the asuras, ‘Is this the only army that has any courage? All you rulers of asuras, are you incapable of attacking the ruler of the gods?’
“The gathered asura rulers will then once more charge Airāvaṇa. But when Śakra sees them coming, he will send down magical, vajra-like hailstorms, not in order to kill anyone but only with the purpose of conquering them. In return, the asuras will bring down rains of mountains and hurl myriad kinds of weapons at the ruler of the gods. The downpour of mountains will be beautiful, like a timely rain. In this way, the gods and asuras will continue waging numerous battles that defy any comparison.