The Questions of Pūrṇa
Degé Kangyur, vol. 42 (dkon brtsegs, nga), folios 168.b–227.a.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
In Veṇuvana, outside Rājagṛha, Pūrṇa Maitrāyaṇīputra asks the Buddha about the conduct of bodhisattvas practicing on the path to awakening. The Buddha replies by describing the attitudes that bodhisattvas must possess as well as their benefits. Then, at the request of Maudgalyāyana, the Buddha recounts several of his past lives in which he himself practiced bodhisattva conduct. At the end of the teaching, the Buddha instructs the assembly about how to deal with specific objections to his teachings that outsiders might raise after he himself has passed into nirvāṇa.
Translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee under the supervision of Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. Benjamin Collet-Cassart and Nika Jovic translated the text from Tibetan into English and wrote the introduction. James Gentry then compared the translation with Kumārajīva’s Chinese translation. Finally, Andreas Doctor compared the draft translation with the original Tibetan and edited the text. Ryan Damron and Thomas Doctor also helped resolve several difficult passages.
This translation has been completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
Work on this text would not have been possible without the generous sponsorship of 王学文 and 马国凤, which is most gratefully acknowledged.
Then the venerable Mahāmaudgalyāyana thought, “The Blessed One has perfectly taught the conduct of bodhisattvas through his great compassion. The Blessed One is therefore quite astonishing! Why? Because bodhisattvas will practice the Dharma of the Buddha in the most excellent manner and will cause sentient beings to comprehend the meaning of the absence of arising and ceasing.”
At that moment, the Blessed One knew the thought that had arisen in the mind of the venerable Mahāmaudgalyāyana and he said, “Thus it is, Maudgalyāyana, thus it is! The thus-gone ones indeed possess great compassion. If my hearers heard about such great compassion, they would become perplexed and lose their inspiration. Maudgalyāyana, you would become perplexed and lose your inspiration if I were now so much as to describe fully how much compassion I had in the past when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct, let alone speak of the great compassion of the thus-gone ones.”
“Maudgalyāyana,” continued the Blessed One, “listen carefully and keep my words in mind. I shall explain a little to you of my great compassion when I practiced bodhisattva conduct in the past, with some examples of it. The extent of the great compassion I had when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct in the past would be impossible to express, indeed; but that great compassion was based on four attitudes. What were those four attitudes?40 The point about the great compassion of bodhisattvas is this: it is the extent to which they abide by great compassion that determines the extent to which bodhisattvas accomplish the Dharma of the Buddha; that is what is called great compassion.
“Maudgalyāyana, in the past, because of the great compassion of that kind that I had for sentient beings, and the great aspirations of that kind that I made for them, however many beings were suffering within the great Hell of Ceaseless Torment, the great Black Line Hell, Crushing Hell, Reviving Hell, Wailing Hell, Great Wailing Hell, Hot Hell, and Extremely Hot Hell, for the sake of each of them I always experienced whatever sufferings they were experiencing in those great hells for as long as their negative karma was not purified, without feeling any discouragement.
“Maudgalyāyana, if there were any causes and conditions to bring about for the benefit of sentient beings, I would readily undertake all of them and liberate those sentient beings from the great hells. I would readily take upon myself the hellish suffering of every single sentient being until all of them had purified their negative karma, and during that time I never felt any discouragement. Maudgalyāyana, after giving rise to such an aspiration and such great diligence, I asked the wise ones, such as the buddhas and their hearers, [F.208.b] ‘Might such appropriate causes and conditions as these suffice to take on suffering and liberate beings from the hells?’ Maudgalyāyana, when the wise heard this, they praised me for my erudition41—they praised the fact that I had given rise to the mind set on awakening and was then practicing generosity, guarding my discipline, cultivating patience, engendering diligence, and attending virtuous friends. Maudgalyāyana, when I heard this, I gave rise to the extraordinary resolve of pursuing the Dharma with great diligence. I cultivated diligence in order to receive the sublime, excellent Dharma of the Buddha. I cultivated patience in order to master the perfections.
“Maudgalyāyana, how did I cultivate patience? In the past, when I was a bodhisattva, I gave rise to this mindset: ‘Suppose all the sentient beings living in the universes of the ten directions—whether they have form or not, whether they have perception or not, and whether they have neither perception nor nonperception—were to obtain a human life form, come to me, and say, “You have given rise to the mind set on unsurpassed and perfect awakening, yet we lack a great many sense pleasures as well as basic necessities. If you cannot provide these things to us, you will never attain unsurpassed and perfect awakening!”
“ ‘Even if those beings were to rebuke me with harsh words, criticize me with untrue accusations, or, out of hostility, harm me physically with swords, sticks, and stones, I will then never be angry or regretful. Instead I will tame my mind, thinking, “Those beings are deluded, ignorant, and devoid of insight, so they commit deluded actions. This being so, [F.209.a] if I were to become angry and resentful toward those deluded and ignorant beings, how would I be different from them? They have not yet entered the virtuous path, but I have, so I should now earnestly take their sufferings upon myself. Without giving rise to any thought of anger, I should accommodate both the good and the bad, just like the earth does.” ’ It was with that mindset, Maudgalyāyana, that in the past I cultivated patience.
“Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, for a long time I have constantly perceived all sentient beings as if they were my only child. Take the example of a rich, wealthy, and affluent householder surrounded by male and female servants, as well as other staff. After performing hundreds of rituals, he becomes the father of a son. His son is very dear to him, so he never tires of looking at his son. Maudgalyāyana, that householder always looks for the best circumstances for his son. He always provides him with the best things as well as his support, and he never gives him anything that would harm him or disadvantage him. Similarly, Maudgalyāyana, for a long time I have constantly perceived all sentient beings as if they were my only child. Thus, for a long time I have constantly looked after what is best for them and supported them. On the other hand, I have never given them anything that would harm or disadvantage them. Maudgalyāyana, for a long time I have constantly taught the genuine path to sentient beings who have lost the way, or entered a mistaken path. By doing so, I have established them on the genuine path. Maudgalyāyana, for those reasons, you should know that for a long time the Thus-Gone One has regarded sentient beings with strong affection, perceiving them as a beloved and dear only child.
“Maudgalyāyana, in the past, a large group of merchants once set out on the path during the night. At some point, they took a wrong turn and lost their way. Because the night was very dark, none of them knew in which direction to proceed, so they started shouting: ‘We are lost! [F.209.b] We have no protectors, no refuges, and no support. Is there anyone—whether god, nāga, yakṣa, human, or nonhuman—who will show us the way, so that we can return to the right path? Who will be so kind as to help us and illuminate this wrong and fearsome path in the middle of this dark night?’
“Maudgalyāyana, at that time, a non-Buddhist sage was living in a grass hut in the middle of that isolated forest. Amidst the darkness of the night, he heard the pitiful screams of the merchants and thought, ‘Those merchants are out during this dark night; they must have lost their way and strayed into this isolated forest. If I don’t give them shelter, it would be immoral, and those merchants could be endangered or killed by tigers, lions, wolves, elephants, and jackals, or by other ferocious predators.’
“Maudgalyāyana, at that moment, the sage shouted loudly to the merchants, ‘Hey, merchants! Don’t be afraid! I will give you shelter and show you the correct path with my torch.’ When they heard the words of the sage, the merchants were relieved. The sage then wrapped cotton cloth around both his hands, soaked them in oil, and lit them on fire. With these torches, he then showed the path to the merchants.
“Maudgalyāyana, while the sage was showing the path to the merchants with the light from his burning hands, great compassion for sentient beings arose in his mind and he thought, ‘When I awaken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood, may I illuminate sentient beings who have embarked on mistaken paths with the light of the Dharma, and may I show them the correct path.’
“Maudgalyāyana, [F.210.a] during that time, the body and mind of the sage remained without wavering in the slightest, even though both his hands were on fire. How is this possible? Because bodhisattvas who observe this superior resolve do not cling to their bodies or lives when they pursue the benefit of others. As a consequence of practicing generosity with this pure attitude, the hands of the sage remained unharmed, and he did not suffer from any injury. The merchants found their way; and at dawn, when they saw that the hands of the sage were unharmed, they became amazed and thought, ‘This sage possesses great, miraculous power. During the whole night, he showed us the way by illuminating our way with his two hands burning, but now there is not even the slightest trace of burns on his hands. He must surely have achieved a high level of conduct and possess great qualities!’
‘O merchants,’ replied the sage, ‘I wish to attain unsurpassed and perfect awakening, liberate beings like you from their sufferings in saṃsāra, and show the correct path to beings who are following a wrong path.’
“At that moment, the merchants became utterly delighted and asked, ‘But how may we repay your kindness?’ As an answer, the sage said, ‘Practice virtue one-pointedly, and do not be careless! Merchants, practice in accordance with the teachings!’ Overjoyed, the merchants respectfully paid homage to the sage and dispersed.
“Maudgalyāyana, I was the non-Buddhist sage who at that time [F.210.b] showed the path to the merchants by setting both his hands on fire. Do not think that this was someone else. The one thousand two hundred monks present today were those merchants. Maudgalyāyana, for a long time the Thus-Gone One has given fearlessness to sentient beings who experience fear and terror, he has shown the correct path to sentient beings who are following a wrong path, he has helped blind persons to recover flawless vision, and he has healed sentient beings who are afflicted by severe diseases. For those reasons, you should know that for a long time the Thus-Gone One has been extremely compassionate toward sentient beings.
“Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, in the past, there was a great eon of sickness here in this world of Jambudvīpa, during which Īśvarasena appeared in the world. He ruled over eighty-four thousand cities and possessed great powers. At one point, while his principal queen was pregnant, she could cure others’ diseases merely by touching them with her hands or other body parts. Eventually, when her pregnancy came to its term, she gave birth to a son. As soon as her son was born, he proclaimed, ‘I have the power to cure all diseases.’
“The moment he was born, the gods and spirits42 of the world proclaimed in unison, ‘This newborn son of the king is a Healer of Men!’ Since those words were heard everywhere, he was given the name Healer of Men.
“People who were afflicted by diseases were led to the prince and shown to him. He would then touch them with his hands or with another part of his body, thereby curing all their diseases and restoring their well-being. In this way, all sick persons living in the world [F.211.a] were taken to the prince and shown to him. By merely touching them with his hands, all their diseases were cured and their well-being was totally restored. Maudgalyāyana, after Healer of Men had cured diseases in that way for a thousand years, he passed away. After he died, sick persons still came to see him but, hearing of his death, they despaired and cried out of grief, ‘Who will now liberate us from the suffering of our sicknesses?’ So they inquired where the prince Healer of Men had been cremated and, once they knew where the cremation had taken place, they went there, collected his bones, and crushed them into a powder. When they rubbed their bodies with this powder, all their diseases were cured, and they exclaimed, ‘The prince Healer of Men still has the power to cure sicknesses!’
“Maudgalyāyana, since they were used in that way to cure diseases, the bones gradually became exhausted. After all the bones had been used, sick persons would come to the cremation ground and pick up earth, ashes, or charcoal. When they rubbed those substances on their bodies, they too became healed from all their diseases. Maudgalyāyana, in that way, during the great eon of sickness, the prince Healer of Men healed those persons afflicted by sicknesses through such skillful means.
“Maudgalyāyana, at that time, I was this prince called Healer of Men who cured the diseases of those unprotected and defenseless sentient beings afflicted by the intense suffering of sickness. Do not think that this was someone else. After I awoke to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood, I began healing sentient beings with the medicine of great insight, bringing their sufferings to a complete end. Maudgalyāyana, just as I benefitted sentient beings by taking birth for their sake, you should know that, as a consequence of those acts, I have now once again deliberately taken birth in order to benefit sentient beings. [F.211.b]
“Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, in the past, I was once walking alone, without any friend, when a ferocious predator wanting to kill me and eat my flesh appeared in front of me. Just before I died, I gave rise to the mind set on awakening and made this aspiration, ‘After I die, may I be reborn as a large animal in this isolated forest, and may some ferocious predators kill me and thereby become fulfilled and satisfied.’ Why did I make this aspiration? Because those ferocious predators always kill and eat the flesh of small animals, and so they repeatedly commit the wrongdoing of killing. Nevertheless, they never feel satiated and satisfied. This is the reason why I made the aspiration, ‘May I be reborn here as a large animal, and may I bring fulfillment and satisfaction to those flesh eaters and blood drinkers.’
“As soon as I died, I was miraculously reborn in that forest as a large animal, bringing fulfillment and satisfaction to the ferocious flesh-eating and blood-drinking predators. Similarly, for myriads of lifetimes I have deliberately taken birth to benefit sentient beings. Maudgalyāyana, even if I were to spend an eon or more to describe all the instances in the past when I practiced bodhisattva conduct and satisfied sentient beings suffering from hunger and thirst by offering my flesh and blood, there would be no end to those accounts. Maudgalyāyana, in the past, I thus gave rise to a compassionate attitude toward sentient beings afflicted by suffering.
“Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, I remember that in the past, I once saw some beings afflicted by suffering. Seeing them, I thought, ‘It would not be right if I were to abandon these beings without protection.’ So I approached them and asked, ‘What kind of suffering are you experiencing? [F.212.a] What do you wish for?’
“They answered, ‘We are extremely hungry and thirsty!’
“Upon hearing those words, I replied, ‘What kind of food and drink do you want?’
“They replied, ‘We are blood drinkers and flesh eaters. If you give us flesh and blood, we will become pleased and healthy.’ So I granted them what they wanted by cutting off my flesh, drawing blood from my body, and offering this to them. However, Maudgalyāyana, at that time I never felt any regret, sense of loss, sorrow, or depression. Instead, for a long time I continued my aspiration to practice such generosity with the thought, ‘The more flesh I cut off from my body, the more suffering in saṃsāra will come to an end.’ Therefore, even though I practiced generosity in that way, I always felt utterly joyful and happy. You should know that, for those reasons, the Thus-Gone One is extremely compassionate toward sentient beings.
“Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, I remember that in the past, there was a king called Mahābala who possessed the great power of excellent qualities and had accumulated many roots of virtue. At that time, King Mahābala told himself, ‘I should henceforth arrange elaborate offerings and gifts and satisfy sentient beings!’ So he prepared such great offerings and gifts; he gave away food to those who wished for food, and drink to those who wished for drink. Similarly, he gave away clothing, bedding, gold, silver, precious substances, chariots, mounts, and wealth; precious gems such as cat’s eye, emerald, crystal, beryl, coral, and moonstone; and flowers, perfumes, garlands, ointments, fragrant powders, silken streamers, parasols, banners, boys, girls, male servants, female servants, [F.212.b] workers, horses, elephants, oxen, sheep, and fields. He joyfully gave away all those things to those who wished for them.
“Maudgalyāyana, in that way, King Mahābala practiced generosity on a vast scale. At that time, Śakra, lord of the gods, thought, ‘I should create obstacles for this king, to prevent him from reaping the fruits of his offerings!’ With this thought in mind, he manifested himself as a brahmin, went to the place where the king was residing, and asked, ‘What kind of things are you giving away in this great offering that you have arranged?’
“The king replied, ‘Brahmin, I am giving away all the wealth that I possess, without any reservations.’
“ ‘Haven’t I already said that I am giving away everything I possess?’ replied King Mahābala.
“ ‘Your Majesty,’ said the brahmin, ‘if this is so, I want the limbs of your body.’
“The king thought, ‘This brahmin does not wish for wealth or food. He came here today with the wish to disrupt my great offering. If I do not give him the limbs of my body, my great offering will be disrupted.’ So he said to the brahmin, ‘I will give you the limbs of my body; I will cut them off and you can take them with you.’
“ ‘Your Majesty,’ answered the brahmin, ‘will you not regret the words you are pronouncing now?’
“ ‘I will not have any regrets,’ said King Mahābala. ‘Even if a horde of beggars should come here today from the four directions, I would satisfy them all.’
“The brahmin said, ‘If it is so difficult to satisfy me alone, it goes without saying that it will be difficult to satisfy all the many others!’
“Maudgalyāyana, when King Mahābala cut off his hand, his mind did not waver, and he did not feel any regret. Since he had practiced generosity one-pointedly and had given away all his possessions in that way, his hand remained unharmed. Then King Mahābala cut off the other limbs of his body with the knife and gave them to the brahmin, but they reappeared. Maudgalyāyana, as a consequence, however, the divine merit of Śakra, lord of the gods, became exhausted. Experiencing intense pain and suffering, he cried out loudly and fell into the great Hell of Ceaseless Torment in that very body.
“Maudgalyāyana, at that time, I was King Mahābala, who gave away his body. Do not think that this was someone else. And Devadatta was Śakra, lord of the gods, who wished to create obstacles to the king’s great offering. Do not think that this was someone else either. Maudgalyāyana, at that time, the foolish Devadatta wanted to create obstacles to my offering out of jealousy and anger, but he could not disrupt it. Instead, he fell into that great hell.
“Accordingly, now that I have awakened to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood, whenever I arrange an offering of the Dharma, the foolish Devadatta, who is motivated by jealousy and anger, still desires to profit so badly that he gathers many people with the wish to kill me. Once in the past, when I was descending Vulture Peak Mountain, Devadatta climbed to the top of the mountain and hurled stones at me with the use of a catapult. He thereby destroyed his roots of virtue and, because he had given rise to such malice toward me, all his gains and wealth were ruined, and he will fall into the great Hell of Ceaseless Torment. Although, Maudgalyāyana, I have never done anything bad, whether physically, verbally, or mentally, to the foolish Devadatta, [F.213.b] he has persistently perceived me as his enemy. In all my lives, he has sought to create obstacles to my virtuous practice, but he has never been able to disrupt my virtuous conduct. For a long time, I have continued to benefit him out of love and compassion, but he has always perceived me as an evil person.43 Still, Maudgalyāyana, since Devadatta has never been grateful for my help during all those lifetimes, it shows that beings like Devadatta will also not be grateful toward the entire world, with its gods, humans, and demigods. Such beings have entered a state that is certainly mistaken.
“Maudgalyāyana, when Devadatta passes away and enters the great Hell of Ceaseless Torment, an excellent and noble attitude toward me will be born in his mind for the first time. This is the power of the Thus-Gone One’s blessings. Since the ingratitude of Devadatta is enormous, he is destined for the great Hell of Ceaseless Torment. Then, just as he is about to enter that hell, he will hear a loud voice saying, ‘Foolish Devadatta, due to your wrongdoings, getting angry at the Blessed One and persistently plotting to kill someone who should not be killed, you will now fall into the great Hell of Ceaseless Torment.’
“Upon hearing those words, Devadatta will be terrified and subdued for the first time. He will therefore cry, ‘I take refuge in the Blessed One one-pointedly, from the depths of my heart and from the marrow of my bones!’ Then, as he cries this out, he will find happiness. Having developed sincere trust in the Thus-Gone One, he will next hear a loud voice saying, ‘You have now entered into the great Hell of Ceaseless Torment, but you shall later be liberated from this hell, be reborn as a human, and renounce your household to go forth. Then, by practicing genuinely on the path, you shall achieve the fruition of a solitary buddha. You will be called The Determined One.44
“Maudgalyāyana, with this prophecy of Devadatta becoming a solitary buddha, I have now freed him from the sufferings of saṃsāra. Maudgalyāyana, [F.214.a] the fact that I have liberated Devadatta is in accordance with the aspirations I made in the past. Why is that? Because I took the commitment to liberate him in previous lifetimes by telling him, ‘I will liberate you, but others will not.’ Maudgalyāyana, it was only because of me that Devadatta created the causes and conditions to attain nirvāṇa. It was not thanks to others. Therefore, from now on, he will not create roots of virtue in relation to others, but instead will give rise to sincere trust toward me alone. Due to the roots of virtue created by saying, ‘I take refuge in the Buddha,’ he will later reach the path of the solitary buddhas.
“Maudgalyāyana, for a long time I have constantly thought of sentient beings as my parents. I have taken the affectionate commitment to personally protect and provide refuge to those who are unprotected and defenseless, to those who are weak and destitute, to those who continuously spin in saṃsāra and follow evil paths, to those who lack insight due to their delusion and ignorance, and to those who have always been blind or do not have eyes, as well as to those who ask themselves, ‘Who will be our guide, our protector, and our refuge?’ Therefore, Maudgalyāyana, because I remember my commitment, I never answer back to someone who insults me by using harsh words, or to someone who abuses me with painful words. Whether someone is furious at me or beats me, I never retaliate. Why is it so? Because it is sensible for me to constantly provide genuine happiness to all beings and eliminate all their suffering and unhappiness, while it is not sensible for me to harm them.
“Among all sentient beings, who is able to practice patience? I am the only one able to practice patience. Therefore, I thought, ‘I will henceforth train in the Dharma of being patient with beings, the Dharma of tranquility, and the Dharma of gentleness, so that I act like a thoroughbred elephant, [F.214.b] not like a wild elephant.’
“Maudgalyāyana, take the analogy of an elephant that has been trained well. When it enters the battlefield, its mind is unshakable. It is able to bear the sounds of the great drums, the sounds of the conches, and the sounds of people screaming. Even when it hears those fearsome sounds, it does not feel any terror or fear. It is able to withstand cold, heat, mosquitoes, horseflies, wind, rain, hunger, and thirst, as well as the injuries caused by the various kinds of sharp swords, arrows, spears, and javelins, as well as the iron chains that are thrown at it and the whips that strike it. Without feeling any terror or fear, it jumps directly onto the battlefield, courageously and without any wavering. Maudgalyāyana, such a well-trained elephant never thinks, ‘I should not engage with the opposing army.’ Instead, it solely thinks, ‘I will defeat the army of the enemy!’
“Maudgalyāyana, similarly, when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct in the past I formed a vast aspiration prayer, based on which I worked to tame my mind with respect to sentient beings.45 Even if someone insulted me with harsh words, I never harmed that person in return. Even if someone argued with me, I never answered back. Even when others harmed me with weapons, sticks, rocks, or stones, and thereby took my life, I never wavered from unsurpassed and perfect awakening. I never thought, ‘This is something to adopt,’ ‘This is not something to adopt,’ ‘This is something that should be relied upon,’ or ‘This is not something that should be relied upon.’ Therefore, I never felt sorrow, regret, aggression, or resentment with respect to those situations. I never became weary about the bodhisattva path, [F.215.a] and so I never thought, ‘Now I will no longer engage with the army of the enemy.’ Instead, I solely thought, ‘I will completely defeat the army of the enemy—negative actions—and once I attain unsurpassed and perfect awakening, I will liberate all the countless sentient beings of the three realms.’ Maudgalyāyana, even if I tried to express in words all the instances in which I practiced patience and gave rise to love and compassion toward sentient beings during the time when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct in the past, this task would never come to an end.
“Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, in the past, there was a non-Buddhist sage called Kṣāntibala who had vowed to never become angry at others. At that time, there lived a demon called Evil Mind who thought, ‘I will go see this sage and destroy his practice of patience! I will make him angry, so that he turns away from his resolve to earnestly cultivate patience.’ He then sent out a thousand men who were skilled in abusing others. They surrounded the sage and started to insult him and accuse him falsely. They abused him with various types of insults that do not bear repeating. They abused him when he was moving, when he traveled to cities, when he entered the cities, when he ate, after he had his meal, when he got up from his seat, when he left the cities, when he came back to his hermitage in the forest, while he was standing up, while he was sitting down, while he was lying down, while he was walking, and even when he was simply breathing. They followed him at all times, continuously abusing him with all types of insults. For eighty-four thousand years, those thousand men sent by the demon abused the sage Kṣāntibala with harsh words. [F.215.b]
“When the sage Kṣāntibala entered cities, the demon Evil Mind would urinate on his head and inside his alms bowl, thus soaking the sage’s robes, alms bowl, and body with his urine. He would also spread garbage on his head. Still, although those thousand obstinate men abused and slandered the sage with harsh words for eighty-four thousand years, he never gave rise to anger or resentment toward them, and his mind never became even a little bit shaken or discouraged. He also never asked, ‘What did I do wrong?’ and he never felt any resentment. For eighty-four thousand years, he never even looked at the demon Evil Mind with an angry glance, nor did he ever ask him, ‘What faults do I have?’
“Maudgalyāyana, even though those one thousand obstinate men abused the sage Kṣāntibala for more than eighty-four thousand years, they were never able to destroy his practice. When they realized this, they began to admire him greatly, and so they confessed their wrongdoings. They asked the sage, ‘What kind of Dharma are you pursuing through this practice? We also want to obtain such a Dharma!’ Because those one thousand obstinate men who had been abusing the sage had now developed strong admiration toward him, they started to respectfully worship him, venerate him, honor him, and praise him. However, even though the sage was honored and respected by those men, he never developed any form of clinging or attachment.
“Maudgalyāyana, I was that sage Kṣāntibala. Do not think that this was someone else. Because I had genuinely adopted the practice of patience at that time, my mind was never shaken and it never wavered, even though I was continuously abused and slandered with harsh words by the thousand men who had been sent by the demon Evil Mind. Maudgalyāyana, those thousand obstinate men gave rise to a strong sense of admiration toward the sage Kṣāntibala. [F.216.a] Then they confessed their negative actions and, following in the footsteps of the sage Kṣāntibala, they gave rise to the mind set on unsurpassed and perfect awakening. Thus I tamed them and established them in the teaching of the Buddha. By practicing the six perfections in an excellent manner, all those thousand beings gradually became perfect buddhas and passed into the realm of nirvāṇa without any remainder. Maudgalyāyana, the demon Evil Mind, who at that time sent those one thousand men to abuse me, was Devadatta. Do not think that this was someone else. [B6]
“Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, I remember that in the past I once gave away my body to others and acted as a slave and a servant for worldly beings. During that time, those worldly beings made me do various kinds of tasks. Some made me remove excrement and urine. Some made me sweep off manure. Some made me sweep off soil; some sent me to pick up grass; and some dispatched me to bring grains, milk, curd, butter, oil, or honey. Some made me collect wood, charcoal, fire, or water. Maudgalyāyana, although they made me do all those various tasks, I do not remember ever having thought, ‘I will not follow those orders to sweep off excrement and urine.’ I do not remember ever having refused them when they sent me to collect flowers, perfumes, garlands, fragrant ointments, fragrant powders, food, drinks, or fruits. Maudgalyāyana, I do not remember ever having thought, ‘I will only follow the orders of those who make me do something pleasant, and not the orders of those who ask me to do something unpleasant.’ [F.216.b] Maudgalyāyana, I do not remember ever having thought, ‘I will follow the orders of those who belong to the warrior class, but not those of the brahmins,’ ‘I will follow the orders of the brahmins, but not the orders of those who belong to the warrior class,’ ‘I will follow the orders of those who belong to the commoner class, but not those of the outcastes,’ ‘I will follow the orders of the outcastes, but not the orders of those who belong to the commoner class,’ or ‘I will follow the orders of those who belong to the warrior class and the brahmins, but not the orders of those who belong to the commoner class and the outcastes.’ I never discriminated between people by thinking, ‘This person is greater,’ or ‘This person is inferior,’ and I never thought, ‘I will follow this person but not that one.’ Maudgalyāyana, I always joyfully followed the orders of anyone who called on me.
“Maudgalyāyana, I do not remember that in the past, when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct, I ever refused to do something that anyone asked of me, as long as this task was in harmony with the Dharma and I was able to do it. Maudgalyāyana, I do not remember that in the past, when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct, I ever failed to complete a task or perfect a virtuous action. In short, when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct in the past, I never developed clinging to my body, let alone to wealth. When I was practicing bodhisattva conduct in the past, I never thought of material wealth as my possession. Nevertheless, I simply became wealthy through the ripening of my previous actions. I thought, ‘These things should be equally enjoyed by all beings. Everyone deserves to enjoy this wealth just as much as I do.’ [F.217.a] Maudgalyāyana, then, as I became more familiar with the Dharma of the Buddha through my practice of bodhisattva conduct, I even stopped thinking, ‘I deserve this wealth and so do others.’ Instead, I solely thought, ‘Others deserve to have this wealth, not me.’
“Maudgalyāyana, although I had become familiar with the Dharma of the Buddha, I never developed clinging to it. Without collecting or holding on to it, I was inspired by abandoning phenomena, not to eagerly take them up. I was inspired by all phenomena being empty, not by all phenomena existing. I was inspired by being at peace from all phenomena, not by the substantial characteristics of phenomena. I was inspired by primordial nonexistence, not by primordial existence.
“Maudgalyāyana, I clearly remember that in the past, when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct, in countless hundreds of thousands of lifetimes I would set my body on fire during dark nights, to guide sentient beings who had lost their way and to illuminate their paths.
“Maudgalyāyana, I remember that in the past, when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct, in countless hundreds of thousands of lifetimes I would cut off my flesh and offer it to carnivorous beings.
“Maudgalyāyana, I remember that in the past, when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct, in countless hundreds of thousands of lifetimes I would draw blood from my body and offer it to blood-drinking beings to satisfy them.
“Maudgalyāyana, in short, when it comes to worldly wealth and belongings, I never experienced any sense of reservation or miserliness while giving them to sentient beings. After careful investigation to ensure that those offerings would not hurt or harm anyone and that they were sanctioned by the wise ones [F.217.b] and praised by noble beings, I would offer those things to sentient beings with a compassionate attitude.
“Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, I remember that in the past, there was once a merchant called Good Profit who had traveled across the ocean and returned home filled with joy after having found precious gems. Having reached his country, he entered his city and arrived at the doorsteps of his house. At that moment, the many beggars living in his city surrounded him and said, ‘Good Profit, did you have a safe journey? Great benefactor, we are beggars. If you agree, we would like to request something of you.’
“The beggars said, ‘Please give us the precious gems that you brought back from your journey across the ocean; that would make us extremely happy!’
“Maudgalyāyana, Good Profit immediately offered the beggars all his eight hundred million precious gems, each worth hundreds of thousands of ounces of gold. Maudgalyāyana, the mind of Good Profit did not waver when he offered those many gems, and he did not feel any regret.
“After he had offered those precious gems to the beggars, Good Profit immediately set out on the ocean once again to fetch more jewels, without even entering his house. He found many excellent precious gems, about half as many more46 than the number he had brought back from his previous journey. After eighty years had passed, he returned to his country and entered his city. At that time, some criminals had been caught and tied up by their executioners, who were now beating their drums, which produced a terrifying sound. [F.218.a] On the way to the execution site, the executioners would play these drums at all the crossroads they passed through. Then, just as the criminals were about to be executed, they saw Good Profit from a distance and cried, ‘Merchant! Please protect us! Protect us from this execution and save our lives! You are a great benefactor and a sublime being!’
“When he heard those words, Good Profit cried back to these men who were on the verge of being killed, ‘Listen, I will protect you and save you from this execution!’
“So he went before the executioners and gave them each a precious gem worth ten million ounces of gold. Then he told them, ‘Please wait for a moment until I have met the king and returned!’
“Good Profit then quickly went to the king. When he arrived in his presence, he said, ‘Your Majesty, I would like to ransom the lives of those men with these excellent gemstones.’
‘Good Profit,’ replied the king, ‘the crimes of those men are unforgivable, so they are truly not for sale! However, if you sincerely want to save them, give me all the wealth you possess, and I will revoke my decision to kill them.’
“Maudgalyāyana, when he heard those words, Good Profit became utterly delighted and said, ‘I am so fortunate! Now my wishes have been fulfilled, since all I wanted was to protect those men.’ To protect the prisoners and save them from their execution, Good Profit then offered the king all the wealth he possessed at his home, in addition to all the countless millions of precious gems, as well as all the gold and silver that he had brought back from his journey across the ocean. He said to the king, ‘Your Majesty, please release the men; here is all the wealth that I possess.’
“Following the order, Good Profit was tied up and led to the scaffold. However, when the executioner raised his right hand and was about to strike Good Profit with his weapon, his hand froze, and he could not follow through. Filled with terror and surprise, he brought Good Profit to the king and explained what had happened. Maudgalyāyana, when the king heard about the event, he himself drew his sword and tried to kill Good Profit. Then, just as he raised his sword and was about to strike, both the king’s hands fell to the ground. Writhing in agony, the king cried out in terror and died.
“Maudgalyāyana, at that time, I was the merchant Good Profit. Do not think that this was someone else. The foolish Devadatta was that king. Maudgalyāyana, at that time, Devadatta tried to kill me but was unable to do so. Later, when I awoke to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood, he also tried to kill me but was once again unable. Why was that? Because no one at all within the entire world, with all its gods, humans, and demigods—let alone the foolish Devadatta—is able to harm the thus-gone ones. Even today Devadatta has assembled a gang of accomplices, and he is still seeking to kill me. Because of his desire to kill me by various means, his wealth, fame, and strength have been ruined, and he will fall into the great Hell of Ceaseless Torment in the very body he has while alive. Maudgalyāyana, when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct in the past, he did not show any gratitude, since he could not perceive the way I benefited sentient beings like him. You should know that, when I was practicing bodhisattva conduct in the past, I was like parents for sentient beings. Therefore, [F.219.a] you should know that the Thus-Gone One is endowed with immense compassion toward sentient beings.
“Furthermore, Maudgalyāyana, once in the past, five hundred elephants were living at the foot of a tall snow mountain. The elephants also had a leader that ruled over the herd. This bull had an attractive and pleasing appearance, and he was powerful and wise. During the night, this large herd of elephants would walk on the only path crossing the mountain, which was a dangerous and narrow path. However, some hunters had noticed the elephants, and so they spent a whole night digging a huge pit on that dangerous path, thinking, ‘When the elephants fall into this pit, they will be ours, and we can easily take possession of them.’ Then, at the end of the night when they had finished digging, they drove the herd of elephants onto the fearsome path toward the pit. Although the elephants noticed the pit, it was too big for them to cross.
“So, Maudgalyāyana, the leader of the elephants lay himself on his side across the pit and served as a bridge. In this way the five hundred elephants were able to cross the pit by walking on his back, and so they continued on their way. When the herd of elephants had crossed the pit, the leader of the elephants jumped across using his own strength, and so he also proceeded. At that time, a mountain god sang this verse:
“Maudgalyāyana, at that time, I was the clever and powerful elephant leader. Do not think that this was someone else. The five hundred elephants are now the present group of five hundred monks that Devadatta has been plotting to destroy. The hunters at that time are now Devadatta and the rest of the five monks, namely Khaṇḍadravja, Kaṭamorakatiṣya, Samudradatta, and Kokālika.
“Maudgalyāyana, [F.219.b] for a long time, when I have seen fearful and frightened sentient beings, I have always offered them my protection from fear. When I have seen suffering sentient beings, I have always brought them happiness. I have always given material things to poor and destitute beings. I have always shown the correct path to sentient beings who are on a wrong path. I have always eliminated the pain of disease for sentient beings tormented by sicknesses. I have always offered food and drink to hungry and thirsty sentient beings. I have always brought satisfaction to flesh eaters and blood drinkers by offering them my own flesh and blood. Maudgalyāyana, since I have always acted in accordance with my aspirations, I have never fallen under the influence of laziness and indolence when it comes to following my commitments toward sentient beings. Maudgalyāyana, there is absolutely nothing different from this in all the truthful words I have spoken, from the moment I gave rise to the mind set on awakening until I awoke to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood. If I had been hindered by laziness and indolence on those occasions when I practiced diligently, I would not have awoken to unsurpassed and perfect buddhahood. Maudgalyāyana, my actions have always accorded with my words, and my words have always accorded with my actions.
This was the sixth chapter, Great Compassion.
’phags pa gang pos zhus pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo (Pūrṇaparipṛcchāsūtra). Toh 61, Degé Kangyur vol. 42 (dkon brtsegs, nga), folios 168b.1–227a.6.
———. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 108 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2006–2009, vol. 42, pp. 168b.1–227a.6.
———. Stok Palace Kangyur (stog pho brang bris ma bka’ ’gyur). Vol. 38 (dkon brtsegs, nga), folios 319v–411v.
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