The Lotus Sutra

1: Virtuous Conduct

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1. Virtuous Conduct

This is what I heard.


AT ONE TIME the Buddha was staying at Rajagriha on Holy Eagle Peak with a large group of great monks, twelve thousand in all. Eighty thousand bodhisattva great ones were also there. There were gods, dragons, satyrs, centaurs, asuras, griffins, chimeras, and pythons, in addition to all the monks and nuns, laymen and laywomen. There were great wheel-turning kings, minor wheel-turning kings, golden wheel-turning kings, silver wheel-turning kings, and other wheel-turning kings. There were kings and princes, ministers and people, men and women, and great elders, each surrounded by followers numbering in the hundreds of thousands. They went up to the Buddha, worshiped at his feet, circled around him a hundred thousand times, burned incense and scattered flowers. After making various offerings, they withdrew and sat to one side.

The names of those bodhisattvas included Dharma Prince Manjushri, Dharma Prince Treasury of Great Majesty, Dharma Prince Treasury of Freedom from Anxiety, Dharma Prince Treasury of Great Oration, Maitreya Bodhisattva, Leader Bodhisattva, Medicine King Bodhisattva, Lord of Medicine Bodhisattva, Flower Banner Bodhisattva, Flower Light Banner Bodhisattva, King Incantation Freedom Bodhisattva, Regarder of the Cries of the World Bodhisattva, Great Power Obtained Bodhisattva, Constantly Persevering Bodhisattva, Leader in Valuable Signs Bodhisattva, Accumulated Jewels Bodhisattva, Valuable Cane Bodhisattva, Above the Threefold World Bodhisattva, Vimabhara 24 Bodhisattva, Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva, Great Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva, Lion’s Roar King Bodhisattva, Lion at Play in the World Bodhisattva, Lion’s Powerful Quickness Bodhisattva, Lion’s Perseverance Bodhisattva, Courageous Power Bodhisattva, Ferocious Lion Bodhisattva, Adorned Bodhisattva, and Magnificently Adorned Bodhisattva. In all, eighty thousand such bodhisattva great ones were there.

Of these bodhisattvas there is none who is not a great leader who has attained the Dharma-body. They have attained the precepts, concentration, wisdom, liberation, and insight into liberation. Tranquil and meditative, and constantly in a state of concentration, they are calm and peaceful, not attached to actions or to desires. Completely free from perversity and distractions, their minds are calm and serene, free of bias and unrestricted. They have remained this way for billions and billions of eons, and all the innumerable gateways to the Dharma have appeared to them.

Having obtained the greatest wisdom, they can understand all things deeply, completely understanding the reality of the nature and characteristics of things, clearly distinguishing their ontological status and their relative strengths and weaknesses, and make clear the revelatory quality of reality.

Moreover, knowing well the abilities, natures, and desires of all, with incantations and unobstructed eloquence, they obediently and skillfully turn the Dharma wheel of the buddhas.

First, they have small drops of moisture fall to dampen the dust of desire, and by opening the gateway of nirvana, fanning the wind of liberation, and ridding themselves of the heat of worldly passions, they bring about the cooling quality of the Dharma.

Next, raining down the profound teaching of the twelve causes and conditions, pouring it on the ferocious, intense rays of suffering — ignorance, old age, illness, death, and so on — they pour out the unexcelled Great Vehicle, soak the good roots of all the living with it, scatter seeds of goodness over the field of blessings, and everywhere bring forth sprouts of awakening. With wisdom as bright as the sun and the moon, and timely use of skillful means, they make the enterprise of the Great Vehicle prosper and grow, and lead many to attain supreme awakening quickly. Always living in the blessedness of a reality that is fine and wonderful, with immeasurable great compassion, they save the living from suffering.


They are truly good friends of living beings, an excellent field of blessings for the living. Without having to be asked, they teach living beings. They are a place of tranquil happiness for living beings, a place of salvation, a place of protection, and a place of great reliance. For the sake of living beings everywhere they become excellent leaders and teachers, great leaders and teachers. They become eyes for the blind, and ears, noses, or tongue for those who are deaf, or have no nose, or cannot speak. They restore defective organs and turn the deranged to great and correct thinking.

As the captain or admiral of a ship, they carry masses of living beings across the river of life and death to the shore of nirvana.

As a king or emperor of medicine, they analyze diseases, know well the properties of medicines, give them to all the living according to the disease, and get them to take them.

As a trainer or master trainer, they are never undisciplined. Rather, they are like a trainer of elephants and horses who never fails to train well, or like a brave lion who has authority over all the beasts and is never overcome by them.

Advanced in and enjoying the various transcendental practices of bodhisattvas, they are firm and immovable in the land of the Tathagata. Dwelling at peace in the power of their vows, they purify buddha-lands everywhere. They will rapidly attain supreme awakening. All these bodhisattva great ones have such amazing blessings.

Those monks included Great Wisdom Shariputra, Divine Power Maudgalyayana, Wisdom Life Subhuti, Maha-Katyayana, Maitrayani’s son Purna, Ajnata-Kaundinya, Divine Eye Aniruddha, Precept-Keeping Upali, Attendant Ananda, Buddha’s son Rahula, Upananda, Revata, Kapphina, Vakkula, Acyuta, Svagata, Dhuta Maha-Kashyapa, Uruvilva-Kashyapa, Gaya-Kashyapa, and Nadi-Kashyapa. There were twelve thousand monks such as these. All were arhats, unconstrained by bondage or faults, free from attachments and truly liberated.

At that time Magnificently Adorned Bodhisattva, the great one, realizing that everyone in the group was sitting in concentration, got up from his seat, went up to the Buddha, and with the eighty thousand bodhisattva great ones in the assembly, prostrated himself at his feet, made processions around him a hundred thousand times, scattered heavenly flowers, burned heavenly incense, and presented the Buddha with 26 heavenly robes, garlands, and jewels of priceless value that came rolling down from the sky and gathered on all sides like clouds. Heavenly bins and bowls were filled with all sorts of heavenly delicacies, which satisfied people naturally just by their color and aroma. They placed heavenly banners, flags, canopies, and musical instruments everywhere, pleased the Buddha with heavenly music, then knelt with hands together before him and in one voice wholeheartedly praised him in verse, saying:


He is great, the great awakened one,
The great holy Lord,
In him there is no defilement,
No contamination, no attachment.


Trainer of gods and men, elephants and horses,
The breeze of his way
And the fragrance of his virtue
Permeate all.


Quiet is his wisdom,
Calm his emotion,
Serene and firm his reasoning.
His will has departed.


His self-consciousness has been abolished,
Making him serene.
Long ago, he eradicated delusory thinking
And overcame the elements, the aggregates,
The senses, and the realms of thought.


His body is neither existing nor non-existing,
Neither caused nor conditioned,
Neither itself nor other,
Neither square nor round,
Neither short nor long.


It does not appear or disappear.
It is not born and does not die. 27
It is neither constructed nor raised up,
Neither made nor produced.


It is neither sitting nor lying,
Neither walking nor standing still,
Neither moving nor turning over,
Neither at rest nor idle.


It does not advance or retreat,
Knows not safety or danger,
Neither right nor wrong.
It is neither virtuous nor improper.


It is neither this nor that,
Neither going nor coming.


It is neither blue nor yellow,
Neither red nor white;
Neither crimson nor purple,
Nor a variety of colors.


Born of precepts, concentration,
Wisdom, liberation, and insight,
He stems from contemplation,
The six powers, and the elements of the Way.


Springing from kindness and compassion,
The ten powers and courage,
He emerges from
The good actions of living beings.


He shows his body:


Sixteen feet tall,
Shining with purple gold,
Well proportioned,
Brilliant and very bright. 28


The tuft of curled hair is like the moon.
The light of the sun comes from the nape of his neck.
His curly hair is deep blue
And on the top of his head is a protuberance.


His pure eyes are like mirrors,
And work well in all directions.
His eyebrows are dark blue;
His mouth and cheeks well shaped.


His lips and tongue are a nice red,
Like a bright red flower.
His forty white teeth
Look like snowy jewels.


His forehead is broad,
His nose long and his face open.
His chest, marked with a swastika,
Is like the chest of a lion.


His hands and feet are soft,
Marked with the spokes of a wheel.
Their soles and palms are well rounded,
And the grip is firm.


His arms are long,
His fingers straight and slender.
His skin is delicate and soft
And his hair curls to the right.


His ankles and knees are exposed.
His male organ is concealed,
Like that of a horse.


His muscles are smooth.
His joints are strong. 29
His legs are tapered,
Like those of a deer.


His back is as resplendent as his front,
Pure and without blemish,
Untainted, like clear water,
Unspotted by any dirt.


His distinguishing thirty-two characteristics
And the eighty different attractive features seem to
be visible,
Yet in reality, his form is neither with nor without
All visible features are transcended.


Without having features
His body has features.
This is also true of the features
Of the bodies of all living beings.


They incite joy and respect
In living beings,
Eliciting devotion, esteem,
And courtesy toward him.


By cutting off pride and arrogance,
He has acquired such a glorious body.


Now we, the assembly of eighty thousand,
Together make obeisance
To the one who has extinguished
Reflective thought and consciousness.


In the saint without attachments,
The trainer of elephants and horses,
We take refuge. 30


Making obeisance,
We submit ourselves to the material body of the Dharma:
Precepts, concentration,
Wisdom, liberation, and insight.


Making obeisance,
We submit ourselves to his wonderful, noble character.
Making obeisance,
We submit ourselves to the inconceivable.


His Brahma voice,
Which resonates like the eight kinds of thunder,
Fine, wonderful, and pure,
Is very profound and far-reaching.


To living beings he spreads the four truths,
The six practices
And the twelve causes,
According to their mental workings.


If one hears,
One’s mind is opened,
Breaking the bonds
Of innumerable chains of life and death.


Some who hear become stream-enterers,
Once-returners, non-returners, arhats.
Some reach the state of a faultless,
Unconditioned pratyekabuddha.


Some reach the level of a bodhisattva
Free from arising and extinction.
Some obtain innumerable incantations,
Make eloquent explanations without hindrance,


Recite profound and wonderful verses,
Play and bathe in the pure pond of the Dharma, 31
Or display the divine power to soar and fly
And freely go in and out of water or fire.


Such are the characteristics
Of the Tathagata’s Dharma wheel.
It is pure, unlimited, and inconceivable.


Making obeisance together,
We dedicate our lives
To the timely rolling
Of the Dharma wheel.


We make obeisance,
And submit ourselves to the Brahma voice.
We make obeisance and submit ourselves
To the causes, truths, and practices.


For uncountable past eons,
Through toil and suffering,
The World-Honored One has studied and practiced
All kinds of virtuous activities.


For the sake of human beings,
Heavenly beings, and dragon kings,
For all living beings everywhere,
He has given up all things hard to give up:


Goods and treasures,
Wife and child, country and palace.
Because of the Dharma
That is both for Buddhists and for non-Buddhists,


He was unsparing of himself and his possessions,
Giving his head, eyes,
Bones, and brain, everything,
As offerings to people. 32


He kept the buddhas’
Pure prohibitions
And never did any wrong,
Even at the cost of his own life.


Even though beaten
With swords or sticks,
Or cursed and insulted,
He never became angry.


Despite the abuse to his body for eons,
He never became weary or worn out.
He was at peace day and night,
And constantly meditating.


He studied all the ways of things,
With deep wisdom
Recognizing the capacities
Of living beings.


This is why,
Having obtained the power of freedom,
He became the Dharma king,
Free in the Dharma.


Again making obeisance all together,
We take refuge in the one
Who has done all difficult things.

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