Ease in Practice
Thereupon the Prince of the Dharma, Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Mañjuśrī addressed the Buddha, saying: “O Bhagavat! These bodhisattvas are very rare. In respectful obedience to the Buddha they have made this great vow: ‘In the troubled world to come, we will preserve, recite, and teach this Lotus Sutra!’ “O Bhagavat! How can these bodhisattva mahāsattvas teach this sutra
in the troubled world to come?”
The Buddha addressed Mañjuśrī, saying: “If the bodhisattva mahāsattvas want to teach this sutra in the troubled world to come, they should abide in the four kinds of practices. The ﬁrst is to establish the sphere of their bodhi- sattva practice and the sphere of their relationships and thereupon expound this sutra for the sake of sentient beings.
“O Mañjuśrī! What is the sphere of the practice of the bodhisattva mahāsattva? If a bodhisattva mahāsattva abides in the stage of perseverance, is gentle, tranquil, nonviolent, and unafraid; and furthermore if he remains unmoved with regard to existent things and perceives them in their true aspect, and neither acts nor discriminates, this is called the sphere of the practice of the bodhisattva mahāsattva.
“What is the sphere of the relationships of the bodhisattva mahāsattva? The bodhisattva mahāsattva should not consort with kings, princes, minis- ters, and chief officials. He should not consort with heretics, brahmans, Jains, and others, or with worldly writers, critics of poetry, materialists, or extreme materialists. Nor should he become acquainted with pranksters, boxers, wrestlers, clowns, and various jugglers, nor with outcastes and people who raise boars, sheep, chickens, and dogs, nor with hunters, ﬁshermen, and those with evil conduct. A bodhisattva should teach such people the Dharma if they come to him, but expect nothing.
“Nor should a bodhisattva consort with monks, nuns, laymen, and lay- women who seek the śrāvaka vehicle. Nor should he greet them. The bodhi- sattva should avoid their company in chambers, on roads, or while in lecture halls, and not remain with them. If they come, teach them the Dharma accord- ing to their capacities, but expect nothing!
“Moreover, O Mañjuśrī! The bodhisattva mahāsattva should expound the teaching without any thought of desire for, or wish to see, a woman’s body. “If a bodhisattva enters someone else’s home he should not talk to young girls, maidens, and widows. A bodhisattva should also not approach the ﬁve kinds of impotent men nor be intimate with them. He should not enter some- one else’s home alone; and if for any reason he should enter it alone a bodhi- sattva should do nothing but singlemindedly contemplate the Buddha. “If he should teach the Dharma to women he should not show his teeth when smiling nor reveal his chest. A bodhisattva should not be intimate with them even for the sake of the Dharma. How much less for other things! “A bodhisattva should take no pleasure in keeping young disciples, śrā- maṇeras, or young boys. Nor should he take pleasure in having the same teacher as them. He should always take pleasure in meditation and, in a quiet place, practice to control his mind. O Mañjuśrī! This is what is known as the ﬁrst sphere of relationships.
“Furthermore, the bodhisattva mahāsattvas perceive the emptiness of all dharmas in their true aspect. All things are unerring, unmoving, nonre- turning, irreversible, and like empty space which lacks substance. They are beyond all language. They are not produced, nor do they emerge, nor do they arise. They do not have any name or mark, and in reality they have no sub- stance. They are immeasurable, limitless, without obstacles or obstructions. They exist only through dependent origination, arising through error. That is why I teach the permanent joy of perceiving the aspects of all existent things in this way. This is what is known as the second sphere of relation- ships of a bodhisattva mahāsattva.”
At that time the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate upon the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:
If, in the troubled world to come, A bodhisattva with a fearless mind Wants to teach this sutra,
He should enter the sphere Of the bodhisattva practice
And the sphere of relationships.
He should always stay away from kings, Princes, ministers, chief officials, Dangerous pranksters, outcastes, Heretics, and brahmans.
He should not consort
With excessively proud scholars,
Who are attached to scriptures of the inferior vehicle Contained in the three baskets (Tripiṭaka);
Nor with monks who violate the precepts, With those who call themselves arhats, Nor with nuns who like to joke and laugh.
He should not become acquainted with laywomen Who are attached to the desires of the ﬁve senses, And seek nirvana in their present lives.
If these people come to the bodhisattva With good intentions
In order to hear about the buddha path, The bodhisattva should then fearlessly Teach them the Dharma
Without any expectations. A bodhisattva should not
Become intimately acquainted With widows, maidens,
Or impotent men. Nor should he consort
With slaughterers, butchers, hunters, Or ﬁshermen who kill for proﬁt.
He should not consort With people such as those Who make a living
From selling meat
Or from pandering prostitutes.
He should never become acquainted With dangerous wrestlers,
Or the varieties of jugglers or courtesans.
He should not teach the Dharma To a woman alone in a quiet place. When he teaches the Dharma
He should not joke or laugh.
If he enters a village to beg for food He should be accompanied by a monk. If there is no monk he should
Singlemindedly contemplate the Buddha. This is what is known as
The sphere of the bodhisattva practice And the sphere of relationships.
Within these two spheres He can teach at ease.
He should not practice
The superior, mediocre, or inferior teachings, The conditioned and the unconditioned,
Or the teaching of the real and the unreal. Nor should he discriminate
Between men and women.
He should not acquire, comprehend, Or perceive any phenomenon.
This is what is known As the sphere of the Bodhisattva practice.
All dharmas are empty and without substance, Impermanent, without origination or cessation. This is known as the sphere
Of the relationships of the wise. Through the error of discrimination One sees all existent things
As existing or nonexisting, Real or unreal,
Produced or unproduced.
Being in a quiet place, the bodhisattva Carries out practices to control his mind
And remains as ﬁrm and unmoved As Mount Sumeru.
He should regard all dharmas As being without substance, Like empty space
Which has no ﬁrmness.
All dharmas are neither produced Nor do they emerge;
They are immovable, nonreturning,
And always remain in their single character. This is known as the sphere of relationships. Any monk after my parinirvāṇa
Who enters the sphere of practice And the sphere of relationships Will not be disheartened
When he teaches this sutra.
A bodhisattva, at proper times, Should enter a quiet chamber And contemplate all dharmas With correct thoughts, According to the meaning.
Arising from meditation he should reveal And expound this sutra
To kings, princes, ministers, and brahmans. Then his mind will be at ease and unafraid. O Mañjuśrī!
This is the bodhisattva
Who ﬁrmly abides in the Dharma from the beginning And in the world to come will be able
To teach the Lotus Sutra.
“Furthermore, O Mañjuśrī, after the Tathāgata’s parinirvāṇa, anyone who wants to teach this sutra in the Age of the Decadent Dharma should abide in ease of practice. When he expounds or recites this sutra he should not take pleasure in talking about the faults of people or of the sutra. Nor should he slander other expounders of the Dharma or talk of the good and bad, strong and weak points of others.
“As for the śrāvakas, a bodhisattva should not name them and point out their faults, nor name them and praise their virtues. Moreover, he should not feel any hatred; because if he skillfully practices ease of mind in this way, those who listen to him will not oppose his intentions. If he is asked diffi- cult questions, he should not answer using the teaching of the inferior vehi- cle. He should take his explanation only from the Mahayana, which will enable them to attain omniscience.”
At that time the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate the meaning of this fur- ther, spoke these verses:
The bodhisattva should always willingly Teach the Dharma at ease,
Establishing his seat in a pure place. He should anoint his body with oil To cleanse himself of dirt,
And put on new, clean clothing.
Both his outer garments and undergarments being pure, Sitting comfortably on the Dharma seat,
He should teach according to the questions.
If there are any monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen, Or kings, princes, subjects, officials, and commoners, Using subtle ideas he should teach them
With a composed countenance. If they have difficult questions
He should answer in accordance with the meaning, Expounding and illuminating it
With various explanations and illustrations. Through these skillful means
He should awaken the thought of Enlightenment in them all, Gradually beneﬁting them,
And causing them to enter the buddha path. Ridding them of idle minds
And lazy thoughts, As well as anxieties,
He should compassionately Teach the Dharma.
He should continuously expound The teaching of the highest path
Both day and night, using various explanations And incalculable illustrations.
Revealing this to sentient beings He will cause them all to rejoice.
He should not expect to receive any clothing, Bedding, food and drink, or medicine.
He should only singlemindedly think Of teaching the Dharma,
Gain mastery of the buddha path,
And enable sentient beings also to attain it. It is exactly this kind of offering
That brings great beneﬁt and ease.
After my parinirvāṇa if there is any monk Who is able to explain the Lotus Sutra,
His mind will be free from the obstructions of Jealousy, anger, and anxiety.
He will also be without sorrows And no one will slander him.
He will not be afraid of being Attacked with swords and sticks;
And he will not be expelled from the sangha, Because he abides in perseverance.
The wise skillfully compose Their minds in this way And can abide in ease,
As I have described above. One would not be able to fully
Describe the qualities of such a person Through calculations and illustrations,
Though they lasted for
Thousands of myriads of koṭis of kalpas.
“Furthermore, O Mañjuśrī, in the future when the Dharma becomes extinct, any bodhisattva mahāsattva who preserves and recites this sutra will not feel jealous or be deceitful, nor will he insult those who study the buddha path by pointing out their good qualities or their deﬁciencies.
“If there are any monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen who are seeking the śrāvaka vehicle, the pratyekabuddha vehicle, or the bodhisattva path, a bodhisattva will not worry them, causing them to have doubts by saying:
You are very far away from the path and will never be able to attain omniscience. Why is this? Because you are negligent and idle in the path.
“Moreover, a bodhisattva also should not devise hollow sophistries con- cerning the teachings and argue about them. In him the thought of great com- passion for all sentient beings should awaken, together with the thought that all Tathāgatas are compassionate fathers and that all bodhisattvas are great teachers. He should always deeply respect and pay homage to all of the great bodhisattvas in the ten directions. He should teach the Dharma equally to all sentient beings in accordance with the Dharma, explaining neither too much nor too little. Nor should he teach too much even to those who are deeply enthusiastic about hearing the Dharma.
“O Mañjuśrī! In the future world, when the Dharma is to be extinguished, this bodhisattva mahāsattva, having perfected the third sphere of ease in practice, will not be perplexed when he teaches this Dharma. He will become acquainted with good fellow students who will recite this sutra together. He will also acquire a great following who come to hear his teaching, preserve it after hearing it, recite it after preserving it, teach it after reciting it, copy it after teaching it, and enable others to copy, respect, honor, praise, and pay homage to the [Lotus] Sutra.”
Thereupon the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:
If anyone wants to teach this sutra, He should get rid of jealousy, anger,
Pride, ﬂattery, deceitfulness, and falsity. He should always practice honest conduct. He should not slander others
Or make up fallacies about the Dharma.
Nor should he cause others to be doubtful by saying: You will not become a buddha.
This heir of the Buddha who teaches the Dharma Should always be gentle, patient,
And compassionate to all.
He should never have lazy thoughts.
He should respect the great bodhisattvas In the ten directions who practice the path
Out of their compassion for sentient beings, And think that they are his great teachers. He should think that all the Buddha Bhagavats are the most excellent fathers.
Destroying arrogance, he should teach The Dharma without obstructions.
The third sphere of the teaching Of ease in practice is like this. The wise should preserve it.
Those who practice wholeheartedly and at ease Will be honored by innumerable sentient beings.
“Furthermore, O Mañjuśrī, in the future world when the Dharma is to be extinguished, any bodhisattva mahāsattva who preserves this Lotus Sutra will awaken the thought of great kindness toward lay Buddhists and renun- ciants and also awaken the thought of great compassion toward non-bodhi- sattvas. He should think:
People like these have really missed the Tathāgata’s teaching of the Dharma according to their capacities through skillful means. They do not hear, know, or realize it. They do not ask, believe, or understand. Those people do not even ask questions about this sutra, believe it, or understand it. When I attain highest, complete enlightenment, wherever I am, I will lead them and enable them to abide in this teaching through my transcendent powers and power of wisdom.
“O Mañjuśrī! After the Tathāgata’s parinirvāṇa, this bodhisattva mahāsattva, who has perfected the fourth sphere of the teaching of ease in practice, will be faultless when he teaches this Dharma. He will always be paid homage to, respected, honored, and praised by monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, kings, princes, ministers, commoners, brahmans, and house- holders. The devas in the sky will always accompany him in order to hear the Dharma. If he is in a village, city, secluded spot, or forest and the peo- ple want to come and ask difficult questions, the devas will protect him both day and night, always for the sake of the Dharma, and he will cause all of those who listen to him to rejoice. Why is this? Because this sutra is pre- served through the transcendent powers of all the buddhas of the past, pres- ent, and future.
“O Mañjuśrī! Even the title of this Lotus Sutra cannot be heard in incal- culable lands. How much more is it unable to be seen, accepted, preserved, and recited!
“O Mañjuśrī! Suppose a very powerful noble emperor wanted to sub- due other countries with his might, but the lesser kings would not obey his command. In such a case the noble emperor gathers an army together to over- come them. He recognizes the soldiers who have committed brave deeds in war and, greatly rejoicing, he bestows boons according to their merit, such as estates, villages, cities, garments, ornaments, various treasures, gold, sil- ver, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, agate, coral, amber, elephants, horses, char- iots, servants, and subjects, but he never gives them the precious jewel in his topknot. Why is this? Because only the noble emperor has this precious jewel in his topknot. If the emperor gives it away his attendants would cer- tainly be very surprised and mistrustful.
“O Mañjuśrī! The Tathāgata is exactly like this. He has attained the land of the Dharma through his powers of concentration and wisdom. Thus he has become the king of the triple world. Since the māra kings will not obey him, the wise and noble generals of the Tathāgata come to do battle with them. The Tathāgata rejoices at the meritorious ones and teaches various sutras to the fourfold assembly, gladdening them. He bestows upon them the property of all the teachings about concentrations, liberations, faculties with- out corruption, and powers. He also bestows upon them the city of nirvana. Saying that they have attained nirvana, he leads their minds onward and glad- dens them all. And yet he does not teach them the Lotus Sutra.
“O Mañjuśrī! It is just as if the noble emperor ﬁnally gives the jewel that has been long concealed in his topknot. Although he perceived the great merit of those soldiers and was deeply pleased, he did not rashly give them the marvelous jewel. The Tathāgata is also exactly like this. Since he is the great King of the Dharma in the triple world he inspires all the sentient beings through the Dharma. When he sees the wise and noble soldiers who have done battle with the māra of the ﬁve aggregates, the māra of desires, and the māra of death, who have great merit in battle, and have extinguished the three poisons, left the triple world, and broken out of Māra’s net, he then rejoices greatly. He now teaches the Lotus Sutra, which is treated with hos- tility by the entire world and is difficult to believe in, and which he has never taught before, and enables sentient beings to attain omniscience.
“O Mañjuśrī! This Lotus Sutra is the ultimate teaching of all the Tathā- gatas, the most profound among all the teachings, and conferred at the very end. It was in the same way that the very powerful and noble emperor gave the jewel after having preserved it for a long time.
“O Mañjuśrī! This Lotus Sutra is the secret treasure house of all the Buddha Tathāgatas, and the foremost among all the sutras. The Buddha has preserved it for a long time and he has not taught it indiscriminately. Now, for the ﬁrst time he teaches it.”
At that time the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:
Always practice patience
And be compassionate toward all, Since only then can one expound A sutra praised by the Buddha!
In the future those who preserve this sutra Should be compassionate and kind toward
Lay Buddhists, renunciants, and non-bodhisattvas, Saying:
Those who have not heard this sutra Or who do not believe in it
Have consequently lost a great opportunity. When I attain the buddha path
I will expound this teaching Through various skillful means And enable them to abide in it.
Suppose there was a powerful, noble emperor
Who bestows upon those soldiers meritorious in battle Various gifts of elephants, horses, chariots, conveyances, Ornaments, estates, villages, cities, garments,
Various treasures, servants, and wealth. He gives these gifts with joy.
If there is anyone who has been brave And has performed difficult deeds, The noble emperor gives
The precious jewel in his topknot. The Tathāgata is exactly like this.
He is the emperor of all the teachings. Out of his great compassion,
And through his treasury of wisdom And great power of patience,
He inspires the world according to the Dharma. Seeing all the sentient beings suffering, Seeking liberation
And doing battle with the māras,
He explains various teachings for the beings And teaches various sutras
With his great skillful means. Knowing that the sentient beings have
Finally attained the power to understand,
He teaches this Lotus Sutra only at the very end, Just like the noble emperor
Who gave the jewel in his topknot.
This sutra is the utmost, Superior to all the sutras.
I have constantly preserved it
And have not revealed it indiscriminately. Now is the right time to teach it to you.
After my parinirvāṇa
Those seeking the buddha path,
Who want to attain ease and expound this sutra, Should become familiar with these four spheres Of the teaching concerning ease in practice.
Those who recite this sutra will always Be free from anxiety and illness,
And will have a noble countenance. They will not be born into poverty, Lowliness or ugliness.
Sentient beings will want to meet them Just as they long to meet a wise seer,
And all of the devaputras will serve them. Sticks and swords cannot hurt them,
And poison cannot harm them. If people slander them
Those slanderers’ mouths will be sealed up. They will travel fearlessly
Like a lion king, and
The light of their wisdom
Will illuminate just like the sun.
If they dream they see only subtle things. They see the Tathāgatas seated on lion seats, Teaching the Dharma to the assembly
Of monks surrounding them. They see nāgas and asuras,
As numerous as the sands of the Ganges River, Honoring the Tathāgatas
With their palms pressed together. Revealing themselves,
They teach the Dharma to these beings.
They also see the buddhas, with golden bodies, Emitting immeasurable rays of light
Which illuminate universally,
And expounding various teachings With beautiful voices like Brahma’s. To the fourfold assembly
The Buddha teaches the highest Dharma. Revealing themselves among them, They praise the Buddha
With palms pressed together. Hearing the Dharma they rejoice And pay homage to the Buddha. They attain the power of recollection
And achieve the wisdom of nonretrogression. The Buddha, knowing their minds,
And that they have deeply entered the buddha path, Gives them a prediction of the highest,
Complete enlightenment, saying:
O son of a virtuous family!
In the future you will attain immeasurable Wisdom and the great path of the Buddha. Your land will be pure and vast,
Beyond all comparison.
The fourfold assembly will also be there Listening to the Dharma with their palms Pressed together.
They who recite this sutra also see themselves
In mountain forests, practicing excellent teachings, Experiencing the real aspect,
Deeply entering into concentration,
And looking at the buddhas in the ten directions, All of whom have golden bodies
Adorned with a hundred auspicious marks.
They will always have such pleasant dreams And, hearing the Dharma taught,
They will teach it to others.
They will also dream about becoming
The king of a realm who abandons his palace And retinue, and the highly pleasing
Desires of the ﬁve senses,
Approaches the terrace of enlightenment, Sits on the lion seat under the bodhi tree, Attains the wisdom of all the buddhas After seeking the path for seven days,
And who, arising, turns the wheel of the Dharma After having attained the highest path.
They will teach the Dharma to the fourfold assembly For thousands of myriads of koṭis of kalpas.
Explaining the true and incorruptible Dharma, They will save innumerable sentient beings. Later they will enter nirvana
Just as smoke dies away
When the ﬂame of a candle is extinguished. If anyone in the troubled world to come Teaches this highest Dharma
They will attain great beneﬁts Like the merits mentioned above.