Bodhisattvas Emerging from the Earth
At that time the bodhisattva mahāsattvas, who had arrived from other lands and whose number exceeded that of the sands of eight Ganges Rivers, stood up in the great assembly, bowed with their palms pressed together, and then spoke to the Buddha, saying: “O Bhagavat! If you give us permission to dili- gently strive to preserve, recite, copy and pay homage to this [Lotus] Sutra after the parinirvāṇa of the Buddha in this sahā world, then we will exten- sively teach it in this land.”
Then the Buddha addressed the assembly of bodhisattva mahāsattvas, saying: “Enough, O sons of a virtuous family! There is no need for you to preserve this sutra. Why is this? In my sahā world there are bodhisattva mahāsattvas, equal to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers in number; and each of these bodhisattvas, in turn, has a retinue equal to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers. After my parinirvāṇa they can preserve, recite, and extensively teach this sutra.”
When the Buddha said this all the lands of the great manifold cosmos in the sahā world quaked and the earth split. From out of this crevice there simultaneously appeared incalculable thousands of myriads of koṭis of bodhi- sattva mahāsattvas. All of these bodhisattvas had golden bodies endowed with the thirty-two marks and radiating immeasurable rays of light. They had all previously been living in the space under the earth of the sahā world. Having heard the sound of Śākyamuni’s teaching, all of these bodhisattvas emerged from below.
Each of those bodhisattvas presided over a great assembly and each led a retinue equal to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers in number. How much more numerous were the bodhisattvas who emerged leading retinues equal in number to the sands of ﬁfty thousand, forty thousand, thirty thou- sand, twenty thousand, or ten thousand Ganges Rivers! How much more numerous were the bodhisattvas who emerged leading retinues even equal to the sands of one Ganges River, half a Ganges River, a quarter of a Ganges River, or even just one thousandth of a myriad of a koṭi of a nayuta of the sands of a Ganges River! How many more retinues were there numbering thousands of myriads of koṭis of nayutas! How many more retinues were there numbering myriads of koṭis! How many more were those numbering ten million, one million, or even ten thousand! How many more were those numbering one thousand, one hundred, or even ten! How much more numer- ous were bodhisattvas leading disciples numbering ﬁve, four, three, two, or even one! And how many more bodhisattvas were there who had eagerly practiced alone and far from the worldly life! The number of such bodhi- sattvas as these is incalculable and limitless, beyond all calculation and metaphor.
Having emerged from the earth, each of these bodhisattvas approached the Tathāgatas Prabhūtaratna and Śākyamuni, still seated in the beautiful seven-jeweled stupa in the air. Going up to them, they bowed until their fore- heads touched the feet of both Bhagavats. Then, having bowed to the other buddhas, each sitting on a lion seat under the jeweled trees, they circumam- bulated them to the right three times, honoring them with their palms pressed together. Having praised them with various bodhisattva eulogies, they with- drew to one side and joyfully gazed at the two Bhagavats. All these bodhi- sattva mahāsattvas, having emerged from the earth, praised the buddhas with various bodhisattva eulogies. While they did, ﬁfty intermediate kalpas passed. During this time the Buddha Śākyamuni sat in silence; and the fourfold assemblies were also silent while the ﬁfty intermediate kalpas passed. Because of the Buddha’s transcendent powers, the great assemblies believed that the time that had passed was only half a day. Then, through the transcendent powers of the Buddha, the fourfold assemblies also saw the bodhisattvas ﬁlling the air throughout immeasurable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of lands.
There were four leaders among those bodhisattvas gathered there. They were called Viśiṣṭacāritra, Anantacāritra, Viśuddhacāritra, and Supratiṣṭhita- cāritra. These four bodhisattvas were the foremost leaders in the assembly. At the head of the great assembly, they each pressed their palms together, gazed at Śākyamuni Buddha, and inquired of him, saying: “O Bhagavat! Are you without illness or pain? Are you at ease in practice or not? Do those who should be saved accept your teaching easily or not? Do they not make you weary, O Bhagavat?”
Thereupon the four great bodhisattvas spoke these verses:
O Bhagavat! Are you at ease? Are you without illness or pain? Are you fatigued with leading And inspiring sentient beings? Do the sentient beings accept Your guidance easily or not?
Do they not tire the Bhagavat?
At that time the Bhagavat spoke to the great assembly of bodhisattvas, saying: “It is exactly like this, O sons of a virtuous family! It is exactly so! The Tathāgata is at ease and without illness or pain. It is easy to save sentient beings, and I am not fatigued. Why is this? Because sentient beings have con- tinually received my guidance throughout many lives, and they have also planted roots of good merit by revering and honoring the buddhas of the past. “When these sentient beings ﬁrst saw me and heard my teaching, all, except for those who had previously practiced and studied the inferior vehi- cle, immediately believed and accepted it and entered the Tathāgata’s wis- dom. Now I enable even such people as these to listen to this sutra and enter the Buddha’s wisdom.”
Then the great bodhisattvas spoke these verses:
O Bhagavat, Great Hero! All the sentient beings
Can easily be brought to the path. They can ask about
The profound wisdom of the buddhas. Hearing about it, they trust and accept it. We rejoice about this.
At that time the Bhagavat praised the foremost of the great bodhisattvas, saying: “Splendid, splendid, O sons of virtuous family! Thoughts of joy regarding the Tathāgata have awakened in you.”
Then Bodhisattva Maitreya and the assembly of bodhisattvas equal in number to the sands of eight thousand Ganges Rivers thought this:
Looking far into the past, we have never seen or heard of such an assembly of great bodhisattva mahāsattvas, who have now emerged from the earth and are standing before the Bhagavat with their palms pressed together in reverence, asking the Tathāgata questions.
Then Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Maitreya, knowing the minds of the bodhi- sattvas whose number was equal to the sands of eight thousand Ganges Rivers, and wanting to clear up their confusion, faced the Buddha with the palms of his hands pressed together and addressed him in verse, saying:
We have never seen such a great assembly Of incalculable thousands of myriads of koṭis Of bodhisattvas before.
We entreat you, O Best of Humans, To explain it to us!
Where have they come from?
For what reason have they gathered here? They look magniﬁcent
And have great transcendent powers.
Their wisdom is beyond our comprehension. They are ﬁrm in their resolve,
Have the power of great perseverance, And an appearance that sentient beings Desire to see.
Where have they come from?
Each of these bodhisattvas is leading
A retinue whose number is incalculable, Like the sands of the Ganges River.
Some great bodhisattvas are leading retinues Equal in number to the sands
Of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers. Great are the assemblies,
Singlemindedly seeking the buddha path.
These great leaders, equal in number
To the sands of sixty thousand Ganges Rivers,
Have come all together to pay homage to the Buddha And preserve this sutra.
The number of bodhisattvas leading retinues Equal in number to the sands of ﬁfty thousand Ganges Rivers is even greater;
And the number of bodhisattvas who lead retinues Equal in number to the sands of forty thousand, Thirty thousand, twenty thousand, ten thousand, One thousand, one hundred, even one, one half, One third, one fourth, one myriadth of a koṭi
Of the sands of a Ganges River exceeds even these. There are disciples who number
Thousands of myriads of nayutas, Myriads of koṭis, or even half a koṭi.
Their numbers also exceed that mentioned above. There are also disciples in retinues
Of one million, ten thousand,
One thousand, one hundred, ﬁfty, ten, Even three, two, or one in number.
There are also great bodhisattvas Who have come without retinues, Desiring to be in solitude.
The number of those
Who have come before the Buddha Is far beyond any calculation.
If anyone counted the number of such a great assembly With bamboo counting-sticks, he would not ﬁnish Even after exhausting kalpas greater in number
Than the sands of the Ganges River. Who has taught the Dharma
To this assembly of bodhisattvas,
Endowed with great dignity and perseverance? Who has inspired and perfected them?
Under whom did the thought of enlightenment First awaken in them?
Which Buddha-Dharma do they praise?
Whose sutra have they preserved and practiced? And which buddha path have they followed?
Such bodhisattvas as these, Endowed with transcendent powers And the power of great wisdom, Have all emerged out of the earth, Which quaked in the four directions And split asunder.
O Bhagavat! We have never seen Such a thing before.
We entreat you to tell us the name
Of the land from where they have come. We have been constantly traveling
In various regions,
Nevertheless we have never seen Such a thing before.
We do not know even a single person In this assembly.
All of a sudden
They have emerged from the earth.
We entreat you to explain the reason why.
All of the immeasurable hundreds of thousands Of koṭis of bodhisattvas in this great assembly Now wish to know about this matter.
There must be underlying causes for this, To explain all of these bodhisattvas.
O Bhagavat, He of Immeasurable Qualities! We entreat you to clear up
The confusion of the assembly!
Thereupon the buddhas who were the magically created forms of Śākya- muni Buddha arrived from other incalculable thousands of myriads of koṭis
of lands and sat cross-legged on lion seats under the jeweled trees in the eight directions. Each attendant of these buddhas had seen the great assembly of bodhisattvas as they emerged from out of the earth and ﬂoated in midair in the four directions of the great manifold cosmos. Each of them addressed his Buddha, saying: “O Bhagavat! Where has this great assembly of immeas- urable, limitless, incalculable bodhisattvas come from?”
Then the buddhas answered their attendants, saying: “O sons of a vir- tuous family! Wait a moment! There is a bodhisattva mahāsattva called Maitreya, who has received a prediction from the Buddha Śākyamuni that he will become a buddha after Śākyamuni in the future. Since he has already asked about this, the Buddha will now answer him. You shall be able to hear the reason yourselves.”
Then the Buddha Śākyamuni addressed Bodhisattva Maitreya, saying: “Splendid, splendid, O Ajita! You have asked the Buddha an important ques- tion. You should all singlemindedly don the armor of perseverance and be of ﬁrm will. The Tathāgata now wants to reveal the wisdom of the buddhas, the inherent transcendent powers of the buddhas, the lionlike digniﬁed power of the buddhas, the majestic and mighty power of the buddhas.”
Thereupon the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:
You should be persistent
And wholeheartedly attentive, For I want to explain it to you.
Do not have any doubts, for the wisdom Of the Buddha is difficult to comprehend!
You should now awaken the power of faith, And with perseverance abide in the good. Now you will all be able to hear
What you have never heard before. I will now put you at ease.
Have no doubts or fear!
The Buddha never speaks false words. His wisdom is immeasurable.
The foremost Dharma that he has attained
Is profound and difficult to explain.
I will now expound this difficult teaching, So you should listen wholeheartedly.
Then the Bhagavat, after speaking these verses, addressed Bodhisattva Maitreya, saying: “I will now proclaim it to all of you in this assembly. O Ajita! All of you have never seen these immeasurable, innumerable, incal- culable great bodhisattva mahāsattvas who have emerged from out of the earth. Having attained highest, complete enlightenment in this sahā world, I led, inspired, and instructed these bodhisattvas, restrained their thoughts, and caused the thought of the path to awaken in them. When these bodhi- sattvas lived in the space under the earth of this sahā world, they recited var- ious sutras, became well versed in them, and contemplated, analyzed, and correctly remembered them.
“O Ajita! All these sons of a virtuous family did not wish to be among the multitude where there is always much discussion. They always wanted to be in quiet places. They diligently strove without resting or relying upon devas or humans. They always desired the profound wisdom without obstruc- tions; they always wanted the Dharma of the buddhas. They strove whole- heartedly in seeking the highest wisdom.”
At that time the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:
O Ajita! You should know
That all of these great bodhisattvas
Have practiced the wisdom of the Buddha For innumerable kalpas.
They have all been inspired by me, And the thought of the great path Has awakened in them.
They are my heirs. Abiding in this world,
They always cultivated ascetic practices, Wishing to be in quiet places.
Rejecting the clamor of the multitude,
They did not want to have much discussion.
All my heirs such as these Constantly practiced my teaching With vigor, day and night.
In order to seek the buddha path They lived in the space
Under the earth of this sahā world. They were ﬁrm in recollection,
And they always diligently sought wisdom. Explaining various subtle teachings
Their minds were free from fear. Sitting under the bodhi tree
In the city of Gayā,
I attained highest, complete enlightenment, And turned the wheel of the highest Dharma. I then led and inspired them
So that the thought of the path Awakened in them for the ﬁrst time.
All of them are now at the stage of nonretrogression, And will certainly become buddhas with no residue. I now teach the truth.
You should wholeheartedly believe that From long, long ago I have been
Leading and inspiring all these bodhisattvas.
Then Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Maitreya and the innumerable other bodhi- sattvas became doubtful and confused concerning this unprecedented expe- rience. They thought this:
How is it possible in such a short time for the Bhagavat to have inspired such an immeasurable, limitless, incalculable number of great bodhi- sattvas, enabling them to abide in highest, complete enlightenment?
Immediately they addressed the Buddha, saying: “O Bhagavat! When the Tathāgata was a prince he left the palace of the Śākyas, sat on the ter- race of enlightenment which is not far from the city of Gayā, and attained highest, complete enlightenment. Since then more than forty years have passed. How is it possible, O Bhagavat, for you to have done such great buddha acts in such a short period of time? Is it through the might of the Buddha and through the Buddha’s qualities that you have inspired such an assembly of incalculable great bodhisattvas to achieve highest, complete enlightenment?
“O Bhagavat! Even if someone counted the number of the great bodhi- sattvas for thousands of myriads of koṭis of kalpas they would not be able to ﬁnish. There would be no end. From long ago these bodhisattvas have been planting roots of good merit in the presence of immeasurable, limitless buddhas. They have perfected the bodhisattva path and have always prac- ticed the pure path of discipline and integrity. It is, O Bhagavat, difficult to believe such things in this world.
“Suppose a handsome man with dark hair, twenty-ﬁve years of age, were to point to a hundred-year-old man and say:
He is my son.
“And the one-hundred-year-old man points to the young fellow and says: He is my father and he raised me!
“This would be difficult to believe; and what the Buddha has now taught is exactly like this. It has not, in fact, been so long since the Buddha attained the path. Yet for the sake of the buddha path this great assembly of bodhi- sattvas has been diligently striving for innumerable thousands of myriads of koṭis of kalpas. They have skillfully entered, abided in, and emerged from immeasurable thousands of myriads of koṭis of samādhis. They have attained great transcendent powers and practiced the pure path of discipline and integrity for a long time. They have gradually and ably practiced wholesome teachings and are skilled at discussions. They are jewels among humans and a great rarity in the entire world.
“Today the Bhagavat has correctly said that after he attained the path of the Buddha he caused the thought of enlightenment to awaken in the bodhi- sattvas for the ﬁrst time. He then led, inspired, and instructed them to approach highest, complete enlightenment. O Bhagavat! Although it has not been so long since you attained buddhahood yet you have really done these great meritorious acts.
“We believe the Buddha’s words, spoken according to our capacities, and that what he says is never false. We are all well versed in the Buddha’s knowledge. However, if the bodhisattvas in whom the thought of enlight- enment has recently awakened hear this after the Buddha’s parinirvāṇa, they will not accept it; and this will bring about conditions for erring deeds that destroy the Dharma. That is why, O Bhagavat, we entreat you to explain it to us and remove our doubts. Moreover, in the future, when the sons of a virtuous family hear this, they will also be free from doubt.”
Thereupon Bodhisattva Maitreya, wanting to elaborate upon the mean- ing of this further, spoke these verses:
Long ago the Buddha left
The household of the Śākya clan, And approached Gayā
Where he sat under the bodhi tree;
It has not been so long since that time. The number of the Buddha’s heirs
From long ago they have practiced the buddha path And attained transcendent powers and
The power of wisdom.
They have thoroughly studied The bodhisattva path,
And are as undeﬁled by worldly affairs, As the lotus blossom in the water.
They have emerged from out of the earth,
And all stood respectfully before the Bhagavats. It is difficult to comprehend this matter,
How can we possibly believe it! The Buddha attained the path Only a short time ago,
Yet he has accomplished so much. We entreat you to remove our doubts And give a detailed explanation According to the truth.
Suppose there were a young man Just twenty-ﬁve years of age
Who pointed to a one-hundred-year-old man, Who was wrinkled and had white hair, saying:
This is my offspring. The [old man] also says:
This is my father.
The father is young, and the son is old. No one in the world would believe it.
The Bhagavat’s teaching is exactly like this. He attained the path only a very short time ago, Yet these bodhisattvas are ﬁrm in resolution And without weak will;
They have been practicing the bodhisattva path For immeasurable kalpas.
They are skilled at difficult discussions, And their minds are free from fear.
They are resolute and persevering. They are handsome and digniﬁed,
Praised by the buddhas in the ten directions. They are good at detailed explanations.
They did not want to be among the multitudes For they always liked being in meditation, And so they lived in the space under the earth In order to seek the buddha path.
Since we heard about this from the Buddha We have no doubts about it;
But still we entreat you, O Buddha, to expound it And make it clear for the future.
Anyone in whom doubts awaken
And who does not believe in this sutra
Will certainly fall into the troubled states of being. That is why we now entreat you to explain
How in such a short time You have led and inspired
These innumerable bodhisattvas
So that the thought of enlightenment Has awakened in them
And they abide in the stage of nonretrogression.