Description of Merits
Thereupon, when the great assembly heard the Buddha explain that his lifes- pan was of such a great number of kalpas, an immeasurable, limitless, incalculable number of sentient beings were greatly beneﬁted.
Then the Bhagavat addressed Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Maitreya, say- ing: “O Ajita! When I explained the great length of this Tathāgata’s lifespan, sentient beings, equal to the sands of the six hundred and eighty myriads of koṭis of nayutas of Ganges Rivers in number, gained understanding of the truth of the nonorigination of all dharmas. Furthermore, a thousand times this number of bodhisattva mahāsattvas attained the power of recollecting what they hear; and bodhisattva mahāsattvas equal to the number of parti- cles in one world attained unhindered eloquence. Moreover, there were bodhi- sattva mahāsattvas equal to the particles in one world who attained the power of tenacious memory which revolves hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of immeasurable times. There were also bodhisattva mahāsattvas equal to the number of particles in the great manifold cosmos who turned the irre- versible wheel of the Dharma, and bodhisattva mahāsattvas equal to the num- ber of particles in two medium-sized manifold cosmos who turned the puriﬁed wheel of the Dharma.
“Furthermore, there were bodhisattva mahāsattvas equal to the number of particles in one small-sized cosmos who will be able to attain highest, complete enlightenment after eight births; bodhisattva mahāsattvas equal to the number of particles in the four fourfold continents who will attain high- est, complete enlightenment after four births; bodhisattva mahāsattvas equal to the number of particles in the threefold four continents who will attain highest, complete enlightenment after three births; bodhisattva mahāsattvas equal to the number of particles in the twofold four continents who will attain highest, complete enlightenment after two births; and bodhisattva mahāsattvas equal to the number of particles in the four continents who will attain high- est, complete enlightenment after one birth. Moreover there were sentient beings equal to the number of particles in the eightfold great manifold cos- mos, in all of whom the thought of highest, complete enlightenment had awakened.”
When the Buddha explained that these bodhisattva mahāsattvas had attained deep insight into the Dharma, māndārava and great māndārava ﬂowers rained down from the sky, scattering over the buddhas who were seated on lion seats under immeasurable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of jeweled trees; and they scattered over Śākyamuni Buddha and the Tathāgata Prabhūtaratna, who had attained parinirvāṇa long ago, both of whom were sitting on the lion seat in a seven-jeweled stupa; they also scat- tered over all of the great bodhisattvas and the fourfold assembly. Finely powdered sandalwood and aloeswood incense also rained down, and heav- enly drums resounded in the sky with a deep and beautiful sound. One thou- sand kinds of heavenly garments, draped with strings of pearl, jewels, and wish-fulﬁlling gems (maṇi), rained down, ﬁlling the nine directions. Price- less incense burned in various jeweled incense holders, and its fragrance spread spontaneously throughout the great assembly as an offering. Above each buddha there were bodhisattvas holding banners and umbrellas that extended upward to the Brahma world. These bodhisattvas praised the buddhas by singing immeasurable verses with beautiful voices.
Then Bodhisattva Maitreya rose from his seat, leaving his right shoul- der bared, faced the Buddha with the palms of his hands pressed together, and spoke these verses:
The Buddha has taught this marvelous Dharma That we have never heard before.
The Bhagavat has great powers And his lifespan is immeasurable. Innumerable heirs of the Buddha Attained the beneﬁt of the Dharma
After hearing the Bhagavat’s explanation, And became completely ﬁlled with joy. Some attained the stage of nonretrogression, And others the power of recollection.
Some attained unhindered eloquence,
And others the power of tenacious memory
Which revolves many koṭis of times. There were also bodhisattvas,
Equal to the number of particles In the great cosmos,
Who each turned the irreversible wheel Of the Dharma.
There were also bodhisattvas, Equal to the number of particles In a medium cosmos,
Who each turned the puriﬁed Wheel of the Dharma.
There were also bodhisattvas, Equal to the number of particles In a small cosmos,
Who after eight births
Will complete the buddha path. There were also bodhisattvas, Equal to four times, three times,
And two times the number of particles In the four continents,
Who after four, three, and two births Will attain buddhahood.
There were also bodhisattvas, Equal to the number of particles In the four continents,
Who will obtain omniscience After one birth;
And sentient beings, having heard about The great length of the Buddha’s lifespan, Attained immeasurable results
That were pure and without corruption. There were also sentient beings,
Equal to the number of particles In the eight worlds,
In whom, having heard about the lifespan of the Buddha,
The thought of highest enlightenment awakened. The Bhagavat has taught the Dharma
That is immeasurable and inconceivable, And from which come beneﬁts
As limitless as space. Heavenly māndārava
And great māndārava ﬂowers rained down; And Śakras and Brahmas
Came from innumerable buddha lands,
Equal in number to the sands of the Ganges River. Sandalwood and aloeswood powder,
Scattered like birds in the sky Flying in all directions,
And rained down over the buddhas. Heavenly drums resounded spontaneously And beautifully in the air;
And thousands of myriads of koṭis
Of heavenly garments ﬂoated whirling down. Precious incense was burned
In various jeweled incense holders,
Its fragrance naturally penetrating everywhere, In homage to the Bhagavats.
The great assembly of these bodhisattvas Held myriads of koṭis of tall and beautiful Seven-jeweled banners and umbrellas,
Which extended gradually to the Brahma world. They hung jeweled ﬂags and excellent banners In the presence of each of these buddhas,
And chanted thousands of myriads of verses In praise of the Tathāgatas.
Such things had never been Experienced before.
Hearing of the Buddha’s Immeasurable lifespan, all rejoiced; And, the Buddha’s name being heard
Throughout the ten directions, Sentient beings were greatly beneﬁted. Everyone became endowed
With the roots of good merit,
And the thought of highest, complete enlightenment Awakened in them.
At that time the Buddha addressed Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Maitreya, saying: “O Ajita! Those sentient beings who hear about the great length of the Buddha’s lifespan, and can awaken even a single thought of willing acceptance, will all obtain immeasurable merit. If there are sons and daugh- ters of a good family who, for the sake of highest, complete enlightenment, practice the ﬁve perfections of giving (dāna), good conduct (śīla), perse- verance (kṣānti), effort (vīrya), and meditation (dhyāna), with the exception of the perfection of wisdom (prajñā), for eighty myriads of koṭis of nayutas of kalpas, their merit is not even a hundredth, a thousandth, a hundred thou- sandth of a myriad of a koṭi of the former person’s merit. It is so small that it cannot be conceived of through calculation or illustration. If there are sons and daughters of a virtuous family who possess such merit as the former, they will never revert from highest, complete enlightenment.”
Thereupon the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:
Those who seek the Buddha’s wisdom Will practice the ﬁve perfections
For eighty myriads of koṭis Of nayutas of kalpas.
Throughout these kalpas they will pay homage to The buddhas, pratyekabuddhas, śrāvakas,
And all the bodhisattvas by offering
Rare delicacies, excellent garments, and bedding, Or by building monasteries out of sandalwood Which are adorned with gardens.
Through offering such a variety of precious things Throughout all of these kalpas,
They will transfer the merits to the buddha path.
Those who further maintain good conduct, Which is pure and without corruption, Will seek what the buddhas
Have praised as the highest path.
Those who further practice perseverance And abide in the stage of self-control, Will be of constant mind,
Even if subjected to ill-treatment. They will continue to endure
Even if they are scorned and persecuted
By those who think, through their excessive pride, That they have attained the truth.
Those who make diligent efforts And are ﬁrm in their intentions For immeasurable koṭis of kalpas Will be intent and never lazy;
And those who abide in tranquil places For immeasurable kalpas
Will always discipline their minds, avoiding sleep, While either sitting or wandering.
For these reasons they will Abide in various meditations,
Their minds ﬁrm and unwavering, For eighty myriads of koṭis of kalpas.
Maintaining the merit of this concentration They seek the highest path saying:
I will attain omniscience.
Then they will achieve
This perfection of meditation.
Practicing thus for hundreds of thousands Of myriads of koṭis of kalpas,
Their merits will be as mentioned above.
If those sons and daughters of a virtuous family, Upon hearing me explain about my lifespan
In this way, are able to awaken
Even a single thought of willing acceptance, Their merit exceeds that of the former.
Such will also be the merit
Of those who have no doubts whatsoever And believe deeply even for a single moment. Those bodhisattvas who practice the path
For a period of immeasurable kalpas,
And who believe my explanation of my lifespan When they hear it, are the ones
Who fully accept this sutra, Saying:
Let us in the future devote a long life To saving sentient beings!
Just as the present Bhagavat,
King among the Śākyas, who roars the lion’s roar On the terrace of enlightenment,
Is fearless in teaching the Dharma, Let us in the future be respected by all And teach of the lifespan
While seated upon the terrace of enlightenment.
Those who have profound thoughts, are pure, Honest and learned, have good recollection,
And understand the Buddha’s words in accordance With what is appropriate,
Will have no doubts regarding this.
“Furthermore, O Ajita, those who hear of the great length of the Buddha’s lifespan and understand the intent of these words will obtain limitless merit that will give rise to the highest wisdom of the Tathāgata. How much more merit will they gain who extensively hear this sutra, move others to listen to it, preserve it, move others to preserve it, copy it, or move others to copy it; and pay homage to the sutra by offering ﬂowers, incense, necklaces, ﬂags, banners, canopies, lamps of scented oil, and ghee! The merit of these people will be immeasurable and limitless. They will be able to achieve omniscience.
“O Ajita! Those sons and daughters of a virtuous family, who, hearing me teach the great length of the Buddha’s lifespan, wholeheartedly accept it, will see the Buddha, who always dwells on Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa together with the great bodhisattvas and śrāvakas, teaching the Dharma to the assem- bly. Moreover, they will see the land of this sahā world, which is made of lapis lazuli, level and even. The network of roads is laid out like a chess- board, paved with Jambūnāda gold and bordered with jeweled trees. All its foundations, towers, and balconies will be made of treasures and the multi- tude of these bodhisattvas will be dwelling in them. Those who can see such things should know that to be able to do so is a sign of their full and willing acceptance.
“Furthermore, after the Tathāgata’s parinirvāṇa, those who hear this sutra do not disparage it and rejoice in their hearts, should know that this is a sign of their full and willing acceptance. How much more do those who recite and preserve this sutra show a sign of full and willing acceptance! Such are the people who hold the Tathāgata in respect.
“O Ajita! These sons and daughters of a virtuous family do not have to build stupas and monasteries for me, make chambers for the monks, or pay homage to the sangha with the four kinds of offerings. Why is this? Because these sons and daughters of a virtuous family recite and preserve this sutra, which means they have already built stupas, made chambers for the monks, and paid hom- age to the sangha. They have already erected seven-jeweled stupas for the Buddha’s relics, which are tall and wide, gradually narrowing to a pinnacle that reaches to the Brahma world. They have hung various banners, canopies, and variegated jeweled bells; offered ﬂowers, incense, necklaces, scented powder, and ointment; burned incense; played drums, music, ﬂutes, pipes, harps, and various dances; and adorned the stupas and relics of the Buddha by praising with verses and songs in beautiful voices. In this way they have already paid homage for immeasurable thousands of myriads of koṭis of kalpas. “O Ajita! After my parinirvāṇa, those who hear this sutra and who can preserve it, copy it and move others to copy it, have already built chambers for monks, as well as thirty-two red sandalwood monasteries of the height of eight tāla trees, wide and ﬁne, housing hundreds of thousands of monks. The monasteries they have built have gardens, ponds, paths for wandering, med- itation caves, garments, food and drink, bedding, medicine, and are replete with all other necessities. Such hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of monks’ chambers and towers will be incalculable. With these they pay hom- age to me and to the assembly of monks.
“I have explained that, for this reason, after the Tathāgata’s parinirvāṇa those who preserve and recite this sutra, and explain it to others, who copy it or move others to copy it and who pay it homage to it no longer have to build stupas, monasteries, or erect chambers for the monks, or revere the sangha. How much less do those who preserve this sutra and practice the perfections of giving (dāna), good conduct (śīla), perseverance (kṣānti), effort (vīrya), meditation (dhyāna), and wisdom (prajñā) need to do so! Their merit is the highest, immeasurable and limitless. It is immeasurable and lim- itless in the same way that space is immeasurable and limitless in the ten directions—east, west, south, north, the four intermediate directions, and the zenith and nadir—and they will thus quickly obtain omniscience.
“Those who recite and preserve this sutra, who explain it for others, who copy it or move others to copy it, build monuments and make chambers for monks, revere and praise the sangha of śrāvakas, and praise the merits of the bodhisattvas in hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of ways; those who explain this Lotus Sutra for the sake of others in accordance with its meaning through various illustrations, who preserve pure conduct and dwell together with gentle people, who are patient and have no anger, are ﬁrm in their intentions and always hold meditation in high regard, who attain pro- found samādhi and make vigorous efforts, persevere in all good practices, whose wisdom is keen and who answer difficult questions skillfully; O Ajita! Those sons and daughters of a virtuous family, who preserve and recite this sutra after my parinirvāṇa will attain good qualities like those mentioned above. You should know that such people have already set out for the ter- race of enlightenment, are near to highest, complete enlightenment, and are seated under the bodhi tree.
“O Ajita! Wherever these sons and daughters of a virtuous family sit, stand, or walk, there a monument should be built; and all of the devas and humans should pay homage to these monuments as they would do to those of the Buddha.”
Thereupon the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:
If after my parinirvāṇa there are people Who preserve this sutra,
They will have immeasurable merits As described above.
Such people have already given Various kinds of offerings:
They have built stupas for the relics, Adorned with the seven treasures,
With a pole on the top which is very tall and thick, Gradually tapering upward,
Until it reaches the Brahma world. These stupas have been adorned
With thousands of myriads of koṭis of jeweled bells That ring with beautiful sounds as the wind blows. For immeasurable kalpas such people
Have revered these stupas
By offering ﬂowers, incense, necklaces, Heavenly garments, and various kinds of music,
While burning scented ointments and butter-oil lamps Which illuminate them on all sides.
In the troubled world of the Decadent Dharma, Those who preserve this sutra
Will have already ﬁnished paying homage In the way just described.
If they can preserve this sutra
It will be as if they had paid homage In the presence of the Buddha;
And had built monasteries for monks Out of sandalwood from Mount Oxhead, And thirty-two buildings as tall
As eight tāla trees; and offered delicious food, Excellent garments, bedding, hundreds of Thousands of dwellings, gardens, ponds, Paths for wandering, and meditation caves
All of ﬁne quality.
Those who have the thought of willing acceptance, Who preserve, recite, copy,
Or move others to copy this sutra, And who pay it homage
By scattering ﬂowers, incense, and scented powders on it, And by constantly lighting lamps of
Fragrant oil made from sumanas ﬂowers, Campaka wood, and atimukta grass; Those who pay it homage in this way Will attain immeasurable merit.
Their merit will be as limitless As empty space.
How much more is the merit
Of those who preserve this sutra,
Who carry out the practice of giving (dāna),
Good conduct (śīla), perseverance (kṣānti), and meditation (dhyāna), Who never get angry or slander others,
Who honor monuments
And are humble before monks, And who are free from pride, Always contemplate wisdom,
Never get angry at difficult questions, And teach in accordance
With the questioner’s capacity! If there is anyone
Who can carry out these practices, Their merit will be immeasurable.
If one were to see such an expounder of the Dharma Who has perfected merits like these,
One should scatter heavenly ﬂowers over him And provide him with heavenly garments, Bow until one’s forehead touches his feet, And think of him as if he were a buddha.
Furthermore, one should think
That before long the expounder of the Dharma
Will approach the terrace of enlightenment, Attain the unconditioned state of noncorruption, And extensively beneﬁt devas and humans.
Wherever he dwells, walks, or sits, Or recites even a single verse,
A stupa should be built,
Made beautiful with adornments, And paid homage in various ways.
Wherever the heirs of the Buddha may reside,
There the Buddha himself will take pleasure in its use And will always be dwelling,
Walking, and sitting within.