The Merits of Joyful Acceptance
Thereupon Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Maitreya addressed the Buddha, saying: “O Bhagavat! If sons and daughters of a virtuous family rejoice in hearing this sutra, how much merit do they acquire?”
And he spoke in verse, saying:
After the Bhagavat’s parinirvāṇa,
If there is anyone who hears this sutra And rejoices in it,
How much merit do they acquire?
Then the Buddha addressed Bodhisattva Mahāsattva Maitreya, saying: “O Ajita! After the Tathāgata’s parinirvāṇa, suppose those monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen and other wise ones, whether old or young, having rejoiced in hearing this sutra, take leave of the Dharma assembly and go to other places—either dwelling in monasteries or tranquil places, cities, towns, villages, or forests—and teach what they have heard to their parents, rela- tives, good friends, and acquaintances according to the various capacities of these people. Having heard the teaching, they will rejoice and go on to teach it to others. These people having heard it will also joyfully teach it to others in turn, and so it continues in this way until it reaches the ﬁftieth person. “O Ajita! I will now explain about the merit which this ﬁftieth son or daughter of a virtuous family acquires from joyful acceptance. You should listen attentively!
“Suppose that in the four hundreds of myriads of koṭis of incalculable worlds, there are sentient beings in the six transmigratory states and of the four modes of birth—born from an egg, born from the womb, from mois- ture, or born spontaneously—either with or without form, either with or without consciousness, either unconscious or not unconscious, having no legs, two, four, or many legs; and that, among the number of such beings, there is a person who seeks to acquire merit and gives pleasurable things to these beings, according to their desire. He gives each of those sentient beings gold, silver, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, agate, coral, amber, and other treas- ures such as would ﬁll this continent of Jambudvīpa, as well as elephant carts, horse carts, and palaces and towers made out of the seven treasures. Having performed such acts of giving for a full eighty years, this great donor thinks:
I have already given these sentient beings such pleasurable things as they wished. Yet now these sentient beings are old and feeble. They are over eighty years old, with white hair and wrinkles, and they will die before long. I should now instruct them by means of the Buddha-Dharma.
“He immediately gathers these sentient beings together, inspires them by proclaiming the Dharma, and gladdens them by revealing its beneﬁts. In an instant they all successively attain the ﬁrst stage of the śrāvakas called stream-winner (srota-āpanna), the second stage called once-returner (sakṛdāgāmin) the third stage called non-returner (anāgāmin), and ﬁnally the stage of the arhat, free from corruption, entering profound meditations, gaining complete mastery of all, and attaining the eight liberations.
“What do you think about this? Has this great donor acquired abundant merit or not?”
Maitreya addressed the Buddha, saying: “O Bhagavat! The donor’s merit is extremely great, immeasurable and limitless. Even if this donor had only given all those pleasurable things to sentient beings, the merit would have been immeasurable. How much greater is this donor’s merit after having caused them to attain arhatship!”
The Buddha addressed Maitreya, saying: “I will now clarify this for you. This person has given all these pleasurable things to the sentient beings in the six states of existence in four hundreds of myriads of koṭis of incalcula- ble worlds, and enabled them to attain arhatship. The merit he has attained cannot be compared with that of even the ﬁftieth person who, after hearing even a single verse of the Lotus Sutra, received it with joy. It would be even less than a hundredth, a thousandth, a hundred thousandth of a myriad of a koṭi of that person’s merit.
“O Ajita! In this way the merit attained by even the ﬁftieth person who rejoiced in hearing this Lotus Sutra is immeasurable, limitless, and incalculable. How much more so is the merit of the ﬁrst person who heard it in the assembly and rejoiced in it! His merit is even greater, it is immeasurable, limitless, and incalculable, and is not to be apprehended through metaphor. “Furthermore, O Ajita, if anyone approaches the monasteries in order
to listen to this sutra and hears it for even a single moment, whether seated or standing, through this merit they will be reborn into a place where they will gain beautiful and excellent elephant carts, horse carts, palanquins made out of rare treasures, and will ride on a heavenly vehicle. Moreover, if any- one sits in a place where the Dharma is taught, and if another comes along and they invite that person to sit down and listen, or if they offer that per- son part of their own seat, through this merit they will be reborn in the place where Śakra dwells, in the place where Brahmas dwell, or in a place where a noble emperor dwells.
“O Ajita! If anyone addresses others, saying:
There is a sutra called the Lotus Sutra. Let us go together and listen to it!
“And if their instruction is accepted and the other person listens to it for even a single moment, then through this merit the former person will be reborn in the same place as the bodhisattva who has acquired the dhāraṇīs. They will have keen faculties and wisdom. For hundreds and thousands of myri- ads of lives they will never be deaf and dumb; nor will they have fetid breath. Their tongues will never be diseased, nor will they have diseases of the mouth. Their teeth will never be dirty, black, or yellow, nor gapped; nor will any be missing, irregular, or crooked. Their lips will not be drooping, pursed, or twisted; and their lips will never have cankers, scabs, be cracked, misshapen, thick or fat, black, or ugly. They will have no disagreeable features. Their noses will never be ﬂat or thin, crooked or twisted. They will never be dark-complected, with a narrow or long face that is hollow-cheeked or twisted. They will have no mark that is displeasing to others. Their lips, tongues, and teeth will all be very beautiful. Their noses will be long, high, and straight. Their faces will be round, their eyebrows arched and long. Their foreheads will be broad and even. They will thus have a perfect human countenance. Wherever they may be born, life after life, they will meet a buddha, hear the Dharma, and accept the teaching.
“Look, O Ajita! The merit of that person who moved others to listen to the Dharma is like this. How much more is the merit of those who single- mindedly listen, teach, and recite the sutra, explain it for others in the great assembly, and practice as they explain to others!”
Thereupon the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses:
If anyone hears this sutra In the Dharma assembly, And joyfully teaches others Even a single verse,
And if in this way it is taught from one person To another until it reaches the ﬁftieth one, The merit that this last person will attain
Shall be as I will now explain: Suppose there were a great donor
Who gave things to an immeasurable number Of people as they wished
For a full eighty years.
He will see that they are old and feeble, With white hair and wrinkled faces,
With gaps between their teeth and withered bodies, And that they will die before long.
He will think that he should now Teach them and enable them
To attain the fruits Of the buddha path.
He will teach nirvana, the True Dharma, Through skillful means, saying:
The world is impermanent
Like splashes of water, bubbles, a mirage! The feeling of repulsion for it
Should quickly awaken in you!
All of them, hearing this teaching, Attain arhatship and perfect
The six transcendent powers, the three sciences, And the eight liberations.
The merit of the ﬁftieth person Who joyfully hears a single verse
Is so much greater than this great donor’s That it is beyond illustration.
The merit of those who successively hear The Lotus Sutra in this way is immeasurable.
How much more is the merit of the ﬁrst person Who heard it with joy amid the Dharma assembly! If there is a person who moves another
To listen to the Lotus Sutra, saying:
This sutra is profound and difficult to encounter Even in thousands of myriads of koṭis of kalpas.
And if this person’s urging is accepted And the other one goes to hear it
And listens for a single moment,
The merit that the former person will acquire Shall be as I will now explain:
Life after life they will have No diseases of the mouth. Their teeth will have no gaps, Nor be yellow or black.
Their lips will be neither fat, thick, Or thin; nor will they ever have
A disagreeable countenance; And their tongues will never be Dry, black, or short.
Their noses will be high, long, and straight. Their foreheads will be broad and even.
Their faces will be completely handsome, Pleasing to others who see them.
They will never have fetid breath. And their mouths will always emit
The fragrance of a blue lotus ﬂower. I will now explain the merit
Of the one who approaches the monastery Wanting to hear the Lotus Sutra,
And who joyfully listens to it Even for a single moment:
Later they will be born among devas and humans And will acquire beautiful elephant and horse carts, And palanquins made out of rare treasures,
And will ride on a heavenly vehicle. If one is where the Dharma is taught And invites another to sit there
And listen to the sutra,
Through the merit which is thus acquired, One will attain the seats of Śakra, Brahma, or the noble emperors.
How much more is the merit of a person Who singlemindedly listens to this sutra, Explains its meaning, and practices
In accordance with its teaching! Their merit will thus be limitless.