Thus I have heard:
At one time the Buddha was dwelling in the Anāthapiṇḍika Garden of Jetavana Park in the city kingdom of Śrāvastī, together with 500 great bhikṣus, as well as 100,000 Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas and a multitude of gods, dragons, yakṣas, and gandharvas. Also present were 100,000 upāsakas and upāsikās. In attendance too were the Brahma-kings, rulers of this Sahā World, as well as the god-king Śakra, thefour god-kings, and their retinues. From worlds in the ten directions came innumerable bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, as well as Bodhisattvas.
At that time the Tathāgata pronounced the Dharma to His four groups of disciples, telling them, “With existence, there are pain and pleasure. Without existence, there is neither pain nor pleasure. Therefore, keeping away from pain and pleasure is the foremost bliss ofnirvāṇa.”
All these 500 voice-hearer bhikṣus were Arhats. They had ended their afflictions and the discharges thereof, and their minds had achieved command and ease. Like the great dragon, with their minds liberated and their wisdom unfolded, they had completed their undertaking [for Arhatship]. Having shed the heavy burden, they had acquired benefits for themselves, ending the bondage of existence. Liberated by true knowledge, they had achieved the foremost pāramitā and total command of their minds
Of those who were still learning, a countless number had achieved the [voice-hearer] fruits, becoming Srotāpannas, Sakṛdāgāmins, or Anāgāmins. An innumerable multitude of bhikṣus, though still with afflictions, had come to achievement.
Also from worlds in the ten directions came an innumerable multitude of Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas who had acquired immeasurableasaṁkhyeyas of merits. Their number was beyond calculation or analogy, unknowable to voice-hearers or Pratyekabuddhas. The exceptions were Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva, Great Strength Bodhisattva, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, and Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva. Such leading Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas were in asaṁkhyeya multitudes, as numerous as grasses and trees grown from the earth. Bodhisattvas who came from other directions were countless as well. Also present was the bhikṣuṇī Kṣema, together with a group of bhikṣuṇīs. Present as well were Lady Viśākhā and Queen Mallikā, together with their innumerable attendants. Also present was the Elder Sudatta, together with innumerable upāsakas.
The World-Honored One, in the midst of this huge multitude, introduced the Dharma Door of Existence and Nonexistence.
Meanwhile, King Prasenajit, rising from his sleep, thought: “I should go to the World-Honored One.” Having had this thought, he immediately set off, with drums beating and conch shells blowing, going to the Buddha. The World-Honored One, knowing the reason, still asked, “Ānanda, why is there the sound of drums and conch shells?”
Ānanda replied to the Buddha, “King Prasenajit is coming to the Buddha. Hence the sound of drums and conch shells.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “You should also beat the great Dharma drum because I now will pronounce the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum.”
Ānanda asked the Buddha, “I have never heard of the name of this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum. Why is it called the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum?”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “How can you know it? Not even one of the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas in this assembly knows this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum, which has a six-syllable name [in Sanskrit]. Much less have you heard of it.”
Ānanda said to the Buddha, “This is unprecedented. The name of this Dharma is truly hard to know.”
“Indeed, Ānanda, the fact is not different from your statement. Ānanda, this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum, like the bloom of theudumbara tree, is rare in the world.”
Ānanda asked the Buddha, “Not all Buddhas have this Dharma?”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Buddhas of the past, present, and future all have this Dharma.”
Ānanda asked the Buddha, “If so, why did these Bodhisattvas, the heroes among men, all come to gather here? Why do their Tathāgatas not expound this Dharma in their own lands?”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “For example, an āraṇyaka bhikṣu lives alone in a mountain cave. On his way to the village to beg for food, he sees various human and animal corpses. Having seen them, he feels disgusted and returns without food, thinking: ‘Alas, I will definitely be like that.’ Then he feels happy, thinking: ‘I should go there again to observe corpses to intensify my revulsion.’ Again he heads for that village, looking to see corpses in order to strengthen his perception of impurity. Seeing them, he continues to observe them. Then he achieves the holy fruit, becoming an Arhat.
“Buddhas in other worlds do not teach impermanence, suffering, emptiness, or impurity. Why? Because the Dharma in those Buddha Lands should be their way. Those Tathāgatas say to their Bodhisattvas, ‘How marvelous! Śākyamuni the World-Honored One, taking the hard way, appears in the land of the five turbidities. For the sake of suffering sentient beings, using various viable approaches, he pronounces the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum. Therefore, good men, you should learn in that way.’ Those Bodhisattvas have come to this assembly because they all want to see me, to pay respects, and to make obeisance. Having come to this assembly, they will attain the First Ground, even up to the Tenth Ground [on the Bodhisattva Way]. Hence the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum is very hard to encounter. Hence multitudes of great Bodhisattvas from worlds in the ten directions, for the sake of hearing the Dharma, have all gathered here.”
Ānanda said to the Buddha, “Very good! Very good! All who attend will benefit. They all will receive the hard-to-acquire Dharma in this sūtra.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Such a profound sūtra cannot be received by all. Therefore, you should not say that all who attend will benefit.”
Ānanda asked the Buddha, “Why will not all who attend benefit?”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “This sūtra is the secret Dharma store of Tathāgatas. It is profound and wondrous, hard to understand and hard to believe. Therefore, Ānanda, you should not say that all who attend will benefit.”
Ānanda said to the Buddha, “Then is it not like King Prasenajit beating the huge war drum to launch a battle? When the sound is heard, all [enemy] arrows fall away.”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “When King Prasenajit beats the war drum, not all delight in hearing the sound of the drum. The cowardly ones are scared to death, or nearly to death. Indeed, Ānanda, the name of this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum is the Dharma Door in which riders of the Two Vehicles disbelieve. Therefore, Ānanda, as the huge war drum is beaten only by the king before fighting a battle, so too can this great Dharma drum, the secret of Buddhas, be expounded only by a Buddha who has appeared in the world.”
Then the World-Honored One asked Mahākāśyapa, “The bhikṣus here, having left all the scum and chaff, are pure, alike, and truly strong. Are they capable of hearing this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum?”
Mahākāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “If there are bhikṣus who have breached the precepts or violated the regulations, they are rebuked by Mahāmaudgalyāyana. Even I do not accommodate such bhikṣus, much less would the World-Honored One. The multitude in this assembly is like the sandalwood grove, pure and unvaried.”
The Buddha told Mahākāśyapa, “The multitude in this assembly is all pure and homogeneous. However, they do not have good understanding of my veiled statements.”
Mahākāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What is meant by veiled statements?”
The Buddha told Mahākāśyapa, “Saying that the Tathāgata enters the ultimate nirvāṇa is making a veiled statement. In truth the Tathāgata abides eternally, never extinct, because parinirvāṇa is not a dharma of destruction. This sūtra leaves the veiled approach and expounds with entirely explicit tones through hundreds of thousands of causes and conditions. Therefore, Mahākāśyapa, you should survey this huge multitude again.”
Mahākāśyapa again observed those present and their reason for coming. In the time of a kṣaṇa, sentient beings of weak faith, voice-hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, and novice Bodhisattvas, who considered themselves incapable, had the thought of giving up.
As an analogy, a man named Thousand Strong Men stands up in the midst of a multitude of strong men owned by the royal family. Beating a drum, he chants, “Who is capable of wrestling with me?” The incapable ones remain silent, thinking: “I am incapable of wrestling with him. I might be injured or even lose my life.” The one against whom no one in the group dares to fight is the brave, indomitable strong man who can erect the great victory banner.
Thus, inadequate sentient beings, voice-hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, and novice Bodhisattvas each thought: “I am incapable of hearing or accepting this Dharma, which states that the Tathāgata has entered parinirvāṇa and that He is eternally abiding, never extinct.”
Having heard in the midst of the multitude what they had never heard before, they left their seats and departed. Why? Because they had cultivated in the long night the view of void with respect to parinirvāṇa. Upon hearing of this pure sūtra, which is free from obscurity, they left their seats and departed. Among the voice-hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, and novice Bodhisattvas, who came from worlds in the ten directions, on the scale of a million koṭi parts, only one part remained.
The Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas who stayed on believed in the eternal abiding and changelessness of the dharma body. They then could settle in, accept, and uphold all the sūtras about the Tathāgata store. They could also explain to and comfort the world, enabling others to understand all the veiled statements [in these sūtras]. They could well discern sūtras of definitive meaning versus sūtras of non-definitive meaning. They all could subdue sentient beings that violated the prohibitions, and they all could respect and serve the pure, virtuous ones. With great pure faith in the Mahāyāna, they would not consider the Two Vehicles as extraordinary. They would pronounce onlymahāvaipulya sūtras, not other sūtras. They would pronounce only that the Tathāgata is eternally abiding and that there is the Tathāgata store, without abandoning emptiness—not only the emptiness of the self-view but also the emptiness of the self-essence of all saṁskṛtadharmas.
The Buddha told Mahākāśyapa, “Ask the huge multitude again whether they want to hear this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum, the hard-to-believe Mahāyāna sūtra, from the vast One Vehicle. Ask all of them this three times.”
Mahākāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Very good, World-Honored One.”
Forthwith he rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, knelt on his right knee, and bowed down at the feet of the Buddha. He then circled the Buddha three times and questioned the huge multitude: “Do you all want to hear this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum? The Tathāgata now will expound to all of you the One Vehicle, the Mahāyāna, which surpasses the vehicle of voice-hearers and the vehicle of Pratyekabuddhas.”
Three times he asked them, and they all replied, “We would be delighted to hear it. Yes, Mahākāśyapa, we all have come here to hear the Dharma. Very good, have sympathy! May the Buddha pronounce to us the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum!”
Kāśyapa next asked, “Why do you all believe?”
They then replied, “As an analogy, a man 20 years of age has a son 100 years old. If the Buddha says so, we will believe that it is so. Much more will we believe in the true Dharma He is going to pronounce. Why? Because the Tathāgata acts in accordance with His words. The Tathāgata’s pure eye shines, perfectly hindrance free. Seeing with His Buddha-eye, He knows our minds.”
Kāśyapa praised, “Very good! Very good! You worthy ones are capable of hearing the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum, to uphold or pronounce it.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “As an analogy, a man only 20 years of age has a 100-year-old son. The Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drumconveys a similar teaching. Why? Because the Tathāgata enters parinirvāṇa and still abides eternally. Nothing has a self, but the Tathāgata still speaks of a self.”
They immediately responded, “Only the Buddha can know. Whatever the World-Honored One says, we will accept and uphold it accordingly.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “I pray only that the World-Honored One will pronounce the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum, beat the great Dharma drum, and blow the great Dharma conch shell.”
The Buddha said, “Very good! Very good! Kāśyapa, you now want to hear me pronounce the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “Affirmatively I accept Your teachings. Why? Because the Tathāgata regards me highly and treats me with respect. What kind of respect? He once said to me, ‘Come and sit together with me.’ For this reason, I should recognize His kindness.”
The Buddha said, “Very good! Kāśyapa, for a good reason, I treat you with respect. For example, King Prasenajit takes good care of hisfour types of armed forces. When they fight, they beat the huge war drums and blow the huge war conch shells, standing their ground against the enemy. Because of the king’s kind caring, they fight, sparing no strength, to defeat the enemy in order to bring peace to the country. Therefore, bhikṣus, after my parinirvāṇa, Mahākāśyapa should protect and uphold this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum. For this reason, I let him use half of my seat. Accordingly, he should carry on my Way. After my parinirvāṇa, he will be capable of widely expounding the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “I am the eldest son born from the mouth of the World-Honored One.”
The Buddha told the bhikṣus, “As an analogy, King Prasenajit teaches his sons to engage in the [five] studies, so that they will one day be capable of continuing the royal line. Thus, bhikṣus, after my parinirvāṇa, in the same way the bhikṣu Kāśyapa will protect and uphold this sūtra.
“Furthermore, Kāśyapa, for example, King Prasenajit and other kings are enemies, and they battle against one another. During those times, his warriors in the four types of armed forces—elephants, cavalry, chariots, and infantry—upon hearing the sound of the great drum, have no fear, and they hold firm their armor and weapons. The king, out of kindness, regularly bestows on them good food. During a war they are in addition given jewels and even cities. If they have defeated the enemy, they are each crowned with a white silk scarf, decorated as kings. If, among my voice-hearer bhikṣus and bhikṣuṇīs as well as upāsakas and upāsikās, there are those who learn the Prātimokṣa precepts and become accomplished in observing these rules of conduct, the Tathāgata will give them the peace and joy of human or celestial life. If there are those who have achieved great merit by subduing the four māras, the Tathāgata will crown their heads with the white silk scarf of liberation, made of the Four Noble Truths. If there are those who, with enhanced faith and understanding, seek the Buddha store, the true self, and the eternally abiding dharma body, the Tathāgata will pour the water of sarvajña [overall wisdom-knowledge] on their heads and crown them with the white silk scarf of the Mahāyāna. Mahākāśyapa, in the same way I now crown your head with the white silk scarf of the Mahāyāna. You should protect and uphold this sūtra in the places where innumerable future Buddhas will be. Kāśyapa, know that, after my parinirvāṇa, you are capable of protecting and upholding this sūtra.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “It will be as You instruct.”
He further said to the Buddha, “From today on, and after Your parinirvāṇa, I will always protect, uphold, and widely pronounce this sūtra.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Very good! Very good! I now will pronounce to you the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum.”
Then gods and dragons in the sky praised with one voice, “Very good! Very good! Kāśyapa, today gods rain down celestial flowers, and dragon-kings rain down sweet nectar and finely powdered incense. To comfort and delight all sentient beings, you should be established by the World-Honored One as the eldest son of the Dharma.”
Then the multitude of gods and dragons, with one voice, spoke in verse:
As the king in the city of Śrāvastī
Beats the war drum and blows the war conch shell,
The Dharma King in Jetavana Park
Beats the great Dharma drum.
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “You should now use questioning as the
drumstick to beat the great Dharma drum. The Tathāgata, the Dharma King, will
explain to you. The God of Gods will resolve your doubts.”
Then the World-Honored One told Mahākāśyapa, “There is a bhikṣu called Faith in the Mahāvaipulya. If, among my four groups of disciples, for those who hear his name, the arrows of their greed, anger, and delusion will all be pulled out. Why? Kāśyapa, King Prasenajit has [a physician called] Superior Medicine, who is the son of Jīva. When King Prasenajit is battling an enemy country, he tells Superior Medicine, ‘Quickly bring me the medicine which can pull the arrows out for sentient beings [that are shot].’ Then Superior Medicine brings the anti-poison medicine, and the king smears his war drum with the medicine. He beats the drum as he smears it with medicine and suffuses it with the smoke of burning medicine. If sentient beings that have been shot by poisonous arrows hear the sound of the drum, one or two yojanas away, their arrows will all be pulled out.
“Thus, Kāśyapa, if there are those who hear the name of the bhikṣu Faith in the Mahāvaipulya, the arrows of their greed, anger, and delusion will all be pulled out. Why? Because that bhikṣu has propagated the true Dharma through this sūtra and acquired this great fruit as his present achievement. Mahākāśyapa, you should note that even beating a mindless ordinary drum smeared with mindless medicine and suffused with its smoke has such power to benefit sentient beings. Much more, sentient beings that hear the name of a Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva or the name of the bhikṣu Faith in the Mahāvaipulya are enabled to remove their three poisons.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “If hearing the name of a Bodhisattva can remove the three poisonous arrows for sentient beings, it will be more effective if they praise the name and merit of the World-Honored One by saying, ‘Namo Śākyamuni.’ If praising the name and merit of Śākyamuni can pull the three poisonous arrows out of sentient beings, it will be even more effective if they hear this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum and expound its verses and stanzas to comfort others. Furthermore, if they expound it widely, it will be impossible for their three poisonous arrows not to be pulled out.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “As I just mentioned, bhikṣus who observe their precepts purely can fulfill their wishes at will because of their original vows. All Buddhas have this Dharma, as taught in the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum, that dharmas, which [in true reality] are not made [through causes and conditions], neither arise nor perish. Therefore, Kāśyapa, in a future life, you will be like me. Why? Because if your four groups of disciples hear your name, their three poisonous arrows will all be pulled out. Therefore, Kāśyapa, you now should request the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum, and then, after my parinirvāṇa, protect, uphold, and pronounce it for a long time in the world.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Very good! World-Honored One, please pronounce for my sake the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “You should spare no question about this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Very good! World-Honored One, I will ask about my doubts. The World-Honored One says, ‘With existence, there are pain and pleasure. Without existence, there is neither pain nor pleasure.’ What is meant by that?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Without existence means the foremost bliss of parinirvāṇa. Therefore, having left pain and pleasure, one acquires the foremost bliss of parinirvāṇa. Pain and pleasure mean that there is existence. Without existence, there is neither pain nor pleasure. Therefore, those who wish to attain parinirvāṇa should seek to cease existing.”
Then the World-Honored One, to restate this meaning, spoke in verse:
Existence is impermanent,
Nor is it changeless.
With existence, there are pain and pleasure.
Without existence, there is neither pain nor pleasure.
Not acting [to cause the next rebirth] brings neither pain nor pleasure;
Acting [to cause the next rebirth] brings pain and pleasure.
Do not delight in saṁskṛta dharmas,
Nor be involved with them.
If one acquires pleasure,
One will nevertheless fall into pain.
Before attaining nirvāṇ,
One abides in neither peace nor bliss.
Then Kāśyapa replied in verse:
If sentient beings do not effect their
Nirvāṇa will be their foremost bliss.
That bliss is merely a name
As there is no one experiencing bliss.
Then the World-Honored One again spoke in verse:
The eternal liberation is not just a name,
The wondrous form [of a Buddha] evidently standing.
This is not the state of voice-hearers or Pratyekabuddhas,
Nor that of Bodhisattvas.
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One,
why do you speak of form then say it is eternally abiding?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “I will give you an analogy. A person comes from Mathurā in the south. Someone asks him, ‘Where do you come from?’ He answers, ‘From Mathurā.’ He is next asked, ‘Where is Mathurā?’ Then this person points to the south. Kāśyapa, will the questioner not believe him? Why? Because this person has seen himself come from the south. Thus, Kāśyapa, because I have seen it, you should believe me.”
Then the World-Honored One again spoke in verse:
By analogy, there is a person
Who points his finger to the sky.
I now do the same,
Who pronounce liberation by name.
Analogous to the person
Who comes from the distant south,
I now do the same,
Who come from nirvāṇa.
“However, Kāśyapa, those who see the meaning do not need causes or
conditions. If they do not see the meaning, they need causes and conditions.
Indeed, Kāśyapa, Buddha-Bhagavāns always indicate liberation through
innumerable causes and conditions.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What is cause?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Cause is the reason.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What is condition?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Condition is a contributing factor.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “I pray that you will further clarify with an analogy.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “For example, a child is born from parents. The mother is the cause,1 and the father is the condition. Thus, a dharma born through causes and conditions is called a formation.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What is meant by formation?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Formation refers to a worldly formation.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What is world?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “It is constructed with an assembly of sentient beings.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What is a sentient being?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “A sentient being is constructed with an assemblage of dharmas.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What is dharma?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Non-dharma is dharma, and dharma is non-dharma. There are two kinds of dharmas. What are these two? Saṁskṛta and asaṁskṛta; form and non-form. There is no third kind.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What does dharma look like?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Dharma is non-form.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What does non-dharma look like?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Non-dharma is also non-form.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “If both dharma and non-dharma have neither form nor appearance, then what is dharma and what is non-dharma?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Dharma is nirvāṇa, and non-dharma is saṁsāra.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “If both dharma and non-dharma have neither form nor appearance, how, what, and why can the wise know about their appearances?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Through their cycle of birth and death, sentient beings that develop various kinds of meritorious, pure roots of goodness are in the right ways. If they carry out these dharmas, pure appearances will arise. Those who perform these dharmas are dharma sentient beings. If they carry out non-dharmas, impure appearances will arise. Those who perform these non-dharmas are non-dharma sentient beings.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what is a sentient being?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “A sentient beings is constructed by assembling the four domains—earth, water, fire, and wind—as well as the five faculties, the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising, sensory reception, perception, thinking, mind, mental faculty, and mental consciousness. It is called the sentient-being dharma. Kāśyapa, know that it means all dharmas.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Which of these component dharmas is a sentient being?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “None of them alone is called a sentient being. Why? Kāśyapa, taking the king Prasenajit’s drum as an example, what is a drum?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “A so-called drum includes a membrane, wood, and a drumstick. The assemblage of these three dharmas is called a drum.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Likewise a construction with an assemblage of dharmas is called a sentient being.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Is the sound-producing drum not the drum?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Besides the sound-producing drum, any drum makes sound to be carried by the wind.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Is the drum a dharma or a non-dharma?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “The drum is neither a dharma nor a non-dharma.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What is its name?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “What is neither a dharma nor a non-dharma is called a nonspecific dharma.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Including the nonspecific dharma, there should be three kinds of dharmas in the world.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “An example of a nonspecific appearance would be a person who is neither male nor female. Such a person is called a non-man. The drum is nonspecific in the same way.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “As the World-Honored One says, a child is born from the union of his parents. If they do not have the seeds for forming sentient beings, they are not the parental causes and conditions.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “That which does not have the seeds for forming sentient beings is called nirvāṇa. So too is the great eternal non-man. As an analogy, when King Prasenajit battles an enemy country, his warriors who eat men’s meals are not called men if they are not bold and fierce. Therefore, those who do not have the seeds of sentient beings are not called parents, and neither is the great eternal non-man.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, there are good dharmas, bad dharmas, and neutral dharmas. What are good, bad, and neutral dharmas?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “A pleasurable experience is a good dharma. A painful experience is a bad dharma. An experience that is neither pleasurable nor painful is a neutral dharma. Sentient beings are always in contact with these three dharmas. Pleasurable experiences relate to gods or humans gratifying the five desires as requital for their merit. Painful experiences relate to [the life of] hell dwellers, animals, hungry ghosts, or asuras. Experience in neither pleasure nor pain is like a minor skin disease.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “This is not right.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Pleasure as a cause of pain, and pain as a cause of pain, are also called a neutral experience.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What would be an analogy?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “For example, one becomes ill because of eating food. Eating food is pleasure, but illness is pain. Like a minor skin disease, this is called a neutral experience.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “If both pleasure and pain can be called a neutral experience, then parents’ giving birth to a child is also a neutral experience.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “This is not right.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What would be an analogy?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Formless gods in Neither with Nor without Perception Heaven, and gods with form in No Perception Heaven, still abide by the law of karma. So doesgoodness.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, as the Buddha says, those with sensory reception and perception are sentient beings. Then, formless gods in Neither with Nor without Perception Heaven must not be sentient beings.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “They still have mental processing. The dharma of sentient beings that I describe excludes the gods with form in No Perception Heaven.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Are sentient beings form or non-form?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Sentient beings are neither form nor non-form.2 Those who accomplish this dharma are called sentient beings.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “If there are sentient beings formed by a different dharma, formless gods should not be included. Then, there should not be these two realms of existence called the form realm and the formless realm.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Dharmas are non-form, and non-dharmas are also non-form.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Does it mean that dharmas are attuned to liberation and that non-dharmas are as well? Are formless gods already liberated?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Not true. There are only saṁskṛta and asaṁskṛta dharmas, and liberation is an asaṁskṛta dharma. Formless gods are in the domain of saṁskṛta dharmas because they still have the disposition to assume form.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, all saṁskṛta dharmas are form, and asaṁskṛta dharmas are non-form. Seeing the form of formless gods is the state of the Buddha, not our state.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Very good! Very good! It is my state, not yours. Indeed, Buddha-Bhagavāns, having achieved liberation, are free from form but still have form.”
The Buddha then asked Kāśyapa, “What are formless gods? Do you know what these gods do? Kāśyapa, can gods with form be considered formless?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “This is beyond our state.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Indeed, Buddha-Bhagavāns, who have achieved liberation, all assume form. You should observe them.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “If one achieves liberation in this way, one should still experience pain and pleasure.”
The Buddha asked Kāśyapa, “If sick sentient beings take medicine and are cured of their diseases, will they be sick again?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “If they have karma, they will still have illnesses.”
The Buddha asked Kāśyapa, “Will those who have no karma have illnesses?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “No, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Indeed, leaving pain and pleasure is liberation. Know that pain and pleasure are illness. A great man is one who has attained nirvāṇa.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “If leaving pain and pleasure is liberation, will illness end with the exhaustion of karma?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Worldly pleasures are in effect pain. One achieves liberation by leaving such pleasures and ending karma.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Is liberation the final ending?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “One may liken space to the ocean. Is space really like the ocean? As space is beyond analogy, so too is liberation. No one can know that formless gods have form. Nor can one know whether they are like this or like that, whether they stand in this way or frolic in that way. As this [knowledge] is beyond the state of voice-hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, so too is liberation.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, who forms sentient beings?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Sentient beings are formed by themselves.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What does that mean?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Those who do good are Buddhas. Those who do evil are sentient beings.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Who made the very first sentient being?”
The Buddha asked Kāśyapa, “Who made the formless gods, such as those in Neither with Nor without Perception Heaven? How do formless gods live and how do they carry themselves?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “Although their karmas cannot be known, they are formed by their own karmas. Then who makes sentient beings black in saṁsāra, or white in nirvāṇa?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “It is made by their karmas. Karma gives rise to innumerable dharmas; goodness also gives rise to innumerable dharmas.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What arises from karma? What arises from goodness?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Existence arises from karma. Liberation arises from goodness.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “How does goodness arise as a dharma that has no birth?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “These two are not different.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “As goodness arises, how can one realize that it has no birth?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “By doing good karmas.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Who taught this?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “It has been taught by Buddhas since time without a beginning.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Who taught and transformed all Buddhas without a beginning in time?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Time without a beginning is not what voice-hearers or Pratyekabuddhas can know by thinking. If a person who is as wise and well informed as Śāriputra appears in the world, he can think throughout the long night but still cannot know who is the very first of Buddhas, who are without a beginning. Nor can he know His nirvāṇa or the interval in between. Furthermore, Kāśyapa, even Mahāmaudgalyāyana, using his transcendental powers, can never find the very first Buddha World without a beginning. Thus, none of the voice-hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, or Bodhisattvas on the Tenth Ground, such as Maitreya Bodhisattva, can know it. As the origin of Buddhas is hard to know, so too is the origin of sentient beings.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Therefore, World-Honored One, there is neither a doer [of karma] nor a recipient [of karmic fruit].”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Causation is the doer and the recipient.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Does the world have an ending, or have no ending?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “The world has not ended. There is nothing to end, nor is there a time of ending.”
Then the Buddha asked Kāśyapa, “Suppose you use a hair to draw water from the immense ocean by the drop. Can you deplete the ocean water?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “Yes, it can be finished.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Innumerable asaṁkhyeyas of great kalpas ago, a Buddha called Kelava appeared in the world, who widely expounded the Dharma. At that time in the Licchavi clan, there was a youth called Entire World Delighted to See. He was a Wheel-Turning King who ruled with the true Dharma. This king, together with his retinue in the hundreds of thousands, went to that Buddha. He bowed down at the feet of that Buddha and circled Him three times. After presenting his offerings, he asked that Buddha, ‘How long will it take me to acquire the Bodhisattva Way?’ That Buddha told the great king, ‘A Wheel-Turning King is a Bodhisattva. There is no difference. Why? Because no one else can be the god-king Śakra, a Brahma-king, or a Wheel-Turning King. A Bodhisattva is the god-king Śakra, a Brahma-king, or a Wheel-Turning King. First, he is reborn as the god-king Śakra or a Brahma-king many times, then he is reborn as a Wheel-Turning King to rule and deliver people through the true Dharma. You have already been the god-king Śakra or a Brahma-king as many times as the sands of asaṁkhyeya Ganges Rivers. Now you are a Wheel-Turning King.’
“Then the king asked, ‘What does the god-king Śakra or a Brahma-king look like?’ Kevala Buddha told the great king, ‘The god-king Śakra or a Brahma-king looks just like you now, wearing a celestial crown, but their magnificence does not match yours. For example, the form of a Buddha is so sublime and extraordinary that voice-hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas can never compare. As a Buddha is sublime, you in your way are magnificent.’
“Kāśyapa, the noble king next asked Kevala Buddha, ‘How long will it take me to attain Buddhahood?’ That Buddha replied, ‘Great King, attaining Buddhahood requires a vastly long time. Suppose you, Great King, abandon your merit, become an ordinary person, and use a hair to draw water from the immense ocean by the drop. When the ocean water is almost completely gone, and the remaining water is like [puddles in] cow tracks, in the world will appear a Tathāgata called Lamp Light, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha. At that time there will be a king named Earth Sovereign, and Lamp Light Tathāgata will bestow upon him a prophecy that he will be a Buddha. Great King [Entire World Delighted to See], you will be that king’s first-born son, upon whom Lamp Light Buddha will also bestow a prophecy. He will say these words: “Great King [Earth Sovereign], your first-born son is born to you, as the water in the immense ocean, diminishing since the past, is near depletion. During this period, he has never been a lesser king, but has been the god-king Śakra, a Brahma-king, or a noble Wheel-Turning King ruling and transforming the world with the true Dharma. This first-born son of yours is boldly valiant and energetically diligent. Great King Earth Sovereign, bodhi is hard to attain. Because of these causes and conditions, I give you an analogy. Earth Sovereign, this first-born son of yours has 60,000 lady attendants. Like goddesses, they are shapely, beautiful, adorned with necklaces of jewels. He will abandon them all like spit. Knowing that desire is impermanent, precarious, and fickle, he will say, ‘I will renounce family life.’ Having said this, believing that family is not his way of life, he will renounce family life to learn the Way.” Therefore, Lamp Light Buddha will bestow a prophecy upon that youth: “In the future, there will be a Buddha called Śākyamuni. His world will be called Endurance. Young man, you will then be reborn in the Licchavi clan and become a youth called Entire World Delighted to See. After the parinirvāṇa of Śākyamuni Buddha, the true Dharma will be perishing. When eighty years still remain, you will be [reborn as] a bhikṣu who upholds this Buddha’s name and disseminates this sūtra, not caring even about his own life. After this bhikṣu dies at age one hundred, he will be reborn in the Pure Land of Peace and Bliss and will acquire great spiritual powers, standing on the Eighth Ground. He will manifest one body in Tuṣita Heaven, another body in the Pure Land of Peace and Bliss, and a third body to ask Ajita Buddha questions about this sūtra.” Then King Earth Sovereign, having heard the prophecy of his son, will be exultant and exuberant, saying, “Today the Tathāgata has prophesied that my son will be on the Eighth Ground.” That youth, having heard the prophecy, will make energetic progress.’”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Therefore, World-Honored One, drawing water by the drop with a hair can deplete the water in the immense ocean.”
The Buddha asked Kāśyapa, “What is meant by that?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, as an analogy, a merchant keeps his gold coins in a container. When his son cries, he gives him a coin. [He knows how] the money in the container decreases day by day. Likewise, Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas know how the water in the immense ocean decreases drop by drop, as well as how much still remains. Even more, the World-Honored One should know the ending of the infinite mass of sentient beings. However, sentient beings have no ending. All voice-hearers and Pratyekabuddhas are unable to know this. Only Buddha-Bhagavāns can know this.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Very good! Very good! As you say, the infinite mass of sentient beings has no ending.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Do sentient beings have an ending or not? Does parinirvāṇa mean the end or not?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Sentient beings have no ending.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Why do sentient beings not have an ending?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “The ending of sentient beings would mean decrease [in number]. Then this sūtra would be meaningless. Therefore, Kāśyapa, Buddha-Bhagavāns after parinirvāṇa are eternally abiding. Because of this meaning, Buddha-Bhagavāns, having entered parinirvāṇa, are never extinct.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Why do Buddha-Bhagavāns enter parinirvāṇa, but are not ultimately extinct?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Indeed! Indeed! When a house is destroyed, space is revealed. Indeed! Indeed! The nirvāṇa of Buddhas is liberation.”
Then the World-Honored One told Mahākāśyapa, “As an analogy, a
king is active in giving alms, and many hidden treasures are uncovered in his
kingdom. Why? Because the king widely gives various kinds of relief to
unfortunate sentient beings, hidden treasure stores spontaneously turn up.
Thus, Kāśyapa, Bodhisattvas who use skillful ways to pronounce the profound
Dharma treasure widely will acquire this profound sūtra, which is in accord
with [the Three Liberation Doors:] emptiness, no
appearance, and no act, and is a sūtra apart from non-dharmas. They will
acquire sūtras about the Tathāgata store as well.
“Kāśyapa, on Uttarakuru, the northern continent, food grows naturally, and it never diminishes as the multitudes continue to partake of it. Why? Because the people there, in their entire lives, never have thoughts of belongings, stinginess, or greed. Likewise, Kāśyapa, here on Jambudvīpa, the southern continent, if, among the bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, there are those who, having acquired this profound sūtra, read and recite it, copy and uphold it, thoroughly penetrate it, and widely pronounce it to others, never maligning it or feeling bored or doubtful, they will always naturally receive, by virtue of Buddhas’ spiritual power, offerings to their satisfaction. Until their attainment of bodhi, the offerings will be without any shortage, continuing endlessly, except for those constrained by firm karmic requitals. During their entire lives, as long as bhikṣus observe their precepts without being lax, gods and spirits will serve them and make offerings to them. If they can refrain from thinking even one maligning thought of this profound sūtra, they will gain knowledge of the Tathāgata store and of the eternal abiding of Tathāgatas, and they will often see Buddhas, be close to them, and make offerings to them.
“As the seven treasures always follow the Wheel-Turning King wherever he goes, likewise this sūtra is always where its comforting presenter stays. The seven treasures stay only where the Wheel-Turning King stays, not elsewhere, while lesser treasures stay elsewhere. Likewise, where a comforting presenter stays, this sūtra will come to him from elsewhere, while sūtras in accord with the non-definitive meaning of emptiness will stay elsewhere. When the comforting presenter goes away from his place, this sūtra always accompanies him. Wherever the Wheel-Turning King goes, sentient beings that follow him each thought: ‘Where the king stays, I too should be there.’ Likewise, wherever the comforting presenter goes, this sūtra always follows him. When a Wheel-Turning King appears in the world, the seven treasures appear. Likewise, when a comforting presenter appears in the world, this sūtra appears. If one of the seven treasures owned by the Wheel-Turning King is lost and the king seeks it, he will definitely arrive in the place where that one treasure is. Likewise, if the comforting presenter, for the sake of hearing this sūtra, seeks everywhere, he will definitely arrive in the place where this sūtra is.
“Furthermore, when a Wheel-Turning King does not appear in the world, the lesser kings, acting like Wheel-Turning Kings, appear in the world along with other kings. However, nowhere does anyone expound this profound sūtra. There are those who pronounce kindred sūtras, primary or secondary. Sentient beings study and follow them. In the course of their study, when they hear of this ultimate profound sūtra about the Tathāgata store and the eternal abiding of the Tathāgata, they elicit doubts in their minds. They bear malice toward the comforting presenter, and dishonor and scorn him. Without any appreciation, they insult and criticize, making such statements as: ‘These words are spoken by māras.’ Judging this sūtra as destructive to the Dharma, they all reject it and return to their own places. Because they damage the Dharma, breach the precepts, and hold the wrong views, they will never acquire such a sūtra. Why not? Because this sūtra stays only with its comforting presenter.
“There will be many sentient beings that malign Mahāyāna sūtras they see or hear. Do not have fear. Why not? Because as the true Dharma declines during the times of the five turbidities, there will be sentient beings that malign the Mahāyāna. As in a village of seven families, there must be a dhāyini ghost, so too wherever this sūtra is, in a seven-member group, there must be a maligner.
“Kāśyapa, as those who observe the same precepts are delighted to see one another, likewise are those who violate the precepts. When, in the midst of the multitude, they hear this sūtra, they look at one another and scornfully say, ‘What is the realm of sentient beings? What is eternal?’ Viewing one another’s facial expressions, they think: ‘These are my companions.’ They empathize with one another, keep their ways, and go their ways. As an analogy, an elder in the Brahmin caste has a son who has learned evil ways. After being reproached and admonished by his parents, he neither regrets nor changes his ways. He abandons his family to follow his evil friends, entertaining themselves with bird fights and animal fights. He goes to other lands, banding with his kind and doing non-dharma things together. They are mates. Those who do not appreciate this sūtra do the same. When they see others recite or pronounce this sūtra, they laugh at them. Why? Because most sentient beings will be negligent and indolent. Lax in observing their precepts, they will cause difficulties in preserving the Dharma. Following one another, those mates viciously criticize.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Alas! Truly that will be an evil time!”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “As for the comforting presenters [of this sūtra], what should they do? Kāśyapa, as an analogy, the roadside fields near a city are encroached upon by people, elephants, and horses. The landowner sends a man to guard the fields, but the guard is not vigilant in protecting them. He then increases the number of guards to two, three, four, five, ten, twelve, and even a hundred. The more guards sent, the more trespassers arrive. The last guard thinks: ‘Guarding the fields in this way does not really protect them all. There should be a skillful way to keep them from raids.’ He then takes the seedlings from the fields and personally hands them out as alms. The recipients are grateful, and the seedlings in the fields are saved. Kāśyapa, likewise those who have skillful means will be able to protect this sūtra after my parinirvāṇa.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, I can never accommodate those evil ones. I would rather carry Mount Sumeru on my shoulders for 100,000 kalpas than tolerate those evil ones violating the precepts, destroying the Dharma, maligning the Dharma, or defiling the Dharma. Such evils are not the tones of the Dharma. World-Honored One, I would rather be owned by someone as a slave than tolerate those evil ones violating the precepts, countering the Dharma, abandoning the Dharma, or damaging the Dharma. Such evils are not the tones of the Dharma. World-Honored One, I would rather carry on my head the great earth, mountains, and oceans for 100,000 kalpas than tolerate those evil ones violating the precepts, destroying the Dharma, elevating themselves, or slandering others. Such evils are not the tones of the Dharma. World-Honored One, I would rather be deaf, blind, or mute than tolerate those evil ones damaging and violating the pure precepts, or renouncing family life for benefits, such as others’ trust and offerings. Such evils are not the tones of the Dharma. World-Honored One, I would rather quickly abandon my body and enter parinirvāṇa than tolerate those evil ones damaging and violating the pure precepts, committing insidious acts, fawning with their bodies, or telling lies with their mouths. Such evils are not the tones of the Dharma.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Your parinirvāṇa would be that of a voice-hearer, not the ultimate parinirvāṇa.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “If the parinirvāṇa of a voice-hearer or of a Pratyekabuddha is not the ultimate, why does the World-Honored One pronounce the Three Vehicles: the Voice-Hearer Vehicle, the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle, and the Buddha Vehicle? Why does the World-Honored One, having entered parinirvāṇa, enter parinirvāṇa again?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “A voice-hearer enters parinirvāṇa as a voice-hearer, and this parinirvāṇa is not the ultimate. A Pratyekabuddha enters parinirvāṇa as a Pratyekabuddha, and this parinirvāṇa is not the ultimate. If one acquires the merit of all merit, the knowledge of all knowledge, and the Mahāyāna parinirvāṇa, then this is ultimate, or no different from the ultimate.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what does this mean?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “For example, cream is produced from milk; fresh butter is produced from cream; melted butter is produced from fresh butter; and ghee is produced from melted butter. Ordinary beings holding the wrong views are like an impure mixture of milk and blood. Those who have taken refuge in the Three Jewels are like pure milk. Those who act according to their faith and newly-resolved Bodhisattvas who stand on the Training Ground for Excellent Understanding are like cream. Voice-hearers in seven ranks who are still learning and Bodhisattvas from the First Ground to the Seventh Ground are like fresh butter. Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas, who can manifest their mind-created bodies, and Bodhisattvas on the Ninth and Tenth Grounds are like melted butter. Tathāgatas, also called Arhats, Samyak-Saṁbuddhas, are like ghee.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why does the Tathāgata say that there are the Three Vehicles?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “As an analogy, a valiant, heroic guiding teacher takes his retinue and a huge multitude from their homes to another place. As they pass through wilderness and treacherous, perilous paths, he thinks: ‘This group is fatigued, and they might want to turn back.’ In order for them to take a rest, he conjures up a great city ahead of them. He points at it in the distance and says to the huge multitude, ‘There is a great city ahead, and we should quickly go there.’ Those in the multitude, seeing that they are approaching the city, say to one another, ‘This is where I can rest.’ They all enter into the city to rest and enjoy their stay, unwilling to proceed further. Then the guiding teacher thinks: ‘This huge multitude has gained this small pleasure and is satisfied with it. Weak and indolent, they have no intention of advancing further.’ Forthwith the guiding teacher dissolves the conjured city. When the huge multitude sees the city vanish, they ask their guiding teacher, ‘What was it? An illusion or a dream, or something real?’ Hearing this, the guiding teacher tells the huge multitude, ‘It was for your respite that I conjured up that great city. We now should go to the next city. We should quickly get there to have peace and joy.’ The huge multitude responded, ‘Affirmatively we accept your instruction. Why should we enjoy this sordid small place? Together we should go to the great city of peace and joy.’ The guiding teacher tells them, ‘Very good! We should proceed.’ As they advance together, he further tells the huge multitude, ‘This great city we go toward is appearing. You should observe that this great city ahead is prosperous and joyous.’ As they gradually go forward, they all see the great city. Thereupon the guiding teacher tells the huge multitude, ‘Kindly People, know that before you is the great city.’ Then all in the huge multitude, seeing the great city in the distance, peaceful, prosperous, and joyous, find delight in their minds. They look at one another with curiosity and ask, ‘Is this city real or just another illusion?’ The guiding teacher replies, ‘This city is real, with all its extraordinary peace, prosperity, and joy.’ He tells the multitude to enter this great city, for this is the foremost, ultimate great city. There is no other city beyond this one. After the huge multitude has entered into the city, with wonder and happiness they praise their guiding teacher, ‘Very good! Very good! The one with true great wisdom treats us in skillful ways with great compassion!’
“Kāśyapa, know that the conjured city is like the pure knowledge of the Voice-Hearer Vehicle and the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle, the wisdom-knowledge of emptiness, no appearance, and no act. The real great city is like the liberation of a Tathāgata. Therefore, the Tathāgata presents the Three Vehicles and reveals the two nirvāṇas. He then pronounces the One Vehicle.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “If there are those who say that this sūtra is nonexistent, they are not my disciples, nor am I their teacher.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, Mahāyāna sūtras mostly state the meaning of emptiness.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “All sūtras about emptiness have unrevealed aspects. Only this sūtra is the unsurpassed pronouncement, without any unrevealed aspect. For example, Kāśyapa, King Prasenajit always sponsors a great assembly of almsgiving in the eleventh month of the year. He first feeds the hungry ghosts, the forlorn ones, and the poor mendicants. He next gives to śramaṇas and Brahmins fine food in various flavors as they wish. In the same way Buddha-Bhagavāns expound various kinds of Dharmas in the sūtras according to sentient beings’ desires and preferences.
“There are sentient beings that breach their precepts, are negligent and indolent in training and learning, and reject the wondrous texts concerning the eternal abiding of the Tathāgata store. They prefer to study and learn various sūtras that teach emptiness, whether following the words and phrases, or adding or altering some words and phrases. Why? Because they say these words: ‘The Buddha’s sūtras all declare that a sentient being has no self.’ Nevertheless, they do not know the true meaning of emptiness and no self. Those without wisdom pursue extinction.
“Indeed, emptiness and no self are the Buddha’s words. Why? Because immeasurable afflictions, like stored dirt, have always been empty, in nirvāṇa. Indeed, nirvāṇa is the all-encompassing word. It is the word for the great parinirvāṇa attained by Buddhas, eternally in peace and bliss.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “How does one discard [the view of] cessation [and the view of] perpetuity?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Sentient beings each transmigrate through their cycle of birth and death without a commanding self. Therefore, I explain to them the meaning of no self. However, the great parinirvāṇa attained by Buddhas is eternal peace and bliss. This meaning shatters the two wrong views, cessation and perpetuity.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Please turn to no self, having talked about self for a while.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “I explain the meaning of no self to destroy the worldly view of self. If I did not say so, how could I induce people to accept the Dharma of the great teacher? When the Buddha pronounces no self, sentient beings become curious. To hear what they have never heard before, they come to the Buddha. Then I enable them to enter the Buddha Dharma through hundreds of thousands of causes and conditions. Once they have entered the Buddha Dharma with growing faith, they diligently train and energetically progress in their learning of the Dharma of Emptiness. Then I pronounce to them the eternal peace and bliss, and the liberation that still manifests form. There are worldly doctrines asserting that existence is liberation. To destroy them, I pronounce that liberation leads to nonexistence. If I did not say so, how could I induce people to accept the Dharma of the great teacher? Through hundreds of thousands of causes and conditions, I explain to them liberation, nirvāṇa, and no self. Then I see sentient beings mistake liberation for ultimate extinction. Those without wisdom pursue extinction. Then I pronounce, through hundreds of thousands of causes and conditions, that there still is form after achieving liberation.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, achieving liberation and command means that sentient beings must be eternal. By analogy, upon seeing smoke, one deduces that there must be fire. If there is a [true] self in one, then there can be liberation. Saying that there is a [true] self means that there is form after achieving liberation. This is not the worldly self-view, nor is it the statement of cessation or perpetuity.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, why does the Tathāgata, who never enters [extinction through] parinirvāṇa, manifest entering parinirvāṇa? Why does He who is never born manifest birth?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “It is for destroying the idea of perpetuity in sentient beings’ calculating minds. The Tathāgata never enters [extinction through] parinirvāṇa but manifests entering parinirvāṇa. He is never born but manifests birth. Why? Because sentient beings would say, ‘Even a Buddha has an ending in life and is not in command, not to mention any of us, who has a self and its belongings.’ As an analogy, a king is seized by a neighboring nation. In cangue and shackles, he thinks: ‘Am I now still the king, the lord? I now am neither the king nor the lord.’ Why does he have such tribulations? It is caused by his abandonment of self-restraint. Every sentient being that transmigrates through its cycle of birth and death has no commanding self. The lack of command is the meaning of no self that I have explained.
“As another analogy, a person is pursued by bandits who will harm him with knives. He thinks: ‘I now have no strength. How can I avoid death?’ With such concerns about the suffering of birth, aging, illness, and death, sentient beings wish to become the god-king Śakra or a Brahma-king. To destroy this kind of mentality, the Tathāgata manifests death. The Tathāgata is the god of gods. If His parinirvāṇa meant extinction, then the world should also go extinct. If it is not extinction, then it means eternal peace and bliss. To be in eternal peace and bliss, there must be a [true] self, as smoke implies fire. If there is no self and one claims to have a self, the world should be filled with selves. [The true] self does not invalidate no self. If there were no [true] self, a [nominal] self could not be established.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “What is existence?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Existence refers to the twenty-five forms of existence as sentient beings. Nonexistence refers to the state of any no-thinking thing, or any sentient being before its birth or after its death. If thinking beings could be destroyed, sentient beings would eventually be extinct. Because sentient beings [in true reality] have neither birth nor death, they neither increase nor decrease in number.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, if there is a [true] self in one, why is it covered up by one’s afflictions, which are like dirt?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Very good! Very good! You should ask the Tathāgata this question. As an analogy, a goldsmith perceives the purity of gold. He thinks about why such pure gold is mixed with dirt and seeks the origin of the dirt. Will he find its origin?”
Kāśyapa replied, “No, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “If he spends his entire lifetime thinking about the initial cause of the dirt since time without a beginning, will he find the original state? He will acquire neither gold nor the origin of dirt. However, if he diligently uses skillful means to remove the dirt mixed with the gold, he will acquire the gold.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Thus [one’s true] self is covered up by one’s afflictions, like dirt. If a person who wants to see his [true] self thinks: ‘I should search for this self and the origin of afflictions,’ will that person find the origin?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “No, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “If one diligently uses skillful means to remove one’s afflictions, which are like dirt, one will realize one’s [true] self. If one, having heard this sūtra, with profound faith and delight, uses skillful means, neither leisurely nor rushed, to do good karmas with one’s body, voice, and mind, through these causes and conditions, one will realize one’s [true] self.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “If there is true self, why it is not seen?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “I will now give you an analogy. For example, a beginning student is learning the five letters [five sets of five consonants], which are used to compose stanzas of verses. If one wants to know the meanings [of the verses] before learning [the letters], can one know them? One should first learn [the letters], then one will know [the meanings]. Having learned [the letters], one needs to be taught by the teacher, who uses examples to indicate the meanings of verses composed of words. If one can listen to and accept the teacher, one will acquire understanding of the meanings of the verses, and believe and appreciate them. The [true] self is now covered up by the store of afflictions. If someone says, ‘Good man, the Tathāgata store is such and such,’ then the hearer immediately wants to see it. Is he able to see it?”
Kāśyapa replied, “No, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “For example, the student who does not know the meanings of the verses should follow the teacher on faith. Kāśyapa, know that the Tathāgata is the speaker of truthful words. He truthfully describes the existence of sentient beings. You will know later, like that student who has learned [from his teacher]. I now explain to you the realm of sentient beings by four veiled analogies. These four are the eye blinded by a disease, the moon covered by heavy clouds, the water in a well to be dug, and the flame of a lamp inside a container. Know that these four analogies involve the causes and conditions for realizing one’s Buddha nature. All sentient beings have Buddha nature with immeasurable excellent appearance, majesty, and radiance. Because of Buddha nature, all sentient beings can attain parinirvāṇa. For example, the disease of the eye can be cured. Before one has encountered a good physician, one’s eye is sightless. Once a good physician appears, one will quickly perceive sights. Indeed, the immeasurable store of afflictions covers and obstructs one’s Tathāgata nature. Unless one encounters Buddhas, [holy] voice-hearers, or Pratyekabuddha, one mistakes no self for self, and non-self for belongings of self. After encountering Buddhas, [holy] voice-hearers, or Pratyekabuddhas, one then knows about one’s true self. As if cured of a disease, one’s eye opens and sees clearly. The eye disease refers to one’s afflictions, and the eye refers to one’s Tathāgata nature. When the moon is covered by clouds, it is neither bright nor clear. Likewise, when one’s Tathāgata nature is covered up by afflictions, it is neither bright nor clear. If one discards one’s cloud-like afflictions, one’s Tathāgata nature will be bright and clear, like the full moon. When one digs a well, dry dirt indicates that water is still far away. When one gets wet dirt, one knows that water is near. If one gets the water, then it is the ultimate [end]. If one encounters Buddhas, [holy] voice-hearers, or Pratyekabuddhas, and learns to do good karmas and to remove one’s afflictions, like dirt, one will realize one’s Tathāgata nature, which is like the water. This nature is also like the flame of a lamp inside a container. It is useless to sentient beings when its brilliance is hidden. If the container is removed, then the light of the lamp will shine everywhere. Likewise, one’s afflictions are the container that hides one’s Tathāgata store, which is useless to sentient beings when its appearance and majesty are neither bright nor clear. If one discards the store of afflictions, eradicating them all forever, then one’s Tathāgata nature will fully manifest its excellent appearance and radiance for Buddha work. It is like shattering the container so that sentient beings can enjoy the lamplight. Thus these four analogies illustrate the causes and conditions. As one’s [true] self encompasses the realm of sentient beings, the same is true for all sentient beings. The realm of sentient beings is boundless, radiant, and pure.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, if all sentient beings have the Tathāgata store in one nature and ride the One Vehicle, why does the Tathāgata say there are the Three Vehicles: the Voice-Hearer Vehicle, the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle, and the Buddha Vehicle?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “I should now use an analogy. An elder of great wealth has an only son who, under the care of his wet nurse, was lost in the midst of a crowd. As the elder is near his time, he thinks: ‘It has been a long time since I lost my only son. I do not have other sons, nor parents or relatives. Once I die, all my assets will go to the king.’ As he is feeling concerned, the lost son, begging on his way, arrives at his original home. He does not recognize his father’s house. Why? Because the son has been lost since childhood. His father recognizes him but does not tell him so. Why? Because he is afraid that his son might run away. He gives him some things and says to him, ‘I have no offspring, and you can be my son. Do not go elsewhere.’ The son answers, ‘I cannot bear staying here. Why? Because my staying here would be as painful as if in shackles.’ The elder asks, ‘What would you like to do?’ The son answers, ‘I would rather remove filth, tend livestock, or work in the fields.’ The elder thinks: ‘This child has little fortune, but I should be patient. I will go along with his wish for now.’ Then he tells him to remove feces. A long time has passed, and the son has seen the elder gratify the five desires. Delight rising in his heart, he thinks: ‘I hope this great elder will, out of pity, accept me as his son and give me riches and treasures.’ With this idea in mind, he no longer works diligently. The elder, having seen the change, thinks: ‘Before long, he will definitely be my son.’ Then the elder finds him and asks, ‘Do you now have different ideas which cause you not to work hard?’ The son replies, ‘My heart wishes to be your son.’ The elder says, ‘Very good! I am your father, and you are my son. I am really your father though you did not know it. I now give you all that is in my treasure store.’ He then makes an announcement in the midst of a huge multitude: ‘This is my long-lost son. Unwittingly, he happened to return home. I asked him to be my son, and he refused. Today he willingly asks to be my son.’
“Kāśyapa, that elder tactfully entices his humble-minded son, first telling him to remove feces, next giving him wealth. Then he makes an announcement in the midst of a huge multitude, saying these words: ‘He is originally my son who, after having been lost for a long time, has come back by luck and has reckoned that he is my son.’ Likewise, Kāśyapa, to those who do not appreciate the One Vehicle, I pronounce the Three Vehicles. Why? Because this is the Tathāgata’s skillful approach. All voice-hearers are my sons, just like the feces remover who has come to know his identity only today.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Alas! Strange! How inferior is the Voice-Hearer Vehicle! [Its riders] are really the sons of the Buddha, but they do not recognize their father.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “You should learn [from that elder]. If you cannot bear to rebuke or reprove them, then you should refrain from doing so. When they come to maturity later, you will know it. Furthermore, Kāśyapa, the Voice-Hearer Vehicle and the Mahāyāna often counter each other, like the worldly versus that which is free from afflictions and their discharges, or folly versus wisdom. Moreover, Kāśyapa, you should accommodate those who malign this sūtra. Why? Because the maligners, after death, will fall into boundless darkness. Out of pity for them, you should devise some ways to bring them to maturity through the Dharma of the Mahāyāna. While those who are beyond cure will fall into hell, the faithful ones will believe. As for other sentient beings, you should use the Four Drawing-in Dharmas to help them achieve liberation.
“Moreover, Kāśyapa, if there is a man who has just developed fever, he should not immediately be given medicine or other treatments. Why? Because the time has not come. One should bide the right time to treat the patient. A physician who knows neither the right treatment nor its timing is a failure. Therefore, treatment should be given when the disease has come to a head. If it is not yet ready, one should wait for its time. Likewise, for sentient beings that malign this sūtra, when they come to maturity, they will reprove themselves in remorse, saying, ‘Alas! Agony! I now finally realize what I have done.’ At that time you should rescue them and draw them in by means of the Four Drawing-in Dharmas.”
“Moreover, Kāśyapa, suppose there is a man who, crossing an expanse of wilderness, hears the call of a flock of birds. Dreading that the bird call means there are bandits, he takes another path. He enters an empty marshland and arrives at where tigers and wolves lurk. He is eaten by a tiger. Kāśyapa, likewise, when bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās in future times hear the talk of self as well as the talk of no self, they fear the talk of self. They then enter the vast void, the view of cessation, to study and learn no self. They do not appreciate the profound sūtras that teach the Tathāgata store and the eternal abiding of Buddhas. Furthermore, Kāśyapa, you ask me what I have said to Ānanda: ‘With existence, there are pain and pleasure. Without existence, there is neither pain nor pleasure.’ Hearken now! Kāśyapa, the Tathāgata is neither existence nor a sentient being, nor does He perish.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Why not, World-Honored One?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “As an analogy, under the snow mountain, there is a precious jewel radiating pure light. A person who is skilled in identifying precious jewels can recognize one on sight and seize it. It is like the process of refining gold. When the impurities and rubbish are eliminated, pure gold is revealed, which has never been tainted by the filth initially with it. Why? Because it is like the lamp carried by a person walking. Wherever he goes, darkness is dispelled by the bright light of the lamp. As refined pure gold is never tainted by filth, neither is the precious jewel. When moonlight and starlight shine on it, it rains down pure water. When sunlight shines on it, it blazes fire. Indeed, Kāśyapa, the Tathāgata, also called Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, who appears in the world, has forever left birth, aging, illness, and death, and has eradicated all afflictions and habits. He always radiates great light, like a luminous jewel, and He is never tainted, like a pure lotus flower never touched by dirt or water. Furthermore, Kāśyapa, the Tathāgata responsively appears in the world, manifesting an ordinary body with such and such an appearance at such and such a time. He is never tainted by the filth in the birthplace of ordinary beings, nor does He experience the pain or pleasure of the world. The pleasures of the five desires of gods and humans as requital for one’s merit in effect are pains. Only liberation is the ultimate eternal bliss.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “Very good! Very good! World-Honored One, I just realize that beginning today I have truly renounced family life, accepted the complete monastic precepts, become a bhikṣu, and attained Arhatship. I should recognize the kindness of the Tathāgata and requite His kindness because the Tathāgata once shared His seat with me. Moreover, today in the midst of His four large groups [of disciples], He poured the Dharma water of the Mahāyāna on the crown of my head.”
Among the multitude were those assuming the appearance and deportment of bhikṣus, those assuming the appearance and deportment of upāsakas, and those assuming the appearance and deportment of non-upāsakas. Leaning sideways, bending forward or back, they all were in disguise under the power of the māra. Then Ānanda asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, this huge multitude, having left the scum, are firm and true like the sandalwood grove. Why do those others stay in this multitude?”
The Buddha advised Ānanda, “Ask Mahākāśyapa.”
Ānanda said, “Yes, very good. I should ask him.”
He then asked Kāśyapa, “Why do they stay in this multitude?”
Kāśyapa replied, “Those fools are the retinue of the māra, and they have come along with him. That is why, Ānanda, I said earlier that, after the Tathāgata’s parinirvāṇa, I would be incapable of protecting the true Dharma by skillful means as if competently guarding the fields. That is why I said earlier, with other details, that I would rather carry the great earth. Thereupon the Tathāgata told me, ‘After my parinirvāṇa, you should be capable of protecting and upholding the true Dharma until its end.’ I then said to the Buddha, ‘I will be capable of protecting and upholding the true Dharma for forty years.’ And the Buddha rebuked me, ‘Why are you too lazy to protect the Dharma until its end?’”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Identify the māra [in the multitude]. If you can find him, you are capable of protecting the Dharma.”
Kāśyapa then searched with his God-eye, but was unable to see the māra. He was like that savage in the city kingdom of Śrāvastī who had lost his son. Searching through a huge multitude, the savage failed to find his son, and he returned tired. Likewise, Kāśyapa searched with his God-eye for the māra in the multitude but could not find him. Forthwith he said to the Buddha, “I am incapable of finding the evil māra.”
For the same reason, the 80 great voice-hearers all said that they were incapable. Kāśyapa also ordered the 500 Bodhisattvas, including Worthy Protector Bodhisattva, to find the evil māra. Except for a Bodhisattva called Entire World Delighted to See, all were unable to find him.
Then the World-Honored One told Kāśyapa, “You are incapable of protecting or upholding the Dharma for the last eighty years as the Dharma perishes. A Bodhisattva from the south will be able to protect and uphold it. You will at last find him among the 500 Bodhisattvas, including Worthy Protector Bodhisattva.”
Kāśyapa replied, “Very good! I will look for him.”
Then he found the youth, called Entire World Delighted to See, who was of the Licchavi clan.
[He said] “World-Honored One, this Licchavi youth called Entire World Delighted to See must be the one.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “You should go ask him to find the evil māra.”
Then Kāśyapa, together with the 80 great voice-hearers and the 500 Bodhisattvas, including Worthy Protector Bodhisattva, jointly said to the Licchavi youth called Entire World Delighted to See: “Young man, you are designated by the World-Honored One as the one who is capable of finding the evil māra.”
This youth in the huge multitude said to Kāśyapa, “I am capable of finding the evil māra. However, there are 80 great voice-hearers and 500 Bodhisattvas, including Worthy Protector, as well as holy Bodhisattvas Mañjuśrī, Avalokiteśvara, Great Might Arrived, Annihilating All Evil Life-Journey, and Maitreya. Why do they not look for him, and why do you make me look for him? It would be appropriate first to have them do it, and next to have me do it.”
Kāśyapa asked, “Is subjugating the evil māra not a merit?”
He replied, “Kāśyapa, since you know there is merit, you should do it yourself. I cannot do it for now.”
Then Kāśyapa reported the story to the Buddha. The Buddha asked Kāśyapa, “Why did this youth say these words?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “This youth said, ‘The great virtuous ones have precedence, and I am next in line. I am a worldly person, in a humble caste. These great virtuous ones, such as the 80 great voice-hearers and the 500 leading Bodhisattvas, including Worthy Protector, should go first. I am next.’”
However, these voice-hearers as well as Worthy Protector and others all searched but could not find the māra. Like that savage who had been unable to find his son, they all admitted that they were incapable, and retired to one side.
Then the World-Honored One further told Kāśyapa, “You now have heard this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum. For forty years after my parinirvāṇa, you should protect and uphold the true Dharma as you do today. You should beat the great Dharma drum, blow the great Dharma conch shell, convene the great Dharma assembly, and erect the great Dharma banner. Then, during the next eighty years, as the true Dharma perishes, the Licchavi youth called Entire World Delighted to See will bind that evil māra and each of his retinue with five strings, like tying up a little rabbit. He will widely pronounce and recite the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum. He will beat the great Dharma drum, blow the great Dharma conch shell, convene the great Dharma assembly, and erect the great Dharma banner.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “When will this happen?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “During the last eighty years of the true Dharma, as it perishes.”
Kāśyapa said to the Buddha, “I would like to see the evil māra.”
The Buddha told the youth, “Quickly show the evil māra to the huge multitude.”
Then the youth, gazing reverently at the Buddha, said, “Look at this evil māra that has come from elsewhere and is seated among the multitude in the way Bodhisattvas assume the forms of bhikṣus.”
The huge multitude all saw him bound by five strings. The māra said, “Young man, I will no longer be a hindrance to this sūtra.” Three times he said it.
Then the World-Honored One told the Licchavi youth called Entire World Delighted to See as well as the multitude of Bodhisattvas: “Mahākāśyapa will be able to protect and uphold the true Dharma for forty years after my parinirvāṇa. Who among you all can be the final Dharma protector after I am gone?”
Three times the Buddha asked them, and no one was capable. The Buddha told the multitude, “Do not think less of yourselves. In this multitude I have many disciples who, after my parinirvāṇa, will be able to protect the true Dharma and pronounce this sūtra. The last one among the 500 Bodhisattvas, including Worthy Protector, is the Licchavi youth called Entire World Delighted to See. After my parinirvāṇa, he will beat the great Dharma drum, blow the great Dharma conch shell, convene the great Dharma assembly, and erect the great Dharma banner.”
Then the youth released the vile māra. Then the huge multitude said to the youth, “You have received a prophecy from the Buddha.”
The Buddha told Mahākāśyapa, “Kāśyapa, like a man guarding the fields without effective skills, you are incapable of protecting or upholding this sūtra. This youth has now heard this sūtra. He will excel in reading and reciting it, will step forward to protect and uphold it, and will expound it to others. He will always assume the form of an ordinary man though he stands on the Seventh Ground. When eighty years still remain for the true Dharma as it perishes, he will be reborn in the south into the Kāyale family, on the bank of the Skillful Means River, in the village of Mahāpari, in the kingdom of Maṇḍala. He will be the bhikṣu who upholds my name as if skillfully guarding and protecting the seedlings in the fields.
“In the midst of an arrogant, negligent, indolent multitude, he will renounce family life, the secular life. He will draw in that multitude by means of the Four Drawing-in Dharmas. After receiving this profound sūtra, he will read, recite, and penetrate it. He will purify the Saṅgha, enabling its members to abandon the impure ways they have accepted. First, he will pronounce to them Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum. Second, he will pronounce to them Mahāyāna sūtras about emptiness. Third, he will pronounce to them the eternal abiding of the Tathāgata and the realm of sentient beings, according to the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum. He will beat the great Dharma drum, blow the great Dharma conch shell, convene the great Dharma assembly, and erect the great Dharma banner. In my presence, he will don the armor of great vows. He will pour down the Dharma rain in his entire 100-year lifespan. After living 100 years, he will manifest great spiritual powers and demonstrate parinirvāṇa. He will say these words: ‘Śākyamuni Buddha now has come here. All should regard Him reverently, pay respects, and make obeisance. Indeed, the Tathāgata is eternally abiding in peace and bliss. You kindly people should observe that true reality is eternal and blissful as I say.’ Thereupon Buddhas from worlds in the ten directions will all appear and say these words, ‘Indeed! Indeed! It is just as you say. All should believe in what you have said so well.’”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what merits should a Bodhisattva achieve in order to see the eternal, indestructible dharma body of the Tathāgata and, upon dying, to demonstrate great spiritual powers?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas who have acquired eight merits can readily see the eternal, indestructible dharma body of the Tathāgata. What are these eight merits? First, pronounce this profound sūtra tirelessly. Second, pronounce the teachings of the Three Vehicles also tirelessly. Third, never abandon those who should be delivered. Fourth, bring harmony and unity to disrupted Saṅghas. Fifth, never be intimate with bhikṣuṇīs, women, or eunuchs. Sixth, stay far away from kings or those in power. Seventh, always delight in dhyāna and samādhi. Eighth, ponder and observe impurity and no self. These are the eight merits to acquire.
“There are four more things. What are these four? First, excel in upholding the Dharma. Second, always celebrate the good and joyful things one has done. Third, willingly take refuge [in the Three Jewels] and recognize it as a gain of great benefits. Fourth, resolutely have no doubts about the eternal abiding of the Tathāgata and, day and night, think of the merit of the Tathāgata.
“Through these causes and conditions, before one’s death, one will presently see one’s eternally abiding dharma body and manifest great spiritual powers. Kāśyapa, wherever such good men and good women stay in cities or villages, I will reveal the dharma body to them and say these words: ‘Good men and good women, the Tathāgata is eternally abiding.’ From today on, you should accept and uphold this sūtra, and read and recite it. You should explain it to others, saying these words: ‘Know that the Tathāgata always abides in peace and bliss. You should wish to see [your dharma body] with an upright mind, neither sycophantic nor deceitful.’ You should know that the World-Honored One is indeed eternally abiding. For the pure ones who wish to see me, I will manifest myself to them.
“Mahākāśyapa, you should believe and deliberate. If one does not train in accordance with the Dharma, how can one see me [one’s own dharma body]? How can one acquire transcendental powers and demonstrate them? As I have said to the voice-hearers, if a bhikṣu can discard even one [evil] dharma, I assure him that he will achieve a [voice-hearer] fruit, becoming an Anāgāmin. In the same way he will acquire merits. As I said earlier, a bhikṣu who observes his precepts will have gods following and serving him for life. Therefore, you all should never be greedy for benefits or worship. You should cultivate disgust as you meditate on your [physical] body. Furthermore, Kāśyapa, that bhikṣu, who will uphold my name, will bring purity to the Saṅgha.”
Kāśyapa asked the Buddha, “Why do you say that?”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “That bhikṣu will skillfully guard and protect the Four Drawing-in Dharmas, and will draw in the entire multitude of those who are greedy and corrupt, and those who violate the precepts. Each of the 500 Bodhisattvas, including Worthy Protector, initially considered himself incapable of being the final protector of the Dharma after my parinirvāṇa. They now are still incapable. When that bhikṣu, who will uphold my name, carries out the Drawing-in Dharmas, he will include the bhikṣus who are negligent and indolent and have them learn to make offerings. He will give sūtras to them, diminishing their afflictions and protecting their minds, like a ranger who tames cattle when they are ready. Those who do not reform after inclusion and training should be abandoned. Do not allow poisonous arrows to touch and harm good and pure people. He will have these thoughts: ‘Do not allow bhikṣus who are pure in their ways to breach their precepts because of the seamy ones. Nor should they pay respects to those who expound the non-Dharma and carry out the evil ways. Nor should they perform together with the seamy ones the Saṅgha duties, such as Dharma assembly, recitation of precepts, confession, and repentance.’ Just as a king subjugates his enemies, he will tame the bhikṣus by skillful means. Having tamed them, for 100 years he will always pour down the Dharma rain, beat the great Dharma drum, blow the great Dharma conch shell, convene the great Dharma assembly, and erect the great Dharma banner. He will demonstrate great spiritual powers and, at death, enter parinirvāṇa. After the appearance of 1,000 Buddhas and 100,000 Pratyekabuddhas, and the parinirvāṇa of 8 Tathāgatas in 62 kalpas, he will then attain Buddhahood. He will be called Knowledge Accumulation Radiance, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha. That bhikṣu, who will uphold my name then ultimately attain Samyak-Saṁbodhi in this land, is now the Licchavi youth called Entire World Delighted to See.
“Kāśyapa, know that it is hard to attain the unsurpassed bodhi. Kāśyapa, is it something an ordinary being can attain?”
Kāśyapa replied to the Buddha, “No, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha told Kāśyapa, “As a Buddha does His Buddha work in a one-Buddha world, so too do a second Buddha and a third Buddha [in their respective worlds]. Within a mustard seed, there is a multitude of worlds. Sentient beings are not aware that they move to and fro among worlds, and they do not know who is in command of their comings and goings or who places them somewhere. They cannot help doing things according to what they know. Some know there is [true] self while others do not. In this world, on the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain, there is Śākyamuni Buddha, and in the same place, there will be Ajita Buddha. Events may manifest in this world, whether the burning of a kalpa or the pronouncement of the Dharma by a Buddha. Such extraordinary manifestations are rare occurrences.
“What is the foremost extraordinary event? It is the youth Entire World Delighted to See, who has never been reborn into an ordinary family. The families into which he has been reborn are Bodhisattvas. Kāśyapa, know that his supporting family and attendants are all delighted. His loving kin all say these words: ’such [an extraordinary] person has been born into our family.’ These people are all sent by me. Kāśyapa, know that if my four groups of disciples who survive me become the retinue of that Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, they all will hear him pronounce this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum. They all will attain the unsurpassed bodhi.
“Kāśyapa, in a life far in the past, I was a Wheel-Turning King called Nandisena, in the city of Vaiśālī. At that time the city of Vaiśālī was like this Sahā World, Jambudvīpa, one of the four continents [of a small world] in this Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World. My lifespan was inconceivable. As the Wheel-Turning King, I gave generous alms and cultivated virtues in asaṁkhyeya ways. My observance of the precepts was pure, and I trained in good actions, accumulating immeasurable merit. However, if good men and good women, hearing of the Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum of the One Vehicle, go laughing to its presentation or remember it in one thought only, the merit they will acquire surpasses mine as described. It will be beyond reckoning by measurement or calculation, or by analogy. For example, when the mantra-king Blazing Flame recites a mantra, he will be well protected by its power for four months. Kāśyapa, know that the power of even a worldly ordinary mantra can be such. If one reads this Sūtra of the Great Dharma Drum, it is impossible that its power will fail to protect one for life. Therefore, if there are sentient beings that can make offerings to this sūtra, they have the definite cause for attaining the unsurpassed bodhi. Until their attainment of the ultimate bodhi, they will not stop pronouncing this sūtra.”
Then the huge multitude chanted with one voice, “Very good! Very good! How amazing! World-Honored One, this youth will be [reborn as] the bhikṣu who will uphold the Buddha’s name. If this bhikṣu enters parinirvāṇa in the south, the spirits of Jetavana Park here will have nothing to rely on. Instead, have him come from the south to the place where the Buddha was, then enter parinirvāṇa.”
The Buddha told the huge multitude, “He will not take the initiative to come here. I will go to him, manifesting myself. I will first have this sūtra sent to him, and then go there. Why? Because if this sūtra is not in his hands, his mind will regress. If he knows sentient beings that should be tamed, I, together with a huge multitude, will stand before him. After he has seen me, he will come here. Having been received here, he will enter parinirvāṇa. He will enter parinirvāṇa in the place where he wishes to deliver sentient beings.”
A son of the god-king Śakra called Abhimaṁru had come to this assembly by means of his transcendental powers. Although he was young, he believed and delighted in the Mahāyāna with a truly pure mind. Unique and unmatched, he upheld among the gods this profound Mahāyāna sūtra. Because he explained to them the right cause of liberation, he received a prophecy from the Buddha.
Then the huge multitude, with one voice, spoke in verse:
The youth Entire World Delighted to See
Will be [reborn as] a bhikṣu,
To beat the great Dharma drum
And to protect the Buddha Dharma,
Enabling it to abide for a long time.
After his parinirvāṇa,
The world will be empty like space.
After his parinirvāṇa,
No one can take his place.
Such a bhikṣu,
Rare in the world,
Can pronounce to the world
The ultimate Way.
Kāśyapa, Ānanda, Worthy Protector Bodhisattva, and the innumerable multitude, having heard the Buddha’s words, rejoiced and reverently carried out the teachings.
1. Usually, in Buddhist
doctrine, one’s karmic seed is the cause for one’s rebirth, and both parents
are the conditions (Sūtra 18). In this passage, the Buddha is leading up to the
exhaustion of karmic causes and conditions for one’s rebirth, as He states
later that “those who do not have the seeds of sentient beings are not called
parents.” (Return to text)
2. The first of the five aggregates that make up a sentient being is form, and the other four are non-form (mental functions). As stated in the Heart Sūtra (Sūtras 15-17), form is emptiness. Hence sentient beings are not form. The sūtra then states that emptiness is form. Hence sentient beings are not non-form. It is also possible to interpret at the relative level that sentient beings are not just form because they have mental functions and that they are not just mental functions because they have form. (Return to text)