Nirvana Sutra

Appreciation of the "Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra"

The "Nirvana Sutra" Continued (M)

"O good man! The tirthikas are ignorant and are like children. They do not have the expedients of Wisdom. They cannot truly see what is meant by eternal, non-eternal, suffering, bliss, pure, not-pure, Self, not-Self, life, non-life, being, non-being, real, non-real, what is or what is not. They partake of only a little of the Buddhist teaching. In a false way they say that there are the Eternal, Bliss, Self, and Purity. A person congenitally blind does not know what the colour of milk is like. He asks: "What is the colour of milk like?"  Another says: "It is as white as the colour of a shell."  The blind man further asks: "Is the colour of milk like the sound of a horn?"  "No" is the reply.  "What colour is the colour of a shell like?"  The answer comes back: "It is like the colour of rice powder."  The blind man asks: "Is the colour of milk as soft as rice powder? And what is the colour of rice powder like?"  The answer comes: "It is like snow."  The blind man says: "Is rice powder as cold as snow? And what is it like?"  The answer comes back: "It is like a crane."  Even though this congenitally blind man receives four similes in reply, he cannot arrive at the true colour of milk. It is the same with the tirthikas. To the end, they cannot arrive at what is meant by the Eternal, Bliss, Self, and Purity. The same is the case [here]. O good man! For this reason, the real truth rests with the Buddhist teaching. Things do not stand thus with the tirthikas."

Manjushri said to the Buddha: "O Rare World-Honoured One! The Tathagata, now facing Parinirvana, further turns the unsurpassed wheel of the Dharma. And thus he clearly presents “Paramartha-satya”. The Buddha said to Manjushri: "Why do you particularly gain the thought of Nirvana? O good man! You may presume and think that I am the Buddha and have achieved unsurpassed Enlightenment; that I am Dharma and that Dharma is what I possess; that I am the Way and the Way is what I possess; that I am the World-Honoured One and the World-Honoured One is what I am; that I am the sravaka and the sravaka is what I am; that I indeed teach others and make others give ear to me; that I truly turn the wheel of Dharma and others cannot. The Tathagata does not abide in such presumptions. Hence, the Tathagata does not turn the wheel of Dharma. O good man! There may be cases in which people make wrong assumptions and say: "The Self is the eye, and the eye is what the Self possesses. The same with ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind. The Self is matter, and matter is what the Self possesses. And this may extend down to dharma. The Self is the earth, and the earth is what the Self possesses. The same applies to water, fire and wind."  

"O good man! People may speculate and say: "The Self is faith and faith is what the Self possesses. The Self is multiple knowledge and multiple knowledge is what the Self possesses. The Self is danaparamita [perfected giving] and danaparamita is what the Self possesses. The Self is shilaparamita  [perfected moral precepts] and shilaparamita is what the Self possesses. The Self is ksantiparamita [perfected patience] and ksantiparamita is what the Self possesses. The Self is viryaparamita [perfected exertion] and viryaparamita is what the Self possesses. The Self is dhyanaparamita [perfected meditation] and dhyanaparamita is what the Self possesses. The Self is prajnaparamita [perfected Wisdom] and prajnaparamita is what the Self possesses. The Self is catvarismrty- upasthana [mindfulness] and catvarismrtyupasthana is what the Self possesses. The same with the four right efforts, the four at-willnesses, the five sense-organs, the five powers, the seven elements of Enlightenment, and the Noble Eightfold Path."  O good man! The Tathagata does not, to the end, make such assumptions. Hence, the Tathagata does not turn the wheel of Dharma. O good man! If we say that he is eternal and unchanging, how could we say that the Buddha-Nature turns the wheel of Dharma? So you should not say: "The Tathagata now turns the wheel of Dharma."  

"O good man! There is the situation, for example, where we get visual consciousness through the harmonious combination of eye, colour, light, and thinking. O good man! The eye does not think: "I shall cause consciousness to arise."  Colour, down to thinking, do not ever say: "I shall cause visual consciousness to arise."  Neither does consciousness say: "I shall arise by myself."  O good man! Such a harmonization of the causal relations of the law [i.e. of dharmas] is drsti [seeing, view]. O good man! It is the same with the Tathagata. Through the harmonious combination of the causal relations of the six paramitas, we gain drsti. O good man! The same with the Tathagata. He reaches the bottom of all things by means of the six paramitas and the 37 elements assisting towards Enlightenment. Also, we call it the turning of the wheel of Dharma, as he, using throat, tongue, teeth, lips and mouth, and through speech and voice, speaks of Dharma to Kaundinya and others. That is why we do not say that the Tathagata turns the wheel of Dharma. O good man! What is not turned is Dharma. Dharma is the Tathagata. O good man! Through the use of flint, by means of striking, by means of using the hands, and through using autumnal, dried-up grass, we obtain fire. But the flint does not say: "I shall cause fire to come about." The [act of] striking, the hand, and the dried-up grass also do not think: "I shall cause fire to arise." Nor does the fire say: "I shall come about by myself."  It is the same with the Tathagata. Through the six paramitas, down to speaking to Kaundinya, there occurs the turning of the wheel of Dharma. But the Tathagata, too, does not think and say: "I turn the wheel of Dharma". O good man! We speak of "non-coming-out" [non-arising, non-acting]. This is the right turning of the wheel of Dharma. This turning of the wheel is the Tathagata.

"O good man! An example: from cream, water, churning, a pot, and a person's hand holding it, we obtain butter. The cream does not think to itself: "I will call forth butter." Nor, even, does the person's hand think to itself: "I will call forth butter."  And the butter, too, does not think to itself: "I wll come about by myself."  By means of the coming together of the various causal relations, butter comes into being. The same with the Tathagata. He does not think and say: "I turn the wheel of Dharma."  O good man! This non-coming-out [non-deliberation of one's acts; spontaneity] is but the turning of the wheel of Wonderful Dharma. This turning of the wheel is at once the Tathagata.

"O good man! Through the combinations of such conditions as body, earth, water, fire, wind, and the fertility of the soil and the season, a bud comes out. O good man! The seed also does not say: "I shall call forth the bud."  Nor does the labour itself think and say: "I shall call forth the bud."  Nor does the bud say: "I shall come about."  It is the same with the Tathagata. To the end, he does not think and say: "I do turn the wheel of Dharma."  This turning of the wheel of Dharma [“Dharmacakra-pravartana”] is the Tathagata.

"O good man! As an example: through the conjoining of a drum, emptiness, leather, man, and drum-stick, we get the sound of the drum. The drum does not think and say: "I call forth sound."  The same with the drum-stick. Nor does the sound say: "I shall come out". O good man! It is the same with the Tathagata. He does not, to the end, think and say: "I turn the wheel of Dharma."  O good man! Turning the wheel of Dharma means "not-doing". Non-doing is turning the wheel of Dharma. Turning the wheel of Dharma is the Tathagata.

"O good man! Turning the wheel of Dharma is what takes place in the world of the All-Buddha-World-Honoured One. It is not something that can be known by sravakas and pratyekabuddhas. O good man! Space is no being-born, not coming-out, non-doing, not construing, or not what is created. It is the same with the Tathagata. He is no being-born, no coming-out [arising], no construing, and not what has been created. Like unto the nature of the Tathagata is the Buddha-Nature. It is not a being-born, not an arising, not a making, not a construing, and is not what is created.

"O good man! In what the All-Buddha-World-Honoured One says, there are two kinds [categories]. One is of the mundane, and the other is of the supramundane world. O good man! For the sake of sravakas and pratyekabuddhas, the Tathagata speaks about what is mundane. For the sake of Bodhisattvas, he speaks about what is supramundane. O good man! In this great congregation, there are, again, two kinds. One is the [type of] person who seeks the smaller vehicle, and the other is he who seeks the larger vehicle. In days gone by, at Varanasi, I turned the wheel of Dharma to all sravakas, and first at Kusinagara I turn the larger wheel for Bodhisattvas. Also, next, O good man! There are again two kinds of people, who are of:  1) middle grade   and  2) higher grade. For those of the middle grade, I turned the wheel of Dharma at Varanasi. And for those of the higher grade, for the elephant king, Bodhisattva Kasyapa, and others, I now, here, at Kusinagara, turn the larger vehicle [wheel] of Dharma. For those of the very lowest grade, the Tathagata, to the end, does not turn the wheel of Dharma. The lowest is the icchantika. Also, next, O good man! There are two kinds of person who seek the Buddhist teaching. One is he who makes middling effort, and the other is the person who makes higher effort. At Varanasi, I turned the wheel of Dharma for the sake of those of the middle grade, and here at this castle I turn the larger wheel of Dharma for those of the higher grade. Also, next, O good man! In days gone by, at Varanasi, when I first turned the wheel of Dharma, 8,000 devas attained the level of shrotapanna; and here at this castle, 800,000 people will attain unsurpassed Enlightenment and will not retrogress. Also, next, O good man! At Varanasi, Great Brahma fell to his knees and begged me to turn the wheel of Dharma. Now, here at this castle, Bodhisattva Kasyapa falls to his knees, begging me to turn the wheel of Dharma. Also, next, O good man! “When, in days gone by, I turned the wheel of Dharma, I spoke of the non-eternal, suffering, Void, and selflessness. Now, here in this castle, I turn the wheel of Dharma. I speak of the Eternal, Bliss, Self and Purity as true as can be.” Also, next, O good man! When I turned the wheel of Dharma in the past at Varanasi, my voice reached Brahma. When, now, the Tathagata turns the wheel of Dharma here at Kusinagara, my voice reaches and fills all the Buddha-lands to the east, whose number is as great as the sands of 20 Ganges. The same applies to the lands in the south, west and north.

"Also, next, O good man! The All-Buddha-World-Honoured One speaks of the Dharma. In all cases, we say that he turns the wheel of Dharma. O good man! It is just as the chakravartin's chakraratna [Jewel Wheel] thoroughly subdues those not yet come under his banner and gives peace to those already subdued. O good man! So does it stand with the delivering of sermons by the All-Buddha-World-Honoured One. The countless defilements not yet subdued will be conquered, and the root of good will shoot forth amongst those [people] already conquered. For example, O good man! It is just as the chakravartin's chakraratna truly makes away with all enemy robbers. The same with the sermons of the Tathagata. They thoroughly subdue all the hostile defilements, and peace reigns. Also, next, O good man! It is similar to the chakravartin's chakraratna, which rotates up and down. It is the same with the Tathagata's sermons. They indeed make the people of the lower world come up and gain rebirth in the worlds of humans, gods, or up to the Buddha world. O good man! That is why you should not utter praise, saying: "The Tathagata now, here, further turns the wheel of Dharma."

Then Manjushri said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! It is not that I did not know this. It was merely for the benefit of beings that I put this question. O World-Honoured One! I have long known this. Turning the wheel of Dharma is truly what obtains in the world of the All-Buddha-Tathagata, and this is something that cannot be attained by sravakas and pratyekabuddhas."

Then the World-Honoured One said to Bodhisattva Kasyapa: "O good man! This is why we say that a Bodhisattva abides in the teaching of the Great Nirvana Sutra of Mahayana and performs holy actions." Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! Why do we say "holy action?"  "O good man! "Holy"  refers to the All-Buddha-Tathagata. Hence, we say "holy action."  "O World-Honoured One! If this refers to the works of all Buddhas, it cannot come within the reach of practice of sravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas."  "O good man! The All-Buddha-World-Honoured One abides in Mahaparinirvana and thus opens out, discriminates and explains the meaning. For this reason, we say "holy action". The sravakas, pratyekabuddhas and Bodhisattvas, as soon as they hear [the Buddha's words], practise well. Hence, "holy action". O good man! As soon as this Bodhisattva-mahasattva has done this work, he attains the stage of fearlessness. O good man! If a Bodhisattva attains the stage of fearlessness, he then has no fear of greed, anger, ignorance, birth, age, illness and death. Also, he does not fear the unfortunate realms of hell, hungry ghosts, and animals. O good man! Of evil, there are two kinds. One is of the asura, and the other is of man. Of man, there are three kinds, which are: 1) icchantika,  2) slandering of the vaipulya sutras,  and  3) the four grave offences [for a monk: killing; stealing; sexual misconduct; and lying]. O good man! All Bodhisattvas of this stage do not have fear of falling into evil. Also, they are not afraid of sramanas, Brahmins, tirthikas, the evil-minded, and Marapapiyan; also, they are not afraid of being born into the 25 existences. That is why this stage is called that of fearlessness."  

"O good man! The Bodhisattva-mahasattva abides in the soil of fearlessness. He gains the 25 samadhis and breaks [destroys, liberates himself from, does away with] the 25 existences. O good man! When he attains the non-defilement samadhi, he does away with existence in hell. On gaining the non-retrogressive samadhi, he does away with existence as an animal. Gaining the blissful-mind samadhi, he does away with existence as a hungry ghost. Gaining the all-joy samadhi, he crushes out existence as an asura. Gaining the sunlight samadhi, he destroys existence in Aparagodaniya. Gaining the burning-flame samadhi, he does away with existence in Uttarakuru. Gaining the phantom samadhi, he does away with existence in Jambudvipa. Gaining the immovable samadhi of all things, he does away with existence in the four heavens. Gaining the unbeaten samadhi, he does away with existence in Rayastrimsa Heaven. Gaining the glad-will samadhi, he crushes out existence in Yama's heaven. Gaining the blue-colour samadhi, he does away with existence in Tushita Heaven. Gaining the yellow-colour samadhi, he destroys existence in Nirmanarati Heaven. Gaining the red-colour samadhi, he crushes out existence in Paranirmitavasavartin Heaven. Gaining the white-colour samadhi, he does away with existence in the first-dhyana Heaven. Gaining the varied samadhi, he does away with existence as Great Brahma. Gaining the twin samadhi, he destroys existence in the second dhyana. Gaining the thunder-sound samadhi, he destroys the third dhyana. Gaining the rain samadhi, he does away with the fourth dhyana. Gaining the akasha-like [space-like] samadhi, he does away with avrha existence. Gaining the bright-mirror samadhi, he does away with the existences of the Suddhavasa Heaven and the anagamin. Gaining the unhindered samadhi, he destroys akashanantayatana existence. Gaining the non-hindrance samadhi, he destroys akashanantayatana existence. Gaining the eternity samadhi, he does away with vijnananantayatana existence. Gaining the bliss samadhi, he crushes out the akincanyayatana. Gaining the Self samadhi, he does away with the naivasamjnanasamjnayatana. O good man! This is how we say that a Bodhisattva, on gaining the 25 samadhis, destroys the 25 existences. O good man! These 25 samadhis are called the king of all samadhis.

"O good man! If the Bodhisattva-mahasattva gains the all-samadhi king and wishes to blow away or crush Mount Sumeru, he can do so as he wills. If he desires to know what the minds of the beings of the 3,000 great-thousand worlds are thinking, he can do this as he wishes. If he desires to put the beings of the 3,000 great-thousand worlds into the pores of his skin, he can indeed do so as he desires. And he can do so without the beings' having any sense of being constricted. If he desires to transform innumerable beings and fill the 3,000 great-thousand worlds, he can do so as he desires. He can easily make one body into many, and many into one. Though he can do this, he does not cling to it. This is like the case of the lotus flower.

"O good man! The Bodhisattva-mahasattva, having thus entered the [king] samadhi, can indeed go anywhere. The Bodhisattva, abiding in this unmolested [i.e. unlimited, free] state, gains unmolested power and can be anywhere he desires to be. O good man! For example, this is like a chakravartin who, having gained four lands, finds nothing that obstructs him and he can act as he desires. The same with the Bodhisattva-mahasattva. Wherever he desires to go and live, he can do so as he desires. If a Bodhisattva- mahasattva sees any being in hell who can be taught and made to do good, he can immediately go there. The Bodhisattva is not originally born as a result of karma, but gains the unmolested soil through the causal relations of thus being born. O good man! The Bodhisattva-mahasattva, even though in hell, does not suffer from the pain of being burned or slashed. O good man! It is difficult fully to explain all the virtues which the Bodhisattva-mahasattva has cultivated within himself and which are as innumerable and boundless as 100 thousand million billion. And how could one explain all the virtues of all Buddhas?"

Then, among those gathered there, was a Bodhisattva whose name was "King-who-Abides-in-the-Undefiled-Storehouse". He had achieved great virtue and possessed divine power, great dharanis, was perfect in samadhi and fearlessness. He stood up and, baring his right shoulder, placed his right knee on the ground, prostrated himself and said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! As you the Buddha say, the virtues and Wisdom perfected by all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are as innumerable as 100 thousand million billion. It is impossible to explain [them]. I think to myself that nothing can supercede this Mahayana sutra. Why not? Because through the power of this Mahayana vaipulya sutra, there appear the All-Buddha-World-Honoured One and unsurpassed Enlightenment."

Then the Buddha praised him and said: "Well said, well said! O good man! It is thus, it is thus! It is as you say. All the innumerable Mahayana vaipulya sutras accomplish innumerable virtues. But compared with this, the simile fails. It [the virtue of this sutra] exceeds [the virtue of other sutras by] more than 100 times, more than 1,000 times, more than 100,000 million times, and no number can express it. O good man! For example, a cow brings forth milk; the milk produces cream, the cream produces fresh butter, the fresh butter produces clarified butter, and the clarified butter produces sarpirmanda. Sarpirmanda is the best. When it is partaken of, all illnesses die away. All medicines are contained in this. O good man! It is the same with the Buddha. From the Buddha come about the 12 types of sutra [scripture]. From the 12 types of sutra there come about the sutras [proper]. From the sutras come about the vaipulya sutras. From the vaipulya sutras there arise the prajnaparamita [Perfection of Wisdom sutras], and from the prajnaparamita comes about the Great Nirvana. The case is as that of sarpirmanda. Thus, sarpirmanda can well be likened to the Buddha-Nature. The Buddha-Nature is the Tathagata. O good man! For this reason, I say that the virtues of the Tathagata are immeasurable. They stand beyond number."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! You the Buddha say: "The Great Nirvana Sutra is like sarpirmanda and is the best. When partaken of, it cures all illnesses. All medicines are contained in this."  On hearing this, I think to myself: "If any person cannot get to hear this sutra, such a person is the greatest of the ignorant and has no good mind."  O World-Honoured One! I shall now peel off my skin, turn it into paper; take out my blood and turn it into ink; get water from my marrow, crack a bone to have it serve as a pen, and with all of these copy out the Great Nirvana Sutra. Having copied it out, I shall read and recite it, understand it well, and then, later, I shall patiently expound it to others. O World-Honoured One! If beings are dying for wealth, I shall give it to them, and later recommend this Nirvana Sutra and have them read it. With the nobility, I shall use loving words, follow them and later, by degrees, recommend this Mahayana Great Nirvana Sutra to them and get them to read it. With the dull, I shall force them to read it; with the arrogant, I shall become their servant, comply with their will, gladden them, and then guide them into the Great Nirvana Sutra. If there should be anyone who slanders the vaipulya, I shall crush him down, and after having subdued him, I shall recommend this Great Nirvana Sutra [to him] and have him read it. To any person who loves the Mahayana sutras, I shall myself pay homage, I shall make him offerings, and I shall respect and praise him."

Then the Buddha praised Bodhisattva Kasyapa: "Well said, well said! You love the [this] Mahayana sutra very much. You covet it, you love the Mahayana sutra, you understand it, believe in and respect Mahayana, and you make offerings [to it]. O good man! Through the causal relations of the good mind, you will rise above Bodhisattvas whose number is as countless and as boundless as the sands of the River Ganges, and you will attain unsurpassed Enlightenment. Before long, you too, like me, for the sake of beings, will expound Great Nirvana, the Tathagata, the Buddha-Nature, and all the hidden teachings of all Buddhas. O good man! In days past, when the sun of the Buddha had not yet risen, I was born as a Brahmin and was practising the Way of a Bodhisattva. I was versed in all sutras and in the sutras of the tirthikas, and was practising the Way of silent extinction. And I was perfect in my deportment. My mind was pure. Even if others came and urged [tempted, attacked] me, I was not beaten. Having relinquished the fire of anger, I upheld the law of the Eternal, Bliss, Self, and the Pure. I went about and looked for Mahayana sutras, but had not yet heard the name of the vaipulya. At that time I lived in the Himalayas. The mountains were pure; there was a plenitude of running rivers, ponds, forests, medicinal trees all around. Here and there, between the rocks, ran clear streams; beautiful flowers adorned everywhere. There were innumerable birds and animals. Sweet were the fruits and countless their varieties. Also, there were lotus roots, sweet roots, blue trees, and fragrant roots. I lived alone at that time, on fruit. After partaking of the fruit, I concentrated my mind and sat in meditation. It took an immeasurably long time, but I never heard of the appearance of the Tathagata or of the Mahayana sutras. O good man! I thus practised the Way through all difficulties, and Sakrodevanam and all the devas wondered at my practising of the Way. They all gathered together and spoke to each other, saying in a gatha:

"Each of us points and says

That in this pure quarter of the Himalayas

There lives a master, alone

And parted from all greed,

The king of all virtues.

Removed is he already

From greed, anger, and arrogance;

Long since has he done away with

Flattery and ignorance.

His mouth does not speak

What is rough or evil."  

"At that time, there was a deva among those present whose name was "Joy", and who also said in a gatha:

"One like this who is apart from greed

Is pure and makes effort. Is not such a person

One who looks up to Shakra [chief of gods] or the devas?

If such a person is one who seeks the Way,

Such a one will undergo penance.

Such a person will desire to gain

The place where Shakra sits."  

"At that time, there was a rishi who spoke to Shakra in a gatha:

"O Kausika [i.e. Shakra], master of heaven! Do not conceive things this way.

The tirthikas undergo penance.

Why do they need necessarily

To seek the place where Shakra lives?"  

"Speaking thus, he also said: "O Kausika! There is a great person here who, for the sake of beings, does not conceive things for his own good. To benefit beings, he practises penance in innumerable ways. Such a person sees in the world of birth and death all kinds of wrong, so that he does no covet any treasure, even if it filled this earth, all the mountains and the great seas. He sees all such things as being equal to tears and spit. Such a great person gives up his treasures, his wife and children, whom he loves, his head, eyes, marrow, hands, feet, the house where he lives, his elephant and horse, his vehicle, his male or female servants or pages; and he does not desire to be born in heaven. What he desires is solely to gain all happiness. What is evident to me is that such a great person is pure, has no defilements; he has done away with all the bonds of the “asravas”. Possibly he is bound for unsurpassed Bodhi."  

"Sakrodevanamindra says: "What you say seems to refer to one who desires to save all beings of the world. O great sage! If there is to be a Buddha tree in this world, he will uproot all the serpents of illusion of all such as Brahma, the beings of the world, and the asuras. If beings live in the cool shade of this Buddha tree, all poison will go away. O great rishi! If this person, in days to come, becomes a Sugata [Buddha], all of us will be able to extinguish the innumerable burning fires of illusion. Such a thing is hard to believe. Why? Innumerable beings gain unsurpassed Bodhichitta [resolve to gain Enlightenment], but as their causal relations [for this] are meagre, the Bodhichitta shatters. This is like the moon reflected in water, which moves if the water moves, or it is as difficult as trying to draw pictures in water, pictures which easily disperse. It is the same with Bodhichitta. It is difficult to attain it and it easily breaks apart. O great rishi! There are many people decked out in armour and with arms, who proceed to beat the enemy. But if the mind has fear while on the battle-field, that person is forced to draw back. It is like this with all beings. A person may be strongly armed with Bodhichitta and be adorned with it. But on seeing the works of birth and death, the mind feels fear, at which the person has to pull back. O great rishi! I have seen the minds of innumerable beings being thus shattered and shaken after they gained [initial] Bodhichitta. For this reason, though I now see this person intent upon penance, and though he has no worry or heat, and even though on a precipitous path his pursuit is pure, yet I still cannot believe in him. I shall now go and see for myself whether he is decidedly worthy of shouldering the heavy burden of unsurpassed Enlightenment. O rishi! It is like a wagon, which, if it has two wheels, can well stand carrying weight, or like a bird which, if it has two wings, can indeed fly. It will be the same with this person who is practising penance. Now, he is intent on upholding the prohibitive precepts, but I do not know if this person has deep Wisdom. If he has, he will indeed be able to shoulder the great weight of unsurpassed Enlightenment. O great rishi! A fish, for example, may have many eggs, but only a few fish will manage to emerge from them. The mango tree has many flowers, but the fruits are small in number. Many are the people who aspire to Enlightenment, but so few are those who attain that end that it is not worth mentioning. O great rishi! I shall go along with you and see for myself how matters stand. For example, O great rishi! One can distinguish true gold if one performs three types of test, which are: burning, beating, and polishing. This must be the way to test penance."  

"Then Shakrodevanamindra transformed himself into a rakshasa [flesh-eating demon] who was very fearful to behold. He came down to the Himalayas. And he stood there, not far away. At that time, the rakshasa had no fear in his mind; he looked brave, with none to compare to him. His oratory was in order, with his voice clear. He spoke half of a gatha from the Buddhas of days past:

"All things change.

This is the law of birth and death."

"Thus saying, he stood before the person. He looked very frightening, and looked all around him. The person who was practising penance heard these [words] and was happy. It was like a merchant who, while travelling on a difficult path through the dark night and losing sight of his companions, becomes full of fear, but when he meets up with his comrades again feels no end of joy; or it was like a person who has long been ill, without encountering a good doctor, good treatment or good medicine, who later comes across such; or it was like a person at sea who falls into the sea water and suddenly encounters a boat; or like a thirsty person who comes across water; or like a person who is being pursued by an enemy and who suddenly escapes; or like a person who has long been chained up in prison, who suddenly obtains release. Or it was like a farmer who encounters rain during the days of drought, or like a traveller who returns home again, and whose people at home are overjoyed. O good man! I, at that time, heard this one half of the gatha and was likewise joyous. I immediately got up from my seat, lifted up my hair with my hand, looked around me and said: "From whom was that gatha which I heard just now?"  

"At that time, as I looked around, I could see nobody except a rakshasa. I said: "Who is it that so opens the gate of emancipation and so thunders out the voice of all Buddhas? Who is it who, amidst the sleep of birth and death, alone awakes and utters such words? Who is it who shows beings, facing birth and death and famine-stricken, this unsurpassed Way? Innumerable beings flounder in the sea of birth and death. And who is it who is going to become a great master mariner? All these beings are always greatly stricken by the illness of the “asravas”. Who is it who is able to become the best of doctors? This half of the gatha teaches me, opens up and awakens my mind. It is as when the half-moon causes the lotus to open up its petals."  I then, O good man, saw none but the rakshasa. Also, I thought thus: "Did the rakshasa speak this gatha?"  Again I doubted: "Maybe he did not. Why not? The appearance of the man is so very frightful. Anyone who heard this gatha would do away with all fear and ugliness. How could a man like this, who looks so ugly, deliver a gatha such as this? A lotus cannot come out of fire; there cannot be cool water where the sunlight falls."  

"O good man! I then said to myself: "I am now ignorant. This rakshasa may have seen all the Buddhas in the past. On seeing them, he may have had a chance of hearing this half of the gatha. I shall ask."  Going up to where he was, I said: "Well, O great one! Where did you get this half of the gatha from a Fearless One of the past? O great one! Where did you get this half of a cintamani [wish-fulfilling jewel] of a gatha? O great one? This half of the gatha is the right path of the All-Buddha-World-Honoured Ones of the past, future, and present. The innumerable beings of the world are always overshadowed by all wrong actions, and all life through they stand amidst the teachings of the tirthikas and do not have the chance of hearing the supramundane words spoken by the World's Hero [Buddha], who is possessed of the ten powers." O good man! When I thus asked, the answer came back: "O great Brahmin! Do not ask of me the meaning of this. Why not? I have not eaten anything for days. I have looked all around, but I cannot find anything to eat. Due to thirst, hunger and worry, my mind is deranged and my words do not come out in order. My mind itself does not know [what is what]. I have flown through the sky. I have been to Uttarakuru, to heaven, and to all other places, but I cannot get food anywhere. So, I speak thus."  O good man! I then said to the rakshasa: "O great one! If you tell me about this gatha, I shall be your disciple to the end of my life. O great one! What you spoke was not entire and the meaning was not complete. Why do you not wish to speak? Now, there is an end even to wealth, but there is no end to the dana [giving] of Dharma. The dana of Dharma knows no ending. The benefit it bestows is great. Now that I have heard this half of the gatha, my mind is surprised, and I also have doubt. Now, ease my mind! If you complete this gatha, I shall be your disciple until the end of my days."  The rakshasa answered: "You have penetrated deeply into Wisdom. Only, you care solely for your own self and miss what was meant. I am now oppressed by hunger. I cannot carry on talking."  I asked: "What do you eat?"  The rakshasa replied: "Do not ask. If I say, people get frightened."  I further said: "I live alone, there is nobody else here. I, now, am not afraid of you. Why will you not say?" The rakshasa said: "What I eat is the soft flesh of man; what I drink is man's warm blood. It is an unfortunate destiny of mine that I have to sustain my life in this way. I go round and look about, but I cannot get any of these things. There are many men in the world. But all have virtue; all are protected by heaven. Besides, I have no strength and cannot kill."  O good man! I further said: "Tell me the meaning of the gatha in full. After hearing it, I shall offer you my body. O great one! I may die, but such a body as mine is of no use to me. It could get devoured by a tiger, wolf, owl or eagle, without my being blessed with a hair's amount of gain on my side. I am now intent upon unsurpassed Enlightenment. I shall discard a body which is not hard enough, and I mean to trade it for an indestructible one."  The rakshasa answered: "Who could believe what you say? Abandoning the beloved body for the sake of eight [=in English, eleven] words [i.e. the final words of the poem]?"  O good man! I replied: "You are really ignorant. Imagine a man here. It would be like giving up an earthenware [pot] for a vessel containing seven jewels. The same with me. I shall cast away my body which is not strong enough, in order to obtain an Adamantine Body. You say: [How can I believe you] I have witnesses such as Great Brahma, Shakrodevanamindra, and the four guardians of the earth, who will all bear witness to me. Also, all Bodhisattvas who wish to benefit countless beings and who all study Mahayana and who are perfect in the six paramitas will attest [to my sincerity]. And there are the All-Buddha-World-Honoured Ones of the ten directions who desire to benefit all beings. They, too, will bear witness that I shall indeed cast aside my body for the sake of those eight words."  The rakshasa said further: "If you wish to throw away your body thus, then listen well, listen well! I shall now recite the remaining half of the gatha for your sake."  O good man! Then, on hearing his words, I was glad at heart. I took off the deer-skin clothing that I had on and spread it on the ground for the rakshasa to preach [upon], and said: "O Honoured One! Please sit on this. I shall fold my hands and prostrate myself on the ground before you and say: [O Please, Honoured One! Speak well for me the remaining half of the gatha and bring things to completion]."  The rakshasa said:

"When birth and death are done away with,

Quietude is bliss."  

"Having said this, the rakshasa further said: "O Bodhisattva-mahasattva! You have now gained the complete meaning of the gatha and you must be satisfied. If you desire to benefit all beings, give me your body now!"  O good man! I, at that time, pondered greatly upon the [gatha's] meaning. So I later wrote this gatha upon stones, walls, trees, and upon the path. Then I put my clothes on. For possibly after death my body might be exposed [to someone]. I climbed a tall tree. Then the tree god said: "O you! What do you intend to do?"  O good man! I answered: "I shall now cast away my body, so as to repay the value I have obtained from the gatha."  The tree god asked: "What benefit does the gatha bestow?" I answered: "This gatha is what the Buddhas of the past, future and present have had for the opening up of the doctrine of the All-Void. I give my body up for this. It is not for profit, fame or treasure; not for the bliss of the chakravartin, the four guardians of the earth, Great Brahma, or man or heaven. I cast this away for the benefit of all beings."  O good man! I also vowed to myself: "Let all miserly people come and see how I relinquish this body. If there is a person who gives little and asks for much, let such a person see how I, merely for this gatha, cast my body away, just as a person might discard grass or wood."  

"As I said this, I flung my body down from the tree to the ground. It had not yet reached the ground when several voices sounded in the air. The voices reached as far as Akanistha Heaven. Then the rakshasa displayed his original form as Shakra, took hold of me in mid-air, and deposited me upon the ground. Then, Skakrodevanamindra, all the devas, and Great Brahma fell to the ground. They touched my feet, raised me up, and said: "Well done, well done! It is good, it is good! This truly is a Bodhisattva who benefits innumerable beings and who, in the blackness of the gloom, desires to set up a great torch. As I love the Tathagata's great Dharma, I beautifully ponder and worry. Please give ear to how I repent of my sins. You shall assuredly, in days to come, achieve unsurpassed Enlightenment. Please condescend to succour me."  

"Then, Shakrodevanamindra and the devas touched my feet. Then they disappeared and were seen no more. O good man! Since I discarded my body in days gone by for the sake of a gatha, in consequence I was able to hope to attain unsurpassed Enlightenment after twelve kalpas before Maitreya. O good man! I had accomplished such innumerable virtues. All arise from making offerings to the Tathagata's Wonderful Dharma.

"O good man! It is the same with you. If you aspire to unsurpassed Bodhichitta [Mind of Enlightenment], this will place you above Bodhisattvas as innumerable as the sands of innumerable, boundless Ganges. This is what we mean when we say that a Bodhisattva abides in the teaching of the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana and practises the holy Way."