無 量 義 經

 

The Sutra of Infinite Meanings

 

Translated into Chinese during the Southern Qi

by Tripitaka Sramana Dharmagatayasas from India

 

Translated into English in accord with

Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s teachings

 

Chapter 1- Virtues

Thus have I heard:

At one time, the Buddha was staying at Rajagrha, on Grdhrakuta, with an assembly of Bhiksus, 12,000 in all. There were also 80,000 Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas. There were Heavenly Beings, Nagas, Yaksas, Gandharvas, Asuras, Garudas, Kinnaras and Mahoragas. Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, Upasakas, and Upasikas were all present. There were great wheel-turning kings, small wheel-turning kings, and kings of the golden wheel, silver wheel, and other wheels. There were kings and princes, ministers and citizens, men and women, and great elders, each accompanied by their families and followers. In the hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, they encircled the Buddha and came before Him. They made prostrations, with their heads at the Buddha’s feet, and circumambulated the Buddha hundreds and thousands of times. They burned incense, scattered flowers and made many kinds of offerings. After the offerings to the Buddha, they stepped back and sat down to one side.

 

The Bodhisattvas’ names were Dharma Prince Manjusri, Dharma Prince Great-Mighty-Virtue-Treasury, Dharma Prince Worry-Free-Treasury, Dharma Prince Great-Eloquence-Treasury, Maitreya Bodhisattva, Guiding-Leader Bodhisattva, Medicine-King Bodhisattva, Medicine-Superior Bodhisattva, Flower-Banner Bodhisattva, Flower-Light-Banner Bodhisattva, Dharani-Freedom-King Bodhisattva, Guanyin Bodhisattva, Mahasthamaprapta Bodhisattva, Ever-Diligent Bodhisattva, Treasure-Seal-Hand Bodhisattva, Treasure-Accumulating Bodhisattva, Treasure-Stave Bodhisattva, Transcending-Three-Realms Bodhisattva, Vimabhara Bodhisattva, Fragrant-Elephant Bodhisattva, Great-Fragrant-Elephant Bodhisattva, Lion’s-Roar-King Bodhisattva, Lion-Playing-in-the-World Bodhisattva, Lion’s-Swift-Vigor Bodhisattva, Lion’s-Diligence Bodhisattva, Valiant-and-Keen-Power Bodhisattva, Lion-Mightily-Subduing Bodhisattva, Magnificent Bodhisattva, and Great Magnificent Bodhisattva. With these and other Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, there were 80,000 in all.

Of these Bodhisattvas, all are Great Beings of the Dharmakaya who have achieved the perfection of Precepts, Samadhi, Wisdom, Liberation, and Liberation’s Understanding and Views. With meditative and still minds, they remain constantly in the state of Samadhi. They are peaceful, content, uncontriving, and free from desires. No delusions or discursive thoughts can enter their minds. With minds tranquil and clear, vows vast as the universe, they remain unwavering for countless kalpas. Infinite Dharma-doors readily appear in front of them. They attain great wisdom and completely understand all Dharma. They comprehend and distinguish the nature and appearance of reality. Existent or non-existent, long or short, it is very clear and apparent to them. Moreover, knowing well the capacities, natures, and desires of all, with dharani and the unhindered power of eloquence, they appeal to the Buddha to turn the Dharma-wheel, and are able to turn it to accommodate all.

First, they let fall drops of dew to immerse the dust of desire. Opening the gate of Nirvana and fanning the wind of liberation, they eliminate the fiery afflictions of the world with the coolness of the Dharma. They next rain down the profound truth of the Twelve Links of Causes and Conditions upon ignorance, old age, illness, death and so forth, those violent, fiery sufferings that are like rays of focused sunlight. They pour the stream of the supreme Great Vehicle on sentient beings’ roots of goodness, spread the seeds of goodness over the fields of merits, and lead all to develop the sprout of Bodhi. With their wisdom as the sun and the moon, they apply skillful means according to the proper timing and conditions. They support and develop the work of the Great Vehicle and lead all to readily accomplish Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. They abide in a state of bliss that is wondrous and true. With infinite compassion, they relieve the suffering of sentient beings.

They are genuine, spiritual friends for all living beings. They are the great fields of blessings for all living beings. They are unsummoned teachers for all living beings. They are the safe, stable and joyful refuge for all living beings. They are the source of relief, protection, and great support for all living beings. They are the great guiding teachers for all sentient beings everywhere. They serve as eyes for the blind; they serve as ears, noses, or tongues for those who are deaf, who have no nose, or who are mute. Thus they make those who have defective organs complete and help those who are crazed, confused or in panic to have great Right Mindfulness.

As master boatmen or great master boatmen, they carry all living beings across the river of cyclic existence to the shore of Nirvana. As medicine-kings or great medicine-kings, they discern the forms of diseases, know well the properties of medicine, dispense it according to the disease, and lead people to take it joyfully. As tamers or great tamers, their conduct is never undisciplined; they are like trainers of elephants and horses who can train anything that can be trained. They are like majestic and brave lions that inevitably subdue and overpower all beasts, being impervious to harm. These Bodhisattvas play effortlessly in all the Paramitas; then at the stage of the Tathagata they remain firm and unwavering. They abide in the power of their vows and extensively purify Buddha-lands. Before long they will attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. All these Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas have such inconceivable merits and virtues.

The Bhiksus’ names were Great Wisdom Sariputra, Spiritual Power Maudgalyayana, Wisdom-life Subhuti, Maha-Katyayana, Purna Maitrayani-Putra, Ajnata-Kaundinya, Heavenly Eye Aniruddha, Precept-keeping Upali, Attendant Ananda, the Buddha’s son Rahula, Upananda, Revada, Kapphina, Vakkula, Acyuta, Svagata, Dhuta Maha-Kasyapa, Uruvilva-Kasyapa, Nadi-Kasyapa and Gaya-Kasyapa. These and other Bhiksus numbered 12,000 in all. They all were Arhats, who had exhausted all bonds and Leaks and no longer had any entanglements or attachments. They were truly liberated.

At that time, Great Magnificent Bodhisattva-Mahasattva saw that the assembly sat with settled minds. Together with all 80,000 Bodhisattvas-Mahasattvas in the assembly, he rose from his seat and went to where the Buddha was. They all made prostrations with their heads at the Buddha’s feet and circumambulated the Buddha hundreds and thousands of times. They scattered celestial flowers and burned celestial incense while celestial garments, celestial strings of jewels, and priceless celestial treasures came spiraling down from the sky, gathering together from all directions, and were offered to the Buddha. Celestial serving dishes and celestial bowls and vessels were abundantly filled with delicacies of one hundred celestial flavors. Upon seeing this food or smelling its fragrance, one would naturally be full and satisfied. Celestial banners, celestial flags, celestial canopies, and wondrous celestial musical instruments were placed everywhere, with celestial music played to entertain the Buddha. Then all went forth to kneel on their right knee with palms pressed together, and with one mind and one voice they praised Him in verse:

Supremely great and greatly awakened is the great lord of sages!

With no defilement, no contamination, and no attachment,

He trains heavenly beings and men like a trainer of elephants and horses.

His cultivation and virtues are like wind or fragrance that permeate everything.

His wisdom is tranquil, His sentiments are peaceful, and His thinking is focused and still.

His thoughts and consciousness have ceased, and His mind is silent.

He has forever eliminated the delusions of His thinking, perceiving and recollecting.

He is never again influenced by the Elements, the Skandhas, the Realms, or the Entrances.

His body is neither existent nor non-existent,

Arises from neither causes nor conditions, and does not discriminate self from others,

It is neither square nor round, neither short nor long,

Neither appearing nor disappearing, neither arising nor ceasing,

Neither creating nor inciting, nor contriving nor producing,

Neither sitting nor lying down, neither walking nor standing still,

Neither moving nor turning, neither idle nor tranquil,

Neither advancing nor retreating, neither safe nor in danger,

Neither right nor wrong, neither gaining nor losing,

Neither that nor this, neither going nor coming,

Neither blue nor yellow, neither red nor white,

Neither scarlet nor purple, nor any variety of colors.

He gives rise to the perfection of Precepts, Samadhi, Wisdom, Liberation, and Liberation’s Understanding and Views,

Develops the Three Insights, the Six Spiritual Powers, and the Practices to Enlightenment,

Brings forth loving-kindness, compassion, the Ten Powers, and the [Fourfold] Fearlessness,

And appears in the world with the good karmic causes and conditions of sentient beings.

He reveals His body, 16 chi in size, with purple-gold radiance.

His upright demeanor shines with penetrating brilliance.

Between His eyebrows is a white whorl of hair like the moon, with the radiance of the sun.

His curling hair is dark blue, and a fleshy protuberance is on His crown.

His clear eyes are bright and illuminating; His gaze reaches above and below.

His eyebrows and eyelashes are dark blue and relaxed, and His jaw is square.

 

His lips and tongue are red, like a red fruit.

His forty teeth are white like snow.

His forehead is broad, His nose straight, and His face is wide and open.

The symbol of a svastika is on His chest, which is broad like a lion.

His palms and soles are soft, with impressions of thousand-spoked wheels.

His armpits are well-filled and His hands finely webbed; He can grab inwardly and outwardly.

His arms are long, and His fingers are straight and slender.

His skin is fine and soft, with hair curling to the right.

The bones of His ankles and knees are not apparent,

And His private organ is hidden like that of a horse.

His veins are fine, His shoulders rounded, His leg muscles are like those of a deer.

 

Inside and out, His body is crystal-clear, pure, and without defilement,

Like pure water with no contamination, not tainted by dust.

Of these physical marks, there are thirty-two,

And eighty excellent characteristics which seem to be seen.

But in truth, there is no appearance nor any form;

All appearances are perceived by the eye.

While His appearance is of non-appearance, He manifests the appearance of a body.

He manifests with the same physical appearance as sentient beings.

This allows sentient beings to happily pay respect to Him

And sincerely express their utmost reverence.

 

Because He has eliminated self-importance and arrogance,

He has perfected such a wondrous body.

All of us together, an assembly of 80,000,

Make prostrations to and take refuge in

Him who has skillfully eliminated thinking, perceiving and consciousness,

The noble being who has no attachments and is like a trainer of elephants and horses.

We prostrate to and take refuge in His Dharma-body and Form-body,

the collected perfection of Precepts, Samadhi, Wisdom, Liberation, and Liberation’s Understanding and Views.

We prostrate to and take refuge in His wondrous and auspicious appearance.

We prostrate to and take refuge in His inconceivable state.

His clear and melodious voice thunders in eight ways,

Wondrous, pure, profound and far-reaching,

Expounding the Four Truths, the Six Paramitas, and the Twelve Links

To accommodate living beings and transform their mental karma.

Of those who hear, none will fail to open their hearts and minds

And break the numerous entanglements of the endless cycle of birth and death.

Some who hear may become Srotaapannas,

Sakrdagamins, Anagamins, or Arhats.

Some become Pratyekabuddhas, flawless and uncontriving.

Some realize the Bodhisattva ground of no arising and no ceasing.

Some acquire infinite dharanis

And can joyfully expound the Dharma with unhindered great eloquence.

They speak profound, wondrous verses,

Playing and bathing in the pure pool of the Dharma.

Some display spiritual powers as they jump up and fly,

Or freely go in and out of water or fire.

Such are the manifestations of the Dharma-wheel,

Pure, boundless, and inconceivable!

 

Again we all prostrate together

And take refuge in the Dharma-wheel that turns at the right time.

We all prostrate to and take refuge in the pure voice of the Buddha.

We all prostrate to and take refuge in the [Twelve] Links, the [Four Noble] Truths, and the [Six] Paramitas.

The World Honored One, for infinite past kalpas,

Has painstakingly and diligently cultivated all virtuous practices.

For the benefit of us human beings, heavenly beings, Dharma-protectors

And all sentient beings universally,

He was able to give up all that is hard to give up,

Such as wealth, wife, children, and kingdom.

Never begrudging anything, inside or out,

His head, eyes, marrow, and brain were all given to others.

He upheld the pure precepts of all Buddhas;

Even at the cost of His life, he never caused harm.

Even if someone hurt Him with knives or clubs,

Or abused and insulted Him with words, he would never get angry.

For many kalpas, though His body was worn down, He never tired nor slackened.

Day and night, He focused His mind and remained in the state of meditation.

He extensively learned the Dharma of all paths.

His wisdom deeply penetrates the capacities of sentient beings.

Therefore, He has now attained this power of freedom.

Being free and at ease with all Dharma, He is the Dharma King.

I and all others prostrate together.

We take refuge in the Buddha who diligently practices everything that is difficult.

Chapter 2 - Expounding the Dharma

At that time, Great Magnificent Bodhisattva-Mahasattva and the 80,000 Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, having finished this verse in praise of the Buddha, said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, we 80,000 Bodhisattvas now would like to ask about the Dharma of the Tathagata. We do not know whether the World-Honored One will mercifully honor us by listening.”

The Buddha told Great Magnificent Bodhisattva and the 80,000 Bodhisattvas: “Good! Good! Good man, you know well that this is the time. You may ask any questions. Before long, the Tathagata will enter Parinirvana. So that no one will have any doubts remaining after I enter Parinirvana, whatever you want to ask, you may ask.”

Therefore, Great Magnificent Bodhisattva and the 80,000 Bodhisattvas then asked the Buddha with one voice, “World-Honored One, if Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas wish to readily attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, which Dharma-door should they practice? Which Dharma-door will enable Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas to readily attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi?”

The Buddha addressed Great Magnificent Bodhisattva and the 80,000 Bodhisattvas, saying, “Good man, there is one Dharma-door that allows Bodhisattvas to readily attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. A Bodhisattva who learns this Dharma-door will readily attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.”

“World-Honored One! What is the name of this Dharma-door? What is its meaning? How does a Bodhisattva practice it?”

The Buddha said, “Good man, this one Dharma-door is called Infinite Meanings. Bodhisattvas who wish to practice and learn Infinite Meanings should observe all things. The nature and appearance of all things have always been empty and still, neither large nor small, neither arising nor ceasing, neither fixed nor moving, neither advancing nor retreating. Like empty space, they are non-dual. However, sentient beings, in their delusion, perversely calculate this and that, gain and loss. They let unwholesome thoughts arise, create evil karma, and hence transmigrate through the Six Destinies, undergoing all kinds of suffering. For countless billions of kalpas, they have been unable to free themselves. Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas observe the truth in this way, give rise to sympathy, great loving-kindness, and compassion, and want to save sentient beings and relieve their suffering.”

 

They then deeply penetrate all things. They see the appearance of things is such, and know such is the arising of things. They see the appearance of things is such, and know such is the abiding of things. They see the appearance of things is such, and know such is the changing of things. They see the appearance of things is such, and know such is the cessation of things. They see the appearance of things is such, and know this can give rise to evil things. They see the appearance of things is such, and know this can give rise to virtuous things. Abiding, changing, and ceasing also happen in the same way.

Having observed the four states of existence from beginning to end in this way, they understand completely. Bodhisattvas next examine and understand the truth of all things, seeing that thoughts never abide; new things arise and cease continuously. Furthermore, they observe that arising, abiding, changing, and ceasing occur in every instant. Having engaged in such contemplation, Bodhisattvas then penetrate the capacities, natures, and desires of sentient beings. Because these natures and desires are infinite, the teachings are infinite. As the teachings are infinite, their meanings are also infinite.

These Infinite Meanings arise from One Dharma. This One Dharma is of non-appearance. In such non-appearance there can be no appearance nor attachment. With no attachment to non-appearance, this is called True Appearance. As Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas abide in this True Appearance of reality, the loving-kindness and compassion they evoke are clearly true and not false. They can truly relieve suffering wherever sentient beings are. Having relieved them from suffering, Bodhisattvas then expound the Dharma for them, enabling them to experience happiness.

Good man, if Bodhisattvas can practice and learn in this way the one Dharma-door of Infinite Meanings, they will readily attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Good man, this is the profound, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings. It is true in word and principle and unsurpassed in its honor. It is safeguarded by all Buddhas of the Three Periods. No maras or heretics can gain entrance, nor can it be corrupted by the deviant views that perpetuate cyclic existence. Therefore, good man, Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas who wish to readily attain unsurpassed Bodhi should practice and learn this profound, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings.”

 

At that time Great Magnificent Bodhisattva then said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, the Dharma You teach is inconceivable, the capacities and natures of sentient beings are also inconceivable, and liberation through the Dharma-doors is also inconceivable. We have no remaining doubts about the Dharma expounded by the Buddha. However, because sentient beings’ minds give rise to delusion, I therefore ask again. World-Honored One, during the more than forty years since the Tathagata attained the Truth, You have often expounded for sentient beings the meaning of the four states of existence of all things. You have taught about the meaning of suffering, the meaning of emptiness, impermanence, and no-self, that there is no large or small, no arising or ceasing; everything is without appearance. The nature of all things and the appearance of all things has always been empty and still, neither coming nor going, neither appearing nor disappearing.

Of those who have heard these teachings, some have acquired the Warmth Dharma, the Pinnacle Dharma, or the Foremost in the World Dharma; some have attained the fruits of Srotapannas, the fruits of Sakrdagamins, the fruits of Anagamins, the fruits of Arhats or the path of Pratekyabuddhas; some have developed Bodhicitta and ascended to the first ground, second, third, or even the tenth ground. What is the difference in meaning between all the Dharma You have taught in the past and what You have stated today, this profound, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings, such that Bodhisattvas who practice it are sure to readily attain unsurpassed Bodhi? How do you explain this? I only hope that the World-Honored One, out of loving-kindness and sympathy for all, will make this distinction for all sentient beings, enabling those who hear the Dharma in the present or future to have no web of doubts remaining.”

Therefore the Buddha told Great Magnificent Bodhisattva, “Good! Good! Man of great goodness, you are able to ask the Tathagata about such intricately subtle and wondrous meanings of this profound, unsurpassed Great Vehicle. You should know that you are able to provide much benefit through bringing peace and joy to humans and heavenly beings and through relieving the suffering of sentient beings. Your great loving-kindness and compassion are true and not false. Because of these causes and conditions, you are sure to readily attain unsurpassed Bodhi. You will also enable all sentient beings, now and in the future, to attain unsurpassed Bodhi.

Good man, after six years, sitting properly in my place of practice under the Bodhi tree, I attained Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Then as I observed with my Buddha-eye I knew that not all Dharma could be proclaimed. Why is this so? Because the natures and desires of sentient beings are varied. Because their natures and desires are varied, my teachings have also been varied. Teaching various Dharma with the power of skillful means for more than forty years, I did not reveal the true meaning. Therefore, sentient beings attain different truths; they do not readily attain unsurpassed Bodhi.

Good man, the Dharma is like water, which can wash away defilements. Whether water comes from a well, a pond, a stream, a river, a brook, a channel, or a great ocean, it can wash away all defilements. Dharma-water is also like this; it can cleanse sentient beings of the defilements of their afflictions. Good man, the nature of water is one, but a stream, a river, a well, a pond, a brook, a channel, and a great ocean are different from one another. The nature of the Dharma is also like this. There is no difference in its washing away of the world’s troubles. However, the Three Dharmas, the Four Fruits, and the Two Paths are not the same.

Good man, although all water can clean, a well is not a pond, a pond is neither a stream nor a river, and neither a brook nor a channel is a great ocean. The Dharma taught by the Tathagata, the hero of the world, who is free and at ease with the Dharma, is also like this. The beginning, the middle, and the latter teachings can all cleanse sentient beings of afflictions. Still, the beginning is not the middle, and the middle is not the latter. The beginning, the middle, and the latter teachings use the same words, but differ from one another in meaning.

Good man, after I arose from under the king of trees, I went to Deer Park in Varanasi and turned the Dharma-wheel of the Four Noble Truths for those five people, Ajnata-Kaundinya and the others. I also taught that all things have always been empty and still, yet change continuously, as thought after thought arises and ceases. During the middle period of my teachings, I expounded to Bhiksus and Bodhisattvas everywhere the Twelve Links of Causes and Conditions and the Six Paramitas. I also taught that all things have always been empty and still, yet change continuously, as thought after thought arises and ceases. As I now expound this Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings here, I once more also teach that all things have always been empty and still, yet change continuously, as thought after thought arises and ceases. Therefore, good man, the beginning, the middle, and the present teachings use the same words, but differ in meaning. Because the meanings are different, sentient beings’ understandings are different. Because their understandings are different, the Dharma, the fruits, and the truths they attain are also different.

Good man, at the beginning, as I taught the Four Noble Truths to those who wanted to be Hearers, eight billion heavenly beings who descended to hear the Dharma developed Bodhicitta. In the middle period, as I taught everywhere the profound Twelve Links of Causes and Conditions to those who wanted to become Pratyekabuddhas, infinite sentient beings developed Bodhicitta, while others remained Hearers. I next taught the Vaipulya sutras, the Twelve Divisions of teachings, the Mahaprajna sutras, and the Avatamsaka Sutra with its oceans of clouds, explaining how Bodhisattvas must undergo kalpas of spiritual cultivation. Thus, the hundreds and thousands of Bhiksus and millions and billions of humans and heavenly beings reached the states of Srotapannas, Sakrdagamins, Anagamins, or Arhats, or abided in the Dharma of interdependent arising realized by Pratyekabuddhas. Good man, for this reason, we know that although the words are the same, their meanings are different. Because the meanings are different, the understandings of sentient beings are different. As their understandings differ, the Dharma, fruits, and the truths they attain also differ.

Therefore, good man, after attaining the Truth, from the time I started teaching the Dharma to this day on which I expound the Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings, I have never stopped explaining suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and no-self. There is no real nor unreal, no large nor small. There was originally no arising, so now there is no ceasing; all things are without appearance. The appearance and the nature of all things are neither coming nor going. However, sentient beings continue to be moved by the four states of existence.

Good man, this means that in the words of all Buddhas there are no differences. They can respond universally with one voice to all voices. With one body They can manifest as many bodies as the hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, nayutas, immeasurable, innumerable grains of sand in the Ganges River. Each of these bodies can in turn manifest as many kinds of forms as the hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, nayutas, asankyas of grains of sand in the Ganges River. Each form can further manifest as many shapes as the hundreds, thousands, millions, billions, nayutas, asankyas of grains of sand in the Ganges River. Good man, the inconceivable, profound state of Buddhas is incomprehensible to practitioners of the Two Vehicles and beyond the reach of Bodhisattvas of the tenth ground. It is understood completely only among Buddhas.

Therefore, good man, I teach this wondrous, profound, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings, which is true in word and principle and unsurpassed in its honor. It is safeguarded by all Buddhas of the Three Periods. No maras nor heretics can gain entrance, nor can it be corrupted by the deviant views that perpetuate cyclic existence. If Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas wish to readily attain unsurpassed Bodhi, they should learn and practice this profound, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings.”

After the Buddha finished these words, the Great Trichiliocosm quaked in six different ways. The sky spontaneously rained down all kinds of celestial flowers, such as utpala, padma, kumuda, and pundarika. Next it rained down innumerable kinds of celestial incense, celestial garments, celestial strings of jewels, and priceless celestial treasures; they came spiraling down from the sky as an offering to the Buddha and the assembly of Bodhisattvas and Hearers. Celestial serving dishes and celestial bowls and vessels were abundantly filled with delicacies of one hundred celestial flavors. Celestial banners, celestial flags, celestial canopies, and wondrous celestial musical instruments were placed everywhere, with celestial music and songs performed in praise of the Buddha. Then the world again quaked in six different ways.

In the east, in Buddha-lands as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, it also rained down celestial flowers, celestial incense, celestial garments, celestial strings of jewels, and priceless celestial treasures. Celestial serving dishes and celestial bowls and vessels were filled with delicacies of one hundred celestial flavors. There were celestial banners, celestial flags, celestial canopies, and wondrous celestial musical instruments, with celestial music and songs performed in praise of those Buddhas and those assemblies of Bodhisattvas and Hearers. The same occurred in the worlds to the south, west, and north, as well as the four in-between directions, and those above and below.

Then among the multitude, 32,000 Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas attained the Samadhi of Infinite Meanings, and 34,000 Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas acquired immeasurable and infinite dharani-doors and could turn the non-regressing Dharma-wheel of all Buddhas of the Three Periods. All the Bhiksus, Bhiksunis, Upasakas, Upasikas, Heavenly Beings, Nagas, Yaksas, Gandharvas, Asuras, Garudas, Kimnaras, and Mahoragas, as well as great wheel-turning kings, small wheel-turning kings, and kings of the silver wheel, iron wheel and other wheels; kings, princes, ministers, citizens, men, women and great elders, each accompanied by their families and followers in the hundreds of thousands, heard the Buddha, the Tathagata, teach this sutra. Some acquired the Warmth Dharma, the Pinnacle Dharma, or the Foremost in the World Dharma. Some attained the fruits of Srotapannas, Sakrdagamins, Anagamins, Arhats, or Pratyekabuddhas. Some attained the Bodhisattva state of patience caused by realizing the non-arising nature of phenomena. Some acquired one dharani, some acquired two dharanis, some acquired three dharanis, some acquired four dharanis, five, six, seven, eight, nine, or ten dharanis; some acquired hundreds, thousands, millions, billions of dharanis; some acquired as many dharanis as the immeasurable, countless asankyas of grains of sand of the Ganges River. Every one of them was enabled to accommodate all as they turned the non-regressing Dharma-wheel. Infinite sentient beings gave rise to the aspiration to attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

Chapter 3 - The Ten Merits

At that time Great Magnificent Bodhisattva-Mahasattva again said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One! You have taught this wondrous, profound, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings. Truly it is very profound, very profound, very profound! Why is this so? In this assembly, Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, Your four groups of disciples, Heavenly Beings, Nagas, ghosts, spirits, kings, ministers, citizens, and all sentient beings have heard this very profound, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings, and none have failed to obtain the dharani-doors, the Three Dharmas, the Four Fruits, or the Bodhi-mind. We should know that this sutra is true in word and principle and supremely honored. It is safeguarded by all Buddhas of the Three Periods. No maras or heretics can enter it, nor can it be corrupted by the deviant views that perpetuate cyclic existence. Why is this so? By hearing it only once, one is enabled to uphold all Dharma.

If sentient beings hear this sutra, it is to their great benefit. Why is this so? If they can practice it, they are sure to readily attain unsurpassed Bodhi. If sentient beings are unable to hear this sutra, we should know that it is a great loss to them. Even after the passage of countless, limitless, inconceivable asankyas of kalpas, they ultimately will not attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Why is this so? Not knowing that the great path to Bodhi is straight, they take perilous paths and face many adversities.

World-Honored One, this sutra is inconceivable! I only wish that the World-Honored One, out of loving-kindness and sympathy, will extensively expound for this assembly the profound and inconceivable aspects of this sutra. World-Honored One, where does this sutra come from, where does it go, and where does it abide, to have such infinite merit and inconceivable power that it enables sentient beings to readily attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi?”

At that time the World-Honored One told Great Magnificent Bodhisattva-Mahasattva, “Good! Good! Good man, indeed, indeed, it is as you say. Good man, this sutra that I teach is very profound, very profound, truly very profound. Why is this so? Because it enables sentient beings to readily attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Because hearing it once enables them to uphold all Dharma. Because it brings great benefits to sentient beings. Because it enables them to walk the great, straight path without facing any adversities. Good man, you ask where this sutra comes from, where it goes, and where it abides. You should listen well! Good man, this sutra comes from the royal home of all Buddhas, goes to where sentient beings develop Bodhicitta, and abides wherever Bodhisattvas practice. Good man, this sutra comes in this way, goes in this way, and abides in this way. Therefore, this sutra has such inconceivable powers of infinite merits and can enable sentient beings to readily attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Good man, would you like to hear of the powers of the ten inconceivable merits of this sutra?”

 Great Magnificent Bodhisattva replied, “We would be willing, delighted and eager to hear.”

The Buddha said: “Good man, first, this sutra can enable Bodhisattvas who have not yet developed Bodhicitta to develop Bodhicitta; enable those who have no loving-kindness to give rise to a mind of loving-kindness; enable those who are prone to killing to give rise to a mind of great compassion; enable those who are jealous to give rise to empathetic joy; enable those who have cravings and attachments to give rise to a mind of equanimity; enable those who are miserly and greedy to give rise to a mind of giving; enable those who are arrogant to give rise to a mind of upholding precepts; enable those who are filled with anger to give rise to a mind of patience; enable those who become lax to give rise to a mind of diligence; enable those who are unfocused to give rise to a mind of Samadhi; enable those who are ignorant to give rise to a mind of wisdom; enable those who are not yet able to deliver others to give rise to the will to deliver others; enable those who commit the Ten Evils to give rise to a mind of the Ten Good Deeds; enable those who delight in contriving to vow to attain an uncontriving mind; enable those who retreat in their will to practice to create a mind that never retreats; enable those with Leaks to give rise to a mind free of Leaks; and enable those who have many afflictions to give rise to the will to eliminate them. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the first merit of this sutra.

“Good man, second, the power of the inconceivable merits of this sutra is thus: If there are sentient beings who have obtained this sutra, whether in its entirety, or one verse, or even one phrase, they will be able to completely understand hundreds, thousands, millions, billions of meanings. These teachings which they uphold could not be taught even in countless kalpas. Why is this so? The Dharma in this sutra has infinite meanings. Good man, by analogy, a seed can produce hundreds, thousands, millions of seeds. Each of these seeds in turn can produce hundreds, thousands, millions of seeds. This process continues in this way on to infinity. This sutra is also like this. One Dharma gives rise to hundreds and thousands of meanings. Of those hundreds and thousands of meanings, each meaning in turn gives rise to hundreds, thousands, millions more. This continues in this way on to infinite, limitless meanings. Therefore, this sutra is called Infinite Meanings. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the second merit of this sutra.

“Good man, third, the power of the inconceivable merits of this sutra is thus: If there are sentient beings who can hear this sutra, whether in its entirety, or one verse, or even one phrase, they will penetrate hundreds, thousands, millions, billions of meanings. Although they have afflictions, they carry on as if they had no afflictions. As they face life and death, they have no thoughts of fear. As they face all sentient beings, they give rise to sympathy and compassion. As they face all phenomena, they give rise to courage and fortitude. This is like a strong man who can shoulder and carry any heavy burden. Those who uphold this Sutra are also like this. They can carry the weighty treasure of unsurpassed Bodhi and take on the responsibility of helping sentient beings escape the cycle of birth and death. Although they have not yet delivered themselves, they can already deliver others. This is like a master boatman whose body is suffering from severe illness, whose limbs are incapacitated, and who remains on this shore. Yet, he has a sturdy ship equipped for transporting people, with which he allows others to cross. Those who uphold this sutra are also like this. Suffering through the Five Realms, perpetually fettered in all of their lives by 108 grave illnesses, they remain on this shore of ignorance, aging and death. However, with this strong and sturdy Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings, they can deliver sentient beings. Those who practice according to what was taught will be delivered from cyclic existence. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the third merit of this sutra.

“Good man, fourth, the power of the inconceivable merits of this sutra is thus: If there are sentient beings who can hear this sutra, whether in its entirety, or one verse, or even one phrase, they will give rise to courage and fortitude. Although they have not yet delivered themselves, they can deliver others. They will have all Bodhisattvas as their spiritual family. All Buddhas, the Tathagatas, will often expound the Dharma to them. After hearing it, they will all be able to accept and uphold it, follow it accordingly and not oppose it. They will in turn teach it to others extensively and suitably. Good man, they are like the newborn prince of the king and queen. Whether one day, two days, or seven days old, whether one month, two months, or seven months old, whether one year, two years, or seven years old, though not yet able to govern and manage the affairs of state, he is already respected by the ministers and citizens. He has the older princes for companions, and the king and queen, who lovingly favor him, regularly converse with him. Why is this so? Because he is very young.

Good man, those who uphold this sutra are also like this. All Buddhas are the king and this sutra is the queen. Their union gives birth to Bodhisattvas, their children. If these Bodhisattvas can hear this sutra, whether one phrase or one verse, or once in its entirety, or twice, or ten, or one hundred, or one thousand, or ten thousand times, or millions and billions of times, or as many times as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, infinite, countless times, though they are still unable to realize the ultimate truth, and still cannot shake the worlds of the Great Trichiliocosm or with thundering Brahma-tones turn the great Dharma-wheel, they are already respected by the Fourfold Assembly and the eight classes of Dharma-protectors. They have all great Bodhisattvas as their spiritual family. Penetrating deeply into the secret teachings of all Buddhas, they can expound them without contradictions or faults. They always remain in the thoughts and under the protection of all Buddhas, who kindly and lovingly favor them, because they are new learners. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the fourth merit of this sutra.

“Fifth, the power of the inconceivable merits of this sutra is thus: If good men and good women, whether during the Buddha’s lifetime or after He enters Parinirvana, accept, uphold, recite or transcribe this profound, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings, though they are still bound by afflictions and cannot yet distance themselves from worldly matters, they will still be able to manifest the great Bodhi-path. They will be able to extend one day into one hundred kalpas and shorten one hundred kalpas into one day. They lead sentient beings to joyfully and faithfully accept the teachings. Good man, these good men and good women are like a newborn dragon, only seven days old, who can already gather clouds and bring down rain. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the fifth merit of this sutra.

“Good man, sixth, the power of the inconceivable merits of this sutra is thus: If good men and good women, whether during the Buddha’s lifetime or after He enters Parinirvana, accept, uphold or recite this sutra, although they still have afflictions, they can teach the Dharma to sentient beings, enabling them to be free from all afflictions and from cyclic existence as well as to end all their suffering. Having heard these teachings, sentient beings that practice will attain the Dharma, the fruits, and the Truth, no different than if from the Buddha, the Tathagata. They can be compared to a prince. Though the prince is still very young, if the king is traveling or ill, he entrusts the prince to govern and manage the affairs of state.

At this time, the prince, following the king’s order, makes decrees in accordance with the Dharma so his many officials and ministers will proclaim and spread propriety. His kingdom and citizens will live in peace, just as if ruled by the king, without any difference. The good men and good women who uphold this sutra are also like this. Whether during the Buddha’s lifetime or after He enters Parinirvana, these good men, though they are not yet able to abide in the first Bodhisattva ground through the Bodhisattva ground of stillness, by relying on the Buddha’s spoken teachings, they will be able to expound the Dharma. Having heard these teachings, sentient beings that practice wholeheartedly will eradicate their afflictions and attain the Dharma, the fruits, and even the Truth. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the sixth merit of this sutra.

“Seventh, the power of the inconceivable merits of this sutra is thus: If good men and good women, whether during the Buddha’s lifetime or after He enters Parinirvana, have heard this sutra, and with joy and faith give rise to a rare and precious aspiration, they will accept and uphold it, read and recite it, transcribe and explain it, practice in accord with the Dharma and develop Bodhicitta. They develop their roots of goodness and invoke the mind of great compassion, wanting to deliver all suffering sentient beings. Although they have not cultivated the Six Paramitas, the Six Paramitas will spontaneously appear before them. Then in their present life they will attain non-arising patience. They will eradicate at once the afflictions of cyclic existence and ascend to the seventh ground, the state of great Bodhisattvas. This is like a strong man who vanquishes enemies for the king. With the enemy eliminated, the king in his delight bestows half of his kingdom upon the man. Men and women who uphold this sutra are also like this. Among all practitioners they have the most courage and fortitude. Without seeking it, the Dharma-treasure of the Six Paramitas comes to them; their enemy, cyclic existence, will perish spontaneously, and they will achieve Non-arising Patience. They will be awarded the treasure of half a Buddha-land, to live in peace and joy. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the seventh merit of this sutra.

“Good man, eighth, the power of the inconceivable merits of this sutra is thus: If good men and good women, whether during the Buddha’s lifetime or after He enters Parinirvana, can obtain this sutra and reverently believe in it no differently than if they were seeing the Buddha Himself, if they delight in this sutra, accept and uphold it, read and recite it, transcribe it, and respectfully practice in accord with the Dharma, then they will fortify their observance of precepts and their patience as they also practice the Paramita of giving. With deeply developed loving-kindness and compassion, they widely teach others this unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings. If someone previously did not believe in the existence of transgressions or blessings, they will teach them with this sutra and establish all kinds of skillful means to help strengthen their belief. By virtue of the majestic power of this sutra, these people open up their hearts and instantly turn around. Since their faith has developed, they will courageously and diligently advance. They attain the majestic power of this sutra, and thus attain the Truth and the fruits. Therefore, these good men and good women will, in their present lives, achieve the patience caused by realizing the non-arising nature of phenomena and ascend to the higher Bodhisattva grounds. They will have all Bodhisattvas as their spiritual family. They will quickly help sentient beings reach spiritual attainment and purify Buddha-lands. Before long, they will attain unsurpassed Bodhi. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the eighth merit of this sutra.

“Good man, ninth, the power of the inconceivable merits of this sutra is thus: If good men and good women, during the Buddha’s lifetime or after He enters Parinirvana, obtain this sutra, they are joyful and enthusiastic at having obtained something they never had before. If they accept and uphold it, read and recite it, transcribe it, make offerings, and widely explain and distinguish the meaning of this sutra for all people, then their past karma, residual transgressions, and heavy obstructions will all be completely eliminated at once. Thus they will attain purity and great eloquence, magnificently achieve all Paramitas in sequence, and attain all Samadhis, including the Surangama Samadhi. They will enter the great door of total retention. Having gained the power of diligence, they will quickly ascend to the higher Bodhisattva grounds. They will be able to skillfully manifest multiple bodies everywhere in the lands of the ten directions. They will be able to relieve the extreme suffering of sentient beings in the twenty-five forms of existence, enabling them all to achieve liberation. This is why this sutra has such power. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the ninth merit of this sutra.

“Good man, tenth, the power of the inconceivable merits of this sutra is thus: If good men and good women, during the Buddha’s lifetime or after He enters Parinirvana, can obtain this sutra, develop great joy and give rise to a rare, precious aspiration, they will not only accept and uphold it, read and recite it, transcribe it, make offerings, and practice accordingly themselves, they will also widely encourage lay and monastic practitioners to accept and uphold it, read and recite it, transcribe it, make offerings, explain it, and practice in accord with the Dharma. They lead others to practice with the power of this sutra and thus attain the Truth and the fruits. This is due to the transformative power of the loving-kindness and diligence of these good men and good women. Therefore, these good men and good women will, in their present lives, attain infinite dharani-doors. Though still in an unenlightened state, from the start they can naturally make innumerable asankyas of great vows. They have a deep ability to save all sentient beings and perfect great compassion to widely relieve suffering. They will accumulate thick roots of goodness which benefit everything, and they will spread the Dharma to immerse and greatly moisten what is parched. They give this Dharma-medicine to all sentient beings and bring peace and joy to all. They will gradually be seen ascending until they abide at the ground of Dharma-cloud. Their grace will nurture all, and their loving-kindness will cover all without exception, drawing in suffering sentient beings to enable them to enter the right path. Therefore, before long, these good people will attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Good man, this is the inconceivable power of the tenth merit of this sutra.

“Good man, this unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings has extremely majestic and miraculous power and is unsurpassed in its honor. It can enable all ordinary beings to achieve the fruits of noble beings, forever transcend the cycle of life and death, and reach a state of freedom and ease. Therefore, this sutra is called Infinite Meanings. Because they enable all sentient beings who are still in an unenlightened state to give rise to infinite sprouts of the Bodhisattva-path, and cause trees of merit to flourish and grow, these are called the powers of the ten inconceivable merits of this sutra.

Then Great Magnificent Bodhisattva-Mahasattva and the 80,000 Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas said to the Buddha with one voice: “World-Honored One, this profound, wondrous, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings taught by the Buddha is true in word and principle and unsurpassed in its honor. It is safeguarded by all Buddhas of the Three Periods. No maras or heretics can gain entrance, nor can it be corrupted by the deviant views that perpetuate cyclic existence. Therefore, this sutra has the inconceivable power of these ten kinds of merits. It gives great benefits to infinite sentient beings. It enables Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas to each attain the Samadhi of Infinite Meanings. They may attain hundreds and thousands of dharani-doors; or reach all the Bodhisattva grounds and all levels of patience. Or they may attain the realizations of Pratyekabuddhas or of the fourth fruit, Arhatship. World-Honored One, You have such loving-kindness and sympathy; Your quickly teaching us such Dharma and allowing us to attain the great benefits of the Dharma is very extraordinary, something we never had before. The kindness and grace of the World-Honored One are truly hard to requite.”

At that time, the Great Trichiliocosm quaked in six different ways. The sky again rained down all kinds of celestial flowers, such as utpala, padma, kumuda, and pundarika. Next it rained down innumerable kinds of celestial incense, celestial garments, celestial strings of jewels, and priceless celestial treasures; they came spiraling down from the sky as an offering to the Buddha and the assembly of Bodhisattvas and Hearers. Celestial serving dishes and celestial bowls and vessels were abundantly filled with delicacies of one hundred celestial flavors. Upon seeing this food or smelling its fragrance, one would naturally be full and satisfied. Celestial banners, celestial flags, celestial canopies, and wondrous celestial musical instruments were placed everywhere, with celestial music and songs performed in praise of the Buddha. Then the world again quaked in six different ways.

In the east, in Buddha-lands as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, it also rained down celestial flowers, celestial incense, celestial garments, celestial strings of jewels, and priceless celestial treasures. Celestial serving dishes and celestial bowls and vessels were filled with celestial delicacies of one hundred celestial flavors. Upon seeing this food or smelling its fragrance, one would naturally be full and satisfied. There were celestial banners, celestial flags, celestial canopies, and wondrous celestial musical instruments, with celestial music and songs performed in praise of those Buddhas and those assemblies of Bodhisattvas and Hearers. The same occurred in the worlds to the south, west, and north, as well as the four in-between directions, and those above and below.

At this time, the Buddha told Great Magnificence Bodhisattva-Mahasattva and the 80,000 Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas: “You all should bring forth deep respect for this sutra, practice in accord with the Dharma, extensively transform all, and diligently spread this teaching. Day and night you should diligently protect this teaching, enabling all sentient beings to receive the benefits of the Dharma. You all truly have great loving-kindness and great compassion! Use your spiritual powers and the power of your vows to protect this sutra. Do not allow doubts to obstruct you. In this life and future lives spread it over Jampudvipa and enable all sentient beings to see and hear it, read and recite it, transcribe it, and make offerings. Because of this, you all will be able to readily attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.”

At this time, Great Magnificence Bodhisattva-Mahasattva and the 80,000 Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas then rose from their seats, came to where the Buddha was, and made prostrations, with their heads at His feet, and circumambulated the Buddha hundreds and thousands of times. Then they knelt on their right knee and said to the Buddha with one voice, “World-Honored One, You have bestowed Your loving-kindness and sympathy on us and taught us this profound, wondrous, unsurpassed Great Vehicle Sutra of Infinite Meanings. We respectfully accept the Buddha’s instruction. After the Tathagata enters Parinirvana, we will widely spread this sutra, enabling all to accept and uphold it, read and recite it, transcribe it, and make offerings. We pray only that the World-Honored One will not be worried. We will use the power of our vows to enable all sentient beings to see and hear it, read and recite it, transcribe it, make offerings and acquire the majestic and miraculous power of this sutra.”

At that time, the Buddha praised them, “Good! Good! Good man, you and the others are now truly Buddha-children. With great loving-kindness and great compassion, you have deep ability to relieve those who are suffering and save those in difficulty. You are the fields of blessings for all sentient beings, and serve as excellent guides for all. You are the great refuge for all sentient beings, and the noble benefactors of all sentient beings. You constantly give the benefits of the Dharma to all.”

At this time, all in the assembly rejoiced. They paid their respects to the Buddha and accepted and upheld the teachings as they departed.

May these merits and virtues

be spread to all universally,

so that we sentient beings

can all attain Buddhahood together.

Translation by DAW Team