Thus I have heard:
At one time the Bhagavān was in the Karaṇḍa Bamboo Garden of the city of Rājagṛha, together with an innumerable multitude of great Bodhisattvas, bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, as well as gods, dragons, asuras, yakṣas, garuḍas, kiṁnaras, and mahoragas. All were seated in the huge assembly.
At that time Bhadrapāla Bodhisattva1 rose from his seat, arranged his attire, and fell on his knees. He joined his palms and asked the Buddha, “I would like to ask some questions. May I have Your permission to ask them now?”
The Buddha replied, “Very good! Ask any questions as you wish. I will answer them to you.”
Bhadrapāla Bodhisattva asked the Buddha, “What dharmas should Bodhisattvas do in order to develop wisdom, like the immense ocean accepting myriad streams? What should they do in order to acquire broad knowledge and understand what they have heard without doubts? What should they do in order to know their past lives and whence they have come to reborn? What should they do in order to live a long life? What should they do in order to be reborn into a family with a great name and to be loved and respected by their parents, siblings, relatives, and friends? What should they do in order to be endowed with even, comely features? What should they do in order to acquire excellent talents, to be outstanding in the multitudes, and to develop superb, all-encompassing wisdom? What should they do in order to acquire the merit and wisdom required for Buddhahood, to achieve immeasurable awesome power, and to adorn their magnificent Buddha Lands? What should they do in order to subjugate hostile māras? What should they do in order to achieve command so that their vows will never fail? What should they do in order to enter the Door of Total Retention? What should they do in order to acquire the transcendental powers to travel to Buddha Lands everywhere? What should they do in order to acquire the bold valor of a lion, with nothing to fear, unmovable by māras? What should they do in order to realize their holy Buddha nature and to accept and uphold the Dharma in the sūtras with understanding, not forgetting anything? What should they do in order to achieve self-fulfillment, free from sycophancy and flattery and unattached to the Three Realms of Existence? What should they do in order to be free from hindrances and to acquire the overall wisdom-knowledge, never deviating from the Buddha’s intention? What should they do in order to win people’s trust? What should they do in order to acquire the eight tones [of a Buddha] and sound 10,000 koṭi tones? What should they do in order to acquire the sublime appearance [of a Buddha]? What should they do in order to acquire the power of all-hearing? What should they do in order to acquire the bodhi-eye to see into the future? What should they do in order to acquire the Ten Powers and true wisdom? What should they do in order to see, in a single thought, Buddhas from worlds in the ten directions all standing before them? What should they do in order to know that the four appearances of every dharma have no reality? What should they do in order to see in this world innumerable Buddha Lands in the ten directions and to know the good and evil life-journeys of the people, gods, dragons, spirits, and wriggly insects in those lands? These are my questions. I pray that the Buddha will explain to me and resolve all my doubts.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Very good! Your questions are so comprehensive that they are beyond measure. You can ask these questions because you have acquired merit in your past lives under past Buddhas; because you have made offerings to Buddhas, delighted in the Dharma in the sūtras, observed your precepts, and lived in purity; because you have always begged for food, not accepting meal invitations, convened assemblies of Bodhisattvas, taught people to stop doing evil, and seen the equality of all; and because you have always had great lovingkindness and great compassion. Your merit is beyond measure.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “There is a samādhi called Buddhas from Worlds in the Ten Directions All Standing before One. If you can do this dharma, you will have the answers to all your questions.”
Bhadrapāla said to the Buddha, “I pray that You will pronounce it. What the Buddha will now pronounce is all-encompassing. It will give peace to [sentient beings in worlds in] the ten directions and provide great illumination to Bodhisattvas.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “There is a samādhi called Concentrated Mind. Bodhisattvas should constantly guard, learn, and uphold it, never to follow other ways. Of all virtuous ways, this is the foremost one.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “If Bodhisattvas aspire to attain this samādhi quickly, they should stand in great faith. Those who train themselves in accordance with the Dharma can attain this samādhi. Do not raise any doubts, even as slight as a hair. This Dharma of Concentrated Mind is also called the Bodhisattva Way Surpassing All Other Ways.”
[Then the Buddha spoke in verse:]
With a single thought, believe in this Dharma.
Following the teachings heard, think only of one object.
Keep only one thought, ceasing all other thoughts.
Stand firm in your faith, without any doubts.
Progress energetically, never negligent or indolent.
Think of neither existence nor nonexistence, neither progress nor regress.
Think of neither front nor back, neither left nor right.
Think of neither nonexistence nor existence, neither far nor near.
Think of neither pain nor itch, neither hunger nor thirst.
Think of neither cold nor hot, neither pain nor pleasure.
Think of neither birth nor old age, neither illness nor death.
Think of neither body nor life, nor longevity.
Think of neither wealth nor poverty, neither nobility nor lowliness.
Think of neither sense objects nor desires.
Think of neither large nor small, neither long nor short.
Think of neither beauty nor ugliness.
Think of neither evil nor good, neither anger nor delight.
Think of neither rising nor sitting, neither proceeding nor stopping.
Think of neither the sūtras nor the Dharma.
Think of neither right nor wrong, neither grasping nor abandoning.
Think of neither perception nor consciousness.
Think of neither cessation nor continuation.
Think of neither emptiness nor true reality.
Think of neither heavy nor light, neither hard nor easy.
Think of neither deep nor shallow, neither broad nor narrow.
Think of neither father nor mother, neither wife nor children.
Think of neither friends nor acquaintances, neither love nor hatred.
Think of neither gain nor loss, neither success nor failure.
Think of neither clarity nor turbidity.
Cease all thoughts and be vigilant for a given period of time, never distracted.
Progress energetically, never negligent or indolent.
Do not count the years, nor feel tired in a single day.
Hold one thought, never losing it.
Avoid sleep and keep the mind alert.
Always live alone and avoid gatherings.
Shun evil ones but stay near beneficent friends.
Serve illuminated teachers, regarding them as Buddhas.
Hold firm your resolve, but always be gentle.
Meditate on the equality of all things.
Avoid your hometown and keep away from relatives.
Abandon love and desire and live in purity.
Meditate on that which is asaṁskṛta and cease desires.
Drop distracting thoughts and learn the way of concentration.
Gain wisdom from words in accord with dhyāna.
Remove the three afflictions and purify the six faculties.
Cease lustful pursuits and leave sensory pleasures behind.
Do not be greedy for wealth or accumulate things.
Know contentment in eating and do not covet flavors.
Take care never to eat any sentient being [dead or alive].
Dress in accordance with the Dharma, and do not be ornately adorned.
Do not tease others, nor be proud or arrogant.
Do not be conceited, nor elevate yourself.
Expound sūtras in accordance with the Dharma.
Understand that the body has always been like an illusion.
Do not be engrossed by the [five] aggregates, nor revel in the [twelve] sensory fields.
The five aggregates are like thieves, and the four domains are like snakes.
All are impermanent and all are unstable.
Recognize that there has never been an everlasting ruler in one,
Only convergence and divergence of causes and conditions.
Understand and know that nothing in existence is real.
Bestow lovingkindness and sympathy on all.
Give alms to the poor and relief to the unfortunate.
This is meditative concentration in the Bodhisattva Way, which
Will unfold the fundamental wisdom and elicit myriads of wisdom-knowledge.
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “One who trains in this way will attain the samādhi in which present Buddhas all stand before one. If, among bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, there are those who want to train according to this Dharma, they should fully observe their precepts and live alone in a place to think of Amitābha Buddha, who now is in the west. According to the teachings heard, one should also think of His land called Sukhāvatī, which is ten million koṭi Buddha Lands away from here. One should single-mindedly contemplate for one day and one night, or even seven days and seven nights. After the seventh day, one will see Him. By analogy, one sees things in a dream, not knowing whether it is day or night, indoors or outdoors, and one’s sight is impervious to darkness or obstructions.
“Bhadrapāla, Bodhisattvas should do this contemplation. Then huge mountains, Sumeru Mountains, and dark places in the intervening Buddha Lands will all fall away, not posing any obstruction. These Bodhisattvas will see across without having the God-eye, hear across without having the God-ear, and travel to that Buddha Land without possessing transcendental powers. It is not that they have died here and been reborn there, but that they can sit here and see everything there.
“As an analogy, a man hears that in the kingdom of Vaiśālī lives a prostitute named Sumanā; a second man hears of a prostitute called Āmrapālī; and a third man hears that Utpalavarṇā has become a prostitute. These three men have never seen those three women, but they have heard of them and their lust is ignited. They all live in Rājagṛha, and they have lustful thoughts concurrently. Each of them goes, in a dream, to the woman he thinks of and spends the night with her. When they wake up, they all remember their own dreams.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “The three women I have mentioned serve as an analogy. You may use this story to expound the sūtras, enabling others to unfold their wisdom so that they will arrive at the Ground of No Regress on the unsurpassed true Way. When they eventually attain Buddhahood, they all will be called Superb Enlightenment.”
The Buddha said, “Bodhisattvas in this land can see Amitābha Buddha by thinking intently only of Him. When they see Him, they can ask, ‘What Dharma should I uphold in order to be reborn in Your land?’ Amitābha Buddha will reply, ‘Those who wish to be reborn in my land should think of my name. If they can continue without rest, they will succeed in being reborn here.’”
The Buddha said, “Because of intent thinking, one will be reborn there. One should always think of Amitābha Buddha’s body with the thirty-two physical marks and the eighty excellent characteristics, unequaled in its majesty, radiating vast bright light to illuminate everywhere. He teaches, in the assembly of Bodhisattvas and bhikṣus, that dharmas [in true reality] are empty and, therefore, indestructible. Why? Because indestructible are all dharmas, such as form, pain, itch, thinking, perception, birth, death, consciousness, spirit, earth, water, fire, wind, the human world, and the heaven world, including Great Brahma Heaven. By thinking of a Buddha, one attains the Samādhi of Emptiness.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Who have attained this Bodhisattva samādhi? My disciple Mahākāśyapa, Indraguṇa Bodhisattva, the god-son Good Virtue, and those who already know this samādhi, have attained it through training. Hence, Bhadrapāla, those who wish to see present Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions should think of their lands single-mindedly, without other thoughts. Then they will be able to see them. As an analogy, one travels to a distant land and thinks of family and kin in one’s hometown. In a dream, one returns home, sees one’s family and relatives, and enjoys talking to them. After waking, one tells one’s dream to friends.”
The Buddha said, “If Bodhisattvas hear of a Buddha’s name and wish to see Him, they will be able to see Him by constantly thinking of Him and His land. For example, a bhikṣu visualizes before him the bones of a corpse, turning blue, white, red, or black. The colors are not brought by anyone, but are imagined by his mind. Likewise, by virtue of Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power, Bodhisattvas who skillfully abide in this samādhi can see, as they wish, a Buddha of any land. Why? Because they are able to see Him by virtue of three powers: the power of Buddhas, the power of the samādhi, and the power of their own merit.
“As an analogy, a handsome young man dressed in fine clothes wants to see his own face. He can see his reflection by looking into a hand mirror, pure oil, clear water, or a crystal. Does his reflection come from the outside into the mirror, oil, water, or crystal?”
Bhadrapāla replied, “No, it does not. God of Gods, it is because of the clarity of the mirror, oil, water, or crystal, that the man can see his reflection. His reflection comes from neither the inside [of the medium] nor the outside.”
The Buddha said, “Very good, Bhadrapāla. Because the medium is clear, the reflection is clear. Likewise, if one wishes to see a Buddha, one with a pure mind will be able to see. When one sees Him, one can ask questions, and He will give a reply. Having heard the teachings, one will be exultant and think: ‘Where does this Buddha come from and where am I going? As I think of this Buddha, He comes from nowhere and I am going nowhere. As I think of the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm, these three realms are formed by my mind. I can see what I think of. The mind forms a Buddha for itself to see; the mind is the Buddha mind. As my mind forms a Buddha, my mind is the Buddha; my mind is the Tathāgata; my mind is my body.’
“Although the mind sees a Buddha, the mind neither knows itself nor sees itself. The mind with perceptions is saṁsāra; the mind without perceptions is nirvāṇa. Dharmas as perceived are not something pleasurable. They are empty thoughts, nothing real. This is what Bodhisattvas see as they abide in this samādhi.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse:
The mind does not know itself; the mind does not see itself.
The mind that fabricates perceptions is false; the mind without perceptions is nirvāṇa.
Dharmas are not firm, only founded upon thinking.
Those who see emptiness with this understanding are free from perceptions and expectations.
The Buddha continued, “There are four things through which Bodhisattvas can quickly attain this samādhi. First, have faith that no one can destroy. Second, make energetic progress that nothing can deter. Third, have wisdom-knowledge with which no one else’s can compare. Fourth, always work under a beneficent teacher. These are the four things.
There are another four things which will enable one to attain this samādhi quickly. First, do not engage in worldly thinking for three months, not even during a finger snap. Second, do not sleep for three months, not even during a finger snap. Third, do walking meditation for three months without any rest, except when eating and so forth. Fourth, expound sūtras to others, not expecting their offerings. These are the four things.
There are another four things which will enable one to attain this samādhi quickly. First, take people to the Buddha. Second, gather people to have them hear the teachings. Third, have no jealousy. Fourth, have people learn the Buddha Way. These are the four things.
There are another four things which will enable one to attain this samādhi quickly. First, construct Buddhas’ images. Second, copy this sūtra on fine fabric. Third, teach the conceited ones to enter the Buddha Way. Fourth, always protect and uphold the Buddha Dharma. These are the four things.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse:
Always believe and delight in the Buddha Dharma.
Progress energetically to unfold profound wisdom.
Disseminate and pronounce the Dharma to others.
Guard against greed for offerings.
Discard desires with good understanding.
Always think of Buddhas, who have awesome virtue,
And see and know dharmas in limitless diversity.
Past Buddhas, future Buddhas,
And present Buddhas, revered among men,
With no more afflictions to discharge,
Are golden in color and have superb physical marks.
They give firm teachings with wisdom beyond the ultimate.
Listen to this Dharma with an undistracted mind.
Forever discard the way of negligence and indolence.
Never bear malice toward others.
Respect teachers as you do Buddhas.
Take care not to have doubts about this sūtra,
Which is praised by all Buddhas.
Always construct and enshrine Buddhas’ images.
Always persuade others to learn this Dharma
And practice it to attain this samādhi.
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Those who want to learn this samādhi should respect their teachers, serve them, and make offerings to them, regarding them as Buddhas. Those who see their teachers as less than Buddhas will have difficulty attaining this samādhi. Bodhisattvas who respect beneficent teachers from whom they have learned this samādhi can advance. By virtue of Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power, when they face the east, they will see a billion koṭi Buddhas. In the same way, they will see Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions. By analogy, one observes the night sky and sees myriads of stars. Bodhisattvas who wish to see present Buddhas all standing before them should respect beneficent teachers, not looking for their faults. Never negligent or indolent, they should fully train in giving alms, observing precepts, enduring adversity, and making energetic progress single-mindedly.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Bodhisattvas who have attained this samādhi but do not progress energetically are like those who are shipwrecked midway while crossing an immense ocean on a ship fully loaded with treasures. People in Jambudvīpa will all be in tremendous anguish, concerned about the loss of their treasures. If Bodhisattvas have heard this samādhi but do not learn it, gods will all sadly say, ‘Our sūtra treasure is lost.’”
The Buddha said, “This samādhi is taught and praised by all Buddhas. Those who have heard this profound samādhi sūtra but do not copy, study, recite, or uphold it in accordance with the Dharma, are foolish. As an analogy, someone gives sandalwood incense to a fool, but he refuses to accept it, saying that the incense is impure. The giver says, ‘This is sandalwood incense. Do not say that it is impure. If you smell it, you will know that it is fragrant. If you look at it, you will know that it is pure.’ That fool closes his eyes, refusing to see or smell it.”
The Buddha said, “Those who have heard this samādhi sūtra but refuse to accept it are as ignorant as that fool. They defiantly argue that everything in the world exists. Not having realized emptiness, they do not know nonexistence. Alleging that their views accord with the Dharma, they say in mockery, ‘Does the Buddha have profound sūtras, as well as awesome spiritual powers?’ They say these contradictory words: ‘Are there bhikṣus in the world who are like Ānanda?’”
The Buddha said, “Those people walk away from the ones who uphold this samādhi sūtra. In twos and threes, they say to one another, ‘What do these words mean? Where did they get these words? They must have gathered together to forge this sūtra. It is not pronounced by the Buddha.’”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “As an analogy, a merchant shows a precious gem to a foolish farm boy. The boy asks, ‘How much is it worth?’ The merchant replies, ‘If you place this gem in the dark, its light shines on the treasures that fill up that area.’”
The Buddha said, “The foolish boy still does not know that this gem is precious. He asks, ‘Can its value be compared with that of a cow? I would rather trade it for a cow. If you agree, it is fine. If you disagree, forget it.’ Bhadrapāla, Bodhisattvas who, having heard this samādhi, do not believe it and make contradictory remarks are like that foolish boy.”
The Buddha said, “Bodhisattvas who, having heard this samādhi sūtra, believe, accept, and uphold it, and train accordingly, are supported by those around them, and have nothing to fear. Fully observing their precepts, they are brilliant, and their wisdom is profound. They disseminate the Dharma and tell people to teach others, who in turn teach others, enabling this samādhi sūtra to remain in the world for a long time.”
The Buddha said, “Those fools have not made offerings or acquired merits in their past lives. They have instead elevated themselves, carrying on their slanderous and jealous ways. Greedy for wealth and benefits, they seek fame and reputation. They only want to make noisy remarks because they do not believe in profound sūtras. Having heard this samādhi sūtra, they neither believe nor appreciate it, nor learn it. Instead, they malign this sūtra, alleging that it is not pronounced by the Buddha.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Now I tell you this. If good men and good women give, as alms, treasures that fill up the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, their merit is less than that of those who hear this samādhi sūtra and believe and delight in it. Their merit surpasses that of the almsgivers.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “I now say these words, which will never change. Setting aside those who in future lives will follow evil teachers, if there are those who now have doubts about this samādhi I have pronounced, their merit is not worth mentioning even if in future lives they follow good teachers. These people will nevertheless defect [from good teachers] to work under evil teachers. Why is that they, having heard this samādhi, neither believe nor appreciate it, and choose not to learn it? They disbelieve because they have seen few Buddhas in the past and have little wisdom.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “I have the foresight and foreknowledge of those who, having heard this samādhi sūtra, will not laugh in contempt, malign, doubt, or suddenly believe and suddenly disbelieve, but will delight in copying, learning, reciting, and upholding it. They not only have accumulated merit under one or two Buddhas, but have heard this samādhi sūtra from one hundred Buddhas. When they hear this samādhi sūtra in their future lives, if they copy, learn, recite, and uphold it even for only one day and one night, their merit will be beyond calculation. They will arrive at the spiritual level of avinivartanīya on their own as they wish.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Hear this analogy. Suppose someone crushes a Buddha Land into dust, then further pulverizes each dust particle into more particles. Is the number of dust particles produced from a Buddha Land very huge?”
Bhadrapāla replied, “Very huge, God of Gods.”
The Buddha said, “Suppose a Bodhisattva takes all these dust particles and places each in a Buddha Land. He then takes treasures that fill up all these Buddha Lands to make an offering to Buddhas. His merit is very little in comparison with that of those who have heard this samādhi sūtra and have learned, copied, recited, and upheld it. Even if they explain this sūtra to others only for a short while, this merit is beyond calculation. Even greater is the merit of those who have fully attained this samādhi.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse:
If there are Bodhisattvas who seek merit,
They should pronounce and train in this samādhi.
Those who believe, delight in, and recite [this sūtra] without doubts
Have immeasurable merit.
Crushing one Buddha Land
Into dust particles,
One can give, as alms, treasures filling Buddha Lands that are
As numerous as dust particles.
Those who have heard this samādhi
Have merit greater than that of the almsgiver.
Their merit is beyond analogy.
I entrust you all to teach others
To progress energetically without negligence or indolence.
Those who recite and uphold this samādhi sūtra
Have already beheld 100,000 Buddhas.
As for the huge dread at the final moment of life,
Those abiding in this samādhi will have no fear.
Bhikṣus who train in this way have already seen me.
They will always follow the Buddha, never far from Him.
As the Buddha’s words never change,
Bodhisattvas should always follow His teachings
To attain quickly samyak-saṁbodhi, the ocean of wisdom.
Bhadrapāla asked the Buddha, “Unrivaled God of Gods, if there are those who, after abandoning loves and desires to become bhikṣus, have heard of this samādhi, how should they learn, uphold, and practice it?”
The Buddha replied, “Those who, having abandoned loves and desires and become bhikṣus, aspire to learn this samādhi should observe their precepts with purity, without any flaw even as slight as a hair. To remain pure, they should dread the suffering of hell and refrain from sycophancy.”
“What is a flaw in observing the precepts?”
The Buddha replied, “Seeking form.”
“What is meant by seeking form?”
The Buddha replied, “If a person’s motive of observing the precepts for self-restraint is to be reborn in the next life as a god or a Wheel-Turning King, such a wish for pleasures, loves, and desires is called a flaw in observing the precepts.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Those who protect their purity, fully observe their precepts, and do not adulate others, are always praised by the wise. They should give alms and progress energetically in accordance with the sūtras. Their resolve should be strong, and they should have great faith and sympathetic joy. Those who serve their teachers as they do Buddhas will attain this samādhi quickly. Those who are disrespectful and readily deceitful to their teachers will quickly lose this samādhi, though they have been training for a long time.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Bodhisattvas who have heard this samādhi from bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, or upāsikās should regard them as Buddhas and respect them without intending sycophancy. Bodhisattvas should never be sycophantic but always be earnest. They should always delight in living alone. Though not begrudging even their lives, they should not hope for others to make requests of them. They should always beg for food, not accepting meal invitations. They should guard their moral integrity and be content with what they have. They should do walking meditation, not lying down to relax. Those who are learning this samādhi should abide by the teachings in the sūtras.”
Bhadrapāla said to the Buddha, “Unrivaled God of Gods, it cannot be helped that, in future times, there will be negligent and indolent Bodhisattvas who, after hearing this samādhi, will not learn it diligently. However, there will be Bodhisattvas who aspire to learn this samādhi and progress energetically, and we will teach them to follow the Dharma in this sūtra.”
The Buddha said, “Very good, Bhadrapāla, as I express my sympathetic joy,2 so too Buddhas of the past, future, and present all express their sympathetic joy.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse:
Accept and uphold all that I say.
Always live alone and accumulate merit.
Guarding your moral integrity, do not join crowds.
Always beg for food, not accepting meal invitations.
Respect Dharma masters and regard them as Buddhas.
Avoid sleep and strengthen willpower.
Always progress energetically, without negligence or indolence.
Those who train in this way will attain this samādhi.
Bhadrapāla asked the Buddha, “If bhikṣuṇīs who seek the Bodhisattva Way aspire to learn this samādhi, what should they do?”
The Buddha replied, “Bhikṣuṇīs who seek this samādhi should not elevate themselves. They should be humble, neither self-dignifying nor self-aggrandizing. They should harbor neither jealousy nor anger, nor greed for wealth, benefits, or sense objects. They should protect their purity, even at the cost of their lives. They should always delight in the Dharma in the sūtras and learn as much as possible. They should discard greed, anger, and delusion, and they should not be greedy for fine clothing or adornments, such as necklaces of gems. Then they will be praised by the wise. They should respect beneficent teachers and regard them as Buddhas, without intending sycophancy.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse:
If bhikṣuṇīs seek this samādhi,
They should progress energetically, never negligent or indolent.
Do not follow the mind of greed.
Remove anger and self-glorification.
Do not be arrogant, deceitful, or playful.
Always act in earnest, standing firm in the one faith.
Respect beneficent teachers and regard them as Buddhas.
Those who train in this way will attain this samādhi.
Bhadrapāla asked the Buddha, “If upāsakas who are training for bodhi have heard of this samādhi and aspire to learn it, what should they do?”
The Buddha replied, “Upāsakas who aspire to learn this samādhi should faithfully observe the five precepts. They should neither drink alcohol nor have others drink alcohol. They should not be intimate with women or advise others to be intimate with women. They should not be attached to their wives, nor to men or other women. They should not have greed for wealth. They should constantly think of renouncing family life to become śramaṇas. They should regularly observe the eight precepts in a Buddhist temple. They should always remember to give alms. Because alms are given to benefit others, after giving alms, they should not think: ‘I have gained merit.’ They should have great lovingkindness and respect for their beneficent teachers. When they see bhikṣus who observe their precepts, they should not readily talk about their faults. Having carried out these actions, they should learn to abide in this samādhi.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse:
Upāsakas who aspire to learn this samādhi
Should observe the five precepts without breach or flaw.
They should always think of becoming śramaṇas,
Not greedy for wives, riches, or sense objects.
They should regularly observe the eight precepts in a Buddhist temple.
Neither conceited nor contemptuous of others,
Their minds do not expect glory, nor think of wants.
They should carry out the Dharma in the sūtras, without a sycophantic mind.
Abandoning stinginess and greed, they should give generous alms.
They should always respect bhikṣus and make offerings to them.
They should resolve to take the one training without being negligent or indolent.
Those who are learning this samādhi should act in this way.
Bhadrapāla asked the Buddha, “If upāsikās who have heard of this samādhi aspire to learn it, what should they do?”
The Buddha replied, “If upāsikās aspire to learn this samādhi, they should observe the five precepts and willingly take refuge in the Three Jewels. What are these three? They should take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha, never to follow other paths. They should not make obeisance to gods, nor worship spirits. They should not select auspicious dates. They should not be playful or indulgent, or think of sensory pleasures. Subjugating the mind of greed, they should remember to give alms. Delighting in hearing the sūtras, they should remember to study hard and respect beneficent teachers. Their minds should be vigilant, never negligent or indolent. They should offer a sitting-down meal to bhikṣus or bhikṣuṇīs who pass by.”
Then the Buddha spoke in verse:
Upāsikās who aspire to learn this samādhi
Should observe the five precepts without breach or flaw.
They should serve beneficent teachers and regard them as Buddhas.
They should not worship gods, nor idolize spirits.
They should stop killing, stealing, and feeling jealous.
They should never say divisive words to incite conflict among people.
They should be neither stingy nor greedy, but always remember to give alms.
They should not publicize the evil, but always praise the good.
They should refrain from sycophancy and sexual misconduct.
They should be humble, not self-aggrandizing.
They should respectfully serve bhikṣus and bhikṣuṇīs.
Those who train in this way will attain this samādhi.
The eight Bodhisattvas—Bhadrapāla, Ralinnāga, Gaujata, Naradatta, Suṣama, Mahāsusaha, Indrada, and Harandha—having heard the Buddha’s words, greatly rejoiced. They offered the Buddha 500 fine cotton garments and precious gems, and joyfully served the Buddha.
The Buddha told Ānanda, “Bhadrapāla and seven others are teachers to the 500 people who are with them. They will uphold the true Dharma, and teach and transform these people accordingly. Then these people will all be joyful, and their minds will be free from desires.”
At that time these 500 people joined their palms, standing before the Buddha. Bhadrapāla asked the Buddha, “How many things should Bodhisattvas do in order to attain this samādhi quickly?”
The Buddha replied, “There are four things. First, do not believe in other paths. Second, cease love and desire. Third, carry out the pure ways. Fourth, have no greed. These are the four. Those who do them will acquire 500 benefits in their present lives. For example, bhikṣus with the mind of lovingkindness will never be killed or harmed by poison, knives or other weapons, fire, or water. Even when a kalpa is ending with the world in flames, if they fall into that fire, it will extinguish, just like a small fire put out by a massive amount of water. Whether kings, thieves, water, or fire, whether dragons, yakṣas, serpents, lions, tigers, or wolves, whether forest phantoms, hungry ghosts, or kumbhāṇḍas, those who, targeting Bodhisattvas abiding in this samādhi, desire to bewitch them, kill them, rob them of their robes and bowls, or destroy their meditation and mindfulness, will never succeed. Unless such misfortune is brought about by their past karmas, things will be as I say, not different.”
The Buddha said, “Those who uphold this samādhi will not have ailments of the eye, ear, nose, mouth, or body, nor will they have anxiety in their minds, except for misfortune in response to karmas in their past lives.”
The Buddha said, “All gods, dragons, asuras, yakṣas, garuḍas, kiṁnaras, and mahoragas, as well as humans and nonhumans, will acclaim these Bodhisattvas. They all will support, protect, and serve these Bodhisattvas, and make offering to them. As they regard these Bodhisattvas with respect and wish to see them, so too will Buddha-Bhagavāns. If there are sūtras that these Bodhisattvas did not hear or uphold before, they will obtain them because of the awesome power of this samādhi. If they do not obtain them during the day, they will receive them in a night dream.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “I can describe, for one kalpa after another, the merit of those who abide in this samādhi, but still cannot cover them all. I have only briefly mentioned a few essential ones.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Bodhisattvas can think four thoughts to kindle their sympathetic joy in order to attain this samādhi. First, past Buddhas [when they were Bodhisattvas] attained this samādhi because of their sympathetic joy, who then attained, through self-realization, anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi, with full wisdom-knowledge. Second, innumerable present Buddhas [in worlds] in the ten directions [when they were Bodhisattvas] have attained this samādhi because of their sympathetic joy kindled by thinking these four thoughts. Third, future Buddhas [as present Bodhisattvas] will attain this samādhi because they also think these four thoughts to kindle their sympathetic joy. Fourth, I too have sympathetic joy.3”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “In regard to the four thoughts to kindle one’s sympathetic joy, I will use a few analogies. A person walks during his 100-year lifespan without rest, and he walks faster than the wind. Can you figure out the area he has covered?”
Bhadrapāla replied, “No one can calculate this. Only the Buddha’s disciple Śāriputra and Bodhisattvas at the spiritual level of avinivartanīya can figure this out.”
The Buddha said, “Therefore, as I say to Bodhisattvas, if there are good men and good women who give away, as alms, treasures that fill up the area traversed by that person, their merit is less than that from hearing this samādhi and thinking the four thoughts to kindle sympathetic joy. This merit is a billion koṭi times more than that from giving alms. Know that the merit acquired from having sympathetic joy is great.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “Far back, incalculable asaṁkhyeya kalpas ago, in a remote place lived a Buddha called Siṁhamati, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, Unsurpassed One, Tamer of Men, Teacher to Gods and Men, Buddha the World-Honored One. At that time the continent of Jambudvīpa was 180,000 koṭi lis in length and width. There were 6,400,000 kingdoms, prosperous and densely populated. There was a great kingdom called Bhadrakara, ruled by a Wheel-Turning King named Vaiścin. He went to that Buddha, made obeisance, and stepped back to sit on one side. That Buddha knew his intention and pronounced this samādhi sūtra to him. Having heard it, the king, with sympathetic joy, showered jewels upon that Buddha as he thought to himself: ‘I should transfer this merit to people [in worlds] in the ten directions to give them peace.’
“After Siṁhamati Buddha entered parinirvāṇa, the king Vaiścin died. He was reborn in his own family and became the crown prince called Brahmada. At that time there was a bhikṣu called Jewel, who was pronouncing this samādhi sūtra to his four groups of disciples. Brahmada heard of it, and sympathetic joy arose in him. Exuberantly he took jewels worth hundreds of koṭis of great price and showered them upon that bhikṣu, and also offered him fine clothing. Resolved to seek the Buddha Way, together with 1,000 people, Brahmada became a śramaṇa under that bhikṣu. To hear this samādhi sūtra, he and the 1,000 people served their teacher tirelessly for 8,000 years. Because of hearing this samādhi sūtra, though only once, and thinking the four thoughts that kindled his sympathetic joy, he acquired excellent knowledge. For this reason, he subsequently saw 68,000 Buddhas. From each of these Buddhas, he heard this samādhi sūtra again. Through self-realization, he has become a Buddha called Tilavida, the Samyak-Saṁbuddha, Unsurpassed One, Tamer of Men, Teacher to Gods and Humans, Buddha the World-Honored One. Those 1,000 bhikṣus have also attained samyak-saṁbodhi, and all of them are called Tilajuṣa. They have taught innumerable people to seek Buddha bodhi.”
The Buddha asked Bhadrapāla, “After hearing this samādhi sūtra, who would not have sympathetic joy? Who would rather not learn, uphold, and recite it, and explain it to others?”
The Buddha said, “Those who abide in this samādhi will quickly attain Buddhahood. The merit acquired from only hearing it is incalculable. Much greater is the merit acquired from learning and upholding it. One should seek this samādhi teaching even if it is 100 or 1,000 lis away. How can one not seek to learn it when it is close by? Those who, having heard of this samādhi, aspire to learn and uphold it, should serve their teachers for ten years, paying visits and making offerings, which they dare not use for themselves. They should follow their teachers’ teachings and always remember their kindness.”
The Buddha said, “Therefore, I tell you this. If one travels 4,000 lis to hear this samādhi sūtra, one’s merit is incalculable even if one fails to hear it. Why? Because, with such motivation to make energetic progress, one will attain Buddhahood through self-realization.”
The Buddha said, “In the distant past, there was a Buddha called Sacanama, the Samyak-Saṁbuddha, Unsurpassed One, Teacher to Gods and Men, Buddha the World-Honored One. At that time there lived a bhikṣu named Halan. After that Buddha entered parinirvāṇa, that bhikṣu upheld this samādhi sūtra. At that time I was a king, in the kṣatriya caste, and I heard of this samādhi sūtra in a dream. Upon waking, I immediately went to that bhikṣu and became a śramaṇa under him. For the sake of hearing this samādhi sūtra, I served that teacher for 36,000 years. However, I was unable to hear it because time and again māra matters arose.”
The Buddha told the bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās: “Hence I tell you all to learn this samādhi as soon as possible, never to lose it. You should properly serve your teacher and uphold this samādhi sūtra for one kalpa, 100 kalpas, or even 100,000 kalpas, never negligent or indolent. You should stay with a beneficent teacher and never leave him. Do not begrudge food, drink, life-supporting goods, clothing, bedding, beds, or precious jewels. If you do not have any, you should beg for food and offer it to your teacher. Work tirelessly to attain this samādhi. You should even cut off your own flesh to offer to your beneficent teacher, not to mention giving precious things. Serve your beneficent teacher, like a slave serving a great family. Those who seek this samādhi should act in this way.
“Having attained this samādhi, one should abide in it and always remember the kindness of one’s teacher. This samādhi sūtra is hard to encounter. There are those who seek for 100,000 kalpas but cannot even hear the name of this samādhi. How could anyone who has learned it not progress diligently? If there are those who give, as alms, treasures filling Buddha Lands as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, they cannot be compared with one who is learning this samādhi or one who has attained it, is progressing energetically, and is teaching it to others.”
The Buddha told Bhadrapāla, “If there are those who aspire to learn this samādhi, they need to have sympathetic joy in order to succeed. Students are enabled to learn it by virtue of Buddhas’ awesome spiritual power. They should copy this samādhi sūtra on fine fabric, consecrate the copies with the Buddha Seal, and make offerings. What is the Buddha Seal? It refers to freedom from deluded states—no greed, no quest, no perception, no attachment, no wish for rebirth, no intended life form for rebirth, no grasping, no concern, no abiding, no obstruction, no bondage, no existence, no desire, no birth, no death, no destruction, and no decay. This seal is the essence and the root of bodhi. It is beyond Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas, not to mention fools. This seal is the Buddha Seal.”
The Buddha said, “As I now pronounce this samādhi, 1,800 koṭi gods, asuras, spirits, dragons, and their retinues have entered the holy stream, becoming Srotāpannas, and 800 bhikṣus and 500 bhikṣuṇīs have become Arhats. Ten thousand Bodhisattvas have attained this samādhi, realizing that dharmas have no birth. Twelve thousand Bodhisattvas have attained the spiritual level of no regress.”
The Buddha told the bhikṣus Śāriputra and Maudgalyāyana, as well as Bhadrapāla Bodhisattva and others: “I sought bodhi for uncountable kalpas, and I now have attained Buddhahood. I uphold this sūtra and entrust it to you all. Study and recite it, uphold and guard it, and do not forget or lose it. If there are those who aspire to learn it, you should teach them completely in accordance with the Dharma. You should pronounce it fully to those who wish to hear it.”
After the Buddha pronounced this sūtra, Bhadrapāla Bodhisattva and the bhikṣus Śāriputra, Maudgalyāyana, and Ānanda, as well as gods, asuras, dragons, spirits, and their retinues, greatly rejoiced. They made obeisance to the Buddha and departed.
1. Bhadrapāla Bodhisattva, the interlocutor in this sūtra, is the first of the sixteen Upright Ones in Sūtra 25. He also appears in Sūtras 18 and 19, in which his Sanskrit name is translated by meaning as Worthy Protector. (Return to text)
2. Here, the Chinese phrase is actually “zhuqi huanxi” (助其歡喜), which means “aid them to rejoice.” This phrase is found in another version of this sūtra (T13n0418), also translated by Lokakṣema (支婁迦讖, or 支讖, 147–?). However, in the later version of this sūtra (T13n0416), translated by Jñānagupta (闍那崛多, 523–600), used instead is the phrase “suixi” (隨喜), which means “express sympathetic joy.” This is the fifth of the ten great actions taught by Samantabhadra Bodhisattva (Sūtra 21), and it appears in many other sūtras. For consistency, all cases of “aid them to rejoice” are translated as “express sympathetic joy.” (Return to text)
3. The corresponding passage in text 416, fascicle 5, chapter 15, better explains the fourth thought: “I now share the merit acquired from my sympathetic joy with all sentient beings so that we all have sympathetic joy and will acquire this samādhi, hear much of the Dharma, and attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi” (T13n0416, 0894b22–24). (Return to text)