Sūtra 52 (posted 09/2015, updated 02/2017) Book information on Home page
fascicle 1 fascicle 2
The Buddha told Ānanda, “A Tathāgata’s wondrous merits are revealed by one hundred eighty dharmas: (1) thirty-two physical marks, (2) eighty excellent physical characteristics, and (3) sixty-eight attainments.
“What are His thirty-two physical marks? While a Bodhisattva, He developed four causes and conditions: (1) observing the precepts, (2) practicing meditation, (3) enduring adversities, and (4) relinquishing His wealth and ending His afflictions. Because He persistently developed these four causes, He has acquired these two marks: (1) flat soles, which make the ground He treads smooth without potholes, and (2) a steady gait, never wobbly. Because He diligently and repeatedly made various offerings to his parents and teachers and gave various alms to the needy, He has acquired the mark of a thousand-spoke wheel on each sole. Because He never distressed others, never stole, robbed, or coveted things attractive to Him, was never conceited or arrogant, always rose to greet His elders or teachers, and respectfully attended them with His palms joined, He has acquired these two marks: (1) slender and not nubby fingers and (2) a well-formed, majestic body. Because of His preceding three karmas, He has acquired the mark of long heels. Because, in addition to doing the preceding three karmas, He practiced the Four Drawing-in Dharmas to benefit others, He has acquired the mark of finely webbed fingers and toes like a goose-king’s toes. Because He attended His parents and teachers, rubbed oil and medicinal ointment on them, massaged and bathed them, provided them with soft candies, and visited them, He has acquired the mark of soft smooth hands and feet, and red palms like red lotus flowers. Because He tirelessly practiced good dharmas, He has acquired the mark of plump ankles. Because He studied the true Dharma [saddharma] and tirelessly went everywhere to expound it to others, He has acquired the mark of [sinewy] calves like a deer-king’s. Because He diligently sought teachings that He had not received, benefited and transformed others with teachings that he had received, ended His evil body, voice, and mind karmas, kept His body and mind untainted by the six sense objects and evil dharmas, gave medicinal potions to the physically ill, and served as a good physician to the mentally ill, He has acquired the mark of a straight body. Because He rescued and protected those in fear, gave food and clothing to the poor and naked, and prevented His evildoing by having a sense of shame and a sense of dishonor, He has acquired the mark of a hidden male organ. Because he protected His body, voice, and mind to keep them constantly pure, knew how much was enough of the things received, knew the right quantity of things to consume, gave medicine to the ill, gave money to the deprived, and taught sentient beings to stop doing inequitable karmas, which would bring them corresponding requitals, and to do things based on the principle of equality, He has acquired the mark of a well-proportioned body whose height and arm-span are equal, like a ficus tree. Because He used skillful means to do good dharmas to develop others, whether they were of low, middling, or high capacities, He has acquired the mark of body hair that swirls upward and clockwise. Because He used His keen capacity to ponder the meaning [of the Dharma], stayed close to the wise, encountered beneficent learned friends, cleaned His elders’ houses, bathed and massaged them, removed feces and filth from the surroundings of caityas [temples or funeral monuments], and prevented visitor-like afflictions from tainting His mind, He has acquired the mark of one body hair in each and every pore of His fine and smooth skin, free from dust and water. Because He delighted in giving away, without regrets, things such as clothing, food and drink, bedding, vehicles, and adornments, He has acquired the mark of a golden body with a halo ten feet across. Because he gave away fine food and drink without limit to sentient beings, to satiate them, He has acquired the mark of fullness in seven places [hands, feet, shoulders, and neck]. Because He gave good teachings to good sentient beings, taught them to make a right livelihood, served as their guide, established them in goodness, and ended their evildoing, He has acquired the mark of a chest like a lion’s. Because He trained in the Four Right Endeavors with a lion-king’s fearless mind in order to benefit sentient beings, He has acquired these two marks: (1) level shoulders with fullness in the armpits and (2) rounded long arms that, like an elephant-king’s trunk, reach below the knees. Because He never used divisive speech, but spoke uniting words to those in conflict, carried out the Four Drawing-in Dharmas to draw sentient beings in, pondered the profound meaning [of the Dharma], and cultivated impartial lovingkindness, He has acquired these two marks: (1) forty well-aligned teeth without gaps and white like snow, and (2) four incisors like a new moon. Because He gave sentient beings to their satisfaction what they needed or desired, whether wealth or teachings, He has acquired these two marks: (1) cheeks like a lion’s and (2) a rounded clean neck. Because He protected and cared for sentient beings like an only son, trusted them, thought of them with immeasurable lovingkindness, and widely gave them medicine without ulterior motives, He has acquired these two marks: (1) a throat with a thousand veins that savor fine flavors moistened with saliva, and (2) collar bones like the god-king Nārāyaṇa’s. Because He did the ten good karmas and taught others to do the same, appreciated and praised spiritual trainees, pitied sentient beings with great compassion, and made vast vows to accept the true Dharma, He has acquired these two marks: (1) a bony bulge like a topknot on the crown of His head and (2) a broad, thin, and long tongue like a lotus flower petal. Because He always spoke truthful words, loving words, and beautiful words, and expounded the true Dharma without distortion, He has acquired the mark of a beautiful voice, like a kalaviṅka bird’s, that emits Dharma tones far and wide, like a sounding celestial drum. Because he respected all in the world and regarded them as His parents, and never exuded the three poisons [greed, anger, and delusion] or glared at sentient beings, He has acquired these two marks: (1) eyelids like a blue lotus flower and (2) purple eyelashes like an ox-king’s. Because He praised good sentient beings for their training in the Three Learnings [precepts, meditation, and wisdom], never criticized them, and safeguarded them from slanderers, He has acquired the mark of a white hair between His eyebrows that swirls upward and clockwise.
“Moreover, Ānanda, a Tathāgata has acquired these thirty-two marks because of His four right karmas: (1) unwavering resolve, (2) scrupulous observation, (3) uninterrupted training, and (4) right action. Because of His first karma, He has acquired the mark of flat soles. Because of His second karma, He has acquired these nine marks: (1) the image of a thousand-spoke wheel on each sole, (2) plump ankles, (3) webbed fingers and toes, (4) fine and soft skin, (5) fullness in seven places, (6) level shoulders with fullness in the armpits, (7) rounded arms, (8) a broad and long tongue, and (9) a chest like a lion’s. Because of His third karma, He has acquired these five marks: (1) slender long fingers, (2) long heels, (3) a straight body, not bent, (4) a well-proportioned body whose height and arm-span are equal, and (5) a rounded clean neck. Because of His fourth karma, He has acquired the other marks.
“Moreover, Ānanda, suppose that all sentient beings [in worlds] in the ten directions do the ten good karmas, and that their acquired merits increase a hundredfold. Because of these good karmas, they can acquire the mark of only one of a Tathāgata’s hairs. When they acquire the mark of all His hairs, their merits will increase another hundredfold. Then they can acquire one of a Tathāgata’s eighty excellent physical characteristics. When they acquire all His physical characteristics, their merits will increase another hundredfold. Then they can acquire one of a Tathāgata’s thirty-two physical marks. When they acquire all His physical marks, excepting the mark of a white hair between His eyebrows and the mark of a bony bulge on His crown, their merits will increase another hundredfold. Then they can acquire a Tathāgata’s mark of a white hair between His eyebrows, and their merits will increase another hundredfold. Then they can acquire a Tathāgata’s mark of a bony bulge on His crown, and their merits will increase a thousandfold. Because they have acquired a Tathāgata’s exclusive physical marks and characteristics, they can acquire a Tathāgata’s one sound that pervades countless worlds in the ten directions.
“Ānanda, a Tathāgata’s thirty-two physical marks are inconceivable for three reasons: (1) the required time is inconceivable, because He trained for three asaṁkhyeya kalpas; (2) His joy is inconceivable, because He trained to benefit all sentient beings and bring them peace and joy; (3) the kinds of His training are inconceivable, because He trained to do all good karmas and stayed away from all evil karmas, both of countless kinds. Therefore, the excellent marks of a Tathāgata’s body are inconceivable.
“Ānanda, what are a Tathāgata’s eighty excellent physical characteristics? They are (1) an invisible crown of His head, (2) a strong bone that forms His crown, (3) a wide smooth forehead, (4) high-set long eyebrows like a purple new moon, (5) broad and long eyes, (6) a high and straight nose with unexposed nostrils, (7) broad, thick, long ears with perfect earlobes, (8) a strong body like the god-king Nārāyaṇa’s, (9) strong limbs, (10) well-connected strong joints, (11) a body that can turn quickly, like an elephant-king’s, (12) a limber body, (13) a straight body, (14) an unblemished body, (15) a sleek body, (16) an upright body, not crooked, (17) perfect limbs, (18) perfect consciousness, (19) perfect looks and bearings, (20) an awesome spirit that reaches far, (21) [an appearance that] no one turns his back on, (22) [the ability] to abide and remain immovable, (23) a well-proportioned face, neither too wide nor too long, (24) a broad and beautiful face, (25) a clear face like a full moon, (26) perfect facial features, (27) good facial colors, (28) a majestic bearing like a lion’s, (29) a serene gait like an elephant-king’s, (30) an elegant gait like a goose-king’s, (31) a head like the fruit of a madana tree, (32) feet with plump tops, each leaving a footprint after it is four fingers’ width above the ground, (33) thin and lustrous fingernails [and toenails] the color of copper, (34) strong and rounded kneecaps, (35) splendid lines on each palm, (36) deep lines on each palm, (37) clear and straight lines on each palm, (38) long lines on each palm, (39) unbroken lines on each palm, (40) deft hands and feet, (41) pink hands and feet the color of a lotus flower, (42) perfect orifices, (43) evenly spaced steps, neither too long nor too short, (44) a rounded waist, (45) an unobtrusive abdomen, (46) a round and deep navel, (47) red-tinged blue hair the color of a peacock’s neck, (48) clean hair, (49) hair that swirls clockwise, (50) a mouth that emits [breath with] unsurpassed fragrance, and body hair that emits fragrance, (51) red lips like the fruit of the bimba tree, (52) a red tongue, (53) a thin tongue, (54) being a delightful sight to all beholders, (55) speaking kindly to sentient beings according to their minds, (56) speaking benevolent words in all situations, (57) speaking first [before a question is asked], (58) speaking neither too loudly nor too softly, according to sentient beings’ preferences, (59) expounding the Dharma in the languages of multitudes, (60) expounding the Dharma without attachment, (61) regarding sentient beings equally, (62) doing things after looking into them, (63) emitting one tone in response to multiple sounds, (64) expounding the Dharma systematically through causes and conditions, (65) [an appearance that] cannot be fully taken in by any sentient being’s eyes, (66) [an appearance that] beholders never tire of beholding, (67) emitting perfect sounds, (68) displaying good works, (69) [such an awe-inspiring presence that] when sentient beings see Him, the strong-willed are tamed and the timid acquire peace and joy, (70) a clear and pure voice, (71) a body that does not sway, (72) a large body, (73) a tall body, (74) an untainted body, (75) a body surrounded by light ten feet across, (76) a body illuminated by light when walking, (77) a clean body, (78) untangled shiny long hair the color of a blue jewel, (79) plump hands and feet, and (80) virtuous marks on His hands and feet. Ānanda, these eighty excellent characteristics adorn a Buddha’s body.
“Ānanda, a Tathāgata has Ten Powers. What are these ten? He has the power of perfect wisdom-knowledge [jñāna] of (1) everyone’s right or wrong action in every situation, and its corresponding karmic consequences; (2) the karmic requitals of every sentient being; (3) all stages of dhyāna, liberation, and samādhi; (4) the capacity of every sentient being; (5) the desires and preferences of every sentient being; (6) the nature and kind of every sentient being; (7) the consequences of all actions, with or without afflictions; (8) all past lives of every sentient being; (9) all future rebirths of every sentient being; (10) the permanent ending of all His afflictions and habits [upon attainment of Buddhahood]. Because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge, a Tathāgata reveals the greatest state [Buddhahood], turns the unsurpassed pure Dharma wheel, and roars the lion’s roar in the midst of multitudes.
“Ānanda, a Tathāgata has Four Fearlessnesses. He has (1) fearlessness because He has acquired the knowledge of all wisdom-knowledge [sarvajña-jñāna]; (2) fearlessness because He has eradicated all His afflictions; (3) fearlessness in explaining hindrances to one’s attaining bodhi; (4) fearlessness in explaining the right path to end one’s suffering.
“Ānanda, a Tathāgata has three kinds of mindfulness: (1) right mindfulness of right actions, (2) right mindfulness of wrong actions, and (3) right mindfulness of mixed actions. Also, Ānanda, a Tathāgata has great compassion.
“Ānanda, a Tathāgata has Eighteen Exclusive Dharmas [which Arhats, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas do not have]. They are (1–3) faultless body, voice, and mind karmas, (4) impartiality to all; (5) abiding in constant meditation; (6) equability toward pleasure or pain; (7) never-diminishing desire to deliver sentient beings; (8) never-diminishing energy for delivering sentient beings; (9) never-diminishing memory of the Buddha Dharma; (10) never-diminishing wisdom; (11) never-diminishing liberation from afflictions and habits; (12) never-diminishing knowledge and views of liberation; (13–15) all body karmas, voice karmas, and mind karmas, led by wisdom; (16–18) perfect wisdom-knowledge of the past, present, and future.
“Ānanda, only a Tathāgata has these [thirty-three] attainments: (1) hindrance-free transcendental power of instant arrival anywhere, (2) boundless transcendental power of manifestations, (3) countless transcendental powers, (4) a hindrance-free mind, (5) the ability of telepathy, (6) the ability of the god ear, (7) the ability to know the differences among sentient beings in the formless realm, (8) the ability to know holy beings’ states after they have entered parinirvāṇa, (9) the wisdom to give various answers, (10) [mastery of] the great [wisdom] pāramitā to answer questions, (11) the ability to expound the Dharma in detail without faults, (12) the ability to develop sentient beings without fail, (13) being the foremost guiding teacher, (14) the ability not to be harmed or killed, (15) abiding in the Vajra Samādhi, (16) knowing all things, even if they are not material, not mental, or not coherent [sambaddha] with the mind, (17) hindrance-free liberation, (18) the three protection-free dharmas [faultless body, voice, and mind karmas], (19) complete end of His habits, (20) the knowledge of all wisdom-knowledge, (21) a vajra [adamantine] body, (22) the ability to accomplish all things without a thought, (23) complete purity in all His appearances and places, (24) certainty of His prophecies coming true, (25) the ability to forbid those anxious about victory or defeat to see a Buddha, (26) the ability to turn all wondrous Dharma wheels, (27) the ability to support all sentient beings and enable them to shed their heavy burdens, (28) the ability to enter parinirvāṇa and reactivate His mind, (29) completion of the causes of bodhi without remnants, (30) completion of the fruits of bodhi without remnants, (31) completion of works that benefit others without remnants, (32) endless unimpeded eloquence, and (33) expounding the Dharma in accord with the principle.
“Ānanda, in brief, a Tathāgata’s merits have six characteristics: (1) complete, (2) taint-free, (3) immovable, (4) hindrance-free, (5) altruistic, and (6) skillful. Ānanda, why are a Tathāgata’s merits inconceivable? Because, throughout kalpas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, all of a Tathāgata’s boundless merits, whether acquired on the tainted ground or the pure ground, encompass and accord with one another, and are never apart from one another. Beyond purity and impurity, they are inconceivable.
“Ānanda, [to deliver sentient beings] a Tathāgata does eighteen things. (1) A Tathāgata is unparalleled, most wondrous, and supreme, with whom no one can compare. He inspires sentient beings to reverently make offerings to Him with an awestruck mind. This first thing is accomplished because of His body, with the thirty-two physical marks of a great man and the eighty excellent physical characteristics. (2) A Tathāgata fully understands causality according to the principle. If a śramaṇa or Brahmin claims that there is no causality or that a cause does not lead to a corresponding effect, He will refute him and make him realize that he is wrong. This second thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge of everyone’s right or wrong action in every situation, and its corresponding karmic consequences. (3) A Tathāgata knows and sees that one, never another, receives the requital of one’s karma. If a śramaṇa or Brahmin expounds the [evil] doctrine that one can avoid one’s karmic requital, He will refute him and make him realize that he is wrong. This third thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge of various kinds of karmas. (4) A Tathāgata uses three wheels—transcendental powers, mental powers, and teachings—to teach and guide His disciples to become a holy multitude. If a śramaṇa or Brahmin anxious about victory or defeat expounds wrong theories against the true Dharma, He will refute him and make him realize that he is wrong. This fourth thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge that arises from meditation. (5) A Tathāgata knows and sees sentient beings of high, middling, and low capacities, and teaches them accordingly, enabling them to plant bodhi seeds to come to [spiritual] maturity and achieve liberation. This fifth thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge of various capacities. (6) A Tathāgata knows and sees the good and evil desires and preferences of three grades of sentient beings, and He ends their evil desires and increases their good desires. This sixth thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom knowledge of various desires and preferences. (7) A Tathāgata knows and sees three kinds of sentient beings—coarse, average, and fine—and enables them to enter various Dharma Doors [dharma-paryāya]. This seventh thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge of various natures. (8) A Tathāgata clearly sees that the path of transcendence leads to liberation and that the path of hindrance leads to repeated birth and death. He enables sentient beings to leave the path of hindrance and take the path of transcendence. This eighth thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge of the consequences of all actions. (9) A Tathāgata clearly sees everyone’s past lives and narrates past events to enable sentient beings to tire [of their repeated birth and death]. If a śramaṇa or Brahmin holds the view of perpetuity [of dharmas], He will refute him and make him realize that he is wrong. This ninth thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge of past lives. (10) A Tathāgata clearly sees all sentient beings’ deaths here and rebirths there as properly recorded [in their consciousnesses]. If a śramaṇa or Brahmin holds the [wrong] view of cessation, He will refute him and make him realize that he is wrong. This tenth thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge of birth and death. (11) A Tathāgata knows that He has achieved complete liberation. If a śramaṇa or Brahmin with exceeding arrogance claims that he has become an Arhat though he has not, He will refute him and make him realize that he is wrong. This eleventh thing is accomplished because of the power of His wisdom-knowledge that He has ended all His afflictions. (12) A Tathāgata uses the best skillful means to benefit sentient beings. If someone asks about a Tathāgata’s Ten Powers, He will give him truthful answers to resolve his doubts, because His right words can defeat others’ wrong words. This twelfth thing is accomplished because of His Four Fearlessnesses. (13) A Tathāgata is free from joy and woe in regard to the group that trains according to His teachings, the group that does not, and the group that comprises those who train accordingly and those who do not. This thirteenth thing is accomplished because of His three abidings of mindfulness. (14) A Tathāgata uses His Buddha eye day and night to constantly observe sentient beings in distress and rescues them. This fourteenth thing is accomplished because of His great compassion. (15) A Tathāgata can act and speak, and acts according to His words. This fifteenth thing is accomplished because of His three protection-free dharmas [faultless body, voice, and mind karmas]. (16) A Tathāgata does things to completion and without omission to benefit sentient beings. This sixteenth thing is accomplished because His right mindfulness never forgets anything. (17) A Tathāgata appropriately carries out His four deportments [walking, standing still, sitting, and lying down] without faults. This seventeenth thing is accomplished because He has ended all His habits. (18) A Tathāgata observes three kinds of actions—beneficial, harmful, and both—and teaches only beneficial actions. This eighteenth thing is accomplished because of His wisdom-knowledge and His exclusive dharmas. Ānanda, you should know that a Tathāgata does these things.
“Ānanda, why are the things done by a Tathāgata [to deliver sentient beings] inconceivable? Ānanda, a Tathāgata does countless things, but sentient beings in the world neither are aware of nor understand them because they cannot be displayed or described by words. All Buddha Lands are hindrance free, and all Tathāgatas abide in the equality of dharmas, which is beyond one’s state of mind. Like the open sky, all Tathāgatas make no differentiation because They accord with the dharma realm.
“Therefore, good men, I say that the things done by a Tathāgata are inconceivable and that His actions pervade everywhere, without omission, throughout the three time frames [past, present, and future], revealing the nature of the Three Jewels. As a Tathāgata abides in such things, His body is in the nature of the open sky as He appears in all Buddha Lands. As He speaks sentient beings’ languages to expound the true Dharma, His speech is not in the nature of sounds. Although a Tathāgata does not take anyone’s mind as an object, He fully knows all sentient beings’ minds, capacities, natures, desires, and preferences. Ānanda, that is why the things done by a Tathāgata [to deliver sentient beings] are inconceivable.”
After the Buddha pronounced this sūtra, in this huge assembly, 75,000 Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas realized the perfect dharma body, 75,000 Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas acquired the Mahāyāna Samādhi of Wondrous Light, and 75,000 Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas acquired endurance in their realization that dharmas have no birth. Also, innumerable asaṁkhyeyas of sentient beings activated the unsurpassed bodhi mind without regress, and innumerable asaṁkhyeyas of sentient beings shunned dust and filth [their afflictions] and acquired the pure dharma eye. Also, innumerable sentient beings acquired higher fruits [of their training].
Then, after hearing the Buddha’s words, Ānanda rejoiced exuberantly because he acquired an understanding he never before had. He rose from his seat, bared his right shoulder, and bowed down at the Buddha’s feet. Kneeling on his right knee, with joint palms, he reverently gazed at the Buddha’s face and, with a pure mind, praised Him in verse:
In the midst of sentient beings in the three time frames,
The Tathāgata is beyond analogy.
Unequaled in the human realm and the dharma realm,
He regards all equally.
He has forever ended what should be ended,
And fully knows all dharmas that should be known.
None but a Buddha-Bhagavān
Has such foremost splendid wisdom.
Truly He has power and fearlessness,
Because the Tathāgata has the Ten Powers and the Four Fearlessnesses.
That nothing can impair the World-Honored One’s great abilities
Is inconceivable and extraordinary.
Using skillful means to transform sentient beings
Cannot be accomplished by an evil or deluded mind.
Although sentient beings are arrogant and self-exalting,
The World-Honored One tames them and enables them to discard their ways.
If someone claims that he can surpass the Tathāgata,
His words are false and faulty.
If someone points out the Tathāgata as the Supreme Honored One,
His words are true and faultless.
If someone asks a Tathāgata challenging questions according to the principle,
There is no way he can defeat Him [in debate].
The invincible Tathāgata has no shortcomings,
And He guides sentient beings to the joyful place [enlightenment].
His four body karmas are pure and faultless,
So He does not need to protect them.
Using the four kinds of unimpeded wisdom-knowledge,
He endlessly expounds the Dharma to fill sentient beings with Dharma flavors.
His wisdom-knowledge of dharmas has no lack,
And His abidings of mindfulness are never lessened or lost.
He has equal compassion for all sentient beings,
And His mind is never tainted by worldly things.
He fully understands sentient beings’ capacities and natures,
And gives them teachings to deliver them.
For different kinds of afflictions,
He reveals different kinds of remedial measures.
The World-Honored One is foremost in expounding the Dharma,
But ordinary beings who encounter Him do not understand [His teachings].
Shrouded by the darkness of ignorance,
They are extremely hard to deliver.
The renown of the World-Honored One inspires one’s longing [to see Him],
And seeing Him brings one endless joy.
The Buddha’s words can purify one’s mind,
And His true teachings enable one to end one’s repeated birth and death.
Praising the Buddha can rid one of inauspicious things,
And thinking of Him can bring one constant joy.
Seeking the Buddha can bring one great wisdom,
And understanding His teachings can bring one wisdom-knowledge.
The Tathāgata is pure because He has observed the precepts,
And His mind is clear because He has practiced meditation,
The Tathāgata is immovable because of His wisdom,
And His Dharma is an ocean of sweet dew.
While sentient beings are asleep [unenlightened], only the Buddha is awake,
And He pervasively observes their capacities, natures, and desires.
While sentient beings abandon self-restraint, the Buddha does not,
And He regards all sentient beings equally.
The Buddha has revealed the methods to annihilate one’s affliction bandits,
And has removed the illusions produced by the māra-king.
He has indicated the faults of one’s repeated birth and death,
And revealed the direction of the place of fearlessness.
To give teachings that can deliver sentient beings,
The World-Honored One uses great compassion.
Devadatta is the best example of
The World-Honored One giving bodhi to all sentient beings.
Although I cannot yet attain Buddhahood through the right training,
I will train in accordance with this sūtra to requite the kindness of the World-Honored One.
Even if someone has attained nirvāṇa without remnants,
He has not yet requited the Buddha’s kindness.
Even if someone can do the right training taught by the Buddha,
Maybe he trains only to benefit himself.
The World-Honored One tirelessly teaches sentient beings.
How can we requite His profound kindness?
The Tathāgata expounds His true Dharma,
Enabling one to train accordingly and teach it to others.
If He did not appear in the world,
Everyone would be oppressed by suffering,
Evil life-paths would prevail in the world,
And sentient beings’ loud wailing would be heard.
Sentient beings on the six life-paths undergo suffering just the same
Because they are fettered by their afflictions.
To untie the knots of their fetters,
The World-Honored One forever ties Himself to great compassion.
The World-Honored One is the unsurpassed fortune field
For those who rely on Him in order to do the right training.
If I fail to see this great treasure, I will fall into poverty.
If I do evil karmas, I will fall as well.
If someone disregards the Buddha,
He will fall to the ground of poverty.
If someone hates and criticizes the Buddha,
He will without doubt forever remain in darkness.
As a great master recognizes his [dharma] body,
So too can other great masters recognize [their dharma bodies].
However, ordinary beings cannot.
I now make obeisance to all Buddhas in worlds in the ten directions,
Whose merits, wisdom, and powers are equal.
The World-Honored One has appeared in the world and revealed His dharma body.
Out of great compassion, He wants sentient beings to recognize [their dharma bodies].
Hence I now prostrate myself at His feet.
His wonderful fragrant body is a sight that beholders never tire of beholding.
His perfect physical marks are sublime.
A lovely flower is in bloom day and night,
And I make obeisance to such a Buddha flower.
The World-Honored One knows well the unsurpassed place [Buddhahood],
Which is free from all perils and tribulations, And has no trace, no assemblage, and no falsity.
Hence I now make obeisance to the Two-Footed Honored One.
The World-Honored One has washed off all taints
And abides in the true Dharma and the water of His merits.
He has always been pure inside and outside,
And I now make obeisance to the truly pure body.
The World-Honored One has completed all good works
And always gives sentient beings bountiful benefits.
He widely showers down sweet dew for sentient beings to drink their fill,
And I now make obeisance because He benefits others.
Although He is the Supreme One most revered in the world,
He still reveres other Buddhas.
He has ended all His evildoing and attained perfect enlightenment.
Hence I now make obeisance to the Supreme Honored One.
To rescue sentient beings,
He never omitted learning even one skillful means
To enable all to avoid the perilous pit of birth and death.
I now make obeisance to the refuge of the world.
I make obeisance to the sublime physical body beyond analogy
And make obeisance to the one who can give teachings like sweet dew.
I make obeisance to His pure wisdom
And make obeisance to His forest of merits.
The Buddha told Ānanda, “You should uphold this true Dharma Door.”
Ānanda fell on his knees and said to the Buddha, “Just now I received from the Buddha this profound teaching, and acquired what I never before had. I will uphold it with the utmost respect. World-Honored One, what is the name of this sūtra and how should we uphold it?”
The Buddha said, “Ānanda, this sūtra is called Unsurpassed Reliance, also called Unprecedented, also called Accepting Good Dharmas, also called Pure Action, also called Definitive Action. Ānanda, there are ten ways to uphold this sūtra. What are these ten? They are to (1) copy it, (2) make offerings to it, (3) propagate it, (4) listen to it, (5) study it, (6) memorize it, (7) widely expound it, (8) recite it, (9) ponder it, and (10) train accordingly.
“Ānanda, if someone upholds this sūtra in these ten ways, his accumulating merits will be immeasurable and endless. Ānanda, as an analogy, wherever a wish-fulfilling jewel is, all treasures appear. Likewise whoever upholds this sūtra can accomplish all good dharmas. Ānanda, as another analogy, all trees and medicinal herbs depend on the earth to grow. Likewise good dharmas grow because of this sūtra. Ānanda, as another analogy, all good dharmas in the past, present, and future are accomplished through exercising self-restraint, because it is the foremost dharma. Likewise, among sūtras, whether they give voice-hearer teachings, Pratyekabuddha teachings, or Bodhisattva teachings, this sūtra is the foremost sūtra. Ānanda, as another analogy, if a Wheel-Turning King abides in the world, his seven precious things always follow him. Likewise, if this sūtra abides in the world, the Three Jewels will continue without end.
“Ānanda, you should successively expound this sūtra to bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, upāsikās, gods, dragons, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṁnaras, mahoragas, humans, and nonhumans. Why? Because this is the way to enable all sentient beings to plant roots of goodness where a Tathāgata is.”
After the Buddha pronounced this sūtra, in this huge assembly, Ānanda, Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, the god-king Śakra, the four world-protecting god-kings, and all others, having heard this extraordinary Dharma Door revealed by the Buddha, rejoiced exuberantly. They believed in, accepted, and carried out His teachings.
1. A Buddha’s thirty-two physical marks are easily discernible, but His eighty excellent physical characteristics, or secondary marks, are subtle and hard to discern. The two sets combined are called excellent marks. Although a Wheel-Turning King has the thirty-two physical marks as well, a Buddha’s are superior. Also, only a Buddha has the eighty excellent physical characteristics. (Return to text)
2. “Having a sense of shame” and “having a sense of dishonor” are two of the glossary’s “seven noble treasures.” (Return to text)
3. See “Four Right Endeavors” defined in the glossary’s “Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi.” (Return to text)
4. For Three Learnings, see note 22 in fascicle 1 of this sūtra. (Return to text)
5. See “knowledge of all wisdom-knowledge” defined in the glossary’s “three kinds of wisdom-knowledge.” (Return to text)
6. Another set of eighteen comprises the Ten Powers, the Four Fearlessnesses, the three abidings of mindfulness, and great compassion. The three abidings of mindfulness means that a Buddha’s mind abides in right mindfulness and wisdom, free from joy and woe in regard to (1) the group that believes in the Dharma and trains accordingly, (2) the group that neither believes in the Dharma nor trains accordingly, and (3) the group that comprises believers and nonbelievers. (Return to text)
7. See “wisdom pāramitā” defined in the glossary’s “six pāramitās.” (Return to text)
8. See “exceeding arrogance” defined in the glossary’s “arrogance.” (Return to text)
9. As stated in text 358, the Chinese version of the Sūtra of Entering the States of All Buddhas Adorned with Wisdom, like echoes, the sounds voiced by a Tathāgata are neither inside nor outside nor in the middle, and have neither birth nor death, neither names nor appearances. He voices various sounds according to sentient beings’ preferences to make them understand (T12n0358, 0251c5–8). The English translation of this sūtra appears in Transcending the World (Rulu 2015, 165–78). (Return to text)
10. See “dharma body” defined in the glossary’s “three bodies of a Buddha.” (Return to text)
11. The “four body karmas” are the first four of the glossary’s “ten good karmas.” (Return to text)
12. See “Four Abidings of Mindfulness” in the glossary. (Return to text)
13. See Devadatta’s life story in the glossary’s “voice-hearer.” (Return to text)
14. For a Buddha as a fortune field, see the glossary’s “three fortune fields.” (Return to text)
15. According to text 456, the Chinese version of the Sūtra of Maitreya Bodhisattva’s Attainment of Buddhahood, a Wheel-Turning King with a gold wheel possesses seven precious things: (1) the gold wheel, (2) the white elephant, (3) the blue horse, (4) the divine jewel, (5) exquisite maidens, (6) the treasure minister, and (7) the military minister (T14n0456, 0429c27–0430a6; Rulu 2012a, 82). (Return to text)