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THE LARGER SUTRA OF IMMEASURABLE LIFE: Part 2

This Sutra expounds the Sacred Story of Amida and was delivered by Shakyamuni Buddha and translated into Chinese during the Ts'ao-Wei dynasty by the Tripitaka Master Samghavarman from India

Translated from Chinese by Hisao Inagaki

The text follows the Taisho Tripitaka
edition, vol. 12, and the passage numbers
follow Jodoshinshu Seiten, 1988, pp. 47-83.


Fulfillment of the 11th, 17th, and 18th vows

[22] The Buddha said to Ananda, "Sentient beings who are born in that
Buddha-land all reside among those assured of Nirvana. The reason is that in
that land there are neither beings who are destined to adverse conditions nor
those whose destinies are uncertain.
"All Buddhas, Tathagatas, in the ten quarters, as numerous as the sands of
the River Ganges, together praise the inconceivable, supernal virtue of
Amitayus. All sentient beings who, having heard his Name, rejoice in faith,
remember him even once and sincerely transfer the merit of virtuous
practices to that land, aspiring to be born there, will attain birth and dwell in
the Stage of Non-retrogression. But excluded are those who have committed
the five gravest offenses and abused the right Dharma."

Three grades of aspirants:
1) higher grade


[23] The Buddha said to Ananda, "Devas and humans in the worlds of the
ten quarters who sincerely aspire to be born in that land can be classified into
three grades. The higher grade of aspirants are those who leave their homes
and abandon worldly desires to become monks. Having awakened aspiration
for Enlightenment, they single-mindedly remember Amitayus and perform
meritorious practices, aspiring to be born in his land. When they are about to
die, Amitayus, together with a host of sages, will appear before them. Then
they will follow him and attain birth in his land. At once they will be born by
transformation spontaneously from within seven-jewelled lotus-flowers. They
will dwell in the Stage of Non-retrogression, attain steadfast wisdom and be
capable of freely exercising supernatural powers. For this reason, Ananda,
sentient beings who wish to see Amitayus while in this world should awaken
aspiration for the highest Enlightenment, do meritorious deeds, and aspire to
be born in his land."

2) middle grade


[24] The Buddha said to Ananda, "The middle grade of aspirants are the
devas and humans in the worlds of the ten quarters who sincerely desire to be
born in that land. Although unable to become monks and cultivate much
merit, they awaken aspiration for the highest Enlightenment, single-mindedly
think on Amitayus, perform some good deeds, observe the precepts of
abstinence, build stupas, donate Buddhist statues, give alms to mendicants,
hang banners, light candles, scatter flowers, burn incense, and so forth. They
transfer the merit of those practices to his land, aspiring to be born there.
When they are about to die, Amitayus will manifest his transformed body,
[272c] which is fully possessed of the same radiance and physical
characteristics and marks as those of the real Buddha, and make it appear
before them, together with a host of sages. Then they will follow this
transformed Buddha and be born in the Pure Land, where they will dwell in
the Stage of Non-retrogression. Their virtue and wisdom will be next to those
of the higher grade of aspirants."

3) lower grade


[25] The Buddha said to Ananda, "The lower grade of aspirants are the devas
and humans in the worlds of the ten quarters who sincerely desire to be born
in that land. Although unable to do many meritorious deeds, they awaken
aspiration for the highest Enlightenment and single-mindedly concentrate on
Amitayus even ten times, desiring birth in his land. When they hear the
profound Dharma, they joyfully accept it and do not entertain any doubt;
and so, remembering the Buddha even once, they sincerely aspire to be born
in that land. When they are about to die, they will see the Buddha in a
dream. Those aspirants, too, will be born in the Pure Land. Their merit and
wisdom will be next to those of the middle grade of aspirants."

Bodhisattvas' visit to the Pure Land from other lands

[26] The Buddha said to Ananda, "The majestic virtue of Amitayus is
boundless. All the innumerable, uncountable and inconceivable Buddhas,
Tathagatas, in the worlds of the ten quarters praise him. Innumerable and
uncountable bodhisattvas in the Buddha-lands of the eastern quarter, as
numerous as the sands of the River Ganges, all without exception, visit
Amitayus in order to worship and make offerings to him and to the assembly
of bodhisattvas and shravakas. Having heard the teaching, they expound it
to lead people into the Path of the Buddha. As in the eastern quarter, so it is
in the southern, western and northern, as well as in the four intermediate
quarters, above and below."

Verses on bodhisattvas' visit

[27] Then the World-Honored One spoke the following verses:
1. In the eastern quarter there are Buddha-lands,
As numerous as the sands of the River Ganges;
Bodhisattvas dwelling in those lands
Go to pay homage to Amitayus, the Enlightened One.

2. So it is in the southern, western, and northern quarters,
The intermediate quarters, above and below;
Bodhisattvas dwelling in those lands
Go to pay homage to Amitayus, the Enlightened One.

3. All those bodhisattvas, taking with them
Exquisite heavenly flowers,
Precious incense and priceless robes,
Make offerings to Amitayus, the Enlightened One.

4. Playing heavenly music in concert,
Producing harmonious and delicate sounds,
They praise the Most Honored One with hymns
And make offerings to Amitayus, the Enlightened One:

5. 'You have perfected supernatural powers and wisdom,
With which you freely enter the gates of the profound Dharma;
You also possess stocks of merit and virtue
And unparalleled supreme knowledge.

6. Illumining the world with the sun of wisdom,
You disperse the clouds of birth-and-death.'
Having reverently walked round him three times,
They pay homage to the Unsurpassed One.

7. Having seen the glorious Pure Land,
Wonderfully resplendent, [273a]
They are led to awaken supernal aspiration
And wish their lands to be like his.

8. Then Amitayus, the Enlightened One,
Changes his countenance and smiles;
From his mouth come forth innumerable rays of light,
Which illuminate the worlds in the ten quarters.

9. These rays of light return, encircle his body
Three times, and enter the crown of his head.
All devas and humans are delighted to see this
And are filled with great joy.

10. Avalokiteshvara, the Exalted Being, having respectfully arranged
His clothes and bowed his head,
Asked the Buddha, 'Why are you smiling?
Reverently I enquire. Please tell me why.'

11. The Buddha's majestic voice was like thunder,
Producing wonderful sounds in eight qualities of voice;
'Because I am about to give predictions to the bodhisattvas.
I now explain to you. Listen carefully!

12. I am fully aware of the vows of the bodhisattvas
Who come from the ten quarters;
They seek to glorify their pure lands.
After receiving my predictions, they will become Buddhas.

13. While realizing that all dharmas are like a dream,
An illusion or an echo,
They will fulfill their excellent vows
And surely establish pure lands such as this.

14. Knowing that dharmas are like a flash of lightning or a shadow,
They will pursue the Bodhisattva Path to its end
And amass a stock of merit. After receiving
My predictions, they will become Buddhas.

15. While thoroughly knowing that the nature of all dharmas
Is empty and without substance,
They will single-mindedly seek to produce their pure lands
And will surely establish lands such as this.'

16. The Buddhas tell the bodhisattvas to go and pay homage
To the Buddha of the Land of Peace and Provision.
'Listen to his teaching, joyfully receive and practice it,
And then quickly reach the Realm of Purity.

17. When you go to his glorious Pure Land,
You will instantly acquire supernatural powers.
Having, without fail, received predictions from Amitayus,
You will attain perfect Enlightenment.

18. By the power of that Buddha's Original Vows,
All who hear his Name and desire birth,
Will, without exception, be born in his land
And effortlessly enter the Stage of Non-retrogression.

19. Bodhisattvas, if you make vows
That your lands will be like this,
While aspiring to save all beings everywhere,
Your name will be renowned throughout the ten quarters.

20. In order to serve millions of Tathagatas,
You can assume various forms and fly to those lands;
After worshipping them with joyful hearts,
You will return to the Land of Peace and Provision.'

21. Without a stock of goodness from past lives,
One cannot hear this sutra;
But those who have strictly observed the precepts
Can hear the right Dharma. [273b]

22. One who has met a World-Honored One in the past
Can accept this teaching.
Such a person respectfully worships, hears
And upholds it, and rejoices so greatly as to dance.

23. Arrogant, corrupt and indolent people
Cannot readily accept this teaching.
But those who have met Buddhas in their past lives
Rejoice to hear it.

24. Neither shravakas nor bodhisattvas are able to know
The Sage's Mind exhaustively;
They are like those who are born blind
And yet wish to guide others.

25. The ocean of the Tathagata's wisdom
Is deep, vast and boundless.
Even sages of the Hinayana cannot fathom it;
Only the Buddha clearly knows it.

26. Let us suppose that all human beings,
Without exception, have attained Enlightenment
And, with pure wisdom, realized original emptiness.
Even if they pondered on the Buddha's wisdom for myriads of kalpas,

27. And expounded it with the utmost effort all through their lives,
They would not come to exhaustive knowledge of it.
The Buddha's wisdom is thus limitless
And pure to its depths.

28, To obtain human life is difficult in the extreme;
To meet a Buddha in this world is also difficult;
It is difficult, too, for a man to attain faith and wisdom.
Once you have heard the Dharma, strive to reach its heart.

29. If you have heard the Dharma and do not forget it,
But adore and revere it with great joy,
You are my good friend. For this reason,
You should awaken aspiration for Enlightenment.

30. Even if the whole world is on fire,
Be sure to pass through it to hear the Dharma;
Then you will surely attain the Buddha's Enlightenment.
And everywhere deliver beings from the river of birth-and-death.

Bodhisattvas in the Pure Land

[28] The Buddha said to Ananda, "All the bodhisattvas in the land of
Amitayus will ultimately attain the Stage of Becoming a Buddha After One
More Life. Excepted are those who have made original vows for the sake of
sentient beings, resolving to cultivate the merit of realizing their great vows
to save all sentient beings. Ananda, each shravaka in the Buddha-land of
Amitayus emits light for one fathom around his body. The light of a
bodhisattva shines a hundred yojanas. There are two bodhisattvas who are
the most dignified; their majestic light shines everywhere in the universe of a
thousand million worlds."
Ananda asked, "What are the names of those two bodhisattvas?"
The Buddha replied, "One is called Avalokiteshvara and the other,
Mahasthamaprapta. They had both performed Bodhisattva practices in this
world, and, at the end of their lives, were born by transformation in that
Buddha-land. Ananda, the sentient beings born there all fully possess the
thirty-two physical characteristics of a Great Man as well as perfect wisdom,
with which they penetrate deeply into the nature of all dharmas and reach
their subtle essence. Their supernatural powers know no obstruction, and
their physical senses are sharp and clear. The bodhisattvas of lesser capacities
attain two insights. [273c] Those with superior capacities attain innumerable
[merits by the] insights into the non-arising of all dharmas. Those
bodhisattvas will not be subject to rebirth in evil realms before they become
Buddhas. Excepted are those who seek birth in the worlds of other quarters
during the turbulent period of the five defilements, manifesting their forms in
the likeness of the beings there, as in this world. They can freely exercise
supernatural powers and always remember their past lives."
The Buddha said to Ananda, "By the Buddha's power, bodhisattvas of that
land go to innumerable worlds of the ten quarters, in as short a time as it
takes to eat a meal, in order to pay homage and make offerings to the
Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones. If those bodhisattvas so wish,
uncountable and innumerable offerings, such as flowers, incense, music,
silken canopies and banners, spontaneously appear before them as soon as
they are imagined. They are rare and marvelous, unlike anything in this
world. They are, accordingly, offered to the assemblies of Buddhas,
bodhisattvas and shravakas. The flowers remain in the sky and gather into
canopies. Their brilliance is dazzling and their fragrance pervades
everywhere. The flower-canopies range in size, from those of four hundred li
in circumference up to those large enough to cover the universe of a
thousand million worlds. As new flower-canopies appear, old ones disappear.
These bodhisattvas all rejoice together, and, while poised in mid-air, play
heavenly music and praise the virtues of the Buddhas with hymns
accompanied by wonderful sounds. They listen to the Dharma and attain
immeasurable joy. After thus worshipping the Buddhas, they quickly return
home to the Pure Land before their meal."

Amida's preaching and exquisite sounds produced by the trees, etc.

[29] The Buddha said to Ananda, "When Amitayus expounds the Dharma to
shravakas and bodhisattvas, they all assemble in the seven-jewelled
lecture-hall. There he fully expounds the teachings of the Way and proclaims
the wonderful Dharma. The whole audience rejoices, comprehends, and
attains Enlightenment. At that time a breeze spontaneously arises in each of
the four directions and wafts over the jewelled trees, producing sounds of the
pentatonic scales and causing innumerable exquisite flowers to fall like rain
and scatter everywhere. Natural ways of glorification such as these are
endlessly repeated. All the devas bring with them a hundred thousand flowers
and pieces of aromatic wood and thousands of musical instruments to use as
offerings to the Buddha and the assembly of bodhisattvas and shravakas;
they scatter flowers, diffuse perfumes everywhere and play various kinds of
music. They come and go in succession, giving way to each other. At such
times their joy and happiness are beyond description."

Bodhisattvas' virtues

[30] The Buddha said to Ananda, "The bodhisattvas born in that
Buddha-land expound the right Dharma whenever appropriate and, because
they are in accord with the wisdom of enlightenment, their expositions are
infallible and free of error. In regard to the myriads of things in that land,
they have no thought of possession or attachment. Whether going or coming,
proceeding or remaining, their hearts are unattached, their acts are in
accordance with their will and are unrestricted, and they have no thought of
discrimination. In them there is no idea of self or others, no idea of
competition or dispute. With the heart of great compassion to benefit all
living beings and with tenderness and self-control, they bear no enmity or
grudge against anyone. Free of mental hindrances, they are pure in mind and
without indolence. Unbiased, noble-minded, sincere and tranquil, [274a] their
hearts can revere, appreciate and enjoy the Dharma.
"Having extinguished all evil passions, they are free of those tendencies
which cause one to fall into evil realms. They have accomplished all the
duties of a bodhisattva and are fully endowed with immeasurable virtues.
Having reached deep meditation and gained supernatural powers,
transcendent knowledge and wisdom, they are established in the seven
practices leading to Enlightenment and are devoted to the Buddha Dharma.
"With the physical eye they see clearly, discerning objects without error; the
sight of their heavenly eye reaches everywhere without limit; with the
Dharma-eye they observe and know thoroughly the teachings of the Way;
with the wisdom-eye they see truth and attain the Other Shore; with the
Buddha-eye they completely realize the nature of dharmas; and with
unhindered wisdom they expound the Dharma to others.
"Although they observe with the eye of equality that the three worlds are
empty and non-existent, they strive to learn the Buddha Dharma and acquire
varied eloquence in order to rid living beings of affliction caused by evil
passions. Since all dharmas have arisen from Suchness, the bodhisattvas see
them as they really are and know skillful means of speech that will develop
good habits and destroy bad ones in living beings. They dislike secular talk,
enjoying only right discourse on the Dharma.
"They cultivate roots of virtue, revere the Path of the Buddha, and know that
all dharmas are completely tranquil and non-existent. Their samsaric bodies
and evil passions have been extinguished together with their remaining
karmic tendencies. When they hear the profound Dharma, their minds are
free of doubt and fear. They are always able to cultivate great compassion
which is deep and subtle, embracing everything like the sky and bearing all
like the earth. Having reached the end of the Single Path, they have gone to
the Other Shore. Having cut the net of doubt, wisdom arises in their minds.
Within the Buddha Dharma there is nothing that they do not comprehend.
"Their wisdom is like the ocean, and their samadhi, like the king of
mountains. The light of their wisdom, being brilliant and pure, outshines the
sun and the moon. They are in complete possession of the pure, undefiled
Dharma. They are like the Himalayas, because the brilliance of their virtues
is reflected evenly and clearly. They are like the great earth, because they
have no discriminative thoughts, such as pure or impure, beautiful or ugly.
They are like pure water, because they wash away afflictions and defilements.
They are like the king of fire, because they burn the firewood of all evil
passions. They are like a great wind, because they travel throughout the
worlds without hindrance. They are like the sky, because they have no
attachments. They are like lotuses, because nothing in the world can defile
them. They are like a great vehicle, because they carry the multitude of
beings out of birth-and-death. They are like a heavy cloud, because they
cause the great thunder of the Dharma to roar and awaken the
unenlightened. They are like a great rain, because they cause the nectar of
Dharma to fall like showers to nourish living beings. They are like the
Adamantine Mountains, because demons and non-Buddhists cannot move
them. They are like the king of the Brahma Heaven, because they are
foremost in the performance of various good deeds. They are like the
nyagrodha tree, because they afford shelter to all beings. They are like the
udumbara flower, because they rarely appear in the world and are difficult to
encounter. They are like the gold-winged garuda, because they subdue
non-Buddhists. They are like a flock of playful birds, because they do not
store things. They are like the king of bulls, because they are invincible. They
are like the king of elephants, because they conquer adversaries. They are
like the king of lions, because they fear nothing. They are like the vest sky,
[274b] because their great compassion reaches everywhere without
discrimination.
"They have destroyed envy by not being jealous of the superiority of others.
With singleness of heart they seek the Dharma tirelessly. Always desiring to
expound the doctrine, they never grow weary. Striking Dharma-drums and
hoisting Dharma-banners, they cause the sun of wisdom to shine forth and
dissipate the darkness of ignorance. They perform the six acts of accord and
respect, and always provide others with the gift of the Dharma. Strong-willed
and diligent, their determination never falters. Thus they become lamps to
the world and fields of supreme merit; they always become teachers and
harbor no thought of discrimination, aversion, or attachment. They seek
only the right Path, finding neither joy nor sorrow in other matters. They
extract thorns of passion and give peace of mind to multitudes of beings.
Because of their supreme wisdom, there is no one who does not revere them.
"They have destroyed the hindrances of the three defilements and mastered
the supernatural powers. They also possess the power of good karma from
their past lives, the power of guiding others, of the will, of vowing, of
employing skillful means, of continuous practice, of doing good, of
meditation, of wisdom, of hearing the Dharma widely. They also possess the
power of the Six Paramitas -- generosity, morality, patience, effort,
meditation and wisdom -- and the power of right mindfulness, concentration,
contemplation, the supernatural faculties, transcendent knowledge, and the
power to tame and train living beings in the right way, as well as other
powers.
"Fully possessed of all the physical characteristics and marks, virtues, and
eloquence, they have no equals. They revere and worship innumerable
Buddhas and are, in turn, always praised by them. They have completed the
bodhisattva's course of Paramitas and practiced the samadhis of emptiness,
non-form and non-desire, the samadhi of non-arising and non-ceasing and
many other samadhis; they have gone far beyond the stages of shravakas and
pratyekabuddhas.
"Ananda, bodhisattvas of that land have innumerable virtues such as these,
of which I have given you only an outline. If I were to expound them in full
detail, a thousand million kalpas would not be long enough to do so."

Three kinds of evil passions and their consequences

[31] The Buddha said to the Bodhisattva Maitreya and to devas and humans,
"The virtue and wisdom of shravakas and bodhisattvas in the land of
Amitayus are indescribable. That land is sublime, blissful, serene and pure.
Why do you not diligently practice good, reflect on the naturalness of the
Way and realize that it is above all discriminations and is boundlessly
pervasive? You should each make a great effort to attain it. Strive to escape
from Samsara and be born in the Land of Peace and Provision. Then, the
causes of the five evil realms having been destroyed, they will naturally cease
to be, and so you will progress unhindered in your pursuit of the Way. The
Pure Land is easy to reach, but very few actually go there. It rejects nobody,
but naturally and unfailingly attracts beings. Why do you not abandon
worldly matters and strive to enter the Way? If you do, you will obtain an
infinitely long life and one of limitless bliss.
"People of the world, being weak in virtue, engage in strife over matters
which are not urgent. In the midst of abject wickedness and extreme
afflictions they painstakingly toil for their living. Whether noble or corrupt,
rich or poor, young or old, male or female, all people worry about wealth
and property. In this there is no difference between the rich and the poor;
both have their anxieties. Groaning in dejection and sorrow, they pile up
thoughts of anguish or, [274c] driven by inner urges, they run wildly in all
directions and they have no time for peace and rest.
"For example, if they own fields, they are concerned about them. If they have
houses, they worry about them. They are also anxious about their six kinds
of domestic animals, such as cows and horses, about their male and female
servants, money, wealth, clothes, food and furnishings. With deepening
troubles they sigh repeatedly, and anxiety increasingly torments and terrifies
them. Sudden misfortune may befall them: all their possessions may be
destroyed by fire, swept away by floods, plundered by robbers, or seized by
adversaries or creditors. Then gnawing grief afflicts them and incessantly
troubles their hearts. Anger seizes their minds, keeps them in constant
agitation, increasingly tightens its grip, hardens their hearts and never leaves
them.
"When their lives end in such agonizing conditions, they must leave
everybody and everything behind. Even nobles and men of wealth have these
worries. With much anxiety and fear, they endure such tribulations. Breaking
out in cold sweats or fevers, they suffer unremitting pain.
"The poor and the underprivileged are constantly destitute. If, for example,
they have no fields, they are unhappy and want them. If they have no houses,
they are unhappy and want them. If they have none of the six kinds of
domestic animals, such as cows and horses, or if they have no male and
female servants, or lack money, wealth, clothes, food, or furnishings, they are
unhappy and want those as well. If they possess some of them, others may be
lacking. If they have this, they do not have that, and so they wish to possess
all. But, even if by some chance they come to possess everything, it will soon
be destroyed or lost. Then, dejected and sorrowful, they strive to obtain such
things again, but it may be impossible. Brooding over this is to no avail.
Exhausted in mind and body, they become restless in all their doings, and
anxieties follow on their heels. Such are the troubles they must endure.
Breaking out in cold sweats or fevers, they suffer unremitting pain. Such
conditions may result in the sudden end of their lives or an early death. Since
they have not done any good in particular, nor followed the Way, nor acted
virtuously, when they die, they will depart alone to an inferior world.
Although they are destined to different states of existence, none of them
understands the law of karma that sends them there.
"People of the world, parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands
and wives, and other family members and kinsmen, should respect and love
each other, refraining from hatred and envy. They should share things with
others, and not be greedy and miserly, always speak friendly words with a
pleasing smile, and not hurt each other.
"If one disagrees with others and grows angry, however small one's grudge
and enmity may be in this life, these will increase in the life to come until
they grow into a mass of hostility. For, if people are engaged in tormenting
and harming each other in this life, such conflict may not immediately end in
mutual destruction. But persistent bitterness and raging fury are impressed
upon the mind, and thus naturally leave indelible marks on consciousness, so
that those involved will be reborn about the same time to take revenge on
each other.
"Further, in the midst of worldly desires and attachments one comes and
goes alone, is born alone and dies alone. After death, one goes to a painful or
to a pleasant state of existence. Each receives his karmic consequences and
nobody else can take his place. In accordance with different acts of good and
evil, people are destined to realms of bliss or suffering. Unalterably bound by
their karma, they depart for those realms all alone. Having reached the other
world, they cannot see each other. The law of good and evil naturally pursues
them, and wherever they may be reborn, distance and darkness always
separate them. Since their paths of karma are different, it is impossible to tell
the time of their reunion, and so difficult to meet again. Can they ever see
each other once more?
"Why do they not abandon all worldly [275a] involvements and strive, while
they are strong and healthy, to pursue the good and diligently seek
deliverance from Samsara? If they do, they will be able to attain infinite life.
Why do they not seek the Way? What is there in this world that should be
longed for? What pleasure is there that ought to be sought after?
"Thus people of the world do not believe in pursuing good and receiving
reward or in practicing the Way and attaining Enlightenment; neither do they
believe in transmigration and retribution for evil acts or reward for good
ones, such as obtaining merit by helping others. Believing that these do not
exist, they totally reject such a view.
"Further, by so doing, they cling to their own views more tenaciously. Later
generations learn from previous ones to act likewise. Fathers, perpetuating
their wrong views, pass them on to their children. Since parents and
grandparents from the beginning did not do good deeds, were ignorant of the
Way, committed foolish acts, and were benighted, insensitive and callous,
their descendants are now unable to realize the truth of birth-and-death and
the law of karma. There is no one to tell them about this. Nobody seeks to
know the cause of fortune and misfortune, happiness and misery, although
these states result from such acts.
"The reality of birth-and-death is such that the sorrow of parting is mutually
felt by all generations. A father cries over the death of his children; children
cry over the death of their father. Brothers, sisters, husbands and wives
mourn each other's death. According to the basic law of impermanence,
whether death will occur in order of seniority or in the reverse is
unpredictable. All things must pass. Nothing stays forever. Few believe this,
even if someone teaches and exhorts them. And so the stream of
birth-and-death continues everlastingly.
"Because they are stupid and callous, such people do not accept the
teachings of the Buddha; they lack forethought, and only wish to satisfy their
own desires. They are deluded by their passionate attachments, unaware of
the Way, misguided and trapped by anger and enmity, and intent on gaining
wealth and gratifying their carnal desires like wolves. And so, unable to
follow the Way, they are again subject to suffering in evil realms in an
endless cycle of birth-and-death. How miserable and pitiable this is!
"In the same family, when one of the parents, children, brothers, sisters,
husband or wife dies, those surviving mourn over the loss, and their
attachment to the deceased persists. Deep sorrow fills their hearts and,
grief-stricken, they mournfully think of the departed. Days pass and years go
by, but their distress goes on. Even if someone teaches them the Way, their
minds are not awakened. Brooding over fond memories of the dead, they
cannot rid themselves of attachment. Being ignorant, inert, and
illusion-bound, they are unable to think deeply, to keep their self-composure,
to practice the Way with diligence, and to dissociate themselves from worldly
matters. As they wander here and there, they come to their end and die
before entering on the Way. Then what can be done for them?
"Because they are spiritually defiled, deeply troubled and confused, people
indulge their passions. Hence, many are ignorant of the Way, and few realize
it. Everyone is restlessly busy, having nothing upon which to rely. Whether
moral or corrupt, of high or low rank, rich or poor, noble or base, all are
preoccupied with their own work. They entertain venomous thoughts,
creating a widespread and dismal atmosphere of malevolence. Subversive
activities are planned, contrary to the universal law and the wishes of the
people.
"Injustice and vice inevitably follow and are allowed to run their course
unchecked until evil karma accumulates to the limit. Before they expect their
lives to end, people meet sudden death and fall into evil realms, where they
will suffer excruciating torments for many lives. [275b] They will not be able
to escape for many thousands of kotis of kalpas. How indescribably painful!
How pitiable that is!"

Shakyamuni's encouragement to do good

[32] The Buddha said to the Bodhisattva Maitreya and to devas and humans,
"I have told you the truth about people of the world. Such being their mode
of life, they are unable to enter on the Way. Therefore, you should think
deeply and try to avoid various evil acts; choose the good and diligently
practice it. A life of addiction to desires or a life of pomp and vainglory
cannot last long. All must part; there is nothing you can truly enjoy. Since
you have encountered a Buddha in this world, you should assiduously
practice the Way. Anyone who sincerely desires birth in the Land of Peace
and Bliss is able to attain purity of wisdom and supremacy in virtue. You
should not follow the urges of passions, break the precepts, or fall behind
others in the practice of the Way. If you have doubts and are not clear about
my teaching, ask me, the Buddha, about anything and I shall explain it to
you."
The Bodhisattva Maitreya prostrated himself on the ground and said, "Your
majestic glory, O Buddha, is awe-inspiring, and your exposition is most
pleasing to me. Having heard your teaching, I feel deeply that people of the
world are just as you have described. Your compassionate revelation of the
Great Way has opened our eyes and ears, awakening us to emancipation.
Those who have heard your teachings are all filled with joy. Devas, humans
and lesser beings, including even those that crawl, have all been blessed by
your compassionate guidance and have thereby attained deliverance from
suffering and affliction.
"The Buddha's admonition is indeed profound and appropriate, and his
wisdom clearly surveys things in the eight quarters, above and below,
penetrating all in the past, present and future. Our emancipation in the
present life is entirely due to the Buddha's perseverance and painstaking
efforts in his former lives when he was seeking the Way. His benevolence
covers the whole world, and the extent of his merit is majestic and glorious.
His light penetrates to the utmost ends of space and guides people to
Nirvana. He reveals the sutras, destroys wrong views and subdues demons.
Thus his influence extends boundlessly in the ten quarters. The Buddha is the
King of the Dharma; his virtue surpasses that of all the sages. He is the
Teacher of all devas and humans and enables them to enter on the Way
according to their wishes. Having been able to meet you, O Buddha, and also
to hear the Name of Amitayus, we have all attained joy and illumination."

Shakyamuni's admonition against evil acts


[33] The Buddha said to Maitreya, "What you say is true. Those who adore
and revere a Buddha attain great merit. Buddhas very rarely appear in the
world. Having become a Buddha in this life, I have taught the Dharma,
expounded teachings of the Way, cleared people's doubts, eradicated the
causes of lust and desire, and blocked the source of all evils. Visiting various
places in the three worlds, I encounter no obstructions. The wisdom disclosed
in the scriptures provides for all ways of life. It keeps essential principles
together and clearly reveals the truth. I have explained the reality of the five
realms, thereby freeing those who have not yet attained deliverance and
distinguishing between the paths of Samsara and Nirvana.
"Maitreya, you should know that you have, for innumerable kalpas, been
perfecting bodhisattva practices to save sentient beings. Incalculable indeed
is the number of beings who under your guidance have attained the Way and
reached Nirvana. [275c] From time immemorial, you and all the devas and
humans in the ten quarters and the four groups of followers have been
floundering in the five realms of Samsara, undergoing indescribable troubles
and afflictions. Until you were born in this life, you, too, underwent endless
cycles of birth-and-death. Now you have encountered a Buddha, listened to
his expositions of the Dharma, and been able to learn about Amitayus. What
pleasure and joy this is for you and for me to share.
"It is time for all to seek deliverance from the pains of birth, death, old age,
and sickness. Outflows of depravity and defilement are everywhere, and there
is nothing in which you can find true joy. You should resolutely do worthy
deeds with decorum, strive to do more good, control and purify yourselves,
wash off the mind's defilements, be sincere in word and deed, and allow no
contradiction between what you think and what you do. Seek your own
emancipation and then turn to saving others; straightforwardly aspire to be
born in the Pure Land and accumulate roots of virtue. However hard you
may practice in this life, it can only be for a short while. In the life to come
you will be born in the land of Amitayus and enjoy endless bliss there. Being
forever in accord with the Way, you will no longer be subject to
birth-and-death and be free of the afflictions caused by greed, anger and
stupidity. If you wish your life to be as long as a kalpa, a hundred kalpas, or
ten million kalpas, it will be just as you please. You will dwell in effortless
spontaneity and attain Nirvana. You should each diligently seek to realize
your aspiration. Do not entertain any doubt or give up your endeavor, lest as
a result of that fault you should be born into the seven-jewelled palace in the
border region of the Pure Land and be subject to various disadvantages for
five hundred years."
Maitreya said to the Buddha, "Having received your considerate admonition,
we will diligently practice the Way and follow your teaching. We will not
allow any doubt to arise."

Admonition against five evils:

[34] The Buddha said to Maitreya, "If here in this world you are upright in
thought and will, and abstain from doing evil, then you will attain the utmost
virtue, unsurpassed in all the lands throughout the ten quarters. Why is this
so? Devas and humans in the Buddha-lands naturally do good and rarely
commit evil, and so, it is easy to teach and train them. Having become a
Buddha in this world, I now dwell in the midst of the five evils, the five
sufferings, and the five burnings. This is extremely painful for me. I will teach
multitudes of beings, making them abandon the five evils, avoid the five
sufferings, and escape from the five burnings. I will train their minds and
lead them to practice the five good deeds, so that they may acquire merit and
virtue and attain emancipation, long life, and Nirvana."
"The Buddha continued, What are the five evils? What are the five
sufferings? What are the five burnings? What is the way to extinguish the five
evils and lead people to practice the five good deeds, so that they may
acquire merit and virtue and attain emancipation, long life, and Nirvana?"

1) first evil


[35] The Buddha said, "The first evil is this. Devas, humans and lesser beings,
including even those that crawl, are bent on doing evil. There is no being that
is not. The strong subdue the weak; all inflict serious injuries and kill each
other, all devour their prey. Not knowing how to do good, they commit evil
and do outrageous and unruly deeds. Later, they receive retribution, [276a] it
is natural that they should be destined to evil realms. Demigods keep records
of offenders' acts and make sure that they are punished. That is why some
are poor and destitute, corrupt, beggarly, lonely, deaf, dumb, blind, stupid,
wicked, physically handicapped, deranged, or subnormal. But others are
honorable, noble, wealthy, intelligent, or clever. This is the result of good
and meritorious acts of benevolence and the performance of their duties to
their parents in past lives.
"In this world prisons are set up by the law, and those who are unafraid of
them and commit offenses are sent there for punishment. However
desperately they may wish to escape, it is impossible to do so. Such is
retribution in this world, but in the lives to come, punishment is longer and
more severe for such evildoers. The suffering of transmigration through dark
and dismal realms is comparable to the severest and most painful
punishment ever enforced by law.
"Thus, through the natural working of karma, they undergo immeasurable
suffering in the three evil realms. In successive transmigrations they are
reborn into different forms; their life-spans are sometimes long and
sometimes short. Their transient selves, vital energy and consciousness
transmigrate through the natural working of karma. Although each
individual is reborn alone, those bound by common karma come to be born
together and take revenge upon each other. So this condition persists
endlessly and, until the effect of their evil karma is exhausted, there is no
possibility of avoiding their enemies. Floundering in Samsara, they have no
chance of escape or of attaining emancipation. The pain that they must
undergo is indescribable. Since this law naturally obtains everywhere between
heaven and earth, even if good or evil acts do not immediately bring about
reward or retribution, they will certainly result sooner or later. This I call the
first great evil, the first suffering, and the first burning. Those afflictions are
such that they are comparable to a huge fire burning people alive.
"If in the midst of this, one controls one's thoughts with single-mindedness,
does worthy deeds with proper demeanor, commits no evil, and performs
only good, then with the merit and virtue acquired one reaches emancipation
and is able to escape from this world, be reborn in heavenly realms, and
finally reach Nirvana. This is the first great good."

2) second evil

[36] The Buddha continued, "The second evil is that people of the world --
parents, children, brothers and sisters, members of a family, husbands and
wives -- all lack moral principles, break laws, conduct themselves arrogantly,
commit licentious and unruly acts, pursue their own pleasures, enjoy
themselves as they will, and deceive each other. What they think contradicts
what they say; they speak without sincerity, flatter others with deceitful
intention, fawn upon others with artful words, envy the reputation of sages,
abuse the virtuous, and entrap people by dishonest means.
"Masters are unwise in appointing retainers, who, exploiting the situation,
seek every opportunity for trickery and deceit. Rulers, being unrighteous, are
deceived by ministers and foolishly remove loyal and faithful subjects. This is
contrary to the will of Heaven. Ministers betray their rulers; children deceive
their parents; brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, kinsmen and friends deceive
each other. They harbor greed, anger, and stupidity, and, desiring many
possessions, seek their own advantage. All people are the same at heart,
whether they are men of high and honorable positions or of lower and
despised classes. They bring their homes and themselves to ruin and
recklessly destroy their kindred. Although there are family members, friends,
villagers, townspeople, ignorant [276b] and vulgar groups working together,
all seek to gain their own profit, thereby incurring the anger and enmity of
others. When people grow rich, they become miserly and uncharitable.
Greedily attached to their wealth, they toil with mind and body to retain it.
When their end comes, they find nothing to rely on. Ultimately they are born
and depart alone, with nobody to accompany them. Bliss or misery resulting
from good or evil acts follows them in their future lives. Thus they are reborn
in pleasant or painful states. Even if they later show regret, what good will
that do?
"People of the world, being dark-hearted and lacking insight, hate and abuse
good people and show them no respect. They are attached to wrongdoing
and willfully commit unlawful acts. They always covet the wealth of others
and harbor intentions of stealing. After spending and squandering what they
have robbed from others, they seek to regain it. Because of their own hidden
motives and dishonesty, they slyly study the reactions shown on the faces of
others. Since they are unable to think far ahead, when things go wrong, they
become despondent with chagrin.
"In this world there are prisons established by the law where offenders are
sent to receive punishment according to their offenses. In their previous lives
they neither believed in the Way nor cultivated roots of virtue. In this life,
too, if they commit evil, demigods know and keep records of their acts; when
they die, they fall into evil realms. Thus, because of the natural working of
karma, there are the three evil realms and innumerable sufferings through
which evildoers must pass, life after life, for many kalpas, with no end in
sight. It is indeed difficult for them to attain release. The pain they must
undergo is indescribable. This is called the second great evil, the second
suffering, and the second burning. The afflictions are such that they are
comparable to a huge fire burning people alive.
"If in the midst of this one controls one's thoughts with single-mindedness,
does worthy deeds with proper demeanor, commits no evil, and performs
only good, then with the merit and virtue acquired one reaches emancipation
and is able to escape from this world, be reborn in heavenly realms and
finally reach Nirvana. This is the second great good."

3) the third evil

[37] The Buddha continued, "The third evil is this. People of the world live
together, inhabiting this realm between heaven and earth, with a limited
life-span. On the one hand, among the higher levels there are wise, rich,
honorable, noble, and wealthy people. On the other hand, among the lower
levels there are people who are poor, debased, crude and foolish. Besides,
there are evildoers who always harbor vicious thoughts and think only of
self-gratification; they are full of worries, sunk in lust and attachment, are
restless in their daily lives, greedy and miserly, and desirous of what they
have no right to possess. They gloat over fair-skinned women, behave
licentiously and commit obscene acts with them, hate their own wives, and
secretly frequent brothels. Consequently, after squandering all their
resources, they begin to break the law. They form bands, start riots, engage
in fighting, unlawfully attack and kill people and plunder property.
"Some have evil designs on the possessions of others. Without working at
their own occupations, they acquire things through theft. Driven by desire,
they commit further offenses. Feverishly agitated, they intimidate and rob
people to support their own wives and children with the goods thus acquired.
Obeying only the dictates of their passions, they become addicted to wanton
pleasures. They also disregard seniority in kinship, causing sorrow and
anguish to other family members and relatives; furthermore, they take no
account of the laws of the State.
"But such evils are known to others and also to demons. The Sun and the
Moon recognize them and demigods [276c] keep records of their doings.
Thus, because of the natural working of karma, there are three evil realms
and innumerable sufferings through which evildoers must pass, life after life,
for many kalpas, with no end in sight. It is indeed difficult for them to gain
release. The pain they must undergo is indescribable. This is called the third
great evil, the third suffering, and the third burning. The afflictions are such
that they are comparable to a huge fire burning people alive.
"If in the midst of this one controls one's thoughts with single-mindedness,
does worthy deeds with proper demeanor, commits no evil, and performs
only good, then with the merit and virtue acquired one reaches emancipation
and is able to escape from this world, be reborn in heavenly realms and
finally reach Nirvana. This is the third great good."

4) the fourth evil

[38] The Buddha continued, "The fourth evil is this. People of the world do
not think of doing good. They incite each other to commit various kinds of
evil -- uttering harsh and abusive words, telling lies, and engaging in idle talk.
They slander others and cause contention. They hate and envy good men and
ruin the wise, while they rejoice in watching this behind the scenes. They are
neglectful of their parents, make light of their teachers and elders, fail to win
the trust of their friends, and lack sincerity. Holding themselves in high
esteem, they think that they are virtuous, but act waywardly in an
overbearing manner and despise others. Unaware of their own evil, they
never feel ashamed of themselves. Boastful of their physical strength, they
demand respect and fear from others. Taking no heed of Heaven, Earth,
demigods, or the Sun and the Moon, they disdain to do any good. So they
are difficult to train and convert. Holding themselves in high esteem, they
demand their own way. Arrogant and afraid of nothing, they always assume
a haughty attitude. But demigods keep record of their evils. Perhaps there
was some meritorious act in their past lives, and they can count on the effect
of that small amount of good. But, since they commit evil again in this life,
their stock of merit is soon exhausted; good divinities forsake them, leaving
them alone and with no one on whom to depend. When their lives end, all
their evil recoils upon them and forces them, through the natural working of
karma, to descend to the evil realms. Again, as the exact record of their
deeds in the hands of the demigods dictates, their karmic transgressions and
offenses condemn them to hellish realm. Retribution for evil comes about
naturally and nothing can stop it. They must go into the red-hot cauldrons,
where their bodies are melted down with the utmost torment and anguish.
Even if at that time they repent of their evil deeds, what good will that do?
The Way of Heaven takes its inevitable course without mistake.
"Thus, because of the natural working of karma, there are the three evil
realms and innumerable kinds of suffering through which evildoers must
pass, life after life, for many kalpas, with no end in sight. It is indeed difficult
for them to gain release, and the pain they must undergo is indescribable.
This is called the fourth great evil, the fourth suffering, and the fourth
burning. The afflictions are such that they are comparable to a huge fire
burning people alive.
"If, in the midst of this, one controls one's thoughts with single-mindedness,
does worthy deeds with proper demeanor, commits no evil, and performs
only good, then with the merit and virtue acquired one reaches emancipation
and is able to escape from this world, be reborn in heavenly realms, and
finally reach Nirvana. This is the fourth great good." [277a]

5) the fifth evil

[39] The Buddha continued, "The fifth evil is this. People of the world are
indecisive and slothful, reluctant to do good, lacking in self-discipline and
not working hard at their occupations, so their families and dependents are
left to suffer from hunger and cold. When reproached by their parents, they
retort angrily with scornful looks. With such conflicts they are far from
peaceful; they can be as violent and frenzied as enemies confronting each
other, and, as a result, parents wish that they had no children.
"In dealing with others, they are licentious and wayward, causing trouble and
annoyance to many. Even when they are morally obliged to others, they
neglect their duties and have no intention of repaying their indebtedness.
Destitute and driven to the most desperate ends, they have no way of
regaining their wealth. Although eager to obtain much profit and appropriate
the riches of others, they waste their money on wanton pleasures. As this
becomes a habit, they grow accustomed to acquiring property illegally and to
spending their ill-gained profits on personal luxuries; indulging in wine and
sumptuous food, they eat and drink to excess. Profligate and contentious as
they are, they engage in foolish quarrels. Unable to understand others, they
forcibly impose their will upon them.
"When they come upon people who are good, they hate and abuse them.
Lacking ethics and decorum, they do not reflect on their conduct, and so are
presumptuous and insistent, refusing to take the advice and admonitions of
others. They are unconcerned if their kinsmen, from the closest to the sixth
blood-relative, have no means of livelihood. They disregard their parents'
benevolence, and do not fulfill obligations to their teachers and friends. They
think only of doing evil; their mouths continuously speak malice; and with
their bodies, they are forever committing evil. In their whole lives they have
not done even one good deed.
"Furthermore, they do not believe in the ancient sages, nor the Buddhist
teachings, nor the path of practice leading to emancipation. Neither do they
believe that after death one is reborn into another state of existence, that
good deeds bring about good rewards, or that evil acts bring about evil
consequences. They plot to murder an arhat, to cause disruption in the
Sangha, and even think of killing their parents, brothers, sisters or other
relatives. For this reason, even their kinsmen, from the closest to the sixth
blood-relative, hate them so much as to wish them dead.
"Such people of the world are all of the same mind. They are foolish and
ignorant, lacking the wisdom to know whence they have come into life nor
whither they are going after death. Neither humane toward others nor
obedient to their elders, they revel against the whole world. Nevertheless,
they expect good fortune and seek long lives, only to meet death in the end.
Even if someone compassionately admonishes them, trying to lead them to
thoughts of goodness, and teaches them that naturally there are good and
evil realms of Samsara, they will not believe him. However hard one may try
to persuade them, it is useless. Their minds are closed, and they refuse to
listen to others or understand their teachings. When their lives are about to
end, fear and revulsion arise in turn. Not having previously done any good,
they are filled with remorse when they come to their end. But what good will
that do then?
"Between heaven and earth, the five realms are clearly distinguishable. They
are vast and deep, extending boundlessly. In return for good or evil deeds,
bliss or misery ensues. The result of one's karma must be borne by oneself
alone and no one else can take one's place. This is the natural law.
Misfortune follows evil deeds as their retribution, which is impossible to
avoid. Good people do good deeds, and so enjoy pleasure after pleasure and
proceed from light to greater light. Evildoers commit crimes, and so suffer
pain after pain and wander from darkness to deeper darkness. No one, except
the Buddha, knows this completely. Even though someone admonishes and
teaches them, very few believe; and so the cycles of birth-and-death never
cease and the evil paths continue endlessly. [277b] The karmic consequences
for such worldly people are beyond description in detail.
"Thus, because of the natural working of karma, there are innumerable kinds
of suffering in the three evil realms through which evil beings must pass, life
after life, for many kalpas, with no end in sight. It is indeed difficult for them
to gain release, and the pain they must undergo is indescribable. This is
called the fifth great evil, the fifth suffering, and the fifth burning. The
afflictions are such that they are comparable to a huge fire burning people
alive.
"If in the midst of this, one controls one's thoughts with single-mindedness,
does worthy deeds with proper demeanor, mindfully recollects, harmonizes
words and deeds, acts with sincerity, utters true words, speaks from the heart,
commits no evil, and performs only good, then with the merit and virtue
acquired one reaches emancipation and is able to escape from this world, be
reborn in heavenly realms, and finally reach Nirvana. This is the fifth great
good."

Further admonition by the Buddha

[40] The Buddha said to Maitreya, "I shall explain further. Such are the
afflictions of the five evils in this world. The five sufferings and the five
burnings continue to arise from them. People commit nothing but evil and
fail to cultivate roots of virtue, and so it is natural that they all go to evil
realms. Even in this life they suffer from incurable illnesses. Longing for
death, they cannot die; craving for life, they cannot live. Thus they are an
example to others of what retribution for evil acts is like. After death, driven
by their karma, they fall into the three evil realms, where they suffer
countless tortures and are themselves consigned to the flames.
"After a long time they are reborn again in this world, only to foment hatred
against each other. At first hatred is slight but finally develops into a major
evil. All this is because of their greedy attachment to wealth and sensuous
pleasures and of their refusal to share with others. Further, wayward
thoughts arise from the desires born of stupidity. Their bondage to evil
passions will never be severed. In the pursuit of selfish gain, there is no
chance for them to reflect on their evils and turn to good. When wealthy and
prosperous, they are happy and do not learn to be modest and virtuous.
Consequently, their pomp and power are short-lived; when these are
exhausted, they must undergo further afflictions. Their sufferings are bound
to increase in time to come.
"The law of karma operates like a net stretched everywhere; in its meshes, it
inevitably catches all offenders. The net woven of large and small ropes
covers the whole world, from top to bottom, and those caught in it feel
utterly helpless and tremble in fear. This net has been in existence from of
old. How painful and heart-rending!"
The Buddha said to Maitreya, "People of this world are as I have described.
All the Buddhas pity them and with divine powers destroy their evils and lead
them all to goodness. If you give up wrong views, hold fast to the scriptures
and the precepts, and practice the Way without committing any fault, then
you will finally be able to attain the path to emancipation and Nirvana."
The Buddha continued, "You and other devas and humans of the present
and people of future generations, having received the Buddha's teachings,
should reflect upon them and, while following them, should remain upright
in thought and do virtuous deeds. Rulers should abide by morality, reign
with beneficence and decree that everyone should maintain proper conduct,
revere the sages, respect men of virtue, be benevolent and kind to others, and
take care not to disregard the Buddha's teachings and admonitions. All
should seek emancipation, cut the roots of Samsara and its various evils, and
so aspire to escape from the paths of immeasurable sorrow, fear [277c] and
pain in the three evil realms.
"In this world, you should extensively plant roots of virtue, be benevolent,
give generously, abstain from breaking the precepts, be patient and diligent,
teach people with sincerity and wisdom, do virtuous deeds, and
practice good. If you strictly observe the precepts of abstinence with upright
thought and mindfulness even for a day and a night, the merit acquired will
surpass that of practicing good in the land of Amitayus for a hundred years.
The reason is that in that Buddha-land of effortless spontaneity all the
inhabitants do good without committing even a hair's breadth of evil. If in
this world you do good for ten days and nights, the merit acquired will
surpass that of practicing good in the Buddha-land of other quarters for a
thousand years. The reason is that in the Buddha-land of other quarters
many practice good and very few commit evil. They are lands where
everything is naturally provided as a result of one's merit and virtue, and so
no evil is done. But in this world much evil is committed, and few are
provided for naturally; people must work hard to get what they want. Since
they intend to deceive each other, their minds are troubled, their bodies
exhausted, and they drink bitterness and eat hardship. In this way, they are
preoccupied with their toil no have time for rest.
"Out of pity for you and other devas and humans, I have taken great pains
in exhorting you to do good deeds. I have given you instructions appropriate
to your capacities. You have, without fail, accepted my teachings and
practiced them, and so have all entered on the Way as you wished.
"Wherever the Buddha comes to stay, there is no state, town or village which
is not blessed by his virtues. The whole country reposes in peace and
harmony. The sun and the moon shine with pure brilliance; wind rises and
rain falls at the right time. There is no calamity or epidemic, and so the
country becomes wealthy, and its people enjoy peace. Soldiers and weapons
become useless; and people esteem virtue, practice benevolence and diligently
cultivate courteous modesty."
The Buddha continued, "My concern for you, devas and humans, is greater
than the care of parents for their children. I have become a Buddha in this
world, destroyed the five evils, removed the five sufferings, and extinguished
the five burnings. I have countered evil with good, eradicated the suffering of
birth-and-death, and enabled people to acquire the five virtues and attain the
peace of unconditioned Nirvana. But after I have departed from this world,
my teaching will gradually decline and people will fall prey to flattery and
deceit and commit various evils, resulting in the recurrence of the five
sufferings and the five burnings. As time goes on, their sufferings will
intensify. As it is impossible to describe this in detail, I have given you only a
brief outline.
The Buddha said to Maitreya, "You should each ponder on this well, teach
and admonish each other, and be on guard against disobeying the Buddha's
instruction."
The Bodhisattva Maitreya, with his palms together, said, "O Buddha, how
sincere and earnest your admonition is! People of the world are just as you
have described. O Tathagata, you take pity on and care for us without
discrimination and seek to deliver us all from suffering. Having accepted the
Buddha's repeated exhortations, I will be careful not to disobey them."

Amida and the Pure Land shown to the audience

[41] The Buddha said to Ananda, "Rise to your feet, rearrange your robes,
put your palms together, and respectfully revere and worship Amitayus.
Buddhas and Tathagatas in the lands of the ten quarters always praise with
one accord that Buddha's virtues of non-attachment and unimpeded
activity."
Ananda stood up, rearranged his robes, assumed the correct posture, faced
westward, and, demonstrating his sincere reverence, joined his palms
together, prostrated himself on the ground and worshipped Amitayus.
Then he said [278a] to the Buddha Shakyamuni, "World-Honored One, I
wish to see that Buddha, his Land of Peace and Bliss, and its hosts of
bodhisattvas and shravakas."
As soon as he had said this, Amitayus emitted a great light, which
illuminated all the Buddha-lands. The Encircling Adamantine Mountains,
Mount Sumeru, together with large and small mountains, and everything else
shone with the same (golden) color. That light was like the flood at the end of
the period of cosmic change that fills the whole world, when myriads of
things are submerged, and as far as the eye can see, there is nothing but a
vast expanse of water. Even so was the flood of light emanating from
Amitayus. All the lights of shravakas and bodhisattvas were outshone and
surpassed, and only the Buddha's light remained shining bright and glorious.
At that time Ananda saw the splendor and majesty of Amitayus resembling
Mount Sumeru, which rises above the whole world. There was no place which
was not illuminated by the light emanating from his body of glory. The four
groups of followers of the Buddha in the assembly saw all this at the same
time. Likewise, those of the Pure Land saw everything in this world.

Two kinds of birth in the Pure Land

[42] Then the Buddha said to Ananda and the Bodhisattva Maitreya, "Have
you seen that land filled with excellent and glorious manifestations, all
spontaneously produced, from the ground to the Heaven of Pure Abode,?"
Ananda replied, "Yes, I have."
The Buddha asked, "Have you also heard the great voice of Amitayus
expound the Dharma to all the worlds, guiding sentient beings to the Way of
the Buddha?"
Ananda replied, "Yes, I have."
The Buddha further asked, "Have you also seen the inhabitants of that land
move freely, riding in seven-jewelled airborne palaces as large as a hundred
thousand yojanas, to worship the Buddhas of the lands in the ten quarters?"
"Yes, I have," replied Ananda.
"Have you also seen that some of the inhabitants are in the embryonic
state?"
"Yes, I have. Those in the embryonic state dwell in palaces as high as a
hundred yojanas or five hundred yojanas, where they spontaneously enjoy
pleasures as do those in the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods."

The cause of the two kinds of birth

[43] Then the Bodhisattva Maitreya said to the Buddha, "World-Honored
One, for what reason are some of the inhabitants of that land in the
embryonic state and the others born by transformation?"
The Buddha replied, "Maitreya, if there are sentient beings who do various
meritorious deeds aspiring for birth in that land while still entertaining
doubt, such beings are unable to comprehend the Buddha-wisdom,
inconceivable wisdom, ineffable wisdom, boundless Mahayana wisdom, and
incomparable, unequaled, and unsurpassed supreme wisdom. Although they
doubt these wisdoms, they still believe in retribution for evil and reward for
virtue and so cultivate a stock of merits, aspiring for birth in that land. Such
beings are born in a palace, where they dwell for five hundred years without
being able to behold the Buddha, hear his exposition of the Dharma, or see
the hosts of bodhisattvas and shravakas. For this reason, that type of birth in
the Pure Land is called 'embryonic state.'
"If there are sentient beings who with resolute faith accept these kinds of
wisdom, from the Buddha's wisdom to the supreme wisdom, do meritorious
deeds and sincerely transfer the merit acquired (to that land), [278b] those
beings will be born by transformation spontaneously. seated with legs
crossed, in the seven-jewelled lotus-flowers, and instantly attain the same
glorious forms, wisdom and virtue as those of other bodhisattvas there.

Shakyamuni's encouragement of faith

[44] "Further, Maitreya, if great bodhisattvas in the Buddha-lands of other
quarters desire to see Amitayus, and revere and make offerings to him and
the hosts of bodhisattvas and shravakas, they will, after death, be born in the
land of Amitayus. Spontaneously transformed they will be born from within
the seven-jewelled lotus-flowers.
"Maitreya, you should know that those born by transformation are
possessed of supreme wisdom, while those in the embryonic state lack that
wisdom and must pass five hundred years without being able to see the
Buddha, hear his teaching of the Dharma, see the hosts of bodhisattvas and
shravakas, make offerings to the Buddha, learn the rules of conduct for
bodhisattvas, or perform meritorious practices. You should know that this is
because those beings harbored doubt and lacked wisdom in their previous
lives."

Embryonic birth

[45] The Buddha said to Maitreya, "Let us suppose that a wheel-turning
monarch has a special chamber which is adorned with seen jewels and
provided with curtained couches and silken banners hanging from the ceiling.
If princes have committed offense against the king, they are taken to that
chamber and fettered with gold chains. There they are served with food and
drink, provided with clothes, couches and cushions, flowers and incense, and
can enjoy music. Being treated just like the wheel-turning monarch himself,
they have no wants. Do you think that those princes would enjoy living
there?"
"No they do not," replied Maitreya. "They would seek various means of
approach to ask a man of power to help them escape."
The Buddha said to Maitreya, "Those beings born within the lotus-buds are
like that. Because of their doubt in the Buddha's wisdom, they have been
born in palaces. Although they receive no punishment or ill treatment even
for a single moment, they must pass five hundred years there without being
able to see the Three Treasures, make offerings to the Buddha, or cultivate a
stock of virtue. This is distressing to them. Though there are other pleasures,
they do not enjoy living there.
"If those beings become aware of the faults committed in their former lives
and deeply repent, they can, as they wish, leave and go to where Amitayus
dwells. Then they can worship and make offerings to him; they can also visit
innumerable and countless other Buddhas to perform various meritorious
practices. Maitreya, you should know that the bodhisattvas who allow doubt
to arise lose great benefits. For this reason, you should have resolute faith in
the supreme wisdom of the Buddha."

Bodhisattvas' visits to the Pure Land from other Buddha-lands

[46] The Bodhisattva Maitreya said to the Buddha, "World-Honored One,
how many non-retrogressive bodhisattvas are there in this world who will be
born in that Buddha-land?"
The Buddha replied, "Sixty-seven kotis of non-retrogressive bodhisattvas
from this world will be born there. Each of these bodhisattvas [278c] has
previously made offerings to innumerable Buddhas with almost as much
diligence as you did, Maitreya. Furthermore, bodhisattvas of lesser practices
and those who have performed small acts of merit, whose number is beyond
calculation, will all be born there."
The Buddha said to Maitreya, "Not only those bodhisattvas from this world
but also those from Buddha-lands in other quarters are born there. First, in
the land of the Buddha named Far-reaching Illumination there are one
hundred and eighty kotis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Second, in the
land of the Buddha Jewel-storehouse there are ninety kotis of bodhisattvas,
who all visit there. Third, in the land of the Buddha Immeasurable Sound
there are two hundred and twenty kotis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there.
Fourth, in the land of the Buddha Taste of Nectar there are two hundred and
fifty kotis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Fifth, in the land of the
Buddha Dragon-subduing there are fourteen kotis of bodhisattvas, who all
visit there. Sixth, in the land of the Buddha Superior Power there are
fourteen thousand bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Seventh, in the land of
the Buddha Lion there are five hundred kotis of bodhisattvas, who all visit
there. Eighth, in the land of the Buddha Undefiled Light there are eighty
kotis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Ninth, in the land of the Buddha
Peak of Virtue there are sixty kotis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there.
Tenth, in the land of the Buddha Mountain of Excellent Virtue there are sixty
kotis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Eleventh, in the land of the Buddha
King of Men there are ten kotis of bodhisattvas, who all visit there. Twelfth,
in the land of the Buddha Splendid Flower there are innumerable and
incalculable bodhisattvas who are all non-retrogressive and possessed of
unrivaled wisdom, who have previously made offerings to countless Buddhas
and are able to learn in seven days the adamantine teachings of the Dharma
that can only be attained by mahasattvas after practicing for a hundred
thousand kotis of kalpas. Those bodhisattvas all visit there. Thirteenth, in the
land of the Buddha Fearlessness there are seven hundred and ninety kotis of
great bodhisattvas and incalculable minor bodhisattvas and bhiksus, who all
visit there."
The Buddha said to Maitreya, "Not only do the bodhisattvas from those
fourteen Buddha-lands visit that land, but also bodhisattvas from
innumerable Buddha-lands in the ten quarters, whose number is incalculable.
Even if I were to give you only the names of the Buddhas in the ten quarters
and the number of the bodhisattvas and bhiksus who visit that land,
enumerating them continuously day and night for a kalpa, I would not be
able to complete the list. This is why I have given you only a brief
description." [279a]

Shakyamuni's encouragement to accept this sutra


[47] The Buddha said to Maitreya, "If there are people who hear the Name of
that Buddha, rejoice so greatly as to dance, and remember him even once,
then you should know that they have gained great benefit by receiving the
unsurpassed virtue. For this reason, Maitreya, even if a great fire were to fill
the universe of a thousand million worlds, you should pass through it to hear
this sutra, to arouse joyful faith, to uphold and chant it, and to practice in
accordance with its teachings. This is because there are many bodhisattvas
who wish to hear this teaching but are still unable to do so. If there are
sentient beings who have heard it, they will attain the Stage of
Non-retrogression for realizing the highest Enlightenment. This is why you
should single-heartedly accept in faith, uphold and chant this sutra, and
practice in accordance with its teaching."
The Buddha further said, "I have expounded this teaching for the sake of
sentient beings and enabled you to see Amitayus and all in his land. Strive to
do what you should. After I have passed into Nirvana, do not allow doubt to
arise. In the future, the Buddhist scriptures and teachings will perish. But,
out of pity and compassion, I will especially preserve this sutra and maintain
it in the world for a hundred years more. Those beings who encounter it will
attain deliverance in accord with their aspirations.
The Buddha said to Maitreya, "It is difficult to encounter and behold
Tathagata when he is in this world. Difficult of access, difficult to hear are
the Buddhas' teachings and scriptures. It is also difficult to hear the excellent
teachings for bodhisattvas, the Paramitas. Difficult too is it to meet a good
teacher, to hear the Dharma and perform the practices. But most difficult of
all difficulties is to hear this sutra, have faith in it with joy and hold fast to it.
Nothing is more difficult than this. Thus have I formed my Dharma, thus
have I expounded my Dharma, and thus have I taught my Dharma. You
must receive it and practice it by the method prescribed."

Epilogue

[48] When the World-Honored One had finished his exposition of this sutra,
aspiration for the highest Enlightenment was awakened in innumerable
sentient beings. Twelve thousand nayutas of human beings attained the pure
Dharma-eye; twenty-two kotis of devas and humans attained the Stage of a
Non-returner; eight hundred thousand bhiksus realized the wisdom of
destroying defilements; forty kotis of bodhisattvas attained the Stage of
Non-retrogression; and all, adorned with the virtue of the universal vows, will
ultimately attain perfect Enlightenment.
At that time the entire universe of a thousand million worlds shook in six
ways, and a great light illuminated all the lands in the ten quarters. A
hundred thousand kinds of music played spontaneously, and innumerable
marvelous flowers fell in profusion from the sky.
When the Buddha finished delivering this sutra, the Bodhisattva Maitreya
and bodhisattvas from the lands in the ten quarters, together with the Elder
Ananda, other great shravakas, and all those in the assembly, without
exception, rejoiced at the Buddha's discourse.

End of Part Two of
The Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life