Mahāyāna Vaipulya Sūtra of Total Retention
Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Sui Dynasty
The Tripiṭaka Master Vinītaruci from India
Thus I have heard:
At one time the Buddha was staying on the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain, near the city of Rājagṛha, together with 62,000 great bhikṣus, 80 koṭi Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, and 60 koṭi 100,000 upāsakas from the kingdom of Magadha.
The summer meditation retreat having ended, nearing the time of His parinirvāṇa, the World-Honored One entered the In-Accord-with-the-Dharma Samādhi. During His samādhi, this Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World was everywhere adorned with silky banners and canopies. Jeweled incense vases were well placed and fragrances were widely spread. Scattered all about were thousand-petaled lotus flowers. At that time, in this Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World, multitudes in the hundreds of thousands of koṭis, Brahma-kings, and their retinues in the hundreds of thousands of koṭis came to the Buddha. Upon arrival they bowed their heads down at the feet of the Buddha. With folded palms, facing the Buddha, they stepped back to stand on one side. Also to the Buddha came hundreds of thousands of koṭis of god-sons from pure abode heavens, god-kings Īśvara and Maheśvara, dragon-kings, yakṣa-kings, asura-kings, garuḍa-kings, kiṁnara-kings, mahoraga-kings, together with their respective retinues in the hundreds of thousands of koṭis. Upon arrival they bowed their heads down at the feet of the Buddha. Also to the Buddha, from worlds in the ten directions, came Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas of great awesome virtue, who were as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. Upon arrival they bowed their heads down at the feet of the Buddha. With folded palms, facing the Buddha, they stepped back to stand on one side. Even the gods from the top heaven in this Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World came to join the huge multitude, which filled the space with no room to spare. Also to the assembly came all those others with great awesome power, such as gods, dragons, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṁnaras, mahoragas, and others.
The World-Honored One, prompted by the right thought, rose from His samādhi. He looked all over the huge multitude as He stretched His body and opened His mouth. Like a lion-king, three times He stretched. Then the World-Honored One extended from His mouth His wide-ranging, far-reaching tongue, completely covering this Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World. After the Tathāgata had finished His display of spiritual power, He again looked at the massive crowd. Then all in the huge multitude rose from their seats. They made obeisance with joined palms and stood in silence. Then the Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “Ajita, before long the Tathāgata will enter parinirvāṇa. If you have doubts regarding the Dharma and would like to ask me, now is the right time, while I am still here. Do not allow yourself to have any distressing regrets after the Buddha is gone.”
Then Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva said to the Buddha, “Yes, World-Honored One, You best know the right time. The Buddha-Tathāgata has realized the ultimate of all dharmas. I pray only that You will pronounce it, enabling Your Dharma-eye to abide in the world for a long time.”
In the assembly, the god-king Maheśvara’s sons and 80 koṭi gods from pure abode heavens, together with their retinues, surrounded the Buddha and bowed their heads down at His feet. Joining their palms reverently, they said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, the Mahāyāna Vaipulya Total Retention Dharma Door has been taught in the past by innumerable Buddha-Tathāgatas, also called Arhats, Samyak-Saṁbuddhas. We pray only that the Tathāgata now will also expound it to bring benefits, comfort, and delight to innumerable gods and humans, and to enable the Buddha Dharma to abide in the world for a long time.”
The Buddha approved in silence. Knowing that the Buddha had granted their request, the god-king Maheśvara’s son was joyful and exuberant. Joining his palms, he made obeisance and stepped back to stand on one side. Then the Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, “Ajita, this Mahāyāna Vaipulya Total Retention Dharma Door is not taught by me only. Innumerable Buddhas of the past, present, and future, in worlds in the ten directions, have frequently taught it. If there are sentient beings that malign the Dharma and the Saṅgha and say that the Buddha’s words are not spoken by the Buddha, these maligners will go down the evil life-paths to undergo suffering in hell.”
Then the Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, “If, among good men and good women, there are those who have activated the bodhi mind and will accept and uphold, read and recite, and explain to others, this Mahāyāna Vaipulya Sūtra of Total Retention, know that these people will not go down the evil life-paths.”
Then the World-Honored One asked Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, “Ajita, from the night I attained Buddhahood to the time when I will enter the nirvāṇa without remnant, are there evil karmas arising from oversights in what has been done, spoken, thought of, and pondered by the Buddha’s body, voice, and mind?”
Maitreya Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva replied, “No, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha said, “Maitreya, as you say, from the time of my attainment of bodhi to the time of my parinirvāṇa, what I have said in this interval is all true, never false. If there are fools who, failing to understand that the Tathāgata’s words are skillful tools, judge that ‘this Dharma is this way; this Dharma is not this way,’ they are maligning the true Dharma as well as Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. I say that they are headed for hell.
“Ajita, after my parinirvāṇa, if, in the world of the five turbidities, among bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, there are those who are not Bodhisattvas but claim to be Bodhisattvas, they are actually non-Buddhists. Because they in their past lives had made offerings to Buddhas and made their resolve, they have been able to enter the Buddha’s Order, renouncing family life. Wherever they have gone, they have sought fame, benefits, and worship from their kinfolk and friends. They have unscrupulously engaged in impure activities and abandoned their faith. They have not restrained themselves from evil acts. They have not subjugated their greed for benefits and worship. As for all Dharma Doors and what will produce enduring samādhi, they have stayed far away from them and have had no knowledge of them. For the sake of their kinfolk, they have falsely claimed their knowledge and understanding. Standing in flattery and deception, their mouths have spoken contradictory words and their bodies have performed contradictory acts.
“Ajita, in my Bodhi Way all sentient beings are equal and embraced in my great compassion. While using skillful means, I never lose right mindfulness. Abiding peacefully in His unequaled power, the Tathāgata expounds the Dharma, hindrance free. Suppose there are sentient beings that say these words: ‘Bodhisattvas should not hear, study, or accept the sūtras the Buddha has pronounced for voice-hearers. These are not the true Dharma, nor the right path. Nor should Bodhisattvas study the Pratyekabuddha Dharma.’ Suppose they also say, ‘Voice-hearers should not hear or accept the Dharmas that Bodhisattvas practice. Nor should voice-hearers hear or accept the Pratyekabuddha Dharma.’ Suppose they also say, ‘Whatever Bodhisattvas have to say, voice-hearers and Pratyekabuddhas should not hear or accept.’ Their contradictory words and actions are not in accord with the sūtras. They are unable to believe and accept either the true Dharma of Liberation or words that are in accord with true reality. The followers of their ways cannot even be reborn in heaven, much less achieve liberation.
“Ajita, according to their faith, I have expounded the Dharma to and tamed as many [sentient beings] as the sands of the Ganges. Ajita, even now I want to go to worlds in the ten directions to expound the Dharma suitably to sentient beings for their benefit. It is not for those who are not Bodhisattvas but disguised as Bodhisattvas. Nor is it for the evil, deceitful ones who, having heard little of the Dharma, double talk about my Dharma. Suppose the double talker says these words: ‘This, Bodhisattvas should learn. This, Bodhisattvas should not learn.’ Having maligned the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha, the double talker after death will fall into hell and, for hundreds and thousands of kalpas, will not be able to leave there. Suppose he will later be reborn in a poor family and even receive the prophecy of attaining Buddhahood. Then he will eventually attain samyak-saṁbodhi in an evil world of the five turbidities, just like me who has realized Buddha bodhi in this world of the five turbidities. Therefore, you should hearken, believe, and know that such will be the consequences of following the way of evil friends.
“Ajita, as I remember, countless kalpas ago, in the world appeared a Buddha called Untainted Flame Worthy-of-Name King, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, Knowledge and Action Perfected, Sugata, Understanding the World, Unsurpassed One, Tamer of Men, Teacher to Gods and Humans, Buddha the World-Honored One. During His life of 80,000 nayuta years, that Buddha expounded the Dharma to the multitudes. In the Dharma of Untainted Flame Worthy-of-Name King Tathāgata, there was a bhikṣu called Pure Life. As a great Dharma master, he retained fourteen koṭi sūtras and six million Mahāyāna sūtras. His words were pure and beautiful, his eloquence unhindered. He helped innumerable, countless sentient beings by giving them teachings, benefits, and delight. Untainted Flame Worthy-of-Name King Tathāgata, upon entering parinirvāṇa, told the bhikṣu Pure Life, ‘You should protect and uphold my true Dharma-eye in future times.’ Pure Life, having accepted that Buddha’s instruction, for thousands and tens of thousands of years after that Buddha’s parinirvāṇa, guarded and circulated the secret store of Buddhas. He accepted and upheld, and read and recited, [texts in] the Vaipulya Total Retention Dharma Door, and had profound understanding of their tenets. He also widely expounded them to all the sentient beings in 80,000 cities in that world according to their wishes and preferences.
“At that time there was a great city called Bhadra. Pure Life went to that city to expound the Dharma to 80 koṭi households according to their preferences. Consequently, 80 koṭi people in that city acquired pure faith, one koṭi people set themselves on the Bodhi Way, and 79 koṭi people accepted the Voice-Hearer Vehicle and were thus trained. Then the Dharma master Pure Life, followed by 10,000 bhikṣus, went to train in the Bodhi Way.
“At that time, in the city of Bhadra, there was a bhikṣu named Dharma. He accepted and upheld 1,000 Mahāyāna vaipulya sūtras and attained the four dhyānas. He was transforming the sentient beings in that city only by means of the Vaipulya Dharma of Emptiness. Unable to speak easily and skillfully, he said these words: ‘All dharmas are empty and silent. What I say is truly the words of the Buddha. What the bhikṣu Pure Life says is filthy and impure. This bhikṣu is leading an impure life but calls himself Pure Life. Why? Because this bhikṣu keeps the flowers he has received for his own enjoyment, not for making offerings. He does the same with the solid perfumes and powdered incense. This bhikṣu Pure Life, foolish and senseless, does not know that I have long trained in the Brahma way of life. He is young and has not renounced family life for too long. He is arrogant, faithless, and utterly undisciplined. Those who do not have this knowledge say that Pure Life is a bhikṣu who observes the precepts.’
“Then Dharma, who with a vicious mind had slandered the bhikṣu upholding the Dharma, after death fell into hell. For 70 kalpas, he underwent multitudinous suffering. Upon completion of the 70 kalpas, he was reborn in animal form. After 60 kalpas, he encountered Fragrant Jewel Light Buddha, under whom Dharma activated his bodhi mind. He continued to be reborn in animal form for 90,000 lives. After these 90,000 lives, he was reborn in human form. For 60,000 lives, he did not have a tongue and lived in poverty and sordidness.
“[By contrast] the bhikṣu Pure Life, having gained pure faith in the Dharma, continued to pronounce the Dharma. Subsequently, he encountered 63 nayuta Buddhas. As a Dharma master with the five transcendental powers, he always asked each Buddha to turn the wheel of the true Dharma .
“Ajita, tell me this. Was the bhikṣu Pure Life in the past a different person? Do not view him as someone different. He is none other than Amitābha Buddha today. Ajita, tell me this. Was the bhikṣu Dharma in the past a different person? Do not view him as someone different. He is none other than I today. Because I had slandered Him out of foolishness and senselessness, I underwent such suffering. Through these karmic causes and conditions, I have attained samyak-saṁbodhi in this world of the five turbidities. Therefore, Ajita, if there are Bodhisattvas who double talk about the Dharma, they will, for these causes and conditions, attain Buddha bodhi in a future world of the five turbidities. When they expound the Dharma, there will be māras in their Buddha Lands, constantly causing hindrances and making trouble.”
When the huge assembly heard the Buddha’s words, they all wept in grief, tears flowing and noses running. They all said these words: “May we, unlike that bhikṣu, refrain from double talk about the Dharma!”
Then one hundred Bodhisattvas in the assembly rose from their seats, knelt on their right knees, and cried loudly, shedding tears of sorrow. The World-Honored One, knowing the reason, still asked these Bodhisattvas, “Good men, why do you all wail miserably like this?”
These Bodhisattvas replied with one voice to the Buddha: “World-Honored One, we see in ourselves such evil karma hindrances as well.”
In confirmation, the World-Honored One spoke these words: “Indeed! Indeed! In the past you renounced family life in the Dharma of Dīpaṅkara Buddha. After the parinirvāṇa of Dīpaṅkara Buddha, there was a bhikṣu called Knowledge Accumulation, and you all slandered this bhikṣu. For this reason, you have since been unable to see Buddhas, unable to activate the bodhi mind, and unable to acquire dhāraṇīs and samādhis. From now on, you all will stay on the Bodhi Way. Good men, under the last Buddha in this Worthy Kalpa, you will achieve the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas. Afterward, you will walk the Bodhisattva Way for over three asaṁkhyeya kalpas, and then you will attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi.
“Therefore, good men, when Bodhisattvas see other Bodhisattvas, they should not think of self versus others. Instead, they should think that others are like sacred pagodas, like Buddhas. Hence, when Bodhisattvas see other Bodhisattvas, they should not have discriminatory thoughts, considering others as non-Buddhas. Any discriminatory thoughts are self-harming. You should accept and uphold this [instruction]. Without alienating thoughts, you should join others in harmony. If I held the view that newly-resolved Bodhisattvas would be less than a Buddha, I would be deceiving innumerable asaṁkhyeyas of Buddhas of the present, [in worlds] in the ten directions. Therefore, good men, if Bodhisattvas can acquire dhāraṇīs and samādhis in the future, in a world of the five turbidities, it will all be by virtue of the awesome power of Buddhas. Hence, good men, slandering a Dharma master is no different from slandering a Buddha. Good men, after the Buddha’s parinirvāṇa, if there is a Dharma master who can well expound the Dharma according to the preferences [of the listeners], and is able to have Bodhisattvas study the Mahāyāna doctrine, and to have the multitude feel as little joy as a hair and even shed one tear, know that it will all be by virtue of the spiritual power of the Buddha.
“Suppose a fool who is not a Bodhisattva but claims to be a Bodhisattva maligns a true Bodhisattva and his actions, even speaking these words: ‘What does he know? What does he understand?’ Maitreya, I remember in the past, in Jambudvīpa, when I was learning to be a Bodhisattva, I loved and treasured the Dharma. For the sake of a verse or a stanza, I abandoned my head, eyes, wife, and throne, which I cherished. Why? To seek the Dharma. As for the fools who seek only fame, benefits, and worship, confident in their own limited capacity, they do not go to one who imparts the Dharma of the Tathāgata, to hear and receive the true Dharma. Maitreya, if the slanderers and the slandered unite in harmony, they will be able to uphold and circulate my Dharma. If the two groups are in conflict and in dispute, the true Dharma will not prevail. Ajita, you can observe those who malign the Dharma. They have done such enormously sinful karma that they will go down the three evil life-paths, from which it is hard to escape.
“Furthermore, Ajita, in the time since I attained Buddhahood, with true wisdom I have widely expounded the true Dharma to sentient beings. Suppose there are fools who neither believe nor accept the Buddha’s words, just like that bhikṣu Dharma. Although he had read and recited 1,000 Mahāyāna sūtras, explained them to others, and attained the four dhyānas, because of his slander of another, he underwent dreadful suffering for 70 kalpas. It is even more severe for those who, foolish and sordid, without any real knowledge [of the Dharma], proclaim these words: ‘I am a Dharma master who clearly understands the Mahāyāna and can widely spread it.’ They slander the true Dharma master, saying that he has no understanding. For self-elevation, they also malign the Buddha Dharma. If those fools malign even a four-verse stanza in the Buddha’s Mahāyāna teachings, know that, for this karma, they will definitely fall into hell. Why? Because they malign the Buddha Dharma and Dharma masters. For these causes and conditions, they will always walk the evil life-paths, never to see Buddhas. Because they have maligned the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Saṅgha, they can also create obstacles for those who have recently activated the bodhi mind, causing them to abandon the right path. Know that those who adorn themselves with enormously sinful karmas will fall into hell to receive horrendous requitals for immeasurable kalpas. Fixing an evil eye on one who has activated the bodhi mind will result in the requital of no eyes. Slandering one who has activated the bodhi mind will result in the requital of no tongue. Ajita, I have never seen an evil dharma graver than the sin of sabotaging others’ activation of the bodhi mind. Even for this sin, one will go down the evil life-paths. Even graver is [the sin of] slandering Bodhisattvas.
“Bodhisattvas should explain the Dharma truthfully to sentient beings, without holding the wrong views, such as perpetuity or cessation, the definite existence or definite nonexistence of sentient beings, or the existence or nonexistence of dharmas. Ajita, those who are learning to be Bodhisattvas should abide in this way. Abiding in this way is a pure and good karma of Bodhisattvas. They do not cling to what they train in or learn. If sentient beings cling to anything, know that they will be reborn in the world of the five turbidities.
“Furthermore, there are Bodhisattvas who excel in pronouncing the Dharma in various ways to sentient beings according to their natures and desires. Ajita, Bodhisattvas who practice all six pāramitās in this way will be able to attain the unsurpassed bodhi. The fools who believe in what they fixate on may say these words: ‘Bodhisattvas should practice prajñā-pāramitā only. Do not learn other pāramitās because prajñā-pāramitā is the supreme one.’ This statement is incorrect. Why? Because, Ajita, in the past, when King Kāśaka was training to be a Bodhisattva, he abandoned his head, eyes, bone marrow, and brain, which he cherished. Did this king not have any wisdom?”
Maitreya replied to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, truly as Your Holiness has said, he had wisdom.”
The Buddha told Ajita, “I practiced all six pāramitās fully for an immeasurable amount of time. If I had not practiced all six pāramitās fully, I would not have attained the unsurpassed bodhi.”
“Indeed, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha told Ajita, “As you say, in the past I practiced dāna-pāramitā, śīla-pāramitā, kṣānti-pāramitā, vīrya-pāramitā, dhyāna-pāramitā, and prajñā-pāramitā, each for sixty kalpas. Those fools falsely claim that one can attain bodhi by practicing prajñā-pāramitā only. There is nothing right about their claim. Because they embrace the view of void, they expound the Dharma with such impurity. The body, voice, and mind of those speakers contradict the Dharma. As they explain to others their understanding of emptiness, their do not act according to their words. Without [corresponding] actions, they are far from the [true] meaning of emptiness. Even more than their kinfolk, they harbor jealousy and are attached to benefits and worship. Ajita, when I was a Wheel-Turning King, I abandoned jewels, my head, my eyes, my hands, and my feet, but still could not attain the unsurpassed bodhi. By contrast, fools, for the sake of food and drink, visit others’ homes to make their statement. They only praise the Dharma of Emptiness and claim that what they say is the Bodhi Way and the Bodhisattva action, and that only this Dharma is the true Dharma while all other Dharmas are not. They also say these words: ‘My understanding has been realized by and known to innumerable Dharma masters.’ For the sake of fame, they praise themselves, saying that they clearly understand hatred and jealousy. Ajita, I see those who set their minds on seeking benefits and worship for a livelihood. Even if they take good actions for one hundred kalpas, they will not develop even a little Endurance in Dharmas, much less attain the unsurpassed bodhi. Ajita, I do not pronounce bodhi to the deceitful ones, who have contradictory mind and mouth. Nor to those who are jealous; nor to those who are arrogant and disrespectful; nor to those who are faithless; nor to those who are untamed; nor to those who engage in sexual misconduct; nor to those who believe that they are right and others wrong. Ajita, those fools, out of arrogance, claim that they have surpassed the Buddha. They malign Mahāyāna sūtras pronounced by the Buddha, alleging that these are actually pronounced by voice-hearers riding the Small Vehicle.”
Then the Buddha told the venerable Subhūti, “You should not pronounce prajñā-pāramitā to those who adhere to the view of dualism.”
Subhūti said to the Buddha, “No, indeed, World-Honored One, as the Buddha says.”
The Buddha said, “Indeed, Subhūti, giving alms without being attached [to the almsgiver, the recipient, or the alms given] is called bodhi.”
Subhūti said, “Indeed, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha said, “Subhūti, giving without praising oneself and criticizing others is called bodhi.”
Subhūti said, “Indeed, World-Honored One.”
The Buddha said, “Subhūti, when you see fools who, for the love of their kinfolk, greedy for a living, [wrongly] adhere to the view of self and its belongings, and enjoy accepting offerings from others without any sense of shame or dishonor, you know that they do only evil karma.
“Furthermore, Ajita, Bodhisattvas should have no fear of any dharmas, such as the dharmas of Pratyekabuddhas, voice-hearers, or ordinary beings; afflictions, ending of dharmas, or difficulty in making progress; right or wrong, act or no act, fear or fearlessness, existence or nonexistence, mind or no mind, enlightenment or no enlightenment, karma or no karma, good or bad, peace or no peace, liberation or no liberation, training or not training, dharma or non-dharma, serenity or turmoil, true or false, belief or disbelief, good thoughts or bad thoughts, abiding or not abiding. Thus Bodhisattvas do not have fear of any dharmas.
“Ajita, because I have trained in the past in such fearlessness, I have attained samyak-saṁbodhi. I can know the mental states of all sentient beings without the notion that I am the knower of what I know. I expound what I have realized according to the capacities of Bodhisattvas, enabling those who have heard the Dharma to acquire the Radiant Dhāraṇī Seal. Having acquired this Dharma Seal, they will never regress. If one does not truly know this dharma [of fearlessness] and speaks without eloquence, one will not ultimately attain the unsurpassed bodhi.
“Ajita, when I expound the Dharma to the sentient beings here in this small world comprising four large continents, by virtue of the spiritual power of the Buddha, each of them sees [me] Śākyamuni Tathāgata expound the Dharma only to him. In the same way, from one heaven to the next, up to Akaniṣṭha Heaven, each of the sentient beings there also says that the Tathāgata pronounces the Dharma only to him. It is like this, ranging from a small world comprising four continents to even a Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold world. All sentient beings think: ‘Śākyamuni Buddha has come to be born in my country, and He turns the great Dharma wheel only for me.’ Ajita, in the morning, using great skill, I observe everywhere sentient beings in immeasurable, boundless worlds and expound the Dharma to those that should be transformed. In the midday and in the evening, I observe sentient beings impartially with my Dharma-eye and expound the Dharma in their worlds. Such are the states of innumerable Buddhas! All sentient beings that are learning to be Bodhisattvas should train in this way. Those fools who malign the true Dharma pronounced by the Buddha adhere to their wrong understanding as the right understanding. Those who malign the Dharma do not believe in the Buddha. Because of this evil karma, they will fall into hell to undergo multitudinous suffering, never to hear the Dharma. Furthermore, Ajita, you should accept and uphold the secret teachings of the Tathāgata and widely pronounce them to others by skillful means.”
Then Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, including Mañjuśrī the Youth, Fortune Light Equality Bodhisattva, No Doubt Bodhisattva, Definite Resolve Bodhisattva, Wonder Mind Open Intellect Bodhisattva, Radiance Bodhisattva, Joyful King Bodhisattva, Fearless Bodhisattva, Thoughts Reaching Boundless Buddha Lands Bodhisattva, Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, Fragrant Elephant Bodhisattva, Annihilating All Evil Karma Bodhisattva, Abiding in Samādhi Bodhisattva, Hundred Thousand Merits Adorned Bodhisattva, Wonderful Tone Heard Afar Bodhisattva, All Knowledge Unforgotten Bodhisattva, Great Name Shaking Jeweled Banner Adorned Bodhisattva, Seeking All Dharma Bodhisattva, Abiding in the Buddha State Bodhisattva, Moonlight Adorned Bodhisattva, and Great Multitude in All the World Adorned Bodhisattva, said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, indeed, indeed, truly as Your Holiness says, when we passed Buddha Lands in the east, which were as numerous as the sands of sixty Ganges Rivers, and reverently made obeisance to the Buddhas there, we saw only Śākyamuni Buddha appearing in every world. We then visited everywhere [in worlds] in the ten directions for seven days and still saw only Śākyamuni Buddha appearing in each world, not other Buddhas. After visiting everywhere, we have returned to this land to hear and accept the true Dharma.”
At that time the Buddha told Mañjuśrī the Youth, “Now observe carefully. The wisdom of the Tathāgata is inconceivable, and the state of the Tathāgata is also inconceivable. Such unequaled states are the Tathāgata dharma. Those fools say these words, ‘Only prajñā-pāramitā is the Tathāgata action, the Bodhisattva action, and the sweet nectar action.’”
The Buddha told Mañjuśrī, “Their words contradict the Dharma. Why? Because it is very difficult to fully complete the Bodhisattva action. Acting without attachment is the Bodhisattva action; acting without the view of a self and its belongings is the Bodhisattva action; acting with the understanding of emptiness is the Bodhisattva action, and acting with no appearance is the Bodhisattva action. Mañjuśrī, such actions are the Bodhisattva action. Those learning to be Bodhisattvas should accept and uphold it. If those fools embrace the wrong views, you should know that they do not understand my Dharma. Mañjuśrī, you and other Bodhisattvas should all guard and protect your bodies and mouths. Do not allow them to dissipate in bad ways. Fortify your minds and keep them from regressing. As you fully expound the Dharma to sentient beings, you should abide in the Dharma. Since I fully attained the unsurpassed bodhi distant asaṁkhyeya kalpas ago, I have widely and skillfully pronounced the Dharma, enabling sentient beings to stay far away from the evil life-journeys.
“Mañjuśrī, if there are fools who malign the true Dharma, they have maligned both the Buddha and the Saṅgha. Making a statement that this Dharma is correct and that Dharma is incorrect is called maligning the Dharma. Making a statement that this Dharma is pronounced for Bodhisattvas and that Dharma is pronounced for voice-hearers is called maligning the Dharma. Making a statement that these are Bodhisattva studies and those are not Bodhisattva studies is called maligning the Dharma. Making a statement that as the past Buddha is gone, the future Buddha has not yet arrived, and the present Buddha is not staying, only I have acquired the Dhāraṇī Dharma, is called maligning the Dharma. Because of maligning the Dharma, their claim to have acquired the dhāraṇī is an impure dharma. They malign what a true Dharma master is cultivating. They further slander the Dharma master, saying that although he has intellectual understanding, his actions are inconsistent with his words. They further slander the Dharma master, saying that his actions violate the Way. They further slander the Dharma master, saying that his body does not observe the precepts. They further slander the Dharma master, saying that his mind has no wisdom. They further slander the Dharma master, saying that his intellect has no clear understanding. They further slander the Dharma master, saying that his speech is devoid of eloquence. Their minds do not believe or accept the words spoken by the Tathāgata. They also say, ‘This sūtra is correct, this sūtra is incorrect; this stanza is correct, this stanza is incorrect; this Dharma is credible, this Dharma is not credible.’ They wrongly rebut what is explained correctly. For those who listen to the true Dharma, they create hindrances, making claims, such as ‘this is a training, this is not a training; this is an accomplishment, this is not an accomplishment; this is the right time, this is the wrong time.’ These statements are all called maligning the Dharma.
“Furthermore, Mañjuśrī, whether voice-hearers pronounce the Dharma, whether Bodhisattvas pronounce the Dharma, know that it is entirely by virtue of the awesome spiritual power of the Tathāgata’s protection and consideration, which enables Bodhisattvas and others to say what they say. Mañjuśrī, even now the fools slander the Buddha. After my parinirvāṇa, how can Dharma masters, who accept and uphold my Dharma, not be slandered by them? Why? Because these fools are the retinue of the māras, know that they will go down the evil life-paths. As these fools greedily seek benefits and worship to support their kinfolk, they not only have no faith in the Dharma of the Tathāgata, but also destroy the Dharma taught by the Tathāgata. Their kinfolk, with a clannish mind, go to the houses of Brahmins and elders to praise these fools, claiming that they know and understand the Dharma and its meanings and that they are good at explanations because they know others’ capacities and desires. These fools accept others’ trust and offerings without any sense of shame or dishonor. Because they malign the Dharma, both they and their retinues will fall into hell.
“Mañjuśrī, I do not pronounce the Bodhisattva action to nonbelievers. Nor do I pronounce the pure Dharma to those who are attached to family life. Nor do I pronounce the Dharma of Liberation to those who adhere to the view of dualism. Nor do I pronounce the supra-worldly Dharma to those who adhere to the view of monism. Nor do I pronounce the pure, true Dharma to those who delight in worldly life.
“Mañjuśrī, with a mind clinging to nothing, I teach to people as many Dharma Doors as the sands of the Ganges. Then with a mind seemingly attached to something, I also teach to sentient beings as many Dharma Doors as the sands of the Ganges. If sentient beings delight in emptiness, I pronounce to them the Dharma of Emptiness. If sentient beings delight in knowledge, I pronounce to them the Dharma of Knowledge. If sentient beings delight in no appearance, I pronounce to them the Dharma of No Appearance. If sentient beings delight in appearance, I pronounce to them the Dharma of Appearance. If sentient beings delight in lovingkindness, I pronounce to them the Dharma of Lovingkindness. If sentient beings delight in causality, I pronounce to them the Dharma of Causality. If sentient beings delight in no causality, I pronounce to them the Dharma of No Causality. [Other Dharmas I have pronounced include] the awe-inspiring deportment and the non-awe-inspiring deportment, emptiness and existence, that which is saṁskṛta and that which is asaṁskṛta, holy beings and ordinary beings, fools, form, ways to draw in sentient beings, the obstructive coverings, that which is bad, and that which is definite.”
The Buddha told Mañjuśrī, “Dharmas such as these are the way of prajñā-pāramitā. The words of those fools, which malign the true Dharma of the Buddha, are not in accord with the pure, true teachings of the Tathāgata.”
Then Mañjuśrī asked Buddha, “World-Honored One, as You say, such fools, because they are close to evil friends, step forward to voice their slander. Then, World-Honored One, through what causes and conditions, can they avoid this fault?”
The Buddha told Mañjuśrī, “For seven years in the distant past, day and night in the six periods, I repented of the grave sins I had committed with my body, voice, and mind. After being purified, it took me ten kalpas to acquire the Endurance in Dharmas. Mañjuśrī, know that this sūtra is the Bodhisattva Vehicle. It can enable those who have not realized [the truth] to come to realization. If those who, having heard the words of this sūtra, refuse to believe and accept them and even malign them, they will go down the evil life-paths. Bodhisattvas need to understand and accept my Dharma, before they can pronounce it to others. By accepting and upholding [the Dharma] in this way, one can stay far away from the evil life-journeys.”
The Buddha told Mañjuśrī, “There are four equality dharmas Bodhisattvas should learn. What are these four? First, Bodhisattvas are impartial to all sentient beings. Second, they are impartial to all dharmas. Third, they are impartial to bodhi. Fourth, they pronounce various Dharmas impartially. These are the four equality dharmas. Bodhisattvas should know these four dharmas and explain them to sentient beings. The believers will stay far away from the evil life-journeys. The nonbelievers will go down the evil life-paths. If, among good men and good women, there are those who abide in these four dharmas, know that they will not have to take the evil life-journeys. There are another four dharmas [for Bodhisattvas to learn]. What are these four? First, their minds do not regress from helping sentient beings. Second, they neither disdain nor slander Dharma masters. Third, they do not slander the wise. Fourth, they always respect everything said by Tathāgatas. If good men and good women can competently train in and learn these four dharmas, they will never go down the evil life-paths.
“Furthermore, Mañjuśrī, Bodhisattvas can take the seven treasures which fill up as many Buddha Lands as the sands of the Ganges, and make offerings every day for as many kalpas as the sands of the Ganges to as many Buddha-Bhagavāns as the sands of the Ganges. If good men and good women can three times read and recite a verse or a stanza in such a wonderful Mahāyāna vaipulya sūtra, the merit they will acquire exceeds that from making those offerings. The merit acquired by those who recite and uphold this sūtra will be twice as much. Suppose there are those who practice almsgiving, observance of precepts, endurance, energetic progress, meditation, and wisdom. The merit they achieve from cultivating these six pāramitās also cannot compare [with that of upholding this sūtra]. Mañjuśrī, the name and meaning of such a sūtra are so vast that they are unequaled. You Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas should study and learn this sūtra, accept and uphold it, read and recite it, and explain it widely to sentient beings.”
Then those in the huge multitude and Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas from worlds in the ten directions all said to the Buddha: “World-Honored One, indeed, indeed, we will accept and uphold it as the Buddha instructs.”
When the Buddha was pronouncing this Dharma, Bodhisattvas, as numerous as the sands of 30 Ganges Rivers, achieved the Endurance in the Realization of the No Birth of Dharmas. Bodhisattvas as numerous as the sands of 70 Ganges Rivers attained the spiritual level of no regress from the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind. Furthermore, the massive multitudes in 63 koṭi 100,000 nayuta Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold Worlds, having heard the Buddha’s words, heartily rejoiced. They would have to continue flowing in the stream of birth and death for 80 kalpas, and then they too would reach the spiritual level of no regress from the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind. At the end of another 63 kalpas, they would fully attain the unsurpassed bodhi.
All in the multitude—Bodhisattvas, gods, dragons, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṁnaras, and mahoragas, humans, nonhumans, and others—having heard the Buddha’s words, greatly rejoiced and made obeisance. Then they reverently carried out the teachings.
—Mahāyāna Vaipulya Sūtra of Total Retention
Translated from the digital Chinese Canon (T09n0275)