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Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra: Chapter 17: On the Questions Raised by the Crowd

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Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra
Chapter 17: On the Questions Raised by the Crowd

Translated by Kosho Yamamoto from Dharmakshema's Chinese version,
edited and revised by Dr. Tony Page
Copyright for this edition is held by Dr. Tony Page, 2012.

“Then, the World-Honoured One emitted lights of such diverse colours as blue, red, white, crimson and purple, which shone over Cunda. Cunda, having been bathed in light, took up all the fine dishes with his kindred and carried them to where the Buddha was and offered them to the Tathagata and the bhiksus, desiring to make the final offerings. Taking these in various full-up vessels, they brought them to where the Buddha was. At that time, there was a deva of great virtue who came there and obstructed the way and, standing around, said: "O Cunda! Wait for a time, do not offer (yet)!" Then the Tathagata again shot forth innumerable boundless diverse lights. All the devas, encountering these lights, allowed Cunda to go forward and offer things to the Buddha, and prostrating themselves on the ground said: "O Tathagata! Allow all the bhiksus to accept our offerings." The bhiksus, knowing that it was now time, took up their robes and bowls and, holding them, stood still in one mind (with the same concentrated mind).

Then Cunda set down various kinds of jewel-bedecked lion's-thrones for the Buddha and the bhiksus, hung up silken banners and parasols, and carried in, along with these, incense, flowers and garlands. At that time, the grandeur of the 3,000 great-thousand worlds was similar to the Western (Buddha-) Paradise of peace and happiness. Then Cunda, who was before the Buddha, sad and worried, said again to the Buddha: "O Tathagata! Please take pity and stay and live with us for a kalpa or even less." The Buddha said to Cunda: "If you desire to have me stay long in this world, make the final perfect offerings." Then, all the Bodhisattva-mahasattvas, devas and all others said in one voice: "Oh, it is wonderful, Cunda, that you have accomplished the greatest of virtues. You have done so well that the Tathagata has accepted (from you) the final offerings. We lack virtue, so that what we do ends in no good."

Then the World-Honoured One, in order to satisfy the people, put forth from each pore of his skin a Buddha. Each Buddha had a retinue of innumerble bhiksus. All of these Buddhas and bhiksus partook of all the offerings which had been made. Tathagata Shakya himself took what Cunda presented (to him). At that time, all the rice bran, all the well-cooked food, the eight koku (unit of measurement for cereals and liquids) of cereals that could well satisfy the people of all Magadha state were, through the divine power of the Buddha, served to all those who were congregated there. On seeing this, Cunda was overjoyed; his joy was inexpressible. The hearts of all those congregated there felt the same.

Then all those congregated there, in accordance with the wish of the Buddha, thought in this manner: "The Tathagata now accepts our offerings. Before long, he will enter Nirvana." Thinking thus, they were both glad and sad. By the divine power of the Buddha, in a space the size of the point of a needle, there were gathered together an innumerable number of all Buddhas and their retinues, who all sat and ate. What they ate was all equal (all the same), with nothing differing. Then the devas, asuras and others all wept and were sad. They said: "The Tathagata has received our final offerings. Having received them, he will enter Nirvana. To whom can we now make offerings? Now, with the unsurpassed Trainer parted from us, we are all like blind men."

Then the World-Honoured One, in order to console all those gathered there, spoke in a gatha:

"Do not weep; the Dharma of all Buddhas is thus.
It is now innumerable kalpas since I entered Nirvana.
I have always received the best of Bliss
And rested myself forever in peace.
Now, listen with all your heart!
I shall now speak about Nirvana.
I am now segregated from the sense of (taking) food;
I now feel no thirst. I shall now, for your sake,
Speak about the vows step by step
And cause all to be blessed with peace.
Listen well and practise the eternal Dharma of all Buddhas.
If crows and owls live in a tree
And make friends with one another like brothers,
I shall now gain Nirvana for eternity.
The Tathagata views all beings as he does Rahula.
I shall always be the most honoured one to all beings.
How could I enter Nirvana for all eternity?
If snakes, rats and wolves live in a hole
And become friends with one another like brothers,
I shall enter Nirvana for all eternity.
The Tathagata views all beings as he views Rahula.
He always becomes the one honoured by beings.
How can he stay long in Nirvana?
If saptaparna (a bitter plant) changes into varsika (jasmine),
If karu (gentian) changes into tinduka (diospyros embryoteris),
Then I might well enter Nirvana.
The Tathagata views all as he views Rahula.
How could he abandon compassion and enter Nirvana for a long time?
If an icchantika could, in his present body,
Attain Enlightenment and first-grade Bliss,
Then I would certainly enter Nirvana.
The Tathagata views all as he views Rahula.
How could he abandon compassion and enter Nirvana for a long time?
If people all at once attain Enlightenment and abandon all evil,
I shall certainly attain Nirvana.
The Tathagata views all as he views Rahula.
How could he abandon compassion and enter Nirvana for a long time?
If the water of mosquitoes and sawflies
Could indeed wet the whole earth
And fill the rivers, valleys and seas, I would enter Nirvana.
My compassionate heart views all as I do Rahula.
I am ever the honoured one of all beings,
And how could I be long in Nirvana?
For this reason, seek deeply for Wonderful Dharma.
Do not be overmuch concerned, nor cry, nor weep.
If you desire to act rightly,
Practise the eternal of the Tathagata;
Harbour the thought that such Dharma lives long
And that there is no change.
Also, be mindful of the fact that the Three Treasures are all eternal.
This will beget great protection.
It is as in the case of a dead tree
Which, as a result of magic charms, brings forth fruit.
Such are the Three Treasures.
All of you, the four classes of people! Give ear well!
On listening well, joy will arise and Bodhichitta will come about.
If the Three Treasures come about as eternal
And are as “Paramartha-satya” (Ultimate Reality),
That is the utmost of vows of all Buddhas."

"If any bhiksu, upasaka or upasika aspires to the highest vow of the Tathagata, know that such will have no ignorance and is worthy of receiving offerings. By dint of the power of the vow, the virtues and fruits of that person's actions will, in the world, be like those of an arhat; anyone who cannot meditate on the eternal of the Three Treasures is a candala. If a person can indeed realise the eternal of the Three Treasures, such a person will part from the suffering that arises out of the causality of existence and will attain peace, and there will be no luring (tempting), hindering, and worrying trouble that will remain behind."

Then, humans, devas, the great crowd, and asuras, having heard this sermon, were gladdened and inexpressibly overjoyed. Their minds were softened, with all hindrances done away with, and no ups and downs were felt in their minds. Their great virtue was pure. Their faces looked glad, and they knew the eternal nature of the Buddha. Because of this, the devas made heavenly offerings and strew flowers of several kinds; with powder and smearing incense and with heavenly music, they made offerings to the Buddha.

Then the Buddha said to Bodhisattva Kasyapa: "Do you see the rare things done by these people?" Kasyapa answered: "I have already seen them, O World-Honoured One! I see that the number of Tathagatas is innumerable, boundless and uncountable; I see that they have received the offerings of all people, humans and devas. Also, they see the adornments of the great bodies of all Buddhas, and see that though the place where they sit is just the size of a needle point, a great number of people stand around and do not jostle one another, that the people who are gathered together all take vows, deliver sermons in thirteen gathas, that the great crowd are praying in their minds and are saying: "The Tathagata now accepts my offerings." Even if the food offered by Cunda were made into dust-motes and a mote was offered to each Buddha, it could by no means suffice. But the divine power of the Buddha has so contrived things as to enable all the people gathered here to receive their share." Only the Bodhisattva-mahasattvas, the Prince of Dharma, Manjushri, and others knew that this rare thing was (the action) of the Tathagata. All were expedients of the Tathagata that were thus manifested. The great crowd of sravakas and asuras now all knew that the Tathagata was one eternal.

Then the World-Honoured One said to Cunda: "Are not the things you see rare?" "Yes, indeed, O World-Honoured One! The innumerable Buddhas that I saw all had the 32 signs of perfection and the 80 minor marks of excellence. They were thus adorned. All are Bodhisattvas big in size, all wonderful, and their visages are incomparable. Thus do I see. Only the body of the Buddha is like that of a medicine tree, surrounded by all Bodhisattvas." The Buddha said to Cunda: "All the Buddhas that you saw before you were the transformation Buddhas (i.e. projections) of my own self. It was to benefit all beings and make them happy. All such Bodhisattva-mahasattvas here have innumerable things to practise. They all do what the innumerable Buddhas do. O Cunda! You have now accomplished what Bodhisattvas do and are perfect in what the Bodhisattva of the ten “bhumis” do." Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! All is as you say. All is as the Buddha says. The works of a Bodhisattva which Cunda has accomplished gladden me. Now the Tathagata, for the benefit of innumerable beings of the future, desires to perform a great work and you have now delivered this sermon of the Mahayana Great Nirvana Sutra.

"O World-Honoured One! Do the sutras contain more than what is stated?" "O good man! What I state has and has not more than what I state." Cunda said to the Buddha: "As you, the Buddha, say:

"What I have I give to all;
Only praise, but do not despoil."

"O World-Honoured One! What does this mean? What difference is there between the upholding and breaking of the precepts?" The Buddha said: "Except for one, give to all other people. Praise all." Cunda asked: "Who is that one person who is to be excepted?" "For example, the person who breaks the precepts stated in this sutra."

Cunda said further: "I do not completely understand. Please be good enough to explain." The Buddha said to Cunda: "To break the precepts refers to the icchantika. Giving things to all others should be highly regarded. This will result in great fruition." Cunda asked further: "What does icchantika mean?"

The Buddha said to Cunda: "Should any bhiksu, bhiksuni, upasaka or upasika who speaks ill of Wonderful Dharma and commits grave offences not repent and in his (or her) mind not think that it (i.e. what was done) was bad, such a person will inevitably be one who is taking the path of an icchantika. Any person who has committed grave sins such as the four grave offences and the five deadly sins, and who, knowing that he has transgressed, never fears or repents and does not say out (confess), who is not minded to protect, feel love for, and build up, the Buddha's Wonderful Dharma, but speaks ill of it, belittles it and points out things that are (supposedly) wrong is a person who is taking the path of an icchantika. Also, a person who says that there are no such things as the Three Treasures is a person who is taking the path of an icchantika. Except for such, you may indeed give. And this is laudable."

Then Cunda said further to the Buddha: "What is the transgressing of the precepts?" The Buddha said to Cunda: "A person who commits the four grave offences, the five deadly sins, and one who slanders Wonderful Dharma, is transgressing the precepts."

Cunda aksed further: "Can such a person, who has transgressed the precepts, be saved at all?" The Buddha said to Cunda: "If circumstantial factors combine, such a person can indeed be saved. If a person, donning the Buddhist robe, does not discard it, and his mind always repents and fears and is not gone far away, he will reproach himself, saying: "What a fool I was to commit such grave sins! How strange that I should engender this karma!" He greatly repents. He becomes minded to protect Wonderful Dharma and build it up. "I shall certainly make offerings to anyone who protects Dharma. To anyone who recites the Mahayana sutras, I shall pose questions, uphold and recite (those sutras). If I understand (them) well, I shall speak of them widely to others." I say that such a person is not one who has broken the precepts. Why mot? O good man! For example, when the sun rises, all gloom clears away. The same applies to the appearance into the world of this all-wonderful Great Nirvana Sutra. This annihilates all the sins committed over innumerable kalpas past. That is why this sutra says that if Wonderful Dharma is gained, great fruition ensues and this saves the person who has broken the precepts. A person may transgress, but if he repents and returns to Dharma, he will think: "All the evils one performs are like doing evil against one's own self." Fear arises and he repents. "There can be no help other than this Wonderful Dharma. For this reason, I shall turn back and take refuge in Wonderful Dharma". If things proceed thus in taking refuge, a person may make offerings to such a one and there will be no end of good fruition arising from this. Also, we can say that such a person is one worthy of offerings from all the world. There may be a person who does evil, as stated above, and after a month or fifteen days, does not take refuge or confess. If someone makes offerings to such a person, there will be very little merit arising therefrom. The same with one who has committed the five deadly sins. If he repents and feels ashamed in his mind and says to himself that what he has done until now was all evil deeds and the cause of great suffering, and that henceforth he will do all he can to protect Wonderful Dharma, such a person does not come within the category of the five deadly sins. Should offerings be made to such a person, this will call forth an inexpressible amount of blessings. Were one to make offerings to a person who has committed the deadly sins and in whom no thought arises of protecting Dharma and taking refuge, the blessings which might ensue would not be much to talk about.

"Also, O good man! Any person who has committed evil deeds should now listen to me clearly. I shall now expound expansively. Think in this way: "Wonderful Dharma is the hidden store of the Tathagata. Therefore, I shall protect and build it up." Anyone who makes offerings to such a person will be blessed with supreme virtue. O good man! A woman conceives a child. When she is about to give birth, there arises turmoil in the land and she flees abroad. There is a shrine, where she gives birth to her child. Later, she hears of the return of peace to her home country and of a bountiful harvest. She takes her child and wishes to return to her homeland. On the way, there is the Ganges, where the water is high and swiftly flowing. Having the child (with her), she cannot cross the river. She prays in her mind: "I will not cross the river on my own; even if I die, I shall not part from my child." Saying this, she throws herself into the water. She dies and is later born in heaven, on account of her compassionate heart in wanting to protect the child. Even so, this woman was bad at heart. But because of her love for her son, she was born in heaven. It is the same with those who have committed the four grave offences and the five deadly sins. Although having done evil before, because of the protection of Dharma, a person becomes the best field of merit to the world (i.e. good done to such a person will yield happy karmic results). A person who protects Dharma will meet with such an inexpressible reward."

Cunda further said: "O World-Honoured One! An icchantika may repent, respect and make offerings to the Three Treasures. If one makes offerings to such a person, will that generate great returns?" The Buddha said: "O good man! Do not ask such a thing. For example, there is a man here who partakes of a mango. He takes out the stone. Later he thinks: "There may be something sweet in this stone." Then he takes it up and cracks it, and chews it. It tastes extremely bitter, and he regrets (his action). Thinking that he might lose the seed, he takes it back and plants it. He carefully nourishes it at times with butter, oil and milk. What does this signify? Do you think that a plant will come about?" "No, O World-Honoured One! Even if heaven were to rain down sweet rain, there could be no chance of a plant coming about." "The same is the case with this icchantika. The root of good has been burnt out. How can he expiate his sin? O good man! If a good mind (mental state or thought) arises, we do not speak of an "icchantika". O good man! For this reason, it is not true that whatever is given has no difference in its results. Why not? The thing given to a sravaka is different; so too is what is given to a pratyekabuddha. Only what is given to a Tathagata calls forth unsurpassed fruition. That is why I say that it is not true that there is no difference in the results of the offerings made."

Cunda said further: "Why is it that the Tathagata delivered this gatha?" The Buddha siad to Cunda: "When there is reason for it, I deliver such a sermon. In Rajagriha, there was once an upasaka who had no faith and served a Nirgrantha. And yet, he came to me and asked about the meaning of offerings. That is why I delivered this sermon. Also, for the sake of Bodhisattva-mahasattvas, I speak of the hidden doctrine. What is the meaning of this gatha? I say "all". But this "all" refers to the all which is only little. Know that the Bodhisattva-mahasattva is the man of men. He upholds the precepts and gives away what results from that. He abandons transgressing against the precepts and weeds out the barnyard grass (i.e. defilements). Aso, next, O good man! It is as with the gatha, in which I said in days gone by:

"All rivers have bends;
All forests have trees;
All women flatter;
All freedom calls forth peace."

Then Bodhisattva Manjushri stood up from his seat, bared his right shoulder, knelt down on his right knee, advanced and touched the Buddha's feet, and said in a gatha:

"It is not the case that all rivers have bends,
And that all woods are trees,
All women are flatterers,
All freedom is peace."

"What the Buddha says in this gatha has more to it. Please condescend to tell us the detail. Why? O World-Honoured One! In the 3,000 great-thousand worlds, there is a country called Godaniya. There is, in that land, a river which is straight. The river is named "Shabaya". It is like a straight rope and flows into the sea in the west. The Buddha has not yet spoken of this in other sutras. Please, O Tathagata, condescend to expound within the compass of the vaipulya agama-sutras what has been left out from the explanations, to enable Bodhisattvas to have deep faith and understanding. O World-Honoured One! For example, there is here a man who may first know of a gold ingot, but not of the gold. The same with the Tathagata. He knows all dharmas and yet still has parts left out to speak (i.e. has not said all he knows). The Tathagata gives such talks, and yet we may well come to understand what the intended meaning is. All forests surely have trees, and there are also other things (in them). Why? Several other things such as gold, silver, and beryl are there; gem trees are also called trees. We say that all women are flatterers; and yet, they are more than that. Why? Because there are women who uphold the precepts and are perfect in virtue, having a great compassionate heart. All freedom is surely bliss, but there is still more. Why? One who has freedom is a chakravartin. The Dharmaraja (Dharma-King) Tathagata does not belong to Yama (the ruler of the hells). He cannot die. Brahma and Shakra are unmolested (unimpeded, unrestricted), and yet they are non-eternal. That which is eternal and unchanging is called unmolested. This is the Mahayana Great Nirvana Sutra."

The Buddha said: "O good man! You now talk well. Stop and listen to me for a while. O Manjushri! As an example: a rich man falls ill and suffers. A good doctor sees (this) and prepares some medicine. The sick man is greedy and takes too much. The doctor says: "If your body can stand it, you may indeed take as (much as) you please. But your body is weak now. Do not take too much. Know well that this is amrta, but at the same time a poison. If taken in excess and if not digested, it becomes poisonous." O good man! Now, do not say that what this doctor says is a transgression and that the medicine does not work. O good man! The same is the case with the Tathagata. All is done for the king, queen, crown prince, prince, and minister. The prince and queen of King Prasenajit were arrogant. To teach them, fear was appropriate. Especially to such as the doctor a gatha such as this is delivered:

"All rivers have bends;
All forests have trees;
All women are flatterers;
All freedom surely gains one peace."

"O Manjushri! Know that what the Tathagta says has no lapses (inconsistencies, shortcomings). The earth may turn upside-down, but what the Tathagata says has no lapses. Because of this, what the Tathagata says has the unsaid behind (it)." Then the Buddha praised Manjushri and said: "Well said, well said, O good man! You have already long known all such things. You have pity for beings, and to allow them to arrive at Wisdom you widely put such questions to the Tathagata referring to the gatha."

Then, the Dharmarajaputra Manjushri said in a gatha before the Buddha:

"I follow what others say
And do not speak against (them).
And I do not look at others (to see)
If they do or do not do (according to Dharma);
I only look back upon the good
Or not-good of what I do.

"O World-Honoured One! I talk about the medicine of Dharma thus. I do not say that what I say is right. I say what others say and do not transgress. Condescend, O Tathagata, to tell me of this. The World-Honoured One always says: "All tirthikas of the 95 kinds go to the unfortunate realms and all sravakas face the right path. They uphold the precepts and deportment and guard their sense-organs. All such people care for great Dharma and take the path that is good." O Tathagata! Why is it that in the nine types of sutra you give reproof when there is a person who breaks others (transgresses)? What could the meaning of such a gatha be?" The Buddha said to Manjushri: "O good man! I delivered this gatha. It is not for beings (in general). It was for none but King Ajatasatru. The All-Buddha-World-Honoured One does not unsay what has been said, if there is no reason for doing so. When there is reason, he so speaks. O good man! King Ajatasatru, after having killed his father, came to me, and to prevail on me he put this question to me: "How, O World-Honoured One, can you be All-Knowledge, or are you not? Devadatta had for innumerable ages past an evil intent and thought of following and harming the Tathagata. Why is it that you allowed him to become ordained?" "O good man! Because of this, I delivered this gatha for that king:

"I follow what others say,
And do not speak against (them).
And I do not look at others (to see)
If they do or do not do;
I only look back upon the good
Or not-good of what I do."

"I, the Buddha, said to the great king: "You have now killed your father. The deadly sin has already been committed. It is the greatest of sins, the consequence of which is life in Avichi Hell. Confess and cleanse yourself. Why do you look to the ill of others?" O good man! For this reason, I delivered this sermon in a gatha just for his sake. Also, next, O good man! I also deliver this sermon for those who strictly uphold the precepts, who do not transgress, who are perfect in deportment, and who see well what ill deeds others perform. Any person who is (rightly) guided by others, who keeps away from all evil deeds, and who teaches others and makes them keep away from evil is none other than my disciple."

Then, the World-Honoured One, for Manjushri's sake, spoke in a gatha:
"All fear the sword and staff;
There is none who does not love life.
Put your own self into the parable (equation).
Do not kill, do not use the staff."
Then, Manjushri spoke this gatha before the Buddha:
"It is not that all fear the staff.
Put your own self into the parable.
Try your best to devise the best expedients.

"The Tathagata spoke this gatha, which is not complete. Why not? The arhat, chakravartin, beautiful women, elephants, horses, treasurers and ministers cannot be harmed by devas and asuras with sharp swords in their hands. Valiant soldiers, brave women, kings of horses, kings of beasts, bhiksus who uphold the precepts do not feel fear, even when attacked. For this reason, we can say that the Tathagata's gatha also has elements not explained. You may say: "Put your own self into the parable." But this contains more than is said. Why? If an arhat is made the object of the parable, there can (not) be the thought of self and life. If there is the thought of self and life, we need protection. Common mortals will also think that the arhat is a person who practises the Way. Such is a perverted view. If one holds a perverted view, one will, after one's death, fall into Avichi Hell. And to think that an arhat has a mind to harm a common mortal is not possible. And none of the innumerable beings, either, can harm an arhat."

The Buddha said: "O good man! The thought of self relates to a thought which is very compassionate to beings and which does not even think of harming (them). This is the all-equal mind of the arhat. Do not unreasonably say what speaks against (i.e. what is untrue). In days gone by, there was in this Rajagriha a great hunter. He killed a good number of stags and invited me to eat. I then accepted his invitation. But I have a compassionate feeling towards all beings, just as I have towards my own Rahula. I said in a gatha:

"Let yourself be blessed with long life,
And live long; uphold non-harming
And life will be as that of all Buddhas."
For this reason, I say in this gatha:
"All fear the sword and staff;
There is none who does not love life.
Put your own self into the parable.
Do not kill, do not use the staff."

The Buddha said: "Well said, well said, O Manjushri! For the sake of all Bodhisattva-mahasattvas, you put such questions regarding the undisclosed teaching of the Tathagata." Then Manjushri spoke in a gatha:

"How do we respect father and mother,
How are we obedient, and how do we pay homage?
How do we practise Dharma
And gain Avichi Hell?"

Then the Tathagata answered in a gatha:

"Should one make greedy love (i.e. craving) one's mother,
Ignorance one's father,
And follow and respect these,
One gains Avichi Hell."
Then the Tathagata said again to Manjushri in a gatha:
"All that belongs to others is suffering;
All that stands on one's own side
Is what is unmolested and peace;
The force of arrogance is extremely stormy and devilish;
One who is wise and good is loved by all."

Then Bodhisattva-mahasattva Manjushri said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! What the Tathagata says is not concluded. Condescend, O Tathagta, to tell me the reason. Why? The son of a rich man studies, following a teacher. Does he belong to the teacher or not? If he belongs to the teacher, the meaning does not fit well. If not, it does not fit well either. Even if one gains unmolestedness, it also does not. Hence, what the Tathagata says still has more to say. Also, next, O World-Honoured One! The prince does not learn; things do not come about when anything happens. This is unmolestedness, and yet he has ignorance, darkness and suffering always. If such a prince is regarded as unmolested, the meaning does not fit well. If one says that one belongs to others, the meaning fails again. Because of this, we say that what the Buddha says still has more to tell. Because of this, even when one depends on others, suffering does not necessarily result. Not all unmolestednesses necessarily end in bliss. We say that the power of arrogance is demoniac. This, again, still has more to say. O World-Honoured One! All brave women, out of arrogance, become ordained and learn things; they uphold the precepts and are accomplished in deportment. All their sense-organs are well guarded, and no lapses can be seen. For this reason, we see that all the defilements of arrogance are not necessarily devilish. The wise and good are not loved by all. Even here, there is yet more to say. A person commits the four grave offences in his mind, and one does not throw the priestly robe away and uphold the deportment rigidly. The case is like this. One who loves Dharma sees and does not love. Such a person, after death, will unfailingly fall into hell. A good person commits the grave offences, and those who protect Dharma see (this) and drive such a man away, and defrock him and turn him back to worldy life. In consequence of this, we may well say that not even all the wise are necessarily loved."

Then the Buddha said to Manjushri: "When there is reason, the Tathagata says what still has more to be said. And in certain circumstances, the All-Buddha-Tathagata talks about this Dharma. At one time, there was in Rajagriha a woman called Subhadra. She came back to her parents' house, came to me and took refuge in me, in Dharma and Sangha. She said: "All women have no free span of power; all men are unmolested and unhindered." Then, at that time, I fathomed the woman's mind and spoke in such a gatha. O Manjushri! It is good, it is good! You now put such a question to the Tathagata regarding the undisclosed words for the sake of all beings."

Then Manjushri said in a gatha:

"All beings live on food;
All people with power have no jealousy (envy);
From all things eaten does one gain the cause of illness;
From good actions does one gain peace and bliss.
O World-Honoured One! You now receive the food offered by Cunda. Do you, O Tathagata, have no fear in you or not?"
Then the World-Honoured One said in a gatha to Manjushri:
"It is not that all beings live on food only;
It is not that all those who have power have no jealousy (envy) in their hearts;
It is not that all the food taken must call forth illness;
It is not that all pure actions necessarily give one peace and bliss.

"O Manjushri! If you become ill, I too become ill. Why? All arhats, pratyekabuddhas, Bodhisattvas and Tathagatas do not take food. In order to guide people, they accept and take food. Innumerable people bring in things. They (the saintly ones) let them accomplish danaparamita and succour them from lives in hell, the animal realm and the hungry preta realm. The Tathagata spends six years in penance, and his body becomes emaciated and lean, but (actually) nothing of the sort takes place. The All-Buddha-World-Honoured One is independent of all things and is not the same as a common mortal. How could it be possible for (his body) to grow weak? The All-Buddha-World-Honoured One has made effort, practised the Way and attained the Adamantine Mind. He is not of the body of the weak-constituted common mortal. The same with my disciples. All (this) cannot be thought of. They do not stand on (depend on) food. We say that those who have great power have no jealousy (envy). This still has more to say. (Some) people of the world do not, throughout their life, have any jealousy. They seem to lack great power, too. We say that all illnesses arise out of food. This too needs qualification. There are illnesses that spring from external causes such as thorns, swords and halberds. We say that all pure actions call forth peace. This, too, has more to it that needs to be said. We see in the world tirthikas practising pure actions and undergoing pain and worry. Because of this, all that the Tathagata says has yet more to say. Because of this, it is not the case that the Tathagata speaks in this gatha without reason. He says as there is reason for so saying. In days gone by, in this Ujjayini, there was a Brahmin called Kuteitoku. He came to me and desired to receive, from the fourth, the precepts on the eight pure actions (“astangasamanvagatopavasa”). I, at that time, spoke this gatha."

Then Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "What could be the thing that has no further (left-over) part? What does "all" mean?" "O good man! "All" denotes Wonderful Dharma of eternal Bliss, other than what assists attainment to Enlightenment. This can be called "all", or what has no remaining part. All other things, too, can be what have parts to tell or also what have no more part to tell. It is to let all those who take pleasure in Dharma know the meaning of what yet has parts left to tell and what has no more part to tell."

Bodhisattva Kasyapa felt extremely and inexpressibly glad. He stepped towards the Buddha and said: "This is all-wonderful. The Tathagata views all as though he were viewing his Rahula." Then the Buddha praised Kasyapa and said: "Well said, well said! What you see is all-wonderful." Bodhisattva Kasyapa said to the Buddha: "O World-Honoured One! Please condescend to expound to me the virtue which this Mahayana Nirvana Sutra has." The Buddha said to Kasyapa: "O good man! Anyone who hears the name of this sutra gains virtue, which is so great that sravakas and pratyekabuddhas cannot well tell (of it). The Buddha alone well knows. Why? Because the world of the Buddha is inconceivable. And how much greater will it (i.e. virtue, merit) be if one possesses, recites, understands and copies it (this sutra)?"

Then all the devas and people of the world and asuras said in a gatha:
"The world of the Buddha is inconceivable.
So too are those of Dharma and Sangha.
This being the case, we beg that you will stay somewhat longer.
The venerable Mahakasyapa and Ananda,
The two of the Sangha, will soon be here.
Also, the great king Ajatasatru, king of Magadha,
Who very much respects the Buddha, the World-Honoured One, is not here.
Have a little pity and stay awhile
And be with us, the great congregation, and clear away our doubts."

Then, the Tathagata, for the benefit of the great crowd, spoke in a gatha:

"The eldest of my sons is Mahakasyapa.
Ananda well makes effort and can well clear away your doubts.
Be satisfied with that. Ananda is one who has heard much.
He will understand in a natural way
The eternal and the non-eternal.
Because of this, do not be much aggrieved."

Then the great crowd offered many things to the Buddha. Their offerings made, they all aspired to unsurpassed Enlightenment. All the Bodhisattvas, who were as numerous as the grains of sand of innumerable Ganges, all attained the first “bhumi” (stage of Bodhisattvic development).

Then the World-Honoured One gave prophecies to Manjushri, Bodhisattva Kasyapa and Cunda. The prophecies given, he said: "All good men! Straighten your minds. Be wary and not indolent. I now have pain in my back and my whole body. I now desire to lie down." (And thus) he does, like any child or one who is sick.

"O Manjushri! All of you! Disseminate Great Dharma amongst the four classes (castes) of people. I now entrust this sutra to you. Also, when Kasyapa and Ananda have arrived, entrust Wonderful Dharma to them, too."

Then, the Tathagata, having spoken thus, laid himself down on his right side, like any child ill in bed, all to disseminate Dharma to all beings.

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