AVATAMSAKA SUTRA, chapter 40
The Avatamsaka Sutra, which is described by D.T. Suzuki as "the epitome of Buddhist thought, Buddhist sentiment and Buddhist experience," consists of eighty-one fascicles, divided into forty chapters. The chapter on "The Practices and Vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra," the last and best-known chapter, represents the essence of Bodhisattva practice.
The Great Vows of Samantabhadra are the right causes of Buddhahood and the pure conditions for rebirth in the Pure Land. For precisely this reason, the ancients, down through the centuries, have copied, printed and disseminated this chapter separately, so that everyone may recite it and put its teachings into practice. Precisely because these practices and vows contain the right causes of Buddhahood as well as the pure conditions for rebirth in the Pure Land, the ancients have also excerpted several passages and incorporated them in the daily liturgy of the faithful.
During his lifetime, Elder Master Yin Kuang frequently lectured on this chapter to encourage Pure Land practice and to demonstrate that rebirth in the Western Land is the common vow of the Bodhisattvas in the Ocean-Wide Avatamsaka Assembly. (Master Thich Tri Tinh.)
The following passages are excerpted from the translation prepared by the Buddhist Text Translation Society, Talmadge, California. We have made a number of changes to correspond to the main part of this book -- for which we beg the indulgence of the original translators. (From the appendix of "Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land", translated by Master Thich Thien Tam, edited by Forrest Smith)
On Entering the Inconceivable state of Liberation through the Practices and Vows of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra
"Good men, even if all the Buddhas of the ten directions were to speak continuously, for as many eons as there are fine motes of dust in an ineffably ineffable number of Buddha lands, the virtues and merits of the Thus Come One could never be fully described.
First, Pay homage and respect to all Buddhas. Second, Praise the Thus Come Ones. Third, Make abundant offerings. Fourth, Repent misdeeds and evil karma. Fifth, Rejoice at others' merits and virtues. Sixth, Request the Buddhas to turn the Dharma wheel. Seventh, Request the Buddhas to remain in the world. Eigth, Follow the teachings of the Buddhas at all times. Ninth, Accommodate and benefit all living beings. Tenth, Transfer all merits and virtues universally."
[Ninth Vow] "Sudhana, to accommodate and benefit all living beings is explained like this: throughout the oceans of worlds in the ten directions exhausting the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, there are many different kinds of living beings. That is to say, there are those born from eggs, the womb-born, the transformationally born, as well as those who live and rely on earth, water, fire, and air for their existence. There are beings dwelling in space, and those who are born in and live in plants and trees. This includes all the many species and races with their diverse bodies, shapes, appearances, lifespans, families, names, and natures. This includes their many varieties of knowledge and views, their various desires and pleasures, their thoughts and deeds, and their many different deportments, clothing and diets.
"It includes beings who dwell in different villages, towns, cities and palaces, as well as gods, dragons, and others of the eight divisions, humans and non-humans alike. Also there are footless beings, beings with two feet, four feet, and many feet, with form and without form, with thought and without thought, and not entirely with thought and not entirely without thought. I will accord with and take care of all these many kinds of beings, providing all manner of services and offerings for them. I will treat them with the same respect I show my own parents, teachers, elders, Arhats, and even the Thus Come Ones. I will serve them all equally without difference.
"I will be a good doctor for the sick and suffering. I will lead those who have lost their way to the right road. I will be a bright light for those in the dark night, and cause the poor and destitute to uncover hidden treasures. The Bodhisattva impartially benefits all living beings in this manner.
"Why is this? If a Bodhisattva accords with living beings, then he accords with and makes offerings to all Buddhas. If he can honor and serve living beings, then he honors and serves the Thus Come Ones. If he makes living beings happy, he is making all Thus Come Ones happy. Why is this? It is because all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, take the Mind of Great Compassion as their substance. Because of living beings, they develop Great Compassion. From Great Compassion the Bodhi Mind is born; and because of the Bodhi Mind, they accomplish Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment.
"It is like a great regal tree growing in the rocks and sand of barren wilderness. When the roots get water, the branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits will all flourish. The regal bodhi-tree growing in the wilderness of Birth and Death is the same. All living beings are its roots; all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are its flowers and fruits. By benefitting all beings with the water of Great Compassion, one can realize the flowers and fruits of the Buddhas' and Bodhisattvas' wisdom.
"Why is this? It is because by benefitting living beings with the water of Great Compassion, the Bodhisattvas can attain Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment. Therefore, Bodhi belongs to living beings. Without living beings, no Bodhisattva could achieve Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment.
"Good man, you should understand these principles in this way: When the mind is impartial towards all living beings, one can accomplish full and perfect Great Compassion. By using the Mind of Great Compassion to accord with living beings, one perfects the making of offerings to the Thus Come Ones. In this way the Bodhisattva constantly accords with living beings.
"Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still accord endlessly, continuously in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.
[Tenth Vow] "Moreover, good man, to transfer all merits and virtues universally is explained like this: all the merits and virtues, from the first vow, to pay homage and respect, up to and including the vow to accommodate and benefit living beings, I universally transfer to all living beings throughout the Dharrna Realm and to the limits of empty space. I vow that all living beings will be constantly peaceful and happy without sickness or suffering. I vow that no one will succeed in doing any evil, but that all will quickly perfect their cultivation of good karma. I vow to shut the door to evil destinies and open the right paths of humans, gods and that of Nirvana. I will stand in for beings and receive all the extremely severe fruits of suffering which they bring about with their evil karma. I will liberate all these beings and ultimately bring them to accomplish unsurpassed Bodhi. The Bodhisattva cultivates transference in this way.
"Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still transfer all merits and virtues endlessly, continuously, in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth and mind never weary of these deeds.
"Good man, these are the Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas' Ten Great Vows in their entirety. If all Bodhisattvas can follow and abide by these Great Vows, then they will be able to bring all living beings to maturity. They will be able to accord with the path of Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment and complete Samantabhadra's ocean of conduct and vows. Therefore, good man, you should know the meaning of this"....
"Further, when a person is on the verge of death, at the last instant of life, when all his faculties scatter and he departs from his relatives, when all power and status are lost and nothing survives, when his prime minister, great officials, his inner court and outer cities, his elephants, horses, carts, and treasuries of precious jewels can no longer accompany him, these Great Vows alone will stay with him. At all times they will guide him forward, and in a single instant he will be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss. Arriving there, he will see Amitabha Buddha, the Bodhisattva Manjusri, the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, the Bodhisattva who contemplates at Ease[[[Avalokitesvara]]], the Bodhisattva Maitreya, and others. The appearance of these Bodhisattvas will be magnificent and their merits and virtues complete. Together they will surround him.
"This person will see himself born from a lotus flower and will receive a prediction of Buddhahood. Thereafter, he will pass through an immeasurable, incalculable number of eons and, with his power of wisdom, he will accord with the minds of living beings in order to benefit them everywhere throughout the ineffably ineffable worlds in the ten directions.
"Before long he will sit in a Bodhimandala,subdue the demonic armies, accomplish Supreme, Perfect Enlightenment, and turn the wonderful Dharma wheel. He will cause living beings in worlds as numerous as the fine motes of dust in Buddha lands to develop the Bodhi Mind. According with their inclinations and basic natures, he will teach, transform, and bring them to maturity. To the exhaustion of the oceans of future eons, he will greatly benefit all living beings"...
At that time, the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Samantabhadra, wishing to restate his meaning, contemplated everywhere in the ten directions and spoke in verse. </poem> 1 - Before the Lions Among Menthroughout the worlds of the ten directions, In the past, in the present, and also in the future, with body, mouth, and mind entirely pure, I bow before them all, omitttng none.
With the awesome spiritual power of Samantabhadra's vows, I appear at the same time before every Thus Come One, And in transformed bodies as numerous as motes of dust in all lands, Bow to Buddhas as numerous as motes of dust in all lands.
In every mote of dust are Buddhas as numerous as motes of dust, Each dwelling amid a host of Bodhisattvas. Throughout motes of dust in endless Dharma Realms it is the same: I deeply believe they all are filled with Buddhas.
2 - with oceans of sound I everywhere let fall Words and phrases, wonderful and endless, Which now and through all the eons of the future, Praise the wide, deep sea of the Buddhas' merits and virtues.
With a vast, great, supremely liberated mind, I believe in all Buddhas of the three periods of time; With the strength of Samantabhadra's conduct and vows, I make offerings to all Thus Come Ones everywhere.
I worship those with blessings, praise them and make offerings; I request that the Buddhas remain in the world and turn the Dharma wheel; The good roots gained from following and rejoicing in merit and virtue and from repentance and reform, I transferto living beings and the Buddha Way.
While striving to attain Bodhi, I will gain the knowledge of past lives in all destinies. I will always leavehome-life and cultivate pure precepts, Without outflows, never broken, and without stain.
In one mote of dust are lands as numerous as motes of dust; In each land are incalculable numbers of Buddhas. In every place where Buddhas dwell I see the host assembled, Endlessly proclaiming all the practices of Bodhi.
In ten directions everywhere, throughout the sea of lands, Every hair-tip encompasses oceans of past, present and future. So, too, there is a sea of Buddhas, a sea of Buddha lands; Pervading them all I cultivate for seas of endless time.
On the tip of an extremely fine hair, Appear jewelled lands of past, present and future; Lands on hair-tips as numerous as dust motes in all lands of the ten directions, I deeply enter, adorn, and purify.
All Lamps of the Future that light the world, Complete the Way, turn the Dharma wheel, and rescue living beings, As they perfect the Buddhas' work and manifest Nirvana, I draw near and attend to each one and obtain:
The spiritual power to go everywhere swiftly; The power to enter the Mahayana universally through the Universal Door; The power of wisdom and conduct to cultivate merits and virtues universally; The subtle spiritual power to shield all with Great Compassion;
The power to purify and adorn [all] with supreme blessings everywhere; The power of wisdom which is unattached and independent; The awesome spiritual powers and the powers of concentration,wisdom, and skill-in-means; The power of universally accumulating Bodhi;
The sea of lands I everywhere adorn and purify, And I liberate all living beings, without exception. With skill I make selections from among the sea of Dharmas And enter deeply into the wisdom sea.
With myriad jewels in boundless lands in all directions, I make decorations and offerings to the Thus Come Ones. For eons as numerous as the motes of dust in all lands, I bring The foremost peace and joy to gods and humans.
His clan, race, and color, marks and characteristics With his wisdom are all perfected and complete; Demons and externalists will haveno way to harm, And he will be a field of merits in the Three Realms.
When the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Samantabhadra finished speaking these pure verses on the Great Vows of Samantabhadra before the Thus Come One, the youth Sudhana was overwhelmed with boundless joy. All the Bodhisattvas were extremely happy as well, and the Thus Come One applauded saying, 'Good indeed, good indeed!"
Notes: Sometimes translated as "Universal Worthy."
The main protagonist in the next-to-last and longest chapter of the Avatamsaka Sutra. Seeking Enlightenment, he visited and studied with fifty-three spiritual advisors and become the equal of the Buddha in one lifetime. When he was born, myriad treasures suddenly appeared in his father's home. Thus the name "Sudhana" or "Good Wealth."Sometimes translated as "Good Wealth."
Bodhi Mind, (Bodhicitta, Great Mind). The spirit of Enlightenmnet, the aspiration to achieve it, the Mind set on Enlightenment. It involves two parallel aspects: i)the determination to achieve Buddhahood and ii)the aspiration to rescue all sentient beings.
Learners and Those-Past-Study in the Two Vehicles. This is a reference to the Arhats (Those-Past-Study) and the three levels of sagehood immediately below them (learners). The term "Two Vehicles" refers to the Theravada tradition as opposed to the Mahayana.
Fields of merits: Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Arhats and all sentient beings, whether friends or foes, are fields of merits for the cultivator because they provide him with an opportunity to cultivate merits and virtues. For example, needy people provide the opportunity for the cultivator to practice charity. Thus, they are a field of merits for him. As this text states, "Bodhi belongs to living beings.Without living beings, no Bocihisattva could achieve Supreme,Perfect Enlightenment."