Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Maitreya Bodhisattva’s Attainment of Buddhahood
Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the Later Qin Dynasty
The Tripiṭaka Master Kumārajīva from Kucha
Thus I have heard:
At one time the Buddha was staying in the kingdom of Magadha, near the Pāśa Mountain, where past Buddhas had subjugated the māras. It was during the summer meditation retreat, when the Buddha was doing walking meditation on the mountaintop with Śāriputra, that He spoke in verse:
In radiant great samādhi,
The one with unsurpassed merit
Will rightfully appear in the world.
He will pronounce the true Dharma,
And all will be infused with it,
Like the thirsty drinking sweet nectar.
All will swiftly set off on the Liberation Path.
At that time the Buddha’s four groups of disciples repaired and leveled the roads. They sprinkled water, swept the streets, and burned incense. [A huge multitude] carrying objects of offering, came to the assembly to make offerings to the Tathāgata and the bhikṣus. Intently gazing at the Tathāgata, they were like filial sons beholding their father, or like the thirsty longing for a drink [of water]. In the same way they loved and thought of their Dharma father. With one mind they all wanted to ask the Dharma King to turn the right Dharma wheel. With their senses undistracted, one by one, their minds flowed toward the Buddha. At that time bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, as well as gods, dragons, spirits, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṁnaras, mahoragas, humans, nonhumans, and others, all rose from their seats and circled the Buddha clockwise. Then they each prostrated themselves on the ground, shedding tears before the Buddha.
Śāriputra the Wise arranged his robe and bared his right shoulder. Having followed the Buddha, the Dharma King, to turn the wheel of the true Dharma, he was the Buddha’s minister, and a great general upholding the Dharma. Out of sympathy for sentient beings, he wanted them to be liberated from the bondage of suffering. Knowing that the Dharma King’s mind would be responsive, he said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, just now the Tathāgata spoke in verse on the mountaintop, praising the one with the foremost wisdom. This was never mentioned in previous sūtras. The minds of this huge multitude are now filled with expectation. They shed tears like heavy rain, hoping to hear the Tathāgata speak of the next Buddha, who will open the Sweet Nectar Path, to hear His name, Maitreya, and to hear of His merit, His spiritual power, and His splendid land. Based on what roots of goodness, almsgiving, virtuous conduct, meditation, wisdom, and intellect will one be able to see Maitreya Buddha? With what mindset should one walk the Eightfold Right Path?”
When Śāriputra asked this question, hundreds of thousands of god-sons and innumerable Brahma-kings, joining their palms reverently, with one voice said to the Buddha, “We pray that the World-Honored One will enable us in a future life to see Maitreya Buddha, the fruition of the greatest requital among men, the luminous eye of the Three Realms of Existence, who will teach great lovingkindness and compassion universally to all sentient beings.”
The eight classes of Dharma protectors, joining their palms reverently, also made their request to the Tathāgata in the same way. Brahma-kings and a multitude of Brahma gods, joining their palms, with one voice sang their praise in verse:
Namo the Full Moon!
Complete with the Ten Powers,
Great leader of energetic progress,
Valiant and fearless,
The one with knowledge of all knowledge,
Having transcended the Three Realms of Existence,
Having acquired the Three Thorough Clarities,
Having subjugated the four māras,
His body being a Dharma vessel,
His mind like open sky,
Quiet and unmoved
Toward existence or no existence,
Toward nonexistence or no nonexistence,
With perfect understanding of emptiness,
One who is praised by the world!
With one mind,
Simultaneously we all take refuge,
Praying that He will turn the Dharma wheel.
Then the World-Honored One told Śāriputra, “I will expound broadly to you. Hearken, hearken, and ponder it well! All of you today, with a truly good intention, want to ask the Tathāgata about the unsurpassed Way to mahā-prajñā, which the Tathāgata sees as clearly as a mango in His palm. Śāriputra, if one, under the past seven Buddhas, has heard the names of Buddhas and made obeisance and offerings, one’s karma hindrances will all be annihilated. If one has also heard of Maitreya Buddha’s great lovingkindness, one will achieve a pure mind. You all should join your palms single-mindedly and take refuge in the great loving-kind, compassionate one to come. I will expound broadly to you.
“The land of Maitreya Buddha will be a land of pure life, with no sycophancy or deceit, because He neither embraces nor clings to his achievement of dāna-pāramitā, śīla-pāramitā, or prajñā-pāramitā. It will be splendid because of His ten wonderful vows. When sentient beings, drawn by His great lovingkindness, invoke their gentle minds, they will see Maitreya Buddha. They will be reborn in this Buddha’s land, tame their faculties, and follow His teachings.
“Śāriputra, the surface of each of the four great oceans will be reduced by 3,000 yojanas. Jambudvīpa will be 10,000 yojanas in length and width. Its ground will be level and clean, like a crystal mirror. There will be large flowers that suit one’s fancy, pleasing flowers, huge fragrant flowers, utpala flowers, flowers with large golden petals, flowers with petals made of the seven treasures, and flowers with silver petals. The stamens of these flowers will be soft like celestial silk. They will bear auspicious fruits, soft like celestial cotton and full of aroma and flavor. In the forests, there will be abundant wonderful flowers and sweet fruits, surpassing those in the garden favored by the god-king Śakra. The trees will be thirty lis in height.
“The adjacent cities will be only a rooster’s flight apart. Those who have planted their roots of goodness under [me] the present Buddha, will be reborn in that world as the requital for their practice of lovingkindness. They will have wisdom, virtue, joy, and peace, as they gratify their five desires. They will not have illnesses caused by cold, heat, wind, or fire, nor will they suffer from the nine afflictions. They will each live 84,000 years, and no one will die a premature death. Their bodies will be 160 feet tall. Every day they will enjoy wonderful peace and bliss, experiencing deep meditation as their instrument of happiness. They will have only three troubles: first, need to eat and drink; second, need to discharge bodily wastes; and third, need to grow old. Women will marry when they are 500 years old.
“There will be a great city called Ketuma, 1,200 yojanas in length and width, 7 yojanas in elevation, and adorned with the seven treasures. In the city will be magically created towers made of the seven treasures, and they will be majestic, wonderful, august, and pure. Through the windows will be seen fair maidens, holding nets made with precious gems. These towers will be covered with various treasures as adornment and hung with jeweled bells, the sound of which resembles celestial music. Among the lines of trees made of the seven treasures will be waterways and fountains, also made of the seven treasures. The streams in various colors will reflect and highlight one another. Although crisscrossing, they will not obstruct one another. The river banks will be covered with gold dust.
“The streets and roads will be twelve lis wide, all as fresh as a celestial garden sprinkled with water and swept clean. There will be a great dragon-king called Tāraśikhin, who has acquired merit and awesome powers. His lake being near the city, his palace, like a tower made of the seven treasures, will be fully visible from a distance. At each midnight he will assume human form and fill an auspicious bottle with scented water. He will sprinkle this water to drench the dust until the ground looks as moist as if oiled. When pedestrians walk around, there will be no dust.
“Because of the merit of the people, everywhere around the streets and alleys there will be luminous gems mounted on poles, twelve lis in height. Their light, surpassing the sunlight, will reach 80 yojanas in each of the four directions. This pure golden light will shine day and night. In comparison, the light of lamps and candles would be like pooled ink. When fragrant winds blow, the luminous gems on the poles will rain down necklaces of jewels, and people will wear them as naturally as if they were enjoying the bliss in the third dhyāna. Everywhere there will be gold, silver, jewels, precious gems, and so forth, piled high like mountains. These treasure mountains will radiate light to illuminate the entire city. Whenever touched by this light, people will be happy and activate the bodhi mind.
“There will be a great yakṣa called Bhadrapraśāsaka, who protects the city of Ketuma day and night. Followed by the people, he will sprinkle water and sweep the ground clean. The ground will crack open to take in people’s waste products and close afterward, and it will grow red lotus flowers to overpower the foul odor.
“When the people of that world grow old and frail, they will voluntarily go to the mountain forest to sit under a tree. As they keep thinking of Buddhas, they will die peacefully and joyfully, without pretense. After death, most of them will be reborn in Great Brahma Heaven or in the presence of Buddhas.
“In that peaceful land, there will be no trouble from bandits or thieves, nor robbing or stealing. The doors in cities and villages will never be closed. Nor will there be any catastrophes of water, fire, weapons, or troops; nor the tribulations of famine or toxins. Taming their faculties, people will live in lovingkindness, respect, and harmony. To one another, they will be like a son loving his father, like a mother loving her son. Taught and guided by Maitreya Buddha with lovingkindness, they will speak humble words. Those who [in this world] have observed the precept of no killing and no eating flesh will be reborn in that world. Their faculties will be serene, and their features will be even and comely, as awe-inspiring as those of celestial youths.
“The city of Ketuma will be situated in the center of 84,000 small cities made of treasures, which serve as its satellites. Men and women, adults and children, living near or far, because of the spiritual power of this Buddha, will be able to see one another without any obstacles.
“Everywhere in that world will be wish-fulfilling jeweled flowers that shine in the night. The sky will rain down flowers made of the seven treasures. Scattered all over the grounds will be flowers of padma, utpala, kumada, puṇḍarīka, māndarāva, mahā-māndarāva, mañjūṣaka, and mahā-mañjūṣaka. Some of them, swept up by winds, will whirl in the air. Near the cities and villages of that land, the bathing ponds, fountains, rivers, and lakes in the gardens and forests will naturally have water with the eight virtues. Singing wonderful melodies will be geese, ducks, mandarin ducks, peacocks, parrots, halcyons, śārīs, melodious cuckoos, jīvajīvas, and the quick-sighted birds. Flying and gathering in trees and ponds will be innumerable birds of diverse species, singing wonderful melodies.
“Blooming day and night, and never wilted, will be golden untainted pure-radiance flowers, carefree pure-wisdom sunlight flowers, bright white seven-day fragrance flowers, and fragrant campaka flowers in six colors, as well as a billion kinds of land and water flowers, unmatched in fragrance and purity. The blue colors will gleam with blue light; yellow colors, yellow light; red colors, red light; white colors, white light. There will be trees bearing wish-fulfilling fruits, with their beautiful aroma permeating the land. Among the treasure mountains in that land will be fragrant trees, which will radiate golden light to illuminate everywhere and emit pleasing scents to suffuse everything.
“There will always be fine fragrance in Jambudvīpa, making it like a mountain of fragrance. Streaming waters will be good and sweet, and able to remove troubles. Rainfalls will be timely and the heavenly fields will ripen aromatic and beautiful crops of grain. Because of the powers of these godlike people, seven harvests will be reaped from one planting. Only a little effort will yield much return. Without weeds or muck, the crops of grains will thrive. As requital for the merit of these sentient beings, grains of one hundred flavors, unmatched in aroma, will melt in their mouths, providing them with strength and vitality.
“In that land will dwell a Wheel-Turning King named Śaṅkha, endowed with the thirty-two physical marks. He will have four types of armed forces, but he will not rule the four continents by military power. This king will have 1,000 sons, who are valiant and majestic, and enemies will naturally submit to them. He will have seven precious things: first, the golden wheel, complete with the hub, the rim, and 1,000 spokes; second, the white elephant, white as a snow mountain, a magnificent spectacle as it stands on its seven limbs like a kingly mountain; third, the blue horse, with red mane and tail, hoofs made of the seven treasures, and flowers appearing underneath; fourth, the divine jewel, clearly visible, more than two forearms across, the radiance of which rains down treasures to fulfill sentient beings’ wishes; fifth, exquisite maidens, beautiful, wonderful, and limber as if boneless; sixth, the treasure minister, whose mouth spits out jewels, from whose feet spring up jewels, and whose hands manifest jewels; seventh, the military minister, who, by moving his body, can produce from the sky the four types of armed forces, like clouds.
“His 1,000 sons and his people in this kingdom of the seven treasures will regard one another without any malice, but like a mother loving her son. The princes will take precious treasures and construct in front of the main palace a platform of the seven treasures. It will be 13 yojanas in height, with 30 decks. [Equipped with] 1,000 tiller-heads and 1,000 wheels, it will move easily.
“There will be four great treasure stores, each surrounded by four koṭi small treasure stores. The great Elāpattra Treasure Store will be in the kingdom of Gandhāra; the great Pāṇḍuka Treasure Store in the kingdom of Mithilā; the great Piṅgala Treasure Store in the kingdom of Suraṣṭa; and the great Śaṅkha Treasure Store in the kingdom of Vārāṇasī, near the mountain of ancient ṛṣis. These four great treasure stores, filled with treasures, will be naturally uncovered, each radiating light through a distance of 1,000 yojanas, and each surrounded by four koṭi small treasure stores. There will be four great dragons guarding these four great treasure stores and their respective small treasure stores, which, shaped like lotus flowers, stand above the ground.
“Countless multitudes will go to see these treasures, which will not be guarded by humans. When the multitudes see these treasures, their minds will not covet them. They will leave them on the ground, as they would tiles, stones, grasses, trees, and chunks of dirt. When people see them, they will feel disgusted, saying to one another these words: ‘As the Buddha has said, in the past, for the sake of these treasures, sentient beings viciously harmed one another. They stole from and robbed one another, and they lied to and deceived one another, thus multiplying their sin and suffering in saṁsāra. Then they all fell into enormous hells.’
“Nets made with jewels will hover over the city of Ketuma. Jeweled bells, blown by breezes, like bells being struck, will chime harmoniously, expounding taking refuge in the Buddha, taking refuge in the Dharma, and taking refuge in the Saṅgha.
“At that time, in the city there will be a great Brahmin named Brahmāyu. His wife Brahmavatī, gentle in nature, will also be in the Brahmin caste. To them as parents, Maitreya Bodhisattva will be born. His stay in the womb will be like a visit to a celestial palace, and He will radiate great light, unobstructed by dirt and dust.
“[After He has attained Buddhahood] His body will be purple-tinged golden, complete with the thirty-two physical marks of a great man. He will be seated on a jeweled lotus flower, and sentient beings will never tire of beholding him. His radiance will be unsurpassed, something gods and humans have never before seen. His strength will be immeasurable: the strength of each section of His body will surpass that of all the powerful dragons and elephants. The inconceivable radiance from His pores will illuminate across infinite space, unhindered. The light of the sun, the moon, and the stars, as well as the light of water, fire, and gems, will all become inconspicuous like dust. His height will be eighty times the length of Śākyamuni Buddha’s forearm. His chest will be twenty-five forearms wide. His face will be twelve and a half forearms long. His nose will be tall and straight, in the center of His face. His appearance will be sublime, complete with the unexcelled marks. Each mark will include 84,000 excellent characteristics, which will adorn Him like a golden statue. Each of His excellent characteristics will emit radiance, illuminating a distance of 1,000 yojanas. His eyes, with distinct blue and white parts, will look clear. The permanent light surrounding His body will be hundreds of yojanas across. Clearly illuminated by this Buddha’s light will be the sun, the moon, the stars, precious gems, and jewels, as well as lines of trees made of the seven treasures. All other radiance will be eclipsed. The body of this Buddha will be tall like a golden mountain. Those who see Him will naturally be liberated from the three evil life-journeys.
“Maitreya Bodhisattva will observe carefully the faults of the five desires of the world and pity suffering sentient beings sinking in the long flow of birth and death. Observing suffering, emptiness, and impermanence with the right thoughts, He will not delight in family life, but will consider it as confining as a prison.
“At that time King Śaṅkha, accompanied by the ministers and people of his kingdom, will take that platform made of the seven treasures, together with 1,000 jeweled curtains, 1,000 jeweled carriages, 1,000 koṭi jeweled bells, 1,000 jeweled vessels, and 1,000 jeweled urns, and offer them all to Maitreya Bodhisattva. After accepting them, Maitreya Bodhisattva will give them to the Brahmins. The Brahmins will be surprised to see Maitreya Bodhisattva give such enormous alms. They will then break them into pieces and share them.
“Maitreya Bodhisattva, seeing the evanescence and impermanence of the treasure platform, will know that all saṁskṛta dharmas will perish. Training Himself to remember impermanence, Maitreya Bodhisattva will praise past Buddhas as the cool nectar, with a stanza on impermanence:
All processes are impermanent,
Which are the dharma of birth and death.
Having ended birth and death,
Nirvāṇa is delight!
“After speaking these stanzas, Maitreya Bodhisattva will renounce family life to learn the Way to Buddhahood, and he will sit under the bodhi tree of dragon flowers in the splendid vajra bodhimaṇḍa. This tree will be fifty yojanas tall, with its branches and leaves spreading all about, radiating great bright light. Its branches will be like a jeweled dragon that spits out hundreds of jeweled flowers. Its petals will be in the colors of the seven treasures, and its fruits in various colors will be pleasing to sentient beings. No tree in heavens or the human world will compare with this tree.
“Maitreya Bodhisattva, together with 84,000 Brahmins, will go to this bodhimaṇḍa. To renounce family life and to learn the Way, He will shave off his own hair. He will renounce family life in the morning and, that evening, will subjugate the four kinds of māras and attain anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi. He will then speak in verse:
Long thinking of the suffering of sentient beings
And wanting to rescue them, I was unable to do so.
Today I have attained bodhi.
Suddenly, obstructions are no more.
I have verified the emptiness of sentient beings
And the true reality of their original nature.
My sorrow and suffering nevermore,
My lovingkindness and compassion are unconditional.
For the sake of rescuing you all,
I have given to innumerable people
My kingdom, my head, my eyes,
My hands, my feet, and my wife.
Beginning today are my liberation
And the unsurpassed great silence and stillness.
I will expound them to you all
And widely open the Sweet Nectar Way.
Such fruition of great reward
Is all born from perfection in the six pāramitās,
Such as almsgiving, observing precepts, and developing wisdom,
And is acquired from great lovingkindness and compassion
As well as from untainted merit.
“Having spoken these stanzas, Maitreya Buddha will remain silent. Then, god-kings, dragon-kings, and spirit-kings, without revealing themselves, will rain down flowers as offerings to this Buddha. The Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World will quake in six different ways. This Buddha’s body will emit light, illuminating innumerable lands. Those who can be delivered will see this Buddha.
“At that time, in the Flower Grove Garden, the god-king Śakro-Devānām-Indra, the four god-kings, who protect the world, the great Brahma-kings, and innumerable god-sons will bow their heads down at the feet of this Buddha. Joining their palms, they will ask Him to turn the Dharma wheel. Maitreya Buddha will grant their request in silence. He will tell the Brahma-kings, ‘In the long night, I have undergone tremendous suffering and practiced the six pāramitās. Finally, I have today fully revealed the Dharma ocean. To pronounce the Dharma to you all, I will rightfully erect the Dharma banner, beat the Dharma drum, blow the Dharma conch shell, and rain down the Dharma rain. Gods and humans cannot turn the Dharma wheel of the Eightfold Right Path, which can be turned only by Buddhas. This path is impartial, and it leads straight to the unsurpassed silence and stillness of that which is asaṁskṛta. It can enable sentient beings to end their suffering in the long night. This Dharma is so profound that it is hard to obtain, hard to enter, hard to believe, and hard to understand. No one in the world can know it or see it. However, through it, one can cleanse one’s mental defilements and accomplish myriads of Brahma actions.’
“As these words are being said, from other worlds, billions of koṭis of god-sons, goddess-daughters, and great Brahma-kings, riding their celestial palaces, will come. Carrying celestial flowers, they will offer them to this Tathāgata and circle Him 100,000 times. They will prostrate themselves on the ground and, joining their palms, they too will implore this Buddha. The celestial music sounding without being played, the Brahma-kings will speak with one voice in verse:
Without a Buddha,
Innumerable, countless years have passed in waste,
And sentient beings have gone down the evil life-paths.
When the eye of the world is gone,
The three evil life-paths will widen and expand,
And the road to heaven will be blocked.
Today a Buddha has appeared in the world.
The three evil life-paths will be annihilated,
And the multitude of gods and humans will increase.
We pray that He will open the Sweet Nectar Door,
Enabling the minds of sentient beings not to cling,
But to attain nirvāṇa quickly.
We, the Brahma-kings, have heard
That a Buddha has appeared in the world.
Because we now have encountered a Buddha,
The sepreme Dharma King,
The palaces in Brahma heavens are grander,
And the light of our bodies becomes brighter.
For the sake of all multitudes [in worlds] in the ten directions,
We implore the great guiding teacher,
Praying that He will open the Sweet Nectar [Door]
And turn the unsurpassed Dharma wheel.
“Having spoken these stanzas, they will again bow their heads to the ground. Joining their palms, three times they will implore earnestly, ‘We pray only that the World-Honored One will turn the profound true Dharma wheel to remove the roots of suffering of sentient beings, enabling them to discard their three poisons and evil karmas, and to break away from the four evil life-paths.’
“Then Maitreya the World-Honored One will smile and emit light in five colors, silently granting the Brahma-kings’ request. Having perceived this Buddha’s approval, the god-sons and the innumerable multitudes will be so exultant that they feel exuberant all over their bodies. The joy of the multitudes will be like that of filial sons who find their deceased loving father suddenly coming back to life. The multitude of gods will circle the World-Honored One clockwise countless times. With tireless reverence and adoration, they will step back to stand on one side.
“The huge multitude will think: ‘Although we can enjoy the pleasures of the five desires for 1,000 koṭi years, we cannot avoid the suffering of the three evil life-paths. Wives and riches cannot save us [from this fate]. The world is impermanent and life will not last for long. We should train purely in the Brahma way in the Buddha Dharma.’
“They will then think: ‘Our gratification of the five desires, lasting even as long as the lifespan of gods in No Perception Heaven, which goes on for innumerable kalpas, and [our enjoyment of] the fine and smooth tactile sensations, when making merry with beautiful goddesses, will come to an end. Then we will go down the three evil life-paths to undergo immeasurable suffering. The pleasures are small and illusory, not worth mentioning. When we enter into hell, the enormous fire will be horrendously ablaze. It will be hard to be released from the 1,000,000 koṭi kalpas of immeasurable suffering. It will be hard to escape from the tribulations in the long night. Today we have encountered the Buddha, and we should strive to make energetic progress.’
“Then King Śaṅkha will chant aloud in verse:
The pleasures of life in heaven
Will eventually come to an end.
Before long will come a fall into hell,
Which is like a pile of raging fire.
We should take quick action
To renounce family life and learn the Buddha Way.
“Having spoken these words, Śaṅkha the Wheel-Turning King, surrounded reverently by 84,000 great ministers and escorted by the four god-kings, will go to the Flower Grove Garden. Under the dragon flower tree, he will ask Maitreya Buddha for permission to renounce family life, and he will make obeisance to this Buddha. Before he raises his head, his hair and beard will fall off by themselves, and he will be dressed in a monk’s robe, becoming a śramaṇa.
“At that time Maitreya Buddha, together with the king Śaṅkha, surrounded reverently by 84,000 great ministers as well as bhikṣus and innumerable Dharma protectors in the eight classes, such as gods and dragons, will enter into the city of Ketuma. As soon as He steps over the threshold of the gate, the Sahā World will quake in six different ways. The ground of Jambudvīpa will turn golden. The ground in the center of the great city of Ketuma will be made of vajra. From the ground will naturally rise lines of jeweled trees and the jeweled vajra throne, upon which past Buddhas have sat. From the sky, gods will shower enormous jeweled flowers. As an offering to this Buddha, dragon-kings will play music, spit flowers from their mouths, and rain flowers from their pores. This Buddha will be seated on this throne to turn the wheel of the true Dharma. He will pronounce the noble truth of suffering, the noble truth of accumulation of afflictions, the noble truth of cessation of suffering, and the noble truth of the path. He will also expound the Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi. He will also pronounce the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising: conditioned upon ignorance are karmic actions; conditioned upon karmic actions is [ālaya] consciousness; conditioned upon [ālaya] consciousness are name and form; conditioned upon name and form are the six faculties; conditioned upon the six faculties is contact with sense objects; conditioned upon contact with sense objects is sensory reception; conditioned upon sensory reception is love; conditioned upon love is grasping; conditioned upon grasping is the karmic force for being; conditioned upon the karmic force for being is birth; and conditioned upon birth are old age and death. Thus, one continues [this cycle] with anxiety, sorrow, pain, and distress.
“Then the earth will quake in six different ways. The sound will be heard across the Three-Thousand Large Thousandfold World and even innumerable, boundless worlds, from each Avīci Hell at the bottom to each Akaniṣṭha Heaven at the top. The four god-kings, each leading innumerable ghosts and spirits, will chant loudly, ‘When the Buddha sun rises, the Dharma rain will fall. The eye of the world has opened today. Let the eight classes of Dharma protectors of the great earth, who are ready for the Buddha, all hear and know this.’
“The gods in the Thirty-Three Heavens, Yāma Heaven, Tuṣita Heaven, Nirmāṇa-Rati Heaven, Paranirmita-Vaśa-Vartin Heaven, and even Great Brahma Heaven will chant loudly in their respective places: ‘When the Buddha sun rises, the sweet nectar falls. The eye of the world has opened today. Let all who are ready hear and know this.’
“At that time the eight classes of Dharma protectors, such as gods and dragons, as well as the spirits of mountains, trees, medicinal herbs, water, fire, earth, cities, dwellings, and so forth, joyful and exuberant, will also chant loudly.
“In addition, 84,000 Brahmins, intelligent and wise, following great King Śaṅkha, will renounce family life to learn the Way in the Buddha Dharma. An elder named Sudatta, who is none other than the Elder Sudatta today, together with 84,000 people, will also renounce family life. Two brothers named Ṛṣidatta and Pūraṇa, together with 84,000 people, will also renounce family life. Two great ministers named Brahmadamāli and Sumana, valued by the king, together with 84,000 people, will also renounce family life to learn the Way in the Buddha Dharma. Śāmivatī, the Wheel-Turning King’s precious daughter, who is none other than Lady Viśākhā today, together with 84,000 fair ladies, will also renounce family life. Sky Golden Color, the king Śaṅkha’s crown prince, who is none other than the son of the Elder Devavana today, together with 84,000 people, will also renounce family life. Sumati, the son of a Brahmin related to Maitreya Buddha, who is none other than the son of the bhikṣuṇī Catarabhadra today, together with 84,000 people, will also renounce family life. Only one of the 1,000 sons of King Śaṅkha will be reserved for succeeding to the throne. His other 999 sons, together with 84,000 people, will all renounce family life in order to be in the Buddha Dharma. Countless multitudes such as these, seeing the suffering in the world and the blazing force of the five aggregates, will all renounce family life in order to be in the Dharma of Maitreya Buddha.
“Then, with the mind of great lovingkindness, Maitreya Buddha will speak these words to the multitude: ‘You now have come to me, not seeking the pleasures of this life or of the next life in heaven, but the conditions for the eternal bliss of nirvāṇa. You have already planted your roots of goodness in the Buddha Dharma. When Śākyamuni Buddha appeared in the world of the five turbidities, He rebuked you variously, expounded the Dharma to you, and taught you to plant the conditions for the future so that you would see me. I will accept all of you.
“‘Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit, whether by reading and reciting the Tripiṭaka—the Sūtras, the Vinaya, and the Abhidharma—by praising their tenets and expounding them to others, or by, without jealousy, teaching and enabling others to accept and uphold [the Dharma]. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by giving others food and clothing, observing the precepts, and developing wisdom. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by offering Buddhas music, canopies, flowers, incense, and bright lamps. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by offering food regularly to Saṅghas, erecting monks’ living quarters, providing monks with the four necessities, or observing the eight precepts regularly for purification and for cultivation of lovingkindness lovingkindness. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by invoking profound compassion for sentient beings in suffering and by personally bearing their suffering to give them happiness. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by observing their precepts, enduring adversities, and developing the pure mind of lovingkindness. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by building temples or offering food to the monks who came from everywhere to attend Dharma assemblies. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by observing their precepts, hearing much [of the Dharma], practicing meditation, and developing affliction-free wisdom. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by erecting pagodas, making offerings to holy relics, or thinking of the dharma body of Buddhas. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by rescuing and liberating people in hardship, poverty, solitude, or bondage to others, people about to be tortured or executed by the law, or people in tremendous suffering because of their tribulation of the eight difficulties. Among you, there are those who have been reborn in the place where I am, because they have acquired merit by skillfully bringing to union and harmony people in tremendous suffering because of love, separation, faction, or dispute.’
“Having spoken these words, Maitreya Buddha will praise [me] Śākyamuni Buddha: ‘Very good! Very good! He was able to teach and transform, in the world of the five turbidities, a billion koṭi evil sentient beings, enabling them to develop their roots of goodness and to be reborn in the place where I am.’
“Maitreya Buddha will repeat three times His praise of Śākyamuni Buddha, then speak in verse:
The great guiding teacher, enduring adversities and boldly valiant,
Was able to teach and transform evil sentient beings, and bring them to maturity
In the evil world of the five turbidities,
Enabling them to train themselves and to see the [next] Buddha.
Enduring enormous suffering in carrying sentient beings,
For them to enter the eternal bliss of that which is asaṁskṛta,
He advised His disciples to come to the place where I am.
To glorify nirvāṇa, I now will pronounce to you the Four Noble Truths,
As well as the Thirty-seven Elements of Bodhi
And the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising.
You all should observe that which is asaṁskṛta
And enter the state of silent emptiness.
“Having spoken theses stanzas, Maitreya Buddha will also praise those who were able to achieve difficult things in the painful evil world. He will say, ‘You observed your precepts and did meritorious karmas among people who were greedy, angry, deluded, confused, and short-lived. That is exceptional! During those times sentient beings did not appreciate their parents, nor śramaṇas or Brahmins. Not knowing the Bodhi Way, they harassed and harmed one another, resorting to violence and war. Deeply addicted to the five desires, they were jealous and sycophantic. Deceitful, sinister, and pitiless, they killed, ate flesh, and drank blood. They had no respect for teachers or elders, and they did not know beneficent friends. They did not know such things as requiting kindness. Born into the world of the five turbidities, they had no sense of shame or dishonor. Day and night in the six periods, they continually did evil karmas, such as the five rebellious acts, not knowing when to stop. They gathered evils like densely arranged fish scales, never feeling disgusted. Clans and even nine branches of family could not help one another.’
“‘Very good! Very good! Śākyamuni Buddha, with great skillfulness and wisdom, out of profound lovingkindness and compassion, was able to speak honest words in a gentle and pleasant manner to suffering sentient beings, announcing that I will deliver all of them. Such a guiding teacher who has illuminating wisdom is a rarity in the world and hard to encounter. Deeply pitying sentient beings in the evil world, He wanted to eradicate their suffering, give them peace and joy, and guide them into the highest meaning of profound dharma nature. In three asaṁkhyeya kalpas, Śākyamuni Buddha, for your sake, trained in difficult ways and ascetic practices, enduring suffering as He gave away His head as alms and cut off His ears, nose, hands, and feet. To benefit you, He took the Eightfold Right Path and achieved total liberation.’
“In this way Maitreya Buddha will guide and comfort innumerable sentient beings, making them happy. They will be imbued with the Dharma. Their minds will be full of the Dharma, and their mouths will always pronounce the Dharma. The population will be composed of those who have merit and wisdom. Even gods will respect, trust, and admire them.
“At that time the great guiding teacher Maitreya Buddha will want them to hear about their suffering in the past. He will think: ‘The five impure desires are the roots of suffering, but the knowledge that pain and pleasure are both impermanent can remove their anxieties and sorrows.’ He will then pronounce to them the five aggregates—form, sensory reception, perception, mental processing, and consciousness—as well as suffering, emptiness, impermanence, and no self. As He speaks these words, 96 koṭi people will no longer embrace the dharmas [perceived by the senses]. With no more afflictions to discharge, having liberated their minds, they will attain Arhatship, complete with the Three Clarities, the Six Transcendental Powers, and the Eight Liberations. In all, 36,000 god-sons and 20,000 goddess-daughters will activate the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind. Among the eight classes of Dharma protectors, such as gods and dragons, some will become Srotāpannas, entering the holy stream, and others will plant the conditions for going the Pratyekabuddha Way. The number of those who will activate the unsurpassed bodhi mind will be beyond reckoning.
“Then Maitreya Buddha, together with 96 koṭi great bhikṣus and King Śaṅkha, who is surrounded by 84,000 great ministers, bhikṣus, and retinues, like the son of the moon-god encircled by stars, will set off from the city of Ketuma and return to the Flower Grove Garden. Elders and the lesser kings in the cities and settlements in Jambudvīpa, as well as those in the four castes, will gather under the dragon flower tree in the Flower Grove Garden. [In this second great assembly] Maitreya the World-Honored One will again pronounce the Four Noble Truths and the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising. Then 94 koṭi people will attain Arhatship. Gods from other worlds, the eight classes of Dharma protectors, and others, as numerous as the sands of 64 koṭi Ganges Rivers, will activate the anuttara-samyak-saṁbodhi mind, standing firm at the spiritual level of no regress. In the third great assembly, Maitreya Buddha will again pronounce the Four Noble Truths, turning the profound wonderful Dharma wheel. Then 92 koṭi people will attain Arhatship, and 34 koṭi Dharma protectors in the eight classes, such as gods and dragons, will activate the saṁbodhi mind.
“Having delivered these gods and humans, Maitreya Buddha will lead His voice-hearer disciples and the eight classes of Dharma protectors, such as gods and dragons, together with the multitudes, and enter the city of Ketuma to beg for food. Innumerable gods from pure abode heavens will reverently follow this Buddha into the city. Upon entering the city, this Buddha will demonstrate His spiritual powers with eighteen transformations: water will manifest below His body, like precious gems, then transform into a plateau of light, illuminating worlds in the ten directions. Fire will manifest above His body, radiating purple-tinged golden light as vast as Mount Sumeru. He will appear enormous, filling the sky, then transform into aquamarine. He will appear miniscule, like a mustard seed, then vanish. He will rise in the ten directions then vanish in the ten directions. He will make all humans to have bodies like a Buddha’s body. He will perform innumerable manifestations, using various kinds of spiritual powers, and viewers in the right conditions will all be liberated.
“The god-king Śakro-Devānām-Indra, his thirty-two ministers, gods from the desire realm, Brahma-kings and Brahma gods from the form realm, together with god-sons and goddess-daughters, will remove their celestial necklaces and robes, and scatter them over this Buddha, which will change into a canopy of flowers. Celestial music will sound without being played, hymning the merit of this Buddha. As an offering to this Buddha, celestial flowers and various sandalwood scents will rain profusely down from the sky. Banners will be erected on streets and roads. Choice incense will burn, its smoke resembling clouds.
“When Maitreya the World-Honored One enters the city, the god-king from Great Brahma Heaven and the god-king Śakro-Devānām-Indra will reverently join their palms and praise this Buddha in verse:
The Samyak-Saṁbuddha, the Two-footed Honored One,
In heaven and on earth, no one can compare.
The World-Honored One with the Ten Powers is unique.
He is the unsurpassed supreme fortune field.
Those who make offerings to Him will be reborn in heaven,
And in the future will be liberated and abide in nirvāṇa.
Obeisance to the unsurpassed great attainment!
Obeisance to the great guiding teacher with the mind of lovingkindness!
“The four god-kings—Dhṛtarsaṣtra in the east, Virūḍhaka in the south, Virūpākṣa in the west, and Vaiśravaṇa in the north—together with their retinues, joining their palms reverently, with a pure mind, will praise the World-Honored One in verse:
No one living in the Three Realms can compare
With the one adorned with great compassion,
Who has realized and understood the highest truth.
He has penetrated the nature of sentient beings
And the appearances of all dharmas,
Seeing both abiding in the nature of emptiness.
Standing firm in [His realization of] emptiness,
He diligently makes energetic progress,
Yet nothing made through conditions, no footprints left behind.
I now make obeisance
To the great guiding teacher with the mind of lovingkindness.
When sentient beings do not see a Buddha,
They undergo birth and death in the long night,
Going down the three evil life-paths,
Or assuming female form.
Today a Buddha has appeared in the world,
Who will end suffering and give peace and joy.
The population on the three evil life-paths will decrease,
And women will no longer depend on flattery or deception
All [evil ways of life] will come to rest.
Having attained the great nirvāṇa,
The one who will relieve suffering with great compassion,
To delight all, has appeared in the world.
When he was a Bodhisattva,
He always gave others all the joy,
Never killing or distressing others.
And His tolerance is like that of the great earth.
I now make obeisance
To the great guiding teacher who has endured all adversities.
I now make obeisance
To the great man who is loving-kind and compassionate.
Having transcended the suffering of birth and death,
He can rescue sentient beings from tribulations.
Like a lotus flower born from fire,
He is unequaled in the world!
“At that time Maitreya the World-Honored One will beg for food from one door to the next. Then he will lead the bhikṣus to the original place, where he will enter deep samādhi, not moving for seven days and seven nights.
Maitreya Buddha’s disciples will be stately in appearance, like the forms of gods, and they will all be tired of birth, old age, illness, and death. They will all hear much [of the Dharma], study and guard the Dharma store, and practice meditative concentration. They will all succeed in abandoning desires, like a bird leaving the eggshell.
“The god-king Śakro-Devānām-Indra, together with god-sons from the desire realm, joyful and exuberant, will speak in verse:
The great guiding teacher, the refuge of the world!
His Wisdom-eye clearly sees all [in worlds] in the ten directions.
He surpasses gods in merit and wisdom.
With the right name and meaning, He benefits sentient beings.
May we [beginners] who are like sprouts,
Together with His disciples, go to that mountain
To make offerings to Śākyamuni Buddha’s disciple,
Who was foremost in the dhūta way of life?
We should see the Dharma robe worn by the past Buddha
And hear the Dharma He has bequeathed.
For the evil karma in our past lives in the turbid evil kalpa,
We need to repent in order to be purified.
“Then Maitreya Buddha, together with His great disciples and sentient beings that were headstrong in their past lives in the Sahā World, will go to the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain. Having arrived at its foot, they will serenely walk up the Wolf Track Mountain. After they have reached the summit, Maitreya Buddha will touch the ground with his big toe. Forthwith, the great earth will move in eighteen different ways. Then Maitreya Buddha will split the cliff with both hands, like a Wheel-Turning King opening the gate of a great city [to find Mahākāśyapa inside].
“Then the Brahma-kings will pour scented oil onto the crown of Mahākāśyapa’s head and over his body. Next, they will beat the great Dharma instruments and blow the great Dharma conch shells. Mahākāśyapa will then rise from the Samādhi of Total Halt. He will straighten his robe, bare his right shoulder, kneel on his right knee, and join his palms. Kneeling on both knees, he will hold the Dharma robe worn by Śākyamuni Buddha and offer it to Maitreya Buddha, saying these words: ‘The great teacher Śākyamuni, the Tathāgata, Arhat, Samyak-Saṁbuddha, upon His parinirvāṇa, entrusted me with His Dharma robe and commanded me to offer it to the World-Honored One.’
“Meanwhile, everyone in the multitudes will ask Maitreya Buddha, ‘Why on this mountaintop today is a human-headed worm, puny, ugly, and dressed in the śramaṇa’s habit, able to pay homage and make obeisance to the World-Honored One?’
“Then Maitreya Buddha will rebuke His great disciples. He will speak in verse, telling them not to disdain this person:
The peacock has beautiful colors,
But it can be eaten by the eagle.
The white elephant has infinite strength,
But the lion-son, though young,
Can grab and eat it like dirt.
The great dragon has an enormous body,
But it can be snatched by the golden-winged garuḍa.
The tall and large human body,
Plump, white, and handsome,
Is like a vessel made of the seven treasures but filled with feces.
Its filth is unbearable.
This person, though puny,
Has wisdom like refined gold.
Having long ended his afflictions and habits,
With nothing left of the suffering of birth and death,
For protecting the Dharma, he has stayed here.
Most victorious among gods and humans,
He has always carried out the dhūta way of life.
Unequaled in ascetic training.
Śākyamuni, the Two-Footed Honored One,
Has sent him to me.
You all should join your palms with a single mind
And reverently make obeisance to him.
“Having spoken these stanzas, Maitreya Buddha will tell the bhikṣus, ‘Śākyamuni the World-Honored One has taught and transformed sentient beings in the world of the five turbidities. Among His 1,250 disciples, there was one with a golden body, who was foremost in the dhūta way of life. To learn the Way, he renounced family life and left his golden wife. Day and night he progressed energetically, as if fighting a fire burning on his head. He was loving-kind and compassionate to sentient beings that were poor and lowly, and always wanted to deliver them. For the sake of the Dharma, he has remained in the world. This person is none other than Mahākāśyapa.’
“Having heard these words, the multitude will all make obeisance to him.
“Then Maitreya Buddha will use Śākyamuni Buddha’s Dharma robe to cover his right hand, but it will cover only two of His fingers. Then He will [use it to] cover His left hand, but again it will cover only two of His fingers. The multitude, astonished by the tiny size of the past Buddha, will understand that it was caused by sentient beings’ greed and arrogance.
“Maitreya Buddha will tell Mahākāśyapa, ‘Now you can demonstrate your spiritual powers and pronounce all the sūtras of the past Buddha.’
“Then Mahākāśyapa will jump up into the sky and display eighteen transformations. He will manifest an enormous body, filling the sky. This huge body will transform into a tiny one, like a grass seed. Water will manifest above his body, and fire will appear under his body. He will walk on the ground as if it were water, then walk on water as if it were ground. He will sit or lie down in the sky, not falling to the ground. He will appear in the east but vanish in the west, then appear in the west but vanish in the east. He will appear in the south but vanish in the north, then appear in the north but vanish in the south. He will appear at the edge but vanish in the center, then appear in the center but vanish at the edge. He will appear above but vanish below, then appear below but vanish above. He will turn into an aquamarine grotto in the sky. By virtue of the spiritual power of this Buddha, he will pronounce with the Brahma tone Śākyamuni Buddha’s sūtras in the twelve categories. When the multitude hear [the teachings], they will marvel at them as something that never existed before. Then 80 koṭi people will eradicate their afflictions, becoming Arhats. They will remain in the midst of dharmas [of perceptions] but no longer embrace them. Innumerable gods and humans will activate the bodhi mind.
“Mahākāśyapa will descend from the sky and circle Maitreya Buddha three times. He will make obeisance to this Buddha and state that all saṁskṛta dharmas are impermanent. He will say farewell to Him and return to the place in the Gṛdhrakūṭa Mountain where he has been. Fire will burst from his body, and he will enter parinirvāṇa. Then his relics will be collected, and a pagoda will be erected on the mountaintop to enshrine his relics.
“Maitreya Buddha will again praise him, ‘Śākyamuni Buddha, in the midst of the multitude, always praised the bhikṣu Mahākāśyapa, saying that he was foremost in the dhūta way of life and was accomplished in meditation and the Liberation Samādhi. This person, although he had great transcendental powers, was never haughty. Always pitying sentient beings in poverty and squalor, he was able to give them great joy.’
“Maitreya Buddha will extol Mahākāśyapa’s relics, saying, ‘Very good! Mahākāśyapa, the great disciple of the Śākya lion of great merit, was able to train his mind in that evil world.’
“At that time the relics of Mahākāśyapa will [appear in apparition and] speak in verse:
The dhūta practice is a treasury store.
Observing the precepts is sweet nectar.
One who can carry out the dhūta way of life
Will definitely arrive at the ground of no death.
One who observes one’s precepts will be reborn in heaven
And in the bliss of nirvāṇa.
“After speaking this stanza, [the vision of] Mahākāśyapa, like liquid aquamarine, will return into the pagoda.
“The place where Maitreya Buddha will pronounce the Dharma will be 100 yojanas long and 80 yojanas wide. Each person in the multitude, whether sitting or standing, near or far, will see this Buddha pronounce the Dharma to him alone. Maitreya Buddha will remain in the world for 60 koṭi years and, out of sympathy for sentient beings, He will enable them to acquire the Dharma-eye. After His parinirvāṇa, gods and humans will cremate His body, and the Wheel-Turning King will collect the relics and enshrine them in 84,000 pagodas on the four continents. The true Dharma will remain in the world for 60,000 years, followed by the Dharma-likeness for another 60,000 years.
“All of you should progress diligently, invoking your pure minds to do good karmas. Then there is no doubt that you will see Maitreya Buddha, the luminous lamp of the world.”
After the Buddha finished these words, the venerable Śāriputra and the venerable Ānanda rose from their seats, made obeisance to the Buddha, and knelt on their right knees. Joining their palms, they asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what is the name of this sūtra? How should we uphold it?”
The Buddha told Ānanda, “You should remember it well and expound it separately to all gods and humans. Do not be the person who will finally terminate the Dharma. The tenet of this Dharma is that all sentient beings should end the five rebellious acts, annihilate the hindrances caused by afflictions, karmas, and requitals, and cultivate the mind of lovingkindness, in order to walk with Maitreya Buddha. Accept and uphold it as such. This sūtra is also called All Sentient Beings, by Hearing Maitreya Buddha’s Name, Definitely Avoiding the World of the Five Turbidities and Not Going Down the Evil Life-Paths. Accept and uphold it as such. It is also called The Certainty of Seeing Maitreya Buddha by ending One’s evil voice karma, with a Mind like the Lotus Flower. Accept and uphold it as such. It is also called The Mind of Lovingkindness, No Killing and No Eating Flesh. Accept and uphold it as such. It is also called Śākyamuni Buddha’s Dharma Robe as the Testament of Trust. Accept and uphold it as such. It is also called Definite Avoidance of the Eight Difficulties by Hearing a Buddha’s Name. Accept and uphold it as such. It is also called Maitreya Bodhisattva’s Attainment of Buddhahood. Accept and uphold it as such.”
The Buddha told Śāriputra, “After my parinirvāṇa, if, among bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, as well as the eight classes of Dharma protectors, such as gods, dragons, and spirits, there are those who, having heard this sūtra, accept and uphold it, read and recite it, and make obeisance and offerings to it, as well as respect Dharma masters, they will annihilate their three kinds of hindrances: afflictions, karmas, and requitals. They will definitely see Maitreya Buddha and [the rest of] the one thousand Buddhas of this Worthy Kalpa. They will attain one of the three kinds of bodhi according their wish. They will not be reborn in female form. They will renounce family life with the right views and achieve the great liberation.”
Having heard the Buddha’s words, the multitude greatly rejoiced. All made obeisance to the Buddha and departed.
—Buddha Pronounces the Sūtra of Maitreya Bodhisattva’s Attainment of Buddhahood
Translated from the digital Chinese Canon (T14n0456)