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The Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra (Sanskrit: विमलकीर्तिनिर्देशसूत्र), (Standard Tibetan: འཕགས་པ་དྲི་མ་མེད་པར་གྲགས་པས་བསྟན་པ་ཞེས་བྱ་བ་མདོ།) or Vimalakīrti Sūtra is a Mahayana Buddhist sutra.
Robert Thurman's translation, 1991
- As translated by Robert Thurman in The Holy Teaching of Vimalakīrti: A Mahāyāna Scripture, Motilal Banarsidass, 1991, ISBN 8120808746.
- Reverence to all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Aryasravakas, and Pratyekabuddhas, in the past, the present, and the future.
- Thus have I heard at one time. The Lord Buddha was in residence in the garden of Amrapali, in the city of Vaisali, attended by a great gathering. Of bhikshus there were eight thousand, all saints. They were free from impurities and afflictions, and all had attained self-mastery. Their minds were entirely liberated by perfect knowledge. They were calm and dignified, like royal elephants. They had accomplished their work, done what they had to do, cast off their burdens, attained their goals, and totally destroyed the bonds of existence. They all had attained the utmost perfection of every form of mind control.
- Of bodhisattvas there were thirty-two thousand, great spiritual heroes who were universally acclaimed. They were dedicated through the penetrating activity of their great superknowledges and were sustained by the grace of the Buddha. Guardians of the city of Dharma, they upheld the true doctrine, and their great teachings resounded like the lion's roar throughout the ten directions.
Without having to be asked, they were the natural spiritual benefactors of all living beings. They maintained unbroken the succession of the Three Jewels, conquering devils and foes and overwhelming all critics.
Their mindfulness, intelligence, realization, meditation, incantation, and eloquence all were perfected. They had attained the intuitive tolerance of the ultimate incomprehensibility of all things. They turned the irreversible wheel of the Dharma. They were stamped with the insignia of signlessness. They were expert in knowing the spiritual faculties of all living beings. They were brave with the confidence that overawes all assemblies. They had gathered the great stores of merit and of wisdom, and their bodies, beautiful without ornaments, were adorned with all the auspicious signs and marks.
They were exalted in fame and glory, like the lofty summit of Mount Sumeru. Their high resolve as hard as diamond, unbreakable in their faith in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, they showered forth the rain of ambrosia that is released by the light rays of the jewel of the Dharma, which shines everywhere.
Their voices were perfect in diction and resonance, and versatile in speaking all languages. They had penetrated the profound principle of relativity and had destroyed the persistence of the instinctual mental habits underlying all convictions concerning finitude and infinitude. They spoke fearlessly, like lions, sounding the thunder of the magnificent teaching. Unequaled, they surpassed all measure. They were the best captains for the voyage of discovery of the treasures of the Dharma, the stores of merit and wisdom. They were expert in the way of the Dharma, which is straight, peaceful, subtle, gentle, hard to see, and difficult to realize.
They were endowed with the wisdom that is able to understand the thoughts of living beings, as well as their comings and goings. They had been consecrated with the anointment of the peerless gnosis of the Buddha. With their high resolve, they approached the ten powers, the four fearlessnesses, and the eighteen special qualities of the Buddha.
They had crossed the terrifying abyss of the bad migrations, and yet they assumed reincarnation voluntarily in all migrations for the sake of disciplining living beings. Great Kings of medicine, understanding all the sicknesses of passions, they could apply the medicine of the Dharma appropriately. They were inexhaustible mines of limitless virtues, and they glorified innumerable buddha-fields with the splendor of these virtues. They conferred great benefit when seen, heard, or even approached. Were one to extol them for innumerable hundreds of thousands of myriads of aeons, one still could not exhaust their mighty flood of virtues.
- At that time, there lived in the great city of Vaisali a certain Licchavi, Vimalakirti by name. Having served the ancient Buddhas, he had generated the roots of virtue by honoring them and making offerings to them. He had attained tolerance as well as eloquence. He played with the great superknowledges. He had attained the power of incantations and the fearlessnesses. He had conquered all demons and opponents. He had penetrated the profound way of the Dharma. He was liberated through the transcendence of wisdom. Having integrated his realization with skill in liberative technique, he was expert in knowing the thoughts and actions of living beings. Knowing the strength or weakness of their faculties, and being gifted with unrivaled eloquence, he taught the Dharma appropriately to each. Having applied himself energetically to the Mahayana, he understood it and accomplished his tasks with great finesse. He lived with the deportment of a Buddha, and his superior intelligence was as wide as an ocean. He was praised, honored, and commended by all the Buddhas and was respected by Indra, Brahma, and all the Lokapalas. In order to develop living beings with his skill in liberative technique, he lived in the great city of Vaisali.
- Friends, this body is so impermanent, fragile, unworthy of confidence, and feeble. It is so insubstantial, perishable, short-lived, painful, filled with diseases, and subject to changes. Thus, my friends, as this body is only a vessel of many sicknesses, wise men do not rely on it. This body is like a ball of foam, unable to bear any pressure. It is like a water bubble, not remaining very long. It is like a mirage, born from the appetites of the passions. It is like the trunk of the plantain tree, having no core. Alas! This body is like a machine, a nexus of bones and tendons. It is like a magical illusion, consisting of falsifications. It is like a dream, being an unreal vision. It is like a reflection, being the image of former actions. It is like an echo, being dependent on conditioning. It is like a cloud, being characterized by turbulence and dissolution. It is like a flash of lightning, being unstable, and decaying every moment. The body is ownerless, being the product of a variety of conditions.
- Therefore, you should be revulsed by such a body. You should despair of it and should arouse your admiration for the body of the Tathagata. Friends, the body of a Tathagata is the body of Dharma, born of gnosis. The body of a Tathagata is born of the stores of merit and wisdom. It is born of morality, of meditation, of wisdom, of the liberations, and of the knowledge and vision of liberation. It is born of love, compassion, joy, and impartiality. It is born of charity, discipline, and self-control. It is born of the path of ten virtues. It is born of patience and gentleness. It is born of the roots of virtue planted by solid efforts. It is born of the concentrations, the liberations, the meditations, and the absorptions. It is born of learning, wisdom, and liberative technique. It is born of the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment. It is born of mental quiescence and transcendental analysis. It is born of the ten powers, the four fearlessnesses, and the eighteen special qualities. It is born of all the transcendences. It is born from sciences and superknowledges. It is born of the abandonment of all evil qualities, and of the collection of all good qualities. It is born of truth. It is born of reality. It is born of conscious awareness. Friends, the body of a Tathagata is born of innumerable good works. Toward such a body you should turn your aspirations, and, in order to eliminate the sicknesses of the passions of all living beings, you should conceive the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.
Burton Watson's translation, 2000
- As translated by Burton Watson, Columbia University Press, 2000, ISBN: 0231106572.
- This is what I heard: At one time the Buddha was in the Amra Gardens in the city of Vaishali, accompanied by a multitude of leading monks numbering eight thousand. There were also thirty-two thousand bodhisattvas, all known to the assembly, persons who had carried out all the basic practices of great wisdom. Sustained by the might and supernatural powers of the Buddhas, they accepted and upheld the correct Law in order to guard the citadel of the Dharma.
- They knew how to roar the lion's roar, and their fame resounded in the ten directions. Without waiting to be asked, they befriended others and brought them comfort. They ensured the continuance and prosperity of the Three Treasures, making certain that these never expired. They conquered and subdued the ill will of the devils and curbed the non-Buddhist doctrines.
- All were spotless and pure, having long ago rid themselves of snares and obstructions; their minds constantly resided in a state of unhindered emancipation.
- Expert in comprehending the characteristics of phenomena, able to understand the capacities of living beings, they towered over the others of the great assembly and had learned to be fearful of nothing.
- The jewels of their Dharma shone everywhere, raining down sweet dew, and among the assembly the sound of their words was the most subtle and wonderful of all. They had plumbed the depths of dependent origination and cut off all erroneous views, no longer entertaining the concepts either of being or nonbeing. In expounding the Law they were fearless as roaring lions, and their disquisitions on it rolled forth like thunder. There was no measuring them, for they had passed beyond measure. In seeking out the jewels of the Dharma, they were like practiced pilots at sea.
- The Buddha, the unparalleled one.
- At that time the Buddha, reverently surrounded by this multitude of countless hundreds and thousands of beings, expounded the Law for them. He was like Mount Sumeru, king of mountains, rising up out of the great sea. Resting at ease in his lion's seat clustered with jewels, he shed his radiance over all the great throng gathered there.
- Eyes pure and broad like the blue lotus;
mind pure, steeped in meditations;
for pure deeds long accumulated, boundless in fame,
your quietude guides the assembly-thus we bow our heads.
We have seen the great sage work miraculous transformations,
showing us all the countless lands in ten directions,
the Buddhas expounding the Law therein-
every one of these we have seen and heard.
- Ratnākara to Gautama Buddha.
- Three times you turned the wheel of the Law in the thousand-millionfold world,
the wheel that from the first has always been pure.
- Ratnākara to Gautama Buddha.
- The Buddha preaches the Law with a single voice,
but each living being understands it in his own way.
- Listen well, listen well, and mull it over in your thoughts!
- Gautama Buddha to Ratnākara, on the practices carried out by bodhisattvas in purifying the lands.
- Ratnākara, the various kinds of living beings are in themselves the Buddha lands (buddhakṣetra) of the bodhisattvas. Why so? Because it is by converting various beings to the teachings that the bodhisattvas acquire their Buddha lands. It is by persuading various beings and overcoming their objections that the bodhisattvas acquire their Buddha lands. It is by inducing the various living beings to enter into the Buddha wisdom in such-and-such a land that they acquire their Buddha lands. It is by inducing the various living beings to develop the capacity for bodhisattva practices in such-and-such a land that they acquire their Buddha lands.
Why is this? Because the bodhisattva's acquisition of a pure land is wholly due to his having brought benefit to living beings. Suppose a man proposes to build a mansion on a plot of open land. He may do so as he wishes without hindrance. But if he tries to build it in the empty air, he will never be successful. It is the same with the bodhisattvas. It is because they wish to help others to achieve success that they take their vow to acquire Buddha lands. Their vow to acquire Buddha lands in not founded on emptiness.
- Gautama Buddha, on the practices carried out by bodhisattvas in purifying the lands.
- Ratnākara, you should understand that an upright mind is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When the bodhisattva attains Buddhahood, then beings who are free of flattery will be born in his country.
A deeply searching mind is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings who are endowed with blessings will be born in his country.
A mind that aspires to bodhi or enlightenment is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings dedicated to the Great Vehicle will be born in his country
Almsgiving is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings who are capable of casting away everything will be born in his country.
Keeping of the precepts is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings who fulfill their vow to carry out the ten good actions will be born in his country.
Forbearance is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings who are adorned with the thirty-two features will be born in his country.
Assiduousness is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings who strive diligently to acquire all manner of blessings will be born in his country
Meditation is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings who can regulate their minds and keep them from disorder will be born in his country.
Wisdom is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings who are correct and certain in understanding will be born in his country.
A mind devoted to the four immeasurable qualities is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings perfect in the exercise of pity, compassion, joy, and indifference will be born in his country.
The four methods of winning people are the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings who are regulated by the emancipations will be born in his country.
Expedient means are the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings who can employ all manner of expedient means with complete freedom will be born in his country.
The thirty-seven elements of the Way are the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings will be born in his country who are proficient in the four states of mindfulness, the four types of correct effort, the four bases of supernatural power, the five roots of goodness, the five powers, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the eightfold holy path.
A mind intent on transferring merit to others is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, he will acquire a country endowed with all manner of blessings.
Teaching others to avoid the eight difficulties is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, his country will be free of the three evils and the eight difficulties. Observing the precepts himself but not taxing others with their shortcomings is the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, no one in his country will be called a violater of prohibitions.
The ten good actions are the pure land of the bodhisattva. When he attains Buddhahood, beings will be born in his country who suffer no untimely death, possess great wealth, are pure in action, sincere and truthful in word, ever mild in speech, never alienated from kin or associates, skillful in solving disputes, invariably speaking profitable words, never envious, never irate, and correct in understanding.
Therefore, Ratnākara, because the bodhisattva has an upright mind, he is impelled to action. Because he is impelled to action, he gains a deeply searching mind. Because he has a deeply searching mind, his will is well controlled. Because his will is well controlled, he acts in accord with the teachings. Because he acts in accord with the teachings, he can transfer merit to others. Because he transfers merit to others, he knows how to employ expedient means. Because he knows how to employ expedient means, he can lead others to enlightenment. Because he leads others to enlightenment, his Buddha land is pure. Because his Buddha land is pure, his preaching of the Law is pure. Because his preaching of the Law is pure, his wisdom is pure. Because his wisdom is pure, his mind is pure. And because his mind is pure, all the blessings he enjoys will be pure.
Therefore, Ratnākara, if the bodhisattva wishes to acquire a pure land, he must purify his mind. When the mind is pure, the Buddha land will be pure.
- Gautama Buddha, on the practices carried out by bodhisattvas in purifying the lands.
- Shariputra, it is the failings of living beings that prevent them from seeing the marvelous purity of the land of the Buddha, the Thus Come One. The Thus Come One is not to blame. Shariputra, this land of mine is pure, but you fail to see it.
- Shariputra, the bodhisattva treats all things and beings, each one of them, with perfect equality. His deeply searching mind is pure, and because it rests on Buddha wisdom, it can see the purity of this Buddha land.
- Brahmā to Shariputra
- Somehing I have never seen before, and never even heard of-now all the marvelous purity of the Buddha land is visible before me!
- If a person's mind is pure, then he will see the wonderful blessings that adorn this land.
- All things are impermanent in nature.
- At that time in the great city of Vaishali there was a rich man named Vimalakirti. Already in the past he had offered alms to immeasurable numbers of Buddhas, had deeply planted the roots of goodness, and had grasped the truth of birthlessness. Unhindered in his eloquence, able to disport himself with transcendental powers, he commanded full retention of the teachings and had attained the state of fearlessness. He had overcome the torments and ill will of the devil and entered deeply into the doctrine of the Law, proficient in the paramita of wisdom and a master in the employing of expedient means. He had successfully fulfilled his great vow and could clearly discern how the minds of others were tending. Moreover, he could distinguish whether their capacities were keen or obtuse. His mind was cleansed and purified through long practice of the Buddha Way, firm in its grasp of the Great Vehicle, and all his actions were well thought out and planned. He maintained the dignity and authority of a Buddha, and his mind was vast as the sea. All the Buddhas sighed with admiration, and he commanded the respect of the disciplies, of Indra, Brahma, and the Four Heavenly Kings.
- Desiring to save others, he employed the excellent expedient of residing in Vaishali. His immeasurable riches he used to relieve the poor, his faultless observation of the precepts served as a reproach to those who would violate prohibitions. Through his restraint and forbearance he warned others against rage and anger, and his great assiduousness discouraged all thought of sloth and indolence. Concentrating his single mind in quiet meditation, he suppressed disordered thoughts; through firm and unwavering wisdom he overcame all that was not wise. Though dressed in the white robes of a layman, he observed all the rules of pure conduct laid down for monks, and though he lived at home, he felt no attachment to the threefold world. One could see he had a wife and children, yet he was at all times chaste in action; obviously he had kin and household attendants, yet he always delighted in withdrawing from them. Although he wore jewels and finery, his real adornment was the auspicious marks; although he ate and drank like others, what he truly savored was the joy of meditation.
- If he visited the gambling parlors, it was solely to bring enlightenment to those there; if he listened to the doctrines of other religions, he did not allow them to impinge on the true faith. Though well versed in secular writings, his constant delight was in the Buddhist Law. Respected by everyone, he was looked on as foremost among those deserving of alms; embracing and upholding the correct Dharma, he gave guidance to old and young. In a spirit of trust and harmony he conducted all kinds of business enterprises, but though he reaped worldly profits, he took no delight in these.
- He frequented the busy crossroads in order to bring benefit to others, entered the government offices and courts of law so as to aid and rescue all those he could. He visited the places of debate in order to guide others to the Great Vehicle, visited the schools and study halls to further the instruction of the pupils. He entered houses of ill fame to teach the folly of fleshly desire, entered wine shops in order to encourage those with a will to quit them.
- If he was among rich men, they honored him as foremost among them because he preached the superior Law for them. If he was among lay believers, they honored him as foremost because he freed them from greed and attachment. Among Kshatriyas he was most highly honored because he taught them forbearance. Among Brahmans he was most highly honored because he rid them of their self-conceit. The great ministers honored him as foremost because he taught the correct Law. The princes honored him as foremost because he showed them how to be loyal and filial. Within the women's quarters he was most honored because he converted and brought refinement to the women of the harem.
- The common people honored him as first among them because he helped them to gain wealth and power. The Brahma deities honored him as first among them because he revealed the superiority of wisdom. The Indras honored him as first among them because he demonstrated the truth of impermanence. The Four Heavenly Kings, guardians of the world, honored him as foremost because he guarded all living beings.
- Good people, this body is impermanent, without durability, without strength, without firmness, a thing that decays in a moment, not to be relied on.
It suffers, it is tormented, a meeting place of manifold ills.
Good people, no person of enlightened wisdom could depend on a thing like this body
This body is like a cluster of foam, nothing you can grasp or handle.
This body is like a bubble that cannot continue for long.
This body is like a flame born of longing and desire.
This body is like the plantain that has no firmness in its trunk.
This body is like a phantom, the product of error and confusion.
This body is like a dream, compounded of false and empty visions.
This body is like a shadow, appearing through karma causes.
This body is like an echo, tied to causes and conditions.
This body is like a drifting cloud, changing and vanishing in an instant.
This body is like lightning, barely lasting from moment to moment.
This body is like earth that has no subjective being.
This body is like fire, devoid of ego.
This body is like wind that has no set life span.
This body is like water, devoid of individuality.
This body has no reality but makes these four elements its lodging.
This body is void, removed from self and self's possessions.
This body is without understanding, like plants or trees, tiles or pebbles.
This body is without positive action, blown about by the wind.
This body is impure, crammed with defilement and evil.
This body is empty and unreal; though for a time you may bathe and cleanse, clothe and feed it, in the end it must crumble and fade.
This body is plague-ridden, beset by a hundred and one ills and anxieties.
This body is like the abandoned well on the hillside, old age pressing in on it.
This body has no fixity, but is destined for certain death.
This body is like poisonous snakes, vengeful bandits, or an empty village, a mere coming together of components, realms, and sense-fields.
- Good people, a thing like this is irksome and hateful, and therefore you should seek the Buddha body. Why? Because the Buddha body is the Dharma body.
It is born from immeasurable merits and wisdom.
It is born from precepts, meditation, wisdom, emancipation, and the insight of emancipation.
It is born from pity, compassion, joy, and indifference.
It is born of the various paramitas such as almsgiving, keeping of the precepts, forbearance and gentleness, assiduousness in religious practice, meditation, emancipation and samadhi, wide knowledge and wisdom.
It is born of expedient means, born of the six transcendental powers, born of the three understandings, born of the thirty-seven elements of the Way, born of concentration and insight, born of the ten powers, the four kinds of fearlessness, and the eighteen unshared properties.
It is born of the cutting off of all things not good and the gathering in of all good things, born of the truth, born of the avoidance of indulgence and laxity. The body of the Thus Come One is born of immeasurable numbers of pure and spotless things such as these.
Good people, if you wish to gain the Buddha body and do away with the ills that afflict all living beings, then you must set your minds on attaining anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
- Shariputra said, "Why don't you change out of this female body?" (Shariputra assumes that any woman would naturally want to change into a man if she had the power to do so.)
The goddess replied, "For the past twelve years I have been trying to take on female form, but in the end with no success. What is there to change? If a sorcerer were to conjure up a phantom woman and then someone asked her why she didn't change out of her female body, would that be any kind of reasonable question?"
"No," said Shariputra. "Phantoms have no fixed form, so what would there be to change?"
The goddess said, "All things are just the same-they have no fixed form. So why ask why I don't change out of my female form?"
At that time the goddess employed her supernatural powers to change Shariputra into a goddess like herself, while she took on Shariputra's form. Then she asked, "Why don't you change out of this female body?"
Shariputra, now in the form of a goddess, replied, "I don't know why I have suddenly changed and taken on a female body! " The goddess said, "Shariputra, if you can change out of this female body, then all women can change likewise. Shariputra, who is not a woman, appears in a woman's body. And the same is true of all women-though they appear in women's bodies, they are not women. Therefore the Buddha teaches that all phenomena are neither male nor female."
Then the goddess withdrew her supernatural powers, and Shariputra returned to his original form. The goddess said to Shariputra, "Where now is the form and shape of your female body?"
Shariputra said, "The form and shape of my female body does not exist, yet does not not exist."
The goddess said, "All things are just like that-they do not exist, yet do not not exist. And that they do not exist, yet do not not exist, is exactly what the Buddha teaches."
Bibliotheca Polyglotta's translation, 2006-2007
- Translation in the multilingual edition of Vimalakīrtinirdeśasūtra at the Bibliotheca Polyglotta, 2006-2007.
- Pure and beautiful as a lotus leaf; pure are your intentions; you have reached the other shore of tranquility; you have accumulated good actions and conquered a great sea of virtues. Holy One, you lead to the path of peace, all homage to you!
- Ratnākara to Gautama Buddha.
- The fields of the Sugatas are illumined with a brilliant light, and their instructions in the Law, greatly developed and leading to immoratllity, can be hard throughout the reaches of space.
- Ratnākara to Gautama Buddha.
- Neither being nor not-being, all dharmas are born dependent on causes; there is in them no self, no sensing subject, no activator; but good or bad, no action withers; such is your teaching.
- Ratnākara to Gautama Buddha.
- As is the production of the thought of enlightment, so is the intention.
As is the intention, so is the practice.
As is the practice, so is the high resolve.
As is the high resolve, so is deep meditation.
As is deep meditation, so is the so is conduct.
As is conduct, so is transference of merit.
As is the transference of merit, so are skillful means.
As are skilful means, so is the pure field.
As is the pure field, so are pure beings.
As are pure beings, so is pure knowledge.
As is pure konwledge, so is pure teaching.
As is pure teaching, so is pure action of knowledge.
As is pure action of knowledge, so is pure personal mind.
That is why, son of good family, the Bodhisattva who wishes to purify his Buddhafield should, first of all, skilfully adorn is own mind.
And why? Because to the extent that the mind of a Bodhisattva is pure is his Buddhafield purified.
- Gautama Buddha to Ratnākara.