At that time the Buddha addressed the bodhisattvas, the celestial beings, and the four groups,1 [saying]: "Through innumerable kalpas of the past, I have tirelessly sought the Law-Flower Sutra; during many kalpas I was long a king and vowed to seek the supreme Bodhi,2 my mind never faltering. Desiring to fulfill the Six Paramitas, I earnestly bestowed alms with an unsparing mind--elephants, horses, the rare seven,3 countries, cities, wives, children, male and female slaves, servants and followers, head, eyes, marrow, brain, the flesh of my body, hands, and feet, unsparing of body and life. At that time people's lifetime was beyond measure. For the sake of the Law, I gave up the throne of my domain, deputed my government to the crown prince, and with beating drum and open proclamation, sought everywhere for the truth, [promising]: 'Whoever is able to tell me of a Great-vehicle, I will all my life provide for him and be his footman.' At that time a certain hermit came to [me] the king and said: 'I have a Great-vehicle named Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra. If you will not disobey me, I will explain it to you.' [I] the king, hearing what the hermit said, became ecstatic with joy and instantly followed him, providing for his needs, gathering fruit, drawing water, collecting fuel, laying his food, even turning my body into his seat and bed, yet never feeling fatigue of body or mind. While I thus served a millennium passed, [and] for the sake of the Law, I zealously waited on him that he should lack nothing."
Then the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this meaning over again, spoke thus in verse:
"I remember in past kalpas,
When, to seek the Great Law -
Though I was a king in the world,
Yet coveted not earthly pleasures4 -
With toll of bell, I proclaimed to the four quarters:
'Whoever possesses the Great Law,
If he will expound it to me,
To him I will become servant.'
Then there was the sage Asita,
Who came and said to the great king:
'I possess the wonderful Law
Rarely [heard] in the world.
If you are able to practice it,
I will preach it to you.'
Then the king, hearing the sage's word,
Conceived great joy in his heart
And thereupon followed him,
Providing for his needs,
Gathering fuel, fruit, and gourds,
And in season reverently offering them.
Keeping the Wonderful Law in my heart,
Body and mind were unwearied;
Universally for all living beings
I diligently sought the Great Law,
Not indeed for my own sake,
Not for the delight of the five desires.
So I, king of a great domain,
By zealous seeking obtained this Law
And as last became a buddha.
Now, therefore, I preach it to you."
The Buddha said to all the bhikshus: "The former king was myself and the sage at that juncture was the present Devadatta himself. Through the good friendship of Devadatta I was enabled to become perfect in the Six Paramitas, in kindness, compassion, joy, and indifference,5 in the thirty-two signs, the eighty kinds of excellence, the deep golden-hued [skin], the ten powers, the four kinds of fearlessness, the four social laws,6 the eighteen special unique characteristics, the transcendent powers of the Way, the attainment of Perfect Enlightenment, and the widespread saving of the living--all this is due to the good friendship of Devadatta. I declare to all you four groups: Devadatta, after his departure and innumerable kalpas have passed, will become a buddha, whose title will be King of the Gods Tathagata, Worshipful, All Wise, Perfectly Enlightened in Conduct, Well Departed, Understander of the World, Peerless Leader, Controller, Teacher of Gods and Men, Buddha, World-honored One, and whose world will be named Divine Way. At that time the Buddha King of Gods shall dwell in the world for twenty intermediate kalpas. He shall widely preach the Wonderful Law for all the living, and living beings [numerous] as the sands of the Ganges will attain arhatship; innumerable beings will devote themselves to pratyekabuddhahood; and living beings [numerous] as the sands of the Ganges, devoting themselves to the supreme Way, will attain to the assurance of no [re]birth7 and reach the [stage] of never falling back [into mortal life]. Then after the parinirvana of the Buddha King of Gods, the Righteous Law will dwell in his world during twenty intermediate kalpas. For his complete body relic, a stupa of the precious seven shall be erected, sixty yojanas in height and forty yojanas in length and width. All the gods and people, with various flowers, sandal powder, incense for burning, perfumed unguents, garments, garlands, banners, flags, jeweled canopies, music, and song, shall respectfully salute and pay homage to the wonderful Stupa of the Precious Seven. Innumerable living beings will attain arhatship; incalculable living creatures will awaken to pratyekabuddhahood; and inconceivable [numbers of] the living will be aroused to Bodhi and reach the [stage] of never falling back [into mortality]."
The Buddha said to the bhikshus: "If there be in a future world any good son or good daughter to hear this Devadatta chapter of the Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra with pure heart and believing reverence, and is free from doubt, such a one shall not fall into the hells or become a hungry spirit or animal, [but shall] be born into the presence of the buddhas of the universe. Wherever he be born he will always hear this sutra; and if he be born amongst men and gods, he will enjoy marvelous delight. As to the Buddha into whose presence [he is born], his birth shall be by emanation from a lotus flower."
Thereupon a bodhisattva-attendant, from a region beneath, of the World-honored One Abundant Treasures, named Wisdom Accumulation, said to the Buddha Abundant Treasures: "Let us return to our own land!" But Shakyamuni Buddha said to Wisdom Accumulation: "Good son! Wait a while! Here is the Bodhisattva Manjushri. [First] meet and discuss with him the Wonderful Law and then return to your own land." Thereupon Manjushri, sitting on a thousand-petal lotus flower as large as a carriage wheel, with the bodhisattvas who accompanied him also sitting on jeweled lotus flowers, unaided sprang up from the great ocean, out of the palace of the Sagara Dragon [King]. Taking up his place in the sky, he advanced to the Divine Vulture Peak, alighted from his lotus flower, went before the Buddha, and reverently made obeisance at the feet of the two World-honored Ones. When he had expressed his reverence he went over to Wisdom Accumulation, and after they had asked after each other's welfare, they withdrew and sat to one side. The Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulation asked Manjushri: "Virtuous sir! Since you went to the dragon palace how many beings have you converted?" Manjushri answered: "Their numbers are immeasurable; they cannot be calculated, nor expressed in words, nor fathomed by the mind. Just wait a moment! One must bring the proof." Before he had finished speaking numberless bodhisattvas sitting on jeweled lotus flowers sprang up from the sea, advanced to the Divine Vulture Peak, and took up their place in the sky. All these bodhisattvas had been converted and saved by Manjushri, had become perfect in bodhisattva-deeds, and together discussed and expounded the Six Paramitas. Those in the sky, who had formerly been shravakas, told of [their former] shravaka-deeds. [But] now they all maintained the spiritual principle of the Great-vehicle. Then said Manjushri to Wisdom Accumulation: "Such has been the result of my course of instruction in the ocean." Then the Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulation extolled him thus in verse:
"Most wise, virtuous, brave, and strong one!
Thou hast converted innumerable beings,
As now this great assembly
And I have all seen.
Expounding the principle of Reality
And revealing the One-vehicle Law,
Extensively hast thou led living beings
To attain with speed Bodhi."
Manjushri replied: "That which I in the midst of the ocean always proclaimed was no other than the Wonderful Law-Flower Sutra." Wisdom Accumulation asked Manjushri: "This sutra is very profound and subtle, the pearl of all the sutras, a rare thing in the world. Is there any being who, diligently and zealously practicing this sutra, can attain speedily buddhahood?" Manjushri replied: "There is the daughter of the Dragon King Sagara, just eight years old, wise and of keen faculties, well acquainted with the karma arising from the roots of action of all creatures, who has obtained dharani, has been able to receive and keep all the most profound and mystic treasuries revealed by buddhas, and has deeply entered into meditations and penetrated into all laws. In a moment of time,8 she resolved on Bodhi and attained nonrelapse [into mortality]. She has unembarrassed powers of argument and a compassionate mind for all the living as if they were [her] children; her merits are complete and the thoughts of her mind and explanations of her mouth are both subtle and great. Kind and compassionate, virtuous and modest, gentle and beautiful in her disposition, she has been able to attain Bodhi."
The Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulation said: "I have seen [how] Shakyamuni Tathagata, during innumerable kalpas, in doing arduous and painful deeds, accumulating merit, and heaping up virtue, sought the Way of Bodhi ceaselessly and without rest. I have observed that in the three-thousand-great-thousandfold world there is not even [a spot] as small as a mustard seed where he has not laid down his body and life as a bodhisattva for the sake of the living; and only after that did he attain Bodhi. It is incredible that this girl, in but a moment, should become perfectly enlightened."
Before he had ceased talking, the daughter of the dragon king suddenly appeared before [them] and after making reverent obeisance [to the Buddha] withdrew to one side, extolling him in verse:
"Profound of insight into sin and blessedness,
He illuminates the universe;
His spiritual body, ethereal and pure,
Has the thirty-two perfect signs;
With the eighty kinds of excellence
Is his spiritual body adorned:
He to whom gods and men look up,
Dragons and spirits pay reverence,
And all species of living beings
Do worship and honor.
That, having heard [the Truth], I attained Bodhi
Only the Buddha may bear witness.
I will reveal the teaching of the Great-vehicle
Which delivers creatures from suffering."
Thereupon Shariputra said to the daughter of the dragon: "You state that in no length of time you attained the supreme Way. This thing is hard to believe. Wherefore? [Because] the body of a women is filthy and not a vessel of the Law. How can she attain supreme Bodhi? The Buddha-way is so vast that only after passing through innumerable kalpas, enduring hardship, accumulating good works, and perfectly practicing the Perfections can it be accomplished. Moreover, a woman by her body still has five hindrances: she cannot become first, king of the Brahma-heaven; second, Shakra; third, a Mara-king; fourth, a holy wheel-rolling king; and fifth, a buddha. How then could a woman's body so speedily become a buddha?"
Now, the dragon's daughter possessed a precious pearl worth a three-thousand-great-thousandfold world, which she held up and presented to the Buddha, and which the Buddha immediately accepted. The dragon's daughter then said to the Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulation and the honored Shariputra: "I have offered my pearl, and the World-honored One has accepted it--was this action speedy?" They answered: "Most speedy." The daughter said: "By your supernatural powers behold me become a buddha even more rapidly than that!"
At that moment the entire congregation saw the dragon's daughter suddenly transformed into a male, perfect in bodhisattva-deeds, who instantly went to the world Spotless in the southern quarter, where [she] sat on a precious lotus flower, attaining Perfect Enlightenment, with the thirty-two signs and the eighty kinds of excellence, and universally proclaiming the Wonderful Law to all living creatures in the universe.
Then the saha-world of bodhisattvas, shravakas, the eight groups of gods and dragons, and human and nonhuman beings, all from afar beholding the dragon's daughter become a buddha and universally preach the Law to gods, men, [and others] amongst that congregation, all rejoiced greatly and made reverent salutation from afar. The countless multitude, on hearing [her preach] the Law, were aroused to apprehension and attained never sliding back [into mortality]. The countless multitude also received their prediction of the [perfect] Way. The world Spotless made the sixfold movement. Three thousand living beings in the saha-world took up their abode in the stage of never returning [to mortality], while three thousand living beings set their minds on Bodhi and obtained their prediction [of attaining it].
The Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulation and Shariputra and all the congregation silently believed.*
This can also be translated as "gods, men, [and] the four groups"--monks, nuns, and male and female lay devotees.
Literally, "the pleasures of the five desires."
kindness or benevolence; karuna,
joy; and upeksha,
indifference, or the state of absolute indifference attained by renouncing any exercise of the mental faculties. These four are termed the four kinds of infinite mind or infinite virtues.
The four guiding rules for human society: almsgiving, kind speech, helpful conduct, and mutual service.
Literally, "the patience of no [re]birth," interpreted as the assurance of no (re)birth. This is the stage at which a bodhisattva has transcended life and death.
an instantaneous point of time.
The extant Sanskrit text, two other Chinese translations, and the Tibetan version of the Lotus Sutra include the Devadatta section of the text in chapter 11. Kumarajiva's version divides chapter 11 into two parts, making a new chapter, the twelfth, begin here with the title "Devadatta." Some have asserted that Kumarajiva did not translate this chapter, and it is said not to have been included in his Chinese text for some time. But Chih-i, founder of the T'ien-t'ai sect, supported the opposite view, saying that he had seen an old original copy of Kumarajiva's translation containing the translation of this portion.
Devadatta, "gift of the devas," was one of Shakyamuni's cousins but became his rival and enemy. He is said to have fallen into hell because he committed the five worst sins. That the Buddha in this chapter predicts that Devadatta will become a buddha indicates that all beings, however evil, can become buddhas. In addition, in the latter half of this chapter it is also proclaimed that the daughter of a dragon king will become a buddha, indicating that all women can also attain buddhahood. Generally speaking, apart from this sutra Buddhism does not recognize that women can become buddhas. Thus two great doctrines, the possibility of the worst men and also of women attaining buddhahood, are taught in this chapter.