At that time the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Medicine King and the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Great Eloquence, with their retinue of twenty thousand bodhisattvas, all in the presence of the Buddha, made this vow, saying: "Be pleased, World-honored One, to be without anxiety! After the extinction of the Buddha we will keep, read, recite, and preach this sutra. In the evil age to come living beings will decrease in good qualities, while they will increase in utter arrogance [and] in covetousness of gain and honors, [and will] develop their evil qualities and be far removed from emancipation. Though it may be difficult to teach and convert them, we, arousing our utmost patience, will read and recite this sutra, keep, preach, and copy it, pay every kind of homage to it, and spare not our body and life."
Thereupon the five hundred arhats in the assembly, whose future had been predicted, addressed the Buddha, saying: "World-honored One! We also vow to publish abroad this sutra in other lands." Again the eight thousand arhats, training and trained, whose future had been predicted, rising up from their seats and folding their hands toward the Buddha, made this vow, saying: "World-honored One! We also will publish abroad this sutra in other lands. Wherefore? Because in this saha-world men abound in wickedness, cherish the utmost arrogance, [and] are of shallow virtue, defiled with hatreds, crooked with suspicions, and insincere in mind."
Then the sister of the Buddha's mother, the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati, with six thousand bhikshunis, training and trained, rose up from their seats, with one mind folded their hands, [and] gazed up to the honored face without removing their eyes for a moment. Then the World-honored One addressed the Gautami:1 "Why, with sad countenance, do you gaze at the Tathagata? Are you not thinking to say that I have not mentioned your name and predicted for you Perfect Enlightenment? Gautami! I have already inclusively announced that [the future of] all shravakas is predicted. Now you, who desire to know your future destiny, shall, in the world to come, become a great teacher of the Law in the laws of the sixty-eight thousand kotis of buddhas,2 and these six thousand bhikshunis, training and trained, will all become teachers of the Law. Thus you will gradually become perfect in the bodhisattva-way and will become a buddha entitled Loveliness 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. Gautami! This Buddha Loveliness and the six thousand bodhisattvas will in turn be predicted to [attain] Perfect Enlightenment."
Thereupon the mother of Rahula, the Bhikshuni Yashodhara, reflected thus: "The World-honored One in his predictions has left my name alone unmentioned." [Then] the Buddha said to Yashodhara: "You, in the laws of the hundred thousand myriads of kotis of buddhas in the world to come, by your doing of bodhisattva-deeds shall become a great teacher of the Law, gradually become perfect in the Buddha-way, and in the domain Good become a buddha entitled The Perfect Myriad-rayed 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. The lifetime of that buddha will be innumerable asamkhyeya kalpas."
Then the Bhikshuni Mahaprajapati and the Bhikshuni Yashodhara, together with all their retinue, all rejoiced greatly, having obtained [such] unprecedented [felicity], and immediately before the Buddha spoke thus in verse:
Comforter of gods and men!
We, hearing thy prediction,
Have perfect peace in our hearts."
After uttering this verse the bhikshunis spoke to the Buddha, saying: "World-honored One! We also are able to publish abroad this sutra in lands in other regions."
Thereupon the World-honored One looked upon the eighty myriads of kotis of nayutas of bodhisattva-mahasattvas. All these bodhisattvas were of [the stage] avaivartika, who rolled the never-retreating Law-wheel and had attained to the dharanis. Immediately they rose from their seats, went before the Buddha, with one mind folded their hands, and reflected thus: "If the World-honored One commands us to keep and expound this sutra, we will proclaim abroad this Law as the Buddha has taught it." Again they reflected thus: "The Buddha now is silent; we are not commanded; what shall we do?"
Then these bodhisattvas, respectfully obeying the Buddha's will and themselves desiring to fulfill their original vow, before the Buddha raised a lion's roar and uttered a vow, saying: "World-honored One! After the extinction of the Tathagata we will compass and travel through the worlds in all directions, in order to lead all the living to copy this sutra, receive and keep, read and recite it, expound its meaning, practice it as their law, and rightly keep it in mind, all by the Buddha's might. Be pleased, World-honored One, [though] in another quarter, to behold and guard us from afar!"
Then the bodhisattvas all together unanimously raised their voices, speaking thus in verse:
"Be pleased to be without anxiety!
After the Buddha's extinction,
In the [last] dreadful evil age,
We will proclaim abroad [this sutra].
Though in their ignorance many
Will curse and abuse us
And beat us with swords and staves,
We will endure it all.
Bhikshus in that evil age will be
Heretical, suspicious, warped,
Claiming to have attained when they have not,
And with minds full of arrogance.
Others in the aranya
Will wear patched garments3 in seclusion,
Pretending that they walk the true path
And scorning [other] people;
Greedily attached to gain,
They will preach the Law to laymen
And be revered by the world
As arhats of the six transcendent [powers];
These men, cherishing evil minds,
Ever thinking of earthly things,
Assuming the name of aranyas,
Will love to calumniate us,
Saying such things of us as
'All these bhikshus,
From love of gain,
Preach heretical doctrine;
They have themselves composed this sutra
To delude the people of the world;
For the sake of acquiring fame,
They make a specialty of this sutra.'
Always in the assemblies,
In order to ruin us,
To kings and ministers,
To Brahmans and citizens,
And to the other groups of bhikshus,
They will slanderously speak evil of us,
Saying: 'These are men of false views,
Who proclaim heretical doctrines.'
But we, from reverence for the Buddha,
Will endure all these evils.
By these contemptuously addressed as
'All you buddhas!'--
Even such scorn and arrogance
We will patiently endure.
In the evil age of the corrupt kalpa,
Abounding in fear and dread,
Devils will take possession of them
To curse, abuse, and insult us.
But we, revering and believing in the Buddha,
Will wear the armor of perseverance;
For the sake of preaching this sutra
We will endure all these hard things.
We will not love body and life,
But only care for the supreme Way.
We will, throughout all ages to come,
Guard what the Buddha bequeaths.
World-honored One! Thou knowest that,
In the corrupt age, vicious bhikshus,
Knowing not the laws so tactfully preached
As opportunity served by the Buddha,
Will abuse and frown upon us;
Repeatedly shall we be driven out,
And exiled afar from the monasteries.
Such evils will be our ills
For remembering the Buddha's command,
But [we] will endure all these things.
Wherever in villages and cities
There be those who seek after the Law,
We will all go there and
Preach the Law bequeathed by the Buddha.
We are the World-honored One's apostles
And, amidst a multitude having nothing to fear,
Will rightly preach the Law.
Be pleased, O Buddha, to abide in peace.
In the presence of the World-honored One
And the buddhas come from all directions,
We thus make our vow,
And the Buddha knows our hearts."*
Gautami is the general term for women of the Shakya clan, while Gautama is that for men. Here she is styled Gautami in the sense of "Lady."
Literally, this seems to mean: "You shall, in the sixty-eight thousand kotis of Buddha-laws, be a great Law-teacher."
Monk's garments made of patches.
The title of this chapter can also be translated "Exhortation to Firmness." Some copies have only "Firmness." In this chapter two themes are presented: first, the vow of the twenty thousand bodhisattvas to propagate this sutra, according to the Buddha's command; and second, the exhortation to propagate this sutra by which the eighty myriad kotis of nayutas of bodhisattvas are encouraged.