VIMALAKIRTI NIRDESA SUTRA
Robert A. F. Thurman
copyright 1976, The Pennsylvania State University
Chapter 1 :
Purification of the Buddha-Field
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
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
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
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.
These bodhisattvas were named: Samadarsana, Asamadarsana,
Samadhivikurvitaraja, harmesvara, Dharmaketu, Prabhaketu, Prabhavyuha, Ratnavyuha,
Mahavyuha, Pratibhanakuta, Ratnakuta, Ratnapani, Ratnamudrahasta, Nityapralambahasta,
Nityotksipthasta, Nityatapta, Nityamuditendriya, Pramodyaraja, Devaraja,
Pranidhanapravesaprapta, Prasiddhapratisamvitprapta, Gaganaganja, Ratnolkaparigrhita,
Ratnasura, Ratnapriya, Ratnasri, Indrajala, Jaliniprabha, Niralambanadhyana, Prajnakuta,
Ratnadatta, Marapramardaka, Vidyuddeva, Vikurvanaraja, Kutanimittasamatikranta,
Simhanadanadin, Giryagrapramardiraja, Gandhahastin, Gandhakunjaranaga, Nityodyukta,
Aniksiptadhura, Pramati, Sujata, Padmasrigarbha, Padmavyuha, Avalokitesvara,
Mahasthamaprapta, Brahmajala, Ratnadandin, Marakarmavijeta, Ksetrasamalamkara,
Maniratnacchattra, Suvarnacuda, Manicuda, Maitreya, Manjusrikumarabhuta, and so forth,
with the remainderof the thirty-two thousand.
There were also gathered there ten thousand Brahmas, at their head
Brahma Sikhin, who had come from theAsoka universe with its four sectors to see, venerate,
and serve the Buddha and to hear the Dharma from hisown mouth. There were twelve thousand
Sakras, from various four-sector universes. And there were otherpowerful gods: Brahmas,
Sakras, Lokapalas, devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, and
mahoragas. Finally, there was the fourfold community, consisting of bhikshus, bhikshunis,
laymen, and laywomen.
The Lord Buddha, thus surrounded and venerated by these multitudes of
many hundreds of thousands of living beings, sat upon a majestic lion-throne and began to
teach the Dharma. Dominating all the multitudes, just as Sumeru, the king of mountains,
looms high over the oceans, the Lord Buddha shone, radiated, and glittered as he sat upon
his magnificent lion-throne.
Thereupon, the Licchavi bodhisattva Ratnakara, with five hundred
Licchavi youths, each holding a precious parasol made of seven different kinds of jewels,
came forth from the city of Vaisali and presented himself at the grove of Amrapali. Each
approached the Buddha, bowed at his feet, circumambulated him clockwise seven times, laid
down his precious parasol in offering, and withdrew to one side.
As soon as all these precious parasols had been laid down, suddenly, by
the miraculous power of the Lord, they were transformed into a single precious canopy so
great that it formed a covering for this entire billion-world galaxy. The surface of the
entire billion-world galaxy was reflected in the interior of the great precious canopy,
where the total content of this galaxy could be seen: limitless mansions of suns, moons,
and stellar bodies; the realms of the devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas,
kimnaras, and mahoragas, as well as the realms of the four Maharajas; the king of
mountains, Mound Sumeru; Mount Himadri, Mount Mucilinda, Mount
Mahamucilinda, Mount Gandhamadana, Mount Ratnaparvata, Mount
Kalaparvata, Mount Cakravada, Mount Mahacakravada; all the great oceans, rivers, bays
torrents, streams, brooks, and springs; finally, all the villages, suburbs, cities,
capitals, provinces, and wildernesses. All this could be clearly seen by everyone. And
the voices of all the Buddhas of the ten directions could be heard
proclaiming their teachings of the Dharma in all the worlds, the sounds reverberating in
the space beneath the great precious canopy.
At this vision of the magnificent miracle effected by the supernatural
power of the Lord Buddha, the entire host was ecstatic, enraptured, astonished, delighted,
satisfied, and filled with awe and pleasure. They all bowed down to the Tathagata,
withdrew to one side with palms pressed together, and gazed upon him with fixed attention.
The young Licchavi Ratnakara knelt with his right knee on the ground, raised his hands,
palms pressed together in salute of the Buddha, and praised him with the following hymn.
Pure are your eyes, broad and beautiful, like the petals of a blue
Pure is your thought, having discovered the supreme transcendence of
Immeasurable is the ocean of your virtues, the accumulation of your
You affirm the path of peace.
Oh, Great Ascetic, obeisance to you!
Leader, bull of men, we behold the revelation of your miracle.
The superb and radiant fields of the Sugatas appear before us,
And your extensive spiritual teachings, that lead to immortality
Make themselves heard throughout the whole reach of space.
Dharma-King, you rule with the Dharma your supreme Dharma-kingdom,
And thereby bestow the treasures of the Dharma upon all living beings.
Expert in the deep analysis of things, you teach their ultimate
Sovereign Lord of Dharma, obeisance to you.
All these things arise dependently, from causes,
Yet they are neither existent nor nonexistent.
Therein is neither ego, nor experiencer, nor doer,
Yet no action, good or evil, loses its effects.
Such is your teaching.
O Sakyamuni, conquering the powerful host of Mara,
You found peace, immortality, and the happiness of that supreme
Which is not realized by any among the heterodox,
Though they arrest their feeling, thought and mental processes.
O Wonderful King of Dharma,
You turned the wheel of Dharma before men and gods,
With its threefold revolution, its manifold aspects,
Its purity of nature, and its extreme peace;
And thereby the Three Jewels were revealed.
Those who are well disciplined by your precious Dharma
Are free of vain imaginings and always deeply peaceful.
Supreme doctor, you put an end to birth, decay, sickness, and death.
Immeasurable ocean of virtue, obeisance to you!
Like Mount Sumeru, you are unmoved by honor or scorn.
You love moral beings and immoral beings equally.
Poised in equanimity, your mind is like the sky.
Who would not honor such a precious jewel of a being?
Great Sage, in all these multitudes gathered here,
Who look upon your countenance with hearts sincere in faith,
Each being beholds the Victor, as if just before him.
This is a special quality of the Buddha.
Although the Lord speaks with but one voice,
Those present perceive that same voice differently,
And each understands in his own language according to his own needs.
This is a special quality of the Buddha.
From the Leader's act of speaking in a single voice,
Some merely develop an instinct for the teaching, some gain
Some find pacification of all their doubts.
This is a special quality of the Buddha.
Obeisance to you who command the force of leadership and the ten
Obeisance to you who are dauntless, knowing no fear!
Obeisance to you, leader of all living beings,
Who fully manifests the special qualities!
Obeisance to you who have cut the bondage of all fetters!
Obeisance to you who, having gone beyond, stand on firm ground!
Obeisance to you who save the suffering beings!
Obeisance to you who do not remain in the migrations!
You associate with living beings by frequenting their migrations.
Yet your mind is liberated from all migrations.
Just as the lotus, born of mud, is not tainted thereby,
So the lotus of the Buddha preserves the realization of voidness.
You nullify all signs in all things everywhere.
You are not subject to any wish for anything at all.
The miraculous power of the Buddhas is inconceivable.
I bow to you, who stand nowhere, like infinite space.
Then, the young Licchavi Ratnakara, having celebrated the Buddha with
these verses, further addressed him:
"Lord, these five hundred young Licchavis are truly on their way
to unexcelled, perfect enlightenment, and they have asked what is the bodhisattvas'
purification of the buddha-field. Please, Lord, explain to them the bodhisattvas'
purification of the buddha-field!"
Upon this request, the Buddha gave his approval to the young Licchavi
Ratnakara: "Good, good, young man!
Your question to the Tathagata about the purification of the
buddha-field is indeed good. Therefore, young man, listen well and remember! I will
explain to you the purification of the buddha-field of the bodhisattvas."
"Very good, Lord," replied Ratnakara and the five hundred
young Licchavis, and they set themselves to listen.
The Buddha said, "Noble sons, a buddha-field of bodhisattvas is a
field of living beings. Why so? A bodhisattva embraces a buddha-field to the same extent
that he causes the development of living beings. He embraces a buddha-field to the same
extent that living beings become disciplined. He embraces a buddha-field to the same
extent that, through entrance into a buddha-field, living beings are introduced to the
buddha-gnosis. He embraces a buddha-field to the same extent that, through entrance into
that buddha-field, living beings increase their holy spiritual faculties. Why so? Noble
son, a buddha-field of bodhisattvas springs from the aims of living beings.
"For example, Ratnakara, should one wish to build in empty space,
one might go ahead in spite of the fact that it is not possible to build or to adorn
anything in empty space. In just the same way, should a bodhisattva, who knows full well
that all things are like empty space, wish to build a buddha-field in order to develop
living beings, he might go ahead, in spite of the fact that it is not possible to build or
to adorn a buddha-field in empty space.
"Yet, Ratnakara, a bodhisattva's buddha-field is a field of
positive thought. When he attains enlightenment, living beings free of hypocrisy and
deceit will be born in his buddha-field.
"Noble son, a bodhisattva's buddha-field is a field of high
resolve. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who have harvested the two stores
and have planted the roots of virtue will be born in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is a field of virtuous application.
When he attains enlightenment living beings who live by all virtuous principles will be
born in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is the magnificence of the
conception of the spirit of enlightenment. When he attains enlightenment, living beings
who are actually participating in the Mahayana will be born in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is a field of generosity. When he
attains enlightenment, living beings who give away all their possessions will be born in
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is a field of tolerance. When he
attains enlightenment, living beings with the transcendences of tolerance, discipline, and
the superior trance - hence beautiful with the thirty-two auspicious signs - will be born
in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is a field of meditation. When he
attains enlightenment, living beings who are evenly balanced through mindfulness and
awareness will be born in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is a field of wisdom. When he
attains enlightenment, living beings who are destined for the ultimate will be born in his
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field consists of the four immeasurables.
When he attains enlightenment, living beings who live by love, compassion, joy, and
impartiality will be born in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field consists of the four means of
unification. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who are held together by all the
liberations will be born in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is skill in liberative technique.
When he attains enlightenment, living beings skilled in all liberative
techniques and activities will be born in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field consists of the thirty-seven aids to
enlightenment. Living beings who devote their efforts to the four foci of mindfulness, the
four right efforts, the four bases of magical power, the five spiritual faculties, the
five strengths, the seven factors of enlightenment, and the eight branches of the holy
path will be born in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is his mind of total dedication.
When he attains enlightenment, the ornaments of all virtues will appear in his
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is the doctrine that eradicates the
eight adversities. When he attains
enlightenment, the three bad migrations will cease, and there will be
no such thing as the eight adversities in his buddha-field.
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field consists of his personal observance
of the basic precepts and his restraint in blaming others for their transgressions. When
he attains enlightenment, even the word 'crime' will never be mentioned in his
"A bodhisattva's buddha-field is the purity of the path of the ten
virtues. When he attains enlightenment, living beings who are secure in long life, great
in wealth, chaste in conduct, enhanced by true speech, soft-spoken, free of divisive
intrigues and adroit in reconciling factions, enlightening in their conversations, free of
envy, free of malice, and endowed with perfect views will be born in his buddha-field.
"Thus, noble son, just as is the bodhisattva's production of the
spirit of enlightenment, so is his positive thought. And just as is his positive thought,
so is his virtuous application.
"His virtuous application is tantamount to his high resolve, his
high resolve is tantamount to his determination, his determination is tantamount to his
practice, his practice is tantamount to his total dedication, his total
dedication is tantamount to his liberative technique, his liberative
technique is tantamount to his development of living beings, and his development of living
beings is tantamount to the purity of his buddha-field.
"The purity of his buddha-field reflects the purity of living
beings; the purity of the living beings reflects the purity of his gnosis; the purity of
his gnosis reflects the purity of his doctrine; the purity of his doctrine reflects the
purity of his transcendental practice; and the purity of his transcendental practice
reflects the purity of his own mind."
Thereupon, magically influenced by the Buddha, the venerable Sariputra
had this thought: "If the buddha-field is pure only to the extent that the mind of
the bodhisattva is pure, then, when Sakyamuni Buddha was engaged in the career of the
bodhisattva, his mind must have been impure. Otherwise, how could this buddha-field appear
to be so impure?"
The Buddha, knowing telepathically the thought of venerable Sariputra,
said to him, "What do you think, Sariputra? Is it because the sun and moon are impure
that those blind from birth do not see them?"
Sariputra replied, "No, Lord. It is not so. The fault lies with
those blind from birth, and not with the sun and moon."
The Buddha declared, "In the same way, Sariputra, the fact that
some living beings do not behold the splendid display of virtues of the buddha-field of
the Tathagata is due to their own ignorance. It is not the fault of the Tathagata.
Sariputra, the buddha-field of the Tathagata is pure, but you do not see it."
Then the Brahma Sikhin said to the venerable Sariputra, "Reverend
Sariputra, do not say that the buddha-field of the Tathagata is impure. Reverend
Sariputra, the buddha-field of the Tathagata is pure. I see the splendid expanse of the
buddha-field of the Lord Sakyamuni as equal to the splendor of, for example, the abodes of
the highest deities."
Then the venerable Sariputra said to the Brahma Sikhin, "As for
me, O Brahma, I see this great earth, with its highs and lows, its thorns, its precipices,
its peaks, and its abysses, as if it were entirely filled with ordure."
Brahma Sikhin replied, "The fact that you see such a buddha-field
as this as if it were so impure, reverend Sariputra, is a sure sign that there are highs
and lows in your mind and that your positive thought in regard to the buddha-gnosis is not
pure either. Reverend Sariputra, those whose minds are impartial toward all living beings
and whose positive thoughts toward the buddha-gnosis are pure see this buddha-field as
Thereupon the Lord touched the ground of this billion-world-galactic
universe with his big toe, and suddenly it was transformed into a huge mass of precious
jewels, a magnificent array of many hundreds of thousands of clusters of precious gems,
until it resembled the universe of the Tathagata Ratnavyuha, called
Anantagunaratnavyuha. Everyone in the entire assembly was filled with
wonder, each perceiving himself seated on a throne of jeweled lotuses.
Then, the Buddha said to the venerable Sariputra, "Sariputra, do
you see this splendor of the virtues of the buddha-field?"
Sariputra replied, "I see it, Lord! Here before me is a display of
splendor such as I never before heard of or beheld!"
The Buddha said, "Sariputra, this buddha-field is always thus
pure, but the Tathagata makes it appear to be spoiled by many faults, in order to bring
about the maturity of the inferior living beings. For example, Sariputra, the gods of the
Trayastrimsa heaven all take their food from a single precious vessel, yet the nectar
which nourishes each one differs according to the differences of the merits each has
accumulated. Just so, Sariputra, living beings born in the same buddha-field see the
splendor of the virtues of the buddha-fields of the Buddhas according to their own degrees
When this splendor of the beauty of the virtues of the buddha-field
shone forth, eighty-four thousand beings conceived the spirit of unexcelled perfect
enlightenment, and the five hundred Licchavi youths who had accompanied the young Licchavi
Ratnakara all attained the conformative tolerance of ultimate birthlessness.
Then, the Lord withdrew his miraculous power and at once the
buddha-field was restored to its usual appearance. Then, both men and gods who subscribed
to the disciple-vehicle thought, "Alas! All constructed things are impermanent."
Thereby, thirty-two thousand living beings purified their immaculate,
undistorted Dharma-eye in regard to all things. The eight thousand bhikshus were liberated
from their mental defilements, attaining the state of nongrasping. And the eighty-four
thousand living beings who were devoted to the grandeur of the buddha-field, having
understood that all things are by nature but magical creations, all conceived in their own
minds the spirit of unexcelled, totally perfect enlightenment.
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