VIMALAKIRTI NIRDESA SUTRA
Robert A. F. Thurman
copyright 1976, The Pennsylvania State University
Chapter 10 :
The Feast Brought by the Emanated Incarnation
Thereupon, the venerable Sariputra thought to himself, "If these
great bodhisattvas do not adjourn before noontime, when are they going to eat?"
The Licchavi Vimalakirti, knowing telepathically the thought of the
venerable Sariputra, spoke to him:
"Reverend Sariputra, the Tathagata has taught the eight
liberations. You should concentrate on those liberations, listening to the Dharma with a
mind free of preoccupations with material things. Just wait a minute, reverend Sariputra,
and you will eat such food as you have never before tasted."
Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti set himself in such a concentration and
performed such a miraculous feat that those bodhisattvas and those great disciples were
enabled to see the universe called Sarvagandhasugandha,
which is located in the direction of the zenith, beyond as many
buddha-fields as there are sands in forty-two Ganges rivers. There the Tathagata named
Sugandhakuta resides, lives, and is manifest. In that universe, the trees emit a fragrance
that far surpasses all the fragrances, human and divine, of all the buddha-fields of the
ten directions. In that universe, even the names "disciple" and "solitary
sage" do not exist, and the Tathagata Sugandhakuta teaches the Dharma to a gathering
of bodhisattvas only. In that universe, all the houses, the avenues, the parks, and the
palaces are made of various perfumes, and the fragrance of the food eaten by those
bodhisattvas pervades immeasurable universes.
At this time, the Tathagata Sugandhakuta sat down with his bodhisattvas
to take his meal, and the deities called Gandhavyuhahara, who were all devoted to the
Mahayana, served and attended upon the Buddha and his bodhisattvas. Everyone in the
gathering at the house of Vimalakirti was able to see distinctly this universe wherein the
Tathagata Sugandhakuta and his bodhisattvas were taking their meal.
The Licchavi Vimalakirti addressed the whole gathering of bodhisattvas:
"Good sirs, is there any among you who would like to go to that buddha-field to bring
back some food?"
But, restrained by the supernatural power of Manjusri, none of them
volunteered to go.
The Licchavi Vimalakirti said to crown prince Manjusri, "Manjusri,
are you not ashamed of such a
Manjusri replied, "Noble sir, did not the Tathagata declare,
'Those who are unlearned should not be despised'?"
Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti, without rising from his couch,
magically emanated an incarnation-bodhisattva, whose body was of golden color, adorned
with the auspicious signs and marks, and of such an appearance that he outshone the whole
assembly. The Licchavi Vimalakirti addressed that incarnated bodhisattva: "Noble son,
go in the direction of the zenith and when you have crossed as many buddha-fields as there
are sands in forty-two
Ganges rivers, you will reach a universe called Sarvagandhasugandha,
where you will find the Tathagata Sugandhakuta taking his meal. Go to him and, having
bowed down at his feet, make the following request of him:
"'The Licchavi Vimalakirti bows down one hundred thousand times at
your feet, O Lord, and asks after your health - if you have but little trouble, little
discomfort, little unrest; if you are strong, well, without complaint, and living in touch
with supreme happiness.'
"Having thus asked after his health, you should request of him
'Vimalakirti asks the Lord to give me the remains of your meal, with which he will
accomplish the buddha-work in the universe called Saha. Thus, those living beings with
inferior aspirations will be inspired with lofty aspirations, and the good name of the
Tathagata will be celebrated far and wide."
At that, the incarnated bodhisattva said, "Very good!" to the
Licchavi Vimalakirti and obeyed his instructions.
In sight of all the bodhisattvas, he turned his face upward and was
gone, and they saw him no more. When he reached the universe Sarvagandhasugandha, he bowed
down at the feet of the Tathagata Sugandhakuta and said,
"Lord, the bodhisattva Vimalakirti, bowing down at the feet of the
Lord, greets the Lord, saying: 'Do you have little trouble, little discomfort, and little
unrest? Are you strong, well, without complaint, and living in touch with the supreme
happiness?' He then requests, having bowed down one hundred thousand times at the feet of
the Lord: 'May the Lord be gracious and give to me the remains of his meal in order to
accomplish the buddha-work in the universe called Saha. Then, those living beings who
aspire to inferior ways may gain the
intelligence to aspire to the great Dharma of the Buddha, and the name
of the Buddha will be celebrated far and wide.'"
At that the bodhisattvas of the buddha-field of the Tathagata
Sugandhakuta were astonished and asked the Tathagata Sugandhakuta, "Lord, where is
there such a great being as this? Where is the universe Saha? What does he mean by 'those
who aspire to inferior ways'?"
Having thus been questioned by those bodhisattvas, the Tathagata
Sugandhakuta said, "Noble sons, the universe Saha exists beyond as many buddha-fields
in the direction of the nadir as there are sands in forty-two Ganges rivers. There the
Tathagata Sakyamuni teaches the Dharma to living beings who aspire to the inferior ways,
in that buddha-field tainted with five corruptions. There the bodhisattva Vimalakirti, who
lives in the inconceivable liberation, teaches the Dharma to the bodhisattvas. He sends
this incarnation-bodhisattva here in order to celebrate my name, in order to show the
advantages of this universe, and in order to increase the roots of virtue of those
The bodhisattvas exclaimed, "How great must that bodhisattva be
himself if his magical incarnation is thus endowed with supernatural power, strength, and
The Tathagata said, "The greatness of that bodhisattva is such
that he sends magical incarnations to all the buddha-fields of the ten directions, and all
these incarnations accomplish the buddha-work for all the living beings in all those
Then, the Tathagata Sugandhakuta poured some of his food, impregnated
with all perfumes, into a fragrant vessel and gave it to the incarnation-bodhisattva. And
the ninety million bodhisattvas of that universe volunteered to go along with him:
"Lord, we also would like to go to that universe Saha, to see, honor, and serve the
Buddha Sakyamuni and to see Vimalakirti and those bodhisattvas."
The Tathagata declared, "Noble sons, go ahead if you think it is
the right time. But, lest those living beings become mad and intoxicated, go without your
perfumes. And, lest those living beings of the Saha world become jealous of you, change
your bodies to hide your beauty. And do not conceive ideas of contempt and aversion for
that universe. Why? Noble sons, a buddha-field is a field of pure space, but the Lord
Buddhas, in order to develop living beings, do not reveal all at once the pure realm of
Then the incarnation-bodhisattva took the food and departed with the
ninety million bodhisattvas and by the power of the Buddha and the supernatural operation
of Vimalakirti, disappeared from that universe Sarvagandhasugandha and stood again in the
house of Vimalakirti in a fraction of a second. The Licchavi Vimalakirti created ninety
million lion-thrones exactly like those already there, and the bodhisattvas were seated.
Then, the incarnation-bodhisattva gave the vessel full of food to
Vimalakirti, and the fragrance of that food permeated the entire great city of Vaisali and
its sweet perfume spread throughout one hundred universes.
Within the city of Vaisali, the brahmans, householders, and even the
Licchavi chieftain Candracchattra, having noticed this fragrance, were amazed and filled
with wonder. They were so cleansed in body and mind that they came at once to the house of
Vimalakirti, along with all eighty-four thousand of the Licchavis.
Seeing there the bodhisattvas seated on the high, wide, and beautiful
lion-thrones, they were filled with admiration and great joy. They all bowed down to those
great disciples and bodhisattvas and then sat down to one side. And the gods of the earth,
the gods of the desire-world, and the gods of the material world, attracted by the
perfume, also came to the house of Vimalakirti.
Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti spoke to the elder Sariputra and the
great disciples: "Reverends, eat of the food of the Tathagata! It is ambrosia
perfumed by the great compassion. But do not fix your minds in narrow-minded attitudes,
lest you be unable to receive its gift."
But some of the disciples had already had the thought: "How can
such a huge multitude eat such a small amount of food?"
Then the incarnation-bodhisattva said to those disciples, "Do not
compare, venerable ones, your own wisdom and merits with the wisdom and the merits of the
Tathagata! Why? For example, the four great oceans might dry up, but this food would never
be exhausted. If all living beings were to eat for an aeon an amount of this food equal to
Mount Sumeru in size, it would not be depleted. Why? Issued from inexhaustible morality,
concentration, and wisdom, the remains of the food of the Tathagata contained in this
vessel cannot be exhausted."
Indeed, the entire gathering was satisfied by that food, and the food
was not at all depleted. Having eaten that food, there arose in the bodies of those
bodhisattvas, disciples, Sakras, Brahmas, Lokapalas, and other living
beings, a bliss just like the bliss of the bodhisattvas of the universe
Sarvasukhamandita. And from all the pores of their skin arose a perfume like that of the
trees that grow in the universe Sarvagandhasugandha.
Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti knowingly addressed those bodhisattvas
who had come from the buddha-field of the Lord Tathagata Sugandhakuta: "Noble sirs,
how does the Tathagata Sugandhakuta teach his Dharma?"
They replied, "The Tathagata does not teach the Dharma by means of
sound and language. He disciplines the bodhisattvas only by means of perfumes. At the foot
of each perfume-tree sits a bodhisattva, and the trees emit perfumes like this one. From
the moment they smell that perfume, the bodhisattvas attain the concentration called
'source of all bodhisattva-virtues.' From the moment they attain that concentration, all
the bodhisattva-virtues are produced in
Those bodhisattvas then asked the Licchavi Vimalakirti, "How does
the Buddha Sakyamuni teach the Dharma?"
Vimalakirti replied, "Good sirs, these living beings here are hard
to discipline. Therefore, he teaches them with discourses appropriate for the disciplining
of the wild and uncivilized. How does he discipline the wild and uncivilized? What
discourses are appropriate? Here they are:
"'This is hell. This is the animal world. This is the world of the
lord of death. These are the adversities. These are the rebirths with crippled faculties.
These are physical misdeeds, and these are the retributions for physical misdeeds. These
are verbal misdeeds, and these are the retributions for verbal misdeeds. These are mental
misdeeds, and these are the retributions for mental misdeeds. This is killing. This is
stealing. This is sexual misconduct. This is lying. This is backbiting. This is harsh
speech. This is frivolous speech. This is covetousness. This is malice. This is false
view. These are their retributions. This is miserliness, and this is its effect. This is
immorality. This is hatred. This is sloth. This is the fruit of sloth. This is false
wisdom and this is the fruit of false wisdom. These are the transgressions of the
precepts. This is the vow of personal liberation.
This should be done and that should not be done. This is proper and
that should be abandoned. This is an obscuration and that is without obscuration. This is
sin and that rises above sin. This is the path and that is the wrong path. This is virtue
and that is evil. This is blameworthy and that is blameless. This is defiled and that is
immaculate. This is mundane and that is transcendental. This is compounded and that is
uncompounded. This is passion and that is purification. This is life and that is
"Thus, by means of these varied explanations of the Dharma, the
Buddha trains the minds of those living beings who are just like wild horses. Just as wild
horses or wild elephants will not be tamed unless the goad pierces them to the marrow, so
living beings who are wild and hard to civilize are disciplined only by means of
discourses about all kinds of miseries."
The bodhisattvas said, "Thus is established the greatness of the
Buddha Sakyamuni! It is marvelous how, concealing his miraculous power, he civilizes the
wild living beings who are poor and inferior. And the bodhisattvas who settle in a
buddha-field of such intense hardships must have inconceivably great compassion!"
The Licchavi Vimalakirti declared, "So be it, good sirs! It is as
you say. The great compassion of the bodhisattvas who reincarnate here is extremely firm.
In a single lifetime in this universe, they accomplish much benefit for living beings. So
much benefit for living beings could not be accomplished in the universe
Sarvagandhasugandha even in one hundred thousand aeons. Why? Good sirs, in this Saha
universe, there are ten virtuous practices which do not exist in any other buddha-field.
What are these ten? Here they are: to win the poor by generosity; to win the immoral by
morality; to win the hateful by means of tolerance; to win the lazy by means of effort; to
win the mentally troubled by means of concentration; to win the falsely wise by means of
true wisdom; to show those suffering from the eight adversities how to
rise above them; to teach the Mahayana to those of narrow-minded behavior; to win those
who have not produced the roots of virtue by means of the roots of virtue; and to develop
living beings without interruption through the four means of unification. Those who engage
in these ten virtuous practices do not exist in any other buddha-field."
Again the bodhisattvas asked, "How many qualities must a
bodhisattva have, to go safe and sound to a pure buddha-field after he transmigrates at
death away from this Saha universe?"
Vimalakirti replied, "After he transmigrates at death away from
this Saha universe, a bodhisattva must have eight qualities to reach a pure buddha-field
safe and sound. What are the eight? He must resolve to himself: 'I must benefit all living
beings, without seeking even the slightest benefit for myself. I must bear all the
miseries of all living beings and give all my accumulated roots of virtue to all living
beings. I must have no resentment toward any living being. I must rejoice in all
bodhisattvas as if they were the Teacher. I must not neglect any teachings, whether or not
I have heard them before. I must control my mind, without coveting the gains of others,
and without taking pride in gains of my own. I must examine my own faults and not blame
others for their faults. I must take pleasure in being consciously aware and must truly
undertake all virtues.'
"If a bodhisattva has these eight qualities, when he transmigrates
at death away from the Saha universe, he will go safe and sound to a pure
When the Licchavi Vimalakirti and the crown prince Manjusri had thus
taught the Dharma to the multitude gathered there, one hundred thousand living beings
conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment, and ten thousand bodhisattvas
attained the tolerance of the birthlessness of things.
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