|Recitation of the Lotus Sutra (Jpn. Gongyo), Part
Setting: This is the climactic portion of the
Lotus Sutras Ceremony in the Air, a gathering of three succeeding congregations that
takes place in the transcendent Land of Tranquil Light representing the domain of
Perfect Enlightenment. At the beginning of this sutra, Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha
(also referred to as the World-honored One and Declarer of Truth), is at India's Mount
Vulture Peak (Skt.Grdhrakuta; Jpn. Ryojusen) where he is joined by a great assembly of
hundreds of thousands of sentient beings [including his three-vehicle disciples, various
elemental beings and universal forces]; next, the [physical] environment is transformed
into a transcendent one to welcome a second assemblage composed of countless buddhas who
accompanied by celestial bodhisattvas arrive from every direction in the universe;
finally, a third group constituted of innumerable legions of eternally-enlightened
Selfless Volunteers emerge at the behest of the Buddha from a sacred space below the
ground. The Buddha then states that this last group constitutes his oldest disciples. With
the exception of all the buddhas in attendance, the other members of the two earlier
assemblies are bewildered. The celestial bodhisattvas, although possessing bodies of bliss
capable of freely moving throughout space-time, report that they had never before
encountered the latest arrivals. Moreover, Sakyamunis disciples are confused as they
are under the impression that their sage-teacher had attained the buddha-state for the
first time in his present lifetime purportedly only after hundreds of thousands of
eons of devoted aspiration.
Suspended in midair at the hub of this gathering is an ornate
miles-high Tower belonging to Abundant Treasures, an extinct buddha whose virtual body is
present so that he may bear witness to the Truth about to be revealed. He and Sakyamuni
share a lion-throne inside this bejeweled Tower of boundless blessings. As the Buddha
begins to speak, all are poised to hear his explanation. The ensuing soliloquy reveals
that his manifestation as Sakyamuni masks a grander identity that of an eternal
Buddha. This chapter of the Lotus Sutra introduces the Declarer of the Truth [of
Everlasting Life], the ultimate identity of all buddhas, who in this context speaks
through the medium of Sakyamunis body and voice. The Declarer of the Truth [of
Everlasting Life] proceeds to offer a revolutionary doctrine about the meaning and purpose
of existence imparted herein as a universal message of unparalleled importance bequeathed
to all mortal beings for all time.
© 1999. EverLife Foundation.
Note: brackets [ ] are implied statements to be read as enhanced text.
Parenthesis ( ) are used for identifying proper names in Sanskrit or Japanese, and for
definitions or points of clarification that do not read as part of the text.
Sutra Title: Myoho-Renge-Kyo
English: Sutra of the Perfectly Endowed Reality of Everlasting Life
(abbreviated title: The Lotus Sutra)
Chapter 16 Title: Nyorai juryohon dai juroku
English: The Declarer of the Truth of Everlasting Life
At this time the Buddha addressed the
[celestial] bodhisattvas and the great assembly, as follows: Beings of good nature,
I declare herewith, you must embrace with pure hearts and accept with open and receptive
minds the incontrovertible revelations which the Declarer of Truth (Skt. Tathagata; Jpn.
Nyorai) now commences to pronounce.
Then [to ensure that all had heard him], he
repeated it a second time: You must embrace with pure hearts and accept with open
and receptive minds the incontrovertible revelations which the Declarer of Truth now
commences to pronounce.
Then [to ensure that his words would be heard
for all time], he repeated it a third time: You must embrace with pure hearts and
accept with open and receptive minds the incontrovertible revelations which the Declarer
of Truth now commences to pronounce.
At this time All-Encompassing Loving Kindness
(Skt. Maitreya; Jpn. Miroku the bodhisattva designated as buddha-in-waiting of a
prophesied future earthly paradise) led the [celestial] bodhisattvas and the great
assembly in pressing their palms together while making the following vow to the Buddha:
World-honored One, we implore you to reveal [that which you have not yet revealed].
We pledge to you [now and forever] that we will embrace every word of it with the purest
of hearts and accept all of the Buddhas words with the most open and receptive of
Then, [to ensure that their vow would be heard
by all present and to seal it for posterity] they repeated their vow for a second and
third time: We implore you to reveal [that which you have not yet revealed]. We
pledge to you [now and forever] that we will embrace every word of it with the purest of
hearts and accept all of the Buddhas words with the most open and receptive of
At this time the World-honored One acknowledged
the thrice-repeated request led by the [celestial] bodhisattvas with the following reply:
Now you must listen carefully as I hereby reveal the secret [threefold] identity of
the Declarer of Truth to be one inseparable reality which is endowed with a universal
power that at once transcends and pervades all of existence.
[various kinds of] worlds of existence, [various kinds of] celestial, biological and
elemental beings, all believe that the buddha who is known [by name] as the Sage of the
Sakyas (Skt. Sakyamuni; Jpn. Shakyamuni) is present here and now [speaks before you]. They
know him as the one who attained unsurpassed Perfect Enlightenment after leaving the
palace of the Sakya clan in his youth [as Prince Siddhartha] and in due course found the
entryway to ultimate wisdom [while seated under the tree] near the city of Gaya.
Now, hear this, my beloved innocents!
In actuality, I [who now speaks before you] have dwelt in the buddha-state for an
inconceivable and boundlessly remote span, numbering back more than
ten-hundred-thousand-million-billions of eons (i.e., 1 eon equals the duration of a
To illustrate [how long it has been since
then], imagine that there are five-hundred-thousand-million-billions of universes and that
they have all been ground down to their elemental particles. [Intending on using these
grains of matter as markers] a traveler moves in an easterly direction [across infinite
space]. On his journey he encounters myriads of living worlds. Each time he has passed
five-hundred-thousand-million-billions of these lands he drops just one of these elemental
particles. Continuing straight ahead on an eastward track, he repeats this pattern [of
dropping one particle every time he passes five-hundred-thousand-million-billion worlds]
until he has finished dispatching all the particles.
Pray tell, my beloved innocents! Is there
anyone among you who is capable of calculating the number [of living worlds that this
imaginary traveler has passed on his journey]?
All-Encompassing Loving Kindness Bodhisattva
led the others in responding, as follows: World-honored One! The number of worlds
you have described is inconceivable and boundless, defies calculation and stretches beyond
the grasp of thought. Even the most learned and visionary among us, including those who
have secured a state of clear and pure wisdom, can not hope to imagine or fathom such
numbers. Moreover, among those of us who reside in the stage of non-regression none can
apprehend such scope. World-honored One! The numbers you have described are beyond
conception, beyond all bounds.
At this time the grand audience of celestial
bodhisattvas and others were compelled to listen further, as follows: My beloved
innocents! There is still more to divulge, if what I am saying here is to become clear to
you. Suppose we were to collect all the worlds [our traveler had] encountered, including
those he passed over and those he marked, and then ground them down into their elementary
particles. Know this, the total number of particles accrued thusly still would fall short
of my original buddha-state by more than a hundred-thousand-million-billion eons.
[Thus I declare that] ever since
[beginningless time] I have been present continuously throughout the realms of enduring
suffering, preaching [the laws], teaching [the means], and delivering blessings to mortal
beings in more than a hundred-thousand-million-billion domains.
innocents! Over this vast span I have lived [untold lifetimes] wherein I have often
referred to myself as a buddha named Eternal Flame, or some such [shape, essence and
illuminating] appellation as I required in formulating [various permutations of] my
buddha-identity all in an effort to lead multitudes of mortal followers to the
threshold of nirvana. [Whatever name my manifestation may undertake] it is always used as
part of my tactful and expedient efforts meant to help them discern [the meanings and
powers compressed into my sutras] and to distinguish [relative value] among my various
My beloved innocents! Whenever mortal
beings have approached me [with a seeking mind], whether the quality of their faculties
has been keen or dull, I have regarded them with a buddhas [inner-seeing] eye to
ascertain their desire to know [the Truth of the Reality of All Existence]. Whenever and
wherever [among the various realms of existence] mortal beings seek the way to ultimate
Truth, I repeatedly manifest before them as a sage-teacher using one name or another and,
in each case, provide them with an appropriate means suited to their advancement. [As I
have done in this lifetime] in certain cases, I announce my impending entry into nirvana
[leaving the impression that upon my death I will be liberated from rebirth in the mortal
plane forever more]. However, that concept is itself just another of the tactful means
which I use in preparing mortal beings to receive the wonderful Truth of All Truths whose
subtle and liberating power continuously graces [mortals] with the unparalleled joy of
innocents! The Declarer of the Truth [of Everlasting Life] observes that when mortal
beings are shallow in their desire for [greater] Truth, they display a penchant for
self-serving motives and contemptible behaviors. To [inspire] them I preach that I first
attained unsurpassed Perfect Enlightenment in this lifetime after leaving my family
at a young age [in search of the ultimate answer]. But as I have declared to you here, in
actuality I have been dwelling in the buddha-state for all time, and only use such tactful
and expedient constructs to inspire their desire for [greater] Truth and thus open their
way to Perfect Enlightenment.
My beloved innocents! The Declarer of the
Truth [of Everlasting Life] expounds [many] sutras for the sake of liberating mortal
beings. [In them] he may refer to himself when speaking of others, or refer to others when
speaking of himself; he may appear to be one thing when in actuality he is something
other, or appear to be something other when in actuality it is him; and, he may present
his experiences as those of others, or present the experiences of others as his own.
Nevertheless, [have no doubt] that every one of his words, appearances and experiences are
utterly true and devoid of any false airs.
Why is this [strategy] necessary? The
Declarer of the Truth [of Everlasting Life] uses such means to reveal the true nature of
threefold time (i.e., past, present and future). From his [eternally] panoramic vantage,
demarcations do not exist neither that of birth nor death, neither that of
existence nor extinction, neither that of substance nor empty space, neither that of
singularity nor diversity. Mortals [cannot see this as they] experience the passing of
time from their place within time. The Declarer of the Truth [of Everlasting Life],
however, clearly sees [the true nature of all things] without error.
As mortal beings
possess multifarious natures, desires, experiences, and ways of perceiving and
distinguishing value, the Declarer of the Truth [of Everlasting Life] enables all of them
to extend the roots of faith [for the sake of their growth] by devising multifarious
actions, concepts, comparisons, parables, phrases and doctrines. [Throughout all
space-time] he has never neglected his role as a buddha even for a single moment.
He has been doing so [for as long as
eternity]. The actual age of his buddha-state, being so extreme, spans immeasurable
numbers of lifetimes and extends over countless eons. And yet, never even once, during all
that time, had the Declarer of the Truth [of Everlasting Life] chosen to depart the mortal
world [for nirvana] in pursuit of his own extinction.
My beloved innocents! While [among] you
[are those who] may think that after eons of exerting selfless devotion one who attains
the unsurpassed buddha-state [upon death] retires into blissful extinction, the Declarer
of the Truth [of Everlasting Life] now present before you [declares that he] plans to
continue his presence [here] for more than twice as many eons as already have passed
[since beginningless time]. In actuality, [I hereby reveal to you that] the nirvana a
buddha refers to when he speaks of entering extinction is not real, as he always dwells in
[real] nirvana. That [former] notion is yet another tactful method which he uses
[temporarily] until mortal beings learn [how] to transform themselves [into their true
selves] in the present moment.
Why is this [strategy] necessary? A
buddha can not stay in the [manifest] world for too long, because it causes mortal minds
to become spoiled. [If they see him by their side for an indefinite time] they grow
complacent and neglect to deepen the root causes [of goodness, development and
enlightenment]. Without realizing it, they become poor [in spiritual currency] and [in due
course] curse with anger their eventual birth into downtrodden lives. [Caught in a
downward spiral] they cling to the temptations of avarice and become rooted in the
obsessions of the five senses. They wind up twisted and warped by ignorance helplessly
struggling in a net of delusions and distortions.
[A similar outcome would be likely] if
the Declarer of the Truth [of Everlasting Life] were to become ever-apparent having
ignored entry into extinction. [Constantly faced with the presence of immortality] the
meek would develop an arrogant and aggrandized [sense of] self and aspiring seekers would
lose their sense of urgency resulting in their failure to progress [towards
fulfillment]. Therefore, [it is critically important] for mortals who accomplish the
difficult task of encountering [the Declarer of the Truth of Everlasting Life] to
recognize it as a supremely rare event to be honored with a reverent and seeking mind [and
never take it for granted]. As such, the Declarer of the Truth [of Everlasting Life]
tactfully reminds reverent followers that: It is a rare privilege to be born at such
a time and such a place that a buddha chooses to make his appearance.
Why is this [strategy] necessary? Because
across countless eons a number that is [beyond] innumerable multiples of hundreds,
thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and myriads of millions mortal
beings are born countless times before some of them may chance a glimpse of such a buddha
and then again [countless lifetimes may pass during which] some of them never experience
such an encounter. That is why I say to my devoted followers: Seeing the Declarer of
the Truth [of Everlasting Life] is a rare event that is difficult to accomplish.
Hearing such an admonition, all mortal
beings should appreciate the difficulty of encountering such a buddha and develop a
longing [for his appearance] and a thirst [for his teachings] as these are vehicles for
deepening the root causes [of goodness, development and enlightenment].
Whenever and wherever the Declarer of the
Truth [of Everlasting Life] appears among mortal beings, some heed his teaching that
extinction is not real [and are healed by it]. Others choose not to [heed it]. For their
sake he sends the message that after entering extinction he will never return.
My beloved innocents! Whenever and
wherever a buddha appears as the Declarer of the Truth [of Everlasting Life] he uses this
[two-prong] strategy in an effort to heal all mortal beings both the fortunate and
unfortunate. Have no doubt that this is his purpose. It is utterly true and devoid of any
Imagine, if you
will, that long ago there lived a masterful healer wise and caring
particularly skilled in compounding elixirs capable of curing all manner of illness. This
physician was father to a large family of pure-minded, innocent beings, said to number as
many as ten, twenty, or possibly more than a hundred. On occassion he would leave them on
their own for a period of time whenever some matter required his attention elsewhere.
During one such time, while he was away in some far off place, his innocent children all
drank from a concoction that had spoiled with age. It had turned into a toxic poison [that
attached itself to mind and body] causing its victims to experience maddening
hallucinations and unleashing such pain that they would drop to the ground writhing in
Their [extraordinarily gifted] parent had
been able to view this disturbing scene [with his minds eye] as he hurried back to
his homeland. Observing [from afar] that his children had lost their senses, he
ascertained that most had fallen into a deep state of illusion, while a few had managed to
hold on to the last semblance of [their pure] reality. As he approached his residence, the
healers children ran to greet him, excitedly kneeling before him and pleading:
Oh, dear father, we are so thankful that you have returned safely for in your
absence we foolishly drank from a contaminated vessel. Please cure us all so that we may
regain the innocent lives we have [always] enjoyed!
Identifying the perfect remedy for their
suffering, the father begins its preparation by gathering the finest herbal components
each endowed with ideal qualities of color, odor and flavor. After he mills,
purifies and carefully measures each ingredient, he combines them into an elixir and
offers it to his children, saying: The excellence of this antidote is testified to
by its unsurpassed color, odor and flavor. As soon as you take it, you will be cured of
your present suffering and immediately return to your natural state of good health.
Quickly, the [fortunate] ones with their
[original pure] senses still [partially] intact were able to discern the exquisite quality
of the medicine [with their eyes and noses] seeing its beautiful hue and smelling
its pleasing fragrance. As soon as they took it, they immediately returned to their
natural state of good health.
However, the [unfortunate] ones with
their [original pure] senses damaged [beyond recognition] refused to take the elixir.
Although they had been among those who had greeted their fathers return with
excitement and joined in imploring him to deliver them from suffering, the poison had
penetrated their mind so deeply that they were no longer able to discern the value of his
prescription. On the contrary, they were possessed by a demented aversion to the medicine
unable to see its beautiful hue or smell its pleasing fragrance.
Their father laments: Oh, my poor
[unfortunate] innocents! Their affliction has caused them to lose control of their minds.
While they may be gladdened by my return and ask me to save them from their distresses,
they turn away from the effective cure I have made available to them. Concluding
that [for their sake] he must devise a way to compel them to choose his formula, [upon
further reflection] he makes the following announcement: You should be aware, my
dear ones, that when a body wears the signs of old age, it is an omen that the time of
death is at hand. [It is my final wish that] all of you should take the excellent elixir I
now leave here for you without the slightest doubt about its powers [to restore
your natural state of good health]. With these parting words he leaves again for a
distant land and from there sends back a courier with a message that reads: Your
father has died.
Thus confronted with the news of their
fathers passing, they are grief-stricken and remorseful. [Obsessed with what will
become of them now that he is gone], the sufferers mourn: Now that our father is no
longer alive, who will pity our painful lives? Who will rescue us [from this world of
enduring hardships]? Who will care for us [as we are meek and desperate]? Oh, dear father,
why have you foresaken us? Our hopes have died [with you] in a distant land and now we are
doomed to live out our lives as orphans without shelter [from danger] or [guiding] wisdom
to rely upon.
Endlessly, they relive their desperate
feelings until [eventually] they are confronted by the [buried] memory of their
fathers legacy. Exhorted [by his parting wish] to take the extraordinary elixir of
exquisite color, odor and flavor, they do so and immediately return to their natural state
of good health.
Receiving word abroad that all his
children have been restored [to their original pure state], their father makes haste to
return home and reappears to the delight of all.
Please, tell me, my
dear innocents [of this great assembly]! Now that you have heard of the dilemma faced by
the [immortal] healer [of this parable], what do you say? Should he be condemned for lying
[about his death] and abandoning [all who are precious to him]?
[All replied:] No, World-honored
[The voice that emanated from] the Buddha
declared: I am like this [immortal healer]. I [who now speaks before you] have dwelt
in the buddha-state for an inconceivable and boundlessly remote span, numbering back more
than ten-hundred-thousand-million-billions of eons. [Throughout it all] I have devoted
myself to restoring mortal beings [to their original state]. Although I may tactfully
employ expedient means such as when I announce my impending entry into nirvana [in
order to leave the impression that upon my death I will be liberated from rebirth in the
mortal plane forever more] given what is at stake, no one can accuse me of lying
[about my death] or abandoning [all who are precious to me]!
At that point the
World-honored One, intending to expand on this matter, chose to expound [this doctrine]
further through these [glorious] verses:
|I [who now speaks before you] dwell
continuously in a buddha-state
whose source is so remote as to be inconceivable
[I have dwelt in this state] for so many eons that
their total span surpasses
untold multiples of ten-hundred-thousand-
million-billions and more.
Without interruption I devotedly illuminate the
True Reality of All Existence
guiding countless numbers of mortal beings to
transform [their state-of-being]
by inviting them into the [one direct] vehicle of
[forever the entryway to the buddha-state]
throughout these incalculable eons.
the process of rescuing all mortal beings,
I may tactfully employ such expedient concepts
although in actuality I do not ever disappear into
Rather, I remain here always to reveal the Truth
in the present moment.
While I am [inherently] everpresent,
my transcendental identity is such that
mortal beings engrossed in [various warped
states of] illusion
are unable to discern my presence even though I
am as close as could be.
The human population may believe that I no
longer abide in this world;
knowing me [under many names] across many
they make [various kinds of] offerings at
[various kinds of] shrines.
All of them yearn for me [to appear]
and thirstily pray that I deliver the hopes they
harbor in their hearts.
Whenever mortal beings are truly ready to
express an honest faith,
having cultivated demeanors characterized by
and pursued their purposes with gentle regard
if they resolutely focus on [the true image of] the
Buddha [as he really is],
willing to forgo their mortal identities [for a
they can [always] see me in the company of this
[sutras] Buddhist assembly
as I appear at the sacred [preaching ground of]
Mount Vulture Peak [wherefrom I now
speak to you].
There and then, I appear and speak to all mortal
beings to announce:
that my life is omnipresent and everlasting;
that the power of my tactful strategies [to
transform mortals] is such that
I may appear to be extinct when that is required,
and not extinct at other times;
that when mortal beings living among the far-
spread regions of the cosmos
prove to be reverent [at heart] and [in their
minds] aspire to believe [in Truth]
There I appear as one of them
To declare the Perfectly Endowed Reality [to the
Anyone who is unaware of this [impending
[after hearing of my death] can only believe that
I am extinct.
Those who believe so are mortals drowning in a
sea of suffering;
the reason why I do not appear to them
is that they have yet to develop a [strong
enough] desire to see me.
When their lives [truly] yearn for me,
I appear for them and unveil the True Reality of
Possessing the power to be anywhere at any
For an eternity of eons
I am ever-present at Vulture Peak where my
sacred domain is revealed,
as well as omnipresent simultaneously being
everywhere at once.
As this mortal eon is born so must it end in the
whereupon this mortal domain shall be
consumed on a great pyre.
[By contrast] my eternally tranquil light is
forever a haven
for all beings in the cosmos.
In it all come together as one.
[Built of all that is ever envisioned] its palaces,
pavilions, parks and gardens
are resplendent with precious wisdom-gems of
all colors and sizes.
[Herein] bejeweled trees [of life] produce an
abundance of fruit and blossoms
whose seeds are the cause of enlightenment and
fragrance is peace for all.
[Herein] cosmic forces pound their drums [to
sound the laws of existence]
ever concatenating the infinite expressions of
music [that give life its diversity]
[Herein] crimson flowers rain down from the
heavens in acknowledgment of
the everlasting presence of the [Eternal] Buddha
and all the assembled.
This pure [immortal] domain of mine is an
although it exists simultaneously in exactly the
as the [mortal] realm that burns with the flames
of distress and fear
and is filled at every corner with the cries of the
All these mortals are engrossed in continuous
[repeatedly] planting the seeds of their own ruin
transmigrating for countless eons without ever
my invaluable threefold secret [of Everlasting
Those fortunate ones who meet and embrace its
are assured of peaceful and blissful demeanors.
These faithful all see me [present] at this
here [in their lives] displaying the True Reality
[of Everlasting Life].
For the sake of all manner of beings throughout
I have expounded [herein] the view that a
buddhas life is everlasting.
As you, [who are now listening] have met
[herein] such a buddha,
you must be mindful of being among the
fortunate ones, indeed,
to have merited such a rare honor and
accomplished so difficult a task.
You who [herein] encounter the illuminating
power of my [eternal] wisdom,
and now bathe in the infinitely brilliant rays of
my sage revelations
also can acquire such a [fulfilling] lifetime of
countless eons [as I have]
by devoting yourself for as long as it takes to
purifying all karma.
You who now cherish this [eternal] wisdom
should have no doubts about this!
There should not be any question left in your
as to whether the [Eternal] Buddhas words are
true or false.
I am like the masterful healer [in the parable].
Because he tactfully uses whatever means
necessary to cure his stricken children,
he sends word of his death even though he is
Nevertheless, no one can accuse him of lying or
Likewise, I am the father of this [mortal] world
ever healing the miserable of their sufferings and
[Here] where people as a matter of course lose
control of their minds
I appear to be absent even though I am ever-
If seeing me was easy [requiring no yearning, no
readiness, no effort],
all mortals would be spoiled by arrogance and
Thinking that they [are immortal and as such]
can do anything they wished,
they would become rooted in the obsessions of
the five senses
and inured in the lowly ways [of violence,
avarice, anger, and selfishness].
I am forever tuned in to all mortal beings,
those who choose the noble path, and those who
Guiding them [patiently] as is appropriate for
I appear [here and there] as one or another
expounding different doctrines [to further their
Throughout it all, I keep one constant thought in
How can I cause all mortal beings
to meet the Perfectly Endowed Reality [of
so that immediately they may obtain Perfect
Enlightenment equal to my own.
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