The Stupendous Jeweled Stupa

giantbuddhastupa

At that time there appeared before the Buddha a seven-jeweled stupa, five hundred yojanas in height and two hundred and fifty yojanas both in length and width, which emerged from the ground and hovered in the air. It was adorned with various jewels, had five thousand railings, and thousands of myriads of chambers. It was decorated with innumerable flags and banners and hanging jeweled necklaces, and myriads of koṭis of jeweled bells hung from the top. The fragrance of tamāla leaves and sandalwood trees exuded from all sides of the stupa, covering the world. The banners and umbrellas were composed of the seven jewels such as gold, silver, lapis lazuli, mother of pearl, agate, pearl, and ruby; and they rose as high as the palaces of the world-protectors of the four quarters.

The thirty-three devas rained down heavenly māndārava flowers in homage to the jeweled stupa. The other thousands of myriads of koṭis of humans, and such nonhumans as devas, nāgas, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnaras, and maho ragas also respected, honored, revered, and praised the precious stupa by offering all kinds of flowers, perfumes, necklaces, flags, banners, and music.

Then a tremendous voice issued forth in praise from the jeweled stupa, saying: “Splendid, splendid! O Śākyamuni! The Bhaga vat teaches the Lotus Sutra to the great assembly: the instruction for bodhisattvas and treasured lore of the buddhas, which is the wisdom attainable by every sentient being! Just so! Just so, O Śākyamuni Bhagavat! What you teach is true!”

This undoubtedly is the most magnificently-dramatic scene (from Chapter 11) in the entire Sutra. The ground beneath the assembly begins to shake and suddenly there bursts-forth from the ground a mammoth Jeweled-Stupa that slowly and majestically rises high above the Buddha and assembly. Suddenly, from somewhere within this towering and majestic marvel, a booming voice is heard (perhaps likened to the voice of the Giant-Wizard Head in the Wizard of Oz) that sings its praise of the Buddha and his preaching of the Lotus Sutra. This is in actuality the ancient Buddha named “Many Jewels—Prabhūtaratna” who once made a vow to rise time and time again throughout the ageless kalpas, whenever and even (wherever) the Lotus Sutra is being proclaimed. At the same time, the Blessed One activates that mysterious beam of light from his forehead and like masses of people wearing night-vision-goggles, the assembly begins to see materializing before them countless Buddhas and bodhisattvas from their own Buddha-realms arriving to hear the Sutra:

Then the Buddha emitted a ray of light from the tuft of white hair between his eyebrows; and they immediately saw the buddhas in five hundred myriads of kois of nayutas of lands in the eastern direction equal in number to the sands of the Ganges River. In these lands the soil was of crystal and adorned with treasure trees and jeweled garments; and these lands were full of innumerable thousands of myriads of kois of bodhisattvas. Jeweled drapes were hung everywhere and were covered with jeweled nets. All the buddhas in these lands were teaching the Dharma in most harmonious voices. They also saw immeasurable thousands of myriads of kois of bodhisattvas, filling all the lands and teaching the Dharma to sentient beings. 

The other directions to the south, north, and west, the four intermediary directions, and the upper and lower regions were also illuminated by the ray of light emitted from the tuft of white hair between the Buddha’s eyebrows; and they were also exactly like this.

Then all the buddhas in the ten directions each addressed the assembly of bodhisattvas, saying: “O sons of a virtuous family! We will now go to the place where Śākyamuni is in the sahā world and pay homage to the jeweled stupa of the Tathāgata Prabhūtaratna.”

In order to accommodate their arrival upon the scene, the Blessed One transforms his own present-realm into beautiful worlds of jeweled-wonderment; once they have all arrived, Śākyamuni Buddha soars into the air and, opening the Stupa of Many Jewels, joins this majestic Buddha inside. Then, he also lifts the entire assembly into the air:

The Buddha Śākyamuni immediately moved the entire fourfold assembly into the air through his transcendent powers and addressed them with a great voice, saying: “Who in the sahā world is able to extensively teach the Lotus Sutra? It is now the right time! The Tathāgata will enter parinirvāa before long and the Buddha wants to transmit this Lotus Sutra to you.

It’s at this junction that we can recognize Śākyamuni Buddha as something more than just a historical figure; this is a foreshadowing of greater revelations concerning his spiritual stature in the latter chapters to come. Perhaps for me even more spectacular than these majestic and cosmic revelations is what occur towards the end of this chapter. The following verses are from Reeve’s translation:

If one stood on the highest heaven
And for the sake of others
Preached countless other sutras,
That too would not be difficult.

But after the Buddha’s extinction,
In the midst of an evil age,
If someone teaches this sutra,
That indeed will be difficult!

If someone took the whole earth,
Put it on his or her toenail,
And ascended to the Brahma heaven,
That would not be difficult.

But after the Buddha’s extinction,
In the midst of an evil age,
If someone reads this sutra aloud for even a moment,
This indeed will be difficult!

For the sake of the Buddha way,
In innumerable lands
From the beginning until now,
I have taught many sutras everywhere.

Among them all
This sutra is the most excellent.
Anyone who is able to embrace it
Embraces the body of the Buddha.

This sutra is so difficult to embrace,
If anyone embraces it even for a short time,
I will be pleased,
And so will all the buddhas.

Someone who can do this
Will be praised by all the buddhas.

At first, this sounds like a complete contradiction from the previous chapter, wherein everyone, even a baby—just uttering one syllable from the Sutra—would become enlightened. But here, it sounds like a “difficult”, almost impossible, endeavor indeed. What is occurring here is a literary device, a device and motif describing that awful, last Dharma-ending Age; because within that loathsome age there will be few indeed who would even want to bother uttering just one syllable from the Lotus—so lost are they in the darkness of that time. I believe that this is a metaphor not just for the Lotus, but for all Sutras concerning that last, frightful epoch…

In that frightening age,
One who can teach this sutra even for a moment
Should receive offerings
From all human and heavenly beings.

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