“Śāriputra, Tathāgata Akṣhobhya leads the Bodhisattvas and followers of other vehicles in other lands as well as in the World of Wonderful Joy. Śāriputra, if good men and good women, after hearing the Dharma-door of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s merits, are well able to accept, uphold, read, recite, and comprehend it, and wish to be born in that land, then Tathāgata Akṣhobhya will always protect and remember them until the time of their death, and will keep demons and demons’ retinues from causing them to regress from their determination.
“Śāriputra, you should know that right up to their attainment of supreme enlightenment, these good men and good women will be free from the fear of regression; free from harm by water, fire, knives, cudgels, ferocious beasts, and poisonous insects; and free from the terror of [evil] humans or nonhumans. Why? Because they are always protected and remembered by Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, and will be born in his Buddha-land.
Being empowered to enter through Akṣhobhya’s Dharma-door is no ordinary undertaking. One now dons Akṣhobhya’s own ‘Armor of Vigor’—impervious to any advances from the evil ones. One also now participates in his awakened Mind-seal itself—the inconceivable Bodhicittapada. One’s actions are no longer samsara-bound but forever linked with Akṣhobhya’s own meritorious accord.
“Śāriputra, just as the sun, though far away, gives light to the sentient beings of this world, so Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, though far away, illuminates the Bodhisattvas of other worlds.
“Śāriputra, just as a monk who has the deva-eye can see different things in the distance, so Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, while remaining in his own land, can see the forms of all kinds of Bodhisattvas in other worlds.
“Śāriputra, furthermore, just as a monk who has acquired the perfect command of the power of [knowing others’] thoughts can read the minds of sentient beings even if he is remote from them, so Tathāgata Akṣhobhya can perceive the minds of the Bodhisattvas in other worlds.
“Śāriputra, just as a monk who has attained the deva-ear can hear any sound at a distance, so Tathāgata Akṣhobhya can hear the sentient beings living in other worlds say, ‘l wish to be born in that land.’ Śāriputra, Tathāgata Akṣhobhya knows the names of all such good men and good women; he knows, protects, and remembers all those who accept, uphold, read, recite, and comprehend this Dharma-door of merits.”
It really goes without saying that Tathāgata Akṣhobhya has supernal-siddhi powers and can read-the minds of sentient beings regardless of their repose in other Buddha-fields; these passages show that these supernal-powers can reach within *any* Buddha-field across untold light-realms and grant the request of *any* sentient-being who masters the merits that warrant entrance through his Dharma-door.
Śāriputra then said to the Buddha, “lt is most extraordinary, World-Honored One, that that Buddha, the World-Honored One, protects and remembers those Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas”.
After Śāriputra said this, the Buddha told him, “So it is, so it is. As you say, Tathāgata Akṣhobhya protects and remembers those Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas. Why? Because by protecting and remembering Bodhisattvas, he protects and remembers all sentient beings.
The Buddha is reminding Śāriputra that it’s not only Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas that he protects and remembers; because in protecting and remembering them, Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas will, in like-fashion, turn and protect other sentient lifeforms—this is the expansion of his own meritorious imperative.
“Śāriputra, an anointed kṣatriya king who has many barns full of grain and beans will strictly command the keeper to guard them well. Why? Because he will then be able to relieve [the hunger of] sentient beings when famine occurs. Similarly, Śāriputra, the Tathāgata renders good protection to those Bodhisattvas so that, after his parinirvāṇa, they will realize supreme enlightenment and serve as an abundant harvest during the famine of the true Dharma.
Those Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas will become his dutiful ministers and bring to fulfillment Akṣhobhya’s Meritorious Kingdom, even in the midst of the Dharma’s decline.
“Śāriputra, in this world, there are Bodhisattvas who, after hearing the Dharma-door of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s merits, can accept, uphold, read, recite, and comprehend it, and wish to be born in that Buddha-land. You should know that these people have attained nonregression.
“Śāriputra, good men and good women with pure faith should expound this merit-praising Dharma-door to others at all times. Those who do so will be cleansed of all defilements in their present lifetimes, or [at most] in two lifetimes.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, this Dharma-door of praising Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s merits cannot be accepted by foolish, shallow people. It can be accepted and upheld only by those with profound, vast wisdom. Śāriputra, those good men and good women [with such wisdom] will see Buddhas and will certainly obtain this merit-praising Dharma-door in their present lifetimes.
Akṣhobhya’s Buddha-land is not for those who espouse cheap-grace; it is a hard-won affair, upholding Akṣhobhya’s Meritorial-Resolve through faithfully abiding in Akṣhobhya’s own Wisdom-hue.
“Śāriputra, suppose there are priceless pearls taken from the sea. Who do you think will be the first to obtain these priceless treasures?”
Śāriputra said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, kings, princes, and ministers will be the first to obtain them.”
The Buddha told Śāriputra, “ln the same way, Bodhisattvas will be the first to acquire the Dharma-door of that Buddha’s merits, and those Bodhisattvas will attain the stage of nonregression. They will surely be able to accept, uphold, read, recite, and comprehend this Dharma after hearing it; they will diligently study the nature of suchness for the purpose of attaining supreme enlightenment.”
Śāriputra said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, if Bodhisattvas wish to abide in the stage of nonregression, they should accept, uphold, read, recite, and comprehend this merit-praising Dharma-door after hearing it. Why? Because Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas who abide in this Dharma-door will not regress from [their realization] of the Dharma-nature.”
Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas are the guardians of Akṣhobhya’s Dharma-door. As such, they are empowered to share-in Akṣhobhya’s direct-recognition of Bhūtathatā; they become “bearers of suchness” and thus attain supreme enlightenment. When embedded-in-the-Such, there is no longer any regression from recognition of one’s True Dharma-nature.
The Buddha told Śāriputra, “lf a man, in order to hear this Dharma, gave away enough gold to fill the entire world, he might still be unable to hear it. Why? Because this meritorious Dharma cannot be upheld by sentient beings with meager blessings.
Even gold is a meager-trinket of materiality; as such, what merit is there in having gold that cannot measure-up to the Supreme-Standard of the Buddhadharma?
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, if followers of the Śrāvaka-vehicle accept, uphold, read and recite this meritorious Dharma-door after hearing it, and practice it diligently in order to conform to supreme enlightenment and suchness, they will attain realization in their next lifetimes; they will attain candidacy for Buddhahood in two lifetimes; they will attain supreme enlightenment in no more than three lifetimes.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, if, in pursuit of this Dharma-door, good men and good women listen to, accept, uphold, read, recite, and circulate it in a village or town, and for this purpose live in the houses of laypeople though they themselves are monks or nuns, I will say they are faultless and will allow them to stay in such places. Why? Because these good men and good women are trying to keep this Dharma from falling into oblivion after their death. Śāriputra, even if the village or town is far away, these Bodhisattvas still should go and stay there to accept, uphold, read, and recite this Dharma-door, and reveal and expound it to others.
An indication here that a given “location”, like living separate and apart from others (e.g., in a monastery) is not as meritorious as living amongst the general populace and expounding the Dharma-door, in particular if the Dharma is in danger of falling into oblivion.
“Śāriputra, good men and good women should make this vow: ‘I should not think of regressing from the pursuit of supreme enlightenment, for I have heard the name of the Dharma-door of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya.” . . .
“Here we see the power of the name of the Dharma-Door of Praising Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s Merits. As far as the practice of the Pure Land teaching is concerned, however, it is most important to recollect and repeat the Buddha’s name constantly. One should also recollect the Buddha’s original vows, his merits, purity, land, etc. Since we treat this sutra as a Pure Land discourse, it seems appropriate to stress the importance of recollecting Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s name.” [FN]
*Also, frequently initiating “The Akṣhobhya Buddha Dharani” (as given in the opening blog of this series) will also splendidly cover this ongoing veneration.
Śāriputra said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, this Dharma-door can bring vast merits.”
The Buddha told Śāriputra, “So it is, so it is, as you have said. Śāriputra, if a country is assailed by hailstorms, untimely thunder, or other terrible things, good men and good women should concentrate their minds on Tathāgata Akṣhobhya and invoke his name. This will put an end to all the disasters. [Why?] Because in the past, that Tathāgata helped hundreds of thousands of dragons out of their sufferings. Because his compassionate original vows are genuine and sincere, and because he wishes to fulfil the dedication of his good roots without fail, all those who invoke his name will have their sorrow and distress relieved spontaneously, except those sentient beings whose previous [evil] karmas have ripened.”
This is an instance in which modern translations somehow substitute “dragons” for nāgas. It is the Nāgas who are masters over “hailstones”, “flooding” and the like. In invoking Akṣhobhya’s intercession during such occasions, the ire of the Nāgas can be curtailed. An exception exists, however, for those who still need to burn-out any negative and evil karmic-seeds.
Śāriputra said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One, Bodhisattvas who wish to realize supreme enlightenment in this life should act as Tathāgata Akṣhobhya acted when he was fulfilling his vows.
The Buddha told Śāriputra, “So it is, so it is. . . . “
A reiteration of the most salient theme throughout this series: Through “his merits” ye shall be liberated.
At that time, the gods of the Realms of Desire and the gods of the Brahma Heaven all joined their palms toward [Akṣhobhya] Buddha, prostrated themselves to pay homage to him, and chanted three times: “We pay homage to Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One, who is most extraordinary; and we take refuge in Tathāgata Śākyamuni, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One of this world, who is so skillful in expounding this merit praising Dharma-door”.
A fitting tribute to “both” Tathāgatas; the one expounding (Śākyamuni) the Sutra, and the Tathāgata (Akṣhobhya) whom the Sutra is honoring.
Then the gods of the Realm of Desire strewed flowers of the coral tree and celestial incense over the Buddha. In the air, the incense and flowers fused and formed a canopy. Furthermore, the gods scattered the celestial flowers and incense toward Akṣhobhya Buddha as offerings from afar. .
When the Buddha had expounded this Dharma-door, five hundrcd monks acquired mental liberation concerning the undefiled Dharma; five thousand Bodhisattvas, six thousand nuns, eight thousand laymen, ten thousand laywomen, and numerous gods of the Realm of Desire all wished to be born in that Buddha-land. Thereupon, the Tathāgata predicted that they would all be born in that Buddhaland.
When the Buddha finished expounding this sutra, Śāriputra, the gods, humans, asuras, gandharvas, garudas, kinnaras, and mahoragas were all jubilant over the Buddha’s Teaching. They accepted it with faith and began to practice it with veneration.