Thus have I heard. Once the Buddha was dwelling on Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa near Rājagṛha, together with an assembly of twelve hundred fifty great monks. All these monks were well-known Arhats who had extinguished all defilements and suffered afflictions no more. They were liberated in mind and in wisdom, and were as free and unhindered as great dragons. They had done what should be done and abandoned the heavy burdens. They had benefited themselves and severed all bonds of existence. They were conversant with the true teaching and had reached the other shore. Among them, only Ānanda remained in the stage of learning.
Mount Gṛdhrakūṭa: Traditionally known as Vulture’s Peak, a favorite retreat location for the Buddha and his disciples, “situated near Devrajnagar village in the tehsil of Ramnagar” (wiki)
All these monks were well-known Arhats: these are no ordinary arhats as usually portrayed in Theravada Buddhism and downplayed in the Mahayana, but are Transcendental Nirvanists—distinguished as the Worthy-Ones and sealed with a singular anointment by the Tathagatas. Ānanda, although appointed as a senior disciple, was the last one to be perfected.
as free and unhindered as great dragons: usually references to dragon(s) refer to the nagas, but in this instance it connotes the Black Dragons, those Prajñā-Lords who are instilled with inconceivable Buddha-gnosis.
At that time, the Venerable Śāriputra rose from his seat, uncovered his right shoulder, knelt on his right knee, joined his palms toward the Buddha, and said, “World-Honored One, how did Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas of the past resolve to pursue supreme enlightenment, cultivate all pure deeds, and wear the armor of vigor, adorning themselves with merits? How did those Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas wear the armor of vigor, which enabled them to attain nonregression from the pursuit of supreme enlightenment? May the utterly kind World-Honored One reveal and expound their deeds, their vows, and their engendering of bodhicitta. World-Honored One, those Bodhidhisattva-Mahāsattvas, for the benefit, peace, and happiness of gods and humans, exerted themselves to cultivate all pure-deeds and wore the armor of vigor; thereby they rendered benefit, peace, and happiness to all sentient beings, and illuminated the Buddha-Dharma for Bodhisattvas of’ the present and future. By praising merits and obtaining good roots, they caused the Bodhisattvas [of the present and future] to learn and cultivate diligently [the insight into] suchness, the Dharma-nature, and to attain supreme enlightenment without fail after hearing the Buddha-Dharma explained.”
Śāriputra: the chief disciple of the Buddha, known as the mouthpiece of the Śrāvaka vehicle; in this sutra, he is noted for his persistence in acquiring about matters pertaining to the development of Bodhisattvahood.
Śāriputra’s question sets the stage leading-up to the full spiritual development of Akṣhobhya as a former Mahāsattva-Bodhisattva. Indeed, these are the preparatory stages that need to be fulfilled for all prospective Mahāsattva-Bodhisattvas.
The armor of vigor: this is a variable of spiritual-mastership that will become a recurring theme in this Sutra, in particular for Akṣhobhya’s attainment. The armor of vigor refers to the spiritual refinement of bodhicitta.
Bodhicitta: [the power of the awakened Buddha-Mind] this has been well-defined elsewhere in these blogs as the very ‘Dharmakayic Element within man’; “not something weak and weepy—an excessive bleeding-heart kind of association, rather it is the very nature of Mahabodhicitta, which is the great and Enlightened Mind-Stream of the Tathagatas.” Akṣhobhya in mastering this spiritual-principle will become a “True-Stream Enterer by becoming perfumed with the very essence of the Tathagatas,” fully and unequivocally “awakening as one” in them.
…illuminated the Buddha-Dharma: being filled with the Luminous Light of the Unborn by being empowered to authentically break-open the Dharma-seal and thus share its hidden treasures for all who are beholden to the Spirit of Buddhahood.
…cultivate diligently [the insight into] suchness, the Dharma-nature, and to attain supreme enlightenment: being empowered for the direct recognition of Bhūtathatā; becoming “bearers of suchness”, in effect partaking in the exuberance of the Unborn Source Itself and exemplifying this by thus sharing-in the unexcelled perfection of Tathagatahood.
The Buddha said, “Excellent! It is excellent, Śāriputra, that you can ask me about past Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas’ pure deeds, their illumination, their great armor, and their praising of merits for the sake of embracing Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas of the future. Now, listen attentively and think in accordance with the truth. I will explain this to you.”
Śāriputra said, “Yes, World-Honored One, I am willing and glad to listen.”
The Buddha is setting the stage of all the variables necessary for the rise to Mahā-Bodhisattvahood by highlighting Akṣhobhya’s Mahāsattva-Bodhisattva career…