Part-Time Bodhisattvas

From: Sumeru-Books.Com

At that time, the Venerable Śāriputra thought, “The World-Honored One has just now discussed the merits of the Śrāvakas. May the Tathāgata also expound the complete merits of the Bodhisattvas. Why? Because all other merits come from them.”

Then, knowing Śāriputra’s thought, the Buddha told him, “ln that Buddhaland, innumerable hundreds of thousands of [millions of] billions of Bodhisattvas attend the assembly, and, by the divine power of the Buddha, all the Bodhisattvas who have left the household life can understand, accept, uphold, read, and recite what they have heard.

Two observations. Firstly, notice how these billions of Bodhisattvas “attend the assembly”—meaning when the Buddhadharma is preached; yet we shall discover soon that they don’t essentially take-up house in Akṣhobhya’s Buddha-land. Secondly, these Bodhisattvas are mostly those who have “left the household life”—reference will be made to this again. This is in close approximation to those Mahāsattva-Bodhisattvas who embrace a solitary-spirituality—closer to the monk than the lay-bodhisattva. This sutra places a high premium on the notion of solibacy (new coinage)—those who live the life of an anchorite-monk, who are so closely attuned, and so indelibly linked with what they “accept, uphold, read and recite” in the Buddhadharma that they no longer have a need for creature-comforts, including intimate-sexual relations.

“Śāriputra, the Dharma which I have expounded in this world is a very small part-less than one hundredth, one thousandth, one hundred thousandth, one hundred billionth, one of any number of parts, one minute part, or even one infinitesimal part-of the Dharma-treasure expounded by Tathāgata Akhobhya.

Śāriputra, this is all because Tathāgata Akhobhya, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One, made this vow when cultivating the Bodhisattva practices: ‘When I attain Buddhahood, may all the Bodhisattvas in my land, by my awesome power, be able to understand, accept, uphold, read, and recite whatever they hear [from the Buddha]. Śāriputra, by the divine power of the original vow made by that Tathāgata, those Bodhisattvas are able to understand, accept, uphold, read, and recite with facility all that they have heard from the Buddha.

…or even one infinitesimal part-of the Dharma-treasure expounded by Tathāgata Akhobhya: this would be the same concerning the other “Dhyani-Buddhas (Amoghasiddhi, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Vairochana). The Five-Dhyani-Buddhas (Akṣhobhya among them) have a reserved place of honor in the Buddha-pantheon. They are all emanations of Samantabhadra—the Primordial Buddha.

“Furthermore, Śāriputra, if those Bodhisattvas want to go to another Buddha-land, they arrive there as soon as they think of that land, wearing the native costume, speaking the local language with no accent, and acting in harmony with the customs of that land. They pay homage and make offerings to the Tathāgata of that land, listen to the true Dharma, and ask pertinent questions. When they have done all they can, they return to Akhobhya Buddha.

It’s as if these Mahāsattva-Bodhisattvas live “part-time” in Akṣhobhya’s Buddha-land. The rest of the time they visit other Buddha-lands, even partaking in the unique circumstances occurring in these respective lands. A good case in point here is Vimalakirti, from the sutra bearing the same name. His origin was from a different Buddha-field, yet he assumed “the native costume, speaking the local language with no accent, and acting in harmony with the customs of that land.” He did this as an expedient means within Śākyamuni Buddha’s own Buddha-field.

“Śāriputra, nine hundred ninety-six Buddhas will appear in this world during this Worthy Kalpa. A Bodhisattva who wishes to see these Tathāgatas should make a vow to be born in Akhobhya Buddha’s land.

*This refers to the tradition that in the Worthy Kalpa, a total of one thousand Buddhas will appear. Since Śākyamuni Buddha was the fourth, 996 more will appear. (FN)

“Śāriputra, if good men or good women [who follow the Bodhisattva-path] after their death in this Buddha-land or another Buddha-land, have been born, are being born, or will be born in the Buddha-land of Tathāgata Akhobhya, they will not believe or abide in the stage of Śrāvakas. Why? Because those who follow the Buddha-path will always meet the Tathāgata, and give the celestial demon Pāpiyān no opportunity to hinder them. They will give up the two vehicles forever, and attain supreme enlightenment without fail. They will always participate in that Tathāgata’s great assemblies.

Those who eventually follow the “Buddha-path” need to have a Bodhisattva-prerequisite. They no longer follow the usual two-vehicle (Śrāvakayāna and Pratyekabuddhayāna) and are thus empowered to partake in the ultimate quest of Bodhisattvahood—Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi (Supreme Enlightenment). Upon being anointed by innumerable Tathāgatas, they are no longer subjected to the whims of any demons.

“Śāriputra, you should know that those sentient beings who dwell in the pure Buddha-land of Tathāgata Akhobhya will never be subject to degeneration, seduction, or regression; they will abide in the pursuit of supreme enlightenment, have great power, be immovable, and never regress.

All sentient beings in Akṣhobhya’s Buddha-land share his own “Immovable Resolve” for spiritual advancement.

“Śāriputra, if good men or good women are born in that land after their death in this world or other worlds, they will, at the time of their birth, have this thought: ‘I have entered the Tathāgata’s room and have taken up my abode in the city of fearlessness.’

Like Akṣhobhya, his inhabitants share in his own resolute fearlessness—as represented by his hand touching the earth, palm down:

Akshobhya’s Pure-Land is inhabited with members of the Vajra-Family, whose stubborn resilience in the face of all evil is diamond-sharp and strikes at the very heart of Mara himself like a thunderbolt from the sky. This resiliency is reminiscent of Siddhartha Gautama sitting unmovable beneath the Bodhi-tree when Mara tried to uproot his Recollective Resolve with every conceivable disturbance. Shakyamuni remained steadfast in his resolve; as a symbolic gesture, he reached down and gently touched the earth with his right hand—*the Sacred Mudra of Akshobhya. In meditation, one becomes One with this Mudra as the symbolic gesture is replicated within oneself; this need not be done exclusively externally and in a sitting posture, but indeed “inwardly” at will, wherever one is.

* bhumisparsha mudra, the earth-touching gesture.

“Śāriputra, those Bodhisattvas will comply with the pāramitā of wisdom in  whatever they say, and they will respect one another and regard one another as teachers.

This verse relates how they all share in the prajñapāramitā and respect each other’s perspicacity in this Wisdom-field.

“Furthermore, Śāriputra, of the Bodhisattvas in that Buddha-land, few are householders; many are monks. By the Buddha’s divine power, they can understand, accept, uphold, read, and recite whatever they have heard [from the Buddha]. Śāriputra, the lay Bodhisattva-Māhāsattvas who are unable to participate in the assembly can by the Buddha’s miraculous power, hear, understand, accept, uphold, read, and recite with facility the Dharma expounded, wherever they are, whether sitting or standing. The Bodhisattvas who have left the household life and are not in the assembly can do the same. Also, these Bodhisattvas, in the course of decease and rebirth, never forget the sutras they have heard, and can be born in any Buddha-land they wish. Śāriputra, this is also achieved through the merits of Tathāgata Akhobhya’s original vows.

Fascinating little qualification that indicates that “birth” into ANY of these Buddha-lands are usually NOT permanent. Frequently these births into these auspicious lands are meant for further Mind-refinement and advancement into ever-greater fields that radiate the finer qualities of the Clear Light of the Pure Unborn Mind. Yea, rebirth, in whatever mode, will continue until such a Mind is spiritually refined enough to enter into and successfully navigate the Great Bardo of the Dharmatā.

“Śāriputra, if a Bodhisattva wishes to see numerous hundreds of thousands of [millions of] billions of ‘myriads of Buddha’s in one lifetime, he should vow to be born in the land of Tathāgata Akhobhya. After his birth there, he will see innumerable Buddhas and plant all kinds of good roots; he can also expound the essence of the Dharma to numerous hundreds of thousands of sentient beings to increase their good roots.

“Śāriputra, if Bodhisattvas, after their death in this world or other worlds, have been born, are being born, or will be born in the Buddha-land of Tathāgata Akhobhya, they will all attain the stage of nonregression. Why? Because in that Buddha-land, one is not obstructed by the celestial demon Pāpiyān or disturbed by demonic influences.

A further reflection of the Akṣhobhyan resilient immovability in the face of evil.

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