At that time, the Venerable Śāriputra thought further, “The World-Honored One has spoken of the infinite merits of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One, in following the Bodhisattva-path. He has also spoken of the vast, great adornments of that land and the excellent, virtuous deeds of the Śrāvakas and Bodhisattvas there. I hope that the World-Honored One will further tell us about that Buddha’s parinirvāṇa and his deeds of deliverance thereafter.”
Then, knowing Śāriputra’s thought, the World-Honored One told him, “Śāriputra, on the day of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s parinirvāṇa, his magically produced bodies will appear throughout all the worlds, including the hells, and will expound the wonderful Dharma. He will subdue with the Dharma numerous sentient beings, all of whom will attain Arhatship. As a result, there will be more people who have attained the stage beyond learning than there were before that Buddha’s parinirvāṇa.
This depicts Akṣhobhya’s Absolute Parinirvāṇa. His Sambhogakaya-Body is literally exploding in all ten directions. It even descends into the lowest of the nether-regions to liberate the Hell-beings through expounding the Buddhadharma. An interesting parallel to this is when Jesus the Christ descended into hell and freed its inhabitants with Liberating Unborn Light. Through Akṣhobhya’s Absolute Parinirvāṇa limitless sentient beings will attain Noble Bodhi-birth.
“On that day, he will also predict Bodhisattva Fragrant Elephant’s attainment of Buddhahood, saying, ‘After my parinirvāṇa, you will become a Buddha, named Tathāgata Golden Lotus, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One.’ Furthermore, Śāriputra, the merits of Tathāgata Golden Lotus’s Buddha-land and the number of his disciples will be the same as those of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya.
On the day of his Absolute Parinirvāṇa, Tathāgata Akṣhobhya will pre-ordain another principal-Bodhisattva, bestowing upon him the same noble-features as his own Buddha-land.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, when Tathāgata Akṣhobhya enters parinirvāṇa, the great earth will quake all over, and the whole billion-world universe will roar in the quake. The sound will reach up to the Akaniṣṭha Heaven. When the gods hear the sound, they will know that the Buddha has entered parinirvāṇa.
“Moreover, Śāriputra, the forests and herbs of that Buddha-land will all incline toward the place where Tathāgata Akṣhobhya is entering parinirvāṇa. At that time, the gods and humans will all scatter over the Buddha garlands of flowers, many kinds of incense, and clothing. The scattered fragrant flowers will pile up around the Buddha to a height of one league.
There is no higher glory than when a Buddha enters into Absolute Parinirvāṇa; even the gods acquiesce and bow down with sublime respect and reverence.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, when Tathāgata Akṣhobhya is entering parinirvāṇa, all the gods, dragons, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kinnaras, and mahoragas of the billion-world universe will join their palms to salute him; also, by the divine power of the Buddha, the gods in other lands will be able to see that Buddha enter parinirvāṇa. For seven days and nights, these gods will be overwhelmed with grief, will desist from the amusements of gods and humans, and will feel no desire. They will say to one another, ‘Tathāgata Akṣhobhya has been the light of the world and the eye of sentient beings. Alas, why does he enter parinirvāṇa so soon?’
Absolute Parinirvāṇa is no ordinary one, such as the extinction that occurs at the time of death. It is Total-Absorption into the very heart of Suchness. As such, Akṣhobhya is no longer present as his disciples once knew him; his Absolute Imagelessness does not even sit on the pages of sutras.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, Tathagata Akṣhobhya, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One, will issue fire from his own body to cremate himself.
All his relics will be golden in color. Just as the timira tree reveals a swastika sign in its cross-section wherever it is cut, so will the relics of that Tathāgata.
“Moreover, Śāriputra, every relic of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya will be round, with the auspicious swastika sign both inside and outside. Śāriputra, just as the pulaka tree reveals the auspicious swastika sign both inside and outside wherever it is cut across, so will the relics of that Buddha.
Swastika: The swastika is an auspicious sign in Buddhism, as well as in Hinduism.
“Śāriputra, the sentient beings of that land will build stūpas out of the seven treasures for the relics all over that billion-world universe, and will offer to the stūpas thousand-petaled golden lotus flowers. These stūpas and lotus flowers will then serve as splendid adornments of that billion-world universe.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, after Tathāgata Akṣhobhya has entered great nirvāṇa, the true Dharma will endure in his world for a hundred thousand kalpas.”
Thereupon, Śāriputra asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, for [a hundred thousand] kalpas of what kind will the true Dharma of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya endure in the world?”
The Buddha told Śāriputra “Twenty small kalpas make one kalpa*, and the true Dharma will endure for a hundred thousand such kalpas.
*This is also referred to as a ‘medium-kalpa’. (FN)
“Śāriputra, after the extinction of the true Dharma, there will be a great light illuminating all the worlds in the ten directions, and all the earths will quake, making a great sound. However, [you should know that] the true Dharma cannot be destroyed by the celestial demons, nor will the Tathāgata and his disciples pass into oblivion of their own accord. It is because people of that time will lack interest in learning the Dharma that those who can expound the Dharma will go away from them. Hearing little of the true Dharma, the people will become more incredulous, and as a result, they will not strive to practice the Dharma. Seeing the indifference of the people, monks well-versed in the Dharma will naturally withdraw into seclusion and preach the Dharma no more. In this way, the subtle, profound teaching of the Buddha will gradually disappear.”
The Blessed One is referring to the general-extinction of the Dharma in his own Buddha-field. We, dear reader, are the ones having to endure the bitter-fruit of these Dharma-ending times. Is it any wonder, just given the horrendous circumstances littering our saha-world, that monks and those well-versed in the Buddhadharma find themselves in seclusion and preaching the Dharma less and less? Yet, fret not; even though it won’t affect our own limited lifespans, the True Dharma will once again rise from the ashes of indifference as new kalpas dawn and Bodhisattva Maitreya descends from the Tushita Heavens (as the future Buddha of this saha-realm) to proclaim the Buddhadharma anew.