At that time, the Venerable Śāriputra asked the Buddha, “World-Honored One, what causes and good roots enable Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas to be born in that Buddha-land?”
The Buddha told Śāriputra, “Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas who wish to be born in the World of Wonderful Joy should follow the Bodhisattva practices cultivated by Tathāgata Akṣhobhya in the past, and make a great vow to be born in that land. These practices and this vow will enable them to be born in that Buddha-land.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, if Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas, when practicing the pāramitā of giving, dedicate the ensuing good roots to the attainment of supreme enlightenment and wish to meet Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, then they will consequently be born in that Buddha-land. The same is true if they do likewise when practicing the pāramitā of discipline, and so on up to the pāramitā of wisdom.
“Moreover, Śāriputra, the light of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya shines over the whole billion-world Buddha-land. One should vow to realize supreme enlightenment in a future life as a result of seeing this light, so that, after attaining great enlightenment in that way, he will in turn emanate a light from his own body to illuminate the whole world. Śāriputra, a Bodhisattva who so vows will be born in that land.
There is a great premium placed upon the nature of a Tathāgatas’ Light. Our next series will focus exclusively upon this Transcendent-Value; it is one that highlights the very all-encompassing nature of the exuberant and luminous spirit of the Tathagatas.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One, has a limitless number of Śrāvakas. One should vow to see them and, afterwards, to perform deeds leading to the attainment of the Buddha’s enlightenment. This will enable one to have the same limitless number of Śrāvakas after he realizes enlightenment. Śāriputra, a Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva who so vows can be born in that Buddha-land.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, in that Buddha-land, there are innumerable Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas One should wish to see these Bodhisattvas to learn from them the practice of meditation, to be with them at all times, to study with them the same vehicle, and to attain the ultimate goal together with them. One should wish to meet those who pursue perfect, great kindness and compassion, who seek enlightenment and śramaṇahood, who forgo the intention to follow the two vehicles, who abide in the real emptiness, and who are constantly mindful of the name of the All-Knowing Buddha, the Tathāgata, and the names of the Dharma and the Saṁgha.
“Śāriputra, even those good men and good women who have heard the names of such Bodhisattvas will be born in that Buddha-land, let alone those who plant good roots in harmony with the pāramitā of wisdom and dedicate them to Tathāgata Akṣhobhya, the Worthy One, the Perfectly Enlightened One. Śāriputra, these are causes and conditions which enable one to be born in that Buddha-land without fail.
śramaṇahood: pertaining to renunciate ascetic-seekers of the Dharma-truths.
the same vehicle: there’s only one True Vehicle that unifies all the others—the Vehicle of the One Bodhi-Mind (Buddha-Nature Extraordinaire ).
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas who wish to be born in that Buddha-land should often visualize the Buddhas, the Tathāgatas, expounding the subtle, wonderful Dharma in the innumerable eastern worlds, together with their disciples. They should vow: ‘I will realize enlightenment, expound the subtle, wonderful Dharma, and have [a limitless number of] disciples just as those Buddhas do.’
“Śāriputra, these Bodhisattvas should cultivate the good roots of the three kinds of recollection; they should wish to practice recollection together with all sentient beings equally, and dedicate these good roots to the attainment of supreme enlightenment.
innumerable eastern worlds: those eastern (marked by Dhyani-Buddha Akṣhobhya) worlds that fill the entire-spectrum of Akṣhobhya’s Buddha-field.
three kinds of recollection: remaining rooted in the Buddha, the Dharma, and Sangha.
As the next verse emphasizes, these “good roots” that are cultivated are limitless in nature. Nurtured by the Word of the Buddha, watered by one’s fervent vows and brought to fruition through the six pāramitās, and refined by remaining faithful to the Three Jewels.
“Śāriputra, the Bodhisattvas’ good roots thus dedicated are limitless. Suppose all sentient beings, each holding a container with the same capacity as that of [all] space, said [to one of the Bodhisattvas], ‘Great man, places give me some of your good roots.’ Śāriputra these good roots, supposing they were material and given to the sentient beings, would fill all their containers and the containers would be taken away without exhausting the good roots. [Why?] Because these good roots are dedicated to the attainment of supreme enlightenment, and so are infinite and unchangeable.
“Śāriputra, because of these good roots, which arc achieved through these three kinds of recollection and are dedicated to all-knowing wisdom, one will be followed [and protected] by the Three Jewels wherever he goes. Śāriputra, you should know that if a Bodhisattva has achieved these good roots, he will not fall to any miserable plane of existence, he will be able to subjugate Pāpīyān and other demons, and he will be born as he wishes in any Buddha-land in the east, south, west, north, northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, the zenith, or the nadir.
Therefore, a Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva should accumulate the good roots of such recollection, and, having accumulated them, dedicate them to Tathāgata Akṣhobhya. In this way he can be born in that Buddha-land.
Once the good roots are formed, no-thing, not even the power of demons, can deter the fruition of the Bodhi-seeds.
“Furthermore, Śāriputra, the merits and vast adornments of the Buddha-land of Tathāgata Akṣhobhya cannot be found in any other of the countless Buddha-lands. A Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva, therefore, should resolve thus: ‘By virtue of these good roots, I wish to see that land, acquire its adornments, and see the Bodhisattvas there.’ By doing this, Śāriputra, the Bodhisattvas will be born in that Buddha-land.
“Śāriputra, Bodhisattva-Mahāsatrvas who wish to be born in that Buddha-land should generate an intense aspiration for it. Śāriputra, if good men or good women have generated such intense aspiration, I will predict their birth in that Buddha-land.
“Śāriputra, a city is not magnificent without such embellishments as towers, gardens, groves, ponds, and places for elephants and horses to roam, though its ruler may have power to maintain peace and order. Similarly, Śāriputra, since my Buddha-land does not have the same merits as Tathāgata Akṣhobhya’s, it is not as magnificently adorned.
Śākyamuni Buddha’s own Buddha-field encompasses our own saha-world. Certainly it cannot measure up to the splendor of Akṣhobhya’s Buddha-land whose streets are paved with exceptional merits. Recollect, however, in the Vimalakirti Sutra, legions of Bodhisattvas wanted to visit Śākyamuni Buddha’s land in order to see how he would administer the saving-graces of the Buddhadharma in such a filth-laden world. Our world is without question a broken one, yet Bodhisattvas can certainly sharpen their Bodhi-skills in administering to it.