Vimalakirti Sutra-BDK (XII-XIV)

Chapter XII.   Vision of Akṣobhya Buddha

1. At this point the World-honored One asked Vimalakīrti, “When you wish to see the Tathāgata, in what ways do you view the Tathāgata?”

Vimalakīrti said, “As if contemplating the real characteristic of my own body—so do I view the Buddha.

“When I view the Tathāgata, he does not come in the past, does not go in the future, and does not abide in the present.

“I neither view him as form, nor view him as the suchness of form, nor view him as the nature of form. I neither view him as feeling, conception, process, or consciousness; nor view him as the suchness of consciousness; nor view him as the nature of consciousness.

“He does not arise from the four great elements and is identical to space. He has no accumulation of the six sensory capacities, and his eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind have already passed beyond and are not within the triple world.

“Having transcended the three defilements, he is in accord with the three emancipations. Complete in the three illuminations, he is equivalent to ignorance.

“He is neither the single characteristic nor different characteristics. He is neither a self-characteristic nor an other-characteristic. He is neither without characteristics, nor does he grasp characteristics.

“He is not of this shore, nor of the other shore, nor of the current [of samsara] in between, yet he converts sentient beings. I view him in extinction, yet he is not permanently in extinction. He is neither this nor that, and he neither uses this nor uses that.

“He cannot be understood with wisdom, nor can he be known by consciousness. He is without darkness (i.e., ignorance), without brightness (i.e., understanding), without name, and without characteristic. He is without strength, without weakness, and neither pure nor defiled. He does not occupy a region, nor does he transcend the regions.

“He is neither conditioned nor unconditioned. He is without manifesting and without explaining.

“He is neither charitable nor stingy, neither observant nor transgressive [of the precepts], neither forbearant nor angry, neither energetic nor lazy, neither composed nor perturbed, and neither wise nor foolish. He is neither sincere nor dissembling, neither coming nor going, neither exiting nor entering. All the paths of words are eliminated.

“He is neither a field of blessings nor not a field of blessings. He is neither one worthy of offerings (i.e., arhat) nor not one worthy of offerings. “He neither grasps nor forsakes; he neither has characteristics nor is without characteristics. “He is identical to the true limit and equivalent to the Dharma-nature. “He is indescribable, incalculable; he transcends appellations and measures. He is neither great nor small. “He is neither vision, nor hearing, nor perceiving, nor knowing; he transcends the host of fetters. He is equivalent to the various types of wisdom and identical to sentient beings. He is without discrimination with regard to the dharmas.

“He is entirely without failing, without impurity, without vexation, without intentionality (lit., “unconstructed”), without activation, without generation, and without extinction; without fear, without sorrow, without joy, without dislike, and without attachment; without past, without future, and without present. He cannot be discriminated or manifested using any verbal explanations at all.

“World-honored One, such is the body of the Tathāgata, and thus do I perform its contemplation. To use this contemplation is called the correct contemplation. If [one uses some] other contemplation, this is called the incorrect contemplation.”


2. Śāriputra then asked Vimalakīrti, “Where did you die to become born here?”

Vimalakīrti said, “Are there death and birth in the dharmas as you appre- hend (lit., “attain”) them?”

Śāriputra said, “There are no death and birth [in the dharmas].”

[Vimalakīrti said,] “If the dharmas are without the characteristics of death and birth, why do you ask ‘Where did you die to become born here?’ What do you mean? It is as if a magician conjures up a man and a woman— do they die and become born?”

Śāriputra said, “They do not die and become born.”

[Vimalakīrti said,] “But can you not have heard the Buddha explain that                  555b the dharmas are like conjured characteristics?”

[Śāriputra said,] “So I have.”

[Vimalakīrti said,] “If all the dharmas are like conjured characteristics, why do you ask ‘Where did you die to become born here?’ Śāriputra, death is the characteristic of the destruction of false dharmas, and birth is the char- acteristic of continuity of false dharmas. Although bodhisattvas die, they do not exhaust their roots of goodness, and although they are born they do not nurture the various evils.”


3. Then the Buddha told Śāriputra, “There is a country called Wondrous Joy (Abhirati), where the Buddha is entitled Akṣobhya (Immovable). Vimalakīrti died in that country prior to being born here.”

Śāriputra said, “This is unprecedented! World-honored One, this per- son is able to forsake a pure land and come take pleasure in this place of great anger and harm.”

Vimalakīrti said to Śāriputra, “What do you think? When the sun’s light appears, is it conjoined with darkness?”

[Śāriputra] answered, “No. When the sun’s light appears, the darkness disappears.”

Vimalakīrti said, “Why does the sun come to Jambudvīpa?” [Śāriputra] answered, “To illuminate it and eliminate the darkness.” Vimalakīrti said, “Bodhisattvas are like this. Even though they are born in impure buddha lands in order to convert sentient beings, they are not there- fore conjoined with the darkness of stupidity. They merely extinguish the darkness of the afflictions of sentient beings.”


4. At this time the great congregation eagerly wished to see the Wondrous Joy world, Akṣobhya Tathāgata, and his congregations of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas.

Knowing what the entire assembly was thinking, [the Buddha] told Vimalakīrti, “Good man, on behalf of this assembly, manifest Wondrous Joy world, Akṣobhya Tathāgata, and his congregations of bodhisattvas and śrā- vakas. The congregations all wish to see them.”

Vimalakīrti then thought to himself, “Without getting up from my seat I should lift the Wondrous Joy world, including its Iron Ring Mountains; streams, rivers, oceans, springs; [Mount] Sumeru and the other mountains; the sun, moon, and stars; the palaces of the gods, dragons, demonic spirits, and Brahmā gods; its congregations of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas; the cities, towns, villages, men and women, adults and childen; and even Akṣobhya Tathāgata with the bodhi tree and its wondrous lotus flowers, which are able to perform the Buddha’s work throughout the ten directions. There are three jeweled stairways from Jambudvīpa to the Tuṣita Heaven, and the gods descend these jeweled stairways. They all worship Akṣobhya Tathāgata and listen to his Dharma. The people of Jambudvīpa also climb those stairways, ascending to Tuṣita to see the gods there.

“The Wondrous Joy world is composed of such immeasurable merits, from the Akaniṣṭha Heaven above to the water limit (i.e., the disk of water) below. I will grasp it in my right hand, as a potter does a wheel, bringing it into this world like carrying a flower garland, to show all the congregations.”


5. Thinking this thought, [Vimalakīrti] entered samādhi and manifested the power of numinous transformation. With his right hand he grasped the Wondrous Joy world and placed it in this land.


6. Those congregations of bodhisattvas and śrāvakas [in that Wondrous Joy world], as well as the other gods and humans who had attained numi- nous penetration, all said, “O World-honored One, who is taking us away? Please save us!”

Akṣobhya Buddha said, “This is not my doing. This is being done through the numinous power of Vimalakīrti.

The others, who had not attained numinous penetration, were unaware of where they were going.

Although the Wondrous Joy world entered this land, it did not expand or contract. At this the [sahā] world was not constricted, but unchanged from before.


7. At this point Śākyamuni Buddha told the great congregations, “You may view the Wondrous Joy world, Akṣobhya Tathāgata, and the ornamen- tations of that country, and the pure practices of the bodhisattvas and purity of the disciples.”

They all said, “Yes, we see them.”

The Buddha said, “Bodhisattvas who wish to attain pure buddha lands such as this should learn the path that has been practiced by Akṣobhya Tathā- gata.”

When this Wondrous Joy world was manifested, fourteen nayutas of people in the sahā world generated the intention to achieve anuttarā samyak- saṃbodhi, all wishing to be born in the Wondrous Joy buddha land. Śākya- muni Buddha predicted for them, saying, “You will be born in that country.”

Then the benefits in response of having the Wondrous Joy world in this country were finished, and it returned to its original place, as seen by the entire congregation.


8. The Buddha told Śāriputra, “Did you see this Wondrous Joy world and Akṣobhya Buddha?”

[Śāriputra said,] “Yes, I saw them. World-honored One, I wish that every sentient being could attain a pure land like that of Akṣobhya Buddha and obtain the power of numinous penetration like Vimalakīrti.

“World-honored One, we have quickly attained good benefit, seeing these people and making offerings directly to them. Those sentient beings who hear this sutra, either now [while you are] present or after the Buddha’s nirvana, will also attain good benefit. How much more so if, after hearing it, they devoutly understand, accept, recite, explain, and practice according to it!


9. “Those who get hold of this sutra will attain the [entire] storehouse (i.e., treasury) of the Dharma jewel.

“If one reads, recites, explains its meaning, or practices according to its explanation, one will be protected and remembered by the buddhas. To make offerings to such a person—understand that this is to make offerings to the Buddha. To copy and maintain these fascicles of scripture—understand that the Tathāgata is present in that room. Those who hear this sutra and are able to become joyful accordingly will achieve omniscience. If one is able to devoutly understand this sutra, even just a single four-phrase verse (gāthā), and explain it to others—understand that such people will immediately receive a prediction of [their future achievement of] anuttarā samyak-saṃbodhi.”



Chapter XIII.   Dharma Offering

1. At this time Śakra Devānām Indra, who was in the great congregation, announced to the Buddha, “World-honored One, although I have listened to a hundred thousand sutras by yourself and Mañjuśrī, I had never heard this scripture of the definitive true characteristic of the inconceivable, autonomous, numinous penetration.


2. “According to my understanding of the meaning explained by you, if there are sentient beings who hear this sutra and who devoutly understand, accept and maintain, and read and recite it, they will definitely attain this Dharma, and will not doubt it. How much more so if they cultivate according to its explanation! Such people will immediately close off the host of evil destinations and open the gateways of good. They will always be protected and remembered by the buddhas. They will subjugate the heterodox teachings and demolish the vengeful Māras. They will cultivate bodhi and reside peacefully in the place of enlightenment. They will walk in the very footsteps the Tathāgata has trod.


3. “World-honored One, if there are those who accept and maintain, read and recite, and cultivate [this sutra] as it has explained, I and my subordinates will make offerings and serve them.

“As to the villages, towns, mountain forests, and wildernesses where this sutra is found, I and my subordinates will go to those locations in order to listen to the Dharma. I will cause those who do not yet believe to believe, and those who already believe will be protected.”


4. The Buddha said, “Excellent, excellent! Heavenly emperor, it is as you have spoken. I am happy for you!

“This sutra extensively explains the inconceivable anuttarā-samyak-saṃbodhi of the buddhas of the past, present, and future. Therefore, heavenly emperor, if good men and women accept and maintain, read and recite, and make offerings to this sutra, that is tantamount to making offerings to the buddhas of the past, present, and future.


5. “Heavenly emperor, even if the entire trimegachiliocosm were filled with Tathāgatas as numerous as the sugar cane, bamboo, reeds, rice, hemp, and forests, and if a good man or woman were to revere, honor, praise, make offerings, and provide all their needs for a kalpa or even less than a kalpa, until after the nirvana of those Tathāgatas;

“After [the nirvana of those Tathāgatas], if he or she erected a stupa of the seven treasures above the relics of every one of those Tathāgatas’ bod- ies, as long and wide as a single fourfold world and as tall as the Brahmā heaven, [with each stupa constituting] a field ornamented with all [manner of] flowers, incense, garlands, banners, and musicians, paramount in most subtle wonder; and

“If [that good man or woman] made offerings to [these stupas] for a kalpa or less than a kalpa—

“What do you think, heavenly emperor? Would the blessings planted by that person be great or not?”

Śakra Devānām Indra said, “They would be great, World-honored One! One could not fully explain their merit, even in a hundred thousand koṭis of kalpas.”


6. The Buddha told the heavenly emperor, “You should understand, the good man or woman who hears this scripture of the inconceivable emanci- pation and who devoutly understands, accepts, recites, and practices it will have blessings even greater than the former person.

“Why? The enlightenment of all the buddhas is born from this. The characteristic of bodhi is immeasurable, and based on this the blessings are



7. The Buddha told the heavenly emperor, “At a time immeasurable

asaṃkhyeyas of kalpas in the past, there was a buddha named Medicine King (Bhaiṣajyarāja), a Tathāgata, Arhat, Fully Enlightened One, One Endowed with Wisdom and Conduct, Well-gone One, Knower of the World, Supreme Master of Discipline, Teacher of Gods and Humans, Buddha, and World- honored One. His world was called Great Ornamentation. His kalpa was called Ornamentation.

“That buddha’s lifespan was twenty small kalpas. “He had a śrāvaka sangha of thirty-six koṭis of nayutas [of members], and a bodhisattva sangha of twelve koṭis.

“Heavenly emperor, at the time there was a wheel-turning sage king named Jeweled Canopy, who was endowed with the seven treasures [of the cakravartin] and ruled the fourfold world. The king had one thousand sons, who were handsome, courageous, and able to subjugate their enemies.


8. “At the time Jeweled Canopy and his subordinates made offerings to Medicine King Tathāgata, providing all that he needed for a full five kalpas. After five kalpas he told his thousand sons, ‘You should also make offerings to the Buddha with a profound mind, like me.’ Then the thousand sons, accepting their father’s order, made offerings to Medicine King Tathāgata, and they provided for his needs for another full five kalpas.


9. “One of those sons, named Moon Canopy, sat alone, thinking ‘Might there be some offering that would exceed even this?’

“Through the Buddha’s numinous power, a god’s voice was heard from space, ‘Good man, the offering of the Dharma surpasses all other offerings.’ “[Moon Canopy] then asked, ‘What is an offering of the Dharma?’ “The god said, ‘You may go ask Medicine King Tathāgata. He will give you an extensive explanation of offerings of the Dharma.’ Prince Moon Canopy immediately proceeded to Medicine King Tathāgata and bowed to his feet, then stood to one side and addressed the Buddha, ‘World-honored One, of all the offerings, offerings of the Dharma are superior. What are offerings of the Dharma?’


10. Buddha [Medicine King] said, “Good man, offerings of the Dharma are those made to the profound sutras explained by the buddhas. “In all the worlds, these are difficult to believe in, difficult to accept. They are subtle and difficult to see, pure and without defilement. They can-

not be attained with only discriminative thinking. “They are contained in the storehouse of the Dharma of the bodhisattvas.

They are sealed by the seal of dhāraṇī. They take one to [the stage of] nonretrogression and to the accomplishment of the six perfections.

“They discriminate the meanings well, and they accord with the dharma of bodhi. They are supreme among the host of sutras and induct one into great sympathy and compassion. They transcend the affairs of the hosts of Māras and the various heterodox views. They accord with the dharma of causes and conditions.


11. “They are without self, without person, without sentient being, with- out lifespan. They [teach the three emancipations of] emptiness, signlessness, wishlessness and nonactivation.

“They are able to make sentient beings take their seat in the place of enlightenment and turn the wheel of the Dharma.

“They are praised by all the gods, dragons, [demonic] spirits (yakṣas), gandharvas, and so on.

“They are able to make sentient beings enter the store[house] of the Buddha-Dharma.

“They accommodate all the [types of] wisdom of the worthies and sages. They explain the path practiced by the host of bodhisattvas. They rely on the meanings of the true characteristic of the dharmas. They illuminate the dharmas of impermanence, suffering, emptiness, no-self, and extinction. “They are able to save all sentient beings who commit infractions. They

can render afraid the Māras, heretics, and those attached to desire. “They are praised by all the buddhas, worthies, and sages. They reject the suffering of samsara and reveal the joy of nirvana. They are explained

by all the buddhas of the ten directions and three periods of time. “One who hears such sutras, and devoutly understands, accepts and maintains, and reads and recites them, will with the power of skillful means explain them clearly and with discriminative understanding for sentient beings. This is because that person will be maintaining and protecting the

Dharma. This is called the ‘offering of the Dharma.’


12. “Furthermore, when one practices as is explained in the Dharma, one will be in accord with the twelve [factors of] causes and conditions, transcend the heterodox views, and attain forbearance of the birthlessness of dharmas. There is definitively no self and no sentient beings, and within the retributive results of the causes and conditions there [will be in such persons] no disagreement, no contention, and the transcendence of all the qualities of self.

“They will rely on meanings, not on words. They will rely on wisdom, not on knowledge. They will rely on sutras of comprehensive meaning and not rely on sutras of incomplete meaning. They will rely on the Dharma and not rely on a person. They will be in accord with the characteristics of the Dharma, without anywhere that is entered, without any refuge. Ignorance will be thoroughly extinguished, and hence the processes will be thoroughly extinguished. Thus birth will be thoroughly extinguished, and hence old age and death will be thoroughly extinguished.

“If one performs such a contemplation, the twelve [factors of] causes and conditions will be without the characteristic of being exhausted. One will not generate views again. This is called the ‘offering of the supreme Dharma.’”


13. The Buddha told the heavenly emperor, “When Prince Moon Canopy heard this Dharma from Medicine King Buddha, he attained the forbearance of compliance. Taking off his jeweled robe and bodily ornaments, he offered them to the Buddha, saying ‘World-honored One, after your nirvana I will practice the offering of the Dharma and defend the correct Dharma. Please use your numinous charisma compassionately, so that I will be able to sub- jugate the vengeful Māras and cultivate the practices of the bodhisattva.’”

Knowing the profound thoughts in [the prince’s] mind, [Medicine King] Buddha made the prediction, “At the very end, you will defend the Dharma city.”


14. [The Buddha told the] heavenly emperor, “Prince Moon Canopy then saw the purity of the Dharma. Hearing the Buddha bestow a prediction [of future buddhahood] on him, he developed faith and left home. After cul- tivating the good Dharma with exertion for not very long, he attained the five numinous penetrations and became a bodhisattva. He attained dhāraṇī and unending eloquence. After the nirvana of that buddha, using the power of the numinous penetrations, dhāraṇī, and eloquence that he had attained, he disseminated the wheel of the Dharma that Medicine King Buddha had turned for a full ten short kalpas. Through his diligent practice and exertion in defending the Dharma, in that lifetime Moon Canopy bhikṣu converted a million koṭis of people, who became irreversible in their [quest for] anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi. Fourteen nayutas of people generated the profound inspi- ration to become śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas. Immeasurable sentient beings gained birth in the heavens.

“Heavenly emperor, was not the Prince Jeweled Canopy of that time an unusual person! As of now he has attained buddhahood and is entitled Jewel Mirage Tathāgata. Those thousand princes became the thousand buddhas of the bhadrakalpa. The first achieved buddhahood as Krakucchandra, and the last will be the Tathāgata named Ruci. Moon Canopy bhikṣu was I myself.


15. “Thus, heavenly emperor, you should understand this essential point: the offering of the Dharma excels all other offerings. It is supreme, incomparable. Therefore, heavenly emperor, you should use the offering of the Dharma to make offerings to the buddhas.”



Chapter XIV.   Bestowal

1. At this point the Buddha told Maitreya Bodhisattva, “Maitreya, I now bestow on you this Dharma of anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi, which I have accu- mulated over immeasurable koṭis of asaṃkhyeyas of kalpas. Sutras of this type should, during the final period after my nirvana, be circulated exten- sively throughout Jambudvīpa by you and others with your numinous power, so [the Dharma] is not cut off.

“Why? In the future time, there will be good men and women, as well as gods, dragons, demonic spirits, gandharvas, rakṣasas, and so on, who will generate the intention to achieve anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi and take pleas- ure in the great Dharma. If they are unable to hear sutras such as this, they will lose its good benefit. When people such as this hear these sutras, they must with great faith and joy realize their rarity and accept them with humility, explaining them extensively according to the benefits that sentient beings will receive from them.


2. “Maitreya, you should understand that bodhisattvas [may] have two [inferior] characteristics. What are these two? The first is the fondness for miscellaneous phrases and literary embellishment. The second is their lack of fear of penetrating deeply into the actualities of profound meanings.

“You should understand that it is novice bodhisattvas who are fond of miscellaneous phrases and literary embellishment. Those who lack the fear of entering into profound scriptures that are without defilement and without attachment, and who upon hearing them become pure in mind and accept and maintain, read and recite, and practice them as explained—you should under- stand that these [bodhisattvas] have been cultivating the path for a long time.


3. “Maitreya, there are two other dharmas (i.e., characteristics) regard- ing how those who are called novices are unable to be definite about the extremely profound Dharma. What are these two?

i) “The first is that when they hear profound sutras for the first time, they become fearful, generate doubts, and are unable to follow [those sutras]. Reviling them and lacking faith in them, they say ‘I have not heard this before. Where did it come from?’

ii) “The second is that, when there are those who defend, maintain, and explain profound sutras such as these, [the novices] are unable to associate with [those teachers], make offerings to them, and revere them. Or, at times they talk about [the teachers’] transgressions and errors.

“You should understand that those who have these two dharmas are novice bodhisattvas. They only harm themselves, and they are unable to con- trol their minds within the profound Dharma.

4. “Maitreya, there are two other dharmas concerning bodhisattvas who devoutly understand the profound Dharma, but who still harm themselves and are unable to attain forbearance of the nonarising of dharmas. What are these two? i) “The first is to belittle novice bodhisattvas and not instruct them. ii) “The second is to understand the profound Dharma, but with a discrimination that grasps at characteristics. “These are the two dharmas.”


5. When Maitreya heard this explanation he addressed the Buddha, “World-honored One, this is unprecedented! It is as you have explained. “I will distantly transcend such evils and maintain the Dharma of anut-

tarā samyaksaṃbodhi that the Tathāgata has accumulated over innumerable asaṃkhyeyas of kalpas.

“If in the future there are good men and women who seek the Mahayana, I will make certain that they get hold of such sutras. Using their power of mindfulness, I will cause them to receive and maintain, read and recite, and extensively explain them for others.

“World-honored One, if in the latter age there are those able to receive, maintain, read, recite, and explain them for others, one should understand that these will all be established by Maitreya’s numinous power.”

The Buddha said, “Excellent, excellent, Maitreya! It is as you have explained. I am happy for you!”


6. At this all the bodhisattvas held their palms together and addressed the Buddha, “We too, after the Buddha’s nirvana, will extensively disseminate the Dharma of anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi throughout the countries of the ten directions. We will also guide those who explain the Dharma and cause them to obtain this sutra.”


7. Then the four heavenly kings addressed the Buddha, “World-honored One, in every place, whether city, village, mountain forest, or wilderness, where there are those who read and recite and explain these fascicles of scrip- ture, we will lead our palace retainers in proceeding to those places, to lis- ten to the Dharma and protect those people. For an area of a hundred yojanas we will make it convenient [to hear their explanations] without seeking.”


8. At this point the Buddha said to Ānanda, “Accept and maintain this sutra, and disseminate it extensively.”

Ānanda said, “Assuredly. I have already accepted and maintained its essentials. World-honored One, what is the name of this sutra?”

The Buddha said, “Ānanda, this sutra is named the ‘Discourse of Vimalakīrti.’ It is also called the ‘Dharma Gate of the Inconceivable Emancipation.’ As such you should accept and maintain it.”

When the Buddha finished explaining this sutra, the Elder Vimalakīrti, Mañjuśrī, Śāriputra, Ānanda, and all the great congregations of gods, humans, and asuras, hearing what the Buddha had explained, rejoiced greatly.




Boin, Sara, trans. The Teaching of Vimalakīrti (Vimalakīrtinirdeśa). London: Pali Text Society, 1976. English translation of Étienne Lamotte’s French translation, listed below.

Lamotte, Étienne, trans. L’enseignement de Vimalakīrti. Louvain: Bibliothèque du Muséon, 1962.

Luk, Charles (Lu Ku’an Yü), trans. The Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra. Berkeley, CA: Sham- bhala, 1972.

Nattier, Jan. “The Teaching of Vimalakīrti [Vimalakīrtinirdeśa]: A Review of Four Eng- lish Translations,” Buddhist Literature 2 (2000): 234–58.

Takasaki, Jikidō, and Kōshō Kawamura, trans. “Yuima-gyō,” Yuima-gyō, Shiyaku Bon- ten shomon kyō, Shuryōgon zammai kyō [Vimalakīrti Sutra, Questions of the Brahmā (Deva) Viśeṣacinti Sutra, and Śūraṃgama-samādhi Sutra], Monju kyōten [Mañjuśrī Scriptures] no. 2. Tokyo: Daizō shuppan, 1993.

Thurman, Robert A. F., trans. The Holy Teaching of Vimalakīrti: A Mahāyāna Scripture. University Park, PA and London: Pennsylvania University Press, 1976.

Watson, Burton, trans. The Vimalakīrti Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.


A Message on the Publication of the English Tripiṭaka

The Buddhist canon is said to contain eighty-four thousand different teachings. I believe that this is because the Buddha’s basic approach was to prescribe a different treatment for every spiritual ailment, much as a doctor prescribes a different medicine for every medical ailment. Thus his teachings were always appropriate for the particular suffering individual and for the time at which the teaching was given, and over the ages not one of his prescriptions has failed to relieve the suffering to which it was addressed.

Ever since the Buddha’s Great Demise over twenty-five hundred years ago, his message of wisdom and compassion has spread throughout the world. Yet no one has ever attempted to translate the entire Buddhist canon into English throughout the history of Japan. It is my greatest wish to see this done and to make the translations available to the many English-speaking people who have never had the opportunity to learn about the Buddha’s teachings.

Of course, it would be impossible to translate all of the Buddha’s eighty-four thousand teachings in a few years. I have, therefore, had one hundred thirty-nine of the scriptural texts in the prodigious Taishō edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon selected for inclusion in the First Series of this translation project.

It is in the nature of this undertaking that the results are bound to be criti- cized. Nonetheless, I am convinced that unless someone takes it upon himself or herself to initiate this project, it will never be done. At the same time, I hope that an improved, revised edition will appear in the future.

It is most gratifying that, thanks to the efforts of more than a hundred Bud- dhist scholars from the East and the West, this monumental project has finally gotten off the ground. May the rays of the Wisdom of the Compassionate One reach each and every person in the world.

August 7, 1991

NUMATA Yehan Founder of the English Tripiṭaka Project



Editorial Foreword

In January 1982, Dr. NUMATA Yehan, the founder of the Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai (Society for the Promotion of Buddhism), decided to begin the monumental task of translating the complete Taishō edition of the Chinese Tripiṭaka (Bud- dhist canon) into the English language. Under his leadership, a special prepara- tory committee was organized in April 1982. By July of the same year, the Trans- lation Committee of the English Tripiṭaka was officially convened.

The initial Committee consisted of the following members: (late) HANAYAMA Shōyū (Chairperson), (late) BANDŌ Shōjun, ISHIGAMI Zennō, (late) KAMATA Shigeo, KANAOKA Shūyū, MAYEDA Sengaku, NARA Yasuaki, (late) SAYEKI Shinkō, (late) SHIOIRI Ryōtatsu, TAMARU Noriyoshi, (late) TAMURA Kwansei, URYŪZU Ryūshin, and YUYAMA Akira. Assistant members of the Committee were as follows: KANAZAWA Atsushi, WATANABE Shōgo, Rolf Giebel of New Zealand, and Rudy Smet of Belgium.

After holding planning meetings on a monthly basis, the Committee selected one hundred thirty-nine texts for the First Series of translations, an estimated one hundred printed volumes in all. The texts selected are not necessarily lim- ited to those originally written in India but also include works written or com- posed in China and Japan. While the publication of the First Series proceeds, the texts for the Second Series will be selected from among the remaining works; this process will continue until all the texts, in Japanese as well as in Chinese, have been published.

Frankly speaking, it will take perhaps one hundred years or more to accom- plish the English translation of the complete Chinese and Japanese texts, for they consist of thousands of works. Nevertheless, as Dr. NUMATA wished, it is the sincere hope of the Committee that this project will continue unto comple- tion, even after all its present members have passed away.

It must be mentioned here that the final object of this project is not aca- demic fulfillment but the transmission of the teaching of the Buddha to the whole world in order to create harmony and peace among humankind. To that end, the translators have been asked to minimize the use of


Editorial Foreword

explanatory notes of the kind that are indispensable in academic texts, so that the attention of general readers will not be unduly distracted from the primary text. Also, a glossary of selected terms is appended to aid in understanding the text.

To my great regret, however, Dr. NUMATA passed away on May 5, 1994, at the age of ninety-seven, entrusting his son, Mr. NUMATA Toshihide, with the con- tinuation and completion of the Translation Project. The Committee also lost its able and devoted Chairperson, Professor HANAYAMA Shōyū, on June 16, 1995, at the age of sixty-three. After these severe blows, the Committee elected me, then Vice President of Musashino Women’s College, to be the Chair in October 1995. The Committee has renewed its determination to carry out the noble inten- tion of Dr. NUMATA, under the leadership of Mr. NUMATA Toshihide.

The present members of the Committee are MAYEDA Sengaku (Chairper- son), ISHIGAMI Zennō, ICHISHIMA Shōshin, KANAOKA Shūyū, NARA Yasuaki, TAMARU Noriyoshi, URYŪZU Ryūshin, YUYAMA Akira, Kenneth K. Tanaka, WATANABE Shōgo, and assistant member YONEZAWA Yoshiyasu.

The Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research was established in November 1984, in Berkeley, California, U.S.A., to assist in the publication of the BDK English Tripiṭaka First Series. In December 1991, the Publication Committee was organized at the Numata Center, with Professor Philip Yam- polsky as the Chairperson. To our sorrow, Professor Yampolsky passed away in July 1996. In February 1997, Dr. Kenneth K. Inada became Chair and served in that capacity until August 1999. The current Chair, Dr. Francis H. Cook, has been continuing the work since October 1999. All of the remaining texts will be published under the supervision of this Committee, in close cooperation with the Editorial Committee in Tokyo.

MAYEDA Sengaku Chairperson Editorial Committee of the BDK English Tripiṭaka


Publisher’s Foreword

The Publication Committee shares with the Editorial Committee the responsi- bility of realizing the vision of Dr. Yehan Numata, founder of Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai, the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism. This vision is no less than to make the Buddha’s teaching better known throughout the world, through the translation and publication in English of the entire collection of Buddhist texts compiled in the Taishō Shinshū Daizōkyō, published in Tokyo in the early part of the twentieth century. This huge task is expected to be carried out by several generations of translators and may take as long as a hundred years to complete. Ultimately, the entire canon will be available to anyone who can read English and who wishes to learn more about the teaching of the Buddha.

The present generation of staff members of the Publication Committee includes Marianne Dresser; Brian Nagata, president of the Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Berkeley, California; Eisho Nasu; and Rev- erend Kiyoshi Yamashita. The Publication Committee is headquartered at the Numata Center and, working in close cooperation with the Editorial Commit- tee, is responsible for the usual tasks associated with preparing translations for publication.

In October 1999, I became the third chairperson of the Publication Com- mittee, on the retirement of its very capable former chair, Dr. Kenneth K. Inada. The Committee is devoted to the advancement of the Buddha’s teaching through the publication of excellent translations of the thousands of texts that make up the Buddhist canon.

Francis H. Cook Chairperson Publication Committee


NOTE: The complete translation can be found at