AT THAT TIME the Buddha spoke to the Bodhisattvas and the entire great assembly, saying, "Good men, you should believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One." Once again he told the great assembly, "You should believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One." He again told the great assembly, "You should believe and understand the sincere and truthful words of the Thus Come One."
Then the great assembly of Bodhisattvas, headed by Maitreya, placed their palms together and spoke to the Buddha, saying, "World Honored One we only pray that you will speak. We shall believe and accept the Buddha’s words." They repeated this three times.
Again they said, "We only pray that you will speak. We shall believe and accept the Buddha’s words."
At that time the World Honored One, knowing that the Bodhisattvas would not stop with three requests, spoke to them, saying, "You should listen attentively.
"The Thus Come One’s power of spiritual penetrations is acknowledged by all gods, humans, and asuras in the world. They say that Shakyamuni Buddha, having left the palace of the Shakyan clan and having gone to a place not far from the city of Gaya to sit in the Bodhimanda, has now attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi.
"However, good men, I actually realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of eons ago.
"Suppose a person were to grind into fine motes of dust five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of three thousand great thousand world systems. Then, suppose he traveled to the east across five hundred thousand myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, and there he deposited one mote of dust. Suppose he continued in this way, traveling to the east, until all the motes of dust were gone.
"Good men, what do you think? Could the number of worlds he passed through be reckoned or counted?"
Maitreya Bodhisattva and the others all said to the Buddha, "World Honored One, those world systems would be limitless, boundless, beyond calculation, and beyond the power of the mind to know. All the Hearers and Pratyekabuddhas, using their nonoutflow wisdom, could not conceive of them or know their limit or number.
"We now dwell on the ground of avaivartika, but we cannot comprehend this matter, World Honored One, and so such world systems would be limitless and boundless."
At that time the Buddha spoke to the great hosts of Bodhisattvas, saying, "Good men, I shall now explain this clearly for you. If all these world systems whether a dust mote was deposited in them or not were reduced to dust motes, and if each dust mote were an eon, the time that has passed since I became a Buddha would exceed even that by hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons.
"From that time on, I have always remained in the Saha World, speaking the Dharma to teach and transform beings. Also, in other places, in hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of lands, I have guided and benefited living beings.
"Good men, in that interval, I spoke of the Buddha Dipankara and others, and I further spoke of them as entering Nirvana, but those were just discriminations made expediently.
"Good men, if a living being comes before me, I observe with my Buddha eye his faith and other qualities, as well as the keenness or dullness of his faculties, and I take him across in an appropriate manner.
"In all places, although the names by which I refer to myself are different and I may be older or younger, I also appear and announce that I am about to enter Nirvana. I also employ various expedient devices, speaking the subtle and wonderful Dharma and enabling living beings to bring forth happiness in their minds.
"Good men, the Thus Come One, seeing living beings delighting in lesser dharmas, beings of scanty virtue and heavy defilements, speaks for these people, saying, ‘When young, I left the home-life and attained anuttarasamyaksambodhi.’ In truth, however, I became a Buddha a long time before that. I speak in this way merely as an expedient to teach and transform living beings and to cause them to enter the Buddha Way.
"Good men, the Sutras proclaimed by the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and liberating living beings. He may speak of his own body, or he may speak of someone else’s body. He may manifest in his own body, or he may manifest in someone else’s body. He may manifest his own affairs, or he may manifest the affairs of others, but all that he says is true and not false.
"What is the reason for this? The Thus Come One knows and sees the triple realm as it really is. There is no birth or death, no retreating or advancing, no existence in the world or passage into quiescence. There is no reality or unreality, no likenesses or differences. He views the triple realm as not being the triple realm. Matters such as these, the Thus Come One clearly sees, without mistake or error.
"Living beings have various natures, various desires, various modes of conduct, and various ideas, thoughts, and discriminations. Wishing to lead them to produce the roots of goodness, he employs divers causes and conditions, analogies, and expressions to explain the various dharmas, carrying out the Buddha’s work without respite.
"Thus since I realized Buddhahood in the very remote past, my life span has been limitless asamkhyeyas of eons, eternal and never extinguished. Good men, the life span I realized when formerly practicing the Bodhisattva path has not yet been exhausted and is twice that of the above number.
"As I now proclaim that I am about to enter quiescence, I am not really passing into quiescence. The Thus Come One uses this passing only as an expedient to teach and transform living beings.
"For what reason? If the Buddha were to stay in the world a long time, those of scanty virtue who do not plant good roots, who are poor and lowly, who covet the objects of the five desires, and who are caught in the net of schemes and false views, seeing the Thus Come One constantly present and not entering stillness, would become arrogant, lax, and indifferent. They would not consider how difficult it is to encounter him, nor would their hearts be reverent.
"For these reasons, the Thus Come One expediently says, ‘Bhikshus, you should know that it is difficult to meet with a Buddha appearing in the world.’ What is the reason? Those of scant virtue may pass through limitless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of eons, during which time they may or may not see a Buddha. Because of that, I tell them, ‘Bhikshus, the Thus Come One is difficult to get to see.’ These living beings, hearing such words, will necessarily realize how difficult it is to get to encounter the Buddha and will cherish a longing for him. They will then plant good roots. That is why the Thus Come One, although he does not enter stillness, speaks of quiescence.
"Further, good men, the Dharma of all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, is like this and is used to save living beings. It is entirely true and not false.
"It is as if there were a good physician, wise and well versed in the medical arts and intelligent, who is skillful at healing the multitude of sicknesses. The man also has many sons ten, twenty or even a hundred. Then, called away on business, he travels to a far-off country.
"Meanwhile, the children drink some poison, which causes them to roll on the ground in delirium.
"Just then their father returns home. Because they drank the poison, some of the sons have lost their senses, while others have not. Seeing their father at a distance, they are all greatly happy. They bow to him, kneel, and inquire after him. ‘Welcome back in peace and safety. In our foolishness, we took some poison by mistake. We pray that you will rescue and heal us, and will restore our lives to us.’
"Seeing his children in such agony, the father consults his medical texts and then searches for fine herbs of good color, aroma, and flavor. He then grinds, sifts, and mixes them together, and gives the compound to his sons to take.
"And he says to them, ‘This is an excellent medicine of good, color, aroma, and flavor. Take it. Your agony will be relieved, and you will suffer no further torment.’
"Some among the children have not lost their senses. Seeing the fine medicine with its good color and aroma, they immediately take it and their sickness is completely cured.
"Although the others who have lost their senses rejoice in their father’s arrival, have inquired after his well-being, and have sought to be cured of their illnesses, they refuse to take the medicine. What is the reason? The poisonous vapors have entered them so deeply that they have lost their senses, and so they say that the medicine of good color and aroma is not good.
"The father then thinks, ‘How pitiful these children are! The poison has confused their minds. Although they rejoice to see me and ask me to rescue and cure them, still they refuse such good medicine as this. I should now set up an expedient device to induce them to take this medicine. ’
"Immediately he says, ‘You should know that I am now old and weak, and my time of death has arrived. I will now leave this good medicine here for you to take. Have no worries about not recovering.’ Having instructed them in this way, he then returns to the far-off country and sends a messenger back to announce, ‘Your father is dead.’
"When the children hear that their father is dead, their hearts are struck with grief, and they think, ‘If our father were here, he would be compassionate and pity us, and we would have a savior and protector. Now he has forsaken us to die in another country, leaving us orphaned, with no one to rely upon.’ Constantly grieving, their minds then become awakened. They understand that the medicine has good color, aroma, and flavor. They take it immediately, and their poisonous sickness is completely cured.
"The father, hearing that his sons have been completely cured, then comes back, and they all see him.
"Good men, what do you think, could anyone say that this good physician has committed the offense of false speech?
"No, World Honored One. "
The Buddha said, "I, too, am like that. I realized Buddhahood limitless, boundless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas of eons ago. For the sake of living beings, I employ the power of expedients and say that I am about to enter quiescence. There is no one who can rightly say that I have committed the offense of false speech."
At that time, the World Honored One, wishing to restate this meaning, spoke verses, saying,
From the time I attained Buddhahood,