Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King

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Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King

Post by bodhisattva » Mon Jan 14, 2019 6:22 am

Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King

Then bodhisattva
Constellation King Flower
Spoke to the Buddha,
Saying: "World-Honored One, how
Does bodhisattva
Medicine King come and go
In the saha world?
World-Honored One, Medicine
King bodhisattva
Has carried out some hundreds,
Thousands, ten thousands,
Millions of nayutas of
Very arduous
And difficult practices,
Okay, World-Honored
One, could I now ask you to
Explain a little?
Heavenly beings, dragons,
Yakshas, gandharvas,
And asuras, garudas,
Kimnaras, human
Beings, nonhuman beings,
Mahoragas, and
The bodhisattvas who have
Come from other lands
And the multitude of voice-
Hearers, will all be
Delighted to hear you now.

At that time Buddha
Addressed the bodhisattva
Constellation King
Flower, and he said: "Many
Kalpas in the past,
Immeasurable as sands
Of Ganges, there was
A buddha named Sun Moon Pure
Bright Virtue Thus Come
One, worthy of offerings,
Of universal
And right knowledge, and perfect
Clarity, conduct,
And well gone, understanding
The world, unexcelled
Worthy, trainer of people,
Teacher of human
And heavenly beings, world-
Honored one, buddha,
Buddha with eighty million
Of mahasattva
Bodhisattvas and a great
Multitude of voice-
Hearers equal to the sands
Of seventy-two
Ganges Rivers. This buddha's
Life span was forty-
Two thousand kalpas, and the
Bodhisattva's life
Span was the same. In his land
There were no women,
Hell dwellers, hungry spirits,
Beasts, or asuras,
Or kinds of tribulation.
The ground is level
As palm of a hand, made of
Lapis lazuli
And adorned with jeweled trees.
Curtains with jewels
Covered it over, banners
Of jeweled flowers
Hung down, and jeweled urns and
Incense burners filled
Land everywhere. There were
Daises made of the
Seven treasures, with a tree
By each dais, each
Situated an arrow-
Shot's length from dais.
All of these jeweled trees had
Bodhisattvas and
Voice-hearers sitting under
Them, and each of the
Jeweled daises had hundreds
Of millions of the
Heavenly beings playing
On the heavenly
Instruments and all singing
The praises of the
Buddha as an offering.

"At that time, for the
Sake of the bodhisattva
Gladly Seen by All
Living Beings and other
Many numerous
Bodhisattvas, multitudes
Of voice-hearers, the
Buddha preached Lotus Sutra.
This bodhisattva
Gladly Seen by All Living
Beings delighted
In doing the arduous
Practices. In the
Midst of the Law preached by the
Buddha Sun Moon Pure
Bright Virtue, diligently
He applied himself
And he traveled here and there,
Seeking buddhahood for a
Fully twelve thousand
Years and then he was able
To gain samadhi
In which one can manifest
All physical forms.
Having gained this samadhi,
His heart was filled with
Great joy and then he thought this:
My gaining of the
Samadhi in which I can
Manifest all of
The physical forms is due
Entirely to the
Fact I heard Lotus Sutra.
I must now make an
Offering to buddha Sun
Moon Pure Bright Virtue
And to the Lotus Sutra!

He entered the samadhi
And in midst of the
Sky rained great mandarava
Flowers, and finely
Ground, hard black particles of
Sandalwood; they filled
The whole sky like clouds as they
Came raining down. He
Also rained down sandalwood
Incense that grows by
Southern seashore. Six taels of
This incense worth as
Much as the saha world. All
These he used as an
Offering to the Buddha.

"When he had finished
Making this offering, he
Rose from samadhi
And thought to himself: Although
Powers were used to make this
Offering to the
Buddha, it is not good as
Making offering
Of my own living body.

"And thereupon he
Swallowed various perfumes,
Sandalwood, prikka,
Kunduruka, turushka,
And aloes, and he also
Drank the fragrant oil
Of champaka and other
Kinds of flowers, and
He did this for a full twelve
Hundred years while he
Anointed his body with
Fragrant oil. Then he
Appeared before buddha Sun
Moon Pure Bright Virtue,
And he wrapped his body in
Heavenly jeweled
Robes, poured fragrant oil over
His head, calling on
His transcendental powers,
He set fire to his
body. Then the glow shone forth,
Worlds equal in number to
The sands of eighty
Million Ganges Rivers. The
Buddhas in these worlds
Simultaneously spoke
Out in praise, saying:
'Excellent, excellent, good
Man! True diligence.
This is what is called a true
Dharma offering
To the thus come one. One may
Use flowers, incense,
Necklaces, and incense to
Burn, powdered incense,
Paste incense, heavenly silk
Banners, canopies,
Even the incense of the
Sandalwood that grows
By the southern seashore, and
To make offerings
Of all such things as these, one
Can never match this!
Though one may make donations
Of one's realm and one's
Cities, one's wife and children,
There is no match for
This. Good man, this is called the
Foremost donation.
Among all donations, this
Is the most highly
Valuable donation,
For one offers one's
Dharma to thus come ones!'

"After these words had
Been spoken , they each one fell
Silent. The body
Of the bodhisattva burned
For twelve hundred years,
And when that period of
Time had passed, the fire
Was finally extinguished.

"The bodhisattva
After Gladly Seen by All
Living Beings had
Made this dharma offering
And his life had come
To an end, he was reborn
In land of buddha
Sun Moon Pure Bright Virtue, in
The household of the
King Pure Virtue. Sitting in
Cross-legged position,
He was suddenly born by
Transformation, and
At once for the benefit
Of his father he
Then spoke in verse form, saying:
'Great king, you should now
Understand this. Having walked
In a certain place,
I immediately gained
The samadhi that
Allows me to manifest
All physical forms.
I have carried out my tasks
With great diligence
And cast aside the body
That I loved.' When he
Had recited this verse, he
Said to his father:
'The buddha Sun Moon Pure Bright
Virtue is still here
At this time. Previously
To this buddha I
Made this offering and gained
A dharani that
Allows me to know the words
Of living beings
Moreover I have heard this
Lotus Sutra with
All its eight hundred, thousand,
Ten thousand, millions
Of nayutas, kankaras,
Of vivaras, of
Akshobhyas of verses. Great
King, to this buddha
I make offering once more.'

"Having said this, he
Sat on a dais made of
The seven treasures,
Rose up into the air to
The height of seven
Tala trees and, proceeding
To the place where the
Buddha was, bowed his head to
Ground in obeisance
At the buddha's feet, and put
His ten finger nails
Together, and spoke this verse
Praising that buddha:
'A countenance so rare and
Wonderful, its bright
Beams illuminating the
Ten directions! At
A previous time I made
An offering, and
Now once more I come closer.'"

"At that time, after
The bodhisattva Gladly
Seen by All Living
Beings had spoken this verse,
He said to Buddha:
'World-Honored One, is the World-
Honored One present
In the world at this time?'

"Then the buddha Sun
Moon Pure Bright Virtue said to
The bodhisattva
Gladly Seen by All Living
Beings: 'Good man, it
Is time for my nirvana.
The time has come for
Extinction. You may provide
A comfortable
Couch for me to sit upon,
For tonight will be
My parinirvana.'

"He then commanded
The bodhisattva Gladly
Seen by All Living
Beings, and said: 'Good man, the
Buddha's teaching I
Entrust to you. Also, the
Bodhisattvas and
Great disciples, the doctrine of
The supreme perfect
Enlightenment, and seven-
Jeweled major world
System, with its jeweled trees,
Jeweled daises, and
Heavenly beings who wait
On and attend them—
All these I hand over to
You. I entrust the
Relics of my body that
Remain after I
Have passed into extinction.
You must distribute
Them abroad and arrange for
Offerings to them
Far and wide. You should erect
Many thousands of
Towers to house them all.'

"The buddha Sun Moon
Pure Bright Virtue, having then
Given these commands
To bodhisattva Gladly
Seen by all Living
Beings, very late that night
In the last watch of
That night, entered nirvana.

"The bodhisattva
Gladly Seen by All Living
Beings, seeing that
Buddha pass to extinction,
Was deeply grieved and
Distressed at that time. Out of
Great love and longing
For the buddha he at once
Prepared a pyre made
Of sandalwood from seashore,
And with this as an
Offering to the body,
He cremated it.
After the fire had burned out,
He gathered up the
Relics, fashioned eighty-four
Thousand jeweled urns
And built eighty-four thousand
Towers, high as the
Three worlds, adorned with central
Poles, draped with banners
And canopies, and they all
Were hung with a great
Multitude of jeweled bells.

"The bodhisattva
Gladly Seen by All Living
Beings once more thought
To himself: my mind is not
Yet satisfied though
I have made these offerings,
Must make some further
Offering to the relics.

"Then he spoke to the
Other bodhisattvas and
Great disciples, and to
Heavenly beings, dragons,
Yakshas, and all the
Members of great assembly,
Saying, 'Now give your
Undivided and complete
Attention. I now
Make an offering to the
Relics of buddha
Sun Moon Pure Bright Virtue.'

"Having spoken these
Words, immediately in
The presence of the
Eighty-four thousand towers
He burned his arms, which
Were adorned with a hundred
Blessings, for the time
Of seventy-two thousand
Years as offering.
This then caused the numberless
Multitudes who were
There seeking to become voice-
Hearers, and also
Was an immeasurable
Number of people,
To conceive a desire for
The supreme perfect
Enlightenment, and all of
Them were able to
Dwell in the samadhi where
One can manifest
In every physical form.

"The bodhisattvas,
The heavenly and human
Beings, asuras,
And others, seeing that the
Bodhisattva had
Destroyed his arms, were alarmed
And saddened and said:
'This bodhisattva Gladly
Seen by All Living
Beings has been our teacher
By instructing and
Converting us. Now he has
Burned his arms and his
Body no longer whole!'

"Then, in midst of great
Assembly, bodhisattva
Gladly Seen by All
Living Beings made this vow,
Saying: 'I have cast
Away both my arms. I am
Certain to attain
The golden body of a
Buddha. If this is
True and not false, then may my
Two arms become as
They were before burning!'

"When he had finished
Pronouncing this vow, his arms
Reappeared as they
Had been before. This happened
Because the merits
And the great wisdom of this
Bodhisattva were
Manifold and quite profound.
Then the major world
System shook and trembled in
Six different ways,
And heaven rained down jeweled
Flowers, and all of
The heavenly and human
Beings gained what they
Had never had before then.

To bodhisattva
Constellation King Flower
Buddha said: "What you
Think? Is this bodhisattva
Gladly Seen by All
Living Beings someone that
Is unknown to you?
He is the bodhisattva
Medicine King at
This time! He has cast aside
His body as an
Offering in this fashion
Hundreds, for thousands, for ten
Thousands, millions of
Nayutas of occasions.

"Constellation King
Flower, if there are those who
Have made up their minds
And wish to gain the supreme
Enlightenment that
Is perfect, they would do well
To burn a finger
Or one toe of their foot as
An offering to
The buddha towers, which is
Much better than to
Offer one's realm and cities,
Wife and children, or
The mountains, forests, rivers,
And lakes in the lands
Of the major world system,
Or all their very
Precious treasures. Even if
A person could fill
The whole major world system
With seven treasures
As an offering to the
Buddha and the great
Bodhisattvas, pratyeka-
Buddhas, and arhats,
The benefits gained by such
A person cannot
Match those gained by accepting
And upholding this
Lotus Sutra, even just
One four-line verse of
It! That brings most numerous
Blessings of them all.

"Constellation King Flower,
Among all rivers,
Streams, and bodies of water,
For example, the
Ocean is foremost. And this
Lotus Sutra is
Likewise, being the very
Profoundest and the
Greatest of sutras that are
Preached by thus come ones.
Again, just as among the
Dirt Mountains, the Black
Mountains, and the Small Iron
Encircling Mountains,
The Great Iron Encircling
Mountains, Ten Treasure
Mountains, and all the other
Mountains, the foremost
Is Mount Sumeru, so this
Lotus Sutra is
Likewise. Among all sutras,
It holds the highest
Place. And just as among all
Stars and their like, the
Moon, a god's son, is foremost,
And Lotus Sutra
Is likewise among all the
Thousands, ten thousands,
Millions of types of sutra
Teachings, it shines the
Brightest. Just as the sun, a
God's son, can banish
All darkness, this sutra can
Destroy the darkness
Of whatever is not good.

"As among petty
Kings the wheel-turning sage king
Is foremost, so this
Sutra is the most honored
Among the many
Sutras. As the lord Shakra
Is the king among
The thirty-three heavenly
Beings, this sutra
Likewise is king among all
The sutras. As the
Great heavenly king Brahma
Is the father of
All living beings, so this
Sutra likewise is
The father of all sages,
Worthies, those who are
Still learning, and those who have
Completed learning,
Those who have resolved in their
Minds on becoming
Bodhisattvas. As among
All ordinary
Mortals, the stream-winners, once-
Returners, arhats,
The non-returners, and the
Are foremost, so this sutra
Likewise is foremost
Among all sutra teachings
Preached by all the thus
Come ones, preached by all of the
Bodhisattvas, or
Preached by all the voice-hearers.
One who can accept
And uphold this sutra is
Foremost among all
Living beings. Foremost are
The Bodhisattvas
Among all voice-hearers and
In the same way this sutra
Is foremost among
All the sutra teachings. As
The Buddha is the
King of the doctrines, and so
Likewise this sutra
Is the king of the sutras.

"Constellation King
Flower, this sutra can save
All living beings.
This sutra can cause all of
The living beings
To free themselves from anguish
And suffering. This
Sutra brings great benefits
To living beings
And fulfills all their desires,
As a clear cool pond
Can satisfy all those who
Are thirsty. It is
Like a fire to one who is
Cold, a robe to one
Who is naked, like a band
Of merchants finding
A leader, a child finding
Its mother, someone
Finding a ship in which to
Cross the water, a
Sick man finding a doctor,
Someone in darkness
Finding lamp, the poor finding
Riches, the people
Finding a ruler, or a
Traveling merchant
Finding his way to the sea.
It is like a torch
That banishes darkness. Such
Is Lotus Sutra.
This sutra can cause living
Beings to cast off
All distress, all sickness and
Pain. It can unloose
All the bonds of birth and death.

"If one is able
To hear this Lotus Sutra,
If one copies it
Oneself or causes others
To copy it, the
Benefits one gains thereby
Will be such that the
Buddha wisdom could never
End calculating
Their extent. If one copies
These sutra rolls and
Uses flowers and incense,
Necklaces, incense
For burning, powdered incense,
Paste incense, banners,
Canopies, robes, various
Kinds of lamps such as
Lamps of butter oil, oil lamps,
Lamps with various
Fragrant oils, champaka oil
Lamps, and sumana
Oil lamps, lamps of patala
Oil, varshika oil
Lamps, or navamalika
Lamps of oil to make
Offerings. The benefits
One acquires likewise
Will be immeasurable.

"Constellation King
Flower, if a person hears
This chapter about
The Former Affairs of the
Great Bodhisattva
Medicine King, he will gain
And boundless benefits. If
There is a woman
Who hears this chapter on the
Former Affairs of
Bodhisattva Medicine
King and is able
To accept and uphold it,
That will be her last
Appearance in a woman's
Body and never
Be born in that form again.

"If in the last five-
Hundred-year period of
Time after thus come
One has entered extinction
There is a woman
Who hears this sutra and then
Practices as the
Sutra directs, when her life
Here on earth comes to
An end, immediately
She will go to the
World of Peace and Delight where
Dwells the great buddha
Amitayus surrounded
By the assembly
Of great bodhisattvas, and
There be born seated
On a jeweled seat in the
Center of lotus
Blossom. He will no longer
Know the torments of
Greed, desire, anger, rage, or
Foolishness, or of
Ignorance, or the torments
Brought by envy or
Arrogance, or by other
Defilements. He will
Obtain the bodhisattva's
Most transcendental
Powers and the truth of the
Birthlessness of all
Phenomena. Having then
Gained this truth, his sight
Will be clear and pure, and with
This sight he will see
The buddhas, the thus come ones,
Equal in number
To sands of seven hundred
Twelve thousand million
Nayutas Ganges Rivers.

"Then buddhas will join
In praising him from afar,
Saying: 'Excellent,
Excellent, good man! In the
Midst of the Law of
Shakyamuni Buddha you
Have been able to
Accept, uphold, read, recite,
Ponder, and preach this
Sutra to others. The good
Fortune you gain by
This is immeasurable,
Boundless and cannot
Be burned by fire or washed out
by water and your
Benefits are such that a
Thousand buddhas all
Speaking together could not
Finish describing
Them. You have been able to
Destroy all thieves and
Devils, to annihilate
Army of birth and
Death, and all others who bore
You enmity or
Malice have all been wiped out.

"'Good man, a hundred,
A thousand buddhas will then
Employ their highly
Transcendental powers to
Join in guarding and
Protecting you. Among the
Heavenly and the
Human beings of all the
Worlds, there will be no
One like you. With the only
Exception of the
Thus come one, there will be none
With the voice-hearers,
Pratyekabuddhas, or the
Bodhisattvas whose
Skill in meditation or
Wisdom cannot his
Equal! Constellation
King Flower, such will
Be the benefits and the
Power of wisdom
Gained by this bodhisattva.

"If a person who,
Upon hearing this chapter
On Former Affairs
Of the great Medicine King
Bodhisattva and
Is can to welcome it with
Joy and then praise its
Excellence, then in present
Life this person's mouth
Will constantly emit the
Fragrance of the blue
Lotus flower, and the pores
Of his body will
Constantly emit ox-head
Sandalwood fragrance.
His benefits will be such
As have been described
Above this. For this reason,
Constellation King
Flower, to you I entrust
This chapter about
The Former Affairs of the
Great Bodhisattva
Medicine King. Once after
I have passed into
Extinction, in the last five-
Hundred-year time span
You must then spread it abroad
Widely throughout all
Jambudvipa and never
Allow it to be
Cut off, nor must you allow
Evil devils, the
Devils' people, heavenly
Beings, dragons, or
The yakshas, or kumbhanda
Demons, or others
To seize any advantage!

"Constellation King
Flower, use transcendental
Powers to guard and
Protect this sutra. And why?
Because this sutra
Provides good medicine for
Illnesses of the
People of Jambudvipa.
If a person who
Has an illness is able
To hear this sutra,
Then his illness will be wiped
Out and then he will
Know neither aging nor death.

"Constellation King
Flower, if you see one who
Accepts and upholds
This sutra, you must take blue
Lotus blossoms, heap
Them with powdered incense, and
Scatter them over
Him as an offering. And
When you have scattered
Them, you should think to yourself:
This person will soon
Pick grasses, spread them as a
Seat in the place of
Enlightenment and conquer
The devil's armies.
And sound the conch of the Law,
Beat the drum of the
Great Law, and free all living
Beings from the sea
Of aging, sickness, and death!

"For this reason when
Those who seek the buddha way
See one who accepts
And upholds this sutra, they
Should approach him with
Great reverence and respect.

"When the Buddha preached
This chapter on the Former
Affairs of the great
Bodhisattva Medicine
King, the eighty-four
Thousand bodhisattvas got
The dharani that
Allows them to understand
The words of all the
Living beings. Then Many
Treasures Thus Come One
In his treasure tower raised
The bodhisattva
Constellation King Flower,
Saying: "Excellent,
Excellent, Constellation
King Flower. You have
Succeeded in acquiring
Good and ask Shakyamuni
Buddha about this
Matter, thus benefiting
Numbers of living beings."

Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King
Copyright © 2019 by Lance Carlyle Carter
Adapted from translation by Burton Watson.

(This poem attempts to imitate the Japanese chōka, or "long poem" style in English and is formatted into lines of alternating five and seven syllables with an extra seven syllable line at the end.)

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Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2018 10:05 pm

Re: Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King

Post by bodhisattva » Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:09 pm

There is a typo at the end of the poem with a missing letter "p" in this line:
"In his treasure tower raised"
should be:
"In his treasure tower praised"
What a difference a letter makes!

Also, since this is from chapter 23 of the Lotus Sutra, the poem doesn't end here and so an extra seven syllable line wasn't added. Should each chapter have a poem termination with an extra seven syllable? Here is another version with two seven syllable lines at the end of the chapter:

Living beings. Then Many
Treasures Thus Come One
In his treasure tower praised
The bodhisattva
Constellation King Flower,
Saying: "Excellent,
Excellent, Constellation
King Flower. You have
Succeeded in acquiring
Good benefits and could ask
The Shakyamuni
Buddha about this matter,
Thus benefiting
Untold immeasurable
Numbers of living beings."

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