There were also thirty-two thousand bodhisattvas, all known to the assembly, persons who had carried out all the basic practices of great wisdom. Sustained by the might and supernatural powers of the Buddhas, they accepted and upheld the correct Law in order to guard the citadel of the Dharma. Without waiting to be asked, they befriended others and brought them comfort. They ensured the continuance and prosperity of the Three Treasures, making certain that these never expired. They conquered and subdued the ill will of the devils and curbed the non-Buddhist doctrines.
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Zen Buddhism Expert B. Yet it retains its freshness and humor as well as its wisdom. Modern readers especially appreciate its lesson on the equality of women and the enlightenment of laypeople. Like most Mahayana Buddhist Sutras, the origins of the text are not known. It is generally believed that the original was a Sanskrit text dating to about the 1st century CE. The oldest version that survives to the present day is the translation into Chinese made by Kumarajiva in CE.
Another Chinese translation, considered to be more accurate, was completed by Hsuan Tsang in the 7th century. The now-lost Sanskrit original also was translated into Tibetan, most authoritatively by Chos-nyid-tshul-khrims in the 9th century. The Vimalakirti Sutra contains more subtle wisdom than can be presented in a short essay, but here is a brief overview of the sutra. Only the Buddha himself is his equal.
So, the first point made in the sutra is that enlightenment does not depend on ordination. Vimalakirti is a Licchavi, one of the ruling clans of ancient India, and he is held in high esteem by all. The second chapter of the sutra explains that Vimalakirti feigns illness or takes illness into himself so that many people, from the king to the commoners, would come to see him. He preaches the dharma to those who come, and many of his visitors realize enlightenment.
In the next chapters, we find the Buddha telling his disciples , as well as transcendent bodhisattvas and deities, to go see Vimalakirti also. Even Manjusri , the bodhisattva of wisdom, feels humbled by Vimalakirti. But he agrees to go visit the layman. Then a great host of disciples, buddhas, bodhisattvas, gods, and goddesses decide to go along to witness because a conversation between Vimalakirti and Manjusri would be incalculably illuminating. Meanwhile, the Buddha is teaching in a garden.
The garden expands, and the layman Vimalakirti appears with his host of visitors. The Buddha adds his own words of instruction. The sutra concludes with a vision of the Buddha Akshobhya and the Universe Abhirati and an epilogue that includes a version of the Four Reliances. The Dharma-Door of Nonduality If you had to summarize the main teaching of the Vimalakirti in one word, that word might be "nonduality.
At its most basic, it refers to perception without reference to subject and object, self and other. Chapter 9 of the Vimalakirti, "The Dharma-Door of Nonduality," is possibly the best-known section of the sutra. In this chapter, Vimalakirti challenges a group of transcendent bodhisattvas to explain how to enter the dharma-door.
One after another, they give examples of dualism and nondualism. Thus, the nondualism of the vision of their nature is the entrance into nonduality.
The natures of ignorance and knowledge are the same, for ignorance is undefined, incalculable, and beyond the sphere of thought. The realization of this is the entrance into nonduality. Manjusri declares that all have spoken well, but even their examples of nonduality remain dualistic.
Then Manjusri asks Vimalakirti to offer his teaching at the entrance into nonduality. Sariputra remains silent, and Manjusri says, "Excellent! Excellent, noble sir! This is indeed the entrance into the nonduality of the bodhisattvas. Here there is no use for syllables, sounds, and ideas.
This may be a reference to a common belief that women must transform to become men before they enter Nirvana. The goddess responds that "female state" has no inherent existence. Then she magically causes Sariputra to assume her body, while she assumes his.
The goddess challenges Sariputra to transform from his female body, and Sariputra answers there is nothing to transform. This is a very readable translation from Tibetan. Watson is one of the most respected translators of Buddhist texts. His Vimalakirti is translated from the Kumarajiva Chinese text.
Cleary, Thomas The first English edition from the original Sanskrit, with brief introduction. Seems available only as electronic book. Jan Nattier has discussed and compared most of these translations in considerable detail, as an interesting case in the agendas and resulting shortcomings of various approaches to modern Buddhist Studies.
Sutra Vimalakirti Nirdesa
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