Day 12 concludes Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City, and completes the Third Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.
Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Tathagata assented to the requests from the Brahman-heavenly-kings of the worlds of the ten quarters and also by the sixteen princes and turned the wheel of the Dharma:
The Buddha said, ‘This is suffering. This is the cause of suffering. This is extinction of suffering. This is the Way to extinction of suffering.’
Then he expounded the teaching of the twelve causes, saying, ‘Ignorance causes predisposition. Predisposition causes consciousness. Consciousness causes name-and-form. Name-and-form causes the six sense organs. The six sense organs cause impression. Impression causes feeling. Feeling causes craving. Craving causes grasping. Grasping causes existence. Existence causes birth. Birth causes aging-and-death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation. When ignorance is eliminated, predisposition is eliminated. When predisposition is eliminated, consciousness is eliminated. When consciousness is eliminated, name-and-form is eliminated. When name-and-form is eliminated, the six sense organs are eliminated. When the six sense organs are eliminated, impression is eliminated. When impression is eliminated, feeling is eliminated. When feeling is eliminated, craving is eliminated. When craving is eliminated, grasping is eliminated. When grasping is eliminated, existence is eliminated. When existence is eliminated, birth is eliminated. When birth is eliminated, aging-and-death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation are eliminated.’
Countless gods and men emancipated themselves upon hearing the teachings and became Sravakas. But the sixteen princes, who renounced the world and became Sramaneras Bodhisattvas sought more:
They said to the Buddha simultaneously, ‘World-Honored One! All these Sravakas of great virtue, many thousands of billions in number, have already done [what they should do]. World-Honored One! Expound to us the teaching of Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi! If we hear that teaching, we will study and practice it. World-Honored One! We wish to have the insight of the Tathagata. You know what we have deep in our minds.’
Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha assented but he waited 20,000 kalpas before finally expounding “the Great Vehicle called the ‘Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas.’ ”
When the Buddha completed the expounding of this sutra, the sixteen sramaneras kept, recited and understood this sutra in order to attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. The sixteen sramaneras, [who were] Bodhisattvas, received this sutra by faith. Some Sravakas understood it by faith, but the other Sravakas and other living beings, thousands of billions in number, doubted it.
At this point Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha entered a quiet room and didn’t come out for 84,000 kalpas. During this period the 16 sramaneras expounded the Lotus Sutra to the four kinds of devotees, showed them the Way, taught them, benefited them, caused them to rejoice and to aspire for Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
Each of them taught six hundred billion nayutas of living beings, that is, as many living beings as there are sands in the River Ganges. Those living beings were always accompanied by the Bodhisattva[, by whom they were taught,] in their consecutive existences. [In each of their consecutive existences,] they heard the Dharma from him, and understood it by faith.
Each of the 16 former princes became Buddhas in the worlds of the 10 directions. The 16th sramanera was Sakyamuni, who attained Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi in this Saha-World.
Those living beings as many as there are sands in the River Ganges, whom I taught [when I was a sramanera], included you bhiksus and those who will be reborn as my disciples in Sravakahood after my extinction.
And in gathas:
I was one of the sixteen sramaneras.
You were among those to whom I expounded the Dharma.
Therefore, I now lead you with expedients
To the wisdom of the Buddha.
Because I taught you in my previous existence,
I expound the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
In order to lead you into the Way to Buddhahood.
Think it over! Do not be surprised! Do not be afraid!
Sakyamuni says “No one in the world can attain [true] extinction by the two vehicles. [True] extinction can be attained only by the One Buddha-Vehicle” and proceeds to offer the Parable of the Magic City. The lesser vehicles are simply places to rest and recuperate on the long, dangerous journey to the wisdom of the Buddha.
I know that the bad road, which is made of birth-and-death and illusions, is dangerous and long, and that we should pass through it and get off it. If you had heard only of the One Vehicle of the Buddha, you would not have wished to see or approach the Buddha, but would have thought, ‘The Way to Buddhahood is too long for us to pass through unless we make painstaking efforts for a long time.’
I knew that you were mean and timid. In order to give you a rest halfway, I expounded expediently to you the teaching of Nirvana by the two vehicles. To those who attained the two [vehicles], I say, ‘You have not yet done all that you should do. You are near the wisdom of the Buddha. Think it over and consider it! The Nirvana you attained is not true. I divided the One Vehicle of the Buddha into three only expediently.’
And in gathas:
The Buddhas expound the teaching of the Three Vehicles
Only as an expedient.
There is only the One Buddha-Vehicle.
The two [vehicles] were taught only as resting places.