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.
Following the appeals of the Brahman-heavenly-kings of the 10 directions, Gerat-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Tathagata turned the wheeel of the Dharma.
The wheel of this teaching could not be turned by any other one in the world, be he a sramana, a brahmana, a god, Mara or Brahman. 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.’
The sixteen princes, however, wanted something more than the teaching for Sravakas.
‘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.’
Seeing the sixteen princes having renounced the world, eight billion followers of the wheel-turning-holy-king begged the king to allow them to do the same. He conceded to them immediately.
The Buddha assented to the appeal of the sramaneras, but it was twenty thousand kalpas afterwards that he expounded to the four kinds of devotees the sutra of the Great Vehicle called the ‘Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas.’
The results were inconclusive:
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.
It took 8,000 kalpas without rest for the Buddha to complete his expounding of the sutra. When finished he retired to sit quietyly in dhyana-concentration for 84,000 kalpas. During this time, the 16 Bodhisattva-scramaneras “sat on a seat of the Dharma, expounded the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma to the four kinds of devotees for eighty-four thousand kalpas, and saved six hundred billion nayutas of living beings.”
Each of the 16 princes who had become Bodhisattva-scramaneras became a Buddha. The 16th was Sakyamuni. “I 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.
Bhiksus! I, the Tathagata, am like the leader. I am your great leader. 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.’
I say this just as the leader, who saw that his party had had a rest in the great city which he had made by magic in order to give them a rest, said to them, ‘The place of treasures is near. This city was not true. I made it by magic.”
The lessons of the chapter are then repeated in gathas:
It is difficult to meet a World-Honored One.
He appears only once in a very long time.
When he appears, he causes all the worlds to quake
In order to awaken all living beings.
Those who heard the Dharma from those sramaneras
Are now living under those Buddhas.
To those who are still in Sravakahood
[The Buddhas] teach the Way to Buddhahood.
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!
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.