Day 20 completes Chapter 15, The Appearance of Bodhisattvas from Underground, and concludes the Fifth Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.
At the close yesterday, the leaders of the Bodhisattvas from underground inquired after the Buddha as an old acquaintance might. The answer reinforces the fact that those in the congregation have been his disciples for many lifetimes:
Thereupon the World-Honored One said to them in the presence of the great multitude of Bodhisattvas:
Truly, truly good men! I am peaceful. I am in good health. The living beings are ready to be saved. They do not fatigue me because I already taught them in their consecutive previous existences, and also because they have already honored the past Buddhas respectfully and planted the roots of good. As soon as they saw me and heard my teachings, they received my teachings by faith and entered into the wisdom of the Tathagata, except those who had previously studied and practiced the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle. Now I am causing [the followers of the Lesser Vehicle] to hear this sutra and to enter into the wisdom of the Buddha.”
But just exactly who are these Bodhisattvas from Underground? No one recognizes them and everyone is puzzled.
Thereupon Maitreya Bodhisattva-mahasattva, seeing what the Bodhisattvas numbering eight thousand times as many as the sands of the River Ganges had in their minds, and also wishing to remove his own doubts, joined his hands together towards the Buddha, and asked him in gathas:
We have never seen
These many thousands of billions
Tell me, Most Honorable Biped!
Where did they come from?
They have gigantic bodies,
Great supernatural powers, and inconceivable wisdom.
They are resolute in mind.
They have a great power of patience.
All living beings are glad to see them.
Where did they come from?
These Bodhisattvas have
Great powers, virtues and energy.
Who expounded the Dharma to them? Who taught them?
Who qualified them to attain [perfect enlightenment]?
Under whom did they begin to aspire for enlightenment?
What teaching of the Buddha did they extol?
What sutra did they keep and practice?
What teaching of the Buddha did they study?
The Buddha tells everyone to “concentrate your minds, wear the armor of endeavors, and be resolute” and then proceeds to tell them:
[I know that] you have never seen these great, innumerable, asamkhya Bodhisattva-mahasattvas who sprang up from underground. After I attained Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi in this Saha-World, I taught these Bodhisattvas, led them, trained them, and caused them to aspire for enlightenment. They lived in the sky below this Saha-World. When they were there, they read many sutras, recited them, understood them, thought them over, evaluated them, and remembered them correctly. Ajita! These good men did not wish to talk much with others [about things other than the Dharma] but to live in a quiet place. They practiced the way strenuously without a rest. They did not live among gods and men. They had no hindrance in seeking profound wisdom. They always sought the teaching of the Buddha. They sought unsurpassed wisdom strenuously with all their hearts.
And in gathas:
I once sat under the Bodhi-tree
In the City of Gaya,
Attained perfect enlightenment,
And turned the wheel of the unsurpassed Dharma.
Then I taught them,
And caused them to aspire for enlightenment.
Now they do not falter [in seeking enlightenment].
They will be able to become Buddhas.
My words are true.
Believe me with all your hearts!
I have been teaching them
Since the remotest past.
But Maitreya and everyone else are overcome with doubts:
It is not long
Since you renounced the family of the Sakyas
And sat under the Bodhi-Tree
These sons of yours are innumerable.
They have practiced
The way to Buddhahood for a long time.
They have supernatural powers and the power of wisdom.
They have studied the Way of Bodhisattvas well.
They are not defiled by worldliness
Just as the lotus-flower
Is not defiled by water.
They sprang up from underground,
And are now standing before you respectfully.
This is difficult to understand.
How can we believe this?
It is as though a young man says some old men are his sons or an old man says a young man is his father.
We do not doubt your words
Because we heard them direct from you.
Explain all this so that the living beings in the future
May be able to understand your words, Buddha!
Those who doubt this sutra
And do not believe it
Will fall into the evil regions.
Explain all this to us now!
How did you teach these innumerable Bodhisattvas
In such a short time,
And cause them to aspire for enlightenment
And not falter in seeking enlightenment?
Stay tuned for the answer tomorrow!