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.
Having last month heard Śākyamuni explain that he has been teaching these great Bodhisattvas who arose from under the Sahā World since the remotest past, we listen to Maitreya question Śākyamuni.
Thereupon Maitreya Bodhisattva-mahāsattva and the innumerable Bodhisattvas in the congregation doubted the Buddha’s words which they had never heard before. They thought:
‘How did the World-Honored One teach these great, innumerable, asaṃkhya Bodhisattvas, and qualify them to attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi in such a short time?’
[Maitreya Bodhisattva] said to the Buddha:
“World-Honored One! When you, the Tathāgata, were a crown prince, you left the palace of the Śākyas, sat at the place of enlightenment not far from the City of Gaya, and attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. It is only forty and odd years since then.
“World-Honored One! How did you do these great deeds of the Buddha in such a short time? Did you teach these great, innumerable Bodhisattvas, and qualify them to attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi by your powers or by your merits?
“World-Honored One! No one can count the number of these great Bodhisattvas even if he goes on counting them for thousands of billions of kalpas. They have already planted roots of good, practiced the way, and performed brahma practices under innumerable Buddhas from the remotest past.
“World-Honored One! It is difficult for anyone in the world to believe this. It is as difficult as to believe a handsome, black-haired man twenty-five years old who points to men a hundred years old and says, ‘They are my sons,’ or as to believe men a hundred years old who point to a young man and say, ‘This is our father. He brought us up.’ You are like the young man. It is not long since you attained enlightenment. But it is many thousands of billions of kalpas since the great multitude of these Bodhisattvas began to practice the Way strenuously in order to attain the enlightenment of the Buddha. During that time they entered into, stayed in, and came out of many hundreds of thousands of billions of samadhis, and obtained great supernatural powers. They performed brahma practices for a long time. They learned good teachings one by one, and obtained the ability to answer questions skillfully. They are regarded as the treasures of the world of men by all the people of the world because they are rare. Today you say that, after you attained the enlightenment of the Buddha, you caused them to aspire for enlightenment, taught them, and led them into the Way to Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi.
“World-Honored One! You did these deeds of great merit although it is not long since you attained Buddhahood. We believe that your words given according to the capacities of all living beings are infallible, and that we understand all that you know. But the beginners in Bodhisattvahood after your extinction, if they hear these words of yours, will not receive them by faith but commit the sin of violating the Dharma. Therefore, World-Honored One! Explain all this so that we may be able to remove our doubts and that the good men in the future may have no doubts when they hear these words of yours!”
The Daily Dharam from July 23, 2017, offers this:
World-Honored One! It is difficult for anyone in the world to believe this. It is as difficult as to believe a handsome, black-haired man twenty-five years old who points to men a hundred years old and says, ‘They are my sons,’ or as to believe men a hundred years old who point to a young man and say, ‘This is our father. He brought us up.’
Maitreya Bodhisattva explains his perplexity to the Buddha in Chapter Fifteen of the Lotus Sūtra. The Buddha had just revealed that he was who taught all the Bodhisattvas who have appeared from underground to continue teaching the Wonderful Dharma after the extinction of the Buddha. Maitreya realizes that his doubts are no different from those of those gathered to hear the Buddha teach and asks the Buddha to explain. When our experience does not match what the Buddha teaches, we should not keep silence and just accept what he tells us. It is only through sincere questioning that we find the Buddha’s mind and make it our own.
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