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Written by Bodhisattva Nagarjuna Translated into Chinese by Tripitaka Master Kumarajiva of the Yaoqin dynasty
English translation © 1996 Dharmamitra reprinted with permission of Kalavinka (http://www.teleport.com/-dh-mitra/)










When the Bodhisattva was first born, he radiated a great brilliance which extended universally throughout the ten directions. He walked seven steps, surveyed the four quarters, roared the lion's roar and then uttered a verse, proclaiming:

Birth from the womb for me is now ended.
This is the very last physical form.
Already I have achieved liberation
And shall moreover bring deliverance to beings.

After pronouncing this pledge, in the course of time he grew to adulthood. He sought to relinquish his relatives and retinue, to leave behind the homelife, and to cultivate the unsurpassed Way . He arose in the night and, surveying the sleeping forms of his female entertainers and attendants, his wife and his consorts, beheld them as resembling decaying corpses.

He instructed Chandaka to saddle his white steed. At midnight they traversed the city wall, rode for twelve yojanas, and arrived at the forest inhabited by Bhaargava, the rishi. He then took up a knife, cut off his hair, and exchanged his wonderfully bejewelled raiments for a coarsely-woven Sanghaati [cloak].

On the banks of the Nairanjanaa River he cultivated bitterly ascetic practices for six years, eating only a sesame seed or a grain of rice each day. He thought to himself, "This method contradicts the Way."

At that time, the Bodhisattva left behind the place where he had cultivated such ascetic practices and went and sat at the adamantine place beneath the bodhi tree The demon king brought a throng of his minions numbering eighteen myriads of kotiis in an attempt to devastate the Bodhisattva. Because of the power of his wisdom and merit, the Bodhisattva overcame the demon hoardes and afterwards achieved anuttarasamyaksambodhi (the utmost, right and perfect enlightenment).

At that time, the ruler of the trichiliocosm , the Brahma Heaven king named "Sikhin, the gods of the form realm, "Sakradevendra, and the gods of the desire realm as well as the four Heavenly Kings, all came to pay their respects to the Buddha and to encourage and request the World Honored One to commence the turning of the wheel of Dharma.  Because of this, because the Bodhisattva recalled his original vow, and also because of his great kindness and great compassion, he acceded to the request and proclaimed the Dharma.

Furthermore, when the Buddha was first born, he dropped to the ground, strode seven steps, and spontaneously uttered words. After speaking, he then fell silent and, like other infants, neither walked nor talked. He was nursed to the age of three. His [step]mothers raised him and he gradually grew to maturity.

Now, although the bodies of the Buddha are countless and exceed in number the sum of all the worlds, for the sake of beings, he manifested like an ordinary person. Because the faculties of the body as well as the intellectual consciousness of ordinary people are not yet completely developed when they are born, the four types of deportment: sitting , lying down, walking and standing, as well as speaking, silence, and all manner of other human qualities--all of these are not yet perfected. As the days, months and years pass, one gradually practices, studies and then is able to refine the various aspects of being a person. Now how was the Buddha, upon birth, immediately able to speak and walk whereas afterwards he was then not able to do so?  One finds this astonishing. One should know that it is solely by dint of the power of skillful means that the Buddha manifests involvement in human endeavors, and comports himself as people do, thus influencing beings to believe in the profound Dharma. If when the Bodhisattva was born, he was then from that point on able to walk and was able to talk, ordinary people of the world would think, "Now we behold this man such as has never existed in the world before. Certainly he is a god, a dragon, a ghost or a spirit. That dharma which he studies is certainly not such that people like us mightaccomplish it. Why is that? Our fleshly bodies, bound to birth and death, are dragged about by the karma of the fetters. We are unable to gain freedom. Who would be able to approach such a profound dharma as this?" In this manner they would cut themselves off so that they could not become receptacles for the Dharma of the worthies and holy ones.

For the sake of these people, he was born in the Lumbini gardens. Although he was capable of proceeding immediately to the bodhi tree and achieving buddhahood, because of the power of skillful means he then manifested as an infant, as a youth, as a young man, and as a grown man, and in each phase sequentially took on [the corresponding activities of] playing, becoming skilled in the arts, utilizing the objects of the five desires, and consummately perfecting humanendeavors, afterwards gradually perceiving the suffering of senescence, disease, and death and [finally] generating thoughts of aversion and distress [which led to his] traversing the city wall in the middle of the night, leaving behind the homelife, and going to the location of the hermits Udraka and Aaraada. He gave the appearance of becoming a disciple, but did not practice their dharmas.

Although on account of constant use of his superknowledges he recalled his previous lives wherein at the time of  Kaasyapa Buddha he upheld the prohibitions and cultivated the way, still, he now manifested [in the role of] cultivating ascetic practices for six years in search of the way. Although the Bodhisattva was [already] the sovereign of the great trichiliocosm, nonetheless he demonstrated [the capacity of] demolishing the demon armies and realizing the unsurpassed way. In order to go along with the dharmas of the World, he displayed these various transformations. Because in the Prajnaapaaramitaa he nowdemonstrates the great power of superknowledges and wisdom, people ought to know that the Buddha's bodies are innumerable and surpass the sum of all the worlds.


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