Larger Sutra


Illustrations from the Larger Sutra Mandala

Karmic rewards of a beggar and a king

[18] The Buddha said to Ananda, "If a beggar in extreme poverty sits by the side of a king, how can their appearances be compared?"
Ananda replied, "If such a man sits by the side of a king, his emaciated, mean and ragged appearance cannot be compared with the king's. His appearance is a thousand million kotis or even incalculable times inferior to the king's. What is the reason for this? The conditions of a beggar in extreme poverty--being at the lowest social level, with barely enough clothes to cover his body, scarcely enough food to sustain his life, with hunger and cold always tormenting him, and having almost lost in human contact -- are all the result of his misdeeds in former lives. In the past he did not cultivate roots of virtue, but instead, accumulated riches without giving anything to others. He became more miserly as his wealth increased, desired to obtain more, insatiably hankered after further acquisitions and gave no thought to good actions. Thus he piled up a mountain of evil karma. When his life ended, all his wealth was gone, and what he had accumulated with great toil and worry was of no avail to him; all passed in vain into the possession of others. Having no stock of merit on which to depend and no virtue on which to rely, after death he fell into one of the evil realms, where he suffered pain for a long period. When his karmic retributions ended, he was able to escape, but was reborn into a lower class; being foolish, base and inferior, he barely maintains the appearance of a human being.
"The king of a country is the most honored of all men. This is the reward for virtues accumulated in former lives, in which he, with a compassionate heart, gave generously to many, saved people from suffering through kindness and benevolence, performed good deeds with sincerity, and never disputed with others. When that life ended, he was rewarded by rebirth into a higher state. Born in a heavenly realm, he enjoyed bliss and happiness. His accumulated virtues produced such a surplus of goodness that, when he was reborn as a man in this life, his birth was, deservedly, into a royal family. Being naturally noble, his dignified and majestic demeanor commands the respect of his people, and superb clothes and sumptuous food are prepared and served to him as he pleases. All this is a reward for virtues from his past lives."

Comparison between heavens and the Pure Land

[19] The Buddha said to Ananda, "What you say is true. Even though a king is the noblest of all men and has a regal countenance, if he is compared with a wheel-turning monarch, he will appear as base and inferior as a beggar beside a king. Likewise, however excellent and unrivaled the majestic appearance of such a monarch may be, [272a] if he is compared with the lord of the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods, he will also appear incomparably inferior, even ten thousands kotis of times more so. Again, if this heavenly lord is compared with the lord of the Sixth Heaven, he will appear a hundred thousand kotis of times inferior. If the lord of the Sixth Heaven is compared with a bodhisattva or a shravaka dwelling in the land of Amitayus, his countenance and appearance will be far from matching those of the bodhisattva or shravaka, being a thousand million kotis of times or even incalculable times inferior."

A richly adorned palace building.
Pleasures in the Pure Land

[20] The Buddha said to Ananda, "Devas and humans in the land of Amitayus are each provided with robes, food and drink, flowers, perfume, ornaments, silken canopies and banners, and are surrounded by exquisite sounds. Their abodes, palaces, and pavilions are exactly in accordance with the size of their bodies. One, two or even innumerable jewels appear before them, as soon as they wish. In addition, beautiful jewelled fabric covers the ground where all the devas and humans walk. In that Buddha-land there are innumerable jewelled nets, all adorned with skeins of gold thread, pearls, and a hundred thousand kinds of rare and marvelous treasures. All around the nets hang jewelled bells of the utmost beauty, which shine brilliantly. When a natural breeze of virtue arises and gently blows, it is moderate in temperature, neither cold nor hot, refreshing and soft to the senses, and moves neither too slowly nor too quickly. When the breeze wafts over the nets and the various jewelled trees, countless excellent sounds of the Dharma are heard, and ten thousand kinds of delicate fragrances of virtue are diffused. If one smells those fragrances, one's impurities and passions spontaneously cease to arise. If touched by the breeze itself, one enjoys the same pleasure as a monk who has entered the Samadhi of Extinction.

Flowers scattered on the ground
Flowers and innumerable rays of light emitted from them

[21] "Again, as the breeze blows, flowers are scattered throughout the Buddha-land; they spontaneously divide into different colors, not mixed together. They are soft and pleasant to touch, glow brilliantly, and diffuse rich fragrances. When one's foot is placed on them, they sink down four inches, but when the foot is lifted, they rise to their former level. When the flowers have served their purpose, the earth opens up and they vanish, leaving the ground clean and without trace of them. At the right moment, six times a day, the breeze wafts, scattering the flowers in this way. Moreover, lotus-flowers of various jewels fill the land; each has a hundred thousand kotis of petals with lights of numerous colors -- blue lotuses glow with a blue light, white ones with a white light, and, likewise, dark blue, yellow, red, and purple lotuses glow with lights of their respective colors. The brilliance of these lights is so magnificent that it outshines the sun and the moon. Each flower emits thirty-six hundred thousand kotis of rays of light, each sending forth thirty-six hundred thousand kotis of Buddhas. The bodies of these Buddhas are purple-gold, and their physical characteristics and marks are superb beyond compare. Each Buddha emits a hundred thousand rays of light and expounds the wonderful Dharma to beings in the ten quarters, thus setting innumerable beings on the right Path [272b] of the Buddha.

End of Part One of
The Sutra on the Buddha of Infinite Life

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