Larger Sutra


Illustrations from the Larger Sutra Mandala

Three evil acts and their retribution-1.
Three evil acts and their retribution-2.

Three evil acts and their retribution-3.

Three evil acts and their retribution-4.

Three evil acts and their retribution-5.

Three evil acts and their retribution-6.

Three evil acts and their retribution-7.
Three kinds of evil passions and their consequences

[31] The Buddha said to the Bodhisattva Maitreya and to devas and humans, "The virtue and wisdom of shravakas and bodhisattvas in the land of Amitayus are indescribable. That land is sublime, blissful, serene and pure. Why do you not diligently practice good, reflect on the naturalness of the Way and realize that it is above all discriminations and is boundlessly pervasive? You should each make a great effort to attain it. Strive to escape from Samsara and be born in the Land of Peace and Provision. Then, the causes of the five evil realms having been destroyed, they will naturally cease to be, and so you will progress unhindered in your pursuit of the Way. The Pure Land is easy to reach, but very few actually go there. It rejects nobody, but naturally and unfailingly attracts beings. Why do you not abandon worldly matters and strive to enter the Way? If you do, you will obtain an infinitely long life and one of limitless bliss.
"People of the world, being weak in virtue, engage in strife over matters which are not urgent. In the midst of abject wickedness and extreme afflictions they painstakingly toil for their living. Whether noble or corrupt, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, all people worry about wealth and property. In this there is no difference between the rich and the poor; both have their anxieties. Groaning in dejection and sorrow, they pile up thoughts of anguish or, [274c] driven by inner urges, they run wildly in all directions and they have no time for peace and rest.
"For example, if they own fields, they are concerned about them. If they have houses, they worry about them. They are also anxious about their six kinds of domestic animals, such as cows and horses, about their male and female servants, money, wealth, clothes, food and furnishings. With deepening troubles they sigh repeatedly, and anxiety increasingly torments and terrifies them. Sudden misfortune may befall them: all their possessions may be destroyed by fire, swept away by floods, plundered by robbers, or seized by adversaries or creditors. Then gnawing grief afflicts them and incessantly troubles their hearts. Anger seizes their minds, keeps them in constant agitation, increasingly tightens its grip, hardens their hearts and never leaves them.
"When their lives end in such agonizing conditions, they must leave everybody and everything behind. Even nobles and men of wealth have these worries. With much anxiety and fear, they endure such tribulations. Breaking out in cold sweats or fevers, they suffer unremitting pain.
"The poor and the underprivileged are constantly destitute. If, for example, they have no fields, they are unhappy and want them. If they have no houses, they are unhappy and want them. If they have none of the six kinds of domestic animals, such as cows and horses, or if they have no male and female servants, or lack money, wealth, clothes, food, or furnishings, they are unhappy and want those as well. If they possess some of them, others may be lacking. If they have this, they do not have that, and so they wish to possess all. But, even if by some chance they come to possess everything, it will soon be destroyed or lost. Then, dejected and sorrowful, they strive to obtain such things again, but it may be impossible. Brooding over this is to no avail. Exhausted in mind and body, they become restless in all their doings, and anxieties follow on their heels. Such are the troubles they must endure. Breaking out in cold sweats or fevers, they suffer unremitting pain. Such conditions may result in the sudden end of their lives or an early death. Since they have not done any good in particular, nor followed the Way, nor acted virtuously, when they die, they will depart alone to an inferior world. Although they are destined to different states of existence, none of them understands the law of karma that sends them there.
"People of the world, parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and other family members and kinsmen, should respect and love each other, refraining from hatred and envy. They should share things with others, and not be greedy and miserly, always speak friendly words with a pleasing smile, and not hurt each other.
"If one disagrees with others and grows angry, however small one's grudge and enmity may be in this life, these will increase in the life to come until they grow into a mass of hostility. For, if people are engaged in tormenting and harming each other in this life, such conflict may not immediately end in mutual destruction. But persistent bitterness and raging fury are impressed upon the mind, and thus naturally leave indelible marks on consciousness, so that those involved will be reborn about the same time to take revenge on each other.
"Further, in the midst of worldly desires and attachments one comes and goes alone, is born alone and dies alone. After death, one goes to a painful or to a pleasant state of existence. Each receives his karmic consequences and nobody else can take his place. In accordance with different acts of good and evil, people are destined to realms of bliss or suffering. Unalterably bound by their karma, they depart for those realms all alone. Having reached the other world, they cannot see each other. The law of good and evil naturally pursues them, and wherever they may be reborn, distance and darkness always separate them. Since their paths of karma are different, it is impossible to tell the time of their reunion, and so difficult to meet again. Can they ever see each other once more?
"Why do they not abandon all worldly [275a] involvements and strive, while they are strong and healthy, to pursue the good and diligently seek deliverance from Samsara? If they do, they will be able to attain infinite life. Why do they not seek the Way? What is there in this world that should be longed for? What pleasure is there that ought to be sought after?
"Thus people of the world do not believe in pursuing good and receiving reward or in practicing the Way and attaining Enlightenment; neither do they believe in transmigration and retribution for evil acts or reward for good ones, such as obtaining merit by helping others. Believing that these do not exist, they totally reject such a view.
"Further, by so doing, they cling to their own views more tenaciously. Later generations learn from previous ones to act likewise. Fathers, perpetuating their wrong views, pass them on to their children. Since parents and grandparents from the beginning did not do good deeds, were ignorant of the Way, committed foolish acts, and were benighted, insensitive and callous, their descendants are now unable to realize the truth of birth-and-death and the law of karma. There is no one to tell them about this. Nobody seeks to know the cause of fortune and misfortune, happiness and misery, although these states result from such acts.
"The reality of birth-and-death is such that the sorrow of parting is mutually felt by all generations. A father cries over the death of his children; children cry over the death of their father. Brothers, sisters, husbands and wives mourn each other's death. According to the basic law of impermanence, whether death will occur in order of seniority or in the reverse is unpredictable. All things must pass. Nothing stays forever. Few believe this, even if someone teaches and exhorts them. And so the stream of birth-and-death continues everlastingly.
"Because they are stupid and callous, such people do not accept the teachings of the Buddha; they lack forethought, and only wish to satisfy their own desires. They are deluded by their passionate attachments, unaware of the Way, misguided and trapped by anger and enmity, and intent on gaining wealth and gratifying their carnal desires like wolves. And so, unable to follow the Way, they are again subject to suffering in evil realms in an endless cycle of birth-and-death. How miserable and pitiable this is!
"In the same family, when one of the parents, children, brothers, sisters, husband or wife dies, those surviving mourn over the loss, and their attachment to the deceased persists. Deep sorrow fills their hearts and, grief-stricken, they mournfully think of the departed. Days pass and years go by, but their distress goes on. Even if someone teaches them the Way, their minds are not awakened. Brooding over fond memories of the dead, they cannot rid themselves of attachment. Being ignorant, inert, and illusion-bound, they are unable to think deeply, to keep their self-composure, to practice the Way with diligence, and to dissociate themselves from worldly matters. As they wander here and there, they come to their end and die before entering on the Way. Then what can be done for them?
"Because they are spiritually defiled, deeply troubled and confused, people indulge their passions. Hence, many are ignorant of the Way, and few realize it. Everyone is restlessly busy, having nothing upon which to rely. Whether moral or corrupt, of high or low rank, rich or poor, noble or base, all are preoccupied with their own work. They entertain venomous thoughts, creating a widespread and dismal atmosphere of malevolence. Subversive activities are planned, contrary to the universal law and the wishes of the people.
"Injustice and vice inevitably follow and are allowed to run their course unchecked until evil karma accumulates to the limit. Before they expect their lives to end, people meet sudden death and fall into evil realms, where they will suffer excruciating torments for many lives. [275b] They will not be able to escape for many thousands of kotis of kalpas. How indescribably painful! How pitiable that is!"

Shakyamuni's encouragement to do good

[32] The Buddha said to the Bodhisattva Maitreya and to devas and humans, "I have told you the truth about people of the world. Such being their mode of life, they are unable to enter on the Way. Therefore, you should think deeply and try to avoid various evil acts; choose the good and diligently practice it. A life of addiction to desires or a life of pomp and vainglory cannot last long. All must part; there is nothing you can truly enjoy. Since you have encountered a Buddha in this world, you should assiduously practice the Way. Anyone who sincerely desires birth in the Land of Peace and Bliss is able to attain purity of wisdom and supremacy in virtue. You should not follow the urges of passions, break the precepts, or fall behind others in the practice of the Way. If you have doubts and are not clear about my teaching, ask me, the Buddha, about anything and I shall explain it to you."
The Bodhisattva Maitreya prostrated himself on the ground and said, "Your majestic glory, O Buddha, is awe-inspiring, and your exposition is most pleasing to me. Having heard your teaching, I feel deeply that people of the world are just as you have described. Your compassionate revelation of the Great Way has opened our eyes and ears, awakening us to emancipation. Those who have heard your teachings are all filled with joy. Devas, humans and lesser beings, including even those that crawl, have all been blessed by your compassionate guidance and have thereby attained deliverance from suffering and affliction.
"The Buddha's admonition is indeed profound and appropriate, and his wisdom clearly surveys things in the eight quarters, above and below, penetrating all in the past, present and future. Our emancipation in the present life is entirely due to the Buddha's perseverance and painstaking efforts in his former lives when he was seeking the Way. His benevolence covers the whole world, and the extent of his merit is majestic and glorious. His light penetrates to the utmost ends of space and guides people to Nirvana. He reveals the sutras, destroys wrong views and subdues demons. Thus his influence extends boundlessly in the ten quarters. The Buddha is the King of the Dharma; his virtue surpasses that of all the sages. He is the Teacher of all devas and humans and enables them to enter on the Way according to their wishes. Having been able to meet you, O Buddha, and also to hear the Name of Amitayus, we have all attained joy and illumination."

Shakyamuni's admonition against evil acts

[33] The Buddha said to Maitreya, "What you say is true. Those who adore and revere a Buddha attain great merit. Buddhas very rarely appear in the world. Having become a Buddha in this life, I have taught the Dharma, expounded teachings of the Way, cleared people's doubts, eradicated the causes of lust and desire, and blocked the source of all evils. Visiting various places in the three worlds, I encounter no obstructions. The wisdom disclosed in the scriptures provides for all ways of life. It keeps essential principles together and clearly reveals the truth. I have explained the reality of the five realms, thereby freeing those who have not yet attained deliverance and distinguishing between the paths of Samsara and Nirvana.
"Maitreya, you should know that you have, for innumerable kalpas, been perfecting bodhisattva practices to save sentient beings. Incalculable indeed is the number of beings who under your guidance have attained the Way and reached Nirvana. [275c] From time immemorial, you and all the devas and humans in the ten quarters and the four groups of followers have been floundering in the five realms of Samsara, undergoing indescribable troubles and afflictions. Until you were born in this life, you, too, underwent endless cycles of birth-and-death. Now you have encountered a Buddha, listened to his expositions of the Dharma, and been able to learn about Amitayus. What pleasure and joy this is for you and for me to share.
"It is time for all to seek deliverance from the pains of birth, death, old age, and sickness. Outflows of depravity and defilement are everywhere, and there is nothing in which you can find true joy. You should resolutely do worthy deeds with decorum, strive to do more good, control and purify yourselves, wash off the mind's defilements, be sincere in word and deed, and allow no contradiction between what you think and what you do. Seek your own emancipation and then turn to saving others; straightforwardly aspire to be born in the Pure Land and accumulate roots of virtue. However hard you may practice in this life, it can only be for a short while. In the life to come you will be born in the land of Amitayus and enjoy endless bliss there. Being forever in accord with the Way, you will no longer be subject to birth-and-death and be free of the afflictions caused by greed, anger and stupidity. If you wish your life to be as long as a kalpa, a hundred kalpas, or ten million kalpas, it will be just as you please. You will dwell in effortless spontaneity and attain Nirvana. You should each diligently seek to realize your aspiration. Do not entertain any doubt or give up your endeavor, lest as a result of that fault you should be born into the seven-jewelled palace in the border region of the Pure Land and be subject to various disadvantages for five hundred years."
Maitreya said to the Buddha, "Having received your considerate admonition, we will diligently practice the Way and follow your teaching. We will not allow any doubt to arise."

Go to  Next File; return to Sukhavati-Index; Index