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Shobogenzo chap. 87: Serving Buddhas

The Buddha said:

If the past does not exist,
Then the buddhas of the past do not exist.
If the buddhas of the past do not exist,
There is no leaving home and receiving the means.


We should definitely remember that in each of the three times -- the past, the present, and the future -- the buddhas exist. Now, with regard to the buddhas of the past, do not say that they have a beginning and do not say that they have no beginning. If we engage in false speculation about existence or nonexistence of beginning and ending, we are not learning the Buddha's Sitting-method at all. Those who honour the buddhas of the past, those who leave home to follow and obey them, inevitably become buddhas. We become buddha through the good influence of serving buddha. How could ordinary beings who have never served offerings, even to a single buddha, themselves become buddha? There can be no becoming buddha without cause.

The Sutra of the Collected Past Deeds of the Buddha (Chapter 1: His Service of Offerings) says:

The Buddha told Maudgalyayana, "I remember in the past, in the orders of countless infinite world-honored ones, I planted good roots and pursued the supreme and integral truth of full awakening.

Maudgalyayana! I remember in the past I took on the body of a wheel-rolling king and met thirty billion buddhas, all of whom had the same name -- Sakya. I, come-as-I-am, along with throngs of voice-hearers, appreciated those buddhas, waited on them, venerated them, and served offerings to them, providing them with the four things: namely, clothes, food and drink, bedding, and medicine. At that time those buddhas did not give me notification that 'You will get the supreme and integral truth of full awakening. And, as one who understands the world, a teacher of gods and men, and a world-honored buddha, in future ages, you will be able to realize true enlightenment.'

Maudgalyayana! I remember in the past I took on the body of a wheel-rolling king and met eight billion buddhas, all of whom had the same name -- Burning Torch. Along with multitudes of voice-hearers, I appreciated them, waited on them, venerated them, and served offerings to them, providing them with the four things: namely, clothes, food and drink, bedding, and medicine; plus banners, canopies, flowers, and incense. At that time those buddhas did not give me notification that 'You will get the supreme and integral truth of full awakening, as one who understands the world, a teacher of gods and men, and a world-honored buddha.'

Maudgalyayana! I remember in the past I took on the body of a wheel-rolling king and met three billion buddhas, all of whom had the same name -- Pusya. Along with great gaggles of voice-hearers, I appreciated them, waited on them, venerated them, and served offerings to them, kitting them out fully with the four things. At that time those buddhas did not give me notification that 'You will become buddha.' "


Besides these he served offerings to innumerable buddhas. In the body of a wheel-rolling king he would invariably govern four continents; the wealth at his disposal for serving offerings to the buddhas would be truly colossal. As a great wheel-rolling king, he would be the king of a sizeable chunk of the ancient Indian cosmos -- a world of three-thousand worlds. Service of offerings in those days would be beyond what we ordinarily imagine today. Even if the Buddha himself explained it, it might be hard for us to comprehend.


The Buddha's Treasury Sutra (Chapter 8, Cleansing Oneself of Views) says:

The Buddha told Sariputra, "I remember in the past, pursuing the supreme and integral truth of full awakening, I met thirty billion buddhas, all named Sakyamuni. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king and used my body up serving to buddha and disciples offerings of clothes, food and drink, bedding and medicine, all in pursuit of the supreme and integral truth of full enlightenment. But those buddhas did not enlist me, saying, 'In future you will be able to become buddha.' Why not? Because I was expecting something for myself.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past I was able to meet eight thousand buddhas, all named The Constant Light. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king and used my body up serving to buddha and disciples offerings of clothes, food and drink, bedding and medicine, all in pursuit of the supreme and integral truth of full awakening. But those buddhas did not notify me that, 'In future you will be able to become buddha.' Why not? Because I had my own fish to fry.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past I met sixty thousand billion buddhas, all named Brightness. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king and used my body up serving to buddha and disciples offerings of clothes, food and drink, bedding and medicine, all in pursuit of the supreme and integral truth of full awakening. But those buddhas also did not notify me that, 'In future you will be able to become buddha.' Why not? Because I had the idea of something in it for me.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past I met three billion buddhas, all named Pusya. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king and served offerings of the four things. All did not enlist me -- because there was expectation of gain.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past I was able to meet eighteen thousand buddhas, all named Mountain King. It was in an age named 'the Upper Eight.' In the orders of all these eighteen thousand buddhas, I shaved my head and dyed a robe, and I trained in the supreme and integral truth of full awakening. All did not enlist me -- because I had an agenda.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past I was able to meet five hundred buddhas, all named Flowers Above. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king and served offerings of every kind to the buddhas and their disciples. All did not enlist me -- because I had an ulterior motive.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past I was able to meet five hundred buddhas, all named Majestic Virtue. I served them offerings of every kind, but all did not enlist me -- because of my attachment to getting a result.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past I was able to meet two thousand buddhas, all named Kaundinya. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king and paid homage to the buddhas, serving offerings of every kind. But all did not enlist me -- because of my intention to achieve.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past I met nine thousand buddhas, all named Kasyapa. I served offerings of the four things to the buddhas and their hordes of disciples, but all did not enlist me -- because I had expectation of reward.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past there were ten thousand ages in which no buddha appeared. In the first five hundred of those ages, there were ninety thousand of those loners who pursue awakening in isolation. I used up bodies and lives serving those loners all kinds of offerings of clothes, food and drink, bedding, and medicine; and I honoured and praised them. In the next five hundred ages, I served offerings of the four things to a further eighty-four thousand billions of loners, and I honoured and praised them."

"Sariputra! After these thousand ages there were not even any more of the loners who pursue isolated awakening. I then died on the southern continent of Jambudvipa, where human beings are able to serve offerings to the buddhas. I suffered rebirths in a spiritual sphere, becoming Great King Brahma. I continued in this cycle for five hundred ages, continually being born in a spiritual sphere and becoming Great King Brahma, not being born in the human world of Jambudvipa. After enduring these five hundred ages, I was born down in Jambudvipa, and I governed Jambudvipa until my life there ended and I was born in the Heaven of the Four Quarter Kings. When my life there ended, I was born in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods, where I became the top god, Indra. Thus I proceeded: it took five hundred ages before I was born in Jambudvipa; then I spent cycles of five hundred ages being reborn in spiritual spheres and becoming Great King Brahma.

"Sariputra! In nine thousand ages, only once was I born in Jambudvipa. For nine thousand ages I was born only in spiritual spheres above the heavens. When an age burnt out, I would be born in the Sky of Luminous Sound, but once the world was re-created I was again born in a spiritual sphere. For nine thousand ages, I was not reborn among human beings.

"Sariputra! In these nine thousand ages there were no buddhas nor even any lone pursuers of isolated awakening, and many living beings fell into evil ways.

"Sariputra! After the passing of these ten thousand ages, there appeared in the world a buddha with the name Universal Protector -- Thus-Come, Deserving of Offerings, Integrally and Fully Enlightened, Perfect in Clarity and Practice, Fared Well, Understander of the World, Unsurpassed, Trainer of Men, Teacher of Gods and Human Beings, World-Honored Buddha. At that time when my life finished in a spiritual sphere and I was born in Jambudvipa, I became a wheel-rolling king named Communal Sky, whose human life span was ninety thousand years. I used up body and life to serve to that buddha, along with ninety billion of his beggars, offerings of all kinds of comforts. I did this for ninety thousand years, all in pursuit of the supreme and integral truth of full awakening. But this Buddha, Universal Protector, also did not notify me that 'In future you will be able to become buddha.' Why not? Because I at that time had not been able to master the teaching that everything in Sitting is reality -- I was greedily expecting to get something for my scheming self.

"Sariputra! During that age there appeared a hundred buddhas, each named differently. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king and used up my body serving offerings to buddha and disciples, in pursuit of the supreme and integral truth of full awakening. But these buddhas also did not notify me that 'In future you will be able to become buddha' -- because I was expecting to get something.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past, during the seven hundredth infinity of ages, I was able to meet a thousand buddhas, all named Jambunada. I used up bodies and lifetimes serving them offerings of the four things, but they also did not enlist me -- because of my desire to gain something.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past, again during the seven hundredth infinity of ages, I was able to meet six hundred and twenty myriads of buddhas, each named Knowing All the Rules. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king, and used up my body serving offerings of all comforts to buddha and disciples. But they also did not enlist me -- because I was after something in return.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past, again during the seven hundredth infinity of ages, I was able to meet eighty-four buddhas, all named Imperial Form. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king, and used up my body serving offerings of all comforts to buddha and disciples. But they also did not enlist me -- because the idea of gaining the end was still there.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past, again during the seven hundredth infinity of ages, I was able to meet fifteen buddhas, all named Sun Bright. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king, and used up my body serving offerings of all comforts to buddha and disciples. But they also did not enlist me -- because I was still after something.

"Sariputra! I remember in the past, again during the seven hundredth infinity of ages, I was able to meet sixty-two buddhas, all named Good Serenity. I then, for every one of them, became a wheel-rolling king, and used up my body serving offerings of all comforts to buddha and disciples. But they also did not enlist me -- because I was still set on gaining something.

"I carried on like this until I saw The Constant Light: meeting that buddha, all at once I understood non-arising, and he immediately notified me that, 'In future, after the passing of infinities of ages, you will be able to become a buddha named Sakyamuni, Thus-Come, Deserving of Offerings, Integrally and Fully Enlightened, Perfect in Clarity and Practice, Fared Well, Understander of the World, Unsurpassed, Trainer of Men, Teacher of Gods and Human Beings, World-Honored Buddha.' "







-- to be continued





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