The Surangama Sutra (Chapter One – Section 1)


Prologue

So have I heard: The Buddha was then staying in a magnificent abode in Prince Jetri’s Grove, in the city of Śrāvastī. Alongside there were twelve hundred fifty great Arhats, who were completely sealed off and free of outflows – they had the highest caliber to uphold the Dharma without distraction or slackness. (In other words, these disciples of the Buddha had transcended all existence.) Everywhere they went, they exuded magnanimity and inspired veneration. Following the Buddha to turn the Wheel of Dharma, these accomplished monks were great exemplars for beings in the three realms of existence. Vowing to liberate all sentient beings, they manifested in countless phenomena and forever would keep on helping future generations to transcend their earthly attachment.

如是我聞。一時佛在室羅筏城,祇桓精舍。與大比丘眾,千二百五十人俱。皆是無漏大阿羅漢。佛子住持,善超諸有。能於國土,成就威儀。從佛轉輪,妙堪遺囑。嚴淨毗尼,弘範三界。應身無量,度脫眾生。拔濟未來,越諸塵累。

These Arhats were the enlightened Śāriputra, Mahā-Maudgalyāyana, Mahā-Kauṣṭhila, Pūrṇamaitrāyaṇīputra, Subhūti, Upani-ṣad, and other sages. Alongside them there were also some beginners who had only recently made a resolve to attain full awakening. Together they came to the place where the Buddha and the great monks were spending the summer. Bodhisattvas from all ten directions came too to pay homage to the Buddha, longing to understand his sophisticated teachings and resolve the problems they encountered in practicing.

其名曰。大智舍利弗。摩訶目犍連。摩訶拘絺羅。富樓那彌多羅尼子。須菩提。優波尼沙陀等。而為上首。復有無量辟支無學。并其初心。同來佛所。屬諸比丘休夏自恣。十方菩薩咨決心疑。欽奉慈嚴將求密義。

Sitting serenely, the Buddha began to reveal the most subtle and profound truths, for the sake of everyone. It was a grand banquet of Dharma, where the assembly learned what they had not known before. The Buddha’s voice was like the call of the kalaviṅka bird, and it could be heard in worlds throughout all ten directions. The Bodhisattvas who gathered to listen were as innumerous as sands in the Ganges, with Mañjuśrī being the leader.

即時如來敷座宴安。為諸會中,宣示深奧。法筵清眾,得未曾有。迦陵仙音,遍十方界。恒沙菩薩,來聚道場。文殊師利而為上首。

King Prasenajit, on the anniversary day of mourning for his father, the late king, had invited the Buddha and escorted him to a vegetarian feast of delicacies in the palace’s banquet hall. Meanwhile he welcomed all the great Bodhisattvas. In the city, elders and other laities also had prepared meals for the Sangha. The Buddha directed Mañjuśrī to lead Arhats and Bodhisattvas to accept the offerings.

時波斯匿王,為其父王諱日營齋。請佛宮掖。自迎如來。廣設珍羞無上妙味。兼復親延諸大菩薩。城中復有長者居士同時飯僧。佇佛來應。佛敕大殊,分領菩薩及阿羅漢,應諸齋主。

Only Ānanda didn’t show up for the Sangha. Earlier he had accepted a special invitation to go somewhere else and had not yet returned from his trip. No senior monk was accompanying him; he was returning alone.

唯有阿難,先受別請。遠遊未還,不遑僧次。既無上座,及阿闍黎。途中獨歸。

That day on the road Ānanda had not yet received offerings, so at mealtime he carried his alms bowl in hands and walked through the town from door to door. While receiving alms, he thought to himself that he would accept vegetarian food from everyone, not only from Kṣatriyas of honorable families, but also from Caṇḍālas, who were considered impure classes. Ānanda knew that the Buddha had once admonished the Arhats Subhūti and Mahākāśyapa for being prejudicial on their alms rounds. Being a devoted follower of the Buddha, he was determined to practice impartiality and compassion, so as to assist all beings in generating merits, and to eradicate their wrong views.

其日無供。即時阿難,執持應器,於所遊城,次第循乞。心中初求最後檀越,以為齋主。無問淨穢,剎利尊姓。及旃陀羅。方行等慈,不擇微賤。發意圓成,一切眾生,無量功德。阿難已知如來世尊,訶須菩提,及大迦葉,為阿羅漢,心不均平。欽仰如來,開闡無遮,度諸疑謗。

Having crossed the city moat, Ānanda walked slowly through the outer gates. His manner remained disciplined and proper, as he followed strictly and respectfully the monastic rules. Since he was receiving alms impartially, he soon chanced upon a house of courtesans, where he was waylaid by a powerful artifice – a young Mātaṅga woman cast a spell on Ānanda and seduced him onto her bed. Then she caressed him lasciviously, until he was about to lose self-control and break his monastic vows.

經彼城隍,徐步郭門。嚴整威儀,肅恭齋法。爾時阿難,因乞食次,經歷婬室,遭大幻術。摩登伽女,以娑毗迦羅先梵天咒,攝入婬席。婬躬撫摩,將毀戒體。

Knowing that Ānanda was succumbing to the carnal influence, the Buddha ended his meal immediately and returned to the monastic grounds. The king, his senior ministers, the elders and the laities all followed suit. Seated in full-lotus posture on a thousand-petal lotus flower, with invincible light as dazzling as hundreds of gems radiating from the crown of his head, the Shakyamuni Buddha proclaimed a spiritually powerful mantra.

如來知彼婬術所加,齋畢旋歸。王及大臣長者居士,俱來隨佛,願聞法要。於時世尊。頂放百寶無畏光明,光中出生千葉寶蓮,有佛化身,結跏趺坐,宣說神咒。

He instructed Mañjuśri to go protect Ānanda with this powerful mantra and, once the evil spell had been vanquished, to help convince Ānanda as well as the young Mātaṅga woman to come to where the Buddha was.

敕文殊師利將咒往護。惡咒消滅。提獎阿難,及摩登伽,歸來佛所。

Having returned with Mañjuśri, Ānanda bowed deep in front of the Buddha and wept in sorrow. Since beginningless time, he had been studying, but had not fully realized the teachings and completed his practice – how regretful he was now! Devotedly, he beseeched the Buddha to show him the elementary steps that calm the mind, deepen the insight, and lead to enlightenment — the wondrous practice through which the numerous Buddhas of ten directions had become fully awakened.

阿難見佛。頂禮悲泣。恨無始來。一向多聞,未全道力。殷勤啟請,十方如來得成菩提,妙奢摩他,三摩,禪那,最初方便。

Meanwhile, the Bodhisattvas and great Arhats silently gathered around at the foot of the Buddha’s seat, all being eager to hear the sacred teachings.

於時復有恒沙菩薩。及諸十方大阿羅漢。辟支佛等。俱願樂聞。退坐默然。承受聖旨。