THE SUTRA ON THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE BUDDHA AMITAYUS
The Sutra on the Contemplation of the Buddha Amitayus
NOTE: The famous “Sutra on the Contemplation of Buddha Amitayus” (or simply, “Contemplation Sutra”) is revered as canonical by all Pure Land Buddhists, and is one of the Three Sutras of Pure Land Buddhism, the others being the Larger Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra and the Smaller Sukhavati-vyuha Sutra. In the Contemplation Sutra, the Nembutsu (Namo Amida Butsu) is specifically proclaimed as the avenue to liberation of suffering beings from samsara. This English translation by J. Takakusu published originally as vol. XLIX of The Sacred Books of the East series (Oxford, 1894, public domain) has been edited for ease of reading and comprehension by modern readers. Footnotes from the original edition are dated and have thus been eliminated. A reprint of the unaltered and fully annotated translation exists in Dover paperback.
1. Thus have I heard: At one time the Buddha dwelt in Rajagriha, on Vulture Peak, with a large assembly of Bhikkhus and with thirty-two thousand Bodhisattvas, with Manjushri the Dharma-Prince at the head of the assembly.
2. At that time, in the great city of Rajagriha there was a prince, the heir-apparent, named Ajatasatru. He listened to the wicked counsel of Devadatta and other friends and forcibly arrested Bimbisara his father, the king, and shut him up by himself in a room with seven walls, proclaiming to all the courtiers that no one should approach (the king). The chief consort of the king, Vaidehi by name, was true and faithful to her lord, the king. She supported him in this way: having purified herself by bathing and washing, she anointed her body with honey and ghee mixed with corn-flour, and she concealed the juice of grapes in the various garlands she wore in order to give him food without being noticed by the warder. As she stole in and made an offering to him, he was able to eat the flour and to drink the juice of grapes. Then he called for water and rinsed his mouth. That done, the king stretched forth his folded hands towards Vulture Peak and duly and respectfully made obeisance to the World-Honored One, who at that time was living there. And he uttered the following prayer: ‘Mahamaudgalyayana is my friend and relative; let him, I pray, feel compassion towards me, and come and communicate to me the eight prohibitive precepts of the Buddha.’ On this, Mahamaudgalyayana at once appeared before the king, coming with a speed equal to the flight of a falcon or an eagle, and communicated to him the eight precepts.