Magic City

Yesterday we had a good meeting to reflect on the Lotus Sutra. We read the Parable of the Magic City (Chapter VII), meditated on it and had an interesting discussion afterwards.
We meet every Wednesday from 14:00 - 15:00 (Rome). Do join us!  More information/ link: please look at "Events - Readings from the Lotus Sutra".

The Magic City

"Suppose, there is a fearful region, five hundred yojanas in extent, through which lies a perilous and difficult road, far from the abodes of men. Suppose there is a large company wishing to pass along that road to the Place of Jewels, and they have a guide, wise and astute, who knows well the perilous road, where it is open and where closed, and who leads the company that wish to cross this arduous region. Suppose on the way the company he leads become weary and lagging and say to the leader: 'We are utterly exhausted, and moreover afraid, and cannot go any farther; the road before us stretches far; let us turn back.' The leader, a man of much tact, reflects thus:

'These people are to be pitied. How can they give up such great treasure and seek to turn back? ' Reflecting thus, by a device, in the midst of the perilous road, he magically raises a city over three hundred yojanas in extent, and says to the company: 'Do not fear, and do not turn back. Here is this great city in which you may stay and follow your own desires. If you enter this city, you will speedily be at ease; and if you then are able to go forward to the Place of Jewels, you may proceed.'

"Thereupon the exhausted company are greatly rejoiced in mind, and praise their unexampled fortune: 'Now indeed we shall escape this evil way and speedily be at ease.' Then the company proceed into the magic city, imagining they have arrived at their destination and are settled in comfort. When the leader perceives that the company are rested and are no longer fatigued, he makes the magic city disappear, and says to the company: 'Come along, all of you, the Place of Jewels is hand. I only created this past large city for you to rest a while:'

"Bhikshus! So is it with the Tathagata. At present he is your great Leader, acquainted with the distresses, the evils, the perils and the long-continued processes of mortality, from which you must be rid and removed. If living beings only hear of One Buddha-Vehicle, they will not desire to see the Buddha, nor wish to draw nigh to him, but think thus—'the Buddha-Way is long and far; only after undergoing long and bitter toil, can the end be reached'. The Buddha, knowing how feeble and low are their minds, by his tact, while they are on the way, preaches the two stages of Nirvana, in order to give them rest. If those beings remain in these secondary stages, then the Tathagata proceeds to tell them: 'You have not yet accomplished your task. The place where you are dwelling is near to the Buddha-Wisdom. Take note and ponder that the Nirvana to which you have attained is not the real one!' It is only the Tathagata's device which distinguishes and speaks of the One Buddha-Vehicle as Three. He is just like that leader who, in order to give rest to his company, magically makes a great city and after they are rested informs them saying: 'The Place of Jewels is near at hand; this city is not real, but only my magic production',"

The verse section of the Magic City is as follows:

"It is like to a perilous way,

Cut off, full of venomous beasts, Without either water or grass,   

A region of terror to men.

A throng, countless thousands, myriads,

Wish to traverse this perilous way,

Far and long indeed is the road,

Through five hundred yojanas.

Then there appears a leader,

Strong of sense and wise,

Clear-headed, resolute,

Who in peril saves from danger.

Exhausted and worn, these people

Cry to the leader, saying: 'Weary and worn are we,

Let us turn back from here.'

The leader reflects within:

'To be pitied are these poor folk!

How can they wish to turn back

And miss so great a treasure? '

Instant a device occurs—

'Let me use supernatural power

And make a great magic city,

With houses splendid adorned,

Surrounded with gardens and groves

Streamlets and bathing pools,

Massive gates and towers,

Full both of men and women.'

Making this transformation,

He pacifies them, saying: 'Fear not!

Enter all of you into this city,

Let each enjoy himself at will.'

When those people had entered the city,

Their hearts were full of joy,

They only, thought of rest and ease,

And considered they had been saved.

When the leader knew they were rested,

He assembled and spoke to them saying:

'All of you now press forward!

This was but an illusory city.

Seeing you were worn out

And wishing to turn back midway,

I, therefore, by a device,

Temporarily made this city.

Do you diligently now advance

Together to the Place of Jewels.'

I, too, in equal manner,

Am the Leader of all the living.

Seeing the seekers of the Way,

Midway becoming wearied,

Unable to cross the perilous ways

Of mortality and delusion.

So I, by expedient methods,

For their ease preached Nirvana, saying:

'Your sufferings now are ended;

All your toil is finished!'

When I knew you had reached Nirvana

And all had become Arhats,

Then I gathered you together

And preached to you the real Law.

Buddhas in their tactfulness,

Separately preach the Three Vehicles;

Though there is but the One Buddha-Vehicle;

Only as resting-places are Two preached.

Now I preach to you the truth;

What you have reached is not the extinction.

To obtain perfect Buddha-knowledge,

Exert yourselves with utmost zeal!

Prove the Perfect Knowledge,

The Ten Powers of the Buddha-Laws,

Perfect the Thirty-two Signs -

Then that is the real extinction.

The Buddhas, the onward Leaders,

Call the resting-place Nirvana,

But, perceiving their people rested,

They lead on to Buddha-Wisdom."

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