[i]‘Thus have I heard.
At one time the Buddha was staying in Śrāvastī, at Jetṛ’s Grove, in Anāthapiṇḍada’s Park. Then the Exalted One said to the bhikṣus:
There are person(s) who are lazy (kusīda), who do not embark on[ii] virtuous actions (sucarita) and who in their deeds (kriyā) meet with misfortune (vyasana); on the other hand, there are those who are capable of not [succumbing to] laziness, who put effort (vīrya) into [what is to be done] and who are most accomplished (praṇīta) in respect of all that is karmically wholesome so that there is an increase in what is [truly] advantageous.
Thus [with reference to the latter persons] it will take the bodhisattva Maitreya thirty aeons until he becomes a Buddha by realising full and complete enlightenment. All on his own (ātmanā) he will make use of the force of effort (vīryabala) and utmost determination[iii] so that in future [he], Maitreya, will be [my successor].
Also in the past, innumerable beings, like the sands of the [River] Gangā, [became] foremost arhats,[iv] Fully and Completely Enlightened Ones. All of them succeeded in realising Buddhahood on account of their utmost determination.
With the help of this “skill in means” (upāyakauśalya) one should know that laziness is conducive to suffering, leads to miserable destinies (durgati) and in one’s deeds one will meet with misfortune. If [on the other hand] one is capable of utmost determination and of putting forth effort, all that is karmically wholesome, all virtues [will be accomplished] so that there will be an increase in what is [truly] advantageous.
Therefore, O bhikṣus, you should be mindful of putting forth effort and do not be negligent. Thus, bhikṣus, you should train.
After listening to the Buddha’s words, the bhikṣus were pleased and respectfully applied themselves to practice.’[v]
[i] CBETA, T02, no. 125, p. 600, a17-28. This translation originally published as Ekottarāgama XXVIII, Buddhist Studies Review 18.2, 2001, p 223. Translated from the Chinese version by Thích Huyên-Vi and Bhikkhu Pāsādika in collaboration with Sara Boin-Webb.
[ii] Lit.: ‘sow/beget’ - √vap.
[iii] ## means ‘intrepid, undeterred’, Hirakawa s.v. (p.474b) gives abhyutsāha, ‘utmost determination’.
[iv] Tentatively: ### - agrārhat (cf. agraśrāvaka).
[v] As for this sūtra, Akanuma, Hayashi and Lancaster refer to Divy, p.481 (=Divy(V), p.313). The Divy story is the Rūpāvatyavadāna, summarised in M. Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature II, Delhi 1983 (revised ed.) p.278 f. (in Winternitz the bodhisattva heroine is Rūpavatī instead of Rūpāvatī). The only common feature, however, found in the present EᾹ sutra and in Divy is the mention of the bodhisattva Maitreya. Whilst in the latter text Maitreya advances towards Buddhahood for forty kalpas, in EĀ it takes him thirty aeons to do so; the moral in EᾹ is that determination and vīryabala should be aspired to whereas in Divy dānapāramitā, the perfection of liberality, is extolled. The Divy passage has – apart from the EᾹ Gilgit fragments (Tripathi, p.,81, § 18.21 (not in Ōkubo)) – close parallels, as pointed out and quoted in Tripathi, p.159 ff.: It, p.18 f.: Turfan fragments, § 18.2; Avadānaśataka (Vaidya ed.) p. 80f. However, unlike Divy, in none of the latter places is Maitreya mentioned.
Another interesting feature in EᾹ is the Mahāyāna simile of the sands of the Ganges (Gaṅgānadīvālukāsama) which is employed, for instance, in the Kāśyapaparivarta (A. von Stael-Holstein ed., sections 158, 159) or in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra (B. Nanjio ed., pp.229-34). Cf. also D.T. Suzuki, Studies in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, London 1930, 57,pp.148-53 on ‘The Parable of the Sands of the Ganga’. When comparing the EᾹ and the Kāśyapaparivarta Gaṅgā sand simile and the Laṅkāvatāra ‘parable’ with each other, the EᾹ simile appears to be the most rudimentary, in a unique manner substituting ‘innumerable beings, like the sands …’ who became Buddhas for the rather limited traditional number of prehistoric Buddhas. A very elaborate treatment of the same simile which Suzuki considers a parable is the above-mentioned Laṅkāvatāra passage, setting forth in this place mainstream Mahāyāna soteriology-cum-philosophy.