The Dragon King’s Daughter

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From The Lotus Sutra

Translated by Burton Watson

At the time there was a bodhisattva who was among the followers of the Many Treasures World-Honored One from the lower region and whose name was Wisdom Accumulated. He said to Many Treasures Buddha, “Shall we return to our homeland?”

Shakyamuni Buddha said to Wisdom Accumulated, “Good man, wait a little while. There is a bodhisattva named Manjushri here whom you should see. Debate and discuss the wonderful Law with him, and then you may return to your homeland.”

At that time Manjushri was seated on a thousand-petaled lotus blossom big as a carriage wheel, and the bodhisattvas who had come with him were also seated on jeweled lotus blossoms. Manjushri had emerged in a natural manner from the palace of the dragon king Sagara in the great ocean and was suspended in the air. Proceeding to Holy Eagle Peak, he descended from the lotus blossom and having entered the presence of the Buddhas, bowed his head and paid obeisance to the feet of the two World-Honored Ones. When he had concluded these gestures of respect, he went to where Wisdom Accumulated was and exchanged greetings with him, and then retired and sat at one side.

Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated questioned Manjushri, saying, “When you went to the palace of the dragon king, how many living beings did you convert?”

Manjushri replied, “The number is immeasurable, incapable of calculation. The mouth cannot express it, the mind cannot fathom it. Wait a moment and there will be proof.”

Before he had finished speaking, countless bodhisattvas seated on jeweled lotus blossoms emerged from the ocean and proceeded to Holy Eagle Peak, where they remained suspended in the air. These bodhisattvas had all been converted and saved by Manjushri. They had carried out all the bodhisattva practices and all discussed and expounded the six paramitas with one another. Those who had originally been voice-hearers expounded the practices of the voice-hearer when they were in the air, but now all were practicing the Great Vehicle principle of emptiness.

Manjushri said to Wisdom Accumulated, “The work of teaching and converting carried out in the ocean was as you can see.”

At that time Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated recited these verses of praise:

Of Great Wisdom and virtue,
brave and stalwart,
you have converted and saved
immeasurable beings.
Now those in this great assembly,
as well as I myself, have all seen them.
You expound the principle
of the true entity,
open up the Law of the single vehicle,
broadly guiding the many beings,
causing them quickly to attain bodhi.

Manjushri said, “When I was in the ocean I constantly expounded the Lotus sutra of the wonderful Law alone.”

Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated questioned Manjushri, saying “This sutra is very profound, subtle and wonderful, a treasure among sutras, a rarity in the world. Are there perhaps any living beings who, by earnestly and diligently practicing this sutra, have been able to attain Buddhahood quickly?”

Manjushri replied, “There is the daughter of the dragon king Sagara, who has just turned eight. Her wisdom has keen roots and she is good at understanding the root activities and deeds of living beings. She has mastered the dharanis, has been able to accept and embrace the storehouse of profound secrets preached by the Buddhas, has entered deep into meditation, thoroughly grasped the doctrines, and in the space of an instant conceived the desire for bodhi and reached the level of no regression. Her eloquence knows no hindrance, and she thinks of living beings with compassion as though they were her own children. She is fully endowed with blessings, and when it comes to conceiving in mind and expound- ing by mouth, she is subtle, wonderful, comprehensive and great. Kind, compassionate, benevolent, yielding, she is gentle and refined in will, capable of attaining bodhi.”

Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated said, “When I observe Shakyamuni Thus Come One, I see that for immeasurable kalpas, he carried out harsh and difficult practices, accumulating merit, piling up virtue, seeking the way of the bodhisattva without ever resting. I observe that throughout the thousand-millionfold world, there is not a single spot tiny as a mustard seed where this bodhisattva failed to sacrifice body and life for the sake of living beings. Only after he had done that was he able to complete the bodhi way. I cannot believe that this girl in the space of an instant could actually achieve correct enlightenment.”

Before his words had come to an end, the dragon king’s daughter suddenly appeared before the Buddha, bowed her head in obeisance, and then retired to one side, reciting these verses of praise:

He profoundly understands the signs of guilt and good fortune and illuminates the ten directions everywhere
His subtle, wonderful pure Dharma Body is endowed with the thirty-two features; the eighty characteristics adorn his Dharma Body.
HeavenIy and human beings gaze up in awe in awe,
Dragons and spirits all pay honor and respect; among all living beings none who do not hold him in reverence.
And having heard his teachings, I have attained bodhi—the Buddha alone can bear witness to this. I unfold the doctrines of the Great Vehicle to rescue living beings from suffering.

At that time Shariputra said to the dragon girl, “You suppose that in this short time you have been able to attain the unsurpassed way. But this is difficult to believe. Why? Because a woman’s body is soiled and defiled, not a vessel for the Law. How could you attain the unsurpassed bodhi? The road to Buddhahood is long and far-stretching. Only after one has spent immeasurable kalpas pursuing austerities, accumulating deeds, practicing all kinds of paramitas, can one finally achieve success. Moreover, a woman is subject to the five obstacles. First, she cannot become a Brahma heavenly king. Second, she cannot become the king Shakra. Third she cannot become the devil king. Fouth, she cannot become a wheel- turning sage king. Fifth, she cannot become a Buddha. How then could a woman like you be able to attain Buddhahood so quickly?”

At that time the dragon girl had a precious jewel worth as much as the thousand-millionfold world which she presented to the Buddha. The Buddha immediately accepted it. The dragon girl said to Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated, and to the venerable one, Shariputra, “I presented the precious jewel and the World-Honored One accepted it—was that not quickly done?”

They replied, “Very quickly!”

The girl said, “Employ your supernatural powers and watch me attain Buddhahood. It will be even quicker than that!”

Photo by El Duderino

Photo by El Duderino

At that time the members of the assembly all saw the dragon girl in the space of an instant change into a man and carry out all the practice of a bodhisattva, immediately proceeding to the Spotless World of the south, taking a seat on a jeweled lotus, and attaining impartial and correct enlightenment. With the thirty-two features and the eighty characteristics, he expounded the wonderful Law for all living beings everywhere in the ten directions.

At that time in the saha world the bodhisattvas, voice-hearers, gods, dragons and other of the eight kind of guardians, human and non-human beings all from a distance saw the dragon girl become a Buddha and preach the Law to all the human and heavenly beings in the assembly at that time. Their hearts were filled with great joy and all from a distance paid reverent obeisance. Immeasurable living beings, hearing the Law, understood it and were able to reach the level of no regression. Immeasurable living beings received prophecies that they would gain the way. The Spotless World quaked and trembled in six different ways. Three thousand living beings of the saha world remained on the level of no regression. Three thousand living beings conceived a desire for bodhi and received prophecies of enlightenment. Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated, Shariputra and all the other members of the assembly silently believed and accepted these things.


Burton Watson is a scholar who has written or translated several Chinese and Japanese texts.

From The Lotus Sutra Translated by Burton Watson. Copyright ©1993 Soka Gakkai. Reprinted by permission of Columbia University Press.

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