No Time for Self-interests

Yutang Lin

Vows pledged over continuous kalpas to save suffering beings
Until all of them enjoy peace and happiness and realize Bodhi.
Not yet wish to become Buddha differs from not wishing to be;
No time for self-interests when busy rescuing beings from sins.


Recently I have been preoccupied with translating the Earth Treasure Sutra from Chinese into English. Now I am reviewing the English version for the second time, and working through the Sutra in Chinese word by word. Today in the fourth chapter I came across the following sentences:

One king vowed that unless those suffering in sins are first converted and have attained peace and happiness up to Bodhi, he would eventually not have wished to attain Buddhahood.

One king, who vowed to remain forever in converting sentient beings that are suffering in sins but has not wished to attain Buddhahood, is Bodhisattva Earth Treasure.

Upon careful consideration of the meaning of "he would not have wished to attain Buddhahood" and "he has not wished to attain Buddhahood" I realized that a popular saying in Chinese Buddhism about Bodhisattva Earth Treasure, that says, "When hells are not yet empty he vows not to attain Buddhahood," is not proper.

Even though "he would not have wished to attain Buddhahood" and "he has not wished to attain Buddhahood" might seem to indicate that he does not wish to attain Buddhahood, nevertheless, attaining Buddhahood is not a hindrance to rescuing beings from sufferings, why does he need to avoid it? The underlying meaning should be that he has not been, and would not be, up to the point of wishing to attain Buddhahood. But this is in no way due to his unwillingness to attain Buddhahood, rather it is only because he has been so preoccupied with rescuing suffering beings that he has had no time to worry about his own ultimate welfare. He has not and would not come to the point of wishing the best fruit for himself unless all suffering beings have attained that already. Herein lies the essential spirit of his great compassion. He is forever beyond self-interests in his continuous working for the salvation of suffering beings.

Written in Chinese and translated on October 9, 2002
El Cerrito, California

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