The Dragon King’s Daughter

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Tales from the Gosho

The Dragon King’s Daughter

The Dragon King’s Daughter parable appears in the Devadatta
(twelfth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, in which the Buddha explains
for the first time that a female is able to attain enlightenment.
Within this parable, Shakyamuni Buddha introduces Bodhisattva
Monjushiri1 to Bodhisattva Chishaku2 in order to teach about the
enlightenment of the Dragon King’s daughter.
Bodhisattva Chishaku asked Bodhisattva Monjushiri, “I heard that
you went to a place called the Dragon Palace at the bottom of the sea
and taught the Buddha’s teachings. I want to know how many living
beings you were actually able to save?”
Bodhisattva Monjushiri replied, “Well, let me see; more beings than
one can count. Just a minute, I will call them all forth now.” As soon
as Bodhisattva Monjushiri said this, innumerable bodhisattvas
appeared from beneath the sea and came to Eagle Peak. Bodhisattva
Chishaku was profoundly impressed upon seeing the many beings
who had been able to attain enlightenment through Bodhisattva
Monjushiri’s instruction. Bodhisattva Monjushiri reported, “I went
beneath the ocean and preached only the Lotus Sutra.”
Bodhisattva Chishaku then inquired, “Amongst all the Buddha’s
teachings, the Lotus Sutra is the most venerable, the most complex,
the most difficult to understand and the hardest to believe in, and
yet, are there really beings who have taken faith in the Lotus Sutra
and attained Buddhahood?”
Bodhisattva Monjushiri replied, “Let me tell you about the Dragon
King’s daughter. She is the eight year old daughter of Shakatsura,
King of the Dragons and she lives within the Dragon Palace. Even
though she is young, she is very clever and pure at heart. She
earnestly embraced faith in the Lotus Sutra and attained
Buddhahood.”
Surprised, Bodhisattva Chishaku said, “Even the World Honored One
carried out Bodhisattva austerities for a long time without being able
to rest for even a moment and as a result was finally able to attain
Buddhahood. I can’t imagine how an eight year old animal being, the
daughter of the Dragon King, was able to achieve enlightenment in
such a short time!”
At this point, the Dragon King’s daughter who had eradicated all
offenses against the Law from her life and became a being endowed
with good fortune and virtues, suddenly appeared and proclaimed,
“Lord Shakyamuni is also aware that I have attained Buddhahood.”
Sharihotsu then exclaimed, “Daughter of the Dragon King, you may
think you have attained enlightenment, but you are mistaken. From
the beginning you have been defiled and are not a pure vessel of the
Law. One must normally be reborn again and again, and carry out the
practice of Buddhist austerities over a period of many lifetimes, in
order to finally be able to obtain the enlightened life condition of
Buddhahood. There is no way imaginable that you as an animal and a
female could obtain enlightenment as you are. It is taught that
women all possess the five hindrances to obtaining Buddhahood. The
first hindrance being that women cannot become Bonten, the second
being that they cannot become Taishaku, the third being that they
cannot become a devil king, the fourth being that they cannot
become a wheel-turning king, and the fifth obstacle being that they
cannot become a Buddha. So why were you as a female able to
become a Buddha?”
At this time, the Dragon King’s daughter proceeded to offer the most
precious jewel in the universe to Shakyamuni Buddha. Shakyamuni
Buddha saw the sincerity of the faith of the daughter of the Dragon
King and accepted it.
The Dragon King’s daughter stated, “Sharihotsu, Chishaku . . . did you
see that Shakyamuni Buddha received the jewel I offered to him
which signifies proof of my having attained enlightenment?”
Instantly she was mystically changed into the form of a man and
flew up into the heavens. She appeared in a world to the south called
the “Land without Impurities” sat on top of a lotus flower, and was
endowed with the thirty-two features and eighty characteristics of a
Buddha. She then preached the teachings of the Lotus Sutra to all
people of that land. All the people, dragons and animals who
witnessed this were overjoyed as they realized that they too would
be able to obtain Buddhahood as they were.
Shakyamuni Buddha then proclaimed, “In the same manner, all living
beings throughout the Ten Worlds can attain Buddhahood, without
having to change or alter themselves nor repeat lifetime upon
lifetime of lengthy Buddhist austerities. This is the benefit of the
Lotus Sutra.”
Nichiren Daishonin stated in the “Opening of the Eyes,” (Kaimoku
Sho):
The significance of the enlightenment of the Dragon King’s daughter
is not that a single woman was able to attain Buddhahood. This
parable signifies the enlightenment of all women which was an
impossibility in the teachings before the Lotus Sutra.
Until the treachings of the Lotus Sutra there had been discrimination
against evil people, women and others. It was taught that they could
not obtain enlightenment because they had burned the seed of
Buddhahood, and that although the faces of women seemed like
those of bodhisattvas, their hearts were filled with jealousy as strong
as demons. It was therefore taught that women could not obtain
Buddhahood because of these defects. However, within the correct
teachings of the Buddha, it is preached that all living beings, no
matter what form of the Ten Worlds their lives take, inherently
possess the seed of Buddhahood and are able to attain enlightenment
through correct faith.
Therefore, let’s all earnestly follow the instruction of High Priest
Nikken Shonin and have confidence that no matter who we are,
whether we are knowledgeable about the laws of Buddhism or
not,that there is no discrimination amongst anyone in Buddhism. All
men and women, through honest and sincere faith in the Gohonzon,
coupled with the daily recitation of Gongyo and Daimoku, are able to
attain enlightenment.
Footnotes:
1. Bodhisattva Monjushiri: Also referred to as Bodhisattva Monju.
This bodhisattva appears throughout many sutras and is regarded as
being symbolic of the perfection of wisdom and as the leader
amongst other bodhisattvas. Bodhisattva Monjushiri is often depicted
together with Bodhisattva Fugen as bodhisattvas who attend
Shakyamuni Buddha.

2. Bodhisattva Chishaku: Also referred to by the sanskrit name of
Bodhisattva Jnanakara. The name Chishaku in itself signifies
“accumulation of knowledge.” Bodhisattva Chishaku was the eldest of
Daitsu Buddha’s sixteen sons and was mentioned in the Kejoyu
seventh chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

©1995 Nichiren Shoshu Monthly. All rights reserved