The Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra is a Mahayan scripture in Buddhism originaly written in Sanskrit language at Vaishali, Bihar in 100 A.D.
This sutra is based on the discussions on Buddhist doctrine perceived by many great pupil of The Lord with a house-holder of Vaishali Vimalakrti. Vimalakirti is a rich house-holder with all earthly wealth but he is detached with all of them. He lives with high profile but his mind is also full of high thinking. He moves through the market and spots of joy, but remains unattached as a lotus leaf inhabiting in mud and muddy water. He is a great devotee of Buddha. His greatness is discribed in the Vimalakirti Sutra Nirdesh as follows:-
"At that time, there lived in the great city of Vaisali a certain Licchavi, Vimalakirti by name. Having served the ancient Buddhas, he had generated the roots of virtue by honoring them and making offerings to them. He had attained tolerance as well as eloquence. He played with the great super knowledge. He had attained the power of incantations and the fearlessnesses. He had conquered all demons and opponents. He had penetrated the profound way of the Dharma. He was liberated through the transcendence of wisdom. Having integrated his realization with skill in liberative technique, he was expert in knowing the thoughts and actions of living beings. Knowing the strength or weakness of their faculties, and being gifted with unrivaled eloquence, he taught the Dharma appropriately to each. Having applied himself energetically to the Mahayana, he understood it and accomplished his tasks with great finesse. He lived with the deportment
of a Buddha, and his superior intelligence was as wide as an ocean. He was praised, honored, and commended by all the Buddhas and was respected by Indra, Brahma, and all
the Lokapalas. In order to develop living beings with his skill in liberative technique, he lived in the great city of Vaisali. His wealth was inexhaustible for the purpose of sustaining the poor and the helpless. He observed a pure morality in order to protect the immoral. He maintained tolerance and self-control in order to reconcile beings who were angry, cruel, violent, and brutal. He blazed with energy in order to inspire people who were lazy. He maintained concentration, mindfulness, and meditation in order to sustain the mentally troubled. He attained decisive wisdom in order to sustain the foolish. He wore the white clothes of the layman, yet lived impeccably like a religious devotee. He lived at home, but remained aloof from the realm of desire, the realm of pure matter, and the immaterial realm. He had a son, a wife, and female attendants, yet always maintained continence. He appeared to be surrounded by servants, yet lived in solitude. He appeared to be adorned with ornaments, yet always was endowed with the auspicious signs and marks. He seemed to eat and drink, yet always took nourishment from the taste of meditation. He made his appearance at the fields of sports and in the casinos, but his aim was always to mature those people who were attached to games and gambling. He visited the fashionable heterodox teachers, yet always kept unswerving loyalty to the Buddha. He understood the mundane and transcendental sciences and esoteric practices, yet always took pleasure in the delights of the Dharma. He mixed in all crowds, yet was respected as foremost of all.
In order to be in harmony with people, he associated with elders, with those of middle age, and with the young, yet always spoke in harmony with the Dharma. He engaged in all sorts of businesses, yet had no interest in profit or possessions. To train living beings, he would appear at crossroads and on street corners, and to protect them he participated in government. To turn people away from the Hinayana and to engage them in the Mahayana, he appeared among listeners and teachers of the Dharma. To develop children, he visited all the schools. To demonstrate the evils of desire, he even entered the brothels. To establish drunkards in correct mindfulness, he entered all the cabarets. He was honored as the businessman among businessmen because he demonstrated the priority of the Dharma. He was honored as the landlord among landlords because he renounced the aggressiveness of ownership. He was honored as the warrior among warriors because he cultivated endurance, determination, and fortitude. He was honored as the aristocrat among aristocrats because he suppressed pride, vanity, and arrogance. He was honored as the official among officials because he regulated the functions of government according to the Dharma. He was honored as the prince of princes because he reversed their attachment to royal pleasures and sovereign power. He was honored as a eunuch in the royal harem because he taught the young ladies according to the Dharma. He was compatible with ordinary people because he appreciated the excellence of ordinary merits. He was honored as the Indra among Indras because he showed them the temporality of their lordship. He was honored as the Brahma among Brahmas because he showed them the special excellence of gnosis. He was honored as the Lokapala among Lokapalas because he fostered the development of all living beings. Thus lived the Licchavi Vimalakirti in the great city of Vaisali, endowed with an infinite knowledge of skill in liberative techniques. At that time, out of this very skill in liberative technique, Vimalakirti manifested himself as if sick. To inquire after his health, the king, the officials, the lords, the youths, the aristocrats, the householders, the businessmen, the townfolk, the countryfolk, and thousands of other living beings came forth from the great city of Vaisali and called on the invalid."
He was so high thinker that when anyone follower come to his door for pindapaata (begging) he preached him very carefully. His general preaching about the body and mind is discribed in the same Sutra as follows:-
"Friends, this body is so impermanent, fragile, unworthy of confidence, and feeble. It is so insubstantial, perishable, short-lived, painful, filled with diseases, and subject to changes. Thus, my friends, as this body is only a vessel of many sicknesses, wise men do not rely on it. This body is like a ball of foam, unable to bear any pressure. It is like a water bubble, not remaining very long. It is like a mirage, born from the appetites of the passions. It is like the trunk of the plantain tree, having no core. Alas! This body is like a machine, a nexus of bones and tendons. It is like a magical illusion, consisting of falsifications. It is like a dream, being an unreal vision. It is like a reflection, being the image of former actions. It is like an echo, being dependent on conditioning. It is like a cloud, being characterized by turbulence and dissolution. It is like a flash of lightning, being unstable, and decaying every moment. The body is ownerless, being the product of a variety of conditions.
"This body is inert, like the earth; selfless, like water; lifeless, like fire; impersonal, like the wind; and nonsubstantial, like space. This body is unreal, being a collocation of the four main elements. It is void, not existing as self or as self-possessed. It is inanimate, being like grass, trees, walls, clods of earth, and hallucinations. It is insensate, being driven like a windmill. It is filthy, being an agglomeration of pus and excrement. It is false, being fated to be broken and destroyed, in spite of being anointed and massaged. It is afflicted by the four hundred and four diseases. It is like an ancient well, constantly overwhelmed by old age. Its duration is never certain - certain only is its end in death. This body is a combination of aggregates, elements, and sense-media, which are comparable to murderers, poisonous snakes, and an empty town respectively.
Therefore, you should be revulsed by such a body. You should despair of it and should arouse your admiration for the body of the Tathagata.
"Friends, the body of a Tathagata is the body of Dharma, born of gnosis. The body of a Tathagata is born of the stores of merit and wisdom. It is born of morality, of meditation, of wisdom, of the liberations, and of the knowledge and vision of liberation. It is born of love,compassion, joy, and impartiality. It is born of charity, discipline, and self-control. It is born of the path of ten virtues. It is born of patience and gentleness. It is born of the roots of virtue planted by solid efforts. It is born of the concentrations, the liberations, the meditations, and the absorptions. It is born of learning, wisdom, and liberative technique. It is born of the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment. It is born of mental quiescence and transcendental analysis. It is born of the ten powers, the four fearlessnesses, and the eighteen special qualities. It is born of all the transcendences. It is born from sciences and superknowledges. It is born of the abandonment of all evil qualities, and of the collection of all good qualities. It is born of truth. It is born of reality. It is born of conscious awareness.
"Friends, the body of a Tathagata is born of innumerable good works. Toward such a body you should turn your aspirations, and, in order to eliminate the sicknesses of the passions of all living beings, you should conceive the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment."
While the Licchavi Vimalakirti thus taught the Dharma to those who had come to inquire about his sickness, many hundreds of thousands of living beings conceived the spirit of unexcelled, perfect enlightenment.
When upon a time he was sick in bed. The Buddha heard about this and declared and said to His pupils that Vimalakirti is sick, we should ask after him."
He asked primarily one by one to Mahamaudgalyayana, Mahakasyapa, Subhuti, Purna-maitrayani-putra, Mahakatyayana, Aniruddha, Upali, Rahula, Ananda, The second time Buddha asked the same question to Maitreya, Prabhavyuha, Jagatimdhara, Sudatta,. All of them begged off, because they had been previously tested by Vimalakirti in some sort of Dharma dialogue, or they feared that his realization was so deep that they would be ashamed. All of them describes the previously discussed matter with the great thinker Vimalkirti, the house holder. And at last Lord Buddha said to Manjusri, the prince to go to Vimalakirti.
Finally the Buddha settles on Manjusri. Here we go, the bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjusri can not back out.
"All right, I will go. But I will only go if all of you come with me." Manjushri said to the all pupils of The lord which begged off to go to Vimalkirti’s house. They all followed Manjushri and went to the house. Manjushri show that Vimalakirti, in this little sick room, was visited by everybody. Thousands of Buddhas and bodhisattvas all squeezed in there at once.
Vimalakirti was addressed by Manjusri, who basically asked, "How are you feeling?" Vimalakirti explained his illness in the following words:
Manjusri, my sickness comes from ignorance and the thirst for existence and it will last as long as the sicknesses of all living beings. Were all living beings to be free from sickness, I also would not be sick. Why? Manjusri, for the bodhisattva, the world consists only of living beings, and sickness is inherent in living in the world. Were all living beings free of sickness, the bodhisattva also would be free of sickness
. . . You ask me, Manjusri, whence comes my sickness; the sickness of the bodhisattvas arises from great compassion.
Here we see that the main point of the Sutra is this definition of a bodhisattva. This sutra mentions the various names of Lord Buddha which are famous in Buddhist Mahayan tradition. These bodhisattvas were named:
Samadarsana, Asamadarsana, Samadhivikurvitaraja, Dharmesvara, Dharmaketu, Prabhaketu, Prabhavyuha, Ratnavyuha, Mahavyuha, Pratibhanakuta, Ratnakuta, Ratnapani, Ratnamudrahasta, Nityapralambahasta, Nityotksipthasta, Nityatapta, Nityamuditendriya, Pramodyaraja, Devaraja, Pranidhanapravesaprapta, Prasiddhapratisamvitprapta, Gaganaganja, Ratnolkaparigrhita, Ratnasura, Ratnapriya, Ratnasri, Indrajala, Jaliniprabha, Niralambanadhyana, Prajnakuta, Ratnadatta, Marapramardaka, Vidyuddeva, Vikurvanaraja, Kutanimittasamatikranta, Simhanadanadin, Giryagrapramardiraja, Gandhahastin, Gandhakunjaranaga, Nityodyukta, Aniksiptadhura, Pramati, Sujata, Padmasrigarbha, Padmavyuha, Avalokitesvara, Mahasthamaprapta, Brahmajala, Ratnadandin, Marakarmavijeta, Ksetrasamalamkara, Maniratnacchattra, Suvarnacuda, Manicuda, Maitreya, Manjusrikumarabhuta, and so forth, with the remainder of the thirty-two thousand.
The Vimalakirti Sutra goes on: "Now using upaya [skillful means] he [Vimalakirti] appeared ill, and because of his indisposition kings, ministers, elders, upasakas, Brahmins . . . as well as princes and other officials numbering many thousands came to inquire after his health. So Vimalakirti appeared in his sick body to receive and expound the Dharma to them, saying: “Virtuous ones, the human body is impermanent; it is neither strong nor durable; it will decay and is, therefore, unreliable. It causes anxieties and sufferings, being subject to all kinds of ailments. Virtuous ones, all wise men do not rely on this body which is like a mass of foam, which is intangible. It is like a bubble and does not last for a long time. It is like a flame and is the product of the thirst of love. It is like a banana tree, the center of which is hollow . . . “This is the beginning of a very long list of images. He finally says, "Seeing reality in oneís own body is how to see the Buddha." And this Buddha is unknowable, un mappable.
The first translation of the text into Chinese
The first translated into Chinese in 188 A.D. made by a Kushan monk Lokakshema was lost. The translator was said to be a Kushan of Yuezhi ethnicity from Gandhara. His ethnicity is described in his adopted Chinese name Yuezhi. He was born in Gandhara at a time when Buddhism was actively sponsored by the Kushan Emperor Kanishka, who convened the Fourth Buddhist Council and was Ashvaghpsh’s petron. It would seem that Kanishka was not ill-disposed towards Mahayana Buddhism, opening the way for missionary activities in China by monks such as Lokaksema. Lokaksema came from Gandhara to the court of the Han dynasty at the capital Loyang as early as 150 and worked there between 178 and 189. A prolific scholar-monk, many early translations of important Mahāyāna texts in China are attributed to him, including the very early Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra known as the "Practice of the Path", Pratyutpanna Sutra. The Sanskrit names of the sutras he translated are as follows:
Surangamasamadhisutra, an early version of a sutra connected to the Avatamsakasutra,
Those sutras were probably composed in the north of India in the first century. Lokaksema's work includes the translation of the Pratyutpanna Sutra, containing the first known mentions of the Buddha Amitabha and his Pure Land, said to be at the origin of Pure Land practice in China, and the first known translations of the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra (The "Astasahasrika-prajnaparamita Sutras", or "Perfection of Wisdom Sutras of the practice of the Way", which later became known as the "Perfection of Wisdom in 8000 lines"), a founding text of Mahayana Buddhism. Lokaksema's translation activities, as well as those of the Parthians An Shih Kao and An Hsuan slightly earlier, or the Yuezhi Dharmaraksa (around 286 A.D.) illustrate the key role Central Asians had in propagating the Buddhist faith to the countries of East Asia. Another Yuezhi monk and one of Lokaksema's students named Zhi Yao , translated Mahayana Buddhist texts from Central Asia around 185 CE, such as the "Sutra on the Completion of Brightness".
Other six translations
The sūtra was translated six more times at later dates, with the most popular edition being Kumārajīva's translation from 406 CE. Sometimes used in the title, the word nirdeśa means "instruction/advice"
Various editions of the text are available on web: