Major sudden enlightenment in an instant
is the culminating effect
of minor gradual awakenings over much time.
In the Lotus Sutra, there is a section where Wisdom Accumulation Bodhisattva asks Manjushri Bodhisattva if there is anyone who could, through diligent vigour, swiftly cultivate the teachings in the same profound sutra to quickly attain Buddhahood. Manjushri Bodhisattva replied that there is a Dragon King’s daughter, who is only eight years of age, who is able to practise all the teachings taught by the Buddha, who is able to, in an instant, aspire to Bodhicitta and attain irreversibility of spiritual progress. Being compassionately mindful of all beings as if they were her children, her eloquence in teaching the Dharma is wondrous and her merits complete. Wisdom Accumulation Bodhisattva remarked that he had seen Shakyamuni Buddha practising the Dharma for the sake of limitless beings throughout immeasurable space and time without rest to attain Buddhahood, which makes it hard to believe that the girl could do likewise so soon. Just then, the girl appeared, bowed before them, and praised the magnificent form of the Buddha, which is complete with the thirty-two marks and eighty secondary characteristics of a great being, which shines in all directions and is honoured by all.
Shariputra too exclaimed of the difficulty in believing the claim of her quick attainment of Buddhahood, as one with a female form cannot become a Brahma heaven king, Shakra (king of Trayastrimsa Heaven), a Mara king (of the Parinirmita Vasavartin Heaven), a Wheel-turning Sage king (who rules the world with the Dharma), and much less a Buddha (a Dharma King) – unless one has passed theough many eons to perfect the paramitas (perfections). The Dragon Girl then offered a precious gem to the Buddha, asking if her offering was swift, to which Wisdom Accumulation and Shariputra agreed that it was. Next, she asked them to watch her become a Buddha in an even swifter manner. At that moment, the entire assembly saw her suddenly transform into a man, perfect the Bodhisattva conduct, instantly going to a southern world, sitting upon a jewelled lotus and attaining Buddhahood, embodying the thirty-two marks and eighty secondary characteristics. There, she proclaimed the wonderful Dharma for many beings, who rejoiced and paid their respects. Hearing the Dharma, many aspired to Bodhicitta, attained irreversibility and received predictions of Buddhahood.
This short teaching speaks against, at the same time, ageism, sexism, casteism, racism and speciesism. Despite being young, female, a non-brahmin (priests revered in ancient India as the ‘select few’ with higher spirituality), and a dragon (naga), the Dragon Girl was able to attain Buddhahood swiftly, by adhering to the great universal teachings of the Lotus Sutra. She herself attests to this very teaching against unjustified forms of discrimination by example. Even if there are relatively few like the Dragon Girl among us, it is true, nevertheless, that anyone of any age, gender, social background, race or even kind, can attain Buddhahood. It all depends on how diligently one had been practising and realising the Dharma both in this life and in previous lives. While it is true that Buddhas naturally arise from male forms, it is possible to instantaneously evolve to a male form within this life, also through diligence, as in the case of the Dragon Girl. Being born in Pure Land is also a fast way to relinquish gender limitations. This incident also subtly reminds us not to discriminate anyone, as anyone might be on the brink of Buddhahood, or even be the skilful manifestation of a Buddha!
The Buddha never spiritually discriminated anyone
as everyone has undiscriminating Buddha-nature.