Shakyamuni while in the Causal Stages (of Bodhisattva-hood) Cultivates the Act of Abandoning One’s Body in Search of the Law
The Buddha said, “In the past, the World-Honored One cultivated the bodhi course and had the capability to understand all heterodox doctrines and theories. He cultivated the practices of cessation, his practice not defeated by these outside doctrines. He received and upheld (the truth of) permanence, purity, true selfhood and joy (of Mahayana nirvana), and sought the Great Vehicle (Mahayana). On the Snowy Mountain, he sat in meditation through endless years, and did not hear that the Thus-Come One had entered the world, or know the names of the greater vehicle’s scriptures. At that time, he practiced ascetic acts. Indra and the gods convened an assembly and spoke a verse, their hearts filled with fear, ‘On the Snowy Mountain, a great master seeks enlightenment. The people of future times who do good will die and pass along except for those who have been destroyed by force, for they will be filled with vexation. Truly this is difficult to believe. I now will test him to see if he can accomplish the bodhi task.’
(Indra) then appeared in a raksa demon form, coming down to the Snowy Mountain, and to the Buddha spoke half of a verse, “All actions are impermanent; this is the law of reincarnation.” The Buddha replied, “As I hear this half-verse, my heart wells with joy. Who is capable of uttering this half-verse, which awakens my heart? This half-verse is truly the path of all the Buddhas of the past, the future and the present.” The raksa replied, “Ask me for the meaning. I have had no food for many days, hungry and vexed my heart is in disorder. This runs counter to what I feel in my heart, but begging for food and not obtaining any, for this reason I have made this statement.” I, the Buddha, asked the demon, “What (kind of) creatures do you eat?” He replied, “I eat people’s warm meat and hot blood.” Then the Buddha said “If you tell me the meaning of this chant, I will offer my body to you. I will abandon this body since in the end it has no use. As a bodhisattva, I cast off this un-firm body for bodhi and will obtain an adamantine body. Please tell me what I wish to know, and I will obtain much.”
The demon then said, “Life and death is extinguished; alone such extinguishing brings joy.” Hearing the chant, the bodhisattva (Shakyamuni) then (climbed a) tall tree (and threw himself) from the top, sacrificing his life for the verse. Before reaching the bottom, the raksa demon transformed back into Indra and caught him. Indra and Brahma and all of the heavens prostrated themselves in homage and in praise saying, “You are truly a bodhisattva, doing good and benefiting all the myriad beings. In the midst of (a world of) ignorance and darkness, (you will) light the torch of the Great Law. We will receive the Thus-Come One’s Great Law. As a consequence, we are relieved of our worries; you assuredly will achieve unexcelled complete enlightenment and perfection.” Indra and the devas circled around the bodhisattva’s feet, touched their heads in prostration, then departed.