Then, the Licchavi Vimalakirti thought to himself, "I am sick, lying on my bed in pain, yet the Tathágata, the saint, the perfectly accomplished Buddha, does not consider or take pity upon me, and sends no one to inquire after my illness."

The Lord knew this thought in the mind of Vimalakirti and said to the venerable Shariputra, "Shariputra, go to inquire after the illness of the Licchavi Vimalakirti."

Thus having been addressed, the venerable Shariputra answered the Buddha, "Lord, I am indeed reluctant to go to ask the Licchavi Vimalakirti about his illness. Why? I remember one day, when I was sitting at the foot of a tree in the forest, absorbed in contemplation, the Licchavi Vimalakirti came to the foot of that tree and said to me, 'Reverend Shariputra, this is not the way to absorb yourself in contemplation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation so that neither body nor mind appear anywhere in the triple world. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest all ordinary behavior without forsaking cessation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest the nature of an ordinary person without abandoning your cultivated spiritual nature. You should absorb yourself in contemplation so that the mind neither settles within nor moves without toward external forms. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that the thirty-seven aids to enlightenment are manifest without deviation toward any convictions. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you are released in liberation without abandoning the passions that are the province of the world.

"'Reverend Shariputra, those who absorb themselves in contemplation in such a way are declared by the Lord to be truly absorbed in contemplation.'

"Lord, when I heard this teaching, I was unable to reply and remained silent. Therefore, I am reluctant to go to ask that good man about his sickness."


Translation by Robert Thurman