Snow Mountain Monastery
Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s Acolyte Dragon Girl
~ Famously known as Longnü in Chinese; Depicted as Avalokiteshvara’s first acolyte who always stays by her “right hand” side ~
From the Lotus Sutra, Chapter 12, Masjusri Bodhisattva, while expounding the Lotus Sutra’s profoundness to Wisdom Accumulation Bodhisattva, gave an account of Dragon Girl as follows: “… the daughter of the nāga king Sāgara who is only eight years old. She is wise; her faculties are sharp; and she also well knows all the faculties and deeds of sentient beings. She has attained the power of recollection. She preserves all the profound secret treasures taught by the Buddhas, enters deep meditation, and is well capable of discerning all dharmas. She instantly produced the thought of enlightenment and attained the stage of non-retrogression. She has unhindered eloquence and thinks of sentient beings with as much compassion as if they were her own children. Her virtues are perfect. Her thoughts and explanations are subtle and extensive, merciful, and compassionate. She has a harmonious mind and has attained enlightenment”
The Dragon Girl Becomes a Buddha
In the Lotus Sutra tells of eight-year-old dragon (nāga) girl who upholds the teachings of this sutra and thereby becomes a Buddha in this very life. In the “Devadatta” chapter, Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva tells Wisdom Accumulation Bodhisattva that the eight-year-old daughter of Dragon King Sagara can swiftly realize Buddhahood because she has cultivated the Lotus Sutra. Hearing these words, Wisdom Accumulation Bodhisattva is very doubtful. At that time, Śāriputrasays to the dragon girl, “A female body is defiled and unfit to be a Dharma vessel. How could you possibly attain supreme awakening?” The dragon girl promptly offered her precious pearl to the Buddha and then asked Śāriputraand Wisdom Accumulation, “Would you say that my offering this pearl to the Buddha and the Buddha’s acceptance of it, was fast?” They both replied, “Very fast.” The dragon girl said, “I will become a Buddha even faster.” Everyone in the assembly saw the dragon girl suddenly turn into a boy, complete the Bodhisattva practices, and then, in a world to the south, realize supreme awakening while seated upon a lotus dais. Endowed with the thirty-two hallmarks and eighty subsidiary characteristics, this Buddha then expounded the wondrous Dharma for living beings in the ten directions. At that point, all the Bodhisattvas,Śrāvakadisciples, gods, dragons, and others of the eightfold pantheon, as well as humans and nonhumans, all venerated and bowed to him from afar. Wisdom Accumulation and Śāriputra were silent and had no more doubts about the matter.
Later generations have interpreted this story in various ways. According to the Fahua Jing Xuan Yi, fascicle 5a, the dragon girl was at the position of the first dwelling, that of setting one’s mind upon Bodhi, at which point one has realized one share of non-arising and can manifest the eight signs of realizing Buddhahood.