dragon king’s daughter ［竜女］ ( ryūnyo): Also, dragon girl or nāga girl. The eight-year-old daughter of Sāgara, one of the eight great dragon kings said to dwell in a palace at the bottom of the sea. According to the “Devadatta” (twelfth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the dragon girl attained enlightenment when she heard Bodhisattva Manjushrī preach the Lotus Sutra in the dragon king’s palace. When Manjushrī asserts that she quickly attained Buddha wisdom, Bodhisattva Wisdom Accumulated challenges him, saying that even Shakyamuni attained enlightenment only after fulfilling the bodhisattva practice for many kalpas, and that she could not have become a Buddha so easily. Just then the dragon girl appears in front of the assembly and praises Shakyamuni Buddha. Shāriputra then speaks to her, saying that women are subject to the five obstacles and are incapable of attaining Buddhahood. At that moment, she offers a jewel to the Buddha, transforms herself into a male, and instantaneously perfects the bodhisattva practice. He then appears in a land to the south called Spotless World and manifests the state of Buddhahood. With the thirty-two features and eighty characteristics of a Buddha, he preaches the Lotus Sutra to all living beings there.
The dragon girl’s enlightenment has important implications. First, it refutes the idea of the time that women could never attain enlightenment. Second, it reveals that the power of the Lotus Sutra enables all people equally to attain Buddhahood in their present forms. That is, through the Lotus Sutra, people need neither practice austerities for countless kalpas nor wait for rebirth in a different physical form (provisional teachings hold that women must be reborn as men and then practice for innumerable kalpas in order to become Buddhas). The dragon girl’s changing into a man is not a condition for her Buddhahood. She has already attained Buddhahood in her female animal form. Her transformation is an expedient means to demonstrate her Buddhahood in a way Shāriputra and the others can understand. See also dragon deity.