Day 16

Day 16 concludes Chapter 11, Beholding the Stupa of Treasures, and completes the Fourth Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Beholding the stūpa of Treasures:

The Saintly Master, the World-Honored One,
Who had passed away a long time ago,
Came riding in the stūpa of treasures
To hear the Dharma [directly from me].
Could anyone who sees him
Not make efforts to hear the Dharma?

The Buddha’s replicas take their seats:

Those Buddhas came under the jeweled trees.
The trees are adorned with those Buddhas
Just as a pond of pure water is adorned
With lotus flowers.

The question:

(The Buddha said to the great multitude.)
Who will protect
And keep this sūtra,
And read and recite it
After my extinction?
Make a vow before me to do this!

Some easy task and some not so easy:

Good men! Think this over clearly!
It is difficult [To expound this sūtra].
Make a great vow to do this!

It is not difficult
To expound all the other sūtras
As many as there are sands
In the River Ganges.

It is not difficult
To grasp Mt. Sumeru
And hurl it to a distance
Of countless Buddha-worlds.

It is not difficult to move [a world]
[Composed of] one thousand million Sumeru-worlds
With the tip of a toe
And hurl it to another world.

It is not difficult
To stand in the Highest Heaven
And expound innumerable other sūtras
To all living beings.

It is difficult
To expound this sūtra
In the evil world
After my extinction.

It is not difficult
To grasp the sky,
And wander about with it
From place to place.

It is difficult
To copy and keep this sūtra
Or cause others to copy it
After my extinction.

It is not difficult
To put the great earth
On the nail of a toe
And go up to the Heaven of Brahman.

It is difficult
To read this sūtra
Even for a while in the evil world
After my extinction.

It is not difficult
To shoulder a load of hay
And stay unburned in the fire
At the end of the kalpa [of destruction].

It is difficult
To keep this sūtra
And expound it to even one person
After my extinction.

It is not difficult
To keep the store
Of eighty-four thousand teachings
Expounded in the sūtras
Composed of the twelve elements,
And expound it to people,
And cause the hearers to obtain
The six supernatural powers.

It is difficult
To hear and receive this sūtra,
And ask the meanings of it
After my extinction.

It is not difficult
To expound the Dharma
To many thousands of billions of living beings
As many as there are sands
In the River Ganges
So that they may be able
To obtain the benefits:
Arhatship and the six supernatural powers.

It is difficult
To keep This sūtra
After my extinction.

Since I attained
The enlightenment of the Buddha,
I have expounded many sūtras
In innumerable worlds.
This sūtra is
The most excellent.
To keep this sūtra
Is to keep me.

The Heart of the Matter

Here is the heart of the matter: Every day we should live our lives as not just disciples of the Buddha, but as Bodhisattvas from beneath the ground, disciples of the Eternal Buddha. Our actions are the most powerful form of speech.

Lotus Path: Practicing the Lotus Sutra Volume 1

Daily Dharma – Oct. 31, 2015

The father thought, ‘These sons are pitiful. They are so poisoned that they are perverted. Although they rejoice at seeing me and ask me to cure them, they do not consent to take this good medicine. Now I will have them take it with an expedient.’

The Buddha gives this description as part of the Parable of the Wise Physician in Chapter Sixteen of the Lotus Sūtra. In the story, the physician’s children have mistakenly taken poison, yet refuse the remedy their father provides for them. The children are just like us as we cling to our attachments and delusions and refuse the good medicine of the Buddha Dharma. This refusal can be for many reasons. The children may think the remedy is worse than the poison. They may be holding out for another remedy that may be even more pleasant. They may enjoy being poisoned. They may not trust that their father can cure them. As the father in the story faked his death to bring the children to their right minds, the Buddha seems to disappear from our lives so that we may learn to accept the teaching he provides for us. And as the father reappeared to the children once they took the remedy, the Buddha reappears to us when we practice his teaching.

The Daily Dharma is produced by the Lexington Nichiren Buddhist Community. To subscribe to the daily emails, visit zenzaizenzai.com

Day 15

Day 15 completes Chapter 10, The Teacher and the Dharma, and introduces Chapter 11, Beholding the Stupa of Treasures.

The Buddha explains that the Lotus Sutra “is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand” because it is “the store of the hidden core of all the Buddhas.”

Medicine-King, know this! Anyone who copies, keeps, reads and recites this sūtra, makes offerings to it, and expounds it to others after my extinction, will be covered by my robe. He also will be protected by the present Buddhas of the other worlds. He will have the great power of faith, the power of vows, and the power of roots of good. Know this! He will live with me. I will pat him on the head.

Living with the Buddha, covered in his robe.

Without the Lotus Sutra?

Medicine-King! Although many laymen or monks will practice the Way of Bodhisattvas, they will not be able to practice it satisfactorily, know this, unless they see, hear, read, recite, copy or keep this Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma or make offerings to it. If they hear this sūtra, they will. Anyone who, while seeking the enlightenment of the Buddha, sees or hears this Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, and after hearing it, understands it by faith and keeps it, know this, will approach Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi.

And…

A man on a plateau, feeling thirsty,
Dug a hole in order to get water.
As long as he saw the dug-out lumps of earth were dry,
He knew that water was still far off.
When he found the earth wet and muddy,
He was convinced that water was near.

In the same manner, Medicine-King, know this!
Those who do not hear
The Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
Are far from the wisdom of the Buddha.

What is required to expound the Lotus Sutra?

Medicine-King! How should the good men or women who live after my extinction expound this Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma to the four kinds of devotees when they wish to? They should enter the room of the Tathāgata, wear the robe of the Tathāgata, sit on the seat of the Tathāgata, and then expound this sūtra to the four kinds of devotees. To enter the room of the Tathāgata means to have great compassion towards all living beings. To wear the robe of the Tathāgata means to be gentle and patient. To sit on the seat of the Tathāgata means to see the voidness of all things.

And then suddenly, without warning, a giant stupa of treasures rises from the earth and hangs in the air and from inside a loud voice is heard to say:

“Excellent, excellent! You, Śākyamuni, the World-Honored One, have expounded to this great multitude the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Teaching of Equality, the Great Wisdom, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas. So it is, so it is. What you, Śākyamuni, the World-Honored One, have expounded is all true.”

Insantity

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

So day after day, lifetime after lifetime, and birth after birth, we repeat the cycles of birth, sickness, old age, and death. The four sufferings haunt us, and we try every strategy to eliminate them from our lives. If not our own sufferings we suffer the sickness and death of friends and loved ones. We suffer the attachment to things that are impermanent. We suffer the illusions that we are independent of the things that exist outside ourselves.

I like the phrase, “They are trying to stop suffering by suffering” from Chapter 2 in the Lotus Sutra. How easy it is to keep doing the easy thing, the thing that has not worked well for us in the past?

Buddhism requires us to change, to challenge, to delve deep into our innermost being to try to understand both what is good and beneficial for us and what keeps us from doing that very thing. As long as we keep ignoring the obvious, our suffering, our thinking that there is no other way, we will continue to suffer. Ignorance is one of the three poisons; ignorance traps us in a cycle of ignorance and suffering.

Lotus Path: Practicing the Lotus Sutra Volume 1

Daily Dharma – Oct. 30, 2015

If they think that I am always here, and do not think that I will pass away, they will become too arrogant and lazy to realize the difficulty of seeing me, and they will not respect me. Therefore I say [to them] expediently, ’Bhikṣus, know this! It is difficult to see a Buddha who appears in [this] world.’

The Buddha makes this explanation to those gathered to hear him teach in Chapter Sixteen of the Lotus Sūtra. We may wonder what took the Buddha so long to give his highest teaching to us, whether he was holding it back because of stinginess, not wanting to share the great treasure of his wisdom. Here and in other parts of the Sūtra, he shows that unless we cultivate our respect for the Buddha, and thus for all beings, we take him for granted and lose his precious wisdom.

The Daily Dharma is produced by the Lexington Nichiren Buddhist Community. To subscribe to the daily emails, visit zenzaizenzai.com

Day 14

Day 14 covers all of Chapter 9, The Assurance of Future Buddhahood of the Śrāvakas Who Have Something More to Learn and the Śrāvakas Who Have Nothing More to Learn, and opens Chapter 10, The Teacher of the Dharma

For the most part, Chapter 9 focuses on Ānanda, the keeper of the Dharma, and Rāhula, the Buddha’s eldest son. Of particular interest is the explanation of why Ānanda had not already attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi:

“Good men! Ānanda and I resolved to aspire for Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi under the Void-King Buddha at the same time [in our previous existence]. At that time Ānanda always wished to hear much while I always practiced strenuously. Therefore, I have already attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi[, but he has not yet]. Now he protects my teachings. He also will protect the store of the teachings of future Buddhas, teach Bodhisattvas, and cause them to attain [Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi], according to his original vow. Therefore, now he has been assured of his future Buddhahood.”

Learning without practice is just learning.

Chapter 10 promises future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi to those who embrace the Lotus Sutra.

If after my extinction anyone rejoices, even on a moment’s thought, at hearing even a gāthā or a phrase of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, I also will assure him of his future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi.

And those who keep, read, recite, expound and copy even a phrase of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma:

These good men or women are great Bodhisattvas. They should be considered to have appeared in this world by their vow to expound the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma out of their compassion towards all living beings, although they already attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi [in their previous existence].

Doing the Buddha’s work:

The good men or women who expound even a phrase of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma even to one person even in secret after my extinction, know this, are my messengers. They are dispatched by me. They do my work.

The bottom line:

Medicine-King! I will tell you.
The Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
Is the most excellent sūtra
That I have ever expounded.

The Unity Presented in the Lotus Sutra

Prior to the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha taught many different teachings for a variety of people, teachings well suited to the capacities and natures of those he taught. With the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, though, we have the advent of the unification of all those individual teachings into one specific complete teaching that goes beyond the ending point of the parts of the whole. Our challenge, as contemporary practitioners of Buddhism, is to learn from the prior teachings, but do so from the point of the unity presented in the Lotus Sutra.

Lotus Path: Practicing the Lotus Sutra Volume 1

Daily Dharma – Oct. 29, 2015

With Nichiren’s boundless compassion, “Namu Myoho Renge Kyo” will be heard forever even beyond the ten-thousand year period of Degeneration. It has the merit of curing the blindness of all people, blocking the way to hell. This merit is superior to those of Dengyō in Japan, T’ien-t’ai in China, Nāgārjuna in India or Kāśyapa who was the Buddha’s disciple. Practice for a hundred years in the Pure Land is not worth the merit of chanting the daimoku for one day in this defiled world. Propagation of the daimoku in a two-thousand year period following the death of the Buddha is not worth as much as spreading the daimoku for even a short while in the Latter Age of Degeneration. This is not from my wisdom; it is solely due to the time in which I live.

Nichiren wrote this passage in his Essay on Gratitude (Hōon-jō). In other writings, he explained that the superiority of the Lotus Sūtra is not in its power to change the world, but its power to lead all beings, without exception, to the same enlightenment the Buddha found. In this sūtra, the Buddha gives us a different idea of time, the world and our lives. All of these are truly boundless, and the Buddha is always here teaching us.

The Daily Dharma is produced by the Lexington Nichiren Buddhist Community. To subscribe to the daily emails, visit zenzaizenzai.com

Day 13

Day 13 covers all of Chapter 8, The Assurance of Future Buddhahood of the Five Hundred Disciples

Pūrṇa, the son of Maitrāyaṇī and the preeminent preacher among the Buddha’s followers, approaches the Buddha with great joy but does not speak, does not request anything for himself. The Buddha praises Purna for strenuously protecting his teachings, and helping him propagate them. Although Purna appears to be a Śrāvaka, the Buddha explains that it is just an expedient while doing the work of the Buddha:

[Purna] always expounded the Dharma clearly and purely, with no doubtfulness. Although he had the supernatural powers of Bodhisattvas, he performed brahma practices throughout his previous existence. Therefore, the people of the world of the Buddha [under whom he performed brahma practices] thought that he was a Śrāvaka. He benefited many hundreds of thousands of living beings with this expedient, and also caused innumerable, asaṃkhya people to aspire for Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. He did the work of the Buddha, that is, taught all living beings so that the world of the Buddha might be purified.

The Arhats, on the other hand, needed reassurance from the Buddha that they, too, would one day attain Buddhahood. After they receive that assurance they reproached themselves for having satisfied themselves with the Lesser Vehicle. They tell the story of the rich man who sews a priceless gem in the garment of a poor friend. The poor man struggles for survival unaware that he has this gem.

“World-Honored One! Now we see that we are Bodhisattvas in reality, and that we are assured of our future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. Therefore, we have the greatest joy that we have ever had.”