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.

Ānanda always protects the store of the Dharma and Rāhula is the Buddha’s son. But they still feel it necessary to beg the Buddha for assurance of their future Buddhahood. And then there are the 8,000 Bodhisattvas who ask: “Why have these Śrāvakas been so assured?”

The answer:

“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 not enough.

And after all of the Śrāvakas are assured of future Buddhahood, we learn in Chapter 10, The Teacher of the Dharma, the power of faith in the Lotus Sutra:

Medicine-King! Do you see the innumerable gods, dragon-kings, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnaras, mahoragas, men, and nonhuman beings, and [the four kinds of devotees:] bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās, and those who are seeking Śrāvakahood or Pratyekabuddhahood or the enlightenment of the Buddha in this great multitude? If in my presence any of them 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 will assure him of his future Buddhahood, saying to him, ‘You will be able to attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi.’

The Buddha said to Medicine-King: “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.”

All of those who “keep, read, recite, expound and copy even a phrase of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma” are in fact Bodhisattvas, messengers sent by the Buddha:

Medicine-King, know this! They should be considered to have given up the rewards of their pure karmas and appeared in the evil world after my extinction in order to expound this sūtra out of their compassion towards all living beings. 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. It is needless to say this of those who expound this sūtra to many people in a great multitude.

And in gāthās:

Anyone who keeps
The Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma,
Know this, has compassion towards all living beings
Because he is my messenger.

Anyone who keeps
The Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
Should be considered to have given up his pure world and come here
Out of his compassion towards all living beings.

Know that he can appear wherever he wishes!
He should be considered
To have appeared in this evil world
In order to expound the unsurpassed Dharma.

And again:

Anyone who keeps this sūtra in the future
Should be considered
To have been dispatched by me
To the world of men in order to do my work.

Day 14 ends with the declaration:

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.

Cultivating a Mind of Joy

Cultivate a mind of joy in all things, chant the sacred title of the Lotus Sutra with great joy and at all times.

Lotus Path: Practicing the Lotus Sutra Volume 1

Daily Dharma – Nov. 30, 2015

Anyone who believes and receives this sūtra
Should be considered
To have already seen the past Buddhas,
Respected them, made offerings to them,
And heard the Dharma from them
In his previous existence.

The Buddha sings these verses in Chapter Three of the Lotus Sūtra. Whatever view we may have of our past lives, we can agree that it is difficult to remember what happened in them. In these verses the Buddha reminds us that our joy in hearing his teaching in this life indicates that we have already heard and practiced what he taught, no matter how difficult it may seem to us now. This also means that by believing and receiving the Lotus Sūtra we are respecting and making offerings to all Buddhas.

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, is the subject of the opening. Of note: He praises the Buddha without asking anything in return.

‘The World-Honored One is extraordinary. What he does is exceptional. He expounds the Dharma with expedients by his insight according to the various natures of all living beings of the world, and saves them from various attachments. The merits of the Buddha are beyond the expression of our words. Only the Buddha, only the World-Honored One, knows the wishes we have deep in our minds.’

Pūrṇa, explains the Buddha, is the most excellent expounder of the Dharma: “No one except the Tathāgata excels him in eloquence.”

He did the work of the Buddha, that is, taught all living beings so that the world of the Buddha might be purified.

And in gāthās:

He obtained great supernatural powers
And the four kinds of unhindered eloquence.
Seeing who was clever, and who was dull,
He always expounded the Pure Dharma.

He expounded the Dharma of the Great Vehicle
To hundreds of thousands of millions of living beings,
And caused them to dwell in the Dharma
So that the worlds of those Buddhas might be purified.

Eventually, after protecting and expounding the Dharma of innumerable Buddhas, “He will perform the Way of Bodhisattvas step by step for innumerable, asaṃkhya kalpas, and then attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi in this world.”

In contrast to Pūrṇa’s joy, the twelve hundred Arhats thought: “How glad we shall be if we are assured of our future Buddhahood by the World-Honored One just as the other great disciples were!”

They understand that the teaching wasn’t withheld; they just did not remember that they carried that lesson. They offer The Parable of the Pricess Gem.

You, the World-Honored One, saw that the aspiration for the knowledge of all things was still latent in our minds; therefore, you awakened us, saying, ‘Bhikṣus! What you had attained was not perfect extinction. I caused you to plant the good root of Buddhahood a long time ago. [You have forgotten this; therefore,] I expounded the teaching of Nirvāṇa as an expedient. You thought that you had attained true extinction when you attained the Nirvāṇa [which I taught you as an expedient].’

“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.”

(2013-02-01). The Lotus Sutra: The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma (Kindle Locations 4277-4282). Nichiren Buddhist International Center. Kindle Edition.

The Job of a Priest

Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church service
Ven. Kenjo Igarashi prepares altar prior to Kaji Kito service Nov. 29, 2015

The Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church was founded more than 75 years ago. The church members are honored to have had Ven. Kenjo Igarashi attending to their spiritual needs for 26 years and hope to have him continue to do so for years to come. So you can imagine the reaction when Ven. Kenjo Igarashi told a meeting of church members that new requirements promulgated by the Head Office of Nichiren Shu may force him to resign his position.

On Nov. 4, 2015, the Head Office of Nichiren Shu announced:

As previously announced, according to the Nichiren Shu Bylaw revisions implemented on April 1, 2015, all previous overseas missionary points administered under the district head system are now administered directly by the Head Office of Nichiren Shu and will be known as an “International Propagation Point”. In order to prevent discord between Nichiren Shu policies and international propagation point propagation, the International Section of the Nichiren Shu Head Office has set management regulations for international propagation.

The requirements for incorporation articles and directory of the board of trustees is noncontroversial. What’s troubling Ven. Kenjo Igarashi is the requirement that he, as the Kokusai Fukyoshi of the Sacramento Church, have a contract with the church’s trustees:

Exchange of a written agreement between board of trustees of the international propagation point and the appointed Kokusai Fukyoshi. When a Kokusai Fukyoshi is assigned to more than one international propagation point, agreements must be signed and exchanged by each assigned point.

Complicating this is the fact that Ven. Kenjo Igarashi travels routinely to Chicago and Los Angeles to hold scheduled services for Nichiren Shu followers.

The problem is not so much the idea of a contract but the specific nature of the document requested:

Agreement Conditions
1) Duration
2) Place of Work
3) Duties of Kokusai Fukyoshi
The phrase “An appointed head, assistant or associate Kokusai Fukyoshi must be the religious
leader” must be included in the agreement.
4) Work Hours
5) Work Breaks?
6) Holidays
7) Vacation
8) Salary
9) Salary Payment
10) Leaves of Absence?
11) Termination
12) Confidential Information
13) Agreement Renewal
14) Jurisdiction
15) Consultation

Work hours? Work Breaks? Holidays? Vacation? Ven. Kenjo Igarashi wants nothing to do with this. He became a priest to serve Nichiren Shu followers. He didn’t volunteer to participate in aragyo, a 100-day ascetic practice, five separate times in order to qualify for additional vacation time.

A footnote in the Head Office memorandum suggests the requirements for existing Kokusai Fukyoshi may be less strict:

Regarding the written agreement between the board of trustees and the appointed Kokusai Fukyoshi, please follow the recommended format of this documentation as much as possible. The Head Office understands that there are many cases in an agreement between a temple and Kokusai Fukyoushi. We think the important thing is to exchange a written agreement between the two.

The unanimous consensus of those church members in attendance Sunday was that a way should be found to allow Ven. Kenjo Igarashi to continue to serve the Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church. The deadline for submitting the required documents is Jan. 30, 2016.

International Propagation Point memo and contract outline

Cultivating Happiness for Ourselves

Frequently I am asked how long should I chant? Sometimes this question is asked by folks who may have previously been told that they should chant an hour or more a day, or some other fixed goal. Consider this: you can scrub a floor as a free person or as a slave. It is fundamentally up to you. We all have activities we must engage in, some several times a day, some less frequently. You can cultivate in yourself your own sense of freedom or entrapment. Chanting the Odaimoku, Namu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo, can be much the same way. If we enslave ourselves to the Odaimoku then we are not cultivating happiness for ourselves.

Lotus Path: Practicing the Lotus Sutra Volume 1

Where Are You?

Writing these short meditation essays is an engaging activity causing me to look at things in different ways in order to find connections between our everyday lives and the teachings presented in the Lotus Sutra. I have always looked for Buddhism in everyday experiences but writing it down and sharing has been a new experience. One question that arises is who is reading these things? Another question is where are you when you are reading the posts? Take a moment right now and look about you and consider where you are. Are you in a comfy spot; are you in your kitchen sipping a cup of coffee or tea? Perhaps you’re on some public transportation reading on your way to or from work. You might also be at work, sneaking some me time for yourself. Or perhaps you are in some uncomfortable place; some place that is not a pleasant place to be. All of those are one way of looking at and responding to the question, where are you. But there is an equally viable alternative way to consider the question and that is where are you personally in your life? Where are you spiritually in your life? Where are you?

Lotus Path: Practicing the Lotus Sutra Volume 1

Daily Dharma – Nov. 29, 2015

Thereupon Medicine-King Bodhisattva said to the Buddha, “World-Honored One! Now I will give dhāraṇī-spells to the expounder of the Dharma in order to protect him.”

This promise to the Buddha from Medicine-King Bodhisattva comes in Chapter Twenty-Six of the Lotus Sutra. The dhāraṇīs are given in a language that nobody understands any more. But this does not reduce their effectiveness. In the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha declared that his wisdom cannot be reached by understanding alone. There is another, nonverbal aspect of his teaching that we must comprehend. The dhāraṇīs not only give us reassurance that beings we cannot comprehend are helping us to become enlightened, they also remind us to look for the unspoken teachings that are part of the Buddha Dharma.

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

Day 12

Day 12 concludes Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City, and completes the third volume of the Lotus Sutra.

Having heard appeals from the Brahman-heavenly-kings of the 10 quarters and the sixteen princes, Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Tathāgata turned the wheel of the Dharma:

The wheel of this teaching could not be turned by any other one in the world, be he a śramaṇa, a brāhmaṇa, a god, Māra or Brahman. The Buddha said, ‘This is suffering. This is the cause of suffering. This is extinction of suffering. This is the Way to extinction of suffering.’

Then he expounded the teaching of the twelve causes, saying, ‘Ignorance causes predisposition. Predisposition causes consciousness. Consciousness causes name-and-form. Name-and-form causes the six sense organs. The six sense organs cause impression. Impression causes feeling. Feeling causes craving. Craving causes grasping. Grasping causes existence. Existence causes birth. Birth causes aging-and-death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation. When ignorance is eliminated, predisposition is eliminated. When predisposition is eliminated, consciousness is eliminated. When consciousness is eliminated, name-and-form is eliminated. When name-and-form is eliminated, the six sense organs are eliminated. When the six sense organs are eliminated, impression is eliminated. When impression is eliminated, feeling is eliminated. When feeling is eliminated, craving is eliminated. When craving is eliminated, grasping is eliminated. When grasping is eliminated, existence is eliminated. When existence is eliminated, birth is eliminated. When birth is eliminated, aging-and-death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation are eliminated.’

But the 16 princes wanted more:

They said to the Buddha simultaneously, ‘World-Honored One! All these Śrāvakas of great virtue, many thousands of billions in number, have already done [what they should do]. World-Honored One! Expound to us the teaching of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi! If we hear that teaching, we will study and practice it. World-Honored One! We wish to have the insight of the Tathāgata. You know what we have deep in our minds.’

Twenty thousand kalpas later, the Buddha “expounded to the four kinds of devotees the sūtra of the Great Vehicle called the ‘Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas.’” The Buddha then retired to a quiet place for

When the Buddha completed the expounding of this sūtra, the sixteen śrāmaṇeras kept, recited and understood this sūtra in order to attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. The sixteen śrāmaṇeras, [who were] Bodhisattvas, received this sūtra by faith. Some Śrāvakas understood it by faith, but the other Śrāvakas and other living beings, thousands of billions in number, doubted it.

The Buddha then practised dhyāna-concentration for eighty-four thousand kalpas, while the 16 princes expounded the Lotus Sutra to the four kinds of devotees.

At this point, it might be helpful to recall what Śākyamuni said at the end of the previous chapter:

Now I will tell you
About my previous existence
And also about yours.
All of you, listen attentively!

Each of the śrāmaṇera princes eventually became Buddhas. “[T]he sixteenth śrāmaṇera is I, Sakyamuni Buddha. I attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi in this Sahā-World.”

Those living beings as many as there are sands in the River Ganges, whom I taught [when I was a śrāmaṇera], included you bhikṣus and those who will be reborn as my disciples in Śrāvakahood after my extinction.

And in gāthās:

I was one of the sixteen śrāmaṇeras.
You were among those to whom I expounded the Dharma.
Therefore, I now lead you with expedients
To the wisdom of the Buddha.

Because I taught you in my previous existence,
I expound the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
In order to lead you into the Way to Buddhahood.
Think it over! Do not be surprised! Do not be afraid!

The Parable of the Magic City

The Buddhas expound the teaching of the Three Vehicles
Only as an expedient.
There is only the One Buddha-Vehicle.
The two [vehicles] were taught only as resting places.

Awakening to Our Existing Buddhahood

For those of us who practice in a Nichiren denomination we have the representation of the Lotus Sutra and the eternal Buddha depicted on the calligraphic mandala. It is not uncommon for some to view this picture as the actual thing that enables enlightenment. Again this too is a distortion, as the enlightenment is something we already possess and not something that resides outside our lives and which we need to somehow meld with or absorb. We already have it. The picture representation, however it appears, is merely a tool for us to use to awaken to our already existing Buddhahood.

Lotus Path: Practicing the Lotus Sutra Volume 1