Ringing in the New Year

Celebrated the New Year three hours early with the folks at Myoshoji Temple in Charlotte, NC. The short clip above offers a taste of the lengthy bell ringing.

Now I’m off to the Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church for the Joya, New Year’s Eve, service followed immediately at midnight by the New Year’s Day service.

Day 13

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

Purna, the son of Maitrayani having heard from the Buddha the Dharma expounded with expedients by the wisdom [of the Buddha] according to the capacilies of all living beings, and having heard that [the Buddha] had assured the great disciples of their future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-sarnbodhi, and also having heard of the previous life of the Buddha, and also having heard of the great, unhindered, supernatural powers of the Buddhas, had the greatest joy that he had ever had, became pure in heart, and felt like dancing [with joy].

And so begins Chapter 8. The Buddha praises Purna as “the most excellent expounder of the Dharma.”

He strenuously protects my teachings, and helps me propagate them. He shows the Way to the four kinds of devotees, teaches them, benefits them and causes them to rejoice. He explains my right teachings perfectly, and gives great benefits to those who are performing brahma practices with him. No one except the Tathagata excels him in eloquence.

The Buddha reminds us that Purna appears to be a Sravaka only as an expedient for spreading the Dharma:

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 Sravaka. He benefited many hundreds of thousands of living beings with this expedient, and also caused innumerable, asamkhya people to aspire for Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. 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 gathas:

Bhisksus, listen to me attentively!
The Way practiced by my sons
Is beyond your comprehension
Because they learned how to employ expedients.

Knowing that people wish to hear
The teachings of the Lesser Vehicle,
And that they are afraid of having the great wisdom,
[My sons, that is,] the Bodhisattvas transform themselves
Into Sravakas or cause-knowers,
And teach the people with innumerable expedients.

Saying to the innumerable living beings, [for instance,]
“We are Sravakas.
We are far from the enlightenment of the Buddha,”
They save them, and cause them to attain [Sravakahoodl
Even the lazy people who wish to hear the Lesser Vehicle
Will become Buddhas with this expedient in the course of time.

My disciples are performing
The Bodhisattva practices secretly
Though they show themselves in the form of Sravakas.
They are purifying my world
Though they pretend to want little
And to shun birth-and-death.
In the presence of the people,
They pretend to have the three poisons and wrong views.
They save them with these expedients.
They change themselves into various forms.
If I speak of all their transformations,
The listeners will doubt me.

The 1,200 Arhats, having heard of the future Buddhahood of Purna and the others, seek assurance of their opportunity and the Buddha complies, saying, “Now I will assure these twelve hundred Arhats, who are present before me, of their future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi one after another.” And if anyone feels left out he adds:

All the other Sravakas also will [become Buddhas].
Tell this to the Sravakas
Who are not present here!

The Arhats, who feel like dancing at the news, offer the Parable of the Priceless Gem to explain why they settled for the Lesser Vehicle.

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

And in gathas:

We are like the poor man.
In the long night you taught us
Out of your compassion towards us,
And caused us to aspire for unsurpassed [enlightenment].

Because we had no wisdom, we did not notice that
The Nirvana we attained was only part [of your wisdom].
Satsifying ourselves with it,
We did not wish to attain anything more.

Now you have awakened us, saying:
“What you attained was not true extinction.
When you have the unsurpassed wisdom of the Buddha,
You will attain true extinction.”

Hearing from you that we are assured
Of becoming Buddhas one after another,
And that our worlds will be adorned,
We are joyful in body and mind.

Daily Dharma – Dec. 31, 2015

The Śrāvakas will have already eliminated āsravas,
And reached the final stage of their physical existence.
They will become sons of the King of the Dharma.
Their number also will be beyond calculation.
Even those who have heavenly eyes
Will not be able to count them.

The Buddha sings these verses in Chapter Six of the Lotus Sūtra. The Śrāvakas are those who want only to eliminate their delusions and end their suffering. They do not yet realize that the Buddha leads them to become Bodhisattvas and work for the benefit of all beings. They do not believe they can reach the Buddha’s own wisdom. The Buddha assures even these beings that in the course of time, as they realize their true nature, they too will become enlightened.

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 Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Tathagata assented to the requests from the Brahman-heavenly-kings of the worlds of the ten quarters and also by the sixteen princes and turned the wheel of the Dharma:

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.’

Countless gods and men emancipated themselves upon hearing the teachings and became Sravakas. But the sixteen princes, who renounced the world and became Sramaneras Bodhisattvas sought more:

They said to the Buddha simultaneously, ‘World-Honored One! All these Sravakas 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-sambodhi! If we hear that teaching, we will study and practice it. World-Honored One! We wish to have the insight of the Tathagata. You know what we have deep in our minds.’

Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha assented but he waited 20,000 kalpas before finally expounding “the Great Vehicle called the ‘Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas.’ ”

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

At this point Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha entered a quiet room and didn’t come out for 84,000 kalpas. During this period the 16 sramaneras expounded the Lotus Sutra to the four kinds of devotees, showed them the Way, taught them, benefited them, caused them to rejoice and to aspire for Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

Each of them taught six hundred billion nayutas of living beings, that is, as many living beings as there are sands in the River Ganges. Those living beings were always accompanied by the Bodhisattva[, by whom they were taught,] in their consecutive existences. [In each of their consecutive existences,] they heard the Dharma from him, and understood it by faith.

Each of the 16 former princes became Buddhas in the worlds of the 10 directions. The 16th sramanera was Sakyamuni, who attained Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi in this Saha-World.

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

And in gathas:

I was one of the sixteen sramaneras.
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 Sutra 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!

Sakyamuni says “No one in the world can attain [true] extinction by the two vehicles. [True] extinction can be attained only by the One Buddha-Vehicle” and proceeds to offer the Parable of the Magic City. The lesser vehicles are simply places to rest and recuperate on the long, dangerous journey to the wisdom of the Buddha.

I know that the bad road, which is made of birth-and-death and illusions, is dangerous and long, and that we should pass through it and get off it. If you had heard only of the One Vehicle of the Buddha, you would not have wished to see or approach the Buddha, but would have thought, ‘The Way to Buddhahood is too long for us to pass through unless we make painstaking efforts for a long time.’

I knew that you were mean and timid. In order to give you a rest halfway, I expounded expediently to you the teaching of Nirvana by the two vehicles. To those who attained the two [vehicles], I say, ‘You have not yet done all that you should do. You are near the wisdom of the Buddha. Think it over and consider it! The Nirvana you attained is not true. I divided the One Vehicle of the Buddha into three only expediently.’

And in gathas:

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.

Daily Dharma – Dec. 30, 2015

The Buddhas expound the Dharma
In perfect freedom.
Knowing the various desires and dispositions
Of all living beings,
They expound the Dharma
With innumerable parables
And with innumerable similes
According to their capacities.

These verses are sung by Subhūti, Mahā-Kātyāyana, Mahā-Kāśyapa, and Mahā-Maudgalyāyana in Chapter Four of the Lotus Sūtra. They show the realization by the Buddha’s disciples of why the Buddha uses different teachings for different people. For us who do not know the various desires and dispositions of all living beings, the Buddha gives this Lotus Sūtra, When we put this teaching into practice, and use it to benefit all beings, it is as if we are teaching from the Buddha’s own mind.

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

Day 11

Day 11 continues Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City

Day 11 opens with the light Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha brought to the universe:

When Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi, five hundred billion Buddha-worlds in each of the ten quarters quaked in the six ways, and all those worlds, including those intercepted from the brilliant rays of light of the sun and the moon by the neighboring worlds, were illumined [by great rays of light], and the living beings of those worlds were able to see each other for the first time. They said to each other, ‘How did you appear so suddenly?’ The palaces of the gods of those worlds, including the palace of Brahmans, also quaked in the six ways. The great rays of light which illumined all those worlds were brighter than the rays of light emitted by those gods.

In each of the 10 directions, Brahman-heavenly-kings asked why their palaces were so much more brighter than usual:

Did a god of great virtue or a Buddha
Appear somewhere in the universe?
This great light illumines
The worlds of the ten quarters.

Brahman-heavenly-kings from each of the 10 directions wondered:

Let us go even to the end of one thousand billion worlds,
And find the place from where this light has come.
A Buddha may have appeared somewhere in the universe
In order to save the suffering beings.

When each of the Brahman-heavenly-kings arrived at the Well-Composed World of Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Tathagata. they found the Buddha “sitting on the lion-like seat under the Bodhi-tree at the place of enlightenment, surrounded respectfully by gods, dragon-kings, gandharvas, kirμnaras, mahoragas, men and nonhuman beings. They also saw that the sixteen princes were begging the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dharma.”

The Brahman-heavenly-kings asked Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha:

Great Saint, turn the wheel of the Dharma
And reveal the reality of all things!
Save the suffering beings
And cause them to have great joy!

If they hear the Dharma, some will attain enlightenment;
Others will be reborn in heaven.
The living beings in the evil regions will decrease;
And those who do good patiently will increase.

The universe was starved without a Buddha:

There has been no Buddha
For the past innumerable kalpas.
Before you appeared,
The worlds of the ten quarters were dark.

The living beings in the three evil regions
And asuras are increasing.
The living beings in heaven are decreasing.
Many fall into the evil regions after their death.

They do not hear the Dharma from a Buddha.
Because they did evils,
Their appearances are getting worse;
And their power and wisdom, decreasing.
Because they did sinful karmas,
They lose pleasures and the memory of pleasures.
They are attached to wrong views.
They do not know how to do good.
They are not taught by a Buddha;
Therefore, they fall into the evil regions.

Daily Dharma – Dec. 29, 2015

Only I know his secret practices.
He shows himself
To all living beings
In the form of my eldest son.

The Buddha sings these verses in Chapter Nine of the Lotus Sūtra, speaking of Rāhula, the son born to him and his wife Yaśodharā before he left his life as a crown prince to seek enlightenment. In his highest teaching, the Buddha reminds us of our vows as Bodhisattvas to come into this world of conflict to benefit all beings. In the preoccupations that come with this life, we can forget these vows; they become a secret even to us. When we hear this Sūtra, we are reminded that we are the dear children of the Dharma, and that enlightenment is our rightful inheritance.

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

Day 10

Day 10 concludes Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood, and opens Chapter 7, The Parable of a Magic City.

In the remainder of Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood, Great Maudgalyayana, Subhuti, Maha-Katyayana and “the five hundred disciples of mine” received predictions of their future attainment of Buddhahood after making offerings to billions of Buddhas and completing the Way of Bodhisattvas.

The chapter ends with this teaser:

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

That previous existence was a long, long time ago:

According to my remembrance,
There lived a Buddha, an Honorable Biped,
Called Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence,
Countless kalpas ago.

Suppose someone smashed
All the earth-particles
Of one thousand million Sumeru-worlds
Into ink-powder.

He went, [carrying the ink-powder with him,]
And inked a dot as large as a particle of dust
On the world at a distance of one thousand worlds.
He repeated the inking until the ink-powder was exhausted.

Suppose the worlds
Through which he went,
Whether they were inked or not,
Were smashed into dust.

It is innumerable kalpas,
More than the number
Of the particles of dust thus produced,
Since that Buddha passed away.

More important, given that time frame:

I remember the extinction of that Buddha
As vividly as if he had passed away just now,
By my unhindered wisdom; I also remember
The Sravakas and Bodhisattvas who lived [with him].

Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence tried for ten small kalpas to attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Gods and heavenly kings made offerings in order to help.

At the end of the period of ten small kalpas, the Dharma of the Buddhas came into the mind of Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha.

Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence had 16 sons before becoming a Buddha. Upon hearing their father had attained Buddhahood, the sons gave up their playthings, left home, and came to that Buddha. The sons praised the Buddha and urged him to Expound the Dharma:

You, the World-Honored One, know
What all living beings have deep in their minds,
What teachings they are practicing,
And how much power of wisdom they have.
You know their desires, the merits they obtained,
And the karmas they did
In their previous existence.
Turn the wheel of the unsurpassed Dharma!

Daily Dharma – Dec. 28, 2015

World-Honored One, do not worry! We will keep, read, recite and expound this sūtra after your extinction. The living beings in the evil world after [your extinction] will have less roots of good, more arrogance, more greed for offerings of worldly things, and more roots of evil. It will be difficult to teach them because they will go away from emancipation. But we will patiently read, recite, keep, expound and copy this sūtra, and make various offerings to it. We will not spare even our lives [in doing all this].

Medicine-King Bodhisattva, his attendants and other Bodhisattvas make this vow to the Buddha in Chapter Thirteen of the Lotus Sūtra. Once we awaken to our Bodhisattva nature and resolve to benefit all beings, we may still hold on to the belief that those beings should gratefully receive the teaching and and keep progressing towards enlightenment. We may even become discouraged in our practice of the Wonderful Dharma when these beings do not live up to our expectations. The vow of these great Bodhisattvas reminds us of how difficult is is for us ordinary beings to keep the Lotus Sūtra, and of the determination it takes to create benefit in the world.

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

Day 9

Day 9 covers Chapter 5, The Simile of Herbs, and introduces Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood.

The Parable of the Burning House explained the need for expedients from the Buddha’s perspective. The Parable of the Rich Man and His Poor Son told the value of expedients from the perspective of “men of wisdom” who did not believe they could attain the wisdom of the Buddha. Today, the Buddha uses the Simile of the Herbs to illustrate that – expedients or not – there is only one Dharma.

“Kasyapa, know this! I, the Tathagata, am like the cloud. I appeared in this world just as the large cloud rose. I expounded the Dharma to gods, men and asuras of the world with a loud voice just as the large cloud covered all the one thousand million Sumeru-worlds. I said to the great multitude, ‘I am the Tathagata, the Deserver of Offerings, the Perfectly Enlightened One, the Man of Wisdom and Practice, the Well-Gone, the Knower of the World, the Unsurpassed Man, the Controller of Men, the Teacher of Gods and Men, the Buddha, the World-Honored One. I will cause all living beings to cross [the ocean of birth and death] if they have not yet done so. I will cause them to emancipate themselves [from suffering] if they have not yet done so. I will cause them to have peace of mind if they have not yet done so. I will cause them to attain Nirvana if they have not yet done so. I know their present lives as they are, and also their future lives as they will be. I know all. I see all. I know the Way. I have opened the Way. I will expound the Way. Gods, men and asuras! Come and hear the Dharma!’

“Thereupon many thousands of billions of people came to hear the Dharma from me. Having seen them, I knew which were clever, which were dull, which were diligent, and which were lazy. Therefore, I expounded to them an innumerable variety of teachings according to their capacities in order to cause them to rejoice and receive benefits with pleasure. Having heard these teachings, they became peaceful in their present lives. In their future lives, they will have rebirths in good places, enjoy pleasures by practicing the Way, and hear these teachings again. After hearing these teachings again, they will emancipate themselves from all hindrances, practice the teachings according to their capacities, and finally enter the Way, just as the grasses and trees in the thickets and forests, which were watered by the rain from the same large cloud, grew differently according to their species.

The various teachings I expound are of the same content, of the same taste. Those who emancipate themselves [from the bonds of existence,] from illusions, and from birth and death, will finally obtain the knowledge of the equality and differences of all things.

The impartiality of the Dharma:

I see all living beings equally.
I have no partiality for them.
There is not ‘this one’ or ‘that one’ to me.
I transcend love and hatred.

I am attached to nothing.
I am hindered by nothing.
I always expound the Dharma
To all living beings equally.
I expound the Dharma to many
In the same way as to one.

I always expound the Dharma.
I do nothing else.
I am not tired of expounding the Dharma
While I go or come or sit or stand.
I expound the Dharma to all living beings
Just as the rain waters all the earth.

I am not tired of giving
The rain of the Dharma to all living beings.
I have no partiality for them,
Whether they are noble or mean,
Whether they observe or violate the precepts,
Whether they live a monastic life or not,
Whether they have right or wrong views,
Whether they are clever or dull .

Those who hear the Dharma from me
Will reach various stages
[Of enlightenment]
According to their capacities.

The varied species and various fruits:

Although my teachings are of the same content to anyone
Just as the rain is of the same taste,
The hearers receive my teachings differently
According to their capacities
Just as the plants receive
Different amounts of the rain water.
I now expediently reveal the Dharma with this simile.
I expound one truth with various discourses.

This simile is only one of the expedients
Employed by my wisdom,
Just as a drop of sea water is
Part of the great ocean.

Though I water all living beings of the world
With the same rain of the Dharma,
They practice the teachings
Of the same taste differently
According to their capacities,
Just as the herbs and trees
In thickets and forests
Grew gradually according to their species.

The Buddhas always expound
The teachings of the same taste
In order to cause all living beings of the world
To understand the Dharma.
Those who practice the teachings continuously
Will obtain [ various fruits of] enlightenment.

In Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood, Maha-Kasyapa is assured of his future Buddhahood, which prompts Great Maudgalyayana, Subhuti and Maha-Katyayana to ponder what it would mean to them were they, too, to be assured of future Buddhahood:

Suppose a man came
From a country suffering from famine.
Now he saw the meal of a great king.
He did not partake of it in doubts and fears.
After he was told to take it by the king,
He took it at once.
We are like that man.
We know the defects of the Lesser Vehicle.
But we do not know how to obtain
The unsurpassed wisdom of the Buddha.

Although we hear you say [to us],
“You will become Buddhas,”
We are still in doubts and fears about it,
Just as that man was about the meal.
If you assure us of our future Buddhahood,
We shall be happy and peaceful.