Day 9

Link to animated Rain of the Dharma page
Click on image to see animated rain of the dharma

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

We begin today’s reading with a declaration of the merits of the Buddha. Don’t underestimate the Buddha:

Kasyapa, know this! I, the Tathagata, am the King of the Dharma. Nothing I say is false. I expound all teachings with expedients by my wisdom in order to lead all living beings to the stage of knowing all things. I know what region a living being will be taken to by what teaching, and what a living being has deep in his mind. I am not hindered by anything in knowing all this. I know all things clearly, and show my knowledge of all things to all living beings.

Imagine the loud voice of the Buddha proclaiming:

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!

And when “thousands of billions of people” responded:

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.

But this does not mean the content was different:

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

And in gathas:

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 bottom line:

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.

In the next chapter, Assurance of Future Buddhahood, Maha-Kasyapa is assured of his future Buddhahood and in response Great Maudgalyayana, Subhuti and Maha-Katyayana imagine what it would be like to have the Buddha predict their 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.

You, the Great Hero, the World-Honored One,
Wish to give peace to all the people of the world.
If you assure us of our future Buddhahood, we shall be
Like the man who was permitted to take the meal.

Leap Day

Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016

Yesterday, I attended the monthly Kaji Kito purification service at the Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church.

At the front of the church, to the right of the altar, is a four-panel wood copy of the 16th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This was carved by hand over the course of several years by a man (don’t recall his name) and given to Ven. Kenjo Igarashi for safe keeping. Each time I attend services I wonder in awe at the merits received for copying the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Hand-carved wooden copy of Chapter 16,  The Duration of the Life of the Tathagata
Hand-carved wooden copy of Chapter 16, The Duration of the Life of the Tathagata
The back shows that this folds to a single panel with carving on the front and back.
The back shows that this folds to a single panel with carving on the front and back.

Daily Dharma – Feb. 29, 2016

Good men or women in the future who hear this Chapter of Devadatta of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma with faithful respect caused by their pure minds, and have no doubts [about this chapter], will not fall into hell or the region of hungry spirits or the region of animals. They will be reborn before the Buddhas of the worlds of the ten quarters.

The Buddha makes this prediction in Chapter Twelve of the Lotus Sūtra. In this Chapter, he assures Devadatta, an evil man who creates great harm, that he too will eventually reach the enlightenment of the Buddha. This prediction is for the rest of us too. It shows that when we nourish our capacity for respect for all beings, no matter how much harm they create, then we uproot the causes of our own greed and fear, and we will always find ourselves in a realm where the Buddha teaches the Wonderful Dharma.

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

Day 8

Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and closes the second volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Today we hear The Parable of the Rich Man and His Poor Son. And in today’s reading I was struck by the example of the Buddha’s compassion that is illustrated by the rich man. All of the rich man’s riches meant nothing if he could not pass his riches to his son.

And the son is such a dolt. When he escaped his first encounter with the rich man’s messenger – not knowing he was the rich man’s son – “The poor son had the greatest joy that he had ever had.”

This summary nicely explains the Sravaka perspective:

World-Honored One! We once had many troubles in the world of birth and death because of the three kinds of sufferings. We were so distracted and so ignorant that we clung to the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle. At that time you caused us to think over all things and to clear away the dirt of fruitles discussions about them. We made strenuous efforts according to the teachings [of the Lesser Vehicle] and attained Nirvana as a day’s pay. Having attained it, we had great joy, and felt satisfied [with the attainment of it]. We said, ‘We have obtained much because we made efforts according to the teachings of the Buddha.’ But when you saw that we clung to mean desires and wished to hear only the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, you left us alone. You did not tell us that we had the treasure-store, that is, the insight of the Tathagata. You expounded the wisdom of the Buddha[, that is, the Great Vehicle] with expedients, but we did not aspire for that vehicle because, when we had obtained the day’s pay of Nirvana from the Buddha, we thought that we had already obtained enough.

And the rich man’s dilemma helps my understanding of why the Buddha needed expedients, why many would not understand the One Vehicle:

The rich man thought:
“He is ignorant, narrow-minded, and mean.
If I tell him that I am his father,
He will not believe me.”

And so the Sravakas had to be brought along slowly:

The rich man knew
That his son was base and mean.
Therefore, he made him nobler
With expedients,
And then gave him
All his treasures.

In the same manner,
You knew that we wished
To hear the Lesser Vehicle.
Therefore, you did a rare thing.
You prepared us with expedients,
And then taught us the great wisdom

I’m going to tag on a quote from Lecture on the Lotus Sutra that applies to this day:

This Parable of the Rich Man and His Poor Son teaches us that we should have confidence in not only the truth of the Buddha’s words, but also in the truth that we are already inherently completely endowed with the basic fundamental enlightened life condition equal to that of all Buddhas. … It may be easier for you to think, not this lifetime but perhaps I can do it next lifetime. The end of the tunnel in your life may seem so far off that you feel it will never become light again. This may sound like some empty promise. It may sound like some feeble attempt at encouraging you to have positive thoughts, when it may be just a struggle to have any thought. You may think it has been so hard that nothing could possibly make it better. I know those feelings and thoughts. I can only tell you that in my experience the Lotus Sutra was the one thing that did give me hope. When I thought my world could never get better, that nothing would change, little by little as my life began to change through the practice of the Lotus Sutra, I began to see other options, other ways of being. It wasn’t easy, it didn’t happen overnight. Slowly I began to change my way of being in the world, in a sense I become more comfortable sleeping in the house of the Buddha.

Daily Dharma – Feb. 28, 2016

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. They should do these [three] things and then without indolence expound this Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma to Bodhisattvas and the four kinds of devotees.

The Buddha, the Tathāgata, gives this description to Medicine-King Bodhisattva in Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sūtra. When we awaken to our nature as Bodhisattvas and resolve to benefit other beings, we often find we do not know how to accomplish this. In the Lotus Sūtra, the Buddha gives instructions for reaching others and helping them let go of their delusions. By voidness the Buddha does not mean that nothing exists, rather that nothing has an inherent existence. Nobody is innately ignorant or innately wise. When we maintain our resolve to improve the world, maintain our patience and increase our capacities, and see the possibility of enlightenment for everyone, then are we truly living the Buddha’s teachings.

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

Day 7

Day 7 concludes Chapter 3, A Parable, and begins Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith.

The day begins with an excellent summary in gathas:

(The Buddha said to Sariputra:)
I am like the father.
I am the Saint of Saints.
I am the father of the world.

All living beings are my children.
They are deeply attached
To the pleasures of the world.
They have no wisdom.

The triple world is not peaceful.
It is like the burning house.
It is full of sufferings.
It is dreadful.

There are always the sufferings
Of birth, old age, disease and death.
They are like flames
Raging endlessly.

I have already left
The burning house of the triple world.
I am tranquil and peaceful
In a bower in a forest.

This triple world
Is my property.
All living beings therein
Are my children.

There are many sufferings
In this world.
Only I can save
[All living beings].

I told this to all living beings.
But they did not believe me
Because they were too much attached
To desires and defilements.

Therefore, I expediently expounded to them
The teaching of the Three Vehicles,
And caused them to know
The sufferings of the triple world.
I opened, showed, and expounded
The Way out of the world.

Those children who were resolute in mind
Were able to obtain
The six supernatural powers
Including the three major supernatural powers,
Or never-faltering Bodhisattvas.

With this parable I expounded
The teaching of the One Buddha-Vehicle
To all living beings.
All of you will be able to attain
The enlightenment of the Buddha
If you believe and receive
These words of mine.


caused them to know
The sufferings of the triple world.
I opened, showed, and expounded
The Way out of the world.

Is it any wonder that “This vehicle is approved with joy by the Buddhas”?

The Bodhisattvas and Sravakas
Will be able to go immediately
To the place of enlightenment
If they ride in this jeweled vehicle.

And increasingly important:

The Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones,
Say only expediently [that some are not Bodhisattvas]
To tell the truth,
All living beings taught by them are Bodhisattvas.

Again I feel compelled to quote at length the Buddha’s reasoning behind the need for expedient teachings:

To those who have little wisdom,
And who are deeply attached to sensual desires,
The Buddhas expound the truth that all is suffering.
Those [who hear this truth]
Will have the greatest joy that they have ever had.
The statement of the Buddhas that all is suffering
Is true, not false.
To those who are ignorant
Of the cause of all sufferings,
And who are too deeply attached
To the cause of suffering
To give it up even for a moment,
The Buddhas expound
The [eight right] ways as expedients.

The cause of suffering is greed.
When greed is eliminated,
There is nothing to be attached to.
The extinction of suffering
Is called the third truth.
In order to attain this extinction,
The [eight right] ways must be practiced.
Freedom from the bonds of suffering[,]
[That is, from illusions] is called emancipation.”

From what illusions can one be emancipated, however,
[By the practice of the eight right ways]?
He can be emancipated only from unreal things
[That is, from the five desires] thereby.
He cannot be emancipated from all illusions.
The Buddhas say
That he has not yet attained
The true extinction
Because he has not yet attained
Unsurpassed enlightenment.
I also do not think that I have led him
To the [true] extinction thereby.

I am the King of the Dharma.
I expound the Dharma without hindrance.
l appeared in this world
In order to give peace to all living beings.

And in a prelude to the next chapter, Understanding By Faith, the Buddha explains that wisdom alone is not enough:

Even you, Sariputra,
Have understood this sutra
Only by faith.
Needless to say,
The other Sravakas cannot do otherwise.
They will be able to follow this sutra
Only because they believe my words,
Not because they have wisdom.

The chapter closes with a wonderful litany itemizing how “Those who slander this sutra/Will be punished like this” followed by a listing of the endless variety of those who seek the enlightenment of the Buddha.

In the next chapter, “the men living the life of wisdom” – Subhuti, Maha-Katyayana, Maha-Kasyapa, and Maha-Maudgalyayana – offer their perspective on the realization that there is something more than Nirvana.

How glad we are! We have obtained great benefits. We have obtained innumerable treasures although we did not seek them.

Daily Dharma – Fed. 27, 2016

Anyone who rejoices at hearing the Dharma
And utters even a single word in praise of it
Should be considered to have already made offerings
To the past, present, and future Buddhas.
Such a person is rarely seen,
More rarely than the udumbara-flower.

The Buddha sings these verses to his disciple Śāriputra and all those gathered to hear him teach in Chapter Two of the Lotus Sūtra. It is natural to admire and respect those who make great sacrifices for the sake of improving the world, and who lead us to know what deserves those offerings. It is sometimes difficult to see the joy that comes from those efforts. In these verses the Buddha reminds us that even when our reaction to his Dharma is just a smile, or saying “Wonderful,” our admiration is a reminder of our own capacity for such great efforts.

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

Day 6

Day 6 continues Chapter 3, A Parable

Today we get to the Parable of the Burning House, but before we get to that the Buddha underlines that the overriding purpose is to help everyone become Buddhas, which means there are no sravakas or pratekabuddhas among his children, only bodhisattvas.

Did I not tell you, ‘The Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, expound the Dharma with expedients, that is, with various stories of previous lives, with various parables, with various similes, and with various discourses only for the purpose of causing all living beings to attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi?’ All these teachings of the Buddhas are for the purpose of teaching Bodhisattvas.

As a read the Parable of the Burning House today, the major that I draws my attention is the realization that the children “are engrossed in playing,” and therefore unable to see the danger even when the father points it out to them.

The other point that is important here and will come up again, is that the Buddha can’t use his magical powers to enlighten us. He cannot just pick us up and carry us out of the burning house. Instead, he offers us toys he knows we want and the promise of those toys causes the children to rush from the house “pushing one another, and striving to be first.”

I have appeared in the triple world, which can be likened to the rotten and burning house, in order to save all living beings from the fires of birth, old age, disease, death, grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation, stupidity, darkness, and the three poisons, to teach all living beings, and to cause them to attain Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. I see that all living beings are burned by the fires of birth, old age, disease, death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation. They undergo various sufferings because they have the five desires and the desire for gain. Because they have attachments and pursuits, they have many sufferings in their present existence, and will suffer in hell or in the world of animals or in the world of hungry spirits in their future lives. Even when they are reborn in heaven or in the world of humans, they will still have many sufferings such as poverty or parting from their beloved ones or meeting with those whom they hate. Notwithstanding all this, however, they are playing joyfully. They are not conscious of the sufferings. They are not frightened at the sufferings or afraid of them. They do not dislike them or try to get rid of them. They are running about this burning house of the triple world, and do not mind even when they undergo great sufferings.

The “toys” that are offered are not insignificant. They require skill and faith to enjoy.

Sariputra! Those who have intelligence, who receive the Dharma by faith after hearing it from the Buddha, from the World-Honored One, and who seek Nirvana with strenuous efforts in order to get out of the triple world, are called Sravakas. They may be likened to the children who left the burning house in order to get the sheep-carts. Those who receive the Dharma by faith after hearing it from the Buddha, from the World-Honored One, who seek the self-originating wisdom with strenuous efforts, who wish to have good tranquility in seclusion, and who perfectly understand the causes of all things, are called Pratyekabuddhas. They may be likened to the children who left the burning house in order to get the deer-carts. Those who receive the Dharma by faith after hearing it from the Buddha, from the World-Honored One, who strenuously seek the knowledge of all things, the wisdom of the Buddha, the self-originating wisdom, the wisdom to be obtained without teachers, and the insight and powers and fearlessness of the Tathagata, who give peace to innumerable living beings out of their compassion towards them, and who benefit gods and men, that is to say, who save all living beings, are called men of the Great Vehicle. Bodhisattvas are called Mahasattvas because they seek this vehicle. They may be likened to the children who left the burning house in order to get the bullock-carts.

To have offered only the bullock-carts would not have enticed everyone out of the building. But now that everyone is out, once everyone is no longer engrossed in playing, they can appreciate the One Vehicle.

I led all living beings at first with the teaching of the Three Vehicles. Now I will save them by the Great Vehicle only. Why is that? It is because, if I had given them the teaching of the Great Vehicle at first directly from my store of the Dharma in which my immeasurable wisdom, powers and fearlessness are housed, they would not have received all of the Dharma. Sariputra! Therefore, know this! The Buddhas divide the One Buddha-Vehicle into three by their power to employ expedients.

Daily Dharma – Feb. 26, 2016

What do you think of this? Gladly-Seen-By-All-Beings Bodhisattva was no one but Medicine-King Bodhisattva of today. He gave up his body in this way, offered it [to the Buddha], and repeated this offering many hundreds of thousands of billions of nayutas of times [in his previous existence]. [He knows that he can practice any austerity in this Sahā-World. Therefore, he does not mind walking about this world.]

The Buddha gives this explanation to Star-King-Flower Bodhisattva in Chapter Twenty-Three of the Lotus Sūtra. The story of the previous life of Medicine-King Bodhisattva shows us the capacities we have already developed and are not aware of. When we see ourselves as choosing to come into this world of conflict to benefit all beings, rather than stuck where we do not want to be and just making the best of it, then it is much easier to let go of our delusions.

Day 5

Day 5 begins Chapter 3, A Parable.

Sariputra’s joyful reaction underlines why he is considered foremost in wisdom among the Buddha’s major disciples.

World-Honored One! I reproached myself day and night [after I saw that the Bodhisattvas were assured of their future Buddhahood]. Now I have heard from you the Dharma that I had never heard before. I have removed all my doubts. I am now calm and peaceful in body and mind. Today I have realized that I am your son, that I was born from your mouth, that I was born in [the world of] the Dharma, and that I have obtained the Dharma of foe Buddha.

And in gathas:

I always saw you praising the Bodhisattvas.
Therefore, I thought this over day and night.
Now hearing from you,
I understand that you expound the Dharma
According to the capacities of all living beings.
You lead all living beings
To the place of enlightenment
By the Dharma-without-asravas, difficult to understand.

I once was attached to wrong views,
And became a teacher of the aspirants
for the teaching of Brahman.
You expounded to me the teaching of Nirvana,
And removed my wrong views because you understood me.
I gave up all those wrong views,
And attained the truth that nothing is substantial.

At that time I thought
That I had attained extinction.’
But now I know
That the extinction I attained is not the true one.
When I become a Buddha in the future,
I shall be adorned with the thirty-two marks,
And respected
By gods, men, yaksas, and dragons.
Only then I shall be able to say
That I have eliminated all [illusions].

One important point that the Buddha makes here and again later is that those hearing the sutra have heard it before in past lives and this previous instruction has set the stage.

Sariputra! I caused you to aspire for the enlightenment of the Buddha in your previous existence. You forgot all this, and thought that you had already attained extinction. In order to cause you to remember the Way you practiced under your original vow, I now expound to the Sravakas this sutra of the Great Vehicle called the ‘Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas.’

After Sariputra is told explicitly that he’ll become a Buddha, the “great multitude” celebrated sans garments. The gods, in particular, were happy to hear the news. Accumulated merits again plays a role:

The Buddha turned the wheel of the teaching
of the Four Truths
At Varanasi a long time ago.
He taught that all things are composed
of the five aggregates
And that they are subject to rise and extinction.

Now he turns the wheel of the Dharma,
The most wonderful, unsurpassed, and greatest.
The Dharma is profound.
Few believe it.
So far we have heard
Many teachings of the World-Honored One.
But we have never heard
Such a profound, wonderful, and excellent teaching as this.
We are very glad to hear this
From the World-Honored One.

Sariputra, a man of great wisdom,
Was assured of his future Buddhahood.
We also shall be able
To become Buddhas,
And to receive
The highest and unsurpassed honor in the world.

The Buddha expounds his enlightenment difficult to understand,
With expedients according to the capacities of all living beings.
We obtained merits by the good karmas which we did
In this life of ours and in our previous existence.
We also obtained merits by seeing the Buddha.
May we attain the enlightenment of the Buddha by these merits!

We end the day setting the stage for tomorrow’s reading:

World-Honored One! Now my doubts are gone. You assured me of my future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. These twelve hundred people now have freedom of mind. When they had something more to learn, [that is to say, when they had not yet completed their study for Arhatship,] you taught them, saying, ‘My teaching is for the purpose of causing you to emancipate yourselves from birth, old age, disease, and death, and to attain Nirvana.’ The [two thousand] people, including those who have something more to learn and those who have nothing more to learn, also think that they attained Nirvana because they emancipated themselves from such a view as ‘I exist,’ or ‘I shall exist forever,’ or ‘I shall cease to exist.’ But [both the twelve hundred people and the two thousand people] are now quite perplexed because they have heard from you [the Dharma] which they had never heard before. World-Honored One! In order to cause the four kinds of devotees to remove their doubts, explain why you said all this to them! “