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’s parable, The Parable of the Rich Man and His Poor Son, shifts the discussion of the need for expedient teachings from the Buddha’s perspective to that of his senior followers.

Unwilling to believe they deserved to be equal to the Buddha, these disciples settled for lesser teachings.

Although we expounded to the sons of the Buddha
The teachings for Bodhisattvas in order to cause them
To seek the enlightenment of the Buddha,
We did not wish to attain
The same enlightenment for ourselves.
You, our Leader, left us alone because you knew this.
You did not persuade us
To seek the enlightenment of the Buddha.
You did not say
That we should be able to have real benefits.

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.

Today we are not what we were then.
We have obtained
What we did not expect
To obtain
Just as the poor son obtained
The innumerable treasures.

Faith in the Active Presence of the Buddha

Other schools of Buddhism often focus on the parables and other teachings of the theoretical section in the hope that, through their own practice, they will see for themselves the truth expressed in the Original Gate. In Nichiren Buddhism, the Original Gate is held to be primary because our practice is based on our faith in the active presence of the Buddha in the form of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. Through upholding the Lotus Sutra by chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, we become one with the Eternal Buddha. The difference lies in whether we rely upon the future possibility of attaining Buddhahood taught in the theoretical section, or upon our present ability to actually attain Buddhahood through faith in the Eternal Buddha, as taught in the essential section.

Lotus Seeds

Obstacles in the Path to Enlightenment

The path to enlightenment is not easy. Along our way there are certainly many things that will appear to complicate our lives. We will certainly face many obstacles, but we should always keep in mind that because of the teachings of the Buddha we have an excellent guide who will show us the way to Buddhahood. Practicing Buddhism is not easy, but it is not impossible to accomplish the ultimate goal of manifesting our inherent Buddha.

Lecture on the Lotus Sutra

Daily Dharma – March 31, 2016

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…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 Buddha offers this explanation to his disciple Śāriputra in Chapter Three of the Lotus Sūtra. He compares his teaching of suffering and Nirvāṇa to a father luring his children from a dangerous house with a promise of better toys. The children were so preoccupied with their own entertainment that they could not hear their father’s warning. In this triple world of beautiful forms, fascinating ideas and consuming desires, it is easy to stay with our childish games and ignore the Buddha’s teaching. Our maturity as Bodhisattvas comes when we set these aside for the benefit of all beings.

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

Day 7

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

Parable of the Burning House

While there is a lot of material covered today, much of it repeated in gathas from the other day, what stands out is the sales talk the Buddha gives for this Great Vehicle he has brought onto the showroom floor.

Sariputra!
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.

This vehicle is
The purest and most wonderful.
This is unsurpassed by any other vehicle
In all the worlds.
This vehicle is approved with joy by the Buddhas.
All living beings should extol it.
They should make offerings to it,
And bow to it.

The powers, emancipations, dhyana-concentrations, wisdom,
And all the other merits [of the Buddhas],
Many hundreds of thousands of millions in number,
Are loaded in this vehicle.

I will cause all my children
To ride in this vehicle
And to enjoy themselves
Day and night for kalpas.

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

Therefore, even if you try to find another vehicle
Throughout the worlds of the ten quarters,
You will not be able to find any other one
Except those given by the Buddhas expediently.

Well, I’m sold.

Verses of Eternity

The core of the Essential Section is the sixteenth chapter, “The Lifespan of the Tathagata.” In this chapter, the Buddha finally reveals the birthless and deathless nature of Buddhahood. The verse portion of the sixteenth chapter is especially revered because it is a simple and powerful summary of this teaching. These verses are known as the “Verses of Eternity.” When these verse are recited we are reminded of the compassionate presence of the Buddha, whose only concern is to enable us to attain Buddhahood just as he did.

Lotus Seeds

Along the Path to Our Ultimate Destination

Sometimes I’ll use the idea of Magic City as an explanation to the benefits we see in our lives as a result of our practice. As humans we naturally have difficulties arise in our lives that we wish to address. Sometimes these are material in nature and we achieve our desired goal. Yet all of those benefits are in a sense our Magic City along the path toward our ultimate destination of Buddhahood. They are necessary to our ultimate spiritual development, just as the Magic City was essential to the travelers. The Magic City, though an illusion, actually did provide benefit to the travelers because they could rest and become refreshed. So too the accomplishment of overcoming our difficult circumstances are necessary to our practice, but it is not the final objective.

Lecture on the Lotus Sutra

Daily Dharma – March 30, 2016

Good Man! Wait for a while! There is a Bodhisattva-mahāsattva called Maitreya [in this congregation]. Śākyamuni Buddha assured him of his future attainment of Buddhahood, saying, ‘You will become a Buddha immediately after me.’ Maitreya has already asked [Śākyamuni Buddha] about this matter. [Śākyamuni] Buddha will answer him. You will be able to hear his answer.

This passage from Chapter Fifteen of the Lotus Sūtra is the answer one of the Buddhas of the replicas of Śākyamuni Buddha gives to his attendant. In the story, innumerable Bodhisattvas have come up through the ground of this world of conflict after the Buddha asked who would continue his teaching after his extinction. Neither the attendant, nor anyone gathered to hear the Buddha teach had seen those Bodhisattvas before and wanted to know where they came from. Our practice of the Wonderful Dharma does not mean merely accepting what we do not understand. We need to raise questions when they occur. These questions show that we are capable of greater understanding. They lead us even closer to the Buddha’s wisdom.

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

Day 6

Day 6 continues Chapter 3, A Parable

Parable of the Burning House

The Buddha’s children are ignorant and when the Buddha attempts to explain the danger, they are too distracted by their playthings and their false sense of security to pay attention. For me, for today, what stands out is that the Buddha, with all of his supernatural powers, couldn’t just carry us out of the burning house.

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-sarnbodhi. 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.[‘]

Sariputra! Seeing all this, I [also] thought, ‘I am the father of all living beings. I will eliminate their sufferings, give them the pleasure of the immeasurable wisdom of the Buddha, and cause them to enjoy it.’

Sariputra! I also thought, ‘If I extol my insight, powers, and fearlessness in the presence of those living beings only by my supernatural powers and by the power of my wisdom, that is to say, without any expedient, they will not be saved because they have not yet been saved from birth, old age, disease, death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation, but are burning up in the burning house of the triple world. How can they understand the wisdom of the Buddha?’

Sariputra! The rich man did not save his children by his muscular power although he was strong enough. He saved them from the burning house with a skilful expedient and later gave them each a large cart of treasures.

In the same manner, I save all living beings from the burning house of the triple world, not by my powers or fearlessness, but with a skillful expedient.

Unborn and Deathless True Nature

Once the Eternal Buddha reveals his unborn and deathless true nature, Buddhahood is no longer just a theory, or the achievement of a special person who lived in the distant past, or a remote future possibility. Buddhahood is the essential truth of the present moment that the other teachings point toward. This is why the One Vehicle teaching of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha is considered to be the reflection of the Eternal Buddha in this world of impermanence, while the Eternal Buddha is the ever-present actuality that is the source of all such reflections. It is important that we receive this teaching with faith and rejoicing, and spread it to others.

Lotus Seeds