Day 5

Day 5 begins Chapter 3, A Parable.

Last month, I discussed some questions I have regarding the prediction given to Sariputra and his reign as a Buddha called Flower-Light in a world called Free-From-Taint in a kalpa called Great-Treasure-Adornment.

While I may be puzzled, Śāriputra is not.

Thereupon Śāriputra, who felt like dancing with joy, stood up, joined his hands together, looked up at the honorable face, and said to the Buddha:

Hearing this truthful voice of yours, I feel like dancing [with joy]. I have never felt like this before. Why is that? We [Sravakas and the Bodhisattvas] heard this Dharma before. [At that time] we saw that the Bodhisattvas were assured of their future Buddhahood, but not that we were. We deeply regretted that we were not given the immeasurable insight of the Tathagata.

World-Honored One! I sat alone under a tree or walked about mountains and forests, thinking, ‘We [and the Bodhisattvas] entered the same world of the Dharma. Why does the Tathagata save us only by the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle?’

Now I understand that the fault was on our side, not on yours, because if we had waited for your expounding of the Way to Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi, we would have been saved by the Great Vehicle. When we heard your first teaching, we did not know that that teaching was an expedient one expounded according to our capacities. Therefore, we believed and received that teaching at once, thought it over, and attained the enlightenment [to be attained by that teaching].

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 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].

In the midst of the great multitude,
You said to me, “You will become a Buddha.” Hearing this truthful voice,
All my doubts are gone.

There is a reason Sariputra is considered foremost in wisdom among voice hearers and why Nichiren chose to include him on the Mandala Gohonzon.

From the book Lotus World:

In the Lotus Sutra, the voice-hearers fall into three groups of superior capacity, intermediate capacity, and lesser capacity, depending on the manner in which they are able to understand the One Vehicle. Śāriputra represents the superior category. He is able to understand the Buddha’s teaching of the reality of all things, the declaration of the One Vehicle in Chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra, and receives the Buddha’s prediction that he will become Flower Light Tathagata in Chapter 3.

The Ten Factors: Effects

Of the Ten Factors, Effects are the immediate consequences of present activity. Whenever we act, speak, or even think about something, there is an immediate effect upon our lives. That effect might be so minimal as to be hardly noticeable. However, effects primarily refers to the planting of a new seed in the depths of our lives, not just the immediate change in our conscious lives. The importance of this is that everything that we do has an effect upon our day-to-day life and, even more important, upon our inner life.

Lotus Seeds

Being the Change You Wish To See

Rather than merely waiting for something to happen, as if by miracle or by some mythical fairy godmother granting a wish, we should be as proactive as we possibly can and actually try to begin to live as if we are in the condition we seek to become. Buddhism is not a passive activity waiting for some thing to happen. Buddhism is about becoming what we already have the a capacity to be, which is Enlightened.

Lecture on the Lotus Sutra

Daily Dharma – May 31, 2016

I am saving all living beings from suffering.
Because they are perverted,
I say that I pass away even though I shall not.
If they always see me,
They will become arrogant and licentious,
And cling to the five desires
So much that they will fall into the evil regions.

The Buddha sings these verses in Chapter Sixteen of the Lotus Sūtra. Sometimes we wonder why the Buddha’s presence in this world is not more obvious. We think if only we could find a living example of an enlightened being living among us then we would be happy and the world would be a better place to live. We forget that even during the Buddha’s lifetime, not everyone sought him out for his teaching, and some actively opposed him. In this explanation, the Buddha points out that our not seeing him is due to our limitations rather than his, and by not taking our lives and this world for granted, we open ourselves to his presence.

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

Day 4

Day 4 finishes Chapter 2, Expedients, and completes the first volume of the Sutra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Last month, I focused on the Buddha’s vow that “any Sravaka or Bodhisattva who hears even a gatha of this sutra which I am to expound will undoubtedly become a Buddha.”

This time through I want to focus on those who know too much and on those who do not know enough.

First, is that group of 5,000 who refused to believe there was anything more to learn:

Some bhiksus and bhiksunis
Were arrogant.
Some upasakas were self-conceited.
Some upasikas were unfaithful.
Those four kinds of devotees
Were five thousand in number.

They could not see their own faults.
They could not observe all the precepts.
They were reluctant to heal their own wounds.
Those people of little wisdom are gone.
They were the dregs of this congregation.
They were driven away by my powers and virtues.

They had too few merits and virtues
To receive the Dharma.
Now there are only sincere people here.
All twigs and leaves are gone.

Underscore: They were reluctant to heal their own wounds.

Those limitations of the 5,000 who walked out are a subset of the reasons why expedient teachings were needed at all:

Seeing people of no wisdom, I thought:
If I teach them only the Way to Buddhahood,
They will be distracted.
They will doubt my teaching, and not receive it.
I know that they did not plant
The roots of good in their previous existence.
They are deeply attached to the five desires.
They suffer because of stupidity and cravings.
Because they have many desires,
They will fall into the three evil regions,
Or go from one to another of the six regions
Only to undergo many sufferings.
Through their consecutive previous existences,
Their small embryos have continued to grow up
To become men of few virtues and merits.
They are now troubled by many sufferings.
They are in the thick forests of wrong views.
They say “Things exist,”
Or “Things do not exist.”
They are attached to sixty-two wrong views.
They are deeply attached to unreal things.
They hold them firmly, and do not give them up.
They are arrogant, self-conceited,
Liable to flatter others, and insincere.
They have never heard of the name of a Buddha
Or of his right teachings
For thousands of billions of kalpas.
It is difficult to save them.

Therefore, Sariputra!
I expounded an expedient teaching
In order to eliminate their sufferings.
That was the teaching of Nirvana.
40 Tire Sntra of the Lotus Flower of the Wo11derf11l Dlinrma
The Nirvana which I expounded to them
Was not true extinction.

And again:

Sariputra, know this!
Seeing with the eyes of the Buddha
The living beings of the six regions, I thought:
‘They are poor, and devoid of merits and wisdom.
They incessantly suffer because they are taken
To the rough road of birth and death.
They cling to the five desires
Just as a yak loves its tail.
They are occupied with greed and cravings,
And blinded by them.
They do not seek the Buddha who has great power.
They do not seek the Way to eliminate sufferings.
They are deeply attached to wrong views.
They are trying to stop suffering by suffering.’

The Ten Factors: Conditions

Of the Ten Factors, Conditions are the secondary or environmental causes that allow the primary causes to bear fruit. The seeds we have planted in our life through our own actions require the proper circumstances before they come to fruition. Even when they do come to fruition, the exact ways in which they manifest can be influenced by the conditions that surround them. The causes we have made can be inhibited, distorted, modified, or even amplified, depending upon the other causes that we have planted and the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Lotus Seeds

The Reality of the Lotus Sutra

Remember, it is our lives that determine the reality of the Lotus Sutra. It is our practice and our proof that demonstrates whether this is merely a historical document recording a teaching of Shakyamuni or the great universal truth of the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower. And bringing this sutra to life we discover how to teach this wonderful truth to others and ensure the protection and endurance of this wonderful teaching.

Lecture on the Lotus Sutra

Daily Dharma – May 30, 2016

Ajita! Anyone who[, while he is staying outside the place of the expounding of the Dharma,] says to another person, ‘Let us go and hear the sūtra called the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma which is being expounded [in that place],’ and causes him to hear it even for a moment, in his next life by his merits, will be able to live with the Bodhisattvas who obtain dhāraṇīs.

The Buddha gives this explanation to Maitreya (whom he calls Ajita – Invincible) in Chapter Eighteen of the Lotus Sutra. The dhāraṇīs are promises made by Bodhisattvas to protect those who keep and practice the Lotus Sūtra. They are included in the sūtra so that we can use them to remind these Bodhisattvas, and ourselves, of the protection we enjoy from our practice. This protection is not just meant for us. It is for all beings. When we share the teaching of the Wonderful Dharma with others, we help them become aware of their potential to become enlightened.

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

Day 3

Day 3 covers the first half of Chapter 2, Expedients.

Last month, I covered the Buddha’s revelation that the “wisdom of the [present] Buddhas is profound and immeasurable.”

This is all very perplexing to the great sravakas and arhats and the others in the congregation:

All of them thought:

Why does the World-Honored One extol so enthusiastically the power of the Buddhas to employ expedients? Why does he say that the Dharma attained by him is profound and difficult to understand, and that the true purpose of his teachings is too difficult for Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas to know? He expounded to us the teaching of emancipation. We obtained this teaching and reached Nirvana. We do not know why he says all this.

Thereupon Sariputra, seeing the doubts of the four kinds of devotees, and also because he, himself, did not understand [why the Buddha had said this], said to the Buddha:

World-Honored One! Why do you extol so enthusiastically [what you call] the highest [Truth, and the power of the Buddhas to employ) expedients? [Why do you extol) the Dharma which [you say] is profound, wonderful, and difficult to understand? I have never heard you say all this before. The four kinds of devotees also have the same doubts. World-Honored One! Explain all this! Why do you extol so enthusiastically the Dharma which [you say] is profound, wonderful, and difficult to understand?

And in gathas:

Sun of Wisdom, Great Honorable Saint!
You expound the Dharma for the first time
after a long time.
You say that you obtained
The powers, fearlessness, samadhis,
Dhyana-concentrations, emancipations,
And other inconceivable properties [of a Buddha].

No one asks you about the Dharma you attained
At the place of enlightenment.
[The Dharma] is too difficult for me to measure.
[So it is for others; therefore,] no one asks you.

Although you are not asked, you extol the teachings
[Of the past Buddhas] which you practiced.
Your wisdom is wonderful.
It is the same wisdom that the other Buddhas obtained.

The Arhats-without-asravas
And those who are seeking Nirvana
Are now in the mesh of doubts, wondering:
“Why does the Buddha say all this?”

Those who are seeking the vehicle of cause-knowers,
And the bhiksus, bhiksunis, gods, dragons,
Gandharvas, and other supernatural beings,
Are exchanging glances of perplexity.

They are looking up at you, at the Honorable Biped
Thinking:
“What is this for?
Buddha! Explain all this!”

Underscore No one asks you about the Dharma you attained
At the place of enlightenment.
[The Dharma] is too difficult for me to measure.
[So it is for others; therefore,] no one asks you.

They do not understand the one great purpose of the Buddhas.

Memorial Day Weekend

The white memorial ribbon written by Ven. Kenjo Igarashi for Mary (Michiko Wada) Buchin, my wife's mother, for her 49 Day Ceremony.
The white memorial ribbon written by Ven. Kenjo Igarashi for Mary (Michiko Wada) Buchin, my wife’s mother, for her 49 Day Ceremony.

Memorial tablet honoring my parents.
Memorial tablet honoring my parents.
In a coincidence of American holidays and Nichiren Shu Buddhist ceremonies, on this Memorial Day weekend my wife and I honored her deceased mother in a 49-Day Ceremony following the church’s annual Eitaikyo service, which honors the deceased who are registered on the church’s perpetual memorial list. This year I had both of my parents and Mary’s mother added to that list. And in a final bit of memorial duty, the priest performed an eye-opening ceremony for a memorial tablet created for my home altar.

As one might expect with memorials upon memorials, the priest’s Gosho lesson following the services discussed the concept of heaven and hell. He explained that Nichiren taught that heaven and hell are within us. To explain this idea, he told a story:

Not everyone goes through the 49-day trials after death. Some, such as Nichiren, are rewarded immediately for their good causes and some who have not done anything good in their lives are punished immediately.

A woman destined for a heaven asked for an opportunity to see hell. Bodhisattvas took her there. She was surprised to see a large table filled with all sorts of food. The food smelled delicious.

At each chair around the table was a spoon with a handle more than a meter in length.

Soon the residents of this hell entered the room and seated themselves around the food. Each picked up a spoon and began attempting to serve themselves. They could only pick up the spoons at the end, which meant there was no way to get the food into their mouths. They scooped up food in vain attempts to eat but eventually left the table hungry.

The woman told the bodhisattvas that she was ready to go to heaven. Once there she was very surprised to find exactly the same food and the same overly long spoons. The residents of this heaven soon filed in and seated themselves around the table. They picked up the spoons and scooped up a portion of food. Each person then fed the person closest to the end of the spoon. One of the heavenly residents offered a spoon of food to the woman. Everyone ate heartily and enjoyed their meal.

I can imagine any number of morals to this story. The merit of serving others first – the embodiment of the bodhisattva practice – is a recurring theme in Ven. Kenjo Igarashi’s Gosho lessons.

Recently, I came across another version of the “49th Day Memorial” service explanation. This was written by Rev. Igarashi when he was bishop of the Nichiren Order of North America and published in the June 1, 2004, “Nichiren Shu News”:

When a loved one passes away the family and friends sink into deep sadness. The forty-nine day period after the death is viewed as a time when the deceased may sink into a limbo, and have to endure barriers caused by past karma.

Initially, in this intermediate state (a place between the mortal and immortal realm) one will face the trials of scaling a rugged cliff (first 7 days). Next comes the river with three currents–slow, medium, and fast movements. A good karma merits a slow current while the worst merits a crossing through strong rapids (second 7 days).

And these trials will continue throughout the third, fourth, fifth, sixth set of 7 days. On the seventh 7-day period, or 49-days, King Yama, Lord of the Dead, finally allows the deceased to receive directions towards a human-like realm.

Thus the surviving ones should not sink into deep sadness but instead pray for the deceased conducting eko, merit transference, so that it bestows the compassion of Sakyamuni Buddha and the loved one will be able to make it through the 49-days.

For more about the 49 Day trials see God in Heaven and Mother’s Day.