Daily Dharma – May 3, 2016

Universal-Sage! Anyone who keeps, reads and recites this Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, memorizes it correctly, studies it, practices it, and copies it, should be considered to see me, and hear this sūtra from my mouth. He should be considered to be making offerings to me. He should be considered to be praised by me with the word ‘Excellent!’

Universal-Sage Bodhisattva (Fugen, Samantabhadra) makes this declaration to the Buddha in Chapter Twenty-Eight of the Lotus Sutra. He reminds us that when we study and practice the Lotus Sūtra, we see not only the Buddha, but all beings who have vowed to protect and encourage us in our practice. It is often difficult to see these beings and appreciate what they are doing for us, much more so to hear the encouragement they offer us in this world of conflict. This is why we must continue to dedicate our lives to offer benefit and encouragement to all beings, so that we can embody the spirit of these protective deities.

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

Postscript: When asked if it wasn’t Sakyamuni, not Universal Sage, who is speaking, Will Warner, who administers the content, replied:

Hi John,

You are correct sir! I obviously have my subject and object confused in the analysis. Thanks for pointing it out.

With palms together,

-Shinkyo Will

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.

The Parable of the Rich Man and His Poor Son offers the sravakas’ view of why the Buddha needed expedients. As mentioned last month, they were happy to receive the unexpected gift from their “rich father.” But there was more than baseness that prevented them from receiving the treasure of their “rich father.”

You told us
To purify the world of the Buddha
And teach all living beings.
We heard this, but did not wish to do so
Because we had already attained the truth:
“All things are void and tranquil.
Nothing appears or disappears.
Nothing is larger or smaller.
Nothing has asravas.
Nothing is subject to cause and effect.”
Having thought this, we did not wish
To do [the Bodhisattva practices].

In the long night
We did not care
For the wisdom of the Buddha.
We did not wish to have it.
We thought:
“The Dharma we attained is perfect.”

Having studied the truth of the Void in the long night,
We emancipated ourselves
From the sufferings of the triple world,
Attained the Nirvana-with-remainder,
And reached the final stage
Of our physical existence.

Satisfied with “a day’s pay” they needed to be coaxed to accept the treasure of the Buddha’s enlightenment.

Manifesting the Wonderful Dharma in Our Lives

Buddhahood is not becoming some superhuman being or dying and being reborn in a Buddha land. It is not built up or acquired through the practice of austerities or higher states of consciousness. The simple truth is that “Buddha” is just a title for someone who is awake to the reality of each moment and thereby draws upon the innate wisdom and compassion that is within us all. A Buddha trusts and rejoices in the Wonderful Dharma. Instead of giving in to weakness, a Buddha steps back, sees clearly what is happening, and then acts in the best interest of all concerned. When one acts like a Buddha, one acts wisely and compassionately instead of reacting out of weakness and ignorance. Becoming a Buddha with this body is not a magic transformation, but rather the manifestation of the Wonderful Dharma in our lives from moment to moment.

Lotus Seeds

The Promise and the Hope

Long before theorists began to delve into hope the Buddha has already demonstrated his understanding of the elements of hope theory, and the workings of the human psyche. He did this by giving all of his disciples, both contemporary and future, the promise of enlightenment. He also did this by demonstrating both in story and in action the importance and necessity of Sangha.

Lecture on the Lotus Sutra

Daily Dharma – May 2, 2016

Thereupon a loud voice of praise was heard from within the stūpa of treasures: “Excellent, excellent! You, Śākyamuni, the World-Honored One, have expounded to this great multitude the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Teaching of Equality, the Great Wisdom, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas. So it is, so it is. What you, Śākyamuni, the World-Honored One, have expounded is all true.”

This declaration comes from Many-Treasures Buddha (Tahō, Prabhutaratna) at the beginning of Chapter Eleven of the Lotus Sūtra. In the story, Many-Treasures came from a world far away from this world of conflict when he heard the Buddha giving his highest teaching and appeared in a tower (stūpa) of wonderful treasures to confirm the truth of this teaching. By the Teaching of Equality, he means that all beings can become enlightened through this teaching. By the Great Wisdom, he means that the teaching is the same as the Buddha’s own mind. By the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, he means that to receive this teaching we awaken to our natures to benefit all beings. And by the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas, he means that all Buddhas in all worlds encourage and help those who practice this sūtra.

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

Last month I focused on the new car sales pitch for the Lotus Sutra. This month I want to focus on the reason for the expedient teaching.

[I said:]
“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.
I appeared in this world
In order to give peace to all living beings.

It is little wonder that in the next chapter, Understanding by Faith, the elders of the congregation – the men living the life of wisdom – are surprised by the One Vehicle teaching.

We did not seek Anuttara-samyak-sambodhi because we thought that we had already attained Nirvana, and also because we thought that we were too old and decrepit to do so.’

The Truth of the Present Moment

“Becoming a Buddha with this body” also means the instant or momentary attainment of Buddhahood. In other words, it explains that each moment is a moment of decision wherein we can give in to the defilements or see and act with the clarity of our Buddha-nature. We should reflect on the fact that we only live from moment to moment. The past is always just a memory. The future is always an unrealized possibility. The present is always just a single passing moment, which is all we ever have. It would be a great mistake, then, to overlook the moment in which we are living because we have been led to believe that nothing significant can happen in such a small amount of time. In truth, all the time that we will ever have is in the present moment. Awakening is not something that we slowly build up over time or earn through countless lifetimes of effort. It is our complete awareness of and engagement with the truth of the present moment in which we are living.

Lotus Seeds

Sunday in Charlotte Again

Rev. Ryusho Jeffus during eye-opening ceremony for Omandala
Rev. Ryusho Jeffus during eye-opening ceremony for Gohonzon

Attended online services at Myosho-ji, Wonderful Voice Buddhist Temple, Charlotte, NC. The service included the eye-opening ceremony for an Omandala to be presented to Brandon, a member of the Charlotte temple who lives in Indiana.

Following the service Brandon thanked Ryusho Shonin and expressed his deep appreciation for the opportunity to attend the Charlotte services regularly. I felt guilty that I only attend Charlotte services when there are no services at the Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church. I suppose I should be happy with my good fortune, but today I felt greedy in comparison to those who don’t have a local sangha.

Predictions of Our Own Enlightenment

As practitioners of Buddhism the predictions presented in the [Lotus Sutra] offer us unlimited hope of our own enlightenment. We have, if we choose, the foundation on which to base very hopeful future stories regardless of the struggles facing us in this moment. If we had no promise of enlightenment, then practicing Buddhism would be a sketchy proposition at best and possibly a dismal future at worst. Without the promise of enlightenment then what would we have on which to base our future?

Lecture on the Lotus Sutra

Daily Dharma – May 1, 2016

There are thousands of fish eggs, but few become fish. Hundreds of mango blossoms bloom, but few become fruit. It is the same with human beings, because most people are turned aside by evil distractions. There is an army of warriors wearing armor, but few are able to fight bravely. Many people search for truth, but few attain Buddhahood.

Nichiren wrote this passage in his Letter to Lord Matsuno. In Nichiren’s lifetime he saw many of his followers charmed by his teaching, but lacking the resolve to practice. This letter was one of many Nichiren used to encourage us not to waste our precious human life with frivolous pursuits, destructive actions, and selfish desires. It reminds us that we all carry the seed of Buddha nature, and to look for ways to nourish that seed.

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