Day 21

Day 21 covers all of Chapter 16, The Duration of the Life of the Tathāgata.

Having last month considered the expedients of the Eternal Buddha, we come to his purpose.

“Good men! All the sutras that I expounded [hitherto] were for the purpose of saving all living beings. I told the stories of my previous lives [in some sutras,] and the stories of the previous lives of other Buddhas [in other sutras]. I showed my replicas [in some sutras,] and my transformations [in other sutras]. I described my deeds [in some sutras,] and the deeds of others [in other sutras]. All that I say is true, not false, because I see the triple world as it is. I see that the triple world is the world in which the living beings have neither birth nor death, that is to say, do not appear or disappear, that it is the world in which I do not appear or from which l do not disappear, that it is not real or unreal, and that it is not as it seems or as it does not seem. I do not see the triple world in the same way as [the living beings of] the triple world do. I see all this clearly and infallibly. The living beings are various in their natures, desires, deeds, thoughts and opinions. Therefore, I expounded the dharma with various stories of previous lives, with various parables, similes and discourses, in order to cause all living beings to plant the roots of good. l have never stopped doing what I should do. As I said before, it is very long since I became the Buddha. The duration of my life is innumerable, asamkya kalpas. I am always here. I shall never pass away.

The Daily Dharma from July 19,2016, offers this:

All that I say is true, not false, because I see the triple world as it is. I see that the triple world is the world in which the living beings have neither birth nor death, that is to say, do not appear or disappear, that it is the world in which I do not appear or from which I do not disappear, that it is not real or unreal, and that it is not as it seems or as it does not seem. I do not see the triple world in the same way as [the living beings of] the triple world do. I see all this clearly and infallibly.

The Buddha makes this revelation in Chapter Sixteen of the Lotus Sūtra. In the story, he has just explained that although beings see him as a man who became enlightened after growing up as a crown prince, in reality he has been enlightened since an unimaginable amount of time in the past, and will continue to lead all beings to enlightenment for twice that period of time into the future. As we learn to see the historical Śākyamuni Buddha as the ever-present Śākyamuni Buddha, our vision of the world changes too.

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

Each Bodhisattva of the Earth

In Chapter 21 of the Lotus Sutra, [the Bodhisattvas of the Earth] are given the specific transmission of the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Sutra consisting of the teachings, the supernatural powers, the treasury, and the achievements of the Buddha. Therefore, they are responsible for propagating the Lotus Sutra in the Latter Age of the Dharma. Thus, anyone who upholds the Odaimoku in this age is said to be a Bodhisattva of the Earth or, more humbly, one of their followers.

Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon

Daily Dharma – March 31, 2017

T’ien’tai, therefore, makes clear that all things and phenomena in the ten realms are manifestations of the ultimate reality. Since ultimate reality is another name of the Lotus Sutra, what he states is that all things and phenomena are equal to the Lotus Sutra.

Nichiren wrote this as part of his letter to monk Sairen-bō in his Treatise on All Phenomena as Ultimate Reality (Shohō-Jissō Shō). This was another way of Nichiren expressing his understanding that the Buddha’s highest wisdom is not something that takes us out of this world, but is found within the everyday experiences of our lives. Even the realms of anger, greed, fear, hostility, calm and pleasure are part of the Buddha’s pure land. The practice of the Wonderful Dharma is not to escape from these difficult places, but to use them to benefit all beings. To be caught up in them is to be deluded about their evanescent nature. To see them for what they are is to know the joy of enlightenment.

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

Day 20

Day 20 completes Chapter 15, The Appearance of Bodhisattvas from Underground, and concludes the Fifth Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month pondered grey-haired sons and young fathers we come now to the question at hand and the conclusion of Chapter 15.

We do not doubt your words
Because we heard them direct from you.
Explain all this so that the living beings in the future
May be able to understand your words, Buddha!

Those who doubt this sutra
And do not believe it
Will fall into the evil regions.
Explain all this to us now!

How did you teach these innumerable Bodhisattvas
In such a short time,
And cause them to aspire for enlightenment
And not falter in seeking enlightenment?

In searching past posts on the subject of “doubt,” I was reminded of what Mañjuśrī promised Maitreya all the way back in Chapter 1:

The Buddha will remove
Any doubt of those who seek
The teaching of the Three Vehicles.
No question will be left unresolved.

And, so, we await tomorrow.

The Nourishment of the Lotus Sutra

[T]his seed of potential (or latent) Buddhahood must be fed, watered and cared for just like any other living thing. This can be done only through the nourishment of the Lotus Sutra, that is, reciting the Sutra and Namu Myoho Renge Kyo while dedicating ourselves to the Buddha. Without sincere faith and practice, the seed of enlightenment hidden in our lives cannot receive nourishment and, therefore, cannot blossom and grow, much less flourish.

Odaimoku: The Significance Of Chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo

Daily Dharma – March 30, 2017

Although I shall never enter into Nirvāṇa, I say to men of little virtue, ‘I shall pass away.’ I teach them with this expedient. Why is that? It is because, if they see me for a long time, they will not plant the roots of good, but become poor and base, and cling to the five desires so much that they will be caught in the nets of wrong views.

The Buddha gives this explanation in Chapter Sixteen of the Lotus Sutra. This Chapter is the first time he reveals himself as the Ever-Present Buddha who became enlightened in the far distant past and will continue to lead all beings to enlightenment into the far distant future. The Buddha uses the death of his physical body as an expedient so that those who take him for granted will make efforts to practice his teachings. When we practice the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sūtra, then we learn to see the Buddha in ourselves and all beings.

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

Day 19

Day 19 concludes Chapter 14, Peaceful Practices, and begins Chapter 15, The Appearance of Bodhisattvas from Underground.

Having last month heard the offer of the Bodhisattva-mahasattvas, more than eight times the number of the sands of the River Ganges, who had come from the other worlds, we greet the arrival of Bodhisattvas from Underground.

Thereupon the Buddha said to those Bodhisattva-mahasattvas:

“No, good men! I do not want you to protect or keep this sutra because there are Bodhisattva-mahasattvas sixty thousand times as many as the sands of the River Ganges in this Saha-World. They are each accompanied by attendants also numbering sixty thousand times as many as the sands of the River Ganges. They will protect, keep, read, recite and expound this sutra after my extinction.”

When he had said this, the ground of the Saha-World, which was composed of one thousand million Sumeru-worlds, quaked and cracked, and many thousands of billions of Bodhisattva-mahasattvas sprang up from underground simultaneously. Their bodies were golden-colored, and adorned with the thirty-two marks and with innumerable rays of light. They had lived in the sky below this Saha-World. They came up here because they heard these words of Sakyamuni Buddha. Each of them was the leader of a great multitude. The Bodhisattvas included those who were each accompanied by attendants as many as sixty thousand times the number of the sands of the River Ganges. Needless to say, [they included those who were each accompanied by less attendants, for instance,] fifty thousand times, forty thousand times, thirty thousand times, twenty thousand times or ten thousand times the number of the sands of the River Ganges, or by attendants just as many of the sands of the River Ganges, or by attendants as many as a half, or a quarter of the number of the sands of the River Ganges, or by attendants as many as the sands of the River Ganges divided by a thousand billion nayuta, a billion, ten million, a million, ten thousand, a thousand, a hundred, ten, five, four, three or two attendants, or only by one attendant. [The Bodhisattvas] who preferred a solitary life came alone. The total number of the Bodhisattvas was innumerable, limitless, beyond calculation, inexplicable by any parable or simile.

The Daily Dharma from July 29, 2016, offers this:

No, good men! I do not want you to protect or keep this sūtra because there are Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas sixty thousand times as many as the sands of the River Ganges in this Sahā-World. They are each accompanied by attendants also numbering sixty thousand times as many as the sands of the River Ganges. They will protect, keep, read, recite and expound this sūtra after my extinction.

The Buddha makes this declaration to the uncountable number of Bodhisattvas who came from other worlds to hear him teach in Chapter Fifteen of the Lotus Sūtra. These Bodhisattvas had responded to the Buddha’s question of who would keep and expound the Buddha’s highest teaching after his death. They promised that they would remain in this world of conflict and fulfill the Buddha’s request. After the Buddha spoke these words, an unimaginable number of Bodhisattvas came up from underground and paid their respects to the Buddha. We can understand this story, and this image, as showing that our capacity for enlightenment, and our ability to benefit all beings, is already within us. We do not need an outside agent to give these to us.

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

The Bodies of the Buddha

The historical Buddha, Sākya-muni, is but one of those adaptive manifestations; he is a Buddha in the Nirmana-kāya (Jap. Wō-jin), the “Condescension-body,” the concrete object of our faith. Yet he is the Buddha par excellence for us living in this world and in this world-period, because of the moral and metaphysical bond connecting a being and the world he lives in. Besides this condescending manifestation, Buddha reveals his wisdom and power, exhibiting them in the blissful glories of celestial existence. This supernal revelation is, again, adapted to the respective heights of enlightenment on the part of those who have made a certain advance in moral purity and spiritual vision. Hence the infinite varieties of Buddha’s Sambhoga-kāya (Jap, Hō-jin), the “Bliss-body,” and hence the varieties of celestial abodes for different blissful lives. Among those abodes of bliss, however, Tendai Buddhism gives a special preference to the “Paradise of Vulture Peak” (Jap. Ryōzen-Jōdo), an idealization of the Vulture Peak where Buddha Sākya-muni is said to have revealed the truth of the Lotus based on the metaphysical conception of the connection between the world and the individual, already referred to.

History of Japanese Religion

Daily Dharma – March 29, 2017

He should always make it a pleasure to sit in dhyāna. He should live in a retired place and concentrate his mind. Mañjuśrī! [A retired place] is the first thing he should approach.

The Buddha gives this explanation to Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva in Chapter Fourteen of the Lotus Sūtra in which he describes the peaceful practices of a Bodhisattva. For those who are awakening their nature as Bodhisattvas to benefit all beings, and setting aside their attachment to their own suffering, this can be a difficult transition. Our habits of engaging with the drama and delusion in the world can be too strong to overcome. This is why the Buddha emphasizes the importance of quietly reflecting on what happens around us, and our reactions to them. Through dhyāna meditation, we learn not to believe everything we think, and that we can change our understanding of the world. We also learn that allowing our minds to change is the only way we can benefit other beings.

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

Day 18

Day 18 concludes Chapter 13, Encouragement for Keeping this Sutra, and begins Chapter 14, Peaceful Practices.

Having last month completed the first set of things a Bodhisattva should do, we come to the second set of peaceful practices to perform.

“Second, Manjusri! A Bodhisattva-mahasattva who wishes to expound this sutra in the age of the decline of the teachings after my extinction should perform the following peaceful practices. When he expounds or reads this sutra, he should not point out the faults of other persons or sutras. He should not despise other teachers of the Dharma. He should not speak of the good points or bad points or the merits or demerits of others. He should not mention Sravakas by name when he blames them. Nor should he do so when he praises them. He should not have hostile feelings against them or dislike them. He should have this peace of mind so that he may not act against the wishes of the hearers. When he is asked questions, he should not answer by the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, but expound the Dharma only by the teachings of the Great Vehicle so that the questioners may be able to obtain the knowledge of the equality and differences of all things.”

The Lecture on the Lotus Sutra offers this perspective:

The second peaceful practice concerns the things we say. The list is a reminder of how we should speak, avoiding such things as being overly critical of others and other sutras. It is a fine line between pointing out differences in belief and practice and drifting to arrogance and disdain. We might be tempted to adopt the harsh language of Nichiren without fully manifesting the heart of Nichiren. The words are cheap and easy to use, the compassion and caring is difficult to manifest. There is also a time and place for things and this age we live in calls for great wisdom in discerning which approach is the most beneficial to the listener first and foremost and not to our own egotistical needs at proving superiority. As the Buddha says, the teacher should not have hostile feelings, nor dislike them but should have peace of mind. We should always have the wish to attain enlightenment for ourselves and cause others to do the same.
Lecture on the Lotus Sutra