Day 19

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

Having last month witnessed the arrival of Bodhisattvas from Underground, we greet them today.

Those Bodhisattvas who appeared from underground, came to Many-Treasures Tathāgata and Śākyamuni Buddha both of whom were in the wonderful stūpa of the seven treasures hanging in the sky. They [joined their hands together] towards the two World-Honored Ones, and worshiped their feet with their heads. Then they [descended onto the ground and] came to the Buddhas sitting on the lion-like seats under the jeweled trees, bowed to them, walked around them from left to right three times, joined their hands together respectfully, and praised them by the various ways by which Bodhisattvas should praise Buddhas. Then they [returned to the sky,] stood to one side, and looked up at the two World-Honored ones with joy. A period of fifty small kalpas elapsed from the Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas’ springing up from underground till the finishing of the praising of the Buddhas by the various ways by which Bodhisattvas should praise Buddhas. All this while Śākyamuni Buddha sat in silence. The four kinds of devotees also kept silence for the fifty small kalpas. By his supernatural powers, however, the Buddha caused the great multitude to think that they kept silence for only half a day. Also by the supernatural powers of the Buddha, the four kinds of devotees were able to see that the skies of many hundreds of thousands of billions of worlds were filled with those Bodhisattvas.

The Daily Dharma from May 8, 2016, offers this:

All this while Śākyamuni Buddha sat in silence. The four kinds of devotees also kept silence for the fifty small kalpas. By his supernatural powers, however, the Buddha caused the great multitude to think that they kept silence for only half a day.

We find this description of the Buddha and his congregation in Chapter Fifteen of the Lotus Sūtra. Innumerable Bodhisattvas have sprung up from underground and come to pay their respects to the Buddha. This passage shows that in our suffering and attachment, we have a different concept of time than the Buddha. The kalpas the Lotus Sūtra uses to measure time are unimaginably long periods. When a stone a mile on each side is worn down to a pebble by a celestial being flying past it every thousand years and brushing it with her veil, a kalpa expires. When we see the world on this scale of time, rather than the limited years we have in our lives, it opens us up 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

Provisional Teaching

In the Lotus Sutra, … bodhisattvas come from ideal worlds to hear the Dharma and volunteer to teach the Lotus Sutra in this world after the Buddha’s extinction. They represent those who cultivate the Six Perfections of generosity, discipline, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom over many lifetimes in order to attain buddhahood. These bodhisattvas also assume that Shakyamuni Buddha only attained enlightenment within his current lifetime, and that his current buddhahood was the culmination of many eons of spiritual cultivation. … So in the context of the Lotus Sutra, these bodhisattvas represent a provisional teaching regarding the relationship between Bodhisattva Practice and buddhahood.

Daily Dharma – April 30, 2017

The supernatural powers
Employed by that Buddha
For the expounding of the Dharma
Will be inconceivable.

The Buddha sings this verse in Chapter Six of the Lotus Sūtra after predicting the future Buddhahood of his disciple Subhūti. Anything we do not understand can seem supernatural. Things we find common in our modern world would seem magical to those who lived in the Buddha’s time. It is only through our greater understanding that we can create our modern wonders. It should not then surprise us that with the Buddha’s mind, which he reminds us that we too can reach, the things we can accomplish will seem magical to those mired in delusion.

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 second set of peaceful practices to perform, we repeat in gāthās.

Thereupon the World-Honored One, wishing to repeat what he had said, sang in gāthās:

The Bodhisattva should wish
To make all living beings peaceful,
And then expound the Dharma to them.
He should make a seat in a pure place,
Apply ointment to his skin,
Wash dirt and dust off himself,
Wear a new and undefiled robe,
Clean himself within and without,
Sit on the seat of the Dharma peacefully,
And then expound the Dharma in answer to questions.

He should expound with a smile
The wonderful meaning of the Dharma
To bhikṣus and bhikṣunīs,
To upāsakās and upāsikās,
To kings and princes,
To government officials,
And to common people.
When he is asked questions,
He should answer
According to the meaning of the Dharma.

He should expound the Dharma to them
With stories of previous lives, parables and similes.
With these expedients he should cause them
To aspire for enlightenment,
To promote their understanding step by step,
And finally to enter into the Way to Buddhahood.

He should give up indolence,
Negligence, grief and sorrow.
He should expound the Dharma to them
Out of his compassion towards them.

He should expound to them
The teaching of unsurpassed enlightenment
With stories of previous lives
And with innumerable parables and similes
Day and night,
And cause them to rejoice.

He should not wish to receive
Garments or bedding,
Food and drink, or medicine
From them.

He should expound the Dharma to them,
Wishing only two things:
To attain the enlightenment of the Buddha
And also to cause them to do the same.
This is a peaceful offering to them.
This offering will bring them a great benefit.

A Bhikṣu who expounds this Sūtra
Of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
With patience
After my extinction,
Will be emancipated
From jealousy, anger, and other illusions,
That is to say, from all obstacles.
He will have no sorrow.
He will not be spoken ill of.
He will not be in fear.
He will not be threatened with swords or sticks,
Or driven out [of his monastery].

A man of wisdom
Who controls his mind
As previously stated
Will be peaceful.

His merits will be innumerable.
You would not be able to tell the number of them
By any parable or simile even if you tried to do so
For thousands of billions of kalpas.

The Daily Dharma from July 13, 2016, offers this:

A bhikṣu who expounds this Sūtra
Of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
With patience
After my extinction,
Will be emancipated
From jealousy, anger, and other illusions,
That is to say, from all obstacles.

The Buddha sings these verses to Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva in Chapter Fourteen of the Lotus Sūtra in which he describes the peaceful practices of a Bodhisattva. We may realize that jealousy and anger are not desirable states, but only because what these states do to our moods. No matter how justified we may feel in our jealousy or anger, these are not pleasant states to be in or even to be around. The Buddha reminds us that the real problem with these states is that they keep us from seeing things as they are. Jealousy exaggerates the importance of what we want but do not have. Anger exaggerates the bad qualities of the targets of our anger. When we focus on this wonderful teaching, develop our patience, and remain determined to benefit all beings, we see things for what they are, and are liberated from illusions.

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

Kaikyoge

The Kaikyoge (Verses for Opening the Sutra) states? “We can approach enlightenment when we see, hear or touch this Sutra. Within it is expounded the body of the Buddha’s truth and essence. Every letter composing this Sutra is a manifestation of the Buddha. Just as the scent of incense can be perceived as it is approached, all living beings shall be benefited by this Sutra, spontaneously and without hindrance.”

Odaimoku: The Significance Of Chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo

Daily Dharma – April 29, 2017

Knowing that people wish to hear
The teachings of the Lesser Vehicle,
And that they are afraid of having the great wisdom,
[My sons, that is,] the Bodhisattvas transform themselves
Into Śrāvakas or cause-knowers,
And teach the people with innumerable expedients.

The Buddha sings these verses in Chapter Eight of the Lotus S̄ūtra. Our fear of the Buddha’s wisdom comes from the attachment we have to our delusions. At some level we know that we are suffering, but we believe that anything different from how we live now will be worse. There are times when someone who seems to share our delusions can help us move away from them. But then as an actor becomes so absorbed in a role that he forgets his real life, those who choose a life in this world of conflict can forget their existence as Bodhisattvas who have vowed to benefit all beings. This Wonderful Dharma reminds us of this vow and helps us appreciate those who are still bound by delusion and what we can learn from them.

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

Day 17

Day 17 covers all of Chapter 12, Devadatta, and opens Chapter 13, Encouragement for Keeping this Sutra.

Having last month covered the promise made to those who take this chapter to heart, we come to the story of Mañjuśrī’s students.

At that time Many-Treasures, the World-Honored One, who had come from the nadir,’ was accompanied by a Bodhisattva called Accumulated-Wisdom. The Bodhisattva said to Many-Treasures Buddha, “Shall we go back to our home world?”

Śākyamuni Buddha said to Accumulated-Wisdom:

“Good man, wait for a while! A Bodhisattva called Mañjuśrī is coming. See him, talk about the Wonderful Dharma with him, and then go back to your home world!”

Thereupon Mañjuśrī came sitting on a one-thousand-petaled lotus-flower as large as the wheel of a chariot. He was accompanied by other Bodhisattvas who were also sitting on jeweled lotus-flowers. Mañjuśrī had sprung up from the palace of Dragon-King Sagara in the great ocean, gone up to the sky[, and traveled through the sky towards Mt. Sacred Eagle]. Having reached Mt. Sacred Eagle, he descended from the lotus flower, came to the two World-Honored Ones,” and worshiped their feet with his head. Having completed the worship, he came to Accumulated-Wisdom, exchanged greetings with him, retired and sat to one side.

Accumulated-Wisdom Bodhisattva asked Mañjuśrī, “You went to the palace of the dragon-king. How many living beings did you lead into the Way to Bodhi there?”

Mañjuśrī answered, “Their number is immeasurable, incalculable, inexplicable, unthinkable. Wait for a while! You will be able to see them.”

No sooner had he said this than innumerable Bodhisattvas, who were sitting on jeweled lotus-flowers, sprang up from the sea, came to Mt. Sacred Eagle, went up to the sky, and stayed there. All these Bodhisattvas had been led [into the Way to Bodhi] by Mañjuśrī. They had already performed the Bodhisattva practices. [Up in the sky] they [began to] expound the six pāramitās. Some of them were formerly Śrāvakas. When they were Śrāvakas, they expounded the Śrāvaka practices in the sky. Now they were acting according to the truth of the Void of the Great Vehicle.

Mañjuśrī said to Accumulated-Wisdom, “Now you see the living beings whom I taught in the sea.”

Thereupon Accumulated-Wisdom Bodhisattva praised him with gāthās:

Possessor of Great Wisdom and Virtue!
You were brave in saving innumerable living beings.
This great congregation and I understand
That you expounded
The truth of the reality of all things,
Revealed the teaching of the One Vehicle,
And led those innumerable living beings
[Into the Way] to Bodhi quickly.

We are supposed to adopt the Bodhisattva practice, which seeks to save all living beings. Mañjuśrī is my favorite example of this practice, especially his role in teaching an 8-year-old dragon princess.

Securing the Entity of Moral Life

The specific point in Saichō’s contention was that the confessions and vows were to be made not to human masters, as in other branches of Buddhism, but to Buddha himself, which meant to one’s own innermost soul and entity. And therein lay the mystery, that by taking vows with these convictions and uttermost zeal, one could arouse the innermost good, including power and wisdom, which was inherent but otherwise dormant. Once aroused, this would ensure for us an incorruptible firmness of moral and spiritual life and could last throughout any number of lives, in spite of obstacles, temptations, nay despite even casual guilt and the commission of sin. The initiation, therefore, was taught to secure the awakening and abiding of the fundamental Buddha-nature, the mystery of “securing the entity of moral life.”

History of Japanese Religion

Daily Dharma – April 28, 2017

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.

The Buddha gives this explanation in Chapter Sixteen of the Lotus Sūtra. He describes the methods he used to prepare those whom he taught for receiving his highest teaching. In this chapter, the Buddha reveals that his existence is not limited to that of the physical body of Siddhartha Gautama 2500 years ago. In truth he has been leading all beings to his enlightenment for an unimaginably long time, and will continue to lead us for twice that time into the future. We approach the Buddha’s true wisdom when we see the purpose of our existence as benefiting all beings, and are certain that the outcome of whatever troubles us now is the enlightenment of all beings.

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

Day 16

Day 16 concludes Chapter 11, Beholding the Stupa of Treasures, and completes the Fourth Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month begun the gāthās, we continue with the Buddha’s request.

(The Buddha said to the great multitude.)
Who will protect
And keep this sūtra,
And read and recite it
After my extinction?
Make a vow before me to do this!

Many-Treasures Buddha,
Who had passed away a long time ago,
Made a loud voice like the roar of a lion
According to his great vow.

Many-Treasures Tathāgata and I
And the Buddhas of my replicas,
Who have assembled here,
Wish to know who will do [all this].

My sons!
Who will protect the Dharma?
Make a great vow
To preserve the Dharma forever!

Anyone who protects this sūtra
Should be considered
To have already made offerings
To Many-Treasures and to me.

Rev. Ryusho Shonin’s Lecture on the Lotus Sutra offers this:

Following the arrival of the Stupa comes a very important point in this grand drama, one we can easily overlook as we are in awe and amazement of the events that have just happened. The Buddha inquires of the assembly who will teach the Lotus Sutra in this world, the Saha world after the he has died. The Buddha in these requests shows his shift from the present to the future. We have already seen that all of those who received predictions of future enlightenment will perform their practices in some other realm but not this world. None of the contemporaries of the Buddha will attain enlightenment by doing their activities in our world. The Buddha wants to know, however, who will ensure that the Lotus Sutra is taught to future practitioners.

The Buddha makes a promise and this is significant to those of us who practice and teach the Lotus Sutra in the world in this age some several thousand years after the Buddha. A promise is made that whoever protects the Lotus Sutra in the Saha world, our world, will be able to be in the presence of not just the Buddha Shakyamuni but also all of his replica Buddhas as well as Many Treasures Buddha.
Lecture on the Lotus Sutra