Day 15

Day 15 concludes Chapter 10, The Teacher of the Dharma, and opens Chapter 11, Beholding the Stūpa of Treasures.

Having last month digressed to consider the thirsty man on a plateau, we return to the gāthās.

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

If you wish to give up all indolence,
Hear this sūtra!
It is difficult to hear this sūtra.
Few receive it by faith.

A man on a plateau, feeling thirsty,
Dug a hole in order to get water.
As long as he saw the dug-out lumps of earth were dry,
He knew that water was still far off.
When he found the earth wet and muddy,
He was convinced that water was near.

In the same manner, Medicine-King, know this!
Those who do not hear
The Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
Are far from the wisdom of the Buddha.

In this profound sūtra
The teachings for the Śrāvakas are criticized.
Those who hear
That this sūtra is the king of all the sūtras,
And think over this sūtra clearly after hearing it,
Know this, will approach the wisdom of the Buddha.
If you wish to expound this sūtra,
Enter the room of the Tathāgata,
Wear the robe of the Tathāgata,
Sit on the seat of the Tathāgata,
[And after doing these three things,]
Expound it to people without fear!

To enter the room of the Tathāgata means to have great compassion.
To wear his robe means to be gentle and patient.
To sit on his seat means to see the voidness of all things.
Expound the Dharma only after you do these [three] things!

The Daily Dharma from March 14, 2017, offers this:

In this profound sūtra
The teachings for the Śrāvakas are criticized.
Those who hear
That this sūtra is the king of all the sūtras,
And think over this sūtra clearly after hearing it,
Know this, will approach the wisdom of the Buddha.

The Buddha sings these verses to Medicine-King Bodhisattva in Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sūtra. He has already declared that the sūtra he is teaching is the closest to his own wisdom, that it is different from anything he has taught before, and that it is the teaching for Bodhisattvas. The expedient teachings he gave to Śrāvakas before this sūtra were limited because they did not show the way to enlightenment for all beings. As we keep this sūtra in our minds, and learn to recognize it in our daily lives, we not only approach our own enlightenment, we lead all beings to enjoy the Buddha’s wisdom.

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

This Personal Odyssey

Buddhism is in many ways constantly repeating this personal Odyssey, our Buddhist Odyssey, over and over again but with an ever-upward spiral. Sometimes we may be tempted to stop or slack off, or to run and hide, or to only sample briefly the joy of enlightenment. But the Buddha is always there, as we learn later on in Chapter XVI. The Buddha, through the teachings of the Lotus Sutra is ever present guiding and encouraging us until we are able to fully inherit the great metaphorical wealth of enlightenment. Because of the ever existing eternal and universal nature of Buddha and the fact of our inherent Buddha nature, our journey is not from one point in time such as past to present on to future, but a journey out of time or one that really transcends time and space.

Lecture on the Lotus Sutra

Daily Dharma – July 31, 2017

You, the World-Honored One, are exceptional.
You reminded me of the teachings
Of innumerable Buddhas in the past
As if I had heard them today.

Ānanda, the Buddha’s cousin and one of his leading disciples, sings these verses in Chapter Nine of the Lotus Sūtra. In the Story, Ānanda had just been personally assured by the Buddha that he would become a Buddha himself in a future life. All the teachings of the Buddha across all time are always available to us. What prevents us from hearing them and putting them into practice is nothing more than our own attachment to our suffering and our doubts about our capacity for wisdom and compassion. When we take to heart the assurance that we and all beings can become enlightened, it clears away our delusion and allows to see the Buddha teaching us in all aspects of our lives.

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

Day 14

Day 14 covers all of Chapter 9, The Assurance of Future Buddhahood of the Śrāvakas Who Have Something More to Learn and the Śrāvakas Who Have Nothing More to Learn, and opens Chapter 10, The Teacher of the Dharma.

Having last month heard the prediction for the two thousand Śrāvakas, we conclude Chapter 9 in gāthās.

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

I assure the future Buddhahood
Of these two thousand Śrāvakas
Who are now present before me.
They will become Buddhas in their future lives.

They will make offerings to as many Buddhas
As the particles of dust as previously stated.
They will protect the store of the teachings of those Buddhas,
And attain perfect enlightenment.

They will go to the worlds of the ten quarters.
Their [Buddha-]names will be the same.
They will sit at the place of enlightenment
And obtain unsurpassed wisdom at the same time.

Their [Buddha-]names will be Treasure-Form.
[The adornment of] their worlds, [the number of] their disciples,
[The duration of the period of] their right teachings,
[And that of] the counterfeit of them will be the same.

By their supernatural powers, they will save
The living beings of the worlds of the ten quarters.
Their fame will extend far and wide.
They will enter into Nirvana in the course of time.

Thereupon the two thousand Śrāvakas, of whom some had something more to learn while others had nothing more to learn, having heard the Buddha assure them of their future Buddhahood, danced with joy, and sang in a gāthā:

You, the World-Honored One, are the light of wisdom.
Hearing from you
That we are assured of our future Buddhahood,
We are as joyful as if we were sprinkled with nectar.

The Daily Dharma from May 11, 2017, offers this on the response of the 2,000 Śrāvakas:

These verses are sung by two thousand of the Buddha’s disciples in Chapter Nine of the Lotus Sūtra. When these followers of the Buddha were told that they would become as enlightened as he was, then many others like them realized that they too had this capacity. The superiority of the Lotus Sūtra lies not in having better explanations of what the Buddha taught, or in some supernatural ability it has to change the world. The superiority of the Lotus Sūtra is its completeness. It leads all beings to the joy of enlightenment.

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

The Mahayana Nirvana

In Mahayana teachings, Nirvana is characterized as “pure” because it is free of the defilements of greed, hatred, delusion, pride, and self-doubt; as “blissful” because it is free of suffering; as “eternal” because it is free of impermanence; and as the “true self” because it is free of the false idea of a self. Essentially, the seal of Nirvana is the seal of nonclinging and freedom from all attachments, limitations, and false, self-serving views. It is not a thing that we can create through our own efforts, receive from others, or have in the way we might possess an object or have an experience. It is the true nature of reality which we awaken to through taking faith in the Buddha’s teachings and upholding them in our lives.

Lotus Seeds

Daily Dharma – July 30, 2017

When they expound the scriptures of non-Buddhist schools, or give advice to the government, or teach the way to earn a livelihood, they will be able to be in accord with the right teachings of the Buddha.

The Buddha gives this explanation to Constant-Endeavor Bodhisattva in Chapter Nineteen of the Lotus Sūtra, describing those who keep the Lotus Sūtra. In this chapter, the Buddha shows that our practice of this Wonderful Dharma is not separate from our existence in this world. The purpose of the Buddha’s wisdom is not to escape to a better life, but to see our lives for what they are, and to use that clarity 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 13

Day 13 covers all of Chapter 8, The Assurance of Future Buddhahood of the Five Hundred Disciples.

Having last month concluded Day 13, we start again from the top of Chapter 8, The Assurance of Future Buddhahood of the Five Hundred Disciples.

Thereupon Pūrṇa, the son of Maitrāyanī having heard from the Buddha the Dharma expounded with expedients by the wisdom of the Buddha] according to the capacities of all living beings, and having heard that [the Buddha] had assured the great disciples of their future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi, and also having heard of the previous life of the Buddha, and also having heard of the great, unhindered, supernatural powers of the Buddhas, had the greatest joy that he had ever had, became pure in heart, and felt like dancing [with joy]. He rose from his seat, came to the Buddha, and worshipped him at his feet with his head. Then he retired to one side of the place, looked up at the honorable face with unblenching eyes, and thought:

‘The World-Honored One is extraordinary. What he does is exceptional. He expounds the Dharma with expedients by his insight according to the various natures of all living beings of the world, and saves them from various attachments. The merits of the Buddha are beyond the expression of our words. Only the Buddha, only the World-Honored One, knows the wishes we have deep in our minds.’

See Thursday’s note for where I am and why I’m not adding any comment to these posts.

retreat photo
Kanjin Cederman Shonin and I in one of our many discussions.

Protectors of the Lotus Sutra

Nichiren taught that all the gods had promised to protect those who uphold the Lotus Sutra. He frequently invoked the Vedic deities and the Shinto kami as his protectors, as in the following passage from Persecutions of the Sage: “Even those who have a great demonic spirit [on their side] cannot harm Nichiren because he is protected by Brahma, Indra, the gods of the sun and moon, the four heavenly kings, Tensho Daijin, and Hachiman.”

Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon

Daily Dharma – July 29, 2017

The Buddhas, the Leaders, expound the teaching of Nirvāṇa
In order to give a rest [to all living beings].
When they see them having already had a rest,
They lead them to the wisdom of the Buddha.

The Buddha sings these verses in Chapter Seven of the Lotus Sūtra. These are part of his explanation of the parable of the Magic City. In this story, a group of people hire a guide to lead them through a dangerous wilderness to reach a city of treasures. Halfway through the journey, the people lose confidence and ask the guide to take them back to where they started. The guide conjures up a magic city and gives the people a chance to rest. The people believed this illusion was their destination. The guide then made the city disappear and implored his charges to continue their journey. The Buddha compares his teachings of the end of suffering to the fabricated city, and the true city of treasures to his enlightenment. As the travelers had to leave their delusions about suffering and continue on the way of the Bodhisattva towards enlightenment, so must we set aside the Buddha’s expedient teachings and uphold the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sūtra.

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

Day 12

Day 12 concludes Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City, and completes the Third Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month witnessed in gāthās the turning of the wheel of the Dharma by the Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha, we watch as the sixteen princes renounce the world and become śramaṇeras.

The sixteen princes renounced the world,
And became śramaṇeras.
They begged the Buddha to expound the teaching
Of the Great Vehicle, saying:
“We and our attendants wish to attain
The enlightenment of the Buddha.
May we have the purest eyes of wisdom
Just as yours!”

Knowing the wishes of the [princes who were] young boys
And the practices they performed in their previous existence,
The Buddha taught them the six paramitas
And many supernatural things
With innumerable stories of previous lives
And with various parables and similes.

The gāthās of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
Were sung [by the Buddha] to expound the true teaching,
That is, [to expound] the Way which Bodhisattvas should practice.
The gāthās were as many as there are sands in the River Ganges.

Having expounded this sūtra, the Buddha entered a quiet room,
And practiced dhyāna-concentration.
Concentrating his mind, he sat at the same place
For eighty-four thousand kalpas.

Seeing him still in dhyāna,
The śramaṇeras wished to expound
The unsurpassed wisdom of the Buddha
To many hundreds of millions of living beings.

They each sat on a seat of the Dharma
And expounded this sūtra of the Great Vehicle.
Also after the peaceful extinction of that Buddha,
They proclaimed this sūtra, and helped propagate it.

They each saved
Six hundred billions of living beings,
That is, as many living beings
As there are sands in the River Ganges.

After the extinction of that Buddha,
Some heard the Dharma [from one of the śramaṇeras].
They were reborn in the world of a Buddha,
Accompanied by [the śramaṇera, that is,] their teacher.

See yesterday’s note for where I am and why I’m not adding any comment to these posts.

Evening service