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 concluded Chapter 9, we move to Chapter 10, The Teacher of the Dharma.

Thereupon the World-Honored One said to Medicine-King Bodhisattva in the presence of the eighty thousand great men:

“Medicine-King! Do you see the innumerable gods, dragon­kings, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnaras, mahoragas, men, and nonhuman beings, and [the four kinds of devotees:] bhikṣus, bhikṣunīs, upāsakās, and upāsikās, and those who are seeking Śrāvakahood or Pratyekabuddhahood or the enlightenment of the Buddha in this great multitude? If in my presence any of them rejoices, even on a moment’s thought, at hearing even a gāthā or a phrase of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, I will assure him of his future Buddhahood, saying to him, ‘You will be able to attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi.’ ”

The Buddha said to Medicine-King:

“If after my extinction anyone rejoices, even on a moment’s thought, at hearing even a gāthā or a phrase of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, I also will assure him of his future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. If anyone keeps, reads, recites, expounds and copies even a gāthā of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, and respects a copy of this sūtra just as he respects me, and offers flowers, incense, necklaces, incense powder, incense applicable to the skin, incense to burn, canopies, banners, streamers, garments and music to it, or just joins his hands together respectfully towards it, Medicine-King, know this, he should be considered to have appeared in the world of men out of his compassion towards all living beings, although he already made offerings to ten billion Buddhas and fulfilled his great vow under those Buddhas in a previous existence.

The Daily Dharma from April 20, 2017, offers this:

The Buddha declares these lines to Medicine-King Bodhisattva at the beginning of Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sūtra. We might believe that everything happens by chance, or that we were sent into this life by someone who is testing us. This Sūtra awakens us to our existence as Bodhisattvas who asked to be born in this world of suffering out of our vow to benefit all beings.

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

How to Have Faith

The teachings of Buddhism seem difficult, but really it is easy. The faith of Buddhism seems complicated, but truly it’s simple. When you think that Buddhism is difficult or complicated, your mind is not yet open to Buddhism, and so it is difficult to receive the teaching properly. The reason for this is because you still remain cautious in your mind. Please do not feel uneasy or worried. Since Buddhism began, over 2500 years ago, it has a history of distributing peace and hope without conflict to others. Please open your mind if you want to study Buddhism. A mind willing to believe, and willing to understand, is very important in establishing faith in Buddhism. The Lotus Sutra, Chapter IV, “Understanding by Faith”, indicates how to have faith.

Spring Writings

Daily Dharma – Aug. 31, 2017

The Buddha said to the rākṣasīs: “Excellent, excellent! Your merits will be immeasurable even when you protect the person who keeps only the name of the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.”

The Buddha declares these lines in Chapter Twenty-Six of the Lotus Sūtra. The rākṣasīs are violent, bloodthirsty demons whose nature is to satisfy their own cravings at the expense of beings weaker than themselves. In the Lotus Sūtra, they learn of their capacity to use their strength to protect others and vow to the Buddha to defend anyone who keeps this sūtra. They understand that when they dedicate their strength to caring for other beings rather than destroying them, they gain the merit which will bring them closer to enlightenment. We learn from this example about our own natures, and that of the beings we share this world with.

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 heard from Pūrṇa about how extraordinary the World-Honored One is, we hear Śākyamuni praise Pūrṇa,

“Do you see this Pūrṇa, the son of Maitrāyanī? I always praise him, saying that he is the most excellent expounder of the Dharma. I also praise him for his various merits. He strenuously protects my teachings, and helps me propagate them. He shows the Way to the four kinds of devotees, teaches them, benefits them and causes them to rejoice. He explains my right teachings perfectly, and gives great benefits to those who are performing brahma practices’ with him. No one except the Tathāgata excels him in eloquence. Do not say that he protects only my teachings and helps me propagate them! In his previous existence he also protected the right teachings of nine thousand million Buddhas and helped them propagate their teachings. Under those Buddhas also he was the most excellent expounder of the Dharma. He clearly understood the truth of the Void expounded by those Buddhas, and obtained the four kinds of unhindered eloquence. He always expounded the Dharma clearly and purely, with no doubtfulness. Although he had the supernatural powers of Bodhisattvas, he performed brahma practices throughout his previous existence. Therefore, the people of the world of the Buddha I under whom he performed brahma practices] thought that he was a Śrāvaka. He benefited many hundreds of thousands of living beings with this expedient, and also caused innumerable, asaṃkhya people to aspire for Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. He did the work of the Buddha, that is, taught all living beings so that the world of the Buddha might be purified.

Lotus World offers this on the topic of Pūrṇa and the major Śrāvakas:

“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. Shariputra 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 two of the Lotus Sutra, and receives the Buddha’s prediction that he will become Flower Light Tathāgata in chapter three. Maudgalyayana, Mahakashyapa, Katyayana, and Subhuti comprise the intermediate category. They require the preaching of parables, such as the parable of the burning house in chapter three, in order to comprehend the One Vehicle. … Purna, Ananda, and Rahula represent those of lesser capacity. They must learn the One Vehicle in the context of stories of their past lives showing their connection to the One Vehicle before they believe that it applies to them. …”Lotus World: An Illustrated Guide to the Gohonzon

Religious Belief in Daily Life

There are some who may come to activities, perhaps frequently, but then the rest of their life is preoccupied with other things and so do not practice or follow Buddhism. There may be religious experience, but there is not fundamental embracing and manifesting in life of religious action. We could say they only have a nominal belief in Buddhism. It is worth our while to frequently reflect on our day-to-day actions and see how deeply our religious belief extends into our lives. Perhaps it is deep or perhaps it is shallow; honesty is the place where it can begin to change.

Lecture on the Lotus Sutra

Daily Dharma – Aug. 30, 2017

The merits of the [fiftieth] person
[Who hears this sūtra] are immeasurable.
Needless to say, so are the merits of the first person
Who rejoices at hearing it in the congregation.

The Buddha sings these verses to Maitreya Bodhisattva in Chapter Eighteen of the Lotus Sutra. This chapter includes a story of a person who hears the Wonderful Dharma, then explains it to the best of their ability to someone else. In this way there is a chain of fifty people who hear versions of this teaching modified by the capacities of those transmitting it. The effectiveness of this teaching does not depend on who delivers it. No matter what our capacity, any of us can teach the Lotus Sutra and practice it in our lives.

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

You and me and everyone else

Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, flowers

Attended the Kaji Kito service at the Sacramento Nichiren Buddhist Church on Aug. 27. The sermon from Ven. Kenjo Igarashi covered a range of Buddhist concepts but the one item that stuck with me was the inclusive nature of the Buddhist practice.

Today’s quote from Lotus Seeds summarizes this well:

The bodhisattvas are as concerned about relieving the suffering of others as they are about relieving their own. One might even say they know we are all in the same boat, the Great Vehicle of the Mahayana, which takes all people to the other shore of perfect and complete awakening. Thus, the advancement of the individual is impossible without the advancement of all.
Lotus Seeds

But beyond the Bodhisattva practice for oneself and others is the fundamental teaching of 3000 realms in a single moment.

In the time since 2015, when I joined Nichiren Shu, I’ve had to unlearn a good portion of what I thought Nichiren Buddhism taught. The Daimoku is not, for example, solely a wish-granting gem, the more you polish it the more you get.

More subtle, but no less profound, is the meaning of 3,000 realms in a single thought moment, one of the defining elements of Nichiren Buddhism.

The basics are simple enough. Here’s the summary from Lotus Seeds:

3000 realms explainedIchinen Sanzen, the Three Thousand Worlds Contained in One Thought, is the theoretical cornertone of Nichiren Buddhism. It is a universal vision of life as rich, dynamic, and meaningful. Ichinen Sanzen reveals thal all life contains all Ten Worlds, including Buddhahood, and that these worlds operate according to the causes and conditions that we all set in motion. In a praclical sense, this theory means that we are able to make the cause that will allow the world of Buddhahood to emerge in our lives when we chant Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.Lotus Seeds

This description works fine for self-inspection but, as the Bodhisattvas teach us, self-inspection is only part of the practice.

I recently finished “Buddha Seed: Understanding the Odaimoku Namu Myoho Renge Kyo,” a 53-page book adapted by the Nichiren Buddhist International Center from the lectures of Rev. Taiko Seno.

Buddha Seed introduced me to the full meaning of 3000 realms:

“What does this number three thousand represent? It represents everything not only of the earth, but also of the universe and includes everything in the past, present, and future. Everything of the universe from animals, plants, other beings, visible or invisible, and their activities, workings, and movements are included in the three thousand realms. Everything of the universe exists within each one of us. Everything influences us, works together as primary cause and environmental cause and brings effects, rewards and retributions. All of us exist in relationship with everything in the universe.”

Or as Rev. Igarashi put it Sunday: Ichinen sanzen holds that each moment contains all of the universe.

To paraphrase Rev. Igarashi:

“There are a lot of people living in this world, more than 5 billion. And each moment of Ichinen Sanzen contains all of these people. That’s why if somebody is fighting I’m not happy. If somebody is unhappy, I’m not happy. That’s why praying for world peace is very important. If the world is at peace, we are all happy. That’s why Shakyamuni warned against focusing on one’s own happiness. Everyone must be happy.

That’s why all of the time I give you purification. You have to extinguish your bad karma. You chant Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and the Lotus Sutra and accumulate merit while trying to help other people like Bodhisattvas. Not just for you. Not just for me. All 5 billion people’s spirit living in my mind. That’s why your actions made in this world decide your next world to go. Your actions are very important. Your actions accumulate merit.

Shakyamuni said everyone is equal but your karmas, your actions, your cause and condition are different. That’s why we have to try to accumulate good karma and help other people and try to extinguish our bad karma which we made in our previous life. That’s why I give you purification so that your karma is different and therefore your life is different.”

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 the sixteen princes renouncing the world and becoming śramaṇeras, we continue in gāthās with how those sixteen śramaṇeras practiced the Way to Buddhahood and taught the Dharma.

Those sixteen śramaṇeras practiced the Way to Buddhahood.
They are now in the worlds of the ten quarters.
They have already attained
Perfect enlightenment [and become Buddhas].

Those who heard the Dharma from those śramaṇeras
Are now living under those Buddhas.
To those who are still in Śrāvakahood
[The Buddhas] teach the Way to Buddhahood.

I was one of the sixteen śramaṇeras.
You were among those to whom I expounded the Dharma.
Therefore, I now lead you with expedients
To the wisdom of the Buddha.

Because I taught you in my previous existence,
I expound the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma
In order to lead you into the Way to Buddhahood.
Think it over! Do not be surprised! Do not be afraid!

“Because I taught you in my previous existence…” I am able to hear today the Sūtra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma. Imagine that.

We’re All in the Same Boat

The bodhisattvas are as concerned about relieving the suffering of others as they are about relieving their own. One might even say they know we are all in the same boat, the Great Vehicle of the Mahayana, which takes all people to the other shore of perfect and complete awakening. Thus, the advancement of the individual is impossible without the advancement of all.

Lotus Seeds

Daily Dharma – Aug. 29, 2017

Having heard from you
Of the duration of your life,
Living beings as many as the particles of earth
Of eight Sumeru-worlds
Aspired for unsurpassed [enlightenment].

The Bodhisattva Maitreya sings these verses in Chapter Seventeen of the Lotus Sutra. He describes the effect on all beings of the Buddha’s revealing his existence as the Ever-Present Śākyamuni. If we believed that the Buddha was just a man who lived 2500 years ago, we might think that we had to wait until another being became enlightened before we could follow them on the path to our own awakening. But with this understanding that the Buddha is always helping us, here and now, then we awaken our capacity to see things as they are and work confidently 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