Category Archives: Awakening to the Lotus

Universal Salvation

This Buddha had sixteen sons, who upon hearing of their father’s enlightenment, renounced their positions and joined him as disciples. They along with all of the heavenly kings asked that Buddha to expound the Dharma and bring peace to all suffering beings. They said, “May the merits we have accumulated by this offering be distributed among all living beings, may we and all living beings together attain the enlightenment of the Buddha.” This teaches the core of the Great Vehicle, that enlightenment is not individual but universal salvation.

Awakening to the Lotus

A Gem of Priceless Value

Each of us possesses a gem of priceless value. We have the wisdom of the Buddha within our hearts, but we are not aware of it. This wisdom is the Buddha-nature, the potential to become a Buddha. Because of our deluded state we are unaware of our Buddha-nature and fail to make any effort to develop it.

Awakening to the Lotus

The True Form of the Eternal Buddha

The main point of the Lotus Sutra is this: all Buddhas, whatever names they may use, are temporary manifestations of this Eternal Buddha. He appears in other forms in order to lead people to enightenment. However, these Buddhas are limited. They are provisional, only a reflection of the true form of the Eternal Buddha Sakyamuni in a given time and place.

Awakening to the Lotus

The Three Aspects of the Buddha

The Lotus Sutra’s teaching of the Eternal Buddha brings together all of the aspects of the Buddha: the Truth, the person, and enlightened action.

We can see this complete figure of the Buddha when we faithfully devote ourselves to him. Faith in this case means devoting our actions and our thoughts to the Buddha’s way as expressed in his teaching in the Lotus Sutra. The physical body of the Buddha no longer exists since his body passed away, so the direct object of our devotion should be his teachings in the form of the Lotus Sutra. This sutra is the spirit of the Buddha and, since the Buddha’s death, his physical manifestation. Respecting and making offerings to the sutra is exactly the same as respecting and making offerings to the Buddha himself.

Awakening to the Lotus

A Glorious Pure Land

Since the Original Buddha is eternal, this world, where the Buddha lives, is also eternal. It can never be destroyed. However, ordinary people, deluded by worldly desires and unable to see with the eyes of the Buddha, think that this world is a defiled land, one which will burn away in the future. We see grief, pain and fear wherever we look. To us this is the “real world.” But our Buddha-nature can be realized in this defiled world. To enlightened eyes, the real world is revealed as a glorious Pure Land where all beings can attain Buddhahood.

Awakening to the Lotus

The Six Perfections

The Six Perfections are considered the bodhisattva way of practice. They are generosity, the performance of service to others in both a spiritual and material sense; morality, living an ethical life by avoiding the taking of life, stealing, indulgence in harmful sexual activity, lying, or becoming intoxicated with alcohol or drugs; patience,showing patience in dealing with obstacles and opposition from others; endeavor, making the best effort one can; concentration, focusing the heart and mind on the task at hand; and wisdom, which is more than simple knowledge or understanding. The Buddha’s realization of the Truth was wisdom. With this wisdom, the Buddha’s person and the Truth are one: subjective character and objective truth merge and are unified.

Awakening to the Lotus

Practicing

Buddhism requires regular practice; in fact, most students of Buddhism – including those who do not necessarily consider themselves Buddhists – say that Buddhism cannot be understood without at least trying the practice for a period of time.

Awakening to the Lotus

Why We Chant

Of course, one might wonder why simply repeating a phrase is considered the most important practice for Nichiren Buddhists. Nichiren Shonin himself explained that the Buddha prescribed the Odaimoku as a good medicine to cure living beings of the sufferings of birth and death. To become more like someone we admire, it is helpful to act like that person. If we want to become like the Buddha, we must act like the Buddha. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha revealed that all Buddhas including himself became enlightened by revering the Lotus Sutra itself. This is what we are doing when we chant the Odaimoku. Through this practice, we become one with the Buddha and cultivate our own Buddha nature.

Awakening to the Lotus

Reading and Reciting the Sutra in English

Another part of the core practice is reciting sections from the Lotus Sutra. … The basis of this practice is the words of the Lotus Sutra itself. In almost every chapter, the sutra describes the merit and importance of reading, reciting, and copying the sutra. This practice also serves to inspire us with the words of the Buddha in his highest teachings, which is only possible if we understand the words. This is why it i good to recite in one’s own languages.

Awakening to the Lotus

Shoju and Shakubuku

Nichiren Shonin spoke of one other practice required of Buddhists: to express compassion and gratitude to our fellow humans; this is propagation of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. There are two forms of propagation, shoju and shakubuku. Shoju means gentle persuasion, and is used to describe the propagation of one who sets a good example. People are naturally drawn to such a person and seek to emulate him or her. However, the means that Nichiren Shonin advocated for his time and for the Declining Age of the Dharma in general is shakubuku, which means to break and subdue. However, this does not mean subduing people, being rude and dogmatic, or breaking violently. Instead, this simply means to speak the truth about the primary effectiveness of the Lotus Sutra and to speak truthfully about the deficiencies of other teachings. This does not mean attacking people with an attitude of insulting their beliefs; Nichiren Shonin says that the correct form of shakubuku is shown in the example of Bodhisattva Never Despise in Chapter Twenty of the Lotus Sutra.

Awakening to the Lotus