Category Archives: Lotus Seeds

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.

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The Delusion of a Separate Self

In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha states that he actually teaches only bodhisattvas. This means that even the voice-hearers who follow the Four Noble Truths or those who contemplate Dependent Origination are not authentic followers of the Buddha until they have the compassionate heart of a bodhisattva. Thus, it is not enough to simply follow the Eightfold Path. One must also follow it with the spirit of compassionate concern for others. The bodhisattvas do not practice only for their own benefit, they practice for the sake of all beings. This is because they are deeply aware of the interdependent nature of all things. That is, they realize that no one is disconnected from the whole. Therefore, the notion of a self-liberation apart from others is just another symptom of the delusion of a separate self.

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Shakyamuni Buddha’s Vision

The Mahayana sutras may not be the literal words of Shakyamuni Buddha, but they are in complete harmony with the Three Seals of the Dharma. Therefore, they are recognized as the Buddha’s own teaching. Through their use of myth and poetry to convey the true spirit of the Buddha’s teachings that lie within the words, thed Mahayana sutras may actually be better guides to the true intention or the historical Buddha than those sutras that only attempt to record actual events and discourses. For this reason, we can trust that the Mahayana sutras, and the Lotus Sutra in particular, are authentic expressions of Shakyamuni Buddha’s vision.

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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.

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The Seal of Nirvana

The seal of Nirvana describes the state of true happiness that comes to those who have extinguished the flames of greed, hatred, and delusion. Once we stop clinging to those things that are unable to provide us with true happiness, we will finally be free to experience the true peace of Nirvana. This peace transcends anything we have ever known or even imagined since such things are characterized by impermanence, selflessness, and unsatisfactoriness.

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The Three Marks

The first two seals – impermanence and selflessness – with the addition of “unsatisfactoriness,” are known as the “Three Marks,” which the Buddha used to describe the real nature of all things. He described things in this way so that his followers could free themselves from attachments which cannot bring real happiness. The logic behind the marks of impermanence, selflessness, and unsatisfactoriness is as follows: All things, which appear and disappear in accordance with the law of cause and effect, are impermanent. If all the things that make up our life are impermanent and depend upon causes and conditions, then none of them should be clung to as the basis of a secure self. In other words, we cannot find eternal life and happiness by depending upon anything that is impermanent – and therefore undependable – including our own body and mind. If everything, including our body and mind, is impermanent and unable to provide the basis for an unchanging and independent self, then nothing can be called a truly satisfactory source of happiness or of eternal life. All things are therefore unsatisfactory.

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Three Seals of the Dharma

It is important to understand that the Mahayana sutras are not meant to be literal records of actual sermons by the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. Nevertheless, they are recognized by Mahayana Buddhists as the “word” of the Buddha. This is because they conform to the “Three Seals or the Dharma.” The Three Seals of the Dharma refer to impermanence, selflessness, and the perfect peace of Nirvana. Traditionally, these three seals summarize the core insight of Shakyamuni Buddha. Any teaching that is consistent with them can be considered an authentic teaching of the Buddha.

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Striving to Become Buddhas

Mahayana Buddhism teaches that the Buddha actually has three bodies: a historical body; an ideal body, which can only be seen by bodhisattvas; and a transcendent universal body, which is ultimate reality itself. In its highest form, Mahayana Buddhism teaches that we all have Buddha-nature and that we should all strive to become Buddhas ourselves.

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Emphasizing the Six Perfections

Mahayana Buddhism emphasizes the “Six Perfections” of the bodhisattva instead of focusing solely on the Eightfold Path. The Six Perfections are generosity, discipline, patience, energy, meditation, aud wisdom. Mahayana also explains the doctrine of Emptiness to deepen our understanding of Dependent Origination so we can break free of our false ideas and harmful obsessions.

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Compassionate Buddhists

In Mahayana Buddhism, compassion for others is considered to be just as important as attaining wisdom. In fact, wisdom and compassion are considered to be inseparable aspects of the Buddha’s awakening, like two sides of the same coin. Mahayana Buddhism insists that the Buddha’s true intention is for us to follow the way of the Bodhisattva, who voluntarily postpones his or her Nirvana in order to help all sentient beings achieve awakening.

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