Category Archives: LS32

Day 8

Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and the second volume of the Lotus Sutra.

As I mentioned yesterday, I have affinity for the “elders of the Samgha” who are explaining to the Buddha why they did not feel worthy of the greatest treasure.

The elders tell the parable of the boy who ran away and the rich father who, after the two were reunited, attempted to give the boy the treasure that was his inheritance. The boy was frightened. The father realized his son was “too base and mean” and devised an expedient plan in which he hired the son for day labor and the son grew eventually to realize that he was worthy of taking over control of the father’s treasure.

What resonates with me is the lack of self-worth of the son. He does not recognize that he is himself the son of a rich man. He settled for a day’s pay.

World-Honored One! We once had many troubles in the world of birth and death because of the three kinds of sufferings. We were so distracted and so ignorant that we clung to the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle. At that time you caused us to think over all things and to clear away the dirt of fruitless discussions about them. We made strenuous efforts according to the teachings [of the Lesser Vehicle] and attained Nirvāṇa as a day’s pay. Having attained it, we had great joy, and felt satisfied [with the attainment of it]. We said, ‘We have obtained much because we made efforts according to the teachings of the Buddha.’ But when you saw that we clung to mean desires and wished to hear only the teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, you left us alone. You did not tell us that we had the treasure-store, that is, the insight of the Tathāgata. You expounded the wisdom of the Buddha[, that is, the Great Vehicle] with expedients, but we did not aspire for that vehicle because, when we had obtained the day’s pay of Nirvāṇa from the Buddha, we thought that we had already obtained enough.”

Or as it is explained in the gathas:

The rich man knew
That his son was base and mean.
Therefore, he made him nobler
With expedients,
And then gave him
All his treasures.

A day laborer no more.

Day 7

Day 7 concludes Chapter 3, A Parable.

(The Buddha said to Śāriputra:)
I am like the father.
I am the Saint of Saints.
I am the father of the world.

All living beings are my children.
They are deeply attached
To the pleasures of the world.
They have no wisdom.

The triple world is not peaceful.
It is like the burning house.
It is full of sufferings.
It is dreadful.

There are always the sufferings
Of birth, old age, disease and death.
They are like flames
Raging endlessly.

I have already left
The burning house of the triple world.
I am tranquil and peaceful
In a bower in a forest.

This triple world
Is my property.
All living beings therein
Are my children.

When the Buddha later explains to Śāriputra the merits of the One Vehicle it is hard not to see one of those late-night car commercials:

This vehicle is
The purest and most wonderful.
This is unsurpassed by any other vehicle
In all the worlds.
This vehicle is approved with joy by the Buddhas.
All living beings should extol it.
They should make offerings to it,
And bow to it.

The powers, emancipations, dhyāna-concentrations, wisdom,
And all the other merits [of the Buddhas],
Many hundreds of thousands of millions in number,
Are loaded in this vehicle.

But no car salesman was ever as compassionate as the Buddha:

I am the King of the Dharma.
I expound the Dharma without hindrance.
I appeared in this world
In order to give peace to all living beings.

In reading today, I was struck by the impact of slander. It doesn’t just affect the individual:

Those who do not believe this sūtra
But slander it,
Will destroy the seeds of Buddhahood
Of all living beings of the world.

The litany of “Will be punished like this” that follows hardly seems sufficient.

Day 7 finishes with a short introduction of Chapter 4, Unerstanding by Faith.

Something in the plight of the “elders of the Samgha” resonates with me:

You have been expounding the Dharma for a long time. We have been in your congregation all the while. We were already tired [when we heard of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi]. Therefore, we just cherished the truth that nothing is substantial, the truth that nothing is different from any other thing, and the truth that nothing more is to be sought. We did not wish to perform the Bodhisattva practices, that is, to purify the world of the Buddha and to lead all living beings [to Buddhahood] by displaying supernatural powers because you had already led us out of the triple world and caused us to attain Nirvāṇa. Neither did we wish at all to attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi, which you were teaching to Bodhisattvas, because we were already too old and decrepit to do so. But now we are very glad to hear that you have assured a Śrāvaka of his future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. We have the greatest joy that we have ever had. We have never expected to hear such a rare teaching all of a sudden. How glad we are! We have obtained great benefits. We have obtained innumerable treasures although we did not seek them.

Sometimes it is the treasures we do not seek that are the most valuable.

Day 6

Day 6 continues with Chapter III, with the introduction of the Parable of the Burning House.

Thereupon the Buddha said to Śāriputra: “Did I not tell you, ‘The Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, expound the Dharma with expedients, that is, with various stories of previous lives, with various parables, with various similes, and with various discourses only for the purpose of causing all living beings to attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi’? All these teachings of the Buddhas are for the purpose of teaching Bodhisattvas. Śāriputra! Now I will explain this with a parable. Those who have wisdom will be able to understand the reason if they hear the following parable.

The ignorance of the children and their willfulness is what strikes me with today’s reading.

[The father] warned them with these good words out of his compassion towards them, but they were too much engrossed in playing to hear the words of their father. They were not frightened or afraid. They did not wish to come out. They did not know what a fire was, what a house was, and what they would lose. They ran about happily. They only glanced at their father occasionally.

And after the father succeeds in enticing the children out of the burning house with promises of toys, they respond like spoiled brats:

They said to their father, ‘Father! Give us the toys! Give us the sheep-carts, deer-carts, and bullock-carts you promised us!’

As a father of a son (and happy I did not have a daughter) I struggled with the real-world dilemma of allowing my son the freedom to explore and grow while attempting to maintain a safety fence around the perimeter of that freedom. My compassion is not as great as the Buddha’s. If my son whined for a reward after nearly dying in flames, I would have withheld that reward.

My spiritual father, the Buddha, is far more compassionate:

I am the father of the world. I eliminated fear, despondency, grief, ignorance and darkness. I obtained immeasurable insight, powers and fearlessness. I have great supernatural powers, the power of wisdom, the pāramitā of expedients, the pāramitā of wisdom, great compassion, and great loving-kindness. I am not tired of seeking good things or of benefiting all living beings. I have appeared in the triple world, which can be likened to the rotten and burning house, in order to save all living beings from the fires of birth, old age, disease, death, grief, sorrow, suffering, lamentation, stupidity, darkness, and the three poisons, to teach all living beings, and to cause them to attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. I see that all living beings are burned by the fires of birth, old age, disease, death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation. They undergo various sufferings because they have the five desires and the desire for gain. Because they have attachments and pursuits, they have many sufferings in their present existence, and will suffer in hell or in the world of animals or in the world of hungry spirits in their future lives. Even when they are reborn in heaven or in the world of humans, they will still have many sufferings such as poverty or parting from their beloved ones or meeting with those whom they hate. Notwithstanding all this, however, they are playing joyfully. They are not conscious of the sufferings. They are not frightened at the sufferings or afraid of them. They do not dislike them or try to get rid of them. They are running about this burning house of the triple world, and do not mind even when they undergo great sufferings.[’]

“Śāriputra! Seeing all this, I [also] thought, ‘I am the father of all living beings. I will eliminate their sufferings, give them the pleasure of the immeasurable wisdom of the Buddha, and cause them to enjoy it.’

“Śāriputra! I also thought, ‘If I extol my insight, powers, and fearlessness in the presence of those living beings only by my supernatural powers and by the power of my wisdom, that is to say, without any expedient, they will not be saved because they have not yet been saved from birth, old age, disease, death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation, but are burning up in the burning house of the triple world. How can they understand the wisdom of the Buddha?’

“Śāriputra! The rich man did not save his children by his muscular power although he was strong enough. He saved them from the burning house with a skilful expedient and later gave them each a large cart of treasures. “In the same manner, I save all living beings from the burning house of the triple world, not by my powers or fearlessness, but with a skillful expedient.”

Day 5

Day 5 begins Chapter 3, A Parable.

Sariputra feels like dancing for joy at the news that sravakas like himself will be able to attain Buddhahood.

“World-Honored One! I reproached myself day and night [after I saw that the Bodhisattvas were assured of their future Buddhahood]. Now I have heard from you the Dharma that I had never heard before. I have removed all my doubts. I am now calm and peaceful in body and mind. Today I have realized that I am your son, that I was born from your mouth, that I was born in [the world of] the Dharma, and that I have obtained the Dharma of the Buddha.”

And in gathas:

I hear your gentle voice.
Your voice is deep and wonderful.
You expound the Pure Dharma.
My heart is filled with great joy.
All my doubts are gone.
I have obtained true wisdom.

I shall become a Buddha without fail.
I shall be respected by gods and men.
I will turn the wheel of the unsurpassed Dharma,
And teach Bodhisattvas.

Now Sariputra isn’t the only one who feels like dancing at the news:

At that time the great multitude included bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas and upāsikās, that is, the four kinds of devotees; and gods, dragons, yakṣas, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnaras and mahoragas. When they saw that Śāriputra was assured of his future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi by the Buddha, they danced with great joy. They took off their garments and offered them to the Buddha. Śakra-Devānām-Indra, the Brahman Heavenly-King, and innumerable other gods also offered their wonderful heavenly garments and the heavenly flowers of mandāravas and mahā-mandāravas to the Buddha. The heavenly garments, which had been released from the hands of the gods, whirled in the sky. The gods simultaneously made many thousands of millions of kinds of music in the sky, and caused many heavenly flowers to rain down. They said, “The Buddha turned the first wheel of the Dharma at Vārāṇasī a long time ago. Now he turns the wheel of the unsurpassed and greatest Dharma.”

I’m having fun with the vision of “heavenly garments, which had been released from the hands of the gods, whirl[ing] in the sky” as the aforementioned gods – now sans garments – make music and cause heavenly flowers to rain down on the gathering. Heavenly bodies in the sky, indeed.

The parable from which the chapter takes its name is set up by a question put to the Buddha by Sariputra:

Thereupon Śāriputra said to the Buddha:

“World-Honored One! Now my doubts are gone. You assured me of my future attainment of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi. These twelve hundred people now have freedom of mind. When they had something more to learn, [that is to say, when they had not yet completed their study for Arhatship,] you taught them, saying, ‘My teaching is for the purpose of causing you to emancipate yourselves from birth, old age, disease, and death, and to attain Nirvāṇa.’ The [two thousand] people, including those who have something more to learn and those who have nothing more to learn, also think that they attained Nirvāṇa because they emancipated themselves from such a view as ‘I exist,’ or ‘I shall exist forever,’ or ‘I shall cease to exist.’ But [both the twelve hundred people and the two thousand people] are now quite perplexed because they have heard from you [the Dharma] which they had never heard before. World-Honored One! In order to cause the four kinds of devotees to remove their doubts, explain why you said all this to them!”

I’m ending Day 5 here. It’s possible the Romanized text includes some of the parable, but for my study it makes more sense to break here and continue with the parable in Day 6.

Day 4

Day 4 conludes Chapter 2, Expedients.

There is just so much here but one thing stands out for me, and that is the promise that all Buddhas make:

Know this, Śāriputra!
I once vowed that I would cause
All living beings to become
Exactly as I am.

That old vow of mine
Has now been fulfilled.
I lead all living beings
Into the Way to Buddhahood.

And speaking of future Buddhas:

Every Buddha vows at the outset:
“I will cause all living beings
To attain the same enlightenment
That I attained.”

(See this blog post for discussion of Buddhism’s unique focus.)

The Buddha promises:

Any Śrāvaka or Bodhisattva
Who hears even a gāthā
Of this sūtra which I am to expound
Will undoubtedly become a Buddha.

The Buddha is not stingy:

I attained unsurpassed enlightenment,
The Great Vehicle, the Truth of Equality.
If I lead even a single man
By the Lesser Vehicle,
I shall be accused of stinginess.
It is not good at all to do this.

Day 3

Third day starts Chapter 2, Expedients. Even a novice can see why this is one of two chapters that are considered essential.

In this verse section …

The Saintly Masters, the Lion-like Ones,
Who are expounding
The most wonderful sūtra
With their pure and gentle voices,
And teaching Many billions of Bodhisattvas.
The brahma voices of the Buddhas
Are deep and wonderful,
Causing people to wish to hear them.

… I just love the image of “pure and gentle voices” of Buddhas.

And in this section …

The Dharma cannot be shown.
It is inexplicable by words.
No one can understand it
Except the Buddhas
And the Bodhisattvas
Who are strong in the power of faith.

… the fact that “the power of faith” allows Bodhisattvas to understand the Dharma.

And I love this reaction …

“You asked me three times with enthusiasm. How can I leave the Dharma unexpounded?”

… when Śāriputra won’t take “no” for an answer.

There’s just no way to imagine the level of arrogance when the 5,000 people walk out …

When he had said this, five thousand people among the bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās of this congregation rose from their seats, bowed to the Buddha, and retired because they were so sinful and arrogant that they thought that they had already obtained what they had not yet, and that they had already understood what they had not yet. Because of these faults, they did not stay. The World-Honored One kept silence and did not check them. Thereupon the World-Honored One said to Śāriputra: “Now this congregation has been cleared of twigs and leaves, only sincere people being left.”

The lesson of the chapter …

I expounded the teaching of the Three Vehicles Only as an expedient. All the other World-Honored Ones also Expound the teaching of the One Vehicle [with expedients]. The great multitude present here Shall remove their doubts. The Buddhas do not speak differently. There is only one vehicle, not a second.

… and the value of faith …

“Śāriputra and all of you present here! Understand the Dharma by faith with all your hearts! There is no vehicle other than the One Buddha-Vehicle.”

Day 2

The second day finishes off Chapter 1, Introductory. On Aug. 14 and again on reading today, I noted three things.

First was the explanation of attaining Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi:

To Bodhisattvas, he expounded the teaching of the six pāramitās, a teaching suitable for them, and caused them to attain Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi, that is, to obtain the knowledge of the equality and differences of all things.

Next is the first mention of the full name of the sutra and the magic of timelessness that comes with listening to the sutra:

“At that time there was a Bodhisattva called Wonderful-Light. He had eight hundred disciples. Sun-Moon-Light Buddha emerged from his samādhi, and expounded the sūtra of the Great Vehicle to Wonderful-Light Bodhisattva and others without rising from his seat for sixty small kalpas. It was called the ‘Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas.’ The hearers in the congregation also sat in the same place for sixty small kalpas, and their bodies and minds were motionless. They thought that they had heard the Buddha expounding the Dharma for only a mealtime. None of them felt tired in body or mind.

Finally, the story of Fame Seeking Bodhisattva:

There was a lazy man
Among the disciples
Of Wonderful-Light, the Teacher of the Dharma.
[The lazy man] was attached to fame and gain.

Always seeking fame and gain,
He often visited noble families.
He did not understand what he had recited,
Gave it up, and forgot it.
Because of this,
He was called Fame-Seeking.

But he [later] did many good karmas,
And became able to see innumerable Buddhas.
He made offerings to them,
Followed them, practiced the Great Way,
And performed the six pāramitās.
Now he sees the Lion-Like One of the Śākyas.

He will become a Buddha
In his future life.
He will be called Maitreya.
He will save innumerable living beings.

The Lotus Sutra in 32 Parts

Myoho Renge Kyo Romanized bookcoverIn March I started using the Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Greater New England’s Myoho Renge Kyo Romanized as my morning service.

The book contains a Shindoku reading of the entire Lotus Sutra rendered in Roman characters. As the book explains: “Each day a section from the Sutra is read, so that by the end of 32 days, all 28 chapters of the Lotus Sutra have been chanted.”

The division is based on the Lotus Sutra’s original eight fascicles, which are each divided into four sections, giving 32 total parts.

The book includes words and translations for Shomyo sung at the beginning of services. For my morning service, I read both the Romanized words and the translation followed by the English Invocation and the English translation of the Verses for Opening the Sutra.

That day’s section of the Lotus Sutra follows, after which I read Shoho Jisso Sho. This is included as an example of Nichiren Shonin’s instructions.

After chanting Odaimoku for a period (usually 10 minutes), I read The Difficulty of Retaining the Sutra. This English version of Hotoge includes markings that help give the English translation the traditional beats. (Actually, I’m not able to do this but it’s there for those who want to try.)

The traditional dedication prayer and the Four Great Bodhisattva Vows follow. I conclude by morning service each day by reading the Sanki and Buso Shomyo along with their translations. (The book includes additional Kundoku readings, but I don’t use those.)

According to the calendar maintained by the Meetup Group for the Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Greater New England, the cycle of 32 days began Jan. 1, 2015. I received the book on March 1 and the next 32 day cycle was to begin March 6. To get on schedule I chanted eight sections each day between March 2 and March 5. I have been chanting one section a day ever since.

Lotus Sutra with tabsTwo months ago I purchased the Third Edition of Senchu Murano’s English translation of the Lotus Sutra. I divided the book into 32 parts mirroring the divisions in the Romanized version. Most breaks are easy to locate but I had to guess on a few. Now I read the English version in the afternoon of what I read in the Morning.

Rev. Ryusho Jeffus Shonin writes in his Physician’s Good Medicine: Perhaps our challenge today is to hear the stories again from a more modern perspective. This is an invitation to make the sutra your own, to possess it in your life and use it to tell your own story.

On Aug. 13, I started doing that. The two things I noted from the Day 1 reading of the Introduction:

1. The gods represented:

Śakra-Devānām-Indra was also present. Twenty thousand gods were attending on him. There were also Beautiful-Moon God, Universal-Fragrance God, Treasure-Light God, and the four great heavenly-kings. Ten thousand gods were attending on them. Freedom God and Great-Freedom God were also present. Thirty thousand gods were attending on them. Brahman Heavenly-King who was the lord of the Sahā-World, Great Brahman Śikhin, and Great Brahman Light were also present. Twelve thousand gods were attending on them.

2. Calling upon Mañjuśrī to “Remove our doubts!”:

Mañjuśrī, Son of the Buddha!
Remove our doubts!
The four kinds of devotees
Are looking up with joy at you and me,
Wishing to know why this ray of light is emitted
By the World-Honored One.

Son of the Buddha, answer me!
Remove our doubts and cause us to rejoice!
For what purpose is the Buddha
Emitting this ray of light?

Each day I plan to post the points I noted in the previous cycle and in the current cycle.

Today I was struck by the powers of Bodhisattvas:

They had already obtained dhāraṇīs, turned the irrevocable wheel of the Dharma with eloquence according to the wishes [of all living beings], made offerings to many hundreds of thousands of Buddhas, and planted the roots of virtue under those Buddhas, by whom they had always been praised. They had already trained themselves out of their compassion towards others, entered the Way to the wisdom of the Buddha, obtained great wisdom, and reached the Other Shore so that their fame had already extended over innumerable worlds. They had already saved many hundreds of thousands of living beings.

And by what the congregation saw revealed by the light coming from the Buddha:

The congregation saw from this world the living beings of the six regions of those worlds. They also saw the present Buddhas of those worlds. They also heard the Dharma expounded by those Buddhas. They also saw the bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas and upāsikās of those worlds who had already attained [the various fruits of] enlightenment by their various practices. They also saw the Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas [of those worlds] who were practicing the Way of Bodhisattvas [in various ways] according to the variety of their karmas which they had done in their previous existence, and also according to the variety of their ways of understanding [the Dharma] by faith. They also saw the past Buddhas [of those worlds] who had already entered into Parinirvāṇa. They also saw the stūpas of the seven treasures which had been erected to enshrine the śariras of those Buddhas after their Parinirvāṇa.

Once I complete the current cycle I’ll continue to post each day.

32 Days of the Lotus Sutra

Mornings I use the Nichiren Buddhist Sangha of Greater New England’s Myoho Renge Kyo Romanized, which divides the Lotus Sutra into 32 parts. Each afternoon, I recite the same section of the Lotus Sutra in English, using the Third Edition of Senchu Murano’s English translation of the Lotus Sutra. Here I note what I read each day.

Current Day

  • Day 1 covers the first half of Chapter 1, Introductory
  • Day 2 completes Chapter 1, Introductory.
  • Day 3 covers the first half of Chapter 2, Expedients.
  • Day 4 finishes Chapter 2, Expedients, and completes the First Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.
  • Day 5 begins Chapter 3, A Parable
  • Day 6 continues Chapter 3, A Parable
  • Day 7 concludes Chapter 3, A Parable, and begins Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith.
  • Day 8 concludes Chapter 4, Understanding by Faith, and closes the Second Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.
  • Day 9 covers Chapter 5, The Simile of Herbs, and introduces Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood.
  • Day 10 concludes Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood, and opens Chapter 7, The Parable of a Magic City.
  • Day 11 continues Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City
  • 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.
  • Day 13 covers all of Chapter 8, The Assurance of Future Buddhahood of the Five Hundred Disciples.
  • 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.
  • Day 15 concludes Chapter 10, The Teacher of the Dharma, and opens Chapter 11, Beholding the Stūpa of Treasures.
  • 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.
  • Day 17 covers all of Chapter 12, Devadatta, and opens Chapter 13, Encouragement for Keeping this Sutra.
  • Day 18 concludes Chapter 13, Encouragement for Keeping this Sutra, and begins Chapter 14, Peaceful Practices.
  • Day 19 concludes Chapter 14, Peaceful Practices, and begins Chapter 15, The Appearance of Bodhisattvas from Underground.
  • Day 20 completes Chapter 15, The Appearance of Bodhisattvas from Underground, and concludes the Fifth Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.
  • Day 21 covers all of Chapter 16, The Duration of the Life of the Tathāgata.
  • Day 22 covers all of Chapter 17, The Variety of Merits.
  • Day 23 covers all of Chapter 18, The Merits of a Person Who Rejoices at Hearing This Sutra, and opens Chapter 19, The Merits of the Teacher of the Dharma.
  • Day 24 concludes Chapter 19, The Merits of the Teacher of the Dharma and closes the Sixth Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.
  • Day 25 covers all of Chapter 20, Never-Despising Bodhisattva, and opens Chapter 21, The Supernatural Powers of the Tathāgatas.
  • Day 26 concludes Chapter 21, The Supernatural Powers of the Tathāgatas, includes Chapter 22, Transmission, and introduces Chapter 23, The Previous Life of Medicine-King Bodhisattva.
  • Day 27 concludes Chapter 23, The Previous Life of Medicine-King Bodhisattva.
  • Day 28 covers all of Chapter 24, Wonderful-Voice Bodhisattva, and concludes the Seventh Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.
  • Day 29 covers all of Chapter 25, The Universal Gate of World-Voice-Perceiver Bodhisattva.
  • Day 30 covers all of Chapter 26, Dhāraṇīs
  • Day 31 covers Chapter 27, King Wonderful-Adornment as the Previous Life of a Bodhisattva.
  • Day 32 covers Chapter 28, The Encouragement of Universal-Sage Bodhisattva, closing the Eighth Volume of the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

(For more on what I’m doing and why, see this blog post.)