Category Archives: LS32

Day 12

Day 12 concludes Chapter 12, The Parable of a Magic City.

Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Tathāgata assented to the requests from the Brahman-heavenly-kings to turn the wheel of the Dharma, offering first the Four Truths:

“The Buddha said, ‘This is suffering. This is the cause of suffering. This is extinction of suffering. This is the Way to extinction of suffering.’

“Then he expounded the teaching of the twelve causes, saying, ‘Ignorance causes predisposition. Predisposition causes consciousness. Consciousness causes name-and-form. Name-and-form causes the six sense organs. The six sense organs cause impression. Impression causes feeling. Feeling causes craving. Craving causes grasping. Grasping causes existence. Existence causes birth. Birth causes aging-and-death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation. When ignorance is eliminated, predisposition is eliminated. When predisposition is eliminated, consciousness is eliminated. When consciousness is eliminated, name-and-form is eliminated. When name-and-form is eliminated, the six sense organs are eliminated. When the six sense organs are eliminated, impression is eliminated. When impression is eliminated, feeling is eliminated. When feeling is eliminated, craving is eliminated. When craving is eliminated, grasping is eliminated. When grasping is eliminated, existence is eliminated. When existence is eliminated, birth is eliminated. When birth is eliminated, aging-and-death, aging-and-death, grief, sorrow, suffering and lamentation are eliminated.’ “

But the sons of the Buddha, the young princes, wanted more than the teaching for Śrāvakas. They renounced the world and became śrāmaṇeras and asked the Buddha: “Expound to us the teaching of Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi! If we hear that teaching, we will study and practice it. World-Honored One! We wish to have the insight of the Tathāgata. You know what we have deep in our minds.”

The Buddha assented but he waited 20,000 kalpas before “he expounded to the four kinds of devotees the sūtra of the Great Vehicle called the ‘Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas.’ ” It took 8,000 kalpas to expound the sutra after which the Buddha entered a quiet room and practiced dhyāna-concentration for 84,000 kalpas.

While the Buddha was in his quiet place, each of the princes taught “six hundred billion nayutas of living beings” the Lotus Sutra. Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Tathāgata explained, “Those living beings were always accompanied by the Bodhisattva[, by whom they were taught,] in their consecutive existences. [In each of their consecutive existences,] they heard the Dharma from him, and understood it by faith. By the merits [they had thus accumulated], they were given a privilege to see four billion Buddhas, that is, four billion World-Honored Ones. They have not yet seen all of them.”

Each of the 16 princes attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi and expounded the Drama in the worlds of the ten quarters.

[T]he sixteenth śrāmaṇera is I, Sakyamuni Buddha. I attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi in this Sahā-World.

And later:

I was one of the sixteen śrāmaṇeras.
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!

Here’s the Parable of the Magic City

Day 11

Day 11 continues Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City.

The entire day is spent with the reaction to the light of Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha’s enlightenment:

The Buddha said to the bhikṣus:

“When Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi, five hundred billion Buddha-worlds in each of the ten quarters quaked in the six ways, and all those worlds, including those intercepted from the brilliant rays of light of the sun and the moon by the neighboring worlds, were illumined [by great rays of light], and the living beings of those worlds were able to see each other for the first time. They said to each other, ‘How did you appear so suddenly?’ “

The Brahman-heavenly-kings of each of the five hundred billion worlds of each of the 10 directions each realize something is up.

Let us go even to the end of one thousand billion worlds,
And find the place from where this light has come.
A Buddha may have appeared somewhere in the universe
In order to save the suffering beings.

Heavenly kings from each of the 10 directions descend on the Well-Composed World of Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha to ask the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dharma:

Most Honorable of Gods and Men!
Turn the wheel of the unsurpassed Dharma,
Beat the drum of the Great Dharma,
Blow the conch-shell horn of the Great Dharma,
Send the rain of the Great Dharma,
And save innumerable living beings!
Devoting ourselves to you, we beg you.
Resound your profound teaching!

And as the Heavenly kings arrive they find Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha’s sixteen sons begging the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dharma.

Day 10

Day 10 concludes Chapter 6, Assurance of Future Buddhahood.

Today Subhūti learned he “will see three hundred billion nayutas of Buddhas, make offerings to them, respect them, honor them, praise them, perform brahma practices, complete the Way of Bodhisattvas, and become a Buddha” called Beautiful-Form in the world Treasure-Born in the kalpa Having-Treasures.

Kātyāyana was assured that after making “offerings to eight hundred thousand millions of Buddhas, attend on them, respect them, and honor them in his future life” and build stupas of the seven treasures for each after their extinction and making offerings to those stupas and then making “the same offerings to two billions of Buddhas,” he will become a Buddha called Jāmbūnada-Gold-Light.

And Maudgalyāyana “will make various offerings to eight thousand Buddhas, respect them, and honor them. After the extinction of each of those Buddhas, he will erect a stūpa-mausoleum a thousand yojanas high, and five hundred yojanas wide and deep. He will make it of the seven treasures: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, shell, agate, pearl and ruby. He will offer flowers, necklaces, incense applicable to the skin, incense powder, incense to burn, canopies, banners and streamers to the stūpa-mausoleum. After that he will make the same offerings to two hundred billions of Buddhas. Then he will become a Buddha called Tamālapattracandana-Fragrance…”

Seven Treasures: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, shell, agate, pearl and ruby
Seven Treasures: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, shell, agate, pearl and ruby

Becoming a Buddha at the time the Lotus Sutra was preached was no mean feat. But no one was left out:

The five hundred disciples of mine
Are powerful and virtuous.
They also shall be assured
Of their future Buddhahood.
They will become Buddhas
In their future lives.

The chapter ends with a teaser for what is to come in Chapter 7, The Parable of the Magic City:

Now I will tell you
About my previous existence
And also about yours.
All of you, listen attentively!

The stage for Chapter 7 is set with a description of how long ago “a countless, limitless, inconceivable, asaṃkhya number of kalpas ago” was. This is the period of time since a Buddha called Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence passed away.

Most important, though:

I remember the extinction of that Buddha
As vividly as if he had passed away just now,
By my unhindered wisdom; I also remember
The Śrāvakas and Bodhisattvas who lived [with him].

Keeping in mind that teaser “about my previous existence,” we learn that before Great-Universal-Wisdom-Excellence Buddha attained Anuttara-samyak-saṃbodhi he had sixteen sons.

And so Day 10 ends, pregnant with speculation as to what’s to come.

Day 9

Day 9 covers Chapter 5, The Simile of Herbs, and the start of Chapter 6, Assurace of Future Buddhahood.

The self-worth doubts mentioned yesterday illustrate one illusion that keeps me from appreciating my equality. The Buddha Dharma, like the rain in the Simile of Herbs, is uniform and indiscriminate. It falls on everything and everyone.

The various teachings I expound are of the same content, of the same taste.

But each of us is at a differing stage of enlightenment, and as a result:

They obtained different flowers and fruits although they grew on the same ground and received water from the same rain.

And yet the differences are unimportant:

I will expound these teachings [of mine]
With a wonderful voice.
My purpose is
To reveal the
Great Vehicle.

I see all living beings equally.
I have no partiality for them.
There is not ‘this one’ or ‘that one’ to me.
I transcend love and hatred.

I am attached to nothing.
I am hindered by nothing.
I always expound the Dharma
To all living beings equally.
I expound the Dharma to many
In the same way as to one.

I always expound the Dharma.
I do nothing else.
I am not tired of expounding the Dharma
While I go or come or sit or stand.
I expound the Dharma to all living beings
Just as the rain waters all the earth.

And again:

As previously stated, Kāśyapa,
I expound the Dharma
And lead human flowers
[To the fruits of Buddhahood]
Just as the large cloud waters all flowers
By a rain of the same taste
And causes them to bear their fruits.

Kāśyapa, know this!
I reveal the enlightenment of the Buddha
With various stories of previous lives,
With various parables and similes,
That is, with various expedients.
All the other Buddhas do the same.

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.”