Category Archives: Physicians Good Medicine

An Invitation to Make the Sutra Your Own

I believe that entering the Lotus Sutra through the stories is what the original authors intended. The Lotus Sutra is not a collection of theories laid out in some formulaic order, yet the theories reveal themselves within the context of the myriad stories. 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.

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Evolution of You

Consider this: The you that you are today is not the you that you were in the past. There are similarities, and yet you are not the same in many important ways.

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Moment to Moment

The Ten Worlds all exist at the same time in each moment. And they are also changing in nature according to our age and circumstances. They are not fixed in any moment and no moment is permanent.

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3,000 Conditions in Each Moment

In other words, the Ten Worlds are all present and within each world is the potential of all Ten Worlds. Those 100 worlds all contain the Ten Suchnesses. And those 1000 worlds and suchnesses are all Void, Temporary and the Middle Way, creating 3,000 conditions in each moment, all present, all connected and all related always.

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The Cycle of Birth and Death in Each Moment

So back to our 80-year-old woman today who carries the memory of the 8-year-old. The 80-year-old has tools available to her today she did not have as an 8-year-old. The 8-year-old had neither the skills nor capacity of the 80-year-old. Think about the Ten Suchnesses. Think about those as an 8-year-old and those as an 80-year-old. There are big differences.

The 8-year-old existed but no longer exists. And yet the 8-year-old has influence today, even though she died a long time ago. She perhaps hasn’t been buried yet, but she is dead. In her place – in her reincarnation, if you will – a multitude of women have come and gone. The reincarnation of self, the cycle of birth and death, continues in each and every moment and continues without end and without interruption.

What is real, and what is not real? This is where the Middle Way comes in. It is all both real and unreal at the same time. Can the 80-year-old woman touch the 8-year-old girl? Yes, at times the 8-year-old girl is perhaps painfully present, and yet where is that 8-year-old girl? She is visible nowhere.

We all have similar experiences, things we have experienced, things we have done at different stages in our lives. We may have regrets. We may have pride. All of those things existed and then are no more. Life is a fluid experience no matter how much we may wish it to be solid and unchanging.

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The True Nature of Our Existence

What our Buddhist practice calls on us to do is to understand the true nature of our existence. This nature is transient, always changing, always dying, and always being reborn in every moment of our lives. We are always changing, never the same. Nothing remains unchanged forever.

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This Moment of Life

Today I make peace with my past. I am not the same person I was 60 years ago, and I’m not the same person I will be a week from today. I am responsible for my actions in this moment, but no longer in control or have power over my actions in the past moment. This moment only allows me to experience the effects of previous causes and decide how I will proceed into the future. In a way, the past does not exist. It doesn’t exist yet we cling to it as if it were life and death, when in fact the past is only death, and the present represents our life.

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Living Life Skillfully in the Middle Way

We are each tasked with making friends with our past selves and past experience and past causes. We are not given the job of passing judgment on the actions of our past selves. This is not our Buddhist practice. Judgment is not really compatible with Buddhism. Instead, we are called upon to live life skillfully in the middle way.

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Metanoia from the Greek simply means to change one’s mind. It also means a spiritual conversion. While penance is associated with it in its more Christian interpretation, that would not be the case and not possible from a purely Buddhist perspective. In our individual lives we have made causes that we regret. If we are to seek forgiveness, it must come from the person impacted by those causes, and not some deity or force outside ourselves. We may even have cause to regret actions we have made against the environment, but again it is there that we should make efforts of repair. Learning to understand how our causes affect not only ourselves but others is part of taking the good medicine and making meaning.

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An Endless Stream of Causes and Effects

One understanding of making meaning of such [past] events is the realization that life is more than random events with no connection backward or forward. Our lives – and this is a fundamental teaching of Buddhism – are an endless stream of causes and effects stemming from past causes and effects and moving forward to future causes and effects. Beginning to understand our present, we make choices as to how we proceed into the future.

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