Tag Archives: LS04

Day 4

Day 4 finishes Chapter 2, Expedients, and completes the first volume of the Sūtra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month discussed the arrogant bhikṣus and bhikṣunīs who left, we hear the Buddha explain his expedient teachings.

Śāriputra, listen attentively!
The Buddhas, having attained the Dharma,
Expound it to all living beings
By their immeasurable power to employ expedients.

I caused all living beings to rejoice
By telling them stories of previous lives,
Parables, similes and discourses,
That is to say, by employing various expedients
Because I knew their thoughts,
The various teachings they were practicing,
Their desires, their natures,
And the good and evil karmas they have previously done.

The sūtras were composed of prose, gāthās, and geyas.
The contents of them were
Miracles, parables, similes, upadesas,
And stories of the previous lives
Of Buddhas and of their disciples.
The reasons why the sūtras were expounded were also given.

See The Spirit of the Great Vehicle

The Spirit of the Great Vehicle

The teaching of the Lotus Sutra, which leads all beings without exception to Buddhahood, is the most highly exalted manifestation of the spirit of the Great Vehicle. It strives to benefit all living beings and leave behind no exceptions. This fundamental principle is clearly expounded in Chapter 2.

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 4

Day 4 finishes Chapter 2, Expedients, and completes the first volume of the Sūtra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month concluded Chapter 2, Expedients, we return to the start of Day 4’s portion.

Thereupon the World-Honored One, wishing to repeat what he had said, sang in gāthās:
Some bhikṣus and bhikṣunīs
Were arrogant.
Some upāsakās were self-conceited.
Some upāsikās were unfaithful.
Those four kinds of devotees
Were five thousand in number.

They could not see their own faults.
They could not observe all the precepts.
They were reluctant to heal their own wounds.
Those people of little wisdom are gone.
They were the dregs of this congregation.
They were driven away by my powers and virtues.

They had too few merits and virtues
To receive the Dharma.
Now there are only sincere people here.
All twigs and leaves are gone.

See Expedient Words

Expedient Words

[W]ords function only if commonly understood within a given society. If they are clearly understood, they bear objective meanings. This objectivity, however, is not absolute. It depends on conventional practices mutually agreed upon within a particular society. Something acceptable or commonly understood within one society may be neither acceptable nor understood in another society. Words, by themselves, cannot express the truth in full. If someone wants to expound the truth in words, his explanation will naturally have the characteristic of an expedient. The truth of enlightenment is beyond all our normal experience. There are no words to describe it. Therefore it can be expressed only partially, by expedients. Moreover, each expedient can be presented only in a limited form and on a case-by-case basis. (What makes good sense to one person may make no sense at all to somebody else.)

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 4

Day 4 finishes Chapter 2, Expedients, and completes the first volume of the Sūtra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month learned that all Buddhas use expedients, we conclude Chapter 2, Expedients.

[The Buddha said to the great multitude:]

All of you, do not doubt me!
I am the King of the Dharma.
I say to you:
“I will expound the teaching of the One Vehicle
Only to Bodhisattvas.
There is no Śrāvaka among my disciples.”

Śāriputra, other Śrāvakas, and Bodhisattvas!
Know this!
This Wonderful Dharma is
The hidden core of the Buddhas.

The living beings
In the evil world of the five defilements
Are attached to many desires.
They do not seek the enlightenment of the Buddha.

Evil people in the future will doubt the One Vehicle
When they hear it from a Buddha.
They will not believe or receive it.
They will violate the Dharma, and fall into the evil regions.

Extol the teaching of the One Vehicle
In the presence of those who are modest,
Who are pure in heart,
And who are seeking enlightenment of the Buddha!

Śāriputra [and others], know this!
As a rule, the Buddhas expound the Dharma
With billions of expedients as stated above,
According to the capacities of all living beings.

Those who do not study the Dharma
Cannot understand it.
You have already realized
The fact that the Buddhas, the World-Teachers, employ expedients,
According to the capacities of all living beings.
Know that, when you remove your doubts,
And when you have great joy,
You will become Buddhas!
[Here ends] the First Volume of the Sūtra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

See The One Vehicle

The One Vehicle

Notwithstanding the Buddha’s efforts, people failed to realize that the expedients they had been taught were only part of the vast and profound truth attained by their master. Gradually they divided into different schools or sects clustered around a particular teaching which they believed to be the ultimate. During his fifty-year teaching Sakyamuni had employed a wide variety of expedients. His disciples, who scattered far and wide, noticed that they had received different teachings. They began to argue among each other about which teachings and practices were the more correct.

To solve these disputes, Sakyamuni introduced the Lotus Sutra—his ultimate teaching. Its first purpose was to break the attachments his disciples had formed to their own particular ideas. That is, Sakyamuni proclaimed that all he had previously taught were only expedients. They were partial truths, not the whole. They were separate “Vehicles.” Now they must be unified into One Vehicle, the Buddha Vehicle. This concept of the One Vehicle is the central thought of the Lotus Sutra and the chief idea presented in this chapter.

Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

Day 4

Day 4 finishes Chapter 2, Expedients, and completes the first volume of the Sūtra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month learned of Śākyamuni’s decision to expound his wisdom, we learn that all Buddhas do the same.

All the Buddhas in the past, present, and future
Expounded, are expounding, and will expound
In the same manner the Dharma beyond comprehension.
I also will expound it in the same manner.

The Buddhas seldom appear in the worlds.
It is difficult to meet them.
Even when they do appear in the worlds,
They seldom expound the Dharma.

It is difficult to hear the Dharma
Even during innumerable kalpas.
It is also difficult to meet a person
Who listens to the Dharma attentively.
It is as difficult as seeing an udumbara-flower.
This flower, loved by all living beings,
And treasured by gods and men,
Blooms only once in a long time.

Anyone who rejoices at hearing the Dharma
And utters even a single word in praise of it
Should be considered to have already made offerings
To the past, present, and future Buddhas.
Such a person is rarely seen,
More rarely than the udumbara-flower.

See The Universal Truth

The Universal Truth

The Dharma which was attained and taught by Sakyamuni is the Universal Truth or Law, which must be acknowledged by every human being. There is only one Truth. However, so that people could understand it better, Sakyamuni expounded the one Truth in various ways, according to the capacities of his listeners. The varieties in Sakyamuni’s teaching show that the Truth is not rigid; rather it is flexible enough to be presented in different forms, according to the circumstances, despite its oneness. This is the reason Sakyamuni’s numerous sutras can be said to compose one and the same teaching. Unfortunately, sectarians, who did not understand the unity of Truth, began to turn these partial truths against each other and vie with each other for superiority. Their teachings, diverse as they may appear, are still united in the single teaching of the Buddha. The concept of the unification of doctrines is the very core of the teaching of the One Vehicle.

Day 4

Day 4 finishes Chapter 2, Expedients, and completes the first volume of the Sūtra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month witnessed Śākyamuni’s first turning of the wheel of the Dharma, we learn of Śākyamuni’s decision to expound his wisdom.

Śāriputra, know this!
Then I saw many sons of mine,
Thousands of billions in number,
Seeking the enlightenment of the Buddha.
They came to me respectfully.
They had already heard
Expedient teachings
From the past Buddhas.

I thought:
“I appeared in this world
In order to expound my wisdom.
Now is the time to do this.”

Śāriputra, know this!
Men of dull capacity and of little wisdom cannot believe the Dharma.
Those who are attached to the appearances of things are arrogant.
They cannot believe it, either.

I am now joyful and fearless.
I have laid aside all expedient teachings.
l will expound only unsurpassed enlightenment
To Bodhisattvas.

The Bodhisattvas who hear the Dharma
Will be able to remove the mesh of doubts.
The twelve hundred Arhats also
Will become Buddhas.

Śākyamuni’s explanation –

Then I saw many sons of mine,
Thousands of billions in number,
Seeking the enlightenment of the Buddha.

– is a graphic reminder of the love of our spiritual father.

Day 4

Day 4 finishes Chapter 2, Expedients, and completes the first volume of the Sūtra of the Lotus flower of the Wonderful Dharma.

Having last month considered the suggestions of the gods and the past Buddhas of how to teach the Dharma, we witness Śākyamuni’s first turning of the wheel of the Dharma.

Śāriputra, know this!
Hearing the deep, pure, and wonderful voices
Of the Lion-Like Saints,
l joyfully called out, “Namo Buddhaya!”
I thought:
“I appeared in the defiled world.
Just like the other Buddhas,
I will expound the Dharma
According to the capacities of all living beings.”
Having thought this, I went to Varanasi,
And expounded the Dharma to the five bhikṣus
With expedients
Because the state of tranquil extinction of all things
Is inexplicable by words.
That was my first turning
Of the wheel of the Dharma.
Thus the words: Nirvana, Arhat, Dharma,
and Sangha
Came into existence.

I said to them:
“For the past innumerable kalpas
I have been extolling the teaching of Nirvana
In order to eliminate the sufferings of birth and death.”

See today’s blog post, Eclipse Protection.