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.