The Lotus Sutra—The Most Worshipped Sutra
The Lotus Sutra—The Most Worshipped Sutra
The King of Sutra—The Lotus Sutra
Chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, The Lifespan of the Eternal Buddha, elucidated that Shakamuni Buddha, the historical Buddha, who appeared in India stated: "My good sons, I became Buddha in the very far distant past and it has been countless, millions of nayutas of kalpas since I, in fact, attained Buddhahood. Thus, my lifetime is of infinite asamkhya kalpas, forever existing and immortal." This Chapter also expounded that the Eternal Buddha's true form has been preaching the law beyond time and space for the salvation of mankind. This is an extremely significant point for the people born in the period of the last and decadent Dharma, the Mappo Period.
To some people the word, Buddha, makes reference to Amida Buddha, Yakushi Buddha, Dainichi Buddha, and provisional buddhas of the Eternal Buddha. They differ depending on one's image. But, theLotus Sutra brought an end to this general confusion. The Lotus Sutra clarified that the Eternal Buddha is the original body and all other buddhas are manifestations of the Eternal Buddha. With this clarified, it became apparent that men should follow the true teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
In order for mankind to attain rewards of enlightenment, it is important to sow the seed of Buddhahood. The seed of Buddhahood is the seed that creates merits and virtues of Buddha enlightenment. The seeds of Yakushi Buddha or those of Amida Buddha are not true seeds for Buddhahood because those buddhas are only manifestations of the Eternal Buddha. In other words, they are provisional buddhas and not buddhas that possess the root of eternal life. To summarize, by relying on the primordial eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra (Chapters 15 to 22 in which Shakamuni Buddha revealed that he was the original Eternal Buddha in the primordial land) one could receive the true seed of Buddhahood.
Nichiren Shonin, who appeared in this Mappo Period, preached faithfully the teachings of the
primordial eight chapters of the Lotus Sutras that ordinary people could receive the seed of merits and virtues of Buddhahood by repeated chanting of the Odaimoku, NamuMyohoRengeKyo.
As mentioned above, the Lotus Sutra is the only sutra which gives a chance to everyone to attain Buddhahood. In addition, the Lotus Sutra expounds a path for people of inferior capabilities and common people in the Mappo Period, Also, it elucidated the message of the Eternal Buddha as the true guide. Therefore, the Lotus Sutra transcends all other sutras. Based on such integrated teachings it has continued to be revered by many people from ancient times.
Buddha's message contained in the Lotus Sutra
Shakamuni Buddha's message in the form of similes or parables contained many expressions and descriptions. People living in the 21st century can learn about the hidden messages contained in the following parables:
Within Chapter 1, Introduction of the Lotus Sutra exemplifies strange accounts in succession. First of all, it claimed that the names of people that assembled to hear Shakamuni Buddha's sermon were lined up in a row. The hidden message in this parable is the teachings of the Lotus Sutra were for the salvation of all existences and not only for the buddhas and disciples of Shakamuni Buddha's lifetime, but for all realms.
The Buddha World Shook Everywhere and the Emission of a Ray of Light
Just prior to Shakamuni Buddha's sermon on the Lotus Sutra, the world shook in six different ways. That signified that the assembled peoples' souls trembled with excitement eagerly awaiting to hear Shakamuni Buddha's sermon. It can also be said that the six-sense organs were touched, or it can be described as the sleeping seeds deep within the soul or the soul of Bodhisattva were shaken into motion. In addition, it is elucidated that the Buddha emitted a ray of light from his forehead, one of his characteristic features lighting up eighteen thousand worlds in the eastern direction. This can be considered as Shakamuni Buddha's rationale exposition of principles to reveal vividly that the true teachings were for the salvation of mankind and that people should grasp the true faith.
Chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra, "Expedient Means", elucidated, "Because Shakamuni Buddha and other Buddhas desired to cause all living beings to open their eyes to the wisdom or insight of the Buddha, (Butchiken), they appeared in world to assist the people to gain a pure mind." Butchiken is said to be "The Eyes of the Mind". That is, one should not be self-centered and have a soul that thinks and sees only for one's selfishness. Butchken is having a soul of wisdom that can judge matters from a big-hearted viewpoint.
Shakamuni Buddha's purpose in appearing in the world was to propagate the above mentioned objectives.
The Worms that Grew for Money and Sex
Nissen Shonin, the founder of HBS, stated:"Greed for money and sex is a worn, that is man himself." That is surely true. Human beings may be likened to a greedy slave of money and sex. There are some people that will abuse friendship to accumulate money. There are some people that will go out of their way to gain favors of women they take a fancy to even if they have to break the law. Nissen Shonin is referring to those types of people.
In short, Shakymuni Buddha appeared in the world to awaken mankind to lead a life worthy of living through proper thinking and observation. The Lotus Sutra's elucidated: "To open 'Butchiken' for the salvation of mankind is to have mankind understand `Butchiken' and enter the path of `Butchiken'. However, to the common people that have become prisoners of greed, it is difficult to "open the door to Buddh—wisdom, or to reveal it, or to let all beings know it and to let them enter into it. (Kai—ji—go—nyu)." Thus, Shakamuni Buddha, while preaching the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, used various similes and parables to get people to comprehend the correct way of observing and thinking about things. The following parable is an example:
Three Kinds of Carts and a Burning House
In ancient times, there was a wealthy man living in a town in a certain country. One day, a fire broke out in his residence. The children, however, were oblivious to the fire. The father desperately shouted to his children to get out of the house, but they ignored his call. Out of desperation, the father called out to them claiming there were goat-carts, deer-carts and ox-carts outside. Because such things were just what the children had wanted, they all came wildly dashing out of the burning house and were able to escape death. The father later purchased a cart led by a white ox.
In this parable, the father was Shakamuni Buddha himself. The children represented the people that Shakamuni Buddha had wanted to guide. The burning estate represented the society in which the people lived in. Shakamuni Buddha attempted to guide the people who were suffering from the affliction of the fire to a tranquil world, but the people who had short-sighted souls for only profit, pleasure and comfort ignored Shakamuni Buddha's plea.
Shakamuni Buddha, therefore, invented an expedient way to have people lend their ear to his sermon. The people that left the burning house to go outside are a condition represented by the goats, deer, and oxen. The white oxen represented the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
Unbeknown to the children, various flying creatures lived in the house, such as eagles, crows, owls, magpies and pigeons and from the animal family, such things as snakes, vipers, centipedes, millipedes, wall lizards, raccoons, foxes, and rats. In addition, there was the Kuhanda, (a demon who had a large testicle that deprived people of their virility and Yaksha (a devil) and other evil spirits that were jumping and running around. When the fire broke out hell broke loose. They killed one another, drank blood, and ate the flesh of one another. This exemplified our society.
The birds flying above in the sky represented an arrogant man who attained wealth or a high social status that looked down on the people. The poisonous scorpions and vipers that caused various harm to humans symbolized people that caused trouble.
Snakes symbolized vindictive people. Millipedes exemplified hated people. Pigeons exemplified timid people. Raccoons exemplified crafty persons. Owls that hide in shady spots exemplified crafty behind—the—scenes people. Or like Kuhanda, a metamorphosis, or people living with a soul of envy that are mutually engaged in greed, deception, quarreling and flattering are like the devil, Yaksha. This expedient story attempts to illustrate the ugly and filthy events that take place in this earthly world.
What methods of 'Butchiken' did Shakymuni Buddha use to lead the people possessed with suffering and perplexity to a world of tranquility, and to open the doors to Buddha—wisdom?
The Lotus Sutra is not a recording of Shakamuni Buddha's words, but is constructed like a script of a drama. Moreover, the nature of the script is quite far from reality. It appears like a dream. Chapter 11 of the Lotus Sutra, "The Emergence of the Treasure Tower" begins with an account of a treasure tower rising up out of the earth suspended in air. This event is truly an unrealistic scene not possible in this world.
From this standpoint let us study the message the Buddha elucidated in Chapter 11.
The Sermon About the Assembly in Space
In Chapter 10, `The Teacher of the Law', Shakamuni Buddha stated: "Build a magnificent tower to enshrine the Gohonzon. Within this tower will dwell my entire body and soul. Revere this tower with your soul. Persons holding services for the dead will receive the merits of Buddha's enlightenment", but, in the next chapter, Chapter 11, "The Emergence of the Treasure Tower", a vast tower decorated with gold, silver and seven treasures appears suspended in mid‐space after rising out the earth.
Then, a loud voice from within the tower is heard saying, "Good, good. Shakamuni Buddha you have begun to preach the Way of Bodhisattva—hood that contains the spirit of the Buddha". The Way of Bodhisattva—hood has two aspects. 1) self-protection. 2) benefitting others.
The assembled people, astonished and yet moved by the unexpected happening, clasped their hands. Among them, Taigyosetsu Bodhisattva, representing the attendees asked, "Shakamuni Buddha, why on earth did such a huge treasure tower appear? "
Shakymuni Buddha answered, "Taho Nyorai is in there. He is in there to verify the true teachings of the Lotus Sutra that I am preaching."
Taigyosetsu Bodhisattva further requested:"We would also like to meet Taho Nyorai." Shakamuni Buddha replied, "In order to pray to the figure of Taho Buddha, the other buddhas who are expounding the teachings of the Lotus Sutra throughout the ten directions of the world must be gathered altogether."
At that instance Shakyanuni Buddha emitted a ray of light from between his white brows to send a signal for every Buddha in the ten directions of the world to attend the assembly. Shakamuni Buddha opened the door of the treasure tower with his right hand. There, a figure of Taho Buddha sitting silently was observed.
Upon seeing Shakamuni Buddha, Taho Buddha said, "Good. Shakamuni Buddha I have come to listen to the pleasant sermons of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Please sit here". Taho Buddha shared his seat with Shakamuni Buddha, whereupon Shakamuni Buddha rose into space, entered the treasure tower, and sat alongside Taho Buddha.
The people who saw the scene wished they could rise into space and be permitted to sit near the Buddhas. Shakamuni Buddha perceiving the inner soul of the people through his supernatural power raised the people into space and thereafter transferring the place of the sermon into space, Shakymuni Buddha loudly shouted, "Is there someone that could spread the teachings of the Lotus Sutra far and wide in this earthly world? I will probably die shortly. I desire that the teachings of the Lotus Sutra be eternally spread throughout the world after my death".
After pronouncing this, he further elaborated that to spread the teaching will be very difficult and anyone resigned to widely express and circulate the teachings should personally file a petition. Shakamuni Buddha concluded that those people will enter into the Buddha path. The above is the general gist of Chapter 11. However, what did it want to teach?
Becoming the Treasure Tower by Oneself
In Chapter 10, `The Teacher of the Law', Shakamuni Buddha stated, "A mourning service for my remains is unnecessary. Within the Treasure Tower dwells my entire body and soul." The appearance of the huge Treasure Tower indicates that the Gohonzon of the wonderful Dharma should be enshrined in an altar as Shakamuni Buddha was enshrined in the Treasure Tower.
The Treasure Tower rising from earth and not descending from heaven was indicative that the spirit of the Lotus Sutra lies therein. That is, the faith of the Lotus Sutra is the earth. Its teachings are based on reality. Our society has been polluted by greedy people that caused defilement and sufferings in the world. The Treasure Tower floating in the sky represented the people who have not been polluted by greed and have overcome sufferings.
The Treasure Tower suggests that it was the form of faith based on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. In other words, chanting the Odaimoku, NamuMyohoRengeKyo, which embodies the true body of Buddha's enlightenment and Bodhisattva practices, engages oneself in the faith of the HBS religion. Spreading it to others is sowing the seed of Buddha's enlightenment into the souls of others by doing so, worldly desires possessed by the common people will immediately turn into a Treasure Tower. This represents the people that rose into space through Buddha's magical supernatural power.
Nichren Shonin wrote `A Treatise Revealing the Spiritual Contemplation and the Object of Worship' for the first time in the fifth 500-year period after the death of Shakamuni Buddha. (Kanjin Honzon Sho). In it, he displayed a text mandala of the Gohanzon for the first time. From within the "One Session of the Fine Congreation" (Myoko lchiza), we recite "Homage Formula to the Buddha and Saints" (Namukaon No Mon) to reconfirm and increase our faith in the Gohonzon.