The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby dsaly1969 » Wed Sep 12, 2012 12:09 am

I tend to make a practice of developing summaries of what I believe and practice. I present this draft here - open to constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement - as a Socratic form of clarifying and developing new understandings...


I am a philosophical naturalist and skeptic with a corresponding interpretation of Buddhadharma. I practice Buddhism in the inclusive and egalitarian humanistic “Ekayana” spirit of the Lotus Sutra.

The Lotus Sutra uses parables and metaphors to positively express the “Truth of Impermanence” found in the Buddhist teachings. Instead of a reductionist view, it is presented as an interdependent “Oneness” - our Buddha-nature – empty of “separate” self. The Lotus Sutra teaches the importance of acknowledging our own Buddha-nature and the Buddha-nature in others. It is awareness and gratitude for this interdependence which enables us to enjoy absolute happiness and to act with boundless compassion. The Lotus Sutra is therefore a teaching which profoundly affirms the realities of daily life, and which naturally encourages an active engagement with others and with the whole of human society. The Lotus Sutra most clearly shows Buddhism as a powerful, life-affirming, egalitarian and humanistic teaching.

"Buddhist humanism” is a philosophical perspective that reflects the core spirit of the Lotus Sutra, one founded on faith in the inherent dignity of human beings and profound confidence in people's capacity for positive transformation.

From the perspective of Buddhist humanism it is human beings themselves, rather than a higher power, who possess the ultimate wisdom about their condition. This view regards the individual as the pivotal force of change within the interdependent network of phenomena that comprises life. A fundamental change in the life of an individual, in other words, will affect the entire web of life.

One of the distinguishing features of Buddhist humanism is this consciousness of and respect for the interdependence and interrelatedness of all life. While Buddhist humanism focuses on the human being, it does not polarize human beings and the environment or other forms of life. Rather it seeks to create human happiness through a harmonization of these interdependent relationships.

The benefits of the wisdom contained in the Lotus Sutra can be realized by even just chanting its title Nam(u)- Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting these words and excerpts from the Lotus Sutra is an expression of gratitude, a purification for the mind, mouth, and body, a gift of service to all beings, and a way to connect with this Truth which allows each individual to tap into the wisdom of their life to reveal their Buddha-nature.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby papaya » Sun Aug 10, 2014 7:50 am

Thank you very much, dsaly 1969, for your well written and well thought out post, The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra. I have yet to see such a concise and insightful presentation of the essentials of the Lotus Sutra.

My own background is that I have degrees in philosophy and education. I was a teacher for 40 years until my retirement to Thailand in 2004. Born in the Unites States, I have lived and taught in Boston, Costa Rica, and San Francisco. Although I practiced my family religion, Catholicism, for the first 45 years of my life, at one time studying for the priesthood, I was interested in Buddhism from an early age, and in 1984 started practicing with a group of Nichiren Buddhists in Boston. I outgrew that group and started practicing on my own in 2004.
As Socrates is my favorite philosopher, and you asked for feedback in the Socratic tradition, I am happy to reply in that spirit.

FIRST,
I completely agree with your description of Buddhism based on the Lotus Sutra as essentially Buddhist Humanism. One of the conclusions I have come to from my study and practice of the Lotus Sutra is that since every human being is, in the depths of his or her being, a buddha, and since all existences are interrelated and interdependent, a human being, once fully awakened to this teaching, has no need for a formal religion. The mind enlightened by the Lotus Sutra is the only creed needed, and the body enlightened by the Lotus Sutra is the only temple required.

It is my reading of the history and writings of Nichiren, that he was persecuted for the simple reason that he preached that according to the Lotus Sutra, no one needs a temple or a priesthood, or any outside guide in order to live a life of complete happiness—enlightenment. The purpose of any organized group of Lotus Sutra Buddhists, therefore, must be solely for helping all human beings arrive at that point where they no longer need the group. When Nichiren said that temples are not necessary, he struck at the heart of the government which depended on temples to organize the people for control and resources. What Nichiren was preaching was tantamount to rebellion. He had to be put down.

SECOND,
I should like to address the question of chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra as a beneficial practice. You clearly state the benefits of this practice. My own experience tells me that indeed such is true. Chanting is an effective and enjoyable practice. However, just what is the title of the Lotus Sutra? Significant scholarship indicates that the original title was The Saddharma Pundakita Sutra (Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra). The title has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Vietnamese, and Sinhala. I am sure that chanting in each and every one of these languages would bring benefit to those who chant it. To me, this means that the effectiveness of chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra is not in the sounds of the words (e.g. Japanese sounds), but in the heart (intent) of the practitioner who chants it. Otherwise, it seems to me that it is magical thinking to believe that only the original title or one of its “official” translations will bring benefits to the one who chants it. In this case, the chant then would be nothing more than an incantation, magic.

I have known the power of chanting for a very long time. As a Catholic seminarian, I chanted in Latin; however, I understood Latin and in fact could carry on a conversation in Latin. I’ve also chanted in Spanish, my second language. But I have no knowledge of Japanese, and therefore now chant the Lotus Sutra in English, not Japanese. Expression of intent functions best when we understand that expression in our heart.

In view of the above, I should like to suggest that the community of those who practice Lotus Sutra Buddhism in the United States and other English-speaking countries set about to find an appropriate translation of the title in English. At this stage of the development of Nichiren’s practice in the United States, it seems somewhat lax that so many non-Japanese-speaking practitioners are chanting the title in Japanese, even though the Lotus Sutra is available in English. Of course, in keeping with the spirit of the Lotus Sutra, each follower could come up with his or her own translation. I myself have several.

THIRD
The lotus flower itself does not appear as a teaching device in the Lotus Sutra. I believe its prominent appearance in the title is itself a device to indicate the fundamental teaching of the Lotus Sutra. As you indicated, the Lotus Sutra uses parables and metaphors to express its fundamental truths. Thus it makes sense that the title ascribed to it would be a metaphor of the Sutra itself.

There’s a story in Zen Buddhism called, in English, the Flower Sermon. In the sermon, Shakyamuni gives a wordless sermon to his disciples by holding up a white flower. No one in the audience understands the Flower Sermon except Mahākāśyapa, who smiles. Within Zen, the Flower Sermon communicates the ineffable nature of tathātā (suchness) and Mahākāśyapa's smile signifies the direct transmission of wisdom without words. I like to think that the title of the Lotus Sutra was given to suggest that the whole sutra is a silent teaching, a teaching hidden by the language of the spirit: icons, symbols, parables, and metaphors. The English title of this sutra, I believe, should be interpreted rather than literally translated. The title in English should feature a symbol familiar to the English-speaking world. One that occurs to me is ground as in the expression, Buddha Permanent, Ground of all Reality Impermanent.

I’ll close with this thought. In his Introduction to his English translation of the Lotus Sutra, Burton Watson says that although the Lotus Sutra many times refers to the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, “the reader may be forgiven if he comes away from the work wondering just which of the chapters that make it up was meant to be the Lotus Sutra itself.” Then he quotes, approvingly, a scholar who described the text as “a discourse that is never delivered, ...a lengthy preface without a book.”

Perhaps the truth is that the message of the Lotus Sutra lies in the title itself, that, in fact, the sutra proper is the preface--to the title!
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby Queequeg » Mon Aug 11, 2014 3:30 am

Hello Dsaly,

dsaly1969 wrote:The Lotus Sutra uses parables and metaphors to positively express the “Truth of Impermanence” found in the Buddhist teachings.


Could you support your statement with examples from the Sutra? That's not the first message I draw from the Lotus Sutra so I'm curious about how you came to that.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby Queequeg » Mon Aug 11, 2014 4:54 am

papaya wrote:a human being, once fully awakened to this teaching, has no need for a formal religion.


I think you might be interpreting Buddhism through the lens of Herman Hesse.

A fully awakened one is the Buddha. Their activity is teaching this teaching to others. In doing so they invariably establish the three jewels. Maybe the Buddha doesn't need "formal religion", but there are many beings who do need it, so the Buddha obliges and establishes the teaching and the community to support its practice and to preserve it so that it may endure in the world for a while.

It is my reading of the history and writings of Nichiren, that he was persecuted for the simple reason that he preached that according to the Lotus Sutra, no one needs a temple or a priesthood, or any outside guide in order to live a life of complete happiness—enlightenment.


Actually, the main reason Nichiren was persecuted was because he would not stop trying to get the rulers to establish the Lotus Sutra as the supreme teaching in all the temples of the land. And, Nichiren definitely taught that the Buddha is the parent, teacher and sovereign of all beings in the Saha world. As those who aspire to enlightenment, we single mindedly seek to see the Buddha, so that we can receive instruction and attain enlightenment.

The lotus flower itself does not appear as a teaching device in the Lotus Sutra. I believe its prominent appearance in the title is itself a device to indicate the fundamental teaching of the Lotus Sutra.


Yes, that is precisely what Zhiyi explained in the Fahua Hsuan-i - Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra - specifically through the five characters that make up the title in Chinese. Nichiren references this work extensively in explaining the Daimoku.

In his Introduction to his English translation of the Lotus Sutra, Burton Watson says that although the Lotus Sutra many times refers to the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, “the reader may be forgiven if he comes away from the work wondering just which of the chapters that make it up was meant to be the Lotus Sutra itself.” Then he quotes, approvingly, a scholar who described the text as “a discourse that is never delivered, ...a lengthy preface without a book.”


Disagree with Watson's whole approach and his suggestion. I would suggest he doesn't get it.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby papaya » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:17 am

First of all, my profound thanks to you, Queequeg, for responding to my post. I should therefore like to respond to each of the five comments you make:

1. The quote about the "Truth of Impermanence" is from dsaly 1969' post, so he would be the one to satisfy your curiosity.

2. I have not read Hermann Hess since I was a young man (I am now 75), so it's hard to understand your reference. Actually, I agree with all that you say. I will point out, however, that when I wrote of not needing a formal religion, I was writing of an enlightened human being, a buddha. I was not referring to the Three Jewels, which I do not consider the establishment of a religion in the Western sense of the word. A teaching, a teacher, and a group do not a religion make. More like a school.

3. My thought was definitely not fully expressed. I believe that the rulers knew full well that if they established the Lotus Sutra as the supreme teaching, it would ultimately lead to the demise of the rulers' money tree. They no doubt knew that the central message of the Lotus Sutra is that all human beings are buddhas in the depth of their being. Now a buddha is beholding to no one. Like all politicians, they were not taking any chances with establishing a doctrine that would ruin the good thing they had going for them.

4. I am not familiar with Zhiyi. Thank you for the reference.

5. Of course I respect your disagreement with Burton Watson's approach; however, I am sure that Mr. Watson is fully capable of defending his positions.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby dude » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:51 am

[/i]Disagree with Watson's whole approach and his suggestion. I would suggest he doesn't get it.


I dunno. I got the same feeling after reading the text of the Lotus Sutra for the first time some years ago; that it was leading up to something but not revealing it. For me, after a lot of study and pondering, it's still not satisfactorily resolved.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby dude » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:51 am

[/i]Disagree with Watson's whole approach and his suggestion. I would suggest he doesn't get it.


I dunno. I got the same feeling after reading the text of the Lotus Sutra for the first time some years ago; that it was leading up to something but not revealing it. For me, after a lot of study and pondering, it's still not satisfactorily resolved.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby rory » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:59 am

there are better translations than Burton Watson, who most certainly doesn't understand the Lotus Sutra, Zhiyi (Chih-I) is the great founder of the Tianai school that is based on the Lotus Sutra. So far I think the best translation is by Senchu Murano, published by the University of Hawai'i Press and Nichiren Shu.

I leave it to Queequeg to explain:)
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby papaya » Mon Aug 11, 2014 8:10 am

I have often heard the sort of criticism voiced here against Watson's translation of the Lotus Sutra. As I recall, the Burton Watson translation was commissioned by the SGI. I would guess that the SGI approved of the translation as a valid interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. In fact, one criticism I once read was that Watson made changes to accommodate certain positions of the SGI. I have been involved in many translation projects, enough to know that (1) a good translation is always an informed interpretation, and (2) no translation can ever capture all the intricacies of the original. I believe one chooses one's translation on many bases, some scholarly and some personal.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby Tatsuo » Mon Aug 11, 2014 6:12 pm

rory wrote:there are better translations than Burton Watson, who most certainly doesn't understand the Lotus Sutra, Zhiyi (Chih-I) is the great founder of the Tianai school that is based on the Lotus Sutra. So far I think the best translation is by Senchu Murano, published by the University of Hawai'i Press and Nichiren Shu.

Can you point out the difference to other translations? I have the Bunno Kato translation and the Kubo/Yuyama Akira Tsugunari translation - in your view, are they inferior to the Senchu Murano translation?
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby rory » Mon Aug 11, 2014 9:55 pm

Tatsuo: neither Japanese nor Chinese are academic languages I've studied, maybe Queequeg could tell you whether the BDK Numata is superior to the Hawai'i press one or Kosei....
you can download for free a digital copy of the Numata translation of the Lotus Sutra. Wonderful.
http://www.bdk.or.jp/bdk/digitaldl.html
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby dude » Tue Aug 12, 2014 12:24 am

Link doesn't work.
Thanks for nothing, rory.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby jaidyncasey » Tue Aug 12, 2014 1:07 am

dude wrote:Link doesn't work.
Thanks for nothing, rory.


I just tried the link Rory provided and it arrived at a page where I had to chose among a selection of additional links. Here is the link for the Lotus Sutra:
http://www.bdk.or.jp/pdf/bdk/digitaldl/dBET_T0262_LotusSutra_2007.pdf
I just used it and can confirm it works. If you continue to have some issues, I would suggest you check your browser settings. :-)

If neither is an option, I can give a different link for you to get it.

:namaste:

EDIT: You can alternatively get it from my Google Drive: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3Pr6R67jIlPOGpFaW5PbmY4UWs/edit?usp=sharing
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 12, 2014 4:35 am

papaya wrote:First of all, my profound thanks to you, Queequeg, for responding to my post.

Thank you!

I will point out, however, that when I wrote of not needing a formal religion, I was writing of an enlightened human being, a buddha. I was not referring to the Three Jewels, which I do not consider the establishment of a religion in the Western sense of the word. A teaching, a teacher, and a group do not a religion make. More like a school.


"Religion" is one of those words that seem to have a set meaning until you start looking in more detail and it all looks like contradictions and nullities.

When people say that Buddhism is not a religion, I'm skeptical. It shares enough features with other social phenomena that are pretty indisputably called religion. To say that its not religion is part of an argument to put it into some other category usually. Semantics. Doesn't get you toward enlightenment so...

I believe that the rulers knew full well that if they established the Lotus Sutra as the supreme teaching, it would ultimately lead to the demise of the rulers' money tree. They no doubt knew that the central message of the Lotus Sutra is that all human beings are buddhas in the depth of their being. Now a buddha is beholding to no one. Like all politicians, they were not taking any chances with establishing a doctrine that would ruin the good thing they had going for them.


Nichiren thought that if the ruler accepts the Lotus Sutra they would enjoy the favor of the protective deities. Nichiren never sought overthrow of the ruler. If anything, he may have wanted to see imperial rule re-established.

I think you may be reading some Marxist analysis as a factor in 13c Japan. It also seems you may be attributing too much religious consciousness to the military junta. As far as I know, they were just trying to hold power in a country where they had only a tentative grasp while fending off military threat from outside. The last thing they needed was some street preacher causing unrest. They junta actually did try to buy Nichiren off by offering him a temple and patronage, but he turned it down because they were not going to take his advice and accept the Lotus Sutra, a step that would have caused everyone else to rise up against the junta. This suggests that they had little regard for his actual message, but thought that he could be bought. They just wanted him to stop causing trouble.

I think my biggest problem with what you've posted is this sense that your idea of awakening is like moksa. In the Lotus, awakening, far from being a release is a complete integration with reality. It means responsibility for the well being and happiness of all beings in all times in all places. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:22 am

dude wrote:[/i]Disagree with Watson's whole approach and his suggestion. I would suggest he doesn't get it.


I dunno. I got the same feeling after reading the text of the Lotus Sutra for the first time some years ago; that it was leading up to something but not revealing it. For me, after a lot of study and pondering, it's still not satisfactorily resolved.


Maybe its because you had an expectation of what it was supposed to convey rather than being open to what it actually does say? I think some people pick up Buddhist texts and expect some direct, practical instruction. You do get a direct explanation in the Lotus Sutra, but that's not the teaching so much as the implication of what it says.

Look at chapter 16. Here is the profound teaching of the Lotus Sutra:

Listen carefully to the Tathāgata’s secret and transcendent powers. The devas, humans, and asuras in all the worlds all think that the present Buddha, Śākyamuni, left the palace of the Śākyas, sat on the terrace of enlightenment not far from the city of Gayā, and attained highest, complete enlightenment. However, O sons of a virtuous family, immeasurable, limitless, hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of nayutas of kalpas have passed since I actually attained buddhahood.

“Suppose there were a man who ground five hundreds of thousands myriads of koṭis of nayutas of incalculable great manifold cosmos into particles. While passing through five hundred thousands of myriads of koṭis of nayutas of incalculable lands to the east, he dropped just a single particle; and in this way he continued to drop the particles as he went toward the east, until they were all gone.

“O sons of a virtuous family! What do you think about this? Can all of these worlds be calculated or not? Can one imagine all of these worlds, calculate, and know their number or not?”

Bodhisattva Maitreya and the others together addressed the Buddha, saying: “O Bhagavat! These worlds are immeasurable, limitless, incalculable, and beyond our powers of conception. Even all the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas, with their knowledge free from corruption, are not able to comprehend them, or know their number. Although we abide in the stage of nonretrogression we cannot understand it. O Bhagavat! Such worlds as these are incalculable and limitless.”

Then the Buddha addressed the assembly of the great bodhisattvas, saying: “O sons of a virtuous family! I will now explain it clearly to you. Suppose all these worlds, whether or not a particle was left in them, were reduced to particles, and each particle represented a kalpa. The period of time since I became a buddha would exceed this by hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of nayutas of incalculable kalpas. Since then I have constantly been residing in the sahā world, teaching the Dharma and inspiring sentient beings. I have also been leading and benefiting sentient beings in incalculable hundreds of thousands of myriads of koṭis of nayutas of other worlds.


Huh?

The Earth shaking idea here is going to be lost on you if you are not familiar with the rest of the Buddhist canon. Shakyamuni is not what we have assumed him to be all along. The next chapter goes on:

“O Ajita! Those sentient beings who hear about the great length of the Buddha’s lifespan, and can awaken even a single thought of willing acceptance, will all obtain immeasurable merit. If there are sons and daughters of a good family who, for the sake of highest, complete enlightenment, practice the five perfections of giving (dāna), good conduct (śīla), perseverance (kṣānti), effort (vīrya), and meditation (dhyāna), with the exception of the perfection of wisdom (prajñā), for eighty myriads of koṭis of nayutas of kalpas, their merit is not even a hundredth, a thousandth, a hundred thousandth of a myriad of a koṭi of the former person’s merit. It is so small that it cannot be conceived of through calculation or illustration. If there are sons and daughters of a virtuous family who possess such merit as the former, they will never revert from highest, complete enlightenment...”

“Furthermore, O Ajita, those who hear of the great length of the Buddha’s lifespan and understand the intent of these words will obtain limitless merit that will give rise to the highest wisdom of the Tathāgata. How much more merit will they gain who extensively hear this sutra, move others to listen to it, preserve it, move others to preserve it, copy it, or move others to copy it; and pay homage to the sutra by offering flowers, incense, necklaces, flags, banners, canopies, lamps of scented oil, and ghee! The merit of these people will be immeasurable and limitless. They will be able to achieve omniscience.


And so on. BTW, Zhiyi derives his "Four Depths of Faith and Five Stages of Practice" from this chapter.

The implications of the Buddha's lifespan are profound. Zhiyi's Three Thousand in a Single Thought is an explanation of this profound teaching.

Some suggest that more broadly, the Lotus Sutra itself is, the way it is set up, the teaching when it is read - in that interaction. Gene Reeves, I think, suggests this in an essay in the collection, Buddhist Kaleidoscope. My take is that reading is the teaching sort of in the same way Jackson Pollack's actions in creating his paintings were part of the painting as well as our participation when we look at it. The Sutra is, as it is, the Buddha's awakening directly - not necessarily in any particular narrative sense. When we read it, we're like that kid in Never Ending Story who gets to a point in the book where he reads about himself reading the book, and we enter into the Buddha's own mind.

That's the far out, doobie smoking side of the Lotus Sutra exegesis. But, I'm not just being a stoner in relating this. This is actually what these Lotus philosophers seem to be talking about. If they were alive today, they could probably make livings as art critics and post-post modern philosophers. For those interested in this angle, check out Brook Ziporyn's Being and Ambiguity. Nichiren seems to have taken these sorts of implications seriously and fashioned them into a new approach to practice. A long discussion.

I'm not saying this is the only correct way to read the Lotus. This is how it seems to be read and interpreted in the East Asian Lotus tradition.

Maybe Watson is right and the Lotus Sutra is just an empty vortex. If that's the case, run before you cross the event horizon!
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby dude » Tue Aug 12, 2014 6:02 am

Thank you very much indeed, casey.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby papaya » Tue Aug 12, 2014 8:50 am

"Religion" is one of those words that seem to have a set meaning until you start looking in more detail and it all looks like contradictions and nullities.

The question of the definition of the word religion is indeed a thorny one! I think that whatever religion is or is not, there is such a distinction to be made between informal religion and formal religion. To me, formal religion is organized religion with an agreed upon creed, rites, and rituals. A formal religion has an address and a telephone number! Catholicism is definitely a formal religion; Buddhism is not. Yes, all Buddhists believe in The Way, but also recognize many different ways to get on the Way. Now Christianity is a religion, but it is not, as such, a formal religion because it consists of many sects, each sect being a formal religion with its own creed, rites, and rituals. And my point? The Buddha did not establish a formal religion but rather the fundamentals for forming distinct schools of Buddhism similar to different sects of Christianity. There is The Sangha and then there's "my sangha." Have I cleared anything up or just muddied the waters?
I think my biggest problem with what you've posted is this sense that your idea of awakening is like moksa. In the Lotus, awakening, far from being a release is a complete integration with reality. It means responsibility for the well being and happiness of all beings in all times in all places. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you.

I am not familiar with moksa; however, I completely agree with your description of awakening as per the Lotus Sutra.
I think you may be reading some Marxist analysis as a factor in 13c Japan. It also seems you may be attributing too much religious consciousness to the military junta. As far as I know, they were just trying to hold power in a country where they had only a tentative grasp while fending off military threat from outside. The last thing they needed was some street preacher causing unrest. They junta actually did try to buy Nichiren off by offering him a temple and patronage, but he turned it down because they were not going to take his advice and accept the Lotus Sutra, a step that would have caused everyone else to rise up against the junta. This suggests that they had little regard for his actual message, but thought that he could be bought. They just wanted him to stop causing trouble.

I haven't been suspected of Maxism since my youth! Anyway, what you say supports my view that the whole affair was basically about politics. No politician, or junta, for that matter, wants anyone messing with what they see as their livelihood.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 12, 2014 1:54 pm

papaya wrote:Anyway, what you say supports my view that the whole affair was basically about politics. No politician, or junta, for that matter, wants anyone messing with what they see as their livelihood.


I think you're trying to shift the ground on me. Your argument was that they were specifically afraid of the message of the Lotus Sutra and its implications, because people will wake up or something - I'm not quite sure what your argument was. I'm just saying they didn't care about his message, they just wanted him to shut up. If they understood his message, that would have meant that it was a very different time with very different people.

To employ an analogy, did Pilate know he was sentencing the Son of God to death? No. He was just putting down some guy who was making his administration of Jerusalem more complicated than he thought it needed to be. He didn't care about Jesus' message or what the Jews believed. He had orders from Rome to keep order and that's what he was doing.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby papaya » Tue Aug 12, 2014 3:19 pm

Queequeg wrote:
papaya wrote:Anyway, what you say supports my view that the whole affair was basically about politics. No politician, or junta, for that matter, wants anyone messing with what they see as their livelihood.


I think you're trying to shift the ground on me. Your argument was that they were specifically afraid of the message of the Lotus Sutra and its implications, because people will wake up or something - I'm not quite sure what your argument was. I'm just saying they didn't care about his message, they just wanted him to shut up. If they understood his message, that would have meant that it was a very different time with very different people.

To employ an analogy, did Pilate know he was sentencing the Son of God to death? No. He was just putting down some guy who was making his administration of Jerusalem more complicated than he thought it needed to be. He didn't care about Jesus' message or what the Jews believed. He had orders from Rome to keep order and that's what he was doing.

Sorry, I think you are right about me shifting the ground on you. Re-reading what I wrote and your response, I withdraw what I wrote indicating that the rulers understood Nichiren's message. I accept your position. With obviously better scholarship than mine, you support your position that the rulers did not understand the message but just wanted to get rid of the messenger. Also, I think the analogy you make with the case of Pilate and Jesus rings true and is well presented. The Jewish leaders, on the other hand, understood Jesus' message and how, if accepted, would undermine their power over the Jewish people. It seems to me that Jesus too understood why his death was inevitable. Nichiren's response was quoting an ancient Chinese saying to the affect that if the rulers ignore the warnings of a wise man three times, that wise man should withdraw and speak no more. He imposed a sort of death on himself.
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Re: The Ekayana Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 12, 2014 6:53 pm

Papaya, I can be curt and that's something that is a work in progress. As you may well know, there is a lot of confusion about the Lotus Sutra and its message, as well as Nichiren and his story. Because of interpretation, by you me and everyone else, the message is diluted and lost. I try to keep things tightly grounded in the primary sources and verifiable historical facts as much as possible in order to avoid this. I react to the injection of speculation strongly - even though I do it sometimes - I usually try to preface speculation with the caveat that its my speculation. You are gracious in your patience and tolerance of me.

I owe you an expansion on my comments on moksa - that's the old Brahmanical idea of liberation that predated the Buddha. The idea was that by bringing the cycle of birth and death to an end, one could forever be released from the web of causes and effects and their attendant suffering. At the time of the Buddha, it appears that people attempted to realize this through various philosophical views and ascetic practices. To a certain extent, early Buddhism may have incorporated the ideas surrounding moksa, particularly as the Buddha would refuse to answer questions about what happens after Nirvana. Nirvana became something that transcended this world, and people seem to have sought escape through the liberation - the complete unbinding - of the arhat. Mahayana it seems tried to ameliorate this by proposing the bodhisattva who puts off their final liberation indefinitely to remain entangled in the web of cause and effect in order to save beings caught in it. I think the Lotus brings the teaching full circle in fully identifying samsara and nirvana by explaining that the Buddha is eternal and ever-present, perpetually carrying out his enlightening activities. I took your posts as suggesting that the goal of Buddhist practice is to transcend the causes and conditions of this world - like the comparison of Buddha dharma as a raft to be abandoned once one is across. Taking that analogy to explain my argument - in the case of the Lotus Sutra, upon successfully crossing, one becomes a guide or ferryman, remaining on the river until all beings are across, crafting boats and rafts as needed, but ultimately trying to teach everyone to craft boats for themselves and for others - so that everyone becomes a ferryman or guide. In the end, we'll all ply the river effortlessly, going here and there as needed.
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