Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

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Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

Postby ananda » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:22 am

My apologies for any ignorance of the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin and I again apologize if this is the wrong part of the forum to post in but I fear if I were to post this in the Nichiren Buddhism section not too many would read my post but this is the part of the forum where interpretations are argued so I think I am alright. I don't want to overpost so I'll wait for a few weeks before I post again

According to Nichiren the Lotus Sutra is the highest teaching of the Buddha and all previous sutras were provisional and were used to prepare for the Lotus Sutra and thus only the Lotus Sutra contains what is needed for a disciple's salvation.

In his letter 'Questions and Answers About Embracing The Lotus Sutra' (Which can be found at this link http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=55&m=0&q= ) he states:
If you think that to proclaim the absolute superiority of the Lotus Sutra is to take too narrow a view, then one would have to conclude that no one in the world was more narrow-minded than Shakyamuni Buddha. I am afraid you are greatly mistaken in this matter. Let me quote from one of the sutras and from the commentary of one school, and see if I can resolve your confusion.
The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra says: “[Because people’s natures and desires are not alike], I preached the Law in various different ways. Preaching the Law in various different ways, I made use of the power of expedient means. But in these more than forty years, I have not yet revealed the truth.”
Hearing this pronouncement, Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas replied in
unison, voicing their understanding that “[as for those living beings who are unable to hear this sutra . . . ] though immeasurable, boundless, inconceivable asamkhya kalpas may pass, they will in the end fail to gain unsurpassed enlightenment.”
The point of this passage is to make clear that, no matter how much one may aspire to the Buddha way by calling upon the name of Amida Buddha, or by embracing the teachings of the Zen school—relying on the sutras of the Flower Garland, Agama, Correct and Equal, and Wisdom periods preached by the Buddha during the previous forty years and more—one will never succeed in attaining supreme enlightenment, even though a countless, limitless, inconceivable number of asamkhya kalpas should pass.
And this is not the only passage of this type. The “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra states, “The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth.” It also says, “[In the Buddha lands of the ten directions] there is only the Law of the one vehicle, there are not two, there are not three.” These passages mean that only this [Lotus] sutra represents the truth.
"Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law? Strengthen your power of faith more than ever." - Nichiren Daishonin
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Re: Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:16 pm

Many other sutras claim to be the ultimate and final teaching of the Buddha. In the end it is one's personal choice which text one should take the highest of all, as the source of distinguishing the true from the provisional. There is also no rule in Buddhism that one has to take only one sutra above others or that there must be an ultimate teaching. In fact, it is possible to interpret the Lotus Sutra in a way to say that every teaching is a skilful means to conform with sentient beings and there is no such thing as the "one true doctrine".
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

Postby ananda » Mon Jul 25, 2011 2:58 pm

:namaste:
Thank you Astus for responding :smile:
I would like to add so as not to accumulate any negative karma that I post this thread out of a spirit of curiosity and friendly discussion

Now as to your saying that "Many other sutras claim to be the ultimate and final teaching of the Buddha" I post this passage from Nichiren's letter 'Questions and Answers About Embracing the Lotus Sutra' as a response. :

Question: What you have just said may apply to the commentaries of the teachers. But what about the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra that state, “This is the foremost sutra” or “This is the king of sutras”? If one were to go by what you have said, then one would have to reject these pronouncements, which are the words of the Buddha himself. Is this not so?
Answer: Although these earlier sutras may include such statements as “this is the foremost sutra” or “this is the king of sutras,” they are all nevertheless provisional teachings. One should not rely on such pronouncements. The Buddha himself commented on this point when he said, “Rely on sutras that are complete and final and not on those that are not complete and final.”9 And the Great Teacher Miao-lo stated: “Though other sutras may call themselves the king among sutras, there is none that announces itself as foremost among all the sutras preached in the past, now being preached, or to be preached in the future.10 Thus one should understand them according to the principle of ‘combining, excluding, corresponding, and including.’ ”11 This passage of commentary is saying in essence that even if there should be a sutra that calls itself the king of sutras, if it does not also declare itself superior to those preached before it and those to be preached after, then one should know that it is a sutra belonging to the expedient teachings.
It is the way of the sutras preached before the Lotus Sutra to say nothing concerning the sutras that would be preached in the future. Only in the case of the Lotus Sutra, because it is the final and ultimate statement of the Buddha’s teachings, do we find a clear pronouncement that this sutra alone holds the place of absolute superiority “among the sutras I have preached, now preach, and will preach.”
Hence one commentary states, “Only in the Lotus Sutra did the Buddha explain the meaning of his earlier teachings and clarify the true meaning of this present teaching.”12 Thus we may see that, in the Lotus Sutra, the Thus Come One gave definite form both to his true intention and to the methods to be used in teaching and converting living beings.
It is for this reason that T’ien-t’ai stated: “After the Thus Come One attained enlightenment, for forty years and more he did not reveal the truth. With the Lotus Sutra, he for the first time revealed the truth.”13 In other words, for more than forty years after the Thus Come One went out into the world, he did not reveal the true teaching. In the Lotus Sutra, he for the first time revealed the true way that leads to the attainment of Buddhahood.
"Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law? Strengthen your power of faith more than ever." - Nichiren Daishonin
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Re: Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 25, 2011 4:22 pm

You may not be aware of it that Nichiren followed the Tendai chronological order where the Lotus Sutra is said to be preached in the last 8 years of the Buddha's life and then finally he taught the Nirvana Sutra just before his passing. This of course has nothing to do with actual history as we understand it today but a sectarian classification of the teachings made originally in China. Nichiren tried to create a purified Tendai with his own modifications added. Other, non-Tendai based schools provide their own reasons how a different sutra or teaching is superior. Zen - in its radical form - says that relying on an scripture is an inferior view. The Jodo school says that the only way to reach liberation in the final age of Dharma is relying on Amida Buddha's power. The Shingon school differentiates between the exoteric and esoteric teaching, esoteric being superior and definitive. And if you look outside of Japan you find that the distinction between sects is almost non-existent. You should also see how Nichiren was fighting against every other established Buddhist school in order to be recognised and accepted by the ruling class of the country. The Lotus Sutra is similar in spirit to the struggles of Nichiren in the sense how it repeatedly praises itself without much deeper content compared to other more philosophical and meditative texts. This naturally made the Lotus Sutra a good choice for Zhiyi - the original founder of the Tiantai school, known in Japan as Tendai - to use it as the organising principle of the Buddha's teachings and a way of authenticating his own ideas that he projected into the sutra.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

Postby ananda » Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:33 pm

Hmmm I didn't know that, I'll do some more research currently I am reading through the writings of Nichiren and practicing chanting the daimoku Namyohorengekyo
"Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law? Strengthen your power of faith more than ever." - Nichiren Daishonin
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Re: Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

Postby Jikan » Mon Jul 25, 2011 11:34 pm

Hi ananda,

Are you practicing with a particular group, or studying on your own?
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Re: Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

Postby ananda » Tue Jul 26, 2011 12:01 am

Hi Jikan :namaste:
I am not practicing with a particular group currently I am studying on my own.
"Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. no matter what happens. How could this be anything other than the boundless joy of the Law? Strengthen your power of faith more than ever." - Nichiren Daishonin
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Re: Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

Postby LastLegend » Tue Jul 26, 2011 8:34 am

ananda wrote:
The point of this passage is to make clear that, no matter how much one may aspire to the Buddha way by calling upon the name of Amida Buddha, or by embracing the teachings of the Zen school—relying on the sutras of the Flower Garland, Agama, Correct and Equal, and Wisdom periods preached by the Buddha during the previous forty years and more—one will never succeed in attaining supreme enlightenment, even though a countless, limitless, inconceivable number of asamkhya kalpas should pass.
And this is not the only passage of this type. The “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra states, “The World-Honored One has long expounded his doctrines and now must reveal the truth.” It also says, “[In the Buddha lands of the ten directions] there is only the Law of the one vehicle, there are not two, there are not three.” These passages mean that only this [Lotus] sutra represents the truth.[/u]


And here is the explanation:

"And he says to them, � All of you should take no pleasure in dwelling in the burning house of the Three Realms. Do not lust after vulgar and evil forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangible objects. If you attach to them greedily and give rise to love for them you will be burnt. You should quickly escape the Three Realms and obtain the Three Vehicles; the Sound Hearer, Pratyeka Buddha, and Buddha Vehicles. I now give my pledge for this and it shall never be proved false. You need only diligently and vigorously cultivate. The Thus Come One using these expedient means leads all creatures.


In other words, if you don't abandon evil doings such killing, lust, stealing, lieing, and other forms of attachments, you will not succeed whether you practice Pure Land, Chan, or any other forms of meditation. To explain this further, you need to at least cultivate 10 virtuous acts that are opposite to 10 evil acts by karma of body, speech, and mind...body does not kill, steal, sexual misconducts, speech, no lieing, no idle speech, speech that create conflicts, etc, mind-3 poisons.

So those are the basic pre-requisites. Then meditation whether by Chan, Pure Land, or any other form is just the boat to enlightenment.

Naturally when start working on the pre-requisites; we will be more at peace. So that’s why I asked many times on this forum what it means to meditate. If we truly want to achieve peace in our lives and not just a relaxation session, we have to work on those pre-requisites. And meditation will give great results when we also work on pre-requisites at the same time.

In short, the karma of body, speech, and mind is like wood, to cut the fire we have to withdraw this wood.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Did the Lotus Sutra render all previous sutras invalid

Postby Jikan » Tue Jul 26, 2011 1:22 pm

ananda wrote:Hi Jikan :namaste:
I am not practicing with a particular group currently I am studying on my own.


That's fine. I'm happy to hear you're interested in Buddhism generally and this sutra in particular.

The relationship between Tendai thought & practice and the Buddhism of Nichiren is an interesting one. If you want to understand what is really unique about Nichiren's teachings, then you would need to study Tendai.

Since you're flying solo right now, this is a resource that can be helpful. http://www.tendai.eu/82.html
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