The Lotus Sutra

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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Will » Wed Jul 14, 2010 8:18 pm

Astus wrote:Maybe I'm missing the correct sources and commentaries (Zhiyi's writings?) but the Lotus Sutra has always been a big question to me. I mean, what is actually so wonderful about it? The text is overloaded with metaphors explaining the same ideas again and again. It is devoid of theoretical and practical explanations and even those few topics it touches are not really the difficult ones or anything unique to this sutra. My knowledge is superficial so I'd love to here people enlightening this subject for me.


This site has not been updated in many years, but it does have some of Zhi-yi's comments:

http://www.tientai.net/lit/hkmg/chapter ... utline.htm
One should refrain from biased judgments and doubting in fathoming the Buddha and the Dharma of the Buddhas. Even though a dharma may be extremely difficult to believe, one should nonetheless maintain faith in it. Nagarjuna
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Astus » Thu Jul 15, 2010 10:06 am

Will wrote:What would you consider a "deeper meaning"? What existing meaning do you glean from the sutra so far?

What did you think of Tao Sheng's commentary?


By deeper meaning I meant for instance an explanation of its scenes if they give any extra information besides the obvious meaning of "the Buddha compassionately teaches according to faculties", "in the end everyone becomes a buddha" and "Buddha's life is immeasurable".

Daosheng's commentary is interesting on its own but it's very short and doesn't write much about most of the chapters.
"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: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Aemilius » Thu Jul 15, 2010 2:28 pm

Astus wrote:
Will wrote:Here is an old commentary by Tao Sheng, which I have not read, but I just may do so.


Thanks, I have the book next to my copy of the Lotus Sutra. I also have a shortish commentary by a Tendai nun and I've looked into Nikkyo Niwano's guide too. Still, while I understand its popularity as it's full of big colourful scenes, the "deeper meaning" eludes me.


The deeper meaning is that it has magical properties. You have to approach it differently. Make a wish, perhaps write it on a paper, with a date, and then bow to the Scripture every morning ( or every evening if that suits better) and offer flowers to the Sutra when you feel like it. You can also copy the sutra, or a chapter from it, with your own hand, and so on...
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Astus » Thu Jul 15, 2010 4:21 pm

Aemilius wrote:The deeper meaning is that it has magical properties. You have to approach it differently. Make a wish, perhaps write it on a paper, with a date, and then bow to the Scripture every morning ( or every evening if that suits better) and offer flowers to the Sutra when you feel like it. You can also copy the sutra, or a chapter from it, with your own hand, and so on...


Look into the final chapter of the Vimalakirti Sutra.

Vimalakirti Sutra wrote:This King Ratnacchattra honored the Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja and his retinue with many excellent offerings during five short aeons. At the end of this time, the King Ratnacchattra said to his sons, 'Recognizing that during my reign I have worshiped the Tathagata, in your turn you also should worship him.'

"The thousand princes gave their consent, obeying their father the king, and all together, during another five short aeons, they honored the Tathagata Bhaisajyaraja with all sorts of excellent offerings.

"Among them, there was a prince by the name of Candracchattra, who retired into solitude and thought to himself, 'Is there not another mode of worship, even better and more noble than this?'

"Then, by the supernatural power of the Buddha Bhaisajyaraja, the gods spoke to him from the heavens: 'Good man, the supreme worship is the Dharma-worship.'
"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: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Aemilius » Fri Jul 16, 2010 8:24 am

Truth is that the Lotus sutra has special qualities, you can do it just as a kind of experiment, see ? Ofcourse it is excellent if you can read the Lotus sutra, in its different translations, not forgetting the version done in 1800's. I myself have read it some ten or so times, -I don't know exactly-, every time there have been things in it, that I was quite sure there were not before! It is a very mystical scripture, it seems to contain different ideas every time I read it.
The magical arts exist anyway, even if you would like them to be nonexistent, just being mindful of the holy objects, like sutras, in your house, where you place them and so on, may be enough...
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Anders » Sat Jul 17, 2010 3:28 am

Astus wrote:Maybe I'm missing the correct sources and commentaries (Zhiyi's writings?) but the Lotus Sutra has always been a big question to me. I mean, what is actually so wonderful about it? The text is overloaded with metaphors explaining the same ideas again and again. It is devoid of theoretical and practical explanations and even those few topics it touches are not really the difficult ones or anything unique to this sutra. My knowledge is superficial so I'd love to here people enlightening this subject for me.


Well, you are not alone. Hakuin thought much the same for a very many years until he magically 'got it' one day.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jul 19, 2010 2:36 pm

Shravasti Dhammika tells us that japanese sculptor Unkei copyed three manuscripts of Saddharmapundarika ( Lotus sutra) in 1186. In the colophon of one of these manuscripts he wrote that each evening he tallied up how many words he had written out that day and then bowed to the sutra that many times.
http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/2010/06/monsters-at-gate.html
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Astus » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:25 pm

Aemilius,

Ven. Shengyan did the same.

Getting the Buddha Mind wrote:The first half year of my retreat, I emphasized repentance prostration to undo my heavy karma. First I prostrated through the Lotus Sutra; later, the Avatamsaka Sutra. After reading a character, I would recite a mantra and then prostrate. The mantras were "Na mo fa-hua hui-shang fo p'u-'sa" for the Lotus Sutra, ("Homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the Lotus Assembly") and "Na mo hua-yen hai-hui fo p'u-sa" for the Avatamsaka Sutra. ("Homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ocean of wisdom of the Avatamsaka Sutra.") This I did through the whole 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: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Kyosan » Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:00 pm

Astus wrote:By deeper meaning I meant for instance an explanation of its scenes if they give any extra information besides the obvious meaning of "the Buddha compassionately teaches according to faculties", "in the end everyone becomes a buddha" and "Buddha's life is immeasurable".

Daosheng's commentary is interesting on its own but it's very short and doesn't write much about most of the chapters.

In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha said that only a Buddha can understand the dharma that was revealed to him when he became a Buddha. And since we can not understand this dharma he uses expedient devices to eventually bring us to the point were we will be able to understand.

Maybe this isn't a deeper meaning, but these two things taken together mean that our understanding of Buddhism isn't the final truth. If this is taken to heart, we are able to drop our attachments to the dharma. We tend to see our spiritual attainments as real and attach to them but we won't really understand correctly until we reach Buddhahood. This idea has helped me.
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Thug4lyfe » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:34 am

It's also never a good idea to starting claiming sutra are not authentic when ancient Masters like the 6 Patriarch Huieng have said otherwise.
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Astus » Mon Oct 31, 2011 4:11 pm

Kyosan,

There is no point of a teaching that only buddhas can understand as they have no need of teachings.

Food_Eatah,

Authenticity and quality are not the same.
"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: The Lotus Sutra

Postby cdpatton » Tue Nov 01, 2011 11:43 am

Astus wrote:Maybe I'm missing the correct sources and commentaries (Zhiyi's writings?) but the Lotus Sutra has always been a big question to me. I mean, what is actually so wonderful about it? The text is overloaded with metaphors explaining the same ideas again and again. It is devoid of theoretical and practical explanations and even those few topics it touches are not really the difficult ones or anything unique to this sutra. My knowledge is superficial so I'd love to here people enlightening this subject for me.


I think Sutras were often used as reference texts for giving oral teachings, so they can read like large collections of parables. A teacher could pick and choose one of those stories during a given lecture to use.

Overall, I personally think at the time of its composition, the Saddharma-pundarika was not so much a text for teaching praxis but rather a text advocating the Mahayana and attempting to convert the non-Mahayanists to the Mahayana teaching with the arguments against the three vehicles, recasting the bodhisattvas as the new examplars, etc.
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Astus » Tue Nov 01, 2011 2:52 pm

cdpatton wrote:Overall, I personally think at the time of its composition, the Saddharma-pundarika was not so much a text for teaching praxis but rather a text advocating the Mahayana and attempting to convert the non-Mahayanists to the Mahayana teaching with the arguments against the three vehicles, recasting the bodhisattvas as the new examplars, etc.


Do you know about the magnitude of the Lotus Sutra's success among Indian Mahayana followers? Are there Indian commentaries?
"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: The Lotus Sutra

Postby cdpatton » Wed Nov 02, 2011 2:20 am

Astus wrote:
cdpatton wrote:Overall, I personally think at the time of its composition, the Saddharma-pundarika was not so much a text for teaching praxis but rather a text advocating the Mahayana and attempting to convert the non-Mahayanists to the Mahayana teaching with the arguments against the three vehicles, recasting the bodhisattvas as the new examplars, etc.


Do you know about the magnitude of the Lotus Sutra's success among Indian Mahayana followers? Are there Indian commentaries?


There is a commentary attributed to Vasubandhu that was translated to Chinese (Taisho 1519 & 1520). It's somewhat murky to speculate about what impact a text had in India and Central Asia since there isn't much in the way of historical records. We are mostly left to glean it from bits of internal evidence and cross references in other texts.
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby cdpatton » Wed Nov 02, 2011 2:30 am

cdpatton wrote:
Astus wrote:
cdpatton wrote:Overall, I personally think at the time of its composition, the Saddharma-pundarika was not so much a text for teaching praxis but rather a text advocating the Mahayana and attempting to convert the non-Mahayanists to the Mahayana teaching with the arguments against the three vehicles, recasting the bodhisattvas as the new examplars, etc.


Do you know about the magnitude of the Lotus Sutra's success among Indian Mahayana followers? Are there Indian commentaries?


There is a commentary attributed to Vasubandhu that was translated to Chinese (Taisho 1519 & 1520). It's somewhat murky to speculate about what impact a text had in India and Central Asia since there isn't much in the way of historical records. We are mostly left to glean it from bits of internal evidence and cross references in other texts.


To expand my thought a little more with another example, "only the Buddha and a Buddha ..." teaching I think was a direct attack on the idea that an arhat's liberation was practically equivalent to the Buddha's. The Lotus is saying, not so. Only someone who has tread the bodhisattva path and become a Buddha is equal to the Buddha. When you consider that context, many of these arguments make sense but seem a little strange out of context.
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Kyosan » Wed Nov 02, 2011 9:18 pm

Astus wrote:Kyosan,

There is no point of a teaching that only buddhas can understand as they have no need of teachings.

There is a point because he is telling his disciples and us that our understanding is not the final teaching. Not long after that, in the sutra, Sariputra said that he wasn't sure whether what he had accomplished was the real extinction or not

from Chapter 3 of the Lotus Sutra
The World-honored One, knowing my heart,
Uprooted my heresy and taught me nirvana.
[Thus] having completely freed myself from heretical views
And obtained proof of the Law of the Void,
Then in my mind I said to myself:
'I have attained extinction.'
But now I have perceived
This is not the real extinction.


But now he is certain that he hasn't accomplished the real extinction. Now there is more work for him to do, and he is motivated to pursue the bodhisattva path. It interesting that he is taking what the Buddha said on faith. Sometimes, faith in someone you trust is important.
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Aemilius » Thu Nov 03, 2011 12:00 pm

Kyosan wrote:
Astus wrote:Kyosan,

There is no point of a teaching that only buddhas can understand as they have no need of teachings.

There is a point because he is telling his disciples and us that our understanding is not the final teaching. Not long after that, in the sutra, Sariputra said that he wasn't sure whether what he had accomplished was the real extinction or not


Also in Sutra of the Medicine Buddha Lapis Lazuli Radiance Bhagavan Shakyamuni says to Ananda that this is a special teaching of the buddhas which he ( Ananda) cannot understand and that he must have faith in it.

In Mahayana the case is that there are many teachings, vast & long sutras, which Bhagavan Shakyamuni gets from other Buddhas who have existed during the infinite past, during infinite past kalpas.
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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Noah » Thu Feb 16, 2012 4:27 am

The Lotus Sutra is deep and profound. I can just say my own (very limited) understanding for the benefit of those unsure of the merits of this teaching:

The idea that "Enlightenment" is not an individual endeavor. It can be seen as an "energy" that is at work for the sole propose of producing Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This energy is already at work in every member of the assembly and indeed, every member of any spiritual path. The Buddha is personification of this energy in its perfected form. The Buddha preaching in the Lotus Sutra is less Sakyamuni and more the "principle" of Buddhahood. In this sutra, the Buddha all but abandons skillful means to preach the truth of Ultimate Reality. The parable of the magic city shows this well. The Buddha appears in the world to lead as many as possible to Perfect Enlightenment (Buddhahood) but the path is so long, the disciples so mired in samsara, that he brings them to Nirvana as a safe haven and a place they can understand. From there, the Lotus Sutra is preached and the path continues :)

The Lotus Sutra is almost devoid of traditional "teaching." It is meant to speak to the heart and be read aloud by like minded individuals to inspire the mind and heart of ultimate practice. I love the chapters on The Good Life and the Preacher of the Sutra. It is meant to show us unequivocally that we have the potential to not only be "good" but be Perfect Buddhas! This is not for the doubtful. If you have trouble with it, I suggest you read it with a clear mind and refrain from trying to "work it out." Just FEEL it......the parables......the stupa of Abundant Treasure......the fact that the process of Enlightenment, on a cosmic scale, is something we all are taking part in right now in our practice and, one "day" many millions of "years" from now we may be part of such an assembly, being predicted to Perfect Buddhahood for the good of all sentient beings.

There is much more but it is getting late for me to think about writing out these things, if this thread is active I will keep going. I can see deeply the merit of this sutra and I hope I have shown a little "Golden Light" onto it for now.

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Re: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Astus » Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:01 pm

Noah,

"It can be seen as an "energy" that is at work for the sole propose of producing Buddhas and Bodhisattvas."

Enlightenment is someone personally realising the ultimate nature of phenomena. It is hard to say that a very subjective experience should be imagined as an im/personal and separate energy creating beings.

In this sutra, the Buddha all but abandons skillful means to preach the truth of Ultimate Reality.

What is that "Ultimate Reality" he preaches about? The sutra doesn't really give an answer.

"It is meant to speak to the heart and be read aloud by like minded individuals to inspire the mind and heart of ultimate practice."

No argument here. It is an inspirational text, much like popular entertainment films with a religious concept.

"the fact that the process of Enlightenment, on a cosmic scale, is something we all are taking part in right now in our practice and, one "day" many millions of "years" from now we may be part of such an assembly"

It sounds very much like that one doesn't have to actually do anything but we are all automatically participants in this massive liberating event which we know practically nothing about.
"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: The Lotus Sutra

Postby Noah » Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:01 am

Nice to meet you Astus, we are brothers in the Dharma and please understand- my words may inadequately convey my limited understanding. Thank you for your response and I will try to clarify my meanings

In Chapter 2- "tactfulness" after the unreceptive members of the assembly leave, the Buddha says to Sariputra pointedly: "It is because of his DESIRE for all living beings to apprehend and enter the way of the Buddha-knowledge that the Tathagata appears in the world. This is the SOLE CAUSE."
This shows that without the compassion to teach others, there is no true Buddhahood! Full, Perfect Enlightenment is Buddhahood and is only gained by the 1, Bodhisattva, vehicle. Working toward perfection for the good of others, that is the only way!

When you said- "Enlightenment is someone personally realizing the ultimate nature of phenomena." I believe you are talking about an attainment of personal quality. The Lotus Sutra teaches that there are many levels of attainment here, all working within the 1 vehicle weather the individual knows it or not. The disciples know and profess in the Sutra that their attainment is not equal to that of the Buddha and this is the first deep truth of the Lotus Sutra: what was known before as "Nirvana" and what is alluded to in your sentence as "Enlightenment" is not the end goal but, part of the cosmic [i]process[i] of Buddhahood.

Secondly, the "Ultimate Reality" he is preaching about is spelled out in no uncertain terms as well- it is the fact that the 1 vehicle is the only vehicle. Active compassionate engagement with others in the world is the manifestation of true wisdom and understanding of the truth: the true nature of all is Buddha-nature. This is hard to understand and hard to accept, as shown by the story in the sutra of Bodhisattva Never Direct (Sakyamuni in previous life) that went around saying to all "it is not for me to direct you but, I suggest you take up the Bodhisattva career and become a perfect Buddha" and was given a very rough life for it.

The stage of this sutra is the whole of the cosmos and the cast is no less than ALL sentient beings. The historical Buddha transcends his own current manifestation to teach the second great point of the sutra: all living beings ARE taking part in the appearance of the Buddha in the world, weather they know it or not because they are the CAUSE of the appearance. We, by our practice of the Dharma, are taking an active part in the "playing out" of the Lotus Sutra and, our destiny is, as Never Direct stated, to become perfectly enlightened Buddhas. If we do not practice the Dharma, we still are participants in the sutra as causes for the Buddha's and Bodhisattva's practice :)
It is all happening right now :)
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