IN CHAPTER 13, all the bodhisattvas made great vows to spread the teaching of the Lotus Sutra no matter what persecution they might suffer. Agreeing with their pledge and deeply moved by it, the Bodhisattva Manjushri asked the Buddha on behalf of the bodhisattvas: "World-honored One! How are we bodhisattvas to be able to protect, keep, and preach this Law in the evil age to come?" The chapter "A Happy Life" shows how, in answering the question put by the Bodhisattva Manjushri, the Buddha instructed the believers of the Lotus Sutra with painstaking care.
"A Happy Life" means always to maintain a peaceful and happy mind and willingly to practice religious disciplines. So long as a person faces religious persecution with resentment, his mental attitude does not embody the ideal way of a true believer of the Lotus Sutra; whatever misfortune may befall him, he must maintain a peaceful and calm mind for the sake of the Law and must voluntarily practice religious discipline and preach the Law.
Man's mental strength is little short of miraculous. For instance, in a movie we see a man carrying a pack weighing thirty or forty kilograms on his back and climbing a mountain, bathed in perspiration. Viewers of such a film must feel how arduous it is to climb the mountain. Sometimes it takes three or four hours to advance only twenty or thirty meters. Moreover, the climber risks his life with every step. If it grows dark while he is scaling a rocky cliff, he must hang from the rock and sleep in place in subzero temperatures. If a man were obliged to undergo such an ordeal on the orders of his employer, then indeed he could bring a complaint against the employer for infringing his human rights. However, a mountain climber does this voluntarily. Though he certainly feels pain, his mind is peaceful, and his pain even contributes to his pleasure and enjoyment.
In practicing the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, so long as a person forces himself to endure persecution and the scorn of outsiders though filled with anger and resentment, he is a beginner in Buddhist disciplines. A person who has attained the Way can maintain a peaceful and calm mind even while suffering, and can feel joy in the practice itself. Until a person attains such a state of mind, he must take scrupulous care not to be tempted or agitated by the various setbacks in his daily life. The chapter "A Happy Life" teaches us this. The bodhisattvas declare with great ardor their resolution to withstand persecution from outside in the chapter "Exhortation to Hold Firm," while the Buddha, like a father, gently admonishes the bodhisattvas not to yield to inward temptation in the chapter "A Happy Life." In a sense, these two chapters state the contrast between a kindly father who knows the world and a son who is young and high-spirited.
Before proceeding to the central theme of this chapter, we must warn readers not to misunderstand the words "do not consort with" so-and-so, which often appear in this chapter. These words do not mean not to approach or associate with someone. The Buddha, who had made a great vow to save all living beings equally, could not have said such a thing. The true meaning of "do not consort with" so-and-so is that we must not fawn upon others or compromise ourselves in dealing with them through excessive familiarity or from some ulterior motive. Should we be dealing with a king or minister, we must not defer to their station in life in order to curry favor, because there is only one truth, and it applies to kings just the same as to ordinary citizens. On the other hand, if we are too familiar with others, we are liable to forget to draw the line between public and private life. The Buddha warns us of this danger.
The Buddha also warns us not to consort with people whose profession is to kill living beings, such as hunters and fishermen, or with prostitutes. However, this warning is generated by his parental affection and means that, although it is such people whom we must instruct, we must not be influenced by their environment. If we do not read this chapter with such preliminary knowledge, we will be in danger of harboring doubts because it includes many expressions that are open to misunderstanding.
THE FOUR PLEASANT PRACTICES. The Buddha answered Manjushri's question by saying that if any bodhisattva desires to preach this sutra in the evil age to come, he should be steadfast in the "four pleasant practices" (shi anraku-gyo): first, the pleasant practice of the body (shin anraku-gyo); second, the pleasant practice of the mouth (ku anraku-gyo); third, the pleasant practice of the mind (i anraku-gyo); and fourth, the pleasant practice of the vow (seigan anraku-gyo). Thus the Buddha teaches us how to behave, how to speak, what kind of mental attitude to maintain, and how to endeavor to realize our ideal.
The Buddha taught the pleasant practice of the body by dividing it into two parts, a bodhisattva's spheres of action and of intimacy. A bodhisattva's sphere of action means his fundamental attitude as the basis of his personal behavior. A bodhisattva is patient, gentle, and agreeable, and is neither hasty nor overbearing; his mind is unperturbed, and unlike ordinary people, he is not conceited or boastful about his own good works ("he has no laws by which to act") but sees all things in their reality. Nor does he take a partial view of things but acts toward all people with the same compassion, never making a show of it ("nor proceeds along the undivided way"). The Buddha preaches here that this is the fundamental attitude of the bodhisattva.
Next, the Buddha teaches a bodhisattva's sphere of intimacy by dividing it into the following ten parts: First, a bodhisattva is not intimate with men of high position and influence in order to gain some benefit, nor does he compromise his preaching of the Law to them through excessive familiarity with them.
Second, he is not intimate with heretics, composers of worldly literature or poetry, nor with Lokayatas1 and Anti-Lokayatas.2 Thus he is not adversely affected by their impure environment, nor does he compromise the Law. Third, he does not resort to brutal sports, such as boxing and wrestling, nor to the various juggling performances of natas3 and others. Fourth, he does not consort personally with those who kill creatures to make a living, such as butchers, fishermen, and hunters, and he does not develop a callous attitude toward engaging in cruel conduct.
Fifth, he does not consort with bhikshus and bhikshunis who seek the teaching of the small vehicle and are satisfied with their own personal isolation from earthly existence. Moreover, he does not become infected by their selfish ideas, nor develop a tendency to compromise with them in listening to the laws preached by them. If they come to him to hear the Law, he takes the opportunity to preach it, expecting nothing in return. Sixth, when he preaches the Law to women, he does not display an appearance capable of arousing passionate thoughts, and he maintains a correct mental attitude with great strictness. He does not take pleasure in seeing women.
Seventh, he does not become friendly with any hermaphrodite. This means that he needs to take a very prudent attitude when he teaches such a person. Eighth, he does not enter the homes of others alone. If for some reason he must do so, then he thinks single-mindedly of the Buddha. This is the Buddha's admonition to the bodhisattva to go everywhere together with the Buddha. Ninth, if he preaches the Law to women, he does not display his teeth in smiles nor let his breast be seen. Tenth, he takes no pleasure in keeping young pupils and children by his side.
Besides these ten major points, the Buddha admonishes the bodhisattva ever to prefer meditation and seclusion and to cultivate and control his mind.
The matters mentioned above are the sphere of intimacy of a bodhisattva. If he can maintain the bodhisattva's spheres of action and intimacy, his behavior as a bodhisattva is perfect and he can preach the Law with a peaceful mind. The above comprises the pleasant practice of the body.
THE PLEASANT PRACTICE OF THE MOUTH. Following are the Buddha's admonitions concerning one's speech. First, the bodhisattva takes no pleasure in telling of the errors of other people or of the sutras; second, he does not despise other preachers; third, he does not speak of the good and evil, the merits and demerits of other people, nor does he single out shravakas by name and broadcast their errors and sins; fourth, in the same way, he does not praise their virtues and he does not beget a jealous mind.
If he maintains a cheerful and open mind in this way, those who hear the teaching will offer him no opposition. To those who ask difficult questions, he does not answer with the teachings of the small vehicle but only with the Great Vehicle, and he explains the Law to them so that they may obtain the Buddha's perfect knowledge. This is the pleasant practice of the mouth.
THE PLEASANT PRACTICE OF THE MIND. Following are the eight admonitions of the Buddha with regard to the mental attitude of the bodhisattva.
First, he does not harbor an envious or deceitful mind. Second, he does not slight or abuse other learners of the Buddha Way even if they are beginners, nor does he seek out their excesses and shortcomings. Third, if there are people who seek the bodhisattva way, he does not distress them, causing them to feel doubt and regret, nor does he say discouraging things to them. Fourth, he should not indulge in discussions about the teachings or engage in dispute but should devote himself to discussion of the practice to save all living beings. Fifth, he should think of saving all living beings from their sufferings through his great compassion. Sixth, he should think of the buddhas as benevolent fathers. Seventh, he should think of the bodhisattvas as his great teachers. Eighth, he should preach the Law equally to all living beings. This is the pleasant practice of the mind.
THE PLEASANT PRACTICE OF THE VOW. In the last ages to come, when the Law is about to perish, the bodhisattva who keeps this Law Flower Sutra should beget a spirit of great benevolence toward both laymen and monks, and should have a spirit of great compassion for those who are not yet bodhisattvas but are satisfied with their selfish idea of saving only themselves. He also should decide that, though those people have not inquired for, nor believed in, nor understood this sutra, when he has attained Perfect Enlightenment through his transcendental powers and powers of wisdom he will lead them to abide in this Law. The pleasant practice of the vow means to have a spirit of great compassion and to raise the mind of vowing to lead all people to the Lotus Sutra and to practice its spirit.
The bodhisattva who can perfectly accomplish this pleasant practice of the vow will be free from error when he preaches the Law. He will always be worshiped by all the people. The heavenly beings will constantly guard and protect him day and night for the sake of this Law, so that he will be able to cause all his hearers to rejoice.
THE PARABLE OF THE GEM IN THE TOPKNOT. Having preached these four pleasant practices, the World-honored One emphasized the excellence of the teaching of the Lotus Sutra through the following Parable of the Gem in the Topknot, the sixth of the seven parables in the Lotus Sutra.
"It is like a powerful holy wheel-rolling king who desires by force to conquer other domains. When minor kings do not obey his command, the wheel-rolling king calls up his various armies and goes to punish them. The king, seeing his soldiers distinguish themselves in battle, is greatly pleased and, according to their merit, bestows rewards, giving fields, houses, villages, or cities, or giving garments or personal ornaments, or giving all kinds of treasures. Only the crown jewel in his topknot he gives to none because only on the head of a king may this jewel be worn, and if he gave it away, all the king's retinue would be astounded. Manjushri! That the Tathagata has not prematurely preached the Lotus Sutra is also like this.
"By his powers of meditation and wisdom he has taken possession of the domain of the Law and rules as king over the triple world. But the Mara kings are unwilling to submit. The Tathagata's wise and holy generals fight against them. With those who distinguish themselves he, too, is pleased, and in the midst of his four hosts preaches the sutras to them, causing them to rejoice, and bestows on them the meditations, the emancipations, the faultless roots and powers, and all the wealth of the Law. In addition, he gives them the city of nirvana, saying that they have attained extinction, and attracts their minds so that they all rejoice; yet he does not preach to them the Law Flower Sutra.
"Manjushri! Just as the wheel-rolling king, seeing his soldiers distinguish themselves, is so extremely pleased that now at last he gives them the marvelous jewel so long worn in his topknot, which may not carelessly be given to anyone, so also is it with the Tathagata. As the great Law-king of the triple world, teaching and converting all the living by the Law, when he sees his wise and holy army fighting various kinds of Maras, and doing so with such great exploits and merits, exterminating the three poisons,4 escaping from the triple world, and breaking through the nets of Maras, then the Tathagata also is greatly pleased and now at last preaches this Law Flower Sutra, which has never before been preached and which is able to cause all the living to reach the Buddha's perfect knowledge, though all the world greatly resents and has difficulty in believing it. Manjushri! This Law Flower Sutra is the foremost teaching of the tatagatas and the most profound of all discourses. I give it to you last of all, just as that powerful king at last gives the brilliant jewel he has guarded for so long."
Then the World-honored One proclaimed this teaching again in verse. Many merits obtained by those who read this sutra are stated in the middle part of the verse section:
"He who reads this sutra
Will be ever free from worry
And free from pain and disease;
His countenance will be fresh and white;
He will not be born poor,
Humble, or ugly.
All living beings will delight to see him
As a longed-for saint;
Will be his servants.
Swords and staves will not be laid on him;
Poison cannot harm him.
If anyone curses him,
That man's mouth will be closed.
Fearlessly he will roam
Like a lion king.
The radiance of his wisdom
Will shine like the sun."
The Buddha comes directly to the point by comparing man's wisdom to sunshine. There is no substance in darkness; there is only a lack of sunshine. If the sun shines in the darkness, the darkness will disappear. If a person realizes the wisdom of the Buddha, then his mental darkness will instantly disappear. We must realize fully that the wisdom of the Buddha is absolute and that it is a law which, in opposing darkness, disperses it.
Lastly, this chapter states that a person who perfectly performs the four pleasant practices and preaches the Lotus Sutra will dream various dreams. We should not belittle this statement because it concerns dreams. Modern psychology clearly recognizes the great importance of dreams. Briefly, a dream is said to be a "memory of the daytime." It is said that our experiences in our waking hours accumulate in our subconscious mind and reappear as dreams when we sleep. When one dreams that he sees a sacred image of the Buddha, it is proof that he has become pure to the depths of his mind, has become compassionate, and always calls on the name of the Buddha.
Even a highly respected person may become delirious because of fever or a nightmare. This is evidence that his subconsciousness is not yet purified. It is to be hoped that we will attain such a mental state that even in our dreams we will see buddhas with golden bodies and, finding ourselves in their midst, will extol the Buddha with our palms joining together.
- A non-Buddhist sect whose members believe in following the ways of the world.
- The opposite of the Lokayatas, being those utterly opposed to the world.
- Dancers, singers, and actors.
- Greed, anger, and delusion.
Copyright © 2009 by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.