At that time the Buddha said to the bodhisattvas and all the great assembly, "Believe and discern, all you good sons, the veracious word of the Tathagata." Again he said to the great assembly, "Believe and discern the veracious word of the Tathagata." And a third time he said to all the great assembly, "Believe and discern the veracious word of the Tathagata."
The Buddha repeated the words "Believe and discern the veracious word of the Tathagata" three times to emphasize how important was the teaching that he was about to expound.
"The veracious word of the Tathagata" means the truth in the most profound depths of his mind; this is the opposite of the "tactful teaching." As shown repeatedly in the teaching of the Law of Appearance in the first half of the Lotus Sutra, the tactful teaching expounds the truth in plain language in various ways, according to the capacity of those listening to the Buddha's teachings. An ordinary person cannot realize the truth without going through this process of tactful teaching. In contrast to this, the veracious word of the Tathagata is the truth as it really is, the unadorned truth.
Why does the Buddha here reveal for the first time "the truth as it really is"? It is partly because he was now confident of his disciples' understanding of the Law and partly because his teachings would not be perfected unless he preached the most profound truth before his extinction.
The Buddha's saying "Believe and discern it" instead of commanding "Believe it" has an important meaning. Shakyamuni Buddha never forced his ideas upon his disciples or other people. He preached the truth as it was and exhorted his listeners, saying, "You, too, behold it." He led them on the way of the truth and coaxed them, saying, "You, too, come to me." His exhortation to "behold the truth" instead of saying only "Believe it" is a very important point. This short phrase of the Buddha speaks for the character of his teachings. His words "Behold it" are equivalent to the "scientific spirit" in today's parlance. The Buddha shows in these few words that if anyone thoroughly views the truth, studies it, and discerns it, he will surely be able to accept it to his satisfaction.
His words "You, too, come to me" include the same important idea. They mean: "Come to me and practice the Law as much as I do. Then you are sure to understand the value of the Law." The Buddha could never have uttered these words unless he had absolute confidence in the Law and the Way.
Because Shakyamuni Buddha was a reasonable person, he did not say even to his leading disciples, "Believe the truth," but said, "Believe and discern it," that is, "Believe it after understanding it." In this emphasis on belief based on understanding, Buddhism differs fundamentally from many other religions.
THE THREE CATEGORIES OF WISDOM, COMPASSION, AND PRACTICE. Then the great host of bodhisattvas, Maitreya at their head, joined their palms together and said to the Buddha, "World-honored One! Be pleased to expound the matter, and we will believingly receive the Buddha's words." Thus they spoke three times, repeating the words, "Be pleased to expound the matter, and we will believingly receive the Buddha's words."
The repetition of these words by the great host of bodhisattvas illustrates their ardent desire to hear the Law and their firm determination to practice it after hearing it. Their determination is shown in their declaring, "We will believingly receive the Buddha's words." They thus express their intention not only to believe the Buddha's words but also to remember them.
Another thing that we must not forget is that, on behalf of the great host of bodhisattvas, the Bodhisattva Maitreya asked the Buddha to expound the teaching. In chapter 1 of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha sent forth from the circle of white hair between his eyebrows a ray of light that illuminated all the lands in the universe. At that time the Bodhisattva Maitreya wondered at this marvel and asked the Bodhisattva Manjushri to explain it. Then, on the basis of his past experience, the Bodhisattva Manjushri predicted, "The World-honored One now intends to preach a very important Law, the truth in the utmost depth of his mind."
From this episode we can judge that Manjushri was the most senior bodhisattva. In chapters 12 and 14 the Bodhisattva Manjushri again requested the Buddha to instruct the host of bodhisattvas. However, from the latter half of chapter 15 onward, the Bodhisattva Maitreya represents the host of bodhisattvas, and the Bodhisattva Manjushri does not appear in the later chapters of the Lotus Sutra. This change is not incidental but has deep significance.
As indicated by the saying "the wisdom of Manjushri," the Bodhisattva Manjushri is regarded as the idealization or personification of the wisdom of the Buddha. Therefore, in the Law of Appearance as the teaching of wisdom, this bodhisattva usually represents the host of bodhisattvas. The Bodhisattva Maitreya, on the other hand, is believed to represent the Buddha's compassion. Therefore, in the Law of Origin as the teaching of compassion, which begins with the latter half of chapter 15, the Bodhisattva Maitreya is the representative of all the bodhisattvas. However, in chapter 28, "Encouragement of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue," the last chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue acts as the representative of the bodhisattvas. This is because Universal Virtue typifies the practice of the Buddha. This bodhisattva is actually regarded as representing the teaching, practice, and attainment of the Buddha, but in the Lotus Sutra he most strongly represents the practice of the Buddha.
The appearance of these three bodhisattvas - Manjushri, who represents the wisdom of the Buddha; Maitreya, who typifies the compassion of the Buddha; and Universal Virtue, who personifies the practice of the Buddha - reflects the organization of the Lotus Sutra itself.
Man needs wisdom before all else in order to become a good person. As is commonly said, "Ignorance is a sin"; evil occurs because man lacks true wisdom. Wisdom here does not mean human knowledge. People may consider a man wise who is familiar with the inner workings of government or industry and who makes a large profit or escapes punishment for wrongdoing through his cleverness. But this is not true wisdom. True wisdom enables man to see the essential qualities of all things in this world and to know the law of causation and of change affecting all phenomena. If man is possessed of such wisdom, he cannot help practicing rightly in everything he does. He cannot do wrong even if he is asked to. He also does not do wrong as the result of being deceived or led into temptation by others. The more people can acquire such wisdom, the brighter, more peaceful, and richer society will become. For this reason, Shakyamuni Buddha taught us that we must acquire true wisdom first of all.
When we have true wisdom, we understand that all things in the world are related and interdependent (the law that all things are devoid of self), and that if we alone are possessed of wisdom or we alone are right, the world as a whole will not become better. Therefore, when we see many people who lack wisdom and therefore depart from the path of righteousness, we feel the urge to save them from such a situation. The spirit of compassion wells up in our hearts.
If we have the spirit of compassion, we cannot help showing it in our actions. We preach the Law to those who do not know it; we return those who have departed from the path of righteousness to its course; we have the wish to protect and instruct those who are assiduous in practicing the Law. When we can perfectly perform the three practices of wisdom, compassion, and practice, the teaching of the Buddha will be perfected in us and this world will become the Pure Land. The teaching of the Lotus Sutra has such a perfected organization. Here is the reason that we cannot grasp the true meaning of the sutra by reading only bits and pieces, skipping here and there.
THE THREEFOLD BODY OF THE BUDDHA. Then the World-honored One, perceiving that the bodhisattvas repeated their request three times, addressed them, saying: "Listen then all of you attentively to the secret, mysterious, and supernaturally pervading power of the Tathagata."
The word "secret" means not something hidden but something so profound that it is difficult to fathom. The boundless power of the Tathagata's entity, which causes everything to live, influences all living beings. There is nothing that can completely obstruct its influence. This power to influence everything freely is what is called the supernaturally pervading power of the Tathagata. "Secret" refers to the entity of the Tathagata, and "supernaturally pervading power" signifies the compassionate working of the Tathagata.
Here the Tathagata is divided into two parts: his entity and his working. The entity of the Tathagata is his original power and the working of the Tathagata the expression of his power. Nothing is achieved satisfactorily unless both original power and expression are complete. Some people are fond of displaying their "expression," that is, their way of working. Some companies and groups even encourage this in their members. However, such ostentatious display of expression never bears valuable fruit in the true sense because their "working" does not come from their real abilities but from their "false," superficial activities. Therefore, their activities soon peter out, just as a shallow well runs dry. At the same time, however substantial one's original power may be, it will not produce any result unless it is attended by expression. An infinite quantity of water underground is of no use in our daily lives unless it gushes out as a spring or we pump it up out of the earth.
The entity of the Tathagata, his power that causes everything to live, is infinite, and the working of the Tathagata, the expression of his power, has perfect freedom. It is clear that the salvation of the Tathagata is absolutely perfect and faultless. Here "Tathagata" (nyorai) does not indicate the historical Buddha but the Eternal Original Buddha. Nyo means shinnyo (tathata), that is, absolute truth, the true form of things, reality. However, an ordinary man cannot understand by his own power of thought what shinnyo actually is. To explain it to him as that which makes all men live does not make a vivid impression but seems vast and abstract.
However, shinnyo can take any form because it is the only thing really existing in this world. In what form can we imagine it when we think of it with our human minds? We cannot help imagining a person with absolute power. When we think that such a person has existed in this world for all time, from the infinite past to the infinite future, and that he causes all of us to live, we feel in a concrete way the warm, compassionate mind of the Buddha. We cannot know what form shinnyo takes in appearing to beings other than men, but for us, it realizes its true power of salvation when it appears in human form.
Shinnyo necessarily takes a human form in appearing in the human world. This personification of shinnyo is called the Tathagata (nyorai), one who has come from tathata (shinnyo). This is why one epithet of the Buddha is "Tathagata." The entity of the Buddha is tathata, and when we consider this as the personification of one who has realized tathata, we see the vivid image of the Buddha as the entity of his compassion, which causes us to live and which leads us in the right direction.
Since ancient times, the Buddha has been said to have a threefold body (tri-kaya, sanjin): the Law-body (dharma-kaya, hosshin), the reward-body (sambhoga-kaya, hojin), and the manifest-body (nirmana-kaya, ojin).
The Buddha as tathata itself is called the Law-body, which is the entity of the Buddha. When his entity appears in a form that is comprehensible, this is known as his reward-body. "Reward-body" means a buddha who has become endowed with perfect wisdom in reward for his religious practices over a long period of time. The Buddha who appeared as a man in this world for the purpose of instructing and leading all living beings is called the manifest-body. The Buddha in this body manifests himself for the purpose of saving all living beings. Shakyamuni Buddha, who preaches the Law to the host of bodhisattvas, is the manifest-body. The Tathagata mentioned by Shakyamuni indicates his Law-body, and his reward-body is its representation.
Then the World-honored One preached as follows: "All the worlds of heavenly beings, men, and asuras consider: 'Now has Shakyamuni Buddha come forth from the palace of the Shakya clan, and seated at the training place of enlightenment, not far from the city of Gaya, has attained Perfect Enlightenment.' But, my good sons, since I veritably became Buddha there have passed infinite, boundless hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of kalpas."
Here the entity of the Buddha is revealed at last. An ordinary person believes the existence of what is visible to his eyes. He considers the Shakyamuni before his eyes as the Buddha and depends upon him in his mind and his religious discipline. He makes a great mistake in thinking so, however, because the Buddha is the existence of non-beginning and non-end, as is clearly declared here.
The Buddha addressed himself not only to his disciples and other human beings but also to heavenly beings and nonhuman beings, such as asuras. This is because even heavenly beings have not yet been able to obtain true nirvana but remain in a temporary world of joy and a provisional world of peace. Therefore, they also must hear the Buddha's teachings for the sake of obtaining true salvation. Even the most evil person can be sure of being saved if only he has the chance to learn the teachings of the Buddha. Nonhuman living beings are also equal in the sight of the Buddha.
It is profoundly significant that the Buddha included the heavenly beings and asuras in his message. "The training place of enlightenment" does not refer to a special building for religious discipline. The Buddha sat under the Bodhi tree in the forest and entered meditation. This expression refers to the place where the Buddha was seated at the time of attaining the highest enlightenment. There are holy places of learning and practicing the Way everywhere. All places, including homes, offices, trains, and playgrounds become holy places for attaining enlightenment according to one's mental attitude there. That does not mean that we should not have special training places for seeking the Way. We need an environment suitable for religious discipline to help us in our practice. Even Shakyamuni Buddha first sat in a quiet forest and entered meditation. In other words, he chose a suitable environment as the training place of his enlightenment. Our minds are apt to become distracted in our daily environment. For this reason, it is necessary for us to have as many chances as possible to visit a special training place where people of the same faith gather for the sake of purifying their minds. As we gradually accumulate virtue by means of religious disciplines, we can attain a mental state that will allow us to realize that our daily environment is identical with the holy place of learning and practicing the Way.
Shakyamuni Buddha said that infinite time had passed since he had actually become the Buddha. In order to help men realize such a long period of time, he said: "For instance, suppose there were five hundred thousand myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya three-thousand-great-thousandfold worlds; let someone grind them to atoms, pass eastward through five hundred thousand myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya countries, and then drop one of those atoms; suppose he thus proceeded eastward till he had dropped all those atoms - what do you think, my good sons, is it possible to imagine and calculate all those worlds so as to know their number?"
The three-thousand-great-thousandfold worlds mentioned here include the world in which we now live. Five hundred thousand myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya countries indicates the innumerable stars in the universe. A person grinds the three-thousand-great-thousandfold worlds to atoms and drops one atom when he has passed eastward through five hundred thousand myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya stars. In this way, he proceeds eastward till he has finished dropping those atoms. Nayuta is an Indian numerical unit said to be equivalent to one hundred ayutas. An ayuta is one hundred kotis, and a koti is an astronomical number variously interpreted as ten million, one hundred million, and so on. Asamkhyeya means numberless, innumerable, countless. It is impossible for us to imagine five hundred thousand myriad kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeyas.
Maitreya Bodhisattva and the others all said to the Buddha: "World-honored One! Those worlds are infinite, boundless, beyond the knowledge of reckoning, and beyond the reach of thought. Not all the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, with their faultless wisdom, would be able to imagine and know the bounds of those numbers. And to us also, who are dwelling in the stage of avaivartika, these matters are beyond apprehension. World-honored One! All such worlds as these are measureless and boundless." For anyone other than the Buddha, the existence of such measureless and boundless worlds is utterly beyond understanding. We know this from the expression, "All such worlds as these are measureless and boundless."
A shravaka is one who listens to the Buddha's teachings and attains enlightenment, while a pratyekabuddha is one who obtains emancipation for himself. However, even those who have attained the mental state of these two vehicles live in this finite world. They are satisfied with personal purification and emancipation from delusion. There is a limit to their wisdom so long as they remain in such a limited mental world. Therefore the Bodhisattva Maitreya said, "Not all the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, with their faultless wisdom, would be able to imagine and know the bounds of those numbers."
A bodhisattva is one whose mind reaches a higher stage than that of a shravaka or a pratyekabuddha, and who seeks enlightenment with the desire to save all people. This kind of person is open-minded and deep in feeling, and he reaches the stage of avaivartika. In terms of Buddhist religious practice, avaivartika means not to retrogress from the stage of attainment one has already reached. The expression "are dwelling in the stage of avaivartika" signifies having attained a mental stage from which one will never retrogress and in which one is not agitated by anything in any circumstances. But even one who has already attained such a state of mind is still engaged in religious practice for enlightenment. He cannot yet free himself from "self." In his mind somewhere there still remains the selfish idea that he himself can save others and make society good. If he remains in this state, he can not reach the mental stage of perfect freedom. There is a limit to where his mind can reach. The Bodhisattva Maitreya himself averred this.
However, the Buddha is completely selfless. When one has attained the same state of mind as the Buddha, he is truly free from the idea of "self" because he realizes that everything in the universe is united with him. In attaining this mental state, he feels that everything in the universe exists in his mind, and he perceives everything clearly. It is impossible for us to reach such a mental state in our entire life or even our next life. But the more often we remove "self" or "ego" from our minds and the stronger is our desire to benefit others and society, the more will our wisdom increase and the further will it extend. We learn this from the Bodhisattva Maitreya's answer to the Buddha.
After the Bodhisattva Maitreya answered the Buddha thus, the Buddha gave a slight nod and addressed all the bodhisattva-mahasattvas: "Good sons! Now I must clearly announce and declare to you. Suppose you take as atomized all those worlds where an atom has been deposited or where it has not been deposited, and count an atom as a kalpa, the time since I became the Buddha still surpasses these by hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya kalpas."
THE BUDDHA AS ABSOLUTE EXISTENCE. The measureless and boundless worlds that the Buddha mentioned indicate the idea of infinite space. This was the premise for the subsequent mention of infinite time. We are not able to imagine such infinite and boundless worlds. Much less can we reckon the duration of time in which each atom dropped represents a kalpa. Here we must transcend the concept of number and say simply "absolute."
Shakyamuni Buddha did not use such a way of preaching for the purpose of making people imagine an extraordinarily large number. He used this imagery simply to put across the idea of something absolute and infinite. These concepts have no meaning to an ordinary person if he thinks of them abstractly. Therefore the Buddha established the standard of something relative or finite, such as this world and the stars, which are concepts comprehensible to an ordinary person, and through this tried to make people realize the idea of something absolute and infinite.
The Buddha then replaced the concept of infinite number with that of infinite time. To say that when a person takes as atomized all those worlds where an atom has been deposited or where it has not been deposited, and counts an atom as a kalpa, the time since Shakyamuni became the Buddha still surpasses these by hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya kalpas is nothing but an indication of the idea of the infinite past.
It is undeniable that the Buddha is an absolute existence, because he preaches that he has existed in this world since the infinite past. This absolute existence is more important than anything else. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, that on which we depend must be an absolute existence. Even the greatest man is relatively connected with us so long as he is a man. He is also a limited existence because he will die sometime. Therefore, we cannot truly depend upon him. However delicately and exquisitely made a machine may be, it will eventually deteriorate and rust. Machines are also relative and limited.
However huge a sum of money we may have, we will spend our last penny sometime. However high a position we may occupy, eventually we will have to retire. Therefore, these things are also relative and limited. Even the heavenly being who is considered to exist outside ourselves is relatively connected with man. He is a limited existence, too, because we do not know when we may be deserted by him.
We cannot truly depend upon any of these things. But the Buddha is an absolute existence. He exists everywhere inside and outside us and is constant, from the infinite past to the infinite future. He is an existence inseparable from us even if we want to part from him. Therefore, he is an absolute existence.
The Buddha can be compared to the air. Air always exists around us and even within our bodies. We cannot live for a moment without air, though we usually do not think about its existence. When we are confined in a small room and feel claustrophobic because of stale air, we open the windows and let in fresh air. At such times we are aware of the importance of air.
In the same way, the Buddha is the existence from which we cannot separate ourselves even if we want to, and which always causes us to live. He is an absolute and infinite existence. For this reason, we can devote ourselves to believing in the Buddha, depending upon him, and leaving everything to him.
The Buddha continued as follows: "From that time forward I have constantly been preaching and teaching in this saha world, and also leading and benefiting all living beings in other places in hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nayutas of asamkhyeya domains."
These words have a very important meaning. Here the Buddha reveals that the Original Buddha as his entity has been constantly preaching and teaching in this saha world since the infinite past, although it is only forty-odd years since he attained enlightenment as the appearing Buddha. He also shows clearly that the Tathagata Shakyamuni, the Eternal Original Buddha, has been leading all living beings everywhere in all worlds.
Each buddha, as the reward-body of the Eternal Buddha, has a world that is under his charge for instruction. This world is called kedo in Japanese, a "temporary land" where the Buddha is present for instruction. The Tathagata Healing has his kedo in the World of Pure Emerald in the east; the Tathagata Amitabha in the Pure Land in the west; and the Tathagata Shakyamuni in the saha world. However, the Tathagata Shakyamuni, the Eternal Original Buddha, is not limited to such a temporary land for instruction but is omnipresent and causes everything to live.
All the buddhas are the reward-body of the Original Buddha, who appears in different shapes in various situations. Though each buddha is honorable in himself, he originates in the Tathagata Shakyamuni, the Eternal Original Buddha, and is united with him. From this we can establish the object of worship of our faith. Rissho Kosei-kai follows this teaching in enshrining the Image of the Great Beneficent Teacher and Lord Shakyamuni, the Eternal Buddha, as its object of worship. The correctness of this way is clearly testified by the sutras themselves.
Another important point mentioned in this passage is that the Buddha did not proclaim from the beginning that he had been preaching everywhere in this universe but first said that he had been teaching in the saha world, then added that he had been leading and benefiting all living beings in other places. This may seem a minor point, but it contains the great lesson of "extending the Buddha's teachings from the short to the long."
Since the Buddha shows his compassion for everyone equally, he cannot be making the point that he first instructs the living beings in the saha world and then extends his salvation to other places. However, when we think of instructing others from our own standpoint, there is a correct order of teaching in our carrying out the bodhisattva practice. We cannot save the whole world at once. For this reason, we begin with saving those around us, then extend this salvation to others who have some relationship to those close to us and to each other. This is the order indicated to us by the Buddhas' example. We first set about improving our own villages and towns, then extend this improvement to countries and provinces or states. When we accumulate enough power, we must reach out our hands of instruction and salvation to the whole country in which we live and then still farther, to foreign countries.
Some people boast, "I will save the world myself," when they have been deeply moved by the wonder of the Buddha's teachings. Ambition is certainly a good thing, and to save the entire world is a worthy goal. But however great our ambition or desire, we cannot realize it just by wishing but only if we can actually implement it through concrete measures. A person who cannot save even one of his friends cannot save the world. Even if he has this great desire at first, he will soon give it up when things do not go smoothly. This is because he lacks power proportionate to his ambition.
Power should be accumulated little by little for this aim. Nobody has enough power to instruct all the people of the world immediately. We can gain the power to enlighten others while saving, leading, and instructing only one, two, or three people around us, just as a tiny snowball gradually becomes larger as we roll it through the snow until finally it is big enough to make a fine snowman. The words "extending the Buddha's teachings from the short to the long" should be understood not only in terms of space or numbers of people but also from a spiritual point of view so that they will constitute the backbone of our instruction. We must fully realize this point. Therefore, the Buddha's instruction is divided into two parts: first, "I have constantly been preaching and teaching in this saha world," and second, "and also leading and benefiting all living beings in other places." This is how we should understand these words of the Buddha.
The Buddha continued to preach as follows: "Good sons! During this time I have ever spoken of myself as the Buddha Burning Light and other buddhas, and also have told of their entering into nirvana. Thus have I tactfully described them all. Good sons! Whenever living beings come to me, I behold with the Buddha's eyes all the faculties, keen or dull, of their faith and so on. And I explain to them, in stage after stage, according to their capacity and degree of salvation, my different names and the length of my lives, and moreover plainly state that I must enter nirvana. I also, in various tactful ways, preach the Wonderful Law which is able to cause all the living to beget a joyful heart."
THE FIVE ROOTS OF EMANCIPATION. Here we realize anew the importance and value of the Buddha's tactful teaching. We also realize that not only the Buddha's various tactful teachings, all worthy of honor and reverence in themselves, but also his appearance in this world itself were tactful means adopted by the Eternal Original Buddha for the sake of saving all living beings. The appearance of other buddhas is also a tactful means of the Eternal Original Buddha.
As explained earlier, the Original Buddha call be compared to the electric waves of television. Though they fill our surroundings, we cannot directly see or hear them. But through the medium of a television set, corresponding to a tactful method of the Buddha, we can see images and hear sounds. In the same way, we can come into contact with the true teachings of the Buddha through his tactful means.
These "television sets" owned by living beings are graded from highly sensitive sets to insensitive ones. The Buddha can discern the sensitivity of the various television sets and act to increase or lessen the voltage accordingly. He preaches his teachings according to the mental capacity of his listeners. This is the tactful way of the Buddha's compassion, coinciding with his words: "Whenever living beings come to me, I behold with the Buddha's eyes all the faculties, keen or dull, of their faith."
The words "faculties of their faith" refer to the five roots of emancipation (pancendriyani, go-kon) that lead man to good conduct - faith (sraddha, shin-kon), endeavor (virya, shojin-kon), mindfulness (smrtia, nen-kon), concentration (samadhi, jo-kon), and wisdom (prajna, e-kon). All five are fundamental to our religious lives.
"Faith" means the mind of faith. As pointed out in the explanation of belief in chapter 4, a religion, unlike intellectual learning, does not enable a believer to have the power to save others as well as himself if he understands it only in theory. When he believes from the depths of his heart, his belief produces power. His faith cannot be said to be true until he attains such a mental state.
"Endeavor" means the spirit of endeavoring purely and incessantly. Faith alone is not enough. Our religious lives cannot be true unless we maintain our faith purely and constantly endeavor so that our religious spirit does not weaken or lose its power.
"Mindfulness" indicates the mind that always focuses upon the Buddha. Practically speaking, of course, it is impossible for us to completely forget the Buddha for even a moment. When a student devotes himself to his studies or when an adult is entirely absorbed in his work, he must concentrate on one object. Doing so accords with the way to buddhahood. While devoting ourselves to a particular object, we reflect, "I am caused to live by the Buddha." When we complete a difficult task and feel relieved, we thank the Buddha, saying, "How lucky I am! I am protected by the Buddha." When an evil thought flashes across our mind or we suddenly feel angry, we instantly examine ourselves, thinking, "Is this the way to buddhahood?" The mind that thus keeps the Buddha in mind at all times is "mindfulness."
"Concentration" implies a determined mind. Once we have faith in a religion, we are never agitated by anything, whatever may happen. We bear patiently all persecution and temptation, and we continue to believe only in one religion. We must constantly maintain such firm determination, never becoming discouraged. We cannot be said to be real people of religion unless we have such a mental attitude.
"Wisdom" means the wisdom that people of religion must maintain. As frequently mentioned in this book, this is not a self-centered wisdom but the true wisdom that we obtain when we perfectly free ourselves from ego and delusion. So long as we have this wisdom, we will not take the wrong way. We can say the same thing of our belief in religion itself, not to mention our daily lives. If we are attached to a selfish, small desire, we are apt to stray toward a mistaken religion. However earnestly we may believe in it, endeavoring to practice its teaching, keeping it in mind, and devoting ourselves to it, we cannot be saved because of its basically wrong teaching, and we sink farther and farther into the world of delusion. There are many instances around us of people following such a course. Although "wisdom" is mentioned as the last of the five roots leading man to good conduct, it should be first in the order in which we enter a religious life.
THE FIVE KINDS OF EYES. With his eyes the Buddha can discern to what extent each living being possesses the five roots of faith, endeavor, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom, and according to his discernment the Buddha uses various ways of guiding each living being.
The Buddha's eyes are the eyes of compassion. When the Buddha views a person with his compassionate eyes, desiring to save him, the Buddha perceives all things, including the person's character, intellect, and mental attitude. The five kinds of eyes (panca caksumsi, go-gen) or ways of viewing things are the following: the eye of a material body (mamsa-caksus, niku-gen), the divine eye of celestial beings (divya-caksus, ten-gen), the eye of wisdom (prajna-caksus, e-gen), the eye of the law (dharma-caksus, ho-gen) and the eye of the Buddha (Buddha-caksus, butsu-gen).
The eye of a material body means the way of viewing things of an ordinary person, who can perceive only material shapes and forms. Such a person often has a wrong or partial view of things. He mistakes oil for water and a whale for a fish.
The eye of celestial beings means the viewpoint from which we investigate matters theoretically and discern their essential qualities. This is the scientific way of looking at things. When we take this view, we realize that water is formed by the combination of oxygen and hydrogen. From such a point of view, we can foretell when there will be a conjunction between two stars down to the year, month, day, hour, minute, and second. At the same time, we can estimate exactly how many millions of tons of petroleum are buried underground. Such a person, who has the ability of seeing things that an ordinary man cannot see, was called a clairvoyant in ancient times.
The eye of wisdom means to discern the entity of things and their real state. This is, in a sense, a philosophical way of looking at things. A person with the eye of wisdom can observe things that are invisible to the average person and can perceive matters that are beyond imagination. He realizes that all things in this world are always changing and there is nothing existing in a fixed form (all things are impermanent); nothing in the universe is an isolated existence, having no relation to other things; everything exists in relationship with everything else like the meshes of a net (all things are devoid of self).
The eye of the law is the artistic way of looking at things. To the average man, a mountain is just a mountain and a cloud is merely a cloud. But a poet feels that the mountain speaks to him and the cloud teaches him. He feels that a beautiful flower, a dignified tree, and a little stream talk to him, each in its own special language. Unlike the average person, an outstanding artist can directly touch the lives of such natural phenomena. In the case of man himself and his human life, such an artist can also perceive truths that the ordinary person cannot. This is why in Japan the title of Hogen, literally meaning "eye of the law," was given to certain outstanding artists as a special rank, as in the case of the famous artists Kano Masanobu (1434 - 1530) and his son Motonobu (1476 - 1559).
The eye of the Buddha is the highest of all viewpoints. A person with this kind of insight not only can perceive the real state of all things (wisdom) but can observe it with compassion. He penetrates the real state of all things with the desire to make all of them develop to the full extent of their potential, each according to its own original nature. In other words, he is endowed with the divine eye of celestial beings, the eye of wisdom, and the eye of the law while also possessing the mind of great compassion; it is he who takes a religious view of things in the true sense.
If we view all living beings with the eye of the Buddha, we can naturally discern the means most suitable to guide each one. The Buddha can do this perfectly. Granted that we as ordinary people cannot possibly attain such a mental state, we can approach it step by step through our accumulation of practice in the way to buddhahood. As people of religion, we must always try to view everything with a mental attitude based on the compassionate mind of the Buddha.
Then the Buddha continued to preach as follows: "Good sons! Beholding the propensities of all the living toward lower things, so that they have little virtue and much vileness, to these men the Tathagata declares : 'In my youth I left home and attained Perfect Enlightenment.' But since I verily became Buddha, thus have I ever been, and thus have I made declaration, only by my tactful methods to teach and transform all living beings, so that they may enter the Way of the Buddha."
The expression "the propensities of all the living toward lower things" refers to those who are satisfied with the enlightenment of shravaka and pratyekabuddha. Toward such people the Buddha spoke of his life as the appearing Buddha and encouraged them to be more assiduous in their practice by taking his own experience as an example.
From our point of view, no encouragement is better than that of the Buddha. A teaching that we must follow according to the orders of an invisible heavenly being who exists in heaven is too vague for us to grasp. In Buddhism, however, Shakyamuni himself sets a living example for all living beings. All Buddhists should appreciate how much they owe to the Buddha. They have only to pursue the great guidelines the Buddha has left for them and earnestly follow his example. There is no other teaching that is so thoroughly believable or that gives such a feeling of security.
Because of the propensities of all living beings toward lower things, Shakyamuni Buddha declared, "Follow me!" This declaration of his in itself is a great salvation and encouragement to us in the age of degeneration. Needless to say, we must advance toward higher things, but while doing so, we must not forget to follow constantly in the track of the Buddha, step by step.
The Buddha then revealed his tactful methods in detail: "Good sons! All the sutras which the Tathagata preaches are for the deliverance of the living. Whether speaking of himself or speaking of others, whether indicating himself or indicating others, and whether indicating his own affairs or the affairs of others, whatever he says is all real and not empty air." This passage is difficult for us to understand correctly but is very important indeed. In the phrase "speaking of himself," "himself" (ko-shin) means the Buddha's entity, that is, the Original Buddha. In the phrase "speaking of others," "others" (ta-shin) indicates other buddhas who appear as the reward-body of the Original Buddha, such as the Buddha Burning Light and the Tathagata Amitabha. In the words "indicating himself," "himself" means Shakyamuni himself, who appeared in the world as the historical Buddha. In the words "indicating others," "others" indicates the Buddha as he appears as other saints and sages in this world.
In the expression "indicating his own affairs or the affairs of others," the correct meaning of "his own affairs" (ko-ji) and "the affairs of others" (ta-ji) is especially difficult to grasp correctly. In fact, these words seem to have been misinterpreted for the most part. Their true interpretation is as follows. In brief, the Buddha's salvation lies in enabling us to set our minds in the direction of the truth and to give harmony to our life-power. However, his salvation appears in two different ways: the "direct appearance" and the "reverse appearance."
Suppose that a man suffers from unhappiness in love, failure in business, and family trouble, and that he has reached a state in which he is always anxious and on edge, diverted from the truth and lacking harmony in his life-power. If he could attain a correct mental attitude through the Buddha's teachings, his mind would come to harmonize with his life-power and would begin to work correctly and clearly. This is the "direct appearance" of the Buddha's salvation, in which his salvation appears in a direct and straightforward manner. This is what is meant by "his own affairs" (ko-ji). But the Buddha's salvation does not always appear in this way. It sometimes appears as a "reverse phenomenon." Suppose that you begin to have a stomachache. This pain warns you of some disharmony in your life-power. It may come from eating or drinking too much, or it may be the symptom of a disease. When you have a stomachache you take medicine or consult a doctor in order to get rid of it, and you are temperate in eating and drinking until you feel better. Suppose you did not feel any pain. If something was wrong with your stomach or intestines because of neglecting your health, you would continue to remain unaware of it and the condition would gradually worsen until your health was seriously impaired. Thus, though pain and suffering seem to be disagreeable and unwelcome, the fact is that without them we cannot know that a serious disharmony of our life-power is occurring within us.
This is not limited to the body. As shown in the Parable of the Burning House, people do not awaken to the hellish fire burning their bodies and minds when they remain in the world of the five desires. They only examine themselves when they feel mental affliction, suffering, anxiety, and emptiness. Then they reflect on their lives, asking themselves, "Is this a good state for me?" or "What will become of me if I remain in such a mental state forever?" Their awareness of affliction and suffering paves the way for their future salvation.
The feeling of suffering in our human life is nature's warning, showing us the disharmony of our mind and life-power. If we awaken to this situation and realize, "This is not good for me," and if we then follow a correct teaching, we spontaneously set our mind in the direction of the truth. Therefore, even if we cannot immediately recover from illness or extricate ourselves from poverty, we come not to feel this as suffering. This is the great salvation of the Buddha. Thus his salvation sometimes appears in a form that does not at first seem to be salvation. This is the meaning of the expression "indicating the affairs of others."
In Rissho Kosei-kai, when a member is admonished by a leader, he calls it "merit" (kudoku). It is indeed an unpleasant and unwelcom thing for anybody to be scolded or admonished by others. But since the Buddha's salvation is often extended to us through such scoldings and admonitions, our salvation is realized when we receive these warnings with gratitude. The words "indicating the affairs of others" are most important, and we should always bear them in mind in our daily lives.
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