HAVING FINISHED PREACHING chapter 21, Shakyamuni Buddha rose from his Law seat and, through his supernatural power, laid his right hand on the heads of the innumerable bodhisattva-mahasattvas and spoke thus: "I, for incalculable hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of asamkhyeyas of kalpas, have practiced this rare Law of Perfect Enlightenment. Now I entrust it to you. Do you wholeheartedly promulgate this Law and make it increase and prosper far and wide."
To lay one's hand on another's head or to pat someone on the head is to praise him, according to Japanese custom. In the West it is usually a gesture of affection. In India, however, such an action means to put one's trust in another, as if to say, " I leave it to you. Do your best." It is said that Suryasoma, who taught the Lotus Sutra to his favorite disciple, Kumarajiva, laid his hand on Kumarajiva's head and said to him, "Reverently propagate this sutra." The Buddha's action of laying his right hand on the heads of the innumerable bodhisattvas through his supernatural power represents his placing deep trust in them. They must have been deeply moved by the Buddha's action.
The Buddha not only perceived that he would become extinct before long but also predicted it to his disciples. A profound emotion must have filled the minds of both the Buddha and his disciples. In the face of his approaching extinction, he taught nothing but the Law. Every Buddhist must bow before the pure, lofty, and beneficent mind of the Buddha.
Three times the Buddha laid his hand upon the heads of the bodhisattva-mahasattvas and repeated the following words. From this repetition we can easily judge how important was his declaration: "I, for incalculable hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of asamkhyeyas of kalpas, have practiced this rare Law of Perfect Enlightenment. Now I entrust it to you. Do you receive and keep, read and recite, and proclaim this Law abroad that all living beings universally may hear and know it. Wherefore? The Tathagata is most benevolent and compassionate, not mean and stingy, and is able fearlessly to give the Buddha wisdom, the Tathagata wisdom, and the Self-existent wisdom to all living beings."
This is an extremely important passage. The words "rare Law" and "not mean and stingy" call for deep consideration in order to understand their true meaning. We cannot attain the Buddha's enlightenment without undergoing extraordinary difficulties. Leaving aside his long period of practice in former lives, the Buddha repeatedly underwent many sufferings in this world and finally attained enlightenment. He also openly taught his rare Law of Perfect Enlightenment to all living beings without the slightest trace of a mean and stingy mind. Moreover, he used various tactful means with thoughtful consideration so that all living beings might be able to attain Perfect Enlightenment as quickly as possible and without being sidetracked.
When we compare this attitude with the common way of the world, we must acknowledge how much we owe to the Buddha. When experienced people teach knowledge and techniques to their juniors, there are very few who take the trouble to lead their juniors so successfully that they can master the learning and techniques in half the time that it took the teacher to acquire them. Most seasoned veterans take the attitude that it is beneath their dignity to initiate their juniors into the secrets of their learning and techniques, or else they force their juniors to experience as many difficulties in learning as they themselves did. Such an attitude comes from a mean and stingy mind, which is a great impediment to social progress.
The Buddha strictly admonished us against having mean and stingy minds. A person should not only generously and unstintingly teach others what he has realized but also help the learners through various methods to master it faster than he himself did. This is the true benevolent and compassionate mind. A veteran should maintain this attitude toward his juniors in teaching secular learning and techniques, to say nothing of instructing them in the Law and enlightenment. We should wholeheartedly adopt such an attitude.
The word "fearlessly" means not to be afraid of anything, not to be mentally affected by anything. One must preach the Law without a mean and stingy mind, being afraid of nothing and mentally swayed by nothing. To be afraid of something implies that one is afraid that he will be disliked or be spoken ill of by others if he preaches the Law to them. To be mentally swayed by something implies that he desires to receive some reward from others or to be thought highly of by them when he preaches the Law to them.
THREE WISDOMS OF THE TATHAGATA. The Tathagata is most benevolent and compassionate in preaching the Law, and he preaches it perfectly and calmly, with not the slightest mean and stingy mind, not fearful of anything or swayed by anything. We must try as hard as possible to approach the mental state of the Tathagata. He can fearlessly give the Buddha wisdom, the Tathagata wisdom, and the Self-existent wisdom to all living beings. These three wisdoms of the Tathagata summarize the truths taught in the Lotus Sutra. However, these three wisdoms have been misunderstood by many people.
"Buddha" means the Enlightened One, or the Knower, that is, one who has realized the truth of all things in the universe. Accordingly, the Buddha wisdom indicates the wisdom by which the Buddha has realized the universal truth and can discern the real state of all things. It is the wisdom of the truth.
"Tathagata" means one who has come from the world of truth. There is profound significance in the fact that the Tathagata not only has realized the truth but also has come from the world of truth. The place to which he has come is the world of living beings, this saha world of suffering and delusion. The reason that he has come to this world is his benevolent and compassionate mind, which causes all living beings to realize the truth for their salvation. Therefore, the Tathagata wisdom means the wisdom of benevolence and compassion.
Self-existent wisdom is the most difficult to understand of the three wisdoms. "Self-existent" means self-born, namely, a faith that is self-born in man's mind. Accordingly, Self-existent wisdom indicates the wisdom of faith.
We require all three wisdoms: the wisdoms of the truth, of benevolence and compassion, and of faith. The Tathagata can bestow these three wisdoms upon us, for the Tathagata is the great lord of giving to all living beings. None is a greater lord of giving than the Tathagata, because he can give all three of these wisdoms to all living beings. All the teachings preached in the Lotus Sutra resolve themselves into these three wisdoms of the Tathagata.
The Buddha admonished the bodhisattva-mahasattvas as follows: "Do you also follow and learn the Tathagata's example, not being mean and stingy. If good sons or good daughters in ages to come believe in the Tathagata wisdom, do you proclaim this Law Flower Sutra to them that they may hear and know it, in order that they may obtain the Buddha wisdom. If there be living beings who do not believe in it, do you show, teach, benefit, and rejoice them with the other tactful profound laws of the Tathagata. If you are able thus to act, then you will have repaid the grace of the buddhas."
The Buddha's words, "Do you also follow and learn the Tathagata's example," mean: "Do you well understand my spirit and follow the same way that I once took." The way is this: "You are not to be mean and stingy. If any believe in the Tathagata wisdom, do you proclaim this Lotus Sutra to them for the sake of causing them to obtain the Buddha wisdom."
How do the bodhisattvas deal with people who do not believe in the sutra? The Buddha instructed the bodhisattvas: "Do you show, teach, benefit, and rejoice them with the other tactful profound laws of the Tathagata."
As already explained, to show, teach, benefit, and rejoice someone with the teaching indicates the order that we must follow in leading people to the teaching. First we show them the general meaning of the teaching. Then, seeing that they have been affected by it, we teach them its deep meaning. Next, realizing that they appear to understand it, we lead them to practice it and to obtain its benefit. Finally, we so act toward them as to gladden them in keeping the teaching.
The Buddha's teachings are said to number eighty-four thousand, and among them there is not one that is useless. All his teachings are sacred. The Buddha freely preached the Law according to the occasion and the mental and spiritual capacities of his listeners. It may safely be said that within his teachings there are ways of preaching suitable for all kinds of people.
The Buddha taught the bodhisattvas: "If there are people who do not believe in the Lotus Sutra when you preach directly to them, you may choose any of my teachings, not limiting yourselves to the sutra." Indeed, the Lotus Sutra is the culmination of all the Buddha's teachings and therefore supreme among the many Buddhist sutras. But we must not become exclusive and rigid in our adherence to the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren did not hold only to this sutra but, in order to commend it, freely used quotations from many other sutras. We need to do so still more in the present world. If we exert every effort to lead others thus to the Righteous Law, we shall have repaid the grace of the buddhas. This is our greatest return for the buddhas' grace.
Thereupon all the bodhisattva-mahasattvas, having heard the Buddha give this address, were filled with great joy and paid him added reverence, bowing, bending their heads, and with their palms joining together saluting the Buddha and crying in unison: "We will do all as the World-honored One has commended. Yea, World-honored One! Have no anxiety." Three times did all the host of bodhisattva-mahasattvas repeat these words. This threefold repetition in unison represents the sincerity of the bodhisattvas' firm vow to do all that the Buddha had commanded. They could not have made such a promise if they had not had great resolution and confidence. From their affirmative words, we can easily judge their excellence as bodhisattvas. Scholars of old made a distinction between the rank of the bodhisattvas who were entrusted to receive, keep, and promulgate the Law in chapter 21 and those who were entrusted with the Law in chapter 22. However, our interpretation is that the Buddha entrusted the Law equally to all the bodhisattvas.
Having heard the firm vow of the bodhisattvas, the Buddha nodded. Thereupon he caused all the emanated buddhas, who had come from all directions, to return to their own lands, saying: "Buddhas! Peace be unto you. Let the stupa of the Buddha Abundant Treasures be restored as before." Having discerned that the teachings of the Lotus Sutra would be received, kept, and promulgated in future ages, he thus addressed the Buddha Abundant Treasures and all the emanated buddhas, who had come from all directions to bear witness to the truth of the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and to its infinite value.
The chapter closes with the following words: "As these words were spoken, the innumerable emanated buddhas from all directions, who were seated on lion thrones under the jewel trees, as well as the Buddha Abundant Treasures, the host of infinite asamkhyeyas of bodhisattvas, Eminent Conduct and others, also the four groups of hearers, Shariputra and others, and all the worlds, gods, men, asuras, and so on, hearing the preaching of the Buddha, rejoiced greatly."
"The preaching of the Buddha" here means the conclusion of his teaching that the saha world will become the Pure Land of Tranquil Light by means of the Lotus Sutra. With chapter 22, we have completed the first stage of the Buddha's preaching in the Lotus Sutra.
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