AS ALREADY EXPLAINED, "prediction" means that the Buddha gives us the assurance, "You will surely become buddhas." The term "prediction" (juki) includes three meanings of great importance and subtlety, which it is essential that we understand. The first important point is that Shakyamuni Buddha says not "You are buddhas" but "You will become buddhas." In the sight of the Buddha, all living beings have the buddha-nature, and any one of them can definitely become a buddha. But if the Buddha says merely, "You are buddhas," this statement will be greatly misunderstood by ordinary people. They will be liable to take these words to mean that they are already perfected as buddhas while in a state of illusion, and will have the idea that they can become buddhas without any effort, like riding an escalator.
The prediction given by the Buddha is often compared to an admission permit to a school, and this comparison is quite just. It is not a diploma but only an admission permit. This assurance signifies, "You have passed the entrance examination of the highest university, which leads to the degree of buddhahood. If you study here for some years, you will surely graduate and will become buddhas." Having this assurance, ordinary people must hereafter practice all the more, and must make ever greater efforts to realize this goal.
What a joyful thing it is for ordinary people to have obtained admission to the Buddha's university - to have received the Buddha's prediction, "You will become buddhas." In chapter 3 of the Lotus Sutra, Shariputra was the first shravaka to receive this prediction from the Buddha, and it is natural that all the great assembly, witnessing Shariputra receiving this prediction, rejoiced in unbounded ecstasy.
The rejoicing of the great assembly is the same as our rejoicing. We have already gained admission to the Buddha's university; we will understand this fact still better when we discuss chapter 8, "The Five Hundred Disciples Receive the Prediction of Their Destiny," and chapter 9, "Prediction of the Destiny of Arhats, Training and Trained." Those who believe sincerely in the Lotus Sutra and practice its spirit faithfully have already received admission to the highest, universal university, that of buddhahood. Knowing this, how proud we feel and how worthwhile our life becomes!
Our natural joy and pride in this fact must never lead to self-satisfaction, however. If we make this feeling our own personal joy alone, it is meaningless. This is the second important point of the Buddha's prediction. At the end of the second verse portion of chapter 6, Maudgalyayana, Subhuti, Katyayana, and others spoke in unison as follows: "Great Hero, World-honored One! / Thou dost ever desire to pacify the world; / Be pleased to bestow our prediction, . . ." What they are saying is: "The Buddha always desires to make all the people of the world feel at ease. We also desire to become buddhas and to make them live in peace. Please give us your assurance of becoming buddhas." They do not mean that they alone be saved and become buddhas, or that they alone become buddhas and attain peace of mind. Their final purpose is to make all the people of the world happy. This is a most important point. We must understand that the real intention of these disciples in earnestly requesting that the Buddha give them his assurance of becoming buddhas lies in the fact that they wanted to obtain such freedom and power as to be capable of making others happy. If we do not realize this, we are likely to receive the mistaken impression that they asked the Buddha for only their own personal enlightenment and mental peace.
The third major point of the Buddha's prediction is that the Buddha's disciples must already have well understood that they would become buddhas, through the teachings that the Buddha had already preached. Therefore, some people wonder why the disciples so persistently asked the Buddha for his prediction. This is where religion differs from knowledge. Buddhism is a teaching that we can understand through reason. For knowledge, it is enough to understand something by reason, but in religion it is not enough to understand by reason alone. When understood, the knowledge must inspire man. It must generate faith, which will spontaneously cause one to wish to act for the benefit of other people and of society in general.
When understanding develops into service to society and to other people, we can call it faith or religion. A true religion has this kind of power. Where does inspiration, the foundation of this power, come from? Inspiration comes not from theories but from the contact of one's spirit with other spirits. When we meet a person of great character and listen to his words, our hearts are touched with joy. We ardently determine to emulate him even at the risk of our lives. The ability to give us such determination is the greatness of Shakyamuni as the appearing Buddha. When we take as the universal truth the words of Shakyamuni Buddha, whom we revere as the ideal human being, we receive a great power, which is beyond mere understanding and which gives us strength and uplifts us.
This is why the Buddha's disciples were eager to hear the Buddha's words, "You will become buddhas," directly from his lips. Such words were a stronger encouragement to them than the support of ten million people. "Be pleased to say a word to us! If you should say something to us, we would sacrifice ourselves for your teachings and would follow them to the end. We would never turn away or be neglectful in our practice. So be pleased to say a word to us!" Thus were the disciples asking Shakyamuni.
This innocent and trusting attitude shows true faith. The disciples' manner of asking is a good example for our religious lives, so we should bear it well in mind. The understanding of the Buddha's teachings gained by reading books and listening to preaching is still shallow. If we do not have a sense of being inspired or the feeling of flying straight to Shakyamuni's arms of great compassion, our understanding will not produce the power to save others as well as ourselves. Worshiping the Buddha's image and repeating the title of the Lotus Sutra are not mere idol worship and magical incantations. The purpose of these actions is nothing other than the merging of ourselves with the mind of Shakyamuni, whom we revere as our teacher and our parent, and through him with the great salvation of the Eternal Original Buddha.
If we keep in mind these three essential points of the Buddha's prediction in reading chapter 6, we can clearly understand the Buddha's teachings in this chapter. Let us proceed to the text of the chapter.
After pronouncing the last verse of chapter 5, the World-honored One addressed the great assembly in the following way: "This my disciple Maha-Kashyapa, who has well understood the Buddha's teachings and has firmly determined to follow the practices of the bodhisattvas for the sake of the people of the world, in the world to come shall pay homage to innumerable buddhas and widely proclaim the infinite, great Law of the buddhas. In his final bodily state he will become a buddha, whose name will be Radiance Tathagata, Worshipful, All Wise, Perfectly Enlightened in Conduct, Well Departed, Understander of the World, Peerless Leader, Controller, Teacher of Heavenly and Human Beings, Buddha, World-honored One, whose domain is named Radiant Virtue, and whose period is named Great Magnificence. The lifetime of that buddha will be a hundred and twenty thousand years, his Righteous Law will abide in the world for two hundred thousand years, and the Counterfeit Law will also abide for two hundred thousand years."
When Kashyapa earlier expressed his deep emotion and his great gratitude for the Buddha's teachings through the Parable of the Poor Son, the World-honored One understood that Kashyapa had already realized almost all his teachings, had deepened his faith, and had achieved a determined will. This can also be seen in the Buddha's words to Kashyapa at the beginning of chapter 5: "Good! Good! Kashyapa; you have well proclaimed the real merits of the Tathagata. Truly they are as you have said."
When the Buddha predicted the attainment of buddhahood to all the great assembly, he designated the future buddhas' names, their domains, and their periods. He gave Kashyapa the ten epithets of a buddha, beginning with "Radiance Tathagata." The ten epithets of the Buddha demonstrate that he perfectly combines virtues with powers. Therefore, the Buddha was stating here that Kashyapa through his practice could become the same buddha as Shakyamuni. In short, he made it clear that if anyone can truly realize the Buddha's truth, he will become the same buddha as himself. It may be gathered from this how high a value Shakyamuni Buddha placed on truth.
The Buddha continued his discourse: "His domain called Radiant Virtue will be beautiful, devoid of dirt, potsherds, thorns, and unclean ordure; its land will be level and straight, with no uneven places, neither pitfalls nor mounds, its ground of lapis lazuli, lined with jewel trees and golden cords to bound the ways, strewn with precious flowers, and with purity reigning everywhere. In that domain the bodhisattvas who practice the Buddha's teachings will be infinite, with numberless people who seek after the teachings. No Mara deeds will be there, and though there are Mara and Mara's people, they all will protect the Buddha Law."
This description depicts the ideal state of the world. The former half resembles the description of a beautiful city in a highly developed country of today's world, but the latter half gives the impression of a realm exactly the opposite of today's world. Indeed, the world has advanced remarkably in material aspects, while it has made only slow progress in spiritual aspects. The Buddha's description shows us clearly that this is the greatest defect of modern society. Realizing this, how can we avoid cooperating with each other to spread the spirit of the Lotus Sutra among as many people as possible, with the firm resolution of realizing as soon as possible, in this world, the ideal realm shown by the Buddha?
DEVILS AND DEVILISH DEEDS. We must not ignore the following words of the Buddha: "No Mara deeds will be there, and though there are Mara and Mara's people, they all will protect the Buddha Law." Mara, or "devil," includes all beings that obstruct the righteous way. "Mara's people" means the followers of the devil. They have such great powers that they may appear in succession before those who endeavor to realize the righteous way, lead them into temptation, and confuse them. These devilish people conspire to obstruct and intimidate those who try to practice the righteous way. They may be likened to a gang of hooligans or racketeers. The power of evil-minded speech and writing is a still greater devil.
A devil and its followers appeared before Shakyamuni Buddha when he was deep in meditation shortly before his enlightenment, and tried to throw various obstacles in his way. If he had been an ordinary man, he would have yielded immediately. However, he was able to withstand the temptations, obstructions, and threats by which the devils tested him, and then his enlightenment became unshakable. Judging from the results Shakyamuni Buddha achieved, these devils' hindrances can even be said to have spurred his enlightenment.
"Devil" has two meanings. The first is the "devil in the body," meaning instinctive impulses or wicked ideas that disturb our righteous minds. The second is the "devil outside the body," meaning temptation or pressure from the outside.
In an ideal domain like Radiant Virtue, there are people who practice the Buddha's teachings or seek them sincerely. Even if such people are sometimes tempted by the "devil in the body," that is, a wicked idea or instinctive impulse, such a temptation acts to strengthen their will to seek the Way. As a result, the "devil in the body" protects the Buddha Law. For this reason, though there are the devil and devilish people, no devilish deeds will exist in the ideal domain.
The "devil outside the body" means the speech and conduct of those who offer temptation, criticism, disturbance, and threats to those who endeavor to practice the Buddha's teachings and spread them. As the saying goes, "Extremes in wickedness make for extremes in goodness." In an ideal domain like Radiant Virtue, even extremely wicked people completely change and use their powers to protect the Buddha's teachings. As all sentient beings have innate buddha-nature, once a devilish person awakens to his own buddha-nature, he can distinguish himself more brilliantly than a good but weak person.
The Buddha teaches us that the "devil," whether in the body or outside the body, displays its ability for harm when it lives in illusion. But if it should realize the righteous way, it will immediately exercise its faculties for good. Therefore, we should not think of Radiant Virtue as an ideal domain far removed from the world in which we live but should interpret it in terms of spiritual matters in our own religious lives and as practical problems in our own society. Understanding this, we must devote ourselves to enlightening "devils" and to removing "devilish deeds," and moreover, to changing these "devils" so that they will show their good abilities.
How can we do so? There is one course open to us: to seek the righteous teachings of the Buddha, and to believe and practice them. If we do so, no devilish deeds will exist in society. The devilish deeds that cling to our minds and bodies will disappear like mist before the morning sun, and our infinite life will shine in its purity.
Then the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim his teaching again, repeated it in verse and ended by giving his prediction to Kashyapa. Thereupon Maha-Maudgalyayana, Subhuti, Maha-Katyayana, and others tremblingly folded their hands and with one mind, gazing up into the World-honored One's face, not for an instant lowering their eyes, and with united voice, spoke thus: "Great Hero, World-honored One who can drive out all evils! The Buddha who is endowed with the power to lead all men! Be pleased to grant us the Buddha announcement out of your compassion for us. Be pleased to encourage us to be more and more assiduous in our practice in the future. If you know the depths of our minds and predict our destinies, saying, 'You will become buddhas,' we will feel as if you were pouring sweet dew over us to allay the heat.
"We are like people from a land of famine, suddenly finding a royal repast, yet harboring doubt and fear, not daring to eat it at once. But when instructed by the king, then we dare to eat his repast. In the same way, we have become sufficiently aware of our errors that we are able to free ourselves from our own illusions and sufferings, and at the same time we have understood the supreme wisdom of the Buddha. But we do not know how to obtain it. Though we hear the voice of the Buddha, who says we shall become buddhas, our hearts are still anxious and afraid of attaining buddhahood, just as those starving people dare not eat the royal repast before their eyes. But if we receive the Buddha's prediction of becoming buddhas, then we shall be happy and at ease. Great Hero, World-honored One! You do ever desire to pacify the people of the world. Be pleased to bestow our prediction. If you do so, just like the starving people instructed by the king to eat the repast, we can devote ourselves to the bodhisattva way and render service to people and society."
Thereupon the World-honored One, knowing the thoughts in the minds of those senior disciples, instantly complied with Subhuti's request and gave his prediction to him. He declared his name as a buddha to be Name Form Tathagata, his period Possessing Jewels, and his domain Jewel Producing. Next the World-honored One bestowed his prediction on Maha-Katyayana and declared his name as a buddha to be Jambunada Golden Light Tathagata. He also gave his prediction to Maha-Maudgalyayana, naming him Tamalapattra Sandal Fragrance Tathagata, his period Joyful, and his domain Glad Mind.
Most of you who have read to this point may feel as if the story above is far removed from your own lives because it relates an incident concerning Shakyamuni Buddha and his senior disciples in ancient India. But in fact this story is not at all removed from our lives today, as we will understand when we read the last portion of the final verse section in this chapter. The World-honored One spoke in verse to the following effect: "Among my many disciples, there are five hundred in number who possess high virtues and exert great influence upon those around them. All of them will receive their prediction to become buddhas after their accumulation of practice in a life to come. I will now declare my and your development in previous worlds. Do you all listen well!"
"My and your development in previous worlds" includes not only Shakyamuni Buddha and his five hundred disciples but all the buddhas and their disciples who have appeared or will appear, from the infinite past to the eternal future. This is because one who has truly understood the Buddha's teachings never fails to tell them to others and to have the urge to save others. By continuing this, he himself can become a buddha. Moreover, those who have been saved by him can themselves become buddhas by transmitting the Buddha's teachings to many other people and by continuing the practice of saving others. In this way, numberless buddhas have appeared from the infinite past to the present, and these numberless buddhas have produced innumerable more buddhas. Thus a continuous proliferation of people's enlightenment by the buddhas has been occurring incessantly. This is the true meaning of the words "my and your development in previous worlds."
Today, we are fortunate to be able to encounter the Lotus Sutra. That we have means that we have been given the Buddha's prediction of becoming buddhas if we practice. Though Shakyamuni the historical Buddha passed away some two thousand five hundred years ago, Lord Shakyamuni the Eternal Original Buddha is with us forever. He gives us his prediction of attaining buddhahood through the Lotus Sutra.
THE IMPORTANCE OF REPETITION. When the Buddha gave his prediction to Kashyapa, his domain was described as a beautiful and ideal land, and the description of this realm was repeated in the verses that the Buddha spoke afterward. Though slightly different in wording, basically the same description was repeated in the predictions given to Subhuti, Maudgalyayana, and Katyayana.
In chanting the Lotus Sutra, we should not think, "These are the same words as before," nor should we recite them carelessly. Repetition has a very important function in religious life.
To do something repeatedly makes a deep impression on our minds. But this repetition must be done wholeheartedly. Anyone who tries reciting chapter 6 with his whole heart will find himself repeating the description of man's ideal state as symbolized by the ten epithets of the Buddha, and the ideal human society as symbolized by the description of the beautiful lands of the buddhas. Through frequent repetition these ideals will penetrate the depths of his mind.
Such expression as "as mentioned above" or "the aforesaid" are excusable in business documents and official reports. Such shortcut expressions pass muster in today's busy world. However, when it comes to Buddhist practice, we must not shirk repeating everything exactly. Unless one repeats the same thing wholeheartedly as often as possible in studying music or in practicing baseball, he will never improve. It is the same with religion.
When we recite the title of the Lotus Sutra, it seems well enough in theory to recite it only once if we do so with complete sincerity. But in reality, if we do not repeat the title from three to ten times, the idea of taking refuge in the Buddha does not penetrate completely. Nevertheless, although repetition is very important, if we recite it a thousand or ten thousand times, unless we are superhuman we will become bored or our minds will wander, and we will find ourselves merely mouthing the title without understanding it. This results in the defect of formalism, the lazy belief that merely by reciting the title we can be saved.
We must realize that real Buddhist practice has three requisites: 1) a good practice, 2) wholehearted conduct, and 3) constant repetition.
Copyright © 2009 by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.