Continuing the thread of thought of the preceding chapter, this chapter proceeds at once to deal with the merits of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind that any good man or woman will attain from any one of five practices of teachers of the Law: receiving and keeping, reading, reciting, interpreting or explaining, and copying the sutra. With the beginning of the verse passage repeating the virtues that accrue to the eye of the earnest believer, it becomes clear that these five acts are acts of the preacher of the Lotus Sutra, and hence the title of the chapter. As each of the six senses or faculties is treated, the manner of expression becomes so highly symbolic that the reader today may well get a very odd feeling. So it is essential to get to the underlying truth that is expressed.
In Buddhist doctrine it is a matter of course that a change of heart results in a visible change in life. It is out of the question for the heart to change and life not to. It is certain to. The change in life that comes of a change of heart by faith is termed merit.
Now merit is evident not only in the mind and heart but also in physical and material life. Since the human mind, body, and material surroundings are all alike derived from a uniform void, it is by no means odd but perfectly reasonable for the body and its material surroundings to change in consequence of change in the mind and heart. It is therefore neither reasonable nor scientific to affirm merit or merits of the mind and deny physical or material merits.
We have seen great advances in medicine on this score. The latest psychic and somatic, or psychosomatic, medicine has found and demonstrated psychic activity to be a cause of many ills as varied as eye trouble, skin trouble, heart trouble, stomach trouble, high blood pressure, hives, morning sickness, abnormal menstruation, and other troubles that seem at first to have nothing to do with the mind. Accordingly, when the way of thinking is altered, the illness corrects itself, a clear indication that mind and body are not divisible. They are closely bound together and are not separate things. There is nothing odd about this.
Again, there is nothing odd about a person who has through faith undergone a change of heart, a change in his or her way of thinking, having the blessings of money or other material things come his or her way. With a change in the bearing of the mind, an entire change in attitude toward work and life necessarily follows, and improvement and change for the better are natural consequences.
Moreover, the entire atmosphere surrounding the individual filled with true Mahayana belief - awareness of being part of the Eternal Buddha - is different. For such an individual is bright, filled with confidence, and has a sense of positive dedication. In consequence the people around such an individual see him or her in a different light. They are touched by a charm they cannot explain. They feel trust. Thus it is that work goes well and material blessings naturally follow.
More than this, as stated here and in the preceding chapter, the body and countenance also change. This is no more than is to be expected, for mind and body are one. Now while it is true that a noble, happy countenance and person are the expression of that person's virtue, they are more usually the outcome of previous generations over a long period of time. Abraham Lincoln's well-known remark had it that a person had to take responsibility for his or her own face after the age of forty, but the fact is that people have still greater responsibility for the faces of their descendants.
The merits described here are an expression of the results or consequences of Mahayana faith, and so when such consequences become manifest, one should take them as they come. There is no need whatever to hold the perverse notion that since faith is wholly a matter of the spirit, nonspiritual merits tarnish a spiritual life.
What is tarnishing is faith that has as its object benefit in this life. More than tarnishing, it is wicked and conducive to retrogression. Faith should have as its object reconstruction of the mind and spirit, and if this is achieved, it is well then to accept without fuss any physical and material merits that may follow.
Toward the end of the chapter there is one sentence not to be overlooked: "If he refers to popular classics, maxims for ruling the world, means of livelihood, and so forth, all will coincide with the True Law."
"He" means the preacher of the text, and the statement means simply that such persons will spontaneously conform to the True Law when they teach about daily life, when they discuss government, or when they give directions in business.
The True Law has very much to do with society at large and is by no means limited to individual spiritual concerns. And so it lends true life to secular law. If this were not so, it would ultimately have no power to deliver all of humankind. We must mark this point well.
Copyright by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.