THIS CHAPTER DECLARES what the teacher of the Law ought to know and practice. "Teacher" is not limited to monks but means any person who devotes himself to spreading the Lotus Sutra, whether monk, nun, or lay devotee, man or woman.
At that time the World-honored One addressed the eighty thousand great leaders through the Bodhisattva Medicine King, saying: "Medicine King! Do you see in this assembly innumerable gods, dragon kings, demons, human and nonhuman beings, as well as bhikshus, bhikshunis, male and female lay devotees, seekers after enlightenment in various stages of mind? All such beings as these, in the presence of the Buddha, if they hear a single verse or a single word of the Wonderful Law Flower Sutra and even by a single thought delight in it, I predict that they will all attain Perfect Enlightenment.
If we delight in a single verse or a single word of the Lotus Sutra by a single thought but become no better than we were before, it is of no use. The assurance of our becoming buddhas is conditional on the result of practice over a long period of time. Why then did the Buddha say that he would predict Perfect Enlightenment for anyone who by a single thought delights in a single verse or a single word of the Lotus Sutra? This is because the mind that one raises through delighting in the Lotus Sutra by a single thought will become the seed of his attaining buddhahood. One must incessantly nurture this seed, making it bud by watering it diligently, making it grow, flower, and bear fruit. However, when we understand that we are assured of becoming buddhas if we hear a single verse or a single word of the Lotus Sutra and by a single thought delight in it, we should be inspired with redoubled courage. Such an understanding is a great encouragement to us in this corrupt age. The Buddha referred to this as follows: "Moreover, after the extinction of the Tathagata, if there be any people who hear even a single verse or a single word of the Wonderful Law Flower Sutra, and by a single thought delight in it, I also predict them to Perfect Enlightenment."
The following words of the Buddha concern mainly the corrupt age in which we now live: "Again let there be any who receive and keep, read and recite, expound and copy even a single verse in the Wonderful Law Flower Sutra, and look upon this sutra with reverence as if it were the Buddha, and make offering to it in various ways, as well as revere it with palms joining together; know, Medicine King, these people have already paid homage to ten myriad kotis of buddhas and under the buddhas have performed their great vows; therefore out of compassion for all living beings, they are born here among men."
THE FIVE PRACTICES OF TEACHERS OF THE LAW. Receiving and keeping the sutra (juji), reading and reciting it (doku-ju), expounding it (gesetsu), and copying it (shosha) are called the five practices of teachers of the Law (goshu hosshi). These are most important practices for those who spread the Lotus Sutra. The description of these five practices of the teacher of the Law is the first of the seven essentials mentioned in the chapter "A Teacher of the Law."
Of these five practices of the teacher, "receiving and keeping" (juji) is called "the intensive practice" (shogyo), while the other four practices are called "the assisting practices" (jogyo). The reason we must set apart "receiving and keeping" as the intensive practice is that this is the most important and fundamental practice of the five; without it, the other four practices mean little. "Receiving" (ju) indicates believing deeply in the teachings of the Buddha, and "keeping" (ji) means to adhere firmly to that belief.
"Reading" (doku), the first of the assisting practices, means actually reading the sutra; this practice includes reading it aloud, reading it silently, and listening intently to others' reading of it.
"Reciting" (ju) means to recite the sutra from memory. This practice includes the repetition of the words of the sutra that we have learned by heart and the mental repetition of their meaning. The teaching becomes deeply rooted in our minds through repeated recitation from memory.
"Expounding" (gesetsu) means to explain the meaning of the sutra to others. This is both an indispensable practice for spreading the teaching and also a practice for our own benefit. It is difficult for us to preach the teaching to others, and for this reason we must study the sutra over and over again. While preaching it to others, we will often be led to reflect upon the insufficiency of our own faith and discernment.
"Copying" (shosha) means to copy the sutra by hand. This practice is significant in two ways. One is its practice for propagating the teaching and the other is its practice for deepening our own faith and discernment. Before the art of printing was invented, copying the Lotus Sutra by hand was indispensable in order to spread it. In modern times, we must spread the teaching making the best use of printing, movies, records, tape recorders, and other audio-visual aids. The first meaning of "copying" has been enlarged in this way. However, the practice of copying must not be limited to the first meaning only. When we copy carefully each word of the sutra with a calm and concentrated mind, the spirit of the sutra becomes firmly rooted in both our body and our mind. Copying the sutra in this sense is still an important practice.
The Buddha continued: "Medicine King! If there be any people who ask you what sort of living beings will become buddhas in future worlds, you should show them that those are the people who will certainly become buddhas in future worlds. Wherefore? If my good sons and good daughters receive and keep, read and recite, expound and copy even a single word in the Law Flower Sutra, and make offerings to it in various ways, as well as revere it with folded hands, these people will be looked up to by all the worlds; and as you pay homage to the tathagatas, so should you pay homage to them."
The Buddha preached this repeatedly. By this frequent repetition we are deeply impressed by how seriously the Buddha regarded it. We should especially learn the following passage so that we can recite it from memory: "If these good sons and good daughters, after my extinction, should be able even by stealth to preach to one person even one word of the Law Flower Sutra, know these people are Tathagata apostles sent by the Tathagata to perform Tathagata deeds. How much more so those who in great assemblies widely preach to others."
This passage includes the second essential point mentioned in chapter 10. Those who practice the Lotus Sutra must keep its words in mind morning and night.
Next the Buddha spoke as follows: "Medicine King! Even if there be some wicked person who from an evil mind throughout a whole kalpa appears before the Buddha and unceasingly blasphemes the Buddha, his sin is still light, but if anyone, even with a single ill word, defames the lay devotees or monks who read and recite the Law Flower Sutra, his sin is extremely heavy."
This and the following compose the third essential point in this chapter: "Medicine King! In every place where this sutra is preached or read or recited or copied or its volumes kept, one should erect a caitya1 of the precious seven, making it very high, spacious, and splendid. But there is no need to deposit relics. Wherefore? Because in it there is the whole body of the Tathagata."
THE TRUE MEANING OF WORSHIP. Through these words the Buddha teaches us that it is much more important to revere the Law itself than to worship idols. What he is saying is: However much a person may blaspheme the Buddha, his sin is still light. There is no need to deposit the Buddha's relics in pagodas. The greatest veneration of the Buddha is to practice the Lotus Sutra, and the heaviest sin is to defame the lay devotees or monks who practice the sutra.
However, we must be careful in our understanding of this teaching. It would be a great mistake to think that it does not matter if we blaspheme the Buddha, or that we should ignore the Buddha's relics. Shakyamuni Buddha was a great man who left us his precious teachings, and for this reason we cannot revere him too much. We worship the image of the Buddha in order to show our boundless gratitude to the Buddha, who left us his precious teachings. As mentioned repeatedly in this book, it is also done for the sake of deepening our reverence for the Buddha as our ideal, which we wish to approach little by little.
Moreover, through the image of Shakyamuni as the historical Buddha, we worship the Tathagata Shakyamuni and the Eternal Original Buddha, namely, the Law preached by him. Worshiping the image of the Buddha is not idol worship. Idol worship indicates the idea of regarding the thing itself as the object of worship, believing, for example, that if one worships some object one's disease will be cured, one will be spared from suffering, or one's desires will be fulfilled. There is all the difference in the world between true worship and idol worship.
The Buddha continued: "He who reads and recites the Law Flower Sutra - know! That man has adorned himself with the adornment of the Buddha, and so is carried by the Tathagata on his shoulder." Indeed, the appearance of a person who absorbedly reads and recites the Lotus Sutra is dignified and beautiful, like that of a buddha. Observing his appearance with divine eyes, he will appear to be tinted with a golden color.
The fact that such a person will be always protected by buddhas is stated as follows: "After the Tathagata is extinct, those who are able to copy, keep, read, recite, worship, and preach it [the Lotus Sutra] to others will be invested by the Tathagata with his robe. Those people shall dwell with the Tathagata, and the Tathagata shall place his hand upon their heads."
The Buddha's frequent repetition of such words shows that we must be keenly aware of how sacred the teaching of the Lotus Sutra is and how perfectly our practice of it conforms to the intention of the Tathagata. Whatever difficulties and whatever persecution we may meet with, the Tathagata promises surely to protect us.
The Buddha makes the following gratifying and reassuring promise to us in this evil world: "Because a person who practices the Lotus Sutra is as honorable as a buddha, the Buddha is sure to protect him." The Buddha also proclaims: "Why is a person who practices the Lotus Sutra honorable? It is because this sutra is the foremost among all the sutras I have preached." These two important statements are the fourth essential point of this chapter.
So far, the merits gained by one who practices the Lotus Sutra have been expounded. Next the mental attitude with which he must practice it is stressed. This mental attitude is divided into three major parts, in accordance with the following words of the Buddha.
The Buddha addressed Medicine King, saying: "Infinite thousand myriads of kotis are the sutras I preach, whether already preached, now being preached, or to be preached in the future; and among them all, this Law Flower Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand. Medicine King! This sutra is the mystic, essential treasury of all buddhas, which must not be distributed among or recklessly delivered to men. It is watched over by buddhas, world-honored ones, and it has never been revealed and preached. And this sutra while the Tathagata is still here has aroused much enmity and envy; how much more after his extinction!"
First, the Buddha says that infinite thousand myriads of kotis are the sutras he preaches, whether already preached, now being preached, or to be preached in the future, and that among them all, this Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand. The reason that this sutra is the most difficult to believe and to understand is that the fundamental teaching of the Lotus Sutra, that everybody becomes a buddha according to the accumulation of his practice, is so difficult to believe and to understand.
We can understand the Lotus Sutra in theory, but this kind of understanding is liable to be shaken by any adverse change in our circumstances. The person who can truly understand and believe the sutra from the bottom of his heart is one who is spiritually sensitive to the teaching and who is ripe to bear the fruit of the accumulated karma of his former lives. For that reason, we must continually strive to grasp the teaching of the Lotus Sutra more deeply and must patiently receive and keep it regardless of whatever doubts we may have in our minds or whatever persecution and slander we may suffer from outsiders.
Secondly, the Buddha teaches that this sutra is deeply treasured in the minds of all buddhas and must not be recklessly distributed among or delivered to people. As mentioned in chapter 3, it is most important here too that we not misinterpret this teaching of the Buddha as meaning that we should not preach the sutra to others.
Thirdly, the Buddha proclaims: "This sutra is watched over by buddhas, and I have never revealed and preached it before the people in the world. And this sutra, while I am still here, has aroused much enmity and envy; how much more after my extinction!"
Some people may think it strange that this sacred teaching should incur enmity and envy, but it is not really strange, because whenever a better teaching is preached or believed in, those who believe in a lower teaching tend to envy it and are irritated and upset by it. Others scorn the teaching when they know nothing of its content. Still others denounce a good teaching as heresy and persecute it. When Shakyamuni Buddha, Jesus Christ, and Nichiren began to preach their teachings, all were attacked by enemies and underwent religious persecution.
As mentioned before, the Buddha promises us: "Even if the Lotus Sutra arouses much enmity and envy, endure this and receive, keep, and practice the sutra. Such a person will be protected and invested by the Tathagata with his robe." This is the fifth essential point of this chapter.
THE PARABLE OF DIGGING IN A TABLELAND. Next, the Buddha teaches us through the Parable of Digging in a Tableland that one who practices the Lotus Sutra must earnestly seek after the Law with hope and unremitting zeal. A man who is extremely thirsty searches for water by digging in a tableland. So long as he sees dry earth, he knows that water is still far off. Continuing his labor unceasingly, in time he sees moist earth and then gradually reaches mud. Then he knows that water is near at hand. So he digs still more earnestly, without being discouraged or doubting. Bodhisattvas are like this. If they have not heard, nor understood, nor been able to observe this Law Flower Sutra, they are still far from Perfect Enlightenment. But if they hear, understand, ponder, and observe it, they are near Perfect Enlightenment.
Once we have known the Lotus Sutra, we never have to be at a loss as to what to do. If we give up the sutra after only a little practice of it, as though starting to dig somewhere else because water does not appear immediately, we cannot realize the teachings of the sutra, just as we cannot quench our thirst by digging only a little. The Buddha teaches here that if we endeavor patiently to attain Perfect Enlightenment, just as when we continue to dig unceasingly, we can assuredly reach enlightenment, just as we can reach the mud. This is the sixth essential point of this chapter.
THE ROBE, THE THRONE, AND THE ABODE OF THE TATHAGATA. The seventh and final essential point of this chapter is shown in the following words of the Buddha describing the three rules of the robe, the throne, and the abode of the Tathagata: "Medicine King! If there be any good son or good daughter who, after the extinction of the Tathagata, desires to preach this Law Flower Sutra to the four groups, how should he preach it? That good son or good daughter, entering into the abode of the Tathagata, wearing the robe of the Tathagata, and sitting on the throne of the Tathagata, should then widely proclaim this sutra to the four groups of hearers.
"The abode of the Tathagata is the great compassionate heart within all living beings; the robe of the Tathagata is the gentle and forbearing heart; the throne of the Tathagata is the emptiness of all laws [the spirituality of all existences].2 Established in these, then with unflagging mind to bodhisattvas and the four groups of hearers he will preach this Law Flower Sutra."
The abode of the Tathagata means the possession of a heart so great and compassionate that one desires to save all people, both good and evil, even those who try to harm one. This compassionate heart is compared to the great abode of the Tathagata, which any person can enter.
The robe of the Tathagata means such a gentle and forbearing heart that one never becomes angry at whatever bitter experiences one may undergo, and also is never swayed by whatever compliments one may be paid. This kind of heart is compared to the robe of the Tathagata, which is never affected by any evil influence from the outside. This means that one who practices the Lotus Sutra must maintain a firm determination to spread it.
The throne of the Tathagata means to view all things equally. As already explained in chapter 5, this indicates that though the differences among all things are recognized as they are, one must view things equally by rising above this discrimination. For example, though John has a slow mind, he is quick with his hands. Though Mary is not clever with her fingers, she is clear-headed. Although the difference between the two is rightly recognized, they are seen as equal as human beings in the sight of the Buddha. To view things thus is the meaning of the "emptiness of all laws" (the spirituality of all existences).
The Buddha teaches us that we must faithfully keep these three rules concerning the virtue of the Tathagata and untiringly preach the Lotus Sutra based on them.
This chapter does not take the form of a story or drama as do the other chapters of the sutra but is in the form of a sermon from beginning to end.
- A caitya is a pagoda in which sutras are deposited. From this chapter on, the Lotus Sutra stresses erecting caityas instead of stupas, or pagodas for relics.
- Literally, the emptiness of all phenomena (laws); this is interpreted in terms of the truth of the Middle Path - that things are neither existent nor nonexistent, that there is a realm between these two that can only be a spiritual realm.
Copyright © 2009 by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.