THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER DETAILS the merits of a beginner, one who has just entered the teaching. The present chapter expounds the merits of a preacher who has moved to a higher level. "Preacher" does not necessarily mean monk or nun but means any person - including Buddhist monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen - who receives and keeps the Buddha's teachings and endeavors to spread them. The practices of a preacher are of five kinds (goshu hosshi): receiving and keeping the sutra (juji), reading it (doku) and reciting it (ju), expounding it (gesetsu), and copying it (shosha). A full explanation of these five kinds of practices has already been given in chapter 10, "A Teacher of the Law." In each of these five practices, the state of our gradually deepening faith is clearly shown.
If we believe and discern the teaching after hearing it, and if we raise the mind of joyful acceptance of it, we proceed first to keep it firmly, then, reading and reciting the sutra, to inscribe it on our memory. As a personal discipline, this practice is done to establish the foundation of our faith. When our faith reaches this stage, we cannot help transmitting the teaching to others. As a result, we expound the sutra (the teaching) and copy it. We cannot say we have attained true faith until we go through each process of the five kinds of practices of the preacher.
Then the Buddha addressed the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Ever Zealous: "If any good son or good daughter receives and keeps this Law Flower Sutra, or reads, or recites, or expounds, or copies it, that person will obtain eight hundred merits of the eye, twelve hundred merits of the ears, eight hundred merits of the nose, twelve hundred merits of the tongue, eight hundred merits of the body, and twelve hundred merits of the mind; with these merits he will dignify his six organs, making them all serene."
The figures eight hundred and twelve hundred indicate the idea of obtaining the merits perfectly. We do not have to take these numbers literally.
THE MERITS OF THE EYE. What merits of the eye can the good son or good daughter obtain? Concerning these merits, the Buddha preaches as follows: "That good son or good daughter, with the natural pure eyes received at birth from his parents, will see whatever exists within and without the three-thousand-great-thousandfold world, mountains, forests, rivers, and seas, down to the Avici hell and up to the Summit of Existence, and also see all the living beings in it, as well as see and know in detail all their karma-causes and rebirth states of retribution."
Thereupon the World-honored One, desiring to proclaim this teaching over again, spoke in verse, concluding with the following words: "Though not yet having attained divine vision, / His eyes of flesh have powers like these."
The expression "Though not yet having attained divine vision" indicates the opposite of the expression "with the natural pure eyes received at birth from his parents." The last line of the verse means that even though living beings do not yet possess the divine vision of heavenly beings, capable of discerning the real state of all things, they can receive the power to do so while living in the saha world because they have pure eyes unclouded with mental delusion. To put it more plainly, they can do so because their minds become so pure that they are devoid of selfishness, so that they view things unswayed by prejudice or subjectivity. They can see things correctly, as they truly are, because they always maintain calm minds and are not swayed by impulse.
The Buddha preaches in a certain sutra as follows: "A thing is not reflected as it is in water boiling over a fire. A thing is not mirrored as it is on the surface of water hidden by plants. A thing is not reflected as it is on the surface of water running in waves stirred up the wind." The Buddha teaches us here that we cannot view the real state of things until we are free from the mental delusion caused by selfishness and passion. We should interpret the merits of the eye in this way.
THE FOUR FEARLESSNESSES OF A BODHISATTVA. The Buddha began to speak in verse with the following words: "If one, in the great assembly,/ With fearless mind,/ Preaches this Law Flower Sutra . . ." The phrase "with fearless mind" means that one says what he believes in a dignified manner, without fear or reserve. In explaining such a fearless mind, the expression "the four fearlessnesses of a bodhisattva" has been used since ancient times. One can preach the Law with a fearless mind if he always maintains the following four fearlessnesses.
The first is soji-fumo: a bodhisattva has no fear of preaching the Law, through remembering to observe all the requirements. This means that a bodhisattva has nothing to fear in preaching the Law to anybody if he learns by heart all the teachings he has heard and he does not forget them. This seems simple enough, but it is not so easy to put into practice. Whenever a person receives the teaching he listens to it with his whole heart, and whenever he has questions about it he does not hesitate to ask the preacher until he has understood it to his satisfaction. Moreover, he endeavors to remember the teaching by reading and reciting it repeatedly morning and evening. He cannot reach such a mental stage unless he perseveres in this endeavor tirelessly.
The second fearlessness is jinchi-hoyaku: the bodhisattva has no fear of preaching the Law, by thoroughly knowing the medicine of the Law and also the capacities, inclinations, natures, and minds of all living beings. This means that just as a physician can make up a prescription according to the nature and stage of any disease, a bodhisattva can preach the Law with no uneasiness in accordance with the differences in capacity, inclination, nature, and mind of each person. A person who is worthy to be called a bodhisattva not only remembers the teaching well but also fosters the ability to preach it freely by using tactful means.
The third fearlessness is zenno-mondo: the bodhisattva has no fear of preaching the Law in good and sufficient questions and answers. If it were sufficient just to speak of the Law on the spur of the moment, one could prepare for it with hastily acquired and undigested knowledge. Anyone who has a general knowledge of the Law can do so. A true preacher, however, must have enough power to answer clearly any question on his preaching and to argue logically against opposing opinions. His answers and arguments must not be deceptive or farfetched but must be in accord with the Buddha's teachings. The word "good" means that his answers are good in that they accord with the Buddha's teachings. However correct his answer may be in content, he cannot be said to be a good preacher unless he knows how to preach the Law so tactfully that he can make his hearers both understand it easily and realize completely their mistaken ideas. The word "sufficient" refers to his persuasive power. In short, one who can answer any question and any opposing opinion so explicitly and satisfactorily as to accord completely with the Buddha's teachings will preach the Law with no fear.
The fourth fearlessness is nodan-motsugi: the bodhisattva has no fear of preaching the Law through sufficiently resolving doubts. Many questions arise regarding the interpretation of the Buddha's teachings because they are so profound, vast, and boundless. Every person has a different interpretation of matters, thus the saying, "As many Buddhist priests as there are interpretations of the Law." A person must be very clear-headed and decisive in his interpretation of the Law, but above all he must surpass others in virtue and must have the utmost compassion. This is because in considering such difficult problems as varying interpretations of teachings, one cannot grasp the true intention of the Buddha from theoretical knowledge alone. Only a person who has reached the mental stage of directly entering into the great compassion of the Buddha can make decisions that conform to the Buddha's intention in elucidating the delicate nuances of doubts. A bodhisattva who can sufficiently resolve doubts in this way will preach the Law without any fear.
In considering the four fearlessnesses of a bodhisattva, some people may be daunted at the thought of the difficulty of preaching the Law to others. However, we must not be afraid. These four categories describe the ideal preacher, and if one attains such a stage, then indeed one will have become a great bodhisattva. No great bodhisattva becomes so without effort; he reaches such a stage only after a long practice of severe discipline.
We, who train ourselves in the bodhisattva practice, must always preach the Law by bearing in mind the four ideals of the bodhisattva and by taking these four ideals as our yardstick. When we meet with a difficult problem or are asked questions that we do not know how to answer, we should say so frankly: "As this question is beyond me, I will ask somebody for instruction and then I will answer you." We must not dream up an answer just to make it through the occasion somehow. To say "I am not sure" does not lower us in the estimation of others as preachers but results in increasing the confidence of our listeners.
THE MERITS OF EAR, NOSE, TONGUE, BODY, AND THOUGHT. Then the Buddha preached the merits of the ear. He teaches that any good son or good daughter who has improved in the five practices of the preacher will be able to hear all words and sounds with his natural ears.
Things make a sound whenever they move. A person who has attained a serene mind through deepening his faith can grasp the subtle shifting of things through their sounds. Among the various sounds mentioned in this passage, those of fire, water, and wind refer to natural things. With a serene ear, one can grasp distinctly the movements of nature just by hearing the sounds of crackling fire, of murmuring water, and of whistling wind. When such a person hears the sounds of nature, he can enjoy them as much as if he were listening to beautiful music. When he hears any unusual sound of nature, he can judge its true cause and thus can save many other people as well as himself from the dangers of blizzards, typhoons or hurricanes, tidal waves, floods, and other natural disasters. Still more, he can easily recognize the movement of men's minds from the sounds of conchs, of drums, of gongs, and of bells.
A skilled mechanical engineer knows what parts of which machines are worn out or maladjusted when he enters a factory and listens to the noises that the many machines make. Among more than a hundred musicians in a symphony orchestra, an outstanding conductor can ascertain the delicate differences in their performances by listening: which instrumentalists perform with too low or too high a pitch; which do not create the right mood in their performance; which overperform. A preacher as a leader in human life is able naturally to recognize the feelings of living beings from their words and other sounds.
Needless to say, the sounds of living beings are generated by their movements. They are produced not only by the vibrations of their vocal cords but also by the movements of their feelings and will. There are sounds of comfort, of lamentation, of suffering, and of speech. One who has developed sufficient faith can hear the true meaning of all those sounds: the sounds of the hells, of hungry spirits, of animals, and of asuras. He can also recognize the sounds of holy men, of bhiksus, of bhiksunis, and of bodhisattvas. He can understand what teaching is preached in what place and what value its content has. Finally, he will attain the ability described in the following lines:
"The buddhas, great and holy honored ones,
Transformers of all living beings,
Who, in their great assemblies,
Proclaim the mystic Law -
He who keeps this Law Flower
Hears in every detail."
It is natural that because the whole body of the Tathagata is contained in the Lotus Sutra, one who keeps the sutra can hear the Buddha's preaching of the Law.
We find the following two important expressions in the verse portion in which the Buddha speaks of the merits of the ear: "He can listen without being under their control" and "He will hear without harm to his organ of hearing." The former expression means that even if he hears the sounds of beautiful music he is not attached to them. He may be charmed by music for a short time, but he has no permanent attachment to it, nor is lulled into forgetting important matters. This is a good example for us in regard to our attachment to amusements. The latter expression means that his hearing will not be impaired even if he hears all the sounds in the three-thousand-great-thousandfold world. This indicates that he will not become confused by hearing all the various kinds of sounds in the world. If an ordinary person hears the sounds of worry, of suffering, and of grief on one side and the sounds of disputes and quarrels on the other, he will be thrown into confusion. However, a person who has deepened his faith sufficiently will not be overwhelmed; he will dwell calmly amid the noise and will be able to hear these sounds with serenity.
The Buddha also discussed the merits of the nose. Among the five sense organs of men, the nose is said to be the most animallike. For this reason it is said that the art of smell has not been developed to the same extent as the arts of the eye (painting, sculpture, and so on) and of the ear (music). For this very reason, the nose has much direct influence upon human emotions. When one smells an unpleasant odor, he may lose his appetite or develop a headache, while he can be completely fascinated by a delightful perfume. The sense of smell is very difficult to pin down, but if any good son or good daughter improves in the five kinds of practices of the preacher, he will freely discern things by smell. This means that he will grasp the true state of all things.
Next, the Buddha declared the merits of the tongue. These merits are of two kinds: the first is that whatever one tastes will have the finest flavor, and the second is that when one preaches, one will send forth so profound and beautiful a voice as to give all people pleasure and joy. Concerning the first merit, it is natural for whatever one eats to taste good when one has reached this high a degree of faith and mental calm. No explanation of the second merit is needed.
Next, the Buddha preached the merits of the body. If any good son or good daughter practices the five kinds of practices of the preacher, he will obtain a body as pure as clear crystal, which all the living delight to see, and the real state of all things will be manifested in his body. A person who wholeheartedly carries out the bodhisattva practice is free from the idea of self. Because of having such a pure body, all forms and images in this world will be seen in his body just as they are, with no distortion or obscurity. Therefore, as indicated by the expression "all the living delight to see," all living beings will respect him as a leading teacher and feel joy in seeing him.
The Buddha then preached the merits of thought in the following way: "If any good son or good daughter, after the extinction of the Tathagata, receives and keeps this sutra, or reads, or recites, or expounds, or copies it, he will obtain twelve hundred merits of thought. With this pure organ of thought, on hearing even a single verse or sentence he will penetrate its infinite and boundless meanings. Having discerned those meanings, he will be able to preach on that single sentence or verse for a month, four months, even a year. And that which he preaches, according to its several meanings, will not be contrary to the truth."
Because of having a pure organ of thought, such a person can understand the infinite and boundless meanings of the teaching when he hears even a single verse or sentence of it. Having entirely understood those meanings, he will be able to preach on that single sentence or verse for a month, four months, or even a year. In brief, having completely grasped the teaching, he can preach it from all angles, in various ways, in whatever manner and for whatever length of time he desires. Here is shown the vastness and boundlessness of the teachings of the Buddha and the deep wisdom of one who has penetrated them.
The Buddha then says: "If he refers to popular classics, maxims for ruling the world, means of livelihood, and so forth, all will coincide with the True Law." These words have a very important meaning for our daily lives today. The term "popular classics" means books to guide human life other than religious works, such as works on ethics or philosophy. Indeed, this phrase is not limited to books but also includes the Buddha's teachings as preached through speech. The phrase "maxims for ruling the world" means teaching concerning such matters as politics, economics, and law. The phrase "means of livelihood" means discussing with and guide others in industry, such as agriculture, manufacturing, and commerce.
The ideas of a person who has attained deep faith will naturally coincide with the True Law even when he discusses such practical matters. For people of religion, this is the right way to deal with spiritual problems and the mental world, but it is not good to touch directly on political issues and the foreign policy of a nation. However, they have the very important duty to preach the principles of the correct mental attitude to whomever it may concern. Shakyamuni Buddha taught people concerning their work, economy, and other practical matters, to say nothing of the proper mental attitude for men engaged in government.
Even during the Buddha's lifetime, most believers in the Lotus Sutra must have been but lay devotees, not Buddhist monks or nuns. Therefore, sometimes the Buddha preached to believers in their homes on "popular classics," and sometimes he stated "maxims for ruling the world." How much more must it have been necessary for him to speak daily of "means of livelihood."
Discussion of people's daily lives is closely related to their common interests. For this reason what one says is apt to be greatly influenced by his ego. We tend to view things shortsightedly and to want to have things our own way, and often we do not take the broader view of things necessary to benefit others as well as ourselves. On the other hand, a person who has gained true faith can approach the viewpoint of the Buddha, that of benefiting everyone, so that naturally what he says coincides with the Buddha's teachings. This is a quality most essential in modern society.
In order to explain this teaching in more detail, the Buddha said: "The beings in the six destinies of the three-thousand-great-thousandfold world, whatever is passing in their minds, whatever are the movements of their minds, whatever arguments are diverting their minds - he knows them all. Though such a one has not yet obtained faultless wisdom, yet his organ of thought will be pure like this. Whatever he ponders, estimates, and speaks, all will be the Buddha Law, nothing but truth, and also that which former buddhas have taught in the sutra."
The living beings throughout the three-thousand-great-thousandfold world, whatever may be occupying their minds, whatever may be their mental processes, and whatever useless arguments may be distorting their minds--a person of a higher stage of faith can know them all because, though he is not yet perfectly free from delusions and has not yet obtained the wisdom to be able to penetrate the real state of all things just as they are, his organ of thought is pure enough for him to gain such a supernatural power. Whatever he ponders, estimates, and says will be in accord with the Buddha's teachings, and will also coincide with that which former buddhas have preached in the sutra.
"Former buddhas" indicates the many buddhas before the appearance of Shakyamuni Buddha in this world. This expression signifies that truth never changes and that whatever a person who has attained enough depth of faith preaches will coincide with the truth, which applies to the three temporal worlds of the past, the present, and the future.
In this way the Buddha teaches us that with the merits of the five kinds of practices of preachers any good son or good daughter can purify his or her six senses - vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and thought.
Finally, the major theme of the Buddha's preaching in this chapter includes two points. The first is the Buddha's encouragement to man to devote himself to his practice because if he practices the Lotus Sutra wholeheartedly he can improve both mentally and physically. The second is the Buddha's admonition that because a true believer in the Lotus Sutra must fulfill the important duty of spreading the Buddha's teachings, he should naturally possess the power to discern all things. That a person has not yet attained such a mental state is proof of the inadequacy of his personal practice. Therefore he must constantly examine himself so as not to lapse into complacency and conceit.
Copyright © 2009 by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.