THE BUDDHA USED three methods of preaching. The first was the theoretical method, or "preaching by theory" (hossetsu). If his audience found it difficult to understand his teachings when presented in this way, he then used the figurative method, called "preaching by parable" (hi-setsu). If his hearers were still unable to grasp the Buddha's true meaning, he used the method called "preaching by causality" (innen-setsu), preaching by means of the story of the life of a past buddha. The Lotus Sutra uses all three methods, so that people of all dispositions can understand the teaching.
Chapter 7, "The Parable of the Magic City," falls into the category of preaching by causality. It begins with the Buddha's explaining the relationship between the Buddha and his disciples from the remotest past to the present.
In the last part of chapter 6, the World-honored One said, "I will now declare my and your development in previous worlds. Do you all listen well!" With this introductory remark, the World-honored One again addressed the bhikshus: "In the remotest past, there was a buddha named Universal Surpassing Wisdom Tathagata, whose domain was named Well Completed and whose period was named Great Form. Since that buddha became extinct, an inexpressibly long time has passed. For instance, suppose the earth of this whole world was ground into ink by someone, and he was to pass through a thousand countries in an eastern direction and then let fall one drop as small as a grain of dust; again, passing through another thousand countries, to let fall another drop. Suppose he thus proceeds until he has finished the ink made of the earth--can you count the number of countries he has passed through? All these countries - is it possible for mathematicians or their disciples to know their end and confines so as to know their number?"
"A thousand countries" in today's terms means all the heavenly bodies of the universe. Imagine that one drop of ink as small as a grain of dust was let fall on a star, and after passing a thousand stars, another drop was let fall.
Asked what they thought, the bhikshus answered unanimously, "Oh no, World-honored One! It is quite impossible for us to know their number."
Nodding to himself, the World-honored One continued: "Bhikshus! Suppose all those countries [stars] which that man has passed, where he has let fall a drop and where he has not, are ground to dust, and let one grain of the dust be a kalpa.1 Can you imagine how long it will take to finish grinding the whole universe to dust? The time since Universal Surpassing Wisdom Tathagata became extinct till now still exceeds that number by innumerable and unlimited years. By the power of my Tathagata wisdom, I observe that length of time as if it were only today."
The Buddha used this simile of earth ground into ink in order to make his disciples realize clearly the idea of the unlimited duration of eternity. The idea of eternity or infinity does not come home to us unless we can establish a standard of limitedness. Even if we look up at the cloudless azure sky and think of the sky as unlimited, we have no clear idea of this unlimitedness. But when we see a tiny wisp of cloud high in the sky, we sense something of the unlimitedness of the sky. We feel infinity when we look up the starry sky at night and realize that the stars we see are millions of light years distant from the earth.
THE MEANING OF "TODAY." The Buddha's words "I observe that length of time as if it were only today" suggest to us that human life is unlimited. The Buddha gives us hints to realize that our lives continue from the unlimited past to the endless future; "today" does not exist in isolation but is like a deep pool or a shoal of the endless river of life. If we defile our body and mind of today, we exert a bad influence upon the lower reaches of the stream of unlimited life. If we purify our body and mind of today, we cause a favorable change farther down the same stream.
Before we proceed with the discussion of this chapter, we should understand that it was from his thoughtful consideration that the World-honored One said, "I observe that length of time as if it were only today," and then told the story of the life of a past buddha. Repeating this teaching in verse, the World-honored One continued: "The lifetime of the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom Tathagata is five hundred and forty myriad kotis2 of nayutas3 of kalpas. At the beginning when that buddha, seated on the wisdom throne, had destroyed the army of the devil, though he was on the point of attaining Perfect Enlightenment, the Buddha Law was not yet revealed to him. So for about a hundred thousand years he sat cross-legged with body and mind motionless; but the Buddha Law was not yet revealed to him.
"Then the gods of Indra's heavens4 spread for the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom a lion throne, which was a yojana5 high, under a Bodhi tree. As the gods requested that buddha to sit on this throne in order to attain Perfect Enlightenment, he sat on it, complying willingly with their request. No sooner had he sat on that throne than the Brahma heavenly kings rained down celestial flowers on the throne. A fragrant wind arose from time to time, sweeping away the withered flowers and raining down fresh ones. Thus incessantly, for a full hundred thousand years, they paid honor to the buddha, while the gods belonging to the four heavenly kings,6 in order to honor the buddha constantly, beat celestial drums while other gods played celestial music for a full hundred thousand years and continued to do so until that buddha's extinction."
This description shows that the gods of the heavens wished fervently for the attainment of Perfect Enlightenment by the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom and that they worshiped and revered this buddha. The image of a fragrant wind sweeping away the withered flowers and raining down fresh ones indicates that the gods' hope, worship, and admiration of that buddha continued constantly.
"Bhikshus! After the lapse of many very long years, the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom attained the Buddha Law, and Perfect Enlightenment was revealed to him. Before that buddha left home, he had sixteen sons, the eldest of whom was named Wisdom Store. Each of his sons had various kinds of amusements and lived happy lives, but on hearing that their father had accomplished Perfect Enlightenment, they all gave up the things they valued and went to pay their regards to the buddha, their weeping mothers escorting them without expecting that they would return home again.
"Their grandfather, Sacred Wheel-Rolling King, with his grandsons, his many ministers, and many of his citizens, followed them to the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom. After serving that buddha in various ways, they paid homage by prostrating themselves and touching his feet with their heads, and after making procession around him, with folded hands and with one mind, they gazed up at the buddha and praised him in verse. They spoke to the following effect: 'Though now the Buddha, you were formerly the same kind of ordinary man as we, and after the practice of measureless years, you have now become a buddha to save all living beings. You have a very holy appearance. Now seeing it, there seems to be hope even for us ordinary men to become buddhas according to our practice. We have attained good fortune and congratulate ourselves with great joy. All the living beings are suffering and without a leader; they are unaware of the way to end pain, knowing not how to seek deliverance. Their evil ways have increased more and more.
"'But now the Buddha is free from all illusions and has attained the supreme and peaceful state of mind. You have set a good example for us so that we, together with the heavenly and human beings, will receive the Buddha's teachings and will attain enlightenment. This is the greatest good fortune that we have gained. Therefore we all offer our lives to you, the peerless honored one. Be pleased to lead us!' Thereupon all these sixteen royal sons, when they had extolled the buddha in verse, entreated him to roll on the Law wheel, saying, 'Please preach the Law for all living beings.'" Here occurs the phrase "roll on the Law wheel." In this case, the Law means the teaching of the truth. Once the teaching is preached, it is transmitted to one after another just as ceaselessly as a wheel rolls. Therefore, to preach the teaching of the truth is called "to roll on the Law wheel" in Buddhism.
Then in a more solemn tone, the Buddha said to the bhikshus: "When the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom attained Perfect Enlightenment, each of the five hundred myriad kotis of buddha worlds in all directions was shaken in different ways; even the dark places between those realms, where the august light of the sun and moon could not shine, all became brilliant. All the living beings in their midst could see each other and unitedly exclaimed, 'From where have all these living beings suddenly come?'"
EMANCIPATION FROM THE HELL OF ISOLATION. The above words call for some explanation. In those places to which the Buddha's teachings have not spread, people assert themselves against each other and cannot open their minds. Though father and sons or brothers and sisters live together, each is isolated in the depths of his or her mind. They lead lonely lives, as they have no one but themselves to depend upon. But once the Buddha's teachings spread among them, they can all become friends. A person who has been lonely immediately becomes happy, surrounded by many good friends.
"Moreover, the palaces of the gods in all those regions shook in different ways and a great light universally shone, filling all the worlds, surpassing the light of heaven. Then, eastward, all the palaces of the Brahma heavens in many domains were brilliantly illuminated with double their normal brightness. And each of the Brahma heavenly kings reflected thus: 'For what reason does this sign appear, that our palaces are now illuminated as they never were of yore?' Then those Brahma heavenly kings all visited each other to discuss this happening. Meanwhile, among those assembled there was a great Brahma heavenly king, named Savior of All, who addressed the host of Brahmas in verse to the following effect: 'Why does this sign appear in such shining brightness as has never before been in all our palaces? Let us together investigate it. Is it that a great virtuous god is born? Is it that a buddha appears in the world? Why does this great light everywhere illuminate the universe?'
"Thereupon the Brahma heavenly kings from many domains, each with all his palace train, each taking a sack filled with celestial flowers, went together to visit the western quarter to investigate this sign. There they saw the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom on the wisdom terrace under the Bodhi tree, seated on the lion throne, surrounded and revered by gods and human and nonhuman beings. And they saw his sixteen royal sons entreating the buddha to roll along the Law wheel. Then all the Brahma heavenly kings bowed to the ground before the buddha, made procession around him hundreds and thousands of times, and then strewed celestial flowers upon him. The flowers they strewed rose liked Mount Sumeru and were offered also to the buddha's Bodhi tree. When they had offered the flowers, each presented his palace to the buddha and spoke thus: 'Out of compassion for us and for our good, condescend to accept the palaces we offer!'"
To honor the Buddha with an offering symbolizes one's worshiping the buddha and thanking him. The expression "the flowers were offered also to the buddha's Bodhi tree" has a very deep meaning. This tree protected the Buddha from the hot sun while he was meditating. The ground under the Bodhi tree is a natural place for attaining the highest enlightenment. For this reason, those who have deep devotion to the Buddha also pay honor to the Bodhi tree that protected him and to the place under this tree where he was seated when he attained enlightenment.
"Thereupon all the Brahma heavenly kings before the buddha, with one mind and one voice, praised him in verse to the following effect: 'A world-honored one rarely appears in this world and it is hard for us to meet him. He is perfect in infinite merit and is able to save all. As a great teacher of heavenly and human beings, he has compassion and leads all the living beings in the world. All the living beings in the universe hear his teaching and receive his aid. We have come from many heavens and have left deep meditative joys for the sake of serving the buddha. Our palaces are magnificently adorned as rewards for our former lives. Now we offer them to the world-honored one and beg him in mercy to accept them.'"
CREATION IS JOY IN HUMAN LIFE. The point here is that the heavenly kings have left their deep meditative joys and have descended from heaven to the human world for the sake of hearing the buddhas' teachings. This important point is at the core of the teaching of the Lotus Sutra.
A worthwhile life does not consist in merely spending one's life in peace and quiet but in creating something good. When one tries to become a better person through his practice, this endeavor is the creation of good. When he does something for the benefit of other people, this is the creation of a still higher standard of good. The various arts are the creation of beauty, and all honest professions are the creation of various kinds of energy that are beneficial to society.
Creation is bound to bring with it pain and hardship. However, one finds life worth living when one makes a strenuous effort for the sake of something good. He endeavors to become a little better a person and to do just a little more for the good of other people - through such positive endeavor we are enabled to feel deep joy in our human lives.
If we lived for a week in a world where we did not have hardships and the joy of creating something, we would tire of it. If we did not become bored with such a world, it would show that we were basically lazy in nature. Such people are sunk in illusion, and even if they rise to a heavenly world, at any moment they may fall immediately to the world of demons (shura) or to hell (jigoku).
Though heavenly beings have attained a peaceful state of mind and body, as long as there is a human being who is suffering, if they are concerned to save him from his suffering and if they practice positively to help the buddhas for the sake of the salvation of all living beings, they rise to the world of the buddhas (bukkai), the highest realm of living beings. This is because even heavenly beings make strenuous efforts for the sake of serving others, making them happy, and saving them from their sufferings. In such merciful actions and creative lives they feel a deep joy, and this is the way that leads them to the enlightenment of the buddhas.
The way to enter the world of the buddhas starts in the world of human beings (ningen-kai). It is concerning this point that Nichiren said, "A hundred years' practice in the Pure Land is not equal to the merit of a day's practice in the impure land." Unless heavenly beings continually come down to the world of human beings and practice to save all living beings from their sufferings, they cannot become buddhas. For this reason, all the Brahma heavenly kings descended from the peaceful heavens, desiring to receive the Buddha's teachings so much that they gave up their palaces, that is, their peaceful lives.
Then the Brahma heavenly kings from all directions gathered, and all made the same request of the buddha. As here, similar descriptions are often repeated in the sutras. But as has been mentioned before, in reciting the sutras, wholehearted repetition is most important.
THE CLOSING VERSE OF VOWS. At the end of the fourteenth verse portion of this chapter occur the following lines: "May this deed of merit / Extend to all living beings / That we with all the living / May together accomplish the Buddha Way!" This is called "the closing verse of vows" because not only the practicers of the Lotus Sutra but all believers in Buddhism recite it as a closing verse in their sutra-chanting service. It is said that the spirit of the great vow and practice of Buddhists can be summed up in these few short lines. The words "this deed of merit" mean "this deed of merit of serving the buddhas." This does not mean that the Brahma heavenly kings desire to receive some merit in compensation for their having presented their palaces to the buddhas. It goes without saying that the buddhas are not anxious to have material things. To serve the Buddha by presenting flowers and offerings is an expression of our worship of and gratitude to him. But the most important thing is to serve the Buddha through our practice, namely, to practice the Buddha Way after abandoning our ego, or "small self." The sutra-reciting service that we perform before Buddhist altars is one of our practices in which we forget the small self, abandoning it and devoting ourselves solely to the pursuit of the Buddha Way. Therefore, our sutra-reciting service is also a great way of serving the Buddha.
Serving the Buddha should not be done merely for the sake of mental peace and a comfortable life. It should be our heartfelt desire that the merit of our practice of serving the Buddha extend to all living beings. It should be also our prayer to accomplish the Buddha Way together with all the living. Because the closing verse of vows has this deep significance, we should not merely learn it by heart but recite it earnestly as our great vow as Buddhists.
When the Tathagata Universal Surpassing Wisdom received the entreaty of the Brahma heavenly kings of the ten regions and of his sixteen royal sons, he taught them the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths through the three ways of preaching.
The three ways of preaching are "show-rolling," or ji-ten (to show the Four Noble Truths); "exhortation-rolling," or kan-ten (to exhort to the practice of the Four Noble Truths), and "proof-rolling," or sho-ten (to witness or prove that the Buddha has accomplished the Four Noble Truths). Because the tathagata preached the Four Noble Truths in these three ways, the sutra says, "the Tathagata Universal Surpassing Wisdom at once thrice rolled the Law wheel of the twelve divisions." Then he expounded in detail the Law of the Twelve Causes (juni-innen), one of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha.
THE LAW OF THE TWELVE CAUSES AND CONDITIONS: OUTER DEPENDENT ORIGINATION. This law, also called the doctrine of the twelve-linked chain of dependent origination, teaches that all phenomena in this world constantly change, appearing and disappearing, and that all changes are based on an established rule. Though all things change, this rule is immutable. It is known as the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions because the rule is divided into twelve stages. However, it is easier for us to understand this law by limiting it to man than by trying to apply it at once to all phenomena.
The Buddha preached the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions in detail to Ananda in the Dirgha-agama (Jo-agon-gyo). This law rules the growth of the human body as well as the changes in man's mind. The former is called the "outer dependent origination" (gai-engi) and the latter the "inner dependent origination" (nai-engi). It explains the process through which a human being is born, grows, ages, and dies in light of the three temporal states of existence, the past, present, and future. And in connection with this, it shows how man's mind changes and the fundamental method of purifying it and of removing delusions from it.
The twelve links or stages are 1) ignorance (mumyo), 2) actions (gyo), 3) consciousness (shiki), 4) name and form (mental functions and matter; myo-shiki), 5) six entrances (the five sense organs and the mind; rokunyu), 6) contact (soku), 7) feeling (ju), 8) craving (ai), 9) grasping (shu), 10) becoming (u), 11) birth (sho), and 12) old age and death (ro-shi). First we will explain the growth and changes of the human body, the outer dependent origination.
The first link of the Twelve Causes and Conditions is ignorance. Prior to our conception by our parents, nothing is known or sensed. When the ignorant spirit is conceived in the mother's womb through the sexual action, consciousness is produced. Consciousness means "something living." Here something like a human being - an embryo - is produced, although it is still incomplete. As the incomplete consciousness is gradually taking shape, it grows into name and form (mental functions and matter). "Name" means an immaterial being, spirit or mind, and "form" indicates a material being, that is, the human body. "Name and form" mean the human body with a mind.
As name and form (mind and body) grow, they develop the five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body) and the mind, by which we perceive the existence of things. At this time, we are still in the mother's womb and incomplete. This stage is called the six entrances because the functions of our minds and bodies are on the point of dividing into six different senses.
We are born into this world at the stage of the six entrances. When we grow to the age of two or three, the six entrances are completed and sensibility is developed. That is, we become able to discern shapes, colors, sounds, smells, tastes, physical sensations, and so on. This stage is called contact.
When this sensibility is further developed, feelings of like and dislike naturally develop. This state is called feeling. These feelings become distinct at six or seven years of age. As this state develops, craving is produced. "Craving" implies many things, but here we limit its meaning to the human body and take it only as meaning affection for the opposite sex. As affection for the other sex becomes stronger, we come to have the desire of possessing the other. This is grasping. Later we enter into married life; this stage is becoming. In the course of time children are born as a natural consequence of our marriage. This is birth. When we reach this stage, we are attacked in various ways by sufferings in their true sense. This stage continues through life, and finally we come to old age and death.
Clinical studies by modern doctors prove that during the nine months from the moment of conception to the birth of a human baby, the body, which was at first like an amoeba, passes through all the major evolutionary stages that occurred before reaching the form of man as he is today. In other words, even today's evolved man is in a state like the amoeba of two billion years ago when he is conceived in his mother's womb. When this fact is compared with the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions taught by the Buddha, we cannot help admiring the fact that the Buddha preached exactly what the studies of twentieth-century scientists tell us.
TRANSMIGRATION. What happens to us after death? Buddhism teaches that we remain for some time in the state of intermediate existence (chu-u) in this world after death, and when this time is over, in accordance with the karma that we have accumulated in our previous life, we are reborn in another appropriate world. Buddhism also divides this other world into the following ten realms: hells (jigoku), hungry spirits (gaki), animals (chikusho), demons (shura), human beings (ningen), heaven (tenjo), shravakas (shomon), pratyekabuddhas (engaku), bodhisattvas (bosatsu), and buddhas (butsu).
If we die in an unenlightened state, our minds will return to the former state of ignorance, will be reborn in the six realms (rokudo) in the world of delusion and suffering, and will finally reach old age and death through the twelve stages discussed above. And we will repeat this round to the end of time. This perpetual repetition of birth and death is called transmigration (rinne). But if we purify our minds by hearing the Buddha's teachings and practicing the bodhisattva way, the state of ignorance is annihilated and our minds can be reborn in a better world.
KARMA. Here we will discuss karma (go) to help us attain a better understanding of the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions. Briefly, "karma" means "deed." It is produced by all the deeds we do. Any deed is invariably accompanied by a result. All that we are at the present moment is the result of the karma that we have produced in the past. For example, the fact that you are now reading this page is the result of the causes and conditions that have occurred due to the accumulation of various past deeds. The phenomenon that the results of deeds leaves behind as a residue, as it were, is called "recompense" (ho).
Karma is complex and serious. Our deeds, however trifling, leave traces physically, mentally, and environmentally. The traces left in our minds include memory, knowledge, habit, intelligence, and character. They are produced by the accumulation of our experiences and deeds over a long period of time. The traces that our deeds leave on our body are seen, for example, when heavy eating or drinking leads to sickness. They are also seen where a proper amount of exercise trains our body and builds up our constitution. These physical traces are so clearly visible that anyone can perceive them.
Our mental attitudes also leave traces on our body. Most obvious are those on our faces. There is something mean or shady in the face of a person who is low-minded, however handsome he may be. A man who is usually angry has a grim look. A person who is tender-hearted, knowledgeable, and endowed with virtue and influence seems somehow happy-looking, clear-headed, and dignified, even if his features themselves are not particularly striking. It is also generally known that a person's work causes changes in his looks. This is what Abraham Lincoln was referring to when he said, "After the age of forty a man was responsible for his own face."
Part of the traces of our deeds that are left on our minds remains on the surface of our minds; this includes memory, knowledge, habit, intelligence, and character. Another portion of the traces remains in the subconscious, in the hidden depths of our minds. Moreover, all the influences of the outer world by which we have been unconsciously affected, which include the experiences that we have had before our birth (indeed, since the beginning of mankind), are sunk in the subconscious mind. Karma includes all this. Though it was simply defined as deeds, in reality karma implies the accumulation of all our experiences and deeds since the birth of mankind, and since even before that time. This is called the "karma of former lives" (shuku-go). The action of this karma is called the "power of karma" (go-riki).
This power can be correctly explained by understanding the working of the subconscious mind. Even things that the human race experienced hundreds of thousands of years ago remain in the depths of our minds, as do the much stronger influences of the deeds and mental attitudes of our ancestors.
The "karma of former lives" that Buddhism teaches is still more profound, as it includes the karma that our own life has produced through the repetition of birth and death from the infinite past to the present.
What does the idea of karma teach us? There are people who think, "I never asked my parents to bring me into this world," or "I am not responsible for what I am because everything, including my brain, nature, and physical constitution, partake of the nature of my parents."
Such ideas seem to be half reasonable, but they are imperfect. Indeed, one's parents or ancestors must be responsible for half of the nature of their descendants, but the other half is the responsibility of the descendants themselves. This is because, though half of the present self must be the effect of karma produced by one's ancestors and parents, the other half is the effect of the karma that one has produced oneself in one's former lives. Moreover, the self that exists after one's childhood is the effect of the karma that one has produced oneself in this world. So the responsibility of one's parents is very limited.
The idea of karma teaches us clearly that one will reap the fruits of what he has sown. Suppose that we are unhappy at present; we are apt to lose our temper and express discontent if we attribute our unhappiness to others. But if we consider our present unhappiness to be the effect of our own deeds in the past, we can accept it and take responsibility for it.
Besides such acceptance, hope for the future wells up strongly in our hearts: "The more good karma I accumulate, the happier I will become and the better recompense I will receive. All right, I will accumulate much more good karma in the future." We should not limit this idea only to the problems of human life in this world. We can also feel hope concerning the traces of our lives after death. For those who do not know the teachings of the Buddha, nothing is so terrible as death. Everyone fears it. But if we truly realize the meaning of karma result, we can keep our composure in the face of death because we can have hope for our next life.
When we do not think only of ourselves but realize that the karma produced by our own deeds exerts an influence upon our descendants, we will naturally come to feel responsible for our deeds. We will also realize that we, as parents, must maintain a good attitude in our daily lives in order to have a favorable influence (recompense) upon our children. We will feel strongly that we must always speak to our children correctly and bring them up properly and with affection.
The word "karma result" has often been interpreted as something negative, but this is due to a mistaken way of teaching this idea. We should consider the idea of karma result in a positive and forward-looking way.
THE LAW OF THE TWELVE CAUSES AND CONDITIONS: INNER DEPENDENT ORIGINATION. Next we shall consider the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions in terms of the growth and changes of man's mind.
Ignorance, the first link of the inner dependent origination of this law, is not to have a right view of life or the world, or to disregard the right view even when one knows it. Because of being ignorant, one repeatedly does things that depart from the truth (the universal law): these are actions. In this case, "actions" must be interpreted not only as one's own actions but as the accumulation of all the actions that one has experienced since the distant past, as explained in the discussion of karma.
Consciousness is the fundamental power or function by which man discerns things. All the states of this power or function are decided by the accumulation of one's experiences and deeds of the past, that is, by the karma that one has produced.
As mentioned before, name and form mean mental functions and matter, respectively. The former refers to an immaterial being, the mind or spirit, and the latter to a material being, the human body. Taking the two together, "name and form" refer to our existence. It is through consciousness that we are enabled to have a faint idea of our existence. If there is no consciousness, we do not understand our existence. The expression "Consciousness causes name and form" in the Lotus Sutra expresses this.
The six entrances mean the function of the six sense organs: eyes (sight), ears (hearing), nose (smell), tongue (taste), body (touch), and the mind, by which we perceive the existence of the things sensed through these five organs.
Though we are aware of our own existence (name and form) through consciousness, it is still too vague an awareness to constitute true knowledge. But then the five functions of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch develop, and at the same time the mind, by which we perceive the existence of things sensed through these functions, matures. At this point we first gain the power to discern things clearly. This stage is called contact.
There are two major interpretations of this stage. Some are of the opinion that this is the stage before we have feelings of like or dislike and is called contact because our minds merely come in contact with things. Others say that contact means the stage when consciousness, name and form, and the six entrances have reached a relationship conducive to the clear-cut development of the function of our mind. Setting aside such scholastic opinions, it is enough for us to understand that contact indicates the stage at which our mind can clearly discern things. With such mental development, feelings of pain, pleasure, like, and dislike are produced. This is feeling.
When such feelings appear, craving for things arises spontaneously. The craving referred to here means attachment, whose meaning is little different from that of love as this word is commonly used. In other words, this is a state of mind that has preferences and that clings to what it likes. When we have desire for something, we try to hold onto it. Conversely, we try to avoid what we considers unpleasant or undesirable. This state of mind is called grasping.
Grasping leads to various feelings, ideas, and assertions. This is becoming, which means the discriminating mind. Due to this discriminating mind, opposition and struggle occur among people, and human life as suffering unfolds before one. Such human life is called birth. Leading such a life of suffering, old age comes before one knows it, and finally one encounters death.
Man's life develops in this way, so that the basic cause of a life of suffering is fundamental ignorance. Suffering occurs because man does not know the law applicable to all things and does not have a right view of the world and of life; even when man is aware of it, he disregards it. Only if man can rid himself of this ignorance and set his mind in the direction of the law will his deeds (practice) be correctly directed. When his mind is set on the right track, his sufferings in this world disappear, and eventually he will attain peace of mind. This is the conclusion reached through the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions.
In short, the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions teaches that man is born as an ordinary being because of his ignorance in his previous life. The Law also teaches that if he eradicates his ignorance in the present world, the essential form of his life as it was meant to be will be revealed in his future life. Here we should not limit the meaning of "future life" to life when we are reborn after death but should regard it rather as the life before us in the future. If we abandon fundamental ignorance and set our minds in the direction of the Law, a bright and serene future life will open up before us. To the extent that we do not do this, our life will be accompanied by suffering, however rich we may be and however much honor we may gain, and our minds will continue to revolve in the track of the six realms in the world of delusion. The six realms in this case refer to states of mind, as explained in chapter 2 of the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings.
Through the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions, we have considered the vertical development of life (our ancestors, ourselves, and our descendants; or ourselves in a previous life, in the present world, and in the world to come). However, the fact is, the mind and human life do not comprise merely such vertical relationships. Both are also greatly influenced by horizontal relationships, that is, by complex connections with the whole of society.
The idea of the ten realms, the six realms of ordinary men and the four realms of saints (the realms of shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas, and buddhas), thus develops into the teaching of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought (ichinen-sanzen).
THE THREE THOUSAND REALMS IN ONE THOUGHT. This doctrine forms the essence of the Makashikan (Mo-ho-chih-kuan), a twenty-section work in which T'ien-t'ai Chih-i of China systematized various teachings included in the Lotus Sutra. This was his new interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren regarded Chih-i's doctrine of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought as the essence of the Buddha's teachings.
In the second section of his work Kaimoku-sho (Essay on the Eye-opener), Nichiren extolled this doctrine in the following words: "Unless man attains buddhahood through the teaching of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought, his attaining nirvana and becoming a buddha will be little more than a mere name." In the first section of the same work, he also praised the doctrine as follows: "The very doctrine of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought of the Tendai sect appears to be the way to lead man to buddhahood." Nichiren specifically extolled this doctrine a total of eighteen times in his works.
What is the teaching of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought? As has been mentioned, our minds revolve ceaselessly in the six realms of hells (anger), hungry spirits (covetousness), animals (ignorance), demons (dispute), human beings (normality), and heaven (joy). Thus our sufferings continue endlessly.
However, even an ordinary person sometimes rises to the level of the four realms of the saints. He conceives the desire to study the right way to live (shravaka), realizing it intuitively from his experiences (pratyekabuddha), and wishing to live for the benefit of people and society (bodhisattva). But he will seldom if ever reach such a mental state of absolute compassion that he completely forgets himself. It would be a great thing if he could maintain such a mental state constantly. But soon his mind returns to that of an ordinary person without his having made any lasting improvement.
THE TEN REALMS OF BEING FOUND IN ONE ANOTHER. Everyone's mind possesses the ten realms, the six of the ordinary person and the four of the saint. These ten realms exist in the minds of heavenly beings, as well. The ten realms exist in the mind of each person in each of the ten realms. This is jikkai-gogu, or "the ten realms of being found in one another."
The seed of the buddha-nature is also possessed by those who are in the realms of hells and demons, although it is very undeveloped. The doctrine of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought teaches that even those who are in such a state of mind have the possibility of attaining buddhahood and that the chance of salvation can be found anywhere. In other words, this doctrine teaches plainly that the Buddha's compassion extends to all living beings. On the other hand, even when one thinks he has realized and become free of the bonds of delusion and suffering, by studying the doctrine he will become able to reflect on his remaining seeds of delusion and will come to wish to devote himself still more to his practice.
Each of the ten realms exists in the mind of everyone in each of the ten worlds. Ten multiplied by ten equals one hundred. One hundred minds appear in the ten ways according to the doctrine of the Ten Suchnesses (ju-nyoze).
THE TEN SUCHNESSES. This doctrine consists of ten words prefaced by "such a" or "such an": "such a form" (nyoze so), "such a nature" (nyoze sho), "such an embodiment" (nyoze tai), "such a potency" (nyoze riki), "such a function" (nyoze sa), "such a primary cause" (nyoze in), "such a secondary cause" (nyoze en), "such an effect" (nyoze ka), "such a recompense" (nyoze ho), and "such a complete fundamental whole" (nyoze hommatsu kukyo-to). This doctrine reveals the deepest reality of the existence of all things in the universe, which is called the principle of the Real Aspect of All Things (shoho jisso). Modern science has analyzed physical substances to the extent of subatomic particles. But the principle of the Real Aspect of All Things is much more profound than such an analysis, extending even to the mental world. The Chinese character read nyo means shinnyo, meaning "that which is constant and unchanging." Nyoze means "such" or "thus," and also "invariably," "without fail," or "without error."
The existence of all things invariably has form. This is called "such a form." That which has a form invariably has a nature. This is called "such a nature." That which has a nature invariably has an embodiment. This is called "such an embodiment." That which has an embodiment invariably has potency. This is called "such a potency." When it has potency, it invariably produces various outwardly directed functions. This is called "such a function."
Innumerable embodied substances exist in the universe. For this reason, their outward-directed functions are interrelated with all things. Nothing in the universe is an isolated existence having no relation to other things. All things have complicated connections with one another. They are interdependent and through their interaction cause various phenomena. A cause that produces such phenomena is called "such a primary cause."
Even when there exists a cause, it does not produce its effect until it comes into contact with some occasion or condition. For instance, there is always vapor in the air as the primary cause of frost or dew. But if it has no secondary cause that brings it into contact with the ground or the leaves of a plant, it does not become frost or dew. Such an occasion or condition is called "such a secondary cause." When a primary cause meets with a secondary cause, a phenomenon (effect) is produced. This is called "such an effect."
An effect not only produces a phenomenon but also invariably leaves some trace or residue. For example, the effect of frost forming will give a pleasant feeling to one person who enjoys the patterns it makes on the windowpanes, while the same effect will give an unpleasant feeling to someone else whose crops have been damaged by it. The function of an effect leaving a trace or residue is called "such a recompense."
It will be helpful to explain primary cause, secondary cause, effect, and recompense in more detail. Suppose a man has offered his seat in the train to an old woman. In his mind he possesses, as a primary cause, the potential of wishing to be kind to others. When such a primary cause comes into contact with a secondary cause, in this case his seeing an old woman staggering while trying to stand in the train, it produces the effect of his offering his seat to the her. Afterward he feels refreshed, thinking, "I have done something good." This is recompense. This recompense comes from one's mind as well as from outside. The former comes first to him, and it is the most important recompense.
The nine suchnesses mentioned above occur incessantly in society and in the universe as a whole. They are interconnected in a complex manner, so that in most cases, man cannot discern what is a cause and what is an effect. But these suchnesses never fail to operate according to the law of the universal truth, and no one, no thing, and no function can depart from this law. Everything functions according to the Law of the Ten Suchnesses, from form to recompense, namely, from beginning to end. This is the meaning of "such a complete fundamental whole." The fact that all things, including man, and their relations with one another are formed by this law is called the Real Aspect of All Things.
The hundred worlds mentioned earlier operate in the ten ways shown in the law of the Ten Suchnesses. Ten multiplied by one hundred is one thousand; therefore one hundred minds have one thousand functions.
THREE CONSTITUENTS OF THE WORLD. We have been discussing the mind of an individual, but we must always think of an individual in connection with society because there is no one who exists isolated from it. Buddhism teaches that there are three ways of thinking about society. The first is go'on seken, or the world where an individual mind exerts an influence upon others, in other words, environment in the narrow sense. The second is shujo seken, or the world of which its living beings are regarded as a constituent. Generally speaking, this is a society or nation. The third is kokudo seken, or the world consisting of many societies and countries. This is commonly considered to be the whole world.
We all form part of these three kinds of worlds, which coexist, whether we like it or not. The one thousand functions of our minds are spread over these three kinds of worlds. One thousand multiplied by three is three thousand; thus, all relations in the three constituents of the world are included in a single momentary thought of a human being in his daily life. Hence the term "Three Thousand Realms in One Thought" (ichinen sanzen).
Suppose that the following thought has occurred in one's mind: "A man is coming toward me. What an unpleasant face he has!" Also suppose the following idea has flashed into one's mind: "How beautiful the flowers on the hedge are!" When we analyze this thought, we find that its occurrence includes the vertical influences on our mind from the remote past until the present and the horizontal influences of people, society, and all other things in this world.
This thought also includes one's personal nature, which leads one to fall into hells or become a buddha. One's dislike of the man's face is also part of one's nature inclining one to buddhahood, just as one's appreciation of the beauty of the flower is also part of one's nature inclining one to fall into hells. This may seem strange, but actually it is quite natural. If one's dislike of the man's face develops into a wish to hit him in the face, one will soon fall into the mental state of hells. But if one thinks, "My feeling this way is due to my insufficient practice. I feel dislike because I have the seed of dislike in my mind. I must practice more in order to remove this seed [delusion]," one has attained the mental state of the self-enlightened (pratyekabuddha).
Moreover, if one has the firm resolution, "A person with such a face must surely have some great personal problem that affects his daily life; it is my duty to spread the Buddha's teachings so widely that no one will wear such an expression," this person is in the mental state of a bodhisattva and has the possibility of becoming a buddha.
When one thinks, "How beautiful the flowers on the hedge are," one's untainted admiration for their beauty reflects the mental state of a saint who has merged with heaven and earth. But if one thinks, "I will pick a spray to take home and put on my desk," one is beginning to fall into the world of hungry spirits (covetousness). If one becomes angry, thinking, "I wonder how rich that person is, that he can have a beautiful hedge around his house. He must lead a carefree life, while I have to keep my nose to the grindstone. Bad luck to him!" one has fallen completely into the realm of hells.
THEORETICAL DOCTRINE OF THE THREE THOUSAND REALMS IN ONE THOUGHT. The question arises as to how we should consider the doctrine of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought. When we understand this doctrine only theoretically, it cannot generate the power capable of saving others as well as ourselves. This is called the theoretical doctrine of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought (ri no ichinen-sanzen). Far from saving others, we are unconsciously enslaved by the philosophical theory of the doctrine and eventually may become so obsessed with the thought of the myriad implications of our every act that we become mentally paralyzed, as it were. We must accept this doctrine with an open-hearted, optimistic, and positive attitude.
The doctrine of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought teaches us that we have the infinite possibility of moving both upward and downward. If we resolve firmly to practice the Buddha's teachings, we can go upward without fail. Secondly, this doctrine lets us realize clearly that in all the universe, there is no individual existing apart from the whole and that all things are interconnected like the meshes of a net. Individual salvation alone is not true salvation.
PRACTICAL DOCTRINE OF THE THREE THOUSAND REALMS IN ONE THOUGHT. When we understand these two teachings not only theoretically but also in the depth of our hearts, we cannot help elevating ourselves and practicing in order to help others. This is called the practical doctrine of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought (ji no ichinen-sanzen). Unless we thoroughly understand the doctrine of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought in this way, it does not become a living doctrine.
Nichiren spoke in the highest terms of the doctrine of the Three Thousand Realms in One Thought. He derived his teachings from this doctrine, but ultimately he passed beyond a theoretical understanding and realized that for Buddhists the doctrine should result in faith and practice. Indeed, if we can thoroughly understand the theoretical doctrine, we should awaken to the fact that we must be concerned as long as there is a single person in the world who is suffering. Unlike the worries of an ordinary man, this is a great worry, the Buddha's worry. This is the meaning of the expression, ''When living beings are taken ill, the Buddha suffers pain." It is also the significance of Nichiren's words, "Although Nichiren does not weep in reality, tears of worry for others always flow from his eyes."
If we must be worried about something, we should have the same worry as the Buddha and Nichiren. Such a worry gives us courage and makes us find life worth living. After all is said and done, there is no work that is more valuable in this world than to save people who are suffering. To elevate human beings is the loftiest work. Our own consciousness of having taken part in this work, small as we are - this consciousness alone should brighten our lives.
Let us now return to the text of chapter 7. The Buddha continued his preaching as follows: "The Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom preached the Law of the Four Noble Truths and the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions amid the heavenly beings, men, and all the great host. The numberless people were not subject to the changing phenomena in their surroundings [temporary laws]; their minds were freed from faults and they did not become agitated by anything around them any time or any place. Likewise at a second, a third, and a fourth preaching of the Law, the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom repeated the Law of the Four Noble Truths and the Law of the Twelve Causes and Conditions, and innumerable living beings equally reached the same state of mind [Hinayana enlightenment].
"Meanwhile, the sixteen royal sons, seeing that the numberless people had become free from delusions, left home and became shramaneras7 of keen natural powers, wise and intelligent. As they gradually received the teachings, they came to understand them thoroughly. They reached the understanding that each teaching of the Four Noble Truths and the Twelve Causes and Conditions was a path leading to the Mahayana teaching, and that they must study this and practice the bodhisattva way in order to attain the true enlightenment of the Buddha. They asked the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom to preach to them the teaching of Perfect Enlightenment [the supreme enlightenment of the Buddha]. Then the subjects of the holy wheel-rolling king also sought to leave home, whereupon the king consented.
"Then the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom, on the entreaty of the shramaneras, when two myriad kalpas had passed, in the presence of many of his disciples, including monks, nuns, and lay devotees, preached this Great Vehicle Sutra named the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law, the Law by which bodhisattvas are instructed and which the buddhas watch over and keep in mind."
The words "the Law by which bodhisattvas are instructed" mean "the Law teaching the bodhisattva way," and the words "the Law which the buddhas watch over and keep in mind" imply that one cannot rashly preach the Law, because the buddhas watch over it and keep it in mind. Both expressions apply to the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law.
The Buddha continued: "When he had preached this sutra, the sixteen shramaneras, for the sake of Perfect Enlightenment, all received, kept, practiced, and penetrated it, and preached it to others. While this sutra was being preached, besides the sixteen bodhisattva-shramaneras, there were also those among the host of shravakas who believed and discerned it, but most of the other living beings harbored doubts and perplexities, being convinced that they could not possibly become buddhas.
"The buddha preached this sutra incessantly for eight thousand kalpas. When he had finished preaching it, he entered a quiet room and remained in meditation for eighty-four thousand kalpas. Thereupon the sixteen bodhisattva-shramaneras, knowing that the buddha was absorbed in meditation, were concerned about what would happen if they did not preach the Law on behalf of the buddha. Each of them ascended a Law throne and according to the capacity of his listeners extensively preached and expounded to them the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law. Each of them showed, taught, benefited, and gladdened them, leading them to develop the mind leading to Perfect Enlightenment."
A brief explanation should be given here of the words "Each of them showed, taught, benefited, and gladdened them." These words indicate the order of preaching the Law. First, one must show the general meaning of the teaching to people. Then, when one knows that they have generated the desire to enter the teaching, one must teach its profound meaning. Next, seeing that they appear to understand it, one must lead them to practice it and to obtain the benefit of the teaching. Lastly, one must so act toward them as to gladden them in keeping the teaching.
The Buddha continued: "The Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom, who arose from his meditation after eighty-four thousand kalpas had passed, went up to the Law throne and quietly sat down on it.
"Universally addressing the great assembly, he said: 'Rare are such bodhisattva-shramaneras as these sixteen, keen in their natural powers and clear in their wisdom. They have paid homage to an infinite number of buddhas, constantly practiced religious conduct under those buddhas, received and kept the Buddha wisdom, and revealed it to the living beings, leading them to enter into it. Do you all, again and again, draw nigh and worship them. Wherefore? Because if you do so, all the people who are in the mental state of shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas will attain Perfect Enlightenment.'"
The Buddha then addressed all the bhikshus, saying: "These sixteen bodhisattvas take delight in preaching this Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law. Numberless living beings whom each of these bodhisattvas converted, reborn generation after generation, all following these bodhisattvas, heard the Law from them, and all believed and discerned it. For this cause they succeeded in meeting four myriad kotis of buddhas, world-honored ones, and at the present time have not ceased to do so."
Some people consider that because this chapter is only the seventh sermon of the Buddha in the Lotus Sutra and Shakyamuni Buddha has not yet finished preaching the sutra, it is odd that he should have said that the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom and the sixteen bodhisattvas had preached the Lotus Sutra in the past. This mistaken idea comes from their thinking that the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law is just the title of this specific sutra, like the title of a book.
"The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law" actually indicates the following idea: the supremely sacred truth that dwells in the minds of ordinary men living in this corrupt world but untainted by their evils, just as the lotus is untainted by the mud in which it grows, and which leads them to buddhahood. Such a truth is always one; it cannot be divided into two or three. Therefore it is quite natural that Shakyamuni Buddha should have said that the Buddha Universal Surpassing Wisdom and the sixteen bodhisattvas had once preached the Lotus Sutra. The truth has obviously existed from the infinite past, before Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in this world, and the enlightenment realized by a truly enlightened person cannot exist except as the one truth. For this reason, it is no wonder that the Buddha said that some hundred thousand people preached the truth in their former lives. From such words of the Buddha, we can clearly gather his intention to cause people to understand thoroughly the fact that the truth is one.
Then the Buddha said: "Bhikshus! Listen carefully to my words. I tell you now a very important matter: the sixteen shramaneras have all attained Perfect Enlightenment, and in all countries in every direction they are at the present time preaching the Law." Then he mentioned the name of each buddha and his realm. With the ninth, the name of a familiar buddha appears with the words, "Of the two buddhas in the western quarter one is named Amita. . . ." But the Tathagata Amita is the buddha in the Pure Land of the western quarter, and he is not in charge of instructing us in this world.
The Buddha declared, The sixteenth is I myself, Shakyamuni Buddha, who has accomplished Perfect Enlightenment in the saha domain." He first reveals here his own history and the cause of his eventual enlightenment.
We should take note of the declaration that Shakyamuni is the Buddha who has accomplished Perfect Enlightenment in the saha domain. The Buddha alone is the great teacher for the people of this saha world. We cannot but call again to mind here how irreplaceable and important the man Shakyamuni is for us as the historical Buddha.
The Tathagata Shakyamuni, the Eternal Original Buddha, as the first cause of this appearing Buddha, is the Buddha of non-beginning and non-end who appears everywhere in the universe at all times. These two Buddhas are originally the same, but their significance is different. Unless we understand this, we will not be able to grasp Shakyamuni's words hereafter.
The Buddha continued his preaching: "Bhikshus! When we were shramaneras, each of us taught and converted infinite living beings, and those who heard the Law from me attained Perfect Enlightenment. Among these living beings there are some who still remain in the stage of shravakas. I constantly instruct them in Perfect Enlightenment, so that all these people will, through this Law, gradually enter the Buddha Way. This is because the Buddha wisdom with its profound meaning is hard to believe and hard to understand when it is preached suddenly. Therefore, people gradually advance from the teaching with the shallow meaning to that with the profound meaning. All those living beings, innumerable as the sands of the Ganges, whom I converted at that time, are yourselves, bhikshus, and will be my shravaka disciples in future worlds after my extinction."
Our concept of the Buddha will be confused unless we understand the difference between the Tathagata Shakyamuni as the historical Buddha and the Tathagata Shakyamuni as the Eternal Original Buddha. A detailed explanation of this difference will be given in chapter 16, "Revelation of the [Eternal] Life of the Tathagata."
The Buddha continued: "After my extinction there will also be disciples of mine who, not hearing this sutra, nor knowing nor apprehending the course that bodhisattvas pursue, will, through their own merits, conceive the idea of extinction and enter what they think is nirvana. But in other domains to which they may go, I will still be Buddha though under different names. These people, though they conceive the idea of extinction and enter what they call nirvana, yet in those lands will seek after the Buddha wisdom and will succeed in hearing this sutra. Only by the Buddha Vehicle will they attain real nirvana. There is no vehicle other than the tactful teachings of the Tathagata."
This is a very important teaching. Buddhahood, that is the ideal state of mind as a human being, cannot be realized only by our practice throughout our entire life or in our next life. Some will be able to become buddhas in this world, but such people have practiced the Buddha Way for many former lives. As has been repeatedly said, because man's life is eternal, even granted that he cannot reach the mental state of a buddha in this world, if he should continuously hear the Buddha's teachings in future worlds and devote himself to the bodhisattva way of saving others, he will eventually become a buddha. For a person who has come into contact with the Buddha Way in this world, a secondary cause of the attainment of buddhahood is produced. A person who can perfectly accomplish the practice of the bodhisattva way in this world has already passed through the mental state of shravaka or a pratyekabuddha previously. For one who has thus been able to encounter the Lotus Sutra, a secondary cause of attaining buddhahood in the future has been generated. For this reason, he should receive and keep this sutra continuously until his death and even beyond.
"Bhikshus! The Tathagata does not exist in this world indefinitely. After preaching all his teachings, he will leave to enter nirvana at some time. When he himself knows that the time of nirvana has arrived and the assembly is pure, firm in faith and discernment, penetrated with the Law of the Emptiness, and profound in meditation, then he will gather together all bodhisattvas and shravakas to preach this sutra to them.
"In the world there is no second vehicle through which to attain extinction; there is only the One Buddha Vehicle for attaining extinction. The tact of the Tathagata reaches deeply into the nature of all living beings, and knows that they are bent on trifling pleasures and deeply attached to the five desires. For their sake he preaches nirvana tactfully so that they can remove their delusions and obtain mental peace. It is the most suitable teaching for the people at such a stage, and if they hear it, they will receive it in faith. For your better understanding, I will tell you the following parable, bhikshus."
THE PARABLE OF THE CITY IN A VISION. Then the Buddha related the Parable of the City in a Vision, the fourth of the seven parables in the Lotus Sutra. The substance of the parable is as follows. Suppose there is a fearful region, five hundred yojanas in extent, through which runs a perilous and difficult road, far from the abodes of men. Suppose there is a large company wishing to pass along that road to the Place of Jewels, and they have a guide, wise and astute, who knows the perilous road well, where it is passable and where closed.
The guide leads the company that wish to cross this wilderness. Suppose the company, including both slow walkers and impatient people, become tired on the way and say to the leader, "We are utterly exhausted and are afraid. We can't go any farther; the road before us stretches far; let us turn back."
The leader, who is well known for his tactfulness in leading people according to the circumstances, thinks: "These people are to be pitied. How can they give up such great treasure when it is within reach and want to turn back? They should have a little more and patience." Reflecting thus, in the midst of the perilous road he mystically creates a city over three hundred yojanas in extent and says to the company, "Do not fear, and do not turn back. Here is this great city in which you may rest and do as you please. If you enter this city, you will soon be rested; and if you then are able to go forward to the Place of Jewels, you may proceed."
Thereupon the exhausted company greatly rejoice, and they proceed into the magic city. When the leader perceives that the company are completely rested, he makes the magic city disappear and says to the company, "Come along, all of you, the Place of Jewels is at hand. I only created this city for you to rest in."
Thus the leader encourages the company, and finally he succeeds in leading them to the Place of Jewels.
After he finished telling this parable to the bhikshus, with the prefatory statement, "So is it with the Tathagata," the Buddha explained the meaning of the parable. As a great leader, the Tathagata is acquainted with all the distresses, the evils, the perils, and the long-continued processes of mortality from which living beings must be freed. If they only hear of the One Buddha Vehicle, they will not desire to see the Buddha nor wish to approach him. They will be discouraged and will think, "The Buddha Way is long and far; only after long suffering and arduous labor can the goal be reached." The Buddha, knowing that they are timid and ignorant, through his tact, while they are on the way, in order to give them a rest preaches the two stages of nirvana, namely, the enlightenment of the shravaka and of the pratyekabuddha. When the people thus have obtained mental peace, the Buddha then makes them proceed to the supreme enlightenment, the One Buddha Vehicle. Although there is no vehicle other than the One Buddha Vehicle, he speaks of the two vehicles, shravaka and pratyekabuddha, in order to give rest to them on the way, just like the leader who, in order to rest his company, magically creates a great city and after they are rested says, "The Place of Jewels is at hand; this city is not real, but only my magic production." Though the two vehicles are sacred as the steps (tactful means) leading living beings to the One Buddha Vehicle, we realize from this parable that we must not remain in the stage of these two vehicles. Chapter 7 ends with a verse section in which the Buddha repeats this teaching.
- An eon; a period of time of extremely long duration.
- A koti is a very large number, variously interpreted as ten million, one hundred million, and so on.
- A nayuta is one hundred ayutas; an ayuta is one hundred kotis.
- The heaven of the thirty-three gods. This is the heaven of Indra, the second highest of the six heavens of the Realm of Desire, situated between the four peaks of Mount Sumeru.
- A unit of distance equivalent to 64,120, or 160 kilometers.
- These kings protect the worlds from demons, each guarding one quarter of the compass around Mount Sumeru. They are the representatives of Shakra (Indra). They include Dhrtarashtra Maharaja, governor of the east; Virudhaka Maharaja, governor of the south; Virupaksha Maharaja, governor of the west; and Vaishravana Maharaja, governor of the north.
- A male novice who has received the ten precepts, after which he may become a shramana, a monk or ascetic.
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