THE BODHISATTVA MANJUSRI represents the Buddha's wisdom, while the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue typifies the Buddha's practice. These two bodhisattvas are regarded as a pair: the wisdom represented by Manjusri symbolizes one's realization of the truth and the practice typified by Universal Virtue one's practice of the truth.
We have already studied the realization of the truth in the Law of Appearance. In the assembly of the Buddha's preaching of this Law, the Bodhisattva Manjusri was the representative of the Buddha's disciples. We learned the entity of the truth in the "one chapter and two halves" - the latter half of chapter 15, all of chapter 16, and the first half of chapter 17. In this assembly, the Bodhisattva Maitreya represented the disciples. We were taught the practice of the truth through the example of the practices of various bodhisattvas in the latter half of chapter 17 and the following chapters, which are defined as the concluding part of the Law of Origin. Finally, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue appears in the last chapter of the Lotus Sutra. There is a deep significance to his appearance at this particular point.
FOUR PRACTICES OF THE BODHISATTVA UNIVERSAL VIRTUE. As shown in this chapter and in the Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, the so-called closing sutra of the Lotus Sutra, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue is perfect in the following four practices:
1. He himself practices the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
2. He protects the teachings from all persecutions.
3. He bears witness to the merits obtained by one who practices the teachings and to the punishments suffered by one who slanders the teachings or persecutes its followers.
4. He proves that even those who violate the teachings can be delivered from their sins if they are sincerely penitent.
The Bodhisattva Universal Virtue encourages those who have finished hearing the Lotus Sutra and are beginning a new life with these words: "I vow to do these four practices as a conclusion of the practices of the Lotus Sutra. Try to be assiduous in your practices, without anxiety."
His encouragement may be likened to the commencement address that the principal of a school delivers to the graduating students. They are now leaving school, carrying with them the truth that they have studied there. When they go out into the world, they are often puzzled as to how best to use what they have studied at school. Sometimes they have the unfortunate experience of having the truth they have studied denied by others, or even of being persecuted for it. "Whenever you have trouble, you can visit your old school. We will try to prove that the truth is not wrong. Moreover, we will teach you how you should apply the truth to each practical problem. If you fail in anything, we will show you how to overcome your failure." In this way, the principal's commencement speech guarantees the graduates the protection of their activities even after leaving school. No farewell speech of encouragement could be more inspiring than this.
Let us now proceed to the content of chapter 28. At that time the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, with sovereign supernatural power, majesty, and fame, accompanied by great bodhisattvas, unlimited, infinite, incalculable, came from the eastern quarter; the countries through which he passed were shaken, jeweled lotus flowers rained down, and countless hundred thousand myriad kotis of kinds of music were performed. Encompassed also by a great host of countless gods, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, men, nonhuman beings, and others, all displaying majestic supernatural powers, he arrived at Mount Grdhrakuta in the saha world.
Nonhuman beings, such as gods, dragons, and yakshas, have often been mentioned as part of the assembly listening to the Buddha's preaching since their first appearance at the beginning of the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings. However, the description in this chapter differs from those in preceding chapters. The difference lies in the expression "all displaying majestic supernatural powers." This means that their listening to the Buddha's preaching of the Lotus Sutra has caused them to attain and manifest majestic supernatural powers.
Having prostrated himself before Shakyamuni Buddha, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue made procession around him to the right seven times and addressed the Buddha, saying: "World-honored One! I, in the domain of the Buddha Jeweled Majestic Superior King, hearing afar that the Law Flower Sutra was being preached in this saha world, have come with this host of countless, infinite hundred thousand myriad kotis of bodhisattvas to hear and receive it. Be pleased, World-honored One, to preach it to us, and tell how good sons and good daughters will be able to obtain this Law Flower Sutra after the extinction of the Tathagata."
The Buddha replied to the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue: "If any good son or good daughter acquires the four requisites, such a one will obtain this Law Flower Sutra after the extinction of the Tathagata: first, to be under the guardianship of the buddhas; second, to plant the roots of virtue; third, to enter the stage of correct concentrations; fourth, to aspire after the salvation of all the living. Any good son or good daughter who acquires such four requisites will certainly obtain this sutra after the extinction of the Tathagata."
THE FOUR REQUISITES. The phrase "such a one will obtain this Law Flower Sutra" means not only that one encounters the teaching but that he who has encountered it understands it sufficiently to apply it. To understand the sutra sufficiently is to obtain its true merits. The Buddha teaches us here the four requisites necessary in order to obtain the Lotus Sutra after his extinction. We must understand these well because they are essential points of faith.
The first requisite is to be under the guardianship of the buddhas. This means having an absolutely unshakable faith in being under the protection of the buddhas. In other words, it means one's establishment of faith. However thoroughly a person may understand the Lotus Sutra from a doctrinal point of view, he cannot apply it to his practical life if he does not establish faith in his mind.
The second requisite is to plant the roots of virtue. This means continually doing good deeds in one's daily life. The phrase "roots of virtue" indicates a good mind, which is the foundation of one's attaining enlightenment. To plant such a good mind means not only to sow seeds of goodness but also to nurture them by watering and fertilizing them.
By what is one's good mind fostered? To do good deeds is the first consideration. Man's practice of good deeds is caused by his good mind, and at the same time his practice of good deeds fosters his good mind. These two, man's good deeds and his good mind, form a cycle of being, reinforcing each other for constant improvement. Like the chicken and the egg, we cannot say which comes first or causes the other. The two are inseparable, each contingent on the other.
Indeed, when we practice anything good even for mere form's sake, we feel somehow pleased and refreshed. Our good mind is growing within us. One's intention does not necessarily precede one's deeds. Evidence of this is what happens when we force a smile in looking at ourselves in the mirror. If we repeat this, we come to feel light at heart. On the contrary, when we make a poor attempt at suppressing tears before a mirror, we begin to feel more melancholy. To return to the subject, to practice good deeds daily is to plant the roots of virtue in one's mind - to begin really to comprehend the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.
The third requisite is to enter the stage of correct concentration. This means entering the group of those who have decided to do good. In Buddhism, groups of people are divided into three types: those having correct, incorrect, and unsettled concentration. The first group, with correct concentration, is that of those who have decided to do good, for example, the assembly of people who believe in a correct religion. The second group, with incorrect concentration, is that of those who have decided to do evil, for instance, a gang of pickpockets or hoodlums. The third group, with unsettled concentration, is that of those who vacillate between good and evil. Most assemblies of ordinary people belong to this third group, in which they are inclined toward good but are so unstable that they may turn to evil at any moment.
We believers must join the group having correct concentration. Needless to say, this is easier and better for us if we belong to a group of people who believe in the same faith than if we seek the Law in isolation. When we are in a group with correct concentration, we can encourage each other not to retrogress from a mental state that we have attained with great effort. Even if we do not speak of encouragement or nonretrogression, we are linked mentally in a close relationship with each other just by discussing and listening to the Law together, and we can display the power of faith much more strongly than if we were alone. The third requisite, to enter the stage of correct concentration, teaches us this.
The fourth requisite is to aspire after the salvation of all the living. No explanation of this expression should be necessary at this point. The true attainment of buddhahood does not mean realization for one's own sake alone or being saved only from one's own suffering. The fundamental spirit of Mahayana Buddhism lies in the salvation of others as well as oneself and in the establishment of an ideal realm in this world. If we act contrary to this fundamental spirit, however assiduously we seek the Law and practice religious disciplines, such an effort will bear no fruit, nor will it lead us to the realization of the true merits of the Law. The four requisites can be rephrased as follows:
1. Always to tell ourselves that we are caused to live by the Buddha.
2. Always to endeavor to practice good deeds.
3. Always to be part of a group of true believers.
4. Always to render service to others.
These four requisites must be regarded as most sacred teachings of the Buddha. They must also be considered as the culmination of the Buddha's teachings, revealing in plain words that although he has preached various difficult teachings heretofore, what is essential for all living beings is to devote themselves to the four requisites in their practice of the teachings. When those people who shrink from trying to fathom the profound and difficult teachings of the Lotus Sutra hear this simple explanation of the four requisites, they will surely feel encouraged.
When the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, who represents the practice of the Lotus Sutra, was anxious as to how he should guide living beings in the age of degeneration, he was clearly taught the four requisites by the Buddha, and he must have been deeply moved by the Buddha's guidance.
Then the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue said to the Buddha: "World-honored One! In the latter five hundred years of the corrupt and evil age, whoever receives and keeps this sutra I will guard and protect, eliminate the anxiety of falling away, and give ease of mind, so that no spy shall find occasion - neither Mara, nor Mara sons, nor Mara daughters, nor Mara people, nor Mara satellites, nor yakshas, nor rakshasas, nor kumbhandas, nor pisacakas, nor krityas, nor putanas, nor vetadas, nor other afflicters of men - that none may find occasion. Wherever such a one walks or stands, reading and reciting this sutra, I will at once mount the six-tusked white elephant king and with a host of great bodhisattvas go to that place and, showing myself, will serve and protect him, comforting his mind, also thereby serving the Law Flower Sutra."
We must take careful note of the expression, "showing myself, will serve and protect him, comforting his mind, also thereby serving the Law Flower Sutra." Some people are apt to take it for granted that because they are believers in the Lotus Sutra, they are certain to be protected by the Buddha. No protection or merit will accrue to those who are apparently believers in the sutra but do not really practice its teachings. A good admonition is delivered in the phrase, "also thereby serving the Law Flower Sutra."
Another expression, "I will at once mount the six-tusked white elephant king," indicates that the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue is contrasted with the Bodhisattva Manjusri, who rides a lion. The lion is the symbol of realization of the truth. The lion, called the king of beasts, has control of the other animals and rouses awe in them. Therefore he can roam freely on the plain. Like the lion, the truth governs all things in the universe and is itself under the control of nothing. The truth is, so to speak, the king of the universe, and it appears freely in all phenomena.
On the other hand, the elephant represents great power of execution. Wherever this animal with his gigantic body forges ahead, nothing can check him. If there is a great tree in his path, he knocks it down. When he finds a rock in his way, he rolls it aside. When he fords a river or swamp, he walks steadily on the bottom. Therefore the elephant is the symbol of thorough practice.
The six tusks of the white elephant king that the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue rides symbolize the doctrine of the Six Perfections. This doctrine teaches us the practice of benefiting both oneself and others. The Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, who rides the six-tusked white elephant king as a messenger of the Buddha, and shows himself to all the living, is the symbol of the great man who removes all obstacles and unswervingly practices the Law.
The Bodhisattva Universal Virtue continued: "Wherever such a one sits, pondering this sutra, I will at once again mount the white elephant king and show myself to him. If such a one forgets a single word or verse of the Law Flower Sutra, I will teach it to him, read and recite it with him, and again cause him to master it."
The phrase "Wherever such a one sits, pondering this sutra" indicates the practice of meditation, one of the Six Perfections. Wherever anyone practices meditation, the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue mounts the white elephant and shows himself to the believer. This means that the bodhisattva appears in the believer's mind whenever he recalls the bodhisattva.
The words "If such a one forgets a single word or verse of the Law Flower Sutra, I will teach it to him" should be understood as meaning that if one cannot grasp the true meaning of the teaching in spite of much thought and meditation, he must first think of its practice. Then he can surely grasp the true meaning of the teaching. Since the Lotus Sutra is the teaching of the practice of the Law, if we forget its practice and only try to climb the mountain of its profound doctrine, we are sure to lose our way. If we then sit calmly and ponder the Lotus Sutra, which is after all the teaching of the practice of saving ourselves and others, we will immediately find the right way to the summit. The words of Universal Virtue quoted below then naturally follow: "Thereupon he who receives and keeps, reads and recites the Law Flower Sutra on seeing me will greatly rejoice and renew his zeal. Through seeing me, he will thereupon acquire the contemplation and dharanis named the dharani of revolution,1 the dharani of hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of revolutions,2 and the dharani of skill in Law sounds;3 such dharanis as these will he acquire.
"World-honored One! If in the latter age, in the last five hundred years of the corrupt and evil age, the bhiksus, bhiksunis, upasakas, and upasikas, seekers, receivers and keepers, readers and reciters, or copiers desire to put in practice this Law Flower Sutra, they must with single mind devote themselves to it for three times seven days. After the three times seven days are fulfilled, I will mount the six-tusked white elephant and, together with countless bodhisattvas surrounding me, appear before those people in the form all the living delight to see and preach to them, revealing, instructing, benefiting, and rejoicing them."
FORMING GOOD SPIRITUAL HABITS. We do not have to take literally the figure of three times seven days, but we should occasionally devote ourselves to a religious discipline for a fixed period. In today's busy world, lay devotees find it difficult to confine themselves in a mountain temple to practice religious discipline for an extended period. But for even a day - say, on Sunday - or for three days in succession when we can spare the time, we should try to forget all worldly affairs and positively devote ourselves to the study of the teaching, or meditation, or reciting and copying the sutra. Why is this necessary? Because, just as repeated deeds become a habit, thus we form good spiritual habits; repeated deep pondering or earnest thinking will become a habit of mind.
Let us suppose that we hear someone report, "Students marched through the streets in a demonstration, carrying banners and placards." Some people will immediately feel disapproving - "Ah, the students are demonstrating again! - " even though they do not know the reason for the demonstration. On the other hand, others may be glad: "Oh, good! Some trouble must be brewing." A teacher will worry about the education of young people when he hears of the demonstration. A stockbroker will immediately think of the potential influence of the demonstration on stock prices. All such attitudes are due to one's habit of mind.
When we try to forget worldly affairs for a fixed period of time and concentrate our mind on a single object, such a practice becomes a habit of the spirit. Suppose that a person continually thinks, "Others as well as myself are all caused to live by the Buddha," for three weeks. He will form the habit of immediately thinking on every occasion, "Wait a minute; he as well as myself is caused to live by the Buddha." The strength and persistence of such a habit differ according to how earnest our practice is, how thoroughly we maintain it, and how long we persevere. If we continuously think of something for an hour and then allow our attention to be distracted, our thinking will never become a habit. If we try to continue thinking deeply of only one thing for a day, such a mental tendency may continue for about a week. From the standpoint of forming religious habits, it is indeed enviable that people in Christian countries make a custom of going to church on Sundays.
Single-minded devotion to an object for three weeks causes us to build up a good spiritual habit (although an outstanding person may receive a great revelation from God or the Buddha, that is an exceptional case). Those who are too busy to set aside a specific period of time should try to devote themselves to the profound teachings of the Buddha for even an hour a day as often as possible. Such repetition also forms a habit of the spirit.
The purified mind and religious exaltation that we feel after devoting ourselves to religious disciplines can be compared to the feeling of seeing the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue mounted on the white elephant.
The bodhisattva continued: "Moreover I will give them dharanis, and obtaining these dharanis, no human or nonhuman beings can injure them, nor any woman beguile them. I myself also will ever protect them. Be pleased, World-honored One, to permit me to announce these dharani spells."
The words "no human or nonhuman beings" refers to money or material things. If these things are sought and used for the right purpose, they never become an obstacle to faith, but an excessive desire for them warps one's mind. The expression "nor any woman beguile them" reflects the male standpoint, but the converse expression applies from a female standpoint. The expression simply indicates the opposite sex. Conjugal love between husband and wife is, of course, an important factor in forming the individual home and society. However, people have a tendency to become attached to such love and to become selfish in their affections. They are apt to ignore the much larger love they should have for all human beings. Others abandon themselves to sexual love for many people and perform dishonest acts. If they always think of the practice of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, their minds, which are liable to be led astray by desire for the opposite sex, can return to the right way, full of a generous and pure human love.
Then in the presence of the Buddha the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue uttered the following spell: "Adande dandapati dandavartani dandakusale dandasudhari sudhari sudharapati buddhapasyane dharani avartani samvartani samghaparikshite samghanirghatani dharmaparikshite sarvasattvarutakausalyanugate simhavikridite [anuvarte vartani vartali svaha].
"World-honored One! If there be any bodhisattvas who hear these dharanis, they shall be aware of the supernatural power of Universal Virtue. If while the Law Flower Sutra proceeds on its course through Jambudvipa there be those who receive and keep it, let them reflect thus: 'This is all due to the majestic power of Universal Virtue.' If any receive and keep, read and recite, rightly remember it, comprehend its meaning, and practice it as preached, let it be known that these are doing the works of Universal Virtue and have deeply planted good roots under numberless countless buddhas, and that their heads will be caressed by the hands of the tathagatas. If they only copy it, these when their life is ended will be born in the heaven Trayastrimsa; on which occasion eighty-four thousand nymphs, performing all kinds of music, will come to welcome them, and they, wearing seven-jeweled crowns, will joy and delight among those beautiful nymphs; how much more those who receive and keep, read and recite, rightly remember it, comprehend its meaning, and practice it as preached! If there be any who receive and keep, read and recite it, and comprehend its meaning, when their life is ended the hands of a thousand buddhas will be proffered, that they fear not, neither fall into any evil destiny, but go straight to Maitreya Bodhisattva in the Tushita heaven, where Maitreya Bodhisattva, possessed of the thirty-two signs, is surrounded by a host of great bodhisattvas and has hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of nymph-followers, among whom they will be born."
The phrase "their heads will be caressed by the hands of the tathagatas" means that the believers are praised and trusted by the Buddha. It implies their greatest joy, a life full of religious exaltation. The next phrase, "If they only copy it, these when their life is ended will be born in the heaven Trayastrimsa," means that they will not reach the mental stage of religious exaltation but, suffering removed from their minds, will lead happy and peaceful lives.
The phrase "go straight to Maitreya Bodhisattva" means that the believers will be possessed of compassionate minds like Maitreya Bodhisattva and will become assiduous in the daily practices of the bodhisattvas. Three bodhisattvas who represent three important points in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra have already been mentioned previously: the Bodhisattva Manjusri (the Buddha's wisdom), the Bodhisattva Maitreya (his compassion), and the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue (his practice). The Bodhisattva Maitreya, who typifies the compassion of the Buddha, is regarded as the successor to the Tathagata Shakyamuni. In Japanese he is called fusho no bosatsu, "the bodhisattva who will succeed to (the Buddha's) position." Maitreya is believed to be living in Tushita heaven, waiting for the time when he will come down to this saha world and become the next Buddha as the result of his practice. In a sense, he can be said to be the highest bodhisattva. For this reason, he is possessed of the thirty-two signs of the Buddha. The phrase "go straight to Maitreya Bodhisattva" also means that if anyone continues the practice of compassion in the saha world, he will feel the worth of life and a great joy in life.
Universal Virtue continued: "Such are their merits and benefits. Therefore the wise should with all their mind themselves copy it, or cause others to copy it, receive and keep, read and recite, rightly remember it, and practice it as preached. World-honored One! I now by my supernatural power will guard and protect this sutra so that, after the extinction of the Tathagata, it may spread abroad without cease in Jambudvipa."
THE HIGHEST REACH OF RELIGIOUS EXALTATION. Then Shakyamuni Buddha extolled the bodhisattva: "It is well, it is well, Universal Virtue, that you are able to protect and assist this sutra, and bring happiness and weal to the living in many places. You have already attained inconceivable merits and profound benevolence and compassion. From a long distant past have you aspired to Perfect Enlightenment and been able to make this supernatural vow to guard and protect this sutra. And I, by my supernatural power, will guard and protect those who are able to receive and keep the name of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue. Universal Virtue! If there be any who receive and keep, read and recite, rightly remember, practice, and copy this Law Flower Sutra, know that such are attending on Shakyamuni Buddha as if they were hearing this sutra from the Buddha's mouth; know that such are paying homage to Shakyamuni Buddha; know that the Buddha is praising them - 'Well done'; know that the heads of such are being caressed by the hands of Shakyamuni Buddha; know that such are covered by the robe of Shakyamuni Buddha."
The phrase "such are covered by the robe of Shakyamuni Buddha" refers to the mental state in which one is firmly held in the Buddha's arms; this is the highest reach of religious exaltation and peace of mind. No obstacle can harm the faith or practice of one who has reached this stage.
The Buddha continued: "Such as these will not again be eager for worldly pleasure, nor be fond of heretical scriptures and writings, nor ever again take pleasure in intimacy with such men or other evil persons, whether butchers, or herders of boars, sheep, fowl, and dogs, or hunters, or panderers. But such as these will be right-minded, have correct aims, and be auspicious."
We must take careful note of the words "Such as these will not again be eager for worldly pleasure." This means not that it is bad for people to lead happy and pleasant lives but that it is bad for them to be attached to happiness and pleasure and to crave them. It is also not bad to study the heretical scriptures and may indeed be useful in helping one to widen one's mental vision and become better able to distinguish between truth and nontruth. But one must not be attached to heretical scriptures because if he is, he will lose sight of the truth.
The word "writings" means "poetry" in the Sanskrit text, but here this word can be taken to mean secular literature in general. This means not that literature is bad for people but that it is bad for them to be engrossed in decadent and popular literature so that their minds become clouded and unable to see the truth.
We must be especially careful not to misunderstand the following words: "nor ever again take pleasure in intimacy with such men, or other evil persons, whether butchers, or herders of boars, sheep, fowl, and dogs, or hunters, or panderers." This means not that we must not associate with such people but that we should not be affected by the atmosphere they generate. If we, who desire to spread the Buddha's teachings abroad in this world, should exclude those who are engaged in such occupations, we would grossly violate the Buddha's true intention to save all living beings. We would be unable to obtain the spiritual happiness described in the words: "But such as these will be right-minded, have correct aims, and be auspicious."
The following sentence also appears: "Such will not be harassed by the three poisons, nor be harassed by envy, pride, haughtiness, and arrogance." The three poisons are desire, anger, and foolishness, which are considered to be the original poisons leading ordinary people to degeneration. "Pride" means egoism, self-pride. "Haughtiness" means false loftiness, thinking oneself correct in spite of one's wrong conduct. "Arrogance" means conceit due to one's delusion of having completely understood what one has hardly comprehended at all. Envy is generated by one's feeling of inferiority, while pride, haughtiness, and arrogance are born from a false sense of superiority. These kinds of pride and arrogance are caused by looking at things from a distorted, self-centered point of view. Those who have truly understood the Buddha's teachings and been able to obtain a right view of things will never succumb to such warped thinking.
The Buddha also declares: "Such will be content with few desires and able to do the works of Universal Virtue." The words "few desires" mean having little desire for worldly things. Here "desires" include not only the desire for money and material things but also the wish for status and fame. It also indicates seeking the love and service of others. A person who has attained the mental stage of deep faith has very few desires and is indifferent to them. We must note carefully that though such a person is indifferent to worldly desires, he is very eager for the truth, that is, he has a great desire for the truth. To be indifferent to the truth is to be slothful in life. To be content with few desires means to be satisfied with little material gain, that is, not to feel discontented with one's lot and to be free from worldly cares. Nevertheless, this does not mean to be unconcerned with self-improvement but to do one's best in one's work without discontent. Such a person will never be ignored by those around him. But even if he were, he would feel quite happy because he lives like a king from a spiritual point of view.
The Buddha continued: "Universal Virtue! After the extinction of the Tathagata, in the latter five hundred years, if anyone sees one who receives and keeps, reads and recites the Law Flower Sutra, he must reflect thus: 'This man will before long go to the wisdom floor, destroy the host of Mara, attain Perfect Enlightenment, and rolling onward the Law wheel, beating the Law drum, blowing the Law conch, and pouring the rain of the Law, shall sit on the lion throne of the Law amid a great assembly of gods and men.'"
We can interpret this passage as describing Shakyamuni Buddha's attainment of Buddhahood under the Bodhi tree and his work of spreading the Law. We can also regard it as the Buddha's assurance that anyone who receives and keeps, reads and recites the Lotus Sutra will definitely attain buddhahood.
The Buddha then declared: "Universal Virtue! Whoever in future ages shall receive and keep, read and recite this sutra, such persons will no longer be greedily attached to clothes, bed things, drink, food, and things for the support of life; whatever they wish will never be in vain, and in the present life they will obtain their blessed reward."
The words "things for the support of life" mean the necessities of life. The words "whatever they wish will never be in vain" imply that their desire for all others to be perfectly happy will surely be fulfilled. Therefore "in the present life they will obtain their blessed reward." Not to be greedily attached to material life indicates an unselfish mind. The desire for all others to be perfectly happy comes from one's compassionate and selfless mind. Anyone with such a generous mind will surely obtain a reward in the present life because his own life will become filled with joy, mental peace, and hope.
THE SIN OF SLIGHTING AND SLANDERING BELIEVERS. The Buddha continued: "Suppose anyone slights and slanders them, saying, 'You are only madmen, pursuing this course in vain with never a thing to be gained.' The doom for such sin as this is blindness generation after generation. If anyone takes offerings to and praises them, he will obtain visible reward in the present world."
The words "The doom for such sin as this is blindness generation after generation" are a figurative expression of the depth of sin. Why is it such a great sin to slight and slander believers in the Lotus Sutra? This is because the speech and conduct of such a person hinders the turning of the wheel of the Law. Suppose a person constantly steals and swindles. It is beyond doubt that such deeds violate the five precepts of Buddhism and that such evildoing brings trouble to others. However, as evil deeds bring inevitable retribution, such a person is eventually convicted and pays the penalty for his evil deeds. Other people, seeing this, think: "Evil deeds will be discovered sooner or later. We must never do such things."
Such evil deeds have an influence in a comparatively narrow sphere. On the other hand, although speech and conduct obstructing the spread of the Righteous Law are not punishable by law, they exert a great influence on man's environment. If the Law is spread in every direction, innumerable people will obtain its merits and will abandon the life of evil through it. When a person stops others from spreading the Law, he commits a grave sin. His sin is invisible, but its influence is so inestimable that Buddhists call this "cutting off the Law-seed," a figure of speech that well expresses the gravity of slandering the Law.
The terrible recompense received as the result of slandering the Law is described figuratively as follows: "Again, if anyone sees those who receive and keep this sutra, and proclaims their errors and sins, whether true or false, such a one in the present life will be smitten with leprosy. If he ridicules them, generation after generation his teeth will be sparse and missing, his lips vile, his nose flat, his hands and feet contorted, his eyes asquint, his body stinking and filthy with evil scabs and bloody pus, dropsical and short of breath, and with every evil disease."
Then the World-honored One said: "Therefore, Universal Virtue, if one sees those who receive and keep this sutra, he should stand up and greet them from afar just as if he were paying reverence to the Buddha." With these words, the Buddha concluded his preaching of the Lotus Sutra, extending over the two places and three assemblies. He says that because the whole body of the Tathagata is included in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, those who believe and practice the teachings should be revered just like the Buddha. We should accept these words of the Buddha with gratitude.
Chapter 28 closes with the following words: "While this chapter of the encouragement of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue was being preached, innumerable incalculable bodhisattvas equal to the sands of the Ganges attained to the dharani of the hundreds of thousands of myriads of kotis of revolutions, and bodhisattvas equal to the atoms of a three-thousand-great-thousandfold world became perfect in the Way of Universal Virtue.
"When the Buddha preached this sutra, Universal Virtue and the other bodhisattvas, Shariputra and the other sravakas, and the gods, dragons, human and nonhuman beings, and all others in the great assembly greatly rejoiced together and, taking possession of the Buddha's words, made salutation to him and withdrew."
- This is interpreted as "revolution unhindered," meaning the contemplation of all phenomena as emptiness. It is the contemplation of the emptiness.
- This means to turn emptiness to phenomena, that it, to contemplate all phenomena as existing. It is the contemplation of existence.
- This is the contemplation of the Middle Path, neither emptiness nor existence, unifying the above two kinds of contemplation.
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