35 Day Practice Day 27

35 Day Practice Day 27

Read Lotus Sutra
M p. 254 “Ajita! Anyone who hears that my life is so long…(continue to end paragraph)”
M p. 259 “Anyone who reads, recites, or keeps this sutra…(continue to end of paragraph)”
M p. 263 “Ajita! Suppose a bhiksu…(continue to end of paragraph)”
M p. 282 “Furthermore, Constant-Endeavor!…(continue to end of paragraph)
R p. 305 “Then the Buddha said…(continue to end of paragraph)”
R p. 310 “If, for the sake of others…(continue to end of paragraph)”
R p. 315 “Then the Buddha said…(continue to end of paragraph)”
R p. 333 “Furthermore, Constant Effort,…(continue to end of paragraph)”

Merits of Person 50 Removed

Today I have selected four paragraphs from the three next chapters which all deal with the merit, or benefits that will accrue to those who practice this Lotus Sutra, especially in the ages after the death of the Buddha. After you have finished reading these paragraphs please divide your remaining time between reciting the portion of Chapter 16 in Shindoku and chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.

In the first paragraph of today’s selections the Buddha talks about the importance of understanding or even considering the longevity of the life of the Buddha. The Buddha says that compared to practicing the Six Paramitas, or the Six Perfections, understanding and believing in the long life of the Buddha is far more beneficial.

You may probably be asking why is it so important, what relevance does it have to us that the Buddha has told us of the infinite life-span of Buddha. One reason is because without this truth then there really is no teacher for the Bodhisattvas who rise up from beneath the ground, and there is no current relationship with the Buddha other than as a historical person.

Of course this is all nice theory and of course it exists on paper in the sutra, but what our practice is fundamentally about is manifesting the truth of the matter in our own individual lives. As our faith, built upon practice, grows and we experience the proof of the Lotus Sutra in our lives our relationship with the Lotus Sutra, and also with this concept of an Eternal Buddha changes. It is no longer merely a theoretical idea but an actual experienced truth. This takes time of course, but during that time the Buddha assures us that the merit we accumulate is unimaginable and far greater than possible by those who practice in the time of the Buddha and for whom the belief in Eternal Buddha is not important.

If we look at the predictions of future enlightenment given to the contemporaries of the Buddha we see that they will become enlightened at some future point because of their relationship with the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. But those who teach and practice the Lotus Sutra after the death of the Buddha, the Bodhisattvas from Underground, have a relationship with the Buddha that spans far into the infinite past and because of this they have already attained great supernatural powers and all the marks of the Buddha.

The Bodhisattvas from Underground do not come into this Saha World, this world of sufferings in order to practice so that they can become enlightened, they come into this world after the time of the Buddha so they can teach others to become enlightened. These Bodhisattvas from Underground have already achieved a far greater practice than those contemporaries of the historical Buddha.

Of course, it is up to each of us as we practice to reveal this truth in our own unique capacities through our continued practice of the Lotus Sutra.

Just as the Bodhisattvas from Underground emerged from beneath the ground, we too emerge from our seemingly mundane lives and reveal the Buddha that is within us.

Finally today I would like to talk a little about the benefit or merit of the 50th person removed, which you read of in Chapter 18. In the single paragraph appearing at the beginning of this chapter we read about rejoicing. This idea of rejoicing is extremely important, I believe.

Specifically this paragraph talks about the benefit that will accrue to the fiftieth person who hears even indirectly about the joy of practicing the Lotus Sutra by the first person. That is how powerful a teaching the Lotus Sutra and it is also an expression of how powerful joy is.

When we chant Namu Myoho Renge Kyo we are engaging in a very profound activity. Many of have come into Buddhism from a Judeo-Christian perspective, even if only remotely. For some of us the concept of prayer is an activity of asking for something, of seeking for some intercession by some force outside of our lives. Of course this isn’t to say that all religions or that all people pray in such a way, but it is certainly common.

In Buddhism and especially as we chant Namu Myoho Renge Kyo we are engaging not in this manner of praying but from the perspective of praising the Lotus Sutra, of celebrating the truths contained within this teaching of the Buddha, and of rejoicing. Our praying is not about something coming into our lives or something being done for our lives, our praying is about the changes that take place in our lives because of our practice and our celebration of those changes.

Joy and gratitude are fundamental practices of Buddhism. We say Namu because we appreciate our lives, we appreciate our practice and relationship to the Lotus Sutra or Myoho Renge Kyo. Namu is an expression of our relationship to the Lotus Sutra. Namu is not a question, it is not a seeking for something outside our lives, Namu is an expression of what is already in our lives and our ever deepening relationship to those truths. Namu is not I want this, it is instead saying I am this.

These passages we read today reveal that because of the relationship we create with the Lotus Sutra we will be assured of great merit, the great merit of awakening what is already in our lives, Buddhahood. Frequently I have heard Namaste translated as the god in me bows to the god in you. And so it is when we append that to Myoho Renge Kyo. The Buddha in me bows to the Buddha in the Lotus Sutra.

Please consider this as you continue to chant Namu Myoho Renge Kyo throughout your day and as you work on your practice of following now three of the eight Right Ways. Remember to keep joy in your heart and share that joy with all the connections you become mindful of during your day. The joy you express is passed on and benefits countless others.

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About Ryusho 龍昇

Nichiren Shu Buddhist priest. My home temple is Myosho-ji, Wonderful Voice Temple, in Charlotte, NC. You may visit the temple’s web page by going to http://www.myoshoji.org. I am also training at Carolinas Medical Center as a Chaplain intern. It is my hope that I eventually become a Board Certified Chaplain. Currently I am also taking healing touch classes leading to become a certified Healing Touch Practitioner. I do volunteer work with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (you may learn more about them by following the link) caring for individuals who are HIV+ or who have AIDS/SIDA.