35 Day Practice Day 32

35 Day Practice Day 32

Read Lotus Sutra
M p. 319 “Endless-Intent! This World-Voice-Perceiver Bodhisattva does…(continue to p. 320)…the other to the stupa of Many-Treasures Buddha.”
R p. 375 “Inexhaustible Mind, such are the blessings…(continue to on same page)…the other to the stupa of Abundant Treasures Buddha.”

World-Voice-Perceiver Bodhisattva or Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva
Kannon or Kanzeon or Guanyin

As in days past please split the remainder of your practice time between reciting Chapter 16 in Shindoku and chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.

It would seem that World-Voice-Perceiver has a lot of different names, fortunately it matters not which one you use. For the purpose of this writing I will use Kanzeon, which is the pronunciation of this Bodhisattva’s name in the liturgical Shindoku.

While there is much to read in this chapter, and I hope that you will go back and read it at some point, I chose this section because it clearly demonstrates the relationship of this Bodhisattva to the Lotus Sutra. Something that sometimes is ignored or forgotten.

The importance of this Bodhisattva, especially in East Asia and now in the West, more so than other Buddhist cultures, is widespread and for some is the single focus of their practice or belief in Buddhism. There are some historical reasons for this and we can see, especially in Chinese Buddhist history, as manifest in archeological discoveries in the cave systems lining the Silk Road, that there began to emerge a distinct and separate worship of Kanzeon around the 6th to 8th century CE.

Prior to the veneration of this Bodhisattva outside the context of the Lotus Sutra, the focus of Lotus Sutra practice and worship, as displayed in paintings and sculpture, was the veneration of the Two Buddhas and their stupa. Soon however, the veneration of Kanzeon became more popular even to the point of it’s association and relation to the Lotus Sutra being ignored or forgotten or discounted. Now, I suspect, there are few average Western believers in Kanzeon who are aware of the relationship to the Lotus Sutra.

As we can see, in this portion we read today, Bodhisattva Kanzeon makes offering to the two Buddhas, Shakyamuni and Many Treasures. This offering demonstrates the subordinate relationship of Kanzeon to these two Buddhas. I think it is also important to notice that the offering of the necklace to Kanzeon was not conditioned upon Kanzeon doing something but for having done something. To me this is an important distinction.

When we approach Kanzeon strictly from the perspective of supplicant to benefactor then we sublimate our own capabilities and our own connection directly to The Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni. This is easy to do if we take Kanzeon out of the context of the Lotus Sutra.

Notice that Kanzeon looks to the Buddhas for permission to receive the necklace and then Buddha instructs Kanzeon to receive the necklace. Once the necklace is received immediately Kanzeon splits the offering and gives it to the Two Buddhas. This clearly demonstrates that Kanzeon is directly tied to the two Buddhas, Many Treasures and Shakyamuni, as their disciple.

The benefits of Kanzeon, and reverence to this Bodhisattva, are directly related to the practice of the Lotus Sutra, and do not replace this Sutra. Our single practice of chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo naturally accrue to us all the benefits contained in the Lotus Sutra including those promised by Kanzeon, World Voice Perceiver.

Another thing I would like you to consider is our own function as Bodhisattvas in hearing the cries of others who are suffering. I think that from a perspective of a practitioner of the Lotus Sutra in the age after the death of the Buddha, and given our vows to save all living beings, we actually should be holding Kanzeon as a model for our own behaviors.

It is appropriate to realize that through our many manifestations as original disciples of the Buddha we are in fact representing the many manifestations of Kanzeon. Also through our vow to spread the Lotus Sutra in this age after the death of the Buddha, and our vow to protect the sutra and its practitioners we naturally fulfill the function of “This World-Voice-Perceiver Bodhisattva does these meritorious deeds. He takes various shapes, walks about many worlds, and saves the living beings of those worlds.”

I believe that rather than Kanzeon being a Bodhisattva we rely upon for some benefit it would be more appropriate to look to Kanzeon as an example of how to live in this age in this world of suffering. Also our fundamental relationship is directly to and with the Eternal Buddha as original disciples and it isn’t necessary to have any intermediary in that relationship.

I hope that you are continuing to work on observing your Right Ways. This is an infinite practice as I am sure you may have realized. There is always something we can improve upon. Buddhism is a quest, an eternal quest for improving our lives, for deepening our enlightenment. Enlightenment is not a terminus, it is not a destination, it is rather a journey; there is no there there.

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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.