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2 years ago  ::  Jun 21, 2012 - 10:34PM #71
etoro
Posts: 568

The point of the above commentary derives from the Buddhist philosophy of the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus or Sad Dharma Pundarika Sutra establishes that the Buddha's true intentions at the very beginning of his vocation was to awaken the very same state of universal / immortal wisdom i.e., the Buddha wisdom of the Lotus Sutra. But because he could percieve that the people of his time were not yet ready to accept his inner enlightenment the Buddha engaged in a series of expedient approaches using such devices as metaphors and similis, explanations of past life relationships, events and deeds performed and in some cases to such persons as Shariputra the theoretical explainations of the Dharma Law itself. 


The Buddha wisdom entails a knowledge of the laws which govern life outcomes and these are reflected in the relative functions and abilities of our minds and bodies.  The vast distinctions in conditions of life that respective life forms and persons are born into and manifest throughout their present existence all reflect the duality of interdependent interactions stemming back in a chain of causation to the infinite past.  These dualistic interactions driven by what Buddhism defines as an illusion of an independent self causes the topsy turvy and uneven affairs experienced by human beings in society. The Buddha can percieve the causality of conditions even beyond the present life into past life relations.  This is because the Dharma Law is universal and eternal in its mode and functions and just as an investigator investigating the causes of a crime the Buddha can percieve the causes of one's present conditions. Even western science has now proven that. In this way the Buddha could draw up parables, metaphors and other devices to lead and guide and prepare disciiples for deeper insights.   


In the Lotus Sutra however the Buddha reveals how he uses the wisdom of Dharma to lay the foundation for the enlightenment of human beings who have not yet been born.  He prepares the way for the eventual conversion of all living beings and the transformation of the saha world into a land of peace and tranquility. This process is still unfolding. in the world.


How is this explained in the Lotus Sutra?  Notwithstanding the fact that the Lotus Sutra begins in the first chapter with astounding omens and signs that something very important is about to be revealed, in the second chapter the Buddha begins to speak directly about the deep qualities and nature of his enlightened wisdom.  He then describes the functions of the very laws that govern the appearance of all phenomena, all events and all objects of discernment within time and space.  ONe can go as far as suggesting that these revelations by the Buddha are the very first descriptions of the space / time continuum described recently by Einstein in his theory of relativity. The Buddha employs these theories to describe the true aspect of how objects appear and exert influence in reality.  The deepest meaning of this revelation is to show how the Buddha himself exerts influence in the world to open up the gateway of enlightened wisdom for all people in the period after his passing. These events have already come to pass as the Buddhist philosophy and those who practice are increasingly playing great leadership roles in the world of human moral and ethical affairs.

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2 years ago  ::  Jun 23, 2012 - 3:44PM #72
etoro
Posts: 568

In the course of seeking to answer the question of the poster here Bakta and I have sought to express our respective understandings of the forms of prayers and practices found in the Mahayana schools of Buddhism.  Some of those in the Theravada who observe the most earliest form of teachings found the notion of praying to external deity quite disonant with their understanding of what the Buddha taught.  But there is good reason why Buddhism appears to embrace both aspects of observances, a "self powered" practice and an "other powered" practice. These two approaches reflect the historical developments of Buddhism as the Buddha's virtuous manner became increasingly popular especially in the period after his passing.  The many groups that increasingly appeared who shared their view of what the Buddha taught revealed a wide variety of views and perspectives.  In this way the Mahayana perspectives were cultivated and incorporated a broad outlook on the numerous ways in which the Buddha led the different classes of people of his time to his enlightenment. 


Over the centuries as Buddhism spread throughout India and abroad to other countries there was an effort on the part of the most outstanding and learned monks to synthesize the Buddha's teachings into a streaming narative which ties together all the many Buddhist perspectives underscored by a single great truth as well as a practice which incorporates the benefits of all views, practices and observances.  This is the purpose of the Lotus Sutra.


The history of Sino-Japanese Buddhism inherited the legacy of these issues and concerns and the many great monks of the various Chinese and Japanese schools of Buddhism sought to find ways to make Buddhism useful for their respective cultures and masses of people.  Over time the Tien Tai School in China and the Nichiren school in Japan arrioved at a culminating viewpoint and method of practice that incorporates all the philosophy and virtues of the Buddha wisdom. Here is the President of the Soka Gakkai, my teacher and the most dynamic laymens movement of Nichiren BUddhism in Japan addressing these very questions to an American audience in an interview he gave to Tricycle Magazine, the most popular Buddhist magazine in America, a year ago. 


---------------------------------


This interview with SGI President Daisaku Ikeda, the first granted to any American magazine, was conducted this summer via email by Tricycle contributing editor Clark Strand and translated by Andrew Gebert. It is the culmination of a two-year-long conversation with SGI’s top leadership on the future of Buddhism as it relates to interreligious dialogue and issues of pressing global concern.


Most Americans know little about Nichiren Buddhism, except that its followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the title of the Lotus Sutra. Could you help our readers to understand the role of this core practice in Nichiren Buddhism? Nichiren used the following analogy to explain the daimoku, or “Great Title,” and how it works: “When a caged bird sings, birds who are flying in the sky are thereby summoned and gather around, and when the birds flying in the sky gather around, the bird in the cage strives to get out. When with our mouths we chant the Mystic Law, our Buddha-nature, being summoned, will invariably emerge.”

To chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is to call out the name of the Buddha-nature within us and in all living beings. It is an act of faith in this universal Buddhanature, an act of breaking through the fundamental darkness of life—our inability to acknowledge our true enlightened nature. It is this fundamental darkness, or ignorance, that causes us to experience the cycles of birth and death as suffering. When we call forth and base ourselves on the magnificent enlightened life that exists within each of us without exception, however, even the most fundamental, inescapable sufferings of life and death need not be experienced as pain. Rather, they can be transformed into a life embodying the virtues of eternity, joy, true self, and purity.

On its surface, this seems just like the other single-practice teachings that came out of Kamakura Japan— like Dogen’s practice of just sitting or Honen’s chanting of the nembutsu. As you note, there are apparent similarities between these practices and Nichiren’s practice of chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra. These can, I believe, be attributed to a shared response, conscious or unconscious, to the particular conditions and challenges of the Kamakura era, a conflict-torn age when Japan was transitioning to a samurai-centered political system.

The Zen practice of just sitting is representative of the kind of jiriki, or “self-power,” practice that makes no appeal to any kind of absolute truth or being beyond oneself. On the other hand, the chanting of nembutsu, relying on and seeking salvation in Amida Buddha, is representative of the tariki, or “otherpower,” approach. Drawing upon the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren declared that it was wiser to avoid leaning too much on either the self-power or the other-power approach. Nichiren’s practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo leads us to discover a power and wisdom that exists within us and at the same time transcends us. It embraces aspects of both the self- and other-power practices.

In a sense, then, you seem to suggest that it represents the best of both worlds.
Yes, and because Nichiren’s approach is both so accessible and so practical, it enables ordinary people to cultivate the vast sources of energy and wisdom they already possess within. It empowers us to live courageously and victoriously amidst the terrible realities of this era of conflict and strife. As such I am confident that it can play a vital role in illuminating the path forward for humanity.


Nichiren Buddhists chant the daimoku to get what they want—a successful career, better health, a good marriage, even world peace. Nevertheless, from a purely traditional point of view, it would seem a violation of basic Buddhist doctrine to chant for the satisfaction of earthly desires rather than striving to overcome them. Isn’t this a contradiction? If you think that the purpose of religion is happiness, there really is no contradiction. The ideal of Mahayana Buddhism is the realization of happiness for oneself and for others. Nowhere is this more completely set out than in the Lotus Sutra, which recognizes the Buddha-nature in all people—women and men, those with formal education and those without. It declares that all people, without regard to their class, origin, personal, cultural, or social background, can attain enlightenment. Our recitation of the title of the Lotus Sutra is a way of renewing our vow to live in accord with this ideal.

Even so, the Buddhist tradition—even the Mahayana tradition—has tended to focus on a monastic approach to enlightenment. Do you see in the Lotus Sutra the suggestion of some kind of populist reform?
The Lotus Sutra does not deny the validity of monastic practice, of people dedicating themselves to their practice in a setting conducive to overcoming deluded impulses and attaining a peaceful state of mind. The problem arises when the practice comes to be seen as an end in itself, rather than a means of entering into the path of wisdom. Nichiren was the first to make the attainment of wisdom through faith a possibility for all people. By following his teachings, it becomes possible to use every occurrence in life—pleasant or painful—as an opportunity for the further development of our innate wisdom. When Nichiren declares that earthly desires lead to enlightenment, he is describing a process by which even ordinary people living in the midst of deluded impulses and earthly desires can manifest their highest wisdom.


I still think a lot of non-Nichiren Buddhists will have a hard time understanding how chanting for earthly desires leads to enlightenment.
Well, to begin with, I think it is important for all Buddhists—even members of the SGI—to understand that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is not some kind of magic formula to be recited to fulfill desires. It is a practice that expresses our faith in the truth and brings our lives into rhythm with that truth. It is a path for overcoming the so-called lesser self that is attached to desires and tormented by deluded impulses. It is a process of training and transforming our lives to be able to manifest our greater self, to bring forth our Buddha-wisdom and the compassionate capacity to realize happiness for ourselves and other people.


In its early days, the Soka Gakkai was despised and laughed at in Japanese society as a gathering of the sick and poor. Josei Toda, my life mentor, took this as a point of pride, however, and declared with confidence: “The true mission of religion is to bring relief to the sick and the poor. That is the purpose of Buddhism. The Soka Gakkai is the ally and friend of the common people, a friend to the unhappy. However much we may be looked down on, we will continue to fight for the sake of such people.” Faced with the devastation of postwar Japan, Toda was convinced that, in the eyes of the Buddha, this was the most noble action.

Moreover, the Lotus Sutra doesn’t deny the value of worldly benefit. By allowing people to start to practice in expectation of such benefit, the teachings of the Lotus Sutra establish a way of life based on faith, and through this faith—developed step by step, starting from wherever we happen to find ourselves in life when we come to the Buddhist path, and with whatever natural human worries or concerns happen to have us in their grip at the time—we enter the path of wisdom. By believing in this sutra that teaches universal enlightenment and by purifying our mind, we are then able to bring our daily actions into harmony with the core spirit of Buddhism. In the Lotus Sutra and the teachings of Nichiren, there is no essential dichotomy between enlightenment and the lives of ordinary beings.



 


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2 years ago  ::  Sep 08, 2012 - 8:25PM #73
RoseUK
Posts: 2

Mar 22, 2012 -- 5:03PM, allen-uk wrote:

Just been listening to the venerable Sarah Thresher giving a talk entitled 'Healing the Pain'. Enlightening, and inspiring, but it did raise (at least) a couple of questions.

The main one is that at the end she finishes the talk with a couple of 'prayers'.

Which of course leads me to wonder 'what is she praying to?'

She's a nun, following Tibetan Buddhism. Do all Buddhists pray? Do YOU pray? What do Buddhists pray to? The Buddha says there is no soul, no supreme being, so what are the prayers aimed at?

I am puzzled!


Allen. 



Hi Allen!


I'm coming to this thread late, unfortunately, but I was pleased to see that I am not alone in having querys about areas of buddhism that seem to anticipate faith / mysticism


this was particularily troubling because one of the things that originally atracted me to buddhism was it's sense of being down to earth... no one seemed to expect thoughtless exceptance... 


but the thread helped me understand about praying... so you pray to enhance your loving-kindness - i.e. you pray to enhance yourself..?


so are the set prayers simply traditional? and why are there so many references to the boddhisatvas?


also what I don't understand is... the buddha taught that we should come to our own conclusions based on our observations, (I believe?), and that there is no soul (i'm pretty new to the dharma) but i have found no rationale for reincarnation... bit confused :s


are these realisations that you undergo through meditation? 


sorry if this is the wrong place to post this, but it seems pretty hard to find discussions on this!


x

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2 years ago  ::  Sep 09, 2012 - 12:10AM #74
Bob0
Posts: 485

Why do you think the buddha taught reincarnation?

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2 years ago  ::  Sep 10, 2012 - 6:13PM #75
RoseUK
Posts: 2

I guess I'd assumed... I'm glad you asked! I suppose it may not be important, but it still seems like there are some things taken on faith, (although as always correct me of course if I have misunderstood)... like buddha nature. How could anyone know if people are essentially good?

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2 years ago  ::  Sep 10, 2012 - 8:22PM #76
Bob0
Posts: 485
but the thread helped me understand about praying... so you pray to enhance your loving-kindness - i.e. you pray to enhance yourself..?


What do you think, is clinging or desire (which leads to suffering) involved in such practice? Could this loving kindness be contrived kindness?


also what I don't understand is... the buddha taught that we should come to our own conclusions based on our observations, (I believe?), and that there is no soul (i'm pretty new to the dharma) but i have found no rationale for reincarnation


Have you found any rational for the soul?


but it still seems like there are some things taken on faith, (although as always correct me of course if I have misunderstood)... like buddha nature. How could anyone know if people are essentially good?


How indeed! But let me counter this. A new borne baby, is it essentially good at birth? But, can that baby go through life without gathering learned behavior, incorrect ideas, prejudice, attraction and aversion?  So the original mind of the baby becomes tainted by the world of suffering and ignorance that it encounters. Our task as we walk the path is to extinguish desire, attachments, letting wisdom replace learned behavior (ignorance).


Return to that original mind, clean mind, Buddha mind. Original mind and Buddha mind are one in the same. Originally the Baby saw things as they were. Soon it was taught to see things in terms of desire and aversion. What do you think?
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