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Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

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Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Sadaparibhuta on Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:32 am

The Lotus Sutra calls itself the King of the Sutras, and it’s been regarded as such throughout East Asian history, because of how captivatingly it summarizes the meaning and intent of the Buddha’s teachings.

The sutra itself is about three hundred pages, and its mythical embellishments might cause a reader to miss its deeper meaning and purpose. This is why the following passage of the Lotus Sutra is so important:

Thereupon the Bhagavat, wanting to elaborate on the meaning of this further, spoke these verses…

The Buddha, knowing the minds of his children
And their past conduct, taught the Six Perfections (Paramitas)
And various transcendent powers
Through incalculably numerous explanations
And various illustrations.
Explaining the true teaching
And the path to be practiced by the Bodhisattvas,
He taught this Lotus Sutra in verses
Equal in number to the sands of the Ganges River.
http://www.bdk.or.jp/document/dgtl-dl/d ... a_2007.pdf


From the above passage, we can see that the Buddha’s purpose in teaching the Lotus Sutra was to train Bodhisattvas in the Six Paramitas, the six essential elements in the path to Buddhahood:

Dāna pāramitā: generosity, the attitude of giving
Śīla pāramitā : virtue, morality, discipline, proper conduct
Kṣānti (kshanti) pāramitā : patience, tolerance, forbearance, acceptance, endurance
Vīrya pāramitā : energy, diligence, vigor, effort
Dhyāna pāramitā : one-pointed concentration, contemplation
Prajñā pāramitā : wisdom, insight
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_ ... liberation


When the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra teaches there is only One Vehicle to Buddhahood, this is a reference to the Bodhisattva path. All beings have the potential to attain Buddhahood through Bodhisattva practices.

The Lotus Sutra promises that all who aspire to Buddhahood for the sake of all other beings, and who put its recommendations into practice, will attain full Buddhahood, no matter how many lifetimes it takes.

If you make a sincere vow to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all beings, then even the smallest act of devotion will plant the seed which eventually grows into Buddhahood, no matter how many lifetimes it takes.

The purpose of the Lotus Sutra is to give all people, even children building temples in a sandbox, the encouragement that they can pursue the Bodhisattva path.

While the Lotus Sutra might have some fanciful moments, that doesn’t disprove its overall historicity.

Even the Pali canon, believed to be the most accurate record of the Buddha’s life, has mythic embellishments.

If one reads the Lotus Sutra in general outline, one can imagine its historical core, even with the accretions:
https://www.lionsroar.com/what-happens- ... scripture/

The Lotus Sutra teaches that all people, everywhere, are welcome on the path to perfect Buddhahood.
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby jundo on Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:56 pm

The Lotus Sutra was certainly written by human authors, although religiously inspired, long after the time of the Buddha.

However, those authors tried to express good teachings and messages, and thus one might say all that is Wise and Compassionate within it is, in such sense, the "Words of the Buddha."

It has been cherished through the centuries.

Gassho, J

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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Sadaparibhuta on Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:06 pm

jundo wrote:The Lotus Sutra was certainly written by human authors, although religiously inspired, long after the time of the Buddha.


One could say that about any of the Buddhist scriptures. That the Buddha taught the Bodhisattva path, for the attainment of Buddhahood for all, should be non-controversial for Mahayana Buddhists to accept as something that happened.
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:21 pm

For Mahayanists, and hence maybe for Ch'an-, Zen-, Seon-, and Thien-Buddhists in particular, the Prajnaparamita literature appears to be the most or the more important literature, by comparison.

Prof. D. T. Suzuki, and many of our Zen Buddhist teachers, too, by the way, instead, rank the Lankavatara right up there too. I mean, especially. Lotus maybe plays second fiddle -- or second 'cello, as I do -- by comparison. No denigration, here, just saying what's factual for many/most. In Mahayana.... .

--Joe
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Sadaparibhuta on Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:32 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:For Mahayanists, and hence maybe for Ch'an-, Zen-, Seon-, and Thien-Buddhists in particular, the Prajnaparamita literature appears to be the most or the more important literature, by comparison.

Prof. D. T. Suzuki, and many of our Zen Buddhist teachers, too, by the way, instead, rank the Lankavatara right up there too. I mean, especially. Lotus maybe plays second fiddle -- or second 'cello, as I do -- by comparison. No denigration, here, just saying what's factual for many/most. In Mahayana.... .

--Joe


When it comes to which sutra has been the most influential on people's daily lives throughout the history of East Asia, especially among the laity, it's hard to find a sutra more influential than the Lotus Sutra.

I recommend reading the chapter on the Lotus Sutra and its influence from Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations.
http://www.khamkoo.com/uploads/9/0/0/4/ ... dition.pdf

The Lotus Sutra was also influential on Zen master Dogen:
Dogen, the 13th-century Japanese founder of Sōtō Zen Buddhism, used the Lotus Sūtra often in his writings. According to Taigen Dan Leighton, "While Dogen's writings employ many sources, probably along with his own intuitive meditative awareness, his direct citations of the Lotus Sūtra indicate his conscious appropriation of its teachings as a significant source"[125] and that his writing "demonstrates that Dogen himself saw the Lotus Sutra, 'expounded by all buddhas in the three times,' as an important source for this self-proclamatory rhetorical style of expounding."[126] In his Shobogenzo, Dogen directly discusses the Lotus Sūtra in the essay Hokke-Ten-Hokke, "The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower". The essay uses a dialogue from the Platform Sutra between Huineng and a monk who has memorized the Lotus Sūtra to illustrate the non-dual nature of dharma practice and sutra study.[125] The Soto Zen monk Ryōkan also studied the Lotus Sūtra extensively and this sutra was the biggest inspiration for his poetry and calligraphy.[127] During his final days, Dogen spent his time reciting and writing the Lotus Sutra in his room which he named "The Lotus Sutra Hermitage".[128]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Sutra


And on Shunryu Suzuki:
http://www.cuke.com/Cucumber%20Project/ ... -lotus.htm
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:37 pm

S.,
Sadaparibhuta wrote:When it comes to which sutra has been the most influential on people's daily lives throughout the history of East Asia, especially among the laity, it's hard to find a sutra more influential than the Lotus Sutra.

I recommend reading the chapter on the Lotus Sutra and its influence from Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations.
http://www.khamkoo.com/uploads/9/0/0/4/ ... dition.pdf

No doubt!

And, been there, happily. And, done that, thankfully. I sense where you're coming from.

In the Ch'an-, Zen-, Seon-, Thien-Buddhist circles, it's the Lankavatara, though, instead. I hope you (may) understand me.

Indeed, I was not talking about "History", nor "East Asia", but instead about Ch'an-, Zen-, Seon-, Thien-Buddhist circles, and practice, such as is/are emphasized here at ZFI. Granted, your post is in the "Mahayana" area. So is my mind.

My fault,

rgds,

--Joe
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Sadaparibhuta on Thu Jun 29, 2017 8:40 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:Indeed, I was not talking about "History", nor "East Asia", but instead about Ch'an-, Zen-, Seon-, Thien-Buddhist circles, and practice, such as is/are emphasized here at ZFI.

Sadaparibhuta wrote:The Lotus Sutra was also influential on Zen master Dogen:
Dogen, the 13th-century Japanese founder of Sōtō Zen Buddhism, used the Lotus Sūtra often in his writings. According to Taigen Dan Leighton, "While Dogen's writings employ many sources, probably along with his own intuitive meditative awareness, his direct citations of the Lotus Sūtra indicate his conscious appropriation of its teachings as a significant source"[125] and that his writing "demonstrates that Dogen himself saw the Lotus Sutra, 'expounded by all buddhas in the three times,' as an important source for this self-proclamatory rhetorical style of expounding."[126] In his Shobogenzo, Dogen directly discusses the Lotus Sūtra in the essay Hokke-Ten-Hokke, "The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower". The essay uses a dialogue from the Platform Sutra between Huineng and a monk who has memorized the Lotus Sūtra to illustrate the non-dual nature of dharma practice and sutra study.[125] The Soto Zen monk Ryōkan also studied the Lotus Sūtra extensively and this sutra was the biggest inspiration for his poetry and calligraphy.[127] During his final days, Dogen spent his time reciting and writing the Lotus Sutra in his room which he named "The Lotus Sutra Hermitage".[128]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Sutra


And on Shunryu Suzuki:
http://www.cuke.com/Cucumber%20Project/ ... -lotus.htm


The Lotus Sutra has been very important for Chinese Ch'an teachers as well.
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:00 pm

S.,
Sadaparibhuta wrote:The Lotus Sutra has been very important for Chinese Ch'an teachers as well.

You state the obvious. Why? Is that to put-in an appearance of some favorable kind for yourself? To "educate" us? Or, for... ?? Think on it.

Lankavatara is most important for Ch'an- Zen-, Seon-, Thien-Buddhists, over time.

Nolo contendere,

--Joe
Last edited by desert_woodworker on Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:02 pm

S.,
Sadaparibhuta wrote:The Lotus Sutra calls itself the King of the Sutras,

Nah. Somebody else does.

--Joe
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Sadaparibhuta on Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:06 pm

desert_woodworker wrote:S.,
Sadaparibhuta wrote:The Lotus Sutra calls itself the King of the Sutras,

Nah. Somebody else does.

--Joe


No, it's what the Lotus Sutra says about itself:
https://books.google.com/books?id=hKCor ... 22&f=false
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby desert_woodworker on Thu Jun 29, 2017 9:08 pm

S.,
Sadaparibhuta wrote:No, it's what the Lotus Sutra says about itself:

Oh? Who's the speaker? Name her.

--Joe
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Sadaparibhuta on Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:14 am

desert_woodworker wrote:S.,
Sadaparibhuta wrote:No, it's what the Lotus Sutra says about itself:

Oh? Who's the speaker?


The Buddha himself:
At that time the World-Honored One, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form,
saying:

But if they hear this profound sutra
which defines the Law of the voice-hearer,
if they hear this king of the sutras
and afterward carefully ponder it,
then you should know such persons
are close to the wisdom of the Buddha.
http://www.english.fgs2.ca/sites/defaul ... 0Sutra.pdf
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Caodemarte on Fri Jun 30, 2017 4:49 am

Although Zen was known as the Lanka shool early on, other sutras were important at different times or different people. The flower koan about Mahākāśyapa (the first Zen patriarch) seems to cite an incident at the preaching of the Lotus Sutra which is not cited in the actual text (and I doubt its historicity is claimed by anyone or cared about by anybody). Hakuin had a famous awakening on re-reading the Lotus Sutra, which indeed was an important sutra for the Mahayana of which Zen is a part. But then again Zen is " not dependent on words or letters" although it sure does produce a lot!

Come to think of it the title of this discussion would make a great koan, on the order of why did Bodhidharma come to the West?
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby bokki on Fri Jun 30, 2017 11:11 am

The Lotus Sutra calls itself the King of the Sutras
lol
From the above passage, we can see that the Buddha’s purpose in teaching the Lotus Sutra was to train Bodhisattvas in the Six Paramitas
lol, one vechicle?
When the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra teaches there is only One Vehicle to Buddhahood, this is a reference to the Bodhisattva path.
lol, one vehicle!lol
certainly written by human authors, although religiously inspired, long after the time of the Buddha

Nah. Somebody else does.

No, it's what the Lotus Sutra says about itself:

Oh? Who's the speaker? Name her.

The Buddha himself:

LOL
Come to think of it the title of this discussion would make a great koan, on the order of why did Bodhidharma come to the West?

so do i :)
b :heya:
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Sadaparibhuta on Fri Jun 30, 2017 1:06 pm

bokki wrote:
The Lotus Sutra calls itself the King of the Sutras
lol
From the above passage, we can see that the Buddha’s purpose in teaching the Lotus Sutra was to train Bodhisattvas in the Six Paramitas
lol, one vechicle?
When the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra teaches there is only One Vehicle to Buddhahood, this is a reference to the Bodhisattva path.
lol, one vehicle!lol
certainly written by human authors, although religiously inspired, long after the time of the Buddha

Nah. Somebody else does.

No, it's what the Lotus Sutra says about itself:

Oh? Who's the speaker? Name her.

The Buddha himself:

LOL
Come to think of it the title of this discussion would make a great koan, on the order of why did Bodhidharma come to the West?

so do i :)
b :heya:


WTF???
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby jundo on Fri Jun 30, 2017 2:19 pm

The Lotus Sutra is a work of fiction, written by human authors working at a desk stuffing made up words in the Buddha's mouth. The Buddha, long dead, had nothing to do with it.

And yet, and yet ...

If the stories inspire, provide insight, touch one (as they touched Dogen, countless other folks ... even little 'ol me) I think that such is the Buddha's Words.

... the Lotus Sutra is as Real as Real can Be!

All the Beautiful Expedient Means, All One Vehicle.

Gassho, J
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Caodemarte on Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:31 pm

jundo wrote:The Lotus Sutra is a work of fiction, written by human authors working at a desk stuffing made up words in the Buddha's mouth. The Buddha, long dead, had nothing to do with it.

And yet, and yet ...

If the stories inspire, provide insight, touch one (as they touched Dogen, countless other folks ... even little 'ol me) I think that such is the Buddha's Words.

... the Lotus Sutra is as Real as Real can Be!

All the Beautiful Expedient Means, All One Vehicle.

Gassho, J



Yes. I suspect the question for the old teachers would have been "Does this teach the truth? If so, it is Buddha's words." Lke the many Roman and the medieval Western historians who were less interested in whether or not someone literally uttered the words ascribed to him/her and more interested in whether or not the words ascribed artistically represented the person's inner truth or role. Many would have astonished to be taken literally. Later on, people became more interested in what was literally said and less in what they should have said (a concern some of the ancients would have dismissed as petty).
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Sadaparibhuta on Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:26 pm

Image
jundo wrote:The Lotus Sutra is a work of fiction, written by human authors working at a desk stuffing made up words in the Buddha's mouth.


That's your opinion.

jundo wrote: The Buddha, long dead, had nothing to do with it.


One could say the same thing about any work of Buddhist scripture.

What would be more interesting than your personal opinion would be finding out what Zen/Ch'an masters throughout history have taught regarding the Lotus Sutra, whatever that might be. :peace:
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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby jundo on Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:27 am

Sadaparibhuta wrote:
jundo wrote:The Lotus Sutra is a work of fiction, written by human authors working at a desk stuffing made up words in the Buddha's mouth.


That's your opinion.


Yes. And also the historical evidence. I very much recommend this book to you by the great historian of Buddhism, Donald Lopez ...

In The Lotus Sutra: A Biography, Donald Lopez traces the many roles of what is perhaps the most famous of Buddhist historical texts, the Lotus Sutra. Examining the history of the famous scripture that was composed in India in the first centuries of the Common Era, Lopez’s biography provides an engaging background to the enduring classic. Lopez recently took the time to answer some questions about his own early encounters with the text, and why its proclamations remain so important today. ....

In researching the book, what did you find that was unexpected?

DL: The anonymous authors of the Lotus Sutra presented a radical re-vision of both the Buddhist path and of the person of the Buddha. They did this with remarkable skill; they were clearly monks who were deeply versed in traditional Buddhist doctrine but were also deeply dissatisfied with the state of the Buddhist tradition as it existed around the beginning of the Common Era. One of the things that I saw again and again in the text was a concern with legitimation. The authors were determined to portray their work as the words of the Buddha and thus have the Buddha constantly praise the Lotus Sutra, promising rewards to those who embrace it and punishments to those who reject it.

...

Donald Lopez is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. He has contributed other books to the PUP Lives of Religious Book series with titles such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography (Princeton). He is also the author of the book The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism (with Robert E. Buswell, Jr.). L


But ... it actually does not matter. As I have been trying to express, if Wisdom is Wise then it is the "Buddha's Words" even if he never would have spoken them, and all transcends time and history.


jundo wrote: The Buddha, long dead, had nothing to do with it.


One could say the same thing about any work of Buddhist scripture.


Yes, one could and many of us do, in fact. Some are likely closer to what the historical Buddha taught, which may be very far from what later became the "Mahayana" or "Zen."

But even if it is very different, it is not so important. Sometimes later things can be good expressions, even improvements or new flavors, of what came before. I do not care if the historical Buddha taught the Mahayana or not ... because the Mahayana is Great! That is why we say "Maha!" :peace:

What would be more interesting than your personal opinion would be finding out what Zen/Ch'an masters throughout history have taught regarding the Lotus Sutra, whatever that might be. :peace:


Oh, but they did not have the benefit of the historical research and information that we now have, and lived in a world of narrow education and superstition, where religious faith trumped fact.

That is okay. I have such facts, and I am as much a Lotus Sutra fan as any of them! Dogen danced the Lotus Sutra, and so do I.

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Re: Why the Buddha taught the Lotus Sutra

Postby Caodemarte on Sat Jul 01, 2017 12:49 pm

jundo wrote:
What would be more interesting than your personal opinion would be finding out what Zen/Ch'an masters throughout history have taught regarding the Lotus Sutra, whatever that might be. :peace:


Oh, but they did not have the benefit of the historical research and information that we now have, and lived in a world of narrow education and superstition, where religious faith trumped fact.


Some lived in such a world; some did not. If you look at the records of lectures and conversations by old Chan teachers you will come across quite a bit of criticism concerning the historicity of various sutras. There was a whole cottage industry in the Buddhist tradition and by its critics But again, this has little to with their spiritual value. I would suggest that many of ancient Zen teachers were highly educated, not superstitious, and believed that fact always trumped faith. Many were not and did not. It is always a mistake to assume that we are always more enlightened than all our ancestors or always worse than them. I suspect you know all this better than me, but thought it useful to remind us all how complex the past is.
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