This overview is a preamble for my attempt in writing my take and understanding on the Lotus Sutra. It is something that I had wanted to do for years but have not get my hands onto it.
Lotus Sutra is not a scripture of big volume and this had made me very impressive with the various writers and academics who came before me that had researched and wrote scriptures that are much larger in volumes.
As shared in a previous post, I am neither a professional writer nor an academic but this average guy in me felt that I ought to project a different perspective to the world. My perspective is taking Lotus Sutra as the fundamental spiritual teachings which may not be common to many people, including those who thought they have had their practices based on the Lotus Sutra. I will do my best in explaining as best as what the scripture meant to be, especially, in how it aids us spiritually.
You can google information on the Lotus Sutra, including history, teachings and practices online. It definitely had impact on the course of the development of Buddhism in the Mahayana tradition particularly in the (Japanese) Tendai school and the eventual development of Nichiren Buddhism. Therefore, you may find me using some technical terms belong to either schools.
So what do I bring to the table?
Maybe something controversial but definitely and hopefully a better understanding of the Lotus Sutra that it can be taken as an inspirational personal devotion and spiritual practice.
Here are some quick points that you may find Lotus Sutra interesting.
Authorship and Translations of Lotus Sutra
Lotus Sutra, like the vast majority of the Mahayana scriptures, was not taught by the Buddha personally. It is considered as an apocrypha scripture in nature, however, it is recognised and accepted as part of the Mahayana Tripitaka. Which means that despite it not being taught Lord Buddha, it still has significant spiritual value that can be considered.
There are four versions of translation of the Lotus Sutra and my focus here is with the Kumarajiva’s version of the 28 chapters of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Dharma.
One Mahayana – The Bodhisattva Path
That Lord Buddha had taught differently to different people due to different audience and different capacities. All of these teachings are either foundations or preliminary ways to prepare one for the One Mahayana ideal. The aspiration of engaging this spiritual practice for as long as it takes. Unlike how some traditional or contemporary teachings in Buddhism that have buddhists aim to either stop rebirth or go into some faraway realm after death assuming that stops rebirth.
Through the realisation of the Bodhisattva Path nurtures one’s courage in dealing with life’s challenges and responsibility in sharing and teaching the Wonderful Dharma. This leads to an understanding that living life in active and dynamic way rather instead of looking forward to next life or after life.
Accord Equal Respect
Traditional and especially contemporary Buddhism overly emphasize the respect towards monks (and nuns) that it seems like a form of idolatry. The Lotus Sutra teaches differently. One accords respect to the Dharma Teacher, that is achievable by either clergy or laity. The Mahayana tradition has all along teaches that the laity to practice the Bodhisattva Path for Perfection but Lotus Sutra specifically attributes the possibility of laity to be considered worthy of respect. So this stand from the Lotus Sutra is a considerable breakthrough from the traditional buddhist belief.
Sakyamuni as The Eternal Buddha
The Dharmakaya concept is an unique ideology that is commonly known in the Mahayana tradition. The Lotus Sutra teaches specifically that the Dharmakaya, the inconceivable aspect of the Buddha, is Sakyamuni Buddha. Base on this, the Buddhas of all directions in the past, present and future are all manifestations of Sakyamuni Buddha. This idea itself is not commonly accepted (except for Nichiren Shu-Buddhism). And from this idea, it gives rise to two other ideas, one that is that Sakyamuni did not enter Parinirvana; and this gives rise to Sakyamuni, as The Eternal Buddha, does listen and respond to prayers.
To sum it up, Lotus Sutra, though might not have been taught by the historical Buddha personally, the contents of it, still have meaningful and beneficial teachings that we can benefit from. My take on the spiritual life is not something exclusive or make us to perform some ritual out of the ordinary. A good and improved spiritual life is an awakened outlook that empowers us in looking at the choices we have at hand that is beneficial to the self and others.
Let us move on to looking at the Lotus Sutra!
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