Author Topic: "My Difficulties with the Lotus Sutra"  (Read 689 times)

Offline Dharma Flower

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"My Difficulties with the Lotus Sutra"
« on: November 20, 2018, 02:39:02 pm »
This is a fair critique of the Lotus Sutra, that draws some important conclusions:

My Difficulties with the Lotus Sutra

Such a sutra should be approached like a piece of imaginative literature, not as a doctrinal argument.

It is, for example, possible to interpret the notion of Buddha unlimited by time and space not as referring to a specific being but as a metaphor for the potential of Buddhahood which exists always and everywhere.

The “one way” can also be interpreted not as a separate vehicle to replace the other lesser vehicles, but as a vehicle that encompasses or subsumes the other vehicles.

In other words, the sutra may be making an ecumenical point—that whatever Dharma path one thinks one is following, one will inevitably end up on the one path to complete enlightenment.

All the paths are skillful means leading to the same destination.

Offline paracelsus

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Re: "My Difficulties with the Lotus Sutra"
« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2018, 07:23:01 pm »

Personally I like a bit of poetic language but generally read everything expecting to disagree with the way its been put. So I put it to my own experience to see if it holds up and I hold my own experience up to the doctrinal writings also. Both ways. This way I happily remain flexible, having had years of seeing how wrong I was only a few months ago.

Un-bounded by time and space may be the final abandonment of all which is dependent on time and space, time and space being relative to each other and, along with materiality, give us the environment in which we come to exist. It probably isn’t supposed to mean that there is cruising back and forth through time. Siddhartha was a mortal man, the potential for Buddha hood which he realised, is timeless.   
He said “Reality is a concatenation and nothing but a concatenation …” i.e. a sequential development.

All that happens occurs within the present moment. There is no intercedence from an external controlling entity, not even from a buddha. The only arrival from “another time” would be the ripening of potential laid down in the past.

“No yesterday, no tomorrow, and no today” (“Hsin-Hsin Ming” Seng-Ts’an)

The One Way may mean that all “virtuous” practices (as the teachings define them) will lay the foundation for happiness / enlightenment, just as all non-virtue will have the opposite outcome. It is also said to be a one directional path for this reason. The Buddha didn’t invent the system, he proved it to his own satisfaction and then he described it to enlightened us on how to make it work for the well-being of all sentient beings, as he had done. He died smiling.

Perhaps the full understanding of the sutra will only come with enlightened realisation, i.e. that reading it and interpreting the words won’t be enough.

The hell fire and damnation is there to prod us along, just as the promise of nirvana is the carrot. If we get it right neither will be an issue.

The important thing is to actually practice the Way, with proper meditation and insight the meaning will be recognised rather than figured out intellectually.

A favourite quote from English philosopher, John Locke: “We would have a great many fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, signs of our ideas only, and not for things in themselves.”

It would be a rare piece of writing indeed that encapsulated all truth in a manner which spoke to all minds without misinterpretation.


Offline Dairy Lama

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Re: "My Difficulties with the Lotus Sutra"
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2018, 03:51:58 am »
It is, for example, possible to interpret the notion of Buddha unlimited by time and space not as referring to a specific being but as a metaphor for the potential of Buddhahood which exists always and everywhere.

I think this is a general issue when reading and understanding religious texts.  They can often be taken both literally and metaphorically, which leads to ambiguity and a lack of consensus as to meaning.
"My religion is very simple - my religion is ice-cream"

Offline Dharma Flower

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Re: "My Difficulties with the Lotus Sutra"
« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2018, 04:15:08 pm »
There are so many meanings to the Lotus Sutra which are beyond the literal meaning. No wonder, then, that the Lotus Sutra is prefaced by the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings. For example, Abundant Treasures Buddha represents the Dharmakaya, the ultimate nature of the Buddha:

Thich Nhat Hanh states that Prabhūtaratna symbolizes "the ultimate Buddha" and Shakyamuni "the historical Buddha"; the two Buddhas sitting together signifies the non-duality of the ultimate and the historical, that at a given moment in the real world, one can touch the ultimate.[16]

The Eternal Lifespan Chapter of the Lotus Sutra symbolizes the Dharmakaya as well. As a former Tendai monk, Shinran Shonin regarded Amida Buddha and the Eternal Buddha of the Lotus Sutra as the same being. The following words of Shinran allude to the Eternal Lifespan Chapter of the Lotus Sutra:

It is taught that ten kalpas have now passed
Since Amida attained Buddhahood,
But he seems a Buddha more ancient
Than kalpas countless as particles.

Kalpas countless as particles: Suppose a great thousandfold world is [ground into powder and] made into ink, and with this ink one passes [through a thousand lands], then deposits a dot of it in one land with the tip of a brush, passes through another thousand lands, then deposits another dot of it, until all the ink is used up. If all the lands passed through were ground into dust and counted, the number of particles would be that of the kalpas expressed, “kalpas countless as particles.”

The name Amida means eternal life.

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: "My Difficulties with the Lotus Sutra"
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2018, 04:07:17 am »
I once had a go at rewriting the Lotus Sutra in my own words. The key part for me is:

"Revelation of the [Eternal] Life of the Tathagata

Although the Buddha says ‘Believe and discern’ three times, Maitreya again asks for an explanation. The Buddha continues the explanation saying that since he became Buddha infinite time has passed. In that time he has constantly been preaching in this world and in others: ‘since I verily became Buddha, thus have I ever been.’ His ‘tactful’ methods have seen him teach many sutras and in many guises.

He says that this is possible because the Tathagata knows and sees the world ‘as it really is’, that is without birth and death, going away or coming forth, neither living nor dead, and so on. The reason that the Buddha is not constantly in this world is so that people don’t get ‘puffed up and lazy’, knowing that the Buddha is constantly around. The logic being that if people realise that the Tathagata is hard to meet they will ‘cherish a longing and thirst for him’ and hence ‘cultivate the roots of goodness’. The parable of the physician consolidates this view.

This message is the key to the whole sutra. Everything before this idea of an infinite Buddha is setting up this mind-altering concept and everything following consolidates the value of the sutra."

Which on re-reading still seems the central tenet of the sutra. On another level it also reflects the powerful feelings of an infinite universe, in terms of both space and time, that comes with insight experiences, and shows the sutra to be an attempt to reinterpret Buddhism in those terms.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka


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