Author Topic: Footprints on the Journey: Religious Government - Khenpo Sodargye  (Read 1352 times)

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Religious Government

For practitioners, it is deemed necessary to “shut your ears to affairs outside the window; endeavor only to practice for liberation.”

But occasional reading of the newspaper could stir in us compassion toward suffering in the world, smother our fantasies about the future, and arouse renunciation; it may thus support our practice also.

Turning the pages of the newspaper, I read what Premier Jiang Zemin said to the President of the United States George Bush: “Many citizens of China are religious. Although I don’t follow any religion, I am interested in it. I have read The Holy Bible, The Noble Quran, and The Diamond Sutra….” This passage elicited deep thought in me.

In The Diamond Sutra, the Buddha says: “Subhuti, unthinkable and incomparable is this discourse on Dharma. The Tathagata has taught it for the weal of beings who have set out in the best, the most excellent vehicle. Those who will take up this discourse on Dharma, bear it in mind, recite, study, and illuminate it in full detail for others, they are completely known by the Tathagata; they are completely seen by the Tathagata. Such people accomplish immeasurable, inexpressible, boundless, inconceivable merit and virtue and thus sustain the Tathagata’s anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

It is clear that for anyone—from the king or a monarch to common people—to recite the Diamond Sutra is to plant virtuous seeds that will accumulate inconceivable merits.

In the history of Tibet, Buddhism has played an indispensable role in the country’s long-term stability and welfare. There are innumerable beautiful accounts on the lasting bond between patron kings and great Dharma masters in historical annals.

The profound connections of King Trisong Deutsen, Master Padmasambhava, and Abbot Shantarakshita are most famous. But those between Khublai Khan, Emperor of Yuan, and his Dharma Master Phagspa are equally remarkable. Khublai extolled the master this way: “Under the heaven and above the earth, you are the Buddha’s heir from the Western Heaven and the emanation of the Buddha. You established the national language and assisted in reigning policies. I now honor you, the Pandita of five sciences, as the Court Priest Phagspa.” Thus the Dharma played inconceivable important roles in the imperial court as well as for the general public during that time period.

The mighty emperor Fu Jian, urged by his strong wish to retain Dharma Master Dao Ang, did not hesitate to wage the war of Xiangyang. This, again, is a proof of the extreme value of the precious Buddhadharma.

Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty had more than just great respect toward the Buddha’s teachings. She wrote the famous Verse for Opening a Sutra:

The unsurpassed, profound, and wonderful Dharma,
In hundreds of billions of eons is difficult to encounter.
Now that I’ve come to see and hear it, receive and uphold it,
I vow to fathom the Tathagata’s true and actual meanings.

This verse has been passed down to the present, and for many practitioners, it is an indispensable aspiration prayer before reciting any sutra.

The elusive relationship between Master Bodhidharma and Emperor LiangWu has been the subject of many misinterpretations. People regard Emperor LiangWu as a fool who could not comprehend the truth in the Dharma. In my opinion, we can hardly say that Emperor Liang did not have a high level of realization. It is only the circumstances and the acumen of his people that prevented him from subscribing solely to the Zen “beyond any word.” However, he did make vast offerings in worldly ways and showed his subjects how to accumulate merit in the context of relative truth. His skillfulness and vision surpass those of other sovereigns. I can’t help rejoicing in what he has done.

If the ruler of a state has generated heartfelt respect for Buddhism and wishes to bring short and long-term benefits to all citizens, rather than to control them, it indeed is a great fortune for all beings!

9th of January, Year of RenWu
February 21, 2002


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