Bodhisattva of the Earth
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: West Coast
The Wisom of the Lotus Sutra, Volume five
(SGI President Ikeda and Soka Gakkai study department leaders Katsuji Saito, Takanori Endo, and Haruo Suda explore the profound meaning of the Lotus Sutra based on Nichiren Daishonin's lecture on the Lotus Sutra, "The Record of the Orally Transmited Teachings.")
SUPERIOR PRACTICES IS A BODHISATTVA-BUDDHA
Ikeda: The question then becomes: Just what is this bodhisattva who “receives and embodies the entirety of the Thus Come One?”
Ordinarily, when we speak of a bodhisattva we mean someone who is practicing the teachings with the aim of becoming a Buddha. But this is clearly not the case with the Bodhisattva Superior Practices. Although he embodies the entirety of the Thus Come One, he is still called a bodhisattva. Superior Practices is a “bodhisattva-Buddha.”
Let’s go back to the analogy of as son inheriting the family estate from his father. We must assume that father and son are equal, that if the father is a Buddha, the son who inherits the family estate is also a Buddha. Otherwise, this analogy is illogical.
Endo: Certainly, a person who inherits sovereignty over a country from a king is also a king.
Ikeda: At the time of their appearance, Superior Practices and the other Bodhisattvas of the Earth are described as follows: “The bodies of these bodhisattvas were all golden in hue, with the thirty-two features and immeasurable brightness” (LS15, 213).
Suda: The thirty-two features are special characteristics of the Buddhas. This therefore seems to indicate that the Bodhisattvas of the Earth are Buddhas.
Saito: What’s more, they are described as even more splendid in appearance that Shakyamuni. The sutra likens Shakyamuni to a young man of twenty-five with a hint of immaturity, and the Bodhisattvas of the Earth as venerable seasoned elders of a hundred years (cf. LS15, 221)
Ikeda: Therefore, the ceremony of essential transmission in the “Supernatural Powers” chapter is fundamentally a transmission from a Buddha to a Buddha. This is a state of life that “can only be understood and shared between Buddhas’ (LS2, 24).
Why, then, does Superior Practices appear as a bodhisattva? Well, for one thing, it is so this sutra would not contradict the traditional idea that in any given world there can only be one Buddha. People would be confused if two Buddhas were to appear at the same time.
Saito: This is the view that Superior Practices assumes the position of disciple who is helping Shakyamuni expound his teaching.
Endo: When the Bodhisattvas of the Earth make their appearance, everyone else, including Bodhisattva Maitreya, is startled. This is what prompts Shakyamuni to begin preaching the “Life Span” chapter. In that sense, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth certainly assisted in preaching.
Ikeda: But this takes on still greater significance, given that Bodhisattva Superior Practices appears unequivocally as the representative of the nine worlds. This point virtually transforms the entire history of Buddhism. It is a recognition of the virtues (or effect) of Buddhahood existing within the practice (or cause) of a bodhisattva.
Up to this juncture, Buddhism had taught that the effect was superior and that practice, which is the cause of enlightenment, was inferior, which seems like common sense.
Endo: I think we intuitively think of the world of Buddhahood as above, or better than, the nine worlds.
Ikeda: But with the appearance of Bodhisattva Superior Practices, it becomes evident that the cause (the nine worlds) contains the effect (the world of Buddhahood).
Why is this important? Let’s try to recall the teaching of the “Life Span” chapter. There, Shakyamuni explains that he attained Buddhahood in the extremely remote time described as numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago. This implies that all Buddhas throughout the universe are disciples of Shakyamuni who attained enlightenment in the remote past. Then what about before that time?
Saito: Shakyamuni’s statement , “originally I practiced the bodhisattva way” (LS16, 227), indicates that before numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago he carried out a bodhisattva practice.
Ikeda: From there we can infer that since he carried out the Buddhist practice, there was a Buddhist Law. There was a Law, but no Buddha, which means that there was no Buddha who is a one with the universe and whose life is without beginning or end.
Suda: It goes without saying that if the time when the Buddha appeared could be pinpointed, he could not be called the “Buddha eternally existing throughout past, present, and future.”
Endo: The view that Shakyamuni had first attained enlightenment during his lifetime in India is refuted as without origin and existing only in the present. Such a Buddha is like grass without roots. But the Shakyamuni of the “life Span” chapter, who revealed that he attained enlightenment in the remote past, also became enlightened at some specific point in time. Strictly speaking, this view also fails on the grounds that it is “without origin and existing only in the present.” It does not present Buddhahood as being originally inherent.
Saito: If a Buddha’s enlightenment is not originally inherent, then that Buddha cannot be called the true Buddha who exists eternally.
Ikeda: While this is an important point for our present discussion, it is somewhat challenging. Those who find this a bit confusing should feel free to just skip ahead! It’s a concept that can be studied throughout one’s life. Even if we don’t comprehend the fine points of Buddhist theory, the main thing is that we understand the importance of chanting daimoku.
Suda: I, for one, am relieved to hear you say that.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Last edited by PassTheDoobie; 02-13-2013 at 10:39 AM..