Embodying the Lotus Sutra 

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At the beginning of the last series of classes here at the yoga room, I think I said something about the way the series of classes was advertised, which usually says, A Course in Zen Meditation. Did it say it on this one too? Do you know? It says the title and then Zen Meditation. It says the title and then Zen Meditation? Yeah, so last summer the series was on the Bodhisattva Vow, so it said Bodhisattva Vow and then Zen Meditation. Is that right? Yeah. Maybe now it says Lotus Sutra? Embodying Lotus Sutra and Zen Meditation. I was inspired to discuss the Vows of Bodhisattvas last summer


and I was thinking of discussing the Vows, but I wasn't necessarily thinking of them in relationship to Zen Meditation. But then right at the beginning of the class I realized, Oh, these great Vows of Bodhisattvas, yes, let's specifically connect them, unite them with Zen Meditation. And I was very happy and inspired by how bringing the Bodhisattva Vows together with whatever kind of Zen Meditation you're doing, makes the meditation wholehearted. And so, like this morning I heard a talk at Gringo given by a young person who's in a position called Head Monk for a practice period


and he was kind of proposing that Zen Meditation is being aware of your breath. And so that's what it is for him. That's the way he's practicing Zen Meditation. But this afternoon, this evening, I thought, Well, if that's the way he thinks of Zen Meditation, that's fine. But then how can his practice be wholehearted? Because I kind of feel like it's not so much that Zen Meditation is this or Zen Meditation is that. I think kind of Zen Meditation is being wholehearted. Then whatever you're meditating on, if you're wholehearted, I think it's the Zen Meditation of a Buddha. I think Zen Meditation could be practiced by everybody. But when it becomes wholehearted, then it's like Buddha's practice of Zen Meditation.


And the Bodhisattva vows, if you unite them with your meditation, they become wholehearted. So, for example, if you're sitting and being mindful of your posture, seems like a wholesome thing to me, and mindful of your breathing, that's a wholesome form of attention. And if you were steadily, if you were continuously and carefully and closely attending to your posture and breathing, if you sustained that attention, you probably would become calm. And if that kind of attention is united with the vows of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, then that attention is not just calming, it is the life of Buddha. So that line of talk, which then itself was an object of meditation,


was what we talked a lot about last summer here, and I've continued to talk about that, I guess, for about the last eight months. And then now the Lotus Sutra is coming forth in my life, so then it gets announced as a class, and you come and now it's in your life, the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra is a sutra, is a scripture, and someone asked, actually I think Laurie asked, Laurie, how do you say your last name again? Shu-yev-ska. Shu-yev-ska.


Shu-yev-ska. Shu-yev-ska. That Laurie asked, what does sutra mean? Last Saturday, or was it last Saturday? And I said, well, it's etymologically related to the word suture. It means, etymology is thread, and it means it's the thread that you put through the, if you have a stack of papers or leaves that they first printed the scriptures on, was on palm leaves or something, put a hole in them and put a string through them, that string is called a sutra. So it's the string that binds the text, and it's the string that runs through the text. The scripture is what runs through the text. So, the Lotus scripture, the Lotus Sutra, is a sutra which is very big on praising the Lotus Sutra.


The Lotus Sutra encourages us to worship the Lotus Sutra, to be very, to feel very happy. The Lotus Sutra is telling us to be happy about the Lotus Sutra. And that would be similar, I guess, to one of you telling us to be really happy about you. And you might, if I said, you should be really happy about Reb, you might think, well, that's kind of self-serving. Well, actually, maybe not. It's serving you. You're the one who's going to be happy. I'm not necessarily going to be happy if you're happy about me, although I might be. But just think about being happy about me. That's the way the Lotus Sutra talks. As a matter of fact, it says, if you're happy about me, you will become a Buddha. If you really get very happy and inspired and uplifted about me, you will become Buddha. So, anyway, I'm pretty happy about the Lotus Sutra.


I didn't become happy about the Lotus Sutra because I thought, oh, if I become happy about the Lotus Sutra, I'll become Buddha. It's rather that somehow I'm just starting to get happy about the Lotus Sutra, like I'm getting happy about the Bodhisattva vows. And the Bodhisattva vows are about being happy about Buddha. If you're happy about Buddha, and you know it, clap your hands. If you're happy about Buddha, and you clap your hands, and you sing the praises of Buddha, and you make offerings to Buddha, and you think about how worthy Buddhas are, if you think that way and talk that way and act that way, you will become Buddha. That's throughout Buddhism. Buddhas are those who have been happy about Buddhas in the past. Buddhas are those who, before they were Buddhas, were happy about meeting Buddhas. I was happy about meeting Suzuki Roshi.


I was planning on meeting him. I went to Zen Center because I heard there was a Zen teacher there, and I was happy to meet him. Not super happy, just kind of happy. I think the first thing I saw was his feet. His feet were clean and well manicured. I looked at the feet and I thought, I can learn Zen from these feet. After meditation was over, I bowed to him when I left the Zen Do. I didn't think, oh, I'm so happy to meet this guy. I actually thought, hmm, what's happening? But then later I thought, that was good. I didn't really know what happened. I felt good about it. But I continued then to meet him until he died, quite frequently, and I almost always liked meeting him and was happy to meet him.


So I think it's not necessarily to try to get anything out of it, but sometimes people are happy to see Buddhas and Buddhas' disciples. And there's a teaching that those who serve Buddhas, those who honor Buddhas, those who worship Buddhas, become Buddhas, and all Buddhas have worshipped Buddhas before they were Buddha. So it's part of the deal. It's not the whole deal. I take that back. It might be the whole deal, but anyway, it is part of the deal at least. The Lotus Sutra is kind of telling you, the Lotus Sutra is kind of telling you, I think it is sort of telling you, telling me, it's sort of saying, the Lotus Sutra is saying, this text which you're looking at, which you're listening to, which you're hearing about, which you're copying, which you're talking to people about,


this text is actually the embodiment of Buddha. Which is similar to what some people say about the Bible. The Bible is the embodiment of God. Do some people say that? The Word. It's the embodiment of the Word? Yeah. Well, the Word is the embodiment of God. So anyway, Lotus Sutra is kind of saying, it's the embodiment of Buddha, and it's the embodiment, it's the incarnation of ultimate truth. And also, as I mentioned Saturday, at Noah Bowdoin, I've mentioned many times over the years, when I first started, when I first met the Lotus Sutra, I met the Lotus Sutra because in 1968,


the fall of 1968, Suzuki Roshi was giving talks on the Lotus Sutra at Tassajara, and also he was going to probably continue to give talks on the Lotus Sutra in the beginning of 1969. And so, I was in San Francisco when he was at Tassajara in the fall of 1968, but those students of his who were in San Francisco and not with him at Tassajara, we started studying the Lotus Sutra too, because he was teaching it down there, and also some of us thought we would go down to Tassajara. So I started studying the Lotus Sutra, and I was also listening to talks by him on the Lotus Sutra. But my experience was, opening the Lotus Sutra and reading it, I only read about one page or one and a half pages of the Lotus Sutra, and then I closed the Lotus Sutra, because I was not finding it enjoyable to read,


and I didn't feel like I should push myself to keep reading any further. I didn't think that Zen was about reading books that you didn't think were worth reading. I didn't sign up to read any books actually about Zen. I thought I was just going to come and sit and become a really good guy. So the sitting I was up for. I was totally there for the sitting, and the breathing and all that stuff. And the Bodhisattva vow I think I had, but I didn't know about it. The vow was I wanted to become a really kind person, even with people who were cruel to me. I definitely wanted to learn that, that way that you could be kind to people who are cruel to you, and also be kind to people who are really nice to you. You know, like people who are really nice to you,


and like don't be possessive of them and try to control them, and keep them on the kindness track. So that's what I was into, and now I see it was the Bodhisattva vow, but I didn't know that name for it. But Lotus Sutra I wasn't expecting, but since Suzuki Rishi was going to teach it, and everybody else thought that was a good idea, I tried it, but then I closed it. So, you may or may not want to read the Lotus Sutra during this class. I don't necessarily recommend it, but I do recommend it. It's not necessary, but I'm kind of recommending it. But with the background that it was recommended to me, and then I got a copy, opened it, and closed it. And I kept the copy and opened it later and closed it. And I kept the copy and opened it later and closed it.


And then I got another translation and opened it and closed it. So over a period of years, I opened it every now and then, because it seemed to be pretty important. For some reason or other it's kind of important. It was in my life. It was like, you know, I don't know what. You have a mother and a father, and then suddenly your mother gets pregnant and has another kid. So you now got a little sister. It's like, you know, well, I guess I've got to deal with her. Lotus Sutra is kind of in your family. It's kind of in your family. But, you know, take it easy. Have a good time with it. Don't force yourself. Don't think you're a bad person if you don't like it. Or go ahead and think yourself a bad person if you don't like it. So I'm feeling really happy about having this class,


which will encourage me to dive into the ocean of the Lotus Sutra. And I also looked up the word meditation today. I heard that the word meditation actually, its root meaning has something to do with a text. A lot of people think of meditation, especially people who are familiar with Zen, think of meditation as like being aware of your posture and breathing. And they don't think of posture and breathing as a text. Or as a discourse. But meditation actually, the root of the word, I believe, which I haven't been able to figure out how that's so yet, but I did hear it. But the first definition of meditation is actually related to a discourse or a text.


A spoken or a meditation, the first meaning of meditation in the dictionary I looked in today, the first meaning of meditation is a discourse. A spoken or written discourse is the first meaning of meditation. I think most of us think of meditation, I think I thought of meditation as my paying attention to something. My reflecting on something. My contemplating something. Well, that's right. But what you're contemplating actually is the first meaning of meditation. Meditation is what you're contemplating. And the first meaning is not contemplating your posture or breathing, it's contemplating a spoken or written discourse. Is that surprising to you? The first meaning of meditation is the discourse.


It's not the contemplation of the discourse, it is the discourse. That's the meditation. And it can be spoken, like I'm speaking to you now, this is a discourse, you could say. And meditation is what I'm saying. It's something given to you, I'm giving it to you, for you to contemplate. It is a spoken or written discourse treated in a contemplative manner. So if I give you this discourse and you don't treat it in a contemplative manner, then in some sense it didn't work as a meditation. But if you receive it and I receive it, and I do receive it actually, I am contemplating what I'm saying. And what I'm saying comes from contemplating pretty much what I'm saying. So what I'm saying to you, I contemplated saying it to you before I said it to you, and I intend that you would contemplate what I'm saying about the Lotus Sutra,


and about contemplation, and about meditation. Meditation also means the act of meditating. So it means both the text or the discourse you're contemplating, and it also means the contemplation on the meditation. And not only that, but a lot of meditations are discourses which include instructions about how to contemplate on the meditation. And it also has the element of doing a continuous, or a deep and close contemplation of some discourse. And it's especially related to religious topics, but it can be on other things. You can meditate, there can be a meditation on many things. But it is especially related to religious topics.


So if you wish to get a copy of the Lotus Sutra and start reading it along with this class, that would be fine, you don't need to. Unless you want to check to see if what I'm saying has anything to do with the text. Because I'm going to tell you something about what the text says. I already did, didn't I? What did I tell you about the text? It tells you to love the Lotus Sutra. It tells you to love the Lotus Sutra. That's one of the things the Lotus Sutra does, it tells you to love it. So you can look and see if it does. And there's a number of translations, and you know, I really don't have a favorite. I think I have almost all the English translations. I have seven, and I do not have a favorite. Did you find one you read all the way through?


Oh yeah, that's another part of the story. I opened it and closed it and opened it and closed it. And then one day I opened it, and it was time. And then it was like me and the Lotus Sutra. All I wanted to do was read it. But the Lotus Sutra is so sweet, the Lotus Sutra says, close this book now and go help people for a while. Don't just sit here and do this thing with me that you're enjoying so much. Go help people, or go have lunch. It doesn't say, keep reading me without stopping. That isn't what it said to me. As a matter of fact, it said to me at the beginning, as soon as you don't like me anymore, close me. I want you to have a loving relationship with me. I don't want you to get into some like you're supposed to read me kind of relationship. That's what it said to me, and I followed its instruction. And I'm still that way with it.


I just read it as long as I want to. And I finally did read the whole thing. And I have not yet memorized it. Yes, Laurie? Do you always start from the beginning? Do I start from the beginning? No. Because sometimes I want to see what it says in Chapter 16, so I go right to Chapter 16. Chapter 16 is... Uh... Actually, I've talked to you about Chapter 16 already quite a bit. That's the one that I have written on the back of one of my rocks, as I've shown you. Remember? Anyway, I often go to Chapter 16, the last part, the verses. And I don't read the whole thing up to Chapter 16 before I read Chapter 16. And I also go to different parts without going to the earlier parts.


And I don't feel like I have to read everything after the part I read. Although that would be cool, I suppose. In a way. But then I wouldn't be coming to Berkeley, because I'd be reading all the time. Okay, so the Lotus Sutra. It has a name, which is the Lotus, in English, the Lotus of the Wonderful Law. Or the Lotus of the Subtle Law. Or the Lotus of the Marvelous Truth. Or the Lotus of the Inconceivably Wondrous Truth. Different, possible. But anyway, it's this lotus flower, actually. Not just lotus, it's the lotus flower of the wondrous truth. So it's a scripture about the wonderful truth.


In Sanskrit, it's sadharma. Sadharma. Sa means good, or wonderful, dharma. And it's the lotus. Pundarika, the lotus flower of the sadharma. So it's a flowering, it's a flower of dharma, it's a dharma flower. It's also called dharma flower scripture. So in a way, it seems like the Lotus Sutra is about the wonderful truth, or a wonderful truth, that the Buddhas teach. That's what it seems like the main point of the sutra, is that. But then, also the main point of the sutra is a flower.


A flower. So there's two things come up here for me. One is this wonderful truth, and the other is this flower. And it's like flowers, I guess, can be dead, but also flowers can be alive. So it's not just a truth, it's a flowering of a truth. Or a blooming of a truth. Or a living, living, a living, living truth. So yeah, it's not just the truth sutra, and it's not just the flower sutra, it's the flower truth, the truth flower sutra. In other words, it's the incarnation of the truth. And not just the incarnation of the truth,


but the incarnation of the truth in the form of a flower. And flowers have something to do with, not just life, but reproduction. So you could say it's the wonderful truth, it's the wonderful reproductive truth. Or it's the wonderful truth of reproduction. Or it's the truth, the reproducing truth, the wondrous reproducing truth. A truth that doesn't just like go, and help everybody. It also is a kind of truth which is wanting to have it reproduced in those who hear it. So it isn't just that people hear it, and are enlightened by it, and helped by it, but they don't just hear it, they also hear it, they receive it, hear it, are affected by it, and then they join the truth, they join taking care of it.


They become part of the vehicle of it. This is another thing about the Lotus Sutra, which the Lotus Sutra kind of says, it kind of says, this sutra is about getting you people to receive it, and you carry it forth in your lives. And that way it will be reproduced, it will be transformed into something new. And a basic principle which I often mention to you, is that this wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sutra, or of the Buddhas anyway, the Buddhas wonderful truth, is something that no words, or no consciousness can reach, the truth. But the truth can illuminate consciousness. And so this is a truth which our human activity cannot reach,


but it can reach our human activity, and when it reaches our human activity, the truth which human activity can't reach, reaches and transforms human activity. And then the human world is transformed by this truth which human activity can't reach, but which human activity can orient towards in such a way as to open to it, receive it, and reproduce it. That's another principle which I see in the title. Do you know it then? Hmm? Do you know it? Do you know what? What you just described, this fertilizing process. Do you know the fertilizing? Do you know it once it happens? You said human consciousness can't reach it, but it can reach human consciousness, and it can influence human consciousness. And I wonder if you could know it. Well, it does speak about, what does it say?


It does speak about receiving and knowing. There is this big thing about hearing the Dharma. So sometimes we say hear and know, but in a way the hearing and the being transformed is the knowing. So it isn't like, if you're transformed by hearing the truth, it isn't that you know that you've been transformed, that's the knowing, it's the being transformed that's the knowing. So that's the way you would know. Just like now, if you or I find ourselves being happy when we think of the Lotus Sutra, and if you haven't been happy, some of you may not have been happy before when you heard of the Lotus Sutra, but now if you hear about the Lotus Sutra, think about the Lotus Sutra, and you feel happy and joyful,


I would say you know the Lotus Sutra, because you've been transformed into someone who's happy at the thought of the Lotus Sutra. You have just been transformed. And that happiness is knowing the Lotus Sutra. And that's meditation, because it's not at first this way and then that way, it's happening in a separate time extension. The meditation is, and it's also the meditation, but the meditation could also, I think, count that if you're thinking about the Lotus Sutra, but not yet transformed by it. I think you're thinking about it in a deep and continuing fashion. I think that would be contemplation, but it wouldn't yet be knowing it because you haven't changed yet, and sort of become the Sutra, become what the Sutra says will happen. So I just wanted to say a lot more tonight.


One thing I want to say is just tell you this little story about the Lotus Sutra, about the beginning of the Lotus Sutra, which when I first read the Lotus Sutra at the beginning, I didn't even see that this was going on, but now I tell a story about it, which I didn't see because I got, well, I'll tell you as I go. So at the beginning of the Lotus Sutra, there's a scene, or this vision that's in the words, and the vision is that the Buddha is sitting on this peak in India called Vulture Peak, and there is a Vulture Peak there, and you can go there, and it's, you know. I've seen pictures of it, and it's not nearly as neat as most parts of the Sierras. It's kind of a stubby little hill, you know, actually, but it's Vulture Peak, you know, and probably if I went there, I would like, probably if I went there, I would be very happy,


and suddenly I'd realize it's a really nice place, but just seeing pictures of it, it looks kind of not very interesting, but it is called Vulture Peak, and that's where Buddha was supposedly going. He gave this sermon. It's actually in India, near the city of Rajagriha. So he's sitting on this peak, and there is a great, there's a lot of, there's a big assembly there of great sages and great deities and kings, you know, tens of thousands of them are on this hill, on this mountain with him, and they're gathered together to hear the Buddha speak. And they, the multitude, this huge multitude showers the Buddha, reverently showers the Buddha with offerings, you know, like flowers, incense, just all kinds of nice stuff,


they're showering the Buddha, reverently showering the Buddha. They're making offerings to the Buddha at the beginning of the sutra, and then the Buddha offers something back to them, and they came to hear Buddha, and then Buddha talks to them. So in a way, he gave them what they were hoping to receive, some words, but these are preliminary words. They don't seem to be this inconceivable Dharma, just kind of some preliminary words. You know, like, thanks for coming, thanks for the offerings, it's good that you came, and then see you later. And he goes into this profound meditation, and they all appreciate that, that they can feel, this is a really great, amazing thing that this Buddha has now.


They get to see, get to see the Buddha in meditation. Recently, I was crossing my legs in Florida, crossing my legs, and I crossed one leg, and then I crossed the other leg, and I realized, oh, I crossed my legs, but I didn't make my leg crossing an offering to Buddhas. I missed the opportunity of, as I was crossing my legs, saying, I'm crossing my legs as an offering to Buddhas. I'm putting myself in the posture that the Buddhas sit in, as an homage, as a worship of Buddhas. I find that when I do it, not just me crossing my legs, but me for and with the Buddhas, it's a lot more fun. Or even if I say, I'm doing it with the guys at the yoga room, it's more fun for me to do it with you, than just all me by myself, over here in the corner.


But I missed it, but I noticed that I missed it. I felt good that I noticed that I missed it. I didn't feel good that I missed it, I felt good that I noticed I missed it, because when I noticed I missed it, I remembered it. And then I thought of a Zen master who I love, who I never met, who lived in China. But I've heard stories about him, and I love him from the stories I've heard about him. And his leg got broken, like mine got broken. And he couldn't cross his legs for quite a few years. He was still a great teacher. He went on to be a great teacher after he broke his leg, but he couldn't break his legs, and couldn't cross his legs. And at the end of his life, as he was dying, he crossed his legs. He didn't care anymore that if he crossed his legs, there would be a problem as a result of crossing his legs. He just went ahead and crossed them and then died. And that memory came back to me as I was crossing my legs.


And I just had this strong feeling of, I would love to just be in China and see him teach for just a few minutes sometime. Even if he was speaking in Chinese and I couldn't understand, I probably could understand. I just really wanted to see him teach. I had that feeling that I would like to. And then I thought, you know, I really would like to be in India 2,500 years ago and see Shakyamuni Buddha teach. Just, you know, one talk, one discourse. I would like it. Maybe the Lotus Sutra? I just, you know, there's that feeling, wouldn't it be nice to see Shakyamuni just one talk, in person? Even if it was hot? And I thought, oh yeah. And I would like to see Dogen too. I started jumping around. China, back to India, now back to Japan. I'd like to hear Dogen give a talk. That would really be nice. And actually I would like to hear my own teacher giving our talk too. That would be nice too. This one, maybe one I already heard before. There's this feeling of,


people want to go hear the Buddha talk, they get to see the Buddha. Now the Buddha is in meditation, they can look at the Buddha in meditation. So now he's in meditation. This is at the beginning of the Sutra. Then when he goes into meditation, then the heavens start raining down flowers on the Buddha. So he goes with the meditation. And the earth starts trembling. And people aren't scared, you know. It's not a terrible, violent earthquake. But it's a real active one, and it's trembling. Sometimes they say the earth trembles in six ways. Forward and backwards, right and left, and up and down. Trembling is sort of a short version of that. So you've got this Buddha going in, you hear the Buddha, make your offerings, then the Buddha goes in meditation,


and the flowers start falling, and the earth starts shaking. The Buddha is sitting still, so the earth starts shaking. It's kind of a normal thing that happens when they do it. So the Buddha is sitting still, but it's a very energetic sitting still. So far there's been no complaints from this vast multitude of sages and deities and kings. Everybody's pretty happy so far, even though they haven't yet heard the teaching which they came to hear. They're waiting for the sermon, for the Buddha to teach. They don't know it's going to be the Lotus Sutra. They just came to hear the Buddha teach, and they were hoping to get not just a few preliminary remarks, but a major sermon, please. I'm not saying they were greedy or anything,


but they knew this person could probably give a good talk. They wanted to hear something like that. So what is it? Thirty-nine years ago, thirty-nine or forty years ago, I didn't notice this. All I noticed, I didn't... I was just... I pooped out as they were listing the names of the people who were in the assembly. As they were filling in the assembly, to describe this huge assembly, I just didn't want to be there for roll call, like Stephen, Fred, Charlie. Later, you know. I couldn't sit through the roll call. Now, Stephen, Fred, Charlie is a lot easier than the names of those Bodhisattvas in Sanskrit. With this kind of 19th century orthography,


it was really difficult. It wasn't just like Steve and regular, you know, sans-serif type. It was a little bit hard. But anyway, I pooped out in the roll call of the assembly. I never got to, like, even the part where he, like, sat down, the earth started trembling, a little action here, right? And I didn't feel like, well, I'm going to skip over the names and go to the next part. I just closed the book. Okay, so then, these people are waiting for the sermon. But while they're waiting, and the Buddha is sitting in meditation, he's got this little, he's got hair growing between his eyebrows, and it's growing into a kind of little circular tuft of white hair, probably on his pretty dark face, you know? Indians are, especially back then,


before white invasion, they were pretty dark people probably. So he had this nice white tuft on his nice brown forehead, and from this white tuft, he emitted a ray, or an array was emitted from this concentrated spot. The earth trembling, the stuff flowing, this beam comes out. And it goes, it illuminates thousands and thousands of lands, of worlds, throughout the universe, in all directions. It's a beam that comes out from here, but it goes in all directions. And it goes to those lands and illuminates them, and the people get illuminated in those lands, their consciousnesses are illuminated throughout the universe by this light. The people there get to see this, and they're still waiting for the Buddha


to give the talk. And then while the Buddha is like sitting there, you know, the earth trembling, the beams are going out, these worlds, the universe is illuminated. The flowers and all sorts of stuff falling down on them. Some of the Bodhisattvas in the assembly, one of them being Maitreya Bodhisattva, the being who is in this world who is predicted to be the next Buddha, after this world system collapses, in the next world system. Maitreya is wondering, he wants to know what's going on with this light and these flowers and the shaking of the Buddha in meditation and all that. And so he asks Manjushri if Manjushri knows what this is about. So these two great Bodhisattvas are there, and there's a lot of other great Bodhisattvas, but Maitreya is asking


the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri. Manjushri, if he knows what this is about. And Manjushri then goes to his search engine, and he googles, you know, light illuminating world systems throughout the universe, which is actually in his Google memory, and he goes, oh yeah, I saw the light like this before one time. And then he says, are you good men? And I would say, I would transform that to are you good men and women? Once before, in the presence of past Buddhas, I saw this portent, this omen. When the Buddha


had emitted light, they straight away preached the great, wondrous, marvelous Dharma. Thus, it should be understood that the present Buddha's display of light is also of this sort. It is because he wishes all sentient beings to be able to hear and know the Buddha's difficult to believe in all worlds, he displays this portent. Because the Buddha's wish beings to hear and know this wondrous, great Dharma, they give this signal. They illuminate all the lands so people are now ready to receive this wondrous Dharma.


That's what, I think, Manjushri tells Maitreya. So I'll say this again, this isn't in the sutra, but this is the this is kind of saying that everything that's happening now at the beginning of the sutra happened before, long ago, with a distant past Buddha who preached a scripture called the innumerable meanings, sutra of innumerable meanings, and entered into this great concentration. And also in the Lotus Sutra, the preliminary remarks where he just briefly mentioned the sutra of innumerable meanings, but didn't tell the people what it was. He just mentioned it as he went into


the concentration. I think the concentration was called the concentration of innumerable meanings. So in the past they also preached this sutra of innumerable meanings without telling people what it was. Preached it without telling it to them. And then entered this concentration and the universe there too trembled and the flowers fell and those wondrous signs were followed by the Buddha preaching the Lotus Sutra. And now, the Buddha was ready to preach the Lotus Sutra again. And so at the end of the first chapter of this Lotus Sutra that we have, this huge multitude


is waiting to now hear the Dharma. So the text we have now in this historical time which we've had for a pretty long time, for probably almost 2,000 years we've had this text in many forms. This text which we can read and touch begins by mentioning that the Lotus Sutra was first preached in a distant land before the Lotus Sutra really, before we're being told anything about this Dharma we're being told that this sutra has been preached in a distant land a long time ago. And it's going to be presented again. And once again,


just as in the past, in the past when we were when it was preached, when the innumerable meaning scripture was preached and when the Lotus Sutra was preached, the content of the first Lotus Sutra was not revealed. And so the difference is that now the Buddha is saying that he is going to expound and explain the content of the Lotus Sutra. So this time, we're actually going to hear the content of the Lotus Sutra. And the last time we didn't. Last time we didn't get the content, this time we're going to get it explicitly, for the first time. So the light symbolizing or signaling that the Lotus Sutra is going to be taught, but the last time that happened the content, the substance of the text was not revealed and this time it will be. Okay?


That's what they think at the end of the first chapter. However, when the second chapter starts, the Buddha gets up from this meditation and starts out by saying, the Buddha said, just before he went into meditation, he said, I'm going to tell you about this Lotus Sutra. Giving the impression that this time you're going to actually get the details. Although he didn't refer to the past thing, Manjushri tells us those past things. Then he comes out and he says, he doesn't really say this, but he kind of says, you know, I kind of promised to tell you about it, but now that I think of it, it's actually really hard for you to understand this teaching. To say the least, it's really hard for you to understand it. Matter of fact, only Buddhists can understand it. Even very advanced bodhisattvas can't understand it.


So, since I did want to give this, I did want to, I guess I kind of was thinking of teaching this supreme, sublime Dharma to you, but now that I think of it, it's just probably not a good idea, because it's so difficult, and you're not all Buddhists, so, you know, sorry. And it wouldn't be good for me to teach this to you and have you kind of like get perplexed and nasty about it. Like, that's a Lotus Sutra? Yuck! That wouldn't be good. Better not to hear it at all than to become disgruntled in some way. So, sorry, I don't think so. It's just too hard. Something like that the Buddha said in a little bit stiffer language. And Shariputra, Shariputra is one of Buddha's historical disciples, is now in this Mahayana text.


He's a disciple from the earlier teachings, pre-Mahayana texts. He's now in this Mahayana Sutra, and he begs the Buddha to teach. And the Buddha said, No, no, it's just too hard. I don't want to upset you people, have you get all worked up, you know. And he begs him again, and he begs him again. He said, OK. But just at that time, 5,000 people in the multitude walk out. They walk out because, you know, kind of like, I don't know, anyway, they don't think they need this teaching, this new teaching that they haven't heard before. They don't think they need it. So they leave. And after they leave, the Buddha says, Good that they left. And good that you people stayed. Because you're going to all become Buddhas. Of course,


maybe not of course, but some of the people are very happy to hear that. Now you could say, is that the true Dharma? It's not being proposed as the true Dharma, it's just a little proclamation that all the people who stayed are going to become Buddhas. So the Buddha is saying, this teaching can only be understood by Buddhas together with Buddhas. And then the people walk out after this dance about not giving the talk, and the people who stayed are told that they will become Buddhas. By staying with the Lotus Sutra, they will become Buddhas. They stayed with the Buddha giving the Lotus Sutra, they will become Buddhas. If they just keep taking care of the Lotus Sutra, they will become Buddhas. That's pretty much the end of Chapter 2. Chapter 3, in Chapter 3,


starts with Shariputra, after hearing this, he hasn't heard the Dharma yet, he's just heard that he's going to become Buddha, he's heard how hard it is to understand the Buddha's teaching, but anyway, he's really, really happy, and Shariputra is jumping, dancing around in joy, saying, I've never before heard such a wonderful message, and he's just jumping for joy. So now I'd just like to say to you that the story of the Lotus Sutra goes on now after Shariputra's happiness to tell some parables. And it also elaborates the Buddha is talking now, and the Buddha is elaborating


on the marvelous merits and virtues of the Lotus Sutra, and the responsibilities of those who wish to embrace it, and sustain it, and who wish to be embraced and sustained by it. So the Buddha is now explaining to the people who stayed how the amazing merits of the scripture and also the responsibilities of those in the group who wish to embrace it and sustain it and be embraced and sustained by it. He tells them about that. And gradually through this talk, the Lotus Sutra is raised to a status, in Chapter 3, it's raised to a status, and also Chapter 2, that's happening too, of being something to worship. And once again, this beginning of the sutra and also continuing to the sutra,


I would say it's a story of a sermon on the great Dharma, which is promised to be delivered, but is never delivered. So, in various ways it's implied that this great sermon on the true Dharma, on the marvelous Dharma, is going to be delivered, and it's not delivered. So, at the beginning of this course, I'm suggesting to you that one of the amazing and unique things about the Lotus Sutra is that it is empty and open at its core. The core of it is the true Dharma, the wondrous true Dharma,


and you're not being told what it is. The supreme Dharma is what this is about, and He's not telling us what it is. So, almost all sutras can be interpreted, so you can interpret the Lotus Sutra, but this sutra particularly, you can interpret what hasn't been said. So the main point of the text is totally open and empty for us to interpret, and the Buddha is not going to do it for us. It's a big sutra, which is basically a preface to a sutra that never happens. And so here we have,


in one sense, a very kind of surprising and strange way of presenting the supreme truth which simultaneously allows us total creative access to it, because the Buddha isn't telling us what it is. So who's going to work with it? Well, we're invited to work with it by studying the sutra and by caring for the sutra and worshipping the sutra, which is the embodiment of that which it won't tell us about. It's incarnating the supreme Dharma which it does not expound, but it does tell us that it's going to, just to draw our attention to the fact


that it isn't doing so. I shouldn't say that. I should say that's my interpretation. I'm sorry I talked so long tonight. Before opening up to your feedback. But there's a little bit of time left if you want to respond to anything. Yes, Reid? The name of the Lotus Sutra was chanted in Soka Gakkai. Yes, Soka Gakkai is one of the branches of Nichiren. And Nichiren is the main object, the main object of veneration,


is not just the Lotus Sutra, but the name of the Lotus Sutra. In Japanese, it's Myoho Renge Kyo. Myoho is the word, it means marvelous, wondrous truth. Inconceivable something. Dharma. That's Myoho. Renge is lotus flower. Kyo is scripture. So they say Namu, in other words, I worship, I venerate, or veneration to, homage to, the wonderful Dharma flower scripture. That's their main object of worship. Worship and study. The same with the Heart Sutra. Worship the Heart Sutra by memorizing and chanting it. But you can also study it, study its teachings. However, the Heart Sutra doesn't tell you so clearly to worship it.


The Prajnaparamita, the perfect wisdom scriptures, don't tell you to worship them. They tell you more to worship perfect wisdom. But the Lotus Sutra says, yeah, worship perfect wisdom. And here's the Lotus Sutra, which is a physical embodiment of perfect wisdom. And it's a physical embodiment of the truth which perfect wisdom contemplates. So, yeah, use this text as a way to be devoted to and realize perfect wisdom. Yes. I was going to ask another question. Yes. So, Manjushri says that in the past the sutra was different, but it wasn't expanded. He didn't say that. He didn't say that part, I don't think. But you can see that it wasn't. It's like, it's sort of,


he doesn't say it literally, but you see the Buddha entering into the samadhi of the innumerable meanings, and he doesn't tell you what the innumerable meanings are. And you're told that in the past the same way that the innumerable meanings were taught, the Lotus Sutra was taught the same way. So you can see that in both cases you weren't told what the innumerable meanings were or what the true dharma was. And the implication... Yes, this time he says he's going to... And this is a characteristic that you'll find in Soto Zen, is that they'll tell you, well, now finally I'm going to give you an elaborate description of this, and then they don't. So the thing that you were saying, they said was going to happen, is what you were saying doesn't happen. Yeah. The Buddha is saying, I will expound the true dharma. Me saying that I'm going to expound the true dharma, I'm not specifically saying that the Buddha said, when I tell you I'm going to expound the true dharma,


my telling you that is not the true dharma or is the true dharma. Okay? If I tell you I'm going to teach you the... right now I tell you, that that statement, that proclamation is the true Dharma. And I'm also not saying it isn't the true Dharma. The Buddha didn't say it was or wasn't, but it didn't seem like it was. Because what did he tell you? So the main point of the text is the true Dharma. And what is it? There's a little hint here and there, but the whole sutra is supposed to be about that. And he says that's what it's going to be about. And that's what he wants people to hear. He wants people to hear this true, wonderful Dharma, because that's what does the trick for suffering beings. That's what makes them able to enter the Buddha way and practice it with no hindrance. So that's what he wants them to hear, but he presents it this way in the sutra. And other sutras are not quite the same.


Like the Prajnaparamita sutras, they present the true Dharma. Emptiness is the true Dharma. And they tell you about it. They teach it. They also don't give you much access to it in terms of your thinking, but at least they tell you what it is. And they tell you how it works, which you can't get at with your conceptual cognitions. Is this similar to when Suzuki Roshi said, the most important thing is to keep asking what is the most important thing? Is it similar to that? Yeah, it is similar. And then he would also often say that such and such was the most important thing. After a while you notice he's calling a lot of different stuff the most important thing. Not that he was lying or anything. And then he said, and by the way, the most important thing is to think that everything is the most important thing, or to ask what is the most important thing. That's another most important thing. A comment and a question.


This reminds me of the unrecognizable. Yeah, right. And a question. Yeah, that's right. So the true Dharma, the wondrous Dharma, is not something you can recognize. It's something you can live. It's something you can dive into. It's actually where you're living right now. You can open to it. So again, the Lotus Sutra is like open at its core. I say, what's the most important thing? And then, see you next week. Maybe. You can't talk about it. You can talk about it, but the talk doesn't reach it. You can't recognize this thing. So let's do talk about it, and then not tell anybody anything. Let's learn to live with the Lotus Sutra. Let's learn to live with this wonderful, marvelous scripture, and venerate something which is open and empty at its core,


and then how to transfer what is open and empty, what is totally open and empty, open to everybody, and empty of everybody, and empty with everyone, and allows everybody... This thing definitely can be transformed into anything. So we can transform this into anything. And Japanese culture is the culture that most transformed it into a lot of different stuff. That's part of what we can discuss, is how they did that. And hopefully, this will be encouragement to us and our successors to transform this open emptiness into our society, into our human and non-human society. Because it's empty, it can be transformed into anything. But it can't be recognized. Is it really what's being transformed into anything,


or is it not us that's really being transformed into our natural selves, into our Buddha selves? And so this is the ultimate permission and encouragement to have faith that we have that Buddha nature and we'll manifest it. We can't really talk about it, we can't really know, no one can give us an instruction, but we can be it. Yeah. Right. Yes? I was wondering about the origin of this sutra, and do you understand this to be somebody's vision or something? Well, see, one of the things about the Lotus Sutra is that being in the form we have it now, if you go back from this form, from here, you might think, well, maybe the creation of it was also quite open.


In other words, maybe it wasn't just created by the kind of people that created the other scriptures. Because the other scriptures maybe would be like only advanced yogis were allowed to have any editorial rights. But the Lotus Sutra should let everybody have their hand at it. So the Lotus Sutra actually is kind of more of a messy text, and it's like an anthology of stories. And it's not very high quality literature in Sanskrit. And it looks like it was put together by a rather disorganized social phenomena. Well, what do you make of that? Well, to me it would make sense that the Lotus Sutra would allow itself to be kind of disorganized because it's so open. Even other sutras which are teaching emptiness and teaching openness, still, at least they tell you what it is.


But since they're not telling you what it is, nobody should be not allowed to say what they think it is. Now, they may not be able to have as much impact as somebody else who also has the right to say what they think it is, but nobody got to say what it was and get the sutra to say that that's what it was. The sutra survived anybody's interpretation. Nobody's interpretation got in there to change the basic structure of the Lotus Sutra, not telling us what it is. But people could get like stories, parables and stuff like that, because the parables are also open. Because the parables don't say what the principle is. So I think that the Lotus Sutra... Again, I'm allowed to do this, and the scholars are trying to figure out how this goes. So one theory is that... I heard a Japanese person say this thing also about 40 years ago. He said that the people who made the Lotus Sutra were stupor guardians and runaway priests. The people who took care of the sites of veneration in India,


who were like professional guardians of worship sites, and priests who didn't want to go with the regular program, those people are the people who made the Lotus Sutra. Kind of rebels, people looking for a more open kind of religion that included them and other weirdos. It's not an establishment kind of thing. And the Lotus Sutra also arises in the world around the same time as Christianity. And also just one other tidbit about this is that if you look at all the manuscripts that they found in India, the most numerous found manuscript is the Lotus Sutra. And the second most numerous one is way, way behind. And again you could say,


well that makes sense because the Lotus Sutra is preaching to make copies of the Lotus Sutra. So that would make sense, right? But they didn't just preach making copies of the Lotus Sutra. People did make copies of the Lotus Sutra. Other scriptures also say make copies of the Sutra. But the Lotus Sutra got more people to make copies of the Lotus Sutra, so the Lotus Sutra had more of a physical impact on India than any other scripture, in terms of like making scriptures. The people wrote by hand. And the people who wrote them by hand, if you look at the Lotus Sutra, it would seem like a lot of different people would be allowed to make copies, not just professional educated scribes who would not make mistakes. They let people make copies whose handwriting wasn't too good and couldn't spell very well. I don't know if they went so far as to let women make copies, but they might have. The Lotus Sutra looks like an evolving,


I wouldn't go so far as to say democratic, but a very creative evolutionary thing created it. And when it went to China, things changed a little bit, because there were quite a few Chinese translations of who knows how many Sanskrit originals, and they were probably different too. But there was one Chinese translator who was very influential, his name was Kumar Jiva. And when he translated things from Sanskrit, he came from Central Asia, and he was very well educated. He's a literary genius in Sanskrit, and then he became a literary genius in Chinese. So his translations, unlike the original Sanskrit of the Lotus Sutra, his translations are high quality Chinese literature. Easily accessible high quality literature. So, it's different than when it got in Chinese,


that some translations became the translation, and there wasn't any messing with them, because they were so good that people didn't... Then it became like keeping the same. But we can talk more about this. The composition of this and its life as a text is, I think, part and parcel of this text. This text is very much about the text. It's a text that's very much about itself. It's a text which is teaching you to worship it. And this is kind of unusual for us, I think, especially refugees from other traditions that tell you to worship texts. So I don't know if I'll do it, but I'm intending to make you some incarnations of the ultimate truth


for you to have if you wish to worship them, like they do in Sakka Gakkai, to give you some of those to deal with if you want to. And again, Dogen Zenji, the Zen master Dogen Zenji, recommended that people make a handwritten copy of the Lotus Sutra, not just download it on your computer, but actually write it by hand. He recommended that. That you actually make a copy. He also recommended that you make a Buddha statue. He recommended that to his students. And he vowed to make a Buddha statue, and I don't know if he completed it, but he did vow to do one when he was about 48. But he died five years later. He said he didn't know if he'd be able to finish it, or if it would be very good, but he did vow to do it. So this kind of thing is out there for you to think about. But if you don't want to vow to make a copy of the Lotus Sutra,


and if you don't want to vow to make a statue of a Buddha, or even if you do want to do both those things, I think what might be really good for you to think about is what do you vow to make? Is there some form you would like to transform the true Dharma into, which the Buddha has not told you what it is? Is there some way you'd like to bring this into your life, and manifest it in your life? This is something which I'd like you to consider for the next eight weeks and onward. Part of why I'm so happy to be studying this with you is I just see this as a very... You know what auspicious means? Auspicious means conducive to success. I feel it's an auspicious time for us to be studying this sutra. And once again, you don't have to read it, but you might want to, just to see what it says,


and see if it has anything to do with what I'm talking about. Are most of the translations from Sanskrit, from the Chinese version? The vast majority are from Chinese. There's only one English translation I know of from Sanskrit. Which one is that? The person's name is Kern, and that was done in the 19th century. And I don't know of an English translation from Tibetan. I'll try to find out if there is an English translation from Tibetan. But I know of six of them from Chinese. Because in China, by far the most important scripture for the Chinese Buddhists was the Lotus Sutra. And in Japan, I would say also, the most important scripture, sutra, is the Lotus Sutra. But in India, it wasn't the most important. However, it's the one, like I said,


in terms of actually finding manuscripts, it's the one that by far are the most manuscripts of the Lotus Sutra than any other text. A lot of other texts that are very, very important, lay people would never read. Lay people did not read the scriptures in India, only the monks. Except the Mahayana scriptures, lay people could read, especially the Lotus Sutra, which is not that hard, it's not that technical, and it's not high-quality Sanskrit, and you could even rewrite it yourself. Even a lay person could get in there and mess around with it, maybe. So it's... Anyway, it's past 9.15, so maybe we should stop. Thank you very much. Thank you.