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Welcome into the EverLife Library.

This is where you’ll find relevant sources to enhance your understanding of Buddhism. The library serves as an information and research facility. Its shelves contain both original material not found anywhere else, as well as a comprehensive directory to a variety of important works.

The EverLife Foundation is proud to announce that this section doubles as the exclusive publishing site for Secrets of the Lotus Sutra, an original anthology written by Harvey Kraft. The first book in this breakthrough series is Legacy of Perfect Enlightenment  — provided here for download as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file. To read and print the book, you will need to outfit your computer with a copy of Adobe Reader. If you do not have it, first download it now and then return here to download the book. For your convenience, the book has been pre-formatted for printing on 8.5" x 11" pages with a wide inside margin set for three-hole punching. If you prefer to acquire a printed binder copy of the book by mail, please go to the Foundation office or click on the Plug-in button.

Forthcoming volumes of Secrets of the Lotus Sutra will be made available here as they become available. First, they will be serialized by chapter and finally provided as fully-formatted PDF files.

Forward:

ABOUT SECRETS OF THE LOTUS SUTRA — Background information about the anthology.

• MEET THE AUTHOR — Author Harvey Kraft has probed ancient secrets and found his purpose in their meanings [More to come].

AUTHOR’S NOTES — Addressing Eastern vs. Western thinking; academic vs. sectarian approaches.

WORD TO THE WISE — Some thoughts to consider before reading.


Book shelf:

LEGACY OF PERFECT ENLIGHTENMENT

Click this book title or the book cover image to begin downloading the PDF file.

Copyright issued by the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., U.S.A. in accordance with title 17, United States Code. Effective Date of Registration:Feb. 9, 1998. Publishing date: Sept. 12, 1998.
Updated edition March, 2001

File size: 437K
Number of pages: 101

Estimated download time:
28k - 6 minutes
56k - 3 minutes




Reference section:

CALL FOR PAPERS — EverLife invites submission of papers on subjects covered by this site. See mailing and e-mail address information at the Foundation section.

• BIBLIOGRAPHY — To further aid an expansive study of Buddhism, this library soon will offer an extensive bibliography and links [More to come].


 


ABOUT "SECRETS OF THE LOTUS SUTRA":

Secrets of the Lotus Sutra will take you on a 2,000-year journey — progressing in an easterly direction across the continent of Asia — from the cradle of civilization in Sumer to the exotic religious cultures of India, China and Japan. You’ll meet some of the wisest minds humankind has ever produced — sages who deciphered the ultimate meaning of life and how it works. Discover their lost secrets. Come and be transported to the time of the Buddha (India at approximately c. 500 B.C.E.) and hear him elucidate the epic Lotus Sutra — widely acknowledged today as one of the world’s literary wonders.

Experience Buddhism’s petals of wisdom as they slowly open to reveal to you the purpose of your life and that of all existence. Follow the visionary Lotus Sutra and you’ll learn the full spectrum of Buddhist thought and practice. Along the way you’ll encounter and learn to distinguish among Brahmanism, Taoism, Hinduism, Confucianism and Shintoism. Learn how they influenced Buddhism and in turn were influenced by it. Follow the Lotus Sutra and you’ll gain insight into the world’s major religions and cultures — both East and West. Learn where they differ and parallel each other and why. Moreover, you’ll find in the Lotus Sutra the earliest known examples of such religious themes as cosmic trinity, divine grace, healing, resurrection and salvation — concepts that are a staple of the Christian faith in a text that precedes the birth of Christ by several hundred years.

The Lotus Sutra is a poetic treatise that transcends time and space, but whose meaning and purpose are directed at the enlightenment of its audience in the here and now. More than any other work attributed to the Buddha, the Lotus Sutra is the definitive illustration of Perfect Enlightenment. That’s why for more than two millennia its surreal metaphysical insights have tested the greatest minds of the East. This sutra is so profound that through the ages a relative few have discerned its essence — although it has had a far-reaching affect on the shape of Buddhist ideas regarding eternity and the identity of the Buddha. This metaphysical fascination has been around for a long, long time. It’s won over emperors and survived their wrath. It’s been embraced, imitated, dismissed and misunderstood. Its stubborn staying power is ironic. Still today the Lotus Sutra has some unfinished business — waiting perhaps for the time when its legacy will be fulfilled.

The goal of this anthology is to provide an access road to the ancient wisdom imparted in the Buddha’s Lotus-vision some 2,500 years ago in India. Furthermore, this work pays homage to the conceptual insights extracted from the Lotus Sutra by the sage 6th Century Chinese scholar, Zhi-yi (also Chih-i or Xi Yee), founder of the Heavenly Terrace (Chi. Tian-tai) monastery, one of the most important cogs in the development of all Buddhist doctrines and practices. Finally, this work recognizes the critical contributions of the 13th Century Japanese Buddhist monk, Nichiren, founder of a latter-day Lotus Sutra revival movement. He was the foremost scholar ever to unearth the mystery of the Lotus Sutra and at the same time proved to be its most ardent practitioner. With reverence for the legacy these enlightened ones have fostered, this anthology will do its part to tell their story.

The first volume of The Secrets of the Lotus Sutra anthology is The Legacy of Perfect Enlightenment. Here you’ll be introduced to the Buddha at a grand, extraordinarily beautiful and imaginative convention that he has called together. The Lotus Sutra describes a large audience of listeners who have come to witness a metaphysical woodstock. They are awestruck by the appearance of a miles-high bejeweled structure that parks itself in the sky. The Buddha explains that this towering monolith is the sanctuary of Perfect Enlightenment.

More than a thousand years pass and the Lotus Sutra is translated and interpreted by sage Chinese scholars who extract from it an ontological blueprint revealing that Perfect Enlightenment is inherent in mortal existence. Centuries later, Nichiren, the sutra’s Japanese advocate identifies with the Lotus Sutra's messianic vision and hears its call to action. He sees in the sutra’s surreal and festive gathering a veiled prophecy regarding the eventual enlightenment of all humanity. Moreover, he crystallizes this vision into a practice that purportedly transforms human beings by unveiling within them the secret gift of Life inherently endowed to all the living, without exception.

The Cosmology of Buddhism, the second book in the anthology, is serialized exclusively here at the EverLife Library as chapters become available.  It explores the origin of the gods and the doctrines of original sin that characterized the indiginous Indic religion of Brahmanism (forerunner of Hinduism) prior to the Buddha’s lifetime. It covers the 50-year course of the Buddha’s teachings as he redefined these cosmic views and then expanded upon them. In accomplishing enlightenment — an intuitive achievement analogous to grasping the truth regarding the reality of all existence — he acquires a vision of unsurpassed scope. The Buddha offers a series of progressively abstruse metaphysical theses that encompass the configuration of the universe, the ways of the mind, and fundamental laws governing the forces of Nature and the nature of life and death. His teachings promote hope and refuge from suffering, and encourage his growing numbers of disciples to apply compassion and selflessness toward all living beings. According to the Buddha acts of goodness are means for identifying a supreme reality that inherently exists in all phenomena. To that end he paints a compassionate yet challenging canvas of breathtaking cosmic scope which finally climaxes in the Lotus Sutra with the revelation that a fundamental, universal enlightenment of everlasting luminous quality is omnipresent in every facet of mortal existence.

Additional volumes in the Secrets of the Lotus Sutra anthology will challenge the common definition of self identity. Who are we in an ultimate sense? More than 2,000 years ago this philosophical question resounded across the Alexandrian Empire from Plato’s Greece to Buddhist India. Follow this issue as Buddhism splits as it attempts to justify itself to an intellectual community while it tries to fashion itself as a religion with the power to provide salvation to ordinary folk. Experience centuries of debate between Hinduism and Buddhism and the eventual decline of Buddhism in its homeland. Travel to China as Buddhism is reinvigorated in that land. While its arrival there has political ramifications — involving dynasties and emperors — its survival in China means that Buddhist philosophy in due course must adapt to indiginous Confucian and Taoist themes.

Eventually, Buddhism rediscovers its original theme: to decipher the source code of Life hidden below the cognitive level of mortal existence. The first theory attempting to explain everything in existence and how it all works was produced by China’s foremost expert on the Lotus Sutra — the sage Zhi-yi of the Heaven’s Terrace monastery (Chi. Tian-tai). His scholarly works extract from the Lotus scripture the solution to the gnawing enigma of fundamental identity. This sutra provides him with the last piece of a puzzle for an architronic model designed to explain Nature’s modus operandi. He proposes that a single, all-encompassing, active metaphysical matrix underlies the ever-changing dynamic of cause, effect, nature, behavior, instinct, thought, form and environment. Moreover, he finds that as Life’s active matrix provides universal access to all states of being, it potentially offers a state-of-being equal to Perfect Enlightenment as well. He realizes that the Lotus Sutra's legacy is the power to illuminate the darkness, turn suffering into happiness, cure the sick and beautify the universe. Zhi-yi even designs the first ritual practice for raising one’s awareness of the enlightened condition of Life hidden within the kinetic field of one’s mortal existence.

The anthology will also feature the story of Nichiren as he pursues a compelling mission to enlighten the world to the Supreme Treasure of the Lotus Sutra. While he is personally beset by a constant stream of difficult, life-threatening challenges, the enmity of religious and political authorities in Japan do not deter this heroic figure from his messianic desire to transform the land to an enlightened paradise — a goal reflecting the Buddha’s final wish. However, Nichiren’s call for the non-denominational unification of Buddhism based on the revival of the Lotus Sutra faces the scorn of popular Buddhist sects concerned with latter-day esoteric rituals and salvation beyond one’s death.

Nichiren introduces the practice of honoring the Lotus Sutra by chanting the sutra’s title — Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo — as a means for invoking fundamental happiness to arise in one’s present existence. He considers this chant to be the crystallization of a cosmic treasure imbedded between the lines of the sutra. He equates the name of the immortal identity hidden in mortality with the essence embodied in the epithet and its invocation with the raising of this primal essence — a practice he regards as the "direct vehicle of Perfect Enlightenment."

Nichiren preaches his message door-to-door and in public squares, but also writes extensively. He is a brilliant scholar whose manifold knowledge of Buddhist doctrines and practices is so complete that he soundly defeats anyone who debates him on the subject. His writings are loaded with documented doctrinal support for his conclusion that the Lotus Sutra contains the enlightenment which the Buddha bequeathed to future generations. Finally, Nichiren objectifies the vision of Perfect Enlightenment illustrated in the Lotus Sutra by inscribing a venerable calligraphic montage that he calls the Supreme Treasure mandala (Jpn. Gohonzon) It depicts the Buddha’s epochal vision in the Lotus Sutra — a mythic Treasure Tower in the sky representing the cosmic "gift of Life" inherently endowed in all the living.

Finally, the anthology will cover the sutra’s most subtle and profound prophecy — the eventual actualization of buddhahood on a universal scale. Nichiren envisions a time when countless individuals will transform the human realm by embracing the source of Perfect Enlightenment. With the goal of collective bliss and peace in mind, he dedicates his life to providing the human race with a practical means for illuminating the mind, body and environment. Ordinarily, what one says reflects one’s state of mind. Similarly, Nichiren sees the voicing of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo as a reflection of one’s hidden enlightened mind. He contends that chanting the phrase — an acknowledgement of this mind — connects one with his ultimate state-of-being and causes it to come to the fore.

One’s body is the temple of desires. Therefore, what one desires (i.e., worships) determines the focus of his existence. By inscribing an object of veneration that embodies the cornucopia of enlightened wisdom and bliss, Nichiren puts the focus on the desire for Perfect Enlightenment. As one’s environment is a reflection of its inhabitants, Nichiren sees Buddhism as the means for transforming the mortal realm into a blissful buddha-land. Nichiren suggests that invoking the Lotus Sutra's revelatory powers infuses indestructible joy into one’s existence. He proposes that as more people entice their ultimate identity to emerge from its hidden core, they will affect the transformation of their world. He prophesies an Earth-to-be secure in peace and bliss by an enlightened populace.

 

AUTHOR’S NOTES:

The Lotus Sutra was transmitted orally until a written recording was made of it (sometime between c. 100 B.C.E. and 100 C.E.) in the Sanskrit and Pali languages, although its extant texts most likely reflect an abridged version of the Buddha’s eight-year teaching. Subsequent translations were made into Chinese and transliterations into Japanese.

The aforementioned Eastern languages are rich in subtext. A single word may offer several variations in definition — sometimes as many as three to ten — depending on context. Due to the compression of meaning forced by the linguistic economies of Western words, the West’s scholarly translations of Buddhist works tend to narrow their ideologist scope. Western comprehension of Buddhism also suffers from a cultural difference in conceptualization. Generally, Eastern pattern thinking starts with a collection of details whose grouping determines a concept or conclusion. This method is analogous to playing a game of connect-the-dots. Every idea begins as a mystery or a puzzle which may or may not be solved. Solutions are not absolute, they are the best available truth given what is known. It is left up to the puzzled to compile and associate the clues — i.e., connect the dots — and realize something. As a result of this method, oftentimes many diverse conclusions can be arrived at and many of them may appear to be equally valid and relevant.

This constructive method stems from an Indic tradition wherein truth did not necessarily mean a single conclusion, and arriving at a truth did not always mean that one must follow a specific path. In trying to manage this open-ended practice of realization over the centuries Buddhism developed a reliance on expert mentors purportedly possessing the talent to lead disciples across the invisible chasms between logic and paradox, intelligence and intuition, the mundane and spiritual.

Western religions and sciences developed along an empirical route meant to validate absolute notions or challenge proposed conclusions. Western thinking involves either an absolute belief or a hypothesis that precedes the introduction of supportive facts or rationales. A conclusion either proves or denies an empirical proposition.

Among Western thinkers and practitioners of Buddhism today exists a myth that the enigmatic meanings of Buddhist concepts can only be pierced with the help of Eastern mentors and an Eastern thought process. The origin of this view is founded on the premise that a profound understanding of Buddhism requires an extraordinary mind — free and clear of the encumbrances of mundane living and relativist thinking. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although Eastern and Western methods of thinking differ in process, they are functionally the same. Both methods make use of intuitive leaps and logical connections in constructing insights. Hence, differences in cultural thinking are a reflection of process or pattern, but in no way do they indicate any differences in what the mind can grasp. The Eastern mind is not fundamentally better able to grasp Buddhist concepts. It’s entirely possible to convey the most profound Buddhist insights in a typically demystifying manner characteristic of Western thought.

This author regards the doctrines and historical context of the Lotus Sutra to be of significant relevance to contemporary Western culture and the future development of a life-affirming global consciousness. This ancient metaphoric text prophesied that its relevance would be most useful to people living in today’s confusing world — a world on a technological fast track, yet virtually incapacitated in regard to the meaning of existence. The greatest scientific minds of our time are busy probing the details of existence — hoping eventually to discover the source of Nature’s awesome wonders. Ironically, as they seek a Theory of Everything they are getting closer and closer to concepts derived long before the exploration of galactic space or the quantum demarcation of the atom

We do, however, live at a time when religion is parochial and suspect and history is all too often a reflection of the historian’s point of view. Hence, in this day and age the challenge to honestly convey the wisdom of the ages to a modern audience requires a middle road approach — between the detached scholasticism of academia and the self-justifying perspective of the faithful (but inclusive of both). Secrets of the Lotus Sutra integrates modern scholastics with the passion of expert advocates in hopes of fathoming both the meaning and vitality of the Lotus Sutra’s life-affirming cosmos. Although certain Buddhist terms and their English equivalent are widely accepted among scholars, this anthology has taken the liberty to refashion the nomenclature where doing so would reinfuse the words or names with the spirit, emotion and philosophical connotation intended in the Buddha’s original works. Conversely, dogmatic doctrinal beliefs and interpretations espoused by some practitioners and believers are tempered herein by historical facts and findings available to modern scholars.

This anthology is written from the vantage of an eyewitness reporter and commentator. The author believes that the essence and scope of Buddhism does not suffer in the slightest from this treatment. Hopefully, the sense of proximity readers feel as a result of this style will produce a scintillating front row experience.

 

A WORD TO THE WISE:

Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by profundities you may encounter in this book. Take your time. Take in what you can. Many questions will arise in your mind. Keep going. They will be answered somewhere along the way. There are no trophies for finishing quickly or extra enlightenment to anyone who gets through first. Impatience will sink your desire to reach the other shore just as a ship overloaded with gold will sink as soon as it leaves port. When moving gold, it’s wiser to load smaller quantities and make more trips. But even that would make no difference, if the ship is docked in shallow waters.

If you are reading this as an introduction to Buddhism you could not have started in a better place. Nevertheless, do note that you are attempting here to deal with some of Life’s most difficult questions, so scanning the subject is pointless. Your comprehension will require a commitment to pay close attention. Patiently read on until the end — continuing even if there’s something you don’t immediately understand. Most of all, don’t be intimidated by the intensity of this philosophy. It’s all about life and life is supposed to be intense. People get overwhelmed when challenged beyond what they’re used to. Some will stop because they’re in unfamiliar territory. Keep in mind, however, there is a great reward for finishing anything. This is true here, as well.

If you already chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, Secrets of the Lotus Sutra will help you put your experience into better perspective. Hopefully, you will find both clarity and inspiration within its pages. Moreover, this anthology should serve as a good foundation for reading available English translations of the Writings of Nichiren Daishonin (Jpn Gosho) and the text of the Lotus Sutra (please refer to the EverLife bibliography for a full list of sources).

 

 

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