|Recitation of the Lotus Sutra (Jpn. Gongyo),
World-honored One, and Declarer of the Truth were three of ten honorary titles associated
with Sakyamuni (Sage of the Sakya Clan). In his youth, he grew up Prince Siddhartha
Gautama (his royal family name), abdicated his throne in search of a solution to the
question of life and death, and eventually attained enlightenment at the age of 30. Some
500 years Before the Common Era (B.C.E.) this seer wandered throughout India teaching an
increasingly sophisticated discourse on the scope, nature and essence of existence. After
42 years of teaching, just as his followers thought they had learned all he had to teach,
he gathered them once more. Before beginning this sermon, popularly known as the Lotus
Sutra, he announced that nothing he had taught them up to this point could result in their
achievement of a buddha-state equal to his. While his disciples had reached certain levels
of enlightenment (Skt. arhat, prateykabuddha, and bodhisattva), they never hoped to
achieve the unsurpassed Perfect Enlightenment that Sakyamuni had achieved. As the Lotus
Sutra opened, Sakyamuni is joined by an assembly of some 300,000 sentient beings. The
congregation observes that the Buddha is sitting in perfect stillness, as a ray of light
emanates from his forehead. The topic he is meditating upon is revealed by the beam. It
spotlights various universal scenes of mortal experience ranging from total misery
to absolute bliss and all the variations in between those two bookends. This event is a
signal that the Buddha is about to reveal his most profound teaching. As the second
chapter of the Lotus Sutra begins, he opens his eyes and begins to speak directly. This
act is itself precedent breaking, as Sakyamuni traditionally preached his sutras only in
response to some question he received from his audience. Up to now, he had taught
according to the capacity of his listeners to understand. His decision to speak directly
indicated that the teaching about to be expounded was not dependent on such tactful means.
Thus, he begins the Lotus Sutra, Buddhism's climactic and most revolutionary teaching.
© 1999. EverLife Foundation.
Note: brackets [ ] are implied statements to be read as enhanced text.
Parenthesis ( ) are used for identifying proper names in Sanskrit or Japanese, and for
definitions or points of clarification that do not read as part of the text.
Sutra Title: Myoho-Renge-Kyo
English: Sutra of the Perfectly Endowed Reality of Everlasting Life
(abbreviated title: The Lotus Sutra)
Chapter 2 Title: Hoben-pon dai ni
English: Tactful Means
At that time, the World-honored
One, emerging from contemplative meditation, spoke to his wise disciple Sariputra (Jpn.
Sharihotsu) as follows:
The wisdom possessed by all
buddhas is infinitely profound. Its entryway is beyond the capacity of my most learned
followers, even those most skilled in realizing Truth.
Why is that so? All
buddhas are in league with one another as they each had been in service to one hundred,
one thousand, ten thousand, one million, even countless numbers of buddhas. Because
throughout all time they apply innumerable ways to procure buddha-wisdom, they are known
among all realms of existence for devotedly exerting themselves, awakening seekers and
teaching their various doctrines wherever the opportunities to do so present
themselves. While these buddhas [continuously] advance their [various] teachings, [they
are ever-mindful of] their ultimate goal: to be able to reveal the one [Perfectly Endowed]
Reality that is virtually impossible for anyone but a buddha to comprehend.
Sariputra [you have
heard me teach it all]! From the time when I first became the Buddha, I employed a variety
of doctrines and illustrations to convey my views to a wide-ranging audience for the
expressed purpose of leading mortal beings to transcend temporal attachments. I have been
able to do so because the Declarer of Truth (Skt. Tathagata) is perfectly capable of
tactful means and discreet considerations in conveying his perfected wisdom.
Sariputra [you have
realized thus]! The Declarer of Truth possesses wisdom that is infinitely deep and
profoundly wide, his compassion is boundless, his words are virtuous, and his teachings
cannot be refuted; with all of his powers, fearless actions, mindful reflections and
efforts at liberation he has successfully entered the unparalleled Reality [unknown to
anyone who is not a buddha].
Sariputra [you surely
must agree]! I am now the Buddha because I have completely fulfilled all that is necessary
for one to be versed in the singularly boundless and unprecedented Reality [shared by all
Sariputra, [witness of
my compassion]! [Up to now] the Declarer of Truth has taken into account various
capacities and distinguishing characteristics [among his disciples] in order to best
impart the teachings to them. For the sake of the entire assembly, I have consistently
used gentle, warm words to uplift their hearts.
Sariputra, [you surely
must agree]! The Buddha has completely fulfilled all that has been required of him to
date, therefore, the only teaching that remains unrevealed is the infinite, boundless,
unprecedented Reality [known only to buddhas].
[As such, it would be
reasonable for us to] stop here, Sariputra, for there is nothing else left to say. Why?
Because the most precious and rare Reality which the Buddha has acquired is too difficult
[for mortal minds] to understand. As only buddhas can fathom the incomprehensible Supreme
Reality [that gives dimension to all things,] they can only share it among themselves.
Such as it is, the True
Reality of All Existence [known to all buddhas] is universal and omnipresent and is
expressed in all phenomena through the following  fundamental attributes. These are:
Scope (form/object/apparent identity)
Nature (mind/subject/transmigrating identity)
Essence (formless/absolute/core identity)
Seed Cause (predisposition/tendency/destiny)
Vehicle Cause (stimulus/action/circumstance)
Potential Effect (possibility/goal/direction)
Manifested Effect (actuality/outcome)
and Integral Order (system/evolution/universality).
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