19 December 2012

Lotus Sutra Study Questions 5

(All references are to the Murano translation)

In chapter five of the Lotus Sutra, Buddha Shakyamuni explains the meaning of his teaching in earlier chapters through another parable.  Buddha compares his teaching activity to a great cloud that waters the entire world evenly and equally.  Some plants grow only a little; some grow great and tall.  Different plants and trees grow with different characteristics, according to their pattern.  All of them grow in the presence of the nourishment offered by the cloud, but all of them grow differently according to their capacities to grow.  Buddha's teaching is like that:  the Dharma is available to all, and everyone who accepts it makes whatever use of it he or she can, and grows accordingly.

There are different ways to understand this, depending on how you understand the term "Buddha."  Might it mean the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, in the role of a savior to all beings, metaphysically drawing all those who suffer toward the light?  Might it refer instead to the Buddha-nature within each of us?  There are other alternatives.  Reflect on this question and see where it leads you.

This chapter invites all of us to consider our own capacity as students of the teaching.  Here we are, fortunate enough to have an opportunity to learn and to grow; how can we make the best use of this opportunity?  Consider different ways in which you might expand your capacity to practice wisdom and compassion.

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