13 February 2013

Lotus Sutra Study Questions 11

...and then, something totally unexpected happens:

Thereupon a stupa of the seven treasures sprang up from underground and hung in the sky before the Buddha.  The stupa was five hundred yojanas high and two hundred and fifty yojanas wide and deep.  It was adorned with various treasures.  It was furnished with five thousand railings and ten million chambers.  It was adorned with innumerable banners and streamers, from which jeweled necklaces and billions of jeweled bells were hanging down.  The fragrance of tamalapattra and candana was sent forth from the four sides of the stupa to all the corners of the world...  (page 181)
A stupa is a kind of reliquary, sometimes called a pagoda in east Asia or a chorten in Tibetan.   Its purpose is to house the remains of an enlightened being.  This particular stupa emerges from the earth in the middle of the Buddha's discourse, and hovers in the sky before the assembly, miraculously.  A loud voice is heard from within the stupa:

"Excellent, excellent!  You, Sakyamuni, the World-Honoured One, have expounded to this great multitude the Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, the Teaching of Equality, the Great Wisdom, the Dharma for Bodhisattvas, the Dharma Upheld by the Buddhas.  So it is, so it is.  What you, Sakyamuni, the World-Honoured One, have expounded, is all true" (page 181).
 Within this stupa is an ancient Buddha called Ancient Treasures, from a time immeasurably past and a world system that does not even exist any longer.  The two Buddhas--Sakyamuni in our time, Ancient Treasures from so long ago--sit together in the stupa, as one.  They are clearly of one mind; they are harmonious in their conduct.

After this, Buddha Sakyamuni manifests other miracles and expresses the importance of understanding what is going on in this sutra and explaining it to others.  What is going on here?   How you explain this?

Now would be a good time to consider the role of surprises and the miraculous in this Sutra.  What purpose do these interruptions serve?

What is the significance of this meeting of contemporary enlightened activity and ancient enlightened activity?  Is there any gap between them?  What does this tell us of the relations among past, present, and future? 

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