06 March 2013

Lotus Sutra Study Questions 14

The previous chapter found the assembly of the Buddha making a public commitment to practice and promote the teachings, without really knowing just what they were committing to, out of trust in the Buddha and faith in the Dharma.  This is very much like any meaningful relationship, in which one enters in good faith and accepts that the outcome may be very different from anything one might have reasonably expected.

Chapter 14 finds the Buddha giving specific instructions to the assembly on how one who upholds the Lotus Sutra should conduct him or herself in the world.  This conduct is simultaneously a form of practice and a way of teaching others (with or without words).  These instructions are quite detailed; here is a representative selection (despite the gendered language in this translation, I have been taught that the Buddha's advice applies to both men and women equally):

Anyone who wishes to expound this sutra
Should give up jealousy, anger, arrogance,
Flattery, deception, and dishonesty.
He should always be upright.

He should not despise others,
Or have fruitless disputes about the teachings.
He should not perplex others by saying to them,
"You will not be able to attain Buddhahood."

Any son of mine who expounds the Dharma
Should be gentle, patient and compassionate
Towards all living beings.
He should not be lazy.

In the worlds of the ten quarters,
The great Bodhisattvas are practicing the Way
Out of their compassion towards all living beings.
He should respect them as his great teachers.
(Lotus Sutra, Murano translation, p. 219).

How does this advice relate to the teachings on Buddha-nature and skillful means we have seen in earlier chapters? 

As a thought experiment, consider what a community might be like in which everyone aspires to the sort of conduct that the Buddha outlines in the passage above.

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