13 March 2013

Lotus Sutra Study Questions 15

Chapter Fifteen of the Lotus Sutra strongly emphasizes supernatural and fantastic narrative elements:  Buddha Shakyamuni, for instance, emanates many replicas of himself into space.  While these characteristics of the chapter may test some readers' willingness to suspend disbelief, they serve an important function in presenting new shades of meaning in teaching.  Here is one example:

Remember how the Buddha named Ancient Treasures appeared before the assembly to congratulate the Buddha on teaching the core doctrines of the Lotus Sutra, the absolute view that all beings have the nature of Buddhas?  In this chapter, a similar-but-different event happens.  Now that the Buddha has given some detailed instructions on how to practice and live the teachings, we see next...
the ground of the Saha-World, which was composed of one thousand million Sumeru-worlds, quaked and cracked, and many thousands of billions of Bodhisattva-mahasattvas sprang up from underground simultaneously.  Their bodies were golden-coloured, and adorned with the thirty-two marks and with innumerable rays of light [...].  They came up here because they heard these words of Sakyamuni Buddha.
Lotus Sutra chapter 15, pp. 228-229, trans. Murano.

*Compare and contrast these two situations:  the Buddha Ancient Treasures appearing in Chapter Eleven, and the uncountable bodhisattvas emerging in response the Buddha's teaching in Chapter Fourteen as presented here in Chapter Fifteen.  What can be learned from these repeated motifs in new contexts?

*What is the relationship between the exhortations to practice in a rigorous way and the previous teachings presented in this sutra on the availability of Buddhahood to all?

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