Chapter 3 of the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra is called "Ten Benefits" and Shakyamuni reveals the ten benefits and inconceivable powers of the Lotus Sutra trilogy. In the previous post we saw the inconceivable changes that fall within the first of these ten benefits. Here are the rest...
1. The first benefit doesn’t specify the intention of the individual but talks about the sutra in general and how it can cause those with negative traits to transform these into positive qualities. See “The Benefit of Human Revolution” for the full list of the 16 transformations contained within this first benefit.
The next three benefits refer to the benefits attained by living beings who hear this sutra, even if they only hear it once, or hear only one verse or even just one line of it.
2. Living beings that have heard the Lotus Sutra or even just heard “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”, will begin to understand the immeasurable number of meanings contained within this profound and mystic Law. “This sutra may be likened to a single seed from which grow hundreds, thousands, ten thousands of other seeds, and from each of these seeds in turn grow more seeds numbering in the hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, so that they keep on increasing in this way until they become immeasurable” (LSOC, p22-23)
3. Living beings (who are currently troubled by delusions and earthly desires) that have heard the Lotus Sutra or even just heard “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” and have begun to understand the immeasurable number of meanings contained within this profound and mystic law, will be able to free themselves from the sufferings of birth, death and earthly desires but can also, if they uphold this sutra, lead other people to do the same.
The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra explains: “Even before he is capable of saving himself he will be capable of saving others. He will be like a ship’s captain whose body is afflicted with grave illness, whose four limbs fail to function properly, and who remains on this shore [the shore of ignorance, aging and death]. But he has a sound and durable ship [the great vehicle sutra] and can always explain to others the articles needed to get them over the water, so that by providing these he can insure their crossing. The person who upholds this sutra will be like this.” (LSOC, p23)
4. The fourth benefit is similar to the third, such that living beings that have heard the Lotus Sutra or even just heard “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”, will be able to save others, even if they are unable to save themselves. But they will also become companions of the bodhisattvas, and will be able to fully embrace the sutra the more they are able to hear and study it. Shakyamuni compares them to baby, infant and young child prince’s who possess the potential to become great kings in the future.
The remaining benefits are those attainable by GOOD MEN and GOOD WOMEN who accept, uphold, read, and recite this Threefold Lotus Sutra (The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras).
It’s also worth noting two points here, firstly GOOD isn’t specifically related to the goodness of character and behaviour (although that is important) of an individual, but to the fact that they believe in the Lotus Sutra, uphold the Lotus Sutra and follow the practice of the Lotus Sutra. And secondly, this is the first time in more than forty years of teachings, that Shakyamuni explicitly explains that by whole-heartedly embracing and sincerely following the correct path of the Lotus Sutra and the mystic Law, WOMEN will gain exactly the same benefits as MEN. Some people focus on the story of the Dragon King’s Daughter as proof of the equality of women in the Lotus Sutra, but to me the true equality of the Lotus Sutra is found in these phrases explaining the benefits for “Good men and good women” which occur in this section of the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, but are also repeated in later chapters of the Lotus Sutra.
5. “If there are good men or good women who, while the Buddha is in the world or after he has passed into extinction, accept, uphold, read, recite and copy this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle sutra, then although such persons are still bound and encumbered by earthly desires, unable to remove themselves from the concerns of the ordinary individual, they will be able to manifest and show to others the way of the great bodhisattva.” (LSOC, p25)
6. Good men and good women such as these, despite their own weaknesses and desires, will also be able to preach the Law to others and enable them to break free from the sufferings of birth, aging, delusions and death.
For this sixth benefit, Shakyamuni gives us the example of a young inexperienced prince left in charge of his kingdom by a king that is abroad or fallen sick, that can maintain order within society by enforcing the king’s rules. In this way he explains that even though the Buddha may not be in the world, people that are still struggling to overcome their fundamental negativity and to follow the path of the Lotus Sutra, can still teach others about the Mystic Law and enable them to awaken to the true aspect of all phenomena and the mystic Law in their lives.
7. If there are good men and good women who not only accept, uphold, read and recite this sutra, but also have the desire to explain, teach and practice it, and who have conceived a desire for enlightenment, cultivating good roots, nurturing minds of great compassion, and desiring to save all living beings from their sufferings, then in their present lives they will gain the truth of birth and death and their earthly desires will in a moment be cast off and destroyed.
8. If there are good men and good women who also revere and have faith in the sutra as if they were looking upon the Buddha’s body, then they will be able to practice the sutra as the Law directs, persevere in their faith and ensure that kosen rufu is established. (Kosen rufu is simply sharing our faith and practice of the Lotus Sutra far and wide for the happiness of others.)
9. If there are good men and good women who, as well as accepting, upholding, reading and reciting this sutra, leap with joy on having gained what they have never before gained, and are also able to explain and teach this sutra widely and in accordance with the listener’s ability, then they will be able to wipe out negative karma form previous lifetimes, attain purity, deeply understand the law and quickly attain the highest levels of practice. Shakyamuni says: “This is because the sutra possesses this power.” (LSOC, p28)
10. If there are good men and good women who, in addition to all of these previous criteria, can understand how rare this profound teaching is, and how rare it is for them to have met it, then “nothing will be outside their compassion. They will encompass all living beings who suffer causing them to enter upon the Buddha path. And because of this, these people will before long gain supreme perfect enlightenment. … This is called the tenth benefit and inconceivable power of this sutra.” (LSOC, p29)
“This unsurpassed great vehicle sutra … is worthy of unsurpassed veneration, for it can enable ordinary persons all to attain the stage of sage; leaving forever the realm of birth and death, they will all gain freedom. … This sutra … can cause all living beings who are still at the level of ordinary persons to put forth immeasurable shoots that will grow into the way of the bodhisattva, to plant trees of benefits that will flourish, put out branches, and spread. Therefore this sutra is dubbed the possessor of inconceivable benefits and power.” (LSOC, p29)