The Door To This Wisdom is Difficult to Enter

The Door To This Wisdom is Difficult to Enter

Monday, 24 February 2014

The Path To Buddhahood

Immeasurable Meanings Sutra - Chapter 1 and Chapter 2

At that time ... for the sake of the bodhisattvas [the world-honoured one] preached the great vehicle sutra entitled Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, a teaching to instruct the bodhisattvas.  (LSOC1, p37)

We now jump to The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, the Opening sutra and prologue to the main Lotus Sutra.  Chapter 1 of the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra introduces the cast of characters (devils, animals, people, bodhisattvas, etc.) that are attending the lecture and states that they have all excelled in their specific practices ("the four noble truths, six paramitas, twelve-linked chain of causation") to become proficient in their fields of learning, realization and bodhisattva. 

There are frequent references within The Lotus Sutra (and other sutras) to previous knowledge and practices and Nichiren states this is one of the ways in which T'ien-T'ai was able to classify the sutra into their different periods of teachings.

(c) David Barile

Chapter 2 – Preaching the Law – begins with the assembly asking Shakyamuni in a single voice if there is a teaching that will lead them to enlightenment quickly and his response introduces the concept of the Ten Worlds.  (Extracts from the sutra are in bold):

Bodhisattva Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas, speaking in a single voice, then addressed the Buddha, saying: “World-Honored One, if bodhisattvas mahasattva wish to succeed quickly in gaining supreme perfect enlightenment, what sort of doctrines should they practice? What sort of doctrines can cause bodhisattvas mahasattva to succeed quickly in gaining supreme perfect enlightenment?”

The Buddha said to Bodhisattva Great Adornment and the others of the eighty thousand bodhisattvas, “Good men, there is a single doctrine that can cause bodhisattvas to succeed quickly in gaining supreme perfect enlightenment. If bodhisattvas study this doctrine, then they will be able to gain supreme perfect enlightenment. ... this single doctrine is called the doctrine of immeasurable meanings. If bodhisattvas wish to practice and study these immeasurable meanings, then they should observe and perceive how all phenomena, from the beginning down to the present, are in nature and aspect empty and tranquil, without bigness or littleness, without birth or extinction, not abiding, not moving, neither advancing nor retreating, but like vacant space, without any dualism.”  (LSOC, p11-12)

He continues that most people are deluded in their understanding of life and are unable to see connections between their actions and their effects, which leads them to move among the six paths of existence (Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity and Rapture) suffering the effects of their actions:

“But living beings in their vain delusions make wild calculations, saying, this is one thing, that is another, this brings gain, that brings loss, and give rise to thoughts that are not good, carrying out evil acts, transmigrating through the six paths of existence and undergoing sufferings and bitterness for immeasurable millions of kalpas without ever being able to escape.” (LSOC, p12)

He then states that when bodhisattvas can see this reality which causes the suffering of others, they are compelled to act and help others who are living deluded lives:

“Bodhisattvas mahasattva, clearly perceiving that this is so, are moved to pity in their minds, and inspired by great compassion, wish to rescue these beings from their plight.”  (LSOC, p12)

To be able to see this reality though, the World-Honored-One explains that bodhisattvas need to study and learn about the reality of life, such as the laws of appearance (birth), existence, change and disappearance (death).  These studies will lead them to a true realization of the law:

“When bodhisattvas have in this manner observed the beginning and end of these four aspects and have understood them in their entirety, then they will clearly perceive that all phenomena, never abiding from one instant to the next, are constantly being born anew and passing into extinction, and then they will immediately perceive the true aspect of birth, abiding, change, and extinction.”  (LSOC, p12-13)

And they will then be able to teach others this Law, and with the wisdom that people have different capabilities and states of life they will realize that they might need to teach in different ways to help people understand this one true Law.

“Once they have gained this perception, then they must turn to the capacities, natures, and desires of living beings. Because such natures and desires are immeasurable in variety, the ways of preaching the Law are immeasurable; and because the ways of preaching the Law are immeasurable, its meanings are likewise immeasurable. These immeasurable meanings are born from a single Law, and this Law is without aspect. What is without aspect is devoid of aspect and does not take on aspect.  Not taking on aspect, being without aspect, it is called the true aspect.”  (LSOC, p13)

By Learning and through Realization of the truth of this law, they can then teach others compassionately (Bodhisattva) who will then go on to teach others as well.

“When bodhisattvas mahasattva rest and abide in this understanding of the true aspect of all phenomena, then the pity and compassion that they put forth will be based on clear understanding and not groundless, and they will be truly capable of rescuing living beings from the sufferings that they undergo. And once they have rescued them from suffering, they will preach the Law for them and enable living beings to enjoy ease and delight.”  (LSOC, p13)

Finally, The World-Honored-One concludes his response to the question by saying that if bodhisattvas practise in such a way they will achieve enlightenment (Buddhahood) quickly. 

“Good men, if bodhisattvas are able in this manner to practice the immeasurable meanings of this all-embracing doctrine, then they are certain to succeed quickly in attaining supreme perfect enlightenment." (LSOC, p13)

Finally, he reassures them that this one true Law is protected by all Buddhas and cannot be disproved by devils or non-believers:

"Good men, this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra is true and correct in word and principle, worthy of unsurpassed veneration. It is guarded and protected by all the buddhas of the three existences. There is no devil host, no congregation of non-Buddhist believers who can invade it, nor can it be destroyed by any erroneous views or accidents of birth and death. Therefore, good men, if bodhisattvas mahasattva wish to gain unsurpassed enlightenment quickly, they should practice and study this profound, unsurpassed great vehicle Immeasurable Meanings Sutra.”  (LSOC, p13)

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