"This is what I heard" (LSOC1, p 35)
In the previous post we saw how “This” is the Title of the Sutra, but in addition to the title, there is also the content of the teaching – “the twenty-eight chapters and 69,384 characters”.
SPREADING THE WORD
During Shakyamuni’s lifetime most of his sutra weren’t written down, so how did the message spread?
Once they had heard a new sutra, Shakyamuni’s closest disciples would devote their time to memorising that teaching. They would then travel around their allocated districts to update existing Buddhist followers on the latest teachings and to try and introduce new followers to the teachings. As most of the larger teachings included words to the effect that this teaching replaced previous ones, new followers could easily join even if they were ignorant of previous teachings.
This may sound like an impossible task, and we are obviously grateful to the many lay members and monks who worked tirelessly to memorize either complete sutra, or sections of a larger sutra, but we also continue this tradition today.
Every morning and evening during gongyo, we recite a passage from chapter 2 and a passage from chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra. At first we may have followed along or read from a book, but now many members are able to recite these extracts from memory. WE have MEMORIZED two essential extracts from the Lotus Sutra and even though we may not understand what we are saying, we are repeating “what we have heard”. The back of the SGI liturgy books contain a translation of what we are saying, and this is an excellent place to start learning more about the Lotus Sutra, even if you don't want to study all twenty-eight chapters.
THE VOICE CARRIES OUT THE BUDDHA’S WORK
Within our own districts, communities and work places we also carry out the work of the Buddha, by talking to our neighbours, friends and co-workers about our faith and practice. We may not know everything, but we can all teach others about the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra to the best of our ability, even if we can only share the most basic practice of chanting “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo”. Shakyamuni also encourages us in the Lotus Sutra that we will receive benefits even if we can only share one verse or one phrase of the sutra.
In "On Repaying Debts of Gratitude", Nichiren writes: "In Japan, China, India, and all the other countries of Jambudvipa, every person, regardless of whether wise or ignorant, will set aside other practices and join in the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This teaching has never been taught before. Here in the entire land of Jambudvipa, in all the 2,225 years since the passing of the Buddha, not a single person chanted it. Nichiren alone, without sparing his voice, now chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo." (WND-1, p736)