Friday, June 05, 2009

Lotus Sutra Chapter 11

Test is here.

Then there arose a Stûpa, consisting of seven precious substances, from the place of the earth opposite the Lord, the assembly being in the middle, a Stûpa five hundred yoganas in height and proportionate in circumference. After its rising, the Stûpa, a meteoric phenomenon, stood in the sky sparkling, beautiful, nicely decorated with five thousand successive terraces of flowers, adorned with many thousands of arches, embellished by thousands of banners and triumphal streamers, hung with thousands of jewel-garlands and with hourplates and bells, and emitting the scent of Xanthochymus and sandal, which scent filled this whole world. Its row of umbrellas rose so far on high as to touch the abodes of the four guardians of the horizon and the gods. It consisted of seven precious substances, viz. gold, silver, lapis lazuli, Musâragalva, emerald, red coral, and Karketana-stone. This Stûpa of precious substances once formed, the gods of paradise strewed and covered it with Mandârava and great Mandâra flowers. And from that Stûpa of precious substances there issued this voice: Excellent, excellent, Lord Sâkyamuni! thou hast well expounded this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law. So it is, Lord; so it is, Sugata.

At the sight of that great Stûpa of precious substances, that meteoric phenomenon in the sky, the four classes of hearers were filled with gladness delight, satisfaction and joy. Instantly they rose from their seats, stretched out their joined hands, and remained standing in that position. Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Mahâpratibhâna, perceiving the world, including gods, men, and demons, filled with curiosity, said to the Lord: O Lord, what is the cause, what is the reason of so magnificent a Stûpa of precious substances appearing in the world? Who is it, O Lord, who causes that sound to go out from the magnificent Stûpa of precious substances? Thus asked, the Lord spake to Mahapratibhâna, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva, as follows: In this great Stûpa of precious substances, Mahâpratibh'ana, the proper body of the Tathâgata is contained condensed; his is the Stûpa; it is he who causes this sound to go out.

In the point of space below, Mahâpratibhana, there are innumerable thousands of worlds. Further on is the world called Ratnavisuddha, there is the Tathâgata named Prabhûtaratna, the Arhat, &c. This Lord of yore made this vow: Formerly, when following the course of a Bodhisattva, I have not arrived at supreme, perfect enlightenment before I had heard this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, serving for the instruction of Bodhisattvas. But from the moment that I had heard this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, I have become fully ripe for supreme, perfect enlightenment. Now, Mahapratibhâna, that Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., at the juncture of time when his complete extinction was to take place, announced in presence of the world, including the gods: After my complete extinction, monks, one Stûpa must be made of precious substances of this frame (or form) of the proper body of the Tathâgata; the other Stûpas, again, should be made in dedication (or in reference) to me. Thereupon, Mahapratibhâna, the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., pronounced this blessing: Let my Stûpas here, this Stûpa of my proper bodily frame (or form), arise wherever in any Buddha-field in the ten directions of space, in all worlds, the Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law is propounded, and let it stand in the sky above the assembled congregation when this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law is being preached by some Lord Buddha or another, and let this Stûpa of the frame (or form) of my proper body give a shout of applause to those Buddhas while preaching this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law. It is that Stûpa, Mahâpratibhana, of the relics of the Lord Prabhûtaratna, the Tathâgata, &c., which, while I was preaching this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law in this Saha-world, arose above this assembled congregation and, standing as a meteor in the sky, gave its applause.

There's clearly a metaphysical notion in play here (despite what must have seemed clearly to have been allegorical, as when this was a "new" sutra Buddhism was already in play for a few hundred years).

Or there was much credulousness.

Why such melodrama? Was it a case of the more gilding the more faith? I cannot read this text with my mind, skeptically, objectively and still read this in the frame of mind of the people who believe in this sutra (whatever that might mean).

On the other hand, It's hard to ignore what happens when one practices; the sense of harmony from acting with the state where you are. And perhaps because of the oddity of this text I'm spurred on to find out why they wrote this (besides conflict of interest?) because when I practice properly there is a notion of great "rightness" that was always there, that even in dreadful situations can be observed.

It's not a Western god, to be sure. I don't see any flying stupas, though, either. It's quieter. More like in accord with Garrison Keillor's version of the Lotus Sutra, if there were such a thing.

But to keep and preach this Sûtra in the dreadful period succeeding the extinction of the Chief of the world, that is difficult.

I'm doubtful we're there yet frankly, despite my skepticism and the state of the world.

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