Friday, June 12, 2009

The Lotus Sutra, Chapter 17

I'm using this text...its basic point is good things will happen for accepting or believing in this sutra...

So immense, incalculable, Agita, is the merit which a person, ranking the fiftieth in the series of the tradition of the law, produces by joyfully accepting, were it but a single stanza, a single word, from this Dharmaparyâya; how much more then (will) he (produce), Agita, who hears this Dharmaparyâya in my presence and then joyfully accepts it? I declare, Agita, that his accumulation of merit shall be even more immense, more incalculable.

And further, Agita, if a young man of good family or a young lady, with the design to hear this discourse on the law, goes from home to a monastery, and there hears this Dharmaparyâya for a single moment, either standing or sitting, then that person, merely by the mass of merit resulting from that action, will after the termination of his (present) life, and at the time of his second existence when he receives (another) body, become a possessor of carriages yoked with bullocks, horses, or elephants, of litters, vehicles yoked with bulls, and of celestial aerial cars. If further that same person at that preaching sits down, were it but a single moment, to hear this Dharmaparyâya, or persuades another to sit down or shares with him his seat, he will by the store of merit resulting from that action gain seats of Indra, seats of Brahma, thrones of a Kakravartin.

I'd said before that these devices might have been included to make the sutra more widely accepted.

The interesting thing to me is that this sutra obliquely implies a literal reincarnation, as though there were soul transmigration, which is not exactly what Buddhism is about.

Although all of this may not be tabloid fodder, it presents some interesting questions about religious tolerance, about self-referential laws, and about how to interpret a religious text.

One more thing about this chapter, which probably is a fine enough reason for embracing the message of the Lotus sutra:

And, Agita, if some one, a young man of good family or a young lady, says to another person: Come, friend, and hear the Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, and if that other person owing to that exhortation is persuaded to listen, were it but a single moment, then the former will by virtue of that root of goodness, consisting in that exhortation, obtain the advantage of a connection with Bodhisattvas who have acquired Dhâranî. He will become the reverse of dull, will get keen faculties, and have wisdom; in the course of a hundred thousand existences he will never have a fetid mouth, nor an offensive one; he will have no diseases of the tongue, nor of the mouth; he will have no black teeth, no unequal, no yellow, no ill-ranged, no broken teeth, no teeth fallen out; his lips will not be pendulous, not turned inward, not gaping, not mutilated, not loathsome; his nose will not be flat, nor wry; his face will not be long, nor wry, nor unpleasant. On the contrary, Agita, his tongue, teeth, and lips will be delicate and wellshaped; his nose long; his face perfectly round; the eyebrows well-shaped; the forehead well-formed. He will receive a very complete organ of manhood.

Not just complete. Very complete.

Seriously, this is but a restatement of the father saying to his children in the burning house, "There's good stuff out here."

Except it's more like a Buddhist Enzyte commercial.

Of course, the other translation renders this text as:

"Ajita! If, further, a person says to another, ‘There is a Sutra by the name of Dharma Flcwer. Let’s go together and listen to it,’ and taking that person’s advice, the second person goes and hears it but for a moment,, the former person’s merit and virtue will be such that in his next life he will be born in the same place as the Dharani Bodhisattva. He will have keen faculties and wisdom.

"For one hundred thousand myriad lifetimes he will never be mute, his breath will not stink, his tongue will always be free from disease, and his mouth will also be free from disease. His teeth will not be dirty, black, yellow, or wide-spaced, not missing or falling out, not uneven or crooked. His lips will not be pendulous, twisted or pursed, rough, chapped, or covered with sores, or split. They will not be askew, thick or large, or black, and there will be nothing repulsive about them. His nose will not be flat, thin, crooked, or out of joint. His face will not be dark, thin, concave, or crooked, or in any way unpleasant.

"His lips, tongue, and teeth will all be beautiful; his nose long, high, and straight. His face will be handsome, his eyebrows high and long, his forehead broad and even. Thus his human features will be perfect.

"In life after life, wherever he is born he will see the Buddhas, hear the Dharma, and believe and accept the teachings.

For whatever reason, somebody airbrushed out the penis, evidently.

Well, presumably someone thought that was skillful means as well.