Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lotus Sutra, Chapter 22, The Ancient Devotion of Bhaishagyarâga

Using the translation I usually use...

Of yore, young man of good family, at a past epoch, at a time (as many) Æons ago as there are grains of sand in the river Ganges, there appeared in the world a Tathâgata, &c., by the name of Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî, endowed with science and conduct, a Sugata, &c. &c. Now that Tathâgata, &c., Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî had a great assembly of eighty kotis of Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas and an assembly of disciples equal to the sands of seventy-two Ganges rivers. His spiritual rule was exempt from the female sex, and his Buddha-field had no hell, no brute creation, no ghosts, no demons; it was level, neat, smooth as the palm of the hand. Its floor consisted of heavenly lapis lazuli, and it was adorned with trees of jewel and sandal-wood; inlaid with a multitude of jewels, and hung with long bands of silk, and scented by censors made of jewels. Under each jewel tree, at a distance not farther than a bowshot, was made a small jewel-house, and on the top of those small jewel-houses stood a hundred kotis of angels performing a concert of musical instruments and castanets, in order to honour the Lord Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî, the Tathâgata, &c., while that Lord was extensively expounding this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law to the great disciples and Bodhisattvas, directing himself to the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana. Now, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, the lifetime of that Lord Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî, the Tathâgata, &c., lasted forty-two thousand Æons, and likewise that of the Bodhisattvas Mahâsattvas and great disciples. It was under the spiritual rule of that Lord that the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana applied himself to his difficult course. He wandered twelve thousand years strenuously engaged in contemplation. After the expiration of those twelve thousand years he acquired the Samâdhi termed Sarvarûpasandarsana (i. e. the sight or display of all forms). No sooner had he acquired that Samâdhi than satisfied, glad, joyful, rejoicing, and delighted he made the following reflection: It is owing to this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law that I have acquired the Samâdhi of Sarvarûpasandarsana. Then he made another reflection: Let me do homage to the Lord Kandravimalasuryaprabhâsasrî and this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law. No sooner had he entered upon such a meditation than a great rain of Mandârava and great Mandârava flowers fell from the upper sky. A cloud of Kâlânusârin sandal was formed, and a rain of Uragasâra sandal poured down. And the nature of those essences was so noble that one karsha of it was worth the whole Saha-world.

After a while, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana rose from that meditation with memory and full consciousness, and reflected thus: This display of magic power is not likely to honour the Lord and Tathâgata so much as the sacrifice of my own body will do. Then the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana instantly began to eat Agallochum, Olibanum, and the resin of Boswellia Thurifera, and to drink oil of Kampaka. So, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana passed twelve years in always and constantly eating those fragrant substances and drinking oil of Kampaka. After the expiration of those twelve years the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana wrapped his body in divine garments, bathed it in oil, made his (last) vow, and thereafter burnt his own body with the object to pay worship to the Tathâgata and this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law. Then, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, eighty worlds equal to the sands of the river Ganges were brightened by the glare of the flames from the blazing body of the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana, and the eight Lords Buddhas equal to the sands of the Ganges in those worlds all shouted their applause, (and exclaimed): Well done, well done, young man of good family, that is the real heroism which the Boddhisattvas Mahasattvas should develop; that is the real worship of the Tathâgata, the real worship of the law. No worshipping with flowers, incense, fragrant wreaths, ointment, powder, cloth, umbrellas, flags, banners; no worshipping with material gifts or with Uragasâra sandal equals it. This, young man of good family, is the sublimest gift, higher than the abandoning of royalty, the abandoning of beloved children and wife. Sacrificing one's own body, young man of good family, is the most distinguished, the chiefest, the best, the very best, the most sublime worship of the law. After pronouncing this speech, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, those Lords Buddhas were silent.

The body of Sarvasattvapriyadarsana continued blazing for twelve thousand years without ceasing to burn. After the expiration of those twelve thousand years the fire was extinguished. Then, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, the Bodhisattva Mahâsattva Sarvasattvapriyadarsana, having paid such worship to the Tathâgata, disappeared from that place, and (re)appeared under the (spiritual) reign of that very Lord Kandravimalasûryaprabhâsasrî, the Tathâgata, &c., in the house of king Vimaladatta, by apparitional birth, and sitting crosslegged.

The Nichiren translation avoids the tongue-twisting Pali/Sanskrit names (though you might prefer them).

From the Nichiren version the point of the above text is:

Great king, you should now understand this.
Having walked about in a certain place,
I immediately gained the samadhi
that allows me to manifest all physical forms.
I have carried out my endeavors with great diligence
and cast aside the body that I loved.

This theme of sacrifice out of devotion (taken intentionally perhaps to an extreme for we mortals) runs in this chapter, and it evidently is the reason why, as we'll see, compassion takes any expedient form. This would also explain why Hakuin could interpret the Lotus Sutra as being one in the world who operates in this world informed by a satori that addresses the Great Matter itself. And it also explains the far more "obvious" interpretation of the Nichiren/Soka Gakkai folks that think all references to the Lotus Sutra refer to the sutra itself.

All physical forms are all physical forms. From a Nomic point of view, you have to admire this sutra, for its implicit self-referentiality.

There's one more bit I'd like to look at as well:

So, Nakshatrararâgasankusumitâbhigña, this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law delivers from all evils, extirpates all diseases, releases from the narrow bonds of the mundane whirl. And he who shall hear this Dharmaparyâya of the Lotus of the True Law, who shall write it and cause it to be written, will produce an accumulation of pious merit the term of which is not to be arrived at even by Buddha-knowledge; so great is the accumulation of pious merit that will be produced by a young man of good family or a young lady who after teaching or learning it, writing it or having it collected into a volume, shall honour, respect, venerate, worship it with flowers, incense, fragrant garlands, ointment, powder, umbrellas, flags, banners, triumphal streamers, with music, with joining of hands, with lamps burning with ghee, scented oil, Kampaka oil, jasmine oil, trumpet-flower oil, Vârshika oil or double jasmine oil.

IOW, because there is great merit transferred by a bodhisattva long ago, you can obtain rescue from dukkha as suffering.

Your mileage may vary, but if you ever wondered why the SG folks kept on chanting "Namu Myo Renge Kyo" it's found here.

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