I am in the process of writing a new book on the practice of Nichiren Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra. What I'll be posting is my first draft, imperfect as it is. What I post has been sent to my editor and trust me will be greatly improved by his wonderful work. I'm sharing here on the chance others may find something of value or something to correct of offer feedback on. Let the reading of this not be an onerous task nor a task of anything less than joy. The source material comes from the Shutei Nichiren Shu Hoyo Shiki which draws from Miao-lê, as well as most importantly the Mohe-zhiguan or Makashikan by Chi-i.
The word ge means verse, or similar to a free form poem, though in Chinese generally the lines are of 5 characters or as we might hear it five syllables. For an example of this you can look at the section of Chapter XVI we recite in our daily service. We refer to this section as the Ji Ga Ge, an abbreviated name which is derived from the first two characters with ge or verse added. The Shute Hoyo Shiki does not present this section as a verse and I wonder if perhaps something is lost to us in the translation into English.
What is presented sort of sounds like it could have been or was a verse. It’s not very long so I’ll include it in its entirety.
“Chapter one of the Annotations on the Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra says, ‘The callingg of the Wonderful Dharma is not just the main part o the sutra. All the 28 chapters totether are called wonderfu. That is why eachchapter contains the entity and each phrase converges in the wonderful name.’ We bow to Myoho Renge Kyo, the Saddharma-pundarika, in one set with 8 fascicles, 28 chapters, and 69,384 characters. Each character is a true Buddha. The preaching of a true Buddha benefits all sentient beings. Therefore, all sentient beings have already attained the Buddha Way. That is why we bow to the Lotus Sutra.”
When we carry out our practice of the Lotus Sutra, when we venerate the Lotus Sutra, when we bow to or lift up the sutra, we are doing all of these things not simply because of the word Wonderful in the title. Everything contained within the sutra is wonderful, it is a collection of wonderfulness. Each of the 69,384 Chinese characters which comprise the text of the sutra is a Buddha and each of those Buddhas benefits us and so we bow to each one of them when we bow to the Lotus Sutra.
Our practice, as I’ve mentioned previously is larger, much larger and more significant than I think most of us consider as we recite the sutra. We are no small speck of life in an infinite universe. We are grand and noble beings who’s voice, thought, and actions reverberate across the cosmos and is witnessed by all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. These actions are witnessed and heard by every deity, every protective force, and even Mara King Devil. Our voice vibrates endlessly far beyond the space we are chanting in, far beyond the walls surrounding us, far beyond the building, and even further still beyond our solar system.
When we can begin to shift our self awareness to the grandeur of our actions as connected with and expressed towards the Lotus Sutra, then our lives begin to shift and expand. It is as if you sometimes feel like your physical body is not large enough. At times I’ve almost felt like I might explode.
There have been a couple of recent scientific studies exploring the effect of the mind’s thoughts on the actions being performed at the time. It has been shown that when the mind thinks and activity is exercise and not simply work or chores then the body burns more calories and muscles actually gain strength more so than if we hold in our mind thoughts of chores or tedium. Walking to the bathroom, an action we may do mindlessly when thought of as walking exercise burns more calories than mindlessly walking to relieve one’s bladder. These are small things, yet show how powerful the mind is and how important framing our thoughts can be.
What we hold in our mind, or what our mind thinks about the things the body does has great importance. It is quite something to think that thousands of years ago the saints and sages in Buddhism knew this. It is also quite something how many miss the importance of what the mind thinks about your reciting the sutra and chanting the Odaimoku.
When I lead chanting at my temple I always tell people as we begin to “chant with great joy and confidence.” Why do I do this? It is because I’ve experienced the difference, I can feel the difference from chanting with joy and confidence deep down in my life. Even if my voice is weak, as it sometimes is now as I age, in my mind, in my heart I hold the thought of strength, confidence, and joy.
When we can approach our practice with the thought that what we are doing is huge, it is phenomenal, it is significant, it is powerful, and we are doing this thing and we are a part of it and we are making it happen in our lives, that is when we can begin to approach the tremendous joy that the Lotus Sutra holds for us. The Lotus Sutra is there waiting for us to enter and enter in a big way.
If you opened your front door tomorrow morning and standing outside was 69,384 Buddhas would you simply shrug your shoulders and rush on by saying merely ‘hey guys gotta run?’ Seriously, would you. You may think this is ludicrous, and if so that’s where your mind is. All those Buddhas are there every morning, every afternoon, every evening, and every night.
Are your devotions carried out in a small 8’x10’ room, or in a grand hall so large you cannot see the four walls, so bright from all the gold, silver, and gems you almost need sunglasses?
These may seem silly, yet the difference in your thoughts about what you are doing is important and significant.
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