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Is the Lotus sutra just a story?

SilouanSilouan Veteran
edited August 2012 in Faith & Religion
There have been many comments in this forum regarding the Christian faith, and obviously due to the nature of the forum, outside of the faith. I have made the observation that perhaps much is influenced from predominantly negative experiences, or ignorance about the faith. I admit that ignorance also comes from within including with me. God is a mystery on the horizon that we walk toward never quite getting there, and if we try to grasp Him in our hands (intellect) He slips through our fingers.

I have read in threads that the Bible as been just a story, that the Church uses it teachings just to control people, or that people outside the faith know more about what Christ was teaching or what it means to be Christ like as opposed to those in the faith.

This certainly is true. To the pedestrian soul the bible is just a story and nonsense, some churches do steal money from the sick and the old where abuses and control issues do abound, and there are certainly holy people outside of the faith.

However, to think that one’s own faith tradition is without issues, that their aren’t teachers who are only serving their self interest, to think that because the Buddha or Jesus came before us and struggled we don’t have to, or that we know better and don’t need to follow the tenets of our faith in our own spiritual struggle is the worst form of ignorance. We follow the tenets of our respective faith’s to become Buddha or Christ like. We take refuge and place our trust and confidence there.

Is there something more to the Lotus Sutra than just a story of cosmic proportion, or could it, like the Bible, reveal the illumined or enlightened life?
vinlyn
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Comments

  • jlljll Veteran
    the lotus is a later addition, long after the buddha's death that is not universally accepted by buddhists.
    there are many good buddhists who have never heard of or read the lotus sutra.
  • What of the rest of the Mahayana cannon then, and Mahayana traditions? The Heart Sutra was through the Buddha's inspiration long after his death.
  • jlljll Veteran
    the mahayana canon includes the pali canon.
    why we need the additional sutras of dubious origin is beyond me.
    Silouan said:

    What of the rest of the Mahayana cannon then, and Mahayana traditions? The Heart Sutra was through the Buddha's inspiration long after his death.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    My view is that there is a grand hidden truth to the universe and that religious thinking has attempted to understand and explain that truth. I accept Buddhist teachings more than others because they make more sense to me and hold up better to logic and reason.

    I don't know if the lotus sutra or the bible are true or just stories I've actually never read either. I only care that the world view they present make sense and withstand logical scrutiny.
    SileSilouanToshpoptart
  • SileSile Veteran
    I don't see the Buddha's writings (or rather, those most directly attributed as reflecting his teaching) as the place Buddhism stops, but where it begins.

    The Four Noble Truths, for example, are of not so different from the earliest physicians' observations that, for example, humans need oxygen and good nutrition (among other things) to be their healthiest. It's a very basic, foundational statement, on which further theories are then based and developed.

    Accepting foundational beliefs is not enough--one has to apply them to life. If there's no advice on application, no advice on "practice," the foundational beliefs don't take effect in our lives, other than as bits of knowledge.

    The question is not whether later teachers wrote anything and whether these things are invalid simply because they aren't directly attributed to the Buddha, but rather whether the teachings of these later masters were in fact valid instructions on putting the Buddha's teachings into practice.

    If one gives a new student the Four Noble Truths, but no further teaching on how to practice the Four Noble Truths, it's of limited benefit, I think.
    Silouan
  • Maybe of further interest is Christian Lindtner's theory about the Lotus Sutra and the Gospels. http://www.jesusisbuddha.com/Q.html
  • This is another interesting theory to investigate regarding the influence of Buddhism on Christianity, but that really wasn't the point of the discussion.

    However, the Holy Trinity is first revealed in the Genesis account. The Spirit of God hovering over the face of the water, and the Word of God saying “Let There Be Light”, and in divine counsel “Let Us make man in our own image and likeness”.

    In addition, there was a Jewish presence in India before the rise of Mahayana Buddhism, and before the Greco Roman art influence on Buddhism the symbol of the Buddha was a foot print with the eight spoked wheel in the sole. Buddhism is not impervious to influence.

    Though there are some similarities between the Trinity and the Trikaya there are huge differences. God is without origin, and beyond change and cause and effect, and in this manner is distinct from His creation. Anything that is subject to change must have a beginning and an end. Man becomes defied through his participation in God's uncreated energies and that is his end. Where in Buddhism one only need realize they are Buddha.

    The Dalai Lama has taught that the primordial faculty of awareness can not arise without a cause, but cannot be produced by matter because it is of a different nature, therefore it must come from a ceaseless continuum.

    In essence, the Luminous Mind, is naturally arising and uncompounded wisdom, the union of awareness and emptiness, and has always been inseparable from the kayas and wisdoms. It is naturally pure, the nature of things, just as it is, pervading all phenomena, beyond any transition or change, like space.

    However, I ask, how can the primordial faculty of awareness be beyond change, as it is so often described, when it can not arise without cause? Because there is no distinction between emptiness and form and the natures of each this places Buddhism more in alignment with polytheism. Buddha's all.

    Getting back to the Lotus Sutra. It expounds that all beings can obtain enlightenment in their present lifetimes, and in particular women will not have to be reborn as a man to do so, and Devadatta, the Buddha's cousin who tried to murder him likewise can still obtain enlightenment. Whether Mahayana or Theravada the spirit of Lotus Sutra's influence can be in the attitudes of its practitioners.
  • jlljll Veteran
    before you start exploring the lotus sutra, are you familiar with the pali canon.
    from my experience, i find many people who praise the lotus/heart sutra knows
    virtually nothing about the suttas spoken by the buddha.
  • So, when god said let's "make man in our own image" he was talking to the holy spirit? I didn't realize the holy spirit had a form, let alone man's or god's.
  • No. Not specifically. Since the Pali Canon is the foundation of the Mahayana its influence would have been learned through it. I was initially using the Lotus Sutra as an example, and then to denounce the very false statment that it is not universally accepted. Is enlightenment only restricted to the monastic or the educated?
  • All three Persons of the Trinity were in counsel. No, you are mistaken in how you are defining image and likness. Too mundane.
  • That's it exactly!
  • CloudCloud Veteran
    edited August 2012
    This may apply:
    "Seek not the law in your scriptures, for the law is life, whereas the scripture is dead. I tell you truly, Moses received not his laws from God in writing, but through the living word. The law is living word of living God to living prophets for living men. In everything that is life is the law written. You find it in the grass, in the tree, in the river, in the mountain, in the birds of heaven, in the fishes of the sea; but seek it chiefly in yourselves. For I tell you truly, all living things are nearer to God than the scripture which is without life. God so made life and all living things that they might by the everlasting word teach the laws of the true God to man. God wrote not the laws in the pages of books, but in your heart and in your spirit.

    They are in your breath, your blood, your bone; in your flesh, your bowels, your eyes, your ears, and in every little part of your body. They are present in the air, in the water, in the earth, in the plants, in the sunbeams, in the depths and in the heights. They all speak to you that you may understand the tongue and the will of the living God. But you shut your eyes that you may not see, and you shut your ears that you may not hear. I tell you truly, that the scripture is the work of man, but life and all its hosts are the work of our God. Wherefore do you not listen to the words of God which are written in His works? And wherefore do you study the dead scriptures which are the work of the hands of men?"
    Emphasis (bold) mine. Take God as a creator or independent being out of it, and it might as well be talking about the nature or laws of nature that Buddhism talks about. That scriptures (Buddhist and Christian alike) are the work of men is a no-brainer... so at best they are all just fingers pointing at the moon. What Jesus seems to be saying here is to put down your books and just look... just look at this. Everything is here to be seen, to be known, our reality isn't in a book.
    Jason
  • jlljll Veteran
    You are entitled to your opinion.
    and if you believe that you dont need to know much about the pali canon
    to know buddhism, all the best to you.
    Silouan said:

    No. Not specifically. Since the Pali Canon is the foundation of the Mahayana its influence would have been learned through it. I was initially using the Lotus Sutra as an example, and then to denounce the very false statment that it is not universally accepted. Is enlightenment only restricted to the monastic or the educated?

  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran
    jll said:

    the mahayana canon includes the pali canon.
    why we need the additional sutras of dubious origin is beyond me.

    This is an interesting comment to me. It seems to imply that there is no worth in teachings that did not come directly from the Buddha... but if one is to believe that this practice creates no more teachers worthy of listening to... why bother? Surely someone else along the way has become enlightened too?
    Jason
  • cazcaz Veteran
    I've never read the Lotus Sutra.
  • Some people want to believe that Buddhism has a closed Canon of scripture, like Christianity has the authorized Bible. A closed canon means only those scriptures or sutras that some group of authorities decided in the past are the "true" sacred scriptures are sacred, and no other writings mean anything. Some schools of Buddhism use what has collectively become known in the west as the "Pali Canon" but that is mistranslated in the Western mind as "Buddhist Bible". The Buddhist canon is open, not closed.

    Any canon includes writings from authors who obviously lived long after the founder of the religion. However, the authority that closes a canon isn't concerned with that. They want writings that support their own bias and beliefs, and that's all that matters. Once chosen and closed, nobody can ever write another word in their sacred canon, because nobody has the authority. The Mormons had to create an entirely new religion with their appendix to the Bible.

    However, since no one Buddhist sect ever had the authority or power to declare one set of sutras to be sacred, or establish some arbitrary cut off date on what writings are allowed and close the book forever, then "who wrote this and when" is no longer relevant. It's "what does it say?" that matters. If a monk writes something tomorrow that gets passed around and quoted and becomes part of the teachings, then it's Dharma along with the oldest sutras.

    If you think that by following the Pakli Canon you're only reading the words of Buddha, you're fooling yourself. Yeah, I know supposedly the old monks remembered and passed down what Buddha actually said word for word. That's the myth. Supposedly, all the Cardinals got together and made separate lists of the books to be included in the Bible and miraculously all the lists were identical. Yeah, right.

    The Lotus sutra became immensely popular and influential, especially among the lay population. That makes it Dharma. You cannot argue that it doesn't deserve to be in the canon because there is no canon. There is only the Dharma, which includes whatever teachings your particular school decided is important to use. The Dharma is not an ancient boat in a museum that you're not allowed to touch because it's too fragile. It's a ship we're sailing on today and its purpose, to get us where we want to go, is all that matters.
    zsc
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    Silouan said:



    Is there something more to the Lotus Sutra than just a story of cosmic proportion, or could it, like the Bible, reveal the illumined or enlightened life?

    Yes. It contains many parables and metaphors which point to important truths. :)
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited August 2012
    The Pali Canon is visible in every student, writing, and form of Buddhism today, in my opinion. We may quibble over this or that point, but the real question is whether the bulk of any teaching points to foundational principles.

    In fact the even realer question is whether a teaching helps point a specific person, in a specific time and place, toward a foundational principle. By definition, this means the the pointers will change in appearance; the issue is not their appearance but whether they work. What works for one may not work for another, but it's foolish to get hung up on methods that don't work for us, but do work for others. It's like arguing over which hand to point with.

    It's a good exercise--take any Buddhist teaching and see where it points. If Medicine Buddha practice, for example, which is tantra, points to developing compassion and wisdom, it's not a new teaching--just a new pointer.

    One thing to think about--the Pali Canon is not the only branch of the tree. In linguistics, in order to reconstruct an old, lost word, we look at the various, different words, in different languages, that descended from the original word. The more descendants we have to examine, the better able we are to reconstruct the original word.

    The Pali Canon is not just useful on its own; in fact, its usefulness is magnified greatly when used with other information. The Gandharan texts, for example, predate the Pali Canon; combining the info from the Pali and Gandharan texts, as well as Prakrit, Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese, etc., all helps build a clearer picture of the original writings.
    Silouan
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    Are lotus sutra and heart sutra in tipitaka( pali cannon) - or - not in tipitaka? means are lotus sutra and heart sutra taught by Buddha - or are these taught by the teachers, who were followers of Buddha? any idea please.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    edited August 2012

    jll said:

    the mahayana canon includes the pali canon.
    why we need the additional sutras of dubious origin is beyond me.

    This is an interesting comment to me. It seems to imply that there is no worth in teachings that did not come directly from the Buddha... but if one is to believe that this practice creates no more teachers worthy of listening to... why bother? Surely someone else along the way has become enlightened too?
    Very good @zombiegirl! Wisdom is where you find it. And to think that 100% of the wisdom of the world came from only one man is taking a rather narrow view. In fact, it seems to me to be rather slavish to one religion to think that. The words of the Lotus or the Heart Sutras stand on themselves.

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    Cinorjer said:

    Some people want to believe that Buddhism has a closed Canon of scripture, like Christianity has the authorized Bible. ...

    Overall I think your post is excellent, but I would disagree with that view of Christianity, above. There have been hundreds of thousands of books written interpreting the Christian viewpoint, including works from within the formal Catholic Church.

  • jlljll Veteran
    the answer to your question is no.

    Are lotus sutra and heart sutra in tipitaka( pali cannon) - or - not in tipitaka? means are lotus sutra and heart sutra taught by Buddha - or are these taught by the teachers, who were followers of Buddha? any idea please.

  • zenff:
    Scriptures are not sacred or special. At best they point us in the direction of enlightened life.
    But the core of enlightened life is you and me, not the scripture. The scriptures should be throwing us back on ourselves; on our own responsibility; on our own source of wisdom.

    We can’t hide behind a convenient quote and claim that things are settled by it. We do the quoting and another human being did the saying. There is no authority in the words.

    Enlightened life –what it is and how it is done – is what we make of it. It is up to us.
    Unless a person is familiar with the canon how do they know they are practicing authentic Buddhism and not counterfeit Buddhism? At least for me, it is almost irreverent say that "scriptures" are not sacred or special. They are. In fact, all Buddhists take a vow to go to the Dharma which is, among other things, the teachings of the Buddha or the awakened one.
  • SonghillSonghill Veteran
    edited August 2012
    jll:
    the lotus is a later addition, long after the buddha's death that is not universally accepted by buddhists.
    there are many good buddhists who have never heard of or read the lotus sutra.
    Not very convincing. The Lotus Sutra may contain very old material. It was probably composed around 100 B.C. Also consider this. The Pali canon was retranslated from Ceylonese into Pali. Then the original text was burnt. The one who did this was Buddhaghosa. So how old is the Pali canon (4th or 5th century)? ;)
    Silouan
  • vinlyn said:

    Cinorjer said:

    Some people want to believe that Buddhism has a closed Canon of scripture, like Christianity has the authorized Bible. ...

    Overall I think your post is excellent, but I would disagree with that view of Christianity, above. There have been hundreds of thousands of books written interpreting the Christian viewpoint, including works from within the formal Catholic Church.

    It certainly might be. I only know the Christianity that I was raised in, and the KJV Bible is considered there to be divinely inspired, inerrant, closed, and complete, not to be added to or revised. The book itself is worshipped, in fact even if they won't admit it.
  • Yes @Silouan All the Buddhist teachings are a finger pointing.

    I think the Buddha himself said - Don't believe this stuff is true just because it is written down in some sacred text or spoken by me or some other trusted authority figure. It would seem he knew human nature well and that inevitabley some would try to make it into nothing more than a religious belief system.

    So it doesn't matter who said it or when it was said. If the teachings work to identify and end suffering, they work.

    We just need to put a practice in place and learn to see for ourselves.

    Best Wishes

    MaryAnne
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited August 2012
    Cinorjer said:

    It certainly might be. I only know the Christianity that I was raised in, and the KJV Bible is considered there to be divinely inspired, inerrant, closed, and complete, not to be added to or revised. The book itself is worshipped, in fact even if they won't admit it.

    I always thought it mildly curious that Revelations 22:18 speaks sternly of not adding anything else to the book, and then adds four more verses.

    Also ironic that multiple, different canons, containing different numbers and orders of books, end (almost end) with said passage:

    "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book." (Rev. 22:18)

    Worrisome is the fact that way back in the Old Testament, Moses said the same thing:

    "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." (Deut. 4:2)








  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited August 2012

    Yes @Silouan All the Buddhist teachings are a finger pointing.

    I think the Buddha himself said - Don't believe this stuff is true just because it is written down in some sacred text or spoken by me or some other trusted authority figure. It would seem he knew human nature well and that inevitabley some would try to make it into nothing more than a religious belief system.

    So it doesn't matter who said it or when it was said. If the teachings work to identify and end suffering, they work.

    Just for reference, the exact quote is from AN 3.65:
    "So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

    "Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them.
  • Not worrisome at all. One is in regards to the specific book of prophecy,"Revalations", and the other to the commandments of God, and a warning against the traditions of men that contradict or nullify the teaching of Scripture. Its also a literary device to convey the importance of the subject matter.
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited August 2012
    Sorry, guys - that was in fact @Cinorjer's quote, not @vinlyn's.

    [Mod Note: Fixed and quote-reply removed. ~Cloud]
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited August 2012
    Nothing at all against the Pali Canon, and it is incredibly precious, but just to be clear, it is not the only valid source (nor the earliest) for the Buddha's teachings. The Pali Canon is the most complete in existence so far, but not the earliest.

    Other canonical languages preserve what was almost certainly once in the Pali
    Canon--the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya, for example, is preserved in Tibetan.

    So there's no need to confine the Canon to some rigid, Pali-only collection when we have clear translations of what were once Pali texts. We have the advantage today of archaeological, linguistic and philosophical analyses which can show us additional pieces of the precious puzzle. Rather than pre-constrain the collection, isn't it better to keep an open mind and use the best judgement and research available to see what is likely to have stemmed from the Buddha's teaching?

    The Christian church has lost much precious insight by prematurely and artificially excluding what by today's research would certainly be considered additional valid teachings of Jesus.
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    Songhill said:

    zenff:
    Unless a person is familiar with the canon how do they know they are practicing authentic Buddhism and not counterfeit Buddhism? At least for me, it is almost irreverent say that "scriptures" are not sacred or special. They are. In fact, all Buddhists take a vow to go to the Dharma which is, among other things, the teachings of the Buddha or the awakened one.

    Buddhism is not some esoteric knowledge; the way I see it.

    The essential teaching is something we can know without the canon because it says something about our lives, our suffering and about liberation.
    The manual gives us the basic idea how things work, but when we get familiar with the machine we don’t need the manual anymore. At some point we can use it with eyes closed.
    We can improve the manual.
    MaryAnne
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    I think the manual for a mobile phone is more complicated than the Dharma. But I never see anyone checking the manuals.

    MaryAnne
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited August 2012
    A glimpse of a Gandhari scroll (I don't know which one this is):

    image

    One can buy a copy of the Gandhari Dharmapada now:

    "The famous brich-bark manuscript in the Kharosthi script, which contains a recension of the Dharmapada in a Prakrit dialect, has long been familiar to students of early Buddhist literature under the name of `Ms. Dutreuil de Rhins`. The manuscript, written in the first or second century A.D., is generally considered to be the oldest surviving manuscript of an Indian text. It was discovered near Khotan in Central Asia in 1892, and reached Europe in two parts, one of which went to Russia and the other to France. In 1897 S. Oldenburg published one leaf of the Russian portion; and in 1898 E. Senart edited the French material in the Journal Asiatiqque, together with facsimiles of the larger leaves, but not of the fragments. Now, almost seventy years after the discovery of the manuscript, it is possible for the first time to place before scholars an edition of the whole of the extant material, together with complete facsimiles."

    http://books.google.com/books?id=aytJ5w074RYC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

    In interesting note from the book:

    "An important question which can only be touched upon very briefly here is the possibility that the originals of some of the earlier translations of Buddhist works into Chinese were written in Gandhari." (p. 50)
    Silouan
  • SileSile Veteran
    edited August 2012
    But back to the Lotus Sutra (Skt. Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra)...from Wiki:

    "The oldest parts of the text (Chapters 1-9 and 17) were probably written down between 100 BC and 100 AD: most of the text had appeared by 200 AD. (Paul Williams, Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. Routledge 1989, page 142).

    The Lotus Sutra presents itself as a discourse delivered by the Buddha toward the end of his life.

    Modern scholars have not released much of the [Lotus] sutra on early fragments, except to say that they are not dependent on the Chinese or Tibetan Lotus sutras. Furthermore, other scholars have noted how the cryptic Dharani passages within the Lotus sutra represent a form of the Magadhi dialect that is more similar to Pali than Sanskrit. For instance, one Dharani reads in part: "Buddhavilokite Dharmaparikshite". Although the vilo is attested in Sanskrit, it appears first in the Buddhist Pali texts as "vilokita" with the meaning of "a vigilant looker" from vi, denoting intensification, and lok, etymologically connoting "to look"." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Sutra

    "The earliest known mention of "Mahayana" occurs in the Lotus Sutra between the first century BCE and the first century CE. However, some scholars such as Seishi Karashima suggest the term first used in an earlier Gandhari Prakrit version of the Lotus Sutra was not "mahāyāna" but the Prakrit word "mahājāna" in the sense of "mahājñāna" (great knowing)." http://www.tamqui.com/buddhaworld/Mahayana

    One last tidbit:

    BBC, May 3, 2012: A rare Buddhist manuscript, discovered by cattle grazers in 1931, has been released in book form in India.

    The Lotus Sutra was found in Gilgit region, now in Pakistan.

    image

    The document, which dates back to 5th century, is perhaps the oldest manuscript in India.





    Silouan
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    edited August 2012
    Hi Sile,
    Thanks for sharing this information on Lotus Sutra.

    I was not aware about it - so thought of reading about it. So i went to your wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Sutra , which states below about Lotus Sutra:
    Another concept introduced by the Lotus Sutra is the idea that the Buddha is an eternal entity, who achieved nirvana eons ago, but willingly chose to remain in the cycle of rebirth (samsara) to help teach beings the Dharma time and again. He reveals himself as the "father" of all beings and evinces the loving care of just such a father. Moreover, the sutra indicates that even after the Parinirvana (apparent physical death) of a Buddha, that Buddha continues to be real and to be capable of communicating with the world.

    The idea that the physical death of a Buddha is the termination of that Buddha is graphically refuted by the movement and meaning of the scripture, in which another Buddha, who passed long before, appears and communicates with Shakyamuni himself. In the vision of the Lotus Sutra, Buddhas are ultimately immortal. A similar doctrine of the eternality of Buddhas is repeatedly expounded in the tathāgatagarbha sutras, which share certain family resemblances with the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

    The Lotus Sutra also indicates (in Chapter 4) that emptiness (śūnyatā) is not the ultimate vision to be attained by the aspirant Bodhisattva: the attainment of Buddha Wisdom is indicated to be a bliss-bestowing treasure that transcends seeing all as merely empty or merely labeled.

    Hi Sile/All,
    Now reading the above has raised many questions in my mind:
    1. What does this thing mean - Buddhas are ultimately immortal? Did Buddha ever taught this thing - because as per Buddha's teachings, all conditioned phenomena are anicca, dukkha and anatta. So how can something eternal is coming into picture here?
    2. what is this Buddha Wisdom? How can it transcend emptiness?
    3. Is the Lotus Sutra - something created by some follower of Buddha to showcase Buddha as God?
    Please suggest. Thanks in advance.
    Silouan
  • We can improve the manual.
    Hmm. I think it can take a lifetime to understand the manual, so I'd be skeptical about further attempts to re-invent the wheel without serious and long-term study.
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited August 2012

    Hi Sile,
    Thanks for sharing this information on Lotus Sutra.

    I was not aware about it - so thought of reading about it. So i went to your wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Sutra , which states below about Lotus Sutra:

    Another concept introduced by the Lotus Sutra is the idea that the Buddha is an eternal entity, who achieved nirvana eons ago, but willingly chose to remain in the cycle of rebirth (samsara) to help teach beings the Dharma time and again. He reveals himself as the "father" of all beings and evinces the loving care of just such a father. Moreover, the sutra indicates that even after the Parinirvana (apparent physical death) of a Buddha, that Buddha continues to be real and to be capable of communicating with the world.

    The idea that the physical death of a Buddha is the termination of that Buddha is graphically refuted by the movement and meaning of the scripture, in which another Buddha, who passed long before, appears and communicates with Shakyamuni himself. In the vision of the Lotus Sutra, Buddhas are ultimately immortal. A similar doctrine of the eternality of Buddhas is repeatedly expounded in the tathāgatagarbha sutras, which share certain family resemblances with the teachings of the Lotus Sutra.

    The Lotus Sutra also indicates (in Chapter 4) that emptiness (śūnyatā) is not the ultimate vision to be attained by the aspirant Bodhisattva: the attainment of Buddha Wisdom is indicated to be a bliss-bestowing treasure that transcends seeing all as merely empty or merely labeled.

    Hi Sile/All,
    Now reading the above has raised many questions in my mind:
    1. What does this thing mean - Buddhas are ultimately immortal? Did Buddha ever taught this thing - because as per Buddha's teachings, all conditioned phenomena are anicca, dukkha and anatta. So how can something eternal is coming into picture here?
    2. what is this Buddha Wisdom? How can it transcend emptiness?
    3. Is the Lotus Sutra - something created by some follower of Buddha to showcase Buddha as God?
    Please suggest. Thanks in advance.

    In the Lotus Sutra, we see one of the competing visions of what even the disciples of Buddha during his life wanted Buddhism to be. When you look at all of these groups, you see that the monks or early disciples were just regular people and even before Buddha's death, argued about the Dharma. If you want a taste of what it's like, get involved in a church board sometime and watch the group dynamics at play. So the sutras from various teachers and regions and eras reflect an early and robust debate as should be expected.

    Cloud
  • So the sutras from various teachers and regions and eras reflect an early and robust debate as should be expected.
    I think the sutras can be seen as an exploration and development of certain themes not given full expression in the suttas. Another way of looking at it is to think of the sutras as more poetic descriptions of the Buddha's message, compared to the more factual account in the suttas.
    Sile
  • BonsaiDougBonsaiDoug Simply, on the path. Veteran

    I think the sutras can be seen as an exploration and development of certain themes not given full expression in the suttas. Another way of looking at it is to think of the sutras as more poetic descriptions of the Buddha's message, compared to the more factual account in the suttas.

    Sile said:

    The question is not whether later teachers wrote anything and whether these things are invalid simply because they aren't directly attributed to the Buddha, but rather whether the teachings of these later masters were in fact valid instructions on putting the Buddha's teachings into practice.

    Two very insightful observations.
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    So is Lotus Sutra worth reading to - or - since it is not from Buddha's teachings(as i got the reply above), so should we leave it and consider only Buddha's teachings in Tipitaka(Pali Cannon)? Please suggest.
  • Zenff:
    Buddhism is not some esoteric knowledge; the way I see it.

    The essential teaching is something we can know without the canon because it says something about our lives, our suffering and about liberation.
    The manual gives us the basic idea how things work, but when we get familiar with the machine we don’t need the manual anymore. At some point we can use it with eyes closed.
    We can improve the manual.
    If all the esoteric matter were removed from the Buddhist canon it would be as thin as a comic book. If you've read and studied the manual (sic), then you will agree with me that Buddhism is esoteric which can only be understood by ariysavaka and not by puthujjanas (worldlings).
    Silouan
  • SileSile Veteran

    So is Lotus Sutra worth reading to - or - since it is not from Buddha's teachings(as i got the reply above), so should we leave it and consider only Buddha's teachings in Tipitaka(Pali Cannon)? Please suggest.

    I'm reminded of my teacher Yangsi Rinpoche's observation that, even if a work presents a position which is not that of your own school, it can be important to understand another school's position so as to have something to contrast your own view with. Lotus Sutra is a beloved and influential sutra in many schools.

    It might be appropriate at this point to talk about the term buddhavacana, "words of the Buddha."

    "[Buddhavacana] refers to the works accepted within a tradition as being the teachings of the Buddha. All traditions recognize certain texts as buddhavacana which make no claim to being the actual words of the historical Buddha, such as the Theragāthā and Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra.

    According to Donald Lopez, criteria for determining what should be considered buddhavacana was developed at an early stage, and that the early formulations do not suggest that the Dharma is limited to what was spoken by the historical Buddha. The Mahāsāṃghika and the Mūlasarvāstivāda considered both the Buddha's discourses, as well those of the Buddha's disciples, to be buddhavacana.

    A number of different beings such as buddhas, disciples of the buddha, ṛṣis, and devas were considered capable to transmitting buddhavacana. The content of such a discourse was then to be collated with the sūtras, compared with the Vinaya, and evaluated against the nature of the Dharma. These texts may then be certified as true buddhavacana by a buddha, a saṃgha, a small group of elders, or one knowledgeable elder." (Wiki)

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    So is Lotus Sutra worth reading to - or - since it is not from Buddha's teachings(as i got the reply above), so should we leave it and consider only Buddha's teachings in Tipitaka(Pali Cannon)? Please suggest.

    In my view, that's the wrong question because it presupposes that the only wisdom in the world is that that comes from a Buddha. Is the sutra wise? If so, it is worth reading and digesting.

  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    @Sile: Thanks for your reply. Can you please tell a reference link, where Lotus Sutra is described? Thanks in advance.

    @vinlyn: thanks for your reply, too.
  • So is Lotus Sutra worth reading to - or - since it is not from Buddha's teachings(as i got the reply above), so should we leave it and consider only Buddha's teachings in Tipitaka(Pali Cannon)? Please suggest.

    It's certainly worth reading the sutras as well as suttas - see what resonates and maybe spend more time with it. And more generally I'd say it's always worth spending some time with this source material, rather than just reading books about what the suttas and sutras say.
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    And more generally I'd say it's always worth spending some time with this source material, rather than just reading books about what the suttas and sutras say.
    @PedanticPorpoise: I did not clearly understood the meaning of your this statement. Can you please explain it in some more detail. Thanks in advance.
  • And more generally I'd say it's always worth spending some time with this source material, rather than just reading books about what the suttas and sutras say.
    @PedanticPorpoise: I did not clearly understood the meaning of your this statement. Can you please explain it in some more detail. Thanks in advance.

    I'm encouraging you to read some suttas and sutras, rather than relying on second-hand interpretation and commentary. And ideally read different translations of the same texts.
    Maybe your reading a book or listening to a talk, and there is reference to the Buddha having taught x, or said y - but often such statements are interpretative or generalised or out of context. So I think it's very useful to know what the relevant sutta or sutra actually says, so you can make your own assessment.
    And more generally a familiarity with the suttas and sutras helps one to understand Buddhist teachings at a deeper level.
    Silouan
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