Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Buddhist Readings for Christians: Come follow me

Dynamic tranquility: the Buddha in contemplation.
Dynamic tranquility: the Buddha in contemplation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This is a follow-up to a post about some similarities in the writings on Buddhism by Nikkyo Niwano, the founder of modern Nichiren Buddhist lay organization Rissho Kosei-kai, and some elements of Christian teachings. The following excerpts are taken from the chapters in Buddhism for Today corresponding to chapters 14 through 16 in the Lotus Sutra. Some is simply common to spiritual discipline and advice, others perhaps not so common. Only some of many possible examples are given.

The point here is not to make claims about the relative truth of Buddhism or Christianity, or to try to encourage people to convert to a particular religion. But maybe there can be more understanding between people with different backgrounds regarding religion.

From Chapter 14:
[I]n a movie we see a man carrying a pack weighing thirty or forty kilograms on his back and climbing a mountain, bathed in perspiration. Viewers of such a film must feel how arduous it is to climb the mountain. Sometimes it takes three or four hours to advance only twenty or thirty meters. Moreover, the climber risks his life with every step. If it grows dark while he is scaling a rocky cliff, he must hang from the rock and sleep in place in subzero temperatures. If a man were obliged to undergo such an ordeal on the orders of his employer, then indeed he could bring a complaint against the employer for infringing his human rights. However, a mountain climber does this voluntarily. Though he certainly feels pain, his mind is peaceful, and his pain even contributes to his pleasure and enjoyment.

In practicing the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, so long as a person forces himself to endure persecution and the scorn of outsiders though filled with anger and resentment, he is a beginner in Buddhist disciplines. A person who has attained the Way can maintain a peaceful and calm mind even while suffering, and can feel joy in the practice itself. Until a person attains such a state of mind, he must take scrupulous care not to be tempted or agitated by the various setbacks in his daily life.


[W]e must warn readers not to misunderstand the words "do not consort with" so-and-so, which often appear in this chapter. These words do not mean not to approach or associate with someone. The Buddha, who had made a great vow to save all living beings equally, could not have said such a thing. The true meaning of "do not consort with" so-and-so is that we must not fawn upon others or compromise ourselves in dealing with them through excessive familiarity or from some ulterior motive. Should we be dealing with a king or minister, we must not defer to their station in life in order to curry favor, because there is only one truth, and it applies to kings just the same as to ordinary citizens.


The Buddha comes directly to the point by comparing man's wisdom to sunshine. There is no substance in darkness; there is only a lack of sunshine. If the sun shines in the darkness, the darkness will disappear. If a person realizes the wisdom of the Buddha, then his mental darkness will instantly disappear. We must realize fully that the wisdom of the Buddha is absolute and that it is a law which, in opposing darkness, disperses it.
From Chapter 15:
[T]he teaching of Buddhism is the truth that Lord Shakyamuni, who was born as a human being like all of us and experienced human suffering and worry, aspired to enlightenment, practiced ascetic disciplines, and attained enlightenment after six years of spiritual effort. The process through which he attained his enlightenment can be clearly seen. Therefore, we can feel confident that we are sure to reach supreme enlightenment eventually if only we follow the Buddha's teachings and traverse the same path. It is also sure that because this teaching is one that sprang up out of the earth (actual life), we who actually live in this world can follow it.  [See the other post I made earlier quoting this same text--Shakyamuni the mortal Buddha is presented as the human manifestation of the Eternal Buddha, a manifestation who came into the world to save all beings.]
From Chapter 16/Part One:
"An easily discerned fact" is that Shakyamuni Buddha appeared in this world, attained enlightenment, and preached to many people to cause them to realize enlightenment. Where did this fact originate? Was Shakyamuni Buddha suddenly awakened to a holy Law having no relationship to past human history? This cannot be. The Law must have existed before the birth of the Buddha and since the origin of human beings - indeed, since the creation of this universe. Because the Law existed, the Buddha perceived it.

Though human beings had been gradually evolving since the origin of human life, they did not know the true Law but lived according to their instincts or by means of a mistaken law. As long as they continued to do so, their true development was impossible. It was only logical that someone should awaken to the correct and true Law, and appear in this world for the purpose of preaching it to other people. The time was ripening for the appearance of such a person, and the culmination was the appearance of the Buddha in this world.

The appearance of the Buddha and his attainment of buddhahood first revealed to people the Law, which no other person had realized, although it had been in existence from time immemorial. This becomes clear in the chapter "Revelation of the [Eternal] Life of the Tathagata." ...[T]hrough the easily grasped fact of the appearance of the Buddha in this world and his attainment of buddhahood, we can understand the Law that has existed since the eternal past.

Because the truth is only one, it must have a single foundation even if it appears in various different forms. When we thus consider the principle of Shakyamuni Buddha, who was the appearing Buddha in this world, we realize that behind this manifestation is the one Eternal Original Buddha. This is the teaching of "accepting the historical Buddha as a temporary manifestation of the eternal Shakyamuni Buddha and revealing the eternity of Shakyamuni Buddha..."


The reason for our inability to succeed in something, for having a conflict or dispute, or for feeling displeasure, often comes from the fact that we lack harmony in our relations with other people and things. The earth revolves around the sun. The moon revolves around the earth. The innumerable stars twinkling in the night sky have the same kinds of relationships. The sun, the earth, the moon, and the stars all move according to the law of gravitation. They move without colliding because the force of gravitation is balanced, creating a harmony among them. If this harmony were destroyed, the sun, the earth, and the moon would collide. If this kind of thing took place with all planets and stars, the universe would be destroyed.

Human life is the same. Each person is a constituent member of the universe; if he maintained harmony in his various relationships with other people and things so that a balance were maintained among them, dispute and trouble in this world would disappear. But such a state cannot be realized in this world. Why? Because each person has his own small "self." People differ in their interests and feelings, and are out of harmony with each other because too many people are self-centered and are concerned only with their personal profit, welfare, and comfort. If all human beings abandoned their own small "selves" and devoted themselves to respecting and helping one another, a great harmony would be generated among them and true peace in their daily lives would come about.


This kind of problem is beyond the sphere of philosophy and cannot be answered in terms of morality, either. What can solve this kind of problem? Only religion can do so. There is nothing else that can do this. Confronting a problem of this scope and profundity, we can grasp clearly the true value of religion. We realize that our true salvation must be brought about ultimately by religion.

A religion, especially an advanced religion like Buddhism, includes philosophy, morality, and ethics. Indeed, Buddhism can be said to consist almost entirely of the teaching of philosophy and morality. However, when we make a profound study of the teaching, we find there is something beyond this that touches our hearts directly. It is like a light that envelops us warmly and shines brightly, illuminating our way. It is something that enlivens us and allows us to develop fully according to our true potential. This "something" is nothing other than faith.

What should we depend upon? To what should we entrust our body and mind? As mentioned before, primitive people prostrated themselves before the sun, mountains, animals, plants, or other human beings and the spirits dwelling within them. But such behavior is out of the question now. Believers in a more advanced form of religion depend on its "absolute power," on a god that is considered to be the almighty being who creates and governs everything in heaven and on earth. They manage to obtain a certain degree of mental peace by praying to this god and asking his help.

But even this peace of mind is limited. We cannot obtain absolute assurance and peace from such a god because this god exists externally, in some transcendental sphere like heaven. A god who majestically looks down on the world from heaven, a god who mercilessly punishes evil and rewards good - the more absolute the power this god possesses, the more dependent we become and at the same time, the more fear we feel because we do not know when we may be forsaken by the god or when we may be punished by him. For this reason, we live in great fear of the god, although we depend upon him with our whole heart. With such mental dependence on an external force, we cannot attain true mental peace (nirvana).

Can we depend upon anything inside ourselves? No, this is also unreliable because our mind is always subject to delusion. Our body is also unreliable, being destined to disintegrate eventually. If we could depend wholly upon something within us, we would have no need of religion and should be able to save ourselves by our own efforts.


[W]e understand that what we depend on, the Law, exists both within and outside us. It is the truth that permeates the entire universe, not establishing a distinction between inside and outside. Our body is produced by this truth and is caused to live by it. Our mind is also produced by it and caused to work by it. All things, including society, heaven, earth, plants, birds, and beasts, are produced by this truth and are caused to live by it.

A person who feels the word "truth" to be somewhat cold and abstract can replace it with the term "the great life," which makes everything in this world exist and live. When we are firmly aware in the depths of our mind that we are given life by this great life that permeates the universe, we can obtain the true mental peace that is not disturbed by anything.

In what way can we gain such consciousness? Needless to say, the way is to study the teachings of the Buddha repeatedly and to root them deeply in our minds by meditating on them. We must keep firmly in mind the realization that our lives should be unified with the universal life (the Buddha). This indeed is meditation from the religious point of view.


Our awareness of being caused to live is our true salvation. Our absolute devotion to the truth that imparts life to us


We do not exist accidentally, but exist and live by means of this Law. As soon as we realize this fact, we become aware of our firm foundation and can set our minds at ease. Far from being capricious, this foundation rests on the Law, with which nothing can compare in firmness. This assurance is the source of the great peace of mind that is not agitated by anything. It is the Law that imparts life to all of us. The Law is not something cold but is full of vigor and vivid with life.
From Chapter 16/Part Two:
The Buddha's saying "Believe and discern it" instead of commanding "Believe it" has an important meaning. Shakyamuni Buddha never forced his ideas upon his disciples or other people. He preached the truth as it was and exhorted his listeners, saying, "You, too, behold it." He led them on the way of the truth and coaxed them, saying, "You, too, come to me." His exhortation to "behold the truth" instead of saying only "Believe it" is a very important point. This short phrase of the Buddha speaks for the character of his teachings. His words "Behold it" are equivalent to the "scientific spirit" in today's parlance. The Buddha shows in these few words that if anyone thoroughly views the truth, studies it, and discerns it, he will surely be able to accept it to his satisfaction.

His words "You, too, come to me" include the same important idea. They mean: "Come to me and practice the Law as much as I do. Then you are sure to understand the value of the Law." The Buddha could never have uttered these words unless he had absolute confidence in the Law and the Way.
If you are having trouble seeing the connection, think Eternal Buddha/Eternal Shakyamuni=God the Father and Historical/Appearing Shakyamuni Buddhas as Jesus Christ, with the Law being somewhere between "the Lord" and "the Holy Spirit".
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hello! Thanks for leaving a comment.

Everything but spam and abusive comments are welcome. Logging in isn't necessary but if you don't then please "sign" at the end of your comment. You can choose to receive email notifications of new replies to this post for your convenience, and if you find it interesting don't forget to share it. Thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...