Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Buddhist Readings for Christians: Appearing Buddha, Original Buddha

Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana
Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
From Buddhism for Today, a contemporary commentary for the Lotus Sutra, by Nikkyo Niwano, the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai, a modern Nichiren lay organization.  Sound familiar?
The "appearing Buddha" indicates the historical Shakyamuni, who was born in this world, attained Buddhahood after years of asceticism, and died at the age of eighty. Therefore the Law of Appearance includes the teachings of the organization of the universe, human life, and human relationships on the basis of the experience and enlightenment of Shakyamuni, who attained the ideal state of a human being. Shakyamuni also teaches us that wisdom is the most important attribute for maintaining a correct human relationships.

Shakyamuni has continually taught people throughout the universe since the infinite past. In other words, the Buddha is the truth of the universe, that is, the fundamental principle or the fundamental power causing all phenomena of the universe, including the sun, other stars, human beings, animals, plants, and so on, to live and move. Therefore the Buddha has existed everywhere in the universe since its beginning. This Buddha is called the Original Buddha (hombutsu).

The human form in which the Original Buddha appeared in this world is the historical Shakyamuni as the appearing Buddha. We can easily understand the relationship between the two when we consider the relationship between electric waves and television. The electric waves emitted by television transmitters fill our surroundings. We cannot see, hear, or touch them, but it is a fact that such electric waves fill the space around us. When we switch on our television sets and tune them to a particular channel, the same image appears and the same voice is heard through every set tuned to that wavelength. The Original Buddha is equivalent to the person who speaks from the television studio. He is manifest not only in the studio but also permeates our surroundings like electric waves. The appearing Buddha corresponds to the image of this person that appears on the television set and to the voice emanating from it. The appearing Buddha could not appear if the Original Buddha did not exist, just as no television image could appear and no voice be heard if electric waves did not exist. Conversely, we cannot see the Original Buddha except through the appearing Buddha, just as we cannot receive electric waves as images and voices except through the medium of a television set.

Thus, the Original Buddha is the Buddha who exists in every part of the universe from the infinite past to the infinite future, but only through the teachings of Shakyamuni, who appeared in this world in obedience to the truth of the Original Buddha, can we understand that truth. We cannot declare that either the Original Buddha or the appearing Buddha is the more holy or the more important: both are necessary.

Radio and television stations emit electric waves, in the hope that as many people as possible will receive them through their television sets and radios. In the same way, the Original Buddha exists in every part of the universe, ready to save all beings of the universe. He instructs men, animals, and plants; and salvation means the full manifestation and complete development of the life essential to each form of life according to its true nature.

The Original Buddha is one with the truth of the universe. We have only to tune the wavelength of our own lives to that of the truth of the universe, and the Buddha appears to us. At that time the dark cloud of illusion covering our minds and bodies vanishes completely and the brilliant light of our essential life begins to shine from within our minds. This state of mind is our real salvation, and the spiritual state that we should attain.

The Original Buddha exists permanently from the infinite past to the infinite future, that is, this Buddha is without beginning or end. This Buddha appears in various forms appropriate to the particular time and place for the salvation of all people by means suited to their capacity to understand his teachings. This is the concept of the Original Buddha.

The Law of Origin is the teaching expressing the relationship between the Buddha and man, that is, the salvation of man through the Original Buddha. This salvation depends on the benevolence of the Buddha, and this benevolence is the essence of the Law of Origin.

THE SUTRA OF MEDITATION ON THE BODHISATTVA UNIVERSAL VIRTUE. This sutra teaches the practice of the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue. It consists of the sermon that Shakyamuni preached at the Great Forest Monastery of Vaisali in central India after he had taught the Lotus Sutra, and establishes the way of repentance as the practice of the spirit of the Lotus Sutra.
The excerpts were taken from pages 12-13. For those who are curious, a free copy of this book can be found here. A free copy of the Lotus Sutra can be found here. They can be read online or downloaded (top of the page) as PDF files.
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