The deepest parable of Mahayana Buddhism- -please study and discuss

Here is a famous section from the “Lotus Sutra.” I am presenting for reading and discussion. Hopefully there will be some readers who take an interest.

It is central to Mahayana Buddhism especially in Japan and contains a jaw dropping meaning for those who study it deeply.

Gautama Buddha, appeared in India in the 6th century BC. Some say 5th Century BC. China and Japan however trafitionally dated the Buddha 1029-949 BC. Scholarly dating the Buddha, was actually based on the confusing dating of Alexander the Great and the Indian King Chandragupta Maurya. There were two Chandraguptas and scholars are still unsure which one is referred two in the few Greek writings related to Alexander, which had been used as the sheet anchor.

Background: the Lotus Sutra is the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra in classical Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. In Japan, it is called the Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo.

Translating the title:

Sad=Wonderful, True, Perfect, Mystic, Cosmic, Profound, Secret
Dharma= Law, Way, Path
Pundarika=Great White Blossoming Lotus Flower, Symbol of linear and simultaneous Cause and Effect
Sutra= Teaching, Sound, Thread

In Japan the Sutra also has a shortened title, called the Hokkekyo, i.e., The Lotus Sutra.

The Sutra was traditionally memorized then compiled and written down in Sanskrit most likely in the Kashmir area of Northern India, in the 1st-2nd century during or just after the 4th Buddhist Council, but separate from the compiling of the traditional pre-Mahayana canon, The Kushan Kings, particularly King Kanishka sponsored the compilations of the Buddhist Canon. The chief authors or compilers of this Sutra are left unannounced, however there were four or five very famous great teachers who were associated with the Court of the Kushan Kings. This Sutra was widely spread in Bactria and across the Silk Road.

This 27 or 28 Chapter Sutra (depending on Translation,) also contains other famous parables, including two Prodigal son parables, and the Parable of the Burning House. The excerpt below, is the Parable of tne Excellent Physician. It is the most widely recited Sutra in Japan today.

Here is the most central parable in the Duration of Life Chapter (Chapter 15 or 16 depending on which Chinese translation from Sanskrit is used)

This Chapter, is widely considered the core of the Lotus Sutra wherein the Supreme Law is revealed for all mankind.

Excerpt Saddharma Pundarika -Duration of Life Chapter
Parable of the Physician

"Let us suppose an analogous case, young men of good family. There is some physician, learned, intelligent, prudent, clever in allaying all sorts of diseases. That man has many sons, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, or a hundred. The physician once being abroad, all his children incur a disease from poison or venom. Overcome with the grievous pains caused by that poison or venom which burns them they lie rolling on the ground.

Their father, the physician, comes home from his journey at the time when his sons are suffering from that poison or venom. Some of them have perverted notions, others have right notions, but all suffer the same pain. On seeing their father they cheerfully greet him and say: Hail, dear father, that thou art come back in safety and welfare! Now deliver us from our evil, be it poison or venom; let us live, dear father. And the physician, seeing his sons befallen with disease, overcome with pain and rolling on the ground, prepares a great remedy, having the required colour, smell, and taste, pounds it on a stone and gives it as a potion to his sons, with these words:

Take this great remedy, my sons, which has the required colour, smell, and taste. For by taking this great remedy, my sons, you shall soon be rid of this poison or venom; you shall recover and be healthy.

Those amongst the children of the physician that have right notions, after seeing the colour of the remedy, after smelling the smell and tasting the flavour, quickly take it, and in consequence of it are soon totally delivered from their disease. But the sons who have perverted notions cheerfully greet their father and say: Hail, dear father, that thou art come back in safety and welfare; do heal us. So they speak, but they do not take the remedy offered, and that because, owing to the perverseness of their notions, that remedy does not please them, in colour, smell, nor taste.

Then the physician reflects thus: These sons of mine must have become perverted in their notions owing to this poison or venom, as they do not take the remedy nor hail me. Therefore will I by some able device induce these sons to take this remedy. Prompted by this desire he speaks to those sons as follows: I am old, young men of good family, decrepit, advanced in years, and my term of life is near at hand; but be not sorry, young men of good family, do not feel dejected; here have I prepared a great remedy for you; if you want it, you may take it. Having thus admonished them, he skilfully betakes himself to another part of the country and lets his sick sons know that he has departed life.

They are extremely sorry and bewail him extremely: So then he is dead, our father and protector; he who begat us; he, so full of bounty! now are we left without a protector. Fully aware of their being orphans and of having no refuge, they are continually plunged in sorrow, by which their perverted notions make room for right notions. They acknowledge that remedy possessed of the required colour, smell, and taste to have the required colour, smell, and taste, so that they instantly take it, and by taking it are delivered from their evil. Then, on knowing that these sons are delivered from evil, the physician shows himself again. Now, young men of good family, what is your opinion? Would any one charge that physician with falsehood on account of his using that device?

No, certainly not, Lord; certainly not, Sugata.

He proceeded: In the same manner, young men of good family, I have arrived at supreme, perfect enlightenment since an immense, incalculable number of hundred thousands of myriads of kotis of Æons, but from time to time I display such able devices to the creatures, with the view of educating them, without there being in that respect any falsehood on my part."

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Ignore, for the moment, the final paragraph.

It is a mainstay of (all schools of) Buddhism that the path has been within us all along.

Such “ruby slipper” teachings are present but deemphasized in many philosophies and religions, (including my own), but central to Buddhism.

Buddhists, being non-theists (atheists) do not believe that what they seek can brme granted by an outside force, or god.

All along, the children had power to heal themselves and the father/doctor did not. ALL he could do was to make them turn inward for the answer.

salt and pepper shakers

Point by point:

It is a mainstay of (all schools of) Buddhism that the path has been within us all along.<<<<

That is true, however the last paragraph refers to attainment of enlightenment—Buddhahood—that the Buddha was said to have attained Buddhood in Budh Gaya after meditation under the Bo tree, but in fact his Buddhahood was actually attained in the infinite past of time without beginning. No other Sutra says this.

Yes the path is within us all along, but Buddhahood requires faith and practice to take that path. If one were to say “I am already a Buddha.” without practice, they would be deceiving themselves.

It could also be said that in Christianity that the path is there all along as well, but one must take that path.

Such “ruby slipper” teachings are present but deemphasized in many philosophies and religions, (including my own), but central to Buddhism.<<<<

There is no “Ruby Slippers” in Buddhism. You would have to clarify what you are referring too.

Buddhists, being non-theists (atheists) do not believe that what they seek can be granted by an outside force, or god.<<<<<

Many argue semantics “is Buddha a Atheist?” This was a criticism originally from the establishment Vedic Brahmans during the Life of the Buddha. The Buddha was critical of corruption in the Brahman Priesthood, animal sacrifice and the caste system. In reality the materialist atheist sect in India at the time was the Charvaka sect and the Buddha was critical of them. They were the cult of atheists of the day.

The Buddha was often asked about Brahma being the Creator God. He taught Dependent Origination instead of a creator God. The Law of Causation inherent in Life, was the natural “creator.” The Buddha taught the 12 links which detail how all things manifest. All beings make causes that cause the 12 links of causation to occur and it this way, each being which has Buddha nature within, does create reality as it is. Brahma was a function not the creator God as earlier believed. Many insist “Brahma” and Abraham have a linguistic basis.

Buddha was called “the teacher of Gods and Men.” And in the Lotus Sutra, the Gods and Deities, all attend the “Ceremony in the Air” with the entire assembly of beings and Brahma along with the other Deities familiar to Vedic and Hindu cosmology, pledge to protect and uphold the Supreme Law. This Ceremony exists in every moment with no beginning or end and spans the past, present and future. (Like Alpha and Omega). “God” then is the Supreme Law. This is much different from glibly saying “Buddha was a non-theist.” It is semantics.

One can also find passages in Genesis or the Gospel that can be interpreted in this way, regarding creation.

All along, the children had power to heal themselves and the father/doctor did not. ALL he could do was to make them turn inward for the answer.<<<

Looking inward to find God, Jesus or Buddha, is better then solely looking outside oneself. In Buddhism, worship of the Supreme Law includes the being(s), the environment and fusion of subject and object, is meditation and prayer. In the parable, the chikdren are shocked at hearing of the desth of their father. This shock led them to take the medicine. This is called, the Secret Expedient M eans of Nirvana (Death) this causes beings to seek Buddhahood and remove suffering.

There is another meaning between the lines of the Parable.

Does this improve the flavor?

Ooo a Buddhism thread. Thanks for the thread. Too early for me to digest but to address some of the posts about “looking within” and Lords/Gods/Atheism…just like Christianity there’s many different types of Buddhism. Zen and Theravada don’t have the emphasis on metaphysical beings like Mahayana Buddhism sometimes does…at least how I understand it. The major notion I like in Buddhism is that everything you do is only your responsibility, thetes no one out there to save you, no magic, and that happiness is attainable through action and practice - not worship and bets on afterlife.

A few days ago I write a reply on another thread after it had been mentioned, that there were no Gods in Buddhism, suggesting Atheism, so I’m reposting that again here:

Actually many Buddhists—most Buddhists worship a Buddha portrayed as a Diety. The difference is that the God/Buddha in Buddhism, is subordinate to but embodies the Supreme Law, which is the underlying object of worship the Buddha possesses. This is the Middle Way. At the same time there is the Trinity (Triratna), essentially the same as Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The way the Object of Worship is portrayed differs according to the Buddhist sect. Pure Land Buddhism worships Amida Buddha, Shingon Buddhism worships Varochaina Buddha, These two are essentially symbolic Buddhas. Theravadin worships The historical Buddha Sakyamuni and the Tendai and Nichiren Sect worships the essense of the Eternal Buddha Sakyamuni, in the form of a Great Mandala representing the Highest Sutra. The title iself contains the entire Buddhist Law, Body and Mind of the Eternal Buddha. Some sects, worship their Guru. All forms of Buddhism believe in oneness of the person and the Law, whether common mortal or Enlightened Buddha, so it is really the Great Law that is being worshipped, not an idol. It all all based in the power of faith.

To a person with little grasp of Buddhism, viewing a Buddhist Sutra recitation ceremony, it may appear that they are worshipping a statue, just as a Christian may worship an image of Jesus or Mary. (The image being a focal point )

Buddhist cosmology also usually includes the pantheon of Dieties from Hinduism and may have statues of them or include them on mandalas. They are even called gods, (Devas) that live in heavenly realms but more like Angels and subordinant to the Buddha and Supreme Law. Bodhisattvas are like Saints and also worshipped, as aspects of Buddha, functions. So the “Buddhist Gods,” are not like the concept of all powerful God or Buddha. Specifically though these gods, are actually natural functions making up parts of the cosmic Law.

Let’s be clear:
There is PLENTY of “magic” in Buddhism,

  • an eternal soul that outlives the body,
  • reincarnation,
  • humans reincarnating as bugs, lobsters reincarnating as sheep or as humans depending on if they lived good lives.
  • humans achieving enlightenment, oneness with all living things, Nirvana, God
    I could go on but will add only that the many “gods” some buddhists believe in (Sakyamani, the fat Buddha, Kuan Kong etc.), and/or pray to, are purported to be (only) supernatural spirits, very very roughly, comparable to angels or the spirits of saints. Hence Buddhism believes in “magic,” but has no God-equivalent, no Supreme deity.

Thus the path for Buddhists lies within themselves, not from believing in a Supreme being, perfoming deeds to please him etc.

Pathetic…you bark like a dog. And obviously have no grasp of Buddhism. Childish.

Not a word above is true. No congruence to my reply to you, instead, just this arroagant barking.

Your bullet points are ridiculous. Just slander.

Depending on the sect. But I wouldn’t call reincarnation “magic”. Things are born all the time. I was born. It doesn’t require that you have a mnemonic soul. How is achieving enlightenment “magic”?

What Buddhist belief of “eternal soul that outlives the body” are you referring to? Please be specific. A lot of yoir posts make me think you are mixing Hinduism with buddhism

Because in Buddhism it does not equate merely with “being smart” it means ending the cycle of reincarnation, as a dog then a rabbit. So it is part of the magic. It is controlling it.

A rabbit appears in a hat on its own vs. a magician made a rabbit appear in a hat. Both are things beyond science and the material world.

It also means being at one with all living things in magical way much like your foot is part of your body. It your foot steps on a nail you feel it. That’s where the “gods” of Buddhism come in. Since you are a living thing and they are at one with all living things you, can pray to Wenchang (Chinese) or Manjudri (Tibetan) each are gods of learning.

Not all buddhists believe such prayer and intercession work. But the buddha himself taught of eternal douks, animal reincarnation, and ending reincarnation via becoming at one with all life. You can believe in any series of material world philosophies you wish, “do unto others,” “karma is a bitch” etc. but that is not buddhism.

I lived in China and Taiwan. Visited Korea, Thailand etc… I climbed Buddhist holy mountains, overnighted in Buddhist monasteries and convents, prayed in Buddhist temples (it’s a culturally polite). I’ve been to dozens of Buddhist temples both in the U.S. and abroad (hundreds if you count the shrines in Buddhist homes). I’ve participated in Buddhist funerals, I married a Buddhist woman and gave up eating meat while my mother in law lived in our house for extended periods.

If you wish to believe some earthly secular 1960’s philosophy that calls itself Buddhism, but disbelieve in Buddhism and all the magical stuff the Buddha taught, you are, in their view, doing no harm and are no worse than confused. (By contrast many Christians would be offended if you call yourself a Christian but don’t believe in eternal souls, heaven and the magic of baptism etc.).

Have you seen my movie yet?

It really and truly is my favorite.

Ok. Then I’m a lightweight Buddhist. Fine with me. I don’t bow to any religious authority or a religious crowd. Nor should any Buddhist.

Ok i can grant you “magic” in terms of controlling it but I don’t necessarily believe rebirth can be controlled. The rest of your post is stretching it as far as being “one with everything” bring magic. We are made of stardust. You’re going to have to be a little more specific about what enlightenment actually means.

Have not forgot all aboot it

The Buddhists won’t mind you calling yourself a Buddhist. (Buddhist forgiveness?) It sounds to me (and them) like you are using a harmless term of convenience.

But the guys doing gung fu, burning incense, abstaining from sex, praying to the fat Buddha etc. believe a lot of stuff you don’t.

One reason Buddhism has so many forms is that it is pretty all-accepting.

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There are myriad forms of buddhism- from very stripped down forms of zen and Theravada that emphasize practice all the way to complex pantheistic and magical expressions of Tibetan buddhism. And even in less hindu influenced places in South east Asia-theres a whole lot of magical and animistic practices happening: wearing talismans of enlightened monks, protective tattoos, ascribing spiritual power to certain places, buddha images and spirit houses. I would venture to say that the average Thai buddhist is more connected to ritual and magical practices and has less of an understanding of buddhist scripture.

Its interesting how buddhism is practiced in the West- very focused on meditation and silent retreats, etc- very abstemious- and very different from how most asians practice buddhism- which is often integrated into land based animistic practices, magical beliefs, offerings to monks and buddha statues and rarely including a heavy meditation practice unless one is a monk or spiritual adept.

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In this thread I will only reply to congruent, polite discussion.

Nasty braggarts, pretending to know what Buddhism is but still think the Chinese God of Luck Ho-ti statue is Gautama Buddha and are unwilling to be civil, i will ignore.

My intention with this thread, is to focus on the passage In my original post.

Buddhism is cause and effect. not magic or supernatural thinking. Folk religion from many countries is prevalent in both Buddhism and Christianity. Faith is what counts, not whether people have perfect understanding of scriptures. Even a person with folk religion beliefs can attain Buddhahood with faith and practice. The same is true of Christianity. In either religion, arrogance is an impediment, yet a person who misunderstands Christianity or Buddhism, but has faith can attain Buddhahood or Salvation.

Gautama Buddha, when asked specifics about God, Reincarnation, Soul and other topics, traditionally argued about, spoke of the Middle Path and would neither affirm nor deny, but would teach the unsubstantiality of phenomena and mental constructs. He returned to the fact of Suffering and the way to eliminate suffering.