Dharma Talks by Venerable Guo Chuan
So far, Venerable Guo Chuan has given us a tour of the outer perimeter of the palace (a colorful metaphor for the Lotus Sutra). On Sunday, October 26, 2009, we entered the palace gates, so to speak.
Venerable talked about the importance of commentaries in Buddhist studies. In fact, the commentaries are one of the Three Storehouses (tripitaka) of Buddhist texts (the other two being the sutras and the precepts or vinaya).
Zhuyi (also known as Zhi Zhe), an important Chinese translator of Buddhist texts, came up with a method of outlining the Lotus Sutra, which is widely recognized. According to this scholar monk, the Sutra can be divided into two sections or parts— the Trace or Provisional Gate (Chapters 1-14) and the Source or Original Gate (Chapters 15-28). The Trace Gate section can be further divided into three parts-- the Introduction (Chapter 1), the Orthodox Teachings (Chapters 2-9) and the Transmission (Chapters 10-14). The Source or Original Door can also be delineated into three parts—the Introduction (Chapter 15), the Orthodox Teachings (Chapters 15-17), and the Transmission (Chapters 17-28). The Introduction relates the causes and conditions for the gathering of the various beings, the Orthodox Teachings is the dharma of the Buddha and the Transmission is how the teaching will be transmitted to sentient beings and the merit that will be attained through transmission.
Venerable introduced the Sutra by talking about the setting, its characters, and the opening scene. A great light appears and attracts many followers to the scene. The Buddha is on Mount Gridhrakuta after having just finished teaching the sutra titled Immeasurable Meanings. The bodhisattvas Manjushri and Maitreya have a conversation about the meaning of this great event. In a past life, Maitreya was a bodhisattva named "Seeker of Fame" who was lazy and greedy for fame and profit, but because of his good karmic roots and merits, will be the future Buddha. Like "Seeker of Fame", we have many character flaws that we recognize during our practice. Rather than change our habits, which is very difficult to do, or change the habits of others, Venerable encouraged us to think about the path that we want to take in this lifetime and in future lifetimes and to make a wish to travel on this path.
In Chapter 2, "Expedient Means", the Buddha tells Shariputra that the teachings are very profound, deep and difficult to understand. Shariputra requests the teachings three times, and the Buddha's responses are--that wisdom can be conveyed only from Buddha to another Buddha, that sentient beings in heaven and on earth will be shocked if they hear it, and people who are "overbearingly arrogant" * would not accept the teachings and would fall into hell for rejecting the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Finally, after Shariputra's pleads, the Buddha is moved to preach the Sutra.
At the end of the talk, Venerable encouraged us to attend the next four weeks of the series so that we may receive the full benefits of the teachings on the Lotus Sutra.
Note: References to the Lotus Sutra is based on The Lotus Sutra translated by Burton Watson.
*This refers to monks who claim to be enlightened but are not.