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CMC hosts 8-week lecture on Lotus Sutra

On Sunday, November 2, 2008, the Chan Meditation Center held the 5th session of the 8-week lecture series on the Lotus Sutra presented by Venerable Guo Chuan. During this talk, Venerable summarized the Sutra chapter by chapter. The following is a selection of summaries of key chapters.

Chapter 2: Expedient Means – The ultimate purpose for the appearance of the Buddhas in the world is to awaken all sentient beings and lead them to true enlightenment.

Chapter 3: Simile and Parable – The Buddha tells the parable of the Burning House to describe the human realm and how the Buddha uses the Three Vehicles to help living beings escape suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth and that in reality, there is only one Vehicle of Enlightenment. The Buddha also bestows the prophecy of enlightenment to Shariputra, the wisest of arhats. This is the first prophecy of enlightenment given by the Buddha. In chapters 4, 6, 8, and 9, the Buddha gives prophesies of enlightenment to other arhats.

Chapter 5: The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs – The Buddha describes the dharma as a great rain that nourishes many different kinds of plants. These plants represent various sentient beings of different spiritual capacities. The Buddha uses this metaphor to show how the Buddha speaks with one voice but listeners understand according to their own understanding and that the four arhats were lacking in understanding.

Chapter 7: The Parable of the Phantom City – The Buddha tells a parable about a magically conjured city is used as a rest stop for weary travelers. This is to show how the Buddha uses provisional teachings for the arhats in order to help them reach the long- term objective of enlightenment.

Chapter 10: The Teacher of the Law – This chapter presents the five practices of the teachers of the Lotus Sutra. These practices are accepting and upholding, reading, chanting, explaining and writing the Sutra.

Chapter 11: The Emergence of the Treasure Tower – A great and ancient Treasure Tower with seven tiers arises from the earth and hangs mid-air. It attests to the truth of The Lotus Sutra.

Chapter 12: Devadatta - The Buddha bestows prophecies of enlightenment on all beings, including women, animals and the sinful. The chapter mentions the story of the Dragon King's daughter becoming a buddha and the story of Devadatta, a former disciple who committed serious misdeeds, and is nevertheless, prophesized to become a buddha.

Chapter 13: Encouraging Devotion - The Buddha prophesizes that nuns will become buddhas in the future. The Buddha encourages followers to embrace the Sutra in this samsara world, during hard times and in the future age of evil.

Chapter 14: Peaceful Practices – This chapter states that even though we live in samsara, which is full of challenges to our practice, if we can practice wholeheartedly with body, speech and mind, we can have a joyful, stable, and peaceful practice. This is the end of the Trace Gate, or the parables taught to prepare the listeners for the actual teachings.

Chapter 15: Emerging from the Earth – This chapter marks the beginning of the Root or Source Gate, or the true teachings. The Buddha reveals that there have been countless Bodhisattvas emerging from the earth who are the past disciples of the Buddha. The audience wonders how the Buddha can have disciples from the past. The Buddha states that the Buddha exists not only in this lifetime but has existed since the infinite past.

Chapter 16: The Life Span of the Thus Come One – This chapter continues the explanation of the Buddha's infinite lifespan, which is described as Dharmakaya by some Buddhist teachers.

Chapter 17: Distinctions in Benefits – This chapter describe the merits and virtues of hearing this Sutra.

Chapter 18: The Benefits of Responding with Joy - The Buddha explains what the benefits are for responding with joy to the preaching of the Lotus Sutra, and the practices of its teachers (Chapter 19: Benefits of the Teacher of the Law).
Chapter 20: The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging – The Buddha gives an example of a practitioner who repeats one phrase, "you are all certain to attain Buddhahood" and attained the purity of the six sense organs.

Chapter 21 through 28: These chapters are the teachings on the Transmission.

Venerable concluded her talk by stating that the next two talks will focus on Chapter 20, "The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging".

(by Lydia)

Reference: http://www.tientai.net/lit/LS/LS.htm, "The Lotus Sutra: A Summary"

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