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Lotus Sutra 6 of 8

The sixth part of Venerable Guo Chuan's eight-part dharma talk series on November 9, 2008 was focused on providing background on Chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra, "The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging". Venerable considers this chapter the most important to her practice of the Lotus Sutra. The term "never" can mean a very long period of time and "disparaging" refers to respect and care for all sentient beings. In a previous life, Sakyamuni Buddha was the Bodhisattva Never Disparaging who applied the practice of the Lotus Sutra to help sentient beings.

Venerable first explained the various names of the Buddha, which represent the characteristics of the Buddha. These include the Buddha as an arhat, "Samyaksambuddha" or one who understands all universal knowledge, one who has perfect clarity and conduct, one who understands the world, an unexcelled worthy, the highest teacher, trainer of people able to guide us, the awakened one, one who has supreme knowledge of all dharmas, is exempt from decay, and has great achievement in all great dharmas.

Venerable talked about suffering and how the Buddha taught about suffering in relation to the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Noble Path. The First of the Four Noble Truths states that life is suffering. While the term "suffering" has a harsh connotation in the English language, the Buddhist meaning of suffering or "dukkha" is subtler and can mean "vexation" or "dissatisfaction". There are three types of suffering-- the suffering of suffering, the suffering of change and pervasive suffering. The suffering of suffering is the direct experience of suffering created by causes and conditions. The suffering of change is suffering characterized by impermanence; an example would be a pleasant experience that is characterized by a feeling of dissatisfaction knowing that it will not last. Pervasive suffering means that all sentient beings cannot avoid suffering due to volition, which is the fourth of the five skandhas.

Another way of delineating suffering is in eight ways —birth, old age, sickness, death, separation from our loved ones, dealing with someone you don't like, wanting something you can't attain, and the suffering of the five skandhas.

The Second Noble Truth states that our vexations and ignorance are the causes of suffering. When causes and conditions ripen, we experience the fruition of our past causes. Karma is created by our body, speech and mind. There are two types of karma, that which is visible to others (karma created by body and speech) and that which is hidden and remains in our minds. The three basic vexations of desire, ignorance, and hatred create secondary vexations, totaling to 108 kinds of vexations. We are in a continuous cycle of ignorance, which leads to karma, then suffering, which leads to more ignorance. In effect, we are both masters and prisoners of our own suffering.

The Third Noble Truth states that there is cessation of suffering by removing the roots of suffering. The Fourth Noble Truth states that to end suffering, we must follow the Eight Fold Noble Path. These are Right View and Right Thought (which encompass Right Wisdom), Right Speech, Right Action and Right Livelihood (which comprise Right Morality), and Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Samadhi or Meditation.
Venerable concluded this talk with some practical advice on how to deal with our problems:

· To believe in the law of cause and effect
· To accept the problem
· To face the problem by having a correct view of the causes and conditions
· To put forth effort to deal with the problem
· To let go of the problem

Reference: Setting in Motion the Dharma Wheel: Talks on the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism by Venerable Master Sheng Yen

(Report written by Chang Jie)

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