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Lotus Sutra 2 of 8

Venerable Guo Chuan continued her dharma series on the Lotus Sutra with a talk on the importance of Bodhisattva Guan Yin (Avalokitesvara) and the place of the Lotus Sutra within the context of the historical Buddha Sakyamuni's teachings.

Guan Yin is a very important bodhisattva in Chinese Buddhism and represents great compassion. According to Chan Buddhism, if one is able to recite Guan Yin's name with concentrated mind, one is able to attain liberation. Development of faith in Guan Yin has its roots in Zhu Fahu's translation of the Lotus Sutra.

It is said that Putuo Mountain in China, Dharma Drum Mountain in Taiwan and the Potala Palace in Tibet are closely connected and sacred to Guan Yin. According to Tibetan cosmology, the world is a giant lotus with Tibet at its center. It is also said that the Dalai Lama is a manifestation of Avalokitesvara. There is no need to actually go to these places to worship Guan Yin; anyone who recites Guan Yin's name and practices compassion has a spiritual affinity with the bodhisattva and can be considered a manifestation of Guan Yin.

In the Lotus Sutra, Guan Yin makes a great vow to appear at any place in any form wherever there is a request for help, like a boat that takes one across a sea of suffering. The bodhisattva Guan Yin is considered a universal gateway that opens all dharma doors for all sentient beings to achieve bodhi mind.

According to the Tientai School, the Lotus Sutra is seen as the pinnacle of the historical Buddha Sakyamuni's teachings. The Buddha's teachings can be organized into five periods, the Avatamsaka, the Agama, the Vaipulya, the Prajna, and the Lotus-Nirvana periods. The Avatamsaka period is likened to the sun rising to the lofty mountains. The concepts are so deep and difficult to follow that the Buddha taught them only for twenty-one days. The second Agama period, which lasted for twelve years, is like the sun at its pinnacle that shines on lofty mountains and the valleys below. This means that anyone can understand their meanings, the learned and the unlearned alike.

A metaphor for the Vaipulya period, which lasted for 8 years, is the sun shining over vast plains, meaning that everyone is on an even footing. The Prajna period, which was for 22 years, is the longest period of the Buddha's teachings and is the time when the Buddha's disciples have reached a mature level of understanding. The Lotus-Nirvana period lasted 7 years and is likened to the sunset reflecting off the mountains in that even those sentient beings that do not have an affinity to the dharma will be able to learn.

(Report written by Chang Jie)

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