On Reciting the Sutra – Part 3

“If a Phrase of the sutra fills your heart it will be an aid to reaching the other shore.  By deeply reflecting on and mastering the Dharma it will become a great vessel for crossing over.  Being able to see and hear the Dharma follows upon it’s joyful reception, as a vassal always follow after his lord.  Whether somebody accepts this teaching or abandons it, they will form a causal connection with it through hearing.  Whether somebody follows it or goes against it, they will finally be able to achieve liberation through hearing it.” Venerable Ching-hsi (aka Miao-lê Chan-jan), Hokke-mongu-ki (Annotations on the Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra)

It is interesting and noteworthy the quote does not say when you have memorized a phrase, nor does it say when you have comprehended a phrase.  Instead it speaks of when your heart is full of the sutra, that is when you have joy and excitement, even irrational, then you have the tool you need to liberate yourself from suffering.

Reflecting while certainly engages the mind it is generally thought of as heart centered.  Know what makes your heart sing, understanding and being aware of that is introspective.  All too often in life we ignore the heart, and even more frequently we fail to hear the quite whispers of the soul.  The mind shouts with a loud voice and generally the only voice that shouts louder is when we have passion, when we are in love.  Both are extreme and in reflection, in introspection we can create space for the voice of the soul and its connection to the spirit of the universe. 

When we have great joy the sutra says in Chapter II, we will become Buddhas.  Joy is not a mental phenomena.  Miao-lo says that being able to see and hear the Dharma is connected to our joyful reception.  These ancient wise Dharma masters had an admirable passion for the Dharma.  It seems from this distance of several hundred years that their passion was so great one would be greatly influenced simply by being in their presence even if you didn’t understand a word they spoke. 

There is something about being passionate that radiates in a person, certainly different from someone who is well versed but passionless in theory.  I think back to the story I was told when I first began practicing Nichiren Buddhism.  It was about two brothers who were so intellectually challenged they didn’t even know their own names, and would answer to the name of their brother before answering to their own.  Or the story of someone who recently converted to Buddhism after meeting the Buddha.  In the case of the brothers they were able to ‘teach’ Buddhism through their very being.  In the case of the newly converted man, while traveling he met someone and converted them to Buddhism simply by saying he didn’t know anything but he had met the Buddha.  In both cases it was the passion that filled their lives that communicated in ways words could not.

I wonder if in our time we have somehow relegated passion to the bin or feel it inappropriate, or even substandard to intellectual mastery.  It’s as if intellectualism has replaced rather than being simultaneous with passion.

Your words, however eloquent or not they may be, when coupled with your passion of faith can move people and cause them to become happy.  Your passion for the Dharma and the joy it brings you is capable of awakening the Buddha in other you meet.  That little spark of your passion is like a small jolt of electricity that startles the slumbering Buddha in other people causing it open its eyes and begin to seek out its full awakening.  You may not see it, you may think your efforts are inconsequential, and this is the mistake of the intellect.  Because you don’t see it, because you can’t measure it, because it isn’t quantifiable there is the tendency to ignore it.  In Chapter XXII we are told our mission is to cause people to have great joy, simply by sharing any truth of the Buddha’s teachings not just the Lotus Sutra.  Causing people to have great joy is not about convincing someone of some intellectual or philosophical profundity.  It is about having great joy in yourself for them and the Buddha already in their lives. 

None of us fully knows the route we took to have faith in Buddhism, much less the Lotus Sutra.  We may know the path in this lifetime but before that what do we know.  We may have been the Walmart cashier in some distant realm  of the universe who one day had someone check out in their line who simply smiled and said thank you wishing for you great joy.  Long ago in the past our flame was ignited, and we began our search for a way to fully manifest our Buddha self.  Eventually after traveling thousand of galaxies and being reborn in untold realms sometimes as a humanoid and other times as some other being, finally we were reborn in this place in this time and seemingly quite by accident we came across the Lotus Sutra and took faith.  Then bam we are here, and now what shall we do?  Shall we think about it?  Or shall we embrace it, feel it, be energized by it? 

Hear me now roar like the lion!

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About Ryusho 龍昇

Nichiren Shu Buddhist priest. My home temple is Myosho-ji, Wonderful Voice Temple, in Charlotte, NC. You may visit the temple’s web page by going to http://www.myoshoji.org. I am also training at Carolinas Medical Center as a Chaplain intern. It is my hope that I eventually become a Board Certified Chaplain. Currently I am also taking healing touch classes leading to become a certified Healing Touch Practitioner. I do volunteer work with the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (you may learn more about them by following the link) caring for individuals who are HIV+ or who have AIDS/SIDA.