Contemplation on Reading and Reciting the Sutra – Part 1

A joint collage art work by tonipoet and Ryusho.

The Lotus Sutra begins with the phrase “Thus have I heard” and we may interpret that to mean the text that follows is what the teaching is and in so doing ignore or pass over the title of Myoho Renge Kyo.  To do so would be in error as what was heard was the title and the text following in an explanation of Myoho Renge Kyo.  The title is the teaching.

Both the title and the body text are deeply connected and both are necessary.  The Myoho Renge Kyo is as if a key to open a locked door.  In this case the the following 28 chapters are what is to be opened.  To consider one separately from the other would be as if trying to enter you home through a locked door you did not pull the key out of your pocket and insert it into the lock.  While it is true you do have the key, as it rests in your pocket, without actually utilizing it you are challenged to enter your home.  Busting down the door or breaking a window you could enter the house without the key, however using the key would provide you quicker entry with less residual mess and expense.

Even in the case of my electronic lock without either the key or my cell phone the magic of automatic entry or back up manual entry is not possible.  Like my automatic electronic door lock which automatically unlocks when I pull into my driveway the benefits of the Lotus Sutra come to us when we both practice and study even without our full understanding.  This is faith. 

Every phrase, every character of the text of the Lotus Sutra converges within the title of Myoho Renge Kyo.  The five characters, as written in Chinese, contain every stroke and every mark of all the 69,000 characters comprising the Lotus Sutra.  All of the virtues of the entire 28 chapters of the text are all contained within the five characters of the title.  Also every single character within the text of the sutra contains all the virtues of the five character title.  Neither is too small, nor too large.  Neither is required to expand or contract to accommodate or fill the other.   Every character produces virtue due to its relationship with and inclusion of all the other characters.  To ignore the text or to ignore the title deprives us of the mutual benefit of the two together.  I imagine this much like the relationship of beans and rice.  Both contain protein yet when combined the total protein is greater than the sum of their individual proteins.  That is perhaps why even without understanding the science of protein analysis cultures throughout the world you can find some version of a beans and rice combination food staple.  And so it is with the characters of the title of the sutra and the body text.

“Each character produces virtue just as the wish-fulfilling jewel constantly rains down many other jewels.  Even one jewel is enough, while 10,000 jewels are not too many.  No matter the quantity what is produced in sufficient.  You should know that each character and sound spreads throughout the Dharma-realm to propagate the Buddha’s teaching in the past, present, and future, bringing benefit to all beings.” Shutei Hoyo Shiki

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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.