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18 May 2015

Chapter Eighteen: The Benefits of Responding with Joy
Two important points

Point One, regarding the Benefits of Responding with Joy to Myoho-renge-kyo

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: “Respond” means to respond to and comply with actuality and principle. “Joy” means that oneself and others together experience joy. By actuality is meant responding to and complying with the actual fact of Shakyamuni manifesting [in this life] his original state [of enlightenment] numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago. By principle is meant responding to the principle of ordinary people being able to manifest their original states. In the end, then, responding means responding to and complying with the inner truth of the “Life Span” chapter. When that is done, then both oneself and others together will take joy in their possession of wisdom and compassion.
Now, when Nichiren and his followers chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they are expressing joy in the fact that they will inevitably become Buddhas eternally endowed with the three bodies. For that reason, we may say that the word “respond” applies to the Law one responds to, while “joy” applies to the person one takes joy in. The person is the ancient Buddha of numberless major world system dust particle kalpas ago, Shakyamuni. The Law is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo of the “Life Span” chapter. To respond to them and take joy in them is what is meant by the words “responding with joy.”
Broadly speaking, “to respond” may be regarded as another name for faith. To respond means simply to have the mind of faith. That is why it is stated in the second volume of the Lotus Sutra, “It is because they have faith in the Buddha’s words / that p.147they can comply with this sutra, / not because of any wisdom of their own” (chapter three, Simile and Parable).

Point Two, on the passage [describing the benefits of urging a person to listen to the Lotus Sutra] “breath free of foul odor, / a fragrance of utpala flowers / constantly emitted by the mouth”

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings says: The word “breath” refers to the daimoku. “Free of foul odor” means that the breath is not tainted by any of the provisional teachings such as those regarding Amida Buddha, expedient means that can never lead to attainment of the way. “A fragrance of utpala flowers” refers to the Lotus Sutra. But now, in the Latter Day of the Law, it means the daimoku. The passage in the “Expedient Means” chapter that reads, “[A wonderful Law such as this is . . .] like the blooming of the udumbara [flower]” refers to the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life. One should reflect carefully on this.
The word “constantly” refers to that which constantly abides throughout the three existences. The word “mouth” refers to the mouth of the votary of the Lotus Sutra. “Emitted” indicates the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It may be said of Nichiren and his followers, who now chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, that these words are “constantly emitted by the mouth.”

Profile of Daisaku Ikeda
Daisaku Ikeda is a Buddhist philosopher, an educator and a prolific writer and poet. As president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) lay Buddhist movement, he has devoted himself to wide-ranging efforts for peace and individual empowerment, and has founded cultural, educational and peace research institutions around the world.

Born in Tokyo in 1928, Ikeda experienced firsthand the tragic reality of war and militarism. In the chaos of postwar Japan, he came to embrace Buddhism through an encounter with the educator and pacifist Josei Toda, head of the Soka Gakkai Buddhist association, who had been imprisoned for his beliefs during World War II.

These experiences shaped Ikeda’s commitment to peace. Over the years, in search of viable responses to global problems, Ikeda has engaged in dialogue with many of the world’s leading thinkers and leaders, inspired the SGI’s support of United Nations activities and written extensively on a range of issues related to peace and the human condition.

Central to Ikeda’s thinking is the idea that a self-directed transformation within the life of each individual, rather than societal or structural reform alone, holds the key to lasting peace and human happiness. This is expressed most succinctly in a passage from his best-known work, The Human Revolution: “A great human revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a nation and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind.”

Ikeda’s books, offering perspectives grounded in Buddhist humanism on ways of overcoming the challenges facing individuals in their daily lives and humanity as a whole, have been translated into and published in more than 40 languages.


The Benefits of Responding with Joy

At that time the bodhisattva mahasattva Maitreya said to the Buddha: “World-Honored One, if there are good men or good women who, hearing this Lotus Sutra, respond with joy, what amount of blessings do they acquire?”
Then he spoke in verse, saying:

After the world-honored one has passed into extinction,
if those who hear this sutra
are able to respond with joy,
what amount of blessings will they acquire?

At that time the Buddha said to the bodhisattva mahasattva Maitreya: “Ajita, after the thus come one has entered extinction, suppose there are monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, or other persons of wisdom, whether old or young, who, hearing this sutra, respond with joy and, leaving the Dharma assembly, go to some other place, perhaps a monks’ quarters, a spot that is deserted and quiet, a city, a community, a settlement, or a village, and there in accordance with what they have heard they put forth effort in preaching and expounding for the sake of their parents and relatives, their good friends and acquaintances. These people, after hearing, respond with joy and they too set about spreading the teachings. One person, having heard, responds with joy and spreads the teachings, and the teachings in p.287this way continue to be handed along from one to another until they reach a fiftieth person.
“Ajita, the benefits received by this fiftieth good man or good woman who responds with joy I will now describe to you—you must listen carefully. Imagine all the beings in the six paths of existence of four hundred ten thousand million asamkhya worlds, all the four kinds of living beings, those born from the egg, those born from the womb, those born from dampness, and those born by transformation, those with form, those without form, those with thought, those without thought, those who are not with thought, those who are not without thought, those without legs, those with two legs, four legs, or many legs. And imagine that, among all this vast number of living beings, a person should come who is seeking blessings and, responding to their various desires, dispenses objects of amusement and playthings to all these living beings. Each one of these living beings is given gold, silver, lapis lazuli, seashell, agate, coral, amber, and other wonderful and precious gems, as well as elephants, horses, carriages, and palaces and towers made of the seven treasures, enough to fill a whole Jambudvipa. This great dispenser of charity, having handed out gifts in this manner for a full eighty years, then thinks to himself: I have already doled out objects of amusement and playthings to these living beings, responding to their various desires. But these living beings are now all old and decrepit, their years over eighty, their hair white, their faces wrinkled, and before long they will die. Now I should employ the Law of the Buddha to instruct and guide them.
“Immediately he gathers all the living beings together and propagates the Law among them, teaching, benefiting, and delighting them. In one moment all are able to attain the way of the stream-winner, the way of the once-returner, the way of the non-returner, and the way of the arhat, to exhaust all outflows and enter deeply into meditation. All attain freedom and become endowed with the eight emancipations. Now what is your opinion? Are the benefits gained by this great dispenser of charity many or not?”
Maitreya said to the Buddha: “World-Honored One, this p.288man’s benefits are very many indeed, immeasurable and boundless. Even if this dispenser of charity had merely given all those playthings to living beings, his benefits would still be immeasurable. And how much more so when he has enabled them to attain the fruits of arhatship!”
The Buddha said to Maitreya: “I will now state the matter clearly for you. This man gave all these objects of amusement to the living beings in the six paths of existence of four hundred ten thousand million asamkhya worlds and also made it possible for them to attain the fruits of arhatship. But the benefits that he gains do not match the benefits of the fiftieth person who hears just one verse of the Lotus Sutra and responds with joy. They are not equal to one hundredth, one thousandth, one part in a hundred, thousand, ten thousand, a million. Indeed it is beyond the power of calculation, simile, or parable to express the comparison.
“Ajita, the benefits gained by even the fiftieth person who hears the Lotus Sutra as it is handed along to him and responds with joy are immeasurable, boundless asamkhyas in number. How much greater then are those of the very first person in the assembly who, on hearing the sutra, responds with joy! His blessings are greater by an immeasurable, boundless asamkhya number, and are in fact incomparable.
“Moreover, Ajita, suppose a person for the sake of this sutra visits a monks’ quarters and, sitting or standing, even for a moment listens to it and accepts it. As a result of the benefits so obtained, when he is reborn in his next existence he will enjoy the finest, most superior and wonderful elephants, horses, and carriages, and palanquins decked with rare treasures, and will mount up to the heavenly palaces. Or suppose there is a person who is sitting in the place where the Law is expounded, and when another person appears, the first person urges him to sit down and listen, or offers to share his seat and so persuades him to sit down. The benefits gained by this person will be such that when he is reborn he will be in a place where the lord Shakra is seated, where the heavenly king Brahma is seated, or where a wheel-turning sage king is seated.
p.289“Ajita, suppose there is a person who speaks to another person, saying, ‘There is a sutra called the Lotus. Let us go together and listen to it.’ And suppose, having been urged, the other person goes and even for an instant listens to the sutra. The benefits of the first person will be such that when he is reborn he will be born in the same place as dharani bodhisattvas. He will have keen faculties and wisdom. For a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand ages he will never be struck dumb. His mouth will not emit a foul odor. His tongue will never be afflicted, nor will his mouth be afflicted. His teeth will not be stained or black, nor will they be yellow or widely spaced, nor will they be missing or fall out or be at an angle or crooked. His lips will not droop down or curl back or be rough or chapped or afflicted with sores or misshapen or twisted or too thick or too big or black or discolored or unsightly in any way. His nose will not be too broad or flat or crooked or too highly arched. His face will not be swarthy, nor will it be long and narrow, or sunken and distorted. He will not have a single unsightly feature. His lips, tongue, and teeth will all be handsomely proportioned. His nose will be long and high, his face round and full, his eyebrows long and set high, his forehead broad, smooth, and well shaped, and he will be endowed with all the features proper to a human being. In each existence he is born into, he will see the Buddha, hear his Law, and have faith in his teachings.
“Ajita, just observe! The benefits gained merely by encouraging one person to go and listen to the Law are such as this! How much more, then, if one single-mindedly hears, preaches, reads, and recites the sutra and before the great assembly makes distinctions for the sake of people and practices it as the sutra instructs!”
At that time the world-honored one, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form, saying:

If someone in the Dharma assembly
is able to hear this sutra,
even just one verse,
and responding with joy, preaches it to others,
p.290and in this way the teachings are handed along
till they reach the fiftieth person,
the blessings gained by this last person
are such as I will now define.
Suppose there is a great dispenser of charity
who bestows goods on immeasurable multitudes,
doing this for a full eighty years,
responding to each person’s desires.
Seeing the signs of decrepitude and old age,
the white hair and wrinkled faces,
the missing teeth, the withered forms,
he thinks, “Their death is not far off;
I must now teach them
so they can gain the fruits of the way!”
Immediately for their sake he employs an expedient means,
preaching the true doctrine of nirvana:
“Nothing in this world is lasting or firm
but all are like bubbles, foam, heat shimmer.
Therefore all of you must quickly
learn to hate it and be gone!”
When the people hear this doctrine,
all are able to become arhats
endowed with the six transcendental powers,
the three insights, and eight emancipations.
But the fiftieth person
who hears one verse [of the Lotus Sutra] and responds with joy
gains blessings that are far greater,
beyond description by simile or parable.
And if one who has had the teachings passed along to him
receives blessings that are immeasurable,
how much more so one who in the Dharma assembly
first hears the sutra and responds with joy.
Suppose someone encourages another person,
urging him to go and listen to the Lotus,
saying, “This sutra is profound and wonderful,
p.291hard to encounter in a thousand, ten thousand kalpas!”
And suppose, as urged, the person goes to listen,
even though he listens for just a moment.
The blessings that the first person gets in reward
I will now describe in detail:
Age after age, no afflictions of the mouth,
no teeth missing, yellow or blackened,
lips that are not thick, curled, or defective,
no hateful features,
a tongue not dry, black, or too short;
nose high, long, and straight,
forehead broad, smooth, and well shaped,
face and eyes all properly aligned and impressive,
the kind people delight to look at,
breath free of foul odor,
a fragrance of blue lotus flowers
constantly emitted by the mouth.
Suppose one goes to the monks’ quarters
expressly to listen to the Lotus Sutra
and listens with joy for just a moment—
I will now describe one’s blessings.
In existences to come among heavenly and human beings
one will acquire wonderful elephants, horses, carriages,
palanquins adorned with rare jewels,
and will mount to the palaces of heaven.
If in the place where the Law is expounded
one encourages someone to sit and hear the sutra,
the blessings one acquires will enable one
to gain the seat of Shakra, Brahma, and the wheel-turner.
How much more so if one listens single-mindedly,
explains and expounds the meaning,
and practices the sutra as the sutra instructs—
one’s blessings will know no bounds!

rāga [貪・貪欲・愛] (Skt, Pali; Jpn ton, ton’yoku, or ai): Greed, desire, emotion, feeling, love, or passion. Rāga, indicating greed or avarice, is a component of the three poisons, the three sources of vice and suffering; the other two are dvesha (anger) and moha (foolishness). See also three poisons.

three poisons [三毒] (Jpn san-doku): Greed, anger, and foolishness. The fundamental evils inherent in life that give rise to human suffering. In The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom, the three poisons are regarded as the source of all illusions and earthly desires. The three poisons are so called because they pollute people’s lives and work to prevent them from turning their hearts and minds to goodness. The Words and Phrases of the Lotus Sutra by T’ien-t’ai speaks of the three poisons as the underlying cause of the three calamities of famine, war, and pestilence, stating: “Because anger increases in intensity, armed strife occurs. Because greed increases in intensity, famine arises. Because foolishness increases in intensity, pestilence breaks out. And because these three calamities occur, earthly desires grow more numerous and powerful than ever, and false views increasingly flourish.” In the “Simile and Parable” (third) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni says to Shāriputra, “He [the Thus Come One] is born into the threefold world, a burning house, rotten and old, in order to save living beings from the fires of birth, aging, sickness, and death, care, suffering, stupidity, misunderstanding, and the three poisons; to teach and convert them and enable them to attain supreme perfect enlightenment.”

The Essence of the “Life Span” Chapter

WHEN Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, expounded the “Life Span” chapter, he referred to what all living beings had heard in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and in the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. He said: “In all the worlds the heavenly and human beings and asuras all believe that the present Shakyamuni Buddha, after leaving the palace of the Shākyas, seated himself in the place of meditation not far from the city of Gayā and there attained supreme perfect enlightenment.”1 This statement expresses the idea held by all the Buddha’s disciples and the great bodhisattvas from the time they heard Shakyamuni preach his first sermon in the Flower Garland Sutra up through the time he expounded the “Peaceful Practices” chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
We find two flaws in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings: First, “Because the Ten Worlds are separate from one another in these teachings, they fail to move beyond the provisional.”2 That is, they do not reveal the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, that of discarding the provisional and revealing the true,3 or that of persons of the two vehicles being capable of attaining Buddhahood—the doctrines related to the ten factors of life stated in the “Expedient Means” chapter of the theoretical teaching.
Second, “Because they teach that Shakyamuni first attained enlightenment in this world, they fail to discard the Buddha’s provisional status.”4 Thus they do not reveal the Buddha’s original enlightenment in the remote past expounded in the “Life Span” chapter. These two great doctrines [the attainment of Buddhahood by persons of the two vehicles and the Buddha’s original enlightenment] are the core of the Buddha’s lifetime teachings, the heart and marrow of all the sutras.
The theoretical teaching states that persons of the two vehicles can attain Buddhahood, thus avoiding one of the shortcomings found in the sutras expounded during the first forty years and more of the Buddha’s preaching. However, since the “Life Span” chapter had not yet been expounded, the true doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life remained obscure, and the enlightenment of persons of the two vehicles was not assured. In these respects the theoretical teaching does not differ from the moon’s reflection on the water, or rootless plants drifting on the waves.
The Buddha also stated, “But good men, it has been immeasurable, boundless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas since I in fact attained Buddhahood.”5 With this single proclamation, he refuted as great falsehoods his other statements [concerning his own p.183enlightenment]. For instance, the Flower Garland Sutra states that Shakyamuni attained Buddhahood for the first time in this world. The Āgama sutras speak of his first attainment of the way, and the Vimalakīrti Sutra says, ”For the first time the Buddha sat beneath the bodhi tree.” The Great Collection Sutra states, “It is sixteen years [since the Thus Come One first attained the way].” The Mahāvairochana Sutra describes the Buddha’s enlightenment as having taken place “long ago when I sat in the place of meditation.” The Benevolent Kings Sutra refers to the Buddha’s enlightenment as an event of “twenty-nine years” ago. The Immeasurable Meanings Sutra states, “In the past I sat upright in the place of meditation,” and the “Expedient Means” chapter of the Lotus Sutra says, “When I first sat in the place of meditation . . . ”
When we come to the “Life Span” chapter of the essential teaching, the belief that Shakyamuni attained Buddhahood for the first time [in India] is demolished, and the effects [enlightenment] of the four teachings are likewise demolished. When the effects of the four teachings are demolished, their causes are likewise demolished. “Causes” here refers to Buddhist practice [to attain enlightenment] or to the stage of disciples engaged in practice. Thus the causes and effects expounded in both the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings and the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra are wiped out, and the cause and effect of the Ten Worlds6 in the essential teaching are revealed. This is the doctrine of original cause and original effect. It teaches that the nine worlds are all present in beginningless Buddhahood and that Buddhahood exists in the beginningless nine worlds. This is the true mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, the true hundred worlds and thousand factors, the true three thousand realms in a single moment of life.
Considered in this light, it is evident that Vairochana Buddha depicted in the Flower Garland Sutra as sitting on a lotus pedestal, the sixteen-foot Shakyamuni described in the Āgama sutras, and the provisional Buddhas of the Correct and Equal, Wisdom, Golden Light, Amida, and Mahāvairochana sutras are no more than reflections of the Buddha of the “Life Span” chapter. They are like fleeting images of the moon in the sky mirrored on the surface of the water held in vessels of varying sizes. The wise men and scholars of the various schools are first of all confused as to [the nature of the Buddhas of] their own school, and more fundamentally, they are ignorant of [the Buddha of] the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra. As a result, they mistake the reflection of the moon on the water for the real moon shining in the sky. Some of them enter the water and try to grasp it with their hands, while others try to snare it with a rope. As the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai says, “They know nothing of the moon in the sky, but gaze only at the moon in the pond.”7 He means that those attached to the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings or the theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra are not aware of the moon shining in the sky, but see only its reflection in the pond.
The Great Canon of Monastic Rules also tells of five hundred monkeys who, emerging from the mountains, saw the moon reflected in the water and tried to seize it. However, as it was only a reflection, they fell into the water and drowned. This writing equates the monkeys with Devadatta and the group of six monks.8
Were it not for the presence of the “Life Span” chapter among all the teachings of Shakyamuni, they would be like the heavens without the sun and moon, a kingdom without a king, the mountains and seas without treasures, or a person without a soul. This being so, without the “Life Span” p.184chapter, all the sutras would be meaningless. Grass without roots will die in no time, and a river without a source will not flow far. A child without parents is looked down upon. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the “Life Span” chapter, is the mother of all Buddhas throughout the ten directions and the three existences.
With my deep respect,

The seventeenth day of the fourth month


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