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Trí Quảng Toàn Tập - Quyển II - Lược Giải Kinh Pháp HoaHT THÍCH TRÍ QUẢNG


 

The Lotus Sutra has received praise in the highest terms from all the famous Buddhist priests. As for me, from the time I first raised my mind to the practice of the Buddha’s teachings I have always felt a special relationship to this Sutra. When I first accompanied some monks to pagoda Hoằng Khai in Tân An, I was offered a Chinese version of the Lotus Sutra by Monk Đạt Vương. Although I had not prac­ticed the Sutra before, I was overwhelmed with joy by this gift. Since then, my attachment to this Sutra has been growing stronger and stronger. Only when I told my father about this, did I learn that he often recited the Sutra, especially the Chapter Bodhisattva The Observer of the Worlds’ Cries during my mother’s pregnancy with me. This gave me a strong feeling that I have listened to the Sutra ever since I was in my mother’s womb.

The Lotus seed, which my father had planted when I was still in a deep, unconscious foetal sleep grew larger with the passing of time. At the age of 12, the age when other children still nestled securely in a mother’s tender love, it blossomed into a power­ful call for me to follow the path of a priest. Although it appeared as if things just happened, I had a strong belief that behind these incidents, a miracle was working to bring me closer and closer to the Sutra as I progressed on my path of Buddhism.

When I was 17, I entered the Buddhist Insti­tute of Nam Việt which belong to The Pagoda Ấn Quang, I found out that the late Most Venerable Trí Hữu the founder of this temple, also followed the teachings of The Lotus Sutra. In addition, the man who sculpted this temple’s statue of the Buddha Sakyamuni for this temple was also a devotee of the Sutra. In order to keep his mind and body clean and pure during the whole time he was working on the statue, he bowed down before the Buddhist altar in tribute for every single word of the Sutra. All to­gether he bowed made 60.000 times.

At 25, I was sent to Rissho University in Ja­pan to study the Sutra. While I was there I had a good chance to get acquainted with the ideas of Saint Nichiren, which are a special feature of Japanese Buddhism.

The thirst for knowledge urged me to visit a number of organizations devoted to observing the teachings of Lotus Sutra. I realized that in order to have a right understanding of the Sutra, we should practice the Buddha’s teachings in the right way. Some people believe that they have penetrated all the meanings of the Sutra but actually they have not comprehended anything. I experienced this false be­lief 20 years before when I studied all the works written on the Sutra and obtained a Ph. D degree in the doctrine of the Lotus. Only later when I had really penetrated into the spiritual world of the Lo­tus by practising the Buddha’s teachings did I real­ized that my early knowledge gained while at the University was still far from having attained the true meanings of the Buddha’s words. This explains why some people with few academic achievements have been able to make valuable contributions to Bud­dhism while some other with high university degrees have contributed nothing to our religion. As for me, after my return to the country, thanks to the precious teachings of well-known Japanese monks, I have carefully recited the Sutra, observed its teachings and paid homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the Lotus to build up spiritual relations with them in expectation of receiving their blessings on my spiri­tual life. With this heart-felt attachment to the Su­tra, I entered the Lotus world and found myself closer to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Thanks to it I have lead a peaceful and serene life for 15 years in a chaotic society full of upheavals. The calm and clear perspective of the phenomena world that the Lotus Sutra provided have enabled me to make some small contributions to Buddhism. To me, the Sutra is not just some printed matter but is essential nutri­ents for my body and soul. With the view of the Lo­tus Sutra as my life, I have gained an insight into the Buddha’s teachings and tried to apply them in my daily life. I would be very happy to share my fruitful experiences with those who have formed close ties with the Sutra to use it as a torch to progress on the way to enlightenment.

Also from the point of view of reading between the lines of the Sutra, while writing this book I com­pared the following translations: Kumarajiva’s ver­sion, a translation written by Dharmaraksa, a San­skrit version from Nepal, the version found in Ko­tan and that found in Kashmir. In these four later versions, Dharanis was chapter 22 and The Final Commission was chapter 28 while in Kumarajiva’s version The Final Commission was chapter 22 and Dharanis was chapter 26.

In my opinion, the order of the Sutra’s chap­ters should be like this: Chapter 21 The Supernatu­ral Power of The Tathagata, chapter 22 Dharanis, chapter 23 Bodhisattva Medicine King, chapter 24 Boddhisattva Wonder Sound, chapter 25 The Ob­server of the Worlds’ Cries, chapter 26 Story of King Resplendent, chapter 27 Encouragement of the Bo­dhisattva Universal Virtues, chapter 28 The Final Commission. The arrangement of the chapters in this order would make Sutra’s meaning flow more reasonably and logically. The Final Commission as the ending of the Sutra would be logical because after the Buddha had preached the Lotus Sutra, he then left the message for Bodhisattvas to continue to propagate the Sutra. It would be illogical if after be­queathing his will for his disciples to spread the Lo­tus’ teachings, which were obviously his last words before the end of the Lotus Assembly, he would con­tinue to preach the six following chapters: The Bo­dhisattva Medicine King, Bodhisattva Wonder Sound, The Observer of the Worlds’ Cries, the Story of the King Resplendent, Encouragement of the Bo­dhisattva Universal Virtues. It would be hard to jus­tify this kind of order.

From chapter 21 The Supernatural Power of the Thatagata, the Buddha displayed his supernatu­ral power. He left his testament for the Bodhisattvas Springing Up Out Of The Earth to preserve the Su­tra. The phenomenas were hard for people to believe and comprehend and this triggered the Boddhisattva Medicine King on behalf of the assembly to question the Buddha why his spiritual powers and treasures were displayed only when preaching the Lotus. In reply to this question, the Buddha confirmed that if only four sentences of the Sutra were correctly practised and observed, the Lotus could bestow more blessings on us than all the merits and virtues a person could obtain by worshipping and making offerings to eight hundred thousand Buddhas. On hearing this, Bodhi­sattva Medicine pledged to preserve the Sutra. In addition, he Bodhisattva Brave-In Giving, Vaisra­vana Heavenly King the Protector of the World, The World Holding King and the ten Raksasis also vowed to use their dharanis to support those who followed the path of the Lotus. That is the meaning of chapter 21 The Supernatural Of The Thatagata which was followed by chapter 22 Dharanis.

Since many monks in the assembly seemed suspicious of the Bodhisattva Medicine King, the Bo­dhisattva Brave-In-Giving and other Bodhisattvas’ power to use dharanis to protect the Lotus devotees, Bodhisattva King Flower begged the Buddha for an explanation. The Buddha told them about the previ­ous lives of Bodhisattva Medicine King, Bodhisattva Wonder Sound, the Observer of the Worlds’ Cries, Bodhisattva King Resplendent and Bodhisattva Uni­versal Virtues and how these Bodhisattvas had ob­served the teachings of Buddhism. This resulted in the flow from chapter 22, chapter 23 Bodhisattva Medicine King, chapter 24 Bodhisattva Wonder Sound, chapter 25 Bodhisattva The Observer of the Worlds’ Cries, chapter 26 Story of Bodhisattva King Resplendent to chapter 27 Bodhisattva Universal Virtues. After presenting the role models of the Great Bodhisattvas for them to follow, the Buddha left his testament for the Great Bodhisattvas to pre­serve and propagate the Sutra and for his various manifestations as well as the Stupa of Treasure to come back to their original land. This is the reason for placing chapter 28 The Final Commission at the end of the Sutra.

In brief, the arrangement of the Sutra’s chap­ters as mentioned above is compatible with the flow of the Sutra’s meanings and it is accepted by most of well-known monks and teachers.

This is our first work of interpreting the Lotus Sutra. Shortcomings and mistakes are, therefore, in­evitable. We would be very grateful for criticism from wiser people so that our next work would be im­proved.

May all the merits possibly received from spreading the Buddha’s words be bestowed on all living creatures to help us penetrate into the Lotus World of the Buddhas.

                                                                    Buddhist Calendar 2535 – 1991

                                                                       Most Venerable THÍCH TRÍ QUẢNG