Question: It is very common for a person to act as a good friend. But is there any proof that the Law can be such a friend?
Answer: It is common enough for a person to act as such a friend. But in this latter age, no true friend is to be found, and thus there is ample proof that the Law can act as such a friend.
Great Concentration and Insight says: “At times following a friend, and at times following the sutra scrolls, one hears the one true teaching of enlightenment that has been described above.”
The meaning of this passage is that one should take the sutra scrolls as one’s good friend.
The Lotus Sutra states: “If when the Lotus Sutra is propagated throughout Jambudvīpa there are those who accept and uphold it, they should think to themselves: This is all due to the authority and supernatural power of Universal Worthy!”
This passage means that when ordinary people in this latter age put faith in the Lotus Sutra, they are relying upon the power of their goodfriend Universal Worthy.
The sutra also says: “If there are those who accept, uphold, read, and recite this Lotus Sutra, memorize it correctly, practice and transcribe it, you should know that such persons have seen Shakyamuni Buddha. It is as though they heard this sutra from the Buddha’s mouth. You should know that such persons have offered alms to Shakyamuni Buddha.”
Reading this passage, we can see that the Lotus Sutra is none other than Shakyamuni Buddha himself. For persons who do not have faith in the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha has passed into extinction. But for those who put faith in the sutra, although Shakyamuni Buddha may seem to have passed into extinction, he is still present in the world.
Again the sutra states: “If, after I [Many Treasures] have become a Buddha and entered extinction, in the lands in the ten directions there is any place where the Lotus Sutra is preached, then my funerary tower, in order that I may listen to the sutra, will come forth and appear in that spot to testify to the sutra.” This passage tells us that when we chant the name of the Lotus Sutra, the Thus Come One Many Treasures, because of this original vow he has taken, will invariably appear before us.
And the sutra further states: “If there should be those who wish me [Many Treasures] to show my body to the four kinds of believers, then let the various Buddhas who are emanations of that Buddha [Shakyamuni] and who are preaching the Law in the worlds in the ten directions all return and gather around that Buddha in a single spot.”
Shakyamuni, Many Treasures, and the various other Buddhas of the ten directions, the bodhisattva Universal Worthy and the others are our good friends. If we rely upon this understanding, then with the good karma we have accumulated from past existences we can fare even better than did the boy Good Treasures, Ever Wailing or Spotted Feet, and the rest. They encountered good friends of the provisional sutras, but we will encounter good friends of the true sutras. Hence, though they encountered merely bodhisattvas of the provisional sutras, we will be fortunate enough to encounter the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the true sutras.
The Nirvana Sutra says: “Rely on the Law and not upon persons. . . . Rely on wisdom and not on discriminative thinking.”
To rely on the Law means to rely on the constantly abiding Law of the Lotus and Nirvana sutras. Not relying on persons means not relying on persons who do not themselves rely on the Lotus and Nirvana sutras. Even though they may be Buddhas or bodhisattvas, if they are Buddhas and bodhisattvas who do not rely on the Lotus and Nirvana sutras, they cannot serve as good friends. And how much more is this so if they are merely scholars, translators of the sacred texts, or ordinary teachers!
To rely on wisdom means to rely on the Buddha. Not relying on discriminative thinking means that one does not rely on those who are on the level of near-perfect enlightenment or below.