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Sunday, June 3, 2018

Nichiren on "compassion" and "pity"

"Moreover, the “Expedient Means” chapter describes how the five thousand persons of overbearing arrogance withdrew from the assembly. They did so after hearing the Buddha make the concise replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle, and when the Buddha was about to begin making the expanded replacement of the three vehicles with the one vehicle. At that time, the Buddha used his power to influence them in such a way that they rose from their seats and withdrew. Later, through the Nirvana Sutra and the four ranks of bodhisattvas, the Buddha made it possible for these persons to achieve enlightenment in their present existence.

On the other hand, in the Non-Substantiality of All Phenomena Sutra it is recorded that Bodhisattva Root of Joy, addressing the monk Superior Intent, forced him to listen to the Mahayana teachings, causing him to speak slanderously of such teachings [and thus create a reverse relationship with them]. With regard to these two differing incidents, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai explains that “the Thus Come One Shakyamuni was exercising the virtue of compassion in causing them to withdraw, while Bodhisattva Root of Joy was exercising the virtue of pity in forcing the monk to listen.”

The meaning of this passage is that the Buddha was moved by compassion and for the moment put aside thoughts of the later happiness of the five thousand persons. He could not bear to see them slander the Lotus Sutra and suffer the pain of falling into hell, and therefore he inspired them to withdraw from the assembly. It was like the case of a mother who knows that her child is sick but cannot bring herself to inflict suffering on the child, and therefore does not treat the child quickly with moxibustion. In the case of Bodhisattva Root of Joy, he was moved by pity. He did not mind that the person he was addressing would suffer pain for a time, but thought only of that person’s eventual happiness. Therefore he forced the person to listen to the Mahayana teachings. It was like the case of a pitying father who, seeing that his child is ill, is not deterred by the fact that the child may undergo temporary suffering but is concerned only for the child’s eventual welfare. Therefore he applies the treatment of moxibustion." -- Nichiren       

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