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Friday, November 23, 2018

Paying Respect To Everyone by Coemgenu

Ideally, IMO, ‘you’ (and this is a rhetorical ‘you’ rather than a personal ‘you’) ought to be bowing (or whatever other means of respect is culturally normative) and paying respect to everyone, regardless of if X or Y person teaches right, teaches wrong, even acts right, acts wrong, etc.

There is a bodhisattva in the Lotus Sūtra named 常不輕 (Cháng Bùqīng, Jōkufyō, Sadāparibhūta, ‘Never Disparaging’). This bodhisattva might or might not be based on a real figure, as little fantastical or mythic elaboration is given to him in the text, and the chapter (20 in the Kumārajīva recension, used in East Asia, and the basis of most English translations of the LS, and 19 in the Sanskritic Nepalese recension) it believed by some to have circulated as an independent text, much like the Tathāgatāyuṣpramāṇaparivarta (Ch 16/15), before being incorporated into the latter ending sections of the LS.

Within, the mythologically attested Śākyamunibuddha tells of this great bodhisattva, and his profound practice:
This bhikṣu, to all there were to see, whether bhikṣu, bhikṣuṇī, upāsaka, upāsikā,
to all obediently bowed in praise and said:
‘I deeply revere you all, never daring to disparage any. Why is this? You all, each and every, tread the bodhisattva path, and will attain Buddhahood’
The Lotus Sūtra is mythological in nature, and not everything that is contained within it, needless to say, fits with the dispensation as attested to in the early Buddhist texts. But if we approach this more neutrally, not as “fake Buddhavacana” or “heretic literature” (and this involves ignoring a lot of the polemics against the old, historical, dispensation, śrāvakayāna, in the text, a hefty feat indeed!), and see it simply as “devotional literature”, that IMO this is one of the most universal and profound devotional practices in the text.

The practice of Sadāparibhūtabodhisattva is presented in the LS as a brief string of twenty-four characters:


The founder of the school of Buddhism upon which SGI finds its foundations, Venerable Nichiren, a thirteenth century Japanese Taimitsu priest (whom some have not-unwarrantedly characterized as a fire-and-brimstone street preacher) whose Buddhist education was in the Tendai curriculum of his time, directly commented on the fable of the practice of the Bodhisattva Never Disparaging.

In his writing, ‘On the Buddha’s Prophecy’, he says this of the 24 characters associated with Sadāparibhūtabodhisattva’s practice:

The twenty-four characters of Never
Disparaging and the five characters of Nichiren are different in wording, but accord with the same principle. […] Bodhisattva Never Disparaging was a practitioner at the initial stage of rejoicing; Nichiren is an ordinary practitioner at the stage of hearing the name and words of the truth
(WND I:43)

The ‘five characters of Nichiren’ spoken of above are:


This is the Chinese title of the Lotus Sūtra. With 南無 (namu, namaḥ, ‘[I] bow’) preceeding it, this metaphysical universal concept expressed as a mantra is the chief practice of the Nichiren-derived schools of latter Mahāyāna Buddhism (which in turn are related to the larger movement of ‘New Kamakura [single-practice] schools’, like Jōdo Shinshū). This is what Nichiren Buddhists are saying when they chant ‘Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō’.

It is a heavily conceptual chanting practice, the practice of which is likely somewhat at odds with the fetter of reliance on ritual in śrāvaka (sīlabbataparāmāso, Kv3.5, etc) & earlier bodhisattva Buddhism alike.

But, objections to the stress on what is essentially a chanting ritual aside, if we look at the above gosho (御書, ‘honoured writing’) and take it at face value, the ōdaimoku (お題目, ‘[practice of the] honoured title’) of Ven Nichiren is to be in accordance with the principle of the words of Sadāparibhūtabodhisattva:
I deeply revere you all, never daring to disparage any. Why is this? You all, each and every, tread the bodhisattva path, and will attain Buddhahood
How to realize such a practice? Universal reverence. A difficult task.

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