Introduction & Message of Scholar

Message of Scholar

Introduce the message sent to many people from around the world by the message of "The Lotus Sutra - A Message of Peace and Harmonious Coexistence" exhibition.

Daisaku Ikeda

Founder of the Institute of Oriental Philosophy
President of the Soka Gakkai International

Of all the Buddhist teachings, the Lotus Sutra has been the most widely disseminated and has captured the soul of the populace, proof of the scripture’s deep and encompassing religious significance and the force and simplicity with which this idea is set forth.
Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, sought out a vast “internal universe” within his own self, and in doing so, surmounted his inner self and expanded it until it became one with the great outer universe, the life force of the universe, which he understood as the Dharma or the Law of life.

When Shakyamuni attained enlightenment, his wisdom and compassion was directed toward the salvation of the people. This became embodied in the many Buddhist scriptures that adorn the history of the religion. Among these, the Lotus Sutra in particular represents an attempt to express and embody the Dharma to which Shakyamuni himself awakened, and it has been conspicuously embraced by the peoples of the East.

To help foster understanding between the civilizations of the East and West, I should like to examine the characteristics of the Lotus Sutra under three headings: 1. The Coexistence of All Forms of Life, 2. The Search for the Eternal, 3. The Movement to Create Peace
1. The Coexistence of All Forms of Life
This concept is first alluded to in the “Expedient Means” (2nd) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.

In this chapter, the Buddha, revealing the purpose for which he has appeared in the world, speaks of the “one great reason,” namely, “to open the door” to the Buddha wisdom, “to show” the Buddha wisdom, “to awaken” people to it and to cause them “to enter” it. What is referred to here as the Buddha wisdom is the wisdom that is embodied in and shines its light on the life force of the universe; according to Zhiyi, also called Tiantai, of China, it is synonymous with the term Buddha nature.

In the Lotus Sutra, it is clearly stated that persons traditionally regarded as inferior in capacity—of whom the most common representatives traditionally were persons of the two categories of voice-hearers and pratyekabuddhas (or self-awakened individuals) and women—are all in fact endowed with the Buddha wisdom as part of their inner nature. Thus, all categories such as ethnicity, gender, occupation or culture can be ignored; the Buddha nature is inherent in all people, and through its active realization all people are capable of setting out on the path toward happiness. The fact that all people regardless of any categorization are endowed as human beings with the possibility of living life to the fullest—this is what produces the possibility for a world culture of coexistence and harmony.

In “The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs” (5th) chapter of the sutra, this idea of coexistence and harmony is given expression through the idea of the harmonious coexistence of three kinds of medicinal herbs and two kinds of trees. These all differ in height and structure, but when the rain falls, they will take what they need to grow, depending upon their own particular requirements. The sky, and the rain which falls from it, represent the nourishment of the life force of the universe, which is the Buddha’s teaching and which nourishes the millions of creatures throughout the universe.
2. The Search for the Eternal
The section of the Lotus Sutra I would call “the search for the eternal” begins with the emergence of the treasure tower that is the subject of chapter 11, which bears that name.

In this chapter, a great treasure tower emerges from the earth, and Many Treasures, a Buddha who is seated in the tower from the past, testifies that all that Shakyamuni is preaching is correct.

Then, in the “Emerging from the Earth” (15th) chapter, the earth opens again and a huge host of bodhisattvas appear and salute the assembly. Bodhisattva Maitreya, voicing the concern of the assembly, asks who all these people are.

In the “Life Span of the Thus Come On” (16th) chapter that follows, Shakyamuni replies to Maitreya’s question, speaking about the eternal Buddha, and making clear his identity as the Buddha enlightened from time immemorial. The eternal Buddha is identical with the eternal Dharma; the Buddha who embodies the underlying rhythm of the universe. The “Life Span” chapter reveals the ever-present nature of the eternal Buddha, who appears in the world we inhabit for the salvation of all living beings, though the Buddha transcends the phenomenal domain with the constant cycle of life and death.
3. The Movement to Create Peace
The movement to create peace is revealed in the Lotus Sutra in the figures of the bodhisattvas who spring up from the earth, representations of the eternal life force of the universe, and the other bodhisattvas depicted in the final chapters of the sutra. These chapters describe Bodhisattva Medicine King, who specializes in medication and life-preserving concerns; Bodhisattva Wonderful Sound, who symbolizes artistic creation such as music; Bodhisattva Universal Worthy, who represents the qualities of learning and thought; and the bodhisattva known as Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, who is described as giving ear to all the troubles and distresses of the world’s population, hurrying to their aid to make them brave and fearless.

Of particular note because of his peaceful activities is the bodhisattva known as Never Disparaging. This name derives from his customary saying, “I have profound reverence for you, I would never treat you with disparagement or arrogance,” which he pronounces to all those he meets. It is representative of his attitude toward them, his respect for the Buddha nature inherent within them. He goes about simply bowing to people, as the sutra states, in this way paying honor to their inherent worth and integrity.

In this way the Lotus Sutra teaches that the Buddha nature is inherent in all living beings and can manifest itself in reality. Based on this intrinsic equality of all human beings, the concept of peaceful coexistence can be developed. While expounding the eternal Buddha and the eternal Dharma as the life force of the universe, the sutra describes how global citizens can contribute to the creation of world peace, symbolized by the special qualities and activities of the bodhisattvas appearing in it.
Excerpt from a message sent to the Opening Ceremony of "The Lotus Sutra - A Message of Peace and Harmonious Coexistence" exhibition held on April 28, 2009 in Spain