The Meditation Of The Lotus Sutra
By BIONA Director Stephen L. Klick
The meditation of the Lotus Sutra is a simple practice in this period of the law and yet the effects that the practitioner experiences can be quite profound. When you first begin the practice your life condition improves as you advance upwards through the ten world states. At first you remain in the higher realms only while you sit in front of the Gohonzon and then you return to whatever your normal life condition was before you began the practice.
It might seem that very little is going on other than the daily ritual of practice but subtle things are happening that you will not begin to understand or appreciate for some time. Gradually your life condition is being elevated into higher realms until those states become your "home base." You may become angry for example, but you will not long remain in the world of anger, you will quickly return to the higher realms as you establish a mind filled with peace and tranquility. If you actually do the practice, that is, chant daily, study Buddhism, and work to teach and benefit others then this growth process will continue.
It is important that we become familiar with the contents of "The Threefold Lotus Sutra" by continuous study of the text. It is also important to spread this teaching widely; you should find some method of obtaining and distributing copies of the Sutra to others.
If you do these things then you will directly experience the benefits predicted by the Buddha. While performing the Gongyo ceremony place a deep emphasis on repentance for your former misconduct, especially unskillful behavior that constituted slander of the law. Vow to develop great compassion for all sentient beings and follow through by engaging in activities that bring benefit to all people who honestly want to help themselves.
We all know what proper moral behavior is, so I won’t dwell on the obvious. However, I tell you that simply knowing is not enough. You must act on this knowledge! It’s fine to not steal but its even better to not steal while practicing openhanded generosity. It’s a really good idea not to slander others but its even better if you open your heart and praise the good things that others do, especially if you find it challenging to like the person in question.
I strongly urge other religious leaders in the world to stop taking money from people. Religion is not a business! This kind of behavior has made people deeply cynical about our motives and they are often not mistaken. If you want to preach to others find a way to support yourself first, and then accept money only under very controlled circumstances. BIONA does not accept money from students and there is absolutely nothing miraculous about our growth and survival. If you freely give to others you will always get back more than you give—this is so simple, and yet many people just don’t understand how it can be possible.
I speak to many different groups of people every year. A few years ago I was asked to address a small class at one of the local community colleges in our area. The teacher met me at the information desk so that I would be certain to find his classroom. As soon as I saw him, before he even opened his mouth, I could feel the negative karma rise up and almost physically assault me. I thought, "Hello, we meet again. Here is an old debt come back to demand repayment." So I resolved to be very patient and tolerant with what I assumed would be a highly unpleasant situation. Unfortunately, this proved to be the case. He was shockingly rude to someone he had asked to do him a favor and all the way back to his classroom, his attitude was mocking and disrespectful. I began to wonder what his class would be like, what would it do to a group of young people to be exposed to such a being on a regular basis—would they manifest the same life condition?
My question was soon answered. I spent almost one hour with this group and it was simple dreadful. Of course, under the circumstances, I could not preach dharma to them. We talked. Near the end of this discussion I mentioned that BIONA does not accept money from students, and the response was electric. Immediately they became very suspicious. How could we possibly survive? What were we really doing? Who was actually supporting us, and why?
To this day I am not sure what black deeds they concluded we were engaged in, but none of them believed that you could survive by simply giving. To them, if you gave but took nothing in return then you were clearly doomed. This attitude seems to be common in our society at present.
As unpleasant as some aspects of this particular speaking engagement could seem, I viewed the experience as a great success. Granted, the audience we normally speak to is usually more open minded and receptive, however, I did have the opportunity to plant the seed of the Great Law in the minds of these beings by explaining Nam Myoho Renge Kyo to them, thus assuring that they will advance spiritually sometime in the future.
I also paid a karmic debt that was clearly owed to these beings.
On some level my talk must have been engaging because we were invited back to talk two years later by the same teacher. Since we sent a different team of speakers I have no idea what kind of experience they had. I sincerely hope that it went well.
It is important that we cheerfully pay the karmic debts we owe to others. That is a big part of the repentance aspect of the meditation of "The Lotus Sutra." Another example of this kind of debt repayment happened to me at our local SGI community center. One senior leader decided that she disliked me and took every available opportunity of letting me know about it. On three different occasions I was asked to speak briefly to the community and this individual sat in the front of the audience and literally would not let me speak. She heckled me until I simply sat down.
I could have responded to this sad situation with hostility or anger but you can never experience an effect without creating the cause, and anyway, I give too many speeches as it is. If it bothers the mind of even one person for me to speak at the community center then I’ll simply give Dharma talks in other places.
If we live in this manner, repenting for our unskillful actions or slander every day during Dharma activities and practicing tolerance when others behave badly then we will directly experience the benefits promised to us in the concluding, or repentance teaching (The Sutra of the Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue,) in "The Threefold Lotus Sutra." When we are quietly reflecting our past misdeeds will appear before us and at this time we must deeply apologize for our bad conduct. This is not the time to rationalize or make excuses for our self! We must accept the mistakes we have made and truly repent for our errors. An important part of this repentance is to not engage in this kind of behavior again.
Another aspect of this repentance is the effort we make to engage in daily practice. This demonstrates that we recognize that we are sick, due to past bad behavior, and must therefore take our medicine every day if we are ever to recover mental and spiritual health.
Nichiren’s great wisdom and compassion made it possible for us to utilize the complex teachings found in "The Lotus Sutra" by simply chanting the mantra he taught us. When we combine this kind of practice with study of the Dharma and the desire to work for the sake of all sentient beings we are correctly engaged in the meditation of "The Lotus Sutra."