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Sessions

Defined by Emptiness: The Heart SutraTurning the Wheel of the Law: The Lotus SutraThe Heart of Compassion: The Lotus Sutra

Heart and Lotus Sutras/The Heart of Compassion: The Lotus Sutra

Meditation and Reading taken from The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra, translated by the Buddhist Text Translation Society
All other text is by Cynthia Stewart

For a historical introduction to this sacred text, see Leader Resource 1 - Historical Introduction -
Today's Themes

The Lotus Sutra is a complex work, but one of the main motifs running through it is that of expedient means. The Buddha, we are told, will use any means at hand to open people’s eyes to truth and to help them along the path, including what some people might call trickery. The intent is not to fool people but to meet them where they are and speak a language they can hear, until they are able to comprehend deeper vibrations and higher truths. A father, trying to get his children to leave a burning building, will promise them that their favorite toys are just outside, but when the children run out they find not the toys they expected but something better and richer than they ever imagined. Likewise, the purpose of the delightful city conjured by the trip leader in today’s reading is ultimately to encourage the travelers to keep going beyond it.

If scientific fact is the ultimate arbiter of action, then these actions are trickery and lies; if the ultimate judge is compassion for all living beings, then they are acts of love. Honesty is not always the best policy because honesty, being nothing more than perception, is just as limited as are lies; the only goal, the only thing that is not limited, is truth, and whatever moves us toward it is in the service of good.

Words used in this session:
Dharma – teachings of the true nature of things
yogana – a unit of measure equal to a day’s march

Call To Worship

In the torrents of change,
in the stillness of possibility,
ever we are called onward.
The next step, the farther reach,
the path beyond our comfort and chosen limitations –
these lie always before us,
whether or not we choose to see.
In our gathering together,
may we each find the courage
to travel farther down the road that lies ahead.

Meditation

The Buddha speaks equally,
Like the rain of a single flavor.
According to living beings’ natures
They receive it differently…
The Buddha uses this analogy
To instruct expediently.
With various phrases, he
Expounds and proclaims a single Dharma…

The Dharma of all the Buddhas
Is always of a single taste.
It causes all the world
To attain perfection.
Through its gradual cultivation
All attain the fruits of the Way.

            Lotus Sutra, Chapter 5
            (Buddhist Text Translation Society translation)

Reading

The Parable of the Phantom City

[Imagine] a road, five hundred yojanas long, steep, dangerous and bad, an uninhabited and terrifying place. A large group of people wish to travel this road to reach a cache of precious jewels. Among them, there is a guide, intelligent, wise and clear-headed, who knows the road well, both its passable and impassable features, and who wishes to lead the group through this hardship.

Midway, the group he is leading grows weary and wishes to turn back. They say to the guide, “We are exhausted and afraid. We cannot go forward. It’s too far. We want to turn back now.”

Their leader, who has many expedients, has this thought; “How pitiful they are. How can they renounce the great and precious treasure and wish to turn back?” Having had this thought, through the power of his expedient devices, he transforms a city in the center of the dangerous road, three hundred yojanas in extent, and says to them, “Do not be afraid. Do not turn back. Stay here now in this great city I have created just for you. If you go into this city, you will be happy and at peace. If you then wish to proceed to the jewel cache, you may do so.”

Then the exhausted group rejoices greatly, having gained what they had never had. “We have now escaped this bad road and gained happiness and peace.” Then the group goes forward and enters the transformed city; thinking that they have already been saved, they feel happy and at peace.

At that time, the guide, knowing that they are rested and no longer weary, makes the city disappear, saying to them, “All of you, come, let us go. The jewel cache is near. The great city was merely something I created from transformation to give you a rest.”

            Lotus Sutra, Chapter 7
            (Buddhist Text Translation Society translation)

Benediction

May you find the rare treasure you seek, but may your eyes not be so blinded by treasure that you cannot see truth.

May you experience comfort on the way, but may your arms not be so laden with comfort that you cannot lift a hand to help others.

With eyes of truth and hands of service, go now into the world.