The Lotus Sutra and Ekayana Buddhism
What is the Lotus Sutra?
The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, popularly known as the Lotus Sutra, is revered by millions of Buddhists as containing the core and culmination of the Buddha’s teaching.
The Lotus Sutra consists of a series of lectures by Shakyamuni Buddha given toward the end of his forty years of teaching.
At the heart of the sutra are three major concepts of Mahayana Buddhism:
1. All beings can attain Perfect Enlightenment.
2. The Buddha energy/consciousness is eternal, having existed from the infinite past and appearing in many forms throughout the ages to guide and support people for the fulfillment of their lives.
3. The noblest form of Buddhist practice is the way of the Bodhisattvas, those who devote themselves to attaining enlightenment not only for themselves but for all beings.
The lotus flower is special to us because it is rooted in muddy water yet grows and opens to be a pure and beautiful flower. This is true of humankind as well. We have the capability to acknowledge our existence in this chaotic world and by study and practice of the path; we can grow and blossom into compassionate human beings with perfect freedom of mind.
Why the Lotus Sutra Now?
In America today, we are materially richer than we have ever been, yet spiritually poorer than we have ever been. With our focus being on material gain, many of us have not fed our spiritual side, and we are now seeing the effects of that way of living. We have plenty of “stuff," but we are not necessarily happy.
Buddhism can help us regain our balance in both our physical and spiritual needs. It teaches us a new perspective that relieves the suffering that occurs during our lifetime.
- The Lotus Sutra teaches the importance of acknowledging our own buddha-nature and the buddha-nature in others, thus giving us the heart-to-heart connection that we need so much in today's world.
- The Lotus Sutra (Ekayana Buddhism – “One Vehicle”) unifies all spiritual paths as ways to Enlightenment, and empowers us to lead more creative lives by developing a flexible mind.
- The Lotus Sutra positively expresses the “Truth of Emptiness” found in the teachings. Instead of a reductionist view, we now see it as “Oneness” – empty of “separate” self.
- The Lotus Sutra integrates the cosmos and the world, acknowledging the Eternal/Universal existence while promoting daily living in harmony with Universal Truth.
What is Ekayana Buddhism?
Ekayana in the context of the Lotus Sutra, is the recognition of the three vehicles (sravaka, pratyekabuddha, bodhisattva) as truly all being "One Vehicle” on the path to Enlightenment. This is both a very unifying viewpoint and a reinforcement of the importance of appropriate teaching methods for the variety of practitioners we find in the world.
In regard to this One Buddha Vehicle, Nikkyo Niwano wrote, “All teachings lead all beings to the state of Buddha. It may seem like there are two or three different teachings, however, they are all skillful means of the Buddha meant to guide people according to their level of understanding. In reality, there is only one vehicle.”
Where can the nature of Ekayana Buddhism be found in Rissho Kosei-kai?
- Our Path is inclusive, welcoming all to study and practice.
- We celebrate the diversity found within the human family and at the same time, we acknowledge our interconnectedness.
- We study and practice Ekayana Buddhism (One Vehicle) by which we respect all spiritual traditions and acknowledge them as tactful methods to achieve Enlightenment.
- We promote inquiry as a part of our spiritual path while teaching core Buddhist concepts combined with the wisdom of the Lotus Sutra.
- We work to establish interfaith relationships that are not just intellectually based, but that create a deep human connection with others.
- We recognize the buddha-nature in all, and practice the bodhisattva way to be of benefit in the world.
- We practice hoza (circle of compassion) in which we learn to see Universal Truth at work within the struggles of our daily lives. It gives us the opportunity to practice applying the Buddha Dharma, along with the support of the Sangha.
- Chanting the Lotus Sutra is: an expression of gratitude; a purification for the mind, mouth, and body; a gift of service to all beings; and a way to connect with the Eternal Truth.
- We study and practice the Enlightenment teachings for our own personal growth and to support others on their Path.