In Buddhism, there are many different Buddhas, such as Sakyamuni, Amitatabha, and Maha Vairocana (Dai-Nichi) to name a few. Many other Buddhas appear as past Buddhas in the Lotus Sutra. Chapter Two of the sutra says, "All of the Buddhas appeared in this world to open the gate.. to show.. to obtain.. and to enter the way into the insight of the Buddha."
Buddha Sakyamuni says in the Sutra of the Innumerable Meaning, which is the prelude to the Lotus Sutra, "In forty years and more, the truth has not been revealed yet," even though the Buddha revealed 84,000 teachings.
Why did Sakyamuni Buddha not reveal the truth at first? It was because nobody understood what He was trying to say. It was an era in which people were physically and mentally weak and polluted. The caste system was strongly emphasized, and one's fate was determined by one's birth, and one's fate could not be changed or improved at that time in India. The nobles and ordinary people were fine with this system; however, the women, slaves, and people who were considered non-human beings were never able to get out of this hell. We in the present cannot imagine how strict and discriminatory the society was.
The Buddha wished to speak up, "Everyone is equal and able to become a Buddha!" However, nobody would believe Him or listen to Him in this caste system society. Thereupon the Buddha said, "Listen well to my words and get away from your worries and illusions!" This teaching was for the people in the Shomon (Sravaka-hood) Vehicle. They exerted themselves to listen to the Buddha and to attain the Universal Truth. So they were more like students who learned under their teachers.
When they advanced in their studies, the Buddha said, "Listening to me was not enough, you must learn the Truth by yourselves through your own experiences." These people are part of the Engaku (Pratyekabuddha-hood) Vehicle. They learned by themselves without their teachers.
When they advanced some more, the Buddha said to the both groups, "It is not true salvation to seek just your own enlightenment! You must save others from suffering, and then you will reach real Buddhahood." This last group is part of the Bosatsu (Bodhisattvas) Vehicle.
Thus, the Buddha revealed the three different levels of vehicles. In other words, the Buddha taught at first that the two vehicles of Shomon and Engaku were not able to become Buddhas. This teaching was appropriate in the society of the strict cast system in India. It took 42 years for Him to reverse the truth, "Everyone is able to become Buddha."
By the way, Chapter Two of the Lotus Sutra says, "All the Buddhas in the past expounded various teachings to all living beings with innumerable expedients. Only for the purpose of revealing the One Buddha-Vehicle" or "Everyone is able to become Buddha.." "The living beings in that kalpa are so full of illusions, so greedy, and so jealous that they plant many roots of evil. Therefore, the Buddhas divided the One Buddha-Vehicle into three as an expedient."
With the teaching of the One Vehicle, they obtained the knowledge of the equality that everyone was able to become a Buddha even though they held various stations such as priests, nobles, merchants, slaves and non-human beings. It further states that those who offer flowers to a Buddha statue, who offer incense to a Buddhist monument, who erect a stupa, or who, by playing, draw a picture of the Buddha or chant "Namu Buddha" just once have already attained the enlightenment of the Buddha.
Thus, the sole reason for which the Buddhas have appeared in the world was to reveal that everyone was able to equally become Buddhas regardless of one's race, status, sex or background. The Lotus Sutra teaches that all living beings are equal because they are able to become Buddhas someday.
What is the reason why you were born in this world?
Last Updated on Thursday, 03 September 2009 01:08