Some Shunryu Suzuki lectures on the Lotus Sutra weren't included in the
Here's a minimally edited version of the second of six that were given at
Tassajara in the late winter of 1968. - Thanks to Brian Fikes for doing this
work over 20 years ago.
Index for these six lectures
Sutra No. 4
Zen Mountain Center
"Now, young men of
good family, long before the time of that Tathagata
Kandrasuryapradipa, the Arhat, perfectly enlightened one, there had
appeared a Tathagata, perfectly enlightened one, likewise called
Kandrasuryapradipa, after whom, O Ajita, there were twenty thousand
Tathagatas, perfectly enlightened, all of them bearing the name of
Kandrasuryapradipa, of the same lineage and family name, to wit, of
Bharadvaga. All those twenty thousand Tathagatas, O Agita, from the
first to the last, showed the law, revealed the course which is holy at
its commencement, holy in its middle, holy at the end."
This teaching wasn't
new. Even before Buddha started to tell the Lotus Sutra,
Kandrasuryapradipa appeared and told the same teaching. And one after
another, Kandrasuryapradipa Buddhas appeared in the same name and left
the same teaching. That is what Manjusri saw, actually, in his previous
life. This is your homework. What does it mean? You may wonder if this
is just a fairy tale or if it means something. This is, I think, good
homework for you. And if you want to ask this on the final day of the
training period, during question and answer, you can ask me. Be careful
not to get a big slap, okay? What does it mean? One after another,
Buddhas appeared in the same name, Kandrasuryapradipa, and told the
same Saddharma‑Pundarika Sutra.
"The aforesaid Lord
Kandrasuryapradipa, the Tahtagata, the perfectly enlightened one, when
a young prince and not yet having left home (to embrace the ascetic
life), had eight sons, viz. the young princes Sumati, Anantamati,
Ratnamati, Viseshamati, Vimatisamudghatin, Ghoshamati, and
Dharmamati. These eight young princes, Ajita, sons to the Lord
Kandrasuryapradipa, the Tathagata, had an immense fortune. Each of
them was in possession of four great continents, where they exercised
the kingly sway. When they saw that the Lord had left his home to become
an ascetic, and heard that he had attained supreme, perfect
enlightenment, they forsook all of them the pleasures of royalty and
followed the example of the Lord by resigning the world; all of them
strove to reach superior enlightenment and became preachers of the law.
While constantly leading a holy life, those young princes planted roots
of goodness under many thousands of Buddhas."
Bodhisattva, when he was at home, before he became an ascetic, had eight
sons. When they heard that their father attained enlightenment and was
giving the supreme teaching, they followed their father's way. They
also attained enlightenment and gave the supreme teaching.
The next part is
exactly the same as page 6, second paragraph, except the name is
different. So it may not be necessary to read it, but:
"It was at that
time, Ajita, that the Lord, Kandrasuryapradipa, the Tathagata,
perfectly enlightened one, after expounding the Dharmaparyaya called
'the Great Exposition,' a text of great extension, serving to instruct
Bodhisattvas and proper to all Buddhas, at the same moment and instant,
at the same gathering of the classes of hearers, sat cross‑legged on
the same seat of the law, and entered upon the meditation termed 'the
Station of the exposition of Infinity;' his body was motionless, and
his mind had reached perfect tranquility. And as soon as the Lord had
entered upon the meditation, there fell a great rain of divine flowers,
Mandaravas and great Mandaravas, Manjushakas and great Manjushakas,
covering the Lord and the four classes of hearers, while the whole
Buddha‑field shook in six ways; it moved, removed, trembled, trembled
from one end to the other, tossed, tossed along.
"Then did those who
were assembled and sitting together at that congregation, monks, nuns,
male and female lay devotees, gods, Nagas, goblins, Gandharvas, demons,
Garudas, Kinnaras, great serpents, men and beings not human, as well as
governors of a region, rulers of armies and rulers of four continents,
all of them with their followers gaze on the Lord in astonishment, in
amazement, in ecstasy.
"And at that moment
there issued a ray from within the circle of hair between the eyebrows
of the Lord. It extended over eighteen hundred thousand Buddha‑fields
in the eastern quarter, so that all those Buddha‑fields appeared wholly
illuminated by its radiance, just like the Buddha‑fields do now, O
The same thing
happened then as is happening now, O Ajita, he says.
"At that juncture,
Ajita, there were twenty kotis of Bodhisattvas following the Lord. All
hearers of the law in that assembly, on seeing how the world was
illuminated by the lustre of that ray, felt astonishment, amazement,
ecstasy, and curiosity.
"Now it happened,
Ajita, that under the rule of the aforesaid Lord there was a Bodhisattva
called Varaprabha, who had eight hundred pupils. It was to this
Bodhisattva Varaprabha that the Lord, on rising from his meditation,
revealed the Dharmaparyaya called 'the Lotus of the True Law.'"
Here at last appears
the name of the Sutra.
"He spoke during
fully sixty intermediate kalpas, always sitting on the same seat with
the immovable body and tranquil mind. And the whole assembly continued
sitting on the same seats, listening to the preaching of the Lord for
sixty intermediate kalpas, there being not a single creature in that
assembly who felt fatigue of body or mind."
A great difference
from my lecture! What does it mean, by the way? Do you understand what
"As the Lord
Kandrasuryapradipa, the Tathagata, the perfectly enlightened one,
during sixty intermediate kalpas had been expounding the Dharmaparyaya
called 'the Lotus of the True Law', a text of great development, serving
to instruct Bodhisattvas and proper to all Buddhas, he instantly
announced his complete Nirvana to the world, including the gods, Maras
and Brahmas, to all creatures, including ascetics, Brahmans, gods, men
and demons, saying: Today, O monks, this very night, in the middle
watch, will the Tathagata, by entering the element of absolute nirvana,
become wholly extinct."
Kanrasuryapradipa gave out this Lotus Sutra, he announced his
Nirvana. Before he took Nirvana, he appointed his successor.
the Lord Kandrasuryapradipa, the Tathagata, the perfectly enlightened
one, predestinated the Bodhisattva called Srigarbha to supreme, perfect
enlightenment, and then spoke thus to the whole assembly: O monks, this
Bodhisattva Srigarbha here shall immediately after me attain supreme,
perfect enlightenment, and become Vimalanetra, the Tathagata, the
perfectly enlightened one."
So he appointed
Srigarbha Bodhisattva to be his successor, and said his name should be
Vimalanetra. To assure someone's enlightenment in the future like this
is called juki in Japanese. In the Shobogenzo there is a
fascicle called Juki, where Dogen explains in his own way what
juki is. He also gives his interpretation of this sutra in
another chapter called Turn the Lotus Sutra. Juki in
Sanskrit is vyakarana. Vy and a are prefixes, and
kar means to divide. If there was a question and answer part of a
scripture, this part was called vyacarana. Later it meant to give
some title to a disciple, tell when he would attain enlightenment, or
tell where he would be born after this life. Especially this kind of
description is called juki or vyakarana. Here Buddha gave
Srigarbha Bodhisattva the name of Vimalanetra and said he will attain
enlightenment and will be his successor.
And here it says
this sutra was continued by Kandrasuryapradipa for sixty intermediate
kalpas of time. An intermediate kalpa is a unit of time,
actually. There are many ways of explaining how long one kalpa
is. It is so long that no one knows. Buddhists think that in the past
human beings lived to a limitless age. We didn't die at ninety or one
hundred; we had limitless age. But we became busier and busier in this
life, and our life became shorter and shorter, until the average life
became ten years. That took one kalpa. So we don't know how long
it is. Since human life was limitless, this is an almost limitless unit
of time. And after our lifespan comes to ten years, it will increase
little by little. We will be around. There will be no human nature when
that happens to us. We will think more and improve our way of life. By
this kind of effort, our lifespan will be extended more and more until
it reaches eighty‑thousand years. When it reaches eighty‑thousand years,
as we are human beings, we will become lazier and lazier, inventing
airplanes and mechanical things. And we will lose our life, our
lifespan will become shorter and shorter until it comes to ten years.
This is also one kalpa. The first kalpa of this cycle is
the time it takes our life spans to change from limitless to ten years.
We will repeat the same increasing and decreasing of our lifespan over
and over, eighteen times.
The last kalpa
will be when everything will go, including human life. Juko is
the name for the kalpas when everything existed pretty firmly,
without losing its form, and eko [samvarta‑kalpa] means
the time at the end of juko when everything will disintegrate.
Integrated age and disintegrated age. An integrated age is twenty
kalpas long, and one kalpa is our lifespan going up and down,
from ten to eighty‑thousand.
Will there still be Buddha after the disintegration?
There is a koan which is exactly the same as your question.
What is the answer to the koan?
That is also a koan, so this is your homework. Interesting question.
I didn't understand. I thought you just said that they can go eighteen
times up and down from ten to eighty thousand, which is eighteen
kalpas, and then there's disintegration and the whole thing's over.
So how can they talk about twenty intermediate kalpas or other
numbers of kalpas they give as examples which go way over
It is explained as just eighteen kalpas. A kalpa is
already innumerable, but even so it means some length of time. Eighteen
or twenty of those lengths of time is a juko, or integrated
The footnote [see below] said that a kalpa was half an hour.
[There was lots of laughter during this section.]
In the book it says so.
It doesn't say so. It is....
It says in Sanskrit a lot of intermediate kalpas, and it says in
the footnote that it's an afternoon.
No, I don't think so. Where is it?
It's just the translator. He's not a Buddhist.
No, no, no, he is.... I don't know where it is, but....
I think there was a piece of symbolism, on....
[Footnote #5 on p.
xxvi of Kern's Saddharma-Pundarika says: "One intermediate
kalpa is, in the system, equal to 8 yugas. As 4 yugas
number 4,320,000 years, it follows that the pause (of 50 intermediate
kalpas) lasted 432 millions of years. Esoterically, kalpa
has certainly denoted a short interval of time, but even if we take the
'intermediate kalpa' to mean, in reality a lapse of time equal to
a few hours the pause would not refer to an historical event.]
And this is just one of many ideas of kalpas. Did I explain
another way of understanding one kalpa? There is a big rock,
like Tassajara. And every five hundred years, maybe, or more, an angel
comes to the rock, and she makes her sleeve rub off some stone. When
that stone has vanished from the angel's sleeve rubbing it, it is one
kalpa. So there are many ways of explaining what one kalpa
But here it is
specifically an intermediate kalpa, so I must follow this idea of
intermediate. Maybe what you are saying is immediately, and they repeat
the same thing. So that is the explanation to it [the half hour kalpa?].
I think I will come to that sentence or clause.
that very night, at that very watch, the Lord Kandrasuryapradipa, the
Tathagata, the perfectly enlightened one, became extinct by entering the
element of absolute Nirvana. And the aforementioned Dharmaparyaya,
termed 'the Lotus of the True Law,' was kept in memory by the
Bodhisattva Mahasattva Varaprabha; during eighty intermediate kalpas
did the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Varaprabha keep and reveal the
commandment of the Lord who had entered Nirvana. Now it so happened,
Ajita, that the eight sons of the Lord Kandrasuryapradipa, the Mati
and the rest, were pupils to that very Bodhisattva Varaprabha. They
were by him made ripe for supreme, perfect enlightenment, and in after
times they saw and worshipped many hundred thousand myriads of kotis of
Buddhas, all of whom had attained supreme, perfect enlightenment, the
last of them being Dipankara, the Tathagata, the perfectly enlightened
Dipankara. Usually, as you know, Dipankara Bodhisattva is the oldest of
all the Bodhisattvas. But according to this sutra, even before
Dipankara there were so many Bodhisattvas, like Srigarba, whose
enlightened name is Vimalanetra, or like Varaprabha, or
Kandrasuryapradipa. And what does this mean? Actually, there is no
first bodhisattva. Actually, everyone is a bodhisattva. This sutra
suggests this kind of teaching.
"Amongst those eight
pupils there was one Bodhisattva who attached an extreme value to gain,
honour and praise, and was fond of glory, but all the words and letters
one taught him faded (from his memory), did not stick. So he got the
appellation of Yasaskama. (Desirous of Glory) He had propitiated many
hundred thousand myriads of kotis of Buddhas by that root of goodness,"
‑‑ Even so, he served many buddhas, and planted good roots. ‑‑ "...and
afterwards esteemed, honoured, respected, revered, venerated,
worshipped them. Perhaps, Ajita, thou feelest some doubt, perplexity or
misgiving that in those days, at that time, there was another
Bodhisattva Mahasattva Varaprabha, preacher of the law. But do not
think so. Why? Because it is myself who in those days, at that time, was
the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Varaprabha, preacher of the law; and that
Bodhisattva named Yasaskama, the lazy one, it is thyself, Ajita,..."
Maitreya was once
lazy, you know. He was the bodhisattva named 'Desirous of Glory' or
"...it is thyself,
Ajita, who in those days, at that time, wert the Bodhisattva named
Yasaskama, the lazy one. And so, Ajita, having once seen a similar
foretoken of the Lord, I infer from a similar ray being emitted just
now, that the Lord is about to expound the Dharmaparyaya called 'the
Lotus of the True Law.'
"And on that
occasion, in order to treat the subject more copiously, Manjusri, the
prince royal, uttered the following stanzas:"
Manjusri said the
same thing again, except in the form of stanzas or gathas. There
is some difference between the prose part and the gatha part, but
they are nearly the same, and there will be no need to repeat it. But I
want you to read it. This is also your homework.
I want to point out
something important. Several people don't know. In the prose section, on
page 22, the last paragraph, it says, "Amongst those eight pupils there
was one Bodhisattva who attached an extreme value to gain, honour and
praise,..." This part needs some explanation. The Sanskrit word
translated as "praise" here is jnati [jnatra?]. Jnati
means many things. Sometimes it means to try to be protected by one's
kinsmen or family. For instance, a wife and husband are usually very
intimate, so they help each other. That is alright, but then sometimes
he or she cannot be fair to everyone, and this is not so good. In this
way many things will happen.
interpretation of this word is some talent, or sagacity, or
studiousness, or witty‑mindedness, or cleverness with the hands, or
cleverness in doing things. This also may create some trouble for the
community or society. In gatha 90 the same thing is repeated, but here
it is translated differently: "Among the pupils of Varaprabha, the son
of Jina, at the time of his teaching the law, was one slothful,
covetous, greedy of gain and cleverness." Here jnati is
translated as "cleverness", and in the prose part the same word is
translated as "praise". If the original word is jnati, it means
"getting protection from his kinsmen". The Sanskrit for "cleverness"
should be another word.
Anyway, both are
very subtle points about which we should be very careful. There are
similar instances in many scriptures. In the Dharmapada it says
that, for the fool, cleverness will invite loss, and it will destroy his
happiness, or merit, or it will cut off his head. In the explanation in
Pali there is a parable. There was a man who was good at hitting
something with a stone, and because of this art, he won a big prize.
Someone was watching and studied how to do this, but then he was killed
by hitting something with a stone. In another sutra it says, "If a
clever heretic studies, he will lose his life, but a clever Buddhist
will gain from his cleverness." This kind of story is found all over.
Shobogenzo, Dogen Zenji says that whether one is clever or dull
doesn't matter. If we practice zazen, we will get the same attainment.
This is Buddhist understanding, or a Buddhist idea, of human
character. This point should always be remembered, especially by the
intelligent ones. When the clever ones do not help others, the Sangha
will be destroyed. Only when clever and talented people help others will
the Sangha last long. This is our teaching.
between the prose and gatha parts is that in gatha #87 it
says, "He had eight hundred pupils, who all of them were by him
brought to full development. They saw many kotis of Buddhas, great
sages, whom they worshipped." In the prose part it says "eight
disciples who were the sons of Kandrasuryapradipa." It says eight
sons, or eight pupils, instead of eight hundred pupils. Scholars say
"eight hundred pupils" may be right, and when the prose part was added,
it was put in a more interesting way, but no one knows.
Wasn't there something you read in the prose part about a Bodhisattva
who had eight hundred pupils?
No. You noticed that from a different part: "Now it happened, Ajita,
that under the rule of the aforesaid Lord there was a Bodhisattva
called Varaprabha, who had eight hundred pupils. It was to this
Bodhisattva Varaprabha that the Lord, on rising from his meditation,
revealed the Dharmaparyaya called 'the Lotus of the True Law.'" What
I mean is this part: "The aforesaid Lord Kandrasuryapradipa, the
Tathagata, the perfectly enlightened one, when a young prince and not
yet having left home, had eight sons, namely, (so and so)..." This
part corresponds to gatha #87. The Chinese rendering translated
by Kumaragiva says, "He had eight pupils," meaning Vimalanetra,
not Kandrasuryapradipa. Those eight sons became this bodhisattva's
disciples. Do you understand?
Roshi, what is the meaning of their leaving home just because their
father became a monk?
after their householder's life was finished, they went in the aranya
or forest and practiced the religious way. That was their custom.
Everyone did so.
The sons go too, if their father goes?
That was an exception, maybe, like Buddha. When Buddha attained
enlightenment, his son and his father and his mother‑in‑law and aunt,
who raised him, joined his order.
I thought it should have a deep meaning. [?]
This is figurative, and it is because he was so great; he was an
exception. But usually even laymen left their homes and practiced their
way in the forest with many people who had finished their household
life. That was their custom. They are very religious people.
I am supposed to
finish this lecture by tonight, but maybe there are too many things to
say. This is not such an easy study, because it is very complicated.
Many scholars are still continuously studying it, and, day by day, the
meaning of this sutra becomes clearer and clearer. So it is rather
difficult to make it absolutely clear. What I said won't be absolutely
right; there must be many mistakes, naturally.
Thank you very
checked, transcribed, and edited by Brian Fikes.
Old file name 68-02-LS.4
Prepared for digital archive by DC 9-12