“The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states, “The offense of uttering even a single derogatory word against the priests or laity who believe in and preach the Lotus Sutra is even graver than that of abusing Shakyamuni Buddha to his face for an entire kalpa.” (Chapter 10 LS) The Lotus Sutra also states, “[If anyone shall see a person who embraces this sutra and try to expose the faults or evils of that person, he will in the present age be afflicted with white leprosy,] whether what he speaks is the truth or not.” (Chapter 28 LS)
The Fourteen Slanders WND

White leprosy
Vitiligo: Pronounced vit-uh-LIE- go. A condition in which the skin turns white due to the loss of melanocytes.
As the skin gradually loses its color, patch by patch, other people may treat someone with vitiligo like a leper, thinking they have a contagious skin disease. In fact, vitiligo is called “white leprosy” in India. Women with it are often discriminated against in marriage. If they develop vitiligo after marriage, it can be grounds for divorce.

“Information is not just an abstract concept, and it is not just facts or figures, dates and names. It is a concrete property of matter and energy that is quantifiable and measurable…And everything in the universe must obey the laws of information, because everything in the universe is shaped by the information it contains.”
Decoding The Universe, Charles Seife

What Now?

I’ve reached a point in my skeptical Buddhist practice where instead of nodding in approval, or worse nodding in approval after being cajoled to nod in approval, I do not. I guess I have been priming myself these last ten years or so to make myself aware when I have either been lazy in accepting a given notion or actually looking for that which confirms what I already believe or want to believe regardless of a lack of reason or evidence to the contrary.

Print The Legend

Some Christians in this country will point at our national motto IN GOD WE TRUST as proof that our nation was founded upon Christian ideals. After all, it’s been on our coinage since the 1860’s, on our paper money since 1957 and the phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge Of Allegiance that same year mostly as a reaction to conflicts with the threat of worldwide domination from godless communism. The US Supreme Court interprets these references to GOD as losing any contextual significance and is not in conflict with the US Constitution as to not establishing a state church. I wonder how they would feel about the phrase GOD IS GREAT on a nickel?

Ask most devoted Christians about Jesus and they will tell you that they have put their trust and their eternal salvation in his divine hands and that the Holy Bible is the WORD of GOD. Although I doubt that most of them have read the whole bible. And even if they have, they mostly cherry pick out what they agree to believe in. Most Christians have little information about the origins of their religion or it’s relationship to paganism. Nor how much scholarly investigation has cast doubtful shadows over how much of Christian lore is valid or apocryphal. That kind of information really gets in the way of belief.

From the time the man know as Jesus supposedly preach his teachings, was crucified on the cross, came back to life and ascended into heaven, there is a gap of about four decades or more before the gospels, starting with Mark along with the derivative Mathew, Luke and John, were written. A man known as Saul who became Paul had a spiritual revelation where the Lord came to him and commanded him to start spreading the word of Jesus Christ. Except in all the letters of Paul, which is the bases for the Christian religion, he doesn’t mention any of the stories we commonly associate with Jesus: the Virgin Mary, Herod, John The Baptist, wise men, miracles, or anything that Jesus supposedly said. He only speaks of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. And all this writing by Paul depicts Jesus not as a real person, but in a mythical realm. And he’s the link between the disappearance of Jesus and the writing of the gospels, the start of the Christian religion. The compilation of the scriptures of the bible took centuries. And there was plenty of time to add, subtract, adjust and justify what was said, when and by whom. In other words, a whole lot of redaction.

One of my favorite movie westerns is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. For my money, the story is timeless, and I have seen variations on its’ theme from many cultures. There are also about a zillion lines in it that are quotable, if you know what I mean Pilgrim. Almost at the end of the movie we hear a statement about the truth of an event that changed the lives of everyone. It’s an interesting comment on the human condition regardless of culture:

“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”.

The Buddha Wasn’t A Buddhist

It’s not much different with Buddhism as it was with Christianity. But let’s work backwards. I have to admire Nichiren for at least trying to distill what he had to work with. Even if the Kumarajiva translation is the best, it is information orally transmitted  400-450 years after the fact before being written down. Even so, schisms arose as to what was to be written as to meaning even then.

One of my all time favorite shows was called Connections, by James Burke. In one episode he relates that in England people would be called upon to give their version of situations so as to reach a conclusion about one thing or another. This was all done verbally and the term “a hearing” is derived from the fact that since a select few could read and write during the middle ages, the system of government relied upon the verbal recollection of the populace. It was important to hear what they had to say to get a consensus to form a judgment. Apparently we were much better at it then than we are now because it was a valuable mental tool that was exercised by everyone because of necessity. I can imagine that like in the novel Fahrenheit 451 where in the dystopian future books are burned and individual people memorized them and became the living repository of a certain book, disciples of the Buddha would become a living sutra. The Chinese whisper game, or telephone as it is sometimes called, where each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next, is a testament to cumulative error, especially the inaccuracies as rumors or gossip spread, or, more generally, for the unreliability of human recollection.

The very first entry in this blog is a translation of a letter from Nichiren called the Fourteen Slanders. Of course, that is not a title Nichiren gave it but some followers later. In it Nichiren not so much quotes Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sutra, but paraphrases it:

The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states, “If there were a person who spoke only one word to curse the lay persons or monks or nuns who uphold and preach the Lotus Sutra, then his offense would be even graver than that of cursing Shakyamuni Buddha to his face for the space of a kalpa.”

“O Medicine King, should an evil person with unwholesome mind appear before the Buddha, slandering and scolding him constantly for the length of an aeon, his offenses would be relatively light compared to the offenses of a person who speaks even a single evil word reviling one who reads or recites The Dharma Flower Sutra. That person�s offense would be very grave.

“Medicine King, if there should be an evil person who, his mind destitute of goodness, should for the space of a kalpa appear in the presence of the Buddha and constantly curse and revile the Buddha, that person’s offense would still be rather light. But if there were a person who spoke only one evil word to curse or defame the lay persons or monks or nuns who read and recite the Lotus Sutra, then his offense would be very grave.

And in many versions I’ve read sometimes the Buddha refers to the sutra by the title given to it, which is like Nichiren referring to his letters by the names given to them.  Did the Buddha really predict white leprosy to those who call attention to faults, regardless of the egregiousness’ of the fault to followers of the Lotus Sutra? (Hey Bob, I really shouldn’t say anything to you because of the Lotus Sutra curse, but would you mind stop molesting my daughter? Thanks.) I seriously doubt that. But that’s what happens over time and the telephone game: embellishment. And I’ve heard all kinds of interpretations for things as varied as snowflakes. SGI calls it the MYSTIC LAW. Others refer to it as THE WONDERFUL DHARMA. So far as I can tell, only the SGI calls that spot EAGLE PEAK. Everyone else calls it VULTURE PEAK or ROCK. (Positive reenforcement marketing)  Robert Thurman, Columbia University professor and Uma’s papa, has a unique interpretation of our ole friend the one eyed turtle and the floating piece of sandalwood. He’s stated that single celled life created merit by rubbing up against each other eventually creating enough credit to evolve into humans. That deserves a hearty Saturday Night Live News Editorial exclamation “REALLY? REALLY, REALLY?” It’s a statement worthy of than charlatan Deepak Chopra. Does he realize, do any Buddhists realize, how much in common they have with Evangelical Creationists?

I think I’m much more skeptic now than Buddhist. I still chant to enjoy my day regardless because it might be my last. It is more of a list making device and I’ve been doing it so long it’s like knocking on wood, apologies to Pascal. I do not believe in karma just as I do not believe in an external deity. Not enough evidence. I accept the preponderance of evidence for evolution. In the same vain I accept the evidence for causality but not in a metaphysical realm. And the second law of thermodynamics will take care of everything else. Oh and if anyone wants to bring entropy or quantum physics into this discussion to justify a metaphysical belief, please read this blog I’ve been participating in for the last few years before you do:

Biocentrism Demystified: A Response to Deepak Chopra and Robert Lanza’s Notion of a Conscious Universe | Nirmukta