By Annabel Toh and Jovene Chua
Ancient religions like Buddhism have existed centuries ago. While some may perceive that such beliefs may not apply to us in today’s context, the Lotus Sutra proves that its teachings still remain highly relevant and applicable in our daily lives.
With the Lotus Sutra Exhibition: A Message for Peace and Harmonious Co-existence making its stop in Singapore, here are 3 things about Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra that we can definitely relate our everyday lives to.
1. You don’t have to leave your life behind just to practise Buddhism
“Buddhism seems to be closely related to asceticism, where you have to be away from
problems and worldly desires to pursue a life of exclusivity.”
— Friend A
Over the centuries, Buddhism has been embraced by people from all backgrounds as a part of their daily lives.
King Ashoka, the third king of the Mauryan dynasty in India converted to Buddhism, renounced conquest by force, and adopted governance through Dharma and helped undertake many welfare initiatives for his people – such as building roads, establishing healthcare services, dug wells and also upheld religious freedom. There are replicas of stupas built by him such as the Lion capital and pillar edict that reflect the efforts of King Ashoka.
King Kanishka, the fourth king of the Kushan dynasty was tolerant of all religions in his empire that spanned from Central Asia to India (with the Gandhara region at its centre). He also promoted multi-ethnic harmony and brought a cultural efflorescence – that enabled the expansion of Buddhism into Central Asia. Do look out for the gold coin of Kanishka at the exhibition!
These are just two of the many examples of people whom are great patrons of Buddhism, and have demonstrated that the teachings of Buddhism can be applied into their daily lives – irregardless governance, friendship or the welfare of its people.
2. Everyone can attain enlightenment
“Only ‘special’ people like monks are able to attain enlightenment.”
— Friend B
Dr Burton Watson, a former professor at Columbia University and translator of the Lotus Sutra, said “This sutra is designed, we know, to be heard by all persons everywhere, without a hint of favouritism”. He also quoted from President of Soka Gakkai International, Dr. Daisaku Ikeda, that the sutra “clearly and definitively reveals the buddha nature that is an integral part of the lives of all people. It makes clear that the Buddha desires and acts so that all people, by opening up this Buddha nature inherent within themselves, may attain the state of buddhahood for themselves”.
The dragon king’s daughter, in the Chapter 12 of the Lotus Sutra ‘Devadatta’, illustrates the dragon girl’s enlightenment, symbolising that both women and evil persons are able to attain Buddhahood, which is why it is called “the king of sutras”.
Everyone has the potential to bring forth their inner Buddha nature and attain enlightenment. It is not about being secluded from society. Instead, it is a state of life where we are able to calmly gaze down on our own problems, have the courage and wisdom to overcome them, and help those who are suffering in society to attain absolute happiness as well.
3. The lotus flower is an important symbol of Buddhism
“I do see the lotus flower being featured in Buddhism but I don’t know what is
its significance except that it has got something to do with purity?”
— Friend C
The Lotus Sutra states that all of us, termed as Bodhisattvas of the Earth, are “unsoiled by worldly things / like the lotus flower in the water”. The lotus takes root in muddy soil in the water but the muddiness of the soil never smears the flower’s beauty and purity, instead, it lengthens its stalk and blooms beautifully. It reveals how it is only when we struggle through the muddiness in our lives, that will allow us to bloom even more beautifully like a lotus flower.
Another reason is that it symbolises the simultaneity of cause and effect. While most flowers bear fruit after blooming, the lotus flower grows both its flower and fruit simultaneously. This shows how the cause we create now can manifest into effect at the same moment.
After all that has been said, you can take this opportunity and find out more about Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra through a rare travelling Lotus Sutra Exhibition that has arrived in Singapore since 1 October 2017!
With the theme, “A Message of Peace and Harmonious Coexistence”, you can explore on how Buddhism still remains highly relevant in explaining today’s many profound questions such as way of life, life/death and more importantly, how the teachings of the Lotus Sutra can contribute to world peace in today’s conflict-torn world.