The Pali Suttas & Literary Embelishment


Hey, all. This thread has wandered way off track and needs to be steered back to the original theme of the Pali Suttas and literary embellishment. Thanks, in advance. :slightly_smiling_face:


I’d like to see it.

According to the Shorter Amitabha Sutra, for example, the birds in the Pure Land sing the Eightfold Path:

Moreover, Śāriputra, this land always has all kinds of marvelous, many-colored birds: swans, peacocks, parrots, egrets, kalaviṅkas, and two-headed birds. There are many multitudes of birds, and in the six periods of the day and night, they produce harmonious music. Their music elucidates the Five Roots, the Five Powers, the Seven Factors of Bodhi, the factors of the Noble Eightfold Path, and thusly the Dharma.
Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra - Wikisource, the free online library

The Four Noble Truths are accepted by all three vehicles. Why wouldn’t they be? The Four Noble Truths are the reason for seeking enlightenment in the first place.


You quoted from it earlier, but this is now off-topic given recent moderator notification.

I suppose if I were in a courtroom, I would have to submit my so-called “evidence” as the abovementioned Tiāntāi sìjiāo yí and its reading of the LS.


I agree. If we are honest about the more fanciful elements of the Pali suttas, we might be less likely to reject out of hand the scriptures of other Buddhist schools.


A sambhogakaya body is not a product of rebirth in samsara. Is there a similar teaching to the sambhogakaya in the Pali suttas? If not, is it any more fanciful than what’s contained in the Pali suttas?


Not that it is fanciful, but that it is a clunky attempt to explain continued existence in a state of defined being for a Buddha after death, when rebirth is supposed to have ceased entirely without remainder.


The saṁbhogakāya is the result of rebirth in saṁsāra because it is the “reward body” of aeons of bodhisattvayāna cultivation. This cultivation is its cultivation. It is the fruit of bodhisattvayāna, the “result” of the path, and the playing out of consequence, the origination of that consequential effect being bodhisattva practice in saṁsāra, bodhisattva practice in saṁsāra being the cause of the reward, the origination of the benefit, and the building of that body.


Why should we have a double-standard, ignoring the literary embellishments of the Pali suttas while rejecting the Mahayana sutras out of hand?

The reason for literary embellishment in the Mahayana sutras is usually to give us a peek into how a Buddha would see the world. It’s to stretch our imagination so that we can better see the world through a Buddha’s eyes.

The sutras deliberately exaggerate events for a spiritual or doctrinal purpose. If Buddhist scriptures are a raft to the other shore, rather than the Ultimate Truth itself, there’s nothing wrong with this.

If there were no spiritual value to the Lotus Sutra, I don’t believe that Zen masters would have been so devoted to it:

Dogen, the 13th-century Japanese founder of Sōtō Zen Buddhism, used the Lotus Sūtra often in his writings.

According to Taigen Dan Leighton, “While Dogen’s writings employ many sources, probably along with his own intuitive meditative awareness, his direct citations of the Lotus Sūtra indicate his conscious appropriation of its teachings as a significant source”[139] and that his writing “demonstrates that Dogen himself saw the Lotus Sutra, ‘expounded by all buddhas in the three times,’ as an important source for this self-proclamatory rhetorical style of expounding.”[140]

In his Shobogenzo, Dogen directly discusses the Lotus Sūtra in the essay Hokke-Ten-Hokke, “The Dharma Flower Turns the Dharma Flower”. The essay uses a dialogue from the Platform Sutra between Huineng and a monk who has memorized the Lotus Sūtra to illustrate the non-dual nature of Dharma practice and sutra study.[139]

The Soto Zen monk Ryōkan also studied the Lotus Sūtra extensively and this sutra was the biggest inspiration for his poetry and calligraphy.[141]

During his final days, Dogen spent his time reciting and writing the Lotus Sutra in his room which he named “The Lotus Sutra Hermitage”.[142]

The Rinzai Zen master Hakuin Ekaku achieved enlightenment while reading the third chapter of the Lotus Sūtra.[143]
Lotus Sutra - Wikipedia