The Four Leaders of the
Bodhisattvas Springing Forth From the Earth

  

In the 15th Chapter (Springing Up From the Earth) Sakyamuni tells the Bodhisattvas from the first half of the Sutra that they need not worry about protecting the Sutra in the latter days after the Buddha’s extinction.

Suddenly the earth trembles and millions of Bodhisattvas spring forth from the earth. They are led by Four Bodhisattvas who will embrace and propagate The Lotus Sutra in the latter days after the Buddha’s extinction, including the Bodhisattva Supreme Conduct. These Bodhisattvas have followed the Buddha Sakyamuni spreading The Lotus Sutra from the eternal past.

The Bodhisattvas Springing Forth from the Earth are from eternity and The Great Nirvana, where time has ceased. In this chapter of the Sutra time is compressed so that fifty kalpas seem to take but a half a day. In the following (sixteenth) chapter on Measuring the Life, the eternal nature of the Buddha will be fully revealed.

In the 21st Chapter (The Spiritual Power of the One That Has Come), the Bodhisattva Supreme Conduct and the other Bodhisattvas that spring up from the earth vow to propagate the Sutra far and wide after the Buddha’s extinction. The Buddha extends his long broad tongue up to the Brahma Heaven (reciting the word of the Buddha) and radiates light from every pore of his body into the ten directions (the spiritual emanations of the ten directions - seeing into one's true heart and the ten spiritual realms), as do all the Buddhas. The Buddha tells the Bodhisattva Supreme Conduct and the others that all the Tathagata’s teachings, practices, spiritual powers, and secrets are included in this Sutra, and that they must propagate it after the Buddha’s extinction.

In the 22nd Chapter (The Entrusting of the Commission) Sakyamuni puts his right hand on the head of the Bodhisattvas and entrusts them with the commission to carry on the propagation of The Lotus Sutra after the extinction of the Buddha. The Bodhisattvas vow to do so. The ceremony ends.

The Four who lead the Bodhisattvas springing up from the earth personify the Four Virtues from Eternity and the Great Nirvana, the eternal, fulfilling, life-affirming and embracing virtues of the Bodhisattvas who completely give everything of themselves to serve the world. These virtues overcome the barrenness of the so-called four virtues of the small vehicle, with their unfulfilled understanding of nirvana as mere detachment from life. The four virtues of the Great Vehicle affirm eternal life beyond the false illusion of mortal existence whereas the four virtues of the small vehicle merely refute the illusion of mortal existence & offer nothing beyond it. The four virtues of the small vehicle were used to overcome the fetters of the four spheres of existence in the threefold realm of mortality (Life & Death):

The Four Bodhisattvas:

English

Sanskrit

Virtue

Realm

Overcoming

Supreme Conduct

Visista Caritra

The True Self

Dharma/Spirituality

Selflessness

Boundless Conduct

Ananta Caritra

Eternity, Permanence

The Mind/Thoughts

Impermanence

Steadfast Conduct

Spratisthita Caritra

Contentment

Sensory Perception/Feelings

Suffering

Pure Conduct

Visuddha Caritra

Purity

The Physical Body/Desire

Impurity

The two sets of four virtues were depicted in The Great Nirvana Sutra by the eight trees that surrounded the Buddha as he was entering into Nirvana. Four trees were barren of leaves whereas four were in full bloom.

 

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  Since July 9, 2001


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