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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Universal Salty Taste

THERE are six kinds of flavors. The first is subtle, the second, salty, the third, pungent, the fourth, sour, the fifth, sweet, and the sixth, bitter. Even if one were to prepare a feast of a hundred flavors, if the single flavor of salt were missing, it would be no feast for a great king. Without salt, even the delicacies of land and sea are tasteless.
The ocean has eight mysterious qualities. First, it gradually becomes deeper. Second, being deep, its bottom is hard to fathom. Third, its salty taste is the same everywhere. Fourth, its ebb and flow follows certain rules. Fifth, it contains various treasure storehouses. Sixth, creatures of great size exist and dwell in it. Seventh, it refuses to house corpses. Eighth, it takes in all rivers and heavy rainfall without either increasing or decreasing.
[The Nirvana Sutra] compares “it gradually becomes deeper” to the Lotus Sutra leading everyone, from ordinary people who lack understanding to sages who possess it, to attain the Buddha way. The reason [the sutra uses the metaphor] “being deep, its bottom is hard to fathom” is that the realm of the Lotus Sutra can only be understood and shared between Buddhas, while those at the stage of near-perfect enlightenment or below are unable to master it. “Its salty taste is the same everywhere” compares all rivers,  which contain no salt, to all sutras other than the Lotus, which offer no way to attain enlightenment.
 [The Nirvana Sutra] compares the water of all the rivers flowing into the sea and becoming salty to the people of different capacities instructed through the various provisional teachings who attain the Buddha way when they take faith in the Lotus Sutra. It compares “its ebb and flow follows certain rules” to upholders of the Mystic Law who even though they were to lose their lives would attain the stage of nonregression. It compares “it contains various treasure storehouses” to the countless practices and good deeds of all the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and the blessings of the various paramitas being contained in the Mystic Law.
The reason for “creatures of great size exist and dwell in it” is that, because the Buddhas and bodhisattvas possess great wisdom, they are called “creatures of great size,” and that their great bodies, great aspiring minds, great distinguishing features, great evilconquering force, great preaching, great authority, great transcendental powers, great compassion, and great pity all arise naturally from the Lotus Sutra.

The reason for “it refuses to house corpses” is that with the Lotus Sutra one can free oneself for all eternity from slander and incorrigible disbelief. The reason for “without either increasing or decreasing.