The cosmic scene in the opening of the Lotus Sutra is stupendously impressibel. Around the summit of Mr. Vulture Peak in northern India, innumerable sentient beings are gathering together to hear the Buddha preach. There can be seen in the assembly the happy and joyous faces of monks and nuns, male and female bodhisattvas and lay devotees, and Hindu deities, demons, and all other kinds of non-human beings. This extraordinary sight preludes the unprecedented preaching of the truth that no one has ever heard of before. Lord Sakyamuni is about to pass away from this world because of his old age and is concluding his missionary life of over forty years.
Lord Sakyamuni's final and ultimate message is about his own immortal omnipresence and inconceivable workings of the Cosmic Life Force, which is nothing but his cosmic virtue. It is not a mechanical, inhuman force, therefore, but a human, parent-like force, whose substance is perfect wisdom and compassion. This life force freely manifests itself as and through cosmic phenomena, guiding all people toward spiritual perfection. The Cosmic Life Force is eternally continuing to express its perfectness in the human phenomenal world. The Lotus Sutra represents this absolute existence of the universe as Saddharma, meaning "wonderful law" in English.
When the Cosmic Life Force manifests itself in a human level, it is called "buddha-nature." It is the Infinite Potential to attain buddhahood or human perfection in wisdom and compassion just as Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha, did. In the Lotus Sutra, Lord Sakyamuni declares to all humanity the true purpose of his appearing to the human world which is to awaken all living beings to the buddha-knowledge. Here, the buddha-knowledge means to realize the universal truth of the buddha-nature in everyone. In the Buddhist history, the Lotus Sutra proclaims for the first time the equality of all. That is to say, all beings can become buddhas.
The buddha-nature is the cosmic urge to aspire to perfection, which lies in the deepest minds and hearts of everyone of us. All people, irrespective of religion, creed, race or sex, have within us a boundless faculty to grow in spirituality. It is an inner healing power and is connected to the cosmic energy of creation and evolution. Through the buddha-nature as the Infinite Intelligence, we can tap the treasure-house that stores all truths, virtues and beauties of the universe.
The buddha-nature is also the buddha-mind at the same time. It is the Infinite Compassion within ourselves. It consists of Four Infinite Minds: first, giving others pleasure and happiness; second, removing pain and suffering from others; third, taking the joy of others as our own; fourth, sacrificing ourselves for others. The words, thoughts and deeds of a buddha spontaneously conform with the cosmic truth because they all originate from his perfect compassion. A buddha is none other than a person who has consummated the buddha-knowledge. His or her buddha-nature has been cultivated and the Infinite Intelligence and Compassion has been unlocked and released from within to the full extent.
In the Lotus Sutra, the Cosmic Life Force is nothing but the spiritual power of Sakyamuni Buddha. As an immortal being, he is preaching his supreme truth to all people at this very moment although his presence is beyond the five human senses. The Invisible Cosmic Buddha has been guiding all beings since he attained buddhahood eternities ago. His perfect wisdom and compassion fills the entire universe. The historical Buddha, who appeared to the eyes of people in this world twenty-five hundred years ago, was a manifestation of the Immortal Buddha. Through firm faith in him and his teachings, they can be convinced of the wonderful saving, guiding, healing life force of the universe.
Understanding that human beings are the children of the Buddha leads us to see also that we are living immortal lives just as Sakyamuni Buddha does. Our physical bodies will decay in due time but our life remains immortal. We live on and evolve toward perfection. The now, which a human being can experience, is a manifestation of the immortal.
When we come to know that we were born into this world with the buddha-nature, we will be blessed with tremendous joy and courage in our lives. We will not be easily discouraged by undesirable conditions and circumstances. The flow of the Infinite Intelligence and Compassion from within us will liberate each individual from being weighed down by human problems and troubles.
We can free ourselves from the fear of death when we also believe in our immortality. Seeing that this life leads to the next, just as this day is a link to tomorrow, we can awaken the understanding of the infinity and immortality of human existence. We can find the true meaning of life, of every moment, only when we realize immortality in us. The Lotus Sutra thus enlightens us to the true knowledge of humanity and the universe. It shows how to attain buddhahood, a state of perfect peace and bliss. That is indeed the final destination of the spiritual journey of every human being.