Green Koans: Rain of the Law

Clark Strand

CASE #7: The Rain of the Law

In The Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni proclaims:

I appear in the world
Like a vast cloud
Showering its rain without discrimination
Upon all withered sentient beings.


Rain

BACKGROUND:
The Lotus Sutra is among the most revered of all Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, alluded to in countless paintings and statues, and evoked constantly in the spiritual and secular literature of East Asia. Composed around the beginning of the Common Era, the best-known version is the Chinese text translated by Kumarajiva in 406.

The “Rain of the Law” chapter was familiar to American Transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, who published Henry David Thoreau’s translation of it in his magazine The Dial in 1844.

COMMENTARY:
Shakyamuni compares himself to a cloud that covers the Earth, moistening the roots of every green plant. But is that really necessary? Even with no Buddha, the world has its plants and clouds.

The Tathagata’s teachings add nothing to what is already there. That is their purpose: To add nothing to a world in which countless beings are always being saved.

VERSE:
Shakyamuni
Compared himself to a cloud
But no one got it—
He wore out all ten fingers
Pointing where no one would look

Green Koans Case 1: Shakyamuni Touches the Earth
Green Koans Case 2: Shantideva's Sword

Green Koans Case 3: The Great Compassionate One's True Eye
Green Koans Case 4: One-Page Dharma
Green Koans Case 5: The Person of the Way
Green Koans Case 6: The Green Yogi
Green Koans Case 7: Rain of the Law
Green Koans Case 8: Bashō's Last Words

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Dominic Gomez's picture

"I appear in the world
Like a vast cloud
Showering its rain without discrimination
Upon all withered sentient beings."

I take it to mean that buddhas appear in our midst in response to our thirst for enlightenment. Rain symbolizing a buddha's compassion for our delusions as we traverse the eternal cycle of birth, aging, illness and death.

James Lignori's picture

 




"Shakyamuni compares himself to a cloud that covers the Earth, moistening the roots of every green plant.  But is that really necessary?"

Because nothing can be thrown out of this world, the rain of the Buddha will always be necessary.

"The Tathagata's teachings add nothing to what is already there. That is their purpose."

And because nothing can be thrown out of this world, mankind's purpose must be to stop adding to it.

 

Even with no Buddha,

the world has its plants and clouds.

Without the Buddha's rain,

everything withers and dies. 

Brian Kearns's picture

I am automatically reminded of something I was reading this morning:

 

"Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen? Look at the moon. Do you want to hear what ears have never heard? Listen to the bird's cry. Do you want to touch what hands have never touched? Touch the earth. Verily I say that God is about to create the world."
- Jorge Luis Borges, "The Theologians"

gassho

ClarkStrand's picture

Thanks, Brian.