The Bodhisattva Who Never Disparaged

The Lotus Sutra contains a number of parables and stories, and this is one of my favorites. From Chapter Twenty, based on the Watson and Kato translations, the story of Bodhisattva Fukyo:

“Once there was a bodhisattva bhikshu named Fukyo (Sadaparibhuta) whose name meant ‘Never Disparaging.’ Why was he given this name? Because he paid respect to everyone he saw, whether bhikshu, bhikshuni, layman or laywoman, by bowing in reverence to all of them, saying, ‘I deeply respect you. I would never condemn or disparage you, because you all walk the bodhisattva path and are becoming buddhas.’

Bodhisattva Fukyo did not devote his time to reading and reciting the scriptures but only to bowing and paying respect. If he happened to see any of the four kinds of believers far off in the distance, he would go to them and bow, saying, ‘I would never disparage you, because you are all to become buddhas.’

Bodhisattva Fukyo was often subjected to insults and abuse, and yet, he did not give in to anger, instead, each time, he spoke the same words, ‘You are to become Buddhas.’ There were those who said, ‘Where did this ignorant person who predicts we will become buddhas come from ? We need no such false predictions!’ And some of them attacked him and beat him with clubs and sticks and pelted him with stones. Still, while escaping from these people, he continued to call out in strong voice, ‘I would never disparage you, for you are all certain to become buddhas!’ It is because he always spoke in this way that the contemptuous bhikshus, bhikshunis, laymen and laywomen gave him the name ‘Never Disparaging.’

When Bodhisattva Fukyo was at the point of death, he was able to receive and retain a million verses of the Lotus Sutra as it had been taught by the Buddha Awesome Sound King.  As a result, he obtained the purity of the sense organs and extended his life span by two hundred ten thousand million billions of years, and taught the Buddha-dharma to countless beings. Those who had slighted and condemned Bodhisattva Fukyo then became his followers.”

In this story, Bodhisattva Fukyo sees that all people have Buddha nature, that they inherently possess the capacity to become enlightened. The practice he engaged in is called raihaigyo or “bowing in reverence.” He represents the Buddha himself, in another lifetime.

Obviously, the major point here is that we should treat others with respect, and it is offered as an example of bodhisattva practice. The reward of long life that Fukyo obtains as a benefit from this austerity represents the principle of ‘what goes around, comes around’ in the positive sense.

Here’s what Thich Nhat Hanh has had to say about this inspiring bodhisattva:

Sadaparibhuta, the bodhisattva who says, “I would never dare to despise anyone,” is also everywhere. Even if someone does not seem to have the ability to be awakened, he sees that within everyone there is that capacity. Sadaparibhuta helps everyone to have self-confidence and remove any feelings of inferiority. This kind of complex paralyzes people. Sadaparidhuta’s specialty is to be in touch with and water the seeds of the awakened mind or the mind of love in us. This bodhisattva is not just a person in the Lotus Sutra but can be found right here in our society in many different guises. We have to recognize the bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta, who is around us in flesh and bones.

We do not worship imagined or mythological figures. Bodhisattvas are not figures from the past living up in the clouds. The bodhisattvas are real people who are filled with love and determination. When we can understand someone else’s suffering and feel love for him/her, we are in touch with the bodhisattva of understanding.

This bodhisattva removes the feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem in people. “How can I become a buddha? How can I attain enlightenment? There is nothing in me except suffering, and I don’t know how to get free of my own suffering, much less help others. I am worthless.” Many people have these kinds of feelings, and they suffer more because of them. Never Disparaging Bodhisattva works to encourage and empower people who feel this way, to remind them that they too have buddha nature, they too are a wonder of life, and they too can achieve what a buddha achieves. This is a great message of hope and confidence.


6 thoughts on “The Bodhisattva Who Never Disparaged

  1. I have become a daily reader of your blog, David, and appreciate greatly the care and thought you put into your offerings. It’s a shame that it seems to take ‘controversy’ to impel others to jump into the musing conversation you are having with Silence. I certainly feel privileged to be eavesdropping on it.

    1. Thanks very much for your awfully nice comment.

      Yes, it is a shame because when I started the blog one of my aims was to spark some dialogue. Aside from that little controversy and a few comments here and there, it has been kinda like Wabbit season and we’re hunting wabbits, so be vewy, vewy quiet! If fact, I was thinking of changing the name of the blog to the Sounds of Silence. Or, Silence is Not Golden, It’s Lonely. Or, The Sound of One Man Blogging into a Big, Fat Void.

      Don’t get the idea that I am indulging in self-pity or anything. I’m just acknowledging what you wrote and having a little fun with it. Seriously, it was nice of you to write that, I appreciate it and am encouraged. Feel free to jump in anytime you like.

        1. — yeah, that’s the Silence I meant. One of the unexpected treasures of growing older is starting to notice the omnipresent Invisible Inaudible. The inexhaustibly generous and accommodating ground. I wasn’t at all equal to it when I was younger. Now I find myself among the ranks of the Easily Amused.

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