Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly

The Rice Seedling Sutra

The Rice Seedling Sutra is one of the most important Buddhist sutras on the topic of dependent arising, the basic Buddhist doctrine that everything depends on something else for its existence. Spoken by the bodhisattva Maitreya, it recounts a teaching that the Buddha had given while gazing at a rice seedling. “Whoever sees dependent arising sees the dharma,” the Buddha states, which means that understanding dependent arising is essential to our knowledge of his teachings. In other words, if the goal is to overcome suffering, then any hope of attaining this goal hinges on recognizing the profound interrelations that make up our world.

A sutra of this scope can be read in many ways, including taking it as a teaching on the environment and our place in it. ’s descriptions of the connections between seed, sprout, flower, and fruit, and of earth, water, fire, wind, space, and season, point directly to the natural processes of our world. “If there is no seed,” Maitreya tells us, “the sprout cannot arise and so on, until finally, without the flower, the fruit cannot arise.” Pull one element from the chain and the rest will give way;

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