In the Buddha’s highest teaching, the Lotus Sutra, the Dragon King’s daughter appears before the Buddha while he is preaching the Lotus Sutra. The Dragon King is Sagara, one of the eight great dragon kings said to dwell in a palace at the bottom of the sea. Sagara is the Sanskrit word for ocean. The Flower Garland Sutra describes Sagara as the dragon who causes rain to fall throughout the world. In the 12th Chapter, the Devadatta Chapter, of the Lotus Sutra the dragon king’s daughter:
brushed aside arrogant disparagement and prejudiced assumptions about her. Declaring before the assembly: “Watch me attain Buddhahood!” The dragon king’s eight year old daughter shows stunning actual proof and thus opens the way to happiness for all women of the future.
– World Tribune, October 7, 2016 p. 2
The dragon girl’s enlightenment had important implications, especially given the culture and social circumstances in India at the time. First, it refutes the idea of the time that women could never attain enlightenment (unless she was reborn as a man in her next lifetime). Second, it reveals that the power of the Lotus Sutra enables all people equally to attain Buddhahood in their present form. This second aspect of the dragon girl’s enlightenment is important because it symbolizes the ability of all people to attain enlightenment, regardless of their circumstances (i.e. gender, race/ethnicity, social class, profession) in this lifetime.
In our society, many people still face discrimination based on these same characteristics: being born a woman, an African-American, a poor person, someone without a prestigious job title, or someone who identifies as LGBTQ. The beauty of the Lotus Sutra is its teaching of equality and respect for all persons. It’s our responsibility to believe in this truth, put it into practice in our daily lives, and to share it with others. By doing so, we open the way toward a more humane and peaceful world.