The Lotus Sutra

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Why is the Lotus Sutra important? What is the significance of this particular manuscript? This item is featured in: Discovering Sacred Texts. Explore further Related articles. The Buddha and Buddhist sacred texts Article by: Peter Harvey Themes: Sacred texts, Buddhism Professor Peter Harvey recounts the life and teachings of the Buddha, as well as considering the role that the Buddha plays in the different branches of Buddhism and how his teachings have been collected.

On reading this extract, many feel that, by sincerely attempting to transmit this Teaching to others, they will get a grain of the power the Buddhas have, which is an extremely rejoicing feeling. In a direct and firm way it urges the listeners to follow its practices and develop a state of mind which will enable them to become as powerful as the Buddha himself.

In the extract from Chapter 25, The Universal Entrance revealed by Avalokitesvara bodhisattva, he is introduced as a saviour adorned with extraordinary qualities. As a matter of fact this extracts explains that, if people in difficult situations or with a strong wish recite the name of Avalokitesvara bodhisattva, their problems will be solved and their wish fulfilled.

Practitioners are thus meant to see in him a guardian protecting them if need be. With such a protector, many people feel secure when going forward in their practice of the Teaching. But they also feel encouraged to become themselves a sort of Avalokitesvara bodhisattva for others. As they feel encouraged to develop a perceiving sight, consideration and compassion towards all beings, they can also help them when suffering or in need. More than that, they sincerely wish to accompany them on the path to Awakening and enable them to solve the origin of their suffering.

From this chapter, situated at the end of the Sutra emanates a fervour capable of encouraging those who recite it or practice its teaching and makes them feel secure and confident in the pursuit of their path towards improvement. This is the second extract of the Sutra of Meditation on Universal Excellence.

Thus all possible modern readers or practitioners are particularly concerned with this extract. The Buddha starts by addressing the most powerful and influential people in society. The society where the person who copied down the Lotus Sutra lived was obviously far from being free and egalitarian. Indeed all their profitable actions would influence a great number of socially inferior people and on the other hand, they would generate a peaceful and safe atmosphere in which everyone could practice the chosen path as they liked.

Basically the Sutra proposes influential people to behave with tolerance and compassion, to be virtuous themselves and not to use their power to hurt other people. If we admit that in one way or other we can all exercise power onto others that we all operate in a sphere in which we are considered as a king or a leader, it is really easy to make these instructions ours and to apply them to ourselves directly. The Sutra itself asserts this remark at the end of this extract when it expresses that anyone following these precepts will be endowed with humility like a garment.

As a matter of fact, this chapter The Chant of Aspiration , like the introduction, is composed of a certain number of short extracts from the Innumerable Meanings Sutra and the Universal Excellence Bodhisattva. A tribute to the truth and the value of the Sutra is followed by an invocation to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who watch over and protect it. In so far as these people are described as the keepers of the truth of this teaching, it is obvious that the point is not to call for the power of one or several divinities but for something still larger: the spirit of this sutra, the dharma and the one of all the sincere disciples and practitioners.

The Lotus Sutra. The opening salutations: taking refuge. The link with the ancestors and the Awakened. Being determined to act. Awakening, the aim of human life.

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A concrete method of transformation. We are thus prepared to enter the world of the Lotus Sutra. A deep teaching, difficult to understand. The power of flawless benevolence.

Tina Turner - Lotus Sutra / Purity of Mind (2H Meditation)

A rejoicing promise. The extraordinary powers of the Lotus Sutra.

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Overview of the Lotus Sutra

A saviour adorned with extraordinary qualities, an example for all practitioners. Historical scholarship states that they are not. How can contemporary Buddhists deny the authenticity of the Mahayana sutras and still be Buddhists? It is indeed the case that denying that the Mahayana sutras are the word of the Buddha is a violation of the bodhisattva vows.

And it is also the case that many of the great Mahayana masters in India, including Nagarjuna and Shantideva, included defenses of the Mahayana sutras in their works.

The Life of the Lotus Sutra - Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

We can conclude at least two things from this: first, some very important figures in the history of Buddhism believed that the Mahayana sutras were the word of the Buddha, and, second, many other Buddhists believed that they were not. Rules are not made to prevent something that no one does, and writers do not defend something that everyone believes. So modern Buddhists who accept that the Mahayana sutras are the authentic word of the historical Buddha would need to recognize that throughout more than a thousand years of the Mahayana in South Asia, many Buddhist monks denied their authenticity.

Related: What the Buddha Taught? This entire question depends, of course, on how one defines authenticity.

The Lotus Sutra

However, the fact that scholars of Buddhism do not regard the Mahayana as having been taught by the Buddha does not mean that they necessarily see the Pali canon as more authentic. Although it is possible now to establish a chronology of texts using historical linguistics and other methods, it does not follow that such a chronology can be confidently traced back to the Buddha himself.

Or at least it has not yet been answered convincingly. So how does Buddhism understand itself? One of the perennial challenges of the modern age is the need to recognize that texts that teach the timeless arise in time. Whatever the Buddha taught, he was setting forth what he saw to be universal and timeless truths, not just things that he thought were true for northeast India in the fifth century BCE.

Yet he was inevitably a product of northeast India in the fifth century BCE. And despite that, what he taught spread to China. Jesus was teaching what he saw to be universal and timeless truths, not just things that were true for Jews in Palestine in the first century CE.

All Vehicles are One Vehicles

Yet he was inevitably a product of Palestine in the first century CE. And despite that, what he taught spread to Gentiles in Rome not long after his death. All religious traditions have had to come to grips with the results of scholarship examining the historical origins of their scriptures.

Some members of those traditions have come to grips with that scholarship by simply rejecting it. This same ineffability, however, provides endless occasions for interpretation. Buddhism is endlessly interpretable because its central event is unrecoverable. It is not an attested historical event, like the crucifixion of Jesus by the Romans. In Buddhism, the tradition itself recognizes the issue in the famous story of the god Brahma coming down from his heaven to beg the newly enlightened Buddha to teach, to verbalize his enlightenment.

For now, I would suggest that a text like the Lotus Sutra provides an opportunity to map this divide, maybe even to begin to bridge it.


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  • The Lotus Sutra?

Speaking personally, I find it much more inspiring to think of a work of genius like the Lotus Sutra as the product of a community of visionary monks and nuns, struggling to understand what it means to be a Buddhist, than as the spontaneous speech of an enlightened being.

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