The Essential Lotus: Selections from the Lotus Sutra

The Essential Lotus: Selections from the Lotus Sutra

The Essential Lotus: Selections from the Lotus Sutra

The Essential Lotus: Selections from the Lotus Sutra

Synopsis

Since its first appearance in China in the third century CE, the Lotus Sutra has been the object of intense veneration among generations of Buddhists in China, Korea, and Japan, as well as other parts of the world. It is often considered the fundamental Mahayana Buddhist sutra, has attracted more commentary than any other Buddhist scripture, and has had a profound impact on the great works of Japanese and Chinese literature. No one can understand East Asia without some knowledge of its teachings. This abridged edition of Burton Watson's acclaimed translation contains this sutra's essential chapters, derived from the most authoritative and felicitous version of the sutra, translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in 406 by the great Central Asian scholar-monk Kumarajiva. The Essential Lotus refines the focus from the sprawling magnitude of the original to the chapters that expound its core ideas and have been the most influential in the later development of Buddhist and East Asian thought. From the famous parable of the burning house to the firm assertion that women can attain the highest enlightenment, from a sermon preached in midair around a miraculously floating jewel-adorned tower to the principle that the Buddha is not to be delimited in time or space, The Essential Lotus presents the riches and profundities of one of the most beautiful treasures in any religious heritage.

Excerpt

The Lotus Sutra is a rather prolix and loosely structured text, with some chapters that are repetitious or of minor doctrinal importance and others that were perhaps appended at a later date. The abridged edition of the text presented here attempts to cut through this diffuseness and to focus on the chapters that expound the core ideas of the work and have been most influential in the later development of Buddhist thought.

The abridged edition begins with two lengthy chapters, “Expedient Means” and “Simile and Parable.” These constitute the second and third chapters of the Lotus Sutra and set forth the principal doctrines embodied in the first part of the sutra. These doctrines are often referred to as the theoretical or “trace” teachings because they are expounded by the Buddha in his temporal or “trace” manifestation as the historical figure Shakyamuni of ancient India.

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