Buddhism for Today: A Modern Interpretation of the Threefold Lotus Sutra

Buddhism for Today: A Modern Interpretation of the Threefold Lotus Sutra

Buddhism for Today: A Modern Interpretation of the Threefold Lotus Sutra

Buddhism for Today: A Modern Interpretation of the Threefold Lotus Sutra

Excerpt

In the Preface I have mentioned briefly how the Lotus Sutra came to be written, but I will now give a more detailed description of the process that eventually brought the sutra to Japan.

In Sakyamuni's time there was no widespread writing system in India. Therefore his sermons were memorized and spread by word of mouth. At that time, when people were obliged to learn by heart whatever they wished to remember, they had powers of memory beyond our imagining. People's daily lives were also less complicated and bustling than they are today. The great disciples of the Buddha, who had clear heads and pure minds, listened attentively so as to absorb every word spoken by Sakyamuni. Therefore, it is almost certain that they did not mishear Sakyamuni's sermons. Moreover, after the death of the Buddha, his disciples held frequent conferences in order to see whether their memories were mistaken or not. After verifying the Buddha's actual words and correcting each other's mistakes, they systematized their ideas. For this reason Sakyamuni's words have remained correct in spite of their being transmitted by word of mouth.

Sakyamuni preached many sermons during his frequent travels on foot in the vast area of northern India over a period of fifty years. He also preached in various ways, according to his audience's level of understanding. We must acknowledge the fact that the interpretation of the Buddha's teachings differed from place to place and from group to group of his disciples, and that as time passed there grew up differences . . .

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