What World Religions Teach

By E. G. Parrinder | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
NORTHERN BUDDHISM: SALVATION BY FAITH

THE LOTUS SCRIPTURE

The classic account of the division between Northern and Southern Buddhists is given, from the Northern point of view, in the Lotus Scripture, or the Lotus of the Wonderful Law. This is unknown to the Scriptures of the Southern Buddhists, and they say it is a late invention and contradicts the words of Gautama. No doubt it is late, and contains many myths of gods and buddhas, but it may contain some truths overlooked by the others. Written first in Sanskrit in north India, it has become best known in Chinese versions. It is very popular, and has been called "the Gospel of half Asia."

The Lotus begins with the glorified Buddha sitting on a Vulture Peak in Nepal, with 12,000 disciples, 60,000 gods, and 80,000 Bodhi-sattvas, or 'beings of enlightenment.' A ray of fight from the Buddha's forehead illuminates all the heavens and hells, and he slowly emerges from meditation to announce a new truth. This is that formerly he had taught the narrow way of deliverance by works of self-abnegation, but now he is to reveal the way of faith. There is only one true vehicle (yana) by which he will save all beings and bring them to nirvana. Previous teachings had been only temporary expedients, and all should now follow the Great Vehicle (Maha-yana).

This offended some of the strictest disciples. "The root of sin was deep in them, and their haughty spirit was so enlarged that they imagined they had already attained."1 So five thousand disciples withdrew, and the Buddha continued to address those

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1
W. E. Soothill, The Lotus of the wonderful Law, p. 66 ff.

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