Article

Lotus Sūtra

Taigen Leighton

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0093
Lotus Sūtra

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Sections of the Lotus Sutra are among the earliest Indian Mahayana writings. Originally composed in Sanskrit, the sutra seemingly had little lasting effect in Tibet, although a Tibetan translation exists. But this scripture arguably became the most influential in East Asia. Although still-extant translations into Chinese were done by Dharmarakṣa in 286 and Jñañagupta and Dharmagupta in 601, the most popular historically was the translation of Kumārajīva from 406, source for all the English translations from Chinese. Literally the “Wondrous Dharma Lotus Blossom Sutra,” the Lotus Sutra’s many memorable parables, including children lured out of a burning house and a prodigal son rehabilitated by manual labor, illustrate key ideas of the sutra, especially that all spiritual approaches may serve as beneficial skillful means within the inclusive “One Vehicle” of universal liberation. A curiously self-referential text, central and influential Lotus Sutra images include the following: Śākaymuni Buddha’s prediction of many of his disciples’ future buddhahood, appearance in midair of the stūpa of an ancient buddha who arrives whenever the Lotus Sutra is being taught, a dragon king’s young daughter quickly arriving at enlightenment, ancient bodhisattvas bursting out from under the earth to teach the sutra in the future, and the pivotal revelation of Buddha’s inconceivably long lifespan. This sutra is considered the highest teaching for the inclusive Chinese Tiantai school, whose founder Zhiyi developed a synthesizing system for all the diversity of Buddhist teachings. Tiantai was adapted in Japan as the Tendai school, from which came the founders of the Japanese Zen, Pure Land, and Nichiren schools. The Nichiren school takes the Lotus Sutra itself as its sole object of veneration, including sometimes adamantly disapproving of other Buddhist approaches. New Religious movements inspired by the Lotus Sutra in Japan have become transnational.

Article.  9495 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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