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Reservations   Contents    

  1. "- But Was It Practical?"
  2. From Expedient Means
  3. Simile and Parable
  4. Belief and Understanding
  5. The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs
  6. Foretellings
  7. Phantom City
  8. Foretelling Enlightenment Many Disciples
  9. Prophecies Conferred on Learners and Adepts
  10. The Teacher of the Dharma
  11. The Treasure Tower that Rose out of the Earth and Hovered in the Air
  12. Devadatta
  13. Of Proper Fulfilment
  14. Great Teacher Practices
  15. Emerging from the Earth
  16. The Life Span of the Tathágata
  17. Distinctions in Benefits
  18. The Benefits of Responding with Joy
  19. Benefits of the Teacher of the Dharma
  20. The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging
  21. Supernatural Powers of the Tathágata
  22. Entrustment
  23. Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King
  24. Bodhisattva Wonderful Sound
  25. The Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World's Sounds
  26. Dharani
  27. Former Affairs of King Wonderful Adornment
  28. Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy


Apply the expedient methods to . . . let your hearts be filled with immense joy! . . . also become Buddhas! (Lotus Sutra 2:5.100)

Kind-hearted, gentle and charitable people have already attained Buddhahood. (Lotus Sutra 2:5.39)

The Lotus Sutra is one of the most popular and influential Mahayana sutras. It was composed in India, and in the Sanskrit language, where its title is Saddharmapundaríka Sútra, which translates to "the Discourse on the White Lotus of the True Doctrine." As a sutra, discourse, is is traditionally attributed to Gautama Buddha. Yet most historians believe the Lotus Sutra was written in the 1st or 2nd century CE, and much likely in several stages. Chapters 2-9 may be the oldest of the 28 chapters in it.

A translation was made from Sanskrit to Chinese in 255 CE, and the earliest extant translation to Chinese is from 286 CE. The base text for that translation may have been written in a Prakrit language. The earliest translations were superseded by a 406 translation by the prolific scholar and monk Kumarajiva (344–413). Later translations into English, French, Spanish and German are based on Kumarajiva's Chinese text.

And there is an abridged version too. Why so? "Because -" and "Because we could," do not explain much. Better: "The Essential Lotus refines the focus from the sprawling magnitude of the original to the chapters that expound its core ideas [and] presents the riches and profundities." (Questia). More of that: "The Lotus Sutra is a rather prolix and loosely structured text, with some chapters that are repetitious or of minor doctrinal importance . . . The abridged edition of the text presented here attempts to cut through this diffuseness." (Preface to the abridged version, p vii)

The chapters that go into Dr Watson's abridged version have highlighted titles below:

Chapter outlines

  1. Introduction – During a gathering at Vulture Peak, Gautama Buddha signals he will expound his ultimate teaching.

  2. Ways and Means, also termed Expedient Means – Buddha explains he adapts his teachings according to the capacities of his audience, and tells what he aims at in so doing.

  3. A Parable, also termed Simile and Parable – The Buddha tells a story about a burning house. It is the world.

  4. Faith and Understanding – Four senior disciples tell a parable of a poor son and his rich father who guides him to regain self-confidence and "recognise his own Buddha-wisdom".

  5. Parable of the plants – This parable says that the Dharma is like rain that nourishes many different kinds of plants - different people receive the teachings according to their respective capacities.

  6. Assurances of Becoming a Buddha – The Buddha foretells that some named persons will be enlightened.

  7. The Magic City – The Buddha teaches a parable about a group of people seeking a great treasure who are tired of their journey and wish to quit. Their guide creates a magical phantom city for them to rest in and then makes it disappear. Buddha explains what the magic city represents and that the treasure is buddhahood.

  8. Assurances for 500 Arhats. – 500 assured Arhats tell the parable of a man who has fallen asleep after drinking and whose friend sews a jewel into his garment. When he wakes up he continues a life of poverty without realizing he is really rich, he only discovers the jewel after meeting his old friend again, suggesting that the indwelling Buddha in sentient beings is hidden by mental states.

  9. Assurances for the Trainees and Adepts. – Many [hearers, disciples] are assured of their future Buddhahood.

  10. Teacher of the Dharma, also termed The Teacher of the Law – Teaching the sutra includes accepting, embracing, reading, reciting, copying, explaining, propagating it, and living in accordance with its teachings. The teacher of the Dharma is praised as the messenger of the Buddha.

  11. The Treasure stupa, also termed The Emergence of the Treasure Tower – A great jeweled stupa rises from the earth and floats in the air; a voice is heard from within it. Buddha is invited to sit in the jeweled stupa floating in the air. This chapter contains the doctrine that Buddhahood is of Eternity.

  12. Devadatta, also termed Devadatta – Through the stories of the dragon king's daughter and Devadatta, the Buddha teaches that everyone can become enlightened, even the most sinful murderers.

  13. Encouragement to uphold the sutra – The Buddha encourages all beings to embrace the teachings of the sutra.

  14. Peace and Contentment – Buddha describes the proper conduct and the appropriate sphere of relations of a bodhisattva. He is encouraged to explain the Mahayana teachings when he answers questions. Virtues, as a calm mind, wisdom and compassion are to be cultivated.

  15. Springing up from the Earth, also termed Emerging from the Earth – In this chapter countless bodhisattvas spring up from the earth. Buddha declares that he himself has taught and trained all of these bodhisattvas in the remote past.

  16. The eternal lifespan of the Tathágata, also termed The Life Span of the Tathágata – The Buddha tells he is eternal and omniscient.

  17. Merits and Virtues of enlightenment – Buddha saus many have been saved.

  18. Merits and Virtues of Joyful Acceptance – Faith in the teachings of the sutra brings much merit and lead to good rebirths.

  19. Merits and Virtues obtained by a Teacher of the Dharma – Some relative merits are explained by the Buddha.

  20. The Bodhisattva Sadáparibhúta, also termed The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging – Buddha tells a story about a previous life where he treated every person with respect.

  21. The Spiritual Power of the Tathágata –

  22. The Passing of the Commission, also termed Entrustment – The Buddha transmits the Lotus Sutra to all bodhisattvas in his congregation.

  23. The Bodhisattva Bhaisajyarája – The Buddha tells the story of the 'Medicine King' Bodhisattva. The hearing and chanting of the Lotus Sútra is said to cure diseases. The Lotus Sútra says the Lotus Sutra is the king of all sutras.

  24. The Bodhisattva Gadgadasvara – A Bodhisattva from a distant world visits Vulture Peak to worship the Buddha.

  25. The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, also termed The Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World's Sounds – This chapter describing Avalokiteshvara as a compassionate and even rescuing bodhisattva.

  26. Dháraní – Sacred formulae in order to protect those who keep and recite the Lotus Sútra.

  27. King Wonderfully Adorned – On the conversion of King 'Wonderful-Adornment' by his two sons.

  28. Encouragement of the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra – Samantabhadra promises to protect and guard all those who keep this sutra in the future Age of Dharma Decline.
[Source: Wikipedia. Extracts]

Words aside for a while, the most influential aspect of Buddhism is meditation. (IABU Editorial Committee 2012, p 475) Although there are many texts on Buddhist meditation, it may pay greatly to be careful or guarded and go for the best - Sound research into meditation methods may tell which work best in general too.

Traditionally, the most effective methods are not taught in books, for most part - well-meaning classifications and visualisation exercises for beginners aside. Add that to what is good to take into account. Below are extracts for most part in the order they appear in the chapters.


1. "But Was It Practical?"

At one time the Buddha was in Rajagriha, staying on Mount Gridhrakuta. Accompanying him were twelve thousand leading monks. All had no more earthly desires, and their minds were free.

There were also two thousand others, and eighty thousand bodhisattvas and mahasattvas. All delighted in preaching, were eloquent, and had fully penetrated the great wisdom and reached the farther shore (Nirvana).

Indra with his followers, twenty thousand sons of gods, also attended, and the Four Great Heavenly Kings, along with their followers, ten thousand sons of gods.

Present were the sons of gods Freedom and Great Freedom and their followers, thirty thousand sons of gods, Present were King Brahma, the great Brahma Shikhin, and the great Brahma Light Bright, and their followers, twelve thousand sons of gods.

There were eight dragon kings, each with several hundreds of thousands of followers.

There were four kimnara kings, each with several hundreds of thousands of followers.

There were four gandharva kings, each with several hundreds of thousands of followers.

There were four Asura kings, each with several hundreds of thousands of followers.

There were four garuda king, each with several hundreds of thousands of followers. And there was King Ajatashatru, the son of Vaidehi, with several hundreds of thousands of followers.

And so there were well above a million persons on the mountain.

Each took a seat.

With two persons sitting per square meter, the gathering could require 500,000 square metres (ca. 123 acres), which is not impossible on a mountain that is not much uneven to sit on.

The World-Honoured One [Buddha] was honoured and praised.

After he had preached a Sutra, he sat with his legs crossed in lotus position and entered into the samadhi of the place of immeasurable meanings. Flowers rained down from the sky, scattered over the Buddha and the great assembly.

At that time the monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, heavenly beings, dragons, yakshas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kimnaras, mahoragas, human and nonhuman beings in the assembly, as well as the petty kings and wheel-turning sage kings – all were filled with joy and gazed at the Buddha.

Could those who were sitting 300-400 hundred metres away from the Buddha hear him at all and benefit? And after the sessions of talk, could a million listeners stretch their legs and answer the call of nature without problems? Was the setting practical? Who knows?

The Bodhisattva Maitreya thought: The World-Honoured One has manifested many miraculous signs. But what is the cause of these auspicious portents? The others all had this thought: whom shall we question about them?

Bodhisattva Maitreya questioned Manjushri about it, saying, "What is the cause of such portents and signs? Why do flowers rain down, and why has this world quaked and trembled in six different ways?

"It is good fortune to hold unsurpassed wisdom, advancing deep into meditation, removing oneself from foolish companions and their conduct,

"Having delicious things to eat and drink is no flaw.

"The powers of the Buddhas and their wisdom are rare indeed this is not done for petty reasons."

Manjushri said: "Good men, I suppose that the Buddha, the World Honoured One, wishes now to expound the great Law, to rain down the rain of the great Law, to beat the drum of the great Law."

Appended: Beginner's Mind can be great

Shenryu Suzuki tells in Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind:

The practice of Zen mind is beginner's mind. . . . The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to . . . possibilities. It is the kind of mind which can see things as they are, which step by step and in a flash can realize . . . [What matters deeply is] how to maintain beginner's mind through your meditation and in your life. . . . Beginner's mind was a favorite expression of Dogen-zenji's. (1999b, p 13-14)

In his introduction to another book with Suzuki thoughts, Mel Weitsman says "Beginner's mind" refers to an unassuming attitude, being present with openness and being careful not to fall into partiality based on opinions and false views. (Suzuki 1999:5-6, passim)


2. From Expedient Means


"Ever since I attained Buddhahood I have through various causes and various similes widely expounded my teachings and have used countless expedient means to guide living beings and cause them to renounce [bad] attachments.

"Shariputra, the wisdom of the Tathágata [Tathágata, ie, Buddha] is expansive and profound. (beginning of verse 4)

"The Tathágata knows how to make various kinds of distinctions and to expound the teachings skillfully. His words are soft and gentle and delight the hearts of the assembly.

"The hero of the world is unfathomable. All who take to pondering and seeking, cannot understand the Dharma. But I have attained in full the Dharma. I understand its characteristics, wonderful and difficult to ponder. Further, through expedient means, I have shown them the teachings."


"Venerable one, you declare that the Dharma is beyond comprehension. We beg you to preach this foremost Law."


"When the age is impure and the times are chaotic, then the defilements of living beings are grave, they are greedy and jealous and put down roots that are not good.

Arrogant and puffed up with self-importance, such people are difficult to save.

"Persons of meager virtue and small merit are profoundly committed to false and empty doctrines, holding firmly to them, unable to set them aside.

"So all right, carefully ponder. The Buddhas preach the Dharma in accordance with what is appropriate, but the meaning is difficult to understand. We use countless expedient means, discussing causes and conditions and using words of simile and parable to expound the teachings. This Law is not something that can be understood through pondering or analysis. Only those who are Buddhas can understand it.

"The Buddhas, the World-Honoured Ones, wish to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings, to allow them to attain purity. They wish to cause living beings to awaken to the Buddha wisdom. This is the one great reason for which the Buddhas appear in the world. They simply wish to show the Buddha wisdom to living beings and enlighten them to it."

"The Buddhas of the past used countless numbers of expedient means, various causes and conditions, and words of simile and parable in order to expound the doctrines for the sake of living beings, who thus get better able to attain wisdom.

"Living beings have various desires. Attachments that are deeply implanted in their minds. Taking cognizance of this basic nature of theirs, I use various causes and conditions, words of simile and parable, and the power of expedient means and expound the Dharma for them.

"In order to gladden and please them all, sometimes he preaches sutras, verses, stories of unheard-of things. At other times he preaches uses similes, parables, passages of poetry or discourses. And to some, the sutra of the Great Vehicle.

"By knowing what is desired deep in the minds of living beings, Buddhas have employed still other expedient means to help illuminate the highest truth.

"Tathágatas in the future will also employ expedient means to preach the Dharma and save and bring release to living beings.

"The Buddhas understand the foremost truth and therefore employ the power of expedient means, and though they point out various different paths, they do so for the sake of the Buddha vehicle.

"They understand the thoughts that lie deep in the minds of living beings, the deeds they have carried out in the past, their nature, and so on, and so they employ various causes and conditions, similes, parables, and other words and phrases, adapting what expedient means are suitable to their preaching. I too am like this.

"People of small wisdom delight in a small Law." "Through the power of my wisdom I know the nature and desires of living beings. For the sake of these living beings I summon up a mind of great compassion.

"I clear away doubts and perplexities. ⚶ Although I preach nirvana, this is not a true extinction.


3. Simile and Parable


"How greatly I been have deceived! Formerly I was attached to erroneous views. In past ages the countless Buddhas who passed into nirvana rested and abided and preached."


"Some may spend a long time planting the roots of virtue, in cultivating Buddha wisdom, being upright in character, firm in intent and keep turning the wheel of the most wonderful, the Dharma."

Parable - Father of the burning house

Suppose that in a town there was a very rich man. He had many fields, His own house was big, but it had only one gate, and then a fire suddenly broke out spreading through the rooms. His many sons were inside, enjoying themselves and playing games.

The rich father thought, "My house has only one gate, and moreover it is narrow and small. I must get them out quickly and not let them be burned up in the fire!

He called to his sons, saying, ‘Fire! Fire! Come out at once!" But the sons did not care. In fact, they did not understand what the fire was, what the house was, what the danger was.

Their father came upon an idea to make the children get out of the building and escape coming to harm. So he said to them, 'The kind of playthings you fancy, are outside the gate right now, and you can play with them.'

Playthings were just what his many sons had wanted, and all came wildly dashing out of the burning house to get them. They said to the father, 'The playthings you promised us, please give them to us now!'

The rich man saw: "It would not be right if I were to give my sons small carriages of inferior make, "and gave to each of his sons a large carriage. The carriages were tall and spacious and carefully adorned. Each carriage was drawn by a fine ox, and there were many grooms and servants to attend and guard each carriage. On top of that, he gave his children some lesser play carts too, for the man was "rich to overflowing."

Retelling. The original Mahayana story upholds the idea that Mahayana, the Great Vehicle, is the best "cart". Buddhist schools are often grouped into three Yanas, 'Vehicles' or 'Paths'. They are: the Hinayana (Little vehicle), Mahayana (Great Vehicle) and Vajrayana (Vehicle of the Diamond - or Thunderbolt), which is also known as Tantrayana. It includes many of the basic concepts of Mahayana, but also a vast array of techniques designed to enhance Buddhist practice.


"The Tathágata is born into the threefold world - it is a burning house, rotten and old, burning with the fires of birth, old age, sickness and death, care suffering, stupidity, misunderstanding, and various poisons -, to enable them to attain unexcelled, complete Enlightenment, anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

"Yet living beings delight and amuse themselves, unaware, unknowing, without alarm or fear. They make no attempt to escape this burning house - the threefold world. they race about and encounter great pain.

"When the Buddha sees this, then he thinks to himself, I should give them the joy of Buddha wisdom so that they may find their enjoyment in that.

"The Tathágata also has this thought: if I should merely employ supernatural powers and the power of wisdom, then living beings would not be able to gain salvation. Why? Because most living beings have not yet escaped from birth, old age, sickness, death, care and suffering, but are consumed by flames in the burning house that is the threefold world.

"Though the Tathágata possesses powers he does not use these. He merely employs wisdom and expedient means to rescue living beings from the burning house of the threefold world.

"You must not be content to stay in this burning house of the threefold world! You have to apply yourselves with diligent effort!"

"If there are living beings who are inwardly wise, they are like sons who left the burning house.

"The inwardly wise seek wisdom that comes of itself [- by going deep in meditation].

"The Tathágata is the father of all.

"Through Buddha's teaching, one gains the delights of nirvana.

"It is permissible to preach this sutra to persons who are capable of understanding."


4. Belief and Understanding

Some listeners danced for joy and said to the Buddha:

"We believed that we had already attained nirvana, so we never sought to attain unexcelled, complete Enlightenment, anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. Moreover, we are old and decrepit. Suddenly we have heard something we never expected. We would be pleased now to use a parable to make clear what we mean."

Parable - Rich father, poor son

There was a young man who abandoned his very rich father, ran away, and lived for a long time in another land. As he drew older, he found himself increasingly poor and in want, until he chanced to return to his homeland. At last he came to the city where his father lived, his heart filled with regret and longing. Now he was old and decrepit. He had great wealth but no son. He had this thought: If I could find my son and entrust my wealth and possessions to him, then I could feel contented and easy in mind and would have no more worries.

One day the impoverished son came by chance to his father's house and saw its splendor. As he did not know it belonged to his father, he thought: 'How great the owner's power and authority is!' Then other thoughts came to him: 'This is not the sort of place where I can hire out my labor and gain a living.' Having thought in this way, he raced from the spot.

At that time the rich old man, saw him and recognised him at once. 'Now that I am old and decrepit, I still care what becomes of my belongings.'

He dispatched a bystander to go after the son as quickly as possible and bring him back. The messenger raced swiftly after the son and laid hold of him. Alarmed and fearful, the son cried out angrily, 'I have done nothing wrong! Why am I seized?' But the messenger forcibly dragged him back, where the son fainted with despair.

The father: "Sprinkle cold water on his face so he will regain his senses.

"The messenger said to the son, "I am releasing you now.'

The impoverished son picked himself up from the ground and went off to the village to look for food and clothing.

Meanwhile the rich man sent two lean and haggard men to the village. 'Go seek out that poor man and approach him casually. Then tell you know where he can earn twice the ordinary wage, and bring him here and put him to work. Say that he will be hired to clear away excrements, and that you two will be working with him.'

When the two messengers had found the poor man, and told him what they had been instructed to, the impoverished son went with the men to help clear away excrement.

When the father gazed out the window, he could see his son, thin and haggard, filthy with excrement, dirt, sweat and defilement. The father at once removed his fine clothes and adornments and put on ragged and soiled clothers, smeared dirt on his body, took in his right hand a utensil for removing excrement. Assuming a gruff manner, he spoke to the laborers, saying, 'Keep at your work! You mustn't be lazy!' By employing this means, he was able to approach his son.

Later he spoke to his son again, 'Now then, young man! Keep on working, and I will increase your wages, and whatever you need in the way of utensils, rice, flour, salt, vinegar, and the like you should be in no worry about. I have an old servant I can lend you when you need him. You may set your mind at ease. I will be like a father to you, so have no more worries. Why do I say this? I am well along in years, but you are still young and sturdy. When you are at work, you are never deceitful or lazy or speak angry or resentful words. You don't seem to have any faults of that kind. From now on, you will be like my own son.'

The rich man carried on to select a name and assign it to the man as though he were his child.

At this time the impoverished son still thought of himself as a person of humble station. Therefore the rich man kept him clearing away excrement for the next twenty years. By the end of this time, the son felt that he was understood and trusted, and he could come and go at ease, but he continued to live in the same place as before.

Now the rich man fell ill and knew he would die before long. He spoke to his impoverished son, saying, "I now have great quantities of gold, silver, and rare treasures that fill and overflow from my storehouses. You are to take complete charge of the amounts I have and of what is to be handed out and gathered in. This is what I have in mind, for from now on, you and I will not behave as two different persons. Keep your wits about you and see that there are no mistakes or losses.'

The impoverished son took over the surveillance of all the goods, and gold, silver and rare treasures, and the various storehouses, but never thought or appropriated for himself so much as the cost of a single meal. He continued to live where he had before, unable to cease thinking of himself as mean and lowly.

After some time, the father perceived that his son was bit by bit becoming more self-assured and magnanimous in outlook, that he was determined to accomplish great things. The father understood that his own end was approaching, so he ordered his son to arrange a meeting with his relatives and the king of the country, the high ministers, and the noblemen and householders. When they were all gathered together, the father announced: "Gentlemen, you should know that this is my son, who ran away from me and suffered hardships for over fifty years, wandering about. Now everything that belongs to me, all my wealth and possessions, shall belong entirely to this son of mine."

When the impoverished son heard these words of his father, he gladly thought to himself, I originally had no mind to covet or seek such things. Yet now these stores of treasures have come of their own accord!

This old man with his great riches is none other than the Tathágata, and we are all like the Buddha's sons. Today the World-Honoured One makes us ponder carefully, to get rid of the filth.

But knowing how our minds cling to unworthy desires and delight in lesser doctrines, the Father pardoned us and though once we did not know that we were the sons of the Buddha, now at least we know it. Though originally we had no mind to covet or seek the great treasure of the Dharma King, now it has come to us of its own accord.


5. The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs


"The Tathágata observes and understands the deepest mind of all living beings, penetrating them completely and without hindrance - understands the species, the form, the true circumstances, the substance, the nature of the living beings, he knows things they ponder, things they practice. He can see the desires that are in the minds of living beings, and guide and protect them.

"When living beings hear the law of the Tathágata, the Dharma of one form, one flavour, they are not able to realise or understand the blessings they are gaining.

"Preach the Dharma in accordance with what is appropriate."

"Plants and trees, thickets and groves, and medicinal herbs grow in the hills and streams, the valleys and different soils. Dense clouds spread over them, covering and saturating it all. The moisture penetrates to them, to roots, stems, limbs and leaves. The Tathágata is like this. He appears in the world like a great cloud rising up, saying: "I know all things, see all things, understand the way, open up the way." The rain falls from that great cloud on the plants and trees, thickets and groves and medicinal herbs. Each that gets a share of moistening, is enabled to sprout and grow."


Two-legged Cloud
I am the Tathágata,
like a great cloud I appear in the world
the most honoured of two-legged beings.

I can create causes and conditions for numerous persons.
Those who work to meditate are superior medicinal herbs.
Those who practise mercy and compassion I call small trees.
Those who dwell in meditation, having grown and matured,
and greatly rejoicing, we call large trees,
and those who abide in peace I also call large trees.
Trees, whether large or small,
bit by bit grow lush and beautiful.



6. Foretellings

Buddha said in essence: "One is to practise wisdom to become a Buddha. By following the practices of the Buddhas many will gradually fulfil the great way and become Buddhas. Various disciples will all be able to attain Buddhahood."


7. Phantom City


"Because I employ the Tathágata's power to know and see, when I look at a far-off time it seems like today.

"The World-Honoured One is very rarely met with; is difficult to encounter, appearing only once in many long ages to turn the wheel of the unsurpassed Law."

"Formerly people followed ways that were not good, so they lost delight and had no knowledge of good customs or rules. Constantly they fell into evil paths." (Abr)

In the midst of the great assembly of heavenly and human beings the Buddha expounded broadly: Ignorance causes action, action causes consciousness.

"They are very rare, penetrating, bright and wise, who through brahma practices* have attained anuttara-samyak-sambodhi."

* 'Pure practices', it refers to practices aimed at freeing oneself from earthly desires. (Cf. Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia)

The Phantom City

There was a stretch of bad road, steep and difficult, wild and deserted. There were harmful beasts in the terrain, and no inhabitants around. Several people wanted to pass over that road to reach a place where there was rare treasures. They had a leader who knew the steep road thoroughly and who was prepared to guide the group of people and go with them over the difficult terrain.

After getting midway, the group got disheartened and afraid and said to the leader, "We are completely exhausted. There is still such a long way to go. We would like to turn around and go back now.'

The leader thought to himself, 'What a pity! They want to turn back. In that case they will miss the many rare treasures ahead!' He then conjured up a walled city farther off along the road and said to the group, "Look, a great city where you can stop, rest, ad do as you please, at ease and tranquil! We may carry on later.'

The members of the group lighted up, "Now we can escape from this dreadful road!' They pressed forward, entered the city and felt at ease.

As soon as the leader knew the group had got rested and no longer fearful and weary, he wiped out the phantom city and said to the group, 'It is time to carry on along the road again. The place where the treasure is, is close by."


"The bad road of birth and death and earthly desires is steep, toilsome, difficult, long and far-stretching, but it has to be passed over. Enter the Buddha way and have no fear; when you get deeply rested, you may be led on toward better pastures." (Extracted)


8. Foretelling Enlightenment Many Disciples


"Purna Maitrayaniputra . . . is a true voice-hearer! He will attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi unexcelled, complete Enlightenment.

"Most beings are fearful of great wisdom."

"Five hundred arhats here will attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi."

At that those arhats danced for joy and said, "Earlier, we were willing to content ourselves with petty wisdom; not comprehensive wisdom. It was like the case of the man in the parable:

Parable: The jewel in the lining of the robe

A man went to the house of a close friend. After he got drunk on wine, lay down to sleep .At that time the friend had to go out on official business. He took a priceless jewel, sewed it in the lining of the man's robe and left it with him when he went out.

The man was asleep drunk and knew nothing about it. When he got up, he set out on a journey to other countries. To get food and clothing he encountered severe hardships and had to make do with what little he could come by, unaware that in the lining of his robe was a priceless jewel.

Later, the close friend happened to meet him by chance and said, "You have to do all this for the sake of food and clothing? Last time we met I wanted to make sure you could live in ease and please yourself, and took a priceless jewel and sewed it in the lining of your robe. It must still be there now. Because you did not know about it, you wore yourself out trying to survive. But take the jewel and exchange it for goods. Then you can have whatever you wish at all times and never know poverty or want."

When the poor man saw the jewel his heart was filled with great joy,

"The Buddha is like this friend. We are like the poor and impoverished man," said the five hundred arhats.


9. Prophecies Conferred on Learners and Adepts

Ananda constantly attended the Buddha and guarded and upheld the Dharma storehouse, and Rahula was Buddha's son. They said together, "Oh, foretell that we too will attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi."

Buddha said to Ananda: "You will become a Buddha some time later," and Ananda was filled with great joy at that. Then Buddha said to Rahula: "You will become a Buddha as well."

Buddha went on to say to Ananda, "Do you see these two thousand learners and adepts? They too will become Buddhas some time far in the future." When the two thousand learners and adepts heard Buddha tell this, they danced for joy and said, "Our hearts are filled with joy as though we were bathed in sweet dew!"

A Note

Even more promising: Eihei Dogen (1200–53) to the followers to "practice with utmost diligence. Ten out of ten of you will attain the Way. My late master Tendo encouraged us in this way." (Masunaga 1971, 16)


10. The Teacher of the Dharma

The Buddha told the Medicine King:

"If after I am out of here there should be someone who listens to the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, even one verse or one phrase, and for a moment thinks joy, I will likewise bestow on him that he too will attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

"Again if there are good men and good women who embrace, read, recite, expound and copy the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, even only one verse, with as much reverence as for the Buddha, then these persons will be looked up to and honoured. In a latter-day existence they are certain to attain Buddhahood, for Buddhas take pity on living beings in this human world.

"If one of these good men or good women in the time after my life here is able to secretly expound the Lotus Sutra to one person, even one phrase of it, then you should know that he or she is the envoy of the Tathágata. How much more so those who in the midst of the great assembly broadly expound the sutra for others!

"Heavenly treasures should be scattered over them as gifts. And if one listens to them for even a moment, he will immediately attain the ultimate anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

"Embrace the Lotus Sutra and at the same time give alms to those who do so. The choicest delicacies, all that is sweet and tasty, and various types of clothing you should offer to these Buddha sons. Offer alms to the upholders of this sutra! Then you will experience joy and good fortune."

The pressing question: Will any Lotus Sutra phrase do to gain Buddhahood? If not, which one or which ones may do it? It could be wise to sort it out. Is this phrase good enough, as the Lotus Sutra tells it is? "Shariputra, wishing to state his meaning once more, spoke in verse form"? (Chap 3, par 5). Or is it phrases by Buddha in the sutra only, for example from a parable? "If I distributed these possessions of mine to every person in the whole country I would still not exhaust them, much less could I do so by giving them to my sons!" (From the parable in chap. 3). The awards surpass the delicacies of heaven, it says. But there might be a problem to take into account if the promise is fully valid only for the Sanskrit original.

Buddha said:

"The sutras I have preached number ten thousands millions. [That many are not in the tradition.] This Lotus Sutra is the most difficult to believe.

"Medicine King, if there are those who can copy, uphold, read and recite this sutra, offer alms to it and expound it for others, then the Tathágata will cover them with his robe.

"Medicine King, in any place whatsoever where this sutra is preached, where it is read, where it is recited, where it is copied, or where a roll of it exists, in all such places there should be erected towers made of the seven kinds of gems, and they should be made very high and broad and well adorned. And they should be accorded reverence, honour and praise. If when people see these towers they bow in obeisance and offer alms, then you should know that such persons have all drawn near to anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

Parched with thirst and digging for water

Buddha tells: "There was a man who was parched with thirst and in need of water. On an upland plateau he began digging a hole in search of water, but the soil was dry. He did not cease his efforts, however, and bit by bit he saw the soil became damper, until gradually he had worked his way into mud. Now he was determined to go on, for he was nearing water.



"If a person is thirsty and wants water, he may dig a hole. Then, if bit by bit he sees the soil grow damp and muddy he knows he is nearing water. Those who hear this sutra and afterwards carefully ponder it, they get closer to the wisdom of the Buddha.

"The way of the bodhisattva is the same. This storehouse of the Lotus Sutra is hidden deep. But the Buddha opens it up for them. Further, if when a person expounds this sutra there is someone who speaks ill and reviles him or attacks him with swords and staves, tiles and stones, he should . . . be patient."


11. The Treasure Tower that Rose out of the Earth and Hovered in the Air

A jewelled treasure tower rose up out of the earth and hovered in the air. A loud voice came from the treasure tower, saying, "Splendid, World-Honoured One, What you teach is true!"

The gathered believers saw the great treasure tower suspended in the air, and heard the voice that came from it.

A bodhisattva in the large gathering said to the Buddha: "World-Honoured One, why has this treasure tower risen up out of the earth? And why does this voice issue from within it?"

Buddha said: "This tower heard the preaching of the Lotus Sutra. There is a Buddha inside it. He has come forth out of the ground to praise the sutra!"

Buddha rose from his seat and then into the air and opened the door of soaring treasure-tower with the fingers of his right hand. Inside another buddha was sitting. All the gathered people heard him say, "Splendid, splendid! Gautama Buddha is preaching the Lotus Sutra in a spirited manner and I have come to hear it."

The Buddha in the tower offered half his seat there to Gautama Buddha, and Gautama at once took half of the seat, sitting in cross-legged position.

The members of the great assembly thought to themselves, "These Buddhas are seated high up and far away! If only the Tathágatas would employ their transcendental powers to let all of us to be there in the air with them!"

At once Gautama Buddha used his powers to lift the members of the great assembly up into the air and said:

"All good men, each of you must consider carefully!

"If, when the fires come, one can load dry grass on his back and enter the fire without being burned, that would not be difficult. But to expound this sutra to even one person, that will be difficult!

"This sutra is hard to uphold."


12. Devadatta

There once was a king who asked, "Who can expound the Great Vehicle for me?"

A seer came to the king, saying, "I will."

The king's heart was was filled with great joy. Through diligently seeking he was able to acquire this Law and eventually attain Buddhahood.

Buddha said to the monks:

"This seer, a good friend to me, was the man who is now Devadatta. The fact that I have attained impartial and correct enlightenment and can save living beings on a broad scale is all due to Devadatta who was a good friend.

"Devadatta will become a buddha. Further, good men and good women, if they are born among human or heavenly beings, should enjoy exceedingly wonderful delights, and if they get reborn in the presence of a buddha, they will be born spontaneously in a lotus flower."

At that time Manjushri appearded. He came out of the ocean from the palace of the dragon king there and now Manjushri floated in midair at the Eagle peak.

Someone asked him: "When you went to the palace of the dragon king, how many did you convert?"

Manjushri replied, "The mouth cannot express it, the mind cannot have fathom it. Wait a minute and there'll be proof."

Before he had finished speaking, countless bodhisattvas on jewelled lotus blossoms emerged from the sea far off and soared to the holy Eagle Peak, where they remained hovering in the air. These bodhisattvas all had been converted and saved by Manjushri. Those who had originally been voiced-hearers expounded the practices of the voice-hearer when they were in the air.

Manjushri said, "When I was in the ocean I constantly expounded the Lotus Sutra of the wonderful Law alone."

Thousands on thousands of drowned sailors who failed to breathe and talk under water and emerge from it and float in the air, could have attested that unless one is markedly accomplished at such things, many a life may be at stake.

The daughter of the dragon king in the ocean

The daughter of the dragon king Sagara had just turned eight, but she was wise and had been taught profound secrets preached by the Buddhas. She had entered deep into meditation, and had become eloquent too. She was subtle and great, gentle and refined capable of getting enlightened.

Suddenly she appeared before the Buddha and praised him with words like these:

"He profoundly understands the signs good fortune
dragons and spirits all pay honour and respect.
Having heard his teachings, I have attained bodhi [awakening] -
the Buddha alone can bear witness to this.

Shariputra said to the dragon girl, "You suppose that in this short time you have been able to attain the unsurpassed way. This is difficult to believe."

The dragon girl had a precious jewel which she presented to the Buddha. The Buddha at once excepted it. The dragon girl said to Shariputra, "I presented the precious jewel and the World-Honoured One accepted it - was that not quickly done?"

They replied, "Very quickly!"

The girls said, "Watch me attain Buddhahood. It shall be even quicker than that!" As the assembly watched she attaining impartial and correct enlightenment. All saw the dragon girl become a Buddha and then she preached the Dharma to all the human and heavenly beings in the assembly. Their hearts were filled with great joy.


13. Of Proper Fulfilment

The Bodhisattvas, the Medicine King and twenty thousand bodhisattva followers assured Buddh they would honour, embrace, read, recite and preach the Lotus Sutra when he was no longer among them.

Now Buddha told an aunt on his mother's side, Gautami, "You will be a great teacher of Law until you are able to become a Buddha."

At that time the mother of the Buddha's son Rahula, Yashodhara, thought to herself, "He has failed to mention my name alone!"

The Buddha then told to the mother of his son, "You will gradually fulfil the Buddha way and become a Buddha."

All the nuns now addressed the Buddha, saying: "Blessed One, we too will expound this sutra in other lands."

Bodhisattvas said they would spread the Lotus Sutra, they too, practice it in accordance with the Dharma, and properly keep it, unlike those greedy for profit and with evil in their hearts while hoping to gain fame and renown thereby, also saying,

"In a muddled and evil age there will be many things to fear.

"Reverently trusting in the Buddha, in ages to come we will protect and uphold what the Buddha has entrusted to us."


14. Great Teacher Practices

Explanation. The term "bodhisattva" originally referred to the pre-enlightened practitioner. In Mahayana it is one who has enlightenment as his aim. It is likely that the initial bodhisattva ideal was associated with a strict forest asceticism. Mahayana encourages everyone to become bodhisattvas, although there are different conceptions of what it is. Anyway, some sources tell a bodhisattva is someone on the path to full Buddhahood.

A Mahasattva is a "great being", that is, a great bodhisattva who has practiced Buddhism for a long time and reached a level on the path to awakening (bodhi). In Japanese the word is translated into makasatsu and daishi. Manjushri and Avalokitesvara are told of as such great beings. This chapter tells how bodhisattvas mahasattvas are to behave as great teachers and preachers, rich in peaceful practices and dealings.


"World-Honoured One, in the evil age to come, how are the great teachers (ie, bodhisattvas) and mahasattvas to go about preaching this sutra?"

The Buddha:

"They should abide by the practices and associations proper for bodhisattvas: perseverant, gentle and compliant, never violent, and never afraid or alarmed, and without acting or making any distinction, that is, neither act nor discern (!).

"Further, they should not associate closely with rulers, princes, high ministers or heads of offices, or with those who compose works of secular literature, critics of poetry, or with writers of books extolling the heretics, and not with hazardous amusement, boxing or wrestling, clowns, and various jugglers or with actors or others engaging in various kinds of illusionary entertainment, or with persons engaged in raising pigs, sheep, chickens or dogs, or those who engage in hunting or fishing or those with evil conduct.

If such persons at times come to one, then one may preach the Dharma for them, but one should expect nothing from it.

"Further still, they should neither associate with monks, nuns, laymen or laywomen who seek to become voice-hearers, nor question or visit them. They should not stay with them in the same room, on roads, or while in lecture halls. One should not join them in their activities. If the times they come to one, one should preach the Dharma in accordance with what is appropriate, but should not expect nothing from it.

And still further, the bodhisattvas or mahasattvas should not, when preaching the Dharma to women, do so in a manner that could arouse thoughts of desire in them, nor should he delight in seeing them. If he enters the house of another person, he should not engage in talk with the young girls, unmarried women or widows. Nor should he go near the five types of unmanly men or have any close dealings with them. He should not enter another person's house alone.

If they should preach the Dharma to a woman, they should not bare their teeth in laughter or let their chests become exposed. They should not have any intimate dealings with them even for the sake of the Dharma, much less for any other purpose.

"They should not delight in nurturing underage disciples or children, and should not delight in sharing the same teacher with them. They should constantly take pleasure in sitting in meditation, being in quiet surroundings and learning to still their minds.

Manjushri, these are what I call the things they should first of all associate themselves with.

"Next, the bodhisattva or mahasattvas should view all phenomena for what they are.

They should not associate with persons of overbearing arrogance or women lay believers who are profoundly attached to the five desires.

They should preach the Dharma to those who come to them with good hearts, but should not associate with widows and unmarried women or unmanly men or retreat into intimacy with any of them.

They must not associate with slaughterers or flesh-carvers, those who hunt animals or catch fish, or kill to do harm for profit, or those who display women and sell their favours.

And they should never associate with lascivious women or go alone into an enclosed place to preach the Dharma to a woman.

When they preach the Dharma, let there be no jesting or laughter.

By being careful about such fit practices and associations one can preach in a peaceful manner.

These are what I call practices of bodhisattvas.

If for the sake of the ruler, the princes, ministers and people, the Brahmans and others - a bodhisattva at times will - unfold, propagate, expound and preach this sutra, such are the first set of rules to abide by for preaching the Lotus Sutra.

"Furthermore, in the Latter Day of the Dharma, if they wish to preach this sutra, they should not delight in speaking of the faults of other people or strictures. They should not display contempt for other teachers of the Dharma or speak of other people's tastes or shortcomings. They should not refer to the voice-hearers by name and describe their faults, or name them and praise their good points.

Also, they should not allow their minds to become filled with resentment or hatred. They should explain so that people will be able to acquire wisdom."

A repeat:

The bodhisattva should at all times delight
in preaching the Dharma in a tranquil manner.
Seating himself comfortably in seat,
he should preach the Dharma in accordance with questions.
With a mild expression he should preach the subtle and wonderful doctrines.
If there are difficult questions he should answer them in accordance with the doctrines, using similes and parables
to expound and make distinctions,
and through these expedient means increase their benefits little by little.
Constantly, day and night the great teachers should expound the teachings of the unsurpassed way like that
to instruct living beings and make them joyful.

"The bodhisattvas or mahasattvas in the latter age hereafter, when the Dharma is about to perish, must not harbour a mind marked by jealousy, fawning or deceit. And they must not the contentious of or revile those who study the Buddha's way or seek out their shortcomings.

If there are any who seek the bodhisattva way, the great teachers must not trouble them and cause them doubts are regrets by saying, "You will never be able to attain wisdom embracing all species, you self-indulgent and wilful people who are negligent in the way!" or "You will never become Buddhas!" For these teachers are to be gentle and full of forbearance at all times, having pity and compassion.

As for bodhisattvas, others are to think of them as great teachers, paying them due reverence and obeisance.

The bodhisattvas had better not engage in frivolous debate over the various doctrines or dispute but think of debaters and other living beings with great compassion, and do it as kindly father.

Bodhisattvas, preach the Dharma to all living beings and in an equitable manner, and thus probably not at greater length.

When bodhisattvas preach this Law to good fellow students they are free from anxiety and confusion.

Toward believers who are still in the household or those who have the household the great teachers should cultivate a mind of great compassion.

The Tathágata preaches the Dharma in accordance with what is appropriate, yet they do not listen, do not know, do not realise, do not inquire, do not believe, do not understand. But I will draw them to me so that they abide in this Dharma (Law).

If some bodhisattvas and mahasattvas in carrying out these rules, then they will commit no error when they preach the Dharma. And this sutra is protected by the supernatural powers of all the Buddhas of the past, future, and present.

Manjushri, the Tathágata uses the power of meditation and wisdom to win Dharma lands and become king of the threefold world.

This Lotus Sutra is capable of causing living beings to attain comprehensive wisdom.

For the sake of the living beings the great teachers preach sutras. Do your best to expound and preach the sutra praised by the Buddha.


15. Emerging from the Earth

Note. Here we hear of far more than 360,000 times as many people as the sands of Ganges. That is an awfully large number. "How much sand was there in the Ganges and its riverbed when this was said?" To get an inkling, fill a little bucket or glass and count the grains in it, and add lots of zeroes after. In such a way one may stipulate very tentatively that there were lots of grains. It may pay to stop at that.

The bodhisattvas and mahasattvas who had gathered from the lands of the other directions, greater in number than sands of eight Ganges, stood up in the midst of the great assembly and offered to preach the Lotus Sutra widely.

The Buddhas said to them:

Leave off, good men! There are bodhisattvas and mahasattvas who are as numerous as the sands of sixty thousand Ganges, and each of these bodhisattvas has a retinue equal to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges. They can protect, read, recite, and extensively teach and preach this sutra.

When the Buddhas spoke these words, the earth trembled and split open, and out of it emerged immeasurable thousands, ten thousands, millions of golden-hued bodhisattvas and mahasattvas. They all had been dwelling in the world of empty space beneath the saha world. Now they came up from below and were very many. Where had this great assembly of incalculable bodhisattvas come from? From space, and "up" through the earth.

Each one of these bodhisattvas was the leader of his own great assembly, and each brought with him a retinue equal in number to the sands of sixty thousand Ganges. To say nothing of those who brought retinues equal to the sands of fifty thousand, forty thousand, thirty thousand, twenty thousand, or ten thousand Ganges. Or a retinue equal to as little as the sands of one Ganges, half a Ganges, one fourth of a Ganges, or as little as one part in a thousand, ten thousand, a million nayutas of Ganges. Or these whose retinue was only one thousand ton thousand million nayutas. Or only a million ten thousand. Or only a thousand ten thousand, a hundred ten thousand, or just ten thousand. Or only one thousand, one hundred, or ten. Or who brought with them only five, four, three, two or one disciple. Or those who came alone, preferring to carry out solitary practices. Such were whey, beyond what can be calculated.

After these bodhisattvas that emerged from the earth, they each one proceeded to the wonderful tower of seven treasures suspended in the sky where two Buddha were. On reaching it, they turned to the two world-honoured ones, bowed their heads and made obeisance at their feet. They bowed until their foreheads touched the feet of both Buddhas.

Would all of these thousands of millions really get a glimpse of the Buddhas in such a large throng without defiling? How long would it take for them all to touch the feet? For incalculable numbers, calculations are not precise, and may contain beliefs. For example, it is believed that there are between 120 to 300 sextillion stars in our observable universe. Calculations based on beliefs leave room for suggestions.

Four of the emerged, floating bodhisattvas asked Gautama Buddha about his health, and he said,

"The Tathágata is at ease and without illness or pain. It is easy to save sentient beings, and I am not fatigued."

The four bodhisattvas with incalculable retinues like the sands of the Ganges River said: "Splendid, splendid! We rejoice about this."

Buddha: "The number of those who have come before the Buddha is far beyond any calculation."

However, to get a more patent idea of how the gathering was like, we may calculate how much space a hundred million people require if they are tightly packed or more loosely packed. An average sized human may be put in a tub that is already filled to the brim, and then the overflow water may be measured. A far easier way of doing it is to weigh him or her and say the volume is close to it, rounded off to 50 litres, and thus 0.05 cubic metres. Then give each a little space to breathe, and multiply by 100 millions and get well over 5 million cubic metres. Thus, even tight-packed, many of the gathered, floating bodhisattvas would be well over two kilometres away from the Buddhas if they did not move about in the air. In such a gathering it could be good not to be hard of hearing. Well, well . . .

The assembley of floating bodhisattvas were endowed with great dignity and perseverance in abiding in the good. All of these great emerged bodhisattvas had practiced the wisdom of the Buddha. For a long time they had all been inspired by the Buddha who never speaks false words. They constantly delighted to be in a quiet place, and constantly delighted in profound wisdom; delighted in the Dharma the Buddha, pursuing unsurpassed wisdom, and taking no delight in much talk.


16. The Life Span of the Tathágata


"Understand the truthful words of the Tathágata. If there are living beings who come to me, I use my Buddha eye to observe their faculties, causing living beings to awaken joyful minds.

"The Tathágata observes there are those who delight in a little Law.

"Sometimes I speak of myself, sometimes of others.

"This world is not what those who dwell in it perceive it to be. The Tathágata sees clearly and tries to make others realise how difficult it is to plant good roots and get liberated."


There was a skilled physician, wise and understanding and knowing how to compound medicines to effectively cure diseases. He has many sons, perhaps ten, twenty, or even a hundred. He went off to some other land far away to see about a certain affair. After he has gone, the children drank some kind of poison that made them distraught with pain and fall writhing to the ground.

At that time the father returned home and found that his children have drunk poison. Some were completely out of their minds, while others were not. Seeing their father again, all were overjoyed and entreated him, saying: "We have drunk some poison. Please cure us and let us live out our lives!"

Upon hearing this, the father gathered fine medicinal herbs and ground, sifted and mixed them together. Giving a dose to his children, he told them: "This medicine works very well. Take it and you will quickly be relieved of your sufferings and will be free of all illness."

The children who had not got completely mad took it at once and were fully cured. But those who were out of their minds refused to take it, for their minds did not function as earlier.

The father thought to himself: My poor children! Their minds are poisoned and completely befuddled. They need the medicine. He said to them: "I will leave this good medicine here. Take it and do not worry that it will not cure you."

After giving these instructions, he then went off to another land. From there he sent a messenger home to say, "Your father is dead," as a poem to declare, perhaps.

On hearing "Your father is dead," the children thought: If only our father had been alive! We are shelter-less orphans with no one to rely on!

In their consternation and grief and to comfort themselves they took the medicine he had left - and were healed. The father, hearing that his children were all cured, at once returned home to them.


"The Buddha's words are true, not false. He is like a skilled physician - no one can say he speaks falsely. For the sake of living beings I say that I am about to pass into nirvana, but by that I do not mean I pass into extinction. I am always here.

"When living beings witness the end of a kalpa and all is consumed in a great fire, my heavenly land remains safe and tranquil, adorned with gems and filled with music. My pure land is not destroyed, yet the multitude see it as consumed in fire, with anxiety, fear and other sufferings filling it everywhere.

"Those who practice meritorious ways, will see the Buddha preaching the Dharma.

"Always I am aware of which living beings practice the way, and which do not."

1. A kalpa is a Sanskrit word meaning an aeon, or a quite long period of time (by human calculation) in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology.

2. Pure Land Buddhism is one of the most widely practiced traditions of Buddhism in East Asia. The three primary texts of the tradition are known as the "Three Pure Land Sutras". Pure Land oriented practices and concepts - "Pure Land traditions" or "Pure Land teachings" - form an important part of the Mahayana Buddhist traditions of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Tibet, and Pure Land sects developed in Japan. There are a few books on Pure Land Buddhism at the bottom of the page.


17. Various Benefits

In the last chapter, Eternal Buddha riding on past, present and future, is hinted at. In this chapter, merits are told of in some detail. Merit is related to purity and goodness, and stems from good deeds, acts, and thoughts. Buddhism holds that merit-making is one key to good and agreeable results and determines the quality of the next life and a person's growth development towards enlightenment.

Among the good things are daranis. A dharani is a type of ritual speech similar to a mantra. It is suggested that a dharani is a mnemonic devise which sums up the meaning of a section or chapter of a sutra. Dharanis are also considered to protect those who chant them from malign influences and calamities.


"Bodhisattvas and mahasattvas gained the dharani teaching that allows them to retain all that they hear; the eloquence that allows them to speak pleasingly and without hindrance; to retain millions and much more repetitions of the teachings; and be able to turn the unregressing pure wheel of a Law.

"They also gained assurance that they would attain anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

"And living beings, numerous as the dust particles of eight worlds, were all moved to set their minds on anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.

"Those who behave well, pure and without corruption, may also gain perfection of meditation. (Abr)

"Some who have profound thoughts understand the Buddha's words in accordance with what is appropriate. (Abr)

"Those who preserve and recite this sutra, explain it to others, copy it or move others to copy it and revere it, no longer have to build stupas, monasteries, or erect chambers for the monks, or revere the sangha (congregation). When they even practice the perfections of giving (dána), good conduct (síla), perseverance (kshánti), effort (vírya), meditation (dhyána), and wisdom (prajná), their merit is the highest. They will quickly obtain omniscience.

"Such people have already set out for the terrace of enlightenment.

"Those who preserve this sutra will have already finished paying homage in the way just described. If they can preserve this sutra it will be as if they had paid homage in the presence of the Buddha and had built sandalwood monasteries for monks.

"If one were to see another who has perfected merits like these, one should scatter heavenly flowers over him. There the Buddha himself will always be also, within."

Again: Buddha teaches somehow that those who no longer have to build stupas, monasteries, or erect chambers for the monks, or revere the sangha (congregation) . . . their merit could be the highest.


18. The Benefits of Responding with Joy

Maitreya said:

"If there are good men or good women who, hearing this Lotus Sutra, respond with joy, how many blessings do they get?"


"If they spread the teachings from one to the other until they reach a fiftieth person, the benefits of that one who responds with joy are beyond compare.

And if a person brings another with him and even for an instant listens to the sutra, the benefits of the first of them will be: he will see the Buddha in each life he lives.

If someone in the Dharma assembly is able to hear this sutra, even just one verse, and responding with joy, preaches it to others, and in this way the teachings are handed along till they reach the fiftieth person, the blessings gained by the fiftieth person are far greater than those arhats who gain nirvana - far greater. How much more so with one who first hears the sutra in the Dharma assembly and responds with joy.

If a person is urged by another to go and listen to the Lotus Sutra, and then goes to listen, even though he listens for just a moment, the blessings that he gets include a tongue that is not dry, black or too short, face and eyeballs properly aligned and impressive; breath free of foul odor; and a flower fragrance constantly emitted by the mouth.

If someone goes to the monk quarters for the sake of listening to the Lotus Sutra and listens with joy for just a moment - then in existences to come he will get wonderful elephants, horses, carriages, palanquins adorned with rare jewels, and will mount to the palaces of heaven.

If someone where the law is expounded encourages another to sit and hear the sutra, the blessings he gets will enable him to gain the seat of Shakra [Lord of the Devas or of Heaven], Brahma [a leading god (deva) and heavenly king in Buddhism] and the wheel-turner [Buddha]

How much more so if one listens single-mindedly, explains and expounds the meaning, and practices the sutra as the sutra instructs - that person's blessings know no bounds!

The first part of a verse to listen to and preach and thereby get more blessed than arhats by, and fresh breath too, according to the promises here, might run like this: "Shariputra, the wisdom of the Tathágata is expansive and profound." (Tathágata is often translated as 'Thus Come One'.) The rest is in Chapter 2) Shariputra worked as Buddha's right hand, and was reputedly the wisest of his disciples.


19. Benefits of the Teacher of the Dharma


"If good men or good women accept and uphold this Lotus Sutra, if they read it, recite it, explain and preach it, or transcribe it, such persons will obtain eight hundred eye benefits, twelve hundred ear benefits, eight hundred nose benefits, twelve hundred tongue benefits, eight hundred body benefits, and twelve hundred mind benefits. With these benefits they will be able to adorn their six sense organs, making all of them pure.

[The benefits for each sense are then detailed throughout the chapter. Here are many so-called ear benefits - but not all of those listed:]


They will gain twelve hundred ear benefits with which to purify their ears so they can hear all the different varieties of words and sounds in the world, down as far as the Avichi hell, up to the Summit of Being, have been in its inner and our parts. Elephant sounds, horse sounds, ox sounds, carriage sounds, weeping sounds, lamenting sounds, conch sounds, drum sounds, bell sounds, chime sounds, sounds of laughter, sounds of speaking, men's voices, women's voices, boys' voices, girls' voices, the voice that is not the Law, bitter voices, merry voices, voices of common mortals, voices of sages, happy voices, unhappy voices, voices of heavenly beings, dragon voices, yaksha voices, gandharva voices, asura voices, garuda voices, kimnara voices, mahoraga voices, the sound of fire, the sound of water, the sound of wind, voices of hell dwellers, voices of beasts, voices of hungry spirits, monks' voices, nuns' voices, voices of voice hearers, voices of pratyekabuddhas, voices of bodhisattvas and voices of Buddhas. In a word, although the person has not yet gained heavenly ears, with the pure and ordinary ears that he received at birth from his parents he will be able to hear and understand all the voices . . . all the various kinds of sounds and voices, this will not impair his hearing faculty."

In the worlds when beasts and birds call to another this person who preaches the Law hears them all from where he is.

In the Brahma heaven and above, the Light Sound Heaven, All Pure heaven, and up to the Summit of Being heaven, the sounds of the voices talking there - the teacher of the Law, dwelling here, can hear them all.

All the multitude of monks and all the nuns, whether they are reading or reciting the scriptures or preaching them for the sake of others - the teacher of the Law dwells here, can hear them all. Because the faculties of his ears are so keen that he can distinguish and understand all the sounds.

One who upholds the Lotus Sutra, though he has not yet gained heavenly ears, can do this simply through the ears he was born with - such are the benefits he gains.

[Much the same goes for the other senses and the mind. All beings everywhere may be detected and found out, from bottom to top of the outer and inner worlds, from the periphery and in the middle, and it is good too.

"Pure noses" can detect all the different fragrances from top to bottom in the inner and our parts of the world whether they are near or far off, they are detected and distinguished from one another without error. It includes heavenly scents, for "there are none that he cannot detect and identify."

He will also be able to detect the scent of the bodies of heavenly beings, even from afar, also detect the incense burned by the heavenly beings, and his faculty of smell will not be impaired or disordered for it. If he should wish to distinguish one scent from another and describe it for someone else, he will be able to recall it without error."

Buddha repeats:

"The purity of such a person's nose will be such that throughout this world he will be able to detect and identify all manner of odours, fragrant or foul, the scent of living beings, of men and women. From afar he will detect the scents and know where the persons are.

"Precious treasures - he will detect their scent where they are.

"The World-Honoured Ones, present in all quarters, revered and respected by all, pitying the multitude, preaching the Law - by detecting their scent he knows them all.

"Though [the Sutra-upholder] has not yet acquired the nose possessed by a bodhisattva of the Law, the upholder of the sutra before then will get a nose with the marks described here."

From the eight hundred body benefits for Sutra-upholders:

Buddha: "They will get pure bodies . . . others will be reflected in them as in a mirror - all will be reflected."

From the twelve hundred mind benefits:

Buddha: "They will master immeasurable and boundless numbers of principles because their minds are pure. They will also be able to expound and preach on a single phrase or a single verse for a month, for four months, or for a whole year, and the doctrines that they preach during that time will conform to the gist of the principles and will never be contrary to true reality.

"If they should expound some text of the secular world or speak on matters of government or those relating to wealth and livelihood, they will in all cases conform to the correct Law. They will also understand how the minds of all living beings work, how they move, and what idle theories they entertain . . . their calculations and surmises and the words they speak, will in all cases represent the Law of the Buddha and of former Buddhas.

"What these persons preach is in all cases the Law of former Buddhas."

COMMENT: This is to show that in Buddhism and yoga there are far more benefits than all might have thought of. Those who think the supersensing is all humbug, need to take into account the evidence, the sources, and perhaps try first-hand investigations. The first-hand, single person's approach is first to propagate the sutra, and then see what happens. It could take some lives on a right track, though, the Lotus Sutra tells.

A scoffer or a doubter might also be persuaded just to listen to a phrase from the Lotus Sutra and see what happens. Which phrase? There are many to choose among. See chap 10 above also. As it is, the Sutra teaches one does a good turn to oneself by listening even to one phrase from it, and reap benefits accordingly, such as delicacies beyond those in heaven. That is a minor part of what the Lotus Sutra teaches. Also, "Maybe so, maybe no, what do I know?" is a fit basis for further study, but there may be sordid fools around to deal with. As an American proverb has it: "Twin fools; one believes anything and the other believes nothing."

Be that as it may, sound schooling in these and other matters is based on putting some "maybes" in between the two fools, so to speak, admitting one does not know if that is how it is. That is a part of what sound, fair, fit research and its findings are rooted in, in addition to the belief that believing is not knowing . . .

Single persons may also learn the art of keeping conclusions at bey for as long as is reasonable. Meanwhile, learning the art of meditation is good help. In the Yoga Sutras as in many Buddhist sources, many of superfeats of meditating guys, or yogis, are told of. [Mighty powers]


20. The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging


'You should understand that when monks, nuns, laymen or laywomen uphold the Lotus Sutra, if anyone should speak ill of them, curse or slander them, that one will suffer severely.

"Long ago there was a Buddha who preached the Law for heavenly and human beings and asuras so that they could eventually attain nirvana. His correct Dharma (teachings, Law) endured. Then came another Buddha, and after he was gone, monks of overbearing arrogance had great authority and power. At this time there was a bodhisattva monk. Whatever Buddhists he happened to meet, whether monks, nuns, laymen or laywomen, he would treat them humbly, as fits.

"This monk did not devote his time to reading, but simply walked about being very, very humble. Among other believers, some gave way to anger and cursed him, saying, 'This ignorant monk - were does he come from, presuming to declare that he does not disparage us and predicting that we will attain Buddhahood?"

For many years the humble monk was subjected to curses and abuse. Some believers would take sticks of wood or tiles and stones and beat and pelt him. But even as he ran away and took up his stance at a distance, he continued to call out in a loud voice, "I would never dare disparage you."

"When this monk was on the point of death, he heard a million verses of the Lotus Sutra that had been previously preached. At once he saw clearly and got pure vision, hearing, tasting, pure body and a pure mind. His life span was now increased by two hundred ten million extremely large amounts of years, and he went widely about preaching the Lotus Sutra for people.

"At that time, when the arrogant believers who had looked with contempt on him, saw that he had gained great transcendental powers, the power to preach pleasingly and eloquently, the power of great goodness and tranquility, and when they heard his preaching, they all took faith in him and willingly became his followers.

"This bodhisattva converted many a million, causing them to abide in the state of anuttara-samyak-sambodhi. After his life came to an end, he was able to encounter two thousand million Buddhas.

"He was none other than I myself! His life span was extended, and for the sake of others he preached this sutra far and wide. Bit by bit he acquired benefits and quickly completed the Buddha way." [So should others too]

COMMENT: Those who doubt, should know that the Buddhist Way is very good to doubters. It is non-authoritarian, basically. Kalama Sutta. Further, in Zen it is also a good side to meditation to cultivate "the doubt sensation", explains Garma Chang in The Practice of Zen (1970). Rinzai Zen has one way of doing it. Material on the use of doubts or puzzles in Buddhism are collected here: [From the art of doubting very well]


21. Supernatural Powers of the Tathágata

In the presence of bodhisattvas and mahasattvas, monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen, heavenly beings, dragons, and others, Gautama Buddha stretched out his wide and long tongue until it reached heaven, the Brahma world. He emitted colored rays of light from all his pores and illuminated the worlds. All the buddhas also put out their wide and long tongues and emitted rays of light in the same way. They and Buddha did so for hundreds of thousand years.

After this they drew back their tongues, coughed, and snapped their fingers together in unison. Those two sounds penetrated throughout the various buddha worlds of the ten directions and the earth quaked in six ways.

The dragons and the other human and nonhuman beings saw millions of buddhas seated and also saw Gautama Buddha and the other buddha seated together in the treasure tower and were all filled with great joy, and heavenly beings in the sky cried out with loud voices: "Respond with joy!"


"A person of wisdom . . . should accept and uphold this sutra."


22. Entrustment

Now Buddha rose and with his right hand patted the heads of the vast number of bodhisattvas and mahasattvas three times and said:

"Propagate this dharma abroad, causing its benefits to spread far and wide. For the Tathágata has great pity and compassion and is in no way stingy or begrudging. He is able to able to bestow on living beings the wisdom that comes of itself. The Tathágata is a great giver. You for your part should respond by studying this dharma and must not be stingy or begrudging.

"In the future, if there are good men and good women who have faith in the wisdom of the Tathágata, you should preach and expound the Lotus Sutra for them, so that others may hear and understand it. In this way you can make them gain the Buddha wisdom.

If there are sentient beings who do not accept it, you should reveal, teach, benefit, and gladden them with the other profound teachings of the Tathágata. If you do this, you will repay your indebtedness to the Buddha."


23. Former Doings of a Bodhisattva named Medicine King


"A long time ago there was a Buddha who preached the Lotus Sutra. A bodhisattva there was filled with great joy and thought to himself: 'I heard the Lotus Sutra.' When his life had come to an end, he was reborn and at once spoke in verse form to his father, saying: "I understand the words of all living beings."

"This Lotus Sutra shines the brightest among all the types of sutra teachings. This sutra can save all living beings. It is like a torch that banishes darkness. If a person is able to hear this Lotus Sutra, if he copies it himself or causes others to copy it, the benefits he gains thereby will be such that even the Buddha wisdom could never finish calculating their extent. If a person who has an illness is able to hear this sutra, then his illness will be wiped out and he will know neither old age or death," said Buddha.


24. The Bodhisattva Wonderful Sound

The Buddha emitted two light-beams.

On that, a bodhisattva entered into samadhi and created many lotus blossoms. Their calyxes where jewels. This bodhisattva's body was pure gold in colour. He made obeisance, addressing the Buddha in these words:

Are your illnesses few, are your worries few? Can you come and go easily and conveniently, can you move about in comfort? Are the four elements properly harmonized in you? Can you endure the worlds affairs? Are the living beings easy to the rescue? Are they not excessive in their greed, anger, stupidity, jealousy, stinginess, and arrogance? Are they not lacking in filial conduct toward their parents?"

Buddha to another there:

"This bodhisattva manifests himself in various bodies and in different places. At times he appears as King Brahma [The Brahma-king Shikhin], at times as Lord Shakra [Lord of the Devas or of Heaven], at times as a great general of heaven, at times as rich man, at times as a householder, a nun, a laywomen believer, at times as the wife of a rich man or householder, at times as a wife of a Brahman, at times as a young girl, at times as , a dragon. Thus others in difficult circumstances are able to be saved.

"This bodhisattva manifests himself in different forms, and yet his transcendental wisdom suffers no injury by it.

"This bodhisattva employs various types of wisdom to illuminate.

"This samadhi is called Manifesting All Kinds of Bodies."



Lotus Sutra, Mahayana Buddhist Literature  

Buddhist Text Translation Society. The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra. Ukiah, CA: City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, nd. ⍽▢⍽ The sublime and powerful teachings and foremost meditation methods, are they there, in prose and verse parts? I hardly think so. The sutra's message is, "Accept and revere this wonderful teaching, and you too will become a Buddha." S. Gomez comment about the text (in another translation): "No need for arduous meditation or assiduous practices, just bam, you're a Buddha." It may not be that easy without a good meditation method, though. Gomez then goes on to ask, "How does one rate the Lotus Sutra? Well, considering that the text itself says all those who don't revere it will be born again with boils and bad breath . . . in some nasty hell, I'm maybe a little hesitant . . .

Chang, Garma Chang Chen-chi. The Practice of Zen. Perennial ed. New York: Harper and Row, 1970. ⍽▢⍽ This is a good book.

Corporation Republic of Hwa Dzan Society. Going Home to the Pure Land. Taipei, Taiwan: Pure Land College Press, 2010.

Gethin, Rupert. The Foundations of Buddhism. Paperback ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1998. ⍽▢⍽ This is one of the finest introductions to Buddhism for Western students. It introduces the main Buddhist texts, their contents and histories, and provides an overview of Buddhist thought and practice through history. The author, who has been President of the Pali Text Society, writes: "The term 'Buddhism' refers to a vast and complex religious and philosophical tradition with a history that stretches over some 2,500 years, taking in, at one time or another, the greater part of Asia, from Afghanistan and parts of Persia in the west to Japan in the east, from the great islands of Sumatra and Java in the south to Mongolia and parts of southern Russia in the north." (p 1).

IABU Editorial Committee (of 2012). Buddhist Philosophy and Meditation Practice: Academic Papers presented at the 2nd IABU Conference Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, Main Campus Wang Noi. Ayutthaya, Thailand: The International Association of Buddhist Universities, 2012.

Inagaki, Hisao. The Three Pure Land Sutras. Rev 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2003.

Kubo, Tsugunari, and Akira Yuyama, trs. The Lotus Sutra. 2nd rev ed. Berkeley, CA: 2007. ⍽▢⍽ A readable and accurate version. Sanskrit words are explained in a glossary at the back.

Pye, Michael. Skilful Means., London: Routledge, 2003. ⍽▢⍽ This informative book by Professor Pye opens with: "'Skilful means' is the key principle of the great tradition of Mahayana Buddhism. First set out extensively in the Lotus Sutra, it originates in the Buddha's compassionate project for helping others to transcend." Transcend what? In one word, Samsara, the rounds of births and deaths. To this end he employs 'skilful means'". They are devices that may bring on enlightenment and nirvana. (p i) Professor Pye again: "The study of 'skilful means' is the study of the internal dynamics of Buddhist thought in general." (p ix)

Masunaga, Reiho. A Primer of Soto Zen: A Translation of Dogen's Shobogenzo Zuimonki. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1971.

Suzuki, Shenryu. Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness: Zen Talks on the Sandokai. Eds. Mel Weitsman and Michael Wenger. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.

Suzuki, Shenryu. Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind. Ed. Trudy Dixon. New York: Weatherhill, 1999b.

Watson, Burton, tr. The Essential Lotus: Selections from the Lotus Sutra. New York, Columbia University Press, 2002. ⍽▢⍽ Dr Burton Watson (1925–2017) was a preeminent American translator and scholar. He is best known for translations of Chinese and Japanese literature. Many of them have received awards.
    The abridged Lotus version attempts 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." (p vii)

Watson, Burton, tr. The Lotus Sutra. 2nd rev ed. New York, Columbia University Press, 1994. ⍽▢⍽ A scholarly and non-partisan translation of the whole text in highly readable, reliable English, marked by the translator's clean, polished style. Victor Mair (2017) says about him that it "was often difficult to coax even an introduction out of him," and that he strove for translations that seemed effortless. [◦More]
    Dr Watson notes in the introduction, "The Lotus Sutra is not so much an integral work as a collection of religious texts, an anthology of sermons, stories, and devotional manuals," and that the text has had a broad and lasting appeal over the ages and has permeated deeply into the cultures that have been exposed to it.

Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2009. ⍽▢⍽ Originating in India, Mahayana Buddhism spread across Asia, becoming the prevalent form of Buddhism in Tibet and East Asia. A comprehensive and authoritative book has remained the primary work on the doctrinal landscape of Mahayana Buddhism. It is a work with breadth and depth combined, and Professor Williams shows with great detail the evolution of each "school" of Mahayana. His book has remained the primary work in the field for a few decades by now.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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