The Lotus Sutra

February 16, 2010

Before I attend a service or class, I like to do a little background research. The following is what I have read from the website of Rissho Kosei Kai, regarding the Lotus Sutra — this is the sutra that is chanted during services at the Dharma Center here.

The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, popularly known as the Lotus Sutra, is revered by millions of Buddhists as containing the core and culmination of the Buddha’s teaching. Together with the two shorter sutras that traditionally accompany it, Innumerable Meanings and Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, it is one of the most important scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism and indeed one of the major documents of world religion.

The Lotus Sutra consists of a series of sermons delivered by the Buddha toward the end of his 45-year teaching ministry before a great multitude of disciples and countless others. The setting and scope are cosmic, but the sermons themselves, presented in both prose and verse, are replete with parables and graphic anecdotes.

At the heart of the sutra are three major concepts of Mahayana Buddhism:

  1. All sentient beings can attain perfect enlightenment – that is, buddhahood – and nothing less than this is the appropriate final goal of believers;
  2. The Buddha is eternal, having existed from the infinite past and appearing in many forms throughout the ages to guide and succor beings through the teaching of the Wonderful Dharma; and
  3. The noblest form of Buddhist practice is the way of the bodhisattvas, those who devote themselves to attaining enlightenment not only for themselves but for all sentient beings.

The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings records the sermon preached by the Buddha to a host of bodhisattvas immediately preceding the delivery of the Lotus Sutra. Constituting an introduction to the central sutra, the shorter scripture is traditionally known as the “opening sutra.” The Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, supposed to have been delivered following the Lotus Sutra, establishes the way of repentance as the practice of the spirit of the Lotus Sutra. Being an epilogue to the main scripture, it is called the “closing sutra,” while because of its theme it is also known as the “sutra of repentance.”

Rissho Kosei-kai has embraced the philosophy and ideals in the Lotus Sutra and the teachings that are basic to the whole of Buddhism:

  • The Four Noble Truths
  • The Twelve Causes
  • The Three Seals of the Dharma
  • The Eightfold Path
  • The Six Perfections

That is because, through study and actual practice of the Buddha’s teachings, Founder Nikkyo Niwano realized that the basic teachings of Buddhism and the profound philosophy and high ideals of the Lotus Sutra are the complementary halves of a single truth. In short, in the Lotus Sutra, philosophy, ideals, and the practical teachings of Buddhism are perfectly integrated.

Further, Rissho Kosei-kai believes that the integral essence of the Lotus Sutra is so universal and practical that it is in fact common to all the world’s religions and is relevant for people everywhere. Because the Lotus Sutra is a scripture that can lead all humankind from division to unity, from discord to harmony, from conflict to peace, Rissho Kosei-kai reveres it as the basic scripture in which to have faith.

Rissho Kosei Kai – Introduction to the Lotus Sutra

I have already studied many aspects of Buddhism, but I think I will go over them again — things like the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths are pretty “basic” to Buddhism, but they are very deep concepts, which require a lot of thought. I’ll probably “discuss” them with myself here pretty soon.


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