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Threefold Lotus Sutra, The

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Three great Mahayana Buddhist texts: the Lotus Sutra, and its two companion sutras, the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings and the Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue.

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Publisher's Synopsis
In The Threefold Lotus Sutra all three scriptures are presented together for the first time in English. The sutras of Innumerable Meanings and Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue have never before been translated into English, while the present version of the Lotus Sutra itself is based on the translation from the Chinese made by Bunno Kato and W.E. Soothill, thoroughly revised and annotated in the light of present scholarship. A glossary of Sanskrit and doctrinal terms has been compiled especially for this edition.

The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law, more 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, it comprises 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 discourses delivered by the Buddha before a great multitude of disciples and other beings. The setting and scope are cosmic, but the discourses themselves, presented in both prose and verse, are replete with parables and graphic anecdotes.


"The only translation to give English-speaking readers an adequate idea of this sublime sutra."     ~Conze


Chapter 2: Skillful Means

When I first sat on the Platform of the Way, Whether beholding the Tree or walking about, Throughout three weeks I thought such thoughts as these: "The wisdom I have gained Is the first among subtle things. The beings, their faculties dull, Are attached to pleasure and blinded by delusion. Being of such sort as this, How can they be saved?"

At that time the Brahma kings And the chiefs of the gods, the Shakras, The four god kings who protect the world And the great gods who are their own masters, As well as the other multitudes of gods and their retinues, In the hundreds of thousands of myriads, Reverently joining palms and doing obeisance, Begged me to turn the Dharma-wheel.

I then thought to myself: "If I merely praise the Buddha Vehicle, The beings, sunk in woe, Shall not be able to believe this Dharma. Reviling the Dharma and not believing it, They shall fall into the three evil courses. I had rather not preach the Dharma, But enter speedily into nirvana. When I think back on the Buddhas of the past, On the power of the expedient devices Put into practice by them, I know that in the Way I have now gained I, too, must preach three vehicles."

When I had had these thoughts, The Buddhas of the ten directions all appeared, Comforting and instructing me with Brahma chant: "Good, Shakyamuni! You, the First of Guide-Teachers, Having gained this unsurpassed Dharma, Follow all the Buddhas In using the power of expedient devices. All of us, too, having gained This most subtle prime Dharma, For the sake of the varieties of living beings Discriminated, preaching three vehicles. Those of slight wisdom, desiring lesser dharmas, Would not believe they could achieve Buddhahood. For this reason, by resort to expedient devices, We discriminated, preaching various fruits. But, even though we preached three vehicles, This was only for the purpose of teaching bodhisattvas."


The Lotus Sutra, originally written in Sanskrit, was known as the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra. Translated several times into Chinese, the most famous and highly regarded was by Kumarajiva (406 AD), who translated a great number of other Buddhist sutras and writings as well. Most if not all of the English translations currently available are based upon Kumarajiva's.

After more than ten years of arduous discipline, the priest Saicho (767 - 822), who built the great temple Enryaku-ji on Mount Hiei, concluded that the highest form of religious practice was to disseminate the teachings of the Lotus Sutra through the doctrines of T'ien-t'ai Buddhism, and he founded the Japanese branch of that sect, Tendai.

The Tendai temple Enryaku-ji was the training ground for a number of outstanding priests, including Honen (1133 - 1212), founder of the Pure Land sect of Japanese Buddhism; Shinran (1173 - 1262), founder of the True Pure Land sect; Dogen (1200 - 1253), founder of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism; and Nichiren (1222 - 82), founder of the sect that bears his name. Nichiren, in particular, revered the Lotus Sutra, and at the risk of his life he confidently protested to the government of the time that only belief in the Lotus Sutra could ensure the welfare and salvation of human society.

Translator Kato, Bunno
Cotranslator Soothill, W.E.
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 404 pp.
Publisher Kosei Publishing 1997
Gold Medal

Gold Medal


  Gold Medal Essential Reading

Browse these categories as well: Mahayana Sutras, Northern Buddhism, Saichō and the Tendai School, Shinran and the Pure Land School, Gold Medal Essential Reading

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