Introduction to the Lotus Sutra
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The Lotus Sutra--one of the most popular Buddhist classics--is here accessibly introduced by one of its most eminent scholars.
"Soon after entering university in December of 1943, I was sent to the front as a student soldier. I wondered if I were allowed to bring but a single book on the trip, possibly to my death, which would I want to bring. It was the Lotus Sutra" -- from the author's Preface.
Having developed a lifelong appreciation of the Lotus Sutra -- even carrying a dog-eared copy with him through service in World War II -- Yoshiro Tamura sought to author an introduction to this beloved work of Buddhist literature. Tamura wanted it to be different than other basic explorations of the text; his introduction would be plain-spoken, relevant and sensitive to modern concerns, and well-informed by contemporary scholarship. He succeeded marvelously with Introduction to the Lotus Sutra, which Gene Reeves -- Tamura's student and translator of the popular English edition of The Lotus Sutra -- translates and introduces in English for the first time here.
Tackling issues of authenticity in the so-called "words of Buddha," the influence of culture and history on the development of the Lotus Sutra, and the sutra's role in Japanese life, Introduction to the Lotus Sutra grounds this ancient work of literature in the real, workaday world, revealing its continued appeal across the ages.
via the vessels of words and expressions—that is, the ideas. Two ways of thinking about or studying Buddhism emerge from this point of departure. The first is to dig down to the common stream that underlies the various sutras and forms of Buddhism to find what is called the fundamental spirit of Buddhism, the heart of Buddhism, or the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. Accordingly, the different sutras and schools of Buddhism boil down to nothing more than differences of expression due to
empty space below this saha world” to mean that being grounded in an experience of emptiness, they remain in this saha world without clinging to it. In other words, chapter 15 criticizes the way of the holy ones, the shravakas, for transcending actual reality in order to stagnate in emptiness, thereby falling into nihilism. Instead, it highly values the figure of the ordinary person, the bodhisattva, who lives in the actual world, the temporal world, without getting bogged down in it, and works
important thing in it is that the chapter praises this saha world—that is, it praises those who make great efforts while enduring suffering in this actual human world. They are the true disciples of the Buddha. The chapter is critical of those immediate disciples of the Buddha who preach the bodhisattva practice of enduring suffering in this world while separating themselves completely from the actual world. Also, we should not neglect the idea that these bodhisattvas live in the empty sky under
Mahayana is not the words of the Buddha. Some frowned upon such criticism. Among Buddhist scholars were some who, though they belonged to a school, agreed with the theory that Mahayana is not the words of the Buddha in their academic studies, yet adhered to traditional authority when returning to speak in sectarian contexts. According to the theory that Mahayana is not the words of the Buddha, however, early Buddhist sutras are held to be the very words of Buddha—the authentic words of
was invited back to the University of Chicago as Numata Professor in the spring of 1985. During subsequent years I met Tamura many times, both in Chicago and in Japan. He was a key member in a series of small conferences that I had organized in Chicago and in Japan. It was partly on account of Tamura’s encouragement that my own interest in the Lotus Sutra grew enormously during that time. Together, Tamura and I cooked up a few projects related to the Lotus Sutra, which led to my eventual move to