The Lotus Sutra

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Since its appearance in China in the third century, the Lotus Sutra has been regarded as one of the most illustrious scriptures in the Mahayana Buddhist canon. The object of intense veneration among generations of Buddhists in China, Korea, Japan, and other parts of East Asia, it has attracted more commentary than any other Buddhist scripture and has had a profound impact on the great works of Japanese and Chinese literature. Conceived as a drama of colossal proportions, the text takes on new meaning in Burton Watson's translation. Depicting events in a cosmic world that transcends ordinary concepts of time and space, the Lotus Sutra presents abstract religious concepts in concrete terms and affirms that there is a single path to enlightenment - that of the bodhisattva - and that the Buddha is not to be delimited in time and space. Filled with striking imagery. memorable parables, and countless revelations concerning the universal accessibility of Buddhahood, the Lotus Sutra has brought comfort and wisdom to devotees over the centuries and stands as a pivotal text in world literature. As Watson notes, "The Lotus Sutra is not so much an integral work as a collection of religious texts, an anthology of sermons, stories and devotional manuals, some speaking with particular force to persons of one type or in one set of circumstances, some to those of another type or in other circumstances. This is no doubt one reason why it has had such broad and lasting appeal over the ages and has permeated so deeply into the cultures that have been exposed to it."

Since it first appeared in China in the third century, this Mahayana Buddhist Scripture has been regarded as one of the most illustrious in the canon. Depicting events in a cosmic world that transcends ordinary concepts of time and space, The Lotus Sutra presents abstract religious ideas in concrete terms and affirms that there is a single path to enlightenment.

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Editorial Reviews

Victor Mair
Watson's felicitous rendition of The Lotus Sutra captures superbly well the literary essence of the Chinese text. Considering the manifold complexities and beauties of the work, this is a stunning achievement.
One of the most important scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, the Lotus Sutra dates from the third century CE. Working from the classical Chinese text, Watson makes the collection of sermons, stories, and devotional manuals accessible to readers with no special background in Buddhist studies, or Asian literature. Includes glossary. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231081603
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/1993
  • Series: Translations from the Asian Classics Series
  • Pages: 390
  • Sales rank: 1,072,630
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Burton Watson is one of the world's best-known translators from the Chinese and Japanese. His translations include The Vimalakirti Sutra, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan, Saigyo: Poems of a Mountain Home, and The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century, all published by Columbia.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Translator's Introduction
Translator's Note
1 Introduction 3
2 Expedient Means 23
3 Simile and Parable 47
4 Belief and Understanding 80
5 The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs 97
6 Bestowal of Prophecy 107
7 The Parable of the Phantom City 117
8 Prophecy of Enlightenment for Five Hundred Disciples 143
9 Prophecies Conferred on Learners and Adepts 154
10 The Teacher of the Law 160
11 The Emergence of the Treasure Tower 170
12 Devadatta 182
13 Encouraging Devotion 190
14 Peaceful Practices 196
15 Emerging from the Earth 212
16 The Life Span of the Thus Come One 224
17 Distinctions in Benefits 233
18 The Benefits of Responding with Joy 245
19 Benefits of the Teacher of the Law 251
20 The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging 265
21 Supernatural Powers of the Thus Come One 272
22 Entrustment 277
23 Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King 280
24 The Bodhisattva Wonderful Sound 290
25 The Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World's Sounds 298
26 Dharani 307
27 Former Affairs of King Wonderful Adornment 312
28 Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy 319
Glossary 325
Index 343
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 3 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2005

    Very Good Indeed

    This is a very good translation of one of Mahayana Buddhism's greatest sutras/canon. I find it to be well written, easy to follow and understand (although not so easy to comprehend--will explain later), and a pleasure to read. Each chapter entails some fascinating tales and fables (as in the chapters that discuss the lost son searching for his father, the expedient methods our beloved Buddha use to deliver and rescue us from our burning house (an analogy for this suffering world that we live in) along with the myriad of the virtues and conducts of some of the Great Bodhisattvas such as Guan Yin/Avalokiteshvara (aka Contemplator of the World's Sounds). Like all of Mahayana Buddhism's scriptures, you will find that the meanings and intents of the original author(s) conveyed in this sacred literature are much more profound than what seem to be provided at the surface. Therefore, if you are like most people, this is not a book that you would want to read just once. Repeated readings will help the readers understand all the different metaphors and analogies, and especially the intent, provided by the Buddha when he first preached the doctrines contained in this wonderful sutra. Kudos to Burton Watson for the excellent English translation.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    This is perhaps the best translation/rendition of The Lotus Sutra that I have ever read!!!! Having studied Buddhism in many forms for the last 40 years, I have come across many eloquent translations of The Lotus Sutra; but this translation by Burton Watson is by far the best & most authoritative. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in seeking to learn the very essence of the Buddha's teachings.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2002

    One of the Best Translations of the Lotus Sutra

    Waston did an excellent job in the translation of this sutra. If you are looking to pick up a copy of the Lotus, I'd choose either this one or the version by Leon Hurvitz. I would recommend any translation by Mr. Watson.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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