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 the world, it has had a profound impact on the great works of Japanese and Chinese literature, attracting more commentary than any other Buddhist scripture.

As Watson notes in the introduction to his remarkable translation, " 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 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: 9780231081610
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 3/31/1994
  • Series: Translations from the Asian Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 390
  • Sales rank: 264,808
  • Product dimensions: 6.09 (w) x 8.94 (h) x 0.92 (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

1. Introduction2. Expedient Means3. Simile and Parable4. Belief and Understanding5. The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs6. Bestowal of Prophecy7. The Parable of the Phantom City8. Prophecy of Enlightenment for Five Hundred Disciples9. Prophecies Conferred on Learners and Adepts10. The Teacher of the Law11. The Emergence of the Treasure Tower12. Devadatta13. Encouraging Devotion14. Peaceful Practices15. Emerging from the Earth16. The Life Span of the Thus Come One17. Distinctions in Benefits18. The Benefits of Responding with Joy19. Benefits of the Teacher of the Law20. The Bodhisattva Never Disparaging21. Supernatural Powers of the Thus Come One22. Entrustment23. Former Affairs of the Bodhisattva Medicine King24. The Bodhisattva Wonderful Sound25. The Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World's Sounds26. Dharani27. Former Affairs of King Wonderful Adornment28. Encouragements of the Bodhisattva Universal Worthy

Columbia University Press

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • 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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