Readings of the Lotus Sutra

Readings of the Lotus Sutra

Stephen F. Teiser
Jacqueline I. Stone
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/teis14288
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  • Book Info
    Readings of the Lotus Sutra
    Book Description:

    The Lotus Sutra proclaims that a unitary intent underlies the diversity of Buddhist teachings and promises that all people without exception can achieve supreme awakening. Establishing the definitive guide to this profound text, specialists in Buddhist philosophy, art, and history of religion address the major ideas and controversies surrounding the Lotus Sutra and its manifestations in ritual performance, ascetic practice, visual representations, and social action across history. Essays survey the Indian context in which the sutra was produced, its compilation and translation history, and its influence across China and Japan, among many other issues. The volume also includes a Chinese and Japanese character glossary, notes on Western translations of the text, and a synoptic bibliography.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52043-0
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Sheng Yen

    The series Columbia Readings of Buddhist Literature is intended to offer students and teachers the best scholarship, in a pedagogically useful form, concerning the whole range of Buddhist literature. Each book in the series is crafted to provide for each Buddhist text the essential background knowledge, a series of close readings of the text, and introductions to the ways in which the text has been interpreted throughout the history of Buddhism.

    The Dharma Drum Foundation for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences is delighted to sponsor the series. The foundation supports a wide range of scholarly research, academic exchange,...

  4. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Stephen F. Teiser and Jacqueline I. Stone
  5. 1 INTERPRETING THE LOTUS SŪTRA
    (pp. 1-61)
    Stephen F. Teiser and Jacqueline I. Stone

    The lotus sūtra asserts a bold set of claims about the Buddhist religion. Pitting itself against what the text views as immature followers of the Buddha, the Lotus champions the cause of the bodhisattva (a being intent upon supreme enlightenment), who seeks salvation for all sentient beings. The text portrays earlier models for the practice of Buddhism as preliminary or incomplete—or effective only after their provisional nature is understood. The Lotus Sūtra propounds the doctrine of skillful means, or expedient devices (Skt.: upāyakauśalya, or upāya), according to which all earlier teachings are temporary measures created by buddhas (fully enlightened...

  6. 2 EXPEDIENT DEVICES, THE ONE VEHICLE, AND THE LIFE SPAN OF THE BUDDHA
    (pp. 62-82)
    Carl Bielefeldt

    The lotus sūtra begins on an odd note. Before an enormous crowd, both human and nonhuman, the Buddha Śākyamuni enters into a deep state of concentration; emitting a beam of light from his brow, he illumines myriad world systems in all directions. The bodhisattva Maitreya naturally wonders what is going on; the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī explains to him that, in his experience from previous lives, this sort of thing happens when a buddha is about to preach the Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma. Thereupon, the Buddha emerges from his trance and starts talking to his disciple Śāriputra:...

  7. 3 GENDER AND HIERARCHY IN THE LOTUS SŪTRA
    (pp. 83-106)
    Jan Nattier

    Like virtually all Mahāyāna sūtras, the Lotus Sūtra is a work of uncertain origins. Produced by an unknown author—or rather authors, for scholars today agree that the sūtra is a pastiche containing layers produced by different hands—the time(s) and place(s) of its composition are unknown.¹ Thus its precise cultural background cannot be reconstructed with confidence. For establishing the date of the text our only firm evidence comes from China, where the earliest translation of the text was produced in the late third century C.E.; from this we can infer that one or more versions of the sūtra were...

  8. 4 THE LOTUS SŪTRA AND SELF-IMMOLATION
    (pp. 107-131)
    James A. Benn

    Beginning around the end of the fourth century of the Common Era, and continuing sporadically into modern times, some Chinese Buddhists have drawn inspiration from the Lotus Sūtra for a particular style of religious practice involving burning a finger or the whole body in homage to the scripture. Chinese sources usually refer to the incineration of the body as “auto-cremation” (zifen or shaoshen); it is one manifestation of a broader range of Buddhist practices that involve making a gift of the body (for example, feeding oneself to hungry animals or humans, jumping from cliffs or trees, or drowning oneself) that...

  9. 5 BUDDHIST PRACTICE AND THE LOTUS SŪTRA IN CHINA
    (pp. 132-150)
    Daniel B. Stevenson

    In his ruminations on the concept of “sacred text” in the academic study of religion, William Graham observes that there is nothing about the formal appearance of holy scripture that preannounces a given text as “sacred.” That is to say, no specific characteristic—written script, material composition, literary or phonetic form—accounts intrinsically for the ways in which particular texts are assigned the sort of privileged status over other literatures and utterances that we might call sacred. “The sacrality or holiness of a book,” Graham states, “is not an a priori attribute of a text but one that is realized...

  10. 6 ART OF THE LOTUS SŪTRA
    (pp. 151-185)
    Willa Jane Tanabe

    The lotus sūtra was first translated into Chinese shortly after the introduction of Buddhism in the first few centuries of the Common Era. But it was the popular translation supervised by Kumārajīva in 406 that spurred both faith in and art related to the Lotus Sūtra.¹ Indeed, both faith and art were closely connected. Transcriptions of the Lotus text and images in stone and pigment began appearing in significant numbers in the fifth century, reaching their apogee in the Tang dynasty (618–907), continuing strongly through the thirteenth century and sporadically after that. In Korea, too, transcriptions and images appeared...

  11. 7 BODILY READING OF THE LOTUS SŪTRA
    (pp. 186-208)
    Ruben L. F. Habito

    One of the most influential scriptures in East Asian history, the Lotus Sūtra has been received and read in different ways by Buddhist followers through the ages. This essay focuses on “bodily reading of the Lotus” (Hokke shikidoku), a term associated with the life and teachings of the thirteenth-century Japanese Buddhist prophet Nichiren (1222–1282).¹ In the opening section, I present a rough sketch of how the Lotus Sūtra was received, read, and regarded in Buddhist history as a scripture imbued with both spiritual and worldly powers.² In the next two sections, I lay out the philosophical and religious underpinnings...

  12. 8 REALIZING THIS WORLD AS THE BUDDHA LAND
    (pp. 209-236)
    Jacqueline I. Stone

    The lotus sūtra is famous for its promise that eventually all beings shall become buddhas. And, in the long history of its reception, the Lotus Sūtra has often been understood as related not only to the buddhahood or enlightenment of individual practitioners but also to the enlightenment of their larger, objective world: the land or realm. Although not fully elaborated in the sūtra itself, ideas about this world as a buddha realm represent an important strand of Lotus Sūtra thought, one that developed chiefly, although not exclusively, in Japan. In this chapter I consider how the Lotus Sūtra came to...

  13. TRANSLATIONS OF THE LOTUS SŪTRA INTO EUROPEAN LANGUAGES
    (pp. 237-240)
  14. CROSS-REFERENCES TO CITATIONS OF THE LOTUS SŪTRA
    (pp. 241-246)
  15. CHARACTER GLOSSARY
    (pp. 247-250)
  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 251-270)
  17. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 271-272)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 273-284)