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dam pa'i chos pad ma dkar po zhes bya ba theg pa chen po'i mdo
Miào fǎ lián huá jīng

Commonly referred to as the Lotus Sūtra, this text is extremely popular in East Asia, where it is considered to be the "final" teaching of the Buddha. Especially in Japan, reverence for this text has put it at the center of numerous Buddhist movements, including many modern, so-called new religions. The esteemed status of this scripture is epitomized in the Nichiren school's sole practice of merely paying homage to its title with the prayer "Namu myōhō renge kyō".

Relevance to Buddha-nature

Though not necessarily classified as a tathāgatagarbha sūtra, several themes related to buddha-nature are addressed in this text, such as the single vehicle, the potential for all beings to achieve enlightnement, and the permanence of buddhahood.

Description from When the Clouds Part

This sūtra[1] does not teach on tathāgatagarbha but Zimmermann (1998) shows several structural, formal, and doctrinal parallels between the earlier Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra and the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra, which seem to have influenced the composition of the latter. Also, the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra 's example of a man’s carrying a jewel in the hem of his garment without knowing it and later needing to be told about it by a friend in order to retrieve it and use it to overcome some difficulties is very similar to the examples in the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra. In the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra, the example illustrates arhats’ not being aware of their wish for omniscient buddha wisdom that they made a long time ago and thus remaining with only limited wisdom. The example serves to support the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra ’s central theme of the single yāna that even arhats enter eventually to achieve the only soteriological goal of buddhahood. This theme is, of course, also a crucial element in the teachings on tathāgatagarbha, and the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra ’s example may be seen as echoing Uttaratantra I.35ab and I.40, which say that weariness of saṃsāra and wishing for nirvāṇa are triggered by the existence of the tathāgata heart in beings. While the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra keeps saying that all beings should become buddhas, the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra explains the reason why all beings are able to become buddhas—they already possess the heart of a tathāgata. Thus, against this background, it is only natural that Uttaratantra II.58–59 mentions the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra as an example of teaching the true reality of phenomena to arhats, thereby turning them away from their clinging to having attained true nirvāṇa. After that, they are finally matured in the supreme yāna through prajñā and means and their buddhahood is prophesied. The Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra also emphasizes the permanence of the Buddha and says that buddha wisdom and not emptiness is the supreme achievement. (p. 50)
  1. There are several Sanskrit editions (the most recent one by Toda in 2002) and many fragments of this sūtra as well as a Tibetan (D113; 180 folios) and several Chinese translations (Taishō 262–65). There is an old English translation from the Sanskrit by H. Kern (Oxford 1884) and several from the different Chinese versions (for details, see Potter 1995 under Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra).

Philosophical positions of this text

Text Metadata

Other Titles ~ saddharmapuṇḍarīka-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra
Text exists in ~ Tibetan
Canonical Genre ~ Kangyur · Sūtra · mdo sde · Sūtranta

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About the text

The White Lotus of the Good Dharma, popularly known as the Lotus Sūtra, is taught by Buddha Śākyamuni on Vulture Peak to an audience that includes bodhisattvas from countless realms, as well as bodhisattvas who emerge out from the ground from the space below this world. Buddha Prabhūtaratna, who has long since passed into nirvāṇa, appears within a floating stūpa to hear the sūtra, and Śākyamuni enters the stūpa and sits beside him. The Lotus Sūtra is celebrated, particularly in East Asia, for its presentation of crucial elements of the Mahāyāna tradition, such as the doctrine that there is only one yāna, or “vehicle”; the distinction between expedient and definite teachings; and the notion that the Buddha’s life, enlightenment, and parinirvāṇa were simply manifestations of his transcendent buddhahood, while he continues to teach eternally. A recurring theme in the sūtra is its own significance in teaching these points during past and future eons, with many passages in which the Buddha and bodhisattvas such as Samantabhadra describe the great benefits that come from devotion to it, the history of its past devotees, and how it is the Buddha’s ultimate teaching, supreme over all other sūtras. (Source: 84000)

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