A Discussion of the Lotus Sutra


From October 2014 through January 2015 we will delve deeply into Mahayana Buddhist thought through a study of the Lotus Sutra. The Lotus Sutra is one of the world’s great religious scriptures and most influential texts. It has been a seminal work in the development of Buddhism throughout East Asia, and by extension in the development of Mahayana Buddhism throughout the world. Taking place in a vast and fantastical cosmic setting, the Lotus Sutra places emphasis on skillfully doing whatever is needed to serve and compassionately care for others. It breaks down sharp distinctions between the ideals of the fully enlightened Buddha and the bodhisattva who vows to postpone personal salvation until all beings may share it together, and especially on each and every being’s innate capacity to become a Buddha.

Our plan of study of The Lotus Sutra

We will read two books – Yoshiro Tamura’s “Introduction to the Lotus Sutra” and “The Lotus Sutra,” a modern translation by Gene Reeves. We will discuss Tamura’s book in October, and then we will discuss the Lotus Sutra itself in November and December 2014 and in January 2015. Please have both books in hand for each meeting.

Please read the following ahead of these meetings:

October 14, 2014  – “Introduction to the Lotus Sutra” by Yoshiro Tamura – Please read Sections I and II (up to page 120) – Section III, which delves into Japanese history, is optional.

November 11, 2014 – “The Lotus Sutra” translated by Gene Reeves – Please read up to page 158 (incorporating 4. Faith and Understanding)

December 9, 2014 – “The Lotus Sutra” translated by Gene Reeves – Please read up to page 290 (incorporating 15. Springing up From the Earth)

January 13, 2015 – “The Lotus Sutra” translated by Gene Reeves – Please read up to page 423 (incorporating the Sutra of Contemplation of the Dharma Practice of Universal Sage Bodhisattva)

Descriptions of the Books:

“Introduction to the Lotus Sutra” by Yoshiro Tamura – Edited and Introduced by Gene Reeves (published by Wisdom Publications 2014)

“An elegant historical, textual, and philosophical overview of what is arguably the most widely disseminated scripture of Mahayana Buddhism.”

—Mark Unno, editor of Buddhism and Psychotherapy

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.

“The Lotus Sutra,” Translation & Introduction by Gene Reeves (published by Wisdom Publications 2008)

Gene Reeves has been researching and lecturing on the Lotus Sutra throughout the world for over 30 years. His translation of the Lotus Sutra takes particular care to appeal to readers with little or no familiarity with technical Buddhist vocabulary.

“This translation is immediately the new standard expressing the Lotus Sutra with accuracy, clarity and fresh readability. The text’s genius and subtle spiritual teachings are skillfully captured for a wide modern audience.” Taigen Dan Leighton, University of Chicago

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