The Lotus Sutra: One of the Kings of the East

The Lotus Sutra is an amazing scripture, especially the translation by Burton Watson pictured at right.

This Lotus Sutra teaches general evangelical techniques and principles for changing one's character to one of compassion and spirituality. For the first time the Lotus Sutra, as a scripture of Buddhism, made 'enlightenment', or salvation, available to everyone. Not just to the monks whom earlier Buddhism was limited, but also to laymen and laywomen.

This spiritual liberation of Eastern religion began in the first century AD (after Jesus had implemented the New Covenant by His crucifixion) with the advent of Mahayana Buddhism. The prophecies and doctrines of the chief Mahayana scripture, "The Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law", gave hope to the common man, opening an attainable afterlife (though in the form of reincarnation) to all who read even one verse of that scripture.

How did Jesus influence all of this? Remember that after Jesus' was born he was visited by "wise men from the east" who had followed a star to find His birthplace. The following is recorded in the Lotus Sutra, Chapter Seven, The Parable of the Phantom City:

    Our palaces have a brilliance
    never known in the past.
    What is the cause of this?
    Each of us seeks an answer.
    Is it because of the birth of some heavenly being of great virtue,
    or because the Buddha has appeared in this world
    that this great light
    shines everywhere in the ten directions?

    At that time the Brahma kings of five hundred ten thousand million lands, accompanied by their palaces, each king taking his outer robe and filling it with heavenly flowers, journeyed together to the western region to observe the signs there...

    Our palaces display a brilliance
    never known before.
    Is it because of the birth of some heavenly being of great virtue,
    or because the Buddha has appeared in the world?
    We have never seen such a sign
    and with a single mind we seek the reason.
    Though we must travel a thousand, ten thousand, a million lands,
    together we will search out the cause of this light.
    Likely it is because a Buddha has appeared in the world
    to save living beings in their suffering.

Combine this with the following report of the Prophet Muhammed from the Qur'an:

    "[Jesus] will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous." (Surah 3:46)

Did Jesus speak to the wise men from His cradle, and inspire Mahayana Buddhism?

If you hesitate to believe that until He tells us, believe me: I have no doubt that the teachings of the Lotus Sutra were inspired by Jesus Christ, to bring light to a dark third part of the world.

His voice as our Shepherd is clear within its pages! The Lotus Sutra explains the use of parables and similes, and contains many therein. It is also an excellent manual for developing the type of character that will enable true brotherhood among men. It preaches the "Greater Vehicle" for salvation, as opposed to the "Lesser Vehicle" originally laid out by Buddha. After the Lotus Sutra, suddenly the old doctrines of Buddhism became bitter to many people, because it was clearly impossible to obtain the perfection of nirvana by one's own efforts. Much as the Old Testament Law proved impossible for men to overcome.

The Lotus Sutra is truly non-sectarian in its appeal, all Christians can learn from it. One reviewer commented:

    "...These practices, teaching methods and ways to [spiritual] liberation [in the Lotus Sutra] seem to feature a complete absence of what might be called philosophical content. It seems at times that all it teaches is how to teach, not what to teach. Its focus is how to teach." (Buddhism Past and Present)

The evangelical nature of Mahayana Buddhism has resulted in the Lotus Sutra influencing all of the religions of the East in one way or another. It has done so by allowing spiritual hope and compassion into what largely could be said to be philosophical religions formerly restricted to the wealthy, or only to those capable of full time devotions.

From Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sutra:

    If a person expounds this sutra,
    he should enter the Thus Come One's room,
    put on the Thus Come One's robe,
    sit in the Thus Come One's seat,
    confront the assembly without fear
    and broadly expand it for them, making distinctions.
    Great pity and compassion are the room.
    Gentleness and patience are the robe.
    The emptiness of all phenomena is the seat,
    and from that the position one should
    expound the Law for them.

The Lotus Sutra is an inspired scripture meant also for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Inspired by the Good Shepherd, it is part of His 'fountain of living waters' that all who search for Him have available for use today. His voice is there, in the compassionate teachings and many parables used to teach, and it is recognizable to His 'sheep'.

Parable of the Rich Man's Burning House
Parable of the Skilled Physician

Parable of the Phantom City

"Monks, if a Thus Come One knows that the time has come to enter nirvana, and knows that the members of the assembly are pure and clean, firm in faith and understanding, thorough in their comprehension of the Law of emptiness and deeply entered into meditation practice, then he will call together the assembly of bodhisattvas and voice-hearers and will preach this sutra for them. In the world there are not two vehicles whereby one may attain extinction. There is only the one Buddha vehicle for attaining extinction and one alone.

"Monks, you must understand this. The Thus Come One in his use of expedient means penetrates deeply into the nature of living beings. He knows how their minds delight in petty doctrines and how deeply they are attached to the five desires. And because they are like this, when he expounds nirvana, he does so in such a way that these persons, hearing it, can readily believe and accept it.

"Let us suppose there is a stretch of bad road five hundred yojanas long, steep and difficult, wild and deserted, with no inhabitants around, a truly fearful place. And suppose there are a number of people who want to pass over this road so they can reach a place where there are rare treasures. They have a leader, of comprehensive wisdom and keen understanding, who is thoroughly acquainted with this steep road, knows the layout of its passes and defiles, and is prepared to guide the group of people and go with them over this difficult terrain.

"The group he is leading, after going part way on the road, become disheartened and say to the leader, "We are utterly exhausted and fearful as well. We cannot go any farther. Since there is still such a long distance ahead, we would like now to turn around and go back.'

"The leader, a man of many expedients, thinks to himself, What a pity that they should abandon the many rare treasures they are seeking and want to turn and go back! Having had this thought, he resorts to the power of expedient means and, when they have gone three hundred yojanas along the steep road, conjures up a city. He says to the group, 'Don't be afraid! You must not turn back, for now here is a great city where you can stop, rest, and do just as you please. If you enter this city you will be completely at ease and tranquil. Then later, if you feel you can go on to the place where the treasure is, you can leave the city.'

"At that time the members of the group, being utterly exhausted, are overjoyed in mind, exclaiming over such an unprecedented event, 'Now we can escape from this dreadful road and find ease and tranquility!' The people in the group thereupon press forward and enter the city where, feeling that they have been saved from their difficulties, they have a sense of complete ease and tranquility.

"At that time the leader, knowing that the people have become rested and are no longer fearful or weary, wipes out the phantom city and says to the group, 'You must go now. The place where the treasure is is close by. That great city of a while ago was a mere phantom that I conjured up so that you could rest.'

"Monks, the Thus Come One is in a similar position. He is now acting as a great leader for you. He knows that the bad road of birth and death and earthly desires is steep, difficult, long and far-stretching, but that it must be traveled, it must be passed over. If living beings hear only of the one Buddha vehicle, then they will not want to see the Buddha, will not want to draw near him, but will immediately think to themselves, The Buddha road is long and far reaching and one must labor diligently and undergo difficulties over a long period before he can ever attain success!

"The Buddha knows that the minds of the living beings are timid, weak and lowly, and so, using the power of expedient means, he preaches two nirvanas in order to provide a resting place along the road. If living beings choose to remain in these two stages, then the Thus Come One will say to them, 'You have not yet understood that is to be done. This stage where you have chosen to remain is close to the Buddha wisdom. But you should observe and ponder further. This nirvana that you have attained is not the true one. It is simply that the Thus Come One, using the power of expedient means, has taken the one Buddha vehicle and, making distinctions, has preached it as three.'

"The Buddha is like that leader who, in order to provide a place to rest, conjured up a great city and then, when he knew that the travelers were already rested, said to them, 'The place where the treasure is, is nearby. This city is not real. It is merely something I conjured up.'"

[Read 'The Phantom City' in its Entirety]
[Read the Entire Lotus Sutra]