Most helpful critical review
35 of 45 people found the following review helpful
Make this the last Sutra to read
on September 5, 2004
I bought this in the hope, I guess, of finding out more about Mahayana Buddhism, having read a little on the 'Lesser' vehicles such as Zen. What I found in this sutra was a self referencing text with little to offer in terms of teachings you could hold in your hand. This is not to say that Burton Watson didn't do a good job in the translation. (I would have no idea how close it would be to any original text) My problem lies with the message itself. Whereas most sutras I've read will give practical information regarding morals or metaphysical concepts, this text seems only intent on proclaiming that one should have faith alone in the Lotus sutra, as an expedient & most efficient way to enter final extinction. However what the 'lotus sutra' actually is remains a mystery even after the last page is turned. Despite many promises of the 'lotus' about to be revealed by the Buddha, you eventually get to the point in the book where it starts talking in terms of 'Having thus expounded this most wonderful sutra' & wondering where you missed the turnoff.
The whole book is like an artichoke without a heart. It does however talk of such things as the benefit of parable & simile as ways of describing this elusive message. Perhaps the message may in fact be Zen like in the sense that it cannot be held & can only be talked around, however as an inquiring mind I found this book of faith wanting. If I had no prior Buddhist concepts of 'oneness', 'emptiness' & such things as the eight fold path, the lotus Sutra would be useless as it only refers to such concepts, & spends no time explaining them, not even in simile form as is utilized in Zen. For this reason, despite this being a book written with simplicity, I would recommend it to people only with prior understanding of Buddhist ideas. Having said all that, I might just be missing the point. Perhaps the message of this sutra is in fact not to be disillusioned at how infinitely difficult it may be to become enlightened but to simply have faith that you already are, (even if this is a reference to the future) & hence you only need to ...(?)
If anything, it is a richly written text spanning countless eons & including innumerable beings. It uses such symbolism to suggest the infinite nature of time, matter & mind & reminds us that we are very small indeed. It is in fact an enjoyable read & does imbue a sense of 'Right action' & 'Noble thought'. It is certainly a worthwhile read for those with some Buddhism under their belt.