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The Lotus Sutra
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102 of 102 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
The translation: Watson's translation of the Lotus Sutra is the most widely read version in English, and for laypeople it certainly deserves that distinction. Watson's English flows well and manages to avoid overuse of Sanskrit words, although a few generally understood Sanskrit terms are used. The layout of the book is attractive, and the typeface is extremely readable. I found the glossary in the back helpful to understand some of the Buddhist jargon (both English and Sanskrit) used in the translation.
The sutra: The Lotus Sutra more than any other work is responsible for the distinctiveness of East Asian Buddhism. Its peculiar theme is the promolgation of Mahayana Buddhism by explaining the principle of the Dharmakaya and the Boddhisattva ideal, although in doing so it sometimes takes cheap shots at Theravada Buddhism. The Lotus Sutra contains some of the most enthalling stories in Mahayana Buddhism, such as Buddha's parable of the phantom city. Most interesting, in this reviewer's opinion, is Buddha's prophecy of enlightment for Devadatta. Regarded as Buddhism's version of Judas, Devadatta tried numerous times to kill the Buddha and cause schism in the sangha. By telling this prophecy of enlightenment for even the most notorious sinner in all of Buddhist thought, Buddha is saying that the fundamental principle of the Dharmakaya can reach even the most deluded person.
Essential for understanding Mahayana Buddhism, I would recommend this version of the Lotus Sutra to anyone interested in this variety of Buddhism.
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60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
This new translation of the most important scripture in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition has a special value. Not only is it reliable, but Burton Watson's rendition all but sings. Translated directly from the Chinese Kumarajiva version, regarded as the most historically legitimate version, this complete and straightforward Lotus Sutra is recommended for its accessibility and its seriousness of purpose.
Since its appearance in China in the third century, the Lotus Sutra has been regarded as one of the most illustrious scriptures in the Mahayana Buddhist canon. The object of intense veneration among generations of Buddhists in China, Korea, Japan, and other parts of East Asia, it has attracted more commentary than any other Buddhist scripture and has had a profound impact on the great works of Japanese and Chinese literature.
Conceived as a drama of colossal proportions, the text takes on new meaning in Burton Watson's translation. Depicting events in a cosmic world that transcends ordinary concepts of time and space, The Lotus Sutra presents abstract religious concepts in concrete terms and affirms that there is a single path to enlightenment--that of the bodhisattva--and that the Buddha is not to be limited by time and space. Filled with striking imagery, memorable parables, and countless revelations concerning the universal accessibility of Buddhahood, The Lotus Sutra has brought comfort and wisdom to devotees over the centuries and stands as a pivotal text in world literature.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Lotus Sutra, or Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma (J., Myohorengekyo, Hokkekyo), the preeminent scripture in the Mahayana Buddhism of East Asia -- China, Tibet, Mongolia, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam -- is known primarily through the translation into Chinese of the Sanskrit Saddharma-pundarika-sutra by Kumarajiva in CE 406. (This 28-chapter version differs in organization and presentation from the 27-chapter Sanskrit text translated into English by H. Kern in 1884, and still available for sale; the two versions should not be confused.)

Although Kumarajiva's Lotus Sutra has influenced all of Japanese Buddhism in one way or another, it is the basic scripture for the great medieval Tendai (C., T'ien T'ai) sect, as well as the later Nichiren sect and its offshoots, especially Soka Gakkai and Rissho Koseikai, all three of which emphasize recitation of the "Nam' myohorengekyo" formula." The Lotus is NOT included in the scriptural canon of Southern Buddhism (Theravada) in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, and other areas of SE Asia.

The Lotus Sutra is basically a statement of philosophical principles and should not be approached as literary entertainment. Its message has serious implications - today probably more so than any time in past history. But the reading takes patience and serious, quiet rumination. Its message is that all sentient beings have the potential for attaining Buddhahood, but conceptual illusion prevents them from realizing that this is their essential nature. Out of compassion, the Buddha(s) employs many devices (Skillful Means/Expedients; hoben) accommodated to their specific needs, to assist them in seeing through this illusion. (The notion is expressed through most of the sutra's Seven Parables.) Although provisional teachings are not only possible but necessary, there is, in fact, only One Vehicle, one ultimate, ineffable spiritual goal; and for this reason the Lotus is sometimes called the Sutra of the One Vehicle. It is important to note, however, that the term does not describe an EXCLUSIVE DOGMATIC FORMULATION that is taken to be correct while others are false. The ultimate religious experience is beyond the reach of rational understanding, which is, at best, "a finger pointing at the moon". Although the Lotus Sutra may be viewed as the BEST possible expression of the Buddha's teaching, it is NOT THE ONE AND ONLY way to spiritual realization: other scriptures (and other words, rituals, myths, metaphors, etc.) can be embraced as expressing a more or less adequate means for attaining spiritual understanding - the specific words or symbols do no matter. The One Vehicle refers to a single experiential GOAL to be reached through a variety of conceptual formulations and exercises, but ultimately transcending the word-games of rationality. Note, however, that although the Lotus Sutra freely admits many routes to enlightenment (because of the varying needs of individuals), it does NOT claim that "one view is just as good as any another," i.e., relativism.

Today the most popular translation of the (Chinese) Lotus Sutra is Burton Watson's elegant rendition (1993) into English, although some scholars still prefer the older version by Leon Hurvitz (1976), and even, occasionally, the Bunno Kato collection of three sutras (1975). These and several other translations can almost all be found on Amazon.com, and the buyer should always be aware that popularity does not necessarily guarantee quality -- neither in books nor in ideas. The choice is ours.
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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2001
Format: Paperback
This translation of the most important scripture in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition has a special value. Not only is it reliable, but Burton Watson's rendition all but sings.
Translated directly from the Chinese Kumarajiva version, regarded as the most historically legitimate version, this complete and straightforward Lotus Sutra is recommended for its accessibility and its seriousness of purpose.
Since its appearance in China in the third century, the Lotus Sutra has been regarded as one of the most illustrious scriptures in the Mahayana Buddhist canon. The object of intense veneration among generations of Buddhists in China, Korea, Japan, and other parts of East Asia, it has attracted more commentary than any other Buddhist scripture and has had a profound impact on the great works of Japanese and Chinese literature.
Conceived as a drama of colossal proportions, the text takes on new meaning in Burton Watson's translation. Depicting events in a cosmic world that transcends ordinary concepts of time and space, The Lotus Sutra presents abstract religious concepts in concrete terms and affirms that there is a single path to enlightenment--that of the bodhisattva--and that the Buddha is not to be limited by time and space.
Filled with striking imagery, memorable parables, and countless revelations concerning the universal accessibility of Buddhahood, The Lotus Sutra has brought comfort and wisdom to devotees over the centuries and stands as a pivotal text in world literature.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 1996
Format: Hardcover
This is the most beautiful translation of the Lotus Sutra
that I have ever read. Burton Watson has taken care to
preserve the meaning behind the text, while translating it
into a readable form that is both illuminating and
absorbing.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
This is a very good translation of one of Mahayana Buddhism's greatest sutras/canon. I find it to be well written, easy to follow and understand (although not so easy to comprehend--will explain later), and a pleasure to read. Each chapter entails some fascinating tales and fables [as in the chapters that discuss the lost son searching for his father, the expedient methods our beloved Buddha use to deliver and rescue us from our burning house (an analogy for being trapped in our own ignorance) along with the myriad of the virtues and conducts of some of the Great Bodhisattvas such as Guan Yin/Avalokiteshvara (aka Contemplator of the World's Sounds)]. Like all of Mahayana Buddhism's scriptures, you will find that the meanings and intents of the original author(s) conveyed in this sacred literature are much more profound than what seem to be provided at the surface. Therefore, if you are like most people, this is not a book that you would want to read just once. Repeated readings will help the readers become more familiar and better at understanding the different metaphors and analogies, and especially the intent, provided by the Buddha when he first preached the doctrines contained in this wonderful sutra. Kudos to Burton Watson for the excellent English translation.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Burton Watson gets to grips with the complexities of Shakyamuni's ultimate teaching to provide the student of Buddhism at any level with a most accessible translation. He keeps the spirit of the teaching in mind and supports the student through difficult or impossible translations with a good glossary and comments. Highly recommended for everybody.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I found the Lotus Sutra translation by Burton Watson to be one of the more readable translations of Buddhist Works. It was very understandable, and I like the index in the back. While it is not a "scholarly translation" it is very readbable, and serves as a good introduction to the Lotus Sutra.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is the entire text of Shakyamuni's highest teaching, the Lotus Sutra, which forms the basis of faith and daily practice for millions of Nichiren Buddhists around the world, particularly members of Soka Gakkai International (SGI-USA). The Lotus Sutra was conceived as a drama of colossal proportions and is considered by many scholars to be one of the earliest known literary masterpieces. Burton Watson's vivid translation provides readers with a clear understanding of this most profound work.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Watson's translation of the Lotus Sutra is an incredibly scholar work, and instead of using verbose words that may confuse the reader, he makes it applicable to the most simple direct language that the reader can easily read and understand.
Many who bought this book revere the text in itself because of the profound message that this sutra teaches. Its Buddhist message on the importance of Bodhisattva and the equality of Buddhahood has been very easy to access to read, unlike previous translations of the Lotus Sutra in the past.
The original translation of the Lotus Sutra are many, I suppose that one can easily pick a choice of the Pali text, or Japanese text, but that is the simplified purpose of this new translation of the Lotus Sutra, and since that Watson is a reliable translator who produces scholarly unbiased work, his work is accepted into the mainstream public approval.
Classical Chinese can split in its meaning, and Burton Watson truly notes the many times that the classic interpretation might be used in the text. Footnotes on these split translations may be found in the book. The word "Ho" is easily translated as Dharma, Law, etc. Watson's incredible powers of translation puts into the meaning of the word "Law" in its proper context within the book.
The Threefold Lotus Sutra is what many are also familiar with, this is a general title of a compiled 3 independent sutras. But one must realize that the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful law is an independent sutra of its own. All fascicles of the 28 chapters of the Lotus Sutra are intact and complete, with NO omitted chapters whatsoever.
All in all, I find this sutra without flaw but with great ease, style and scholar quality for all people to read.
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