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The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic Paperback – December 2, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Difficult as it may be to interpret ancient Tibetan Buddhist imagery for contemporary meditators, it is perhaps even more challenging to make historical Buddhist texts accessible. In a new translation of The Lotus Sutra, Gene Reeves aims to do just this. Reeves uses everyday language wherever possible, translating into English many words that previous works have left in Sanskrit. This approach is particularly appropriate for the Lotus Sutra, which emphasizes that enlightenment is attainable for everyone." (Tricycle)

"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 audience." (Taigen Dan Leighton, Loyola University, author of Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus Sutra)

"A highly readable new translation of the great Lotus Sutra, Gene Reeves skillfully renders the complexity of the text from a scholarly standpoint while delivering its flavor for practitioners. An invaluable resource for students in the classroom as well as in the meditation hall." (Mark Unno, University of Oregon, author of Shingon Refractions)

"For readers who are not familiar with the Lotus Sutra, this is an excellent opportunity to acquaint oneself with a bedrock Mahayana text. Dr. Reeves brings a welcome perspective of both scholarship and sympathy to the text, which is extremely multifaceted and requires flexibility to fully represent its fascinating-and at times somewhat frustrating-elements. This new version is also particularly important because it includes the rarely translated Sutra of Innumerable Meanings and the Sutra of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, which are traditionally considered to be the preface and appendix of the main text and hold an important place in the liturgy and study of the Lotus Sutra. And Dr. Reeves has made a strong effort to make the text truly accessible to anyone, including non-Buddhists and non-specialists." (Tricycle Editors' Blog)

About the Author

Gene Reeves is a Buddhist scholar and teacher, process philosopher, and theologian who has lived in Tokyo for over 23 years studying, teaching, and practicing the Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra. He is a founder of the International Buddhist Congregation with headquarters in Tokyo, a part of the much larger Rissho Kosei-kai lay Buddhist organization. He is the translator from Chinese into English of The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic. His most recently published book is The Stories of the Lotus Sutra. A Buddhist Kaleidoscope: Essays on the Lotus Sutra, which he edited, was published in 2002. Reeves is currently working on "A Buddhist Natural Theology" which attempts to relate the process philosophy of A.N. Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne with the Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra. Reeves is a regular contributor to the magazine Dharma World, and a frequent speaker on the Lotus Sutra and Chinese Buddhism in Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and the United States. He retired in 2012 as distinguished professor at Renmin University of China in Beijing and continues to do field research on contemporary Chinese Buddhism in China and serve as an International Advisor at Rissho Kosei-kai in Japan. He has taught at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, the University of Peking in China, and at the University of Chicago and Meadville Lombard Theological School, Wilberforce University, and Tufts University in the United States. Born and raised in a small factory town in New Hampshire, Reeves graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in psychology, from Boston University with a degree in theology, and from Emory University with a PhD in philosophy. In addition to his passion for Buddhism, Reeves has been active for over 50 years in civil rights causes, working for a time with Martin Luther King, Jr. and for Chicago Mayor Harold Washington. Reeves is married to Yayoi Reeves and has homes in Tokyo and Chicago. He has two adult daughters who live and work in the United States.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 504 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (December 2, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861715713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861715718
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. M. Schuh on January 28, 2009
Format: Paperback
Dr. Reeves is a well known and respected teacher of the 'threefold' Lotus Sutra (Sutra of Innumerable Meanings, Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma and the Sutra of Meditation on the Practice of Universal Wisdom. I have been a Rissho Kosei-kai member and Buddhist for twenty-four years. In my years of Dharma study, I have become familiar with a couple of translations of the Lotus Sutra, especially Watson (SGI) and Kato (RKK) translations. But unlike other translations of the Lotus, Reeves includes the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings and the Sutra of Meditation of the Practice of Universal Virtue in his Lotus Sutra. I deeply respect his choice since these two sutras underscore the importance of the Lotus' teachings. I can say unequivocally that the Reeves translation is the easiest to read and comprehend. Dr. Reeves does admit to flaws in his translation, but I know for a fact that he took several years painstakingly reviewing the original Kumarajiva Chinese, Japanese and English translations of the Lotus. If the reader finds any flaws or has questions regarding the Reeves' translation s/he may compare and contrast Reeves' with another of the reader's choice. However, though I am not a scholar, but a Japanese Ekayana-Nichiren Buddhist that has been practicing for twenty-four years, I can wholeheartedly endorse Dr. Reeves' translation as superior enough to stand on its own. Gasshou.
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Format: Paperback
The clarity of Reeves translation of the Lotus Sutra is very impressive. He brings out the heart of the Lotus Sutra while remaining relatively easy to follow and understand. One of the first things that stuck me was that this was done by someone who deeply thought and meditated on the meaning of the text. Reeve's work is far beyond the level of "just write it in English and move on after a bit of proofreading." I do quite a bit of translating myself, and it's clear that this is the work of someone who has come back to the text time and again, asking himself, "but what's it really saying?!"

I've studied the Kato edition of the Lotus Sutra for nearly 25 years, and enjoyed it's old-fashioned feel, but this is the version of the Lotus Sutra I'll be reading from now on.
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The choice to translate using Greek mythology instead of the Indian is a mistake I cannot comprehend. To be honest, Greek mythology is not much closer to us than Indian mythology is (and I'm European). Otherwise a solid translation but the Greek mythology thing is unforgivable, so I have to give it 3 stars. It's a shame because Gene Reeves is a great mind and a great translator. I can't fathom the reason for that decision.

Nothing else calls for a review. The Lotus Sutra is the king of all Buddhist texts.
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Reviewing the Lotus Sutra is like reviewing Homer's Iliad or the Book of Jonah. It is one of the world's great wisdom texts but that doesn't mean it is an easy read. It was originally written more or less to be performed, to be chanted and brought to life by human voices, not perused from the luxury of our armchair. Reeves does an admirable attempt at translating but the use of the terms from Greek mythology still remains a problematic and unnecessary choice and in hind sight I would have probably went with another translator.
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Gene Reeves did an excellent job in translating The Lotus Sutra from the Chinese into English. It is here, the entire work, not abridged. The translation is clear and easy to read. He made concessions to English speaking audiences in certain places, making the text more accessible.

That is the both the virtue and vice of this work. It is ALL here, and for readers simply interested in the flavor of the work, this is not the book for you. The Lotus Sutra is structured around individual sutras, usually speeches in prose by the Buddha. Following the prose, there same ideas are presented in verse. This pattern is more or less replicated for over thirty sutras.

So, for a reader wanting to immerse herself in The Lotus Sutra, this is the work for you. For those who wish to get the flavor of the book without wading into its repetitions, look elsewhere.
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I personally have enjoyed studying Buddhist literature ever since moving to Japan eight years ago. Yet, despite my intentions to see this book as a way to examine my own spirituality, I just couldn't come to regard this as anything other than ancient propaganda. Don't get me wrong, from a historical standpoint I found the Lotus Sutra to be quite interesting. But the book takes such great pains at preserving their beliefs, and attacking other sects with words. There are so many references to the authority and perfection of the "Greater Vehicle", the recruitment of followers to spread doctrine (implying that this is one of the most noble of acts), heaping rewards on all true followers, and adding to the pantheon any number of enlightened beings to solidify this sects hold on supreme authority. Being even slightly aware of this book's self-righteous claims lessens my ability to regard it as absolute truth in a religious sense. So for me its worth is in it's cultural and historical descriptions.

The translation is superb here, but there were a few instances where the book uses a less familiar term when describing something. This meant that I was forced to pause and reexamine my other books to guarantee I was connecting the right words across all translations. Still this problem didn't arise too much, and was solved for the most part with a little common sense. A wonderful and interesting read overall.. and the translation makes it easy to read.
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