The Threefold Lotus Sutra as Our Basic Scripture
The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wondrous Dharma, popularly known as the Lotus Sutra, is revered by millions of Buddhists as containing the core and culmination of the Buddha’s teaching. Together with the two shorter sutras that traditionally accompany it, Innumerable Meanings and the Method for Contemplating the Bodhisattva Universal Sage, it is one of the most important scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism and indeed one of the major documents of world religion.
The Lotus Sutra consists of a series of sermons delivered by the Buddha before a great multitude of disciples and countless others toward the end of his forty-five-year teaching ministry. The setting and scope are cosmic, but the sermons themselves, presented in both prose and verse, are replete with parables and graphic anecdotes.
At the heart of the sutra are three major concepts of Mahayana Buddhism:
- All sentient beings can attain perfect enlightenment, or buddhahood, and nothing less than this is the appropriate final goal of believers;
- The Buddha is eternal, having existed from the infinite past and appearing in many forms throughout the ages to guide and assist living beings through the teaching of the Wondrous Dharma; and
- The noblest form of Buddhist practice is the way of the bodhisattvas, those who devote themselves to attaining enlightenment not only for themselves but for all sentient beings.
The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings records the sermon preached by the Buddha to a host of bodhisattvas immediately preceding the delivery of the Lotus Sutra. Constituting an introduction to the central sutra, the Lotus Sutra proper, this shorter scripture is traditionally known as the “opening sutra.”
The Sutra of the Method for Contemplating the Bodhisattva Universal Sage, said to have been delivered following the Lotus Sutra, establishes the performance of acknowledgment and remorse as the primary way to practice the spirit of the Lotus Sutra. As an epilogue to the main scripture, it is called the “closing sutra.”
The Lotus Sutra, along with the opening and closing sutras, are traditionally called the Threefold Lotus Sutra. For Rissho Kosei-kai members it is the basic scripture of their faith.