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The Essential Lotus: Selections from the Lotus Sutra (Translations from the Asian Classics) Paperback – 3 Oct 2001

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A new translation of any of the classics... from the hand of Burton Watson is an event to be welcomed with gratitude. Journal of Asian Studies

About the Author

Burton Watson is one of the world's best-known translators from the Chinese and Japanese and has taught at Columbia, Stanford, and Kyoto universities. In 1981 he received the PEN Translation Prize. His translations include The Vimalakirti Sutra, Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, Records of the Grand Historian, Ryokan: Zen Monk-Poet of Japan, Saigyo: Poems of a Mountain Home, and The Columbia Book of Chinese Poetry: From Early Times to the Thirteenth Century, all published by Columbia.

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At that time the World-Honored One calmly arose from his samadhi and addressed Shariputra, saying: The wisdom of the Buddhas is infinitely profound and immeasurable. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 3 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
An essential service for scholars 5 Nov 2005
By Autonomeus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Burton Watson has translated the entire Lotus Sutra, and here presents a selection of what he considers to be the core chapters of the long, episodic and uneven collection. The Lotus Sutra is one of the most influential early Mahayana texts, and so shaped Buddhism in all of East Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam). It has attracted more scholarly commentary over the centuries than any other sutra, and further, its imagery and stories have profoundly influenced East Asian culture in a way similar to the way the stories of the Bible permeate Western culture.

THE ESSENTIAL LOTUS provides an essential service to the scholar of religion, or of literature, or of culture, or the practicing Buddhist who wants to go to the core of this important text without the painstaking effort of wandering through its every winding and inessential byway. According to Watson there are 3 main lessons of the Lotus Sutra:

1) There is One Vehicle, the Greater Vehicle (Mahayana), for all -- other teachings are superseded, they were but expedient means.

2) Enlightenment (Buddhahood) is for everyone, not just a select few.

3) The manifestation of the historic Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was simply the most recent -- the Buddha his lived innumerable lives, and taught the Dharma to innumerable sentient beings, leading to the Enlightenment of innumerable sentient beings. The Buddha is within, and we can call on him for assistance.

When outlined in this way it is much easier to see the main points, points which were Mahayana innovations in their day and challenged the earlier Theravada tradition, than if a reader was to try to extract them independently. For the practicing Buddhist, there are many better Mahayana sources than the Lotus Sutra, though, even this superb edited version. (My apologies to those Buddists who believe that simply chanting the name of the Lotus Sutra will bring enlightenment.) I recommend Watson's ESSENTIAL LOTUS mainly to the scholar of religion and to the student of comparative world literature for its parables and vivid imagery.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Superb Clarification of the Lotus Sutra 14 Nov 2007
By Robert E. Morrell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Watson has done us all a great service by identifying and restating the fundamental argument of this scripture in his "EssentialLotus: Selections from the Lotus Sutra" (2002), based on his earlier complete translation, "The Lotus Sutra" (1993). This sacred text may be "one of the most important and influential of the sutras or sacred scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism" (xvii), but, truth be told, it is also "a rather prolix and loosely structured text, with some chapters that are repetitious or of minor doctrinal importance." (vii). Watson is one of our great translators and the perfect editor to clarify its message.

Although the Lotus Sutra often refers to its program as the One Vehicle or Great Vehicle which supersedes "expedient means" (the earlier teachings which the Buddha adjusted to the needs and level of understanding of his listeners), One Vehicle claims to be the BEST-- but not the only -- means of attaining Buddhahood, which all living beings have the potential to achieve (viii). Transcending "expedient means" may be the goal of the Lotus teaching, but we come gradually to realize it while living in a religious world of "expedient means." This is an important concept. The early, second chapter of the Lotus Sutra takes the name "Expedient Means," the first chapter fully included in the "Essential Lotus." Most of the sutra's Seven Parables refer to this notion in one way or another. Here is to be found the rationale for religious inclusivism -- the accommodation of the religious beliefs and practices of others.

Predictably, many today are interested in what the Lotus Sutra has to say about the status of women? In his Preface to "Essential Lotus," Professor Watson describes the famous anecdote concerning the "daughter of the dragon king Sagara who, though only a child of eight, has attained the highest level of enliightenment. Earlier Buddhism had generally denied that women could attain Buddhahood, at least while in female form . . . The Lotus Sutra firmly rejects such assertions. We are to understand that all beings without exception, good or evil, female or male, are equally capable of becoming Buddhas." (ix; 85-87).

"Essential Lotus" includes an informative preface and introduction, and a good glossary and index. Even if you already the have a complete translation of the Lotus Sutra, you will find this to be a most useful addition to your library.
Blah, Blah, Blah 28 Oct 2014
By Daniel N. Pino - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If You Like Alot Of Jibber-Jabber, Than Ok. We're Reminded About How Long Winded The Buddha Was, Or Atleast His Transcribers. AND This Is ONLY Three (3) Chapters Of The Sutra.

Meh, It Was Cheap And I Guess It Will Go Nicely On My Bookshelf. And Every Once In A While I Might Pick It Up And Look At The Pretty Cover.
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