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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
73 fall 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly The Lotus Sutra, a revolutionary text of early Indian Mahayana, upended the con- ventional view of the Buddha and his tradition. The Lotus Sutra described the Buddha not as a human teacher but as a cosmic being, and as something close to a “lord of hosts.” Doctrinally, as well, the scripture made radical departures. For one, it has the Buddha saying that his earlier teachings, the very structure of the tradition the Lotus appeared within, were not unadulterated truths, but simply pragmatic and expedient devices for beings of lesser capacities—beings who were not ready for the deeper truths the sutra claimed to set forth, such as the revelation of the Buddha’s true nature. The text seems to have been viewed as a marginal work in South Asian and Hima- layan Buddhist traditions. But in East Asia, especially Japan, it became arguably the single most important Buddhist scripture. Indeed, as Stephen Teiser and Jacqueline Stone remark in their excellent new collection, Readings of the Lotus Sutra, “for many premodern Japanese people, the Lotus Sutra was the principal medium for the PaUl COPP teaches in the department of East asian languages and civilizations at the University of Chicago. Reviews The reVoLUTionarY LoTUS SUTra reviewed by paul Copp readinGs of The loTus suTra edited by stephen f. Teiser and Jacqueline i. stone Columbia readings of Buddhist literature Columbia university press, 2009 304 pages; $24.50 (hardcover)