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The Lotus Sutra

An overview of the essence of Shakyamuni’s philosophy.

This sutra can save all living beings. This sutra can cause all living beings to free themselves from suffering and anguish. This sutra can bring great benefits to all living beings and fulfill their desires, as a clear cool pond can satisfy all those who are thirsty. … Such is this Lotus Sutra. It can cause living beings to cast off all distress, all sickness and pain.

The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 327–28

The Lotus Sutra is regarded as the single most important text of Mahayana Buddhism. It crystallizes the entire system of Indian Buddhist philosophy as created by Shakyamuni. The unique teaching of the Lotus Sutra and its ultimate goal—indeed of Buddhism as a whole—is to enlighten all people; to relieve them of their suffering and enable them to experience genuine happiness, thereby establishing a society that values peace and the dignity of life.

To preserve this important teaching and ensure its transmission far into the future, Shakyamuni instructed his followers to “accept, uphold, read, recite, explain, preach, and transcribe this sutra.” (LSOC, 311)

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The Heart of the Lotus Sutra:
Buddhahood Is Accessible to All to All People

Buddhas … appear in the world for one great reason alone … to open the door of Buddha wisdom to all living beings.

The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 64

“That the Buddha seeks to open the door of Buddha wisdom to living beings means that living beings already inherently possess the Buddha wisdom … Shakyamuni’s words are in fact a great declaration that all living beings are worthy of supreme respect.”

—Daisaku Ikeda, The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, p. 115

Buddhist teachings prior to the Lotus Sutra denied that certain people could ever attain Buddhahood including women, people who commit evil acts and those of incorrigible disbelief. The Lotus Sutra is the only Buddhist teaching that asserts that the potential for Buddhahood exists within every person without exception.

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The Heart of the Lotus Sutra:
The Bodhisattva Path Awakens Our Buddhahood

You will all practice the bodhisattva way and will then be able to attain Buddhahood!

The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 309

When we look after and care for others—that is, help others draw forth the strength to live—our own strength to live increases. When we help people expand their state of life, our lives also expand. This is the marvel of the bodhisattva path; actions to benefit others cannot be separated from actions to benefit oneself.

—Daisaku Ikeda, The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, p. 181

The Lotus Sutra teaches that all people can attain Buddhahood, just as they are, in this lifetime. A person only needs to follow the bodhisattva path—taking compassionate action for others, based on the recognition that true happiness for yourself is impossible while others suffer. Studying and teaching others about the Lotus Sutra makes sure that the sutra will be transmitted into the future, contributing to the peace and happiness of all for generations to come.

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The Heart of the Lotus Sutra:
Life Is Eternal

Let us live out our lives!”

The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, p. 269

From the standpoint of eternity, … it’s not whether our lives are long or short but how we live that is important. It is what we accomplish, the degree to which we develop our state of life, the number of people we help become happy—this is what matters.

Those who firmly establish the state of Buddhahood in their lives will enjoy this state of life eternally.

—Daisaku Ikeda, The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 4, pp. 22–23

Buddhism teaches that life is an unending cycle of birth and death, like the perpetual change of the seasons. Those who embrace the Lotus Sutra understand the eternity of life. From this profound perspective, our lives are infused with purpose and appreciation, filled with hope, vitality, courage, compassion and wisdom.

Photo by Suvit Maka / Getty Images.

The Lotus Sutra has the drama of fighting for justice against evil. It has a warmth that comforts the weary. It has a vibrant, pulsing courage that drives away fear. It has a chorus of joy at attaining absolute freedom throughout past, present and future. It has the soaring flight of liberty. It has brilliant light, flowers, greenery, music, paintings, vivid stories. It offers unsurpassed lessons on psychology, the workings of the human heart, lessons on life, lessons on happiness and lessons on peace. It maps out the basic rules for good health. It awakens us to the universal truth that a change in one’s heart can transform everything.

—Daisaku Ikeda, The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol. 1, p. 14

The Lotus Sutra:
The Buddha’s Foremost Teaching

The Lotus Sutra is the sole scripture that opens the way for the enlightenment of all living beings, which is the ultimate purpose of Buddhism … The various other sutras detail the Buddha’s lofty character and the vastness of his enlightenment, but unless those teachings are really accessible to all people, they are of no benefit.

The true value of Buddhism can only be demonstrated if we are actually able to transform our lives and manifest in the course of our everyday reality the same supremely noble life state as the Buddha. 

—Daisaku Ikeda, May 2015, Living Buddhism, p. 31

Shakyamuni reveals that his first forty years of teachings were expounded for the sole purpose of preparing his followers for the Lotus Sutra. He instructs them to discard his previous teachings and embrace fully the Lotus Sutra.