The White Lotus of the Good Dharma
Dwelling in Happiness
Degé Kangyur, vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1.b–180.b
Translated by Peter Alan Roberts
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
First published 2018
Current version v 1.2.12 (2022)
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The White Lotus of the Good Dharma, popularly known as the Lotus Sūtra, is taught by Buddha Śākyamuni on Vulture Peak to an audience that includes bodhisattvas from countless realms, as well as bodhisattvas who emerge from under the ground, from the space below this world. Buddha Prabhūtaratna, who has long since passed into nirvāṇa, appears within a floating stūpa to hear the sūtra, and Śākyamuni enters the stūpa and sits beside him. The Lotus Sūtra is celebrated, particularly in East Asia, for its presentation of crucial elements of the Mahāyāna tradition, such as the doctrine that there is only one yāna, or “vehicle”; the distinction between expedient and definite teachings; and the notion that the Buddha’s life, enlightenment, and parinirvāṇa were simply manifestations of his transcendent buddhahood, while he continues to teach eternally. A recurring theme in the sūtra is its own significance in teaching these points during past and future eons, with many passages in which the Buddha and bodhisattvas such as Samantabhadra describe the great benefits that come from devotion to it, the history of its past devotees, and how it is the Buddha’s ultimate teaching, supreme over all other sūtras.
The White Lotus of the Good Dharma Sūtra was translated from Tibetan with reference to the Sanskrit by Peter Alan Roberts. Ling Lung Chen was the consultant for the Chinese versions. Emily Bower was the project manager and editor. Ben Gleason was the proofreader.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of May & George Gu, which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
Dwelling in Happiness
Then Mañjuśrī Kumārabhūta said to the Bhagavān, “Bhagavān, what these bodhisattva mahāsattvas are resolved to do because of their reverence for the Bhagavān is a difficult task, extremely difficult. Bhagavān, how should these bodhisattva mahāsattvas expound this Dharma teaching in the later times, in a later era?”
The Bhagavān said to Mañjuśrī Kumārabhūta, “Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva mahāsattvas should expound this Dharma teaching in the later times, in a later era, by maintaining four qualities. What are these four?
“Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva mahāsattvas should expound this Dharma teaching in the later times, in a later era, by maintaining their practice and field of activity.
“Mañjuśrī, in what way do bodhisattva mahāsattvas maintain their practice and field of activity?
“Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva mahāsattvas are patient, self-controlled, have attained the level of self-control, and their minds are without anger or envy. [F.104.a]
“Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva mahāsattvas do not practice within any phenomenon whatsoever. They see correctly the specific characteristics of those phenomena. They have no analysis or examination of those phenomena. That, Mañjuśrī, is what is called the practice of bodhisattva mahāsattvas.
“Mañjuśrī, what is the bodhisattva mahāsattvas’ field of activity? Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva mahāsattvas do not associate with a king, do not associate with, revere, serve, or visit princes, the king’s ministers, or the king’s courtiers. They do not associate with, revere, or serve those other practitioners, mendicants, beggars, and naked ones who are tīrthikas,398 nor those who teach poetry. They do not associate with, revere, serve, or become familiar with those who possess worldly mantras, nor with Lokāyatas. They do not frequent the company of caṇḍālas, swindlers, pig sellers, chicken sellers, deer hunters, fishermen, singers and dancers, musicians,399 or wrestlers. They do not frequent places of entertainment for others. They do not associate with them. Other than that, they teach the Dharma freely to them at those times when they approach them. They do not associate with, revere, serve, or become familiar with the bhikṣus and bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas and upāsikās who follow the Śrāvakayāna. They do not mingle with them either on their walkways or in their temples. Other than that, they teach the Dharma freely to them at those times when they approach them.
“Mañjuśrī, that is the bodhisattva mahāsattvas’ field of activity.
“Moreover, Mañjuśrī, the bodhisattva [F.104.b] mahāsattva does not constantly teach the Dharma to women while possessing one or another sign of attachment to them. He does not constantly desire to be looking at women. He does not approach families constantly thinking of teaching the Dharma to the women, the girls, and the wives, and does not delight in doing so. He does not teach the Dharma to paṇḍakas and does not become familiar with them, nor delight in them. He does not enter homes alone to procure alms, unless he is recollecting the Tathāgata.
“If he does teach the Dharma to a woman, he does not even teach the Dharma with desire for the Dharma, let alone with desire for the woman. He teaches the Dharma without even revealing his teeth, let alone any obvious facial expression.
“He does not associate with śrāmaṇeras or śrāmaṇerīs, bhikṣus or bhikṣuṇīs, young men or young women, and does not converse with them.400 He is someone who reveres isolation and always remains in isolation.
“Mañjuśrī, that is the first field of activity of bodhisattva mahāsattvas.
“Moreover, Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva mahāsattvas see the emptiness of all phenomena—phenomena as they are, not as they are not—as they truly are, unwavering, unshakeable, immutable, unchanging, always as they truly are, having the nature of space, beyond definition and terminology, unborn, neither existing nor not existing, not composite, not continuous, spoken of through the word nonexistence, in an unimpeded state, and manifested from erroneous conceptualization.
“Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva mahāsattvas are always seeing phenomena in that way, and by remaining in that state, they maintain the bodhisattva mahāsattvas’ field of activity.
“Mañjuśrī, that is the second field of activity of bodhisattva mahāsattvas.” [F.105.a]
“Moreover, Mañjuśrī, [F.106.a] after I have passed into nirvāṇa, in the later times, in a later era, when the Dharma is being destroyed, bodhisattva mahāsattvas who wish to teach this Dharma teaching will be established in happiness. Thus established in happiness, they will teach the Dharma. When they teach it to others, whether it is from memory or based on a book, they will not be those who are seeking for faults in others, they will not speak ill of other bhikṣu dharmabhāṇakas, they will not say unpleasant things about them, they will not state unpleasant things about them. They will not say unpleasant things about them while mentioning by name bhikṣus of the Śrāvakayāna. They will not speak unpleasant things about them, nor will they have the concept of being their opponent. Why is that? It is because they will be remaining in a state of happiness. They will teach the Dharma to those who come to listen to them beneficially and without envy. They will not quarrel and will not answer questions with an answer from the Śrāvakayāna, but instead they will answer as one would who has attained the enlightenment of the wisdom of buddhahood.”
“Moreover, Mañjuśrī, when the Tathāgata has passed into nirvāṇa, in the final age when the Dharma will vanish, the bodhisattva mahāsattvas who possess this sūtra will be without envy, or deceit, or fraud. They will speak no ill of other individuals of the Bodhisattvayāna. They will not malign them and will not criticize them. They will not inspire regret in the bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, and upāsikās who follow the Śrāvakayāna, the Pratyekabuddhayāna, or the Bodhisattvayāna. [F.107.a]
“They will not inspire regret in those who follow the Bodhisattvayāna by saying, ‘Noble ones, you are far from the highest, complete enlightenment; it will not appear to you. You should remain utterly inattentive, and do not have the power to attain the Tathāgata’s wisdom in complete buddhahood.’
“They will not delight in disputes concerning the Dharma. They will not engage in Dharma disputes. They will not abandon409 the power of love for all beings. They will perceive all the tathāgatas as their father. They will perceive all bodhisattvas as teachers. Continuously, with a higher motivation, they will pay reverential homage to the bodhisattva mahāsattvas who are in the worlds in the ten directions. When they teach the Dharma, they will teach the Dharma without omission or addition. When teaching this Dharma teaching, they will teach the Dharma with an equal joy in all the Dharma. Even their slightest joy will be joy in the Dharma through which they bring great benefit.
“Mañjuśrī, the bodhisattva mahāsattvas who have this third quality,410 who teach this Dharma teaching after the Tathāgata has passed into nirvāṇa, in the final times when the Dharma is coming to an end, will teach this Dharma teaching while remaining in contact with happiness and being free of harm, and will have companions with whom to chant411 the Dharma.
“There will also appear those who listen to this Dharma teaching, and those who listen to this Dharma teaching will have faith in it, have conviction in it, possess it, comprehend it, write it out, cause it to be written out, and, having made it into a text, honor it, revere it, respect it, and make offerings to it.”
That is what the Bhagavān said, and when the Tathāgata had spoken these words, the Teacher added the following verses: [F.107.b]
“Moreover, Mañjuśrī, when the Tathāgata has passed into nirvāṇa, at the time when the Dharma is abandoned, the bodhisattva mahāsattva bhikṣus who wish to possess this Dharma teaching should dwell farther than far away from householders and renunciants. They should dwell there through dwelling in love. They should have compassion for all those beings who are not yet412 dedicated to enlightenment. They should think, ‘Oh! Those beings who do not listen to the Tathāgata’s skillful method, to his teaching with an implied meaning, and do not know it, do not understand it, do not ask questions about it, have no faith in it, and have no aspiration for it—those beings have extremely corrupt knowledge . Moreover, those beings are not following and have not understood this Dharma teaching. [F.108.a] I shall attain the highest, complete enlightenment of perfect buddhahood, and then, wherever they are, through my miraculous power I will cause them to be attracted to it, have conviction in it, follow it, and I will completely ripen them.’
“Mañjuśrī, the bodhisattva mahāsattvas who have this fourth quality413 and teach this Dharma teaching after the Tathāgata has passed into nirvāṇa will not be harmed. Bhikṣus, bhikṣuṇīs, upāsakas, upāsikās, kings, princes, the king’s prime ministers, the king’s counselors, the people of the city, the people of the country, the brahmins, and the householders will honor them, respect them, revere them, and make offerings to them. The devas who live in the air and have faith will follow them in order to hear the Dharma. The devas will constantly follow them in order to protect them. Whether they are in a village or in a temple there will come to them day and night those who wish to ask them about the Dharma and they will delight and please them with their answers.
“Why is that? Mañjuśrī, it is because this Dharma teaching has been blessed by all the buddhas. Mañjuśrī, it is because this Dharma teaching is constantly blessed by the past, future, and present tathāgatas, arhats, perfectly enlightened buddhas.
“Mañjuśrī, it is difficult in many worlds to be able to hear the words, the sound, or the name of this Dharma teaching.
“Mañjuśrī, it is like this: A balacakravartin king obtains his kingdom through his might. The allied kings who are his adversaries go to battle with him. [F.108.b] The balacakravartin king has numerous warriors. They go into battle with his enemies. When the king sees his warriors battling, he is delighted, pleased, and overjoyed because of those warriors. Being delighted, pleased, and overjoyed, he gives various gifts to those warriors. He gives them villages and the land of the villages, towns and the land of the towns, clothing, turbans, bracelets, anklets,414 short necklaces, cords of gold, earrings, medium-length necklaces, long necklaces, cowries, gold, silver, jewels, pearls, beryls, conch, crystal, and corals. He gives them elephants, cavalry, chariots, infantry, male slaves, and female slaves. He gives them carriages and palanquins. However, he does not give his crest jewel to anyone. Why is that? It is because there is only the one jewel that is affixed on his topknot. Mañjuśrī, if the king were to give away his crest jewel, all four divisions415 of the king’s army would be astonished and amazed.
“Mañjuśrī, it is likewise that the Tathāgata, the arhat, the perfectly enlightened Buddha creates through the might of his arms and his merit the three realms of a Dharma king within the three realms, which is trampled on by evil Māra. Then the ārya warriors of the Tathāgata battle with Māra.
“Mañjuśrī, the Tathāgata, the Arhat, the perfectly enlightened Buddha, the King of the Dharma, the Lord of the Dharma, teaches hundreds of thousands of sūtras to those battling ārya warriors. In order to make happy the fourfold assembly he gives them the gift of the town of nirvāṇa and the great city of the Dharma, teaching them through nirvāṇa,416 but not teaching them this kind of Dharma teaching. [F.109.a]
“Mañjuśrī, the balacakravartin king is amazed by the great strength of the men when the warriors are fighting, and subsequently he does give them his crest jewel, the supreme of all his possessions,417 which the world does not believe in, and which is amazing.
“Mañjuśrī, just as that king keeps the crest jewel fixed upon his topknot for a long time, in the same way, Mañjuśrī, the Tathāgata, the Arhat, the perfectly enlightened Buddha, who is the great King of the Dharma, while he is the King of the Dharma sees the śrāvakas and bodhisattvas battling with the Māra of the skandhas or the Māra of the kleśas. When they battle with them, desire, anger, and ignorance cease, they escape from all three realms, and have the great strength of a great being who defeats all the māras. This pleases the Tathāgata, the Arhat, the perfectly awakened Buddha, who then teaches those ārya warriors this kind of Dharma teaching, which is contrary to the world, which is not believed in by the world, which has previously not been expounded, which has previously not been taught. The Tathāgata gives to the śrāvakas that which causes all to attain omniscience, which is like the great crest jewel.
“Mañjuśrī, this is the supreme Dharma taught by the tathāgatas. This is the final418 Dharma teaching of the tathāgatas. Among all Dharma teachings this is the most profound Dharma teaching. It does not accord with the world.
“Mañjuśrī, just as the balacakravartin king unties the crest jewel he had kept for a long time and gives it to the supreme warriors, likewise today the Tathāgata teaches the secret Dharma teaching of the Tathāgata that has been kept for a long time, which is at the crest of all Dharma teachings, and which is known by the Tathāgata.” [F.109.b]
This concludes “Dwelling in Happiness,” the thirteenth chapter of the Dharma teaching of “The White Lotus of the Good Dharma.”
Translated, revised, and finalized by the Indian Upādhyāya Surendrabodhi and the chief editor Lotsawa Bandé Nanam Yeshé Dé.
Tibetan Editions of the Sūtra
dam chos padma dkar po’i mdo (Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra) [The White Lotus of the Good Dharma]. Toh 113, Degé Kangyur, 103 vols. New Delhi: Karmapae Chodhey Gyalwae Sungrab Patrun Khang, 1976–79, vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1a–180b.
———. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Kangyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 108 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2006–2009, vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), pp. 3–427.
———. Choné Kangyur (co ne bka’ ’gyur). 108 vols. Choné: co ne par khang, 1926, vol. 31 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1–212b.
———. Lhasa Kangyur (lha sa bka’ ’gyur). 100 vols. Lhasa: zhol bka’ ’gyur par khang, 1934, vol. 53 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1b–285b.
———. Narthang Kangyur (snar thang bka’ ’gyur). 102 vols. Narthang: snar thang par khang, eighteenth century, vol. 53 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1b–281b.
———. Stok Palace Kangyur (stog pho brang bris ma bka’ ’gyur). 109 vols. Leh: smad rtsis shes rig dpe mdzod, 1975–80. vol. 67 (mdo sde, ma), folios 1a–270b.
———. Urga Kangyur (ur ga bka’ ’gyur). New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1990–94. vol. 51 (mdo sde, ja), folios 1a–180b.
Khangkar, Tsultrim Kelsang (ed.) bod gyur dam pa’i chos padma dkar po zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo: Tibetan Translation of Saddharmapuṇḍarīka-sūtra. Nyin bod nang rig deb grangs (Japanese and Tibetan Buddhist Culture Series) XI. Kyoto: Tibetan Buddhist Culture Association, 2009.
Sanskrit Editions of the Sūtra
Zhongxin, Jiang. Sanskrit Lotus Sutra Fragments from the Lüshun Museum Collection. Tokyo: Sōka Gakkai, 1997.
Vaidya, P. L. Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra. Darbhanga: The Mithila Institute of Post-Graduate Studies and Research in Sanskrit Learning, 1960.
Watanabe, Shōkō. Saddharmapuṇḍarīka Manuscripts Found in Gilgit. Tokyo: Reiyukai, 1972–75.
Wogihara, Unrai and Tsuchida, Chikao. Saddharmapuṇḍarīka-sūtram: Romanized and Revised Text of the Bibliotheca Buddhica publication by consulting a Sanskrit Ms. & Tibetan and Chinese translations. Tōkyō: Seigo-Kenkyūkai, 1934–35.
Translations of the Sūtra
Borsig, Margareta von. Lotos-Sutra: Das Große Erleuchtungsbuch des Buddhismus. Freiburg: Herder, 2003.
Burnouf, Eugene. Le lotus de la bonne loi. Paris: L’imprimerie Nationale, 1852.
Hurvitz, Leon. Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma. New York: Columbia University Press, 1976.
Katō, Bunnō. “The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Law.” In The Threefold Lotus Sutra, translated by Bunnō Katō, Yoshirō Tamura, and Kōjirō Miyasaka, with revisions by W. E. Soothill, Wilhelm Schiffer, and Pier P. Del Campana, 18–213. New York and Tokyo: Weatherhill and Kosei, 1993.
Kern, H. Saddharma-Puṇḍarīka or the Lotus of the Good Law. Sacred Books of the East XXII. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1884.
Kubo, Tsugunari and Akira Yuyama. The Lotus Sutra. Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research (revised second edition), 2007.
Montgomery, Daniel B. The Lotus Sutra: The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma. Tokyo: Nichiren Shu Headquarters, 1991.
Murano, Senchū. The Lotus Sutra: Sutra of the Lotus of the Wonderful Dharma. Hayward, CA: Nichiren Buddhist International Center, 1974.
Reeves, Gene. The Lotus Sutra: A Contemporary Translation of a Buddhist Classic. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2008.
Soothill, W.E. The Lotus of the Wonderful Law, or The Lotus Gospel. Richmond: Curzon Press, 1987.
Watson, Burton. The Lotus Sutra. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.
Other Kangyur Texts
rgya cher rol pa’i mdo (Lalitavistarasūtra, Toh 95. Degé Kangyur vol. 46 (mdo sde, kha), folios 1b–216b. English translation in Dharmachakra Translation committee (2013).
ting nge ’dzin gyi rgyal po’i mdo (Samādhirājasūtra), Toh 127, Degé Kangyur vol. 55 (mdo sde, da), folios 1a–175b. English translation in Roberts (2018).
de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi gsang ba’i mdo (Tathāgataghuyakasūtra) [The Secret of the Tathāgatas Sūtra]. Toh 443, Degé Kangyur vol. 81 (rgyud, ca), folios 90a–157b.
phal po che’i mdo (Avataṁsakasūtra) [A Multitude of Buddhas Sūtra]. Toh 44, Degé Kangyur vols. 35–38 (phal chen, ka–a), folios ka 1a–nga 363a.
lang kar gshegs pa’i mdo (Laṅkāvatārasūtra) [The Entry into Laṅka Sutra]. Toh 107, Degé Kangyur vol. 49 (mdo sde, ca), folios 56a–191b.
shes rab pha rol tu phyin pa brgyad stong pa (Aṣṭasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitā) [The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Verses]. Toh 12, Degé Kangyur vol. 33 (brgyad stong pa, ka), folios 1b–286a.
sa bcu pa’i mdo (Daśabhūmikasūtra) [The Sūtra of the Ten Bhūmis]. Chapter 31, in Toh 44, Degé Kangyur vol. 36 (phal chen, kha), folios 166a–283a. English translation in Roberts (2021).
gser ’od dam pa’i mdo (Suvarṇaprabhāsūtra) [The Golden Light Sūtra]. Toh 556, Degé Kangyur vol. 89 (rgyud, pa), folios 151b–273a.
Abhayākaragupta. thub pa’i dgongs pa’i rgyan (Munimatālaṁkāra). Toh 3903, Degé Tengyur vol. 210 (dbu ma, a), folios 73b–293a.
Asaṅga. theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma’i bstan bcos rnam par bshad pa (Mahāyānottaratantraśāstravyākhyā). Toh 4025, Degé Tengyur vol. 225 (sems tsam, phi), folios 74b–129a.
Candrakīrti. dbu ma la ’jug pa’i bshad pa (Madhyamakāvatārabhāṣya). Toh 3862, Degé Tengyur vol. 204 (dbu ma, ’a), folios 220b–348a.
———. byang chub sems dpa’i rnal ’byor spyod pa bzhi brgya pa’i ’grel pa (Bodhisattvayogacaryācatuḥśatakaṭīkā) Toh 3865, Degé Tengyur vol. 205 (dbu ma, ya), folios 30b–239a.
Daṃṣṭrāsena, Vasubandhu, or neither. shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa ’bum pa dang nyi khri lnga stong pa dang khri brgyad stong pa’i rgya cher bshad pa (Śatasāhasrikāpañcaviṁśatisāhasrikaṣṭādaśasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitābṛhaṭṭīkā). Toh 3808, Degé Tengyur vol. 93 (sher phyin, pha), folios 1a–292b. English translation in Sparham (2022).
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Jānavajra. de bzhin gshegs pa’i snying po’i rgyan (Tathāgatahṛdayālaṁkāra). Toh 4019, Degé Tengyur vol. 224 (mdo ’grel, pi), folios 1a–310a.
Kamalaśīla. shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa bdun brgya pa rgya cher bshad pa (Saptaśatikāprajñāpāramitāṭīkā). Toh 3815, Degé Tengyur vol. 95 (sher phyin, ma), folios 89a–178a.
Maitreya-Asaṅga. theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma’i bstan bcos (Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra) [A Mahāyāna Treatise on the Supreme Continuum]. Toh 4024, Degé Tengyur vol. 225 (sems tsam, phi), folios 54b–73a.
Nāgārjuna. mdo kun las btus pa (Sūtrasamuccaya). Toh 3934, Degé Tengyur vol. 212 (dbu ma, ki), folios 148b–215a.
Saitsalak (sa’i rtsa lag, Kuiji, Pṛthivībandhu). dam pa’i chos padma dkar po’i ’grel pa. Toh 4017, Degé Tengyur, vol. 120 (mdo ’grel, di), folios 175b–302a.
———. dam pa’i chos padma dkar po’i ’grel pa. bstan ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [Comparative Edition of the Tengyur], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 120 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 1994–2008, vol. 69 (mdo sde, di, vol. 135), pp. 476–826.
Śāntideva. bslab pa kun las btus pa (Śikṣāsamuccaya). Toh 3940, Degé Tengyur vol. 111 (dbu ma, khi), folios 3a–194b.
Vasubandhu. theg pa chen po bsdus pa’i ’grel pa (Mahāyānasaṁgrahabhāṣya). Toh 4050, Degé Tengyur vol. 225 (sems tsam, yi), folios 121b–190a.
Wantsik (wan tshig, Yuan Tso). dgongs pa zab mo nges par ’grel pa (Gambhīrasaṁdhinirmocanasūtraṭīkā). Toh 4016, Degé Tengyur vols. 220–22 (mdo ’grel, ti–ti), folios ti 1a–di 175a.
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