The way of the lotus: Critical reflections on the ethics of the saddharmapundarika S tra

Asian Philosophy 7 (1):5 – 22 (1997)

Abstract
Edward Conze once observed of the thirty-eight books constituting the Praj p ramit S tras that their central message could be summed up in two sentences: (1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings. (2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva or as all-knowledge or as a being or as the perfection of wisdom or as an attainment. [1] It seems to me that Conze was profoundly correct, as far as he went, and that what he said of the Praj p ramit literary corpus might apply to other Mah y na S tras , as well. One test of this broad application of Conze's observation to the whole of the Mah y na scriptural tradition lies in a close reading of one of the Mah y na S tras from that tradition, the Saddharmapundarika S tra, “the scripture of the lotus blossom of the wonderful law”, or the Lotus S utra . The Lotus S tra not only makes Conze's point, as I shall try to show, but it goes further in offering a new middle path between the two summary sentences above. In doing this it brings forth a practical ethical-religious way for Buddhists and others to follow who will be caught in the sufferings and terrors of the 21st century. We shall refer to this way as “the way of the Lotus” or “the Lotus way”. In what follows I want to attempt three things. First, using Edward Conze's summary sentences above, I identify and explicate three ways to liberation in the Lotus Sutra , viz. the way of ethics and attachment, i.e. “the Bodhisattva way” ("One should become a Bodhisattva...”); next, the way of emptiness and unattachment, i.e. “the Buddha way” ("There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva...”); and, finally, the Lotus way wherein the Bodhisattva way and the Buddha way combine to form a single and powerful new way of liberation. This third way is indirectly referred to in the remark which Edward Conze makes in his summary of the Praj p ramit immediately following his previous two sentences: “To accept both of these contradictory facts is to be perfect”. [2] To accept the Bodhisattva way together with the Buddha way yields the Lotus way. Second, I demonstrate the significance of the Lotus way as a practical way of solving moral problems for Buddhists and others in the 21st century. Third, and finally, I raise and attempt to answer and solve several questions and puzzles about the Lotus way as a way to peace and liberation for Buddhists and others in the 21st century.
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DOI 10.1080/09552369708575448
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Nagarjuna: The Philosophy of the Middle Way.David J. Kalupahana - 1988 - Religious Studies 24 (4):529-533.

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