The Revolutionary Concepts of the Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra refers to its own principles as being difficult to believe:

“A passage from the Lotus Sutra reads that it is “the most difficult to believe and the most difficult to understand.” WND1p471

a statement of anticipation of reaction to its challenging and revolutionary teachings.

The main principles of the Lotus Sutra are:


  1. -       “Attaining Buddhahood in this life time” (a different perspective from previous sutras, which required many lifetimes of practice), 

  1. -       “Enlightenment of all People”, eradicating limitations on attaining Buddhahood, which were set in previous sutras.  Pre-Lotus teachings set varying limitations on attaining enlightenment by the three categories of people: women, evil doers and self-realisation intellectuals (sravaka and pratyekabuddha) - limitations that were abolished by the Buddha in the Lotus Sutra, presenting Buddhahood as an essential potential of any individual.

   The focus of the sutra on attaining the highest state of life, Buddhahood, in this lifetime of any individual - dissolved all barriers of differentiation between people.  It is possible to consider the Lotus Sutra as the oldest document on human rights, as - through its parables and metaphors - dissolved categories of discrimination among individuals, including categories of gender, sexual orientation, social position, education, age and physical appearance - assuring equality of all people in having the potential and right of enlightenment.

  1. -        Pre-Lotus sutras presented the various states of life (the lower worlds of sufferings, the worlds of learning, Bodhisattva and Buddha) - as separate from each other.   This was dramatically altered in the Lotus Sutra, teaching that: all the states of life are interconnected through the principle of “The Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds”. 

Accordingly, the lower worlds of sufferings, which people experience - contain the potential for Buddhahood, and that the Buddha does not discard the lower worlds, experienced by any ordinary person.  Although being a Buddha, one still possesses the lower worlds of life (transformed into enlightenment).  This means that all beings in their current lifetime possess the Buddhanature as their potential - a potential awaiting realisation.  The Buddhanature is the highest state of life, revealed when the individual becomes in harmony with the Lotus Dharma (MyohoRengeKyo) transforming the lower worlds into enlightenment.

  1. -       The Lotus Sutra offers other derived teachings, such as the concept of the Oneness of Cause (Bodhisattva) and Effect (Buddha), dissolving the distinction between Bodhisattva practice and Buddhahood.  Mahayana teachings advocate many stages of practice separating the state of Bodhisattva from Buddhahood.  On the other hand, the concept of Bodhisattva-Buddha  is unique to the Lotus teachings and it does not exist in any other Mahayana sutra. 

The revolutionary state of “Bodhisattva-Buddha” suggests that a Buddha can appear as an ordinary person acting at the stage of Bodhisattva.  Nichiren himself identified himself in this way: as Bodhisattva Jogyo.  The word “Jogyo” means the True Self of the Buddha.  This is a figure of a Bodhisattva whose inner identity is the True Self of Buddha:

        “[Nichiren’s] true identity is that of a Buddha exerting himself at the initial stage of Buddhist

        practice, embodying the oneness of cause and effect. 

        Such a figure had never before been known in the history of Buddhism”. 

                                                                                Source: The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra vol.5 p.187

  1. -   The most outstanding revelation of the Buddha of the Lotus Sutra is that the state of Buddhahood is eternal, existing throughout the universe and that time has no beginning nor end. 


The Lotus Sutra and Subduing Evil: One of the most outstanding distinctions of the Lotus Sutra is its prediction of enlightenment of the Buddha’s enemy, Devadatta (identified with Evil).

In pre-Lotus Sutras, the devil was excluded from enlightenment, condemned to eternal hell, and in non-Buddhist teachings (such as in the Abrahamic religions) no solution about evil is given (except designating the Devil to Hell after the ‘Judgement Day’).

The Lotus Sutra offers the possibility of defeating, subduing and converting the devil to act to correct all created evil karma, finally becoming enlightened to the universal Dharma.  In this perspective the Lotus Sutra is unique, and unequalled in its higher capacity - as Nichiren explains:

        “In Buddhism, that teaching is judged supreme that enables all people,

          whether good or evil, to become Buddhas”. WND1 p 156

The word “superiority” of the Lotus Sutra is understood as being of the highest capacity between all teachings of the Buddha, to lead all people to Buddhahood, even people with evil karma - transforming their life into enlightenment. __________________________________________________

Author: Safwan Darshams

Traditional & SGI Buddhism