The Lotus Sutra’s Unique Teachings


Attaining Enlightenment

Among many teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, the Lotus Sutra is regarded as the highest and most revolutionary in its concepts of attaining Buddhahood.  For hundreds of years, however, the Sutra’s teachings remained merely theoretical - without practice - even within the circles of monks, and it was far from the reach of ordinary people in society.

Then, in13th century Japan, a Buddhist reformer, Nichiren, deeply impressed by the Sutra’s teachings, devoted his life to studying and teaching its doctrines.  Nichiren encapsulated the essence of the Lotus Sutra in a simple way of practice in daily life - making it accessible to ordinary people.  The practical way of accessing the spirit or essence of the Sutra, and the benefits derived from applying its doctrines in daily life - contributed to its appeal and wide spread in society.

The essence of the Lotus Sutra is its revelation of the capacity of each individual to enjoy a secure, dignified and meaningful life in one’s current circumstances.  It is a teaching about revealing in this lifetime the original state of enlightenment - an inherent potential residing in the subconscious mind of each individual, since birth.  To pave the way for any individual to enjoy this highest state of existence equally with any other, the Lotus Sutra abolished all categories of differentiation and discrimination among people.  Its text then can be regarded as the oldest document on the human right of all people to equally and without any discrimination - to enjoy the highest state of existence, that of enligthenment.

Transforming sufferings, living in peace and security, and treasuring humanism of all people - can be described as the dream and aspiration of what people really desire deep in their heart.   Those who participated in the gathering and events described in the Lotus Sutra were called “truth-seekers”, and they manifest the deepest spiritual desire of humanity, aiming for living a meaningful enjoyable existence, in which evil tendencies are defeated, and in which peace, prosperity and good fortune prevails. 


The Lotus Sutra stand out as a unique document, which abolished all categories of discrimination among people: age, gender, sexuality, appearance, race, and social position - viewing any individual as respect-worthy.  In this, the Lotus sutra can be considere as the oldest document on the human right for living one’s life in harmony and peace.

The Power of Transformation

Among the qualities by which the lotus flower is highly regarded (such as beauty, purity and resistance to dirt) - the flower grows in muddy water - giving an example of a great contrast between the surrounding environment and its wonderful structure.  This feature is taken as a reference to the power of transformation, metaphorically signifying that an individual, who is among life’s hardships and problematic environment can also grow unaffected by the negative surroundings:

“As SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has written, the Lotus Sutra is ultimately a teaching of empowerment. It “teaches us that the inner determination of an individual can transform everything; it gives ultimate expression to the infinite potential and dignity inherent in each human life”. 

The Oneness of Cause and Effect

The most outstanding meaning derived from the lotus flower relates to the observation that

the central part of the flower is a container of its seeds. 

The seeds represent the Cause of its growth, and the full booming of the flower represents the Effect

Both “Cause” and “Effect”are visible at the same time, signifying the principle of the bond between our actions in life  (causes) - and their consequences (effects).


The poetry style of the text of the Lotus Sutra:

At its start, the introduction of the Lotus Sutra describes a gathering between the Buddha and his disciples, which took place about eight years before the Buddha’s passing (c 500 BC) - at a mountain in Rajagriha - called Eagle Peak in North-East India.  From this realistic scenery of the Buddha’s discourse, the text of the Sutra gradually shifts towards describing a fantastic field of magnificent images and occurrences - taking place beyond the constrains time and space, and expressing the Buddha’s mind of enlightenment. 

In a poetic style, the Sutra presents a dream-like journey through the mind of the Buddha, which transformed the place of the gathering into an environment filled with wonders, rich in colours and great treasures. The text describes a fantastic field with huge dimensions, inhibited by a a huge number of beautiful, peaceful beings, some described as ‘gods with beautiful voices’ playing heavenly music resounding from ‘golden instruments’, while flowers of fragrance fall over the participants, creating an atmosphere of pleasure, security, peace and inspiration (of the world of enlightenment).  The text of the sutra resembles a description of a dream showing the power of the mind, which is beyond the restrictions of time and space.  The poetry style was deliberately employed to give the text unrestricted flexibility and depth, needed to convey extremely profound principles and parables - aimed at presenting a message, which would be general and valid in any situation.

In this part of the Sutra, the Buddha projects to his listeners grand visions in form of parables and metaphors - aiming to convey messages of compassion, wisdom and the potential of living with inner freedom and shared joy.

After the description of that journey into the field of enlightenment, the scenery of the Sutra returns back to the gathering where it started at Eagle Peak, with the participants inspired and filled with lifeforce and desire for transmission of the teaching of enlightenment far and wide into the future.

It seems first puzzling why would the text of the sutra tend to deliberately create the atmosphere of fantasy, in which events are not constrained by the spatiotemporal reality.  The intention of the Sutra was to employ imagery and parables to encode and express its universal principles and teachings, conveyed by the metaphors. Because there was no time or space restriction in the offered parables, then the essence of their messages become valid at any time and any place in which human being experience the desire for transforming sufferings and attaining enlightenment.


Author: Safwan Darshams

The Revolutionary Teachings of the Lotus Sutra

The Value of the Individual

The inherent Nature of Human Rights                 

Respecting Diversity of People’s Desires        

The Right to Happiness


The Authenticity of the Lotus Sutra

Comparison between the Lotus Sutra and other Spiritual Scriptures

The Uniqueness of the Lotus Sutra in Mahayana Buddhism



Frequently Asked Questions