The following description is from the inside flap to Yoshiro Tamura’s classic translation of the Lotus Sutra:
The Sutra of the Lotus Flower of the Wonderful Dharma, popularly known as the Lotus Sutra, is revered by millions of Buddhists as containing the core and culmination of the Buddha’s teaching. …it is one of the most important scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism and indeed one of the major documents of world religion.
The Lotus Sutra consists of a series of sermons delivered by the Buddha toward the end of his 45-year teaching ministry before a great multitude of disciples and countless others. The setting and scope are cosmic, but the sermons themselves, presented in both prose and verse, are replete with parables and graphic anecdotes.
At the heart of the sutra are three major concepts of Mahayana Buddhism:
- All sentient beings can attain perfect enlightenment – that is, buddhahood – and nothing less than this is the appropriate final goal of believers;
- The Buddha is eternal, having existed from the infinite past and appearing in many forms throughout the ages to guide and succor beings through the teaching of the Wonderful Dharma; and
- The noblest form of Buddhist practice is the way of the bodhisattvas, those who devote themselves to attaining enlightenment not only for themselves but for all sentient beings.
As a former Tendai monk, Shinran Shonin understood Amida and the Eternal Buddha of the Lotus Sutra as the same being, Dharma-body itself:
Just as the Lotus Sutra contains many parables as skillful means, the stories of Amida attaining Buddhahood ten kalpas ago are parables for the eternality of Dharma-body:
Shinran placed his sincere trust in Amida, as expressed in the words Namu-Amida-Butsu, for his future attainment of Buddhahood, rather than his own efforts alone.
Shinran taught that, in the Pure Land, one attains Buddhahood and immediately returns to this world to serve all beings, in fulfillment of the Bodhisattva vow.