序品 (Jpn Jo-hon )
The first chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Like a great many Buddhist sutras, it begins with the sentence "This is what I heard." It then goes on to identify the setting as Eagle Peak in Rajagriha and names representatives of the countless arhats, bodhisattvas, heavenly gods, asuras, garudas, and other beings, human and nonhuman, who have gathered there to hear Shakyamuni Buddha preach.
According to this chapter, the Buddha has finished preaching the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra and enters into profound meditation.
At that time, four kinds of exquisite flowers rain down from the heavens, and the earth trembles in six different ways.
The members of the whole assembly gain what they never had before, are filled with joy, and, pressing their palms together, gaze at the Buddha with a single mind.
Then the Buddha emits a beam of light from the tuft of white hair between his eyebrows, illuminating eighteen thousand worlds to the east.
All the living beings in the six paths of existence as well as the Buddhas and their disciples in all these worlds are clearly visible, and the entire assembly is astonished at these fabulous portents.
Bodhisattva Maitreya then speaks on behalf of them all, asking Bodhisattva Manjushri, who has already practiced under an incalculable number of Buddhas, to explain their meaning.
Manjushri replies that he has seen other Buddhas emit a beam of light in this way in the past, after which they have always expounded a great teaching.
Countless kalpas ago, he says, there once appeared twenty thousand Buddhas in succession, each with the same name, Sun Moon Bright.
The last and twenty-thousandth Sun Moon Bright Buddha had once preached a scripture known as the Immeasurable Meanings Sutra, after which he entered into deep meditation and the very same portents appeared. Then this Buddha immediately expounded a sutra called the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law.
At that time, Manjushri says, there was a bodhisattva in the assembly named Wonderfully Bright, accompanied by his eight hundred disciples, among whom was one named Seeker of Fame. Bodhisattva Wonderfully Bright, says Manjushri, is now himself, and Bodhisattva Seeker of Fame is the present Bodhisattva Maitreya. The portents they are now witnessing are identical with those they saw in the past. Bodhisattva Manjushri concludes that Shakyamuni Buddha is about to expound the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law.
"Introduction" is also the title of the first chapter of the Chinese versions of many other sutras. In general, the "Introduction" chapter contains descriptions of the circumstances under which the Buddha is about to preach a sutra and of the causes and conditions that prompt him to preach it.
See also six auspicious happenings.