Treatise on the Lotus Sutra
Treatise on the Lotus Sutra, The
法華論・法華経論 (Skt Saddharma-pundarika-upadesha; Chin Fa-hua-lun or Fa-hua-ching-lun; Jpn Hokke-ron or Hokekyoron )
A Chinese translation of Vasubandhu's commentary on the Sanskrit Lotus Sutra, Saddharma-pundarika-sutra. The full title is The Treatise on the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law. The Sanskrit text of Vasubandhu's treatise no longer exists, but two Chinese versions are extant, one by Bodhiruchi and T'an-lin, and the other by Ratnamati and Senglang. Both were produced in the sixth century. According to tradition, Ratnamati, who was from central India, went to Lo-yang, China, in 508 and translated the Saddharma-pundarika-upadesha with the assistance of Senglang. Bodhiruchi, a native of northern India, went to Lo-yang in the same year and produced another Chinese version at Yung-ning-ssu temple with the assistance of T'an-lin.
In this work, Vasubandhu asserts the superiority of the Lotus Sutra over all the other sutras based on three aspects of its content, which he terms the seven parables, the three equalities, and the ten peerlessnesses. The seven parables are the parables related in the Lotus Sutra to illustrate the superiority of the sutra's teaching. The three equalities are:
(1) The equality of the vehicle. The one supreme vehicle is given equally to all people, and the Lotus Sutra unites the three vehicles into the one supreme vehicle.
(2) The equality of the world and nirvana. There is no fundamental distinction between the world of delusion and nirvana, or enlightenment.
(3) The equality of the body. "Body" here refers to the body of the Buddha.
Although the Buddha assumes various forms (or bodies) to lead people to enlightenment, the state of Buddhahood equally pervades them all. Vasubandhu established these three viewpoints to show that the Lotus Sutra is a teaching of absolute equality. The ten peerlessnesses are ten viewpoints from which Vasubandhu asserted the superiority of the Lotus Sutra over all other sutras. One of them, for example, is that the seeds of enlightenment imparted by the Lotus Sutra are without peer. Chi-tsang, Dengyo, and Chisho wrote commentaries on this work. According to Paramartha's account, more than fifty scholars wrote commentaries on the Lotus Sutra in India, but only Vasubandhu's was brought to China and translated into Chinese. For this reason, The Treatise on the Lotus Sutra was regarded in China as the primary text for the study of the Lotus Sutra. Some scholars today maintain that the Lotus Sutra referred to in the Chinese versions of Vasubandhu's work is different in many respects from the sutra that Kumarajiva translated under the title Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law, and bears similarity to a Sanskrit text of the Lotus Sutra found in Nepal. See also seven parables; ten peerless-nesses.