When the Lotus Sutra arrived in Boston in 1844 the few people who could read it were intrigued by its parables that reminded them of the Bible. For these westerners, the Lotus was like a gateway into a mysterious and profound culture from across the world. But it took a long time to get there, from India to China, Japan, and beyond, and the most exciting history occurred before it ever reached Europe.
The Lotus is a book that explains how you can be a Buddha, too. But its explanation challenged earlier Buddhist texts and led to disagreements that have lasted for centuries.
Donald S. Lopez, Jr. joins us to talk about his new book, The Lotus Sutra: A Biography.
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This ongoing series of MIPodcast episodes features interviews with authors of volumes in Princeton University Press’s impressive “Lives of Great Religious Books” series. Leading experts examine the origins of books like the Book of Mormon, the Bhagavad Gita, Augustine’s Confessions, and C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. They trace shifts in the reception, influence, and interpretation of these landmark texts.
By looking at other religious texts from a variety of perspectives—worthwhile in their own right—we come to understand other faiths better, as well as our own. We begin to see the different ways scholars and believers and believing scholars grapple with sacred texts.
About the Guest
Donald S. Lopez, Jr. is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. His many books include The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, and a biography of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. His latest book is The Lotus Sutra: A Biography from Princeton University Press’s Lives of Great Religious Books series.
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