Cover of Prince Shotoku's Commentary on the Srimala-sutra
BDK America
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Shōtoku Taishi (Prince Shōtoku)
Mark W. Dennis
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Complete in one volume, here is one of three Buddhist commentaries written in classical Chinese that have been attributed to Japan’s Prince Shōtoku (574–622). The author comments on the Śrīmālā Sutra (also published by BDK) and provides an updated view of its themes of "the womb of the Buddha" and "one vehicle" (both concepts suggesting that all sentient beings have the ability to become Buddhas).

Prince Shōtoku on Queen Śrīmālā's Sutra
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Taishō 2185

Volume 56

Prince Shōtoku's Commentary on Śrīmālā's Sutra

This work is a commentary on the Śrīmālā-sūtra (Taisho No.16), and is considered to be the earliest of the “Commentaries on Three Sūtras” (Jp. San-gyō-gi-sho) composed by Prince Shōtoku. The Nihon-shoki (“Chronicles of Japan”) records that Prince Shōtoku gave a discourse on the Śrīmālā-sūtra for Empress Suiko. It is considered that Prince Shōtoku chose this particular sūtra as the subject of his discourse to the Empress probably because the protagonist of the Śrīmālā-sūtra is a woman, Śrīmālā, and Empress Suiko was the first Empress in Japanese history. The present work was then put together in book-form in Chinese at a later date. Be that as it may, there is no changing the fact that this was the first written work composed by a Japanese.

Jp. Shōmangyō gisho (勝鬘經義疏), attributed to Prince Shōtoku. 1 fascicle.

Table of Contents

A Message on the Publication of the English Tripiṭaka    NUMATA Yehan    v
Editorial Foreword    MAYEDA Sengaku    vii
Publisher’s Foreword    John R. McRae    ix
Translator’s Introduction    Mark W. Dennis    xiii
Conventions for the Translation xix

Prince Shōtoku’s Commentary on the Śrīmālā Sutra


The Contents of the Sutra 3
The Title of the Sutra 3
The Three Divisions of Buddhist Sutras 4

 Part I. Commentary on the Introductory Teaching

The General Introduction 7
The Specific Introduction 9

Part II. Commentary on the Main Teaching

Chapter One: Praising the True Merits of the Tathāgata 13
Chapter Two: The Ten Main Ordination Vows 21
Chapter Three: The Three Great Vows 29
Chapters Four and Five: “Other-Practice” 30
Chapter Four: Embracing the True Dharma 31
     Divisions of Chapter Four 32
Chapter Five: The One Vehicle 51
     Part Two of the Sutra’s Main Teaching 93
     The General Explanation 94
Chapter Six: The Unlimited Noble Truths 94
Chapter Seven: The Tathāgatagarbha 97
Chapter Eight: The Dharma Body 107
Chapter Nine: The Concealed Truth: The Meaning of Emptiness 109
     The Specific Explanation 111
Chapter Ten: The One Noble Truth 112
Chapter Eleven: The One Refuge 115
Chapter Twelve: The Distorted Truths 117
Chapter Thirteen: The Intrinsically Pure 121
Chapter Fourteen: The True Children of the Tathāgata 128

Part III. The Propagation of the Teaching

Propagation of the Teaching 1: The Buddha Returns to Śrāvastī 131
Propagation of the Teaching 2: Transmitting the Sutra 131
Propagation of the Teaching 3: The Sixteen Names for the Sutra 132

Notes 135
Glossary 137
Bibliography 151
Index 157
A List of the Volumes of the BDK English Tripiṭaka (First Series) 167