Back to listJan 7, 2005

Soka Gakkai Publishes English Translation of Ongi kuden (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings)

The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, an English translation by Dr. Burton Watson

Soka Gakkai recently released The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, an English translation by Dr. Burton Watson of the Ongi kuden. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, represents the notes on Nichiren's lectures on the Lotus Sutra that were recorded and put into order by Nichiren's close disciple and successor, Nikko, and, with Nichiren's permission, were handed down for posterity. Dr. Watson, a former professor of Asian Studies at Columbia University, USA, is an eminent translator from Chinese and Japanese to English. He is known for his deep understanding of Chinese literature, including his translation of Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Records of the Historian, and had earlier translated Kumarajiva's Myoho-renge-kyo (The Lotus Sutra). SGI President Daisaku Ikeda and Dr. Watson first met in 1973 and held a dialogue on the Lotus Sutra and Buddhist philosophy. When they met again in 1992, Dr. Watson expressed a deep interest in the manner in which Nichiren interpreted the Lotus Sutra, and he agreed to undertake an English translation of the "Ongi kuden."

Dr. Watson (left, foreground) and Mr. Ikeda (right, foreground) meet in May 1992

In the book's foreword, Mr. Ikeda writes: "What is the basic philosophical outlook of Orally Transmitted Teachings? Various interpretation are possible, but my view is that ultimately it resides in the concept of the dignity of the human being and the dignity of life. In specific terms, it is the belief that ordinary people are capable of attaining Buddhahood, that ordinary people are in fact Buddha."

He also writes, "The solidarity of men and women who are wakened to the true dignity of life will continue to expand and make it possible that war and terrorism be wiped out, and that poverty, destruction of the environment, and other global problems that now threaten humankind be solved. I firmly believed that that day will come, and my one great desire is that it may come as quickly as possible."

The book is available at Seikyo book corners located in all Soka Gakkai centers throughout Japan.