The Bequeathed Teaching Sutra
The Bequeathed Teaching Sutra contains the last teachings of Śākyamuni, delivered to the disciples assembled around his deathbed between two sal trees. In this last sermon Śākyamuni urges his disciples to strive for enlightenment through the practice of the three disciplines (precepts, meditation and wisdom), and after having expounded other concepts basic to Buddhist thought, he ends by saying that this is his last teaching. The sūtra has gained considerable popularity as it is said to record the Buddha’s last teachings, and it is held in especially high regard in the Zen sects.
Translated into the Chinese by Kumārajīva as Fochuibo niepan lüeshuo jiaojie jing (佛垂般涅槃略説教誡經). 1 fascicle.
The Ullambana Sutra
The Ullambana Sutra forms the basis of the Bon ceremony (Urabon-e) performed in Japan in memory of the dead. The sūtra relates how Maudgalyāyana, one of Śākyamuni’s disciples, asked Śākyamuni how he might save his mother who had fallen into the realm of hungry spirits (Skt.: preta). Maudgalyāyana was instructed to make offerings of food and drink on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (the final day of the three-month retreat during the rainy season), and upon doing so his mother was relieved of her agony. The Sanskrit word of ullambana in the title means “hanging upside down,” a metaphorical reference to the suffering undergone in the realm of hungry spirits. Judging from the fact that the Bon ceremony is still performed in Japan today, one can say that this sūtra has had considerable influence.
Skt. Ullambana-sūtra. Translated into the Chinese by Dharmarakṣa as Yulanpen jing(盂蘭盆經). 1 fascicle.
The Sutra of Forty-two Sections
The Sūtra of Forty-Two Sections is said to be the first Buddhist scripture brought to China, but some scholars maintain that it is an apocryphal work, produced in China, without a direct basis in Indic literature. As the title suggests, it explains important tenets of Buddhist doctrine in 42 sections, and serves as a kind of introduction to Buddhism. Basic concepts, such as suffering, impermanence and non-self, and elements of Buddhist practice, such as compassion and alms-giving, are explained clearly by way of apt similes. Written simply, the sūtra was widely read in China, and there are as many as ten variants of the text.
Brought into the Chinese by Kāśyapamātaṅga and Zhu Falan as Sishierzhang jing (四十二章經). 1 fascicle.
The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment
The Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment takes the format of a dialogue between the Buddha and twelve bodhisattvas, starting with Mañjuśrī, who each puts a question to the Buddha. The central theme is the concept of “perfect and immediate enlightenment” (Ch.: yuan dun), said to be the consummate teaching of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Although this sūtra is said to be an apocryphal work compiled in China, it was held in high regard in Chan schools. Note, however, that Dōgen, the founder of the Sōtō Sect in Japan, rejected it on the grounds that it differs in contents from other Mahāyāna sūtras.
Brought into the Chinese by Buddhatrāta as Dafangguang yuanjue xiuduoluo liaoyi jing (大方廣圓覺修多羅了義經). 1 fascicle.
The Sutra on the Profundity of Filial Love
This Sūtra on the Profundity of Parental Love describes the deep love of parents for their children, and then recommends that to repay this parental love one should perform the Bon ceremony (Taishō 36) and recite and copy this sūtra. Judging from its unnatural format and rather laboured contents, it is generally considered that this sūtra was composed in China, probably as a result of Confucian influence upon Buddhism. However, it won great popularity, being even quoted in literary works, and many commentaries were written on it.
Ch. Fumu enzhong jing (父母恩重經), likely composed in China. 1 fascicle.