This handscroll is the earliest known painted version of the Lotus Sutra’s twenty-fifth chapter, “Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds,” which describes the boundless compassion of the deity known in Japan as Kannon. The text of the sutra is interspersed with thirty-four colorful images that illustrate the merciful acts of Kannon, which include deliverance from various threats to life, such as fires, floods, and war.
If someone, holding fast to the name of the Boddhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, should enter a great fire, the fire could not burn him. This would come about because of this bodhisattva’s authority and supernatural power.
If one were washed away by a great flood and called upon his name, one would immediately find himself in a shallow place.
Suppose there were a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, a million living beings who, seeking for . . . treasures, set out on the great sea. And suppose a fierce wind should blow their ship off course and it drifted to the land of rakshasa demons. If among those people there is even just one who calls on the name of Boddhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, then all those people will be delivered from their troubles.
If a person who faces imminent threat of attach should call the name of Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World's Sound, then the swords and staves weilded by his attackers would instantly shatter into so many pieces and he would be delivered.
Though enough yaksha and rakshasa to fill all the thousand-millionfold world should try to come and torment a person, if they hear him call the name of Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World's Sounds, then these evil demons will not even be able to look at him with their evil eyes, much less do him harm.
Suppose there is a person who, whether guilty or not guilty, has had his body improsoned in fetters and chains, cangue and lock. If he calls the name of the Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World's Sounds, then all his bonds will be severed and broken and at once he will gain deliverance.
Suppose...a band of merchants [is] carrying valuable treasures over a steep and dangerious road, and that one man shouts out these words: "Good men, do not be afraid! You must single-mindedly call on the name of the Bodhisattva...[who] can grant fearlessness to living beings. If you call his name, you will be delivered from these evil-hearted bandits!" When then merchants hear this, they all together raise their voices...[and] gain deliverance. —Translated by Burton Watson
On view for all rotations
#8802. "Universal Gate" Chapter 25 from the Lotus Sutra (Illustrated Sutra of The Miracles of Kannon)
Signature: Sugawara Mitsushige (the writer; painter is unknown)
Masayasu Asukai Japanese, Japan (1491; sold or given to Yamato-no-kami Oda).; Shizuhiko Kosetsu , Japan (1951; sold or given to the Fujita Family Collection).; [ Yamanaka & Co. Japanese, New York, until 1953; sold to MMA].
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