QUESTION 1. What are the reasons for writing this book?
ANSWER. The reasons for it are eight--
A. Generally speaking, it is to induce all living beings to depart from the way of all sorrow and to obtain the highest happiness, instead of seeking the glitter of fame and the wealth of this world.
B. It is to make clear the fundamental idea of the incarnate God (Tathagata) in man, and to lead all beings in the right way, avoiding error.
C. It is to lead those ripe in goodness to continue in the Mahayana Faith without failing.
D. It is to enable those in whom the root of goodness is very small to cultivate faith more and more.
E. It is to show how to remove evil hindrances and to strengthen well the mind, to keep far from mad pride, and to see through the deceits of vice.
F. It is to show how to study and correct the errors of ordinary men and the errors of the two inferior schools (the
[paragraph continues] Hinayana, or elementary school and the Madhyi-yana or middle school of Buddhism).
G. It is to show the means by which one may ascend to the abode of God (Buddha) and never lose faith.
H. It is to show the benefits of this Faith and to exhort men to practise it.
These are the main reasons for writing this book.
QUESTION 2. As the Sutras, or classic Buddhist Scriptures, explain these things fully, what need is there of repeating them?
ANSWER. Although the Sutras have discussed these things, yet as men's abilities and attainments are different, the reception of instruction is necessarily different. When the incarnate God (the Tathagata) was on earth, all men were able to understand him. His body and mind far excelled those of all other men. When he delivered his perfect words, all living beings, though different in kind, understood him alike, and therefore there was no need of explanation.
But after the Tathagata's death we find that some men, after widely reading our Sacred Scriptures, have the power unaided to understand them; we find that others, after only hearing a little of the Sacred Scriptures, have the power unaided to understand much; we also find that some have not sufficient intelligence to understand the Scriptures unassisted by extensive explanations; whilst we find that others dislike voluminous writings and prefer a terse style which embraces many principles, and which they are able to understand.
Thus this book is written for the last class of men which desire to know the general principles of the great and profound Law of the Tathagata with its infinite applications.