I was reading The Lotus Sutra the other day and I came across Shakyamuni referring to "nine devices" as a way of teaching and leading people towardsed "the great vehicle", but upon looking the term, "the nine devices" up on the internet, I didn't find anything about the nine devices that he was refering to in the Lotus Sutra. Below is the passage it came from:

Here, the Buddha is preaching to Shariputra and a croud of nearly all of his deciples during the first of the three meetings in two places. "For those of dull capacities who delight in a lesser teaching, who greedily cling to birth and death, who, despite the innumerable buddhas, fail to practice the profound and wonderful way but are perplexed and confused by a host of troubles- for those I preach nirvana. I devise these expedient means and so cause them to enter into the buddha wisdom. Up to now I have never told you that you were certain to attain the buddha way. The reason I never preached in this manner was that the time to preach had not yet come. But now is the very time when I must decisively preach the great vehicle. I use these nine devices, adapting them to the living beings when I preach, my basic aim being to lead them to the great vehicle, and that is why I preach this sutra (68*).

He then goes on to other related topics, but doesn't say what the nine devices are. Does anyone know? Are they referenced in another sutra?

*This refers to page 68 in the Burton Watson translation of The Lotus Sutra.

  • Related reading: yuttadhammo.sirimangalo.org/2016/03/… Apr 10, 2016 at 13:50
  • I can see why those points were made in that blog, but I would say that really what is meant when Shakyamuni says that it's not a lie because it was for the right reason, what he really was inferring was that for all intensive purposes, it wasn't a lie and therefore shouldn't have any of the normally appliable connotations that one usually would have attached to a lie. Apr 10, 2016 at 14:05
  • The blog post addresses this exact statement you just made :) Read till the end. Apr 10, 2016 at 14:32
  • I did, maybe I missed something; I'll read it again :) Apr 10, 2016 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


The nine devices are mentioned in the same chapter 2 of the Sutra, about 2 paragraphs above the excerpt you provided. Basically they are nine formats to present the teaching: sutras, verses, stories of the previous lives of disciples, stories of the previous lives of the Buddha, of unheard-of-things, origins, similes/parables, passages of poetry, and discourses.

An important thing to keep in mind is to always compare and verify any excerpt against the Nikayas (for Theravada practitioners) or the Agamas (for Mahayana practitioners) because these 2 sources are agreed by scholar monks from all schools to be the earliest, thus the closest to the Buddha's Teaching. Suttacentral.net is a great resource that provides cross references. Accesstoinsight.org is another excellent site, especially the Beginnings section for those who want to know more about the Tipitaka..

  • As for when you say to verify, is the Lotus Sutra generally seen as an outlier in terms of its ideology andnot always to be "trusted" Apr 10, 2016 at 18:45
  • It's not an all or nothing kind of thing. The Lotus Sutra certainly has messages that are useful for one's practice. However, the fact is that it came later than those from the Nikayas or Agamas, and so it'd be wise to always reference the older sources. Matter of fact, the Buddha Himself taught us to always verify, see the Four Great Referrals in DN 16 (ref: buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/11652/… )
    – santa100
    Apr 10, 2016 at 19:50
  • Okay, thank you. Apr 12, 2016 at 0:36

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