Although the text of the Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters is relatively short, its contents encompass the essence of the Buddha’s teachings, making this sutra an optimal entry point to the profound Buddha Dharma. For Chinese readers, the Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters can be compared to the Analects of Confucius. Apart from helping people to establish their own ways of thinking and norms of personal conduct, it guides practitioners in their contemplative practice. This sutra makes use of simple teachings to convey profound principles. The first chapter clearly illustrates the sequence we should follow in our spiritual practice, the second and third chapters are mainly written for monastics, while the subsequent chapters thereafter provide general guidelines for all spiritual practitioners.
In order for her disciples to simultaneously develop an understanding of the teachings and take action, Master Cheng Yen expounded the Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters to both the monastic and lay disciples at the Jing Si Abode throughout the 1970s. Society was less complicated at that time, and the services provided by the Tzu Chi Merit Association were limited to the field of charity. In this book, we can feel Master’s compassion through her plain and simple words. She earnestly explained each chapter and promoted the ideas of bringing purity to our every thought, giving with joy, and benefiting oneself and others. As the Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters states, “Abide by your vows and practice in accord with the path, and your path will be wide.” This is a very fitting reminder for all Buddhist practitioners. In the Sutra of Forty-Two Chapters, the Buddha taught people how to follow the right path in all their actions. Master Cheng Yen’s detailed explanations and apt interpretations have further closed the gap between this sutra and people in our current time.