The Vimalakirti Sutra, one of the most influential works of the Mahayana Buiddhist canon, is of particular importance in the Ch'an or Zen sect. Originally written in Sanskrit, probably in the first century C.E., it claims to record events of more than four hundred years earlier. Noted for its eloquent, orderly exposition of the basic tenets of Mahayana, the text is also remarkable for the liveliness of its episodes and frequent touches of humor, rarities in a religious work of this type. The Vimalakirti Sutra is unusual in that its central figure is not a Buddha or Buddhas, but a wealthy townsman, Vimalakirti, who epitomizes the ideal lay believer. For this reason, and because of the Sutra's enduring literary appeal, it has been particularly popular among lay Buddhists in China, japan, and the other Asian countries where Mahayana doctrines prevail, and has exercised a marked influence on literature and art.