Lotus Sutra Translations: 

Nyorai Juryo hon Dai Ju-roku 
Jogyo Bosatsu 
Taho Nyorai 

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Lotus Sutra Translation Hoben-pon Dai ni in Chinese 

"As I said before, though no chapter of the Lotus Sutra is negligible, among the entire twenty-eight chapters, the Hoben chapter and the Juryo chapter are particularly outstanding. The remaining chapters are all in a sense the branches and leaves of these two chapters. Therefore, for your regular recitation, I recommend that you practice reading the prose sections of the Hoben and Juryo chapters."  
Nichiren Daishonin in the "Recitation of the Hoben and Juryo Chapters," Major Writings, Vol. 6  
The Ho (of Hoben-pon Dai ni) in its most ancient form resembles a swastika. It is four boats tied together. It divides the earth's surface into four regions. The same four regions are represented by the Four Heavenly Kings in the corners of the Gohonzon.  This ancient image was: a place, a region, a square. It also meant regular, apt, easy, a rule, a prescription, a means, and/or a comparison.
The modern character Ho is a contracted composite of two characters, the primitive for leader one who stands up (on the left) and the primitive for open space (on the right). In the phrase Hoben-pon, it is one who leads others to open space (freedom or liberation). Because this image represents the Buddha(s) leading the four regions of the earth to freedom and is not freedom itself, the Ho of the Hoben-pon is translated as a "means" or "prescription."  
Ben is composed of the primitive image of one who stands up (on the left) and a contracted composite (on the right) of a fire rising above the roof of a house, underneath this image is an armed (and therefore capable) hand. The burning house represents suffering or difficulties. The whole character means a person stands up and removes those from a burning house (suffering) quickly. Because the house is ablaze and the armed (capable) person uses the quickest means possible, this character is commonly translated as "expedient".
Thus, Hoben means "Expedient Means"  

Pon is three squares stacked in a triangle. This is a multitude. It means a decree or a profound, important, universal teaching. 
Dai is not the same "dai" that means "great" (as in Dai Gohonzon). This Dai is the ancient symbol for spindle with the radical for bamboo above. The bamboo radical looks like two ks on top. The rest of the structure of the spindle with a piece of thread dangling on the bottom left. In this context it means section or chapter. The bamboo denotes sections (as in bamboo sections). Bamboo also represents Buddhism, because the first Chinese Buddhist teachings were written on slats of bamboo, held together by thread. The combination of spindle and bamboo means section, or chapters (usually of Buddhist or other important teachings). 
Ni is two horizontal lines. It is the number two. The number two, in Chinese thinking, is the principle of Yin and Yang and the number of the earth. In Confucian thought, the number two refers to the second virtue, which is to love each other.
Putting it all together: Hoben-pon  = means (Ho), expedient (Ben), pronouncement (Pon). Dai ni = Section (Dai) two (Ni). 

Burton Watson translates Hoben-pon as "Expedient means." 

H. Kern (from the Sanskrit) as "Skillful means." 

The Three Fold Lotus Sutra as "Tactfulness." (The 3FLS is an extremely poor translation.) 

Leon Hurvitz translates this as "Expedient Devices." 

Reciting "Hoben Pon.  Dai ni." reminds us to emerge from our selfish desires and use the Buddha's teaching to free ourselves and others from suffering as quickly as possible. The Buddha teaches:  

"At all times I think to myself: 
How can I cause living beings 
to gain entry into the unsurpassed way 
and quickly acquire the body of a Buddha?"  
Lotus Sutra, Vol. 16, p. 232
Everything the Bodhisattvas of the Earth do is to cause all living being to quickly attain Buddhahood. But as the Lotus Sutra also teaches: 
"The evil monks of that muddied age, 
failing to understand the Buddha's expedient means [Hoben], 
how he preaches the Law in accordance with what is appropriate, 
will confront us with foul language and angry frowns; 
again and again we will be banished 
to a place far removed from towers and temples."  
Lotus Sutra, Chapter 13, p. 195
What can the Bodhisattvas do when they are "Banished to a place far removed from towers and temples?" 

The Lotus Sutra teaches: 

"All these various evils, 
because we keep in mind the Buddha's orders, 
we will endure. 
If in the settlements and towns 
there are those who seek the Law, 
we will go to wherever they are 
and preach the Law entrusted to us by the Buddha." 
Lotus Sutra, Chapter 13 ("Encouraging Devotion"), p. 195
The phrase "Hoben" can be found throughout the Lotus Sutra. It is mentioned 7 times in Gongyo. The Lotus Sutra states that it is because the monks do not understand the Buddha's expedient means (hoben) that they slander the Bodhisattvas and "Banish [them] from the towers and temples." 
Updated 6/7/06 
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