Buddhism: Mahayana: Primary Texts
Dasheng qixin lun, or Treatise on Awakening Mahayana Faith has been one of the most important texts of East Asian Buddhism since it first appeared in sixth-century China. It outlines the initial steps a Mahayana Buddhist needs to take to reach enlightenment, beginning with the conviction that the Mahayana path is correct and worth pursuing. The Treatise addresses many of the doctrines central to various Buddhist teachings in China between the fifth and seventh centuries, attempting to reconcile seemingly contradictory ideas in Buddhist texts introduced from India. It provided a model for later schools to harmonize teachings and sustain the idea that, despite different approaches, there was only one doctrine, or Dharma. It profoundly shaped the doctrines and practices of the major schools of Chinese Buddhism: Chan, Tiantai, Huayan, and to a lesser extent Pure Land. It quickly became a shared resource for East Asian philosophers and students of Buddhist thought. Drawing on the historical and intellectual contexts of Treatise's composition and paying sustained attention to its interpretation in early commentaries, this new annotated translation of the classic, makes its ideas available to English readers like never before. The introduction orients readers to the main topics taken up in the Treatise and gives a comprehensive historical and intellectual grounding to the text. This volume marks a major advance in studies of the Treatise, bringing to light new interpretations and themes of the text.
This is a free translation of two Buddhist texts on what is arguably the most popular of all Buddhist conceptions of an ideal world, the Land of Bliss of the Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. The two texts, known to Western students of Buddhism as the Smaller and Larger Sukhavatiyuha Sutra, explain the conditions that lead to rebirth in the Pure Land and the manner in which human beings are reborn there. The longer of the two texts also tells the story of how the Buddha of Infinite Light came to preside over this marvel-filled paradise. Both texts describe the layout and the wonders of the Pure Land, and the preconditions that lead to rebirth in this Buddhist paradise. They form the spiritual foundation of pure faith that pervades East Asian Buddhism, a doctrine of faith the parallels Western doctrines of grace while reflecting a complex historical and doctrinal cross-current of faith, effort, and visionary religion. At times solemn, fantastic, and humorous, the accounts reflect the rich literary and religious imagination of India.
The avadana literature is the largest corpus of Sanskrit Buddhist texts available to us. By providing an annotated translation of, and applying the methods of literary criticism to, a first-century account of the life of the Buddhist saint Purna, the present study introduces the reader to the richness and complexity of a genre which has played an essential role in Buddhist self-understanding for over two thousand years. Buddhist tradition identifies the monk Purna of Surparaka as the great evangelist who introduced Buddhism to the land of Sronaparantaka, which corresponds to much of the present Indian state of Gujarat. The introduction, which discusses methodological issues in some detail, is followed by an annotated translation of the text and by a detailed literary analysis. After brief concluding remarks, the appendices present translations of four other versions of the life of Purna.
The word yoga has many meanings, including "meditation," "method," and "union." While the physical exercises of Hindu yoga are familiar to Westerners, the subtle metaphysics and refined methods of spiritual development that characterize Buddhist yoga are not yet well known. This volume presents a landmark translation of a classical sourcebook of Buddhist yoga, the Sandhinirmochana-sutra, or "Scripture Unlocking the Mysteries," a revered text of the school of Buddhism known as Vijnanavada or Yogachara. The study of this scripture is essential preparation for anyone undertaking meditation exercise. Linking theory and praxis, the scripture offers a remarkably detailed and thorough course of study in both the philosophical and pragmatic foundation of Buddhist yoga, and their perfect, harmonious union in the realization of Buddhist enlightenment.
In the early twentieth century, Chinese Buddhists sought to strengthen their tradition through publications, institution building, and initiatives aimed at raising the educational level of the monastic community. In this book, Erik J. Hammerstrom examines how Huayan Buddhism was imagined, taught, and practiced during this time of profound political and social change and, in so doing, recasts the history of twentieth-century Chinese Buddhism. Hammerstrom traces the influence of Huayan University, the first Buddhist monastic school founded after the fall of the imperial system in China. Although the university lasted only a few years, its graduates of went on to establish a number of Huayan-centered educational programs throughout China. While they did not create a new sectarian Huayan movement, they did form a network unified by a common educational heritage that persists to the present day. Drawing on an extensive range of Buddhist texts and periodicals, Hammerstrom shows that Huayan had a significant impact on Chinese Buddhist thought and practice and that the history of Huayan complicates narratives of twentieth-century Buddhist modernization and revival. Offering a wide range of insights into the teaching and practice of Huayan in Republican China, this book sheds new light on an essential but often overlooked element of the East Asian Buddhist tradition.
This book offers an annotated translation of two of preeminent Chinese Tang dynasty monk Chengguan’s most revered masterpieces. With this book, Chengguan’s Commentaries to the Avatamsaka Sutra and The Meanings Proclaimed in the Subcommentaries Accompanying the Commentaries to the Avatamsaka Sutra are finally brought to contemporary Western audiences. This work allows Western readers to experience Chengguan’s important contributions to the religious and philosophical theory of the Huayan and Buddhism in China. "In this study ... Guo Cheen has made a substantial contribution to contemporary Buddhist Studies. Chengguan's commentaries on the Avatamsaka/Huayan Sutra were among the most important endeavors in Chinese Buddhist philosophy. Having them now available in English translation extends our realization that the philosophy of ‘interrelatedness’ is one of the greatest gifts from the Buddhist tradition to our moment in time." - Dale S. Wright, Gamble Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies/Asian Studies, Occidental College.
This book is a response to some of the questions that have emerged in the process of Buddhism's encounters with modernity and the West. Park broadly outlines these questions as follows: first, why are the interpretations and evaluations of Buddhism so different in Europe (in the nineteenth century), in the United States (in the twentieth century), and in traditional Asia; second, why does Zen Buddhism, which offers a radically egalitarian vision, maintain a strongly authoritarian leadership; and third, what ethical paradigm can be drawn from the Buddhist-postmodern form of philosophy? Park argues that, as unrelated as these questions may seem, the issues that have generated them are related to perennial philosophical themes of identity, institutional power, and ethics, respectively. Each of these themes constitutes one section of the work. Park discusses the three issues in the book through the exploration of the Buddhist concepts of self and others, language and thinking, and universality and particularities. Most of this discussion is drawn from the East Asian Buddhist traditions of Zen and Huayan Buddhism in connection with the Continental philosophies of postmodernism, hermeneutics, and deconstruction. Self-critical from both the Buddhist and Western philosophical perspectives, this book points the reader toward a new understanding of Buddhist philosophy and offers a Buddhist-postmodern ethical paradigm that challenges normative ethics of metaphysical traditions.
A masterful translation of one of the most influential Buddhist sutras by one of the greatest translators of Buddhist texts of our time. Known in Chinese as Hua-yen and in Japanese as Kegon-kyo, the Avatamsaka Sutra, or Flower Ornament Scripture, is held in the highest regard and studied by Buddhists of all traditions. Through its structure and symbolism, as well as through its concisely stated principles, it conveys a vast range of Buddhist teachings. This one-volume edition contains Thomas Cleary’s definitive translation of all thirty-nine books of the sutra, along with an introduction, a glossary, and Cleary’s translation of Li Tongxuan’s seventh-century guide to the final book, the Gandavyuha, “Entry into the Realm of Reality.”
Contextualizing the sutra within a milieu of intense religious and cultural experimentation, this volume unravels the sudden rise of Diamond Sutra devotion in the Tang dynasty against the backdrop of a range of social, political, and literary activities. Through the translation and exploration of a substantial body of narratives extolling the efficacy of the sutra, it explores the complex social history of lay Buddhism by focusing on how the laity might have conceived of the sutra and devoted themselves to it. Corroborated by various sources, it reveals the cult’s effect on medieval Chinese religiosity in the activities of an empowered laity, who modified and produced parasutraic texts, prompting the monastic establishment to accommodate to the changes they brought about.
The Diamond Sutra, composed in India in the fourth century CE, is one of the most treasured works of Buddhist literature and is the oldest existing printed book in the world. It is known as the Diamond Sutra because its teachings are said to be like diamonds that cut away all dualistic thought, releasing one from the attachment to objects and bringing one to the further shore of enlightenment. The format of this important sutra is presented as a conversation between the Buddha and one of his disciples. The Sutra of Hui-neng, also known as the Platform Sutra, contains the autobiography of a pivotal figure in Zen history and some of the most profound passages of Zen literature. Hui-neng (638–713) was the sixth patriarch of Zen in China but is often regarded as the true father of the Zen tradition. He was a poor, illiterate woodcutter who is said to have attained enlightenment upon hearing a recitation of the Diamond Sutra. Together, these two scriptures present the central teaching of the Zen Buddhist tradition and are essential reading for all students of Buddhism.
A landmark publication which offers Western readers a unique combination of what Buddhists worldwide consider the holiest of holy texts: The Diamond Sutra and The Heart Sutra, two sutras, or scriptures, ascribed to the early centuries of the first millennium. The Diamond Sutra, or the Perfection of Wisdom, which cuts like a thunderbolt, is one of the cornerstone texts of Mahayana Buddhism and provides a summary of the core concepts of the Buddha. The Heart Sutra, perhaps the most important of all Buddhist texts, sets out to formulate the very heart, or essence of perfect wisdom and is studied with special reverence in Zen monasteries and the Tibetan Buddhist lamaseries. Edward Conze, who was until his death in 1979 a powerful force for introducing Buddhism and its sacred texts to the West, has provided these translated key texts with an extensive commentary for the easiest possible appreciation phrase by phrase. For this new edition, Judith Simmer-Brown, a well-known American scholar of Buddhism, has contributed a lively, context-setting introduction.
In this brilliant new translation and commentary on The Diamond Sutra--one of the sublime wisdom teachings of Mahayana Buddhism--Mu Soeng integrates this ancient wisdom teaching with current scientific and psychological thought. His clear and readable commentary traces the connections between these teachings and contemporary theories of quantum reality, explores the sutra within the framework of Buddhist meditation practices, and provides a comprehensive historical survey of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. Mu Soeng's goal throughout is to reveal the inspiration and wisdom of The Diamond Sutra to today's reader in an accessible, engaging, and modern manner.
This new translation of the Buddha's most important, most studied teaching offers a radical new interpretation. In September 2014, Thich Nhat Hanh completed a profound and beautiful new English translation of the Prajñaparamita Heart Sutra, one of the most important and well-known sutras in Buddhism. The Heart Sutra is recited daily in Mahayana temples and practice centers throughout the world. This new translation came about because Thich Nhat Hanh believes that the patriarch who originally compiled the Heart Sutra was not sufficiently skillful with his use of language to capture the intention of the Buddha's teachings — and has resulted in fundamental misunderstandings of the central tenets of Buddhism for almost 2,000 years. In The Other Shore: A New Translation of the Heart Sutra with Commentaries, Thich Nhat Hanh provides the new translation with commentaries based on his interpretation. Revealing the Buddha's original intention and insight makes clear what it means to transcend duality and pairs of opposites, such as birth and death, and to touch the ultimate reality and the wisdom of nondiscrimination. By helping to demystify the term "emptiness," the Heart Sutra is made more accessible and understandable.
The Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra is among the best known of all the Buddhist scriptures. Chanted daily by many Zen practitioners, it is also studied extensively in the Tibetan tradition, and it has been regarded with interest more recently in the West in various fields of study — from philosophy to quantum physics. In just a few lines, it expresses the truth of impermanence and the release of suffering that results from the understanding of that truth with a breathtaking economy of language. Kazuaki Tanahashi’s guide to the Heart Sutra is the result of a life spent working with it and living it. He outlines the history and meaning of the text and then analyzes it line by line in its various forms (Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Mongolian, and various key English translations), providing a deeper understanding of the history and etymology of the elusive words than is generally available to the non-specialist—yet with a clear emphasis on the relevance of the text to practice. This book includes a fresh and meticulous new translation of the text by the author and Roshi Joan Halifax.
A guide to the famous Heart Sūtra which reveals the tenderness and compassion underlying the striking rhetoric of this popular but challenging Buddhist text. The radical message of the Heart Sūtra, one of Buddhism’s most famous texts, is a sweeping attack on everything we hold most dear: our troubles, the world as we know it, even the teachings of the Buddha himself. Several of the Buddha’s followers are said to have suffered heart attacks and died when they first heard its assertion of the basic groundlessness of our existence—hence the title of this book. Overcoming fear, the Buddha teaches, is not to be accomplished by shutting down or building walls around oneself, but instead by opening up to understand the illusory nature of everything we fear—including ourselves. In this book of teachings, Karl Brunnhölzl guides practitioners through this ‘crazy’ sutra to the wisdom and compassion that lie at its core.
The Heart Sutra, just over a page long, distills the teachings of the Buddha to their purest essence. Perhaps the best known of all Buddhist sutras, it is recited in Buddhist centers and monasteries around the world. Emphasizing a living wisdom directly experienced, the schools of Chan have revered the Heart Sutra for its concise expression of the core revelations of the Buddha. This book is Chan Master Sheng-yen's commentary on the Heart Sutra. He speaks on the sutra from the Chan point of view, and presents it as a series of contemplation methods, encouraging readers to experience it directly through meditation and daily life. In this way, reading the Heart Sutra becomes more than just an intellectual exercise; it becomes a method of practice by which one can awaken to the fundamental wisdom inherent within each of us. Whether one wants a better understanding of Buddhist concepts or a deepened meditation practice, this commentary on the Heart Sutra can help.
The Lotus Sūtra is among the most venerated scriptures of Buddhism. Composed in India some two millennia ago, it affirms the potential for all beings to attain supreme enlightenment. Donald Lopez and Jacqueline Stone provide an essential reading companion to this inspiring yet enigmatic masterpiece, explaining how it was understood by its compilers in India and, centuries later in medieval Japan, by one of its most influential proponents. In this illuminating chapter-by-chapter guide, Lopez and Stone show how the sūtra's anonymous authors skillfully reframed the mainstream Buddhist tradition in light of a new vision of the path and the person of the Buddha himself, and examine how the sūtra's metaphors, parables, and other literary devices worked to legitimate that vision. They go on to explore how the Lotus was interpreted by the Japanese Buddhist master Nichiren (1222-1282), whose inspired reading of the book helped to redefine modern Buddhism. In doing so, Lopez and Stone demonstrate how readers of sacred works continually reinterpret them in light of their own unique circumstances.
The Lotus Sutra is arguably the most famous of all Buddhist scriptures. Composed in India in the first centuries of the Common Era, it is renowned for its inspiring message that all beings are destined for supreme enlightenment. Here, Donald Lopez provides an engaging and accessible biography of this enduring classic. Lopez traces the many roles the Lotus Sutra has played in its travels through Asia, Europe, and across the seas to America. The story begins in India, where it was one of the early Mahayana sutras, which sought to redefine the Buddhist path. In the centuries that followed, the text would have a profound influence in China and Japan, and would go on to play a central role in the European discovery of Buddhism. It was the first Buddhist sutra to be translated from Sanskrit into a Western language―into French in 1844 by the eminent scholar Eugène Burnouf. That same year, portions of the Lotus Sutra appeared in English in The Dial, the journal of New England's Transcendentalists. Lopez provides a balanced account of the many controversies surrounding the text and its teachings, and describes how the book has helped to shape the popular image of the Buddha today.
Stories are ancient and wondrous tools with the mysterious power to transform lives. And the stories and parables of the Lotus Sutra - one of the world's great religious scriptures and most influential texts - are among the most fascinating and dramatic. In this fun, engaging, and plain-English book, Gene Reeves - the translator of Wisdom's critically acclaimed and bestselling edition of the Lotus Sutra - presents the most memorable and remarkable of the Lotus Sutra's many stories and parables, along with a distillation of his decades of reflection on them in an accessible, inspiring, and naturally illuminating way. This book is the perfect companion to Reeve's breathtaking translation of this scriptural masterpiece as well as a thoroughly enjoyable stand-alone volume for those who want to bring the inspiring teachings of the bodhisattva path into their daily lives.
The Lotus Sutra proclaims that a unitary intent underlies the diversity of Buddhist teachings and promises that all people without exception can achieve supreme awakening. Establishing the definitive guide to this profound text, specialists in Buddhist philosophy, art, and history of religion address the major ideas and controversies surrounding the Lotus Sutra and its manifestations in ritual performance, ascetic practice, visual representations, and social action across history. Essays survey the Indian context in which the sutra was produced, its compilation and translation history, and its influence across China and Japan, among many other issues. The volume also includes a Chinese and Japanese character glossary, notes on Western translations of the text, and a synoptic bibliography.
The three Pure Land Sutras are a body of Mahayana scriptures that for centuries have played an important part in the spiritual life of East Asian Buddhists. These texts describe Sukhavati, the archetypal "land of bliss" presided over by Amitabha or Amitayus, the Buddha of Infinite Light and Eternal Life. Ratnaguna explores the practices that enable the practitioner to be reborn in this ideal world, and outlines how this can be understood in both a literal and metaphoric sense. So 'rebirth in Sukhavati' can take place in this very life, and dwelling there can be understood as a description of the Enlightened Mind. He also explores faith-imagination as the faculty that perceives reality. These Buddhist texts--both ancient and perennial--put forward a path of faith and grace, as well as effort and practice. Using a practical and imaginative approach, Ratnaguna explores the main themes, and the meditations outlined by the Buddha. This book will appeal to both practicing Buddhists--whether from the East Asian Pure Land traditions or not--and anyone interested in Buddhism from a practical point of view. Includes new translations of the three Pure Land sutras by Sraddhapa.
The Sutra on the Concentration of Sitting Meditation is a meditation manual compiled in China in the 4th century C.E. by Kumarajiva, the noted translator of many important Mahayana sutras and philosophical texts. Based on his profound knowledge of both Traditional and Mahayana Buddhism, Kumarajiva introduced Mahayana thought systematically and significantly advanced the Chinese understanding of Buddhism. This clear and well-organized manual describes both Traditional and Mahayanist meditation methods, based on the classification of practitioners into five different types. According to practitioners’ inclinations to lust, anger, ignorance, discursive thoughts, or a combination of these, an appropriate remedial practice is prescribed for each type. Though the specific methods vary for Traditional or Mahayana followers, the general framework of practice is largely the same, suggesting that to Kumarajiva, Mahayanist meditation was not separate from Traditional forms of meditation. For the Chinese, the Sutra on the Concentration of Sitting Meditation provided much-needed clear guidance for meditation practice and this text exerted significant influence on the subsequent development of Buddhist meditation in China, especially on the Tiantai tradition.
The three most important sutras of Japan’s Pure Land tradition are here brought together in this single volume. The Larger Sutra on Amitayus relates how a certain mendicant monk by the name of Dharmakara, when practicing under the tutelage of the Tathagata Lokesvararaja, made 48 vows to save all suffering people; to fulfill these vows he created a paradise in the west called Sukhavati, and he himself thus became the Buddha Amitayus. The sutra states, furthermore, that if anyone believing in these 48 vows should chant the name of Amitayus, he will be born in the paradise of Sukhavati and there become a buddha. This sutra being the longest of the three basic sutras of the Pure Land Faith, it is common practice in the various Pure Land sects to use extracts from it for the purpose of recitation. Among such pieces there are the San-butsu-ge, a poem in which Dharmakara extols his teacher Lokesvararaja, and the Juu-sei ge, a verse-summary of the 48 vows in the form of 3 vows. The Sutra on Contemplation of Amitayus relates one of the most well-known of all Buddhist tales, that of King Ajatasatru and his mother Vaidehi. One day Vaidehi, who was in a state of continual anguish owing to the wicked practices of her son, turned for help in the direction of Sakyamuni, whereupon the latter came to where she was, and after having shown her countless paradises in all directions, had her choose one. She chose the Sukhavati Paradise of Amitayus in the west, and so Sakyamuni gave a detailed description of this paradise by means of 16 types of visualization. The Smaller Sutra on Amitayus is the shortest of the three basic sutras of the Pure Land Faith, thus being called the Smaller Sukhativyuha, and is even today frequently recited at religious services. It starts by giving a description of the splendors of Sukhavati, the western paradise of Amitayus, and then goes on to explain what must be done in order to be born there. The Buddhas of the six directions (east, west, north, south, above and below) extol the virtues of the Buddha Amitayus, and in conclusion it is recommended that one should generate the desire to be born in this paradise by believing in and chanting the name of Amitayus.
This is a free translation of two Buddhist texts on what is arguably the most popular of all Buddhist conceptions of an ideal world, the "Land of Bliss" of the Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. The two texts, known to Western students of Buddhism as the "Smaller" and "Larger" Sukhavatiyuha Sutras, explain the conditions that lead to rebirth in the Pure Land and the manner in which human beings are reborn there.
In 1999, a Sanskrit version of the Vimalakirtinirdesa, long thought lost, was discovered in the Potala Palace in Lhasa by a team of scholars from Taisho University in Japan, who then presented it to the world in a series of landmark publications. Previous English renderings of this classic Mahayana text had been based on Chinese or Tibetan translations and not the Indian Sanskrit. Mangalam Research Center for Buddhist Languages sponsored a three-week workshop on the newly discovered text in 2010, led by five eminent scholars. At the end of the workshop, the decision was made to prepare a full translation. Building on the initial efforts of workshop participants and working closely with Luis Gomez before he passed away, Paul Harrison, the George Edwin Burnell Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University, has carried the English translation to completion. The result is a careful and scholarly treatment of this enduring text by two dedicated interpreters and translators of Buddhist literature. Elegantly translated and easily readable, this book is a major contribution to the study and understanding of this playful and complex text for English readers.
This book presents the major teachings of Mahāyāna Buddhism in a precise, dramatic, and even humorous form. For two millennia this sūtra, called the “jewel of the Mahāyāna Sūtras,” has enjoyed immense popularity among Mahāyāna Buddhists in India, central and southeast Asia, Japan, and especially China, where its incidents were the basis for a style in art and literature prevalent during several centuries. Robert Thurman’s translation makes available, in relatively nontechnical English, the Tibetan version of this key Buddhist scripture, previously known to the English-speaking world only through translations from Chinese texts. The Tibetan version is generally conceded to be more faithful to the original Sanskrit than are the Chinese texts. The Tibetan version also is clearer, richer, and more precise in its philosophical and psychological expression. The books of the sūtra are accompanied by an introduction by Dr. Thurman and by three glossaries: Sanskrit terms, numerical categories, and technical terms.