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Thread: Beginner's Sutra Studies

  1. #1
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    Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Hello all,

    So I have been 'formalizing' my practice, all the while trying to keep it free from attachments and rigidity. I've been taking a modified MRO approach (Daido Loori's 8 Gates of Zen) and expanding my practice in various areas. Body has been picking back up Tai Chi, art is my recent foray into suizen with the shakuhachi, and my next focus was academic study.

    For this area, I've thought about doing some studies into the original Buddhist texts. Much of my reading over the years have been of Zen teachers expounding on Zen practice. However, I've never put forth a concerted effort to study the sutras myself. I've read through some commentaries, like Red Pine's on the Heart Sutra, but I guess I'm thinking something more formal and a 'deeper dive'.

    So I'm turning to my friends at the sangha. I know that many times in the past I've seen our PITs, Saijun and others provide much detail and am hoping that you all could give me some guidance as to where is a good place to start. I had been thinking about maybe starting some more intensive studies on Dogen, but maybe he could be an entire separate category of focus as his work is so voluminous.

    Thanks in advance.

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  2. #2

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Hi Shawn,

    Sutta/Sutra reading and study is, at some point, very important to our Practice. Even the Zen Masters of the past who were "beyond words and letters" usually were so once they had already become quite familiar with the "words and letters" (although some radicals did burn the books even before reading them).

    However, as we have discussed here a few times, the various Sutta/Sutra were all written by Buddhist authors offering very many varied prescriptions and interpretations of Buddhist teachings (even sometimes within the very same Sutta/Sutra!). I sometimes post this ...

    Reading the Sutras is important at some point in the practice of a Buddhist, although there is something about them that we now understand which was not so well known even 100 years ago: Namely, none of them (and I mean none of them) were actually "written during the lifetime of the historical Buddha" (even the oldest that we have were not written down until several hundred years after his death, before which the tradition was passed from generation to generation orally). The teachings were passed down orally alone (which may or may not have been a sloppy process, with much corruption of the original), until somebody finally wrote them all down hundreds of years after he was dead ... and then all the Buddhists immediately set to disagreeing about which of them had the "authentic" teachings, and exactly what they meant!

    What is more, teachings evolved and developed in all schools (even the South Asian "Theravadan" traditions, which have the image of being "closer to the original" than the Northern Asian Mahayana traditions have themselves been evolving and developing for 2500 years, and don't even agree among themselves on important details).

    Nobody knows exactly what the original Buddha taught, not even the greatest Buddhist scholars, historians or monks. (I just finished a book by Bronkhurst (discussed here: http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vo ... ation.html), one of the great Buddhist historians ... they can only guess.

    What is more, the Mahayana traditions, of which China, Japan, Korea and much of Vietnam are part, including all the Zen schools (and don't even bring in Tibet and "Vajrayana Esoteric Buddhism"!), are a conscious break from the original flavor of Buddhism (with Sutras that are, each and every one, the works of later authors who pretended that what they were writing were "the revealed words of the Buddha". Of course, they don't say that they are a conscious break, but rather that they are teaching the "real" teachings of the Buddha, who did not really mean (or considered to be "lesser" teachings) everything else attributed to him. In fact, they are each the works of writers (sometimes a mix of many writers), each with a particular philosophical view, who put words in the Buddha's mouth. In addition, commentators on these Sutras come in 1001 flavors, depending on who the commentator is (for example, the Heart Sutra can be read several different ways ... and has been).

    In other words, anyone reading these Suttas/Sutras/Commentaries must be an educated reader about what they are reading, how it is translated, and what the philosophical bent of the true writer(s) was, and where that particular work fits in the complex universe of Buddhist writings. They can often (even within the same book) say things in complete disagreement, and from radically different philosophies of Buddhism.
    Right now I am on my second cover to cover reading of the Surangama Sutra. Among the other Mahayana works cherished in one way or another in the Chan/Zen world, there is also the Lankavatara Sutra, the Lotus Sutra (so vital to Dogen's writings and world view) and (my personal favorite) the Mahaparinirvana Sutra (also called the Nirvana Sutra, not to be confused with the Nirvana Sutta), the Vimalakirti Sutra (which will be the subject of our next "Whatsa Bodhisattva" talk), the Heart Sutra and other Perfection of Wisdom literature, and perhaps the Flower Garland (Hua-yen) Sutra. An excellent introductory collection to the Pali Suttas is ...

    In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon

    ... a fantastic anthology of the "best of" the Pali Canon. Bhikkha Bodhi's footnotes do tend to offer interpretations from his particular flavor of Theravadan Buddhism, but the Sutta's themselves speak to all of us.

    A wonderful attempt at biography based closely on the Pali Canon is the very readable The Life of the Buddha by Bhikkhu Nanamoli.

    Of course, in Zen, we read all these words ... not to philosophize about them ... but to see through them, experience them, find the commonality that shines through. All are different but the same, precisely the same but VERY different.

    However, it can be a minefield just to jump into the tangle. For that reason, I would first STRONGLY recommend having a good foundation in Buddhist history and the development of its various philosophies BEFORE diving into the tangle. Two recommend books to read first are ...

    Buddhist Thought, A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition, Paul Williams and Anthony Tribe.** (Although meant as an introductory textbook, still wonderfully detailed ... although the writing is poor in places. I recommend this somewhat ahead of the ... books, by Walpola Rahula and David Kalipahana, for both readability and the presence of less of a personal religious ideology that tends to cloud the impartiality of those other books)
    Mahayana Buddhism, The Doctrinal Foundations, by Paul Williams (there is a new second edition, but the first edition is still excellent ... and can be had a bit cheaper)
    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2014 at 02:50 AM.

  3. #3
    Friend of Treeleaf Daido's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Hey Shards,

    I just read this book, Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen's Shobogenzo by
    Shohaku Okumura. It might be what you are looking for delving in Dogen and parallels with the Heart Sutra. Take a look at it. I found it worthwhile.

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Thanks for bringing this subject up.

    Even though I have read Sutras, I have yet to study them in a more dedicated way and now I have some pointers.

    Like you, Shawn, I really want to take my studies to a more formal level.

  5. #5
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Yes, Realizing Genjokoan is one of the bet books out there to introduce Dogen thinking about life-practice and a wonderful gate into Buddhist theory too.

    Gassho


    Taigu

  6. #6

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Yes, Realizing Genjokoan is one of the bet books out there to introduce Dogen thinking about life-practice and a wonderful gate into Buddhist theory too.

    Gassho


    Taigu
    Great book! any time you feel like reading, just open it anywhere.

    Jundo, I just ordered, Buddhist Thought, A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition, Paul Williams and Anthony Tribe,, Thanks for your direction.

    Rather than holding on to all this Buddhist Thought, I'll try to digest it.

  7. #7
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Right now I am on my second cover to cover reading of the Surangama Sutra. Among the other Mahayana works cherished in one way or another in the Chan/Zen world, there is also the Lankavatara Sutra, the Lotus Sutra (so vital to Dogen's writings and world view) and (my personal favorite) the Vimalakirti Sutra (which will be the subject of our next "Whatsa Bodhisattva" talk), the Heart Sutra and other Perfection of Wisdom literature, and perhaps the Flower Garland (Hua-yen) Sutra. An excellent introductory collection to the Pali Suttas is this, discussed here ...
    Great information Jundo, thank you. I had purchased "A Buddhist Bible" as it seemed to have a decent collection of cannon. I understand (from another thread) that this has it's own 'flavour' as it tries to be similar to the Christian Bible. But I am/was just simply trying to find my way through this massive collection of writings. Realizing all along that my sitting practice is the core.


    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    However, it can be a minefield just to jump into the tangle. For that reason, I would first STRONGLY recommend having a good foundation in Buddhist history and the development of its various philosophies BEFORE diving into the tangle. Two recommend books to read first are ...

    Buddhist Thought, A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition, Paul Williams and Anthony Tribe.** (Although meant as an introductory textbook, still wonderfully detailed ... although the writing is poor in places. I recommend this somewhat ahead of the ... books, by Walpola Rahula and David Kalipahana, for both readability and the presence of less of a personal religious ideology that tends to cloud the impartiality of those other books)
    Mahayana Buddhism, The Doctrinal Foundations, by Paul Williams (there is a new second edition, but the first edition is still excellent ... and can be had a bit cheaper)
    Fantastic information and thank you for this. I will look at starting here before delving too deeply into the sutras, just to give a background.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike
    I just read this book, Realizing Genjokoan: The Key to Dogen's Shobogenzo by Shohaku Okumura.
    Yes! I am actually reading this as well on my Kindle. Have been enjoying it immensely. So much to chew on in there. I have also ordered (and should have today) Tanahashi's new translation of Shobogenzo which I hope will be something to chew on for some time. In many ways however, I see Dogen as something of a constant study. What I have read I find that I can always go back and re-read and get something else from it. Thank you for this tip!

    Thanks to all of you for your advice, it's always welcomed. I will pick up Buddhist Thought and maybe Mahayana Buddhism and read through those before diving into the vast ocean that is the Buddhist cannon.

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  8. #8

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Thanks for posting this shards. Although I have read some of the sutras I am now inspired to study them in more detail.

  9. #9

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by shards

    Great information Jundo, thank you. I had purchased "A Buddhist Bible" as it seemed to have a decent collection of cannon. I understand (from another thread) that this has it's own 'flavour' as it tries to be similar to the Christian Bible. But I am/was just simply trying to find my way through this massive collection of writings. Realizing all along that my sitting practice is the core.
    Hi Shawn,

    Yes, I wrote this about "A Buddhist Bible" once ...

    Well, Dwight Goddard's "Buddhist Bible" is a beautiful book, and perhaps the first large-scale attempt to translate a variety of Sutra into English. However, I believe that most of those translations were done in the 1920's, can be pretty rough or just plain off meaning at times (Mr. Goddard was an engineer who had lived for years in China, but with rather limited in his knowledge of the source languages), and were by a translator who was making a conscious effort to use the style of the Old Testament Bible in his presentation. So, it should be approached with some understanding of that, and there are much more artful translations of most of the Sutras it contains that were done later. However, it is still a very lovely book.

    It is available free online from several sources.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=kYS...page&q&f=false
    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2014 at 02:48 AM.

  10. #10

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Important. Sutras

    Diamond sutra
    Heart sutra
    Mahaparinirvana sutra
    lotus sutra
    Avatamsaka sutra

  11. #11

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    Important. Sutras

    Mahaparinirvana sutra
    Yes, forgot that one on the list! Thanks Rich.

    Gassho, Jundo

  12. #12

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Yes, Realizing Genjokoan is one of the bet books out there to introduce Dogen thinking about life-practice and a wonderful gate into Buddhist theory too.
    I decided to order this book based on this recommendation. I realized I needed some sort of explanation/introduction after I started listening to an audio version of Moon in a Dewdrop and couldn't really understand much of what was being read. I tend to do better with a "hard copy" in my hand that I can go back over when I need to, rather than listening and trying to sort out what's being said while I'm listening. I miss too much that way and get lost.

  13. #13

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Diamond Sutra

    I just found this modern contemporary translation.

    http://www.diamond-sutra.com/index.html

  14. #14

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Hello Shawn,

    I'd suggest the Sutras and commentaries here for a really good spread of Sutra/suttas, philosophical/cultural foundations, and commentary. If I'm looking for something specific, I tend to go to BuddhaSutra to find Mahayana sources (with checking to make sure that the particular translation isn't WAAAY out there when compared to others online), and Access to Insight for Theravadin sources and perspectives.

    I'm sure that there are people here who could point to Vajryana sources, but I don't know of any (nor do I look, as they are waaaaay out of my league from what I've found, with exceptions like the Way of the Bodhisattva or Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, which I find a little more accessible).

    I really do hope this helps!

    Metta and Gassho,

    Saijun

  15. #15

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Right now I am on my second cover to cover reading of the Surangama Sutra. Among the other Mahayana works cherished in one way or another in the Chan/Zen world, there is also the Lankavatara Sutra, the Lotus Sutra (so vital to Dogen's writings and world view) and (my personal favorite) the Vimalakirti Sutra (which will be the subject of our next "Whatsa Bodhisattva" talk), the Heart Sutra and other Perfection of Wisdom literature, and perhaps the Flower Garland (Hua-yen) Sutra. An excellent introductory collection to the Pali Suttas is this, discussed here ...
    Thank you for this list.

    I have definitely encountered the contradictory passages you mention in reading the Pali texts, especially in comparison to later Mahayana texts. It's impossible to know "what the Buddha taught" beyond the four noble truths (and maybe even that...but they are so straightforward). That's why I find your reminder that sitting is the most important practice so valuable. "Now" is the only thing we can know/experience for sure...

    Gassho,
    Matt

    P.S. I was searching for Realizing Genjokoan at my library, and came across this book, which has not yet been released:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dogens-Genjo-Koan ... 552&sr=8-1

    Not sure if it will be of any value...

  16. #16

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    How about the Platform Sutra? Haven't seen that mentioned yet....

  17. #17

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by joshbrown
    How about the Platform Sutra? Haven't seen that mentioned yet....
    Oh yes, of course! (Although perhaps the only work called a "Sutra" even if not said to be the words of the Buddha, but purported to be ... even if not actually ... by the 6th Ancestor in China, Hui-neng ... unless, of course, one says actual author(s) = Hui-neng = Buddha! 8) )

    And, ya know, the Platform Sutra even changed and developed over the years as different editors "mucked" with it ... adding to it, sometimes really changing the meaning ... sometimes maybe for the better, sometimes maybe not ...

    A still highly respected translation of the Platform Sutra (with a wonderful introduction explaining what is known by scholars ... and not known ... and pretty well known to be a legend ... about Huineng) is ...

    The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch by Hui-neng and Philip Yampolsky

    That is the earlier, simpler 'Dunhuang' Version, recommended by Jundo, and is available in print and also available online (but I think without the introduction): http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/ ... polsky.pdf .

    As well, a later, more elaborate version from the 13th century, in which many more writers had a hand, is available online: here

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/ ... lation.pdf )

    Here is a scholar's essay (recommended really just for our Buddhist historians out there 8) ) on the relationship of these various versions, and the changing images of Lineage and Enlightenment which they represent:

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/His ... enment.pdf

    This very interesting essay may be of more general interest, and also has much to say on the background of the so-called divide between "Northern Chan" and "Southern Chan" that played a role in all this, and may have been the reason the "Platform Sutra" was written in the first place ... I recommend it.

    http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/His ... n_Chan.pdf

    Gassho, J

  18. #18

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    Diamond Sutra

    I just found this modern contemporary translation.

    http://www.diamond-sutra.com/index.html]http://www.diamond-sutra.com/index.html[/url]
    Yes, the Diamond Sutra ... like the 'short and to the point (beyond short/long or point)' "Heart Sutra" ... is one of the "Perfection of Wisdom" Sutras I mentioned.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diamond_Sutra

    The translation with Red Pine has some good explanations of each Passage ...

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Diamond-Su.../dp/1582432562

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2014 at 02:46 AM.

  19. #19

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Mari
    Yes, Realizing Genjokoan is one of the bet books out there to introduce Dogen thinking about life-practice and a wonderful gate into Buddhist theory too.
    I decided to order this book based on this recommendation. I realized I needed some sort of explanation/introduction after I started listening to an audio version of Moon in a Dewdrop and couldn't really understand much of what was being read. I tend to do better with a "hard copy" in my hand that I can go back over when I need to, rather than listening and trying to sort out what's being said while I'm listening. I miss too much that way and get lost.
    Okumura's Realizing Genjokoan is a wonder, and a good gateway entrance into the amazing maze of Dogen.

    I would say though, that to really start to get a foothold on the tangled twists and turns and leaps of Shobogenzo, some other study is helpful ...

    I do usually recommend a couple of things for folks who want to dive headlong into the thick and thorny maze which is Shobogenzo (not to be confused with Dogen's Shobogenzo-Zuimonki, which we recently read in the bookclub)

    Before reading and really 'digging Dogen', the best intro is to read Okumura Roshi's look at Genjo Koan ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...aku-Okamura%29

    Much denser, but worth the effort, are the two Dr. Kim books (He wrote them a few years apart, and changed interpretation slightly over the years just a drop ) ... Each can be rather heavy going at points, but worth it.

    http://www.amazon.com/Eihei-Dogen-My...1161011&sr=8-3

    http://www.amazon.com/Dogen-Meditati...d_bxgy_b_img_b

    Also ... I VERY strongly recommend... Visions of Awakening Space and Time: Dogen and the Lotus Sutra (Paperback) by Taigen Dan Leighton (Author) ... about how Dogen wild-ed and bent the already wild and bent Lotus Sutra into something even more bent and wild ...

    http://www.amazon.com/Lotus-Sutra-Co...d_bxgy_b_img_b

    You probably want to read a good translation of the Lotus Sutra first, to see the "tune" that Dogen was working with. This by Reeves is very readable and a fantastic tale, right up there with "Alice in Wonderland" and such ...

    http://www.amazon.com/Lotus-Sutra-Co.../dp/0861715713

    In fact, you might start with Taigen and the Lotus Sutra --before-- reading Dr. Kim, as Taigen is short and easier going to read.

    Here is an essay available online, a part of Taigen's book. It will give you a taste ...

    http://www.mtsource.org/articles/dogen_lotsutra.html

    Nishijima Roshi also has a helpful short booklet on "Understanding the Shobogenzo", although in his later years he has been too too enthusiastic (in my view) about trying to place each sentence of Shobogenzo, in a nearly one to one correspondence, into each of the four categories of view that Nishijima Roshi suggests. It is not a comfortable fit (I feel that Nishijima Roshi went overboard with his very helpful, very insightful perspective on 3 Philosophies and 1 Reality, by his trying to stuff Dogen into that almost line by line and overlooking anything that does not fit. It is much like trying to stuff all of Coltrane into 4 chords or all Picasso into 4 types of brushstroke) .

    http://www.dogensangha.org/articles.htm#Understanding
    And even then, even with all the guidebooks and tips, Dogen's amazing maze of Shobogenzo is often like trying to find the tune in a wild, unbridled, Ornett Colman cacophonious free jazz fest ...

    A little more by me on How to Read Dogen in the following thread:

    viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2999

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2014 at 02:45 AM.

  20. #20
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I would say though, that to really start to get a foothold on the tangled twists and turns and leaps of Shobogenzo, some other study is helpful ...
    Absolutely wonderful Jundo. Thank you very much for this overview. This is exactly what I was looking for on proceeding into more academic aspects of my practice. I received this week Treasury of the True Dharma Eye and have just finished reading the quite impressive (and surprisingly long) preface & timeline. I will finish my reading of Okumura's book and then follow the path you stated.

    Afterwards I may come back to this thread to ask about other's experiences in reading Shobo Genzo. Seems logical to read the fascicles in chronological order, but sometimes logic is flawed.

    Thank you once again.

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  21. #21

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    With Sutra studies, maybe (if we haven't already done so in the past) we can read the Lotus and Diamond sutra( and others) the same way we do our book club.
    It will be nice to hear thoughts on traditional sutras from the Sangha as a whole.

    Just an idea

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  22. #22

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    With Sutra studies, maybe (if we haven't already done so in the past) we can read the Lotus and Diamond sutra( and others) the same way we do our book club.
    It will be nice to hear thoughts on traditional sutras from the Sangha as a whole.

    Just an idea

    Gassho

    Seiryu
    Ya know, on this ... assuming someone does want to dive into the Sutras ... I might encourage slow, personal sailing as opposed to a group effort. It is not "Bible Study" as one might find in a church, but something more ... ... ... personal.

    That is just my feeling.

    Gassho, J

  23. #23
    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Thank you for all the suggestions Jundo and thank you Shards for this post . I have not done much sutra study either but I would really like to start. I have read plenty of books on Buddhism but not the sutras. I just didn't know where to start until now. Now I have no excuse!

    Thanks,
    Jodi

  24. #24

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Hi,

    Well, if someone wanted to take a quick jump into a very special Mahayana Sutra (also pretty short and available) ... I would recommend the Vimalakirti Sutra (the Burton Watson translation is a favorite, but the Robert Thurman version has good footnotes).

    Why the Vimalakirti Sutra?

    Well, it is very poignant for a Sangha like this ... because it is about the layman Vimalakirti, who "bests" all the Great Bodhisattvas and other Buddhist "big shots" in practice and debate.

    It also has sections with all the magical and fantastic elements of a typical Mahayana Sutra, so you can get a sample of that.

    After that, perhaps the Diamond Sutra. Then the Lotus Sutra.

    The Surangama and Lankavatara and Flower Garland are very philosophical works, very arcane, and need a bit more understanding of what is going on.

    Gassho, J

  25. #25

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Jundo,

    Can you recommend a good translation of Lankavatara?

  26. #26

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Rev R
    Jundo,

    Can you recommend a good translation of Lankavatara?
    The only one I know is the one by D.T. Suzuki, accompanied by his additional volume, Essays on the Lankavatara. I understand it is imperfect as a translation, but impressive given how many years ago the translation was done.

    Not easy going, the Lankavatara.

    Gassho, J

  27. #27

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Not easy going, the Lankavatara.
    Thanks for the suggestion and the word of caution.

    ~Rod

  28. #28

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Mari
    Yes, Realizing Genjokoan is one of the bet books out there to introduce Dogen thinking about life-practice and a wonderful gate into Buddhist theory too.
    I decided to order this book based on this recommendation. I realized I needed some sort of explanation/introduction after I started listening to an audio version of Moon in a Dewdrop and couldn't really understand much of what was being read. I tend to do better with a "hard copy" in my hand that I can go back over when I need to, rather than listening and trying to sort out what's being said while I'm listening. I miss too much that way and get lost.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Okumura's Realizing Genjokoan is a wonder, and a good gateway entrance into the amazing maze of Dogen.

    I would say though, that to really start to get a foothold on the tangled twists and turns and leaps of Shobogenzo, some other study is helpful ...
    This was really helpful, Jundo. Especially in the order you suggested. The Lotus Sutra translation (which can be downloaded from Amazon for Kindle For PC, very nice) you mentioned was much easier for me to read than the Watson translation that I had, which had "turned me off" on the whole Sutra itself. It just seemed way too "dry". I'd also had a problem with the fantastic, as you said "Alice in Wonderland" aspects of time and events in it. Visions of Awakening Space and Time is also giving a better understanding of the Sutra, since among other things now I can see that there's a reason the Sutra doesn't seem to "show up" in the Sutra, but it's constantly pointing to itself as the Sutra. Lots of "Oh! Okay!" moments lately in my reading

    The jazz analogy that you used is also starting to make sense; and not only that, but I read a lot of Beat-Generation poetry and literature when I was younger, especially Ginsberg and Kerouac. Both were inspired by Jazz and Zen writings, so I'm beginning to see that seemingly contradictory but still coherent pattern. Lines referencing other lines, but then twisting them back into the theme. Dogen using the Lotus Sutra style of pointing to itself in his talks as pointing to the talk itself, for instance. It's of course just beginning, only slight comprehension, more a finger-hold right now than a foothold, but very exciting (as beginnings tend to be).

    Thank You!

  29. #29

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    I noticed the Surangama Sutra mentioned here and thought I would throw in a recomendation. Having read a coupple of "Free" versions and a not so free version, I have to say that this one http://www.amazon.com/Surangama-Sutr...1292419&sr=8-1 had some very helpful notes.

  30. #30

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Just started reading Realizing Genjokoan. Definitely a terrific reference, clears the mist so to speak.

    Thanks,
    Matt

  31. #31
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuken
    I noticed the Surangama Sutra mentioned here and thought I would throw in a recomendation. Having read a coupple of "Free" versions and a not so free version, I have to say that this one http://www.amazon.com/Surangama-Sutr...1292419&sr=8-1 had some very helpful notes.
    Thanks Fuken! My Amazon Wish List is going to crash their servers I fear.

    G,

    s

  32. #32

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by shards
    Quote Originally Posted by Fuken
    I noticed the Surangama Sutra mentioned here and thought I would throw in a recomendation. Having read a coupple of "Free" versions and a not so free version, I have to say that this one http://www.amazon.com/Surangama-Sutr...1292419&sr=8-1 had some very helpful notes.
    Thanks Fuken! My Amazon Wish List is going to crash their servers I fear.

    G,

    s
    I am not the last word on Sutras ... but I generally find the Surangama a big, awkward clunker of a Sutra [especially the section arguing in detail the nature of the mind and senses], although with some truly wonderful sections and what is said to be a lovely style in the Chinese language.

    Dogen actually seems to have felt the same way, although he also sometimes quoted from passages in the Surangama. He wrote in the Hokyo-ki of a conversation on this with his teacher, Ju-Ching, also not a Surangama fan ... calling it "not as skillful as other Mahayana Sutra" (pg 6 and 7 here) ...

    http://books.google.com/books?id=mHJ...dia%22&f=false

    There is some debate about whether the Sutra was "made in China" or is older and from India. Probably the latter ...

    http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/Buddhism/authenticity.htm

    It has also been extremely popular with various syncretic movements in Chinese Buddhism [for example, combining Zen and Pure Land practices as in the commentary by Master Hsuan Hua found in the cited translation by the Buddhist Text Translation Society] ...

    One of the main themes of the work is that in itself knowledge of the Dharma, that is the teachings of the-Buddha, is worthless unless accompanied by meditational ability, or samadhi power. Also stressed is the importance of moral precepts as a foundation for the Path. These themes are established in the work's prologue in which the erudite Ananda, who remembered everything the Buddha taught but never bothered to sit down and meditate, succumbs to an evil spell and is on the verge of being seduced by a prostitute, when he is saved by a mantra recited by the Buddha. The theme of how one effectively combats demonic influences over one's own mind continues throughout the Sutra.

    In the immediately following section, on the location of the mind, the distinction is made between the mind characterized by discriminating consciousness and the true mind, which is found in all locations (i.e., underlying all dharmas). Also contained in the work are a discussion of meditational methodology in terms of the importance of picking the proper faculty (indriya) as a vehicle for meditation, instructions for the construction of a tantric bodhimanda, a long mantra, a description of fifty-seven Bodhisattva stages, a description of the karmic relationship among the destinies (gati), or paths of rebirth, and an enumeration of fifty demonic states encountered on the path. Generally speaking, the Sutra has a tantric/tathagatagarbha flavor with a dash of yogacara.

    From the early Sung dynasty the Sutra was widely studied by all the Chinese Buddhist schools and was particularly popular among those of the syncretic movement. I have found reference to 127 Chinese commentaries on the Sutra, quite a few for such a lengthy work, including 59 in the Ming dynasty alone, when it was especially popular.
    Let me also mention that the Sutra was generally never as popular in Japanese Buddhist circles as it was in China.

    For folks really wanting to dive into a Sutra ... I do recommend the Vimalakirti Sutra (the Burton Watson translation is a favorite, but the Robert Thurman version has good footnotes).

    Why the Vimalakirti Sutra?

    Well, it is very poignant for a Sangha like this ... because it is about the layman Vimalakirti, who "bests" all the Great Bodhisattvas and other Buddhist "big shots" in practice and debate.

    It also has sections with all the magical and fantastic elements of a typical Mahayana Sutra, so you can get a sample of that.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2014 at 02:42 AM.

  33. #33

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Jundo makes some good points here. Even with a competent teacher to explain, the Surangama can be difficult to fathom. And even though it is mandatory study for novices in China, it may not belong in the "Beginner's Sutra studies" category.

  34. #34

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Fuken
    Jundo makes some good points here. Even with a competent teacher to explain, the Surangama can be difficult to fathom. And even though it is mandatory study for novices in China, it may not belong in the "Beginner's Sutra studies" category.
    Frankly, I think that particular Sutra just silly in parts, and its popularity in China may say a lot about aspects of Buddhism there.

    Other sections of the Sutra are lovely.

    Gassho, J

  35. #35
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi,

    Well, if someone wanted to take a quick jump into a very special Mahayana Sutra (also pretty short and available) ... I would recommend the Vimalakirti Sutra (the Burton Watson translation is a favorite, but the Robert Thurman version has good footnotes).

    Why the Vimalakirti Sutra?

    Well, it is very poignant for a Sangha like this ... because it is about the layman Vimalakirti, who "bests" all the Great Bodhisattvas and other Buddhist "big shots" in practice and debate.

    It also has sections with all the magical and fantastic elements of a typical Mahayana Sutra, so you can get a sample of that.

    After that, perhaps the Diamond Sutra. Then the Lotus Sutra.

    The Surangama and Lankavatara and Flower Garland are very philosophical works, very arcane, and need a bit more understanding of what is going on.

    Gassho, J
    Wait, you want people to go to the Diamond Sutra as the second sutra? And then speak of an 'after that'? I'm kidding, of course, but the Diamond Sutra is...let"s just say that every time I read it, it still changes me.

    Chet

  36. #36

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Hi,

    Well, if someone wanted to take a quick jump into a very special Mahayana Sutra (also pretty short and available) ... I would recommend the Vimalakirti Sutra (the Burton Watson translation is a favorite, but the Robert Thurman version has good footnotes).

    Why the Vimalakirti Sutra?

    Well, it is very poignant for a Sangha like this ... because it is about the layman Vimalakirti, who "bests" all the Great Bodhisattvas and other Buddhist "big shots" in practice and debate.

    It also has sections with all the magical and fantastic elements of a typical Mahayana Sutra, so you can get a sample of that.

    After that, perhaps the Diamond Sutra. Then the Lotus Sutra.

    The Surangama and Lankavatara and Flower Garland are very philosophical works, very arcane, and need a bit more understanding of what is going on.

    Gassho, J
    Wait, you want people to go to the Diamond Sutra as the second sutra? And then speak of an 'after that'? I'm kidding, of course, but the Diamond Sutra is...let"s just say that every time I read it, it still changes me.

    Chet
    Oh, yes, the Diamond Sutra and Heart Sutra are also first.

    Gassho, J

  37. #37

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Trying to summarize this discussion for easy reference (with Amazon links). From what I gather, a recommended approach to delving into study as a beginner would be:







    • Other "Advanced" Sutras for Nerds
      • Surangama
        Lankavatara
        Flower Garland
        Mahaparinirvana
        Avatamsaka
        Platform
        Other Mahaprajnaparmita (Nagarjuna?)


    I hope this is accurate and useful for everyone!

  38. #38

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    Trying to summarize this discussion for easy reference (with Amazon links). From what I gather, a recommended approach to delving into study as a beginner would be:







    • Other "Advanced" Sutras for Nerds
      • Surangama
        Lankavatara
        Flower Garland
        Mahaparinirvana
        Avatamsaka
        Platform
        Other Mahaprajnaparmita (Nagarjuna?)


    I hope this is accurate and useful for everyone!
    Hello Matt,

    Very very useful!

    Then, after you've made it through that, you're ready for Shobogenzo and Abhidharmakosha

    Metta and Gassho,

    Saijun

  39. #39

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    Trying to summarize this discussion for easy reference (with Amazon links). From what I gather, a recommended approach to delving into study as a beginner would be:







    • Other "Advanced" Sutras for Nerds
      • Surangama
        Lankavatara
        Flower Garland
        Mahaparinirvana
        Avatamsaka
        Platform
        Other Mahaprajnaparmita (Nagarjuna?)


    I hope this is accurate and useful for everyone!
    A very nice list! That will keep folks busy for awhile!

    (Buddhists traditionally in the Suttas and Sutras would like to list things ... like the Eightfold Path, the Six This or Ten That ... so we might call it a "List of Lists"! )

    Also, don't forget to dive into the many other good readings on our "Recommended List"

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...REELEAF-SANGHA

    Also, remember to always read all these words and letters as simultaneously "beyond words and letters"! 8) Dogen was certainly not an "abandon all words and letters" kind of fellow, but more a "dance with words and letters" and be free of being caught by words and letters fellow ... and see the Dharma that shines behind, around, and right through-and-through the heart of words and letters. He wrote, for example ...

    The monastics of future generations will be able to understand one-taste Zen (ichimizen) based on words and letters, if they devote their efforts to spiritual practice by seeing the universe through words and letters, and words and letters through the universe.
    Tenzo kyokan, trans. Hee-Jin Kim, Dogen on Meditation and Thinking, p.60

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2014 at 02:41 AM.

  40. #40
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Awesome Matt! Thank you for organizing it so well. Honestly I was trying to get it all straight but kind of got lost in the process. Your list is clear and concise making it easy to navigate. Very much appreciated!

    Gassho,
    John

  41. #41
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    Trying to summarize this discussion for easy reference (with Amazon links). From what I gather, a recommended approach to delving into study as a beginner would be:







    • Other "Advanced" Sutras for Nerds
      • Surangama
        Lankavatara
        Flower Garland
        Mahaparinirvana
        Avatamsaka
        Platform
        Other Mahaprajnaparmita (Nagarjuna?)


    I hope this is accurate and useful for everyone!
    Absolutely fantastic...thank you!

    Gassho

    s

  42. #42

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Gassho, Matto!

  43. #43

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Glad it's helpful!

    Jundo, can you speak to the writings of Nagarjuna? If I remember correctly, in one of Brad Warner's books he claimed that Nishijima Roshi only considered two Buddhist writers worth reading: Dogen and Nagarjuna. I know that his most well-known work is "Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way" (I think?).

    Would that be a good starting point? Any recommended books? I see Nishijima Roshi has a commentary coming out next month: http://www.amazon.com/Fundamental-Wisdo ... 223&sr=1-1

    Gassho,
    Matt

  44. #44
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    If i can be frank and with full disclosure as to my complete lack of direct knowledge. How trustworthy or widely accepted is Nishijima Roshi's Buddhist views nowadays? I've read several things from him that seem quite heavy with psychology and more humanistic than Buddhist. Am I completely off or is it just I've known so little of his teaching that I need more exposure?

    Gassho

    S

    Sent from my SGH-I897 using Tapatalk

  45. #45

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by shards
    If i can be frank and with full disclosure as to my complete lack of direct knowledge. How trustworthy or widely accepted is Nishijima Roshi's Buddhist views nowadays? I've read several things from him that seem quite heavy with psychology and more humanistic than Buddhist. Am I completely off or is it just I've known so little of his teaching that I need more exposure?

    Gassho

    S

    Sent from my SGH-I897 using Tapatalk
    I really liked 'To Meet the Real Dragon' . Beneath all the 'psychology' is a very simple teaching.

  46. #46

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto
    Jundo, can you speak to the writings of Nagarjuna? If I remember correctly, in one of Brad Warner's books he claimed that Nishijima Roshi only considered two Buddhist writers worth reading: Dogen and Nagarjuna. I know that his most well-known work is "Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way" (I think?).

    Would that be a good starting point? Any recommended books? I see Nishijima Roshi has a commentary coming out next month: [http://www.amazon.com/Fundamental-Wi...damental-Wisdo ... 223&sr=1-1[/url]

    Gassho,
    Matt
    Hi Matt,

    I had a very nice chat with Mongen about Nargarjuna when we were both at the monastery here some weeks ago. I described Nargarjuna's MMK (Mulamadhyamakakarika) as something like Stephen Hawking's "A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME": Each is a book that describes some very fundamental, beautiful truths about the universe and reality ... but can be very hard going when one gets to all the math equations that demonstrate it. (In fact, someone described "A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME" as the most popular book owned by millions of people, read cover to cover by very few! :? )

    In Hawking's case, the dense math covers such important topics as Black Holes, Relativity. Strings and Quantum Mechanics. In Nargarjuna's case, it is "Emptiness" ... but demonstrated and proven in a very formal style of Indian logic (and anti-logic). Here is a taste of just a sentence or so (from a section discussing "Emptiness" in "Karma/Cause and Effect", in two widely read translations by Kalupahana and Garfield):

    If this action is associated with defilements, these defilements, in turn, are not found in themselves. If defilements are not in themselves, how could there be an action in itself? (Kalupahana)

    While this action has affliction as its nature
    This affliction is not real in itself.
    If affliction is not in itself,
    How can action be real in itself? (Garfield)

    Action and defilements are specified as the conditions of the [different] bodies. However, if these actions and defilements are empty, what could be said about the bodies? (Kalupahana)

    Action and affliction
    Are taught to be conditions that produce bodies.
    If action and affliction are empty,
    What would one say about bodies? (Garfield)
    Mahayana Buddhism, including all the Zen teachings, turn on Emptiness ... and Nargarjuna was certainly one of the most influential and gifted explainers of "Emptiness" (just like Hawking and his Black Holes). We dance Emptiness in our Practice. Still, Nargarjuna's "math" is hard going! (In my chat about it with Mongen, he made that point that moving through Nargarjuna's complex Indian-logical writings may be difficult ... but worth the trip. I agree ... but also feel that reading Nargarjuna is not really necessary to piercing Emptiness, just like one can rather "get" Black Holes ... and get sucked into one ... without getting Hawking's equations).

    Now, what about Nishijima Roshi?

    This was a subject that, about two years ago, caused some difficulties between Roshi, me and some other of his students. Roshi is now suffering from the advanced stages of age related dementia (he is 92), and his family has taken charge of his nursing. However, already from several years ago, he was getting very very confused. While Roshi is a gifted translator of Buddhist texts in Japanese and English, his attempt at a Sanskrit translation of the MMK was ... to be blunt ... very tangled and confused, the product of his age related problems, fixation on certain views of Buddhism which hardened in his later years, and poor abilities in Sanskrit (there are very basic misunderstandings of grammar by Nishijima Roshi such that, for example, Nargarjuna's point is often backwards from the original) and strained English. Here is a taste ...

    http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com/searc...on+and+Resulf+

    Roshi's version of the already convoluted passages above is, for example:

    26. The place, where Action has naturally included severe pain, is just this world.

    However the severe pain is not only the real situation of facts there.

    In the actual situations there, the severe pain is not all at that place.

    Action might produce something, which is Real Fact itself,


    27. Action and the severe pain are just belonging to physical bodies.

    And many Truths are the contents, which are spoken with words.

    When both Action and the severe pain are existing in the balanced autonomic nervous
    system,

    What kind and from what place those kinds of many bodies come from?
    Roshi insisted that the translation should be published. Some folks among his students went along, mostly to please our Teacher. On the other hand, I, and some others, told Nishijima Roshi politely that perhaps the translation did not represent his best effort, and should not be published. He did not like us to tell him and became quite upset with me, saying that I was trying to sabotage his work, even steal it. However, at this point, I know it was just his age and confusion talking, the effects of his oncoming dementia. My own mother went through a very similar period after a series of strokes.

    Now, Brad Warner has done a version which, I understand (because I have not read it yet, so I will just give Brad the benefit of the doubt that he was able to turn it into something worthwhile until I do), tries to save Nishijima Roshi's translation by treating it ... not as a translation ... but as something merely loosely "inspired by" Nargarjuna. Brad apparently added some commentary to try to tie it together. I have not yet seen the result, but know that the publication has been delayed several times now. I am not sure why. Unless the work is really repaired or changed into something good, I still might think it should not be published.

    Getting old is not fun sometimes.

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2014 at 02:38 AM.

  47. #47
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    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Thank you for clarifying Jundo. This should help me re-read his blog and work in a new light to be honest. He also was in a short movie I watched recently discussing the autonomic nervous system and it's application in meditation. Was interesting if nothing else.

    Much metta & many bows to Nishijima roshi.

    Gassho,

    s

  48. #48

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Hi,

    Awhile back, the subject came up of Nishijima Roshi's recently published translation of Nargarjuna's classic MMK (Mulamadhyamakakarika). At that time, I wrote the following:

    Now, what about Nishijima Roshi?

    This was a subject that, about two years ago, caused some difficulties between Roshi, me and some other of his students. Roshi is now suffering from the advanced stages of age related dementia (he is 92), and his family has taken charge of his nursing. However, already from several years ago, he was getting very very confused. While Roshi is a gifted translator of Buddhist texts in Japanese and English, his attempt at a Sanskrit translation of the MMK was ... to be blunt ... very tangled and confused, the product of his age related problems, fixation on certain views of Buddhism which hardened in his later years, and poor abilities in Sanskrit (there are very basic misunderstandings of grammer, all made worse by his strained English. Here is a taste ...

    /http://gudoblog-e.blogspot.com/search?q=Examination+of+the+Fusion+between+Action+ and+Resulf+

    Roshi's version of the already convoluted passages above is, for example:

    26. The place, where Action has naturally included severe pain, is just this world.

    However the severe pain is not only the real situation of facts there.

    In the actual situations there, the severe pain is not all at that place.

    Action might produce something, which is Real Fact itself,


    27. Action and the severe pain are just belonging to physical bodies.

    And many Truths are the contents, which are spoken with words.

    When both Action and the severe pain are existing in the balanced autonomic nervous
    system,

    What kind and from what place those kinds of many bodies come from?
    Roshi insisted that the translation should be published. Some folks among his students went along, mostly to please our Teacher. On the other hand, I, and some others, told Nishijima Roshi politely that perhaps the translation did not represent his best effort, and should not be published. He did not like us to tell him and became quite upset with me, saying that I was trying to sabotage his work, even steal it. However, at this point, I know it was just his age and confusion talking, the effects of his oncoming dementia. My own mother went through a very similar period after a series of strokes.

    Now, Brad Warner has done a version which, I understand (because I have not read it yet, so I will just give Brad the benefit of the doubt that he was able to turn it into something worthwhile until I do), tries to save Nishijima Roshi's translation by treating it ... not as a translation ... but as something merely loosely "inspired by" Nargarjuna. Brad apparently added some commentary to try to tie it together. I have not yet seen the result, but know that the publication has been delayed several times now. I am not sure why. Unless the work is really repaired or changed into something good, I still might think it should not be published.

    Getting old is not fun sometimes.

    Gassho, J
    I recently finished reading Nishijima Roshi's very loose "translation" of the MMK. It has been subjected to some scathing reviews, which I believe are generally deserved and not unreasonable ... please have a look.

    http://www.amazon.com/Fundamental-Wi...rBy=addOneStar

    After sitting with the matter a bit, I felt compelled to put the following "on the record". There is already much talk about how poor this "translation" is ... and how misleading the marketing of the book ... and folks do not realize that Nishijima Roshi was not well when he did this project. So, I put my experience on the record ... and that's that. My review of the book, which I have posted at Amazon ... I am sad about this ...


    NON-DUAL LOYALTIES

    As one of Nishijima Roshi's students and 'Dharma Heirs', I would like to comment a little bit on how this book came to be published ... why several of us thought it never should have been. Others among Nishijima's students, for their own good motives, believed it worthy of release in Roshi's name. All were acting with good intentions, certainly. That is not to be doubted. Nonetheless, the publication of this book is, many of us believe, a tragic mistake that may come to seriously tarnish the reputation of a gifted translator who cared so much about the quality of his translations. The fact is that the book was written at a time when Nishijima Roshi, due to his very advanced age, was not well and becoming not fully aware of himself. All his students, both those who supported publication in accordance with Roshi's wishes and those who cautioned against it, meant well.

    There are many ways to express loyalty and caring toward an aged teacher and mentor. Nishijima Roshi, now 92 years old, is of such poor physical and mental strength that he withdrew completely from public life soon after the book was completed. In life, many of us in our families have faced an aging parent or grandparent. The reactions of his "children" took many forms ... all out of loyalty to him, all not to be doubted. Some, out of devoted loyalty, simply wanted this book published because Nishijima Roshi, their beloved teacher, wanted it published. Many knew that there were serious problems with the book (and some tried to patch up a few of those problems in the editing ... an impossible task for a book like this), yet in their loyalty they followed Nishijima's wishes despite their concerns. Others, out of loyalty, simply were unable to believe ... or admit to themselves ... that Nishijima could have so weakened, that there could be any mistakes in the text he had worked on so diligently. Still others, for their own reason, chose to remain silent. And some of us (I was one) believed that it is right to speak up and not let someone we love harm himself if he does not really understand.

    I visited Nishijima Roshi at his home on almost a monthly basis during his writing of this book. I also was a reader of his draft which he published on his blog every few days. From both, it quickly became apparent that Nishijima Roshi was not completely in control of what he was doing on this project. As other reviews here have pointed out, the combination of his understanding of Sanskrit (I believe this to be Roshi's first attempt at a major Sanskrit translation, all his previous ... and masterful ... translations being from the Japanese), the well known complexity of the text, and Roshi's very personal and particular usage of English were all at issue (in previous translation efforts, such as the wonderful "Shobogenzo" volumes, native translators among his students such as Chodo Cross were able to polish the rough work into a diamond. In this case, it was simply too much, and several of his students threw up their hands and withdrew from the project in despair). There was also the issue of Roshi's attempt to prove agreement and a match between Nagarjuna and Roshi's own personal interpretations of Buddhist doctrine known as the "Four Philosophies and One Reality". As the co-author admits too in the book, the co-author also had and has no particular command of Sanskrit and had very little ability to try to fix any problems. He did manage to write a commentary attempting to bring some sense to the content.

    Some of us suggested that it not be called a "translation" of Nagarjuna ... but perhaps an "impression" or a "personal treatment" or "reflection" or "personal interpretation" by Nishijima. As with any poem or lyrical expression, great treasures can be found in another writer's reworking or revoicing, and in this case, in Nishijima Roshi's interpretation or re-interpretations of what he felt, in his heart, Nagarjuna may have believed. The suggestion not to call it a "translation" was refused.

    I believe that a loyal student must, sometimes, step in and speak honestly to an aged parent. I applaud the ability of my teacher, in the ninth decade of his life, to have undertaken such a task ... trying to learn Sanskrit nearly from scratch in order to translate one of the most difficult works in that language. I celebrate his ability to make his own personal interpretations of what that text may mean ... mean to Nishijima whether or not to Master Nagarjuna. However, even if this book were fit for release under those terms ... it should not have been done in this way, with this title, with this description of what the book supposedly is. It is only the view of some of his students, and others among his students may certainly disagree (or silently agree).

    Nonetheless, I will give '3 stars' to this book ... representing the Middle Way. In part, I want to award '5 stars' recognizing the heart and effort and study that Nishijima Roshi placed into the project. Part of me wants to award '1 star' for the result in terms of the "translation" that came about for reasons beyond the author's control. Nagarjuna might explain how all such stars and words are simply Empty in the end.

    Gassho, with sadness,

    Jundo Cohen (Treeleaf Sangha)
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-28-2014 at 02:37 AM.

  49. #49

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Thank you for sharing your honest assessment. I'm sure you will get as much flak for this as the book itself got. Wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see some people crafting another "Brad vs. Jundo" conflict out of this, sadly.

    _/_

  50. #50

    Re: Beginner's Sutra Studies

    Update: Brad has worked with the publisher to get the title changed on future printings/eBook version:

    http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/12 ... field.html

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