The Lankavatara Sutra: Translation and Commentary

The Lankavatara Sutra: Translation and Commentary

Red Pine

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 1619020998

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Having translated The Diamond Sutra and The Heart Sutra, and following with The Platform Sutra, Red Pine now turns his attention to perhaps the greatest Sutra of all. The Lankavatara Sutra is the holy grail of Zen. Zen’s first patriarch, Bodhidharma, gave a copy of this text to his successor, Hui-k’o, and told him everything he needed to know was in this book. Passed down from teacher to student ever since, this is the only Zen sutra ever spoken by the Buddha. Although it covers all the major teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, it contains but two teachings: that everything we perceive as being real is nothing but the perceptions of our own mind and that the knowledge of this is something that must be realized and experienced for oneself and cannot be expressed in words. In the words of Chinese Zen masters, these two teachings became known as “have a cup of tea” and “taste the tea.”

This is the first translation into English of the original text used by Bodhidharma, which was the Chinese translation made by Gunabhadra in 443 and upon which all Chinese Zen masters have relied ever since. In addition to presenting one of the most difficult of all Buddhist texts in clear English, Red Pine has also added summaries, explanations, and notes, including relevant Sanskrit terms on the basis of which the Chinese translation was made. This promises to become an essential text for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding or knowledge of Zen.

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that exists, or something that doesn’t exist, or something that exists and does not exist is nirvana.” Shikshananda has: “Some imagine something that exists or does not exist is nirvana, while others imagine nirvana as no difference between nirvana or anything else.” The Sanskrit agrees with Shikshananda. 156 These pairs include no self among beings or things, the afflictions of the senses and what arises from them, the obstructions of passion and knowledge, and karmic and transformation death.

why it happens / in Akanishtha Heaven100 / or which powers are mundane / or what constitutes a monk 87. And as for apparition buddhas / or buddhas of fruition / or buddhas of true suchness / or buddhas of impartial knowledge / or the nature of the sangha / concerning which, Son of Victors, you ask101 88. And as for lands shaped like a drum, a lute, or a flower / and why some lands are bereft of light / and what the mind is like / during the seven stages102 89. All such things and more you

“enter illusory realms.” And Bodhiruchi has “which is composed of illusory realms.” 180 Tushita Heaven is where bodhisattvas are reborn prior to their final rebirth, the one during which they attain buddhahood. Akanishtha Heaven is the highest heaven in the realm of form and where buddhahood is attained. 181 We can see from Mahamati’s “question” that according to his view, buddha knowledge is the end of the path to buddhahood. Thus, he reviews the attainments of its final stages—namely, the

the Dharma and the possibility of liberation. 244 The first part of this section is handled differently in each translation. I’ve followed Gunabhadra (and the reading of his version by Tseng Feng-yi and T’ung Jun). Bodhiruchi has: “Mahamati, what is the path of no lineage? It is that of the icchantika? Mahamati, icchantikas have no potential for nirvana. And why not? They don’t believe in liberation, so they don’t enter nirvana.” Shikshananda has: “Furthermore, Mahamati, why do the icchantikas

rise to each other / this is what causation means 30. Solidity, moisture, heat, and movement206 / these are the projections of fools / nothing else exists but their combinations / thus I teach no self-existence 31. Like doctors who treat diseases / don’t have particular doctrines / because diseases differ / they prescribe different cures 32. For the sake of other beings / to rid them of afflictions / I gauge their level of understanding / before I decide what to teach 33. But different

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