A Less Traveled Path: Saddharmasmrtyupasthanasutra Chapter 2, Critically Edited with a Study on Its Structure and Significance for the Development of Buddhist Meditation.

Author:Kritzer, Robert
Position:Book review
 
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A Less Traveled Path: Saddharmasmrtyupasthanasutra Chapter 2, Critically Edited with a Study on Its Structure and Significance for the Development of Buddhist Meditation. 2 vols. By DANIEL M. STUART. Sanskrit Texts from the Tibetan Autonomous Region, vols. 18/1+2. Beijing: CHINA TIBETOLOGY PUBLISHING House; Vienna: AUSTRIAN ACADEMY OF SCIENCES PRESS, 2015. Pp. xiv + 642; 377. [euro]98.

Saddharmasmrtyupasthanasutra is a Buddhist sutra, probably completed by the beginning of the fifth century C.E, centered around a description of meditation practice. It consists of seven chapters. Chapter

1 is an explanation of karma, good and bad, and its results. Chapter 2 is an analysis of the human realm in samsara and a description of spiritual progress through ten stages (bhumis, not the same as the ten bhumis of Dasabhumikasutra). This chapter also contains an unusual version of the pratityasamutpada formula in which the relationship between feelings (vedana) and craving (trsna) is reversed. Stuart argues that this reversal has something to do with the meditative experience of monks. Chapters 3-6 are accounts of the realms of hell-beings, hungry ghosts (pretas), and gods, along with descriptions of the morally significant actions (karma) that lead to rebirth in each realm. Chapter 7 describes a meditation on the body. In the first six chapters, discourses on karma, cosmology, and mental functions are presented as the contents of a monk's meditation.

Saddharmasmrtyupasthanasutra is very long, 417 pages in the Taisho edition of the Chinese translation (Zhengfa nianchujing [phrase omitted], T721). In addition, the sutra has been translated into Tibetan (Phags-pa dam-pa 'i chos dran-pa nye-bar gzhag-pa), and from Tibetan into Mongolian. A Japanese translation of the Chinese version was published in 1932 in the Kokuyaku issaikyo [phrase omitted] series (Kyoshu-bu [phrase omitted]).

Aside from Lin Li-Kouang's pioneering L'aide-memoire de la vraie loi (1949), which includes an analysis of the first six chapters but no translation, the sutra has until now been largely ignored in the West. In Japan, Mizuno Kogen published a substantial article in 1964, and since then a few more articles in Japanese have appeared. A Sanskrit manuscript of the first six chapters, kept in Norbulingka in Lhasa, has recently become available, and now there is more interest. According to Stuart, Vesna Wallace is preparing a Sanskrit edition of the first chapter, and Mitsuyo Demoto, of the third, while I am planning to edit and translate the Tibetan translation of the seventh chapter. In addition, several scholars, including Stuart, Demoto, Cristina Scherrer-Schaub, and Costantino Moretti, have recently written articles...

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