The Training Anthology of Santideva: A Translation of the Siksa-samuccaya.

Author:Lele, Amod
Position::Book review
 
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The Training Anthology of Santideva: A Translation of the Siksa-samuccaya. By CHARLES GOODMAN. New York: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2016. Pp. lxxvii + 433. $105 (cloth); $34.95 (paper).

The figure of Santideva, the putative eighth-century Indian Mahayana Buddhist philosopher-monk, has enjoyed a rapid and deserved surge of interest in the twenty-first century to date. Scholars of Buddhist ethics have experienced some frustration with a perceived lack of explicit ethical argument in classical Buddhist works; for this reason, Keown (2005) has gone so far as to claim that Buddhism is "morality without ethics." But Santideva's explicit ethical arguments give the lie to such claims, a fact increasingly recognized by Western philosophers (Cooper 1998) as well as scholars of Buddhist ethics (e.g., Clayton 2006, Siderits 2005).

Most studies of Santideva's work have tended to focus on the Bodhicaryavatara, the pithier and more poetic of his two works; it has been more widely read in India, Tibet, and the West, and is now widely taught in courses on Buddhism and Buddhist ethics. The Siksasamuccaya, the other work attributed to Santideva, has been comparatively neglected in the West, even though it is a rich resource for ethical reflection in its own right (see for example Clayton 2006; Lele 2007; Mrozik 2007). Some of this neglect likely stems from an older view of the text as merely a collection of quotations with little original insight (e.g., Winternitz 1933); Paul Harrison (2007) has done much to correct this view. But another reason for the neglect, especially in a pedagogical context, stems from a lack of good translations. Until now, the only full English translation of the text was the nearly hundred-year-old translation of Cecil Bendall and W. H. D. Rouse (1922), which was serviceable but increasingly archaic and not easily available. The style of the Siksa, composed primarily of a selection of quotes from sutras and other texts, suggests a work intended to be suitable for beginners, and Bendall and Rouse's translation is decidedly not that now, if it ever was.

Charles Goodman has taken on the important task of rendering this valuable text into readable twenty-first-century English--not an easy task, given the often abstract and passive prose in the text's composite Buddhist and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit. That in itself would be a major contribution, but Goodman's effort goes considerably further. He translates the Tibetan as well as the Sanskrit text and indicates where they differ, allowing a comparison of the different extant versions even for those who cannot read the source languages. He notes those passages which are shared with the Bodhicaryavatara. And he does us the service of pointing to other translations of the sutras that Santideva quotes, allowing them to be compared to their original context. As a result...

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