Thursday, February 8, 2007

Surangamasamadhi Sutra

Surangamasamadhi Sutra
Trans. Etienne Lamotte, Curzon Press 1998, £40 h/b

The Surangamasamadhi Sutra is in the grand Mahayana style. An assembly that has gathered to hear the Buddha’s teachings is interrupted by the demonic Mara. He and his daughters are caught, brought before the Buddha, and a dialogue takes place. It is a dramatic, hyperbolic encounter of Wisdom and delusion. Around this story are expositions of many of the most important Mahayana teachings, such as emptiness and the Perfections practised by a Bodhisattva. In particular is extolled the ‘Concentration of Heroic Progress’, which gives the Sutra its title and becomes virtually a synonym for the goal of the spiritual life.

With this publication The Surangamasamadhi Sutra becomes available in English for the first time. Lost in the original Sanskrit, Lamotte used Chinese versions for his French translation, and this has now been rendered into English by Sarah Boin Webb. The result is lucid and often poetic, and the introduction, which shows outstanding scholarship, offers much-needed aid in navigation. The text is complex, baroque and occasionally bizarre, but it is also colourful, engaging and has passages of great clarity.

review by Vishvapani, first published in Dharma Life 11, Autumn 1999

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