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The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra Hardcover – October 12, 1993

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The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra + Hua-Yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (Iaswr Series) + Entry Into the Inconceivable: An Introduction to Hua-Yen Buddhism
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1643 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala (October 12, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877739404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877739401
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 2.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #264,785 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"There is no doubt in my mind that Thomas Cleary is the greatest translator of Buddhist texts from Chinese or Japanese into English of our generation, and that he will be so known by grateful Buddhist practitioners and scholars in future centuries. Single-handedly he has gone a long way toward building the beginnings of a Buddhist canon in English. . . . His translation of the Flower Ornament Sutra from Shikshananda's Chinese translation of the Sanskrit is one of the monuments in Buddhist Studies of our time."—Robert A. F. Thurman, Tricycle

"As to the Avatamsaka-Sutra, it is really the consummation of Buddhist thought, Buddhist sentiment, and Buddhist experience. To my mind, no religious literature in the world can ever approach the grandeur of conception, the depth of feeling, and the gigantic scale of composition, as attained by the sutra. Here not only deeply speculative minds find satisfaction, but humble spirits and heavily oppressed hearts, too, will have their burdens lightened. Abstract truths are so concretely, so symbolically represented here that one will finally come to a realization of the truth that even in a particle of dust the whole universe is seen reflected—not this visible universe only, but a vast system of universes, conceivable by the highest minds only."—D. T. Suzuki

Language Notes

Text: English, Chinese (translation) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Thomas Cleary is the preeminent translator of classic Eastern texts, including The Essential Tao, The Essential Confucius, The Secret of the Golden Flower, and the bestselling The Art of War.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 31 customer reviews
Thomas Cleary makes a very good introduction.
Carta Jeans -. Bpm
This book has remained on my continuous reading list for years now, but it is always new.
Ted Biringer
My second piece of advice is to read it aloud.
Always Reading

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

111 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The Avatamsaka Sutra (The Sutra of the Garland of Flowers) is among the largest and greatest of the scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. It is 12 volumes in Chinese, and 1600 pages in this English edition published by Shambhala. As with most Mahayana scriptures, it treats Buddha not as merely a man of ancient India, but as a cosmic principle. Differing from the austere and non-theist Theravada scriptures, it is full of gods and goddesses, heavens, jewelled trees and imaginary beings. The Avatamsaka Sutra became very influential in Chinese Buddhism, and was responsible for the creation of the Hua-Yen school.
This edition by Thomas Cleary, THE FLOWER ORNAMENT SCRIPTURE, is excellent. It includes not only his translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra, but also a book subsequently pinned onto it (the 400-page Gandhavyuha, or "Entry into the Realm of Reality"), the Chinese mystic Li Tongxuan's seventh-century commentary on the Gandhavyuha, a glossary of difficult Mahayana concepts, and an incredibly helpful translator's introduction.
Dr. Cleary ranks among the foremost translators of Asian religious literature and always succeeds in translating works clearly and precisely. In THE FLOWER ORNAMENT SCRIPTURE, his years of experience have enabled him to produce a stunning translation, and I can only admire his persistence in translating such a massive work.
This edition is really a treasure for Buddhist students. Or, should I say, serious students and scholars. At 1600 pages and a high cost (though much more inexpensive than several years ago), this tome is for the dedicated. THE FLOWER ORNAMENT SCRIPTURE, however, is an excellent translation. Dr. Cleary has benefitted Westerners greatly through his singular translation.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Michael on May 15, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A book translated by Thomas Cleary is worth its weight in gold... and then some. The Avatamsaka Sutra is a powerful and profound piece of work worth the investment of time to ponder, and meditate upon. I sat down one summer evening, to begin the journey, and after the first few pages I was transformed by the beauty and wisdom I found woven within the words of Mr. Cleary's absorbing translation. In my opinion: this is the apex of ALL Buddhist text.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Royal S. Mason on May 12, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The Flower Ornament Sutra (FOS) is often overlooked because it is not as available (now out of print probably as a result of not being widely used by the laity), but it is a superb Sutra a comprehensive (if any single text can be called truly comprehensive)expression of Buddhist (particularly Mahayanist)Vision. I say "vision" rather than "thought" or "philosophy" because FOS is first and foremost an inducer of meditative trance or vision, rather than a doctrine or treatise. One reads The FOS to experience the Buddha consciousness in a very personal, mystical way, not to "understand" it intellectually.

Thomas Cleary's translation is probably the most accessible to the American mind and heart. I haven't read all other translations, only a few are available here in the USA it seems. One caution: I would beware of "contemporary" or "condensed" versions of FOS, if you find them, because these adaptions to contemporary mind will surely lose the original consciousness, some of which is undoubtedly lost already even in a careful translation like Cleary's. That consciousness is why you would read FOS in the first place.

Better to go to the source, however formal or repetitive and overcome any initial sense of "boredom" you might feel. With FOS you should suspend logical critical mind in favor of an open and receptive heart. The deeper you go in this way the more vivid and profound the "vision" becomes.

Ultimately it is like a spark. At some point the spark jumps to you and lives in you independently of the text - or it doesn't. FOS is an instrument to self-discovery not a "reality" to cling to. Any Buddhist knows this, but FOS is a very valuable, effective and precious instrument of delight and enlightenment if you are open to it.

The hardback version I got published by Shambala is beautiful, as good a copy as you could hope to find these days. Highly, highly recommended.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By james on October 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Cleary is one of the best all-round translators of East Asian and Sanskrit literature, as well as Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian writings. If I have the option of purchasing a work I have never read before in various translations, I will gladly go with Cleary. Some of his works, such as the astonishing edition of the Art of War and his beautifully poetic rendering of the Zhuangzi are the best of their kind, while others (particularly his translations of Zen literature) are rather lacking and weak. This mammoth translation of the Buddhavatamsaka-sutra, however, represents the best (in my opinion) in Sanskrit Buddhist translation. All English speaking Mahayana Buddhists owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Clearly, for rendering one of the largest, most elaborate, and most important Buddhist scriptures into English, with a flair of style and poetic imagery that surpasses almost anything else I've read in Buddhist sutra translations. The Avatamsaka Sutra, or the Flower Garland (Flower Ornament) Sutra is the earliest sutra spoken by the Buddha. It is, along with the Lotus Sutra and the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, one of the most important teachings of the Buddha. The Chinese Huayan (Jap. Kegon) School (Huayan/Kegon: Avatamsaka), one of the most prominent and influential schools in the history of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, is based on this scripture, which emphasizes the mutually unobstructed interpenetration the Dharma realm, the interactions between principle and phenomenal worlds. The Avatamsaka Sutra is one of the Vaipulya Sutras, meaning that it is, in effect, an incredibly large sutra comprised of several smaller sutras (other Vaipulya Sutras include: the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, the Jewel Heap Sutra, and the Nirvana Sutra).Read more ›
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