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The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: A Mahayana Scripture 7.12.2003 Edition

4.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0271006017
ISBN-10: 0271006013
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Editorial Reviews

Review

This book presents the major teachings of Maha¯ya¯na Buddhism in a precise, dramatic, and even humorous form. For two millennia this Sutra, called the "jewel of the Maha¯ya¯na Sutras," has enjoyed immense popularity among Mahayana Buddhists in India, central and southeast Asia, Japan, and especially China, where its incidents were the basis for a style in art and literature prevalent during several centuries. Robert Thurman's translation makes available in relatively nontechnical English the Tibetan version of this key Buddhist scripture, previously known to the English-speaking world only through translations from Chinese texts. The Tibetan version is generally conceded to be more faithful to the original Sanskrit than are the Chinese texts. The Tibetan version also is clearer, richer, and more precise in its philosophical and psychological expression. The twelve books of the Sutra are accompanied by an introduction and an epilogue by Dr. Thurman and by three glossaries: Sanskrit terms, numerical categories, and technical terms.

About the Author

Robert A. F Thurman, who was ordained a Buddhist monk in 1964 by Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama, is the current director of Tibet House in New York City. He is the father of five children including the actress Uma Thurman. One of the world's most respected scholars and translators of Tibetan and Sanskrit, Thurman has translated The Tibetan Book of the Dead (1994) and is the author or translator of many books including The Central Philosophy of Tibet: A Study and Translation of Jey Tsong Khapa's Essence of True Eloquence (1984), Speech of Gold: Reason and Enlightenment in Tibetan Buddhism (1989), Inside Tibetan Buddhism (1995), and Infinite Life: Seven Virtues for Living Well (2004). This book was published in cooperation with The Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 117 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press; 7.12.2003 edition (August 11, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271006013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271006017
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I agree with many of the other reviewers in this space. This sutra is quite simply my favorite Buddhist text, and Prof Thurman's translation is my favorite translation. I travel with this book because it is so compact and precise in describing the way of the Bodhisattva, the great vehicle of the Mahayana path. I have heard Prof Thurman read from his book, and his transmission is no small contribution to the progress of Buddhism in the West.

Several reviewers have mentioned the humor. I have fond memories of reading this text out loud to my fellow dharma students, and having a good laugh each time a disciple sheepishly declines Lord Buddha's invitation to go visit the ailing bodhisattva, Vilmalakirti. The replies of Vimalakirti, on the other hand, are the highest wisdom I know of in Buddhism, and reflecting on them is a great treasure.
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Format: Paperback
This Sutra is noted as the "jewel of the Mahayana sutras". Vimalakirti, a man of the world (lay practitioner) is said to be the highest of all of Buddhas disciples. Vimalakirti in this sutra clears up the confusions surrounding the central Buddhist concepts of emptiness, or voidness. This is a must have book for the serious Buddhist student.
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The Vimalakirti-nirdesha Sutra, though almost certainly not spoken by Shakyamuni Buddha himself, is nontheless held in the highest esteem by all schools of the Mahayana. It belongs to the category of sutras which are, in all probability, fictional creations of Mahayana scholars, and not expounded by the Buddha. Despite this, the Vimalakirti Scripture is still given the title of a sutra. For the doctrine it expounds is in perfect conformity with the highest teachings of the Buddha, and, more than any other sutra, the Vimalakirti Sutra shows the perfection of the bodhisattva ideal for laymen and women. Robert A.F. Thurman's translation of this masterpiece is close to perfect. Working from a Tantric perspective (being himself a Vajrayana Buddhist), Thurman details, in his notes and introduction, the clear relation between Buddhist Tantrism and the Vimalakirti sutra, which can lead one to the conclusion that its composition was largely influenced by the esoteric teachings of the Tantras. Yet, the teachings of the Vimalakirti Sutra are in no way exclusive to students of the Vajrayana, or of Tibetan Buddhism in general. This scripture has historically been of tremendous influence on Chinese Buddhism, and is the subject of some of the greatest works of Chinese Buddhist Art. It is also held in the highest esteem by Zen Buddhism for its emphasis on the practice of the layman amongst the cares of the world. Indeed, it is one of the few canonical scriptures that are of particular value to Zen.Read more ›
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First of all, I agree with other reviewer's assertions that this is not a book for beginners. Without a basic understanding of foundational Buddhist thought and Buddhist cosmology, this book wouldn't make much sense. Vimalakirti is one of my favorite characters since he is a great example of how a lay person can achieve Buddhahood. He could enter gambling halls and other dens of iniquity, engage in business and family life, and still remain unsullied as he taught the Dharma. This book is one of the few readable texts about him. Although very well translated, it still retains some of the repetition and obscure references found in any ancient Buddhist work having a basis in an oral tradition. If you have an intermediate knowledge of Buddhism, this is an excellent work.
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Format: Paperback
Having been more fond of the Tibetan Schools and Texts when I read this initially, I do have to say in all, I did enjoy "Ordinary Enlightenment": A Translation of the Vimalakirti Nirdesa - Charles Luk; Paperback much more. Luk conveys the humor of the text very well also. I read both these, one after the other. Great Books, both of them. For those looking for a more literal translation, this one would fit the bill.
Thurman's book; "The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti" has the Best Introduction and Explanation of Sunyata, or Voidness as he puts it. From page 1 through 9, he will express one of the Best arguments, that shows Emptiness is far from being nihilistic. His Glossary is also filled with Very useful definitions.
The font of this book is too small for my eyes though. I have 4 of Mr. Thurman's Books on Tsong Kha Pa, and have learned much from them.
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This is heavy duty Buddhist scripture. Thurman's prolouge and introduction do a great job of setting up the actual scripture reading itself. Considered advanced for adherents of Buddhist thought, for those that aren't (like myself), the introduction is critical - don't skip it. The proposition is that all is unified, and dualism is not real. The artifical dualism and the concept of voidness (the absence of dualism, not nihiilism) permeate the reading. The aparent paradox of an existent void is exactly the "Zen like" koan that is pondered and meditated on to attempt to understand the profundity of reality. A tough read, but a good one. A strong working knowledge of Buddhist thought will be very helpful before diving in.
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