- Paperback: 480 pages
- Publisher: Counterpoint; Revised edition (November 18, 2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1582432562
- ISBN-13: 978-1582432564
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 54 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Diamond Sutra Paperback – December 17, 2002
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Winner of the 2018 Thornton Wilder Prize for Translation
About the Author
Red Pine (a.k.a. Bill Porter) is the translator of the complete poems of Cold Mountain (Han-shan), Pickup (Shih-te), and Big Shield (Feng-kan), as well as works by Stonehouse (Shih-wu), Sung Po-jen (awarded a PEN West translation prize), and Lao-tzu (a PEN West finalist). He lives in Port Townsend, Washington.
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What makes it so is the author's obvious engagement with the text. He notes in the preface his early confusion with the Diamond Sutra, even after living with it for three years in a Taiwanese monastery. Twenty years later, comparing six Chinese translations to compose his own English version, he still didn't get it. But a trip to Taiwan opened the door of understanding.
While waiting for a meeting about translation work for which he had been invited, Red Pine found on a book shelf a 5-volume study of the Sanskrit version of the Diamond Sutra, a project printed in a limited run of only 250 sets. Here he discovered the key needed to unlock the sutra. "The thought had never occurred to me that since the Diamond Sutra was originally in verse . . , its meaning still depended on poetry, which was still apparent in the Sanskrit but not in the Chinese."
Finally, he could he see what the sutra was all about. "It isn't emptiness that distinguishes this sutra. It's about bodies, beginning with the Buddha's body and ending with the body of every noble son or daughter who practices this teaching. Our real body is what ties all these teachings together."
This delight in discovery shines through Red Pine's writing. He notes that his intention was to create a text to "thank those who have helped me along the path by helping others understand this teaching. By itself, this sutra is not easy to fathom, much less appreciate or practice. Hence, I have translated sections from other sutras that expand on the same teaching, as well as the commentaries of several dozen monks, including my old friends, the fifty-three Zen masters, the Indian pundits Asanga and Vasubandhu, and such modern masters as Chiang Wei-nung, Tao-yuan, and Sheng-yi. I have also added remarks of my own, far more than I anticipated or would have wished. But given my interpretation, I often had no choice."
About the only thing I found lacking was an index. By the time I got to the last third of the text, I wanted on more than one occasion to go back and look up a concept, or Red Pine's comments on a concept. There is a glossary, but it is not exhaustive.
As this was my first encounter with the Diamond Sutra, I can't make comparisons with other translations or commentaries. I can, though, recommend this as an accessible introduction brimming with the insight of generations of scholars who have studied this sutra. It accomplishes that rare feat among texts, instilling the desire to inquire further, to look deeper.
Who looks for me in form
who seeks me in a voice
indulges in wasted effort
such people see me not.