The Wisdom of Huineng, Chinese Buddhist Philosopher by Chu Dongwei

The Wisdom of Huineng, Chinese Buddhist Philosopher

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A new, scholarly translation of the Platform Sutra of seventh-century Buddhist philosopher Huineng, among other works.

This book focuses on a famous sutra that “puts the Buddhist essence in a nutshell and directly points to the mind for the world to see,” according to Song Dynasty Buddhist master Qisong. It gives readers, he said, “the mountain top perspective, from which the world becomes dots, strokes and sketches.” Qisong’s analysis, from his “Hymn to The Sixth Grand Master's Platform-of-the-Gems-of-the-Dharma Sutra,” is only one of the many secondary documents that Dongwei uses to flesh out his remarkable, valuable work of annotated translation. In it, he gives the seminal Platform Sutra by Buddhist Chan master Huineng (638-713) a highly readable English rendering that translates the master’s many pronouncements into simple, accessible idiom: “If one does not understand the purport of the Dharma, he makes mistakes, which is no big deal. The problem is that such a person misleads others.” The verses and meditations, denouncing greed, vanity, and the tyranny of material possessions, will fascinate readers familiar with Buddhism and newcomers seeking to learn more about the philosophy’s historical roots. As Dongwei points out, that history is revolutionary in its ramifications: anyone who seeks Huineng’s concept of enlightenment can achieve it, regardless of their social status or even literacy. But the book’s most intriguing feature is its concentration on the foremost student of Huineng, Shenhui (668-760); according to Dongwei, he’s “very much responsible for Huineng’s teachings becoming the officially sanctified orthodox Buddhist teachings in China.” Here, Shenhui’s biography and writings are given fresh new English-language translations, which help clarify his motives for promoting the teachings of a then-forgotten master. Dongwei does an excellent job throughout of placing all of this complex material in its proper historical context. It’s a masterful performance and highly recommended.

A comprehensive, landmark English translation of a key Buddhist text.

Pub Date: Jan. 2nd, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-4917-5190-9
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
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