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The Śūraṅgama Sūtra (Sanskrit; traditional Chinese: 大佛頂首楞嚴經) is a Mahayana Buddhist sutra that has been especially influential in Chan Buddhism. The general doctrinal outlook of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is that of esoteric Buddhism and Buddha-nature, with some influence from Yogacara. The text has long been of disputed authenticity (see History), and often classed as Buddhist apocrypha. Current consensus is that the text itself is of Chinese origin, based on Indic texts, rather than a translation of a single text from Sanskrit.
- 1 Title
- 2 The name of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra in different languages
- 3 History
- 4 Teachings
- 5 Influence
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Sources
- 9 External links
The complete title preserved in Chinese: 大佛頂如來密因修證了義諸菩薩萬行首楞嚴經, meaning:
The Sūtra on the Śūraṅgama Mantra that is spoken from above the Crown of the Great Buddha's Head and on the Hidden Basis of the Tathagata's Myriad Bodhisattva Practices that lead to their Verifications of Ultimate Truth.
An alternate translation of the title reads:
The Sutra of the Foremost Shurangama at the Great Buddha’s Summit Concerning the Tathagata's Secret Cause of Cultivation His Certification to the Complete Meaning and Bodhisattvas' Myriad Practices
An original Sanskrit version of Śūraṅgama Sūtra is not known to be extant, and thus its full Sanskrit name is not known. Śūraṅgama roughly means "indestructible." The word is composed of Śūraṅ (great, absolutely), with Gama (durable, solid).
The name of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra in different languages
The full title of the sutra is appears as: traditional Chinese: 大佛頂如來密因修證了義諸菩薩萬行首楞嚴經; ; pinyin: Dà Fódǐng Rúlái Mìyīn Xiūzhèng Liǎoyì Zhū Púsà Wànxíng Shǒuléngyán jīng; Korean: 대불정여래밀인수증료의제보살만행수릉엄경; Vietnamese: Đại Phật đỉnh Như Lai mật nhân tu chứng liễu nghĩa chư Bồ Tát vạn hạnh thủ-lăng-nghiêm kinh.
It is also known by abbreviated versions of the title such as traditional Chinese: 大佛頂首楞嚴經; ; pinyin: Dà Fódǐng Shǒuléngyán jīng; Korean: 대불정수릉엄경; Vietnamese: Đại Phật đỉnh thủ-lăng-nghiêm kinh or simply and more commonly traditional Chinese: 楞嚴經; ; pinyin: Léngyán jīng; Korean: 릉엄경; Vietnamese: lăng-nghiêm kinh.
The first catalogue giving an account of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra was Zhisheng (Chinese: 智昇), a monk in Tang China. Zhisheng said this book was brought back from Guangxi to Luoyang during the reign of Xuanzong. He gave two different accounts in two different books, which were published in 730 CE.
- According to the first account, in his book Buddhist Texts Catalogue of Kaiyuan Era (
- According to the second account, in his later book The Story About This Translation of Buddhist Scriptures Mural (續古今譯經圖記), the Śūraṅgama Sūtra was translated in May 705 CE by Śramaṇa Pāramiti from central India, who came to China and brought the text to the province of Guangzhou. The text was then polished and edited by Empress Wu Zetian's former minister, court regulator, and state censor Fang Yong (
Zhi-sheng didn't explain why he wrote two different records, but at the end of The story about this translation of Buddhist scriptures mural (續古今譯經圖記) he left a small comment, recommending readers the record at Buddhist Book catalogue of Kaiyuan era is better than The story about this translation of Buddhist scriptures mural (續古今譯經圖記).[f]
Dispute about this text arose in 8th century in Japan, so Emperor Kōnin sent a monk to China, asking whether this book was a forgery or not. His Chinese teacher told him that this was forged by Fang Yong. [g] Zhu Xi, a 12th-century Neo-confucian who was opposed to Buddhism, believed that it was created during the Tang Dynasty in China, and did not come from India.
In China during the early modern era, the reformist Liang Qichao claimed that the sutra is apocryphal, writing, "The real Buddhist scriptures would not say things like Surangama Sutra, so we know the Surangama Sutra is apocryphal.[h] In the same era, Lü Cheng ( Chinese: 呂澂) wrote an essay to claim that the book is apocryphal, named "One hundred reasons about why Shurangama Sutra is apocryphal" ( Chinese: 楞嚴百偽).
Ron Epstein gives an overview of the arguments for Indian or Chinese origin, and concludes:
Preliminary analysis of the internal evidence then indicates that the Sutra is probably a compilation of Indic materials that may have had a long literary history. It should be noted though, that for a compilation, which is also how the Sutra is treated by some traditional commentators, the Sutra has an intricate beauty of structure that is not particularly Chinese and which shines through and can clearly be distinguished from the Classical Chinese syntax, on which attention has usually been centered. Thus one of the difficulties with the theory that the Sutra is apocryphal is that it would be difficult to find an author who could plausibly be held accountable for both structure and language and who would also be familiar with the doctrinal intricacies that the Sutra presents. Therefore, it seems likely that the origin of the great bulk of material in the Sutra is Indic, though it is obvious that the text was edited in China. However, a great deal of further, systematic research will be necessary to bring to light all the details of the text's rather complicated construction.
A number of scholars have associated the Śūraṅgama Sūtra with the Buddhist tradition at Nālandā. Epstein also notes that the general doctrinal position of the sūtra does indeed correspond to what is known about the Buddhist teachings at Nālandā during this period.
The Surangama Sutra has been translated from Chinese into Tibetan under the command of the Qianlong Emperor. The Changkya Khutukhtu supervised the translation of the Surangama Sutra from Chinese to Manchu language. The text was also translated into Mongolian and Tibetan.
There are a few English translations:
- The Surangama Sutra published in A Buddhist Bible translated by Dwight Goddard and Bhikshu Wai-tao.
- The Shurangama Sutra with commentary by Master Hsuan Hua. Volumes 1 to 8. Buddhist Translation Society, 2nd edition (October 2003).
- A New Translation Buddhist Text Translation Society. The Śūraṅgama Sūtra With Excerpts from the Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsüan Hua
- Charles Luk, 1967, Shurangama Sutra
The Śūraṅgama Sūtra contains teachings from Yogācāra, Buddha-nature, and Vajrayana. It makes use of Buddhist logic with its methods of syllogism and the catuṣkoṭi "fourfold negation" first popularized by Nāgārjuna.
Some of the main themes of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra are the worthlessness of the Dharma when unaccompanied by samādhi power, and the importance of moral precepts as a foundation for the Buddhist practice. Also stressed is the theme of how one effectively combats delusions that may arise during meditation.[i]
Ron Epstein and David Rounds have suggested that the major themes of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra reflect the strains upon Indian Buddhism during the time of its creation. They cite the resurgence of tribal influences, and the crumbling social supports for monastic Buddhist institutions. This era also saw the emergence of Hindu tantrism and the beginnings of Esoteric Buddhism and the siddha traditions. They propose that moral challenges and general confusion about Buddhism are said to have then given rise to the themes of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, such as clear understanding of principles, moral discipline, essential Buddhist cosmology, development of samādhi, and how to avoid falling into various delusions in meditation.
Two types of mind
David Rounds notes that the Buddha makes a very important distinction when teaching his cousin, Ananda about his mind that there are in fact not one, but 2 different types of mind (that are fundamentally different in their natures) that we need to be aware of in our spiritual cultivation:
"The Buddha then compounds his cousin's confusion by stating that there are fundamentally two kinds of mind:
1. First, the ordinary quotidian mind of which we are aware and which is entangled, lifetime after lifetime, in the snare of illusory perceptions and random thoughts;
2. And second, the everlasting true mind, which is our real nature, and which is the state of the Buddha."
Ananda, what are the two fundamentals?
The first is the mind that is the basis of death and rebirth and that has continued for the entirety of time, which has no beginning. This mind is dependent upon perceived objects, and it is this that you and all beings make use of and that each of you consider to be your own nature.
The second fundamental is enlightenment, which has no beginning; it is the original and pure essence of nirvana. It is the original understanding, the real nature of consciousness. All conditioned phenomena arise from it, and yet it is among those phenomena that beings lose track of it. They have lost track of this fundamental understanding, though it is active in them all day long, and because they remain unaware of it, they make the mistake of entering the various destinies.
Rounds and Epstein explain the Buddha Nature, the Matrix of the Thus Come One as spoken of in the Surangama Sutra:
Fundamentally, everything that comes and goes, that comes into being and ceases to be, is within the true nature of the Matrix of the Thus-Come One, which is the wondrous, everlasting understanding — the unmoving, all-pervading, wondrous suchness of reality.
[The Buddha] shows one by one that each of the elements of the physical world and each of the elements of our sensory apparatus is, fundamentally, an illusion. But at the same time, these illusory entities and experiences arise out of what is real. That matrix from which all is produced is the Matrix of the Thus-Come One. It is identical to our own true mind and identical as well to the fundamental nature of the universe and to the mind of all Buddhas.
The Śūraṅgama Sūtra teaches about the Śūraṅgama Samādhi, which is associated with complete enlightenment and Buddhahood. This samādhi is also featured extensively in the Śūraṅgama Samādhi Sūtra, another Mahāyāna text. It is equally praised in the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra, where it is explained by the Buddha that this samādhi is the essence of the nature of the Buddha and is indeed the "mother of all Buddhas." The Buddha also comments that the Śūraṅgama Samādhi additionally goes under several other names, specifically Prajñāpāramitā ("Perfection of Wisdom"), the Vajra Samādhi ("Diamond Samadhi"), the Siṃhanāda Samādhi ("Lion's Roar Samādhi"), and the Buddhasvabhava ("Buddha-nature").
White Parasol Crown Dhāraṇī
In addition to the sūtra's contents, the dhāraṇī contained in it is known in Chinese as the Léngyán Zhòu (楞嚴咒), or Śūraṅgama Mantra. It is well-known and popularly chanted in East Asian Buddhism. In Sanskrit, the dhāraṇī is known as the "Sitātapatra Uṣṇīṣa Dhāraṇī" (Ch. 大白傘蓋陀羅尼). This is sometimes simplified in English to "White Canopy Dhāraṇī" or "White Parasol Dhāraṇī." In Tibetan traditions, the English is instead sometimes rendered as the "White Umbrella Mantra." The dhāraṇī is extant in three other translations found in the Chinese Buddhist canon [j], and is also preserved in Sanskrit and Tibetan.
- In the East is the Vajra Division, hosted by Akṣobhya
- In the South, the Jewel-creating Division, hosted by Ratnasaṃbhava
- In the center, the Buddha Division, hosted by Vairocana
- In the West, the Lotus Division, hosted by Amitābha
- In the North, the Karma Division, hosted by Amoghasiddhi
Māras as manifestations of the five skandhas are described in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra. In its section on the fifty skandha-māras, each of the five skandhas has ten skandha-māras associated with it, and each skandha-māra is described in detail as a deviation from correct samādhi. These skandha-māras are also known as the "fifty skandha demons" in some English-language publications. Epstein introduces the fifty skandha-māras section as follows:
For each state a description is given of the mental phenomena experienced by the practitioner, the causes of the phenomena and the difficulties which arise from attachment to the phenomena and misinterpretation of them. In essence what is presented is both a unique method of cataloguing and classifying spiritual experience and indication of causal factors involved in the experience of the phenomena. Although the fifty states presented are by no means exhaustive, the approach taken has the potential of offering a framework for the classification of all spiritual experience, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist.
The Śūraṅgama Sūtra has been widely studied and commented on In China. Ron Epstein...
... found reference to 127 Chinese commentaries on the Sutra, quite a few for such a lengthy work, including 59 in the Ming dynasty alone, when it was especially popular ".
The Śūraṅgama Sūtra is one of the seminal texts of Chán Buddhism. It was first transmitted by Yuquan Shenxiu, the original sixth patriarch and the seminal figure of the Northern school. It "is connected with the enlightenment of" Changshui Zixuan from the Song dynasty and Hanshan Deqing (憨山德清) from the Ming.
The Śūraṅgama Sūtra is being cited in case 94 of the Blue Cliff Record:
In the Surangama Sutra the Buddha says, "When unseeing, why do you not see the unseeing? If you see the unseeing, it is no longer unseeing. If you do not see the unseeing, it is not an object. Why isn't it yourself?"[k]
Dogen commented on the verse "When someone gives rise to Truth by returning to the Source, the whole of space in all ten quarters falls away and vanishes":
This verse has been cited by various Buddhas and Ancestors alike. Up to this very day, this verse is truly the Bones and Marrow of the Buddhas and Ancestors. It is the very Eye of the Buddhas and Ancestors. As to my intention in saying so, there are those who say that the ten-fascicle Shurangama Scripture is a spurious scripture, whereas others say that it is a genuine Scripture: both views have persisted from long in the past down to our very day [...] Even were the Scripture a spurious one, if [Ancestors] continue to offer its turning, then it is a genuine Scripture of the Buddhas and Ancestors, as well as the Dharma Wheel intimately associated with Them.
The contemporary Chán-master Venerable Hsu Yun wrote a commentary on the Śūraṅgama Sūtra. Venerable Hsuan Hua was a major modern proponent of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, which he commented and used in his instructions on protecting and supporting the Proper Dharma. About the Śūraṅgama Sūtra, he said:
In Buddhism all the sutras are very important, but the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is most important. Wherever the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is, the Proper Dharma abides in the world. When the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is gone, that is a sign of the Dharma Ending Age. In the Extinction of the Dharma Sutra it says that in the Dharma Ending Age, the Śūraṅgama Sūtra will become extinct first. Then gradually the other sutras will also become extinct. The Śūraṅgama Sūtra is the true body of the Buddha; the śarīra (relics) of the Buddha; the stūpa of the Buddha.
Note: Several notes are Chinese, due to the international character of Wikipedia. Help in translation is welcome.
- Buddhist texts catalogue of Kaiyuan era said, "Śramaṇa Huai-Di (Chinese: 懷迪), who was born at Xún zhōu (循州), lived in Nanlou Monastery (南樓寺) on Mount Luofu (羅浮山). This mountain was where Xian lived and toured. HuaiDi studied Buddhist books for a long time, and achieved profound erudition. He was also proficient in a wide range of knowledge. Here close to the coast, there are many Indian monks who come here. HuaiDi learned how to say and read their language with them. When Mahāratnakūṭa Sūtra was translated to Chinese, Bodhiruci invited HuaiDi to verify the translation. After the translation was finished, he returned to his hometown. Once he came to Guangzhou, he met a monk, who remains unknown, from India with a Sanskrit book. He asked HuaiDi to translate this book, a total of ten volumes, which was Shurangama Sutra. HuaiDi wrote this book and modified the wording. After the book was translated, the monk left, and no one knows where he went. An official went to southern China, bringing this book back, so it became known here."[I]
- In 706 CE, Mahāratnakūṭa Sūtra began translation. HuaiDi was invited to Luoyang. The translation was finished in 713 CE. HuaiDi then went back to his hometown. The Shurangama Sutra was translated after 713 CE.
- The mention of Fang Yong poses a chronological problem. According to the Old Book of Tang Fang Yong was put in prison in January 705 CE because he was involved in a court struggle. He was then exiled from Luoyang to Guangxi Qinzhou in February, where he died.[II] If the book was translated at 705 CE, the cooperation of Fang Yong might be doubtful. If the text was translated in 713 CE, Fang Yong had no chance to aid in the translation of the text, since he died in 705
- The story about this translation of Buddhist scriptures mural said, "Śramaṇa Pāramiti, which is means Quantum, came from Central India. He travel, missionary, arrived china. He stayed at Guangxiao Temple in Guangxi. Because he was very knowledgeable, so many people came to visit him. To help people, so he determined not to keep secret. in May 23 705 CE, He recited a Tantras, which is The Sūtra on the Śūraṅgama Mantra Spoken from Above the Crown of the Great Buddha's Head, and on the Hidden Basis of the Tathagata's Myriad Bodhisattva Practices Leading to Their Verification of the Ultimate Truth. Śramaṇa Meghaśikha from Oḍḍiyāna translated it to Chinese. Fang Yong( Chinese: 房融) of Qingho, the former minister, court regulator, and state censor, wrote it down. Śramaṇa Huai-di ( Chinese: 懷迪) of Nanlou Monastery (南樓寺) on Mount Luofu (羅浮山) verify it. After teach it all, he came back to his country. An official went to southern China, bringing this book back, so we see it here. "[III]
- These two individuals - Pāramiti and Meghaśikha - are only been records in this book. Other books, talking about the story about Pāramiti, are references from this place then add some imagination.
- The story about this translation of Buddhist scriptures mural said, "These records is edited from the old data, but some errors have not been modified yet. If someone wants to write some records at the wall, please follow the record at the Buddhist texts catalogue of Kaiyuan era. In addition to what I mention here, the other is real."[IV]
- in-depth meaning of Three Treatise school said, "(Emperor Kōnin) sent Buddhist monks De-Qing (德清)and other to Dang Dynasty to find the answer. The Teacher of De-Qing at Dang dynasty, Buddhist Fa-Siang ( Chinese: 法詳), told him, This Shurangama Sutra is forged by Fang Yong, not a real Buddhavacana. But Zhi-sheng know nothing about it, so he make a mistake to list this book at Buddhist texts catalogue."[V]
- Liang Qichao, the authenticity of Ancient books and their year, "The real Buddhist scriptures would not say things like Śūraṅgama Sūtra, so we know the Śūraṅgama Sūtra is a Apocrypha."[VI]
- D.T. Suzuki gives a detailed overview of the contents of the sutra in Manual of Zen Buddhism.
- Taishō Tripiṭaka 944, 976, and 977
- This reminds of Nagarjuna's Sunyatasaptati:
 The sense of sight is not inside the eye, not inside form, and not in between. [Therefore] an image depending upon form and eye is false.
 If the eye does not see itself, how can it see form? Therefore eye and form are without self. The same [is true for the] remaining sense-fields.
 Eye is empty of its own self [and] of another's self. Form is also empty. Likewise [for the] remaining sense-fields.
- 《開元釋教錄》：「沙門釋懷迪，循州人也，住本州羅浮山南樓寺。其山乃仙聖遊居之處。迪久習經論，多所該博，九流弋略，粗亦討尋，但以居近海隅，數有梵僧遊止；迪就學書語，復皆通悉。往者三藏菩提流志譯竇積經，遠召迪來，以充證義。所為事畢，還歸故鄉。後因遊廣府遇一梵僧 (未得其名) ，賚梵經一夾，請共譯之，勒成十卷，即《大佛頂萬行首楞嚴經》是也。迪筆受經旨，緝緞文理。其梵僧傳經事畢，莫知所之。有因南使，流經至此。」
- Śūraṅgama Sūtra Translation Committee of the Buddhist Text Translation Society, 2009, p. xxv.
- The Shurangama Sutra with commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua - New Edition ISBN 0881399493. http://cttbusa.org/shurangama1/shurangama1.asp
- Buddhist Text Translation Society 2009, p. xiii.
- Epstein 1976.
- Hurvitz 1967, p. 482.
- Faure 1991, p. 42, 122 n9, 231, 240.
- Humphreys1995, p. 111.
- Dutt 1962, p. 264.
- Buddhist Text Translation Society 2009, p. xxx-xxxii.
- Buddhist Text Translation Society 2009, p. xxxii-xxxiv.
- Suzuki 2001.
- Buddhist Text Translation Society 2009, p. xxxiii-xxxix.
- David Rounds. Rescuing Ananda - An overview of the Surangama Sutra. Religion East & West, Issue 7, October, 2007. p81. http://www.drbu.org/iwr/rew/2007/rew-article-7
- A New Translation Buddhist Text Translation Society. The Śūraṅgama Sūtra With Excerpts from the Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsüan Hua (Kindle Locations 243-249).
- Lamotte 1998, p. 36.
- Hua 1975.
- Ron Epstein. "Fifty Skandha Demon States: Forward".
- Faure 1991, p. 231, note 3.
- Sekida 1996, p. 387.
- Nagarjuna's Sunyatasaptati
- Dogen: On Turning The Wheel
-  The Śūraṅgama Sūtra Translation Committee of the Buddhist Text Translation Society. (2009). The Śūraṅgama Sūtra: With Excerpts from the Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsüan Hua: A New Translation. Ukiah, CA, USA: Buddhist Text Translation Society.ISBN 978-0-88139-962-2.
- Dutt, Sukumar (2008), Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India, Delhi: Motilal Barnasidass
- Epstein, Ronald (1976), The Shurangama Sutra (T. 945): A Reappraisal of its Authenticity
- Faure, Bernard (1991), The Rhetoric of Immediacy. A Cultural Critique of Chan/Zen Buddhism, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press
- Hua, Hsuan (1975), The Wonderful Effects of the Shurangama Mantra, archived from the original on March 15, 2012
- Humphreys, Christmas (1995), The Wisdom of Buddhism
- Hurvitz, Leon (1967), The Surangama Sutra. Review in Journal of Asian Studies, Vol.26, issue 3, may 1967, pp. 482-484
- K'uan Yu, Lu (1966). The Śūraṅgama sūtra (Leng Yen Ching) / Chinese rendering by Master Paramiti; commentary (abridged) by Han Shan;. London: Rider. Charles Luk, Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.
- Lamotte, Étienne (1998), Suramgamasamadhi Sutra: The Concentration of Heroic Progress, translated by Sara Boin-Webb, London: Curzon Press
- Sekida (translator), Katsuki (1996), Two Zen Classics. Mumonkan, The Gateless Gate. Hekiganroku, The Blue Cliff Records. Translated with commentaries by Katsuki Sekida, New York / Tokyo: Weatherhill
- Suzuki, D.T. (2001), Manual of Zen Buddhism (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on December 24, 2012
- The Śūraṅgama Sūtra Translation Committee of the Buddhist Text Translation Society. (2009). The Śūraṅgama Sūtra: With Excerpts from the Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsüan Hua: A New Translation. Ukiah, CA, USA: Buddhist Text Translation Society.ISBN 978-0-88139-962-2.
- The Śūraṅgama Sūtra text with commentaries from Tripitaka Master Hsuan Hua
- Śūraṅgama Sūtra: Text, Commentaries, and Articles
- Sanskrit and Chinese versions of the Shurangama mantra
- Mahayana Buddhist Sutras in English