Welcome to a rare world.

Buddhist sutras do not appeal to everyone and within the collection of sutras themselves, there are many different approaches resonating with different types of people. In one view, these provide an antidote in the form of faith, wisdom, and discrimination to various mixes of greed, hatred and delusion. When the immediate feeling is annoyance and the reaction is repulsion to a sense object — be it a sight, sound, smell, taste, touch or thought — that’s the mark of the hate type. On the other hand, if the immediate feeling is pleasant and one is eager to have it, that’s the mark of the greed type. If the person hesitates, unsure whether it’s better to immediately reject the object or to possess it, that’s the mark of the delusion type person.

On the wholesome plane, greed can be transformed into faith, hate into wisdom and delusion into discrimination or knowledge. As a general rule, the perfect wisdom sutras tend to appeal to people who are hate types. At least in my case, this proved true. The misandrist is more likely to detect a kindred spirit in the Perfect Wisdom teachings, for example, than the person who has little or no hatred for men. And the same is true for the misogynist. This is true across the board. The malcontent, the sociopath, the never-do-well, the obsessive critic, the pessimist, the sadist and so forth may indeed light up with positive joy when they read about all-inclusive emptiness which, if only at first contact, seems to undermine faith in anything at all and finds nothing of genuine interest anywhere in the world. Perfect Wisdom is less likely to appeal to those who have a pleasant life, are well-off, are liked or loved, are healthy, sexually pleased with themselves, and usually win. They are more likely to find sutras that provide a majestic display of beautiful and splendid pure lands, or who present gods, some of whom engage in divine sexual union through a mere touch or a glance, more suitable to their spiritual taste.

But, in either case, for those rare birds, like the mountain swans, who are not content until they return to their pure mountain lakes, the Buddhist Perfect Wisdom literature can, under certain conditions, radiate a subtle and powerful appeal even today.

Why not wait until this translation is done and buy it then? What’s the point of becoming part of the process of translation, including behind the scenes discussions? Why add one more person to a social circle already crowded, even if it is a remote relationship? The only reason I can think of right now is that it may give you access to an ordinarily hidden realm that is hard to penetrate without some initial handholding. Or, if you are a translator of literary Chinese, you may find my occasional hint or solution interesting and useful.

However long your stay, however involved you become or don’t become, Welcome! and Good Luck!


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An English translation of Kumarajiva's Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom and musings on the translation process.


Jo Alcock_1: Fiction aficionado, twixt profane and sacred, enthralled by CJK Muse, writing "Early Lessons in the Classical Language". Jo Alcock_2: Sophia fanboy, twixt sacred and profane, translating Buddhism via the "Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom".