Surangama question

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Inedible
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Surangama question

Post by Inedible »

Having just read the Surangama Sutra, I have developed an interest in memorizing the long Sanskrit mantra it teaches. The short version, first, of course. But in the process of reading the main text it kept reminding me of Taoism rather than Buddhism. Especially the text The Secret of the Golden Flower. Is it just me or do other people here see a lot of uniquely Chinese elements in this text?
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Surangama question

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

I get the same vibe.
I’d like to memorize it too, but it’s very long and completely abstract.

There is an interesting aspect to Taoism,
On the one hand it’s about water flowing to the lowest point and a tree that bends doesn’t break and so no on, and on the other hand there’s all kinds of divination and spells and magic ritual and whole teams for people who go into trances and converse with spirits and resist iron spikes prostrating their flesh.

I’ve always found a curious mix in Buddhism, on the one hand, logical arguments that explain the true nature of everything, and on the other hand, blessings, dharanis, and other “mystical” functions.

If the Nichiren schools can simply recite the title of the Lotus Sutra, why can’t one just repeat the phrase “Surangama Sutra…Surangama Sutra…” over and over again with the same efficacy?
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook develops outward insight.
Inedible
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Re: Surangama question

Post by Inedible »

There are some Surangama Mantra pendants that I have my eye on on Amazon. The Sutra says wearing it is enough to be protected by Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and other Celestials.

I'm fairly sure I saw a reference to the 10,000 things in this Sutra. That's just plain Taoist.

There was an example given of people who felt that they do not need to follow precepts because they live in a free country and they can make their own choices. This is bad because it leads to Hell, where there is very little freedom. It just seems like this makes more sense as having been written post-1776 than as the words of Buddha.

It does make sense to just repeat Surangama Sutra. It is a common enough practice just to chant names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas rather than mantras for them.
ItsRaining
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Re: Surangama question

Post by ItsRaining »

Inedible wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:37 am Having just read the Surangama Sutra, I have developed an interest in memorizing the long Sanskrit mantra it teaches. The short version, first, of course. But in the process of reading the main text it kept reminding me of Taoism rather than Buddhism. Especially the text The Secret of the Golden Flower. Is it just me or do other people here see a lot of uniquely Chinese elements in this text?
The Secret of the Golden Flower is a text from a syncretic school that drew heavily Taoism. Any resemblance with the Surangama Sutra owes to the Taoist adoption of Buddhist meditation and philosophy.

The text in and of itself is not particularly “Chinese” other than the chapter on the ten kinds of immortals. The form of argumentation and analysis of meditative states resembles much more Indic traditions like Madhyamaka or the meditative traditions of Buddhism than native forms of philosophy and meditation which do not employ as heavily logical argumentation, syllogisms, or such clear instructions in meditation.
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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Surangama question

Post by Kim O'Hara »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 4:10 am ...There is an interesting aspect to Taoism,
On the one hand it’s about water flowing to the lowest point and a tree that bends doesn’t break and so no on, and on the other hand there’s all kinds of divination and spells and magic ritual and whole teams for people who go into trances and converse with spirits and resist iron spikes prostrating their flesh.

I’ve always found a curious mix in Buddhism, on the one hand, logical arguments that explain the true nature of everything, and on the other hand, blessings, dharanis, and other “mystical” functions. ...
That's true, but you can find a similar split in Christianity, without looking too hard, between what one might call mystics and ritualists. You could even argue a three-way split, since the Christian alchemists have a lot in common with some of the Taoists - the tradition that spawned The Secret of the Golden Flower, for instance.

I guess the thing to remember is that 'what happened' is always a lot messier than our histories. We simplify and omit so much in order to make sense of it all that our histories say more about us than about the past they purport to record.

:namaste:
Kim
Constructelf
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Re: Surangama question

Post by Constructelf »

Inedible wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 3:37 am Having just read the Surangama Sutra, I have developed an interest in memorizing the long Sanskrit mantra it teaches. The short version, first, of course. But in the process of reading the main text it kept reminding me of Taoism rather than Buddhism. Especially the text The Secret of the Golden Flower. Is it just me or do other people here see a lot of uniquely Chinese elements in this text?
As far as I know, the current academic position is that the Surangama Sutra is of Indian origin, but is not one single text but rather compilation of several Indian texts that were later Sinicized during editing, (according to Zhisheng, this happened during Wu Zetian's reign). I believe Ron Epstein's argument below still holds:
Ron Epstein wrote: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.
Epstein, Ronald (1976), The Shurangama Sutra (T. 945): A Reappraisal of its Authenticity
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