About the Book:
Called the "jewel of the Mahayana Sutras", this book presents the major teachings of Mahayana Buddhism in a precise, dramatic, and even humorous form. For two millennia this Sutra has enjoyed immense popularity among Mahayana Buddhists in India, central and southeast Asia, Japan, and especially China, where its incidents were the basis for a style in art and literature prevalent during several centuries.
Vimalakirti, although an Indian, can be considered the first Zen Master—apart from the Buddha himself—as he specializes in a type of discourse that is subtle, in a lucidity that balances on the razor's edge of paradox and yet is quite logically coherent. His message is particularly appealing to our secular age, because he was a man of the world, not a monk or saint. In essence, Vimalakirti clears up the confusions surrounding the central Buddhist concept of emptiness, or voidness—presenting it not as nihilism but rather, in the translator's words, "as the joyous and compassionate commitment to living beings born from an unwavering confrontation with the inconceivable profundity of ultimate reality."
This translation makes available in relatively nontechnical English the Tibetan version of this key Buddhist scripture, previously known to the English-speaking world only through translations from Chinese texts. The Tibetan version is generally conceded to be more faithful to the original Sanskrit than are the Chinese texts. The Tibetan version also is clearer (for one thing, it summarizes each section), richer, and more precise in its philosophical and psychological expression. The twelve books of the Sµutra are accompanied by an introduction and an epilogue by Dr. Thurman, and by three glossaries; Sanskrit terms, numerical categories, and technical terms.
About the Author:
Robert A.F. Thurman, who teaches religion at Amherst College, has been a Fellow of the American Institute of Indian Studies and a practicing Tibetan Buddhist monk in the United States and India. He took his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. at Harvard. This book is published in cooperation with The Institute for Advanced Studies of World Religions.