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 Surangama litany translation

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Posts : 13
Join date : 2011-02-17

PostSubject: Surangama litany translation   Fri Mar 25, 2011 4:17 pm

Hi Everyone,

Some time ago, I was shown a translation of the Surangama Dharani (it's a long one to recite, directly from the core of the Surangama Sutra) made at OBC by someone named Rev. Master Hubert. I do not know if it is an accurate translation, as the linguistic issues are well above my paygrade & competence, but I can say that the translation has some poetic quality to it and some heart too. Is anyone familiar with this translation, its history, and its use?

I know that this dharani is usually chanted in Chinese syllables corresponding to the Sanskrit. Call me superstitious, but it seems to me that if a particular text is used in a devotional way over time it gathers a certain energy, so an English translation that has been practiced with seriously and earnestly may be of great value for practice.

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Posts : 13
Join date : 2011-02-17

PostSubject: Re: Surangama litany translation   Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:07 pm

Any takers out there?


As I reflect on it a bit, one reason I raised this question is to also raise the possibility that here may lie one of OBC's real and productive contributions to Buddhist practice and Buddhist culture in the English-speaking world: an attempt to express this thing in an Anglophone idiom. To some tastes and in some cases, OBC may well have tipped into an Anglophile or even purely Anglican idiom (is it really productive to speak of transmission in Buddhism as "apostolic transmission"? is Zen really "eternal life," which is to say, is Zen the appeal and promise of Protestant Christianity?). But the attempt is worth a long and hard examination now that a few winters have settled on it. History is a teacher too, even the history of the present so to speak.
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Posts : 1617
Join date : 2010-11-13
Age : 67
Location : New York, NY

PostSubject: Re: Surangama litany translation   Sat Apr 02, 2011 5:05 pm

Most Buddhist groups in the west use English for most of their chanting / practices. I don't consider the fact that Kennett brought in all these Christian elements to be a positive development, except I did like the plainsong that was used instead of the mono syllabic approach of most centers. But that is hardly a major contribution.

The use of old Anglican and Catholic monastic terminology was not particularly useful or skillful, especially in America. Did it really add anything to use words like "abbey" or "priory"? Did it make the place more holy or more accepted in some way? I doubt it. If Shasta was called the Shasta Zen Community or the Shasta Zen Center, would that have made any difference? Most of these Christian terms mean nothing to Americans and frankly most Americans are leaving behind western religions in the first place.

The folks who are doing the most interesting job in adapting dharma to the west are people like John Kabat-Zinn and others who are bringing mindfulness into the world in non-religious context; the Mind and Life Institute - that studies meditation and neuroscience, and the many groups that are finding the intersection of dharma and western psychology and therapy. These are not just superficial adaptations.

As i have said elsewhere, Kennett's teaching became more Christian and clearly monotheistic over time and this was significantly negative. It was not just the use of certain words, but the entire approach to life, spirituality, practice. Words, language, metaphors have power in that the lead to beliefs, actions, ways of thinking and living. When you start talking to a "cosmic buddha" and talking about how "the eternal" is going to protect you and you should pray and make offering to this "eternal," when you teach that this "buddha nature" is the same as a soul - that's no longer dharma or Zen. It is the church of Kennett, one of the many hybrid religions out there that mixes together all kinds of things.

From my point of view, Nirvana is not the same as the Christian heaven, Buddha is not God, buddha nature is not the same as the soul, praying to a god is not the same as shikan-taza, listening for a still small voice is not dharma at all. The Buddha never taught dharanis or prayers or that he would protect anyone or heal anyone or talk to anyone in their meditation. He never taught anyone to pray or make offering to "the eternal." All religions are not the same, they do not teach the same thing, it is not all one.

This is not to say there are not great insights that arise in all religious traditions and in the minds of many sages and philosophers - and we can learn from them, but there is great value in being precise and clear.

The Buddha was a radical teacher as were many of the Zen masters. They pointed to a profound way of seeing. By mixing up various religious ideas and concepts and beliefs, this is the way to total confusion.
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Posts : 21
Join date : 2010-08-06
Age : 46
Location : Scotland (Edinburgh/Inverness)

PostSubject: Re: Surangama litany translation   Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:25 am


I agree very much that the attempt by the OBC to adapt Zen Buddhism was misplaced, in the way that they adopted Christian/theistic idioms, expressions etc. And I am certainly personally more comfortable with commitment to a single tradition (while also being interested in learning from the insights of other, including non-Buddhist, traditions, from psychology etc). I have friends who espouse a 'universalist' theology, which allows them to dip in and out of different traditions, religions, even take ordination in different religions (albeit 'fringe' organisations), who work within different ritual traditions etc - it's not something I could do myself. I prefer to dig the well as deep as possible in one tradition, in as much as I'm able.

But, that said, I don't there is a single Buddhist tradition currently extant which does represent some sort of pure, unadulterated 'distillation' of the Buddha's teaching (if that were possible) - they're all the result of a complex combination of cultural, religious, social, political and even economic forces, over long periods of time.

Also, if we're bringing in insights from neuroscience, psychology, material sciences, secular thinking etc, then we're also adding to this mix, albeit in a manner different to the OBC, and these streams of thought will and are making their impact felt.

I have absolutely no issue with this. It's (personally speaking) preferable to a sort of Anglican Zen, and as long as it's a conscious, open and honest dialogue between traditions, between different ways of thinking, experiencing, investigating and articulating, then it leaves us free to make our own judgements about the teachings being offered.

What worries me more is when adaptations are made, which have a real impact on what is taught and practised, particularly to people new to Buddhism, but where the traces of these re-workings and innovations are effectively covered up, and the teachings presented as 'traditional', 'orthodox', etc. I think this is particularly unhealthy when members are actively discouraged from reading/learning from the wider Buddhist tradition, and where book learning is also, to some degree, de-emphasised or discouraged, which I feel has occured within the OBC. Equally, though, there are practise traditions in which the teachings are framed strongly in terms of psychology; this is fine too, again, as long as the adaptations are consciously and openly attested to.

To put it another way, I'm almost as sceptical of psychology presented as 'Buddhism', as I am of pseudo-theism presented as Buddhism. I think there are elements of Christian theology - mystical traditions e.g. - which contain much of great value, as does psychology - but find it a bit irritating when the traces from these influences are effectively 'kicked over'.

Because Buddhism in the west is so small, institutionally, such a new introduction into our societies, individual teachers and relatively small traditions have a lot of influence. To my mind we therefore need a little less confidence, and more open discussion of how we're doing what we do, how we select, adapt, translate (linguistically and culturally), and admit that it's a long-term process.


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Posts : 13
Join date : 2011-02-17

PostSubject: Re: Surangama litany translation   Fri Apr 08, 2011 7:46 pm

Hi Stu,

I think you make a number of important points (especially on the topic of psychoanalytic Buddhism if I may call it that). I'd say it's one thing to present the teachings in a new idiom that reflects the spirit and impact of those teachings and helps students learn and develop, and quite another to confuse people with equivalences that may or may not add up. (Upaya, anyone?)

I'm in no position to evaluate whether or not the OBC does one or the other, but I do think it appropriate to pose the question of how the OBC approach works, that is, what fruit it bears in students. And I appreciate your insights on this.


Anyone have any information on the anglophone Surangama dharani as practiced in the OBC? thanks
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Posts : 5
Join date : 2011-04-22
Location : Reading, UK

PostSubject: Re: Surangama litany translation   Fri Apr 29, 2011 10:42 am

It is what it is really...I am a relative newcomer to Buddhism - last few years and either the "style" of practice suits you or it doesn't. While practicing at the OBC has given me a lot of thing (such as developing and supporting a regular practice) I have to say that I would prefer a less "spiritual" feel to proceedings and more down to earth meditation and mindfulness practice - that doesn't change the fact that approached properly the entire practice helps to support my practice.

Whatever the faults of each tradition and school I feel grateful and lucky to have found a broad range of traditions within a short range of where I live - Whatever the faults of individual teachers or schools etc surely it is our own responsibility to simply find what works for us and also our responsibility to test (judge) what we are told. I know I am preaching to the converted here to some extent...

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Posts : 1
Join date : 2011-06-26

PostSubject: Re: Surangama litany translation   Sun Jun 26, 2011 11:24 pm


You could check out City of Ten Thousand Buddhas website (CTTB) in Ukiah, CA. CTTB have branches in the States which you may visit to share and gain insights. Or type Venerable Master Hsuan Hua (shurangama mantra) in Youtube for introduction.

You are right. The Shurangama Dharani is spiritual and contains very good energy for practioners of all sects.

FYI. The Buddha indeed taught dharanis as evident in the sutras.
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