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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences



Cleary Collects his Translations of Taoist, Buddhist and Religious Classics


This set of eventually eight volumes celebrates the monumental scholarship of Thomas Cleary who has devoted over twenty years to creating readable editions of Asian religious classics for the literate public. General feature of his approach is to make reader friendly edition for people who wish to participate in the immediate meaning and mystery of the works. He is sensitive to the cultural naissance but also has helped to create an interculturalization of these texts and the spirituality they represent.


This volume contains teachings predominantly from the Chinese Zen (Chan) tradition including the writings of revered Chinese masters such as Pai-chang, founder of the Chan monastic tradition; Huang-po, one of the forefathers of the Lin-chi or Rinzai school; Foyan, the great master of the twelfth-century Chinese Zen "renaissance"; and many others.

This volume of Classics of Buddhism and Zen contains:

ZEN LESSONS THE ART OF LEADERSHIP This guide to enlightened conduct for people in positions of authority is based on the teachings of several great Zen masters of China.

ZEN ESSENCE: THE SCIENCE OF FREEDOM Drawn from the records of the great Chinese Zen masters of the Tang and Song dynasties, this collection represents the most open and direct forms of instruction in the entire Zen canon.

THE FIVE HOUSES OF ZEN These writings are widely considered to be preeminent among Zen literature.

MINDING MIND A COURSE IN BASIC MEDITATION The meditation instructions in this book focus on attaining a state of true objectivity that enables the practitioner to use all other forms of meditation freely and consciously, without becoming fixated or obsessed.

INSTANT ZEN Presented here are the teachings of Foyan, who offers simple exercises in attention and thought designed to lead to the awakening of Zen insight into the real nature of self.


This volume contains teachings predominantly from the Japanese Zen tradition, including the writings of Dogen, the founder and most venerated master of Japanese Zen. Also included is a translation of the Carya-Gita, a collection of the teachings of famous tantric masters who lived during the illustrious Pala dynasty of old Bengal--a text with striking parallels to the early Zen tradition

This volume of Classics of Buddhism and Zen contains:

TEACHINGS OF ZEN This anthology presents talks, sayings, and records of heart‑to‑heart encounters to show the essence of Zen teaching through the words of the Zen masters themselves.

ZEN READER This book is a collection of quotations from the great masters of Zen. The masters talk about the practicalities of Zen realization and primarily about waking up, seeing for yourself and standing on your own two feet.

ZEN LETTERS TEACHINGS OF YUANWU Presented here are the teachings of the great Chinese master Yuanwu in direct person‑to‑person lessons, intimately revealing the inner workings of the psychology of enlightenment.

SHOBOGENZO ZEN ESSAYS BY DOGEN Dogen, the founder of Japanese Zen, presents a thorough recasting of Buddhism with a creative ingenuity that has never been matched in the subsequent literature of Japanese Zen.

THE ECSTASY OF ENLIGHTENMENT An inside look at the spiritual world of tantra, noteworthy are the parallels between tantric Buddhism in old Bengal and the original Zen Buddhism of China.


This volume contains translations of works by the key figures of Zen, including Dogen, the founder and most venerated master of Japanese Zen; Chinul, the twelfth-century Korean master; and Hakuin, founder of the Rinzai school. Also included are selections from the "Perfection of Wisdom" sutras, a key source of the Zen tradition.

This volume of Classics of Buddhism and Zen contains:

THE SUTRA OF HUI‑NENG, GRAND MASTER OF ZEN Hui‑neng was the sixth patriarch of Chinese Zen. His teachings are characterized by their striking immediacy and by their concern with direct insight into the essential nature of awareness. The Sutra of Hui‑neng is accompanied by Hui­neng's own commentary on the Diamond Sutra.

DREAM CONVERSATIONS On Buddhism and Zen: A collection of a renowned Japanese master's written replies to questions about the true nature of Zen.

KENSHO THE HEART OF ZEN Included here are some of the important texts focusing on the profound subtleties of this essential Zen awakening and the methods used in its realization.

RATIONAL ZEN: THE MIND OF DOGEN ZENJI Contains selections from Dodgen's s two masterworks, Shobogenzo and Eihei Koruko. Cleary's commentary and compendium of authentic source materials enhance the reader's insight into Dogen's methods.

ZEN AND THE ART OF INSIGHT Thomas Cleary has gathered key selections from throughout the Prajnaparamita literature, accompanying each selection with commentary, to present the key teachings as exercises in learning freedom.


This volume features several essential works on the practice of Zen koans, including a complete translation of Gateless Barrier, a classic collection of Zen parables, paradoxes, and teaching stories. Also included is a collection of poetry from the Chinese Buddhist poet Wen-Siang.

This volume of Classics of Buddhism and Zen contains:

TRANSMISSION OF LIGHT ZEN IN THE ART OF ENLIGHTENMENT This first complete modern translation of the classic Denkoroku illustrates how to attain satori.

UNLOCKING THE ZEN KOAN This translation of the koan classic Wumenguan also includes Cleary's selection of comments by great Chinese Zen masters.

ORIGINAL FACE AN ANTHOLOGY OF RINZAI ZEN An anthology of Japanese Rinzai Zen from the thirteenth to the eighteenth centuries.

TIMELESS SPRING A SOTO ZEN ANTHOLOGY Contains sayings, informal talks, and public cases of important Soto Zen masters.

ZEN ANTICS 100 STORIES OF ENLIGHTENMENT Unlike many of the baffling dialogues between Zen masters preserved in koan literature, the stories retold here are pointedly simple but with a richness and subtlety that make them worth reading again and again.

RECORD OF THINGS HEARD FROM THE TREASURY OF THE EYE OF THE TRUE TEACHING This Zen classic is a collection of talks by the great Japanese Zen Master Dogen, founder of the Soto school.

SLEEPLESS NIGHTS VERSES FOR THE WAKEFUL Among the greatest masterpieces of secular Buddhist poetry, these verses mock the folly of tyrants and celebrate the indomitability of life.

Self-Help Asian Style:
Classics of Strategy and Counsel: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary (three volume set)

These volumes make a fine synopsis of the practical wisdom of China with Japanese variations (in second volume) and (in the third) a nod to India and Islam’s preservation of the Hellenic wisdom  heritage. As expected Cleary's prose is clear and readable and his scholarship evident but not heavy-handed. Recommended.

Classics of Strategy and Counsel: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary: Volume One: The Art of War, Mastering the Art of War, The Lost Art of War, and The Silver Sparrow Art of War

Classics of Strategy and Counsel: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary: Volume Two: Thunder in the Sky, The Japanese Art of War; The Book of Five Rings, and Ways of Warriors, Codes of Kings

Classics of Strategy and Counsel: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary: Volume Three: The Art of Wealth, Living a Good Life, The Human Element, and Back to Beginnings translated, annotated and edited by Thomas F. Cleary, series edited by Eden Steinberg (Shambhala Publications) 

Classics of Strategy and Counsel: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary: Volume One contains:


Compiled over two thousand years ago by Sun Tzu, a mysterious Chinese warrior-philosopher, this text addresses competition and conflict on every level, from the interpersonal to the international. "Thomas Cleary's translation of The Art of War makes immediately relevant one of the greatest Chinese classical texts. There's not a dated maxim or vague prescription in it.... You can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership. "-Newsweek These are mostly stunning aphorisms strung together topically.


Composed by two prominent statesmen-generals of classical China, this book develops the strategies of Sun Tzu's classic The Art of War into a complete handbook of organization and leadership. Drawing on episodes from the panorama of Chinese history, Mastering the Art of War presents practical summaries of essential laws along with tales of conflict and strategy that show in concrete terms the proper use of Sun Tzu's principles. Brief essays on strategy provide more system to the classic aphorisms.


Written by Sun Bin, a linear descendant of Sun Tzu, this is another rich and practical Chinese text on political and military strategy. Though fragments of this text have long been known, Sun Bin's complete book of strategy was only recently discovered. These essays are more theoretical and richly developed, providing a commentary and reworking of the original work by Sun Tzu..


A never-before-published translation of Sun Tzu's Art of War based on a more recently discovered version of the classic text. This small work offers still another version of some of Sun Tzu’s insights and only available in this volume.

The volume as a whole provides a rather comprehensive account of the Sun Tzu tradition of strategy.

Classics of Strategy and Counsel: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary: Volume Two contains:


This book presents the first English translations of The Master of the Demon Valley and The Master of the Hidden Storehouse-two Chinese classics on the dynamics of power-along with commentary by Thomas Cleary. Each of these texts, in its own way, provides a practical course in human development and empowerment for a Taoist perspective.


Here is an exploration of the influence of military rule and the martial tradition of the samurai on Japanese life and culture. According to Cleary, the Japanese people have been so steeped in the way of the warrior that some of the manners and mentality of this outlook remain embedded in their individual and collective consciousness. T is profitable to compare the Japanese adaptations of strategic thinking to the Chinese versions of volume one.


This is one of the most insightful texts on the subtle arts of confrontation and victory to emerge from Asia. Composed in 1643 by the famed duelist and undefeated samurai Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings speaks to martial artists and leaders in all professions. The Buddhist turn is very apparent in this inexhaustible source of practical wisdom in the management of conflict.


Here is a concise and accessible presentation of selections from Taoist classics on strategy and leadership including: Master Wei Lao, The Book of Three Strategies, The Book of Six Strategies, The Warrior Code of the Cavaliers, and Wu Qi's Art of War. These concise collections pithy aphorisms, anecdotes and calm reflections on human relations is a solid source for practical Taoist wisdom.

Classics of Strategy and Counsel: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary: Volume Three contains:


This Indian classic on the mysteries of wealth and success explores the nature of prosperity, personal success, and power as well as what responsibilities they entail. The original Sanskrit text was written by Kautilya (fl. 300 BCE), a renowned sage of ancient India who has been compared to Aristotle and Machiavelli. Cleary has a keen eye for making this work of shrewd sagacity vital to the concerns of any player in the game of business.


This collection of eminently practical advice from the likes of Socrates, Plato, Diogenes, Pythagoras, and Aristotle covers subjects as diverse as money, child raising, politics, phi­losophy, law, and relationships. It is derived from Arabic sources so many of the anecdotes are legendary but reflective of traditional values of wisdom, both practical and astute.


Here are short selections on wise leadership, decision-making, inspiring loyalty, and achieving success from the Eastern classics. Selections include sayings of Confucius, passages from the I Ching, The Art of War, and Thirty-six Strategies. Cleary compiles his own anthology from the Chinese classics that address practical questions and have universal appeal.


This is a collection of meditations by the seventeenth-century Taoist adept Huanchu Daoren on the fundamental aspects of human life. Originally entitled "The Vegetable Root Talks." Back to Beginnings explores the secrets of serenity and wisdom in a changing world. It is very much a guide or spur to contemplative practice, very much the implicit practice that forms the matrix of all these works of practical wisdom.

It might be fun one day to see Cleary consider more directly the Wisdom tradition of the Bible with some of its reflections in Judaism and Christian contemplative commentary and practice. One thing might become clear is that the closer one looks for differences between East and West the more we find an underlying humanist concern that approaches universality in our diversity. These volumes make a fine synopsis of the practical wisdom of China with Japanese twists and (in the third volume) a nod to India and Islam’s preservation of the Hellenic heritage. Recommended.

THE TAOIST CLASSICS: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary.

VOLUME ONE: Tao Te Ching, Chuang-tzu. Wen-tzu, The Book of Leadership and Strategy, Sex, Health, and Long Life ISBN 1570624852

VOLUME TWO: Understanding Reality, The Inner Teachings o f Taoism, The Book of Balance and Harmony, Practical Taoism ISBN 1570624860

VOLUME THREE: Vitality, Energy, Spirit; The Secret of the Golden Flower; Immortal Sisters; Awakening to the Tao ISBN 1570624879

VOLUME FOUR: The Taoist I Ching; I Ching Mandalas ISBN 1570624887

This collection of 15 of Thomas Cleary's translations from the Taoist classics, published under various imprints over the last 20 years, makes accessible in a nearly unified format a psychological reading of Taoism that has deeply influenced our contemporary Western appreciation of Taoism. Celebrating the 35 years of publishing at Shambhala this series promises to collect an impressive body of religious and esoteric work.


This first volume of The Taoist Classics contains Thomas Cleary’s translations of essential texts of Taoism:

TAO TE CHING: Cleary’s original translation of the great classic of Taoism accompanied by his commentary illuminating the text and its context.
CHUANG-TZU: The "Inner Teachings" of a widely influential compendium of wisdom stories, fables, and anecdotes.
WEN-TZU UNDERSTANDING THE MYSTERIES: Another great classic of Chinese Taoism containing teachings also attributed to the author of the Tao Te Ching.
THE BOOK OF LEADERSHIP AND STRATEGY LESSONS OF THE CHINESE MASTERS: Translations from the great Chinese classic Huainanzi exploring the subtle arts of management and leadership at all levels.
SEX, HEALTH, AND LONG LIFE MANUALS OF TAOIST PRACTICE: Five texts (from the famous Mawangdui finds of 1973-74) that reveal the transformative influence sex can have when wisely practiced.


This volume of The Taoist Classics contains:

UNDERSTANDING REALITY A TAOIST ALCHEMICAL CLASSIC: A tenth century text on the principles of inner alchemy.
THE INNER TEACHINGS OF TAOISM: The essentials of self transformation according to the Complete Reality School of Taoism, with commentary by Liu Liming.
THE BOOK OF BALANCE AND HARMONY: These essays, conversations, poetry, and songs about the secrets of Taoism teach how to live a centered and orderly life.
PRACTICAL TAOISM: A collection of the most accessible of the texts on inner alchemy.


This volume of The Taoist Classics contains:

VITALITY, ENERGY, SPIRIT A TAOIST SOURCEBOOK: This comprehensive anthology traces the teaching on the "three treasures" vitality, energy, and spirit through the long history of Taoism. Along with brief selections from the classic texts of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, the book presents a rich selection of tales and sayings from Taoist literature, as well as a broad range of writings from the Complete Reality school.
THE SECRET OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER THE CLASSIC CHINESE BOOK OF LIFE: A lay manual of Buddhist and Taoist methods for clarifying the mind. This text describes a number of helpful meditation techniques, but its central method goes deeper than meditation, getting to the root source of awareness itself. This practical guide was hailed by C. G. Jung as a link between the insights of the East and his own psychological theory.
IMMORTAL SISTERS SECRETS OF TAOIST WOMEN: The writings and poems of six distinguished Taoist women adepts writing between the fourth and twelfth centuries, including the legendary Sun Bear. These translations shed light on the spiritual methods used by these women and illustrate the prominence of the feminine in Taoism.
AWAKENING TO THE TAO: Another treasure from Taoist adept Liu 1ming, this is a collection of the master’s brief but admirably lucid essays on living according to the Tao. Written in 1816, when Liu was nearly eighty years old, this text encapsulates a lifetime of study and contemplation of the principles and practices of Taoism.


This volume of The Taoist Classics contains:

THE TAOIST I CHING: The classic "Book of Change" illuminated by the commentary of the eighteenth and nineteenth century Taoist adept Liu lming. The first part of the book is the text of the 1 Ching proper with Liu’s commentary. The second part is Liu’s commentary on two additional sections known as the Overall Images and the Mixed Hexagrams added to the I Ching by earlier commentators, believed to be members of the original Confucian school. In total, the book illuminates the Taoist inner teachings as practiced in the School of Complete Reality.
I CHING MANDALAS: A traditional program of study that enables students of the 1 Ching to achieve a deeper understanding of the meaning of this great classic. I Ching Mandalas presents diagrams as tools for whole brain learning that help the student to visualize patterns and interrelationships among the trigrams and hexagrams of the I Ching.


Classics of Buddhism and Zen: The Collected Translations of Thomas Cleary-Dhammapada, the Buddhist I Ching, Stopping and Seeing, Entry into the Inconceivable and Buddhist Yoga edited and translated by Thomas Cleary (Shambhala)

This volume of Classics of Buddhism and Zen contains:


The famous collection of 423 verses of Buddhist wisdom that has been profoundly influential in every Buddhist school.
The Dhammapada, "statements of principle," is a popular collection of sayings on the jour­ney to inner peace from discourses attributed to Gautama Buddha, who lived about five hundred years before Christ. Gautama is be­lieved to have attained perfect peace of mind himself, and also to have then spent forty‑nine years traveling from place to place teaching oth­ers how to secure serenity and inward freedom as well. The Dhammapada is one of the oldest and most beloved classics of early Buddhism. An anthology of statements of Buddha's teaching (which is what the title means, it is drawn from the ancient Pali Canon, one of the great bodies of primary Buddhist literature. The original text consists of four hundred and twenty‑three aphorisms grouped into twenty‑six chapters. Known for its simplicity and easy readability, the Dhammapada is perhaps the best primer of basic Bud­dhism to be found anywhere.


The translation included in this volume is the only full‑length interpretation of the I Ching by a Chinese Buddhist meditation master.

This book is a reading of the classic I Ching by the noted Chinese Buddhist Chih-hsu Ou-i (1599-165), an outstanding author of the late Ming dynasty whose work influenced the development of modem Buddhism in China, Ou-i uses the I Ching to elucidate issues in social, psychological, and spiritual development.

Ou‑- was unusual among native Chinese Buddhists in having actually read the esoteric canon existing in the Chinese language. Nevertheless, he finally concluded that the living tradition of Tantra was no longer available in China (travel was difficult and limited in Ou-i's time, due to civil and international unrest in many areas) and this led to his decision to abandon Mantrayana, except for the name of Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light, the embodiment of compassion. The practice of reciting this name had been openly offered in sutras and sastras since time immemorial, and because it was associated with pure compassion, it could be considered the least dangerous of all mantras. This was the mantra, in fact, of the first native Chinese school, the Pure Land school founded by the great scholar and visionary Hui-yuan (334-416), originator of the first Lotus Society.

Furthermore, Ou-i found an esoteric plane in the work of the great Sung dynasty T'ian-t'ai writer Ssu-ming, who revived the school eight generations after the last great master, Chan-jan. Ou-i made Ssu-ming's work one of his main sources on liturgy and ritual, and he also commonly used T'ien-t'ai terminology in dealing with other forms of meditation and other Buddhist practices as well.

This is certainly true of his commentary on the I Ching, translated in the present volume, and it is therefore useful to note certain recurring key terms. A general outline can first be glimpsed in Ou-i's own explanation of the overall structure of the I Ching:

The inherent qualities Ou-i speaks of are the natural qualities of buddha-nature, the complete potential of awareness; cultivated qualities are developments of the various facets of inherent qualities, bringing them to full maturity and putting them to appropriate use. Thus inherent qualities and cultivated qualities are the same in essence but distinct in practice.

In T'ien-t'ai Buddhist terms, this is the unity and distinction of fundamental enlightenment and initial enlightenment. This is the teaching that all beings have the buddha-nature, or potential for awakening to reality, but it usually cannot be fully expressed or used without deliberate cultivation.

A refinement of this idea is the doctrine of successive stages coexisting with an underlying unity or continuity. Using the T'ien-t'ai model, Ou-i provisionally distinguishes six stages of initial enlightenment into fundamental enlightenment.

The first stage might be termed ideal enlightenment, where ideal means something that is so in principle or in ultimate truth, but not yet in manifest fact.

The second stage might be called intellectual enlightenment. This is the stage of intellectual awareness of this ideal or ultimate potential of buddhahood. At this stage the intellectual awareness comes through concepts, through reading, hearing, and thinking.

The third stage is that of contemplative practice, an intensification and purification of the thinking process, also including transcendence of thought itself. As is well known, there are countless methods of contemplative practice in Buddhism, and according to Buddhist teaching principles there is a great deal of individual difference in what methods are effective when and for whom. In this reading of the I Ching, Ou-i is concerned not so much with specific techniques as with their generic types and their place in the overall pattern of the practitioner's life.

The fourth stage can be called the stage of conformity or resemblance and represents a development of contemplative practices to a point where they become, as it were, second nature. It is traditionally defined as the stage where the six senses are purified. This stage might be called the clearing of the channels for the next stages.

The fifth stage is that of partial realization, when the purification of the senses accomplished in the preceding stage allows the buddha-nature, the enlightenment potential, to begin penetrating the veil of illusion and reveal new perspectives and possibilities.

The sixth stage is that of ultimate realization, representing the full expression of the inherent essence of conscious being, with all of its faculties being continually developed and tuned to an infinite and ever expanding reality. 


A monumental work written by sixth-century Buddhist master Chi-i. One of the most comprehensive manuals written on these two essential points of Buddhist meditation.

“Stopping” and "seeing" are the yin and yang of Buddhist meditation, complementary twin halves of a unified whole. The fundamental meaning of "stopping and seeing," sometimes more solemnly called cessation and contemplation, is stopping delusion and seeing truth. All Buddhist meditations, and indeed all Buddhist principles and practices, can be categorized and organized in terms of stopping, seeing, and the integration of stopping and seeing.

There are a number of books on stopping and seeing written in Chinese. The most comprehensive of these is called Mo-ho Chih­kuan, or Great Stopping and Seeing, a record of lectures on Buddhist meditation by the great T'ien-t'ai master Chih-i, who lived in the sixth century.

Great Stopping and Seeing is one of the so-called Three Great Works of T'ien-tai Buddhism, which all apprentices of that school educated in the traditional manner are expected to work through in the course of a twelve-year period of learning and practice.

Great Stopping and Seeing is also a traditional sourcebook for Zen and Pure Land Buddhism. Both Zen and Pure Land Buddhism were intimately connected with T'ien-t'ai Buddhism in their early stages of development, and contact was renewed at various points in history, not only in China but also in Korea and Japan. The T'ien-t'ai patriarch Chih-i appears as a Zen master in Zen literature, and as a Pure Land patriarch in Pure Land literature.

Chih-i lived from 538 to 597 of the common era. His father, whose surname was Ch'en, was from an old family of Confucian scholars, distinguished in public service for generations. His mother was from the Hsu clan, which was deeply involved in Taoism and produced many distinguished figures in that discipline. The inclusion of Taoist medical doctrines and practices in Chih-i's work on Buddhist medita­tion probably reflects his early education within the family context.


An introduction to the philosophy of the Hua-yen school of Buddhism, one of the cornerstones of East Asian Buddhist thought.

In recent years there has developed in the West considerable interest in the philosophy of Hua‑yen Buddhism, a holistic, unitarian approach to Buddhism which has enriched the intellectual life of East Asia for well over a thousand years. The basic scripture of Hua-yen Buddhism, known as the Garland (Sanskrit Avatamsaka) or Flower Ornament (Chinese Hua-yen) scripture, contains all the Buddhist teachings in a harmonious, multifaceted array; one of the most highly valued of all Buddhist scriptures in Asia, it presents a highly advanced metaphysic and an elaborate body of developmental material aimed at the completion of the human being.

The projection of the Hua-yen teaching in Asia was aided by the expository work of several great doctors of the teaching in T'ang dynasty China (A.D. 618-907) when that civilization was at the zenith of intellectual and cultural influence. These masters of Hua-yen teachings produced extensive commentaries and analyses relating to the principles and practices dealt with in the enormous Hua-yen scripture, and they codified the essential principles in a number of compact treatises. These commentaries and treatises clarify the integral relation between what is unique in the Hua-yen perspective and what is generally shared in common with other Buddhist formats.

Hua-yen Buddhism is famed for its intriguing philosophy, but it is perhaps most useful to consider Hua-yen metaphysics primarily in terms of instrumental value. That is to say, the philosophy may be considered not so much the establishment of a system and thought for its own sake or as an object of belief or ground of contention but rather as a set of practical exercises in perspective-new ways of looking at things from different points of view, of discovering harmony and complementarity underlying apparent disparity and contradiction. The value of this exercise is in the development of a round, holistic perspective which, while discovering unity, does not ignore diversity but overcomes mental barriers that create fragmentation and bias.

The Hua-yen doctrine shows the entire cosmos as one single nexus of conditions in which everything simultaneously depends on, and is depended on by, everything else. Seen in this light, then, everything affects and is affected by, more or less immediately or remotely, everything else; just as this is true of every system of relationships, so is it true of the totality of existence. In seeking to understand individuals and groups, therefore, Hua-yen thought considers the manifold as an integral part of the unit and the unit as an integral part of the manifold; one individual is considered in terms of relationships to other individuals as well as to the whole nexus, while the whole nexus is considered in terms of its relation to each individual as well as to all individuals. The accord of this view with the experience of modern science is obvious, and it seems to be an appropriate basis upon which the question of the relation of science and bioethics,an issue of contemporary concern, may be resolved.

The ethic of the Hua-yen teaching is based on this fundamental theme of universal interdependence; while the so-­called bodhisattva, the person devoted to enlightenment, constantly nourishes aspiration and will going beyond the world, nevertheless the striving for completion and perfection, the development of ever greater awareness, knowledge, freedom, and capability, is continually reinvested, as it were, in the world, dedicated to the liberation and enlightenment of all beings. The awakening and unfolding of the complete human potential leads to realms beyond that of conventional experience, and indeed to ultimate transcendence of all conditional experience, yet the bodhisattva never maligns the ordinary and does not forsake it, instead translating appropriate aspects of higher knowledge into sights and actions conducive to the common weal.

It is generally characteristic of Mahayana or universalistic Buddhism that the mundane welfare of beings is considered a legitimate, if not ultimate, aim of bodhisattva activity, and many aspects of the ethical and practical life of bodhisattvas may be seen in this light. While psychological and physical well-being is not considered the ultimate goal, it might appropriately be thought of as an elementary stage in the realization of humanity, a removal of conflicts and anxieties to free more energy for higher development. It is axiomatic, based on the world view of Buddhism, that since all people and indeed all creatures share in each other's existence, there is no true benefit for one group alone that is won at the cost of another. It is said to be characteristic of Buddhas, enlightened people, that they look upon all creatures as equal in essence (though not the same in terms of characteristics; although the needs of individuals may differ in detail, they are all equal insofar as they are dependent beings interrelated to one another. Bodhisattvas therefore strive to benefit all equally, without losing sight of the diversity and complexity of the means necessary to accomplish this end.


A landmark translation of the classical sourcebook of Buddhist yoga, the Sandhinirmochana-sutra, or "Scripture Unlocking the Mysteries," a revered text of the school of Buddhism known as Vijnanavada or Yogachara.

The word yoga has many meanings, including the ideas of union, method, effort, and meditation. The elaborate psychophysical exercise routines of Hindu Yoga are familiar to Westerners, but the subtle metaphysics and refined methods of spiritual development characteristic of Buddhist Yoga are not well known.

This volume presents a translation of the Sandhinirmochana-sutra, "Scripture Unlocking the Mysteries," a complete classical sourcebook of Buddhist Yoga. This is one of the main texts of that stream of Buddhist tradition known as Vijnanavada, "The Doctrine of Consciousness," or Yogachara, "The Practice of Yoga."

This sutra, or scripture, provides a remarkably detailed course in the philosophical and pragmatic bases of Buddhist Yoga. This is a text that is meant to be read and reread many times as essential preparation by those who are thinking of undertaking meditation exercises of any sort. This procedure was the classical way, and many of the shortcomings and aberrations of modem Western meditation cults can be traced to abandonment of this tradition.

The Sandhinirmochana-sutra is divided into eight sections, including an introduction in the classical style. As in the case of all universalist Buddhist scriptures, the introduction to this text is an important part of the work, making preliminary presentations of key principles and practices in a highly concentrated setting, partly symbolic and partly literal.

The second section of the sutra, entitled "Characteristics of Ultimate Truth," opens with a discussion of the nonduality of all things. This is taken to mean that phenomena are in essence neither "created" nor "uncreated," neither mundane nor supernal. Concluding that the real nature of things is beyond words, the discussion goes on to depict ultimate truth as inaccessible to thought and deliberation, beyond all objects, beyond all forms, beyond all representation, beyond all controversy. For the purposes of Buddhist Yoga, therefore, it is essential to understand that ultimate reality is not a philosophical construct.

The sutra then goes on to discuss the relationship between ultimate truth and practices. Through an extensive course of reason based on the logic of metaphysics and corresponding spiritual experience, the point is established that ultimate truth and practices are neither one and the same nor completely different. This is an essential insight, one that distinguishes the special nature of Buddhist Yoga; it is based on one of the most important reforms initiated by Gautama Buddha in the spiritual practices of ancient yoga.

This discussion is followed by descriptions of intellectual and spiritual conceit consequent upon failure to perceive the ultimate truth pervading all things. The entire section is then closed with the logical conclusion that all‑pervasive ultimate truth is everywhere one and has no differentiation in itself in spite of pervading all differentiations. To see the integrity of ultimate truth underlying the fragmented facade of ordinary experience is one of the purposes of Buddhist Yoga.

The third section of the sutra's course outlines working descriptions of mind, intellect, and consciousness. Here are found the classical Buddhist psychological constructs of eight and nine consciousnesses, which are used as a basis of orientation in yoga. This brief section of the sutra concludes with a transcendental description of mastery of these mysteries as a state of consciousness in which, by virtue of focus on ultimate truth, there is no inner discrimination of, or identification with, phenomena corresponding to constructed definitions.

The fourth section of the sutra deals with the general characteristics of all phenomena; their conceptualized, dependent, and perfectly real characteristics. The conceptualized characteristic of things refers to phenomena as we conceive of them and speak of them. The dependent characteristic of things refers to interdependent origination of phenomena, which thus exist only as part of universal relativity and not as individually self‑subsistent entities. The perfectly real characteristic of things refers to thusness, the direct experience of phenomena without the superimposition of conceptual descriptions.

Pragmatic understanding of the distinctions among these three characteristics is essential to correct practice of Buddhist Yoga and correct realization of emptiness, without which there is no possibility of spiritual liberation. This section on the characteristics of all phenomena is thus followed up in the next section by a discussion of essencelessness, the Buddhist principle of emptiness.

Here, essencelessness is defined in three ways. First is essencelessness of characteristics, which refers to the nature of conceptualized characteristics projected on phenomena. Second is essencelessness of birth, which refers to the dependent or relative character of phenomena, which by virtue of their interdependence have no individual point of origin. Third is ultimate essencelessness, referring to the selflessness of all things, which is called the ultimate truth.

The sutra emphasizes the critical importance of these realizations in the process of actualizing intellectual and spiritual liberation. Accordingly, after defining accurate understanding of essencelessness, the text goes on at length discussing the misunderstandings that typically arise, analyzing the origins and consequences of specific misapprehensions of Buddhist teachings on Emptiness. This section concludes with a recapitulation of three phases of Buddha's teaching, in which the principles of essencelessness are at first occult, then implicit, finally explicit. With understanding of the final explicit teaching, it is realized that ultimate truth actually pervades all the scriptures, even if at first in a covert manner; the teaching that brings this out is thus called a complete doctrine.

The sixth section of the sutra's course consist of an extraordinarily detailed discussion of the principles and practices of Buddhist yogic meditation. The procedures, problems, resolutions, and results of meditation are analyzed with great precision in this section, enabling the practitioner to avoid the pitfalls and hazards of ignorant or misguided concentration.

The seventh section of the course deals with the ten transcendent ways and ten stages of enlightenment, which are comprehensive outlines of Buddhist Yoga. The transcendent ways are practices by which one transcends the world while in its very midst. The teachings of the ten stages of enlightenment are called the Alphabet of Buddhism, the basic "letters" of meaning from which all utterances of Buddhist teaching are composed. This section of the sutra defines the transcendent ways and the stages, outlining their curative and developmental functions and effects. This section of the sutra should be read in conjunction with the The Ten Stages in the comprehensive Buddhist sutra known as The Flower Ornament Scripture," for an in‑depth per­spective on the transcendent ways and the stages in which they are practiced.

The final chapter of the sutra's course on Buddhist Yoga, entitled "Deeds of the Enlightened," presents a typically detailed analysis of the qualities, capacities, and domains of operation that characterize a Buddha, or a fully enlightened mind. Here the critical distinction is drawn between liberation and enlightenment, the latter referring to the total sublimation and completion of the individual. The comple­tion is made possible by liberation, but liberation alone does not of itself bring completion. Thus the scripture concludes the course with an intensive recapitulation of the sphere of knowledge and action of the enlightened.


THOMAS CLEARY holds a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University. He is the translator of over fifty volumes of Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, and Islamic texts from Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Pali, and Arabic including the best selling Art of War.

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