Translators of the Surangama Sutra

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Translators of the Surangama Sutra

Post by DGA » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:53 pm

It is well-known that this text is a late composition, and assembled in China. But sometimes beliefs about books have more power than the material history of books, and perhaps more benefit; and sometimes those beliefs incorporate bits of history too.

As the traditional story goes, the Surangama Sutra was smuggled from India and translated in China by a monk Paramiti. This is how the text's credibility is established: this is a book with an Indian provenance, and hence is credible. The 2009 translation includes the following on the title page:
Translated into Chinese during the Tang Dynasty by the Elder Monk Paramiti of Central India

Reviewed by the Elder Monk Meghasikha of Uddiyana

Verified by the Elder Monk Huaidi of Nanlou Monastery on Mt. Luofu
and so on

I'd like to know if there is any historical record of these figures (Paramiti, Meghasikha) and, if so, if they are associated with teachings like the Surangama. I'm interested in how bits of historical information can be used to increase faith in the teachings, as upaya; how much of the story behind the Surangama is grounded in some kind of history, and how much of it is something else?

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Re: Translators of the Surangama Sutra

Post by viniketa » Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:22 pm

This caught my attention because 'Paramiti' seemed familiar to me. After searching around, I found the reference I was thinking of:

by Hsuan Hua: ... Commentary" onclick=";return false;

See 'The History of the Transmission and Translation' - pp. 91-92

The smuggling of the sutra in his arm was what made the initial impression on me. :smile:

Hope this helps.

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Re: Translators of the Surangama Sutra

Post by Indrajala » Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:02 pm

I had to address this recently in a dictionary entry I was writing.

The scholarly consensus is that it was written in China.

Whether the purported "translator" even existed or not, or went to Guangzhou, is difficult to determine. As the story goes, after the translation it is said his king sent someone to collect him and bring him back, upset he had translated the text without permission.

Like any such scripture, it is based almost entirely on material from Indian texts.

It is perhaps best to see such scriptures as digested forms of earlier material.
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