The Surangama Sutra

The Surangama Sutra <<大佛頂首楞嚴經>>, a detailed and thorough direction for spiritual practice, has been considered one of the most important Buddhist texts, especially in the Chan (禪) Buddhism tradition. There is even a Chinese saying 「自從一讀楞嚴後,不看人間糟粕書」– “Once you have read (and realized) the teachings of Surangama Sutra, all other books on Earth appear to be waste of time”.

In other words, if you had to choose one book/sutra to read, the Surangama Sutra would be the one.

Therefore, I decided to spend time combing through the English translation, one section at a time, making it as stress-free to read as possible. It would be too much an unfortunate loss, if we’re intimidated by the ancient Chinese text and gave up making efforts to appreciate it.

In the strenuous process of sorting out a version of translation that hopefully might be more understandable at least for myself, I certainly feel wonderstruck by the omnipotent powers of the Buddha Wisdom, yet meanwhile constantly feeling so powerless that all we can use to communicate such impossible Intelligence is our mundane, inadequate, worldly language.

So rudimentary and inept our languages are! They’re only made for spreading small-minded opinions, stirring up unhelpful dualistic notions, and distorting any true meaning worthy of conveying. How could they possibly present and transmit the Buddha’s subtle and sublime teachings felicitously, accurately and precisely? But before we could uplift ourselves to higher dimensions through learning and practicing, and hopefully would become truly skillful and helpful one day, we just have to make do with such primitive, expedient, imperfect tools.

Opening Verse for the Sutra

It is such a blessing to encounter
This supreme, sophisticated, subtle and sublime wisdom.
Now that I have gone through hundreds of millions of lifetimes,
And finally get to see it and hear it, to receive it and practice it,
I must work hard to realize the truth in the Tathagata’s teachings!


Chapter One – The Nature and Location of the Mind

Section 1: The Quest for Spiritual Enlightenment

Section 2 – (1) Is the Mind Inside or Outside the Body?

Section 2 – (2) Is the Mind in the Eyes?

Section 2 – (3) Does the Mind Come into Being in Response to Conditions?

Section 2 – (4) Is the Mind in the Middle?

Section 2 – (5) Or Perhaps the Mind Has No Specific Location?

Section 3: The Ordinary Mind and the Original Mind

Chapter Two – The Nature of Visual Awareness

Section 1: It Is the Mind That Sees

Section 2: Visual Awareness Does Not Move

Section 3: Visual Awareness Does Not Perish

Section 4: All Phenomena Returnable to Causes Are Unreal

Section 5: Discriminative Perceptions Are Unreal

Section 6: Eliminating Discrimination and Revealing the Essential Bodhi

Section 7: Visual Awareness Arises Neither on Its Own Nor from Causes

Section 8: The True Visual Awareness

Section 9: Distortions in Visual Awareness Are Due to Karma

Section 10: Eradicating Any Residue of the False

Chapter Three – The Matrix of the Buddha Mind

Section 1: The Five Aggregates

Section 2: The Six Entrances of Illusions

Section 3: The Twelve Ayatana (Six Sense Organs & Six Sense Data)

Section 4: The Eighteen Realms of Perception

Section 5: The Seven Primary Elements

Chapter Four – The Arising of This World of Illusion

Section 1: A Meditative Study of Understanding and Enlightenment

Section 2: The Buddha’s Enlightenment Is Uncreated and Never-ending

Section 3: The Intermingling of the Primary Elements

Section 4: The Parable of Yajnadatta

Chapter Five – Instructions for Self-Enlightenment

Section 1: Five Layers of Cloudiness

Section 2: Choosing One Faculty as the Portal of Meditation

(To be continued)

Closing Verse

May the merit of this practice
Adorn all Buddhas’ Pure Lands.
Repay the kindness we received,
And relieve the suffering in the world.
Anyone who sees and hears it,
Will activate their Buddha Mind and Bodhi Heart.
Once our accumulated karmas have been purified,
May we all be reborn in the Land of Ultimate Bliss!

The Surangama Mantra