A sutra (Sanskrit for “thread”) is a written work in the belief systems of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism which is understood to accurately preserve important teachings of the respective faiths and guide an adherent on the path from ignorance and entrapment in the endless cycle of rebirth and death (samsara) toward spiritual liberation. A sutra is, therefore, regarded as an integral aspect of the scripture of these respective faiths. The works are known as sutras because, like a thread (or twine or string), they bind in written form a previously oral tradition. The term was almost certainly also initially descriptive since the works were written on leaves or pressed bamboo slats which were then bound together with thread.
The Hindu Vedas were preserved in oral form before being committed to writing during the Vedic Period (c. 1500 - c. 500 BCE) and so were the scriptures of Jainism, known as the Agamas, whose written form dates from the 6th-3rd centuries BCE, with later sutras dating up through the 5th century CE, and those of Buddhism from the 1st century BCE - 6th century CE. Most sutras fit the above definition of authoritative representations of the original words of foundational sages, but a number are manuals on how one should conduct one's self, on political matters, or relate criticism and commentary on various other subjects.
Hinduism (known by adherents as Sanatan Dharma, “Eternal Order”) maintains that it has no founder and its tenets were relayed by Brahman, creator of the universe and the Universe itself, who spoke the Vedas (knowledge) directly to humanity and its sutras, a part of the Vedas, are therefore considered wholly divine in origin. The sutras of Jainism purport to preserve the original teachings of the 24th tirthankara (“ford builder”), the sage Vardhamana (better known as Mahavira l. c. 599-527 BCE). The Jain sutras are also known as suyas and provide adherents with the essential guidelines for navigating a meaningful life toward the goal of liberation. The sutras of Buddhism (also known as suttas) follow the same paradigm in that they are understood as the authentic words of the sage Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha, l. 563 - c. 483 BCE) which were memorized by one of his closest disciples and later committed to writing to preserve his vision.
The sutras serve as a kind of handbook guiding one toward recognition of a higher, & more meaningful, life.
The sutras of each faith have informed the belief systems from generation to generation down through the ages and are still referred to for guidance and proper understanding. Each of these belief system's sutras differ, sometimes significantly, from each other but their essential message is the same: humans are held in bondage through ignorance of the true nature of existence and, by freeing one's self from this bondage, one can attain complete spiritual liberation and break the cycle of rebirth and death.
Ignorance of the true nature of life and one's self causes the soul to experience repeated incarnations in a physical body which must suffer sickness, loss, old age, and death and blinds one to transformative possibilities; the sutras serve as a kind of handbook guiding one toward recognition of a higher, and more meaningful, life. The works have been copied and preserved multiple times, in many different languages, since they were first committed to writing and still serve to guide adherents in the present day.
Hinduism & the Nastika Schools
As noted, Hinduism claims to have no founder as its tenets are said to have been first transmitted from the Universe directly to humanity. According to the belief system, the entity known as Brahman – creator and overseer of the universe and the Universe itself – set all things in motion and maintains them. Brahman is recognized as far too overwhelmingly majestic to be comprehended by a mortal mind, however and, remaining remote but still wishing for contact with humans, placed a divine spark of itself within each individual.
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This spark is known as the atman, and each person's atman links the individual to all other humans and all other living things as well as to Brahman. The purpose of life, according to Hinduism, is to be faithful to one's dharma (duty), a responsibility no one else can perform, in accordance with one's karma (right action) in order to escape from the cycle of rebirth and death and attain oneness with one's atman, which then draws one naturally back to unity with Brahman.
This knowledge of the Eternal Order and the nature of life was spoken by Brahman in vibrations which were “heard” by Indian sages of the ancient past who preserved them in oral form. During the Vedic Period, these “vibrations” were committed to writing as the Vedas. At some point around 600 BCE, a general upheaval of social, political, and religious thought occurred in India which led some religious thinkers and reformers to question the basic tenets of Hinduism and its practices.
The Vedas, after all, were written in Sanskrit – a language the common people could not understand – and so were interpreted for them by the Hindu clergy who lived at a level of luxury far above the common lot. Further, the Hindu priests told the people that whatever they might be suffering or think they were suffering, it was all a part of the Eternal Order and no one should complain.
This perceived injustice led to a reformation movement, which resulted in a splintering of orthodox Hinduism. Many different schools were established which either agreed with the Hindu vision or dispensed with it to create their own. Those schools which recognized the divine authority of the Vedas were known as astika (“there exists”) while those which rejected orthodoxy and embraced heterodoxy were known as nastika (“there does not exist”). The three nastika schools which received the most attention and attracted the most followers were Charvaka, Jainism, and Buddhism.
Sutras, are known as Smritis (“what is remembered”) in that they preserve the concepts, teachings, & interpretations relating to the Vedas by earlier sages.
Charvaka, founded c. 600 BCE by the reformer Brhaspati, completely rejected the supernatural aspects of Hinduism and claimed that direct, personal experience was the only way of establishing truth. The Charvakan school, emphasizing materialism as reality, also maintained that anything that was not able to be apprehended by the senses did not exist, that the observable elements of air, earth, fire, and water are all that do exist, that religion is an invention of the strong to control the weak, and that the pursuit of one's personal understanding of pleasure is the meaning and goal of life.
Charvakan emphasis on the practical and empirical would influence the development of the scientific method in India and open possibilities for advancement in many fields which would never have been explored by the earlier orthodox theism which informed the thoughts of the people. The school's insistence on pleasure for pleasure's sake as the end goal in life, and its denial of an afterlife of rewards and punishments, failed to meet the needs of the people, however, and led to its decline. No Charvaka sutras have ever been discovered, and all that is known of the philosophy comes from later Buddhist and Jain texts which denounce it.
Hindu sutras, on the other hand, are well known and have exerted a powerful influence on the lives of adherents, and world spirituality since they were first committed to writing. According to Hindu belief, that which Brahman originally spoke is known as Shruti (“what is heard”) and applies to the Vedas. Other texts, including the sutras, are known as Smritis (“what is remembered”) in that they preserve the concepts, teachings, and interpretations relating to the Vedas by earlier sages. There are a significant number of Hindu sutras and, owing to considerations of space, only a few will be discussed here.
Brahma Sutras: Composed between c. 200 BCE and 200 CE, the earliest form of this text is attributed to the sage Badarayana, associated with Veda Vyasa, the traditional author of the great Indian epic Mahabharata. The Brahma Sutras discuss the fundamental nature of Brahman, provide commentary on the Upanishads, and criticize unorthodox schools of thought such as Buddhism, Jainism, Samkhya, and Yoga. It is the foundational text of the Vedanta school of Hinduism, one of the six astika schools formed after c. 600 BCE, and maintains the orthodox Hindu tradition of the Vedic Period.
Nyaya Sutras: Composed c. 300 BCE by the Vedic sage Gautama, this text comprises the view of another of the early astika schools, the Nyaya, whose primary focus was epistemology: how one knows what one knows. The work presents the four pramanas (ways of establishing truth/foundations of knowledge): sense perception, inference, comparison, testimony of an expert. The Nyaya school was primarily responsible for turning people away from Buddhism by debating Buddhist teachers publicly and defeating them.
Yoga Sutras: Composed between c. 100 BCE - c. 500 CE and attributed to the sage Patanjali, this is the classic text on the philosophy and practice of yoga (“discipline”). There are many different kinds of yoga other than hatha yoga (which most people, especially in the West, know as “yoga”) such as jian yoga (intellectual discipline) or bhakti yoga (devotional discipline). The Yoga Sutras are the foundational text of the Yoga Darshana (philosophy of yoga) and the most popular of the Hindu sutras overall.
Samkhya Sutra: The date of composition is unknown as it is attributed to the Vedic sage Kapila (dates unknown but possibly c. 620 BCE), founder of the astika school of Samkhya which emphasized rationalism and the duality of spirit and matter. Samkhya philosophy informs Yoga and so the Samkhya Sutra is often paired, with the Yoga Sutra in that the former establishes the spiritual condition and the latter addresses how one responds to it. Kapila, whose philosophy may have influenced the Buddha's later thought, introduced the concept of the three qualities of the soul to Hinduism known as the gunas (Sattva=Wisdom; Rajas=Passion; Tamas=Confusion), which became central to the belief system.
Kama Sutra: Composed c. 300 BCE by the sage Vatsyayana, the Kama Sutra is another of the best-known Hindu texts in the West. Although it is often wrongly referenced as an esoteric “sex manual”, it is actually a treatise on the spiritual value of erotic love, sensory pleasure as a divine gift, and romantic attachment as a means to higher understanding and personal fulfillment.
Jainism maintains an ancient and divine origin on par with Hinduism, also claiming that its basic tenets were first “heard” by sages long ago who are known as tirthankaras. A tirthankara (“ford builder”) is an enlightened soul who constructs spiritual “bridges” over the difficult aspects of existence, enabling others to cross over them and pursue the spiritual discipline which will release them from the suffering of samsara and grant liberation. The 24th tirthankara to appear from the time of the first revelation was Mahavira, and the Jain sutras contain his teachings.
There are a number of Jain sutras which are regularly consulted by adherents such as the Chedasutras, Culikasutras, Malasutras, and Prakinasutras, but the foundational text is the Tattvartha Sutra (composed 2nd-5th centuries CE) which presents and expounds upon the essential vision of Mahavira including the Five Vows and the Seven Truths. Jainism redefines the Hindu concept of karma as action to mean karma as physical entrapment. The soul attracts karmic particles, becomes incarnated, believes it is the physical body it inhabits, and suffers accordingly, blindly subjecting itself to endless incarnations on the wheel of samsara.
The Tattvartha Sutra presents the Seven Truths one must recognize to begin the process of awakening:
- Jiva: The soul exists
- Ajiva: Non-sentient matter exists
- Aasrava: Karmic particles exist which are attracted to the soul
- Bandha: These karmic particles adhere to the soul and cause incarnation
- Samvar: The attraction of karmic particles to the soul can be stopped
- Nirjara: Karmic particles can be caused to fall away from the soul
- Moksha: Liberation from bondage is achieved once karmic particles are released
After recognizing the Seven Truths, one commits to the Five Vows:
- Ahimsa (non-violence)
- Satya (speaking the truth)
- Asteya (non-stealing)
- Brahmacharya (chastity or faithfulness to a spouse)
- Aparigraha (non-attachment)
The Jain adherent then proceeds through 14 spiritual steps which lead the individual, under the guidance of the teachings of the tirthankara, to liberation. At the end of one's path, one either dies and is freed from rebirth or remains to teach others and become a "ford builder".
Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, traditionally understood to have been a Hindu prince who became disillusioned with the ephemeral nature of life and renounced his position to pursue a spiritual path, leading to his enlightenment. Upon attaining awareness, he understood that people suffered (and so bound themselves to the wheel of endless suffering through samsara) because they failed to understand that the nature of life was constant change. In trying to hold on to ever-changing experiences as permanent states, one trapped one's self in a cycle of craving and fear which one could free one's self from through acknowledgement of the Four Noble Truths and the spiritual discipline of the Eightfold Path.
The canonical scriptures of Buddhism, written by the Buddha's students after his death, are known as the Tripitaka (“three baskets”) because they are made up of three categories of teachings: the Vinaya, the Sutta Pitaka, and the Abhidhamma which, respectively, address monastic life and conduct, the teachings of the Buddha, and commentary/analysis of those teachings. Other Buddhist sutras comment on or explain aspects of the Tripitaka or address and expand upon the core beliefs it expresses.
As with the other two belief systems, there are many Buddhist sutras but the best-known is the foundational text of a collection of 38 sutras under the title Prajnaparamita – Perfection of Wisdom. These sutras were composed between c. 50 BCE - c. 600 CE and the two most famous are the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra. The Diamond Sutra derives its name from a line of the Buddha's in which he states that the discourse should be so named because it will cut through ignorance like a diamond. The work addresses the difference between what one perceives as reality and true reality as well as how definitions of aspects of reality separate one from actual reality. Calling a piece of furniture with a flat surface and four legs a “table”, for example, prevents one from seeing the true nature of that object; one labels it a “table”, becomes comfortable with that definition, and never recognizes its true nature could be something different. In the same way, labels which are applied to anything separate one from true reality. The Diamond Sutra, like the rest of the works in Perfection of Wisdom, seeks to engage a reader fully in discarding accepted illusions and awakening to full awareness.
The Heart Sutra, composed c. 660 CE, is a summary of the earlier sutras which distills their meaning to present a focused treatise on the importance of discarding illusion and recognizing truth. The Heart Sutra is the most popular and widely read Buddhist work, regularly recited, in whole or in part, by Buddhists of the Mahayana school who often memorize long passages from it. Through a series of dialogues, the work draws an audience toward the experience known as sunyata (“clear vision”), a state of mind in which one can rightly tell reality from illusion and is liberated from the ignorance which imprisons the soul and causes one to suffer.
The reformist efforts of the nastika schools succeeded in establishing wholly new belief systems but Hinduism retained its hold on the religious imagination of the majority of the populace. The efforts of the Nyaya school, especially, dissuaded many from accepting Buddhist and Jain doctrines and Buddhism remained a small philosophical sect until it was embraced by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka the Great (r. 268-232 BCE) who not only popularized the Buddha's teachings in India, but sent missionaries to spread his vision to other countries including Sri Lanka, China, Korea, and Thailand where it became far more popular than it had been (or remains even now) in its homeland.
Chinese Buddhists embarked on pilgrimage to India, and some, such as the famous traveler Xuanzang (l. 602-664 CE), translated numerous Buddhist sutras into Chinese and brought them back to China. Among these was the Diamond Sutra, which was later printed from wooden blocks of text pressed to paper in 868 CE, pre-dating the Gutenberg Bible by centuries and establishing the Diamond Sutra as the first known printed book in the world.
Although the sutras of Hinduism and Jainism have exerted their own significant levels of influence outside of India, Buddhist sutras are the most widely known simply because of its adoption by so many people of other nationalities. The works of all three religions complement each other, however, far more than they disagree on the essential message of ignorance as the foundation of human suffering and compassion as the first step toward a meaningful life and liberation from illusion.
They spoke manifold vernacular languages. Buddhist scriptures including the Lotus Sutra were translated into their respective tongues and spead over the areas along the Silk Road. Scaling the towering Karakoram Range and traversing the burning Taklamakan Desert, the scriptures were transmitted to China. Buddhism passed from China to Korea through Japan has a great influence on the culture, politics and society of East Asia.
The Establishment of the Lotus Sutra
The Birth of Mahayana Scriptures
Creation of Images of the Buddha
Fusion Between Eastern and Western Civilizations
Chinese Monks Travel to India
In Pursuit of Buddhist Teachings
Lotus Sutra in Korea
Thoughts of the Lotus Sutra in Korea
613 CE) of Goguryeo went to China in 596, studied under Great Teacher Tiantai Zhiyi. Wonhyo(617
686CE) of Silla is very famous for study of the Avatamska Sutra, he also showed a special attention in the Lotus Sutra, left 《Core of the Lotus Sutra》 Wonhyo, a monk of Silla, in Core of the Lotus Sutra describes the cadence and essence of 'the Lotus Sutra' Photo Credit line:Academy of Korean Studies
970) and Uitong went to China to rebuild the Chinese Tiantai school, and also handed down the idea of Lotus Sutra. After that, Uicheon(1055
Background of the Diamond Sutra
“The word sutra is the most common term for a Buddhist scripture, so that Buddhists refer to the sutras just as Christians might speak of the Bible.
But although it tends to be used so generally, sutra has a specific meaning.
It comes from a word meaning ‘a thread: so it suggests a number of topics strung together on a common thread of discourse.
The form of a sutra is almost always the same.
First you get a description of where the discourse was given, what was going on, and who was present. That is followed by the main body of the text, which usually consists of a teaching of the Dharma, the real truth, by the Buddha himself. The sutra then ends with an account of the effect of the Buddha’s teaching on the people listening.
It is important to understand that whatever is said in the body of a sutra is not just issuing from the ordinary level of consciousness.
It isn’t something that has been worked out intellectually.
It isn’t a proof or an explanation of something in the mundane sense.
It is a truth, a message, even a revelation, issuing from the depths of the Enlightened consciousness, the depths of the Buddha nature.
This is the essential content of any Buddhist scripture, and this is its purpose: to communicate the nature of Enlightenment and show the way leading to its realization.”
A Brief History of The Diamond Sutra
The World’s Earliest Dated Printed Book
Diamond Sutra. Cave 17, Dunhuang, ink on paper
British Library Or.8210/ P.2
Copyright © The British Library Board
From “Landmarks in Printing: Diamond Sutra”:
“Hidden for centuries in a sealed-up cave in north-west China, this copy of the ‘Diamond Sutra’ is the world’s earliest complete survival of a dated printed book. It was made in AD 868. Seven strips of yellow-stained paper were printed from carved wooden blocks and pasted together to form a scroll over 5m long. Though written in Chinese, the text is one of the most important sacred works of the Buddhist faith, which was founded in India. Although not the earliest example of a printed book, it is the oldest we have bearing a date. By the time it was made, block-printing had been practised in the Far East for more than a century. The quality of the illustration at the opening of this ‘Diamond Sutra’ shows the carver of the printing blocks to have been a man of considerable experience and skill.
This scroll was found in 1907 by the archaeologist Sir Marc Aurel Stein in a walled-up cave at the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’, near Dunhuang, in North-West China. It was one of a small number of printed items among many thousands of manuscripts, comprising a library which must have been sealed up in about AD 1000. Although not the earliest example of blockprinting, it is the earliest which bears an actual date.
The colophon, at the inner end, reads: ‘Reverently [caused to be] made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his two parents on the 13th of the 4th moon of the 9th year of Xiantong [i.e. 11th May, AD 868]’. ”
Diamond Sutra Scroll Photo
According to National Library of Peking in 1961, the Diamond Sutra is described as: “The Diamond Sutra, printed in the year 868….is the world’s earliest printed book, made of seven strips of paper joined together with an illustration on the first sheet which is cut with great skill.” The writer adds: “This famous scroll was stolen over fifty years ago by the Englishman Ssu-t’an-yin [Stein] which causes people to gnash their teeth in bitter hatred.” It is currently on display in the British Museum. The scroll, some sixteen feet long, 17 an half feet long and 10 and half inches wide, bears the following inscription: ” reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Jie on behalf of his parents on the fifteenth of the fourth moon of the ninth year of Xian Long (May 11, 868)”
Methodology: How This New Translation Was Done
This new translation was created by taking 15 different previous translations of the Diamond Sutra and carefully reviewing them line by line.
Each chapter was reconstructed line by line, word by word, by comparing each of these different translations.
This new translation kept every element that was common through each of the other 15 translations.
In some cases some translations had more text, and others less. Where the text seemed to be “embellishment” or repetition that I did not believe was necessary to the message I left it out.
If there was any doubt on my part I tended to leave words or passages in rather than remove them if they seemed to work with the tone or tenor of the passage.
I left out most of the long names or names of locations, such as Anathapindika, which was the location in the Jeta Grove where the Buddha spoke.
I also left out words like Tathagata, the Arhat, Bodhisattvas, Bhagavat, Mahasattvas, Bhikshus, Nirvana, Anuttarasamyaksambodhi, and annutara-samyak-sambodhicitta. In every case I came up with a simple word which kept the spirit of the Sutra while making it easier to read.
For forms of address I chose “Most Honored One” or “Buddha” to refer to the Buddha.
I chose this over other forms in other translations such as these: “World-Honored One”, “O Lord”, “O Well-Gone”, “Tathagata”, “Arhat”, “The Fully Enlightened One”, “The Lord”, “O Sugata”, and “Thus Come One”.
There is a balance between a very “formal” style in some translations, and overly “familiar” styles present in some others. This translation finds a middle ground, maintaining and respecting the seriousness of the setting and message, while avoiding cumbersome phrases or attempting to “dumb down” the style presented in the bulk of the other translations.
For example, one translation had the phrase “So listen up, Subhuti”, another translation had “Buddha replied: Listen carefully”, a third said “Therefore, O Subhuti, listen and take it to heart, well and rightly”, and finally another said “Please listen with all of your attention and the Tathagata will respond to your question”.
The final translation that I came up with in this instance is this: “Listen carefully with your full attention, and I will speak to your question.”
After reviewing each chapter line by line, word by word, I worked the final translation over one more time to make any minor adjustments that would make the text flow more like our modern language.
The resulting translation presented here is one that is true to every line and every word of the original Sutra, as passed on through these 15 earlier translations.
Finally, you will find below a list of the other translations I used in preparing this new translation.
I hope you enjoy this site and come back often to read this wonderful Buddhist text, and feel free to show your support for this work presented here by donating to the hosting, registration, and upkeep of this website. Just click here to support this site.
Other Translations Used In Creating This New Translation
The Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra – A Translation of the Diamond Sutra.
Translation on Buddhism Today
The Oldest Printed Text in the World – The Diamond Sutra
Note: the sites below are no longer available. The translation used on this website was completed in 2003, and all of these sites were active at the time.
www.Sinc.sunysb.edu – (Link No Longer Available)
www.io.com – (Link No Longer Available)
www.buddhistinformation.com – (Link No Longer Available)
www.buddhistinformation.com 2 – (Link No Longer Available)
www.buddhismtoday.com – (Link No Longer Available)
www.buddhismtoday.com 2 – (Link No Longer Available)
www.community.palouse.net – (Link No Longer Available)
cameron/texts/diamond.html – (Link No Longer Available)v
www.buddhistinformation.com 2 – (Link No Longer Available)
www.buddhistinformation.com 3 – (Link No Longer Available)
www.gruntose.com – (Link No Longer Available)
www.terebess.hu – (Link No Longer Available)
There are also three other web sites that had translations that are no longer available.
* To begin reading the Diamond Sutra just Click Here for Chapter 1.
The emphasis of this particular area is the use of prostitutes by men.
The Occult features in the last part of the Kama Sutra which discusses ways to maintain an exciting sexual relationship such as personal grooming, scented oils and perfumes as well as home cures for sexual ailments like erectile dysfunction.
All things considered, the Kama Sutra can be viewed as a guide to the philosophy of life through the lens of sexual desire.
It teaches how one can fulfill their sexual desire in a healthy way that maitains the fabric of Society and family life whilst ensuring that the individual’s authentic sexual desires are fulfilled because they are recognised as legitimate and fundamental.
Check out the Kama Sutra Positions image gallery as well as the complete Kama Sutra Audiobook below.
I also talk about digital culture and it's relationship to modern spirituality, specifically (but not limited to) modern Western Buddhism. I post about music too, I can't help it. I favor hasitly written original content. I always accept questions and comments.
I am also a writer of no consequence, and I co-founded a company to pursue creative interests. We have a lot of projects going on, I'll try to make it easy to check on those specific projects..
Formatted to be iPad/etc friendly, just in case you needed something enlightening to read while your on the can.
No one actually knows who the specific authorship of the heart sutra belongs too. It is assumed that the sutra came from a Sarvastivada monk from the Kushan Empire. The oldest portions of the sutra are thought to come from some of the earliest wisdom scriptures of the Indian School/s that went on to become Mahayana Buddhism.
It can be argued that the heart sutra is in fact the origin of Mahayana (and thus, the finger that pushed the second great turning of the wheel of dharma)
The earliest portions of the Heart Sutra can be traced to about 100 BCE, in a document of 8000 lines. It wasn&rsquot until much later that the Heart Sutra came into being, as we know it today (250-500 CE). There is evidence of the earliest forms of the sutra itself as early as 250-300 CE.
The Heart Sutra&rsquos influence as felt today can really be traced to a specific monk, Xuanzang (or Hsuan-Tsang) [<- This is the guy that inspired Journy To the West]. Xuanzang undertook a 17 year journey from his native China to India, over land. When he returned, Xuanzang brought back with him volumes of sacred Buddhists texts that he set about translating into Chinese, among them was &lsquoThe Heart of the Perfection of Transcendental Wisdom&rsquo, or more simply the Heart Sutra as it is known today. He brought three copies back with him, to insure translational accuracy for his Chinese version.
It is this very document and translation that we still meditate upon today. Xuanzang&rsquos translation is seen as the original source material and even today&rsquos translations and commentaries are based on his 'original&rsquo translation.
The Complete Illustrated Kama Sutra
- Author : Lance Dane
- Publisher : Inner Traditions
- Release Date : 2003-10-07
- Genre: Psychology
- Pages : 320
- ISBN 10 : 0892811382
A fully illustrated Kama Sutra from the extraordinary and rare art collection of Lance Dane • The first complete translation to illustrate all 64 sexual postures described in the Kama Sutra • Includes 269 rare images • Composed by one of the world’s foremost scholars of the Kama Sutra and Indian art The erotic sentiments described in the Hindu love classic the Kama Sutra constitute the most famous work on sex ever created. Written almost 2,000 years ago, the Kama Sutra deals with all aspects of sexual life, including the principles and techniques of sexual pleasure and how to best achieve ecstatic expression of life’s beauty. In this complete and illustrated guide Lance Dane accompanies the Kama Sutra text with 269 illustrations and great works of art that encompass coins, palm leaf manuscripts, sculptures, ancient toys, jewelry, architecture, ivory combs, birch bark, cloth, paintings, frescoes, and scrolls. Gathered from museums and private collections around the world—as well as the author’s own collection of over 300,000 photographs—these rare images clearly illustrate all 64 sexual positions and the erotic instructions set forth in the Kama Sutra. The result is a dazzling and sensuous reading experience through which the teachings of the Kama Sutra spring to life.
The History of the Kama Sutra
The Kama Sutra is one of the most well-known pieces of literature in the world. Most understand the text to be exotic in nature, yet it’s way more than that. Although the original date is unknown, experts estimate the book’s creation to date back to 400 BC. The Kama Sutra is a text on sexuality, eroticism, and even emotional fulfillment in life. Besides being a manual on various sex positions, it is a guide on love, life partners, and living well. This ancient Indian text is surrounded by a fascinating history that has made it so intriguing for centuries.
What Does Kama Sutra Mean?
In Sanskrit, “sutra” means “thread” but it can also mean “text.” Kama translates to “desire, pleasure, love, or sex.” It also happens to be the name of the god of erotic love. When placed together, Kama Sutra is defined as “Teachings on Desire.”
This ancient text was first translated into English in 1883, hundreds of years after first being written.
What is the Kama Sutra About?
Not to most people’s knowledge, the Kama Sutra explains way more than just sex positions. Its chapters discuss various methods for dating, finding a partner, and maintaining sexual chemistry throughout marriage. A major portion of the book is dedicated to the philosophy and theory of romantic love and what triggers desire within the soul of a human being. The Kama Sutra has been discussed by experts as surprisingly liberal for its time. Women are seen as sexual as men, and men should provide women with mind-blowing lovemaking. In fact, fourth-century Hindus celebrated eroticism, believing that life had three distinct purposes: piety, prosperity, and sex. They considered the seeking of sexual pleasure to be a religious quest.
The Kama Sutra is divided into Seven Books. Each Book is dedicated to a different aspect of a man’s life. Book One demonstrates how a man should set up his life for success, while Book Two is the section on perfecting sexual techniques. Book Three speaks on the art of seduction and Book Four is about getting married and providing for your partner. The rest of the Books continue to discuss different aspects of life all the while sharing wisdom on sex and love. All of the Books are worth a read! You might learn something new.
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The Avatamsaka Sutra
I would like to discuss the Buddhist Avatamsaka (= flower ornament) Sutra, which in its wealth of images and lavish splendour is probably unique in world literature. The work is a product of the Mahayana current which was developed in the 1st century CE by forest ascetics in southeast India, from where it spread to the Indian northwest and to Tibet and China and from there to Japan. The Mahayana´s basic components are (1) the Bodhisattva ideal, (2) a glorification of the Buddha in the context of a visionary cosmology, which can be regarded as the most impressive of all religious and philosophical cosmologies, especially in the ´Avatamsaka Sutra´ (1500 pages), and (3) the teaching of ´emptiness´ (shunyata) of all dharmas, which were still regarded as real in the older schools.
The FLOWER ORNAMENT SCRIPTURE, called Avatamsaka in Sanskrit and
Huayan in Chinese, is one of the major texts of Buddhism. Also referred
to as the major Scripture of Inconceivable Liberation, it is perhaps the
richest and most grandiose of all Buddhist scriptures, held in high esteem
by all schools of Buddhism that are concerned with universal liberation.
Its incredible wealth of sensual imagery staggers the imagination and
exercises an almost mesmeric effect on the mind as it conveys a wide
range of teachings through its complex structure, its colorful symbolism,
and its mnemonic concentration formulae.
The beginning of the Sutra:
THUS HAVE I HEARD. At one time the Buddha was in the land of
Magadha, in a state of purity, at the site of enlightenment, having just
realized true awareness. The ground was solid and firm, made of
diamond, adorned with exquisite jewel discs and myriad precious
flowers, with pure clear crystals. The ocean of characteristics of the
various colors appeared over an infinite extent. There were banners of
precious stones, constantly emitting shining light and producing beauti-
ful sounds. Nets of myriad gems and garlands of exquisitely scented
flowers hung all around. The finest jewels appeared spontaneously,
raining inexhaustible quantities of gems and beautiful flowers all over
the earth. There were rows of jewel trees, their branches and foliage
lustrous and luxuriant. By the Buddha’s spiritual power, he caused all
the adornments of this enlightenment site to be reflected therein.
The tree of enlightenment was tall and outstanding. Its trunk was
diamond, its main boughs were lapis lazuli, its branches and twigs were
of various precious elements. The leaves, spreading in all directions,
provided shade, like clouds. The precious blossoms were of various
colors, the branching twigs spread out their shadows. Also the fruits
were jewels containing a blazing radiance. They were together with the
flowers in great arrays. The entire circumference of the tree emanated
light within the light there rained precious stones, and within each gem
were enlightening beings, in great hosts like clouds, simultaneously
Also, by virtue of the awesome spiritual power of the Buddha, the
tree of enlightenment constantly gave forth sublime sounds speaking
various truths without end.
The palace chamber in which the Buddha was situated was spacious
and beautifully adorned. It extended throughout the ten directions. It
was made of jewels of various colors and was decorated with all kinds
of precious flowers. The various adornments emanated lights like clouds
the masses of their reflections from within the palace formed banners.
A boundless host of enlightening beings, the congregation at the site
of enlightenment, were all gathered there: by means of the ability to
manifest the lights and inconceivable sounds of the Buddhas, they
fashioned nets of the finest jewels, from which came forth all the realms
of action of the spiritual powers of the Buddhas, and in which were
reflected images of the abodes of all beings.
Also, by virtue of the aid of the spiritual power of the Buddha, they
embraced the entire cosmos in a single thought.
Their lion seats were high, wide, and beautiful. The bases were made
of jewels, their nets of lotus blossoms, their tableaus of pure, exquisite
gemstones. They were adorned with various flowers of all colors. Their
roofs, chambers, steps, and doors were adorned by the images of all
things. The branches and fruits of jewel trees surrounded them, arrayed
Clouds of radiance of jewels reflected each other: the Buddhas of the
ten directions conjured regal pearls, and the exquisite jewels in the
topknots of all the enlightening beings all emanated light, which came
and illuminated them.
Furthermore, sustained by the spiritual power of all Buddhas, they
expounded the vast perspective of the Enlightened Ones, their subtle
tones extending afar, there being no place they did not reach.
At that time, the Buddha, the World Honored One, in this setting,
attained to supreme, correct awareness of all things. His knowledge
entered into all times with complete equanimity his body filled all
worlds his voice universally accorded with all lands in the ten directions.
Like space, which contains all forms, he made no discrimination among
all objects. And, as space extends everywhere, he entered all lands with
equanimity. His body forever sat omnipresent in all sites of enlightenment.
Among the host of enlightening beings, his awesome light shone
clearly, like the sun emerging, illumining the world. The ocean of myriad
virtues which he practiced in all times was thoroughly pure, and he
constantly demonstrated the production of all the buddha-lands, their
boundless forms and spheres of light extending throughout the entire
cosmos, equally and impartially.
Different Sutras Within Buddhism
During Buddhism's more than 2,500 years of history, several sects have emerged, each with a unique take on the teachings of Buddha and the sutras. The definition of what makes up the sutras varies by the type of Buddhism you follow, including:
Theravada: In Theravadan Buddhism, the sutras in the Pali Canon are thought to be from Buddha's actual spoken words and are the only teachings officially recognized as part of the sutra canon.
Vajrayana: Practitioners of Vajrayana (and Tibetan) Buddhism believe that, in addition to Buddha, respected disciples can, and have, given sutras that are part of the official canon. In these branches of Buddhism, not only are the texts from the Pali Canon accepted but also other texts that are not traced to the original oral recitations of Buddha's disciple, Ananda. Even so, these texts are thought to include truth emanating from Buddha-nature and thus are regarded as sutras.
Mahayana: The largest sect of Buddhism, Mahayana, which branched from Theravadan Buddhism, acknowledges sutras other than those that came from Buddha. The famous "Heart Sutra" from the Mahayana branch is one of the most important sutras that did not come from Buddha. These later sutras, also regarded as essential texts by many Mahayana schools, are included in what is called the Northern or Mahayana Canon.
Sutra - History
Mahayana Buddhist Sutras in English
To help English readers interested in learning more about Mahayana Buddhism, here is a collection of links leading to English translations of Mahayana Buddhist Sutras.
The merits of making these sutras available belong to all the translators. I shall accept neither credit nor reward for this compilation, not from anyone and never in any time. My sincerest thanks to the translators for spreading the words of the Dharma.
For the benefit of all, here is some information on respecting Buddhist Texts.
- Please inform me if you discover slander of the Triple Jewels (The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha) in any hosting site upon verification, I will remove the corresponding link immediately.
- Please inform me if any of the links is wrong or obsolete.
- Please inform me of any error you observe.
- Please forgive me if there are errors in the translations which I have no control over. I do not necessarily agree with the philosophies presented by these hosting sites, but I sincerely appreciate their kindness in making the translations available.
Also, please inform me of other English translations for sutras spoken by the Buddha that are missing from this compilation.
Finally, if you are new to reading a particular Sutra, please read all the different versions to absorb the essential teachings. I humbly recommend the translations from the Buddhist Text Translation Society, with respect to their accuracy and completeness.
Best wishes and thank you for visiting.
Please click on the Chinese title enclosed in frame for viewing the traditional Chinese/Kanji Text in GIF format (no decoding needed)
- The Amitabha Sutra Translated by Dr. Ron Epstein of The Buddhist Text Translation Society
- The Amitabha Sutra Translated by J.C. Cleary
- The Amitabha Sutra Translated by The Dragon Flower Ch'an Temple
- The Amitabha Sutra Translated by Hisao Inagaki (copyrighted material)
- The Smaller Pure Land Sutra Translated by F. Max Muller
- The Smaller Pure Land Sutra Translated by Charles Patton
- The Smaller Pure Land Sutra Translated by Hisao Inagaki
- The Smaller Pure Land Sutra Translated by Nishu Utsuki
- The Avatamsaka Sutra (The Flower Adornment Sutra), Chapter 39 (excerpt) Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society
- The Avatamsaka Sutra (The Flower Adornment Sutra), Chapter 11 (excerpt) Translated by Thomas Cleary
- The Avatamsaka Sutra (The Flower Adornment Sutra), excerpts of Chapter 1 Provided by the Da HuaYen Monastery
- The Avatamsaka Sutra (The Flower Adornment Sutra), Chapter 40 (excerpts) Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society
- The Avatamsaka Sutra (The Flower Adornment Sutra), Chapter 40 (excerpts) (PDF Reader Required) Translated by Upasika Chihmann
- The Avatamsaka Sutra (The Flower Adornment Sutra), (various excerpts, including Chapter 1) Provided by The Buddhist Information Society of North America
- The Avatamsaka Sutra (The Flower Adornment Sutra), (excerpts from Chapter 1,2,33) Translated by Benjamin Root (WARNING: downloading of .chm file required)
- The Sutra On The Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society
- The Sutra On The Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching Provided by SUNY Stony Brook BSPG
- The Diamond Sutra Translated by The Buddhst Text Translation Society
- The Diamond Sutra Translated by E.B. Cowell, F. Max Mulller, and J. Takakusu
- The Diamond Sutra Provided by the Dharma Treasury of the Mandala Society
- The Diamond Sutra Translated by A.F.Price and Wong Mou-Lam
- The Diamond Sutra Translated by Charles Patton
- The Diamond Sutra (PDF Reader Required) Translated by Geshe Michael Roach
- The Diamond Sutra Provided by The Plum Village and SUNY Stony Brook BSPG
- The Diamond Sutra (Incomplete as of 1/2001) Translated by John William
- The Sutra of Forty-Two Sections Translated by John Blofeld
- The Sutra of Forty-Two Sections (rough draft version) Translated by The BTTS with commentaries by Ven. Master Hsuan Hua
- The Sutra of Forty-Two Sections Translated by Kasyapa Matanga and Gobharana
- The Sutra of Forty-Two Sections Translated by Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
- The Sutra of Forty-Two Sections Translated by T.D. Suzuki (copyrighted material)
- The Gangottara Sutra
- The Heart Sutra Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society
- The Heart Sutra Translated by E. Conze
- The Heart Sutra Translated by The Dragon Flower Ch'an Temple
- The Heart Sutra Translated by Allen Ginsberg
- The Heart Sutra Translated by Leon Hurtz
- The Heart Sutra Translated by Truc Huy
- The Heart Sutra Translated by Eric Larson
- The Heart Sutra Translated by Jerry Pevahouse
- The Heart Sutra (PDF Reader Required) Translated by Charles Patton
- The Heart Sutra (PDF Reader Required) Translated by Geshe Michael Roach
- The Heart Sutra Translated by Dharma Master Lok To
- The Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society
- The Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra Translated by Yih-Mei Guo
- The Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra Translated by Pitt Chin Hui
- The Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Sutra Translated by K'un Li Shih
- The Lankavatara Sutra(Chapter 16) Translated by Silfong Tsun
- The Lankavatara Sutra Translated by Suzuki and Goddard
- The Lankavatara Sutra Translated by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
- The Lotus Sutra Translated by The Buddhist Text Translation Society
- The Lotus Sutra Translated by H. Kern
- The Lotus Sutra (Chap. 2, 14, 16, 21, 23) Translated by Leon Hurvitz
- The Lotus Sutra Translated by Burton Watson (copyrighted material)
Mahayana Sutras are emphasized in this site because they are ones which I am familiar with, such that I can uphold them properly. I am shallow and ignorant in my knowledge and I try to not incur malicious karma by misinforming. There are Theravada Sutras which are studied by Mahayana students, and those which I am fortunate enough to be acquainted with will be presented here.
- Digha Nikaya of the Agama Sutta Presented by Access to Insight (John Bullitt)
- Majjhima Nikaya of the Agama Sutta Presented by Access to Insight (John Bullitt)
- Samyutta Nikaya of the Agama Sutta Presented by Access to Insight (John Bullitt)
- Anguttara Nikaya of the Agama Sutta Presented by Access to Insight (John Bullitt)
- Khuddaka Nikaya of the Agama Sutta Presented by Access to Insight (John Bullitt)
If you read Chinese and your system supports BIG5 encoding, then you may want to check out the comprehensive sutra collections provided by Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association or National Taiwan University