The Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra recounts a teaching primarily between the Buddha and a bodhisattva named Mahāmati ("Great Wisdom"). The most important doctrine issuing from the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra is that of the primacy of consciousness (Skt. vijñāna) and the teaching of consciousness as the only reality. In the sūtra, the Buddha asserts that all t...
It is more than seven years now since I began the study of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra quite seriously, but owing to various interruptions I have not been able to carry out my plan as speedily as I wished. My friends in different fields of life have been kind and generous in various ways, and I now send out to the perusal of the English-reading public this humble work of mine. There are yet many difficult and obscure passages in the Sutra, which I have been unable to unravel to my own satisfaction. All such imperfections are to be corrected by competent scholars. I shall be fully content if I have made the understanding of this significant Mahayana text easier than before, even though this may be only to a very slight degree. In China Buddhist scholars profoundly learned and endowed with spiritual insights made three or four attempts extending over a period of about two hundred and fifty years to give an intelligible rendering of the Laṅkāvatāra. It goes without saying that these have helped immensely the present translator. May his also prove a stepping board however feeble towards a fuller interpretation of the Sutra!
The present English translation is based on the Sanskrit edition of Bunyu Nanjo's published by the Otani University Press in 1923.
I am most grateful to Mr Dwight Goddard of Thetford, Vermont, U. S. A., who again helped me by typing the entire manuscript of the present book. To Assist me in this way was indeed part of the object of his third visit to this side of the Pacific. Says Confucius, "Is it not delightful to have a friend come from afar?" The saying applies most appropriately, to this case.
It was fortunate for the writer that he could secure the support and help of the Keimeikwai, a corporation organised to help research work of scholars in various fields of culture; for without it his work might have dragged on yet for some time to come. There is so much to be accomplished before he has to appear at the court of Emma Daiwo, to whom he could say, "Here is my work; humble though it is, I have tried to do my part to the full extent of my power." The writer renders his grateful acknowledgment here to all the advisers of the Society who kindly voted for the speedy culmination of this literary task—a task which he tenderly wishes would do something towards a better appreciation by the West of the sources of Eastern life and culture.
Whatever literary work the present author is able to put before the reader, he cannot pass on without mentioning in it the name of his good, unselfish, public-minded Buddhist friend, Yakichi Ataka, who is always willing to help him in every possible way. If not for him, the author could never have carried out his plans to the extent he has so far accomplished. Materially, no visible results can be expected of this kind of undertaking, and yet a scholar has his worldly needs to meet. Unless we create one of these fine days an ideal community in which every member of it can put forth all his or her natural endowments and moral energies in the direction best fitted to develop them and in the way most useful to all other members generally and individually, many obstacles are sure to bar the passage of those who would attempt things of no commercial value. Until then, Bodhisattvas of all kinds are sorely needed everywhere. And is this not the teaching of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, which in its English garb now lies before his friend as well as all other readers?
Thanks are also due to the writer's wife who went over the whole manuscript to give it whatever literary improvement it possesses, to Mr Hokei Idzumi who gave helpful suggestions in the reading of the original text, and to Professor Yenga Teramoto for his ungrudging cooperation along the line of Tibetan knowledge.
Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki
Kyoto, November, 1931 (the sixth year of Showa)