Translations from the Taishō Tripiṭaka
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The Buddhist texts presented below are original English translations from the Taishō Tripiṭaka, the most widely used edition of the Chinese Buddhist canon. The great majority of texts in this canon have never been translated into English, and their original translation into Chinese was a large scale effort spanning approximately eight hundred years. A selection of texts from this canon into English are available below. These begin with some foundational works from the Āgamas, and continue on to the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras and other genres. Translations below include the Diamond Sūtra and the Heart Sūtra.
Gāthā for opening a sūtra:
The highest, most profound and subtle Dharma,
In billions of eons is most difficult to encounter;
I now see, hear, receive, accept, and uphold,
Vowing to fathom the Tathāgata’s true meaning.
Āgama division (阿含部)
T02n99: Saṃyukta Āgama
Translated by Trepiṭaka Guṇabhadra circa 435-443 CE, as Za Ahan Jing (雜阿含經). The Saṃyukta Āgama is an early collection of short Buddhist texts organized by topic. This edition of the Saṃyukta Āgama comes from the Sarvāstivāda monastic sect in India, and contains some of the foundational texts of Buddhism such as the Dharmacakra Pravartana Sūtra (SA 379), in which Śākyamuni Buddha turns the Dharma Wheel by teaching the Four Noble Truths at the deer park of Ṛṣipatana. According to the sūtra commentaries in the Yogācārabhūmi Śāstra, the Saṃyukta Āgama was the earliest āgama collection.
- SA 34: Five Bhikṣus PDF
- SA 301: Kātyāyana Gotra PDF
- SA 379: Turning the Dharma Wheel PDF
- SA 474: Subsiding PDF
- SA 801: Ānāpānasmṛti Dharmas PDF
T02n125: Ekottarika Āgama
Translated by Trepiṭaka Dharmanandi in 384-385 CE, as Zengyi Ahan Jing (增壹阿含經). The Ekottarika Āgama is another large collection of early Buddhist texts, which follows a numeric organizational principle from which the collection derives its name. This translation is often thought to come from the Dharmaguptaka monastic sect in India, and contains a version of the Ānāpānasmṛti Sūtra (EA 17.1), which teaches methods of cultivating mindfulness of the vital breath for the attainment of samādhi. This text also describes related subjects such as the Four Dhyānas and seeing past lives.
Prajñā division (般若部)
Translated by Trepiṭaka Mandrasena in 503 CE, as Wenshushili Suoshuo Mohe Bore Boluomi Jing (文殊師利所說摩訶般若波羅蜜經). In the early years of the 6th century CE, Trepiṭaka Mandrasena came to China from the Southeast Asian country of Funan, an Indianized country in Southeast Asia, which is now Cambodia. Here, he translated the Mahāprajñāpāramitā Mañjuśrīparivarta Sūtra, the Prajñāpāramitā teachings of Mañjuśrī Bodhisattva. After its translation into Chinese, this text was widely studied, and was influential for the Tiantai and Chan schools. In later Indian classifications, this text was called the Saptaśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, meaning the Prajñāpāramitā of 700 lines.
Translated by Trepiṭaka Kumārajīva in 401 CE, as Jin’gang Bore Boluomi Jing (金剛般若波羅蜜經). This is the famous Diamond Sūtra, translated from the earliest known text. This sūtra presents a teaching given by the Buddha to Elder Subhūti on the subject of how to attain complete enlightenment. During the Liang Dynasty, this text was divided into 32 main sections, and Kumārajīva’s translation in 32 sections then became the standard edition used throughout East Asia. At the end of the Taishō edition is a mantra following the sūtra text, and this has been included as well. Although this work is popularly called the Diamond Sūtra, the Sanskrit term vajracchedikā is clarified by Xuanzang and Yijing as meaning, “able to cut diamond” (能斷金剛 neng duan jin’gang). In the later period of Indian Buddhism, the Vajracchedikā was also called the Triśatikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, meaning the Prajñāpāramitā of 300 lines.
Translated by Trepiṭaka Dharma Master Xuanzang in 649 CE, as Bore Boluomiduo Xinjing (般若波羅蜜多心經). Also known as the Heart Sūtra, this is a very short sūtra of Prajñāpāramitā teachings, along with a meditation method in the form of a mantra as skillful means. This original short version has been popularly recited and studied across many traditions, and continues to be extremely popular in modern times. As the “Heart of Prajñāpāramitā,” this text is regarded as containing the essence of all other Prajñāpāramitā teachings. The version presented here is the translation made by Dharma Master Xuanzang, which is the most widely used edition.
Translated by Trepiṭaka Prajñā in 790 CE, as Bore Boluomiduo Xinjing (般若波羅蜜多心經). The Prajñāpāramitā Hṛdaya Sūtra, or Heart Sūtra, exists principally in a short version and in two differing longer versions. The translation presented here is of the standard long version, which is the same basic version of the text that is popular in Tibetan Buddhism. Both short and long versions are still extant in Sanskrit, and these correspond very closely to the short and long editions of the sūtra presented here. The longer sūtra provides valuable context for the main teaching of the text, including statements clearly indicating that Prajñāpāramitā is the essential practice for bodhisattvas, rather than mere philosophy.
Ratnakūṭa division (寶積部)
Translated by Trepiṭaka Kumārajīva in 402 CE, as Fo Shuo Emituo Jing (佛說阿彌陀經). Also known as the Amitābha Sūtra, this text describes the buddha-land of Sukhāvatī and how to enter into this realm, through various skillful means and explanations of truth. The sūtra advocates the practice of reciting the name of Amitābha as a mantra. At the end of the Taishō edition is a dhāraṇī for rebirth in Sukhāvatī, along with instructions for it passed down from another Indian master, and this section has been included. Additionally, a Buddhist monk in Europe has translated this English edition into a new Polish translation of the Shorter Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra.
Esoteric division (密教部)
Translated by Trepiṭaka Divākara in 685 CE, as Fo Shuo Qijuzhi Fomuxin Da Zhunti Tuoluoni Jing (佛說七俱胝佛母心大准提陀羅尼經). In this sūtra, the Buddha teaches the Cundī Dhāraṇī to help people in later times. The dhāraṇī is introduced for the first time in the Kāraṇḍavyūha Sūtra, in which a bodhisattva endeavors in attaining samādhi using the mantra “oṃ maṇipadme hūṃ.” At the end of the sūtra, the bodhisattva finally succeeds in using the mantra to attain this samādhi, and then innumerable perfectly enlightened buddhas reply in one voice with the Great Cundī Dhāraṇī. To accompany this translation, there is also an introductory article on the Dharma gateway of the Cundī Dhāraṇī.
Yogācāra division (瑜伽部類)
Translated by Trepiṭaka Dharma Master Xuanzang in 648 CE, as Weishi Sanshi Lun Song (唯識三十論頌). This work is commonly called Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only, and is a core text of the Consciousness Only school of Buddhism, also called Yogācāra or Vijñānavāda. The thirty verses in this work were composed by Vasubandhu Bodhisattva in order to teach the subtle truth that all perceived phenomena are manifestations of consciousness. For this work, the original verses by Vasubandhu were translated, without commentary.