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After Many Autumns (A Collection of Chinese Buddhist Literature)

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Item Code: NAJ868
Author: John Balcom
Publisher: Buddha Light Art and Living Pvt Ltd
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9789382017004
Pages: 414
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 450 gm
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Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
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More than 1M+ customers worldwide
100% Made in India
100% Made in India
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23 years in business
Book Description
About the Book

Fifteen hundred years of Chinese Buddhist poetry and prose is brought together in After Many Autumns: collecting the voices of monastics, hermits, sages, and scholars as they share China’s Buddhist history in their lives and work. Representing a wide range of subject matters and styles, the collection hums with celebrations of meetings and partings, of lyrical longings for days gone by, of form and emptiness, all against the backdrop of nature’s infusing light and shadow on personal moments of enlightenment. Fluidly translated and annotated, and complete with biographical and historical notes, After Many Autumns is an ideal companion for lovers of impactful writing and spiritual wisdom.


There have been few collections that attempt the goal of After Many Autumns, and none with its specific scope: to collect great works of Chinese Buddhist literature throughout the history of Buddhism in China. Inclusiveness was a guiding principle of the collection. Though much of the writing is drawn from the Chan School, other Buddhist traditions and lineages are included as well. Many of the selected authors are monks, though works by female monastics are also featured, in addition to the writings of rulers, scholars, merchants, and hermits. Poetry is the dominant genre, though several prose works are also included, with several poems realized in beautiful calligraphic script, itself its own separate art form.

What the selected works share is a heritage of Buddhist themes and imagery, in all its staggering variety. The level of Buddhist content of the works vary. Some are direct, doctrinal expositions, others deal with Buddhist concerns, and some are simply informed by a Buddhist aesthetic. What makes these works “Buddhist Literature” is less determined by an investigation into each work or author’s specific religious makeup, and more determined by the generations of Chinese Buddhist readers who have found wisdom and inspiration in the literature collected within.

The other feature that brings the many works included in After Many Autumns together is the Chinese language itself. Translation necessarily involves making decisions of interpretation, and the translation of After Many Autumns was necessarily complicated and multifaceted. The greatest Chinese poetry is often founded upon its ability to offer poignant ambiguity, and to invest depth of meaning into few characters. Additionally, Chinese Buddhist literature often contends with translation itself, and can be awash in Indic concepts and transliteration. Making decisions regarding how to unpack these ambiguities can be difficult, and the editors of this collection have attempted to follow a moderate path: the goal has been to make the translations sensible to an English reader, while preserving moments of mystery and litheness. When an ambiguous passage can be interpreted in a Buddhist fashion or as plain language, the Buddhist interpretation has prevailed, and explanatory notes provided to explain its significance.

Origins of Buddhism in China

The origins of Buddhism in China are more complex than what is allowed by a single defining moment. Though historical accounts necessarily omit the gradual cultural dissemination of neighboring peoples, the textual accounts of Buddhism’s journey to China have a profound impact on Chinese Buddhism’s self-conception, and most importantly, upon the evolution of Chinese Buddhist literature.

The most popular narrative account of the introduction of Buddhism into China occurs in the Book of the Later Han. The text mentions a dream of Emperor Ming of the Han dynasty in which he sees a vision of a tall golden man. The following morning the emperor asks his ministers if they know of such a man, and is told that to the west, in India, they worship a figure named Buddha that matches such a description. The emperor dispatches an envoy to India in 64 CE to learn more, and his men return with the monks Kasyapa-matanga and Dharmaraksha along with a host of Buddhist relics and texts. These two monks go on to complete the first Chinese translations of the Buddhist sutras, of which only the Sutra in Forty- Two Sections survives today.

Aside from this story there is textual evidence of Buddhists in and around China even earlier. The Records of the Three Kingdoms mentions that by 2 BCE Buddhism was already present in the Bactrian Kingdom to the north, in what is modern-day Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, and that it was gradually spreading towards the Han capital in Luoyang. A Brief Account of the Wei Dynasty’ mentions that a scholar named Jing Lu was taught the Buddhist teachings by the Bactrian envoy Yicun in 130 BCE. This account also mentions various names that Buddhists use to refer to themselves, including Chinese translations of upasaka, sramana, and sravaka, indicating that the Chinese adoption of Buddhist language predated the wholesale translation of the sutras.

Following the arrival of Kasyapa-Matanga and Dharmaraksha, more Buddhist monastics came to China and began the work of translation, creating the earliest Chinese Buddhist literature. Many of these early translations are no longer extant, but notable sutras from this period include the earliest Chinese Dharmapada, translated by Vighna in 224 CE, and the first Chinese Amitabha Sutra, translated by Zhiqian in 228 CEo.

Though not the earliest translator, by far the most significant and celebrated is the fourth century monk Kumarajiva (344-413 CE). Born in the Kucha kingdom, now within modem-day Xinjiang, China, Kumarajiva gained notoriety for his intelligence and scholarship and was eventually brought to China by the Buddhist Emperor Yao Xing to set up a translation center in Changan. As a translator, Kumarajiva was both skillful and prolific, creating translations of the Diamond Sutra, Prajnaparamita Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra, Lotus Sutra, Amitabha Sutra, and Nagarjuna’s Treatise on the Middle Way, among many others. Kumarajiva’s translations are known for their clear, natural writing, and as such are often still read and chanted today, even if they have been supplanted by later, more precise translations.

Kumarajiva’s translations allowed Chinese Buddhism to grow and diversify, and lead to the founding of Buddhist “schools” or teaching traditions centered around specific texts. For example, Kumarajiva’s translations of the Treatise on the Middle Way, the Treatise in a Hundred Verses, and the Treatise of the Twelve Aspects were introduced to Southern China by Daosheng, leading to Jizang’s founding of the Three Treatise School in the sixth century. Kumarajiva’s translation of the Lotus Sutra became the basis for Zhiyi to found the Tiantai School in the sixth century as well. The importance of Kumarajiva’s translations in creating uniquely Buddhist Chinese idioms and their impact on the aesthetic of later Chinese Buddhist literature cannot be overstated.

1The True Nature of Equality 4
2Poems on the Four States 5
3Ten Admonishments 7
4Faith in Mind 11
5Do Not Talk of Some one's Shortcomings 18
6It Is Not Easy to Know People 20
7Text of One Thousand Characters 22
1To Free Oneself from Affliction Is Not Easy 28
2One Strike and I Forgot All I Knew 30
3Formless Gatha 32
4Song of Enlightenment35
5Visiting Xiangji Temple52
6Thought While Traveling at Night54
7Returning at Night to Mount Lumen56
8Climbing Mount Xian with Some Friends57
9This Ravaged Old Tree Leans in the Cold Forest59
10Seeing Off Master Lingche 61
11All Sentient Beings Gather from the Ten Directions 63
12Liberation Comes from Not Arguing about True or False65
13The Water Is Clear and Limpid67
14Eliminating Lowly Words69
15The Flower Is Not a Flower.71
16A Poem on Swallows to Show Old Man Liu72
17Wine Shared Together74
18The Spring of White Clouds75
19Contemplating the Illusory 76
20Flowers in a Monastic Courtyard77
21Pity the Farmers79
22Viewing Mountains with Master Haochu 81
23Spring South of the Yangze River83
24Visiting Chan Master Yaoshan85
25Ode to the Wooden Fish and Drum 87
26Gatha on Transmitting Mind 89
27Admonishments upon Sending My Son to Leave the Home Life91
28Letter of Farewell to My Mother 94
29Do Not Seek Outside 99
30Amazing! Amazing!100
31The Fragrance of the Lotuses Have Faded, the Green Leaves Have Withered 102
32How Can We Escape the Sorrows and Regrets of Life? 104
33For Forty Years My Home and Country 105
34The Rain Rattles beyond the Curtain 106
35The Flowers of the Forest Lose Their Spring Red 107
36Silently, I Climb the Western Tower Alone 108
37Poem on Condescending to Instruct 110
38Self Nature 112
39Inscribed in Nan Zhuang, Outside the Capital 114
40Unwilling to Leave Through the Empty Door 116
41Searching for a Sword for Thirty Years 118
42The Whole Day Spent Looking for Spring but Not Seeing Spring 120
43Those Who Study the Way Do Not Recognize the Truth122
44Living in the Mountains124
1Autumn Thoughts 128
2Recalling Minchi with My Brother Ziyou 130
3Written on a Wall in Xilin Temple 131
4Misty Rain on Mount Lu 132
5Gatha for Donglin Temple on Mount Lu 133
6Seeing Off Wang Zili with Water from Bodhisattva Springs in Wuchang134
7Recollections of the Red Cliffs 135
8Composed While Residing at Dinghui Monastery in Huangzhou 137
9When Does the Bright Moon Appear? 138
10Listen Not to the Pitter-Patter of the Rain on the Leaves 139
11Ten Long Years Obscure the Living from the Dead 140
12Climbing Feilai Peak 142
13Yi and Lu Were Two Old Men 143
14Where Has Spring Gone? 145
15All the Generals Talked about Obtaining High Rank146
16Deep, Deep Is the Courtyard. How Deep? 148
17Song of Right and Wrong 150
18Poem in Praise of Coming from the West 152
19Of the Fallow Field before the Mountain 154
20Ruiyan Always Said, "Master, Are You Awake?"156
21Family Teachings 158
22Devote Your Mind to Heaven and Earth 160
23Concerning the One Hundred Foot Pole, I Have Made Progress 162
24For Love I Seek the Light by Pouring over Books 163
25At Rest from a Myriad Affairs, Foolishness Takes Over 165
26When I Practice at Ease 167
27A Mandarin Duck upon a Pillow, Splendid Curtains 169
28In the Daodao Forest, the Birds Sing 171
29When Chuanzi Went Home That Year 173
30Liberation While Sitting or Dying While Standing 174
31I Only Travel to Old Places I Have Been 176
32Undergoing Ten Thousand Things Cannot Compare to One Who Retreats 177
33Watching the Sky All Day without Lifting One's Head 179
34Old Juzhi Loved to Teach with One Finger 181
35Encouraging Cultivation 183
36I Have a Single Bright Pearl 185
37A Slip of a Boat on Boundless Waters 187
38Poems on the Ten Ox-Herding Pictures 189
39Worldly Affairs Are Short as a Spring Dream 193
40The Revelry Has Ended, Fragrance Washed Away 195
41Green Mountains Enjoy Talking with Noblemen 197
42Night Walk on Yellow Sand Road 198
43When I Was Young, I Never Tasted Worry 199
44Too Much! I'm Getting Old!200
45To Show My Sons 203
46Dream Record Sent to Shi Bohun 204
47The Spring Moon at Night-a Frog Croaks 206
48Thoughts on Reading208
49Passing Dongting 210
50The Way Is Not in Language 213
51Where Has the Character for "Worries" Come From?215
52Crossing Lingding Sea217
53Crossing Wujiang by Boat219
54Listening to the Falling Rain220
1Epiphany from Cultivation 224
2Sewing Poem 226
3On the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity 228
4Xizhai Pure Land Poems 230
1Advice for the World 246
2FourVows 248
3On the Kitchen 252
4There Is Water in the Cauldron 255
5Seven Strokes Across 257
6Reverent Acts of the Monastics 261
7The Base Man Projects His Faults on Others 272
8Treatise on the King of Treasures Samadhi 274
9Song of a Life 277
10Rolling, Rolling the Yangze Flows East 279
11Foundations: Some Admonitions 281
12Grieve for the Falling Leaves 284
1In Praise of Monastics 288
2Avoiding Meaningless Words 292
3Baiyun Temple in Minquan County 294
4Such Thoughts Which Are Unwholesome, Do Not Think of Them 296
5Aphorisms on Running a Household 298
6Do Not Say That One Can Deceive with a Single Thought300
7Written on Bamboo and Rock302
8One Filled with Pride Is Easy to Damage 303
9When Someone Speaks of Me 305
10Exposition on Wealth, Rank, Poverty, and Humility307
11Lines Describing Huiju Temple 309
1True Friendship314
2I Do Not Know What It Means to Be a Gentleman 315
3Thoughts on My Fiftieth Birthday 317
4Study Is Valuable for Knowing What Is Important. 319
5Humble Table, Wise Fare 321
6The Cup Falls to the Ground328
7Though Others Do Not Return the Good I Do 330
8A Letter to Tiaozheng 332
9Posthumous Admonitions 334
10Speaking the Dharma, the Blue Lotus of Nine Platforms 336
11Dharma Words 338
1Temple Couplets 341
List of Authors and Calligraphers357
List of Titles and First Lines 360
Glossary 369

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