The Splendid Vision

Reading a Buddhist Sutra

Richard S. Cohen

Columbia University Press

The Splendid Vision

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Pub Date: May 2012

ISBN: 9780231156691

176 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $27.00

Pub Date: May 2012

ISBN: 9780231156684

176 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $80.00

Pub Date: May 2012

ISBN: 9780231527521

176 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $26.99

The Splendid Vision

Reading a Buddhist Sutra

Richard S. Cohen

Columbia University Press

Featuring the first-ever English translation of the "Splendid Vision Sutra," a sixth-century Indian Mahayana Buddhist scripture known for its rich ritual magic and worship of bodhisattva-goddesses, this volume explicates the text's cultural significance as a source of extraordinary value, cosmic truth, and existential meaning.

The ancient author of the "Splendid Vision Sutra" promises every imaginable reward to those who heed its words and rites, whether one's desire is to become king, enjoy heavenly pleasures for thousands of millennia, or attain the spiritual summit of advanced bodhisattvahood. Richard S. Cohen carefully analyzes this religious rhetoric, developing a heuristic model of "scripture" that extends beyond Buddhist literature. In his framework, a text becomes sacred scripture when a community accepts it as a receptacle of extraordinary value, an authoritative source of cosmic truth, and a guide for meaningful action. While clarifying these points, Cohen untangles the discursive skein through which the "Splendid Vision Sutra" expresses its authority, inspires readers to accept that authority, and promises superior power and accomplishments to those who implement its teachings. Exploring ways of living and reading a text, Cohen draws on Marcel Duchamp's theory of found art, Jerzy Grotowski's idealization of the holy actor, and other formulations, identifying contingencies, uncertainties, and incompleteness in the lived present and its determination of our reception of the past. More than a mere introduction to an important work, The Splendid Vision opens a window into religious experience and practice in contemporary environments as well as in the world of the sutra.
Richard S. Cohen provides an elegant and accessible translation of a heretofore unavailable Indian Buddhist Mahayana sutra, along with a highly engaging interpretive essay that illuminates how the sutra functions as 'scripture' and raises issues that extend far beyond Indian Buddhism itself. His book fills an important lacuna in the resources available for teaching Buddhism and makes a significant contribution to the cross-cultural study of sacred texts. Reiko Ohnuma, Dartmouth College
Cohen has combined a fascinating Buddhist text—a veritable manifesto on the ritual powers of mantra, inscribed word, and sculpted image—with an incisive and lucid essay on the meaning of 'scripture' in religion. In its focus on gestures, practices, and their glorious exemplars in heaven, The Splendid Vision certainly rounds out the popular image of Buddhist texts and will make essential reading for courses on Buddhism, Asian religions, and scripture in world religions. David Frankfurter, William Goodwin Aurelio Chair of the Appreciation of Scripture, Boston University
Preface
Introduction to the Translation

Translation

Interpretive Essay


Glossary
Notes
Works Cited
Index

About the Author

Richard S. Cohen is associate professor of South Asian religious literatures and director of the Program for the Study of Religion at the University of California, San Diego. He earned his Ph.D. in Buddhist studies from the University of Michigan and is the author of Beyond Enlightenment: Buddhism, Religion, Modernity.