Different Translations


According to The Sayings of Honen-shonin as Stated by His Disciples in Wago-Touroku  collected by Ryoe-Doko,  Honen Shonin used to read Amida-kyo Sutra three times a day.* 

What made me interested was he didn't repeat the same text of Amida Sutra, but he did read three different versions of the Sutra in addition to his daily practice of Nenbutsu.

I think this legendary fact tells us two important teachings.


No. 1.  For Honen Shonin,  Amida Sutra was his favorite sutra or the most important.**


No. 2.  Different versions of the sutra means different translations of the sutra.  Therefore, It is very meaningful to read different translations as many times as possible.


There may be different opinions about No.1 , but everybody will agree with me if you could think of a translation of just a simple word such as "Kokoro."


"Kokoro" in Japanese is usually translated to a English word, "heart."   If you only know one translation, you won't realize any other meanings of "Kokoro."    However, if you know different translations, you will know "Kokoro" could mean more than "heart."   It could mean "mind" or "essence."   


So what is very important is realization of "difference."  It's very difficult to realize "something special" in the same translation or in the same group.   However, if you read different translation, you will deepen your understanding.


Understanding of cultures is same thing.   By meeting, studying, and experiencing different cultures,  we could know "the differences."   And by realizing their differences, we could not only deepen our understanding , but also get to know our own culture.


So "difference" is never an obstacle but a great chance!   Different translations are same, too.  If we keep reading  different translations,  eventually we won't need to read any translations.


*  Ryukan-rishi (1148-1227) stated as follows:   Honen-Shonin said, "I, Genku, also used to read the Smaller Sutra three times a day in addition to my daily practice of nembutsu.  I recited the Smaller Sutra (Amida-kyo) in the T'ang version first, in the Wu version second, and then in the Japanese version third.   However, I realized that the quintessence of the Smaller Sutra is the mere recitation of nembutsu; therefore, I do not read it at all anymore and exclusively recite nembutsu.  (Page 304, The Promise of Amida Buddha)



** Jodo shu understands, three pure land sutras were equally important for Honen Shonin, but because Honen Shonin found the meaning of Nenbutsu through the Kangyo no sho (Commentary on Meditation Sutra by Master Shan-tao,  "Kangyo" or "Meditation Sutra" can be a special sutra.)


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