Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly

Starting from Enlightenment

Cultivating Original Enlightenment: Wonhyo’s Exposition of the Vajrasamadhi-Sutra (Kumgang Sammaegyong Non)

translated by Robert E. Buswell Jr.

University of Hawaii Press, 2018 438 pages; $32.00

IMAGINE a world where dictionaries did not exist and books did not have tables of contents, indexes, or even pages that could be turned, and where note-taking and collation had to be done without a ready supply of paper. In that world libraries were extremely rare, only occasionally filled with hand-copied manuscripts brought back by foot or horseback from China by officials and Buddhist pilgrims who had traveled for months. These are the conditions under which the eminent Korean monk Wonhyo (617–686) wrote his commentary on the Vajrasamadhi Sutra. Despite these and other challenges, Wonhyo was not only able to write the commentary but to do so with consistency, precision, and coherence. This is exactly what Robert E. Buswell Jr., in Cultivating Original, his masterful translation of Wonhyo’s magnum opus, demonstrates with utmost clarity.

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