Make your own free website on Tripod.com
BUDDHISM AND INDIAN PHILOSOPHY
 
 
 
 

Leonardo Arena, Storia del buddhismo Ch'an, (A History of Ch'an Buddhism), Milan, Mondadori 1998, third printing.


 
 

A Chinese Buddhist school, Ch'an was born from Indian Buddhism, diffused in China in the first century A. D., thanks to the indigenous Taoism. Starting from the historical Buddha and the Lesser Vehicle, the author draws an outline of Mahayana Indian Buddhism and of principal Chinese Buddhist schools, in order to report the historical evolution of Ch'an, as follows: the first five patriarchs, the scission in the Northern and Southern school, the major lineages in the T'ang Dynasty, the "five houses", koans, Ch'an art, and the decline of the movement in the Sung era. Despite its various streams, the basic teaching of Ch'an remains the same: reality is nonsense; both logic and language are misleading, and they do not allow us to attain the authentic core of things. Only by suspending the dualistic way of thinking can enlightenment be obtained; hence, a Ch'an follower does not aim at controlling things, but he trusts in himself, looking for inside himself the perfection inborn in everyone of us: the so-called "original face prior to birth".

***

Leonardo Arena, Antologia del Buddhismo Ch'an (An Anthology of Ch'an Buddhism), Milan, Mondadori 1995.
 
 

Reality is a state of mind. On such premise, the Ch'an school establishes its own system of thought. This book includes the best works of early Ch'an, such as "The Inscriptions to make the Mind Perfect" (Hsin-hsin ming), "The Treatise on the Essentials of Cultivating the Mind" (Hsiu-hsin yao-lun), "The Treatise on the Contemplation of the Mind" (Kuan-hsin lun), "The Treatise on Perfect Realization" (Yuan-ming lun)*, "The Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch" (Liu-tsu t'an-ching)*, and "The Poem of The Samadhi of the Precious Mirror" (Pao-ching san-mei ko) - NB: the asterisks characterize partial translations. All translations are provided with an extensive commentary and explanatory and bibliographical notes as well. A long introduction, entitled "The Mind in the Mirror", completes the work, regarding the influences of the Yogacara and Madhyamika school on Ch'an. This work does not concern koan, but rather the Ch'an largely influenced by the Sutras, according to an Indian and Chinese style.

***

Leonardo Arena, La via buddhista dell'illuminazione (A Buddhist Way to Enlightenment), Milan, Mondadori 1997.


 
 

There are few works that present Buddhism by means of tales or parables. This book is a collection of stories. Following fiction, it is very easy to drive readers to understand the essentials of Buddhism, avoiding the complexities of the "essay-form". The author re-elaborates all materials, and draws on Pali Canon and the historical Buddha, on Zen and the other schools of the Sino-Japanese area, and on Tibetan Vajrayana as well. These stories possess a concrete functional value. Their teaching must be put into practice, so that a new world view can be formulated. In this work the principal concepts of Buddhism are highlighted, such as the importance of silence, the inborn perfection in everyone of us, the inescapable character of suffering, plans of reality, the distinction/no-distinction between samsara and nirvana, the relevance of "non-attachment", the limits of logic and language, and many others. This book is a "skilful device", like the upaya of the Mahayana. It can bring readers up to a certain point; then, they will be able to advance thanks to themselves, drawing on the sparkle of bodhi which everyone of us possesses. We must only become aware of that.

***

Leonardo Arena, Il Nyaya Sutra di Gautama (The Nyaya Sutra of Gautama), Rom, Ashram Vidya, 1994.
 
 

The basic text of the Nyaya school is presented in an integral translation, provided with an extensive commentary on the sutras. In order to help Sanskrit students a lexicon of all terms has been included, together with the original text romanized. An articulated introduction highglights the place of the Nyaya Sutra within Indian thought and its substantial logical clues. Moreover, a wide bibliography is included. The Nyaya Sutra is the equivalent of the Organon by Aristotle, but with a significative difference, which turns to its advantage: unlike it, it does not establish formal logic, but takes up experience as the necessary substrate of all theoretical assertions. Liberation can be attained by means of the correct use of language: this is the revolutionary message of the Nyaya Sutra, which, nowadays, we are able to draw on without losing its ethical elements, thanks to Wittgenstein as well. This is a book in comparative philosophy, which allow us not only to understand the controversy of Brahmanism against Buddhism, but also the particularities of a new epistemological approach, which avoids universals.

***

Leonardo Arena, Diario Zen (Zen Diary), Milan, Rizzoli, 1995.


 
 

This book is a collection of Zen or Zen-styled phrases. Hence, it draws on great works such as "The Barrier Without a Door" and "The Blue Cliff Record", but also on Western philosophers and poets. Nietzsche and Wittgenstein find their place beside Lin-chi and Hui-neng. Zen is presented, together with other traditions which share its logic, such as Taoism, Sufism, Shamanism, and esoteric Christianity. Every group of sentences is preceded by a preliminary note which collocates it in a context, proposing at the same time the main clues of Zen to readers: koan method, the strict relationship of Zen with Taoism and Chinese philosophy, the value of inner life, non-difference, emptiness, the mind, the innocence of childood, humour, non-action, meditation, and art. A list of thirteen substantial readings completes the book, which addresses the readers of the new millennium, ready to overcome the barriers between one religion and another in order to attain a new kind of spirituality. It is a book for beginners, from which specialists will be able to get some clues as well, provided that they can make their minds empty.

***
Leonardo Arena, Rama's Way (La storia di Rama), Milan, Mondadori 2000.

The Ramayana, a classical Indian poem, has been re-written by the author, so that modern readers may draw on it in the best way. Rama is a hero, but also a common man. Everybody can learn from his problems and perplexities. The work is the equivalent of the great homeric poems, such as Ulysses' Tales and Iliad; in fact, the hero's journey and the rape of the bride can be found in the Ramayana as well. The dharma, the unwritten law, is the Damocles' sword of such epics: it rules the relationships among men, and Rama does not know whether he must subject to it or not. His choice may be useful for all of us. Since many centuries, the Ramayana has been the primary reference of a culture which did not separate literature from philosophy, or psychology from ethics and politics.

***

Other books by the Author on Buddhism and Indian Philosophy

The Vaisheshika Sutra of Kanada, Urbino, Quattroventi 1987 (Introduction, Translation, Sanskrit Text, Commentary, Lexicon, Bibliography).

La filosofia indiana (Indian Philosophy), Rom, 1996.

Buddha, Rom, 1996.
 
 

NEWS: LOGIC AND PEDAGOGY IN CH'AN
 
 

BACKNEXT