Chanjing Meditation Manuals

Textual analysis and comparative discussion on early Buddhist sects and texts.

Chanjing Meditation Manuals

Postby Nyana » Tue Jul 31, 2012 12:51 pm

Here are some links to a few translations and papers on the Chanjing meditation manuals which are preserved in Chinese translation. These texts mainly present ancient Sarvāstivāda descriptions of meditation practices, and are in some ways similar to the better known Vimuttimagga and Visuddhimagga. Florin Deleanu gives a general overview of this group of texts in his paper Mindfulness of Breathing in the Dhyāna Sūtras:

    The term dhyāna sūtra represents a reconstruction of the Chinese chan jing, which appears in the titles of a certain group of texts as well as in the writings of Chinese Buddhists of the early 5th century AD as Sengrui, Huiyuan, and Huiguan.

    This group represents treatises or manuals of meditation belonging to or, at least, partly drawing their inspiration from Sarvāstivāda tradition. We must not forget, however, that many of the dhyāna sūtras are, as it were, a common product of the Buddhist traditions from North-West India, Central Asia, and China. Although the basic material of these texts doubtlessly comes from Indian Buddhism, we must not exclude the possibility that they were compiled in Central Asia or that Buddhist monks from Central Asia, who in most of the cases were those who brought the dhyāna sūtras to China, had a more or less substantial influence on the final form of the scriptures in the process of translating them into Chinese. Kumārajīva would be perhaps the most eloquent example of this case.

    Doctrinally, the dhyāna sūtras range from a basically orthodox Sarvāstivāda standpoint to a substantial compromise with Mahāyāna teachings and practices. In some cases, this compromise is so advanced that it is very difficult to make a distinction between such a text and a samādhi sūtra (sammei jing), which represents a purely Mahāyāna scripture....

    Although the textual formation of many of these dhyāna sūtras remains a very complicated process, the original texts or, at least, much of the meditation practices and doctrines, especially those associated with Conservative Buddhism, can be traced back to the Kashmirian Yogācāra school belonging to the Sarvāstivāda tradition. Most of these meditation manuals were compiled or, at least, reflect the practice and theory of the Sarvāstivāda Yogācārins of the first four centuries of our era.

To date, the best English language translation of one of these texts is The Sūtra on the Concentration of Sitting Meditation, translated by Nobuyoshi Yamabe and Fumihiko Sueki (listed below). Please add any other relevant texts, translations, and studies.



T 15 no. 606 Xiuxing dao di jing (Yogācārabhūmi of Saṅgharakṣa)

Demiéville, Paul. ‘La Yogācārabhūmi de Sangharaksa’, Bulletin de l'Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient, Tome 44 N°2, 1951.

Seton, Gregory Max. A Preliminary Study of The Meaning of "Yoga" in Saṅgharakṣa's Yogācārabhūmi and Its Context. M.A. Thesis, University of California at Santa Barbara, 2009.


T 15 no. 613 Chan miyaofa jing (Sūtra of The Secret Essentials of Dhyāna)

Yuanci. A Study of the Meditation Methods in the DESM and Other Early Chinese Texts. The Buddhist Academy of China. n.d.


T 15 no. 614 Zuochan sanmei jing (Dhyānasamādhisūtra)

Yamabe, Nobuyoshi. The Sūtra on the Concentration of Sitting Meditation. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2009.

Guo Cheen. The Sutra of Sitting Dhyāna Samadhi. n.d.


T 15 no. 616 Chanfa yaojie (Essential Explanation of The Method of Dhyāna)

Huynh, Trung (Thich Hang Dat). A Reappraisal of Kumārajīva’s Role in Medieval Chinese Buddhism: An Examination of Kumārajīva’s Translation Text on “The Essential Explanation of the Method of Dhyana”. M.A. Thesis, University of the West, 2011.


T 15 no. 617 Siwei yaolue fa (An Epitome of Meditation)

Mukhopadhyaya, Sujitkumar. An Outline of Principal Methods of Meditation. Santiniketan, 1972. (Originally published in the Visva-Bharati Annals, vol. III, 1950.)


T 15 no. 618 Damoduoluo chan jing (Dharmatrāta Dhyānasūtra)



Other related resources:

Deleanu, Florin. ‘Mindfulness of Breathing in the Dhyāna Sūtras’, Transactions of the International Conference of Orientalists in Japan (TICOJ) 37, 1992.

Deleanu, Florin. ‘Śrāvakayāna Yoga Practices and Mahāyāna Buddhism’, Bulletin of the Graduate Division of Literature of Waseda University, Special Issue No. 20 (Philosophy-History), 1993.

Deleanu, Florin. ‘A Preliminary Study of An Shigao’s Translation of the Yogācārabhūmi’, The Journal of the Department of Liberal Arts of Kansai Medical University, Vol. 17, 1997.

Greene, Eric. Of Bones and Buddhas: Contemplation of the Corpse and its Connection to Meditations on Purity as Evidenced by 5th Century Chinese Meditation Manuals. M.A. Thesis. University of California, 2006.

Yamabe, Nobuyoshi. The Sūtra of the Ocean-Like Samadhi of the Visualization of the Buddha: The Interfusion of the Chinese and Indian Cultures in Central Asian as Reflected in a Fifth Century Apocryphal Sūtra. PhD Dissertation. Yale University, 1999.

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