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A. K. Narain
University oj Wisconsin, Madison, USA
L. M. Joshi
Punjabi University
Patiala, India
Alexander W. Macdonald
Universite de Paris X
Nanterre, France
Bardwell Smith
Carleton College
Northfield, Minnesota, USA
Volume 4
Ernst Steinkellner
University of Vienna
Wien, Austria
jikido Takasaki
University oj Tokyo
Tokyo, japan
Robert Thurman
Amherst College
Amherst, Massachusetts, USA
Number 2
ThisJournal is the organ of the International Association of Buddhist Studies,
Inc., and is governed by the objectives of the Association and accepts
scholarly contributions pertaining to Buddhist Studies in alI the various
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The Association and the Editors assume no responsibility for the views
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be submitted to A. K. Narain, Editor-in-Chief,JIABS, Department of South
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Andre Bareau (France) JosephM. Kitagawa (USA)
John Brough (U.K.) Jacques May (Switzerland)
M.N. Deshpande (India) Hajime Nakamura (Japan)
R. Card (USA) John Rosenfield (USA)
B.C. Cokhale (USA) Bardwell L. Smith (USA)
P.S.Jaini (USA) David Snellgrove (U.K.)
J. W. de Jong (Australia) E. Zurcher (Netherlands)
Because of the high cost of postage, issues of the Joumal are sent to OUr
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any information as to their whereabouts, please drop us a note:
Professor George R. Elder, formerly New York city, NY USA
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Professor Braj Mohan Sinha, formerly of Wooster, OR USA
Assistant Editor: Roger Jackson
The Editor-in-Chief wishes to thank Rena Haggarty for assistance in the
preparation of this volume.
Copyright The International Association of Buddhist Studies 1981
ISSN: 0193-600X
Sponsored by Department of South Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin,
New Buddhist Sanskrit Texts from Central Asia: An Un-
known fragment of the Mahayana Mahiiparinirvii7fa-
sutra by G. M. Bongard Levin
Buddhist Hybrid English: Some Notes on Philology and
Hermeneutics for Buddhologists by Paul j. Griffiths
3. Nonorigination and Nirvii7fa in the Early Tathiigatagarbha
Literature by William Grosnick 33
4. Multiple Dimensions of Impermanence in Dagen's "Gen-
jakaan" by Steven Heine 44
5. The Autobiography of a 20th-Century Rnying-ma-pa la;:na
by Alexander W. Macdonald 63
6. Metapsychology of the Abhidharma by Shanta Ratnayaka 76
l. The Buddhist "Prodigal Son": A Story of Misperceptions
by Whalen Lai 91
l. Lustful Maidens and Ascetic Kings (Buddhist and Hindu
Stories of Life) by C. Amore and Larry D. Shinn 99
2. The Syncretic Religion of Lin Chao-en by Judith A. Berling 101
3. The Memoirs of a Modern Gnostic (Parts I and II) by
Edward Conze 102
4. Buddhist Studies by J. W. de Jong 106
5. Sources for a History of the bSam yas Debate by C. W. Houston 107
6. Buddhist Architecture of Western India (c. 250 BC-AD
300) by S. NagaraJu 109
7. The Thousand Buddhas: Ancient Buddhist Paintings from
the Cave-Temples of Tun-huang on the Western Front-
ier of China by Aurel Stein 112
1. Tasks Ahead: Presidential Address Given on the Occasion
of the Third Conference of The International Associa-
tion of Buddhist Studies, Winnipeg, Canada, August
1980 by Herbert V. Guenther
New Buddhist Sanskrit Texts
from Central Asia:
An Unknown fragment of the
Mahayana Mahiiparinirviir;asutra
by G. M. Bongard-Levin
The discovery of ancient Indian texts in Central Asia at the end of the
19th century opened a new stage in the study of Indian culture.
There was found a large number of original Sanskrit literary and
religious documents destroyed in India due to the climatic conditions
but preserved in sand-covered ancient towns of Central Asia. Scholars
have acquired many unique manuscripts, dating back to the 6-8th
centuries A.D. The publication of these texts by P. Pelliot, K. Otani,
L. Finot, S. Levi, E. Waldschmidt and others has allowed us to recon-
sider many traditional views concerning the domain of Indian culture
and historical influence, as well as the history and development of
Buddhism, its schools and main trends.
New problems were put before Buddhology: the problem of
co-relation of Hinayana and Mahayana, that of the reconstruction of
the Buddha's original teaching, etc. Owing to the discovery of lan-
guages not known before-Saka and Tocharian-as well as of the
Central Asian variants of ancient Indian scripts, there appeared a new
branch of Oriental studies: Central Asian philology and paleography.
Owing to the expeditions of Russian scholars to Central Asia, the
Russian Academy of Sciences has acquired a remarkable collection of
Indian and Saka-Khotanese manuscripts, in many aspects surpassing
by its fullness and scientific value the Central Asian collections of
France, Germany, Japan and other countries.
Professor S. Oldenberg was among the first researchers to
investigate the Central Asian texts. In fact, he was a founder of the
Soviet school of Central Asian studies.
From the beginning of the
50's a gifted Leningrad orientalist, V. S. Vorobyev-Desyatovsky, de-
voted himself to studies of the Central Asian material; in spite of his
short life he succeeded in publishing a number of unique documents
in the Sanskrit and Saka languages.
V. S. Vorobyev-Desyatovsky completed a full catalogue of all
manuscripts and fragments of the Central Asian collection, which
forms a solid base for further investigations of this valuable collec-
The publication of Central Asian documents is an urgent task
for Soviet scholars. Its realization will expose dozens of new docu-
ments on Indian culture and will help to solve important problems
related to the history of spiritual culture in India and neighbouring
countries during the ancient and early medieval periods.
Among the Buddhist Sanskrit texts of the Central Asian collec-
tion the fragments of the Mahayana Mahiiparinirvii'fJlSutra-an import-
and religious text of Northern Buddhism-are of the utmost interest.
Only two fragments of this text were at the disposal of scholars until
quite recently;5 that is why the study of the Mahiiparinirvii'Yfasutra as
well as of all connected problems of Mahayana religion and of the
history of early Mahayana sutras was carried out with the help
of Tibetan and Chinese translations. The Sanskrit texts of the
Mahiiparinirvii'Yfasutra, which were discovered in Turfan by a Ger-
man expedition and later published by E. Waldschmidt, form a
part of the Mulasarvastivada canon and are not directly connected
with Mahayana.
The Southern (or Theravada) tradition is repre-
sented by the Mahiiparinibbiinasutta-the sixteenth sutra of the Digha-
It was V. Vorobyev-Desyatovsky who, while studying the Central
Asian Collection, brought attention to the existence of five fragments
of the Mahiiparinirvii'Yfasutra in his catalogue; later we discovered one
more fragment. 8 The investigation of these fragments is now com-
plete: they have been transliterated, translated and annotated and
many lacunas have been reconstructed. Judging by the fragments, the
Mahayana version of the Mahiiparinirvii'Yfasutra differs textually and
conceptually from the Pali and Sanskrit (Mulasarvastivada) ones. In
Mahayana, a completely new interpretation was given to basic ideas of
the early Buddhist religion. The sutra deals with the interpretation of
the ideas of nirvii'Yfa, salvation, Buddhahood, etc.
The Mahayana Mahiiparinirvii'Yfasutra was very popular in Central
Asia and China.
Chinese sources preserve a story about the journey of
a native of Magadha, in India, to Khotan in search of
the Mahayana manuscripts of the Nirviir:asutra. 10 dis-
covered in Khotan copies of thesutra and on his return to China,
made a translation of the Sanskrit text into Chinese. 11 This tradition is
in accordance with the find of the six fragments of the sutra in Central
Asia. Moreover, examination ofthese texts shows them to be different
hand-written copies.
The opinions of scholars concerning the data of the Mahayana
Mahiiparinirvii1Jasutra differ greatly: some consider it to have been
completed by 200-300 A.D., others suggest later dates-e.g., the
beginning of the Gupta dynasty in India. Our fragments are written
in upright Central Asian Brahm!. It is possible to assume them to be
part of a manuscript copied in Central Asia from some Indian version
of the sutra. Judging by the data of the Chinese texts, manuscripts of
the Mahayana Mahiiparinirvii1Jasutra were widespread in Kashmir in
the 5th century A.D. The existence of Indian versions (Indian orig-
inal texts) is mentioned in the Chinese works dealing with the activi-
ties of 12 For example, it is mentioned that Dharma-
originally brought an incomplete manuscript of Mahayana
Nirva1Jasutra from India to China. The Chinese sources also inform us
that the beginning of the sutra was written on birch-bark. In scholars'
opinion it may be an indication of the Kashmiri origin of the sutra's
basic version. 13
The text of our fragment is not preserved in full; 14 there is only its
left side intact, dimensions 17/9 cm
The text is put down in Indian
ink on light brown paper. The space between the lines is 1 cm, 27 -28
akr;aras in each line. The verso text is better preserved than the recto,
where the left sides of the first and seventh lines are wiped out. In the
left part of the manuscript there is a circle and a hole for holding; it is
registered as SIsra in the N. Petrovsky collection. Judging by the pale-
ography, the manuscript dates back to the 6-7th centuries A.D. 15
The fragment being published here has a pagination, No. 15, which
corresponds to the 13th page of the Tibetan translation xylograph
(l3a (1)-b (4))-'Phags pa yongs su my a ngan las 'das pa chen po theg pa'i
chen po'i mdo, Bka' 'gyur, Vol. Jha; and 369A (15)-B (17) of the
Chinese translation of (XII Volume of the Chinese
1. .' . yiipra []igrahitapi1JeJapiitiilJ, ekiinte sthan. punar apara'T(l- tatheva ca
tri1[liadga'T(l-gi iii . . .
2. llyaya'T(l-l dadiita. mahatii si'T(l-havikrame1Ja gandhahastiva
diiya . ..
3. kraviikakiil da'T(l-l bakiira1Jrjava. siirasakaukilabiihikakalavi'T(l-kajivajiva . ..
4. ya svai svai na [dit] viibhaidy2 ekiinte sthan. punar apara'T(l- yii kiinciinalJ,
prthiv . ..
5. ka siilamula
ni'T(l-nam. pradeSam iilokyiipagataSarkkarasikatamiikJii . ..
6. tataSca kJiriid [v]yapanrya makJikii ekante tasthu punar apara'T(l- tadaiva
. . .
7 ... , [ddhi]balena
: samidii
upiidiiya. bhojana'T(l- copanii[mya?] mahii-
yiinakii[Syapa? F
1. ... nyol vii (ja]napadapradesam u[pii]jahru. te sarve niravaSe!ja'T(l- tatra
tad iijagmulJ, sthii . . .
2. kharT}caiti punar apara'T(l- tena samayena
sa'T(l-khyeyii ga'T(l-giiviilikasamii
mahii . ..
3. tiin aviviiritiitapapr:thucchiiya
siliitalii prasrava1}iikiT1J1Janirjharii .. .
4. hiiprabhiiviidevaputriilJ, sumerii1}ii'T(l-4 saha piijiinimittam iiga[cch] .. .
5. sa'T(l-kheya
ga'T(l-giiviilikasamiiScatusiigaraniviisino maluinadi . ..
6. gu1}iibhiriimii piijiipurassariilJ, divaprabluim iviidityaprabhiibhilJ, surya-
prabhii . ..
7. m abhinavadiviikarodaya iviiSokappa
llavariiga'T(l- krtvii bhagavantam
abhiva'T(l-[dya] ...
1. Ought to be abhaya1!L.
2. naditviibhaidya, abhedya-without dividing, undivided, i.e., together; in Ti-
betan: "everyone crying loudly"; in Chinese: "carrying flowers and fruits"-evidently
connected with abhiviidya.
3. After a there is a little space but no is preserved.
4. Possibly
5. Evidently, vr:ddhabalena, cf. Tibetan text.
6. Ought to be samidluim upiidiiya (cf. Tibetan text), but a instead of am is
possible, see F. Edgerton, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary, I (Grammar),
II (Dictionary) (New Haven, 1953), I, 9.20-22. .
7. According to the Tibetan text, ought to be MahakaSyapa. Evidently, the
copyist first wrote maha and then, by mistake, na, but in order to retain the sense, put
down under the line 'yO: -mahayana.
1. Possibly, bhi"-!u"!yo.
2. Correctly (a)sa,!,kheya, thus samayena.
3. Usually eeluiyii, here N.PI., see also Edg. I, 9.86.
4. Better without '!'; usually u,,!a, but u,,!ii is also possible, see Edg. I, 12.32.
5. asa,!,kheya.
6. Superfluous p.
1.. .. (they), not having received the alms-food, stood aside. And then
in the same manner (all the living beings) in their number equal to
that of the grains of sand in 30 Garigas ...
2. took (a vow) of fearlessness. Like the great might of a lion, they,
having taken flowers and garlands (which yielded a perfume), similar
to the scent of the elephant's female at the time of coupling ...
3. cakravakas, kadambas, karandavas, sarasas, kaukilas, bahikas, kalavin:t-
kas; Fva-jivas

4. each of them, exclaiming together in one voice,27 stood aside. Then
this golden land ...
5. having noticed that the place at the foot of a soJa tree was devoid
of the stones and sand ...
6. and then, having cleared the milk from the flies, they stood aside.
And then (those who live) on the four continents ...
7. (with the help of the magic power), having brought fire-wood and
food and offering (this). Mahakasyapa ...
. 1. ... they (the nuns) came to this part of the land. And all of them,
without exception, came there ...
2. and then in that time (the great ones) ... innumerable like the
sand-grains of the Ganga. . . .
3. (trees), offering great shade, keeping out the heat, the foot of the
rocks and the streams, (carrying the water) of the water-falls ...
4. the divinites, possessing great power, came together at Sumeru,
in order to make worship ...
5. (the divinities), in number equal to the sand-grains of Ganga, as
well as those who live in the four oceans, and the great rivers ...
6. brilliant in their merits, longing to make worship, they (darkened)
the brilliance of the Sun (by their own light), just like the brilliance of
the Sun (surpasses) the light of the day ...
7. like the rising of the Sun, they expressed (their love), (gleaming)
like the flowers of an aSoka tree, and, having offered veneration to the
Buddha ...
Compare the Chinese Translation
(The Mahayana MahaparinirvaTfa-sutra, A Complete Translation from
the Classical Chinese Language in 3 volumes, Annotated and with full
Glossary, Index, and Concordance, by Kosho Yamamoto, Oyama,
Ube City, 1973; vol. I, pp. 17-18).
As the Buddha was about to enter nirvaTfa, each took up
innumerable, boundless, beautiful flowers of lotus and came to
where the Buddha was, touched his feet with the head, carried
their steps back, and sat on one side.
Also, there were lion kings, that were as many as the sands
of twenty Gangeses. King lion's Roar headed the number. To all
beings they gave fearlessness. Carrying various flowers and
fruits they came to where the Buddha was, touched his feet with
the head and carried their steps back, and sat on one side.
Also, there were kings of flying birds as many as the sands
of twenty Gangeses. They were lapwings, wild geese, mandarin
ducks, peacocks, and all such birds, and gandharvas, karandas,
minas, parrots, kokilas, wagtails, kalavinkas, jivamjivakas, and all
such birds, carrying flowers and fruits, came to where the
Buddha was, touched his feet with the head, carried their steps
back, and sat on one side.
Also, there were buffaloes, cows, and sheep, that were as
many as the sands of twenty Gangeses, which all came to the
Buddha and gave out wonderfully fragrant milk. All this milk
filled the ditches and pits of Kusinagara castle. The colour,
fragrance and taste were all perfect. This done, they carried
their steps back and sat on one side.
Also, there were present r-!is of the four lands, who were as
many as the sands of twenty Gangeses, K ~ a n t i t ~ i headed the
number. Carrying flowers, incenses, and fruits, they came to
where the Buddha was, touched his feet with the head, walk.ed
around him three times, and said to him: "0 World-honoured
One! Please have pity and accept the last of our offerings!" The
Tathagata, aware of the occasion, was silent and did not accept.
At this, their wish was not answered, all the r-!is were sad. They
carried their steps back and sat on one side.
There were present all the kings of the bees of J ambudvipa.
Wonderful Sound, the king of bees, headed the number. They
carried in many flowers, came to where the Buddha was, touched
his feet with the head, walked around him once, carried their
steps back, and sat on one side.
At the time, the bhik.}us and bhik.}unis of Jambudvipa were all
gathered, excepting the two venerable ones, Mahakasyapa and
Ananda. Also, there are spaces in between the worlds, which
were as many as the sands of innumerable asamkhyas of Gangeses
and all the mountains of J ambudvipa, of which King Mount
Sumeru headed the number. Grand were the adornments of the
mountains. Old and luxuriant were the bushes and forests, and
the branches and leaves were full grown, so that they hid the
sun. Various were the wonderful flowers which bloomed all
around and they were beautiful. The grand springs and streams
were pure, fragrant, and transparent. Devas, niigas, gandharoas,
asuras, garudas, kimnaras, maharagas, r-!is, charmers, actors, dan-
cers, and musicians filled the pIace. All these heavenly ones of
the mountains and others came to where the Buddha was,
touched his feet with the head, carried their steps back, and sat
on one side.
Also, there were gods of the four great seas and of the
rivers, who were as many as the sands of asamkhyas of Gangeses
and who all had great virtues and heavenly feet. Their offerings
were twice as many as those that had preceded them. The lights
that had emanated from the bodies of the gods and those of the
mask dances so hindered the lights of the sun and moon that
they were hidden and could not be seen any more. The champaka
flowers were strewn over the waters of the river Hiranyavati.
They came to where the Buddha was, touched his feet with the
head, carried their steps back, and sat on one side.
See M. L Vorobyeva-Desyatovskaya, E. N. Tyomkin, "The Manuscripts of the
Central Asian Fund," in The Oriental funds of the largest libraries of the Soviet Union
(MoscoW, 1963), pp. 50-51 (in Russian); G. M. Bongard-Levin, E. N. Tyomkin, "New
Buddhist Texts from Central Asia" (Moscow, 1967).
2. See T. L Stcherbatsky, "S. F. Oldenburg as an Indologist," in To the 50th
Anniversary oj Scientific and Public Activity of s. F. Oldenburg (1882-1932) (Leningrad,
1934), pp. 15-23 (in Russian); S. Oldenburg, "A Preliminary Note to a Buddhist
Manuscript, Written in Kharosthi" (S. Petersburg, 1897) (in Russian); S. Oldenburg, "A
Kashgari Manuscript of N. Petrovsky," ZVOIRAO, voL 7 (1892), pp. 81-82 (in
Russian); S. Oldenburg, "Two Kashgari Buddhist Texts," ZVOlRAO, voL 8 (1893-
1894), pp. 152-153 (in Russian); S. Oldenburg, "Notes on the Kashgari Buddhist
Texts," ZVOIRAO, voL 8, pp. 349-351 (in Russian); S. Oldenburg, "Fragments of
Kashgari and Sanskrit Manuscripts from the Collection of N. Petrovsky," ZVOlRAO,
voL 11 (1897-1898), pp. 207-264 (in Russian); Ibid., voL 15 (1902-1903), pp. 0113-
0112 (in Russian).
3. Details in: G. M. Bongard-Levin, E. N. Tyomkin, "Works by V. S. Vorobyev-
Desyatovsky and investigation of the Buddhist texts from N. Petrovsky collection,"
Problems of the History of Languages and Culture oj the Peoples of India (A collection of articles
in memoriam ofV. S. Vorolryev-Desyatovsky (M., 1974), pp. 12-19 (in Russian). See also the
bibliography of works by V. S. Vorobyev-Desyatovsky printed here.
4. Recently some of the texts were investigated and published (See G. M. Bon-
gard-Levin, E. N. Tyomkin, "New Buddhist Texts from Central Asia"; G. M. Bongard-
Levin, "Buddhist Studies in the USSR and New Archaeological Excavations in Soviet
Central Asia," in East Asian Cultural Studies, voL XII (1973), W 1-4, pp. 11-28;
G. M. Bongard-Levin, E. N. Tyomkin, "Fragment of an Unknown Manuscript of the
SaddharmapuIJ.qarika from N. F. Petrovsky collection," in Indo-Iranian Journal, voL
VIII, 1965, N 4, pp. 268-274; G. M. Bongard-Levin, "Two New Fragments of the
SaddharmapuIJ.qarika (a preliminary note)," in Indian culture and Buddhism (M., 1972),
pp. 187-191 (in Russian); G. M. Bongard-Levin, M. I. Vorobyeva-Desyatovskaya,
E. N. Tyomkin, "New Sanskrit Texts from Central Asia," in program of the Conference
on the Languages of India, Pakistan, Nepal and Ceylon (M., 1965) (in Russian);
G. M. Bongard-Levin, M. 1. Vorobyeva-Desyatovskaya, E. N. Tyomkin, "On Investiga-
tion of Indian texts from Central Asia," in Materials on the History and Philology of Central
Asia (Ulan-Ude, 1968), N 3, pp. 105-117 (in Russian); G. M. Bongard-Levin, M. 1.
Vorobyeva-Desyatovskaya, E. N. Tyomkin, "A Fragment of the Sanskrit Sumukha-
dharani," in Indo-Iranian Journal, vol. X (1967), N 2-3, pp. 150-159; G. M. Bongard-
Levin, E. N. Tyomkin, "Fragment of the Saka version of the Dharmasarira-sutra from
the N. F. Petrovsky collection," in Indo-Iranian Journal, voL XI (1969), N 4, pp. 269-
280; See also: Akira Yuyama, "Supplementary Remarks on Fragment of an Unknown
Manuscript of the SaddharmapuIJ.qarika from N. F. Petrovsky Collection by G. M.
Bongard-Levin and E. N. Tyomkin," Indo-Iranian Journal, voL IX, N 2 (1966), pp.
85 -112; "A Bibliography of the Sanskrit texts of the SaddharmapuIJ.qarika (Canberra,
1970), pp. 21, 22, 102; H. Bechert, "Uber die 'Marburger Fragmente des Saddharma-
pUIJ.qarika'" in Nachrichten der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Gottingen. Philologisch-
Historische Klasse, 1972, W 1, S.3-81.
5. See R. H6ernle, "Manuscript Remains of Buddhist Literature," vol. I (Ox-
ford, 1916), pp. 93-97, p. XXI; Taisho (Taisho, Shinshu Daizokyo), t. XII, p. 604.
According to D. S. Ruegg, one of the fragments of the Mahayana sutra is given in
Ratnagotravibhga-Mahayanottaratantraliistra. See D. S. Ruegg,Le traite du Tathagatagarbha
du Bu Ston Rin Chen Grub (Paris, 1973), p. 24; Nakamura Hajime, "A Critical Survey of
Mahayana and Esoteric Buddhism Chiefly Based upon Japanese Studies," Asiatica,
vol. VII (Tokyo, 1964), pp. 49-53. H. Nakamura refers to a work by K. Vatanabe,
where a fragment of the sutra from Central Asia is mentioned (Ko-getsu-in Japanese)
(Tokyo, 1933), p. 570.
6. See E. W. Waldschmidt, "Das MahaparinirvaTfa-sutra," Abhandlungen der
Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, Bd. I - III, 1950-1951.
7. Digha-Nikaya, vol. II (Pali Text Society). Ed. T. W. Rhys Davids, J. E. Car-
penter (London, 1947).
8. A short characterization of these fragments has been given. See G. M. Bon-
gard-Levin, E. N. Tyomkin, "New Buddhist Texts from Central Asia," Journal of the
Asiatic Society, vol. XI (1969), N 1-4; G. M. Bongard-Levin, "Buddhist studies ... ";
G. M. Bongard-Levin, E. N. Tyomkin, "Works of Vorobyev-Desatovksy ... " . (in
9. Details in: A. Bareau, Recherches sur la biographie du Buddha dans les Sutra-
pitaka et les Vinayapitaka anciens: II. Les derniers mois, Ie parinirviiTfa et les funerailles, t. I
(Paris, 1970).
10. The difference between Hinayana and Mahayana versions was pointed out
by many scholars on the basis of the Chinese translations (see, for instance, L. Renou"
J. Filliozat, L'Inde classique (Paris, 1953), p. 435.
11. Cf. F. W. Thomas, "Brahm! Script in Central-Asian Sanskrit Manuscripts,"
Asiatica, (Leipzig, 1954); L. Sander, Palaographisches zu den Sanskrithandschriften der
Berliner Turfansammlung (Wiesbaden, 1968).
12. P. Ch. Bagchi, India and Central Asia (Calcutta, 1955); E. Ziircher, The Bud-
dhist Conquest of China, vol. I (Leiden, 1959); A. Gabain, "Der Buddhismus in Zentral-
asien," Handbuch der Orientalistik, Bd. 8 (Religionsgeschichte in der Zeit der Weltreligionen)
(Leiden-K61n, 1961); Ch'an and Zen Teaching, Ed., trans. and expl. by Lu 'K'uan Yii
(London, 1962).
13. P. Ch. Bagchi, India and Central Asia, p. 109-110.
14. G. M. Bongard-Levin, "Sanskrit Manuscripts from Central Asia (A frag-
ment of the Mahayana MahaparinirvaJ:.la-sutra)," Journal of Ancient History (Vestnik
Drevnei Istorii) (1975), N 4, pp. 75-79 (in Russian); two other fragments were also
published: G. M. Bongard-Levin, "New Indian Texts from Central Asia (An unknown
fragment of Mahayana MahaparinirvaJ:.la-sutra)," Peoples of Asia and Africa (1975), N 6,
pp. 145-151 (in Russian); by the same author, "A New Fragment of Mahayana
Mahaparinirvana-sutra," Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungariae, t. XXV, fase.
1-4 (1977), pp. 243-248.
ZVOIRAO-"Zapiski Vostochnogo Otdeleniya Imperatorskogo Russkogo Archeolo-
gicheskogo Obschestva" (Transactions of the Oriental Section of the Imperial Archeo-
logical Society).
Buddhist Hybrid English:
Some Notes on Philology and
Hermeneutics for Buddhologists
by Paul]. Griffiths
Buddhist thought has a strange, and in many respects deplorable,
effect upon language; in India it produced that barbaric language we
usually call by the equally barbaric name of Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit,
a language in which large numbers of long, repetitive, obscure, and
subtle works were composed over a period of more than a thousand
years. It forced the Tibetans to invent not only an alphabet but also
what was in effect a new language, the most mechanical form of trans-
lationese which the world has yet seen. It managed to disturb even the
severe balance and precise rhythms of classical Chinese. And it is now
in process of wreaking its havoc upon the English language, creating a
dialect comprehensible only to the initiate, written by and for Bud-
dhologists, a dialect which has provided the title for this paper:
Buddhist Hybrid English.
It is the intention of this paper to make some suggestions about
the causes of this unfortunate development, and to point the way to
its remedy. More specifically, one main problem area will be dealt
with: that of how to interpret Buddhist Sanskrit texts in such a way as
to avoid unnecessary bastardization of the English language, while
still performing the scholarly task of making available the meaningof
such texts to the scholarly community. We shall be concerned here
only with Buddhist texts that survive in Sanskrit, and how they have
been and should be handled by the English-speaking Buddhological
community. Much of what is said here will have wider applications,
but such applications will not be made explicit.! We are here dealing
with what is essentially an hermeneutical issue, and we shall try to
answer three questions: first, what should be the aims of the Bud-
dhological community in handling the corpus of Sanskrit texts avail-
able to it? A subsidiary issue here will be whether or not the training
methods used for young Buddhologists are in fact appropriate to the
achievement of these aims. Second, it will be asked how these aims
may best be achieved. In order to answer this it will be necessary to
look briefly at the literary nature of the available Sanskrit texts, and to
establish some hermeneutical principles. We shall need to ask whether
philological expertise as classically understood has any relevance to
the hermeneutical enterprise, and to examine the possible aims and
purposes of translation. Third, we shall ask-and make some attempt
at answering-the question about the proper relationship of philol-
ogy to hermeneutics in the Buddhological sphere. It is here, above all,
that Buddhologists have a great deal to learn from other disciplines in
which these problems have been faced and discussed for generations.
There is absolutely no reason why Buddhology should become an
hermetic tradition, sealed off from the uninitiate and passed down
from master to pupil by mystical abh4eka; that way lies extinction, or
at least a self-banishment from the wider academic community.
First, therefore, we need to discuss the legitimate aims of the
Buddhological community in handling the corpus of Buddhist San-
skrit texts at its disposal. This area of Buddhological endeavour is
dearly a part of the history of religious ideas in its widest sense. That
is to say, the Buddhologist handling Buddhist Sanskrit texts is-or
should be--concerned initially to understand what his texts are about.
This sounds obvious, and should hardly need saying, but as we shall
see the Buddhological community produces a large number of trans-
lations (particularly of Tibetan texts, but also to a somewhat lesser
degree of Sanskrit texts) which betray no such understanding. What
then constitutes understanding? This is a multi-faceted phenomenon,
involving the interaction of the Buddhologist with his text on a
number of different levels; it goes far beyond philology, though a
certain degree of philological expertise is a necessary precondition for
understanding to occur. Philological expertise should provide the
ability to know what the technical terms of Buddhist Sanskrit philos-
ophy mean (an enterprise which is still in its infancy) and to handle
the complex syntax of Sanskrit philosophical sentence. This is no
easy matter, and I doubt whether anything less than five years
intensive study of the Sanskrit language could provide the necessary
expertise. We should note here that philology, as classically under-
stood in Europe and America, is of very marginal relevance for the
study of Buddhist Sanskrit. Sanskrit has been-and often still is-
taught in Western universities primarily in connection with Indo-
European studies, studies which have significance primarily for the
understanding of the Veda.
The Sanskritic B uddhologist does not
need to know the etymology and derivation of his technical terms and
their relationship to conjectural Indo-European roots; more relevant
would be a thorough grounding in the Prakrits, the linguistic devel-
opments of Middle lndic. The Sanskritic Buddhologist's primary
concern is to understand the technical terminology of his texts as it
was understood by their authors, throughout a thousand years of
Indian history, and the only effective way of gaining such under-
standing is by wide reading of texts and commentaries. Only thus can
the full semantic range of a given technical term be appreciated.
Clearly, the pre-requisite here is the ability to read Buddhist Sanskrit
with ease and fluency, to be able to pick up a text and read it with the
same speed and level of comprehension that we would bring to a
modern study in English, French or German. The undoubted fact
that such skill is rare among Western Buddhologists means that very
few have the time to become acquainted with a full range of Buddhist
Sanskrit literature, and so our understanding of the material remains
very limited. We shall return to this point.
The second step on the path to understanding a given text is the
ability to contextualize, to place the text under discussion in its
historical context, both in the broad sense of tracing continuities and
discontinuities with the earlier tradition, and in the narrower sense of
seeing how a given text fits into the larger corpus of its author. Con-
textualization should also, wherever possible, include a placing of the
text in its socia-cultural context in an attempt to show how particular
forms of thought arose in interaction with particular forms of society.
It is true that the paucity of our knowledge about both the relative
and absolute chronology of the composition of Buddhist Sanskrit
texts in relation to the chronology of Indian history at large makes this
task difficult; but even its desirability is hardly recognized by most
practicing Buddhologists, who tend to discuss their texts exclusively
on the level of abstract philosophy, as though each and everyone was
really composed in the t ~ i t a heaven, in blissful isolation from the
world of men.
The third-and most important-step on the path to under-
standing a given text is that of appropriating its meaning, of making
explicit to oneself one's understanding of the intentions of the text's
author. It is at this point that creative thinking begins to operate, and
it is only when this point has been reached that any attempt at inter_
pretation is likely to have success. There is unfortunately no space
here to draw out the full implications of this tllird stage on the path of
understanding; to do so would involve an excursion into the kind of
hermeneutical philosophy which is far from popular in the Anglo-
Saxon world. All that can be said is that a necessary condition for the
attainment of this third stage is the ability on the part of the Buddhol-
ogist to restate what he takes to be the meaning(s) of his text in terms
other than those employed by its author. If the Buddhologist cannot
do this, and restricts himself to discussions of his text in the idiom and
thought-world of the context which produced it, then he has failed in
what we shall see to be a prime duty of any scholar in any field-that
of making his results available to the wider scholarly community. It
should also be noted that this process of restating the meaning(s) of a
given text in terms other than those employed by the text itself may,
but need not, involve straightforward translation of the text from one
language to another. It will be suggested in the course of this paper
that translation is very frequently not the best way of performing the
hermeneutical task, a fact rarely realized by practicing Buddhologists,
most of whom stand transfixed in awe of their texts and are con-
cerned largely to transmit them by means of translation regardless of
whether or not they have been understood.
So far, then, it has been suggested that the initial aim of the
Buddhologist handling Buddhist Sanskrit texts and working within
the academic community should be to understand his sources. The
second legitimate aim, as we have already begun to see, is that of
making his understanding available, initially to his co-specialists,
secondarily to the wider scholarly community, and finally to the
interested public. It must be stressed again and again that the Bud-
dhologist, as an academic, has a real duty to communicate, and the
tendency in contemporary Western Buddhology to retreat behind an
impenetrable shield of technical vocabulary comprehensible only to
co-specialists, and to make no effort to reach out to colleagues in
related fields, is to be very strongly deplored. Very few of the papers
published in the dozen or so English-language journals which handle
specialized work in this field can be comprehensible to anyone outside
the closed circle of specialists, and this is largely because few Buddhol-
ogists have any expertise in anything but Buddhology. Dr. Richard
Gombrich, in his inaugural lecture as Professor of Sanskrit in the
University of Oxford, bemoaned the state of British Sanskrit studies
in these words:
We have three problems: we are not very good at English; we
are not very good at Sanskrit; and we are not very good at
anything else.
We should take these words to heart; they are, if anything, still more
true of the state of Buddhist Sanskrit studies in England and Amer-
ica. There are, as one would expect, some exceptions, some Buddhol-
ogists who have both the skills and the desire to communicate with
scholars in other fields and to undertake the hermeneutical task, but
they are few, and mostly in the realm of philosophy, where at last
some attempt is being made to enter seriously into the realm of cross-
cultural philosophy.4 But the vast majority of published work speaks
only to other Buddhologists, and not always very clearly to them. If
the third step on the path to understanding were taken more ser-
iously, if it was felt as a duty to develop the ability to restate the
meaning(s) of one's text, and if this approach were inculcated in our
university departments devoted to Buddhist Studies, then we might
begin to see some very positive results in the area of inter-disciplinary
and inter-cultural thinking.
This should not be misunderstood. I am not trying to say that
there is no room for specialized research work, or that journals
should not publish abstruse and complex pieces likely to be under-
stood only by other Buddhologists. Rather, I am suggesting that every
Buddhologist should see it as his duty not merely to communicate
with fellow specialists, but also with the wider scholarly world and
with the interested public. If a Buddhologist's specialized research
work makes him unable to do this, then there is something wrong
with the educational system which produced him and with the aca-
demic structures which support him.
So far, then, it has been suggested that a Buddhologist's aca-
demic work is in principle no different from that of any other special-
ist in the field of the history of religious ideas, and that the aims
towards which he works are just a part of the wider field of the search
for truth. Something needs to be said, however, about what the aims
of the Buddhologist are not, if only because there seems to be a great
deal of confusion, especially in American academic circles, about this.
The most important point to bear in mind here is that the Buddholo-
gist qua Buddhologist cannot be a religious enthusiast, proselytiser, or
even, one might go so far as to say, Buddhist. The set of attitudes that
a Buddhist usually has towards the texts of his tradition are quite
different from, and to a large extent incompatible with, those that a
Buddhologist should have towards the text he is studying. The un-
critically religious Buddhist-and most Buddhists are uncrItIcally
religious-regards his texts with awe as instruments of salvation and
containers of truth. He is not concerned to l ~ a r n things about Bud-
dhism, is only marginally concerned with philological matters, and
generally has no interest whatever in what we have called contextual_
ization. For the Buddhologist, the opposite is--or should be-the
To take two examples: the average Sinhalese Buddhist (and this
applies also to the intellectuals of that tradition) is quite happy to
believe that the suttas of the Pali suttapitaka were spoken by Sakyamuni
just as they now stand in the texts preserved for us. He is not
interested in, say, the application of form-critical method to the Pali
canon in an attempt to reclaim the Buddhavacanam. Similarly, the
Tibetan scholastic, trained in the philosophical method of his school,
has no trouble at all with the idea that the same Sakyamuni spoke the
sutras of the prajiUipiiramitii, and would regard as at best unnecessary
and at worst sacrilegious the attempt to contextualize the prajiUipiira-
mitii literature in the way that has been'suggested in this paper. The
conflict between uncritical faith and rigorous historico-philological
enquiry, a conflict which radically divided and almost destroyed the
intellectuals of Protestant Christendom during the last century, is in
fact just as strong and just as pernicious in the Buddhist sphere, even
though it has yet to corne out into the open. We shall have occasion to
return to this issue, especially when we consider the motivation for
translating Buddhist texts. At this point it needs to be stressed once
again: the Buddhologist as Buddhologist cannot be a proselytizer,
neither can he regard his texts with awe as receptacles of revealed
truth. The only kind of truth they can have for him as scholar is that
which is subject to discussion and verification in the open arena of the
This is not, of course, to say that no Buddhologist can also be a
Buddhist, but only that any who claim to wear both hats-and many
do--must be very careful to separate in their minds and their teach-
ings the different functions of Buddhist and Buddhologist. To con-
fuse the two is simply bad scholarly method. This problem is es-
pecially severe when Buddhism is taught in Western universities by
Buddhist scholastics, either of the Tibetan or Theravadin persuasion.
The difference in presuppositions and approaches between their way
of studying Buddhism and the way in which aspiring Buddhologists
should be studying it is often not made sufficiently clear to students,
with the result of confused method and questionable results.
Having briefly sketched the aims of the Buddhologist handling
Buddhist Sanskrit texts, we must now consider whether or not train-
ing methods in British and American universities are in fact appro-
priate to these aims. What can we expect of the new generation of
Buddhologists in the field of Sanskrit studies? The first point to note
is that there are not very many of them. There are a number of
reasons for this: one is that Sanskrit tuition is not widely available in
the universities of either England or America, and even where it is to
be found the stress is either on Indo-European philology, or upon the
study of the classical language and the mainstream literature of
Even in those few universities where Buddhism is treated as a
field of study in its own right, Buddhist Sanskrit tends to get taught
primarily as an adjunct to specialization in either Tibetan ot Sino-
Japanese fields. The attraction of having access to a complete corpus
of Buddhist literature rather than a fragmentary one, combined with
having living representatives of a given tradition available, together
with their oral traditions, has meant that more and more aspiring
Buddhologists are centering their attention either upon Tibetan
studies or upon Sino-Japanese studies to the detriment of Sanskrit.
One result is that it is now typically possible to get a Ph.D. in Buddhist
Studies from an American university with only one, or at most two,
years of Sanskrit, the kind of training which can give no more than a
faint hint of the complexities, attractions, and sheer difficulties of
reading Sanskrit philosophical texts with any kind of fluency. The
study of Sanskrit among the rising generation of Buddhologists in the
West is thus assuming a subsidiary position, and Eugene Burnout's
prophecy of 1844, that the study of Buddhist Sanskrit would always
have priority for those interested in understanding Buddhism/ is
now in process of being disproved.
This is a sad state of affairs. If real expertise in the handling of
Buddhist Sanskrit texts should vanish from the universities of Eng-
land and America-and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find
outside India and Japan-the loss would be irreparable. It would be as
though we had access to the sacred books of Christianity only through
the Vulgate.
So far, then, we have seen that one of the aims of the Buddholo-
gist which was outlined in the first part of this paper-that of under-
standing his texts-is in some danger because the time and teaching
necessary to gain a fluent reading knowledge of Buddhist Sanskrit is
not readily available in the universities of England and America, and
even when it is, the young Buddhologist is not very likely to want it.
But it is in the third stage of the process of understanding, that of
appropriating and restating the meaning(s) of o n e ~ s text, that the real
problems arise. The education of the aspiring Buddhologist as an
hermeneutical philosopher is likely to have been sketchy, and so his
skills as a communicator are likely to be equally minimal. We must
ask: what are the methods best adapted to achieving the aim of
restating the meaning(s) of one's text?
There can be no doubt that since the beginning of Buddholo
as an academic discipline, one method above all others in communi-
cating the meaning of Buddhist texts to the world has been adopted:
this is the method of translation. Since Burnouf translated the Sad-
dharmapu1}r/ankasutra,8 the sine qua non of success as a Buddhologist
has been the production of substantial translations of previously
untranslated texts. This is still very much the case today; the standard
American Buddhist Studies Ph.D. consists of a translation (and some-
times also a critical edition) of a given text, combined with a fifty page
introduction and perhaps the same amount of explanatory notes.
Part of the thesis of this paper is that the obsession with translation in
the Buddhological community, the pick-your-text-and-translate-it ap-
proach, is no longer, if indeed it ever was, the best way of undertaking
the hermeneutical task which we have seen to be of such fundamental
importance. Among other problems, the stress on translation has led
to the development of that regrettable phenomenon which provided
the title for this paper: Buddhist Hybrid English, a bastardized form
of the English language, so hag-ridden by Sanskrit syntax that aJmost
every sentence is constructed in the passive, every technical term is
translated by a series of hyphenated polysyllables, and the ideal of
writing clear, precise, and elegant English hardly even comes to the
conscious awareness of the translator.
I do not wish to underestimate the difficulties of translating
Buddhist Sanskrit texts into clear, precise, and elegant English; I am
only too aware of them. But I do wish to argue that if the task of
translating in this way proves too difficult, then another way of
communicating the meaning of the text should be adopted. To flesh
out this statement in more detail we need to look at the nature of the
source material with which the Sanskritic Buddhologist works, not, as
is usually done, from the viewpoint of content, but from the viewpoint
of form, of literary and aesthetic merit.
Clearly it is impossible to make any attempt at a survey of the
literary forms and aesthetic merits of the entire field of Buddhist
Sanskrit literature. I wish simply to take a few examples of texts which
are, for varying reasons, unsuited to communication and interpreta-
. tion by translation. Examples will be taken from both siitra and siistra,
though not from tantra.
To begin with the siitra: there survives in
Sanskrit a substantial body of work, ranging from the concise and
elegant vajracchedika, through the diffuse, repetitive and ornate Ga'l'!-
rjavyiiha, to the cryptic and disorganized Laidwvatiira. From the reli-
gious viewpoint these are the basic and essential texts of Buddhism;
for the believing Buddhist it is here that the word of Buddha is to be
found, and so the religious motivation for preserving and translating
these texts is obvious. To do so is an action amassing great merit for
the doer, and makes the saving word of the Buddha available for
whole new cultures. It should always be remembered that the cult of
the book is hardly less developed in the Mahayana than in Islam,11
though the terms in which it is expressed are rather different. But for
the scholar, as we have already pointed out, different considerations
should provide motivation. The Buddhologist should ask himself,
when dealing with a particular Sanskrit siitra, whether or not it has
any literary merit; whether or not it is of a kind to permit a clear
English rendering, or whether its meaning would be better communi-
cated by study and analysis. To take just one of many possible
examples, let us look at the Ga'l'!4avyiiha. 12_ In this text we see the
apotheosis of Gautama taken to an extreme degree and a concomitant
fascination with the details of the various buddhak:jetras which mutually
interpenetrate to make up the dharmadhiitu. The ostensible "plot" of
the siitra-Sudhana's pilgrimage from teacher to teacher in an at-
tempt to discover how to live the life of a bodhisattva-is almost
completely overlaid by the endlessly repetitive descriptions of the
appearance, ornaments, and powers of the various bodhisattvas, and
the piling up of a multi-membered compound upon multi-membered
compond, each more grandiose than the last. For example, in a
section of the siitra devoted to describing bodhicitta there are no less
than 224 separate similes used to elaborate upon it,13 none adding
anything substantial to our understanding of the phenomenon. Leav-
ing aside for the moment the question of why so many Mahayana
siitras employ this kind of literary overkill, it is surely clear that a
translation of such a work could have no scholarly purpose. Who
would read it? Buddhologists have access to the original, which is at
least syntactically easy to follow, even if paralysingly boring, and the
wider scholarly community is not going to spend its time wading
through 500 pages of verbose repetltlon. Any Buddhologist who
wishes to study the GaT!4avyuha, and to understand it in the sense of
understanding which has been discussed in the course of this paper,
would be better off producing a study of the text and an analysis of its
religious meaning than a translation. Translation can all too often be
a replacement for thought, a temptation to establish one's credentials
and exhibit one's virtuosity; it frequently has little to do with the
scholarly enterprise.
I would suggest, therefore, that a large proportion of the surviv-
ing sutra material in Sanskrit is better left untranslated. Buddhologists
can give far more to the scholarly community by creatively studying
and interpreting these texts than by translating them. Translation can
be left to those who wish to perform it as an act of religious super-
erogation. But here again a disclaimer becomes necessary. Some
sutras, even if a small minority, are models of literary elegance and
religious power, and it is these that cry out for translation. I can do no
better than to quote Jacques May on this matter, a man whose literary
sensibilities and good sense could well be imitated by many English-
speaking Buddhologists. He said (in reference to the Sarrulhinirmocana):
... il est un des quelques Mahayana sutras qui, tels Ie Vimalakirti-
nirdesa, l'Upali-paripr:ccham n ~ u n i s s e n t des qualites qui font en
general cruellement defaut a ce genre des textes: proportions
raisonnables, ni trop vaste, ni trop restreintes; composition clair
et rigoureuse; idees distinctes, articulees, exprimees avec per-
tinence et sans trop de repetitions. 14
It is just because most sutras are either excessively long or obscurely
short, cryptically incomprehensible or repetitively obvious, and just
because they lack the marks of clear and precise thinking, that most of
them do not benefit from translation and are better interpreted in
other ways.
We may now turn briefly to the second category of Buddhist
literature traditionally distinguished, that of sastra. The range of
literary types subsumed into this category is very wide, and the
decision as to the best method of undertaking the hermeneutical task
must be made on the merits of each case. Here I wish only to take two
examples of the Buddhist Sanskrit sastras in order to give some idea of
the special translation problems associated with this kind ofliterature,
and in order to show that not all of these texts are amenable to trans-
lation. Our first example is the Abhidharmakosa together with Vasu-
bandhu's own bhiiSya, which we may take as a paradigm of kiirikii texts
with attached prose commentaries. Such texts provide special prob-
lerns: the most obvious is that of what to do with the kiirikii portions of
the text. Is it legitimate to attempt a translation of the verses alone,
without their prose commentary(s)? Were the kiirikiis ever meant to be
read without a commentary, and do they in fact make much sense
without one? These issues are at least partially literary ories, having to
do with facts about the nature of Buddhist Sanskrit sastras and the
literary conventions of the time in which they were written; the issues
remain difficult to decide because we do not know enough about such
things. The common-sense view, and that which appears to have been
taken by the majority of Buddhist intellectuals, past and present, is
that a kiirikii text such as the Kosa is of little use without a commentary.
A kiirikii text by itself is so concise and ambiguous that it communi-
cates little; its main function is to provide a matrix for the extensive
commentarial discussions of disputed philosophical issues which are
to be found in the works of such as Vasubandhu and SthiramatiY
Therefore, taking into account the guidelines that we have already set
out, we must conclude that the enterprise of translating kiirikii texts by
themselves is a fruitless one. The result can only be to produce an
English version which is as ambiguous and frustrating as the Sanskrit
original. Matters are different, though, when we move to a considera-
tion of kiirikii texts in conjunction with their commentaries. We move
at once from the realms of aphoristic ambiguity to those of prolix
precision. The problems here are not that we do not know what the
author intended-that is usually very clear-but that Indian com-
mentarial style is quite exceptionally hard to render into lucid and
comprehensible English. Any attempt to make a complete English
rendering of a b h ~ y a which adopts the usual method of glossing each
word, then unpacking each compound, and eventually getting a-
round to discussing the philosophical meaning of the verse under
consideration, is likely to lose the uninitiated reader in confusion very
The best method of making such texts available for the scholarly
community is therefore not straightforward translation, but rather
studies which incorporate translation only as and when necessary.
Parts of the prose commentaries upon kiirikii texts, notably those
which go beyond word and grammatical glosses, are in fact master-
pieces of philosophical prose, lucid and even at times entertaining,
and it is these above all which need to be translated. It is also in these
extended commentarial sections-a commentary upon one kiirikii may
typically extend to half a dozen pages where matters of philosophical
controversy are raised-that the real philosophical meat of a given
work is to be found. The rest is of interest only to those who have
sufficient philological expertise and interest in Sanskrit syntax to read
it for themselves. The model for dealing with such kiirikii-plus-
commentary texts, therefore, should be Van Buitenen's study of
Ramanuja's Gitiibhii.)ya.
Here interpretive cruxes are translated; the
rest is summarized, analyzed, and interpreted. It might be objected
that this kind of selective interpretation/study does violence to the
integrity of the text and is therefore to be shunned; but as long as the
scholarship employed in the study is careful and the content of the
text under consideration adequately conveyed, this is no real objec-
tion. We have seen that one of the main objectives of the Buddholo-
gist is to communicate the meaning of his text. The kind of selective
translation/study I am suggesting for kiirikii-plus-commentary texts
would do this much more effectively than would a full translation,
and is therefore to be preferred. It takes the text seriously but not
Our second example of a Buddhist Sanskrit siistra which is not
amenable to communication by translation will be the monumental
YogiiciirabhumiSiistra. About half this text has survived in Sanskrit, and
much of it is now available in editions of varying excellence.
Y ogiiciirabhumi is in effect a pedagogical handbook of the Y ogacira
school, a work of what Jacques May has called "inexorable technical-
ity" 18 consisting of little more than lists of technical terms together
with brief definitions. To attempt a translation of such a work would
be tantamount to rendering the Oxford English Dictionary into San-
skrit. Clearly, works of this kind need intensive study, and the results
of such study need to be made available, but translation is simply not
the best way to go about it.
It should, of course, be pointed out that some Buddhist Sanskrit
siistras do in fact possess the literary characteristics which make
translation a suitable method of undertaking the hermeneutical task
-namely, the characteristics of precision, lucidity and elegance. We
might suggest Santideva's Bodhicaryiivatiira or Kamalasila's Bhiivanii-
krama as fairly random examples. But the majority of the surviving
Buddhist Sanskrit siistra material is, I suggest, better left untranslated
for much the same reasons that were distinguished earlier for the
sutra material.
This superficial and hurried review of the literary and aesthetic
characteristics of Buddhist Sanskrit texts may allow the tentative con-
clusion that the Buddhologist's interpretive methods should always
conform to the material with which he is dealing; that one method will
not do for all texts; and that translation is only occasionally the most
appropriate method.
Before we close this paper we should look at an example of
Buddhist Hybrid English. It is not a phenomenon confined to grad-
uate students or recent Ph.D. candidates, but something which afflicts
the most mature scholars. Take this for instance:
... all dharmas are situated in permanence, ease, the self, the
lovely; and likewise in impermanence, ill, not-self and the un-
lovely; in greed, hate, delusion, wrong views; for an entity made
by false views does not exist, how can the false views themselves
take place? For situated in Suchness are all dharmas, and from
that situation they do not depart. And why? Because the coming
and going of Suchness cannot be apprehended. And so for the
Dharma-element, the Reality-limit, Sameness, the unthinkable
element, and immobility. 19
This example of Buddhist Hybrid English was chosen pretty much at
random from the late Edward Conze's translation of the Paiicavi1[L-
satisiihasrikiiprajiiiipiiramitiisiitra. This translation was originally pub-
lished without notes or explanatory apparatus of any kind, and one
cannot help but wonder if Dr. Conze ever thought about his audience.
Non-Buddhologists, those who. have no Sanskrit and no training in
the intricacies of the prajiiiipiiramitii, cannot possibly make any sense of
it whatever. Dr. Conze's translation bears only the most tenuous rela-
tionship to the English language in terms of syntax, and is full of
unexplained technical terminology; this much should be obvious even
from the short extract quoted here. Its only advantage is that the
Sanskrit original shines through with a fair amount of clarity; it isn't
difficult for the Sanskritist to reconstruct the original. But it is pre-
cisely the expert who doesn't need a translation. He can read the
original, and should prefer to do so.
The barbaric nature of Dr. Conze's translation is not, of course,
altogether his fault. The nature of the material is such that anything
else would be almost impossible to achieve; the Paiicavi1[Lsatisiihasrikii is
just as barbaric in Sanskrit. His fault, then, lies not in a bad rendering
of the text, but in that he decided to translate it at all. The long
prajfuiparamitii S'utras are just the kind of texts which do not benefit
from translation and which are better studied and interpreted in
other ways. I have no doubt that Dr. Conze came closer to an under-
standing of this material than has any Weste;n Buddhologist before
or since, but he failed signally in his hermeneutical task, that of
making his understanding available to others, because-in this case at
least-he chose the wrong method. The Buddhological community
would have been better served if Dr. Conze had produced a good
critical edition of this text (still a desideratum) rather than an un-
readable translation, together with a detailed critical study of its
structure, relationship to other prajiiaparamita texts, ideas, and tech-
nical terminology, and (only as and when necessary) a translation of
and commentary upon key passages.
I chose this example not because Dr. Conze's translations are
worse than anyone else's; in fact they are better than most. Rather, it
illustrates with a concrete example the kind of gibberish that is all too
often produced by the Buddhological community in the sacred name
of translation. I might add that still more striking examples of
Buddhist Hybrid English could be adduced if we were to look at the
results obtained by those who translate Tibetan texts.
We must now make some attempt to draw together the threads
of this discussion. We have tried to sketch the legitimate aims of the
Buddhologist in studying the corpus of Buddhist Sanskrit literature,
and to show the fundamental importance of a good reading knowl-
edge of Buddhist Sanskrit for the achieving of these aims. We have
noted in passing that an adequate training in the field of Buddhist
Sanskrit is becoming increasingly hard to find in English or American
universities, largely because there is a growing tendency to treat
Sanskrit merely as an adjunct to Tibetan or Sino-Japanese studies.
But we have also tried to show that philology is not enough; in order
for the Buddhologist to achieve his aims, philological expertise must
be properly employed in the task of interpreting the sources and
making them available for others; that is to say, philology must be
properly related to hermeneutics. The second part of our paper was
designed to show that such a relationship is only rarely brought into
effect by translation, largely because of the literary nature of the
source material. To attempt translation where this is not an appropri-
ate means of undertaking the hermeneutical task leads to that regret-
table phenomenon which I have called Buddhist Hybrid English.
A version of this paper was first read at the 4th Conference of the Inter-
national Association of Buddhist Studies, held at the University of Wisconsin, Madison,
U.S.A., August 7-9, 1981.
1. Most of what is said in this paper will be applicable only to England and
America, in both of which the author has experience. While some of the problems are
similar, there are sufficient differences to make the application of what is said here to
the Buddhological communities of India, Europe, and Japan somewhat problematic.
2. cf. Richard Gombrich, On Being Sanskritic (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978),
3. Gombrich, op. cit., p. 27.
4. Especially noteworthy here is Chris Gudmunsen's Wittgenstein and Buddhism
(London: 1977) and many of the papers published in Philosophy East & West
during the last decade. A good recent example is Robert Thurman's "Philosophical
Nonegocentrism in Wittgenstein and Candrakirti in their treatment of the Private
Language Problem" (Ph.E.W., Vol. 30.3, July 1980), pp. 321-337.
5. Sanskrit of any kind is formally studied in no more than half-a-dozen
universities in England, and Buddhist Sanskrit in its own right is taught nowhere on a
regular basis. While Sanskrit is more widely available in American universities, there is
still comparatively little specialized teaching of Buddhist Sanskrit.
6. This tendency has now reached the point at which English translations of
Buddhist texts are being produced solely from the Tibetan or Chinese even when the
Sanskrit original---{)r part of it-survives. This kind of thing is done even by those who
have at least some pretensions to scholarship in the field, for example, Jeffrey Hopkins,
who has perpetrated a translation of Nagarjuna's Ratniivali (as part of The Precious
Garland & The Song of the Four Mindfulnesses, London: Allen & Unwin, 1975) entirely on
the basis of the Tibetan version in apparent blissful ignorance that a substantial part of
this text survives in Sanskrit, and has even been edited by G. Tucci as "The Ratnavali of
Nagaruna" (JRAS, 1934, pp. 307-25; 1936, pp. 237-252, 423-435). Such a pro-
cedure is simply bad scholarly method, and is becoming ever more common among Ti-
betophiles who seem to forget that Buddhist canonical texts were originally largely
composed in Sanskrit.
7. Eugene Burnouf, Introduction Ii I'Histoire du Buddhisme Indien (Paris: Maison-
neuve, 1844, 2nd ed. 1876), pp. 10-11.
8. Burnouf, Le Lotus de la Bonne Loi (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1825).
9. In surveying forty Buddhist Studies Ph.D.'s awarded by American universi-
ties from 1974-1979, I found that 25 followed this standard pattern.
10. This restriction is partly because I do not consider myself competent to dis-
cuss tantric texts from the literary angle or any other, and partly because the problems
invoved in the hermeneutics of tantrism are so idiosyncratic and complex that even a
superficial discussion would need a paper to itself. Nevertheless, many of the broader
points made about siitra and sastra may also be applied to tantra.
11. cf. G. Schopen, "The Phrase 'sa frr:thivipradeSaScaityabhiito bhavet in the
Vajracchedika: Notes on the Cult of the Book in the Mahayana." (Indo-IranianJoumal,
Vol. 17, 1975), pp. 147-181.
12. This text is to hand in two reasonably good editions: D. T. Suzuki &
H. Izumi, The Ga:rufavyiihasiitra (Tokyo: Suzuki Research Foundation, 1949), and
P. L. Vaidya, GaTfcfavyiihasiitra (Buddhist Sanskrit Texts 5, Darbhanga: Mithila Insti-
tute, 1960). There is no complete published English translation.
13. Vaidya, ed. cit., 397. 17ff.
14. Jacques May, "La Philosophie Bouddhique Idealiste" (Etudes Asiatiques,
Vol. 25,1971), p. 276.
15. The fact that kiirikii texts are sufficiently ambiguous to be capable of a wide
range of interpretations becomes clear if we compare, say, the Kosa with the Abhi-
dharrnadipa. The latter is a work written in an attempt to re-establish the V a i b h a ~ i k a
viewpoint in reaction against the Sautrantika leanings of the KosabhiiJya. It does this in
many instances by reproducing the kiirikiis of the Kosa and interpreting them in a
different-sometimes diametrically opposed-manner. Some 300 of the 597 surviving
Sanskrit kiirikiis of the Dipa have more or less exact parallels in the Kosa. The "meaning"
of any given kiirikii is thus not inherent in the kiirikii but determined by the commenta-
The best editions of the respective works are: AbhidharrnakosabhiiJyam oj Vasu-
bandu, ed. P. Pradhan with introduction and indices by A. Haldar, Tibetan Sanskrit
Works Series, Vol. 8 (Patna: K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute, 1975); Abhidharmadipa
with VibhiiJaprabhiiVr:fti, ed. P. S. Jaini, Tibetan Sanskrit Works Series, Vol. 4 (Patna:
K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute, 2nd ed. 1977).
16. J. Van Buitenen, Riimiinuja on the Bhagavadgitii: A Condensed Rendering oj the
GltiibhiiJya with copious notes and an introduction (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1968).
17. Bhiimis 1-5, ed. V. Bhattacharya, The Yogiiciirabhiimi oj Arya Asanga (Cal-
cutta: University of Calcutta Press, 1957); Bhiimis 8, 9, 14, ed. A. Wayman in Journal of
Indian & Buddhist Studies, Vol. 8, 1960, pp. 375-379; Bhiimi 13 ed. K. Shukla, Sriivaka-
bhiimi of Arya Asanga, Tibetan Sanskrit Works, Vol. 14 (Patna: K. P. Jayaswal Research
Institute, 1973); Bhumi 15, ed. Unrai Wogihara, Bodhisattvabhiimi (Tokyo: Sankibo
Buddhist Bookstore, 2nd ed., 1976); also, ed. N. Dutt, Bodhisattvabhiimi, Tibetan San-
skrit Works Series, Vo!' 7 (Patna: K. P. Jayaswal Research Institute, 1966. 2nd ed.,
18. In a review of Lambert Schmithausen's Der Niruiina-Abschnitt in der Viniicaya-
SaT(lgrahaTfI der Yogiiciirabhiimil! in Indo-Iranian Journal, Vol. 14, 1972, pp. 125-129. The
reference to "technicite inexorable" occurs on p. 125.
19. Edward Conze, The Large Siitra on the Perfection oj Wisdom, Parts 2 & 3
(Madison, Wisconsin: 1964), p. 374.
N onorigination and Nirvar;a in the
Early Tathagatagarbha Literature
by William Grosnick
One of the most interesting notions found in the early tathiigatagarbha
literature is the idea that niruiirJa should be understood as non-
origination (anutpiida). This idea is explicitly formulated in two texts,
the Ratnagotravibhiiga, the only siistra extant in Sanskrit which is com-
pletely devoted to the tathiigatagarbha and Buddha-nature teachings,
and the Jiiiiniilokiilankiirasutra, the sutra upon which the Ratnagotravi-
bhiiga bases its exposition of nonorigination. The Jiiiiniilokiilankiira-
sidra itself does not speak of the tathiigatagarbha or Buddha-nature
doctrines, but the Ratnagotravibhiiga takes the Jiiiiniilokiilankiirasutra
explanation of nonorigination and links it to the view of niruiirJa
found in two of the important early sutras that do speak of the tathii-
gatagarbha, the AnunatviipiirrJatvanirdda and the Srimiiliidevisutra. This
interpretation of niruiirJa in terms of nonorigination is of considerable
importance in understanding the early tathiigatagarbha teaching, for it
clarifies certain notions frequently associated with the tathiigatagarbha
like the "natural purity of mind" (cittaprakrtiviSuddhi)-notions which
have been hotly debated ever since the doctrine's inception. It may also
tell us something about the conceptual issues which divided the
schools of early Buddhism and so hold clues for understanding the
origin of Mahayana Buddhism.
In order to see how the tathiigatagarbha theorists could under-
stand niruiirJa as nonorigination it is necessary first to examine some
of their ideas about niruiirJa. It is of course well known that the earliest
Mahayana literature placed great emphasis on the figure of the
Buddha, and urged beings to strive for buddhahood rather than
personal liberation. At first glance this would seem to give the im-
pression that buddhahood and niruiirJa were thought of as separate
and distinct goals, the understanding being that one should strive for
buddhahood in order to help other beings attain nirva'f!a. Buddha-
hood would be the higher goal because it represents selfless activity
on behalf of others rather than selfish striving for personal release.
This indeed is how some Mahayana Buddhists apparently understood
the relationship between buddhahood and nirva'f!a, for the authors of
the so-called "triyana" texts like the SarJ.ldhinirmocanasiitra and the
Mahiiyanasiitralankiira reasoned that certain beings (the tathiigatayana-
gotraka) had the superior faculties necessary for buddhahood while
others (the sravakayanagotraka and the pratyekabuddhayanagotraka), had
only the faculties necessary for attaining nirva'f!a.
But "ekayana" texts like the Ratnagotravibhiiga and the tathiigata-
garbha siitras upon which it relies do not make this conceptual dis-
tinction between buddhahood and nirva'f!a. Buddhahood is not simply
a superior state of wisdom and compassion from which one helps
others attain liberation-it is also itself a state of liberation. Thus the
Ratnagotravibhiiga maintains that from the highest point of view
"buddhahood and nirva1!a are one and the same"2; and the SrWuila-
devisiitra, in a passage quoted in the Ratnagotravibhaga, says
The sravaka and pratyekabuddha vehicles all enter the great ve-
.hicle. The great vehicle is the Buddha vehicle. Therefore the
three vehicles are the one vehicle. One who attains the one ve-
hicle attains supreme, perfect enlightenment. Supreme enlight-
enment is the realm of nirva'f!a (nirva'f!adhiitu). And the realm of
nirva1!a is the Dharma-body of the Tathagata.
Thus buddhahood was not simply understood as the attainment of
those various powers and kinds of wisdom by which one might aid
others to find liberation in nirva'f!a-it was itself a form of liberation.
Indeed, it was the only form of liberation that there was.
What above all made possible this identification of buddhahood
and nirva7!a was the rejection of the notion that nirva7!a represented
extinction. This idea was probably implicit in the doctrine of the
eternality of the Tathagata so vigorously expounded in the Sad-
dharmapur!4art7w and the first half of the Mahiiparinirva'f!asiitra. But
the siitras of the tathiigatagarbha tradition do not just speak of non-
extinction for the Tathagata, they also make clear that it is wrong to
think of any sentient being attaining extinction. In the Aniinat-
vapiiT1!atvanirdesa, the title of which means the "siitra which expounds
neither increase nor decrease," the Buddha responds to the question
of whether there is any increase or decrease in the number of beings
transmigrating through the triple world first by rejecting the quest-
ions as ill-conceived, and then by explicitly attacking both the idea
that nirvarJa represents a kind of severance, destruction, or non-being
(the view of "decrease"), and the idea that it represents a reality over
and above the phenomenal life that arises suddenly without cause (the
view of "increase").
The text goes on to say that these two erroneous
views of nirvarJa would not arise if beings understood the ~ m e dharma-
The Srtmaliidevisutra follows a similar line of thought in its
discussion of the third noble truth, the truth of the cessation of suf-
fering (duq,khanirodhasatya). In a widely quoted passage the sutra says:
By the truth of the cessation of suffering, 0 World-honored
One, is not meant the destruction of a single dharma. By the
expression "cessation of suffering" is meant the Dharma-body of
the Tathagata, which is beginningless, unproduced, unborn, of
no destruction, free from destruction, eternal, pure by nature,
free from the covering of kleSas, and inseparable from the
buddhadharmas, which are more numerous than the sands of the
Ganges River.
The Ratnagotravibhiiga comments on this passage by saying that this is
how the truth of the cessation of suffering should be understood; it
should never be explained that the truth gets its name because of the
extinction of something.
What this seems to mean is that the authors of the Ratnagotra-
vibhiiga and other tathiigatagarbha texts rejected the idea that nirviirJa
was a state of extinction reached when one destroyed one's ignorance
and passions and exhausted one's rebirths. It is possible that their
arguments were directed at the notions of nirviirJa "with a remainder"
(sopiidhiJe0anirviirJa) and nirviirJa "without a remainder" (anuphiidhiJe0a-
nirvarJa) found in texts like the Itivuttaka,8 for both of these notions
emphasized extinction. NirviirJa with a remainder (also called klesa-
nirviirJa), represented the extinction of asravas ("outflows") like sens-
ual desire, desire for existence, and ignorance and the extinguishing
of kleSas like greed, hatred, and pride. It represented the attainment of
an arhat who had not yet departed this life. NirviirJa without a
remainder represented the extinction realized by the arhat at death,
when the five skandhas (the "remainder") are dispersed. Both of these
articulations of nirviirJa suggest that there is a point in time when
certain dharmas, be they kleSas or skandhas, are completely extin-
guished, and this appears to be precisely the kind of extinction which
the tathiigatagarbha texts were arguing against. Moreover, the idea
thatniruiir;a is attained or entered at a particular point in time is also
something argued against in the texts. TheJiiiiniilokiilankiirasutra says
It is impossible to see the Tathagata enter niruiir;a, though
sentient beings give rise to such a notion and say that the Tatha-
gata has attained ultimate niruiir;a . ... The Tathagata's true, all-
pervading knowledge is unborn, undying, unoriginated, and
undestroyed. . . . From beginningless time he realizes eternal
The view of niruiir;a brought forward in the early tathiigatagarbha
texts as an alternative to the idea of extinction was the rather remark-
able notion of nonorigination. The authors of the Ratnagotravibhiiga
and Jiiiiniilokiilankiirasutra (and perhaps the other tathiigatagarbha sut-
ras), seemed to believe that true attainment is to be found not in the
extinguishing of ignorance and passion, but in their nonorigination.
This rather ingenious notion is clearly brought forward in the
Jiiiiniilokiilankiirasutra where it is said that:
Where there is neither origination nor extinction, mind, intel-
lect, and consciousness do not take place. When mind, intellect,
and consciousness do not take place, there is no false discrimina-
tion by which incorrect thought would arise. One who arouses
correct thought never originates ignorance. Nonorigination
means the non-arising of the twelve parts of existence. 10
The idea seems to be that correct practice consists of not generating
those mental activities by which illusory realities are conceived. Cor-
rect thought seems to be thought which does not originate those
notions of "me" and "mine" that in turn give rise to desire, craving,
hatred, and the other passions that plague human existence. Correct
thought is the nonorigination of any false and foolish conceptions of
reality (prapaiica). And the Jiiiiniilokiilankiirasutra clearly associates this
nonorigination with niruiir;a, the liberation from sarl}Siira:
One who has been able to reach the truth does not give rise to
vain imaginings (prapaiica). One who does not give rise to vain
imaginings does not act in accordance with falsely posited reali-
ties. One who neither imagines nor acts in such ways does not
dwell in sarl}Siira.
In the analysis provided by the Ratnagotravibhiiga, human bond-
age (vibandha) is "the origination of desire, hatred, and ignorance"
which is preceded by superficial thought (ayoniJomanasikiira). Super-
ficial thought is thought which conceives of and grasps after illusory
realities be'cause of its attachment to what are really only the con-
ceptual characteristics (nimitta) of things. When one understands that
this thought is extinct by nature one ceases to originate duality and
discrimination and the suffering associated with them. Therefore the
text says, "there is absolutely no origination of suffering." 12 The text
seems to be saying that human suffering is the illusory product of
mental activity. When one understands this one's proper response is
not to try to destroy suffering, but simply not to originate it. Those
practitioners whom the Ratnagotravibhiiga characterizes as sriivakas do
not understand this and therefore seek to destroy suffering. This is
probably why the text claims that the obstacle of sriivakas is the notion
of suffering (dul[kha-sa7(ljiial and the fear of suffering (du};,kha-bhirutua). 13
Suffering is not a dharma one should extinguish, but an illusion one
should not produce. In the words of the Jfiiiniilokiilankiirasutra,
If the bodhisattva does not originate mind he does not effect the
extinction of dharmas or the origination of dharmas . ... He sees
that dharmas are extinct from the outset and that they are not
extinguished. 14
Thus, rather than understanding the noble truth of the extinc-
tion of suffering as a state of nonbeing or extinction, it would appear
that the early tathiigatagarbha thinkers regarded it as a kind of practice
-namely the practice of nondiscriminative wisdom (avikalpa-jfiiina).
N ondiscriminative wisdom is not a practice aimed at deliverance
(viriiga), but a practice that is already deliverance, 15 for ignorance and
its attendant passions and sufferings are simply not originated. It is
also a practice that does not involve the application of correctives
for specific ills (as, for example, in the case of a man prone
to hatred who might consciously cultivate benevolent thoughts toward
his enemies). The mind of one who practices correct thought (i.e.,
nonorigination), is "pure by nature," and as the Jfiiiniilokiilankiirasutra
puts it, "because mind is pure by nature in one who practices correct
thought, there is no need for This rejection of
would suggest that the understanding of practice found in the Rat-
nagotravibhiiga and Jfiiiniilokiilankiirasutra may have more in common
with certain Sino-Japanese views of practice (like the Zen Master
Dogen's "enlightenment-based practice")17 than it does with more
traditional Indian Buddhist understandings of practice like the five
path system of the Abhisamayalankiira.
Since the nonorigination of ignorance is an activity, rather than
a state of extinction, it is not surprising that the tathiigatagarbha texts
portray it using the dynamic, personified figure of the Buddha's
Dharma-body rather than using the traditional term nirva'f}a with its
connotation of stasis. It is probably because of this active sense of
nonorigination that the Ratnagotravibhiiga literally identifies the ex-
tinction of suffering with the dharmakiiya of the Tathagata.
the active nonorigination of ignorance is so central to the tathiigata-
garbha theory that some of the texts seem almost to make nonorigina-
tion into the defining characteristic of the dharmakiiya. The Srzmala-
devZsutra defines the dharmakiiya as beginningless, unproduced, and
non-arisen. 19 And the Jiianiilokiilankiirasutra says that the pure Dhar-
is unmoving, does not originate mental actions, does not engage
in pointless speculation, and does not reason dualistically. It
does not discriminate; it is free from discrimination. It does not
speculate; it is free from speculation. It does not imagine; it is
free from imagination. It is tra.nquil and quiescent, of neither
origination nor destruction.
In another passage of the Jiiiiniilokiilankiirasutra that is quoted by the
Ratnagotravibhiiga, the text says that "he who is said to be of neither
origination nor destruction is called the Tathagata."21
The understanding of nirva'Y?a and the dharmakiiya in terms of
nonorigination has several important implications for understanding
the tathiigatagarbha theory. One of the most obvious of these implica-
tions concerns the proper interpretation of the notion of the "natural
purity of mind" (cittaprakl:tiviSuddhi) or the "natural luminescence of
mind" (cittasya prakrtiprabluisvaratal.22 Some scholars of Buddhism,
most notably Obermiller,23 seem to have felt that these notions imply
a sort of Brahmanical monism-that underlying the constant flux of
mind-produced illusions there is a sort of pure mental substratum
that remains eternally the same. This interpretation would have it
that the natural purity of this mental substratum serves as an ultimate
refuge from the uncertainties and sufferings of transitory human
It is clear, however, from the idea of the nonorigination of
ignorance that there is no need to go so far as to posit a mental
substratum in order to understand the theory of the natural purity of
mind. The natural purity of mind can be thought of simply as the
. awareness of one who does not originate thoughts of "me" and
"mine" and other illusory realities. Nothing special is being said about
any kind of mystical penetration into an absolute or universal mental
nature. The natural luminosity of mind is only the natural purity of
one who does not generate foolish thoughts. It is completely unthink-
able, unlocalizable, and indescribable,24 and thus fully compatible
with the prajiiiiparamitii teaching of emptiness.
A second important implication of nonorigination involves the
sister concept of the tathiigatagarbha, the Buddha-nature (buddha-
dhatu). An important problem confronting scholars of the Mahiipari-
nirva,,!asutra was how to reconcile the various assertions made in the
sutra that the Buddha-nature is both a cause and a result; the idea of
nonorigination may show how this is possible. For example, in the
"Kasyapa" Chapter of the Mahiiparinirva,,!asutra, the Buddha says that
before enlightenment the Buddha-nature is a cause but that after
enlightenment it is a result.
Later in the same chapter the Buddha
says that when he speaks following his own volition (i.e., not adapting
his thought to the capacities of listeners), he explains that the result
lies in the cause and the cause in the result.
Unfortunately, the sutra
itself does not do much to clarify these rather confusing statements;
but if one were to identify the Buddha-nature with the active non-
origination of ignorance, this apparent contradiction between cause
and result might be resolved. As noted earlier, the practice of not
originating ignorance is not simply the means to liberation (cause), it
is also liberation itself (result). By not originating false notions of
reality, beings actualize their innate purity. All beings are said to
possess the Buddha-nature because they possess the capacity to prac-
tice nonorigination-this is the Buddha-nature as cause. When they
practice it becomes result.
It is also interesting to note that the identification of liberation
with nonorigination that is found in the tathgatagarbha literature may
hold some clues for understanding the origins of Mahayana Bud-
dhism, or at least for understanding the philosophical questions
which divided them from their so-called "Hinayana" opponents. For
it is clear from the tathiigatagarbha literature that the early Mahayana
thinkers had some strong views regarding the nature of nirva,,!a. The
Snmaliidevisutra, as we have noted, is most adamant in asserting that
the truth of the cessation of suffering (du!;,kanirodhasatya) should not be
thought of as extinction. It is reasonable, therefore, to assume that
one of the philosophical issues that led Mahayana Buddhism to dis-
tinguish itself from other Buddhist schools of thought was the proper
understanding of nirviir;a. How far back can one trace the notion that
nirviir;a should be thought of as nonorigination rather than extinc-
If one examines what the historical Buddha is purported to have
said about nirviir;a, it is clear that there was plenty of room for dis-
agreement right from the start. Certainly there are plenty of refer-
ences to extinction in the Buddha's utterances-allusions to the ex-
tinguishing of a lamp or flame, to the extinction of desire, hatred, and
illusion, and even to the "stopping of becoming."28 There are also,
however, some important qualifications of the idea that nirviir;a is
extinction, perhaps foremost among them being the refusal of the
Buddha to answer questions like whether or not the Tathagata exists
after death 29 or whether or not a monk who has destroyed the asravas
exists after the dissolution of the body. 30 It is certainly clear from this
that he did not lay down as dogma the notions of nirviir;a with and
without a remainder. Moreover, because of the Buddhist rejection of
the reality of the self, or iitman, it is apparent that there is nothing that
ever really needs to be extinguished in the first place. In an early
discourse attributed to Sariputra it is concluded that "a Tathagata
cannot be held to be perceived as existing even in this life in truth and
reality."3! Assertions like these suggest that extinction is in a very real
sense already attained, and it is only the illusion of self that could
present a problem. The question might well then have become,
should one extinguish such illusions or simply not originate them?
And finally there is that curious quote from the Udiina, which almost
seems to suggest that nirviir;a should be understood as existing:
There is an unborn, an unbecome, an unmade, an uncom-
pounded; if there were not, there would not be an escape from the
born, the become, the made, the compounded. But because
there is an unborn, an unbecome, an unmade, an uncom-
pounded, there is therefore an escape from the born, the
become, the made, and the compounded}2
It would be stretching things to suggest that this quote expresses the
view of nonorigination that is found in the Jiiiiniilokiilankiirasutra, but
it is nevertheless clear that even in those statements attributable to the
Buddha, nonbirth and nonorigination were important notions. De-
bate over extinction or nonorigination could have begun even during
the lifetime of the Buddha.
As a sidelight it is worth noting that the idea of nonorigination
might have also figured in the dispute over the backsliding of an arhat
that apparently divided some of the splinter schools. Schools like the
Theravadins and the Vibhajyavadins, which rejected the idea that an
arhat can fall back from his attainment, almost always based their
arguments on the idea of extinction. The Theravadins, for example,
asserted that an arhat cannot backslide because he has destroyed the
roots of kldas.
And the Vibhajyavadins compared the arhat's de-
struction of klesas to a fire reducing a tree to ashes--nothing remains
of the original that could grow back.
On the other hand, it would seem that if one thought of practice
not as the extinction of klesas, but as the nonorigination of kleSas,
practice would be endless, and would never bring one to any sort of
final state. Backsliding would either always remain a possibility, or
else it would remain a possibility as long as one had the mistaken idea
that at some point in time one's kleSas would be extinct (then, con-
ceivably one might erroneously relax his vigilance). This might have
been the reasoning of the Sarvastivadins, for there is some evidence
that they felt that the possibility of backsliding was tied to one's
understanding of nonorigination. According to Vasumitra, one of the
theses of the Sarvastivadins was the rather surprising contention that
streamwinners (srotiipanna) cannot backslide but arhats can-a con-
tention that is strange because it see.ms to reverse the traditional order
and place streamwinners above arhats. The very next Sarvastivadin
tenet listed by Vasumitra asserts that all arhats do not obtain the
wisdom of nonorigination (anutpiidajftiina),35 and though no connec-
tion is made between these theses in Vasumitra's enumeration, one
might conjecture that the second was originally put forward as an
explanation for the first. That is, the reason that some arhats slide
back is that they have not obtained the wisdom of nonorigination.
All this is highly speculative, and there is no indication that the
Vatsiputriyas or Sammitayas followed similar reasoning when they
argued for the backsliding of arhats. But it does show that the issue of
nonorigination was central to some of the doctrinal disputes among
the splinter schools. Mahayana Buddhism might well have developed
from doctrinal disputes like these.
1. D. Seyfort Ruegg, La Theone du Tathiigatagarbha et du Gotra (Paris: Publica_
tions de I'Ecole Fran<;aise d'Extreme Orient, 1969), pp. 73-74, 78.
2. Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo. XXXI, 835c and ]ikido Takasaki, A Study on the
Ratnagotravibhiiga (Rome: Serie Orientale Roma, 1966), p. 261.
3. T. XII, 220c. RGV quote: T. XXXI, 821a, band Takasaki, p. 144.
4. T. XVI, 466a, b.
5. T. XVI, 466c.
6. T. XII, 221c. RGV quote: T. XXXI, 824a and Takasaki, pp. 167-68.
7. T. XXXI, 824a and Takasaki, p. 167.
8. Edward Conze et al., Buddhist Texts Through the Ages (New York: Harper and
Row, 1964), pp. 96-97.
9. T. XII, 24lc.
10. T. XII, 247c. RGV quote: T. XXXI, 824a and Takasaki, p. 167.
11. T. XII, 244b.
12. T. XXXI, 824a, band Takasaki, pp. 167-69.
13. T. XXXI, 829a and Takasaki, p. 205.
14. T. XII, 247b.
15. The RGV explains that deliverance has the common feature of both
nirodhasatya and miirgasatya. T. XXXI, 823c and Takasaki, p. 164.
16. T. XII, 244c.
17. Cf. ShObogenzo "Muchilsetsumu," ed. Fumio Masutani (Tokyo: Kadogawa-
shoten, 1975), IV, 162.
18. T. XXXI, 824a and Takasaki, p. 168.
19. T. XII, 22lc.
20. T. XII, 240c.
21. T. XII, 242b. RGV quote: T. XXXI, 823a and Takasaki, p. 159.
22. Cf. T. XXXI, 824c-825a and 833a, band Takasaki, pp. 172-74 and
23. Cf. Y. Y. Obermiller, The Sublime Science of the Great Vehicle to Salvation, Being
a Manual of Buddhist Monism (Copenhagen: Acta Orientalia IX, 1931) (Reprint: Shang-
hai, 1940).
24. Cf. the following quote from the ]AA: "The Tathagata's Dharma-body
is markless and free from any discernible aspect. It is without location and cannot be
localized." T. XII, 241c.
25. T. XII, 571b.
26. T. XII, 580c.
27. This may be why the Nirviinasutra devotes so much space to discussing the
icchantika, a being whose current practices represent the antithesis of correct Buddhist
28. Conze et aI., pp. 92-93.
29. Majjhima-Nikiiya, I, 157. Quoted in E. ]. Thomas, The History of Buddhist
Thought (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1951), p. 124.
30. Sa7!lyutta-Nikaya, III, 109. Thomas, p. 125.
31. Samy., III, 109. Thomas, p. 126.
32. Udiina, VIII, 1-3. Conze, et al., p. 95.
33. Andre Bareau, Les Sectes Bouddhiques du Petit Vehicule (Saigon: Publications
de I'Ecole Fran!,:aise d'Extrerne Orient, 1955), p. 212.
34. Bareau, p. 174.
35. Bareau, p. 140.
Multiple Dimensions of
Impermanence in Dagen's "Genjokoan"
by Steven Heine
When all dharmas are of the Buddha Dharma, that is delu-
sion and enlightenment, practice, birth and death, Buddhas and
sentient beings. When ten thousand dharmas are without self,
-there is neither delusion nor enlightenment, neither Buddhas
nor sentient beings, neither arising nor extinction. Because the
Buddha Way originally springs out of abundance and shortage,
there is arising and extinction, delusion and enlightenment,
beings and Buddhas. And yet, even though this has been said,
blossoms scatter in sadness and weeds spring up in dismay.!
Dogen,a "Genjokoan"b
I. Introduction: Ambiguity of the Passage
One of the most challenging and compelling passages in Dogen's
collected writings is the opening paragraph of "Genjokoan," which in
most editions (apparently according to Dogen's own editing) is the
first fascicle of Shobogenzo
and thus the central introduction to his
work. The first three sentences appear to evoke the Tendai doctrine
of "three truths in their perfect harmony": the truth or perspective of
the temporary or provisional (ke)d; the truth of the void or empty of
own-being (kii)e; and the middle truth (chii)f between and beyond the
empty and provisional, absolute and relative, being and non-being,
transcendental and worldly.
Thus, the first sentence expresses (in light of primordial non-
differentiation-Hof the Buddha Dharma") the realm of provisional
duality encompassing the concrete ups and downs of religious aspira-
tion (to transform oneself from a sentient being to Buddha) and
existential achievement (in the struggle between delusion and enlight-
enment) while perpetually confronting the ever-present and pervas-
Ive reality of impermanence (birth and death). The category of
practice, which seems to bind all spheres of existence, is not men-
tioned in the remaining sentences. The second sentence reveals the
more fundamental perspective of emptiness--not mere negation and
denial-underlying the provisionally bifurcated dimensions, which
recognizes the relativity and non-substantiality of interdependent and
contingent polarities. The third sentence (recalling the Diamond
Sutra's "A is not A, therefore A") shows that true non-differentiation
is not opposed to dichotomization, but eliminates the very distinction
between difference and non-difference. It equalizes the first two
sentences, not only by reversing their order, but by highlighting the
creatively dynamic interplay uniting both perspectives. The middle is
both provisional and empty, and therefore neither provisional nor
empty; only in light of complete equality can the full range and
multiplicity of differentiation be conveyed.
The fourth and final sentence of the paragraph clearly illus-
trates Dogen's attempt to re-raise the question of impermanence
(mujo)g and of human reaction to transiency as crucial to an under-
standing of Buddhist Dharma. What does it add to the Tendai
doctrine? Is it an afterthought or a challenge? The meaning and
significance of the final statement is so rich and ambiguous in its
brevity that it can be and has been translated and interpreted (both in
or modern Japanese translation
and in English) from a
variety of perspectives, including two nearly opposite views: either as
representing an unenlightened standpoint of attachment, longing
and regret which must be negated; or as an absolutism which at once
encompasses and transcends human emotions of sorrow and grief
concerning incessant change.
According to the first interpretation, the sentence represents
a misguided stance in contrast to the Buddhist doctrine preceding it.
That is, for those who do not fully comprehend the Dharma, suffer-
ing arises due to volitional involvement with uncertain and unstable
phenomena that should be altogether attenuated. The other position,
however, suggests that the final sentence actually deepens and chal-
lenges the first three by stressing personal encounter with imper-
manence, continuing even beyond enlightenment, as the direct and
unavoidable pointer to the truth of non-substantiality (muga)i. Ac-
cording to this interpretation, the sentence discloses a new vantage
point reversing the eternalist tendency in previous Mahayana and
Zen efforts to attain nirvarJa in terms of an immutable Buddha-nature
beyond the ephemeral world. Genuine realization must be found in
terms of-rather than by elimination of--Dne's emotional response to
variability and inevitable loss.
What is the source of the controversy, and on what basis can it be
resolved? It seems that the key to interpreting the sentence lies in the
double-edged qua1ity of the terms "sadness" (aijaku)j and "dismay"
(kiken)k, which can imply either sentimentality and clinging or a
deeper religio-aesthetic sense of attunement and commitment to the
cares of the perpetual flux.
Yet, this ambiguity is not necessarily
problematically inconclusive. Two or more meanings seen in a single
phrase may not imply contradiction, but indicate that in Dagen's
understanding there are multiple and paradoxical dimensions of
1m permanence.
In order to explicate the ambiguity of the passage, I will first
discuss the underlying aims of the "Genjakaan" fascicle which ex-
presses Dagen's fundamental religious quest and philosophical pro-
ject of reconciling and clarifying the Mahayana (particularly Japanese
Tendai) notion of original Buddha-nature (busshO) I with the trans-
iency and sorrow of existence as he himself experienced it. Second, I
will examine alternative translations of the passage by Nakamura
Saichi, Masutani Fumio, Tanahashi Ikka and Tamaki Koshiro (in
gendaiyaku) and Waddell/Abe and Maezumi/Cook (in English) to
highlight the textual difficulties and variety of possible interpreta-
tions. Finally, I will show that the ambiguity of the final sentence is
grounded in Dagen's multi-dimensional view of impermanence and
multi-perspectival theory of truth: impermanence at once signifies an
unenlightened sense of fragility and uncertainty; an emotional sensi-
tivity to the poignant and heartfelt passing of things, which is essential
to awaken the resolve for enlightenment; and the spontaneous and
complete manifestation of the realization (genjokoan)4 that existence
is thoroughly free of substratum and duration or of a fixated notion
of substance in self and world that conceals evanescence.
II. Aims of the Fascicle: Historical and Doctrinal Background
The composition of "Genjokoan" in 1233 represents a distinct
change in Dagen's expression of Zen. The fascicle is neither a straight-
forward admonition or restatement of Buddhist principles nor a
deliberately non-sensical utterance, but a cogent, organic philosoph-
ical essay at once disturbing and persuasive, poetic and discursive.
"Genjakaan" is the third fascicle of Shobogenzo written by Dagen,S but
the first of the foremost philosophical pieces which are the founda-
tion and hallmark of his doctrine,. preceding by nearly a decade the
creative peak in which he composed "Dji,"m "Bussho" and "Gyoji,"n
among others. This was a significant period of transition for Dogen
after his return to Japan from his training under Chinese master Ju-
ching and consequent attainment of saton.o Yet it preceded the estab-
lishment of his own strictly disciplined Eihei temple in relatively
remote Echizen province; which fulfilled Ju-ching's exhortation to
stay free of any involvement in the political controversy and wordly
affairs that seemed to have corrupted Kyoto and the Tendai center
on Mt. Hiei. In these years, however, Dogen occupied several temples
in Fukakusa and areas near Kyoto, advocating "liberal" positions-
later largely repudiated-such as the involvement oflay men and women
disciples in Zen practice. He also participated in Court poetry through
attendance of uta-awaseP (poetry contests) where he wrote rengaq
(linked verse), one of which was later included in an imperial anthol-
ogy, and befriended Fujiwara Teika, prominent poet and co-compiler
of Shinkokinsju
(New Collection of Old and Recent Poems).6
An essay written and given to a lay disciple rather than a sermon
delivered to (and frequently recorded by) monks as is typical of many
of the subsequent fascicles of Sh5bogenzo, "Genjokoan" marks Dogen's
stylistic liberation from more conventional presentations in his three
previous major works: "Hokyo-ki"s (1226), a fragmentary and pos-
thumously discovered autobiographical account of his practice with
Ju-ching and record of the Chinese teacher's central sayings and
interpretations of doctrine; "Fukanzazengi"t (1227), the first piece
Dagen wrote in Japan recommending the universal merits of zazen
and considered his "manifesto" on the theory and practice of medita-
tion; and "Bendawa"v (1231), a pronouncement through the quest-
ion-answer format of Dogen's Soto views on key Zen issues, including
the role of sutras and language in transmitting the Buddhist Dharma,
from the standpoint of the priority of zazen-only.
"Genjokoan" is largely thematically consistent with and an am-
plification of notions expressed in these works, such as the temporal
unity of practice and realization fully disclosed here-and-now and
perpetually renewed throughout all moments, and the universal
equalization of all phenomena as manifestations of Buddha-nature.
The innovative element in "Genjokoan" is its metaphorical and philo-
sophical deepening and enrichment of the impermanent/non-
substantial moment as the ground of selfless realization. Dogen Uses
an indirect or poetic communication with naturalistic symbolism, as in
the final sentence of the opening paragraph, to divulge the essential
multi-dimensional structure of mujo.
The common basis of these writings as well as his collected works is
Dagen's enlightenment experience, achieved under Ju-ching's guid-
ance, of shinjin-datsuraku
(body-mind dropping off)-a liberation
from conceptual and volitional fixations realized in and through one's
selfless immersion in ephemeral reality. According to Dagen's tradi-
tional biography, Kenzeiki
, the tragic early deaths of his parents
amidst unpredictable political upheavals and natural disorders had
aroused in Dagen a profound awareness of the all-pervasive con-
ditions of transiency beyond particular experiences yet most directly
and despairingly realized through them. Dogen's religious quest
began when, even as a youth, he rejected the aristocratic background
and Court poetic tradition in which he was raised for the sake of
shukkey (Buddhist renunciation). Poetic classics, he apparently felt,
conveyed an emotional attunement to the fleeting beauty of transitory
existence symbolized by changing seasons, falling blossoms and the
bird's winter flight. Yet they tended to indulge in either a romanti-
cized fatalism or an idle and sentimental attachment to the hedonic
moment, and thereby perpetuated bondage to a supposedly persist-
ent and enduring self underlying change. The Buddhist conception
of karma (moral causation) was inauthentic ally portrayed as a psy-
chological crutch to rationalize the uncertain and unstable quality of
personal and social contingency and consequent loneliness, longing,
frustration and failure. In his pursuit of Dharma, Dagen was deter-
mined to penetrate to a genuine understanding of mujo-as-mujo
unbound by arbitrary ego-oriented decisions to accept and enjoy or
reject and dismiss evanescence or self-centered attitudes of optimism,
nostalgia and nihilism.
As a monk, Dagen soon found that the basic Buddhist analysis
of the relative, interdependent and non-substantial nature of the
universal flux was somewhat subverted in then-current Tendai and
Rinzai Zen centers on Mt. Hiei. He was disturbed by the prevailing
conception of an absolute and unvarying Buddha-nature which tran-
scended time and yet manifested itself in time but was achieved only
through the elimination of time. This problematic standpoint is meta-
phorically depicted in the "Uji" fascicle by the image of a "ruby
palace" which represents an unreflective and ignorant attempt to be
free of the tribulations of impermanence (symbolized by crossing a
valley to climb a mountain) by projecting an illusory eternalism-a
tendency he felt plagued Japanese Buddhism: "Although the mount-
ains and river are indeed here right-now, I [from the standpoint of
the average man] seem to think that I have left them far behind and I
act as if I occupy a palace made of rubies, thereby believing that there
is a separation between myself and the mountains [as great] as that
between heaven and earth."7 Dagen's pilgrimage to China was motiv-
ated by the view that the Japanese Court poetic and Buddhist reli-
gious/philosophical traditions had hopelessly weakened one another,
resulting in the heterodoxical notion underlying Zen practice of a
statically-conceived eternal Buddha-nature. This inauthentic view
created bifurcations between a supposedly substantive self and the
fragile movement it undergoes as well as the contingency of enlight-
enment and the immutability of Buddha-nature attained at the end of
a linear sequence.
The fundamental question Dagen forced himself and Buddhists
to confront in the quest for a release from suffering was later framed
in "Fukanzazengi": "Originally, the Way is complete and all-pervasive.
How does it depend on practice and realization?"g Dagen thereby
challenged the conception of Buddha-nature as a potentiality some-
how falsely detached from everyday experience, or as an unactualized
possibility awaiting the appropriate time for fulfillment. He was wary
of any misleading objectification of bussha either as something sub-
stantive and unchanging that did not require exertion or effort
(jiriki)z or as an obtainable goal reached only at the completion of
practice. The profound and troubling soteriological dilemma which
Dagen faced-increased by the apparent gap between his existential
awareness of muja and the Tendai notion of an eternal b u s s h ~ i s
intriguingly expressed in the following monda
in "Genjakaan": A
monk approaches Zen master Hatetsu, who is fanning himself, and
asks, "The wind-nature is constant. There is no place it does not
circulate. Why do you still use a fan?" The master replies, "You
merely know that the wind-nature is constant. You do not yet know
the meaning of it circulating every place,"9 and continues fanning
himself. That is, the permeation of wind, symbolic of Buddha-nature,
seems to render superfluous any contingent human activity, such as
waving a fan. But, if the fan, which represents full immersion in
impermanence actively realized, is not used, the coolness and fresh-
ness of the breeze will never be felt.
Dagen's breakthrough to a new understanding of imperma-
nence occured in China during a prolonged and intensive session of
meditation when Ju-ching reprimanded the slumbering monk sitting
next to Dagen, "In zazen it is imperative to drop off body-mind. How
could you indulge in sleeping at such a critical time?" The remark had
the effect of liberating Dagen, whose satori was soon confirmed by Ju-
ching, by dissolving the fabricated boundaries he had previously
accepted between eternal and instantaneous, n i r v a ~ i c and contingent,
purposeless and directional time. It seems that upon that occasion of
awakening, Dagen no longer vIewed impermanence from the stand-
point of the spectator self surveying the multiple variations of a con-
tinuing process of change moving from one point in time to the next.
Rather, he spontaneously penetrated muja as the self-generating and
self-renewing non-substantial totality of each and every moment
without reference to or contrast with any other supposedly stable
entity outside it.
The task which remained for Dagen upon his return to Japan
was to perfect an expression of impermanence now freed of the
bonds of subtle eternalism to show that " ... blooming flowers and
falling leaves, such itself is true nature [of dharmas]. But fools believe
that there must be no blooming flowers and falling leaves in the world
of the true nature of dharmas (hosshO)ab.'>10 "Genjakaan" is his first
attempt to re-orient and re-explore both the Japanese aesthetic and
religious traditions so that they enhance and deepen rather than
hinder each other-to use naturalistic imagery and existential sensi-
tivity to transiency to purify the Buddhist conception of interdepend-
ence from overly speculative and eternalistic tendencies, and similarly
to ground poetics in the experience of shinjin-datsuraku unbound by
sentimentality and fully reflective of the non-substantiality of all
III. Problematics of Translation and Interpretation of the Text
The aim of this section is to illustrate and analyze how the
ambiguity of the final sentence of the opening paragraph of "Genja-
koan" has led to a variety of modern Japanese and English transla-
tions. Each of the translations presupposes and conveys a distinctive
interpretation concerning two central interrelated issues in Dagen's
thought: the role of human feelings about transiency, and Dagen's
relation to previous Mahayana philosophy, which he seems to evoke
in the first three sentences of the passage.
Before examining the various translations, I will discuss the
philological basis of the sentence's ambiguity and point out possible
discrepancies in translations which overlook the double-edged quality
of Dogen's literary style or impose an interpretation that may not
reflect the text itself. Two linguistic elements are controversial: the
use of conjunctions and the terms of emotion. Nishio Minoru in his
study Dagen to Zeami
(Dogen and Zeami) maintains that the conjunc-
tions-for example, "when" (jisetsu)ad in sentences 1 and 2, and
"because" (yuheni) in the third sentence-are especially noteworthy
for an understanding of the complex inner unity of the passage. The
fourth sentence is interesting for the conjunctive phrases that are
included and excluded both by Dagen and the translators. The
lengthy phrase which opens the sentence (shikamo kakuno gotoku nan
toihe domo) has a literal meaning which can be and generally is trans-
lated more succinctly as "in spite of this" or the one-word conjunction
"nevertheless." But Dagen, having chosen this original expression,
probably intended the length itself to serve as a kind of buffer which
would offset the sentence from the previous ones and call attention to
More significant, however, is the addition of certain conjunc-
tions by some of the translators in the latter part of the sentence.
Nakamura and Maezumi/Cook, for example, add that the flowers fall
"because" of man's longing; Tamaki's rendering is that "if' flowers
fall, then human feeling emerges; Masutani adds that flowers fall
"even though" it is regrettable. None of these are actually stated in the
original text. Both Tanahashi and Waddell/Abe make note of Dagen's
poem in his Eihei Karoku
(Record of Eihei), "Blossoms scatter by [or
because of (yoru)]af sorrow, weeds spring up by [or because of]
dismay," 11 but they do not impose that implication here since the
sentence must be interpreted in its own context. Similarly, most of the
translations add that the sadness or longing which is felt is "ours."
Although it can be argued that the possessive pronoun is naturally
implied by the original Japanese, Dagen's omission of such a pronoun
may have been intended to imply a holistic and impersonal context of
shared and pervasive sorrow as well as an individual sense of loss.
The central controversy which influences an interpretation of
the fourth sentence and perhaps the entire passage concerning Da-
gen's view of impermanence pertains to the two terms for emotion,
both of which are compound words: the first, composed of ai (love,
affection, loathing to part) andjaku (regret, reluctance); the second, ki
(abandon, renounce) and ken (dislike, hate). Botb compounds contain
one passive and one active emotive term which tend to moderate and
transmute each other, an element of resignation or renunciation
coloring the active emotion. In the modern Japanese and the Mae-
zumi/Cook translations, however, only one part of each compound is
used-ai and ken, respectively-which may overlook the ambiguity
and drastically alter the meaning of the entire sentence by suggesting
that emotions only playa negative or destructive role in human affairs
and religious pursuit.
Furthermore, it should be noted that ai by itself is a technical
Buddhist term for desire (Skt., tn'fJa) with an obviously negative
connotation. Yet, ai used in various compounds is also a Buddhist
term that connotes the positive and constructive aspect of love, as in
the words aipoag(love of Dharma) and aigoah (the bodhisattva's bene-
ficent words of edification). Aijaku indicates the compassionate caring
of a bodhisattva's unwillingness to relinquish the struggle for universal
release from suffering. Just as ai has the double-edged Buddhist
sense of desire and compassion, it is also commonly used in Japanese
poetics with a similarly two-fold meaning: it can either signify love for
a particular person, or a deeper aesthetic sense of care and commit-
ment. It is likely that Dogen deliberately intended to suggest both the
positve and negative connotations of emotions by using these terms
and not merely the latter.
I will now cite the various translations with a brief analysis of
how each one interprets the role of human emotions and the relation
of Dogen's view of impermanence to earlier Mahayana thought:
1. Nakamura Soichi's gendaiyakuY
Man knows this, and yet he sees the blossoms scatter because he
regrets the scattering blossoms, he is grieved that blossoms
scatter when he wants them to keep blooming, and he sees that
weeds spring up because he hates the weeds.
By adding the causative element ("because") between feelings and the
realm of transiency and the additional clause which is implicitly
critical of human attachments, Nakamura takes the strongest stand
amongst the translators in denigrating emotions and contrasting what
he sees as the desire and ignorance represented by the fourth sen-
tence with the Mahayana truths stated in the first three. For Naka-
mura, the passage is not ambiguous but a straightforward critique of
human folly as opposed to detachment from any involvement in the
realm of evanescence.
2. Tanahashi's Ikko's gendaiyaku:
vVe know this, and yet if we are attached to enlightenment,
enlightenment becomes remote, and if we seek separation from
delusion, delusion only becomes greater.
Tanahashi loses the intriguing symbolism of the sentence by equating
flowers with enlightenment and weeds with unenlightenment, but
heightens (compared to Nakamura) the ambiguity concerning emot-
ive experience. Here the sentence becomes a warning that false
detachment is as spiritually deficient as attachment even to a noble
end. Thus, emotions are relative and variable depending on the
context and timing.
3. Masutani Fumio's gendaiyaku:
And yet, we know that blossoms scatter even though we regret it,
and that weeds grow thick and spread even though we hate it.
Much more direct than the two gendaiyaku cited above, Masutani's
version stresses man's continual existential confrontation with the
pervasive reality of impermanence. That is, in spite of traditionally
accepted Tendai doctrine recapitulated in the first three sentences,
transiency is not so easily dismissed and must be dealt with emotion-
ally and expeientially ever anew. Even though man struggles to attain
enlightenment, the effects of impermanence continue to plague him
and stir an emotional response.
4. Tamaki Koshiro's gendaiyaku:
This is so, and yet if blossoms scatter it IS regrettable, and
if weeds grow thick it is truly deplorable.
Tamaki is very Close to Masutani. Yet, the subtle change of conjunc-
tion from "even though" to "if" seems to imply that there may be an
eternalized state in contrast to impermanence and in which the effects
of transiency are no longer felt.
5. Maezumi/Cook's English translation: 16
Nevertheless, flowers fall with our attachment, and weeds spring
up with our aversion.
This English version, although adhering to the brevity of the original,
basically concurs with Nakamura's gendaiyaku in castigating the emo-
tions which are translated with "negative" words and contrasted with
traditional Buddhist doctrine. (Interestingly, in a book which is nearly
entirely a commentary on the "Genjakaan" fascicle, no further inter-
pretation of his sentence is offered.)
6. Waddell/Abe's English translationY
In spite of this, flowers fall always amid our grudging, and
weeds flourish in our chagrin. .
The addition of "always," although not literal, accentuates the inevit-
able and unceasing permeation of impermanence as a continual
challenge even--or especially-to the enlightened one, thereby large-
ly agreeing with Masutani and Tamaki. The use of the prepositions
"amid" and "in" suggests a two-fold sense of causation and resolute
acceptance in the relation between emotions and transiency. In their
introductory comments, however, the translators go even further in
elevating the status of emotions by declaring that here "Dagen clari-
fies the absolute reality ... of man's own feelings of yearning and dis-
like toward [the flower and weed] ... insofar as both are ultimately
human reality."18 Thus, in opposition to Nakamura and Maezumi/
Cook, Waddell/Abe proclaim Dagen's expression to represent a para-
doxical standpoint which at once fully recaptures and transforms the
significance of emotions in Buddhist realization, although the transla-
tion itself does not necessarily convey the perspective espoused in the
IV. Conclusions: The Multi-Dimensionality of Impermanence
In this section, I will show that the fundamental ambiguity of the
sentence in question-and the controversy in interpretation to which
it gives rise-is both grounded and reconcilable in terms of Dagen's
multi-dimensional understanding of impermanence. The translations
previously examined seem to fall into three interpretive models:
1. The position of Nakamura and Maezumi/Cook that the
fourth sentence advocates the need for man's thorough negation of
his emotions, which egoistically and self-defeatingly cause the con-
tingent flux that in turn perpetuates volitional bondage. According to
this view, the final sentence represents an unenlightened perspective
in contrast to Dagen's acceptance and restatement of traditional
doctrine in the first three sentences.
2. The view espoused by Masutani, Tamaki and Tanahashi that
in the fourth sentence Dagen accentuates man's continuing existential
confrontation with and aesthetically-attuned sorrow concerning the
pervasive reality of impermanence, an emotional response used ad-
vantageously to awaken the "Buddha-seeking mind" in pursuit of
enlightenment. Dagen thus deepens previous doctrine by warning
that it must not be understood substantively or eternalistically but in
terms of incessant vicissitude--despite apparent Buddhist truths, gen-
unine realization is experienced by means of loss and regret, dismay
and chagrin.
3. The third interpretation, indicated by the Waddell/Abe com-
mentary (if not necessarily by the translation itself), suggests that
Dagen here challenges and reorients previous Mahayana expressions
by disclosing an absolute equality of longing and no-longing, regret
and no-regret as spontaneous expressions of impermanence. Grounded
in the detachment of selfless realization, emotional response is as
justifiable and illuminative as the inevitable rise and fall of transient
phenomena so long as it overcomes itself and remains free of sub-
What is the relation between the respective interpretations? Are
they complementary or contradictory? Is the third position the op-
posite of the first or somehow compatible with it? It is possible to show
that the ambiguity of the sentence is not hopelessly inconclusive by
analyzing two other significant passages from the "Genjakaan" fasci-
cle, which help clarify the issues of selfhood and momentariness
raised by the opening paragraph.
The first passage deals with the role of the self in the quest for
To study the Buddha Way is to study the self. To study the self is
to forget the self. To forget the self is to be authenticated
through all dharmas. To be authenticated through all dharmas is
to drop off body-mind of self and others. 19
Dagen seems to indicate three levels of self-understanding in this
passage. The first level, implicitly conveyed, is that of a separation or
barrier between self and Buddhism. From the, ordinary standpoint,
the Buddha Way is seen as something substantive and objective, an
entity to be attained. Second, Dagen establishes an intimate relation
between the Way and selfhood. Not a conceptualizable and acquirable
goal, the Way is sought in and through introspection and personal
experience. The third level points to the fundamental paradox that
self-learning necessarily involves self-forgetfulness, inner evaluation
is achieved in terms of outward manifestations. Thus, self and other,
subject and object are ultimately identifiable yet allow for infinite
The next passage explains the meaning and structure of the
impermanent moment in terms of the doctrine of the "abiding
dharma-position" (jii-hoi) ai, and also allows for three levels of inter-
Firewood is reduced to ash and cannot become firewood again.
So, one should not hold the view that ash is succeeding and fire-
wood is preceding. One must know that firewood dwells in the
dharma-position of firewood [of which] there is preceding and
succeeding. Although there is before and after, it is cut off from
.before and after.
The first level of momentariness implied by the passage is that before
and after, past and future, life and death are seen as enduring entities
in opposition to each other. The next level suggests that before and
after are simultaneous and interdependent stages of impermanent
phenomena. The third level again represents the paradoxical view-
point that the dharma-position possesses and yet is cut off from
before and after. Just as the firewood is completely manifest in itself
without reference to what precedes and succeeds it, the impermanent
moment is spontaneous yet simultaneously inclusive of all possibili-
ties, independent yet interdependent with the temporal phases of the
totality of phenomena.
In both cases, Dagen expresses a three-fold understanding
which also seems to echo the opening sentences of the first paragraph
of the fascicle. The three levels are: a dualistic standpoint, an inter-
dependent and non-substantive perspective, and finally a paradoxical
identity-in-difference that reveals the middle path unbound by, yet
gwmg rIse to, all polarities. The relation among these dimensions
seems to be one of sublation rather than negation, and of paradox
rather than contradiction. That is, the levels do not contradict but
tend to deepen and expand upon one another so that the third is the
most comprehensive stance, even while it transcends the previous
two. Dagen suggests such a multi-perspectival theory of truth in
"Genjakaan" by the example of someone who rides a boat in a
mountainless sea and assumes that the ocean is a circle. From his
particular vantage point at the time, the ocean may legitimately
appear round, but to a fish the ocean looks like a palatial dwelling and
to a deva it seems to be ajewelled necklace. None of these viewpoints
should be negated as wrong, but each IS one-sided, relative and mis-
leading if taken in an isolated context. The truth of the situation can
only be appropriated through an holistic outlook that is not limited to
any particular perspective. "To understand the variety of perspec-
tives, we must know that the virtue of the mountains and sea is limit-
less extending beyond apparent circularity or angularity, and that
there are worlds in every direction." 21
Dagen's multi-dimensional and multi-perspectival vision, ex-
pressed in the first three sentences of the opening paragraph and
demonstrated in the analyses of self and dharma-position, can now
resolve the ambiguity of the sentence in question because the three
interpretive models of the sentence are grounded in the multi-
dimensionality of impermanence. The first interpretation suggests
the dualistic view of impermanence seen as the human attitude of
fragility and uncertainty about the coming and going of unstable
things. Just as self is misguidedly severed from the objectified Way
and before and after are similarly hypostatized, man considers him-
self as a single entity who must resist the flux of other entities or lose a
grasp of his ego. The limitation of the translation which evaluates this
as the only dimension of impermanence is that it interprets 'emotional
response toward transiency as the actual cause of impermanence.
Emotions, however, do not create the pervasive and perpetual process
of impermanence, although it is true that they may aggravate suffer-
ing by not comprehending the non-substantive ground of muja. Yet
the distinction between cause anc;l. response, evanescence and self-
imposed bondage must be highlighted by the translation in order to
divulge the multiplicity of dimensions. If the sentence were only
intended to imply the unenlightened standpoint it would probably
have been more effective at the outset of the paragraph (to illustrate
the problem) than at the conclusion (where it suggests a resolution).
Nevertheless, that dimension should not be fully discounted; it is just
not complete in itself.
The second model of translation is more comprehensive than
the first, for it suggests the intimate connection between subjectivity
and realization. When self and Way and before and after are under-
stood in terms of their unity, the experience of longing and regret
should be interpreted as a necessary and essential stage in the quest
for the termination of suffering through awakening to non-self. This
viewpoint could, however, create the impression that for Dagen an
aesthetic sensitivity to vicissitude and loss is spiritually sufficient in
itself. Emotional response to transiency is only legitimate, however,
when it leads beyond itself to realization of non-substantiality.
The third interpretation shows the fundamental paradox of the
deepest dimension of impermanence-the level at which each and
every manifestation (genjO) of natural phenomena and human re-
sponse are ultimately and paradoxically identifiable in disclosing a
realization of the riddle (koan) of impermanent/non-substantial exist-
ence. In the "Bussha" fascicle, Dagen refers to this essential stand-
point as mujo-bussho (impermanence-Buddha-nature), another para-
doxical doctrinal means of resolving his initial soteriological dilemma.
Just as self-learning is fulfilled through self-forgetfulness, and just as
the dharma-position encompasses and yet is cut off from before and after,
Zen enlightenment includes and is free from longing and regret; it
contains both an aversion and a profound resignation to suffering as
well as a desire for release without expectation or attachment. Intense
emotional attunement spontaneously disturbed by sorrow and simul-
taneously detached from the tribulations of evanescence, independ-
ent of egoistic clinging and interd.ependently linked to the suffering
experienced by all beings, is the basis of the initial and sustained
resolve that seeks to cultivate and renew enlightenment beyond the
(statically conceived) attainment of enlightenment.
If the three dimensions of impermanence
conveyed by the
final sentence of the paragraph mirror the multiple perspectives
expressed in the first three sentences, what does it contribute? Does
the final sentence have special significance? In highlighting the per-
vasiveness of impermanence poetically, the sentence seems at once to
undercut traditional Tendai doctrine by warning against and over-
coming eternalist or substantive attachments that had plagued J apan-
ese Buddhist practice, and to fulfill and surpass previous notions
through a poetic evocation of the contrasting shades and textures of
emotional struggle. The sentence does not state a truth that is
reducible to formula, but naturalistically conveys the disturbing and
inspiring encounters at the basis of the quest for truth. Here Dagen
expresses the religio-aesthetic category of sabiaj in its highest form-
the paradox of pursuing release yet finding it directly through both
ephemeral beauty and lyric melancholy rather than philosophical
reflection, from which standpoint the loneliness of emotional re-
sponse is seen as the fulfilled locus of spiritual renewal. When one
opposes the flux by wishfully seeking a state of immutability or stag-
nation, Dagen points out in the final sentence, the result tends to be
just the reverse in that flowers still fall even more painfully than
before. The same dilemma confronts both those who claim to have
overcome their passions and those who have not yet reflected on their
problematic self-centeredness. Dagen's phrase thus recalls Saigya's
: "A heart subdued, yet poignant sadness (aware) is deeply felt/
The snipe takes off over the marsh as an autumn dusk descends."23
On the other hand, truly to penetrate impermanence as the
manifestation of non-substantive reality (genjokoan) terminates nei-
ther the perpetual scattering of blossoms nor the haunting and
sorrowful atmosphere evanescence generates. Impermanence as gen-
jOkoan, which is neither strictly subjective nor objective although it
includes the interdependence of both realms, persists regardless of
how one feels about it. To accord genuinely with genjokoan is at once
to accept uncompromisingly and resign oneself to the flux and to
struggle urgently against the grief it causes by seeking realization of
no-self. The fundamental paradox of impermanence at the third and
deepest level is that even the effort to overcome self must be aban-
doned through uncompromising renunciation, but self cannot be
dropped off without continual aesthetic-emotional attunement to the
sorrow from which it seeks release.
Therefore, the final sentence of the opening paragraph ex-
presses the issue of Dagen's "primal question" (as framed in "Fukan-
zazengi": what is the need for renewed practice if Buddha-nature is
immanent?) but from the perspective of having resolved-while still
remaining deeply disturbed by-that concern. It articulates the initial
and naive yet profound longing for release which he and all Buddhist
seekers share, suggesting a distinct value judgement about what
should be prevented (flowers are preferable to weeds) as well as the
sense of futility when this effort falls short in the face of imper-
manence (weeds still grow). The sentence also conveys a paradoxical
equalization of sustained despair that stimulates continuing realiza-
tion grounded in universal non-substantiality.
The sentence could be rewritten as the Jollowing: "Even so, to
learn the Dharma is to be sorrowful about transiency. To be sorrowful
is to transcend sorrow (as a source of attachment) and to realize
impermanence as the non-substantiality of all phenomena." But, the
complexity and depth of the sentence lies in its utter simplicity. It is
literally a koan because it presents a disturbing and puzzling ambiguity
whereby question and answer, problematic and resolution, speech
and silence are unified. It also expresses what Dagen seems to mean
by the term genJokoan as the fundamental dimension of imperma-
nence-the full and unimpeded manifestation of each occasion in
which one encounters, is moved by and seeks to subdue the effects of
1. Dagen Zenji, Shobogenzo (Treasury of True Dharma-Eye) in Nihon shiso
, volumes 12 and 13, ed. Terada Taru and Mizuno Yaoko. Tokyo, Iwanami
shoten, 1970 and 1972, vol. 12, p. 35. For a complete and generally excellent transla-
tion of the "Genjakaan" fascicle, see Norman Waddell and Abe Masao's version in The
Eastern Buddhist, vol. 7, no. I (May 1974), pp. 129-40. This rendering will be discussed
in the course of the essay.
2. Because of the complexity and difficulty of Dagen's Sino-Japanese writing,
many recent gendaiyaku or translations into modern Japanese have appeared. These are
not necessarily intended to be a strict translation, but a combination translation-
commentary with additional notes or interpretive materials; generally they are accom-
panied by the original text on the same page for easy reference. The translations of the
gendaiyaku into English are mine. For a critical examination of the relation between
some English translations of Dagen and the gendaiyaku on which they tend to rely, see
Thomas Kasulis, "The Zen Philosopher: A review article on Dagen scholarship in
English," Philosophy East and West, vol. 28, no. 3 (July 1978), pp. 353-73.
In addition to the two English translations discussed here, the following ones
have appeared: Kasen Nishiyama and John Stevens, A Complete English Translation oj
Dogen Zenji's Shobogenzo, vol. I (Sendai, Japan: Daihokkaikai, 1975); Jiyu Kennett,
Selling Water by the River (New York: Vintage, 1972); Reiha Masunaga, The Soto Approach
to Zen (Tokyo: Layman Buddhist Society Press, 1958).
3. Two noted Japanese aestheticians, Nishio Minoru (in Dagen to Zeami. Tokyo,
Iwanami Shoten, 1967) and Karaki Junza (Mujo, Tokyo Chikuma shoba, 1967) have
attempted to relate Dagen's philosophical/religious expressions to the Japanese Court
poetic tradition in which he was raised and trained, but which he ultimately renounced
in order to pursue the Buddhist Dharma. They reach essentially different conclusions.
Nishio stresses that Dagen never fully abandoned aesthetics, which must not be
overlooked in interpreting texts such as "Genjoko<ln"; Karaki maintains that Dogen's
"metaphysics (kejij"agaku) of impermanence" surpasses the sentimentality of the Court
tradition. My view is that this controversy itself points to the creative tension in Dogen's
thought-he relied on poetics for the power of his writing yet disdained idle or self-
indulgent aestheticism. Perhaps the issue cannot be resolved until there is a study of
Dogen's considerable accomplishments as a composer of waka (31-syllable Japanese
4. "Genjokoan" as used by Dogen seems to mean "complete and spontaneous
manifestation" (gen-ja) of "Zen realization" (kOan), and should be contrasted with another
possible reading as that which is "ready-made" or merely immament, which suggests
the pantheistic heresy Dogen repeatedly refutes.
5. The first two fascicles are "Bendowa" (sometimes not included in Shaba-
genzO) and "Mahakannyaharamitsu."an For a chronology of Dogen's life and writings,
see Hee-jin Kim, Dagen-Kigen-Mystical Realist (Tucson: University of Arizona Press,
1975), pp. 309-11.
6. For an examination of Dogen's poetic production and involvements, see
Okubo Doshli, Dagen zenji-den no kenkyu
(Biographical Studies of Zen master Dogen)
(Tokyo: Chikuma shobo, 1966), pp. 358-62.
7. Dogen, Shabagenza, vol. 12, p. 257.
8. Dogen, "Fukanzazengi" in Dagen zenji zenshuap (Complete Works of Zen
Master Dogen), ed. Okubo Doshli (Tokyo: Chikuma shobo, 1969-1970), vol. 2, p. 3.
9. Dogen, Shabgenza, vol. 12, pp. 38-39.
10. ibid., vol. 13, p. 85.
11. Dogen, Dagen zenji zenshu, vol. 2., p. 18.
12. Nakamura Saichi, Gendaiyaku Shabagenza (Modern Japanese Translation of
ShObagenzO), 4 volumes (Tokyo: Seishin shobo, 1970), vol. 1, p. 1.
13. Tanahashi Ikko (of Zen beunkagakuin hen), Gendaiyaku ShObagenza (Modern
Japanese Translation of ShabagenzO) (Tokyo: Seishin shobo, 1959), p. 3.
14. Masutani Fumio, Zenyaku ShObagenza (Complete Japanese Translation of
ShabagenzO) , 8 volumes (Tokyo: Kadakawa shoten, 1970), vol. 1, p. 24.
15. Tamaki Koshiro, Dagen shu (Selected Writings of Dogen) (Tokyo: Chikuma
shoba, 1968), pp. 120-121.
16. Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi and Francis Cook, The Way of Everyday Life (Los
Angeles: Center Publications, 1979) (pages unnumbered).
17. Norman Waddell and Abe Masao, "Genjokoan," p. 133.
18. ibid., p. 132.
19. Dogen, Shabagenza, vol. 12, p. 36.
20. ibid.
21. ibid., p. 37.
22. The three interpretive levels or dimensions would roughly correspond to
the following categories of Japanese religio-aesthetic tradition: hakanashi (fleetingness),
muja-kanaq (sense of impermanence), muja-kan
(clear observation of impermanence-
23. For original Japanese and another translation, see William LaFleur, Mirror
for the Moon (New York: New Directions, 1977), p. 24.
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The Autobiography of a
20th Century Rnying-ma-pa lama
by Alexander W. Macdonald
The massive printing and reprinting of Tibetan texts which has taken
place in India in recent years has opened up a whole new field of
study for scholars throughout the world concerned with diverse
aspects of Tibetan culture. At the same time, anthropological re-
search in Nepal, Ladakh, to some extent in Sikkim, but not as yet in
Bhutan, has widened our knowledge of the functioning of the Bud-
dhist church in the southern borderlands of Tibetan culture. Some
years ago David Snellgrove edited and translated into English four
very interesting biographies of Tibetan lamas who lived and worked
in the Dolpo area of Nepal between the 15th and 18th centuries.
Further information on the activities of contemporary lamas is given
in his book Himalayan Pilgrimage, in that of Corneille Jest on Dolpo,
anq in the recent work of Barbara Aziz on Dingri.2 In addition
. Michael Aris has published in Tibetan the autobiographies of three
Rnying-ma-pa lamas who were active between 1668 and 1767 in
Kutang, in Northern NepaI.3 However, Western-language transla-
tions or summaries of autobiographies of frontier lamas active in
contemporary times are rare. So it may be of interest to draw atten-
tion to a short autobiography written by my teacher and collaborator
the Sherpa lama Sangs-rgyas bstan-'dzin, and printed in Delhi in
1971. The biography covers 121/2 pages of normal Tibetan format,
having six lines on recto and verso, and is entitled Jo-glang gangs-
rgyud shar-pa sangs-rgyas bstan-'dzin gyi rnam-thar mdor-sdus sgro skur
bral-ba'i bden-gtam. This might be translated as "Brief autobiography
of the Sherpa Sangs-rgyas bstan-'dzin of the mountainous region of
Everest: True words written without falling a prey to Eternalism or
The Tibetan expression rnam-thar which I have translated here
as "biography" and "autobiography," and which the dictionaries in-
dicate as equivalent to the Sanskrit v i m o ~ a , can be rendered in
English by a variety of paraphrases according to the context in which
it is employed. It is interesting then to note how the author himself
envisages the subject of his composition. He' remarks that to begin
with one might divide the summary of those of his acts directed
towards his own emancipation and the good of others under three
headings: 1) his birth, 2) his studies, and 3) his services to Buddhism.
Again, these headings might be subdivided and the account devel-
oped so that first, concerning his birth, one would deal with the place
and the country in which he was born, who his parents were, and the
manner in which his birth occurred: this would make four sub-
sections. Secondly, concerning his studies, one would deal with the
places in which he studied, at what dates he studied, to what branches
of learning he addressed himself, and in what manner he carried out
his studies: this would make four more sub-sections. Thirdly, con-
cerning his usefulness to other Buddhists, one would state in what
domain he rendered service, the volume of his contribution, its
nature, and the needs to which it responded: and this would make
four more sub-sections, in all twelve. Were one to develop these
twelve sub-sections, each would need to be explicated firstly from the
author's own point of view, then from the point of view of others, and
finally the two points of view would have to be reconciled. However,
by this triple multiplication, one would arrive at thirty-six sub-sections
-altogether too many, so he decided to limit himself to a few
indications, following the general plan only in outline.
His birth took place in that of the Five Continents known to
"Modern Science" as Asia. It occured among the animate beings of
the holy kingdom of Nepal-to be precise, among the snowy mount-
ains where is situated the highest summit in this world: Sagarmatha.
The country in which he was born was Sholu-Khumbu, an area where
religion and people are pure; and the site was Brag-mtho-sbug, where
water, grass and wood abound.
As for the moment of birth, it took
place in 1924 according to the system of dating in universal usage; in
1981 according to the Nepalese system; and in 897 according to the
Tibetan system. It is said that his birth took place on the lOth day of
the rising moon, the Fifth Hor month, a Monday, at dawn.
As for the father and mother from whom this body was born,
the father was Zla-ba bstan-pa, the younger son of 'O-rgyan phur-pa
who was himself the elder of two sons of Padma tshe-ring, an
important man of Mi-nyag gdon family (rigs) and of the Grags-
mtho clan (rus) of Gshongs-Iung. His mother was Nyi-ma bu-khrid,
the only daughter of the lama Zla-ba nor-bu, an important man of the
Nyang family belonging to the Ser-pa clan, who was himself the elder
son of the lama bstan-pa of Gshongs-Iung.
In what manner was he born? Many favourable outer and inner
omens being manifested simultaneously, it is said that the embryo was
belted like a religious robe. Not only that, its surface was enclosed by
sinews similar to kusha grass. As for' himself, it is said that he was
seated in an open, four-petalled lotus bloom, coming from the east
from the far depths of a cloudless sky. He still clearly remembers
coming flying with the flower; the scene remained particularly vivid
to him, both in wakeful state and in dreams, up to the age of four or
five. The birth-feast was celebrated with fervour and, in conformity
with the conjunction of the planets, he was given the name of Zla-ba
Later he began his studies. From his fifth year onwards his
father taught him the Tibetan alphabet, the vowels and the con-
sonants, writing and the spelling out of words. He learned quickly
and, from the age of eight, he could write without tuition the Sdig-
bshags, the Bzang-spyod and other texts in dbu-can.
He began to learn
spoken and written Nepali when he was eleven, and this too without
difficulty. At the age of seventeen, furnished with numerous gifts, he
went to study with the lama Yon-tan rgya-mtsho at Gshongs-Iung.
From him he requested and obtained the dbang, lung and khrid of the
principal religious texts current in the Gshongs-Iung and Shar-Khum
In addition he completed most of the retreats prescribed for
the teachings he had received. At twenty, with his lama's permission
and with gifts, he went to study with the lama Rtogs-Idan tshul-khrims
at Steng-po-che. II There he learned to read and write Tibetan long-
hand and followed the lama's teachings in vocabulary, grammar and
arithmetic and on the Rgyal-sras lag-len so-bdun-ma. 12 One year later he
took his vows of dge-tshul in the presence of the lama Sangs-rgyas
chos-'phel,13 from Tshul-bzang in the Rtsib-ri district of Tibet. He
was given the religious name of Sangs-rgyas zla-ba since it was that of
the local abbot. At twenty-two he settled down to study with Padma
tshe-dbang, the rin-po-che of Stod Nya-dkar. At that period he studied
the Dkon-mchog spyi-'dus,14 the Sgrol-ma nyer-gcig
and the Khro nag-
mo. He was given the dbang and lung of these texts and the khrid of the
commentary on the Bde-smon
by Rme-ba Chos-grags. He also
studied sems-khrid, 'pho-ba, gcod and other meditational cycles.
At twenty-three he went to Lha-sa, visited Se-ra, 'Bras-spungs
and Dga'-ldan, the two images ofJo-bo Shakyamuni,17 and the Potala.
He studied for a short while in BIo-gsal-gling college at 'Bras-spungs.
Then at twenty-four, in the face of many he went to study
in Khams. He went in stages by way of Chab-mdo to Sde-dge,19
Rdzong-gsar,20 Rdzogs-chen,21 Lcham-mo ri-khrod,Zhe-chen
Lchang-ma Sgar. The mkhan-po Thub-bstan snyan-grags, the mkhan-po
Padma tshe-dbang, the mkhan-po N gag-dbang nor-bu, the mkhan-po
Gang-shar dbang-po, the mkhan-po Mdo-sngags Bstan-pa'i nyi-ma, the
mkhan-po 'Jam-dpal rdo-rje, the mkhan-po BIo-gros the
mkhan-po Nyi-ma rgyal-Io, the mkhan-po Thub-bstan chos-'phel, the
mkhan-po Lung-rtogs mthar-phyin, the mkhan-po Tshe-dbang nor bu,
Dkon-mchog of Dpal-yuF3-in front of these and other learned,
reverend and good teachers, who shouldered the heavy responsibility
of maintaining the Doctrine and explaining it to others, he studied
lexicology, grammar, kiivya, the Amarakosa, astrology, logic and, in
addition to the four common sciences of craftsmanship and healing,
the Madhyamaka, the Paramita, the Vinaya, the Abhidharmakosa and the
tantra. Having listened to these teachings he studied them with ardour
and to the best of his ability. He followed with particular attention the
teachings of the incarnation of the mental principle (thugs) of 'Jam-
mgon Blo-gros mtha'-yas.
When he recalls this teacher's compassion
and bounty, it is difficult for him to pronounce his name without
tears. He bows deeply before the feet of him whose reputation is
famous in the three worlds, his mulaguru named Padma dri-med legs-
pa'i blo-gros.25 From him he obtained the dbang, lung and khrid of the
religious teachings of the Snga-'gyur Gsung bka'-ma;26 the dbang, lung
and khrid of the great Rin-chen gter-mdzod;27 on two occasions, the
dbang, lung and khrid of the Smin-grol gling 'Dod-jo bum-dzang;28 the
lung of the Bka'-'gyur and of the Bstan-'gyur; the lung of the complete
teachings of Rong zom_pa;29 of the master Klong-chen and his pupil;30
of the Smin-grol gling brothers;3! of the two 'Jam-kong rnam-rgyal;32
of Jigs-med Chos-kyi dbang-po, the incarnation of Dpal-spungs;33 of
the mkhan-po of Kal;t-thog, Nus-ldan;34 of the mkhan-po of Sde-dge dgon-
pa, Kun-dpal; the lung of the complete works of 'J am-mgon Mi-pham
rnam-rgyal. 35 Likewise, from the sixth embodiment (sku-phreng) of
Zhe-chen, Kun-bzang Chos-kyi Nyi-ma, he solicited dbang and lung of
the Klang-chen snying-thig36 and of the Gsang-ba'i snying-thig.
the fourth sku-phreng at Zhe-chen, 'Gyur-med Padma rdo-rje theg-
mchog, he requested, on frequent occasions, the dbang and lung of the
Bka'-ma Dong-sprugs.
Furthermore, he obtained from the incarna-
tion of Rdzogs-chen, ,]u-nyung sprul-sku, from Chos-kyi blo-gros of
Rdzong-gsar and other incarnations and rin-po-ches all possible teach-
ings on the sutra and the tantra.
At the age of twenty-nine, in accordance with the instructions of
his teachers, he took the vows of dge-slong in front of the Smin-grol
gling Gcung-sprul, N gags-dbang Chos-grags rin-po-che, and obtained
the khrid and lung, with oral explanations of the commentaries on the
Gsang-ba'i snying-po,40 the Bsang-bdag dgongs-rgyan
and the Zhal-
Thus, with the help of numerous kalyiiTJamitra from his own
country and from Upper and Lower Tibet, he completed his religious
studies to the best of his capacity, rounding them off by the three
Means,43 having undertaken difficult tasks without loss of faith and
without yielding to pleasures. Then, thanks to the compassionate
blessings of his lamas, he received a favourable omen. Once, he does
not know how, in a dream which seemed to be true, the teacher
Shakya-thub-pa, Rdo-rje sems-dpa', the master Padma byung-gnas,
']am-dpal-dbyangs, Spyan ras-gzigs, SgroI-rna, Dbyangs-can-ma, Ye-
shes mtsho-rgyal, Bi-ma mitra,44 Klong-chen rab-byams, ,]am-mgon
Mi-pham, along with other lamas, tutelary deities and tjiikinis,45
showed their faces to him, gave him instructions and made prophe-
cies. In this dream, there came out from within his own heart a ray of
sunlight, unbearable to look at. With his hand he threw up into the
sky barley-flowers. These were all transformed into ring-bsrel, scat-
tered everywhere and multiplied. From the summit of a peak of
vaitf,urya there came forth a white cloud which did not darken the light
of the sky; transparent, it spread out in the sky in a miraculous
manner. Meanwhile, he himself felt at times that he was rising into the
sky, at times sliding down into a great lake, at times climbing to the
. top of a mountain.
On a peak to the east the sun appeared innum-
erable times; he cannot describe it all.
Having finished his studies, in accordance with the prophecy of
the gods and his lamas, he came back in his thirty-third year to his own
country and, in order to spread the Doctrine and for the good of
others, in the hope of starting to teach, he set up a temple with some
statues, and began work. Little by little the work was done, and after
two years the building itself and some of the statues were completed.
Then in his thirty-fifth year, on the fourth day of the sixth month
of the year Earth-Hog, he opened the school. He has taught each of
his hundred or so pupils, according to their bent and .their capa-
bilities, to read and write Tibetan in dbu-can and dbu-med; he has
taught vocabulary and grammar, prayers and instructions, the Rgyal-
sras lag-len; the Spyod-jug 'grel-ba,47 the Dbu-ma rgyan-'grel; 43 the Sher-
phyin mngon-rtogs-rgyan-gyi 'grel-ba;49 the Don -:nam nges;50 the Mkhas-
jug rtsa-ba;51 the Mdo-rgyan 'grel-ba;52 the Kun-bzang zhal-lung; the Bar-
do drug-khrid; the Sdom-gsum dpag-bsam snye-ma;53 etc. He has count-
ered local opposition to his teachings by clear arguments and by quo-
tations. When it became necessary, he composed a dictionary, a
grammar, prayers and school-books, mes-rabs and a chos-'byung as well
as other brief compositions. He has explained these and to
explain them for the profit of those who enter into religion. His
viewpoint is not blemished by extremist theses. He has
himself for the profit of others.
The monastery thus founded by Sangs-rgyas bstan-'dzin at Ser-
log in 1959 is called Bshad-sgrub zung-'brel gling. In his autobiog-
raphy the author does not go into detail about the difficulties en-
countered in setting up the monastery. However in the chos-'byung he
enlarges on this theme, and since his remarks are pertinent to the
understanding of his own life-history, I shall include some notice of
them here.
Once he had started explaining the Vehicle of the sutra
and tantra, the possibility of hearing them and pondering on them
existed. However, for this, living-quarters and a meeting-hall were
necessities. Secondly, an indispensable minimum of clothes and food
had to be obtained. Thirdly, for each pupil a series of books for study
was necessary. Fourthly, if a learned abbot from another area was to
be invited, there had to be a good reason for his coming. Even if these
four basic necessities were met with, this in itself would not be satis-'
factory unless he could dispose of sufficient capital. A small sum
would be of no use; he needed a large amount. Despite the presence
in his homeland of pious and generous patrons, he could not obtain
what was required. He realized that, in the circumstances, he could not
bring his project to fruition; so he decided to go once again to Sde-
dge, Zhe-chen and Rdzogs-chen, to those areas where there were many
great and holy men in the Rdza-chu district of Mdo-khams in Lower
Tibet, which is a fertile religious field; and so he set out once more.
He was very frightened by the dangers which threatened his life on
the way, meeting with the terrible forces of the powerful invaders
from Red China. Wherever he went, there was neither food nor drink
on arrival. However, treating with contempt whatever happened, he
made his way through to the lamas who were behaving like Buddhas
in human form. At that time the Red Chinese filled with their foul
stench the east, the west and the celltre of Tibet, and religious men
found themselves, as in the proverb, like living creatures held in the
mouth of a great makara: it could not be otherwise. Nonetheless he
explained to them the reasons for his coming, as sketched out above,
in order to undertake fresh actions on behalf of the Doctrine and for
the benefit of others. These great kalyii'fJamitra, their hearts filled with
desire to help others and strong in their religious convictions, were
delighted. As the proverb has it, "When a learned father, on the point
of going overseas, suddenly meets an intelligent son, both are equals
in religion." When he had explained fully his case and his problems,
they answered him forthwith that all he wanted should be done.
Seeing that his ambition was to be fulfilled and that he could get all he
longed for in his heart, he was happier than anyone can be. However,
seeing how the misfortunes of this sad epoch were sweeping down
upon the lamas as heat spreads from tongues of fire and as cold
spreads from ice, he was filled at the same time with joy and sadness.
As the proverb has it, "a very loving mother, on the point of leaving
for a far-off country, will give to her son who knows her projects all he
wants; but this son, once she has gone, will be more unhappy than he
was previously happy." In like manner, even ifthe author's mulagurus,
full of sympathy as they were for his projects, had decreed that all he
wanted should be given to him-just as a great king would give to his
son as a marriage-portion several tens of horses, several hundred 'bri
and g-yag, vessels of gold, silver and copper along with turquoise,
corals and pearls, tea, silks, woollen and cotton cloths-the fact
remained that the Red Chinese were in the process of wiping out the
wealthy. Moreover even in the case of a poor pilgrim who was going
to Lha-sa they were known to have passed a law forbidding him to
carry with him more than 100 da-sgor.
To quote the proverb: "Once
bitten by a poisonous snake one runs away from a multi-coloured
string." Not only did the lamas themselves have doubts: our author
too remembered that the Sugata had taught to his dge-tshul and d g ~
slang that one should not transgress civilian law. So, abandoning the
question of riches, he simply asked for permission to return to his
homeland. The lamas replied: "For the moment we can't do other-
wise. Later, if conditions get better, you should come back again. So if
you leave now, taking only what you need in the way of provisions for
the journey, all should go well." Therefore, following his lama's
instructions, taking with him only five loads containing books and
money and abandoning the rest like riches perceived in a dream, he
showed all he had to the rdzong-dpon of the Red Chinese, and
requested and obtained a travel document. Us}ng trucks and horses,
he made his way and arrived back in his homeland without hindrance,
thanks to the compassion of the lamas.
When he had assembled the material goods obtained, as related
above, in his homeland together with those he had brought with him
from Khams, the monastery at Ser-Iog was completed. However, not
even one-hundredth part of what had been envisaged in the original
plan was accomplished. This plan had provided for living-quarters
for sixty monks, each to be equipped with a mattresses, tables and
altars, grouped around the gtsug-lag-khang, and was based on the cal-
culation that there would be fifty-three resident monks to whom
rations, clothing and bedding would be provided. Inside the gtsug-lag-
khang were to be the Three Supports which give great blessings as well
as many fine offerings. In particular were envisaged a printing press
for carving xylographs of the books of his own order; and all that was
necessary in the way of facilities was to be offered to itinerant men of
religion. Now, however, all this was merely words that had been pro-
nounced, thoughts that had been in the mind. Nonetheless, thanks
to his own diligence and to the compassion of his reverend lamas, he
now had in hand something of what was needed and what he wanted,
even if because of the unfortunate coincidence of his original plan
with the invasion by the Red Chinese the riches of which he had
dreamed were not translated into concrete reality. So, without aban-
doning his initial resolve; and thanks to the help of fortunate people
from his own country and abroad, he has worked and continues to
work for the benefit of the Doctrine and living creatures.
This biography seems to me significant on several counts. First,
its simple but fairly detailed and factual account complements the
kind of biographical detail one looks for in F. W. Funke, Religioses
leben der Sherpa, and in Sherry B. Ortner, Sherpas through their rituals. 56
Secondly, we learn from it much about the training of a Rnying-ma-
pa lama in our century, and what we discover leads us to understand
that village lamas are by no means always simple people. Thirdly, it
shows us what can still be accomplished, even in these days, by a man
of stubborn courage and solid faith. Lastly, it is an interesting ex-
ample of the Tibetan literary genre of rnam-thar, a genre which is very
different in its aim and content from the western "warts-and-all" or
"kitchen-sink" types of autobiography; Sang-rgyas bstan-'dzin would
agree with 'Brug-pa kun-Iegs that to relate "how he ate this morning
and how he defecated this evening"S7 would be of little significance. It
is no doubt the necessary exemplarity of a Tibetan rnam-thar which
accounts for the somewhat self-congratulatory tone employed by
Sangs-rgyas bstan-'dzin. However this may be, it is always a moot
point to what extent the true and individual character of an author is
revealed in his autobiography, whatever the language employed.
I. I read a short paper on this topic at the second meeting of the International
Association of Buddhist Studies at Nalanda in January, 1980. The intention of the
present article is to provide the non-specialist reader with an example of how a
contemporary lama envisages his own life-history. The footnotes are not intended as a
definitive plunge into the arcana of Tibetan bibliography; they aim to draw the reader's
attention to some publications, knowledge of which helps to elucidate the text. I wish to
thank my friends Perna Tsering, Helmut Eimer and Michael Aris for positive criticism
and helpful advice.
2. D. Snellgrove, Four Lamasfrom Dolpo (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 2 vols., 1967);
Himalayan Pilgrimage (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer, 1961). C. Jest, Dolpo, Communautes de
langue tibitaine du Nepal (Paris: Editions du C.N.R.S., 1975); B. Aziz, Tibetan Frontier
Families (Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1978).
3. M. Aris, Autobiographies of Three Spiritual Masters of Kutang. Lives of Padma
don-grub, Padma dbang-'dus and Padma lhun-grub (O-rgyan bstan-'dzin) (Thimpu, Bhutan,
4. In my translation I have tried to convey something of the mam-thar's flavour
by retaining the author's own figures of speech and peculiarities of expression. The
Tibetan text is to be found in Shar-pa'i Bla-ma Sangs-rgyas bstan-'dzin and Alex-
ander W. Macdonald, Documents pour l'etude de la religion et de l'organisation sociale des
Sherpa, I (Junbesi-Paris/Nanterre, 1971), fo!' 1-13. Information on the circumstances
in which the volume was composed is given in my article "The writing of Buddhist
History in the Sherpa area of Nepal" in A. K. Narain (ed.), Studies in History of Buddhism
(Delhi: B. R. Publishing Co., 1980), pp. 121-131. Some further passages from the
same source have been summarized in A. W. Macdonald, "The Coming of Buddhism to
the Sherpa area of Nepal," in Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientarum Hung., t. XXXIV
(1-3) (Budapest, 1980), pp. 139-146. As S. C. Das, Dictionary, p. 336, indicates, sgro-
skur is an abbreviation for the expression sgro-'dogs-pas dang skur-pa 'debs-pa "decorating
with feathers and casting abuse." However, to restrain from such excesses designates, in
chos-skad, the Madhyamaka.
5. Tibetan mam-thar are generally classified as phyi, nang and gsang, outer, inner
and secret, a classification in which these three divisions often overlap. The reader will
note that the biography we are concerned with conforms also, to some extent, with this
pattern. As Gene Smith has pointed out, the Western term "biography" can also deal
with matters related in Tibetan rtogs-brjod.
60 A small village on the main path from Kathmandu to Namche Bazaar, at the
foot of the Junbesi side of the Lamjura lao
70 Gshongs-Iung is junbesio Gshong-rong is Soluo
80 ioe., because he was born, as stated on a Monday: gza' zla-ba.
90 There seems to be no generally accepted English rendering of dbu-can:
"copper-plate" never seems to have gained admittance 0 Dbu-can means, of course,
"having the Sirorekha, i.e., headline" and is contrasted to dbu-med, "cursive, i.e., without
the headline."
10. i.e., in Solu, Pharak and Khumbu. On dbang, lung and khrid, see recently
Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche, Foreword to Ho V. Guenther, Kindly Bent to Ease Us, Part II
(Emeryville: Dharma Press), pp. vii-viiio
11. In Khumbu.
12. The Thirty-Seven Points of the Practice of the Bodhisattva, a text composed
by a Bka'-gdams-pa disciple of Bu-ston, Rgyal-sras thogs-med bzang-po, but accepted by
all the Tibetan monastic orders.
13. Perhaps the "Ch'o zang lama" of Barbara Ariz, op. cit., p. 222.
14. On this cycle, discovered in Brag-lung in the 17th century by Las-phro
gling-pa (1585-1656), see, for instance, David Snellgrove, Buddhist Himalaya (Oxford:
Bruno Cassirer, 1957), pp. 228-234, 249-258.
15. For the cult of the Twenty-One forms of Tara in Tibet, see S. Beyer,
The Cult of Tara. Magic and Ritual in Tibet (Berkeley: University of California Press),
16. Prayers for re-birth in the paradise of Bde-ba can (Sukhavati).
170 See A. Ferrari, Mk'yen-brtse's Guide to the Holy Places of Central Tibet (Rome:
Is.MoKO., 1958), pp. 39-40 and notes 39 and 46. Recently Hugh Richardson
has published a useful article reconstituting the plan of the Jo-khang, "The Jo-khang,
cathedral of Lha-sa" in Essais sur l'Art du Tibet (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1977), ppo 157 -188.
When I visited the Jo-khang in June, 1980, it was still very much the spiritual heart of
Tibet. I was repeatedly told that the statue of Jo-bo which one sees today in the Jo-
khang was one of the few statues not destroyed by the Red Guards during the 1967/
68 troubles in Lha-sa. The great majority of the statues at present in the Jo-khang seem
to be re-makes and copies (often very good ones) made on Chinese orders in 1973/74.
Pilgrims from far-off Khams and Amdo still crowd into the Jo-khang daily to make
their devotions in front of these statues; the scene is most impressive and I, personally,
was convinced that if Lamaism, as a social force, is dead in Tibet, Buddhism, as a system
of beliefs, still has a strong hold in the minds of the local population. I wish to thank the
Academia Sinica of the Peoples Republic of China for their invitation, which made this
visit possible.
18. Blo-gsa! g!ing was visited by Prof Tucci in 1949 (To Lhasa and Beyond, Rome:
Liberia dello Stato, 1956, pp. 104-105). As I saw it in June, 1980, it is now only an
empty husk of its former self On 'Bras-spungs, see, recently, Geshe G. Lodro,
Geschichte der Kloster Universitiit Drepung mit einmen Abrus der Geistesgeschichte Tibets, I
(Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1974).
19. On Sde-dge, see E. Teichman, Travels of a Consular Officer in Eastern Tibet
(Cambridge, 1922), pp. 158-159; J. Kolmas, Prague Collection of Tibetan Prints from
Derge, Part I, Asiatische Forschungen, Bd. 36 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1971),
p. 10 and A Genealogy of the Kings of Derge, Sde-dge rgyal-rabs (Prague, 1968), passim.
20. On Rdzong-gsar, see the references in D. Schuch, Tibestische Handschriften
und Blockdrucke, Gesammelte Werken des Kon-sprul Blo-gros mtha'-yas, Verzeichnis der
Orientalischen Handschriften in Deutschland, XI, VI (Wiesbaden: Franz St.einer
Verlag, 1976), Index, p. 327.
21. On Rdzogs-chen, see Gene Smith, Preface to The Autobiographical Remini-
scences of dpal-bzang, Late Abbot of Kah-thog Monastery (Gangtok, 1969), p. 7,
n. 18 and Ringu Tulku, "Zog-chen gon-pa," in The Tibet Journal, I, N 3-4 (Dharam-
sala, 1976), p. 85-86.
22. On Zhe-chen, see Gene Smith, lac. cit., p. 7, n. 20.
23. There is a sketch, in which there figure several of the monastic foundations
mentioned by our author in the previous sentence, in S. Kaschewsky and Perna
Tsering, "Die Niederschlagung des Empiirers von Nag-rori und andere Reminiszenzen
des Dpal-sprul rin-po-che," in Zentralasiatische Studien, 7 (Wiesbaden, Otto Harras-
sowitz, 1973), p. 445. Dpal-yul, as indicated in Helmut Eimer and Perna Tsering, "Abte
und Lehrer von Kah-thog," Zentralasiatische Studien, N 13 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harras-
sowitz, 1979), pp. 459-460, n. 7, lies to the south of Sde-dge dgon-chen.
24. The works of Kong-sprul Blo-gros mtha'-yas are catalogued in the remark-
able volume by D. Schuch quoted above in n. (20). The Introduction, p. XXV-
XLVII, gives a most interesting account of Kong-sprul's life-history.
25. See the Introduction by Gene Smith to Kongtrut's Encyclopaedia of Indo-
Tibetan Culture, Parts ]-3, edited by Lokesh Chandra in the Series, vol. 80
(New Delhi, 1970), p. 76.
26. On Bka'-ma, see Eva Dargay, The Rise of Esoteric Buddhism in Tibet (Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass, 1979), pp. 13-14.
27. The Mtshur-phu edition of the Rin-chen gter-mdzod in sixty volumes was
arranged by Kong-sprul Yon-tan rgya-mtsho alias Padma Gar-dbang. A reproduction,
with additional texts from Dpal-spungs, numbering in all one hundred and eleven
volumes, is in course of publication, since 1976, at Paro, Bhutan.
28. This is the Sgrub-thabs 'dod-jo bum-bzang, A Collection of Nyingmapa Sadhanas
written by Gter-bdag gling-pa with the help of Smin-gling La-chen, Reproduced from the
manuscript of Dorje Khandro by B. Jamyang Nor-bu, vol. 1-2 (New Delhi, 1972-73).
There was also a Derge Dpal-spungs print.
29. On Rong-zom Chos-kyi bzang-po, who lived in the 11th century, see Gene
Smith, Preface quoted in n. (21) above, p. 4, n. 7.
30. On Klong-chen Rab-'byams, Dri-ma 'od-zer (1308-1363), author of the
Mdzod-bdun, see Gene Smith, Preface quoted in n. (21) above, p. 4 and n. 8. Sras refers
to 'Jigs-med gling-pa. On the master and his pupil, see also Perna Tsering, "Tibetische
Geschichten zur Erlauterung der Drei Forman des Glaubens (dad-pa gsum)," in Studien
zur Indologie und lranistik, Heft 2 (Reinbek, 1976), pp. 136-138.
31. On Smin-grol-gling, see Gene Smith, Preface quoted in n. (21) above,
p. 6-7, n. 17. The brothers are Gter-bdag gling-pa (1646-1714) and Lo-chen Dharma-
sri (1654-1717).
32. These are 'Jam-dbyans Mkhyen-brtse dbang-po and Kong-sprul rgya-
mtsho, also known as Mkhyen-Kong rnam-gnyis.
33. This is Dpal-sprul O-rgyanJigs-med dbang-po, on whom see, most recently,
the article by Perna Tsering quoted in n. (30) above, p. 133-135 and 139.
34. For information on KaJ:1-thog, see Helmut Eimer and Perna Tsering, "Abte
und Lehrer van Kal:t-thog," in Zentralasiatischen Studien, N 13, pp. 457-509.
35. The collected works of 'Jam-mgon Mi-pham rnam-rgyal (1846-1912) are
catalogued in D. Schuh, Tibetische Handschriften ... , XI, V, pp. 63-266.
36. The Klong-chen snying-thig is to be found in the seventh and eighth volumes
of the Rnying-ma'i rgyud-'bum of which the Sde-dge edition comprises twenty-six
volumes. It was set down by 'Jigs-med Gling-pa (1730-1798) who was inspired to do so
in a trance by Klong chen-po.
37. This might refer to D. Schuch, Tibetische Handschriften . .. , XI, VI, pp. 154-
155, W 131.
38. This is a text contained in the Rnying-ma'i rgyud-'bum, pertaining to the cate-
gory of the Gsang bka'-ma. According to the dkar-chag, it is also to be found in the section
ca of the Bka'-ma.
39. The eighteen basic texts in the curriculum of Rnying-ma-pa lamas at Sde-
dge are listed in Helmut Eimer and Perna Tsering, loco cit., paragraph 3.4.3, p. 487, n. 5.
40. On the Sanskrit text of the Gsang-ba'i snying-po, see G. N. Roerich, The Blue
Annals, I (Calcutta, 1976), 2nd edition, pp. 103-104.
41. Commentary on the Gsang-ba'i sying-po. Several commentaries are listed in
Lokesh Chandra, 'Les imprimeries tibetaines de Drepung, Derge et Pepung,' in the
Journal Asiatique (Paris), 1961, p. 516.
42. That is: the Gsang-bdag mal-lung and not the Kun-bzang bla-ma'i zhal-lung.
43. Giving, respecting, obeying.
44. On Blma mitra, see, for instance Eva Dargay, op. cit., pp. 23-31.
45. Such 'visions, blending together at one point in space and making con-
temporaries in time of historical characters, divinities and goddesses, are also ex-
perienced by jh5kris in the Himalayan area. They are not confined to Buddhists; the
dramatis personae in a Hindu or a "tribal" vision will, of course, be different: but the
divine assemblies who encourage and instruct are, in such cases also, composed of
beings of different classes.
46. One is tempted to interpret these feelings as indicative of his power to move
freely up and down the cosmic axis.
47. Tibetan commentaries on the Bodhicaryavatara are legion and they have
not yet been catalogued in a definitive manner. For one aspect of the question, see
Helmut Eimer, 'Commentaries' on the Bodhicaryavatara," in Studien
zum J ainismus und Buddhismus, Gedenkschrift fur Ludwig Alsdorf, edited by Klaus Bruhn
and Albrecht Wezler (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag), (the off-print bears no date),
48. A commentary on the Madhyamakala7!!karakarikii of The indica-
tions furnished by our author do not permit precise identification of the editions
referred to by him. However, it seems useful to draw attention to editions referred to in
European catalogues. Confer D. Schuch, Tibetische Handschriften . .. , XI, V, p. 107,
N 123.
49. A commentary on the Abhisamayiila7!!kara. Confer D. Schuch, ibid., p. 174,
W 187.
50. Confer D. Schuch, ibid., pp. 176-177, N 190.
51. A text by Sakya-pandita.
52. A commentary on the Mahayiiniisutrala7!!kiiraniimakiirikii. Confer D. Schuch,
ibid., p. 223, W 236.
53. i.e. the Rang-bzhin rdzogs-pa chen-po'i lan-gyi cha-lag Sdom-pa gsum roam-par
nges-pa zhes-bya-ba'i bstan-bcos bzhugs-so of Sakya Pandita.
54. See Documents pour l'itude de la religion et de l'organisation sociale des Sherpa, I,
fo!' 111-116.
55. A large coin in usage in the Sining a;ea.
56. Innsbruck and Munich, 1969, Universitats Verlag Wagner; and Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 1978.
57. Quoted in R. A. Stein, Vie et chants de 'Brug-pa Kun-legs, Ie Yogin (Paris:
G. P. Maisonneuve et Larose, 1972), p. 12.
Metapsychology of the Abhidharma
by S hanta Ratnayaka
The number of scholarly presentations on Buddhism is impressive
today, but only a few ofthem touch the abhidharma system. Tradition-
ally, Buddhist countries have esteemed the abhidharma. Theravada
countries like Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka have held the Pali
abhidharma books in high respect, while Mahayana countries like
Tibet, China, and Japan have similarly treated the Sanskrit abhi-
dharma books.
Because the abhidharma is accepted as the profound
teaching of Buddhism, even the rest of the Tripitaka is often under-
stood and interpreted in terms of the Abhidharmapi;aka. Some teachers
believe that one's mastery over the Tripitaka depends on one's skill in
comprehending the abhidharma system. According to them, one who
has no knowledge of the abhidharma falters at each and every word in
any attempt to expound Buddhism.
Due to its abstract and philosophical nature, the abhidharma is
sometimes classified as Buddhist metaphysics.
The present study is
not intended to examine the validity of such a claim. Nevertheless, the
designation "metaphysics" implies the excellence or specialty of the
abhidharma in comparison with the Dharma, or the general dogma, of
Most of the abhidharma consists of detailed explanations of mental
phenomena. The translation of the first book of the Abhidharmapitaka
itself is given the title Buddhist Psychological Ethics.
However, the
purpose of the abhidharmic analysis of the psyche differs altogether
from that of modern psychology. Although the cognitive structure
and the causal relations of the psyche are very much a part of the
abhidharma, a description of them is not the aim of the system. Rather
it guides the adherent to go beyond the normal pattern of his psyche,
to attain transcendental realms, and to see beyond the mundane. In
this sense it is more appropriate to call the abhidharma system the
"metapsychology" of Buddhism. Although this essay will not touch
upon transcendental realms, it will coGsider the meta psychological
teachings with reference to our life situation.
Modern psychology has adopted the word "meta psychology" to
mean speculation about the place of mind in the universe. Such
theoretical studies have been valuable, but ironically on a practical
level they have been kept at a distance. A modern psychologist
remarks: "In this light, much of Freud's metapsychology may be
regarded as an intricate ideological museum piece the beauty of
which resides in its internal consistency as opposed to its relevance for
doing psychotherapy."s
In less than a century Freud's metapsychology has become a
"museum piece."6 What has happened to the age-old Buddhist meta-
psychology? The Pali abhidharma canon was complete as early as the
third century B.C., as Thera Tissa of the Third Council set forth its
last book, the Kathiivatthu (Points of Controversy). More than twenty
centuries after its completion, the abhidharma has not become a
museum piece, at least for practicing Buddhists. As I mentioned in
opening, the abhidharma is very much esteemed in Buddhist com-
munities, especially among Buddhist scholars.7
Does survival of the Buddhist metapsychology prove its utilitar-
ian value? First, these theories survive on religious grounds. If the
religious value is absent, its practical value remains to be proven.
Second, a scientific verification of the abhidharmic view of mental
phenomena seems impossible. At least no one in this branch of study
has done an extensive scientific examination of mental phenomena.
Modern metapsychology makes no claim beyond the experi-
mental level of mental phenomena. Consequently there is a differ-
ence of attitude between the two groups. The modern psychologist
might not agree about any of the transcendental states of mind
asserted by the abhidharmic teachings. On the other hand, an abhi-
dharmic psychologist would view modern psychology as limited only
to the realm of mundane affairs. It must be admitted that in Buddhist
eyes modern psychology, along with its metapsychology, remains in
its early childhood, with its maturity still far in the future.
The abhidharmic teaching about life, death and even life be-
yond death is based solely on its metapsychology. This system teaches
its own psychoanalysis and its own theory of mental states. In the
following pages a few examples of this teaching will be shown. First,
the conscious layer of mental processes will be expounded; second, an
inquiry into the unconscious will be made, and the subconscious also
will be brieHy mentioned. It is in the conscious that karmas are found,
and it is in the unconscious that death and birth (rebecoming) occur.
Seen from this viewpoint, one's whole being anq process of becoming
can be easily identified with one's stream of consciousness.
The conscious mind of the abhidharma can be exemplified by
the following: 8
1 2 345 6 7 891011121314151617
Diagram 1
Numbers 1 and 17 are respectively the beginning and end of this
particular Process of Consciousness. There was a stream of con-
sciousness before 1, and there will be a stream of consciousness after
17; what we see here is a very tiny fragment of the total stream of
consciousness. This whole fragment takes place within a very short
period of time. The letters of the Diagram indicate the following
states of consciousness, which form this particular Process of Con-
sciousness (1-17):
U Unconscious Continuum (bhavanga)
V . Vibrating Subconsciousness (bhavanga calana)
A Awakening Subconsciousness (bhavanga upaccheda)
Q Inquisitive Subconsciousness (iivajjana)
E Eye Consciousness (cakkhu viiiiiii1fa)
C Receptive Consciousness (sampa(icchana)
I Investigative Consciousness (santira1fa)
T Determinative Consciousness (votthapana)
X Exertive Consciousness (javana)
R Retentive Consciousness (tadiilambana)
The Unconscious Continuum (U) will be discussed later in this
essay. The state of mind before and after an active Process of
Consciousness is usually the Unconscious Continuum. When this state
is disturbed by a stimulus, sense perception or mental perception
The Vibrating Subconsciousness (V) and Awakening Subcon-
sciousness (A) are still not properly active states. The Inquisitive Sub-
consciousness (Q) is like an entrance to the active consciousness. As
the stimulus is, in this example, a visual object, the Eye Conscious-
(E) takes place next. With it the act of seeing occurs. The
stimulus is received further into the Process of Consciousness by the
Receptive Consciousness (C). The stimulus is investigated by the next,
Investigative Consciousness (I). How to respond to this particular
stimulus is decided by the Determinative Consciousness (T). Then
whatever response is made is accomplished by the Exertive Con-
sciousness (X). Being very short, a single Exertive Consciousness
cannot perform an act; therefore, seven Exertives take place one after
the other.
Because the exertion is very forceful, the effect of it may
last for a couple of mind moments, and they are the Retentive
Consciousnesses (R). When the two Retentives fade away, again the
Unconscious Continuum takes place. Until the next stimulus occurs,
the mind continues in the unconscious state. Although the mental
process continues, for the present Process of Consciousness, its 17th
moment (R) is the last active consciousness.
Modern psychic analyses are not exactly parallel to the abhi-
dharmic analysis of mind, but some of them are analogous to the abhi-
dharma, and certainly some of the mental states they describe are
compatible with the abhidharmic ones. The following is an example: 12
Diagram 2
Here the last phase is Action and the previous phase is Think-
ing. There is no doubt that the phase of Action also should be
accompanied by thoughts. The previous phase of Thinking is a phase
of certain distinctive thoughts that lead to action. In other words,
thinking is followed both by action as well as the thoughts with which
that action is performed. So, the phase of Action is analogous to the
Exertives (javanas) of the abhidharmic analysis. The thinking to act is
analogous to the Investigative (santirarz,a) and Determinative (vottha-
pana) states. In this modern analysis, Feeling and Emotion are ordered
before Thinking. This Feeling and Emotion cannot be a deeply felt
emotional phase, as they occur even before Thinking. Thus they are
analogous to the Receptive Consciousness (sampqticchana). The phase
of Sensation and Perception equals the Inquisitive Consciousness
(avajjana) and Eye Consciousness!3 (cakkhu viiiiialJa). The phase be-
fore Sensation is similar to the Unconscious Continuum and the next
two states of subconsciousness. Because what follows Action is not
mentioned in this modern analysis, we do not see any phases com-
parable to the Retentive Consciousness (tadalambana) of the abhi-
dharmic analysis.
As shown in Diagram 1 and its explanation, action properly
speaking takes place in one's Process of Consciousness. The physical
performance is only an outcome of the mental act. Bodily organs
function like instruments of the mental process to accomplish the
deed. The Exertive Consciousness (Javana) by which the action is put
forth is the karma. Bodily karma or verbal karma is only an outcome of
the mental climax. In Diagram 1 we see seven Exertives appearing in
the same Process of Consciousness. They are seven individual karmas.
In Buddhist ethics, bodily or verbal performance itself is recog-
nized as karma. An act of love such as almsgiving or an act of hate such
as killing is designated as good or bad karma only conventionally. In
the metaphysical or metapsychological level of understanding, all
bodily, verbal, and mental karmas are the Exertive Consciousnesses
(javanas) that occur in one's mental process. The accomplishment of
giving or killing is only the outcome of the mental karma. On the other
hand, just a thought of giving or a thought of killing does not become
an Exertive Consciousness (Javana). Only during the time of the act
itself do karmas occur. The outward physical act and the inward
physical act take place simultaneously. Some preceding thoughts lead
the process to this climax, but the climactic physical action takes place
only when karmas arise in the psyche.
Often it is said that karma in Buddhism is a willful act. Never-
theless, how karma becomes willful or how it fits into the consciousness
will never be clear until one looks at it in the light of the abhidharma.
Therefore, living Buddhist traditions rely heavily upon the abhi-
dharma for a proper understanding of Buddhist teachings.
The karma segment of the psyche calls for discussion because it
brings about results. What is the result of karma and where does it take
place? That is an interesting question in the abhidharmic meta-
psychology. The result or the effect of karma is called "vipaka" which
means the mature state or fruition of karma. In our example of a
mental process, the Unconscious Continuum, the Vibrating Subcon-
sciousness, the Awakening Subconsciousness, the Eye Consciousness,
the Receptive Consciousness, the Investigative Consciousness, and the
Retentive Consciousness are the vipiikas or resultants. They are results
brought about by karmas of the past.
A pleasant sight brings about happiness, and an unpleasant sight
unhappiness. Both sights come through the faculty of the eye, and
both of them produce Eye Consciousness, etc., in the psyche. Al-
though functionally the two sights are similar, they bring about two
different effects. One brings about happiness, the other unhappiness
or suffering. The abhidharma explains these two different conscious-
nesses as two different results of good or bad karmas of the past.
The Process of Consciousness shown in Diagram 1 is a karma-
producing one, and thereby that Process functions on a fully active
level of consciousness. Between the unconscious and the karma-
producing state of consciousness there are less active moments of
mind. Some of them are in the subconscious state. After the sub-
conscious state, there are conscious moments that are not karmas.
Without producing karmas, the Process may fall into the unconscious.
Thus most of our conscious thoughts are not karmas. The following
example is a Process of Consciousness that does not produce karmas. 14
* > * > * > * > * > * > * > ~ * > * > * > * > ~ * > * > *
Diagram 3
The unconscious is followed by the subconscious states and the
subconscious by the conscious. The Vibrating Consciousness (V),
Awakening Consciousness (A), and Inquisitive Consciousness (Q)
function on the subconscious level. The Eye Consciousness (E), Re-
ceptive Consciousness (C), Investigative Consciousness (I), and De-
terminative Consciousness (T) function on the conscious level. As
there is no Exertive Consciousness in this process, no karma is pro-
duced. Then the Process falls back into the unconscious. Unlike the
conscious and the subconscious, the unconscious is easily recognizable
and, as it is indicated, the Process begins from, and ends in, the
In both Processes of Consciousness (diagrams 1 and 3) the con-
scious evolves through the Eye Consciousness. Similarly, perception
occurs through the ear, nose, tongue, and bpdy. Sometimes, in-
dependent of these senses, perception arises through the mind it-
The eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind are the doors of
perception. Therefore, in the abhidharma, the perception which arises
through the eye is called Eye Consciousness. Likewise, the Ear Con-
sciousness, Nose Consciousness, etc., are named. In modern psychol-
ogy, certain terms like "visual perception" and "auditory perception"
parallel the abhidharmic terminology.16 However, modern psychol-
ogy recognizes other channels of perception, such as the "muscle
sense" and "vestibular sense."17 Such new "modalities of sensibility"
may be useful in experiments, but clearly they are subdivisions of the
above mentioned doors of perception. Depending on the sense object,
perception occurs through any of the sense doors, and the activities of
the conscious follow.
The major focus of this paper has thus far been upon the con-
scious, although there has been some mention of the unconscious.
Before and after the activities of the conscious, one's mind remains in
an unconscious stage. The unconscious is not simply some sleepy
interval between the activities of the mind. In its own right, the
unconscious performs a task that is not secondary to the work of the
conscious. Therefore, the unconscious must be dealt with further in
our discussion.
Karma becomes a decisive factor in rebirth. The process of death
and rebirth is a subtle one. Therefore, neW students sometimes
equate rebirth with child birth or child delivery. In the karmic
process, rebirth or rebecoming (as it might more properly be termed) is
rather the conception that takes place long before delivery. It is the
first instance of new becoming that takes place immediately after the
death of one's previous life. A new conception occurs when the
mental process begins to work in the new material body. When a
karma of a dying person is suitable for rebecoming in a particular
parental setting, conception takes place. In the abhidharmic point of
view, it is the birth of the psyche as a result of a previous karma or
Exertive Consciousness of the same mental process.
Another question raised often at this point is whether the mental
process of a dead person goes into someone else's body. This question
indicates how foreign the belief in any form of rebirth is to a student who
lacks it in his background. The abhidharmic teaching of rebecoming
must be even more difficult for this student to comprehend. The combi-
nation of sperm and ovum in a new life and the following growth of its
physical body cannot be a person independent of the conceived
mental process. Every conception is the karmic result of a stream of
consciousnes; this new beginning is not altogether a new beginning.
The concern about a dead person's mind going into another's body is
a misconception because there are not two persons involved in the
death and the birth; rather there is only the rebecoming of one being.
There is one mental process through the previous life and the present
life. There is also only one living physical body, because when the
mental process leaves the previous body, life does not exist there any
longer, and until the mental process is conceived, the sperm and
ovum do not become a being. Whether it is at the end of life or at the
beginning of life, material body without mentality is only a body; it is
not a being or a person.
Thus one's actual death is the last moment of his mental process
in the previous life, and one's rebirth is the first moment of his mental
process in the new life. After all, there is one single process divided
into two by the psychical moments of death and birth. Depending on
the locations of the death and birth, there can be a physical space
between the two events, but there is no mental space between them.
Death is followed immediately by birth. The actual death and birth,
which take place in the stream of consciousness, are shown in the
following Process of Consciousness:
Diagram 4
Here the Q is (mind door) Inquisitive Subconsciousness. The
next Exertive Consciousnesses are the karmic moments of the dying
person. Because it is a weak moment, only five of them, instead of
seven, come into the Process. After the Retentive Consciousnesses
and a moment of the Unconscious Continuum, there is the dying
moment of the psyche, i.e., the Death Consciousness (D). What
follows immediately is the Birth Consciousness (B). After the Birth
Consciousness, again the process goes into the Unconscious Con-
Diagrams 1, 3, and 4 show us that in the absence of active
segments of consciousness, the Unconscious Continuum remains. Not
only during one lifetime, but for the past and fqture lives also, that is
the pattern of existence. So, the unconscious plays a major role in the
Buddhist metapsychological explanation of existence. Before we
examine further this important aspect of Buddhist psychology, it is
worthwhile to glance at a modern psychological view of it.
In modern psychology, the unconscious has been analyzed at
great length. A few typical remarks are quoted below:
We hear a great deal about the unconscious, the subcon-
scious and the co-conscious. There is no unanimity of opinion as
to exact meaning of these terms ....
The unconscious has several meanings. When a person has
concussion of the brain or is under the influence of an anesthetic
during the surgical operation he is unconscious. When we are
asleep we are said to be unconscious. The word unconscious is
also often used to indicate types of habitual or automatic ac-
tion ....
Where are memories when we are not thinking of them?
They are said to be in the unconscious. But the unconscious is
not merely a passive storehouse of forgotten experiences. For
many things this is so .... 18
The function of the unconscious described here is, in many
respects, very similar to that of the Unconscious Continuum of
Buddhist psychology. When one is asleep or in a coma, one's mind
remains in the state of unconscious (bhavanga). Besides the memory,
all of one's karmic potentialities and personal traits exist in the Un-
conscious Continuum.
Therefore, the unconscious is by no means
an insignificant portion of our mentality as compared with the con-
In the light of the preceding discussion, the unconscious does
not seem to be without consciousness. Obviously, sleeping or habitual
action is not done by the dead. Nor is the unconscious limited to deep
sleep or concussion. Both modern psychology and Buddhist psychol-
ogy consider the unconscious to be a functional state of the psyche.
For some modern psychologists the two terms "unconscious"
and "subconscious," are synonyms. Some include one in the other.
Buddhist psychologists also do so when they write on bhavangaY
Therefore, the abhidharmic unconscious and subconscious have been
treated sometimes as one and the same. Nevertheless, it is more
appropriate to treat them as two close stages of mental phenomena.
The abhidharmic Process of Consciousness begins from the Uncon-
scious Continuum, and then it passes through the subconscious state.s
on to the conscious. The Vibrating, Awakening, and Inquisitive states
remain on'the subconscious level. With Eye Consciousness, activities
of the conscious begin. Finally, the Process falls again into the Uncon-
scious Continuum. The Eye Consciousness, Receptive Consciousness,
Investigative Consciousness, Determinative Consciousness, Exertive
Consciousness, and Retentive Consciousness are in the realm of the
conscious. Although the conscious is distinct from the unconscious,
the demarcation between the unconscious and the subconscious is
extremely difficult.
Like the conscious, the unconscious and subconscious operate in
many layers. Deep sleep and dreaming stages are easily recognizable
as distinct from one another. Similarly, vague thoughts, faint mem-
ories, unclear imaginations or blurred sensual perceptions appear in
various layers until they become vivid to the conscious. Most of these
stages could possibly be empirical, but a state such as deep sleep
remains unempirical. Of course, how the brain cells function in one's
deep sleep can be detected by modern technical instruments. How-
ever, they reveal only the physical, but not the mental, existence of the
sleeping person.
The same Unconscious Continuum (bhavanga) has sometimes
been translated as "life-continuum."22 The term "life-continuum"
itself indicates how significant the unconscious is in one's life. In fact,
it is crucial in the metapsychological teachings of the abhidharma. Even
the earliest abhidharma commentaries dealt with this issue in detail.
Buddhaghosa refers to one of these commentaries and remarks: "But
in the Abhidharma Commentary two turns of consciousness have been
handed down with respect to registration. This consciousness has two
names, 'registration' (tadiiramma7Ja ... ) and 'aftermath life-continuum'
<P#thi-bhavanga)."23 In his own Commentary to the First Book of the
Abhidharmapitako" Buddhaghosa presents further variations of the life-
continuum. There he uses the term "milia bhavanga," i.e., base-life con-
Neither Pitthi-bhavanga (aftermath-life-continuum) nor milia
bhavanga (base-life continuum) was invented by Buddhaghosa. His writ-
ing itself reveals that such variations of the life-continuum had been
defined and used with distinct meanings before he produced his
The unconscious of the abhidharma is connected with the Death
Consciousness and the Birth Consciousness. At conception, the Birth
Consciousness occurs, and it goes into the state of life-continuum.
Throughout this life, the unconscious is the rebecoming of that
particular Birth Consciousness. At the end of this life, the same
unconscious occurs at the last moment of the mental process, and this
time it is called the Death Consciousness. According to this explana-
tion, the Unconscious Continuum could be seen easily as the life-
continuum. The following citation is relevant:
When the rebirth-linking consciousness has ceased, then,
following on whatever kind of rebirth-linking it may be, the
same kinds, being the result of that same karma whatever it may
be, occur as life-continuum consciousness with that same object;
and again those same kinds. And as long as there is no other
kind of arising of consciousness to interrupt the continuity they
also go on occurring endlessly in periods of dreamless sleep, etc.,
like the current of a river. ... For the last life-continuum con-
sciousness of all in one becoming is called "death" (wti) because of
falling ....
And after death there is rebirth-linking again; and after
rebirth-linking, life-continuum. 25
Two lives of the same person are thus linked by the death-birth
and life-continuum. Though linked, the succeeding life and the
preceding life are distinct. The two lives evolved from the two Birth
Consciousnesses. Because a life-continuum is of the same kind as a
Birth Consciousness, the life-continuum of a given life is similar to the
Birth Consciousness of that life, not to the Birth Consciousness of the
preceding life. Similarly, just as each person differs from all others, so
each person's life-continuum or unconscious continuum also differs
from all others.
Exertive Consciousnesses (karmas) of a dying Process were de-
picted in Diagram 4. They are not identical with the Death Conscious-
ness of the dying. The succeeding Birth Consciousness is brought
about by the karmas of this Process. Because Death Consciousness
does not, but the karmas (Exertives) do, produce the Birth Con-
sciousness, the latter becomes different from the previous Death Con-
sciousness. For this reason, the Unconscious Continuum of one's
present life differs from that of the past life, and the Unconscious
Continuum of one's next life will differ from that of the present life.
Cause and effect continue in the same stream of consciousness, while
each birth or life maintains its distinctive identity. Thus karma of the
conscious brings about the Death and Birth of the unconscious. The
Birth Consciousness reproduces the Unconscious Continuum, and
again via subconsciousness
it brings about the conscious, and the
consciousness produces more karmas. Because this is the mode of
existence that the abhidharma teaches, one can understand why the
abhidharma has been regarded as metaphysics. Nevertheless, the
present essay demonstrates that the abhidharma can now be more
appropriately called meta psychology than metaphysics.
1. In regard to the relationship between the Pali and Sanskrit books on abhi-
dharma or the Theravada and Mahayana teachings on abhidharma, Brian Galloway
makes the following remark: "In case anyone wonders why Theravada sources are used
in the discussion of a Mahayana text, it is because the meaning of standard Abhidharma
technical terms is the same in both traditions. The Mahayanists after all built their
Abhidharma thought on the same early-Buddhist foundations." Brian Galloway, "A
Yogacara analysis of the mind, based on the Vijnana section of Vasubandhu's Pan-
caskandhaprakara'f!a with GUI,laprabha's Commentary," The Journal of the International
Association of Buddhist Studies, Vol. 3, No.2 (1980), p. 20.
2. For a discussion on the metaphysical nature of the abhidharma or of Bud-
dhism as a whole, see; Lama Anagarika Govinda, The Psychological Attitude of Early
Buddhist Philosophy (New York: Samuel Weiser, 1974), pp. 38-41.
3. Tattha Abhidhammassa Matika ti ettha ken' atthena Abhidhammo? Dhammatireka
dhammavisesatthena. Atirekavisesatthadipako hi ettha abhi-saddo. Kassa patthera of Cola,
Mohavicchedani: Abhidhamma MatikatthavaT}T}anii, ed. by A. P. Buddhadatta (London:
Pali Text Society, 1961), p. l.
4. Buddhist Psychological Ethics (A Buddhist Manual of Psychological Ethics): Dham-
masangaT}i, ed. by Caroline Rhys Davids (3rd ed. London: Pali Text Society, 1974).
5. Richard Levine, "Metapsychology and the Psychoanalytic Theory of Tech-
nique," The Psychoanalytic Review, Vol. 66 (1979-80), p. 38l.
6. In the course of writing this paper, I have had several discussions with
Dr. A. Amarasinghe, who is a practicing psychiatrist. His helpful suggestions are very
much appreciated.
7. Translating the Abhidhammattha Sangaha, Narada Maha Thera notes: "Abhi-
dhamma means the Higher Doctrine because it enables one to achieve one's Deliver-
ance, or because it exceeds the teachings of the Sutta P i ~ a k a and Vinaya Pipka."
Bhadanta Anuruddhacariya, A Manual of Abhidhamma, trans. and ed. by Narada Maha
Thera (Kandy, Ceylon: Buddhist Publication Society, 1968), p. 2.
8. In the abhidharma, a portion of the stream of consciousness like this is called
"vithi" or "citta vithi." The term "vithi" means street, course, or process. My suggestion is
that it is more meaningful to translate citta vithi as "Process of Consciousness." Lama
Anagarika Govinda translates it as "Process of Perception," and Narada Maha Thera as
"Thought Process." Govinda, Psychological Attitude, p. 136; Anuruddhacariya, A Manual
of Abhidhamma, p. 34.
9. '" eva"!! bkavanga,,!! otarar:a cittiinampi gar:ana patko nama natthi ... sace
pana iipiitha gata,,!! hoti, kiriya mana dhtituyti bhavange iiva??ite caRkhu
vinniiniidini uppajjanti. Buddhaghosa, Atthasiilini or the Commentary to the Dhammasan-
ganippakarana of the Abhidhamma Pi?aka, ed. by Y. Pannananda, Simon Hewavitarne
Bequest Series, XLII (Colombo: The Tripitaka Publication Press, 1940), p. 239. This
citation is transliterated by the writer.
10. Brian Galloway properly translates this as "eye-perception." Galloway,
"Yogacara Analysis," p. 11. As perception is its function, "eye-perception" is a fit term.
Nevertheless, in the Process of Consciousness every individual number is a conscious-
ness; accordingly, I have used here the translation, "Eye Consciousness."
II. Herbert V. Guenther refers to the Exertives as "several apperceptional
phases (javana)." Herbert V. Guenther, Philosophy and Psychology in the Abhidharma
(Berkeley: Shambhala, 1976), p. 24.
12. Edward A. Strecker, Kenneth E. Appel, and John W. Appel, Discovering
Ourselves: A View of the Human Mind and How It Works (3rd ed., 12th Printing: New York:
The Macmillan Company, 1967), p. 36.
13. See "eye-perception" in footnote 10.
14. Buddhaghosa, Atthasiilini, p. 238.
15. The Dhammasanganippakarana of Abhidhamma Pitaka, ed. by H. Nanaloka,
Simon Hewavitarne Bequest Pali Text Series, III (Colombo: The Tripi!aka Publication
Press, 1953), p. 13.
16. Herbert V. Guenther's translation is noteworthy: "The process in respect to
an audible,olfactory, gustatory, and tactile object is exactly the same (as in respect to a
visible object)." Guenther, Philosophy and Psychology, p. 27.
17. S. Howard Bartley, Principles of Perception (New York: Harper and Brothers,
1958), p. 57.
18. Strecker, Discovering Ourselves, pp. 41-42.
19. This description of bhavanga parallels iilaya vijnana of the Vijiianavadins.
20. Strecker, Discovering Ourselves, pp. 43, 46.
21. Alfonso Verdu, Early Buddhist Philosophy (Washington, D.C.: University
Press of America, 1979), pp. 86-87, 191.
22. Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa, The Path of Purification: Visuddhimagga, Vol.
II, trans. by Bhikkhu NyaJ?amoli (Berkeley: Shambhala, 1976), p. 646.
23. Ibid., p. 629.
24. Buddhaghosa, Atthasiilim: p. 252.
25. Buddhaghosa, Path of Purification, pp. 514-518.
26. In both abhidharmic psychology and modern psychology, although the
degrees of consciousness vary as the unconscious, subconscious, and the conscious,
their content is interchangeable. The content of the conscious may become the content
of the unconscious or of the subconscious, and vice versa.
The Buddhist "Prodigal Son":
A Story of Misperceptions
by Whalen Lai
Ever since Western scholars noticed that the Lotus Sutra contains a
parable of the "prodigal son" there have been suspicions about
Christian influence (St. Thomas' mission in northwestern India) in
this Mahayana sutra and also interest in the comparison of this version
with that in the Bible. Unfortunately, there has been a history of mis-
understanding over this, first, between those in the Buddho-Christian
exchange, and, secondly, within the story itself. The Lotus parable is
about misperceptions; ironically, it is a story of a generous father
but a spendthrift son, unlike the New Testament story. In this
short article, I will try to dispel some of the modern misunder-
standings, and then discuss the Lotus parable's intention within its own
context. I will use the Kumarajiva rendition of the sutra as translated
by Leon Hurvitz; numbers in brackets refer to Hurvitz' pagination
(New York: Columbia University, 1976).
The Modern Misunderstanding
Questions of Christian influence aside (it is not impossible, but
unlikely given the probable early dating of this stratum of the Lotus
Sutra) , the theologian'S contrast of a warm-hearted Christian father
running to greet his son and a cool-headed Buddhist father dispatch-
ing attendents to fetch his is correct, but off the mark. The Buddha
had compassion for his son too, but it would not be becoming for the
Buddha if he also "ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him" (Luke
15:20). The biblical story is a story ofreconciliation; the Buddhist one
is of the gradual inducement of the son to recognize his own Buddha-
wisdom. However, even so, at the right time, the Buddhist father
could as well demean himself to the son's level out of love. "Straight-
way he removed his necklaces, his fme outer garments, and his orna-
ments, and put on instead a rough, torn, dirty; tar-stained garment
and, smearing dust over his body, took in his right hand a dung
shovel" (so as to work next to his hired labour of a son for the purpose
of eventually revealing their true relationship) (Hurvitz: 87). So, it is
not a matter of one being warm and the other delibeni.tely cool. To
counter the Christian critique, Buddhist apologists underline the fact
that in Mahayana the acquisition of wisdom C.prajfzal is cardinal. The
son must come to his supreme understanding, and by so doing
become on par with the father. They argue that, since Christianity still
assumes a theistic distinction between God and Man, it is understand-
able that discovery of self-worth sadly is absent in the biblical narra-
tive. However, this prajiiii-ist polemic can be just as off the mark, since
there is no mistaking, in the Lotus narrative, that the son does not
deserve the lavish attention he receives for his own work (Hurvitz:
81). When the son is finally made heir to the father's tremendous
fortune, it comes no less as a "godsend." It is a free gift of grace
beyond his expectation, for he thinks, "Formerly I had no thought of
seeking or expecting anything, and now these treasure houses have
come to me of themselves!" (Hurvitz: 89). So, the difference between
the two parables is not explained by the Buddhist ideology of prajiiii
and the pure self-discovery either. We must look at the two stories
more closely.
Now, the Christian narrative refers indirectly to Jesus' preach-
ing about the nature of the Kingdom of God, even though it is not
formally one of the "Kingdom" parables. It is taught in the presence
of "the Pharisees and scribes [who then] murmured, saying, 'This
man received sinners, and eateth with them'" (Luke 15:2). It comes
after other analogies: the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep
to seek the one lost one (15:4), and the woman who rejoices at finding
her lost silver (15:9), both of which are meant to underscore the point
that 'Joy shall be in heaven over the sinner that repenteth, more than
over ninety and nine just persons, which need not repentance" (15:7).
It is a subtle answer to the self-righteous opponents who are cast in
the role of the other son, who fail to rejoice in the open admission of
the "sinners" in Jesus' audience, "for this thy brother was dead, and is
alive again; and was lost, and is found" (15: 32). In this Lucan
narrative, the good son is not thrown out into the darkness to weep
and to gnash his teeth. The key to the whole story is the prodigal
son's repentence, his ready admission that "Father, I have sinned
against heaven and before thee" (15: 18), his willingness to renounce
all claims and suffer any pitiance shown, "And am no more worthy to
be called. thy son; make me one of thy hired servants" (15: 18).
Although the father hugs him before he opens his mouth, the festive
rejoicing-the fattened calf, etc.-come after the son's public con-
fession. The whole story is structured according to the Judeo-Christian
concern with the just and the unjust (unearned) dessert. It is about
divine love showered on the repentent sinner and the open and free
grace in the Kingdom that overlooks all past dues in one universal
communitas of rejoicing.
This "Love, Power and Justice" drama has a unique structure
that cannot be, or be expected to be, found in the Buddhist milieu.
Repentance is never an issue there. However, the whole gist of the
Buddhist parable is that the son does not consciously return to his
father's house. In fact, the story has to do with a basic irony: the son
cannot possibly recognize his father, or perceive himself as in any way
the son of this "like of a king." The whole object is to get the son to
perceive the father and thereby perceive himself in a totally different
light from his present view. Behind this irony is the whole drama of
the genesis of the Mahayana and the Lotus Ekayana itself. The modern
misunderstanding can only be resolved by first understanding a past;
built-in, misunderstanding, not only of the Mahayana but of the
Hinayana as well.
The Past Misunderstanding
The Lotus parable is not told by the Buddha to illustrate his
compassion for all men; it is told by Subhiiti, Mahakatyayana and
Mahamaudgalyayana (in ch. 4) in response to the Ekayana doctrine
(Ch. 2), and to the Buddha's parable of the Burning House (ch. 3).
Subhiiti and others are Hinayana arhants, i.e., sriivakas, listeners. They
are reacting to an unexpected boon, unique to the Lotus Ekayana
gospel, namely, that arhants can become Buddhas. The "prodigal
son" analogy is their contribution to explaining how, unbeknownst to
them, as sriivakas, they are actually sons of the Buddha. Possessing
Buddha gotra (seed, lineage) destined for anuttarasamyaksambodhi (the
highest enlightenment, previously reserved for the samyaksambuddha,
or the Buddha alone), these arhants "came home to the father" after a
long absence to find their own status changed from petty Hinayanists
to potential Buddhas. The extravagance is not in the prodigal son's
spending all his inheritance in debauchery; the extravagance is the
new inheritance these spendthrift absentee sons are now about to
acquire. Let us review the story in the sutra and the story behind the
story in early Mahayana.
In chapter two, the Buddha declares that all his prior teachings
were upaya, expedient means. The Ekayana of the Lotus Buddha
Vehicle now subsumes the Triyana of the sravaka, the pratyekabuddha
(the solitary or self-enlightened buddha) and the bodhisattva (the
Mahayana wisdom-being). Now all three are destined for the same
destiny, Buddhahood. Sariputra, an arhant, rejoices, saying (Hurvitz:
49): "Formerly, when I heard such a [Mahayana] Dharma as this from
the Buddha, I saw the Bodhisattvas receive the prophecy that they
should become Buddhas: but we [the sravakas] had no part in this."
That is, historically speaking, a true fact. There was the Triyana dis-
tinction before the rise of Mahayana, and it was logically set up as
three discrete paths. Sravakas had sravaka-gotras (seeds), destined for
arhantship, that and that only; they did not change their seed-nature
by becoming bodhisattvas or pratyekabuddhas. They could not; gotra-
lineages were rationally distinct. When Mahayana rose in the Prajiia-
paramita corpus and movement, it gradually dislodged the Bodhi-
sattvayana as Mahayana (Great Vehicle), and still later turned to de-
nouncing the other two as Hinayana (Small Vehicle). The Prajiia-
paramita tradition claimed to be the Dharma preserved through
Subhuti, a mountain ascetic disciple of the Buddha. His foil in the
dialogue that made up the sutra is the venerable Sariputra, a leader of
the sravakas. So the remark of Sariputra cited above recalls how even as
Sariputra is privileged to learn of the Mahayana Dharma, he has "no
part" in it. Not only that, even Subhuti, himself also an arhant,
has no part of it, though he be charged with the knowledge of
prajiui and sunyatii! Why the stewards of the Dharma, the "secret store
of the Tathagata"l (Hurvitz: the Dharma of the secret treasure house,
p. 95), would not practice what they preached is explained in the
parable itself (see infra). That the arhants are unable to know they are
actually potential Buddhas is not the fault of Buddha. As Sariputra
confesses (Hurvitz: 49): "This is our fault, not that of the World-
Honoured One." Now, as the Buddha offered as an explanation for
the Ekayana, the parable of the Burning House (ch. 3), Sariputra's
prayer for an accounting to ease the arhants' "doubt and uncertainty
over this unheard-of boon (58) is answered.
In chapter four, Subhuti and others show their thanks for the
enlightening explanation. They now "wish to speak a parable, with
which to clarify this meaning" (Hurvitz: 85). The parable of the
prodigal son then accounts for the two seeming anomalies: (a) why
don't the arhants know they are Buddha sons, and (b) why doesn't
Subhuti practice the Mahayana Dharma he was supposed to have
preached? The Buddhist tale has nothing to do with Judeo-Christian
themes of Justice, Repentance and Forgiveness. It has to do with a
natural misperception, an unsolicited stewardship and the final re-
cognition-with the irony of Mahayana itself: how this original in-
tended gospel of the Buddha is overlooked by the immediate disciples
(the Hinayanists), how some of them (Subhuti and others) come to be
trusted with it, and how, at long last, they realize that their sriivaka
destiny ends no less in Buddhahood. The technically difficult hurdle
in the story is, why doesn't the son recognize his sonship immediately?
How can he be induced to change his sriivaka-gotra into the gotra of the
Thus, the crucial "mystery" in the story is not a prodigal son who
runs off and returns but the father who, as he goes looking for him,
changes his residence and outer appearance so that the son, chancing
upon this alien residence, cannot recognize the owner as his father:
Suppose there were a man who was young in years and who also, ~
forsaking his father and running off, dwelt long in another
country, whether ten, or twenty, or as much as fifty years. Not
only did he grow old, but he was also reduced to destitution,
running about in all four directions in quest of food and
clothing. At length, in his wanderings, he accidentally headed.
toward his native land. His father, who had preceded him, and
who had sought his son without finding him, had stopped midway
in a certain city. The father's house was great and rich 0
[Here follows descriptions of its opulence and the father's ur-
gent wish to pass his inheritance to his lost son before his own
departure from earth.] At that time, the poor son, hiring himself
out as a laborer in his wanderings, by chance reached his father's
house, where, stopping by the side of the gate, he saw in the
distance his father seated in a lion throne (in the opulent
setting). 0 As soon as the poor son had seen his father with the
great power, straightway, harbouring great fear, he regretted
having come to that place, and privately thought: "This is either a
king or the equal of a king; but at any rate, this is no place for me to
hire out my labor and earn anything. 0 0" (Hurvitz: 85-86.
Italics added.)
The resettlement of the father and his assumption of a royal status
C . .. in a city, ! Where he built himself a house! In which he amused
himself with the objects of the five desires,"2 says the verse version
[90]) is an added note crucial to this story of misperception. The son
cannot recognize the "like of a king" to be the father he originally left
behind. This must refer to the historical idealization of the Buddha in
the Mahasall).ghika and then the Mahayana tradition, such that, when
the process is completed (i.e., when the father is resettled), the
Hinayanist (the sravaka son and original disciple) cannot possibly
recognize this transmundane, super-perfect, Buddha-figure, decked
with all the sundry objects pleasing to the senses, to be the sannyiisin
Sakyamuni they once knew. The Buddha is now fully cosmic, the like
of a cakravartin. The absence of the "fifty years"-the mythical span
between his first sermon at Benares and this Lotus gospel, supposed tb
be delivered just before his parinirva1Ja (thus the reference to his
eagerness to reveal the secret "before his own departure")----<:hanges
the whole scenario.
Once we understand this basic point, the confusion or un-
necessary comparison with the biblical version should end. The rest
of the story is the re-education of the child. First, the father secretly
hires him, and because the son has petty aspirations (being a "Hina-
yanist"), he has to be so humoured and placed in a mean job, cleaning
the stables. The arhant son is, however, clearly conscientious. The
father himself, as he finally puts on similar clothing to be near his
heir, says, "Whenever you work, you are never guilty of lying or
cheating, of anger or resentment, or of hateful words. I have never
seen you guilty of these evils, as are the other workmen" (Hurvitz:
87). The father lavishes upon the son all necessities, working at
putting this once-frightened son at ease. He ends the above remark
with "From now on you shall be like my own son!" and straightway he
gives him a new name. This granting of a name, a new one ap-
parently, signals the admission of the sravakas into their true identity
as buddha-go trakas, sons of the Buddha lineage.
And, true to "history," the Hinayanist son keeps at his diligent
task under the master's encouragement of future reward, removing
the defilements (kleSa: here probably symbolized by the painful task of
removing the dung from the stable). The father in his lowly attire sets
an example, as Sakyamuni did in history. Meanwhile, there is the
continual inducement. In the verse version:
He spoke to him sternly:
"You must work hard!"
He also used gentle words:
"You are like my son." (Hurvitz: 93)
Slowly the son grows in confidence, even as he remains steadfastly
committed to a low assessment of himself, never once truly presuming
sonship or even e ~ o y i n g the comfort that increasingly comes upon
him. Finally, the father charges him with the stewardship of all his
treasures. Like the biblical steward, the son makes good his charge
even as he himself would "have none of these (luxurious) things"
(Hurvitz: 94). The good stewardship, however, is not meant to show
how his final enlightenment comes as a result of good works. It is
meant to explain the second seeming anomaly mentioned earlier.
N ow as Subhuti and others comment:
The Buddha also in this way (as the father in his)
Knowing our fondness for the petty,
Has never before told us (Sravakas,)
"You shall become Buddhas!"
On the contrary, he told us
To achieve freedom from outflows,
To achieve the Lesser Vehicle,
To be voice-hearing disciples.
The Buddha [also] commanded us
To say of the Unexcelled Path [i.e., Mahayana]
That those who cultivate it .
Shall be able to achieve Buddhahood.
Merely for the bodhisattvas' sakes
Did we set forth these matters,
Not for our own sakes
Preaching these essentials.
Just as the poor son
Was able to approach the father,
And, though responsible for his father's things,
Had no thought of taking them ....
Thinking low of themselves, Subhuti, et al. never presume Mahayana
credentials, at least, not until the Lotus Dharma removes this stigma of
the discrete Triyanas that even the Prajiia-paramita sutras presup-
poses. (See endnote 1.)
Finally, of course, the father summons his entourage and pub-
licly reveals to them, as to the son too, the true heir to his kingdom. So,
the son finds himself with a godsend he did not expect, just as Subhuti
and others, who offer this parable, did not. This is the original inten-
tion of the Buddhist parable.
The Biblical and the Buddhist parable are only similar in certain
formal aspects, not in their separate larger contexts. The
however, is not between God's Love and Buddha's Wisdom. In fact,
the Buddhist father is very compassionate, and the self-acquisition of
wisdom is not the real drive of the narrative. Rather, the Buddhist
story was meant as a specific case commentary, the sravaka's, on the
abolition of the Triyana distinctions. In many ways, the motifs of the
Buddhist tale coincide more with the Gnostic myth about the "mes-
senger and the secret" than with the repentence-and-forgiveness
drama of the Lucan narrative.
1. I came to this analysis of this chapter in the Lotus Sutra by way of Kumarajiva's
assessement of the Lotus Sutra as the ju-la-pi-tsang (secret store of the Tathagata): that its
admittance of the arhants as Buddhas excelled over even the Prajiia-paramita sutras.
2. In an earlier draft, I took the word "amused" too literally and too readily
dubbed the father as "prodigal" one. I am grateful for the corrections by Professor
Andrew Rawlinson (University of Lancaster; letter of 11/29/80).
Lustful ,Maidens and Ascetic Kings (Buddhist and Hindu Stories of Life),
by C. Amore and Larry D. Shinn. New York: Oxford University Press,
1981. xii + 198 pp. Illustrations by Sharon Wallace, Story Sources,
Amore and Shinn have selected the sixty-five classic Buddhist
and Hindu stories found in this book on the basis of two criteria: each
had use in India as an instructional vehicle conveying social or ethical
values, and each was intrinsically entertaining.
The first criterion is founded on the now traditional premise that
people with cultures in large part oral pass on their cultural roles and
attitudes through retelling and performances of those myths, fables,
epic stories, anecdotes, etc., that promote desirable qualities. The
authors encapsu1e each of these stories with helpful, general comments
clarifying the relevant values and important social roles, contrasting
Buddhist with Hindu. approaches to seemingly similar dilemmas, and
relating the world presented within the story to the larger social struc-
tures of the time.
Whether or not each offering is entertaining is left to each reader
alone to determine. It should be noted here that Amore and Shinn
have chosen to translate all the material into American-style prose, a
choice which, inevitably, eliminates the stylistic differences. Many of
the stories tend to read and sound as if they were all from the same or
similar sources. Of course, something is usually lost in transition from
language to language, but the result, in this case, may leave readers
who are acquainted in some way with the originals slightly disap-
pointed in what is, on the whole, a useful and insightful presentation of
some of the best of Indian myths and tales.
For the less familiar reader, the book offers not only a wealth of
folk and classical stories, but also the opportunity to approach them as
listeners/readers would on their home ground: "as cultural and reli-
gious guideposts." The authors find this to be the most apparent
function of the stories. They offer interpretation of the actions of the
characters in terms of Geertz' dichotomy between positive behavior,
called "models for," and negative behavior, called "images of." In many
cases, they have found stories which present opposing views or treat-
ments of the same idea; for instance, in the section titled "Woman," the
story they call "The Carpenter's Wife" (paitcatantra, Bk. III, no. 8,)
offers the Hindu negative "image of' woman as sly, and is immediately
followed by "Savitri and the God of Death" (Mahiibhiirata, III), in which
Savitri's steadfast devotion and quick intelligence provides the "model
for" the ideal Indian woman.
Amore and Shinn, in the introductory material; carefully empha-
size the importance of oral transmission "in a culture where literacy is
low but storytelling abounds." But, while they make clear that these
stories are vital also to literate groups, they do not go on to point to the
complex interaction between oral and written traditions, a relationship
important not only in certain categories of overt literary developmept,
but also evidence of the subtle interlockings of Indian social and ethical
patterns. They do mention that stories tended to become "frozen" after
they were included in various written collections, and they suggest that
differences among written versions of the same story stem from the
presence of that piece in different religious traditions, geographic
areas, or historical periods.
In the brief section on sources, the authors review the general
content and suggest broad temporal limits for the important collections
(Sanskrit and Pali) from which they pulled their material. This section
is supplemented bya list given at the end of the bok, which names the
specific source for each story. We find material from the Pancatantra,
Jiitakas, Mahiibhiirata, the Nikiiyas, Riimiiyana of Valmiki, Vinayapi(aka,
the Dhammapadatthakathii, four from the Vetalapancavi'f!lsati, the Sad-
dharmapu7}qaTlRa, the Visuddhimagga, and, of course, several puriinas.
The selections have all been translated "very freely" according to the
authors. Spot checking reveals that "freely" should not be taken to
mean self-indulgently. The allegory extracted from the Saddharma-
pU7}t:faTlRa (here called "How the Clever Father Saved His Sons") shows
some of the freest overall treatment; on the whole, however, the
originals are preserved.
Amore and Shinn also explain some of the motifs and story-
telling devices that may seem alien to a novice in Indian literature. In
this section, for instance, we find an elucidation of the. relation between
the assiduous and virtuous practice of Hindu asceticism and the result-
ant (often destructive) celestial intervention. Oddly, only some of these
motifs are analyzed in the introduction; others, of potentially equal
unfamiliarity, are found in the brief commentaries, and a few, un-
fortunately, are interjected directly into the body of the story, breaking
the otherwise easy flow of the narrative line. In the tale called "The
Radiant Sambula," which is told early in the book, Amore and and
Shinn deal with the character's performance of the "Act of Truth" in a
heavy-handed fashion, tacking a bracketed explanation onto the end of
a line of interior monologue. But, ninety-eight pages later, in a para-
graph preceding the stories and tales focused on the theme of truth-
fulness, this same concept is dealt with in a clear and simple statement,
an example of which is beautifully demonstrated by the action and very
words of Damayanti herself in a well-chosen portion of the Nala-
Damayanti story.
The stories are divided into four broad categories, each of which
is subdivided: Family Roles (Man, Woman, and Children); Social Roles
(King, Teacher/Priest, and Ascetic); Lay Values (Courage, Purity, Gen-
erosity, Self-Sacrifice, and Truthfulness); and Monastic Values (Self-
Control, Asceticism, Detachment, and Compassion). Clearly, some of
the stories fit into more than one category, but they add up to a well-
rounded view of traditional, orthodox, Buddhist and Hindu attitudes
and morals.
In light of the type of translation, the critical approach to selec-
tion and interpretation, and the title, I should speculate that the book
might serve well as suggested supplementary reading in an introduct-
ory course on Indian literature or religions.
Beth Simon
The Syncretic Religion of Lin Chao-en, by Judith A. Berling. New York:
Columbia University Press, 1980. xv + 348 pp., appendices, notes,
glossary, bibliography, index.
This work by Judith Berling of Indiana University is a careful
and important study of an interesting Ming dynasty figure, Lin Chao-
en (1519-1598), whose life and writings provide valuable insight into
the dynamics of syncretism in this period of Chinese history and
beyond. The book is composed of eight chapters, plus extensive ap-
pendices and notes. The first three chapters discuss "The Problems of
Syncretism," "Syncretism and Sectarianism in Early China," and "The
Heyday of Syncretism" (in the Sung and Ming dynasties). Chapter
Four is a brief biography of Lin Chao-en. The next three chapters,
examining Lin's teachings and the movement which grew up around
him during his life, are entitled "The System of Mind-cultivation,"
"The Nine Stages," and "The True Transmission of the Three Teach-
ings." Chapter Eight, on "The Legacy of Lin Chao-en," examines the
religious organization of this movement, the growth of a cult which
followed his death, and its influence in the following centuries.
While the movement has its outcrop pings even in the present
century among some overseas Chinese, its principal interest for the
historian of religion lies in the process whereby Lin Chao-en weaves
together elements of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism and in the
ways in which he is both a creature and a fashioner of his times.
Professor Berling shows at considerable length how Lin Tzu's syncret-
ism was highly selective. Though he was fundamentally Confucian in
orientation, his earliest writings depict him "as the defender of the true
transmission of Confucius against the intellectualizing extremes of the
Sung Neo-Confucians." Also, while open to the insights of Taoist and
Buddhist thinking, especially where there were parallels to the Con-
fucian system of self-cultivation, he was critical of Buddhism and
Taoism in a variety of ways, particularly "their neglect of familial
virtues in their vow of celibacy."
In the San-chiao hui-pen (Joint Chronicle of the Three Teaching:s)
Lin "used his principles of syncretic selectivity to correct misconcep-
tions and identify the core of truth" in each of the three traditions.
Being fundamentally a religious teacher rather than a philosopher, he
sought to lead people back to the correct Way. Berling spells out clearly
his pedagogical methods and also gives appropriate attention to Lin's
emphasis upon healing.
Aside from the competent manner in which Judith Berling anal-
yzes the figure of Lin Chao-en and his writings, part of the value of this
study is its direct discussion of the problem of religious syncretism
itself. In her first chapter Berling defends "syncretism" as a useful
category of analysis and spells out a convincing definition of what she
means by the dynamics and impact of syncretism. While the phe-
nomenology of syncretism is complex and needs considerable investi-
gation, this work is an excellent case study of one particular figure in
an era which was unusually rich in its religious interaction.
Bardwell L. Smith
The Memoirs oj a Modern Gnostic, by Edward Conze. Part I, Life and
Letters and Part II, Politics, People and Places. Sherborne (U.K.): The
Samizdat Publishing Company, 1979. v + 160 and vi + 162 pages.
Appendices and Index.
Edward Conze's privately-printed memoirs, written at the behest
of Prof. J. W. de Jong a year before Conze's death, are in neither
content nor tone a work of Buddhist scholarship, yet they are deserv-
ing of attention simply because their author was one of the pioneering
Buddhologists of the twentieth century, editing and translating nearly
all of the prajiuipiiramitii literature and writing general accounts of
Buddhism that remain today among the standard works on the subject.
Few Buddhologists, upon reaching what Conze calls "anecdotage,"
have felt compelled to set down their autobiographies; nor, indeed,
have many led lives that cried out for immortalization in ink. What
makes Conze's life fascinating reading-despite. the fact that he was an
Orientalist who never set foot in Asia-is his intense involvement in
and awareness of the social and political background of his intellectual
pursuits, from his early membership in the German communist party
to his later outspoken opposition to the war in Vietnam and American
Orientalists' unwitting contribution to it. In an elegant, allusive and
acerbic style, Conze ranges digressively over the people, places and
events with which his life has intersected and, to put it mildly, he is
neutral about none of them.
The cover of each part is adorned by a reproduction of a wood-
block print of Maiijusri, yet far more appropriate-given Conze's
attitude toward most of the people he knew-would have been the
image of Yamantaka, the wrathful aspect of the Buddha's wisdom, for
"sweet-voiced" Conze is not-indeed, he claims that of the Buddha-
ghosa's six psychological types he partakes of hate and wisdom, and in
fact consciously indentifies his splenetic outpourings with the activity
of Yam ant aka (II, p. 76). His most vituperative comments (e.g., regard-
ing Christmas Humphreys, Arthur Waley and others) have been ban-
ished to a Part III that is unpublished, and will remain so until the
parties under discussion are dead, and no longer can sue for libel.
Still, there is ample evidence in the two parts that have been
published that Conze's view of his fellow man is far from sanguine.
Regardless of whether he has, in fact, "written the most vicious pages
of this book in a spirit of dispassionate serenity" (U, p. 81), vicious
passages there are, directed at various points against Western Buddh-
ists, who "are at heart disappointed Christians, discontented with the
record of their Churches or the attention which the Almighty has
bestowed upon them" (II, pp. 81-82); leaders of the "mass democ-
racies," who are either "hopeless non-entitites," "greatly beloved kill-
ers" or "certifiable lunatics" (II, p. 74); "mannish" American women;
Tibetan exiles who are "whiskey-swilling philanderers"; and assorted
academicians he has known, both great and obscure. His mother is
spared direct attack, but it is clear that he disliked her. Few are those
Conze really admires: his father; among teachers, Max Scheler;
among colleagues, D. T. Suzuki, Lamotte, Tucci and Joseph Needham;
among students, E. F. Schumacher; among leaders, with reservations,
Gandhi and Stalin. His view of himself, it must be added, is as forth-
right as his assessment of others: "Committed to Mahayana Buddhism,
I have to show equal regard for compassion and wisdom. When I look
at my actual being, I find that my indubitable compassion is clearly
intertwined with a cruelty so elemental and deep-seated that I do not
know where it comes from, and the wisdom goes together with much
foolishness and lack of sagacity of which even this self-flattering auto-
biography will give some example now and then" (II, pp. 37 -38).
Conze's unflattering treatment of people is in part a function of
his krodha-nature and in part due to his tendency to view them from the
judgemental standpoirit of the sociology of knowledge or Marxism, but
still more fundamental to it is his jaundiced view of civilization in
general. "No-one should forget," he observes, "that this is the Kali
Yuga in which everything begins to stink" (II, p. 32). A self-described
"elitist, anarchist person who rejects the world and all that is in it,
including most of its human inhabitants and feels a kinship with small
groups of the perfect, in the style of Pythagoreans, Cathari, Dukhobors,
etc." (II, p. 65), Conze despises egalitarianism, technology and material
acquisitiveness, and seems sincerely to long for the good old days of the
Stone Age, whence, he believes, originated the Perennial Philosophy of
which Buddhism is the last intact representative. Cantankerous and
undeveloped as are many of Conze's fulminations, they are provoca-
tive, and especially interesting are his reflections on the moral am-
biguity involved in, e.g., Gandhian non-violence, which Conze believes
contributed despite Gandhi's best intentions to the violence of India's
partition; germicide, which led to healthier armies, longer wars and the
population explosion; and the development of modern technology,
which has made life comfortable for many, but also cast the shadow of
nuclear annihilation over all.
Conze responded to the crisis that is civilization by successive
affinity with two "isms"; Marxism and Buddhism. He was active in the
communist party of his native Germany in the early 30's, playing a
dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with the ascendant Nazis before
fleeing to England. He spent some time as a non-combatant researcher
in Spain during its civil war, and was a pamphleteer in British socialist
circles until 1939, when he renounced political activity, if not political
interests. His renunciation was brought on in part by his disillusion-
ment with many of the political figures with whom he had contact,
particularly English socialists and Indian nationalists, including Krishna
Menon and Nehru; in part by his growing belief that politics, as an
exercise of power, was rotten at the core; and in part by his gradual
disaffection with Marxism, which he saw as flawed in both theory and
practice. Though never nominally a communist after the 30's, Conze
remained one by reflex, and continued until his death as an outspoken
"anti-imperialist" and advocate of Stalin. Though greatly disappointed
by much of what he saw when he visited the Soviet Union in 1960, he
remained at heart an admirer of the Soviet experiment, and found in
Bolshevism "a movement very much akin to the Mahayana,-in its
COncern for the masses, in the dialectical nature of its thinking, and in
its desire to perform historic deeds which have miraculous results" (II,
p. 19).
After 1939, Conze turned his attention almost exclusively to
Buddhism, undertaking a career in editing, translating and writing
that would bring him eminence, if not riches. Conze most assuredly was
a Buddhist in addition to being a Buddhologist-he spent a good part
of World War II meditating on Buddhaghosa's forty topics while
ensconced in a Hampshire village-but it would not be unfair to
characterize him as a "pratyeka" Buddhist: he seems seldom, if ever,
to have taken spiritual instruction from Buddhist teachers; he had no
use whatever for Western Buddhist societies; and he was largely unin-
terested in contemporary Asian Buddhists or their practices. He never
went to Asia, and "The basic reason is, of course, that the traditional
East is in the process of rapid dissolution and is everywhere being
replaced by a modern society. Buddhism is rejected by the more
vigorous elements in each country, and its literary traditions are being
transferred to the West to be kept here, in cold storage, for further use
when peace returns at last and the constant threat of Imperialist
intervention in Asian affairs will have been laid to rest" (II, p. 30).
Conze viewed Buddhism as a distillation of the Perennial Phi-
losophy, and as such as an essentially religious movement, whose
philosophy was merely "a rationalization of facets of the spiritual life
disclosed in the practice of disciplined meditation" (I, p. 107). He was
by no means hostile to philosophy, but he clearly valued "wisdom"
more, and it is understandable-if not entirely excusable-that in his
Buddhist Thought in India he gives brief and derisory treatment to
Buddhist "logicians" like Dignaga and Dharmaklrti, that he fought
with Richard Robinson over the applicability of symbolic logic to Na-
garjuna's dialectic, and that he finds little value in the work of, e.g.,
J ayatilleke and Kalupahana, who have drawn fruitful comparisons be-
tweeen the Buddhism of the niktiyas and modern analytic and empirical
philosophy. It is also possible to question some of Conze's interpreta-
tions in the area in which he was most expert-the prajiuipiiramitii-
where his tendency to interpret sunyatii in absolutistic or monistic terms
certainly is at variance with the tradition of the lineage to which, in
these memoirs, he claims to belong, that of Tsong kha pa (cf. E. W.
Bastian's review of Conze's The Prajiiiipiiramitii Literature, in jIABS,
vol. 2, no. 2, 1979, pp. 99-102).
His idiosyncratic views and inevitable scholarly imperfections
notwithstanding, Conze contributed a great deal to Buddhism and
Buddhist scholarship, and these memoirs, however, "un-Buddhistic"
they may occasionally seem, are well worth reading. Not only do we
find in them such entertaining stories as Dr. Conze's altruism leads to
the closing of Cologne'S brothels, Dr. Conze outwits Intourist, and Dr.
Conze wrestles a young woman at a faculty party; more importantly, we
glimpse the genesis of Conze's scholarly work; and, above all, we have
in Conze's memoirs the reflections of a Buddhist who--whatever his
aversion to it-lived very much in the world, thought and wrote about
it passionately and, in many cases, may even have been right.
Roger Jackson
Buddhist Studies, by J. W. de Jong and edited by Gregory Schopen.
Asian Humanities Press; a Division of Lancaster-Miller Publishers:
Berkeley, Calif., 1979. $35.00.
This book brings together sixty-six separate reprints of articles
and reviews by J. W. de Jong. It also contains an index, a bibliography
of 318 de Jong publications (1949-1977), and an index of books
reviewed in those publications.
According to the editor, the sixty-six articles and reviews were
selected from among de Jong's writings dealing with Indian Buddhist
literature. In fact, two articles deal primarily with China, and two items
deal primarily with Western interpretations of Buddhism. (Unfor-
tunately, the two very important and useful essays that de Jong con-
tributed to the 1974 issues of the Eastern Buddhist on the history of
Buddhist studies in Europe and America have been omitted.) How-
ever, the focus of the collection is clearly on Iridian Buddhism, and
primarily on the study and translation of Indian Buddhist texts.
The collection is divided into seven sections. The first, entitled
"General Studies," contains the four essays mentioned above, one on
the background of early Buddhism, two on the Buddhist notion of the
absolute, and one on "Emptiness." Section II, entitled "Buddhist Au-
thors," contains four essays-"L'auteur de l'Abhidharmadipa," "La
legende de Santideva," "Review of G. Roerich, Biography of Dhar-
masvamin," and "Notes a propos des colophons du Kanjur." Section
III, the shortest of the book, is constituted by reviews of four publica-
tions that deal with topics and texts in the Pali tradition. Sections IV, V,
and VI-"Sanskrit Hinayana Literature," "Mahayana Sutra Litera-
ture," and "Sastra Literature"-form the heart of the collection. The
items that appear under these headings are mostly critical book reviews,
but there are also a few short articles devoted to specific topics, texts or
segments of texts. The final section, on "Tantric Literature," includes
just three i t e m s - ~ m e article on the sources and text of the Sang Hyang
Kamahiiyiinan Mantrayiina, and two short reviews. Approximately one
half of the contents of the book are in English; the other half are in
This publication is directed to a highly specialized audience of
Buddhist scholars, and will serve primarily as a resource for those who
need to consult a particular essay that deals with a specific topic or text
relevant to their research. Clearly anyone who wishes to explore ser-
iously a topic or text on.which de long has commented, must take his
analyses and judgments carefully into account. The fact that more than
sixty of his essays have been made more accessible, and the fact that a
bibliography of his other publications has been provided, makes this
task much easier. In this regard, all of us who work in the Buddhology
field should be grateful to the editor and publishers of Buddhist Studies.
At the same time, however, the collection leaves the reader (or at
least this reader) with a sense of frustration. In the first essay in Section
I de long states, quite clearly and correctly, that "The most important
Skt. vipasyana, p. 49)). More serious are the author's unfamiliarity with
(p. 28), and in the sixty-five essays that follow he demonstrates the kind
of linguistic erudition and first-hand acquaintance with Buddhist lit-
erature which should enable him to make a major contribution to that
task. Yet-with the partial exception of the three short essays that
consider the Buddhist absolu.te and the doctrine of emptiness-de
long makes very little effort to move beyond the level of philology to
the level of interpretation. One hopes that in the future Professor de
Jong will draw upon his rich philological background and linguistic
abilities to shed new light on how it is that the documents he has
studied so carefully are "sacred texts which proclaim a message of
salvation" (Ibid., p. 28).
Frank E. Reynolds
Sources for a History of the bSam yas Debate. by G. W. Houston. Sankt
Augustin: VGH-Wissenschaftsverlag, 1980. (Monumenta Tibetica His-
torica: Abt. I: Scriptores; Bd. 2) 122 pages, bibliography, indices. ISBN
3-88280-007 -0.
The author claims in his introduction to be concerned to present
this little "source book" as a supplement to Tucci's Minor Buddhist Texts
II (Kamalasila's First Bhiivaniikrama) and Demieville's Coneile de Lhasa,
so that students of the bSam yas debate could have all the major relevant
texts in critical edition and translation. He presents the most important
Tibetan accounts of the debate both in critically edited transliterated
Tibetan and in his own translation. Most interesting is his version of
Dpa' bo gcug lag's account in the Mkhas pa'i dga' ston (13 Tibetan pages
and 21 pages of English translation). Also noteworthy is his translation
of R. A. Stein's edition of the account of the ancient Tibetan history,
the Sba bzhed (8 pages Tibetan, 12 pages English). He also includes the
relevant passages from Bu ston's Chos 'byung and from other Tibetan
historical texts.
On the whole the work is a useful addition to sources available to
scholars of Tibetan history and of the history of Buddhism. The
author promises in a future work to go into the philosophical issues
involved in the debate to present his own "solutions" of the many
problems that have occupied scholars, so far inconclusively. This at-
tempt will no doubt be of great interest.
Some minor problems with the book are: there are quite a few
misprints ("depate" p. 30, "personnally" p. 33, "vipaJana" for "vipaJyana"
p. 49, etc.), a few grammatical errors (a misplaced "which" p. 4, 1. 19,
etc.), and a few awkward translations ("Brahmin heretics" for Tib. mu
stegs pa, which can mean any sort of non-Buddhist, not only Brahmin
non-Buddhists; "(proper) imagination" for Tib. lhag mthong p. 29 (yet
the same concept rendered more correctly as "correct insight" from
Skt. vipasyana, p. 49)). More serious are the author's unfamiliarity with
certain philosophical concepts from Tibetan Prajiiiipiiramitii and Mii-
dhyamika disciplines. For example, from the Tib. p. 25, 11. 26-28-de
dan rjes su mthun pa ran sa'i ses rab kyi mthon bas drod ree bzod mchog go
(read gil mthon bskyed pa sogs la sems no rtogs pa ces min byas par zad la-the
author reads "In agreement with that, one experiences the prajiia of
one's own nature. (Also, one experiences) the highest endurance of
warmth etc. To (all of this) has been given the name: 'to have the
perception of Sems'. By the aforementioned realization of prajiia, be-
cause one has practiced the union of Chogs gnis to completion, one
wants to be enlightened." (p. 46). This should read, rather more
simply: "Correspondingly, one merely gives the name 'realization of
actual nature of the mind' to the generation of insight at the (applica-
tion stages of) warmth, peak, tolerance, and triumph, by the insight of
the wisdom appropriate to each stage, and so forth. However, the
process of enlightenment is accepted as the integrated practice of the
two stores (of merit and wisdom) combined with the insight of such
wisdom." The author would never have made the mistake of reading
Tib. drod ree bzod mchog as the "highest endurance of warmth" if he had
an elementary familiarity with the terminology of Phar ph yin where the
phrase is clearly recognized as an abbreviated way of referring to the
four stages of the application path lam). This
shows the difficulty of Tibetan historiographical studies, wherein some
familiarity with the philosophical culture of the Lama authors is as
essential as the usual skills of the historian.
In spite of these flaws, the work is a welcome addition to Bsam
yas debate studies, especially as providing balance to Demieville's ac-
count, primarily from Chinese sources, by showing the Tibetan per-
spective. A final point: the Tibetan assumption that the Hyashang
Mahayana faithfully represents the Ch'an position should not be un-
critically accepted. The great Ch'an masters such as Ma Tzu, Pai
Chang, Huang Po, etc., would doubtless have dealt the Hvashang quite
a few blows themselves, for his simplistic presentation of "sudden
enlightenment" as mere "thoughtlessness." We must remember that
the explosion of Ch'an practice during T'ang times produced num-
erous pretenders to enlightenment as well as highly enlightened
The Hvashang Mahayana should not therefore be simplistically
accepted as a representative of all Ch'an lineages of practice, as Tibetan
tend to do.
Robert A. F. Thurman
Buddhist Architecture of Western India (c. 250 BC-AD 300), by S. Naga-
raju. Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan, 1981. xxix + 368 pp. Map, Charts,
Figures, Plates, Appendix, Bibliography, Index. Rs.500 ($lOO).
If the dating of the Mahayana caves at Ajanta has for some time
been the number-one problem of chronology for historians of early
Indian art, the second most vexing issue would certainly have to be the
dating of the rock-cut caitya-halls and le,,!-as of the "Hinayana phase,"
found in great numbers throughout the western Deccan and northern
Konkan. This earlier group of monuments forms the subject matter of
this impressive volume by S. Nagaraju, and understandably, the au-
thor's prime concern is to establish a viable chronology for the series.
Attempts in this same direction have been made before-the two most
valuable being the works of Walter Spink (Rock-cut Monuments of the
Andhra Period: Their Style and Chronology, unpublished Ph.D. disserta-
tion, Harvard, 1954) and Vidya Dehejia (Early Buddhist Rock Temples: a
Chronological Study, London, 1972)-but the problems of dating these
monuments are so complicated that the whole issue still remains largely
unresolved. For all those who are devoted to such chronological per-
plexities and their solution, this book will be a welcome addition to the
Whether or not one actually accepts the chronology proposed is a
matter of little concern, for the real merit of the book lies elsewhere.
N agaraju has given us not just another chronological reconstruction,
but something much more: a valuable reference tool of the sort which
is all too often lacking in the field of Indian art. What the book
practically amounts to is a corpus for the rock-cut architecture of the
"Hinayana phase," and although not every single monument of the
field is included, the coverage is far more complete and detailed than
in any other work previously available. In total, the number of known
rock-cut monuments from this period comes to about 1000 inde-
pendent excavations distributed over some 50 separate sites; of these,
29 major sites together accounting for nearly 800 of the excavations
were studied by Nagaraju during a six year period of field work. The
number of monuments actually described in the catalogue portion of
the book was further reduced to 570 excavations representing the 19
most important sites. Speaking strictly in terms of numbers, this
amounts to a detailed coverage of about 60 percent of the known
monuments; but from the standpoint of representative importance,
very little has been missed.
The sixth chapter of the book, "Descriptive Inventory and Anal-
ysis of Monuments and Architectural Development in Different Cen-
tres," provides in over 200 pages a site-by-site, excavation-by-excavation
description of the 570 monuments covered. After all the excavations of
a given site have been described, a general discussion follows, in which
the architectural data are considered in conjunction with associated
epigraphical and paleographical evidence in an attempt to reconstruct
the history of each site. Plans are included for most of the monuments,
and the 220 plates serve fairly well as photographic documenta-
tion. The appendix is a "list" of all the known associated inscriptions
for each site, complete with summaries, information as to location, and
bibliographies; but in fact, in the majority of cases even the original
text of the inscription is provided. (It is unfortunate that some of the
more important, longer inscriptions, such as Nanaghat N 1 and Nasik
N 4-as well as some shorter but previously unpublished inscriptions
-are only summarized. For the amazingly high price of this book, one
would expect to find not only the text of every inscription, but transla-
tions as well.)
Other chapters deal with the architecture of the caves from
within the context of their natural and social environments. The in-
fluence of geographical and geological considerations upon the dis-
tribution and form of the monuments, the socio-economic factors
relating to patronage, and the nature and demands of the sangha and
the laity as factors influencing architectural form and distribution, are
some. of the topics dealt with. These chapters are full of suggestive
statistics and sharp observations, and even though more questions are
raised than answered, there is plenty of food for thought here.
As for the chronology proposed, I can only say that it can be
argued as well as any other. It is obvious that we are still a long way
from any kind of certainty when talking about the chronology of these
monuments. The excavations are so numerous, and the problems in
our understanding of the history of the period are so serious, that one
might well despair of ever arriving at a reasonably sound chronological
footing. Stated simply, the problem is how to relate the overall relative
sequence-established on the basis of stylistic development, and of
which only a few of the minor details are ever disputed-to a frame-
work of absolute dates. A handful of inscriptions clearly places the
excavation of several monuments within the reigns of specific Satava-
hana rulers, but then the whole problem hinges upon what dates one
accepts for the Satavahanas. This in turn largely depends upon the way
in which one interprets the highly controversial evidence of the PuraI!as.
One extreme places the rise of the Satavahanas at c. 271 B.C., the other
extreme argues for a date of c. 30 B.C., and numerous dates inter-
mediate between these two have been suggested. Nagaraju offers an
interpretation which puts Simuka, the founder of the dynasty, at c. 228
B.C., and thus places the beginnings of rock-cut architecture in the
western Deccan at a very early period, about the middle of the third
century B.C.
I am certain that there will be those who are convinced by Naga-
raju's arguments for an early chronology, just as there will be those
who prefer the later dates proposed by Dehejia and others. But what-
ever one's chronological leanings, this book will be greatly appreciated
for the wealth of detailed and up-to-date information it provides.
Phil Wagoner
The Thousand Buddhas: Ancient Buddhist Paintings from the Cave-Temples of
Tun-huang on the Western Frontier of China. Recovered and described by
Aurel Stein, with an Introductory Essay by Laurence Binyon. Tokyo:
Rinsen Book Co., 1978.
The work under review IS, indeed, "extraordinary" in many
ways. It consists of two sets of color and black-and-white plates. From
plates 1 to 33 it measures about 25 X 21 inches, and from plates 34 to
48 the measurement is 16 X 12 inches. In addition, the text explains in
detail each of the paintings. All the components are stored in a neatly-
designed hard container. It weighs about 15 pounds and is priced at
Yen: 98,000.00 (about $500). Undoubtedly it is a very valuable book.
The original edition was jointly published by the Secretary of
State for India of the British Government and the Trustees of the
British Museum. The present edition was printed in Tokyo by the
Rinsen Book Company in 1978, and the Academic Press is the agent in
the U.S. We shall endeavor to examine the significant points of this
collection and outline briefly the origin of these paintings.
The discovery early this century of the Buddhist literary treas-
ure, which was concealed in a chamber in one of the One Thousand
Buddhas Caves in Tun-huang marks an important event in Chinese
history. It facilitates the study of Chinese culture, especially the social,
religious, philosophical, and literary traditions of ancient China, on the
basis of the huge collection of manuscripts written in Chinese, Tibetan,
and other Asian languages. Additionally, an excellent collection of
artifacts in the form of statues, frescoes, paintings of Buddhas and
bodhisattvas on silk and paper, and printed documents from wooden
blocks were also uncovered. There were two western scholars, viz.,
Aure! Stein and Paul Pelliot, who exerted themselves greatly in collect-
ing the huge number of manuscripts and artifacts from these caves.
The former took over six thousand scrolls to the British Museum,
London, and the latter provided the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris,
with another two thousand scrolls. The present collection of about sixty
Buddhist paintings is a part of this discovery.
The focus of these paintings is the pantheon of Mahayana Bud-
dhism, in which Buddhas, bodhisattvas, guardian angels, and paradise
congregations are abundantly represented. The Buddhas are Amita-
bha (plates 8, 10, 11), (plates 1, 2, 3, 36), Sakyamuni
(plates 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 34, 37), and TejaJ::!prabha (plate 38); the
bodhisattvas are Avaloketisvara (plates 14-24,38, 41-44),
(plates 15,34,40), Maitreya (plate 9), Manjusri (plates 4,5,27), Saman-
tabhadra (plates 4, 5, 30), and Tara (plate 35); the guardian angels are
(plate 28), Vaisravana (plates 26, 45), (plate 27),
and miscellaneous works of demonic figures (plates 46, 48), saints and
monks (plate 32), hermit and horse-dragon (plate 33), and so forth,
The severa! paradise scenes of Amitabha, Sakyamuni, and other
Buddhas (plates 8, 6, 7, and 1,2,3) are large in size (some of them are
about 7' x 5') and grand in style. They show a great assemblage of
celestial beings such as bodhisattvas, disciples, guardian angels, nymphs,
musicians, dancers, attendants, infants-on-Iotus, and donors who pay
homage to the principal Buddha in the center of the painting. The
congregation convenes in a heavenly mansion of richly decorated
terraces, courts, pavilions, lakes and elaborate structures in Chinese
style. Everything in the composition is symmetrical, well-balanced, and
harmonious. The details may be based on the Sukhiivati-vyuha-sutra
(Taisho No. 366), which describes the beauty of Amitabha Buddha's
paradise. But it is the superb skill and imagination of the Chinese artist
which transforms fantasy into creative reality. The creations are glor-
ious in color and splendid in execution. In presenting the Buddhas,
bodhisattvas, and lokapiilas, the Chinese artists strictly follow the Graeco-
Gandhara tradition in the areas of features, poses, hair styles, apparel,
drapery, and color scheme, while in illustrating the Jataka (birth) stories
or life of the Buddha as a prince, they take the liberty of painting the
scenes and fashions entirely in the Chinese tradition. Occasionally one
notices certain features of a Buddha or bodhisattva showing a greater
resemblance to the "Chinese" type than that of the "Indian." It is
probably due to the natural process of transformation. It is similar to
what is known as the Central Asian, Tibetan or Southeast Asian types
of Buddhist iconography.
From the numerous paintings dedicated to Amitabha Buddha,
and especially Avaloketisvara bodhisattvas (who appeared in
fifteen paintings in various forms, about one-third of the entire collec-
tion), one can envision the religious sentiment of that period (9th to
10th century A.D.). Amitabha and are associated with
saving the souls from purgatory and causing them to be reborn in the
Land of Bliss, and Avaloketisvara, popularly known as God (or God-
dess) of Mercy, is a bodhisattva who is ever ready to save sentient beings
from all kinds of suffering and disaster. The inscriptions of donors
recorded in many of these paintings substantiate this religious feeling,
which in turn would inspire faith and hope in men of future gen-
The descriptive text prepared by Stein and associates is useful in
serving the reader as a guide to these paintings, but, unfortunately,
Stein did not know Chinese. Being dependent on someone to interpret
Chinese inscriptions for him, he was not aware of the fact that there
were misinterpretations. Take, for instance, the statement on page 33,
plate 20, in explaining the donor's votive:
The Chinese inscription in the left top corner describes the
painting as a gift of a son in memory of his father.
This is with reference to the Chinese words:
Nii-ii-tzu Ch'iu-liarig yung wei kung-yang
::9: $ T 1L ~ I b i < . }.% {;J:t 1i
The correct transiation is:
The female disciple Miss Number Nine made this for perpetual
veneration and worship.
There is another type of error related to dates in the inscrip-
tions. It is hard to detect unless one checks with Chinese historical
documents. We have an example in plate 22 (page 34). Our translation
of that inscription is as follows:
On the 15th day ofthe 7th Moon in the 10th year of Tien-fu, the
year of golden horse (keng-wu) (we) record the completion ofthe
The term "Ti'en-fu" (Heavenly Renewal) refers to one of the reign
titles of Emperor Chao-tsung (888 - 904) of the Tang dynasty. It lasted
for about three and one-half years, from 901-904. Therefore, there is
no such thing as the" 10th year of Tien-fu." On account of the zodiac
sequence we are able to identify the year as 910 A.D. It is possible that
due to difficulty in communication people in the Tun-huang area
might not know the change of reign titles immediately.
This collection of Buddhist paintings offers an opportunity for
the study of Buddhist art as transplanted from India through Central
Asia to the Far East, and for examining the development of Chinese art
in the T'ang period. Also, because of the close cooperation between art
and religion one is given a chance to speculate on the subtle influence
of popular Buddhism penetrating deeply into the heart of the Chinese
masses through the artistic creations of Buddhas and bodhisattvas.
It is needless to say that art historians, lovers of Oriental art, and
scholars of Asian civilization will greatly benefit by the study of this
unique collection of Tun-huang paintings. As the price of the book
appears to be prohibitive, may one hope that museums, art galleries,
and university libraries might extend a helping hand in the matter?
W. Pachow
Tasks Ahead:
Presidential Address Given on the
Occasion of the
Third Conference of the International
Association of Buddhist Studies,
Winnipeg, Canada, August 1980
by Herbert V. Guenther
The term religion is one of the many popular words which are
assumed to be intelligible in common parlance, but which on closer
inspection fail to convey an unambiguous meaning, and then become
a source of constant altercation and frustration. Attempts at defining
what the word is thought to stand for have either been too narrow or
too broad; they also have been either vague or a medley of mistaken
notions, all of which defeated the very purpose of defintion. The
failure has been due mostly to the fact that one did not distinguish
between defining and relational characteristics and that one also over-
looked the fact that it is we as living beings who give meaning to the
words we use, enough to suit our practical purposes, and sometimes
hardly even that, because otherwise words would be mere noises or
pen-marks. Thus, in using a word, we actually do two things:
(i) we stipulate a meaning in the context of concrete circum-
stances--"this is how I am going to use the word and this is
what I am going to mean by it";
(ii) we report what those who use a language already mean by a
word in this language.
But because of the open texture of language and because of
the accompanying vagueness of most of the words coined and used to
suit the occasion, which itself varies from mome?t to moment, we are
constantly engaged in stipulation, even if most of the time we do not
notice it. What we are doing is that we constantly break an old rigidity
and let new structuration emerge. The emphasis therefore is on a
dynamic "how" and not on a static "what." Maybe religion refers to
such a dynamic "how" and therefore defies any attempt at reducing it
to a static "what." It is only most recently that the nature of natural
dynamics, the logical supremacy of process over structure, has been
recognized. But this does not mean that reductionism is a matter of
the past. It still reigns supreme, particularly in the humanities.
The aim of reductionism is to reduce all and everything to one
level of explanation-the rational one or the mechanistic one. It may
be seen as moving "downward" into materialism-note how in this
proposition the term downward is used as moving
"upward" into a life of the spirit (whatever that word may mean)
which remains without consequences-note how here the term up-
ward is used approvingly and extollingly. But let it be stated right
away that the presuppositions of any reductionism are obsolete, even
if the thought models that evolved from it have been and still are
useful in restricted areas. These presuppositions are the Cartesian
dichotomy of res extensa and res cogitans, absolutized in a dualism
which separates body and mind, and Newtonian mechanism which,
jointly with the speculations of Bacon and Locke, demands that all
phenomena, including the mental, are to be studied and evaluated in
quantitative terms. This attitude was summed up in Lord Ruther-
ford's words, which are no longer valid even in the hard sciences, that
"quality is poor quantification."
Mechanism, as one form of reductionism, represents a static
view which is primarily interested in rigid structures which can easily
be disassembled into their separate parts and pieces and which then
also can easily be reassembled. And while mechanism allows for
quantification, it does not allow for change, which implies quality. A
mechanistic system is assumed to act in analogy to a Skinner-box,
which determines the behaviour of its inmate(s) in every detail-
perhaps the ultimate caricature of man's living reality, matched only
by that intellectual bankruptcy which goes by the name of logical
positivism. Mechanism is easily recognizable in the transfer method,
misleadingly called translation, and in the amusing pastime of recon-
structing lost Sanskrit texts from their Tibetan translations. The
dismal failure of such enterprises--the reconstructed text has little or
no resemblance to the original text when it has eventually been
found--does not deter the reductionist.
He can always take refuge in
the sloga.n of objective scholarship, which has an almost unbelievable
magical effect on the audience.
Here we touch upon another feature of reductionism-the
rational and, in the narrower sense, the logical. This feature focuses
on an impersonal "it" which is supposed to be assessed objectively
without the involvement of an outside observer. However, there is
never an object without a subject. As a matter of fact, subject and
object are co-constituted and, quite generally, an object becomes
observable and assessable only through its interaction with the sub-
ject. With every action and every thought, with every observation and
theory, we interfere with the object of our study and are ourselves
changed. When a young man falls in love with a young girl, both are
changed, as is the whole milieu in which they find themselves. The
very fact that a person dealing with a text chooses from the various
entries under a given term in a dictionary, reveals that person's
Of course, the objectivist does not like to be reminded
of his subjectivism. Such a reminder is a blow to his presumed ration-
ality and logicality. It exposes the fact that that person's neocortex,
which is involved in the higher intellectual operations, is really not
very much in control, that he is caught in the trap of the palaeo-
mammalian brain, or limbic system, which decides which notion it is
going to support emotionally (in his case the notion of objectivity) and
in the trap of the R-complex, or reptilian brain, which allows only a
single idee fixe (the notion of objectivity),4 To clinch matters, the
delight the objectivist takes in his alleged objectivism is not rational
and logical either.
I have dealt somewhat at length with the thought-shrinking
operation of reductionism because it determined the direction in
which the study of such a phenomenon as Buddhism was to move,
regardless of whether the material that was studied was in the Pali or
Sanskrit language or whether it belonged to one or the other of the
two major developments within the tradition: the Hinayana and
Mahayana. The relative simplicity of the statements in the Pali Canon
as well as the insistence on the thoroughly human character of that
person who by virtue of a self-transcending experience became
known as the "Awakened One" (buddha), led to the reduction of what
Buddhism--this term itself, like any other "ism," is a case of excessive
abstraction, reflecting the mistaken notion that something which
affects man can be considered in isolation from the attendant con-
crete circumstances in which man is a participant-wanted to convey,
to a set of ratio-ethical maxims which, in the wake of a more or less
unconscious muddle-headedness, were equated with laws and, by
implication, with commands. The basic term dharma in its multi-
leveled usage points to an order which excludes law, and with all its
ethical overtones is a term for an evolutionary process, not for a static
entity.5 It was the orderliness of the process of growth
-in terms of experience, the waking up from the nightmare of
shrinking-that was pointed out, but not decreed. It is out of such a
process-oriented view that, to give an example, Buddhism formulated
its concern of being-with others in a world as a region of engage-
ments, as "I take it upon myself to learn more about how to refrain
from taking another living being's life." Here, ethics is a manifestation
of awareness, an acceptance of responsibility through which there is
participation in the growing complexity of life. The very words "I
take it upon myself' already suggest a whole new way of looking at the
world; they announce personal spontaneous existence and, since the
world in which we as human beings live is a humanly-constituted
world, these words make us experience our humanity over again so
that in this experience we create ourselves. By contrast, command-
ments, even if they are claimed to have been revealed and to be valid
in an absolutistic sense, prescind from man's humanity; they remain
opportunistic in merely allowing adaptation to a presumably pre-
ordainted structure (a gigantic Skinner-box) and killing the creativity
of the process we call life.
Turning to the relatively few Sanskrit texts that have survived
the waves of destruction which swept the Indian sub-continent, it can
easily be noted how reductionism followed two directions. First, inas-
much as the majority of these texts were of a nature which aroused
association with topics seemingly belonging to that realm of human
activity which is termed philosophy, the content of these texts was
quickly forced into the mould of thought which was so enwrapped in
itself that it could hardly notice anything but itself. Yet, condescend-
ingly taking cognizance of the fact that there was something, this
something was labelled and dismissed-every labelling is a dismissal
from direct experiencing-as either pluralism or monism or idealism.
This kind of conceptual-restrictive thinking gave an account of how
Western philosophical thinking has developed, but it did not help to
understand Buddhist thinking, which implies a perceiving and under-
standing in a very specific, non-conceptual sense as a lighting-up, a
consummate luminating-illuminating. Buddhist thought, therefore,
cannot be dealt with in terms of the idealism developed by Kant or
Hegel, who ended up with a universal concept generated by a
universal consciousness. Needless to say, the other categories, such as
pluralism and monism, have little significance either. They refer to
static constructs, not to a dynamic process. Buddhist thought has
always been process-oriented thinking-is it not stated over and over
again in the original texts that Buddhism is a way, a going?6
The other direction in which reductionism went was the phi-
lological analysis of the propositions and the words that made up the
propositions. It served a certain useful purpose in that it made a
person learn a foreign language properly-not always, but most of the
time-and in that it clarified the evolution of that particular language.
What was not always realized was that in the Sanskrit language, sub-
stantives (nouns) have a verbal meaning-the dynamic coming-into-
presence of what there seems to be statically given is the primary
feature. The overall inadequacy of the linguistic, philological reduc-
tionism, however, lay in the fact that it failed to take into account that
there are different realms and levels of discourse which determine
the usage and, by implication, the meaning of words. In every
moment of discourse, the concrete circumstance into which words are
a word initiates something--{)negives the other person
something to think about which is made possible by what the German
philosopher Hans Lipps (1938) had called the "circle of the unex-
pressed" which surrounds every word. This feature the Indians had
long, long ago recognized and was elaborated by Anandavardhana
(between 840 and 870) in his dhvani theory. If everything has already
been said, there would be no point in saying anything anymore, and if
all that is going to be said it but a repetition or duplication of some-
thing "definitive"-the "pure and authentic teaching" as decreed by
the dogmatist-it would have nothing, absolutely nothing, to say and
it would be a waste of time to engage in further quantification. The
real horror comes when this philological reductionism is confused
with or mistaken as a philosophical or religious meaning in the
manner of a denotable thing,8 for the result is dogmatism, the abro-
gation of intelligence and the repudiation of the quest for learning
and understanding. Dogmatism is not concerned with carefully
Neighing the inner meaning of word in a given context, but only with
:he perpetuation of obsolete notions.
Reductionism, which has ruled undisputedJy in the Western
world and still rules, though less undisputedly now, in the sciences
md humanities, is not unknown in the Eastern and Buddhist tradi-
tions. I am not thinking so much of those representatives of these
traditions who have chosen the Western medium for expression and
believe they are doing their own tradition a service by repeating the
notions which evolved in the Western world. Rather, I am thinking of
the Madhyamika presentation; to give only one example, with respect
to one of the key terms, if not the key term, in Mahayana thought-
sunyata. This term names an openness that cannot be limited by an
unvarying and exhaustively specifiable mode of being. It imparts to
each and every complex individual an openness and profundity inas-
much as, figuratively speaking, it is (dynamically, not statically) the
concentration, though nowhere localized, of the infinitely rich poten-
tial of possible structures (saruakiiravaropeta), of qualities which will be
transformed and deformed into quantities during the unfolding of
this sunyata. This openness, misleadingly translated as emptiness or
the Void, has been reduced to "pure negation," and it was this
reduction that was insisted upon by the dGe lugs pa in Tibet, who
present(ed) only one aspect of Buddhism. The proponent of this
reductionist presentation, Tsong kha pa, has been severely criticized
by most of the other representatives of Buddhism in Tibet.
It is not without irony that the reinstatement of the human
element, which is tantamount to a break with reductionism, was per-
formed by the "hard sciences"-the famous Heisenberg principle
(indeterminacy relation) was formulated at the microscopic level, the
very small, on which the traditional Western reductionism was based.
From this break soon followed a new understanding of the dynamics
of natural systems, with the emphasis on becoming, the coming-into-
presence, which means that even that which is, is an aspect of
becoming, an occurrence of being.
This recognition of the human
element has now been formulated at the level of the very large, as the
anthropic principle,11 which is widely accepted by cosmologists. This
principle runs as follows: the fact that we observe the universe as it is
is simply a reflection of our existence. All the different physical
forces, electromagnetic, gravitational, nuclear, have played their part
in our evolution. If gravitation had been slightly different, stars like
the sun and planets like the earth would not have formed and we
would not be here. However, the very fcct that we observe and are
cognizant of the universe, implies that the universe of which we are an
inseparable part, is intelligent-what we so far have called mind is not
above or outside the universe, it is the self-organizing principle of the
universe, ever active in the preparation for autopoietic and dissipative
structures so that all organization in and of the universe is physical
and psychic simultaneously. 12 This new vision, which finally has over-
come the traditional dualism of body and mind and its attendant
reductionism, is not so very new. In the SarfJyuttanikiiya
it is already
stated: yo kho dhammarfJ passati so marfJ passati, yo marfJ passati so dhamma'f(l
passati, "He who sees dhamma sees me; he who sees me sees dhamma."
Here, ma'f(l (me) stands for the most profound and all-encompassing
experience (the awakening) and dhamma stands for, as we would say,
the content of the experience, as unlimited as the experience itself .
. But if one wants to have a comprehensible picture, one requires a
conception of form-in the image of man the universe is then
pictured and, if man is wise, he sees this picture male-female-Kun tu
bzang po yab yum, as the Tibetan texts assert. So, the old Buddhist
vision is not so very old as not to have any significance anymore in the
modern world.
It can now safely be asserted that the prevailing reductionism
in the field of Buddhist studies has done little to facilitate or even
make possible an appropriate understanding of that which goes by
the name of Buddhism, of the vital role it has played in man's shaping
his existence as an opening-up, an awakening. Equally safely it can be
asserted that a continued pursuance of reductionism in the study of
Buddhism will also be of no avail. The reason is that reductionism
disengages itself from experience, prescinds from the experiencer's
existentiality, is oblivious of the source and ground from which the
notions which organize experience have sprung, and becomes ever
more engrossed in its constructs, which it fails to recognize as con-
structs. The time, therefore, has come to break this stranglehold and
to allow Buddhism to speak of and for itself, to show its meaning by
disclosing a world perspective in which the experiencer understands
himself as well as the world in which he is lodged. Such an approach is
hermeneutical in the best sense of the word. It does not mean to
interpret a text in the light of some fashionable slogan, be this
"objectivity," "relevance" or "authenticness"-such slogans merely
highlight a regression into and the dominance of the R-complex or
reptilian brain. Rather, it means to become aware of one's own
presence in all one's dealings with one's life-world and to enter into a
genuine dialogue with whatever one encounters. A dialogue is not so
much an oscillation between two poles nor is it an occasion in which
the one uses the other as a sparring partner for self-aggrandisement.
Rather it is a simultaneous vibrating of many levels; it is a creative
process, so aptly expressed by the poet Holderlin: " ... poetically man
dwells .... "14 On the other hand, this becoming aware of one's
presence is a first step in the direction of religion, which as a process,
as re-ligia, implies a linking backward to the origin from which one's
subjectivity is a first break-away. Such linking backwards to the origin
is a "holomovement" 15 (a term coined by the physicist David Bohm,
not by a person in the humanities) and as such is as much religion as it
is philosophy and therapy in an ascending and yet mutually pervasive
order. It is a reaching out beyond boundaries which is, admittedly,
not an easy task. But as such a challenge Buddhism and its study make
life worth living.
ata yiivad ete [vaktiiraq, pratipattiiraJ cal sthiisyanti tiivad saddharma
iti veditavya11}
Therefore let it be known that as long as these two [those who
talk and those who realize] exist, Buddhism will continue. 16
1. See for instance the difference between the restored and the original versions
of the Nairiitmyapanfn:cchii, edited by Sujitkumar Mukhopadhyaya, Visva-Bharati Studies,
Nr 4, 1931.
2. Or, he can blame the translator for misunderstanding the text, thus conceal-
ing his subjective feeling of superiority under the cloak of objectivity.
3. This is to put it very charitably. Too often, a person does not read beyond the
first entry in a dictionary. If he or she did, the unpleasant task of making a decision
would have to be tackled. This would then also reveal how much thought has gone into
the possible solution of the problem posed by the text.
4. The idea ofa "triune brain" has been developed by the American neuro-
physicist Paul D. Maclean. See his "A triune concept of the brain and behaviour" in
T. Boag and D. Campbell, eds., The Hincks Memorial Lectures, Toronto: Toronto
University Press, 1973. For the wider implication of this useful concept see Erich
Jantsch, The Self-Organizing Universe: Scientific and Human Implications of the Emerging
Paradigm of Evolution, Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1980, pp. 165-169, 177-180.
5. The attempt to reduce what is intrinsically dynamic to something static is
easily recognizable when people start talking about The Dharma-the definite article
indicating a "something" and the first letter of the word dharma becoming a capital in
order to warn everyone that the enquiry must not be carried any further. Contrary to
this Western-style reductionism, the Buddhist knew that the word dharma has many
applications ("meanings"). Vasubandhu in his Vyiikhyayukti (the Sanskrit original is lost
and the Tibetan translation is obviously not studied) lists ten different usages! Vasu-
bandhu's work is frequently quoted by Tibetan authors.
6. The emphasis has always been on the process of going. Thus, for instance,
Klong-chen in his Zab mo yang tig, vol. 2, p. 436, defines lam (Skt. marga,
"way") by bgrod par byed pa, "to go" and by 'bras bu'i sar bgrod pa'i thabs which in the
psychological context in which it is used, signifies the organizing dynamics (thabs) in the
evolutionary process moving in the direction of the level of values ('bras bu'i sa). Values
are not straitjackets; they are open-ended and multi-level intensities. The highly
technical term thabs (Skt. upiiya) deserves detailed investigation. The traditional render-
ing by "(skillful) means" merely reflects antiquated mechanistic thinking.
7. This phrase is taken from David E. Linge's Introductions (p. XXXII) to
Hans-Georg Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics, Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1977.
8. As an example the rendering of the technical term tathiigatagarbha may
serve. P. Oltramare and G. Tucci rendered this term as "embryo of Tathagata"-a
rendering which still has its followers; D. T. Suzuki and S. Levi rendered it by "womb of
Tathagata"-a rendering recently revived by D. Paul. Unless it is a mere matter of
copying one's predecessors' mistaken notions, one is forced to assume that some power-
ful Freudian complex was and is at work, preventing the researchers from becoming
alert to the fact that garbha at the end of a compound means "containing (within itself)."
L. de la Vallee Poussin certainly deserves high praise for leaving this technical term
untranslated, thereby avoiding the pitfalls of "bad" philology.
9. This reductionism, which extends to such other key-terms as chos-nyid (dhar-
matii), bden gnyis (satyadvaya), and dbyermed (abhinna), has been severely criticized by Kat
thog-pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan, in his Theg pa thams cad kyi shan 'byed nyi 'od rab gsal,
vol. 2, pp. 33 ff. Closest to the Buddhist conception of sunyatii is the modern notion of a
vacuum fluctuation or quantum field which is nowhere and everywhere and always
bubbling with activity.
10. See Ilya Prigogine, From Being to Becoming: Time and Complexity in the Physical
Sciences, San Francisco, W. H. Freeman and Company, 1980, pp. 73 ff.
11. See specifically Paul Davies, Other Worlds: A Portrait rif Nature in Rebellion,
Space, Supers pace and the Quantum Universe, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1980,
pp. 142-161.
12. The term autopoiesis was coined by the Chilean biologists Humberto Ma-
turana and Francisco Varela and the notion was further developed in cooperation with
Ricardo Uribe. See "Autopoiesis: the organization of living systems, its characterization
and a model," Biosystems, 5, pp. 187-196. The term dissipative structure was coined and
developed by the Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine and his co-workers. See also Erich
Jantsch, Design for Evolution: Self-Organization and Planning in the Life of Human Systems,
New York: George Braziller, 1975, pp. 37 f.
13. Sa'T[!yuttnikiiya (Pali Text Society edition), III, 120.
14. See Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, translated by Alfred Hof-
stadter, New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 1971, pp. 211 ff.
15. See David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order, London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1980, pp. 150-157, 178-179.
16. ad Abhidharmakosa, VIII, 39.
Prof. G. M. Bongard-Levin
Institute of Oriental Studies
Academy of Sciences
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University of Wisconsin
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and conversion tables).
All f'xhaustil'P catalogue with rf.jfreflCf to thp TaLlh() and Ka.wga Editions.
Forewords by K. B. Gardner and Bernard Frank with theirJapal1eSf l'f'1:lions.
Price in Japan: 23.000.-
Packing and postal expenses extra: 800 (within Japan). 3,OOO
(overseas). *
:IE ;Ie ]E , j!j: f3 j!f: !'T .1l\1 )f: * #i :1i< !'" }\. ,g. ,g. i:J JtIx
Thf Ka.wga Edition (!/ the LotlU Sutra, edited with an introduction by Shoko
Kabutogi (1978). Clothbound and boxed. 28 x 20 cm.: 253 pages (plates on
odd pages), 2 frontispieces in colour, reproduced on fine art paper.
Alarsimilf edition oj"thflamous J 263 Kasuga Edition kept at thf T,mpl, T5,hiidai-
ji (!/ Nam. Rejfrencf to this fditioll is madp ill the (Ibm'f' Catalogue.
Price in Japan: 9.000.-
Packing and postal expenses extra: 700 (within Japan). 2.000
:I!t 1i. fr If.1t llilll' #i tl:l !i& * , T 106 JR)j( ill it III J# 1P JS 1-7-8
03 (585) 2501
( fC -l'<) l!il f:!'. i1t< f;I' rJ Eli . *)j( 2-82678
:I!t fl: fr IiJ * l[, 'f 105 * ;'i( it III /Jf; / 5-3-23
JR)j( 03 (434) 6953 (438)1079
'f106 1-11-4
m"" JR J?, 03 (586) 1821
j!jlf:!'.i1t<MrJEIi JRJ?; 4-135024