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Religion

종교 탐방

VI. The major systems and their literature

 주요 체계와 문학

 

 

1. THERAVADA (STHAVIRAVADA)

Adherents of Theravada accept as authoritative the Pali canon of ancient Indian Buddhism and trace their lineage back to the Sthaviras (Pali: Theras; "Elders"), who followed in the tradition of the senior monks of the first Buddhist sangha. During the reign of the emperor Ashoka (3rd century BC), the Theravada school traveled to Sri Lanka, where it divided into three subgroups, known after their monastic centres as the Mahaviharavasi, the Abhayagiriviharavasi, and the Jetavanaviharavasi. The Mahavihara form of the Theravada tradition became dominant in Sri Lanka about the beginning of the 2nd millennium AD and gradually spread eastward, becoming established in Myanmar in the late 11th century, in Thailand in the 13th century, and in Kampuchea and Laos by the 14th century.

소승불교 (상좌부(上座部))

1) Beliefs, doctrines, and practices.

 

i) Cosmology.

In the Theravada view there is a plurality of universes surrounded by water and mountain chains. Every universe has three planes: (1) the sphere of desire (kama-dhatu), (2) the sphere of material form (rupa-dhatu), which is associated with meditational states in which sensuous desire is reduced to a minimum, and (3) the sphere of immateriality or formlessness ( arupa-dhatu), which is associated with meditational states that are even more exalted and vacuous. On the plane of desire, creatures are divided into five or six species: hell beings; pretas, a species of wandering, famished ghosts; animals; human beings; gods; and a sixth group not universally acknowledged, the asuras (demigods). The matter of the world is made up of four elements: earth, water, fire, and air, held together in various combinations.

Time moves in cycles (kalpas), involving a period of involution (destruction by fire, water, air), a period of stability, a period of renewal, and a period of duration, at the end of which the destruction comes again and the cycle continues.

Human existence is a privileged state because only as a human being can a bodhisattva become a buddha. Moreover, human beings have the capability of choosing to do good works (which will result in a good birth) or bad works (which result in a bad birth); and, above all, they have the capacity to become perfected saints or even buddhas. All these capacities and activities are accounted for in terms of a series of dhammas (Sanskrit: dharmas), instant points in continual motion or changing states, subject to appearing, aging, and disappearing.

ii) Classification of dhammas.

Dhammas are divided and subdivided into many groups. The essential ones that concern the psychophysical person are the five components (skandhas; Pali: khandhas), the 12 bases (ayatana), and the 18 sensory elements (dhatu). The lists converge and overlap because the teaching was codified in different ways.

The five components, or skandhas, are: (1) rupamateriality, or form, (2) vedanafeelings of pleasure or pain or the absence of either one, (3) saa, cognitive perception, (4) sankharathe forces that cooperate to condition the psychic activity of an individual, and (5) viana (Sanskrit: vijñana), consciousness.

The 12 bases, or ayatanas, include the five sense organs and the mind ( manas), as well as the five related sense fields and a cognizable object--that is, not an object as such but, rather, an object as it is reflected in mental perception.

The 18 elements, or dhatus, comprise the five sense organs and the mano-dhatu (mind element), their six correlated objects, and the six consciousnesses (viana) of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and manas.

Clearly in this Theravada version, Buddhism is not concerned with metaphysical problems in the usual sense but with an analysis of the psychosomatic components of the human personality. This is because, from the Theravada perspective, it is only through an awareness of the interrelation, combination, and operation of these components, and of the way to cultivate some and to suppress others, that a person can arrive at the state of an arhat (Pali: arahant; "worthy one"). Its aim is not to promulgate a metaphysics but to liberate human beings by employing their psychic mechanism in such a way as to stop the operation of karma (Pali: kamma).

Through the classification of dhammas a person comes to be seen as an aggregate of many elements working together, ruled in his becoming by the law of karma, whether good or bad, and thus destined to suffer good or bad consequences. All this rests on the presupposition that there is no metaphysical entity such as an "I" or atman (Pali: attan) outside of time but that there is a psychosomatic aggregate situated in time. This aggregate has the freedom of choice that allows it to perform this or that act, which can be with or without outflows, and thus capable or not capable of generating consequences.

Such classifications do not have a purely doctrinal goal; rather, they are preparatory distinctions that guide whoever accepts the teaching of the Buddha in passing from the temporal to the atemporal plane and overcoming the cycle of rebirths. Here enter the seven factors of enlightenment: clear memory, the exact investigation of the nature of things, energy and sympathy, tranquility, impartiality, and a disposition for concentration. These are assisted by subsidiaries, such as love for all living creatures, compassion, delight in that which is good or well done, and, again, impartiality. The last four are known as the "four sublime states," the necessary preconditions for liberation from karma and samsara.

iii) The stages leading to arhatship.

The Theravadins maintained that the ideal Buddhist is the arhat, the accomplished ascetic who attains nirvana through self-effort. Though the Theravadin arhat naturally "took refuge in the Buddha," his emphasis was not on the grace of the Saviour but on his dhamma

In their "theology," the Theravadins tended to make distinctions. They insisted that nirvana was beyond the realm of empirical reality and that the Buddha who had founded the religion could be distinguished from the dhamma he taught. They maintained that monks and laymen have different roles to play both in society and in religion. The way that leads the disciple to the stages of arhatship traverses an immense number of lives, during which the aspirant gains true insight into the nature of things.

According to the Theravadins, one who gains true Buddhist insight passes through four stages. The first stage is that of the stream winner or stream enterer--i.e., the one who has seen the truth, who has experienced the first real intimations of nirvana, and who will not undergo more than seven additional rebirths. The second stage is that of the once-returner--i.e., the one who has moved further toward the goal so that no more than one additional rebirth will be required to attain it fully. The third stage is that of the non-returner, who will achieve complete release in the present life, or, at the very least, before another rebirth occurs. One who has reached this stage has broken free from the lower bonds: belief in a permanent self, doubt, faith in the results generated by rituals, sensual passion, and malice. The fourth and final stage is that of the arhat, who has attained complete freedom by completing all that has to be done. The arhat is free from all bonds including the desire for existence in the formed or formless worlds, as well as ignorance, excitability, and ambition.

iv) The Buddha.

The state of the Buddha, the perfectly Enlightened One, is nirvana (Pali: nibbana)--an attainment from which one does not return. It is beyond death, not caused, not born, not produced; it is beyond all becoming and devoid of all that makes up a human person. There are two kinds of nirvana. One is achieved by the Buddha while still alive, but he remains alive only until the last and most tenuous remains of karma have been expended. When these disappear, the Buddha dies and then enters the nirvana that is not burdened by any karmic residue at all.

The Buddha has been given many other names, the most common of which are Arahant and Tathagata ("He Who Has Thus Attained"). The Theravadin scriptures, in the later stages, express a belief in previous buddhas before Gotama (six in one list, more in others) and also in a future buddha, Metteyya (Sanskrit: Maitreya), who presently dwells in the Tusita Heaven and who will come into the world when the proper time arrives.

v) Meditation.

In the Theravada tradition two basic forms of meditation (Pali: jhana; Sanskrit: dhyana) have been practiced in various forms and combinations. The first of these is closely related to a Hindu tradition of yoga practice involving a process of moral and intellectual purification associated with four stages of jhanic attainment. In the Theravada context the meditator achieves detachment from sensual desires and impure states of mind through analysis and reflection and thereby attains an emotional state of satisfaction and joy. In the second stage, intellectual activities are abated to a complete inner serenity; the mind is in a state of "one-pointedness" or concentration, joy, and pleasantness. In the third stage, every emotion, including joy, has disappeared, leaving the meditator indifferent to everything while remaining completely conscious. The fourth stage is the abandoning of any sense of satisfaction, pain, or serenity because any inclination to a good or bad state of mind has disappeared. The meditator thus enters a state of supreme purity, indifference to everything, and pure consciousness. (see also Index: Buddhist meditation )

At this point the meditator begins the samapattis (or the higher jhanic attainments). Beyond all perception of form, withdrawn from the influence of perception, immune to the perception of plurality, concentrating on infinite space, the meditator reposes in the condition of spacial infinity. Going beyond this stage, the meditator concentrates on the limitlessness of consciousness and attains it. Proceeding further and concentrating on the nonexistence of everything whatsoever, he achieves a state in which there is absolutely nothing. Even further on, the meditator attains the highest level of realization in which there is neither perception nor nonperception.

The second form of Theravada meditation is called vipassana, or insight meditation. This kind of meditation requires concentration (produced by exercises such as concentrating on one's breathing), which lead to one-pointedness of mind. This one-pointedness of mind is then used to attain--directly--Buddhist insight into the saving truth that all reality is without self and impermanent and is filled with suffering, even the exalted jhanic states of consciousness. This insight, from the Buddhist perspective, gives direct access to progress along the path and to the actual attainment of nirvana itself.

In the classical Theravada texts the emphasis is placed on the jhanic forms of meditation, though the vipassana forms are never completely ignored. In recent years, however, there has been an increasing emphasis on practices in which the vipassana approach is predominant. ( Gi.T./F.E.R.)

2) The Pali canon (Tipitaka).

The earliest systematic and most complete collection of early Buddhist sacred literature is the Pali Tipitaka("The Three Baskets"; Sanskrit: Tripitaka). Its arrangement reflects the importance that the early followers attached to the regulations of the monastic life (Vinaya), to the discourses of the Buddha (Sutta), and subsequently to the interest in scholasticism (Abhidhamma).

i) The Vinaya Pitaka.

The Pali Vinaya Pitaka, which is still in theory the rule in Theravada monasteries, although large sections have fallen into disuse, is divided into five major parts grouped into three divisions--Sutta-vibhanga ("Division of Rules"), Khandhakas ("Sections"), and Parivara ("Accessory").

The Sutta-vibhangais a commentary on the Patimokkha-sutta("Obligatory Rules"), which forms the nucleus of the Vinaya Pitaka. It is one of the oldest parts of the Pali canon and utilizes an archaic language. It consists of two parts, the Bhikkhu-patimokkha ("Rules for Monks") and the Bhikkhuni-patimokkha ("Rules for Nuns"). The offenses a monk or nun is likely to commit are listed according to their gravity, as, for instance, those warranting permanent expulsion from the order (parajika), those entailing temporary suspension (sanghadisesa), and those of which a guilty person can be absolved by a formal confession before the monastic order (pacittiya). The commentary on the Patimokkha is divided into the Maha-vibhanga ("Great Division"; 227 rules for monks) and Bhikkhuni-vibhanga ("Division Concerning Nuns"). The latter lists additional specific rules and regulations.

The Khandhaka section of the Vinaya consists of two parts, the Mahavagga ("Great Grouping") and the Cullavagga ("Small Grouping"). The topics dealt with in these two sections have not always been clearly distinguished and also lack logical sequence. They contain rules for ordination; rules for "observance days," when all monks resident within the district were required to assemble for recitation of the Patimokkha; descriptions of rainy-season retreats, clothing, food, and medicines; judicial rules; rules for the instruction of nuns; and so forth. While the Mahavagga is presented as a kind of history of the developing Buddhist community, the Cullavagga supplements the details of the former to make an authoritative compilation of the Buddha's sayings regarding the discipline.

The Parivaracontains summaries and classifications of the disciplinary rules. It is a later supplement intended not only to help monks and nuns to remember the rules but also to make them aware of the circumstances that would bring them within the orbit of these rules.

ii) The Sutta Pitaka.

By far the largest of the three "baskets" is the Sutta Pitaka ("Basket of Discourse"), which consists of five collections (nikayas) containing the discourses attributed to the Buddha. Although, from a literary viewpoint, many of the discourses seem to be drawn out and repetitive, they nevertheless make rewarding reading because of the sublimity of thought and the richness and beauty of the illustrative similes that they contain. The discourses, reported by the Buddha's disciples, begin with the affirmative statement "Thus I have heard" and then relate the place and occasion of the discourse. At the end they affirm that the listeners are delighted and that they rejoice in what the Buddha has said. It is obvious that these discourses do not represent the exact words of the Buddha, although some phrases may have been accurately remembered. Still, they reveal the personality, the didactic technique, and the spirit of the founder. The discourses are chiefly in prose, except for stanzas illustrating or summing up a particular point.

The grouping of the discourses into nikayas does not rest on any kind of topical basis. Apparently there existed two groups of teachers (bhanakas), who memorized certain suttas ("discourses," or "sermons") and handed them down to their disciples orally. Reciters of lengthy verses were called Dighabhanakas, and reciters of middle-length verses Majjhimabhanakas. The third and fourth nikayas (Samyutta and Anguttara) seem to reflect a later development, their aim being to rearrange the topics dealt with in the Digha and Majjhima Nikayas.

The Digha Nikaya("Collection of Long Discourses") contains 34 suttas, some of considerable length, presenting a vivid picture of the different aspects of life and thought at the Buddha's time. Divided into three books, it contrasts superstitious beliefs, various doctrinal and philosophical speculations, and ascetic practices with Buddhist ethical ideas, which are elucidated with the help of similes and examples taken from the everyday life of the people. One of the most interesting suttantas ("discourses") is the Mahaparinibbana Suttawhich gives an account of the last days of the Buddha and stresses the importance of striving for emancipation.

The Majjhima Nikaya("Collection of the Middle Length Sayings") contains 152 suttas in its present version, while the Chinese one, preserving the lost Sarvastivada collection, has 222, some of which are also found in other nikayas of the Pali canon. Like the Digha, the suttas in the Majjhima present Buddhist ideas and ideals, illustrating them by similes of great literary beauty.

The Samyutta Nikaya("Collection of Kindred Discourses") has altogether 2,941 suttas, classed in 59 divisions (called samyutta) grouped in five parts (vagga). The first vagga has suttas that contain stanzas. The suttas begin with a description of the particular occasion when the stanzas were spoken; the stanzas themselves represent a kind of questioning and answering. The second vagga deals with the important principle of dependent origination--the chain of cause and effect affecting all things. The third vagga presents the anatman (no-self) doctrine, which is the rejection of an abiding principle that could be termed a self or a pure ego. The fourth vagga is very similar to the previous one, but here it is not the philosophical principle underlying the analysis that is stressed but the transitoriness of the elements constituting reality. The fifth vagga is devoted to a discussion of the basic principles of Buddhist philosophy, religion, and culture.

The Anguttara Nikaya("Collection of the Gradual Sayings") contains as many as 2,308 small suttas arranged according to the number of topics discussed, ranging from one to eleven. One sutta relates that loving kindness practiced for a fraction of a second only will yield great merit. Other suttas state that there are three areas in which training is needed--in conduct, concentration, and insight--and that there are eight worldly concerns--gain, loss, fame, blame, rebuke, praise, pleasure, and pain. Here, too, similes enliven an otherwise dry presentation.

The Khuddaka Nikaya("Collection of Small Texts") comprises 15 separate titles:

1. Khuddaka-patha("Small Reading"). This is the smallest book in the entire Tipitaka. Compiled for use by primary trainees, its contents are used on various occasions. Two suttas have been borrowed from the Suttanipata (see below), and their recitation is regarded as very auspicious.

2. Dhammapada("Verses on the Dhamma"). This work contains 423 verses in 26 chapters. Presenting the maxims of Buddhist ethics, it not only occupies an eminent place in the religious life of the peoples in Buddhist countries but is also of universal appeal, as it recommends a life of peace and nonviolence and declares that enmity can never be overcome by enmity, only by kindness.

3. Udana("Utterances"). This contains 80 utterances attributed to the Buddha or his chief disciples, when they had achieved the bliss of their emancipation or spoke in appreciation of a sublime state.

4. Itivuttaka("Thus Said"). This contains 112 short pieces dealing with ethical principles, such as generosity, good and evil, greed, passion, and malice.

5. Suttanipata("Collection of Suttas"). This is one of the oldest Buddhist texts in existence today. It is partly in verse, partly in a mixed style of prose and verse. The verse part is of high poetic quality.

6. Vimanavatthu("Tales of Heavenly Mansions"). This book describes the different abodes of deities, male and female, who are born in the heavens as a result of their former meritorious deeds.

7. Petavatthu("Tales of Ghosts"). This work gives an account of the various purgatories and the woes of the beings reborn there as a result of their wicked deeds.

8. Theragatha("Hymns of the Elders"). This collection contains songs attributed to 264 personal disciples of the Buddha. The songs are said to have been composed when their authors experienced the bliss of emancipation.

9. Therigatha("Hymns of the Senior Nuns"). These are the songs attributed to about 100 female disciples of the Buddha. They provide rich material for the study of the position of women at the time of the Buddha. Their merit consists in their revealing the deep impression the Buddha's teaching made upon their life. A personal tone is unmistakable.

10. Jataka("Lives [of the Buddha]"). Only the verses are considered to be canonical, while the 547 tales of the Buddha's previous lives are considered a later addition. The prose stories contain legends, fables, humorous anecdotes, and short sayings, as well as lengthy romances.

11. Niddesa("Exposition"). This work, consisting of two parts, Mahaniddesa and Cullaniddesa, actually belongs to the group of commentaries. The last two chapters comment on the Suttanipata.

12. Patisambhida-magga("The Way of Analysis"). This is a kind of encyclopaedia of the philosophical ideas in the Sutta Pitaka. It is primarily meant for reference and intensive study.

13. Apadana("Stories"). This is a collection of stories of the previous lives of the Buddha, the pratyeka buddhas (who attain enlightenment by themselves and are unconcerned about the enlightenment of others), and the arhats of the early Buddhist sangha, whose Theragatha and Therigatha songs are incorporated and embellished with rich biographical detail. The concluding sentence of each apadana in the collection is intended to show that even the smallest meritorious act has the potentiality of giving vast positive results even after a long time. All the stories are in verse.

14. Buddhavamsa("Lineage of the Buddha"). This work relates the lives of 24 previous buddhas, of Gotama (the historical Buddha), and of Metteyya (Sanskrit: Maitreya; the future buddha). According to the text, the stories are told by the historical Buddha himself.

15. Cariya Pitaka("Basket of Conduct"). This collection retells 35 Jatakas (stories of the Buddha's previous lives) in verse form, illustrating the bodhisattva's practice of the 10 perfections (paramitas) necessary for the attainment of Buddhahood.

iii) The Abhidhamma Pitaka.

The third of the three "baskets," the Abhidhamma Pitaka ("Basket of Scholasticism"), comprises seven works that, although based on the contents of the Buddha's discourses, deal with selected and specific topics which form the basis for the later philosophical interpretations. The Pali version is a strictly Theravada collection and has little in common with the Abhidhamma works recognized by other schools of Buddhism. It consists of seven works: (1) Dhammasangani ("Summary of Dhamma"), an enumeration of the entities constituting reality, (2) Vibhanga("Division"), a definition of these entities from various points of view, (3) Dhatukatha("Discussion of Elements"), a classification of the elements of reality according to various levels of organization, (4) Puggalapaatti ("Designation of Person"), an interesting psychological typology in which people are classified according to their intellectual acumen and spiritual attainments, (5) Kathavatthu("Points of Controversy"), a later work discussing the controversial doctrinal points among the various ancient schools, (6) Yamaka("Pairs"), dealing with basic sets of categories arranged in pairs of questions, and (7) Patthana("Activations"), a voluminous work discussing 24 kinds of causal relations. (see also Index: "Dhammasangani")

3) Early noncanonical texts in Pali.

The noncanonical literature of Theravada Buddhism consists, to a large extent, of commentaries on the Tipitaka texts but also includes independent works. Among the Pali writers and exponents of ancient Buddhism who attempted to harmonize the apparently conflicting teachings and to grasp the inner meaning of the doctrine, four names stand out-- Nagasena, Buddhadatta, Buddhaghosa, and Dhammapala. Nothing is known of Nagasena except that he was the learned monk who debated with the Greco-Bactrian ruler Menander, as described in the famous literary work Milinda-pañha. Buddhadatta and Buddhaghosa were 5th-century contemporaries, deeply versed in the Pali tradition, while Dhammapala was slightly later but followed the same tradition.

Nagasena is supposed to have compiled the Milinda-pañha ("Questions of King Menander"). It is generally assumed that this work was written either at the time of Menander (c. 150 BC) or shortly afterward, but certainly before the time of Buddhaghosa (AD 400), who very often quotes this work as an authority.

The Milinda-pañha is one of the great literary achievements in the field of Indian prose writing. The author begins his work with an account of the past lives of himself and King Menander; it is because of events in these past lives that the two are to meet again in this life. Menander, a well-informed scholar and keen debater, was disheartened when he could find no one to solve his problems regarding Buddhist teachings. But one day he saw Nagasena going on his begging round. The monk's serenity made a deep impression on the king, who visited him in his monastery. They had a conversation that was later resumed at the palace and that forms the subject matter of the Milinda-pañha. The Milinda-pañha presents a profound and comprehensive exposition of Buddhist doctrine, ethics, and psychology. This work, like several others, contains the famous statement that, just as the parts of a chariot put together in a specific way constitute the chariot and there is no chariot as such over and above its parts, similarly the different components of an individual make up the individual and there is no other additional entity to hold the components together.

Buddhaghosa (fl. early 5th century AD) is undoubtedly the most prolific and important writer in the Pali language. There are different views about his birthplace. Certainly, he stayed at Bodh Gaya, in eastern India, for a long time, and this brought him into contact with Sinhalese monks, because the vihara (monastery) there had been built with the permission of Emperor Samudra Gupta (c. AD 330-380) for Sinhalese pilgrims. Buddhaghosa moved from Bodh Gaya to Sri Lanka and stayed at the Mahavihara ("Great Monastery") in Anuradhapura,which possessed a rich collection of commentarial literature, probably in Old Sinhalese. The first work that Buddhaghosa wrote was the Visuddhimagga ("Way to Purity"), a compendium of Theravada teaching that has been greatly revered by his successors. No chronological sequence can be established for his other works. Using the Maha-atthakatha ("Great Commentary"), he wrote commentaries on the Vinaya, the first four nikayas, and the seven books of the Abhidhamma Pitaka.

A number of other works are traditionally attributed to Buddhaghosa, although modern scholarship indicates that he was not the author. These works include commentaries on the Suttanipata and the Khuddaka-patha, as well as the extremely important commentaries on the Dhammapada and the Jatakas. The commentary on the Jatakas has as its introduction what is perhaps the most famous "biography" of the Buddha in Pali--a biography that begins with the hero's vow, made in a previous life, to become a buddha, and concludes with his coming to the Jetavana monastery where he purportedly was staying when he recounted the 547 stories that follow. These stories, which all recount events in one of the Buddha's previous lives, range from very brief narratives to full-scale romances (for example, the extremely famous Mahavessantara Jataka, which recounts the story of the Buddha's last life before his birth as Siddhattha, during which he perfected the virtue of sacrificial giving). In all Theravada countries these narratives and romances have exerted a tremendous influence on everything from the fine arts to law.

Buddhadatta, a contemporary of Buddhaghosa, was a native of Uragapura, near modern Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, southern India. Like Buddhaghosa, he went to Sri Lanka to study at the Mahavihara in Anuradhapura. On his return he wrote his works in a monastery on the banks of the Kaveri River. His Abhidhammavatara("The Coming of the Abhidhamma"), although a summary of the older commentaries on the Abhidhamma Pitaka, stands supreme. In no way did he follow Buddhaghosa blindly. He reduced Buddhaghosa's five metaphysical ultimates--i.e., form, feeling, sensations, motivations, and perception--to four, namely, mind, mental events, forms, and nirvana. This creative classification, similar to that of the Sarvastivadins, makes him a philosopher in his own right rather than a commentator who merely restates things in new terms.

Dhammapala, who probably came from southern India, is credited with having written commentaries on all the works left untreated by Buddhaghosa, whom he mentions in his work the Paramattha dipani ("Elucidation of the True Meaning"), a commentary on several books of the Khuddaka Nikaya. In the Paramattha Mañjusa ("Jewel Box of the True Meaning"), his commentary on Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga, he quotes a verse from the Hindu scripture Bhagavadgita and frequently mentions the views of other schools and teachers. This work provides valuable information about intellectual activity in traditional circles.

At the close of the 4th century AD there existed in Sri Lanka an older work, a kind of chronicle, of the history of the island from its legendary beginning onward. It probably formed part of the Maha-atthakatha, the commentarial literature that formed the basis of the works by Buddhaghosa and others. The accounts contained therein are reflected in the Dipavamsa("History of the Island"), which appears to be a poor redaction in Pali of an older Old Sinhalese version. The Mahavamsa("Great Chronicle") by Mahanama, continued in the Culavamsa ("Little Chronicle"), shows much greater skill in the use of the Pali language and makes liberal use of other material. It is an artistic composition containing rich mythic, legendary, and historical material. The vamsa tradition continued in Sri Lanka and other Theravada countries and is still alive in Sri Lanka.

4) Later Theravada literature.

During and after the "revival" and spread of the Theravada in the early centuries of the 2nd millennium AD, a new corpus of Theravada literature came into being. This literature includes commentaries and independent works written in Pali in Sri Lanka and the Theravada countries of Southeast Asia (for example, the highly respected commentary on the Mangala Sutta written in northern Thailand in the 16th century). It also includes many important texts written in vernacular languages, including Sinhalese, Burmese, Thai, Laotian, and Khmer. One classic example is the 14th-century cosmology called the Traiphumikatha (Three Worlds According to King Ruang), which is the oldest known full-length text written in Thai. (H.G./F.E.R.)

2. MAHAYANA

Arising in India, the Mahayana version of Buddhism spread to Central Asia, China, Japan, mainland Southeast Asia, Java, Sumatra, and even Sri Lanka (Abhayagiri monastery). It became the Pan-Asiatic form of Buddhism and involved basic shifts in doctrine and approach for which, however, there were precedents in earlier schools. It taught that neither the self nor the dharmas exist. Moreover, for the elite arhat ideal, it substituted the bodhisattva--i.e., the one who possesses the innate tendency to become a buddha, a disposition inherent in all persons. In Mahayana, love for creatures is exalted to the highest; a bodhisattva is encouraged to offer the merit he derives from good deeds for the good of others. The tension between morality and mysticism that agitated India also entered the Mahayana.

대승불교 (大乘佛敎)

 

1) Nature and characteristics.

Mahayana is not merely a metaphysics, dealing with the basic structure and principles of reality. It is also and primarily a theoretical propaedeutic to the achievement of a desired state or condition. Thus there is a coexistence of theoretical investigation and supreme experience: the former, the premise; the latter, the consequence. The convergence of meditative exercises leads to an emptying of thought to reach a point in which one proceeds from voidness to voidness and finally to the ultimate where even the most attenuated thought vanishes. Rational activity is exercised until it becomes quiescent: prajna itself, the supreme wisdom, by successive emptying becomes nullified, and only in doing so does it identify with the unutterable ultimate reality. (see also Index: Buddhist meditation , emptiness)

2) Basic teachings.

 

i) The Buddha: divinization and multiplicity.

In the Mahayana tradition, the Buddha is viewed not merely as a human master and model but also as a supramundane being. He multiplies himself and is reflected in a pentad of buddhas: Vairocana, Aksobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi. Some of these, taking the place of Shakyamuni, are revealers of doctrines and elaborate, complicated liturgies.

As Mahayana developed, a great deal of literature called Buddhavacana(Revelation of the Buddha) was circulated, but it went far beyond the ancient canons; it was proposed as the highest revelation, superseding prior texts. In this literature the teaching is viewed not as merely of one kind but as on various levels, each adapted to the intellectual capacity and karmic propensities of those who hear it. The Buddha is no longer simply the historical sage of the Shakyas but is now supramundane (lokottara). Even the sangha is of two types: that of this world and that beyond it.

ii) The bodhisattva ideal.

The essential premise of the bodhisattva ideal is to generate in one's own self the thought of enlightenment and to fulfill the vow to become a buddha, foregoing entrance into nirvana in order to remain in the world as long as there are creatures to be saved from suffering. With that vow the aspirant begins the career of a bodhisattva, which traverses 10 stages or spiritual levels (bhumi) and achieves purification through the practice of the 10 perfections (paramitas). These levels, which become progressively higher, elevate the bodhisattva to the condition of a buddha. The first six levels are preliminary, representing the true practice of the six perfections (generosity, morality, patience, vigour, concentration, and wisdom). Irreversibility occurs as soon as the seventh stage is reached. From this moment the bodhisattva assumes the true buddha nature, even though further purification and fortification must be achieved in the stages that follow. This is the moment when, having performed his duty, he engages in activity aimed at completely fulfilling the obligations of a bodhisattva. The difference between this and the preceding six stages is that now the activity is explained as an innate and spontaneous impulse manifested unconstrainedly and therefore not subjected to doubts. Everything is now uncreated, ungenerated; thus, the body of the bodhisattva becomes identified more and more completely with the essential body (dharma-kaya), with buddhahood, and with omniscience.

iii) The three Buddha bodies.

The three bodies (tri-kayamodes of being) of the Buddha, which became a subject of major discussion in the Mahayana, are rooted in the Theravada teachings concerning the physical body (which consists of four elements), the mental body, and the body of the law. It is with the Mahayana, however, that the theory of the three bodies enters into the salvation process and assumes central significance in the doctrine. The phenomenal body (nirmana-kaya) is a manifestation of the Buddha among creatures to teach them the path to liberation--a body that for some schools is nothing but an illusory appearance of eternal reality. The enjoyment (or bliss) body (sambhoga-kaya) is the body to which contemplation can ascend. At the higher stages of supramundane contemplation that body manifests to the bodhisattva its splendour and reveals doctrines unintelligible to those who are unenlightened. The unmanifested body of the law (dharma-kaya) already appears in the Saddharmapundarika, or Lotus Sutra, a transitional text that became central in many Mahayana devotional schools (see below Saddharmapundarika and Nichiren ). In many Mahayana texts buddhas are infinite, and all partake of an identical nature--the dharma-kaya.

As anticipated in ancient schools, the Buddha is the law (dharma). "He who sees the law sees me; he who sees me sees the law." There is identification of the Buddha with an eternal dharma, with enlightenment (bodhi), and hence with nirvana; later, real existence will be opposed to the mere appearance of existence, and voidness, the "thingness of things," an undefinable condition, present and immutable within the Buddhas, will be stressed. All is in the dharma-kaya; nothing is outside of it, just as nothing is outside of space; transcendence and immanence come together. Other schools posit a presence that is innate within all human beings, even if it is not perceived. It is like a gem hidden in dross, which shines in its purity as soon as the veil of ignorance is removed.

iv) New revelations.

New revelations are made not only to human beings on earth but also in the heavenly paradises by Shakyamuni and other buddhas. The teaching is expounded uninterruptedly in the universe because worlds and paradises are infinite and all buddhas are consubstantiated with the essential body. The assemblies to which they speak consist not only of shravakas (disciples) but also of bodhisattvas, gods, and demons. The authors of the new doctrines were captivated by exaltations that often make their discourses logically implausible: phantasmagoria of celestial choruses, fabulous visions in which shine flashes of new speculations, and trains of thought under the influence, more or less conscious, of speculative and mystical Indian traditions. The texts, from which new trends spring, overflow with repetitions and modulate the same arguments with a variety of readings.

The task of Mahayana thinkers was very difficult because it was not easy to produce a completely logical arrangement from this prolix literature. The appearance of some of these books is surrounded with legend. The Prajñaparamita and the Avatamsaka-sutras, for instance, are said to have been concealed by the nagas, demigods living at the bottom of lakes and rivers, in miraculous palaces. There are various Prajñaparamita ("Perfection of Wisdom") texts, ranging from 100,000 verses (the Shatasahasrika) to only a few lines (the Prajñaparamitahrdaya-sutra, famous in English as the Heart Sutra). The Prajñaparamita-sutras announce that the world as it appears to us does not exist, that reality is the indefinable "thingness of things" (tathata; dharmanam dharmata), that voidness (shunyata) is an absolute "without signs or characteristics" (animitta).

The fundamental assumption of the Prajñaparamita is expounded in a famous verse: "like light, a mirage, a lamp, an illusion, a drop of water, a dream, a lightning flash; thus must all compounded things be considered." Not only is there no "self," but all things lack a real nature (svabhava) of their own. There are two truths: relative truth, which "applies to things as they appear," and absolute truth, the intuition of voidness (it can be of 10, 14, 18, or 20 kinds).

3) The Mahayana schools and their texts.

Mahayana comprises the following main schools: the Madhyamika; the Yogacara or Vijñanavada (Vijñaptamatrata); the Avatamsaka; the school of the identity of the paths to salvation (ekayana) represented by the Saddharmapundarika ("Lotus of the True Law"; the Lotus Sutra); the various devotional (Pure Land) schools; and the Dhyana school (Ch'an in China, Zen in Japan).

i) Madhyamika (San-lun/Sanron).

The Madhyamika ("Doctrine of the Middle Way"), also known as Shunyavada ("Theory of Negativity or Relativity"), system--which held both subject and object to be unreal--is the systematized form of the doctrine of shunyata (cosmic emptiness) contained in the Prajñaparamita literature. The most famous exponent of this system was the Indian philosopher Nagarjuna (c. AD 150-c. 250), the presumed author of the voluminous Mahaprajñaparamita-shastra ("The Great Treatise on the Perfection of Wisdom"), preserved in its Chinese translation (402-405) by Kumarajiva; of the Mulamadhyamakakarika (more commonly known as Madhyamika Karika; "Fundamentals of the Middle Way"), which is the Madhyamika work par excellence; of the Shunyatasaptati, expounding the unreality of all elements of reality; of the Vigrahavyavartani, a refutation of possible objections to the doctrine of shunyata; of the Vyavaharasiddhi, teaching that absoluteness and relativity can coexist in practice; and of the Yukti-sastika, dealing with relativity. It is possible that Nagarjuna is also the author of the Ratnavali, of the Pratityasamutpadahrdaya, and of the Sutrasamuccaya, besides many other works attributed to him. Nagarjuna's chief pupil was Aryadeva. His main work, the Catuhshataka, criticizes both other forms of Buddhism and the classical Sanskrit philosophical systems. Together with Nagarjuna, Aryadeva is the real founder of the Madhyamika system.

Nagarjuna and his followers attempted to arrive at a middle position, devoid of name and character and beyond all thought and words. They began by employing a rigorous logic to demonstrate the absurdity of various philosophical positions, including those of the Hindus and those of other Buddhists. On the assumption that any contradiction is proof of error, Nagarjuna took any point of view that would reveal the error of his opponents. Yet, he did not therefore accept the opposing point of view but only used it as a means to show the relativity of the system he was attacking. He was just as willing to refute his first position. In this way he claimed adherence to no doctrine.

With this method of reduction to absurdity or to contradiction, Nagarjuna attempted to prove that all worldly thought is empty (shunya) or relative, and to point to his belief that the true path is that of the middle, the path that is between or, more correctly, above extremes. This belief has been called the doctrine of emptiness of all things; however, as has been pointed out, this too is relative and should be seen only as a means of argumentation, which must itself be transcended.

Nagarjuna presented this middle path above extremes most clearly in the following statement of what he considered to be the Eightfold Truth of Buddhism: (see also Index: Eightfold Path)

Nothing comes into being, nor does anything disappear. Nothing is eternal, nor has anything an end. Nothing is identical, nor is anything differentiated. Nothing moves here, nor does anything move there.

In presenting these pairs of opposites, Nagarjuna taught that anything that can be conceptualized or put into words is relative. This led to the Madhyamika identification of nirvana and samsara. Both are empty concepts with the truth lying somewhere beyond.

After the emptiness or relativity of the world has been proved, the question arises as to how one is to go beyond this position. Nagarjuna answered that humans are not irreconcilably caught in this world, for this world can be used as a ladder leading to the absolute--beyond all duality. The transition that can be effected from this world to salvation has been called Nagarjuna's doctrine of two truths. The relative truth is of this existence. By the logical method, all propositions can be destroyed. This leads to the realization that all is emptiness and from this to the intuition of an absolute truth beyond all conceptions. The link between these two truths--the relative and the absolute--is the Buddha. He experienced the absolute truth, which is nisprapañca--i.e., inexplicable in speech and unrealizable in ordinary thought--and yet he returned to point to this truth in the phenomenal world. By following this path, one can be saved.

Thus, Nagarjuna taught that through the middle path of Madhyamika, which is identified as the Buddha's true teachings, one is guided to an experience beyond affirmation and negation, being and nonbeing. Madhyamika is a philosophy that can rightly be called a doctrine of salvation, for it claims to present humans with a system that leads to rescue from their situation.

A new phase in the development of the Madhyamika system was initiated during the 5th and 6th centuries when two subtraditions became differentiated. The more conservative Prasangika school, which emphasized a more negative form of argumentation, was founded by Buddhapalita (c. 470-540), who wrote, among many other works, a commentary on Nagarjuna's Madhyamika Karika. The school was continued by Candrakirti, a famous logician of the 7th century, who wrote another commentary on the same text; and by Shantideva (7th-8th centuries), who wrote two of the most popular works in all Mahayana literature: the Shiksa-samuccaya ("Summary of Training") and the Bodhicaryavatara ("The Coming of the Bodhisattva Way of Life"). The more liberal Svatantrika school, which utilized a more syllogistic mode of argument, was founded by Bhavaviveka, a contemporary of Buddhapalita, who also wrote a commentary on Nagarjuna's Madhyamika Karika. The school was continued by Shantiraksita, a great scholar who wrote the Tattvasamgraha ("Summary of Essentials") and the Madhyamikalankara Karika ("Verses on the Ornament of the Madhyamika Teaching"), on which his disciple wrote a commentary. Both the Svatantrika tradition and the Prasangika tradition (reasserted by Atisha) had a great influence on Buddhist philosophy in Tibet.

The Madhyamika school of thought was spread to China from India by Kumarajiva, a missionary translator of Indian-Kuchan parentage, in the 5th century. Three of the texts that he translated from Sanskrit into Chinese--the Madhyamika Karika and the Dvadashamukha-shastra or Dvadasha-dvara-shastra ("The Twelve Topics or Gates Treatise") of Nagarjuna and the Shata-shastra ("One Hundred Verses Treatise") of Aryadeva--became the basic texts of the Chinese San-lun (Japanese Sanron) or "Three Treatise" school of Madhyamika. For a brief period this school was challenged by a more positivistic form of Madhyamika called the Ssu-lun, or "Four Treatise," school, which also accepted the Mahaprajñaparamita-shastra as a basic text. This school, however, was soon overwhelmed by San-lun as taught by Kumarajiva's disciple, Seng-chao, and later by Chi-tsang. Both of these Chinese Madhyamika masters restated Nagarjuna's thesis in numerous influential commentaries. A Korean disciple of Chi-tsang named Ekwan (Hui-kuan) then spread San-lun (Korean Samnon) to Japan in 625, thus completing the rapid spread of Madhyamika thought from India to China and to Japan. This school, despite its profound and widespread influence, never gained popularity among the masses; it remained rather the basis for logical and philosophical thought among the learned few, rarely forming a separate or independent sect.

ii) Yogacara/Vijñanavada (Fa-hsiang/Hosso).

The Yogacara (or Vijñanavada) school is traditionally ascribed to the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu (5th century AD), to whom may be added Sthiramati (6th century). These writers were systematizers of doctrines already being taught and contained in such literature as the Lankavatara-sutra and the Mahayana-shraddhotpada-shastra (attributed to Ashvaghosa but probably written in Central Asia or in China). Yogacara explored and propounded basic doctrines that were to be fundamental in the future development of Mahayana and that influenced the rise of Tantric Buddhism (see below Esoteric Buddhism ).

Its central doctrine is that only consciousness (vijñanamatra; hence the name Vijñanavada) is real, that thought or mind is the ultimate reality. External things do not exist; nothing exists outside the mind. The common view that external things exist is due to an error or misconception that is removable through a meditative or yogic process that brings a complete withdrawal or "revulsion" from these fictitious externals and an inner concentration and tranquility.

A store consciousness (alaya-vijñana) is postulated as the receptacle, or storehouse, of the imprint of thoughts and deeds, the vasana (literally, "dwelling") of various karmic seeds (bijas). The "seeds" develop into touch, mental activity, feeling, perception, and will, corresponding to the five skandhas. Then ideation (manas) develops, which sets off a self or mind against an outer world. Finally comes the awareness of the objects of thought via sense perceptions and ideas. The store consciousness must be purified of its subject-object duality and notions of false existence and restored to its pure state. This pure state is equivalent to the absolute "suchness" (tathata), to buddhahood, to the undifferentiated.

Corresponding to these three elements of false imagination (vikalpa), right knowledge, and suchness are the three modes in which things are: (1) the mere fictions of false imagination, (2) the relative existence of things, under certain conditions or aspects, and (3) the perfect mode of being, corresponding to right knowledge. The latter state of consciousness and being is that ultimately attained by the bodhisattva in buddhahood. Corresponding to this threefold version of the modes of being and awareness is the tri-kayadoctrine of the Buddha noted above (the apparitional body, the enjoyment body, and the dharma body), a doctrine that was put into its systematic, developed form by Yogacara thinkers.

The special characteristics of Yogacara are its emphasis on meditation and a broadly psychological analysis. This contrasts with the other great Mahayana system, Madhyamika, where the emphasis is on logical analysis and dialectic.

This consciousness-oriented school of thought was represented in China primarily by the Fa-hsiang (or Dharmalaksana; also Wei-shih) school, called Hosso in Japan. The basic teachings of Yogacara became known in China primarily through the work of Paramartha, a 6th-century Indian missionary-translator. His translation of the Mahayana-samparigraha-shastra provided the foundation for the She-lun school, which preceded the Fa-hsiang school as the vehicle of Yogacara thought in China. Fa-hsiang was founded by Hsüan-tsang, the 7th-century Chinese pilgrim-translator, and his main disciple, K'uei-chi. Hsüan-tsang went to India and studied the doctrines derived from Dharmapala (d. 507) and taught at the Vijñanavada centre at Valabhi. When he returned to China he translated Dharmapala's Vijñapti-matrata-siddhi and many other works. His teachings followed mainly the line of Dharmapala but also included the ideas of other Indian teachers such as Dignaga and Sthiramati. They were expressed systematically in his works Fa-yuan-i-lin-chang and Wei shih-shu chi, the basic texts of the Fa-hsiang school.

Fa-hsiang is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit dharmalaksana ("characteristic of dharma"), referring to the school's basic emphasis on the peculiar characteristics (dharmalaksana) of the dharmas that make up the world which appears in human ideation. The connection of this so-called idealist school with the "realist" Abhidharma-Kusha school (see above Early Buddhist schools: Sarvastivada [P'i-t'an, Chü-she/Kusha] ) is evident, though many new elements are introduced. According to Fa-hsiang teaching, there are five categories of dharmas: (1) 8 mental dharmas (cittadharma), comprising the 5 sense consciousnesses, cognition, the cognitive faculty, and the store consciousness, (2) 51 mental functions or capacities, dispositions, and activities (caitashikadharma), (3) 11 elements concerned with material forms or appearances (rupa-dharma), (4) 24 things, situations, and processes not associated with the mind--e.g., time, becoming (cittaviprayuktasamskara), and (5) 6 noncreated or nonconditioned elements (asamskrtadharma)--e.g., space or "suchness" (tathata).

Hsüan-tsang's work Ch'eng wei-shih lunexplained how there can be a common empirical world for different individuals who construct or ideate particular objects and who possess distinct bodies and sensory systems. According to Hsüan-tsang, the universal "seeds" in the store consciousness account for the common appearance of things and particular "seeds" for the differences.

Fa-hsiang was brought to Japan on various occasions, according to the traditional accounts: first by Dosho, a Japanese priest who visited China, studied under Hsüan-tsang, and established the teaching (now called Hosso) at Gango-ji monastery, and then by other priests, Japanese and Korean, who studied in China under Hsüan-tsang, K'uei-chi, or their disciples. Thus, the Japanese claim to have received the Hosso teaching in a direct line from its originators, and it continues to have a living and significant role in Japanese Buddhism.

iii) Avatamsaka (Hua-yen/Kegon).

In contrast with the Fa-hsiang (Hosso) concentration on the specific differentiating characteristics of things and its separation of facts and ultimate principles, the Avatamsaka school (called Hua-yen in China, Kegon in Japan) stressed the sameness of things, the presence of absolute reality in them, and the identity of facts and ultimate principles. It took its name from the Mahavaipulya-Buddhavatamsaka-sutra ("The Great and Vast Buddha Garland Sutra"), often called simply the Avatamsaka-sutra("Wreath Sutra" or "Garland Sutra").

According to legend, the Avatamsaka-sutra was first preached by the buddha Vairocana expressing the perfect truth revealed in his Enlightenment but then kept secret when it proved incomprehensible to his hearers and replaced with easier doctrines. The sutra tells of the pilgrimage of a young man in a quest to realize dharma-dhatu ("totality" or "universal principle"). Extant are three Chinese versions and one Sanskrit original (the Gandavyuha) that contains the last section only. There is no trace of an Indian sectarian development, and the school is known only in its Chinese and Japanese forms.

The school was preceded in China by the Ti-lun school, based on a translation (early 6th century) of Vasubandhu's Dashabhumika-sutraconcerning the 10 stages of a bodhisattva on the way to buddhahood; since this work was related to the Avatamsaka-sutra, the Ti-lun adherents readily joined the Hua-yen school established in the late 6th century (?) by Tu-shun (Fa-shun), the first patriarch (d. 640). Fa-tsang (or Hsien-shou), the third patriarch (d. 712), is considered the real founder because he systematized the teachings; hence, it is also called the Hsien-shou school. His student, Ch'eng-kuan (of Ch'ing-liang monastery; d. c. 820 or c. 838), wrote famous commentaries on the Avatamsaka-sutra. After the death of the fifth patriarch, Tsung-mi, in 841, Hua-yen declined during the general suppression of Buddhism that ensued in China. But it greatly influenced the development of Neo-Confucianism (a significant movement in Chinese thought beginning in the 11th century) and is regarded by many as the most highly developed form of Chinese Buddhist thought. It was brought into Japan by pupils of Fa-tsang and an Avatamsaka missionary from central India during the period from about 725 to 740 and began a vital and important development there that has continued down to the present day.

The most significant doctrine associated with this school is the theory of causation by dharma-dhatu--i.e., that all of the elements arise simultaneously, that the whole of things creates itself, that ultimate principles and concrete manifestations are interfused, and that the manifestations are mutually identical. Thus, in Fa-tsang's example of the golden lion in the imperial palace, gold is the essential nature or principle (li) and lion is the particular manifestation or form (shih); moreover, as gold, each part or particle expresses the whole lion and is identical with every other part or particle. When this model is applied to the universe, it suggests that all phenomena are the expressions of the ultimate suchness or voidness, while at the same time they retain their phenomenal character; each phenomenon is both "all" and "one." All the constituents of the world (the dharmas) are interdependent, cannot exist independently, and each of them possesses a sixfold nature: universality, speciality, similarity, diversity, integration, and differentiation.

The ideal is a harmonious totality of things encountered in the perfectly enlightened buddha. The buddha-nature is present potentially in all things. There are an infinite number of buddhas and buddha realms. There are myriads of buddhas in every grain of sand and a buddha realm at the tip of a hair.

The universe is fourfold: a world of factual, practical reality; a world of principle or theory; a world of principle and facts harmonized; and a world of factual realities interwoven and mutually identified. The first three aspects are the particular emphases of other Buddhist schools. The fourth aspect--emphasizing the harmonious whole--is the distinctive doctrine that represents the perfect knowledge that was attained by the buddha Vairocana and is communicated in the Avatamsaka-sutra.

iv) Saddharmapundarika (T'ien-t'ai/Tendai).

The T'ien-t'ai/Tendai school is one of the most important developments in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism; it is significant not only for its doctrines, which in many respects are similar to Hua-yen/Kegon, but also for its practical devotional influence. Its doctrines and practices are focused on the Indian or Central Asian Saddharmapundarika-sutra ("Lotus of the True Law Sutra"), or Lotus Sutra. Also central in the Nichiren school (see below Nichiren ) and recited in Zen temples, this sutra is one of the best known and most popular of Mahayana Buddhist texts. (The Mahaparinirvana and Mahaprajñaparamita-sutras were also important in the development of T'ien-t'ai/Tendai.) The school, which apparently had no separate development as such in India, is sometimes also called Lotus (Fa-hua in Chinese; Hokke in Japanese) but is usually known as T'ien-tai in China and Tendai in Japan, after the mountain in southeastern China where the basic interpretation of the Lotus Sutra was first propounded in the 6th century. Prior to this, the original Sanskrit text was studied extensively in China; it was translated into Chinese early in the 5th century by Kumarajiva, and it was taught in North China by the monks and first patriarchs, Hui-wen and Hui-ssu. The latter's student, Chih-i, who settled on Mount T'ien-t'ai and established a famous monastery there, is regarded as the true founder of the school because he propounded the systematic and definitive interpretation of Lotus doctrines. These later became known in Japan, where Saicho (later Dengyo Daishi), a Buddhist priest who studied them first in Japan and then on Mount T'ien-t'ai, founded a new Tendai Lotus Sect (early 9th century) and a monastery on Mount Hiei that became a great centre of Buddhist learning. With Shingon (see below Esoteric Buddhism: Shingon ), with which it was closely connected, Tendai became perhaps the most important religious and philosophical influence on the Japanese spirit. Tendai has been markedly syncretistic, striving to include various Buddhist tendencies, from Vinaya to Shingon and Zen, and also Shinto, the indigenous Japanese tradition.

The Lotus Sutra's main purpose is to establish the one way (or "vehicle" or "career") for attaining salvation (buddhahood). It claims to be the definitive and complete teaching of the Buddha, here presented as a transcendent eternal being, preaching to myriad arhats, gods, bodhisattvas, and other figures using all sorts of sermons, lectures, imaginative parables, and miracles. Religious merit is attributed to preaching, reciting, and hearing the sutra, which is not merely a statement of the nature of things but also a central object of devotion. The three ways of salvation preached by the Buddha are adjusted to the level and situation of the hearers: shravakayanathe way of the disciples (shravakas), appropriate for becoming an arhat; pratyeka-buddhayana, the way of those who aim at salvation for themselves alone; and bodhisattvayana, the way of those (the bodhisattvas) who, on the point of attaining salvation, give it up to work for the salvation of all other beings. All are forms of the one way, the buddhayana. Being a buddha is the one aim for all.

As systematized in the T'ien-t'ai/Tendai tradition, the Buddha's teachings are divided into five periods. The first is the period immediately following the Buddha's Enlightenment, when, without success, he preached the Avatamsaka-sutra (or Hua-yen/Kegon Sutra). The second is the so-called Deer Park period, when he preached the Agamas (Hinayana scriptures) to those with ordinary human capacities. The third is the so-called Fang-teng (broad and equal) period, when he preached the Vaipulya or early Mahayana teachings, which were intended for all persons. During the fourth period he preached the Mahaprajñaparamita, or Ta-pan-jo-po-lo-mi-to, doctrines concerning absolute voidness and the falsity of all distinctions. Finally, in the fifth and culminating Saddharmapundarika and Mahaparinirvana (or Wisdom) period, he taught the identity of contrasts, the unity of the three "vehicles," and the supreme character of the Lotus Sutra.

Central to T'ien-t'ai/Tendai doctrine is the threefold truth principle (following Nagarjuna's [?] commentary on the Mahaprajñaparamita): (1) that all things are void, without substantial reality, (2) that all things have temporary existence, and (3) that all things are in the mean or middle state, synthesizing voidness and temporary existence, being both at once. The three truths are a harmonious unity, mutually including one another, and the mean or middle truth is equivalent to the absolute suchness. The world of temporary appearances is thus the same as absolute reality.

T'ien-t'ai/Tendai propounds an elaborate cosmology of 3,000 realms. First are the 10 basic realms, respectively, of buddhas, bodhisattvas, pratyeka buddhas, shravakas, heavenly beings, fighting spirits (asuras), human beings, hungry spirits or ghosts (pretas), beasts, and depraved hellish beings. Since each includes the other nine and their characteristics, the 10 are squared to 100 realms. Each of these in turn is characterized by the 10 features of suchness manifested through phenomena: form, nature, substance, power, action, cause, condition, effect, compensation, and ultimacy. Thus the 100 realms in fact constitute 1,000 realms. Furthermore, each of the 1,000 realms comprises three divisions: living beings, space, and the aggregates (skandhas); hence, the whole of things consists of 3,000 realms.

These 3,000 realms interpenetrate one another, are mutually immanent, and are immanent in one moment of thought: "one thought is the three thousand worlds." The universe is not produced by thought or consciousness but is manifest in it, as is the absolute Suchness: hence, the central importance of concentration (chih) and insight (kuan) that leads to a realization of the unity of things and their manifestation of the ultimate.

v) Pure Land (Sukhavati/Ching-t'u/Jodo, Shin, and Ji).

The main text of the Pure Land schools is the Sukhavativyuha-sutra (Pure Land Sutra) written in northern India probably before the beginning of the 2nd century AD. (There are two original versions of the Sukhavativyuha. The longer one includes an emphasis on good works; the shorter version emphasizes faith and devotion alone.) This sutra tells of a monk, Dharmakara, who heard the preaching of Lokeshvararaja Buddha many aeons ago and asked to become a buddha. After millions of years of study, Dharmakara promised to fulfill a number of vows if he finally attained buddhahood. He vowed to establish a Pure or Happy Land (Sanskrit: Sukhavati; Chinese: Ching-t'u; Japanese: Jodo), also known as the Western Paradise. In this Pure Land no evil would exist, the people would be long-lived, they would receive whatever they desired, and from there they might attain nirvana. Dharmakara then revealed in a number of vows the means by which this Pure Land can be reached. Several of these vows emphasize meditation and good works on Earth as a prerequisite, but the 18th one (a famous vow in the later development of Pure Land schools) states that, if one merely calls the name of the Buddha at the moment of death, then that person will be reborn in the Pure Land.

Many years after these vows, Dharmakara attained buddhahood and now sits in his Pure Land fulfilling his promises of helping humans achieve salvation. Here he is known as the Buddha of Unlimited Light (Sanskrit: Amitabha; Chinese: O-mi-t'o-fo; Japanese: Amida) or the Buddha of Unlimited Lifespan (Amitayus). He is flanked by Avalokiteshvara (Chinese: Kuan-yin; Japanese: Kannon) on his left and Mahasthamaprapta on his right, who assist Amitabha in bringing the faithful to his Pure Land.

The Amitabhist doctrine spread from India to China by the 3rd century AD, where, through the work of five patriarchs, a sect based on it gradually became the most popular form of Buddhism. The sect was then transferred to Japan by the followers of the Tendai school, who attempted to weld the many sects of Buddhism into one system. By the 13th century AD the Pure Land sect had separated from the Tendai school and spread among the common people of Japan through the work of two outstanding figures, Honen and Shinran.

The basic doctrines of the Pure Land sects differ considerably from the doctrines of the early Buddhists. The Pure Land's leaders have generally taught that a person reaches salvation from this Earth not by individual effort or the accumulation of merit but through faith in the grace of the Buddha Amitabha. The main practice of those who follow the Pure Land teachings is not the learning of the texts nor meditation on the Buddha but rather the constant invocation of the name Amitabha. This practice, based on the 18th vow of Dharmakara, the future Amitabha, is called nien-fo in Chinese and nembutsuin Japanese. Furthermore, in Pure Land Buddhism, the attainment of nirvana is not the primary goal; it is rather to become reborn in the Pure Land of Amitabha.

These doctrines and the practice of invoking the name Amitabha gained great popularity in China and Japan, where it was believed that the world had reached a degenerate period in which the Buddhist doctrines were no longer clear and humans no longer possessed the purity of heart or determination to attain salvation by self-endeavour. Therefore, all people of every section of society could only hope to be saved by the grace of Amitabha. As the Pure Land sect spread from India to China and then to Japan, this doctrine of grace became more and more radical until individual actions were said to play no part in the attainment of salvation.

There is little available data on the practices of the Amitabhist believers in India, but scholars hold that while nembutsu was used, the main emphasis was upon meditation and worship of the Buddha. In China this stress on meditation and rites weakened, as indicated in the teachings of three important Pure Land patriarchs, T'an-luan, Tao-ch'o, and Shan-tao, who lived during the 6th-7th century.

T'an-luan was originally a follower of Taoism, who, while searching for the elixir of immortality, was converted to the Pure Land doctrine by an Indian monk. Dedicating his life to the spread of this doctrine, T'an-luan preached the invocation of the name Amitabha and declared that even evil persons were eligible for the Pure Land if they sincerely uttered the nembutsu. He warned, however, that the lowest hell awaited those who reviled the Buddhist dharma. T'an-luan was followed by Tao-ch'o, who argued that in this degenerate age people must take the "easy path" to salvation of complete trust in Amitabha, for they no longer possessed the capacity to follow the more difficult path of the saints. His disciple, Shan-tao, believed by the Japanese Pure Land sect to be the incarnation of Amida, was primarily responsible for shaping the doctrines of the later forms of Pure Land Buddhism. This evangelist distributed many copies of the Pure Land Sutra and wrote a famous commentary in which he taught that rebirth in the Western Paradise is effected primarily by nembutsu. This must be supplemented, however, by the chanting of sutras, meditation on the Buddha, worshiping of buddha images, and singing his praises.

The work of Shan-tao inspired Honen, the founder of the Pure Land sect (Jodo-shu) in Japan, to declare that in this evil period people must put complete faith in the saving grace of Amida and constantly invoke his name. Honen, who was well versed in Buddhist knowledge, wrote a treatise (Senchaku hongan nembutsu-shu 1198) expressing his beliefs. While this treatise proved popular among the common people, as were his teachings generally, it was burned by the monks of Mount Hiei and his teachings were vigorously opposed by the established Buddhist priesthood.

One of Honen's disciples, Shinran, who was exiled at the same time, was the founder of a more radical sect named the True Pure Land sect (Jodo Shinshu, or Shin). Shinran married, with Honen's consent, proving that one need not be a monk to attain the Pure Land; and he popularized his doctrines by preaching in Japanese villages. In his teachings he rejected all sutras except the Pure Land Sutra and rejected the vows of Dharmakara in the Pure Land Sutra that stress individual merit. Basing his doctrines on the 18th vow, Shinran discouraged any attempt to accumulate merit, for he felt that this stood in the way of absolute faith and dependence on Amida. Furthermore, he rejected Honen's practice of continual invocation of Amida, believing that the faithful need only say the nembutsu once in order to attain salvation. Any repetition after this nembutsu must be seen as praise of Amida and not as bringing merit or affecting one's salvation. Thus, with Shinran, the doctrine of grace gained total ascendancy. A third Pure Land sect grew up around the itinerant teacher Ippen. He traveled throughout Japan, advocating the chanting of Amida's name at set intervals throughout the day; hence, his school was called the Ji ("Times") sect, or Jishu.

Music, dance, and drama have been important forms of expression of Shin. Since the late 19th century it has engaged in extensive educational and social welfare programs and has played a significant role in Japanese life. It is the largest single Buddhist sect in Japan.

vi) Nichiren.

The indigenous Japanese Nichiren school is related both to the Lotus Sutra and Pure Land schools, for it, too, is centred on the "Lotus of the True Law" and also emphasizes fervent faith and the repetition of a key phrase. Hence it has been aptly called "Lotus-pietism" by a famous scholar in Japanese Buddhism. Its distinctiveness is rooted in the extraordinary personality and character of its founder; significantly, it is named after a man, a historical person, not after a book or a doctrine. Nichiren (1222-82), the son of a poor fisherman, became a monk at an early age and studied at Mount Hiei, the centre of the Tendai school. Nichiren was frustrated, however, by the many paths of Buddhism promising salvation and left Mount Hiei for 10 years to search for the true path. When he emerged from his independent studies he taught that the Lotus Sutra(Saddharmapundarika-sutra) contains the final and supreme teaching of the Buddha Shakyamuni and offers the only true way to salvation. According to Nichiren's interpretation of this sutra, the three forms of the Buddha--the universal or law body (dharma-kaya), the enjoyment body (sambhoga-kaya), and the phenomenal body (nirmana-kaya)--should be granted equal respect, as they are important aspects of the Buddha Shakyamuni. Following the teachings of Chih'i, the Chinese founder of T'ien-t'ai/Tendai, that the Lotus Sutra is the essence of Buddhism, Nichiren held that this same buddha-nature was possessed by all people and could be realized only by proper worship of the Lotus Sutra. Furthermore, Nichiren felt that his time, which was marked by political upheaval and unrest, was the period of degeneration known in the Lotus Sutra as the time of the latter-day dharma (mappo). During this time the purity of the Buddhist doctrines could be kept only by the bodhisattvas. Nichiren identified himself as an incarnation of several of these bodhisattvas, especially the bodhisattva of supreme conduct (Vishistacaritra; Japanese: Jogyobosatsu), and believed that his mission was to propagate the true teachings of the Lotus Sutra in Japan, which he felt would become the new repository of the Buddhist dharma.

In attempting to guide Japan to the Buddhist dharma as he interpreted it, Nichiren drew great criticism for his strong-willed and uncompromising attitude. In one treatise Nichiren wrote that the unrest in Japan was caused by the chaotic state of religious beliefs, a condition that could be corrected only by adopting the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. He taught that if people turned to this sutra, they would realize their true buddha-nature, perceive that suffering is illusion, and see that this world is a paradise. If human beings--i.e., the Japanese--did not follow the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, however, natural disasters and invasions would result. With firm confidence in the righteousness of his cause, Nichiren attacked the Shingon and Amida sects of Buddhism for neglecting Shakyamuni, the true Buddha of the Lotus Sutra; and he attacked Zen for placing stress only upon Shakyamuni's historical form. These sharp criticisms led Nichiren to be exiled twice and almost brought his execution, from which he was--according to his account and the belief of his adherents--miraculously saved.

Nichiren advocated two main religious practices based on his interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. The first is the worship of the honzon(or gohonzon), a mandala (symbolic diagram) designed by Nichiren, representing the buddha-nature that is in all humans, as well as the three forms of the Buddha Shakyamuni. The second is the repetition of the phrase namu Myoho renge kyo (salutation to the Lotus Sutra), a practice called daimoku("sacred title"), as the affirmation of the devotee's belief in the teaching and efficacy of the Lotus Sutra. This repetition was not only to be done orally but in every action of the true believer. Nichiren also taught that there should be a sacred place of ordination (kaidan) where the believer could receive training in the doctrines of the Lotus Sutra in order that he might keep the true spirit of this document. This sacred place might be seen as wherever the believer in the Lotus Sutra lives, for there is the Buddhist truth. The honzon, daimoku, and kaidan constitute "the three great secret laws" (or "mysteries") that are regarded as the essential teaching of Nichiren.

Nichiren's fervent faith brought him wide fame and many devotees, and at his death he chose six disciples to continue his work. This sect was known simply as Nichiren-shu (Sect of Nichiren). It still controls the main temple founded by Nichiren at Mount Minobu. One of his disciples, Nikko, however, soon began another sect known as the Nichiren-sho-shu (True Sect of Nichiren), which taught that Nichiren, not Shakyamuni, was the saviour and that the mandala painted by Nichiren was alone efficacious in saving mankind. In the 20th century these sects have gained many devotees. (see also Index: Nichiren-sho-shu)

Within the Nichiren-shu the Reiyu-kai (Association of the Friend of the Spirit) arose in 1925. This sect, which preaches a combination of ancestor cult and the doctrines of Nichiren, places faith not in the Buddha or in bodhisattvas but in the mandala, in which all saving power is concentrated. The Rissho-Kosei-Kai (Society for Establishing Righteousness and Friendly Relations) split from Reiyu-kai in 1938. This sect teaches the recitation of the daimoku as an affirmation of faith in the teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and the worship of the Buddha Shakyamuni. Like Reiyu-kai, it also allows the veneration of ancestral spirits.

Rissho-Kosei-Kai gained many converts after World War II, but its success was soon eclipsed by Soka-gakkai, the lay movement of Nichiren-sho-shu. Soka-gakkai ("Value Creation Society") was founded by Makiguchi Tsunesaburo in 1930, dedicated to educational research and the extension of Nichiren-sho-shu. Its founder insisted on the practical values of worldly gain and satisfaction as well as the attainment of goodness and beauty; he taught that Nichiren was to be worshiped as the True Buddha predicted in the Lotus Sutra. The members also fervently practice daimoku and worship the honzon as the repository of magical power. After World War II, Soka-gakkai, under the leadership of Toda Josei, grew rapidly through a technique of evangelism called shakubuku ("break and subdue"), in which the resistance of the other person is destroyed by forceful argument. A zealous missionary movement, it has spread to many countries, including the United States. Thus, Nichiren's teaching and personality are still strong influences today.

vii) Dhyana (Ch'an/Zen).

The Dhyana (Chinese: Ch'an; Japanese: Zen) school of Buddhism emphasizes meditation as the way to immediate awareness of ultimate reality, an important practice of Buddhism from its origin in India, and derives its name from the Sanskrit term for meditation, dhyanaThe meditative emphasis in other schools of Indian origin, such as Yogacara, has been noted above. Ch'an, with its special training techniques and doctrines and its Taoist influence, however, is generally considered a specifically Chinese product.

Scholars point out that 4th-5th-century Chinese Buddhist monks, such as Hui-yüan and Seng-chao, were teaching doctrines and practices similar to those of the Ch'an school before the traditional date of its arrival in China, but standard Chinese texts name a South Indian monk, Bodhidharma, who came to China about AD 520, as its founder. Bodhidharma is held by Ch'an devotees to be the 28th patriarch of the Indian meditational school, which began with the monk Kashyapa, to whom the Buddha Shakyamuni revealed his supreme teaching. This teaching is found in the Lankavatara-sutra which relates that all beings possess a buddha-nature, often equated with shunya (the void) in Ch'an, and that realization of this fact is enlightenment (Chinese: Wu; Japanese: Satori). The truly enlightened one cannot explain this ultimate truth or reality, for it is beyond the ordinary duality of subject and object. Books, words, concepts, and teachers cannot convey it directly. It must be realized in immediate personal experience.

Bodhidharma, who came to be known as the first patriarch of Ch'an in China, passed his mantle to Hui-k'o; and this line of transmission continued to the fifth patriarch, Heng-jen. After his death a schism occurred between the adherents of the Northern school founded by Shen-hsui, which held that enlightenment must be attained gradually, and the Southern school of Hui-neng, which taught that true wisdom, as undifferentiated, must be attained suddenly and spontaneously. Furthermore, Hui-neng's Southern school tended to neglect rituals and literature and to rely on teaching passed from master to pupil, adopting as well an iconoclastic attitude toward the Buddha. It was reasoned that, if all things contain the buddha-nature, then the Buddha could rightfully be equated with a dung heap. Eventually the Southern school won out, and its victory is attested in the standard Chinese Ch'an texts, which name Hui-neng as the true and only sixth patriarch, as opposed to the counterclaim of Shen-hsui and the Northern school. Hui-neng's Platform Scripture (Chinese: T'an Ching) became a key text of the Ch'an school.

Two branches of Ch'an Buddhism developed from the Southern school in the 9th century: Lin-chi (Japanese: Rinzai) and Ts'ao-tung (Japanese: Soto). The former relied heavily on the kung-an (Japanese: koan), a paradoxical question or aphorism that aimed at inducing the student to realize that all conceptualization is wrong, thus leading him to enlightenment. The kung-an were often accompanied by shouts and slaps from the master to provoke anxiety and, from this, an instant realization of the truth. The Ts'ao-tung/ Soto school emphasized the practice of "silent illumination" or "just sitting" (Chinese: tso-ch'an; Japanese: zazen). This consisted of sitting in silent meditation under the direction of a master and--in that context--of purging the mind of all notions and concepts.

Both schools followed the doctrine of Huai-hai, who taught that a monk who would not work should not eat and that the work (as well as everything else) should be done with spontaneity and naturalness. The emphasis on work made the Ch'an schools self-sufficient and helped to save them from the worst effects of the purge of supposedly parasitic Buddhist monks by the government in 845. The emphasis on spontaneity and naturalness stimulated the development of a Ch'an aesthetic that had a profound influence on later Chinese painting and writing. The relative success the Ch'an tradition was able to achieve in the subsequent religious history of China is demonstrated by the fact that virtually all Chinese monks eventually came to belong to one of the two Ch'an lineages.

Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism was introduced into Japan as early as the 7th century, but it did not flower until the 12th century, in the work of two monks, Eisai and Dogen. Eisai, founder of the Rinzai school in the 12th century, was a Tendai monk who wished to restore pure Buddhism to Japan and with that aim visited China. When he returned, he taught a strict meditational system based on the use of the koan phrases; however, this was taught as only one element in the Tendai system. Unlike the Ch'an schools, Eisai also taught that Zen should defend the state and could observe ceremonial rules and offer prayers and incantations. These teachings influenced the warrior class and led to a Zen influence over the martial arts of archery and swordsmanship. Zen influence can also be seen in the no play, poetry, flower arrangement, and the tea ceremony, all of which stress grace and spontaneity.

Dogen, who established the Soto school in Japan in the 13th century, joined the Tendai monastery of Mount Hiei at an early age, after the death of his mother and father had dramatically taught him the transitoriness of life. Searching for the true path of Buddhism, he, like Eisai, journeyed to China, where he fell under the influence of a Chinese Ch'an master. Upon his return to Japan, he taught a discipline of "sitting straight" (zazen) without any effort being directed toward achieving enlightenment. Unlike many of his Chinese counterparts, however, Dogen studied scriptures and criticized those who did not.

The two Zen sects founded by Eisai and Dogen have deeply influenced Japanese culture, and they continue to play a very significant role in contemporary Japan. By the mid-20th century Zen had become perhaps the best known of the Buddhist schools in the Western world. (Gi.T. /F.E.R.)

3. ESOTERIC BUDDHISM

Mystical practices and esoteric sects are to be found in all forms of Buddhism. In the course of history the mystical tendency that had suffused Buddhism as an aspect or element of Indian religion as a whole became increasingly pronounced. Following the codification of early Buddhism in the Theravada canon and the subsequent emergence of Mahayana about the 1st century AD, this element began to precipitate into discrete schools of thought. (see also Vajrayana)

밀교

Buddhist mysticism (including the philosophical school of Ch'an, above), like other forms of mysticism, insists on the ineffability of the mystical experience, because it defies expression in terms that are intelligible to anyone who has not had analogous experience. The knowledge involved is never merely intellectual but is a kind of felt knowledge in which things are seen in a different perspective and take on a new significance. Related to its ineffability is the timeless quality of this experience, which means that the mystic seems to be outside time and space, oblivious to his surroundings and the passage of time.

The earliest Buddhist mysticism was concerned with the emptying of subjective being, considered to be the greatest obstacle to the individual's spiritual growth. This passing into a new dimension of reality was described in terms of a flame going out: it was merely extinguished; it could not be said that it had gone somewhere. In this emptying process the limits that constitute the individual's being, as defined by an analysis of both physical and mental components, were transcended, although all these components were said to be retained. The experience of this new dimension of reality was a vision in marked contrast to normal perception--a vision that went far beyond the reach of "mere logic."

While early Buddhism (as preserved in Theravada) was analytical in its attempt to free reality from the imposition of subjectivity, Mahayana continued the analytical process by extending it to objective reality. In its rejection of subjectivism and objectivism, it emphasized the nature of reality-as-such, which was experienced in enlightenment (bodhi). While the various philosophical trends associated with the emergence and development of Mahayana dealt with the intellectual problem of reality, shorn of all its positive and negative qualifications, the tantras ("treatises"), which form the distinctive literature of Esoteric Buddhism, dealt with the existential problem of how it is or feels to attain the highest goal.

1) Vajrayana Buddhism in India.

 

i) Origins.

Vajrayana ("Diamond Vehicle") or Mantrayana ("Path of the Sacred Formulas"), also known as Tantric Buddhism, first gained prominence in various parts of India and Sri Lanka. Scholars infer that, because of the esoteric nature of Tantric practice and doctrine, this school might have been developing quietly from the 2nd or 4th century AD, when Buddhist tradition associates Nagarjuna or Asanga with its origins. Although a modified version of Vajrayana Buddhism, apparently without sexoyogic practices, spread to China and then to Japan, where it became known as Shingon, most scholars associate the Vajrayana tradition primarily with India and Tibet.

Although Vajrayana texts describe numerous yogic or contemplative stages that an aspirant must experience before achieving enlightenment, rather than elaborating doctrines, they hold the Mahayana identification of nirvana and samsara as a basic truth. Moreover, Vajrayana maintains that nirvana as shunyata (voidness) is one side of a polarity that must be complemented by karuna (compassion of the bodhisattva). Shunyata is seen as passive wisdom (prajna) that possesses an absolutely indestructible or diamondlike (vajra) nature beyond all duality, whereas karuna is the means (upaya) or dynamic aspect of the world. Enlightenment arises when these seeming opposites are realized to be in truth one. This realization, which is known experientially and not through a purely cognitive process, is portrayed in some types of Vajrayana imagery and practice as the union of the passive female deity, which signifies wisdom or voidness, with the dynamic male, signifying compassion without attachment. Such a union, called yab-yum("father-mother") in Tibetan, is not a satisfaction of physical impulses but a symbol of the unity of opposites that brings the "great bliss," or enlightenment. (see also Index: emptiness)

Adherents of the Vajrayana tradition believe that as all things are in truth of one nature--the void--the physical-mental processes can be used as a vehicle for enlightenment. In the Kalacakra Tantrait is written that the Buddha taught that in this age of degeneration enlightenment must be achieved through one's own body, which contains the whole cosmos. This doctrine is taught in all the tantras. Vajrayana specialists warn, however, that in order to use correctly the body's processes to achieve an identification of the void with compassion, the aspirant must follow absolutely the instructions of a master or teacher who has been initiated into the mysteries. Such a master alone can direct every step so that the pupil learns to control mental and physical processes instead of being dominated by them. Therefore, the first step toward enlightenment in Vajrayana practice is the undergoing of initiation by a master.

The master first endeavours to direct the student to compassion through meditation on the transitoriness of life, the relation of cause and effect of one's actions, and the general suffering of humanity. After this sympathy for the suffering of humanity is aroused, the master guides his pupil in yogic, or contemplative, exercises that help to produce inner experiences corresponding to the various stages of spiritual growth. This process of advancement toward enlightenment involves the identification of the initiate with gods or goddesses that represent various cosmic forces. These gods are first visualized with the help of mudras (meditative gestures and postures), mantras (sacred syllables and phrases), and icons, all of which are believed to possess the essence of the divinities to be invoked. The icons are portrayed in a mandala, a sacred design that represents the universe as an aid to meditation. After this visualization, the initiate identifies with the divinities and finds that each in turn is shunyata, or voidness.

The culmination of this process, called vajrasattva yoga, gives the initiate a diamondlike body beyond all duality. Four stages in the process are described in four different groups of tantras, the Kriya-tantra, Carya-tantra, Yoga-tantra, and Anuttarayoga-tantra. These four stages are likened to the fourfold phases of courtship: the exchange of glances, a pleasing or encouraging smile, the holding of hands, and consummation in the sexual act. The first stage involves external ritual acts, whereas the second combines these outward acts with contemplation. The third stage involves only contemplation, and the fourth is the unification of all dualities in the sexual act, symbolically or effectively. This last stage, however, is divided into two phases. The first involves the use by the initiate of controlled imagination, which allows him to experience the union on an ideational level. The second phase is the maithuna, or sexual coupling. This act, however, cannot be construed as an ordinary physical mating, because the initiate has already realized the voidness of all things, allowing him to act with perfect control over his emotions and without attachment. Whereas the ordinary sexual act gives rise to only momentary pleasure, this maithuna is considered to be an appropriate technique for attaining enlightenment and eternal bliss. (see also Index: Kriya, Yoga, sexual intercourse)

These Vajrayana practices have been unjustly condemned as a degeneration of Buddhism by those who do not look beyond the surface. It is quite easy to misinterpret the Guhyasamaja-tantrawhen it states that adultery and eating of human flesh are actions of the bodhisattva if one does not realize that this imagery points to the belief that voidness alone exists, beyond good or evil, or that the initiate must act only with compassion for the benefit of the salvation of the world. Once the true depths of Vajrayana doctrines and practices are perceived, this school can be designated as a development of Buddhist thought that emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment through a graduated process of meditation under the direction of an initiated teacher.

ii) Vajrayana literature.

While the sutras can be said to represent the theoretical and speculative aspect of Buddhism, the tantras, written in a highly figurative language, express Buddhism as individually lived. The tantras are essentially individually oriented works that apply to larger groups of persons because of the similarity of the experiences described in them. The individual spiritual development occurs through symbols that must not be reduced to signs; a symbol always points beyond itself. Because of this symbolic character, the tantras have usually been kept secret, and a literalist interpretation of such texts has usually failed to make any sense out of them. (see also Index: religious symbolism)

The Guhyasamaja-tantra ("Treatise on the Sum Total of Mysteries"), also known as the Tathagataguhyaka ("The Mystery of Tathagatahood [Buddhahood]"), is the earliest known written tantra. It is by tradition ascribed to the renowned Indian scholar Asanga (c. 4th century AD), the propounder of the Yogacara philosophy. Usually the tantras do not give an explanation of the technical or symbolic terms, as this explanation is left to the teacher, but the Guhyasamaja-tantra devotes a very long chapter to the elucidation of these terms.

An important feature of all tantras is a polarity symbolism, which on the physical level appears as the union of male and female; on the ethical level it appears as the union of beneficial activity and an appreciation of what there is as it is; and on the philosophical level it appears as the synthesis of absolute reality and absolute compassion. The richness of this symbolism is already indicated in the opening of the Guhyasamaja, where the absolute, which is depicted as a polarity, manifests itself in various mandalas (circular diagrams that have both a psychological and cosmic reference), each related to one of the celestial, meditational buddhas--Aksobhya, Vairocana, Ratnasambhava and Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi--each of whom again represents a polarity, portrayed in iconographic works through their union with their female consorts.

The ideas and symbols presented in the Guhyasamaja-tantra became in the course of time more and more clearly elaborated. Because the tantras reflect an individual process of growth, the centre toward which this process gravitates, and from which it is also fed, appears in various symbols given various designations. Thus, there is the Hevajra-tantra, in which the sustaining life force is called Hevajra, and the Mahavairocana-tantra, in which it is called Mahavairocana ("The Great Resplendent One").

In view of the fact that the tantras may emphasize either "beneficial activity" or "appreciative awareness" or their "unity," the Tantric literature has been divided into the so-called Father Tantra (emphasizing activity), the Mother Tantra (emphasizing appreciation), and the Nondual Tantra (dealing with both aspects unitively). Almost all these works have been lost in their original Sanskrit versions, but their influence is noticeable in such works as Jñanasiddhi ("Attainment of Knowledge") by the great Vajrayana teacher Indrabhuti (c. 687-717), Prajñopayavinishcayasiddhi ("The Realization of the Certitude of Appreciative Awareness and Ethical Action") by the 8th-century writer Anangavajra, and the songs of the 84 mahasiddhas ("masters of miraculous powers," who were considered to have attained the Vajrayana goal). One of the last Sanskrit works to have been written in Central Asia was the Kalacakra-tantraIts penetration into India may be dated AD 966. The central theme is the Adi-Buddha--primeval buddhahood--manifesting itself as a continuum of time (kala) and space (cakra).

2) Vajrayana schools in Tibet.

During the period when Tibet was being converted to Buddhism (7th to 11th centuries), the most dynamic form of Buddhism in India was Vajrayana. Thus, it was this Buddhist tradition that became established in Tibet. Though it is probable that some form of Vajrayana played an important role in the original conversion of Tibet (7th to 9th centuries), little is known about the details. Beginning in the 11th century, however, it is possible to identify several different schools. (see also Index: Tibetan Buddhism)

Like most Buddhist schools, those that developed within the Tibetan tradition were highly permeable associations that encompassed a number of different and often competing lineages. This having been said, it is still possible to single out several groupings.

i) Rnying-ma-pa.

Among the various Vajrayana schools of Tibet and neighbouring regions, the Rnying-ma-pa claims to preserve most purely the spirit of the teachings of the 8th-century Indian miracle worker Padmasambhava. It makes fuller use than any other school of a group of "discovered" texts, said to have been hidden since the period of persecution that began in Tibet in the first half of the 9th century. (In the Rnying-ma-pa tradition the notion of "hidden treasure" has strong spiritual as well as historical overtones.) The discoveries of hidden texts associated with Padmasambhava began to occur in the 11th century and have continued until very recently.

The Rnying-ma-pa order divides Buddhist revelation into nine progressively superior groups; it also subdivides the tantras in a manner somewhat different from the way they are divided in other Vajrayana schools. Six groups of tantras are enumerated: (1) Kriya or ritual, (2) Upayoga, which involves the convergence of the two truths and meditation on the pentad of buddhas, (3) Yoga which involves the evocation of the god, the identification of the self with the god, and meditation on the mandala (ritual drawing), (4) Mahayoga, which involves meditation on the factors of human consciousness (skandhas) as divine forms, (5) Anuyoga, which involves secret initiation into the presence of the god and his consort and meditation on "voidness" in order to destroy the illusory nature of things, and (6) Atiyoga, which involves meditation on the union of the god and his consort, leading to the experience of bliss. Those initiated into the Kriyatantra can attain buddhahood after seven lives, the Upayoga after five lives, the Yoga after three lives, the Mahayoga in the next existence, the Anuyoga at death, and the Atiyoga in the present existence.

Among the exponents of the Rnying-ma-pa tradition, Klong-chen rab-'byams-pa (1308-63), who wrote the Klong-chen-mdzod-bdun ("Seven Treasures of Klong-chen"), is one of the most profound Vajrayana thinkers. More recently, Mi-'pham of Khams (1846-1914) wrote important Vajrayana commentaries on the canonical texts.

ii) Sa-skya-pa, Bka'-brgyud-pa, and related schools.

Several Tibetan schools that came into being during the 11th and 12th centuries traced their lineage back to particular Vajrayana saints who had lived in India some centuries earlier. Among these the Sa-skya-pa and the Bka'-brgyud-pa orders were especially prominent, and during the course of Tibetan history they gave rise to many other orders.

The Sa-skya-pa order traces its lineage back to an Indian mahasiddha named Virupa. The order's founder was a Tibetan named 'Brog-mi (992-1072) who went to India, received training in the Vajrayana, and translated the Hevajra-tantra into Tibetan; the order places a strong emphasis on this tantra. The Sa-skya-pa system is also called lam-'bras ("the path and its fruit").

The Sa-skya-pa order produced many great translators, and its scholars also contributed original works on Vajrayana philosophy and linguistics. On the ecclesiastical and political level the order sometimes exerted considerable power. During the 13th century, for example, the Sa-skya-pa abbot 'Phags-pa (1235-80?) conferred initiation according to the Hevajra-tantra on Kublai Khan (founder of the Yüan, or Mongol, dynasty in China) and in turn was appointed ti-shih (Chinese: "Imperial Preceptor") and invested with the authority to govern Tibet, though under the control of the Mongol court.

The Bka'-brgyud-pa school traces its spiritual lineage from the Indian master Tilopa, who transmitted the teachings to the Indian yogi Naropa, the master of Mar-pa, the 11th-century householder-teacher, who was in turn the master of Mi-la-ras-pa (1040-1123). The school has preserved an important collection of songs attributed to Mi-la-ras-pa and a fascinating hagiographic account of his life. Sgam-po-pa (1079-1153), who was his greatest disciple, did much to systematize the teaching and to establish the basis for further development. His most famous work, Thar-rgyan ("The Jewel Ornament of Liberation"), is one of the earliest examples of a genre that became extremely important in the later development of the Vajrayana tradition in Tibet and Mongolia. Known as Lam Rim ("Stages on the Path"), this genre presents the whole of Buddhist teachings in terms of gradations in a soteriological process leading to the attainment of buddhahood.

The Bka'-brgyud-pa teachers stressed, among other techniques, the exercises of Hatha Yoga (a yoga emphasizing breathing and special postures) and posited as the supreme goal the mahamudra ("the Great Seal"), or the overcoming of dichotomous thought in the emptiness of buddhahood. Frequent reference is made by the Bka'-brgyud-pa to the "Six Teachings of Naropa." These teachings set forth techniques for attaining enlightenment, either in this life or at the moment of death, that are associated with: (1) self-produced heat (the voluntary raising of the body temperature), (2) the illusory body, (3) dreams, (4) the experience of light, (5) the state of existence intermediate between death and rebirth (Bardo), and (6) the passing over from one existence to another.

Among the many lineages that have developed within the Bka'-brgyud-pa order, the one that is best known today is the Karma-pa (Black Hat) lineage, which has its major centre at the monastery of Mtshur-phu.

iii) The Bka'-gdams-pa and Dge-lugs-pa.

The Bka'-gdams-pa school was based on the teachings of Atisha (an Indian monk who came to Tibet in the 11th century). It was founded by his chief disciple, 'Brom-ston (c. 1008-c. 1064), who emphasized austere discipline. The school produced the Bka'-gdams gces-bsdus ("Collection of the Sayings of the Bka'-gdams-pa Saints"), which preserves the often highly poetic utterances of those close to the founder. The central practice of the school was the purification of the mind, which required the elimination of intellectual and moral blemishes in order to obtain a clear vision of emptiness ( shunyata). The school relied on the Prajñaparamita and related texts and also made use of mantras. The Bka'-gdams-pa order was absorbed in the 15th century by the Dge-lugs-pa school.

The Dge-lugs-pa (Gelugpa; the "Virtuous") represents the reformed sect in Tibet; its members are commonly known as Yellow Hats from the colour of their head cover. Their founder, Tsong-kha-pa, attended the most important schools in 14th-century Tibet, the Sa-skya-pa, Bka'-brgyud-pa, and Bka'-gdams-pa. His own school is considered the continuation of the Bka'-gdams-pa. Tsong-kha-pa was prompted to initiate a reform of monastic discipline by what he considered to be a general laxity of morals, an increasingly less rigorous observance of monastic rules, and the prevalence of deviations in the interpretation of the tantras. He imposed respect for the traditional rules of the Vinaya and placed renewed emphasis on dogmatics and on logic as aids to salvation. His treatise, the Lam-rim chen-mo ("The Great Gradual Path"), is based on the Bodhipathapradipa by Atisha. In it Tsong-kha-pa presents a process of mental purification ascending through 10 spiritual levels (bhumi) that lead to buddhahood. The essential points of such a process are the state of quiescence and the state of enhanced vision.

Tsong-kha-pa attributed great importance to the study of logic and instituted regular debates at monasteries. Competing monks sought to reach, by means of formal logic and in the presence of an abbot of great learning, an unassailable conclusion on a chosen topic. Various ranks of monks were established on the basis of examinations, the highest being that of dge-bshes (the philosophers).

This insistence on the importance of doctrinal and logical problems did not exclude interest in the tantras, and Tsong-kha-pa's Sngags-rim chen-mo ("The Great Gradual Tantric Path") deals with Tantric ritual. Tantric initiation, however, was open only to those students who had previously mastered theoretical learning. The literature of the Dge-lugs-pa is enormous, including also the gigantic collections of the Dalai and Panchen lamas, both of whom are members of this school.

The Dge-lugs-pa assert that the nature of the mind element (sems) is light, which constitutes the cognitive capacity. The continuum of each person, therefore, is a thinking and luminous energy, which is in either a coarse or subtle state, the latter state being achieved only after purification through meditation and contemplation.

(Gi.T./ H.G./F.E.R.)

3) Esoteric traditions in China and Japan.

During the 7th, 8th, and 9th centuries the Vajrayana forms of Esoteric Buddhism that were developing in India spread to Southeast Asia (for example, to Indonesia, where Esoteric teachings were an important component in the symbolism of the great Buddhist stupa at Borobudur) and to East Asia. In East Asia Esoteric Buddhism became established in the Chen-yen ("True Word") school in China and in the Tendai and Shingon schools in Japan.

i) Chen-yen.

According to the Chen-yen tradition, developed and systematized forms of the Esoteric tradition were first brought from India to China by three missionary monks: Shubhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi, and Amoghavajra. Shubhakarasimha arrived in China from the famous Indian centre of learning at Nalanda in 716, and he translated into Chinese the Mahavairocana-sutra and a closely related ritual compendium known as the Susiddhikara. Vajrabodhi and his disciple Amoghavajra arrived in 720 and produced two abridged translations of the Sarvatathagatatattvasamgraha ("Symposium of Truth of All the Buddhas"), also known as the Tattvasamgraha. The Tattvasamgraha and the Mahavairocana-sutra became the two basic Chen-yen texts. (see also Index: Shingon)

In the period of approximately 130 years between the arrival of Shubhakarasimha and the great persecution of 845, the Chen-yen school enjoyed amazing success. The tradition represented by Shubhakarasimha and the Mahavairocana-sutra and the tradition represented by Vajrabodhi and the Tattvasamgraha were melded. Chinese disciples such as Hui-kuo were initiated into a common lineage and contributed to an emerging Chen-yen synthesis. Through a combination of sophisticated doctrinal instruction and the exercise of the miracle-working powers supposedly conferred by the Esoteric rituals, the Chen-yen leaders won the confidence of the court, especially of Emperor Tai-tsung (762-779/780), who rejected Taoism in favour of Buddhism in its Chen-yen form. Chen-yen became a dominant force among the Chinese elite.

After the great persecution of 845, Chen-yen lost its position of prominence in China, but it maintained a certain degree of spiritual vitality and communal visibility on through the Sung dynasty (960-1279). Moreover, the Chen-yen school contributed a variety of elements--particularly ritual elements--that have become persisting threads within the larger fabric of Chinese religion.

ii) Shingon.

Though Esoteric Buddhism played a much greater role in China than is usually recognized, it was in Japan that it became most firmly established and exerted its most extensive influence. Esoteric elements, called Taimitsu in Japanese, became and have remained an important element in the Japanese Tendai school (see above Mahayana: Saddharmapundarika (T'ien-t'ai/Tendai) ). The Tendai school was founded by the monk Saicho (764-822), who studied with Chen-yen and T'ien-tai masters in China. The most systematized and elaborated expressions of the Esoteric tradition, however, were developed in the Shingon school, the Japanese version of Chen-yen.

The founder of the Shingon school in Japan was Kukai, better known by his posthumous name, Kobo Daishi ("Great Master Who Understood the Dharma"). He was an exceptional scholar, poet, painter, and calligrapher who early in life wrote a treatise comparing Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist thought, naming the latter as superior. Although he had trained for government service, he experienced a change of heart and became a Buddhist monk. In pursuit of the pure Buddhist doctrine, he, like many great monks of his time, journeyed to China, where he met the Chen-yen master Hui-kuo, who recognized Kukai's potential and bestowed upon him the teachings of his school. After the death of Hui-kuo, Kukai returned to Japan, where he received many governmental honours and established a monastery on Mount Koya as the centre of Shingon Buddhism.

In propagating the teachings of his sect, Kukai wrote many important texts, including the Juju shinron("The Ten Stages of Consciousness") and the Sokushin-jobutsugi ("The Doctrine of Becoming a Buddha with One's Body During One's Earthly Existence"). In the first of these treatises, Kukai presented a theory of the development of the spiritual life of human beings by placing the teachings of Buddhist schools and several other religions into a hierarchical system. He taught that the first stage of human spiritual development was one in which human beings are completely controlled by their instincts. In the second stage, which Kukai identifies with Confucian teachings, human beings attempt to live a proper moral existence. The third stage is that of Brahmanism and Taoism, where the individual strives for supernatural powers and heavenly rewards. The fourth and fifth stages of spiritual development are taught by the Hinayana schools and are characterized by the striving for self-enlightenment. The next stages, from six to nine, are Mahayanist paths identified with the teachings of Hosso, Sanron, Tendai, and Kegon, which lead the individual to compassion for others. The zenith of spiritual development is identified by Kukai with the esoteric teachings of Shingon.

The Shingon school preached that it possessed the highest and purest doctrine, for its beliefs were not based on the teachings of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, who expounded the doctrine with limitations of his audience in mind, but on the timeless and immutable teachings of the Buddha in his dharma-kaya, or cosmic body. This Buddha, named Mahavairocana, was felt to be beyond all earthly dualism and impurity but at the same instant to be within all things as their buddha-nature.

In Shingon the realization that one's own buddha-nature is identical with Mahavairocana is enlightenment. This enlightenment, as depicted in the title of Kukai's treatise mentioned above, can be achieved in this world while possessing a human body. In order to achieve this enlightened state, however, one must be given the secret doctrine of Shingon. The gift of this doctrine is handed down to the aspirant only orally by the Shingon master. The truth that the master reveals is founded on the three ritual mysteries of the body, speech, and mind. These mysteries invoke the cosmic forces embodied in the form of buddhas and bodhisattvas with which the aspirant identifies until he can become one with Mahavairocana. The experience of the mystery of the body involves the use of mudras: various devotional gestures of the hands and fingers in accordance with the buddha to be invoked, postures of meditation, and the handling of such sacred instruments as the vajra (diamond) and the lotus. Experiencing the mystery of speech involves the recitation of dharanis or mantras, which are mystical verses and sounds believed to be the essence of the cosmic forces with which one wishes to commune. Attaining the mystery of the mind involves yogic contemplation of and absorption in the Buddha Mahavairocana and his attendants.

The aspirant was further helped in his quest to identify his buddha-nature with the Cosmic Buddha by means of two sacred drawings, or mandalas, often placed on the Shingon altar. These mandalas, believed to contain all the power of the cosmos, were drawn in accordance with the teaching of Hui-kuo that the doctrines of the Buddha Mahavairocana were so deep and abstruse that their meanings could be conveyed only in art. One mandala, called the "Diamond Mandala" (based on the Tattvasamgraha and known in Japanese as kongo-kai), portrayed the Buddha Mahavairocana sitting upon a white lotus in deep contemplation, surrounded by the buddhas of the four regions. This symbolized Mahavairocana's indestructible, immutable, or potential aspect. The second mandala, called the "Womb Mandala of Great Compassion" (based on the Mahavairocana-sutra and known in Japanese as taizo-kai), revealed Mahavairocana sitting on a red lotus surrounded by innumerable buddhas, bodhisattvas, and Indian gods, with consorts. This represents the Cosmic Buddha's dynamic manifestation in which he is immanent in everything. Through the correct meditation on these two mandalas it was believed that the aspirant would realize the unity beyond the diversity of the world. (see also Index: Buddhist meditation )

The emphasis of Shingon upon ritual, symbolism, and iconography, coupled with the government's praise of Kukai and the bestowal upon him of the shrine for the protection of the country, led to a great popularity of Shingon among the Japanese. Many people came to use Shingon rites, believed to control the forces of the cosmos, to ward off evil and bring supernatural help in everyday life. The popularity of Shingon was one of the causes for the growth of Ryobu Shinto ("Two Aspects Shinto"), which identified Shinto gods with bodhisattvas. While this combination of Esoteric Buddhism with more this-worldly concerns led to some schisms in Shingon, it has continued as one of Japan's strongest Buddhist sects. 

   


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