Vimuttimagga???

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Vimuttimagga???

Postby Frank » Fri May 18, 2012 7:22 am

not technically a sutra... but i think it is included in the chinese canon so it's close to being considered sutra at least, so i figured this was the place to ask about it.

I have read the visuddhimagga, it is very old and attributed to buddhaghosa. then i found out there is something called the "vimuttimagga" that is said to be older than the former. i have read excerpts of it and it sounds extremely similar to visuddhimagga, some parts are nearly identical. the odd thing is that i haven't found anyone saying that buddhaghosa used this to write his own. anyone know the story behind this?
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Re: Vimuttimagga???

Postby Huifeng » Fri May 18, 2012 11:06 am

Frank wrote:not technically a sutra... but i think it is included in the chinese canon so it's close to being considered sutra at least, so i figured this was the place to ask about it.

I have read the visuddhimagga, it is very old and attributed to buddhaghosa. then i found out there is something called the "vimuttimagga" that is said to be older than the former. i have read excerpts of it and it sounds extremely similar to visuddhimagga, some parts are nearly identical. the odd thing is that i haven't found anyone saying that buddhaghosa used this to write his own. anyone know the story behind this?


It's not a sutra, it's some sort of sastra. Hence in Chinese Jietuodao Lun 解脫道論 = *Vimuttimagga (sastra).

Old Sri Lankan text, probably Mahasamghika in origin, that was lost in Lanka but preserved only in Chinese. The translation is a bit tricky to read, but there are a couple of English versions around, one from a couple of years ago by the BPS. Being one of the proof readers for the recent translation, I'm also not 100% convinced that the translators really nailed it, either. It's a kind of weird translation, to be honest, not at all easy to read.

Quite a bit smaller than the Visuddhimagga, though, and not necessarily convinced that this was what Buddhaghosa based it on. Had a couple of Sri Lankan bhikkhu classmates who studied this for their PhDs, and they weren't necessarily convinced, either IIRC.

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Re: Vimuttimagga???

Postby Jnana » Fri May 18, 2012 11:22 am

Huifeng wrote:Old Sri Lankan text, probably Mahasamghika in origin, that was lost in Lanka but preserved only in Chinese.

What is the basis for demonstrating that the Vimuttimagga was Mahāsāṃghika? I only have access to the old BPS translation, which I know is far from reliable. But it seems that the author of the Vimuttimagga was knowledgeable of, and relies upon, the Pāli Abhidhammapiṭaka and the Paṭisambhidāmagga.

Huifeng wrote:Quite a bit smaller than the Visuddhimagga, though, and not necessarily convinced that this was what Buddhaghosa based it on. Had a couple of Sri Lankan bhikkhu classmates who studied this for their PhDs, and they weren't necessarily convinced, either IIRC.

Given the similarities in structure and content, and given Buddhaghosa's access to and knowledge of the texts available to him in India and Sri Lanka in his time, it seems quite reasonable that he knew the contents of the Vimuttimagga.
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Re: Vimuttimagga???

Postby Frank » Fri May 18, 2012 6:01 pm

Huifeng wrote:
Frank wrote:not technically a sutra... but i think it is included in the chinese canon so it's close to being considered sutra at least, so i figured this was the place to ask about it.

I have read the visuddhimagga, it is very old and attributed to buddhaghosa. then i found out there is something called the "vimuttimagga" that is said to be older than the former. i have read excerpts of it and it sounds extremely similar to visuddhimagga, some parts are nearly identical. the odd thing is that i haven't found anyone saying that buddhaghosa used this to write his own. anyone know the story behind this?


It's not a sutra, it's some sort of sastra. Hence in Chinese Jietuodao Lun 解脫道論 = *Vimuttimagga (sastra).

Old Sri Lankan text, probably Mahasamghika in origin, that was lost in Lanka but preserved only in Chinese. The translation is a bit tricky to read, but there are a couple of English versions around, one from a couple of years ago by the BPS. Being one of the proof readers for the recent translation, I'm also not 100% convinced that the translators really nailed it, either. It's a kind of weird translation, to be honest, not at all easy to read.

Quite a bit smaller than the Visuddhimagga, though, and not necessarily convinced that this was what Buddhaghosa based it on. Had a couple of Sri Lankan bhikkhu classmates who studied this for their PhDs, and they weren't necessarily convinced, either IIRC.

~~ Huifeng

thanks, very interesting. how did they explain the parts that are nearly identical? maybe just the fact that both are theravada manuals and maybe they were just explaining methods around at the time? the most similar section i saw is the section on remembering past lives.
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Re: Vimuttimagga???

Postby Frank » Fri May 18, 2012 6:03 pm

Jnana wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Old Sri Lankan text, probably Mahasamghika in origin, that was lost in Lanka but preserved only in Chinese.

What is the basis for demonstrating that the Vimuttimagga was Mahāsāṃghika? I only have access to the old BPS translation, which I know is far from reliable. But it seems that the author of the Vimuttimagga was knowledgeable of, and relies upon, the Pāli Abhidhammapiṭaka and the Paṭisambhidāmagga.

Huifeng wrote:Quite a bit smaller than the Visuddhimagga, though, and not necessarily convinced that this was what Buddhaghosa based it on. Had a couple of Sri Lankan bhikkhu classmates who studied this for their PhDs, and they weren't necessarily convinced, either IIRC.

Given the similarities in structure and content, and given Buddhaghosa's access to and knowledge of the texts available to him in India and Sri Lanka in his time, it seems quite reasonable that he knew the contents of the Vimuttimagga.


indeed, as i said, there are parts that are almost word for word identical so it would be a pretty amazing coincidence if he had never known of it. unless of course they were both working from some other extra canonical text that i'm unaware of. in that case they could have both quoted said text in the same way without buddhaghosa knowing of the other. but even then, the structuring is so close!
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Re: Vimuttimagga???

Postby Jnana » Fri May 18, 2012 11:23 pm

Frank wrote:indeed, as i said, there are parts that are almost word for word identical so it would be a pretty amazing coincidence if he had never known of it. unless of course they were both working from some other extra canonical text that i'm unaware of. in that case they could have both quoted said text in the same way without buddhaghosa knowing of the other. but even then, the structuring is so close!

Yes, you might be interested in Vimuttimagga & Visuddhimagga: A Comparative Study by P.V. Bapat. It may be a bit dated now, but it's quite thorough.
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Re: Vimuttimagga???

Postby Huifeng » Sat May 19, 2012 1:22 am

Frank wrote:thanks, very interesting. how did they explain the parts that are nearly identical? maybe just the fact that both are theravada manuals and maybe they were just explaining methods around at the time? the most similar section i saw is the section on remembering past lives.


They are NOT both Theravada manuals. As I wrote in the post above, the *Vimuttimagga is generally regarded as Mahasamghika. Don't get fooled by the fact that both texts are from Sri Lanka.

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Re: Vimuttimagga???

Postby Jnana » Sat May 19, 2012 4:53 am

Huifeng wrote:As I wrote in the post above, the *Vimuttimagga is generally regarded as Mahasamghika.

Considered Mahāsāṃghika by whom, and on what basis?

Most scholars I've read consider it Sthavira. Heinz Bechert, in his Introduction to Bizot's, Les Traditions de la pabbajjā en Asie du Sud-Est:

    The most important postcanonical doctrinal text of the Abhayagiri monks was Upatissa's Vimuttimagga, and – as Peter Skilling has recently discovered – this work was extensively used to describe Theravāda doctrine by the 12th century North Indian author Daśabalaśrīmitra.

Peter Skilling, The Saṃskṛtāsaṃskṛtaviniścaya of Daśabalaśrīmitra:

    The Vimuktimārga, Daśabalaśrīmitra's main source for the Sthavira teachings, was in all probability a manual of the Abhayagiri school of Sri Lanka....

    The Sthaviras and the Vimuktimārga: Chapters 13 to 15 constitute an abbreviated but extensive citation of the Vimuktimārga, generally held to be a manual of the Abhayagiri sub-school of the Sthaviravāda; the source, however, is not named but simply described as 'the Āgama of the Ārya-Sthavira-nikāya.' The Vimuktimārga of Upatiṣya, lost in the original Pali or Sanskrit, is preserved in full in Chinese translation.

In Mahāsūtras, Vol. II, Skilling states that the Paṭisambhidāmagga and the Vimuttimagga both maintain that the twin miracle can only be achieved by a buddha, whereas the Lokottaravāda and Mūlasarvāstivāda maintain that the twin miracle can also be performed by an arhat. Elsewhere he also notes that both texts contain similar versions of the 16 aspects of the four truths.

In History Versus Modern Myth: The Abhayagirivihāra, the Vimuttimagga, and Yogāvacara Meditation Kate Crosby summarizes Bareau's understanding of the text as follows:

    Bareau attributes the Path to Liberation to Sri Lankan Theravāda because it lists only a single asaṃskṛtadharma, a feature which he suggests is characteristic of Sinhalese Theravāda....

    Bareau then points out that the Path to Liberation's definitions of other elements are identical to those found in the Pāli Abhidhammapiṭaka, especially in the Dhammasaṅgaṇī and the Vibhaṅga. He notes the definitions are different from those found in the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharmapiṭaka, the Śariputrābhidharma-śāstra and the Satyasiddhiśāstra. The text is therefore, he concludes, definitely of Sri Lankan Theravāda origin and based on the Pāli canon we know.

Crosby herself suggests that there isn't enough evidence to conclude with certainty where the Vimuttimagga was composed, or precise school affiliation.
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Re: Vimuttimagga???

Postby Huifeng » Sat May 19, 2012 9:50 am

I'm mainly recalling discussions with Bhante Chandawimala, and Bhante Chandaratana, who both spent a lot of time on this, fairly important parts of their PhDs.

Though, I have misrepresented them both above. They argue fairly clearly that the *Vimuttimagga is Sri Lankan (I think everyone agrees on that) but Abhayagiri, not Mahavihara. Now, later Sri Lankan buddhism likes to think that all their schools were ever only Theravadin, but this is dubious. The Abhayagiri had strong affiliations with Mahasamghika, Vaitullavada and even Vajrayana teachings (all later expelled from the island).

Yes, there are a lot of commonalities with Theravadin texts. But, there are a number of points where they differ. And these often point to various Mahasamghika type leanings. Though, the whole issue of whether the Theravada was a doctrinal single unit is also up for debate. Many Theravadins would like to think this. But, because we don't have the material that Buddhaghosa used, for example, we don't know how many disputes were there before him. This is the contribution of Bhante Chandaratana's study, as he points out the various points of disagreement. Both "Sthaviravada / Theravada" and "Mahasamghika" are loose definitions.

So, apologies for the misrepresentation above. Haven't looked into this area for a few years, now.

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Re: Vimuttimagga???

Postby Jnana » Sat May 19, 2012 11:26 am

Huifeng wrote:Though, the whole issue of whether the Theravada was a doctrinal single unit is also up for debate. Many Theravadins would like to think this. But, because we don't have the material that Buddhaghosa used, for example, we don't know how many disputes were there before him.

Yes. It seems pretty unlikely that there would have been the type of doctrinal homogeneity in the greater Pāli tradition that has often been supposed, given that (i) there are minor differences to be found even in the canoncial Abhidhamma and the para-canonical Pāli texts; (ii) the Aṭṭhakathā commentaries are not entirely uniform even after the re-translating, editing, and redaction of Buddhaghosa; (iii) in his Visuddhimagga Buddhaghosa sometimes mentions a number of differing interpretations held by different Theras on a particular issue; and last but not least (iv) no other Buddhist school for which we have more extensive textual records shows that kind of imagined doctrinal homogeneity.
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