Definitive versus Interpretable Sutras across Mahayana

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JKhedrup
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Definitive versus Interpretable Sutras across Mahayana

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:08 pm

In the teachings I have received from various Tibetan masters there sometimes seemingly contradictory statements found in various sutras are explained by categorizing various sutras as interpretable and others as definitive.

Generally, the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras of the Middle Turning of the Wheel are presented as definitive according to the teachings I have received from Tibetan teachers. I am wondering two things:

1)Do other Mahayana traditions have these categories of Definitive and Interpretable? If not, how do they reconcile the seemingly contradictory statements in some sutras?

2)If they have this category, which turning of the wheel is proposed as Definitive?

Thanks so much.

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Astus
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Re: Definitive versus Interpretable Sutras across Mahayana

Postby Astus » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:27 pm

In Chan there is no categorisation of definitive and interpretable sutras, however, there are a couple of scriptures that are used to represent the common view of Mahayana according to their position. Although Tiantai claims the Lotus and the Nirvana Sutras as the final teachings of the Buddha, I've seen no problem using other texts in explaining their doctrines. Huayan focuses on the Avatamsaka Sutra naturally as the primary source of their teachings, while Pure Land has the three main sutras and portions of other scriptures.

So, if we use the definitive-interpretable categories, it is simply a question whether a scripture expresses explicitly what a given tradition holds as its doctrine or not. And if not then the exegete has to work until it does. As an example, in Chan it was first Shenxiu who explained every sutra in a way to teach Chan, i.e. seeing the nature of mind. It is a feature of Chan that has been followed ever since.

On the other hand, in Japanese Pure Land Honen simply put aside all other sutras not directly relevant to birth in Amita Buddha's world without rejecting their content, but rendering them useless for anyone following the Pure Land path.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Huifeng
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Re: Definitive versus Interpretable Sutras across Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:33 pm

In Chinese Mahayana, the Tiantai system of doxography (panjiao) is a classic one. This was in turn based on earlier systems, mainly by northern Chinese groups. Later, other Chinese Mahayana schools had similar practices.

The Tiantai system broke the teachings up into five periods, from the Avatamsaka, the Agamas, the Prajnaparamita, the [other Mahayana] Vaipulya sutras, and lastly the Saddharmapundarika and Mahaparinirvana sutras. There is a cross system which breaks these up into eight types.

The Tiantai system is still a kind of default Chinese Mahayana doxography, though there are others. Not to mention that modern Buddhist studies often stands this on its head. That is something presently being worked on.

~~ Huifeng

JKhedrup
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Re: Definitive versus Interpretable Sutras across Mahayana

Postby JKhedrup » Sat Feb 02, 2013 12:35 pm

Ven Huifeng,

Who was the main formulator of the Tian Tai system,and where can I read about him in English?

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Astus
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Re: Definitive versus Interpretable Sutras across Mahayana

Postby Astus » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:02 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Who was the main formulator of the Tian Tai system,and where can I read about him in English?


He was Zhiyi. There isn't much you can read in English unfortunately, and the "Buddhism in a Nutshell" series on BuddhistDoor.com has been removed and I can't find any copy of it (it had a nice intro to all Chinese schools). Wikipedia has a few words on the five periods.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Huifeng
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Re: Definitive versus Interpretable Sutras across Mahayana

Postby Huifeng » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:32 pm

As mentioned above, Tiantai Zhiyi or Zhizhe (天台智顗 / 天台智者).
Swanson's book may be helpful.

~~ Huifeng

zangskar
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Re: Definitive versus Interpretable Sutras across Mahayana

Postby zangskar » Sat Feb 02, 2013 1:33 pm

Buddhistdoor's Buddhism in a nutshell is here: http://wfcs.buddhistdoor.com/OldWeb/bdo ... /index.htm
Best wishes, Lars

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Astus
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Re: Definitive versus Interpretable Sutras across Mahayana

Postby Astus » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:41 pm

zangskar wrote:Buddhistdoor's Buddhism in a nutshell is here: http://wfcs.buddhistdoor.com/OldWeb/bdo ... /index.htm
Best wishes, Lars


Big thanks to you! :twothumbsup:

Here's the link to the Tiantai panjiao system: Classification of Teaching.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"


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