Interestingly Jnana, perhaps all that rhetoric was about establishing 'paternity' rather than mere rhetoric of a 'marginalised yana'?
I came across this work, 'Text as Father: Paternal Seductions in Early Mahayana Buddhist Literature' by Alan Cole which kind of have some reflection of the posted text, and even questioned Schopen's idea, perhaps from another angle? An excerpt from his introduction...
http://ahandfulofleaves.files.wordpress ... e_2005.pdf
What could “text as father” mean, and what do fathers have to do with Buddhism in the first place?
The suitability of this topic will become clearer in the course of these chapters, but let me promise here at the outset that sifting through early Mahayana Buddhist sutras leaves little doubt about how important textually produced paternal figures were for organizing authority and legitimacy, in at least a portion of these texts.
What is crucial in organizing my reading is that I take these Mahayana sutras to be knowingly fabricated by wily authors intent on creating images of authority that come to fruition in the reading experience.
That is, I do not read the voices of authority—the Buddha’s and others’—that fill out these texts as reflections of prior oral articulations or similarly innocent statements about truth and reality. Instead, I see them as carefully wrought literary constructions that assume their specific forms precisely because they were designed to inhabit and function in the literary space where one encounters them.
Hence the title Text as Father was chosen to represent the dialectic in which texts created and presented images of “truth-fathers” who, among other things, speak to the legitimacy of the textual medium that contains them and, within this circle of self-confirmation, draw the reader into complex realignments with the Buddhist tradition and prior representation of truth and authority. To explore the form and content of these textual truth-fathers, and the narratives that support them, I have selected four interesting and diverse Mahayana texts: the Lotus Sutra, the Diamond Sutra, the Tathagatagarbha Sutra, and the Vimalakirtinirdesa (a work that isn’t technically a sutra but nonetheless comes to refer to itself that way by its final chapters).
In close readings of each of these texts, I show how their narratives first gather up authority, legitimacy, and sanctity, as they would have been previously constituted in the Buddhist tradition and then relocate those items within their own textual perimeters. Hence, in all four texts, the narrative offers a new figure of the Buddha who, once established in the flow of the narrative, explains to the reader that the sum of tradition is exclusively available in the reading experience and in the sheer physical presence of the book.
In a brilliant maneuver that fully exploits the physicality of textuality, the narratives pretend to represent the living and supposedly oral aspect of the Buddha, while that “orality” explains that the sheer physicality of the text—on palm leaves, presumably—represents the presence of the Buddha. Thus, by creating plots that delicately balance the Buddha’s presence on either side of the textualized form of the narrative—in its genesis and in its reception—these sutras were designed to serve as the singular vehicle for Buddhist authenticity, promising to actualize truth and legitimacy for any reader, in any time or place.
More exactly, in condensing and displacing the totality of tradition in this manner, each of these sutras offers a quid pro quo exchange in which it is said that if the reader accepts the encapsulation of tradition within the text as a legitimate fait accompli, then the reader can expect to receive from the text the totality of tradition. Thus the reader’s gift of legitimacy to the text results in the reader acquiring direct access to just that legitimacy from the text. Exaggerating only slightly, each text promises that one becomes a legitimate Buddhist by reading and believing narratives that explain, first, how the “real” Buddhist tradition is not in the monasteries, or in the recognized body of rituals, codes, and practices that shaped Buddhism since its inception, and, second, that tradition is fully installed in the text that is accomplishing this rhetorical overcoming of tradition.
Consequently, salvation in these four texts is no longer defined as the straightforward Buddhist task of overcoming desire and ignorance by seeing the true nature of reality.
Instead, salvation is predicated on the reader’s devotion to these new textual narratives that, among other things, completely redefined tradition. Putting aside the standard assumptions about Mahayana Buddhism—its supposed emphasis on emptiness and compassion—I think a careful and balanced reading of these texts leaves little doubt that salvation, more often than not, was defined not as the function of a view on reality but as a view back on tradition. That is, one’s salvation is said to be won through a change in allegiances—from traditional Buddhism to textualized Mahayana Buddhism—and not as the effect of a straightforward
grappling with existence. In a fully circuitous manner, then, these texts promise that one becomes a buddha by reading and assenting to particular theories about how one becomes a buddha.
Of course, this is not to say that these texts represent anything but a slice of the truly expansive body of writing and thinking that made up heterogeneous Mahayana Buddhism. However, even with this small sampling, I think we can uncover a number of thematics that invite a very different style of reflection on the origin and function of Mahayana rhetoric. Similarly, in seeing how their composition as literary works makes a number of demands on their form and content, we gain perspective for rethinking the doctrinal elements of these texts that, until now, have been read without reference to the “politics of textuality” that I am trying to resituate in our interpretations.
In short, for some time we have been quite aware of the politics of textuality during this early phase of Mahayana Buddhism, but we have not used that problematic as a point of entry for reading these narratives.
On a basic level, then, this book is an effort to understand the antagonistic interface between Mahayana textuality and the wider Buddhist tradition.
And, naturally, this book ought to be located within the recent trend in scholarship that has, in the past two decades, reconsidered the emergence of Mahayana Buddhism and veered away from the sugar-coated textbook explanations that are still often relied on, even in scholarly discussions. Whereas other researchers have been interested in using epigraphy, art, architecture, and travel memoirs to rewrite what now appear as unlikely and untenable histories of early Mahayana Buddhism, I have chosen literary analysis, with a focus on narrative dynamics and the various strategies employed for luring the reader away from traditional Buddhist ideas and practices.
And, similarly, whereas other scholars have been interested in writing social histories, I have opted for something closer to a literary history, which nonetheless has many implications for writing social or cultural history. One of the many good reasons for rereading these texts is that heretofore they have been approached with kid gloves and rather clumsily used as evidence for a cheery account of early Mahayana Buddhism that is not supported by other kinds of evidence, or even by the texts themselves, once they are read with the gloves off. In short, it is becoming increasingly clear that we do not really have a good idea about the nature of early Mahayana Buddhism.
Was it, as Gregory Schopen suggests, a peripheral, underprivileged, renegade movement with tendencies toward resentment and hysteria?
Or was it something more like a virtual community of readers having limited contact with one another and little or no institutional presence? Or, again, was it a diverse grab bag of new styles of thinking and practicing that defies any singular description? However we end up sketching these scenarios, there is every reason to start work with a return to these texts to ask more carefully what they are about and what they might tell us about the concerns of these early writers and, better, what their authors imagined were the concerns of their imagined readers.
To that end, I have chosen these four texts, which, though a sliver of early Mahayana textuality, can be read to show sides of Mahayana Buddhism that have gone unnoticed.
In particular, my hope is that by concentrating on a few Mahayana works, we will gain a useful platform for addressing the narrative complexity of these texts and their deep involvement in the project of seductively rewriting authority so that they can be seen as having the authority to rewrite authority.