What are some "must have" books?

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Huifeng » Sat Oct 01, 2011 2:30 am

Namdrol wrote:
Huifeng wrote:
It may just be. The Chinese and East Asian systems in general had a range of stuff across the strict Vaibhasika / Sarvastivadin to Sautrantika spectrum, such as the various sastras, the Kosa, Sara, Avatara, as well as the *Satyasiddhi and *Catursatyani sastras; not to mention the PP Upadesa.

~~ Huifeng



This still means that Sarvastivada is the gold standard for Mahāyāna authors. The Mahāvibhaṣa was the dominant abhidharma text in India for centuries. The only reason Vasubandhu's Kośa became so famous is that he did such and excellent job of summarizing it's many details in a short form.

There was an attempt by Tibetans to translate the Mahāvibhaṣa, but according to tradition, only Bagor Vairocana was capable of finishing his section. This translation supposedly still existed as of early twentieth century.

N


Indeed.

I heard a couple of years ago (at Mangalam in Berkeley IIRC) that HHDL had asked a scholar lama to make a new translation, and that it had been undertaken. Though, nobody seemed to have any news on how progress was going. Obviously, it would have been Chinese --> Tibetan translation. Maybe Ven Sangpo at Gampo will start on this next, after his remake of the Kosa translation (he said wishfully...)

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Huifeng » Sat Oct 01, 2011 2:32 am

Jnana wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Paṭisambhidāmagga is definitely post-Prajñāpāramita and likely post-Nāgārjuna.

Yes, post earliest strata of Prajñāpāramita. Likely informed by both.

All the best,

Geoff



?!?! Surely you mean "pre-", right?

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Jnana » Sat Oct 01, 2011 5:09 am

Huifeng wrote:Maybe Ven Sangpo at Gampo will start on this next, after his remake of the Kosa translation (he said wishfully...)

Have you read through any of Ven. Lodro Sangpo's Kośa translation Bhante?

Huifeng wrote:
Jnana wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Paṭisambhidāmagga is definitely post-Prajñāpāramita and likely post-Nāgārjuna.

Yes, post earliest strata of Prajñāpāramita. Likely informed by both.

?!?! Surely you mean "pre-", right?

Well, this is close to your area of specialization, so what do you think? I don't see any reason to push the Paṭisambhidāmagga to an earlier period than the earliest Prajñāpāramita. It seems that there could be a common or related source for both.

All the best,

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Huifeng » Sat Oct 01, 2011 6:38 am

Well, in non-Mahayana terms, it's canonical or paracanonical, and seems to date from around the time of the early core Abhidhamma / Abhidharma sastras. Though my personal take is that it comes from a time when the Sthaviras had not yet split out formally into the NW group (later the Sarvastivadins) and the SE group (at the Mahavihara), when the Sthavira material becomes centered around the dhammavada / dharmavada position. So, this is why it runs around Agama / Nikaya texts, but doesn't conform exactly to the later Sthavira Abhidharma schools POV.

The idea that because it talks about sunnata in some detail, and also sabhava, therefore it must have some Prajnaparamita or Nagarjuna influence, is in my opinion largely from the way in which modern Buddhist scholarship has looked at these two connected ideas. We've gone back through time, rather than forwards. For example, we first decided that somehow sunyata was really mainly a Mahayana thing, formed in the Prajnaparamita and then systematized by Nagarjuna. Therefore, anything that talks about this must be influenced by one or both of these two.

But looking closer at the Nikayas and Agamas, especially those sutras which later came to be called the "mahasutras" (not found in the Pali); and also looking at the early Abhidharma sastras (note: the so-called Sarvastivada early on called themselves the "Sunyatavadins"); we've missed too much material, and formed hasty conclusions.

Off hand, I can't recall if it's the Psm or the Nettiprakarana, but the actually statement on "sabhava-sunnata" is deceptive: it can be read in a number of ways (it is, after all, a compound, but what sort of compound?) The later commentators had a couple of opinions, but two strike out: either empty of own being; or, emptiness is it's own being. The distinction is worth noting, even though later systems managed to merge these two together, eg. later Prajnaparamita style "it's own nature is that it is empty of own nature".

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Jnana » Sat Oct 01, 2011 10:00 am

Huifeng wrote:The idea that because it talks about sunnata in some detail, and also sabhava, therefore it must have some Prajnaparamita or Nagarjuna influence, is in my opinion largely from the way in which modern Buddhist scholarship has looked at these two connected ideas. We've gone back through time, rather than forwards. For example, we first decided that somehow sunyata was really mainly a Mahayana thing, formed in the Prajnaparamita and then systematized by Nagarjuna. Therefore, anything that talks about this must be influenced by one or both of these two.

This may still be a fairly common assumption, but it isn't one I share. I don't think it's accurate to speak about a separately identifiable Mahāyāna during the early period of bodhisattvayāna sūtra composition (2nd century BCE to 2nd century CE).

Huifeng wrote:The later commentators had a couple of opinions, but two strike out: either empty of own being; or, emptiness is it's own being. The distinction is worth noting, even though later systems managed to merge these two together, eg. later Prajnaparamita style "it's own nature is that it is empty of own nature".

Sure. We are quite free to interpret it either way. (The phrase is "sabhāvena suñña," from the Paṭisambhidāmagga Suññatākathā.)

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Virgo » Sat Oct 01, 2011 5:05 pm

Jnana wrote:Sure. We are quite free to interpret it either way. (The phrase is "sabhāvena suñña," from the Paṭisambhidāmagga Suññatākathā.)

All the best,

Geoff

It would be nice to think that there were some Mahayanists camping out at the Mahavihara, but it's unlikely. When what is written in the Patisambhidamagga is taken in _context_ of all the works it is attached to in the Tipitika and it's Commentaries, especially the Commentaries on the books of the Abhidhamma, it is pretty clear that it is meant to mean empty of own being.

If you just take that text however, and look at it from a Prajnaparamita perspective, you might think it's a prajnaparamita influenced text jumping out at you. It really isn't. The Mahavihara Buddhists were very hardcore. And they believed without a doubt, that ultimate dharmas really do arise. In fact, it's likely that all Hinayana schools did, because realizing the emptiness of persons is predicated on accepting both ultimates that arise and illusions or concepts based on those things which do not arise. The emptiness of all phenomena, well that's totally different. Trust me... Hinayanists were not trying to realize the emptiness of all phenomena.

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Jnana » Sat Oct 01, 2011 6:46 pm

Virgo wrote:It would be nice to think that there were some Mahayanists camping out at the Mahavihara, but it's unlikely.

The historical development of Buddhist ideas is quite dynamic, much moreso than is often commonly acknowledged.

Virgo wrote:When what is written in the Patisambhidamagga is taken in _context_ of all the works it is attached to in the Tipitika and it's Commentaries, especially the Commentaries on the books of the Abhidhamma, it is pretty clear that it is meant to mean empty of own being.

This is a Mādhyamaka interpretation.

Virgo wrote:The Mahavihara Buddhists were very hardcore. And they believed without a doubt, that ultimate dharmas really do arise.

The Paṭisambhidāmagga wasn't composed at the Mahāvihāra. Moreover, even during the later period of Indian Buddhism (after the Mahāyāna was established in the sense that we know it today), there were many fully ordained Theravāda monastics who accepted the Pāli Tipiṭaka and who also accepted the Mahāyāna teachings. The Chinese monk Xuanzang (7th century CE) met Mahāyāna Sthaviras (Pāli: Theras) at Bodhgayā (1000 monks in one monastery), at Kaliṅa (500 monks in 10 monasteries), at Bhārukaccha (300 monks in 10 monasteries), and at Surāṣtra (about 3000 monks in 50 monasteries). Those at Bodhgayā were living in a monastery built by an early king of Sri Lanka. He also described the Abhayagirivihāra of Sri Lanka as being a Mahāyāna Sthavira monastery.

Virgo wrote:In fact, it's likely that all Hinayana schools did, because realizing the emptiness of persons is predicated on accepting both ultimates that arise and illusions or concepts based on those things which do not arise.

No it isn't. The emptiness of persons is not predicated on any such thing. Otherwise no Mādhyamika or Yogācāra would be able to realize the emptiness of persons.

Virgo wrote:The emptiness of all phenomena, well that's totally different. Trust me... Hinayanists were not trying to realize the emptiness of all phenomena.

This is inaccurate. There are Hīnayāna texts which teach the emptiness of all phenomena.
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby maybay » Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:45 pm

Jnana wrote:
Virgo wrote:The emptiness of all phenomena, well that's totally different. Trust me... Hinayanists were not trying to realize the emptiness of all phenomena.

This is inaccurate. There are Hīnayāna texts which teach the emptiness of all phenomena.

Which Hinayana texts teach the emptiness of all phenomena?
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Jnana » Sat Oct 01, 2011 8:07 pm

maybay wrote:Which Hinayana texts teach the emptiness of all phenomena?

For example, the Satyasiddhiśāstra. If more Mahāsaṅghika texts had survived, we would likely have many more examples.
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby tobes » Sat Oct 01, 2011 11:46 pm

I really admire and respect your perspective Jnana.

So well informed and nuanced.

:anjali:
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Oct 02, 2011 12:03 am

Jnana wrote:
maybay wrote:Which Hinayana texts teach the emptiness of all phenomena?

For example, the Satyasiddhiśāstra. If more Mahāsaṅghika texts had survived, we would likely have many more examples.



The Satyasiddhi is a Bahuśrutīya text, an off-shoot of the Mahāsaṅghika. But it is not a representative of general Mahāsaṅghika, and it is not representative of so called Hināyāna school that fully embraces full śūnyatā since the Bahuśrutīya deliberately followed Mahāyāna. See Nāgārjuna in Context. Instead it is yet another example of post PP sutra schools.

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Jnana » Sun Oct 02, 2011 3:02 am

Namdrol wrote:The Satyasiddhi is a Bahuśrutīya text, an off-shoot of the Mahāsaṅghika. But it is not a representative of general Mahāsaṅghika, and it is not representative of so called Hināyāna school that fully embraces full śūnyatā since the Bahuśrutīya deliberately followed Mahāyāna. See Nāgārjuna in Context. Instead it is yet another example of post PP sutra schools.

There are also a number of meditation manual type texts (almost all only extant in Chinese translation) written in the first few centuries of the common era, which, according to Florin Deleanu "range from a basically orthodox Sarvāstivāda standpoint to a substantial compromise with Mahāyāna teachings and practices. In some cases, this compromise is so advanced that it is very difficult to make a distinction between such a text and a samādhi sūtra (sammei jing), which represents a purely Mahāyāna scripture."

Thus there were a number of syncretic attempts being made during this period to systematize bodhisattvayāna ideas within mainstream path models, resulting in hybrid texts.
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Huifeng » Sun Oct 02, 2011 3:10 am

Actually, the more strict way to interpret "sabhāvena suñña" would be "empty by way of own nature", not "empty of own nature", after all, the sabhāvena is an instrumental. Though the instrumental sense of "in terms of ..." is also not uncommon.

From something I wrote a year or two ago:

In his translation of the Pṭs, Ñāṇamoli (1982b: xvii, 362 n1) adds from Mahānāma’s commentary on the phrase “sabhāvena suññaṃ”, which he translates as “devoid of individual essence”, giving three possible renderings. 1. Empty of essence or arising of, or by, itself. This means that it has essence or arises, but this is due to other conditions, relating it to dependent origination. 2. Empty of essences other than itself, it has it’s own essence (sabhāva) but not other essence (parabhāva), as per “X is empty of non-X” (see below in Pṭk). 3. Empty as it has emptiness for it’s own essence. This brings in the abstraction of suññatā rather than just adjectival suñña, though also does tend to reify that abstraction as the very nature of dhammas. Ronkin (2005: 93f, 100) shows that Mahānāma’s oscillation between definitions shows his difficulty in reading commentarial tradition ideas of sabhāva into this earlier text, and the ambiguity in Pṭs in the first place. However, as Warder points out, it is really only Mahānāma’s third explanation which is convincing (cf. Ñāṇamoli 1982b: xviii).

The first explanation is the "empty of own nature", but it is the third that actual makes sense in the text, as Warder points out.

As Geoff says: "The Paṭisambhidāmagga wasn't composed at the Mahāvihāra." But, the Xuanzang stuff is far too late to make much influence on the issue here, probably about 800 years earlier.

"Which Hinayana texts teach the emptiness of all phenomena?"

"For example, the Satyasiddhiśāstra. If more Mahāsaṅghika texts had survived, we would likely have many more examples."

Yes, the Mahāsāṅghika had many groups that upheld this position. The status of the *Satyasiddhiśāstra is in dispute: Some Chinese took it as Mahāyāna, but it doesn't posit any Bodhisattva path, and the layout in four truths is straight out of the same book as the Sarvāstivādins, really. The author was originally a Sautrāntika, but later took up Mahāsāṅghika positions. So, it is halfway between these.

As Namdrol says, "it is not a representative of general Mahāsaṅghika", and the author probably had some Mahāyāna influence. Hard to attribute it to any specific school, but just see influences here and there. And I think that is the correct way to look at a number of systems around this time.

But, as I mentioned earlier, check out the so called Mahāsūtras (cf. Skillings). These are Sautrāntika sūtras that have some definition "all dharmas are empty" type teachings. They are not present in the Pali, and even some of them have been lost. Vasu quotes them a fair bit in the Kosa, too. And, check out the Mahāsaṅghika commentary to the Ekottarāgama in Chinese, as well. Also the Mahāsaṅghika school Lokānuvartana Sūtra 《佛說內藏百寶經》, which is heavy on the emptiness thing.

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Huifeng » Sun Oct 02, 2011 3:13 am

Jnana wrote:
Namdrol wrote:The Satyasiddhi is a Bahuśrutīya text, an off-shoot of the Mahāsaṅghika. But it is not a representative of general Mahāsaṅghika, and it is not representative of so called Hināyāna school that fully embraces full śūnyatā since the Bahuśrutīya deliberately followed Mahāyāna. See Nāgārjuna in Context. Instead it is yet another example of post PP sutra schools.

There are also a number of meditation manual type texts (almost all only extant in Chinese translation) written in the first few centuries of the common era, which, according to Florin Deleanu "range from a basically orthodox Sarvāstivāda standpoint to a substantial compromise with Mahāyāna teachings and practices. In some cases, this compromise is so advanced that it is very difficult to make a distinction between such a text and a samādhi sūtra (sammei jing), which represents a purely Mahāyāna scripture."

Thus there were a number of syncretic attempts being made during this period to systematize bodhisattvayāna ideas within mainstream path models, resulting in hybrid texts.


And these became the basis for much of Buddhist meditation in China, right up to the 6th CTY. Their Dharma system is Sarvāstivāda, but they tend to cap off with a Mahāsaṅghika or near Mahāyāna position (as per the *Satyasiddhi, etc.)

We seem to be totally off topic here, but some good discussion is going down! :smile:

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Oct 02, 2011 12:37 pm

Huifeng wrote:The status of the *Satyasiddhiśāstra is in dispute: Some Chinese took it as Mahāyāna


Both Vasumitra and Paramartha identify the Bahuśrutīya as pro-Mahāyāna, with Satyasiddhiśāstra as their basic text. Of course, Satyasiddhiśāstra identifies the present moment as ultimately real, so hardly a non-realist postion like Madhyamaka.

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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Malcolm » Sun Oct 02, 2011 12:39 pm

Huifeng wrote:
But, as I mentioned earlier, check out the so called Mahāsūtras (cf. Skillings). These are Sautrāntika sūtras that have some definition "all dharmas are empty" type teachings. They are not present in the Pali, and even some of them have been lost. Vasu quotes them a fair bit in the Kosa, too. And, check out the Mahāsaṅghika commentary to the Ekottarāgama in Chinese, as well. Also the Mahāsaṅghika school Lokānuvartana Sūtra 《佛說內藏百寶經》, which is heavy on the emptiness thing.

~~ Huifeng


Saying that all dharmas are empty or lack svabhava is not the same thing as saying that all dharmas are completely unreal and mere nominal designations of appearances.
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Jnana » Sun Oct 02, 2011 1:28 pm

Namdrol wrote:Saying that all dharmas are empty or lack svabhava is not the same thing as saying that all dharmas are completely unreal and mere nominal designations of appearances.

Agreed.
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby maybay » Sun Oct 02, 2011 3:52 pm

Huifeng wrote:We seem to be totally off topic here, but some good discussion is going down!

Seems like the topic was never really clear. Mahayana / Hinayana are very broad designations. These need a more forgiving treatment than individual traditions - Sarvastivada etc - which are living entities forging a place for themselves in the world and can and do undergo much tighter scrutiny. Its like the difference between communism and the Chinese communist party. The manifest is not always a pure reflection of its ideal. Is it ever?

So when Virgo suggests what the Hinayanists were 'trying' to do, Jnana responds with a dubious reference to some fringe text. Scholars go deep, but it can become myopic vision which misses the point. Furthermore it makes it difficult for others to penetrate the doctrine when at every turn you draw attention to exceptions (and thus to yourselves.) Mahayana is the vision of enlightenment post-Shakyamuni - the spirited assemblage of dichotomies extending far beyond the written word. If these dialogues are to chisel out the path of a living tradition/s then well and good. But apart from this, how is it not just egoic wrangling over tombstones long forgotten? A kind of addiction to novelty, to original findings in the field of scriptural archeology. Are we so obsessed with building an objective reality? Could the inspiration behind this be nothing more than a Rahu-like desire for stripping dignities at every turn, a legacy of our protest-ant societies and our stifled contempt for the burgeoning now indestructible mass of histories that delimit us? I don't know any of you, but just by the avatars I'd forgive myself for thinking I'd entered upon a forum of ostensible Buddhists who rest their heads on their pillows every night satisfied in their conspiracy with die-hard nihilism.

In the 'Navel of the Demoness' - the author meets a Lama in Nepal who was surprised that a person should
wish to study a religion for any reason other than to practise or to persecute it. So which is it?
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Jnana » Sun Oct 02, 2011 9:01 pm

maybay wrote:
Huifeng wrote:We seem to be totally off topic here, but some good discussion is going down!

Seems like the topic was never really clear. Mahayana / Hinayana are very broad designations. These need a more forgiving treatment than individual traditions - Sarvastivada etc - which are living entities forging a place for themselves in the world and can and do undergo much tighter scrutiny. Its like the difference between communism and the Chinese communist party. The manifest is not always a pure reflection of its ideal. Is it ever?

So when Virgo suggests what the Hinayanists were 'trying' to do, Jnana responds with a dubious reference to some fringe text. Scholars go deep, but it can become myopic vision which misses the point. Furthermore it makes it difficult for others to penetrate the doctrine when at every turn you draw attention to exceptions (and thus to yourselves.) Mahayana is the vision of enlightenment post-Shakyamuni - the spirited assemblage of dichotomies extending far beyond the written word. If these dialogues are to chisel out the path of a living tradition/s then well and good. But apart from this, how is it not just egoic wrangling over tombstones long forgotten? A kind of addiction to novelty, to original findings in the field of scriptural archeology. Are we so obsessed with building an objective reality? Could the inspiration behind this be nothing more than a Rahu-like desire for stripping dignities at every turn, a legacy of our protest-ant societies and our stifled contempt for the burgeoning now indestructible mass of histories that delimit us? I don't know any of you, but just by the avatars I'd forgive myself for thinking I'd entered upon a forum of ostensible Buddhists who rest their heads on their pillows every night satisfied in their conspiracy with die-hard nihilism.

Apparently the discussion doesn't interest you much. But then, why do you feel compelled to comment with what sounds to me like pretentious drivel?

maybay wrote:In the 'Navel of the Demoness' - the author meets a Lama in Nepal who was surprised that a person should
wish to study a religion for any reason other than to practise or to persecute it. So which is it?

There's no need to compartmentalize. Discussing Buddhist history isn't incompatible with practicing dharma.
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Re: What are some "must have" books?

Postby Jnana » Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:33 pm

Huifeng wrote:But, the Xuanzang stuff is far too late to make much influence on the issue here, probably about 800 years earlier.

As you may know, there are some people who think that the Theravāda and Mahāyāna are mutually exclusive religions and that a Theravādin cannot possibly practice the Mahāyāna. In fact, one well known Theravāda monk once went so far as to suggest that if a Theravādin were to practice within the Mahāyāna, this will lead to cognitive dissonance and psychological confusion.

Often this kind of view, aside from being uninformed about the specifics of the "other" Buddhism, is rooted in a modern revisionist version of Buddhist history that fails to acknowledge or appreciate the historical development of the Mahāyāna and this relationship to the early mainstream Indian sects. And so it can be helpful to mention that the Indian Sthaviravāda and the Sinhalese Tāmraśāṭīya sub-sect has a dynamic history of interaction with bodhisattvayāna ideas and Mahāyāna dharma -- much more inclusive than modern proponents of an imagined Mahāvihāra purism are often willing to accept.
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