The Project Gutenberg ebook of Hinduism And Buddhism, Volume II. (of 3)



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CHAPTER XX



MAHAYANIST SCRIPTURES




In a previous chapter I have discussed the Pali Canon and I shall subsequently have something to say about the Chinese and Tibetan Canons, which are libraries of religious and edifying works rather than sacred books similar to the Vedas or the Bible. My present object is to speak of the Sanskrit literature, chiefly sutras, which appeared contemporaneously with the rise of Mahayanism in India.

The Mahayanist scriptures are the largest body of sacred writings extant in the world, but it is not easy either to define the limits of the Canon or to say when it was put together. According to a common tradition Kanishka played for the Church of the Great Vehicle much the same part as Asoka for the Theravâdins and summoned a Council which wrote commentaries on the Tripitaka. This may be reasonably held to include a recension of the text commented on but we do not know what that text was, and the brief and perplexing accounts of the Council which we possess indicate not that it gave its imprimatur to Mahayanist sutras but that it was specially concerned with the Abhidharma works of the Sarvâstivâdin school.

In any case no Canon formed in the time of Kanishka can have been equivalent to the collections of writings accepted to-day in China and Tibet, for they contain works later than any date which can be assigned to his reign, as do also the nine sacred books revered in Nepal. It was agreed among Indian Buddhists that the scriptures were divided among the three Pitakas or baskets, but we may surmise that there was no unanimity as to the precise contents of each basket. In India the need for unanimity in such matters is not felt. The Brahmans always recognized that the most holy and most jealously preserved scriptures could exist in various recensions and the Mahabharata shows how generations of respectful and uncritical hearers may allow adventitious matter of all sorts to be incorporated in a work. Something of the same kind happened with the Pitakas. We know that the Pali recension which we possess was not the only one, for fragments of a Sanskrit version have been discovered.

There was probably a large floating literature of sutras, often presenting several recensions of the same document worked up in different ways. Just as additions were made to the list of Upanishads up to the middle ages, although the character of the later works was different from that of the earlier, so new sutras, modern in date and in tone, were received in the capacious basket. And just as the Puranas were accepted as sacred books without undermining the authority of the Vedas, so new Buddhist scriptures superseded without condemning the old ones. Various Mahayanist schools had their own versions of the Vinaya which apparently contain the same rules as the Pali text but also much additional narrative, and Asanga quotes from works corresponding to the Pali Nikâyas, though his doctrine belongs to another age.[119] The Abhidharma section of the Pali Canon seems however to have been peculiar to the Theravâda school. The Sarvâstivâdin Pitaka of the same name was entirely different and, judging from the Chinese Canon, the Mahayanists gave the title to philosophic works by such authors as Asanga and Vasubandhu, some of which were described as revelations from Maitreya.

Specially characteristic of Mahayanist Buddhism are the Vaipulya[120] sutras, that is sutras of great extension or development. These works, of which the Lotus is an example, follow the same scheme as the older sutras but are of wider scope and on a much larger scale, for they often consist of twenty or more chapters. They usually attempt to give a general exposition of the whole Dharma, or at least of some aspect of it which is extolled as sufficient for the right conduct of life. The chief speaker is usually the Buddha, who is introduced as teaching on the Vulture Peak, or some other well-known locality, and surrounded by a great assemblage many of whom are superhuman beings. The occasion of the discourse is commonly signalized by his sending forth rays of light which illuminate the universe until the scene includes other worlds. As early as the Anguttara Nikâya[121] we find references to the danger of a taste for ornate and poetic sutras and these compositions seem to be the outcome of that taste. The literary ideas and methods which produced them are illustrated by the Sûtrâlankâra of Aśvaghosha, a collection of edifying tales, many of which use the materials supplied by the Pali Nikâyas and Vinaya but present them in a more effective and artistic form. It was thought a pious task to amplify and embellish the simple narratives handed down by tradition.

The Mahayanist scriptures are composed in Sanskrit not in Pali, but it is only rarely—for instance in the works of Aśvaghosha—that Buddhist Sanskrit conforms to the rules of the classical language. Usually the words deviate from this standard both in form and meaning and often suggest that the text as we have it is a Sanskritized version of an older work in some popular dialect, brought into partial conformity with literary usage. In the poetical portions, this process of sanskritization encountered greater difficulties than in prose, because metre and prosody often refused to admit the changes required by grammar, so that this poetical dialect cannot be called either Sanskrit, Pali or Magadhi but remains a mixture of learned and popular speech. But Sanskrit did not become a sacred language for the Mahayanists like Latin for Roman Catholics. It is rather Pali which has assumed this position among the Hinayanists, for Burmese and Sinhalese translations of the Pitakas acquired no authority. But in the north the principle[122] that every man might read the Buddha's word in his own vernacular was usually respected: and the populations of Central Asia, the Chinese, the Tibetans, and the Mongols translated the scriptures into their own languages without attaching any superstitious importance to the original words, unless they were Dhâraṇîs or spells.

About the time of the Christian era or perhaps rather earlier, greater use began to be made of writing for religious purposes. The old practice of reciting the scriptures was not discontinued but no objection was made to preserving and reading them in written copies. According to tradition, the Pali scriptures were committed to writing in Ceylon during the reign of Vaṭṭagâmaṇi, that is according to the most recent chronology about 20 B.C., and Kanishka caused to be engraved on copper plates the commentaries composed by the council which he summoned. In Aśvaghosha[123] we find the story of a Brahman who casually taking up a book to pass the time lights on a copy of the Sutra of the Twelve Causes and is converted. But though the Buddhists remained on the whole true to the old view that the important thing was to understand and disseminate the substance of the Master's teaching and not merely to preserve the text as if it were a sacred formula, still we see growing up in Mahayanist works ideas about the sanctity and efficacy of scripture which are foreign to the Pali Canon. Many sutras (for instance the Diamond Cutter) extol themselves as all-sufficient for salvation: the Prajñâ-pâramitâ commences with a salutation addressed not as usual to the Buddha but to the work itself, as if it were a deity, and Hodgson states that the Buddhists of Nepal worship their nine sacred books. Nor was the idea excluded that certain words, especially formulæ or spells called Dhâraṇî, have in themselves a mysterious efficacy and potency.[124] Some of these are cited and recommended in the Lotus.[125] In so far as the repetition of sacred words or spells is regarded as an integral part of the religious life, the doctrine has no warrant in the earlier teaching. It obviously becomes more and more prominent in later works. But the idea itself is old, for it is clearly the same that produced a belief in the Brahmanic mantras, particularly the mantras of the Atharva Veda, and early Buddhism did not reject mantras in their proper place. Thus[126] the deities present themselves to the Buddha and offer to teach him a formula which will protect his disciples from the attacks of evil spirits. Hsüan Chuang even states that the council which sat at Râjagṛiha after the Buddha's death compiled five Pitakas, one of which consisted of Dhâraṇîs,[127] and it may be that the collection of such texts was begun as early as the collection of discourses and rules. But for many centuries there is no evidence that they were in any way confounded with the Dharma.

The Mahayanist scriptures are so voluminous that not even the clergy were expected to master any considerable part of them.[128] Indeed they make no claim to be a connected whole. The theory was rather that there were many vehicles plying on the road to salvation and many guide books. No traveller thought of taking the whole library but only a few volumes which suited him. Most of the Chinese and Japanese sects avowedly base themselves upon three sutras, selected according to the taste of each school from the hundreds quoted in catalogues. Thus the T'ien-t'ai sect has for its scriptures the Lotus, the Nirvâṇa-sûtra and the Prajñâ-pâramitâ, while the Shin-shu sect admits only the three Amidist sutras.

The following are the names of some of the principal Mahayanist scriptures. Comparatively few of them have been published in Europe and some exist only in Chinese or Japanese translations.

1. Prajñâ-pâramitâ or transcendental knowledge[129] is a generic name given to a whole literature consisting of treatises on the doctrine of śûnyatâ, which vary greatly in length. They are classed as sutras, being described as discourses delivered by the Buddha on the Vulture Peak. At least ten are known, besides excerpts which are sometimes described as substantive works. The great collection translated into Chinese by Hsüan Chuang is said to consist of 200,000 verses and to comprise sixteen different sutras.[130] The earliest translation of one of these treatises into Chinese (Nanjio, 5) was made about 170 A.D. and everything indicates that portions of the Prajñâ-pâramitâ are among the earliest Mahayanist works and date from about the first century of our era. Prajñâ not only means knowledge of the absolute truth, that is to say of śûnyatâ or the void, but is regarded as an ontological principle synonymous with Bodhi and Dharma-kâya. Thus Buddhas not only possess this knowledge in the ordinary sense but they are the knowledge manifest in human form, and Prajñâ is often personified as a goddess. All these works lay great stress on the doctrine of śûnyatâ, and the non-existence of the world of experience. The longest recension is said to contain a polemic against the Hinayana.

The Diamond Cutter is one of the best known of these transcendental treatises and the two short works called Heart of the Prajñâ-pâramitâ, which are widely read in Japan, appear to be brief abstracts of the essence of this teaching.

2. The Saddharma-Puṇḍarîka, or Lotus of the Good Law,[131] is one of the best known Mahayanist sutras and is highly esteemed in China and Japan. It purports to be a discourse delivered by Śâkyamuni on the Vulture Peak to an assemblage of Bodhisattvas. The Lotus clearly affirms the multiplicity of vehicles, or various ways of teaching the law, and also the eternity of the Buddha, but it does not emphasize, although it mentions, the doctrine of śûnyatâ. The work consists of two parts of which the second (chaps. XXI-XXVI) is a later addition. This second part contains spells and many mythological narratives, including one of an ancient Bodhisattva who burnt himself alive in honour of a former Buddha. Portions of the Lotus were translated into Chinese under the Western Tsin Dynasty 265-316 A.D. and it is quoted in the Mahâ-prajñâ-pâramitâ-śâstra ascribed to Nâgârjuna.[132] The first part is probably not later than the first century A.D. The Lotus is unfortunately accessible to English readers only in a most unpoetic translation by the late Professor Kern, but it is a great religious poem which starting from humanity regards religion as cosmic and universal, rather than something mainly concerned with our earth. The discourses of Śâkyamuni are accompanied in it by stupendous miracles culminating in a grand cosmic phantasmagoria in which is evoked the stupa containing the body of a departed Buddha, that is a shrine containing the eternal truth.

3. The Lalita-vistara[133] is a life of Śâkyamuni up to the commencement of his mission. Though the setting of the story is miraculous and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas innumerable are freely spoken of, yet the work does not enunciate the characteristic Mahayanist doctrines so definitely as the other treatises here enumerated. It is said to have originally belonged to the school of the Sarvâstivâdins and to have been subsequently accepted by the Mahayanists, and though it is not an epic but a collection of ballads and legends, yet it often reads as if it were a preliminary study for Aśvaghosha's Buddhacarita. It contains Sanskrit versions of old legends, which are almost verbal renderings of the Pali text, but also new material and seems to be conscious of relating novelties which may arouse scepticism for it interrupts the narrative to anathematize those who do not believe in the miracles of the Nativity and to extol the merits of faith (śraddhâ not bhakti). It is probably coeval with the earlier Gandharan art but there are no facts to fix its date.[134]

4. The Lankâvatâra[135] gives an account of the revelation of the good Law by Śâkyamuni when visiting Lanka. It is presumably subsequent to the period when Ceylon had become a centre of Buddhism, but the story is pure fancy and unconnected with history or with older legends. It relates how the Buddha alighted on Mt. Malaya in Lanka. Ravana came to pay his respects and asked for definitions of virtue and vice which were given. The Bodhisattva Mahâmati (apparently Mañjuśrî) proceeded to propound a series of more abstruse questions which are answered at considerable length. The Lankâvatâra represents a mature phase of speculation and not only criticizes the Sânkhya, Pâsupata and other Hindu schools, but is conscious of the growing resemblance of Mahayanism to Brahmanic philosophy and tries to explain it. It contains a prophecy about Nâgârjuna and another which mentions the Guptas, and it appears to allude to the domination of the Huns. This allusion would make its date as late as the sixth century but a translation into Chinese which is said to correspond with the Sanskrit text was made in 513. If so the barbarians referred to cannot be the Huns. An earlier translation made in 443 does not agree with our Sanskrit text and perhaps the work existed in several recensions.

5. The Suvarṇa-prabhâsa or Glitter of Gold[136] is a Vaipulya sûtra in many ways resembling the Lotus. It insists on the supernatural character of the Buddha. He was never really born nor entered into Nirvana but is the Dharma-kâya. The scene is laid at Râjagṛiha and many Brahmanic deities are among the interlocutors. It was translated into Chinese about 420 A.D. and fragments of a translation into Uigur have been discovered in Turkestan.[137] The contents comprise philosophy, legends and spells.

6. Gaṇḍa-vyûha[138] or the Structure of the World, which is compared to a bubble. The name is not found in the catalogue of the Chinese Tripitaka but the work is said to be the same as the Avataṃsaka sûtra which is popular in the Far East under the name of Hua-yên in China or Ke-gon in Japan. The identity of the two books could not have been guessed from the extracts and analyses which have been published but is guaranteed by high authorities.[139] It is possible however that the Gaṇḍa-vyûha is only a portion of the larger work called Avataṃsaka. So far as can be judged from the extracts, this text preaches in a fully developed form, the doctrines of Śûnyatâ, Dharma-kâya, the omnipresence of the Buddha and the redemption of the world by the exertions of Bodhisattvas. Yet it seems to be early, for a portion of it was translated into Chinese about 170 A.D. (Nanjio, 102) and about 405 Kumârajîva translated a commentary on it ascribed to Nâgârjuna (Nanjio, 1180).

7. Tathâgata-guhyaka. This work is known by the analysis of Rajendralala Mitra from which it appears to be a Tantra of the worst class and probably late. Its proper title is said to be Śrîguhyasamaja. Watanabe states that the work catalogued by Nanjio under No. 1027 and translated into Chinese about 1000 A.D. is an expurgated version of it. The Śikshâsamuccaya cites the Tathâgata-guhya-sûtra several times. The relations of these works to one another are not quite clear.

8. Samâdhirâja[140] is a Vyâkaraṇa or narrative describing different forms of meditation of which the Samâdhirâja is the greatest and best. The scene is laid on the Vulture's Peak and the principal interlocutors are Śâkyamuni and Candraprabha, a rich man of Râjagṛiha. It appears to be the same as the Candrapradîpa-sûtra and is a complete and copious treatise, which not only expounds the topic from which it takes its name but incidentally enumerates the chief principles of Mahayanism. Watanabe[141] states that it is the Yüeh-têng-san-mei-ching (Nanjio, 191) translated about 450 and again in 557 A.D.

9. Daśabhûmîśvara.[142] An account of the ten stages in the career of a Bodhisattva before he can attain to Buddhahood. The scene is laid in the paradise of Indra where Śâkyamuni was temporarily sojourning and the principal interlocutor is a Bodhisattva named Vajragarbha. It is said to be the same as the Daśabhûmika-sûtra first translated into Chinese about 300 A.D. (Nanjio, 105 and 110) but this work appears to be merely a portion of the Gaṇḍa-vyûha or Avataṃsaka mentioned above.

These nine works are all extant in Sanskrit and are known in Nepal as the nine Dharmas, the word Dharma being an abbreviation for Dharmaparyâya, revolution or exposition of the law, a term frequently used in the works themselves to describe a comprehensive discourse delivered by the Buddha. They are all quoted in the Śikshâsamuccaya, supposed to have been written about 650 A.D. No similar collection of nine seems to be known in Tibet or the Far East and the origin of the selection is obscure. As however the list does not include the Svayambhû Purâṇa, the principal indigenous scripture of Nepal, it may go back to an Indian source and represent an old tradition.

Besides the nine Dharmas, numerous other sûtras exist in Sanskrit, Chinese, Tibetan and the languages of Central Asia. Few have been edited or translated and even when something is known of their character detailed information as to their contents is usually wanting. Among the better known are the following.

10. One of the sûtras most read in China and admired because its style has a literary quality unusual in Buddhist works is commonly known as the Lêng-yen-ching. The full title is Shou-lêng-yen-san-mei-ching which is the Chinese transliteration of Śûrangama Samâdhi.[143] This sutra is quoted by name in the Śikshâsamuccaya and fragments of the Sanskrit text have been found in Turkestan.[144] The Śûrangama-Samâdhi Sûtra has been conjectured to be the same as the Samâdhirâja, but the accounts of Rajendralala Mitra and Beal do not support this theory. Beal's translation leaves the impression that it resembles a Pali sutta. The scene is laid in the Jetavana with few miraculous accessories. The Buddha discusses with Ânanda the location of the soul and after confuting his theories expounds the doctrine of the Dharma-kâya. The fragments found in Turkestan recommend a particular form of meditation.

11. Târanâtha informs us that among the many Mahayanist works which appeared in the reign of Kanishka's son was the Ratnakûṭa-dharma-paryâya in 1000 sections and the Ratnakûṭa is cited not only by the Śikshâsamuccaya but by Asanga.[145] The Tibetan and Chinese canons contain sections with this name comprising forty-eight or forty-nine items among which are the three important treatises about Amitâbha's paradise and many dialogues called Paripṛicchâ, that is, questions put by some personage, human or superhuman, and furnished with appropriate replies.[146] The Chinese Ratnakûṭa is said to have been compiled by Bodhiruchi (693-713 A.D.) but of course he is responsible only for the selection not for the composition of the works included. Section 14 of this Ratnakûṭa is said to be identical with chapters 11 and 12 of the Mûlasarvâstivâdin Vinaya.[147]

12. The Guṇa-kâraṇḍa-vyûha and Kâraṇḍa-vyûha are said to be two recensions of the same work, the first in verse the second in prose. Both are devoted to the praise of Avalokita who is represented as the presiding deity of the universe. He has refused to enter Buddhahood himself until all living creatures attain to true knowledge and is specially occupied in procuring the release of those who suffer in hell. The Guṇa-kâraṇḍa-vyûha contains a remarkable account of the origin of the world which is said to be absent from the prose version. The primeval Buddha spirit, Âdi-Buddha or Svayambhû, produces Avalokita by meditation, and Avalokita produces the material world and the gods of Hinduism from his body, Śiva from his forehead, Nârâyaṇa from his heart and so on. As such doctrines are not known to have appeared in Indian Buddhism before the tenth century it seems probable that the versified edition is late. But a work with the title Ratna-kâraṇḍaka-vyûha-sûtra was translated into Chinese in 270 and the Kâraṇḍa-vyûha is said to have been the first work translated into Tibetan.[148]

13. The Karuṇâa-puṇḍarîka[149] or Lotus of Compassion is mainly occupied with the description of an imaginary continent called Padmadhâtu, its Buddha and its many splendours. It exists in Sanskrit and was translated into Chinese about 400 A.D. (Nanjio, No. 142).

14. The Mahâvairocanâbhisambhodhi called in Chinese Ta-jih-ching or Great Sun sutra should perhaps be mentioned as it is the principal scripture of the Chên-yen (Japanese Shingon) school. It is a late work of unknown origin. It was translated into Chinese in 724 A.D. but the Sanskrit text has not been found.

There are a great number of other sutras which are important for the history of literature, although little attention is paid to them by Buddhists at the present day. Such are the Mahayanist version of the Mahâparinirvâṇa recounting the death and burial of the Buddha and the Mahâsannipâta-sûtra, which apparently includes the Sûryagarbha and Candragarbha sutras. All these works were translated into Chinese about 420 A.D. and must therefore be of respectable antiquity.

Besides the sutras, there are many compositions styled Avadânas or pious legends.[150] These, though recognized by Mahayanists, do not as a rule contain expositions of the Sûnyatâ and Dharma-kâya and are not sharply distinguished from the more imaginative of the Hinayanist scriptures.[151] But they introduce a multiplicity of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and represent Sâkyamuni as a superhuman worker of miracles.

They correspond in many respects to the Pali Vinaya but teach right conduct not so much by precept as by edifying stories and, like most Mahayanist works they lay less stress upon monastic discipline than on unselfish virtue exercised throughout successive existences. There are a dozen or more collections of Avadânas of which the most important are the Mahâvastu and the Divyâvadâna. The former[152] is an encyclopædic work which contains inter alia a life of Sâkyamuni. It describes itself as belonging to the Lokottaravâdins, a section of the Âryamahâ-sanghikas. The Lokottaravâdins were an ancient sect, precursors of the Mahayana rather than a branch of it, and much of the Mahâvastu is parallel to the Pali Canon and may have been composed a century or two before our era. But other parts seem to belong to the Gandharan period and the mention of Chinese and Hunnish writing points to a much later date.[153] If it was originally a Vinaya treatise, it has been distended out of all recognition by the addition of legends and anecdotes but it still retains a certain amount of matter found also in the Pali and Tibetan Vinayas. There were probably several recensions in which successive additions were made to the original nucleus. One interpolation is the lengthy and important section called Daśabhûmika, describing the career of a Bodhisattva. It is the only part of the Mahâvastu which can be called definitely Mahayanist. The rest of the work marks a transitional stage in doctrine, just as its language is neither Prakrit or Sanskrit but some ancient vernacular brought into partial conformity with Sanskrit grammar. No Chinese translation is known.

The Divyâvadâna[154] is a collection of legends, part of which is known as the Asokâvadâna and gives an edifying life of that pious monarch. This portion was translated into Chinese A.D. 317-420 and the work probably dates from the third century of our era. It is loosely constructed: considerable portions of it seem to be identical with the Vinaya of the Sarvâstivâdins and others with passages in the works of Aśvaghosha.

The Avadânas lie on the borderland between scripture and pious literature which uses human argument and refers to scripture for its authority. Of this literature the Mahayanist church has a goodly collection and the works ascribed to such doctors as Aśvaghosha, Nâgârjuna, Asanga and Vasubandhu hold a high place in general esteem. The Chinese Canon places many of them in the Pitakas (especially in the Abhidharma Pitaka) and not among the works of miscellaneous writers.

The Mahayanist scriptures are still a living force. In Nepal the nine Dharmas receive superstitious homage rather than intelligent study, but in Tibet and the Far East the Prajñâ-pâramitâ, the Lotus and the sutras about Amitâbha are in daily use for public worship and private reading. I have heard the first-named work as well as the Lêng-yen-ching expounded, that is, read aloud with an extempore paraphrase, to lay congregations in China, and the section of it called the Diamond Cutter is the book which is most commonly in the hands of religious Tibetans. The Lotus is the special scripture of the Nichiren sect in Japan but is universally respected. The twenty-fourth chapter which contains the praises of Avalokita is often printed separately. The Amitâbha sûtras take the place of the New Testament for the Jōdō and Shin sects and copies of them may also be found in almost every monastery throughout China and Annam. The Suvarṇa-prabhâsa is said to be specially popular among the Mongols. I know Chinese Buddhists who read the Hua-yen (Avataṃsaka) every day. Modern Japanese writers quote frequently from the Lankâvatâra and Kâśyapa-parivarta but I have not met with any instance of these works being in popular use.

I have mentioned already the obscurity surrounding the history of the Mahayanist Canon in India and it may seem to throw doubt on the authenticity of these scriptures. Unauthentic they certainly are in the sense that European criticism is not likely to accept as historical the discourses which they attribute to the Buddha and others, but there is no reason to doubt that they are treatises composed in India early in our era and representing the doctrines then prevalent. The religious public of India has never felt any difficulty in accepting works of merit—and often only very moderate merit—as revelations, whether called Upanishads, Puranas, Sutras or what not. Only rarely have such works received any formal approbation, such as recognition by a council. Indeed it is rather in Ceylon, Burma, Tibet and China than in India itself that authoritative lists of scriptures have been compiled. The natural instinct of the Hindus was not to close the Canon but to leave it open for any additions which might be vouchsafed.

Two sketches of an elastic Mahayanist Canon of this kind are preserved, one in the Śikshâsamuccaya[155] attributed to Śântideva, who probably flourished in the seventh century, and the other in a little work called the Duration of the Law, reporting a discourse by an otherwise unknown Nandimitra, said to have lived in Ceylon 800 years after the Buddha's death.[156] The former is a compendium of doctrine illustrated by quotations from what the author regarded as scripture. He cites about a hundred Mahayanist sutras, refers to the Vinaya and Divyâvadâna but not apparently to the Abhidharma. He mentions no Tantras[157] and not many Dhâraṇîs.

The second work was translated by Hsüan Chuang and was therefore probably written before 600 A.D.[158] Otherwise there is no external evidence for fixing its date. It represents Nandimitra as explaining on his deathbed the steps taken by the Buddha to protect the True Law and in what works that Law is to be found. Like the Chinese Tripitaka it recognizes both Mahayanist and Hinayanist works, but evidently prefers the former and styles them collectively Bodhisattva-Piṭaka. It enumerates about fifty sutras by name, beginning with the Prajñâ-pâramitâ, the Lotus and other well-known texts. Then comes a list of works with titles ending in Samâdhi, followed by others called Paripṛicchâ[159] or questions. A new category seems to be formed by the Buddhâvataṃsaka-sûtra with which the sutras about Amitâbha's Paradise are associated. Then comes the Mahâsannipâta-sûtra associated with works which may correspond to the Ratnakûṭa division of the Chinese Canon.[160] The writer adds that there are "hundreds of myriads of similar sutras classified in groups and categories." He mentions the Vinaya and Abhidharma without further particulars, whereas in describing the Hinayanist versions of these two Pitakas he gives many details.

The importance of this list lies in the fact that it is Indian rather than in its date, for the earliest catalogue of the Chinese Tripitaka compiled about[161] 510 is perhaps older and certainly ampler. But if the catalogue stood alone, it might be hard to say how far the selection of works in it was due to Chinese taste. But taking the Indian and Chinese evidence together, it is clear that in the sixth century Indian Mahayanists (a) tolerated Hinayanist scriptures while preferring their own, (b) made little use of the Vinaya or Abhidharma for argument or edification, though the former was very important as a code, (c) recognized extremely numerous sutras, grouped in various classes such as Mahâsannipâta and Buddhâvataṃsaka, (d) and did not use works called Tantras. Probably much the same is true of the fourth century and even earlier, for Asanga in one work[162] quotes both Maha-and Hinayanist scriptures and among the former cites by name seventeen sutras, including one called Paripṛicchâ or questions.

 

FOOTNOTES:




[119] In the Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra he quotes frequently from the Samyukta and Ekottara Âgamas, corresponding to the Samyutta and Anguttara Nikâyas of the Pali.

[120] A reading Vaitulya has also been found in some manuscripts of the Lotus discovered at Kashgar and it is suggested that the word may refer to the sect of Vetullas or Vetulyakas mentioned in the Commentary on the Kathâvatthu as holding that the Buddha really remained in the Tushita heaven and sent a phantom to represent him in the world and that it was Ânanda, not the Buddha, who preached the law. See Kern, Vers. en Med. der K. Ak. v. Wetenschappen, Letterk., R. 4 D. VIII. pp. 312-9, Amsterdam, 1907, and De la Vallée Poussin's notice of this article in J.R.A.S. 1907, pp. 434-6. But this interpretation does not seem very probable.

[121] IV. 160. 5.

[122] See Cullavagga, V. 33. The meaning evidently is that the Buddha's words are not to be enshrined in an artificial literary form which will prevent them from being popular.

[123] Sûtrâlankâra, I. 2.

[124] See Waddell, "The Dhâraṇî cult" in Ostasiat. Ztsft. 1912, pp. 155 ff.

[125] Chap. XXI, which is however a later addition.

[126] Dig. Nik. 32.

[127] Watters, Yüan Chwang, II. p. 160.

[128] The Mahâvyutpatti (65) gives a list of 105 sûtras.

[129] The word pâram-itâ means as an adjective gone to the further shore or transcendent. As a feminine substantive it means a transcendent virtue or perfection.

[130] See Walleser, Prajñâ-pâramitâ in Quellen der Religionsgeschichte, pp. 15 ff. S.B.E. XLIX. Nanjio, Catalogue Nos. 1-20 and Rajendralala Mitra's Nepalese Buddhist Literature, pp. 177 ff. Versions are mentioned consisting of 125,000 verses, 100,000 verses, 25,000 verses, 10,000 verses and 8,000 verses respectively. (Similarly at the beginning of the Mahâbhârata we are told that the Epic consists of 8,800 verses, of 24,000 and of 100,000.) Of these the last or Ashṭasâhasrikâ has been published in the Bibliotheca Indica and the second or Śatasâhasrikâ is in process of publication. It is in prose, so that the expression "verses" appears not to mean that the works are Gâthâs. A Khotanese version of the Vajracchedikâ is edited in Hoernle's Manuscript Remains by Sten Konow. The Sanskrit text was edited by Max Müller in Anecdota Oxoniensia.

[131] The Sanskrit text has been edited by Kern and Nanjio in Bibliotheca Buddhica; translated by Burnouf (Le Lotus de la bonne Loi), 1852 and by Kern (Saddharma-Puṇḍarîka) in S.B.E. vol. XXI.

[132] There appears to have been an earlier Chinese version of 255 A.D. but it has been lost. See Nanjio, p. 390. One of the later Chinese versions alludes to the existence of two recensions (Nanjio, No. 139). See B.E.F.E.O. 1911, p. 453. Fragments of a shorter and apparently earlier recension of the Lotus have been discovered in E. Turkestan. See J.R.A.S. 1916, pp. 269-277.

[133] Edited by Rajendralala Mitra in the Bibliotheca Indica and partially translated in the same series. A later critical edition by Lefmann, 1902-8.

[134] The early Chinese translations seem doubtful. One said to have been made under the later Han has been lost. See Nanjio, No. 159.

[135] See Burnouf, Introduction, pp. 458 ff. and J.R.A.S. 1905, pp. 831 ff. Rajendralala Mitra, Nepalese Buddhist Literature, p. 113. A brief analysis is given in J.A.S.B. June, 1905 according to which the sûtra professes to be the work of a human author, Jina of the clan of Kâtyâyana born at Campâ. An edition of the Sanskrit text published by the Buddhist Text Society is cited but I have not seen it. Chinese translations were made in 443 and 515 but the first is incomplete and does not correspond with our Sanskrit text.

[136] Abstract by Rajendralala Mitra, Nepalese Buddhist Lit. p. 241.

[137] See Nanjio, No. 127 and F.W.K. Muller in Abhandl. der K. Preuss. Akad. der Wissenschaften, 1908. The Uigur text is published in Bibliotheca Buddhica, 1914. Fragments of the Sanskrit text have also been found in Turkestan.

[138] Abstract by Raj. Mitra, Nepalese Buddhist Lit. pp. 90 ff. The Śikshâsamuccaya cites the Gaṇḍa-vyûha several times and does not mention the Avataṃsaka.

[139] The statement was first made on the authority of Takakusu quoted by Winternitz in Ges. Ind. Lit. II. i. p. 242. Watanabe in J.R.A.S. 1911, 663 makes an equally definite statement as to the identity of the two works. The identity is confirmed by Pelliot in J.A. 1914, II. pp. 118-121.

[140] Abstract by Raj. Mitra, Nepalese Buddhist Lit. pp. 81 ff. Quoted in Śântideva's Bodhicaryâvatâra, VIII. 106.

[141] See J.R.A.S. 1911, 663.

[142] Abstract by Raj. Mitra, Nepalese Buddhist Lit. pp. 81 ff.

[143] Translated in part by Beal, Catena of Buddhist Scriptures, pp. 286-369. See also Teitaro Suzuki, Outlines of Mahâyâna, p. 157. For notices of the text see Nanjio, Nos. 399, 446, 1588. Fa-Hsien, chap. XXIX. For the equivalence of Shou-lêng-yen and Śûrangama see Nanjio's note to No. 399 and Julien, Méthode, 1007 and Vasilief, p. 175.

[144] See Śikshâs, ed. Bendall, pp. 8,91 and Hoernle, Manuscript remains, I. pp. 125 ff.

[145] Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra, XIX. 29.

[146] E.g. the Râshtra-pâla-paripṛicchâ edited in Sanskrit by Finot, Biblioth. Buddhica, 1901. The Sanskrit text seems to agree with the Chinese version. The real number of sûtras in the Ratnakûṭa seems to be 48, two being practically the same but represented as uttered on different occasions.

[147] There is another somewhat similar collection of sûtras in the Chinese Canon called Ta Tsi or Mahâsannipâta but unlike the Ratnakûṭa it seems to contain few well-known or popular works.

[148] I know of these works only by Raj. Mitra's abstracts, Nepal. Bud. Lit. pp. 95 and 101. The prose text is said to have been published in Sanskrit at Calcutta, 1873.

[149] Raj. Mitra, Nepalese Buddhist Lit. pp. 285 ff. The Sanskrit text was published for the Buddhist Text Society, Calcutta, 1898.

[150] Avadâna is primarily a great and glorious act: hence an account of such an act.

[151] The Avadâna-śataka (Feer, Annales du Musée Guimet, XVIII) seems to be entirely Hinayanist.

[152] Edited by Senart, 3 vols. 1882-1897. Windisch, Die Komposition des Mahâvastu, 1909. Article "Mahavâstu" in E.R.E.

[153] So too do the words Horâpâthaka (astrologer), Ujjhebhaka (? Uzbek), Peliyaksha (? Felix). The word Yogâcâra (I. 120) may refer simply to the practice of Yoga and not to the school which bore this name.

[154] Edited by Cowell and Neil, 1886. See Nanjio, 1344.

[155] Edited by Bendall in Bibl. Buddhica.

[156] Nanjio, No. 1466. For a learned discussion of this work see Lévi and Chavannes in J.A. 1916, Nos. I and II.

[157] It is not likely that the Tathâgata-guhya-sûtra which it quotes is the same as the Tantra with a similar name analysed by Rajendralal Mitra.

[158] Watters, J.R.A.S. 1898, p. 331 says there seems to have been an earlier translation.

[159] Many works with this title will be found in Nanjio.

[160] But the Chinese title seems rather to represent Ratnarâsi.

[161] See Nanjio, pp. xiii-xvii.

[162] Mahâyâna-sûtrâlankâra. See Lévi's introduction, p. 14. The "Questions" sutra is Brahma-paripṛicchâ.





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