Reconstructing the History of Late Indian Buddhism (Part II): Relationship between Tantric and Non-tantric Doctrines

Tue., Aug. 19th, 09:00-16:30

The Fruition in a Comparative Perspective

Esler, Dylan (Institut Orientaliste, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium)

If “all roads lead to Rome” (or did so in the days of the Roman Empire), all paths do not lead to enlightenment – at least not to the same enlightenment. This, in any case, is the conclusion we must derive from reading gNubs-chen Sangs-rgyas ye-shes’ doxographical work, the bSam-gtan mig-sgron (Tibet, 10th century). In it he presents four distinct ways to reach enlightenment that encompass both sūtra-based and tantra-based doctrinal formulations: the gradual approach of the classical Mahāyāna, the simultaneous approach of Chan, the method of alchemical transformation of Tantra and the path of self-liberation, rDzogs-chen. These four different paths lead to distinct forms of fruition (’bras-bu; Skt. phala). It is the latter that will be the focus of the present paper.


Locating the Madhyamaka Doctrine in Tantric Buddhism

Kyuma, Taiken (Mie University, Tsu-shi, Mie-ken, JPN)

As I have already pointed out (cf. Superiority of Vajrayāna - Part I: Some Remarks on the *Vajrayānāntadva¬ya¬nirā¬ka¬ra¬¬ṇa (rDo rje theg pa’i mtha’ gñis sel ba) Ascribed to Jñāna¬śrī¬-, in: Genesis and Development of Tantrism, Tokyo 2009, pp.469-485, esp. p. 479), a kind of tension between the vehicle of mantra and the Madhyamaka doctrine is found in the *Vajrayānāntadvayanirākaraṇa (rDo rje theg pa’i mtha’ gnyis sel ba), which is ascribed to Jñānaśrīmitra in Tibetan tradition. According to this text, the practice of māyopamadṛṣṭi is shared by both the vehicle of mantra and the Madhyamaka doctrine. However, this meditative condition is not easy to keep without the power of pledge (dam tshig) of the mind, and this is the crucial reason why the vehicle of mantra is regarded as superior to the Madhyamaka doctrine. By inquiring into some other materials relevant to this type of argument, this paper will, it is hoped, give a better understanding of how to locate the Madhyamaka doctrine in tantric Buddhism. A few preliminary remarks on the main focus of our panel will also be made at the beginning of this presentation.



Ratnākaraśānti’s Uses of “Madhyamaka” and “Yogācāra”

McNamara, Daniel (Emory University Graduate Division of Religion, Sunapee, USA)

The 10th-11th century scholar-siddha Ratnākaraśānti is a somewhat enigmatic figure in Buddhist thought. While his contributions to tantric literature have been studied extensively (particularly by Harunaga Isaacson), a broad-ranging treatment of Ratnākaraśānti’s philosophical views has yet to appear. This paper will briefly consider the different ways in which indigenous and academic scholars place Ratnākaraśānti’s thought into available categories before considering alternative means of understanding Ratnākaraśānti’s intellectual projects.

The earliest and most influential study of Ratnākaraśānti’s thought in English is Ruegg’s The Literature of the Madhyamaka School of Philosophy in India, which devotes a short appendix to what he calls Ratnākaraśānti’s “vijñapti-madhyamaka” (1981, 122-124), a label which continues to be used to describe Ratnākaraśānti’s philosophy. Ruegg also appears to be the first Western scholar to describe Ratnākaraśānti as explicitly arguing against Candrakīri, a theme expanded upon significantly in Kevin Vose’s recent work (Vose 2009, 34-35).

The problem with Ruegg’s argument is that the evidence for both the name “vijñapti-madhyamaka” and the apparent rivalry with Candrakīrti appears to rests on the translator’s colophon in the Tibetan translation of the Madhyamakālaṃkāropadeśa, rather than the author’s own colophon, which mentions only that he “composed this [treatise] for those who rely on valid knowledge (pramāṇa).” It provides no clue regarding Ratnākaraśānti’s scholastic alignments. In the translator’s colophon, however, we find significant clues, particularly at the very end: “[T]his is the Instructions on the Ornament of the Mahāyāna Cognition-Middle Way, well-composed with reasoning which destroys Candrakīrti. Later, the text was edited by the Kaśmīri Amogha and the translator ’O-ru.”

If I am reading them correctly, Ruegg and Vose conflate the translators’ descriptions of Ratnākaraśānti with the author’s own self-presentation. The influence of Ruegg’s work on more recent studies of Ratnākaraśānti’s thought has been significant, and this error alone should prompt scholars to revisit the manners in which Ratnākaraśānti’s thought is viewed and classified.

This paper will attempt to shed some light on how Ratnākaraśānti deploys the terms “madhyamaka” and “yogācāra,” in both philosophical and tantric literature (the latter including his commentaries on the Guhyasamāja and Hevajra tantras) in an effort to discern what these terms may have signified to himself and to the immediate readership of his time. It will also address the feasibility of the claim that Ratnākaraśānti was aware of both “tantric” and “non-tantric” Candrakīrtis and praised the latter while criticizing the former. It is my hope that this work will give scholars new grounds to re-consider how we discuss late Indian Buddhist philosophy


On the Tantric Works of Aśvaghoṣa Cited in Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna’s Works

Mochizuki, Kaie (Minobusan University, Yamanashi, JPN)

Though Aśvaghoṣa is well known as a Buddhist poet, we know also tantric works under this name, not only in Sanskrit but also in Tibetan and Chinese translations. These tantric works are said to be written by a different Aśvaghoṣa who is later than the author of the Buddhacarita.

I have already reported a problem of the transmission of these works that we can see in a work of Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna. That is to say, the contents of the Tibetan translation of the Daśākuśalakarmapathanirdeśa of Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna are completely identical with those of the Sanskrit version and the Chinese translation of the Daśākuśalakarmapathadeśanā of Aśvaghoṣa. Only the Tibetan translation of the latter is translated in verse style with an intention to attribute it to the famous poet.

Here I will point out another textual problem of another tantric work of Aśvaghoṣa, the Vajrayānamūlāpattisaṃgraha. Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna, in his commentary on it, the Mūlāpattiṭīkā, never refers to the author of the basic text. In its colophon it is not attributed to Aśvaghoṣa, but to Bhavideva. While we cannot identify who wrote it, it tells us that the basic text was not acknowledged as a work of Aśvaghoṣa in Tibet. The later Tibetan master, ’Phags pa Blo gros rgyal mtshan, wrote a commentary on the Gurupañcaśikā, which latter is known as a work of Aśvaghoṣa, but he refers to Bhavideva as the author of the basic text. Further, Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna explains the teaching of the root downfalls (mūlāpatti) in his Mūlāpattiṭīkā with many citations from the Gurupañcaśikā. This tells us that he acknowledges that both works are written by the same author, but it is not obvious whether Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna acknowledges the author of them as Aśvaghoṣa or not. And the author of the colophon of the Mūlāpattiṭīkā and the author of the commentary on the Gurupañcaśikā acknowledge their author as Bhavideva.

This means that the tantric works of Aśvaghoṣa have some problems of their traditions at least in the period of Dīpaṃkaraśrījñāna or later Tibetan Buddhism. In the Tibetan Tangyur there are some works attributed to famous Indian Buddhist masters, namely Nāgārjuna, Candrakīrti, etc., which seem to be written by other tantric masters. This may tell us that some later tantric masters wished they would have written tantric works as well. And we can confirm this also in the tantric works of Aśvaghoṣa.


‘Developmental’ versus ‘Revelatory’ Soteriology in the Kālacakra Tantra

Newman, John (New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida, USA)

“Sentient beings are buddhas...” (Śrī Kālacakra 5.66a). In what sense, if any, does buddhahood preexist in sentient beings? Tibetan emic scholars and buddhologists both consider this to be one of the key doctrinal issues in their reconstructions of late Indian Buddhism. One line of interpretation—which I designate as the ‘revelatory model’—holds that buddhahood is innate to sentient beings, and the path is primarily a process of removing impediments to the full manifestation of a primordially awakened condition. Another school of thought—advocating a ‘developmental model’—believes that sentient beings have a natural capacity to achieve buddhahood, but buddhahood itself is largely newly created, and the path centers on the transformation of an ordinary person’s constituents into a perfected state.

In Tibet various forms of these two models were expressed in a broad spectrum of doctrinal positions, and now buddhologists are beginning to explore the Indic roots of these views. The present paper examines the Indian texts of the Kālacakra tantra tradition, with an eye towards the gzhan stong interpretation of Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan. Dol po pa asserts that the Kālacakra is a foundational source for his view that “sentient beings are buddhas” in a strong sense, in line with his ‘revelatory model’ reading of Indian tathāgata-garbha scriptures. We will examine key portions of primary Indian Kālacakra texts to determine whether they suggest a ‘revelatory’ or a ‘developmental’ model of the actualization of buddhahood. In doing so we will need to be sensitive to context and the different uses of language—declarative, argumentative, philosophical, mystic-poetic, etc.—employed in these texts.

The primary objective of this paper is an initial assay of the original Indic Kālacakra tradition’s position with respect to the two models of the soteriology of buddhahood. However, we hope that it will also contribute to broader research into this problem in late Indian Buddhism as a whole. Insight into this issue has major ramifications for our understanding of the basic nature of the Vajrayāna form of Mahāyāna Buddhism (mantra-naya), as well as its structural and historical relationships with non-tantric Mahāyāna (pāramitā-naya).

With respect to the Vikramaśīla mahāvihāra in particular, legends recounting the initial reception of the Kālacakra suggest that some masters—notably including Ratnākaraśānti—rejected this tantra. By the end of the eleventh century, however, leading Vikramaśīla authorities such as Abhayākaragupta had incorporated the Kālacakra into the mainstream Vajrayāna tradition. Further investigation of the Kālacakra should help to illuminate both the doctrinal and the institutional history of late Indian Buddhism.


The Formation of Esoteric Buddhism within Mahāyāna Buddhism: An Interpretation of the Subāhuparipṛcchā

Sugiki, Tsunehiko (Nihonbashi Gakkan University, Chiba, JPN)

The Subāhuparipṛcchā (“Subāhu’s question”) is an esoteric or Tantric scripture of Mahāyāna Buddhist tradition compiled in around the sixth century.  Since it was composed in the early stage of the history of Tantric Buddhism, it gives information on some aspects of the process in which the base of esoteric Buddhism was formed.  The scripture begins with a Bodhisattva Subāhu’s question to Lord Vajra-holder or Vajrapāṇi, the king of Yakṣas, why practitioners of mantra and vidyā cannot attain their aims in spite of their great efforts.  Vajra-holder answers that no recitation of mantra or vidyā would be effective without observance of the principles (such as the production of the awakening mind, the ten good precepts and other rules) that are fundamental in the Mahāyāna system.  Subsequently he teaches many varieties of idea and practice: Some of them are the same as or derived from traditional Buddhist teachings, some of them are very likely to be from outside the Buddhist saṃgha or monastic society, and some of them have been on the border between the inside and the outside of the saṃgha.  Some of them are contradictory to each other.

The Subāhuparipṛcchā has not been studied enough.  There are only a few comprehensive studies of it.  According to a recent study comprehensively conducted in Japan, the scripture was compiled by a group of practitioners outside Buddhist monasteries who were from low castes; who had once been disciplinants of non-Mahāyāna Sectarian Buddhism and converted to Mahāyāna later; and who behaved as seekers for enlightenment and liberation in public but had a liking for magical practices bringing mundane successes in their hearts.  In this presentation I will challenge the interpretation of the Subāhuparipṛcchā mentioned above and put forward a more natural interpretation.  This is to clarify how “exoteric” elements and “esoteric” elements were related in the early stage of the history of Tantric Buddhism, when the concepts “pāramitānaya” and “mantranaya” had not been developed yet.

My interpretation can be summarized as follows:

[1] The Subāhuparipṛcchā was probably compiled by monks inside Buddhist monasteries.  Those monks were not necessarily practitioners of this scripture.  Rather, they argued how practitioners should be when they engaged in what was taught in this scripture.

[2] It appears that one of the main objectives of the compilation was to integrate varieties of belief and practice outside monasteries into, and those on the border more into, the traditional system of Mahāyāna Buddhism.  What was set up as the base for the integration was the observance of the principles of the Mahāyāna system (such as the production of the awakening mind, the ten good precepts and so on).  The diversity of practices, and hence the diversity of types of practitioner, were acknowledged in so far as the practitioners observed the Mahāyāna principles and had in mind their practices’ connection with the principles.  In this system the Mahāyāna principles serve as the source of effects, the moral base and legitimization of the practices.

[3] Vajrapāṇi, the king of Yakṣas, is the lord protector of Buddhism.  He protects what is inside Buddhism and faces what is outside.  He is positioned between the inside and the outside of Buddhism and, for this reason, is the best figure as the lord instructor of the Subāhuparipṛcchā whose objective is to integrate elements outside Buddhist monasteries into and elements on the border more into Buddhism.  The Subāhuparipṛcchā classifies the practitioners of this scripture as belonging to the Vajra lineage (vajrakula), which is the lineage of Vajrapāṇi.  The practitioners of the Subāhuparipṛcchā were given the identity as practitioners of the Vajra lineage, by which they were differentiated from others.


Progress Report on the Edition of the Śaṃvara

Szántó, Péter-Dániel (University of Hamburg/University of Oxford, Hamburg, GER)

In the summer of 2013, a discovery was made that seems to be of some significance for students of tantric Buddhism. In the library of the Institut d'Études Indiennes (Collège de France, Paris), among the manuscripts bequeathed by Sylvain Lévi, there is a witness of the Sarvabuddhasamāyogaḍākinījālaśaṃvara (or Śaṃvara/Saṃvara, as it is often referred to). The original of this fundamental text for the development of mature tantric Buddhism was generally assumed lost and thus far only the Tibetan translation has been studied. With the help of Alexis Sanderson, we (Szántó and Arlo Griffiths) are currently preparing an edition.

The paper is intended to share the results of this joint venture obtained thus-far, with special reference to the provenance of the manuscript, the possible reasons for its lying undiscovered, contextualization of the text itself (the influence of earlier literature on the text as well as the influence of the text itself on later literature), the doctrinal and practical innovations introduced by it, the relative chronology of classical exegesis on the scripture, and the significance of testimonia in the works of authors that can be associated with Vikramaśīla. A strong emphasis will be placed on the presence of exoteric Mahāyāna concepts and the way the text tries to blend these into its teachings.

Abhayākaragupta on Tantric Practice

Tanemura, Ryugen (Taisho University, Kawasaki-shi, Kanagawa, JPN)

It is well-known that tantric Buddhists claim superiority of tantric Buddhism to non-tantric Buddhism, but it is still uncertain in many respects how they made this claim. As heretical practices were taken into Buddhism and they formed the mainstream of late Indian Buddhism, the Buddhist followers of these practices had to explain not only why tantric practices are Buddhist but also why and how they are superior to traditional Buddhist practices.

One of the ways for tantric Buddhists to demonstrate that tantric practices are Buddhist is to claim that they are supported not only by tantric scriptures but also by non-tantric ones. The purpose of this paper is to examine what scriptures tantric Buddhists use to justify their practices in what contexts, mainly based upon works by Abhayākaragupta (1064 – 1125), especially the Āmnāyamañjarī, a large commentary on the Saṃpuṭa-/Saṃpuṭodbhavatantra. Through this examination, the present writer would like to offer some materials to investigate the relationship between tantric and non-tantric Buddhism in late Indian Buddhism.


Bhavyakīrti on Tantric Meditation and Means of Cognition

Tomabechi, Toru (International Institute for Digital Humanities, Tokyo, JPN)

At the XVIth IABS congress in Taiwan, we presented a paper introducing Bhavyakīrti's (10th-11th century?) subcommentary on the Pradīpoddyotana, a commentary on the Guhyasamājatantra, focusing on its doxographical aspects. As a sequel to it, the present paper will examine Bhavyakīrti's position concerning the relationship between Tantric practice and pramāṇa in his work. As a follower of the so-called Ārya School of the Guhyasamājatantra, Bhavyakīrti tries to demonstrate that each stage of the niṣpannakrama system expounded in the Pañcakrama can be ascertained as valid practice through pramāṇa. After presenting a pūrvapakṣa that the validity of tantric meditation cannot be established by either direct perception (pratyakṣa), inference (anumāna) or any other means of cognition, Bhavyakīrti argues that the five-step meditation of the Ārya School is indeed ascertained as valid by means of two types of direct perception, i.e. svasaṃvedana and yogipratyakṣa. In this paper, we shall analyse Bhavyakīrti's argument and focus upon the question as to how non-Tantric doctrines are used for supporting Tantric practices.



Luminosity in Late Indian Yogācāra: Is Reflexive Awareness Nondual?

Yiannopoulos, Alexander (Emory University, Atlanta, USA)

In his Pith Instructions for the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajñāpāramitopadeśa), Ratnākaraśānti—also known as the Mahāsiddha Śāntipa—explicitly links the four yogas of Yogācāra with the four stages of meditation described in the commentarial literature for the Guhyasamāja Tantra. While his presentation of the four yogas in the Pith Instructions for the Ornament of the Middle Way (Madhyamakālaṃkāropadeśa) does not make any direct reference to tantra, it closely follows the same pattern laid out in the former text. Crucial to his account of these stages is the notion of “luminosity” (prakāśa), an epithet or synonym for reflexive awareness (svasaṃvitti). Thus, for Ratnākaraśānti, reflexive awareness has two overlapping valences. First, it is an essential element of Buddhist pramāṇa theory; and second, it is a key facet of meditation—including tantric forms of meditation—on the nature of reality (tathātā).

A question thus emerges in relation to recent engagement with the concept of reflexive awareness among Western-educated scholars of Buddhism, namely: in light of this relationship between pramāṇa epistemology and meditation, to what extent is an understanding of reflexive awareness as intentional, i.e. as structured by subject-object duality, intelligible? Whether or not one follows Williams (1998) and Arnold (2005) in maintaining that reflexive awareness is analogous to the Kantian unity of apperception, and therefore necessarily entails the existence of a transcendental subject, the dominant trends of contemporary interpretation generally cast reflexive awareness as an intentional or object-oriented feature of consciousness. Thus, as Coseru (2012, 264) writes, “Even assuming that Dignāga has in mind a nonobjectifying or intransitive type of experience when he describes [reflexive] awareness… it is still the case that this is an intentional experience… Even assuming, on metaphysical rather than phenomenological grounds, that there could be non-intentional modes of awareness, these could not serve as the basis for intentional experience.”

However, as my paper will demonstrate, while such a view may be in accord with the insights of the Western phenomenological tradition, it is simply irreconcilable with the Buddhist understanding of the nature of the mind, at least as promulgated in Indian Buddhist pramāṇa theory and developed by the scholar-yogis of Vikramaśīla such as Ratnākaraśānti. Simply put, according to Śāntipa, not only can non-intentional modes of awareness (specifically, reflexive awareness) serve as the basis for intentional experience—they do form the basis of intentional experience. Moreover, it is precisely this non-intentional basis that forms the bridge between sūtra and tantra, since recognizing the nondual, luminous nature of experience ends up being the ultimate form of meditation on the nature of reality. As Ratnākaraśānti writes, “The experience of the luminous nature of all phenomena, empty of duality, is the authentic realization of the ultimate” (chos thams cad kyi gsal ba’i lus gnyis kyis stong pa myong ba gang yin pa de nyid don dam pa yang dag par rtogs pa yin). Dualistic or intentional interpretations of reflexive awareness therefore additionally fail to account for the key role svasaṃvitti plays in mediating between sūtric philosophy and tantric meditation.


IABS 2014 | Universitätsring 1  | 1010 Wien