Reformulations of Yogācāra in Tibet

Wed., Aug. 20th, 16:00-17:30

Differentiating the Middle from the Extremes: Tibetan Scholasticism and the Non-Sectarian (Tib. Ris med) Tradition

Brownell, Paul (The Australian National University, Hackett, AUS)

In this paper, I will discuss a number of issues on the changing nature of Tibetan monastic curricula in the early 20th century and reformulations of Yogācāra in Tibet. The key areas of discussion will be: (1) Yogācāra (Tib. rnal ’byor spyod) Buddhism, specifically the text Differentiating the Middle from The Extremes (Tib. Dbus dang mtha’ rnam par ’byed pa; Skt. Madhyāntavibhāga); (2) doxography; (3) the non-sectarian tradition; and (4) the 19th/20th century Tibetan Buddhist polymath Khenpo Shenga (Tib. mkhan po gzhan dga’, 1871-1927). This paper will focus on Yogācāra (Tib. rnal ’byor spyod) Buddhism and Tibetan scholasticism in the 19th and 20th centuries. I will demonstrate how various issues from within the four categories listed above allowed one key Yogācāra text to re-enter Tibetan monastic curricula. My argument will be that the contemporary inclusion in Tibetan monastic curricula of the text Differentiating the Middle from the Extremes and other Yogācāra texts (in the Nyingma, Sakya, and Kagyu traditions, which was different to how Yogācāra treatises were studied in the Gelugpa tradition) occurred as a result of the re-shaping of Tibetan scholasticism by Khenpo Shenga, who was influenced by the non-sectarian tradition and some of its key proponents. Consistent with my analyses of parts of the commentaries of Vasubandhu and Khenpo Shenga on the Yogācāra text Differentiating the Middle from the Extremes as a meditation manual (which is in line with the so-called emphasis that the non-sectarian tradition placed on meditation practice), connections between the text and the non-sectarian tradition will be made.


Gotra in the Abhisamālaṃkāra: Reflections on a Tenets-Based Approach to Interpretation

Gilks, Peter (I-Shou University, Kaohsiung, TWN)

The Abhisamālaṃkāra (AA) I:36~37 is an important textual source for Madhyamaka presentations of the substratum (ādhāra) of Mahāyāna practice, otherwise known as lineage (gotra). In contrast with texts such as the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, which teach a doctrine of three distinct lineages corresponding to three final enlightenments, the AA identifies lineage with the sphere of undifferentiated reality (dharmadhātu), thereby teaching a doctrine of one final vehicle (ekayāna). Taking (AA) I:36~37 as the textual focus of this paper, I then compare and contrast a number of Tibetan commentaries, particularly those by Tsongkhapa, the Eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje, and Shakya Chogden. Attention is given to the way in which these writers use a hierarchy of tenet systems as a hermeneutic framework with which to interpret the verses, thereby distinguishing what they see as the highest form of Madhyamaka from Yogācāra. Some of the limitations associated with their exegetical approach are highlighted. The problems are further accentuated when writers attempt to classify Indian Buddhist śāstras such as the AA as belonging to one system or another. The discussion in this section concludes with a consideration of some further criticisms of the doxographical genre that have been expressed by several contemporary scholars. Next, some the genre's positive aspects are considered, including the way in which it has enabled some Tibetan thinkers to define their own philosophical positions and even create new interpretive frameworks through their unique systematisations of tenets. With an awareness of how text, reader and interpretive framework come together to create meaning, it is argued that modern scholars can also make use of tenet systems to help understand and explain passages such as AA I:36~37. Ultimately, however, I argue that the scholastic nature of the genre means that traditional and contemporary commentators tend to focus on saying what texts are (e.g., classifying them as Yogācāra, etc.) at the expense of seeing what they do. Stepping outside of the tenets-based approach, I argue that we can gain a better insight into the AA not by trying to view it (as a number of prominent scholars have done) as a Yogācāra-Svātantrika-Mādhyamika text, but by looking at its function. Instead of seeing it as a synthesis of Madhyamaka and Yogācāra doctrines, some of the mystery surrounding this important and influential text can be reduced by seeing it as an attempt to supplement the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras by delineating a distinct Mahāyāna path where none is expressed, thereby constructing a Mahāyāna worldview that is at least as encompassing as any presentation of tenets.


Phywa-pa Chos-kyi-seng-ge’s Depiction of Yogācāra Philosophy

Werner, Eric (Hamburg University, Hamburg, GER)

Widely known as an abbot of gSang-phu Ne’u-thog, Phywa-pa Chos-kyi-seng-ge (1109 – 1169) rose to fame for his achievements in the field of Pramāṇa. His scholarly and literary activities, however, show clearly that this was not his solely concern. As descendant of the tradition of Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla, who were mostly (but not exclusively) identified by the Tibetan tradition as proponents of Yogācāra-Madhyamaka, Phywa-pa’s works exhibit familiarity with and discussions of typical Yogācāra notions.

The paper seeks to explore Phywa-pa’s assessment of Yogācāra-Philosophy, and thus offers a glimpse into its treatment in early twelfth-century Tibet. Beginning with the doxographical perspective, I shall summarize Phywa-pa’s treatment of Yogācāra philosophy in his bDe bar gshegs pa dang phyi rol pa’i gzhung rnam par ’byed pa (i.e. Phyi nang gi grub mtha’ ), including his scheme of Yogācāra sub-schools and the prevalent terminology employed by him—from the Abhidharmic scheme of the five topics of knowables (shes bya gzhi lnga), to the triple-mind scheme (blo gsum), which latter is held to be Phywa-pa’s own invention. Hence, Phywa-pa’s depiction shall be put in a larger context of the history of the reception and transmission of Yogācāra philosophy in Tibet, particularly beginning from the tenth century to the times of the sNar-thang scholars bCom-ldan Rig-pa’i-ral-gri (1227 –1305) and dBus-pa-blo-gsal (fourteenth century).

Phywa-pa’s treatment of and his points of criticism towards the Sākāravāda – and Nirākāravāda – branches are not restricted to his doxographical work alone, but are also found in his other works, for example the dBu ma shar gsum, his commentary on the Madhyamakālaṃkāra, or his Yid kyi mun sel, his renowned synoptic work on Buddhist logic and epistemology. His further depictions of and objections raised against various Yogācāra notions — such as his assessment of the Three Nature Model, or his discussions related to the question of cognitive images (rnam pa: ākāra) – will be examined and its sources traced. In addition, the paper also intends to look into how Phwya-pa’s works and ideas have been received by or transmitted in later Tibetan works, such as disciple mTshur-ston gZhon-nu-seng-ge’s (1150 – 1210) Tshad ma shes rab sgron ma, or Klong-chen-pa’s (1308 – 1363) Grub mtha’ mdzod.

The paper will thus provide a concise sketch of a depiction of Yogācāra philosophy by a bKa’-gdams-pa master of the twelfth century, a time of considerable scholarly activity, whose influence for later developments is yet to shine through. 


IABS 2014 | Universitätsring 1  | 1010 Wien