Transference and Transmission in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist "Philosophical" Traditions

Fri., Aug. 22nd, 09:00-15:30

An Understanding of Buddha-Nature in the Theg chen rgyud bla'i don bsdus pa

Cha, Sangyeob (Geumgang University, Nonsan-city, Chungnam, KOR)

In the 12th century, the Tibetan Buddhist master rNgog Blo ldan shes rab (1059-1109) wrote the Theg chen rgyud bla'i don bsdus pa, the first Tibetan commentary on the Buddha-nature, in order to introduce his Tibetan students to the theory of tathāgatagarbha. Modern scholarship has focused on the facsimile reprint from a xylograph version, but has neglected rNgog Blo ldan shes rab’s commentary on the Ratnagotravibhāga that is included in the collection of the bKa ʼgdams gsung ʼbum. I shall here present the various meanings of Buddha-nature in the text published in the bKa' gdams gsung 'bum.


The Tibetan Reception of Āryadeva’s Catuḥśataka in Tibet: Transmission and Interpretation

Dorjee, Choying (Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö Institute, Chauntra, HP, IND)

The Catuḥśataka is the main work of Āryadeva, Nāgārjuna’s disciple. It is composed of sixteen chapters and represents one of the major early treatises of Indian Madhyamaka. This important text has been commented by Candrakīrti and Dharmapāla, the former criticizing the latter for having deviated from Āryadeva’s intended meaning. Although the Catuḥśataka has been less commented than other major Madhyamaka works in Tibet, a few commentaries of this treatise have been composed over a period of 500 years by Tibetan scholars, such as Red mda’ ba gZhon nu blo gros (1349-1412), rGyal tshab Dar ma rin chen (1364-1432), gZhang dga’ gZhan phan chos kyi snang ba (1871-1927), Kaḥ tog mkhan po Ngag dbang dpal bzang (1879-1941), and Bod sprul bsTan pa’i nyi ma (1898?-1959). Tibetan commentaries generally follow Candrakīrti’s Catuḥśatakavṛtti. However, in some particular instances they occasionally present various interpretations of some specific technical term or important concept (e.g., nirvāṇa), or use slightly different classification schemes, offering a glimpse into the complexities of the Tibetan hermeneutical debate regarding the understanding and presentation of the notion of emptiness in the context of Mādhyamika philosophy. The objective of this paper is to identify and present some key issues related to the dynamic concept of lineage transmission and transference of ideas in the Tibetan commentaries of Āryadeva’s Catuḥśataka. 


Entangled Textual Genealogies and Spiritual Lineages in the Tibetan Hermeneutical Discourse: The Transmission, Transformation, and Appropriation of Yogācāra-Madhyamaka Ideas by ’Ju Mi pham rnam rgyal rgya mtsho

Forgues, Gregory (University of Vienna, Vienna, AUT)

This paper deals with the transformation and appropriation by ’Ju Mi pham rnam rgyal rgya mtsho (1846–1912) of Śāntarakṣita’s (8th c.) Yogācāra-Madhyamaka (i.e., a synthesis of Madhyamaka, Yogācāra, and Pramāṇa). Tibetan scholars interpreted Indian Buddhist systems of thought through various hermeneutical approaches involving processes of inclusion or exclusion. Mi pham, one of the greatest scholars of the rNying ma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, is famous for having skillfully integrated various philosophical systems that were traditionally perceived as incompatible. His approach to Madhyamaka was strongly influenced by Śāntarakṣita as well as by his experience of rDzogs chen. His project therefore raises important questions as to why he went against the mainstream Tibetan interpretations of his time by giving to Śāntarakṣita’s syncretic approach such a prominent position in his own system. The aim of this paper is not simply to retrace the textual genealogy of Yogācāra-Madhyamaka concepts from a philological and historical perspective in order to show the flow of ideas between Mi pham and Śāntarakṣita. It is also to determine through corpus-linguistic discourse analysis the ‘lines of dispersion’ of Madhyamaka ideas in space (between Himalayan regions), in time (between the 8th and 19th centuries), and in ‘mind’ (between Buddhist traditions) as well as the specific processes of cultural transmission and transformation, resemantization, and cultural appropriation taking place in Mi pham’s philosophical project. Cultural transfers, in the present context, are multifaceted. The objective of this presentation is to show how the play of ideas in Mi pham’s work deals with hermeneutical tensions related to theoretical and soteriological issues resulting from the social, institutional, and intellectual environments of the target culture and how these interactions contributed to shape Mi pham’s exposition of the two truths (satyadvaya).


Luminosity from India to Tibet According to Sgam po pa Rin chen dpal’s Bstan bcos lung gi nyi ’od: A Case Study for Tracing Back “Philosophical” Doctrine over Time and Space

Kemp, Casey (University of Vienna, Vienna, AUT)

In general, this paper will present a diachronic process of semantic transference through a philological analysis. This transference not only took place over time and space between two distinct geographic regions (India and Tibet), but parallel to this terrestrial process another transference occurred in the ephemeral scape of Buddhist hermeneutics in which the dynamic between doctrine and practice were forced to be renegotiated in a new cultural climate.

Through analyzing the Indian sources directly quoted by a primary Tibetan figure on the doctrine of luminosity, the mind as naturally luminous, this presentation will map the process of legitimation, institutionalization, and hybridization of Indian sūtric and tantric concepts into a cohesive paradigm that shaped perceptions of practical and philosophical values in the Tibetan religious realm.

The Bka’ brgyud Mahāmudrā tradition is widely regarded to have been systematized by Sgam po pa Bsod nam rin chen dpal (1079-1153), who combined the monastic institutional system of the Bka’ gdams pa lineage with the tantric and Mahāmudrā oriented yogic tradition of the early Bka’ brgyud masters. Texts attributed to him are generally considered to outline the normative views of the Dwags po Bka’ brgyud tradition. During his time, great effort was made to legitimize “philosophical” views as authentically “Buddhist” through tracing Indian antecedents that supported such assertions, particularly in regards to contested interpretations such as those related to the notion of buddha nature. Luminosity, or the luminous mind, makes for a particularly interesting case study since the defining characteristics and doctrinal relations associated with the concept continues to be a point of debate among various Tibetan traditions.

Referring back to Indian textual material has shaped the doctrine behind concepts and continues to be a primary methodology employed in Tibetanized religious communities. This presentation will critically examine this method for studying Buddhist transference in the Tibetan realm by looking at one passage from Sgam po pa’s Bstan bcos lung gi nyi ’od (“Sunlight of Treatises and Scriptures”) which is dedicated to presenting the concept of luminosity. This text is 27 folios in length, and includes over 254 quotations from authoritative Indian scriptures. From this work that Kragh (2013) has termed a florilegium, three folios are dedicated to the concept of luminosity.

Sgam po pa’s extensive use of Indian citations ascribed to the Buddha, as well as his own position of authority as a realized master for Dwags po Bka’ brgyud adherents, demonstrates a notable process of standardization of religious ideas. It is therefore necessary to investigate the transference of Buddhism through examining this method of legitimation and its implications in order to explore how semantic frameworks are formed in a Tibetan Buddhist Indo-centric system which is reliant on a direct lineage transmission that can be traced back to a fully awakened omniscient being.


Bonpos’ Absorption and Development of the Buddhist Theory: From Abhidharma to Mādhyamika Thoughts

Kumagai, Seiji (Kyoto University, Kyoto, JPN)

The Bon religion had existed in Tibet before the arrival of Buddhism, and it later absorbed Buddhist doctrine and created its own doctrine. The following questions need to be answered: (1) How were Buddhist doctrines adopted by the Bonpos? (2) Which part of these doctrines come from Buddhist theories? (3) Which parts are the unique theories of the Bonpos? This paper analyzes the process of the adaptation of Buddhist theories, from Abhidharma to Mādhyamika.

As for the Abhidharma theories, this paper presents the characteristics of Bonpo doctrine. In his Bon sgo gsal byed, Tre ston rgyal mtshan dpal (14th cen.) presents Abhidharma theory which resembles that of the Buddhist Yogācāra school rather than that of the Vaibhāṣika school, as for instance in the number of each Abhidharmic category. However, its contents differ in the details from those of the Buddhist Yogācāra school.

Concerning the Mādhyamika thoughts, this paper focuses on the theory of two truths: the absolute truth and the conventional truth. The paper presents two types of Bonpo scripture: one gives the theory of two truths of the Svātantrika-mādhyamika school and the other gives that of the Prāsaṅgika-mādhyamika school. Because this classification of Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika developed in Tibet, it would seem that Bonpos took most of their theory of the two truths from Tibetan Buddhism, rather than from Indian Buddhism. However, Bonpos seem to have referred not only to Tibetan Buddhist scriptures but also to Indian Buddhist ones, because they cite some passages directly from Indian Buddhist texts. On the other hand, the remarkably detailed subdivisions of the two truths are found in neither Indian nor Tibetan Buddhist scriptures. In this respect, Bonpos also seem to have developed their own original ideas.

This paper thus presents the process how Bonpo thinkers created their own doctrine by absorbing and arranging Buddhist philosophical thoughts.


A Seventeenth Century Criticism on the Tibetan Reception of Buddhism – Tāranātha’s Ornament of Gzhan stong Madhyamaka

Scheuermann, Rolf (University of Vienna, Vienna, AUT)

Works such as his famous History of Buddhism in India (Rgya gar chos ’byung) have placed Jo nang Rje btsun Tāranātha Kun dga’ syning po (1575–1634) among the highest regarded religious scholars of the Tibetan Buddhist community. Opinions are however divided on his activities to revive Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan’s (1292–1361) contested presentation of a Great Madhyamaka (dbu ma chen po) or Madhyamaka of the Emptiness of Other (gzhan stong dbu ma). Tāranātha was not only a historian, controversial philosopher, and reformer, but also lived during a time of political unrest that posed a serious threat to his Jo nang tradition, culminating in its nearly complete decline with the rise of Dge lugs supremacy. His monastery Rtag brtan phun tshogs gling was forcefully converted to the Dge lugs tradition shortly after his demise, and the associated printing house was thus closed down and sealed.

This paper centers on Tāranātha’s Ornament of Gzhan stong Madhyamaka (Gzhan stong dbu ma’i rgyan), a short work of 107 verses written in 1604. It is said to have been inspired by a meditative experience and vision of Dol po pa, and the author therein attempts to delineate and defend his controversial Madhyamaka system. A commentary by ’Brog dge kun dga’ dpal bzang (1629–1686) seems to have existed, but is presently unavailable. There exists however a companion text by Tāranātha called Scriptural Support Connected to the Ornament of Gzhan stong Madhyamaka (Gzhan stong dbu ma’i rgyan gyi lung sbyor) containing various quotations meant to support the ideas expressed in the Ornament of Gzhan stong Madhyamaka.

The study will mainly focus on Tāranātha’s critical remarks concerned with the reception of Buddhism in Tibet. A Sanskrit scholar and translator, Tāranātha had contact with Buddhist and non-Buddhist Indian pundits, which is quite extraordinary for a Tibetan scholar of his time. Owing to his keen interest and knowledge of Indian literature, he openly challenges notions already accepted by the Tibetan intellectual mainstream, such as the Tibetan doxographic classification for major Indian Buddhist philosophical trends, and the approach of equating Yogācāra with the so-called Cittamātra. Based on selected excerpts from the Ornament of Gzhan stong Madhyamaka, this paper will give an overview of Tāranātha’s main criticism with respect to the Tibetan appropriation of Indian Buddhist traditions. Serving as an outstanding example for cultural transfer between India and Tibet in the 17th century, his attempted re-negotiation between source and target culture will be closely examined.

What Was Vimalakīrti’s Room Empty of? : Reconsidering the Meaning of Emptiness in the Vimalakīrtinirdeśasūtra 

Saito, Akira (Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, University of Tokyo, JPN)

The Sanskrit text of the Vimalakīrtinirdeśasūtra is composed of 12 chapters in total. Of them the 4th chapter titled “Visiting [Vimalakīrti] to inquire after his health” is no doubt pivotal in that Mañjuśrī, bodhisattva of the best intelligence, visited and talked with Vimalakīrti over the meaning of emptiness (śūnyatā) in rather an enigmatic way. Although the three Chinese and one Tibetan translations of this scripture give us no decisive clue to solve this question, the present paper will cast a new light on the hitherto undecided meaning of emptiness used in the above passage on the basis of a newly discovered Sanskrit manuscript.


An Entangled Buddhist History: Shangs pa Lineage Networks, Transmission Strategies, and Their Records of Reception in Tibet

Sheehy, Michael (Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, Cambridge, MA, USA)

The Shangs pa Bka’ brgyud lineage, as Matthew Kapstein has described, is like “some vine that adorns a whole forest without being able to stand by itself,” so much so that it “may strike one who follows its twists and turns as being virtually an omnipresent element in Tibetan Buddhism.” Continuing with this analogy, this paper begins to trace the twists and turns of the Shangs pa’s entangled history from its reception in India and formidable institutional origins at the time of its founder, Khyung po Rnal ‘byor (1050-1127), to its later assimilation into mainstream Buddhist traditions with virtually no institutionalized presence of its own in Tibet. In so doing, we look at the networks and strategies that the Shangs pa employed to transfer their lineage of “philosophical” knowledge through the generations and across the Tibetan plateau.

Though the hagiography of Khyung po Rnal ‘byor reputes that he founded one hundred and eight monasteries throughout Tibet, only a few historical sites of the Shangs pa are known to exist today, many of which lie in ruins. Considering this history, this paper seeks to address critical questions such as, “Why did the institutional presence of the Shangs pa wane?” and “What forces both contributed to this waning, as well as to the continuity of the Shangs pa lineage transmissions?”

To begin the processes of untangling Shangs pa history, we investigate strategies employed in negotiating the Buddhist transmission of philosophical and esoteric knowledge, and how such negotiations formed social networks that sustained the Shangs pa. Special attention will be given to how the transmission of the Shangs pa lineage of thought and praxis continued without the support of monastic institutions. 
While drawing from a range of Shangs pa historical sources, we highlight the lineage networks recorded by Kun dga' grol mchog (1507-1565) in his work on the transmissions that he received (gsan yig) titled Bstan pa'i Nor bdzas (A Bounty of Teachings). By looking at this rare work, that has only recently surfaced from Tibet, we investigate how the Tibetan literary genre of gsan yig or “records of reception,” serve as particularly rich sources for understanding the sociology of Buddhist knowledge and Buddhist transmission history. In so doing, this paper concentrates on the recompilation of Tibetan knowledge about the early Shangs pa lineages in order to begin the processes of untangling select knots that have come to inhibit a better historical vision of the reception of this Buddhist tradition’s philosophical import from India, and its continuation in Tibet

Modernizing the Vinaya Pitaka? A Historical Review of the Paradoxes and Dilemmas of Modifying the Practice of the Vinaya with Scriptural Basis in the Contemporary World

Yang, Che-ming (Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, TWN); Bhiksu Shih Fa-tzang (Abbot, Wan-fo Monastery, The 46th Patriarch of the Tian-Tai Lineage)

With the rapid development of transportation and electronic communication (e.g., internet) in modern times, people’s nature, thought, and karma have changed enormously when compared with people in the Buddha’s times. Therefore, while skillfully preaching the Dharma to people in the contemporary world, all the Buddhist monasteries worldwide are facing great challenges in their endeavor to maintain the essence of the Vinaya—the foundation of practicing the Dharma—in terms of helping practitioners to consummate detachment from desire and cessation of dukkha. Given the basis of “Only-Buddha Vehicle” (Mahayana), this paper aims to incorporate and consult both Mahayana and Theravada Tripitaka (Sutra Pitaka, Vinaya Pitaka, Abhidharma Pitaka) to re-examine the Buddha’s original ideas of “honoring the culture-specific Vinaya,” “renouncing the minor precepts,” and so on, as recorded in the earliest Vinaya texts, in the hopes of re-confirming four “orthodox” approaches recognized by the Buddha to renouncing and modifying the Vinaya according to the Dharma practitioners’ differences in time, region, and condition. More importantly, departing from the Buddha’s original teaching, this paper re-examines three occasions, twelve principles, and five defects to be prevented, for conducting an orthodox renunciation and modification of the Vinaya in order to bring about new perspectives on practicing the Vinaya for all Dharma practitioners in contemporary society. Meanwhile, this paper surveys four paradoxes/dilemmas of “updating” the Vinaya that Buddhists worldwide, religious and secular, are facing in order to arouse the awareness of those who are devoted to solving the possible challenges to prevailing Buddhism. Solving these challenges could help us achieve the objective of rendering the Dharma eternally abiding and prevailing.


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