11: Buddhist Sūtras

Thurs., Aug. 21st, 09:30-12:30

Throwing Dice for Divining One’s Karma – The Scripture on Divining the Retribution of Skillful and Negative Actions (T.839)

Guggenmos, Esther-Maria (International Consortium for Research in the Humanities, Erlangen, GER)

This paper will present results of my recent research on the Scripture on Divining the Retribution of Skillful and Negative Actions (Zhancha Shan'e Yebao Jing, T. 839) starting from the presentation of its textual basis. It will situate the sūtra shortly in its cultural context and delineate its cultural history with a special focus on 20th century and contemporary revivals. The Zhancha Shan'e Yebao Jing is clearly an indigenous scripture composed in China probably in the 80ties of the 6th century. While its first chapter describes a divination ritual that involves throwing dice in order to examine one's own karma in relation with a repentance ritual, its second chapter concentrates on a meditation process that unfolds in several stages. The sūtra was seen as of ambiguous origin in its beginning and later was given authoritative status. While is was practiced in Korea for some time, little is known about Chinese practice until the late Ming dynasty, when Ouyi Zhixu (1599-1655) devotes himself to its study and practice. In the 20th century the practice of divining one's karma by throwing dice is revived through Ven. Mengcan (*1915) with the support of Master Hongyi (1880-1942).


Lay Empowerment and the Ritualization of the Diamond Sutra in Medieval China

Ho, Chiew Hui (The University of Sydney, Sydney, AUS)

The Diamond Sutra is an important Mahāyāna sutra, which remains to this day one of the most influential Buddhist sutras in East Asia. A substantial body of narratives related to it appeared, circulated, and were compiled in Tang China, which reflected the extent to which it featured in the lives of people in that period. The writings of the lay compilers of these narratives exhibited an unusual audacity in articulating their views of Buddhism—traditionally the province of monastics—as they assumed greater responsibility for the propagation of the religion by their creation of Diamond Sutra lore. This paper explores the empowerment of Tang laity and its extent as demonstrated by the autonomy with which lay Buddhists modified, produced and distributed religious texts of the Diamond Sutra, which even prompted the monastic establishment to accommodate itself to the changes they brought about.


The Lotus Sutra Did Not Regard Itself as a Mahayana Text

Ishida, Chiko (Kansai University, Numazu, JPN)

There are basically three views on how the Lotus Sutra positions itself with regard to Mahayana thought. 1) The Lotus Sutra regards itself as representing the Mahayana (Great Vehicle), which it equates with the Buddha Vehicle and with the Bodhisattva Vehicle. 2) The Lotus Sutra regards itself as representing the Buddha Vehicle, and is critical of the Prajnaparamita sutras’ view of themselves as representing the Mahayana, which they equate with the Bodhisattva Vehicle. 3) The Lotus Sutra regards itself as representing the Mahayana (Great Vehicle), which it equates with the Buddha Vehicle but not with the Bodhisattva Vehicle. The reason that no consensus has yet been reached regarding which of these three competing views represents the true position of the Lotus Sutra is, I believe, because the discussion so far has focused entirely on interpretations of the text as a whole rather than on a close analysis of the textual materials. Now, however, the careful study of various alternative readings of the Lotus Sutra, facilitated by recent advances in research on the Prajnaparamita sutras, has made it possible to reassess the three positions outlined above and provisionally deduce that the Lotus Sutra’s consciousness of itself as a Mahayana text was weak.

This deduction draws on evidence that indicates it may be necessary to reconsider certain aspects of the traditional view of the Lotus Sutra’s place in the development of Buddhist thought (i.e., that it emerged in response to certain positions expressed in the Prajnaparamita sutras). This evidence includes disparities between certain prose passages and the corresponding verse passages with regard to the important concept of the Buddhist vehicles, disparities found in chapters 2 (“Skillful Means”) and 3 (“Parable”), two of the most ancient chapters in the Lotus Sutra. For example, in the prose section of chapter 2 the term “Three Vehicles” appears but no explanation of what this term means is found, and the term is not mentioned in the verse section; also, the prose section contains the term “Buddha Vehicle” but not the term “bodhisattva,” while the verse section contains the term “bodhisattva” but not the term “Buddha Vehicle.” Such disparities suggest that the Lotus Sutra took form during the period when the fundamental concepts of the Mahayana sutras (e.g., Three Vehicles, Great Vehicle, bodhisattva, etc.) were still in the process of formulation. In this presentation I discuss what aspects of the Lotus Sutra I see as original to the sutra itself (and as thus having arisen independently of any contact with the Prajnaparamita sutras) and what aspects I consider to have arisen later in response to Prajnaparamita influences.


Soteriological Transformation of the Mind-Body Complex in the “Samanta-mukha-parivarta” of the Lotus Sūtra

Tsai, Yao-ming (Department of Philosophy, National Taiwan University, Taipei, TWN)

This paper employs the “Samanta-mukha-parivarta” of the Lotus Sūtra as the main literary source to discuss, from a philosophical perspective, the unfolding and transformation of the mind-body complex to its fullest extent by way of Mahāyāna practices and soteriological applications. Through an analysis of this important work, this paper will illustrate various limitations and attachments entailed by ordinary or unskilled practices of knowledge attribution concerning the mind-body complex. It will then emphasize the significance of the role played by soteriology in Buddhist intellectual thought, and analyze how those limitations and attachments can be largely unpacked and totally transformed in the development of Buddhist soteriological paradigms. This, in turn, may open up new ways of understanding the mind-body complex. The structure of this paper is as follows: The introduction elucidates the theme and outline of this paper, while section two summarizes the main thesis of the “Samanta-mukha-parivarta,” including presenting a discussion of the structure, title, style, key concepts, and basic ideas of the text to ground or contextualize subsequent arguments in this paper. Section three demonstrates that the message conveyed by the “Samanta-mukha-parivarta” is an unfolding style of religious engagement. Section four elucidates how the concepts of mind, body and abiding-places produce a kindred system or network of thoughts and practices that can be unpacked through probing examination and analysis. Section five both investigates the characteristics of unfolding Bodhisattva practices exemplified by the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara and reflects on the scope of Bodhisattva practices from a philosophical perspective, probing the possibility of unpacking the mind-body complex to the highest levels of excellence. The final section concludes the main points of this inquiry.




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