19: Mahāyāna Buddhism

Tue., Aug. 19th, 09:00-15:30

“We Are Already Buddha”: What Does This Mean for an Unenlightened Mind?

Hinzelin, Sandy (Université Blaise Pascal, Clermont-Ferrand, FRA; École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, FRA)

In the de bzhin gshegs pa’i snying po stan pa – The Treatise on pointing out the Tathāgata Heart -  of the Third Karmapa (1284-1339), the tathāgatagarbha is defined as the essence of Vajrayāna. This path consists in taking the basis as the fruit, so we consider that we are already a Buddha and not an ordinary being. Therefore we should know what is the nature of mind, that is tathāgatagarbha, in order to apply this path in an appropriate way. However we could ask, how is it possible for an unenlightened mind, still struggling with duality, to imagine himself as enlightened from the beginning without grasping it? The basic functioning of the ordinary consciousness is indeed based on a wrong notion of self, which should be transformed. But the tathāgatagarbha teaching is only accessible by faith, and the risk is the development of blind faith and not the one which allows wisdom. So how does one develop a view of tathāgatagarbha which would be a support for transformation and not a support for a new kind of wrong identification still nourished by ignorance? How is it possible to actualize our potential through this kind of teaching and practice?  To treat these questions one is required to reflect on the path that consciousness should take. It is quite obvious that taking the statement “I am a Buddha” literally leads nowhere; accordingly we should examine what are the preparatory works or understandings to see the meaning of it. Through which stages must consciousness go to be able to practice Vajrayāna and finally to realize its true nature? This reflection is helpful to go deeper in the understanding of the mind’s liberation process but also to have a better horizon of the new subjectivity promised by the tathāgatagarbha teaching. In addition the snying po stan pa describes a realization which could seem very remote from ordinary experience; by trying to explore the concept of the nature of mind and the path leading from ignorance to wisdom, it could offer a better map.


Thoughts and Rituals of Ippen

Isomura, Keiko (Showa Women's University, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo, JPN)

Ippen (c. 1239–1289) was the last Buddhist monk among the Pure Land Buddhism leaders in Japan. Pure Land Buddhism is one of the major schools of medieval Japanese Buddhism.

Ippen spread Pure Land Buddhism among the people of all levels of society through dancing nembutsu and distributing block-printed inscriptions of Amida’s name. Although a large number of studies have been made on Shinran, little is known about Ippen in English. Ippes’s thought and his life need to be studied. No one can considere a religion without considering the nature of the place where it is practiced. I want to emphasize how deeply Ippen’s thought is connected to the nature of Japan. Not widely understood, for example, is the relation between Buddhism and Japanese gods. Ippen attained enlightenment by means of connecting with Kumano Gongen (Incarnation of the supernatural powers). He wandered through all parts of Japan to spread his thought. One can say that Buddhism took root by Ippen’s dancing nembutsu and spreading Amida’s name in Japanese society.


The Term ātman in Mahāyāna tathāgatagarbha Literature

Jones, Chris (Oxford University, Oxford, GBR)

This is an overview of my doctoral research, concerning the use of, and controversy surrounding, the term ātman in the Indian tathāgatagarbha literature. I am surveying those Indian sources which state that the term ātman is a fitting designator for the tathāgatagarbha (or, in some instances, buddha-dhātu), and also those Indian Buddhist texts which recognize and scrutinize this designation. For these purposes I am consulting Sanskrit texts where extant, and otherwise working in Tibetan and Chinese translations of key sources.

This entails close attention to parables and similes for understanding this reality, found in for example the Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra (along with its associated texts, the Aṅgulimālīya and Mahābherī Sūtra-s), and also more philosophically developed presentations of this designation, such as that found in the Ratnagotravibhāga Śāstra and its commentary (much informed by the Śrīmālā Sūtra). I am discerning how these texts present what they themselves recognize to be a contentious label for the tathāgatagarbha, and in turn how they qualify this sense of ātman to distinguish it from extraneous, non-Buddhist accounts of selfhood. Contrasting this with how other sources represent this aspect of the tathāgatagarbha tradition (e.g. in the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra), I assess how successfully the tathāgatagarbha literature avoids arriving at a doctrine incompatible with the prevailing denial of a notion of selfhood in the wider Buddhist tradition.

For the purposes of a short presentation, I will most likely highlight distinctions between the primary texts of my study and their use of the term ātman. This will entail also an account of how these texts view the relationship between their own account of a self and that of extraneous teachers with which (as the authors concede) it might be confused.

Eastern and Western Modes of Thought. Nagarjuna and Quantum Physics.

Kohl, Christian (Freiburg, GER)

1. Key term: ‘Emptiness’. The Indian philosopher Nagarjuna ( 2nd century BC ) is known in the history of Buddhism mainly by his keyword ‘sunyata’. This word is translated into English by the word ‘emptiness’. The translation and the traditional interpretations create the impression that Nagarjuna declares the objects as empty or illusionary or not real or not existing. What is the assertion and concrete statement made by this interpretation? That nothing can be found, that there is nothing, that nothing exists? Was Nagarjuna denying the external world? Did he wish to refute that which evidently is? Did he want to call into question the world in which we live? Did he wish to deny the presence of things that somehow arise? My first point is the refutation of this traditional translation and interpretation.

2. Key terms: ‘Dependence’ or ‘relational view’. My second point consists in a transcription of the keyword of ‘sunyata’ by the word ‘dependence’. This is something that Nagarjuna himself has done. Now Nagarjuna’s central view can be named ‘dependence of things’. Nagarjuna is not looking for a material or immaterial object which can be declared as a fundamental reality of this world. His fundamental reality is not an object. It is a relation between objects. This is a relational view of reality. Reality is without foundation. Or: Reality has the wide open space as foundation.

3. Key terms: ‘Arm in arm’. But Nagarjuna did not stop there. He was not content to repeat this discovery of relational reality. He went on one step further indicating that what is happening between two things. He gave indications to the space between two things. He realised that not the behaviour of bodies, but the behaviour of something between them may be essential for understanding the reality. This open space is not at all empty. It is full of energy. The open space is the middle between things. Things are going arm in arm. The middle might be considered as a force that bounds men to the world and it might be seen as well as a force of liberation. It might be seen as a bondage to the infinite space.



The Righteous Monk Army of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea, in the 16th Century

Lee, Jinwol (Dongguk University, Gyeongju, KOR)

This is a research on Euiseunggun (the Righteous Monk Army) of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), Korea, which was formed and worked for national defense against the Japanese invasion at the end of the 16th century. In general, Buddhist monks should live according to the Precepts of nonviolence in terms of the Vinaya. However, the history of Korea shows that Buddhist monks organized an army as a voluntary corps for protecting Buddhism and the people of the country from attacks by a foreign country. I will explore the background and process of emergence, activities and influence of the Righteous Monk Army focusing on the period from 1592 to 1598.

First, I will introduce the relationship between Buddhism and the Korean government as a characteristic of the Korean Buddhist tradition which is classified as a Mahayana Buddhist tradition. The spirit or sense of Hogukbulgyo (Protecting Nation Buddhism) is one of the local characteristics of Korean Buddhism, which is more concerned with the welfare and happiness of society as a whole than the individuals in terms of Mahayana Buddhism. It has persistedin Korea from its introduction in the 4th century to the present.

Second, I will review the background of the Euiseunggun in sociopolitical context. State policy and culture of administration of Joseon was based on Confucianism and promoted it. In contrast, Buddhism, the state religion of Goryo (937-1392), was suppressed and marginalized in the society. However, Buddhist leaders tried to protect and take care of people who were suffering to survive in hard situations. In fact, after the collapse of the government army, the monk army played an important role in restoring the national energy for defending the country. The Monk Army participated in combat during wartime and in constructing castles during peacetime. They thought t the defense of the Buddhist order could be possible through the defense of the country. I will bring up some instances of the significance of the eminent leadership and activity of the monk army, refering to, for example, the commanding leader of the corps, Seon (Chan/Zen) Master Cheongheo Hyujeong (1520-1604), Samyeong Yujeong (1544-1610), Giheo Yeonggyu (?-1592) and Noemuk Cheoyeong.

In conclusion, I will point out the reason why Buddhist monks took  part in the war; how they managed and justified their action; what they achieved in their mission; and what we should recognize as the significance of a monk army in the history whenr considering the present age. Aas a manifestation of Mahayana spirit, it could contribute to extending Buddhist activity in society and to drawing a comparison with Theravada and Vajrayana traditions in terms of compassion and skilful means for all the people around the world.


Right View (samyag-dṛṣṭi) and Correct Faith (śraddhā): Correspondence, Distinction, and Re-merging in East Asian Mahāyāna

Muller, Charles (University of Tokyo, Tokyo, JPN)

As a religious tradition, Buddhism is distinctively epistemological in its articulation of the causes of human suffering and in the solutions it offers. The most fundamental problem in Buddhism is that of nescience (avidyā), manifested in such ways as the clinging to a constructed self, along with numberless derivative problems. Therefore the matter of mentally constructed frameworks (dṛṣṭi) is central to Buddhist soteriological discourse. At the same time, the notion of faith (śraddhā), which in other religions tends strongly in the emotional/devotional directions, is, in Mahāyāna philosophy of mind, a category intimately related to right view. Mahāyāna Buddhism furthermore contains two distinct levels of discourse regarding right views and correct faith: that which occurs at the conventional (laukika/saṃvṛti) level and that which is seen at the transcendent (lokôttara/paramârtha) level of discussion. This paper starts out with the discussion of views and belief in the context of secular academic disciplines such as psychology and epistemology, and ends up with the most rarefied view in Zen, a distinctive Buddhist tradition, wherein, I argue, right view and correct faith become almost indistinguishable.


Narratives of Maitreya's Past Lives: An Analytical Study of Their Contexts and Motives

Tudkeao, Chanwit (Pali-Sanskrit Section, Faculty of Arts Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, THA)

Among Bodhisattvas, only Maitreya is well-known and accepted by both non-Mahayana and Mahayana traditions. As the successor of Śākyamuni Buddha, Maitreya’s future life is narrated in various versions among different Buddhist schools. Though there are a number of versions available, they share the common core story and motive. In contrast to narratives of his future life, there are a few narratives about his past life and they are quite unique. They must have been narrated under specific circumstances and purposes. In this paper, these narratives of Maitreya’s past lives are analytically studied, focussing on their contexts and motives, in order to comprehend their importance to Buddhist literature.


From Skepticism to Nihilism: An Epistemological Interpretation of Nāgārjuna’s Refutations

Ye , Shaoyong (Department of South Asian Studies, Peking University, Beijing, CHN)

On the basis of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā, I recommend a skeptic presupposition as the starting point of Nāgārjuna’s arguments, from which the ontological entities (svabhāva) could be viewed as referents of concepts. This position justifies the “confinement principle,” that a definition or description of a concept would necessarily confine its supposed referent to an isolated, invariable state. The principle enables Nāgārjuna to deduce contradictions between the static nature of the supposed referent and the activity or dependent relationship in which it must be involved. Hence Nāgārjuna finds all concepts self-contradictory and devoid of referents (niḥsvabhāva), and reaches a nihilistic conclusion that all dharmas are empty (śūnya), which means that nothing within our ken exists ontologically.


Faith – Practice – Other Power. Tathāgatagarbha Tradition and Pure Land Buddhism

Zapart, Jaroslaw (Jagiellonian University, Philosophy Department, Cracow, POL)

For the texts of the Tathāgatagarbha tradition the process of removing mental impurities, or kleśas, which is indispensable for the acquiring of enlightenment, is impossible without an active participation of the Tathāgata. Even the first text of this tradition – the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra – emphasizes the role of Buddha in the process of attaining the final goal by the practitioner, while the Śrīmālādevīsūtra mentions faith in Tathāgata’s liberating power as a means necessary to achieve enlightenment. The importance of faith – and at the same time perceiving the Buddha as an active, liberating force – can be associated with the large Sukhāvatīvyūhasūtra and its forty-eight vows of Dharmakāra, the Bodhisattva who became Buddha Amitābha. Amitābha’s vows served as an inspiration for Tanluan’s conception of “other power” (tali) – the compassionate activity of Buddha, which can free living beings from worldly suffering. The relationship between the  Tathāgatagarbha and the Pure Land tradition will be elaborated upon by the use of a scheme which shows the crucial importance of faith, the practice of visualizing (“remembering”, “commemorating”) the Buddha, and the role of Tathāgata as an external (or seemingly external) instance capable of promoting one’s own efforts towards achieving liberation. An original synthesis of both traditions will be shown, taking the teachings of Chan and Pure Land master Jixing Chewu (1741–1810) as a basis. A hypothesis will be presented, according to which “Tathāgatagarbha Buddhism” – as a form of practice – is an intermediate phase between the “classic” Buddhist type of practice, based on one’s own efforts (shōdomon, according to Honen), and a type of practice which primarily puts emphasis on entrusting oneself to Buddha (jōdomon). It will be posited that the crucial Pure Land practice of nianfo may be understood as a way of “updating” the inherent Buddha-nature. 


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