Mahayana - Mahyna Buddhism Emergence of the "Great...

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Unformatted text preview: Mahyna Buddhism Emergence of the "Great Vehicle" In Central Asia and China From Abhidharma (via Mysterious Learning m ) ^ to Prajnaparamita Abhidharma Tripitaka m ^ Sutra m ^ Vinaya m ^ Abhidharma m ^ Body of literature representative of a particular world-view Appeared between Asoka (3rd c. BCE) and Kanishka (1st or 2nd c. CE) Abhidharma This literature seems to have grown up out of technical lists of terms, perhaps as mnemonic devices which provided the framework for: Teaching Systematic exegesis through discussion Systematic meditation Abhidharma The breakdown of reality into its consituent parts. Positing a distinction between what appears to be true and what is really the case ( m ) ^ Conventional truth samvrti m m ^ Ultimate truth paramartha m m ^ The constituent building blocks are dharmas In Theravada there are 81 conditioned dharmas and one unconditioned dharma Abhidharma Dharmas divided into: Physical constituents--28 dharmas including the four gross elements (earth, water, air, fire) agility, elasticity, malleablitity, material food and so on. Mental consituents--52 dharmas, 25 morally good, including non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion (the opposites of the three root poisons), faith, mindfulness, compassion, fourteen morally bad, including wrong views; and 13 morally neutral which gain coloring depending on the dharmas to which they are cojoined. Consciousness, the last conditioned constituent, which like all other coniditioned dharmas arises, remains for a split second, and ceases, to be replaced by another consitiuent of the same type. Abhidharma The monk developing insight medition, wishing to see things the way they really are, develops the ability constantly to analyse his experiences into their consituent parts. He is said to dwell peacefully, observing the rising and falling dharmas, thereby dissolving the objects of his attachments and cutting the root of desire. Thus, by learning to see things the way they really are he brings his ignorance to an end. With the cessation of ignortance, craving ceases and the meditator attains nirvana and becomes a saint, an Arhat. Origins and Meaning Mahyna = "great vehicle" Hinayna = "small vehicle" pejorative label; Theravada or Nikya Buddhism preferred "Second turning of the Wheel" (sermon on Vulture Peak) Origins obscure; 1st century CE Continuity AND difference Nikya & Mahyna Handout Spread of Buddhism Buddhism in Asia--Legend Basic Characteristics 1. Bodhisattva ideal: one whose being (sattva) is enlightenment (bodhi) 2. New conceptions of Buddha 3. New philosophy: ontological assumptions of interrelation, one-ness, non-duality 4. Tolerance: wide variety (upya) 5. Theoretically, more open to laypeople 6. New literature The Bodhisattva One whose being (sattva) is enlightenment (bodhi) Crucial virtues: wisdom (praj) and compassion (karuna) Critical of arhant Three Vehicles The Bodhisattva 1. Disciples (sravakas) 2. Private Buddhas (pratekya-Buddhas) 3. Bodhisattvas Lotus Sutra: One vehicle above only expedient means (upya) to the one vehicle (Bodhisattva Buddhahood) The Bodhisattva Path Arouse bodhicitta (aspiration for enlightenment): four vows 1. Vow to save all sentient beings ("May I achieve Buddhahood for the sake of all other beings") 2. Vow to extinguish defilements 3. Vow to master teachings 4. Vow to achieve enlightenment The Bodhisattva Path Six Perfections 1. Giving (dana): food, courage, Dharma 2. Moral conduct (vinaya): spirit vs. letter 3. Patience (in face of persecution) 4. Courage 5. Mental concentration (e.g., meditation) 6. Wisdom Other models (10, 42, 52 stages) The Bodhisattva Path Path becomes more important than destination Numerous advanced bodhisattvas Maitreya: future Buddha in Tuita Heaven Avalokitevara (compassion) (Guanyin; Kannon) Manjuri (wisdom) Maitreya Avalokitevara (Guanyin) Manjuri Reconceptions of Buddha Becomes "deified"? Impulse arises as move from B's time idealize Buddha: supernatural powers, emit light, simultaneous appearance effort to bring closer Loses singularity: billions of worlds, so... Tri-kya theory (Three body) ThreeBody (Trikya) Theory 1. Manifest-body (Nirmana-kya): manifestations of Buddha in this world (e.g., Shakyamuni) 2. Bliss-body (Sambhoga-kya): manifestations in other worlds (e.g., Amitbha; J: Amida) 3. Dharma-body (Dharma-kya): infinite body, beyond time and space (Vairocana; J: Dainichi) New Philosophy Early Buddhism: Dependent origination (pratitya-samutpada) If this is, then that arises Two approaches ontological explanation: nothing exists independently; interdependence soteriological (related to salvation) explanation: arising of suffering and its cessation New Philosophy Abhidharma: 18-20 schools; analysis of consciousness; dharma classifications (presume existence) Mahyna critique: Abhidharma leads to clinging unyt (emptiness): reformulation of dependent origination dharmas lack own being (svabhva) Perfection of Wisdom Sutras (Prajpramit) "The very means and objects of emancipation are apt to turn into new objects and channels of craving. Attainments may harden into personal possesions; spiritual victories and achievements may increase one's self-conceit; merit is hoarded as a treasure in heaven which no one can take away; enlightenment and the Absolute are misconstrued as things out there to be gained. In other words, the old vicious trends continue to operate in the new spiritual medium. The Prajpramit is designed as the antidote to the more subtle forms of self-seeking which replace the coarser forms after the spiritual life has grown to such maturity." Edward Conze (Selected Sayings, p. 18) Prajparamit The literature is the message of the dharmabhanaka rather than a theorist or philosopher. That is, it is more an exhortation than philosophy. The sermon has three principle themes: perfection of wisdom prajnaparamita the content is sunyata emptiness the context is the path of the bodhisattva 1. Perfection of Wisdom Prajna is the state of mind that comes from properly understanding something. It is the correct discernment of the true situation, the ultimate way of things. In terms of abhidharma it is the state of mind understanding primary existents. 2. Emptiness The perfection has to do with really understanding the way things are, i.e., empty. Empty of Self Irreducible primary existence. It is the state of consciousness which results from this understanding. It is the distinction between knowing that and knowing how. 3. Bodhisattva Path [see handout] In Mahayana, ultimate prajna and prajnaparamita are the same. The various paramitas are exercises and experiences toward this understanding but directed toward others. He develops skill-in-means or skilful means upya-- the ability to adapt himself and his teachings to the level of his hearers, without attachment to any particular doctrine or formula as being necessarily applicable in all cases. There is a distinct contrast or proportionality between the greatness of one's abilities and selflessness of one's being. The Prajpramit Weltanschauung "The metaphysics of the prajnaparamita is in fact the metaphysics of the vision and the dream: a universe of glittering and quicksilver change is precisely one that can only be described as empty. The vision and the dream become tools to dismantle the hard categories we impose upon reality, to reveal the eternal flowing possiblity in which the Bodhisattva lives." (Beyer 1977:340) Prajpramit Literature This class of texts includes discourses such as: the Diamond Sutra (Vajrachchhedika) the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in Eight Thousand Lines (Ashtasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra) the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in Twenty-five Thousand Lines (Panchavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra) the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra), which runs to a little over one page. It is generally agreed that each of these is either an expansion or an abridgment of a fundamental text of the Perfection of Wisdom discourses, resented in different versions and lengths to suit the tastes of different readers. Heart Sutra The Heart Sutra, like the other Perfection of Wisdom discourses, sets out to accomplish one important task: to expound and encourage the transformation of wisdom into the perfection of wisdom. How does it do this? Text... Heart Sutra It sets out to complement analytical wisdom (which belongs to wisdom per se) with relational wisdom (which belongs to the perfection of wisdom). The analytical and relational methods are used in the Abhidharma literature, in the first and seventh books of the Abhidharma Pitaka, respectively. Cart--the understanding found in Milindapanha vs a truly Mahayana understanding... Diamond sutra Nagarjuna and Madhyamika 2nd/3rd Century CE Madhyamika (Middle Way) neither nihilism nor realism (Strong, 142) effort to transcend dualistic thinking "Interdependent origination--that is what we call emptiness. That is a conventional designation. It is also the Middle Way." (24:18; Strong, 146) Implications of unyat 1. Radical critique of language--Buddha's wisdom beyond concepts/language Nirvna and samsra self and other being and non-being "realization is highest good" Nagarjuna's tetrelema Not (1) A, nor (2) non-A, nor (3) both A & non-A, nor (4) neither A nor non-A Implications of unyat "It is not asserted that the Blessed One exists after his passing away; nor is it asserted that he does not exist, that he both exists and does not exist, or that he neither exists nor does not exist. Even while he is living, it is not asserted that the Blessed One exists; nor is it asserted that he does not exist, both exists and does not exist, or neither exist nor does not exist. There is no distinction whatsoever between samsra and Nirvna; and there is no distinction whatsoever between Nirvna and samsra." Implications of unyat 2. Nirvna and samsra identical Nirvna was defined as end of samsra But can Nirvna be separate from Samsra? Must be mutually dependent empty non-dual N and S same reality BUT different modes of cognizing Aim shifts: not to exit but live unattached Implications of unyat 3. How Buddha's teach if language contingent (conditioned), problem to teach Dharma Two Truths theory Two Truths Ultimate emptiness non-duality wisdom ineffability Conventional inter-dependence hierarchy/duality compassion verbal categories Mahyna Tolerance Lay/monastic distinction softened Doctrine of skillful means (upya) many teaching/practices appropriate for different beings; NOT hierarchical expedient devices Mahyna Literature Product of written vs. oral culture; longer and more elaborate, fantastical Prajnaparamita: Perfection of Wisdom (beg. of Common Era) Vimalakirti-nirdesa: riducules arhants Lotus Sutra (Saddharmapundarika), ca. 200 CE Parinirvna Sutra (200-400 CE): Buddha's last "secret" teaching Mahyna Literature Composition continues until 8th century Acceptance/rejection determined dividing line Disparagement of "Hinayna" increases over time; persecution evident Authorship linked to reconceptualization of Buddha Criticisms of Nirvana Remember: Buddha himself said little Always sounded eternal; impermanence Always sounded transcendent; karmic causality Psychol. Problem: so attractive clinging Social problem: person who achieves is inaccessible; no benefit for others Mahyna Reinterpretation Earlier discourses not denied, but not ultimately true e.g., 4 Noble Truths taught to slower disciples Ultimate truth: no true extinction Results Philosophy: Line between N and S hazy Theory of Buddha: didn't become extinct; still here either as person or principle New goal: supreme enlightenment Status of old goal: expedient device (upya) ...
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