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Conze, Edward-MahayanBuddhism

Conze, Edward-MahayanBuddhism - Buddhism lael oferaving for...

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Unformatted text preview: Buddhism lael; oferaving for any ofthe live ltltaedlrri. This final liberation that is eEetted here and new eturfers perinlrt-Jne on the one who is thus liberated. He will go on living here until his body dies. but then. because 'sueh a one’ {faith} delights in the destruction of the three roots of unskil- fulness he is free from all becomiugs [Blenheim pp. 35—9}. and retitrdra is at an end for him. Final liberation. though attained here and now. entails no future state. It is anupddisestt-rrilrlflttc. or the suite of Mirrors that has no fuel or clinging or basis for re—hirth remaining. With his energy strong to an even pitch. he has left the hither shore of To translate as tgod. angel. divine or celestial being' is misleading. A dean is neitherananitnalnorahurnan being. hutis a title attributed to beings that in certain respects are regarded as above the human level. e.g. in their splendour. beauty. mobility. happiness or longevity. A ltina ship With humanity is implied. there it no complete brealt. decor and human beings can hold converse; all deans have been men and may become men again. Meanwhile they are in one of the twenty- sia: dove-lake. Worlds. spheres or planes where deans have their being by reason of some outstanding merit they have per- formed earlier. But since no eidstetmo in a mutability and mortality. of fear and deuolehr is permanent. the deans are all peril. and having etossed the great flood of still in Mtitid't‘tt, the circling on in life after sense-desires. the process of becoming. life. and have still to get free of the false views and ignorance. and having unending round. in no sense is a delta arrived Beyond on the Farther Shore which is the unborn and undying Nita-Eire. he is an Atheist who. crossed over and gone beyond. is standing on .the dry land [Seahyutt‘e—Niltd'ytr iv. tits}. the Isle of Mrs-eta (Stamper. root} itself. 'These are the roots of teen. these are empty places. Meditate. he not slothful; lot there he no remorse later. This is my instruction to you‘ [Millage—Nike” i. 46. cm}. Various technical terms occurring in this article have a long history. Some of their salient meanings For Buddhism are briefly explained as follows: I. Aryan {i} {social} noble. distinguished. of high birth. [ii] {ethical} pure. pure one; of 'nohle’ education. Mostly said of the Buddha's Tmthing. his disciples. their discipline and praou'ce. Hence the word has such ineanin as ti ht. od. noble. ideal. 3" E 3° a. Deva. From a. root meaning to shine. so: a creator. onuripotent or omniscient. but simply a detainee of a sieve-mid. 3. Bmhmdfil the delta Brahmi. chief of the deans. also called Mahi't-Brahmi [Great Btahtni}. {ii} the class of Btahmi tier-as. happy and blameless brings on an extra- terrestrial plane. denizens of the higher ‘heavens' or of a higher and better world leuown as hrshnse—iolsa. the Brahma-world. lie-birth heteis the outcome ofmetitotious deeds. but does not endure for ever. is. Brahma-fining. A distinction probably has to he made between the unstailine Brahma {as above} and the neuter Brahman. This the Pali Commentaries usually define as best or highest. Originally hrehmeon‘iyo {Brahma-faring} meant study or discipline. It then meant the discipline for the realisation of the Best and Highest. the Walk [rariyo]: to it or with it. Hence it is the life of purity. the good life. sometimes translated as the Life Divine. Since this is principally thought ofin Buddhism as the monastic life. so hrehmacsriya came to have theaddeduremthrgofrhasdty. /' BUDDHISM: THE hdAHhYANh by Edward Gauze Introduction The word Mahayana. or ‘Gteat Vehicle'. is the name generally given to those ideas which dominated the second phase of Buddhist thought. Dnespealts ofa 'vehicle' became the Buddlust doctrine. or Dharma (Pall. Dhatrtma. see pp. ad]. 1'34}. is conoeived as a raft. or a ship. which carries us across the ocuan of this world of suffering to a ‘Beyoneli. to salvation. to Nirvana. its adherents called it ‘great' by way of praising the universality of its tenets and intuitions. in opposition to the narrurwness of the other Buddhist schools. which they describe as the ‘HIrtayina'. or the 'inferior' vehicle. a term naturally not much cherished by those to whornthey apply it. fit present the Mahiyina is confined to the Northern half of the Buddhist world. and the Buddhists of Nepal. Tibet. China. Korea and Japan are nearly all Mahiyinists. The South. on the other hand. is entirely dominated by fire Thetavidins. one of the eighteen traditional sorts of the Hinayana. and their form of Buddhism is the national religion of Ceylon. Burma and Siam. The other seventeen l-linayina sects disappeared one years ago when the Muharumadans swept into Northern India and destroyed its flourishing Buddhist monasteries. In point ofe'me the rise of the Mahayana coincides with the beginning of the Christian era. it must have gathered momentum in the firsf' peel-Christian centuries. but many of its basis: ideas ED back. as we shall see, to the fourth or fifth eenmry no. if not to the Buddha himself. But the literature which sets out the specific Mahiyina doctrines is attested only for the beginning ofthe Christian era. and this raises an interesting. and so far unresolved. historical problem. How can we account for the observation that Buddhism. just at the time when Christianity itself arose. underwent a radical reform of its basic torets which made it much more similar to Christianity than it had been before? To show the nature ofthc problem. i will mention just three parallels betWeen the Maltiyina. and Christianity. First of all. loving kindness and compassion. subordinate virtues in the older Buddhism. are stressed more and more. and move right into the centre of the picture. This may remind us of the Christian emphasis on 'love'. Secondly. we hear of compassionate beings. called 'Bodhisattvas'. whose main claim to our gratitude lies in that they sacrifice their lives for thewelfare ofall.'I'hismay remind usoftheChristwho died forusallso that our sins may be forgiven. And thirdly. the Buddhists of this period show eschatological interests, and fervently hope for a Isecond comingI ofthe Buddha. as Maitreya [Pali. Meeteyya. p. syn}, the ‘Ioin'ng One'. Thus we have at least three innovations of the Mahayana. of which each is as our to the spirit of early Christianity as it is to the older Buddhism. Noristhisall. Occasionally wefindcluse. verbal coincidences between the Christian and the Mahiyina Scriptures. Just one instance must suliioe. fit the time when the Revelation ddt‘folltt was written. down in Greek in the Eastern Mediterranean. the Mahaylitisu produced in the South of 193 Buddhism India one of their most revered books. The Prtfi'ttion [if Wisdom in glfl‘llll Litter. Revelation {v. 1} refers to a book 'closely sealedII with seven seals, and likewise the chi‘isrtiou of Wisdom is called a book 'scaled with seven seal-2'. It is shown to a. Bodhisattva by the name of 'Everwecping' {Saddprantdito}. and StJohn 'weeps bitterly’ (v. 4} because he sees no one worthy to open the book and to break its seals. This can he done by the Lamb alone. slaughtered in sacrifice lv. 9}. In the same way. chapters 3e and 3: of the iviahiyina boolt describe in detail how Everweeping slaughtered himselfin sacrifice. and how he thereby became Worthy of the Perfection of Wisdom [see pp. 3fiz-fl. This parallel is remarkable not only for the similarities of the religious logic. but also for the fact that both the number seven and the whole notion ofa Fbook with sealsI point to the J'udaco-lvlediterrancan rather than to the lndian ta'aditon. Here is a fruitfiil field for further study. At presentwe cannot account for the parallels bemoan the Mediter- tantan and Indian developments which occur at the beginning of the Christian era. For the interpretation ofthc Malfiyana they are significant and should not be ignored. It was in fact. geographically spcalting. in the two regions of India which were in contact with the Mediterranean that the Mahayana seems to have originated. On the one hand we have the South of India. which Was in close trading relations with the Roman Empire. as is shown by the huge hoards ofRoman coins found there in recent years. And itwasin the region round Nigirjuniltondii. in the South. near the temple of hmarivati. which has rightly been called a 'Dravido-Aleitandrian syn- thesis". that tradition places the develop- ment of the first Mahayana Scriptures. its. the Stirrin- on Perfect Wisdom, and where also Nigirjuna it. mu. tool. the 194 greatest philosopher of the Mahiyfina. appears to have lived. The second centre of the incipient Mahayana was in the Nordi- 1|thrust oflndia. where the successor states of filectandet the' rest kept open a'cotistant channel for Ed enistic and Roman influ- ences. as the art found in that region amply demonstrates. Its openness to foreign. non- lndian influences was indeed one of the features which distinguished the Mahiyina from the older forms of Buddhism. We know little about the actual roots which brought about this revo- lution in Buddhist drought. Two. how- ever. seem certain, the exhaustion of the flthant ideal. and the pressure of the laity. As for the first. the older Buddhism was designed to produce a type of saint known as Arhant—a person who has been liberated once and for all from the cycle of birth and death. Three or four centuries after the Buddha's Niruir'na the mediodr which had at first produced Arbants in profusion lost their potency. fewer and fewer monks reached the goal. and the conviction gained ground that the time for hrhants was over. 1Ii'i'hcn the expected fruits were no longer forthcoming. it was natural for a section of the community to explore new avenues. and they replaced the Arhant idea] by the Bodhisattva ideal lpp- ass-305l- Relations of the monks with the laity had always been precarious. Here at its base was the Achilles: heel of the whole soaring edifice. The Mahiyana gave much greater weight to laymen. It could count on much popular support for its emphasis on active service. for its opinion that people are as important as ‘dltamtar' {Pali, diam-tiara, p. 285]. for its attacks on the selfishness of monks who think. only of their own welfare. for its censure of ‘haughty' and ‘conceited' monks. for in stories of wealthy householders, such as Vimalakirti. who surpassed the oldest and most venerable merits in the splendour of their spiritual attainments. and for its belicf that the saints should accept a common fate with their fellow men. Popular pressure would also induce the monks to become more manifestly useful to their lay followers. They increasingly interested themselves in their daily prob- lems. and. by acting as astrologers. exor- cisets. weather makers, physicians. ctr... inserted themselves into the magical side of their liveS. The wishes of the dumb common people. so despised by the monkish party. in the end proved para- mount. Dur knowledge of the Mahiy‘s'lna is derived from its very extensive literature. which was composed over about a.ooo years. most ofit in Sanskrit. but some also in Chinese. in Tibetan and in Central Asian languages. Although many Mahd- yina works have been lost. the bullt, of what is left is so huge that no one has ever read through it. Our views on the subject must therefore remain tentative. and future discoveries may compel their revision. This literature falls into three main classes—Entree. Shiites and Teams. The Sorta; are the most authoritative. and no follower of the Mahiyina would wish openly to repudiate anything they contain; the authority of the dishes is more limited. and they are binding only on the members of the philosophical school which they represent; that oftht Trotter is even more restricted. its range being confined to the few adopts of a small esoteric seer. Saints claim to be sayings of the Buddha himself. and they always give at the beginning the cstact place. either-on earth orinheaven. where the Buddhaisbelieved to have preached this particular sermon. In the case of Mahayana Sands. written more than five centuries after the historical Buddha’s death. this is obviously a pious The Mal-idyt'ma fiction. [fan historian were asked to define a Sritru, he would have to say that it is an anonymous docurnent elaborated usually collectively over many ceruuries.whichhas to be significant without being contro- versial or sectarian. The most beautiful of all Mahiyina Santos is the Lotti: of the Good Law. a work of great power and magnificence. There are a few European translations. but none of them is even remotely accurate. The most instructive Stitres are those on The Perfection of "Wisdom'. Of that we have about thirty dilferent intentions, composed in the course of six or seven centuries. Many other Sitter are preserved, several hundred of them. but there is little point in further enumeration. The continuous. slow. and measured growth of these Sinus makes them appear as more than the works of mere men. and some of their majesty is still felt in Japan. Tibet. and even in Europe. A .‘ltistta is a treatise written by a known person. either in the form of a commen- mry cm a Stilts. or in the form ofa syste- matic text book. When I say 'a known person'. I do not. ofcourse. mean that we know the actual author. but only that it is ascribed to some actual doctor of the FChurch'. For there has been a tendency to simplify matters by attributing the worlts of many writers to a few big names. The four biggest names are. about Jun. 15o. Nigirjuna and firyadeva. antiJI about am. soo. Vasubandhu and Asanga. The first two are the founders of the philosophical school of the Madhyamiltas. while the second two initiated the rival school of the Yogic-Erin: {see pp. yrs-13}. ‘ These two schools were engaged in constant disputes. and the works of the one have no authority for the other. The limited anthority of a Fdoctor of the IChurch" is based on three factors: a saintly life. great learning. and inspiration 2-95 Buddhism by one of the mythical Buddlua or Bodhisattvas (p. tosifl. Wonder-working pet-tetra, though desirable. are not in- dispensable. Sitter and dishes are Public documents availableto anyone sufficiently interested to procure them. The Tonnes. by contrast. are secret documents destined only for a chosen few who are properly initiated. or consecrated. by a properly initiated teacher or putt-t. 'To let the uninitiated into their secret is an unpardonable Crime. In order more eifectively to hide their contents from outsiders they employ a deliberately mysterious and secretive language. Wida- out the oral explanations of an irdtiated master they are practically meaningless. and reveal nothing of any importance. Tattoos give to die initiated instructions for the practical realisation of certain Yogic practices. They were composed irt profusion from about so. you onwards. and we have literally thousands of them. Their historical study has barely begun. and as outsiders we seldom have a clue to their meaning. Thousands and thousands-of pages are filled with statements about 'eosmie tortoiscs’ and Fairy dogs'. or about gods dressed in ‘fur coats. or Itiger sltins'. living in‘iron palaces' or‘copp-er fortresses'. and 'holding a black trident with four heads stuclt on it and a blood—dripping heart. at which two blaclt vipers ate suclringII {see R. de Neheslty-Wojlrowitz. Oracle: and Demons ty" Tiler. 1956}. 1IJt-I'hat are we no make of all that? In their desire to shock the profane. the authors of the Tantra: are prone to the use ofohscene and sexually suggestive language. Again We are at a loss to know what dieirjolres really meant. We can Well imagine. to give a parallel case. an earnest Japanese anthropologist of the year s..o. 3142 pondering over a choice piece of ornitho- logical htfoonation he has fmmd in an English soldier'sletter of Iota. iT‘Wfl WIN-'15 aod went into the seal and four blue tits came out again.I Some initiation into the lore of the British Army would soon tell him the meaning of that statement. In its absence he would have to resort to wild guessts. Without having much to go on. Most of the words used in the Tenn-its can he found in our dictionaries—hut then it does not help very much to know that a 'retl herringr is a "pink fish'. We can at present form some idea ofthe gencral principles of the Tattoos {see pp. grS—Iy} though the concrete detail quite passer us by. The authority of a Terrier is usually derived from a mythical Buddha who is said to have preached it in. the remote past to some other mythical person. who transmitted it to a human teacher who stands at the beginning ofa long line of initiated gurus who hand the secret wisdom down from generation to generation. This ends the survey of the literary sources. In addition. we can derive much information from irtnurneralslc oaths tyros which express the spirit of the doctrine accurately and impressively. Buddhist works of art allow little scope to the arbitrary inventions of individual artists. The images are too holy for that. for they are supports. though inadequate, for meditation. as well as reservoirs of super- natural power. They are made according to formulae elaborated by the scholars and mystics. which the artist just invests with a visible form. About the mythological and ritual aspects of the Maltiyfina these wotlts of art can teach us a great deal. The h-lahiniya is first of all a way of life. with a clear-cut idea of spiritual perfection and of the stages which lead to it. In addition. it puts forth a number of mythological concepts and ontological doctrines. Finally. in. an clfort to maintain itself agairtst hostile influences. ir enlists the help of female deities and magical forces. These are the three sides of the Mahiyina which we shall now survey one by one. The Bodhisattva Ideal The creation of the Bodhisattva ideal and the elaboration of the doctrine of 'Empti— ncss' are the two great contributions which the Mahiyina has made to human thought. While the philosophy of Empti- ness has proved an unfailing source of attraction to generations of scholars and innel!ectuals. it was to its teaching: about the 'liodl'tisattvar that the Mahayana owed its success as a religion. and that it proved capable ofconvcrting the whole of Central and East Praia. and of winning. for a time. more adherents than any other religion. Here was the image of an ideal man. who could 'stir the hearts of all. whether rich or poor, learned or ignorant. strong or wealt. monies or laymen. It could easily win their admiration. for it reflected what was best in them. It could also become a basis for innnediate action. because it could be adjusted to the infinite variety of human circumstances. Put forth with self—sacrificing real, with all the resources of eloquence and all the refinements of act, the Bodhisattva ideal has been one of the most potent ideas of Asian thought. So irresistible was its power that even the I-Iinayina schools «were prepared to incorporate it to some extent into their owrt systems. "What then is a ‘Bodhisattva'? It will be best first to explain the Sanskrit term: hedltt' means 'enlightettrnenr'. and nerve 'beiug' or 'essencc'. Pt Bodhisattva is thus a person who is in his essential being is motivated by the desire to win full enlightenment—to become a Buddha. Destined to become a Buddlia. he nevctu theless. in order to help suifering creaturfi. selflessly postpones his entrance into the bliss of Nit-nine and his escape from this world of birds and death. The Mahayana From another angle a Bodhisattva is said to be dominated by two forces— compassion and wisdom. Compassion governs his conduct towards his fellow beings. wisdom his attitude to Reality. The Mahayana teachings on compassion are easy. those on wisdom hard to under- stand. Everyone listens gladly when the talk is about himself. but gets rather bored when feeling hintselfignotod. So ...
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